Global Surface Temperature Anomalies Should Be Higher In 2016 Than 2015

Guest Post by Bob Tisdale

This post confirms what most of us suspect based on the history of global surface temperature data responses to strong El Niño events. That is, if global surface temperatures respond similarly to past strong El Niños, the 2016 values should be higher than 2015.


Table 1 lists the global temperature anomalies from GISS, NOAA NCEI and UKMO for the evolution and decay years, and their differences, during the eight strong El Niño events of 1957/58, 1965/66, 1972/73, 1982/83, 1987/88, 1991/92, 1997/98, and 2009/10. I’ve also listed the 2015 values for the 2015/16 El Niño. For this discussion, I’ve defined a strong El Niño as one where the peak NOAA Oceanic NINO Index value equals or exceeds 1.5 deg C. The annual global temperature anomaly values are as provided by the suppliers…that is, they have not been normalized to account for the differences in base years in Table 1.

Global Temps - Strong El Nino Evolution vs Decay Years

Table 1

(Table with all El Niño events, regardless of strength, is here.)

The 1991/92 El Niño was the only strong El Niño event where the decay year was cooler than the evolution year. That unusual response, of course, would typically be attributed to the sun-blocking aerosols emitted by the explosive volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. On the other hand, El Chichon erupted in 1982 during the 1982/83 El Niño and global surface temperatures were higher in 1983 than in 1982…but the eruption of El Chichon in 1982 is said to have had a lesser impact on global temperatures than 1991’s Mount Pinatubo and the 1982/83 El Niño was stronger than the 1991/92 El Niño.


Curiously, though, there have been recent sizeable multi-month downticks in both GISS and NCEI surface temperature data that indicate an early decay of global surface temperature responses to the 2015/16 El Niño, when compared to that of the comparably sized 1997/98 El Niño. (Still waiting for the HADCRUT4 data for May 2016.) See Figure 1. Note that the data in Figure 1 have been normalized to the first 3 months of the respective first years for an easier visual comparison of the responses of global surface temperatures to the two El Niños of similar strength. Contrary to nonsensical alarmist claims, I am not hiding the fact that surface temperatures are reportedly higher in 2015/16 than they were in 1997/98.

Figure 1

Figure 1

IF, great big if, the early decay of [the global temperature response to] the 2015/16 El Niño persists, there’s a chance that global surface temperatures in 2016 will not be higher than 2015…and that would be unusual.


GISS LOTI data are here.

NCEI data can be found here.

Annual UKMO HADCRUT4 data are here.

UPDATE:  I’ve added a clarification in brackets to the closing paragraph.



46 thoughts on “Global Surface Temperature Anomalies Should Be Higher In 2016 Than 2015

      • When we try to show the differences of different El Nino peaks — rising and falling sides — several components contribute to individual events. Unless we eliminate such contributions, it may not give the realistic component of El Nino event. Fo example, [1] date availability in terms of quantity and quality during individual event periods; [2] the contribution of 60-year cycle — sine curve part; [3] solar cycle; [4] volcanic activity; [5] general circulation pattern at that time, etc etc.
        Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

      • Johanus
        My “Yep!” in the first post your responded to was meant only as an affirmation that solar activity on our side of the sun is down.
        I appreciate the information your providing. I’m sure you agree that this cycle 24 is considerably below average as compared to the record. To this layman it seems that such solar cycles and the variability of irradiance associated with them has to be a huge driver of changes in our worlds climate even if the effects are delayed especially when consecutive cycles display well below average activity.

      • > ,,, solar disc went spotless.
        That’s because all of the spots are currently huddled together on the _far_ side of the Sun.
        So, sunspots are usually a reliable indicator of solar magnetic activity, i.e. the solar dynamo, assuming unbiased sampling. But our inability to see the far side introduces a bias, does it not?
        Solar flux index (SFI), IMHO, is a better indicator of magnetic activity, and it’s only down to 77 (from 100 a few months ago).
        So still a fair amount of magnetic activity left until we reach the end of SC24, and magnetic activity will hibernate for awhile, like it does every 11 years or so.
        Do these periodic solar magnetic maxima and minima correlate to any _consistent_ patterns of 11 year heating and cooling? I don’t think so.

