Updates to and ENSO Observations from the WUWT Ocean Reference Page

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) – Monterey Marine Meteorology Division – Click the pic to view at source


Image Credit: Monterey Marine Meteorology DivisionHYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM)

By WUWT regular “Just The Facts”

In making several updates to the WUWT Ocean Reference Page I observed something in the Sea Surface Temperature animation above, that I’ve seen a few times before. More about that below, but first the reason for the updates. The Naval Research Laboratory Navy Coastal Ocean Model (NCOM) was “scheduled to be retired on 5 April 2013 and replaced by operational 1/12° HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model or HYCOM.”  The “HYCOM consortium is a multi-institutional effort sponsored by the National Ocean Partnership Program (NOPP), as part of the U. S. Global Ocean Data Assimilation Experiment (GODAE), to develop and evaluate a data-assimilative hybrid isopycnal-sigma-pressure (generalized) coordinate ocean model (called HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model or HYCOM).” Here is HYCOM’s home page of and here is the system background information on the “Real-time 1/12° Global HYCOM Nowcast/Forecast System”.

The new HYCOM Global Sea Surface Temperature 30 Day Animation Including 7 Day Forecast at the head of this article has been added to the WUWT Ocean Reference Page, along with the 1 Day graphics for Sea Surface Height and Sea Surface Salinity. In addition to the new Global imagery from HYCOM, there are also a wide array of regional images and animation available from HYCOM including various sections of the Atlantic, Indian, Pacific, and Polar Oceans. The HYCOM regional imagery and animations include not only Sea Surface Temperature, Sea Surface Height and Sea Surface Salinity,  but also offer Speed/Currents images and animations, such as this Equatorial Pacific Speed/Currents 30 Day Animation Including 7 Day Forecast:

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) – Monterey Marine Meteorology Division – Click the pic to view at source

In terms of the observation that gave me a sense of Déjà vu, if you look at this Equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature – 30 Day Animation Including 7 Day Forecast;

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) – Monterey Marine Meteorology Division – Click the pic to view at source

you’ll see a tongue of cold water begin to extend across the Equatorial Pacific. The last time I saw a similar feature was August of last year;

Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) – Monterey Marine Meteorology Division – Click the pic to view at source

i.e. the last time ENSO (El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation) swung towards a neutral/colder phase:

Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) – Click the pic to view at source

It also reminds me of when Phil Salmon argued in his article Is the ENSO a nonlinear oscillator of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction type? here on WUWT, that ENSO may be a Non-Equilibrium Pattern System, i.e.:

“Of the class of known attractors of nonlinear oscillatory systems, the Lorenz and possibly Roessler attractors bear similarities to the attractor likely responsible for the alternating phases of La Nina and el Nino dominance that characterise the ENSO and constitute the PDO.”

A Non-Equilibrium Pattern System, aka “nonlinear pattern formation in far-from-equilibrium dissipative system” and “pattern formation in dissipative system” refers to;

“the spontaneous formation of spatio-temporal patterns” that “can occur when a stationary state far from thermodynamic equilibrium is maintained through the dissipation of energy that is continuously fed into the system. While for closed systems the second law of thermodynamics requires relaxation to a state of maximal entropy, open systems are able to interchange matter and energy with their environment. By taking up energy of higher value (low entropy) and delivering energy of lower value (high entropy) they are able to export entropy, and thus to spontaneously develop structures characterized by a higher degree of order than present in the environment.” PhD thesis – “Controlling turbulence and pattern formation in chemical reaction” by Matthias Bertram

Here are a couple videos of Non-equilibrium Pattern Systems these being examples of Belousov-Zhabotinsky (BZ) reactions:

and for comparison here is another animation and visualization of Equatorial Pacific Ocean Temperatures. Furthermore, another interesting observation from the WUWT Ocean Reference Page are the BoM Monthly Subsurface Pacific Ocean Equatorial Temperature Anomalies down to 400 Meters;

Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) – Click the pic to view at source

which show that cold water has recently begun to well up from depth in the Equatorial Pacific. For reference:

In a “normal,” or ENSO-neutral year, a low atmospheric pressure center forms over northern Australia and Indonesia and a high pressure center forms on the other side of the Pacific over Peru. At the same time, the trade winds blow steadily east to west along both sides of the equator to move warm surface waters from the eastern to the western Pacific and cause cold, nutrient-rich bottom water to well up off the coast of South America. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

El Niño is the name given to the occasional development of warm ocean surface waters along the coast of Ecuador and Peru. When this warming occurs the usual upwelling of cold, nutrient rich deep ocean water is significantly reduced. El Niño normally occurs around Christmas and usually lasts for a few weeks to a few months. Sometimes an extremely warm event can develop that lasts for much longer time periods. In the 1990s, strong El Niños developed in 1991 and lasted until 1995, and from fall 1997 to spring 1998.

The formation of an El Niño is linked with the cycling of a Pacific Ocean circulation pattern known as the southern oscillation. In a normal year, a surface low pressure develops in the region of northern Australia and Indonesia and a high pressure system over the coast of Peru (see Figure 7z-1 below). As a result, the trade winds over the Pacific Ocean move strongly from east to west. The easterly flow of the trade winds carries warm surface waters westward, bringing convective storms to Indonesia and coastal Australia. Along the coast of Peru, cold bottom water wells up to the surface to replace the warm water that is pulled to the west. PhysicalGeography.net

This is not to say with certainty that ENSO (El Niño/La Niña Southern Oscillation) is in fact a Non-Equilibrium Pattern System, nor that ENSO has begun to swing towards a neutral or cold phase, rather these are just observations of interesting patterns within the Equatorial Pacific.

