El Niño-Southern Oscillation Myth 2: A New Myth – ENSO Balances Out to Zero over the Long Term

Guest post by Bob Tisdale

This is the second part in a series of posts about El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). They address many of the myths and misunderstandings about the tropical Pacific processes that herald themselves during El Niño and La Niña events. In them, I’m simply reproducing 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. The long-term impacts of El Niño and La Niña are blatantly obvious. Proponents of anthropogenic global warming apparently have difficulty comprehending that so they use misinformation to try to contradict what’s plainly visible. Many of the myths they’ve created are failed attempts to neutralize strong El Niño and La Niña events—to redirect the observable causes of the warming over the past 3 decades from natural factors to manmade greenhouse gases.

The following discussion is from Chapter 7.3 A New Myth – ENSO Balances Out to Zero over the Long Term.

***

A new myth about ENSO recently appeared in posts at the website SkepticalScience. This year one author there has been writing something to the effect of, El Niño and La Niña events balance out to zero over the long term. That’s nonsense, plain and simple nonsense. There are a number of ways to show the errors with this myth. The best way is to create a running total of NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies.

Wikipedia provides an easy-to-understand explanation of a Running Total:

A running total is the summation of a sequence of numbers which is updated each time a new number is added to the sequence, simply by adding the value of the new number to the running total. Another term for it is partial sum.

The purposes of a running total are twofold. First, it allows the total to be stated at any point in time without having to sum the entire sequence each time. Second, it can save having to record the sequence itself, if the particular numbers are not individually important.

If, over the long term, El Niño and La Niña events balanced out to zero, then a running total of NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies would equal zero. Does it? Refer to Figure 7-10.

El Niño and La Niña events obviously have NOT balanced out to zero over the past 30+ years. That curve of the running total of NINO3.4 data looks surprisingly similar to the global sea surface temperature anomaly curve. It’s really difficult to miss the very obvious increase.

I’ve actually had someone reply in a blog comment that 30 years was not long enough. I then provided a running total of NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies starting in 1900. That early start year is pushing the boundaries when it comes to equatorial sea surface temperature data. The Panama Canal opened in 1914, and before then, equatorial Pacific sea surface temperature data becomes increasingly sparse.

The base years for anomalies would also impact the running total, especially one that long, so we need to pick some. Trenberth (1997) The Definition of El Niño stated that 1950 to 1979 was the best base period for NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies. Trenberth writes:

Figure 1 shows the five month running mean SST time series for the Niño 3 and 3.4 regions relative to a base period climatology of 1950-1979 given in Table 1. The base period can make a difference. This standard 30 year base period is chosen as it is representative of the record this century, whereas the period after 1979 has been biased warm and dominated by El Niño events (Trenberth and Hoar 1996a). Mean temperatures are higher in the Niño 3.4 region than in Niño 3 and its proximity to the Pacific warm pool and main centers of convection is the reason for the physical importance of Niño 3.4.

We’ll use 1950 to 1979 as the base period for anomalies for our NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies.

Figure 7-11 is the running total of HADISST NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies, starting in January 1900 and ending in May 2012. It does not return to zero. However, it really looks like the global temperature anomaly curve.

The similarity between the curve of the running total of HADISST-based NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies and a global temperature anomaly curve is remarkable. Unfortunately, it only works with HADISST-based NINO3.4 data. A running total of NINO3.4 data based on the ERSST.v3b or Kaplan datasets bears no similarities to the global temperature curve. Also, it only works with the base years of 1950-1979. That is, if you were to shift the base years so that they were weighted more toward El Niño events, like the period of 1971 to 2000, you’d wind up with a long-term running-mean curve that looks completely different. That makes the curve illustrated in Figure 7-11 a curiosity. Nothing more—just a curiosity, because I can’t justify the use of the base years of 1950-1979. It should definitely make you think, though.

That running total was one of the things that sparked my interest in ENSO. I discovered that curious running-total effect in April 2008, and presented it in a post titled Is There A Cumulative ENSO Climate Forcing? (ENSO isn’t a forcing, but that’s neither here nor there.) If you were to include the effects of volcanic aerosols and solar variability, the fit becomes even better. I presented that in a post titled Reproducing Global Temperature Anomalies With Natural Variables.

