Weak El Nino Conditions Help Explain Recent Global Warmth

From Dr. Roy Spencer’s Blog

January 13th, 2020 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

The continuing global-average warmth over the last year has caused a few people to ask for my opinion regarding potential explanations. So, I updated the 1D energy budget model I described a couple years ago here with the most recent Multivariate ENSO Index (MEIv2) data. The model is initialized in the year 1765, has two ocean layers, and is forced with the RCP6 radiative forcing scenario and the history of El Nino and La Nina activity since the late 1800s.

The result shows that the global-average (60N-60S) ocean sea surface temperature (SST) data in recent months are well explained as a reflection of continuing weak El Nino conditions, on top of a long-term warming trend.

Fig. 1. 1D model of global ocean temperatures compared to observations. The model is forced with the RCP6 radiative forcing scenario (increasing CO2, volcanoes, anthropogenic aerosols, etc.) and the observed history of El Nino and La Nina since the late 1800s. The observations are monthly running 3-month averages and are offset with a single bias to match the model temperatures, which are departures from assumed energy equilibrium in 1765.
Fig. 1. 1D model of global ocean temperatures compared to observations. The model is forced with the RCP6 radiative forcing scenario (increasing CO2, volcanoes, anthropogenic aerosols, etc.) and the observed history of El Nino and La Nina since the late 1800s. The observations are monthly running 3-month averages and are offset with a single bias to match the model temperatures, which are departures from assumed energy equilibrium in 1765.

The model is described in more detail below, but here I have optimized the feedbacks and rate of deep ocean heat storage to match the 41-year warming trend during 1979-2019 and increase in 0-2000m ocean heat content during 1990-2017.

While the existence of a warming trend in the current model is due to increasing CO2 (I use the RCP6 radiative forcing scenario), I agree that natural climate variability is also a possibility, or (in my opinion) some combination of the two. The rate of deep-ocean heat storage since 1990 (see Fig. 3, below) represents only 1 part in 330 of global energy flows in and out of the climate system, and no one knows whether there exists a natural energy balance to that level of accuracy. The IPCC simply *assumes* it exists, and then concludes long-term warming must be due to increasing CO2. The year-to-year fluctuations are mostly the result of the El Nino/La Nina activity as reflected in the MEI index data, plus the 1982 (El Chichon) and 1991 (Pinatubo) major volcanic eruptions.

When I showed this to John Christy, he asked whether the land temperatures have been unusually warm compared to the ocean temperatures (the model only explains ocean temperatures). The following plot shows that for our UAH lower tropospheric (LT) temperature product, the last three months of 2019 are in pretty good agreement with the rest of the post-1979 record, with land typically warming (and cooling) more than the ocean, as would be expected for the difference in heat capacities, and recent months not falling outside that general envelope. The same is true of the surface data (not shown) which I have only through October 2019.

Fig. 2. UAH lower tropospheric temperature departures from the 1981-2010 average for land versus ocean, 1979 through 2019.
Fig. 2. UAH lower tropospheric temperature departures from the 1981-2010 average for land versus ocean, 1979 through 2019.

The model performance since 1900 is shown next, along with the fit of the model deep-ocean temperatures to observations since 1990. Note that the warming leading up to the 1940s is captured, which in the model is due to stronger El Nino activity during that time.

Fig. 3. As in Fig. 1, but for the period 1900-2019. The inset show the model versus observations for the increase in 0-2000 m ocean temperatures since 1990.
Fig. 3. As in Fig. 1, but for the period 1900-2019. The inset show the model versus observations for the increase in 0-2000 m ocean temperatures since 1990.

The model equilibrium climate sensitivity which provides the best match to the observational data is only 1.54 deg. C, using HadSST1 data. If I use HadSST3 data, the ECS increases to 1.7 deg. C, but the model temperature trends 1880-2019 and 1979-2019 can no longer be made to closely approximate the observations. This suggests that the HadSST1 dataset might be a more accurate record than HadSST3 for multi-decadal temperature variability, although I’m sure other explanations could be envisioned (e.g. errors in the RCP6 radiative forcing, especially from aerosol pollution).

A Brief Review of the 1D Model

The model is not just a simple statistical fit of observed temperatures to RCP6 and El Nino/La Nina data. Instead, it uses the energy budget equation to compute the monthly change in temperature of ocean near-surface layer due to changes in radiative forcing, radiative feedback, and deep-ocean heat storage. As such, each model time step influences the next model time step, which means the model adjustable parameters cannot be optimized by simple statistical regression techniques. Instead, changes are manually made to the adjustable model parameters, the model is run, and then compared to a variety of observations (SST, deep ocean temperatures, and how CERES radiative fluxes vary with the MEI index). Many combinations of model adjustable parameters will give a reasonably good fit to the data, but only within certain bounds.

There are a total of seven adjustable parameters in the model, and five time-dependent datasets whose behavior is explained with various levels of success by the model (HadSST, NODC 0-2000m deep ocean temperature [1990-2017], and the lag-regression coefficients of MEI versus CERES satellite SW, LW, and Net radiative fluxes [March 2000 through April 2019]).

The model is initialized in 1765 (when the RCP6 radiative forcing dataset begins) which is also when the climate system is (for simplicity) assumed to be in energy balance. Given the existence of the Little Ice Age, I realize this is a dubious assumption.