In addition to the WUWT Ocean Reference Page if you have not had the opportunity to look through some of our other Reference Pages, it is highly recommended:

Please note that WUWT cannot vouch for the accuracy of the data within the Reference Pages, as WUWT is simply an aggregator. All of the data is linked from third party sources. If you have doubts about the accuracy of any of the graphs on the WUWT Reference Pages, or have any suggested additions or improvements to any of the pages, please let us know in comments below.

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59 thoughts on “Updates to and ENSO Observations from the WUWT Ocean Reference Page

  1. Very, very interesting article, thanks. As for its basic assertion, that the Earth’s climate system is rife with, and perhaps best described by, precisely these sorts of non-equilibrium self-organizing chaotic patterns, I think there is no doubt of it. It explains why linearized predictions so very regularly fail.

    rgb

  2. I like how the animations run into May 2013. Let us know if you can find similar animations for the stock market.

    So, why do the animations do that, and why do some have text in the image that stops while the image keeps advancing. Are these a combination of observed, filled, and forecast values?

  3. I suppose if I had the sense to read the text closer and follow some links, I’d read things like:

    Data Server

    This site provides access to near real time global HYCOM + NCODA based ocean prediction system output.

    and

    This site contains real-time nowcast/forecast results from the 1/12° Global HYbrid Coordinate Ocean Model (HYCOM)

  4. Ric Werme says: April 26, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I like how the animations run into May 2013. Let us know if you can find similar animations for the stock market.

    So, why do the animations do that, and why do some have text in the image that stops while the image keeps advancing. Are these a combination of observed, filled, and forecast values?

    HYCOM is a “Real-time 1/12° Global HYCOM Nowcast/Forecast System”, “The data assimilation is performed using the Navy Coupled Ocean Data Assimilation (NCODA) (Cummings, 2005; QJRMS) system with a model forecast as the first guess.”

    Here are two presentations summarizing Cummins’ forecasting model;

    http://hycom.org/attachments/082_6_Smedstad.pdf

    http://hycom.org/attachments/084_HYCOM-Cummings.pdf

    and here is the paper that it is based upon:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1256/qj.05.105/abstract

    The HYCOM system forecasts 7 days forward, as did the prior Naval Research Laboratory Navy Coastal Ocean Model (NCOM). I would not recommend investing money based upon its forecasts… :)

  5. I was about to say to Ric I’d expect them to do a 7 day forecast. It’s all they are really confident with. Climastrology.

  6. “Looks like the drought in NZ is over”
    Yep. My water tanks (filled by rainfall from the roof) are 80% full in just 10 days! I live in the North of the North island in New Zealand.
    Still warm though. Jet stream from Australia gave us 18C temp last night.
    Great for the farmers as the warmer temperatures are letting the grass recover nicely with the new rain. Nothing worse than rain after a drought coming with cold temperatures to slow grass growth right down. We need the new grass to provide feed for stock through winter.

  7. The upwelling (cool) Kelvin wave that recently traversed the equatorial Pacific is responsible for the cooler-than-normal subsurface temperature anomalies visible in the BOM equatorial cross-sections. Upwelling (cool) Kevin waves are normally followed by downwelling (warm) Kelvin waves, but at present there’s not a lot of warm water in the western equatorial Pacific, so the next Kelvin wave will probably not have enough oomph behind it to initiate an El Nino for the 2013/14 ENSO season. Then again, there appears to be a pocket of warm water at about 5N to 10N, east of Indonesia:

    If it were to enter into play…who knows?

  8. And by the way, I have learned so much from your posts Bob. Thank you! My armchair climate hobby certainly took a turn for the better because of you. You are to ENSO and global warming what Leif, Livingston and Penn are to solar understanding. 4 marks!

  9. Wait just a minute! Cold water welling up from the depths?. I thought the depths were where all the missing heat is hiding out! /s

  10. Thank you for updating those pages, many were a bit tired. The Kelvin waves just stir up whatever is there. I feel that during the current PDO phase the thermohaline circulation reinforces the Humboldt Current, bringing lots of subsurface cold water to the game.

    Regarding the second law, this is the very same argument for why life, with its seemingly ever increasing organization, complexity, and resource utilization does not violate the law.

    Perhaps there is poetic truth in Gaia after all.

  11. rgbatduke says: April 26, 2013 at 10:18 am

    As for its basic assertion, that the Earth’s climate system is rife with, and perhaps best described by, precisely these sorts of non-equilibrium self-organizing chaotic patterns, I think there is no doubt of it.

    It seems that all of the elements are there, e.g. in his article Phil Salmon wrote of Matthias Bertram’s thesis that:

    The author goes on to analyze several experimental non-equilibrium pattern systems, including the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction. He outlines the essential conditions for the operation of a nonlinear oscillator such as a far from equilibrium state, and an “excitable medium”, that is, a medium within which localized positive feedbacks can be initiated and run their course according to their associated refractory period.

    In terms of that “excitable medium”,

    “The oceanic or limnological Mixed Layer;
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_layer

    is a layer in which active turbulence has homogenized some range of depths. The surface mixed layer is a layer where this turbulence is generated by winds, cooling, or processes such as evaporation or sea ice formation which result in an increase in salinity.” The atmospheric mixed layer is a zone having nearly constant potential temperature and specific humidity with height. The depth of the atmospheric mixed layer is known as the mixing height. Turbulence typically plays a role in the formation of fluid mixed layers.”

