Impossible research produces 400-year El Niño record, revealing startling changes

Ph.D. student extracts world-first centuries long seasonal record of El Niños from coral cores

University of New South Wales

IMAGE: Researchers dive down to corals to extract coral cores that will give us information about Earth's past climate. Credit: Picture: Jason Turl

IMAGE: Researchers dive down to corals to extract coral cores that will give us information about Earth’s past climate. Credit: Picture: Jason Turl

Melbourne: Australian scientists have developed an innovative method using cores drilled from coral to produce a world first 400-year long seasonal record of El Niño events, a record that many in the field had described as impossible to extract.

The record published today in Nature Geoscience detects different types of El Niño and shows the nature of El Niño events has changed in recent decades.

This understanding of El Niño events is vital because they produce extreme weather across the globe with particularly profound effects on precipitation and temperature extremes in Australia, South East Asia and the Americas.

The 400-year record revealed a clear change in El Niño types, with an increase of Central Pacific El Niño activity in the late 20th Century and suggested future changes to the strength of Eastern Pacific El Niños.

“We are seeing more El Niños forming in the central Pacific Ocean in recent decades, which is unusual across the past 400 years,” said lead author Dr Mandy Freund.

“There are even some early hints that the much stronger Eastern Pacific El Niños, like those that occurred in 1997/98 and 2015/16 may be growing in intensity.”

This extraordinary result was teased out of information about past climate from coral cores spanning the Pacific Ocean, as part of Dr Freund’s PhD research at the University of Melbourne and the Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes. It was made possible because coral cores – like tree rings – have centuries-long growth patterns and contain isotopes that can tell us a lot about the climate of the past. However, until now, they had not been used to detect the different types of El Niño events.

This meant El Niño researchers were constrained by what they could say about El Niño behaviour because the instrumental record was too short and it was hard to judge whether recent decadal changes were exceptional.

“By understanding the past, we are better equipped to understand the future, especially in the context of climate change,” said Dr Freund.

“Prior to this research, we did not know how frequently different types of El Niño occurred in past centuries. Now we do,” said co-author from the Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes Dr Ben Henley.

The key to unlocking the El Niño record was the understanding that coral records contained enough information to identify seasonal changes in the tropical Pacific Ocean. However, using coral records to reconstruct El Niño history at a seasonal timescale had never been done before and many people working in the field considered it impossible.

It was only after Dr Freund took her innovative approach to a team of climate scientists and coral experts: Dr Ben Henley, Prof David Karoly, Assoc Prof Helen Mcgregor, Assoc Prof Nerilie Abram, and Dr Dietmar Dommenget that they were able to proceed with the idea.

While the approach was considered challenging, leading Australian experts on past corals, Dr Mcgregor and Assoc Prof Abram, said that, while the approach might be unconventional, it was worth a shot.

After carefully refining the technique to reconstruct the signature of El Niño in space and time using new machine learning techniques, the scientists were able to compare recent coral results with the instrumental record. Dr Freund found a strong agreement between the coral cores and recorded events. This confirmation allowed the team to extend the record back in time.

Dr Freund and her team found there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of El Niños forming in the Central Pacific over the past 30 years, compared to all 30 year periods in the past 400 years.

At the same time, the stronger Eastern Pacific El Niños were the most intense El Niño events ever recorded, according to both the 100-year long instrumental record and the 400-year long coral record.

As a result, Australian researchers have produced a world-first seasonal El Niño record extending 400 years and a new methodology that will likely be the basis for future climate research.

It took three years of hard work to achieve the result and now Dr Freund and her team are excited to see how this work can be built upon.

“The El Niño phenomenon is one of the most important features of global climate, and changes to its behaviour have very serious implications for weather patterns and extreme events around the world,” said Dr Henley.

And that centuries-long record opens a door not just to past changes but changes to El Niños in the future as well.

“This gives us an opportunity to more accurately explore how global warming may change El Niños and what this means for future weather and climate extremes,” said Dr Henley.

“Having a better understanding of how different types of El Niños have affected us in the past and present, will mean we are more able to model, predict and plan for future El Niños and their wide-ranging impacts,” said Dr Freund.


From EurekAlert!


151 thoughts on “Impossible research produces 400-year El Niño record, revealing startling changes

  1. Oh goody, the record goes back to the Little Ice Age which was a fairly nasty time to be a subsistence farmer and extends to the present where famine is just about unheard of, and guess what the weather has changed! Obviously it’s evil to prosper.

    • That is the point of all this–to make it evil to prosper. Unless you get your EnviroState issued prosperity license and pay the associated taxes.

      • The point is come up with more speculative claims about the future which MSM will report as established, and few more “it’s worse than we thought”s and a few “in recent decades”.

        But would you really expect objective science form a university body which chooses to call itself:”
        the Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes ”

        Their aim is to find climate extremes
        and they declare themselves to be excellent at it before they even raised the money to buy the desks. The self-promoting hubris is stunning.

        Clearly they will never find any non-extreme climate, it’s not within their remit.

      • As with all good press releases at Eureka they fail to provide a link to the paper or even give its title or a DOI.

        After some chasing I did manage to find the paywalled paper in question:

        Higher frequency of Central Pacific El Niño events in recent decades relative to past centuries

        So the big scientific news is not that for the first time they have managed to get a 400y proxy of El Nino, it is the obligatory “unprecedented change” in recent decades. More “excellence” to be expected soon no doubt for the ever excellent “Center of Excellence of Climate Extremism”.

