Guest Opinion: Dr. Tim Ball
Mark Albright, who reportedly lost his job as Oregon State Climatologist in 2003 apparently because of his views on global warming, drew attention to the failed El Nino based forecast for Oregon. Here is the official prediction.
Most of the state remains in drought conditions, and climatologists expect a strong El Nino this year. All those conditions are expected to combine to create a warmer, drier winter than Oregon usually experiences.
On January 16, 2016, Albright notes,
Portland averages 14.1 inches of precipitation over the 3 winter months of Dec, Jan, and Feb. We are about have way through winter 2015-16 as of today (17 Jan) and the winter precipitation total stands at 18.9 inches with 6 weeks of winter remaining in our future. In other words, we have already reached 134% of normal winter precipitation, and yet we are only at the half-way point of winter. Even if no precipitation falls for the remaining 6 weeks of winter (UNLIKELY!), this winter of 2015-16 will go down as a WET winter in Portland Oregon.
It is one of many forecasts that failed because they use the weather and climate patterns of previous El Nino years.
A useful article by Bob Tisdale outlined some of the problems with the sea surface temperature (SST) data that are considered an integral part of the entire El Nino and more widely ENSO process. The problem parallels the inadequacies of the overall surface temperature record. Accurate knowledge of the data, which is the effect, guarantees failure to determine the cause. Similarly, lack of knowledge and understanding of the cause guarantees failure to understand and accurately predict the effect. This is part of, but more than, the problems with turbidity, differential equations, and other basic physics that Essex and McKitrick identified so well in Taken By Storm. There is much discussion about the complete failure of the IPCC models, which is not surprising considering the inadequate data and mechanisms omitted because they are not understood or deliberately left out. The problem is more elaborate models don’t produce any better results.
This article will trigger the usual responses from people who present themselves as the authorities on one specific aspect of the vast complex system that is weather and climate. They are the so-called climate scientists. The idea that you can know and understand the role of any one portion of Figure 1 illustrates the complexity and the limitations of specialization within the Earth-atmosphere system. There is only one input, solar radiation, but that ignores other mechanisms that result in changes within the system. There is an obsession with radiation that ignores physical and other mechanisms of change. This parallels the problem of ignoring gravity in the global vertical temperature gradient and the wind as a major cause of change among others.
Understanding one piece requires knowledge of the much larger segment if not the entire system, as the arrows try to indicate. Systems Analysts recognize the challenge because it is a systems diagram. They developed their expertize to deal with real world problems of interrelationships and interconnectivity.
Figure 1: (Source Kellogg and Schneider, 1974).
In universities, the problem of specialization quickly challenged academics dealing with real world problems and resulted in the creation of inter-disciplinary studies. The real world is integrated, a fact no model or prediction can avoid.
The reason climatology was studied and taught in Geography Departments is because it is the original integrative discipline. Some referred to as Chorology defined as
the study of the causal relations between geographical phenomena occurring within a particular region.
Specialists deride it as a generalist discipline with the epithet of being jacks-of-all-trades, but masters of none. These specialists who saw an opportunity of funding in global warming believed that their piece of the puzzle was the answer. It wasn’t, but it did create the new category of climate scientists. In fact, they are people who study one small part of the complex weather and climate system. Failed predictions reflect their limitations.
Specialization is a major explanation, but it is reinforced by omitted and incorrect assumptions including that
· Most ignore the fact that cold air dominates so that warm air only moves into an area after the cold air recedes.
· An external forcing is detectable in all climate records and that an external forcing is detectable at all latitudes.
· A 30, 50, 100, or even 1000 – year record is an adequate representation of climate change.
· There are data sets adequate as the basis for any climate model.
· They believe it is safe to eliminate a variable to accommodate the limited computer capacity and assume the analysis is still valid at any point in the climate record.
· Physical force, such as the solar wind, wind, or magnetism are as important and sometimes more so than those considered.
