Tisdale on IPCC Models Versus Sea Surface Temperature Observations During The Recent Warming Period

Guest post by Bob Tisdale

OVERVIEW

This post compares satellite-based Sea Surface Temperature (SST) anomalies to the hindcasts and projections of the multi-model mean of CMIP3 models. CMIP3 is the archive the IPCC used as the source of their models for AR4. The period being discussed runs from November 1981 to November 2011. This covers most of the recent warming period that began in the mid-1970s.

There are two modes of natural climate variability discussed in this post: the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). For those new to ENSO, refer to An Introduction To ENSO, AMO, and PDO – Part 1. And for those new to the AMO, refer to An Introduction To ENSO, AMO, and PDO — Part 2.

This post also illustrates the multiyear aftereffects of the 1986/87/88 and 1997/98 El Niño events on the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies of the Atlantic, Indian, and West Pacific Oceans. Those oceans cover approximately 67% of the surface area of the global oceans. I have presented the processes that cause the multiyear aftereffects of those ENSO events in numerous posts over the past few years, so they will not be discussed in detail in this post. For those interested in learning about those processes, I discussed them and illustrated them with time-series graphs and with animated maps of sea surface temperature anomalies and other variables, most recently, in a two-part series: ENSO Indices Do Not Represent The Process Of ENSO Or Its Impact On Global Temperature and Supplement To “ENSO Indices Do Not Represent The Process Of ENSO Or Its Impact On Global Temperature”.

NOTE: The data in this post have been adjusted for the effects of volcanic aerosols.

INTRODUCTION

In the recent series of posts that compare the IPCC hindcasts for 20th Century surface temperatures to observed surface temperatures (see here, here, here, and here), the only time period when models consistently agreed with observations was the late warming period, from 1976 to 2000. But even that is misleading, because it gives the incorrect impression that anthropogenic forcings such as Carbon Dioxide were responsible for the rise in surface temperatures. Illustrating the error in that assumption is relatively easy when Sea Surface Temperature anomaly data is adjusted for the impacts of major volcanic eruptions and when the global data is divided into two subsets: the East Pacific (coordinates of 90S-90N, 180-80W) and the Rest-Of-The-World (90S-90N, 80W-180). Refer to the map in Figure 1 for an illustration of those areas. And Figure 2 is a comparison of the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies for those two subsets.

Figure 1

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Figure 2

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DATA

The Sea Surface Temperature anomaly data used in this post is Reynolds OI.v2. It combines bias-corrected satellite observations for more complete coverage and in situ observations from buoys and ships. The Reynolds OI.v2 Sea Surface Temperature data covers the period of November 1981 to November 2011, or 30 years. The Reynolds OI.v2 data is available through the NOAA NOMADS website here. There is another reason why the Reynolds OI.v2 data is used in this post: Smith and Reynolds (2004) Improved Extended Reconstruction of SST (1854-1997)stated about the Reynolds OI.v2 data:

“Although the NOAA OI analysis contains some noise due to its use of different data types and bias corrections for satellite data, it is dominated by satellite data and gives a good estimate of the truth.”

The truth is a good thing.

We’ll also be using the multi-model mean of the Sea Surface Temperature data that was produced by the climate models in the CMIP3 archive, where CMIP3 stands for Phase 3 of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project. CMIP3 is the archive the IPCC used as the source of climate model data for its 4th Assessment Report. The CMIP3 Sea Surface Temperature data, identified as TOS, is available through the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) Climate Explorer website, specifically at their Monthly CMIP3+ scenario runswebpage. We have discussed in the recent posts that the multi-model mean represents the natural and anthropogenic forced component of the IPCC’s climate model outputs. And during the period we’ll be evaluating, it is the IPCC’s contention that anthropogenic forcings are the cause of the rise in surface temperatures.

The last discussion about the data is how the adjustments were made to account for the volcanic aerosols. The observational and model mean data are adjusted for the effects of volcanic aerosols, which would have major impacts on how the data was perceived during and for a few years after the explosive volcanic eruptions of El Chichon (1982) and Mount Pinatubo (1991). To determine the scaling factor for the volcanic aerosol proxy, I used a linear regression software tool (Analyse-it for Excel) with global Sea Surface Temperature anomalies as the dependent variable and GISS Stratospheric Aerosol Optical Thickness data (Source ) as the independent variable. The scaling factor determined was 1.431. This equals a global SST anomaly impact of approximately 0.2 deg C for the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption. To simplify and standardize the adjustments I’ve applied the same scaling factor to both the observed Sea Surface Temperature data and the model outputs. And I used the same adjustments for all subsets. As you will see, it slightly overcorrects in some instances and under-corrects a little in others. But since the adjustments are the same for the model outputs and instrument-based observations, they have no impact on the trend comparisons.

EAST PACIFIC SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURE COMPARISON

Figure 3 compares the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies of the East Pacific Ocean (90S-90N, 180-80W) to the scaled Sea Surface Temperature anomalies of the NINO3.4 region of the equatorial Pacific (5S-5N, 170W-120W). NINO3.4 Sea Surface Temperature anomalies are a commonly used index of the frequency and magnitude of El Niño and La Niña events, and I’ve scaled them (multiplied them by a factor of 0.22) because the variations in Sea Surface Temperature in that area of the equatorial Pacific are about 4.5 times greater than those of the East Pacific Ocean. As illustrated, the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies of the East Pacific mimic the NINO3.4 Sea Surface Temperature anomalies.

Figure 3

Figure 4 compares the observed Sea Surface Temperature anomalies of the East Pacific to the CMIP3 Multi-Model Mean for the same coordinates. The first thing that stands out is the difference in the year-to-year variability. The observed variations in Sea Surface Temperature due to the ENSO events are much greater than those of the Multi-Model Mean. Keep in mind when viewing the model-observations comparisons in this post that the model mean is the average of all of the ensemble members. And since the variations in the individual ensemble members are basically random, they will smooth out with the averaging. The average, therefore, represents the forced component (from natural and anthropogenic forcings) of the models. And it’s the forced component of the model data we’re interested in illustrating and comparing with the observations in this post, not the big wiggles associated with ENSO.

