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Predicting the Unpredictable? ... Some Things Just Can't Be Done
Volume 17, Number 28: 9 July 2014

In a recent "News and Views" item in Nature, Dinezio (2014) writes that "the episodic warming and cooling of the surface temperature of the tropical Pacific Ocean, known as the El Niņo-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), causes year-to-year climate fluctuations, affecting weather, ecosystems and economies around the world," but he indicates that "the occurrence of these episodes is not regular."

As an example of this fact, the University of Hawaii researcher reports that Wittenberg (2009) examined a 2,000-year climate simulation based on "a fairly realistic climate model," which showed that "decadal-to-centennial-scale changes in ENSO behavior can be internally generated by the model in the absence of any external forcing, such as increases in greenhouse-gas concentration or variations in solar output." And in a more recent study conducted by Wittenberg et al. (2014), using the same GFDL-DM2.1 model, he describes how the five climate scientists found that "multi-decadal epochs of high and low ENSO activity are completely unpredictable."

In commenting on this extremely significant finding, Dinezio writes that it is a sobering finding, "because," as he continues, "it suggests that the changes observed in ENSO behavior during the twentieth century could very well be random fluctuations unrelated to natural or man-made changes in the climate of the tropical Pacific." And he adds that "it is not known whether even the best climate models simulate the correct mix of the myriad processes that influence ENSO," ending, therefore, with his ultimate conclusion that "future attempts to attribute the causes of individual events and their decadal variations now face a much higher bar," which level of correctness, it should be obvious to all, has not yet been reached.

In light of this verity, we should all show a little humility and acknowledge the fact that there are still "myriad processes" yet to be accurately modeled that influence earth's climate - and, ultimately, its everyday weather - which further suggests that it is nothing more than unbridled hubris to say that one need only "look out the window," as some climate alarmists suggest, to see the effect of anthropogenic CO2 emissions on whatever extreme weather event is currently in the process of earning a prime spot on the evening news. Such advice is nothing more than outright deception. And it is being practiced at the highest levels of government in both the United States and many of the other countries that comprise the United Nations.

Sherwood, Keith and Craig Idso

Dinezio, P. 2014. A high bar for decadal forecasts of El Niņo. Nature 507: 437-439.

Wittenberg, A.T. 2009. Are historical records sufficient to constrain ENSO simulations? Geophysical Research Letters 36: 10.1029/2009GL038710.

Wittenberg, A.T., Rosati, A., Delworth, T.L., Vecchi, G.A. and Zeng, F. 2014. ENSO modulation: Is it decadally predictable? Journal of Climate 27: 2667-2681.