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More Alarmist Nonsense About El Niño Warming

Bob Tisdale, Climate Observations

One wonders why NOAA’s scientists were “astonished” or consider the February 2016 uptick “staggering” and “astronomical” when the 2015/16 El Niño has been compared in strength to the 1997/98 El Niño for many months.

In the post Alarmism Cranked Up to Absurd Level, we discussed the misleading media reports about the temporary February 2016 El Niño-related uptick in monthly global surface temperature data from the Goddard Institute of Space Studies. There have been numerous new same-topic news articles since NOAA released its February 2016 global temperature data a few days ago.

The NOAA/NCEI data show an uptick similar to the one we recently saw with the GISS data. See Figure 1. (A similar graph of the GISS data is here.)

Figure 1

Figure 1 — (Data can be found here.)

Let’s focus on the AP story Beyond record hot, February was ‘astronomical’ and ‘strange’ by Seth Borenstein. It begins:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Earth got so hot last month that federal scientists struggled to find words, describing temperatures as “astronomical,” ”staggering” and “strange.” They warned that the climate may have moved into a new and hotter neighborhood.

Let’s see to whom Seth Borenstein attributes the “astronomical,” ”staggering” and “strange.”

“Astronomical” comes from NOAA’s Jessica Blundel.  The AP article reads:

“The departures are what we would consider astronomical,” Blunden said. “It’s on land. It’s in the oceans. It’s in the upper atmosphere. It’s in the lower atmosphere. The Arctic had record low sea ice.”

The “staggering” comes from NOAA’s Deke Arndt, Chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch, at their National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI):

Scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, North Carolina, were astonished by the “staggering” numbers, said Deke Arndt, the centers’ global monitoring chief.

One wonders why NOAA’s scientists were “astonished” or consider the uptick “staggering” and “astronomical” when the 2015/16 El Niño has been compared in strength to the 1997/98 El Niño for many months. See NOAA’s Oceanic Nino Index, which is their “official” metric for monitoring the strengths, timings and durations of El Niño and La Niña events.  It only takes a quick comparison graph, Figure 2, to show that there were comparable responses in global surface temperatures to both strong El Niños.

Figure 2

Figure 2

What many readers of that article are likely finding “astonishing” and “staggering” is that NOAA’s scientists weren’t aware that global surface temperatures were going to respond as they have, given that there was a similar uptick in global surface temperatures in response to the similarly sized 1997/98 El Niño. If the scientists had been aware, they wouldn’t have been astronomically astonished.

Notes about Figure 2: It compares the responses of global surface temperatures to the 1997/98 and 2015 El Niño events. The data have been normalized to the first 3 months of their respective first years.  The normalization was done so that we can easily compare, visually, the responses of global surface temperatures to the two comparably sized strong El Niño events. This is not an attempt to hide the fact that global surfaces have warmed between the two events, according to the NOAA land+ocean data. In Figure 2, we’re simply providing a side-by-side comparison.

The recent monthly uncertainties in the NOAA data are about +/- 0.17 Deg C. (See the NOAA webpage here.)  The best we can say is that the global temperature responses to both El Niño events were comparable, given the uncertainties of the data.

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