Polar Amplification vs a Godzilla El Nino — Is the Pacific Storm Track Being Shoved North by Arctic Warming?

It’s an El Nino year. One of the top three strongest El Ninos on record. The strongest by some NOAA measures. And we are certainly feeling its effects all over the world. From severe droughts in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America, to Flooding in the Central and Eastern US, Southern Brazil, and India, these impacts, this year and last, have been extreme and wide-ranging. During recent days, Peru and Chile saw enormous ocean waves and high tides swamping coastlines. Record flooding and wave height events for some regions. All impacts related to both this powerful El Nino and the overall influence of human-forced warming by more than 1 C above 1880s temperatures on the whole of the hydrological cycle.

Amped up by a global warming related 7 percent increase in atmospheric water vapor (and a related increase in evaporation and precipitation over the Earth’s surface), many of these El Nino related impacts have followed a roughly expected pattern (you can learn more about typical El Nino patterns and links to climate change related forcings in this excellent video by Dr Kevin Trenberth here). However, so far, some of the predicted kinds of events you’d typically see during a strong El Nino have not yet emerged. A circumstance that may also be related to the ongoing human-forced warming of the globe.

Storm Track Not Making it Far Enough South

Particularly, there has been an absence of powerful storms running in over Southern California then surging on into Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas. During strong El Nino events, heat and moisture bleeding off the super-warmed Equator have typically fed powerful storms racing across the Pacific. These storms have tended to engulf the entire US Pacific Coast from San Diego through to Seattle. However, much of the storm energy is often directed further south toward Central and Southern California.

Ridiculously Resilient Ridge Returns

(A massive Pacific storm being warded off by high pressure systems over the US West Coast on Tuesday, January 26th. Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

These storms tend to run over regions that are typically much drier. So strong El Ninos of the past have often generated abnormal and memorable storms and rains. But this year there has been, mostly, an abscense of such events. Storms have slammed into Northern California, Oregon, been deflected back into the coasts of Canada and Alaska, or even been bottled up near the Aleutian Island Chain.

But today, a high pressure cell dominates the western US, warding off a powerful storm system. The storm, howling just south of Alaska and pushing out average 60 foot wave heights and hurricane force winds across the Pacific, is predicted to rebound toward Alaska where it will become bottled up in the Bering sea and push above freezing temperatures into the Arctic Beaufort Sea during Winter. The storms and rains will steer far away from Southern California and even much of California altogether.

Rainfall Patterns Have Tended Toward the North, Contrary to NOAA’s Seasonal Predictions


NOAA Precipitation

(NOAA precipitation quantities prediction for the coming week is indicative a continued northward shift of the Pacific Storm track. Image source: NOAA.)

It’s a pattern more reminiscent of some strange ridiculously resilient ridge (RRR) than that of a strong El Nino. And though storms later this week are again predicted to slam into the Northwest and weekly rainfall totals are expected to rise to near 1 inch for parts of Southern California, the path of these storms and related moisture flows are quite a bit further north than one would expect for a year in which strong El Nino was the dominant feature.

The moisture flow, instead, so far has tended northward across the upper and central tiers of the US even as the El Nino related moisture bleed toward the Gulf and East Coasts has remained quite intense. Such observed weather is both contrary to what we’ve tended to know about Strong El Nino and to NOAA’s seasonal forecasts which had predicted much more rain for the southwest than what we’ve seen so far.

Seasonal Outlook NOAA

(NOAA three month outlook is more in line with traditional strong El Nino forecasts bringing strong storms in through the southwestern US. We currently do not see a prevalence of that particular pattern. Image source: NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.)

Polar Warming + Hot Blob Tugging the Storm Track Northward?

Since weather patterns related to El Nino are an aspect of global atmospheric dynamics — teleconnections between the influence of an excess of hot air and heavy rainfall at the Equator and of large scale atmospheric wave patterns downstream, you have to wonder if there isn’t some kind of influence competing with El Nino on a global scale. One with enough oomph to nudge the Pacific Storm Track northward.

Hot Blob Pacific Northwest

(The Hot Blob is still a dominant feature of ocean waters in the Pacific Northwest. Is its influence helping to pull the Pacific Storm Track northward during a strong El Nino year? Image source: Earth Nullschool.)

The first likely suspect is the pool of still much warmer than normal sea surface temperatures lurking off the US West Coast. Though somewhat diminished from their peak during 2014 and 2015, the waters in the hot blob off California, Oregon, Washington, Canada and Alaska are still in the range of 1 to 3 C above average. A very large region of significantly warmer than normal ocean surfaces that wasn’t present during the 1982-83 and 1997-1998 super El Ninos. And much of the warmest anomalies are now centered much further to the north along the coast of Alaska.

But the second potential player is likely even more significant. And that would be an ongoing and extreme warming of the northern polar region. Heating at the Pole generates less thermal gradient between the higher Latitudes and the Equator. And such a lessened gradient would tend to impact the strength of the circumpolar winds that drive weather systems and storm tracks. In particular, the overall warming of the globe would tend to pull these storm tracks northward even as the loss of thermal gradient would tend to enhance wave patterns in the Jet Stream.


