El Niño-Southern Oscillation Myth 1: El Niño and La Niña Events are Cyclical

During warm ENSO episodes the normal patterns ...

During warm ENSO episodes the normal patterns of tropical precipitation and atmospheric circulation become disrupted. Related image: Image:La Nina regional impacts.gif (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Guest post by Bob Tisdale

This is the first of a series of posts that address many of the myths and misunderstandings about the tropical Pacific processes that herald themselves during El Niño and La Niña events. Most of the content will be chapters from my recently published ebook Who Turned on the Heat?

For almost 4 years, my presentations about the long-term effects of El Niño and La Niña events indicate the global oceans over the past 30+ years have warmed naturally. This puzzles many proponents of anthropogenic global warming. They see the often-used name for the coupled ocean-atmosphere process—El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO)—and assume the processes are oscillatory or cyclical. They will then post a comment to the effect of:

What part of oscillation don’t you understand?

Or

Haven’t you ever heard of the ENSO cycle? El Niño and La Niña are parts of a cycle. How can a cycle cause long-term global warming?

Comments like that are the first clue their authors are arguing from ignorance; that is, they have no understanding of the subjects being discussed—none whatsoever.

First off, it indicates those persons have never examined an ENSO index, such as the sea surface temperature anomalies of the NINO3.4 region—an area along the eastern equatorial Pacific bordered by the coordinates of 5S-5N, 170W-120W. ENSO indices are used to indicate how often El Niño and La Niña events happen, how strong they were, and how long they lasted. If El Niño and La Niña events were cyclical, they’d transition between El Niño and La Niña then back to El Niño and on to La Niña again, and so on. But they don’t cycle between El Niños and La Niñas. There can be back-to-back and back-to-back-back El Niño conditions without La Niña conditions appearing between them. See Figure 1. And there can be the double-dip La Niñas, like we’ve experienced recently.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Part of the confusion stems from the term El Niño-Southern Oscillation, which is really the combination of two names. Some of the confusion stems from the attempts of climate modelers who often treat the processes of ENSO as cycles in their failed attempts to simulate ENSO.

CHAPTER 2.1 DO THE WORDS “OSCILLATION” AND “CYCLE” IN THE NAMES “EL NIÑO-SOUTHERN OSCILLATION AND “ENSO CYCLE” CAUSE MISUNDERSTANDINGS?

The words oscillation and cycle are used to describe the processes of El Niño and La Niña events as a single phenomenon. The commonly used term ENSO stands for El Niño-Southern Oscillation. The seemingly redundant term ENSO Cycle (El Niño-Southern Oscillation Cycle) is also used often. Many persons assume because cycle and oscillation are used to describe El Niño and La Niña that the two states oppose and offset one another, that a La Niña will counteract an El Niño. Bad assumptions. They definitely do not work that way.

The most obvious difference between the two states, which we discuss in Sections 1 and 3, is, El Niño events randomly release vast amounts of warm water from below the surface of the west Pacific Warm Pool and spread it across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, but the reverse does not occur during La Niña events.

Are El Niño and La Niña events cyclical or oscillatory? Some parts are, and some parts aren’t. We’ll discuss this further in Chapter 4.17 ENSO – A Cycle or Series of Events?

AN OVERVIEW OF THE TERMS EL NIÑO-SOUTHERN OSCILLATION AND ENSO CYCLE

El Niño-Southern Oscillation is the combination of two names. The term is said to have been coined by Rasmussen and Carpenter in their (1982) paper Variations in Tropical Sea Surface Temperature and Surface Wind Fields Associated with the Southern Oscillation/El Niño. Let’s see what Rasmussen and Carpenter have to say about the individual components. Their Introduction begins with the term El Niño:

The interannual variability of sea surface temperature (SST) along the Peru-Ecuador coast is dominated by the El Niño phenomenon. The name El Niño was originally applied to a weak warm coastal current which annually runs southward along the coast of Ecuador around the Christmas season (Wyrtki 1975). In scientific usage, the term has now become more narrowly associated with the extreme warmings which occur every few years (Wyrtki 1979a), and which result in catastrophic effects on the ecological system of the region. In more recent years, Ramage (1975), Weare et al. (1976), and others have used the term to encompass the larger-scale features of the warming event; i.e., the upwelling area along both the equator and the South American coast.

A few paragraphs later, Rasmussen and Carpenter describe the Southern Oscillation after discussing some initial findings from as far back as 1897:

It remained, however, for Sir Gilbert Walker, in a classical series of papers (Walker, 1923, 1924, 1928; Walker and Bliss, 1930, 1932, 1937) to name the SO [Southern Oscillation] and describe the salient features of the surface pressure, temperature and precipitation fluctuations.

The full title of the first Walker paper is WALKER, G. T. (1923). Correlation in seasonal variations of weather. VIII. A preliminary study of world-weather. Memoirs of the Indian Meteorological Department 24(Part 4) 75–131.

These papers by Walker were not discussions of El Niño, however. The link between El Niño and the Southern Oscillation wasn’t established until the 1960s. Therefore, the word oscillation in Southern Oscillation does not apply to El Niño and La Niña events or their processes. It only applies to the impacts of El Niño and La Niña on the sea level pressures in Tahiti and Darwin, Australia.

The sequence of papers and the advancement in ENSO research is further described in Rasmussen and Carpenter (1982).

Then there’s the term “ENSO Cycle”. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC) and many others, including me, use the phrase to describe El Niño and La Niña events and the variations from one state to the other. Refer to the CPC’s wonderful series of ENSO-related web pages ENSO Cycle that we’ll use for further discussions in Chapter 4.14 Impacts of ENSO Events on Regional Temperature and Precipitation.

DEFINITIONS OF OSCILLATION AND CYCLE

The Wikipedia definition of Oscillation begins:

Oscillation is the repetitive variation, typically in time, of some measure about a central value (often a point of equilibrium) or between two or more different states.

