Guest post by David Archibald
Bob Tisdale’s post on ENSO on 19th November prompted me to see what I could find in the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) data. The SOI is calculated from the monthly or seasonal fluctuations in the air pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin. Sustained negative values of the SOI often indicate El Nino episodes. These negative values are usually accompanied by sustained warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, a decrease in the Pacific Trade Winds, and a reduction in rainfall over eastern and northern Australia. Following is a graph of the SOI on a monthly basis from 1876 to 2010. The major El Ninos are discernable, otherwise it looks like a lot of noise.
The graph following shows the cumulative monthly SOI from 1876 to 2010.
The SOI does tell a story. It was non-trending for the last of the Little Ice Age and then from 1920 went into a long La Nina-dominated trend that ended with the Great Pacific Climate Shift of 1976. The planet warmed into the 1930s at the beginning of this trend, but then cooled, as it should have down in a La Nina-dominated trend, from the 1940s to the 1970s.
The subsequent El Nino-dominated trend from 1976 to 1995 was almost three times as fast as the rise. The Climategate emails show that Phil Jones was aware that global warming ended in 1995. The end of the El Nino-dominated trend in 1995 might be the physical cause of that cessation of warming. The SOI has been non-trending since.
This might have been a very neat story if the world had cooled instead of warmed into the 1930s. The 20 years of El Nino-dominant trend from 1976 to 1995 produced the late 20th century warming that got so many people hot and bothered. The story told by the SOI also reinforces how important the Great Pacific Climate Shift of 1976 was. The climate system turned on a dime for some as yet unknown reason.