Hovmollering the SST: T-shirt tie-dye design or climate science?

Note: Bob wrote to me with this caveat:

Caution: Those Hovmollers will bring you back to the 60s if you stare at them too long.
Hence the title. – Anthony

Guest post by Bob Tisdale

Hovmoller graphs are used in some discussions of climate variability. Many times they’re used when illustrating surface and subsurface processes that take place during ENSO events. And for those who aren’t familiar with them, they can look like a flashback to the pop art of the 1960s.

When used for variables such as SST anomalies of two portions of the Low Latitudes of the Pacific, the Hovmollers can help to show the upward step changes that result from significant El Nino events.

EASTERN PACIFIC LOW LATITUDE SST ANOMALY HOVMOLLER

Figure 1 is a time-latitude plot of Eastern Pacific Low Latitude SST anomalies (30S to 30N, 178W-70W) from January 1982 to July 2009. The x-axis is time (same as a time-series graph), the y-axis is latitude, and SST anomalies are color coded. This Hovmoller plot is available through the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) Physical Sciences Division (PSD) website linked later in this post.

http://i27.tinypic.com/2lb96e.png

Figure 1

The significant El Nino events of 1982/83, 1986/87/88 and 1997/98 stand out in red in the tropical latitudes, and the subsequent La Nina events show up in purples and blues. The lesser (secondary?) El Nino events that formed in groups after the 1986/87/88 and 1997/98 El Nino are also obvious. And for those who aren’t aware of the timing and magnitudes of ENSO events, I’ve grafted a time-series graph of NINO3.4 SST anomalies to the time-latitude plot in Figure 2.

http://i30.tinypic.com/29ws3g9.png

Figure 2

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Note 1: The NINO3.4 SST anomalies in 1993 are not classified as a full-fledged El Nino. They rose into El Nino ranges (above 0.5 deg C) but did not remain there long enough to classify it as an El Nino event.

Note 2: Refer to my post “Similarities of the Multiyear Periods Following Significant El Nino Events Since 1970” for a discussion on the El Nino events that appear to be secondary to the significant ones of 1972/73, 1986/87/88 and 1997/98.

Note 3: The notation “3RM” in the right-side of the Hovmoller title block stands for 3-month running mean.

Note 4: The coordinates used by the NOAA/ESRL/PSD for the East Pacific (178W-70W) includes all of the Gulf of Mexico, part of the Caribbean, and a small portion of the North Atlantic.

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Figure 3 is the Time-Series graph of the SST anomalies for the area of the Eastern Pacific (30S to 30N, 178W-70W) illustrated by the Hovmoller plot in Figure 1. The linear trend line shows that SST anomalies for the Low Latitudes of the Eastern Pacific have not risen over the past 29 years. If fact, there has been a very slight decline.

http://i31.tinypic.com/29ap5dc.png

Figure 3

WESTERN PACIFIC LOW LATITUDE SST ANOMALY HOVMOLLER

A Time-Series graph of the western counterpart of Pacific Low Latitude SST anomalies are shown in Figure 4. A typical description of that dataset might read, The Western Pacific Low Latitude SST anomalies (30S-30N, 120E-180E) show a great deal of annual variability. Over multiyear spans, they rose sharply from 1980 to 1999 and have declined slightly since then.

http://i30.tinypic.com/2v8guwp.png

Figure 4

A linear trend line, Figure 5, gives the dataset the appearance of a noisy constant rise in SST anomalies.

http://i25.tinypic.com/1zovs3k.png

Figure 5

But the Hovmoller of SST anomalies for the Western Pacific Low Latitudes, Figure 6, illustrates something entirely different. It clearly shows that, after the 1997/98 El Nino, SST anomalies in Western Pacific rose in one step. SST anomalies greater that 0.7 deg C (Illustrated in Red) appear very infrequently before 1998. But after 1998, SST anomalies greater that 0.7 deg C are common. The El Nino event of 1986/87/88 also caused an upward step change in Western Pacific Low Latitude SST anomalies, but it’s difficult to see since it was smaller in magnitude. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 also lowered SST anomalies for a few years. This masks the step change in 1988 and emphasizes the rise in 1994 and 1995, which is a rebound from the drop caused by volcanic aerosols.

http://i30.tinypic.com/xpon7k.png

Figure 6

In Figure 7, a NINO3.4 SST anomalies time-series graph has been spliced to the time-latitude plot of the Western Pacific Low Latitude SST anomalies to show the timing of the ENSO events.

http://i26.tinypic.com/2dhtr0n.png

Figure 7

Figure 8 combines the time-latitude plot and time-series graph of SST anomalies for the Low Latitudes of the Western Pacific. To highlight the step changes, I’ve added average SST anomalies for the periods before and after the significant El Nino events of 1986/87/88 and 1997/98. From January 1982 to December 1987, the average SST anomalies were -0.04 deg C; from January 1988 to December 1997, they were 0.05 deg C; and from January 1998 to July 2009 the SST anomalies for the Low Latitudes of the Western Pacific were 0.34 deg C.

http://i31.tinypic.com/24o500y.png

Figure 8

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Note 5: The processes associated with significant ENSO events that caused the step changes illustrated in this post are the same as those shown in:

Can El Nino Events Explain All of the Global Warming Since 1976? – Part 1”, and

Can El Nino Events Explain All of the Global Warming Since 1976? – Part 2

Note 6: Time-latitude plots of global TLT anomalies from RSS were used to illustrate the step changes in TLT anomalies caused by the significant El Nino events of 1986/87/88 and 1997/98. Refer to:

RSS MSU TLT Time-Latitude Plots… …Show Climate Responses That Cannot Be Easily Illustrated With Time-Series Graphs Alone”