Figure 4

The difference in the linear trends between the Multi-Model Mean and the observations is also extremely significant. That is the focus of this post. The linear trend of the Multi-Model Mean is 0.114 deg C per decade for the East Pacific Ocean. This means, based on the linear trend of the Multi-Model Mean, that anthropogenic forcings should have raised the East Pacific Sea Surface Temperature anomalies, from pole to pole, by more than 0.34 deg C over the past 30 years. But the observed Sea Surface Temperature anomalies have actually declined. The East Pacific Ocean dataset represents about 33% of the surface area of the global oceans, and the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies there have not risen in response to the forcings of anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

THE REST-OF-THE-WORLD COMPARISON

The Sea Surface Temperature anomalies and Multi-Model Mean for the Rest-Of-The-World (Atlantic, Indian, and West Pacific Oceans) from pole to pole are shown in Figure 5. The linear trend of the multi-model mean shows that the models have overestimated the warming by about 23%.

Figure 5

But even that is misleading, because the observed Sea Surface Temperature anomalies only rose in response to significant El Niño-La Nina events, and during the 9- and 11-year periods between those ENSO events, the observed Sea Surface Temperatures are remarkably flat. This is illustrated first in Figure 6, using the period average Sea Surface Temperature anomalies between the significant El Niño events, and second, in Figure 7, by showing the linear trends of the instrument-based observations data between the 1986/87/88 and 1997/98 El Niño events and between the 1997/98 and 2009/10 El Niño events.

Figure 6

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Figure 7

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As you will note, I’ve isolated the significant El Niño events of 1982/83, 1986/87/88, 1997/98, and 2009/10. To accomplish this, I used the NOAA Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) to determine the official months of those El Niño events. There is a 6-month lag between NINO3.4 SST anomalies and the response of the Rest-Of-The-World SST anomalies during the evolution phase of the 1997/98 El Niño. So I lagged the ONI data by six months and deleted the Rest-Of-The-World SST data that corresponded to the 1982/83, 1986/87/88, 1998/98, and 2009/10 El Niño events. All other months of data remain.

Note: The El Niño event of 1982/83 was counteracted by the volcanic eruption of El Chichon, so its apparent role in the long-term warming is minimal.

And what do the climate models show should have taken place during the periods between those ENSO events?

For the period between the 1986/87/88 and the 1997/98 El Niño events, Figure 8, the model mean shows a positive linear trend of 0.044 deg C per decade, while the observed linear trend is negative, at -0.01 deg C per decade. The difference of 0.054 deg C per decade is significant.

Figure 8

The difference between the linear trends is even more significant between the El Niño events of 1997/98 and 2009/10, as shown in Figure 9. The linear trend of the observations is basically flat, while trend of the models is relatively high at 0.16 deg C per decade.

Figure 9

Keep in mind that the model mean, according to the IPCC, represents the anthropogenically forced component of the climate models during the period of 1981 to 2011. Unfortunately for the models, there is no evidence of anthropogenic forcing in the East Pacific Ocean Sea Surface Temperature data or in the Sea Surface Temperature data for the Rest Of The World.

Let’s subdivide the Rest-Of-The-World data even more. This will illustrate why the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies between the significant ENSO events are flat.

THE NORTH ATLANTIC AND THE SOUTH ATLANTIC-INDIAN-WEST PACIFIC SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURE ANOMALY DATA

Figure 10 is a map that shows how the data for the additional discussions were subdivided. Basically, this was done to isolate the North Atlantic from the additional ocean basins in the Rest-Of-The-World data. And the observed Sea Surface Temperature anomalies for those two subsets are shown in Figure 11. As illustrated, the linear trend of the North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature anomalies is significantly higher than the linear trend of the South Atlantic-Indian-West Pacific subset. This higher trend in the North Atlantic data is caused by the additional mode of natural variability known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. And as we will see, the forced component of the models (the model mean) does not account for the additional variability in the North Atlantic attributable to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.

Figure 10

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Figure 11

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Note: The North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature anomalies for datasets like the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation data are normally depicted by the coordinates of 0-70N, 80W-0. Here they include 0-90N, 80W-40E to capture the Mediterranean Sea and corresponding portion of the Arctic Ocean leftover from the other subsets. The additional surface area has little impacton the North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature anomaly data presented here. But to differentiate it from the other versions of the North Atlantic data, I’ve called it “North Atlantic Plus” in the graphs.

“NORTH ATLANTIC PLUS” COMPARISON

The North Atlantic is the only ocean basin where the models underestimate the long-term trend of the satellite-era Sea Surface Temperature data. See Figure 12. (Also refer to Part 1 and Part 2of an earlier two-part post comparing the Reynolds OI.v2 Sea Surface Temperature dataset to the same CMIP3 Multi-Model Mean, but note that the data in those posts have not been adjusted for volcanic aerosols.) Based on the linear trends, the models have underestimated the warming of the North Atlantic by nearly 35%. Again, the North Atlantic has an additional mode of natural variability called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation or AMO. It seems very obvious that the multi-model mean fails to hindcast and project this additional variability.

Figure 12

And for those interested, I’ve also provided graphs that compare the model mean and observed trends between the significant El Niño events. As shown in Figure 13, the models underestimate the warming that took place between the El Niño events of 1986/87/88 and 1997/98. And as illustrated in Figure 14, the models overestimated the rise in North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperatures between the 1997/98 and 2009/10 El Niño events.

Figure 13

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Figure 14

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Let’s take a look at the South Pacific, Indian, and West Pacific comparison. As many of you are aware, I like to save the best for last.

