Comments about Donald Rapp’s Review of “Who Turned on the Heat?”

I was surprised and very pleased to see that Roger Pielke, Sr. had posted a review by Donald Rapp of my book Who Turned on The Heat? The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit, El Niño-Southern Oscillation. Dr. Rapp’s review is here. Please take a few moments to read it.

A couple of clarifications about Dr. Rapp’s review:

Dr. Rapp mentions two papers in it. The first is McLean et al (2009) Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature. I did not reference Mclean et al (2009) in Who Turned on the Heat? I also did not rely on it in any way for the findings presented in my book. In fact, I presented my first posts on this subject in January 2009, which was 6 months before McLean et al (2009) was published. (Refer to Part 1 and Part 2 of Can El Niño Events Explain All of the Global Warming Since 1976? and the cross posts at WattsUpWithThat here and here.) McLean et al (2009) was about the relationship between ENSO and lower troposphere temperatures, while my book is primarily about the processes of ENSO and its long-term effects on global sea surface temperatures. One chapter does, however, illustrate the long-term effects of ENSO on lower troposphere temperature anomalies using different methods than McLean et al (2009).

The second paper referenced in Dr. Rapp’s review was Foster (2010) Comment on “Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature” by J. D. McLean, C. R. de Freitas, and R. M. Carter. It was obviously a critique of McLean et al (2009). As such, it has no bearing on Who Turned on the Heat? I did, however, include many of the papers referenced in Foster et al (2010) in Chapter 7.5. I provided them in a list of papers that misrepresented ENSO by attempting to remove its effects from the instrument temperature record. That list appears later in this post. The title of Chapter 7.5 is Myth – ENSO Only Adds Noise to the Instrument Temperature Record and We Can Determine its Effects through Linear Regression Analysis, Then Remove Those Effects, Leaving the Anthropogenic Global Warming Signal.

Dr. Rapp appeared concerned with how certain I felt my findings were that there is no evidence of an anthropogenic greenhouse gas signal in the sea surface temperature records of the past 30 years. He wrote (after his very nice sentence that I had to include):

Tisdale’s book is so excellent in so many ways that it is difficult to find anything to criticize. The only thing I can harp on is that Tisdale is perhaps too sure of himself. He seems certain that prevalent El Niños caused essentially 100% of the warming from 1976 to 2006 and greenhouse gases contributed nothing…

My findings and opinions are based on Reynolds OI.v2 sea surface temperature data which covers the past 30 years, not the period of 1976 to 2006.

As of a few days ago Dr. Rapp had not finished Who Turned on the Heat?  Maybe he simply hasn’t reached the section upon which I base my opinion.

The sea surface temperature anomalies of the East Pacific Ocean, from pole to pole, have not warmed in 30 years. See Figure 5-3 from my book. The East Pacific represents about 33% of the surface area of the global oceans.

Figure 5-3

That by itself is not the reason for my opinion. Combine that with the response of the sea surface temperatures of the South Atlantic, Indian, and West Pacific Oceans. It’s easiest to picture this subset as the global oceans, from pole to pole, excluding the East Pacific (presented above) and the North Atlantic, which has another mode of natural variability—the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation—that has contributed to the additional warming there. The South Atlantic-Indian-West Pacific Oceans cover about 53% of the surface of the global oceans and that subset only warmed during and in response to the 1986/87/88, the 1997/98 and the 2009/10 El Niño events. In fact, as shown in Figure 5-23, it cools between the major El Niño events.

Figure 5-23

And as a further reference, we can detrend the South Atlantic-Indian-West Pacific data, compare it to scaled NINO3.4 SST anomalies, smooth both datasets with 13-month filters and show why SST anomalies for that dataset make upward shifts in response to the major El Niño events. The blatantly obvious reason is, the sea surface temperature anomalies there do not cool in response to the La Niña events that follow those major El Niño events. The reason they don’t cool during those La Niña events is related to the fundamental differences between the processes of El Niño and La Niña.

Figure Prepared for Upcoming Post

Those two subsets represent 86% of the surface area of the global oceans and they show no evidence of a global warming signal from greenhouse gases. As noted above, the additional warming of the other 14% (the North Atlantic) is a response to the additional mode of natural variability known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. Detrending the North Atlantic data we can also show that it fails to cool during the same La Niña events.

Figure 5-30

Donald Rapp notes that the subtitle of the book was Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about El Niño and La Niña…  That’s the title of the post that introduces Who Turned on the Heat? The subtitle is actually The Unsuspected Global Warming Culprit, El Niño-Southern Oscillation.

As noted above, the following papers were referenced in Chapter 7.5 of my book because they are all fatally flawed. They all assume sea surface temperatures respond proportionally (linearly) to both El Niño and La Niña events, when the sea surface temperature records show they do not:

Foster and Rahmstorf (2011) Global Temperature Evolution 1979–2010

Fyfe et al (2010) Comparing variability and trends in observed and modelled global-mean surface temperature

Lean and Rind (2009) How Will Earth’s Surface Temperature Change in Future Decades?

Lean and Rind (2008) How Natural and Anthropogenic Influences Alter Global and Regional Surface Temperatures: 1889 to 2006

Fawcett (2008) Has the world cooled since 1998?

Santer et al (2001) Accounting for the effects of volcanoes and ENSO in comparisons of modeled and observed temperature trends

Thompson et al (2008) Identifying signatures of natural climate variability in time series of global-mean surface temperature: Methodology and Insights

Trenberth et al (2002) Evolution of El Niño–Southern Oscillation and global atmospheric surface temperatures

Wigley, T. M. L. (2000) ENSO, volcanoes, and record-breaking temperatures


Additional information about Who Turned on the Heat? is available in the post Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about El Niño and La Niña… Refer also to the Updated Free Preview (two typos corrected). Who Turned on the Heat? is on sale here in pdf form for US$8.00 (Paypal or Credit/Debit Card accepted).

Thank you, Donald Rapp, for your review. And thank you, Roger Pielke, Sr., for posting it.

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.
This entry was posted in El Nino-La Nina Processes, Essays & Books, Natural Warming. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Comments about Donald Rapp’s Review of “Who Turned on the Heat?”

  1. devijvers says:

    Bob, İ’m glad you added this post, it might serve well as a one-stop place for discussions on wether or not greenhouse gases can contribute to the ocean heat content.

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    devijvers: Ocean Heat Content is a separate dateset and it’s not mentioned in this post.


  3. devijvers says:

    Bob, İ’m assuming that for a given area if the ocean heat content rises the sea surface temperature also rises, and vice versa. Correct?

  4. Pingback: wetter and drier, warmer and hotter … | pindanpost

  5. Pingback: How Much of an Impact Does the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation Have on Arctic Sea Ice Extent? | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

  6. Pingback: Tisdale: How Much of an Impact Does the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation Have on Arctic Sea Ice Extent? | Watts Up With That?

  7. Zamki says:

    It seems too complicated and very broad for me to comprehend.

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