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Figure 9 illustrates the Hovmoller graphs as downloaded from the NOAA/ESRL/PSD webpage:

http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/map/clim/sst.shtml

Specifically, this link:

http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/map/images/sst/sst.pacific.hov.gif

I took the liberty of splitting them for this post.

http://i25.tinypic.com/x45306.png

Figure 9

CLOSING

The SST anomalies of the Low Latitudes of the Eastern Pacific mimic NINO3.4 SST anomalies, and they present a slightly negative trend. But there are upward step changes in the Western Pacific Low Latitude SST anomalies caused by the El Nino events of 1986/87/88 and 1997/98, confirmed by the Hovmoller plot, and the SST anomalies for this area have a substantial positive trend. Combine the two datasets and the result is a curve, Figure 10, that clearly shows the influence of ENSO, but has a positive trend. This is the same effect the East-Indian and West Pacific Oceans, which also exhibit the ENSO-induced step changes, have on global SST anomalies.

http://i31.tinypic.com/a9kz9y.png

Figure 10

In “Evolution of El Nino-Southern Oscillation and Global Atmospheric Surface Temperatures”, Trenberth et al (2000) state in their Conclusions, “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.” [Emphasis added.]

http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/papers/2000JD000298.pdf

As illustrated in this post and in those linked, that residual accounts for most if not all of the global TLT and SST warming since the late 1970s. Climate scientists attempt to attribute the residual to anthropogenic causes, when it is clearly a result of significant El Nino events.

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60 thoughts on “Hovmollering the SST: T-shirt tie-dye design or climate science?

  1. Bob:
    This is intriguing. What happens when you look at high latitudes using the same tools? In particular, what do you see happening around Western Antarctica?

  2. Bob, interesting and very colorful. No matter how i look at it, my eyes settle on the huge purple anomaly associated with the 1998-2001 La Nina. We have had this discussion before. The UAH LTL GLOBAL temp. anomaly did not exceed .300 for 33 straight months. We have not come close to that in terms of depth or breadth since then. In addition, the highs associated with the 1997-1998 El Nino have not been breached. IMHO, until the highs/lows of 10 years ago are exceeded, i think it is safe to say the earth has achieved thermal balance for a remarkable period. In my opinion, just looking at the ENSO weekly charts, sans regression analysis, give one the overall picture. Thank you for your very interesting analysis. fm

  3. From an “eye-ball” perspective, it seems as if the southern latitudes (mostly ocean) warm up more consistently (anomalies) than those northern during El Ninos. It also seems that greater warmth is distributed to the farther north in the NH? Is this an accurate observation, and, if so, does it have any importance re “natural” global warming and cooling? For example, if El Nino heating of the well-mixed layer of the ocean is sent (travels) far northward, does it cool off (lose heat) faster in the NH, leaving us with an overall cooler world, as it seems we have today? (Sorry , it is difficult for me to find non-anthropogenic language to explain.)

  4. Good work, Bob. I think you make a strong case for your contention that the recent warming is a “step” change following the 97-98 El Nino. I would conclude that this “warming” is not directly related to solar, at least not the lunisolar influence that Anthony and I have identified, because the latter is more uniform and less dramatic in its influence.
    I would also conclude that all the work claiming that the solar influence cannot explain the last 20-30 years of warming doesn’t mean that it (solar) hasn’t continued to have its usual influence. It is just that the latter is relatively small in relation to what has happened in recent decades, and especially in the last decade.
    So do you have a theory as to where all this heat, or energy, came from? It just comes “out of nowhere” with the “super” El Nino of 97-98, and then is distributed latitudinally in the years to follow. But where did it come from?

  5. Can’t the author at least mention once what does mean ENSO and SST and any other jargon-ish acronym?
    SST ? Super Sonic Transport ? A model of car from the seventies? huh?

  6. Bernie: You asked, “What happens when you look at high latitudes using the same tools? In particular, what do you see happening around Western Antarctica?”
    Those Hovmillers were prepared by NOAA/ESRL/PSD, not by me. I would love to be able to recreate them for other areas around the oceans. I wrote to the PSD asking if they had others of mid-to-high latitude SST anomalies. They replied with a no, but forwarded a link to their webpage that allows users to create their own Hovmollers. They admit the site has problems, and when it works I haven’t been able to get the same color scale.
    http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/map/time_plot/
    However, the SST anomalies for the Southern Ocean south of the Southeast Pacific (90S-60S, 100W-70W) does not hold any surprises.
    http://i26.tinypic.com/30m1hqq.png
    You have to keep in mind that Southern Ocean SST anomalies have been dropping since the late 1980s or 1990s (depending on the dataset). Here’s the ERSST.v3b version:
    http://i41.tinypic.com/29zxus7.jpg
    I’ve done a number of posts on the Southern Ocean (or that have included discussions of the Southern Ocean in the comments):
    http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/search?q=Southern+Ocean

  7. Basil, I think by elimination, the heat source can be found. It can’t be longwave (not strong enough). So that leaves out greenhouse gasses, water vapor, and warming type clouds. It has to be shortwave radiation. I would be looking at tropical weather patterns prior to and during the 98 El Nino.

  8. “Climate scientists attempt to attribute the residual to anthropogenic causes, when it is clearly a result of significant El Nino events.”
    But what causes the post-El-Nino heating? The heat has to come from somewhere. Climate scientists would presumably argue that it is the result of gradual heating caused by radiative imbalance due at least in part to human GHGs. Given the complex cycles-within-cycles of the climate system, one would not necessarily expect the SST to smoothly track the increase in CO2.