Polar Amplification January 26

(Polar Amplification shown as very intense in the January 26 Climate Reanalyzer graphic. Is Polar Amplification helping to shove the Pacific Storm Track northward even during a record strong El Nino year? If so, it’s bad news for long term moisture levels in the US Southwest. Image source: Climate Reanalyzer.)

Perhaps also specifically related to this ongoing polar amplification, we find that two warm slots — one over the Barents and far North Atlantic east of Greenland and another over the Bering — have tended to develop during recent Winter years. These slots have often served as staging areas for warm air invasions of the Arctic. But what they also represent are regions of water that have been freshly liberated from their sea ice coverings. As such, these vast regions of water serve as heat transport and ventilation zones. And all this extra heat energy may be sucking the related North Atlantic and North Pacific Storm tracks into what may well be described as an oceanic and atmospheric trap.

If such a situation where the case, we’d tend to see a dipole of warm east, cold west in the storm trap regions. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen more and more of with Greenland and Siberia serving as the backdrops to reinforce this tendency. Thus setting up the stage for cold air slots cutting through Northeast Siberia and Northeast Canada and warm, wet air slots over Alaska and the UK.

The question to be asked is, then, are these new influences related to human-forced warming also now doing battle with El Nino for control over the Pacific Storm Track? And has that influence increased enough to dramatically nudge that track northward? We may find the answer to that question in what happens to the direction of powerful Pacific Storms over the next few months. But early indications seem to be that polar warming and the related hot blob may have thrown a wrench in the kinds of El Nino storms that we’ve been used to.


El Nino Related Waves, Floods Strike Chile

Dr Kevin Trenberth on El Nino and Climate Change

Earth Nullschool

Climate Reanalyzer

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center


The United States Drought Monitor

Hat Tip to Colorado Bob

Hat Tip to DT Lange

Hat Tip to Andy in San Diego

Leave a comment


  1. Tom

     /  January 26, 2016

    There’s no way i’m the first to comment here. Robert – YOU’RE ON A ROLL! Great job.

  2. Abel Adamski

     /  January 26, 2016

    Expect the unexpected

  3. Please remember in future to replace England with the UK. Thanks ( from a Scot!)

  4. Jeremy

     /  January 27, 2016

    Cumbria flooded – again!

    “Village of Glenridding under water for fourth time this winter, while Environment Agency issues flood alerts across the UK”


  5. redskylite

     /  January 27, 2016

    Thanks for the narrative on the unexpected deviations we are experiencing, it must be a demanding time for those studying meteorology or atmospheric physics, so much turned on it’s head.

    Interesting commentary in today’s ARS Technica on the recent Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory study that concludes “Half the ocean’s warming has come in the last couple decades”. This painstaking study does not appear to have stimulated much interest or comment in the mainstream media (so far) which is a pity, when I think about how the B.B.C world news featured the “hiatus”, and even interviewed James Hansen on it, it is staggering to think how quickly the heat has built up in the oceans, over just the last 20 years. It would suggest we have hit a tipping point on atmospheric CO2 concentration, where the radiative blocking is really beginning to bite. Steady near linear trends may well be a luxury of the past. Since the 1980’s I was listening to the great science historian James Burk warning us, now a new generation continues his message, thanks heavens, but the time to act is much less now, and the progress so slow.

    Half the ocean’s warming has come in the last couple decades

    “For example, the researchers point out the surprising fact that half the total accumulation of heat energy since 1865 occurred after 1996. That’s how quickly warming has taken off over the past few decades.
    Additionally, we get a better estimate of how to apportion warming between those three layers of the ocean. Almost two-thirds of the heat energy added to the oceans has accumulated in the upper 700 meters, with another 15 percent below 2,000 meters, and 20 percent in between.”


    • redskylite

       /  January 27, 2016

      more haste, less speed. Sorry for misspelling your surname James (Burke)

    • redskylite

       /  January 27, 2016

      Here is the interview with BBC and James Hansen (courtesy of the greenman) . . . Can we now look forward a BBC interview on the Ocean Heat growth ? – thanks BBC appreciated your concern

      Hansen Corrects BBC on Climate Warming

      • James Burton

         /  January 27, 2016

        BBC is so disgusting now days I can hardly bare to listen to that woman bang on and on. She obviously has her researchers and editors behind her, pulling the strings on her mouth. They put Hansen on simply to try and bushwhack him, and plant a good dose of doubt into the listening public. No matter what facts Hansen has, she can just not stop asking the same silly question, even after it has been explained. And the very idea that Global Warming is an air temperature event, and nothing more, drives me mad. Oceans make up most of earth, global warming is going to warm them more, and some of that heat will bleed out into the atmosphere and heat the air temperatures.
        This was an ambush interview, by an organization that now serves Britain’s corporate interests. I know plenty of Brits who are also disgusted with this former great news agency.

  6. Andy in SD

     /  January 27, 2016

    Current forecast says a dash of rain Sunday, likely not much. I’ve been watching Windyty forecasts which show immense bands of precipitation which peter out before they hit us in So Cal.

    Currently in the Blob -vs- El Nino war, the Blob is winning and pushing it further north as you’ve eloquently stated Robert.

    How is the “digging out” going?

  7. Andy in SD

     /  January 27, 2016

    Robert, did you look at the wave heights forecast to hit Ireland this weekend? Yikes!

