El Nino and the solar cycle

Posted: February 6, 2010 by tallbloke in Uncategorized

As you can see from the chart below, El Nino tends to occur away from the peak of the solar cycle. One of the outcomes of this is that the solar cycle’s effect on temperature gets underestimated, because El Nino lifts global temperature at times of low solar activity, and is suppressed at times of high solar activity. La Nina often occurs near the peak of the solar cycle, bringing a couple of cold winters with it. This fact is conveniently disregarded by Dr Leif Svalgaard, who continues to claim the effect of the solar cycle on temperature is only around 0.07C. Rubbish, it’s at least 0.2C, probably more, further amplified by cloud cover change. This means the steady rise in solar activity over most of the C20th was responsible for most of the warming observed, given the over-egging of the global temperature record by Phil Jones at UEA-CRU and James Hansen at NASA-GISS.

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There is an exception to the rule around 1900 but temperatures were low then anyway. My theory, backed up by calculations I have done on steric sea level rise and the gradient of temperature to the thermocline,  is that heat-energy is forced into the ocean as sun spot numbers rise, and is released back out of the ocean on the downslope of the solar cycle and just after minimum. The low run of solar cycles around 1900 allowed the ‘upwelling’ of energy to build up ‘momentum’ and so the heat release continued through the upturn of the low solar cycle. Something similar happened during low solar cycle 20.

The currently high global sea surface temperature is nearly at the same level as 1998, but this is not the whole story. Whereas 1998 was a full blown Pacific Warm Pool event, the current El Nino is a ‘Modoki’ event. This means heat-energy is rising out of the oceans over a broad area of the globe, but the SST’s are not very high in one particular area. This means that much of the heat will escape to space instead of being trapped in by high humidity and then spread around by the trade winds.

This is why temperatures over the continental masses are low, while global lower troposheric temperature is high. Blocking patterns have allowed warm air over the oceans to migrate to the poles, displacing cold air down over the northern hemisphere continents.

The question is, what will happen next? Looking at a similar situation in the past may help. Around 1880, global SST’s peaked in a huge El Nino event, then started to decline, with another big El NINO event 12 years later. Sound familiar? Look how similar the solar cycle phase was then and now.

Sea surface temperature comparison 1880 1985

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I expect we will see a significant downturn in SST over the coming year. My prediction, for what it’s worth, is that global SST will be 0.1-0.15C below Jan 2008 levels by spring 2011.

Comments
  1. Bob Tisdale says:

    tallbloke: You wrote, “My theory, backed up by calculations I have done on steric sea level rise and the gradient of temperature to the thermocline, is that heat-energy is forced into the ocean as sun spot numbers rise, and is released back out of the ocean on the downslope of the solar cycle and just after minimum.”

    Got some graphs?

    I posted this comparison graph of tropical Pacific OHC vs sunspot number somewhere recently and you may have missed it:

    The unusual rise in tropical Pacific OHC in 1995/96 was caused by higher than normal trade winds during the 1995/96 La Nina. It also occurred during the solar minimum. But that was what fueled the 1997/98 El Nino.

    Also note that the other major rise that started in 1973 occurred during the solar minimum. And that rise was caused by the 1973/74/75/76 La Nina.

    I have always wanted to write a post complaining about how scientists remove the ENSO signal from the global temperature record when they attempt to determine the variations in global temperatures caused by the solar cycle. By removing ENSO, they fail to account for the charge and discharge aspect of it, with the changes in tropical Pacific cloud cover that accompanies it, and the redistribution of the heat that lasts beyond the El Nino event, etc. It just seems odd to me that they treat ENSO as noise, when it is much more.

    You wrote, “…this is not the whole story. Whereas 1998 was a full blown Pacific Warm Pool event, the current El Nino is a ‘Modoki’ event. This means heat-energy is rising out of the oceans over a broad area of the globe…”

    I’m not sure how you relate an El Nino Modoki to energy rising out of a broad area of the globe. Will you expand on how you arrive at that? Global SST anomalies as a whole are higher in the 2000s than they were in the 1990s, but that’s not associated with the current El Nino Modoki.

  2. tallbloke says:

    Hi Bob, thanks for dropping by. I did hope you’d spot my link on WUWT. 🙂

    The graph you have supplied is great, and I think it mostly supports what I’m saying. My calcs are just numbers, but were checked and verified by Leif as I’m sure you remember. Before we get down to specifics, a couple of general obs. The volcanic activity coincides with the drops in OHC associated with El Nino. Maybe the effect of volcanoes on OHC is over-rated? I am suspicious of the rise in OHC post ’98. I think there has been some monkey business somewhere along the line with the splicing of XBT and ARGO data. Frankly I wouldn’t trust Syd Levitus further than I could throw him.

