Study: Global Warming Could Resurrect the Ice Age Indian Ocean El-Nino

Australia desert wildflowers
The terrifying consequences of Western Australia getting a bit of rain. Murray Foubister / CC BY-SA

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Global warming models have predicted the emergence of an Indian Ocean version of the Pacific El-Nino / La-Nina cycle. Paleo climate research suggests this was active during the last ice age.

MAY 6, 2020
Climate change could reawaken Indian Ocean El Nino

by  University of Texas at Austin

Global warming is approaching a tipping point that during this century could reawaken an ancient climate pattern similar to El Niño in the Indian Ocean, new research led by scientists from The University of Texas at Austin has found.

“Our research shows that raising or lowering the average global temperature just a few degrees triggers the Indian Ocean to operate exactly the same as the other tropical oceans, with less uniform surface temperatures across the equator, more variable climate, and with its own El Niño,” said lead author Pedro DiNezio, a climate scientist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, a research unit of the UT Jackson School of Geosciences.

According to the research, if current warming trends continue, an Indian Ocean El Niño could emerge as early as 2050.

Computer simulations of climate change during the second half of the century show that global warming could disturb the Indian Ocean’s surface temperatures, causing them to rise and fall year to year much more steeply than they do today. The seesaw pattern is strikingly similar to El Niño, a climate phenomenon that occurs in the Pacific Ocean and affects weather globally.

Co-author Kaustubh Thirumalai, who led the study that discovered evidence of the ice age Indian Ocean El Niño, said that the way glacial conditions affected wind and ocean currents in the Indian Ocean in the past is similar to the way global warming affects them in the simulations.

Read more: https://phys.org/news/2020-05-climate-reawaken-indian-ocean-el.html

The abstract of the study which predicts an Indian Ocean El Nino;

Emergence of an equatorial mode of climate variability in the Indian Ocean

Pedro N. DiNezio1,*, Martin Puy1, Kaustubh Thirumalai2, Fei-Fei Jin3 and Jessica E. Tierney2

Science Advances  06 May 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 19, eaay7684
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay7684

Presently, the Indian Ocean (IO) resides in a climate state that prevents strong year-to-year climate variations. This may change under greenhouse warming, but the mechanisms remain uncertain, thus limiting our ability to predict future changes in climate extremes. Using climate model simulations, we uncover the emergence of a mode of climate variability capable of generating unprecedented sea surface temperature and rainfall fluctuations across the IO. This mode, which is inhibited under present-day conditions, becomes active in climate states with a shallow thermocline and vigorous upwelling, consistent with the predictions of continued greenhouse warming. These predictions are supported by modeling and proxy evidence of an active mode during glacial intervals that favored such a state. Because of its impact on hydrological variability, the emergence of such a mode would become a first-order source of climate-related risks for the densely populated IO rim.

Read more: https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/19/eaay7684

The study which identified paleo-climate evidence of an ice age Indian Ocean El-nino;

An El Niño Mode in the Glacial Indian Ocean?

Kaustubh Thirumalai, Pedro N. DiNezio, Jessica E. Tierney, Martin Puy, Mahyar Mohtadi

First published: 22 July 2019

Despite minor variations in sea surface temperature (SST) compared to other tropical regions, coupled ocean‐atmosphere dynamics in the Indian Ocean cause widespread drought, wildfires, and flooding. It is unclear whether changes in the Indian Ocean mean state can support stronger SST variability and climatic extremes. Here we focus on the Last Glacial Maximum (19,000–21,000 years before present) when background oceanic conditions could have been favorable for stronger variability. Using individual foraminiferal analyses and climate model simulations, we find that seasonal and interannual SST variations in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean were much larger during this glacial period relative to modern conditions. The increase in year‐to‐year variance is consistent with the emergence of an equatorial mode of climate variability, which strongly resembles the Pacific El Niño and is currently not active in the Indian Ocean.

Read more: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2019PA003669

Assuming the studies are correct, if the Indian Ocean El-nino can occur in glacial conditions and warm conditions, clearly its something which can occur under a range of conditions, maybe even spontaneously, so promoting this prediction as a climate risk seems pretty thin.

If an Indian Ocean El-Nino / La-Nina cycle does start, it won’t necessarily be a bad thing; a good drenching for Western Australia on a regular basis might increase water availability in Australia’s arid interior.

