the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

SST Anomaly Video

Posted by Jeff Id on January 14, 2010

Back to science.

I saw this post the other day.  Recently I’ve added Bob Tisdale to the blogroll basically because I got tired of having to find his blog another way.  TAV does the worst job of maintaining a blogroll of any of the blogs and I need to spend more time on it b/c there are a lot of good climate science blogs not on the list. Anyway, Bob has done a very nice post containing a video of sea surface temperatures.  There are some interesting features in the video, including a huge push of warm water into the Arctic during the 07 ice minimum.  I’ve reposted with permission from Bob below who will stop by for those who have questions.


Guest post Bob Tisdale.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Animation Of Weekly Global SST Anomaly Maps – November 1, 1981 To January 6, 2010

The following is the animation of weekly global SST anomaly maps (OI.v2 SST data) from November 1, 1981 To January 6, 2010. The contour intervals were set at 0.2 deg C to bring out the smaller changes in SST anomalies that are caused by the ENSO-induced changes in atmospheric circulation, the teleconnections.

I had prepared the majority of the maps used in the animation back in July, and began work on a video detailing the rise in global Sea Surface Temperature (SST) anomalies since November 1981. The video got put aside. At nearly 30 minutes combined, the 3-part video was too long, and I still had more to say. Many of the graphics have appeared in subsequent posts, so that work wasn’t a waste.

Recently, two visitors have asked me about SST anomaly patterns in specific basins. This video would have been helpful to them and others looking for a means to easily display those patterns. Simply let the video play through to the desired months. Or watch for the pattern and see if an El Nino or La Nina event is taking place.

To explain the added warming in the North Atlantic, I refer to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, but I use the paleoclimatological reconstruction as a graphic instead of the normal detrended North Atlantic SST anomalies since the 1800s. More on this in a subsequent post.

The posts referred to in the video are:
Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation Index Reconstruction
Can El Nino Events Explain All of the Global Warming Since 1976? – Part 1
Can El Nino Events Explain All of the Global Warming Since 1976? – Part 2
More Detail On The Multiyear Aftereffects Of ENSO – Part 1 – El Nino Events Warm The Oceans
More Detail On The Multiyear Aftereffects Of ENSO – Part 2 – La Nina Events Recharge The Heat Released By El Nino Events AND…
More Detail On The Multiyear Aftereffects Of ENSO – Part 3 – East Indian & West Pacific Oceans Can Warm In Response To Both El Nino & La Nina Events

And now the video:
YouTube Link

User-defined OI.v2 SST Anomaly maps can be created at the “Full Version” of the NOAA NOMADS webpage here:


It’s worth comparing to the sea ice video’s also I think.

13 Responses to “SST Anomaly Video”

  1. Peter of Sydney said

    Just goes to show that people who claim all the climate change over the past 100+ years is due to man don’t know what they are talking about and are ignorant of the facts. What impact does man have on climate change? No one knows. One thing is for sure. If man was not around, climate would still change. So, the goal is to determine how much man is contributing to climate change. It’s scandalous to see so called climate scientists wasting taxpayers money on invalid and sometimes fraudulent climate research instead of answering the question I’ve posed above to the best of their abilities.

  2. Thanks for the co-post, Jeff.

  3. Geoff Sherrington said

    Bob, That’s nice animation, thank you. If I could add to it I would, but I lack the skills.

    Two thoughts. The 1998 hot year worries me. Would it be a simple matter to ro-run the animation as the 1998 data minus the corresponding data from all other years in turn, that is, to show the dynamics of 1998 SST as an anomaly?

    Second, that linear blue SST feature you mentioned below Australia in the early 1990s. The west coast of Sth America is at the map junction. IIRC from earlier maps, there is a pile-up on the west coast and also the land temperatures go funny in this latitude belt. Again, is it an easy task to move the X-axis by 180 deg for a better look at this area?

    Please let me know if I can help with data or general knowledge about Australia.

  4. Geoff Sherrington: Why would 1998 worry you? There was a significant, major, monsterous El Nino in 1997/98. It shows up in every short-term graph of SST, LST, and TLT anomalies. In fact a good portion of the warming experienced after that El Nino are multiyear aftereffects of it. Why try to temper it? I discussed those aftereffects in the posts linked above.

    Also, sorry, I have no plans to redo or modify that video. If I do any more, they would be animations of the SST anomalies of the individual ocean basins. But for effects I’m limited to the output of NOAA NOMADS for those specific maps and to GIF Movie Gear and Windows Movie Maker for the animations.


  5. Viv Evans said

    Thanks for posting this amazing animation, JeffId, and thanks for putting in the outstanding work and creating this animation, Bob Tisdale.

    This is the one good thing to have come out of Climategate for me personally: to have found you all in the blogosphere, which has expanded my horizon logarithmically. I don’t know what I’d do now without my daily dose of proper climate science.

    Thanks, guys!

