Anthony Watts has commented on a new article in Nature "news and views", which suggests that multi-decadal periods of high and low variability in ENSO may be "entirely unpredictable".
Anthony comments (archived here) - my bold italics:
I suppose this explains why this model has been doing so poorly for the last year in predicting a new El Niño, it has been showing an El Niño just months away for almost a year.
First of all, while I can't read the article itself (paywalled), it's obvious from the abstract that it's referring to multi-decadal periods of variability, not year on year ENSO events. Anthony's comment is misplaced for that reason alone. (See update below.)
There's more. I was curious as to where Anthony got his "almost a year" from, because I watch the BoM ENSO page and it was only this month when there was the first sign of the possibility of an El Niño later this year.
So it wasn't from the Bureau of Meteorology. Perhaps NOAA? I checked NOAA and there was no active alert for March, April, May, June, July, August or September last year. There was mention of an ENSO alert in its bulletin of the 4th October 2013, a mere six months ago. Even then it was very cautious, writing:
Synopsis: Borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions are expected to continue into Northern Hemisphere winter 2012-13, possibly strengthening during the next few months.
However the NOAA November, December, January and February bulletins were back to a "not active" ENSO alert.
Three weeks is not "almost a year"
So the current bulletin has been active only since 6 March this year. A mere three weeks. That's around 49 weeks shy of "almost a year". Even so the synopsis is for only a 50% chance of an El Niño developing during the summer or fall:
Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall.
BTW - you can read the comments here - I don't have time to read them in depth. I scanned them quickly but didn't see anyone pick Anthony up for his two bloopers. Typical of the fake sceptics at WUWT.
(Strictly speaking Anthony probably made three bloopers. He linked to a "news and views" article about another paper but I doubt he realised that. Going by what he wrote, Anthony mistook the Nature article for the research paper itself.)
The "news and views" article is, as far as I can tell, about a new paper in BAMS Journal of Climate. The abstract (my paras):
Observations and climate simulations exhibit epochs of extreme El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) behavior that can persist for decades. Previous studies have revealed a wide range of ENSO responses to forcings from greenhouse gases, aerosols, and orbital variations, but they have also shown that interdecadal modulation of ENSO can arise even without such forcings.
The present study examines the predictability of this intrinsically generated component of ENSO modulation, using a 4000-yr unforced control run from a global coupled GCM [GFDL Climate Model, version 2.1 (CM2.1)] with a fairly realistic representation of ENSO. Extreme ENSO epochs from the unforced simulation are reforecast using the same (“perfect”) model but slightly perturbed initial conditions.
These 40-member reforecast ensembles display potential predictability of the ENSO trajectory, extending up to several years ahead. However, no decadal-scale predictability of ENSO behavior is found. This indicates that multidecadal epochs of extreme ENSO behavior can arise not only intrinsically but also delicately and entirely at random. Previous work had shown that CM2.1 generates strong, reasonably realistic, decadally predictable high-latitude climate signals, as well as tropical and extratropical decadal signals that interact with ENSO. However, those slow variations appear not to lend significant decadal predictability to this model’s ENSO behavior, at least in the absence of external forcings.
While the potential implications of these results are sobering for decadal predictability, they also offer an expedited approach to model evaluation and development, in which large ensembles of short runs are executed in parallel, to quickly and robustly evaluate simulations of ENSO. Further implications are discussed for decadal prediction, attribution of past and future ENSO variations, and societal vulnerability.
Pedro DiNezio, "Climate science: A high bar for decadal forecasts of El Niño." Nature 507, 437–439 (27 March 2014) doi:10.1038/507437a
Wittenberg, Andrew T., Anthony Rosati, Thomas L. Delworth, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Fanrong Zeng, 2014: "ENSO Modulation: Is It Decadally Predictable?". J. Climate, 27, 2667–2681. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00577.1