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How Does El Nino Affect UK Weather?

January 9, 2016

By Paul Homewood  


There has been a lot of talk about the effect that El Nino is having on UK weather.

The general view seems to be that it has at the very least spiced up the wet and stormy weather in the last month, but that it would also lead to a much colder spell towards the end of the winter.


This is what the Met Office’s 3-month outlook currently says:




However, if we go back to the 1997/8 El Nino, we find no such thing:


First, December 1997: both temperatures and rainfall were pretty much normal.





And January 1998? Again, nothing out of the ordinary at all.





When we get to February 1998, we find that, rather than being cold, it is actually the warmest month on record since 1910, with rainfall pretty average.





Our understanding of the effects of El Nino is so poor, and experience of major events so limited, that we in reality have very little idea what the effect on UK weather will be. But the experience of 1997/8 certainly suggests that it is certainly not as straightforward as pretended.

  1. January 9, 2016 3:43 pm

    Just as I thought.

  2. David Richardson permalink
    January 9, 2016 4:04 pm

    Agreed – there is no obvious direct causal link other than extra energy and moisture for a while.

  3. January 9, 2016 4:06 pm

    BBC Inside Science on Radio 4 had a whole programme devoted to the issue. Well worth listening to. For a change there was only a brief mention of the impact of global warming, but they managed to slip it in there.

  4. January 9, 2016 4:16 pm

    Thanks, Paul. The complexity of the effects of ENSO is enormous, we probably still know too little even to know what we don’t know.

    But just this morning a scientist for the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, was on Fox News explaining all about El Niño and how it just disturbs the climate status for a while until the next La Niña annuls it. With ‘settled science’ like this, who needs to look deeper?
    We went on to say we know what the future climate will bring.
    The corruption of science is undergoing a hockey-stick!

    • January 9, 2016 5:26 pm

      I am now proud to be counted among the “science deniers” by those I dub the “science liars.”

  5. January 9, 2016 5:52 pm

    Is the jet stream any better understood than ENSO?

    I see drawings showing how it fluctuates but nothing that shows why it fluctuates or whether it is a cause or effect of the normal cyclonic patterns.

    I’ve got a lot to learn; my initial interest was the dubious radiative flux estimations used in the mathematical models in the IPCC reports, but I’ve got more interested in the other dubious matters since, as it seems that the Armageddon believers are determined that Europe will get to Armageddon as fast as is possible.

  6. January 9, 2016 8:12 pm

    UK winter weather is sometimes wet and mild, sometimes cold and dry, if it turns cold and dry next week then we’ll have had a regular winter and historians will wonder what all the fuss was about, which is essentially what this feeble effort by the UK “great-and-good” concluded about the 2013/14 floods:

    I like this quote from the “conclusion”:

    “Although there is some observational evidence of intensification of UK rainfall, there is little suggestion of emerging trends in precipitation-driven (that is, non-tidal) high-magnitude UK
    floods; less UK ice and snowmelt in a warming world may suppress flood risk. A lack of trends cannot, however, be taken to mean there is no underlying emerging climate change signal, given the low signal-to-noise ratio in flood records”

    i.e. lack of evidence for our God does not mean that He does not exist.

    • Brian H permalink
      January 10, 2016 4:30 am

      Pray He does!

      Oh, wait…

  7. permalink
    January 10, 2016 4:51 pm

    Dear Mr Homewood, Please take a look at the site I found it in an article by (Lord) RichardLayard in my LSE alumni newsletter. Ihave only skimmed the web site so far but the article (which I could scan foryou) lists the Apollo people as David King, John Browne (surprising?), Gus O’Donnell,Nicolas Stern, Adair Turner and Layard. Establishment generalists? They take as gospel that the relationship between CO2 and temperatureis scientifically proven – notwithstanding the “pause” which they do notmention. The relationship, we know, isnot demonstrated in the climate models and is presently an unproven hypothesis. I hope you can examine the Apollo programme which advocatesoodles of public money (our taxes) to develop non-fossil fuel technologies because theydrive up global temperature and because oil, gas and coal currently” kill millions”. You will find much to comment but my initial thoughts beforegetting into the detail of their site are: · thecontinued and increasing use of fossil fuels is essential to the continued emergencefrom poverty of the developing countries and will be firmly so used by them · RichardLayard ought to be aware of the dishonesty of claiming that fossilfuels receive an annual $500bln of subsidies · Chineseand Indian investment in coal power plants is growing rapidly. The capacity of these thousand or more of newplants over the coming 10 to 15 years will alone swamp any conceivabledevelopment and mobilisation of the proposed tax-subsidized renewables of this Apolloproject · theproject is pointless for the 10 to 15year horizon. It cannot substitute for even incremental fossil fuel use in India and China – let alonereplace any of the base load 85% of world energy provided today by fossil fuels · ifthe past 20 years of CO2 emissions are not having any discernable effect on temperature,as is demonstrably the case, do Richard Layard and his associates actually andseriously still believe in the CO2-temperature models? Yours sincerely, Michael Woolgar

  8. January 11, 2016 7:29 pm

    El Nino and its effect over Europe has started to make it’s presence since the summer of 2015 and everybody seemed to expect a change in the “usual” patterns. Since El Nino is an important event for all of us, here is an analysis, which I found interesting, on it’s role on sub-cold winters in Europe:

  9. xmetman permalink
    January 13, 2016 7:35 pm


    I’ve written a post about El nino events since 1950 [ONI] and found that the table on the CPC web site that lists them is in error. Please take a look and see if I am correct, emailing the CPC at NOAA has got me nowhere, and as my post will end up with a dozen reads in my blog it will never get the attention that I think it deserves. I don’t mind if you think I am mistaken, I may well be, i just need someone to give me a second opinion on what I’ve found is correct or not:


  10. February 6, 2016 2:11 pm

    The BBC prediction of what effect El Nino would have on the winter 2015 weather was a load of old bollocks as usual. It’s amazing how both the Met Office and the BBC have no idea of what they’re talking about. They don’t take solar activity into account which means their predictions are largely based on limited data…..

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