So here we are with cooler conditions than last year and certainly cooler than the drumbeat of doom predicted now that every year is among the Hottest Ever™. Out there in the world, there were two recent spikes due to El Niño conditions, but otherwise little or no warming trend in the last 20 years. And now we’re getting La Niñas. In fact a supposedly rare “triple dip” of three in a row. And Nature concedes that “During La Niña years, the ocean absorbs heat into its depths, so global air temperatures tend to be cooler” including, in April 2022, “a cold snap over the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean not seen at that time of year since 1950.” But cooling isn’t climate. It’s weather. Warming is climate. So guess what? “This particularly long La Niña is probably just a random blip in the climate, scientists say. But some researchers are warning that climate change could make La Niña-like conditions more likely in future.” So warming will bring cooling. And since warming is always bad, does that at least mean cooling will be good? Of course not: “More La Niña events would increase the chance of flooding in southeast Asia, boost the risk of droughts and wildfires in the southwestern United States, and create a different pattern of hurricanes, cyclones and monsoons across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, as well as give rise to other regional changes.” See, climate change wrecks the weather even when warming causes cooling. There is nothing it cannot do.
As so often, behind the pseudo-precision and apocalyptic language nobody really has the faintest idea what’s going on. “The occurrence of two consecutive La Niña winters in the Northern Hemisphere is common, but having three in a row is relatively rare. A ‘triple dip’ La Niña – lasting three years in a row – has happened only twice since 1950.” Which isn’t very rare. And what was going on before 1950? Well, toss a coin, really.
Then stroke your long grey beard and intone something like “‘We are stacking the odds higher for these triple events coming along,’ says Matthew England, a physical oceanographer at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. England and others are now working to reconcile discrepancies between climate data and the output of major climate models – efforts that could clarify what is in store for the planet.”
Hey, wait a minute. Aren’t those models definitive predictions of what is in store? How dare you speak of “discrepancies between climate data and the output of major climate models”? Are you some kind of stinking denier?
Well, yes, if you mean someone who says the theory isn’t worth the flash card it’s stored on: “The latest forecast from the World Meteorological Organization, issued on 10 June, gives a 50–60% chance of La Niña persisting until July or September. This will probably increase Atlantic hurricane activity, which buffets eastern North America until November, and decrease the Pacific hurricane season, which mainly affects Mexico. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Centre has forecast a 51% chance of La Niña in early 2023. The weird thing about it, says L’Heureux, is that this prolonged La Niña, unlike previous triple dips, hasn’t come after a strong El Niño, which tends to build up a lot of ocean heat that takes a year or two to dissipate. ‘I keep wondering, where’s the dynamics for this?’ says L’Heureux.”
We have a suggestion. The warming of the late 20th century was part of a complex, poorly understood set of long-term natural cyclical fluctuations in the ecosystem related partly to unusual solar activity, and your models are Tinker Toys. How do you like those dynamics? Not much, probably. But as the Nature piece says, “The big questions that remain are whether climate change is altering the ENSO [El Niño–Southern Oscillation], and whether La Niña conditions will become more common in future.”
Well, those are among the big questions, if you simply assume climate change is messing things up and then look around for messy things to blame on it. But when the article gets into what the IPCC actually thinks, it’s the wrong kind of mess:
“Overall, the IPCC models indicate a shift to more El Niño-like states as climate change warms the oceans, says climate modeller Richard Seager at the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades, New York. Puzzlingly, Seager says, observations have shown the opposite over the past half-century: as the climate has warmed, a tongue of upwelling waters in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean has stayed cold, creating more La Niña-like conditions.”
So the models are worse than random guesses? Yeah, sort of. “Some researchers argue that the record is simply too sparse to show clearly what is going on, or that there is too much natural variability in the system for researchers to spot long-term trends. But it could also be that the IPCC models are missing something big, says L’Heureux, ‘which is a more serious issue’.”
No kidding. If the record is too sparse to show what’s going on and the models are rubbish and the system is naturally variable in ways no one understands and blaming people is silly, it’s as serious an issue as you can imagine.