The energy budget model computes the monthly change in temperature (dT/dt) due to the RCP6 radiative forcing scenario (which starts in 1765, W/m2) and the observed history of El Nino and La Nina activity (starting in 1880 from the extended MEI index, intercalibrated with and updated to the present with the newer MEIv2 dataset (W/m2 per MEI value, with a constant of proportionality that is consistent with CERES satellite observations since 2000). As I have discussed before, from CERES satellite radiative budget data we know that El Nino is preceded by energy accumulation in the climate system, mainly increasing solar input from reduced cloudiness, while La Nina experiences the opposite. I use the average of the MEI value in several months after current model time dT/dt computation, which seems to provide good time phasing of the model with the observations.

Also, an energy conserving non-radiative forcing term is included, proportional to MEI at zero time lag, which represents the change in upwelling during El Nino and La Nina, with (for example) top layer warming and deep ocean cooling during El Nino.

A top ocean layer assumed to represent SST is adjusted to maximize agreement with observations for short-term variability, and as the ocean warms above the assumed energy equilibrium value, heat is pumped into the deep ocean (2,000 m depth) at a rate that is adjusted to match recent warming of the deep ocean.

Empirically-adjusted longwave IR and shortwave solar feedback parameters represent how much extra energy is lost to outer space as the system warms. These are adjusted to provide reasonable agreement with CERES-vs.-MEI data during 2000-2019, which are a combination of both forcing and feedback related to El Nino and La Nina.

Generally speaking, changing any one of the adjustable parameters requires changes in one or more of the other parameters in order for the model to remain reasonably close to the variety of observations. There is no one “best” set of parameter choices which gives optimum agreement to the observations. All reasonable choices produce equilibrium climate sensitivities in the range of 1.4 to 1.7 deg. C.

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January 14, 2020 12:05 am

I’m disappointed we haven’t seen Roy’s https://www.drroyspencer.com/latest-global-temperatures/ December update reposted.

Reply to  Loydo
January 14, 2020 1:10 am

You could go and find them if you had even a child’s level of competence.

Reply to  fred250
January 14, 2020 3:06 am

You mean to the link I posted? Oh yeah, thanks.

Matthew Sykes
January 14, 2020 12:43 am

And since water temperatures are driven by SW, visible, energy, what does this say about the cause of warming…

CO2 cant warm water. It can reduce the rate of loss of energy, but not warm it. And the rate of loss, as measured by SAGE, was tiny. It took 100 watts to produce a 0.2 C change.

Also note that the concept of ‘ocean heat uptake’ of global warming is impossible.

Reply to  Matthew Sykes
January 14, 2020 2:41 am

yes, I don’t think modelling SST with SST ‘shows’ very much at all. If there is a variation in ENSO, is that caused by agw or something else. Since all these “natural cycles” are by climatologists’ definition, zero trend, it is a just a stacked deck which aims to pretend to explain with wiggles which preserving any and all trend which is then arbitrarily attributed to AGW.

With due respect to Dr Spencer he is very clear about all the tuning factors. It’s von Neuman’s elephant all over again. Given enough inputs and enough free variables to tune you can match just about anything.

since one of the inputs in an SST related metric, to some extent it explains SST with SST.

Here is the real problem with this analysis:

“which are departures from assumed energy equilibrium in 1765.”

What is a little worrying here is that Dr. Spencer seems to be buckling to the concensus pressure. There is no valid reason to assume the climate was in equilibrium in 1765. It was only just coming out of the LIA. That implicitly accepts the unsubstantiated premise that any long term warming since that time must be attributable to AGW.

Reply to  reg
January 14, 2020 3:04 am

reg, the MEI index isn’t SST, but the EOF of the *spatial pattern* in a number of variables, including SST. If you look at the MEIv2 data since 1979, there is no upward trend in in… maybe even a slight downward trend. I suspect one could make an MEI index that doesn’t include SST and the behavior would be quite similar.

Reply to  Roy W. Spencer
January 14, 2020 1:41 pm

Thanks for the reply Dr Spencer, that is consistent with what I wrote “since one of the inputs in an SST related metric”.

“there is no upward trend in in… maybe even a slight downward trend”

That is my point. Using these “oscillations” is a means to explain the wiggles leaving the trend untouched knowing where that will lead in terms of attribution.

It would be good if you could explain the reason for assuming the climate was in equilibrium around 1785. This seems to be one of the keystone assumptions of the whole AGW scam: everything was fine until ‘we’ came along with our fossil fuels. I’m a little alarmed to see your good self introducing it almost as a self evident fact which can be “assumed” without further explanation.

[BTW, name’s not reg, my keyboard is playing up with capitals at the moment. I don’t always notice, Greg.]

Richard M
Reply to  Roy W. Spencer
January 14, 2020 7:35 pm

MEIV2 is based on an increasing base SST. Hence, if it shows no trend that means there really is a trend. I think it would be better to use MEIV1 if you want to eliminate that circular logic problem.

Reply to  reg
January 14, 2020 3:49 am

Why do you say “natural cycles” have zero trend? They are not defined that way. Many people get caught up in the word cycle and make assumptions like you do and happily proceed onwards.

Reply to  MikeP
January 14, 2020 1:23 pm

I am not making assumptions. They use the word “cycle” to imply to the reader a go nowhere, pendulum swing kind of change. This subliminal messaging which biases the reader and can always be denied as their intent since they never openly claim it. Just like any deviation in temperature is called an anomaly , as though change is abnormal.


