East-West shift in El Niños since mid 1970s

Posted: October 22, 2019 by oldbrew in climate, ENSO, predictions, Temperature
Tags: ,

The original headline for this article was: ‘Climate warming promises more frequent extreme El Niño events’. But since nothing is ‘promised’ it seems to rely too much on assumptions. For example, we are yet to see the full effects, if any, of the current very low solar minimum and the ‘quiet’ solar cycle expected to follow it.

El Niño events cause serious shifts in weather patterns across the globe, and an important question that scientists have sought to answer is: how will climate change affect the generation of strong El Niño events?

A new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by a team of international climate researchers led by Bin Wang of the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center (IPRC), has an answer to that question, reports Phys.org.

Results show that since the late 1970’s, climate change effects have shifted the El Niño onset location from the eastern Pacific to the western Pacific and caused more frequent extreme El Niño events. Continued warming over the western Pacific warm pool promises conditions that will trigger more extreme events in the future.

The team examined details of 33 El Niño events from 1901 to 2017, evaluating for each event the onset location of the warming, its evolution, and its ultimate strength.

By grouping the common developmental features of the events, the team was able to identify four types of El Niño, each with distinct onset and strengthening patterns.

Looking across time, they found a decided shift in behavior since the late 1970’s: all events beginning in the eastern Pacific occurred prior to that time, while all events originating in the western-central Pacific happened since then.

They also found that four of five identified extreme El Niño events formed after 1970.

Wang and his co-authors focused on the factors that seemed to be controlling these shifts, including increased sea surface temperatures in the western Pacific warm pool and the easterly winds in the central Pacific, and found that with continued global warming, those factors may lead to a continued increase in frequency in extreme El Niño events.

Continued here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Re. ‘more frequent’ : the strong basin-wide El Niños in black have been successively further apart than the previous one, according to the graphic below from the report.

    A ‘continued increase in frequency in extreme El Niño events’ has to have something to continue?

    Classic from Wikipedia:
    solar cycles fail to account for warming observed since the 1980s to the present day[citation needed].

    Another unsupported assertion.

  2. Ian Wilson says:


    The analysis done in this study is severely limited by the short time frame considered. In addition, classifications of El Nino types are heavily dependent on the quality of the sea surface temperature data. The latter is particularly true of the moderate central Pacific category. I know it may come as a shock but our knowledge of sea surface temperatures in the western and central equatorial Pacific ocean was not that great prior to the 1940s. Hence, I would take the graph you posted with a grain of salt.

  3. JB says:

    “Bin Wang of the University of Hawaii’s International Pacific Research Center (IPRC), has an answer to that question”

    Reminds me of answers by many classmates as well as myself in Kindergarten, where the instructor responded “NO, that’s not it.” Little did I know then I was in training for voluminous responses of that kind in a science career.

  4. oldbrew says:

    This NOAA assessment runs up to Oct. 19 this year i.e. a few days ago (PowerPoint format).

    ENSO: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions

    Click to access enso_evolution-status-fcsts-web.pdf

    Their Oceanic Niño Index (ONI) chart on p.21 goes back to 1950, but much of the rest is for the last year or even less. Their predictions are mostly aimed at the U.S. of course.

  5. stpaulchuck says:

    more bloviation of guesses and surmises dressed up as “science”. Meh.

  6. Rob JM says:

    Love how they don’t mention that strong Ninos are getting further apart. Not to mention that ENSO is suppressed at the higher temps of the Holocene optimum and is associated with the 3000 year cooling trend according to the proxies. You would think and ENSO researcher would google ENSO proxy studies, but apparently not.

  7. phil salmon says:

    This claim is superficially similar to recent research on climate patterns in the tropical Pacific:


    Li et al 2019, “On the westward shift of tropical Pacific climate variability since 2000”, Climate Dynamics 53: 5-6, 2905-2918.

    But it is mixed with corrupted data and comes to a conclusion the opposite of reality.
    The claim that the 2016 el Nino was stronger than the 1997-1999 one is absurd and transparently false.
    True El Ninos are centered at the Eastern Equatorial Pacific off Peru and involve complete shutdown of both Peruvian upwelling and the trade winds – which even reverse to westerly.

    By contrast “Modoki” el Ninos center on the central equatorial Pacific and involve only a small weakening of trades and Peruvian upwelling. In short, no engagement of the Bjerknes feedback.

    ENSO cycles have weakened since 1999, not strengthened.
    The change from true Bjerknes type ENSOs to Modoki ENSOs is a weakenig of ENSO linked to a global weakening of equator to pole ocean heat transport. Linked to the AMOC slow-down.

    The paper is typical “good science-bad science” forcible and deliberate promulgation of falsehood.
    The Pacific ground state has changed to one of weakened ENSO but the catastrophist circus requires that data are tortured and twisted into showing everything possible is intensifying. “Everything is awesome!”

  8. oldbrew says:

    This year’s predicted El Niño never took off.


    Maybe they don’t like solar minima 🤔

  9. oldbrew says:

    Meteorologist Joe Bastardi weighs in…

    More Super El Niños? Not so fast my friend

    Also from Joe B.

  10. phil salmon says:

    Yes the change in the Pacific ground state could well be linked to the weakening solar cycle and apparent developing minimum.

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