Model-Data Comparison: Pacific Ocean Satellite-Era Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

I’ll be adding the Pacific Ocean (60S-65N, 120E-80W) sea surface temperature anomalies to my monthly updates. See Figure 1 for the area covered by those coordinates. Why add the Pacific Ocean? It covers about 45% of the surface area of the global oceans and about 33% of the surface area of the globe (land+oceans combined). Or, to look at it another way, the Pacific Ocean covers more of the globe than the continental land masses combined. The Pacific stretches almost halfway around the globe at the equator, which is one of the reasons why El Niño and La Niña events are so important to global climate. When an El Niño releases a massive volume of naturally created warm water from below the surface of the western tropical Pacific and spreads it across the surface of the eastern tropical Pacific, precipitation and surface temperatures react globally—responding to the all of the additional moisture in the atmosphere and to the shifts in atmospheric circulation (jet streams).

Figure 1

Figure 1

With that in mind, I decided to run a quick model-data comparison for the Pacific, using the coordinates listed above.

The following graph (Figure 2) compares the Reynolds OI.v2-based satellite era sea surface temperature anomalies to the multi-model ensemble mean of the RCP6.0-based climate models from the CMIP5 archive. Those model outputs are available through the KNMI Climate Explorer. The CMIP5 archive is being used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for their upcoming 5th Assessment Report (AR5). Climate forcing scenario RCP6.0 is similar to the commonly used A1B scenario from past IPCC reports. I’ve started the comparison in January 1994, right after the apparent rebound from the impacts of the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo—the impacts in the data, not the models. The model mean represents the best-guess estimate of how the sea surface temperature anomalies for the Pacific Ocean would warm IF they were warmed by manmade greenhouse gases. The models say the Pacific sea surface temperatures should have warmed approximately 0.4 deg C or about 0.7 deg F. However, based on the linear trend, the satellite-based data for the Pacific Ocean haven’t warmed since 1994. That’s one month shy of 19 years, almost 2 decades, with no warming of the sea surface temperatures for the entire Pacific Ocean. That’s a chunk of real estate (wet real estate) that appears to contradict the hypothesis of greenhouse gas-driven global warming. I have a funny feeling we won’t see this model-data comparison in the upcoming IPCC AR5.

Figure 2

Figure 2

If we extend the model-data comparison back in time to the November 1981 start of the dataset, Figure 3, the trend of the model simulations is still about 3 times higher than the observed warming. If the modelers can’t even simulate the warming of the largest ocean basin on the planet, what value do the models have? Some readers might think the answers are none, nada, zip.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Figure 4 presents the Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature anomalies as they will appear in the monthly updates.

Figure 4

Figure 4

FOR THOSE NEW TO SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURE ANOMALY GRAPHS

The large upward spikes in Figure 4 are caused by El Niño events and most of the downward ones are caused by La Niñas. The effects of the explosive volcanic eruptions of El Chichon in 1982 and Mount Pinatubo in 1991 are also evident. The eruption of El Chichon counteracted the effects of the 1982/83 El Niño, which was comparable in size to the one in 1997/98, so the spike in 1982/83 would have been stronger if not for that volcanic eruption. And the eruption of Mount Pinatubo overwhelmed the effects of a series of smaller El Ninos around then and caused the apparent dip and rebound from 1991 until the end of 1993.

HAT TIP

Many thanks to Jennifer Marohasy.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT THE EL NIÑO AND LA NIÑA AND THEIR LONG-TERM EFFECTS ON GLOBAL SEA SURFACE TEMPERATURES?

Why should you be interested? Sea surface temperature records indicate El Niño and La Niña events are responsible for the warming of global sea surface temperature anomalies over the past 30 years, not manmade greenhouse gases. I’ve searched sea surface temperature records for more than 4 years, and I can find no evidence of an anthropogenic greenhouse gas signal. That is, the warming of the global oceans has been caused by Mother Nature, not anthropogenic greenhouse gases.

