Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Prospects for 2017.

Early last year I wrote a post called prospects for 2016. It was mainly tracking the progress of the El Nino, and I introduced the series of bar plots comparing corresponding months of 1997/8. I've kept updating those plots to end 2016.

Anyway, commenter Uli and others made good use of the thread to make and monitor predictions for 2016. Uli's prediction of 0.99°C at the time turned out to be exact, although the strength of the El Nino caused him to sometimes think a little higher. So I hope this will continue. Uli's main review comment is here.

For my own part, I don't claim any special insight, but I think substantial cooling from here is not very likely (but of course possible). For those who have been following NCEP/NCAR, it has been a wild ride in January:

Pretty warm at the moment. Sea ice, both N and S, has been fascinating too. After a long excursion way below historic levels, the Arctic has dropped back to the field for the moment. The Antarctic excursion was even more extreme, and is still well below other years. Here it is more interesting, because it is not far from the minimum. Again the earlier very high melting rate has not been maintained, but because of the coastline geometry, that is inevitable. A lot of shore doesn't have much ice left to melt (here is the movie.

So I'll leave the thread there open for comments through the year. Thanks, Uli and all.


  1. The current post El Niño SST map looks sort of like those in JAN 2004 and JAN 2006. Both were followed by the resumption of El Niño later in those years. The probability of that happening in 2017 is still low, but it has been inching up. ONI has been steady at -0.8, but the GISS anomaly is not even remotely close to what one would expect at that ONI level. Because Niño 3.4 is completely fenced in, surrounded by, hot ocean surface, and 3.4 has warmed up since the beginning of JAN. The PDO, on the other hand, could dip to negative, or close, in JAN. Still, my hunch is GISS December's .81 ℃ was the bottom... monthly anomalies will be between .81 ℃ and .97 ℃ during first 6 months. After that, depends on EL Niño. Not going to be surprised if there is an El Niño in 2017, and I don't think a 4th warmest year in a row is impossible.

  2. I recently posted on WUWT in response to a commenter on this terrible article about attempting to remove the effect of El Nino (based on a complete misunderstanding of what the Met office were saying about its contribution to the 2016 record in HadCRUT).

    Anyway, in ensuing debate (and in other threads) this user keeps insisting that we should be looking at temperature trends only for neutral El Nino months to remove its effect. This is of course nonsensical because present ENSO indices are likely to influence climate for a year (or more) after the event. This prompted me to do some quantitative cross correlation analysis of the effect duration. I'll paste some details below if anyone is interested. The conclusion is that the peak correlation between atmospheric temperature (I get similar results with RSS 3.3 TLT or 4.0 TTT as well as UAH 6.0) is at between 4 and 5 months. Looking at Nick's current graph and at the recent monthly ENSO values and model projections, I'll stick my neck out now with an ENSO based prediction for the coming year (with the caveat that weather phenomena other than ENSO obviously are at play):

    ENSO crossed over neutrality to negative values last June, and reached a negative peak (a short and mild La Nina) in October/November. It has been rising gently since and is likely to cross back to positive indices around April. Hence the ENSO prediction would be for continued mild cooling until February/March, steady levels through the middle part of the year and a gentle rise by November/December. I'd expect the September 2017 NCEP/NCAR index to be similar to those in the months around Oct-Dec 2016, perhaps rising back to a peak just above 0.5 degrees by the end of the year.

    For those interested, my cross correlation analysis is here:

    I took a typical satellite global data set (RSS) and used cross-covariance analysis against the unsmoothed monthly ENSO value for the Nino 3.4 region (from Because ENSO values are anomalies versus the long term trend (NOAA subtract a sliding 30 year reference period), I subtracted a simple linear fit to the RSS data. This gives the short term (monthly) anomalies relative to any long term trend over the whole data set. I used RSS 4.0 TTT, but you get similar results for other satellite series. Basically what this shows is that the strongest correlation between the tropospheric temperature and the monthly ENSO value will occur with a lag of 5 months. But note that the correlation remains positive and significant (i.e. high ENSO=high temperature and vice versa) for well over a year (the blue lines are 95% confidence intervals). 12 months is a long time in the evolution of ENSO events – they can completely reverse from El Nino to La Nina in that time, so its really not possible to say that the temperature in any given month is ‘due’ to a given El Nino index, although the oscillatory nature is somewhat consistent (note the significant negative correlations at negative lags). Of course ENSO values have strong autocorrelation on a monthly time scale, which explains some of the effects that persist beyond 12 months (i.e. if a given month is strongly positive, several subsequent months are also likely positive).

  3. I think the closest analogues to the current ENSO-related variability are those associated with the 1973 and 1988 El Nino events, so I'm using those as a guide to predicting 2017. Following the El Nino there tends to be a low in global average temperature around November-February, before picking up slightly. I'm going to use the difference between the average for the following year and the average for the November-February period across years for the prediction (E.g. 1974 average minus average of November 1973 through February 1974).

    It turns out to seem pretty robust. In GISS the difference is +0.035 and +0.045 for 1974 and 1989 respectively. In HadCRUT4 +0.035 for both.

    Obviously this requires estimates for this year's January and February anomalies, which I'll base on NCEP reanalysis so far + reasonable expectation of trajectory.

    Based on that I'm predicting 2017 averages of 0.86 +/-0.08 for GISS and 0.63 +/-0.1 for HadCRUT4, with larger uncertainty in the latter reflecting greater uncertainty in the potential November-February average.

  4. I think 2017 will end up close to 2015 around 0.87. The linear trend for GISS in 2017 is 0.81, but GISS remains above the linear trend line averaging 0.87 since the nino ended in June and 0.88 over the last 3 months. SST are also relatively warm having bounced back in January from a dip in November and December. As others have noted enso is trending warmer and will likely be neutral most of the year. Sea ice is low at both poles. The sun is nearing the weakest portion of a weak cycle so is one of the few cooling factor. So in summary a warm but not record year.


