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“How unusual is 2016’s record-temperature three-peat, and will the hot streak continue in 2017?”

Last month NOAA’s Climate.gov posted a story following the release of the 2016 global average temperature, discussing how unusual this event was.  Jessica Blunden, the author, discussed the impact of El Niño on temperature records in general and specifically on the record-setting global temperatures this year.  She also provided an outlook for 2017.  You can read it at https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/beyond-data/how-unusual-2016s-record-temperature-three-peat-and-will-hot-streak.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that it is very difficult to predict El Niño or La Niña occurrence later in the year because of something called the “spring predictability barrier”.  This means that it is tough to get a good prediction for ocean conditions later in summer from what we can observe is happening now.  AgWeb discusses this in their recent article here.  So while the early predictions are leaning towards the reoccurrence of an El Niño by next winter, forecasters are not at all confident in whether this will really happen, and in fact observationally it is rare to go from EN to LN to EN in three years, which gives us even less confidence than usual.