The 2014/15 El Niño – Part 9 – Kevin Trenberth is Looking Forward to Another “Big Jump”

Trenberth Interview ScreencapIn a recent interview, Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist, from NCAR said the upcoming 2014/15 El Niño might shift global surface temperatures upwards by 0.2 to 0.3 deg C to further the series of upward steps. Curiously, Trenberth is continuing to suggest that the warming we’ve experienced since the mid-1970s resulted from naturally occurring, sunlight-fueled El Niño events and that we might get to experience yet another of those El Niño-caused warming steps as a result of the 2014/15 El Niño. So let’s take a look at what he’s suggesting and what the future MAY POSSIBLY hold in store…if Trenberth’s dreams come true.

Peter Sinclair of ClimateCrocks recently produced two YouTube interviews with NCAR’s Kevin Trenberth about the upcoming 2014/15 El Niño. See Part 1 here. At about the 9-minute mark in Part 2 (here), Trenberth speculates, sounding gleeful, that the upcoming El Niño may lead to another in the series of upward steps in global surface temperature:

One of the real prospects to look out for is whether we go back into a different phase of this Pacific Decadal Oscillation. And one of the potential prospects we can watch out for is whether the next whole decade will be distinctly warmer…uh, uh…and so, in terms of the global mean temperature, instead of having a gradual trend going up, maybe the way to think of it is we have a series of steps, like a staircase. And, and, it’s possible, that we’re approaching one of those steps. And we will go up, you know, two- or three-tenths of a degree Celsius to a next level, and maybe we won’t come down again. I think that’s one of the things we could possibly look out for.

Some of you may believe that Kevin Trenberth is actually looking forward to another upward step…not just looking out for one. So let’s take another look at the upward steps in global surface temperatures he was happily discussing.

Kevin Trenberth introduced his “big jumps” in global surface temperatures in an article last year, without stating their cause. We discussed those big jumps and identified their causes in the post Open Letter to the Royal Meteorological Society Regarding Dr. Trenberth’s Article “Has Global Warming Stalled?”. Please refer to that post for the detailed discussion. Figure 1 is an update of Figure 10 from that post with data through 2013. NCDC global land+ocean surface temperature anomaly data were used for consistency with Trenberth’s original article (Data source here.)

Figure 1

Figure 1


Trenberth is now suggesting that global surface temperatures might shift upwards 0.2 to 0.3 deg C again in response to the 2014/15 El Niño. So for illustration purposes only, let’s take the data from the 16-year period of 1998 to 2013 and shift them up those 0.2 and 0.3 deg C and insert them in the time period of 2015 to 2030. See Figure 2. The period-average temperature anomaly of 0.57 deg C for the period of 1998-2013 would shift up to 0.77 deg C or 0.87 deg C for 2015-2030.

Figure 2

Figure 2


An upward shift in global surface temperatures would definitely help the models for a few years, but, because the global surface temperatures warmed in a step, the hiatus period that followed would again cause a continued divergence between the models and the real world. See Figure 3 for a model-“data” comparison starting in 1979 and running through 2030.

Figure 3

Figure 3

The graph includes the multi-model ensemble-member mean for the climate models stored in the CMIP5 archive, with two scenarios: RCP6.0 and RCP8.5. And the two sets of future “data” are created once again by taking the NCDC global surface temperature anomalies for the 16-year period of 1998 to 2013, shifting them up 0.2 to 0.3 deg C and inserting them in the time period of 2015 to 2030. Figure 4 includes the same model-data comparison but with the commonly used start year of 1998.

Figure 4

Figure 4


Kevin Trenberth appears to have conflicting causes for the global warming we’ve experienced since the mid-1970s. On one hand, for decades, Trenberth has been a true-blue proponent of the hypothesis of human-induced global warming, with the warming caused by the emissions of manmade greenhouse gases. On the other, for about a year, he has been promoting the “big jumps” in global surface temperatures, with the steps in the staircase of global surface temperatures being caused by El Niño events.

There would be no conflict if Trenberth was able to show that manmade greenhouse gases somehow contributed to the warm water that fuels El Niño events. But Trenberth has always noted that it is sunlight that provides the warm water for El Niños. In a recent post (see here), we presented two examples of this from his peer-reviewed papers, and for those of you new to this discussion, they’re worth repeating. The first is Trenberth et al. (2002). They write (my boldface):

The negative feedback between SST and surface fluxes can be interpreted as showing the importance of the discharge of heat during El Niño events and of the recharge of heat during La Niña events. Relatively clear skies in the central and eastern tropical Pacific allow solar radiation to enter the ocean, apparently offsetting the below normal SSTs, but the heat is carried away by Ekman drift, ocean currents, and adjustments through ocean Rossby and Kelvin waves, and the heat is stored in the western Pacific tropics. This is not simply a rearrangement of the ocean heat, but also a restoration of heat in the ocean.

The second paper is Trenberth and Fasullo (2011). They write (my boldface):

Typically prior to an El Niño, in La Niña conditions, the cold sea waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific create high atmospheric pressure and clear skies, with plentiful sunshine heating the ocean waters. The ocean currents redistribute the ocean heat which builds up in the tropical western Pacific Warm Pool until an El Niño provides relief (Trenberth et al. 2002).

And we confirmed in the post Open Letter to the Royal Meteorological Society Regarding Dr. Trenberth’s Article “Has Global Warming Stalled?” that it is sunlight that provides the warm water that serves as fuel for El Niños.


Trenberth’s statement in the YouTube interview, “And we will go up two- or three-tenths of a degree Celsius to a next level, and maybe we won’t come down again,” is similar to one made in his August 2013 interview on NPR . There he is reported to have said:

…what happens at the end of these hiatus periods, is suddenly there’s a big jump [in temperature] up to a whole new level and you never go back to that previous level again

Those are curious statements. Trenberth has never taken the time to explain that we would NOT expect the surface temperatures to go back down again. So his “never go back to that previous level again” seems to be a clear case of misdirection.

An El Niño…

  1. releases a tremendous amount of heat from the tropical Pacific to the atmosphere, and…
  2. it redistributes a tremendous amount of warm water within the oceans from the tropical Pacific to adjacent ocean basins, and…
  3. according to Trenberth and Fasullo (2011), an El Niño causes changes in atmospheric circulation that reduces the evaporation from the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and allows more sunlight to penetrate and warm those ocean basins to depth, both of which contribute to the warming of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans in response to an El Niño without the direct exchange of heat from the tropical Pacific.

Regarding 3, Trenberth and Fasulo (2011) includes:

Meanwhile, maximum warming of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans occurs about 5 months after the El Niño owing to sunny skies and lighter winds (less evaporative cooling), while the convective action is in the Pacific.

The upward steps are precisely what we would expect of ENSO if it is viewed, not as noise in the surface temperature record, but as a chaotic, sunlight-fueled, recharge-discharge oscillator.

It appears that El Niño events, combined with the heat uptake in the tropical Pacific during La Niña events, are major contributors to any radiative imbalance that may (or may not) exist.


The climate science community hasn’t bothered to properly account for the contribution of ENSO. And there’s no reason that we would expect them to do so. Any attempt by the climate science community to account for ENSO’s contribution to the warming of surface temperatures and the oceans to depth would detract from the hypothetical influence of manmade greenhouse gases.


And for additional introductory discussions of El Niño processes see:


My ebook Who Turned on the Heat? goes into a tremendous amount of detail to explain El Niño and La Niña processes and the long-term aftereffects of strong El Niño events. Who Turned on the Heat? weighs in at a whopping 550+ pages, about 110,000+ words. It contains somewhere in the neighborhood of 380 color illustrations. In pdf form, it’s about 23MB. It includes links to more than a dozen animations, which allow the reader to view ENSO processes and the interactions between variables.

I’ve lowered the price of Who Turned on the Heat? from U.S.$8.00 to U.S.$5.00. A free preview in pdf format is here. The preview includes the Table of Contents, the Introduction, the first half of section 1 (which was provided complete in the post here), a discussion of the cover, and the Closing. Take a run through the Table of Contents. It is a very-detailed and well-illustrated book—using data from the real world, not models of a virtual world. Who Turned on the Heat? is only available in pdf format…and will only be available in that format. Click here to purchase a copy. Thanks. Book sales and tips will hopefully allow me to return to blogging full-time once again.