Regardless, ENSO has been skewed toward El Niño in recent decades. It has been skewed toward La Niña as well—the period from the 1940s to the mid-1970s for example. This is well known. We’ve shown the “skewness” in the preceding chapter using period average sea surface temperatures for the NINO3.4 region.

The myth that “El Niño and La Niña events balance out to zero over the long term” is simply another very obvious attempt to neutralize El Niño and La Niña. It’s a comical attempt that failed.

***

The illustration from a previous chapter I was referring to above was Figure 7-7 from Chapter 7.1 Myth – ENSO Has No Trend and Cannot Contribute to Long-Term Warming.

I’ll present that chapter next.  (Hmm.  Just noticed a typo.  In the book, the illustration is identifed as Figure 5-7.  I’ve corrected it here.)

SOURCES

The sea surface temperature data for Figure 7-10 was downloaded from the NOAA NOMADS website. NOAA uses 1971-2000 as base years. The dataset used in the other graphs is HADISST. It’s available through the KNMI Climate Explorer. There I’ve used the base years of 1950-1979 per the discussion above.

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.

ALREADY PUBLISHED

1. El Niño-Southern Oscillation Myth 1: El Niño and La Niña Events are Cyclical. Refer also to the cross post at WattsUpWithThat for comments.

UPCOMING

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

Failed Argument – El Niño Events Don’t Create Heat

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 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. Simply scroll down past where they ask you to open one.). 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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I bought Bob Tisdale’s book and the ressemblance of this post : striking!

Steveta_uk

Perhaps the only issue is the definition of “long term”.
Perhaps if we had a few thousand years of ENSO records, it would “Balances Out to Zero over the Long Term”.

Tom in Indy

Steveta_uk says: December 11, 2012 at 10:20 am
If that’s true, then the current warming trend will soon reverse and become a cooling trend. That means we reach the same conclusion as Bob. The current warming trend that has been attributed to CO2 is natural instead.

FrankK

Bob and All,
I bought the book and its a fascinating read. It takes more than one sitting to finish it but well worth the effort. Thanks Bob.

A piece of a comment of mine in Tips & Notes is happy here. The ENSO figure picked up Monday morning displays as zero on the ENSO meter on the right side nav bar.
From http://wattsupwiththat.com/tips-and-notes/#comment-1169382 :
data from 00Z26SEP2012 to 00Z10DEC2012
“———-”
0.266848
0.214593
0.221214
0.38753
0.633406
0.500188
0.493784
0.656908
0.406625
0.276114
0.0417955

HM

Just a question from an ignoramus, re Fig 7-10 and 7-11: How do we know that El Niño 3.4 anomalies do not reflect the combined effect of ENSO plus general trends in SST? Are El Niño anomalies net of general trends in SST? If the seas were generally warming (naturally or due to human factors), the region of the Pacific Ocean covered by the El Niño 3.4 anomalies would show a rising temperature trend even if ENSO’s ups and downs cancel out.

izen

@- Steveta_uk
“Perhaps if we had a few thousand years of ENSO records, it would “Balances Out to Zero over the Long Term”.”
We do.
http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/recons.html
About halfway down the page. Most are for the last ~500 years but a couple are for over a thousand.
Of course these are proxy records, based on SST from corals and rainfall patterns from sediments. If you want to throw out proxy records you also have to abandon any evidence for the MWP, Roman or Minoan warm period and in fact any evidence for ice-ages or climate variation before the instrumental era.
Most scientists accept proxy data, with the known limitations of resolution and showing variation or anomalies from an indeterminate absolute value. But that still enables useful science to be done. for instance the relationship between the PDO and ENSO is observable in the longer paleoclimate record.
http://www.agu.org/journals/abs/2006/2005GL025052.shtml
“…. phase changes in the PDO have a propensity to coincide with changes in the relative frequency of ENSO events, where the positive phase of the PDO is associated with an enhanced frequency of El Niño events, while the negative phase is shown to be more favourable for the development of La Niña events. “

jorgekafkazar

Steveta_uk says: “Perhaps the only issue is the definition of “long term”. Perhaps if we had a few thousand years of ENSO records, it would “Balances Out to Zero over the Long Term”.”
Only “zero” might not be zero. And we don’t know where zero is. The completely different mechanisms for El Nino and La Nina result in an unpredictable and aperiodic oscillation. ENSO is like an enclosed grandfather’s clock with a mouse running up and down the pendulum. Only the mouse knows where zero lies, and he’s not telling.

