As in years past, the annual rollout of the GISTEMP, NOAA, HadCRUT and Berkeley Earth analyses of the surface temperature record have brought forth many stories about the long term trends and specific events of 2022 – mostly focused on the impacts of the (ongoing) La Niña event and the litany of weather extremes (UK and elsewhere having record years, intense rainfall and flooding, Hurricane Ian, etc. etc.).
But there are a few things that don’t get covered much in the mainstream stories, and so we can dig into them a bit here.
What influence does ENSO really have?
It’s well known (among readers here, I assume), that ENSO influences the interannual variability of the climate system and the annual mean temperatures. El Niño events enhance global warming (as in 1998, 2010, 2016 etc.) and La Niña events (2011, 2018, 2021, 2022 etc.) impart a slight cooling.
Consequently, a line drawn from an El Niño year to a subsequent La Niña year will almost always show a cooling – a fact well known to the climate disinformers (though they are not so quick to show the uncertainties in such cherry picks!). For instance, the trends from 2016 to 2022 are -0.12±0.37ºC/dec but with such large uncertainties, the calculation is meaningless. Far more predictive are the long term trends which are consistently (now) above 0.2ºC/dec (and with much smaller uncertainties ±0.02ºC/dec for the last 40 years).
It’s worth exploring quantitatively what the impact is, and this is something I’ve been looking at for a while. It’s easy enough correlate the detrended annual anomalies with the ENSO index (maximum correlation is for the early spring values), and then use that regression to estimate the specific impact for any year, and to estimate an ENSO-corrected time series.
A major uncertainty in figuring out how much of recent warming has been human-caused is knowing how much nature has caused. The IPCC is quite sure that nature is responsible for less than half of the warming since the mid-1900s, but politicians, activists, and various green energy pundits go even further, behaving as if warming is 100% human-caused.
The fact is we really don’t understand the causes of natural climate change on the time scale of an individual lifetime, although theories abound. For example, there is plenty of evidence that the Little Ice Age was real, and so some of the warming over the last 150 years (especially prior to 1940) was natural — but how much?
The answer makes as huge difference to energy policy. If global warming is only 50% as large as is predicted by the IPCC (which would make it only 20% of the problem portrayed by the media and politicians), then the immense cost of renewable energy can be avoided until we have new cost-competitive energy technologies.
The recently published paper Recent Global Warming as Confirmed by AIRSused 15 years of infrared satellite data to obtain a rather strong global surface warming trend of +0.24 C/decade. Objections have been made to that study by me (e.g. here) and others, not the least of which is the fact that the 2003-2017 period addressed had a record warm El Nino near the end (2015-16), which means the computed warming trend over that period is not entirely human-caused warming.
If we look at the warming over the 19-year period 2000-2018, we see the record El Nino event during 2015-16 (all monthly anomalies are relative to the 2001-2017 average seasonal cycle):
Why do U.S. climate forecasters pay so much attention to a pattern that operates in the remote tropical Pacific? Because the Pacific is the world’s biggest ocean, and disruptions to its climate have a long reach. The seesawing changes in tropical rainfall, winds, and ocean temperature that accompany La Niña and its warm-phase partner, El Niño, trigger a cascade of potentially predictable impacts on seasonal climate in the United States and beyond.
La géologie, une science plus que passionnante … et diverse