    “The mixed layer plays an important role in the physical climate. Because the specific heat of ocean water is much larger than that of air, the top 2.5 m of the ocean holds as much heat as the entire atmosphere above it. Thus the heat required to change a mixed layer of 25 m by 1 °C would be sufficient to raise the temperature of the atmosphere by 10 °C. The depth of the mixed layer is thus very important for determining the temperature range in oceanic and coastal regions. In addition, the heat stored within the oceanic mixed layer provides a source for heat that drives global variability such as El Nino.

  12. Theo Goodwin says:

    “JusttheFactswuwt, you are doing marvelous work. Many thanks to you.”

    I second that.

    • • •

    justthefactswuwt says:

    “What are your thoughts in terms of ENSO as a nonlinear oscillator of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction type?”

    I would save that excellent and fun question to sandbag the next presumptuous Warmist commenter pretending to pass himself off as a climate expert.

    It would be even better asked in person! ☺

  13. X Anomaly says: April 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/map/clim/sst.shtml

    Yes, that’s very helpful I’ve added the following images to the Ocean Reference page:

    Global Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly – Daily

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    Global Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly – Weekly

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    Global Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly – Monthly

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    Global Sea Surface Temperature

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    Also the following Time based Longitude/Latitude Sea Surface Temperature images are interesting in visualizing ENSO as Non-Equilibrium Pattern System:

    Yearly Trends

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    Long Term Anomaly (3.5N-3.5S)

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    Longitudinally Averaged Anomaly

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    Thank you

  14. That BOM graph is particularly interesting.

    It seems to disprove something that has always seem a very implausible description of what happens during ENSO variations, that is to say the idea of warm water ‘piling up’ in the west Pacific ready to ‘slosh’ back during El Nino. The language is as childish and simplistic as the model behind it.

    What seems clear in these graphs is that the body of colder water is being drawn across the Pacific by the persistent oceanic gyres , not by surface, wind-driven currents. Secondly, the hotter water is not ‘piling up’ but sinking.

    This would seem to more likely to indicate that there is a deep bulk water movement that I believe is inertial in origin. A very slow, deep water tidal movement in the halocline.

    The “tongue”, be it hot or cold, is just the result of the convergence of the northern and southern oceanic gyres in that region.

  15. dbstealey says: April 26, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    I would save that excellent and fun question to sandbag the next presumptuous Warmist commenter pretending to pass himself off as a climate expert.

    It would be even better asked in person! ☺

    I can’t even get a Warmist to comment on my threads these days, there has to be someone out there who can explain how this all ties back to anthropogenic CO2 emissions… I wonder if the Warmist blog troll funding is drying up…

  16. The bodies of water where I see some minor temperature “sloshing” occuring is in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. What’s that all about?

  17. Greg Goodman says: April 26, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    What seems clear in these graphs is that the body of colder water is being drawn across the Pacific by the persistent oceanic gyres , not by surface, wind-driven currents. Secondly, the hotter water is not ‘piling up’ but sinking.

    This would seem to more likely to indicate that there is a deep bulk water movement that I believe is inertial in origin. A very slow, deep water tidal movement in the halocline.

    The “tongue”, be it hot or cold, is just the result of the convergence of the northern and southern oceanic gyres in that region.

    Yes, Earth’s Rotational Energy</a causes the Coriolis Effect, which imparts Planetary Vorticity on the oceans and manifests as Ocean Gyres. Gyres play an important role in ocean circulation, especially along the equator. Also the Thermohaline Circulation;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermohaline_circulation

    http://oceanmotion.org/html/impact/conveyor.htm

    and its circulation patterns;

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

    http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?pid=12455&tid=441&cid=47170&ct=61&article=20727

    also should be taken into account.This map shows where cold dense ocean water is sinking;

    this one shows where heat is released to the atmosphere:

    With this said, there also seems to reasonable evidence for the influence of winds, i.e.:

    The prevalent surface winds across the equatorial Pacific ocean are easterly trade winds. These drag warm surface water away from the coast of Peru and cause colder deep ocean water to come to the surface (so-called “upwelling”). Upwelling causes the thermocline (the zone at the top part of the ocean in which temperature decreases rapidly with depth) to be much shallower in the Eastern Pacific than in the western. Trade winds and the equatorial upwelling maintain warm sea surface temperatures at the western equatorial Pacific and cold surface temperatures in the east. When trade winds weaken, the equatorial upwelling decreases, the thermocline gets deeper, the ocean surface along the coast of South America becomes warmer, and trade winds weaken even more. This in turn causes surface waters in the eastern Pacific to became even warmer and so on. This mechanism is known as the Bjerknes hypothesis and represents an onset of El Niño. http://www.csa.com/discoveryguides/prednino/overview.php

    I also wonder if part of the “pile”;

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    is the Equatorial Bulge:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equatorial_bulge“>http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equatorial_bulge

  18. Kudos to you, JUST THE FACTS and to RGBATDUKE for your perceptive insight at Comment #1 for why long-term climate models that rely that rely on linearized predictions are esentially useless.

    Those pesky butterflies at work. However there is no reason for instilling a climate of fear because as Lorenz showed however the chaos is DETERMINISTIC.

    We might not be able to predict with deadly accuracy when an earthquake will happen but there is no excuse for failing to explain after an earthquake has occured to explain what happened with perfect accuracy. Gutenberg-Richter applied to seismic measurements etc.

