Sunday, May 21, 2017

Global CO2 Record High for February, 2017 and 2016 Annual Growth

On May 5th, 2017, NOAA/ESRL released its February, 2017 global carbon dioxide report. It placed the global mean at 405.75 ppm or 2.74 ppm above February, 2016.


The Annual Growth Increase Trends

NOAA ESRL calculates the annual CO2 growth trend by averaging the December and January readings to mark the average at the end and beginning of a year. This method is helpful, yet it over and under calculates the growth rate versus actual annual mean for each entire year. This results in significant differences between this approach and the actual annual mean for any year compared to prior years. 

This graphic illustrates that difference and how significant it is for 2016. In the following graph, the blue line represents the annual growth rate as depicted on the NOAA ESRL Global Monthly Mean Carbon Dioxide page: https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html

The red line represents the actual annual growth means for each full year.


While the current NOAA ESRL methodology results in an annual growth of 2.90 ppm over 2015, the actual annual mean data comparing all of 2016 to 2015, results in a whopping 3.44 ppm increase. Both numbers will change as more samples are added and validated, but it is likely the actual annual mean 2016 CO2 growth rate will remain well above a 3 ppm increase for the first time in modern history.

The Global CO2 Monthly Mean Trend

This continues the atmospheric CO2 increase trend observed since the first readings in March, 1958 at Mauna Loa, (MLO) Hawaii. Using the March, 1958 MLO monthly mean as a global proxy, CO2 has increased 90.04 ppm or 28.53%.

The NOAA ERSL global monthly mean data is available beginning in January. 1980. The global mean CO2 has increased by 66.60 ppm since February, 1980 or 19.64%.


What is less apparent in this depiction is the CO2 increase acceleration since 1958. If we consider the MLO and global mean CO2 record combined, we are achieving 10 ppm "milestone" increases with worrisome acceleration.

The one, five and 10 year Global CO2 Monthly Mean Increase

If one considers the annual, five and ten year global monthly mean change in CO2, those trends are clear. The monthly mean of 405.75 ppm for February, 2017 was 2.74 ppm higher than 2016, 12.75 ppm higher than 2012, and 22.43 ppm higher than February, 2007. The following graph depicts these trends.



Time Required to Reach Five and 10 ppm "Milestone" is Shortening

However, if one considers how quickly we achieve milestones of either 5 or 10 ppm increases in global CO2, the trends towards shorter times to reach each is apparent and concerning. 

Reaching 10 ppm Increase "Milestones"

For example, MLO passed 320 ppm in May, 1960. It took 12 years or 144 months to reach 330 ppm in May, 1972. Globally, we reached 340 ppm eight years later, in May, 1980. It took only seven years to reach 350 ppm, in 1987. 

Moreover, from 1995 to 2017, we have observed an increase of 10 ppm about every 60 months or five years. However this rate has accelerated through time. Currently we are on track to conservatively increase global CO2 from 400 to 410 ppm in 48 months - four years or less. More on potential future increases later.


Reaching 5 ppm Increase "Milestones"

If we consider how quickly we reach 5 ppm increases, the trend is even more apparent. While MLO went from 315 to 320 ppm in a mere 26 months from 1958 to 1960, it took 84 months to increase to 325 ppm, from May 1960 to May 1967. That shortened to 60 months to go from 325 to 330 ppm, by May 1972. That time frame decreased again to 47 months to increase from 340 to 345 ppm, by April 1984. 

What is of real concern is that since 1995, every increase of 5 ppm has taken less that 36 months - three years. The last increase in 5 ppm, from  400 to 405 ppm, took only 22 months. That is the shortest time for any global monthly mean 5 ppm increase. 

With this acceleration, even with allowance for the slowdown in CO2 increases after an El Nino effect has ended, one can conservatively estimate that we will hit 410 ppm by March, 2019, only 48 months since blowing through 400 ppm. Some trace gas monitoring stations have already measured readings well above 410 ppm in the Arctic, and MLO has had daily readings above 410 ppm this year for the first time.