    I haven’t looked at the global circulations in as much detail as you have, but I find it interesting that the mid 70’s rise in OHC in the Nino 3.4 area aren’t reflected in the tropical atlantic:

    I suspect the big unknown variable, cloud cover, plays a big part in this. Don’t you wish we had reliable cloud data to lay alongside reliable OHC and solar data!

    Maybe I’ve misunderstood what Modoki El Nino is, but all I’m saying is that what’s happening now with generally elevated SST’s across the oceans showing an aggregated global spike is completely different to the ’98 event, where the action was concentrated in the east Pacific. Would you agree with that?

    Since 2003 there has been a quieter sun and more cloud, yet lower troposphere and SST’s have held up. I believe this is due to some of the excess energy that went into the ocean during the less cloudy, more solar-active post-war to 2003 period coming out again.

  3. tallbloke says:

    Interesting post on WUWT:

    George Tetley (07:04:25) :

    Sub-Oceanic Volcano’s
    In 1968 while in the New Zealand Navy, we were going from Auckland,NZ. to Norfolk Island (North of NZ about halfway to Australia ) when the Engine temp. increased, upon investigation it was discovered that the seawater intake temp. had increased some 8C. We could see a “bubble” on the ocean horizon several miles away, after a check,
    water depth, 4.4 miles,
    length of bubble, 2.3 miles,
    hight of bubble in center 16 feet,
    radius of temp. affected water, 17 miles,
    temp. in center 21C higher than outside affected zone,
    we spent 2 days in the area collecting water samples etc, the above numbers are what I recorded at the time, but I am sure there are NZ government records,
    This is just one of hundreds of underwater volcanoes, which like the straw on the camels back ?

    Maybe the coincidence of surface volcanoes with El Nino (See Bob’s link to his graph) is an indication of subsurface volcanic activity at the same time? Maybe could explain why OHC falls more during some ENSO events than others?

    So many unknown variables.

  4. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Tallbloke; While reading through your post it occurred to me that magnetic fields suppress expression of temperature in molecules, this would let molecules to soak up energy during high solar activity with low temperature increase and then higher energy and temperature output during relaxed magnetic fields of reduced solar activity. The ocean would cool during rising solar output and warm when the fields relax. The amount of change per cubic meter would be very very small, but the oceans are very very very large. 😉

  5. tallbloke says:

    P.G. check this out.
    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/02/electric-charge-can-change-the-freezing-point-of-water/#more-17792

    The varying Solar component of Earth’s magnetism is pretty tiny, though as you say, there’s lots of ocean.

    Bob, I averaged the Nino 3.4 data over 24 months and found the higher T aligns with the solar cycles during positive PDO and goes wonky during negative PDO. Curious.

  6. Bob Tisdale says:

    tallbloke: You concluded your reply with, “I believe this is due to some of the excess energy that went into the ocean during the less cloudy, more solar-active post-war to 2003 period coming out again.”

    If I subtract global SST anomalies (70S-82N) from RSS MSU TLT anomalies for the oceans only…

    …I see an expected exaggerated response from TLT anomalies, and an upward shift in the TLT anomalies after the 1997/98 El Nino. I really can’t say that I see anything else.

  7. tallbloke says:

    Hi Bob. The other part of the equation contains the cloud cover and the outgoing and incoming radiation. Until we get a handle on the interaction of all the variables, we can’t draw firm conclusions on the relationship between rate of energy transfer from the ocean, and TLT anomaly, apart from to say they look reasonably well balanced. That would be because the ocean has a huge heat capacity compared to the atmosphere, and the air soon reaches the temperature the ocean dictates. I’m with Stephen Wilde on that part.

    However, the part where Stephen and I are not in full agreement is that I think the atmosphere plays a role in the rate at which the ocean can lose heat, in concert with the TOA radiation balance.

  8. Bob Tisdale says:

    tallbloke: You wrote, “Until we get a handle on the interaction of all the variables, we can’t draw firm conclusions on the relationship between rate of energy transfer from the ocean…”

    And if firm conclusions cannot be drawn, what should we call the narrative of what’s taking place?

    You wrote, “That would be because the ocean has a huge heat capacity compared to the atmosphere, and the air soon reaches the temperature the ocean dictates.”

    I don’t believe I’ve ever written anything to contradict this. In fact, though I don’t recall stating it explicitly in any post, TLT anomalies could easily be said to exaggerate the responses to coupled ocean-atmosphere processes.

