Quick Mid-February 2015 Equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Update

UPDATE:  Fixed the typo in the headline. [Thanks, Miguel Alarcon.]

# # #

Just a quick look at the weekly sea surface temperature anomalies of the 4 most-often-used NINO regions of the equatorial Pacific. From west to east they include:

  • NINO4 (5S-5N, 160E-150W) @ 1.0 deg C
  • NINO3.4 (5S-5N, 170W-120W) @ 0.5 deg C
  • NINO3 (5S-5N, 150W-90W) @ 0.3 deg C
  • NINO1+2 (10S-0, 90W-80W) @ -0.1 deg C

See the following graphs:

Figure 1

The weekly NINO region sea surface temperature anomaly data are from the NOAA/CPC Monthly Atmospheric & SST Indices webpage, specifically the data here.

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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23 Responses to Quick Mid-February 2015 Equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Update

  1. Pingback: Quick Mid-February 2014 Equatorial Pacific Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly Update - Perot Report

  2. Thanks, Bob.
    Is ENSO going neutral already?

  3. Bob Tisdale says:

    Hi Andres. NINO3.4 SSTa had dropped below the 0.5 deg C threshold of an El Nino 6 weeks ago, but only for a week. Since then, it’s been hovering at 0.5 deg C.

  4. Miguel Alarcón says:

    say 2014!!!, and is Mid-February 2015!!!

  5. Bob Tisdale says:

    Thanks, Miguel. I fixed the typo.

  6. Thanks, Bob.
    A marginal, temperature-challenged El Niño seems to be all we are getting to start 2015.

  7. Greg Goodman says:

    Hi Bob,

    just eye-balling your graphs it struck me that the Nino3.4 panel is quite a good match to SSN, maybe lagging about 1y behind but with added burps of ocean heat coming out at solar minimum. I shall have to look at whether this pattern can be seen further back.

    Of course this kind of thing will not get detected by the simplistic regression analysis that abounds in climatology. The peaks will decorrelate the background pattern and they will conclude “no statistically significant correlation”.

    I also came across an interesting paper about an oscillatory system in the tropical Pacific related to ENSO, with a period of 4.25 years. He discusses the varying depth of the thermocline as part of two “principal components ” of this process.
    ( h/t to the typically venomous Paul Pukeite aka “WebHubTelescope” )

    This is quite close to the modulated periodicity I found in trade wind data that suggested a lunar influence. This kind of oscillatory system would tend to resonate with a driving force close to it’s characteristic period. The usual positive feedbacks with which you are familiar would then come into play.

    The trigger for ENSO would either be totally random variation arising from broad band stochastic variability or some direct, causal driver such as a long period tidal effect or radiatively driven changes in SST.

  8. Bob Tisdale says:

    Greg Goodman says: “just eye-balling your graphs it struck me that the Nino3.4 panel is quite a good match to SSN…”

    I believe you should compare them on the same graph. As far as I know, there’s no relationship.


  9. Greg Goodman says:

    I just ran it up using ICOADS SST which goes back further. I also ran sunspot area through a relaxation response of 24 months ( hand fitted value ) to account for the time the ocean takes to heat up / cool down. It’s just a quick lash up to have a look but it does seem to line up quite well,

    There do seem to be strong events lining up with solar minimum, though we need to be careful because of the temporal coincidence of the last two eruptions near peak solar.

    One pattern that does seem to emerge is increasing magnitude of the swing in SST as solar moves towards minimum. This, at least on the face of it may back up what you have been saying for a few years about the magnitude of the ENSO oscillation ( ie energy throughput ) being what we should be looking at .

    As solar diminishes, there is increasing capture of incoming solar by cooler La Ninas that gets dumped out in following strong El Ninos. The last cycle, which does not have the confounding effects of major volcanoes seems to match this idea perfectly.

    I’ve always said I liked that idea, and I think there is some support for it there.

    If this pattern is correct we are at the same stage as 2003 in the solar relaxation response, so into El Nino conditions due to generally high solar. There may be a possibility of a strong El Nino like 72-73 which was a notably weak solar cycle that saw three successively large swings in SST.

    This may be comparable to the current situation.

    May be prediction could be made based on such an analysis that could test your ENSO magnitude warming argument.

  10. Greg Goodman says:

    I’ve just rescaled this to take the solar through the middle of the NINO swings rather than underneath and there’s a downward decline in solar that is not seen in SST. ( I recall you have previously noted the long term stability in tropical Pacific SST.)

    This may be evidnece that ENSO is acting as a feedback . 😉

    One period that does stand out is 1963-1975 when Mt Agung came close to the solar minimum and was followed by a weak solar cycle. This combination of cooling forces seems to have triggered a series of large swings in NINO3.4 SST.

    Again, this is going in the sense of increased ENSO activity capturing and distributing more external energy to counter the cooling effects, ie ENSO as a negative feedback stabilising climate.

  11. Bob Tisdale says:

    Sorry, Greg. I don’t see it.

  12. Greg Goodman says:

    Thanks Bob,
    What bit don’t you see? The last three big El Nino peaks line up with solar min.
    There was an extended period of large swings following Mt Agung.

    You don’t agree with that?

  13. Bob Tisdale says:

    Greg, but the 1982/83 super El Nino occurred at solar max.

