What if the 'Godzilla' El Niño is a dud?

By Larry Kummer at the Fabius Maximus website.

Summary:  After months of hype about this “Godzilla” El Niño, the peak approaches. The major climate models warn that it might be just another strong cycle, as NOAA & the WMO have predicted — not the precedent-breaking event predicted in the news headlines. As a thought experiment, consider how might this — another blown forecast — affect the public’s confidence in climate scientists.

“Climate change journalism is mostly crap if you didn’t notice because it’s not done by journalists. Mostly advocacy & self promotion.”

Climate scientist Ryan Maue (@RyanMaue), 14 July 2015.


  1. Experts forecasts about this El Niño.
  2. What if there is no “Godzilla” El Niño?
  3. Good advice from NOAA & others.
  4. Should we care about weather records?
  5. What’s a strong El Niño?
  6. For More Information.
  7. To better understand extreme weather…

(1)  Experts’ forecasts about this El Niño

“This definitely has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño.”

— Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in the LAT.

NOAA’s current forecast, as of October 15 expects a strong El Niño. There have been 8 strong El Niño cycles in the 64 years since 1951, including the 1997-98 “super” El Niño.


The May forecast of this cycle by NOAA’s CFSv2 models had its highest peak, predicting aprox 3.2°C for November 2015 — which would have been exciting if it occurred. Since then its forecasts have fallen. The latest run, as of October 25, predicts a peak of aprox 2.6°C in November (it’s now 2.5°C). That would be a record in the brief 64-year long record (slightly above 1982 and 1997), but not a “Godzilla” event. Unless Godzilla visits every decade or so.




NOAA and the International Research Institute (IRI) provides a plume showing a wider range of models, each type with their own average forecast. Unlike the CFSv2 model, the wider forecast averages continue to rise. They were below the CFSv2 forecast, but have now risen to equal it — all at aprox the peak level of 1997-98.

The October forecast of the dynamic models predicts peaks at 2.5°C during the Oct-Nov-Dec and Nov-Dec-Jan rolling 3-month averages. The statistical models predict peaks at 2.4°C during the same periods. Note the wide range of the individual forecasts.


(2) What if there is no “Godzilla” El Niño?

Months of hype have raised expectations, as journalists broadcast alarming speculations about the extreme weather we can expect from this El Niño (some examples here). Climate scientists have tended to either joined the frenzy, or stay on the sidelines.

But what if the current model forecasts are correct and we get a strong El Niño roughly like that in 1997-98? Just weather; no “Godzilla”. Would that be a “dud” vs. expectations (like a big-budget summer film that earns only $100 million, and so loses money)? There have been so many blown forecasts, as in the following examples. Might another be a tipping point in the public’s (already low) confidence?

NASA in 2001: melting arctic sea ice could open “the Northern Sea Route across the top of Russia {allowing} “shipping for at least two months a year in as little as five years” (2006) and “the North-West Passage could be open to ordinary shipping for a month each summer” in 2011.

Dr David Viner (senior research scientist at the climatic research unit at U of East Anglia) said in 2001 that within a few years winter snowfall will become “a very rare and exciting event”. “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is.”  (“Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past“ in The Independent.)

After the 2007 low in arctic sea ice there were predictions of a “death spiral” in sea ice and “Arctic summers ice-free ‘by 2013′”. No, neither.

Remember the predictions for more and stronger hurricanes after Katrina in 2005? Plus years of wild hype about individual storms, as we recently saw. On Monday: “Stunning, Historic, Mind-Boggling, and Catastrophic: Hurricane Patricia“. On Tuesday: “Megastorm Patricia Inflicts Little Damage on Mexican Coast” (“quickly dissipated into a low-pressure system that posed little threat beyond heavy rain.”).

These blown predictions occur against the larger background of the pause in most forms of extreme weather during the past decade (see examples here, and more here). No wonder polls of the American public (and the world’s) rank climate change at their bottom of high-profile public policy concerns. Another high-profile failure might further erode the public’s confidence in climate scientists.

(3)  The weather agencies give us good analysis. We should listen.

“Democracy can’t continue to prosper if we can’t immediately and effectively reject frank BS. Whose job is that? Journalists say ‘not us’.”

— Climate scientist Michael Tobis (@mtobis), 14 July 2015.

The major national and international climate agencies have provided a stream of good analysis about this El Niño cycle. Journalists have too often preferred to instead focus on the more exciting statements of individual scientists and even activists. But the internet puts the reliable information at our fingertips, if we care to use it.

(4)  Should we care about new weather records?

Even if this cycle is slightly stronger than 1997-98, should we care? Magnitudes matter more than records, as explained by climate scientist Roy Spencer (U AL-Hunsville) …

“We could have a record warm year, every year, but what really matters is just how much that warming is. If there was no natural variability, and we had perfect measurements, each successive year could be 0.01 C warmer than the prior year and thus be a new, record warm year … but would we really care?”

(5)  What’s a strong El Niño?

NOAA defines 3 levels of strength for El Niño events (source: NOAA). A weak El Niño is a peak in the Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) greater than or equal to 0.5°C and less than or equal to 0.9°C. A moderate El Niño is an ONI greater than or equal to 1.0°C and less than or equal to 1.4°C. A strong El Niño is an ONI greater than or equal to 1.5°C.

(6)  For More Information

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See these other posts about El Nino …, especially Worry again about a huge El Niño (droughts, floods, etc)! Or listen to the prosChoose your facts: learn about the El Niño from journalists or activists — and Prepare for a clickbait avalanche about the super El Niño!

159 thoughts on “What if the 'Godzilla' El Niño is a dud?

  1. “Godzilla” El Nino?
    Hmmmm……. Isn’t Tokyo on the other side of the Pacific? Seems that was the favorite target of Godzilla in every movie I saw.

    • Godzilla’s a good guy. Saved San Francisco in the most recent movie (albeit with a bit of collateral damage).
      Speaking of San Francisco – rain heading our way this week (from the North).

