ENSO Myth Number 4 – The Variations in the East Pacific and the East Indian-West Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures Counteract One Another

OVERVIEW

This is the fourth post in a series that presents myths and failed arguments created by proponents of manmade global warming about the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). A list of the earlier (with links) and future posts follows the body of this one. I began the series of posts back in December 2012, but I got sidetracked with other matters. This is a return to that series.

INTRODUCTION

I have shown in numerous blog posts over the past 4 years and in my books published last year that satellite-era sea surface temperature data indicate the oceans warmed naturally. This, of course, raises the hackles of the promoters of manmade global warming. In attempts to spin what’s blatantly obvious in the data, those merchants of human-induced warming have created a number of myths and failed arguments about El Niño and La Niña.

This post presents one of their failed arguments. It includes a chapter from my book Who Turned on the Heat? It’s Chapter “7.10 Failed Argument – The East Indian-West Pacific and East Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Datasets are Inversely Related. That Is, There’s a Seesaw Effect. One Warms, the Other Cools. They Counteract One Another”.

This failed argument stems from the following animation, which was included in an earlier blog post. It’s also included as Animation 7-1 in Who Turned on the Heat? The animation is intended to help visually confirm that the warm water released from below the surface of the western tropical Pacific during a strong El Niño doesn’t just disappear after an El Niño. That leftover warm water initially winds up in the East Indian and West Pacific Oceans during the trailing La Niña.

Animation 7-1

Peddlers of manmade global warming claim the El Niño- and La Niña-caused variations in sea surface temperatures offset or counteract one another, so that El Niño and La Niña events cannot contribute to the long-term warming of the global oceans. What they overlook is the fact that a strong El Niño releases a vast amount of naturally created warm water from beneath the surface of the western tropical Pacific. The warm water sloshes to eastern equatorial Pacific, where it temporarily raises sea surface temperatures. Then after the El Niño, the warm water is returned to the West Pacific, where it warms sea surface temperatures in an obvious upward step. That leftover warm water is distributed poleward and to the East Indian ocean. That redistribution of warm water occurs during the transition from El Niño to La Niña and during the trailing La Niña event.

As you’ll see in the upcoming graphs, during the El Niño, the sea surface temperatures in the East Indian and West Pacific Oceans only drop a small amount in comparison to the warming of the East Pacific, so the East Indian and West Pacific cooling does not counteract the warming in the East Pacific during the El Niño.

But the argument is correct in one respect: the leftover warm water that is redistributed after the El Niño does counteract the effect of the trailing La Niña on global surface temperatures—sea surface and land surface air temperatures.

As an initial note: In early posts, I focused on the ENSO-induced upward shifts in the sea surface temperature anomalies of the East Indian and West Pacific oceans. And I used the latitudes of 60S-65N. See Map 1. That was where I first found them. With time, I’ve extended that discussion to show the ENSO-caused upward shifts in the Atlantic, Indian and West Pacific data, extending the data from pole to pole. Refer to the illustrated essay “The Manmade Global Warming Challenge” (42mb).

Map 1

Map 1

The following is a reprint of Chapter 7.10 from Who Turned on the Heat?

7.10 Failed Argument – The East Indian-West Pacific and East Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Datasets are Inversely Related. That Is, There’s a Seesaw Effect. One Warms, the Other Cools. They Counteract One Another

This argument has been tried more than once. It’s typically voiced when I present a gif animation that shows the East Pacific warming and cooling in response to ENSO and shows the East Indian-West Pacific sea surface temperatures varying in the opposite direction. See Animation 7-1. The argument is, the seesaw effect between the East Pacific and the East Indian-West Pacific datasets—better described as their opposing warming and cooling—causes the two datasets to counteract one another. The argument is intended to downplay the importance of the variation in the sea surface temperatures of the East Indian-West Pacific subset.

The gif animation linked above is Figure 9 from the November 2009 post

More Detail On The Multiyear Aftereffects Of ENSO – Part 2 – La Niña Events Recharge The Heat Released By El Niño Events AND… The continuation of the title is, …During Major Traditional ENSO Events, Warm Water Is Redistributed Via Ocean Currents.

My blog posts are well illustrated, like this book. Many times those reading the post aren’t actually reading the text; they’re trying to get an overview by skimming through the notes on the illustrations. Those readers noticed the seesaw effect in that animation and spew forth their comment. If they had read the text, or had continued skimming through the illustrations, they would have realized I had answered their concerns a few paragraphs and illustrations later. For example, the following text and illustrations are from that post. I’ve changed the illustration numbers for the book, and replaced the acronym SST with sea surface temperature:

Figure 7-22 is a comparison of East Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies and the sea surface temperature Anomalies of the East Indian and West Pacific Oceans. I’ve also included scaled NINO3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies as a reference for timing. The 1986/87/88 and 1997/98 El Niño events and the initial portions of the subsequent La Niña events are highlighted. It is very clear that the two datasets are out of phase.