“Observed AMO index, defined as detrended 10-year low-pass filtered annual mean area-averaged SST anomalies over the North Atlantic basin (0N-65N, 80W-0E)”

“(b) Observed NAO SST pattern (inverted), derived by regressing detrended North Atlantic annual mean SST anomalies (HadISST dataset) on the inverted detrended observed winter NAO index (Hurrell Station-Based DJFM NAO Index) for the period 1870-2015.”

PDO is made by subtracting the global mean from North Pacific SST, thus effectively detrending it.

Others like southern oscillation are based on air pressure which obviously can’t drift very far unless we loose a significant part of the atmosphere somewhere.

They are not all defined that way but a lot of them are.

Pat Smith
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
January 14, 2020 6:56 am

Apologies, Matthew, from someone with genuine ignorance here. I keep on finding I do not understand the basic physics of carbon dioxide-driven global warming. The CO2 molecule is excited by a photon in the 600 wave number range and then re-emits a few micro-seconds later. (It has collided with O2 and N2 molecules thousands of times in the meantime but the absorption is a quantum effect so the energy is not dissipated into warming the atmosphere.) Part of the re-emitted radiation is down-welling and warms the earth. You are saying that radiation at wave number 600 is not absorbed by oceans – albedo = nearly 100% – is that right? What happens then? Is there a decent text book / paper that describes all this at a simple level that someone could recommend?

Matthew Sykes
Reply to  Pat Smith
January 14, 2020 9:48 am

This is the penetration depth of various frequencies of radiation. https://images.app.goo.gl/eNqFNkmSpNHyqMGE6

As you can see, LW just doesnt penetrate water to any depth.

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  Pat Smith
January 14, 2020 10:53 am

Pat, molecule-molecule COLLISIONS in gases (and liquids as well) can transfer energy from the higher energy participant to the lower energy participant via translational kinetic energy exchange (think of a high speed billiard ball hitting a zero or low speed billiard ball) and by exciting/de-exciting allowed vibrational modes of the participants (think of a ringing bell slowly being put in contact with another, quite bell). These are NOT quantum-limited effects and a continuum in the amount of energy exchanged via these processes is allowed (within the conservation of energy law).

A collection of “hot” CO2 molecules—actually vibrational-mode-excited CO2 molecules that have absorbed a LWIR photon—will rapidly transfer energy to other atmospheric gases they contact in a process known as “thermalization”, driving the whole control volume of gases toward a Maxwell-Boltzmann energy distribution. And those de-excited CO2 molecules then are available to again absorb yet another LWIR photon, and so on, and so on.

My understanding is that within the range of typical sea-level pressures and temperatures, the time for molecule-molecule collisions is on the order of nanoseconds to microseconds whereas the time for a LWIR photon-excited CO2 molecule to re-emit this same photon energy without any collision (the “relaxation time”) is on the order of 0.1 to 1 second.

It is the combined “equilibrium” grey-body radiation from all of the atmospheric gases (including condensed water vapor in clouds) at their average temperature within the radiation “extinction height” of the lower atmosphere, approximately the first kilometer of so, that either radiatively heats the land and the oceans (if that atmospheric average temperature is and remains higher than that of the land/ocean temperature) or that lessens the radiative heat losses from the land/ocean by being at any temperature higher than that of deep space (~3K). This is governed by the Stefan-Boltzman law of radiative power exchange between two objects: P = k*area*((T1^4)-(T2^4)), where in our case T2 is the average temperature of the previously-defined atmospheric volume, recognizing that both T1 and T2 are variable over time.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of a good book that explains all of this (including the very significant atmospheric energy transfer processes of pure conduction and convection of gases) in simple terms, but doing a Web search on “book energy exchange processes Earth atmosphere” is sure to provide some good references.

Matthew Sykes
Reply to  Gordon Dressler
January 15, 2020 12:23 am

Only if the matter is hotter than the other can energy (kinetic energy of vibration, ie heat) be transferred , and the sea is 3C warmer than the air on average.

Pat Smith
Reply to  Gordon Dressler
January 15, 2020 7:07 am

Gordon, thank you, that search has brought up a number of possible sources which I will now study. I understand you to say – the CO2 molecule absorbs the photon of a particular wavelength in its bend mode; this energy can be lost in small increments via vibrational interactions with other molecules, not just as one radiative energy loss; presumably when some increment is lost, the molecule continues to bend at the same frequency but at a lower amplitude. Assuming this is the dominant method of energy loss, the downwelling radiation caused by CO2-warming-the-atmosphere will be not be confined to the 600 cm-1 spectrum of CO2 but be across the full 318ish spectrum. So all warming of the sea, etc is essentially driven by warmer air rather than directly by CO2 radiation. It is hard to see how a 1 degree-warmer atmosphere could warm the sea significantly .

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  Pat Smith
January 15, 2020 8:48 am

Pat, yes, you are welcome, but keep in mind that energy transfer is also occurring via translation mode: that is, there is energy exchange in the 1/2*m*v^2 terms in each of three spatial directions (i.e., the billiard ball analogy). Absorption of energy from an absorbed LWIR photo can be equipartitioned amongst vibrational and translational modes of molecular energy storage.

Also, it it INCORRECT to say that “all warming of the sea is essentially driven by warmer air”. During daylight hours, a substantial fraction (70-75%) of the TOA insolation from the sun is received at the surface of the Earth, and this energy input directly warms the upper surface of the world’s oceans and is orders-of-magnitude higher than the “back radiation” effect from the atmosphere. At night time, it is not so much that the atmosphere “warms” the Earth’s surface (including the oceans)—because the average nighttime “sky temperature” is less than the average of the land/sea surface—but rather that the average nighttime sky temperature is much above that of deep space (~3K), and therefore this lessens the radiative heat loss that would otherwise occur according to the Stefan-Boltzman equation.