  9. GHG’s cannot be responsible for warm 98 SST’s. They only reflect longwave radiation back to the water surface and then cannot penetrate anything but the thin mm of “skin” of the surface. Any warming at this level gets evaporated quickly. My guess is a weather pattern variation set up around the equatorial tropics that allowed shortwave radiation (which heats like a bugger and deeply) to heat the water over an extended period of time and in seasonal waves. I would guess, the pattern included dry still air and no clouds over an extended period. The doldrums anyone?

  10. Interesting pattern of tropical “bursts” of energy: …1988, 1998, 2008.
    1982 broke the pattern – but then again, 1982 was part of the beginning of the rise from the 1970-1975 post WWII “low” temperatures.

    I too have NEVER heard of a reason for the 1998 bubble of energy:
    Where did it come from?
    Where did it (that sudden rise) go?
    Why was 1998’s global temperatures higher than before? –Sure, 1998 was during a “perfect” El Nino. of course it was. My question is: Where did the 1998 El Nino come from (what was the cuase of the El Nino?), and what was the source of energy for that El Nino?

  11. pyromancer76: You asked a bunch of questions. I started to answer one about the transport of heat from the tropics to mid latitudes and got carried away and it morphed into an observation of the “Sympathetic El Nino” in the western Indian Ocean, which was also a response to the 1997/98 El Nino. Then it got back on track, so bear with me.
    ####
    The 1997/98 El Nino released a significant amount of heat that was transfered by ocean currents away from the tropics. You can see that in the SSH anomaly video from JPL.

    About 45 seconds into the video, around June or July 1996, the Pacific anomalies are primarily in the cooler colors. In September, the SSH around the PWP starts to rise. By early December 1996, it’s quite elevated. Then around Christmas of that year, the first Kelvin wave shoots to the east across the equator. And with the second Kelvin wave the El Nino gets going in full.
    Now here’s the fun part of that El Nino. Let the video run forward until November or December of 1997. The El Nino is peaking in the eastern Pacific. But look at the western Indian Ocean. There’s a significant rise in SSH there, and a significant rise in SST. WHY?
    It appears that the drop in the SST anomalies in the Pacific Warm Pool (aka Indo-Pacific Warm Pool) increased the delta T between the east and west Indian Ocean which in turn increased the trade winds in the tropical Indian Ocean. This pushed more warm surface water to the western Indian Ocean than usual.
    Now let the video play until May 1998 and watch the warm water in the Western Indian Ocean slam back east, another way the PWP gets recharged.
    By April 1999 there is a significant amount of warm water running around the mid-to-high latitudes of both hemispheres of the Pacific that wasn’t there before the El Nino. So the OHC of the mid-to-high latitudes of the Pacific rose as a result of the 1997/98 El Nino. Let the video run to June 2000. We’re still in the La Nina recharge phase and there’s still a lot of extratropical heat running around the Pacific. But by this time, the warm water volume (a proxy for OHC?) of the equatorial Pacific is back to the level it was at in 1996, a year before the 1997/98 El Nino.
    http://i35.tinypic.com/dzdkqo.jpg
    At the same time, June 2000, the average Subsurface Temperature of the equatorial Pacific (a better proxy for OHC) is also at the level it was at before the El Nino.
    http://i37.tinypic.com/2yy1mpf.jpg
    So in that short view, it looks as though that El Nino actually contributed to the rise in OHC of the Pacific from 1996 to 2000. It’s counterintuitive, but that’s what it looks like.

  12. JFA in Montreal: You asked, “Can’t the author at least mention once what does mean ENSO and SST and any other jargon-ish acronym?”
    The author is usually good about that, but this time, apparently, he forgot.
    ENSO = El Nino-Southern Oscillation
    SST = Sea Surface Temperature
    NINO3.4 = Area of the equatorial Pacific with the coordinates of 5S-5N, 170W-120W. The SST anomalies of that area correlate well with the linear response of global temperatures to El Nino events.

  13. Robert A Cook PE (13:25:06) : Why was 1998’s global temperatures higher than before?
    Consider the following series of events:
    1989-1992.Sevensmark opens his clouds’ window over the pacific ocean. (low peak in GCR-The Chilling Stars p.77)
    1989 As predicted by Shirley, based on SIM:James Shirley:An unusual “solar event” will take place in the years 1990-1992″
    1989 March and September Big solar CME, Quebec black out.
    1997-1998 Big El Nino, pacific ocean begins cooling (heat emission).

  14. Basil: “So do you have a theory as to where all this heat, or energy, came from? It just comes “out of nowhere” with the “super” El Nino of 97-98, and then is distributed latitudinally in the years to follow. But where did it come from?”
    The riddle of the decade, that one is.
    The Southern Ocean feeds the equatorial Pacific through the Humboldt Current, and it appears that the SST anomalies of the Southern Ocean may have added the boost for the significant El Ninos that started with the 1972/73 El Nino and ended (we can hope) with the 1997/98 El Nino.
    http://i39.tinypic.com/2qch20w.jpg
    There was a substantial decrease in cloud amount over the tropical Pacific in 1995.
    http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/04/did-decrease-in-total-cloud-amount-fuel.html
    The volcanic aerosols from Mount Pinatubo should also have dissipated by then, but that’s usually depicted as a gradual decline.
    But as you’ve said, in watching the SSH anomaly animation, the fuel in the PWP just seems to appear out of nowhere in September 1996.

    And that video is SSH, not SST, so it should be capturing subsurface anomalies as well.
    What happened when the Mount Pinatubo volcanic ash returned to the ocean? The Mount Pinatubo ash dropped primarily into the PWP.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tephra_fall_from_1991_eruption_of_Mt_Pinatubo.gif
    Did it change the ocean optics for a couple of years, causing heat to accumulate over a short period of time? One would think ocean currents would distribute it, but gyres would return it over time if it remained in the photic zone.

