Do over: The 1997/98 Super El Niño via latest computer animation

From the UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES

Extraordinary animation reveals ocean’s role in El Niños
Ocean model data generated by Australia’s most powerful supercomputer, Raijin, shows 97/98 El Nino unfolding

You can see the 97/98 animation form below the ocean months before it manifests in this new detailed visualisation produced by Australian researchers. CREDIT ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science / National Computational Infrastructure.

You can see the 97/98 animation form below the ocean months before it manifests in this new detailed visualisation produced by Australian researchers. CREDIT ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science / National Computational Infrastructure.

Sydney, Australia: Australian researchers from the National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science have produced a remarkable high-resolution animation of the largest El Niño ever recorded.

It is so detailed that it took 30,000 computer hours crunching ocean model data on Australia’s most powerful supercomputer, Raijin, before it could be extracted by the NCI visualisation team to produce the animation.

The animation looks beneath the ocean surface to reveal the oceanic processes that led to the 1997/98 El Niño – an event that caused billions of dollars of damage worldwide and was followed by consecutive strong La Niña events.

“The animation shows how shifting pools of warmer or cooler than average water 300m below the surface of the ocean can trigger these powerful events,” said Dr Alex Sen Gupta, a member of the visualisation team from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science.

“When these pools of water burst through to the surface and link up with the atmosphere they can set off a chain reaction that leads to El Niños or La Niñas,”

The ocean model that produced the animation used a 30km horizontal grid and split the vertical depth into 50 cells, which allowed the researchers to see the development of the El Niño and La Niñas at a high resolution.

“Raijin gives us the capacity to model complex global systems like El Niño that require a high resolution for a better accuracy,” said a member of the team from the Australian National University, Associate Prof Andy Hogg.

“It was these huge volumes of data produced by the model that meant we needed the specialist visualisation expertise from NCI to reveal what happened in detail.”

The 97/98 El Niño was a particularly damaging event. It was linked to massive forest fires in Indonesia, catastrophic flooding in Peru and the first “global” coral bleaching event that killed 16% of the world’s corals in a single year.

While it is impossible to prevent such events, researchers believe and the model confirms that better observation systems can help us forecast them earlier.

“The animation shows us that a well developed deep ocean observation system can give us advance warning of extreme El Niños and La Niñas,” said team member Dr Shayne McGregor from Monash University.

“Preserving and expanding the currently sparse observation system is critical to improving our seasonal prediction capability in the future.”

Research over the past few years led by CSIRO and the University of New South Wales has indicated that “super” El Niños like the 97/98 event are likely to become more frequent as the climate warms.

A member of the visualisation team, Dr Agus Santoso found in 2013 that as the climate warms, we are likely to see noticeable changes to El Niños.

“As the planet warms it also appears that the swings between the two extremes, from El Niño to La Niña like the 1997 to 1999 sequence, will become more frequent,” said Dr Santoso from the University of New South Wales.

“For this reason and many others a reliable early warning of El Niño and La Niña will be vital for farmers, industry groups and societies to be better prepared for the extreme conditions they inevitably bring.”

###

Advertisements

72 thoughts on “Do over: The 1997/98 Super El Niño via latest computer animation

  1. The real question is, “Does the model look anything like the observations?” We’ve seen enough animations of the SST’s (real data) to know that the answer is, “kinda”.

    • So a computer can generate data.

      Pretty soon we won’t even need a universe; we can just make it all up. The ultimate in numerical Origami.

      g

      • What I’d like to see is an “anomaly” animation, taking the difference between the model and observed values.

      • It’s totally unclear from this presentation what is actually being done here.

        If it is anything like the 1998 El Nino it must being constrained by actual data, not modelling it. I would guess that this is in fact a kind of “reanalysis” study, using a model to interpolate the observational data into a fine uniform grid.

        That needs to be make clear. There is NO POINT in have pretty graphical animations unless we know what we are looking at.

    • The Model looks solid, Well done to those involved.

      Obviously, as the model clearly shows, huge CO2 releases from the ocean surface, (over 31 degreesC), follows a massive cold water uplift event and has nothing to do with human made CO2. A release of this magnitude would case a big increase in rainfall. This CO2 would have been stored in the ocean a very long time ago and its age can also be measured.

      This model gives us a compelling reason to believe the small amounts of CO2 we add to our atmosphere cannot affect our climate. The ENSO system was built in when our oceans formed.

