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La Nina? That depends on which Government forecaster you ask

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La Nina? That depends on which Government forecaster you ask


Total Posts: 494
Joined: February 27, 2012

Posted by WW Forecast Team on Wed, 22/11/2017 - 12:44

Whether or not a La Nina event is currently underway in the Pacific Ocean depends on which country you are in.

According to an update issued by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) on Tuesday, the Pacific Ocean is currently in a neutral phase and there is a 70 per cent chance of a La Nina event occurring during the months ahead.

This information contradicts an update released by America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) earlier this month, which stated that a La Nina event is already underway and it is likely to persist until at least early next year. 

So with both the BoM and NOAA looking at the same Pacific Ocean, why don't they agree on whether or not a La Nina is occurring?

The unhelpful disagreement occurs because Australia and America have different operational definitions of La Nina. 

For a La Nina to be declared in Australia, any three of the following four thresholds need to be met:

- Sea surface temperatures in a defined region of the equatorial Pacific Ocean (called NINO3 and NINO3.4) need to be 0.8 degrees below average
- Trade winds in the western or central equatorial Pacific Ocean need to have been stronger than average for the previous three to four months
- The Southern Oscillation Index (SOI), which measures the atmospheric pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin, needs to be at a value of seven or more when averaged over three months
- A majority of climate models surveyed by the BoM show sustained cooling in a defined area of the equatorial Pacific Ocean until the end of the year
America's NOAA considers a La Nina event to occur when:
- The sea surface temperature anomaly in a defined area of the equatorial Pacific Ocean (called the NINO3.4 region) is 0.5 degrees Celsius or more below average and is forecast to persist at that level for at least three months
- Atmospheric features, such as trade winds and air pressure, display La Nina-like characteristics

So while Australia's BoM and America's NOAA monitor the same Pacific Ocean, different operational definitions of La Nina between the two countries cause these events to be officially declared at different times.

Unfortunately, these distinct definitions are ingrained in each country's modus operandi and we are unlikely to see them merged into a consistent La Nina operational definition any time soon.

- Ben Domensino, Weatherzone http://www.weatherwatch.co.nz/content/la-nina-depends-which-governm...
Please note WeatherWatch.co.nz agrees with the above story from Weatherzone, Australia. Here in New Zealand NIWA (our Government owned climate research organisation) has sadly now turned heavily commercial. WeatherWatch.co.nz reports on La Nina and El Nino independently and often trust public Australian forecasters at BoM (which is not commercial like NIWA has become). We also trust NOAA in the US and build our own conclusions for what their forecasts mean for New Zealand. For example, last summer NIWA said conditions in NZ would be especially hot, it turned out to be fairly average for the first two months with many complaining it was wet and cool. WeatherWatch.co.nz says "weak" La Nina and El Nino events can sometimes miss New Zealand completely, especially with our weather being so chaotic due to our location on earth (sticking into the Southern Ocean area!).  So we don't always need to run news headlines about La Nina and El Nino events if they are especially weak or regionalised around the tropics/equator. Generally speaking WeatherWatch.co.nz likes to evaluate a number of non-commercial Government forecasters around the world when we comment on long term weather trends for NZ. Our new relationship with IBM means in the future WeatherWatch.co.nz will have access to the world's most powerful and intelligent computer to crunch seasonal data specific to regions in New Zealand. We also hope in the future NIWA returns to engaging with the private weather sector instead of using their resources to attack us or send legal threats from tax funded lawyers when all we're trying to do is share their tax funded information or data. This sadly goes against the rest of the first world especially when climate change issues are so topical. -WW

Tags: Australia, New Zealand, La Nina, Government, Forecaster, Pacific
Posted on November 22, 2017 at 2:42 AM