A Preliminary Look at the Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies Since 1940 along Hurricane Joaquin’s Forecasted Storm Track

As of today’s 5am eastern NOAA forecast, Hurricane Joaquin may impact the east coast of the United States from North Carolina to New England, with it downgrading to a tropical storm by the time it nears New Jersey. See the cone in Figure 1 from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center. If history repeats itself, and it’s very likely to do so, alarmists will be claiming that Hurricane Joaquin is being made worse by oceans warmed by manmade greenhouse gases.

Figure 1

Figure 1

We ran into those nonsensical claims when Sandy wreaked havoc three years ago, and we countered them with presentations of data from NOAA:

NOAA has removed the weekly Reynolds OI.v2 sea surface temperature data from the source I had used 3 years ago, their National Operational Model Archive & Distribution System (NOMADS) web tool.  As a result, we won’t be looking at that weekly data in this post. NOAA also removed the outputs of their NCEP-DOE reanalysis from NOMADS, so for Joaquin’s track we can no longer address the unwarranted claims about more moisture in the air due global warming by presenting the Specific Humidity and Precipitable Water outputs of that reanalysis.  (See Figures 4 and 5 from the “Oppenheimer and Trenberth” post.)

That leaves us with NOAA’s long-term sea surface temperature data, ERSST.v3b and the new ERSST.v4 (a.k.a. pause buster), both of which are being updated by NOAA. And we’ll present the data starting in 1940 to be consistent with those Sandy posts.  In other words, we’re going to confirm that the sea surfaces along Joaquin’s forecasted storm track show no warming (based on the linear trend) for more than 70 years.

Joaquin’s track is a little farther east at this point than Sandy’s, so for now, I’m using the extratropical coordinates of 25N-42N, 80W-70W. See Figure 1. If need be, we can tighten those coordinates in a future post when the September and October data are available.

But first, let’s take a look at the simulations of sea surface temperatures by the models stored in the CMIP5 archive, Figure 2.  Those models were used by the IPCC for their 5th Assessment Report (AR5).  As usual, we’re looking at the model mean, because it represents the consensus (better said, the groupthink) of the modeling groups for how sea surface temperatures along Joaquin’s track should have warmed if they were warmed by the manmade greenhouse gases used to force the models. (For a further discussion on the use of the model mean, see the post here.)

Figure 2

Figure 2

As shown, based on the linear trend of the model mean, the climate models used by the IPCC show that the surfaces of the North Atlantic along the east coast of the U.S. should have warmed roughly 0.7 deg C since 1940, if they were governed by manmade greenhouse gases.

Unfortunately for the models, NOAA’s former sea surface temperature reconstruction (ERSST.v3b) shows no warming since 1940, based on the linear trend. See Figure 3.  Same thing for NOAA’s brand-spanking-new pause-busting ERSST.v4 data shown in Figure 4.   In fact, the sea surfaces along the storm track were regularly warmer in the 1940s and 50s than they have been recently.

Figure 3

Figure 3

# # #

Figure 4

Figure 4


Even though data contradict the claims, I suspect we’ll be hearing lots of nonsense about the impacts of catastrophic human-induced global warming over the next few months if Hurricane Joaquin makes landfall, regardless of the fact that’s it’s been almost ten years since a Category 3 or stronger hurricane has made landfall on the U.S. [Cue President Obama.]


The climate model output and the sea surface temperature data are available from the KNMI Climate Explorer.

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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7 Responses to A Preliminary Look at the Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies Since 1940 along Hurricane Joaquin’s Forecasted Storm Track

  1. Thanks for the facts, Bob.
    No extra energy for Joaquin due to CO2 (or for anything else for that matter).

  2. Greg Goodman says:


    But with a very strong El Niño driving record global temperatures and a huge patch of hot water, known as “the Blob”, hanging obstinately in the north-western Pacific, things look far worse again for 2016.

    Hi Bob, IIRC it was you that coined the term “the blob”. It has now gone mainstream. Congratulations.

  3. Greg Goodman says:

    You may like to do one of your region SST plots for the Barrier Reef area.


    Though I would strongly advise against your useual 13mo running mean which will probalby put the peaks and troughs all in the wrong places.

    If my command line awk scripts are not your gig, I would suggest three successive running averages of 12, 9 and 7 months respectively, that you could easily do in Excel. It will give a very similar result to the gaussian filter.

    Best regards, Greg.

  4. Bob Tisdale says:

    Greg Goodman, thanks for the links and the info.

    FYI, I didn’t coin the term The Blob. I may have been the first to report on it, but Nicholas Bond of JISAO first used the term.


  5. ItsGettingHotinHereSo says:

    In North Carolina some people have said that different fish migration patterns are happening due to the warming of the ocean off of the North Carolina coast. Does your data contradict that statement? Relatively stable since 1940 but an uptick since 2010.

  6. Bob Tisdale says:

    ItsGettingHotinHereSo, it’s not my data. It’s NOAA’s.


  7. ItsGettingHotinHereSo says:

    Agreed, it is NOAA’s data. Sorry for not being clear. So it appears that people who say the ocean has warmed and is impacting fish migration patterns are contracting NOAA’s data. 🙂

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