    • Yikes is right 30 foot waves striking Ireland within a day, 39 foot waves forecast for Monday on the northwest coast. That’s just nuts. Two such periods coming in back to back life that. And I see Cumbria has flooded for the 4th time. …

  8. Although I think you’re basically correct in that expectations for rainfall in Southern California have not been met, during the last extreme El Nino, here in Los Angeles, February had the highest precipitation totals, by far. Some parts of Los Angeles had more than 20 inches of rain during February of 1998* while total precipitation in January that year was only about 4 inches; this year we’ve had a little under 3 inches but it’s also likely to rain this weekend. On the other hand, the strong El Nino of 1972/73 delivered a truly astonishing amount of rain to Los Angeles (over 36 inches) and February that year followed up with another 12.5 inches. (Peopler were kayaking down the street. It was surreal). The local papers (LA Times, OC Register) have been publishing articles suggesting that February is typically when heavy rains arrive during El Ninos. But data at weather underground indicates that Los Angeles can have extremely high precipitation totals in Jan or Feb or both during an El Nino year.

    In any case, snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is about 116 percent of normal, which is good but not good enough so we’ll keep our fingers crossed for a better February.

    Thank you for your incredible dedication to explaining the causes and risks associated with climate change, both the basic and the nuanced. It’s inspirational!

    *see page 12 of this NOAA technical report on El Nino 1997/98 for rainfall totals in Southern California during Feb 1998 (Chatsworth and UCLA, both in L.A., had over 20 inches of rain that month)


    • Thanks for the report reference, squid. February is the test month, isn’t it? Putting this blog out as a marker. Will do an update as more reports come in.

  9. Griffin

     /  January 27, 2016

    Again a great thought-provoking post Robert! The elephant in the room is the drought. It is still there and each day of winter that goes by without meaningful relief is a day in which the drought grows stronger.

  10. Eric Blake ‏@EricBlake12 1h1 hour ago

    .@TropicalTidbits It is the @NOAA @NOAA_ESRL #ElNino rapid response field campaign

  11. doug

     /  January 27, 2016


    I want to thank you for allowing this site to be a community-based site and that you allow and encourage posts that are “off topic” but nonetheless are in the spirit of addressing climate change.

    In that light, I would like to solicit both you and your readers with a little advice. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on climate change and some of it’s likely impacts, however I would appreciate other’s opinions. I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico and have joined up over the last year with an organization known as Transition Towns. We are in many cities around the world and our focus is helping society “transition” to a fossil fuel free world. I encourage your readers to check out the website and join up, or start your own Transitions group where you live. http://www.transitionnetwork.org

    It’s a bunch of good and focused individuals who are way ahead of the curve on climate change. What I like about them, is that they are actively involved in helping us to change. So, they have moved beyond the “deer in the headlights” approach to our coming situation.

    I am going to be leading a discussion next week on what climate impacts we can expect to be hit with here in Albuquerque, and New Mexico, with a view towards preparing for them. Part of my talk is going to be focused on the impacts but also in what time frame we would expect them.

    I think perhaps the biggest thing we need to be concerned with in Albuquerque say in the time frame of the next several decades is food security, and I think it is a very difficult problem to solve. Because we live in a desert with bad soils, I don’t know if it’s practical to think we can grow food locally to support the population. It seems to me that we will always rely on shipping it in from far away. People do grow food here, but it is a challenge.

    I have read studies that say that a break down of sorts in “civilization” is quite possible with climate change, and some think that could happen in the mid-century time frame. That sounds like a long ways off, but 2050 is only 34 years away. What I am concerned about is a break down of food transportation networks, because if that happens, we might be in big trouble here in N.M. because as I said, having a local functioning economy is a challenge or impossibility in the desert.

    But if I had to pick one thing I think we need to be prepare for the most with respect to climate change, I think it is food, even more so than water. I have talked to hydrologists and other water experts, and it is my opinion that although cutbacks in water are likely in the next several decades, we *should* be okay in that department until at least the second half of the century. I know others are more pessimistic on this than me.

    As far as other impacts go, heat waves in my opinion are not as big a concern here than in many other areas of the country. What is a killer with heat waves is not being able to cool off at night, especially for the elderly. Albuquerque and much of New Mexico is at a very high elevation so it does not get as hot here as it does in many other areas of the Southwest. Also, because we live in the desert it’s always going to cool off considerably at night. A lot of people are concerned about “wet bulb” temperatures in the next several decades, but that should not be a concern here. Wet bulb temperatures are when you have a combination of heat and humidity. It is feared that by the later part of this century there will be enough of these days that life could be threatened. Again, that is not as much of a concern here, because of our lack of humidity.

    Drought as you know is one of our biggest concerns here in the Southwest. I have read many studies about this, and frankly it is inevitable that we will have increasing droughts, and unless society reduces our dependence on fossil fuels extremely quickly, we stand a very good chance of falling into a “mega-drought”. The kind of droughts that are talked about would make the dust bowl pale in comparison. The studies are consistent with this for the Southwest. Again, a mega drought isn’t going to happen tomorrow, but is a very real concern starting around mid century. We will likely have increasing worse droughts as the decades pass. Lots of people think droughts are among the very worst climate impacts we will experience.

    Tropical diseases I don’t think will impact us here as much as other places, again because of our lack of humidity. (very few mosquitos here for example).