Matthew Sykes
Reply to  Pat Smith
January 15, 2020 12:54 am

Yeah, this is the theory, the top few mollecules of water are heated, this changes the gradient, and the loss of ocean heat energy.

But, this heat energy came from visible light, not long wave, and there is no real transfer of LW energy from the air to the sea (which is also 3C warmer dont forget on average) in this process.

It is like raising the level of water in a damn, by adding a layer of bricks to the out flow. Bricks and water are not the same, and the increase in water level in the damn does not come from bricks.

Also not that as SAGE found this effect is minimal, they used 100 watts from clouds and saw a 0.2 C increase, so the 1.7 watts of CO2 we added will have raised sea surface temps by a tiny amount.

Also note that LW from clouds is a different frequency to CO2, and penetrates a bit deeper, so the effect of CO2 is even less.

Ron Long
January 14, 2020 1:33 am

Always something interesting, Dr. Roy. In Fig. 3, an ocean temperature model index with some real data, there is a pronounced turn to a negative trend for about 20 years, 1950 to 1970. If CO2 is the control knob for earth temperatures, whether air temperature of heat stored in the ocean, how could increasing atmospheric CO2 cause a decline during this period? This period was the height of American Car Fascination, I remember well our Model A pickup with a V8 and fast dashes from service station to service station.

Reply to  Ron Long
January 14, 2020 6:40 am

Not that you’re asking me, but I’d guess a increased atmospheric aerosol content during this period (all those coal plants and cars and etc) cooled the ocean. Or, rather, prevented the oceans from charging up with solar energy. I mean, oceans heat due to sw and visible light, and these are most affected by atmospheric aerosol loads. So, just spitballing here, but back before the almighty and ever glorious EPA saved us from ourselves, didn’t we have a atmospheric pollution issue with high levels of aerosols?


A C Osborn
Reply to  Ron Long
January 14, 2020 9:47 am

I have a question of Logic about the mechanics or accounting of CO2 AGW.

At any given height in the atmosphere the lateral temperature of a given area is fairly contiguous for that area. ie all the molecules, regardless of Gas type are basically at the same temperature.
In the upper atmosphere where CO2 is the only LWIR Radiating gas and thus the only cooling gas.
The other 99% of the atmosphere around it cannot emit LWIR and most of the energy is moved around by collisions, the only gas that can release the heat up there is CO2.
So let’s take the hypothetical case where the average temperature of the Earth’s surface is 15C or 288K.
The diurnal swing is about 10K, so assume that the Earth needs to shed that 10K in 10 hours overnight to keep it simple.
So 1 degree per hour and say hypothetically it does so at a trillion CO2 LWIR photons per hour
If you have a billion CO2 molecules releasing a cooling photon to space that would be 1000 photons each per hour.
Now double the CO2 molecules and assume the temperature has risen to 290K due to the CO2 doubling.
The diurnal swing will still be 10K over 10 hours requiring 1000 photons per hour to maintain balance.
But now we have 2 billion photons releasing 1000 photons each per hour which is 2 trillion photons per hour which would cause the Earth to cool by 20K instead of 10K.

So how would the doubling of the CO2 molecules offset the extra 10K lost during the night to maintain 290K and the 2K increase due to AGW?

Can someone tell where the overall logic is wrong please, how do the CO2 molecules stop emitting at the same rate as before?

The previous explanation I was given is it raises the emission height due to exansion of the Atmosphere which means that the CO2 photons come from a cooler place, can a 2K increase in temperature at 6ft above the surface raise the emission height to a place that would account for the 10K difference?
Also as the Atmosphere has just contracted does that mean that the CO2 photons are now emitting from a hotter place and thus are cooling more?

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  A C Osborn
January 14, 2020 11:23 am

A C Osborn, I believe your logic flaw lies in your third paragraph statement: “In the upper atmosphere where CO2 is the only LWIR Radiating gas and thus the only cooling gas.”

In terms of absorbing and re-radiating photons, all gases have characteristic spectral bands where this occurs. Outside of those bands, radiated photons at different frequencies from other substances (including other gases radiating much deeper in the atmosphere—even down to the top of the troposphere) will pass unimpeded out to deep space.

Thus, if one looks at the LWIR spectral bands of atmospheric gases over the wavelength range of 4-40 microns (encompassing most of spectra for BB temperatures of 200-350K) one finds that CO2 absorbs/emits only a very small region of this range, whereas water vapor predominates.

Therefore, it is really water vapor, mostly existing near the top of the troposphere that predominates in radiative cooling of the atmosphere, and thereby Earth’s surface, day and night.

A C Osborn
Reply to  Gordon Dressler
January 14, 2020 3:17 pm

I don’t think so, for 2 reasons, there is much less water vapour up there and even less above it.
Plus this is only considering a doubling of CO2 & no change in H2O.

A C Osborn
Reply to  A C Osborn
January 15, 2020 12:44 am

I should have been more precise.
H2O does not operate in the 15 micron band and at night definitely acts as an inhibitor to cooling.
In dry high deserts the diurnal swing can be as high as 40c-50C

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  A C Osborn
January 15, 2020 9:20 am

We are really not concerned about “up there” if that means above the water vapor existence height, which is equivalent to to the top of the troposphere. Above that height, other gases such as CO2 can exist but they, by and large, do not affect the transmission of radiation from lower in the atmosphere.