Figure 7-22

Figure 7-22

Figure 7-23 is the same comparison graph, but in it, I’ve highlighted a different portion of the data. The response of the East Pacific sea surface temperature anomalies to the major El Niño events of 1986/87/88 and 1997/98 is very visible in that comparison graph. On the other hand, note that the sea surface temperature anomalies of the East Indian and West Pacific cool very little (the area highlighted) while the sea surface temperature anomalies in the East Pacific are rising dramatically. This happens because El Niño events are fueled by subsurface waters from the Western Tropical Pacific, from depths to 300 meters in the Pacific Warm Pool. These subsurface waters are not included in sea surface temperature measurements.

Figure 7-23

Figure 7-23

In summary, the seesaw effect only occurs during, and is caused by, the transition from El Niño to La Niña, when the warm water that’s left over from the El Niño is carried back to the western Pacific and eastern Indian Oceans. The seesaw effect does not occur to the same level during the evolution phase, when the sea surface temperatures of the East Indian-West Pacific data cool very slightly as the East Pacific warms significantly. The reason for this is, the majority of the warm water that fuels an El Niño comes from below the surface of the west Pacific Warm Pool.

RECAP

The seesaw effect basically shows the impact on the East Indian-West Pacific sea surface temperature data of the warm water from the El Niño that’s left over when the El Niño has ended in the eastern tropical Pacific. The seesaw effect does not occur during the evolution of the El Niño, because most of the warm water that fuels a major El Niño event comes from below the surface of the west Pacific Warm Pool. It is, therefore, not a true seesaw effect throughout the evolutions and decays of both phases of ENSO.

END OF REPRINT

ONE MORE ANIMATION

The animation above only compares maps of December sea surface temperature anomalies during (December 1997) and after (December 1998) the 1997/98 El Niño. The following animation adds the December 1996 map as a “before” reference.

Supplement Animation

December 1996, 97, 98 Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (Before, During and After the 1997/98 El Niño)

WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT?

The warm water that was left over from the 1997/98 El Niño warmed the sea surface temperatures of the Atlantic, Indian and West Pacific oceans about 0.19 deg C in an upward step. See Supplement Figure 1. It’s really difficult to miss that step.

Supp Figure 1

Supplement Figure 1

Looking back at the 1986/87/88 El Nino, the sea surface temperatures there shifted up about 0.09 deg C in response to the warm water released by it. And the 2009/10 El Niño bumped up the sea surface temperatures of the Atlantic, Indian and West Pacific oceans a little more. Without those three strong El Niño events, Supplement Figure 2, the sea surface temperatures there would not have warmed since 1984.

Supp Figure 2

Supplement Figure 2

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE?

Why should you be interested? As noted in the post, the 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’ve searched ocean heat content records for more than 3 years, and I can find no evidence of an anthropogenic greenhouse gas signal. That is, the data indicates 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 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.

Please buy a copy. (Credit/Debit Card through PayPal. You do NOT need to open a PayPal account.) Simply scroll down to the “Don’t Have a PayPal Account” purchase option. It’s only US$8.00.

THE ENSO MYTH SERIES

ALREADY PUBLISHED

1. El Niño-Southern Oscillation Myth 1: El Niño and La Niña Events are Cyclical. Refer also to the cross post at WattsUpWithThat for comments.

2. El Niño-Southern Oscillation Myth 2: A New Myth – ENSO Balances Out to Zero over the Long Term. And please see the WattsUpWithThat cross post.

3. Myth – ENSO Has No Trend and Cannot Contribute to Long-Term Warming. The WattsUpWithThat cross post is here.

UPCOMING

Myth – The Effects of La Niña Events on Global Surface Temperatures Oppose those of El Niño Events

Failed Argument – El Niño Events Don’t Create Heat

Myth – El Niño Events Dominated the Recent Warming Period Because of Greenhouse Gases

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

Myth – The Warm Water Available for El Niño Events Can Only be Explained by Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gas Forcing

Myth – The Frequency and Strength of El Niño and La Niña Events are Dictated by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation

SOURCES

The Sea Surface Temperature anomaly data used in this post for the animations and the graphs are available through the NOAA NOMADS website:

http://nomad1.ncep.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/pdisp_sst.sh

or:

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

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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.
This entry was posted in El Nino-La Nina Processes. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to ENSO Myth Number 4 – The Variations in the East Pacific and the East Indian-West Pacific Sea Surface Temperatures Counteract One Another

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  2. Pingback: ENSO Myth 5 – ENSO Only Adds Noise to the Instrument Temperature Record… | Bob Tisdale – Climate Observations

  3. Pingback: ENSO Myth 5 – ENSO Only Adds Noise to the Instrument Temperature Record… | Watts Up With That?

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