  15. Jonathan Baxter: You wrote, “But what causes the post-El-Nino heating? The heat has to come from somewhere. Climate scientists would presumably argue that it is the result of gradual heating caused by radiative imbalance due at least in part to human GHGs. Given the complex cycles-within-cycles of the climate system, one would not necessarily expect the SST to smoothly track the increase in CO2.”
    Apparently you didn’t go to the posts linked to Notes 5 and 6. If you had, you would not have posted your comment. Those posts illustrate and discuss the processes of heat distribution within the Pacific and the troposphere.
    Regards

  16. Robert A Cook: “Where did the 1998 El Nino come from (what was the cuase of the El Nino?), and what was the source of energy for that El Nino?”
    The 1997/98 El Nino was not that unusual. The 1982/83 El Nino had a comparable peak SST anomaly, but its heat distribution was suppressed by the eruption of El Chichon. And the 1972/73 El Nino was not that much smaller than the other two. Here’s a comparison graph of the ERSST.v3 and HADSST versions of NINO3.4 SST anomalies.
    http://i41.tinypic.com/fk4eaf.jpg
    And if we consider the length of the 1986/87/88 El Nino, it wasn’t that much different than the others.
    Also, scroll up to my 14:37:52 reply to Basil for a further discussion of the 1997/98 El Nino.

  17. Jonathan Baxter: And the sentence you quoted, “Climate scientists attempt to attribute the residual to anthropogenic causes, when it is clearly a result of significant El Nino events,” was dependent on the sentence that preceeded it. In other words, you took it out of context. The entire paragraph above read:
    As illustrated in this post and in those linked, that residual accounts for most if not all of the global TLT and SST warming since the late 1970s. Climate scientists attempt to attribute the residual to anthropogenic causes, when it is clearly a result of significant El Nino events.

  18. Basil (10:37:56) “So do you have a theory as to where all this heat, or energy, came from? It just comes “out of nowhere” with the “super” El Nino of 97-98, and then is distributed latitudinally in the years to follow. But where did it come from?”
    Check out the cloud cover graphs here:
    http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/TropicalSST.htm

    Bob, it would be interesting to see those hovmollers with the annual cycle removed. (That would further accent the abruptness of the step.) Nice work.

  19. Paul Vaughan: “Bob, it would be interesting to see those hovmollers with the annual cycle removed. (That would further accent the abruptness of the step.) Nice work.”
    Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do about the calculations of anomalies or the Hovmollers.
    Regards

  20. Nice. Very simple. Fewer clouds in the tropics lead to more heat which is distributed by atmospheric circulation. I suspect we will find these circulations follow a path of least resistance. Although interactions may be complex they usually obey simple rules.

  21. Hey bob, I think I may have worked out the cause of the cloud decrease!
    If you look at the lower stratosphere temps and humidity (300hpa) you clearly see that post volcanic eruption, the stratosphere does not return to normal but instead undergoes a classic boom and bust cycle!
    The cause should be clear enough, volcanoes inject SO2, a chemical known to act in cloud nuclei reactions, it should be expected that water vapor in the stratosphere is then stripped out by precipitation.
    The net effect of the statospheric cooling/humidity decrease is to increase the strength of tropical convection, which has been observed through increased tropical rainfall and strengthening of the high pressure belt.
    Increase convection then drives the water cycle because more moisture is lost from the atmosphere as rainfall, reducing the average humidity and cloudiness. In a way the earth warms up because it can loose energy via convection easier 🙂
    Having the stratosphere as the thermostat also overcomes the problem of fast ocean response times, since it has such a slow exchange rate with the troposphere.
    So what do you think, It seems to match the observations rather well!

  22. Bob Tisdale: “The Southern Ocean feeds the equatorial Pacific through the Humboldt Current”
    Bob Tisdale, but does it exist the Humboldt Current? There is no Antarctic surface cold water that is pushed someway up to the Equator.
    What feeds the equatorial Pacific are the subtropical highs. At least they have a main role. And those highs are feeded by the equatorial Pacific.
    Then, if Pinatubo had an influence in the start of the 97/98 Enso warm phase, the other two older El Nino (72/73 and 82/83) had no volcanic connection.

  23. Paolo M., you wrote, “Bob Tisdale, but does it exist the Humboldt Current? There is no Antarctic surface cold water that is pushed someway up to the Equator.”
    All surface current maps disagree with what you’ve written. According to these maps, the Humboldt (Peru) Current transports waters from the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (West Wind Drift) to the equatorial Pacific.
    http://www.geology.iastate.edu/gccourse/ocean/images/image1.gif
    http://www.uwsp.edu/geO/faculty/ritter/images/maps/ocean_currents.jpg
    http://oceanmotion.org/images/surface_current_map.jpg
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/67/Ocean_currents_1943_(borderless)3.png

  24. RobJM: You wrote, “Hey bob, I think I may have worked out the cause of the cloud decrease! If you look at the lower stratosphere temps and humidity (300hpa) you clearly see that post volcanic eruption, the stratosphere does not return to normal but instead undergoes a classic boom and bust cycle.”
    Do you have a link?

  25. Paolo M. (03:09:40) :Bob Tisdale, but does it exist the Humboldt Current? There is no Antarctic surface cold water that is pushed someway up to the Equator LOL!!!! Come and swim here and you´ll see, you´ll end up in Tahiti:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kon-Tiki
    How do you explain at 12° south of the equator cold sea waters even during the hottest summer?