Water vapor has significant LWIR absorption and re-radiation values beginning at about 13 microns wavelength (before the CO2 band of 14-17 microns absorption/re-radiation). By about 20 microns wavelength, CO2 has no absorption/re-radiation effect and water vapor is at 100% of its absorption/re-readiation effect. Ref: comment image

Yes, a hypothetical doubling of atmospheric CO2 will have negligible effect on the current ability of typical atmospheric water vapor content to predominate in radiatively cooling Earth’s atmosphere.

A C Osborn
Reply to  A C Osborn
January 16, 2020 10:25 am

So you are assuming that the CO2 above the Troposphere does not intercept the LWIR from the H20 then?

Gordon Dressler
Reply to  A C Osborn
January 17, 2020 2:38 pm

A C Osborn, no, that is not what I said or implied.

One CO2 spectral band of absorption/re-radiation covers approximately 14-18 microns wavelength LWIR. If you check out the graphic at the link I posted, you will see that this covers the ramping up of a water vapor absorption/re-radiation spectral band that begins at about 12 microns, reaches ~100% at around 20 microns, and then continues at 100 % (saturation) out to at least 70 microns wavelength.

Therefore, CO2 only intercepts—and then thermalizes (high probability) that energy with other stratospheric gases, or re-radiates (low probability) that energy upward, sideways, and downward—a small fraction of the broad band of top-of-troposphere LWIR radiation from water vapor.

Water vapor’s atmospheric thermalization with other gases and its direct radiation at top-of-troposphere to space are the predominate mechanisms of cooling of Earth’s atmosphere via the only real energy “sink” available: deep space. Above-troposphere CO2 is only a bit player in this regard . . . an even that is because it absorbs then thermalizes/re-radiates energy received from top-of-troposphere.

A C Osborn
Reply to  A C Osborn
January 18, 2020 7:00 am

Gordon, you are not refuting my logic as I agree with you.
You are refuting the CAGW hypothesis.

January 14, 2020 1:49 am

Nice graph, that is the pattern which has made the most sense to me over the years. Here is the base reason why that pattern forms, imo. … http://www.sidc.be/images/wnosuf.png

The graph starts early in the cool trend from 1946/47 to 1976/77. The excess sunspots are in the north for most of that period. Then the warm trend begins in the late 1970s and goes to 2006/07 when once again the north has the excess sunspots. That leads to the one apparent reason (to me) why the cooling trend which should have become apparent after 2006/07 reversed into a warm spike. That reason is clearly due to that big red spike (excess ssn to the south) on the Silso graph which begins around early 2013 and then ends in the second half of 2015. That red spike was the fuel for the large El Nino which started developing later on in 2014, and which peaked in Feb 2016. Note how that shows how the lag from solar to oceans to atmosphere works.

Imo, the northern hemisphere of the sun will have the excess sunspots until 2036/37. That is when the next warm trend will set in as the south becomes more active.

Reply to  goldminor
January 14, 2020 5:58 am

Interesting observation goldminor. The long-term warm trend will continue with sufficiently high solar activity, above 95 sunspots decadally. ‘Weak cycle’ SC24 exceeded that threshold. Dalton level or less solar activity will be required for long-term cooling. If TSI varies with hemispheric SN then you have something.

comment image

donald penman
January 14, 2020 2:57 am

I don’t think the low ENSO activity has caused the small rise in temperatures we have seen in the satellite temperatures recently. When the thing being modelled is thought to be complex and loose statistical correlation is seen as cause then you can believe whatever you want to about the earth,. if we have more el ninos the earth will get warmer but if we have less el ninos then the earth will still get warmer

John McClure
Reply to  donald penman
January 15, 2020 6:34 am
willem post
January 14, 2020 3:01 am

This recent study in Finland shows CO2 has minimal effect on climate and global warming.


“In this paper we will prove that GCM-models used in IPCC report AR5 fail to calculate the influences of the low cloud cover changes on the global temperature.

That is why those models give a very small natural temperature change leaving a very large change for the contribution of the green house gases in the observed temperature.

This is the reason why IPCC has to use a very large sensitivity to compensate a too small natural component.

Further, they have to leave out the strong negative feedback, due to the clouds, in order to magnify the sensitivity.

In addition, this paper proves that the changes in the low cloud cover fraction practically control the global temperature.

William Astley
Reply to  willem post
January 14, 2020 3:11 pm

It has been known for sometime that changes in cloud cover can explain all of the recent warming. This line of argument is not conclusive however as it is difficult to measure planetary cloud cover and to calculate the impact of changes in cloud cover on temperature.

For sure cloud cover changes is a fundamental part of the answer.

Park cloud cover change and look for physical causes.

If AGW did not cause the warming, then there is something fundamental which we are missing that is capable of causing significant climate change.

… perhaps, if we knew what caused El Ninos, then we could work out what is the cause of the recent warming, if it was not AGW.

It is a fact that there was a sudden 300% and 100% increase in mid-ocean ridge earthquake frequency, all over the planet two years before the 1997 -1998 and 2015- 2016 El Nino events.

If a person could figure out what is causing the sudden increase in mid-ocean earthquakes all over the planet, perhaps the “What causes El Ninos?” puzzle could be solved”

What is interesting is:

Mid ocean earthquake frequency increased by a factor of 300% at the start of the warming and stayed high for the entire warming period.