Here is the full table from NOAA ESRL Mean Monthly MLO and Global CO2 "milestones."

Source: Apocalypse4Real, NOAA ESRL

What Have We Gotten Ourselves Into?

After looking at how we continue to experience accelerating global CO2 monthly means, and how we are shortening the time frames to achieve each one, here is a simple set of hypothetical projections based upon various rates of hitting future 10 ppm milestones.

The first (left table) assumes a return to a lower rate of increase, a 60 month, or five year time frame for each 10 ppm "milestone". 

The second (middle table) captures the current rate we seem to be moving towards, a 10 ppm increase every  48 months, or four years. 

However, the change of 2016 from 2015 was a rate that would see us meet a 10 ppm increase every 36 months or so, about every three years. The right table depicts that rate of change.

These are like making a choice between poisons for our global community, slow or fast acting. 

Source: Apocalypse4Real

If we revert to a 60 month increase for each 10 ppm, we double CO2 to 560 ppm from the pre-industrial concentration of 280 ppm by the end of the century, about the year 2095. 

If we move to a 48 month increase rate, we hit that doubling, 560 ppm, by 2079. 

If we continue to experience CO2 increases from human sources and natural feed backs, and drop to a 36 month time frame for each 10 ppm increase, we hit 560 ppm by 2063. 

This is what is at stake for the future generations, a warmer and more at risk world. Perhaps we should not call these "milestones" but "millstones."

The real problem? This is only CO2. The real picture for all trace gases has us way beyond the Paris Agreement today. That is for a future post.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Writing on the Wall - A Response to the White Hourse Energy Executive Order


Today's "Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth" issued by the White House, is a fascinating and troubling read. While presumably rolling back policies of the previous administration, it also guts the US capability to make progress in meeting its commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement or responding at a policy level to climate change. 

Even if the U.S. does not officially withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, it is clear from this Executive Order that there is no intention in seriously meeting our commitments in emissions reductions.

For the Executive Order, see: https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/03/28/presidential-executive-order-promoting-energy-independence-and-economi-1

Three actions are most troubling. 

First is the removal of the final guidance to Federal entities and bodies in considering climate change impacts in their activities. See Section 3, c. 

The 34 page document being revoked is the ""Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews," and found at https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2016/08/f33/nepa_final_ghg_guidance.pdf

The second concern is the obliteration of rules relating to Oil and Natural Gas production including waste disposal as detailed in Section 7, Here it is in its entirety:

Sec. 7.  Review of Regulations Related to United States Oil and Gas Development.  (a)  The Administrator shall review the final rule entitled "Oil and Natural Gas Sector:  Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources," 81 Fed. Reg. 35824 (June 3, 2016), and any rules and guidance issued pursuant to it, for consistency with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order and, if appropriate, shall, as soon as practicable, suspend, revise, or rescind the guidance, or publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding those rules. 
(b)  The Secretary of the Interior shall review the following final rules, and any rules and guidance issued pursuant to them, for consistency with the policy set forth in section 1 of this order and, if appropriate, shall, as soon as practicable, suspend, revise, or rescind the guidance, or publish for notice and comment proposed rules suspending, revising, or rescinding those rules: 
(i)    The final rule entitled "Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands," 80 Fed. Reg. 16128 (March 26, 2015);
(ii)   The final rule entitled "General Provisions and Non-Federal Oil and Gas Rights," 81 Fed. Reg. 77972 (November 4, 2016);
(iii)  The final rule entitled "Management of Non Federal Oil and Gas Rights," 81 Fed. Reg. 79948 (November 14, 2016); and
(iv)   The final rule entitled "Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation," 81 Fed. Reg. 83008 (November 18, 2016).

The third, and greatest concern is the utter disregard for climate change impacts on U.S. national security. 

In the Executive Order, it states, in Section. 3.  "Rescission of Certain Energy and Climate-Related Presidential and Regulatory Actions." 