El Niño and La Niña events do not repeat in time, there are very few things that are repetitive in ENSO, so by this definition, ENSO isn’t a true oscillation. In fact, Wikipedia writes in their initial description of El Niño-Southern Oscillation.

El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a quasiperiodicclimate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years.

Oscillation is much easier to write than “quasiperiodic climate pattern”. To add confusion, “pattern” has multiple meanings. It could be used as “pattern in time”, or to describe a “spatial pattern”, as in the warming or cooling of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific.

Webster has a number of definitions for the word cycle. The one that fits ENSO best is:

1: a recurring series of events: as…

c : a series of ecological stages through which a substance tends to pass and which usually but not always leads back to the starting point <the cycle of nitrogen in the living world>

Because an El Niño event does not always lead to a La Niña event and because La Niña events can be followed by another independent La Niña event, this definition of cycle under “c” is applicable to ENSO.

The term Southern Oscillation is used to represent the effects of El Niño and La Niña on the sea level pressure of the off-equatorial South Pacific. We’ll discuss it further in Chapter 4.3 ENSO Indices. Also discussed in that chapter, there’s another widely used ENSO index. It represents the effects of El Niño and La Niña events on the sea surface temperature anomalies of the equatorial Pacific region called NINO3.4, which is bounded by the coordinates of 5S-5N, 170W-120W. The Southern Oscillation Index and NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies do NOT represent the process of ENSO. They are used only to indicate the frequency, strength and duration of El Niño and La Niña events. They indicate nothing more. They do not represent the process of ENSO, only its effect on the variable being measured for the index.

RECAP

El Niño-Southern Oscillation and ENSO Cycle are convenient phrases used to describe El Niño and La Niña. El Niño and La Niña events are not repetitive in time so they are not true oscillations. If it’s understood that an ENSO cycle may not lead to another series of El Niño and La Niña events nor even lead to the opposite phase, then cycle is applicable.

It’s a lot easier to write El Niño-Southern Oscillation than it is to write El Niño-La Niña/Sea Level Pressure Difference Between Darwin and Tahiti Quasiperiodic Climate Pattern.

#################################

CHAPTER 4.17: ENSO – A CYCLE OR SERIES OF EVENTS?

If you were to Google ENSO and cycle, you’d get over 700,000 results. Limit your search to Google Scholar and there are more than 39,000 results. Place “ENSO cycle” in quotes and there’s almost 5,800. One of the reasons: ENSO stands for El Niño-Southern Oscillation and oscillation implies cyclical behavior. Another reason: the delayed oscillator theory suggests that one phase leads to the next, and that sure sounds like a cycle. However, is ENSO really a cycle?

The need to treat ENSO as a cycle arises from the attempts to model ENSO with computers. Mother Nature, however, apparently isn’t concerned about our ability to model it. While parts of ENSO act as a cycle, the evolution of an El Niño event requires a basically random event to initiate it. Therefore, to answer the title question of this chapter, ENSO is a combination of the two.

Kessler (2002) Is ENSO a cycle or a series of events? discusses how observational data suggest that El Niño events are event-like disturbances, while other phases display the behavior of a cycle. The abstract reads:

After early ideas that saw El Niños as isolated events, the advent of coupled models brought the conception of ENSO as a cycle in which each phase led to the next in a self-sustained oscillation. Twenty-two years of observations that represent the El Niño and La Niña peaks (east Pacific SST) and the memory of the system (zonal-mean warm water volume) suggest a distinct break in the cycle, in which the coupled system is able to remain in a weak La Niña state for up to two years, so that memory of previous influences would be lost. Similarly, while the amplitude of anomalies persists from the onset of a warm event through its termination, there is no such persistence across the La Niña break. These observations suggest that El Niños are in fact event-like disturbances to a stable basic state, requiring an initiating impulse not contained in the dynamics of the cycle itself.

When studying this subject and looking for additional papers, it is important to isolate discussions of models and the efforts being taken to improve them. Models are not reality. They are attempts to simulate Mother Nature with computers. The discussion of whether ENSO is a cycle or a series of events is an observations-based discussion. Some of the model-based papers do include discussions of observations, but you have to make sure you’re basing your understandings of ENSO on the observations and not the models in those papers. That pretty much holds true for all climate and climate change papers.

###############################

THE REST OF THIS SERIES

The remainder of this series of posts will be taken from the following myths and failed arguments. They’re from Section 7 of my book Who Turned on the Heat? I may select them out of the order they’ve been presented here, and I’ll try to remember to include links to the other posts in these lists as the new posts are published.

A New Myth – ENSO Balances Out to Zero over the Long Term

Failed Argument – El Niño Events Don’t Create Heat

Myth – ENSO Has No Trend and Cannot Contribute to Long-Term Warming

Myth – The Effects of La Niña Events on Global Surface Temperatures Oppose those of El Niño Events

Myth – El Niño Events Dominated the Recent Warming Period Because of Greenhouse Gases

Myth – ENSO Only Adds Noise to the Instrument Temperature Record and We Can Determine its Effects through Linear Regression Analysis, Then Remove Those Effects, Leaving the Anthropogenic Global Warming Signal

Myth – The Warm Water Available for El Niño Events Can Only be Explained by Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas Forcing

Myth – The Frequency and Strength of El Niño and La Niña Events are Dictated by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation

And I’ll include a few of the failed arguments that have been presented in defense of anthropogenic warming of the global oceans.

Failed Argument – The East Indian-West Pacific and East Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Datasets are Inversely Related. That Is, There’s a Seesaw Effect. One Warms, the Other Cools. They Counteract One Another.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE EL NIÑO AND LA NIÑA AND THEIR LONG-TERM EFFECTS ON GLOBAL SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES?