        • That’s not the only research involving coral fossils as proxies going back centuries

          This one here comes to a different conclusions from Palmyra Is, also the central Pacific
          El Niño/Southern Oscillation and tropical Pacific climate during the last millennium
          The most intense ENSO activity within the reconstruction occurred during the mid-seventeenth century. Taken together, the coral data imply that the majority of ENSO variability over the last millennium may have arisen from dynamics internal to the ENSO system itself.”

          It pays to check their claim for ‘originality’ . Be interesting to see if they cite the 2014 paper

    • Ljh May 7, 2019 at 2:06 am
      … extends to the present where famine is just about unheard of,…
      famine unheard of!!!!! which penthouse in megacity do you live in. the word is famine rich:
      The Horn of Africa region is suffering from a severe drought which has caused crops to fail and cattle to die. On top of this crisis, the region has now been hit by the worst flooding in 30 years. 13 million of people are facing acute food and water shortages in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and are in urgent need of emergency assistance.
      South Sudan is in the midst of a catastrophic humanitarian crisis driven by over four years of brutal civil war. Harvests in late 2017 were poor or non-existent for many. Trade and local markets have been disrupted and food stock has depleted. Over 7.1 million people – half the country’s population – are facing extreme and deadly hunger.
      In Yemen, years of devastating airstrikes, shelling and fighting on the ground have driven millions of people from their homes and left millions more in need of emergency food, struggling to survive. An estimated 17 million people – 60 percent of the population – are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition, including 8 million on the brink of famine.

      • 2 of the 3 “famines” that you have listed are directly caused by war….not exactly “climate” related…though the Climatists™ are trying to push the narrative that CAGW is causing more wars…

        • Not only that, but notice how places that aren’t exactly great for agriculture, like the Australian Outback, Mojave Desert, the Negev and so on, DON’T have this problem. But then, it must be our fault that the Third World is, well, the Third World.

        • whatever the cause, it is ridiculous to state :” where famine is just about unheard of”

          • Most of these famines are caused by war and the wars are caused by very much increased populations – mainly because of food aid and improved farming methods taught by western scientists who go to these countries via Aid programs.

            Whatever is done has consequences – and not always the expected ones.

          • There’s a famine developing in Mozambique right now due to Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth in March and April, which both destroyed food crops over a large area before harvesting occurred. And what was stored was destroyed by floods, with few seeds available either. There were 1.7 million people being sustained by the World Food Program in Mozambique even before the first cyclone even struck due to a preceding severe drought.

            Natural famines are very much still with us, and possible, as is widespread chronic malnutrition.

      • ghalfrunt

        I support Eric H on this one, but I add that causing the “crops to fail and cattle to die” has also been greatly exacerbated by the provision of AK47’s to the herdsmen who have taken to killing their neighbours and stealing their cattle. All three events have been made far worse by not just a lack of cooperation but outright warfare and religious intolerance on a scale not seen in 900 years.

        War is bad for children and other living things.

        The drought in Kenya and north of there, is cyclical, and also El Nino-influenced. There are Metonic cycle influences on the whole eastern side of Africa, long enough in duration for each generation to forget what happened before. Each time there is drought or flood, the words “unprecedented, this is the new normal” are heard. Consider the ignorance spouted in California on this matter.

        If the Big Powers were not agitating for control of Mecca and Oil (the other point of adoration) conditions would be far better.

        Not all that long ago in geological terms, the Sahara was grassland – within the span of human building history. Why? Because it rained there . Rivers that are dry water courses ran continuously. Then the world cooled, and the rains stopped. NW Kenya became a desert some of the time, grassland at others. The Sahel ebbs back and forth with a ~60 year cycle.

        Hopefully the research into El Nino history will point to some new ideas and understandings. The record is only half the length of an ocean turnover cycle (800 years). The well-known 800 delay between temperature rise and CO2 rise may be visible in the El Nino record when the method is pursued deeper into the reefs.

      • Famine, not due to a world shortage of food, but by the inability to distribute it to where it is needed.

      • If you want more food, then you want more CO2 in the atmosphere!

        We have not yet reached the optimum level of CO2 for the most important cereal grain crops in the world – wheat, maize (corn), and rice.

        Further, increasing CO2 will also make these crops more drought resistant at the margins.

      • Ethiopia. I saw some of the worst food waste in my life to the point I felt uncomfortable seeing such waste.

      • Obviously, anything that is the worst in 30 years, must have been caused by CO2. /sarc

      • I am a doctor in a third world country. Forty years ago I saw plenty of kwashiokor cases; 60% of the children of subsistence farmers had stunted growth. Now obesity is a problem and the rural poor have moved to town where they access better services and better food distribution.

      • ghalfrunt

        perhaps you would like to check the population of Ethiopia at the time of live aid and the population today. the increase is simply staggering. To save you the time it was 40 million in 1985 and 105 million now.

        Don’t you think that might have something to do with any famine problems? The countries you mention would have to have the best and most consistent climate in the world to support the burgeoning numbers

      • 8 million on the brink of famine.
        The world is on the brink of perfecting fusion power.

    • Exactly – even though the record doesnt extend back to the last warm period the result, of course, is unprecedented. Perhaps El Ninos are part of the warm cycle of the oceans and it is a standard occurrence, without extending back to the medieval warm period it is anything but ‘unprecedented’ more ‘we just dont know’
      Plus of course, any sensible person knows that the last little ice age was a cooling disaster – with famine killing 100s of thousands in Europe alone. Between then and now when did the ‘normal’ temperature return – please clearly define that before telling us we are approaching a tipping point. IMHO we havent reached the climatic temperature optimum yet – as shown by the greening of the planet – and there is plenty of room on the plus side of that before the temperature becomes dangerous.