      • No “bias” that I see. I make no claim to being a solar scientist or any other kind of scientist. There is a reason why I used the word “disc” and not sphere.
        The activity on the portion of the sphere that is facing us is what primarily creates the space weather around our planet and thus our weather and climate. It is also where the most predictable threats to the safety of our space vehicles and astronauts, the performance of broadcast information such as radio and data links, and even potentially the very continuity of our electrically driven digital societies will emanate from. Besides the fact that the sunspot count is recognized as representing the longest running systematic record of observational data in all of science.
        Having said all that, I recognize that monitoring the activity on the whole sphere including what at any one time is the far side is certainly very important to get an idea of what may be coming around the bend and may be aimed towards our planet and in order to gain a better understanding of how our star works and is working.

      • @rah
        “The activity on the portion of the sphere that is facing us is what primarily creates the space weather around our planet and thus our weather and climate.”
        True, but the Sun rotates on its axis every 25 days (at the equator) so, eventually, the disc we see encompasses its entire surface. Sunspots tend to have exponentially short lifetimes, more than half expire within 2 days and 90% are gone within 11 days. So there is a secular variation in the current number of spots visible on the disc, which does indeed bias our observations of this short-term solar magnetic activity.
        But sunspots represent magnetic activity on the sun, and have little bearing on the total solar irradiance received by the Earth. TSI pretty much lives up to its old moniker, ‘Solar Constant’, changing only by about 0.1% over an 11-year solar cycle.
        So, theoretically, this tiny change in TSI should induce tiny changes in climatic heating and cooling, but in practice such changes would be virtually impossible to detect.

    • “Global temps falling would not be unusual with this very weak solar cycle…”
      How much do temps fall with low sunspot numbers? Have you noticed any meaningful correlation with historical data which supports your statement?

      • +1
        In some people’s minds the lack of correlation does not imply lack of causation, i. e. wishful thinking.

  1. Thermal inertia is a reality. The NCEP CFSR / CFSv2 Global 2-Meter Temperature Anomaly calculated by Ryan Maue at Weatherbell daily (paywalled) shows a sharp peak on Mar 1, 2016 at +1C and has been trending downward ever since. He publishes it on Twitter now and then and it is an interesting graph as it is based on actual temps feed into the climate models.
    I think the next 5 years are going to be pretty exciting in the climate world. With the oncoming solar minimum we will get a pretty good idea if a quiet Sun really matters that much. Theories of solar minimums and increased volcanic activity can be tested and the cyclic oscillations in the oceans will have moved farther down the line.

  2. No post peak bounce back on the temps? Did the 82/83 and or other Nino events show a bounce back in temps a few months after the peak was reached?
    Could the recent solar activity, or lack there of, play a role? Spotless sun syndrone?

  3. If it turns out that 2015 is warmer than 2016 that’s ok, the people who supposedly fight global warming have had their prayers answered, they celebrate the fact that 2015 is the hottest year on record.
    They are very happy about this…though it does seem a bit counterintuitive to me, how about you?

    • They have enjoyed recent London, Paris, and WV flooding.
      But they’re still dying for some Katrina-esque hurricane damage. “Superstorm Sandy” wasn’t enough.

  4. “IF, great big if, the early decay of [the global temperature response to] the 2015/16 El Niño persists, there’s a chance that global surface temperatures in 2016 will not be higher than 2015…and that would be unusual.”
    Dr. Spencer seems to believe that the current rate of drop will not be sustained and that 2016 will end up being hotter than 2015 according to satellite data making it a record year.

    • This recent El Nino looks like it more closely resembles the 2009/10 El Nino then the 1997/98 El Nino, when looking at the UAH graph.

  5. Lower coronal activity means weaker magnetic fields and more cosmic rays and cloud nuclei according to Svensmark.

  6. I think it is fascinating how these patterns work, and how at the detail level they vary in timing. I am especially interested to see if/how the PDO and AMO phases affect the presence (or not) of an uptick this time.

