NOAA Mixing Their Niños

Guest post by Paul Homewood

In their attempts to disguise the fact that 2012 will likely turn out to be one of the colder years this century, NOAA have made the ludicrous, and frankly dishonest, claim that this year will be the “hottest La Niña” year on record.

But is it a La Niña year?

NOAA’s own Multivariate ENSO Index is shown below.

And the monthly numbers:-


To November, the index averages +0.160, which would be classified as between neutral and weak El Niño. The monthly rankings below also confirm that the index for the year is above average, coming in at 36th out of 63. (The rankings run from 1950-2012). The July ranking of 57 shows that there were only 6 July’s that had a higher MEI.


And did this ENSO transition from negative (La Niña) to positive (El Niño) have any effect on temperature during the year? You betcha!

Take a look at UAH, for instance.


UAH anomalies hit a low point of –0.13C in Jan/Feb, and then bounced up to 0.34C in October, before sinking back to 0.28C in November as the El Niño fizzled out.

For NOAA to pretend that 2012 was a La Nina year, and then use temperatures, heavily affected by El Niño conditions throughout the summer, to “prove” that it is the hottest La Nina year is not something real scientists do.

For a more realistic comparison, the last 12 month period, when ENSO was pretty neutral, was April 2001-March 2002, when the MEI averaged minus 0.003. The UAH temperature anomaly was 0.157C for that period, and compares with a current figure for the last 12 months of 0.150C. This, of course, suggests little underlying change in global temperature for the last 10 years.

But, it seems , NOAA are more interested in propaganda than the truth.


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Mike (from the high desert of Western Nevada)

Snow storm coming in today. Looks like a duzy. Maybe its another super storm.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7

Waiting for Bob Tisdale to weigh in here. I hate to ascribe nefarious motives to people until all other explanations have been eliminated.

Clearly yet another example of La Niña-abuse by the Alarmistas in their continuing crime spree of El Niño data molestation.

Annual temperatures correlate to the ENSO phase early in the year, so yes, 2012 is a La Nina year for this purpose.


This is all part of the hollowing out process of agencies and institutions—-for the children.

I have been finding out that the educated Green folks are in denial of anything of logic. There is desperation in their blatant disregard of what’s real.
As I posted recently, their ilk is can only be compared to religion where mankind’s ecoscientists have reached the pinnacle of their evolution. No longer can they adapt to an ever changing world; Instead they believe they can control the world like gods.
I perhaps a bit foolish, I think this statement is closer to reality than the summary for policymakers or this claim coming from NOAA… indeed, hottest La Nina!

R Babcock

Can’t someone make the case it is the “coldest El Nino on record”?

Those promoting CAA (Catastrophic Anthropogenic Anything) are hell bent on shooting themselves in the foot. Over and over and over. People are noticing, and if they keep on doing it, even more will notice, but does that stop these fools? No. They are desperate to get back to business as usual. How stupid are they going to look with yet another FAIL to show the world, and what are they going to do for next year? Why do I even ask? It’ll be more of the same, as always.
I wish these “climate scientists” and propagandists would grow up. Will they behave like lemmings right up to and over the cliff edge? All the signs so far lead me to think the answer is most likely “yes”.