  9. tallbloke says:

    “what should we call the narrative of what’s taking place?”

    A tentative hypothesis informed with logic and observation. One thing I forgot to mention is the high upper troposphere anomaly at the moment. Where is all that energy going?

    “TLT anomalies could easily be said to exaggerate the responses to coupled ocean-atmosphere processes.”

    Definitely. When SST goes up 0.3C TLT increases around 0.8C

    “I don’t believe I’ve ever written anything to contradict this”

    Apologies. I didn’t realise we were supposed to be arguing. Would sir like the ten minute argument or the full half hour? 🙂

    I do want to press you on the difference between ’98 and this period though. Do you agree they are very different insofar as the distribution and magnitudes of raised SST’s goes?

  10. Bob Tisdale says:

    tallbloke: You asked, “I do want to press you on the difference between ‘98 and this period though. Do you agree they are very different insofar as the distribution and magnitudes of raised SST’s goes?”

    If this is part of the full half hour argument, I’ll ask you the elaborate on your question, so that I know what points to address.

  11. Bob Tisdale says:

    tallbloke: Does your question pertain to the El Nino itself?

  12. tallbloke says:

    Bob, well yes, in that the current event is called el nino. But also no, in that I think there is something else going on too. The current temperature spike is nearly as big as ’98, but the action doesn’t seem to be so much concentrated in the East Pacific as it was in ’98.

    Agree? (You don’t have to argue if you agree) 😉

  13. Paul Vaughan says:

    I want to suggest considering how MJO activity differed. Here in coastal BC we’re having what I would describe as a ‘hot’ winter. ‘Pineapple Express’ events have their roots on the other side of the equator, way down by Australia – and they can be traced even further to the Indian Ocean. I haven’t yet had time to turn my attention seriously towards MJO, but I’ve read that it is intermittent in a manner that is nonrandomly related to ENSO strength/type. (I got the impression people are stretching hugely for generalizations …but maybe there’s something to learn…)

  14. Bob Tisdale says:

    tallbloke: You wrote, “The current temperature spike is nearly as big as ’98…”

    Not even close, looking at global RSS MSU TLT anomalies. The present spike falls far short:

    But then again, we’ll have to wait a few more months to assure that the TLT anomalies have peaked.

  15. tallbloke says:

    Bob: Fair enough, and I agree we have to wait to see where the peak will be. Do you agree that the spike is representing something very different to ’98? That’s the more important issue as I see it.

  16. Bob Tisdale says:

    tallbloke: you asked, “Do you agree that the spike is representing something very different to ‘98?”

    I don’t understand the question. Different how? The elevated SST anomalies did not extend eastward to the South American coast; that’s certain. I believe the areas impacted via teleconnections have been, and will be, different than the 1997/98 El Nino.

    You wrote above, “Whereas 1998 was a full blown Pacific Warm Pool event, the current El Nino is a ‘Modoki’ event.”

    The following gif animation should help show that the warm water anomalies originated in the PWP.

    During the 1997/98 El Nino, the slope of the thermocline inverted:

    But so far, the thermocline during the 2009/10 El Nino has flattened relatively little:

  17. tallbloke says:

    I think maybe you are focussing on only the equatorial waters when it’s events at higher latitudes which are playing out the scenario I outlined too. Looking at the rate the North Altlantic OHC is dropping, whereas it was rising in ’98, this is one of the important differences.

  18. Bob Tisdale says:

    tallbloke: You wrote, “Looking at the rate the North Altlantic OHC is dropping, whereas it was rising in ‘98, this is one of the important differences.”

    The variability of the North Atlantic SST anomalies is a product of AMOC, Saharan dust, ENSO, NAO, etc. Not sure where you’re going with that one.

  19. johnnythelowery says:

    Hi Tallbloke: Havn’t seen your name over at WUWT for a while. Have a question regarding an alternative view of the SSM and alternative view of the Sun by
    Oliver. The rotation speed of the sun is well known and they can even measure it when there arn’t sunspots by ligtning in Africa. My question is this: there are two ideas (that i know of) about the Sun.
    Does the two competing ideas posit different rotation speeds of the sun? The known speed of the sun…does it support one theory over the other?? Thanks… Johnnnnny

  20. johnnythelowery says:

    …..and..w2hat kind of music do you like? I noticed you were in a band? What kind of a band?

  21. tallbloke says:

    Hi Johnny,

    The speed of rotation of a planet or maybe the sun itself isn’t determined by it’s compositional density alone. This means we can’t determine composition from rotational speed.