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May 20, 2014 12:57 pm

My last Trenberth rant from Judith Curry’s site. Worth repeating in my humble opinion.
“Trenberth’s presentation is utterly disgusting, with the intellectual dishonesty squirting out from all sides. One scarcely knows where to begin. The 17 year gap in rising temperatures is nowhere portrayed in his “gotcha” chart of Temp/CO2. Guess its hockey sticks, hockey sticks, all the way down for him. The Sandy reference is contemptible exploitation of human tragedy, without an iota of evidence that warming had anything whatsoever to contribute. No mention of stable to declining Global ACE since 1970, or mention of the 1938 and 1944 East Coast Hurricanes that dwarfed Sandy in intensity.
If you want to just stick to statistics, take a look at the NOAA adjustments to the raw temperature data. Adjustments to the raw data are reportedly needed to eliminate inhomogeneity, time of observation, missing data etc. (none for UHI, however). As of July 2012, the raw data record had been adjusted for 329 consecutive months. The adjustments in each of the 329 months has been toward higher temperature. Not even one single negative outlier. What are the odds?
“The cumulative effect of all adjustments is approximately a one-half degree Fahrenheit warming in the annual time series over a 50-year period from the 1940′s until the last decade of the century.”
In addition, temperature records compiled before 1940 have been systematically adjusted colder, intensifying the differential in the temperature time series.
How is it even remotely possible to trust the longitudinal climate record when it is ‘maintained’ and subjected to regular adjustment by people like Trenberth who readily substitute a steaming pile of agitprop in place of anything resembling scientific debate, The irony of Trenberth’s two quotes is indescribable: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” “You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.” Trenberth can only measure temperature in one direction and cannot even distinguish anecdote from data. The presentation distinguishes Trenberth, now and forever, as someone who cannot be considered a responsible scientific authority.
The Warmists are now cheerleading the next super El Nino, hoping that it will pull the AGW fat out of the fire. Except that basing one’s temperature predictions on an ocean cycle discredits the fundamental premise that a minute percentage of CO2 has transformed the entire atmosphere.”

Stephen Richards
May 20, 2014 12:57 pm

Kev is hoping that all his “buried heat” will rise to the surface all at once and raise global temps by 20°c. Not worry Kev. Neither the super-niño nor the magic heat will save you and next years winbter will be even more difficult to explain than last. There will be some really imaginative reasons/excuses coming at the end of this year.

Stephen Richards
May 20, 2014 1:02 pm

Bob, good work as usual. It’s almost boring how good your work is 🙂 (that takes some thinking about). In your figure 1, after the ninos we see the plateaux. Am i being silly in expecting some decay of the emerging heat during those plateau periods ? Ie a very small decrease in global temps of the period of the plateau.

May 20, 2014 1:14 pm

Were there no El Ninos prior to 1976?

May 20, 2014 1:15 pm

You need a Nobel Prize or something. You continually debunk the so called experts.

May 20, 2014 1:17 pm

I have a problem with the hypothesis that the missing heat has all been absorbed by the oceans during the 17 year hiatus which is now due to surface as a super El Niño. In the meantime all that heat would have expanded the oceans leading to an acceleration in sea levels which has not been observed.
Curiouser and curiouser !

Alec aka Daffy Duck
May 20, 2014 1:19 pm

NYT with bits from Trenberth:
How El Niño Might Alter the Political Climate”
May 20, 2014
My title for the NYT story:
“New York Times holds major pep-rally for potential El Niño…Come cheer and root for more global warming!!!!”

May 20, 2014 1:36 pm

For the CAGW hypesters, this incipient El Niño will temporarily change some of the anomaly data in their favor — JUST IN TIME. They will make use of every fact in their political favor and bury every mitigating fact.
Remember the “500 Days” to save the world comment by Kerry and Fabius. 500 days brings us to Sept 26, 2015, a time period scheduled for establishing post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be adopted by a Rio+20(+n) climate conference at the end of 2015.
The UN SDG proponents will latch onto any El Niño, and like Trenberth, claim it is a permanent uptick in warming, if not the end of the pause and return of the hockey stick. Even if the next decade is a repeat of 1998-2008 and a continuation of the pause, the SDG conference will be taking place just after the peak of the El Niño spike (they hope!) and before the expected trough of the system response.
See also
UN to hold development summit in 2015

Adam from Kansas
May 20, 2014 1:38 pm

We keep hearing how El Nino events cause upward steps in temperature, but what’s often been missing from this site is an explanation of what causes them to take a step down.
So we know about upward steps and what causes them, but what about the downward ones?

May 20, 2014 1:46 pm

“if Kevin’s dream comes true…
The undisguised yearning for some heat-pocalypse in order to spare themselves
personal embarrassment, is beyond shameful.

May 20, 2014 1:46 pm

“the heat is stored”
I’m a physicist. I’m horrified every time I see this. How come they are allowed to use such misnomers? How come they can get away with such giberrish talking?
Heat is simply energy transport. With emphasis on transport. One cannot store transport. Heat is not a state function of a system. How come that physicists everywhere are not correcting this pseudo scientific language?
The ‘science’ is full of such misnomers. As other pseudo sciences.

May 20, 2014 1:56 pm

Why are we so sure this El Nino is going to result in an upward step? The current forecast is for it to have a max 3.4 anomaly of 1.5C. 2010’s was higher at 2C, and it didn’t result in a step.

May 20, 2014 1:58 pm

I got so disgusted with the IPCC’s phoney physics, I penned an engineer’s view of their pseudoscience. It uses the concept of Forcing’, net energy transfer to the surface by solar SW and atmospheric LW. This is not wrong but standard physics assesses it as the difference of ‘Irradiances’ from ‘Stefan-Boltzmann’ equations. The IPCC does it differently.
The Sun is 5,500 deg.K, the Earth’s surface much cooler. Net SW surface heating = Sigma(F1.T_sun^4 – F2.T_surface^4). Sigma is the S-B constant, F1 and F2 are parameters dependent on clouds etc., Ts are temperatures. It is +160 W/m^2 (mean). This goes to the atmosphere as 97 W/m^2 convection/evapo-transpiration plus 63 W/m^2 real net IR emission, of which 40 W/m^2 goes to Space.
Similarly, net LW surface heating is minus net LW flux to the atmosphere = Sigma(F3.T_atmosphere^4 – F4.T_surface^4). Numerically: -63W/m^2=333 W/m^2 – 396 W/m^2. Conservation of energy means: 160 W/m^2 (SW heating) -97 W/m^2 (convection) -63 W/m^2 (LW cooling) = 0 W/m^2. Near zero net surface IR in ‘self-absorbed’ GHG bands means no GHG-absorption of this energy, radiative physics 101.
However, our Climate Alchemists assume 396 W/m^2 net surface LW flux, the ‘black body’ Irradiance for 16 deg C, when that’s the potential energy flux to a sink at Absolute Zero: only 63 W/m^2 is real. They make up the difference by assuming 333 W/m^2 atmospheric Irradiance measured by ‘pyrgeometer’ (‘back radiation’) provides extra surface heat when standard physics shows for a normal temperature gradient, it cannot transfer any energy to the surface. The failure to understand what their main instrument outputs is a serious scientific mistake.
Adding 97 W/m^2 convection makes 493 W/m^2, 3x real heating rate, never proved experimentally. As it’s far too high they offset 238.5 W/m^2 by falsely applying ‘Kirchhoff’s Law of Radiation’ to the semi-transparent emitter at ToA. The residual c. 60% more heating than reality is, with 3x real GHE, used to purport imaginary ‘positive feedback’. They then use c. 25% extra low level cloud albedo in hindcasting to pretend the extra energy doesn’t heat the atmosphere above reality.
IPCC ‘science’ is nothing less than fraud, cynical manipulation of data to purport much more heating than reality. The GHG-absorbed component is exaggerated 5.1x. The Tyndall experiment does not prove it thermalises in the gas phase. This scam deceived all but real heat transfer experts.

May 20, 2014 2:02 pm

The US regime does adjust for UHIs, but remarkably its adjustments make the islands even hotter, not cooler.
The real man-made global warming is from such shameless, unwarranted adjustments, not from CO2.

May 20, 2014 2:11 pm

It is just as likely this will be a weak El-Nino which will trigger a stronger La-Nina and global temperatures will drop next year as well as the PDO index.