  26. Bob Tisdale:
    “Apparently you didn’t go to the posts linked to Notes 5 and 6. If you had, you would not have posted your comment. Those posts illustrate and discuss the processes of heat distribution within the Pacific and the troposphere.”
    I’ve looked at the links. For your thesis [that SST increases since the 1970s are caused by El Nino events pushing water from deep in the Pacific warm pool to higher latitudes] to be correct, wouldn’t you expect a relaxation in that process to occur? That is, once the anomalous movement of warm water has dissipated, we’d expect the SST to return to their previous levels. Or are you claiming the ocean circulation has entered a new state where more warm water is effectively continuously cycled to the surface?

  27. Thanks for ths Bob – what a brilliant picture of a chaotic system at work.
    The lack of cloud cover in 1995 would certainly have an effect on heating, but some other factors could be at work too. Be interestng to know about the amount of ozone above the PWP at this time and the % UV or other shortwave radiation present in the TSI.

  28. Bob Tisdale and Nogw,
    your idea of how the atmospheric (and oceanic) circulation works is wrong.
    No Humboldt current carries cold surface water from the Antarctic to the Galapagos.
    The subtropical high pressure winds allow, per the Coriolis Force, the deep cold water to upwell to the surface.
    That water was polar in origin but long ago! Very long ago!
    Come on, do you think that Antarctic water can travel at the surface of the ocean to the Equator without rising its temperature?

  29. Jonathan Baxter: You asked, “Or are you claiming the ocean circulation has entered a new state where more warm water is effectively continuously cycled to the surface?”
    The Pacific Ocean entered into a different state in 1976:
    http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/papers/2000JD000298.pdf
    The Pacific Warm Pool “refreshes” itself during and after an El Nino in a number of ways:
    1. During the El Nino, cloud cover shifts east with the warm water, away from the PWP, and downwelling shortwave radiation warms the PWP (keeps the PWP SST and subsurface temperature from dropping as far as it would without the change in cloud amount).
    2. During the initial phase of the La Nina, part of the warm water that had travelled east during the El Nino just sloshes back to the PWP.
    3. During the La Nina, trade winds increase in strength and push more warm surface water to the PWP, in turn increasing the temperature gradient between the warm water in the west and the cooler water in the east. The thermocline rises more than normal in the eastern tropical Pacific, exposing colder water, which draws more heat from the atmosphere (TLT anomalies drop) and eastern tropical Pacific SST anomalies eventually rise.
    As noted in my comment to pyromancer76 above, two and a half years after the 1997/98 El Nino, June 2000, when the equatorial Pacific is emerging from that two-year La Nina, the warm water volume (a proxy for OHC?) of the equatorial Pacific is back to the level it was at in 1996, a year before the 1997/98 El Nino.
    http://i35.tinypic.com/dzdkqo.jpg
    At the same time, June 2000, the average Subsurface Temperature of the equatorial Pacific (a better proxy for OHC) is also at the level it was at before the El Nino:
    http://i37.tinypic.com/2yy1mpf.jpg
    So the traditional El Nino/La Nina cycle releases heat into the atmosphere and redistributes it from the tropics to the mid-to-high latitudes of the oceans, but replenishes itself within the full cycle.
    Your next question should be, how do you know that the increase in Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gases has not caused this behavior?
    Given:
    1. Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gases have risen sharply in the latter part of the 20th century.
    2. TSI can’t explain the rises in SST at the end of the 20th century or at the beginning of it.
    3. The rate of rise in SST anomalies from ~1910 to ~1943…
    http://s5.tinypic.com/119qzk6.jpg
    … is the same as the rate of rise in SST anomalies from ~1975 to ~2007:
    http://s5.tinypic.com/2vuk978.jpg
    The graphs are from my post “Has Global Warming Accelerated?”:
    http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/03/has-global-warming-accelerated.html
    4. A scaled running total of NINO3.4 SST anomalies (used to illustrate that the global oceans integrate the effects of ENSO) mimics global temperature anomalies and produces those same rises in temperature from ~1910 to ~1943 and from ~1975 to ~2007 with the slight decline between those two periods. This seems to indicates that the frequency and magnitude of ENSO events dictates global temperature:
    http://i39.tinypic.com/2w2213k.jpg
    That graph is from my post “Reproducing Global Temperature Anomalies With Natural Forcings”:
    http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/01/reproducing-global-temperature.html
    5. The frequency and magnitude of ENSO events are cyclical. A short-term representation:
    http://i43.tinypic.com/33agh3c.jpg
    From my post “The Reemergence Mechanism”:
    http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/06/reemergence-mechanism.html
    A longer-term representation:
    http://s5.tinypic.com/20b26p0.jpg
    From my post “Low Frequency ENSO Oscillations”:
    http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/03/low-frequency-enso-oscillations.html
    If greenhouse gases have not caused an increase in the rate of rise between the two warming periods, then greenhouse gases appear have had no direct effect on global SST anomalies. If the variability in the frequency and magnitude of ENSO events in recent decades is not outside the range of past variability, then greenhouse gases have not had any visible effect on ENSO.