Why should you be interested? Sea surface temperature records indicate El Niño and La Niña events are responsible for the warming of global sea surface temperature anomalies over the past 30 years, not manmade greenhouse gases. I’ve searched sea surface temperature records for more than 4 years, and I can find no evidence of an anthropogenic greenhouse gas signal. That is, the warming of the global oceans has been caused by Mother Nature, not anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

I’ve recently published my e-book (pdf) about the phenomena called El Niño and La Niña. It’s titled Who Turned on the Heat? with the subtitle The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit, El Niño Southern Oscillation. It is intended for persons (with or without technical backgrounds) interested in learning about El Niño and La Niña events and in understanding the natural causes of the warming of our global oceans for the past 30 years. Because land surface air temperatures simply exaggerate the natural warming of the global oceans over annual and multidecadal time periods, the vast majority of the warming taking place on land is natural as well. The book is the product of years of research of the satellite-era sea surface temperature data that’s available to the public via the internet. It presents how the data accounts for its warming—and there are no indications the warming was caused by manmade greenhouse gases. None at all.

Who Turned on the Heat?was introduced in the blog post Everything You Every Wanted to Know about El Niño and La Niña… …Well Just about Everything. The Updated Free Preview includes the Table of Contents; the Introduction; the beginning of Section 1, with the cartoon-like illustrations; the discussion About the Cover; and the Closing. The book was updated recently to correct a few typos.

Please buy a copy. (Credit/Debit Card through PayPal. You do NOT need to open a PayPal account.). It’s only US$8.00.

VIDEOS

For those who’d like a more detailed preview of Who Turned on the Heat? see Part 1 and Part 2 of the video series The Natural Warming of the Global Oceans. Part 1 appeared in the 24-hour WattsUpWithThat TV (WUWT-TV) special in November 2012. You may also be interested in the video Dear President Obama: A Video Memo about Climate Change.

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trafamadore

Oh. Here we go again. Where does the energy come from to raise the temperature? The fish?
You used the word “heat” 6 times in your post, 5 times in “who turned on the heat”.

GlynnMhor

If ENSO is not actually cyclical, it then becomes invalid to do as Foster and Rahmstorf did, and try to adjust it out of existence.
If it is part of the processes by which natural forcings change global temperatures, then it is an integral part of any positive or negative temperature trend.

Mario Lento

Bob: I find your presentations to be amazingly clear. I can imagine children in junior high and high school gaining a lot from this presentation on the 24 hours of WUWT! You speak well, and thoroughly support your statements. You have a nice way of thoroughly explaining subtle ideas that I believe average “joes” can understand. You do this without sounding like you’re talking down to the listener. You boldly go against the grain of accepted (mis)understanding of the science in what I feel is a complete and balanced way.
I enjoy being an outspoken minority in liberal CA. I often tell folks who believe in AGW, that I will learn more by being proven wrong once, than being right all the time… and I am still waiting to learn something from AGW believers.
I watched “Inconvenient Truth” around 2007-8. At the time, I did not think much about AGW, either way other than it seemed reasonable that CO2 could increased temperatures. However, after I watched Gore’s movie, something did not seem right. I felt like I was being lied to… the claims were so over the top, and Gore was so condescending I felt sickened.
Around 2009, I read State of Fear, which I understood was fictional. However, that book left me inspired to go on a quest to seek what’s true. I spent thousands of hours combing the Internet to read and listen to both sides of the argument. It surely seemed politically biased, especially with the AGW doom crowd. Lots of people on both sides had varying degrees of credibility. I eventually landed on Anthony’s WUWT and found myself gradually using this site more and more as a source of balanced and entertaining information.
WUWT is a time saver for me to keep current on news, the subject matter of which is the most important information we world citizens need. It’s our duty to understand why our wealth is being hijacked by a false god which wants to drive us into poverty to save us from a fictitious doom.
Thank you Anthony for nurturing this forum.

Matt in Houston

I see the chicken littles are ariving quickly on this post. I also see some people dont understand even a little bit chaotic nonlinear systems behaviours.
Nice post Mr. Tisdale, thank you for sharing your knowledge, I learn something new everytime you post here.

Mario Lento

@trafamadore: Evidently, you are asking the wrong question. Of course the energy comes from the sun… I believe if I could answer in just one sentence it would be: The amount of energy that remains on earth varies based on albedo changes. I believe the point is that energy is stored and released (in the water). Sometimes ENSO processes reveal more dry air during La Ninas, which then allows more sun exposure. So atmosphere cools off, but ocean absorbs heat… Imagine that, the air gets colder while the earth gains more heat. Can you at least imagine that?

LazyTeenager

There can be back-to-back and back-to-back-back El Niño conditions without La Niña conditions appearing between them.
———
I agree with Bob’s general position on this. I have made the same point here in general a number of times: an up a down and an up do not a cycle make.
However the statement above is a little weak because he has no real way of properly distinguishing a supposed multiple el niño from a single extended el niño.
Also this whole thing feels like a straw man argument. The pros do not really consider el niño to be an actual cyclical process. They are more likely to consider it to be the outcome of some chaotic process involving ocean currents, with some characteristic time scale set by the size of ocean basins.

Clear and to the point. I like that. Most important is the recognition that nature does what nature does. Natural dynamic processes are almost always irregular when viewed from artificial time scales.

Gunga Din

One thing I’m am not ignorant of, there are lots of things I just don’t know. But one thing I do know. If it can’t be taxed and/or used to exert control over me and my fellow planet dwellers in the name of CAGW, it must not have anything to do with CAGW.
ENSO is just one little piece of the chaos that results in “Climate” which will continue to “Change” no matter what we do.
Bob, thanks for your continued work to make one piece of the puzzle less puzzling.

trafamadore says: “Oh. Here we go again. Where does the energy come from to raise the temperature? The fish? You used the word “heat” 6 times in your post, 5 times in “who turned on the heat”.”
If you understood the processes of ENSO, you wouldn’t have asked such a ridiculous couple of questions, trafamadore. Have you ever examined the Ocean HEAT Content data for the tropical Pacific, trafamadore? We’ve presented this dataset and discussed it in numerous posts here at WUWT:
http://i45.tinypic.com/11uz2c0.jpg
Ponder this question, trafamadore: How could the 1995/96 La Niña have created the fuel, the warm water, the HEAT, for the 1997/98 super El Niño? It’s rather simple if you understood the interrelationship between the sea surface temperature of the tropical Pacific and the trade winds, and cloud amount, and downward shortwave radiation (visible sunlight), and ocean heat content. There’s nothing new here, trafamadore. ENSO is a relatively simple coupled ocean-atmosphere process.
The answer also exists in the video linked at the end of the post. Did you bother to watch it? Here’s a link again:

Here’s something else for you to ponder. It’s a graph of Ocean HEAT Content data for the tropical North Atlantic during the ARGO era, trafamadore. Notice how the tropical North Atlantic ocean HEAT content mimics the variations in the ENSO index.
http://i49.tinypic.com/2e20b6b.jpg
Sure does look like ENSO is causing the Ocean HEAT Content for the top 700 meters of the tropical North Atlantic to rise and fall without any direct exchange of heat. If you understood teleconnections, trafamadore, and how they cause the sea surface temperatures AND ocean heat content to vary in the tropical North Atlantic, you wouldn’t ask your questions in such a foolish fashion.
I noted in the post that one of the future posts is titled “Failed Argument – El Niño Events Don’t Create Heat”. Hang around for a couple of weeks and I’ll cut and paste a chapter from my book to answer the questions you’ve posed so foolishly. In the mean time, we here at WUWT enjoy trolls. That’s what you’ve become–just another troll.

Mario Lento: Thanks for the kind words.
Since you’ve read “State of Fear” more recently than I, a question for you. If memory serves, it opened with a murder at the ocean simulation tank at a research institute (in France possibly). I believe the researcher was studying tidal waves. Was that murder ever mentioned again?

Hi Bob: You asked:” I believe the researcher was studying tidal waves. Was that murder ever mentioned again?”
It’s funny, I often tell people I have a bad memory. But, really, I think I have a selective memory. I do not at all recall the story… I focused on the Scientist in the story and hung on how well he reacted to people who felt passionate about things they obviously did not understand. When I was a around 7 or 8 years old, I read science and biology books, and encyclopedias. I found “stories” and history boring. As of late, I’m trying to train my brain to think past “how things work.” I have been trying to read stories for the enjoyment of them as well as history, and the US founding documents.
When I read the book again, I will think of you and post an answer to the question. I tell you this, I will have a whole new appreciation, and perhaps even self critique of the book next time. It focused a lot on the UHI effect, but I do not recall a lot more than that… just that it was a starting point for my quest to understand what we do know or don’t know about climate.
Mario

Mike Wryley

Here in the midwestern US we continue to be in a dry weather pattern, and we need some serious rain in the coming months. The pundits tend to blame EL NIno, but if things don’t change next year’s harvest will be a disaster.

John F. Hultquist

Five days ago on WUWT the question of “where does the heat come from” was asked and answered. Now the first commenter, apparently not liking the answer given, wonders if that heat comes from the fish. So, yes it comes from the fish – actually only the 570 nm/exothermic ones. Now, can we move on?

Arno Arrak

I hate to tell you but you are dead wrong. I proved that it is cyclical in my book “What Warming? Satellite view of global temperature change” already two years ago. You unfortunately have been listening to observations by blind men trying to identify an elephant and getting nowhere. ENSO starts with the trade winds pushing equatorial currents west until the water backs up behind the Philippines and New Guinea that block its entrance into the Indian Ocean. It piles up as the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool and when the pile is high enough reverse flow starts along the equatorial countercurrent. The El Nino wave that takes this path runs ashore in South America, spreads out north and south along the coast as much as twenty degrees, and warms the air above. Warm air rises, blocks the trade winds temporarily, mixes with the westerlies and we observe the warm phase of El Nino. But any wave that runs ashore must also retreat. As the El Nino wave retreats sea level in its wake drops by half a meter, cool water from below wells up, and we have a La Nina starting. As much as the El Nino warmed the air the La Nina will now cool it. This warming-cooling cycle is rather stable over time. There were five such cycles in the eighties and nineties and the temperature balance was so accurate that global mean temperature did not change for eighteen years. When you blow across the end of a glass tube you get a the resonant tone of that tube, determined by the dimensions of the tube. The trade winds are the equivalent of blowing across the tube and the ocean answers with its resonant tone – about one El Nino wave every four-five years. This has been going on as long as the present equatorial current system has existed, which is to say ever since the Isthmus of Panama rose from the sea. If I recall correctly, the final closure of the Panamanian Seaway was just under two million years ago. An interesting tidbit is that people interested in El Nino have empirically established the Nino3.4 observation post right smack in the middle of the equatorial countercurrent. There it watches the El Nino waves go by and gives us seven months advance notice of the arrival of an El Nino because it takes that long for an El Nino wave to get from the mid-Pacific to the South American coast.

trafamadore

Bob Tisdale says: “The answer also exists in the video linked at the end of the post. Did you bother to watch it? Here’s a link again”
Hey, you are great. Don’t answer my Q, and then direct me to a 55 min video to watch.
Look, I know the temperature goes up and goes down and that various things correlate with it, and it causes my snow in Michigan to melt more some years than others. I got that, really. To me it seems no different that a cat randomly jumping up and down on my scale when I am weighing myself; I can get the weight if I carefully average out the readings.
But at the end of three decades I’m heavier than before, and the ocean, it’s warmer than before. While the idea of explaining my extra weight with jumping cats is attractive, it seems you really can’t explain where the extra energy comes from.
I think I can.
And I could say it in less than one sentence.

Lew Skannen

Interesting article. I have often wondered about these terms but until now have never gotten around to finding out more about them.
What I find amusing is how CAGW alarmists often cite the Nino siblings as being the reason their models failed as if they are random inputs to the climate and not something that their expensive GIGO ‘never to be questioned’ models are actually supposed to be predicting!

