Search This Blog


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Anthony Watts is confused about ENSO.

Sou | 4:07 PM 35 Comments - leave a comment

Update - see below for how it's sometimes me who makes a fool of myself!

Anthony Watts is very confused about ENSO. He's got a little competition going at the moment (archived here, latest update here).  This is what he's written:
When/if a large or super El Niño forms, you know the usual suspects will try to link it to global warming/climate change. It is as certain as the sun rising in the morning.

Anthony doesn't say who the usual suspects are. Nor does he say how they will try to link an El Niño to global warming/climate change.  He does give a hint about the latter though, writing:
So, readers are invited to create statements/headlines that they think are likely to appear in the media, and when we get a hit on one of those, we’ll refer back to this WUWT article and point out that it was expected, but there’s just no linkage.
My contribution is:
Trenberth told us that heat hiding in the ocean would jump out and burn us in the future, and he was right!
Happy headlining!

This article is long - to parse Anthony's confused comments, see Bob Tisdale's fudged chart and find out what WUWT-ers think about ENSO, click here to read on.

HotWhopper Competition: What do you think Anthony Watts is claiming?

I'll start.  What I deduce from the above is that Anthony Watts thinks that:
  1. El Niño will cause global surface temperature to rise higher than it has ever before on record.
  2. Record high temperatures from El Niño do not signify global warming.
  3. There is "no linkage" between something or other and something or other.

I'm uncertain (p=0.5) as to what Anthony's something or others are (point 3).  I think what he might be trying to argue is that if El Niño shifts heat from beneath the sea surface to the surface, then it's not got any link to global warming.  And it doesn't, when there is no global warming.  

I showed a simplified view of this in an article about Perenially Puzzled Bob Tisdale.  If there is no global warming, then on average, El Niño's would peak at the same global surface temperature and after the El Niño, global surface temperatures would drop back to where they were before the El Niño.

But if there is global warming then one would expect that global surface temperatures would be trending up and most El Niño's would bring hotter surface temperatures than previous El Niño's brought.

Maybe Anthony is trying to argue that if El Niño causes a rise in global surface temperature then it doesn't cause a rise in global surface temperature.  Or maybe it's as simple as if El Niño causes a spike in global surface temperature then that spike isn't global or it isn't warming or it isn't global warming, even if that spike were to be higher than any spike on record.

Here's a competition for HotWhopperites: Give us your best explanation of what Anthony means.

What about the tropical Pacific?

Anthony's competition comments were below a copy and paste from a previous article by Bob Tisdale.  Bob had a chart that he said showed:
According to the most current generation of climate models—the latest and greatest climate models—if manmade greenhouse gases warmed the sea surface temperatures of the tropical Pacific, they should have warmed about 0.58 deg C over the past 32+ years, based on the linear trend. But the observed sea surface temperatures of the tropical Pacific show little warming in 32+ years.

Now Bob said he got his "observed sea surface temperatures" from Reynolds OI.v2 satellite-enhanced sea surface temperature dataset.  As far as I can find, these data are derived from ship measurements, buoys and satellites and infilled statistically.  This is the chart that Bob put up:

Source: WUWT

How has Bob Tisdale fudged his chart? Answer: He didn't!

Update: Lars Karlsson has pointed out that I mapped the opposite area of the ocean. So Bob didn't fudge the chart at all.

I should have been more careful - and apologies to Bob.

I'll leave this comment and placeholder here as a salutory lesson to myself!

Sou: 7:50 pm AEDT

PS If anyone want to see how big my mistake was, Brandon Shollenberger (who is hot on the trail of every mistake but who himself never makes a mistake) has archived it here.

From the WUWT comments

Some people didn't play Anthony's game, they just made random comments. Here are some of the headlines for Anthony's competition plus a few of the random comments.

Some of the headlines may win a guernsey, others suggest the author isn't a copywriter. Based on the entries, most people at WUWT do think that the next El Niño will be a whopper!  That's even while many of them don't "believe in" anthropogenic global warming.  No-one ever accused a science denier of making sense.

