Claim: 'Recent El Niño behavior is largely beyond natural variability'

From the University of Hawaii at Manoa:

El Nino unusually active in the late 20th century

This graph shows El Niño variability derived from tree rings (blue) and instrumental measurements (red). The dashed lines indicate boundary for natural variability. Recent El Niño behavior is largely beyond natural variability. Credit: International Pacific Research Center

Spawning droughts, floods, and other weather disturbances world-wide, the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) impacts the daily life of millions of people. During El Niño, Atlantic hurricane activity wanes and rainfall in Hawaii decreases while Pacific winter storms shift southward, elevating the risk of floods in California.

The ability to forecast how ENSO will respond to global warming thus matters greatly to society. Providing accurate predictions, though, is challenging because ENSO varies naturally over decades and centuries. Instrumental records are too short to determine whether any changes seen recently are simply natural or attributable to man-made greenhouse gases. Reconstructions of ENSO behavior are usually missing adequate records for the tropics where ENSO develops.

Help is now underway in the form of a tree-ring record reflecting ENSO activity over the past seven centuries. Tree-rings have been shown to be very good proxies for temperature and rainfall measurements. An international team of scientists spearheaded by Jinbao Li and Shang-Ping Xie, while working at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, has compiled 2,222 tree-ring chronologies of the past seven centuries from both the tropics and mid-latitudes in both hemispheres. Their work is published in the June 30, 2013 online issue of Nature Climate Change.

The inclusion of tropical tree-ring records enabled the team to generate an archive of ENSO activity of unprecedented accuracy, as attested by the close correspondence with records from equatorial Pacific corals and with an independent Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstruction that captures well-known teleconnection climate patterns.

These proxy records all indicate that ENSO was unusually active in the late 20th century compared to the past seven centuries, implying that this climate phenomenon is responding to ongoing global warming.

“In the year after a large tropical volcanic eruption, our record shows that the east-central tropical Pacific is unusually cool, followed by unusual warming one year later. Like greenhouse gases, volcanic aerosols perturb the Earth’s radiation balance. This supports the idea that the unusually high ENSO activity in the late 20th century is a footprint of global warming” explains lead author Jinbao Li.

IMAGE: Ancient trees, such as Polylepis tarapacana growing in rocky soils in the South American Altiplano, are sensitive to climate anomalies associated with large-scale climate patterns stemming from the El Niño-Southern…

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“Many climate models do not reflect the strong ENSO response to global warming that we found,” says co-author Shang-Ping Xie, meteorology professor at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa and Roger Revelle Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego. “This suggests that many models underestimate the sensitivity to radiative perturbations in greenhouse gases. Our results now provide a guide to improve the accuracy of climate models and their projections of future ENSO activity. If this trend of increasing ENSO activity continues, we expect to see more weather extremes such as floods and droughts.”

###

Citation: Li, J., S.-P. Xie, E. R. Cook, M. Morales, D. Christie, N. Johnson, F. Chen, R. D’Arrigo, A. Fowler, X. Gou, and K. Fang (2013): El Niño modulations over the past seven centuries. Nature Climate Change. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1936

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Basic Research Program of China (2012CB955600), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, FONDECYT (No.1120965), CONICYT/FONDAP/15110009, CONICET and IAI (CRN2047).

 

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milodonharlani

Note the graph neatly leaves off the Medieval Warm Period.
No surprise there.

It’s the Sun stupid.

Ken Hall

“El Nino unusually active in the late 20th century”
As was the sun, funnily enough, but lets not mention it….. Can I have more grant money please???

john robertson

Desperation is a sad and pitiful state.
These people had better start planning a career change.
This is just more drivel, “Its unprecedented and man caused it” Evidence? ” We don’t need evidence, we have feeling”.

Another exercise in proving that modern times are warmer than the Little Ice Age?
BREAKING: Water is wet!

Gary

“Our results now provide a guide to improve the accuracy of climate models and their projections of future ENSO activity.”
An admission the current models do not work???

If the dashed lines mark limits of natural variability, what unnatural event causef the cold periods outside the limit? And Why is the cool limit bigger than the warm?