  30. Oh Man, you warned me, I know you did, but that’s just not fair! Instantly put me back in the dorms flash back to some wall art in the neighbors room… faint smell of singed rope, candles and incense on the window ledge, Strawberry Alarmclock “Incense and Peppermints”… And I had hair then too… (and a truly hideous pair of bell bottom trousers made with a variety of rectangular patches of various orange, red, yellow, and sporadic dark green.. and a Dashiki shirt… kind of like this one but with more red and yellow in it, slightly larger “bat wing sleeves” and a narrow waist:
    http://costumesbypartyprops.com/images/Dashiki_shirt.jpg
    OK, I’ll pull myself back to the present reality… Dang it. Let’s try that again… OK, “This time for sure!”…
    While looking for the best formula to cook up equal area latitude bands (for further characterizing The March of The Thermometers for testing the Boxing and Gridding parts of GIStemp) I stumbled on this little gem:
    http://www.applet-magic.com/temptrendNH.htm
    which does a very nice job of looking at 10 degree bands in North America and finding “Nothing Happens”…
    I wonder if anyone sells a Dashiki shirt in “old guy paunchy” size ?… Hmm..
    Incense peppermints… da da DA da..
    http://www.last.fm/music/Strawberry+Alarm+Clock/_/Incense+and+Peppermints

  31. Pamela Gray (13:14:05) : GHG’s cannot be responsible for warm 98 SST’s. […] My guess is a weather pattern variation set up around the equatorial tropics that allowed shortwave radiation (which heats like a bugger and deeply) to heat the water over an extended period of time and in seasonal waves. I would guess, the pattern included dry still air and no clouds over an extended period. The doldrums anyone?
    I think Pamela has it exactly right. It’s all about clouds and volcanos. The two things that the “climate models” handle worst or not at all.
    Just look at those giant spikes from a couple of (by geologic standards) dinky volcanos. Then look at the bigger term wobbles. CO2 can’t do that. Things like ocean currents slopping around and giant areas of cloud (or no cloud) can. They have the response time to do so.
    BTW, is there any “very long term” chart of volcanic activity? Something that shows, say, 100,000 years of volcanos (from geologic study, not direct observation 😉 activity? It would be interesting to know if we are in a “generally high” or “generally low” activity time (and by how much?).
    My “sense of it” is that we’ve just come through a period of fairly low volcanic activity. The records from the 1840-1920 era seem to have a fair amount of activity in them. But this is just from anecdotal reading about different events (and while my brain does a fair job of integrating charts, tables, and anecdotals into a pattern, it can be mislead by biased data counts…)
    It also looks, to me, like we’ve had a recent minor “uptick” in volcanos, what with Chaiten, Redoubt, and a dozen or so others kicking up their heels…
    FWIW, while I’ve let go of the “Barycenter Shiny Thing” in terms of AGW causality (due to the seasonal pattern of temperature changes) it does still seem to correlate with length of day changes and that leaves open the possibility (however remote) of an impact on crustal deformation. And that might influence volcano counts over very long time periods. (Well outside the recorded temperature history).
    Yes, I know it’s just a “muse”. No, I don’t see any causality. Yes, I’m just curious about it. (etc. ad. nauseam)
    I’ve yet to find any kind of chart showing total volcanic activity as a function of time, or even a table of raw data from which to make it. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places?
    At any rate, the “tie-dye” charts show clearly that the pattern of Sea Surface Temperatures (SST) is not consistent with a steady upward influence form CO2 and that SSTs are strongly impacted by volcanic activity (more than anything else as spike events) and that ENSO (El Neno Southern Oscillation) has a stong component (which implies either ocean current impacts or cloud cover impacts – CO2 being “evenly distributed” and “constantly rising” can’t do it…) All of which tells me that the place to “go digging” to understand what is really going on is: Volcanos, and Ocean Currents, and Clouds.
    Maybe I can coin a new term: VOCC – the stuff that REALLY drives the changes in the “climate system”… Now if only we had an decent understanding of what patterns exist in VOCC and what drives changes in VOCC we might actually start to have a clue…
    (And now I’ve got Procol Harum – A Whiter Shade of Pale reaching and end…
    Oh No! Richard Harris – MacArthur Park just started… NOW see what you’ve done? I’m stuck in the late ’60s early ’70s Playlist!!!… )

  32. E.M.Smith (10:09:29) :
    I stumbled on this little gem:
    http://www.applet-magic.com/temptrendNH.htm

    That page is a “Favorites” must. It trashes all climate change theories!
    That’s what I joked about time ago, when saying “nano-temperatures” differences, impossible to be felt by any human being apart from new-age meteorologists or “stoned” scientists. 🙂

  33. Pamela Gray (13:14:05) : GHG’s cannot be responsible for warm 98 SST’s.
    I can just imagine Pamela with lots of red hair as the keyboard artist here:

    With Anthony as lead singer…
    I’ll get back to the ’80s… maybe even the ’90s… sometime… soon?…
    Would that be Bob Tisdale on guitar?… The beat is about right.
    The more I stare at those tie-dye charts the more I see things like a strong equatorial beat in the Eastern Pacific, but no beat to speak of at 30 degrees (nifty stuff, CO2, works differently with lattitude…). Then the Western Pacific has the beat at 30 degrees, but the equator not so much. (Gee, CO2 changes behaviour with latitude AND longitude… Oops.) Somehow those charts, and that beat, just doesn’t add up to CO2.
    Methinks the AGW folks are living in their own private Idaho…

  34. E.M. Smith: You wrote, “I’ve yet to find any kind of chart showing total volcanic activity as a function of time, or even a table of raw data from which to make it. Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places?”
    The Sato Index Data is available from GISS at:
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/modelforce/strataer/
    Specifically:
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/modelforce/strataer/tau_line.txt
    The Lamb Dust Veil Index goes back further in time:
    http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2008/04/mann-et-al-weighted-dust-veil-index.html
    For further information:
    http://gcmd.nasa.gov/records/GCMD_CDIAC_NDP13.html
    For Lamb Dust Veil Index Data:
    ftp://cdiac.esd.ornl.gov/pub/ndp013/

  35. Bob Tisdale,
    I’ve just played around with color-contour plots in Excel. Excel can handle the job. Where can I find the time-series by-latitude? If the monthly-values are listed vertically all-on-one-webpage with a separate-column for each latitude-band, it should be a breeze to quickly do the annual-smoothing to enhance the appearance of the 1998-step. Is there a webpage that lists the series that way? [If it is necessary to visit a separate webpage to get each latitude-band series, that is going to make things a little more tedious. Also, if the months for each year are listed horizontally, that adds another layer of inconvenience.]

