Yes Virginia, There is an El Nino..

December 23, 2015


Expected temperature anomalies for thursday, December 24, 2015

As the eerily warm, moist autumn in Eastern North America dribbles into an even eerier, water logged Christmas season, we’ve seen a lot of ham fisted reporting along the lines of, “What about all this warm weather, is it climate change?”, with the teeth grindingly shallow answer being, “why no, it’s El Nino!”.

I asked Mike Mann of Penn State to weigh in.

“Yes, El Nino is part of it. So are the vagaries of weather. But so too is human-caused climate change. We’ve had weather before, we’ve had big El Ninos before. We have never, at least during my adult life,had anything like this before. Near 80F in DC on Christmas Eve day? That’s not “weather” and it’s not “El Nino”. It is something more.”

Simple concept.  Yes, El Nino makes cold air breakouts from Canada less likely, and a warm December more likely – but the kind of records we are breaking this year, many of them set in previous El Ninos, are indications that there is indeed “something more.”

That something more is a large amount of heat and moisture in the atmosphere that was not there 10, 20, or 50 years ago.  Heat and moisture that are part of every weather event, including the current one.

So, yes, Virginia, there is an El Nino, but that’s not the only thing that’s slouching toward Bethlehem with this year’s unsettlingly balmy Noel.


“Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,” said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, “but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?”

“It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,” was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. “Look here.”

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

“Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!” exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

“Spirit, are they yours?” Scrooge could say no more.

“They are Man’s,” said the Spirit, looking down upon them. “And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!” cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. “Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.”

“Have they no refuge or resource?” cried Scrooge.

“Are there no prisons?” said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. “Are there no workhouses?”

The bell struck twelve.



11 Responses to “Yes Virginia, There is an El Nino..”

  1. MorinMoss Says:

    Well, I see the true spirit of Xmas is upon you.

  2. Here in Massachusetts, the ground is not yet frozen. Lakes and ponds are not frozen, and certainly not rivers.

    100 years ago, the first harvest of ice would be taking place.

    Ice hockey would be a continuing tradition.

    We have building code requiring minimum 4′ deep foundation footings, to prevent it getting lifted out of the ground.

  3. otter17 Says:

    Great points, good quotes from Dr. Mann. Yes, it is El Nino, but look at the differences from the last big El Nino.

    A thunderstorm the day before Christmas that includes a tornado watch? This isn’t the same area I know. WTF?

    Sorry, next generations. We’ll keep any additional changes to a minimum, but you are going to have to accept a few things.

  4. […] El Niño or the positive phase of ENSO is a phenomenon unique to the large Pacific ocean, and it exists primarily because nowhere else on Earth is there such a large stretch of water on the Equator. Essentially, the coriolis forces at this local are zero, so oceanic motions and currents and associated coupling with atmosphere moves east and west. 90% of the excess heat forcing by atmospheric greenhouse gases goes into the ocean: (Click on image to see larger figure, and use browser Back button to return to blog.) La Niña, the flip or negative side of ENSO, extracts heat from atmosphere, storing it at depth: (Click to see animation.) In years when there is an La Niña, less energy remains in the atmosphere because it is being actively pumped into the ocean. In essence, this energy is getting “banked”. When there is an El Niño, not only is the energy that would be banked not banked, and, so, available in atmosphere, but some of the energy that was banked is now being released. Accordingly, things are warmer than if simply excess atmospheric warming from greenhouse radiative forcing were active, because a bunch of that forcing is now being released. […]

  5. And our parents and grandparents saw weather that we don’t, the dust bowl years for example. “Our” time here is but a Speck of sand on the ocean floor, compared to the Life of the Earth.

  6. dumboldguy Says:

    Visiting daughter and family in South Jersey for Christmas. Wearing T-shirts and dodging rain and more rain. Had to turn on the A/C briefly last night because the temperature was above 75 and it was humid enough to make it uncomfortable. Would probably have had to do the same in NO VA where it was even hotter. Mann speaks for me also when he says “We have never, at least during my adult life,had anything like this before”.

    PS to MMoss IMO, the Scrooge quote and drawing are terrific, and perfectly appropriate as the “true spirit of Christmas” in this year when Ted Cruz, James Inhofe, and Lamer Smith are The Three Wise Men of the Repugnants, and Donald Trump is their “star” in the East.

    “This boy is Ignorance…beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased” indeed.

  7. andrewfez Says:

    God is judging WV for not accepting climate change:

    CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On Christmas Day, Metro 911 said it received more than 650 calls in about 4 and 1/2 hours.

    Those calls came through to Metro 911 between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Friday, according to a news release from Brooke Hylbert, agency coordinator for Metro 911 of Kanawha County.

    Of those 650 calls, nearly 270 of those calls were dispatched. The influx of calls included numerous high water reports and water rescues, the release said….

  8. I’ve been wrestling with the denialists in the comments section of The Guardian. So I point out that here (my little town in the southern hemisphere, where it is now summer) where we used to get 3 or 4 snowfalls every winter 30 years ago, now we get none (one brief flurry last winter); where the first frosts came in April, now they come in June; and whereas successive days above 40C were very rare, now they happen every summer. The response: this isn’t enough time to be sure of a trend! These same ppl have been saying (erroneously) that the last **18** years have shown no rise in global temperatures!

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