The Rhythm of Life has a Powerful Beat

Here’s a fresh look at global temperatures as calculated by the University of Alabama, Huntsville- the UAH dataset- from satellite measurements of the Temperature of the Lower Troposphere (TLT).

Warwick Hughes suggests that there has been a drift in the measurements since about 2005, such that calculated temperatures are too high, and we await a proposed correction.  However, we can live with that.

Here are plots of TLT for various regions of the globe.

Fig.1:  12 month running means of Global anomalies and Tropical anomalies (the region of the Earth between 20 degrees North and 20 South, which gets the majority of the solar radiation striking the Earth).Glob - Tropics

The two sets move in lock step, with a much larger variation in the Tropics than the world as a whole.

What causes these large variations?

Fig. 2: Global and Tropical anomalies with the SOI inverted, and scaled by a factor of 30.Glob - Tropics v SOI

SOI is the acronym for the Southern Oscillation Index, calculated from pressure differences between Tahiti and Darwin, and is a reasonably good indicator of El Nino or La Nina conditions.  The ENSO cycle (El Nino Southern Oscillation) originates in the tropical Pacific.  El Nino brings warmer temperatures to the world; La Nina is associated with cooler temperatures.  I have inverted the SOI to show this relationship, and scaled it down by 30 to fit on the graph.

Note how the 12 month mean of SOI precedes the temperature data.  Here’s a plot with the SOI advanced 5 months.

Fig.3:  SOI advancedGlob - Tropics v SOI adv'd

While the peaks (El Ninos) match very closely, I have marked periods following the major eruptions of El Chichon and Mt Pinatubo, which cooled temperatures for several years.  I also suggest that the atmospheric dust and cooler surfaces upset the ENSO cycle as traced by the SOI.  Note also that temperatures in the 2010-2011 La Nina appear higher than expected.

Fig.4: SOI advanced with Tropic and Australian land TLT.Australia

Note how Australian temperatures appear to fluctuate about as much as the Tropics (we’re one third north of 20S after all).  Australian temperatures are influenced by events in the Indian Ocean and Southern Ocean as well as the Pacific, so the match isn’t exact.

I will look at Australian data specifically in another post.

Finally, here’s a way to check on that other “finger print” of the enhanced greenhouse effect, as espoused by Dr Karl Braganza: land areas are expected to warm faster than oceans, supposedly showing that greenhouse gases, not ocean currents, drive global warming.

Fig. 5: Global Land and Ocean TLT.land v oceans

Well of course that proves it- land areas are indeed warming faster than oceans.

However, have a closer look at the timing of the switches between warming and cooling.  If well mixed greenhouse gases are warming both land and oceans, it would be expected that oceans, with higher specific heat and enormous thermal inertia, would take longer to warm.  The land response would be almost immediate.  Oceans would not be expected to warm before the land, and if anything might show a slight lag.

Fig.6: close up of the 1998 Super El Nino.land v oceans 1997-99

The oceans change phase about one month before the land.  They definitely do not lag behind.

And what causes these rapid changes?

Fig.7: Land, ocean, and the SOI advanced 5 months.land v oceans v soi

 

The world’s temperatures respond to the powerful beat of ENSO events- as well as large explosive volcanic

 

 

 

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11 Responses to “The Rhythm of Life has a Powerful Beat”

  1. Ian George Says:

    Totally agree that ENSO ‘maketh the difference’, Ken.
    Just for fun, these are the average max means for the past 20 years in 5 year lots.
    1994 -1998: +0.352C (affected by El Nino)
    1999-2003: +0.206 (affected by La Nina)
    2004-2008: +0.618 (affected by El Nino)
    2009-2013: +0.23 (affected by La Nina)
    These figures are about correct if you use the adjusted 2013 graph rather than the 2011 graph.
    Why so low the past few years? 2011 with a -1.15C almost cancelled out 2013 with a +1.20C.

    If you cherrypick 1979 – 1983 you get just over 0.3C (El Nino/neutral).

