El Nino Update: Monster Kelvin Wave Continues to Emerge and Intensify

UPDATE: I hadn’t realized that RobertScribbler had produced two El Niño posts recently. The first one is a doozy: Monster El Nino Emerging From the Depths: Nose of Massive Kelvin Wave Breaks Surface in Eastern Pacific.

# # #

This post is filled with so much alarmist misinformation (aka Bullshit) I’ll have to write a post about it.
Bob Tisdale


Monster Kelvin Wave

(Kevin Wave continues to strengthen and propagate across the Pacific Ocean. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

Record global temperatures, extraordinarily severe storms for the US West Coast and telegraphing on through the Central and Eastern US, a disruption of the Asian Monsoon and various regional growing seasons, record heat and drought in Northern Australia, severe drought and fires in the Amazon, the same throughout Eurasia and into the Siberian Arctic, another potential blow to Arctic sea ice. These and further extreme impacts are what could unfold if the extraordinarily powerful Kelvin Wave now racing toward the Pacific Ocean surface continues to disgorge its heat.

The most recent update from NOAA shows that the monster Kelvin Wave we reported on last week has continued to grow and intensify even as it shows no sign of slowing its rather ominous emergence from waters off the west coast of South America.

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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.
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12 Responses to El Nino Update: Monster Kelvin Wave Continues to Emerge and Intensify

  1. Retired Engineer John says:

    This animation shows better what I was talking about on your last post. I believe that your answer was that it is an artifact of how the data is being presented. Can we see the animation in real temperatures to see if additional heat is being added and where it is coming from?

  2. fhhaynie says:

    Where the Kelvin wave reaches the surface is off the west coast of the Galapagos ( about 0 and 90W). Also, that point on earth is where the Cromwell, Humbolt, Panama, and el-Nino effect currents tend to converge. Using rate of change in SST as an indicator of the ENSO cycles, the signal is stronger at this point than over the el-Nino 3-4 area and leads it about a month. Watching that change rate should give us a better idea of how strong an el-Nino will be. I don’t see much cause for all this alarm. The Kelvin wave is just one part of the ENSO cycle.

  3. philjourdan says:

    Kevin Wave continues

    I know Kevin, I worked with Kevin, and this is no Kevin! 😉

  4. Bob Tisdale says:

    Retired Engineer John, that animation in anomalies and in absolute form can be found here:

    What depth and longitude are you discussing?

  5. Bob Tisdale says:

    fhhaynie, unfortunately, not all El Niño events evolve from east to west, so the NINO1+2 region sea surface temperature anomalies are not always a good early indicator. NINO1+2 data are also a little noisy:
    NINO1+2 v NINO3.4


  6. fhhaynie says:

    I use the monthly reanalysis values at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries1.pl. El Nino 1-2 is east of the Galapagos and is expected to be less affected by Kelvin waves or the upwelling Cromwell current. The calculated value for 0 90W is the weighted average of the nearest observed measurements by bouy and/or satellite.

  7. Bob Tisdale says:

    fhhaynie, keep in mind that a reanalysis is not data. It’s the output of a computer model. Let me suggest the Reynolds OI.v2 data through the NOMADS website. It too allows you to select the coordinates you want.
    It takes a few moments to get used to but it’s real data.

    Now, if memory serves, as a spot check, I once asked for sea surface temperatures from that PSD website you linked, but I used the coordinates of a large part of the Sahara Desert and only the Sahara desert, no oceans in the coordinates, none. It presented a sea surface temperature output for a big chunk of sand. So I never went back to that website.


  8. fhhaynie says:

    Their model is a weighted averaging algorithm of available data and their SST is skin-surface-temperature, which includes both sea, land, and ice. It is fairly good where the measurement density is high and poor where it is low (like the poles). I’ve compared their SST for the South Pole with measured temperature and frost point and it closely matches frost point as one should expect. One would expect sea surface temperature to closely match dew point near the surface.

  9. Bob Tisdale says:

    fhhaynie, bottom line: data are data, and a reanalysis is not.