It’s worse than we thought. Robert Wykoff April 12, 2014 at 3:01 pm

Obama’s plan next vacation. Greg April 12, 2014 at 3:03 pm

“Wheres the Heat???? RIGHT HERE and to STAY” Jim Arndt April 12, 2014 at 3:13 pm

The pause-in-global-warming that never happened is now over ( and it’s worse than we thought). BCBill April 12, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Zombie El Nino Attacks Global Warming Pause Roy Spencer April 12, 2014 at 3:39 pm

“Pause” fades like a mirage as el Nino in the Pacific brings global warming back with a vengeance. “  phlogiston April 12, 2014 at 3:59 pm

“Missing heat lunges from ocean. Swallows last remaining denier!” Frank Kotler April 12, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Global warming resumes with a vengeance. Jimbo April 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm

“hidden heat says BOO!” Jeef April 12, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Climate change driven El Niño kills the hiatus. Daniel G. April 12, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Jimbo seems to be convinced this El Niño will be a big one but not the hottest ever, and adds his entries in Anthony's competition:
April 12, 2014 at 4:40 pm
• Dangerous warming is here!
• Head for the hills!
• The 2nd hottest year evaaaaah!
• The world is hotting up.
• We must act now! It’s all for the grandchildren.
• Climate change makes El Ninos stronger.
• Scientists see worrying signs of global warming.

Jimbo keeps coming up with more. He can't make up his mind if the next one is going to be a super El Niño or a regular one: Jimbo says:
April 12, 2014 at 5:34 pm
• Global warming on steroids.
• Get ready for Thermageddon.
• A sure sign of climate change.
• Positive proof of global warming.

Pamela Gray says:
April 12, 2014 at 3:11 pm
First, it will not be big or super anything (men…they always think things are bigger than they are). What counts is overall column heat. And this will be nothing to get all twitterpated over. The lead up (and ain’t it the truth ladies) is that this will be the biggest El Nino EVA and caused by human hands!!!!! But when it is finally revealed, it will leave us La Nina’s pointing and laughing.
But true.

jim Steele hedges his bets and tells a fib when he says (excerpt):
April 12, 2014 at 3:11 pm
Based on my belief that the sun, not CO2, warms the tropical oceans, and because solar output has been declining, and as expected the upper 700 meters of the ocean have cooled since 2003, I do no expect to see an El Nino that increases global temperature (unless heavily adjusted) above the 1997-98 event. I would guess any warming would be less than the 2010 event.

Jim Steele plays loose with the truth, as usual. Here's a chart of ocean heat content for the upper 700 metres, with the red line showing 2003. It's been getting hotter, not cooling:

Data Source: NOAA

Jon Gebarowski says:
April 12, 2014 at 3:14 pm
One of the warmers on a website I frequent likes to call everything “Unprecedented”, I suspect he will drag that line out.

Dodgy Geezer says:
April 12, 2014 at 3:32 pm
…So, readers are invited to create statements/headlines that they think are likely to appear in the media…
I think that we should encourage them. I’m sure that, in the heat(pun alert!) of the moment, there will be a lot of exaggerated predictions made. We should get people to nail their predictions to the mast, and stake their reputations on this ‘resumption of heating’ continuing.
That will give us ammunition for another 10 years…

DS says:
April 12, 2014 at 4:47 pm
Yeah, I don’t think we are going to see a large/strong El Nino which leaves lasting remnants for some time. And I am talking like between 2035-2045 before we do …will it really matter what they say at that point?
We might see an El Nino, but I doubt it will be that large and it will probably be bookend by rather large La Nina events which leave them hesitant to say too much.
So my headline prediction goes more along the lines of
“After many false starts, is the next Super El Nino developing?”
And I think we might even see a “missed/failed predictions” mention being a possibility