    Power outages are likely to increase with climate change. I don’t believe it is as likely here as some other areas of the Country. But if we had an extended power outage, it could do real damage. We are fortunate that we could likely survive an extended power outage-weather wise here in N.M.

    Anyways, if you Robert or readers have some good advice for what we here in New Mexico should do to prepare for climate impacts I would appreciate hearing from you. Sorry to make this long post just about this local area, when you have a world-wide audience. Nonetheless it might help people in other areas to think about what they can do for their location.

    I am interested in solutions that don’t “compete” with other people in other geographical areas. For example, lots of people here in the Southwest are starting to put rain barrels connected to their roofs that collect rainwater. I think this is fine however, it reduces the flow that enters the Rio Grande river and folks down river end up with less water that way. A more productive thing to do in my opinion is to focus on reducing water use in general.

    But again, the main thing I will be discussing about in my talk is what climate impacts and when we should expect them, with a view to preparing as best we can for them. Thanks in advance to you and your readers.

    • With respect to localized food security, I’d take a serious look at indoor vertical farming in which most or all of the imputs are recycled. If we’re looking at shrinking agricultural bases due to warming as well as the deforestation pressure due to both human and climate influences, I think that the indoor vertical farming approach will aid in reducing collapse pressure for arid or agriculturally marginal regions. If you’re working with transition movements, you may want to look at a way to make such structures modular and scalable.

      • doug

         /  January 27, 2016

        Thank you very much Robert. Many of us are focused on permaculture, and I haven’t come across this idea, and I will run it by some of the folks who are more expert that I regarding agriculture. Thanks again (:

        • Indoor vertical farming is a kind of sustainable permaculture for environments that lose the ability to sustain outdoor agriculture.

        • 75 times more productive per square foot than traditional agriculture. Uses 95 percent less water… Hydroponic vertical farms are 7-10 times more productive and also use far less water. I see this as a resiliency tech for climate change. Especially for areas undergoing rapid degradation and/or desertification.

          If you link in renewables, you have a fully sustainable system that relies on little to no fossil fuel imputs and my be used in a net carbon negative manner. In addition, if the net stress on forest land is reduced or eliminated, it becomes a form of active climate change mitigation through the preservation and restoration of natural carbon sinks.

    • Colorado Bob

       /  January 27, 2016

      Doug –
      Underlying Cause of Massive Pinyon Pine Die-off Revealed
      September 20, 2005

      The high heat that accompanied the recent drought was the underlying cause of death for millions of pinyon pines throughout the Southwest, according to new research………………..
      At study sites in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, the team found that from 40 to 80 percent of the pinyon trees (Pinus edulis) died between 2002 and 2003. The researchers confirmed the massive regional dieback of vegetation through both aerial surveys and analysis of satellite images of those states’ pinyon-juniper woodlands.


    • Leland Palmer

       /  January 27, 2016

      Hi doug-

      Like you say, drought seems to be a big concern, with many scientific studies talking about mega-droughts for the Southwest. Fire is a related concern, of course.

      On the other hand, you guys have lots of sunlight, and could take a leading position on solar energy. When the droughts come, you guys could pioneer drought adaptation technologies.

      Drip irrigation generally saves water for well installed systems, and your group might decide to work on that. But drip irrigation suffers from things like rodent damage to the tubes, salt buildup gradually reducing the long term productivity of the soil, sun damage to black plastic polyethylene tubes, etc.

      Dean Kamen has a new invention based on vapor compression distillation that might be able to provide salt free water for drip irrigation, especially if the associated Stirling engine could run on solar energy instead of (or in combination with) a combustible fuel. Hydrogen could be the combustible fuel, maybe, if you New Mexicans can figure out how to use concentrated solar energy to produce hydrogen efficiently.


      Perhaps the polyethylene plastic tubes could be aluminized with a very thin layer of aluminum or a multi-layer reflecting coating, cutting down on solar damage?

      Maybe the polyethylene tubes could be glass fiber reinforced, perhaps reducing rodent damage?

      If the polyethylene was glass fiber reinforced, that might cut down on high temperature damage, too?

      Perhaps polylactic acid biopolymer could be substituted for some or most of the polyethylene in the drip irrigation systems, or the polyethylene recycled?

      Perhaps New Mexico could lead the country in developing solar air conditioning? There are systems that work similar to the old propane refrigerators that can use solar heat to run the air conditioning cycle. There is another solar air conditioner that couples a swamp cooler with a rotating desiccant wheel.

      Perhaps New Mexico could lead the country in the development of earth sheltered buildings and arcologies?

      You guys have Sandia Labs and Los Alamos National Labs. Perhaps they could be given more and more projects and funding to assist with drought adaptation technologies? Maybe your group there could publicly start agitating for increasing global warming related repurposing of the national labs toward global warming adaptation and alternative energy development?

      Even with large amounts of flexibility and adaptation, the coming droughts are likely going to be hard, especially in the summer. Good luck to you guys.

      • doug

         /  January 27, 2016

        Great ideas Leland, thank you so much! And thanks to Bob and Greg too. Wow, I didn’t know about commercial scale vertical indoor farming. Very interesting. I’ve got lots of work to do.