    1. Chubbs, I agree with your analysis and conclusion for 2017 ... "a warm but not record year". I would not be surprised if the GMST average for the last half of 2016 turns out to be a good estimate for the average for all of 2017 (plus or minus 0.1C). On the other hand, who knows what surprises might be in store? Earth is probably overdue for another intense explosive volcanic event similar to Pinatubo or maybe even more intense. However, the odds of that happening in 2017 are not very high.

      I just peeked at the current NOAA OISST V2 global average SSTA posted at UM CCI for today (2017 Jan 26) and it is only at +0.32C relative to 1971-2000 and the North Pacific is only +0.22C. Not very impressive warming and may portend of only weak warming in the next few years.

    2. Bryan - Since SST anomalies are lowest in northern hemisphere winter, 0.32 is impressive for a La Nina. We have to wait for the monthly SST values to come out to make definitive statements, but based on the 0.32 value we can expect january 2017 to come in above January 2015 and second only to Jan 2016.


  5. Dave said:
    "The conclusion is that the peak correlation between atmospheric temperature (I get similar results with RSS 3.3 TLT or 4.0 TTT as well as UAH 6.0) is at between 4 and 5 months."

    Using CSALT, I get the best fit with a lag of 6 month. This is for SOI instead of NINO3.4 but that's at most a tiny correction. Looking at your graph, 6 is as good as 4-5 months for fitting so I think you are on the right track.

    As I have said before, the ENSO signal is a potential calibrating tool for satellite data. If one applies too much gain on the satellite signal to match the AGW trend, then the peaks and valleys of the ENSO signal can grow significantly compared to the surface temperature peak-to-peak variation. This point is rarely discussed.

    But really the best way to track ENSO is to first understand ENSO and to model ENSO. From what I have read, the acclaimed ENSO expert is this Trump-like scientist named Tsonis. He puts out so much rubbish on chaotic/network theories of ENSO yet can't seem to comprehend the fact that it is simply an erratic sloshing dipole of the equatorial Pacific waters caused by periodic variations in the Earth's rotation.

    Even though the ENSO signal appears erratic, it's still highly likely that we can deterministically explain every excursion in the signal. The most plausible approach to model this behavior is with the same Mathieu wave equation that hydrodynamics engineers use to model sloshing of a liquid in a large tank.

    So once we have this good model of ENSO in place, we will be able to better compensate for all the variability in global temperature.

    1. El Nino events seem to be initiated by anomalous westerly wind bursts. I have no idea what triggers these but don't see how the earth's rotation could be involved.

    2. I get shorter peak lags with the surface datasets (around 4 months), so I guess if we want to use ENSO to predict GISS or HadCRUT etc. we should take 1 month off my predictions (with enough uncertainty at this point about predicted ENSO beyond June that I wouldn't want to then put a number on December temperatures.... I guess this shorter lag isn't entirely surprising, considering that ENSO is itself a surface anomaly measurement and the Nino regions are quite a large part of the Pacific i.e. it contributes a significant direct influence on instantaneous surface values.

    3. "El Nino events seem to be initiated by anomalous westerly wind bursts. I have no idea what triggers these but don't see how the earth's rotation could be involved."

      There is a recursive fallacy in that argument. The QBO is a periodic cycle in prevailing wind direction along the equator. That can't be caused by the wind because it is the wind. So, instead some say that the QBO is caused by shifts in the lower troposphere propagating upwards as gravity waves, starting from the ocean and its changing state, which is governed largely by ENSO. Yet, ENSO is supposedly caused by the wind. So as you can see the entire argument is a recursive mess -- a dog chasing its tail. The reason that we have a wind-driven argument at all is because it fits with every other qualitative about the weather -- it sounds reasonable -- yet there is no way that we can separate cause from result, i.e. the wind can be a result of ENSO which we know generates a huge differential of pressure and a pressure differential is what causes wind!

      The only explanation that can explicate us from such a recursive mess is to consider that an external force is stimulating ENSO, and that is what we have with the angular momentum changes in the earth's rotation. And also that the QBO is quite clearly paced by the seasonally-aliased periodic lunar nodal cycle.

      In reality, the reason that a dog can chase its own tail is because it is getting energy from an external source -- let's say, dog food. There's a saying that one should eat their own dog food when explaining phenomenon. Time is about right to solve Laplace's tidal equations and notice that the lunisolar force is responsible -- only then can we attribute it to the earth's dog food. :/

      And please recall, it is the Trump-like troll Richard Lindzen that is responsible for the theory of QBO, and that scientists such as Tsonis, Salby, Curry, Webster, Gray, and other deniers that have fruitlessly tried to figure ENSO out. Why should we surprised that they haven't been successful at truly understanding ENSO?

      So we are fooling ourselves when they write articles such as "How Scientists Unraveled the El Nino Mystery". which actually concludes:
      '' The obvious problem is that the climate is layered and complicated. Climate models aim to simplify real-world phenomena, but sometimes, says University of Exeter climate scientist Mat Collins, “they are almost as complex as the real world.”

      The very latest 2014 predictions tell us that El Nino still hasn't begun, but warm water anomalies continue in the Pacific. Most forecasters — now more cautiously — still expect El Nino to arrive in the next couple months.

      Regardless of the outcome, future models will need to reckon with the bizarre mixed signals that have emerged in 2014. Although the general principles of climate models seem sound, many scientists suspect something crucial is misrepresented or missing. “Every time we have a new El Nino event, we have a revision of the theory about how El Nino seems to be working,” says Collins. These new models may be radically different from their predecessors. “It's usually more than tweaking the old model,” says Anthony Barnston, who co-authored the 2012 paper analyzing various ENSO forecasts. “It's usually different physics.”

      Perhaps we don't study climate phenomena despite their complexity, but because of their complexity. The science of El Nino provides some profound insights about the climate at large. ENSO models continue to vex scientists for the very reason that ENSO seems worthy of study: Its impacts can be vast, global, and dizzyingly diverse.''