    • mjmsprt40, didn’t Godzilla destroy New York in three movies?
      Looking at NOAA’s Oceanic NINO Index, the average of the first 8 “seasons” in 2015…
      ….far exceeds the average of the first 8 seasons of the evolution years of the 1982/83 and 1997/98 El Ninos. In that respect, maybe it is a Godzilla El Nino. But we really can’t compare 2015 to 1982 and 1997, because this is the second year of a multiyear El Nino. We reached El Nino conditions last boreal winter. The question is, will the average ONI index values for 2015 exceed those of during 1987?

      • Bob,
        There are many ways to evaluate an El Nino, and few of them show this to be an extraordinary event — as implied by the headlines which are the subject of this post: an “unprecedented” and “record-breaking” event, and the lurid if imprecise descriptions of it as “monstrous” and “Godzilla”. As Emily Becker of NOAA says in their October El Nino update:

        “The July-September 3-month average sea surface temperature (the ONI) was 1.5°C above normal, 3rd in line behind July-September 1987 (1.6°C) and 1997 (1.7°C). The atmospheric response to the warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures is keeping pace, too: the Equatorial Southern Oscillation Index (EQSOI) is -2.2. This is 2nd to 1997’s -2.6, and well ahead of the next two El Niños on the list (1972 and 1982, tied at -1.4).”

        “The question is, will the average ONI index values for 2015 exceed those of during 1987?”
        In terms of the public’s opinion — the target of those headlines — the question is imo if the weather we will see justifies those headlines. If not, then I doubt activists will score with justifications using technical indexes that equal or slightly exceed previous records during the past 4 decades.
        Also: here’s the graph Becker provides:

      • This El Nino is already the Fifth largest in the record (assuming Nino 3.4 comes in at 2.4C in October 2015 which is what it is averaging so far).
        Back to 1871 (using the pre-NCDC-adjusted data).
        There is also a 3 month lag with respect to how temperatures respond to the ENSO. Here I have adjusted the RSS-UAH lower troposphere for the impact of the volcanoes so the ENSO impact is more clear). This ENSO event will probably peak soon as in November-December but the temperature impact will not be felt until January to April 2016.
        And there are regional impacts. Western US to Texas gets more rain than average (lagged 3 months again), Indonesia gets 50% less rain (this has already been happening and it is extremely dry in Indonesia, Australia has escaped the lack of rain so far but this will likely change). And Alaska to Minnesota will be much warmer than average (sometimes this pattern extends to all of northern North America). The US southeast is almost always dryer and colder than normal.
        But these regional patterns do change from event to event. Let’s say the pattern moves 1000 kms so California doesn’t get the rain but Oregon and British Columbia get it instead. California rainfall and the ENSO from 1896 to March 2015
        This already IS a Big El Nino. The full impact is coming later.

      • Bill,
        “The ONI is always behind in what is actually happening.”
        Yes, as a 3 month moving average it will respond more slowly than the monthly average. What’s your point? The graph shows the trend of all El Ninos, allowing easy comparison.
        “Last week, the Nino 3.4 Index was already up to +2.5C”
        That’s an odd reply to my comment, since I not only showed that in my post but specifically mentioned it.
        “flirting with the Super category of El Ninos.”
        Please provide a cite to describe this “category” of El Nino events.

      • The expressed “expectations” are generally connected to increased precipitation over the U.S. southwest. Increased sea surface heat from an El Nino “event” should mean increased evaporation at the “event”, but that does not mean the vapor will move over the continent and precipitate. What if the jet stream guides the Gulf of Alaska cold fronts north of California? More southerly disturbances are smaller and lesser…but maybe the “Pineapple Express” might come to the rescue…perhaps… Certainly commercial fisheries will count on these water forecasts closely. But there are more variables involved in getting the moisture out of the water and then over the continent.

      • “The July-September 3-month average sea surface temperature (the ONI) was 1.5°C above normal, 3rd in line behind July-September 1987 (1.6°C) and 1997 (1.7°C).

        There is a long way to go yet to get anywhere near the ONI 2.3 c above normal recorded during late 1997. The current strong El Nino is around 2 months ahead so this means it will likely peak around now or into November. Currently the El Nino including October so far is now 4th equal strongest in the ONI ~1.8°C behind 1997 ONI 2.0°C. (second in line August-October) The other 3 stronger El Nino’s peaked later, so that’s why the second in line August-October may not mean much.

        “The question is, will the average ONI index values for 2015 exceed those of during 1987?”

        During 1987 the El Nino had already peaked by then and was on a decline after. The next ONI this year will beat 1987 when the October results are in.

    • Isn’t Tokyo on the other side of the Pacific? Seems that was the favorite target of Godzilla in every movie I saw.
      Wherein Japan provokes an outside force, which sweeps in from the sea to destroy Tokyo. (I seem to remember reading something about that one in my historical travels.)

    • Isn’t Tokyo on the other side of the Pacific?

      It is a well known fact Godzilla’s nesting place is Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, New York, NY.
      Unfortunately it’s not even on the Pacific coast.
      However, Madison Square Garden as a hatching site proves beyond reasonable doubt, that he is a she.
      At the same time El Niño (the kid, as opposed to La Niña, the girl) is supposed to be male, so this years warming in the Eastern Pacific can’t possibly be a Godzilla event.

  2. If there is a big El Nino we will get January and February thaws in the Northeast. Last year we didn’t and got a record snow accumulation in Boston. ~110 inches I think. It was brutal. My oil bill was brutal for 2 years running. My children “know what snow is.”
    I like the column layout Mr Kummer. It is organized and easy to read.

  3. “There have been 8 strong El Niño cycles in the 64 years since 1951, including the 1997-98 “super” El Niño.”
    I have heard 1997 referred to a “Godzilla” El Niño. Since the current one is higher, “Godzilla” seems appropriate. No matter what you call it, it isn’t fizzling, what with powering 2015 to the highest temp in the instrument record for surface temps.

    • trafamadore,
      “I have heard 1997 referred to a “Godzilla” El Niño. Since the current one is higher, “Godzilla” seems appropriate.”
      Dr Patzert also calls 1983 a “Godzilla” El Nino. That means we have had 3 such events since 1982. Would you call an 11-year flood a “Godzilla” flood?
      “No matter what you call it, it isn’t fizzling,”
      That’s not comparison I made by saying “dud”. I see that you read the post, but didn’t get the point.
      “powering 2015 to the highest temp in the instrument record for surface temps.”
      You believe that tiny increase — hardly unusual in the historical record — justifies calling this an extraordinary event, equivalent to a monster that destroys cities?

