Synopsis: ENSO-neutral conditions are favored to continue through at least the Northern Hemisphere spring 2017, with increasing chances for El Niño development into the fall.
ENSO-neutral conditions continued during February, with near-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the central equatorial Pacific and above-average SSTs in the eastern Pacific. The latest weekly Niño index values were near zero in the Niño-4 and Niño-3.4 regions, and +0.4 and +2.2°C farther east in the Niño-3 and Niño-1+2 regions, respectively. The upper-ocean heat content anomaly increased during February and was slightly positive when averaged across the central and eastern Pacific, a reflection of generally above-average temperatures at depth. Atmospheric convection remained suppressed over the central tropical Pacific and enhanced over the Maritime Continent. The low-level easterly winds were slightly enhanced over the western tropical Pacific and were weaker than average over the eastern Pacific. Also, upper-level westerly winds were anomalously easterly over portions of the western and eastern Pacific. Overall, the ocean and atmosphere system is consistent with ENSO-neutral conditions.
Most models predict the continuation of ENSO-neutral (3-month average Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) through the early Northern Hemisphere summer (May-July). However, some dynamical model forecasts, including the NCEP CFSv2, anticipate an onset of El Niño as soon as the late Northern Hemisphere spring (March-May 2017). Because of typically lower skill in forecasts made at this time of the year, and the lingering La Niña-like tropical convection patterns, the forecaster consensus favors ENSO-neutral during the spring (March-May) with a ~75% chance. Thereafter, there are increasing odds for El Niño toward the second half of 2017 (50-55% chance from approximately July-December). In summary, ENSO-neutral conditions are favored to continue through at least the Northern Hemisphere spring 2017, with increasing chances for El Niño development into the fall.
April sees the beginning of the ice extent retracting. The interpretation of the anomaly is against the historical sea ice concentration map. Therefore a March forecast for an anomaly of 20 to 30 maybe against an area that historically has a concentration of 70 - 80 percent. The forecast for such an area would be between 28 and 40 percent.
Overall sea ice concentrations for the Arctic for April are well below normal for the Bering Sea plus the Barrents and Kara seas and near normal elsewhere other than east of Greenland where it should be a greater concentration than normal.