SOUTH ATLANTIC-INDIAN-WEST PACIFIC COMPARISON

Figure 15 compares long-term observed Sea Surface Temperature anomalies and the Multi-Model Mean for the South Atlantic, Indian, and West Pacific Oceans. This is basically the portion of the “Rest-Of-The-World” dataset that is not included in the “North Atlantic Plus” data. As illustrated, the trend of the Multi-Model Mean is about 62% higher than the trend of the observed data. That is, the forced component of the models has over predicted the rise in Sea Surface Temperature anomalies for this subset by a substantial amount.

Figure 15

But the long-term trends are again misleading. The South Atlantic-Indian-West Pacific Sea Surface Temperature anomalies only rise during the significant El Niño events of 1986/87, 1997/98, and 2009/10. Between those events, the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies drop.

Figure 16 compares the observed South Atlantic-Indian-West Pacific Sea Surface Temperature anomalies to the Multi-Model Mean between the 1986/87/88 and 1997/98 El Niño events. The anthropogenic forcings have driven the model-mean upwards during this period, but the linear trend of the observations show that Sea Surface Temperatures declined. And the difference of 0.093 deg C per decade is a major difference. But that’s small compared to the difference between the linear trends of the observations and the model mean for the period between the El Niño events of 1997/98 and 2009/10. That difference is almost 0.18 deg C per decade.

Figure 16

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Figure 17

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CLOSING COMMENT

As illustrated in the two earlier posts that use these same datasets (see here and here), the Multi-Model Mean of the CMIP3 coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models do not hindcast and project the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies in any ocean basin, when the data is presented on times-series basis and on a zonal mean (latitude-based) basis. (The model mean of the West Pacific subset may look good on a time-series basis, but not on a zonal mean basis.)

This post confirms the Multi-Model Mean (the forced component of the climate models) does a poor job of hindcasting and projecting the actual rise in global Sea Surface Temperature anomalies, when the data is broken down into two logical subsets: the East Pacific Ocean and the Rest-Of-The-World. The post also illustrates the very basic reasons for that rise.

The models used by the IPCC for their hindcasts and projections assume that anthropogenic greenhouse gases drove the rise in Sea Surface Temperature anomalies from November 1981 to present. This is illustrated by the model mean, which represents the forced component of the models.

But the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies of the East Pacific Ocean (90S-90N, 180-80W) have not risen in 30 years. Refer to Figure 18.

Figure 18

And for the Rest-Of-The-World (90S-90N, 80W-180), Figure 19, the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies only rose during, and in response to, the 1986/87/88, 1997/98, and 2009/10 El Niño events.

Figure 19

There is no evidence that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have had any impact on the East Pacific Sea Surface Temperature anomalies (90S-90N, 180-80W) or on the Sea Surface Temperature anomalies for the Rest Of The World (90S-90N, 80W-180).

ABOUT: Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

SOURCES

The model mean data is found at the KNMI Climate Explorer Monthly CMIP3+ scenario runs webpage. The Reynolds OI.v2 Sea Surface Temperature anomaly data is available through the NOAA NOMADS website here. And the GISS aerosol optical depth data used to make the adjustments for volcanic aerosols can be found at the Stratospheric Aerosol Optical Thickness webpage, specifically this data.

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The only explanation is, that the “radiative forcings” in the models are just thick arows in K-H diagrams, something of unphysical character, not observed. On the other hand, we have a plenty of natural mechanisms to explain watts have been happening around.
For those who have not noticed, North Atlantic SST peaked around 2006 and now goes at the same rate down. Popcorn times ahead.

Thanks, Anthony.
And happy holidays to all.

crosspatch

Well, the response to that is going to be (with considerable uncertainty) “the anthropogenic heat gets stored up ‘in the pipeline’ somewhere and is ‘released’ during El Nino events” and they would take these graphs as “proof” of that.

HB

I love your straight forward, well illustrated stories, no fudged data, no hype. Wonderful stuff Bob.

Bruce of Newcastle

Bob – Thank you again for excellent analysis! The logical conclusion as a long time modeller is the GCM assumptions need a good bit of a look. My first step (if I was a GCM person) would be to see how climate sensitivity was handled then do some runs with it as a variable. I suspect that this would show a derived climate sensitivity much closer to that of LC2011 and SB2010 than any of the numbers in AR4. So I am not suprised that I’ve seen no analysis of this sort being done by consensus climate modellers.

I applied the same principle to the North Atlantic, North and Equatorial Pacific and found natural sources of the individual oscillations:
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/PDOc.htm
or to put it simply
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/AP.htm
Of course any climate or oceanographer scientist is free to dismiss it, until all data has been published, but that will happen in due course.

jorgekafkazar

Nice. Thanks, Bob.

Stephen Wilde

Bob,
Could additional GHGs in the air whether natural or not have contributed to the slight cooling in the East Pacific Ocean due to enhanced evaporative cooling caused by more energy in the air?
Apart from that, the failure of that region to warm up despite an active sun, less cloudiness globally and more CO2 could be telling us that the natural mechanisms of equator to pole energy transfer are well capable of changing their speed and capacity to prevent an overall increase in system energy content (when the oceans are included).
I have in mind the speed and size of the water cycle and the latitudinal positions of the permanent climate zones.

Bloke down the pub

I have a bit of a problem with the idea that if you remove the El Niños, the trend of anomaly is flat. A staircase with treads and risers of 12″ each will have a slope of 45° but if you ignore the risers the ‘trend’ would be flat, but I don’t think you could convince many people that that was realistic.

David

This is all very interesting. But somebody help me out, as I am NOT a climatologist. The question in my mind is: WHY is El Nino step-wise warming a one-way street? Do we actually know what causes the El Nino warming? And if this is a cycle that balances out, what is the mechanism that would reverse the warming associated with El Nino cycles? Why is there no comparable hysteresis apparent in La Nina cycles??

crosspatch

WHY is El Nino step-wise warming a one-way street?