There are a pile of other interesting things connected to finding and explaining cause.


The Correlation of Seismic Activity and Recent Global Warming: 2016 Update

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.

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.

Reply to  William Astley
January 14, 2020 6:35 pm

‘If a person could figure out what is causing the sudden increase in mid-ocean earthquakes all over the planet, perhaps the “What causes El Ninos?” puzzle could be solved”’

CO2, of course!

January 14, 2020 3:25 am

“Weak El Nino Conditions Help Explain Recent Global Warmth”

Yes that explains some of the noise, but not the trend. These days even the lowest dips in the graph are higher than previos El Ninos.

comment image

Reply to  Loydo
January 14, 2020 8:46 am

I hate to agree with Loydo but weak el nino doesn’t explain warming at all. El nino is an effect of warming. What is warming the oceans ?

Reply to  Cube
January 14, 2020 10:29 am

Sunshine, high insolation from low TSI/clearer skies or high TSI; mainly high solar activity.

Reply to  Bob Weber
January 14, 2020 11:16 am

and warmist bullshit….

Reply to  Bob Weber
January 14, 2020 7:09 pm

Bob Weber

Sunshine, high insolation from low TSI/clearer skies or high TSI; mainly high solar activity.

Several recent articles on this very blog have highlighted the current *low* levels of solar activity. Apparently we are close to the lowest point of the weakest solar cycle in decades. Yet we just had the warmest December since the satellite TLT record began in 1978, according to Roy Spencer. Whatever is causing the heat it doesn’t look likely to be increased solar output.

Reply to  TheFinalNail
January 14, 2020 10:00 pm

You actually made an argument I make about cosmic rays, ie, why did temps go up in 2019 under high CRs when there were supposed to be more cooling clouds? I have the answer.

Whatever is causing the heat it doesn’t look likely to be increased solar output.

The caveat was “high insolation from low TSI/clearer skies”. This means a condition with similar results as high TSI: higher absorbed solar energy leading to warming.

After a recharge under high TSI, there are more clouds (OLR is negative) than what we’re seeing now under low TSI (OLR is positive), the high TSI has to fight through more clouds to warm as much as lower TSI under fewer clouds. I’m working on an expression for that phenomenon.

We are now in the same phase as at the last two minima, with Central Pacific Outgoing Longwave Radiation now positive, indicating fewer clouds over the equatorial ocean, allowing more sunlight in, ie, higher insolation; and the SORCE TSI 90-day trend was slightly but consistently positive-going since mid-April. The last two minima show El Nino conditions forming before the TSI increase, followed by an impulse-like response to TSI:

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Nino4 remained high throughout 2019:


There’s also at least one good-sized geothermal flow in the Pacific.

Because Nino34 was up for much of last year, there was warm inflow into the arctic through the NH summer, heat which is now subsiding, taking things down with it for the time being allowing more ice growth.

SSTs climbed for most of 2019 when the tropics, the NW pool, and the arctic were high together. Most of the recent years I studied had a year-end downturn in HadSST3, but this time that expected dropoff is ‘late’ due to those factors. HadSST3 2019 was .101 warmer, while Dec was down by -0.021 from Nov.

Martin Cropp
Reply to  Cube
January 14, 2020 3:21 pm

“What is warming the oceans”
The oceans are warming (according to the data) by either or a combination of the following –
1 – The heat cannot be released and transported away due to slower average wind speeds (down 15%)
2 – Tropical cyclone activity has been decreasing = greater ocean retention in key locations
3 – increased solar penetration
4 – etc
It may simply be heat retention by the oceans, due to lack of transport capacity away from the ocean atmosphere interface.

Show me the chart that identifies the gross amount of energy presented at this interface and the net amount taken. There isn’t one – because not one considers this to be worthy of consideration. If this interface was 100% efficient the oceans would be stripped of significantly higher volumes of heat.

IMO the temperature thermostat presented by Willis is the second stage of the thermostat, the first stage is the efficiency of heat release into the atmosphere.

Andy in Epsom
January 14, 2020 4:34 am

The latest El Nino never really went away!

Reply to  Andy in Epsom
January 14, 2020 6:16 am

Yeah it did. The UAH annual anomaly came very close the the average since 1995. Then 2019 bumped upward again, likely driven by a warming spike in NH, especially N. Atlantic.

Richard M
Reply to  Ron Clutz
January 14, 2020 8:42 pm

Ron, not sure what you are basing your claim on. According to NOAA we had an El Nino for the first 6 months of 2019 and we are back in El Nino conditions starting in Nov 2019.


January 14, 2020 5:41 am

As I have discussed before, from CERES satellite radiative budget data we know that El Nino is preceded by energy accumulation in the climate system, mainly increasing solar input from reduced cloudiness, while La Nina experiences the opposite.

Solar activity sets the conditions for ENSO activity, cloudiness. The tropics rule the greater ocean.

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All reasonable choices produce equilibrium climate sensitivities in the range of 1.4 to 1.7 deg. C.

ECS doesn’t exist. CO2 climate sensitivity to SST does exist.

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The greater ocean rules the sky (including CO2).

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CO2 is a climate by-product, not a driver.

Anthony Banton
Reply to  Bob Weber
January 14, 2020 8:06 am

“CO2 is a climate by-product, not a driver.”