    Earth’s observed warming from the 1850’s onwards can be explained perfectly with an understanding of Einstein who added energy and energy transfer and release processes to Newton’s mighty body of work

    The Gorists and their fellow carbon dioxide travellers are either scientific illiterates or worse still deliberate liars and deceivers.

    We are now headed for a long multi-year La Nina and the majority of Anthony’s readers as a few knowlegable commentators on this posting clearly prove know exactly what that entails.

    Regards,

    Robert

    as from 1905 when Einstein added

  19. noaaprogrammer says: April 26, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    The bodies of water where I see some minor temperature “sloshing” occuring is in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

    The Black Sea is a swirling cauldron;

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    and there is definitely some:temperature “sloshing” in the Mediterranean:

    NOAA – Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) – Click the pic to view at source

    What’s that all about?

    Well from a structural perspective:

    “The Mediterranean Sea is an enclosed basin composed of two similar basins and different sub-basins. It is a concentration basin, where evaporation exceeds precipitation. In the surface layer there is an inflow of Atlantic water which is modified along its path to the Eastern basin. This transformation occurs through surface heat loss and evaporation specifically in the Levantine basin. The Mediterranean is furthermore the site of water mass formation processes, which can be studied experimentally because of their easy accessibility.”

    “The Mediterranean Sea is an enclosed basin connected to the Atlantic ocean by the narrow
    and shallow Strait of Gibraltar (width 13km; sill depth 300m) (Figure 1). It is composed of two similar basins, the Western and Eastern ones, connected by the Strait of Sicily. In each of them a number of sub-basins are presently characterized by a rugged topography, especially in the Eastern part.”

    “Why is the Mediterranean important? There are two main reasons. The first one is the impact of the Mediterranean on the global thermohaline circulation which originates in the polar convecting cells of the Northern Atlantic Ocean (Labrador and Greenland seas) where North Atlantic Deep Water (NADW) is formed. In fact the salty North Atlantic Upper Deep Water is the one spreading out at Gibraltar and forming a characteristic tongue that spreads into the eastern and northern Atlantic interior at 1000–1500m depth. This is the LIW discussed above, which has a direct advective path to the polar seas [2] as well as an indirect effect by progressive mixing with North Atlantic Central Waters [3]”

    “The Western Mediterranean Deep Water is formed in the Gulf of Lyons in the northwestern corner, and was the object of an extensive observational campaign, the MEDOC experiment in the early 1970s. The deep convection in the Southern Adriatic has been known since the
    pioneering work of Pollack [7], and the Southern Adriatic Deep Water spreading out in the bottom layer from the Otranto Strait forms the Eastern Mediterranean Deep Water, which is a component of the closed thermohaline cell. Finally, as already mentioned above, intermediate convection in the Levantine basin, and in the 1990s in the Southern Aegean, leads to the formation of LIW and intermediate Cretan Water respectively. For a thorough recent review of these properties sea see Tsimplis et al[1]. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/19475721.2010.491656

    However, another factor might be, “Death hangs over Black Sea: Polluted by the effluent of 16 countries, it is now the ‘most damaged sea in the world'”:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/death-hangs-over-black-sea-polluted-by-the-effluent-of-16-countries-it-is-now-the-most-damaged-sea-in-the-world-1444529.html

    As being one of the most contaminated seas in the world, the Black Sea is polluted by the six coastal states (Russian Federation, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Turkey) and the ten riparian states of major European rivers that flow into the Black Sea.

    The Black Sea basin is home to some 160 million people which make up approximately half of Europe’s population. The Danube River, main source of pollution for the Black Sea, pours domestic and industrial wastes into the waters of the Black Sea.

    Due to its unique geographical characteristics, the Black Sea has never been a convenient area for settlement. The only outflow of the Black Sea is through the Strait of Istanbul. http://www.mfa.gov.tr/convention-on-the-protection-of-the-black-sea-against-pollution-_bucharest-convention_.en.mfa

    As such, in terms of your question, “what’s that all about?, the best I’ve got for you thus far is enclosed areas, complex systems and lots of human effluent… :)

  20. justthefactswuwt says:
    April 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm
    rgbatduke says: April 26, 2013 at 10:18 am

    As for its basic assertion, that the Earth’s climate system is rife with, and perhaps best described by, precisely these sorts of non-equilibrium self-organizing chaotic patterns, I think there is no doubt of it.

    It seems that all of the elements are there, e.g. in his article Phil Salmon wrote of Matthias Bertram’s thesis that:

    The author goes on to analyze several experimental non-equilibrium pattern systems, including the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction. He outlines the essential conditions for the operation of a nonlinear oscillator such as a far from equilibrium state, and an “excitable medium”, that is, a medium within which localized positive feedbacks can be initiated and run their course according to their associated refractory period.

    In terms of that “excitable medium”,

    “The oceanic or limnological Mixed Layer;
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_layer

    Thanks for the reference about the mixed layer within which complex nonlinar pattern phenomena no doubt occur.

    However in relation to the BZ reaction the term “excitable medium” or “reactive medium” refers specifically to positive feedbacks and the potential for such feedbacks. In the case of ENSO this condition is provided by the Bjerknes feedback – which you yourdelf have referenced in this thread. The Bjerknes feedback model states that both el Nino and La Nina are time-limited episodes of positive feedback, from interaction between Peruvian upwelling and the east to west trade winds.

    Thanks again for this thought-provoking post.