May 20, 2014 2:13 pm

Chris4692 says: “Were there no El Ninos prior to 1976?”
An attempt to reconstruct ENSO variations during the MWP & LIA from some proxy data, published 2013:
El Niño-Southern Oscillation variability during the Little Ice Age and medieval climate anomaly reconstructed from fossil coral geochemistry and pseudoproxy analysis
Author: Hereid, Kelly Ann
Abstract: The El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) dominates global interannual climate variability. However, the imprint of anthropogenic climate change hinders understanding of natural ENSO variability. Model predictions of the response of future ENSO variability to anthropogenic forcing are highly uncertain. A better understanding of how ENSO operates during different mean climate states may improve predictions of its future behavior. This study develops a technique to quantify the response of tropical Pacific sea surface temperature and salinity to ENSO variations. This analysis defines expected regional relationships between ENSO forcing and the tropical Pacific climate response. For example, the western tropical Pacific records El Niño events with greater skill than La Niña events; whereas the oceans near the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) preferentially record La Niña events. This baseline understanding of regional skill calibrates interpretations of both modern and pre-instrumental coral geochemical climate proxy records. A suite of monthly resolved 18O variations in a fossil corals (Porites spp.) from the tropical western Pacific (Papua New Guinea) and the SPCZ (Vanuatu) are used to develop case studies of ENSO variability under external forcing conditions that differ from the modern climate. A record from Misima, Papua New Guinea (1411-1644 CE) spans a period of reduced solar forcing that coincides with the initiation of the Little Ice Age. This record indicates that the surface ocean in this region experienced a small change in hydrologic balance with no change in temperature, extended periods of quiescence in El Niño activity, reduced mean El Niño event amplitudes, and fewer large amplitude El Niño events relative to signals captured in regional modern records. Several multidecadal (~30-50 year) coral records from Tasmaloum, Vanuatu during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (~900-1300 CE), a period of increased solar forcing, depict ENSO variability that is generally lower than modern times. However, these records often cannot be distinguished from 20th century ENSO variability due to ENSO variability uncertainty associated with record lengths. Neither record can be tied to concurrent changes in solar or volcanic forcing, calling into question the paradigm of ENSO variability being predominantly mediated by external forcing changes on multidecadal time scales.

May 20, 2014 2:14 pm

Update on ENSO: for the second month I have seen a “double take” on the published equatorial anomaly transect down to 450 meters:
This morning I looked at it and it showed that the Kelvin wave was almost gone – the inclined warm tongue had declined dramatically. But now, a few hours later – it’s back again to how it was before, with the warm tongue with unchanged intensity. Exactly the same thing happened last month – for a few minutes, a 450 m transect showed a sharply reduced Kelvin wave warm tongue, then it was replaced with a “business as usual” Kelvin wave. Has anyone else noticed this?
Is some activist manager at NOAA doctoring the 450m transects to hide a horrifyingly disappointing fizzle of the great 2014 el Nino? Or is there an innocent technical explanation? I smell a rat.
TAO / Triton 5 is showing a fairly wimpish Kelvin wave. (That’s the buoy array if I remember correctly which is being allowed to decay.)
More generally on ENSO, the trade winds show no sign of weakening. Maybe they are being sustained by the small but persistent patches of cold SST north and south of the east Pacific equator. Nor any obvious sign of westerly wind bursts, that would signify evolution toward el Nino.
But I guess these will happen any day, right?
Still waiting for el Ninot… (nothing to be done)

May 20, 2014 2:16 pm

Somebody says:
May 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm
“the heat is stored”
I’m a physicist. I’m horrified every time I see this. How come they are allowed to use such misnomers? How come they can get away with such giberrish talking?
Heat is simply energy transport. With emphasis on transport. One cannot store transport. Heat is not a state function of a system. How come that physicists everywhere are not correcting this pseudo scientific language?
The ‘science’ is full of such misnomers. As other pseudo sciences.

Okay …
I put hot coffee in my Thermos and heat does not flow rapidly away from it and I am able to consume it later and find it to be delightfully ‘hot’.
It feels to me as if I have ‘stored’ some heat. If that’s not really what happened then what terminology would you use to describe the fact that the temperature of my coffee has been maintained at an elevated level?

Andy DC
May 20, 2014 2:16 pm

There is a lot of grant money at stake out there. Even if there is no jump, there is a vested interest in inventing one.

May 20, 2014 2:24 pm

El Nino’s are cooling events where heat trapped in the ocean is released into the atmosphere which cause’s the atmospheric temperature to rise for a short period. In my view there will be 2 types of El Nino, the one in a warming world whereby the heat lost from the ocean is quickly restored and then starts to increase again resulting in increasing world temperature. Then theres the one in the cooling world where the heat released isn’t replaced resulting in a short term increase in atmospheric temperature followed by a long term cooling. If like some people have suggested on here that a cooling phase has begun I would expect the pacific to start cooling in this way.

James at 48
May 20, 2014 2:29 pm

I would love such an outcome but the PDO, AMO and weak solar flux (relative to where we are in the cycle) say it’s just a pipe dream. I would be happy for any sort of “normal” El Nino so I can keep my plant life alive.

May 20, 2014 2:41 pm

“It feels to me as if I have ‘stored’ some heat.”
It’s not as you ‘feel’ it. It’s as it is. Open a physics book and learn what heat means.

May 20, 2014 2:41 pm

I have a problem discussing someone’s ‘science” ….. based on some temperature graph that the past has been adjusted down over 1/2 a degree

May 20, 2014 2:45 pm

I have a problem discussing someone’s ‘science” ….
Not you Bob!…..Trenberth

Tom O
May 20, 2014 2:54 pm

I think the comment about heat not being stored is a misunderstanding of terms. I think what he probably should have been saying is energy is stored, not heat, and as far as the thermos is concerned, as soon as you take that top off, the “heat” moves out of the bottle – of course it already always is, just faster now. I wasn’t aware that “heat” was transport, but I understand that some terms in popular use are not the same in the use within a scientific discipline – assuming, of course, there is a discipline to start with, which “climate guessing” doesn’t seem to have.

May 20, 2014 2:55 pm

Somebody says:
May 20, 2014 at 1:46 pm
“the heat is stored”
You physicists drive me nuts. This fixation with referring to heat as an energy transfer ignores hundreds of years of work. The energy transfer is “heating”, not “heat”. That type of energy, the change in which is measured by a change in temperature, has been called “heat” for a very long time. It is you physicists who have muddied the waters by deciding that heat should no longer refer to energy, as it had been for centuries and should now refer to energy transfer. If something is “hot”, it is hot because of the energy it has as a state property, not because it is transferring energy. There is a reason the symbol for enthalpy is H you know. Maxwell understood this. Plank understood this. Why is it that physicists today can’t accept this? Things like heat of formation, heat of vapourization, heat content, etc., refer to energy, not energy transfer.
Bejan, Adrian; Kraus, Allan D. Heat Transfer Handbook. John Wiley & Sons., 2003
for instance uses the term “heat” for energy, NOT energy transfer.

M Seward
May 20, 2014 2:59 pm

The predicted El Nino induced jump in global temperatures has been found to be unnecessary due to an increase in upward adjustments of the temperature record by climate scientists investigating the lack of warming over most of the past two decades. This redundancy in available scientific explanations means that the anticipated El Nino induced jump will be deferred until further notice.
(Or is that the other way round? I can never remember.)

Joseph Bastardi
May 20, 2014 3:00 pm

Wishful thinking. With AMO cooling what is likely to happen is that after a weak to moderate el nino and spike, global temps will continue jagged fall as cold PDO resumes. Period very much like the 57-58 warm enso. I have been posting on weatherbell showing major physical differences including the fact, which Dr Trenberth ignores, that the SOI is not nearly as low as the super Nino years due to warm water surrounded Australia influencing the pressure that and preventing coupling. In addition there is much more extensive cold water surrounding the warming areas. Joe D Aleo’s studies on the cold pdo enso events, where you do get the 9 month spike of the pdo and mei, look to spot on. Expect an enso event similar to 02 and 09 ( again the weatherbell post today showed how close the SST was running vs the warm pdo events that trenberth treaures, he should look at the MEI site because it is the secret sauce
The super ninos are preceded by prolonged warm mei’s There is direct linkage also with the droughts in the US and wet periods and the following winter. Have the snow shovels ready and since the EPA is going to force more coal plants off line, be prepared to find other ways to heat your homes if the power is out

Joseph Bastardi
May 20, 2014 3:06 pm

BTW I wonder if this is purposeful distraction from what is a mind boggling forecast of the CFSV2 for a positive arctic ice anomaly. huge given the cooling north atlantic, and the forecast for major mud in your eye rains the next 9 months in the great plains perma drought area. Its amazing, and perhaps this is the one they can strut their stuff on about being right, but every single point they make now is running opposite. Wildfires are below normal through may 19th in spite of the push there… the tornado season has tanked again. I think the two biggest climate/weather stories are the icemelt not being near what is has been and the coming 9 months of wet weather. The cfsv2 is in line with what Joe D and I have been thinking. The JAMSTEC is no where any super nino and in fact is looking like a classic Modiki ( renamed calamari by Joe and I, cause we are gumba’s and we like calamari) of course perhaps we are wrong and will provolone in our upon, but cheese what can you do.. all of this makes me squiddish
Sometimes you gotta lighten up

May 20, 2014 3:10 pm

Bob, my understanding may not be complete but El Nino’s clearly result in a net cooling of the Pacific which I would classify as a cooling event. This is shown by sea level drops coinciding with El Nino events despite the corresponding increases in global surface temperatures.

