It woz El Nino wot dunnit!

Credit : Gavin Schmidt

Credit : Gavin Schmidt

It looks likely that 2016 will end up as the warmest year in the surface temperature record. One question is whether or not the recent El Nino contributed significantly to this. As the figure on the right shows, if you correct for ENSO events, 2016 would still be the warmest year in the instrumental surface temperature record. The El Nino event certainly contributed, but it’s not regarded as the cause of 2016 likely being the warmest year in the instrumental temperature record.

David Rose, however, has an article in the Mail Online suggesting that Stunning new data indicates that El Nino drove record highs in global temperature suggesting rise may not be down to man-made emissions. The idea being that there has been a sudden, substantial drop in temperatures, indicating that the rise was mainly due to the El Nino event. Wow, amazing, where did he get this from? Well he got it from David Whitehouse, via the Global Warming Policy Foundation. In other words, his article is based on an unpublished piece of work, posted on a cimate denial site, by someone who has virtually no expertise in climate science.

Furthermore, the claim is actually based on RSS land only data. This is a subset of a dataset that even Carl Mears, Senior Research Scientist at RSS, regards as less reliable than surface temperature datasets. Even if this does turn out to be correct, it doesn’t suddenly mean that ENSO events contributed significantly to the rise in surface temperatures; the satellite data measures the lower troposphere, not the surface. It is also well known that the satellite temperatures are more sensitive to ENSO events than the surface temperatures.

rss_landI also downloaded the data from the RSS ftp site. The figure on the left shows the monthly anomalies in the lower troposphere, land only data, with the red line showing the OLS trend. The data set that they’ve used to argue El Nino events dominate the rise in temperatures shows a long-term trend of 0.18K/decade; this really can’t be due to El Nino events. I couldn’t get the stats package to work on python, so I couldn’t estimate the uncertainties, but using the Skeptical Science Trend Calculator, I would guess it’s around 0.06K/decade (although, the SkS calculator uses TTT global, rather than TLT land).

This all seems rather desperate to me. Use a dataset that doesn’t even measure global temperatures, nor the surface, to argue that the recent rise in global surface temperatures is primarily due to the El Nino event, rather than being due man-made emissions. Sometimes all you can do is laugh.

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46 Responses to It woz El Nino wot dunnit!

  1. What’s the right term for this sort of nonsense? Cartoon physics? Third-grade analysis? Complete, utter BS? Not even wrong? And yet, no doubt, droves of scientifically illiterate dimwits are nodding their heads in agreement.

    They’ll still be spreading these lies when the arctic is ice-free and coastal real estate values have crashed.

  2. I would like to dispel the notion that the Daily Mail does not know what it is doing. It knows exactly what it is doing.

  3. John,
    When the Arctic does become ice free in summer, they could argue that there will be a pause in sea ice retreat; it can’t exactly go negative.

    Victor,
    Indeed, it’s quite likely that they do no exactly what they’re doing. It’s not as if people haven’t tried to explain this kind of thing to David Rose before.

  4. I meant to add this to the post. It’s from Roy Spencer’s blog, so it’s about UAH, not RSS, but it does say:

    The gridpoint trends for LT in Fig. 4 are very difficult to measure accurately over land, primarily due to (1) the diurnal drift effect, which can be at least as large as any real temperature trends, and (2) how LT is computed, which in the old LT methodology required data from different view angles, and thus different geographic locations which can be from different air masses and over different surfaces (land and ocean).

  5. Worth reminding people, too, that satellite temperature data are not even direct measurements as such—they’re inferred from radiances in various wavelengths given off by oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere and, as such, they’re subject to the adjustments and interpretation by scientists that fake ‘skeptics’ like to refer to as ‘fiddling’. Interesting that they should therefore choose this as their preferred data. They can’t have it both ways can they?

  6. John,
    Indeed. Worth highlighting Steven Mosher’s guest post, which I had forgotten, actually discussed the RSS land only dataset.

  7. This is an interesting point made in Steven’s post

    There are two aspects of land surface measurements that we can look at in this analysis. The first has to do with time of observation. The land data is measured twice a day. Once at Tmax and once at Tmin. Satellite data is not measured at any consistent time. Consequently RSS adjust their data to represent the temperature at local noon. For example, if the satellite overpass was at 8:49AM, the data is adjusted to represent a “local noon” measurement. RSS does this by applying a diurnal adjustment taken from GCM results.

