El Niño and Cold

There’s a lot noise that comes around with each El Niño event about how the Pacific has HOT! water off the cost of California and it just must mean Global Warming!!!! (Horrors!!!) since it involves HOT!!! somewhere.

Like now when we have The Blob out there.

The Blob of warm water making El Niño probable

I think it is well worth noting that The Blob can just as easily indicate a cooling trend is well underway.

The California current off the coast of California brings COLD water down from the far north and causes an upwelling of even colder water from the depths off the coast. The “blob” is an “anomaly”, so ‘warmer than usual’ but not actually warm. Water temp is typically about 40 F (about 5 C) off the coast here so the “blob” is actually quite cold. Just not as frigid as usual. I’ve swum in the waters of Santa Cruz bay in summer and ended up near hypothermic. (Lobster red and shivering… but hey, I have English and Viking ancestors so it was just my cultural heritage showing ;-)

Slow that current and the overturning, the surface has a chance to warm up in all of our sunshine! I call it a feature…


BOLD mine.

Published online 12 July 2002 Nature

Ice ages looked like El Niño

Climatologists find familiar fluctuations in Pacific’s past

Philip Ball

During past ice ages, the tropical Pacific Ocean behaved rather as it does today in an El Niño event, bringing downpours to some places and drought to others, say US researchers. The link might help us to understand and predict how and why the Earth’s climate can change rapidly.

For example, it could explain the low atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, during the last ice age. It is not clear whether this was a cause or a consequence of the difference in global climate, but such decreases would have lowered global temperatures still further, maintaining ice-age conditions.

The results also reveal a new layer of complexity in our planet’s climate. The El Niño cycle repeats every 3 to 10 years; changes between ice-age and warm conditions happen over centuries or millennia.

Lowell Stott of the University of Southern California and co-workers came to the conclusion that these two seemingly disparate cycles might be connected after examining geological records of environmental and climate changes off Indonesia1.

Looking at climate records from the other side of the Pacific, in the Galapagos Islands, Athanasios Koutavas of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York and co-workers reached similar conclusions.

While it is pleasant to see them admitting that maybe, just maybe, in keeping with all we know about gas laws and CO2 solubility in water, that a load of ice cold rain might strip CO2 from the air and lead to low CO2 levels; they then are compelled to emit the catechism that CO2 warms when present and cools when absent. Completely ignoring that it is only an emitter in the stratosphere and that it cools there. Oh Well… At least 1/2 way toward the truth…

IMHO, what the cold in Europe right now, and the cold in the Southern Hemisphere (killing farm animals of many kinds at the moment, people to follow…) indicates is that the Thermo-Haline Circulation has slowed as it does in cooling events and this has caused a lesser rotation of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica leading to less “slopping” up the coast of Chile to make a tongue of cold out into the Pacific, thus an El Niño like event.

So watch the developing El Niño, and hope for rain in California, but remember it is an “Ice Age like” event.


Since folks are talking about actual SST and the SST anomaly in the southern hemisphere, I’m adding those graphs from Unisys. I’m not fond of the garish yellow in the ‘new’ Unisys map, but I’ve not spent the time to find a better source yet…


Sea Surface Temperatures from Unisys 12 Aug 2015

Sea Surface Temperatures from Unisys 12 Aug 2015

Unisys Source

SST Anom:

Sea Surface Temperature variation from average 12 Aug 2015

Sea Surface Temperature variation from average 12 Aug 2015

Unisys Source

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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16 Responses to El Niño and Cold

  1. Mddwave says:

    So the movie “The Blob, The End” has changed to the”?”. The Blob has left the arctic and moving down the California coast. :)

  2. omanuel says:

    My ill-informed guess is that heat may be leaking into the ocean from a major geologic fault, . . .
    one that may erupt. Many years ago, in the 1970s, the Japanese measured He leaking to the surface as an indication a volcano might erupt.