Paul, on the NOAA link you provided…
…they define a La Nina year as “…occurring when the first three months of a calendar year are classified under La Niña conditions.” And they also use the Oceanic NINO Index…
…as the reference for La Nina conditions.
Regardless, it’s just a childish effort to keep global warming happening. The first time I can recall seeing this “warmest La Nina year” nonsense was last year, and it was the WMO making the claim.
Tuesday 18 December 2012
“The tropical Pacific Ocean remains neutral – neither El Niño nor La Niña.”
Looking through the archive, taking the first report each month, we get:
Wednesday 4 January
“La Niña conditions continue over the tropical Pacific Ocean.”
Wednesday 1 February
“La Niña showed only small changes over the past fortnight and are expected to maintain an influence upon Australian climate over the coming months.”
Tuesday 13 March
“The 2011–12 La Niña event is nearing its end, with most indicators approaching or at neutral values.”
Tuesday 10 April
“Following the demise of the 2011–12 La Niña, the state of ENSO across the tropical Pacific remains neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña).”
Tuesday 8 May
“Climate indicators across the tropical Pacific Ocean remain neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña).”
Tuesday 5 June
Tropical Pacific climate indicators remain at neutral values for this time of the year.”
Tuesday 3 July
“Climate indicators continue to show a shift towards El Niño, in line with most model predictions.”
Tuesday 14 August
“Climate indicators in the tropical Pacific Ocean remain close to El Niño thresholds.”
Tuesday 11 September
“Tropical Pacif ic Ocean sea surf ace temperatures remain at values close to El Niño thresholds.”
Tuesday 9 October
The chance of El Niño dev eloping in 2012 has reduced ov er the past fortnight.”
Wednesday 7 November
Indicators of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation remain at neutral levels.”
Tuesday 4 December
“The tropical Pacif ic remains neutral with respect to ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation), that is, neither El Niño nor La Niña.”
No-one in their right mind could possibly call that a La Nina year.

Wow… it is hard to believe that NOAA would actually claim the last two years are the “warmest” cold years on record.
According to the monthly ENSO reports over the last couple years, this last La Nina was quite short and so weak it only briefly barely qualified for La Nina status.

Bryan A

Going by their apparent definitions for El Nino vs La Nina years then according to the NINO3.4 SST Index on the ENSO page 2008 was entirely La Nina except for a little Neutral time in Jul & Aug. 2009 started as La Nina but topped neutral in March and entered a strong El Nino through the end of the year. Arguably the strongest La Nina year by their definition. 2010 started as El Nino (the end of the strong 2009 season) and remained as El Nino until May then entered a Strong La Nina phase till 2011. Should this be listed as the “Coldest El Nino on record”??

Bryan A

2009 started as La Nina but topped neutral in March and entered a strong El Nino through the end of the year. Arguably the strongest La Nina year by their definition.
2009 started as La Nina but topped neutral in March and entered a strong El Nino through the end of the year. Arguably the warmest La Nina year by their definition.


The measured global average temperature value lags ENSO conditions by 5-6 months depending upon whether the data is lower troposphere (satellite) or surface data. So really the values to look at are the last 5/6 from last year and the first 6/7 of this year. If we do that, we get the following MEI values:
Last 6/first 6 = -0.39
Last 5/first 7 = -0.29
So technically this year should reflect weak/mild La Nina conditions.


Don’t forget NOAA is claiming record warmth in it’s data set which covers less than 2% of the earths surface.


And, of course, the apparent recent increase in the frequency of La Niña conditions is weather and not climate. It is early, but if 2010-2030 looks like 1950-1970 (top chart) we may be in for a bit of chillin.

Mac the Knife

Count your blessing, Y’All !!
Russia is gripped in truly brutal winter conditions.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Merry Christmas To All, from the Great NorthWet!

Green Sand

Had a meeting with my bank manger this morning, he just could not grasp the fact that by my being in credit for the first 3 months of the year I would therefore be in credit for the whole of the year irrespective of the debt I had amassed over the following 9 months.
The man is obviously a fool!

Werner Brozek

UAH anomalies hit a low point of –0.13C in Jan/Feb, and then bounced up to 0.34C in October, before sinking back to 0.28C in November as the El Niño fizzled out.
If you are interested, below are the latest monthly numbers for 5 other data sets as well.
2012 in Perspective so far on Six Data Sets
Note the bolded numbers for each data set where the lower bolded number is the highest anomaly recorded so far in 2012 and the higher one is the all time record so far. There is no comparison.