  4. A strong El Nino will lead to a eventual global temperature drop a few years in future when the Topical Ocean tank has run out of solar energy juice. This will give the alarmists one hell of a shock and there will still be the rise during it, but the fall after will eventually be significant and when this happens it’s fair to say this will be a alarmist dud.
    The strong El Nino during 1972/73 caused a step down in global temperatures.
    This current El Nino will not be as strong as 1997/98 being around 2 months ahead.

    • Matt G: Global surface temperatures had been declining since the mid-1940s, according to HADCRUT4. Your step down was simply the expected response during an extended hiatus to the 1973/74/75/76 La Nina.

      • I agree an extended La Nina period contributed towards it.
        During 1976 there was no La Nina, except for 3 months at the beginning with it coming to an end and temperatures didn’t recover until just before the well known Pacific switch before a second El Nino.
        Between 1976 and 1977 there was a El Nino and still global temperatures had not recovered at first after 4 months above 0.5 c NINO 3.4.
        The Pacific switch initially causing about a 0.3 c rise in ocean temperatures ruined this step down into causing some doubt.

      • Did global surface temperatures rise in the decay year of the 1976/77 El Nino, Matt? And why would you be focused on the first four months after the NINO3.4 SSTa reached 5 deg ?

      • Bob,
        Yes, in decay year they increased ~0.3 c.
        For this El Nino the first 4 months (ONI) were next to the last 2 months of it’s duration. Global temperatures usually peak by 2 months end of El Nino’s duration above 0.5 c. Any change after is not caused from El Nino specifically.

      • Sorry I did mean in the decay year of La Nina 1975/1976 global temperatures increased ~ 0.3 c , but during the decay year of El Nino global temperatures actually declined ~ 0.1 c.

      • The strong El Nino during 1972/73 caused a step down in global temperatures.

        Making any attributions about it “causing” anything is totally unfounded on the basis of what you show.
        If anything, one could speculate that is ENDED a decline since 1968, or any idea that takes you fancy depending upon the time interval chosen.
        Congratulations, you PhD in climatology awaits you. 😉

  5. In Sydney Australia today the Max T is 19C.
    Now its only weather, but still, on the hype, which so far I believe, it should be warmer.

      • From the article;
        “This is the most rapid spring warming Sydney has experienced since 1970 when it warmed by a record 12.6 degrees in a week,” he said.”
        So it was warmer before 1970. Got it!

      • “So it was warmer before 1970. Got it!” No, that is not what he said. He said the rate of temperature increase during a single week in 1970 was higher than the weekly rate that happened recently. That is not the same as daily peak temperatures, or average peak temperatures for October.

      • And yet we know it was warmer in the late 19th century in Australia. Just the BoM want to ignore that.

      • And not just location, but also device response time.
        Didn’t a German study show a 0.9C gain, or something like that,from modern electronic thermometers?

      • AndyG, I have read that too about “a German study” but those in charge of the temp. records say that the opposite is true. That the older ones read high and that is why the past gets cooled a bit. I’m sure that most of the temp. adjustments are kosher. That doesn’t mean that they are all correct or won’t be changed in the opposite direction in the future as we learn more. With the most recent Karl adjustments, he got rid of the pause but now that single slope is ~0.11 degrees C per decade since 1950 (65 years). That suggests a 1.1 C rise per hundred years from 1950 to 2050.

      • Patrick, if you have links to support your points about the 19th century being warmer, or about logger placement changes causing inaccuracy, please post them.

      • Chris, I do believe it was you who claimed the weather is hotter now than it was. The BoM has all the information you are requesting including device relocation and “adjustments”. I suggest http://www.bom.gov.au. Or even Jo Nova.

    • Lewis I think it has something to do with the Sub Tropical Ridge (STR) being too far south and very wobbly. BoM is onto it, but don’t expect to hear anything from them other that its climate change.

  6. Actually, we’re on track to break the record warm year by about 0.1 C.. .but would Roy Spencer really care?

    • Why should he care when it’s been caused by human adjustments and only covers 0.1% of the planets surface? Where 0.1 c is a completely meaningless insignificant change in global temperature within error range. HADCRUT will say slightly over 0.1 c is out of error range, but they will be greatly wrong.

    • Barry, of course you’re discussing surface temperatures. On the other hand, lower troposphere temperature anomalies usually peak in the decay year of the El Nino, so expect there to be a sizable uptick next year. The question is, will TLTa in 2016 peak higher than it did in 1998?

    • “Actually, we’re on track to break the record warm year by about 0.1 C”
      Rubbish.. not in any real data.
      Here is UAH Global “to end September”
      1998 0.539
      2010 0.400
      2002 0.222
      2015 0.208

  7. “There have been so many blown forecasts, as in the following examples. Might another be a tipping point in the public’s (already low) confidence?”
    No, there won’t. Those with a clue have figured out long ago these guys either don’t know what they’re talking about, or are shameless propagandists pushing an agenda that works to their benefit.
    Those without a clue will continue to be willing dupes. That pretty much sums up much of the so-called climate debate..

  8. The current El Nino will only be “big” if it raises global temperatures significantly, otherwise it’s a Dudzilla.

    • It’s already raised global temperatures, Steve from Rockwood. Now consider that global surface temperatures usually peak in the decay year of an El Nino, (unless there’s a strong tropical volcano) so we might expect surface temperatures to be even higher next year. The only thing that may upset that is The Blob, and what happens to all of the warm water that it created.

      • I think what Steve is getting at is whether the present Strong El Nino will behave like the 1997/8 Super El Nino which, according to the satellite data, appears to have resulted in a long lasting (at least in the medium term) step change of about 0.25degC
        The test of the 2015/6 Strong El Nino will be whether it results in a similar significant step change as occurred with the Super El Nino of 1997/8, or whether it simply results in a temporary blip that reveals 2015 and perhaps the first half of 2016 to be extremely warm (in relevant terms akin to the 2010 blips) but in the long term temperatures drop back down to say the 2001 to 2003 level such that by say 2018 the pause will be over 20 years long.
        In short will the pause have been busted by the time AR6 is being prepared. If this current El Nino does not do that job it will be Squidzilla (or as Steve puts it Dudzilla).