        • Maybe send some feelers out to Aerolabs and related industries. There’s a burgeoning field in this area. You may also want to take a good look at Amory Lovins’s house. There’s probably space for a sustainable construction industry targeted at the wealthy. If we can get these guys to dramatically lower their impact footprints, then we can help with both mitigation and adaptation, especially if those homes are food production locations that can also assist communities in a pinch. It’s important to look at changing behavoirs across the economic spectrum.

  12. doug

     /  January 27, 2016

    Robert, I bought a book about a month ago that was recommended called “Indoor Kitchen Gardening” The author’s name is Elizabeth Millard and it is put out by Cool Springs Press. I bought the paperback version for something like $15 off of Amazon.com (yeah, I know they aren’t the best company) I read it and would recommend it. It didn’t click when you wrote “vertical indoor farming” but that’s exactly what this is. Our local Transitions group had a meeting where this was discussed last month. This might be a very useful thing to do for about anyone with the space.

    • climatehawk1

       /  January 27, 2016

      Good Amazon alternative for everyone’s info: http://www.abebooks.com. Network of bookstores with single search engine.

    • I’ve seen homes converted to be half greenhouse or to add greenhouse sunrooms. Could be the climate change version of victory gardens. But you need to be cognizant of recycling as much material and water as possible for it to be effective from the sustainability standpoint. With scaling, this form of agriculture can be very effective. Water and nutrients can be recycled especially when paired with waste management, you don’t get the same nutrient outflow to streams and oceans which results in toxic algae blooms, and you don’t need synthetic fertilizer or pesticides on anywhere near the scale of an outdoor farm system. Indoor climate is controlled and optimized. It can even be used as a carbon sink (using biofuel captured CO2 to increase greenhouse CO2 and optimize plant growth).

  13. – OT
    – Surfing Cornwall:

    Teenager, 15, breaks record as he becomes youngest ever surfer to ride Cornish Cribbar wave
    Kamron Matthews, from Newquay, Cornwall says it has always been his ambition to surf the world famous wave

  14. – Surfing Santa Barbara/Goleta
    When I started surfing in these areas (1963) the surfline was 50 plus meters from this tree.

    • – My friend Helmut camped out here while he studied at UCSB (campus is above on cliffs) circa 1974. There was a wide swath of beach sand here.
      In 2010 I surveyed Suaeda and Saltbush in Western Pygmy Blue butterfly habitat below these cliffs. This was/is most dear to my heart.

    • Every inch of sea level rise can erode as much as hundreds of feet of coastline …

  15. Colorado Bob

     /  January 27, 2016

    Math formula shows when conspiracy theories may unravel

    And when it came to the theories himself, Grimes chose four well-known examples – the faking of the Moon landing, climate change purportedly being a fraud, vaccines supposedly causing autism, and the belief that pharmaceutical firms are blocking a cure for cancer.


    • Tsar Nicholas

       /  January 27, 2016

      Major problem here is defining “conspiracy theory.” These days it is used to label anything that doesn’t accord with what authority says. Is Peter Duesberg’s claim that AIDs is not caused by a virus conspiracy theory or a scientific claim? Are those who argue that Richard III did not murder the Princes in the Tower making legitimate historical arguments or are they conspiracy theorists?

  16. 2016 huge North African drought coming?
    With the Horn presently in the grip of Famine now the West is resorting to prayers to stave one off… http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/01/177854/moroccans-to-perform-rain-prayers-on-friday/

  17. greenman023

     /  January 27, 2016

    Has the same change occurred in the Atlantic too? Are Africa’s rains now falling on Cumbria?
    this on top of EL Nino driven Famine in the Horn and drought in S. Africa. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/01/south-africa-drought-160117111204356.html

  18. Colorado Bob

     /  January 27, 2016

    The science for climate change only feeds the denial: how do you beat that?

    As the scientific consensus for climate change has strengthened over the past decade, the arguments against the science of climate change have been on the increase.

    That’s the surprise finding of a study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change last month, which analysed and identified the key themes in more than 16,000 publications about climate change by conservative organisations.

    Conservative think-tanks are organisations that oppose policies, such as regulation of pollution caused by the fossil fuel industry (some have also opposed regulation of the tobacco industry in the past and, in fact, some continue to do so today).

    One study found that from 1972 to 2005, over 92% of climate contrarian books originated from conservative think-tanks. They are often ground zero for misinformation casting doubt on climate science, with their messages spread by contrarian blogs, conservative media and politicians opposing climate policy.


    • It’s an active action to block the process of informing the public. I can’t count the number of times I’ve done a Google search and pulled up nonsense crud from Anthony Watts or Judith Curry. The agencies are very adept at dominating search and chat fields on the Internet. Anything to confuse or deny the subject. Anything to move focus off of the issue at hand — climate change and human forced warming.

  19. Colorado Bob

     /  January 27, 2016

    You Can Blame El Niño for the Massive Floods in South America

    Concordia lies on the Uruguay River in the low-lying province of Entre Ríos that has been particularly badly hit in the unseasonal floods that the Argentine branch of the Red Cross has described as “the worst in history.”……………………………….. “In two months it rained between 700-800ml. That is 400ml more than the norm,” meteorologist Cindy Fernández from the National Meteorology Service in Argentina told VICE News, linking the high El Niño directly to rainfall in the country. “Several records have been broken, including the one for the most rain in 24 hours, with 215ml. The old record was 90.”