With the UAH anomaly for November at 0.281, the average for the first eleven months of the year is (-0.134 -0.135 + 0.051 + 0.232 + 0.179 + 0.235 + 0.130 + 0.208 + 0.339 + 0.333 + 0.281)/11 = 0.156. This would rank 9th if it stayed this way. 1998 was the warmest at 0.42. The highest ever monthly anomaly was in April of 1998 when it reached 0.66. The anomaly in 2011 was 0.132.
With the GISS anomaly for November at 0.68, the average for the first eleven months of the year is (0.32 + 0.37 + 0.45 + 0.54 + 0.67 + 0.56 + 0.46 + 0.58 + 0.62 + 0.68 + 0.68)/11 = 0.54. This would rank 9th if it stayed this way. 2010 was the warmest at 0.63. The highest ever monthly anomalies were in March of 2002 and January of 2007 when it reached 0.89. The anomaly in 2011 was 0.514.
With the Hadcrut3 anomaly for October at 0.486, the average for the first ten months of the year is (0.217 + 0.193 + 0.305 + 0.481 + 0.475 + 0.477 + 0.448 + 0.512+ 0.515 + 0.486)/10 = 0.411. This would rank 9th if it stayed this way. 1998 was the warmest at 0.548. The highest ever monthly anomaly was in February of 1998 when it reached 0.756. One has to back to the 1940s to find the previous time that a Hadcrut3 record was not beaten in 10 years or less. The anomaly in 2011 was 0.340.
With the sea surface anomaly for October at 0.428, the average for the first ten months of the year is (0.203 + 0.230 + 0.241 + 0.292 + 0.339 + 0.351 + 0.385 + 0.440 + 0.449 + 0.428)/10 = 0.336. This would rank 9th if it stayed this way. 1998 was the warmest at 0.451. The highest ever monthly anomaly was in August of 1998 when it reached 0.555. The anomaly in 2011 was 0.273.
With the RSS anomaly for November at 0.195, the average for the first eleven months of the year is (-0.060 -0.123 + 0.071 + 0.330 + 0.231 + 0.337 + 0.290 + 0.255 + 0.383 + 0.294 + 0.195)/11 = 0.200. This would rank 11th if it stayed this way. 1998 was the warmest at 0.55. The highest ever monthly anomaly was in April of 1998 when it reached 0.857. The anomaly in 2011 was 0.147.
With the Hadcrut4 anomaly for November at 0.512, the average for the first eleven months of the year is (0.288 + 0.208 + 0.339 + 0.525 + 0.531 + 0.506 + 0.470 + 0.532 + 0.515 + 0.524 + 0.512)/11 = 0.45. This would rank 9th if it stayed this way. 2010 was the warmest at 0.54. The highest ever monthly anomaly was in January of 2007 when it reached 0.818. The anomaly in 2011 was 0.399.
On all six of the above data sets, a record is out of reach.


I live next to the Pacific, and my observation had been that we have had two la Nina type years, and the latest had been a fairly weak el nino year. I merely base this on observations of both rain and temps in oz, but I am fairly sensitive (or maybe appreciative) of both, so i think my conclusions are reasonable.
Right now we are waiting on the late rains yet again in north Queensland. This is, add I understand it, a typical el nino result. Likewise the temps have been somewhat lower these last couple of years, and are still not pulling up to what a strong el nino would give us.

Green Sand

Paul Homewood says:
Are they making up their own definition?

Yes, the whole thing is made up. What is ENSO other than an homo sapiens “made up” Index?
For the here and now actual SSTs in the ENSO are more relevant. The index may foretell, may indicate implications, but for what is happening now look to the SSTs. Which makes the NOAA – the first 3 months makes a year even more nonsensical.


Paul Homewood says:
December 21, 2012 at 3:13 pm

…suggest lag of about 2 months.

Hi Paul. It has seemed that over the last year or two the lag has been less than the 5-6 months I stated…I’d noticed that earlier this year. I got the 5-6 number from Roy Spencer at one point I believe…and it’s similar to a number Tamino popped out too IIRC. I’ll see if I can dig up references at some point…or maybe someone else could chime in.

Werner Brozek

Bob Tisdale:
Do we know the El Nino’s and La Nina periods for the interval 1890 through 1970?
Could these cycles – or changes in these cycles – explains the changes in temperature during that interval?