      • The blob has been steadily venting heat from the N. Pacific for some time, which makes me wonder if it isn’t stealing some of El Nino’s thunder? Could there be a connection? GK

      • Richard,
        “The test of the 2015/6 Strong El Nino will be whether it results in a similar significant step change as occurred with the Super El Nino of 1997/8…”
        I agree. The test of an El Nino’s strength is more than fluctuations in technical indexes like the ONI — but in the weather and longer-term trends.

  9. Like so many terms in common media usage today e.g. Greenhouse Effect, the term El Nino is scientifically worthless. It originally refers to the appearance of warm/cold (la nina) currents off the coast off S. America.
    At the same time other weather related phenomenon were observed in other parts of the world.
    However, the firm linkage between ‘folk’ observation and science is at best tenuous and at worst spurious.
    The Pacific Ocean is big and complex. Observing what it is doing in one spot then extrapolating conditions ten thousand miles away is a mugs game!

    • Charles Nelson, thank you for sharing your lack of knowledge about the topic of El Nino, the history of the use of the term and the effects they have on weather patterns.

      • I do enjoy Bob Tisdale talking about El Nino as if it is some kind of integrated system. His desperate floundering as it obstinately refuses to conform to ANY predictions or patterns or outcomes affords me endless amusement. My admitted ‘lack of knowledge’ is refreshingly honest compared to Bob’s pontifications.
        Watch out for the Blob. Bob!

    • Charles,
      I agree with Bob. NOAA has a precise definition for el Nino, based on ample instrument data about the Pacific:
      The Oceanic Nino Index (ONI) is a 3 month running mean of ERSST.v4 SST anomalies in the Nino 3.4 region (5N-5S, 120-170W). The ONI is one measure of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, and other indices can confirm whether features consistent with a coupled ocean-atmosphere phenomenon accompanied these periods.
      El Niño: characterized by a positive ONI greater than or equal to +0.5ºC. La Niña: characterized by a negative ONI less than or equal to -0.5ºC.
      By historical standards, to be classified as a full-fledged El Niño or La Niña episode, these thresholds must be exceeded for a period of at least 5 consecutive overlapping 3-month seasons.

      • So, everyone is guessing and pontificating about what the current so called El Niño will do but in the end if will do what it will do and we will all then be saying, “see, I told you so!”

    • Charles: you wrote “Observing what it is doing in one spot then extrapolating conditions ten thousand miles away is a mugs game!”
      Bob Tisdale actually followed where the heat went… Quite thoroughly, I would add. Have you heard of the book “Who turned up the heat?”

  10. Only benefit I see in Texas,so far, is that ‘heat pump’ Patricia brought us lotsa (really, lotsa) rain over the week-end.

  11. This will to that, and that will lead to this. Ahh if it was only that simple, then we wouldn’t need weather forecasters. Imagine a world without weather forecasters. On a happier note imagine a world without lawyers.

  12. May 2014: Super-El Nino 70% likely. Start freaking out….
    Janeen Harris
    I remember 97/98 well. All the goldfish cooked in their tank overnight.
    Suzy Gneist
    I just decided to put in another water tank too after talking to those who went through 97/98 last 😉
    Felix MacNeill
    Of course, the one sick, sad, sorry ‘benefit’ that might come from a super El Nino year would be that at least all the lying/ignorant turds who crap on about ‘no statistically significant warming for 17 years’ might finally have to shut up.
    John Newlands
    An El Nino worse than 1998 will see crop failures, greatly diminished hydro, desalination plants working flat out, extensive out-of-control fires and heat deaths of the elderly. It will also cook all the soil carbon which is a cornerstone of the Direct Action policy.
    Mark Harrigan
    If it happens I confidently predict that those at the forefront of climate change denial currently falsely claiming “there has been no warming since 1998” will jump on the El Nino as a one off event and therefore “not to be counted” as an indicator that the planet continues to demonstrate all the signs of increased heat retention.
    Susan Ring
    Please people don’t forget to start saving, if you have any compassion, as the other thing that tends to happen is that the west coast of South Americas get devastating rains that wash down steep eroded hillsides, many of them covered in unstable favelas and they will be the next wave of climate refugees.
    It was a dud. We got “global warming” frosts instead:

  13. I like San Francisco, for a lot of reasons. It lies about the middle of California, near the juncture between the desert and the coastal rain forest. It has the longest rainfall records anywhere in western North America.
    In this graphic “strong” ninos are defined by SOI (SOI -1 or less) because Kelly Redmon showed that SOI is a somewhat better rainfall predictor for California than any of the SST nino indices.
    The 77-78 strong nino was left bold because it followed a serious, I mean really serious drought. It didn’t last as long, but the 1976-77 water year was one of the five driest in the SF record. None of the recent three drought years that we moan about so pitifully even made the top ten.
    Does that mean this nino will be a dud? Nope. But it is a factor to consider

    • gymnosperm says: San Francisco … has the longest rainfall records anywhere in western North America.
      Nope. Sitka, Alaska, goes back to 1842.
      Those Russians beat SF to it by 8 years. Fortunately, we were smart enough to buy the rain gauge from them.

    • gymnosperm,
      “Does that mean this nino will be a dud?”
      A reminder: As Bob says, this is already a strong El Nino.
      This post discusses the possibility that the current El Nino will be a dud in the sense that big-budget summer blockbuster movies are sometimes a dud — by failure to meet expectations. In this case, that this El Nino will not be a precedent-breaking record-setting Godzilla event.

      • Part of those expectations are copious rain for California. Another part is tropospheric temperature rise from the louvered boxes where our surface thermometers reside to the TLT measured from the satellites. 1976-77 was pretty much the turning point for the PDO shift from the post WWII surface temperature drop and (coincidentally) the surface temperature tear and the satellite era of atmospheric temperature measurement.
        Which expectations do you feel will not be met? California rainfall increase? TLT increase? South China rainfall decrease? TLS decrease? SST increase. delta13C increase?
        all of these are reasonable expectations for a strong nino.