(a)  The following Presidential actions are hereby revoked: 

(iv)   The Presidential Memorandum of September 21, 2016 (Climate Change and National Security)." This previous memorandum can be found at: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/09/21/presidential-memorandum-climate-change-and-national-security

I find it ironic that a new administration that presumably has made national security a priority would revoke a previous Presidential Action that helped to specifically accomplish that goal. 

The previous action, now revoked, states that part of its policy implementation purpose was to partially implement, "the 2015 National Security Strategy, which identified climate change as an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water. It added that increased sea levels and storm surges threaten coastal regions, infrastructure, and property, which in turn threatens the global economy, and compounds the growing costs of preparing and restoring infrastructure"

The body created to coordinate US national security efforts in response to climate change was the Climate and National Security Working Group. Its key functions were

(i) identify the U.S. national security priorities that are within the scope of the Working Group's mission;
(ii) develop recommendations for requirements for climate and social science data and intelligence analyses, as appropriate, that support national security interests;
(iii) catalog climate science data, intelligence analyses, and other products and programs that support or should be considered in the development of national security doctrine, policy, and plans. This catalogue shall include climate and social science data repositories and analytical platforms; climate modeling, simulation, and projection capabilities; and information-sharing tools and resources supporting climate risk analyses and assessments, such as the Climate Data Initiative, the Climate Resilience Toolkit, the Global Change Information System, and the National Climate Assessment;
(iv) identify information and program gaps that limit consideration of climate change-related impacts in developing national security doctrine, policies, and plans. Descriptions of these gaps will be provided to Federal science agencies and the United States Intelligence Community to inform future research requirements and priorities, including collection priorities, on climate data, models, simulations, and projections;
(v) facilitate the production and exchange of climate data and information with relevant stakeholders, including the United States Intelligence Community, and private sector partners, as appropriate;
(vi) produce, as appropriate, and make available science-informed intelligence assessments to agencies having responsibilities in the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans in order to identify climate change-related impacts and prioritize actions related thereto;
(vii) establish, by consensus, guidance for Working Group members on coordinating, sharing, and exchanging climate science data among the members, and with the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC);
(viii) provide a venue for enhancing the understanding of the links between climate change-related impacts and national security interests and discussing the opportunities for climate mitigation and adaptation activities to address national security issues;
(ix) work to improve the Federal Government's capability and capacity to characterize greenhouse gas sources and sinks accurately at sub-continental scales;
(x) in coordination with the NSTC, recommend research guidelines concerning the Federal Government's ability to detect climate intervention activities;
(xi) develop, by consensus, guidance for Working Group members on building climate resilience in countries vulnerable to climate change-related impacts;
(xii) provide information and Working Group-related progress updates to the Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, established by Executive Order 13653, Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change, on a quarterly basis;
(xiii) take into account defined requirements and current capabilities described in subsection (4)(c)(ii) and (iii) of this memorandum to facilitate the consideration of climate change-related impacts into national security doctrine, policies, and plans. The Working Group shall develop recommended climate data requirements and consider the cost of the production and exchange of this information, and making this information available;
(xiv) have classified and unclassified capabilities, as required and appropriate, to consolidate and make available climate change-related impact information, intelligence analyses, and assessments for access and use by Working Group member agencies;
(xv) identify the most current information on regional, country, and geographic areas most vulnerable to current and projected impacts of climate variability in the near- (current to 10 years), mid- (10 to 30 years), and long- (more than 30 years) term, in order to support assessments of national security implications of climate change, and identify areas most vulnerable to these impacts during these timeframes;
(xvi) develop recommendations for the Secretary of State to help ensure that the work of U.S. embassies, including their planning processes, are better informed by relevant climate change-related analyses; and
(xvii) coordinate on the development of quantitative models, predictive mapping products, and forecasts to anticipate the various pathways through which climate change may affect public health as an issue of national security.

It is items iv, vi, xii, xv and xvi that bring the most concern. The new executive order is seemingly taking a Cromwellian approach to key information that would support the administration's efforts of making "America Great Again," and protect American interests and citizens for the long term future.

We are left being blinded, bound in ignorance, and tossed adrift at the governmental level at a time that climate change is accelerating, destabilizing larger segments of global society, and decimating capabilities crucial to our current and future national security interests.