Joseph Bastardi
May 20, 2014 3:15 pm

WOW the UKMET is not impressed ( and by the way, most climate models have this more weak to moderate)

May 20, 2014 3:17 pm

Joseph Bastardi says:
May 20, 2014 at 3:06 pm
OK. El Nino spiked in 1998. La Nada’s and very weak El Nino’s since then, right?
Consider this, then think about it please:
Texas and Oklahoma suffered severely with drought conditions during the La Nada that was more-or-less stable five of the past six years. California is now suffering under a singnificant drought as El Nino conditions trend higher the past four months, but Texas and OK are “sort of” getting more rain now.
Is there a long-term, more accurate co-relation between actual El Nino and La Nina conditions with respect to droughts in various places: specifically California, Texas, and the mid-state plains?

May 20, 2014 3:23 pm

@Joe Bastardi,
Thanks, Joe. Greatly appreciate you bringing your superb forecasting skills (and Joe D’s) to the discussion. Not sure if all readers know who you are. For those who don’t, Joe’s widely recognized as one of the best long term forecasters out there.

May 20, 2014 3:27 pm

Who needs an strong El Nino when we can create the step through another NEW IMPORVED algorithm version from GISStemp or HADcrut

May 20, 2014 3:34 pm

“That type of energy, the change in which is measured by a change in temperature, has been called “heat” for a very long time” Are you talking about that long time while it was thought that heat is some kind of fluid? That now is pseudo science. You confuse thermal energy with heat, and that’s not good. Energy flow and energy is not the same thing.

Theo Goodwin
May 20, 2014 3:40 pm

Mr, Tisdale, you are truly the master of all matters ENSO. Your critical ability has flourished. I suggest we name the dilemma that your revealed “Trenberth’s Dilemma.”

May 20, 2014 3:44 pm

” heat of vapourization, heat content, etc., refer to energy, not energy transfer”.
I hope you do realize that ‘heat content’ is not ‘heat’, but ‘heat content’ (although such naming is to be avoided when it creates confusion). Also ‘latent heat’ is not ‘heat’, but ‘latent heat’. Indeed, that can turn out to be heat at a phase transform (but one does not necessarily need that, in the system might occur a chemical reaction that gives the necessary energy for the phase transform, for example). Whence the naming related to ‘heat’, but not identical. With different meaning. Can you ‘feel’ the difference?

May 20, 2014 3:50 pm

Joseph Bastardi says: The super ninos are preceded by prolonged warm mei’s
The last three steps that Bob denotes in figure 1 all occurred at the trough of the solar (SNN) cycle. Just saying.

Bill Illis
May 20, 2014 3:51 pm

RACookPE1978 says:
May 20, 2014 at 3:17 pm
Regressions for an El Nino versus temperature and precipitation around the world at the link below. Various 3 month time periods are shown (keeping in mind there is a 3 month lag after an El Nino peaks that the peak impact on temperature and precipitation will be felt).
Temperature-wise; Texas-Oklahoma-US southeast are oppositely correlated to the ENSO, ie cooler in an El Nino. California is not much affected temperature-wise.
Precipitation-wise; California-Texas-US south are very positively correlated with the ENSO; ie much more rain when there is an El Nino. Much less rain when there is a La Nina. Why has there been so much drought in California to Florida in the last several years? Given the domination of La Ninas since 2010, this is expected. California is going to get flooding rains lagged 3 months after this El Nino’s timeline develops (fall and later) and so will Texas.

May 20, 2014 3:51 pm

Have I got this right? An El Nino raises global temperature by 0.2-0.3 deg, and the temperature doesn’t come down again. So, the El Ninos in 1976, 1987 and 1998 would have raised global temperature by 0.2 to 0.3 deg three times, and the temperature would stay up each time. The IPCC claims that the 20th- century global temperature rise was about 0.74 deg. Looks like it was all caused by El Ninos, not CO2.
John Eggart – I understand your frustration, but English is a very flexible language. “Heat” is both a noun and a verb ( and the modern tendency is for all nouns to be usable as verbs)

May 20, 2014 3:55 pm
During the recent warming it is clear that the both max and min excursions were greater. Looks like you oscillator was pumping a bit harder.

May 20, 2014 4:10 pm

“John Eggart – I understand your frustration, but English is a very flexible language. “Heat” is both a noun and a verb ( and the modern tendency is for all nouns to be usable as verbs)”
Physics is not English, though. It was allowable to use sloppy terminology until heat was defined rigorously.
One can use ‘trapping heat’ and ‘storing heat’ pseudo scientific terminology until he learns that mechanical work also exists. Oddly enough, it can act on a system… what would a pseudo scientist say? Is it ‘trapped work’ then? How does one differentiate between ‘trapped work’ and ‘trapped heat’?

Nick Stokes
May 20, 2014 4:10 pm

Joseph Bastardi says: May 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm
“WOW the UKMET is not impressed”

The linked page says it was last updated Jan 20.

May 20, 2014 4:33 pm

Nick Stokes – The page does contain information on “May 2014 Niño3.4”. Some updating is presumably automated, while ‘last updated’ refers to manual updates.

Robert of Ottawa
May 20, 2014 4:39 pm

So Trenbeth reckons now that the increase in global warming of the past X years is due to the natural event of El Nino? Is he Idiota? Or does he think we are?

May 20, 2014 4:42 pm

I agree with J. BASTARD’s comments . The so called super El Nino or really just strong EL Ninos typically happen only about one per decade. I do not see a strong El Nino until the end of this decade.Our Northern Hemisphere oceans have been cooling the last 10 years and the globe is not warming like during the decade before 1997/1998. Personally I see a weak El Nino only.

more soylent green!
May 20, 2014 4:44 pm

Clive best says:
May 20, 2014 at 1:17 pm
I have a problem with the hypothesis that the missing heat has all been absorbed by the oceans during the 17 year hiatus which is now due to surface as a super El Niño. In the meantime all that heat would have expanded the oceans leading to an acceleration in sea levels which has not been observed.
Curiouser and curiouser !

Since the missing warning is obviously at the deep ocean depths, the missing ocean expansion is obviously at the bottom. Duh!

May 20, 2014 5:01 pm

One can believe that ENSO is causing GWing and be unhappy because there really is no mechanism (it’s the sun, it’s the sun! not.) or one can believe that GWing caused by the increase in CO2 (a mechanism) is causing more intense El Niño conditions and less intense La Niña conditions, at least on the average.
I’m going with the mechanism … it’s simpler.

Gary Pearse
May 20, 2014 5:21 pm

“There would be no conflict if Trenberth was able to show that manmade greenhouse gases somehow contributed to the warm water that fuels El Niño events.”
Wait for it. Kelvin Trendsmith has M. Mann leading the way showing how to mannipulate the AMO peak to the early 1990s to show that global warming was actually worse but was moderated by the AMO. These guys are going to take the Shaman’s CO2 formula as given and adjust everything else to suit. I’m predicting that Trendsmith will wrought the ENSO data into a CO2 thermageddon.

May 20, 2014 5:34 pm

I have to disagree. AN upward shift would not help the climate models. They do not account for El Ninos nor are they stair stepped. The comparison would be akin to a dart thrower scoring one 20 and proclaiming his accuracy when the other 8 hit other targets.

May 20, 2014 5:43 pm

At the NOAA El Nino page, they display this chart. It shows the Great Lakes with a dark red color code for temps above normal. I wonder how that is possible with ice still in places at this date.
Does anyone have a guess why the anomaly would be red for a place with historic ice levels or is this the new norm?

