Looks Like the ENSO Event This Season Will Be a La Nada

This post will serve as the Mid-November 2012 Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Update

Global sea surface temperature anomalies continued their decline, after their warming in an apparent response to the stronger El Niño conditions earlier this year. Global sea surface temperature anomalies have dropped about 0.9 deg C during the past 12 weeks, to their current level of approximately 0.22 deg C. Because El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has been so fluky this year, it’s difficult to tell where global sea surface temperatures will go from here.

Weekly Global

NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies are a commonly used metric for the frequency, strength and duration of El Niño and La Niña events. For the week centered on Wednesday November 14, 2012, they’ve swung back up above the 0.5 deg C threshold of “official” El Niño conditions. They’re presently at about 0.66 deg C—well within weak El Niño conditions.

Weekly NINO3.4

If, BIG IF, sea surface temperatures along the eastern equatorial Pacific were to continue to warm, similar to those of past El Niño events, see comparison graph below, then we’d likely have a weak El Niño. Again, BIG IF.

Weekly NINO3.4 Comparison


There are a number of factors pointing toward a cooling (or at least a lack of further warming) in the next few months. NOAA, in their Weekly ENSO Update, page 16, has observed a weak upwelling (cool) Kelvin wave, moving east along the Pacific’s equator. Refer to the Hovmoller diagram of subsurface temperature anomalies for the equatorial Pacific that follows. (Not sure why they call that illustration “Heat Content”, other than it’s easier to write than equatorial Pacific subsurface temperature anomalies.) The upwelling Kelvin wave will tend to cool the warm subsurface anomalies that presently exist there. (It takes about two months for a Kelvin wave to cross the equator in the Pacific.) If anyone is having a problem trying to decipher the Hovmoller diagram, please let me know. In the comments, I can cut and paste an explanation from my book.

Hovmoller of Subsurface Equatorial Pacific Temperature Anomalies

NOAA’s animation of subsurface temperature anomalies is available here.

Note: The way to remember the difference between downwelling (warm) and upwelling (cool) Kelvin waves is how they impact the depth of the thermocline. Downwelling (warm) Kelvin waves push the thermocline down, and, conversely, upwelling (cool) Kelvin waves draw the thermocline up.

The other factor that will tend to suppress El Niño conditions is the cooler sea surface temperatures along the equator in the eastern Pacific. This is reflected in the sea surface temperature anomalies of the NINO1+2 region. Trade wind-driven ocean currents will drive that cool water to the west.

NINO1+2 Comparison


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.


For those who’d like a more detailed preview of Who Turned on the Heat?, see Parts 1 and 2 of the video series The Natural Warming of the Global Oceans. You may also be interested in the video Dear President Obama: A Video Memo about Climate Change.


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.
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3 Responses to Looks Like the ENSO Event This Season Will Be a La Nada

  1. YFNWG says:

    The El Nino will get nowhere if the SOI doesn’t cooperate. It’s positive in both its 30 and 90 day mean. It has to go negative for the El Nino to get going.

  2. Ken Stewart says:

    Disagree. SOI will go nowhere unless El Nino (or La Nina of course) gets going.

  3. Pingback: Bob Tisdale on WUWT-TV … | pindanpost

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