A reference was made to a paper that has become a classic of a kind on a thread near here recently. Some things get chewed up into bits and buried so deep that you’d think we’d never hear from them again. But they have a habit of showing up from time to time. It concerns an peer-reviewed article Influence of the Southern Oscillation on tropospheric temperature by three Australasian writers, J. D. McLean, C. R. de Freitas and R. M. Carter in the Journal of Geophysical Research (JGR), a refereed journal published by the American Geophysical Union (AGU).
the results showed that SOI accounted for 81% of the variance in tropospheric temperature anomalies in the tropics.
Carter, we were told, generalises this to global temperature:
The close relationship between ENSO and global temperature, as described in the paper, leaves little room for any warming driven by human carbon dioxide emissions. The available data indicate that future global temperatures will continue to change primarily in response to ENSO cycling, volcanic activity and solar changes.
So the implications are said to be global and that’s it then for all those hucksters masquerading as climate scientists. The games up. They can pack it in and find a real job.
If you can’t get at the original article behind the pay wall the main findings are here.
Tamino at Open Mind was first out of the blocks. He found that it’s old news that ENSO has an effect on global temperature from year to year. But that effect is contained within the event and doesn’t contribute as such to the longer term trend.
Tamino points out that there is a difference between temperature and trend. He reckons they’ve stuffed up with their statistical method:
The fact is that their methodology, the process of estimating derivatives by taking 1-year differences, transforms any trend into a constant and thereby eliminates its impact on all variation and correlation.
Foster et al came to similar conclusions:
This comment first briefly reviews what is understood about the influence of ENSO on global temperatures, then goes on to show that the analysis of MFC09 severely overestimates the correlation between temperature anomalies and the SOI by inflating the power in the 2–6 year time window while filtering out variability on longer and shorter time scales. It is only because of this faulty analysis that they are able to claim such extremely high correlations. The suggestion in their conclusions that ENSO may be a major contributor to recent trends in global temperature is not supported by their analysis or any physical theory presented in that paper, especially as the analysis method itself eliminates the influence of trends on the purported correlations.(Emphasis added)
They also find some trickery (illegitimate this time) in patching the pre-satellite data onto the satellite record.
To me it doesn’t make sense. In the last decade we have been getting La Niñas with higher temperatures than El Niños in earlier decades. El Niños involve an rearrangement of heat within the earth system, not an input of extra heat, so could not result in an upward trend in global temperature across decades. Major volcano eruptions dampen temperature, but the effect washes out after a few years. The sun is on a 11-year cycle and is currently at a minimum when we’ve been having some of the hottest years on the record. And still there has been a strong warming trend in the global surface temperature which is where we live and grow our food.
In addition to the three links already provided here’s a sample of the rest:
Martin Tobis asks whether what they did was incompetence or intentional. He decides the latter. I beg to differ. I’ve met Bob Carter and he’s a nice bloke. He doesn’t have that sort of caper in him.
Greenfyre probably has the most comprehensive treatment including some links demonstrating the previous form of each of the authors.
The further question is how the paper got published in what is supposed to be a peer-reviewed journal. James Annan, in addition to finding one more error, goes into this to some degree.
JGR asks authors to submit the names of five possible reviewers. Although the editors may go elsewhere, the temptation is to be lazy. Also it does seem that JGR has an editorial policy of publishing contrarian climate science. It’s noteworthy, I think, that Morgan and Crystal in their book Poles Apart found that what they called The Sceptics were extremely unsceptical about anti-AGW publications. Just about anything goes as long as it’s anti-AGW.
I want to leave you with some images which I hope will convince you that the paper is an offence to common sense.
This image shows the multivariate index of ENSO.
As explained here ENSO comprises six factors, not just the SOI, which is based on the atmospheric pressure differences between Darwin and Tahiti. In this index the graph is either positive or negative, which is a bit misleading. We are simply not always either in an El Niño or La Niña event. There is ‘normal’ state also. When all the factors line up and reach a certain extremity you have what is called a “major” ENSO event.
If you want just SOI, here’s an annual bar graph up the other way, which is usual:
The main point is that there have been major La Niña events since 1998 and all along the way. Now look at this temperature graph:
Every year since 2000 has been warmer than the 1990s average. Every year in the 1990s has been warmer than the 1980s average. Recent El Niño years are clearly warmer than all earlier El Niño years if you go back a bit. In the main, ENSO involves differences in atmospheric pressure and changes in the heat distribution in the Pacific Ocean, plus such things as changes in wind direction and cloudiness. It’s bleeding obvious that additional heat is coming in from somewhere. It’s hard to see how ENSO could do it.
Then there’s the sun, where the pattern over time looks like this (from NASA GISS’s 2008 summation of temperature trends):
The 11-year running mean should eliminate the year to year noise from ENSO and minimize the 10 to 12-year solar cycle. Looks like something else is going on.
I also posted this graph from Tamino where he used statistical analysis techniques to remove entirely the effect of ENSO and the aerosol effect from major volcano eruptions:
Finally, we are told that more than 90% of the heat from global warming ends up in the ocean. Here are two graphs much beloved by Joe Romm at Climate Progress:
The first is oceans to 2000 metres, the second global heat content. To those I’ll add this one from the dreaded IPCC:
I’m aware that the authors have responded to criticisms of their statistical methods (scroll down to “Technical Note from co-authors of study – July 29, 2009″).
Personally I don’t have the skills to arbitrate on the statistical methods, but in view of the above I can’t see how the interannual variance of temperature caused by ENSO could lead to a long term warming trend in surface temperature or a change of that magnitude in the earth’s total heat content. In the long run I think the contrarians, sceptics or whatever you call the anti-AGW mob will be mugged by reality. I’d be absolutely delighted if they are not, but I reckon that’s their lot.
I’ll end with this caution from an interesting post at Rabett Run:
Many non-scientists have no clear idea of how highly rated redundancy is in science. You don’t really believe anything seriously before it has come from several independent sources. And those sources themselves are often internally redundant, like surface temperatures, monthly averaged, correlate over long distances.