  7. I’m cynical.
    Nothing really matters much with what happens with anything because the Left’s insatiable thirst and capacity to deceive and deceive again and again is limitless.
    It’s a remarkable phenomenon. Their core of hysteria propagates a constant frenzy of justified fabrication and misrepresentation. About everything, about themselves, about their opposition and Hillary is Exhibit A.
    Spin around in a figurative circle and see they have the same approach to every issue.
    And now that so many of them are able to regularly inject their fanatic’s frenzy into (and infect) every discussion and process their collective mission is the most destructive pandemic in human history.
    Considering the massive toll on resources, lost opportunities, destructive direction and ruinous pattern of dysfunction weaving through everything they touch they are the enemy of human progress.
    Other than that things are looking up.

  8. So after 18 or 20 years measurements between Super El Nino’s essentially show ZERO global warming, much less C02-catastrophic-man-made-global-warming-extreme-weather-blah-blah-blah !! How can this be so ?? The computer/modeled/consensus/CO2-catastrophioc-man-made-. . . .-blah-blah/science proved 97% that this is not possible, we are to be measuring wildly accelerating runaway thermagedon.
    Who’s going to write the temporal computer code to correct the model’s and fix the past so that they show the corrected political based fact making(PB/FM) required to get us to pay indulgences for our carbon sins?

    • How do you conclude that? You should re-read Bob’s post more carefully. The data he shows are normalized to remove the long term trend! He specifically says “Note that the data in Figure 1 have been normalized to the first 3 months of the respective first years for an easier visual comparison of the responses of global surface temperatures to the two El Niños of similar strength. Contrary to nonsensical alarmist claims, I am not hiding the fact that surface temperatures are reportedly higher in 2015/16 than they were in 1997/98.” Indeed, the first 3 months of the GISS data in 1997 are 0.46 degrees above the corresponding 2015 data. I wouldn’t call that “ZERO” would you?

  9. The big difference between 1998 and 2016 is the AMO induced reduction in Arctic sea ice. If you removed this influence you would see a different picture. The reduced sea ice affects global temperature during the 6 months surrounding winter. During the summer months the global temperature in the Arctic never changes very much. If you want a true comparison, eliminate Arctic temperatures ( above 60° N). Click on 1998 in this link to see the difference between 1998 and 2016.
    The quick drop from the peak had to do with the Arctic. That influence is over until summer ends and then it should start working again to raise global temperatures (unless ice quickly forms this year). This will mean the fall off in the global anomaly will slow even as we move deeper into La Nina.
    Finally, does a yearly average really matter? What does an average for the year mean if the last month is far below the average? All the energy that produced the heat is long gone.

  10. This was a multi-year event. The 2014/15 event was sort of an abortive El Nino that failed when the sustaining westerlies failed. The result was “The Blob” in the N. Pacific. The Blob then dumped heat all along. So between The Blob and the 215/16 El Nino proper, a whole lot of heat has been dumped.
    The question is still, after the dust settles:
    A) Temps level off at a higher temperature than The Pause, supporting the “step increase between El Ninos”
    B) Temps drop all the way back to Pause levels, and the Pause is reestablished.
    C) Temps fall below Pause levels indicating that the current warming trend is definitively over and a long awaited cooling trend has set in.

    • i suspect C will happen though cooling would be pretty disastrous more then some warming…

      • Why is it true believers have such poor logic skills? Does your mind really work this way? If A didn’t cause B then A can’t possibly have caused C??????? Face-palm.

      • Richard M
        I think you may have face palmed too hard a few too many times. That just makes no sense at all.

      • Basically, Simon, you stated that because El Nino can’t always cause a step change in global temperature then it cannot affect global temperature at all. That is just plain silly and completely illogical.

      • Richard M
        Let’s be clear here. El Nino does not contribute to long term warming anymore than La Nina contributes to long term cooling. Of course in the short term they both do mess with things. But many here are championing the La Nina as the way the planet will return temps to at or below pre 2015/6.
        My money says they wont, but even if they do, so what? There is a clear long term upward direction in the planets temperatures. Playing with El Nino and La Nina is just rearranging the deckchairs.