  36. Well when the land record is questioned, they come up with the ocean record… and Dr. Curry contributes to the fray: “patterns never seen for 50 years… -meaning 50 years ago we had the same pattern… but much less CO2-
    “In hot water: World sets ocean temperature record
    By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein, Ap Science Writer – 42 mins ago
    WASHINGTON – Steve Kramer spent an hour and a half swimming in the ocean Sunday — in Maine. The water temperature was 72 degrees — more like Ocean City, Md., this time of year. And Ocean City’s water temp hit 88 degrees this week, toasty even by Miami Beach standards.
    Kramer, 26, who lives in the seaside town of Scarborough, said it was the first time he’s ever swam so long in Maine’s coastal waters. “Usually, you’re in five minutes and you’re out,” he said.
    It’s not just the ocean off the Northeast coast that is super-warm this summer. July was the hottest the world’s oceans have been in almost 130 years of record-keeping.
    The average water temperature worldwide was 62.6 degrees, according to the National Climatic Data Center, the branch of the U.S. government that keeps world weather records. That was 1.1 degree higher than the 20th century average, and beat the previous high set in 1998 by a couple hundredths of a degree. The coolest recorded ocean temperature was 59.3 degrees in December 1909.
    Meteorologists said there’s a combination of forces at work this year: A natural El Nino system just getting started on top of worsening man-made global warming, and a dash of random weather variations. The resulting ocean heat is already harming threatened coral reefs. It could also hasten the melting of Arctic sea ice and help hurricanes strengthen.
    The Gulf of Mexico, where warm water fuels hurricanes, has temperatures dancing around 90. Most of the water in the Northern Hemisphere has been considerably warmer than normal. The Mediterranean is about three degrees warmer than normal. Higher temperatures rule in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
    The heat is most noticeable near the Arctic, where water temperatures are as much as 10 degrees above average. The tongues of warm water could help melt sea ice from below and even cause thawing of ice sheets on Greenland, said Waleed Abdalati, director of the Earth Science and Observation Center at the University of Colorado.
    Breaking heat records in water is more ominous as a sign of global warming than breaking temperature marks on land, because water takes longer to heat up and does not cool off as easily as land.
    “This warm water we’re seeing doesn’t just disappear next year; it’ll be around for a long time,” said climate scientist Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. It takes five times more energy to warm water than land.
    The warmer water “affects weather on the land,” Weaver said. “This is another yet really important indicator of the change that’s occurring.”
    Georgia Institute of Technology atmospheric science professor Judith Curry said water is warming in more places than usual, something that has not been seen in more than 50 years.
    Add to that an unusual weather pattern this summer where the warmest temperatures seem to be just over oceans, while slightly cooler air is concentrated over land, said Deke Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the climate data center.
    The pattern is so unusual that he suggested meteorologists may want to study that pattern to see what’s behind it.
    The effects of that warm water are already being seen in coral reefs, said C. Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s coral reef watch. Long-term excessive heat bleaches colorful coral reefs white and sometimes kills them.
    Bleaching has started to crop up in the Florida Keys, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands — much earlier than usual. Typically, bleaching occurs after weeks or months of prolonged high water temperatures. That usually means September or October in the Caribbean, said Eakin. He found bleaching in Guam Wednesday. It’s too early to know if the coral will recover or die. Experts are “bracing for another bad year,” he said.
    The problems caused by the El Nino pattern are likely to get worse, the scientists say.
    An El Nino occurs when part of the central Pacific warms up, which in turn changes weather patterns worldwide for many months. El Nino and its cooling flip side, La Nina, happen every few years.
    During an El Nino, temperatures on water and land tend to rise in many places, leading to an increase in the overall global average temperature. An El Nino has other effects, too, including dampening Atlantic hurricane formation and increasing rainfall and mudslides in Southern California.
    Warm water is a required fuel for hurricanes. What’s happening in the oceans “will add extra juice to the hurricanes,” Curry said.
    Hurricane activity has been quiet for much of the summer, but that may change soon, she said. Hurricane Bill quickly became a major storm and the National Hurricane Center warned that warm waters are along the path of the hurricane for the next few days.
    Hurricanes need specific air conditions, so warmer water alone does not necessarily mean more or bigger storms, said James Franklin, chief hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.”
    And yet NSIDC acknowledges it is unlikely we’ll see record mealt in the arctic…

  37. Paul Vaughn: You asked, “If the monthly-values are listed vertically all-on-one-webpage with a separate-column for each latitude-band, it should be a breeze to quickly do the annual-smoothing to enhance the appearance of the 1998-step. Is there a webpage that lists the series that way?”
    I’ve never run into one. And my memory of the format of the raw data is that each month’s data is broken down into latitude and longitude cells. So for the ERSST.v3b data you’d first have all those readings for January 1854 and the next block of data would be for February 1854, etc. Then you’d have to weight them for latitudes, etc.

  38. Paolo M: You wrote, “The subtropical high pressure winds allow, per the Coriolis Force, the deep cold water to upwell to the surface.”
    Coastal upwelling occurs along the coast, as its name implies. The Humboldt Current extends far out from the coast.
    You wrote, “Come on, do you think that Antarctic water can travel at the surface of the ocean to the Equator without rising its temperature?”
    Of course it rises in temperature, but SST anomalies were discussed on this post, not SST. The SST anomalies of the waters exiting the Humboldt Current are dependent on many variables. These include the SST anomalies of the waters entering it, ENSO, coastal upwelling, and to reduce the number of items on this list, I’ll combine everything else into “weather noise.” If any one of those variable changes, the SST anomalies of the waters exiting the Humboldt Current will change. The waters entering the Humboldt Current are fed in part from the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). If the ACC SST anomalies rise (or fall) over multiyear and decadal periods, the SST anomalies of the waters entering the Humboldt Current rise (or fall), and, in turn, the SST anomalies of the waters exiting the Humboldt Current will rise (or fall).

