NOAA’s winter update: about the weird warmth and this El Niño

Summary: While journalists too often turn reporting about the weather into clickbait and climate porn the IPCC and major climate agencies produce clear and accurate articles. Why we choose to be poorly informed despite access to the information superhighway is a mystery for future historians to solve. For those that prefer the red pill, here are three articles from NOAA explaining this winter’s weather and the 2015-16 El Niño.

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Contents

  1. Why we’re misled; how to get good info.
  2. Explaining our warm winter: “July in Christmas”.
  3. Was this a record strong El Niño?
  4. Here’s the missing key: uncertainty of measurements
  5. Other posts about this El Niño.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Why we’re misled; how to get good info

Journalists report the weather and climate because it provides a stream of lurid stories (always a disaster or record in some form, somewhere) that we enjoy reading. They increasingly rely on activists (often amateur activists) for alarming — entertaining but often misleading — sound bites. Which is why the news media are among our least-trusted institutions, and their profits are melting like this winter’s snow.

Journalists — and citizens — interested in accurate information can turn to reliable and clear articles from NOAA. NOAA had a good 2015. They accurately predicted this would be among the 3 strongest on record, contrary to the hysterical predictions of a “monster” or “Godzilla” El Niño. And it appears to have peaked as their models predicted in early December, although the strongest impacts on the weather lie ahead in January and February.

The following three excerpts explain key things about this winter’s weather. What’s causing it? (Spoiler:  as usual, there are several factors at work.) How strong is this El Niño (using an alternative measure)? And they explain the key detail missing in almost every story about weather records: the uncertainty of these measurements.

 (2) Excerpt from “July in Christmas

By Michelle L’Heureux
At NOAA’s website, 8 January 2016

{W}hat on earth was going on with the weather?  Let’s zoom out and look at November and December together because they were fairly similar.  As you can see below, temperatures were strongly above-average across much of North America (shown by the yellow/orange/red shading), with the exception of the western U.S. which was either near or slightly below average (shown by the blue shading).

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NOAA debunks the hysteria about this El Niño. Why don’t we listen?

Summary: The coverage of this El Niño shows the fear and propaganda (used as clickbait by journalists) that clouds American’s vision of the world, keeping us ignorant. It also shows how the antidote lies within our reach. For the El Niño that means reading the NOAA’s well-written reports that accurately predicted this would be among the 3 strongest on record, contrary to the hysterical predictions by activists of a “monster” El Niño. It appears to have peaked, but the full impacts on the weather lie ahead.  {2nd post of 2 today.}

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The title of NOAA’s latest report about this El Niño gently mocks the hype about its effects (e.g., a “Godzilla El Niño”, destroyer of cites). The text debunks exaggerations about it being the greatest ever. So far this El Nino matches NOAA’s prediction that it would be among the three strongest on record (i.e., in the 65 years back to 1950).

This is another of NOAA’s well-written articles that put the El Niño into its proper historical context as a normal weather event. As usual these days, activists and their journalist fans often ignore what NOAA says (just as they do with the reports by the IPCC) in favor of exaggerations and wild predictions.

I recommend that you read the full essay. Here are some of the high points. Red emphasis added.

Excerpt: “December El Niño update: phenomenal cosmic powers!

By Emily Becker, with comments by Anthony Barnston
At NOAA’s website, 10 December 2015

If you’ve been following the development of this El Niño, you may have heard in the media that sea surface temperatures in the central equatorial Pacific are at near-record highs. Are we seeing the most powerful El Niño ever?

… The important effects of El Niño on the U.S. and other regions are related to its average strength over the fall and winter, not how strong it is on any particular day or week. We do monitor the weekly and monthly changes in the sea surface temperature and the atmosphere to get a hint at where things are headed, but we’ll ultimately judge the strength of this El Niño by its average over the seasons.

… Right out of the gate, let’s talk about that November sea surface temperature in the Niño3.4 region. The ERSSTv4 data set shows that this November was 2.35°C warmer than the November average — tied with November 1997’s 2.33°C. (Yes, I know those numbers aren’t identical, but they’re within the statistical margin of error, which means as far as rankings are concerned, they’re tied.), This dataset has been carefully maintained to ensure that it is historically consistent, so it’s the best, most reliable one to use to compare 2015 to 1997 (or any other year.)

The Niño3.4 ERSSTv4 for September–November is 2.04°C, second to 1997’s 2.18°C. Since we’re looking at this El Niño very likely placing in the top three (with 1997-98 and 1982-83), let’s compare some of the other components of the system right now. I’m going to focus on 1997-98, since by most assessments that’s the strongest El Niño in our short, 1950-present record.

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