Clyde

At the risk of suffering the wrath of some I’ve got some questions. Maybe i don’t understand so please take it easy on me. Warm water gets transferred to the deep oceans. Let’s say 2,000 meters. The warm water may be down there for years. How does it stay warm? The deeper you go the colder it gets…correct? At least when i go swimming it does.
Lets say i can dive 2,000 meters. I have a thermos of coffee with me. When i get to 2,000 meters i open the thermos & pour out the coffee. Won’t the coffee soon be the temperature of the water at 2,000 meters? I honestly don’t know how warm surface water transferred to deep ocean levels stays warm.
Now the warm water I’m guessing just don’t sit in one place. It goes where ever the currents take it. So how does anybody know where it will resurface?

george e. smith

Bob,
Is your book; “Who turned on the heat ?” available from the usual suspects ?
I have tried to follow your work, with the various posts, you have presented here for us, but can’t say, I have grasped a whole picture out of it. Not because of any deficiency in your posts; more like attention deficit disorder; with maybe some juvenile Alzheimers thrown in on my part, so it would be nice to have a handy reference in one place.
Anyway I greatly appreciate your efforts. Apparently, the answer to the question; “Who turned on the heat ?” is, Bob Tisdale did
Anyway the flames are clearly visible, even with my monitor turned off, so you must have touched of some exothermia somewhere.
George.

@trafamadore….the NINO3.4 graph does not indicate any “warmer than before” ocean….
“Nino events randomly release vast amounts of warm water from below”….and this is NOT subducted previous warmed surface water. This is water warmed from below on the planets largest geothermal heat sink. The Nino/Nina is a reflection of varying, non-linear nuclear decay. The Earth has the proven ability to refine nodes of Uranium [see Okla: Natural Nuclear Reactors] and these nodes float in the boiling rock mantle. The rolling action lifts hot nodes to the surface where they cool and settle. Most often these heat wave fluctuations are carried horizontally under the mantle to the sea floor vents, occasionally these hot spots occur under the continents, like the 30’s dust bowl and the 2008 Russian heat wave. It is varying Earth fission that causes fluctuations that are non-cyclic in climate and sets the base rate that determines Glacial and Interglacial. The mechanics of this are described in “Earth’s Elemental Petrol Production”.
Note to Warmists: There is no atmospheric CO2 signal in the Earth’s 2500F mantle.

Bart

trafamadore says:
December 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm
The energy always comes from the Sun. If it is not clear to you how energy flows arise from storage and release mechanisms, you should ask questions, rather than make offensive and brazenly shallow assertions.

AndyG55

“Don’t answer my Q, and then direct me to a 55 min video to watch.”
Learning for yourself is ALWAYS much more productive.
Has anyone got a spoon we can feed the poor boy with ?

John F. Hultquist

Arno Arrak says:
December 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm
“ . . . blind men trying to identify an elephant . . .

We’re showing our age:
http://constitution.org/col/blind_men.htm

Bart

Clyde says:
December 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm
It’s a very good question, and nice of you to phrase it as you do. I believe the answer is that it is relatively warm water. Not really warm, but warmer than what rose up previously.
Faux Science Slayer says:
December 3, 2012 at 9:44 pm
In a system which has an active source of heat, such as the Sun, and immense reservoirs for storage of heat, you are likely to have oscillatory modes with very long time constants. That is the problem with trafamadore’s (Tralfamadore?) “cat jumping on a scale” thought experiment – this is a very large cat, and the scale has weak and highly elongated springs. Such a system can easily evolve with extended intervals of natural warming and cooling.
I do not know if the process to which you refer is significant or relevant, but in any case, I thought I’d provide a link I googled for any who are interested.

Hate to dispel myth dispellers, but cyclic doesn’t necessarily mean periodic. Any system that switches between two states (“El Niño and La Niña”) is by definition cyclic even if its not periodic. Simply going from state A to neutral then back to state A before switching to state B does not imply the system is not cyclic.
This behavior is actually not that untypical even of truly periodic signals, e.g. one with two main oscillatory frequencies, 3 and 5 years in this case. Technically what we have here is a “quasiperiodic oscillation”, and the way you test whether it is really oscillatory is to compute the spectrum of the time series. If you do that you see very strong spectral peaks associated with the two dominant frequency components of the oscillation.
It’s very possible to have otherwise periodic phenomena that get disrupted by “perturbations”. Planetary motion is an example of that. Simply because the system isn’t strictly periodic doesn’t mean we throw out a framework (e.g. Kepler’s Laws and their Einstein generalizations). Most relationships that we observe experimentally are simply approximations, and the test for whether this approximation is meaningful is whether using it has utility.
is it cyclic? Yes. Is it oscillatory? Yes? Is it fixed-frequency oscillatory? No. But it’s still useful to describe it as oscillatory.

@trafamadore says: “But at the end of three decades I’m heavier than before, and the ocean, it’s warmer than before. While the idea of explaining my extra weight with jumping cats is attractive, it seems you really can’t explain where the extra energy comes from.”
The analogy that you got heavier has nothing to do with what Bob T explains. Nothing at all. I explained it in an over simplification, perhaps not giving any justice to how ENSO works. If you really care to comment, then you should try to understand what is said about the subject matter that you critique. Everyone here who has delved into ENSO, thinks you sound pretty uninformed in your argument.
You are the kind of person who argues without understanding what or who you are arguing with. Seriously, you ought not to be critical of things that are more sophisticated than the straw pole argument you make. You have proven to me at least, that you can’t learn. You will learn more by trying to understand why you are wrong in your statements, than trying to ignorantly feel like you are right. Otherwise, you are a bore and remain as such.

@Carrick says:
December 3, 2012 at 10:57 pm
Hate to dispel myth dispellers, but cyclic doesn’t necessarily mean periodic. Any system that switches between two states (“El Niño and La Niña”) is by definition cyclic even if its not periodic. Simply going from state A to neutral then back to state A before switching to state B does not imply the system is not cyclic.
Oscillate implies going up and going down. ENSO stands for EL Nino Southern Oscillation. This implies when El Nino is over, the next thing that will happen is La Nina. Hence oscillation. But often times we have La Nina, then neutral then La Nina again… then neutral and then La Nina again… before the wind pattern changes and El Nino happens. When there are lots of La Ninas, it seems the El Nino may have stored more heat from the sun into the oceans since La Ninas produce less cloud cover and allow more solar energy to warm the cold waters than would have occurred had El Nino taken place which would created more clouds, this blocking more solar energy. The point is that La Nina’s don’t always follow El Ninos.