  3. p.g.sharrow says:

    I remember this “blob” on Isobaric maps of the late 1950s. They told us this was just something that happened from time to time. Persistent Warm ocean waters caused Persistent warm high pressure areas. Seemed strange to me that moving water and moving air could create these Persistent results.
    It always appeared to me that these results had to have a different root cause and we were just examining the resultant effects…pg

  4. p.g.sharrow says:

    @omanuel; There is an active rift zone off of the Oregon coast that periodically “leaks” lava, quite like the rifts along the central California-Oregon border called the “Devils Garden” A few small splatter cones and hundreds of square miles of lava of various ages, some quite recent.
    An aside, the lava outflows off the Oregon coast are very high in copper metal content. ..pg

  5. p.g.sharrow says:

    I don’t get it. The Blob off of the California-Oregon coast is not part of the EL Nino that takes place off of the Chile-Peru coast. Now the AGW fruitcakes are predicting a Godzilla El Nino that will drown all of California in a vast Pineapple Express this winter. First off the surface conditions are not right for a strong El Nino, The west coast Blob diverts wet away from California. If the Blob persists the Great Basin and the Rockies from BC to Colorado will catch it this winter. A mild and damp winter, not wet, for the west coast and bitter cold again for the eastern U.S… 1 more cold winter and Hudson Bay may not thaw next summer, It is still mostly ice covered as this summer is drawing to a close… A new little Ice Age?…pg

  6. Another Ian says:


    Also in my questioning is that most of the warm water seems to be north of the Equator. And south seems to be cold.

    Is it that the modern-you-beaut measurements haven’t seen this situation and that therefore the punts are wide open?

  7. roger says:

    and what of the cold blob between40 and 50 north that seems now to be tracking east across the Pacific?
    Global SSTs are different this El Nino and satellite readings reflect that.
    Another Ian appears to be similarly intrigued.

  8. oldbrew says:

    Time for another look at this perhaps: ‘El Ninos and La Ninas and Global Warming’

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    Since folks are talking about actual SST and the SST anomaly in the S.H. I’ve updated with the actual and anom graphs from Unysis Weather. The anom graph dramatically shows the blue cold bits all over the Southern Hemisphere oceans (where New Zealand looks surrounded by cold), and there’s also a little discussed cold “Blob” in the North Atlantic. Then there is that very odd dark blue tongue near a bright red splotch off the coast of Argentina… wonder what caused that…

    If anyone would find it useful, I can likely dig around and find an archived copy of these from about a year or two back for comparison.

  10. LG says:

    On Saturdays, Joe Bastardi has a public summary discussing short/long terms forecast.



  11. omanuel says:

    Here’s a great tribute to the one meteorologist who remembered the report Copernicus made in 1543 on a giant fountain of energy at the gravitational center of the Solar System:


  12. craigm350 says:

    Ryan Maue had this on twitter earlier. 2015 Nino minus 1997.

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    @Another Ian:

    Fascinating… It sort of looks like the Gulf Stream fades into the background toward the end of the images, just as the Blue Blob shows up off of the UK / Ireland / Iceland…


    Don’t know what to make of that… So it’s anomalies of our Blob anomalies against the ’97 El Nino anomalies?… so colder off of S. America and hotter off of California. Not the typical El Nino set up…

  14. Another Ian says:


    Any idea if the last time(s) there was a similar warm patch in the NE Pacific? If we have a year then we can check what actually happened.

    Interesting that our little patch of the southern hemisphere hasn’t had as cold a winter as our creek valley is capable of. Such that we look like getting through on one 20 litre drum of kerosene for the heater whereas we’re usually into the second.

    And we got rain in June which has been rare in the last few years.

  15. craigm350 says:


    Sorta my take too.

    This throws some light on it


    Eye balling 40-41 and 57-58 seem similar (ish) with a warm anomaly off west coast but not the cold off S.Am (which has had flooding recently in Atacama which requires an unusual set up, not to mention the cattle killing cold in Peru). Joe B’s last weekly update mentioned a cold late winter from current set up (think he mentioned 57-8 as analogue) so this (from post above) was interesting indeed to see:

    at were the winter temperatures like in each of these strong (both eastern and central) El Ninos? 
    One glaring similarity is that each of these El Nino events (1888-89, 1940-41 and 1957-58) average temperatures across the eastern US stayed close or slightly above average in December and in January. Then in February, the bottom falls out and temperatures drop significantly below average across a large area of the east. If you look at the Pacific sea surface temperature configuration of these winters (eyeballing the ENSO region, Eastern Pacific/west coast/Gulf of Alaska regions and Pacific Meridional Mode area), they closely resemble this year!

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