To NCDC: We Haven't Seen an El Nino since 2009/10, What Do You Expect?

This desperate sounding tweet came in a few minutes ago and will be sure to get the peccatogenesists all stirred up with laughable claims of “poisoned weather” etc.

Let’s look at what a La Niña pattern actually does for drought, from NOAA’s own archives:

Note the big path of dry area in the southern USA.

Now compare it to the US Drought monitor graphic:


The blocking high from La Niña is a bit further north than the NOAA graphic, so the drought tends to follow it.

This is nothing out of the ordinary for the Western USA, which has seen long term historic droughts before.

But I’m sure the peccatogenesists will find a way to blame “global warming” or #poisonedweather or some similar religious fervor.

46 thoughts on “To NCDC: We Haven't Seen an El Nino since 2009/10, What Do You Expect?

  1. The 30-yr PDO cool phase started in 2008, which will tend to generate more La Niña cycles than El Niño. With this well known phenomenon, it looks like the US Mid-West is looking at drier than “normal” conditions for quite some time to come, and this will have next to nothing to do with CAGW.
    ironically, increased CO2 levels enable C3 plants to cope much better under drier conditions as the leaf pores don’t need to open as wide to absorb CO2 as the atmospheric concentration of CO2 is higher, so less water is lost from the plant.
    In addition , CO2 fertilization has contributed greatly to an 85% increase in US crop yields since 1980. (About 3,700kg/ha in 1980 to about 7,000kg/ha in 2010). So again, CO2 will lesson the effects of NATURAL drier growing conditions.

  2. Texas Drought Timeline
    El Nino/La Nina Timeline
    notice how the texas drought occurred in 2006 and 2008/2009 when we were in an El Nino?
    How about the southwestern Drought of 2002 and 2004? both El Nino years those two years combined produced a 500-year drought.
    Further west, the 2007 drought was considered a 500 year event
    The drought gripping the West could be the biggest in 500 years, with effects in the Colorado River basin considerably worse than during the Dust Bowl years, according to scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey.
    “That we can now say with confidence,” said Robert Webb, lead author of a background paper released Thursday. “Now I’m completely convinced.”
    are you saying the 2007 el nino was the worst event in 500 years?

  3. Well, we aren’t in a La Niñ now, but were in a long one. I’m not sure what La Nada weather is like in the southwest, but given its history of multi-century long droughts, I’d be loathe to call an “exceptional drought” (determined by fraction of average precip) in that area as exceptional in the dictionary sense.

  4. jai mitchell says:June 14, 2013 at 11:34 am
    Ever wonder why they call it the DESERT southwest?
    In-so-far as it being the worst drought in 500 years, total BS. That was when the Anasazi called it quits. In Colorado we have had an unusually wet spring, as shown by the proliferation of flowers and berries that get enough water to show themselves every 10-15 years, and they are out now. I’ve been collecting daily precipitation for thirty years, nothing unusual is going on

  5. If a 500 year event is anything like a 500 year or 100 year flood, it does not necessarily mean it happens once every 500/100 years.
    A 100 year flood means there is a 1% chance it will happen any given year.
    A 500 year flood means there is a 0.2% chance it will happen any given year.

  6. The Palmer Drought Severity Index is a great way to look at long term historical droughts back to the beginning of the 20th century. By far, the 1930s and 1950s had the worst droughts in the U.S. as a whole. The recent droughts of the southwest U.S. have been bad, but are very similar to the droughts of the first decade of the 20th century there.

  7. @Steve Keohane
    “In Colorado we have had an unusually wet spring, as shown by the proliferation of flowers and berries that get enough water to show themselves every 10-15 years, and they are out now.”
    You almost certainly live in Denver or somewhere north of there. I was visiting family in Longmont a couple of weeks ago, and I couldn’t believe how green and lush it is there.
    Have you ventured south of the Palmer Divide (Monument Hill)? Things are bone dry down here in Colorado Springs and further south on out through the lower Arkansas River basin. It is absolutely the driest I have seen in more than 35 years. Ranchers are selling out and giving up. We’re getting forest fires like never before in the higher elevations (Black Forest, Waldo Canyon) and the land is returning to the desert it was a few thousand years ago when sand dunes covered the ground only a few miles from where my house now sits. If this keeps up, the land here will soon look a lot like Albuquerque, New Mexico or Chaco Canyon. Heck, in some places it looks that way already. We need water badly.