  8. johnrussell40 says: “They can’t have it both ways can they?

    They can. They are not trying to convince scientists. They deceive the public.

  9. Rose and the DailyMail are nothing but a despicable bunch. Hatred and misinformation, that’s their business model. On a positive note, it was never easier to rip their bullshit apart and rub the real science in their denier faces. While they might feel the momentum is on their side, the facts have never been more in contradiction to their ideological beliefs. As I said on Twitter, it’s time to call these bigots out! That’s true for science deniers as it is for racists, xenophobes, misogynists … you name it. We have literally millions of pieces of evidence to know that these guys aren’t in for the truth. We know they are deliberate liars.

    Although I couldn’t give a lesser shit, here are some clues for the lunatics:
    – looking at land data only doesn’t tell you anything about ENSO responses
    – identifying circulation anomalies is key to say something about temperature evolution
    – clearly, RSS drop is due to Eurasian cold in response to low sea ice/high geopotential over the Arctic (no such drop in UAH, GISS, BEST, HadCRUT4-CW)
    – can rebound quick as seen last winter (well, in fact every winter, because weather!)

    There’s much more interesting stuff going on wrt change in the annual cycle of the anomalies (which is why OND this year will be warmer than JJA, despite colder central Pacific). But that’s of course nothing the likes of Rose are even remotely interested in.

    Btw, here’s how 2016 is gonna stack up against 2015 in GISS (conservative best guess for December … Nov will be around +1.0 wrt 1951-80): GISS 1880-2016
    Similar outcome for HadCRUT4-CW (full coverage; best guess for Nov and Dec): HadCRUT4-CW 1850-2016

  10. Karsten,
    Thanks. Mark McCarthy seems to have made a similar point on Twitter

    clearly, RSS drop is due to Eurasian cold in response to low sea ice/high geopotential over the Arctic (no such drop in UAH, GISS, BEST, HadCRUT4-CW)

  11. Magma says:

    The denizens of the deniosphere are now reduced to swilling their own bathwater. Except for a small minority who know exactly what they are doing (paid disinformers such as Marc Morano), the rest may as well be in an isolation tank, floating in the dark in warm salty water and sharing the same small set of talking points over and over again.

    A sharp comment by caerbannog on Sou’s post on the 10th anniversary of WUWT compared Watts’ accomplishments (add those of his guests commenters too) over ten years to that of any postdoc in a three year fellowship. The WUWTers would come out dismally. What have any of them accomplished over the last decade but generating doubt in the general public, cover for politicians, and delay for fossil fuel interests? That probably wasn’t even the aim of most of them, but they ended up being useful fools and tools for the unscrupulous.

  12. Tamino has a new post about Which Satellite Data. It pointed out that the RSS lower troposphere (TLT) data is version 3, while the total troposphere (TTT) data is version 4. I’ve redone the figure in the post using land only TTT data, version 4. The trend is 0.22K/decade and the large drop in temperature is not nearly as evident.

  13. @John Palkovic

    I call it “garden shed science”.

  14. lerpo says:

    It is also well known that the satellite temperatures are more sensitive to ENSO events than the surface temperatures.

    Not so much these last couple years. Here’s UAH5.6 vs GISS.- both detrended. ENSO events are exaggerated on the satellite record except for the most recent event. Same goes for RSSv3TLT or UAH6beta.

  15. guthrie says:

    So can we just summarise this ‘article’ as a lie, with Rose lying about the science and what it means?
    Unfortunately even though it is all a lie, you’d never get IPSO to actually do anything about it.

  16. @ATTP:

    Tamino has a new post about Which Satellite Data. It pointed out that the RSS lower troposphere (TLT) data is version 3, while the total troposphere (TTT) data is version 4. I’ve redone the figure in the post using land only TTT data, version 4. The trend is 0.22K/decade and the large drop in temperature is not nearly as evident.

    That’s the whole point. RSSv3 shouldn’t be used in the first place. If I recall it correctly, they didn’t provide an updated TLT version because they couldn’t find a way to come up with a reliable product. Yet they left the old version online for documentation. At the same time, they’ve been clearly advising against its use.

    Use flawed/outdated data, talk about something you know zilch about and make up the rest of the story. It’s insane. Tbh, this is probably one of the occasion where we should better ignore the whole story altogether. It’s such an obvious nut-job, ignorance is everything it deserves. Even calling someone like Rose out is giving him waaaaaayyy too much attention I’d argue!!! Much better to put our effort into #stopfundinghate instead. After all, hate and lies are literally inseparable.

