Record warming caused by El Nino, not us

Global Warming Science Fiction cartoon

One or the other, but not both

Our warming nerve has been over-stimulated. Every time we hear of warming we get defensive and/or afraid for the future.

But there’s an important feature to the latest “record high” years we would do well to remember — humanity had nothing to do with them.

Dr Roy Spencer discusses the 2010 global average temperature on his web site, concluding that the difference between 2010 and the previous record high year, 1998, is hardly worth mentioning.

In 1998, the world experienced the greatest El Nino ever recorded, pushing temperatures to a new record.

In 2010, the world again experienced a very strong El Nino. Fuelled by that alone, 2010 might have been another record year but for the end-game intervention of a very deep La Nina, which immediately dragged temperatures down so they did not exceed the high temperatures of 1998.

But it’s rather obvious that neither record year owes anything to man-made global warming. The high temperatures were caused by the natural cycles of the ENSO.

This is non-controversial and nobody denies it.

If anyone disputes this, and says it’s all been “exacerbated” by our emissions of CO2, they must answer this:

In 2010, the global average temperature anomaly was about +0.411 °C. How much of that was caused by human emissions?

If human emissions were responsible for, say, 0.4 °C over the last hundred years (which is disputed), that’s the same as an annual increase of 0.004 °C, which was neither here nor there in determining whether 2010 set a record temperature.

Be neither guilty, nor afraid.

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46 Thoughts on “Record warming caused by El Nino, not us

  1. David White on 18/01/2011 at 9:24 pm said:

    “The Australian” carried a column this month by Michael Steketee, making the same “warmest year ever recorded” claims. He is totally fisked by Christopher Monckton (pdf).

  2. Two questions:

    How many 10 hottest years on record have come since 1998?

    Are you more likely to get a record hot year if there is a warming trend underlying the ENSO and other natural variations?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/01/2011 at 10:23 am said:

      Re your question 2)

      The underlying warming trend has been established at 0.5 C/century. Overlying that trend is a warm-cool cycle. We are currently nearing the end of a warm phase of that cycle.

      So yes, a record warm year is to be expected and nothing extraordinary.

    • Ok, let’s play this game then.

      I persume you think there is a long-term 0.5C warming associated with something like ‘recovery the little ice age’? If that’s so, what’s driving that warming?

    • Andy on 19/01/2011 at 12:48 pm said:

      Irrespective of what’s causing the warming, if you are in a warming phase, then the likelihood of any recent year being “the warmest year on record” is quite high.

      It tells you nothing about the trends.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/01/2011 at 1:01 pm said:

      Two papers: “Reconstruction of solar spectral irradiance since the Maunder minimum”, N. A. Krivova1, L. E. A. Vieira and S. K. Solanki, 2010 and “The Variable Solar Dynamo and the Forecast of Solar Activity; Influence on Surface Temperature”, C. De Jager, S.Duhau, in the book “Global Warming in the 21st Century” Copyright 2011 account for 0.15-0.19 C of the general warming by solar activity and 0.26-0.30 C from residual non-solar climatological causes (Akasofu 2010).

      On top of the solar driver is the multi-decadal oscillation, the average of accounts for the 0.26-0.30 C residual.

      The 0.5 C/century has been extracted statistically in “On the trend, detrending, and variability of nonlinear and nonstationary time series” (Wu et al., 2007) as has the multi-decadal oscillation.

    • And if the sun has been warming us out of the little ice age, what’s been warming us since about 1970?

    • Nothing warms us but the sun. What were you thinking of?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/01/2011 at 1:58 pm said:

      “And if the sun has been warming us out of the little ice age”

      Sun AND multi-decadal oscillation

      “what’s been warming us since about 1970?”

      Probably the same thing that caused us to cool from 1940-1970.

    • Sun AND multi-decadal oscillation

      Have you read the paper you cited?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/01/2011 at 2:15 pm said:

      I cited 4 papers, read them in conjunction (and yes, I have read them).