      • For those who want to know what happens to the CO2 and why it is not measured as a massive increase over all the atmosphere, its because it is crucial to cloud formation. Go out and sample a well developed cloud and compare its CO2 with that atmosphere that is cloud free. As any good gardener knows when it rains naturally plants grow faster than if you irrigate from the tap. Rain has more CO2 in it.

      • Plants absorb CO2 through their leaves, not their roots.
        Rain water typically has nitrates and other nutrients in it, especially if there was lightning in the storm.

      • Try watering the roots only and allow no dew or rain. The [plant will get stressed. CO2 is the secret to growing plants. Better CO2 management, where possible, leads to better crops.

      • Every time it rains it rains nitrates which fertilize the plants.

        When I was young, and before I knew about nitrates, I used to be amazed at how plants looked after a good rain. They looked so “happy”! Now I understand why tap water never made the plants look as happy.

    • My guess is that this is “reanalysis”. Not a model which is capable of producing an accurate El Nino but using a model interpolate observational data into a regular gridded dataset.

      Gee wizz graphics are useless unless we know what it shows.

  2. As far as I can tell, records of El Nino go back to 1950. I’m guessing that the instrumentation used to record them was very different pre and post satellite.

    It looks like El Nino is getting stronger but I wonder if that isn’t just because of instrumentation. link

    • 1871.

      http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/catalog/climind/TNI_N34/index.html#Sec5

      The ENSO region has a very long history of ships crossing it and ships travelling west along it with the Trade Winds.

      The Southern Oscillation Index (measuring the difference in atmospheric pressure between Tahiti and Darwin which is highly correlated to it (and lende its names to the last two acronyms in ENSO) goes back to 1876. Even then, they understood why this difference was important.

      There is ZERO trend in these two measures. It oscillates back and forth between El Nino and La Nina but going back at least 145 years, there is no global warming signal in the Nino regions or the SOI or the central Pacific. It is as flat as it can get.

      And the reason why this region is so special and shows no global warming signal is because it profoundly affects weather patterns around the world and has a very long history of actual measurements which have been widely recorded and the global warmers have not dared to try adjusting the record to something else (unlike everywhere else in the world). They will do it when we give them the chance so let’s not do that okay.

      • Oh but they have and are adjusting El Nino. Unlike your statement on SOI, ‘they’ are using anomalies in the Nino 3.4 SSTs exclusively. Often resulting in different definition of whether there is an El Nino / La Nina.

    • Can the Auscomputer maxi do a Lennie di Capriotti snorkeling with the grey reef sharks in that Galapagos el nino warm red patch. ? What page does he get eaten on ??

      g

  3. OK, re this:

    “As the planet warms it also appears that the swings between the two extremes, from El Niño to La Niña like the 1997 to 1999 sequence, will become more frequent,” said Dr Santoso from the University of New South Wales.

    What happens if the planet cools?

    • But the planet is never going to cool. It will just get hotter and hotter until it vaporizes.
      We’re doomed.

    • David Hart, Dr Santoso has cause and effect backwards. Typical of the climate science community. As I’ve been showing since 2009, it was the naturally occurring change in the chaotic frequency and strength of El Nino and La Nina events that caused much of the global warming we’ve seen in recent decades.

      Cheers

      • More CO2 is released when there is an el Nino event. This release is around twenty times all of anthropogenic emissions. The tail can’t wag the dog. The cold open waters of the Arctic and Antarctic are doing a bang up job of sucking up all of it both natural and anthropogenic. The reason that atmospheric concentrations are highest in the Arctic in the winter is because that cold water is covered with ice.

  4. “As the planet warms it also appears that the swings between the two extremes, from El Niño to La Niña like the 1997 to 1999 sequence, will become more frequent,” said Dr Santoso from the University of New South Wales.

    Would stronger, more frequent ENSO events be considered a negative feedback to warming?

    • Ah, a good question. If El Nino’s are the operation of a planetary heat pump, that periodically switching to cooling mode to shed excess heat, then yes, if we warmed faster I think you would likely see an increase in El Nino frequency. But not sure there is any reason they would be more powerful.

  5. I guess this work expressed profound thanks to Bob Tisdale who basically taught the world these details at a time when climate scientists from the “Centre of Excellence and Over The Top Hubris in Climateering” totally discounted the role of ENSO in warming the planet. Did you sell many books to Australians, Bob?