Bob Shapiro

Hi Bob,
I’m not convinced of the value of a running total of any anomaly series.
Depending on the base taken, the individual anomalies will differ by a constant. If we then take running totals for different base values, they will differ by a straight line. So, if we choose a base value that is 1 lower than the previous base, the 1st anomaly running sum value will be 1 higher, the 2nd will be 2 higher, the 100th value will be 100 higher, etc.
There is a single value of the base which can cause the running sum to zero out. All other values will show either a rising trend or a falling trend, by this is just an artifact. BTW, choosing a zeroing base for your graph shouldn’t change the shape; all it should do is reorient it downward.
This is not my area of expertise, so I could be wrong – but I don’t think so.

john robertson

@ Izen11:20 We need proxies for the Medieval and Roman periods?
Human history is not good enough for climatology?
Your buddies on the team didn’t do so good with their proxies, when they diapered both.

john robertson

Disappeared.Mind you maybe the baby reference fits.

HM says: “Just a question from an ignoramus, re Fig 7-10 and 7-11: How do we know that El Niño 3.4 anomalies do not reflect the combined effect of ENSO plus general trends in SST?”
Good question. Because the NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies that serve as the basis for Figure 7-10 do not have a warming trend:
http://i46.tinypic.com/2a79xra.jpg
And the HADISST SST-based NINO3.4 data that serves as the basis for Figure 7-11 has not warmed since 1900:
http://i48.tinypic.com/10ef0vd.jpg

Steveta_uk says: “Perhaps if we had a few thousand years of ENSO records, it would ‘Balances Out to Zero over the Long Term’.”
I deal primarily with the satellite era, the last 30 years. If the manmade global warming hypothesis does not work during that period, and it does not, then there’s no reason to believe it works in others.

GW

So Bob,
Would you be willing to speculate that the Little Ice Age may have been induced by a multicentury period dominated by La Nina’s, and the gradual warming since the end of the LIA has been brought about by a greater frequency of El Nino’s ? Have you examined the data (proxy) for tropical SST’s from those centuries, and does it support (or not) such speculation ?
GW

Bob Shapiro says: “There is a single value of the base which can cause the running sum to zero out.”
As I mentioned in the post, the resulting curve of the running total is dependent on the base years. Typically, a 30-year term is selected as base years for anomalies, so for a NINO3.4 dataset starting in 1900, you’ve got 80+ choices for 30-year windows.
However, to achieve a curve that returns to zero, all you have to do is neuter El Niño and La Niña. You can do that by using the entire term of the data as the base years for anomalies. But why would you attempt to neuter El Niño and La Niña events? Have El Niño events been stronger since 1976? Yup. Even Trenberth acknowledges that in the paper linked above. He selected 1950-1979 as the 30-year period for base years, because the stronger El Niños since 1976 biased the data.

RobertInAz

Hi Bob,
Just to reiterate I love your work.
1). To clarify, I assume that the notion of balancing means that the heat added to the Pacific during a La Niña is balanced by the heat released by the Pacific during an El Niño
If balance means something else in this context, then nothing below is relevant.
2) I think I am agreeing with Bob Shapiro at 11:39 am in that the running total of temperature in the Nino3.4 box does not tell us anything about heat update and release in the corresponding events.
Indeed, I think the notion that the events balance does not further the alarmist cause. They would want La Niña to dominate with the excess (aka missing) heat disappearing into the depths of the pacific ocean. And a measurable portion of the of that heat is due to down welling IR (I know, you address this in your book).
I think the response to the balanced argument is more nuanced and you lay an excellent foundation in your book:
– There is no physical basis that causes them to be balanced.
– You show the migration of accumulated heat following a La Niña to be complex and not remaining in the Pacific.
– I cannot think of a way to set up a boundary for energy flows over which the notion of La Niña and El Niño being balanced makes sense. I suppose one could take the Pacific as a whole and define balance to include all atmospheric and oceanic energy flows and allocate all ENSO neutral conditions to an adjacent La Niña or El Niño but now I have established a tautology.