  39. Antonio San: The article you quoted read, “July was the hottest the world’s oceans have been in almost 130 years of record-keeping.
    “The average water temperature worldwide was 62.6 degrees, according to the National Climatic Data Center, the branch of the U.S. government that keeps world weather records.”
    I wonder what dataset they’re referring to. ERSST.v3b, ERSST.v2, and OI.v2 all have higher global SSTs in August of 1998. They do NOT specify that it is a monthly record, so the wording is misleading or the reporter misquoted the NOAA representative. And I believe, August 2003 was also higher in all three datasets. So someone’s being creative or they’re referring to the SR05 dataset, which they obsoleted. The last month of that dataset was June 2009.

  40. This graph is useful:
    http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/map/images/sst/sst.long.time.gif
    It shows 1982+ 3.5S-3.5N SST anomalies for 100E-80W. The 1998 step is clear.
    A plot like that running back several decades should clearly show the reversal in the directional-development of El Ninos ~1976.
    Related: I’ve calculated the Trans-Nino Index from scratch and according to Trenberth’s notes about lag-patterns I’m expecting that the cross-wavelet phase-difference of TNI & N3.4 will show a change in color (at some timescales) at ~1976. It will be interesting to see what other dates are highlighted.

  41. Bob Tisdale (15:28:37) : The Sato Index Data is available from GISS at:
    and
    The Lamb Dust Veil Index goes back further in time:

    Dust. I didn’t think to look for dust…
    OK, thanks. That will keep me busy for a while.
    E.M.Smith

  42. Bob,
    the Humboldt Current is a myth like the Gulf Stream warming the otherwise colder Europe. You study it at the elementary school and then it’s hard to dismiss this concept.
    The advection of cold water towards the Equator is a negligible part of the story and the only singnificant way to move cold water to the surface is from below, where cold water is just a few hundred meters far, while Antarctica is several thousand kilometers far.
    The upwell of deep water doesn’t occur only along the cost. The cold tongue along the Equator in the eastern Pacific has the same cause too: the Coriolis Force.
    Bob, this is physics.
    You wrote: “…exposing colder water, which draws more heat from the atmosphere…”
    This is another myth: heat that in the Equatorial Pacific is drawn from the atmosphere to the water. In which planet?

  43. Paolo M: Regarding your insistence that ocean currents do not exist, go to Google Scholar and search for “ocean currents”. You’ll get 41,200 results. Now do the same for “Humboldt Current”, and you’ll find 3,630 results.
    One last one: Try ““Gulf Stream”+Europe” and you have 105,000 hits. While at least one recent paper using a GCM attempts to determine that the Gulf Stream has no influence on Europe, the majority of these papers on the subject of Gulf Stream+European climate do note the Gulf Stream-European climate link does exist.
    If you’d like to carry this discussion further, please provide links to papers that support your case, and/or write a post and submit it to Anthony for publication here at WUWT.
    Regards

  44. Bob Tisdale,
    you can go on thinking that the Humboldt Current advects Antarctic surface water to the Galapagos, that air warms the ocean and that without the Gulf Stream Ireland would be icy. You are not the only one, but atmospheric physics is another thing.

  45. Paolo M.: Let me ask a question of you, if I may. If the Humboldt Current does not exist in the capacity I describe, how would you describe the processes that cause the rise and fall in SST anomalies of the Southeastern Pacific, in the ACC, to appear to come multiple years before the rise and fall in tropical Pacific? What atmospheric processes are taking place that would make me and others believe the Humboldt Current transports that warmer water from the Southeast Pacific to the eastern equatorial Pacific?

  46. Bob Tisdale,
    don’t forget that what leads the ocean circulation is the atmospheric circulation. And there are so many connection in the air: the circumpolar vortex, the subtropical high, the Hadley circulation, etc… None of those is disconnected.
    Anyway, ENSO depends on the strenght of the deep water upwelling along the Equator, that depends on the wind velocity trough the Coriolis effect, that depends on the pressure gradient, that depens on the water temperature, that depends on the wind velocity,……..

  47. Paolo M: Since atmospheric circulation is so complex, isn’t it then easier to discuss the possible interaction between the Southern Ocean and equatorial Pacific in terms of ocean currents?
    And with respect to your concluding, “ENSO depends on the strenght of the deep water upwelling along the Equator, that depends on the wind velocity trough the Coriolis effect, that depends on the pressure gradient, that depens on the water temperature, that depends on the wind velocity,……..”
    …that varies cloud cover, Hadley Circulation, Walker Circulation, downwelling shortwave and longwave irradiance, etc., and they all interact so it’s a very complex chicken and egg process. And then there’s the “mode” of the Pacific, interaction of the Indian Ocean and its atmospheric circulation patterns on the Pacific, feedback from prior ENSO events, the impacts of Atlantic NINO events…I’m getting a headache.
    Regards

  48. Bob,
    do something for your headache.
    We need your valuable analyses that put light on all this mess.
    I’m suggesting you don’t consider so important the cold water advection and the air heat content flowing to the ocean.

  49. Paolo M: You are of course correct with your comment, “I’m suggesting you don’t consider so important the cold water advection and the air heat content flowing to the ocean.”
    Regards

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