Tuesday, January 22, 2019

El Niño has been cancelled

Sou | 11:27 PM Go to the first of 50 comments. Add a comment
In case you missed it, the latest ENSO wrap-up from the Bureau of Meteorology has downgraded El Niño status from "alert" to "watch". The atmosphere didn't come to the party and so it's no longer as likely to happen imminently.

An El Niño might still emerge in coming months, based on model outlooks.

From the Bureau:
ENSO Outlook lowered to El Niño WATCH
Recent observations and climate model outlooks suggest the immediate risk of El Niño has passed.

However, there remains an increased likelihood that El Niño will develop later in 2019. The Bureau's ENSO Outlook has therefore moved to El Niño WATCH, meaning there is approximately a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the southern hemisphere autumn or winter.

Tropical Pacific sea surface and sub-surface temperatures remain warmer than average, but since late 2018 they have cooled from El Niño-like values towards ENSO-neutral values. Atmospheric indicators such as cloudiness, trade winds and the Southern Oscillation Index all continue to generally remain within the ENSO-neutral range.

While most climate models indicate ENSO-neutral conditions for the immediate future, the current ocean warmth and likelihood of ongoing warmer than average conditions mean the risk of El Niño remains. Three of eight models suggest that El Niño may establish by mid-2019.

The Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) is neutral. The IOD typically has little influence on Australian climate from December to April.

By the way, no matter what some cranks might try to tell you, El Niño isn't what's causing global warming. "It's getting hotter because it's getting hotter" isn't an adequate explanation for climate change!


  1. El Niño has been cancelled

    But, but, I have already hired the caterer.

    Not being anything like an atmospherics scientist or meteorologist my question is, "Is this good bad or neutral for the countries usually most affected by El Niño"?

    1. El Nino often brings extreme weather, like heat and drought in Australia and New Guinea etc, and rain, floods and mudslides in western USA, plus the fisheries drought off Peru. So - on balance we're probably better off when it's not happening.

      Then again, we've already got heat and drought in Australia. California has had recent storms.

      Will they be worse with the next El Nino? I don't know. From what I've been reading, the effects are changing a bit (possibly for a future post here).

      The first article I came across after your question might interest you, jrkrideau. It's more of an essay, exploring dimensions including and beyond the physical sciences:

      Höhler, Sabine. "Local disruption or global condition? El nino as weather and as climate phenomenon." Geo: Geography and Environment 4, no. 1 (2017): e00034.

    2. I'm glad that El Niño has been postponed. Tasmania is on high alert for an extreme bushfire day on Friday, and on an ABC news broastcast today there was a piece that explained that there is currently significant firefighting activity to protect biodiversity hotspots in World heritage areas. I posted on Tamino's a few days ago about exactly this threat, and now there's coordinated emergency work to try to protect important ecosystems...

      And this is out of an El Niño phase. The future is bleak.

    3. Thanks Sou. I had a look at the abstract and the first couple of paragraphs of the intro and it looks very interesting. Hopefully I can get the actual article this afternoon or tomorrow.

  2. I've got a denialist "friend" who insists big El Ninos burp heat into the atmosphere, which results in an upward step of global temperature. This creates a plateau during which global warming pauses until the next monster El Nino a decade or two later. Meanwhile, in between monsters, any apparent increase in heat is just little El Ninos, some of which get eaten by La Ninas.

    Yeah, deniers are reaching.

    It's good to see you blogging again, Sou! Any plans for a recap article about global temperature in 2018?

    1. Do ask your "friend" how this worked before 1900.

    2. ha ha D.C. Loving the imagery.

      Thing about your denialist friend (and Bob Tisdale), one of the things they usually fail to explain or even consider is why the heat released through an El Nino doesn't radiate back to space as quickly as it used to. It stays around in the system for longer. Something in the atmosphere must be slowing things down :(

      Greenhouse effect deniers are not the greatest thinkers on the planet, are they.

      Re the global temperature update - usually I report GISTemp. So far I think only BEST is out (if it is). Not sure about Japan. I'll wait until at least HadCRUT comes out or until Trump and McConnell let the US government start operating again.

      The way things are looking, HadCRUT will be out first. I think it is published toward the end of the month.

    3. Thanks for the reply, Sou!

      In addition to your excellent point about heat not leaking away as fast as it used to, there's the question of how that excess heat got into the ocean in the first place. Oceans don't just grow heat from their bellies.