R. Shearer
May 20, 2014 5:56 pm

So first, you put the Pacific in a giant microwave oven, then you pour it into a thermos, and lastly, after 17 years or so, you pour the thermos back into the Pacific basin.

michael hart
May 20, 2014 6:17 pm

I must be missing something when I Look at the satellite temperature data for the 1998 “super El Nino”:
Like the Grand-Old-Duke-of-York, it marched the temperatures up to the top of the hill.
And then it jolly well marched them back down again.
The so called “upward step” didn’t occur until about 2001. What gives?

May 20, 2014 6:31 pm

That image of Dr. Trenberth makes me think he is like a detective, searching out the heat he knows is there, no matter how many grants, no matter how many conferences, no matter how many ‘consulting fees’ it takes. In fact he reminds me another famous detective from history:

michael hart
May 20, 2014 6:43 pm

philjourdan says:
May 20, 2014 at 5:34 pm
I have to disagree. AN upward shift would not help the climate models. They do not account for El Ninos nor are they stair stepped. The comparison would be akin to a dart thrower scoring one 20 and proclaiming his accuracy when the other 8 hit other targets.

If one model out of nine was a good match with reality, boy would they would throw a party at the IPCC.

Steve from Rockwood
May 20, 2014 7:09 pm

If the El Nino fails to raise temperatures by 0.2-0.3 degrees “to a next level” does this make Trenberth wrong? It seems to me as though the distinguished senior climate scientist is never wrong, even when his predictions fail to come true. I could use some of that.

May 20, 2014 7:29 pm

Heat has been rigorously defined since the days of Maxwell, possibly earlier. It is only pedantic physicists who cannot accept this. Engineers, i.e. people who build things that work and get sued if they break, have always defined heat as energy. Not the transfer of energy. You physicists look at the various equations for q, which in SI has units of watts and think we are talking about heat. We are talking about heat transfer of joules per second. The joules are the heat. The joules per second are the heat transfer. When an engineer talks about q, she is talking about Watts or other unit for power. I have a number of advanced (third year engineering or higher) texts on this. They date from the 1940’s (my father’s) to the 2000’s. They all speak of heat as energy and heat transfer as power. When you raise these objections you show that you have ZERO experience in real world applications of heat, such as combustion engineering, metallurgy, engine design, etc., etc. You have been sold a bill of goods by someone who doesn’t like engineers and now you are trying to pedal the same pile o’ poo. Max Planck was the last true physicist who added to the study of thermodynamics. It is truly a settled science. That is, it is engineering. Leave the definitions to those of us who use them please. I’m not going to comment further on this. This thread has been hijacked enough.

Pamela Gray
May 20, 2014 8:28 pm

Bob, here is my suggested title for you next book: “Who Turned Off the Sun: The Little Ice Age Revisited”. What goes up must come down if the recharge phase is blocked.

Doug Proctor
May 20, 2014 8:52 pm

An upcoming Negative Trenberth Event (Negative TE): an observation critical tothe CAGW narrative that Trenberth makes that doesn’t happen. The result of a negative TE is that Trenberth will say the observations are wrong, in this case that a 0.2 to 0.3C rise is correct IF all the global data is used, as per Hansen’s modified data.
A negative TE is not important for the error it reveals, but the predictable reaction it creates, i.e. to defend at all costs the “consensus” narrative.
(A Positive TE, by the way, is an observation that shouldn’t be within the Trenberth/IPCC storyline, but is. The error is again not as important as the instant reaction that the observation, not the model, is in error.)

May 20, 2014 9:14 pm

Trenberth is just an ordinary run-of-th-mill pervert lurking within AGU, NSF and NCAR.
Ouch ! Did I write ThaT ! Deary Me . Ho Ho HO.

May 20, 2014 9:17 pm

I think this el nino will be the undoing of Kevin Trenberth. Call it a hunch.

May 20, 2014 9:21 pm

Per: ““Heat” is both a noun and a verb ( and the modern tendency is for all nouns to be usable as verbs)”
Don’t you mean: “In English any noun can be verbed.” 😉

May 20, 2014 10:24 pm

Has anyone taken the time to realize that this enso event, so far, is more than one month behind the 97 event and is comparably less powerful already (during the same stage)? I think the warmistas are hoping this turns into a “thing” because it’ll help sell their political agenda (Obama’s draconian executive orders; next years UN agreement).
It’s a hope and a prayer. These types of things usually turn out very badly for those doing the praying. It’s already becoming obvious that this won’t come near 1997 and will likely be a weak to moderate el nino. If Joe is right about the ice returning to a normal extent this summer, this could be an ugly fall for the warmistas going into such a make or break 2015.
It’s funny how these people set themselves up for failure by making such ridiculous predictions in the first place though.

Paul Vaughan
May 20, 2014 10:34 pm

I agree with Joe that MEI’s the “secret sauce”. Reviewing Bob‘s MEI exploration I realized it may be possible to improve on MEI by devoting careful attention to the ratio of low-to-high-frequency variation in each of the time series used to construct MEI.

May 20, 2014 11:25 pm

“Engineers, i.e. people who build things that work and get sued if they break, have always defined heat as energy.”
I’m also an engineer. What you say it’s not true. At least not in this country. I do recall quite clearly that is was a way to fail an exam: to claim that heat can be stored.
It is also not true that heat was defined rigorously when you say it was. I would suggest you to get a little bit more info about that.
I would also suggest you to really find out what power is.
And apparently you did not see one of my messages: Then how do you differentiate between ‘stored heat’ and ‘stored work’? You do realize that work can be done on the system?

May 21, 2014 12:06 am

Bob Tisdale says:
Greg says: “During the recent warming it is clear that the both max and min excursions were greater. Looks like you oscillator was pumping a bit harder.”
And global surface temperatures responded accordingly; that is, they rose.
Well by definition temperature will rise during “recent warming”. You seem to have missed the point I have made previously, that was demonstrated nicely in your graph: the ENSO variations are a mechanism for capturing solar energy and transmitting it to the rest of the climate system, including atmosphere (as you have been saying for a long time) , so it needs to be seen in terms of throughput. More throughput induces warming.
It is not so much a case of predominantly Nino or predominantly Nina but the amplitude of swings in both directions.
Looking at your graph again, The post WWII period was notable small amplitude swings (even the war-time bump is questionable). Then the envelop gets steadily wider until 1998. Post-2000 it has dropped off notably. In fact, we could draw a very smooth envelop both sides of the data and it peaks in about 1992.
As your caption notes, there is no long term trend. It is the amplitude envelop that seems to be the important factor. By the end of this year we should see whether this envelop continues to shrink.
Apparently amplitude is currently sufficient to maintain no change. If it gets smaller we could move into global cooling. To quote our Kev: : “I think that’s one of the things we could possibly look out for.”.
I again draw your attention to the steps you have indicated in fig ! and recent sunspot minima.
It seems upward steps have occurred almost exactly at min SSN. Coincidence, or not?