  6. When the super computers can improve the day to day weather reporting, then I might accept that they have their uses. But to me the Red sky in the morning etc still trumps just about all of these very expensive devices.

    Michael Elliott.

  7. With this better understanding of what happens because of El Nino / La Nina, can we expect better forecasts of what will happen to the weather patterns over the next 6-12 months? This is what Climate Science has failed to do.

    Next, can they work out what causes the switch from El Nino to La Nina and back again? This is something else that Climate Science has failed to do.

    These would be really useful bits of research, that Climate Science has failed to do. I think that causing the repeated switch from El Nino to La Nina and back, is something else that CO2 has always failed to do, because it has nothing to do with CO2.

  8. Clim-astrology at it’s best,if i had a ‘Super Computer’ i could tell you the Worlds future, present, and past.
    Also the best investments,good days,bad days, and anything else you pay me in Grants.
    All you need is a ‘Super Computer’ to suck in the gullible Politicians who spend your money.

    • They get these computers because they don’t know how to do excel (an admission by Phil Jones in the climategate emails). I should think that the biggest limitation on the effectiveness of super computers is the IQ of the users. At the lowest level it might get used as a boat anchor for example.

  9. A slightly different and more technical perspective. 30000 hours of supercomputer time. Now supercomputers are usually measured in petaflops per second (I have no idea what Australia uses, but presumably they bought and did not build Raijin). A petaflop is 10^15 floating point arithmetic operations per second.
    Now suppose the FP error per calculation ( decimal place truncation, algorithms, whatever, is > 1/billionth per second iteration (that is much more FP exactitude than actual reality). 10^-9 error/second * 30000 hours is 1.08 E^8 seconds. So e+8 seconds/>e-9 error/second is >e+1 error. At least 10 percent. Now in reality, computational error accumulates at much greater rates depending on algorithm and implementation. Just another problem with climate models.
    I would bet, but did not bother to check, that in that 30000 hours of computation there were several ‘stops’ to ‘renormalize’ results to the observations at the stop time. Else the result would not match reality, diverging greatly. As climate models never do, for this and other reasons.

    • In the real universe things can happen in 1e-43 seconds; or izzat 1e-34 seconds. like after the “big bang” which was actually an extremely small bang since. all of the universe was in the same place. All of the interesting physics happened in that time; I call it “Archeo-Physics” Then the youniverse got downright boring.

      So your peta is a bit of a flop, if you want my opinion, or even if you don’t.

      So you just wouldn’t believe all of the things that can happen in between your Aussieflops.

      But absolutely NONE of them happens before it can happen, and then it doesn’t wait, but just happens.

      Isn’t that totally wonderful ??

      g

    • Tweaking model runs to get the “expected” results obviously must happen in hindcasts as they do for future projections.
      Tweak they do.
      Any non-climate scientist who actually takes the time to see what the climate science modelling community does with their models that passes as science should be horrified that journals like Science and Nature think its okay.

      “Climate models render as much as they can by applying the laws of physics to imaginary boxes tens of kilometers a side. But some processes, like cloud formation, are too fine-grained for that, and so modelers use “parameterizations”: equations meant to approximate their effects. For years, climate scientists have tuned their parameterizations so that the model overall matches climate records. But fearing criticism by climate skeptics, they have largely kept quiet about how they tune their models, and by how much. That is now changing. By writing up tuning strategies and making them publicly available for the first time, groups hope to learn how to make their predictions more reliable—and more transparent.

      http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6311/401

      If you can actually access the paywalled article, their is a clear admission that the GCMs can be tuned to give any answer for sensitivity they want.
      Climate science of models is junk. Pure junk.
      Preaching though to the choir here at WUWT.

  10. It is so detailed that it took 30,000 computer hours crunching ocean model data on Australia’s most powerful supercomputer, Raijin, before it could be extracted by the NCI visualisation team to produce the animation.
    ======================

    Ocean model …data?

    It’s not real data acquired by taking measurements, is it?

    =============
    The animation looks beneath the ocean surface ….
    =============

    The cartoon represents what we think might be happening. It doesn’t really “look” at anything.

  11. I’ll have to watch the video once more- I didn’t understand the explanation of how a rearcast model of an ocean event 19 years ago is now very important information for agriculturalists in Australia.

