# Why El Niño and not the AMO?

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

On another thread, a poster got me thinking about the common practice of using the El Nino 3.4 Index to remove some of the variability from the historical global average surface temperature record. The theory, as I have heard it propounded, is that the temperature of the Earth is “signal”, whereas the El Nino cycles are natural swings and as such are just “noise”. So if you remove the El Nino swings from the temperature, the theory goes, then we can see more of the underlying temperature signal by removing the noise.

Figure 1. Various “Nino regions” used in the study of the El Nino / La Nina phenomenon. Each area has its own index, with one of the most commonly used being the Nino 3.4 Index. SOURCE. See also the NOAA page

The more I thought about the practice of subtracting the Nino 3.4 variations from the global average temperature anomalies, the more questions came up for me. I don’t have the answers, hence this post. The first question that came up is, how do we decide that the Nino 3.4 Index represents noise instead of signal?

The Nino 3.4 region covers about 2.4% of the planet’s surface, a bit bigger than the USA. So … why isn’t the temperature of the USA “noise”? Or perhaps, is the temperature of the US “noise” but no one ever checked? And how would you check? What mathematical procedure would allow us to discriminate? What test would we use to say well, Nino 3.4 is noise so we can safely subtract its effects from the global temperature signal, but, for example Nino 1+2 is not noise, it’s part of the signal?

My next question about the situation revolves around the fact that the Nino 3.4 Index is merely a linear transform of the sea surface temperature of the Nino 3.4 area. So what we are doing is taking a linear transformation of the surface temperature anomaly in one part of the world, and subtracting it from the global average surface temperature anomaly.

As a result the question is, is this a legitimate operation? Subtracting a linear transform of something from the whole of which it is a part? Like, say, taking the average temperature variations in the whole US including Texas, but then subtracting out some linear transform of the temperature variation in Texas? What is the meaning of that procedure, subtracting something from itself? And if we are going to subtract a transform of say the Nino 3.4 temperature from the global average, should we include the Nino 3.4 temperature to begin with when we calculate the global average, or not?

Next question is, is this a legitimate operation in a system with a thermostat? Like for example, taking the variations in my body temperature, but subtracting out some linear transform of the temperature variations in my foot? What does that procedure give us, what does the result mean?

Next question. If we’re going to remove the transform of the El Nino Index from the global average temperature record, then should we remove the other indices as well? Should we remove the AMO (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) Index? The PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation) Index? The Madden-Julian Oscillation Index? Some combination of them? All of them?

Final question. From my perspective, the El Nino/La Nina oscillation actively regulates heat loss, and thus is part of the planetary temperature regulation system. It regulates the heat loss by way of both the ocean and the atmosphere. Let me give a functional explanation of how it works. The explanation is slightly but not significantly simplified.

During La Nina conditions, in the upper part of Figure 2 below, the warm blanket of water normally covering the Pacific has been blown to the west by the strong eastern trade winds. From there, that mass of warm Pacific surface water splits and moves north and south along the coasts of Asia and Australia towards the Poles. The mass of water is radiating and losing heat as it travels. Functionally, the El Nino/La Nina alteration serves as a huge, slow-cycling, thermally regulated Pacific-wide pump. The La Nina pump stroke moves warm Pacific surface water poleward to lose its heat through conduction, radiation, and evaporation.

Figure 2. La Nina and El Nino conditions. North and South America are the brown areas in the upper right. Australia is at the lower left. Black arrows in the atmosphere show the direction of atmospheric circulation. White arrows show surface ocean currents SOURCE: NOAA El Nino Theme Page

In addition to moving warm Pacific water poleward, the removal of the warm Pacific tropical surface waters exposes the atmosphere to huge amounts of cooler sub-surface Pacific water. This lowers the air temperature over that whole area of the tropical Pacific. Soon, however, the surface of the Pacific starts to warm again. One effect of this is that it slows down the eastern trade winds. As a result of reduced winds and reduced clouds, the warming of the surface of the Pacific continues. In addition, some of the warm surface water in the Western Pacific moves back out east. Soon, with the sun beating down on an ocean with reduced clouds, it warms up all across the Eastern Pacific. This leads to neutral conditions, which can last a while.

However, if the tropical Pacific surface temperature warms enough, then El Nino conditions develop. After the El Nino conditions come into being, at some point as the surface of the Pacific continues to warm, and the El Nino thunderstorms drive the surface air upwards, the eastern trade winds start to strengthen. Soon the eastern trade winds start pushing the warm tropical surface waters and their associated thunderstorms and clouds to the west across the Pacific and eventually poleward again. This is the power stroke of the pump, when the trade winds strip the warm surface waters off and push them westwards. In this process, the full La Nina conditions come into existence. Finally, the La Nina conditions eventually peter out to a neutral condition once again.

Note that this system is triggered by temperature. If the temperature doesn’t build up across the surface of the eastern Pacific for some reason, then things stay neutral, neither El Nino or La Nina. In that case, the El Nino doesn’t form, and so the eastern trade winds don’t build up to pump the warm water across the Pacific and towards the poles.

But when the surface waters of the Pacific do heat up beyond a certain point, El Nino conditions arise, the eastern trade winds strengthen and pump the warm tropical surface water, first across the Pacific and then to the poles. It also exposes the atmosphere to a large area of cooler subsurface water.

Note the effect of this amazing temperature regulating heat pump. It functions to prevent any long-term buildup of heat in the waters of the surface Pacific. If the water in the surface of the Pacific stays cooler, the heat pump doesn’t kick in. But as soon as a certain amount of heat builds up in the surface Pacific waters, the El Nino/La Nina alteration occurs, pumping the surface water west to be flushed out toward the poles. The layer of warm surface water that was blown west is then replaced by cooler water from the subsurface, cooling the entire tropical Pacific.

This mechanism, this El Nino/La Nina pump skimming off the hot Pacific water and pumping it to the poles, prevents long-term Pacific heat buildup and thus actively keeps the planet from both overheating and excessive cooling. It is one of the many interacting thermoregulating mechanisms that keep the earth from either overheating or becoming too cool.

So … this brings up the final question regarding the theme of this post.

Since the variations in the Nino 3.4 index are indicative of the functioning of one of the Earth’s major thermoregulating mechanisms, namely the giant El Nino/La Nina pump that magically materializes to move warm tropical Pacific water to the poles whenever the planet gets too hot and sweaty … then under what possible construction could the Nino 3.4 Index variations be called “noise”?

Like I said … lots of questions, I don’t have the answers, all courteous contributions welcomed.

Regards to all,

w.

## 154 thoughts on “Why El Niño and not the AMO?”

1. ursus augustus says:

On a slightly tangential topic, why do we use a “global temperature” parameter that is a compound of sea surface temperature ( or about 1 metre below the surface or whatever) and air temperature ( at about 1 to 2 metres above the surface)? In determining a representative temperature of say San Francisco would you mix air temperatures over land with sea temperatures from the bay in the same way? What would the number you obtained mean? Would it be unreasonably low due to the sea temperatures or would it be unreasonably high and volatile due to the land air temperatures?

2. Bloke down the pub says:

So could a mechanism that disrupts the cycle of enso be the cause of ice ages? Not sure what it might be just yet.

3. Beta Blocker says:

Isn’t this topic yet another indication that for purposes of making climate-related predictions, the signal/noise paradigm of temperature signal versus weather noise is a completely flaky proposition — all of it, the whole signal/noise paradigm.

4. Mike says:

Sounds like a logical robust thought process. The first question I would ask is what difference does it make if you put it back in? Do you have a graph summarising the overall change?

5. Vince Causey says:

You would need to know exactly how much of the temperature was the result of Enso in order to subtract it. I’m pretty sure we don’t know what that is.

6. cui bono says:

Willis, if any long-term 60-year cycles were included, you would have this:

1 warming period in 19th Century – recovery from global LIA, not (by common consent) CO2.
1 period of flatline.
1 warming period in 1st half of 20th Century – not (by common consent) CO2.
1 period of flatline.
1 warming period in 2nd half of 20th Century – cause caustically debated!
1 period flatline (2000 – 2030).
….and so on.

That wouldn’t fit the CO2-is-everything warmist script at all.

7. Ronald says:

The problem is why to alter the data at the first place?

We see a problem whit temperatures because they tweak the data so they get the warming they want. Now they be leaf there is warming because the data says so but they alter the data 3 times before the final numbers get out. So how mutts cooler is it now? 0,5 or 1 or even 2 or 3 degrees? I think we cane say easy that is 1,5 degrees cooler then they say.

But why alter the data? A thermometer saying its 25 says its 25! That means its 25 not 28. If you take boiling water and put a thermometer in it and it reads 100 degrees Celsius then you can be verily sure thats 100 degrees, way would someone say that its 105 degrees or 95?

If you want to be sure of what you do, you must look at the thermometer and wright whats stand there no more no less. Whit the oceans the same, read what the thermometer says and wright it down no more no less.

All the Nino, Nina, Pdo, PDA’s and what more are part of the climate and must be taken just lake that.
Every other thing done to the data like AGWers like to do is Freud and far from being scientific.

8. Willis:

A fine post. Thankyou.

No, it is not sensible to remove ENSO effects from the temperature record because ENSO is a natural part of the global climate at any time.
1.
When the 1998 ENSO peak in b.onal temperature occurred the warmunists proclaimed this was the start of what we could expect: more frequent and hotter ENSO effects which raise global temperature.
2.
Now, when global temperature rise has stalled, warmunists say ENSO should be subtracted from global temperature rise.

Point 1 was a falsehood.
ENSO is an emergent property of the climate stystem which GCMs fail to emulate, so there is no way to determine if more or fewer ENSO events will occur. However, as you point out, heat triggers ENSO events which redistribute the heat so it gets ‘dumped’ to space and, therefore, the effect of more frequent ENSO would probably reduce the rate of any global temperature rise. Indeed, since the 1998 ENSO peak the global temperature has varied such that there has been zero trend in the temperature.

Point 2 is an excuse for the stall in global temperature rise over the most recent 15+ years.

Richard

9. Chuck Wright says:

The ocean not only has this great heat pump, it is a gigantic heat sink, requiring 1154 times the energy to change one degree in temperature as the atmosphere. Since the El Nino cycle influences atmospheric temperature, the is obviously some nearby atmosphere/water temperature delta at which almost all additional atmospheric heat effectively goes straight to the ocean rather than atmospheric temperature.

10. Gary Pearse says:

Willis, this is an important question and I believe the answer is as you expect – it isn’t noise and should not be removed, at least if you are looking for the Global temp signal. Regarding the mechanism of the ENSO pump, I think currents should be included in defining the system:

The California current and the Peruvian current go (south and north respectively) toward the equator and then swing westward in the region we are discussing. This must also be an important mover of the surface water’s westward. Moreover, they may also be warm(ing) water gathering mechanisms to concentrate warm water in the equatorial band. It is also known that geothermal energy particularly warms the pacific waters around its rim (the ring of fire) – perhaps not a large factor but, it, too, would be gathered and moved to the equatorial zone by the currents. This may even be why we don’t have an “ENSO” in the equatorial Atlantic (highly speculative, I’ll admit).

11. CoRev says:

Willis, I suspect the reason to take it out of the record was to prove that the remaining warming had to be from anthropogenic causes. That in turn morphed into the mankind is bad and causing all this …. blah. 1997-1998 was the back breaker. ENOS could no longer be denied. Coupling that ENSO event we recognized the existence of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Suddenly the A/CO2 theory could no longer be fully supported as the major cause. More natural events and their causes make A/CO2 less viable. Accordingly we get the shift in terminology (add you growing list here.)

So it is my belief that removing the ENSO and all natural signals is just noise to prop up the A/CO2 theory.

12. Alan Millar says:

Succinct post Willis.

However, what causes the 30 year positive and negative PDO cycles which have more El Ninos or La Ninas respectively? We don’t see 30 year cycles in the source of the energy for this heat pump, the Sun.

Alan

13. michael hart says:

If El Nino is arbitrarily defined then it is a qualitative, not quantitative, description. I have not yet heard of of the S.I. Units of ENSO, AMO, etc.

14. Steveta_uk says:

Willis, did you get Bob’s permission to post about ENSO? I thought he owned the rights.

15. GlynnMhor says:

Nothing is actually ‘noise’, except perhaps measurement uncertainty.

Everything is a signal of some sort, whether it indicates changes in ENSO, PDO, AMO, or whatever else.

And one major problem with some papers is the assumption that they are able to identify all the ‘natural’ variations to be removed from the data to reveal the supposed anthropogenic component.

Even if the data adjustments were valid (eg- Rahmstorf and Foster) , it is not reasonable to deem the remainder to be all due to CO2 and supposed feedbacks, since we have no way of knowing what other unknown factors might be involved in that remainder.

This especially when there is reason to suspect (from the work of Svensmark, Kirkby, and others) that there is a solar and cosmic ray contributor to global temperature changes that has not been considered at all in the current climate models.

16. Matt Skaggs says:

This post nicely elucidates something that I noticed as well. Despite the attempts of the IPCC to convince us otherwise, there is no formal structure to the overarching AGW inquiry. There is no logic tree being formally resolved, so AGW proponents are free to write whatever they want. They are a herd of cats. Climate science is hopelessly mired in what would be merely the first phase of an engineering risk analysis, “is the thermostat broken or overwhelmed?.” Stripping out El Nino effects is an interesting way to look at how the thermostat works, but does absolutely nothing to resolve the questions facing AGW.

17. Tom O says:

With regards –

Bloke down the pub says:

January 17, 2013 at 7:00 am

So could a mechanism that disrupts the cycle of enso be the cause of ice ages? Not sure what it might be just yet.

It would be reasonable to assume that the “mechanism” that triggers the ice ages and disrupts this cycle will be “off world.” That is, a Solar cycle – sort of like what we are seeing now regards solar activitiy.

18. Another very good post, clear and concise. Thanks Willis!
To separate the noise from an underlying signal you must know a lot about the signal. If you don’t, the results are bound to deceive you. Global Circulation Models can not be used to learn about the temperature signal, only data serves that purpose.

19. Perhaps the global temperature record is the noise and the El Nino 3.4 Index is the signal?

Why not? Isn’t the global temperature record extremely noisy due to factors such as changing distribution of thermometers, changes to surrounding land areas due to agriculture and urbanization, as well as changes in the ocean due to flora and fauna due to industrialized fishing?

Perhaps the El Nino 3.4 Index is the true signal?

20. Dear Willis,

With all due respect, your claim that ENSO SSTs “modulate” the trade winds/AAM state is incorrect. There’s a reason they “start to warm” again. You’ll find that variation in the annular modes/the associated mid latitude stress fields/standing gyres precede variations in the SOI and ONI/MEI by several months. This activity correlates extremely well to the rocking phase of the QBO and variations in solar activity, specifically geomagnetic activity, which correlates to O^3 levels hence Rossby amplitude.

21. I just wrote a detailed comment..was asked to log in, then poof, all that work..gone. I’m not sure I want to redo it all.

22. Alan Millar says:
January 17, 2013 at 7:33 am
However, what causes the 30 year positive and negative PDO cycles which have more El Ninos or La Ninas respectively? We don’t see 30 year cycles in the source of the energy for this heat pump, the Sun.
=====
First harmonic between Jupiter and Saturn orbits is 60 years.

23. Doug says:

We have no data on how natural climate change has manifested. Was it even all over the world? A change in frequency and strength of ENSO? So much of climate science can be dismissed as “stupid” number tricks”, including removing ENSO.

24. Toml says:

It is pretty standard practice in geophysical data analysis to remove sources of variation that are well understood, in order to better quantify the “anomalies” that are of interest. One example would be the standard practice of backing out effects of elevation and latitude from raw gravity measurements. There are two caveats, though. You shouldn’t be backing anything out unless it is very well quantified, and you have to be absolutely consistent. No fair talking about how hot 1998 was and then suggesting ENSO should be backed out of the temperature record.

25. john robertson says:

Excluding natural cycles as noise, is climatology.
Its so much easier to have a certain, certainty that defies the data by doing so.
Is this not another example of data mining, with a preconceived target.
The kind of thing, which on a mining prospectus would get you fines and jail time?
As the thermal mass of the ocean, gives a more stable measurement medium, the likely noise would be the air temperature measurements.
I have problems giving any credence to the land temperature anomalies, seems to be an incredible precision of measurement & calculation claimed, compared to the data, the shifting mean global temperature, the fogging around this value.
If the assumed mean is not prominently displayed, with error range, on these anomaly graphs in degrees Celsius, I believe the graph is not useful information.Intentionally fogging the argument.
Bob Tisdale’s description of the El Nino, La Nina operation makes sense, Willis’s description of the thermostat operation of a water world does to.
Disregarding the thermal processes of 70% of the planet, improves the science how?

If we are lucky, we are watching the study of climate, become a real science, here at WUWT.

26. Richard M says:

I’ve often wondered if the AMO isn’t the main control switch of the heat pump. When it pumps more warmth into the Arctic that eventually reduces the amount of heat flow from the equator to the north polar regions (reduces the temperature differential). The key is the open path east of Greenland vs. the nearly closed path of the Bering Strait. The slowing of this heat flow leads to extra heat near the equator which leads to a warmer planet and may also impact the PDO/ENSO cycles.

If this view holds any merit at all then one would need to remove all the confounding factors or end up with a mish mash of noise and signal.

27. Willis, with all due respect, your claim that ENSO SSTs modulate the trade wind/AAM phase space regime is inaccurate. You’ll find that variations in the polar annular modes, hence the associated stress fields/standing gyres, precede variations in the SOI/ONI by a few months. This circulatory behavior appears to be driven by the rocking phase of the QBO and solar wind fluxes affecting stratospheric O^3 content.

ENSO is absolutely not an internal system oscillation. It is externally forced, the SST anomaly stripe along the axial equator should be considered a result, not a causative mechanism via ludicrous positive thermodynamic feedback loops.

28. Bill Illis says:

We can take it out because it is an oscillation that has Zero trend over time and well-defined impacts on temperature that are reasonably predictable from event to event. The total impact approached about +/-0.25C or, more accurately, Temp Impact = 0.08 * Nino 3.4 (of three months prior). This a LARGE enough variation that it should be accounted for if we want to understand the climate.