    • I am just wondering if this is one of those “studies” where the conclusions were written first and the rest was just an exercise in confirmation bias.

  2. It would be wonderfull to see the original data and see if it may be replicated.
    Congratulations to the team.
    Since ENSO is a global climate driver and coral reefs have been around for millions of years the work could be extended to look at the last 10,000 years and tease out climate patterns.
    Perhaps some of the money promised for the GBR would not go astray in such a usefull endeavour.

    • Yes. Since we are most likely still recovering from the Little Ice Age it makes sense that the El Niños are increasing in both timing and strength. But, I don’t think the 400 year history is really going to tell us much other than ‘Yes, the world is warming’ until it can somehow be carried back to the beginning of the Medieval Warm period. Until then I see this study as providing plenty of grist for the CAGW mill.

  3. This is very interesting, not least as recent ENSO cycles have, on balance, released significant amounts of heat from the oceans into the atmosphere – to the great excitement of AGW alarmists. One problem, however, mirroring the issue of trying to use tree rings (which result from several influences) to recreate palaeo-temperatures: there may be some correlation but how exactly can coral growth structures tell the researchers not only the strength of El Ninos but also their geographic origin? We all know that very large El Ninos can cause coral to stop growing altogether in certain locations, but the timing of regrowth is surely variable and this analysis seems to claim so much more than just an indication of when coral growth stopped.
    Call me cynical…

    • Ian, I had similar view of all this. Also I assume the 100 year instrument data they used was land based not from the Central Pacific. I am more than cynical. Before believing this study has merit I would like to see methods and materials in detail. Once upon a time I use to manage a few coral biologists so I am familiar with similar techniques. Also, how do they know whether past supposedly ENSO events were actually that and not some other phenomena.

    • It sounds like they had a fairly open mind to the results and were more interested in an accurate record than making assumptions about it.

      • Keep in perspective her participation in findings like this.

        “Having a better understanding of how different types of El Niños have affected us in the past and present, will mean we are more able to model, predict and plan for future El Niños and their wide-ranging impacts,” said Dr Freund.”

        Nor should one overlook that she has participated and been coauthor on several projects with David Karoly, Joelle Gergis, Barbara Stenni and Eric Steig; including work on Pages2K.
        e.g. From Steve McIntyre’s excellent site; PAGES2K (2017): Antarctic Proxies:

        “The two borehole series invert downhole thermometer temperatures to supposedly estimate past temperature. These inversions use extremely ill-conditioned matrices – an issue that doesn’t seem to be clearly understood by proponents – with resolution far lower than PAGES2K standards. (PAGES2017 falsely asserts that one of the two series has annual resolution, and that the other has 100-year resolution.)”


        “There is, of course, a different and real reason for PAGES (2017) insertion of borehole records which didn’t meet PAGES2K ex ante quality standards: the borehole inversions, especially at WAIS Divide (shown in the gif below) have a pronounced 20th century blade, which is absent in the Antarctic isotope data.”


        “While I was trying to figure out the code, I noticed the authors had excluded the top 15 meters of their data “because of the influence of the weather on surface measurements”. This raises an obvious question: what did the excluded data look like?

        Orsi’s unpublished data package didn’t include a file named “WAIStemp2009c.txt”, but did include a file entitled “WDC05A_BoreholeTemp_300m_2009.txt”, which contained downhole temperature measurements taken in January 2009.
        % as measured in January 2009″, which contained six excluded measurements between 8 and 15 m. The excluded data is shown (in red) in figure below: it continued upward a little further, then declined, retracing about half the increase. Given that the overarching conclusion of the article was rapid recent increase in temperature, it seemed unsettling that they had deleted the most recent data (which went down).”

        One shouldn’t expect this apple to fall far from the tree.

      • Hard to see it…
        Per WIKI the not so great and impotent powerful
        In the 1900′ there werw a grand total of 29 mammalian extinctions…AND
        In the 2000’S there have been ……………………………………………………. 3
        29 in the 20th century and 3 in the first 20% of the 21st.
        Looks like the “Great Mass Extinction of the 21st century” didn’t receive it’s invitation to the party.

        • yeah the 29 in a century and most of that time there was little preservation of anything, and still low,
          the claims of a million ??????whatevers going extinct in less time is ludicrous but they manage to say it with serious tones and a straight face.


          and now in Aus we have figurez interfering with elections..and labor n greens wanting to make the hell our rural lives are now with insane regs even harder.

  4. It is a shame that this article does not provide any data or graphs so that we could see with our own eyes how much stronger El Nino activity has been in the last 30 years than in previous times.

      • Center for Excellence for Climate Extremes.

        That name says it all. Pathetic.

        Imagine. A 4 year college grad spent three years of work, including course work, and made a ground breaking discovery in the complicated field of climate science, and proved all the experts wrong. How did she even find the time to defend her thesis?

      • It is actually rather comical from a strict science point of view.
        So you measuring the rate of isotopes in the coral for which you have no real controls.

        – We have no idea of ocean conditions changes over the 400 year period
        – We have no idea if the coral have developed resilience or changes over the 400 year period
        – We have no real measurements on the atmospheric conditions over the reef
        – We have no real idea of any predatory or adverse reef changes over the 400 year period

        Forgive me if I am a little bit wary that you may just be drawing an elephant from data points.

        • Yes but you don’t understand, they’re using modern magic methods of AI to ‘tune’ their results to their wishes.

  5. “This gives us an opportunity to more accurately explore how global warming may change El Niños ….”

    Stop right there, the science is not settled on that issue.