  14. Greg Goodman says:

    Just as the spike in cooling from El Chichon should be happening. Feedback?

    I’m not saying it’s bullet proof, nor that it explains all the variability in that region. You are right to pick anywhere that you see contrary evidence but do you not see the correspondences that I have pointed out?

    I thought this idea was one of your main points about ENSO, that it is not a symmetrical “internal oscillation” and that larger and more frequent ENSO events would cause surface warming.

    You’re right to question it, even if it does agree with what you’ve said, we should always do that, I’m just a bit surprised that you don’t see what I’m seeing.

  15. Bob Tisdale says:

    Greg, what you’ve presented does not confirm or contradict my findings about ENSO.

  16. Greg Goodman says:

    Bob, in relation to your comment about the “super” El Nino after El Chinon, this is just a question of timing with underlying ENSO patterns.

    Here I have subtracted the “typical ENSO” cycle for 1975 onwards. It’s about 0.5C cosine. We then see that the “ENSO anomal” after both El Chichon and Mt P are very similar. Slightly larger for Mt. P as it should be.

    This fits the idea that there was an ENSO feedback immediately following both eruptions that acted to correct the cooling effect. This gets better the deeper you dig.


  17. Greg Goodman says:

    We also see with the anomaly plot above, a confirmation of my earlier comment that there is a strong El Nino pulse that aligns with the minimum.

    The 98 El Nino also looks less spectactular once we remove the mean cycle. It happened that solar min reaction coincided with the 2.5y cycle and made an extra large pulse.

    I limited this to post ’75 because the 2.5y is not regular as clockwork and extending it back further looked dubious.

    We see over the last cycle, negligible anomaly near solar peak and increasing ENSO as it approaches solar min. Again, I’m plotting the 24mo relaxation which seems to match the timing of the response in this region, at least.

  18. barn E. rubble says:

    Hi Bob:

    OT for this thread: But I was wondering about your thoughts RE: Mann et al, blaming the U.S. north east (and I’m guessing here in Ontario, Quebec and Eastern Canada) record freeze-up and snow on higher than usual Atlantic temperatures, IE: evidence of global warming?

    I only ask as I think you’re monitoring Atlantic temps as well as Pacific.

  19. Greg Goodman says:

    The linear trend that I had to apply to align solar and NINO34 is interesting

    This was not because SST in rising in this region, it isn’t. There are a number of ways to read this.

    1. Null hypothesis: the similarity in the background pattern and the temporal coincidence of stronger El Ninos at solar min. is fortuitous/spurious. The “it’s stochastic , stupid ” option.

    2. Reduction in solar over this period conveniently matches the increase in AGW resulting in the observed stability in SST.

    3. The ‘temporal coincidence’ is not coincidental and ENSO does act as a negative feedback on a decadal scale. ENSO is a major stabilising factor on climate. Failure to recognise this has lead to modellers reducing the calculated volcanic forcing of Lacis et al ( 30 ) to the new preferred values of 20 or less in order to reconcile there models’ output with the historic record.

    This raises a desire to understand the ‘average’ ENSO cycle of 2.5 years and what causes the variation in magnitude. Is it simply a natural resonant frequency ( “internal variability” ) of the Pacific or is it a driven oscillation.

    Is it a natural resonant frequency that is excited by an external driver that itself varies and causes periodic warming an cooling.

    FWIW, my money is on no.3 , modellers have spuriously adjusted VF to fit late 20th c. while maintaining high TCS for CO2 and that is why they have a divergence problem now there are no volcanoes.

  20. barn E. rubble says:

    Thanks for the link, Bob. Interesting reading.

  21. Greg Goodman says:

    Above I suggested: “If this pattern is correct we are at the same stage as 2003 in the solar relaxation response, so into El Nino conditions due to generally high solar. There may be a possibility of a strong El Nino like 72-73 which was a notably weak solar cycle that saw three successively large swings in SST. ”

    You may recall that last April here, I also pointed out that this year the perigee new moon would be very close to the equinox when sun and moon are centred over the equator. The furtherest apogee just passed on 19th Feb. That will lead max eccentricity happening now and a spike in tidal forcing over Nino3.4 at new moon drawing water horizontally towards the equator.

    That will depress the thermocline around the equator and strengthen Nino conditions. It will be a while before we get the data and can test that prediction but that’s my reading of the situation.

  22. Greg Goodman says:

    I should clarify, I don’t see this as being as big as 72-73 which was stimulated by both a massive drop in solar ( from 60s peak ) and a reaction to Mt Agung cooling. This year is probably more analogous to 2003, steadily growing amplitude, entering the down side of the solar cycle.

    I think the underlying tidal forcings are right to provide a peak in the baseline cycle. How this develops depends upon the regional +ve feedbacks. During periods of low incoming energy ( either due to solar cycle or volcanic blocking ) the conditions are right for surface/atmospheric feedbacks to amplify the baseline cycle into a strong warming event and vice versa.

    This is how the magnitude of ENSO oscillations can act as a corrective, negative feedback on a longer and geographically wider scale over several cycles. So I don’t think there’s any chance of the ‘super’ El Nino that the warmists are praying for but we should see it develop. It won’t be as strong as 2010, which followed the very low solar minimum.

    That’s my reading of the Pacific tea-leaves 😉

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