      Tisdale waves his arms and says "It's the sun!" which is, of course, partly true (solar radiation is, after all, the source of nearly all the energy on the surface of the Earth, aside from radioactive decay and residual heat from Earth's interior left over from when the planet formed 4 or 5 billion years ago). But Tisdale apparently thinks the sunlight shining on the ocean gets swallowed to reappear in El Ninos. The physics of this isn't at all clear. (My denier friend doesn't even go as far as Tisdale, not understanding that heat has to come from somewhere before it can go somewhere.)

      Above, Victor rightly asks why none of this happened before c. 1900. I guess that's when the Kraken hatched.

      I understand waiting on the need for the US government to re-open in order to get GISTemp data. The saddest part of that is how few Americans know the extent of the effects of the shutdown. We really are pretty stupid here.

    4. Americans aren't stupid (well,62% aren't :D)

      It's unfortunate that the founders decided pretty much to reinvent the wheel (AFAIK) when it came to government, missing some things badly. It's understandable that they didn't want to model it on the Westminster system but it's a shame they didn't pick the eyes from that system, learn more about its weaknesses (to avoid them) and reshape it as their own. Not that it's doing the UK much good at the moment. That's another story - not unrelated to the absence of compulsory voting and probably to some extent to its House of Lords :(

      The USA still a young country (relatively) so, with luck and determination, will be able to modify things and plug some of the holes in the system. I don't think it's too late yet.

      Just an outsider's viewpoint FWIW.

    5. It is a bit off topic, but what do you think is missing in the US governmental system?

    6. On the US being young--yeah. Europe has food in the back of its fridge older than the US. Asia was in its prime before Europe learned to shave. There's no sense of history among us Americans.

      At the risk of quoting Churchill, he observed that the Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing--after they've tried everything else. It's unfortunate we're discovering more wrong things to try these days.

      Victor, there are some obvious details we're missing--for instance, funding government operations should be automatic and mandatory. It makes no sense to create government departments, then have additional legislation which funds them, then additional additional legislation to borrow the money to supply the funds to fund them.

      But don't get me into governmental theory.

    7. Hi Victor, I can think of a few things that don't work. (I can list some things that don't work in Australia, too, though AFAIK we've never had to resort to slave labour to keep government services running.)

      Having the chief executive on the same level as congress rather than reporting to it has resulted in the situation there is today.

      Having a system where one person can block legislation by not allowing it to proceed to a vote is another.

      Allowing bills to be stuffed with all sorts of unrelated matters is most perplexing and makes a joke out of important legislation. Calling legislation by odd names (the so-called Farm Bill is apparently a social welfare bill for food stamps).

      Not having an independent body to review electoral boundaries, allowing rampant gerrymandering to continue at the whim of whatever party is in power.

      Building an attitude where to vote isn't regarded as a fundamental responsibility and obligation on all people, and actively discouraging or even preventing people from voting.

      Allowing politicians to be bought by companies and wealthy individuals is another.

      For starters ... :)

    8. Sou, I'd appreciate it if you come here for a few years and fix things for us. We desperately need you.

    9. Ha ha. Even if Donald Trump hired me, I doubt he'd end up paying. He doesn't pay bills, from what I hear :)

      Seriously, it's not nearly as simple as I've made out. One of the biggest problems as I see it is rolling the President role and the Chief Executive role into one. US companies often do the same thing. It can lead to dysfunctional governance. It puts way too much power into a lone individual. When that individual is corrupt or becomes mad, all sorts of mayhem results.

      The USA is too big and unwieldy now to change that situation. Not in one hit, anyway. Maybe it can be rectified in a series of small steps over time.

    10. The US system was designed to create deadlocks. That also has its advantages, that you only change things when there is clear support for it.

      I guess the founders did not anticipate the modern childishness of US politics where politicians do not want to have real arguments, because their votes are not based on reason but on campaign contributions and tribalism.

      That the government shuts down in such a case is a modern invention. IIRC a Republican invention.

  3. "Three of eight models suggest that El Niño may establish by mid-2019."

    So the BOM needs eight models to produce an El Nino prediction of "maybe yes, or maybe no".


    1. If you wanted to predict the position of a compound pendulum at a future time, would you use one model to get a point prediction or multiple models and/or slightly perturbed inputs with one model over a number of runs to cover more of the total likely solution space?

      If you don't know what I'm talking about here you don't understand the basis for what the BOM is doing and why and should not be commenting. If you do, why, exactly, do you not understand why they are running multiple models?

      Do you think everyone should just look at GFS/NAM when a hurricane is approaching or do you think they should look at GFS/NAM together with whole host of other models to produce a spaghetti plot?