    • The interesting thing in this connection is that they actually do acknowledge that Climate Models are useless for modelling ENSO:

      “Alternatively, this difference could be related to the difficulties representing the full range of ENSO diversity and variability in climate models36. Large uncertainties in the tropical response to climate change may arise from a poorly constrained mean state, manifested by a pronounced Pacific cold
      tongue bias37, a doubled intertropical convergence zone38 and diverging dynamical responses39. “

      • Are there really scientists studying this stuff who think climate never changed before industrial CO2 came along? Are they lobbying for a static climate? They’d better get the Earth to stop rotating, revolving around the sun, and get rid of the moon. That’s the only way you’ll get climate to be even close to unchanging.

    • Chicken…egg…which caused which. Don’t know yet. Would have to study more than just one Warming Period.

    • What that means is that they went looking for something to confirm their pre-existing bias… and are interpreting the data accordingly.

  6. A few notes on the actual paper.

    1. It seems clear that the coral cores do catch ENSO events.

    2. It seems equally clear that they can’t distinguish the magnitude of Ninos – the 1982/83 and 1997/98 Ninos are both weak in the coral record.

    3. The “unprecedented” change in the proportion of Eastern Pacific/Central Pacific (Modoki) Ninos is a classic case of “Mike’s Nature Trick”. The shift to the hockey-stickish part of the curve occurs at the exact point where the record shifts from “coral” to “historical” records.

    • Mote tried this in the Keys about a decade ago…
      ..and actually partnered with FIU to teach coral paleoclimatology
      ..ran into exactly the same problem as tree rings

      You can core the same coral all over the place….and each one will be different

      • Breathless Headline: CORALS DIE DUE TO GLOBAL WARMING (And NOT due to being drilled full of little holes by biased scientists looking for “The One Core to Rule Them All”)

        • …they also figured out if they didn’t plug the holes….algae invaded the coral and killed it

    • Thank, tty.

      When I read “Machine Learning” my red flags started waving. If they are mixing coral proxies with instrumental records, instead of using one to validate the other, then those red flags are big.

      It could work, but we need details of method.

      I was a skeptic of using Machine Learning in petroleum geophysical interpretation. Then I saw Insight Geophysical’s Paradise system. The key aha moment was realizing that you can process the same cube of 3D seismic a hundred different ways, far too many for a human mind to employ. They take that 100 attribute hypercube, PCA it to the most significant 10, then map the 10 Into 64 clusters. Then a geophysicist try’s to make stratigraphic sense of how the clusters correlate to lithologic boundaries. A lot of detail under the hood.

      So Machine Learning can work. But I want to see how it was done.

      • Yeah, machine learning to analyze millions of data points. When you need it to analyze 400 data points, that’s suspicious.

    • “2. It seems equally clear that they can’t distinguish the magnitude of Ninos – the 1982/83 and 1997/98 Ninos are both weak in the coral record.”

      Oh, boy! What conclusions can be drawn then?

    • I think you’re right.

      I started reading with genuine interest, but by BS alarms starting sounding off. 400 years worth of coral ring isotope data, literally 400 growth rings, needs “new machine learning techniques” to interpret them? *Cough BS

    • It is, by untreated sewage, dynamite fishing, trampling by tourists, bulldozing for coastal reclamation etc.

  7. “This extraordinary result was teased out of information about past climate…”
    Translation: “We tortured the data until it gave us the “answers” we wanted”.

  8. 1 Interesting this has hit the media in the middle of an Australian Federalelection campaign in which ‘climate change’ is very much a polarising issue.

    2 Davily Karoly was involved – sorry, they just lost me.

    3 Is it an El Nino signal in the ores or just some other trace variation?

    • And in Canada, CBC replaced the first 20 min of the ‘World at 6’ with an extinction rant while the polls were still open for the Ladysmith federal bi-election. Don’t know if that contributed to getting a second Green in federal parliament.

  9. One can but hope that some of the taxpayers money falsely obtained by the James Cook University in the name of a dying GBR, can now go to the Melbourne University, who while a long way from the bulk of the GBR, appear to have done some truly remarkable research.


  10. Hold on, this claims – surprise, surprise – that things are changing in the very recent past and things are different than in the now allegedly established longer past. Anything ring any alarm bells here?
    All the usual politically correct terms cropping up, increasing intensity, etc etc. Good career move for PhD student but I am being cynical, based on experience of all those “here is the latest killer evidence” claims. And of course we do know about the El Ninos of the 19th Century which historical evidence tells us were as powerful as more recent times.

  11. “Having a better understanding of how different types of El Niños have affected us in the past and present, will mean we are more able to model, predict and plan for future…”

    Stopped right here… Sigh.

  12. Wake me up when they publish the data.
    Tell me who is peer reviewing.
    Get the results replicated, perhaps if Prof Peter Ridd is not offered/does not take up his previous position he might be interested.
    However, it has to be said, full marks for new methodology.

    • Yes, let’s see a true blind replicate. Of course, this would be atypical since the desired result was obtained, so it’s settled.

  13. The methodology of using machine learning to extract the data needs to be looked at very carefully. Its all too easy to use ML to automate P-value mining.

  14. Having read it, to summarize, they found absolutely no solid evidence of anything in their research and make spurious suggestions about the future that any data they have, does not support. These guesstimates always go in one direction of course.

    Take value, extrapolate into the future in one direction, job done.

    There is absolutely no use at all for the results of this research other than to attempt to portray El Ninos are now “unusual and the new norm”.

    • Do they cite this paper from 2003 using coral fossils from Palmyra as proxies ?