I don’t think it is. For example, in figure 7 you see gradual cooling between events. What I believe happens during the conditions that cause an El Nino is that ocean circulation slows down a little. This allows surface temperatures to rise in places that might not be intuitive but are connected by ocean circulation patterns. Now mind you, that is my own personal speculation. But a El Nino event sees slack trade winds. Ocean circulation is due to winds. Reduced circulation MIGHT mean that the surface gets warmer. Now a La Nina event will directly cool the Eastern Pacific due to increased trade winds but will have less impact on places like the Arctic and the Med. Anyway, I believe it takes a while to get that circulation going again. IF that is true, if we got into a period of persistent La Nina conditions, we should see an increase in circulation patterns and possibly a cooling at the surface. I don’t know, the system is very complex.

Theo Goodwin

Thanks again for another wonderful post, Mr. Tisdale. The graphs are great. Happy Holidays to you, Sir.

crosspatch

In other words, the reduced upwelling off the West coast of South America during an El Nino event might have circulation impacts that manifest in other places.

Theo Goodwin

Bloke down the pub says:
December 19, 2011 at 1:48 pm
“I have a bit of a problem with the idea that if you remove the El Niños, the trend of anomaly is flat. A staircase with treads and risers of 12″ each will have a slope of 45° but if you ignore the risers the ‘trend’ would be flat, but I don’t think you could convince many people that that was realistic.”
Good point. The solution is that the risers are a permanent feature of the stairs, as would be an incremental increase caused by CO2, but no individual El Nino is a permanent feature of the oceans. Taking this point beyond anything Mr. Tisdale said, El Nino look to be causes here and not incremental increases in CO2 concentrations.

John B

@Bloke down the pub and David
The is no rationale behind the assumption that El Nino events cause a trend. For the opposite take on this, that a look at:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/pics/SkepticsvRealistsv3.gif
From this page:
http://www.skepticalscience.com/going-down-the-up-escalator-part-1.html

Philip Bradley

Could additional GHGs in the air whether natural or not have contributed to the slight cooling in the East Pacific Ocean due to enhanced evaporative cooling caused by more energy in the air?
Stephen, ‘more energy in the air’ , ie higher air temperatures, will cause less evaporative cooling of the oceans.
The ocean surface is on average about 2C warmer than the atmosphere above it and this heat gradient drives heat transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere mostly by evaporation.

David says:
December 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm
But somebody help me out, as I am NOT a climatologist.
I am not either, but here is my simple guide to global warming/cooling anyway.
Oceans!
– There is no large extra heat input from the sun, it oscillates but not to a degree to cause either significant warming or cooling.
– Heat flux up to 30-40 degrees latitude is downwards, there is more heat in then out. Excess energy is taken pole-ward by ocean currents.
– Higher latitudes heat flux is upwards, i.e. more heat out than in, the deficit in heat is supplied by ocean currents from equatorial regions.
Atlantic’s Gulf stream and in the Pacific’s Kuroshio current take heat northwards. Rise in the volume and velocity of these currents takes more heat pole-wards, warming northern seas and lands; result global warming.
http://www.physicalgeography.net/fundamentals/images/oceancurrents.gif
Fall in volume and velocity of the two currents, less heat moved pole-ward, excess heat instead of going north is irradiated in the equatorial regions; result global cooling.
There is similar process in the Southern Hemisphere.
In the Pacific there is also east-west equatorial current system, which is linked to the pole-ward currents system.
There are three major drivers North Atlantic (Gulf stream – the AMO), North Pacific (Kuroshio current- the PDO) and Equatorial Pacific (Equatorial counter current- ENSO). Last two drivers operate a push-pull arrangement, hence synchronisation of the PDO and the ENSO.
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/PDOc.htm
Sun provides the energy, CO2 doesn’t have any significant role to play.
Once the Earth’s axis is tilted sufficiently (Milankovic), the surplus heat taken North is insufficient to stop the Arctic’s excess ice build up; result the Ice age.
Sometime in the near future I shall provide data and explain mechanism of the three drivers mentioned above, till than if you can search for more acceptable hypothesis, if inclined to do so.

Ulric Lyons

David says:
December 19, 2011 at 1:59 pm
“Do we actually know what causes the El Nino warming?”
Declining solar wind speeds: http://omniweb.gsfc.nasa.gov/tmp/images/ret_13923.gif
and volcanic aerosols.

Another useful study. Another brick in the wall of our defences against the gross alarmism pushed by the IPCC. But what a diversion of energy and talent, not just for correcting the shoddy science or hyperbole of that alarmism, but for the fact that it is also an act of rebellion against a powerful and reactionary political establishment! That is wearisome.
I think the reality is that if CO2-alarmism had never been invented, there is nothing at all in the weather of the past 30 years (to pick a time period of particular interest to the alarmists), that would have otherwise been highlighted as astonishing or as a source of unusual concern. And since ‘business as usual’ is not in general a big magnet for the media, we might still have had a decent and civil culture in the baby science of climatology. As it is, we have had a very unpleasant and multiply degrading 20 years or more (maybe the 1988 hearings are a handy marker for the clear onset of the degradation). A recovery path, other than the present generation of climate loud mouths (I cannot bring myself to call them leaders) merely fading into their dotages, is not at all clear to me. The prospect of their suddenly being deprived of their funding and their baubles and accolades does not seem plausible, but that prospect would hold out a tiny glimmer of hope for an earlier progress.

Stephen Wilde says: “Could additional GHGs in the air whether natural or not have contributed to the slight cooling in the East Pacific Ocean due to enhanced evaporative cooling caused by more energy in the air?”
Any answer would be conjecture. Suffice it to say that the Sea Surface Temperature record shows no evidence of an Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas contribution.
Enjoy your holidays, Stephen.