  12. Notice in the animation: They appear to show slow-moving Rossby waves returning left-over cool waters to the west (off the equator in both hemispheres) following the 1998-2001 La Nina. Didn’t happen according to every dataset I’ve seen and animated.

    Cheers.

  13. I’m taking this animation at face value for the time being. I’m not a scientist but I have a fair amount of experience in building models that forecast furture events. As a long time reader of WUWT I have grown to respect Bob’s work on the oceans impact on global temperatures. If the oceans control much of the surface temperatures, why does it a appear that the El Nino and La Nina temperatures seem to coorelate strongly with water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico. Why would the waters warm and cool with the Pacific Coast when they are not connected? “If” they are coorelated, it seems they must be being affected from either the earths crust or the air? Any suggestions as to why the ocean temperatures would move together if they are not connected?

    • Add it the list of science gaps, real science that is. Einstein delved into such gaps and worked it over and stayed with it for longer than anyone else until he got it.

  14. Brilliant animation for a computer ,
    but I guess the young Walt Disney could have done an even better job of presenting the data, he could even show people how elephants could fly . . .
    Problem the first :-
    The ocean depths show (appear to show) blobs of cold water breaking out/being generated in regions of less cold water, now that is not not in my schoolboy physics manual, anywhere.
    I`d like to see the same animation but with every actual measurement utilized being represented by small transient black dots so we could watch the murmeration of data.

    • “The ocean depths show (appear to show) blobs of cold water breaking out/being generated in regions of less cold water, now that is not not in my schoolboy physics manual, anywhere.”

      Jono, I had the same question then I replayed the animation. Stop the animation at 1.36 where it shows the original temperatures and begins to display the temperature deviation. Notice in the western portion of original sub surface temperatures it shows a normal deviation from depth to surface showing blue to green to red, however when they switch to the temperature “deviation” it loses the cold to warm trend and isolated red “blob” is created at the mid depths. WUWT?

  15. I think this model comes closer than others to what really happens.

    It seems like they downplayed the impact of the under-surface counter-current that moves east at 300 metres depth although they did mention it. This is actually a very strong current and moves more water than just about any other ocean current on the planet.

    Think of it this way, at the surface the water moves west, driven and dragged along by the Trade Winds. All that water, moving right across the 15,000 km long Pacific then piles up against the continental shelf of Indonesia.

    All this water has to go somewhere. It can just sit there piling up against gravity. Most of it actually gets pushed down. Then it also has to go somewhere. Well, it just keeps going backward to the East now. Now down at 300 metres depth. It moves all the way back across the Pacific 15,000 kms. When it gets to the far East side continental shelf of the Galápagos Islands, now it finds somewhere to go. There is water moving East at the surface driven by the Trade Winds, the water underneath can now surface and replace the water volume moving East. It becomes one big circular oscillation.

    Sometimes the volume of water at the surface is warmer than normal and this results in an El Niño. All this extra warmth actually influences the Trade Winds themselves and the rainfall patterns and weather around the world with a lagged impact. Meanwhile, in the under-current moving in the circular oscillation is colder than normal and when it eventually surfaces to replace the water, we will have a La Niña which also influences the Trade Winds and rainfall and weather around the world.

    One big circular water system that can oscillate between very cold and very warm surface waters. You can actually watch what is happening in the under-current to see what is coming next over the next 9 months or so. Right now, it all looks very neutral. Everything is setting up for an extended neutral period.

    • Looks like the 2015-16 super-El-Nino has exhausted its temperature impact.

      Nino 3.4 peaked in mid-November 2015 and global temperatures peaked in late February 2016.

      Back to normal 1981-2010 base period temps in the next few weeks.

      This is from Bryan at ClimateConcerns.

      https://oz4caster.wordpress.com/cfsr/

    • I forgot about another source which shows this better. This comes from the US Navy’s global Hycom ocean model.

      This depiction is a cross-section of the equatorial Pacific from the Galapagos Islands to 155E, close to the Indonesian coast, down to 400 metres of the ocean current speed and the direction it is moving East or West.

      Reds and Oranges are currents moving to the East. Blues are water moving to the West. The scale on the left shows these colors and the relative speed of each flow. The dark reds and the dark blues are really moving for ocean water.

      One can see in the top 30 or metres, the water is mostly moving West. While it is mostly Blue, there are the occasional Reds and Oranges in there but mostly this is because there are also little eddies created when this much water is moving so fast. You’ve probably seen the eddies in other ocean SST maps. But generally, all the surface water down to 40 metres is moving West, sometimes in large wrap-around eddies.