      El Niño/Southern Oscillation and tropical Pacific climate during the last millennium.
      …The most intense ENSO activity within the reconstruction occurred during the mid-seventeenth century. Taken together, the coral data imply that the majority of ENSO variability over the last millennium may have arisen from dynamics internal to the ENSO system itself.”

  15. It is clear by just looking at GAT’s since (barely acceptable) global records began (~1940) that almost all recent atmospheric warming is stepwise and related to ENSO events. Subtract out ENSO and the rest is mostly noise.

    Hopefully, ENSO patterns can be coaxed out of this new coral record back through (at least) the last 2 warming periods. (though I expect temporal resolution will be problematic…assuming there are no annual layers or other good temporal markers as in ice cores). THEN we should be able to tease out the chickens from the eggs. So far on this first pass, they looked for eggs….AND FOUND AN UNPRECEDENTED EGG…but only going back to the LIA.

    At least 2 warm periods (preferably 3) would need to be studied before declaring anything to be unprecedented (by definition)…unless one was really making a political statement instead of a scientific statement.

    Recognizing statements reflecting tribal bias FROM THIS TRIBE is easy. Being a respected member of this (big government well paid socialist scientist) tribe requires these declarations. And the correct words, like “unprecedented” have to be used.

  16. Need to hold the hype here. 30 years is too small a time period to make any predictions about trends and this time period is all captured in the modern era data collection. The level of confidence of pre-measurement era proxy data is probably very low and needs additional proxy confirmation from a different source for validation.

    • Serge, you are right. Climate cycles last for hundreds of years. Thirty years is way too short to draw conclusions about climate, and is misleading, but it’s a professional lifetime.

  17. … using new machine learning techniques …

    That’s a big red flag that they don’t actually understand what they’re doing. Machine learning is, by its very nature, inscrutable. link

    Science relies on folks being able to justify their methods. “Because the computer said so” doesn’t cut it.

  18. According to the Oceanic ENSO Index :

    and the UAH global LT temparatures :

    There seems to be a lag (of some 2 – 3 months) between peaks of strong El Niño episodes and global temperatures.

    Seems like climate alarmists always need time reversed causality to push their nonsensical claims.

    They also act as they always need to meaninglessly destroy nature in order to “save the planet”.

  19. The objective of this research is clear: to show that El Ninos are not entirely natural events.

  20. tty I ran a tourist operation out of Shute Harbour for some time. We had a 60Ft imitation submarine coral viewing vessel, & a pontoon at Hardy reef, careering to our 500 to 800 passengers each week. A couple of other resorts used our facility at times for their reef trips.

    With our operation about 30% of our trips tourists could walk on either very shallow or totally dry reef depending on the time of low tide corresponding with our time out there. The areas that dried regularly are basically dead coral flats.

    I hated the days when guests could walk on the reef as it generated extra work, requiring additional crew, & resulted is some minor & occasional moderately serious injury to guests.

    I supplied transport, accommodation, food & a dingy to a marine biology PHD student studying the effect of reef walking, hoping that her findings might lead to reef walking being banned to the industry. I was disappointed.

    Tourists rarely walked further than a hundred metres either side of our pontoon, not much when you consider that just that one reef has a ring of drying coral 30 miles long, containing a lagoon of 7500 acres. I expected we caused moderate at least derogation.

    Not so The researcher found. She could detect no difference in our area to the other 30 miles of drying reef. I was disappointed, but had expected that was the case. Even after a year of regular visits, I could not see any difference at our area to what I had seen on drying coral flats in New Guinea & the Solomons, which saw no mere than a few bare feet a year.

    I’m afraid that try as we might, our damage pales into insignificance compared to any major storm, let alone one of the regular cyclones.

  21. I was interested until we got to the point that coral growth indication was like tree rings…. Ah, nice try but we all know how well tree-mometry turned out. ‘Nature trick’ anyone?

    • “Endogenous” ?! ?!
      What the heck is that? Never heard the word before, hope it’s not rude.
      Google: having an internal cause or origin.
      Not bad at all, will use it elsewhere e.g. ‘sunspots are not endogenous’/sarc
      I only typped ENSO on my hand-held android device.

  22. “After carefully refining the technique to reconstruct the signature of El Niño in space and time using new machine learning techniques, the scientists were able to compare recent coral results with the instrumental record.”

    The black box strikes again.

  23. From the SI:

    EP El Nino events
    1622, 1623, 1637, 1638, 1642, 1653, 1662
    1700, 1703, 1719, 1765, 1768, 1783, 1791
    1802, 1817, 1823, 1838, 1855, 1868, 1877, 1888, 1896
    1902, 1911, 1914, 1918, 1925, 1930, 1940, 1941
    1951, 1957, 1963, 1965, 1972, 1982, 1997, 2015

    CP El Nino events
    1618, 1620, 1641, 1652, 1657, 1667, 1672, 1677, 1682, 1688, 1693
    1718, 1730, 1733, 1759, 1769, 1775, 1778, 1779, 1781, 1790, 1799
    1801, 1808, 1816, 1832, 1840, 1850, 1853, 1854, 1873, 1884, 1885, 1895
    1905, 1913, 1919, 1923, 1929, 1946, 1948
    1958, 1968, 1969, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1986, 1987, 1991, 1994
    2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2014

    I assume all the ones after 1950 are instrumental in nature.

    • Hi RM
      Looking at your numbers above I noticed large number of 11ish years gaps between adjacent or next but one early ElNino events. Sunspot cycle comes to mind.

      • I infer – but am obviously open to correction – that Vuk does not see causation, by coral, of El Ninos, which, themselves, very probably do not cause sun spots.