Paul Homewood says: “Are they making up their own definition?”
I don’t know the source. But I would expect similar nonsense next year, something to the effect of 2013 is the warmest ENSO-neutral year since blah, blah, blah. And if it’s not, maybe one of the hemispheres will be warmest. As I said, it’s just a game to keep the manmade global warming myth alive. Too bad the sea surface temperature and ocean heat content records contradict the hypothesis.
Enjoy your holidays.

mike g

I’m just glad, even though it was a chilly, and below average, 37ºF, at my house this morning, it was 84ºF warmer than it was in Fairbanks, AK.

RACookPE1978 says: Do we know the El Nino’s and La Nina periods for the interval 1890 through 1970?
There are 3 sea surface temperature reconstructions that have sufficient data in the eastern equatorial Pacific to determine El Nino and La Nina periods: ERSST.v3b, HADISST, and Kaplan SST:
Much of that data before the 1950s is reconstructed. And it gets worse before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. With that in mind, I created an ONI-like index of El Nino and La Nina events a couple of years ago, using HADISST-based NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies, starting in 1900.
RACookPE1978 says: “Could these cycles – or changes in these cycles – explains the changes in temperature during that interval?”
If we look at ENSO as an uncontrolled and variable source of heat released into the atmosphere and warm water redistributed within the oceans, then the answer is yes. Global temperatures warm during periods when El Nino events dominate and cool during periods when La Nina events are dominant:
There was a cross post here about that just yesterday:
Enjoy your holidays.

Let’s check with NOAA’s own data. The URL I use is×600&title=&dir=
The reason it looks so ugly is because the lat/long of the NINO3.4 area is encoded in it, along with the start and end dates. The values are weekly. For the first 50 weeks of the year, the average is 0.087539838. The last 2 weeks of the year wouls have to average -2.19 or lower to bring the year into negative territory. Yes, NINO3.4 is *POSITIVE*!!! La Nina year? Taurine excrement!

Bill Illis

Global temps follow the formula of 0.2 times Nino 3.4 lagged 3 months.
So, cool start to the year, warming after, November temps are still being impacted by the August El Niño temps. We are now on the way down since it looks like Nino 3.4 will be about -0.1C in December.
And this what the temperature trend has been through 2012.
Overall, it will be a -0.06C La Niña year. Hardly anything to call the warmest La Niña year ever since it is NOT.
But facts don’t get in the way of a good scary global warming story. We have only heard the same thing for about the 1,000th time so far.

Richard deSousa

Shouldn’t be mixing their ninos and ninas?

michael hart

The S.I. Unit of ENSO is what…..?
How many apples in a barrel of grapes?
As Paul Homewood alludes to, ENSO is a user-defined index, not a meaningful physical quantity.
The financial people know that if the Dow-Jones Index doesn’t do what you said or want, then look at another index such as a small-cap index. Or look at NASDAQ instead. There’s plenty of choices. Talk about the price of cabbages.
In finance, economics and politics, if the audience actually believes numbers with user-defined arbitrary units actually mean something useful, then they actually, probably, possibly, might be useful.
But not in science.


This is a cold pattern through out the Planet IMHO:
at least dead neutral in the El Nino portion of the East Pacific..
to my untrained eye.. No real hot spots in the southern Ocean….


The hottest November record I have ever found for South East Queensland was in November 1968.
I sat a grade 10 Tech. Drawing exam in western Brisbane that year and it was over 105 F in the exam room.
The next hottest I have found occured in November 1980 but was about 38 – 39 C – not as high as 1968 but still pretty damn hot and well above the Spring average for Brisbane.
Funny how weather varies !


PS this November’s maximum is only the warmest since ~ 2002 – pales into insignificance really.
Oh – and that is for a different weather station (in an urban area ) which is situated well away from the older bayside location – yes the old station was in a cooler location near Moreton Bay not further inland like the new one.

Richard deSousa says:
December 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm
Shouldn’t be mixing their ninos and ninas?

That would be a nono.


Once again the exception proves the rule. Because this year is the coldest in a century, it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the earth is not warming. After all there is 3% Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere than last year, so we should see a 3% increase in temperature. The linear relationship between Carbon Dioxide concentrations and temperature is just not established. There must be something else going on.