  10. John Reistroffer says:

    Hi Bob,
    I just finished reading your series of articles about El Niño and La Niña, and they struck a note regarding oceanic processes which could contribute to increases and decreases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, as well as increasing or decreasing oceanic acidity.

    I am a geologist by training, and cannot understand why research groups and academia are so quick to assign such a large portion of the observed increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide to man-made processes.

    A concept that I was taught my freshmen year in college, was the relationship between temperature, pressure and the solubility of carbon dioxide in water.

    As water temperature decreases, more carbon dioxide can be taken into solution by water which then becomes more acidic, forming weak carbonic acid.

    As water pressure increases, water can hold increasing amounts of carbon dioxide resulting in higher acidity. As water warms and/or as pressure is reduced, carbon dioxide exsolves and is released from the water, decreasing water acidity.

    These concepts are important in geology because rainwater and surface water become more acidic during the winter, slowly dissolving calcium carbonate or limestone (This is how many limestone caves were formed). Likewise warmer water is less acidic during the summertime, resulting is less limestone dissolution during warmer months.

    These concepts are also important in marine geology because they affect the depth at which calcium carbonate can exist in deep bodies of water. ( We must remember that as water depth increases, pressure increases (.435 psi/ft) and temperature decreases to a minimum of about ~4 deg C in the deep oceans.) This depth is called the CCD (calcium compensation depth), below which the water is too acidic for calcium carbonate to exist and it is dissolved. This is why the tests of foraminifera and calcium carbonate skeletons that fall below this depth will be dissolved.

    The question that occurs to me is:

    Do changes in oceanic water temperature and pressure drive atmospheric carbon dioxide content?

    1) If large parts of the oceans become warmer due to cyclic oceanic and climatic cycles (i.e.: Milankovich cycles, solar cycles, El Niño), does significant carbon dioxide exsolve from the water, thus releasing significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?

    2) Likewise as oceans warm, or as deep oceanic waters rises to the surface in upwelling currents or during La Niña years, does the resulting warming and decrease of pressure from the rising waters release significant amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere?

    Given the fact that over 75% of the earth is covered by water, this should be a significant contributor of carbon dioxide to the earth’s atmosphere. Likewise, cooling oceans should presumably take in huge amounts of oceanic carbon dioxide, removing this gas from the atmosphere.

    Another concept which appears to be anti-intuitive is the cause of increasing oceanic acidity due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    The fact that colder water becomes more acidic by taking in carbon dioxide and less acidic as warming releases carbon dioxide, seems to go against the many claims that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures cause oceans to become acidic resulting in “skeletal dissolution” of corals and mollusk shells etc.

    Returning to your El Niño and La Niña series:

    I have done a cursory quick-look comparing El Niño and La Niña cycles to the rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide increase, and there appears to be a visual relationship between these processes.

    I am not aware of any studies that attempt to relate warming and cooling oceans to important changes changes in atmospheric CO2 or ocean acidity, but they seem to be closely tied together, and as a hypothesis, it seems much more appealing than what is being hypothesized as fact by many scientist today.

    Many regards,

    John Reistroffer

  11. Bob Tisdale says:

    John Reistroffer, the interaction of El Nino and the concentration of atmospheric CO2 has been the subject of papers for years. Keeling presented a paper about it back in the 1980s:

    And here’s a more recent paper:

    More papers should be readily available through Google scholar.


  12. Retired Engineer John says:

    Thanks for the URL, I was looking to see if calcium carbonate hexahydrate was dehydrating and releasing heat and adding to the heat of the Kelvin Wave. The temperatures are not compatible for this to happen. Calcium carbonate hexahydrate releases 24.5 to 70 kilojoules of energy per mole, the energy depends on which form is hydrated, when it’s trigger temperature of 6-8C is reached. It appears that the billows of heated water you see coming from the upwelling waters along the coast of Central and South America is from the dehydration of calcium carbonate hexahydrate.

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