RobertInAz takes a little bit from every pseudo-scientist at WUWT and decides CO2 does have something to do with global warming. He says:
April 12, 2014 at 5:08 pm
I continue to not be satisfied by Bob’s conviction(?) that the ENSO related temperature trend is unrelated to CO2 effect. If Wills is correct that tropical surface temperatures are heavily regulated then it makes sense to me that a plausible explanation for the phenomena Bob most excellently describes is as follows: 
1. Excess heat is retained in the tropics as predicted by CO2 theory which puts most of the retention in the tropics.
2. The temperature is regulated per Willis.
3. The heat migrates to the poles or hides in the oceans per Willis and multiple sources
4. The heat is periodically discharged into the atmosphere in an El Nino event.
How does this not explain some of the CO2 induced warming?
As an Arizona resident, I am a great fan of El Nino events. Similarly, I am not concerned about 100+ temperatures. 

Contrary to popular belief, some science deniers do have a sense of humour. pokerguy says:
April 12, 2014 at 5:37 pm
Dr. Trenberth, a highly respected climatologist known for theorizing that the missing heat is hiding in the ocean depths, ignored the warnings of his colleagues and tried to take the El Nino’s temperature. The fearsome beast took exception to the insertion of a thermometer into its hind parts, and swallowed him whole.
“Kevin was praying for a super el nino,” his friend MIchael Mann lamented. “We all were. But it turned out to be even worse than we thought. Kevin was a true hero. The whole thing is a terrible travesty. I mean tragedy.”

That seems like a good note to end on :)  If you want more, check out the archive.  If anyone wants to count up the number of WUWT-ers who think the next El Niño will be a doozy, be my guest.  They are an odd lot, accepting global warming at the same time as they reject it.


Millicent said...

Yeah, the advent of an El Nino requires climate change deniers to perform a memory wipe. After a decade of exclusively calculating temperature trends using the 1998 El Nino (no warming in xx years) they are now telling us that you shouldn't calculate trends using El Ninos.

Its one of the reasons it is obvious that climate change denial is a fake movement whose existence is primarily due to fossil fuel industry execs choosing to put their profits before the welfare of the rest of humanity.

Lars Karlsson said...

Dear Sou,

You have 80 W to 120 E, and Tisdale has 120 E to 80 W. These are not the same areas, but they are complements of each other. Try the other way around at KNMI and you get a result that looks like Tisdale's graph.

Anonymous said...

HotWhopper fudges a chart! LOL

Ivan Elovanych said...

If you want to see how long a certain trend has been occurring you calculate it backwards to see how far back the trend started, that is why it is called a trend. It is a normal statistical technique.

If you want to contest it by showing a warming trend, you start from current going back point to point and stop at the point the trend changes from +ve to -ve it is also normal to use a significance interval when applying the trend, so feel free then you can debunk them. But no one else has bothered to do this, I wonder why ?

Sou said...

Oh dear. That explains it. It did seem odd because while Bob does fudge things sometimes, it's not usually his straight charts.

Thanks, Lars.

Anonymous said...

That's the first mistake I have seen you make in the dozens of articles I have read here. Well done for the quick retraction and apology.


Sou said...

Thanks, J.G. It's not the first and I'm sure it won't be the last :(

George Montgomery said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George Montgomery said...


Really? That is what is called a "trend" (as statistically distinguished from random behaviour)? It is a "normal statistical technique" (to determine if data exhibits an increasing or decreasing trend)? Au contraire, as described by you, it's not! Cutting to the chase, your simplistic method of determining a "trend" is invalid as it fails the homogeneity test and is unreliable. In statistics, validity means that the statistical properties of each part of an overall dataset are the same as any other part. I believe "cherry picking" (fallacy of incomplete evidence) is the common phrase that can be used to describe what you call your "normal statistics technique". Personally, I equate the "no warming in xx years" to "cooking the books" or knowingly providing incorrect information.

Jim Bouldin said...

I simply cannot imagine that Watts could possibly be confused on climate science. It does not fall within my sphere of tolerable acceptability. It rocks my world view.

Sou said...

Welcome to HW, Jim :D

Your most recent blog article makes interesting reading. Trying to buy a researcher - that's not something you read every day (at least not in relation to respected scientists like yourself).