By this Executive Order, our president is setting us up for - and participating in - the writing on the wall. 


"The Writing On The Wall"
Alter Bridge: The Last hero

Don't tell us this is normal
Don't tell us there's no change
So selfish and immoral, you're to blame
'Cause you're the great disrupter
So crass and out of line
Now tell me who will suffer for all your crimes?
We are running out of time
Out of time

And the writing's on the wall
That the end will begin
Still you do nothing at all
And keep denying the greatest sin

Ignore the truth and follow
Reap all that you sow
Spawn the future sorrow, we will know
Refusing every warning
Deny the rate of change
The ignorance is swarming, what a shame
And you know that you're to blame
You're to blame

And the writing's on the wall
That the end will begin
Still you do nothing at all
Throwing lies to the wind

And the writing's on the wall
So I say it again
Still you do nothing at all
And keep denying the greatest sin

You're the one to blame
For this rate of change
No tomorrow
When will you see?

And the writing's on the wall
That the end will begin
Still you do nothing at all
Throwing lies to the wind

And the writing's on the wall
So I say it again
Still you do nothing at all
And keep denying the greatest sin

The greatest sin
Deny it again

When will it end?

Source: 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

CO2 Above 410 ppm at Some Locations in 2016, Near 420 ppm in 2017

Recently, some media sources are reporting on the approach of Mauna Loa CO2 approaching or passing 410 ppm in 2017. 

For example, Digital Journal reported on March 10, "In the next few weeks, carbon dioxide is expected to pass the 410 ppm mark on a daily basis at the Mauna Loa Observatory, something we have never experienced." 
Source: http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/carbon-dioxide-rates-close-to-breaching-the-410-ppm-threshold/article/487650#ixzz4b8wHj9YP

While it is true that MLO has not passed 410 ppm in the past, it is helpful to note that this benchmark has already been exceeded elsewhere.

The reality is that 30 monitoring stations exceeded daily readings of 410 ppm by June, 2016. The locations marked with yellow stars below are those who passed that point by that month.


Source: NOAA ESRL Active Data Viewer and Station Data https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/dv/iadv/

What is more concerning is how many stations have reported preliminary readings above 415 and in one case almost 420 ppm.

For example, Barrow, Alaska has two preliminary readings above 420 ppm, that if not determined to be from a local source, will be a significant jump in CO2 concentration at that location.
Cold Bay, Alaska had numerous readings above 410 ppm through 2016. and may approach 415 ppm this year.
Ny-Alesund Svalbard has readings above 415 ppm in early 2017, which is not the peak of its CO2 cycle.
 Further south, Iceland has already recorded preliminary CO2 above 410 ppm in 2017.
Finally, Tiksi, Russia has preliminary readings just shy of 420 ppm, and those will likely go higher later this spring if previous years represent a pattern for its increase in the next few months.

While Mauna Loa is important as the longest running CO2 concentration reporting site, it is not the first to pass 410 ppm. That was done last year in numerous locations. It is just catching up.

Global CO2 December 2016 - A New Record Annual Increase

NOAA ESRL issued its December, 2016 Global CO2 report on March 5th. It supplied another sobering benchmark to those coming in rapid succession during the last three years.

For December, 2016, ESRL reported a preliminary global CO2 of 404.70 ppm, or 3.27 ppm above December, 2015.

Source: NOAA ESRL GMD https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html

The monthly global trend, observed since 1980, depicts the accelerating rise of atmospheric CO2 concentration.

Data Source: NOAA ESRL https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/global.html

This is the 12th consecutive month with global CO2 year to year monthly increases above 3 ppm, which is unprecedented since Keeling began measuring CO2 at Mauna Loa, Hawaii in March, 1958.