  6. Geoff Sherrington said

    Bob Tisdale,

    From a background in minerals, we tortured anomalous points at the expense of normal obs. Climate science seems more concerned to smooth the point anomalies away. This is a shame, because the anomalous points are often data rich.

    A look at the 1998 hot year raises questions like – 1. Did it originate at a certain place and then spread? 2. What was the rate of spread? 3. What was the mechanism of spread, following known paths or not? 4. Was it a single hot burst, or multiple? 5. Did it provide any early pointers that could help in future predictions? 6. Are there artefacts of measurement/interpretation in the data? 7. Depending on the answers to the above, is it correct to link it to El Nino?

    To illustrate some peculiar properties, I subtracted “normal” year 1997 from 1998 month by month for a number of Australian land temperature rural sites. (BOM online data). In many cases, the difference curve shows 4 clear peaks in Feb, May, Aug and Nov, these being in both Tmax and Tmin and being about 3-6 deg C peak-to-trough, at some stations. Other stations show a similar pattern, but diplaced by about a month (see Melbourne below). Hence the inclusion of points 4 & 6 above.

    See and and

    Meekatharra is at 26.5S 118.5E in hot desert. Mawson is on the edge of the Antarctic landmass. Melbourne has 1998 cooler than 1997.

    The other problem is that many Australian land sites, including some from the Antarctic, show no 1998 anomaly at all. Mawson year 1998 is the 8th coldest year since records began in the early 1950s. Hence points 3 and 7.

    I’m also troubled by reverse causation. Did (unstated) external events make 1998 hotter and trigger an El Nino?

    Some of the potential answers to points above might be neatly visible in animation.

  7. Geoff Sherrington: You’ve asked lots of questions. For a background on El Nino-Southern Oscillation refer to the following to FAQ webpages:

    With respect to the 1997/98 El Nino you asked:

    1. Did it originate at a certain place and then spread?

    The 1997/98 El Nino formed in the central equatorial Pacific and moved eastward, staring with a Kelvin wave early in 1997. Warm surface and subsurface (up to 300 meters in depth) waters from the Pacific Warm Pool (western tropical Pacific) sloshed east and were spread across the surface of the central and eastern tropical Pacific. Refer to:

    The warmer waters in the eastern tropical Pacific then changed atmospheric circulation patterns, which in turn altered global temperatures. Refer to:

    2. What was the rate of spread?

    Refer to Figure 7 and the discussion of the “Evolution of Spatial Patterns” in Trenberth et al (2002):

    3. What was the mechanism of spread, following known paths or not?

    Refer to my post:
    And to Trenberth et al (2002) again, this time the discussion of Figure 8 (there is a color version of Figure 8 towards the end of the paper).

    4. Was it a single hot burst, or multiple?

    Refer to a graph of NINO3.4 SST anomalies:

    5. Did it provide any early pointers that could help in future predictions?

    I believe by that time researchers were trying to make predictions, but the strength of the El Nino surprised them, if memory serves me well. Predictions/projections still vary from one extreme to the other. Refer to Figure 5:

    6. Are there artefacts of measurement/interpretation in the data?

    Please elaborate on this question. I’m not sure which way to answer it. I’ve written too many posts about the 1997/98 El Nino (some of which include videos) to list them all, but the five posts linked at the end of the post above are a starting place. Also, I’ve always enjoyed the first video I prepared on the 1997/98 El Nino, which includes the sea surface height animation from the JPL, also linked in response to your question 1:

    7. Depending on the answers to the above, is it correct to link it to El Nino?

    Variations in global temperatures correlate (with a 3- to 6-month lag) with the change in the SST of the equatorial Pacific. This can be seen in a comparison graph of global and scaled NINO3.4 SST anomalies:

  8. Atomic Hairdryer said

    Thanks for adding the link. I like Bob’s site for trying to understand the wet part of our system. Which I don’t, so any book recommendations appreciated 🙂

    One pet theory is whether magnetic variations have any significant effect given the magnetic anomaly over the South Atlantic. I suspect the answers ‘no’ given the energy levels, but it’s something for me to work on to further my understanding as to how our heat pumps work.

  9. Geoff Sherrington: Oops. I missed a question. You asked, “Did (unstated) external events make 1998 hotter and trigger an El Nino?”

    A relaxation of the trade winds triggers an El Nino. But what made the 1997/98 El Nino so strong was the additional warm water in the Pacific Warm Pool that was created by an anomalous increase in the trade winds during the 1995/96 La Nina. The higher trade winds reduced cloud cover over the tropical Pacific, which caused an increase in Downward Shortwave Radiation (Visible Light), which warmed the tropical Pacific ocean. As noted, the warm water collected in the Pacific Warm Pool until the 1997/98 El Nino released it and spread it around the surface of the eastern and central tropical Pacific.

  10. Layman Lurker said

    Bob, I caught your most recent post on the curious SH wave in ocean temps during the early 90’s:

    Do you have an opinion yet on the cause? One has to ask the question whether this type of an effect is physically possible or not.

