What’s the worst sin of all? If you agree with the Greek playwrights it would have to be hubris — or pride so terrible that it results in blindness. For the fossil fuel industry and its sock puppets — like Anthony Watts and Bob Tisdale — hubris probably best describes their response to anything climate change related.
Hollow Laughter at Climate Monsters
A year and a half ago, these fossil fuel industry supported purveyors of climate change denial quackery derided this blog for reporting on the risk of a potential Monster El Nino emerging in 2014 and 2015. They claimed the researchers and experts here knew nothing about El Nino. They used the fact that I sometimes write fiction as a kind of flimsy ad-hominem support to this blatantly false claim. Lacking any creativity or freedom of expression, they continued to rattle off their authoritarian, scripted, boiled-down, Heartland-produced talking points.
(The warm Kelvin Wave that never really went away. Strong Westerlies during 2014 and 2015 shoved extremely warm Pacific Ocean waters eastward where they eventually backed up to the surface, setting off a series of record and near record ocean temperature events. Image source: NOAA.)
The misrepresentations they developed were as contrived as they were tortured — Pacific Ocean heat content was normal, they said. The underlying heat imbalance was not capable of resulting in a monster El Nino event, they claimed. Global warming didn’t exist to the point that it could have any impact on El Nino, they asserted. It was all just one more scam in their endless bid to de-inform the public and pretend the climate change elephant in the room doesn’t exist at all. Just one more fossil fuel industry cover-up at the tail of a nearly endless list.
They did this even as they continued to ignore and attack the relevant science and its scientific luminaries — both standard and climate change related. And so blinded, they laughed and laughed like fools drunk on their own special interest inspired logical fallacies as the potential for a monster event grew.
More than anything else, it’s a cautionary tale. If you listen to Bob Tisdale or Watts (a man who uses his last name to throw derision at our understanding of Earth’s Energy imbalance), more than likely you’re going to end up being surprised by what’s coming down the pipe. So better not to buy into their nonsense and end up as blind to future risks as they are, or worse, contribute to those risks by failing to support a rapid reduction of fossil fuel burning.
Hitting 5 C Positive Anomaly
In July of 2015, as we initially warned may happen, sea surface temperature anomalies hit above 5 C in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific. Though the first Kelvin waves failed to achieve this mark, the ocean and atmospheric heat imbalances remained and wave after warm wave just kept shoving more heat into the El Nino firing zone.
(On July 10, 2015, something that Anthony Watts and Bob Tisdale believed wouldn’t happen happened — sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific hit a +5.1 C positive anomaly. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)
These waves were fed by an endless series of Westerlies in the Western Pacific pushing the hot surface waters down and eastward. Firing off throughout 2014 and 2015, some of these MJO related westerlies were so strong as to have hit record marks. A monstrous El Nino was fighting to break out and there wasn’t any kind of oceanic or atmospheric inertia that appeared to be able to hold it back.
Subsurface heat was skyrocketing. And by Spring of this year upper ocean heat anomalies had hit and were maintaining a range between 1.4 and 1.8 C above average. By August, a westerly wind burst that continued for more than 40 days running had shoved the upper ocean anomalies into the range of nearly 2 C above average.
The massive heat pulses hit the surface and then steadily rippled westward. The spiking temperature anomalies were so strong as to set off a record longest period for +1 C above ‘average’ temperatures for all El Nino zones. A period that finally ended with this week’s NOAA El Nino report as values again dipped to 0.9 C positive anomaly in the Nino 4 zone.
Central Pacific Heat Rockets into Monster El Nino Range
But in the critical Nino 3.4 zone, temperatures continued their steady climb. As of this week, readings had hit a +1.9 C anomaly in that benchmark. In other words, the current El Nino just rocketed past the 1.8 C monster event threshold without so much as a blink.
It’s a very high reading for August when we’re still supposed to be building toward an El Nino predicted to peak in October or November. A reading that is already in the range of a monster event in the weekly monitor. A reading that, even if it were to simply maintain, would mark one of the most intense El Ninos on record.
(Nino 3.4 hits Monster event threshold in the NOAA monitor as of this week’s most recent update. Image source: NOAA.)
