Even though global average tropospheric temperatures are rapidly falling now as La Nina approaches, it is usually the second calendar year of an El Nino event that is the warmest, especially in the satellite record of tropospheric temperatures. This is because it takes a couple of months for all of the unusually warm Pacific surface water to transfer its extra heat to the atmosphere, pushing peak atmospheric temperatures into the second calendar year of an El Nino event. While 2015 was only the 3rd warmest year in the satellite record (since 1979), 2016 might well beat out 1998 as the record warmest. And, of course, if we go into prolonged La Nina conditions for the next 2-3 years, we might well be debating the meaning and significance of a 20-year pause in global warming in another year or two. —Roy Spencer, 22 June 2016
Every El Niño is different. We’ve shown that fact in many of the posts presented in the 2014/15 El Niño series and those about the 2015/16 El Niño. Weather around the globe is chaotic, so the background state globally in which each El Niño forms will be different. As a result, the responses of ocean basin surface temperatures to El Niños will vary from event to event, even strong El Niños.