    2. Eight model It is perfectly believable. Why not?

      Your maybe yes/no option is sadly lacking and disingenuous though. The outcome is a probability. Probability reflects the level of certainty of an El Ninio occurring

    3. My point is that if they had models that actually worked... they'd only need one!

      Jammy.... I don't think you understand the concept of probability. Probability has to do with something random; like will the toss of a coin produce a heads or a tails. Probability reflects the complete lack of certainty. With probability, there is no level of certainty. If they're using probability to predict an El Nino, they may as well just toss a coin.

    4. If I analysed words emanating from the keyboard of Skeptikal and came up with the result that there is a 99% chance that Skeptikal doesn't understand probability, Skeptical would no doubt come back and claim the odds are even she (or he) doesn't understand probability.

    5. Does anyone want to bet that Skeptikal thinks there's a 50% chance the average maximum temperature in a location is lower in summer than it is in winter?

      For a second bet, what are the odds?

    6. Skeptikal wrote: "My point is that if they had models that actually worked... they'd only need one!"

      That may have been the point you want to make. The point you actually made is that you have no clue. That's rather a redundant point to make: I doubt anybody here ever thought you did have a clue.

      For example: engineers use not one, not eight, but thousands of models to perform probabilistic risk assessment. What you describe as "maybe yes, maybe no" is what more intelligent people call probability. You might want to look up Monte Carlo methods.

    7. @Skeptikal

      That is a good laugh Skeptikal. Thanks. It has put me in a good mood. Good trolling from you. Though you are a real case of Dunning Kruger, no doubt.

      You are wrong. Probability is not a random process. It is a very fixed outcome that we measure with incomplete knowledge. Your toss of a coin is not random. It is completely governed by the conditions and initial values. But we can only evaluate the probability by making assumptions about randomness.

      Probability does not reflect "the complete lack of certainty" - whatever that is supposed to mean. Perhaps you mean a probability of zero? And there are most decideably levels of certainty. Try looking up p-values.

      ***Correction to earlier post. Meant to say "Eight models?"

    8. "Probability has to do with something random..."

      That's like saying that condoms have something to do with sex.

    9. "My point is that if they had models that actually worked... they'd only need one!"

      This is simply not true when modeling a chaotic system. Like even something so "simple" as a compound pendulum. You appear not to get, or possibly not even know about, this point.

    10. "Probability reflects the complete lack of certainty."

      Nope. Not even close. In fact it is bass-ackwards. If you want to reduce your ignorance you need to study probability a bit.

      From the entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/probability-interpret/

      Broadly speaking, there are arguably three main concepts of probability:

      A quasi-logical concept, which is meant to measure objective evidential support relations. For example, “in light of the relevant seismological and geological data, it is probable that California will experience a major earthquake this decade”.

      The concept of an agent's degree of confidence, a graded belief. For example, “I am not sure that it will rain in Canberra this week, but it probably will.”

      An objective concept that applies to various systems in the world, independently of what anyone thinks. For example, “a particular radium atom will probably decay within 10,000 years”.

      It goes on to discuss many more interpretations of probability NONE of which resemble your statement.

      Should you wish to understand the history of the term in greater detail and in big words (e.g., 'aleatory'), you could do no better than to read Ian Hacking's works especially "The Emergence of Probability" (though some philosopher's quibble with some of his statements). Or any of his other books on the subject.

    11. The BOM is a joke... a very expensive taxpayer funded joke. I don't know why you people won't accept that their models are crap.

      I'm not the only one who sees a problem with the performance of the BOM's models...


      Sou, I think that there is a 50% chance that this winter will be colder than average, I think that there is about a 1% chance of an El Nino in the first half of this year.... and I think that there is about a 99% chance that you keep cats.

    12. All weather services use ensembles with many runs of the model to achieve more accurate weather predictions and seasonal forecasts, as well as to gain information on how accurate the prediction is. Some situations are easy to predict, some are harder, it is very important to know how accurate a prediction is.

      "Skepticus" is talking from a position of deep ignorance. I would suggest joining a library.

    13. jg, it's you that has it backwards. In all three of your "three main concepts of probability", your examples all say how 'probable' something is... or how likely it is. None of your examples use the word certainty... because there is still no certainty, regardless of how probable something is. The only time you get certainty is when probability reaches 100%, but then you're no longer talking about a random event.

      Yes, you can look at a distribution and see how likely something is, but it only gives you 'the odds'... nothing more.

    14. Skeptikal, your shift away from you previously claiming probability could never be anything other than 50:50 to accepting other probabilities is progress and commendable. Next step is to think about the reasoning behind your probabilities (E.g. sexism, ageism, antipathy toward BoM, climate science denial etc).

      The SBS article was a fluff piece, not an article objectively examining the accuracy of weather forecasts. The poor farmer was frustrated by the drought, doesn't understand weather forecasts and expected BoM to be a rainmaker. (Was that you, Skeptikal?)