El Nino Alone Illustrates Why IPCC Science Is Wrong
IPCC Reports claim with 95+ percent certainty that increases in global temperature since 1950 are due to human addition of CO2. This claim is made despite the omission or lack of understanding of most major temperature altering mechanisms. Most climate scientists who question the IPCC are little better as they focus, without full or contextual understanding, on one or two possible causes. El Nino events are a good example. Once again we are in the middle of an El Nino event that is reportedly modifying temperatures beyond the claimed human effect. The predictions about its strength and impact were wrong again. Why? As Erl Happ noted,
If we wish to understand the ENSO phenomenon we must look beyond the tropics for causal factors. ENSO in the Pacific is just one facet of change in the tropics. Change is driven by air pressure variations at mid and especially high latitudes.
Historical El Nino
Most of the public incorrectly thinks El Nino is a new phenomenon resulting from global warming. The only thing relatively new is scientific awareness and its influence on global climate. Inca, who sailed the Pacific coast of South America for millennia, knew its effects well. Their priests observed the Pleiades star formation in the spring from high in the Andes to study the optical conditions. They knew empirically that the difference between a clear or shimmering cluster of stars determined the precipitation pattern. It was a useful rainfall predictor and guided when to plant their main crop, potatoes. The atmospheric conditions vary between unstable and stable conditions as the Pacific Ocean switches between El Nino and La Nina, which determines the precipitation pattern. The Inca also knew a great deal from sailing Balsawood rafts to fish and visit the Galapagos Islands. Quinn and Neal produced a detailed record of El Nino events from 1522 to 1987 in Climate Since A.D.1500.
Spanish sailors learned from the Inca and their experiences. They named it after the little Christ child because it occurred near Christmas. Sir Francis Drake was a first class navigator but needed someone who knew the Pacific currents when he rounded Cape Horn in 1579. He captured a Spanish vessel and used the navigator Morera to avoid the El Nino currents and reach the west coast of Canada. Morera became ill near Oregon and was put ashore to increase his chances of survival. He promptly walked to Mexico and reported what Drake was doing to Spanish authorities.
Science of El Nino
Sir Gilbert Walker produced the first scientific discussions of alternating wind patterns in the Pacific in the early 20th century. Later it was called the Walker Circulation. In 1924, Walker introduced the term Southern Oscillation (SO), which is now used as an Index (SOI) to measure the difference in pressure between Darwin in Australia and Tahiti. Wang reports that scientific analysis began much later.
The earliest studies for causing tropical Pacific climate variability associated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) can be dated back to Bjerknes (1966 and 1969). Bjerknes provided evidence that the long-term persistence of climate anomalies associated with Walker’s Southern Oscillation (Walker and Bliss 1932) is closely associated with slowly evolving sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies in the equatorial eastern and central Pacific. Bjerknes hypothesized that a positive ocean-atmosphere feedback involved the Walker circulation is responsible for the SST warming observed in the equatorial eastern and central Pacific.
I remember when these studies appeared but know that they had little impact in climatology and especially among the public. Part of this was because the focus, especially in the US, was on global cooling at the time. It was also because its impacts were primarily in northern South America and Central America. Unfortunately, we live in a world that determines the importance of a natural event on where it occurs. El Nino achieved global headlines when in 1982-1983 because it moved north to impact California. It was terrible as beachfront houses of celebrities in Malibu were threatened (Figure 2).
Like all ‘new’ discoveries of natural weather phenomenon, it became an explanation for many events, but the lack of understanding of the mechanism makes predictions very difficult.
Figure 3 is a schematic of El Nino and La Nina showing the reversal of ocean surface currents that creates alternating warm and cold water on each side of the Pacific.
Figure 3: La Nina and El Nino and Related Weather Patterns
Surface winds are created by the difference in pressure, so the air moves from the High pressure to the Low. The SOI measures the oscillating pressure difference as shown in Figure 4.
There is a general period of 4 years, but this varies from 2 to 7 years. Intensity and location of the events also vary. This is a major stumbling block for computer models as Wang explained.
“The ENSO oscillator models produce periodic solutions, whereas ENSO variability in nature is known to be irregular.”
There are similar problems of variability in location and latitude of El Nino events. On the American side, it is predominantly in the southern hemisphere with the northern edge affecting northern South America and touching the southwestern USA. The 1982-83 event dispelled that idea but didn’t trigger the analysis and explanation required. Nobody has effectively explained why the 1998 event triggered such a dramatic peak in global temperature. Nobody has explained why an El Nino has a measurable global impact on temperature when La Nina, which is also a large area of warm water, but on the other side of the Pacific, does not create a similar temperature impact.