AndyG55

“Oscillation is the repetitive variation” (Dictionary definition)
It is NOT oscillation.

Kristian

Trafamadore: “Hey Bob, where’s the energy coming from, eh?”
Bob: “The sun.”
Trafamadore: “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA. Aren’t you going to answer, Bob? Where’s the energy coming from?”
Bob: “The sun.”
Trafamadore: “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA. Haha, he won’t and he can’t answer. Because there is no answer. ENSO can’t make heat, Bob. Where’s the energy coming from?”
Bob: “The sun.”
Trafamadore: “LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA. Heh, I’ve single-handedly torn down the foundations of Bob’s little theory. Where’s the energy coming from? The fish?”

For those wondering “where did the heat come from”, please remember that TEMPERATURE is not HEAT.
So we have a warm upper layer of ocean, and a very cold deep layer, and some middling layers in between. Oh, and some really nice volcanic / lava driven oven hot smokers in long trenches all over the entire bottom of the ocean. Melting solder hot…
Now all it really takes to change the surface temperatures, in steps, cycles, or quasi cycles, is to stir that pot in particular ways. What can do that stirring? Wind can do it. Natural oscillations of ocean currents can do it. Or, my favorite, lunar tidal changes can do it.
Why to I particularly like lunar tidal? Because the moon does not just go in circles. It, too, has oscillations. Changes in how round the orbit is, how tilted it is, etc. Interesting enough just at that… yet there’s more. There’s 19 year cycles and even a 1500 -1800 ish year cycle. Cycles that end up laying right on top of some of the solar variations (due to ‘orbital resonance’ – a pervasive property of things in orbit).
So all it really takes is that the planets, in their orbital perturbations of the moon, cause variations in the tides and currents in the oceans. Then you will get ‘quasi-periodic’ mixings of cold and warm water that look like changes of heat (to you) but are actually just changes of temperatures at the surface and near surface.
And it will even correlate with solar changes causing some folks to say “It’s The SUN!”, when it need not be at all. (Though I still hold out some small hope for a UV and solar wind modulation of clouds too).
There’s a nice animation in this page showing how the lunar orbital track changes over centuries relative to the earth surface:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saros_(astronomy)
Or just look at any tide chart and notice how no two tides are exactly the same over very long periods of time…

Bart

Carrick says:
December 3, 2012 at 10:57 pm
I agree completely, though I’m not sold on your PSD. Perhaps there is too little data to get particularly good resolution?
Many of these quasi-periodic processes observed in climate variables could be modeled as modal expansions of lightly damped 2nd order linear systems driven by broadband noise, and useful predictions derived by applying the Kalman Filter formalism.

Kristian

LazyTeenager, you say: “The pros do not really consider el niño to be an actual cyclical process.” Very likely true. But I most definitely wouldn’t consider for instance Rahmstorf and Foster pros on ENSO.

John

Bart says:
The energy always comes from the Sun.
————————————————————–
So you are saying Bob Tisdale is wrong then? You think the warming is caused by increased solar activity not from El Niño and La Niña Events?

Arno Arrak says: “I hate to tell you but you are dead wrong. I proved that it is cyclical in my book ‘What Warming? Satellite view of global temperature change’ already two years ago…”
Arno, we discussed this the last time you tried to promote your book with your same explanation of ENSO.
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/08/10/not-hot-ocean-sst-around-the-usa-not-anywhere-near-record-levels/
Your explanation is lacking and is contradicted by the instrument temperature record. Your explanation includes parts of the couple ocean-atmosphere processes but excludes more important issues.

outtheback

Arno Arrak says:
December 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm
“There were five such cycles in the eighties and nineties and the temperature balance was so accurate that global mean temperature did not change for eighteen years.”
Not disputing what you are saying at all and on top of that we have had no warming for the last 15 years as per the UK Met Office and others. Add them up and we get 33 years of no warming.
So it was all hot air in a teacup straight from the late seventies.

mpainter

Bob Tisdale
You might better account for the natural processes behind the oscillation of the SST of the eastern equatorial Pacific. What role does the Humbolt current play, if any? How is it that the trade winds fail? Why do they resume? Does the equatorial counter-current reverse during this oscillation, as Arrak seems to be saying? How does the “warm pool” of the western Pacific originate? Does this “pool” empty during El Nino into the eastern Pacific? Does it fill during La Nina? There are many questions that your posts do not clearly address. I agree with trafamadore that you have not fully explained the oscillation of the SST of the eastern tropical Pacific. He puts it in terms of “Whence the heat?” Your posts could address more adequately the natural processes involved in these oscillations, it seems. Please edify.

Steveta_uk

In figure 1, we have a peak shown in 2010 between the double-dip La Ninas that appears larger than the peak of the second of the two back-to-back El Ninos in 2005.
In what way is this peak not an El Nino?