The ENSO also affects global water vapour levels in exactly the same manner (with the same lag), cloud patterns, OLR patterns, wind patterns, even the rotation of the Earth, etc. Or in other words, just about everything that is defined as the climate. It is the biggest weather phenomenon on the planet.

The AMO is also a big impactor. The AMO is the driver of the 60 year cycle in temperatures or it is a very, very good proxy for whatever is driving the 60 year cycle in temperatures. It can affect global temperatures by +/-0.3C and like the ENSO’s impact, that is a BIG enough impact that it should be accounted for. There is also a southern ocean version of the AMO which I quite can’t nail down yet.

29. Like richardscourtney said ENSO is a part of the global climate system so its contribution to the global temperature is has valid as other natural mechanism. Removing it is cutting a part of the climate system.

Noise comes from an external and/or singular events. That’s not the case of ENSO.

Even volcanic eruptions, which might be considered noise, should be considered IMO.

Either way, for meaningful time frames (100 years and more) to establish temperature trends “noises”, are irrelevant.

30. HankHenry says:

Anyone know the derivation of the word “jigger?” As in: “Someone has jiggered the numbers to make it work.”
I believe NASA refers to the surface temperature of the earth as “combined Land-Surface Air and Sea-Surface.” There is a lot in that little phrase. Notice that they use the word “combined” rather than “average” or “weighted average.” NOAA (Tom Karl?) on the other hand uses the phrase “merged land air and sea surface temperature.” Here the word becomes “merged.” To me both “combined” and “merged” imply that an extraneous method was employed backed by some sort of ad hoc justification – the jigger factor.

31. Finally somebody is looking at an issue I raised in an article on John Daly’s web site several years ago.
http://www.john-daly.com/guests/tim-ball.htm

I revisited the issues more recently on my web site.

http://drtimball.com/2012/what-causes-el-nino-la-nina-ipcc-doesnt-know-but-builds-models-and-makes-projections-anyway/

Willis is wise to pose a series of questions and acknowledge that several ideas are simply in the literature without justification. They are used as givens, yet remain unexplained and are often used out of context. For example, Willis is discussing the Pacific oscillations, but similar oscillations occur in the other oceans – the difference is the size and amount of local and global influence. I reviewed a paper years ago about fluctuations in bird populations on the Atlantic coast of southern Africa that was clearly cyclical and related to changing ocean currents and corresponding water temperatures.

If El Nino is warm water on one side of the Pacific and La Nina the opposite how does that change the total heat going into the atmosphere? There is even debate about the difference in influence between El Nino and La Nina.

http://www.columbia.edu/~lmp/paps/butler+polvani-GRL-2011.pdf

What began as the Walker Circulation and then evolved into El Nino and the Southern Oscillation to become ENSO, became the explanation for every weather pattern or event. It became the weather phenomenon fad of the time. La Nina wasn’t discussed in the early days.

El Nino was in the literature for some time, but only became a media issue when it moved north of its long term average latitude in northern South America and Central America in 1983 to impact California. SInce what happens in California is more important than events anywhere else in the world it got massive media attention – especially when fancy beach houses at Malibu tumbled into the ocean. A good review of El Nino events from 1525 to 1987 is provided in Quinn and Neal’s essay “The historical record of El Nino events.” in “Climate since A.D. 1500″.

The important issue is to determine mechanism to explain apparent cause and effect relationships. Are the cessation and reversal of the Tropical Easterlies at the top of the troposphere due to changing surface conditions or an external cause? I suggest the latter.Theodor Landscheidt showed the relationship between sunspots and El Nino/La Nina with a major paper, again on Daly’s site.

Labitzke showed a correlation between sunspots and the QBO as early as 1987 and revisited the issue in 2005.
http://strat-www.met.fu-berlin.de/labitzke/moreqbo/MZ-Labitzke-et-al-2006.pdf

The IPCC didn’t even look at the QBO noting in the 2007 Report “Due to the computational cost associated with the requirement of a well-resolved stratosphere, the models employed for the current assessment do not generally include the QBO”.

Well done Willis. Good science always raises more questions than it answers and proves why Gore’s claim that the science is settled is patently false. The questions raised should force a review of early literature to further underscore how the IPCC froze climate science for 30 years.

32. Well done.
Now, the hinge. Why did the “great Pacific climate shift” aka PDO pivot on an El Nino? The nino of 2012-13 seems to have been aborted by cold upwelling off SA not associated with the trade winds which were active in general accordance with current PDO phase but further west in the central Pacific.
The thermohaline circulation comes to mind.

33. Ulric Lyons says:

philr1992 said:

“Willis, with all due respect, your claim that ENSO SSTs modulate the trade wind/AAM phase space regime is inaccurate. You’ll find that variations in the polar annular modes, hence the associated stress fields/standing gyres, precede variations in the SOI/ONI by a few months. This circulatory behavior appears to be driven by the rocking phase of the QBO and solar wind fluxes affecting stratospheric O^3 content.”

I fully agree with the external forcing by the solar wind, but it could be to do with Joule heating of the upper atmosphere and the following circulation changes. The idea that ENSO is internally forced makes little sense to me, as it would be constantly trying to dampen and limit itself. We can see the temperature forcing of El Nino episodes driven by the surface cooling from large stratospheric volcanic events, and some research suggests that near permanent El Nino conditions existed during full glaciation ~20kyrs ago.

34. Kip Hansen says:

Some here say we can safely remove things that have no trend, and thus do not add to the Global trend. Oddly, this reasoning means that if we arbitrarily select “nationstates’ or ‘continents’ or ‘regions’ whose temperatures show no long term trends, we somehow end up with the Global Anomaly True and Real Trend?

No sir, not real science there. It is the arbitrary nature of the data selected to be removed that spoils the soup. Willis questions the removal of the ENSO 3.4 Index quite rightly if for no other reason than this is a man-made class of data “ENSO 3.4 Index” — not (necessarily) a natural classification.

Surface stations polluted with anthropogenic added heat — satellite sensors with known ‘drift’ — these are noise that could be, if dependably quantifiable, removed as noise.

NOT –> Excluding natural cycles as noise, is climatology.

Climatology IS the combined effects of natural cycles, external forcings, and internal fortcings.

You can’t just throw some bits our arbitrarily and say the remainder is the REAL climate.

35. vboring says:

The question, really, is: What is the rate of change of energy content of the planet? Which effectively boils down to: What is the energy content of the ice/water system?

Surface temp would be a good way to measure this if we lived on a perfectly thermally conductive mass. In real life, it is a very tricky thing to derive one from the other.

Given what we’re really trying to measure, El Nino might be more signal than noise.

Probably the most direct way to measure global energy content, though, is through looking at sea level. At least on an historic basis.

36. HankHenry says:

Doesn’t Newton’s law of cooling (ie that the hotter something is the faster it cools) mean that if the earth “stores up” high temperature water that the water will necessarily cool at a different (and higher) rate than a well mixed pool? I suppose what I’m asking is whether two jugs of water one at 50 degrees and the other at 100 degrees and averaged, will cool faster than one big jug at 75. My guess is that since temperatures follow an exponential curve during cooling the two averaged would cool faster than the one. If cooling were straight line then you would expect the two to cool in the same way as the one.

37. Willis

If La Nina results from the trade winds, which themselves result from El Nino conditions, then what causes a double or triple La Nina?

For instance, the 2011 La Nina returned to near neutral conditions in mid 2011, then returned gain over in early 2012.

38. The short answer is NO. The right answer is “All things are NOT equal” therefore subtracting anything without knowing the underlying linear or non linear response of the system is invalid. The climate system is not some algebraic equation where short cuts can be taken because the mathematical Distributive Law does not apply, especially when you don’t know all the variables and their interactions. The Distributive Law does not work for division operations. a × (b + c) = a × b + a × c

Related to it is the original error of claiming the water vapor content of the atmosphere doesn’t change from year to year, thus water vapor is deleted from the AGW greenhouse index assigned to gases or even consideration. Hence, the deletion of water vapor then allows AGW sophists to measure “heat” Q in temperature instead of the proper units of enthalpy. The entire AGW house of cards is built upon the sophistry of ignorance, the prime tool of error – “All things being equal.”

39. Layman Lurker says:

Thanks for this Willis. In order to understand the climate, it is essential to look at how things like ENSO and AMO are coupled to global temperature. What is not ok is to arbitrarily remove it and call it “noise”. And as Bill Illis points out, what is even worse is to ‘mix and match’ your fitted ocean indexes for the last 30+ years and call a residual (which contains the AMO) the GHG “signal”. Just yesterday I read an article here linking to an SKS video which does just that.

40. rgbatduke says:

My only comment on this description of the heat pump is this. The planet cools more efficiently when the heat absorbed in the tropics is not transported towards the poles. Because the heat is ultimately lost via $T^4$ radiation, anything that reduces temperature variation on the surface area by transporting hot spot heat elsewhere has a net warming influence.

This effect is substantial. The transportation of heat from the equatorial regions into the temperate zones is one of the only things that keeps the planet out of glaciation. In the Atlantic, the key player is the Gulf Stream (and its subsidiary currents) in the thermohaline circulation. A glance at the SSTs visible e.g. here:

http://classic.wunderground.com/tropical/?index_region=at

clearly shows the plume of warm water carrying tropical heat up to Europe and the Atlantic side of the Arctic. Interrupt that flow, or divert it East so that it runs into Africa instead of Europe, and Europe goes into the icebox and the tropical Atlantic warms until they both are in equilibrium without heat transport. However, the temperate zone temperature will drop more than the tropical temperature will rise to maintain stasis because of that $T^4$.

The issue is further complicated, of course, by vertical transport. The Enthalpy content “in the ocean” or at ground level is subject to the fully atmospheric greenhouse effect. Heat that rises, however, penetrates the greenhouse layer and is lost more efficiently wherever it might be found. Wet heat (water vapor) that rises is particularly efficient as it carries the latent heat of vaporization in addition to “just” the enthalpy content in the water molecules themselves at constant temperature, and have to give up this heat in order to form clouds. Clouds then are highly nonlinear temperature regulators — both increasing daytime albedo and increasing nighttime greenhouse trapping. Clouds are negative feedback driven nucleation points — when daytime clouds start to form the albedo causes further cooling beneath them and heat-engine thunderstorms form from the updrafts of warm wet air lofted up to the stratosphere to efficiently cool and spread, creating a local convective cell that pulls heat out of the ocean (or the moist land or air) and moves it to a cold reservoir. Sometimes enormous chunks of the ocean self-organize into the heat engines we call hurricanes, sucking latent heat out of the warm ocean underneath and moving it up into the stratosphere to be radiatively lost with great force and efficiency.

These are the “natural signal” eggs that must be juggled, for all of the oceans and decadal oscillations and the THC that turns over waters heated or cooled a few centuries ago and feeds it back into the system determining surface temperatures. The general circulation models attempt to do the juggling but it is obviously an enormously difficult problem. I, like you, am very skeptical of any attempt to remove some particular “natural signal” from a coupled nonlinear chaotic system with gazillions of feedbacks known and unknown and (mostly) transient, fluctuations that happened to nucleate at some particular point and grow.

Watching the evolution of hurricanes in the Atlantic is particularly instructive. A tiny wave in circulation/air pressure forms off of the coast of Africa somewhere. Most times — depending on things like the shear in the upper atmosphere, which is in turn determined by things that went on thousands of miles away and weeks in the past in ways that depend on e.g. the state of the ENSO and more — the waves peter out, forming nothing but a few thunderstorms and then dissipating. Every now and then, however, the shear is low and a cluster of thunderstorms joins up and creates a persistent updraft as warm wet air is pulled into the low pressure underneath, is lifted up (cooling), and falls back as much cooler rain. The winds build up and start to bend from the coriolis force as they approach the low pressure center, and the whole thing migrates to the west and north, moving like a vacuum cleaner over warm water and growing in size and strength as long as the shear remains low.

We can barely predict in the roughest of terms how many of the waves are likely to nucleate into storms (not all of which start off of Africa — sometimes they nucleate in the Gulf of Mexico, sometimes in the Caribbean, sometimes in the middle of the Atlantic), and the distribution of energy among those storms. We do somewhat better with predicting the future trajectory and evolution of storms once they form, at least when there are distinct steering patterns of weather present (not always true). Who would have predicted that we would be continuing the longest single stretch without a major (cat 3 or better) Atlantic hurricane at this point in 2013? Who can predict at this point how much longer this stretch will continue? This seems as though it would be a feature of the climate, given the importance of hurricanes as transporters of energy, factors in the warming or cooling of the tropical ocean and yet we are completely clueless about this, helpless to do more than observe what happens and try to “explain” it away after the fact. Who would have predicted the erratic pattern of the ENSO, or anticipated its obvious role in the bulk of the observed “global warming” in the modern satellite era, where a single strong ENSO event is associated with almost the entire warming observed over the entire 33 year period? And ENSO in turn regulates the rainfall in West Africa and hence the hurricane pattern in the Atlantic, which influences the end-of-summer temperatures of the tropics and residual warmth that is transported to Europe, which affects (no doubt) the monsoon, which probably couples back to the ENSO with a lag of anywhere from years to decades, with additional contributions from what happens in the Antarctic, in the Indian Ocean, in the waters off of Australia, from the severity of the winter in Siberia and Mongolia, from what the weather/climate was like a century ago when a band of upwelling water in the thermohaline circulation was first pulled under to circulate as a deep current.

We haven’t a prayer of simulating, or understanding this, especially without data. Data we are still just barely beginning to obtain from projects like ARGO and ever-improving satellite observations. Most of the world’s oceans is a mystery as far as temperature, motion, salinity and contribution to the climate are concerned. Our sampling of surface temperatures with actual thermometers is horribly non-uniform, biased and often just plain corrupt. Our knowledge of what is going on in the various layers of the atmosphere is improving, but even less sampled than the oceans (except by satellite). And our models of the sun and its varied coupling to the earth’s geomagnetic system and atmospheric chemistry is primitive but improving.

In a century, we probably will be able to make quantitative climate predictions with some skill. In the current decade, we cannot. AGW is by no means disproven by the last 15 to 18 years of arguably flat temperatures, just as it was by no means proven by the temperature rise that occurred during the ENSO event or since the end of the LIA or the Dalton minimum. Temperature change cannot either prove or disprove the (C)AGW hypothesis, not without a full understanding of the climate system sufficient to predict what the temperature would be in the absence of extra CO_2, which we utterly lack. All the more so since we have to understand it in the presence or absence of CO_2, soot, various aerosols of anthropogenic or natural origin, with a variable sun, varying phases of decadal oscillations, and an unknown ocean sucking heat down or delivering heat up in a global circulation process with timescales ranging from years to centuries, with land use changes and pollutants in the waters that have visible global effects that we do not yet understand, all in a highly nonlinear chaotic system with numerous feedbacks and spontaneous self-organizing stabilizing macroscopic phenomena with global impact, on a planet that is inexorably pursing an orbital cycle that completely changes the underlying “equilibrium” over time in ways we do not fully understand and cannot predict or compute.

In the meantime, prudence suggests that we concentrate on the ongoing disaster of global energy poverty first as it is a certain disaster that is happening now and forces 1/3 of the world’s population to live in near prehistoric levels of poverty and misery. Even if CO_2 were precisely as disastrous as the worst-case CAGW scenarios suggest — which few people believe any more, including climate scientists — the impact of a 2.5-3.5 C rise in global temperature by the end of the century will be smaller than the impact of a century more of global energy poverty, even if the ocean does rise a full meter or more, even if storms do actually get discernibly worse eventually, even if there is increased desertification, none of which are currently observible.

Somewhere in the world, as I type this, not one but hundreds of millions of people are cooking a sparse day’s meal on animal dung or a small charcoal fire. Their children are breathing in particulates and smoke and suffering from malnutrition and diseases. Their clothes must be hand washed, if they are washed at all. They have neither fresh, clean water nor anything but the great outdoors as a sewer system. Some two billion people will light their homes — if one can call a tin shanty or mud or grass hut a home — with an oil lamp or nothing at all tonight. The children of those two billion people will not go to school tomorrow, cannot read or do simple arithmetic, and will go to bed hungry (indeed, live always hungry, as they do not take in enough food to support their growth). They will grow up stunted in stature and damaged in their brains, all because they lack access to cheap electricity, running clean water and sewer facilities and clothes washing and refrigeration and schools and houses and adequate supplies of fertilizer-grown food that electricity enables. Many will die young, or live to become “criminals” as they do what they must to stay alive, or will become cannon fodder for anyone who promises to give them a better life if they will fight and die for them.

They, not the threat of a supposed apocalypse that might or might not happen in a century, are the moral imperative of the twenty-first century. There is no need for 1/3 of the world’s population to live in squalid misery — not any more. We have the technology, we have the wealth, to utterly eliminate global poverty within a few decades. What we lack is the will and the vision to do so.

And we will never succeed in doing so at the same time we make energy more expensive and discourage its use. The poverty in question is energy poverty. Fundamentally. With enough, cheap enough, energy, we can make the deserts bloom, create jobs in the heart of Africa or India or South America, bring medicine and electric lights and running water to the world. Cheap, clean energy solves all problems; it is the fundamental scarcity.

rgb

41. Dr. Acula says:

dscott, I agree completely.

How do you justify breaking a presumably non-linear system into summable “components” like El Nino?

“Common sense” and laziness and ignorance are not good enough reasons. You have to do it by proving the system is linear by being able to make correct ex ante predictions that match empirical data.

How can any competent mathematician fail to see this error?

42. Just what is the history of treating Nino 3-4 as “noise”.
And is it being subtracted because it is “noise” or because it is a strong non-CO2 forcing?

Hypothetically, if you want to bracket T sensitivity to CO2 doubling, you ought to do your best to remove the Temp impact of other known or suspected forcings such as the Nino 3-4. This bring up two flaws… Once you admit there is a forcing other than GHG, such as Nino 3-4, you then need to forthright in estimates for all other identifiable forcings. A bigger flaw is that it must increase uncertainty rather than reduce it.

Willis, what you describe seems to be a process where people want to estimate the climate sensitivity,
Mean(GHG_double) = Mean(Global Temp Recorded(Tortured)) – Mean(Nino3-4).