It’s both.
The first is the natural carbon cycle. A feedback.
The second is when it is emitted by volcanoes (PETM) and, as now, by humans. A driver.

Reply to  Anthony Banton
January 14, 2020 8:59 am

The carbon cycle doesn’t affect temperature. Does the annual carbon dioxide cycle cause the seasons? How precisely does lagging CO2 control Nino34? How does CO2 cycle in perfect rhythm every year with temperature while human emissions rise and fall through the year and years?

Detrended CO2 follows Nino34, OLR, MEI by 1-2 months, however, it starts outgassing at a slightly lower sea surface temperature than when evaporation starts, meaning the bulk of it outgasses right along with higher evaporation, more clouds, and more positive ENSO/MEI, and more negative OLR.

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Average monthly peak CO2 lags the average seasonal peak Nino34 by one month.

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Volcanic cooling is over-rated, Pinatubo aerosols are misattributed for TSI cooling.

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Anthony Banton
Reply to  Bob Weber
January 15, 2020 2:29 am

“The carbon cycle doesn’t affect temperature.”

I never said it did.

“Volcanic cooling is over-rated, Pinatubo aerosols are misattributed for TSI cooling.”

Then tell that to Roy Spencer on his latest piece ….

“1D Model of Global SST Shows 40% of Warming Since 1979 Due to Early Volcanic Cooling”

I was responding to your ….

“CO2 is a climate by-product, not a driver.”

As in “Climate”.
There is more to it that the ENSO.

Reply to  Anthony Banton
January 15, 2020 7:02 am

It’s both. (including as a driver – your words)

If you think it’s a driver then aren’t you talking about temperature…

Then tell that to Roy Spencer on his latest piece …. I did.

There is more to it that the ENSO.

Yes there is. CO2 outgasses/sinks at about 25.6C.

Reply to  Bob Weber
January 14, 2020 3:54 pm

@ Bob … just took a good look at the last 2 years comparing UAH to the Silso excess ssn. Now I see why there is that spike in temps in the latter part of 2018 just when some of us were thinking La Nina/negative ENSO. This has to do with my view of how the excess sunspot count directly affects the ENSO/oceans, and thus the atmosphere.

Note how the red excess fades away around 5/2015. The peak of the El Nino then takes place in Nov 2015 while the peak in UAH temps is on Feb 2016. Global temps then cool in early 2016 as green excess grows which can be seen on WeatherZone’s 3.4 monthly graph while the ENSO moves into negative conditions, and tries to form a La Nina over the next 2 years. … https://www.weatherzone.com.au/climate/indicator_enso.jsp?c=nino34&p=monthly

Finally, excess green fades away around mid 2017 into early 2018. The ENSO has a short warm spike which peaks in June 2017. That leads to that UAH temp spike in late 2017. As the excess green almost ends and remains only slightly in excess but that is enough to cause temps on UAH to rise steadily in late 2018, and it took a year for the temp peak to show up on UAH on 10/2019. Meanwhile as the excess green reformed in late 2018 that then led to a drop on the ENSO after the March peak up and to 10/2019.

Around this point the Silso excess ssn graph looks like it ends in late 2019. I would predict that February’s Silso will show that the green excess count once again faded away in late 2019, and may have even gone red excess, and so we see the last several months of 2019 showing slightly elevated temps on UAH, and no sign of a negative ENSO.

Reply to  goldminor
January 15, 2020 3:11 pm

I have been thinking about what I wrote yesterday. It occurred to me that the reason why a La Nina does not form now even though the northern hemisphere of the sun continues to have the excess ssn count may be due to the simple thought that the minimum means very few sunspots. That brings up the possibility that it takes a certain threshold of solar activity before excess north sunspots cause cooling in the ENSO regions.

So in late 2017 the north hemispheric excess count almost fades away, and that starts the warming in the ENSO regions. The north then resumes its dominance for excess sunspots, but there are not that many sunspots, and that means that the ENSO regions stay a bit warm to neutral. Along this line of reasoning that points to the next significant negative ENSO not starting up until the SC 25 sunspots increase in frequency. That should take place somewhere between July to September, imo. Although that is assuming that the excess sunspots stay in the north. An example of this would be at the last minimum when the excess ssn moves into the north hemisphere around mid 2009 at solar minimum, but the ENSO regions do not drop sharply until early 2010 after sunspots have risen off of the minimum.

Reply to  goldminor
January 17, 2020 12:53 pm

The above would also mean that the ENSO regions do not balance out over time on their own. That just raised the thought “What if the longer grand minima (Maunder 60+ year) are a case of excess sunspots in the northern hemisphere for 30 years which are then followed by 30 more years of north dominance because of some process within the sun?”.

Julian Forbes-Laird
January 14, 2020 5:48 am

Dear Dr Spencer,
You refer to “the rate of deep ocean heat storage”. By what mechanism are the deep oceans taking up heat? Kindly note, this is not intended as a trick question, I am simply keen to learn. Thank you

Coach Springer
January 14, 2020 7:09 am

I’m not seeing the oceans five times warmer message I heard from ABC (American) this Sunday evening when I accidentally switched to it.

Robert W Turner
January 14, 2020 7:32 am

Point me to a warming trend that WAS NOT preceded by an El Nino.

Michael Kuske
January 14, 2020 8:08 am

The question is, “Why has La Nina conditions been so muted for the past 3 or 4 decades?” A look at the El Nino/La Nina cumulative equilibrium since the mid-80s shows a heavy lean towards El Nino warming, mostly due to lack of La Nina activity.