Millicent said...

Well yes, he's up there with the other giants who prefer to publish in dog astrology journals.

Sou said...

Bob has taken exception to my comment, writing elsewhere (hilariously) that Anthony wouldn't allow him on his denier blog if he "fudged". So here are a couple of examples:

Bob fudges with baselines to try to hide global warming.

Bob tries to trick his readers about ocean warming.

Of course, it might not be intentional.  Bob, like most who write articles for Anthony's blog, might not have a clue.

Millicent said...

Sou you are doing this all wrong. The correct form is to insert an update in which you inform readers that the error was published intentionally to keep your readers up to the mark. You then add something like:

"Note: I’m glad to see a number of people pointing out how flawed the argument is. Every once in awhile we need to take a look at the ‘Slayer’ mentality of thinking about radiative balance, just to keep sharp on the topic. At first I thought this should go straight into the hopper, and then I thought it might make some good target practice, so I published it without any caveat.
Readers did not disappoint."

To avoid accusations of plagiarism I must, of course, point out that this text is copied from WUWT.

KR said...

You just have to love the Tisdale approach - he ever so carefully graphs tiny pieces of data, cherry picking to support his preconceptions, and doesn't seem to have the self awareness to recognize his logical errors in ignoring the bigger picture. And he will even flatly state what he's doing!


It sounds odd, but it’s true.
By looking at a dataset on a global basis, one can only assume greenhouse gases play a role in the warming. As I’ve noted in numerous previous posts, dividing the dataset into smaller subsets allows the data to present how it truly warmed.

Straight from the horses mouth, so to speak...

Sou said...

It's hard to tell, but it could be just a severe case of motivated reasoning - or motivated rejection of climate science, rather than a deliberate intent to deceive.

Sou said...

Thanks, Millicent. You'd think I'd have learnt something from the pros (at mistake making) by now, wouldn't you :)

bill said...

Sou, when you're diligently toiling on the front line the way you do something will have to go awry occasionally. Good on you for simply and honestly acknowledging a mistake, and good on Lars for respectfully pointing it out!

Anonymous said...

I would tend to agree, it's just that if so the lack of introspection is appalling.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the fudge comparing tropical Pacific Ocean temperatures to global averages?

Victor Venema said...

One of the great things of normal citizens blogging about WUWT and Co madness is that you can make mistakes occasionally and simply apologize.

If a scientist makes a mistake, it would provoke a multiple post series on the ignorance of all of climate science and would be referred to for years and years.

Keep up the good work.

And Then There's Physics said...

Have Anthony or Bob acknowledged your apology? Should I hazard a guess?

Sou said...

Bob thanked me for correcting my mistake, and reblogged an article by Brandon Shollenberger who showed what a nincompoop I was. He was a bit miffed at me, understandably, for saying he does have a tendency to fudge. Bob doesn't like having attention drawn to his fudgery.

Anthony acknowledged my apology with a couple of tweets along the lines of my being a "boneheaded numpty" who "crashed and burned". Pretty mild really. He probably didn't want to draw too much attention to the rest of the article :)

Aren't you meant to be taking a well-earned break? And congrats on your birthday.

And Then There's Physics said...

Well, I'm having a break from writing blog posts, but was in a nice pub having a nice pint, so a brief comment didn't seem too nerous :-)

Cugel said...

Watts is prepping for the post-Pause world, methinks. As and when an El Nino breaks the '98 temps (which it surely will) AGW deniers will argue that AGW didn't cause the El Nino. Nobody will say it did but that's what they'll be happiest arguing against. El Nino causes the record temps, AGW did not cause the El Nino, ergo AGW has nothing to do with records temps. Duh.

That's what the usual suspects will be saying, mark my words. In effect they're saying it already :)

Cugel said...

The "hazard a guess" line was a tactical error, which might indicate battle stress, and who could blame you? You've more than earned a break. Come the NH summer, though, there'll be too much going on for you to stay away from it :)

Anonymous said...