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/01/2011 at 2:12 pm said:

      David, in case you are not aware of what drives the climate.
      The Primary and Secondary Climate Drivers.

      A compilation of papers and articles evidencing solar, lunar, cosmic ray and celestial influence on climate change.


      The Variable Solar Dynamo and the Forecast of Solar Activity; Influence on Surface Temperature

      De Jager and Duhau. 2011

      Reconstruction of solar spectral irradiance since the Maunder minimum

      N. A. Krivova, L. E. A. Vieira and S. K. Solanki, 2010

      Are cold winters in Europe associated with low solar activity?

      M Lockwood, R G Harrison, T Woollings and S K Solanki 2010

      Variation of cosmic ray flux and global cloud coverage–a missing link in solar-climate relationships.

      Svensmark – Fris-Christensen, 1996

      Cosmic rays linked to rapid mid-latitude cloud changes

      B. A. Laken, D. R. Kniveton, and M. R. Frogley 2010

      Cosmic ray decreases affect atmospheric aerosols and clouds

      H Svensmark, Bondo, and J Svensmark 2100

      Celestial driver of Phanerozoic climate?

      Shaviv and Veizer, 2003

      Cosmic Rays and Climate


      The Watts and Copeland Sinusoidal Solar-Lunar Model


      Holton, 2010

      On the recovery from the Little Ice Age

      Akasofu 2010


      Abdussamatov (translated from Russian by Lucy Hancock)



      New Little Ice Age Instead of Global Warming?

      Gleissberg cycles, Barycentrism



      Archibald 2009


      Scafetta, Submitted May 2010

      The role of the sun in climate forcing

      Beer, Mende, Stellmacher 2000


      Solar Activity Controls El Niño and La Niña


      Connection between ENSO phenomena and solar and geomagnetic activity

      Nuzhdina 2001

      Natural forcing of climate during the last millennium: fingerprint of solar variability Low frequency solar forcing and NAO

      Swingedouw, Terray, Cassou, Voldoire, Salas-Mélia and Servonnat 2010

      Südpazifische Oszillation und Kosmische Strahlung

      Borchert, 2010

      It was found that the South Pacific Oscillation (SO) is influenced by Sun activity similar to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Especially during the warming period from 1980 to 2009 the oscillation of Sunwind – Index “aa “ was in good resonance with the delayed South Pacific Oscillation. The same observation was found between the Oscillation of Cosmic Radiation, which is controlled by the Forbush – Reduction by the magnetic fields of the sun protons of the Sunwind and the delayed SO.

      Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature

      McLean, de Freitas, and Carter 2009.
      The list on Wordpad with links is available on request to me

    • Bruce on 19/01/2011 at 1:35 pm said:

      David, solar output reached a two century peak in the last solar cycle which ended in about 2009, and the PDO (or IPO, depending on which you prefer) also peaked around 2005 or so. Together they explain almost all of the warming we’ve seen in the last century.

      If you want to check this out youself look at temperature anomaly vs previous solar cycle length. I haven’t seen a scientific explanation why this relationship is so strong, but the data is very solid – we just haven’t worked out the “why” yet.

    • Hi Bruce,

      I don’t think so. The PDO/AMO move heat around, they can’t make it. More to the point, they’re oscillations, they have no long-term trends to speak of.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/01/2011 at 2:47 pm said:

      The secondary climate drivers are not working independently of other influences e.g. cloud cover. The decrease in cloud cover mid 1990s gave them more heat to move around i.e. more insolation was let in over that period.

    • Bruce on 19/01/2011 at 3:35 pm said:

      David, yes I agree about the PDO, but it depends on the baseline you choose. The generally accepted baseline period is 1961-1990, which was more or less the bottom of the PDO. The numbers I see suggest a PDO trough to peak of 0.27 C, sinusoidal over 65 years, so something like 0.2C of the satellite measured warming (ie. since 1979) can be explained by the PDO cycle. Solar intensity has a much larger effect, can be plus/minus 2 C depending on latitude. Using Armagh data I see about -1.5 C for the drop from solar cycle 23 to the current SC24 at that latitude. So maybe -1 C for our latitude – it seems to be less in the SH than the NH. CO2 by contrast has caused about 0.25 C warming since preindustrial. That is on the data I see (I’m fitting to the CET, which is a long and fairly clean dataset, at least as far as I can tell).