Focus is on pressure, ocean currents and sea surface temperature differences, but these are effects, not the cause. Something must cause a complete reversal of the general wind patterns for the ocean currents to reverse. There are three major global wind patterns, Polar Easterlies, Mid-Latitude Westerlies, and equatorial easterlies. Only the latter disappear or reverse flow and seem to be the mechanism that causes reversals at the surface. The question is what causes the upper-level equatorial wind reversals? The IPCC tacitly acknowledge they don’t know in their 2007 Report.
“There are also apparent decadal variations in ENSO forecast skill (Balmaseda et al., 1995; Ji et al., 1996; Kirtman and Schopf, 1998), and the sources of these variations are the subject of some debate. Finally, it remains unclear how changes in the mean climate will ultimately affect ENSO predictability (Collins et al., 2002).”
They are just as unsure in the 2013 IPCC Report. As an unusual NOAA analysis says,
The IPCC has LOW confidence in exactly what will happen to ENSO in the future even while they have HIGH confidence that ENSO itself will continue.
It is unusual because its banner says, “ENSO +Climate Change = Headache. This quote reinforces that assessment.
If there is one bit of knowledge you should leave the ENSO blog with, it is that ENSO is a complex system of give and take between the atmosphere and the ocean (see here or here or maybe here, and just for good measure here). Imagine a dining room whose light is controlled by a dimmer switch. If you want to make the room brighter, adjust the switch. Now, imagine instead of one dimmer switch on the wall there are hundreds, all of which affect the amount of light in the room. That light is ENSO. And climate change is some bratty kid who goes into the room and fiddles with each switch differently. Will the end result of his fiddling be a brighter room (i.e. stronger or more frequent ENSO) or a darker room (weaker or less frequent ENSO)? Hard to say.
They are all ignoring the obvious. They assume that the cause and effect are within the ocean/atmosphere system. It is not. There is no explanation for the mechanism that causes the reversal of pressure between the different sides of the Pacific. Surface pressure differences are caused by temperature difference, but there is no evidence or plausible explanation for that temperature difference. It appears that the primary forcing is in the mechanism that causes a reversal of the Equatorial easterlies.
Figure 1, from the latest IPCC report, shows one possible way the Pacific Ocean might change if the central/eastern Pacific Ocean warms faster than areas in the western Pacific or just north or south of the equator. The resulting reduction in sea level pressure difference between the east and west is due to weakening high sea level pressure in the east as SSTs warm more so than SSTs in the west. This weakens the trade winds and the overall Walker Circulation (IPCC, 2013; Collins et al. 2010). However, keep in mind, other studies suggest the SST gradient and the Walker Circulation could strengthen (Cane, 1997; Solomon and Newman, 2012; L’Heureux et al., 2013).
In a 2004 study titled, “Extreme climate of the global troposphere and stratosphere in 1940-42 related to El Nino” the authors wrote.
Although the El Niño/Southern Oscillation phenomenon is the most prominent mode of climate variability and affects weather and climate in large parts of the world, its effects on Europe and the high-latitude stratosphere are controversial.
We conclude that the observed anomalies constitute a recurring extreme state of the global troposphere–stratosphere system in northern winter that is related to strong El Niño events.
These observations assume incorrectly that El Nino is causing changes in the Jet Stream. Labitzke and van Loon wrote about sun/atmosphere relationship in1992 and reinforced their findings in 1994.
This paper brings up-to-date our correlations between the 10.7cm solar flux and 30mb heights, and our composites of temperatures and geopotential heights grouped according to the extremes of the 11-year solar cycle. It shows that our earlier results are robust. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the large correlation coefficients between the solar flux and the 30mb heights to a great extent are associated with temperature variations on a decadal scale in the middle and upper troposphere in the outer tropics-subtropics.
There are some interesting studies that point to a relationship and impact not considered by most, especially the IPCC. For example, in 1974 J. King published Weather and Earth’s Magnetic Field. The abstract says,
A comparison of meteorological pressures and the strength of the geomagnetic field suggests a possible controlling influence of the field on the longitudinal variation of the average pressure in the troposphere at high latitudes. If so, changes which occur in the pattern of ‘permanent’ depressions in the troposphere as the magnetic field varies (for example, as the non-dipole component of the field drifts westwards) may be accompanied by climatic changes.