Robt319

So there has been no rise in SST of the East Pac in 30 yrs, throw in Antarctica and that’s about 27% of the surface in one slice from north to south. My question is, how has GLOBAL warming managed to jump from 80W to 180W without leaving a trace, is there less CO2 in the atmosphere there? It seems to me that this global warming is based on one period of 20 yrs from 1978 to 1998. Take that out or explain it naturally and the whole theory goes away. I believe that in 1998 the team were saying that natural variability like ENSO was just noise and would be swamped by CO2 but now they are saying that natural variability has managed to flatten the temp trend. Clearly the science of climate is very complicated but as others have pointed out, it’s not about the science, it’s politics.

David says: “WHY is El Nino step-wise warming a one-way street?”
Is it? It has been a one-way street for a few recent decades. However, from the 1940s to the late 1970s, the frequency and magnitudes of El Nino and La Nina events were such that La Nina events dominated by a slight margin. Global surface temperatures did not rise.
You asked, “Do we actually know what causes the El Nino warming?”
Unfortunately, that is an open question and I’d need you to be more specific. But if you’re looking for detailed descriptions of the source of warm water for El Nino events, of how an El Nino forms and then turns into a La Nina, what causes surface temperatures around the globe to vary in response to them, etc., those are covered in the following introduction post…
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/an-introduction-to-enso-amo-and-pdo-%e2%80%93-part-1/
… and in the discussion of ENSO indices (this is one of my favorite posts):
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/enso-indices-do-not-represent-the-process-of-enso-or-its-impact-on-global-temperature/
You asked, “And if this is a cycle that balances out, what is the mechanism that would reverse the warming associated with El Nino cycles?
A multidecadal period when La Nina events truly dominated? Since the 2007/08 ENSO season, La Nina events have outnumbered El Nino events 4 to 2. Is this the start of new period of La Nina domination? Dunno. I’m an observer who’s along for the ride.
You asked, “Why is there no comparable hysteresis apparent in La Nina cycles??”
We haven’t hit a multidecadal period from the 1850s to present (period of instrument temperature record) when La Nina events dominated by a wide margin. Something caused Sea Surface Temperature anomalies to drop significantly from the 1870s until 1910…
http://bobtisdale.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/figure-143.png
…and it wasn’t volcanic eruptions or solar according to the IPCC’s climate models:
http://bobtisdale.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/figure-191.png
You have to keep in mind that, before the 1950s, tropical Pacific Sea Surface source data (the measurements) are sparse enough that the ENSO-related data is sketchy. Before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, that data is very sparse and the datasets that infill missing data are presenting lots of assumed data. And tropical Pacific Sea Surface Temperature source data becomes nonexistent as you go further back in time.

crosspatch

“Do we actually know what causes the El Nino warming?”
I will say it probably isn’t the El Nino itself but it manifests after the El Nino. I am going to guess that it is the extreme La Nina conditions that tend to bracket the El Nino.
For example, we had a period from 1990 to about 1995 with positive conditions. As you can see in figure 7, rest of the world ocean temperatures dropped during that time. We had the Great Climate Change of 1976 after a prolonged period of negative conditions. You will notice that after the 1988 El Nino we had a rather deep La Nina event. Then we go back to El Nino conditions for a rather long time and the rest of the world cools off a bit. Then we get the 1998 very large El Nino. The rest of the world begins to cool off as that event falls off but then we go into a rather strong and long La Nina condition that prevents it from cooling off. Then we go to El Nino conditions from about 2003 to 2006 and I believe actually see a very slight cooling trend there.
Now there is one part of this graph in Figure 19 that I believe Mr. Tisdale misses. That is the strong La Nina condition is when the “rest of the world” actually heats up. If you look at figure 19, the trend he shows post-2010 El Nino is actually established BEFORE the 2010 El Nino and is established by the 2008 La Nina.
It is counter-intuitive in some respects but when the Pacific is cooling from La Nina, the ocean is actually GAINING energy. Large El Nino events are often immediately followed by large La Nina events. I believe it is these La Nina events that keep the energy levels up and prevent the temperatures from recovering back to the old trend. The very strong 2008 La Nina that occurred without a preceding very strong El Nino to hide its work reveals what is going on.
The post 2010 trend shown in figure 19 is actually established by the 2008 La Nina BEFORE that El Nino happens. 2009 rest of the world temperatures were already elevated before the 2010 El Nino happened.

crosspatch

During a La Nina event, the Eastern Pacific is cooling but it is also causing a warm anomaly in the Indian, and Western Pacific oceans. The same atmospheric pressure anomalies that cause an increase in trade winds across the Pacific cause a DECREASE in trade winds across the Atlantic. This is one reason why Atlantic tropical storms tend to increase in La Nina years. A La Nina condition often creates the analog of an El Nino condition in the Atlantic. There is reduced trade winds, higher sea surface temperature, lower wind shear conditions and a propensity for storm development. But the energy doesn’t balance because the Pacific is much larger than the Atlantic. If they were exactly the same size, a increase in energy in the Pacific would be balanced by a decrease in energy in the Atlantic and global ocean energy would remain at a net balance though redistributed somewhat.
So in a La Nina year you have: Cool Eastern Pacific with warm Indian and Western Pacific along with a warm Tropical Atlantic (and maybe a cool Northern Atlantic and Southern Atlantic) so Eastern Pacific temperatures drop but the sum of the rest of the world increases.