Year to Year Monthly CO2 Increases

The December, 2016 CO2 concentration of 404.70 ppm is another record high for the month, and is 3.27 ppm higher than 2015. This is off the El Nino fueled peak change of 3.81 ppm recorded in July, 2016. While it is likely that this rate of change will decline below 3 ppm in 2017, it seems very unlikely that it will drop below 2 ppm during 2017. December, 2016 is the 24th month of year to year CO2 increases above 2 ppm. The last month with a global CO2 monthly increase below 2 ppm was January, 2015.

The year to year monthly increases continue to accelerate as the trend line above indicates. What is most troubling is that this growth is not following a linear trend but a polynomial increase through time.

Five Year Monthly CO2 Increases

December, 2016 saw a five year increase in monthly CO2 of 12.86 ppm over December, 2011. This is only slightly below the 12.96 ppm five year change recorded in August, 2016. December is the 10th consecutive month of five year CO2 increases above 12 ppm, another unprecedented rise in global CO2, and far above its accelerating trend line. We have not experienced a five year monthly increase below 10 ppm since March, 2013, and it is unlikely we ever will again.

10 Year Monthly CO2 Increases

The December, 2016 CO2 concentration is 22.52 ppm higher than December, 2006. This is another all time record increase, and the 6th consecutive month with an increase above 22 ppm. We have not experienced a 10 year monthly increase below 20 ppm since October, 2012, and it is very doubtful we ever will again. 

The 2016 Global Annual Mean CO2 Increase

According to NOAA ESRL, the annual mean 2016 global carbon dioxide growth rate is anticipated to be 3.16 ppm over 2015. Given their methodology is based on the average of December and January of the next year (2017), this seems conservative. If the December, 2016 monthly increase is 3.27 ppm, then this seems based upon an expectation that January's increase will be well under 3 ppm to meet the preliminary growth rate. Time will tell.

However, if one uses the average of monthly increases of CO2 for 2016, then the annual increase for 2016 is 3.47 ppm over 2015. It seems more likely that the NOAA ESRL annual change will move higher once the January data is available.

NOAA ESRL Data Source: 

With the final adjustments to the annual change, it can be anticipated that 2016 will be the first year that the NOAA ESRL global CO2 concentration will experience an annual increase of more than 3 ppm. This is not good news for our world. 

According to the Global Carbon Project, human global CO2 emissions practically flat-lined for 2013-2016. Source for the following: http://cdiac.ornl.gov/GCP/carbonbudget/2016/
Yet, we experienced continued high CO2 concentration increases during these years. 

The GCP position is that these concentration increases are due to declines in CO2 sink effectiveness, caused by drought and higher temperatures. These CO2 increases hold us closer to the RCP 8.5 scenario, where it is perilous for humanity to tread.
As Peter Tans commented in regard to the record 2016 Mauna Loa CO2 concentration announcement, “The rate of CO2 growth over the last decade is 100 to 200 times faster than what the Earth experienced during the transition from the last Ice Age,” Tans said. “This is a real shock to the atmosphere.”

If true for Mauna Loa's CO2 data, how much more a real concern for the entire planet.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

La Nina Over - El Nino Coming in 2017?

After the massive El Nino ended in 2016, it was speculated that La Nina would follow - and it did. However, it was not a very strong one. 

Most months it barely met the criteria of -.5 C Sea Surface Temperature anomaly in the East Central Pacific (ENSO 3.4) and it was short.

Source: NOAA NCDC

As NOAA stated in its February 9, 2017 blog post, "This La Niña wasn’t exactly one for the record books."

Source: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/enso/february-2017-enso-update-bye-bye-la-ni%C3%B1a

The La Nina was powered by below average subsurface temperatures of the central and eastern Pacific. However, that pool has begun to warm.

Source: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/enso/february-2017-enso-update-bye-bye-la-ni%C3%B1a

El Nino Coming?

What is forecasted next depends on who is doing the ENSO modeling. CPC/IRI is expecting ENSO neutral through the summer of 2017.