    15. "Yes, you can look at a distribution and see how likely something is, but it only gives you 'the odds'... nothing more."

      Which is why when modeling a chaotic system you speak in probabilities as even in principle there is no possibility of a perfect model.

      Essentially you are stuck in the era of 19th century determinism which even the most quantitative and rigorous areas of physics--QM--gave up over a century ago. You need to get up to date with at least the 1900-1920s for starters before you start talking.

    16. Sou, I never claimed that probability could never be anything other than 50:50... those are your words, not mine. The only thing I said that had anything to do with 50:50 was with regard to the BOM's El Nino forecast where I said they need eight models to produce an El Nino prediction of "maybe yes, or maybe no".

      Maybe you should read what I say more carefully before attributing things to me which I never said.

    17. I see the problem now. Skeptikal is most uncomfortable with life and wants certainty of future events (and still doesn't seem to know the meaning of the words "random" and "probability", though is wandering a bit closer).

      It takes all kinds, I suppose. Why 100% certainty about when the next El Nino will emerge is so important to Skeptikal is a question. Another question is whether this carries on into all aspects of her or his life. (Skeptikal must wake every morning trembling in fear of the uncertain never mind the unknown, poor thing.)

    18. This is what you said, Skeptikal, after something about "random": "If they're using probability to predict an El Nino, they may as well just toss a coin."

      As Victor suggested - you'd benefit from visiting a library (and reading a good book, or any book).

    19. "(Skeptikal must wake every morning trembling in fear of the uncertain never mind the unknown, poor thing.)"

      Don't forget the old statistical mechanics bromide that there really is a nonzero probability that all the oxygen molecules will decide to go to another part of the room and you'll suffocate. This could happen at ANY moment ANY time. SCARY!

    20. Sou, that's not saying that probability could never be anything other than 50:50... that was just commenting that rather than wasting an enormous amount of money and effort on eight useless models based on probability, they might as well just toss a coin to predict if El Nino will happen.

      Now why don't you admit that I never said that "probability could never be anything other than 50:50"

    21. Umm. (Scratches head.) Okay - so probabilities based on data are no better than a coin toss (50:50).

      Is that better? Is that any different?

      PS - BoM doesn't run all the models. Tell that to the agencies running the other seven models.

      The saying "talking through his hat" comes to mind.

    22. Skeptikal wrote: Yes, you can look at a distribution and see how likely something is, but it only gives you 'the odds'... nothing more.

      Oh dear Lord, the lack of insight is startling. People assess the odds constantly. Its one of the most important things rational beings possess: those who do not possess the facility have serious issues. I wonder, is Skeptikal an agoraphobic?

      I have a suspicion: is this another sock puppet for the comedian who entertained us so generously with his theory of sentient photons?

    23. "...Sou, I think that there is a 50% chance that this winter will be colder than average..."

      There is not.

      That you don't seem to understand this demonstrates your lack of capacity to comment on the science, the data, and the statistical analyses thereof.

    24. Skeptical is clearly trolling, but I will bite. As far as I know the BOM surveys different models done by different groups. As has been pointed out already getting a spread of results is desirable as it allows an estimate of model uncertainty to be made.

      As for the trolling, it is pretty poor. Lots of weasel words, straw manning, argument from ignorance etc.

  4. The BOM has always used their own and other models to decide the best of best predictions.
    The information about this is available on the BOM look at the MSLP site for further.

  5. I don't think it's been canceled. I think it's just been furloughed during the US Government shutdown.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Two articles, not connected to El Nino, but definitely climate.

    Greenland is approaching the threshold of an irreversible melt, and the consequences for coastal cities could be dire


    In Greenland and Antarctica, supposedly “safe” ice is melting alarmingly fast

    By the way, a particular denier who likes to post fantasy articles on LinkedIn has decided to no longer allow commentary on his irrational screeds there. I guess he reached his threshold of humiliation.

    1. That wouldn't be someone facing Steeley humiliation on a regular basis, would it?

    2. I have to know: what is "Steeley humiliation" and am I going to be sorry I asked?

    3. Long story, but there's a particular retired birdwatcher who writes occasional pieces of WUWT and has received honorable mentions on this blog. He's been involved in some logical sparring matches and never does well, since his wit is unarmed.

  8. I wonder what Skeptikal would make of this video.

    Even people schooled in Physics will need to watch it more than once or at a slower speed.


    It is all about the probability of a photon getting through a polarisation filter which is 50% which is the sort of numbers he understands NOT. Bert


    1. Oh, thanks Bert from Eltham. #sarcasm

      Now my brain hurts!

      (Good video).


Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.