Reply to  Michael Kuske
January 14, 2020 11:20 am

La-Nina isn’t an activity, it is simply the lack of an El-Nino.

Michael Kuske
Reply to  Sunsettommy
January 15, 2020 3:15 am

“Neutral” is a lack of El Nino. La Nina results in water cooler than the baseline.

Dr Deanster
January 14, 2020 3:03 pm

Figure 2 proves once again that the only near perfect correlation to atmospheric temperature is ocean temperature. Thus …. again I repeat …. don’t worry about what warms the atmosphere, figure out what is warming the ocean surface. Somehow I doubt CO2 makes much of a contribution.

William Astley
January 14, 2020 5:51 pm

This is interesting.

There is a Philippines’ volcano, Taal that is about to erupt.

If the Taal eruption was as powerful as Pinatubo there could be 0.6C cooling in the Northern hemisphere.


“The volcano is located only 60 kilometres from Manila, the country’s capital, so authorities have urged more than half a million people in the metro and surrounding areas to evacuate.

Due to this risk, scientists at the institute have been gradually increasing the alert level from 2 this weekend to now 4 out of a maximum of 5.
This level is indicative of the potential for an explosive eruption to occur in the coming days, which could be similar to the Pinatubo eruption back in the 90s.”

“We will know more about the impact Taal could end up having on climate and the environment as the eruption process unfolds.

If the eruption ends up being as explosive as that of Pinatubo, aerosols in the atmosphere could block about 10 per cent of the solar radiation that typically reaches Earth.”

“This reduction of solar radiation results in a cooling effect, which can be more intense in some regions than others, depending on factors such as atmospheric circulation during and after the actual eruption.

A scenario of higher aerosol concentrations would cause global surface temperatures to drop considerably, which would impact crops and the main ecosystems in the region. For instance, during the Pinatubo eruption, average temperatures in the northern hemisphere dropped close to 0.6°C.”

Reply to  William Astley
January 14, 2020 7:58 pm

Every major eruption at this volcano occurs close to or at the solar minimum. The one in 1911 was also during the last Gleissberg. The largest eruption occurred in 1754 close to the solar minimum, and between the two weak solar cycles of SC5 and SC6.

January 14, 2020 6:59 pm

Bardarbunga Caldera was going to do same, it’s always a wait and see with volcanoes, they’re patient and sneaky.

January 14, 2020 9:23 pm

I’m not a climate scientist, so I have little to contribute to the various technical debates on here. But it seems painfully obvious, when reading articles by the likes of Doctors Spencer, Curry, Lindzen, etc., that we’re dealing with absurdly complex systems that are still poorly understood. Why is it so difficult for the warmists to admit the incompleteness of their knowledge, when the so-called skeptics (i.e. the accredited ones) are so comfortable admitting theirs?

Why every day do I wake up to claims of new records that are easily disproven with a little digging through old newspaper archives (as with the Australian fires), as Tony Heller does so effectively?

Why is Michael Mann running around suiing people who disagree with his methods and conclusions instead of engaging in healthy debates like they do in the physics world?

I have to say, as an ordinary citizen who was hoping for genuine guidance from climate scientists, I’ve completely lost faith in this branch of science, which is odd, given how much faith I have in other branches of science. At this point, I’d put more faith in some ancient high priest reading bird entrails than I would in 99 % of climate scientists, and that’s tragic given that I started out with the opposite view.


Reply to  Wayne
January 15, 2020 1:29 pm

A good comment expressing the point of view of the man in the street who is neither a scientist or climate scientist.
There is a good reason why mainstream climate scientists like Mann, Schmidt and Karoly don’t debate climate change.
They lose the debate.
In March 2007, Gavin Schmidt at Realclimate.com announced a forthcoming debate in New York at the prestigious Intelligence Squared.
The topic of the debate was “Climate Change is not a Crisis”.
It occurred on 14 March 2007.
Supporting the assertion were Richard Lindzen, Phillip Stott and the late Michael Chrichton.
Against the proposition were Brenda Ekwurzel, Gavin Schmidt and Richard Somerville.
The outcome was a resounding win for the sceptics.
See:James Taylor in Forbes, September 28,2011, “The Global Warming debate produces an indisputable winner.”
I am only aware of two other public debates although there must be more-
1. Will Happer v. David Karoly at bestschools.org between 2016-2018, and
2.The Soho Forum debate between Dr. Gary Idso and Jeffrey Bennett in May last year.
Either the settled science is flawed or its proponents are lousy debaters.

donald penman
January 14, 2020 11:28 pm

My idea would be that high solar radiation caused the el nino/la nina cycle to become unbalanced and larger but the best we can hope for with reduced solar radiation is enso neutral which we have had for the last few years. We will not see a drop in temperature from la nina because a la nina always has to be paid for by more warming in the future by more el nino.

January 15, 2020 1:59 pm

Have you considered massive removal of sulfates as an underestimated cooling factor, both in the mid 70s and now 2018-2019 for world shipping ?

Reply to  bruce
January 15, 2020 3:31 pm

“… massive removal of sulfates …” several days I took a look at the chem signature of the Taal eruption using earthnull. What jumped out at me was the huge SO2 signature coming from China. It is very large looking. Shouldn’t that eventually restart global dimming? … https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/chem/surface/level/overlay=so2smass/orthographic=-241.96,26.94,672/loc=128.537,62.442

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