However, NOAA has stated, "The bottom line is that we’re giving the odds of developing El Niño conditions a slight edge for fall 2017, with the probability around 50%. The baseline chance of El Niño, La Niña, or neutral conditions occurring in the fall of any random year are about 33% each. Our current consensus forecast for the September—November 2017 period estimates a 12% chance of La Niña conditions, 40% chance of neutral conditions, and a 48% chance of El Niño."
Source: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/blogs/enso/february-2017-enso-update-bye-bye-la-ni%C3%B1a

Source: CPC/IRI 

However it may be stronger sooner than the consensus assumes.

The CFSv2 Nino 3.4 forecast shows a quick jump into a minimal El Nino conditions by early summer, 2017. If it does occur, it will be another troubling impact on the global climate system suffering bouts of drought and flood enhanced by climate change.

Source: NOAA CPC ENSO Assessment Weekly Update February 9, 2017

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Global CH4 Mean for October, 2016 Tops the Chart

On January 5, 2017, NOAA ESRL published the preliminary October, 2016 global methane mean - a new high of 1849.7 ppb. It banged the top of the chart, with the highest recorded CH4 since July, 1983.

Source: NOAA ESRL https://esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_ch4/

This methane mean is almost 225 ppb or 14% higher in concentration since NOAA ESRL records began.


This new high is 8.8 ppb over October, 2015, and represents another milestone in the 
increasing rate of methane release which began accelerating in February, 2007, the last month in which year to year CH4 change was negative compared to the prior year.

The five and ten year increases in global methane mean by month, illustrate the continual acceleration of cumulative long term change.


The 5 year difference in global mean methane was 40 ppb in October 2016 compared to 2011. This high a difference is comparable to March, 1994 compared to 1989.

The ten year difference is again at a monthly record high, a ten year difference of 71.8 ppb which has not been observed since April, 1999.

Any impact caused by ENSO change is not obvious in October, 2016, since La Nina deepened slightly, but the CH4 global annual mean change increased rather than declined.


We again seem to be on track for another year of high increases of CH4, and while it has been argued in recent literature that the main reasons for increase are rainfall in the tropics and rice cultivation, there seems to be more that may be driving the methane increase. More on that in another post.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Global CH4 Highest Recorded for any September

The NOAA/ESRL global methane (CH4) run a month behind those released for carbon dioxide (CO2). The global methane for September, 2016 was released on December 5th. The global monthly mean was 1843.7 ppb, an increase over September, 2015 of 8.2 ppb.

Source: NOAA/ESRL https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_ch4/

This makes it the highest global mean methane for any September on record since 1983.

What continues is the strengthening trend of the accelerating increase of change over the previous 5 and 10 years compared to September, 2016. 

The blue line above represents the monthly mean global CH4 change compared to one year before. The red line represents the monthly mean global change compared to five years before, and the green is the monthly mean methane change compared to the same month ten years prior.

This graph plainly illustrates the increase in methane emissions since the end of 2006 and especially their unprecedented jump from April, 2014 till September, 2016.

This increase in methane is even more concerning with the publication of a new paper. 

"Radiative forcing of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide: A significant revision of the methane radiative forcing" by M. Erminan, G. Myhre, E. J. Highwood, and K. P. Shine,  
First published:

They find that methane radiative forcing has been underestimated by 23% and that, "The GWP for the 100 year time horizon, the most commonly used metric, increases from 28 to 32." The result is significantly higher Wm-2 impacts for future global temperature modeling.

The October, 2016 NOAA/ESRL global mean methane should be released in the next few days.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Is There a Relationship Between Global CO2 Increase and El Nino? Yes and No

A number of recent articles, papers and forums have stated there is a direct relationship between strong a El Nino and higher year to year CO2 ppm rates of change. I've looked, but not found a piece that directly builds the relationship, so this post attempts to explore that relationship.

A recent blog post demonstrated the trend in the monthly global CO2 increases as one, five and ten year comparisons, through October, 2016. It was created using the NOAA/ESRL monthly global CO2 data.



What was needed to explore the relationship with El Nino or La Nina was the SST anomalies.