    4. To @whut:

      I should have been more clear. I was referring to the periodic reversal of trade winds, which are at the surface. These "westerly wind bursts" are what causes some of the very warm water near Indonesia to start moving east towards the Nino region. Maybe winds in the stratosphere or the QBO influence these low level winds, but that wasn't what I was commenting on.

    5. Maybe you are more clear with your clarification, but I still disagree that these are an ENSO trigger.

      As far as as consensus understanding of ENSO, it's still the blind leading the blind.

    6. We can generally predict sea surface temps in the Nino regions a few months out by observing trade wind charts. However, predicting what the trade winds will do is predicting weather...very difficult.

      We will see neutral/warm conditions in the Nino regions for the next few months. After that, who knows?

    7. First comes a strong, westerly wind burst along the equator in the western pacific. Then warming in the Nino region a few months later, then warming in the atmosphere. These are observations, not theory.

    8. @whut, I looked at your link and it appears your model is predicting SOI neutral conditions for 2017 and 2018, with a strong La Nina in 2019. Is that correct? Also, have you run it out farther to see when it predicts the next El Nino?

    9. Bryan, I don't really know as the bulk of 2017 and 2018 are in the future and I am not using the model to make predictions -- there's nothing to validate against for years! That said, if you want to make a prediction based on the model, no one is stopping you.

      Personally, what I think matters at the moment is to validate the model against past data. To me it appears that for every other scientific discipline other than climate science, the effort is placed on understanding the behavior before applying it to some practical application. But for climate science everyone is interested in taking shortcuts and gambling that some model will randomly work on predicting the future.

    10. @whut, looks like your model does a fairly descent job of matching the past. So, seems to me the next step is to see if it matches the future. That will be the big test, and we should have a good answer in just a few years. After all, making accurate predictions is what science is all about.

    11. " ... have a good answer in just a few years"

      Afraid not. I can tell you that verifying the model by matching the future will take several decades of data, not "just a few years".

      If the next El Nino occurs in 4 years and it happens to match, that has a very poor statistical significance. Same thing with 2 or 3 consecutive matches. And if one happens not to match, that also doesn't indicate that the model is worthless.

      I just don't understand this mentality and infatuation with prediction. If we spent some effort going back in time via paleo-records or getting other people involved on this approach (see the curious case of NASA JPL elsewhere in this thread) that would be a lot more fruitful than throwing up one's hands and suggesting we can wait another 20 years.

      This is not science the way I am used to doing it, where you attack the data 100 ways till Tuesday and don't give up. Nature will eventually confess.

    12. @whut, I would say nature is very unforgiving of bad models. And future predictions are the best way to verify. Hind sight is 20/20 as they say. We live and we learn. We adjust the models when they fail.

    13. Oh, I see your nickname is oz4caster. You must really like predictions.

      I believe my model is pure geophysics. It should be easy enough to run a GCM climate model to see if the effect manifests there. We won't have to wait decades to see the results.

  6. In this case, I don't think this is what will happen:

    Hence the ENSO prediction would be for continued mild cooling until February/March, steady levels through the middle part of the year and a gentle rise by November/December.

    How is this map going to keep anomalies from climbing? A case in point is January, right now. It's shooting up like a rocket, and the forecast is it will not back off much at all by the 31st of January. So GISS January looks poised to be very warm... looks to me like warmer than December, and maybe warmer than November as well.

    1. "A case in point is January, right now. It's shooting up like a rocket"

      It shoots up like a rocket and down (in equal measure) from time to time due to phenomena that are more in the realm of weather than slower events like ENSO (which are on the border between weather and climate). My prediction is based on ENSO, which takes no account of short term fluctuations: Based on the historic data (as used in my analysis), and the last few months of ENSO (mild La Nina) we would expect tropospheric temperatures to keep falling for another month or two. I can see from the data Nick is posting here that January at this point look likely to be warmer than December, so my first month into this prediction looks likely to be incorrect :-) However, my caveat was that weather phenomena other than ENSO obviously also influence climate.

    2. There is a lot of short time fluctuation due weather, especially in winter. Up to now January 17 seems to be near the middle of Jan 15 and Jan 16. This would be 0.99 the second warmest Jan after 2016. And Feb 17 would need to fell by more then 0.33 to prevent DJF17 become the second warmest after DJF16.

  7. Did anyone try to use the auto-correlations in the Arctic temperatures for such predictions? The Arctic shows more decadal variability, so maybe Arctic Temperature also stronger auto-correlations than global temperature? In that case the warm temperatures we have now in the Arctic could be a reason for a warmer global temperature for 2017.

    1. Good point. I would extend to the Antarctic as well. Sea ice is an important integrating factor at both poles. There are myriad sea ice effects, but to simplify, considerable heat of fusion energy was used last fall when global sea ice volume fell dramatically to record lows (see link below). That energy is currently being recovered through albedo effects. So low sea ice at the beginning of this year is a warming factor for 2017. I could imagine a worst case scenario with: a sunny arctic summer producing a record low sea ice minimum, continued low sea ice in Antarctica, and a positive enso; leading to a fall spike in global temperatures. Of course things could go the other direction as well.


    2. Implicitly mine does since high Arctic warmth from November-February, as part of the global average, would push up the prediction for the annual average.

      One issue with my approach is that GISS Arctic anomalies for November-February will be considerably warmer than the annual average, and this seasonality bias largely developed after 1988/89 (the latest dates I'm using to calibrate), so that would tend to suggest my prediction will be on the high side. I think competing seasonal biases in other regions will offset this effect, but even so probably my GISS estimate will be on the high side by a few hundredths.

      Due to known issues with HadCRUT4 in the Arctic I suspect the bias for that prediction will go in the opposite direction.