  17. Harry Twinotter says:

    David Rose and the “post truth” world I guess. He knows the average reader will not be able to pick the poor science and fabrication in his article.

  18. jacksmith4tx says:

    It seems their preferred tactic will be to suppress or ignore first order data (see cuts to NASA/NOAA/NSF). This will be accomplished with Trump’s favorite tools, lawyers and accountants All extreme weather events will be dismissed as natural variability and we know we can’t prove them wrong because they will always have paleo reconstructions to claim it has all happened before.
    The only thing the climate skeptics will not be able to deny will be second order effects when critical elements of the biosphere collapse and creates a economic crisis (note I didn’t say humanitarian because that would mean they have empathy – which they don’t). I’m not talking about a few apex predators like polar bears or raptors. I’m thinking more along the lines of dramatic drops in commercial fishing stocks due to plunging levels of plankton or vast areas of toxic algae with severe oxygen depleted dead zones that persist for decades. Other critical parts of the environment like soil microbiology could take a sudden turn for the worst by crippling crop production. I doubt any of this will happen in the next 4 years but the salient point is we will beyond the point of no return when it does.
    I have only one weapon that they understand, economic boycott, and I will use it at every opportunity. Good luck to all.

  19. Karsten,
    Do you have a link where they advise against its use?

  20. verytallguy says:

    Some scientists, including Dr Gavin Schmidt, head of Nasa’s climate division, have claimed that the recent highs were mainly the result of long-term global warming.

    Others have argued that the records were caused by El Nino, a complex natural phenomenon that takes place every few years, and has nothing to do with greenhouse gas emissions by humans.

    The new fall in temperatures suggests they were right.

    Other experts have also disputed Dr Schmidt’s claims. Professor Judith Curry, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and president of the Climate Forecast Applications Network, said yesterday: ‘I disagree with Gavin. The record warm years of 2015 and 2016 were primarily caused by the super El Nino.’

    The slowdown in warming was, she added, real, and all the evidence suggested that since 1998, the rate of global warming has been much slower than predicted by computer models – about 1C per century.

    Remarkable.

  21. pete best says:

    Looks at the comment section of the article and then at the best rated.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3974846/Stunning-new-data-indicates-El-Nino-drove-record-highs-global-temperatures-suggesting-rise-not-man-emissions.html

    It speaks volumes that simple sound bites expressing the general meme that ” its all nonsense and Trumpy was right” says to me that your bloke is great but its not reaching those who need to be reached. There again your blog might convince a few and that’s enough of a reason to write it.

    Personally I think that humans are generally naïve about many things and the media is now exception.

  22. vtg,

    Remarkable.

    Indeed, especially given that the dataset on which he is basing this is land-only lower tropospheric temperatures. When I asked David Rose about this on Twitter he initially claimed that this was from NASA satellites and was therefore GISS. It’s possible that when he wrote this he did not realise that he was basing this on a dataset doesn’t measure surface temperatures.

    Pete,

    There again your blog might convince a few and that’s enough of a reason to write it

    To be quite honest, I just write what I want, when I want. If it also has some kind of positive impact, even better.

  23. KarSteN says:

    @ATTP:

    Do you have a link where they advise against its use?

    http://www.remss.com
    Quote: “The lower tropospheric (TLT) temperatures have not yet been updated at this time and remain V3.3. The V3.3 TLT data suffer from the same problems with the adjustment for drifting measurement times that led us to update the TMT dataset. V3.3 TLT data should be used with caution.

    That should do. Also, in the video linked to by Tamino (Satellite or Surface Temps) he recommends to use real surface station data rather than satellite data. Chances are that TLT will be phased out altogether (as some have been speculating in the blogosphere). Either way, it is clear from those statements that no one should use the RSS TLT data in its current form.

  24. JCH says:

    Recently in Professor Curry’s latest science that caught her eye posts she included a headline and link to an article about a Feb 2016 paper on Land Water Storage.

    The headline was from a religious -Christian – news service. The headline was obviously wrong, and clearly not supported by anything from the paper:

    Climate change makes sea levels fall, not rise, new NASA study shows [link]

    She had included the article in a similar Feb 2016 post on Climate Etc. Maybe she forgot that… no big deal if she did, but I recognized it instantly as one of her attack dogs, ristvan, trashed it back in Feb in the comments, and Mosher went after him.