      • Really. Read the 1300 and didn’t have any questions. Mostly sniping between Bob Tisdale and the clueless. Showed monthly distribution of SF rainfall in strong nino years. You respond with some blather about hollywood blockbusters…

  14. To answer the question: Nothing. People wouldn’t care and life would go on as usual. All it would be is a missed opportunity for the MSM to again blame something on “Climate Change”. But it’s been said …..it’s already here and living up to the deserved hype.

  15. Obama, Holdren, NOAA, National Research Council/Academe and UN/IFCCC/IPCC are desperate for a “Planet Killer El Nino” like the “Planet Killer” Hurricane Patricia, which means they are likely to be very disappointed.
    Ha ha

    • The Latin Pope and Vatican are very interested in maximizing death to appease the desires of his Holiness.

  16. I suspect that many (or most) commenters have not read the post. It is not about a climate science question.
    2015-16 will be a record-breaking El Nino, or not. The thought experiment discussed here is about the consequences of yet another blown prediction in the news headlines (note: not the prediction of NOAA, NASA, or WMO). In other words, what’s the price paid for these lurid headlines? They help sell adverts, and give a momentary thrill of fear to readers. But what’s the aftereffect when they prove false?
    Polls show that the American public ranks climate change dead last among major policy issues. How much of that results from activists dominating the headlines — and the complicit silence of mainstream climate scientists?
    To what extent does this result from activists’ failure to heed the advice of Alcoholics Anonymous (who know everything about dysfuncationality): insanity is repeating an action but hoping for a different result.

    • Ed (itor) writes: “In other words, what’s the price paid for these lurid headlines? They help sell adverts, and give a momentary thrill of fear to readers. But what’s the aftereffect when they prove false?”
      I’ll wager nothing; no consequences, no price paid for hyperbole. I’d bet real money bt we’d need a fair judge and I can’t think of one, which is a major reason there will be no consequences to bet on.
      The “readers” you mention aren’t swayed by facts, I’ll cite the recent string of “warmest year/month” announcements made in the press, which include such august publications as Scientific American (a subsidiary of the same outfit that publishes Nature). No one cares they’re wrong. If you point out the statistical shenanigans used to make those bogus claims you’ll be shouted down as a paid shill of Big Oil by the Peanut Gallery (or you’ll be ignored). No consequences.
      It’s not clear to me the so called Warmist Alarmists actually control the media or simply that the media in general follow the “if it bleeds it leads” axiom of successful newspaper sales, but one result is indistinguishable from the other so it really doesn’t matter which is true.
      The public like crisis, it makes them feel important and that they live in important times; that they’re opinions and actions actually matter. They don’t want to hear there isn’t a crisis and if that’s all you have to say they aren’t going to listen.
      Next June you will hear the media tell you this winter was the strongest El Nino event ever recorded. There will be mudslides from LA to Seattle. The Russian River will once again overflow its banks. The Sacramento delta levies will fail and thousands of acres of rice paddies will be inundated yet again. Hamsters will be rescued by helicopter. Schools will be closed. Firemen and Sheriffs will be interviewed to tell us it’s the worst we’ve ever seen. Cats will sleep with dogs.
      And the beat will go on.

  17. Hurricane “Patricia”, the biggest evah, was hyped out of all proportion in the Aussie MSM and it too was a dud and was not heard from again.

  18. “Models ease their El Niño outlook for spring
    Despite significant warming in the tropical Pacific Ocean in the first half 2014, the ocean and atmosphere have largely failed to reinforce each other, and hence cooling has occurred in recent months. Similarly, most international climate models have eased their outlooks for El Niño in 2014, with four models not reaching El Niño thresholds until the austral summer of 2014/15, while the remaining models stay neutral.”
    The Australian BOM were expecting the El Nino last year and the usual suspects were hyping it up but you never hear from them when their forecasts are wrong. They’re like stopped clock time forecasters with long range stuff. Right up there with economic forecasting, tarot cards and Ouija boards.

    • They haven’t got a clue. Neither does Bob Tisdale.
      I do enjoy Bob Tisdale talking about El Nino as if it is some kind of integrated system. His desperate floundering as it obstinately refuses to conform to ANY predictions or patterns or outcomes affords me endless amusement. My admitted ‘lack of knowledge’ is refreshingly honest compared to Bob’s pontifications.
      Watch out for the Blob. Bob!

      • “They haven’t got a clue. Neither does Bob Tisdale”
        I wouldn’t go so far as to say El Nino/Nina effects on Australian rainfall patterns aren’t a discernible and measurable phenomenon that we’ve become aware of relatively recently with climactic study and it’s obviously worthy of more study. However it’s fair to say we tend to measure both the cause and effect on Australian rainfall after the event (or perhaps merely the cyclical correlation) which defies any accurate annual prediction to date. We simply understand there’s a measurable cycle going on which leads to hypotheses as to what’s going on.

      • Charles: You are lost in the weeds. Bob stays away from predictiions, and tells us what is going on based on data.

      • Chucky, you should probably be even more humble about your lack of knowledge than you already are. I don’t see Tisdale throwing around any baseless predictions, but at least you’re amused.

  19. Don’t you just love that money quote-
    “the ocean and atmosphere have largely failed to reinforce each other, and hence cooling has occurred in recent months”

  20. Larry,
    Another bizarre post which you base on supposed hype which may collapse, but give just one example (Patzert). You link to another “(some examples here)” but that turns out to be just a blogger, RS. Then you give reams of moderate links, sensible advice from the authorities, climate scientists etc. And then say
    “Another high-profile failure might further erode the public’s confidence in climate scientists.”,/i>
    Meanwhile, as Bob T says, we already have a very large El Nino. What gives?

