Here is the Southern Oscillation Index plotted from the same original data:
What I decided to do is what I’ve been doing with a lot of climatological data, by looking at the Fourier spectrum to see if there are hidden oscillations in the noise.
And there are some hidden oscillations
The diagram above is not all the spectrum, but just the interesting ones that rise above the noise.
The obvious peaks are at k=3, k=10, k=15, k=21, k=28, k=36, k=38 and correspond to 45 years, 13.5 years, 6.42 years, 4.82 years, 3.75 years and 3.55 years respectively.
But note also that they are all nearly exact harmonics of k=3. I could argue that there is really one dominant signal – one that corresponds almost exactly to two Hale Solar cycles (which are approximately 22.5 years long).
The best analogy I can give is that its like shaking a bathtub half full of water: there will be modes which reflect the external shaking of the tub, some which reflect the geometry of the tub and some missing harmonics where the two modes cancel each other out.
I’d appreciate some feedback into how to quantify the statistical significance of the powers of the Fourier Spectrum so as to be more specific as to what is signal and what is noise.