X Anomaly

“ERSST.v3b or Kaplan datasets bears no similarities to the global temperature curve. Also, it only works with the base years of 1950-1979.”
WHY!!!
Can you play around with the base years and make those other datasets work, surely the difference lies in the base years as you have alluded to? Or maybe just make them more “positive” so the sums go sky ward?
ps. Bob, did you just falsify man made global warming? lol !!
A scatter plot with temp correlation would be nice…. The human eye often tricks you into what you want….I’m guessing while it looks good, the relationship is probably not so good?

RobertInAz

…..that the running total of temperature anomalies in the Nino3.4 box does not tell us anything about heat update and release in the corresponding events.
I think the same is true for the original form of the statement – but I want you to know that I understood the figure.

GW says: “Would you be willing to speculate that the Little Ice Age…”
I don’t speculate. I report on data. My posts deal primarily with the last 30 years of sea surface temperature data—the satellite era. Paleoclimatological data is make-believe data.
Here’s a comparison graph of NINO3 sea surface temperatures from Cook (2003) and Mann (2000), both datasets found on the NOAA paleoclimatological webpage. Both datasets were smoothed with 31-year filters:
http://i46.tinypic.com/2n1szl.jpg
There are no similarities between the two reconstructions. They would have no value in a study of the impacts of ENSO on global temperatures.

Ric Werme says: “A piece of a comment of mine in Tips & Notes is happy here. The ENSO figure picked up Monday morning displays as zero on the ENSO meter on the right side nav bar.”
And you may be interested in the full November 2012 sea surface temperature update:
http://bobtisdale.wordpress.com/2012/12/10/november-2012-sea-surface-temperature-sst-anomaly-update/

Deco79

I have a hypothesis. My hypothesis seems to only hold true for one part of one ocean from one set of data narrowed down to one time series. I see this could be a problem. Having to ignore vast swathes of other measurements with poor or even no justification doesn’t help it either. Reading back over my work I realise I have suggested that my special interest area is THE ONLY influence on SSTs by saying, “If, over the long term, El Niño and La Niña events balanced out to zero, then a running total of NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies would equal zero”. Again I realise I have left out any justification for this and it further makes me question my hypothesis and objectivity. Then I look at my graphs and realise my hypothesis violates the 1st Law of Thermodynamics which tells me that I must minus the work done on the atmosphere and land by the ocean from the OHC. They cannot ALL warm. Now I’m thinking my hypothesis must be wrong and leads me to think that there has to be an energy imbalance in there somewhere. I jump on google scholar and after a few seconds I can see hundreds of papers with satellite measurements showing this imbalance I just hypothesised does exist. I re-evaluate my hypothesis to include this ‘new’ information.

TimTheToolMan

jorgekafkazar writes “ENSO is like an enclosed grandfather’s clock with a mouse running up and down the pendulum. Only the mouse knows where zero lies, and he’s not telling.”
Nice analogy. Yes, its far more likely that ENSO is a non-balanced process itself and “the rest” of the atmospheric and oceanic processes do “the rest” of the balancing.

Duster

Bob Tisdale says:
December 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm
***. Paleoclimatological data is make-believe data. ***

The data is real enough. The interpretations are where the make believe begins to appear. Though when you start to look at “corrections” and “adjustments” that modern data is being subjected to, I would begin to worry about “post-normal” data processing.

Deco79 says: “I have a hypothesis. My hypothesis seems to only hold true for one part of one ocean from one set of data narrowed down to one time series.”
We do not know what YOUR hypothesis is. What’s your point?