  8. Another way of saying what you said…..
    Roger Pielke, Sr. described Judith Curry’s presentation to the August, 2011 NOAA workshop on water, which involved showing how drought patterns in the Lower 48 States were largely determined by the long ocean patterns, PDO and AMO. She had noted that the current situation of cool PDO and warm AMO was a repeat of the 1946-1964 years, when drought was a big problem.

  9. In Santa Fe, where I am now, it is pretty dry, though today we’ve had some thunderstorms, but in my hometown of San Antonio, there have been floods most of the spring, which is typical El Niño weather for that area. As the old folks say, we get 29 inches of rain a year, and you oughta be here the weekend we get it…

  10. I remember reading some where historical climate records of California droughts lasting several decades and this will be significant because the state will not be able to sustain it’s 30 million population. And we have some nutty environmentalists wanting to tear down the Hetch Hetchy Dam because it would restore the valley to it’s natural state and enhance Yosemite Park. San Fransisco gets nearly all of it’s water from the dam and they have voted against the dam tear down.

  11. There is a part of the NOAA which deals with weather and/or ocean conditions like the ENSO. You can trust these sections to give you factual information.
    Then there is climate change part of the NOAA and climate monitors like the NCDC. This section is not concerned with factual information and is more into the religionist AGW theory. Obviously, you shouldn’t trust these sections.

  12. jai asks “notice how the texas drought occurred in 2006 and 2008/2009 when we were in an El Nino?” Jai, I would not take the storm tracks depicted in the OP as anything more than a rough average; every El Nino and La Nina is different and has different effects on the tropical and polar jets. Also the El Nino shown mostly manifests in winter and there may be no impact at all in the summer. For example in Texas the droughts in 2006 and 2008/2009 were both due to La Nina winters, see for example. It was not El Nino.

  13. If you go to the drought monitor website and click on one of the animations, you’ll notice something surprising. The update from June 4 to June 11 shows almost no change. This only happens in the last week; every other week it changes a lot.
    The weather map in the last week showed a lot of storms moving through the mid-west. I think this is just a data error, nothing nefarious, but expect the drought map to get a lot whiter next Thursday.

  14. Imagine the Hetch Hetchy pipeline that was engineered over 100 years ago going dry. The stupidity of the Left coast is relentless. Well I guess they can tap into one of those delta canals heading for LA basin, in order to keep Crystal Springs Reservoir from reverting to a dry creek but the water won’t taste as sweet.

  15. Here in Australia Nina brings rain and floods, Nino brings drought. That’s why international trade is such a good idea, and ‘food miles’ are rubbish. Want to buy some wheat?

  16. Steve Keohane says:
    June 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm
    Ever wonder why they call it the DESERT southwest?
    In-so-far as it being the worst drought in 500 years, total BS. That was when the Anasazi called it quits.

    That’s exactly what I was thinking but the timeline is a bit longer than 500 years ago. Apparently, the Anasazi had been experiencing unreliable rainfall for some time before there was a thirty year long drought that started about 1270 AD. That, combined with a simultaneous cooling trend that further reduced crop yields, finally caused them to walk away from their traditional homes in the San Juan County area.
    Hmmm…. perhaps AGW actually stands for Anasazi Global Warming, ’cause it was ‘man made’ back then also! /sarc Guess that ‘living with nature’ thing didn’t work out so well for them, eh?

  17. Any analysis based on just PDO, or just ENSO will not be correct.
    You must combine the two, and the analysis will fit the data much better.
    There have been a few peer reviewed papers by actual scientists on the issue.