Oh more nonsense that leads to the failed prediction of a super El Niño first predicted by the rabid de Hansen.
If you notice they do not include the 21 st century in the data. Coincidence? Isn’t it funny how they basically splice on normal data when it helps the cause and just conveniently leave it off where it doesn’t?

milodonharlani

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6115/67.abstract#aff-1
Science 4 January 2013:
Vol. 339 no. 6115 pp. 67-70
DOI: 10.1126/science.1228246
Report
Highly Variable El Niño–Southern Oscillation Throughout the Holocene
Kim M. Cobb1,*,
Niko Westphal2,†,
Hussein R. Sayani1,
Jordan T. Watson2,
Emanuele Di Lorenzo1,
H. Cheng3,4,
R. L. Edwards4,
Christopher D. Charles2
– Author Affiliations
1School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA.
2Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.
3Institute of Global Environmental Change, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an 710049, China.
4Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.
The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) drives large changes in global climate patterns from year to year, yet its sensitivity to continued anthropogenic greenhouse forcing is uncertain. We analyzed fossil coral reconstructions of ENSO spanning the past 7000 years from the Northern Line Islands, located in the center of action for ENSO. The corals document highly variable ENSO activity, with no evidence for a systematic trend in ENSO variance, which is contrary to some models that exhibit a response to insolation forcing over this same period. Twentieth-century ENSO variance is significantly higher than average fossil coral ENSO variance but is not unprecedented. Our results suggest that forced changes in ENSO, whether natural or anthropogenic, may be difficult to detect against a background of large internal variability.

tallbloke says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm
It’s the Sun stupid.
What a stupid claim. The Figure does not support that.

Jockdownsouth

As a layman who normally just lurks I’m really looking forward to Bob Tisdale’s take on this

MarkW

Funny how they stop the study just before the last time the Southwest experienced huge droughts.

Ryan

That 1900-1940 disagreement is large. Link is broken, but so is the one at every other article about this paper.

Mark Bofill

I hate that I suffer from this condition, but does anyone else taste bile as soon as a climate study mentions tree rings?

kramer

Ken Hall says:
As was the sun, funnily enough, but lets not mention it…..

That what I was thinking.
I wish there was a link on this page to that report…

James at 48

MWP is conveniently hidden. Maybe the trees are too young to show it. Then again, we are dealing with treemometers in any case.

Latitude

Tree-rings have been shown to be very good proxies for temperature
====
no they are not…
and let’s just bob off the 1600 and 1800 spikes so they fit inside our story line……..
tree rings will only show you their growing season….

milodonharlani

James at 48 says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:31 pm
MWP is conveniently hidden. Maybe the trees are too young to show it. Then again, we are dealing with treemometers in any case.
—————————————————–
The data are there. They just don’t like them. Same with those since AD 2000.
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/13/130422-new-zealand-tree-rings-dendrochronology-science/

Stephen Skinner

“This suggests that many models underestimate the sensitivity to radiative perturbations in greenhouse gases. Our results now provide a guide to improve the accuracy of climate models and their projections of future ENSO activity. If this trend of increasing ENSO activity continues, we expect to see more weather extremes such as floods and droughts.”
Sounds like confirmation bias with a bit of intelligence trap.
Interesting that there is no mention of any other factors that can drive flooding or droughts such as altering the way a river flows by damming, restriction, extraction, rerouting and ignoring history and building on flood plain. Equally, droughts can be exacerbated when water consumption increases or continues unabated in areas that are prone to or experience a drought. The general public will be suggestible to the idea of some external force driving flooding or droughts, especially if they adopt a consumer approach to either and where there is an unreasonable expectation you can build a house anywhere you like and there will always be running water.
According to a documentary on the Amazon there is a dry season every year in this region. However the jungle stores water which allows many species to get through this period, but sometimes only just. Clear cutting here will remove the jungles ability to store water and it shouldn’t take much imagination to know what will happen. Still, much easier to blame flooding and droughts on all those Welsh and English coal miners and all the many factory workers that used to toil across the northern hemisphere.

DirkH

Mark Bofill says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:21 pm
“I hate that I suffer from this condition, but does anyone else taste bile as soon as a climate study mentions tree rings?”
Relax. Organized crooks come and go. Maybe someday even climate science becomes a science again. It will first have to defunded.