  21. The “Forcing Heat” for the El Nino/La Nina comes from the Extreme UV from the Sun.
    1) Sun heats Equatorial Pacific via UV to a depth of 30 meters.
    2) The Heat drives the Hadley Cell.
    3) At the Northern/Southern ends of the Hadley Cell, the Trade Winds are formed. These winds drive back to the Equator.
    4) Trade Winds normally blow from East to West due to Coriolis effects.
    5) Pacific water mounds up in Indonesia [1 to 2 meters higher than Western South America].
    6) The water mound drives the Northern/Southern Pacific circular currents giving up the heat near the Poles [both Arctic and Antarctic] .
    7) These currents go deep and eventually return to Equatorial West South America.
    8) La Nina is the normal for a quiet Sun. El Nino is the result of an active Sun. Note the relationship between Peak Solar Cycles and El Nino.

    If the “Quiet Sun” continues, the Pacific will give up its heat, and the Planet will cool. The La Nina will become massive. In addition, the same type of cycle occurs in the Atlantic. The Gulf of Mexico is 0.3 to 0.6 meters higher than the West Coast of Africa. The current generated by this mound of water is the Gulf Stream.

    The PO and AO are both driven by this cycle. Note the heat in the Northern Pacific Gyre; this is the remaining area of concentrated Pacific heat.

  22. This is truly a wonderful thread. Thanks again, justthefactswuwt and all who are commenting.

    What I find of great importance in this thread is that we are beginning to talk about the various phenomena that make up ENSO. We should not be surprised that there are many processes involved and that many remain undiscovered. In my humble opinion, our study of ENSO is roughly at the same point that scientists were when they figured out that air consists of several things.

    I suggest that all of us consider a pre-emptive application of Occam’s Razor. Looking at the known processes and the sparse but richly suggestive data, it is tempting to invoke Chaos Theory. I suggest that we do that as not so much a last resort but as a later resort. It seems to me that the thing to do now is clearly describe the natural processes that we can identify. That task alone is a heavy undertaking.

  23. “El Niño normally occurs around Christmas and usually lasts for a few weeks to a few months. Sometimes an extremely warm event can develop that lasts for much longer time periods. In the 1990s, strong El Niños developed in 1991 and lasted until 1995, and from fall 1997 to spring 1998.”
    Wow, this is certainly a good fit to the late 20thCentury warming and is measured warmth, not the undue requirement of high climate sensitivity.

    Re the Black Sea and Mediterranean “cauldrons”, I note that they don’t exceed the “Willis Thermostatic Limit” of ~30C, even though the Black Sea would tend to be more ‘heatable’.

  24. phlogiston says: April 27, 2013 at 4:18 am

    However in relation to the BZ reaction the term “excitable medium” or “reactive medium” refers specifically to positive feedbacks and the potential for such feedbacks. In the case of ENSO this condition is provided by the Bjerknes feedback – which you yourdelf have referenced in this thread. The Bjerknes feedback model states that both el Nino and La Nina are time-limited episodes of positive feedback, from interaction between Peruvian upwelling and the east to west trade winds.

    Yes, you are correct, i.e.:

    “Occurrence of ENSO has been explained as either a self – sustained and naturally oscillatory mode of the coupled ocean – atmosphere system or a stable mode triggered by stochastic forcing. In either case, ENSO involves the positive ocean – atmosphere feedback hypothesized by Bjerknes. After an El Niño reaches its mature phase, negative feedbacks are required to terminate growth of the mature El Niño anomalies in the central and eastern Pacific. Four negative feedbacks have been proposed: reflected Kelvin waves at the ocean western boundary, a discharge process due to Sverdrup transport, western Pacific wind – forced Kelvin waves, and anomalous zonal advections. These negative feedbacks may work together for terminating El Niño, with their relative importance varying with time.”

    “Bjerknes (1969) recognized that there is a close connection between El Niño and the Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and they are two different aspects of the same phenomenon. Bjerknes hypothesized that a positive ocean – atmosphere feedback involving the Walker circulation is a cause of ENSO (The Walker circulation consists of the surface trade winds blowing from the east to the west across the tropical Pacific Ocean, the rising air in the tropical western Pacific, the upper – level winds blowing from the west to the east, and the sinking air returned back to the surface in the tropical eastern Pacific). An initial positive sea surface temperature (SST) anomaly in the equatorial eastern Pacific reduces the east – west SST gradient and hence the strength of the Walker circulation (Gill, 1980; Lindzen and Nigam, 1987), resulting in weaker trade winds around the equator. The weaker trade winds in turn drive the ocean circulation changes that further reinforce SST anomaly. This positive ocean – atmosphere feedback leads the equatorial Pacific to a warm state , i.e., the warm phase of ENSO – El Niño. At that time, Bjerknes did not know what causes a turnabout from a warm phase to a cold phase, which has been named as La Niña (Philander, 1990).”

    http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/cdeser/Docs/submitted.wang.enso_review.pdf

  25. From the various animations, it looks like Willis is correct regarding the upper limits. Low 30’s then the regulator kicks in.

    Do you have a ‘Med’ style animation for the Arabian Sea/ Persian Gulf? Tis very hot on land in that area and it would be interesting to see an animation of the Sea in those parts.

  26. justthefactswuwt says: “What are your thoughts in terms of ENSO as ‘a nonlinear oscillator of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction type’?”

    I don’t know enough about the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction to comment.