markus

crosspatch says:
December 19, 2011 at 2:07 pm
WHY is El Nino step-wise warming a one-way street?
“”I don’t think it is. For example, in figure 7 you see gradual cooling between events. What I believe happens during the conditions that cause an El Nino is that ocean circulation slows down a little. (Redacted). Ocean circulation is due to winds. (Redacted). Anyway, I believe it takes a while to get that circulation going again. IF that is true, if we got into a period of persistent La Nina conditions, we should see an increase in circulation patterns and possibly a cooling at the surface. I don’t know, the system is very complex.””
Ocean circulation slows down during El Nino would be right, at least for most of the earths waters, Cooling of the surface during La Nina might be right, but IMHO Ocean circulation is not only due to winds e.g; upwelling, convective heat transfer. I’ve considered Ocean circulation causing La Nina/El Nino switch is due to earths physical black(for that matter white)-body radiation applied to transportation rules. The switch does follow solar radiation, and the variables (currents, volumes, air flow, etc, etc, etc) can be measured, predicatively. Moreover, with known hind-cast (cycles) (600 yr, 60 yr, 11 yr) it would be a very long bow to suggest that SST has anything much to do with CO2.
And that is what my Hero, Bob Tisdale says.

John B says: “The is no rationale behind the assumption that El Nino events cause a trend. For the opposite take on this, that a look at…”
Your statement indicates YOU do not understand ENSO, and that’s why I included links to the introductory post at the beginning:
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/an-introduction-to-enso-amo-and-pdo-%e2%80%93-part-1/
And the gif animation and post at SkepticalScience you linked further display the fact that you only looked at the graphs above and didn’t bother to read my post or the posts that I linked that discussed, illustrated, and animated the processes that cause the upward shifts that I’ve presented. If you had, and if you had understood them, you would not have presented those SkepticalScience links.Here are the links to my posts that you obviously failed to read:
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/enso-indices-do-not-represent-the-process-of-enso-or-its-impact-on-global-temperature/
And here’s part 2:
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2011/08/07/supplement-to-enso-indices-do-not-represent-the-process-of-enso-or-its-impact-on-global-temperature/
And please don’t come back here with links to the nonsensical SkepticalScience posts that say that ENSO is a cycle and as such cannot contribute to a positive trend. The authors of those posts simply broadcast their misunderstandings about ENSO with those statements. They think ENSO is an index. They think ENSO only relates to little rectangular regions along the equatorial Pacific where Sea Surface Temperatures are measured and called ENSO indices. Refer to the last two posts I linked for you above.
Have a nice day…and a happy holiday.

crosspatch

Well, the thing is the mechanism that drives El Nino / La Nina are pressure differences between the Eastern and Western Pacific that increase or decrease winds. The situation on the opposite side of the globe tends to be different (the opposite). And don’t get me wrong, I love reading Tisdale. That is where I learned that and how I understood how La Nina is actually a net increase in ocean energy even though the surface is cooler!
I have a lot of respect for Mr. Tisdale. I am just pointing out that the graph in Figure 19 shows the post 2010 El Nino trend is already established before the El Nino. And I believe it was the 2008 La Nina that did it. We normally can’t see that because we often go directly from El Nino into La Nina and so the impact of the La Nina is to moderate the recovery from the previous El Nino. So looking at that on a graph, it would be a natural conclusion to believe that the El Nino caused the change in trend because you see one trend before the El Nino and a different after. That would be a normal conclusion to reach. But I think it is the La Nina that comes immediately after the El Nino that prevents the recovery to the old trend.
It just so happens that in the data series in figure 19 we happen to “catch ” a significant La Nina happening without a strong preceding El Nino and we see the new “rest of the world” trend established during that event. There is, as far as I can see, no difference in trend in the 1.5 years or so before the 2010 event and the trend immediately after. But we might NOW be pushing that trend up because now we are in a protracted La Nina condition which will add energy to the overall system.
I think it is La Nina that boosts the trend, not El Nino.
El Nino is a net loss of energy from the sea to the atmosphere. La Nina is a net gain.

RoHa

Let me try to fight mey way past the wriggly lines and get this into terms I can understand.
“IPCC say CO2 make sea get hot. Sea no get hot. IPCC full of it.”
Is that it?

markus

crosspatch says:
December 19, 2011 at 4:55 pm
“”El Nino is a net loss of energy from the sea to the atmosphere. La Nina is a net gain.””
Given a multi-modal system isn’t the gain from La Nina diminished from the net loss of El Nino differences in the east pacific at South America, if we are talking about a global energy system? I would possibly agree there are regional energy gains during these phenomena.
I do understand your conviction that winds drive the La Nina/El Nino mechanism, and yes, air pressure has that effect on the Ocean and Ocean circulation, however, IMHO a stronger driver for La Nina/El Nino is the SST itself and a tipping of it between the east and west pacific waters, due to Temp transport (convection) through the Ocean undercurrents. Thanks for your patience, crosspatch, I’m still learning.

For anybody interested in Australian temps, it might be worth looking at the BoM’s 14 coastal SEAFRAME stations that monitor various trends including sea air temperatures since 1991. The temps are all packaged at http://www.waclimate.net/sea/sea-air-temperatures.html
The 14 stations combined might suggest a temp increase around .2C over the past 20 years but the data is worth closer examination …
• The general trend was for northern warm latitudes to have cooling sea air temperatures, in line with records from the land stations, with southern stations increasing in temperature. All three Western Australia stations were flat or slightly cooler since 1991 despite claims the Indian Ocean has been warming.
• The overall increase was mostly because of Australia’s populated south east quarter, the exception being the Cocos Islands. For example, Portland Victoria sea air temperatures would seem to have gone up by about 1C since 1995.

crosspatch

Is there something akin to nino3.4 for the equatorial Atlantic? It would probably be something smaller but I would be interested in the sea surface temperatures for a region that is analogous to Nino3.4. I want to see if there are cycles similar to Nino/Nina only in the Atlantic (lets call them Bubba and Sissy … though it might be BS for short, I don’t know yet). I am wondering something.
Usually when we have somewhat opposite conditions in the equatorial Pacific and Atlantic. What I am wondering is if we ever get what I might call a “super cycle” where we have strong trades or weak trades in BOTH regions at the same time and what their impact might be. So like maybe a Nino/Bubba or a Nina/Sissy rather than the two being out of phase with each other.