  8. If a new El Niño emerges by fall (weak-moderate strength), 2017 should most likely end up being 0,90-0,95C warmer (GISS numbers). If 2017 remains "neutral" we should be close to 2015 at 0,85-0,90C above normal. If the latter scenario comes true, I think 2018/2019 will give us a new big El Niño pushing the global anomaly above the magic 1,00C above the 1951-1980 average for at least one of those years (2018 and/or 2019).

    As La Niña is slowly vaning now, the global SSTs have rosen and should be somewhat higher compared to December. This is important as roughly 2/3 by the planet is goverened by water. Also, sea ice extent are extremely low around Antarctica as well as in the Arctic.

    1. One day we will talk about ENSO cycles with the same certainty as ocean tides. But until that time we have to deal with people that relay a lot of statements that contain "shoulda", "coulda", and "woulda".

    2. Pacific trade winds accelerated by aerosol forcing over the past two decades

      ... the accelerated surface easterlies promote the accumulation of ocean subsurface water and raise sea levels in the western Pacific 28,29, so that salient features of the observed increasing trend in the 0 300 m heat content (HC 300) are captured by the HIST ensemble mean (Fig. 3c,d). ...

      This is an interesting paper, but isn't this description backwards? Shouldn't it be "accelerated surface westerlies?

      Anyway, in the absence of these winds, expecting ENSO to behave in a way we have gotten used to over the hiatus period may not make much sense. The current pattern of SST does not have much potential for cooling. The waters off South America already have the EL Niño look.

  9. This description is correct. Trade winds blow east to west (easterly). Sun warmed surface water gets pushed towards Indonesia and creates a deep "warm pool". With sustained strong trade winds, this pile of warm water will get bigger and deeper.

    When the trade winds falter or sometimes even reverse direction(westerly wind burst), this pool of warm water will start to slosh eastward toward the Nino region. As it travels east it spreads out over the oceans surface and thus warms the atmosphere.

    So accelerated trade winds are associated with la nina's events and could partially explain the hiatus in atmospheric warming (prior to the recent El Nino).

    1. El Nino's and La Nina's tend to take turns, so I'm still expecting a strong La Nina to form within a couple years. This, I'm afraid, will temporarily embolden the deniers.

    2. Can't separate this causally from the sloshing of the thermocline leading to temperature changes which then create the pressure differential leading to transiently persistent winds.

      Sure I understand that there is a positive feedback associated with this which can reinforce a standing wave dipole oscillator, but something always has to stimulate a standing wave oscillator. This oscillator will not spontaneously start on its own. There is nothing known in nature on this scale that will spontaneously oscillate without an external stimulus.

      So all I am saying is that the periodic angular momentum (AM) variations in the rotation rate of the earth are what stimulates the thermocline to start its sloshing motion. This is no different than the behavior of a huge wave motion machine or lava lamp.

      This may be hard to swallow because it goes against the conventional wisdom (wind) that you are conveying, but the fundamental model of this behavior when stimulated with the actual known AM variations match perfectly with the ENSO variations. That's what I presented at last month's AGU.

      This AM-caused sloshing model would be easy to debunk if the ENSO cycles went out of phase over the course of 130 years but they do not appear to do so. Therefore, this model has to be seriously considered.

      If the scientific method was to applied here, comparisons would need to be made between (1) a wind-driven model that can predict a few months in advance versus (2) a geophysically-driven model of hydrodynamics that can explain over 100 years of behavior. And (1) will never get far because no one will be able to figure out what causes the tropospheric trade winds to oscillate like they do.

    3. So you believe trade winds cause very warm water to pile up in the western pacific, but you don't believe a sudden, strong reversal of these winds can cause this water to start moving eastward? Makes perfect sense to me. For example, if you steadily blow across a bowl of water, water will pile up on the far side. When you stop blowing, a small wave will head back towards you.

      Most importantly, this phenomenon has been observed. Strong westerly wind bursts are seen prior to the oceanic kelvin waves that initiate an El Niño.

      You said the AM model can accurately explain ENSO behavior, but can it predict it? Can it tell us when the next El Niño/la Nina will occur? If it can do that, I'm sold. Otherwise, it just seems like an interesting theory.

    4. You probably don't realize how little agreement there is for a unified theory of ENSO in practice. This review paper on ENSO from last year by Wang et al describes 5 different theories of self-sustained oscillators (1) delayed oscillator (2) recharge oscillator (3) western Pacific oscillator (4) advective-reflexive oscillator (5) unified oscillator, plus a stable mode triggered by stochastic forcing. And then you get all the highly-cited (in Physical Review Letters, no less) theories of ENSO as a teleconnection network promulgated by the AGW denier Tsonis.

      What I am describing is a 6th flavor of self-sustaining oscillator which is well understood to be the known physical behavior for the sloshing of liquid in a contained volume. This is the solution to the Mathieu wave equation, which can be found in every recent research article on sloshing, see Faltinsen, Frandsen, Ibrahim, and other researchers.

      If we are to believe in a purely wind-driven model for ENSO, what needs to be shown is a causal relationship between wind and response, and be able to distinguish that from the building imbalance of a sloshing thermocline causing the wind. No one has been able to do that. Yet it is very easy to solve the Mathieu equation with the known periodic angular momentum variations of the Earth's rotations and see how it matches the observed sloshing dipole for ENSO over the last 130 years.

      Here is an interesting view of sloshing that was just observed in Papua New Guinea about a week ago:

      swimming pool sloshing

      Tell me that can be caused by blowing across a bowl of water :)

      No one seems to realize that the ocean's thermocline creates the physical situation of a suspended medium consisting of two slightly different densities of liquid. Because of the slightly different densities of water, the volume assumes a reduced effective gravity which is much more prone to a magnified sloshing behavior. This is exactly how commercial wave motion machines work, a separated lower density oil layer riding on top of a higher density water volume -- Google "Hughes wave motion machine" for an example of this in action.