        Auto – aware that correlation is not causation.

    • Dr Freund and her team found there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of El Niños forming in the Central Pacific over the past 30 years, compared to all 30 year periods in the past 400 years.“.

      Last 30 years – 7: 1991, 1994, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2014

      Late 1700s – 7: 1775, 1778, 1779, 1781, 1790, 1799, 1801

      OK, so I can squeeze out one more in a recent 30-year period, but their statement does seem to be OTT.

  24. They’ve been slow with coral studies and the AMO reconstruction also–impossibly slow.

    • And Brutus tells us why..

      There is a tide in the affairs of men.
      Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
      Omitted, all the voyage of their life
      Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
      On such a full sea are we now afloat,
      And we must take the current when it serves,
      Or lose our ventures.

      Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224

  25. Written records about El Nino weather events in Peru and Chili by jezuits and missionaries go back to the early 1500s. Their descriptions are very similar to what we observe today which to me suggests that actually the strength of the phenomenon then was similar to what it is now. I take the assertion that current events are stronger with a large pinch of salt.

  26. Theodor Landscheidt developed a decadal El Nino index going back over 400 years, published at:

    So I do not think that an el Nino index is a first.

    It may be the first developed using that particular method.

    Of course, if it was not published in the academic literature, it does not exist…..

  27. Fine time resolution using isotopic ratios requires very fine linear sampling of such corals. I am surprised corals grow sufficiently in a year or so to permit that.
    One usually views El Nino events as warming the atmosphere and produced by changes in deep ocean current mixing. An obvious question is whether recent atmospheric warming somehow influences such deep currents and thus El Ninos.

  28. Figure 3 of the article show that their best method had an r2 value of around 0.5 for their test period (1920-2000). That is their MLR model with all bells and whistles and optimized for best signal detection was explaining only the half of the El Nino signal during the calibration period.

    Now extending this 80 years of best case 5 times, back to 1600AD, will decrease the statistical confidence by almost 2 times. That is their signal will explain only the 25% of the data. Remaining 75% will be completely blurred. This is a common mistake in extrapolation of the MLR method beyond its defined range. Mann did it, and many others are persisting doing it.

    I cannot see how the conclusions of this paper passed the smell test by a formally educated statistician.

    • Formally educated statisticians are very rare in climate science.

      I’m a “partially educated statistician” myself, and when the latest unprecedentery comes out I usually check for about half a dozen of the most common statistical errors. I usually score. Here is my little list:

      1. Do they assume normal distribution without verifying that the data points are really independent and identically distributed?
      2. If not, do they assume that Two Sigma = 0.05 (which only applies to normally distributed data)?
      3. Do they correct for autocorrelation (climate data being almost always more or less autocorrelated)?
      4. If using linear regression for proxy data with uncertain dating, do they correct for regression dilution?
      5. If using time-averaged data does the average extend both to the beginning and end of the time period (which is impossible to do in a mathematically correct way)
      6. If using smoothed data, is the smoothing algorithm given, and is it reasonable (not that smoothing a time series is ever a good idea)

      Two extras for Bayesian statistics

      1. Do they state the prior they are using, and is it reasonable?
      2. Do they claim that their prior is “uninformative” or “vague” (no such things)

    • When I see Karoly’s name attached to a paper, my spidey-senses begin to tingle. Don’t laugh, my spidey-senses have correctly predicted the last 2 Florida Hurricanes (Irma and Michael). These tingles involve a psychic element, to be sure, but also looking at the sky, feeling wind on my skin, AND watching the TV weather reports. In one of my mystic visions, I saw the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore blowing away in a fierce storm, but luckily, two intrepid joggers bravely ran after him, caught him in mid-air, pulled him back down onto the ground, and saved his life. After which, I hope they all laughed and enjoyed a good belt of bourbon. I’m sorry to say that my vision ended before I could see the aftermath. Of course, later on, I learned that this had actually happened, only in a different hurricane. Which just goes to show that not only am I psychic, my psychic powers extend to precognition and divination, so I have to be very careful about which year, decade, or century my predictions apply. One thing’s for sure, climate changed warm air is brutal. It will blow me, you and Jim Cantore away so fast – we’ll be gone faster than that Gergis, Karoly, et. al. Southern Hemisphere hockey stick paper with the minor typo. So scary.

  29. Only a few words come to mind after looking at this study’s supplementary data for a few minutes, garbage and pseudoscience.

    1. Look at their sample locations. The closest sample they actually have to the Eastern Pacific El Nino pool is Clipperton Island, 10 degrees north of the equator and only a few hundred miles or so outside the NINO 3 zone. They have another sample just off the coast of Central America and another about 15 degrees north, their CP samples are all about 15+ degrees south of the equator, and the rest are from Indonesia and the Indian Ocean.

    Typically when I want to reconstruct the environment of an area, I collect samples FROM THAT AREA!

    2. They detrended the data, after preprocessing it but before normalizing it, and voila, a hockey stick.

    Thus we have the new climate cult science in a nutshell – Yes it’s true that all of the warming for the past 50 years has coincided with ENSO, but we have determined that ENSO has changed due to man.

    • “when I want to reconstruct the environment of an area, I collect samples FROM THAT AREA!”

      But the poor things can’t do that. The water in main East Pacific Nino area is much to cold. No coral reefs can survive there. There are hardly any even in the Galapagos, right on the Equator, except around the quite difficult to access Darwin and Wolf in the far northwest.

      I agree that they should have more CP data, but the central pacific islands like Kiritibati or Howland or Kingman Reef aren’t easy to get to either.