  11. Geoff Sherrington said

    Re 7 & 9 Bob Tisdale,

    Bob, Please accept my thanks for the effort I’ve caused you and the fullness of your response. I ask because some things do not seem to fit, even after having studied your earlier contributions as they came out and again more recently. So, please accept the following as educational questions in good spirit and certainly not snipe.

    Much of the reporting has been along the lines of “Earlier researchers noted a climate pattern and named it El Nino. It involves the movement of hot and cold water.” The material in support of this has included a fair deal of correlation, e.g. showing that SST do rise when hot water is said the taking a particular path, that big volcanoes might cut off El Nino effects, etc.. This is more confirmatory than mechanistic work. (But it’s a heck of a lot better than I have done).

    The temperature record in 1998 as a test case happened over land as well as sea, up to 1000s of km inland. Therefore we can assume that the air was warmed and was the likely heat transfer medium. I have a concern that the rate at which heat went from the Indonesian (or East Indian-West Pacific Ocean, to use the longer term) warm pool to the air then to the land, here and there all over the globe, was too fast to be possible. There are land anomalies showing in Nov 1997, some quite strong, some quite distant from the postulated Indonesia region start point.

    I have a problem with the air warming all over the globe when surface sea heat was moved from Indonesia towards Chile during El Nino. Sure, you can see the pattern of it on your animations, but note how quickly the whole world sea anomaly lights up red about Dec 1997. Then it cools after a couple of months and heats up again. The rates are more consistent with aerial heat transfer than oceanic. Note also the behavior of semi-enclosed masses like the Mediterranean Sea, with limited circulation.

    The Mediterranean can change from red to blue in a few weeks. Hot June 97, cold Dec 97 & Mar 98, hor Apr 98, cold May 98, then hot June through Sept 98. Strangely, a hot anomaly from June to Oct 1999 as well. The difference graphs for land stations in my plots above, with 4 peaks a year, seem to be more like the global norm than a sluggish change over months that one might expect from current movements over thousands of km in the open Ocean.

    Mechanisms are hard to produce. The easy postulates are that the air is the medium capable of fast change of temperature, so the air is the sorce of ocean heat changes. Or, secondly, that there are measurement errors. So I’ve gone back and re-read some basic NOAA climate satellite material. For me, it confirms doubts that discrimination of 0.1 deg C is possible. There were also relevant additional instruments fitted before the 1998 observations. (That blue line at e.g. Nov 1991 to Jan 92 that spans the globe at the latitude of Perth WA, that Warwick noted, looks terribly like an error of measurement, but looks require proof to be valid). One NOAA statement from about 1997 expresses disquiet about SST from water probes not agreeing well with air probes even 10 feet above the surface.

    Your answer in 9 above to “Did (unstated) external events make 1998 hotter and trigger an El Nino?” is heading in the direction I’m thinking. It leaves me with a nest question, which is “Is global ocean heat energy conserved over decades, or are there changes in net heat energy?” My presumption is that heat energy does not change measurably over decades, but there are local surface changes such as from Pinatubo. The rate of change to a perturbation might be affected by the depth of water over large areas, note the Mediterranean again. It might be interesting to correlate SST with ocean depth on a grid scale. The Indonesian warm pool might form merely because the water there is shallower than many other places, but there are exceptions to this observation readily found elsewhere.

    I’m afraid I’ve not come to a stage where I can tuck this away as solved.

  12. Geoff Sherrington: A few notes regarding your 6:36pm reply:

    The vast majority of the rise in global temperature in response to an El Nino event does not occur due to the transfer of heat. It is a response to changes in atmospheric circulation patterns, teleconnections. Refer again to Trenberth et al (2002):

    Keep in mind that an El Nino appears as a warming of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, but at the same time, there is lots going on in the western tropical Pacific that extends into the eastern tropical Indian Ocean. There’s a drop in sea surface tempeatures in the western tropical Pacific, shifts in surface winds, decreases in cloud cover over the western tropical Pacific, increases in downward shortwave radiation. The shifts in the western tropical Pacific as noted cause changes in the Indian Ocean too. These can be seen in the video I linked earlier. They’re occuring at the same time as the El Nino is taking place in the Pacific, so an El Nino as strong as the 1997/98 event is really not confined to the Pacific.

    Also keep in mind that ENSO has been well monitored for about 3 decades. There have satellites monitoring TLT anomalies since the late 70s, SST since the early 80s, outgoing longwave radiation and precipitation since the 70s, and there have been buoys in place measuring air temperatures, sea surface and subsurface temperatures, surface wind speed and direction, ocean current speed and direction, and relative humidity since the early 1980s.

    And with respect to your comment about “My presumption is that heat energy does not change measurably over decades,” the vast majority of heat energy is stored in the ocean, and ocean heat content has risen over the past 50 years. But the vast majority of that rise is natural, not anthropogenic. Refer to:

  13. isis solar said

    isis solar…

    SST Anomaly Video « the Air Vent…

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