PRELIMINARY January 2013 Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Update


The January 2013 Reynolds OI.v2 Sea Surface Temperature (SST) data through the NOAA NOMADS website won’t be official until Monday, February 11th 2013. Refer to the schedule on the NOAA Optimum Interpolation Sea Surface Temperature Analysis Frequently Asked Questions webpage. The following are the preliminary Global and NINO3.4 SST anomalies for January 2013 that the NOMADS website prepares based on incomplete data for the month. I’ve also included the weekly data through the week centered on January 23, 2013, but I’ve shortened the span of the weekly data, starting it in January 2004, so that the variations can be seen.


The preliminary global sea surface temperature anomalies cooled a good amount (-0.066 deg C) in the last month, probably a continuing lagged response to the drop in the sea surface temperatures along the eastern equatorial Pacific. The global sea surface temperature anomalies are presently at +0.15 deg C. That of course will change when the full month of data is reported in two weeks.

Preliminary Global

Monthly Global SST Anomalies


The sea surface temperature anomalies of the NINO3.4 region in the eastern equatorial Pacific (5S-5N, 170W-120W) are a commonly used index for the strength, frequency, and duration of El Niño and La Niña events. Based on the preliminary data, January 2013 NINO3.4 SST anomalies are about -0.4 deg C, which is above the threshold of La Niña conditions. Also refer to the weekly data that follows.

Preliminary NINO

Monthly NINO3.4 SST Anomalies



Weekly NINO3.4 region (5S-5N, 170W-120W) sea surface temperature anomalies for the week centered on January 23, 2013 have rebounded back above La Niña conditions, so they’re presently in ENSO-neutral conditions—that is, they’re not in El Niño or La Niña conditions. The weekly NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies were at -0.11 deg C.

Weekly NINO

Weekly NINO3.4 SST Anomalies


Weekly Global SST Anomalies have rebounded after the drop that ended the previous week, but they appear as though they might be continuing their cooling (with lots of variations) in response to the cooling from the El Niño conditions reached a few times last year (based on the weekly data). They are presently at +0.212 deg C. Obviously, global sea surface temperature anomalies peaked in August this year. Will they continue to cool? Weekly sea surface temperature data has been volatile recently with the short-lived mid-year El Niño conditions.

Weekly Global

Weekly Global SST Anomalies



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.


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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6 Responses to PRELIMINARY January 2013 Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Update

  1. Frank says:

    Hi Bob, a question in relation to the extraordinary jump in UAH ( much more then 2* sigma of the monthly “delta record”) and RSS: When you look at the local distribution in RSS you find, that above the southwest pacific was a major warming and also above the northwest pacific. In northwest you’ll see a moderate decline in SST, in southwest not:×600&title=&dir=
    In the area -60…-40N; -140…-80E there is a peak just like during a true ElNino ( see 1998; 2010).
    Do you know a “thouthwestpacific pseudo ElNino”?
    Greetings Frank

  2. Bob Tisdale says:

    Frank: The region of the South Pacific you’re referring to is highly correlated with NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies. Here’s a correlation map with no lag:

    And here’s one with a 3-month lag:

    That likely means there are consistent changes in atmospheric circulation (changes in jet streams and the like) that cause the sea surface temperatures in the southeast South Pacific to warm during El Niño events, not that a separate El Niño-like event is taking place there.


  3. Alex Harvey says:

    Dear Bob,

    It looks like in conjunction with the satellite monitoring of the lower troposphere temperatures we can take this to mean a large amount of heat has been moved from the oceans to the atmosphere.

    Given the trend towards atmospheric warming, though, isn’t it reasonable to suppose it’s going to stay there?

  4. Bob Tisdale says:

    Alex: Are you discussing the recent drop in sea surface temperature versus the rise in lower troposphere temperatures? I’m not necessarily convinced that this month’s warming of TLT is related to the cooling of sea surface temperatures over the same period. Keep in mind there were El Nino conditions in the tropical Pacific as late as October and that it takes a few months for that additional evaporation to cause a warming at lower troposphere levels.

    Back to your question, I don’t recall ever seeing a paper that states that heat released by the oceans (which is primarily through evaporation) during El Nino events is retained longer due to greenhouse gases. I have also never seen a paper that claims TLT and land surface temperatures have grown more sensitive to El Nino events with the increase in greenhouse gases. To the contrary, most papers assume the effects have remained constant over the term of the instrument temperature record.


  5. Alex Harvey says:


    Sorry I meant to simply ask about Roy Spencer’s suspicion, where he wrote

    “The most common cause of such warm spikes (when there is no El Nino to blame) is a temporary increase in convective heat transfer from the ocean to the atmosphere. This would suggest that the global average sea surface temperature anomaly might have actually cooled in January, but I have not checked to see if that is the case.”

    As he was right, and the SSTs do appear to have dropped, I guessed, apparently wrongly, that you probably agreed.

    And I was wondering, if so much heat was expelled to the atmosphere, isn’t it likely it’ll stay there a while, given that jumps of this magnitude seem to be fairly rare? I’m not basing this on any peer reviewed research, by the way – just speculating.

  6. Bob Tisdale says:

    Alex: While I’m not convinced that Roy Spencer was right about the drop in sea surface temperatures last month fueling the rise in TLT, I didn’t say he was wrong. It could very well be a combination of a release of heat from the oceans and a response to the El Nino conditions from a couple of months ago.

    How was that for an answer that’s not very specific? I should have begun my last reply with, trying to determine what’s responsible for month-to-month wiggles is very difficult and outside of my comfort zone.

    How long will the warm TLT anomalies will persist is anyone’s guess. If the warming occurred at high latitudes it would be easier to radiate it into space. If it happened at low latitudes, it’ll take longer. Again, a not-too-specific answer.


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