    It was the rise in the level of the Uruguay River and its tributaries that brought disaster to Concordia at the end of December. The town of around 100,000 usually sees its heaviest rainfall after March and had never experienced anything like this.


    • Plus an atmosphere that now holds 7 percent more moisture load due to human forced warming … El Nino’s just a big heat engine when you break it down. Add heat to that system and the El Niño pattern events in the form of droughts and floods are bound to become more extreme.

  20. Anne

     /  January 27, 2016

    Tom, are you serious!? As well as how he determines the intrinsic probability of failure, I’m also interested in how he determines the number of people involved in a conspiracy. It’s possible that there could be a much larger number innocently involved in aspects of it, working in their own managed ‘silos’ and unaware of how their own work fitted in with the rest of the overall scheme. VW’s faked NOx emission results, for example, may have involved just a few engineers presenting others with a sealed box solution.

  21. Reblogged this on Rhya's Place.

  22. Wharf Rat

     /  January 27, 2016

    A interesting and tense moment at December’s American Geophysical Union conference came with an all star panel of climate scientists and energy experts, and clear lines were drawn between the “must have nuclear’ faction, lead by James Hansen, and the “renewables can do it” faction, represented by Mark Jacobson of Stanford – who I interviewed the same day – more on that soon.

    New research seems to support Jacobson.

    …a study out today suggests that the United States could, at least in theory, use new high-voltage power lines to move renewable power across the nation, and essentially eliminate the need to add new storage capacity.

    This improved national grid, based on existing technologies, could enable utilities to cut power-sector carbon dioxide emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2030 without boosting power prices, researchers report today in Nature Climate Change.


    • It’s easier with nuclear, as France has shown. But you can’t do it without rapid build renewables. And you can do it by going all renewables. If you take the path of Germany, it takes longer, though. Unfortunately, many of thes nuke plants will need to be shut down in the near future due to sea level rise. The falling price of energy storage is a game changer in 5-10 years. The main barriers remain in the form of conservative politicians who block any and all effective policy making when it comes to climate change.

  23. Scott

     /  January 27, 2016

    Joe Romm at ThinkProgress is encouraged by renewables becoming the world’s top electricity source by 2030, and coal pretty well eliminated by 2050. I look at the projected growth in coal over the next 15 years and tremble. I don’t think we can almost double the use of natural gas and increase the use of coal over the next 15 years and survive.


    • I’d have to agree with you on that one. Continued increase in coal use while also increasing natural gas use is a terrible combination. We’re at dangerous CO2 and CO2e levels now. Keeping this us is just devastating.

    • Yes, she did. Your article is a bit dated, recent rains have bumped up the reservoir levels somewhat, and the coming months might actually recharge the reservoirs. Snowpack is tracking slightly above average, but we still have a huge groundwater deficit to make up for.

      But in the long run, I think she is right. The California drought will be back, if it really is tied to the loss of Arctic sea ice, I think. The storm tracks have changed, and what rain California did get during the drought years mostly came in from the southwest, rather than from the northwest, I think.

      Maybe there is some hope that the rain patterns will be different but still provide sufficient moisture to at least keep the cities going. Maybe the southwest storm track will become more important.

      We do have a huge reservoir system – mostly based on the old weather patterns in which Northern California provided water to Southern California.

      What if Southern California becomes wetter than Northern California?

    • Yes, she did. If the hot blob is tied to the loss of Arctic sea ice, the blob is here to stay.

  24. doug

     /  January 27, 2016

    Hey Robert, I just want to thank you for all of your suggestions.

  25. – Our priorities are our biggest obstacle….

    – George Monbiot – The Guardian

    There may be flowing water on Mars. But is there intelligent life on Earth?

    While we marvel at Nasa’s discoveries, we destroy our irreplaceable natural resources – so we can buy pre-peeled bananas and smartphones for dogs

    In the past four decades, the world has lost 50% of its vertebrate wildlife. But across the latter half of this period, there has been a steep decline in media coverage…

    Think of what would change if we valued terrestrial water as much as we value the possibility of water on Mars. Only 3% of the water on this planet is fresh; and of that, two-thirds is frozen. Yet we lay waste to the accessible portion. Sixty per cent of the water used in farming is needlessly piddled away by careless irrigation. Rivers, lakes and aquifers are sucked dry, while what remains is often so contaminated that it threatens the lives of those who drink it…

  26. NWS OPC ‏@NWSOPC 4h4 hours ago

    12Z Pac sfc & wind/wave analyses & 15Z GOESW satellite image. Note the seas due to a #storm force low in the E. Pac.

  27. NOAA Satellites ‏@NOAASatellites 22h
    Sat data was used to make this map of wind speeds over the ocean surface

    • PlazaRed

       /  January 27, 2016

      That is so unbelievable that I am inclined to view it as “make believe!” Or, Please don’t show it, we don’t want to believe!
      Of course this is really happening!
      When this kind of erosion is occurring, there is a reasonable case for semi mass panic among the property owners and nearby residents, who will probably be next in line for the big drop into the ocean!
      I’m in a bit of a state of shock about what we are going to SEE next?
      Then again with +400 PPM nothing anymore, no matter how established is sacred. From typhoons in the gulf of Aden to + above Zero temps at the north pole, nobody and nothing is safe anymore from the climate striking, not so much back but at the established normal?