    • Bruce, you say:

      CO2 by contrast has caused about 0.25 C warming since preindustrial.

      That’s interesting. Do you mean the anthropogenic portion of CO2 or the total increase in CO2, or do you take those to be the same? Would you have a reference for the 0.25 °C?

    • Bruce on 19/01/2011 at 5:34 pm said:

      Richard, if you calculate the temperature anomaly from Dr Spencer’s 2XCO2 value of 0.6 C you’ll get a value of 0.29 C temperature rise since the usually accepted preindustrial value of 280 ppmv. That’s just using the log algorithm in a spreadsheet with the Mauna Loa numbers.

      I’ve checked the 2XCO2 = 0.6 C value using two different and more or less independent ways (a rough calc using SST, and another way using the CET and Armagh solar cycle length vs temperature anomaly from Butler & Johnson Fig 7 (via David Archibald)) and it fits the temperature anomaly data very well. In actuality the 0.6 C is a total empirical value for all greenhouse gases, not just CO2, so you can discount it a little for CO2 itself by the relative contributions of CH4, N2O etc.

      Richard Lindzen and Bill Kininmonth apparently have measured a similar value for 2XCO2 (see p24 at the link).

    • Thanks, Bruce. You’ve given me a real mouthful; it’ll take me some time to chew on it.

  3. Bruce of Newcastle on 19/01/2011 at 12:58 pm said:

    Your local Victoria University academics have come up with another modelling study. Apparently the Antarctic ice has been melting furiously or something, which is news to me.

    The recent 2 std dev excess in Antarctic sea ice must therefore be a conspiracy by sceptics like myself.

    • Clarence on 19/01/2011 at 1:30 pm said:

      No. The model makes no claim that Antarctic sea ice is diminishing. It merely “discovers” that past melting was likely related to the water becoming warmer.

    • Bruce on 19/01/2011 at 1:42 pm said:

      This is from the RNZ report: “Dr Mackintosh … says this means people should be very concerned about the warming of oceans occurring around Antarctica at present.”

      I presume there was a press release from the Uni which said this, and RNZ are reporting it. So I’m afraid I still see a contradiction with “warming of oceans occurring around Antarctica at present” and a 2 st dev high in Antarctic sea ice extent throughout most of the last year or so. Unless he is talking about the last couple of weeks that is, where ice extent has come back to the average – except this is consistent with the big la Nina.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/01/2011 at 1:52 pm said:

      This anomaly is not showing any warming around Antarctica to be concerned about:-

      What is Dr Mackintosh’s baseline?

      Or perhaps he doesn’t watch the metric.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 19/01/2011 at 1:43 pm said:

      Victoria University was the recipient of a donation from a local philanthropist, Gareth Morgan. Quoting from his co-authored book “Poles Apart: Beyond the Shouting, Who’s Right about Climate Change?”:-

      “The Alarmists were right, and we shouldn’t call them alarmists any more – or at least not all of them!”

      See – “Morgan donates money to climate research”

      Published: 12:31PM Tuesday June 02, 2009 Source: NZPA

      Economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan has donated $250,000 to Victoria University’s Antarctic Research Centre (ARC).

      The grant will fund initiatives including a research fellowship on ice sheets and sea level to improve understanding of how ice sheets are likely to contribute to rising sea levels and the potential effect this could have in the southwest Pacific region.

      NZ TV1 ran a piece on the Queensland floods featuring Prof Manning, Victoria University’s Director of Climate Change Research.

      “The warming of the whole planet is putting more water vapour into the atmosphere, so when these events occur now, we do expect more rain may well be coming out because of global warming,” Manning said.

