What if, the relevant bit lies hidden on identifying the pattern behind similarities instead of trying to match anomalies? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD)
Recently, on the 28th August 2015, we have observed three Low Pressures moving across the central equatorial Pacific. Those three Tropical Cyclones have occupied most of the tabloids in scientific social media. Such event of having coexisting three low and powerful cyclones in the Pacific has driven the attention of most people towards embracing the idea of that the actual increase in SST at the equatorial Pacific (ENSO) is the cause of these “trio of Tropical cyclones”. Altogether, the increase in Eq. Pacific SST and the observed formation of those cyclones, have been applied to focus our worries in making prevail the idea of forecasting El Niño as the solution to our climatic questions.
However, is this the first time that we see this formation of three Lows in the Central Pacific? Actually, no. We have seen the same formation , in the same location, and even earlier in time just through the beginning of August last year 2014. Without the extreme values in SST that we see these days.
Why nobody, among all the people working in all the national agencies, with all the resources anybody can imagine, has spotted the similarities between these two situations? And if they did, why nobody has highlighted such exceptional similarities?
I believe that there is more information coming from the exceptionality of understanding how it is possible the repetition of such complex event in years with different SST, than applying all focus of attention into expecting one single parameter, the temperature of the water, to resolve our questions in climatic developments.
First of all, it is assumed by everybody that the ENSO is a situation which is unclear how it gets developed. Atmospheric circulation and the MOC are both connected and the ENSO is just the visible, measurable and standardised concept that allow us to see “the back of an animal coming above the water’s surface”. We see that something happens but we don´t really know what it is.
Anomalies are standardised concepts. As such, and considering the limited capacity of perception that we can apply in modelling natural interconnections (lack of data and understanding in general of how to apply the data), they carry a very simple but relevant limitation. This limitation comes in the form of so called Type I and Type II errors.
All the Anomalies applied in climatic research have been “designed” to substitute the incapacity of identifying tangible “Thresholds”. In natural science, thresholds are those which define a change. But they are usually multivariate interdependent, and therefore, almost impossible to define accurately, and even less accessible to be modelled or predicted. Unless the magnitudes are too big, like being hit by a car makes find the threshold of having something broken with a high probability and no Type I or II errors.
So, since thresholds are so complex to identify, there are side effects, indicators, which can be applied as conceptual “signals” which allow us to understand the expression of complex interactions otherwise invisible to our senses. Like trying to know if a infrasonic whistle works requires a dog giving us the “signal”.
The ENSO and the NOA are standardised indexes which have being designed and modelled statistically towards framing in a tamed environment any possible reasoning. It seems that everything can be explained based on previous or predicted episodes of them but nothing can explain them. And that is where I see the conflict in the attitude applied to analyse, study and understand climatic developments.
In previous posts I have already discussed how “standardised” indexes (ENSO, NAO) and concepts (broken Polar Vortex is required to have a wobbly Jet Stream) have shown to be “limited”.
These days I have been surprised by the lack of attention being given to an event which has happened before without the extreme values of SST like those that we see in the actual times. And it seems to me that it is easier to follow what we don´t know but we can describe (SST-ENSO) than admitting that something has happen that we can see but we can not describe.
We can match episodes of “anomalies” with atmospheric events. A warmer ocean brings more humidity in the atmosphere of some regions so there is more rain, that is the “lighthouse” we can easily identify and follow. But we will need to finding more ways of looking at things than that. We might need to stop fixing our attention into looking at the lighthouse and pay more attention into the difficult task of recognising the relevance of the “small”, like the trio of low tropical pressures mentioned in this post.
Anomalies are poor substitutes of absolute values giving thresholds. Useful for a while but limited in scope.
Following the line of research that I have designed in this blog I would expose one example of a threshold hidden in the anomalies.
Considering that CO2 induces increases of Water vapour in the atmosphere, those increments of water vapour would allow the atmosphere to carry more energy.
One first threshold being reached would come from the constant friction between subtropical and polar latitudes, and the global circulation at high altitudes. That would ultimately reduce thermal contrasts (thus barriers) and induce an expansion in the distribution of the water vapour around (and the energy carried by) the globe in the vertical altitude, latitude and longitude. That would alter the dynamic behaviour of the atmosphere and the weather patterns associated. So far, that is what I have proposed already in previous posts.