  18. How many billions of $$$ have been spent over the years on this bogus CAGW theory? If we had instead spent that money of saltwater desalination plants along the Texas and California coasts along with canals or pipelines to get the water inland to the drought-stricken areas, just think how much crop loss could be prevented. Some of the money could also be spent on irrigation systems for those farmers who need them.
    But I guess this what you get when the politicians in Washington have their heads up their butts. Its enough to make you want to scream.

  19. In Central MN on the northern margin of the Corn Belt we’re on the cusp of losing the crop to cool temps, plenty of rain and no Sun.
    On the southern margin we’ve a multi-year drought.
    EPA is pushing 15% ethanol in our tanks.

  20. jai mitchell says:
    June 14, 2013 at 11:34 am
    “notice how the texas drought occurred in 2006 and 2008/2009 when we were in an El Nino?”

    In 2006 the El-Nino started mid year. When was drought proclaimed?
    2008/2009 was a La-Nina, not El-Nino.
    phodges says:
    June 14, 2013 at 5:05 pm
    “Any analysis based on just PDO, or just ENSO will not be correct.
    You must combine the two, and the analysis will fit the data much better.
    There have been a few peer reviewed papers by actual scientists on the issue.”

    What a coincidence. I am just finishing off a paper dealing with that very issue, and shall send it off to the New Zealand Journal of Hydrology tonight. I am looking at the effects of of climate drivers on river flows in New Zealand’s Southern Alps with particular emphasis on dry years. Sure enough it is the PDO and ENSO that affect the flows.

  21. SAMURAI says:
    June 14, 2013 at 11:33 am

    So again, CO2 will lesson the effects of NATURAL drier growing conditions.

    It will learn them good, probly to lessen.

  22. RE: ai mitchell says:
    June 14, 2013 at 11:34 am
    I checked out your links. They are out-dated. Also you need to fact-check the Texas one, remembering that sometimes papers are guilty of exaggeration and hype, to sell copies.
    When the PDO shifts to having cold water off the west coast, it does get dry in Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and other Southwest states, but so far we have experienced nothing like the conditions in the Dust Bowl. You need to talk to the people, getting old now, who actually lived through that time, before you speak of current heat and drought being a once-every-five-hundred-year event. Or just check out the raw, unadjusted data from weather stations. We have seen nothing like they saw: Temperatures above 110, day after day, and they had no air conditioning. We have no reason to whine, and the fact some do whine only proves we are not as tough as they were.

  23. do they mention that almost every week, the area under drought conditions has been getting smaller for most of this year?

  24. I’ve said it before, but there’s a reason cactus evolved and thrives in Texas..

  25. It’s worse than we thought. US drought during the Holocene.

    Abstract – Connie A. Woodhouse et. al. – December 1998
    2000 Years of Drought Variability in the Central United States
    …..One must turn to the paleoclimatic record to examine the full range of past drought variability, including the range of magnitude and duration, and thus gain the improved understanding needed for society to anticipate and plan for droughts of the future. Historical documents, tree rings, archaeological remains, lake sediment, and geomorphic data make it clear that the droughts of the twentieth century, including those of the 1930s and 1950s, were eclipsed several times by droughts earlier in the last 2000 years, and as recently as the late sixteenth century. In general, some droughts prior to 1600 appear to be characterized by longer duration (i.e., multidecadal) and greater spatial extent than those of the twentieth century……;2
    Abstract – Steven L. Forman et. al. – May 2001
    Temporal and spatial patterns of Holocene dune activity on the Great Plains of North America: megadroughts and climate links
    Abstract – Scott Stine – 16 June 1994
    Extreme and persistent drought in California and Patagonia during mediaeval time
    California’s Sierra Nevada experienced extremely severe drought conditions for more than two centuries before ad ~ 1112 and for more than 140 years before ad ~ 1350…I also present similar evidence from Patagonia of drought conditions coinciding with at least the first of these dry periods in California….

    Should the people of the US have acted prior to 1800 to reduce their fantastically dangerous levels of co2? Fear and alarm is the name of the game here folks.