Sou we had a saying at CSIRO. If you are not making mistakes you are just not trying hard enough. The important thing is to honestly acknowledge any detected mistakes and carry on. Bert from Eltham

Sou said...

A beer sounds good. Have one for me, too :)

Sou said...

IMO you've won the competition, Cugel. Seems to me that's precisely the illogical route Anthony is guiding them down.

It's also consistent with past forms of argument from deniers.

Joshua said...

"That's what the usual suspects will be saying, mark my words. In effect they're saying it already :)"

I'm sorry, but I think that you have it wrong. Completely wrong.

Since "skeptics" have been arguing for so long, that a relatively short-term flattening out off a longer term trend of significant rise in global surface temps disproves global warming, they most assuredly will completely change their perspective should a trend of significant rise become apparent once again.

I mean it's not like they will go back to arguing that temperature records are too unreliable to be meaningful, because in arguing about the "pause," they have made it quite clear that they have great confidence in the veracity of temperature records.

And it's not like they will go back to arguing that the very term of "global warming," is meaningless because there is no valid way to average global temperatures. They couldn't do that, because in arguing that the "pause" is so meaningful, they have made it clear that they do accept the concept of an average "global temperature."

So "skeptics" most definitely will write thousands of blog posts and hundreds of thousands of blog comments noting how their former confidence that "the pause" disproved global warming was clearly misplaced.

You see, "skeptics" are dedicated to clear-eyed and open-minded scientific analysis. If "the pause" ends, they will have no choice but to admit their errors, and being the stand-up and fully accountable folks that they are, there is no possibility that outside of a few extremist dead-enders, "skeptics" will line up in droves to pronounce the end of climate change "skepticism," and to throw their full weight behind activities that target eliminating ACO2 emissions.

Don Brooks said...

Jim, interesting post. You may (or may not) be aware that the CAS pays authors on a per-paper basis, from about US$30,000 for a paper in Science or Nature down to a few hundred $$ for a paper in an ordinary mainstream journal. See for example

So from one point of view your CAS colleague is just offering you a cut of the winnings. Good old fashioned capitalism at work.

Captain Flashheart said...

I think I've said here before that this "pause" business is going to come back and bite the deniers on teh arse when the next el nino comes around. It's going to be entertaining to see what will happen to "just the facts" monthly pause updates when he finds a whole bunch of time frames on which the trend is significant.

I would really relish it if a year from now they find all sorts of short-term time frames with significant trends, but the 16 year time frame (between 1998 and 2014) is non-significant. To defend themselves against the implication of rapid short-term warming, they'll have to throw out years of blathering about the pause ...

Anonymous said...

I don't think anybody is saying "you shouldn't calculate trends using El Ninos". Dr Ben Santer only says trends should be at least 17 years long so as to avoid the impact of short term events like El Nino. The other technique that does that is drawn trends over peaks, El Nino to El Nino rather than La Nina to El Nino or the opposite.

Jim Bouldin said...

Thanks Sou, I appreciate the kind words. I'm still somewhat in shock over the whole thing, but the link that Falko Buschke left there explains a lot.

Don, no I wasn't aware of that and thanks for the link. My impression of Chinese science is dropping by the minute. Still light years ahead of A.Watts however.

Cugel said...

Joshua : you may be right, but wouldn't that be ironic?

What I expect to happen is that the Pause will simply go down the memory-hole, like the long-term warming trend we entered in the mid-2000's and global warming on Mars (don't hear much of that these days, but I remember when it was all the rage).

They're squeezing the last drops out of the Pause as we speak, particularly Monckton, but soon it'll just be squirrels, Antarctic sea-ice and Recursive Fury. Also the El Nino and PDO, which will naturally explain it all. And, as it grinds through the legal process, the Mann libel case as it pertains to Agenda 21.

Apart from themselves and people like us, I don't think many people are listening to them any more.

AGU Fall Meeting 2014

Click here for instructions on how to view the 2014 AGU Fall Meeting sessions, how to navigate the program, plus more. (This notice will remain as a sticky for reference.)