But the heat build into Nino 3.4 appears to be steadily ramping up. The warm Kelvin wave and powerful upper ocean heat anomalies continue along their path of rebound to mid ocean. An upper ocean heat pulse as strong as it’s ever been throughout 2014 and 2015. All of it on a rendezvous with the Central Pacific over the next 4-12 weeks.
Heat Pulse Ahead of Most Models
The jump to 1.9 C thresholds this week came as a bit of a surprise as the corrected consensus models NOAA uses point toward only 1.5 C to 1.7 C departures for August steadily warming to around 1.9 to 2.1 C above average readings by October and November. Such predictions are still enough to put the 2014-2015 El Nino in the range of top 3 events on record. But the jump to 1.9 C follows more along the pathways predicted by the UKMO to ECMWF ensembles — whose guidance shows mid ocean warming hitting 2.2 to even 3 C above average readings. Temperatures hitting such high marks in the Equatorial Pacific would exceed the maximum values seen during even the record 1997-1998 event.
(It’s getting very warm in the Central Equatorial Pacific. Sea surface temperature anomalies, which this map tracks, are at 3 C hotter than average in many regions of the Nino 3.4 zone ranging from 180 to 120 East Longitude. A level of heat that’s well ahead of some of the more conservative model guidance. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)
Overall, it looks as though the most likely 3 month average for the 2014 to 2015 event is in the range of +1.6 to +2.5 C putting the current El Nino tracking in the strong-to-monstrous range that we’ve been highlighting as a possibility for the past year and a half.
Conditions in Context
In the context of human-caused climate change such a powerful El Nino occurring during 2015 means that global average temperatures are likely to continue to hit new record high marks. The heat bleed off the Pacific Ocean is, for lack of a better word, massive. And not just in the Equatorial regions. The vast majority of the North Pacific features above average temperatures. The hot blob in the Northeastern Pacific remains firmly entrenched and a related south to north heat transport over Alaska and into the Pacific side of the Arctic remains firmly in place.
With these conditions so dug in, there is rising risk that the heat plume coming off a near record El Nino may be headed north. This could have severe implications for an already terrible set of polar amplification related conditions in the Arctic. Such a powerful heat plume would also reinforce storminess along a broad band from the south and eastern US and on across the North Atlantic where a climate change related cool pool (associated with Gulf Stream slowdown, AMOC weakening, and Greenland melt) is already in the process of intensifying the storm track. The result is a potential teleconnection between El Nino and a number of already well established climate change related patterns.
Climate Change Denial vs Active Event Tracking Aimed at Informing the Public
As for the fossil fuel industry funded deniers — I’m sure they’ll have a number of derisive things to say about this science-based analysis. For though I’m not a scientist (I’m an emerging threats expert), I do read the science (over 1,000 reports and papers so far on climate change alone). I listen to what scientists have to say rather than constantly attacking and attempting to undermine their positions. And to help me, I have scores of other experts and laypersons who often post their own fantastic analysis and reports in the comments section here. So what you find here is an honest effort by concerned people to keep track of a growing climate crisis and what you have over at Watts and Tisdale is, conversely, an active industry-based cover-up.
Since jump, those fossil fuel industry serfs have been attacking the pillars of climate science and the great scientists who’ve advanced our understanding of human caused climate change. Luminaries like Hansen, Mann, Schmidt, Francis, Trenberth, Wadhams, Shakhova, and Archer. They’ve attacked even the conservative reports of the IPCC. And they’ve attacked the people here — in some way thinking that we quail at the over-used term ‘alarmist.’
But we need not worry about them. Their endless quibbling represents little more than a constantly running and vicious commercial for the fossil fuel industry. Just as slanted, inaccurate, manipulative, and special interest focused. And as with any other annoying commercial the best thing to do is to simply hit the off button. We have far more important things to do than to overly concern ourselves with such shallow corporate mercenaries. We have threats to identify, policies to support, and lives to save. Them we’ll leave to their foundering and increasingly amoral corporate masters.
(Please support public, non-special interest based science like the fantastic work done by NOAA and without which this report would not have been possible.)