X Anomaly: “Bob, did you just falsify man made global warming? lol !!”
Did you miss the intent of the post? Did you read the post? Did you understand the post? Apparently not is the answer for all three questions.

phlogiston

Ric Werme says:
December 11, 2012 at 11:14 am
A piece of a comment of mine in Tips & Notes is happy here. The ENSO figure picked up Monday morning displays as zero on the ENSO meter on the right side nav bar.
I’ve also previously noticed apparently anomalous values shown by the ENSO meter. It can turn out that the ENSO meter is correct and gets updated quicker than the chart in the ENSO page. If so – then the ENSO chart can be expected to drop to zero in turn. Lets wait and see …

phlogiston

Bob’s thesis is that during a warming period, “super-el Ninos” cause a step-up in global temeratures, especially in the “rest-of-the-world” oceans excluding the east Pacific. We have seen a few of these e.g. 1977, 1988, 1998. What it will be intersting to see will be the converse phenomenon – the “super-La Nina” which takes global temperature down a peg. It will be interesting to see when we next get one of these. FWIW I would guess – possibly quite soon…

Thierry

El Niño or La Niña are phenomena are the consequence of the relative northern and southern hemispheres Mobile Polar High influence on the meteorological equator at a few years scale. For instance, if the South pole generates more powerful Mobile Polar Highs (MHP) than the North pole does, this generally means that southern polar MPHs are more powerful and thus traveling farther north, which helps the meteorological equator to stay higher than usual in the northern hemisphere, helping cold water upwelling for South America to flood the Eastern Pacific. La Niña can then develop.
That is what happening today with a south pole more active and colder than it was in the 90’s. See here where the meteorological equator lies today in the eastern pacific :
http://www.sat24.com/world.aspx
As a matter of fact, you have El Niño when the Norh pole dynamics is higher (colder)
On top of the few years El Niño / La Niña SST’s cycle, you can add a longer terme cycle (60 years) which complicates the temperatures anomalies readings.
Nothing but a good book from Marcel Leroux will explain it all.
Thierry.

RobertInAz says: “To clarify, I assume that the notion of balancing means that the heat added to the Pacific during a La Niña is balanced by the heat released by the Pacific during an El Niño.”
The tropical Pacific OHC data contradicts this statement.
RobertInAz says: “2) I think I am agreeing with Bob Shapiro at 11:39 am in that the running total of temperature in the Nino3.4 box does not tell us anything about heat update and release in the corresponding events.”
Agreed. I think everyone is reading too much into this post. This post is a simple response to a nonsensical statement made by someone at SkepticalScience who has no understanding of ENSO.
An ENSO index only represents the impacts of ENSO on that index. It does not account for its aftereffects. That is, an ENSO index accounts for the temperature of the warm water released by the El Nino; it does not account for the volume of warm water released or the aftereffects of that warm water.

Thierry says: “El Niño or La Niña are phenomena are the consequence of the relative northern and southern hemispheres Mobile Polar High influence on the meteorological equator at a few years scale… As a matter of fact, you have El Niño when the Norh pole dynamics is higher (colder)…”
Thierry, it’s well known that El Nino and La Nina are tied to the seasonal cycle. But I can’t see how what you’ve presented works with the basic mechanics of those events. A good overview is provided by Bill Kessler:
http://faculty.washington.edu/kessler/occasionally-asked-questions.html
I go into much more detail in the video here:

Duster says regarding paleoclimatological data: “The data is real enough.”
You appear to have missed the rest of my comment. It read:
Here’s a comparison graph of NINO3 sea surface temperatures from Cook (2003) and Mann (2000), both datasets found on the NOAA paleoclimatological webpage. Both datasets were smoothed with 31-year filters:
http://i46.tinypic.com/2n1szl.jpg
There are no similarities between the two reconstructions. They would have no value in a study of the impacts of ENSO on global temperatures.

MarkW

ENSO may or may not balance out over the long term, however in this case long term is 60 years at an absolute minimum.

MarkW

If ENSO doesn’t balance out over the long term, where is the excess energy going?

