Monday, February 02, 2009

Hansen's colossal failures: Super El Niño predictions

Roger Pielke Jr mentions James Hansen's 2006 predictions about a "super El Niño" that would rival the 1983 and 1997-1998 El Niño events.

In March 2006, Hansen wrote a paper claiming the following:
We suggest that an El Niño is likely to originate in 2006 and that there is a good chance it will be a “super El Niño”, rivaling the 1983 and 1997-1998 El Niños, which were successively labeled the “El Niño of the century” as they were of unprecedented strength in the previous 100 years.
To check whether his prediction worked, you should open
ENSO cycle status and predictions (PDF).
On page 20 or so, you will see that the primary index describing El Niño and La Niña episodes is the ONI index, the 3-month running average of the Niño 3.4 regional temperature anomaly in °C (the latter is also discussed on page 5). If this index jumps above 0.5 for five consecutive overlapping 3-months periods, we talk about an El Niño episode. The same circumstances with the opposite sign defines a La Niña episode. These longer events are less frequent than simple "La Niña conditions".

Incidentally, you should also look at today's sea surface temperatures. The uncertain seed of a potential El Niño seems to have disappeared and we are back to pretty much clean La Niña conditions although it is not a terribly strong La Niña.

Now, if you return to the PDF document above, you may also check page 23 that enumerates El Niño and La Niña episodes since 1949.

There have been 17 El Niño episodes and only 13 La Niña episodes, a misbalance that could have been able to cause the whole "global warming" - an irrelevant change of the global mean temperature in the last 100 years or so - by itself. It is not hard to believe this to be the case: you only need an average El Niño episode to accumulatively warm the Earth by 0.1 °C and the average La Niña episode to cool it by 0.1 °C. Be sure that these phenomena are able to do much more.

The excess of El Niño episodes themselves could have been caused by the mostly warm phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation in the previous century, so all of these "global warming" observations could be reduced to "ordinary" ocean cycles. There exists no evidence in the scientific literature indicating that this explanation is incorrect.

But what about Hansen's predictions? Pages 24-26 show the historical ONI index. In 1983, the ONI index reached 2.3. It was a maximum value at that time which is why they called it El Niño of the century. This label only lasted until the end of 1997 when a new El Niño of the century sent the ONI index to 2.5.

The maximum ONI index during the 2006-2007 El Niño episode was 1.1. That's less than one half of the 1997-1998 El Niño. And be sure that a factor of two is a huge difference - it's like the difference between a "two sigma" and a "four sigma" deviation from an average. Since the beginning of 2007, we only saw a La Niña episode - which was stronger than the El Niño 2006-2007 episode because the ONI index dropped as low as -1.4.

A new La Niña episode may evolve from the current La Niña conditions later in 2009.

Sociology and psychology

This particular prediction is closely analogous to those people's "global warming" predictions that try to guess the weather for decades in advance. I am not sure whether the existing science has tools that could allow us to predict the ENSO index for years in advance. But I am absolutely certain that if such tools exist, Hansen doesn't have the slightest clue about them - and I am flabbergasted by the idea that he must believe that he can do such things even though he obviously has no rational reasons for such a belief.

He really doesn't have a clue about the climate. You know, in down-to-Earth empirical science such as the climate science, such statements can be evaluated objectively - by comparing the results of calculations with the mundane data obtained empirically or by other, more direct methods. These comparisons give us an unequivocal message: Hansen is just a magician, a shaman who is flooding climatology with unjustified and unjustifiable predictions that are, remarkably, much less successful even than random predictions would be.

Perhaps, this cargo cult scientist is not even trying to be accurate: he is just trying to be as catastrophic as possible and a "super El Niño" became a part of this story. He has probably lost all the ability to distinguish these two adjectives - "accurate" and "catastrophic". Why is it so difficult for so many people to understand that he is just a whacko analogous to Jehovah's Witnesses who predict a new, imminent coming of Christ?

In fact, even those guys are already saner and more cautious these days than he is. The "global warming" religion is the most irrational sect we can see in the present world. All the variations of the old-fashioned religions have become oases of caution and common sense in comparison.

And that's the memo.

P.S.: I added a video to the article about Klaus in Davos.


  1. Why is that real scientists like yourself are not being listened to? Why is that all the rational scientists are in eastern europe or russia?

    The "fixes" proposed by the global warming fanatics are much much scarier to me than the thought of a warmer planet (which seems like a good thing to me),

  2. Lubos: I tried to get the integral of a number of ENSO indices to mimic global temperature anomalies, but the only one that works as far as I know is the one based on HADSST data. I wrote a number of posts on it. Here are the latest:

    I also believe the Southern Ocean provides the underlying trend in the NINO regions, but with my limited statistics background, I’m unable to verify it.
    If the Southern Ocean does, in fact, serve as the backbone of NINO3.4 SST anomalies, it’s very unlikely that there will be another “Super El Nino” in the near future since Southern Ocean SST anomalies have been dropping like a stone for 10 to 20 years (depending on the dataset).

    Last, the 1982/83 El Nino was a “Non-Nino”. Its ability to redistribute heat from the equatorial Pacific to higher latitudes was thwarted by the El Chichon eruption.


  3. Spread the word, the best you can. The truth is what is needed. We have Al Gore going around to elementary schools in the USA telling the elementary school children to "not listen to their parents, they are lying to you".

    Everyone knows it's a hoax, the governments want the tax money.