Curious about the relationship between ENSO 3.4 sea surface temperatures (El Nino or La Nina), I pulled the monthly ERSSTv4 (centered base periods) Niño 3.4 (5North-5South) (170-120West)) that is used to provide the monthly input to the Oceanic Nino Index (ONI). 
For the SST ENSO explanation see: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/data/indices/ 

The detailed comparison follows, but first the chart:

The red line above represents the climate base adjusted ENSO 3.4 sea surface temperature anomalies from January 1981 to October 2016. The blue line is the monthly NOAA/ESRL CO2 change compared to prior year for the same month. The added trend lines reflect the increasing rise in CO2 emissions change and demonstrate that the ENSO 3.4 temperatures seemed to decline slightly from 1981-2016, due to lower SST anomaly peaks after 1997-1998 and before 2015-2016.

What is apparent from the image, is that some El Nino events are followed by spikes in CO2 emissions, but not all. There are some CO2 increases that are not related to an El Nino event. That is a serious concern.

Now the details in chronological order focused on El NIno events and the potential relationships with increases or declines of CO2 change rates during or after the El Nino.

El Nino: May, 1982 to June, 1983

This El Nino peaked in December, 1982, with a very strong sea surface temperature anomaly of 2.21 C above the base. It was followed 8 months later, in August, 1983, with a spike in the yr/yr CO2 increase of 2.51 ppm.

El Nino: September, 1986 to January, 1988

This El Nino peaked in September, 1987 with a strong SST anomaly of 1.66 C above the base. The CO2 peak came five months later when the CO2 over prior year was 2.96 ppm higher than prior year. Moreover, this was the longest run of CO2 increases of more than 2 ppm, until 2002-2004. Seventeen months, from December 1987 to April, 1989 experienced these unprecedented increases up to that date.

El Nino: October, 1991 to June, 1992

This El Nino peaked at 1.65 C above its base climatology in January, 1992. What make this event interesting is that there is no corresponding spike in CO2. In fact, CO2 yr/yr increases had dropped below 1 ppm over prior year beginning in October, 1991 and did not rise above that level again until December, 1993. This is generally attributed to drop in CO2 emissions brought about by the end of the Soviet Union and accompanying industrial output declines in Russia and Eastern Europe.

El Nino conditions October, 1994 to February, 1995

While too short a period to meet the official description of El Nino, this increase in SST anomalies peaked in December, 1994 at 1.14 C above the base. Four months, from September to December, 1995 witnessed CO2 monthly increases over 2 ppm. These did not spike till 10 months after the peak SST anomaly, in October, 1995 when the CO2 increase hit 2.16 ppm above prior year. 

No El Nino, but a CO2 spike, June to August, 1996

What does not fit the El Nino driven CO2 increase model is that after a brief decline in early 1996, the increases over previous year jumped to 2.59 ppm in July, 1996. This peak was followed by a decline in CO2 increase below 1 ppm during June to September, 1997.

El Nino: May, 1997 to May, 1998

The 1997-1998 El Nino was the strongest since 1877-1878. It produced a SST anomaly spike of 2.32 C above the base climatological SSTs in November, 1997. This El Nino was followed by a CO2 yr/yr spike of 3.59 ppm ten months later, in September, 1998. The run of CO2 increases over 2 ppm per month continued from April, 1998 to June, 1999. For the first time, three of those months were over 3 ppm compared to the prior year, those of August to October, 1998.

Although this El Nino was followed by a extended strong La Nina, only one month, June, 2000 dropped below 1 ppm (.98).

El Nino: June, 2002 to February, 2003

Any effects of La Nina potentially slowing a CO2 increase seem to have been overcome by other factors for by February, 2001, the CO2 increase compared to prior year was again running above 1.5 ppm.

When the El Nino started in June, 2002, it pushed the CO2 yr/yr change over 2 ppm by August, 2002. For the next 21 months, CO2 monthly increases remained about 2 ppm, until April, 2004, even though this El Nino ended in nine months, in February, 2003.

The 2002 El Nino peaked in Novmber, at 1.26 C above the base, however the CO2 increases did not peak until seven months later, in June 2003, at 2.84 ppm over prior year.

