We keep hearing that the climate and weather forecasting tools are gaining in sophistication, and correspondingly in reliability. Climate model simulators claim to be able to see decades, even centuries, into the future!
Yet Spiegel Science journalist Axel Bojanowski has an analysis here which looks at the recent spate of failed El Niño predictions by the NOAA, and shows that these forecasting tools are still terribly lacking. His latest piece: “Change in global weather: El Niño embarrasses meteorologists“. (Here I’m not sure why Bojanowski (or his editors) chose the term ‘meteorologists’ because much of the work is arguably done by climate scientists.)
It is an accepted fact that the El Niño cyclic changes in the equatorial Pacific surface temperatures have major impacts on the global weather, especially the northern hemisphere. Thus it would be useful if scientists were able to predict them with some degree of rough accuracy.
Unfortunately accuracy is still a long way off as forecasters falsely predicted an El Niño four years long, and only now has it finally begun to take hold. Bojanowski writes:
Seldom have meteorologists been made to look so foolish. Four years long they published the same prognosis: Soon an El Niño would be taking hold in the Pacific.”
The Spiegel journalist describes how last June experts were “80% sure” a powerful El Niño was in the works, and how in 2013 “a peer-reviewed paper in a well known science journal” boasted of new forecasting methods for El Niños. Sadly, these experts aren’t anywhere near getting it right. So, as a result, Bojanowski writes, they have recently become “considerably more cautious” with their forecasts. Embarrassment does that.
Bojanowski describes how the ENSO’s impact on global weather patterns, wildlife, and even regional sea levels, and how NOAA experts have had to admit the latest El Niño has been an unexpectedly tame one – in stark contradiction to forecasts made earlier. He writes: “The inaccurate forecasts of the past year has forced the scientists to rethink their methods, said NOAA expert Gabriel Vecchi in the journal ‘Nature’.”
Numerous buoys out of order!
Bojnowski also writes that the biggest problem is reliably predicting the weakening of the tradewinds, and says this has become difficult because “numerous buoys have ceased to function over the years” and so are no longer able to measure the changes in sea surface temperature.
That is certainly an interesting revelation presented here by Bojanowski. Still, NOAA El Niño forecasters should not feel too bad about their measurement and forecasting woes because it could be much worse. For example their climate colleagues haven’t gotten their global temperature forecasts right in over 18 years!
And concerning what can be done in place of the “numerous” out-of commission buoys, perhaps the NOAA El Niño scientists could consider using the “filling in the data” method and simply apply the measurements made by the closest functioning buoy (even if it is 1000 kilometers away). After all the global surface temperature scientists seem perfectly satisfied with that particular method. The data-fill-in method would surely allow the NOAA El Nino experts to make forecasts that are just as spectacularly accurate as those of the global warming climate scientists.
20 responses to “Spiegel: NOAA “Embarrassment” Over “Four Years Of Failed El Niño Forecasts” …”Numerous Buoys Have Ceased To Function”!”
Another strike against these guys: as part of the multi-billions spent for climate change research, did no one think to put in for equipment maintenance? This also sounds eerily similar to the surface temperature station scandal. Maybe it’s another reflection of the fact that these guys are all modellers; no thought is ever given (apparently) to where the numbers come from – and what it takes to get good measurements.
I’ve added a link to WUWT. Appears the funding for the all-important buoys was cut….which is a damn shame because ENSO forecasting is something that is actually very useful.
“as part of the multi-billions spent for climate change research, did no one think to put in for equipment maintenance?”
I suspect that this will be the case for wind turbines.
They will die, and just be left to rot once subsidies and FIT rorts run out.
The people who took all that subsidy money will be nowhere to be found.
You know what they say about “Bad Workmen blaming their Tools”?
Ben Santer admitted in the APS workshop in January that the AMO and PDO aren’t in the models.
That is why they are failing since ENSO is strongly influenced by the PDO. During the low phase of the PDO, which we’re in now, there are fewer el Nino’s and they are short and weak. This will continue until the warm phase of the PDO which won’t come for another 20 years or so.
the less data they have coming in…
the more they can “infill” !!
I would not put much weight on the buoys out of commission. Not enough information given, but I guess that instead of maintaining ancient buoys, they are replacing them with Argo or other modern equipment.
Except the Argo floats don’t do wind, air temperature, etc.
Difficult to measure wind speed when you’re 2000 m underwater.
He was specifically talking about “trade winds”, and you want to dismiss the facts because of some underwater buoys, somewhere? That’s classic. How, exactly, will those “modern” underwater buoys measure wind speed?
You people are religious zealots. No amount of science or reason can ever touch your dogma.
Druck pressure sensors in most of the Argo floats were found in 2009 to be misoperating due to oil micro-leaks, potentially affecting all float models. The resulting pressure drift can happen gradually or suddenly and leads to false indications of temperature rise over time at depth (among other things).
The article above mentions “Unfortunately accuracy is still a long way off as forecasters falsely predicted an El Niño four years long, and only now has it finally begun to take hold” but Axel B has fallen into the trap of accepting a forecast. As of 13th March the SOI is close to zero see here https://www.longpaddock.qld.gov.au/seasonalclimateoutlook/southernoscillationindex/30daysoivalues/ and there is no sign of an El Nino. Right now there are 3 cyclones close to Australia. The Monsoon (wet) season just has been a bit late. It could be that the SOI graph has turned and it could be heading towards a La Nina (ie more rain at the western side of the pacific -the Australian eastern coast) determined by sustained +ve SOI over 10. SOI is the atmospheric pressure difference between Tahiti and Darwin divided by the SD of the difference. The pressures have been measured since 1860.
Climate scientists do not understand pressures and mass transfer. Dr Gavin Schmidt admitted on a blog that he did not understand the Schmidt number.
One could argue we are borderline El Nino: http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/indices.shtml
The general point he makes of course stands solid.
Pierre, BOM has become hopeless and everything they say needs to be taken with “a grain of salt”. Here is one post at Jonova http://joannenova.com.au/2015/03/historic-documents-show-half-of-australias-warming-trend-is-due-to-adjustments/
This post at Warwick Hughes mentions the supposed El Nino http://www.warwickhughes.com/blog/?p=3618#comments
Your graph from BOM shows zero sea temperature anomaly and a falling trend. If anything from that and the SOI graph one could predict a coming La Nina (ie more rain and cooler). After a dry period (there has been a drought in Queensland over the last two years) rain can be expected and it now seems the drought is over.
Re BOM: today the man giving the weather on the TV commented that the actual temperature was almost correct.
The general public is quite sceptical of the predictions.
Remember as well that we are are still firmly parked in the middle of the warm AMO.
This has a direct impact on NH temps. When the AMO starts dropping, which will probably happen during the 2020’s, NH temps will drop like a stone for 30 yrs.
If global temps are flat during the last decade of warm AMO, I would suggest it is time to get the fur coats out!
JAMSTEC has been spot on. Never forecasted a major enso event instead had what we were saying.. a modoki event. Likely to continue into next winter, but never reach the kind of levels CFSV2 keeps trying to forecast. ALot of el nino hype is wishcasting the overall cycle in the Pacific has changed and el ninos, like the 60s and 70s are not likely to be as strong or as long as the 80s and 90s. Joe D Aleo wrote about this several years ago
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Long on expensive but worse than useless models, short on time tested practical applications.