      See the book on Liquid Sloshing Dynamics by Ibrahim and you will find that both Faraday and Lord Rayleigh observed that sloshing could be observed at 1/2 the excitation frequency. Since there is a natural seasonal excitation frequency of one year caused by the sun's gravitational pull, some effect should be seen at a period of two years, which is what I see very strongly in my Mathieu sloshing model fit for ENSO.

      Why no one else sees this I haven't a clue, other than an obscure article suggesting that the earth's spherical harmonics precludes the application of the Mathieu equation. Evidently, this wisdom has been passed around by climatologists to not go down this path. So they come up with all these other odd mechanisms. I am just guessing because I am not a part of that clique. I just read the books on hydrodynamics by engineers and classic articles by the brilliant minds of centuries ago to get my info on the applicable physics :)

    5. Thanks for the interesting post. My understanding of this topic could be described as ENSO 101. I'm certainly not qualified to comment on the physics of waves. Also, It does seem strange that a burst of surface winds could cause a 300 meter deep body of water to travel several thousand miles across the ocean. The AM model you talk about seems to be a more plausible explanation.

      Still, there are observations of anomalous wind bursts prior to the Kelvin waves? Is it possible the wind and the AM processes are both involved?

    6. Maybe the geophysical forces of the AM model set the stage for a sloshing event, and then a sudden reversal of trade winds acts as a trigger? Just a thought.

    7. Two who enabled El Niño forecasts win 2017 Vetlesen Prize

      ... Modern observations showed them that in the tropical Pacific, there is little distance between warm surface water and the colder abyss. Their calculations then showed how shifts in wind can alter shallow currents to warm or cool the surface?and, as surface temperatures change, how this in turn alters winds. "This circular argument -- the winds are both the cause and consequence of surface temperature changes--[gives] rise to phenomena such as El Niño," said Philander. It was Philander who popularized the term "La Niña," the state opposite El Niño, when winds pick up again, causing rains to slacken in the Americas, and swell in Asia. Philander also came up with numerical explanations for related phenomena, including why it is rainier immediately north of the equator than to the south. ...

    8. Interesting. After reading the very persuasive posts by @whut I've been rethinking my relatively simplistic understanding of ENSO. Maybe geophysical forces and wind are intertwined. Who knows?

      Here's what I know for sure. A weekly glance at trade wind anomalies makes it easy to generally predict surface temperatures in the Nino region several months out.

    9. JCH quoted:

      "This circular argument -- the winds are both the cause and consequence of surface temperature changes"

      This statement is mind boggling to me. Chicken and egg. Dog chasing its tail. The process has to get a forcing energy from somewhere else, as this kind of spontaneous circularity is unphysical.

      ENSO does result in strong sustained winds as there is a huge pressure differential caused by the sloshing dipole. But what causes the wind that supposedly triggers it?

      That's partly why I am working on ENSO and QBO simultaneously. The QBO is purely a wind phenomenon in the equatorial stratosphere. In my model, the QBO cycles are strictly a consequence of the biannual modulation of the lunar nodal cycle. However, that cycle is not tightly in phase with the ENSO cycle.

      ENSO is definitely more in phase with the earth's periodic angular momentum changes.

    10. No wind being cause and effect is not nonphysical circulatity. In a complex system this is possible. You also see it in bubbles on the stock market. Prices go up because they go up.

      For your periodic angular momentum change theory the main question is whether that is the effect of El Nino (seems perfectly plausible) or the cause of El Nino (which you seem to be confident of). Or both. :)

      I love statistics, but in the end that just gives a hunch. The next step, like for your QBO work, is to build a physical model. Only then can you disentangle cause and effect. Can El Nino change momentum change? Can momentum change cause El Nino?

    11. VV, The chicken & egg angular momentum issue is influenced by consideration of how periodic this effect is. The variations of angular momentum are directly in phase with the Chandler Wobble period, which has been relatively unchanged since 1900.

      So if the periodic angular momentum variation corresponding to the Chandler Wobble was caused by El Nino, then something in El Nino would need to be highly periodic. I seriously doubt that could happen.

      The argument is exactly analogous to that of ocean tides. What is the causality of that effect? Ocean tides are somewhat complex, but the forcing really isn't. ENSO is somewhat complex, but the forcing isn't IMO.

      Which brings up an interesting fact that geophysicists are hesitant of going near -- that the Chandler wobble is synchronized to the lunar nodal cycle. The idea is intuitive enough -- that the mutual interactions of the orbits can induce a wobble. I have found a proposal from a few years ago by personnel at NASA JPL that wanted to investigate all aspects of the lunisolar effect on geophysics and climate. It's an eye-opening proposal but, alas, it didn't get funded, and so the principal investigator went off on her own.

      Her "MoonClimate" web-site seems kind of dormant, but the proposals are there:

      Intriguing isn't it? The pieces are there to create unified models for ENSO, QBO, and the Chandler Wobble but I sense a case of cold feet by funding decision makers. However, that's going to change soon as recent independent studies are showing extensive correlations between lunar cycles and earthquake activity. The weight of the correlations will eventually be overwhelming and something will have to give.

  10. Sorry about getting turned around on the wind direction. It was late; I'm old. But I do not agree they tend to take turns. They can, but there are a lot of examples of back-to-back El Niño/La Niña events.

    Even so, next up in the alternating scheme would be El Niño as the current La Niña, weak, is ending.

    Everything emboldens deniers. They are politically driven.

  11. We never had a true La Niña (La Nina "conditions" for at least 5 continuous months), so that's why I think one is still around the corner.

    1. No need to apologize about the wind direction. Easy to do.

    2. @whut wrote, "but what causes the wind that that supposedly triggers it?"

      Hmm...Our atmosphere is a swirling mess of wind anomalies. You sound incredulous that these could occur in the tropical pacific? Are you familiar with NOAA's weekly ENSO update? It provides a graph of the latest low level wind anomalies along the equator in the Pacific. Anomalous westerly wind bursts, of varying intensity, happen every day.

      What could cause these? That would be a question for a meteorologist.