pat

read all:
19 Dec: NYT: Dot Earth: Andrew C. Revkin: Climate Panel Needs to Follow its Own Advice
I believe it’s time for Rajendra K. Pachauri to take a new approach to discussing climate change or leave the chairmanship of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change after nearly a decade in that position. There is an unavoidable and counterproductive blurriness to the line between his personal advocacy for climate action — which is his right as an individual — and his stature as the leader of the panel, which was established in 1988 as “a policy relevant but policy neutral organization.”
The latest crystallization of this problem came last Thursday, when Pachauri participated in a meeting on “Extreme Climate Risks and California’s Future,” organized by California Gov. Jerry Brown…
http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/12/19/climate-panel-needs-to-follow-its-own-advice/

pat

more models…
19 Dec: Miami Herald: Pat Brennan: NASA: Warming will transform natural world
Global warming could bring a major transformation for Earth’s plants and animals over the next century, a NASA study says, driving nearly half the planet’s forests, grasslands and other vegetation toward conversion into radically different ecosystems.
The ecological stress could give a boost to invasive species, but at the expense of natives, reducing the diversity of plants and animals overall.
And humans are likely, almost literally, to cut them off at the pass: When plants and animals attempt to survive by shifting their geographical ranges, as they have in past episodes of climate change, they’ll be blocked by farms and cities.
“If half the world is driven to change its vegetation cover, and meanwhile, we’ve fragmented the surface of the Earth by putting in parking lots and monoculture agricultural zones and all these other impediments to natural migration, then there could be problems,” said lead author Jon Bergengren, a global ecologist who was a postdoctoral researcher at Caltech when he did the study…
The far-reaching forecast spans three centuries and relies on powerful computer models of Earth’s climate and vegetation.
The scientists, including Duane Waliser of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, used a model devised by Bergengren that can forecast the likely community of plants that would develop in any given type of climate.
The model relies on 110 plant types to represent the thousands of plant species on Earth.
They plugged in 10 different climate simulations based on 2007 predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/12/19/2553141/nasa-warming-will-transform-natural.html

crosspatch

I do understand your conviction that winds drive the La Nina/El Nino mechanism, and yes, air pressure has that effect on the Ocean and Ocean circulation, however, IMHO a stronger driver for La Nina/El Nino is the SST itself and a tipping of it between the east and west pacific waters, due to Temp transport (convection) through the Ocean undercurrents. Thanks for your patience, crosspatch, I’m still learning.

It is impossible to have a La Nina without strong trade winds. It just can’t happen. Same as you can not have an El Nino without slack trade winds, that can’t happen, either.
Something has to blow that surface water Westward. Something has to stop blowing it.
Oh, and I found the perfect Christmas gift for your favorite climate skeptic:
“Little Ice Ages, Ancient and Modern,” vols. 1 and 2, 2nd ed., by J. M. Grove
They’ll probably set you back about $600 or so, though.

crosspatch

Global warming could bring a major transformation for Earth’s plants and animals over the next century, a NASA study says, driving nearly half the planet’s forests, grasslands and other vegetation toward conversion into radically different ecosystems.

Well, all they have to do is look at what the vegetation was during the Holocene Climate Optimum and that is what it would be like if it warmed considerably from now. Another way of looking at it is that we are undoing the damage that has been done due to global cooling since that time.

R. Gates

Bob,
I always enjoy your posts, but this quote from you is especially funny:
“But the long-term trends are again misleading.”
____
I understand your point about El Nino’s and the “step up” in SST’s during these periods, and your notion that SST’s are flat to declining in between, but long-term trends are what we are looking for if the anthropogenic signal is to be seen. Suppose, for sake of argument, that I accept the notion that the increase in SST’s and perhaps even OHC has all been related to El Nino’s. You must have some “step down” period, where we see, more La Nina’s than El Nino’s, and hence, we’ll see declining OHC, right? I suppose this would be a period of a cooler PDO, and perhaps a cool AMO as well? The problem with this notion is that globally, oceans absorb more heat then they release during La Nina’s, thus OHC will increase during such a “step down” cycle. We see this quite readily in the data. So, when would we expect to see OHC decrease, as it has not been during your El Nino driven “step up” periods? The key point here is that SST’s are not the key indicator for anthropogenic warming of the oceans, but rather OHC is, and is continues to rise throughout the full ENSO cycle over the long-term, and this is most certainly not a misleading trend. Please explain when and how you expect to see the real measure of energy in the ocean, OHC (down to the deepest levels we can accurately measure), begin to decrease over the long-term, as it has not for many decades.

Bob, As always, it is a pleasure reading your work. It is very refreshing to see you using volcanic adjusted SST’s. What you have provided here a clue to the physical mechanisms which support the conclusions of Lindzen, Christy and Spencer… that global temps will rise about 1C per doubling of CO2, not the multitudes suggested by IPCC and etc models.
What I would point out is that the surface water (slightly warmed by anthropogenic greenhouse gases, and solar since there was a major event during the same time) is blown west by the trades where it accumulates in the warm pool (La Nina) then is discharged by Kelvin waves back into the Nino regions (El Nino), particularly the Large El Ninos (82, 98, 2010), then to higher latitudes.
For crosspatch and the rest of the gang, I can see that some education in ENSO would be helpful, please take some time to read El Nino for dummies here: http://roqtock.com/id9.html

John West

R. Gates says:
“but long-term trends are what we are looking for”
And you’ll have them in a few thousand years, assuming we maintain a database that long.