Missing in this exercise is proper treatment of the uncertainty. Variance(GHG_Double). It cannot be a subtraction of variances.

If you have two uncertain components A, B, uncorrelated, independent, making a total T,
where A and B are measured components, then we can statistically add them for an estimated T
Mean(T_estimated) = Mean(A_measured) + Mean(B_measured)
Variance(T_estimated) = Variance(A_measured) + Variance(B_measured)

But what we have in the real world is not T_estimated but T_measured and we are trying to estimate its component A_estimate from a guess of B_guess.
If our physical model is:
T_measured = A_estimated + B_guess, with A (GHG) and B (Nino3-4) uncorrelated, then by trying to solve for A we face a big problem.
A_estimated = T_measured – B_guess, T and B necessarily must be positively correlated by an unconstrained degree between 0 and 1.

At it’s simplest, and wrong, level you could assume T_measured and B_guess are independent, but then
Mean(A_estimated) = Mean(T_measured) – Mean(B_guess)
Variance(A_estimated) = Variance(T_measured) + Variance(B_guess) ‘Note the PLUS sign.

The bigger the variance on B_guess, the bigger will be the variance on the sought after A_estimate.
Or in this case, Variance(GHG_double) can be no smaller than Variance(Nino3-4) unless we have VERY good knowledge of their covariance.

= = = = = = =
I’ll close by refreshing a link to the topic of tracking uncertainty through Tmax, Tmin data.
I fear we are throwing away a lot of variance by starting with monthly Tavg or Tmean and ignoring the variance that comes from the (Tmax-Tmin)/2 mean std error.
Every adjustment you make to a temperature record, be it adding or subtracting a value, you must ALWAYS ADD the variance of uncertainty of the result.
How much variance needs to be been added to the temperature record from all these uncertain adjustments?
How much bigger must the error bars really be because of adjustment uncertainty and proper accounting of uncertainty in the averaging?

43. There is some evidence that during the last glacial we had a persistent La Nina condition. This might make some sense if you consider for a moment that La Nina / El Nino are basically artifacts of trade wind anomalies. During glacial periods, the solar insolation at high latitudes is below some level that results in glaciation but equatorial insolation does not change significantly. So we have a situation where the poles receive less energy but the energy received at the equator is unchanged. Wind is a means of energy redistribution. I am wondering if we get slack trades (more El Nino conditions) when Northern ocean sea surface temperatures are higher and stronger trades when Northern ocean sea surface temperatures are lower. These differences in temperature also cause various persistent pressure areas to change strength and location. These changes in location and strength of persistent pressure systems can change ocean currents which also impacts the distribution of heat from equator to pole. We could end up in a configuration where the ocean currents are carrying less heat poleward and wind takes up the slack. The Gulf Stream, for example, is basically created by the Bermuda High, a persistent pressure system in the Atlantic. Change the strength and location of that feature over a long period of time and you begin to change the Gulf Stream. If the Gulf Stream carries less heat to the poles, the winds probably carry more. The winds are probably less efficient in that regard than the ocean currents are so we might well see a situation where during a glacial, we have a situation where the equatorial region actually gets warmer than during an interglacial.

This is interesting to me because I read a paper recently that says exactly this happened in the Caribbean during the LIA. Apparently the waters around the Dry Tortugas were warmer during the LIA than they are today. This would imply less heat transfer from the tropics to the pole. I also wonder if this also has some influence on the interstadials we see during a glacial. Say every so often the pressure systems configure themselves so that they are able to influence ocean currents to pump more heat poleward and as this heat is moved North, the tropics begin to cool down, we see a sudden spike up in Greenland temperatures, temperatures gradually drop again until they reach a point where the atmosphere can’t sustain the “warm mode” configuration any longer and switch back to the cold mode configuration and we see these currents shut down and the glaciers advance again.

I have a feeling there is going to be no single magic bullet. There is going to be a complex interaction between various things, some of them offering reinforcing positive feedback to others that “latches” the system in one state or another but at some point a breakdown of that positive feedback allows the system to try to come out of the cold mode but can’t sustain it. I also believe that it is only until there is enough NH insolation to significantly warm water (or land) father north do we see a sustainable warm configuration. One example is that it appears that when the ice sheets build up in North America, it pulls the Atlantic High westward over the Eastern US. This causes what we would describe today as megadroughts in places like Florida and the Southeastern US. But it would also pump massive amounts of warm moist air up from the Gulf of Mexico into the plains of the US where we would expect absolutely spectacular storms where that warm moist gulf air meets the cold air coming down off the ice sheets. So the heat transfer to higher latitude is changed from gulf stream to evaporation in the gulf, blowing that warm moist air northward onto the plains and the radiation of that heat to space from towering storm clouds with absolutely ferocious storms that then arch up into Canada and eventually drop their moisture as snow. This reinforces the positioning of the high pressure system while on the back side of that high, cold air is being pulled down from high latitudes across the Atlantic. Bermuda transitions from seeing mostly southerly breezes that is sees today (because the high is currently centered east of it) to seeing mostly northerly breezes because the high has now moved west of it.

It’s all so complicated but I think there is a fine balance between how much heat is carried by atmospheric currents and how much is carried by ocean currents and that maybe it doesn’t take much to change the proportion of which one dominates.

44. David L. Hagen says:

Willis
Great question. For quantitative results, I recommend using the polynomial cointegration methodology used by Beenstock et al. 2012
Polynomial cointegration tests of anthropogenic impact on global warming
M. Beenstock, Y. Reingewertz, and N. Paldor
Earth Syst. Dynam. Discuss., 3, 561–596, 2012
http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/3/561/2012/
doi:10.5194/esdd-3-561-2012

Specifically, the methodology of polynomial cointegration is used to test AGW since during the observation period (1880–2007) global temperature and solar irradiance are stationary in 1st differences, whereas greenhouse gas and aerosol forcings are stationary in 2nd differences. We show that although these anthropogenic forcings share a common stochastic trend, this trend is empirically independent of the stochastic trend in temperature and solar irradiance. Therefore, greenhouse gas forcing, aerosols, solar irradiance and global temperature are not polynomially cointegrated, and the perceived relationship between these variables is a spurious regression phenomenon. On the other hand, we find that greenhouse gas forcings might have had a temporary effect on global temperature.

For discussion see David Stocwell at Niche Modeling on cointegration.

This provides quantitative results while identifying and avoiding most spurrious regression results commonly shown by simple Granger causation analysis.

Unless AGW proponents can find errors in Beenstock et al. 2012, these results sound the death knell for major AGW.

45. John Bills says:

Willis,

Try the AO for change in the temps 40-60 north and 0-180 East.

Regards

46. Bloke down the pub says:

Tom O says:
January 17, 2013 at 7:48 am
With regards –

Bloke down the pub says:

January 17, 2013 at 7:00 am

So could a mechanism that disrupts the cycle of enso be the cause of ice ages? Not sure what it might be just yet.

It would be reasonable to assume that the “mechanism” that triggers the ice ages and disrupts this cycle will be “off world.” That is, a Solar cycle – sort of like what we are seeing now regards solar activitiy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
But the difficult part is working out how they might interact with enso.

47. Geological records from the Central Pacific and the multi-variant ENSO time lines correlation appear to suggest that the natural climate oscillations get a lot of help from the Earth’s tectonics:
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/ENSO.htm

48. Leron says:

My question is, when there is a strong El-Nino whay does the earths atmosphere heat up? is it because the El-Nino pumps more water vapor into the atmosphere enhancing the greenhouse effect, or does the heat get transfered to the atmosphere from the oceans surface through convection and conduction. Or perhaps both.

49. Willis, first, I appreciate the fact that you’ve discovered how the leftover warm waters from an El Niño are then redistributed during the La Niña phase. This eludes all of those who attempt (and fail) to remove the impacts of ENSO from the surface temperature records through regression analysis. That’s been one of my messages over the past 4 years—but the climate science community continues to promote that myth.

Willis wrote, “…all courteous contributions welcomed.”

The following is written that way. The only reason I say that is sometimes people mistake plainly written, topic-specific language for discourtesy.

With that in mind, a few points to consider:

You wrote, “From my perspective, the El Nino/La Nina oscillation actively regulates heat loss, and thus is part of the planetary temperature regulation system. It regulates the heat loss by way of both the ocean and the atmosphere.”

ENSO also regulates heat gain to the tropical Pacific through variations in cloud amount and the resulting downward shortwave radiation entering the tropical Pacific. Also, through teleconnections, it varies the heat losses and gains throughout the rest of the world. Pavlakis et al (2008) is a good reference for the cloud amount/DSR discussion:
http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/8/6697/2008/acpd-8-6697-2008-print.pdf

And Trenberth et al (2002) is good for the teleconnections:
http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/papers/2000JD000298.pdf

Also, to help support your post, Trenberth et al wrote: “Although it is possible to use regression to eliminate the linear portion of the global mean temperature signal associated with ENSO, the processes that contribute regionally to the global mean differ considerably, and the linear approach likely leaves an ENSO residual.”

And those residuals can be quite large following major El Niño events:

You wrote, “Functionally, the El Nino/La Nina alteration serves as a huge, slow-cycling, thermally regulated Pacific-wide pump.”

It also acts as a recharge-discharge oscillator for ocean heat content in the tropical Pacific , with La Niñas recharging and El Niños discharging. (Graphs in a few moments.)

You wrote, “In addition to moving warm Pacific water poleward, the removal of the warm Pacific tropical surface waters exposes the atmosphere to huge amounts of cooler sub-surface Pacific water. This lowers the air temperature over that whole area of the tropical Pacific.”

Sorry I don’t have graphs of surface air temperatures or TLT for the tropical Pacific, but to help show this using sea surface temperatures, not anomalies, the following graph captures the sea surface temperature gradients across the equatorial Pacific one year before the peak of the 1997/98 El Niño, at its peak, and at the peak of the trailing first La Niña season:

And as sea surface temperature anomalies:

You wrote, “One effect of this is that it slows down the eastern trade winds. As a result of reduced winds and reduced clouds, the warming of the surface of the Pacific continues.”

A weakening of the trade winds causes sea surface temperatures to warm, which increases convection, which causes more cloud cover.
http://oi48.tinypic.com/15wawbd.jpg%5B

You wrote, “After the El Nino conditions come into being, at some point as the surface of the Pacific continues to warm, and the El Nino thunderstorms drive the surface air upwards, the eastern trade winds start to strengthen.”

During an El Niño, the convection, cloud cover and precipitation accompany the warm water eastward from the west Pacific warm pool to the eastern tropical Pacific. The trade winds in the eastern tropical Pacific weaken and the trade winds in the western tropical Pacific change to westerlies to accommodate the relocation of the warm water. See the following series of illustrations from my book:

You wrote, “Note that this system is triggered by temperature.”

ENSO is a coupled ocean-atmosphere process. The trade winds and the temperature gradient across the tropical Pacific interact with positive feedback (Bjerknes feedback). Warm surface and subsurface waters in the west Pacific warm pool provide the fuel for El Niños, so, as you noted, there has to be warm water for an El Niño to form. But it’s a relaxation in the trade winds in the western tropical Pacific that triggers an El Niño, and that relaxation in the trade winds are associated from Westerly Wind Bursts from tropical cyclones, the MJO, etc.

You wrote, “Note the effect of this amazing temperature regulating heat pump. It functions to prevent any long-term buildup of heat in the waters of the surface Pacific.”

You missed the subsurface waters (Ocean Heat Content) of the tropical Pacific in your heat pump description. El Niños discharge, and La Niñas typically recharge, and sometimes La Niñas can “overcharge”, like the 1973-76 La Niña…

…and the 1995/96 La Niña:

You wrote: “This mechanism, this El Nino/La Nina pump skimming off the hot Pacific water and pumping it to the poles, prevents long-term Pacific heat buildup and thus actively keeps the planet from both overheating and excessive cooling. It is one of the many interacting thermoregulating mechanisms that keep the earth from either overheating or becoming too cool.”

Excellent! Also helps to reduce the temperature difference between the tropics and the poles.

You wrote, “Since the variations in the Nino 3.4 index are indicative of the functioning of one of the Earth’s major thermoregulating mechanisms, namely the giant El Nino/La Nina pump that magically materializes to move warm tropical Pacific water to the poles whenever the planet gets too hot and sweaty … then under what possible construction could the Nino 3.4 Index variations be called “noise”?”

Under no circumstances should they be treated as noise. ENSO only appears as noise in climate models, because the models simulate it so poorly and because the modelers neuter it by eliminating ENSO “skewness”.

Last, please check your email. There should be a link to a copy of my book “Who Turned on the Heat?”

50. Willis Eschenbach says:

philr1992 says:
January 17, 2013 at 7:55 am

Dear Willis,

With all due respect, your claim that ENSO SSTs “modulate” the trade winds/AAM state is incorrect. There’s a reason they “start to warm” again. You’ll find that variation in the annular modes/the associated mid latitude stress fields/standing gyres precede variations in the SOI and ONI/MEI by several months. This activity correlates extremely well to the rocking phase of the QBO and variations in solar activity, specifically geomagnetic activity, which correlates to O^3 levels hence Rossby amplitude.

Thanks, Phil. First, as I specified, I was giving a functional explanation of the El Nino/La Nina swing. It functions as a way for the Pacific to lose huge quantities of energy fast when surface waters get over a certain temperature. It does that by pumping warm water from the surface Pacific to the poles and replacing it with cooler subsurface water.

As I also said, I was going to simplify the process, but that for the purpose of discussing how the El Nino/La Nina swing works to regulate the planetary temperature the simplifications would not be significant. I still hold that that statement is true.

Now, as you point out, there are a host of related phenomena. Annular modes, the stress fields, wind fields, standing gyres, the QBO, the list is long. Heck, there’s even bizarre waves involved that go from the Asian side of the Pacific to the South American side, where the wave is reflected and morphs into another kind of wave to make the return journey to Asia. How strange is that? And how many climate models capture that? But I digress …

So as you correctly state, there’s lots of other stuff involved. I wasn’t interested in any of that, because basically I was describing how the ENSO works to regulate planetary temperature. When the whole of the tropical Pacific gets hot, you get El Nino conditions. These then increase the eastern trades and resulting surface currents, driving the warm surface water west and polewards, and in the process creating La Nina conditions. However, as you point out there are many other phenomena and measurable variables involved in the whole process of pumping the heat to the poles.

Thanks for pointing that out,

w.

51. mpainter says:

Treating ENSO as noise is ludicrous. ENSO has profound effects on climate. It seems to me that the idea of treating ENSO as noise is just more of the garbage science that you get from the global warmers whose never ending wet dream is to “fix” the data.

52. tgmccoy says:

rgbatduke- exactly I feel there is an element of racism involved also,in the lack of equality in Development. Greenies fear healthy, happy, prosperous , dark skinned people.
(Their son or daughter might marry one..) . I’m all three races,BTW…

53. Bryan A says:

Sounds like the Nino 3.4 area is a bit like a thermostat. If you remove the thermostat from the equation when the Summer months begin to warm, Your AC doesn’t turn on and you get warmer. If you remove the Nino 3.4 area from the equation, the signal also reads warmer than it really is

54. Leron says: My question is, when there is a strong El-Nino whay does the earths atmosphere heat up? is it because the El-Nino pumps more water vapor into the atmosphere enhancing the greenhouse effect, or does the heat get transfered to the atmosphere from the oceans surface through convection and conduction. Or perhaps both.”

During an El Nino, more warm water than normal covers the central and eastern tropical Pacific. That causes more water to be evaporated from the surface. The moist warm air rises, and as it rises, it cools. Eventually, it cools to the point that it can no longer hold the moisture, so that moisture condenses and forms rain. As it turns to rain, it releases the heat from the sun that warmed the water in the first place.

You’ll find a similar description at NOAA FAQ webpage here:

55. dscott says: “The short answer is NO. The right answer is “All things are NOT equal” therefore subtracting anything without knowing the underlying linear or non linear response of the system is invalid….”

A great discussion. Thanks.

56. Greg Goodman says:

philr1992 says:
January 17, 2013 at 8:06 am

Willis, with all due respect, your claim that ENSO SSTs modulate the trade wind/AAM phase space regime is inaccurate. You’ll find that variations in the polar annular modes, hence the associated stress fields/standing gyres, precede variations in the SOI/ONI by a few months. This circulatory behavior appears to be driven by the rocking phase of the QBO and solar wind fluxes affecting stratospheric O^3 content.

ENSO is absolutely not an internal system oscillation. It is externally forced, the SST anomaly stripe along the axial equator should be considered a result, not a causative mechanism via ludicrous positive thermodynamic feedback loops.

=================

” It is externally forced ” ? Likely, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to just assert it is so. I’ll come back to that.

To Willis’ questions, no of course it’s not “noise” neither does the fact is oscillates ( in a very vague sense of the term) mean it is a mean zero effect.

If it’s just noise a suitable low pass filter will take it out and leave any residual. Of course this is just what those who try the “noise” argument have in mind. But if it’s not mean zero then any resulting change – warming just for example – will get falsely attributed to something else such as … hmmm, Ah! AGW !!

Any attempt to model climate has to model all of it , not make arbitrary assumptions like: all change is due to human CO2 and everything else must average to zero.

57. Baa Humbug says:

But when the surface waters of the Pacific do heat up beyond a certain point, El Nino conditions arise, the eastern trade winds strengthen and pump the warm tropical surface water, first across the Pacific and then to the poles. It also exposes the atmosphere to a large area of cooler subsurface water.

A gender mix-up in that paragraph maybe?

p.s. It all has to do with the shapes and locations of the continents and the rate at which the cold waters off Antarctica spin around and around. When the spin speed increases, much cold water can’t squeeze past the narrow gap between Antarctica and South America, so it travels North along the coast of SA.
The waters of the upwelling zone off of Peru and Chile are always up to 8DegC cooler than waters to the West, causing easterly winds. When these cooler waters spread far and wide due to more upwelling, easterlies increase, signalling the start of La Nina.

If we knew what causes the rate of spin of Antarctic waters to change, (possibly extra-terrestrial) we’d know a little more about the ENSO phenomena.