      • Actually I was mistaken, there are two CP sample sites. One being Palmyra Atoll, which I would imagine is much harder to get to than Darwin Isle (or any other site they studied), and the coral reefs of Darwin Isle are said to be thriving.

      • Furthermore, large dead diploria corals in the Southern Galapagos would be the prefect samples for this study…

      • Reminds me of the joke about the man who was looking for his keys under a streetlight two blocks from where he lost them because the light was better there.

  30. One thing that I have learned in my 59 years is that saying never, will often find a way to bite you in the butt.

  31. More Australian garbage. Remember, it is federal election time here in Aus and many parasites are looking for a new injection of taxpayer funds.

  32. “In November 2005, The Nature Conservancy established a new research station on Palmyra to study global warming, the disappearing coral reefs, invasive species, and other environmental concerns”

    To get to Darwin you would have to charter a boat from Puerto Ayora 200+ miles away.

  33. Due to the climate wars it appears all ‘science’ connected with what really caused/causes the planet to cyclically warm and cool has been on hold.

    Observational paradoxes precede breakthroughs.

    We have sufficient unresolved observational paradoxes that Forest Gump could find the breakthroughs.

    A key requirement to determine cause is correlation.

    There was a massive increase in mid-ocean earthquakes, 300% and 400% (from above the average level of mid-ocean earthquakes prior to 1997) two years before both of the 1997-1998 and 2015-2016 El Niño events.

    There was a 200% average increase in mid-ocean earthquakes for the entire 1997 to 2016 warming period.

    The Correlation of Seismic Activity and Recent Global Warming [1] (CSARGW) demonstrated that increasing seismic activity in the globe’s high geothermal flux areas (HGFA) is strongly correlated with global temperatures (r=0.785) from 1979-2015.

    The mechanism driving this correlation is amply documented and well understood by oceanographers and seismologists. Namely, increased seismic activity in the HGFA (i.e., the mid-ocean’s spreading zones) serves as a proxy indicator of higher geothermal flux in these regions.

    The HGFA include the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the East Pacific Rise, the West Chile Rise, the Ridges of the Indian Ocean, and the Ridges of the Antarctic/Southern Ocean.

    This additional mid-ocean heating causes an acceleration of oceanic overturning and thermobaric convection, resulting in higher ocean temperatures and greater heat transport into the Arctic [2,3]. This manifests itself as an anomaly known as the “Arctic Amplification,” where the Arctic warms to a much greater degree than the rest of the globe (Table 1) [4,5].

    Equally important, the HGFA seismic frequencies accurately predicted the unusually powerful 2015/2016 El Niño, one of the strongest on record (Figure 2). As illustrated in CSARGW, jumps in HGFA seismic activity can amplify an El Niño event, a phenomenon referred to as a SIENA or a Seismically Induced El Niño Amplification [1]. Accurately predicting two of these amplified El Niños (i.e., the 2015/2016 event plus the1997/1998 episode) is an important outcome of the HGFA seismicity/temperature relationship.

    What causes the earthquakes at the mid-ocean ridges? Hint the mechanism must be able to increase by a factor 200% for 20 years.

      • Geology the field of science is asleep. There is an earth changing breakthrough in that field.

        The problem is geologist have hidden their paradoxes. Paradoxes should not exist.

        This a fun problem as it is solved by old school physical logic. The observations absolutely point to the solution.

        There is something fundamentally incorrect concerning our ideas about the earth which also effects our ideas about the atmosphere and CO2.

        There are piles of observational paradoxes in that field that have been around for decades. They are missing a force to move the tectonic plates. They are missing a source of water.

        The observed changes in mid-ocean seismic activity (200% increase for 20 years all over the planet) are orders of magnitude too large and too fast for all of the current geological mechanisms to explain.

        The 200% increase in mid-ocean earthquakes observation is a hard paradox. There is only one mechanism that can cause a sudden increase in mid-ocean earthquakes frequency of 200% average for 20 years and cause the damage on the face of the ridges.

        We know that there is no physically possible change in the mantel that can suddenly occur all over the world to cause a 200% increase in mid-ocean earthquake frequency at mid-ocean ridges earth wide.

        The assumed energy input from the mantel and core (radioactivity, material phase change, reactions), cannot physically change in that time scale/entire planet and even if they did change could not appreciably change temperatures to affect mid-ocean seismic activity for the entire planet.

        It is physical impossible for the current standard geological model (and its assumptions) to explain the sudden and astonishingly large increase and decrease in mid-ocean seismic activity.

        Detailed analysis of seismic wave travel in the mantel has shown there are intercrossing tubes in the mantel which reflect waves. This was a recent new discovery.

        There is observational evidence along the mid-ocean ridges of structural damage (that was discovered 15 years ago) to the ocean floor near along the ridges that requires concentrated force from thousands of tubes to produce.

        Plate Tectonics: too weak to build mountains
        “In 2002 it could be said that: “Although the concept of plates moving on Earth’s surface is universally accepted, it is less clear which forces cause that motion. Understanding the mechanism of plate tectonics is one of the most important problems in the geosciences”8. A 2004 paper noted that “considerable debate remains about the driving forces of the tectonic plates and their relative contribution”40. “Alfred Wegener’s theory of continental drift died in 1926, primarily because no one could suggest an acceptable driving mechanism. In an ironical twist, continental drift (now generalized to plate tectonics) is almost universally accepted, but we still do not understand the driving mechanism in anything other than the most general terms”2.”