    • Nick,
      I often wonder if your comments are serious, or you’re just trolling us. Months of lurid headlines about the precedent-breaking record-breaking Godzilla El Nino — and you express gentle puzzlement, asking what hype? This is too silly to deserve response. But for the sake of casual readers who might otherwise take you seriously…
      The “Godzilla” description is a clear example of the exaggerated descriptions of weather than have become normal (aka “weather porn”). It’s a daft description of a large El Nino, which is (unlike Godzilla) a commonplace event. We’ve had 3 during the past 4 decades. How many people would describe a 40-year flood as a “Godzilla flood”?
      More broadly, whipping up public hysteria about small increments in technical indexes also seems unwise imo. If ONI peaks at 2.5 that would be a new record on NOAA’s books (since 1950) — but would it be a significant difference from 1997’s 2.3? (also, what are the error bars on the ONI?) Would there be a substantial difference in global weather?
      The bottom line of this thought-experiment: is it in the best interests of climate scientists to employ such lurid language to their predictions? Or will the public lose confidence at the repeated differences between the hype and the actual.
      Note the examples I give at the end of the post. How long much this list grow before the public learns to treat stories about climate like the claims of used car salesmen (e.g., “mint condition”, “perfectly maintained”)?

      • Folks are oversaturated and tuned out already. Just look at polls showing what’s most important to Americans. Dealing with climate change is way down at the bottom.
        Part of the problem are the TV news and weather channels which, anxious for viewership, treat almost everything with breathless hyperbole. So much drama and so many failed forecasts have lead to eroded credibility.

  21. Don’t worry, this El Nino will produce another step “up” in temperature history, even if the climate scientists have to put the step in the data themselves.

    • That is the issue.
      Whether this current Strong El Nino will be Godzilla or Squidzilla (or Dudzilla) can only be determined in 2018/9. If it results in step change as did the Super El Nina of 1997/8 then it will be Godzilla. If it does not result in such step change and it is cancelled out by a following La Nina and neutral conditions, it will be seen as a dud. Simples.
      The warmists are desperate for a hike in temperatures, but a temporary blip will not do. It may temporarily halt the pause, or even wipe it out altogether, but unless there is a long term (by which I mean more than a few years) step change in temperatures, the pause will have lengthened by the time AR6 is being prepared.
      This is the acid test for the effectiveness of the current El Nino, and I understand your cynical comment. Fortunately, the warmists do not control all data sets so the satellite data set should tell us what is really happening.

  22. “The major climate models warn that it might be just another strong cycle, as NOAA & the WMO have predicted — not the precedent-breaking event predicted in the news headlines …”.
    But surely the fact that the predicted precedent-breaking event did not eventuate is in itself unprecedented and therefore an indication of ‘climate weirding’.

  23. On the east coast of Australia where I have lived for over 60 years this has been nothing like previous el nino with plenty of rain.

    • Thank you ColinD for confirming what anyone with any intelligence can see.
      The so called El Nino is not an integrated ocean system allowing for prediction.
      It is a ‘folk’ observation. (I’m in Coffs…dry here too!)

  24. Para. 3.
    “Journalists say “Not us.”
    I say, “Yes, you”.
    Or at least the investigative ones.
    Oh, wait, I forgot, there aren’t any of those any more.

  25. The lessons that the general public need to learn concern the nature of ‘the media’ nowadays.
    1. Proper journalism costs money – you need skills and experience to be able to divine the truth in a world of bullshitters.
    2. The business models of ‘newspapers’/’media websites’ nowadays does not have the budget for that – it is far more ‘profitable’ to purchase an ‘advertorial’ where an interest group (through a suitable ghost writer) is allowed to put their case forward. The evidence of this is clear: you get two articles the same day putting diametrically opposed views forward. This of course makes the paper twice as much profit, if such approaches are profitable and it leaves the reader to have to acquire the skills of top journalists in order to be able to determine who is telling the truth or not. 99% of readers do not have the time, the inclination or the ability to do that, so an essential function of the media has been lost – namely acting as the representatives of the public in ensuring that their interests are safeguarded.
    3. Most media websites are channels for the communication of gambling fixes – of course, you need to be savvy as to the signals, but trust me, it goes on. A lot. So if you wonder why an article has been written, ask yourself: ‘is this a message to insider traders?’
    As a result of this, most of traditional media functions in ‘old style democracy’ are disappearing fast.
    I now use reading the ‘traditional media pages’ not to be educated or informed but to determine what the official party lines are on various matters. For climate education, I come here or elsewhere. For politics, I search out old-style journalists who run blogs, amongst other things. For sport, I rarely bother now as too much is fixed and in the hands of the mafia.
    The critical thing children nowadays need to be educated about is: ‘how do you determine which sites tell the truth and which are official propaganda channels?’ The answer is not an easy one: ‘you need to educate yourself sufficiently in a lot of fields to be able to judge that for yourself’. Thing is then, what’s the point of going to a website to educate yourself if you have to educate yourself the hard way anyway? Who do you trust to evaluate the evaluators?? Well it certainly wouldn’t be Amazon book reviewers, would it?? WOULD IT??
    Education in the 20th century took too much on trust. 21st century education must be all about how to determine why to trust someone…….

  26. First, an aside to Editor of the Fabius Maximus website wrt posting images, see http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/10/26/what-if-the-godzilla-el-nino-is-a-dud/#comment-2057416 above.

    “This definitely has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño.”
    — Bill Patzert, a climatologist with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in the LAT.

    Patzert seems to be a Godzilla fan. When this story came out, I Googled |Godzilla Patzert| and there were lots and lots of links, many years old. There must be lots and lots new ones, including one to this post.

    • Ric,
      Thanks for that great research! It appears Patzert uses “Godzilla” to describe moderately strong El Nino events (2+ vs. strong being 1.5+ on NOAA’s scale). Quite an over-the-top name for what are relatively common events. It’s pathologising the weather, all too common these days.
      In 2010: “El Niños come in small, medium, large and Godzilla, The last Godzilla El Niño we had was in l998, and the one before that was in l983. The others are mostly wanna-bes. But the ’97-’98 El Niño triggered something deep in the cortex of reporters, and now whenever the word is mentioned, they start salivating.”
      But why waste a good term?
      “This time, they have lasted three days and gusted with the force of a minor hurricane – what Dr Patzert calls “Godzilla-sized” Santa Anas.”
      This kind of vivid but often exaggerated language helps climate scientists’ careers — today. The profession might reconsider its norms if we don’t get the great extreme weather they’ve predicted for so long, and their credibility with the public eventually crashes to that of used car salesmen.