58. Willis Eschenbach says:

Tim Ball says:
January 17, 2013 at 8:38 am

Finally somebody is looking at an issue I raised in an article on John Daly’s web site several years ago.
http://www.john-daly.com/guests/tim-ball.htm

I revisited the issues more recently on my web site.

http://drtimball.com/2012/what-causes-el-nino-la-nina-ipcc-doesnt-know-but-builds-models-and-makes-projections-anyway/

Willis is wise to pose a series of questions and acknowledge that several ideas are simply in the literature without justification. They are used as givens, yet remain unexplained and are often used out of context. For example, Willis is discussing the Pacific oscillations, but similar oscillations occur in the other oceans – the difference is the size and amount of local and global influence. I reviewed a paper years ago about fluctuations in bird populations on the Atlantic coast of southern Africa that was clearly cyclical and related to changing ocean currents and corresponding water temperatures.

If El Nino is warm water on one side of the Pacific and La Nina the opposite how does that change the total heat going into the atmosphere?

Mmmm … that’s not the case. I’m sorry that my explanation wasn’t clearer. Let me try again.

El Nino is characterized by warm water across the tropical Pacific. Over time this increases the easterly trades, which pump the warm tropical surface water first westward. The water then splits and moves polewards. In the process most of the warm surface water is removed from the Pacific, leading to La Nina conditions.

As these masses of warm tropical Pacific surface water move poleward they move under cooler and cooler atmospheric temperatures. Since the rate of energy transfer is proportional to ∆T, the air-sea temperature difference, this changes the total heat going into the atmosphere.

The same change in reverse is going on in the tropics. After the warm surface waters have been stripped and pumped poleward by the wind, the subsurface waters are cooler than before. This alters the total heat going into/out of the atmosphere.

w.

59. Are you saying that a value of a subset that’s 2.4% is being subtracted from the total 100% set?

60. Bill Illis says:

This is my latest model of Hadcrut4 monthly back to 1871 based on Nino 3.4, the AMO, Solar TSI, Volcanoes AOD, and a Ln(CO2) warming trend.

This is no fluke.

The Ln(Co2) warming residual is this (including the AMO as a natural cycle).

And when you leave out the AMO, you get a 60 year up and down cycle as shown here. (Chart also notes the starting point of Tamino and Rahmstorf’s 2011 paper which left out the AMO on purpose (and used the old PMOD composite data for TSI which is known to be suffering from degradation in the instruments in recent years).

61. Gail Combs says:

rgbatduke says:
January 17, 2013 at 9:29 am
….They, not the threat of a supposed apocalypse that might or might not happen in a century, are the moral imperative of the twenty-first century. There is no need for 1/3 of the world’s population to live in squalid misery — not any more. We have the technology, we have the wealth, to utterly eliminate global poverty within a few decades. What we lack is the will and the vision to do so.

And we will never succeed in doing so at the same time we make energy more expensive and discourage its use. The poverty in question is energy poverty. Fundamentally. With enough, cheap enough, energy, we can make the deserts bloom, create jobs in the heart of Africa or India or South America, bring medicine and electric lights and running water to the world. Cheap, clean energy solves all problems; it is the fundamental scarcity.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
That we have a large number of people in the industrialized nations who WANT to return to those conditions and are being organized to push for legislation forcing their entire country in to becoming like those African countries is to me truly mind boggling.

We have had the technology to improve those conditions for decades but instead the bankers and corporations with the help of our governments do all they can to make conditions even worse. see link for a typical scenario

62. Theo Goodwin says:

Great questions, Willis. Great discussion, everyone. Thanks. I heartily endorse the comment by rgbatduke, especially the following:

“In a century, we probably will be able to make quantitative climate predictions with some skill. In the current decade, we cannot. AGW is by no means disproven by the last 15 to 18 years of arguably flat temperatures, just as it was by no means proven by the temperature rise that occurred during the ENSO event or since the end of the LIA or the Dalton minimum. Temperature change cannot either prove or disprove the (C)AGW hypothesis, not without a full understanding of the climate system sufficient to predict what the temperature would be in the absence of extra CO_2, which we utterly lack.”

That is an accurate description of where climate science is today.

63. Bob Tisdale:

In your superb and informative post at January 17, 2013 at 10:07 am you say to Willis,

Under no circumstances should they [i.e. ENSO effects] be treated as noise. ENSO only appears as noise in climate models, because the models simulate it so poorly and because the modelers neuter it by eliminating ENSO “skewness”.

As I said in my post January 17, 2013 at 7:25 am, at I strongly agree that “Under no circumstances should they [i.e. ENSO effects] be treated as noise”. But I write to make a pedantic point which I think to be important.

Climate system oscillations such as ENSO, AMO, etc. are emergent properties of the system. They are not simulated in the climate models because emergent properties cannot be simulated without adequate understanding of the emergent behaviour. This provides a problem; viz.

When a model of a complex system is constructed, the emergent properties of the system
(a) arise naturally in a model’s output
or
(b) have to be simulated as an input simulation of the behaviour which will alter the model’s output.

There is reason to accept that the model provides a realistic emulation of a complex system if an important emergent property of the system arises in the model’s output.

Failure of the model to generate an important emergent property indicates that the model is a poor emulation of the modeled system. And if the model is forced to simulate an important emergent property of the system then it cannot be known in what other ways the model output differs from the behaviour of the modeled system.

But ENSO, AMO, etc. do not arise in the output of climate models and there is lack of knowledge to enable these behaviours to be simulated in the models. This indicates that the models are poor emulations of real climate behaviours and their causes.

Hence, there is no a priori reason to accept outputs of climate models as being indicative of the behaviour of the real climate. And, therefore, studies such as yours have extreme importance for understanding real climate behaviour.

Richard

64. Paul Homewood says: “If La Nina results from the trade winds, which themselves result from El Nino conditions, then what causes a double or triple La Nina?”

A clarification: Trade winds (and westerlies) exist at some degree during all phases of ENSO. During ENSO-neutral phase, the trade wind strength is “normal”. During a La Niña, trade winds strengthen across tropical Pacific. And during an El Niño, the trade winds in the east weaken, and those in the west reverse and become westerlies.

Keep in mind that ENSO is a coupled ocean-atmosphere process and that the trade winds and the temperature gradient (not anomalies) of the tropical Pacific interact. Stronger trade wind equal steeper temperature gradient—and a steeper temperature gradient also strengthens the trade winds—positive feedback.

Regarding the rest of your question, there are a number of other factors that dictate when and whether an El Niño and La Niña will form. They include alternating “pulses” of warm and cool waters that travel across the equatorial Pacific (from west to east) called Kelvin waves. If there isn’t a lot of warm water associated with a downwelling (warm) Kevin wave, (or enough warm water in the west Pacific Warm Pool to serve as fuel once an El Niño gets underway), an El Niño may not form or it will be short lived. Recently, there appears to have been more cool water than normal associated with the upwelling (cool) Kelvin waves, so we’ve had the double-dip (2010/11 La Niña and 2011/12 La Niña) and now La Niña conditions—though I don’t know that we could classify this as a triple-dip, since we did reach strong El Niño conditions for a short period of time during 2012.

La Niña events can also simply last for three years, as we saw with the 1998-2001 La Niña. ENSO involves positive feedbacks, as noted above, so an ENSO event requires something to break the positive feedback in order to come out of a La Niña (or El Niño). I suspect that 3-year La Niña lasted so long because there was so much warm water in the western tropical Pacific (that was left over from the 1997/98 El Niño) that the tropical Pacific simply got stuck in La Niña mode until the warm water was distributed and dissipated. Makes sense, but I haven’t seen any papers describing it. (The unfortunate thing: most ENSO papers deal with El Niños, not La Ninas.)

65. Greg Goodman says:

I think Bob Tisdale’s basic argument that cold la Nina surface conditions allow increased solar energy capture and El Nino dumps OHC into the atmosphere (and hence starts its way out of the global system) is fundamental. As he says, it’s asymmetric , it is not two sides of the same coin and there is absolutely no reason why is should be mean zero.

Anyone suggesting this is “noise” or internal variation has likely not thought it through or is trying to pull a fast one.

However, this just provides a mechanism. The question is what drives it.

Now one factor I have not had time to properly investigate is but has been nagging me for a while is the idea that the way the colder waters surface of Peru suggests to me an upwelling of water striking the massive underwater mountain that is South America. Diagrams like upper part of Willis’ figure 2 look like a basin wide oscillation to me , not winds pushing some surface water to one side.

What I’d like to see is how these up-wells correlate with length of day variations.

It is fairly well accepted in attempts to model tides that basin wide or regional tides have an effect on LOD. It follows by Newtons third law of motion, that if tides can affect LOD, LOD can affects tides. Now tides are generally accepted to be driven by celestial bodies though actually trying to model it gets rather …. tricky.

Now if some such celestial body or bodies exerted a pull on the highly asymmetrical solid Earth “potato” that would cause a small change in angular momentum and hence a change in LOD.

In the sense that is shortens the LOD the liquid part of the earth would invoke Newton’s first law and carry on moving. It would run up the slope of S. Am and colder (ie denser) deeper waters would rise towards the surface. If this change was repeated for months (or years) , as LOD changes do, this could well cause something like what we call La Nina conditions.

Once this change of angular momentum fades , the denser waters would fall back being replaced by warmer surface waters being draw back by gravity.

Since the mass of water involved is huge and the relative difference in density relatively small the time constant of this movement would be very long . Indeed deeper waters, larger effects would be longer again. The driving force would necessarily be a very slow one.

There has been a lot of speculation about various complex periodic changes in climate and possible linkage to planetary orbital periods. This could provide a possible mechanism.

Similar effects may also affect other major basins, where periods would be different and probably resonate with different drivers.

Autocorrelation lags plots of both N. Pacific and N. Atlantic shows strong periodic repetitions.

I may get to post more detail on that later.

66. phlogiston says:

This is a helpful post, the ENSO should indeed be seen as a heat pump.

The heart is also a pump. The analogy is not completely misplaced since both the metazoan heart-beat and the ENSO are nonlinear oscillators.

This debate is settling into the familiar internal versus external oscillation debate.

What Willis has described in terms of the interaction of the trades blowing equatorial Pacific water westward, cloud cover and upwelling in the east Pacific is a concise description of the Bjerknes feedback, described here.

The crucial understanding that Bjerknes brought to the ENSO is that both La Nina and el Nino phases are driven by positive feedbacks. They are time-limited positive feedbacks since their operation leads to remove the conditions driving the positive feedback.

Since the wind and current setup of the Pacific can lead periodically to either of these feedbacks, the Pacific thermodynamically can be described as an “excitable medium” or a reactive medium. This is the condition that leads to nonlinear oscillation (see Bertram). The classic Belousov-Zhabotinsky chemical oscillator is a good example of this.

The heartbeat, as mentioned initially, is also a nonlinear oscillator – it is driven by very strong positive feedbacks, with the result that the emergent oscillation is regular and monotonic, and with strong amplitude. By contrast the Bjerknes positive feedbacks which make the Pacific an excitable medium are of limited strength, thus the oscillation is intermittent since the system is subject to various other influences.

Alan Millar says:
January 17, 2013 at 7:33 am
Succinct post Willis.

However, what causes the 30 year positive and negative PDO cycles which have more El Ninos or La Ninas respectively? We don’t see 30 year cycles in the source of the energy for this heat pump, the Sun.

Alan

Following on from the ENSO being a nonlinear oscillator, such nonliear systems typically evolve in a manner dictated by attractors. One common such attractor is the Lorenz attractor, whose waveform is illustrated here. The gtract plots show alternating periods of low and high oscillation swings, analogous to alternating periods of La Nina and el Nino dominance in the East Pacific.

The 60 year oscillation could represent the two alternating “wings” of the Lorenz attractor governing the ENSO nonlinear oscillation.

67. Dr. Acula says:

“David L. Hagen says For quantitative results, I recommend using the polynomial cointegration methodology”

No. Why should you have any faith in the results yielded by such mathematical prestidigitation? Where is the empirical evidence showing the techniques work?

According to this author, cointegration techniques are confusing, unreliable, and dangerous. IIRC he explains how the techniques can be used to show anything, depending on the biases of the user. See http://www.capco.com/capco-institute/capco-journal/journal-32-applied-finance/the-failure-of-financial-econometrics-asses

Cointegration has been used primarily in econometrics. But this is damning: “Certain hypotheses about econometric methods have been accepted for years despite the lack of evidence. Ninety-five percent of the experts agreed that econometric methods are superior for short-range forecasting. An examination of the empirical literature did not support this belief: Econometric forecasts were not shown to be significantly better in any of the 14 ex post and 16 ex ante tests. Furthermore, there was no tendency toward greater accuracy over these 30 tests. Similarly, 72% of the experts felt that complexity contributed to accuracy, but the examination of the literature did not support such a belief: Complex models were not significantly better in any of the five indirect and 11 direct tests.” – from http://works.bepress.com/j_scott_armstrong/46/ and http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=marketing_papers

68. Eric H. says:

Bill Illis,
Are you saying, that you have isolated the CO2 warming trend?

69. Eric H. says:

Bill Illis,
Nevermind, I got it…

There are a lot of good mathematical/statistical observations in the post and comments. But I feel that the primary failure in trying to define these large effects as “noise” is a simple misuse of language, in the Orwellian sense. If the data is inconvenient, slander it as :”noise”.
A proper definition of noise would not include the data which is coupled to the signal of interest in any way by feedback or control as noise. For example the cosmic microwave background can be safely removed from the microwave observations of a single star of interest, since they are not coupled or correlated. The AGW crowd’s attempt to turn these oscillations into “noise” is logically as ridiculous as trying to understand a pulsar by first filtering out the pulses.

71. Kelvin Vaughan says:

On our trpospheric scatter radio system we had four receivers with phase correctors which when combined would pull the signal up out of the noise. The theory was that the noise being random would remain at the same level whilst the in phase signals would add together giving a 6db gain.

Perhaps you could adapt the theory Willis.

72. Number of contributors have mentioned the equatorial heat transport pole-wards.
In the North Atlantic and the North Pacific heat transport is regulated by conflict of warm and cold currents: North Atlantic Drift and East Greenland Currents (NA) as drivers of the AMO, Kuroshio and Oyashio Currents (NP) driving the PDO, while in Central Pacific the South Equatorial Current is the key oscillator, the source of the ENSO.
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/A&P.htm
In the far South Pacific the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC) is the main oscillator driving the Antarctic Circumpolar Temperature Wave (ACTW).
The AMO, PDO and ENSO can be directly linked to the Earth’s tectonics by examining geological records
while the ACTW appears to be related to an oscillation in the differential rotation of the Earth’s core.
To understand the Earth’s climate change through changes of the oceans behaviour, some appreciation of the changes that the Earth exerts on the above mention currents appears to be an essential prerequisite, sadly ignored by many.

73. Tom in Indy says:

rgbatduke well said,I have not read a better synopsis.
gail combs
That we have a large number of people in the industrialized nations who WANT to return to those conditions and are being organized to push for legislation forcing their entire country in to becoming like those African countries is to me truly mind boggling.

This is a great point and highlights a consequence of the Progressive agenda playing out before our eyes. If Progressives have their way, tax rates will increase on everyone in the U.S., not just the “rich”. The payroll tax holiday that ended January 1, 2013 is a small example. It was a mere 2% of wages, but hit rich and poor alike, with the poorest workers paying the highest effective rate in terms of income since nearly all their income is wage income and subject to the tax.

The Progressive push for a reduction in take-home pay and increase in the global price of energy will, as you implied, force rich and poor alike to accept a lower standard of living.

74. Roberto says:

To return to the original question, why treat this effect as noise?

In a very simple model, the output is presumed to be some linear multiplier times each factor, plus a constant. O = M1 * F1 + M2 * F2 + C

There is one multiplier, M1 and M2 for each factor F1 and F2, and so on.

Your goal is find M1, M2, and C. The way you do that is cancel out factor F1, so whatever is left is driven solely by F2, then vice versa. The proper way to do that operation is to find data where F1 is a high value, then a low value, while F2 is absolutely unchanging, then vice versa.

A more sophisticated approach might look for more than 2 values of F1, all while F2 is held rock steady. That would see whether the response to F1 is something besides a simple multiplier.

As always, this operation is only as good as its assumptions and its execution. If there is some other big factor F3 which you are not accounting for, the whole approach is going to drive into a concrete post and crash. Let alone F10 and F25. And if history and the order of events is important, you drive into that post and crash. And if F1 and F2 react with each other, so the effect of F1 depends on whether F2 is high or low, you have another big problem. If there are more than about 2 driving factors, such as N=8, the work to cancel out each set of N-1 factors (here 7 factors at the same time) while wiggling the remaining factor becomes prohibitive, unless you have a nice laboratory and can apply the very orderly techniques of Design of Experiments (DOE).

If you don’t have clean experiments like that (and weather experiments won’t), you can try to analyze naturally occuring data (NOD). This often involves introducing the concept of noise, which means you are trying to find the effects of factor F1 by subtracting out the effects of factor F2, rather than holding it steady (presuming there are no other important factors out there wiggling away by themselves at the same time, and so on.). Crucial assumptions include independence, and that you have successfully kept an eye on every single one of the actual drivers. Otherwise, you have a lovely history, but it is totally useless as far as its predictive value. Good try, but no kewpie doll.

And subtracting out just one of the driving factors is useless, too. You have to account for all of them, or you have no clue what remains. The trifecta is the only game in town, and you missed it.

75. Phil says:

The reason why ENSO signals are taken out from the global TEMPERATURE graphs is because 1 cubic metre of water holds about 4000 times as much ENERGY as 1 cubic metre of air.

As noted in several posts above, ENSO events transfer heat between the atmosphere and the ocean. So if the ocean takes up lots of energy, the TEMPERATURE rise will be smaller than if that energy were distributed amongst the atmosphere.

If a graph were produced of global thermal ENERGY, and the measurements were fine scale enough to capture the temperature distribution within the ocean due to events such as ENSO, then any AGW signal (or lack of it) should become evident.

Several climate scientists note that 90% of AGW warming is going into the oceans. In reality, we can almost neglect what is happening in the atmosphere, and just look at the temperature of the ocean.

76. Willis Eschenbach says:

Matthew W says:
January 17, 2013 at 10:22 am

Are you saying that a value of a subset that’s 2.4% is being subtracted from the total 100% set?