JP

“Many climate models do not reflect the strong ENSO response to global warming that we found,” says co-author Shang-Ping Xie, meteorology professor at the International Pacific Research Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa and Roger Revelle Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego. “This suggests that many models underestimate the sensitivity to radiative perturbations in greenhouse gases.”
So greenhouse gases warm the oceans (and we thought it was the sun)? Is there anything CO2 can’t do? It’s the magical gas!

chris y

“Tree-rings have been shown to be very good proxies for temperature and rainfall measurements.”
Their own data shows this assumption is wrong. From 1910 to about 1940, the instrument readings and tree ring data strongly disagree. The amount of disagreement is comparable to the locations of the dotted lines that they arbitrarily used to define natural variability.
Also, this sentence needs correction-
“These proxy records all indicate that ENSO was unusually active in the late 20th century compared to the past seven centuries, implying that this climate phenomenon is responding to ongoing global warming.”
It should read-
“These proxy records all indicate that ENSO was unusually active in the early 20th century, which strongly disagrees with the instrument record. The entire tree ring record is plagued with unquantifiable, signal-overwhelming uncertainty, implying that tree rings should never be used to quantify historical temperature or precipitation.”

Kelvin Vaughan

I find that tree rings are very good at keeping me warm in the winter. The bigger the ring the warmer I get.

alex

Gary says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm
“Our results now provide a guide to improve the accuracy of climate models and their projections of future ENSO activity.”
An admission the current models do not work???
————-
Yes!
In the sense: it is worse than we thought!

CO2 models have been notoriously bad at linking El Nino to rising CO2.
For example in McPhaden (2011) “El Niño and its relationship to changing background conditions
in the tropical Pacific Ocean” they wrote, “This paper addresses the question of whether the
increased occurrence of central Pacific (CP) versus Eastern Pacific (EP) El Niños is consistent with greenhouse gas forced changes in the background state of the tropical Pacific as inferred from global climate change models. Our analysis uses high‐quality satellite and in situ ocean
data combined with wind data from atmospheric reanalyses for the past 31 years (1980–2010). We find changes in background conditions that are opposite to those expected from greenhouse gas forcing in climate models and opposite to what is expected if changes in the background state are mediating more frequent occurrences of CP El Niños.”

chris y

Here is an alternative conclusion-
“These proxy records all indicate that ENSO was unusually active in the early 20th century, which strongly disagrees with the instrument record. We have demonstrated that tampering with the modern instrument record has unjustifiably lowered instrument readings in the early 20th century, and that early and late 20th century climates are essentially identical.”

Trond A

Leif Svalgaard says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:17 pm
tallbloke says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm
It’s the Sun stupid.
What a stupid claim. The Figure does not support that.
The very clear falling graph for the second part of the seventeenth century fits well with the Maunder minimum. According to Svensmarks theory a less active sun will give more cosmic radiation into the earths atmosphere causing more clouds and less warming, and with that perhaps weaker Niños. A possible sun related connection?

Bill Illis

They are using the half-dead bristlecone-type trees again.
I put no stock in this study at all.

This is countered by a few other recent other paleo-reconstructions of ENSO. More on the others in a few days.

Trond A says:
July 1, 2013 at 1:04 pm
The very clear falling graph for the second part of the seventeenth century fits well with the Maunder minimum. According to Svensmarks theory a less active sun will give more cosmic radiation into the earths atmosphere causing more clouds and less warming, and with that perhaps weaker Niños. A possible sun related connection?
But the high solar activity in the middle of the 20th century does not fit well with the graph. So no solar connection.

Tree rings have some value in determining the amount of long term temperature variability within certain bounds and in segments of say 50 years, but are hopeless in picking up actual temperatures and the annual and decadal climatic changes. In other words these short term changes fall through a very coarse sieve that only captures the long term changes
http://judithcurry.com/2013/06/26/noticeable-climate-change/
In figure 4 it can be seen the short term natural temperature variability is up to 10 greater than the paleo reconstructions show.
tonyb

Otter

I’m sorry, WHEN was the last one?

lsvalgaard says:
July 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm
But the high solar activity in the middle of the 20th century does not fit well with the graph. So no solar connection.
Graph: http://www.leif.org/research/ENSO-and-SSN.png

Theo Goodwin

chris y says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:56 pm
Good work, Chris. Their own data in the chart above from 1900 to 1940 falsify their thesis. During that time, manmade CO2 could not have influenced El Nino behavior.
Also, to this date no paleoclimatologist has done empirical research to test the proxies that they use. Not one of them has ever planted a tree or managed its growth to see if it actually behaves in the ways “found” in the proxy record. They just pull old records out of anywhere and everywhere always assuming that they are good. How lazy can a scientist get?

