Very recently the Australian Meteorological Institute issued a bulletin advising that the chance of an El Niño in 2014 had “clearly eased“. And if one were to occur, it was “increasingly unlikely to be a strong event“.
Like this year’s El Niño itself, reliable prediction method remains elusive as ever. Graphic: NOAA.
This of course all flies in the face of multiple recent warnings of a “super El Niño ” being in the works and set to push global temperatures to a new all-time record highs – all coming from leading institutes and experts. Once again these forecasts are turning out to be completely wrong.
“Efficient 12 month forecasting scheme”
That the experts are all wrong should be quite surprising because not long ago a team of scientists led by Josef Ludescher, which included climate pope Prof. Hans-Joachim Schellnhuber of the renowned Potsdam Institute, published a paper titled: Improved El Niño forecasting by cooperativity detection“, which purported the ability of predicting El Niño events up to one year in advance with high certainty.
The authors announced that they had “developed an approach based on network analysis, which allows projection of an El Niño event about 1 y ahead“, and claiming they can “develop an efficient 12-mo forecasting scheme” and “achieve some doubling of the early-warning period”. Moreover they added:
Our method is based on high-quality observational data available since 1950 and yields hit rates above 0.5, whereas false-alarm rates are below 0.1.”
Today we know that the probability of the heavily ballyhooed super El Niño occurring this fall has been evaporating rapidly. What happened? In climate science it often seems that the “0.1 chance” of something not happening in reality occurs 90 percent of the time.
The very same authors followed with another paper earlier this year appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled: “Very early warning of next El Niño“. The abstract this time stated that already in September 2013 they had been forecasting “the return of El Niño in late 2014 with a 3-in-4 likelihood”.
At the online Austrian news agency pressetext.at here, lead author Ludescher is even quoted saying:
Compared to the previous approaches, our methods offer very clear advantages: Firstly we reach a very high rate of accuracy and secondly prognoses can be made for a time period of up to one complete year.”
Note how the author had been quite convinced by the new “unique avenue” for predicting El Niño events well in advance.
But now that this year’s projected El Nino is failing to show up, maybe the scientists had indeed been a little too optimistic with their one-year forecast.
Even the 2-month forecasts are failing!
Maybe a forecast a whole year in advance is asking for too much. But surely the new Ludescher method at least should yield much better results for the much shorter 2-month forecast. After all, if it’s 76% accurate one year in advance, it really ought to be 90% or better for a measly 2 months ahead. Here as well it’s turning out that climate scientists are unable to get the El Niño forecast correct for just 2 months in advance, never mind an entire year! At his KlimaLounge blog, for example, Stefan Rahmstorf wrote here in May warning that a powerful El Niño was on the march, and used a graphical animation to “impressively show” the development. Today that “powerful El Niño” also is no longer in any discussion.
So even the 2-month forecasts are unreliable. Scientists are baffled once again.
Also a look back at Real Climate here is worth a read: They wrote that this year’s El Niño had only a “2 in 10 chance” of fizzling.
El Niño to send “world climate off the rails”
Back in May, citing experts at NOAA, the Climate Prediction Center (CDC) and the International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society, German online Die Welt here wrote: “The world climate could go off the rails over the coming months” and that the probability of an El Niño occurring in fall and winter were 80%.
To his credit, Die Welt journalist Joachim Müller-Jung added that we’ve heard such predictions before:
Also in 2012 they calculated that there was a more than 70 percent chance an El Niño would occur. The anomaly fizzled with hardly a murmur or fanfare.”
Again, in climate science the improbable has a way of occurring far more more often than not. Many scientists are merely shooting in the dark. Clearly there is still a lot they still do not understand at all about the climate.