No, sorry for the lack of clarity. I am saying that a linear transform of the subset is being subtracted from the total 100% set. This is generally done in the usual way, via linear regression.

w.

77. Willis Eschenbach says:

Bill Illis says:
January 17, 2013 at 10:23 am

This is my latest model of Hadcrut4 monthly back to 1871 based on Nino 3.4, the AMO, Solar TSI, Volcanoes AOD, and a Ln(CO2) warming trend.

This is no fluke.

Bill, if you do a linear regression with enough variables you can simulate anything.

But wait, it’s worse. When you do what you do, which is to include among your explanatory variables things like the Nino 3.4 Index, which is a subset of what you are attempting to predict, or optical depth (AOD), which is in part a function of temperature, then all bets are off. Of course you can hindcast HadCRUT if you do that, that’s a no-brainer. See Enrico Fermi’s story of Johnny von Neumann and the elephant.

Of course, such a system is totally useless for forecasting temperatures.

You should also repeat your regression, using solely the first half of your data, and see how well the regressions parameters are able to hindcast the other half of the data.

Then repeat the procedure using just the second half of the data to establish your regression parameters, and see how well those parameters are able to hindcast the first half of the data …

I suspect the results might surprise you … but in any case, you can’t use temperature data to hindcast temperature data, that’s cheating. Think about the AMO Index. You want to use that to simulate the temperature, but the AMO Index is nothing but a mathematical transformation of the temperature in the North Atlantic … which is part of what you are trying to simulate. You can’t use the temperature to simulate the temperature, you’ll be successful every time.

So you are correct, your result is no fluke. Instead, that kind of reconstruction is the inevitable result of 1) lots of variables and 2) some of the variables being part of what you are trying to simulate.

w.

78. HankHenry says:

rgbatduke says:
January 17, 2013 at 9:29 am
My only comment on this description of the heat pump is this. The planet cools more efficiently when the heat absorbed in the tropics is not transported towards the poles. Because the heat is ultimately lost via T^4 radiation, anything that reduces temperature variation on the surface area by transporting hot spot heat elsewhere has a net warming influence.
========================================================
First I second everything you say about a need to directly attack global squalor rather than taking to the pulpit to make blanket condemnations of one’s fellow man and conjuring Doom by greenhouse effect. I’m not sure I follow the argument on how a hotspot not moving poleward nets out as cooling. It seems a hotspot would radiate in the same way regardless of where it was. Do you think that hotspots cool by mixing or is it primarily just radiative? The bone I am picking at is that heat moving elsewhere toward the pole does not improve on the earth’s cooling in and of itself. I think of the earth as cooling the same all the time (absent the effect we’re discussing and water vapor effects.) It’s kind of a circular aspect of the argument; given a hotspot it’s going to end up cooling more effectively no matter where it is, but if it persists longer then it’s true that it’s going to be even more effective. I do agree with the general proposition you present – that the more uniform the temperature of the earth the lower the rate of cooling. This all comes up when thinking about whether a fast spinning planet cools differently than a slow one (like the moon). My answer has always been that it has to do with properties of rock on the surface. If things were such that rocks barely had time to cool before the sun rose again, it wouldn’t make much difference, but if rocks quickly cool down, then yes the average temperature would be cooler because then the planet (or moon) would be less uniform temperature-wise. All this rumination, of course, underlines what you have said, that it’s not a simple model. My suspicion is that the net greenhouse effect of doubled CO2 is probably about as negligible as the effect of all humankind’s impoundment of water on the climate. There is a theoretical effect and a doubling sounds substantial but that doubling is in the context of a much larger and wildly varying greenhouse effect from water vapor.

79. Willis Eschenbach says:

Roberto says:
January 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm

To return to the original question, why treat this effect as noise?

In a very simple model, the output is presumed to be some linear multiplier times each factor, plus a constant. O = M1 * F1 + M2 * F2 + C

If you think that strictly linear model has any chance of even vaguely resembling the climate, you don’t understand the climate. It is a wildly non-linear system. Sadly, that linear assumption is the dominant climate paradigm.

In any case, the problem you are not grasping is that F1, factor 1, the Nino 3.4 index is not an independent variable. It is a linear transform of tropical Pacific surface temperature, something of the form:

F1 = a * Tp + b * time + c

where Tp is the temperature of that area of the Pacific.

So you are in essence subtracting something from itself … that’s what my question was about.

w.

80. Bill Illis says:

Willis, you are right of course. The reconstruction is using part of the temperature record (although the ENSO part is three months prior).

But what is it that we are trying to do here?

Remove the noise and see an underlying temperature trend. A big part of the noise can be explained by these variables (even though some are not independent variables). The question was can we remove some of the variability. Yes.

Now forecasting is an issue. I can usually get the ENSO pretty close for at least 3 months out, which means 6 months out (considering the lag).

The AMO seems to be correlated with the ENSO (lagged several months) and with OHC in the north Atlantic going back to 1900 (lagged about 1 year) and OHC in the north Atlantic is going down now.

We can more-or-less tell what the solar cycle TSI is going to do for the next 4 or 5 years, and that is decline from its current +0.33 W/m2 to about -0.4 W/m2 although there really is not much of a solar cycle signal in the residuals.

CO2 is growing at a certain rate which is not difficult to extrapolate. The default is no volcanoes.

So, one can forecast ahead with this. The regression coefficients don’t change through time once you have a few decades of data. The ENSO impact is always the same (except for a multi-year event which looks to be higher), The AMO coefficient is 0.5.

Going farther out, one would assume the ENSO will balance out to Zero as it has since 1871. The AMO might follow its 60 year cycle (maybe not) and balance out to Zero over time.

So, the underlying trend of temperatures is there within +/- 0.2C white noise variation per month.

81. Noise and Noises are just signals that we do not understand.

82. rgbatduke says:

rgbatduke- exactly I feel there is an element of racism involved also,in the lack of equality in Development. Greenies fear healthy, happy, prosperous , dark skinned people.
(Their son or daughter might marry one..) . I’m all three races,BTW…

I think it not just Green’s, but more like the collusion that used to exist between moonshiners and the church in NC. The church formally opposed drinking, because alcohol was clearly the tool of the devil. For years, it successfully prevented liquor by the drink, created blue laws restricting the sale of alcohol, kept many counties in NC altogether dry. This fit the interests of the moonshiners just fine, as the people of NC were going to drink regardless of what the church claimed from its pulpits (including a lot of the very church goers that by day would piously oppose drinking). A dry county was a godsend for the ‘shiners — huge demand, no other source of supply. Nobody voted more fervently against the freedom to buy commercial liquor than a moonshiner, not even a Baptist preacher.

We see exactly the same unlikely bedfellows in the Green movement. Show me a Green that actually gives up cars, washing machines, electric lights, computers, heated houses, and commercial goods made far away and transported at enormous expense in energy to the stores where they purchased them and I’ll show you a Green that has no voice because they have successfully marginalized themselves to where they cannot even publicly argue for their public stance. Al Gore is just like a Baptist minister who is all hellfire and damnation when it comes to public drinking but who gets regular deliveries from his local moonshiner just the same. The Gores are verbally consistent but behaviorally inconsistent (and wish to control your behavior far more than their own) just like the preacher man.

The real puzzles are the moonshiners. At first glance they look like the ones that should most favor legalization of booze, until you realize just how much they profit from its restriction in a world where opposition to drinking is a lot more posturing and lip service to a mythological ideal than it is any sort of actual universal sentiment. In our modern world, the “moonshiners” that are in bed with the Greens are the very energy companies the publicly defend. After all, nobody will ever vote to cut back their energy usage if it involves lowering their standard of living!

Seriously. Nobody. Ever. If they were going to vote for that they could start by “voting” with their own behavior, by turning their lifestyle back to the 19th century — no electric lights, no electric heat, horses for transportation, hand washing of clothes in cold water carried by hand from a well or stream, growing their own food, refusing to purchase manufactured goods. The Amish manage lives something very much like this, but I don’t see people running en masse to join the Amish.

They are perfectly happy, of course, to lower somebody else’s standard of living. Gore is rich enough that he doesn’t care what the price of gasoline is — he can still afford to drive his SUV and live in an enormous, heated house and fly all over the world and wear expensive, clean clothes and pretty much not be affected, just like the Baptist who is happy to vote against commercial liquor because he’s got his personal moonshiner regardless.

Energy companies, then, love it when Green’s argue for restrictions that raise the cost of energy. The demand for energy is nearly completely inelastic, their profit margins are more or less fixed, so higher energy costs simply apply their margin to an increased revenue base without them having to actually do anything more to earn the money! Hell, we’ve even turned otherwise honest farmers into moonshiners by legally mandating the burning of moonshine in our cars.

The Greens and Energy companies thus work in perfect accord. The more expensive wind power is, the more certain the coal companies are of continued coal profits. Only an alternative energy source that is actually cheaper than coal is to be feared.

Is there racism, conscious or unconscious, in this unspoken agreement? Probably. By chance or design, the 1/3 of the world that is the poorest are mostly of darker skin, mostly live in countries that were long exploited by imperialist European nations, and that became — and to a large extent still are — a source for cheap labor and raw materials that disproportionately profit people half a world away. Freedom, civilization and law are the enemies of the church and the moonshiner alike. A corrupt government where the sheriff’s cousin and preacher’s uncle is also the county moonshiner works far better than ABC stores and uniform laws and taxation with no personal advantage that gives the lie to the church’s cries of sin and damnation simply by “working”.

rgb

83. While I’ve never seen this properly articulated, I can answer your first question, which is really about what is signal and what is noise?

The theory is that net forcings drive atmospheric temperatures (ignoring diurnal and seasonal variations). Absent natural variability, atmospheric temperatures would be a direct function of net forcings with minimum lag.

The signal is the direct and (almost) immediate effect of net forcings. Everything else that affects atmospheric temperatures is noise.

Removing ENSO variability is an attempt to remove what is believed to be a major source of natural variability and so get a clearer picture of the forcings signal.

84. bw says:

Don’t get lost in the trees. Temperatures (and energy) are physical. If you want to know the temprature of the US minus Texas, just subract the Texas data from the total dataset.
If there were 40 thermometers equally distributed around the globe, then one thermometer must represent the 2.5 percent of global surface in the eastern Pacific. Just subtract the data from that one thermometer.

85. Gail Combs says:

bw says:
January 17, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Don’t get lost in the trees. Temperatures (and energy) are physical…..
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
You missed the whole point. My temperature in mid NC mirrors the temperature of the Atlantic ocean so you can’t just subtract the data points for the Atlantic and remove it’s influence.

86. bw says:

Eschenbach’s statement “The Nino 3.4 region covers about 2.4% of the planet’s surface”
implies a geographically defined subset of the earth’s surface. My solution follows in that context and excludes all other parameters. If you want to define the ENSO “signal” globally in the time domain, then I suggest you just average 30 periods of ENSO signal and subract that. The deconvolution of “signals” from “noise” in the time domain has consumed a large proportion of human endevour. I’d say that the net global ENSO “signal” is zero, thats the null hypothesis.
I see no point in contriving an “index” from the base data and subracting that. It’s like saying what is the effect of subracting the “Dow Jones Industrial Average” from the average stock market. It has no physical meaning. There are large numbers of people who try to detect information from stock charts. That’s a total waste of effort.
If you can’t measure something, then you can’t quantifiy it. Does the ENSO index have a distinctly physical meaning? Can other observers measure it and find the same value?
No one wastes time asking a tibetan guru what effect ENSO has on the global average temperature. If you want to spend your time usefully, then learn more about basic scientific methodology, eg. get a copy of “Introduction to Scientific Research, by E. Bright Wilson, Jr. and read if a couple times.

87. Phil says: “Several climate scientists note that 90% of AGW warming is going into the oceans. In reality, we can almost neglect what is happening in the atmosphere, and just look at the temperature of the ocean.”

There is nothing in the ocean heat content data since 1955 or in the satellite-era sea surface temperature data to indicate that AGW had any influence on the warming of the oceans. None whatsoever:

88. Bill Illis says:

Did the 1997-98 Super El Nino affect global temperatures? This is what it looked like on December 19, 1997 .

Daily UAH temperatures reached +0.843C on April 6, 1998. In December this year, 2012, UAH averaged only +0.202C or 0.641C less than it was on April 6, 1998.

Did the 1997-98 El Nino impact global temperatures? – only by as much as 0.6C.

——

My favorite is the biggest Super-El Nino of all time in 1877-78 which got to about +3.4C in the Nino 3.4 Index.

Hadcrut4 temperatures spiked to +0.395C in February 1878 while the background temperature of the time was just -0.300C.

Did the Super-El Nino of 1877-78 affect global temperatures? – only by as much as 0.7C.

—-

The biggest La Nina of all time was December of 1988 at about -2.4C.

UAH reached a low of -0.309C in March 1989 and Hadcrut4 hit a low of 0.02C in Jan 1989.

Did the Biggest-although-not-Super-La-Nina of 1988 affect global temperatures? – well yeah.

——-

It is clear that the ENSO impacts global temperatures. There is long-winded explanation of how this happens but suffice it to say, there is a physical energy balance explanations for how it happens.

Now the temperature trend in Nino 3.4 is Zero since we have had good reconstructions of its index. It might be the only place on the planet which has Zero trend over the last 140 years. In part, because it has been well-measured by ships, has a long history of relationship to the SOI which has been carefully measured for more than 150 years, has a long relationship with fish catches and ocean temperaturee off of Peru, has a long relationship with its impact on global temperatures, etc. etc.

In short, the climate scientists didn’t think they could get away with adjusting its record up like everywhere else on the planet.

It is the most important region on the planet in terms of weather/climate.

89. ENSO looks like a unit root to me. The pulse changes temperatures permanently up or down. It is not a temporary effect. As a result OLS analysis of temperature gives a misleading result.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Unit_root_hypothesis_diagram.svg

Isn’t this what Bob Tisdale has been arguing? That ENSO is a step function, not an oscillation around a mean.

90. Roger Maestri says:

Well, Meteorology and Climatology I do not understand almost nothing but bringing my comfort zone, Mechanics of Turbulence, you can make an analogy.

When studying turbulent flows by numerical methods, it is possible to separate the large vortex swirls small. This is done because large structures dominate the overall flow, and is responsible for most of the energy. But small structures are critical phenomena for power dissipation.

This way filter filtering the signal and simply remove it from the study generally, we are missing mechanisms (energy dissipation, for example) that prevents the explanation of the behavior of the larger whole.

When the buffer enable (eg outside the boundary layer), and it is possible to consider the behavior of small vortices as homogeneous and isotropic. In this case, it overrides the global analysis of sub-grid functions that represent the characteristics of these small dissipative structures.

Let it be clear, it is not necessary to use in calculating the overall development of small spatial-temporal structures, however, from the point of view of its action median overall effect should be considered.

What is the correlation with the post? We have two errors in the filtering of local, first filtering is unduly expanded to a domain of amplitudes that exceed the conditions of homogeneity and isotropy, we are losing signal and resolution capability of the model. Secondly, small perturbations filter without substituílas also known by other function over time lose resolution in large structures.

In short, if you filter a local action (do not use the term cold signal) without boring the above conditions, the model fully committed.

91. Willis Eschenbach says:

bw says:
January 17, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Eschenbach’s statement

“The Nino 3.4 region covers about 2.4% of the planet’s surface”

implies a geographically defined subset of the earth’s surface. My solution follows in that context and excludes all other parameters. If you want to define the ENSO “signal” globally in the time domain, then I suggest you just average 30 periods of ENSO signal and subract that.

The El Nino / La Nina phenomena are not cyclic, that is, they have no fixed periods. Because of that, it’s not possible to “just average 30 periods of ENSO signal”.

… If you can’t measure something, then you can’t quantifiy it. Does the ENSO index have a distinctly physical meaning? Can other observers measure it and find the same value?

Well, there’s a variety of indices, one for each of the El Nino areas … each one has a defined meaning, which other observers can calculate independently and agree on.

No one wastes time asking a tibetan guru what effect ENSO has on the global average temperature. If you want to spend your time usefully, then learn more about basic scientific methodology, eg. get a copy of “Introduction to Scientific Research, by E. Bright Wilson, Jr. and read if a couple times.

I haven’t a clue who this is aimed at. If it’s aimed at me, you haven’t shown that I need an introduction to scientific research. If you have a problem with something I’ve said, please quote my exact words that you disagree with, and indicate where you think I went off the rails.

All the best,

w.

92. Al Gore says:

The simple answer is that the political decided UNFCCC doctrine state that humans are driving the global temperature. Hence El Niño and La Niña, or any other circulation system, are not UNFCCC conform and ideological blasphemy?

93. Graeme W says:

Bill Illis says:
January 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Going farther out, one would assume the ENSO will balance out to Zero as it has since 1871.

Bill, I’ve heard the assumption that ENSO will balance out to zero many times, but I’ve never seen the supporting evidence for that assumption. You’ve made the statement that it has balanced out to zero since 1871.

Can you please provide a supporting link for that statement? In particular, I’m interesting in finding out WHAT balances out to zero. Is it the sea surface temperature in the NINO 3.4 area (ie. the sea surface temperature hasn’t changed in over 140 years), or is it the net energy released by the ENSO cycle has balanced out to zero (in which case how was that net energy release calculated for the first part of the record)?

I’m sure you know exactly what you mean, but for a layman like me it’s very ambiguous and most of the time the ‘zero balance’ comment comes over as an assumption, not a fact as you’re stated it is.

94. Truthseeker says:

rgbatduke says:
January 17, 2013 at 9:29 am
“And we will never succeed in doing so at the same time we make energy more expensive and discourage its use. The poverty in question is energy poverty. Fundamentally. With enough, cheap enough, energy, we can make the deserts bloom, create jobs in the heart of Africa or India or South America, bring medicine and electric lights and running water to the world. Cheap, clean energy solves all problems; it is the fundamental scarcity.”
————————————————————————————————————————————
Absolutely correct. The best way to make poor people into rich people is to supply cheap energy. The best way to make rich people into poor people is to make energy more expensive. Energy is work and work not done by a device has to be done by a person. Give people energy and they can spend their time improving their life instead of just living it.
Energy is the golden bullet that will fix everything. Only the power-hungry collectivists want that bullet to stay in the gun.

