Arctic Warmth to Play the Spoiler? Ocean Surface, Atmosphere Show Anomalous Heat Spike in Advance of Predicted El Nino

Pacific Ocean monitoring stations around the world are now calling for a 50-67 percent chance of El Nino later this year. A warming of the Eastern Pacific that, should it emerge, is likely to result in record atmospheric and ocean temperatures as the human greenhouse gas heat forcing emerges, once more, from the oceans. But, so far, the Eastern Pacific remains in a somewhat cool ENSO-nuetral state. It is a trend that should lead to global atmospheric temperature averages somewhat hotter than the ocean surface. A trend that should not show ocean temperatures spiking, with atmospheric values rising at a slower rate.

But over the past week, according to both GFS model assessments and NOAA observational data, average global ocean surface temperatures have been surging.

sst.daily.anom1

(Sea surface temperature anomaly from the already warmer than normal 1971 to 2000 base period. Image source: NOAA.)

Large zones of well above average sea surface temperature now cover vast regions of the global ocean system so that anomalous heat now is plainly the dominant feature. Pools of hotter than typical water where averages range from 1 to 4 C above normal now appear off both coasts of South America, through the Indian Ocean between Africa and Australia, off the East Coast of the United States, south of Alaska and in a zone stretching from Norway to Svalbard. By contrast only small cool zones remain in the Eastern Pacific, in the passage between South America and Antarctica, in a swatch of the Tropical Atlantic near Africa, and in isolated regions of the Central and Western Pacific.

Arctic Warmth Drives Temperatures Higher

But the zone of hottest temperatures appear, according to GFS model data below, in the Arctic, where much of the surface waters and ice sheet are warmer than average by 4 C or more. This heat bleed from the Arctic Ocean tips Northern Hemisphere values far above average and is a primary contributor to Arctic atmospheric temperatures in the range of 3-4 C above average (1979-2000) for mid to late March.

During the past few days, the effect of this warm surface was enough to drive temperature anomalies for the oceans higher than .9 degrees Celsius above the 1979 to 2000 global average according to GFS observational data. Understanding that the 1979 to 2000 global sea surface temperature (SST) average was already about .28 C above the 1880s average, we are now seeing SST daily values in excess of 1.18 C above 1880s averages before El Nino comes into play.

TS_anom_satellite1

(Sea surface temperature anomaly for March 18, 2014 vs the, already warmer than normal, 1979-2000 average. Image source: University of Maine.)

Even more impressive are the sea surface temperature values seen during the past two days (March 17-18) — hitting a .99 C positive anomaly or +1.27 C above 1880s values.

For comparison, the global sea surface temperature average for 2013, according to the National Climate Data Center, was .42 degrees Celsius above the 1880s average and the hottest year for ocean surface temperatures, 2003, was .52 degrees Celsius hotter than the 1880s average. The average for the past two days, should the GFS observation stand, is +.75 above the highest annual average on record.

Daily values for even the entire ocean system can show rather large swings, but this high temperature trend is somewhat new and has been ongoing now for about a week.

Oceans dumping heat into the atmosphere without El Nino

By contrast, global atmospheric temperatures within the first two meters, according to the same GFS data, are, on March 18, .69 C above the 1979-2000 average. It is a reading .3 C below current sea surface temperature values. Yet it is also a reading about 1 C over 1880s values and about .3 C above annual global high temperature records set in 2010.

With ocean surface temperatures higher than 2 meter air temperatures, it appears the ocean is now dumping some of its latent heat back into the atmosphere through radiative transfer. This is a situation opposite of what has been observed for much of the past 13-14 years running when Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) went negative and the oceans underwent rapid warming as they sucked up atmospheric heat.

What we now observe in the preliminary GFS data is evidence that the ocean is dumping a bit of this stored and massive volume of heat back into the atmosphere. And we are seeing significant positive oceanic and atmospheric heat forcing well before any major level of Eastern Pacific Ocean warming and associated El Nino have come into play.

Links:

NOAA ESRL

University of Maine

National Climate Data Center

UCAR GFS

UCAR: El Nino or La Nada?

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42 Comments

  1. uknowispeaksense

     /  March 18, 2014

    Reblogged this on uknowispeaksense.