  28. PlazaRed

     /  January 27, 2016

    Down on the lower regions of the southern latitudes, a large scale “splintering fragmentation” of shore bound ice is making the Antarctic sea ice look more and more unstable.
    Its starting to look like a circuit for a “round the coast race season” down there now and no doubt there are millions of cubic meters of past ice in the form of water pouring into the Antarctic ocean even as I write this.

  29. dnem

     /  January 27, 2016

    And up north, Arctic ice extent is peaking out below the 2SD below the mean curve:


  30. The quest to predict severe weather sooner
    MPAS aims to be next-generation global model

    To provide an accurate severe weather outlook three or more days in advance, forecasters need to capture the fine-scale behavior of clouds, vertical wind sheer and other local processes, as well as the global atmospheric conditions surrounding the local region of interest.

    Regional models examine fine-scale conditions at high resolution, but they have a difficult time with accuracy between the area of interest and the surrounding region. Errors in these so-called boundary regions can distort the results for the target area…

    A global software platform called Model for Prediction Across Scales, or MPAS, aims at resolving those issues. It offers a new way of simulating the atmosphere while providing scientists with more flexibility when focusing on regional conditions.

  31. Nat’l Parks Traveler ‏@ParksTraveler 7h7 hours ago

    Vandals hacked up iconic saguaros at Saguaro National Park. @sejorg @NPCA

    • PlazaRed

       /  January 27, 2016

      Interesting how the cactus plant had the perfect protection against any normal form of attack upon its existence and stable life but it had no resistance or mechanism’s in place to cope with “Vandals!”
      It sort of brings home the concept that humans not only do not abide by any rules but they also seek to destroy at any and all points into the “spectrum’s of life?”
      People do not seem to need enemies anymore, as they already have so many within their own ranks.

    • Ryan in New England

       /  January 28, 2016

      I was staying at the Lakes of the Clouds hut at Mt Washington one year, and the volunteers give a nature walk, and pointed out these tiny plants that take 200 hundred years to grow. You’re not allowed to step off the trail for fear of damaging them. Overnight some vandals destroyed a bunch of them. They ruined hundreds of years of growth in a very inhospitable alpine environment, just to be jerks. Things like this disgust me. I really hate people. Well, not everyone.

      • – I know what you mean.
        At Ellwood Mesa (Goleta/Santa Barbara, CA it was a constant struggle to keep people and vehicles out of the vernal pools (periodic and verdant bio systems — Coyote Thistle, great foraging place for White Egrets, etc.).

      • – After acquisition by many parties EWD Mesa was named after it’s biggest benefactor (Peter?) Sperling.
        A nice 2 min clip.
        Published on Mar 15, 2012

        March 4, 2012 View from Sperling Preserve bluff of Ellwood Beach, the Santa Barbara Channel and the channel islands, Coal Oil Point, and back around to the Santa Ynez Mountain Range above Goleta, California

  32. Rising Tide NA ‏@RisingTideNA 39m39 minutes ago

    “We are human guinea pigs in a #fracking industry experiment.

  33. – And in California:
    (SoCal Gas is a division of Sempra Energy.)

    Utility’s negligence caused giant methane leak, air quality regulator says
    Regulator sues SoCal Gas, requesting $440,000 for each day the leak continues.

    On Tuesday evening, Southern California’s air quality regulator sued SoCal Gas, the company that owns a leaking natural gas storage well just north of Los Angeles. The leaking well has been venting hundreds of thousands of pounds of methane per hour into the atmosphere for the last three months.

    The civil lawsuit demands damages (PDF) from SoCal Gas for creating a nuisance for the residents of the nearby Porter Ranch community and for negligently operating the Aliso Canyon storage facility that houses 115 storage wells, including the leaking SS-25 well.


  34. Mercury levels in rainfall are rising in parts of North America, study finds
    January 27, 2016

    An analysis of long-term trends in the amount of mercury in rainfall and other forms of precipitation in North America found recent increases at many sites, mostly in the center of the continent. At other sites, including those along the East Coast, mercury levels in rainfall have been trending steadily downward over the past 20 years.

    The findings are consistent with increased emissions of mercury from coal-burning power plants in Asia and decreased emissions in North America, according to Peter Weiss-Penzias, an environmental toxicologist at UC Santa Cruz. Weiss-Penzias is first author of a paper on the findings published in the journal Science of the Total Environment (in press, available online).

    • – USA with the PNW as transit hub is a (the?) major supplier of this coal being burned.

      “increased emissions of mercury from coal-burning power plants in Asia”

    • Ryan in New England

       /  January 28, 2016

      When will our society learn that this planet is essentially a closed system. Things don’t go away. If we export coal and think we’re safe because someone else is burning it, we’re just being delusional or naive. It’s the same with water. We’re poisoning the world’s water thinking it’s someone elses problem. It’s all our problem.

  35. Ryan in New England

     /  January 27, 2016

    Check out how far above normal the temps are for the high Arctic for the first month of the year.


  36. – This should not come as a shock to anyone. Air pollution and fossil fuel emissions are extremely toxic to all life forms — always have been.
    – Even in the land of ‘Happy Meals’ eaten under a sky full of Green House Gases..