El Nino: July, 2004 to March, 2005

The 2004 El Nino continued for nine months, peaking at .78 C in January, 2005. This very mild El Nino led to an almost 15 month stretch of CO2 increases about 2 ppm per month. The CO2 increase peak occurred 14 month later, in February, 2006, with a 2.63 ppm jump over prior year. The last month with a 2 ppm increase associated with this El Nino was July, 2006.However, after this, only one month experienced less than a 1.5 ppm increase until the next increases of 2 ppm or above commenced.

El Nino conditions September, 2006 to January, 2007

While this stretch of El Nino-like SST anomalies was too short to qualify as a true El Nino, it may have been enough to nudge CO2 yr/yr increases back over 2 ppm. The El Nino temps peaked in December, 2006 at 1.02 C, however, the CO2 increases over 2 ppm do not start until eight months later, in September, 2007. 

It seems outside the range of plausibility, but the peak CO2 increase with this El Nino temperature run does not come until 19 months later, in July, 2008, during the La Nina of August, 2007 to June, 2008. This La Nina, which peaked at -1.38 C in January, 2008, may have contributed to the CO2 yr/yr increase decline to a low of .89 ppm nineteen months later, in August, 2009.

El Nino: September, 2009 to April, 2010

This El Nino ran for eight months, peaking at 1.36 C in January, 2010. It pushed CO2 yr/yr increases back above 2 ppm  commencing in April, 2010 and continuing for almost 15 months, till June, 2011. The CO2 increases peaked eight months after the El Nino temperatures, similar to some of the previous events. In September, 2010 it hit 2.79 ppm over prior year.

This El Nino was followed by two La Ninas. The first from July, 2010 to April, 2011 only dropped CO2 increases back to 1.56 ppm in September, 2011. This event occurred during the second La Nina, which ran from August, 2011 to February, 2012 when there was a one month drop to 1.69 ppm yr/yr increase in June 2012, seven months after the lowest SST anomaly in the 2011-2012 La Nina event.

The CO2 Anomaly: Major increases - with no El Nino 

While SST anomalies returned to ENSO neutral in March, 2010 and would remain in that state until October, 2014, there was an anomalous increase in CO2 emissions without the strong El Nino that it should  "normally" have been associated with.

From August, 2012 through February, 2014, the monthly yr/yr CO2 emissions increased over 2 ppm each month. During this 19 month period, from June to August 2013, they increased more than 3 ppm per month, peaking at 3.47 ppm in July, 2013. The only other times this level of CO2 increase was observed was in association with the 1997-1998 and the April, 2015 to May, 2016 El Ninos. 

Two contributing factors to the unprecedented rise may have been drought and forest fires, or increasing economic growth, but exploring those reasons is outside this posting.

El Nino: April, 2015 to May, 2016

Prior to the return of El Nino, SST anomaly temperatures in November, 2014 to January, 2015, popped CO2 yr/yr emissions changes back over 2 ppm. Since January, 2015, no month has gone below a 2 ppm yr/yr increase in CO2 levels. 

The most recent El Nino started in April, 2015 and peaked in January, 2016 with a SST anomaly of 2.33 C. This very strong El Nino pushed monthly yr/yr CO2 increases over 3 ppm in January, 2016, and they may have peaked in October, 2016 with a 3.71 ppm increase over prior year. These monthly increases above 3 ppm still continue as of October, 2016.

Conclusions

While there are plenty of examples of an El Nino SST anomaly from 1981 to present with a delayed associated increase in CO2 yr/yr change, there are also events that are anomalous. 

Especially troubling is the capability for CO2 increases to occur without an El Nino as a precursor condition as seen from August, 2012 to February, 2014. 

Of even more concern is that we have continued to experience yr/yr increases at higher rates. Even with a mild La Nina or ENSO neutral conditions, given the yr/yr increases above 3 ppm for so many months after the most recent El Nino, it seems less likely that we will see a drop below a 2 ppm rate in the near future.

Despite human CO2 emissions leveling for the last three years, we may now be entering a state where natural feedbacks are driving future CO2 yr/yr and overall ppm increase. That is a tipping point we need to avoid.