I wonder just how many crazy extremely fine grained statistics they will have to make up (and just when they will give up on this farce…).
The ocean doesn’t have a hot spot in it anywhere other than a shrinking dot near Iceland about to be frozen out of existence. Russia and China are having very cold and hard winters. The USA is in the middle of major winter storms and the snow is being delivered all over the place, with vigor. We even had snow down to Anatolia … and winter isn’t even up to speed yet.
I can see it now: “Hottest cold day in Death Valley”…


E.M.Smith says:
December 21, 2012 at 10:00 pm
I can see it now: “Hottest cold day in Death Valley”…
Yes indeed, “Record low in the Florida keys…CAGW produces warmest record low EVR in the US.”

Lil Fella from OZ

The whole problem is one fact: the truth doesn’t matter anymore (well for a lot of people anyway usually green in colour).

mtobis says:
“…is a La Nina year for this purpose.”
And that purpose is what? Subterfuge? Perfidious science?


Just another variation on the “Warm = warming” theme.
That’s what, like the 10th way they have come up with to say the same thing? They probably have an office contest to come up with creative ways to rephrase that particular lie. It’s all they can do, given that it is not warming …


This is just follows the normal pattern for ‘climate science’ start with the desired result make the data fit it, no mater what you have to do with it, then claim victory while smearing anyone that challenges you.
This is not science, and those that wish to counter this need to realise they cannot do so effectively using scientific arguments. You spend all day pointing out the error in the numbers , but the ‘value’ of message is not there in the first place .

Bill Illis

We should also note 2012 was a high AMO year.
Global temps follow the formula of 0.5 times the AMO index by month.
The AMO peaked at about 0.486C in September so you do the math how the summer and early fall was impacted by both a small El Niño and the AMO at about as high as it gets.
The NOAA and Foster/Tamino, Skeptical Science don’t like to talk about the AMO (because it explains the 60 year temperature cycle TOO well).

Matt G

Even based on the first 3 months rule 2012 is not a La Nina year because the -0.5 threshold is not reached in March. (-.41)
2012 -1.046 -.702 -.41 .059 .706 .903 1.139 .579 .271 .103 .166
Only 2 months are negative out of the entire year that represents a La Nina (-0.5 or less). Yet 5 months above 0.5 that represent El Nino occur during the same year. 2012 is the year that ENSO couldn’t decide what to do, with the last 4 months (including December) in La Nada threshold.
More months have reached the El Nino threshold than either La NIna or La Nada months so for. Therefore with only 2 months 2012 does not reach the required threshold at the beginning of the year to be claimed either an El Nino or La NIna. For that reason because there was no trend should be called a La Nada year.
2010 1.152 1.52 1.39 .863 .577 -.433 -1.166 -1.822 -2.03 -1.946 -1.602 -1.58
The first 3 months for 2010 are in the El Nino threshold (0.5+) and with the lag with global temperatures creates a peak that represents a typical global temperature spike associated with El Nino. That is why the first 3 months scientifically support whether one year peaks or troughs. For 2012 though only 2 months were reached this threshold so it shouldn’t be called a El Nino or La Nina year. The sudden change from positive to negative MEI values or negative to positive is what creates the peak or troughs during that year.

Matt G

Added to my above post, the 5 months of above 0.5+ MEI values between April and August caused this to happen (shown below) to global temperatures.

Matt G

Anyone doubting the importance of this threshold of 0.5 or -0.5 reached for the first 3 months, only need to look at 1997.
1997 -.487 -.607 -.253 .493 1.119 2.307 2.756 3.001 3 2.358 2.518 2.32
How many would call 1997 a La NIna year based on the first 3 negative months?


The whole idea of ranking years is something they do just to hide the fact that temperatures have been flat for many years now. They’re conveniently hiding the inconvenient fact that “global warmth” is not at all the same as “global warming”.
Btw. Nino 3.4 temperatures have gone a long way down from the almost-El-Niño earlier this year, I wonder if it could still turn into a La Niña by January? Would that be unprecedented in modern times?