  27. Any scientist who has to communicate with the media should follow this process:
    Firstly, write a statement that accurately expresses your views, with all the necessary caveats about probabilities and margins of error.
    Secondly, strike out all the caveats and any predictions that don’t involve anything dramatic. Whatever’s left is what the media will actually use.
    Repeat the process until the media version is sufficiently close to what you really mean that you won’t mind seeing it in a headline.

  28. Having read the full post, and all of the following commentary, I’m still curious about one thing (cue the Clue quotation: “Just ONE thing…?”) —
    “Climate scientists have tended to either joined(sic) the frenzy, or stay on the sidelines.”
    Did they have any other options?

  29. I rather think it will be less than the 1998 el nino based mostly on “intuition” and looking at the overall surface temperatures of the Pacific. I see too much overall warm water which I am anticipating is caused by undersea eruptions, and not enough cool to really rev this one up, regardless of how warm the eastern tropical Pacific is.

  30. In the SF Bay Area, we’re counting on a big El Nino to cause a big amount of winter precipitation. We need it to refresh our water supply. So far, there’s been little rain this season, but it’s early yet…

  31. If you own a home in CA you should probably review your insurance policies to make sure you are covered for Godzillas.

  32. So, if this El Niño thing is supposed to warm the planet…
    …How come we have had six El Niño events since 2003 (one every two years, well above the mean) and yet no warming?
    I guess a lot of people have this El Niño thing backwards. Lots of El Niño events are keeping the planet from warming. High ENSO activity reduces the latitudinal thermal gradient and puts a lot of heat into space. We are having a lot of El Niño events because the planet is venting excess heat. It is a safety valve triggered by high latitudinal thermal gradient. That’s why there is no ENSO activity during Bond events. There is no need if the planet is cool and the latitudinal thermal gradient is low.
    My prediction… For as long as the planet is as warm as it is now we are going to have a lot of El Niño events. If it cools down we will have less, and if it warms up we will have even more. The more Los Niños we have the less the planet will warm.

  33. There are duds and there are disasters. If it is a mere dud, and is something like 1983, I will still rejoice. If it is a disaster, and dies like the ones last decade, I may start to pack up to move somewhere with more fresh water. On a different note, if it is a disaster and there is no end to the drought, but of course, the continuation of the drought will be blamed on AGW – even though the death of El Nino means that there was less of an ENSO warm spike than predicted. You see, ENSO warm spike = AGW and ENSO cold wave also = AGW.

  34. October will likely be the warmest month on record for NCEP REAL TIME temps, which to me are the gold standard, a real time temp measurement every 6 hours. Records go back to 1981. While the NCEP temps have solidly debunked claims of warmest month ever through September, this October is .05C warmer than the previous and looks likely to beat it

    • But what the temps in the 1930s?
      It may well be the case that the land based thermometer record will show the next 6 or so months as the warmest on record, but that will be quite irrelevant if this El Nino does not result in a step change in temperature (like we have seen with the Super El Nino of 1997/8).
      IF, and this is a big IF, there is no such step change and temperatures fall back with a following La Nina, we will be getting to 2018 with the ‘pause’ more than 21 years long and during which period man will have emitted more than 36% of all manmade CO2 emissions and all without a statistically significant rise in temperature. This will cause immense problems for AR6, especially since one can expect to see peer reviewed papers published in 2017 and 2018 suggesting that Climate Sensitivity must be less than 1.5degC per doubling, and some may be suggesting less than 1.3degC per doubling.
      To answer the question posed in the title (what if this El Nino is a dud), the answer is that AR6 may be scrapped, or the IPCC will be forced to recognise that all the Climate models are outside their 95% confidence band and hence cannot be regarded as valid projectors of future climate trends, and the IPCC will be forced to reduce Climate Sensitivity probably down to 1 to 3 degC, without being able to express a best consensus view since that would no doubt be under 2degC and the IPCC cannot publish such a consensus estimate. The IPCC has to keep alive the possibility that Climate Sensitivity could be over 2 degC. This will be very difficult given the papers already published on this post 2011, so all recent papers will be coming in under 2 degC. What are they going to say about these papers? They cannot be ignored this time round (the recent papers were ignored for AR5 but they were only few in number, and hot off the press, this will not apply for AR6) .
      This is why Paris is such a big deal. It may well be the last ditch saloon. Of course, matters may not unfold as detailed above because the El NIno may not turn out to be a dud, and there may be some natural warming/ a step change which will be massaged as part of a straight line linear trend even though it is no such thing.

      • Richard,
        “To answer the question posed in the title (what if this El Nino is a dud), the answer is that AR6 may be scrapped, or the IPCC will be forced to recognise that all the Climate models are outside their 95% confidence band and hence cannot be regarded as valid projectors of future climate trends, and the IPCC will be forced to reduce Climate Sensitivity probably down to 1 to 3 degC,”
        As this post shows quite decisively, the official forecasts for this El Nino have already proven accurate — since this is already a strong El Nino.
        The news headlines refer to unofficial statements. Such as last year’s prediction for a “super monster El Nino — which proved false, but with none of the consequences you describe. And this year’s headlines, which began with predictions of a “Godzilla El Nino” (city destroying?) and became even more dire. The public knows not and cares not about the ONI and other technical indexes, but can match the lurid headlines with the actual weather (as you so well described in earlier comments).
        It’s these unofficial forecasts, which the news presents as science, that might be proved to be “duds”. Adding to the already long list of confident predictions in the headlines which proved false.

