El Nino: Nature’s Ginormous Climate Change Battery
by Ron Barmby
Derakhshani’s Hypothesis: The El Nino—Southern Oscillation is an energy storage battery so big it drives more than the weather; it drives climate change. CO2 is a pointless diversion.
In a recent podcast with Tom Nelson [available after the jump], Dr. Maaneli (Max) Derakhshani clearly states that he is not a climate scientist—he is a theoretical physicist—but he couldn’t help but notice that most of the mainstream media discussions about CO2 being the driver of climate change are wrong.
And the real driver is hiding in plain sight.
He thought he’d connect the dots for laypeople using existing and well-known research from prominent scientists (McLean-de Freitas-Carter, Wallace-Christy-D’Aleo, and Spencer) and then get back to more interesting stuff like quantum gravity. I’ll get to those connected dots later in the article.
Dr. Derakhshani asks us to think of El Nino, and its counterpart La Nina, not as temporary events with isolated short-term yet significant global temperature effects but rather as a continuous exchange of heat from the Pacific Ocean to the atmosphere (and back again) that intimately correlates to modern climate change and leaves no room for CO2 greenhouse gas-driven climate change.
Is the good doctor the Mad Max of physics? Or is he a brilliant example of how science is supposed to work: questioning the status quo to see if it holds up?
First, A Primer On El Nino
The name originated with 17th-century fishermen who called an annual warm southerly current off the coast of Peru El Nino de Navidad (The Little Boy of Christmas or Christ Child) because it usually occurred around Christmastime.
For some years the warmth and size of the current was greater than others, and this was noticed as warmer surface water reduced the fish catch.
Barometric records beginning in the 1850s at Darwin, Australia, and Tahiti showed a pattern that was recognized in the early 1900s.
The pressure at Darwin was sometimes higher than at Tahiti, and when this happened there was less rainfall in Indonesia.
Sometimes the pressure was lower at Darwin than at Tahiti, and the Indonesian rainfalls increased. This barometric pressure oscillation across the southern Pacific Ocean became known as the Southern Oscillation (SO).
Fifty years later it was further evidenced that when the barometric pressure was higher at Darwin than in Tahiti, there was a bigger El Nino de Navidad.
That linked the two independently observed events in the El Nino—Southern Oscillation event (ENSO). Here, in a nutshell, is how it works:
- The increased barometric pressure at Darwin slows down the trade winds blowing from South America to Australia.
- The slower winds result in less warm surface water being pushed from Peru to Australia.
- The reduced westward movement of warm surface waters inhibits the welling up of deeper, colder water (which contains more nutrients for fish) near Peru.
- A larger-than-normal area of warm surface water builds up and more evaporation occurs, and its location in the eastern and central Pacific (as opposed to the normal location of a smaller pool in the western Pacific) reduces Indonesian rainfall.
- Most importantly, this larger-than-normal area of warm water (because of the reduced cold-water upwelling) increases heat transfer to the atmosphere, thus raising global temperatures.
La Nina (The Girl) is the colder part of the ENSO event. When the barometric pressure is lower in Darwin than in Tahiti, causing the east-to-west trade winds to pick up, they push more-than-normal volumes of warm surface water towards Australia, allowing more-than-normal cold water upwelling near Peru.
This extra large volume of cold water in the eastern Pacific increases heat transfer from the atmosphere, which causes global cooling.
The U.K.’s Met Office weather service has a good video on El Nino/La Nina.
A Heads-Up: More CO2 Cannot Make El Nino—Southern Oscillation Stronger
Some of the man-made-centric global-warming media have claimed that the next El Nino will be stronger because some of the CO2-caused global warming that is missing from what was forecast has been stored in the oceans.
An excellent analysis by Jim Steele, biologist and Director Emeritus of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, pours cold water on this idea by pointing out that CO2 gives off longwave infrared radiation that can only penetrate the ocean’s surface by less than a millimeter.
This longwave radiation is then immediately released back into the atmosphere.
Only the Sun’s ultraviolet, visible, and short wavelength infrared can penetrate many meters into the ocean and heat up the water, with the blue end of the spectrum reaching down to 100 meters in clear water.
Note to Al Gore: Steele reports that in the upper 200 meters of the oceans, the water temperature is still a comfortable 87°C below the boiling point.
Below 1,000 meters of water depth that margin increases to 96°C. We are safe for now.
Connecting the Dots Between El Nino and Climate Change
Derakhshani uses multiple sources of well-established research to point out that El Ninos can appear in groups of differing magnitudes, often interrupted by La Ninas, and should be examined as overall El Nino trends. Likewise for La Ninas.
The weather conditions that result from an El Nino or a La Nina can be summed in a Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI), which in the initial format used by Derakhshani included sea level pressure, two surface wind components, sea surface water and air temperatures, and total cloudiness fraction.
It is a linear index; a higher positive MEI (+1.5) is a stronger El Nino event, and a higher negative MEI (-1.5) is a stronger La Nina event. An MEI of 0 is neutral between El Nino and La Nina and is the normal weather condition.
Derakhshani’s first dot is that from 1959 to 1976, La Ninas were dominant and the sum of each annual MEI, the cumulative MEI for that period, was minus 8.
From 1977 to 1998, El Ninos were much stronger with a cumulative MEI change of plus 12 (from minus 8 to plus 4). Then from 1999 to 2015, the cumulative MEI increased by only plus two, effectively a balance between La Nina and El Nino conditions.
Dr. Derakhshani’s second dot is that when the MEI from 1979 to 2022 is compared to the global average lower troposphere temperature from satellite data (which began in 1979), and after deleting the major volcanic events in which ash and aerosols caused global cooling, the MEI correlated very well with the global temperature variations.
The third dot is that when global satellite temperature variations are adjusted for the temperature impacts of the MEI variations from 1979 to 2015, global warming disappears.
When the global marine/terrestrial temperature database HadCRUT4 (used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) from 1959 to 2015 is adjusted for MEI temperature impacts, global warming also disappears.
Dr. Derakhshani’s message is to stop dismissing the strongest individual El Nino and La Nina events as short-term and irrelevant global temperature anomalies.
Instead, we need to think of decadal trends of dominant El Ninos as transferring energy from the Pacific Ocean to the atmosphere, and decadal trends of dominant La Ninas as putting that energy back into the Pacific Ocean.
Moving existing energy from one place and storing it in another for future release is, in engineering terms, a battery. And ENSO has been a battery for thousands of years.
Dr. Max Derakhshani, as a theoretical physicist, concedes that the correlation between the modeled temperature effects of ENSO conditions and observed global temperature variations is far from proof that El Nino controls the climate, more research is needed.
But that is not his most important climate change contribution. We are reminded that if we want to advance scientific knowledge we need to observe, challenge, and be transparent with the data. This is the Scientific Method and it is as fundamental to science as free speech is to democracy.
Max Derakhshani, Jim Steele, and I are members of the CO2 Coalition, which seeks to engage in an informed and dispassionate discussion of climate change and is also attempting to reintroduce teaching the Scientific Method in schools.
Blind faith in popular or political consensus never advances science, it takes more courage than that. People like Dr. Maaneli Derakhshani do.
Ron Barmby (www.ronaldbarmby.ca) is a Professional Engineer with a Master’s degree, whose 40+ year career in the energy sector has taken him to over 40 countries on five continents. His book, Sunlight on Climate Change: A Heretic’s Guide to Global Climate Hysteria (Amazon, Barnes & Noble), explains in layman’s terms the science of how natural and human-caused global warming work.