    Air pollution tied to premature birth

    Babies are at higher risk of being born prematurely – that is, before 37 weeks of the normal 40 weeks of pregnancy – if their mothers are exposed to fine particle air pollution when they are expecting.

    This was the conclusion of a study by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati, OH, published in the journal Environmental Health.

  37. Ryan in New England

     /  January 27, 2016

    Jeff Masters has a good rundown of all-time heat records broken last year. Pretty incredible.


  38. Michael Ventrice ‏@MJVentrice 1h1 hour ago

    Fairly robust signal for dry weather in California during the 2nd week of February.

  39. Busy weather — busy day — busy DT…

    – South Scotland:

    Hundreds evacuated amid Hawick and Jedburgh flood warnings

    • – photo Hawick Flood Group

    • – Down Under AU

      – abc.net.au/news/2016-01-27/storm-weather-geelong-flash-flooding

      Geelong weather: 18 people rescued in ‘one-in-50-year’ flash flooding

      • Photo: A car underwater at Geelong Railway Station, after heavy rain caused flash flooding. (Newtown Press: Tim Tattersall)

      • – “complete chaos” UK

        – .bbc.com/news/uk-england-hampshire-

        – 1 hour ago – From the section Hampshire & Isle of Wight

        Flooding causes rail and roads delays in Brockenhurst

        Heavy downpours left roads in Brockenhurst in the New Forest impassable and hit train services.

        South West Trains said the line between Bournemouth and Brockenhurst had been shut because of flooding.

        Hundreds of rail commuters suffered delays of several hours with long queues forming for replacement bus services.

        BBC Radio reporter Tim Atkinson described “complete chaos” at Southampton Central station.

  40. – Snow pack in peril?

    Southwestern Oregon could see flooding as warm, wet air arrives

    By The Associated Press Jan. 27, 2016

    MEDFORD — Warm, moist air from the jet stream could cause flooding in Southwestern Oregon, the National Weather Service says.

    Meteorologist Charles Smith of the NWS Medford office says the weather system will cause about 1.3 inches of rain to fall over parts of Jackson County early Thursday through Friday night, the Mail Tribune reports.

    A Tuesday weather service bulletin says near-saturated soils and low-altitude snow pack could cause streams and rivers to rise rapidly. It could cause flooding and high water levels in small streams and low-lying areas.
    – registerguard.com/rg/news/local/33998691-75/southwestern-oregon-

  41. Oale

     /  January 28, 2016

    There you have a huge question. Makes me almost want there would be weather records from the end of the Younger Dryas period.

  42. Reblogged with the following comment at Fin des Voies Rapides and her new sister blog, “2016 Is Strange!”

    Ya know, what we need is someone with the “charisma” of Donald Trump to rise up and say, “We need to stop, just stop, burning fossil fuels until those in charge can tell us what the hell is going on?”

  43. Daniel Landau

     /  January 30, 2016

    Thanks for the new insite. I appreciate science— as it is about learning new things unknown instead of hashing old theories. I agree that this is a RARE El-Nino response . It is one in “uncharted waters” since meteorology of air flow response is a relative new science, This 2015-2016 El-Nino response I bet will be studied years to come. It “starts out” like El-Nino—-a strong low latitude pacific jet steering extra high frequency and strong storms toward West Coast USA. But the flow is vacillating and cant lock into the classic El Nino mode. This problem is true Especially East of longitude 180 to 160. There the flow reaches some supercritical speed ( roughly the longitude of the locus of the El-Nino Water anomaly), then East of that, it suddenly undergoes a state change—- the flow fans out ( splits and become turbulent like a shock or “hydraulic hump”) . Then, like a water hoze out of control, the jet swings wildly pounding the West Coast USA between N Cal to Washington, instead of steadily slamming into S. California. Something is wrong!. I basically agree, the unexpected ingredient is the abnormally warm middle and higher latitude ocean water temperature providing excess latent hear ( fuel) for the Pacific storms that blow up in size , slow down, and contribute to maintaining an unexpectedly large Aleutian Vortex ( and S.California to Plateau USA Surface High tele-connection). This vortex sucks everything into itself, causing these storms that first speed down the “el-Nino Track” from China toward the East, to then be mis-guided and arrive at the Pacific NorthWest. instead of hitting S California. But S California, at least once a month-(instead of once or twice a week) is still getting very infrequent visits of this El-Nino energized jet and storms, but it is arriving from the abnormal direction of NW— . Yes! the storms are wet and powerful ( windwise) , but NOT exactly getting as much rain as we used to think we can get with El-Nino storms

    For those people who say “wait to February or March”, as far as I can remember strong El-Nino should greatly enhance all months of rainfall in Los Angeles from November to May). “NO!— its not going like we [scientists] all expected! “. [Would you believe, there are still some scientists that keep saying “this is all going as expected”?. ] But there are those that disclose the truth . One scientist said the Godzilla “El-Nino water” is located further West then Normal. Another scientist mentioned the Blob and RRR. The atmosphere this year is teaching us the outcome of the battle of these abnormally placed forces. .

  1. Is the Usual El Nino Pacific Storm Track Being Pulled North by Arctic Warming? | GarryRogers Nature Conservation
  2. Even a Monster El Nino Can’t Beat the Southwest Drought | robertscribbler

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