    3. You also sound incredulous that there could be a circular pattern between wind and sea surface temperatures. Is the sun not a good enough external source?

    4. To @whut;

      Your model is fascinating. If it even partially explains the ENSO, it would be quite an achievement.

    5. The sun is a good source for providing an annual and biannual forcing that certainly contributes to the dynamics.

      Way back when, the legendary mathematical physicists Faraday and Rayleigh identified a period doubling, see this passage from Ibrahim text on sloshing

      A period doubling of an annual forcing would create a 2-year biennial factor, which is observed in the ENSO behavior.

      So yes, the sun could be what is called a common mode factor. It impacts more than one behavior and so it makes it more difficult to explicate cause and effect between wind and ENSO.

    6. "...winds are both the cause and consequence of surface temperature change".

      The wind here is not doing the heating or cooling. It is either causing warm, submerged water to rise to the surface, (in the case of El Niño), or pushing warm surface water down (in the case of La Niña). This maybe like a dog chasing it's tail, but the physics is fine.

    7. But what causes the winds to reverse on such a large scale?
      I understand that according to the award winners above (Cane ad Philander) it is a coupled oceanic-atmospheric system, but something still has to stimulate that. I say it is the lunisolar forcings together with residual angular momentum+wobble in the earth's rotation.

    8. The winds we're talking about are not on a very large scale or long duration (maybe only a few days). They can be very intense, however, and that's why they're referred to as bursts. Sometimes they are associated with Typhoons. A strong enough westerly burst, occurring over the Pacific warm pool, can initiate an eastward moving Kelvin wave. All of this has been observed. Can the forces you mention cause this strong burst of wind? I guess it's possible.

    9. Well, the strong but low-density of winds of QBO are perfectly aligned with the periodic reversal of the nodal aka draconic lunar tide wrt to the nodal sun angle.

      I just had an extended tweet-storm on the topic of QBO, see my @whut timeline. Very curious that they were interested in what I had to say ... almost as if they have a similar idea.

    10. I know next to nothing about QBO other than recently, an expected direction change never happened. This occurred during the peak of El Niño right? So maybe there's a connection?

  12. What is perplexing is how often weather nerds will talk about these pattern shifts in qualitative terms -- as if they have the data relationships cranking in their heads -- yet never produce concrete correlations or models describing their vast insight.

    Agree with you in that I also see that this 2016 shift is real wrt to my model for QBO, yet the transient has now subsided and it is back in track with the seasonally aliased lunar nodal cycle.

    No doubt we will eventually figure out the connections, likely sooner rather than later.

  13. BOM's January 31 ENSO outlook:

    And, January is looking to be sort of hot.

    1. Funny that people treat the Water Chef from Down Under with even an ounce of credibility.

    2. whut - some people think physics is libertarian because they're libertarian. This is highly unlikely to be the case.

      Anyway, NDJ ONI just posted at -0.7 so we now have, officially, a 2016 La Niña, and maybe even a 2016-2017 La Niña as the skinny little thing is being remarkably persistent. NOAA PDO in at .21... still positive. JIASO PDO should come in positive... for 37 straight months in a row... during which the warming trend is sky high.

    3. Some of the nutcases at WUWT are mentioning the ENSO model from the AGU presentation. It gets mentioned right below a Tisdale comment -- who is in a tie for the most clueless self-described ENSO expert along with the Water Chef.

      Pic of the link callout -- don't want to link there

      Noticed also that "Greg" elsewhere in the thread is describing the mechanism of thermocline sloshing (If this is Greg Goodman, he is a big troll of mine so no wonder he picked up on this)

      "IMO they should be looking at tidal forcing causing movements at the top of the thermocline. There is a density difference between the warm “mixed layer” and deeper colder waters. This density difference will lead to tidal waves in a similar way to surface waves.

      The density difference is about 1/1000 of the difference between air and water, so the main resonances will be 1000 times longer. The dominant response at the surface is the twice daily tides, so 12h * 1000. That’s of the order of 1.4 years.

      Tidal waves at the bottom of the mixed layer will be of this order, ie multi-annual time-scales.

      There is too much focus on equatorial sections of temp profiles. The way temperature anomalies appear and disappear in such sections indicates a N/S movement of heat energy in and out of the equatorial zone. this needs to be studies as 3D maps not 2D sections.

      The BJ f/b is a +ve f/b which reinforces and locks in changes started by tidal forcing, it is NOT the cause. That is why models relying on it are not reliable. They are missing the underlying cause."

      Deniers such as Greg Goodman are desperately looking for alternative climate change mechanisms so it's not surprising that they will pick up on these ideas.

      Also an ENSO vs Trade Wind correlation chart is linked there . That was discussed earlier in the Moyhu comments threads and it substantiates what I am saying is that this wind is merely a reflection of the ENSO pressure dipole and not a causative agent.

  14. ENSO forecast has a late 2017 El Niño at 48%. 2017 could be another warmest year... fourpeat.

  15. I report the prediction by my regression model for the year 2017 based on data up to Jan17.
    J-D17 0.88+-0.11 (Year2017)
    DJF17 0.86+-0.06
    MAM17 0.83+-0.17
    JJA17 0.84+-0.14
    SON17 0.97+-0.15

    1. I update my prediction using data up to Feb17.
      J-D17 0.92+-0.10
      MAM17 0.87+-0.17
      JJA17 0.86+-0.14
      SON17 0.96+-0.15

  16. I update my prediction using data up to Mar17.
    J-D17 0.92+-0.07
    MAM17 0.96+-0.07
    JJA17 0.82+-0.12
    SON17 0.93+-0.13

    1. JJA17 0.82+-0.12 - Uli, what drives this low number?

    2. God question. Unless Uli has a model for ENSO, it has to be a SWAG.

      I probably have a two year head-start on the consensus science for a realistic ENSO prediction. Climate scientists are not even close to catching on to the idea that long-period lunar tidal forcing is what drives ENSO predictability. There happens to be too much baggage in all the documented research for the current models to be immediately discarded. And most climate science blogs are hopeless, occupying either a HillaryClinton-like climate science consensus or the delusional Trump-like denialist view. The time is ripe for a logical Bernie view to shake things up.