Kristian

Deco79 says: “Then I look at my graphs and realise my hypothesis violates the 1st Law of Thermodynamics which tells me that I must minus the work done on the atmosphere and land by the ocean from the OHC. They cannot ALL warm.”
If, for argument’s sake, the sun put 100 hypothetical units of heat into the ocean, then what is stopping this extra heat from being split up and distributed, warming different domains of the Earth system? Let’s say 75 (?) of those units are spent warming the surface of the global ocean. From there they move on to warm the troposphere, mostly through latent heat transfer. It’s the same energy. That’s what heat transfer is all about. In the end, most all of them are radiated back to space, having warmed the world on their way.
But there are still 25 units of energy left, now stored in the ocean, Earth’s supreme solar heat reservoir. The ocean accumulates heat. It ALSO gets warmer. Even while already (in our hypothetical example) having warmed the rest of the world. How about that?

This mythology is not unlike any other in that we humans chooses the fiction we believe calling it theology, dogma, ideology or any number of adjectives. No matter how you cut it or what base you choose to use since ENSO has no true periodicity or trend any correlations are probably more chance then reality.

RobertInAz

If ENSO doesn’t balance out over the long term, where is the excess energy going?

Possibilities include:
– Into the deep ocean.
– Into other regions of the Pacific.
– Into other oceans.

eric1skeptic

I’m not sure why people feel the need to balance. The temperature in any part of the planet can go up or down 20c in a few days (or less under the right conditions. There’s nothing to balance that change out. Granted some cooler flows are associated with warmer flows elsewhere but there’s nothing making that a rule. In fact the average temperature of the atmosphere can rise 0.2 C in a week or two, an astounding rise compared to the amounts argued about in longer time contexts regarding weather event attribution.
There’s nothing in particular that counters those rises (and falls). There is thermal inertia but that’s subject to the ENSO that Bob talks about. There is more convection in some locations, more wider scale storms (or less). There is outgoing longwave from Stefan–Boltzmann subject to greenhouse gases which are highly variable. And of course the sun is not constant, but it is mostly constant enough.

Arno Arrak

Here we go again. He is pushing his book that gets it all wrong, apparently with Anthony’s approval. I have not seen the paper he speaks of but it does make sense if you allow for major exceptions. These exceptions would be step warming or cooling incidents where global temperature changes discontinuously. Among them I count 1940 (World War II cooling), 1976 (Great Pacific Climate Shift) and 1998 (step warming by super El Nino). There is no explanation for any of these. As to the role of Nino3.4, it only catches the eastbound flow because it sits on top of the equatorial counter-current. It misses the westbound flow entirely because that one follows the equatorial currents, gathered together there by the Walker circulation. If left to themselves these two balance out beautifully as the unchanging global mean temperature of the eighties and nineties demonstrates.

phlogiston

RobertInAz says:
December 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm
If ENSO doesn’t balance out over the long term, where is the excess energy going?
Possibilities include:
– Into the deep ocean.
– Into other regions of the Pacific.
– Into other oceans.

Indeed, this “where is the energy going” is the signature of a stupid climate question. Combine the massive heat capacity of the oceans with the sharp vertical temperature gradient and the non-equilibrium chaotic dynamics of the ocean-atmosphere system, and the question dissolves like a soluble aspirin into the ocean. Heat can easily “disappear” in the oceans themselves of out to space due to the smallest of changes to ocean-driven cloud albedo.

Arno Arrak says: “As to the role of Nino3.4, it only catches the eastbound flow because it sits on top of the equatorial counter-current. It misses the westbound flow entirely because that one follows the equatorial currents, gathered together there by the Walker circulation.”
The westbound flow results from a phenomenon called Rossby waves. And you’re right. They’re off the equator at about 10S and 10N, so the NINO3.4 region cannot account for them.
Arno Arrak says: “If left to themselves these two balance out beautifully as the unchanging global mean temperature of the eighties and nineties demonstrates.”
I suggest you go study the ENSO recharge-discharge theory. Then try accounting for the warm water that’s left over after the 1986/87/88 and 1997/98 El Niño events. After you’ve done that, come back and explain how they balance out.
Global mean temperatures were unchanged in the 80s and 90S? Your comment indicates you have a total lack of understanding of the instrument temperature record:
http://i45.tinypic.com/k3rigw.jpg
Keep in mind, you picked the time period, not me.
Want to try TLT anomalies?
http://i49.tinypic.com/2db2b6o.jpg

MarkW says: “ENSO may or may not balance out over the long term, however in this case long term is 60 years at an absolute minimum.”
I have to ask: Upon what are you basing this proclamation when the topic of discussion is the sea surface temperatures of the past 31 years?