      • Fabius
        My point is this. The current El Nino may be a strong El Nino. It may well turn out to be one of the strongest on record. Even if that is the case, and even if the predictions in this regard are correct, it will nonetheless be a “dud” if it does not produce a step change in temperature as occurred with the 1997/8 Super El Nino.
        As can clearly be seen from the satellite record, there is a step change of about 0.25degC coincident upon the 1997/8 Super El Nino (incidentally, this is the only temperature change, over and above short term noisy variation, to be seen in that record which is 36 years long). Unless the current El Nino produces a similar step change in temperature, then the following La Nina, which will probably happen in 2017, will completely cancel out what short term warming that resulted from the current El Nino. This will mean that in the satellite data, the current strong El Nino will produce a peak much like 2010, but by late 2017/2018 temperatures will be back down tracking along the 2001 to 2003 level.
        In that scenario by late 2018/2019 as AR6 is being prepared, the ‘pause’ will be over 21 years in duration. Santer at one time suggested that 15 years with no temperature rise would be significant as potentially causing problems for cAGW, then he suggested the period to be 17 years. I consider that if the ‘pause’ is over 21 years, it will be difficult not to consider it important and material for the assessment of Climate Sensitivity. If this happens (ie., the ‘pause’ extends past 20 years), many ‘Climate Scientists’ will be running around like headless chickens in the run up to AR6
        Thus the testing as to whether the current strong El Nino is a “dud” or not, is not whether the land thermometer data set shows 2015 and the first half of 2016 as the warmest ever on record, but rather whether it has long term impact in the satellite data set such that it busts the ‘pause’ AND the ‘pause’ remains busted in the run up to the preparation of AR6.
        If there is no step change in temperatures coincident with this current El Nino, it will be a “dud” even if it creates a short term blip equal to the blip of 1998 or 2010 in the satellite data set.
        I am not challenging that the current El Nino is a strong El Nino, but we need to wait and see the aftermaths of this El Nino and whether it has had any long term (I am using that expression in relative terms) impact on the satellite data set such that it means that the ‘pause’ is no longer apparent in the satellite data set when the IPCC are preparing AR6

      • Richard,
        I agree with you about the best way to measure the effects of El Nino vs. the news headlines that create expectations of the public.
        I disagree about the effects if this El Nino fails to match the lurid headlines. This would be yet another blown prediction, like the others I list in this post (add to that list the 2014 “super monster El Nino”). But most of these were unofficial predictions — although journalists seldom make that clear to the public.
        Hence a failure of this event to live up to the “Godzilla” (an extraordinary city-destroying monster) would not, imo, have the effects you suggest on the IPCC. Nor should it, imo.
        More broadly, I doubt that anything will break the gridlocked public policy debate about climate change — unless both sides agree to a fair test, such as that proposed here:
        If nothing is done, the weather will eventually decide the debate. The result might prove unpleasant.

  35. This El Niño is already at 1997 super intensity (+2.5C). We’re already getting a robust Pineapple Express (mudslides in California last week, super-rains in Texas). It didn’t fail. It’s already here and contributing to global temperature records (in addition to their hiatus-busting tweak they made last spring).

    • Matt,
      Your excitement is evident, but I suspect misplaced. Pineapple Expresses and mudslides are commonplace events in California (I live there); and the weather so far has been nothing unusual.
      Can you provide a citation saying that the rainfall in Texas was due to this El Nino? It seems unlikely that it could have had such effect so soon.
      We’ll see if events afterwards justify the hype — or fail to do so.

      • Editor of the Fabius Maximus : ” …Pineapple Expresses and mudslides are commonplace events in California (I live there); and the weather so far has been nothing unusual.”
        Not sure what part of California you reside in but my part….coastal South….has seen some VERY unusual weather. Usually by this time of year surfers are wearing 2 – 3 mm wetsuits and they are still in their rash guards. Tuna have been schooling within 10 miles of the Orange County coast most of the year and some very exotic fish have been showing up in local waters. Humidity has been over the top for months and only recently settled to near normal. Anecdotal? Yes, but the numbers match. I’ve been here almost 70 years, and this one is a whopper….precipitation isn’t the only indicator but my guess is that will come too.

      • Matt,
        The comments at WUWT and other climate-related websites overflow with such anecdotal claims. They mean nothing. People’s memories cannot clearly recall an event that occurred five minutes ago. Claims of comparisons with decades ago are fun, but immaterial.
        Data is not the plural of anecdote. That’s why we have science, and quantitative records.

  36. Note all the hype about the recent “super hurricane/cyclone” that was due to hit Mexico (with the remains going through Texas soon)
    The news reports all focused on how it was the biggest (true) the strongest (slightly true) and was certain to cause the most damage ever (unwarranted speculation/doom mongering)
    the day after the storm hit, most outlets pretended it hadn’t happened and the few that reported it said only “amazingly, there was very little damage and the storm went mostly unnoticed”.
    No one ever is called to task for the failed predictions, they just forget about them and go on to the next.

    • wws,
      “No one ever is called to task for the failed predictions, they just forget about them and go on to the next.”
      I understand that perspective. But this post suggests another way to see this. These failure of these lurid predictions (many unofficial) probably have had an effect: they are in part responsible for the American public’s disinterest. Polls show that Americans consistently rank climate change at the bottom of major public policy concerns.
      Here’s Gallup’s annual poll:
      It seems that activists are proving the accuracy of AA’s adage: “insanity is repeating actions while hoping for a different outcome.”

  37. Is the UK Met correct in thinking this El Nino will bring freezing conditions to Europe this winter?
    I’m of the opinion that a negative NAO is the real culprit.

    • Ironicman,
      A cautionary note plus forecast from the November issue of the Browning World Climate Bulletin:

      “Europe has experienced El Niños in the past. It has also experienced Icelandic volcanic eruptions. Never in known recorded history has Europe had to deal with such a strong sulfuric volcano eruption and a strong El Niño at the same time.
      “This winter forecast is attempting to take the weather that occurs 60% of the time from a strong El Niño and combine it with the known impact of Icelandic volcanic eruptions. The El Niño and the cold blob can change drastically and updates will continue as we keep an eye on these two short-term natural climate events. Thankfully for Europe, despite a potentially difficult winter, record-breaking cold or snowstorms seem very unlikely.”

  38. Another dot of evidence suggesting that this might not be a “super monster” or “Godzilla” El Nino, just another very strong one, more or less like 1982-83 and 1997-98. This is the CFSvs2 model forecast as of 9 November 2015 from the weekly ENSO report by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
    The forecasts in October predicted that it would peak soon. The data (not forecast) on this one says it has peaked. Unexpected and contrary to most forecasts.

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