Feb 14 2012
A warm welcome to WUWT readers, and a huge thank you to Anthony Watts for making this a guest post at his site. Hope you find it all worth your time.
Last week I postulated that the El Niño/La Niña effect was not due to solar or atmospheric conditions, but actually caused by underwater volcanic activity along ocean ridges off the West coast of South America. To see whether my theory held water I decided to look into the Argo Float data to see if there it was showing a warm upwelling of water in this region. I apparently was correct.
My initial assessment was that the frigid Humbult Current that comes north from the Antarctic region along the west coast of South America (the mirror image of the current that drops down from the Arctic along the west coast of North America) could not be warmed so drastically in such a short time by sun and air alone. This is due to the physics of ocean currents and the massive amount of heat required to warm tons of cold water moving northward per second:
Gyres are caused by the Coriolis Effect; planetary vorticity along with horizontal and vertical friction, which determine the circulation patterns from the wind curl (torque). The term gyre can be used to refer to any type of vortex in the air or the sea, even one that is man-made, but it is most commonly used in oceanography to refer to the major ocean systems.
The “South Pacific Gyre” is the Earth’s biggest system of rotating ocean currents, bounded by equator to the north, Australia to the west, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to the south, and South America to the east.
As can be seen in the graph above (click to enlarge), the Humbult Current is one of the largest on the planet. It is infeasible that El Niño can arise from atmosphere and sun alone by warming this mass of water. Neither air temp or solar radiance change enough to cause this phenomena.
At this site you can watch animation of nearly 5 years of Argo data on the tropical region of the Pacific Ocean. It is fascinating and proves my earlier conclusion that the warm waters of El Niño arise from the eastern pacific and travel west – not the reverse as is the current (now defunct) theory. You need to set the start date on the left to the earliest date in 2007 and the end date to the latest in 2012.
I suggest you first watch the surface animation, then go the the 100m data. What you will see in the 100m is hot water upwelling off the coast of Costa Rica (which was not in the zone I originally predicted the upwelling would occur BTW). I have taken a few snaps of the data from Oct 2008 to Feb 2009 at 4 week interval to highlight what I discovered.
On this first image (click to enlarge) we see the very beginnings of the upwelling off the coast of Central America (area highlighted by red rectangle with a small blue dot). As time progresses the upwelling grows, moves west and another upwelling appears. The images are from 10_22_2008, 11_26_2008, 12_24_2008, 1_21_2009 and 2_25_2009.
Now some may ask why didn’t Argos detect the upwelling deeper (1000m)? The answer is in fluid dynamics. The hot spot is very narrow above whatever thermal vents are the source of this warming. The Argo floats are not very dense in this region. So the warm column of water upwelling has to spread out as it rises, making it more likely to be detected by the Argos floats. By the time it hits the surface the warm water really spreads out over top of the cooler layers below.
As this March 2009 surface image shows there are two upwellings in the area, but the one off Costa Rica is missed at the lower depths (again likely due to the density of sensors being so low in this area). And there appears to be a 3rd upwelling off the coast of Peru.
The activity of Nicaragua and Costa Rica is right along the Cocos Plate. The Peruvian region I highlighted in the previous post and is linked to the Pacific Rise. Higher volcanic activity in these areas clearly cause more warm water to rise and heat the surface, creating the conditions for El Niño. Lower activity allows the cooler currents to dominate, bringing on La Niña.