Another threshold in an imaginary scenario would come from adding a persistent pressure over the atmosphere to keep increasing its capacity to carry energy by water vapour with endless supply of CO2. Following that path there could be a moment in which CO2 might not be necessary any more to keep the feedback loop between the atmosphere sucking water and weather events releasing energy. Enough water vapour in the atmosphere might carry enough energy to keep the energy cycle Ocean-Atmosphere by a positive feedback loop, thanks to its characteristics as greenhouse gas. But of course that is just too simple to be realistic. However, that kind of threshold would not be foreseen based on anomalies.
So, to conclude, I wonder:
what if, the relevant bit necessary to move forward in climatic studies, lies hidden on identifying the pattern behind similarities instead of trying to find a match that justify anomalies?
What was similar between 2014 and 2015 that originated three low pressures in the same location at the same time without having similar SST anomalies?
What made the winter of 2013/14 and the Winter 2014/15 behave similarly without having both a persistent Polar Vortex broken ? (more here)
What made Last Winter 2015 (December 2014, January and February 2015) to have categorised as a Positive NAO phase while the atmospheric patterns associated were a combination of a Positive phase where above average geopotential heights are observed over the eastern U.S., and a Negative phase with below average temperatures?(more here)
How many meteorological events are getting repeated thought time and location but are going under the radar since they are not considered “relevant” as independent source of information, and yet, they are singularities in a chain reaction of bigger proportions?
Just a thought.
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(This post is part of a more complex piece of independent research. I don´t have founding, political agenda or publishing revenues from visits. Any scientist working in disciplines related with the topics that I treat in my blog knows how to judge the contribution that my work could potentially add to the state of knowledge. Since I am in transition looking for a position in research, if you are one of those scientists, by just acknowledging any value you might see from my contribution, would not only make justice to my effort as independent researcher, but ultimately, it will help me to enhance my chances to find a position with resources to further develop my work.
I believe that the hypothesis that I have presented in previous posts in this blog (here,here and here) could help to understand present and possible future scenarios in atmospheric circulation. However, this is an assessment based on observation which needs to be validated throughout open discussion and data gathering. So please feel free to incorporate your thoughts and comments in a constructive manner.
If you feel like sharing this post I would appreciate to have a reference about the place or platform, by private or public message, in order for me to have the opportunity to join the debate and be aware of the repercussion which might generate d.fdezsevilla(at)gmail.com)
For anybody interested in the posts related with this discussion here I leave you those more relevant in chronological order (there are comments bellow some of them. Please check them out):
- New theory proposal to assess possible changes in Atmospheric Circulation (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on October 21, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-k3
- Why there is no need for the Polar Vortex to break in order to have a wobbling Jet Stream and polar weather? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on November 14, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-mt
- Gathering data to make visible the invisible (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on December 22, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-pN
- State of the Polar Vortex. Broken? From 29 Nov 2014 to 5th Jan 2015 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla). Posted on November 29, 2014. http://wp.me/p403AM-o7
- Probability in the atmospheric circulation dictating the Weather (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on January 15, 2015. http://wp.me/p403AM-rm
- Meteorological Outlook Feb 2015 (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) Posted on February 7, 2015. http://wp.me/p403AM-sU
- Revisiting the theory of “Facing a decrease in the differential gradients of energy in atmospheric circulation” by Diego Fdez-Sevilla. Posted on February 10, 2015. http://wp.me/p403AM-to
- Matching Features Between Land Surface and Atmospheric Circulation (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)April 23, 2015
- Drops of Weather. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)March 7, 2015
- Steering climate´s course (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)March 27, 2015
- Climate. Looking at the forest for the trees (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)April 9, 2015
- Matching Features Between Land Surface and Atmospheric Circulation (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)April 23, 2015
- Domesticating Nature. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla)May 7, 2015
- A roller-coaster of temperatures in South Europe. Spain (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) May 14, 2015
- Talking about climate (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) May 12, 2015
- News from an Ecosystem (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) May 20, 2015
- In climate it is becoming Less probable to not have a High probability. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) May 29, 2015
- Drinking from the source (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) June 5, 2015
- Communication takes more than just publishing thoughts. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) June 9, 2015
- Extreme climatic events, implications for projections of species distributions and ecosystem structure (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) June 18, 2015
- The scope of Environmental Science and scientific thought. From Thought-driven to Data-driven, from Critical Thinking to Data Management. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) June 26, 2015
- Atmospheric Circulation and Climate Drift. Are we there yet? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) July 2, 2015
- Lateral thinking. From Micro to Macro (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) July 4, 2015
- Something for the curious minds. Climate and Streamlines (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) July 17, 2015
- Solar Activity and Human Activity, Settling Their Environmental Liability. (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) July 24, 2015
- Atmospheric composition and thermal conductivity? (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla) August 6, 2015