trafamadore says: “Hey, you are great. Don’t answer my Q, and then direct me to a 55 min video to watch.”
I did answer your question. You claim to be from Michigan but English appears to be a second language for you.
I’ll provide you with a more detailed answer by cutting and pasting a comment I wrote on the thread of another recent post here, one at which you were also acting as a troll:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/11/28/mythbusting-rahmstorf-and-foster/#comment-1159181
It’s in response to a similar claim by someone else. Here’s my reply, cut and pasted just for you:
Actually I have explained it. Maybe you weren’t paying attention at the time. Let me quote from a post about the Foster and Rahmstorf paper that was also cross posted here at WUWT:
As I’ve noted in numerous posts, ENSO is also a process that redistributes the warm water that was leftover from the El Niño itself and enhances the redistribution of the warm water that resulted from the El Niño in waters outside of the eastern tropical Pacific. The redistribution carries that warm water poleward and into adjoining ocean basins during the La Niña that follows an El Niño. The impacts of this redistribution depend on the strength of the El Niño and the amount of water that was “left over”. Lesser El Niño events that are not followed by La Niña events obviously would not have the same impacts. There are no ENSO indices that can account for this redistribution and these differences.
La Niña events also recharge part of the warm water that was released during the El Niño. They accomplish this through an increase in downward shortwave radiation (visible light), and that results from the reduction in tropical Pacific cloud amount caused by the stronger trade winds of a La Niña. Sometimes La Niña events “overcharge” the tropical Pacific, inasmuch as they recharge more ocean heat in the tropical Pacific than was discharged during the El Niño that came before it. That was the case during the 1973/74/75/76 La Niña. Refer to Figure 2. Tropical Pacific Ocean Heat Content rose significantly during the 1973/94/75/76 La Niña, and that provided the initial “fuel” for the 1982/83 Super El Niño and the multi-year 1986/87/88 El Niño. The La Niña events that followed those El Niño only recharged a portion of the heat discharged by them. Tropical Pacific Ocean Heat Content declined until 1995. Then the 1995/96 La Niña event “overcharged” the Tropical Pacific Ocean Heat Content again and that provided the fuel for the 1997/98 “El Niño of the Century”.
http://bobtisdale.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/figure-2.png
The post referenced above is here:
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/revised-post-on-foster-and-rahmstorf-2011/
trafamadore says: “…it seems you really can’t explain where the extra energy comes from.”
I have done so repeatedly. Apparently you can’t grasp the topic of discussion.
trafamadore says: “I think I can. And I could say it in less than one sentence.”
My guess is your simple one-sentence explanation would be wrong. Maybe that’s the difference between anthropogenic global warming proponents and skeptics. You’re looking for simple explanations, when the answer isn’t so simple—the real answer requires a person to think.

george e. smith says: “Is your book; ‘Who turned on the heat ?’ available from the usual suspects ?”
Sorry. It’s only available in pdf form, at present. I’m trying to keep the price down ($8.00US). If (when) I release it in Amazon Kindle form, the price will double due to its size. (As a Kindle file, it’s 55MB if memory serves.) And the price for the pdf version would have to increase accordingly to comply with the Kindle publishing agreement.
I took a quick look at paper versions also, but the printing costs were up into 3 figures. That said, you could buy a copy in pdf form and bring the file somewhere for printing on 8.5×11 paper. Even that would be expensive, though. Who Turned on the Heat? is 560+ pages long with more than 380 color illustrations.
Thanks for your interest.
Regards

izen

@- Bob Tisdale
I agree that to call ENSO an oscillation is misleading. A fluctuation with a constrained timescale would be better, it most resembles the chaotic bifurcation that is typical of complex interactive systems.
But I find your hypothesis to explain the recent rapid warming far more alarming than the AGW theory.
Consider, we have several thousand years of ENSO records that show no link or role in temperature trends. But you postulate that since the 1950s? this climate phenomena has altered its nature so that it DOES retain thermal energy and cause the climate to warm rapidly.
I see no cause advanced for why this change in ENSO h happened. The possibility that reduced energy loss because of an alteration in the radiative transfer process in the atmosphere does not seem to be considered.
Even more alarming you provide no suggestion for a limit to this warming. At least with AGW there is a causitive factor over which we have some control. But for your ENSO process that has recently gone into warming mode you provide no cause that would stop this warming so that it could progress to the point of boiling oceans and temperatures beyond those which are viable for multicellular life.
Your explanation for the recent rapid climate change is FAR more alarming in its implications and threat to human civilisation that AGW.

peter Miller

I think Bob is trying to say in a roundabout kind of way that the climate computer models so much admired are BS, because:
1. Their results are pre-programmed. In other words they are designed to produce the results required by their paymasters and/or
2. Their predidictive ability is so poor because they can never hope to come anywhere near to duplicating the extreme complexities of all the factors, which have an impact on our planet’s climate. Most cannot even hindcast with any degree of accuracy.
I find it difficult to find fault with the above.

Carrick: Thanks for the reply.
On the other hand, as I went on to explain in the post, it was found that, physically, El Niño events can be independent events. Spectral analyses may find frequencies in ENSO, but the El Niños are random events. If they’re independent/random, how then are the processes of ENSO oscillatory or cyclical?
Regards

P. Solar

John says:
December 4, 2012 at 12:50 am
Bart says:
The energy always comes from the Sun.
————————————————————–
So you are saying Bob Tisdale is wrong then? You think the warming is caused by increased solar activity not from El Niño and La Niña Events?
No. Bob’s post here really only talks about what is meant by ‘cycle’ and ‘oscillation’. So far it seems sensible and non controversial. The terms are used fairly loosely.
His main point seems to be that this should not be taken to mean that ENSO or the Nino/Nina part of it should a priori be regarded as “internal variability” , ie long term neutral . This is certainly the way climate modellers regard it without this neutrality ever having been examined or established.
CALLING something a “cycle” is somehow substituted for determining WHETHER it has a long effect.
So far I’m right with Bob on this. He makes a very good point.
The thing is that the two Nino/Nina parts do not act in the same way nor by the same mechanism.
El Nino dumps heat form the oceans into the atmosphere by evaporation and radiation. A large proportion of this is destined to end up in space. Despite warming SST and air temps short term, El Nino events actually represent a loss of heat energy from the system. They are “global cooling” in action.
Contrarily, La Nina is a period when colder ocean surface temperatures and clearer skies produce notable INCREASES in ocean heat content (OHC). They are “global warming” events.
However, this is NOT the same energy which El Nino put into the atmosphere coming back.
[b] This is the key point and this is why it is not “internal variation” that can be regarded as long term neutral. [/b]
There is an overall process of capturing solar energy (which answers trafamadore ) during La Nina , dumping it to the atmosphere during El Nino and its subsequent leakage back out of the system into space.
This is an on going process alternately increasing and decreasing total energy stored in the Earth system by affecting what is going in and out of the system. It is NOT “internal” energy and very likely not long term neutral.
It should be clear form this that variations in how often these events occur, how long they last and how strong they are provides a means of getting a net increase of decrease of energy in the Earth system as a whole. That provides a _mechanism_ for global warming and/or global cooling.
Bob has drawn attention to something very important here, this is the MECHANISM for global warming/cooling and very likely this is one of the major negative feedbacks that has maintained the climate system relatively stable over millions of years over huge variations in other external and internal factors ( like CO2 levels of 4000ppm compared to today’s 390 ppm).
What Bob still refuses to see is that this is just the _mechanism_, it does not address the _cause_.
I’m sure we’ll get the chance to discuss that (again) when he does his follow-up articles.