    Parched earth soaks up water, slowing sea level rise [link]

    She believes in the return of the divine wind (kamikaze)… Matt England’s anomalous wind. About a year ago there was a paper that suggested a triggering mechanism based on the Atlantic Niño. She’s big on the Atlantic telling the Pacific what to do… stadium wave. A few months ago she made a comment directed at me… just wait for the negative phase of the AMO.

    Could happen… I mean, the sea did part and the wind did destroy the Chinese fleet… twice. Maybe there’s an AMO prayer cloth.

  25. BBD says:

    That’s the spirit, Karsten!

    Thanks for the explainer (didn’t know this and haven’t read Tamino’s post yet). As you say, yet more blatant misrepresentation by the usual suspects. Shameful, as ever, and needs to stop.

  26. Joshua says:

    This is interesting…

    –snip–
    Professor Judith Curry, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, and president of the Climate Forecast Applications Network, said yesterday: ‘I disagree with Gavin. The record warm years of 2015 and 2016 were primarily caused by the super El Nino.’
    –snip–

    So, it seems that Judith Curry (did I mention that she’s president of the Climate Forecast Applications Network) thinks that El Nino has an effect that overwhelms the signal of anthropocentric warming, and as such, we should look at the longer trend as manifest beyond El Nino years.

    But then I read this:

    –snip–
    The slowdown in warming was, she added, real, and all the evidence suggested that since 1998, the rate of global warming has been much slower than predicted by computer models – about 1C per century.
    –snip–

    So I wonder why she picked the year of 1998 as the demarcation point for evaluating per century trend? Must have something to do with uncertainty, eh?

  27. anoilman says:

    As I said, the deniers will need a new start point for the ‘it hasn’t warmed since’… meme.

    Global Warming stopped in 2016.
    It hasn’t warmed since 2016.

  28. JCH says:

    First, the 30-year rate of warming increased during the years after the 1998 El Nño.

    Rate to 1998, using her implication that the El Niño should not be included until years subsequent to the El Niño itself have elapsed:

    1968 through 1997 – .166 ℃ per decade, or 1.7 ℃ per century
    1975 through 2004 – .184 ℃ per decade, or 1.8 ℃ per century (increased during the pause!!)
    1980 through 2009 – .166 ℃ per decade, or 1.7 ℃ per century
    1986 through 2014 – .171 ℃ per decade, or 1.7 ℃ per century

  29. Joshua says:

    JCH –

    From that article:

    –snip–

    To begin, they suggest the climate community replace the term “global warming hiatus” with “global surface warming slowdown” to eliminate confusion.

    –snip–

    I suggested many times in blog comments, a few years back, that when testifying before Congress, someone who feels it is important to account for “uncerainty” should consider referencing something like: “a short-term decrease in the longer-term rate of rise in SATs, without accounting for the uncertainties related to OHC” as opposed to referencing a “pause in global warming.”

    Apparently a certain climate scientist who testified on the topic of global warming before Congress at the behest of Republican legislators didn’t agree. As did many of that certain climate scientist’s blog commenters, who let me know of their disagreement , n the most gentile fashion, of course.

  30. JCH says:

    Now you’re really ankle biting.

  31. Joshua says:

    Maybe, but I think that referring to a “global surface warming slowdown,” as a “pause in global warming,” is deliberately dismissive of uncertainty for rhetorical purposes – and that doing so when testifying before Congress is counterproductive “activism.” Framing the discussion in such simplistic and misleading terms has real impact, IMO. It is only that much worse when it comes from someone who selectively focuses on the potential counter-productivity of “activism” among only those he/she disagrees with (politically, or scientifically).

  32. JCH says:

    I was just teasing, but yeah… pretty much all that.

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  34. P. Berberich says:

    “2016 would still be the warmest year in the instrumental surface temperature record.” This is a stupid discussion. 30 year temperature trends are a better measure than annual records.A good discussion of what is going on can be found in the publication of Cederloef et al 2016 “Assessing atmospheric temperature data sets for climate studies.”

  35. 30 year temperature trends are a better measure than annual records.

    Yes, that is probably mostly true. Did you have a broader point?