    Regards

  27. justthefactswuwt says:
    April 27, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Thanks for the link to a great review of ENSO (Wang et al 2012). Its good to see the Bjerknes feedback (nicely summarised in the section you quoted) righly being placed center-stage in the current discussion of ENSO. (It was from Bob Tisdale that I first learned about the Bjerknes feedback.) I think that the Bjerknes feedback and the nonlinear dynamics and oscillation that flow from it are the core of ENSO. And since the ENSO peaks are clustered around certain fixed times of year e.g. el Nino peaking generally at Christmas, this indicates that is is likely a periodically forced oscillator of some kind.

  28. Bob Tisdale says:
    April 27, 2013 at 2:47 pm
    justthefactswuwt says: “What are your thoughts in terms of ENSO as ‘a nonlinear oscillator of the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction type’?”

    I don’t know enough about the Belousov-Zhabotinsky reaction to comment.

    With hindsight I dont think that the BZ oscillator is the greatest analogy of ENSO, since many of the patterns it exhibits, e,g, spiral, are quite unlike ENSO. What is analagous is the spontaneous oscillation between two (or more) states, and the issue of the “excitable medium” i.e. the potential for “outbreaks” of limited positive feedbacks. My own view is that the Bjerknes feedback is such a positive feedback system that qualifies the Pacific as an excitable medium and allows ENSO to be characterised as a nonlinear oscillator. There may be much better analogies of ENSO among nonlinear oscillators, but the BZ reaction is one of the best known and studied. (There are many types of BZ oscillator.)

  29. phlogiston says: April 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Further to Wang et al.2012:

    “3. ENSO mechanisms
    The theoretical explanations of ENSO can be loosely grouped into two frameworks. First, El Niño is one phase of a self-sustained, unstable, and naturally oscillatory mode of the coupled ocean-atmosphere system. Second, El Niño is a stable (or damped) mode triggered by or interacted with stochastic forcing or noise such as westerly wind bursts and Madden-Julian Oscillation events (e.g., Gebbie et al., 2007) and the tropical instability waves in the eastern Pacific Ocean (e.g., An, 2008). In either framework, ENSO involves the positive ocean-atmosphere feedback of Bjerknes (1969). The early idea of Wyrtki’s (1975) sea level “buildup” in the western Pacific warm pool treats El Niño as an isolated event. Wyrtkisuggested that prior to El Niño, the easterly trade winds strengthened, and there was a “buildup” in sea level in the western Pacific warm pool. A “trigger” is a rapid collapse of the easterly trade winds. When this happens, the accumulated warm water in the western Pacific would surge eastward in the form of equatorial downwelling Kelvin waves to initiate an El Niño event.”

    “The issue of ENSO as a self-sustained oscillation mode or a stable mode triggered by random forcing is not settled. It is possible that ENSO is a self-sustained mode during some periods, a stable mode during others, or a mode that is intermediate or mixed between the former and the latter. The predictability of ENSO is more limited if ENSO is a stable mode triggered by stochastic forcing than if ENSO is a self-sustained mode, because the former depends on random disturbances.” http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/cdeser/Docs/submitted.wang.enso_review.pdf

  30. I enjoy reading the posts on WUWT such as these discussions; and I often have to go hunting other information to fully understand what was said. A little over a year ago, Willis posted his graphs on the Argo float data that shows that the Ocean temperature is limited to approximately 30 degrees. I also note that NOAA charts do not graph temperatures above 31 degrees. Looking at Willis’ graphs, I concluded that only a chemical reaction in the ocean could produce such a consistent limit on temperature. I know Willis is looking at thunderstorms along the equator; however, I do not think they are consistent enough to produce the 30 degree limit as robust as the graphs show. Reading a number of papers on ocean chemical reactions and ocean acidification; I find that there are a lot of reactions. But, none of the papers discuss the heat exchanges that happen in these reactions. Looking at my chemistry text I find that almost all of these reactions are endothermic and remove heat from the ocean. Just how much is the question. I do not have the ability to analyze and determine this number. But, if you consider that the ocean temperature is being limited to 30 degrees and say that all the heat removed to keep it at this temperature is being absorbed in a chemical reaction,this would be a very large number. The reason that I am posting this is to see if some of the very talented people on this site would look at the chemical reactions, they are well known, and check the energy transfers that are present. If I am right, a major piece of understanding of the ocean and possibly the El Nino cycles is missing.

  31. justthefactswuwt says:
    April 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm
    phlogiston says: April 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Further to Wang et al.2012:

    What do Wang et al. mean by “stochastic forcing”? Periodic forcing I can understand, from orbital, tidal etc rhythms, but what would provide stochastic forcing?

  32. Retired Engineer John:

    re your post at April 28, 2013 at 7:38 am .

    The maximum limit to sea surface temperature was first observed in 1991 by Ramanathan & Collins who reported it in Nature magazine in 1991.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v351/n6321/abs/351027a0.html

    The abstract of their paper says

    Observations made during the 1987 El Niño show that in the upper range of sea surface temperatures, the greenhouse effect increases with surface temperature at a rate which exceeds the rate at which radiation is being emitted from the surface. In response to this ‘super greenhouse effect’, highly reflective cirrus clouds are produced which act like a thermostat shielding the ocean from solar radiation. The regulatory effect of these cirrus clouds may limit sea surface temperatures to less than 305 K.

    In the subsequent 5 years a series of papers in Nature disputed both the reality of the limit and the reason for it. However, the outcome was a general acceptance of the statement in the abstract I have copied here.

    Please note that this is a purely physical effect which involves no chemical reactions.