42 thoughts on “Study: Global Warming Could Resurrect the Ice Age Indian Ocean El-Nino

        • Quoting: Kaustubh Thirumalai, Pedro N. DiNezio, Jessica E. Tierney, Martin Puy, Mahyar Mohtadi

          It is unclear whether changes in the Indian Ocean mean state can support stronger SST variability and climatic extremes. Here we focus on the Last Glacial Maximum (19,000–21,000 years before present) when background oceanic conditions could have been favorable for stronger variability.

          And just how did the authors determine what the “background oceanic conditions” of the Indian Ocean were when the sea level there was 426 feet less than it is right now?

          • First, we used a model to generate the “background oceanic conditions”. We had no actual data to use in this model, because there were no measurements taken when sea level was 426 feet lower.

            Then we used the oceanic conditions output from the first model as the data for our atmospheric conditions model. This model used atmospheric processes that were based on our speculations, because no one has observed these processes in the study area.

            Finally, we published our results based on the model that had no accurate data or calibration of the actual physical properties.

            If you believe our results are not accurate – then you should SEND MORE MONEY.

  1. “Global warming could help reduce the frequency and intensity of drought conditions in Western Australia,” might have been a headline….and at least as accurate.

    • An increase in surface temperature of 1 degree C from 15 to 16 C increases the water vapour content of the air immediately above the water by 7%. Two days later and 300 miles away, this water vapour eventually makes 7% more clouds…likely makes 7% more rain…
      And certainly more rain is a prediction of the global warming hypothesis. The 7% increase being less than the normal variation everywhere. So a list of which places on Earth that would NOT benefit from a bit more rain within its current range would be appreciated….anybody got one? Didn’t think so….

  2. Yet more computerised fiddling and hand waving prognostications to justify trashing western economies.

    No doubt supplemented with taxpayer funded trips to nice beaches in the Seychelles and Maldives.

    I think it’s well overdue to have a tipping point in the funding of these ‘academic’ parasites who promote nonsensical ‘solutions’ for problems that don’t exist in the real world.

    • chaamjamal, ….. would not the 426+- feet increase in the sea level of the Indian Ocean change the dynamics of any seasonal variability?

  3. ”Global warming is approaching a tipping point that during this century could reawaken an ancient climate pattern similar to El Niño in the Indian Ocean,”

    • When I read this statement:

      “… global warming could disturb the Indian Ocean’s surface temperatures, causing them to rise and fall year to year much more steeply than they do today …”, the BS meter pegged out at 11.

      Once again, these Wunderkindern need to be sent back to remedial Thermodynamics where they should learn that the atmospheric temperatures cannot affect the oceanic temperatures beyond skin depth.

      Vincent “Vinnie” Gambini said it right!

      • ditto
        that these h*tS for brains mob got funded is a crime
        IOD is alive and showing its metttle quite well already
        as the swimmingly good time had by Africa recently shows.

  4. Confirms what I’ve always suspected, the climate in 1990 was perfect and we should everything in our power to destroy health, wealth and happiness to get back to those days climatic ally.

  5. Are that reasons for an east nediterreanean monsun ?
    In historical times it existed.

  6. “Our research shows that raising or lowering the average global temperature just a few degrees triggers the Indian Ocean to operate exactly the same as the other tropical oceans”

    and

    “This means the present-day Indian Ocean might in fact be unusual,” said Thirumalai, who is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona.

    So unless we do something conditions in the Indian Ocean will be normal

  7. “… a good drenching for Western Australia on a regular basis might increase water availability in Australia’s arid interior.”

    Water availability has increased anyway, particularly in northern WA, but not so in the cooler south-west coastal strip where rainfall has declined by roughly 13% since the 1970s.

    Analysis (http://www.waclimate.net/very-hot-days-seasonal.html#western-australia) of the 13 official ACORN weather stations in WA that were operating before or since 1910 shows that in 1910-1963 their averaged annual rainfall in the hot months from November to April was 35.15mm, whereas in 1964-2017 it was 44.51mm.

    The annual and more up-to-date data (http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/#tabs=Tracker&tracker=timeseries) shows that in 1910-1959 WA had an average 319.2mm per year, whereas in 1960-2019 it was 370.6mm.