UG! I’m such the typoe master tonite… ENSO for dummies starts here:http://roqtock.com/id8.html

Bob, I suppose I could have articulated that last part better .(long day).. The portion of surface water warmed by AGW is stored in the warm pool, then discharged during the El Nino’s, especially the bigger ones. That would explain why there is a step function to the warming.

Lotsa yummy sausage-making, here! But there is an obvious conclusion to be drawn, which is evaded.

This means, based on the linear trend of the Multi-Model Mean, that anthropogenic forcings should have raised the East Pacific Sea Surface Temperature anomalies, from pole to pole, by more than 0.34 deg C over the past 30 years. But the observed Sea Surface Temperature anomalies have actually declined.

Therefore: anthropogenic forcings are negative.
Simples!

R. Gates

mmikeccMikeC says:
December 19, 2011 at 8:58 pm
What you have provided here a clue to the physical mechanisms which support the conclusions of Lindzen, Christy and Spencer… that global temps will rise about 1C per doubling of CO2, not the multitudes suggested by IPCC and etc models.
——–
I would suggest Bob’s analysis does no such thing. His is an analysis of step-wise increases in SST’s during El Nino cycles and the notion that that surface heat continues on long after the event is officially over. It makes no connection to climate sensitivity per doubling of CO2. Furthermore, the more important metric of energy in the oceans, Ocean Heat Content, shows large increases during the last decade when atmospheric temps have been flat. This of course makes sense, as La Nina’s have been more dominant over the past decade and it is during such periods that the oceans as a whole, retain more heat than they release to the atmosphere. What Bob has yet to explain is when he expects ocean heat content to begin to fall once more as it has been rising pretty steadily for more than 3 decades, through multiple El Nino and La Nina cycles. Simple put, the oceans have been gaining far more heat then they have been able to release during the past 30+ years.

crosspatch

The site is rather, uhm, cartoonish. Maybe I am too much of a dummy to get much out of it.
Point is when you have an El Nino, yes, the surface temperature is warmer but that is because of a reduction of evaporation from slack trades. At the same time during an El Nino you get more clouds over the equatorial Pacific so a net decrease in the amount of sunlight actually reaching the sea surface or a net decline in energy to the ocean.
During a La Nina you get more evaporative cooling due to stronger winds but you also get more direct sunlight due to a lack of clouds. La Nina periods are sunnier than normal.
So overall net energy increases in the entire ocean system during La Nina even though the equatorial surface temperatures are lower. The warm pool holds that energy. As the Indian Ocean heats up, some of that warmer water will slip out in a shallow circulation around Africa and head up toward the Caribbean and eventually become the Gulf Stream. Its going to take about 4 to 6 months for that heat in the Indian ocean warm pool to begin arriving in the sub-arctic. Figuring Nino generally peaks in about January-ish, we should see a warm anomaly appearing in the North Atlantic sometime around May.
So take this image:
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2007/anomnight.10.1.2007.gif
That’s October 1 2007. You see the warm pool building in the Indian Ocean and you notice the warm anomaly around the tip of Africa. Also notice the warm water South of the Aleutians and off the coast of Newfoundland.
Now: http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2008/anomnight.3.3.2008.gif
By March 2008 you have the warm pool gone in the Indian Ocean but notice the heat anomaly off the tip of Africa and up the Atlantic Seaboard of the US.
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2008/anomnight.7.3.2008.gif
By July you have warm water across the North Pacific all the way to off the coast of the Pacific Northwestern US as the equatorial Pacific begins to warm up.
Lets jump ahead to August 2009 where we have an pretty significant El Nino building.
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2009/anomnight.8.3.2009.gif
Notice that now we have exactly the opposite condition in the equatorial Atlantic. We have an El Nino in the Pacific and a “Sissy” in the Atlantic. Weak trades in the Pacific, strong trades in the Atlantic. The Atlantic is much smaller at that point. It can’t really build much of a warm pool except in the Gulf of Mexico.
By December 2009 we have a “full blown” El Nino:
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2009/anomnight.12.3.2009.gif
Northern Pacific is cool. Look off the West Coast of South Africa / Namibia … we now have a cool anomaly. Still cool-ish in the equatorial Atlantic. North Atlantic generally cool-ish except right along the New England coast which is due to a weather feature that has been sitting there for the past few winters making New England rather mild.
Now lets look at March 2010 http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/data/sst/anomaly/2010/anomnight.3.1.2010.gif
El Nino beginning to dissipate. Atlantic, particularly the Gulf of Mexico is cool. Trades are beginning to pick up.

Camburn

Thank you Bob and Merry Christmas. This will take more than one read to fully digest.

Crosspatch, Please take a look at the cartoonish site again. Your entire premise is mistaken. You are confusing SST’s with warm pools and etc. The entire ENSO is related to some very specific physical mechanisms which occur in the Nino regions.

R Gates, quite to the contrary. Look at the amount of temperature change over time as compared to the model runs. His results show clearly that there has been an increase in temperature over time, just that it has occurred in steps. My point was that the warmer surface water from AGW (and probably solar) accumulates in the warm pool until it is discharged by Kelvin wave(s) during El Nino events.

crosspatch

His is an analysis of step-wise increases in SST’s during El Nino cycles

Well, one thing I have notice is that changes in ocean heat content seem to lag Nino3.4 by a year. For example
http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/heat_content55-07.png
Notice the peak just now happening even though we are in a La Nina condition? But look at other peaks. Look at that big one in 2004. It’s a year after the 2003 El Nino. 2001 dip? A year after the 2000 La Nina.
So ocean heat content seems to lag Nino3.4 by actually pretty close to 12 months.

The oceans control the clouds which control insolation which controls the oceans which …

Sing along: “La Nina’s connected to the trade winds, …”

wayne Job

Crosspatch and your point is!! Anthony’s site is cartoonish and you come across as a smart arse. Is that what you intended to convey. If you have good solid points to make it is not necessary to be derogative, thus your post is less than it otherwise could have been.