      When you get down to 300 metres to 50 metres at the Galapagos Islands on the right side, all this water is now flowing East, the opposite direction. A big band of Red with water moving to the East and also really moving.

      I did a little hand-drawing of the overall flow in this image. Not an artist, that’s for sure but it should make the point.

      If you want to watch an animation of how these flow speeds change over time you can see it on this page.

      https://www7320.nrlssc.navy.mil/GLBhycom1-12/sectionuv_paceuc.html
      .

  16. Govn’t spending in Australia on rubbish like this is why some schools STILL have asbestos in their walls! Shameful!

    • The asbestos is even overhyped. Leave it in the walls and don’t disturb it. It won’t go anywhere. When I was a kid, I helped install asbestos shingles for a job. Also many years after they discontinued using asbestos cement in water pipes, it was discovered that pristine rivers in the Precambrian of Canada had much higher levels of “asbestiform” mineral in suspension than permItted and the were natural. The shingles were very popular over many decades.

      I used to also chew tar that we used to find in blobs along the railway tracks. I also used to play with mercury. We silvered pennies and tried to pass them off as dimes and being an adventurous boy, probably had a quart of mercurichrome put on cuts and scrapes, still have Merc amalgam fillings and gargled with tincture of iodine for sore throats.

      Most red granites (we have a couple of million square km’s of it across Canada) would be ore grade U3O8 at $100/lb. We build with it and floor with it and make countertops with it and live on top of it.

      I’m in my 80th year and still working as a mining and metallurgical engineering consultant. I guess one might argue, if I lived to a 110 that these things still shortened my life!

      • @ Gary Pearce, as we have seen (blatantly i might add) in the past year both in the USA and Britain, the policy of fear is not only in politics. To me it drives everything that goes on on this planet from the “Acid Rain, Ozone Hole, bacon being bad for you , red meat, gluten, white bread, leaded gas and the list is endless. It has driven every thing from politics to consumerism and health issues.

        It is a very sad thing to see go on especially when experienced people like you Anthony Watts and Bob Tisdale and many others here on WUWT ( too many to mention, my apologies to all of you) and many other blogs and websites have shown and a thank you to Bill Illis you have a great way to explain science laypeople can understand.

        Thanks to all of you and a Merry Christmas and a great fulfilling New Year!

      • “Gary Pearse December 16, 2016 at 10:43 am”

        TOTALY correct! My post was a little tongue in cheek about Govn’t waste.

  17. I am glad the aerospace industry does not rely on “model data” before placing a real machine in to real service. Oh wait! The tail plane of the AirBus A380 failed in reality after modelling! D’oh!

  18. Right. And my bathtub is likely to heat up the bathroom when I raise the thermostat from 68 to 70.

    I wish I could’ve gotten my degree by rearranging how physics works.

  19. I found it a very impressive animation to see what is going on throughout the ENSO cycle. A lot more people should get a chance to watch this – just to get the general picture before telling nonsense about that phenomena.

  20. They stacked the ocean depths into 50 handy cells. ‘Cell’ sounds small but when you’re dealing with the ocean 50 cells amounts to about 240 feet per cell. Alot can go on in 240 feet of water. Their simulation has zero predictive ability and I only slightly hesitate to say it has slightly above zero predictive ability for reproducing the El Nino of 1998 AND no hesitation in saying that it has zero predictive ability for any future El Nino. Basically, this is literally a very expensive pretty picture.

  21. This visualization demonstrates what I’ve thought for a long time, the climate system, as well as being chaotic, is strongly determined by boundary conditions which have nothing to do with science per se but are simply accidents of geology and geography. The equatorial Atlantic also has trade winds that blow east to west and the Caribbean is the analog of the archipelagoes of Southeast Asia, yet there doesn’t appear to be an ENSO equivalent for the Atlantic. Why not? We can imagine an Earth where there is only ocean between +5 and -5 degrees of latitude with no land anywhere on the Equator. ENSO would disappear entirely and the climate would be completely different from the one we experience. No doubt there are other such phenomena that have a significant effect on climate that are determined by the accidents of geography that can’t be predicted by the models as well as ENSO and consequently make them useless.

  22. Oh yes, La Niñas cause corral bleaching – don’t let them australian Government know –

    thei’re alarmed anyway.

Comments are closed.