X Anomaly

Falsifying Bob Tisdale:
Take his Nino 3.4 index
http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/catalog/climind/TNI_N34/index.html
Take the average of that index, = 0.091527981
Normalize the series by removing the average from each monthly value.
Perform cumulative sums….and its gone.
By taking the average of the entire series its easy to see that the base period is BIASED, i.e the entire series has been subjectively shifted up the y axis by 0.092 (because of the subjective reference period.)
A more objective base period would give you an average of ZERO.

MarkW says: “If ENSO doesn’t balance out over the long term, where is the excess energy going?”
Exactly. The additional warm water leftover from El Nino events is the reason why global sea surface temperatures have warmed over the past 31 years.
Here’s a quick overview. We’ll divide the sea surface temperature anomalies of the global oceans into two subsets: the East Pacific (90S-90N, 180-80W) and the Rest-of-the-World (90S-90N, 80W-180).
The East Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies mimic ENSO. That is, they warm during El Niño events and cool proportionally during La Niña events. But the East Pacific hasn’t warmed in 31 years:
http://oi48.tinypic.com/flkhmb.jpg
The sea surface temperature data for the Rest-of-the-World only warms during major El Niño events (highlighted in red):
http://oi46.tinypic.com/r1a1vp.jpg
In fact, if we remove the effects of those El Niño events, we can see the Rest-of-the-World data would also show no warming:
http://oi45.tinypic.com/2qspjkz.jpg
Why does the Rest-of-the-World data warm? Because it warms during El Niño events, but does not cool proportionally during La Niña events:
http://bobtisdale.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/figure-33.png
I explain that in detail in the video linked in the post:

Nick Kermode

Hi Kristian, in your example the only body accumulating energy is the ocean. Latent heat is a transfer you are correct. Key word being transfer, the atmospheres gain is still the oceans loss as that latent energy IS LOST via condensation. For your example to hold true the atmosphere would have to be storing a portion of its units also, exactly as the ocean does. For the temperature of both to increase they BOTH need to store more energy. Enhanced GH is the only thing that can explain that.

X Anomaly

For the mathematically minded:
y = x + 0.091
(I think that was very early high school)

X Anomaly says: “Falsifying Bob Tisdale…”
You have falsified nothing. All you’ve done is linked an ENSO index that’s not current and made a nonsensical claim. Go back and read my post. The obvious intent of the post eludes you.
PS: A running total of the Trenberth NINO3.4 data during the satellite era does not return to zero:
http://i46.tinypic.com/11qiqs2.jpg

X Anomaly says: “By taking the average of the entire series its easy to see that the base period is BIASED,”
Further proof that you didn’t bother to read the post, X Anomaly. Trenberth chose the base period to elimate the bias toward El Nino. What part of “whereas the period after 1979 has been biased warm and dominated by El Niño events” didn’t you understand?

X Anomaly

Yep,
y = x + 0.091
even a three year old can do it, check it out

X Anomaly

I doubt Trenberth had cumulative sums in mind. He nearly rid the data of bias, but there is still the 0.091 left over
I wonder if anyone can find a base period which ensures there is just as much data above the zero line as there is below it?
It’s important because slightly more data above the zero line will cause a significant positive trend with cumulative sums. Conversely, slightly more data below the zero line will cause a significant negative trend with cumulative sums. The average of all the data must equal zero.
For almost all climate analysis it doesn’t matter if there is a finite surplus, except in the case of cumulative sums.

TimTheToolMan

Nick writes “For the temperature of both to increase they BOTH need to store more energy. Enhanced GH is the only thing that can explain that.”
Fundamentally assumes the system of ocean and atmosphere was in equilibrium and is warming from there (due to an enhanced GH effect). What if it is not yet in equilibrium?