I’ve recently published my e-book (pdf) about the phenomena called El Niño and La Niña. It’s titled Who Turned on the Heat? with the subtitle The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit, El Niño Southern Oscillation. It is intended for persons (with or without technical backgrounds) interested in learning about El Niño and La Niña events and in understanding the natural causes of the warming of our global oceans for the past 30 years. Because land surface air temperatures simply exaggerate the natural warming of the global oceans over annual and multidecadal time periods, the vast majority of the warming taking place on land is natural as well. The book is the product of years of research of the satellite-era sea surface temperature data that’s available to the public via the internet. It presents how the data accounts for its warming—and there are no indications the warming was caused by manmade greenhouse gases. None at all.

Who Turned on the Heat? was introduced in the blog post Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about El Niño and La Niña… …Well Just about Everything. The Updated Free Preview includes the Table of Contents; the Introduction; the beginning of Section 1, with the cartoon-like illustrations; the discussion About the Cover; and the Closing. The book was updated recently to correct a few typos.

Please buy a copy. (Credit/Debit Card through PayPal. You do NOT need to open a PayPal account.). It’s only US$8.00.

VIDEOS

For those who’d like a more detailed preview of Who Turned on the Heat? see Part 1 and Part 2 of the video series The Natural Warming of the Global Oceans. Part 1 appeared in the 24-hour WattsUpWithThat TV (WUWT-TV) special hosted by Anthony Watts in November 2012. You may also be interested in the video Dear President Obama: A Video Memo about Climate Change.

SOURCES

The NOAA Optimally Interpolated Sea Surface Temperature Data (Reynolds OI.v2) are available through the NOAA National Operational Model Archive & Distribution System (NOMADS).

http://nomad3.ncep.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/pdisp_sst.sh

The CMIP5 Sea Surface Temperature data (identified as TOS, assumedly for Temperature of the Ocean Surface) is available through the KNMI Climate Explorer Monthly CMIP5 scenario runs webpage.

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About Bob Tisdale

Research interest: the long-term aftereffects of El Niño and La Nina events on global sea surface temperature and ocean heat content. Author of the ebook Who Turned on the Heat? and regular contributor at WattsUpWithThat.
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14 Responses to Model-Data Comparison: Pacific Ocean Satellite-Era Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

  1. jennifer says:

    This is great stuff, Bob. And yes: ” If the modelers can’t even simulate the warming of the largest ocean basin on the planet, what value do the models have?”
    And your book is a gem. :-)

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks, Jennifer.

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  4. Bill Walkenhorst says:

    Bob,

    I know this is an old post but only a month ago. I am actually quite impressed with
    the predictions match to reality in Figure 3 above. I normally don’t expect the models to be
    anywhere close but this one matches several peaks and valleys and is in the middle of the data
    for the early bits (I guess that’s because they knew that data when they did the simulation).

    Is that actually the predicted sea temperature from the models? Do you know the error bars on the slope from the model and from the real data?

  5. Bob Tisdale says:

    Bill Walkenhorst says: “I normally don’t expect the models to be anywhere close but this one matches several peaks and valleys and is in the middle of the data for the early bits (I guess that’s because they knew that data when they did the simulation).”

    If you’re discussing the two dips in the models in the early part of the period in Figure 3, they are the responses to the volcanic eruptions of El Chichon (1982) and Mount Pinatubo (1991). The responses in the models and in the data to those volcanic eruptions are caused by decreases in Downward Shortwave Radiation (visible sunlight from the Sun), which is not to be confused with Infrared Radiation from greenhouse gases–two different forcings with two different effects. Sea Surface Temperatures respond to the changes in downward shortwave radiation, but there’s nothing in the sea surface temperature records to indicate infrared radiation from manmade greenhouses gases have had any role in the warming of sea surface temperatures or ocean heat content. Their warming can be explained through natural processes.

    Bill Walkenhorst says: “Is that actually the predicted sea temperature from the models?”

    Yes. It’s the average of the all of the individual model runs of sea surface temperature anomalies from the CMIP5 archive, which was prepared for the IPCC’s upcoming 5th Assessment Report.

    Bill Walkenhorst says: “Do you know the error bars on the slope from the model and from the real data?”

    The KNMI Climate Explorer (the source of the data and model outputs) does not provide that information.

    Regards

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