Hey, Where’d The El Niño Go?

This post will serve as the mid-September 2012 sea surface temperature anomaly update.

Sea surface temperature anomalies for the NINO3.4 region of the eastern equatorial Pacific are a commonly used index for the strength, frequency and duration of El Niño and La Niña events. In recent weeks, they have cooled to well below the threshold of El Niño conditions. For the evolution of an El Niño that starts from La Niña conditions, that dip is unusual during the satellite era (since November 1981). See Figure 1. Actually, it’s unusual for any El Niño event over the past 30 years.

Figure 1

This does not mean the El Niño this year has come to an end. A dip of similar magnitude did occur once before in the satellite era, and that was during the evolution of the 1991/1992 El Niño. See Figure 2. The dip in 1991, however, may have been in response to the June 15, 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. There have been no explosive volcanic eruptions comparable to Mount Pinatubo this year.  The evolution of the 1991 event is highlighted in purple in Figure 2.

Figure 2


Weekly NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies for the week centered on September 19, 2012 are approximately +0.365 deg C, having dropped from almost +1.0 deg C over the past few weeks.

Figure 3 – Weekly NINO3.4

Global sea surface temperature anomalies are continuing their wiggly upward march, rebounding from La Niña conditions and responding to the evolving El Niño. There is a time lag between the variations in the NINO3.4 data and the response of global sea surface temperature anomalies. It will be interesting to see if they reach 2009/10 levels.

Figure 4 – Weekly Global


Why should you be interested? Satellite-era 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 have been publishing blog posts for the past 3 ½ years that illustrate that fact.

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 Previewincludes the Table of Contents; the Introduction; the beginning of Section 1, with the cartoon-like illustrations; the discussion About the Cover; and the Closing.

Please buy a copy. (Paypal or Credit/Debit Card). It’s only US$8.00.


The Sea Surface Temperature anomaly data used in this post is available through the NOAA NOMADS website:




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, SST Update. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Hey, Where’d The El Niño Go?

  1. BillC says:


    I suspect the Ni~o family have just made you a merry Christmas, encouraging people to buy your book.

    Hopefully it has something to do with the Arctic sea ice!

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    BillC says: “Hopefully it has something to do with the Arctic sea ice!”

    That’s the next post.

  3. Espen says:

    Interesting development. If the El Niño just fades away (or even wanders off into La Niña territory), alarmists are going to get frustrated in a couple of months when/if global temperatures stay flat – or even start falling!

  4. BillC says:

    Cool. To be clear, I meant maybe the sea ice record and the weakening of the EN are linked somehow. I guess you got that. Looking forward to the next post.

  5. Bob Tisdale says:

    BillC says: “To be clear, I meant maybe the sea ice record and the weakening of the EN are linked somehow.”

    Sorry, my upcoming post on sea ice extent does not examine this El Nino. It is more a discussion of the relationship between the AMO and the warming of high latitudes and the resulting sea ice loss–and how ENSO impacts the sea surface temperatures of the North Atlantic, which are what the AMO represents.


  6. Bob Tisdale says:

    Espen: While I don’t think we’ll lose this El Nino completely, I’ll keep my fingers crossed. But you know what’ll happen, though, if the El Nino does fade away. They’ll blame it on greenhouse gas emissions.

  7. Espen says:

    They might claim El Niño dissapeared because the hot water dropped into the abyssal ocean and will hit us with revenge in 50 years 😉

  8. barry says:

    oh look SSTs are nearly as warm as during the powerful 2010 El Nino.

    Yep certainly looks like the world is cooling..not.

  9. Just read a link on weather.com talking about the fading El Nino and then the strongly negative PDO and how it will dominate the early winter in the US, also mentioning the NAO and how it could possibly change their predictions depending on what it does.

  10. Bob Tisdale says:

    Richard Fenske says: Thanks for the link. I’ve never seen someone illustrate the effect of the warm KOE on the jet streams. Thanks again.

  11. Pingback: What happened to El Nino? » Stu's Weather Blog

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