    3. JCH: 0.82 is not low, it would be the second highest after the 2016 value. Most influence seems to have the long time trend, the temperature of the last available month and the monthly change in the last two MEI values.

      @whut: I've tried but was not yet able to find any convincing periodicities in the MEI values. At which frequencies you suppose could be periods in the ENSO?

    4. Uli, see my extended comment below. BTW, I would recommend against using the MEI, as that only goes back to 1950. You want to use the entire time series.

    5. "@whut: I've tried but was not yet able to find any convincing periodicities in the MEI values. At which frequencies you suppose could be periods in the ENSO?"

      The system is nonlinear so any frequencies that you try to find by conventional power spectral analysis won't make any sense. You have to do the full DiffEq analysis in time-space to assign the periodicities. And those happen to match the primary Draconic and Anomalistic lunar periods precisely. That's essentially why no one has been able to make progress. Unless one has the right DiffEq formulation you will spin your wheels finding the forcing parameterization.

    6. I update my prediction using data up to Apr17.
      J-D17 0.91+-0.06
      MAM17 0.94+-0.04
      JJA17 0.87+-0.12
      SON17 0.93+-0.13

    7. I update my prediction using data up to May17.
      J-D17 0.93+-0.06
      JJA17 0.89+-0.12
      SON17 0.95+-0.14

    8. I update my prediction using data up to Jun17.
      J-D17 0.89+-0.05
      JJA17 0.76+-0.08
      SON17 0.91+-0.14
      DJF18 0.85+-0.18
      MAM18 0.91+-0.18

    9. I update my prediction using data up to Jul17.
      J-D17 0.90+-0.05
      JJA17 0.79+-0.06
      SON17 0.89+-0.14
      DJF18 0.83+-0.19
      MAM18 0.90+-0.18

    10. I update my prediction using data up to Aug17.
      J-D17 0.89+-0.04
      SON17 0.87+-0.12
      DJF18 0.80+-0.19
      MAM18 0.86+-0.17
      JJA18 0.80+-0.15

    11. I update my prediction using data up to Sep17.
      J-D17 0.88+-0.03
      SON17 0.83+-0.08
      DJF18 0.75+-0.17
      MAM18 0.83+-0.17
      JJA18 0.79+-0.15

    12. I update my prediction using data up to Oct17.
      J-D17 0.89+-0.03
      SON17 0.84+-0.05
      DJF18 0.77+-0.17
      MAM18 0.84+-0.17
      JJA18 0.77+-0.15
      SON18 0.89(+-0.16)
      J-D18 0.82(+-0.13)
      The probability, if my error is correct, and past estimates do not change, that 2017 will be the second warmest year is now about 95%.
      I attempt a prediction for the year 2018. The error is an underestimate, because I assumed that the final values of J-D17 and SON17 are exactly as predicted.

    13. I update my prediction using data up to Nov17.
      J-D17 0.89+-0.02
      DJF18 0.76+-0.17
      MAM18 0.89+-0.18
      JJA18 0.78+-0.15
      SON18 0.88+-0.16
      J-D18 0.82(+-0.13)

  17. So let's approach it this way, Web. We are approaching the May threshold. ENSO forecasts are for El Niño starting in the NH summer. Hopefully they've improved their forecast techniques after the 2014 fizzle.

    At this point do you see anything in the observations/data you follow that goes against that possibility... an El Niño.

  18. JCH - if you haven't been following WHUT's ENSO trials and tribulations, this is from his most recent post:

    1. Yeah, thanks Kevin for following the arc. I finally quit my full-time job a couple of weeks ago. I was only able to put in a few hours here and there with the ENSO analysis. But now that I can focus for long stretches, I think I have something firm. There's a magical differential equation that is part Mathieu equation and part delay-differential that captures the sloshing dynamics perfectly. Mathieu equations are favored by hydrodynamics engineers that study sloshing of volumes of water, while delay-differential equations are favored by ocean climatologists studying ENSO. So I figured why not put the two together and try to solve it on a spreadsheet?

      Of course a magical equation needs magical ingredients, so as stimulus I provided the only known forcing that could plausibly cause the thermocline sloshing -- the lunar long-period tidal pull. These have to be exact in period and phase or else the signals will destructively interfere over many years.

      It looks as if the noise in the ENSO signal is minimal. Just about any interval of the time-series can reconstruct any other interval. That's the hallmark of an ergodic stationary process with strong deterministic properties. It's essentially what oceanographers do with conventional tidal analysis -- train an interval of measured sea-level height gauge measurements against the known lunar periods and out pops an extrapolated tidal prediction algorithm.

      Basically what this infers is that Curry and Tsonis and the other deniers are flat wrong when they say that climate change on this multidecadal scale is chaotic.

      Just keep reading either my blog or Baez's forum where I will keep the discussion going.

      And another thing, I have a book deal lined up with Wiley/AGU titled "Mathematical GeoEnergy" which will be out next year where I will go through all the details.

    2. Kevin - back in the old days I used to follow the back and forth between web and the water chef at CargoCult Etc., which, while entertaining, was a total waste of web's time. I do not agree with the statement - the climate is a complex system. I think it is likely a fairly simple system toward which mankind has been persistently indifferent... we take it for granted... mostly because it is pretty predictable in terms of human lifespans. A person in his 20s was not, by default, stupid to pick up a cheap Miami lot for their retirement years. Those were the days.

      I've been hoping for success in his ENSO endeavor. It would be huge. All I can do is have hunches and keep it simple. My hunch was positive PDO, El Niño dominance, and a big global heatwave, which is shaping up to continue through 2017 and well into 2018.