    Importantly, the effect provides not only a limit but also a negative feedback.
    When maximum sea surface temperature (SST) is reached then any additional heat input to the sea (from any reason) increases evapouration and, thus, cirrus clouds which drift away from the region of maximum SST. These clouds near the region of maximum SST shield sea near the region of maximum SST and so reduce solar heating near the region. Hence, the clouds not only restrict SST at a limit of solar heating; additional heat input generates clouds which reduce the heating of the ocean so the ocean cools.

    I hope this is an adequate answer to your question.

    Richard

  33. phlogiston says:
    April 28, 2013 at 8:58 am
    justthefactswuwt says:
    April 27, 2013 at 9:01 pm
    phlogiston says: April 27, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Further to Wang et al.2012:

    “What do Wang et al. mean by “stochastic forcing”?”

    I hope that they are not serious about the phrase ‘stochastic forcing’. To say that something is stochastic is to say that it belongs to a non-deterministic system. To say that something is a forcing is to say that it is a real world effect of something such as CO2.

    So, where is the non-determinism? Is it in the forcing or in the system? Or is there a difference?
    I do not believe that Wang et. al. know.

    Wang should have said that he is using a stochastic system to describe a forcing. The stochastic system is a representation of the world. The forcing is in the world. The fact that it can be described by a stochastic system does not make it stochastic.

  34. richardscourtney says: April 28, 2013 at 9:59 am
    Thank you Richard. I will read the article you referenced. I intend to continue to investigate the 30 degree limit. There are too many indications that the limit is a chemical reaction. It is also obvious that the answer is complex.

  35. Retired Engineer John:

    No, sorry, I don’t. But that was the seminal work. As I said, it was controversial at the time so there were several other studies after it.

    The basic point which has become accepted is
    (a) evapouration rate increases as heat input to ocean surface increases,
    (b) the evapouration removes heat from the ocean surface layer, and
    (c) the evapourated water induces more cirrus, then
    (d) the cirrus reflects sunlight so it is prevented and
    (e) the reflected sunlight does not reach the ocean surface, so
    (f) heat input to the ocean is reduced, with the result that
    (g) sea surface temperature is prevented from rising above 305K.

    This information is accepted and is over two decades old. Therefore, I suspect you can find it in a climatology textbook if there is a university library near you.

    Richard

  36. richardscourtney says:
    April 28, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Your link to Ramanathan and Collins “possible” limit of 30C for SST is a good start, but I would have also added the link to the more recent work by Willis Eschenbach who actually illustrates the phenomenon using buoy data and connects it to the creation of cumulus (not cirrus), followed by thunderstorm heat engines that cool hot spots – published in E&E.

    Volume 21, Number 4 / August 2010

    A later work has unequivocal graphics of data showing that 30C is pretty much the limit. Scroll down to the blue “dotted graphics” to see these unequivocal illustrations

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/04/21/dehumidifying-the-tropics/.

    Despite prior mention by Ramanathan and Collins, I propose that this phenomenon be named the “Eschenbach effect” for the full clear explanation for the phenomenon.

  37. Gary Pearse:

    Thankyou for your post addressed to me at April 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm.

    Yes, I agree all you say. Thankyou for saying it.

    Clearly, your post requires me to explain my interest which induced me to suggest looking in a uni. library.

    I did not mention the E&E article by Willis Eschenbach for two reasons.
    Firstly, it is also pay-walled.
    Secondly, I am on the Editorial Board of E&E so it could have been misunderstood if I had recommended a paper in E&E when the subject is covered in other papers accessible in a uni. library.

    Richard

  38. phlogiston says: April 28, 2013 at 8:58 am

    What do Wang et al. mean by “stochastic forcing”? Periodic forcing I can understand, from orbital, tidal etc rhythms, but what would provide stochastic forcing?

    Per Wang et al.:

    “3.2. A stable mode triggered by stochastic forcing
    Another view of ENSO is that El Niños are a series of discrete warm events punctuating periods of neutral or cold conditions (La Niñas). That is, ENSO can be characterized as a stable (or damped) mode triggered by stochastic atmospheric/oceanic forcing (e.g., Lau, 1985; Pendland and Sardeshmukh, 1995; Moore and Kleeman, 1999; Philander and Fedorov, 2003; Kessler, 2003). This hypothesis proposes that disturbances external to the coupled system are the source of random forcing that drives ENSO. An attractive feature of this hypothesis is that it offers a natural explanation in terms of noise for the irregular behavior of ENSO variability. Since this view of ENSO requires the presence of “noise”, it easily explains why each El Niño is distinct and El Niño is so difficult to predict (e.g., Landsea and Knaff, 2000; Philander and Fedorov, 2003). The external atmospheric forcing may include the Madden-Julian Oscillation and westerly wind bursts (e.g.,Gebbie et al., 2007), and the oceanic noise may involve the tropical instability waves (e.g., An, 2008).

    No matter whether El Niño is a self-sustained oscillator or a stable mode triggered by stochastic forcing, El Niño begins with warm SST anomalies in the equatorial central and eastern Pacific. After an El Niño reaches its mature phase, negative feedbacks are required to terminate growth of the mature El Niño anomalies in the central and eastern Pacific. In other words, the negative feedbacks of the delayed oscillator, the recharge oscillator, the western Pacific oscillator, and the advective-reflective oscillator may be still valid for demise of an El Niño, even if El Niño is regarded as a stable mode triggered by stochastic forcing. As discussed by Mantua and Battistti (1994), a sequence of independent warm events can still be consistent with delayed oscillator physics, since the termination of an individual El Niño event still requires negative feedback that can be provided by wave reflection at the western boundary.”