  36. Marco says:

    P. Berberich probably wanted to promote Cederloef’s study. One that should already be taken with a few grains of salt, as RSS updated its product and pointed out the TLT product of v. 3.3 is to be used with a lot of caution. Also quite weird they allowed people to use a dataset that has not been published (UAH v. 6.0) and also has been altered several times within the last year or so (where’s Spencer at the moment, version beta5?).

  37. Roger Jones says:

    I know I keep harping on the same theme, but it’s because there is no trend on decadal timescales. The global climate behaves like a giant heat engine, maintaining steady state when it can (in the form of climate regimes), through the mechanisms of strange attractors. The idea that the atmosphere retains any of the heat from greenhouse gas forcing should be dead in that water (literal pun) – it is all absorbed into the ocean. The largest absorption is in the Pacific and the trapped heat by GHGs ends up stored in the western Pacific warm pool. The warm pool eventually becomes unstable and the heat is released as a tongue of warm water from the west to east during an El Nino event (See Peyser et al GRL August – they don’t know what they have found, but they have found the trigger). A contemporaneous regime change emplaces warm SSTs that maintain the high temperatures on an ongoing basis. Both the denialists and the climate warriors are wrong. Thirty-year trends are rubbish – it’s a complex system with steady states and shifts, not an 18th century clockwork model that ticks every time there is a tock.

  38. JCH says:

    RJ – I’m just a cowboy, but I reached essentially the same conclusion around 2011. That is why I pay so much attention to the sytem’s every wiggle. They’re not noise; they’re evidence. By my understanding, the current state is quite different than the one that existed at the end of the 1997-1998 El Niño. It’s a dynamic system that can surprise, but I don’t think we’re looking at 1998-2012 reoccurring 2016-2030. I think we’re looking at the early years of 1974-1985, only at plus 404ppm. The key is how much OHC was actually lost in the recent El Niño. The 1/4ly OHC update indicates not much, so despite La Nina, there is a large amount of energy remaining in the Eastern Pacific, which will make 2017’s apparent ENSO neutral state a relative burner.

  39. slightly off topic, but:

    Last Week

    November 20 – 26, 2016 403.98 ppm
    November 20 – 26, 2015 400.30 ppm

    3.68 ppm increase which is too high. We should be around 2.9 ppm or below. Weekly average is a noisy number, but the trend day after day and week after week is in the wrong direction. I think what this means is that CO2 sats are continuing to rise because of changes in the natural carbon cycle of the planet. I think we are seeing changes in abilities of forests and oceans to act as carbon sinks and we may also be seeing new sources of CO2 coming on line now – things like melting permafrost, drought stricken lands, tree deaths due to prolonged drought conditions (CA tree deaths for one example). We should become quite alarmed if we continue to observe CO2 continue to accumulate at a rate of 3 ppm or more because we are now comparing monthly average numbers from the current year (which is not an EN state) in comparison with the same month last year (which was a strong EN state).

    I expect it will take some time for the real scientists to accumulate the data and start publishing about the increase.

    We need to see a monthly November number for 2016 with CO2 at around 402.9 or below. I suspect we are going to be higher than that. As I said last year, the rate of increase is increasing. EN played a part, but the underlying trend and numbers are also simply increasing and the rate of increase is increasing. November monthly number should be out in a few days.

    Read’m and weep.

    Mike

  40. Roger Jones says:

    JCH, that’s working by analogy, which is useful but not sufficient. For a shift, you need a dynamic store at critical limits, a trigger and a state change. Probably 2014-16 will look a lot more like than 1996-98 than not. If the world has moved into a positive Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation you are probably on the money with warming at shorter term intervals. We do think these are separated by steady state regimes though. The Pacific may not be the only ocean basin that has a heat release mechanism – though all Basins have interlocking regimes that may carry a steplike signal.

  41. Harry Twinotter says:

    Roger Jones.

    “I know I keep harping on the same theme, but it’s because there is no trend on decadal timescales.”
    There is a decadal trend.
    “through the mechanisms of strange attractors.”
    When people insert references to Chaos Theory in their narrative, my eyes glaze over.
    “Both the denialists and the climate warriors are wrong. Thirty-year trends are rubbish”
    Oh really?

    The bottom line. Yes climate is complicated. That is why the climate people put some much effort into computerized climate models to tease out some of the details.

  42. JCH says:

    When people insert references to Chaos Theory in their narrative, my eyes glaze over. …

    Your eyes really should not glaze over.

    Chaos theory as presented at Climate Etc. is insanely politicized. Maybe gave it a really bad name.

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