    3. JCH, Perhaps the climate is only complex when dealing with vortices, i.e. hurricanes, etc. A standing wave behavior like ENSO is not a vortex and it has a chance to be simplified. Anyone that has done any physics has learned this from their undergrad classes. And the QBO behavior may be an anti-vortex type of standing wave, which also can be simplified.

      Yet, who knows if the vortex behavior can't at least be partially simplified. I spent some time discussing with a poster presenter at last year's AGU why he was looking at analyzing jet-stream patterns at higher latitudes while the behavior at the equator (i.e. the QBO) has a much better chance of being simplified. And then that could be used for evaluating higher latitude behavior as a stimulus. Recall that these vortices peel off the equator before developing into larger patterns. He didn't have a good answer.

      Curry, Tsonis, and the WaterChef probably don't know any physics and so play the chaos card and use that ignorance to pursue their political agendas. Too bad climate science has been toxified by Curry, Tsonis, Lindzen, and all their acolytes at CE, WUWT, Talkshop and the other swamps of disinformation.

    4. I think they know physics very well. On the ENSO front, the latest BOM forecast has backed off just a tad on El Niño in 2017.

    5. Some mixed signals along the equatorial Pacific. Surface warmth in Nino1+2 region dramatically subsided in late March, with subsurface temperatures apparently increasing in the same area. Presumably some kind of upwelling event?

      In the Central Pacific there's a growing subsurface cold blob centered around 100m down. So far the surface Nino3.4 indicator is largely unaffected but typically I think the subsurface pattern would precipitate Nino3.4 cooling over the next few months.

  19. Looks like we're heading for La Nina going into Winter. That means I expect 2018 will not average much different from 2017, both close to 2015 level. Then a probable new record in 2019.

    1. How does anyone know which way the ENSO behavior is heading if there is not a clear understanding of the underlying mechanism? (and wind is not a mechanism because that needs a mechanism)

    2. Check that.

      The closer one gets to a peak or valley, the safer it is to make a dead reckoning guess. For example, I can say a low tide is coming if it is coming off a high tide -- even if I have no idea what causes tides.

    3. Yet, if we understand the mechanism behind ocean tides, that it is the gravitational pull of the sun and the moon, we can do a much better job of prediction.

      The NYT suggests that climate science can make predictions as well as geophysicists can predict eclipses:

      But that's only true if climate science turns into a basic geophysics problem, on the complexity of tides.

    4. What about Gerald Meehl's explaining warm waters buildup in the western pacific provides the fuel to IPO transitions ? This explanation seems quite supported by the facts. A big El Nino like the last one could then kick a positive IPO, according to Meehl.Then, El Nino events are more likely as well with an accelerated warming trend in the coming years.
      El Nino's uncknowed causes ? A weakening of the trade winds is still a cause, and it has to happen sometime anyway. QBO may help trigger eastward flow, even if it's only an ingredient. And so positive wind-ocean feedback.
      Maybe we still don't know exactly when El Nino will happen again, it seems it is possible to say it is more likely in the coming years. And La Nina less likely ?

    5. Meehl's model for ENSO is but one of many and it doesn't explain what causes that buildup. Just another dog-chasing-its-tail theory.

      "QBO may help trigger eastward flow"

      Now you're talking. QBO is clearly forced by the nodal lunar cycle, which is also the main ingredient behind ENSO forcing. This provides either a common mode or a cooperative mechanism, whereby QBO winds and lunar forcing reinforce ENSO.

      Not widely appreciated, but tides are a significant contribution to ocean circulation:
      "In any case, tidal mixing (including internal waves due to tidal flow) may be the most important energy source driving the thermohaline circulation. Without tidal mixing, there would be virtually no stratification or motion in the deep ocean. For example, a large basin without midocean ridges, or an imaginary planet earth without the moon would have a dramatically different thermohaline circulation and climate. "

      Mixing and Energetics of the Oceanic Thermohaline Circulation:
      Journal of Physical Oceanography: Vol 29, No 4

      Perfectly reasonable to assume that lunar tidal force can impact ENSO just as it impacts the entire ocean.

    6. OK, but you probably agree that the western Pacific warmed a lot during the so-called hiatus while at the same time anomalous trade winds were observed. What about the Atlantic ocean warming ? With such warming, the ascending air of the Atlantic tends to dip over the eastern Pacific, reinforcing atmospheric pressure in this region. The enormous difference in pressure between the Atlantic and the Pacific has led to an unprecedented intensification of the trade winds, according to a New South Wales study in 2014.

    7. What causes the cyclical shifts in winds?

      People that are outside climate science see these circular arguments and just shake their head.

    8. The understanding is really this bad concerning the cause of ENSO. It's as if an ignorant engineer ascribed the reason for a potential buildup being caused by the electrical current running through the circuit. Yet invariably the situation is the converse: the current is the result of the external voltage applied.

      Replace electrical current with wind, and that's the state-of-the-art with respect to the science of ENSO.

    9. If atlantic ocean warming led to a strengthening of the trade winds then it's not circular, it's a forcing. That's if you agree atlantic warming is anthropogenic.

    10. There is a way to show that any two time intervals show the same underlying forcing. So, if we split up the modern-day ENSO time series into approximately equivalent 70 year intervals, we find essentially the same forcing.

      What's more, the same general forcing is found for all the ENSO proxy records, going back hundreds of years.

      This is not necessarily the easiest thing to do because the ENSO data is susceptible to noise, as cyclones passing through the area will cause fluctuations in the temperature and pressure data. Note that it is not possible to get much higher than 0.8 for a correlation coefficient between the NINO34 data and the SOI time-series data.

      Bottom line is that there is absolutely zero evidence that AGW has any impact on the ENSO behavior. Any research articles that try to show this are suspect, especially since they have no clue to the underlying lunar tidal mechanism. It's the blind leading the blind as far as I am concerned.

  20. I think it can be safely called. 2017 will be the 2nd warmest year in the GISS record, and since Dec looks to be warmer than Nov, it's pulling away.