95. rgb at 1:31 pm – Yes. Excellent. Follow the money. Big energy definitely benefits by the CAGW scare.

96. As an Engineer, I think that it’s a mistake to describe it as a regulating mechanism. Such implies a predetermined target.

It’s a multi-modal system that operates in different quasi-static states depending on the available energy flux (power) entering the system, driving the temperatures of parts of the system to and beyond threshhold levels. That flux is dominated by insolation (solar energy reaching the surface) but the temperature is also (notionally) influenced by thermodynamic state and the magnitude of currents and circulations, both horizontal and vertical.

The strength of circulation is determined by global factors. The dominant polar circulation around Antarctica is moderated after the big chill at the tip of South America by mixing from both Atlantic and Indian Oceans, before entertaining the Pacific. Again, the America’s stand in the way of a free circumpolar circulation and some colder waters must be diverted along the East coast towards the Equator. Fluid mechanics says that the stronger the circulation, the greater the diversion and therefore the mixing in the Pacific. What could “drive” such a stronger circulation are greater contributions of heat from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans; by them being “warmer”. i.e. The consequence of them being warmer is that the Pacific becomes cooler.

One could model such things as multi-body resonances, taking into account the enthalpies involved and the resulting time constants of the various oscillations. But …

The real world is of course far more complicated. There are for example biogenic factors reacting to changes in temperature that cannot be ignored, affecting surface albedo, ozone levels and cloud formation. And thene there’s the moody sun.

I doubt that we’ll ever know enough to be able to model the climate system sufficiently to be reasonably predictive on the decadal scale and longer.

97. Arno Arrak says:

Willis, your speculation, just like Bob Tisdale’s and others, is just way off the mark. There are thousands of articles about El Nino, by many people who think they are climate experts, that amount to little more than blind men trying to guess what an elephant is. They each have a piece of it but don’t know where to put it. I explained the physical basis of ENSO in my book two years ago but somehow you and everybody else did not bother to read it. ENSO is an actual physical oscillation of ocean water involving equatorial currents in a large bowl called the Pacific Ocean. The system is not triggered by temperature but by trade winds. When you blow across the end of a glass tube you get its resonant tone, determined by the dimensions of the tube. Trade winds are the equivalent of blowing across the end of a tube and the ocean answers with its own resonant tone – about one El Nino wave every five years. This is its natural period and on that time schedule It raises and lowers global temperature by half a degree. Trade winds first pile up warm water in the Western Pacific between the Philippines and New Guinea. That piled-up water is the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool, the warmest water on earth. Between the two equatorial currents driven by the trade winds is the equatorial counter-current. When enough warm water has piled up gravity flow begins east along that equatorial counter-current. An El Nino wave traveling salong the counter-current can be observed by satellites. When it hits the South American coast it spreads out north and south by approximately twenty degrees. As the warm water it picked up from the Indo-Pacific warm pool spreads out it warms the air above it. This warm air rises, interferes with the trade winds, joins the westerlies, raises global temperature, and we know an El Nino has arrived. But any wave that runs ashore must also retreat. As the El Nino wave retreats sea surface behind it is lowered by half a meter, cool water from below wells up, and a La Nina has started. As much as the El Nino raised global temperature La Nina will now lower it. This heat exchange can be very precise. There were five El Nino peaks in the eighties and nineties according to satellites, with La Nina valleys in between. The temperature went up and down by half a degree but the mean temperature did not change and random deviations from the mean were less than 0.05 degrees in an eighteen year period. The returning El Nino wave joins the equatorial currents whose temperature drops as seen by satellites. This is because of the upwelling of cool water in their wake. The spreading out of some water north and south in the Western Pacific is not part of ENSO but of the North and South Pacific gyres. What makes ENSO possible is the blockage of the equatorial currents in the Western Pacific that allows the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool to form that is the source of the El Nino wave. In the Western Atlantic Ocean the horn of Brazil deflects the equatorial currents, does not permit them to pile up water, and no oscillation is possible. If you look at global temperature curves you will notice that they are actually a concatenation of El Nino peaks and intervening La Nina valleys, with occasional irregularities caused by major oceanic events. This goes back as far as we have records. It is normal and talk of eradicating them is just plain stupid. ENSO has existed as long as the current configuration of equatorial currents has existed, which is to say since the Panamanian Seaway closed. And Nino3.4 is just a lucky guy, sitting in the middle of the equatorial countercurrent and watching all the El Ninos go by. And giving us advance noitice because it catches them before they get to South America.

98. Brian H says:

Alan Millar says:
January 17, 2013 at 7:33 am

Succinct post Willis.

However, what causes the 30 year positive and negative PDO cycles which have more El Ninos or La Ninas respectively? We don’t see 30 year cycles in the source of the energy for this heat pump, the Sun.

Alan

Physical resonance? Given the size of the resonant chamber and the speed with which energy flows in the ocean tend to occur (currents, etc.) that’s perhaps the least-energy solution — 30 yrs round trip? When the Pacific was a different size, maybe the resonant period was different, too.

99. Nick Stokes says:

Willis,
I don’t necessarily have answers. But here is a picture of the current La Nina plume, pretty much in the 3.4 region. It doesn’t look like noise.

100. mpainter says:

Phil says:January 17, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Several climate scientists note that 90% of AGW warming is going into the oceans. In reality, we can almost neglect what is happening in the atmosphere, and just look at the temperature of the ocean.
================================
Does not compute. Water is opaque to IR radiation. The claim “that 90% of AGW warming is going into the oceans” is the worst sort of junk science.

101. Gunga Din says:

rgbatduke says:
January 17, 2013 at 9:29 am
“And we will never succeed in doing so at the same time we make energy more expensive and discourage its use. The poverty in question is energy poverty. Fundamentally. With enough, cheap enough, energy, we can make the deserts bloom, create jobs in the heart of Africa or India or South America, bring medicine and electric lights and running water to the world. Cheap, clean energy solves all problems; it is the fundamental scarcity.”

================================================================
True. But the goal isn’t to control the energy. It’s to control the people that need that energy.

102. Retired Engineer John says:

Dear Willis, I like your articles and I am going to comment on an area about the energy in the ocean that everyone overlooks. I hope that you will look into my comments. There are many chemical reactions in the ocean that are mostly endothermic, although a few are exothermic. I looked into this after your post about a year ago on the Argo float temperatures and how the ocean generally does not heat above 30 degrees C. My knowledge of chemistry is limited; but, I noted these things: Carbon dioxide as well as other gasses in water act like a liquid. If you check the phase diagram for carbon dioxide, you will find that it cannot exist as a liqud at temperatures above 30.3 degrees C. You can heat water to 30 degrees and see the bubbles of gas forming on the side of the container. When the ocean reaches 30.3 degrees, the carbon dioxide changes to a gas and bubble toward the surface. On its way it bubbles through a saturated solution of Calcium oxide. The commerical method of preparing Calcium carbonate is to bubble carbon dioxide through a saturated solution of calcium oxide heated to 40 degrees C. The reaction of the carbon dioxide and Calcium oxide removes approximately 1200 kilo joules of energy from the ocean for each mole of calcium carbonate formed. This is the reason that the ocean does not generally heat above 30.3 degrees.
The calcium carbonate formed is not soluble at the temperatures and pressures found at the surface of the ocean. But as it descends into the ocean depths, it is dissolved. This process is called hydration and occurs when H2O molecules attach themselves to the calcium carbonate. I have forgotten the values for the heat of hydration, but they are similiar to the values in the original reaction. The energy is taken from a cold ocean and occurs when the reactants can find sufficient energy for the reaction to occur. This is one of the reasons that the bottom of the ocean and deep lakes are very cold.
Now we are getting to your current article. The hydration reaction can be reversed. When currents in the ocean bring the hydrated calcium carbonate back to near the surface, the heat of hydration is released and warms the top layers of the ocean. This process is like a heat pump. It appears to violate the second law of thermodynamics, but it does not since thermal energy is changed to chemical energy and back to thermal energy. There was an article about 1-2 years ago where two NOAA researchers were noting that it was not well understood why the intermediate levels of the ocean did not heat up.
I do not know just how these processes work together to produce the results that you see, but I hope that you use this information to put a total picture together.
Some speculation about other processes; there is a possibilty that the ocean on occassion may freeze and produce fraggle ice flows that help to bring the hydrated calcium carbonate to the surface. The presence of carbon dioxide and ice in water can produce formic acid and may be the source of the corrosive upwelling water that has been reported by Hansen and others.
John Owens

103. John F. Hultquist says:

Greg Goodman says:
January 17, 2013 at 10:56 am
“ . . . the colder waters surface of Peru suggests to me an upwelling of water striking the massive underwater mountain that is South America.

You might want to investigate things “Ekman” – layer, transport, spiral.
http://oceanworld.tamu.edu/resources/ocng_textbook/chapter09/chapter09_04.htm

An image search is also helpful.

104. Alex Heyworth says:

“Noise” is the part of the phenomenon under study that your theory can’t explain.

105. Retired Engineer John says:

A correction to my post. It is calcium hydroxide that reacts with carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate.

106. goldminor says:

How about those 30 year heat waves that seem to precede the grand minimums? The graph from the JG/U tree ring study along with a new tree ring study that just came out show that prior to the Dalton minimum in 1790 there was a 30 year near record setting heat. Then 30 years prior to the Maunder minimum there is record setting temperatures that slide into minimum about 1625. The JG/U chart shows the 1470 minimum. Just prior to that is 25 years of a heat wave. The next one back is around 1300. There are 30 years of a heat wave prior to that. Then about 1120 the same pattern holds true. The second graph that I am looking at is the eastern Europe tree ring study that recently was published. We just had 30 years of a record heat wave. What is the likelihood of a grand minimum?

107. Greg Goodman says:

rgbatduke says: Al Gore is just like a Baptist minister who is all hellfire and damnation when it comes to public drinking but who gets regular deliveries from his local moonshiner just the same.

Very good analogy. Gore is the green version of the TV evangelist preacher.

108. Greg Goodman says:

John F. Hultquist says:
January 17, 2013 at 9:44 pm

Greg Goodman says:
January 17, 2013 at 10:56 am
“ . . . the colder waters surface of Peru suggests to me an upwelling of water striking the massive underwater mountain that is South America.”

You might want to investigate things “Ekman” – layer, transport, spiral.
http://oceanworld.tamu.edu/resources/ocng_textbook/chapter09/chapter09_04.htm

Thanks John, I was aware of Ekman transport which really only tells us the unexpected direction of which way water moves when blown. Clearly is surface water moves some non surface water is exposed. That does not imply it moves the thermocline, which was my point and what was shown in Willis’ figure 2 that I refered to.

The page you refered me to ends with this:
“… and vertical velocity at 23 m depth was concentrated in narrow jets under the areas of surface convergence (Figure 9.6). Maximum vertical velocity was -0.18 m/ s. The seasonal thermocline was at 50 m, and no downward velocity was observed in or below the thermocline.”

Now El Nino/Nina is shown as an ocean wide tilting of the the thermocline. The link you gave gives me more reason to be doubtful that this is the result of surace winds.

Of course any information is useful, so thanks again.

109. Greg Goodman says:

Arno Arrak: But any wave that runs ashore must also retreat. As the El Nino wave retreats sea surface behind it is lowered by half a meter, cool water from below wells up, and a La Nina has started.

You are saying that the Nino wave has to flow back by gravity as any wave. That would mean normal level water is left behind and does not give a reason for “up-welling”.

Your comments about “waves” seem to be based on temperature observations,ie they are temperature waves not volumetric waves. Is there any altimetry data to show how mean sea level varies along the peruviean coast during these events?

110. Greg Goodman says:

January 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

While I’ve never seen this properly articulated, I can answer your first question, which is really about what is signal and what is noise?

The theory is that net forcings drive atmospheric temperatures (ignoring diurnal and seasonal variations). Absent natural variability, atmospheric temperatures would be a direct function of net forcings with minimum lag.

The signal is the direct and (almost) immediate effect of net forcings. Everything else that affects atmospheric temperatures is noise.

Removing ENSO variability is an attempt to remove what is believed to be a major source of natural variability and so get a clearer picture of the forcings signal.
====================

That is exactly the problem that I think Willis is trying to draw attetion to. The very act of calling something “natural variability” is being used to make an implicit assumption that it is an independant , mean zero process.

That is totally unjustified and arbitrary without proof.

El Nino and La Nina are _opposing_ effects but the heat transfer is each case is very different. This is not just the two phases of a symmetric process.

In the absence of sufficient understanding to model these effects there is a willfil attempt to ignore them by assuming (incorrectly) that they are necessarily mean zero oscillations.

If, as Willis suggests, they are acting as negative feedbacks which make a significant contribution to the stability of the climate system (and it has proved to be remarkably stable to massive changes in conditions historically) then incorreclty assuming it is a random, mean zero process will lead to incorrect conclusions.

There is a certain amount of slight of hand going on when someone pretends that calling something “natural variability” is used as an excuse for not bothering to understand it before saying it does not matter and dismissing it as “noise”.

111. Greg Goodman says: “El Nino and La Nina are _opposing_ effects but the heat transfer is each case is very different. This is not just the two phases of a symmetric process.”

Well said. To expand on your comment: El Nino and La Nina can have opposing effects in some portions of the globe, but not all, and you’re right; El Nino and La Nina are not just opposing phases of a symmetric process.

First, regarding opposing effects, back in the 1970s and 80s, when meteorologists were studying the impacts of ENSO, they determined where and when temperatures and precipitation consistently varied in response to El Nino and La Nina events. Typically displayed as such:
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/ensocycle/elninosfc.shtml
They were looking for similarities in patterns to help make weather forecasts. They were not looking for differences, or for areas where El Nino and La Nina could have cumulative effects.

Because La Nina and El Nino act as a recharge-discharge oscillator, they are definitely not simply opposing phases of a symmetric process. Sunlight provides the energy for the recharge during La Nina, and the El Nino discharges (releases and distributes) it as warm water.

112. rgbatduke says:

While I’ve never seen this properly articulated, I can answer your first question, which is really about what is signal and what is noise?

The theory is that net forcings drive atmospheric temperatures (ignoring diurnal and seasonal variations). Absent natural variability, atmospheric temperatures would be a direct function of net forcings with minimum lag.

The signal is the direct and (almost) immediate effect of net forcings. Everything else that affects atmospheric temperatures is noise.

Dear Phil,

Words fail me. The atmosphere is one of four distinct thermal reservoirs — land surface, ocean, the atmosphere, and ice. Each of these reservoirs is structured — the atmosphere has vertical structure as well as transverse structure, and its structure ranges from persistent but variable (e.g. Hadley) to transient and chaotic self-organized structures on many scales (high and low pressure systems that dominate weather, hurricanes, and includes the global decadal oscillations — that is, time scales from hours to decades (at least) are clearly represented.

The ocean is similarly vertically structured with a highly inhomogeneous surface temperature distribution with significant annual variation down to a highly homogeneous temperature distribution at depth. It, too has significant transverse structure and is a global transporter of heat as complex currents move water around based on its temperature, salinity/density, wind direction at the surface, heat sources at depth, evaporation, the coriolis force, the shape of the ocean bottom, and freshwater contributions from e.g. rivers and melting ice. Its relevant timescales again range from days to centuries, and it is strongly coupled to the atmosphere almost everywhere the two are in direct contact.

The land surface is laterally structured with widely differing albedo, and vertically structured so that it intercepts the vertically structured ocean and atmospheric reservoirs at different heights, hence different local mean temperatures. It’s vertical structure has a pronounced and permanent dynamic effect on both of the fluid reservoirs, as e.g. moisture precipitates out on western ocean-facing mountains leaving dry air and often desert conditions to the east of them — and much more. The water content of the surface is an important semi-stable feedback mechanism so that places like the Sahara are self-sustained as desert but could as easily be planted with water-retaining plants and completely change its character, with timescales of variation from days to thousands of years, clearly coupled to things like human and biological forces, atmospheric and other climate variations, and more (and returning the favor).

Ice has a huge albedo compared to everything else, and represents an enormous reservoir of cold fresh water deposited on continent-sized chunks of the globe (not to mention winter snowfall in regions where it isn’t “permanent” and glaciers where it is). Since albedo is a direct factor in global insolation and much of the ice forms annually on top of ocean, ice has multiple effects, coupled at timescales ranging from days to millions of years.

The whole thing is on a tipped ball whirling around a variable sun with an erratically varying orbit with multiple timescales on the order of tens of thousands of years.

The complete set forms a non-Markovian nonlinear, coupled integrodifferential system with timescales stretching from minutes to millions of years. None of this is noise, it is all signal. None of this is separable. To even try to make a Markov approximation (which is basically what you propose) and extract the entire content of the integration over the past is absurd.

Seriously.

rgb

113. Greg Goodman says:

Here is a plot of change in length of day and El Nino region 1+2 [80-90W 0-10 S]
Both are scaled to their std deviation and reduced to have mean of zero. The LOD is plotted as rate of change (this represents the change of angular momentum which is what would cause a displacement of the ocean contents) and has been lagged by 1.4 to roughly align the data.

114. Bill Illis says:

Graeme W says:
January 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm
Bill Illis says:
January 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm
Going farther out, one would assume the ENSO will balance out to Zero as it has since 1871.
Bill, I’ve heard the assumption that ENSO will balance out to zero many times, but I’ve never seen the supporting evidence for that assumption. You’ve made the statement that it has balanced out to zero since 1871.
——————–

It just means that therehas been no trend in the Nino 3.4 sea surface temperatures over time. It is 26.85C and there has been NO increasing or decreasing trend in that average over time. (Almost everywhere else on the planet has some trend, mostly increasing but not the Nino regions).

It does vary in a small seasonal cycle +0.85C/-0.4C and then it varies by +3.4C/-2.4C depending on the state of the El Nino/La Nina.

If you add up all those anomalies over time, it turns out to be close enough to Zero to be called Zero but maybe it would be better to say the Nino 3.4 region has stayed at 26.85C in the long-term and there will be a balance between El Ninos and La Ninas in the long-term. Maybe over a five year period there won’t be, and this has happened many times before, but in the long-term, they have balanced out / will balance out.