May 21, 2014 12:23 am

Eggart: Claes Johnson and I have tried to add to what Planck created, the missing bit which would bring the physicists into the same fold as the engineers. Johnson developed a mathematical concept that is not easily intelligible. My own explanation is simpler, based on Poynting Vectors.
Two opposing, in-phase plane waves of the same amplitude each have the same but opposing PVs. The net wave is a standing wave with zero PV, in other words the PVs annihilate vectorally. Do the same calculation for waves with different amplitude and you get a standing wave at the amplitude of the cooler emitter, and an imposed travelling wave with the difference of amplitudes, showing the net PV is their vector sum, delta |PV|.
Do this over all wavelengths and add thermal incoherency and you get the same, but on average. Thus two Irradiances, the integral of all the PVs over all wavelengths, add vectorally. Hence for equal temperature and emissivity sources, there is zero net IR amplitude.
The atmosphere appears at an interface with condensed matter to emit GHG IR from ‘self-absorbed’ molecules at the black body level; it’s easy to show why. Because the Earth’s surface is a near black body emitter, at the surface there is no net PV, no net IR energy flux in self-absorbed wavelength ranges. For temperate regions, the emissivities are 1 and 0.6, meaning net energy flux surface to atmosphere is 396 [W/m^2] x 0.4 = 158.4 W/m^2, very near the observed 160 W/m^2.
We engineers call the 0.4 net emissivity the ‘operational emissivity’, and can use it in empirical calculations. However, in the atmosphere, vibrationally activated sites at the surface can also transfer energy to adsorbed molecules or liquid water. Hence we have the split [2009 data] to 17 W/m^2 convection and 80 W/m^2 latent heat by evaporation. The residual 63 W/m^2 net IR is about 40% of the maximum possible net IR emission, meaning the operational emissivity of the Earth’s surface to its atmosphere is about 0.16 (average).
The Earth’s surface then adapts to give the correct mix of convection and IR. The difference of its temperature and the zero GHG temperature for 341 W/m^2 incident SW is the GHE. Equilibrium radiative temperature for no clouds or ice would be 4 to 5 deg C, so present GHE is c. 11 K. Hansen et al in 1981 made a big mistake in claiming it is 33 K (there is no single -18 deg c emission zone in the upper atmosphere).
Clouds control the Earth’s GHE with the difference between now and the Last Glacial Maximum, about 9 K, being from biofeedback reducing cloud albedo. There is virtually zero effect of CO2. Our surface temperature is where we evolved. Neanderthal man who had the same genes with some switched on, had larger eyes, more optical processing, less other brain processing capacity, a cold and dark adaptation. As cloud droplets coarsened much more rapidly, the World was darker in the icy regions.
Climate Alchemists think operational emissivity is 1.0, add the convection and evaporation, then scream ‘denier’ at anyone who dares tell them they’ve got the bloody concept wrong. Then they embark on a series of bad physics’ decisions to pare away excess energy to fit past data. The models run hot, ‘positive feedback’ is imaginary. The worst part is to claim the atmosphere is a grey body so you can apply Kirchhoff’s Law of Radiation at ToA to offset 238.5 W/m^2.
I once argued with the Met. Office people about this; it comes to a guy at a local University who got it wrong; they put out a false justification. However, these people are not going to relinquish their careers because they have been taught wrongly since Carl Sagan made the initial mistakes. That’s 50 years or so!
This heat transfer cockup is probably our era’s equivalent of Phlogiston with Houghton reprising the role of religious fanatic Joseph Priestley. Houghton’s treatise accepts the Earth’s atmosphere has no IR source at ToA but he believed the atmosphere is a grey body. To do the job properly, you have to apply irreversible engineering thermodynamics at ToA. Brookhaven is doing this but it uses a grey body approximation, which is damned wrong. We engineers work with reality, the engineering thermodynamics of Gaia……..:o)

May 21, 2014 1:18 am

Heat is simply a form of energy, not the transport of energy.
I see that once again the thread has been distracted on a semantics issue by somebody calling himself a physicist. He isn’t.
Heat can be transported. For example, all electromagnetic radiation transports energy from its source until it is absorbed at its destination.
Heat can of course be stored. It can be stored in the form of heat, as in a thermos flask (as CommieBob said) or a storage heater.
Bottom Line: Heat is a form of energy.

May 21, 2014 1:57 am

michael hart has hit the nail on the head. All heat spikes in the temperature record lose their gains as fast as they are made. We only need to look at any temperature chart to see this.
Trenberth has come out with a central assumption to a bunch of theories. He is obviously a very bad scientist.
Empirical proof to what we have all seen before:-
The extra CO2 that will be released is obvious but give it 18 months and this variance will have decayed in to line up with temperatures. Top line is CO2 variance to compare with temperature fluctuations:-

May 21, 2014 2:13 am

@Andyj: Trenberth was trained in Meteorology. It teaches false ‘back radiation’ physics based on mistaking Irradiance for real IR energy flux. As Planck said; “Science proceeds funeral by funeral”.
Lindzen also believes in the ‘Extended GHE’ based on the Meteorologists’ mistake. It’s been 50 years of going up a blind alley we grizzled old engineers never did because we had to get the sums right.
However, modern engineers and physicists are X-box technicians. The real knowledge is in the programmes; the operators can’t work from first principles and direct experiment, the basis of my powerful, by comparison, intellect.

May 21, 2014 2:14 am

“Heat is simply a form of energy, not the transport of energy.”
You should really look a little bit into a book of thermodynamics and/or statistical physics instead of making a fool out of yourself. But tell more about that, and how you also store mechanical work.
And about how you just invented a perpetuum mobile.

May 21, 2014 2:23 am

A good start for those that do not know what heat is: The caloric theory is long gone. Really.

May 21, 2014 2:38 am

Heat and work are interchangeable, albeit with thermodynamic limitations controlled by the Laws of Thermodynamics and entropy. This is the basis of engineering thermodynamics.
The Perpetual Motion Machine of the 2nd Kind in the IPCC Climate models comes from mistaking Irradiance, the potential energy flux in the electromagnetic continuum of an emitter to the zero point energy field of Absolute Zero, for a real energy flux or rate of thermodynamic work.
The most amazing aspect of Atmospheric Physics is Goody who wrote with Yung a definitive text on Atmospheric Physics which has in it the Law of Conservation of Energy between matter and the electromagnetic continuum: qdot = -DIV Fv. qdot is the monochromatic heat generation rate per unit volume of matter and Fv is the radiation flux density per unit volume. This shows heating rate = – gradient of radiative flux. At a plane surface, qdot = – delta |opposing Poynting Vectors|. For all wavelengths, gdot = – delta|opposing Irradiance Vectors|.
Yet Goody apparently accepted the 33 K GHE idea and the PPM 2nd Kind, based on Sagan’s idea that surface irradiance is a real energy flux, and taught his students the same.
You can prove that Irradiance is the vectorial rate of work for an electromagnetic wavefront, from ‘Radiation Pressure’, hence the idea of solar sails for spacecraft. Similarly, the electromagnetic energy dissipation rate in the atmosphere from the surface IR flux is the rate of working of the Radiation Pressure. This is pretty small though; 23 W/m^2 mean level. The IPCC climate models increase it 5.1x to get the imaginary ‘positive feedback’.
Sagan made his mistake because he got aerosol optical physics wrong and the sums for his two-stream analysis of the Venusian atmosphere. I could be wrong too, but that’s science.

May 21, 2014 2:55 am

Change ‘Irradiance’ to ‘net Irradiance’ in 2nd to last paragraph. At a solar sail, the net Irradiance is the Sun’s irradiance to the sail minus the sail’s irradiance to the Sun, in both cases W/[m^2.Str]

May 21, 2014 7:00 am

Trenberth like Mann could not get a job teaching in a third rate high school if it was not for ‘the cause ‘ given that level of Personal commitment its hardly a surprise to his crossing his fingers and hopping really hard for El Nino to lead to temperatures increases that stay up. Even is this happens he remains a third rate ‘scientists’ that has shown a willingness to throw away any scientific principle in the name of ‘the cause’ and as own ego.

John West
May 21, 2014 8:02 am

In physics “heat” = “energy transfer”. Energy that is being transfered (and only the energy being transferred) by various means (conduction, convection, radiation) is called heat. Heat (by rigorous physics definition not common usage) cannot be trapped or stored.
“Heat may be defined as energy in transit from a high temperature object to a lower temperature object. An object does not possess “heat”; the appropriate term for the microscopic energy in an object is internal energy. The internal energy may be increased by transferring energy to the object from a higher temperature (hotter) object – this is properly called heating.

May 21, 2014 8:27 am

West: in thermodynamics we refer to the Gibbs and Helmholtz free energies, and enthalpy.
‘The Gibbs free energy is the maximum amount of non-expansion work that can be extracted from a closed system; this maximum can be attained only in a completely reversible process. When a system changes from a well-defined initial state to a well-defined final state, the Gibbs free energy ΔG equals the work exchanged by the system with its surroundings, minus the work of the pressure forces, during a reversible transformation of the system from the same initial state to the same final state.
G(p,T) = U + pV – TS
which is the same as:
G(p,T) = H – TS ‘ where U is the internal energy, H is the enthalpy, T is absolute temperature and S the entropy

‘the Helmholtz free energy…..measures the “useful” work obtainable from a closed thermodynamic system at a constant temperature. The negative of the difference in the Helmholtz energy is equal to the maximum amount of work that the system can perform in a thermodynamic process in which temperature is held constant. If the volume is not held constant, part of this work will be performed on the environment. The Helmholtz energy is commonly used for systems held at constant volume. Since in this case no work is performed on the environment, the drop in the Helmholtz energy is equal to the maximum amount of useful work that can be extracted from the system. For a system at constant temperature and volume, the Helmholtz energy is minimized at equilibrium.
A = U-TS’

For the case of the conversion of Electromagnetic energy to heat at constant pressure, and vice versa, there is volume change, so we have to use Gibbs free energy. The heat term is the change in enthalpy delta H, which includes the pV term, the work done in changing volume. The Gibbs free energy change is assessed with reference to the entropy change Delta G = Delta H – T delta S.