Climate Science Protocol:
Step 1: Create your “theory” out of thin air.
Step 2: Create the plots of data that “proves” your “theory”.
Step 3: Look for source of data that matches the plots created in Step 2.
Step 4: Publish your “proof”.
Step 5: Get more money from grants to do more “research”.
Step 6: Go to Step 1.
Seems to be working quite well at Step 5.

Theo Goodwin

chris y says:
July 1, 2013 at 1:03 pm
Spot on! Hooray!
(Are Phd scientists trained not to think critically and trained not to experiment?)

Resourceguy

Which grant or promotion are we going for next?

William Astley

In support of
Milodonharlani & tallbloke’s comments
William:
It is difficult to understand how the climate ‘scientists’ can ignore nine (9) cyclic warming periods in the current interglacial period – the Holocene – and 13 additional warming periods in the glacial phase all of which were followed by cooling periods all of which correlate with solar magnetic cycle changes.
There is overwhelming evidence to support the assertion that the sun is a serial climate changer. The question is not if the sun is the cause of cyclic climate changes but rather how.
A Hollywood producer could not write a more interesting script. Sunspot groups are disappearing as sunspots turn into pores. The helpful warmists have switched to magnetic spectrum analysis as it is becoming more and more difficult to observe sunspots visually. The climate war continues in the background.
What we are waiting for is an announcement from NASA that there is a usual and unexplained change to the sun and/or observational evidence of the start of significant cooling.
Greenland ice temperature, last 11,000 years determined from ice core analysis, Richard Alley’s paper.
http://www.climate4you.com/images/GISP2%20TemperatureSince10700%20BP%20with%20CO2%20from%20EPICA%20DomeC.gif
http://www.solen.info/solar/images/comparison_recent_cycles.png
Unusual activity of the Sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11,000 years
http://cc.oulu.fi/~usoskin/personal/nature02995.pdf
A Pervasive Millennial-Scale Cycle in North Atlantic Holocene and Glacial Climates
http://www.essc.psu.edu/essc_web/seminars/spring2006/Mar1/Bond%20et%20al%202001.pdf
“The role of solar forcing upon climate change”
http://cio.eldoc.ub.rug.nl/FILES/root/1999/QuatSciRevvGeel/1999QuatSciRevvGeel.pdf

Lars P.

This is not new. New is that they stop with last century now…
Steven was making fun of them here:
https://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/1997-shock-news-el-nino-now-permanent/

Joe Public

“Ancient Trees are Sensitive to Climate Anomalies”
If so, how do they become ancient?

David, UK

Gary says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm
“Our results now provide a guide to improve the accuracy of climate models and their projections of future ENSO activity.”
An admission the current models do not work???

Oh, no Gary. It’s simply a case of “New improved Climate Models! Even better than old Climate Models, which we’re not saying were rubbish of course… they were very good too… but New Improved Climate Models are even better at making Climatologists whiter than white! (While stocks last.)”

Theo Goodwin

Underneath the graph above is written:
“The dashed lines indicate boundary for natural variability.”
The data lines cross the dashed lines. That cannot happen. Natural variability is the range of data from highest to lowest value. The dashed line for the high extent of natural variability must occur at the highest data point and the dashed line for the low extent must occur at the lowest data point. Natural Variability is the full range of what Mother Nature has shown that she can do.
Assuming that the data are correct and that manmade CO2 has a big impact on temperature, one could argue that the data points after approximately 1980 exceed natural variability.

Mac the Knife

These proxy records all indicate that ENSO was unusually active in the late 20th century compared to the past seven centuries, implying that this climate phenomenon is responding to ongoing global warming.
‘Implying’….Maybe…. maybe not. What it doesn’t tell us is whether this is unusual ENSO behavior for any given interglacial warming period. If we had similar comparisons of ENSO vs global warming for the last 5 or so interglacial warming periods, we might be able to determine if this is ‘normal’, especially for ENSO behavior near the tail end of an all-natural interglacial warming period.
Also, why the wide variance disparity between the the tree ring proxies and the instrumental record, from about 1900 – 1950???