115. Greg Goodman says:

Nino1.2 vs LOD , using month data for a bit more accuracy the lag looks somewhat shorter. The correlation seems quite clear, in particular for the two major events. Sea temps were drawn from hadISST interpolated, filled in data set. Looking at some real data from those areas would alwo be interesting.

116. mpainter says:

Retired Engineer John says: January 17, 2013 at 10:42 pm

A correction to my post. It is calcium hydroxide that reacts with carbon dioxide to form calcium carbonate.
==========================
the reaction I have seen given is HCO3(-) + Ca(++) —> CaCO3 + H(+)
the HCO3 derives from CO2 and HO(-)

117. Retired Engineer John says:

mpainter says:the reaction I have seen given is HCO3(-) + Ca(++) —> CaCO3 + H(+)
the HCO3 derives from CO2 and HO(-)
I have seen a similiar formula in posts trying to explain corrosive ocean waters. All the chemistry texts and the descriptions given for the commerical production that I have seen give H2O as the by product. I think that writing the formula in that format is an attempt to mislead.

118. Greg Goodman says:

Bill Illis says: If you add up all those anomalies over time, it turns out to be close enough to Zero to be called Zero but maybe it would be better to say the Nino 3.4 region has stayed at 26.85C in the long-term and there will be a balance between El Ninos and La Ninas in the long-term.

What is this “balance” you are referring to? Again the key point is that this is not just an oscillation in one variable. There are two very different things happening in terms of energy budget in each phase.

La Nina causes more solar heat to be captured by the ocean, El Nino warms the atmosphere using this heat. If you are implying that because the ocean surface temperature does remains stable at 26.85C there is no change in OHC, then the long term effect is to pump heat into the atmosphere.

So it is not climate neutral. It is not a “balanced” or “internal” variation that can be ignored. Until there is understanding of the processes it can not reasonably be assume not to “matter”.

119. I can understand the net effect being zero in regard to global temperature, but I object strenuously to ignoring the immediate effects of El Niño/La Niña on CONUS temperatures and elsewhere, because it is quite apparent they influence temperature and precipitation.

120. Alan Esworthy says:

This is not a post about Willis’s excellent questions, so if you’re not interested in word origins please skip to the next one.

HankHenry asked on January 17, 2013 at 8:31 am:
Anyone know the derivation of the word “jigger?” As in: “Someone has jiggered the numbers to make it work.”

Yes, after a minute or two with the OED. Jigger in this sense is a shortening of “jiggery-pokery” – a term with citations as early as the late 19th century, with the definition “Deceitful or dishonest ‘manipulation’; hocus-pocus, humbug.” In turn, jiggery-pokery comes from an earlier term “joukery-pawkery” (earliest citation 1686) made up of two fairly old words. Joukery (earliest cit. 1593) means “Dodging; ‘underhand dealing, trickery’; ‘deceit’” or “clever trickery, jugglery, legerdemain.” Pawkery, from pawk (earliest cit. 1513), means “Tricky, artful, sly, cunning, crafty, shrewd; esp. humorously tricky or sly.”

121. 3x2 says:

bw says:
Don’t get lost in the trees. Temperatures (and energy) are physical. If you want to know the temprature of the US minus Texas, just subract the Texas data from the total dataset.
If there were 40 thermometers equally distributed around the globe, then one thermometer must represent the 2.5 percent of global surface in the eastern Pacific. Just subtract the data from that one thermometer.

You inadvertently hit (one of the) the nail(s) on the head. Let us go with your 40 thermometers model…
Our warm waves head out from the ‘source’ and, a month later, hit the thermometers placed NE of the ‘source’. So, from peak El Niño conditions, we have a time delay for an impact on the Californian sensor (another 1/40th of the model) ‘surface temps’. So even with this ‘simple model’ we identify the problem of ‘time’. Only by fully understanding the relationship between peak in our ENSO region and Californian ‘weather patterns’ can we claim anything and even then probably not much.

Now what if, two years later, that El Niño starts to influence, by some as yet unidentified mechanism, the Winter weather of the UK. can we still just subtract the two? ( UK(this winter) – El Niño (two years earlier)). Willis (and Bob) make a fair point re simply subtracting the ‘inconvenient’ (and essentially unknown) forward effects of a massive event is imposible. The ‘event’ influences patterns years in the future – you just can’t subtract one from the other without considering ‘phase’ and only then when you have identified all those intervening ‘relationships’.

Describe the exact mechanism by which ENSO influences the monsoon season in India two years after the event? …. No me neither.

122. Arno Arrak says:

Greg Goodman January 18, 2013 at 2:34 am
That is correct about the Nino wave flowing back by gravity. When a Nino wave first runs ashore its kinetic energy of motion is converted into gravitational potential energy of the higher elevsation it has reached. It is this gravitational potential energy that is converted back into kinetic energy of motion of the departing wave. This parting wave leaves a vacuum behind it and sea level drops as a manifestation of this. You can think of it as the vacuum behind it sucking up the cold water from below. This is the physical aspect of ENSO. The temperature variations are variations in time synchronized to the physical motion of ENSO waves. If ENSO were a perfect harmonic oscillator the temperature curve would be a perfect sinusoidal wave train but in reality there are interferences in the ocean that can distort its path and with it the temperature curve. After all, it has to travel the width of the Pacific Ocean where lots of other things are also going on.

123. Greg Goodman says:
January 18, 2013 at 2:57 am

That is exactly the problem that I think Willis is trying to draw attetion to. The very act of calling something “natural variability” is being used to make an implicit assumption that it is an independant , mean zero process.

That is totally unjustified and arbitrary without proof.

El Nino and La Nina are _opposing_ effects but the heat transfer is each case is very different. This is not just the two phases of a symmetric process.

I wasn’t expressing an opinion on whether I thought the forcings theory and its predictions are correct or not. I was trying to explain what is signal and what is noise, as they are generally referred to in climate circles.

BTW, I agree with you on El Ninos and La Ninas.

124. rgbatduke says:
January 18, 2013 at 5:20 am

Articulate and lucid as always, but my understanding of the forcings theory (and the predictions out of the climate models) is that the internal complexity of the Earth’s climate doesn’t matter. If you know what the forcings are and their magnitude, you can predict whether the climate will warm or cool in the future and by how much, excepting the effect of natural variability (ie the internal variability of the climate system).

As I said above, I wasn’t expressing an opinion on whether this is correct or not. But this is the basis for the IPCC’s, etc predictions, and the ongoing debate about how long we can have no measured atmospheric warming and still maintain the theory, models and predictions are valid.

I hope I haven’t completely missed your point.

125. I’d add that, for me, the big question mark over the forcings theory is its utility. Basically, does it produce useful predictions.

from wikipedia,

Although it is generally believed that one theory replacing another means that the previous has been falsified, in reality the reason why one theory is accepted and another abandoned is because the former is considered to have more utility than the latter. In other words, the previous theory is not falsified, but rather, the new theory is simply preferred by scientists as it helps solve certain puzzles that the previous theory was not capable of addressing. The criterion of falsifiability is therefore limited. This has been illustrated in the work of Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolution.

At January 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm you say

I’d add that, for me, the big question mark over the forcings theory is its utility. Basically, does it produce useful predictions.

Let me answer that for you, it doesn’t.

Or, to be precise, to date all its predictions have been falsified as being wrong.

Richard

127. John F. Hultquist says:

rgbatduke says:
January 18, 2013 at 5:20 am
“Words fail me.

I did indeed, laugh out loud.
And actually, I was expecting a slightly longer answer. Maybe 50 minutes worth.

128. rgbatduke says:

I hope I haven’t completely missed your point.

I’m not sure. The point was that one can’t trivially remove the effect of a single input of a complex nonlinear multivariate function with an equally complex “memory” with a wide range of timescales. My secondary point that if one attempted to do so empirically, the immediate result would be the complete elimination of greenhouse-caused warming as the only apparent lasting “signal” in the satellite record is a burst of warming caused by the 1997-1998 El Nino, not a steady warming associated with smoothly increasing GHG concentration. In fact, over the 33 year satellite data, there is almost no discernible correspondence between the latter and the global temperature(s), e.g. UAH LTT.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t one, but it does mean that the noise is much larger than this “signal”, and any attempt to remove the signal to extract the noise presumes a knowledge of the noise and signal that a) nobody has; and b) to the extent that it is input in the form of assumptions, begs all questions and proves nothing.

rgb

129. richardscourtney says:
January 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Let me rephrase that into 2 statements.

The big question mark over the forcings theory is its utility. Basically, does it produce useful predictions.

The big question mark over the forcings theory is its utility. Basically, can it produce useful predictions.

I’d agree with you on the first statement, but I’m unsure about the second. I think it could produce useful predictions but major uncertainties need to be addressed; aerosols, BC, maybe GCRs, indirect solar forcings, etc.

130. richardscourtney says:

My post addressed to you at January 18, 2013 at 2:23 pm answered your post at January 18, 2013 at 2:01 pm which asked if the forcings theory produces useful predictions.

My response said

Let me answer that for you, it doesn’t.

Or, to be precise, to date all its predictions have been falsified as being wrong.

At January 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm you have replied and your concluding paragraph in that reply says

I’d agree with you on the first statement, but I’m unsure about the second. I think it could produce useful predictions but major uncertainties need to be addressed; aerosols, BC, maybe GCRs, indirect solar forcings, etc.

OK. If you dispute that “to date all its predictions have been falsified as being wrong” then please state one that has been right.

And remember, it only takes one exception to falsify a hypothesis.

Richard

131. Richard,

One of my issues with the forcings theory is, its not clear how it can be falsified. That it has to date produced no correct predictions doesn’t falsify it, because the magnitude of the forcings used (in the models) are (likely) wrong and there likely are yet to be discovered or accepted forcings.

And see my quote above from wikipedia concerning utility.

132. Matthew R Marler says:

Willis Eschenbach, Bob Tisdale, richardscourtney,

Thank you for good posts. Bob Tisdale has made a good case that ENSO is a part of a high-dimensional, non-linear, oscillatory, dissipative heat transfer system. Most of the posts here clarify how that affects some of the statistical analyses (treating ENSO as “noise” or a “covariate”.)

133. Matthew R Marler says:

Philip Bradley: Articulate and lucid as always, but my understanding of the forcings theory (and the predictions out of the climate models) is that the internal complexity of the Earth’s climate doesn’t matter.

That only applies to the equilibrium state (or possibly the “steady state”, though the word “equilibrium” is what is used.) What happens in between now and then depends on the internal complexity of the climate system. Standard texts make clear that they are deriving the change in the equilibrium temperature, without clarifying what, if anything, in the Earth climate system is represented by the calculated result. It’s some sort of leap of faith that if the calculated hypothetical equilibrium temperature increases then the global mean has to increase by that much. But when, and what happens in the mean time, are unspecified, or guessed.

134. Arno Arrak says:

rgbatduke January 17, 2013 at 9:29 am
First, I fully agree with you when you point out that “… Somewhere in the world, as I type this, not one but hundreds of millions of people are cooking a sparse day’s meal on animal dung or a small charcoal fire…. We have the technology, we have the wealth, to utterly eliminate global poverty within a few decades. …. And we will never succeed in doing so at the same time we make energy more expensive and discourage its use. The poverty in question is energy poverty…” It is an energy poverty created by pseudoscientific advocates of global warming to fight a non-existent AGW. But then you go on and still say that “….AGW is by no means disproven by the last 15 to 18 years of arguably flat temperatures… Temperature change cannot either prove or disprove the (C)AGW hypothesis….” That is utter nonsense. It can and it does disprove AGW as I will show. First, you have to understand the global temperature curve distributed by the climate science establishment. It is falsified to recruit people into believing that global warming is real. As you mention, there has not been any warming lately. But do you have any idea of what happened before that? If you have been looking at temperature curves put out by NOAA or by the recent draft climate report by NCADAC you will have noticed a large red triangle that includes prominently a “late twentieth century warming” in the eighties and nineties. That is supposedly anthropogenic warming, the very warming that Hansen testified about to the Senate in 1988. That testimony itself was a travesty and my book describes its background. Fortunately this temperature period overlaps satellite temperature measurements and according to the satellites there was no warming at all for 18 years. But Hansen claimed to the Senate that anthropogenic global warming had started and showed computer predictions of future temperature rise up to 2019. His predictions have been proven spectacularly wrong. Six months after he spoke that El Nino was finished and a La Nina that followed had already reduced global temperature by 0.4 degrees Celsius. And now back to the temperature record. There has been no warming whatsoever this century. Satellites show no warming from 1979 to 1997. What happened next was the super El Nino of 1997/98. It was an outlier, an extremely rare and powerful warm peak you might get once in a century. It brought so much warm water across the ocean that it caused a step warming. In four years global temperature rose by a third of a degree Celsius and then stopped. This was the only warming within the last 33 years. It is quite impossible for greenhouse warming to cause any kind of step warming. It, and not any imaginary greenhouse warming, is the cause of the very warm first decade of this century. And with it, we can say that there has been no greenhouse warming at all for the last 33 years. Now lets backtrack to the beginning of the twentieth century. It turns out that for the first ten years of the century we had cooling. Then, in 1910, warming suddenly started, kept going until 1940 and then stopped. There was no sudden increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide in 1910 when the warming started. This immediately rules out greenhouse warming as a cause by the laws of physics. Bjørn Lomborg thinks this warming is of solar origin and I agree with him. The warming ended abruptly with the arrival of the severe World War II cold spell. This is another indication that it cannot be greenhouse warming which cannot be turned on or off like this. With that forty percent of the twentieth century is expelled from the greenhouse. After the war there was no warming in the fifties, sixties and seventies until 1976. That is when the Great Pacific Climate Shift took place that supposedly raised global temperature by 0.2 degrees Celsius. Another step warming which cannot be claimed by any greenhouse effect. It was over by 1980 which overlaps the beginning of the satellite era we already covered. All in all, I cannot see any period within the last 100 years that can legitimately be called a greenhouse warming period. How can you say that temperature change can neither prove nor disprove the existence of AGW? If there has been no greenhouse warming in recorded history are you still going to wait for it to happen? I purposely left out the explanation of why there has been no greenhouse warming. The explanation is that greenhouse theory is just plain wrong as Ferenc Miskolczi has shown. QED

135. Graeme W says:

Bill Illis says:
January 18, 2013 at 5:48 am

Graeme W says:
January 17, 2013 at 6:56 pm
Bill Illis says:
January 17, 2013 at 1:27 pm
Going farther out, one would assume the ENSO will balance out to Zero as it has since 1871.
Bill, I’ve heard the assumption that ENSO will balance out to zero many times, but I’ve never seen the supporting evidence for that assumption. You’ve made the statement that it has balanced out to zero since 1871.
——————–

It just means that therehas been no trend in the Nino 3.4 sea surface temperatures over time. It is 26.85C and there has been NO increasing or decreasing trend in that average over time. (Almost everywhere else on the planet has some trend, mostly increasing but not the Nino regions).

I take this to mean that you equate ENSO to Nino 3.4 sea surface temperatures. As there’s no trend to the Nino 3.4 sea surface temperatures, you are assuming that this means that the net effect of ENSO on air temperatures will be zero. I don’t think this assumption is accurate, as Greg Goodman pointed about above.

Using an analogy, consider a pot of water at room temperature, so the air temperature above the pot is the same as the water temperature.

If you apply heat to the water so it boils, and then let it cool back to the original temperature, the net change to the water temperature is zero, and the anomalies would show a zero trend. However, the air temperature above the water would not show a zero trend, because of the energy transferred to the air from the boiling water. The net energy in the system has gone up (because of the energy applied to heat the water in the first place), and the extra energy has been transferred to the air above the water.

I’ve also looked at other ENSO indexes other than Nino 3.4 sea surface temperatures, and they do NOT all show a zero trend. From what I can see, the MEI (Multivariate ENSO Index) doesn’t have a zero trend, and that’s an index that extends ENSO to include atmospheric data.

136. According to Bob Tisdale, the most important thing I can recall is that it can be shown that the steps in warming over the 20th century can be shown to be as a result of the ENSO process. Namely, the overcharging from some La Ninas. The La Ninas can remain long enough to reduce cloud cover such that more solar irradiation warms the cloudless pacific equatorial region. This heat is stored in the oceans to eventually release more heat to the global. It shows that the warming trends were natural and caused by the sun being allowed to shine past the clouds and into the pacific ocean.

Calling ENSO a zero sums game is fool-hardy if you do not know the mechanisms involved.

137. Typo in my last post proves should be process.

[Fixed. -w.]

138. Bill Illis says:

I think some could benefit from seeing the actual Nino 3.4 Index over time.

The trend from 1871 to where Jan 2013 looks to end up is -0.000033C per month or 0.004C per decade. It varies by +/-3.000C so a trend of 0.004C/decade is pretty well lost in the measurement error.

It goes up and it goes down and it exhibits Zero trend.

And also the AMO index back to 1854 as well the Raw data [red line] it comes from (the AMO is the detrended version of this raw SST data). The AMO charts on the internet are the smoothed version of this which is technically not as useful as the straight monthly data.

139. rgbatduke says:

It can and it does disprove AGW as I will show. First, you have to understand the global temperature curve distributed by the climate science establishment. It is falsified to recruit people into believing that global warming is real. As you mention, there has not been any warming lately. But do you have any idea of what happened before that?

We’ll have to agree to disagree on this. For one thing, the physics of the GHE is fairly clear, and predicts roughly a degree to a degree and a half absolute warming with a doubling from 300 to 600 ppm, where we have already reached 400 ppm. The physics could be wrong, but the evidence for the GHE itself is IMO absolutely clear (visible in TOA and BOA IR spectra) and most scientifically competent CAGW skeptics don’t really argue about this.

What they argue about is the feedbacks. The whole argument, really, is about the feedbacks. If the feedbacks are positive, this CO_2 induced warming is further amplified. If the feedbacks are negative, it is reduced. If they are net-neutral, we are looking at the 1 to 1.5 C of anthropogenic, CO_2 linked global warming that even confirmed and vocal skeptics like Christopher Monckton acknowledge are likely (but hardly catastrophic).

