What is going on in the Pacific?

The Pacific Ocean is developing an interesting pattern that is different from the more well known El Nino/La Nina cycles that officially go by ENSO.  Instead a very powerful cool phase of the pattern known as PDO is developing.  The PDO was last in the cool phase back in the early 1970’s.  Since then it has typically been in what is called the warm phase.  I have compared the current pattern to the available records that extend back to 1998 and I cannot find anything that even compares to the well defined nature of the current ‘cool’ PDO.

Warm Phase : : : : : : Cool Phase. Courtesy of The University of Washington

The PDO has gotten a lot of attention from Skeptics who argue that the switch from cool phase to warm phase back in the 1970’s correlated to the warming that subsequently took place globally.  Certainly there is a correlation, but of course that does not equal causation.  The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation also went from cool to warm in the same time period.  How much influence each had is currently impossible to determine.  If climate scientists were doing their job instead of trying to convince the public about global warming there would be much more known about this.

What is known is that the climate and precipitation in the western US this year has been atypical for the past decade.  Last years La Nina did not adequately explain it, but the formation of the ‘cool’ phase PDO might.  Unfortunately the drought in the southeast might also be an indicator.  The entanglement between the oceans and climate makes it difficult to truly know what to expect, but I will make one prediction.  The cooler than average places will be ignored and the warmer than average places will be hyped.  Much like what has already happened this year as the West has been mild to say the least.

Unisys SST for July 2011.


What this really highlights is the stupidity of caring about the overall global Sea Surface Temperature.  Picking an anomaly that is based on long term averages of various oscillations in ocean temperature just wastes time.  Understanding the different patterns and the relative strength of the patterns would be far more useful.   Of course that would not help push global warming so that path is not taken.  That is the real casualty of the global warming debate.  Science is so concerned with proving (or disproving) global warming that real science has been lost.  We are not ready for the cool PDO because it has been largely ignored.

If the past year is any indicator, then we are about to get a large dose of ‘cool’ phase PDO.  What is going on six months from now will be interesting because for the most part, it will not be expected.

Posted in Climate and Ocean: Sea Level and SST by inconvenientskeptic on August 3rd, 2011 at 8:19 am.


This post has 6 comments

  1. Any clue if the cool phase of the Pacific along with the still warm Atlantic is contributing to the heat/drought conditions in the mid-south part of the U.S.?

  2. inconvenientskeptic Aug 3rd 2011

    It seems likely. The northwest is cooler and has gotten more precipitation. Most anomaly weather like that is weather that is in an abnormal location. The northwest had climate like this in the 70s. Not sure if Texas was having droughts at the same time, but I will be looking for into this in the next month.

  3. This is an excellent example of natural phenomena that are not getting adequate study because of the “consensus” which has now become an overwhelming agenda. This is true for other issues as well like sun spots. You have said the sun spot argument is not convincing but I think all of us would agree not enough attention is being paid to solar influences on climate change, since 99% of funding goes to carbon dioxide related research.

    Interestingly Don Easterbrook predicted a cooling trend in 1998 when he was one of the few voices talking about the PDO. As you point out correlation is not causation but it will be interesting to see how the next few winters go.

    I actually think that “science” is getting seriously damaged by the attempt to suppress debate.

  4. – Dave

    I agree with your sentiment. But the narrative that “Deniers” are anti-science has been running for a long time, and it will take an even longer amount of time for real science to overcome the narrative.

    Empirical evidence of a cooling world will help with the narrative problem. In the meantime, all we can do is what people like John here are doing – fervently reference empirical data, logic and the huge number of scientists who don’t adhere to the consensus. In the end, it will win the day b/c it is the truth.

  5. Brian H Aug 22nd 2011

    If there’s a 60-yr cycle in the PDO, what were the early 50s like? Are there any records that could be used to compare?

  6. inconvenientskeptic Aug 22nd 2011

    Prior to satellites there is no really comparable way to look at the temperature pattern of the Pacific. People try, but it really isn’t the same. I would love to see high resolution temperature maps for the past 100 years, but they simply don’t exist.

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