    This paper, “Ensemble-mean dynamics of the ENSO recharge oscillator under state-dependent stochastic forcing” by Jin et al., 2007;

    http://www.academia.edu/2780504/Ensemble-mean_dynamics_of_the_ENSO_recharge_oscillator_under_state-dependent_stochastic_forcing

    states that:

    “In this paper, the conceptual recharge oscillator model for the El Nino-Southern Oscillation phenomenon (ENSO) is utilized to study the influence of fast variability such as that associated with westerly wind bursts (WWB) on dynamics of ENSO and predictability. The ENSO-WWB interaction is simply represented by stochastic forcing modulated by ENSO-related sea surface temperature(SST) anomalies. An analytical framework is developed to describe the ensemble-mean dynamics of ENSO under the stochastic forcing. Numerical ensemble simulations verify the main results derived from the analytical ensemble-mean theory: the state-dependent stochastic forcing enhances the instability of ENSO and its ensemble spread, generates asymmetry in the predictability of the onsets of cold and warm phases of ENSO, and leads to an ensemble-mean bias that may eventually contribute to a climate mean state bias.”

    “More-over, not only is ENSO dependent on fast atmospheric variability, but MJO and WWB activity is modulated by temperature anomalies in the central equatorial Pacific [Keen, 1982; Luther et al. , 1983; Gutzler , 1991; Kessler et al., 1995; Kessler and Kleeman, 2000; Vecchi and Harrison, 2000; Yu et al., 2003; Eisenman et al., 2005; Perez et al., 2005]. As conjectured by Keen [1982], Lukas [1988] and Lengaigne et al. [2004], an individual MJO/ WWB can shift the warm pool eastward, making it more likely for more MJO/WWB events to be generated and thus further extensions of the warm water front and developments of Kelvin pulses, which may contribute to the generation of a mature El Nin˜o event. This type of fast and coupled interaction, which can be parameterized in terms of a multiplicative noise source, may have an important influence on ENSO predictability [Lengaigne et al. ,2004], the instability of ENSO [Eisenman et al. , 2005], andthe statistical probability distribution of ENSO [Perez et al. ,2005]. The aim of our study is to develop a new theoretical framework that captures and synthesizes these effects andillustrates the main qualitative differences between the additive [e.g., Penland and Sardeshmukh, 1995; Thompson and Battisti, 2000; Zavala-Garay et al., 2005] and state-dependent (multiplicative) stochastic forcing on the dynamics of ENSO.”

    “The stochastic forcing terms [sx(t)G] and [asx(t)G] represent the effects of fast atmospheric wind anomalies (short de-correlation timescales) on the eastern equatorial SST anomalies and the equatorial heat content variations, respectively. The proportionality coefficient a reflects the fact that the same stochastic wind stress can serve as the forcing for SST and also for the recharge and discharge of the equatorial heat-content anomalies.”

  39. The chemical reaction idea is very intriguing, but it would be very unlikely. There would need to be a unlimiting amount of reagents to drive the reaction and some mechanism to stop or limit the reaction at less than 30 C, so that there would be the potential to reduce the temp (by the reaction(s)). Also if it were the case then there would be much evidence of the reaction in the Indian Ocean, around Saudi Arabia, and the Dead Sea, as well as other regions on the globe.
    A physical process is much more likely.

    I am guessing that by a maximum of 30 C, you mean open ocean water, since the Persian Gulf can get as hot as 36 C.

    http://www.windows2universe.org/earth/Water/temp.html

  40. Kajajuk says: April 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm
    Your Comment on stopping or limiting the reaction at less than 30C is interesting. I hadn’t considered that. The reaction is the production of calcium carbonate. The Ocean is saturated with calcium hydroxide and there is plentiful carbon dioxide in the ocean; however the reaction seems to be held in check by magnesium. I think I read that the Persian Gulf is very salty due to all the desalting plants that dump their waste water back into the Gulf. This would change the PH of the water.Do you know how high the level of calcium hydroxide is in the Gulf? Without the calcium hydroxide, you could not get the reaction and the temperature would exceed 30C. The 30C number shows up in a number of places when you look at carbon dioxide properties.

  41. “This hypothesis proposes that disturbances external to the coupled system are the source of random forcing that drives ENSO.”

    There it is, clear as a bell. “Stochastic forcing” is any forcing that is random and external to the system. Details at 11:00. Why they did not choose the obvious name is a mystery.

  42. I do not know, and could not find out through web searches, about calcium hydroxide levels in the Persian Gulf. I did find an interesting review about how “curiosity science” lead to the understanding of ‘whitings’ of calcium carbonate in the Gulf.
    And that the desalination plants around the Gulf produce around 8 million cubic meters of fresh water per day (likely more at present since the study was dated 2007). At first i was skeptical of this activity affecting the pH, but now think it is likely and suspect the salinity of the Gulf could be impacted as well.
    Anyways, another problem i see with chemical reactions buffering ocean temp is that carbon dioxide is much less soluble in sea water at higher temps and this would also limit the reaction to remove energy from the ocean as it was ‘needed’ during increasing temps.

    It is an interesting idea. Considering how vast the oceans are and that brine is such a soup of ions as well as dispersed solids it is likely that chemistry contributes to ocean heat content +/-. But i still have trouble expecting it to rule.

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