  26. We have solutions to drought, ready to implement. There is no shortage of fresh water, instead, there are floods from an excess. What is needed is a water distribution system.
    My proposal, NEWTAP, is described at the link.
    This is but one of many alternatives to bring water to the West.
    There have been many ideas put forward to bring water to the West. After NEWTAP, my favorites include towing icebergs from Alaska to Los Angeles, running an aqueduct from Washington state to Northern California to bring water from the Columbia River, building an artificial river from the Canadian Rockies to California, and the really exotic idea: a tunnel connecting the bottom of Lake Michigan to Los Angeles.  It’s downhill all the way, so no pumps are required.   Water would be distributed to dry communities throughout the West.

  27. When the North Pacific Gyre, presently at +3.82C anomaly, gives up its heat; the blocking High will vanish. I don’t expect it to happen until after the Sun’s position moves back to the Equator in September. If the Sun stays Quiet, the northern PDO will quit.

  28. Roger Sowell says;
    ” ……….. and the really exotic idea: a tunnel connecting the bottom of Lake Michigan to Los Angeles. It’s downhill all the way, so no pumps are required. Water would be distributed to dry communities throughout the West.”.
    I hope you aren’t serious about that idea Roger because the Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces with Great Lakes shoreline will (I can almost guarantee you) vigorously and immediately object to it. It would never happen. And I seriously doubt that the people of Washington State will want any Columbia river water rerouted either.
    Your iceberg idea does sound good though as does my saltwater desalination plant idea. I believe I rememeber reading somewhere some time back that California already has some desalination plants. Is that correct Anthony?

  29. @CD153, re June 15, 2013 at 8:21 am
    I did not like any of the other water transfer proposals, so I created my NEWTAP proposal. It may not be unique to me, it is possible others had the idea earlier.

  30. I’m wondering if there’s an issue with the baseline period in terms of defining current conditions as “el Nino” or “La Nina”. If the baseline period is something like 1970-2000, this period was dominated by a series of strong el Ninos. This means they are taking a smoothed el Nino state as the norm. Thus neutrality will appear like a La Nina.
    The BOM anomaly map for the Pacific has had a La Nina appearance for more than a year.
    Should we take a look at what is used as ENSO “reference” – it should not be a period dominated by el Nino or La Nina. Could ENSO extremes somehow be filtered out of a baseline reference? (Or maybe use a 100 year rather than 30 year baseline).
    Also I’ve been looking at the east Pacific temperature map animation for a while. It always ends the animation with a few days of prediction, and for the last 6 months or so the predicted tail of the animation has shown a big surge of cold upwelling at the east equatorial Pacific, signifying a swing to a full La Nina. But this surge does not happen and keeps on not happening. Its always predicted just in the future but the reality if you wait for it is just continuation of more or less static upwelling and a quite stable east equatorial cold tongue – not getting larger or smaller:
    Maybe the models tend to run off to La Nina or el Nino, while in fact we’re stuck in neutrality right now.

  31. A few tens of millions of years ago, inland parts of north America were a sea. A few tens of millions of years in the future they might become so again.

  32. Drought is very bad in SE Colorado. Though I did have to stop for a while in Lamar, CO for waiting out a strong passing storm up Kit Carson way.
    So Friday morning near Limon I get up and walk the dog around. Big coyote rushes my beagle. Riggy the beagle actually fought off the attack and I ran in and fortunately the coyote pulled back. I went back and got a pistol but never could quite get a sure shot. Must be low on food, no rabbits and little vegetation.
    Get back to the truck and start to leave and there must be a million or more Miller Moths jammed into every possible crevice. Huge swarm of moths shook up and many fall out at every bump or stop. I am now on the Snake River in Oregon and many of these stubborn moths are still with us. They are strong and bull headed, they push underneath door gaskets and everywhere there is an opportunity to hide. Nearly a hundred have been shooed out of the cab already and one is bumping me in the face while I type.
    Now I know why Coloradoans are driven buggy! Flailing their arms and shaking their clothing a lot. These things are a pain in the a**! Miserable little buggers!

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