    The Sun is very fluid in it’s surface layers, and the material rotates at different speeds at different latitudes. The average rotational period of the sun is around the same as the moon, ~27 days, but this is an average of the material at the poles ~29 days, and the material at the equator ~25 days. No-one knows for sure why the equatorial material rotates faster, though I have some ideas which are different to the mainstream.

    There are a few different people on the net calling themselves tallbloke, I know one of them from swapping misdirected emails. I’m in a band called the Boston Stragglers. We get together a few times a year and play a variety of stuff at pubs. Anything from Tom Waits, to Bob Dylan, to The Animals, to Neil Young.

    I used to be in an AC-DC covers band too…

  22. Johnnythelowery says:

    …..I assume you are in the US. The band bit—.check out this on youtube when you get time
    ‘It Bites Tokyo Old Man and the Angel’
    See what you think of the guitarist (Francis Dunnery) as he’s been to my house a couple of times to do a really weired thing called a ‘house concert’!! He did an acoustic set and my friends, whom I charged to be there ($30), loved it! Any band that can switch from singing in English to singing in Latin has my attention! Better get back to Science…
    Anyway, about the rotation of the sun…..are you saying that the theoretical Iron sun of Oliver’s and the SSM would yield similar, as observed, rotational speeds?

  23. Johnnythelowery says:

    johnnythelowery (21:12:37) :

    Leif:

    FRom a thread of ‘Social Networking’ over at WUWT I had this conversation with Leif:

    …………..johnnythelowery (14:38:58) :
    leif: I take it that the rotation of the sun in it’s ‘gas ball’ constitution would be the same even if it was a (theoretically) ‘iron sun’?
    ———————————————
    The iron sun is nonsense. The rotation would not be the same. The iron sun would rotate as a solid body if it were rigid. But, better get away from that avenue, it leads nowhere
    ——————————————————
    So, Tallbloke, Leif is saying they would be different. This would seem to me to be pretty low hanging fruit to show from the rotation speed alone a meritous observation to the alternate SSM view.

    Saw AC/DC few times. They have a great clip on youtube called…um…search: AC-DC Colchester

  24. tallbloke says:

    Johnny, I’m UK based.

    Leif is right that a rigid body would not rotate like a gaseous body, but then I don’t think Oliver was trying to say the Sun had a completely solid iron surface (It melts at 1500C), and Leif tries to convince us the Sun ‘Feels no forces’ because it acts like a rigid body in a Newtonian conceptual framework.

    Lot’s of contradictions!

    The general speed of rotation is a different issue from the differential rotation too. The average speed of rotation doesn’t tell us what the Sun is made of. The differential rotation tells us it’s not a solid surface. But since the surface is above the melting point of Iron, that doesn’t tell us the composition of the Sun either.

  25. Johnnythelowery says:

    Dunnery is a Brit. Was Planty’s principle guitarist for 3 years, nearly replaced Collins in Genesis…way too good to be playing houses so recommend log into his site and book one before he quits.

    Well, anyway, interesting. in conclusion, regarding rotation, the two views are not supported or verified or falsified by the speed of the rotation of the sun.

    What would be ‘differential speed’?

    So, and I think it was you who made a remark over at
    WUWT on a thread, don’t recall where, but it was what
    caught my eye about this alternate view in that there was a list of doubts in the posting, two of which was Dark energy and the other dark matter. Are these like duct tape jobs over cracks in their SSM do you feel? Secondly, as they scale up the LHC, what do you think about the risk factor in going to 13Tev or whatever the power is they are going to ramp up to next year? (as it’s partly located in France…i’m torn as to whether to oppose it or not! Because, it it blows…..we’re only talking about France! Hahaha). BTW-Hope France don’t win the grand slam which is being shown over here on BBC America for the first time ever. Lastly, the Bigbang is supported by the Cosmic wave background which, due to it’s redshift, is believed to be moving away which I understand is contended. They say that because there is a redshift, ergo, it’s moving away. When the Bigbang occurred, isn’t every particle on a diverging path at nearly the speed of light……forever. If everything eminated from a point, everything is diverging from a point, and therefore, never the twain shall meet? I’m not a scientist (as you can tell) so answers on the back of the beer mat from the local ‘coach and horses’ or ‘The Bear and ragged staff’ or the name of the pub whereever your retire to for a nice drink.

    The thread for Oliver’s thread here was closed…… ?

    Thanks Tallbloke. Whats the chances of two guys calling themselves Tallbloke on a blog thread?

  26. Johnnythelowery says:

    It’s a mis-characterizatio of Oliver’s idea of a Iron Sun. He absolutely isn’t proposing a giant ball bearing up there but a Neutron-star-center/Iron- shell/Hydrogen-strata-above-it type structure (I believe). So, not sure why Leif would suggest…
    “the ‘iron sun’ would rotate as a solid body”… as it’s neither a solid body only nor only a gas/liquid.