      “Climate change is a lot more than changing the average temperature. It’s actually pushing into new weather patterns and they do consistently come up as more extreme, both directions, both wetter and drier.”

      Why didn’t he inform the CSIRO of that?

    • Andy on 19/01/2011 at 2:09 pm said:

      I haven’t read “Poles Aprat”.
      This bit of a scoop review doesn’t exactly endear me to pick up a copy either:

      In the final pages of Poles Apart, Morgan and co-author John McCrystal declare: “The alarmists were right and we shouldn’t call them alarmists any more – or at least not all of them! And further, it has to be said that only a few of the Sceptics are actually sceptics. Too many are gadflies and deniers.”

      Maybe Richard Lindzen could comment on this. After all, he states that “we shouldn’t call ourselves sceptics anymore, because it implies that there is a plausible theory to be sceptical about”

  4. Richard C (NZ) on 19/01/2011 at 8:57 pm said:

    WWF Australia’s Karoly et al 2003 follow-up should be worth the wait.

    Professor David Karoly, Dr James Risbey, and Anna Reynolds
    14 January 2003


    Global warming is a reality that is with us today. We can expect that the impact of drought in Australia will get worse as global warming accelerates. CSIRO (2001) has projected increases in Australian temperatures of between 1ºC and 6ºC by 2070, much greater than the increases over the last 50 years. These temperature increases would lead to even greater evaporation and water stress during future droughts, much worse than in 2002. CSIRO (2001) has projected up to a 45% decrease in stream flow in the Murray-Darling Basin by 2070. Climate models have projected a marked increase in the frequency of extreme droughts under global warming conditions (IPCC, 2001).
    My prediction:-


    (despite AU 2010 temp 0.4 C lower than 2002/03)

    So much for global warming acceleration. Perhaps global warming will be back in 2015 as per Keenlyside:-

    • Andy on 20/01/2011 at 9:56 am said:

      Richard C
      I got an email from you claiming you were in Edinburgh and had been attacked and robbed. Is this true?

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/01/2011 at 10:10 am said:

      The attacked and robbed part is true but the Edinburgh part is not, I got conned into giving up my email details to some troll (well done troll).

      My new mail is, which I like better (thanks troll).

    • Andy on 20/01/2011 at 10:17 am said:

      That is what I thought, but better check. This troll was trying to extract money out of me, so it is more than a troll, it is a criminal scam. Have forwarded the email to your new email address.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/01/2011 at 10:58 am said:

      I don’t think the scam came via my blog activities so probably not a troll although some are very clever. They posed as a Google request (phishing?) that I replied to.

      Google is impenetrable except for automated options so I have not bothered to chase it up. I operate 2 other email accounts and if mayhem is created via gmail, so be it.

      My close confidants know that:-

      A) I would not be in Edinburgh in winter

      B) I would be after much more than US$1700

    • Andy on 20/01/2011 at 11:01 am said:

      Speaking of scams, Bishop Hill reports that the European Carbon market has been suspended following the theft of emissions permits from the Czech registry.

    • Andy on 20/01/2011 at 11:04 am said:

      Check out this quote from the linked Telegraph piece

      But it has been plagued by fraud, with Europol estimating that carbon trading criminals trying to play the system may have accounted for up to 90pc of all market activity in some European countries during 2009. Fraudulent traders mainly from Britain, France, Spain, Denmark and Holland pocketed an estimated €5bn. Carbon allowances are particularly susceptible to fraud because they are high value, intangible and easily moved between different countries

    • Bob D on 20/01/2011 at 12:02 pm said:

      Hi Richard, I also received one. Didn’t respond, it was obviously a scam.

      A) I would not be in Edinburgh in winter

      B) I would be after much more than US$1700

      Had to smile at that!