Another study by Professor Baker links solar activity to precipitation, and concludes,
“The interaction between the directionality in the Sun’s and Earth’s magnetic fields, the incidence of ultraviolet radiation over the tropical Pacific, and changes in sea surface temperatures with cloud cover – could all contribute to an explanation of substantial changes in the SOI from solar cycle fluctuations. If solar cycles continue to show relational values to climate patterns, there is the potential for more accurate forecasting through to 2010 and possibly beyond.”
The sun’s magnetic field may have a significant impact on weather and climatic parameters in Australia and other countries in the northern and southern hemispheres. Droughts are related to the solar magnetic phases and not the greenhouse effect, according to new research.
Interesting correlations, but what are the cause/effect mechanisms? All of these factors attracted my interest during research for my doctoral thesis. I discovered a strong 22-year cycle in a spectral analysis of a long precipitation record for two weather records. One, Churchill, is climatically subarctic. The other, York Factory is mid-latitude and within the boreal forest. York has the 22-year pattern, but Churchill does not. This mid-latitude precipitation pattern links with research of drought cycles on the Canadian Prairies.
Evidence for a possible extraterrestrial driving force constantly appears as Tsiropoula notes.
The literature contains a long history of positive or negative correlations between weather and climate parameters like temperature, rainfall, droughts, etc. and solar activity cycles like the 27-day cycle, the prominent 11-year sunspot cycle, the 22-year Hale cycle and the Gleissberg cycle of 80–90 years. A review of these different cycles is provided as well as some of the correlative analyses between them and several stratospheric parameters (like stratospheric geopotential heights, temperature and ozone concentration) and tropospheric parameters (like temperature, rainfall, water level in lakes and river flooding, clouds) that point to a relationship of some kind. However, the suspicion on these relationships will remain as long as an indisputable physical mechanism, which might act to produce these correlations, is not available.
In a chapter of the book, Handbook of the Solar-terrestrial Environment the authors write
Until recently it was generally doubted that the solar variability in the “11-year sunspot cycle” (SSC), as measured by satellites, has a significant influence on weather and climate variations. But several studies, both empirical and modelling, have in recent years pointed to probable and certain influences. For instance, Labitzke suggested in 1982 that the sun influences the intensity of the north polar vortex (i.e., the Arctic Oscillation (AO)) in the stratosphere in winter, and that the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation (QBO) is needed to identify the solar signal. At present there is no agreement about the mechanism or mechanisms through which the solar variability effect is transmitted to the atmosphere.
I proposed several years ago that a possible major mechanism in changing patterns of upper levels is the varying pressure of the Solar Wind on the magnetosphere. It cascades down through the layers to the atmosphere, where it causes changes in the major wind patterns. The mechanism has to accommodate two major wind situations. First, is the reversal of upper troposphere equatorial winds that result in ENSO. Second is the change in the Jet Stream from Zonal to Meridional Flow. This is achieved through the physical mechanism of the solar wind acting like bellows on the atmosphere that expands and contracts with increasing and decreasing Solar wind pressure. It creates a push-pull effect that causes the weaker tropical winds to stop or reverse and the much stronger Jet Stream to switch between low amplitude Zonal Flow and high amplitude Meridional Flow.
The IPCC claimed with 90% certainty that global warming is due to human CO2. Lack of data combined with omission or lack of understanding of major mechanisms as major reasons why all past, present, and future predictions are wrong. The same is true of major events within the Earth/atmosphere system like El Nino or ENSO. As it is more frequently said these days, if your predictions are wrong the science is wrong.
I turned over the office of Washington State Climatologist to Phil Mote in 2003. However, I remained connected to the office as the “Associate State Climatologist”, in fact, that was a condition I made for turning it over to Phil in 2003. Then in 2007 I was dismissed as Washington Associate State Climatologist for questioning the claimed rapid ongoing demise of the Cascade Mountain snowpack due to global warming. I was dismissed for not being a consensus team player in the global warming arena.