At this point, one can argue that there is sufficient evidence to reject large “climate sensitivity” (another terminology for the feedback), because the temperature curves that have not been futzed around with — the 33 year satellite record(s) — are deviating from the large sensitivity predictions by enough to reject the outlying values, and indeed the IPCC AR reports have systematically cut down their predictions of total warming so that in the current one they are calling for a mere total doubling of the expected CO_2-only warming. This is safely impossible to falsify with the reliable, unadjustable modern era data, but an unbiased fit to the 33 year data suggest net-neutral feedback as the most likely univariate extrapolation.

However, all of the arguments I made for complexity that make it impossible to untangle ENSO from global mean temperature make it equally impossible to untangle CO_2 forcing from global mean temperature. So the fact of the matter is we just don’t know. Limited AGW is likely, CAGW is possible but relatively unlikely at this point, and the data is consistent with neutral or even weak negative feedback. There is too much we don’t understand to claim more, and IMO it weakens the skeptical argument to make egregious claims of “disproof” of AGW just as much as the CAGW claims of “proof” of catastrophe weaken their claims.

And a proper scientist has to be somewhat dispassionate and remain open minded, regardless of their personal biases on the political and economic issues contingent on various possible scientific outcomes. So when I say “I don’t know”, I really mean “and I don’t think anybody does”. Is that so unreasonable?

rgb

140. Willis Eschenbach says:

Bill Illis says:
January 19, 2013 at 4:29 am

I think some could benefit from seeing the actual Nino 3.4 Index over time.

The trend from 1871 to where Jan 2013 looks to end up is -0.000033C per month or 0.004C per decade. It varies by +/-3.000C so a trend of 0.004C/decade is pretty well lost in the measurement error.

http://s7.postimage.org/5zecegoaz/Nino_3_4_Jan13.png

Thanks, Bill. I, on the other hand, think some could benefit from seeing the source of the data used to create your graph of the actual Nino 3.4 Index over time. It drives me nuts to go see a graph and find it interesting, only to discover that the poster gives me absolutely no idea where the they got the mystery data.

Citations, citations, citations! Provide them or get roundly ignored!

w.

141. Matthew R Marler says:

rgbatduke: For one thing, the physics of the GHE is fairly clear, and predicts roughly a degree to a degree and a half absolute warming with a doubling from 300 to 600 ppm, where we have already reached 400 ppm.

The simplified physical models predict an increase in the equilibrium temperature. How is it known that the predicted increase in the equilibrium temperature relates to anything in the actual climate system? The “climate” is merely (merely?) the aggregate of all of its component parts and processes, and something like the “mean Earth surface temperature” refers to a quantity that no part ever has, except small areas for for brief intervals of time. The climate system has great heat and mass flows that are not constant, and the effects of CO2 changes on those mass and heat flows are mostly not known. How is it known that all of those known (and even more unknown) unknowns are irrelevant, and that the calculated change in the equilibrium temperature accurately represents some change on Earth?

Also, I notice that some writers use “equilibrium” and “steady-state” almost interchangeably. With steady-state, there are heat flows into and out of every volume element of the climate system, but no temperature change — a change in that is what AGW predicts (though even there, at best there might be a new “stationary distribution” of measurements, with higher mean temperatures in most places.) But in the derivations, such as Pierrehumbert’s derivation of the Clausius-Clapayron law, what is assumed is clearly “equilibrium”. Is there some climate dictionary or style manual which clearly explains when it is ok to use “equilibrium” and “steady-state”?

142. Frank says:

Willis: If you’re looking for a long-term trend and you believe that you understand the source of some of the noise in the long-term signal, it certainly makes sense to try to subtract some of this noise. Everyone does this almost without thinking when they remove the annual signal and work with temperature anomalies. There are practical, but not theoretical, reasons why you can’t do the same thing with the PDO or AMO. The process of subtracting the noise contributed by any of these processes introduces uncertainty while removing noise. If proper statistical analysis says that you multiply the ENSO or PDO index by a factor of 0.28 +/- 0.19 (95% confidence interval) to estimate the “noise” contributed by these processes, then including them in your analysis doesn’t help much. If the factor is 0.28 +/- 0.9, you can remove some noise without introducing too much uncertainty. The problem with using longer cycles like the PDO or the AMO is that we probably don’t have enough data to accurately estimate how reliably they are correlated with noise in the long term trend. You probably need to do some sort of Monte Carlo calculation to see how much you improve you estimate of the long-term trend by subtracting estimated noise.

143. Willis Eschenbach says:

Frank says:
January 19, 2013 at 11:41 am

Willis: If you’re looking for a long-term trend and you believe that you understand the source of some of the noise in the long-term signal, it certainly makes sense to try to subtract some of this noise.

Yes, but it begs the question to assume that you know what is noise and what is not. I asked, how do you know that e.g. the Nino 3.4 index is “noise” while say the temperature of the US is signal, not “noise”?

Everyone does this almost without thinking when they remove the annual signal and work with temperature anomalies.

Me, I prefer to think about these questions, which is the reason for this post. In addition, removing strictly cyclical signals with known clearly defined periods is a whole lot different that removing something like the Nino 3.4 index. For the former you can just average by month, but the Nino 3.4 removal involves linear regression, so your example is quite different than what we’re discussing here.

There are practical, but not theoretical, reasons why you can’t do the same thing with the PDO or AMO.

You claim the “practical reason” we can’t remove the PDO or the AMO is lack of data … I don’t see why. Yes, the pseudo-cycles are longer, but we still are doing a linear regression of month-to-month changes in the index regarding the global temperature, and we still have the same number of monthly samples for PDO or AMO as we do for the Nino 3.4 … so we could easily remove them as well.

w.

144. rgbatduke says:

The simplified physical models predict an increase in the equilibrium temperature. How is it known that the predicted increase in the equilibrium temperature relates to anything in the actual climate system?

(and a bunch more stuff). Agreed. The Earth is an open highly multivariate dynamical nonlinear non-Markovian chaotic driven system, and statements like “1 to 1.5 degrees of warming” are themselves consequently moderately suspect. As I pointed out to Phil Bradley, the way one must interpret them is with the understood “in a separable Markov approximation”. That is, one makes the twin assumptions that one can speak of what happens if one increases only the CO_2, all other things being/remaining equal. This is more or less making certain assumptions about the partial derivatives of e.g. “global average temperature” with respect to all sorts of stuff that are almost certainly untrue and are very likely not even true enough to be a reasonable short term approximation (the separability).

It is also assumes that the past history of the climate system is more or less irrelevant to its future evolution, that no phenomenon with a time scale longer than a year or two is relevant to whether the global average temperature goes up or down (the Markov approximation). Again, this is almost certainly absurdly wrong, as the entire topic of this post is about removing the “noise” associated with one of the many multidecadal exceptions and I don’t think anybody comes close to understanding things like the ocean and its multiple timescales and effect on everything from CO_2 to the storage and delayed release of heat.

We are clearly still learning things about the climate, things that appear to be a lot more important than they were assumed to be in the earliest all-things-equal, Markov approximation models. Soot, for example, “suddenly” appears to be quite important. Soot is a nearly ubiquitous urban-industrial by-product. Recently evidence has emerged that the sun’s state may affect upper atmosphere chemistry much more powerfully than it was previously believed. The climate effects of those changes (if any) are still poorly understood, especially given that we barely understand what’s going on at the simple electrochemistry level, let alone at the level of complexity of the climate.

There are a number of puzzles that are clearly evident in the historical climate record over the last half billion years. Warm spells, ice ages, sometimes interleaved with “razor sharp” edges, where it is warm and then suddenly it decides to get cold until it equally suddenly warms up again. There is no reasonable way to explain some of the events with any simple picture involving continental drift, axial tilt, or modulation of atmospheric CO_2 — indeed, the Ordovician-Silurian ice age took place with CO_2 levels during the ice age that were ten times the current level.

Attempts to explain things like this, so far, smack of science fiction — things that sound like science but that are unsupported by any evidence (and likely unsupportable by evidence this long after the fact). And yet we can hardly claim to understand the climate system as long as these events not only lie unexplained, but are unexplainable in the one-size-fits-all contemporary Markovian separable model.

rgb

145. Willis Eschenbach says:

rgbatduke says:
January 19, 2013 at 8:34 am

… For one thing, the physics of the GHE is fairly clear, and predicts roughly a degree to a degree and a half absolute warming with a doubling from 300 to 600 ppm, where we have already reached 400 ppm. The physics could be wrong, but the evidence for the GHE itself is IMO absolutely clear (visible in TOA and BOA IR spectra) and most scientifically competent CAGW skeptics don’t really argue about this.

What they argue about is the feedbacks. The whole argument, really, is about the feedbacks. If the feedbacks are positive, this CO_2 induced warming is further amplified. If the feedbacks are negative, it is reduced. If they are net-neutral, we are looking at the 1 to 1.5 C of anthropogenic, CO_2 linked global warming that even confirmed and vocal skeptics like Christopher Monckton acknowledge are likely (but hardly catastrophic).

First, as always, my great thanks to you for all of your contributions. I always read them with interest.

In this case, let me say again, it’s not about feedback. Analyzing it in terms of feedbacks is useless in a situation with a governor that is capable of overshoot.

The problem is that the governor applies either negative or positive feedback as needed at that moment to keep the governed parameter within bounds. Over a long period, the average of these could be positive, negative, or zero. To show how meaningless this feedback number is, consider the situation where the net feedback is zero. Does this mean that nothing is happening? Not in the slightest. The system is constantly going up and down, but the application via the governor of the appropriate feedback keeps it within a narrow range despite the feedback averaging zero.

In other words, you can’t analyze a governed system by seeing if the net feedback is positive, negative, or zero.

w.

146. Frank says: “If you’re looking for a long-term trend and you believe that you understand the source of some of the noise in the long-term signal, it certainly makes sense to try to subtract some of this noise. Everyone does this almost without thinking when they remove the annual signal and work with temperature anomalies. There are practical, but not theoretical, reasons why you can’t do the same thing with the PDO or AMO.”

First of all: An ENSO index such as NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies are in fact a measure of the sea surface temperature of the NINO3.4 region. The Multivariate ENSO index is a modified NINO3 region sea surface temperature ENSO index. The AMO data from the NOAA ESRL is a detrended North Atlantic sea surface temperature anomaly dataset. On the other hand, the PDO is an abstract form of the sea surface temperature anomalies of the North Pacific, north of 20N, and the PDO is actually inversely related to the sea surface temperature anomalies there. That’s why you can’t remove the PDO from the surface temperature record.

With respect to ENSO, when anyone attempts to remove ENSO from the instrument temperature record, they’re removing the signal primarily from the East Pacific Ocean and other parts of the globe where temperature responds linearly to the ENSO index. That is, using a scaled and lagged ENSO index to remove the ENSO signal from the global surface temperature record will only capture the portions of ENSO in the global temperature record that respond proportionally to El Niño AND La Niña events as represented by the ENSO index. And as we can see, the East Pacific for the most part responds proportionally to El Niño and La Niña events.

The East Pacific hasn’t warmed in 31 years so there’s no reason to detrend that dataset for the comparison to the scaled NINO3.4 data. However, the sea surface temperatures for the Rest-of-the-World (that’s not the East Pacific) has warmed so we have to detrend it for a comparison to the NINO3.4 data:

As we can see, the Rest-of-the-World data warms during the El Niño events of 1986/87/88 and 1997/98 but it does not cool proportionally during the La Niña events that trailed them. Because the Rest-of-the-World sea surface temperatures do not cool proportionally during La Niña events, you cannot remove the effects of ENSO using an ENSO index—El Niño and La Niña do have proportional impacts there.

The reason for this is that there can be a huge volume of warm water that’s leftover from an El Niño. That was one of the basic messages of Willis’s post. Part of that leftover warm water (a Rossby wave) is captured in the following animation of sea level anomalies from JPL. The animation starts at the peak of the 1997/98 El Niño. Quite plainly, you can see a huge volume of warm water (it’s below the surface and north of the NINO3.4 region, so it’s never noticed by the ENSO index) being returned to the western tropical Pacific at the end of the 1997/98 El Niño. Watch what happens when that phenomenon called a slow-moving Rossby wave reaches Indonesia. It’s like a secondary El Niño event taking place in the western tropical Pacific, but it’s happening during the La Niña. All of that leftover warm water counteracts the effects of the La Niña throughout the globe. It causes the divergences during the La Niñas that follow the major El Niño events that were illustrated above. The YouTube edition of the full animation from JPL is here.

As a result of the leftover warm water, the sea surface temperature anomalies of the Rest-of-the-World appear to shift upwards in response to the strong El Niño events:

In fact, without the strong El Niño events, the Rest-of-the-World sea surface temperature anomalies would not have warmed since 1984:

In the following video, you can actually watch an upward shift occur in a portion of the Rest-of-the-World data. The East Indian and West Pacific Ocean subset was where I first discovered the upward shifts caused by those El Niño events. The animation of sea surface temperature anomalies also has an infilling graph to its right that compares the East Indian-West Pacific data to scaled NINO3.4 data.

Part of the upward shift is caused by the warm water returned to the western tropical Pacific by the Rossby wave. And part of it caused by the warm surface waters being blown back to the west when the trade winds resume after the El Niño.

Regards

147. Bill Illis says:

Willis Eschenbach says:
January 19, 2013 at 9:19 am
Citations!
——–

Nino 3.4 Index from the original Trenberth,97 paper is here going back to 1871 ending in 2007 – the first reconstruction considered reliable.

http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/catalog/climind/TNI_N34/index.html#Sec5

The data is being updated by the CPC here (most commonly used one now) 1982 to current.

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/data/indices/sstoi.indices

Weekly Nino 3.4 values on the same basis here.

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/data/indices/wksst8110.for

You can also get the Nino 3.4 values from various different SST datasets at the Climate Explorer – monthly climate indices section. They vary a little from the Trenberth version but not much. I’ve noticed the Climate Explorer data is starting to have mistakes now so one has to double-check downloads from here now.

http://climexp.knmi.nl/selectindex.cgi?id=someone@somewhere

——–

The AMO can be obtained from the NOAA ESRL division which is the maintainer of the accepted official number.

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/data/timeseries/AMO/

The easy link to the monthly data is here:

http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/data/correlation/amon.us.long.data

And the Raw SST data is here. (with the average climatology linked right after).

148. Willis Eschenbach says:

Bill Illis, thanks for the double handful of citations to everything under the sun.

Thanks, Bill. I, on the other hand, think some could benefit from seeing the source of the data used to create your graph of the actual Nino 3.4 Index over time.

You gave me a whole raft of citations, but as far as I can see, you never did indicate which one was the source of the data that you actually used …

w.

149. Willis Eschenbach says:

Bob Tisdale says:
January 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Frank says: “If you’re looking for a long-term trend and you believe that you understand the source of some of the noise in the long-term signal, it certainly makes sense to try to subtract some of this noise. Everyone does this almost without thinking when they remove the annual signal and work with temperature anomalies. There are practical, but not theoretical, reasons why you can’t do the same thing with the PDO or AMO.”

First of all: An ENSO index such as NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies are in fact a measure of the sea surface temperature of the NINO3.4 region. The Multivariate ENSO index is a modified NINO3 region sea surface temperature ENSO index. The AMO data from the NOAA ESRL is a detrended North Atlantic sea surface temperature anomaly dataset. On the other hand, the PDO is an abstract form of the sea surface temperature anomalies of the North Pacific, north of 20N, and the PDO is actually inversely related to the sea surface temperature anomalies there. That’s why you can’t remove the PDO from the surface temperature record.

As I said above, there is absolutely no reason we can’t remove either the AMO or the PDO from the temperature record. The fact that the PDO is inversely related to the temperature is not a roadblock to doing that in any sense. You just do the regression and subtract it from the temperature data, what’s the problem?

Now, I don’t think you should do that (unless you’re studying the PDO and not the temperature), but that doesn’t mean you “can’t remove the PDO from the surface temperature record” as you state. Of course you can … it just may not give you anything meaningul.

w.

150. @Bill Illis: You wrote: “It goes up and it goes down and it exhibits Zero trend.”

If this were true, (maybe it is may it’s not), then removing the temperatures as noise is again fool hardy. It’s an area of the world which adds to the weighted average temperature. If we remove areas with no trend, but keep areas with positive trend, this would tend to amplify the positive trends while reducing the no or negative trends. Leave it in… :)

151. Bill Illis says:

Its not that complicated folks.

El Ninos make the global temperature go up (temporarily I say, Bob Tisdale might say there are sometimes wholesale step changes). And La Nina’s make temperatures go down. Once the El Nino goes back back to neutral, temperatures moderate. After the La Nina moves back to neutral, temperatures go back up.

I have looked at this backwards and forwards and sideways and upside-down and done all of that 100 different times using five different temperature datasets. I have compared it to water vapor levels, OLR, precipitation, rotation of the Earth, SOI, Pacific subsurface temperatures, Trade Winds, cloud patterns, precipitation, atmospheric angular momentum, the AMO, tropical/global temperatures ,and the spatial distribution of those temperature changes. I can show you the impact of the ENSO in 30 different charts if you want.

My comments about the long-term trend is that there is not more El Ninos than in the past and there is not more La Ninas than in the past.

Furthermore, this very important region is not increasing at 0.05C per decade like most places on the planet. It might be partly related to Willis’ thunderstorm hypothesis, it might be partly related to the fact that climate scientists have not dared so far to adjust the trend up for this region because there are so many measurements and so many interrelated components like the SOI etc.

The most important weather phenomenon on the planet has Zero trend over time. That is important to note if one thinks about it for one second.

152. Bill Illis says: “Nino 3.4 Index from the original Trenberth,97 paper is here going back to 1871 ending in 2007 – the first reconstruction considered reliable.
http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/catalog/climind/TNI_N34/index.html#Sec5”

That dataset was originally based on HADISST.

Bill Illis says: “The data is being updated by the CPC here (most commonly used one now) 1982 to current.
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/data/indices/sstoi.indices”

And that’s from the Reynolds OI.v2.

Be careful how you mix and match.

153. Willis Eschenbach says: “Now, I don’t think you should do that (unless you’re studying the PDO and not the temperature), but that doesn’t mean you ‘can’t remove the PDO from the surface temperature record’ as you state. Of course you can … it just may not give you anything meaningul.”

Thanks. I’ll make sure to qualify my statement with “if you expect to get anything meaningful” the next time I write that.

Regards