William Astley says:
July 1, 2013 at 1:32 pm
all of which correlate with solar magnetic cycle changes.
They are ignored because they do not follow the solar cycle changes
The question is not if the sun is the cause of cyclic climate changes but rather how.
It makes no sense to ask ‘how’ when there is no good evidence for your assertion.
What we are waiting for is an announcement from NASA that there is a usual and unexplained change to the sun and/or observational evidence of the start of significant cooling.
A usual change is hardly something to expect an announcement from NASA about.
Unusual activity of the Sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11,000 years
You are still flogging that dead horse. The Sun has not been unusual during recent decades. Since you like to cite cherry-picked papers let me pick one for you to include in future comments:
“Recent 10Be values are low; however, they do not indicate unusually high recent solar activity compared to the last 600 yearshttp://www.leif.org/EOS/2009GL38004-Berggren.pdf

george e.smith

“””””…..
“Many climate models do not reflect the strong ENSO response to global warming that we found,” …..”””””
Well that’s strange. I wasn’t aware that ANY climate models respond to WHAT WE FIND; aka what the observed weather / climate facts ARE.
And I thought it was “global warming” that responded to El Nino; a la 1997/8; not the other way round.
Now “late 20th century” would be after 1950 would it not ?
So that would include 1957 / 58 aka , the IGY year which just happened to produce the all time high, of recorded history of sunspots; according to a graph in “Willie” Wei Hok Soon’s book on the Maunder minimum.
And the subsequent sunspot peaks after 1957/8 have been higher than was the case in the 50-100 years prior to 1957/8; well not counting the recent poor excuse for a sunspot peak.
Now I don’t know how any of that relates. But NO climate models have EVER reflected, the observed reality.

DaveW

Did I miss it in the comments? Can someone explain to me why the y axis is variance? So this is saying that the variance of some random variable has increased in recent years. What is the variable that they are measuring? Some statistician out there needs to comment. I know that variance can have a CI (this explains the asymmetry of the CI).

Ursus Augustus

What utterly incompetent imbecile puts mean and standard deviation lines through a data set with an obvious uptrend since 1300 ish? Just putting the lines there implies the assumption that a) the mechanism in question is constant with some oscillation and b) that a 700 year record is a viable data set for something with about a 150 year period in its immediately apparent long period oscillating component. The next question of course is “might there be a mult century oscillation in play as well? Good grief!

Ursus Augustus

correction
The next question of course is “might there be a multi century oscillation in play as well?”
Good Grief!
PS I suggest the people in Hawaii just go surfing. Science is a bit beyond them it seems.

Snowlover123

The relationship between ENSO and Solar Activity is nothing new.
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2008GL034831/abstract
From the paper:
“El Nino/La Nina episodes represent warm/cool phases of 2- to 7-yr period El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the tropical Pacific ocean-atmosphere system. Modeling studies find ENSO self-excited or driven by ambient noise. Here we find most El Nino and La Nina episodes from 1900–2005 grouped into non-commuting pairs that repeat every ∼11 yrs, aligned with rising and falling transition phases of the ∼11-yr period quasi-decadal oscillation (QDO). These alignments arise from non-linear phase locking of 3rd and 5th harmonics near 3.6- and 2.2-yr to the 1st harmonic near 11-yr period. Here we find these alignments replicated in both coupled general circulation model and conceptual model driven by 11-yr solar forcing, wherein the solar-forced 1st harmonic initiates a non-linear cascade of higher odd harmonics that are phase-locked with the same alignments as observed. These solar-forced 3rd and 5th harmonics explain ∼52% of inter-annual variance in the Nino-3 temperature index from 1900–2005.”

Snowlover123 says:
July 1, 2013 at 3:41 pm
The relationship between ENSO and Solar Activity is nothing new.
“Here we find most El Nino and La Nina episodes from 1900–2005 grouped into non-commuting pairs that repeat every ∼11 yrs, aligned with rising and falling transition phases of the ∼11-yr period quasi-decadal oscillation (QDO)”
It has not been shown that the QDO is solar related.