Does ENSO impact global temperature?

If you pay attention to my monthly global temperature updates you might get the impression that global warming has slowed or even stopped. One key variable here is the ENSO (El Niño – Southern Oscillation). The graph here is from NOAA’s Monthly Temperature Anomalies Versus El Niño | September 2022 Global Climate Report:

Several observations are apparent in the figure. First, nearly every month since the late 1970s has been above the 20th century average, and has generally warmed through the period. Second, El Niño-like conditions (those months in red) tend to be warmer than neighboring periods, and La Niña-like conditions (blue) tend to be cooler. Third, protracted El Niño-like episodes tend to warm through the event, while La Niña-like episodes tend to cool through the event. Fourth, and finally, there are exceptions to all of the above points.

We haven’t had an El Niño event since 2018-2019 and have been in a La Niña period for quite some time. We have generally been warmer over the last year than all but the last two El Niño events. Fear not, we’ll set records again when the next El Niño comes around. BTW, this a great graph which shows how adding a third variable by way of color reveals important information.

About Thomas J. Pfaff

Thomas J. Pfaff is a Professor of Mathematics at Ithaca College. He created this website because he believes that sustainability, ranging from climate change to social justice, should be included in all courses whenever possible.

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