    The additional cloudy days of hot season rainfall were the probable reason why the average RAW annual number of very hot 40C+ days at the 13 ACORN stations was 18.65 in 1910-1963, but in 1964-2017 this dropped to an average 16.11. Of course, when their temperatures are adjusted by ACORN 2 there’s been an increase in very hot days from 14.38 to 14.56, but even this is paltry if you have faith in the accuracy of ACORN adjustments.

    The only risk from an Indian Ocean El Nino would be if it upset the “climate change” that’s been delivering more rainfall and fewer scorching hot days in WA.

  8. I thought the Indian ocean dipole was already a well known phenomenon with its own wikipedia entry and all.

    • The BOM in Australia has publicly been stressing the combination of the IOD and ENSO modes for a few years now. The IOD, like the ENSO, is a Walker Circulation oscillation with pressure changes, ocean temperature and current changes, thermocline changes etc. So Eric what are these authors talking about if not the IOD?

  9. Dear Scientists at the University of Texas at Austin,

    If it’s resurrecting a past condition, how the HECK can it be unprecedented?

    If this ‘El-Indio’ causes more rain, then it must be transporting more heat to the upper atmosphere. How is this bad? It’s not like India doesn’t flood now and then – or every year.

    Adaptation – look the word up. Humans can do this. Well, the smart ones can, the stupid ones just stand in the river scratching their heads wondering what to do.

  10. Hello Samuel C Cogar

    Good question sir.

    In general climate variability is very high during deglaciation because it is not a smooth transition but a chaotic one. And then there is the Kamis theory of glacial cycles which says that because human civilization came about in an interglacial, we humans have an interglacial bias thinking that the interglacial is the equilibrium state of the world and that glaciation needs to be explained but in fact the earth is mostly in a glaciated state with occasional brief excursions into interglacials and that therefore it is interglacials that need explaining and the explanation is geothermal heat events which would explain the flattening of the thermocline and the observed climate variability.

    • “the earth is mostly in a glaciated state ”

      Only about 25% of the time in the past 550 million years. There have been five discovered ice ages in that time, the latest having started about 2.6 million years ago, or about 33 million years ago, depending on how one views the definition. The other 75% of the time there may well have been no sea level ice anywhere — for very long periods. This is so according to the bit of geology I’ve read but then maybe the geologists have pulled a fast one and just created a fairy tale for our amusement.

  11. It’s amazing what one can read in computerised climate chicken entrails…

    But often it’s not exactly new – that goes even for ‘The terrifying consequences of Western Australia getting a bit of rain” – nice sub-headline by the way.

    Back in 2015 we had “The return of the Australian (inland) sea could be triggered by climate change.”

    Ahead of its time was that prediction, it would seem. Might need more than a sub-headline. Might need a whole submarine…

  12. Paleo climate research suggests this was active during the last ice age More confused conflation. Why bother reading stuff by people who don’t know the difference between an ‘ice age’ and an ‘inter-glacial’ epoch in an ice age.

    • The paper uses the proper term Last Glacial Maximum. It’s the press release that uses the term Last Ice Age because the writers of press releases assume that we are all as factually ignorant and scientifically illiterate as they are. We’re used to it.

      There are many things wrong with the study (and not much that’s right) but that’s not one of them.

  13. Researchers with more open minds are looking at past seismic activity in the west equatorial Pacific, where the water that seems to initiate the El Nino process sits. More seismic might mean more underwater volcanism coming in pulses a few years apart, hence more warmed water to go East to Chile. No comparative process seen yet in the Indian or Atlantic oceans. Geoff S

  14. Further proof that climate scientists do not wash their hands after using the facilities.

  15. No doubt the alarmists will try to claim that life won’t be able to deal with such rapid changes to climate.
    However, as the authors noted, this El Nino like pattern existed during the last ice age, so obviously life in the area is already adapted to it.

  16. Could?
    The problem with could is that implies something is possible but makes no attempt to give any
    estimate of the probability of such an occurrence.
    Are we talking about 50:50, 1 in 10, 1 in 100, 1 in a million, 1 in a billion?
    The articles using could are written as if the outcome is a foregone conclusion.
    I was just reading about Gresham’s Law -bad money forces out good money.
    It would appear that bad science forces out good science.
    Is junk climate science responsible the failure of the COVID-19 models?

  17. The main outcome from this computer modelling is: “could”.

    Thanks but no thanks.

    For Chennai no different rainfall pattern for the last 120 years.

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