Energy

Study: Modern Climate Models Misrepresent El Niño’s Impact On Weather

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Chris White Tech Reporter
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Contrary to common climate models, research done on fossil corals and mollusk shells found in the Pacific Ocean reveals bitter winters and sultry summers are not followed by weak El Niños — a complex but irregular climate pattern with large impacts on weather.

The finding contradicts years of standard climate models showing a direct link between El Niños and seasonal variations in temperature.

“The idea behind this link is based on very well-established physics, so it’s appealing to think that nature works this way. But our analysis shows that it’s not that simple,” said Julien Emile-Geay, lead author of a study contradicting the models, and assistant professor of earth sciences at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Emile-Geay checked the world’s top nine climate models against shells and mollusks he and his co-authors found spanning the last 10,000 years of Earth’s history.

The data set allowed the researchers to reconstruct a detailed history of climate in the tropical Pacific.

According to the report, the models the research showed “generally fail to simulate lengthy periods of subdued El Niños like the one that occurred 3,000 to 5,000 years ago; the ones that came close did so by relying on an Earth-sun configuration that ran contrary to observed conditions.”

“The causes for prolonged periods of weak El Niño are either beyond the current models or we’re missing an important piece of the puzzle,” Emile-Geay told USC News. “This points to deficiencies in the way these models simulate various aspects of tropical Pacific climate, from average conditions, to the march of seasons, to El Niño itself.”

Climate change skeptics take a different view on climate models. They generally tend to balk at the idea that models can be built to fill in missing puzzle pieces, suggesting instead that weather, over the long run, is too variable for such models to measure.

“The important thing I see here (in the Emile-Geay study) is the models’ inability to produce extended periods of stronger or weaker El Ninos, which can be a source of natural climate change,” global warming skeptic and climatologist Roy Spencer told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email.

“To some extent climate models (including the ones misrepresenting El Niño weather patterns) are built upon a type of circular reasoning,” he added.

They are forced to change with human influences because they “are constructed so they don’t drift through time (thus eliminating the possibility of natural, internally generated climate change),” Spencer noted.

Emile-Geay’s research was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Science Foundation and others.

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