peter Miller says: “I think Bob is trying to say in a roundabout kind of way that the climate computer models so much admired are BS…”
That’s one of the points, peter. The ENSO-related problems with climate models (and there are too many too list here) were introduced in this post:
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/guilyardi-et-al-2009-understanding-el-nino-in-ocean-atmosphere-general-circulation-models-progress-and-challenges/
One the conclusions of Guilyardi et al (2009) was:
“Because ENSO is the dominant mode of climate variability at interannual time scales, the lack of consistency in the model predictions of the response of ENSO to global warming currently limits our confidence in using these predictions to address adaptive societal concerns, such as regional impacts or extremes (Joseph and Nigam 2006; Power et al. 2006).”
The other point of the post was that El Nino events were found to be independent events, physically, and therefore the processes of ENSO were not cyclical.
Regards

Coldish

Bob Tisdale says:
December 3, 2012 at 7:43 pm
“Mario Lento: Thanks for the kind words. Since you’ve read “State of Fear” more recently than I, a question for you. If memory serves, it opened with a murder at the ocean simulation tank at a research institute (in France possibly). I believe the researcher was studying tidal waves. Was that murder ever mentioned again?”
I have a copy of this novel, which I value for its bibliography on environmentalism and related topics, as well as for Crichton’s essay on ‘Why politicised science is dangerous’.
The murder victim in the first chapter was indeed studying wave mechanics in Paris. He is entrapped by a character called Marisa, in whose apartment he (seemingly) gets stung and paralysed by a tiny Australian octopus and is then drowned in the Seine. Such octopodes re-appear later in the novel. Marisa and her co-worker Jim also re-appear, when they try and fail to entrap the rich benefactor Morton. I don’t recall any further references to the initial murder.

izen says: “But I find your hypothesis to explain the recent rapid warming far more alarming than the AGW theory.”
It’s not a hypothesis, izen. It’s how the data accounts for its warming. It’s blatantly obvious, but there are those, like yourself, who chose to accept the obviously flawed hypothesis of greenhouse gas-driven global warming when the sea surface temperature and ocean heat content data contradict that hypothesis.
izen says: “Consider, we have several thousand years of ENSO records that show no link or role in temperature trends.”
Please provide a link to the dataset that presents the instrument-based temperature measurements for “several thousand years of ENSO”.
izen says: “Even more alarming you provide no suggestion for a limit to this warming.”
Actually, I have, but it’s likely you missed those discussions. I can’t present all subtopics associated with the long-term effects of ENSO in each of my posts.

Steveta_uk says: “In figure 1, we have a peak shown in 2010 between the double-dip La Ninas that appears larger than the peak of the second of the two back-to-back El Ninos in 2005. In what way is this peak not an El Nino?”
I don’t believe I said or implied that it wasn’t an El Nino. That spike is, in fact, the 2009/10 El Nino.

mpainter says: “You might better account for the natural processes behind the oscillation of the SST of the eastern equatorial Pacific.
My guess is you’re new here or you’re electing to ignore the dozens and dozens of posts I’ve written on the subject of ENSO and its long-term effects–posts that have been cross posted here at WUWT. In those posts, you would find that I have accounted for those processes.
You then went on to ask seven questions, which are very basic process-related questions about ENSO. For me to answer each of your questions in response to the way you asked them would take me longer than it would for you to watch the video linked in the post.

I’m not willing to make that effort for you, mpainter, when you’re not willing to make the effort to learn from what was presented and linked to the post. It’s why I included the link.
Also, it is impossible for me to present the answer to every conceivable question about ENSO in each of my posts. Each one of my posts would have to be book length—and they’re long-enough as it is.
mpainter says: “I agree with trafamadore that you have not fully explained the oscillation of the SST of the eastern tropical Pacific. He puts it in terms of ‘Whence the heat?’”
The fact that you agree with trafamadore, who presents troll-like behavior, is troubling.

Liberal Skeptic

izen says:
December 4, 2012 at 2:01 am”@- Bob Tisdale
But I find your hypothesis to explain the recent rapid warming far more alarming than the AGW theory.”
I think that as Bob says that ENSO is powered, in simple terms, by the sun it is reasonable to surmise that if the sun were to go into a cooling phase the effects of ENSO would be weaker. Essentially regulating and preventing it from being an endless cycle of heating.
Has the strength of past ENSO ever been plotted against the suns oscillations? That would be interesting to see. Of the top of my head the strength of the most recent period of ENSO (which was strong and Bob argues caused warming) certainly matches up to an active solar period (based on my understanding of Dr. Sebastian Lünings presentation that was recently uploaded) . So, does this follow in the past?

John says to Bart: “So you are saying Bob Tisdale is wrong then? You think the warming is caused by increased solar activity not from El Niño and La Niña Events?”
Nope. Bart continued in his reply to trafamadore:
“If it is not clear to you how energy flows arise from storage and release mechanisms, you should ask questions, rather than make offensive and brazenly shallow assertions.”

Clyde, your December 3, 2012 at 9:42 pm comment appears to include questions about thermohaline circulation or meridional overturning circulation. Unfortunately, they’re topics not often discussed here at WUWT, but you may get lucky and find someone with backgound in those processes to answer your questions.
Regards

Thanks, Coldish. It’s been a while since I read the book and I couldn’t recall those links.
Regards