According to a new NOAA report issued December 28, the current status of the El Niño that is driving the much-hyped ‘extreme weather’ may be the third-strongest since 1950. A far cry from being the worst El Niño in history that numerous media outlets are thundering and desperately trying to tie to global warming. Under NOAA’s El Niño Advisory system, they state that warmer-than-normal equatorial sea surface temperatures (SST) will continue across most of the Pacific Ocean and will “transition to normal SST conditions in the spring or early summer 2016.”
In fact, NOAA says the current El Niño event we are seeing has already peaked, and it isn’t the monster many mainstream media (MSM) outlets would have you believe. Because studying El Niños using sophisticated measuring devices only began a couple of decades ago, it’s impossible to say this current El Niño, or any other El Niño, was the strongest in history*. We can only go by what we have observed or are able to piece together using various methods at our disposal.
According to Emily Becker of NOAA, she cheekily chides the media for making such outlandish statements that this El Niño is a destroyer of worlds. It isn’t. “In the case of El Niño, sea surface temperatures are warmer than average, and the Walker Circulation, which operates like a vertical loop through the tropical Pacific atmosphere—is weakened,” Becker says. “This weakness shows up as more clouds and rain in the central and/or eastern Pacific and less over Indonesia, weaker near-surface winds (the trade winds, that usually blow from the east to the west), and weaker upper-level winds.”
Becker does a fine job of deconstructing a complicated topic so people can understand cause and effect. Unfortunately, the naturally occurring phenomenon is now being utilized by activists, politicians, and agenda-driven scientists to stoke fear about our future: El Niños are bad. But El Niños and global warming will spell our doom!
Why? Because New England saw a mild Christmas, while Texas got a foot of snow (cold Canadian air collides with moist Gulf air equals snow). These cold and warm fronts smash together to create tornadoes, wreaking havoc in their paths. But the “warmest winters in American history occurred from 1950-1954, when nearly one out of four January days was over 60 degrees and “Christmas Eve temperatures in the District of Columbia were above 65 degrees in 1964, 1982, 1965, 1932, 1889, and 1893.” Australia got inundated with floods (as it did in 1771), while less rain fell over parts of Asia.
If you read or hear the news, you would think these weather events had never happened before. They have. And worse. But with a soupçon of information, the blustery claim of global warming, you can pretty much say anything you want and the MSM will fall over themselves to get it broadcasted.
But Becker correctly points out that you have to look at changes that happen over seasonal timescales, and not just daily, weekly, and even monthly, instances. That applies equally to El Nińos and weather events (weather is not climate).
These ‘side effects’ also vary from one El Niño to another and have nothing to do with the one degree Fahrenheit of warming seen in the last 200 years based mainly on poorly situated U.S. weather-monitoring stations. And some man-made tinkering. This also applies to the lack of expected warming in our oceans, which have not heated up as predicted by global warming theory.
The lack of warming is so marginal (when compared to Earth’s historical record) it actually falls within the statistical margin of error. As Professor Judith Curry (and climate expert) writes: “The science is sufficiently uncertain to allow several rational narratives for what has caused 20th century warming and how the 21st century climate will evolve.”
As reported previously here, even the satellite record dataset shows no statistical warming for nearly the last 19 years. Since 1978**, orbiting satellites show “the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere has warmed just over 0.4 (about 0.73 degrees Fahrenheit) during the past 37 years.”
“The important effects of El Niño on the U.S. and other regions are related to its average strength over the fall and winter, not how strong it is on any particular day or week,” Becker explains. They judge how strong an El Niño was after reviewing the data on seasonal timescales, not on a particular day, week, or month (so stay calm and stop obsessing about weekly changes).
Since the El Niño is still occurring and expected to wind down by spring or early summer 2016, so-called climate experts trumpeting this as the strongest El Niño on record are at best premature, and worst, woefully uninformed. “The whole system is important,” Becker writes, “because there are feedbacks between the ocean and the atmosphere that help to strengthen El Niño.”
To understand how El Niños interact with other global systems, she explains that “weaker near-surface winds let the surface waters warm in the central and eastern Pacific. The warmer waters lead to more convection (rising warm air), which changes the circulation and further weakens the near-surface winds… and so on!” There’s no witchcraft or bogeymen involved, as it’s been occurring since sailors first noticed El Niño over 500 years ago.
All El Niño events are measured on a scale, somewhat like we have in place for hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. It allows scientists to gauge what appears to be normal or what is not (monitoring El Niños since 1950 is a regrettably short time period to call any one event a record-breaker since nobody can time travel to the 1500s and take the Pacific Ocean’s overall temperature).
Measuring the sea surface temperatures (upper 300 meters or roughly 1,000 feet) of the Pacific is also not the only data they look at when assigning an El Niño event a rank or score. They also measure the atmospheric temperatures just above the sea surface.
So what exactly is warming the equatorial Pacific and sea surface atmosphere above it? As Becker explains, the SSTs are “driven by a large amount of warmer water under the surface: without a big source of warmth, short-term fluctuations would dominate and we wouldn’t have an El Niño.” These warmer-than-normal waters heat the atmosphere above it.
One theory put forth by veteran geologist James Kamis is that tectonic activity (increased faulting and volcanic activity) beneath the equatorial Pacific ocean releases enormous amounts of heat and fluid, which in turn warms the surface of the water. Throw in weaker trade winds, weaker upper-level winds, and you have the perfect recipe for an El Niño.
Since the current El Niño peaked in early December, it’s likely safe to say that it will be in the top three, and is in a statistical dead heat with the 1997-98 El Niño event (unlike hurricanes, El Niños don’t have names, just the years associated with them). Until then, be prepared for phenomenal pandemonium, cosmic-wide chaos, and power-mad proclamations.
*El Niños are a natural phenomenon that have been documented by seafarers for hundreds of years.
**We sometimes refer to the satellite record as starting in 1979. In actuality, it started in Nov. 1978. Since 10 months of 1978 are not available, it is excluded in most articles/datasets.