    • Andy on 20/01/2011 at 12:09 pm said:

      I followed up with the scammer and they wanted me to transfer money to a Western Union account.

      of course, I realise that we are all intelligent people here and realise that this is a scam, but nevertheless it is worth noting that someone is engaging in criminal activities using Richard’s identity.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/01/2011 at 1:15 pm said:

      I wonder if it is worth contacting Western Union, quoting the account number and alerting them as to how their account is being used.

      I’ve got the contact page here

    • Andy on 20/01/2011 at 1:29 pm said:

      Actually, I just phoned WU but they are only interested if a transfer has actually been made.

    • val majkus on 20/01/2011 at 12:45 pm said:

      that’s weird Andy and Richard; there are so many scams that everyone is used to – ‘dear beneficiary’ seeming to be the most common; but I recently got an e mail purporting to be from my telec server asking me to confirm my e mail address; (but the English was a bit foreign so that was a giveaway)
      so you always have to be prepared for something new; if it sounds unusual or is unexpected it probably is a scam

    • Richard C (NZ) on 20/01/2011 at 12:57 pm said:

      “asking me to confirm my e mail address”

      Yes, that’s what I got the first time and it looked like Google were doing housekeeping and did I wish to continue using my account, to which I replied yes.

      Then I received a second that was arranged differently and not as well done, spelling mistakes etc. At that point I realized the first one was bogus and that bad things would soon happen.

    • Andy on 21/01/2011 at 10:47 am said:

      Looks like the scammers are working hard right now. Richard, do not feel alone.

      Climate scientists targeted for fraud – Richard Black, BBC

      Online fraudsters are targeting climate scientists through invitations to fake conferences, often at fictional five-star London hotels.

      Scientists are sent e-mails directing them to fake conference websites – often imitating the style of real ones.

      Typically they are told their travel costs will be refunded – but they have to pay first “to reserve a hotel room”.

      The “phishing” scammers appear to be after information such as e-mail addresses, as well as money.

  5. Richard C (NZ) on 20/01/2011 at 7:59 pm said:

    Queensland Gov Global Warming Forecast Didn’t Even Mention Floods

    Posted on January 18, 2011 by hauntingthelibrary

    I thought it might be worth having a look at the official Queensland government’s official report on climate change, in particular the section on Observed and Projected Climate Change.

    What did it have to say about drought? Well, a heck of a lot, actually. Queensland, according to the report, was going to get hotter and drier. Some areas might see a slight increase in rainfall, but the vast majority could expect a significant drop in rainfall. Droughts would get more common.

    Report: “drought” mentioned 24 times.

    What about floods then? What with all the global warming heating the air up over the oceans, couldn’t Queensland expect more heavy rainfall and flooding? I looked for the page on floods, but there wasn’t one. Looked for the paragraph on it, but again, no sign. Not even a word.

    Report: “flood” mentioned zero times.

    You have to wonder, if the possibility of a flood didn’t even get a mention in the official Queensland government’s climate change report, how much preparation did they put in to preparing for one?

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  7. Alexander K on 22/01/2011 at 4:23 am said:

    I suspect that the ‘Hottest Evah’ claims for 2010 actually fall within the margin for error of the devices used to monitor temperature, so the claim is specious in the extreme.
    Interesting, too, that a new paper from India suggests that the trace greenhouse gas, CO2, has little influence in warming our planet. Whoda thunkit!

  8. Andy on 22/01/2011 at 10:30 am said:

    On related topic, Judith Curry writes about mid 20th century warming

    • Andy on 22/01/2011 at 10:36 am said:

      Note that in the discussion at JC’s blog linked above, the southern hemisphere temperature record is crucial.

    • Richard C (NZ) on 22/01/2011 at 11:07 am said:

      Interesting development.

      When I quizzed Dr David Wratt (Chief Scientist – NIWA) about the 1940s warming that the models can’t mimic, his defense was the Thompson et al paper that, as Judith Curry says, “attempted to explain the sea-surface temperature drop after 1945 as an uncorrected measurement bias caused by the change from bucket to engine-intake temperature measurement”

      That hump really is inconvenient and troublesome to the consensus and it’s not going away.

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