      • What do you consider to be “long tern, Simon? There’s no reason at all that ENSO cannot lead to warming or cooling over periods that humans would normally consider “long term”. Sorry, but you are spewing silly nonsense without a trace of logic.
        Now, whether it is happening is another issue. You need to understand the difference between what is possible and what is real. Right now we don’t have the observation system nor knowledge to understand this very important detail. It’s pretty obvious your views are not driven by science.

      • Simon, what part of the logical fallacy known as ‘appeal to authority’ do you not understand? Thanks for verifying exactly what I stated. You don’t understand the first thing about logic. If you actually believe people with a vested interest in maintaining the AGW agenda is evidence, then you truly are a fool.
        Another huge drop in UAH (soon to be followed by RSS) shows clearly the official pause will be back within the year. Of course, those of us who look at data instead of biased opinions could see this coming.

  11. The current El Nino seems to have peaked earlier and to be decaying earlier and faster than was the case in 1997-1998. This shows up in UAH lower troposphere V.6. Despite the earlier decay of the recent El Nino, Dr. Roy Spencer recently posted on his main blog page that he thinks that 2016 will be the warmest year on record according to UAH TLT V.6. With surface indices having smaller ENSO spikes than lower troposphere ones, I think GISS is less dependent on the recent El Nino than UAH v.6 for 2016 to be considered a record warm year.

    • Your assumption requires El Nino to be the entire cause of any changes in global temperature.

  12. So it is an interesting situation if satellites show a record 2016 yet surface datasets do not. Will alarmists highlight a satellite record or will they still poo-poo satellites and defend a no record year?

  13. O.4 c drop in 3 months. This is pretty dramatic. It gives us an idea as to just how fluid energy flow can be
    Thanks again Bob Tisdale. If I were a climate science lecturer I would make the reading of your topics here mandatory. The combination of the information you package and the feedback in the more informative comments makes it an excellent resource for those truly interested in what is going on

  14. Here is an interesting link to a research review that speaks, though looking in an anthropogenic fogged mirror, about the past 800,000 years. We know that large scale up and down CO2 measures suggest concurrent up and down global temperatures. I wonder what the research group would say about ENSO processes.
    I see science through a simple lens. We are privy to Bob’s posts about a process whereby the oceans charge and recharge solar heat and includes a step function ramping up to peak (record?) land temperatures. While he admittedly states that these processes are short term, refusing to “go there” about long term processes, I jump to that conclusion because we have a mechanism (ENSO recharge/discharge), and even a heat stair step function (Bob’s contribution to science – which is a big one). I haven’t read the following article but intend to with a nice glass of iced lemonade on this hot summer day. Skip over the anthropogenic mantra. It just clouds the endeavor to do real science.

  15. Pamela – I am still wondering if there is a positive feed back mechanism involved, like heat = water vapour = cloud = insulation. This reaches a critical point then collapses?

    • Does a body of water as variable as the ocean heat up and cool down at the same pace? Only if you can hold the ocean at a constant state of particulate suspension, unmixed calm surface and subsurface, no current movements, and clear sky conditions. Under those conditions one could apply known properties of thermofluid dynamics.
      That is not the case. A calm surface acts one way, a choppy one another. Currents in and out speed up a bit, slow down a bit, and even split more or less over time, muddying the waters in terms of how long it takes to absorb energy to its maximum extent before it begins to cool down. My hunch is that it cools down rapidly but warms up in a much more variable way. Why? Because cooling down via increased evaporation requires low wind so that the column layers up, bringing stored energy to the surface to be evaporated away. If a depleted ocean drives windy conditions, heating back up could take some time and would be at the mercy of the vagaries of wind. Remember that choppy seas do not absorb energy very well because of increased turbulence. So the process of regaining heat would take quite a bit of time compared to a calm warm surface with less turbulence evaporating stored energy.
      I also declare that I may not have the parameters in the correct order or position. But the basic elements are there: Orbital mechanics driving insolation, and wind and ocean parameters driving how much, how little, and how rapidly or smoothly energy is evaporated to depletion or stored to capacity over the long term millennial age.

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