Thursday, March 27, 2014

How Anthony Watts turned three weeks into "almost a year" at wattsupwiththat!

Sou | 3:01 PM Go to the first of 13 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts has commented on a new article in Nature "news and views", which suggests that multi-decadal periods of high and low variability in ENSO may be "entirely unpredictable".

Anthony comments (archived here) - my bold italics:
I suppose this explains why this model has been doing so poorly for the last year in predicting a new El Niño, it has been showing an El Niño just months away for almost a year

First of all, while I can't read the article itself (paywalled), it's obvious from the abstract that it's referring to multi-decadal periods of variability, not year on year ENSO events.  Anthony's comment is misplaced for that reason alone. (See update below.)

There's more. I was curious as to where Anthony got his "almost a year" from, because I watch the BoM ENSO page and it was only this month when there was the first sign of the possibility of an El Niño later this year.

So it wasn't from the Bureau of Meteorology.  Perhaps NOAA?  I checked NOAA and there was no active alert for March, April, May, June, July, August or September last year.  There was mention of an ENSO alert in its bulletin of the 4th October 2013, a mere six months ago.  Even then it was very cautious, writing:
Synopsis: Borderline ENSO-neutral/ weak El Niño conditions are expected to continue into Northern Hemisphere winter 2012-13, possibly strengthening during the next few months. 

However the NOAA November, December, January and February bulletins were back to a "not active" ENSO alert.

Three weeks is not "almost a year"

So the current bulletin has been active only since 6 March this year.  A mere three weeks.  That's around 49 weeks shy of "almost a year". Even so the synopsis is for only a 50% chance of an El Niño developing during the summer or fall:
Synopsis: ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall. 

Just more evidence (for anyone that cares) that WUWT cares not one whit for facts opting instead for disinformation.

BTW - you can read the comments here - I don't have time to read them in depth. I scanned them quickly but didn't see anyone pick Anthony up for his two bloopers.  Typical of the fake sceptics at WUWT.

(Strictly speaking Anthony probably made three bloopers.  He linked to a "news and views" article about another paper but I doubt he realised that.  Going by what he wrote, Anthony mistook the Nature article for the research paper itself.)


The "news and views" article is, as far as I can tell, about a new paper in BAMS Journal of Climate.  The abstract (my paras):
Observations and climate simulations exhibit epochs of extreme El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) behavior that can persist for decades. Previous studies have revealed a wide range of ENSO responses to forcings from greenhouse gases, aerosols, and orbital variations, but they have also shown that interdecadal modulation of ENSO can arise even without such forcings.
The present study examines the predictability of this intrinsically generated component of ENSO modulation, using a 4000-yr unforced control run from a global coupled GCM [GFDL Climate Model, version 2.1 (CM2.1)] with a fairly realistic representation of ENSO. Extreme ENSO epochs from the unforced simulation are reforecast using the same (“perfect”) model but slightly perturbed initial conditions.
These 40-member reforecast ensembles display potential predictability of the ENSO trajectory, extending up to several years ahead. However, no decadal-scale predictability of ENSO behavior is found. This indicates that multidecadal epochs of extreme ENSO behavior can arise not only intrinsically but also delicately and entirely at random. Previous work had shown that CM2.1 generates strong, reasonably realistic, decadally predictable high-latitude climate signals, as well as tropical and extratropical decadal signals that interact with ENSO. However, those slow variations appear not to lend significant decadal predictability to this model’s ENSO behavior, at least in the absence of external forcings.
While the potential implications of these results are sobering for decadal predictability, they also offer an expedited approach to model evaluation and development, in which large ensembles of short runs are executed in parallel, to quickly and robustly evaluate simulations of ENSO. Further implications are discussed for decadal prediction, attribution of past and future ENSO variations, and societal vulnerability.

Pedro DiNezio, "Climate science: A high bar for decadal forecasts of El Niño.Nature 507, 437–439 (27 March 2014) doi:10.1038/507437a

Wittenberg, Andrew T., Anthony Rosati, Thomas L. Delworth, Gabriel A. Vecchi, Fanrong Zeng, 2014: "ENSO Modulation: Is It Decadally Predictable?". J. Climate, 27, 2667–2681. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00577.1


  1. Well Watt's has already shown that he doesn't understand pH and logarithimic math, is it any surprise that he also doesn't understand the calendar and dates as well.

    1. Dave.

      Don't forget that Watts doesn't understand anomalies either. Anything requiring more than fingers and toes is magickery to him...

    2. Anthony really should always check with Kenji before he clicks that final "submit" button to his articles.

  2. Hi Sou,

    The following is the best blog article I've seen on El Nino 2014...


    Surprised to find RS ain't on your blogroll...

    1. Thanks, idunno. That blog hadn't hit the HW radar. I'll enjoy exploring it.

  3. Watts is showing his nerves. By pretending that predictions have been failing "for almost a year" (which will presumably now be received wisdom in the AGW denier camp) he can more easily dismiss what's actually being said, to the great comfort of his audience. They're whistling as they pass the graveyard ...

    Best not get ahead of things on an El Nino; there's still a good chance it won't happen this year. As and when it does it'll be time to put the boot in.

  4. To be fair, Watts was not saying that the official forecast from NOAA for almost a year had been for an El Nino to develop. He was saying that NOAA's seasonal prediction model - the CFSv2 - had been forecasting an El Nino to develop for almost a year. Big difference - the NOAA folks at CPC use many sources of information - one of which is the CFSv2 forecast - in issuing their El Nino outlooks. In any case, Watt's claim about CFSv2 is also completely false. One can easily verify by looking at the CFSv2 forecasts from previous months at: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/people/wwang/cfsv2_fcst_history/

    1. He should have said 'El Nino conditions' rather than "El NIno', the latter requiring several months of the former.

      I have been watching the models which had been forecasting near El Nino sea temps, while near La Nina temps have persisted into March, as you can see for yourself at the above link. Temps have finally come around to near zero anomaly and, if the trend continues, the seas will certainly boil, not to say it will.

  5. If an El Nino does kick in and temperatures rise what will be the deniers defence?

    1. I can tell you with confidence what they will say because I can remember what they said in 1998.

      They will say you shouldn't worry about the record temperatures because they are due to an El Nino. They will tell you that you shouldn't assess long term trends using this year because El Ninos are temporary phenomena. This involves a certain degree of amnesia on their part because every time they tell us 'no warming in XX years' they have been using an El Nino to assess temperature trends.

      In the short term they will argue that yes GW is happening but its on the low side of CO2 sensitivity so we can ignore it. You can see them already shifting to that position.

      Then, after a few more years, they will start parroting 'no more warming in XX years' where XX is whatever number gets you back to the El Nino in 2014/15. Again, this will require a certain amount of amnesia of their part but there we go.

      Perhaps we should hold a sweepstake for the first denialist website to argue the world has cooled since the 2014/2015 El Nino.

  6. Bingo, Millicent. All we should ever need to show the 'pausists' is this:

    The Escalator

    If a large El Niño does develop in late 2014/early 2015, it will make 1998 look like a walk in the park.

    1. When I picture the amount of inappropriate development there'll have been in Central America since '98 I cringe.

  7. If the mythical Pause is defined as the period over which there has been no statistically significant increase in lower tropospheric temperatures (RSS or UAH, whichever's lower at the time), an El Nino will shorten it considerably. It's an odd sort of Pause which gets shorter over time, isn't it?

    An equally mythical short-term Surge might become available, which would really mess with AGW denier heads. They've painted themselves into a corner with the Pause - which is, of course, all they've got bar squirrels and never-ending whining.


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