  27. tallbloke says:

    Hi Johnny,

    Don’t recall the post and I don’t usually go on about dark matter, but yes, the standard cosmological model has issues in my view.

    The differential speed I’m talking about is the equatorial region of the sun which revolves in around 25 days versus the higher latitude regions which take 29 or so. There is no satisfactory explanation for this in the standard model. I think bulges in the Sun’s equator caused by it’s motion around the solar system centre of mass may explain it. These bulges occur when the sun is tightening it’s radius of orbit. The bulge will be pulled in by the strong gravity, and translated to a sideways motion around the equator. This might go some way to explaining why sunspot production moves towards the equator as the solar cycle progresses. more research is needed.

    Leif often mischaracterises the ideas of others to make them easier to ridicule. It’s a bad habit, but then, we all have a couple.

  28. Johnnythelowery says:

    It may not have been you posting that thread and I may go back and look for it. So, the bulge won’t be caused by centrifugal as you didn’t mention it or it is but is sucked in by it’s own strong gravity which then bulges at the equator. So, the center of mass is not the same as the sun’s own center axis? Is this the thing they call Barycenter? Cheers and thanks
    …………….johnnnny

  29. tallbloke says:

    Hi Johnny, yes the bulge would be centrifugal, and pulled in by gravity, which would create a prograde meridional flow (towards equator and sideways).

    The centre of mass of the solar system (the SSB or solar system barycenter) rarely coincides with the centre of the sun. When Jupiter is opposite to saturn and Neptune and Uranus it can come very close though.

  30. Johnnythelowery says:

    Thank Tallbloke. You can just snip out that band stuff. You said

    ‘…..Don’t recall the post and I don’t usually go on about dark matter, but yes, the standard cosmological model has issues in my view…..’

    Penny for your thoughts(or is it a Euro Cent now?)?

    Thanks…. Johnnnny

  31. Johnnythelowery says:

    Tallbloke: In you Thread ‘Pervasive…’
    ‘……….So, why is this of importance to those of us interested in cosmology and the effect of the planets on the sun and each other? Well, it’s a big deal. The existence of a transmissive medium in space leads to the obvious questions:

    What is it composed of?
    Is it electrically conductive?
    Is it magnetically active?
    How much does it slow light down?
    Can it transmit the gravitational force faster than light?
    What are the implications for Big Bang models?

    Get my ether drift?

    ——————————————————
    This is from your thread. Was wondering where you go to on this inquiry?

  32. Johnnythelowery says:

    I thought you might be US based as you have a US centric taste in music: …..
    Tom Waits, to Bob Dylan, to The Animals, to Neil Young

  33. Johnnythelowery says:

    Correction: ‘Got to’ not ‘go to’. Sorry

  34. tallbloke: You wrote, “Looking at the rate the North Altlantic OHC is dropping, whereas it was rising in ‘98, this is one of the important differences.”

    The variability of the North Atlantic SST anomalies is a product of AMOC, Saharan dust, ENSO, NAO, etc. Not sure where you’re going with that one.

    Bob Tisdale

    February 10, 2010 at 11:24 am

    I would suggest the the Lunar declinational angle was at minimum in 1998, and the following Max was in 2005, creating reverse tidal bulge dynamics with full compression onto the equator / ITZ in effect in 1998, and by 2009-2010 it was just past peak culmination angle extent and dropping back in poleward extension on every 27.32 day cycle like the modulation of short period ocean shore waves during incoming and outgoing phases of the 2xdaily tides, that result in the changes in surfing conditions most notably.

    I would suggest a short study in the phase of occurrence of el ninos to the 18.03 Saros cycle could be very reviling as to these sort of differences in en nino from cycle to cycle and shifts in declinational phases, With consideration for the outer planets positions at the times as well. I would think this would shake out some good correlation patterns that would be profitable to work out, the WHY?

  35. tallbloke says:

    Hi Richard,

    I agree there are various reasons why SST changes. I’m more trying to get a handle on the underlying OHC value and why that rises and falls. Clearly, surface conditions will affect it too, but the longer term patterns may be easier to identify in OHC. However, measurements of OHC don’t go back far enough, and are pretty unreliable. My solar-ocean model seems to give a reasonable approximation though. I’m just trying out ideas and seeing what happens. No big claims.

  36. Ulric Lyons says:

    Watcha Rog, anybody read any of Erl Happ`s work on El Nino versus the sunspot cycle?