        “The advent of plate tectonics made the classical mantle convection hypothesis even more untenable. For instance, the supposition that mid-oceanic ridges are the site of upwelling and trenches are that of sinking of the large scale convective flow cannot be valid, because it is now established that actively spreading, oceanic ridges migrate and often collide with trenches”14. “Another difficulty is that if this is currently the main mechanism, the major convection cells would have to have about half the width of the large oceans, with a pattern of motion that would have to be more or less constant over very large areas under the lithosphere. This would fail to explain the relative motion of plates with irregularly shaped margins at the Mid-Atlantic ridge and Carlsberg ridge, and the motion of small plates, such as the Caribbean and the Philippine plates”19.

        The driving force of plate movements was initially claimed to be mantle deep convection currents welling up beneath midocean ridges, with downwelling occurring beneath ocean trenches.

        Since the existence of layering in the mantle was considered to render whole-mantle convection unlikely, two layer convection models were also proposed. Jeffreys (1 974) argued that convection cannot take place because it is a self-damping process, as described by the Lomnitz law.

        Plate tectonicists expected seismic tomography to provide clear evidence of a well-organized convection-cell pattern, but it has actually provided strong evidence against the existence of large, plate-propelling convection cells in the upper mantle (Anderson, Tanimoto, and Zhang, 1992).

        Many geologists now think that mantle convection is a result of plate motion rather than its cause and that it is shallow rather than mantle deep (McGeary and Plummer, 1998).

  34. “This gives us an opportunity to more accurately explore how global warming may change El Niños ”

    Exactly backassward.

  35. The 20th. century period of high solar activity put more stored heat into the Pacific ocean, resulting in more powerful El Ninos. Now that solar activity has subsided, powerful El Ninos will continue until that stored heat is exhausted, and then revert to a much lower level.

  36. So, are there more El Ninos because it is warmer, or is it warmer because there are more El Ninos?

  37. ‘extreme events around the world,” said Dr Henley.’ They had to add words “extreme” and “world” to get paid.
    But if they plug the data into a computer with 6 assumptions they could get by using with extreme and world.

  38. CAGW alarmists refuse to accept the impacts El Nino and La Nina events have global temps, and the effects Grand Solar Maximum/Grand Solar Minimum events and 30-year PDO, AMO, AOO ocean cycles have on the intensities of El Nino and La Nina events.

    The Little Ice Age (1280~1820), was the coldest climate event in 12,000 years, and during the LIA, El Nino events were highly likely much weaker than they are now, which had NOTHING to do with CO2, but everything to do with 4 Grand Solar Minima events: Wolf, Spores, Maunder and Dalton.

    The strongest Grand Solar Maximum in 11.400 years occurred from 1933~1996, which likely contributed to 20th century strong El Nino events, especially the Super El Nino events in: 1982/83, 1997/98 and 2015/16.

    We’re just starting a 50-year Grand Solar Minimum, so it’ll be very interesting to see if El Nino events become weaker and La Nina events become colder.

    Moreover, the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans will soon be (or are already in) their respective 30-year ocean cool cycles. It’ll be very interesting to see what effect these cool ocean cycles will have on future El Nino events over the next 30 years.

    BTW, the current El Nino was a complete dud, and looks to be quickly moving to a strong La Nina event:

    • During periods of very low solar activity there will be neither strong El Niño nor strong La Niña. Therefore, the global temperature will change slowly. The meridional jetstream will interfere with the typical ENSO cycle.

  39. I Particularly liked “There are even some early hints that the much stronger Eastern Pacific El Niños, like those that occurred in 1997/98 and 2015/16 may be growing in intensity.”
    So we have a two strong trend of el Niños which may be growing in intensity … wow!

  40. Thanks, William. I have reread your commentary several times as it is the first realistic alternate to the increased solar activity/El Niño hypothesis I have come across in my amateur researching. I cannot answer your poser you set in the last paragraph – my only thought is the possibility of a solar system gravitational effect (similar to, but much smaller than that on Io). Perhaps planetary orbital positions plus the ellipticity of earth’s orbit?

    You have hit the nail on the head. If just 10% of the research had been directed towards proper investigative scientific technique instead of crystal ball gazing we would have many more answers than we currently do.

    Are you aware if anyone has replicated Viterito’s work, are there any other researchers looking at the period prior to that which he examined, I cannot find anything yet? We know correlation need not be causation, but if the seismic energy input into the ocean is large enough there must surely be an effect of some sort.

    • It is not the seismic energy its the heat from the magma that is released as the ridge is moving apart faster that is hypothesized to cause the temperature change.

      The same increase in earthquake frequency was observed during the Dalton minimum.

      The game changer is that there needs to be a physical explanation for the sudden increase in mid-ocean earthquakes. There needs to be a physical explanation. There needs to be a force that can suddenly increase to cause a 200% increase in mid-ocean earthquakes for 20 years.

      There is an interesting problem summary that was prepared by the Geologist David Pratt.

      Pratt provides geological observations that show geology is missing the force the moves the ocean plates and the continental plates and observations of fractures along the ocean ridges that require 1000s of tube like forces to create.

      • Thanks for the correction, William. Yet another case, as happens to me so frequently, of the fingers not typing what the brain was thinking. “Energy derived from seismic activity” was in my mind – but not what I wrote!

        I see your comment elsewhere here that turns tectonics into a chicken and egg situation, some geologists now thinking that plate movement causes upper mantle currents, the reverse of previous thinking. The energy requirements for plate movement must be vast, if it is not driven by mantle convection what is the energy source? Has anyone hypothesised that far?

  41. Is “calibration” used in this study as in so many others? If so any statistical results are likely misleading. The scientific equivalent of using bumps on the skull to identify future mass murders.


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