    Reply
  2. Mark Archambault

     /  March 18, 2014

    Interesting how cold the water temp anomalies are off the coast of equatorial Africa and South America. You’d expect colder than average temperatures off the South American coast in a La Nina, correct? If so, it looks like it’s still hanging on. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Reply
    • Yes. But the average negative is about .4 C. You need values in this zone to hit – 1C for there to be even a weak La Nina.

      In the range of -.5 C to +.5 C you end up with the neutral phase condition or what researchers jokingly call La Nada. You trend toward El Nino or La Nina when you get out of this range but it’s generally not called an El Nino or a La Nina until you get extended periods around +/- 1 C. The strong events have anomalies greater than 1.5 to 2 C.

      Reply
  3. Mark Archambault

     /  March 18, 2014

    And the arctic ocean, hot damn! Literally.

    Reply
    • Air and sea surface in that region are much warmer than average.

      Reply
      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 18, 2014

        Since its now the end of the arctic winter, those hot zones in the arctic are still covered by sea ice – so I take it these SST readings are of the air just above the ice sheet? If so, how high up above the surface?

        Reply
        • Ice surface temps readings are based on IR satellite observation. In this case, it’s the ice surface heat content.

  4. Jay M

     /  March 19, 2014

    Live in SF, this is what MSM is putting out there as possible solutions, not trying to be OT or shill this system:
    http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/California-drought-Solar-desalination-plant-5326024.php
    “That heated tube in turn creates steam, which condenses the brackish water into usable liquid, separating out the minerals. ” ie distillation–says contaminants can be sold as vitamins–am I misreading this?
    Anyway one could go on and on about capital cost, distribution cost and disposal of toxics, but magic, because capitalism?

    Reply
  5. Here’s a good compilation of links with regards to the last month’s worth of bad news. This guy could save you some time, Colorado Bob.

    http://truth-out.org/news/item/22483-a-world-of-environmental-degradation-all-in-just-one-month

    Reply
  6. Andy

     /  March 19, 2014

    I’m certain we’ve all seen the pending report on impact coming out at the end of the month. Various little bits are finding their way into various sites / news sites. One tidbit I saw last night was a decrease of agricultural yield of 2% per decade colliding with an increase in demand of 14% per decade.

    The summary will be 76 pages. I think it will be very interesting, and well thought out. I look forward to reading it.

    Reply
    • Mark Archambault

       /  March 19, 2014

      Andy,

      Are you referring to the new IPCC report? Some other report?

      Reply
      • Andy

         /  March 19, 2014

        Mark,

        Yes, I’m referring to the new pending report. It’s slated to release in a week or 2. I think it is AR5. Pretty gloomy but lots of good work from what I understand. I guess there has been some leaked info (seems to be the norm for everything now).

        Reply
        • If this is an IPCC prediction, then we are really in trouble. They tend to be rather conservative RE risk scenarios.

    • Destruction of viable agricultural land due to climate change meets population and consumption increase. In other words, Growth Shock. We need to accept new boundary limits in order to weather this section of the crisis. Immediate response is to eat less meat, stop using fossil fuels, tax the nonproductive elite resource base and redistribute those resources to effective solutions, and deploy every strategy possible to make farming more sustainable. Long term response requires population restraint and reduction.

      Reply
      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 19, 2014

        Robert,

        I agree 100%, but how are we to get the House and Senate Republicans on board? Not to mention the growth at any costs Democrats? (substitute liberal and conservative for your respective countries)

        Reply
        • Never vote for a republican again. Push the democratic party to become more like Bernie Sanders. We don’t need to change everyone. We just need the strength of moral initiative on our side. And we need to start getting clever.

        • Run independents like Bernie Sanders against the pro-environmental wreckage dems.

  7. Mark Archambault

     /  March 19, 2014

    Robert,

    Non-sequitor: Regarding your book “Growth Shock”, can one get a copy or read it without having a Kindle? Is it available as a PDF?

    Thanks, Mark

    Reply
    • I am going to post chapters here starting this weekend. The effort will be to raise money for 350.org and The Keeling Curve to support CO2 monitoring. As a part of that, we’ll have epub/PDF versions available for download.

      Reply
      • Mark Archambault

         /  March 19, 2014

        Great news on your Growth Shock book. And I’m a supporter of Bernie Sanders, both philosophically and with small donations. I hope he runs in 2016, if only to inject some truth into the proceedings.