May 21, 2014 9:19 am

Alex Says (May 21, 2014 at 8:27AM)
I fully agree with your position because it is fully in accord with Gibb’s seminal work that established the foundation for thermodynamics in the early 1900s. However, I also think I understand “Somebody” and “John West” ’s confusion about the distinction between “heat” and “heat flow”.
I believe that their confusion results from a common explanation of the First Law of Thermodynamics which is often presented as [1]:
Delta U = Q – W;
wherein “Delta U” is the change in internal energy; Q is the heat put into the system; and W is the work done by the system. The phrase “heat put into the system” likely suggests “heat flow”. But that interpretation is obviously incorrect because “Q” has units of energy. Instead, as you and others have already pointed out “heat transfer” is govern by the temperature difference between the bodies (media) which exchange thermal energy (i.e., via Fourier or S-B equations etc.).
If “Somebody” and “John West” are still unclear on terminology, I’d suggest that they consult a thermodynamics or heat transfer textbook. It is universally acknowledged that “ heat” is energy and not a “rate of heat flow”.
[1] Richard Swalin, Thermodynamics of Solids, pg 3, Wiley 1962.

more soylent green!
May 21, 2014 9:41 am

So what does this have to do with human greenhouse gas emissions? Let’s suppose Trenberth’s correct — who can show the el nino has anything to do with human activity?

May 21, 2014 10:31 am

I’ll let this here: It explains better than I have patience to explain myself. As a hint, both heat and work are path dependent. If you claim you can store heat, then you can store work. Is that whatever stored path dependent? Nope. The thing you store in the system is called internal energy, and there is no difference between how it was added to the system: by heat or by work. It’s path independent and it’s a state function of the system (unlike heat).
“The phrase “heat put into the system” likely suggests “heat flow”. ” – Nope. It suggests the sign, and it means energy flow. I would suggest you to look better into those books. More rigorous ones, and closer to the current time than to the caloric theory time. Good luck.

May 21, 2014 10:36 am

Maybe Trenberth is being a phenomenologist, maybe without realising it. The data does look like it has steps, though maybe the eye is fooled just by drawing lines. There could be some physical explanation for steps, maybe something to do with changes in the transparency of the ocean, a drop in transparency would keep more heat near the surface, giving a higher temperature.
A cynic might say that this is timed for the 2015 UN thing, the Great Green Hope for saving the planet. An El Nino before then would allow the consensus to claim it as the new global mean temperature, based on Trenberth’s “prediction”.

May 21, 2014 11:19 am

Is there anything dumber than rooting on a natural phenomenon like it is some kind of sports team?

John F. Hultquist
May 21, 2014 11:43 am

Thanks Bob.
Somebody and some others:
about that “heat” thingy:
Say I roll a ball up an inclined plane to a flat top where it rests.
Have I stored the “roll”, the “ball” or something else. Heat? I don’t think so.
Your guess.
Clive best says:
May 20, 2014 at 1:17 pm
… “ the missing heat … In the meantime all that heat would have expanded the oceans leading to an acceleration in sea levels which has not been observed.

In some places it seems Trenberth and like minded folks claim the missing energy is deep in the ocean and in other statements it seems they mean the Western Pacific Warm Pool. If the latter case is assumed the “expansion” would be regional and SLR likewise. If the energy is very widely dispersed and deep it isn’t going to appear quickly and regionally. Adding more confusion, in the first quote used by Bob T. in this post, Trenberth appears to invoke the Pacific Decadal Oscillation into this imagined sequence of possible events leading to a step up in temperature. I lost the connection there.
If possible he (Trenberth) should be made to put one leg in ocean bottom water and the other in the Pacific Warm Poll. He should feel just fine, on average.

May 21, 2014 12:09 pm

“Heat? I don’t think so.” 🙂 It’s sad if you think about it. You would think that the phlogiston theory is long gone… you would think that people would try to figure out why they see a d on the left side and \delta on right side. Neumann work (pun intended) was in vain! It wasn’t stored 🙂
For those that do not get it, see the “First law of thermodynamics” section from here:

May 21, 2014 12:11 pm

I don’t think you could blame Trenberth for being a little excited about this event. After all this is his field. If he wasn’t you would have to ask what he is doing studying it.
I mean are you telling us Bob that you are not watching this with more than just a little enthusiasm? Irrespective of the global warming debate, this is a pretty powerful natural event and it has been suggested by a few in the field they are getting more powerful. I know I am very interested to see what comes of this.

May 21, 2014 12:22 pm

AlecM, from the dumber and dumber department, what do you mean by the bold part in this?

Equilibrium radiative temperature for no clouds or ice would be 4 to 5 deg C, so present GHE is c. 11 K. Hansen et al in 1981 made a big mistake in claiming it is 33 K (there is no single -18 deg c emission zone in the upper atmosphere).

Thanks for the time spent answering.

May 21, 2014 1:46 pm

“Say I roll a ball up an inclined plane to a flat top where it rests.
Have I stored the “roll”, the “ball” or something else. Heat? I don’t think so.
Your guess”
I just realized that my guess that Hultquist knows what work is might be wrong 🙂 He might actually think that he actually ‘stored work’ with that ball.
So let’s see what happens. The inexact differential (dependent on the path) of work is: \delta W = F ds (the ds should already suggest the path dependence, and as a note I’m leaving out the vectorial notation). To get the entire work, one integrates over path (now you see the path dependence?).
Hultquist pushes the ball up doing work. Now, some would think that the work needed is simply equal with the potential energy, mgh. By the way, can you figure out where this potential energy is stored? Just as a digression…
But there is friction. So to push the ball up you need to push a little harder. What does friction do?
Well, it’s a dissipative process. As heat also is, and in this case, work, too, and you should try to think of all processes that start in a point A, end in a point B, but although starting from the same state, they do not end in the same state at B, but in states dependent on the path.
There are conservative fields that offer path independence for work. But it’s not always the case.
So let’s see out general case that does not involve heat, only work that ‘can be stored’. You end up with the ball up (pun intended), potential energy mgh (again, where is that stored? 🙂 ) but with some temperature increase. Not only for the ball but also for the ramp, due of friction.
Now let’s suppose you try that again, with the same path, but with something slippery applied so there is not so much friction. The end result, less work resulting in mgh and lower temperature.
To have the same state as before (that is, not only mgh but also the same temperature), you either add work by moving the ball around, or… use heat.
You get the same state, and the ball does not care (and does not know, it’s not actually stored in there) what path did you choose to put it in that state. It doesn’t care if you used only work, or work and some heat. Or only heat (can you figure out a way to do that?).
You have no way of differentiating by looking at the state of the ball. It’s the same state. You have no way of identifying a ‘stored heat’ or a ‘stored work’ in the system.
I thought that for work it would be easier to comprehend, because with F ds it should be clear that if any of the terms becomes zero, then it is zero. You cease the force, or (and) the displacement, the work you (currently) do is zero. Done. Not stored. You do not store F ds. That’s the definition of it. What you think of as ‘stored’ is not actually work. It’s not that F ds you applied on the system. It might do work in the future, but it’s still not work.
It’s very similar with heat. Path dependence, inexact differential, not a state function of the system. For some reason (old caloric pseudo theory thinking?) people fail to see that.
Even if you would think to heat as energy and not energy transfer, you would realize the mistake by considering the whole first principle (that is, including work).