  2. Berynn Schwerdt Says:

    ENSO a primary contributor to interannual temps, oceanic origin. No surprise ocean leads land on interannual scales. This is evident in the literature and temp records.

    ENSO fluctuates around a mean, so no inconsistency that land temps have trended faster than sea surace over the long term. Different time scale, apples/oranges.

  3. Berynn Schwerdt Says:

    I may have misunderstood.

    Finally, here’s a way to check on that other “finger print” of the enhanced greenhouse effect, as espoused by Dr Karl Braganza: land areas are expected to warm faster than oceans, supposedly showing that greenhouse gases, not ocean currents, drive global warming….

    Well of course that proves it- land areas are indeed warming faster than oceans.

    However, have a closer look at the timing of the switches between warming and cooling….

    [ENSO]

    The oceans change phase about one month before the land. They definitely do not lag behind.

    Aren’t you looking for a greenhouse signal in interannual fluctuations?

    Interestingly, there is a well-known seasonal lag between land and air temps, but in this case it’s the oceans that are playing catchup. So you have land heat leading sea surface warming at seasonal scales, the opposite during ENSO events which last longer and occur every few years, and on decadal scales and up the land leads the oceans when there is a radiative imbalance over the long term. The greenhouse signal is not expected to emerge at seasonal and interannual scales, where weather effects dominate.

  4. kenskingdom Says:

    Didn’t see these other comments when I got home last night, and it was past my bedtime anyway…
    Nope, can’t agree. Decadal UAH means and also smoothed first differences clearly show oceans leading land.

  5. Berynn Schwerdt Says:

    Let’s look again at the posit you are challenging:

    …land areas are expected to warm faster than oceans, supposedly showing that greenhouse gases, not ocean currents, drive global warming….

    If you are claiming that the opposite is true, then global sea surface temps should have warmed more than land over the satellite period. UAH says:

    Global Ocean – 0.11C/decade

    Global Land – 0.19C/decade

    Land has warmed faster than oceans (sea surface) according to UAH data.

  6. kenskingdom Says:

    Yes Berynn, if you had read my post you would have seen my somewhat sarcastic line, “Well of course that proves it- land areas are indeed warming faster than oceans.” As they should for any type of warming. But oceans change phase BEFORE land, which is not what is supposed to happen with greenhouse warming.
    This is becoming circular, and here I am repeating my post for your benefit, which is a waste of my time.

  7. Berynn Schwerdt Says:

    But oceans change phase BEFORE land, which is not what is supposed to happen with greenhouse warming.

    This is, as far as I know, a unique hypothesis. No one contends that greenhouse warming will, for example, somehow cause ENSO events to originate from land surface instead of the ocean.

    The error in your post is conflating phase change timing with rates of warming. They are separate issues.

  8. kenskingdom Says:

    Braganza contends that warming is not driven by ocean processes. Because of thermal inertia, in any sort of warming, greenhouse or otherwise, not originating in the oceans, the oceans should not start warming before land- warming should be at best simultaneous or show a lag in the oceans. Therefore, if oceans change phase before land, this argument is invalidated, and ocean processes can not be ruled out. Observations show (a) oceans changing phase before land, and (b) all major global warming and cooling events of the last 34 years being strongly linked to ENSO, which is most assuredly an ocean process. Warming from any cause at all will result in land warming faster than oceans, and also cooling will result in land cooling faster than oceans.
    There, once again I have summarised my post for you, but I don’t expect it will make much difference.

  9. Berynn Schwerdt Says:

    It does not make a difference because in summarizing your post, you have recommited the error of analysis.

    I imagine Barganza argues that ocean processes are not responsible for long-term warming (climate change), but I doubt he espouses that this should prevent short-term ocean-led changes from ENSO (weather fluctuation). You conflate climate-scale changes with in-system weather fluctuations.

    ENSO does influence land temps and global temp trends, mainly observable on short time scales (a succession of la Ninas recently has flattened the surface temp trend for the last 17 years or so, for instance), but barely existent for multidecadal time scales, which we agree is how climate is defined.

    [Just seen on another thread you're not partial to the way I comment. I'll take the hint and wish you well]

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