        We certainly don’t need another neo-liberal like Hillary Clinton as president, or someone even worse like Marco Rubio. But that’s my prediction for the staged ‘race’ of 2016: Clinton vs. Rubio. If Rubio gets in we’ll likely be able to offset global warming with nuclear winter, er… not so good either.

        Nonetheless, I’ll pound the pavement for Bernie. He certainly has more ‘gravitas’ than Dennis Kucinich.

        Reply
        • If Bernie runs in 2016, I will throw my whole weight behind him if only to increase prospects for having him as a Hillary running mate.

          Hillary had better change her neo-liberal tune, as far as I’m concerned. Far better than that idiot Rubio, though.

  8. Charles

     /  March 19, 2014

    Has any of you looked into CoolPlanet biofuel technology?
    * carbon negative
    * small plants create gasoline and biochar directly from biomass
    * the biochar is ground and worked into agricultural soil, sequestering carbon for 100s of years
    * big name investors like Google, and some oil companies
    * they’ll begin production this year
    * rapid rollout plans
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterdetwiler/2013/12/11/cool-planet-a-company-that-makes-biochar-and-gasoline/

    http://andrewbellay.com/the-carbon-neutral-pipedream-transcript/
    Since civilization seems to be opting for the “all of the above” energy policy, I find it hopeful that this technology is carbon negative, in the sense that the inputs are a renewable resource and biochar is a by-product. Of course, the biochar needs to be sequestered, not burnt. And, I suppose the biochar needs to be sequestered in such a way that future generations won’t think of it as “ore.” I hate having hope – it’s always been dashed before. The cynic in me thinks investors are saying, sure biochar sounds great, but we can always sell it as fuel in a pinch.

    Reply
  9. Andy

     /  March 19, 2014

    I think it says volumes regarding the Keeling monitor.

    They need $1 million to operate per year.

    In 2012, David Koch earned $3 million/hour as did his brother.

    http://www.salon.com/2013/11/27/4_ways_the_koch_brothers_wealth_is_incomprehensible_partner/

    And it will be those of us who earn and eat, and hope we have a buck left over who will keep the CO2 monitor operating.

    Those in power can fix this, but they can make a lot more dollars if they don’t.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    Quote from 1894 report by the State Fish and Game Commissioner of North Dakota

    Present needs and present gains was the rule of action—which seems to be a sort of transmitted quality which we in our now enlightened time have not wholly outgrown, for even now a few men can be found who seem willing to destroy the last tree, the last fish and the last game bird and animal, and leave nothing for posterity, if thereby some money can be made.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Quote from me … today.

    History will view those people in the employ of income at any cost in the same light as we now view the monsters from the past who have done untold misery upon others. We despise them, despise their parents, despise their heirs, most of all we despise our inaction.

    Reply
    • Andy

       /  March 19, 2014

      You know…the moment you press [submit] you want to rework what you posted.

      +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
      Quote from me … today (version 2.0)

      History will view those people in the employ of income at any cost in the same light as we now view the monsters from the past who have done untold misery upon others. We despise them, despise their actions, despise their parents, despise their contempt for nature, humanity and the future, we despise their heirs, but most of all we despise our inaction.

      Reply
    • If there are survivors, today’s monsters will be the worst and most reviled, ever. So long as history is told with any regard whatsoever for actual events.

      Reply
  10. Been watching “Ice Cold Gold” on the Discovery Channel , 7 pecker heads mining on the Southwest coast of Greenland. The usual cable TV drama, but they are about 100 miles south of Nuuk , and it is amazing .

    The discharge off the ice sheet , the scraped geology . It’s all just amazing.

    They went after gold, they found rubies. Greenland does not stand a chance , it’ll the biggest boomtown the world has ever seen.

    Reply
  11. Given how fast we turned up the burner , I always felt that these giant cycles we just learned about , would break down . As the folks said yesterday this may be the most rapid climate change in the last 65 million years.

    Reply
    • Probably true. Michael Mann is showing model estimates that hit 2 C by 2036. That is devastatingly fast. We get 1/4 of all the ice age warming that took 10,000 years in just 22. The weather, ice loss and other impacts from such a rise is vicious.

      I feel somewhat validated in that the formula for CO2e Mann uses is roughly equivalent to my own extrapolation from the various papers on radiative forcing.

      Reply
  12. Climate Change comes tomorrow , not next week.

    Reply
  1. Another Week of Global Warming News, March 23, 2014 [A Few Things Ill Considered] | Gaia Gazette

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