May 21, 2014 1:52 pm

Why doesn’t anyone bother look at the actual data which, so far at least, seems to show this el nino no where near as powerful as the 97 el nino?
First, this el nino is already a full month behind its counterpart. In 1997, the el nino began on April 23rd, whereas this el nino has yet to form as of May 14th (and likely to May 21).
Second, the temperature spikes, once they did hit, were higher in 1997. By April 23rd, the temp in the ENSO 1+2 region was 1.4 degrees above normal at 26.6 degrees C. By comparison, April 23rd showed the temperature 25.3 degrees in 2014, 1.3 degrees cooler.
The same was true across all the sectors except NINO 4.
Once the temperature began to spike, it rose faster and higher than it is doing now as well. By May 14th of 1997, the temperature of NINO 1+2 rose to 26.7 degrees, which is 1.2 degrees warmer than it is now. Within one week of hitting 26.6 degrees, with an anomaly of +1.4, in April of 1997, NINO 1+2 surged to an anomaly of +1.9 degrees the next week and +2.2 degrees the week following. That doesn’t appear to be happening at all now.
After reaching the +0.5 degree threshold for a few days a couple of weeks ago, in NINO 3+4, it fell below the threshold again to +0.4 for May 14 and is still below there now. By comparison, after jumping to +0.6 degrees on April 23rd, 1997, it never fell below that. It jumped to +0.8 degrees by May 7th and kept going up, hitting +1.0 by the end of May and +2.0 by August. I don’t see that happening this time, at least not that quick and probably not +2.0 degrees at all.
So if the el nino were comparable to 1997 you’d basically have to see this week…
NINO 1+2: A jump to +1.9 degrees, followed by a jump to +2.2 a week later.
NINO 3: A jump to +1.0 degrees.
NINO 3+4: A jump to +0.6 to +0.8 (as it fluctuated between the two in 1997. Compared with it fluctuating between +0.4 and +0.5 now).
Otherwise, it misses every mark compared with 1997. It came later, wasn’t as strong, etc. When coupled with the strong trade winds persisting, that’s very telling. This next week of data will actually tell us a lot about whether this will be a strong one or not. If it comes no where near those numbers above, say goodbye to your super el nino. Something else would have to happen, another kelvin wave or something, to give it more energy.
Personally, I suspect no strong el nino will be forthcoming. I think Kevin is engaged in wishful thinking and nothing more. This will rank up there with all the predictions of the ice melting by 2013, etc. This will be just one more in a long list of bitter disappointments for warmists making big predictions. Read the NYTimes story, that’s all you need to know. They WANT this to be a big one to revive the sagging fortunes of global warming and, possibly, strike a UN deal. It’s as Joe Bastardi says it is, wishful thinking.

May 21, 2014 11:01 pm

Can some one tell me if this way of thinking is right or not.
Heat from the sea cant escape into the air if the air is warmer than the sea.

May 21, 2014 11:27 pm

Heat is driven by (negative) temperature gradient (see Fourier law). But the “heat from the sea” wording might be wrong if it suggests that there is heat in the sea. And by adding “can’t escape” you strongly suggest that.
If you mean by “from the sea” only the sign of the energy transfer, then it is ok.

May 21, 2014 11:29 pm

By ‘heat in the sea’ I meant ‘heat stored in the sea’. Obviously there can be ‘heat in the sea’ as energy transfer between various subsystems. But this is not storage.

May 22, 2014 1:32 am

Heat transfer from the sea to the atmosphere won’t occur through conductivity if the air temperature is the same as the ocean surface. But it does transfer through evaporation.

May 22, 2014 2:23 am

Well, it depends what you mean when you say ‘same temperature’. See for details this:
and this:
This might be also helpful:

May 22, 2014 8:14 am

Somebody says:
May 20, 2014 at 2:41 pm
“It feels to me as if I have ‘stored’ some heat.”
It’s not as you ‘feel’ it. It’s as it is. Open a physics book and learn what heat means.

Cut out the zen master crap. My challenge to you was:

what terminology would you use to describe the fact that the temperature of my coffee has been maintained at an elevated level?

Put up or shut up.

Gerrit de Raaf
May 22, 2014 12:52 pm

Who turned off the cooling?
(during a La Niña that is)

May 22, 2014 1:20 pm

I would specify your coffee temperature. ‘Elevated’ means nothing without a reference, and claiming that it has ‘heat stored’ is plain stupid, and you’ll get it when you would realize that you can get the same effect by doing mechanical work.

Matt G
May 22, 2014 2:43 pm

The only global temperature step rises after the Pacific climate shift occurred during two strong El Nino events. The only two that have been the strongest recorded since data began in the 1950’s. The only two that were more than 2.0 c rise and higher than with any El Nino model forecast to be around 1.5 c This will not cause a step up in global temperatures.because the energy involved is not great enough for it to happen. Past El Nino events have shown this to be the case and It is clear to see that ocean cycles drive global temperatures.
I am not expecting any strong El NIno events to occur for at least two decades and this is because the sub ocean current off the coast of south america is stronger during negative PDO phases. This knocks back the warm undercurrent from the west equatorial Pacific towards the east equatorial Pacific and prevents too much warmer water up-welling to produce these stronger El nino events.

Dave Peters
May 23, 2014 1:15 pm

On “comieBob” v. “somebody,” & what is heat?
I am old enough to have watched the entire Watergate Senate hearings in the early seventies. One Gettysburg moment occurred after weeks of building drama, when RN’s closest aid, H. R. Haldeman, a man who had built a pioneering career upon employing linguistic subtleties to influence attitudes of the lay public (our first “spin” firm, or “PR”), finally was subjected to cross examination. On one crucial point, which no longer matters, he interrupted his interlocutor, Chairman Sam Irwin, with the query: “How do you know that is what i meant, Senator?” To which Irwin replied (bringing down the house and turning the tide, so to speak): BECAUSE I UNDERSTAND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE AS MY MOTHER TAUGHT IT TO ME.
Merriam-Websters offers four definitions for the verb and twenty-six for the noun. Noun number one is the root of our conception: “a condition of being hot: WARMTH”. The latter, the sensation of our mother’s tit, while the former perhaps is our encounter with the first touch of a lit electric bulb, or an overly warm beverage or bath water. Nary a mention of “energy transport”. Like it or not, we be but simians, who — take what we can gather from coincidence — generally. Hence, we seem stuck with our “gibberish”.
Number 8 is closest to the Somebody notion: “added energy that causes substances to rise in temperature, fuse, expand, evaporate, or undergo various other related changes, that flows to a body by contact with or radiation from bodies of higher temperature, and that can be produced in a body (as by compression)” — but is still built around the phlogiston kernel, that is of stuff as opposed to process. Number nine (as well as one) is closest to Commie: “the energy associated with the random motion of molecules”.
We are all entitled to our personal quiver of facts, but to converse, we cannot be entitled to our own definitions. So in the next heat over heat, the heat heat ought not get their heat so up, as to cause heat to flow from the cool erudition of select recondite physics texts, to the heated rabble of us mere gibberish speakers, thus contravening the very insight they seek to enlighten. When it comes to the phlogistic theory of heated communication, this hideous venom that has infected so much of our discourse about an outrageously complex complex of nuances, sometimes “a whole lot of nothing is a real cool hand”. Cool Hand Luke.

May 23, 2014 4:30 pm

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Peter Martin
May 25, 2014 5:57 pm

Interesting semantic argument re heat. Your definition is your definition. Don’t call people names because they do not happen to agree with you.
Regarding the question, is the warming of the earth simply caused by el ninos since there seems to be a step up every time there is an el nino, the answer is no. El ninos warm up the atmosphere and then it should naturally cool down post event. Why does it not cool down post event? Why is it always ratcheting up but not down again as you would expect? The correct answer is because of changes to the composition of the atmosphere caused by humans. No prize for figuring that out, I am sure even Mr. Trenberth has that one figured out.

May 25, 2014 6:37 pm

Peter Martin says:
Why is it always ratcheting up but not down again as you would expect? The correct answer is because of changes to the composition of the atmosphere caused by humans.
Sounds good. But it’s wrong.
Über-warmist Phil Jones points out that these exact same step changes have been occurring since the 1800’s. The planet is simply recovering from the Little Ice Age; one of the coldest episodes of the entire Holocene.
Natural variability is a full and complete explanation of the climate. Occam’s Razor says that no magic gas explanation needs to be added. It is true that CO2 adds some minuscule warming, but that is a third-order forcing, which is swamped by many other second-order and first-order forcings.
The ‘carbon’ scare is based entirely on a few years’ spurious corellation between temperature and CO2. But that relationship has broken down. Global warming stopped many years ago. Now all we have left is politics.

May 26, 2014 6:29 am

The El Nino cycles might be natural but there is Nothing “natural” about the extra heat in this el nino… What the new paper — “Pacific Ocean Heat Content During the Past 10,000 Years” — shows is that the recent oceanic warming is happening at a historically unprecedented rate. The study was authored by three researchers: Braddock Lindsay, a geoscience researcher at Columbia University; Delia Oppo, a climate scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and Yair Rosenthal, a geologist at Rutgers.

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