The Thermostat Hypothesis

Guest Essay by Willis Eschenbach

thermostat_earth

Abstract

The Thermostat Hypothesis is that tropical clouds and thunderstorms actively regulate the temperature of the earth. This keeps the earth at a equilibrium temperature.

Several kinds of evidence are presented to establish and elucidate the Thermostat Hypothesis – historical temperature stability of the Earth, theoretical considerations, satellite photos, and a description of the equilibrium mechanism.

Historical Stability

The stability of the earth’s temperature over time has been a long-standing climatological puzzle. The globe has maintained a temperature of ± ~ 3% (including ice ages) for at least the last half a billion years during which we can estimate the temperature. During the Holocene, temperatures have not varied by ±1%. And during the ice ages, the temperature was generally similarly stable as well.

In contrast to Earth’s temperature stability, solar physics has long indicated (Gough, 1981; Bahcall et al., 2001) that 4 billion years ago the total solar irradiance was about three quarters of the current value. In early geological times, however, the earth was not correspondingly cooler. Temperature proxies such as deuterium/hydrogen ratios and 16O/18O ratios show no sign of a 30% warming of the earth over this time. Why didn’t the earth warm as the sun warmed?

This is called the “Faint Early Sun Paradox” (Sagan and Mullen, 1972), and is usually explained by positing an early atmosphere much richer in greenhouse gases than the current atmosphere.

However, this would imply a gradual decrease in GHG forcing which exactly matched the incremental billion-year increase in solar forcing to the present value. This seems highly unlikely.

A much more likely candidate is some natural mechanism which has regulated the earth’s temperature over geological time.

Theoretical Considerations

Bejan (Bejan 2005) has shown that the climate can be robustly modeled as a heat engine, with the ocean and the atmosphere being the working fluids. The tropics are the hot end of the heat engine. Some of that tropical heat is radiated back into space. Work is performed by the working fluids in the course of transporting the rest of that tropical heat to the Poles. There, at the cold end of the heat engine, the heat is radiated into space. Bejan showed that the existence and areal coverage of the Hadley cells is a derivable result of the Constructal Law. He also showed how the temperatures of the flow system are determined.

“We pursue this from the constructal point of view, which is that the [global] circulation itself represents a flow geometry that is the result of the maximization of global performance subject to global constraints.”

“The most power that the composite system could produce is associated with the reversible operation of the power plant. The power output in this limit is proportional to

Willis_eq1

where q is the total energy flow through the system (tropics to poles), and TH and TL are the high and low temperatures (tropical and polar temperatures in Kelvins). The system works ceaselessly to maximize that power output. Here is a view of the entire system that transports heat from the tropics to the poles.

Willis_Image1

Figure 1. The Earth as a Heat Engine. The equatorial Hadley Cells provide the power for the system. Over the tropics, the sun (orange arrows) is strongest because it hits the earth most squarely. The length of the orange arrows shows relative sun strength. Warm dry air descends at about 30N and 30S, forming the great desert belts that circle the globe. Heat is transported by a combination of the ocean and the atmosphere to the poles. At the poles, the heat is radiated to space.
In other words, flow systems such as the Earth’s climate do not assume a stable temperature willy-nilly. They reshape their own flow in such a way as to maximize the energy produced and consumed. It is this dynamic process, and not a simple linear transformation of the details of the atmospheric gas composition, which sets the overall working temperature range of the planet.

Note that the Constructal Law says that any flow system will “quasi-stabilize” in orbit around (but never achieve) some ideal state. In the case of the climate, this is the state of maximum total power production and consumption. And this in turn implies that any watery planet will have an equilibrium temperature, which is actively maintained by the flow system. See the paper by Ou listed below for further information on the process.

Climate Governing Mechanism

Every heat engine has a throttle. The throttle is the part of the engine that controls how much energy enters the heat engine. A motorcycle has a hand throttle. In an automobile, the throttle is called the gas pedal. It controls incoming energy.

The stability of the earth’s temperature over time (including alternating bi-stable glacial/interglacial periods), as well as theoretical considerations, indicates that this heat engine we call climate must have some kind of governor controlling the throttle.

While all heat engines have a throttle, not all of them have a governor. In a car, a governor is called “Cruise Control”. Cruise control is a governor that controls the throttle (gas pedal). A governor adjusts the energy going to the car engine to maintain a constant speed regardless of changes in internal and external forcing (e.g. hills, winds, engine efficiency and losses).

We can narrow the candidates for this climate governing mechanism by noting first that a governor controls the throttle (which in turn controls the energy supplied to a heat engine). Second, we note that a successful governor must be able to drive the system beyond the desired result (overshoot).

(Note that a governor, which contains a hysteresis loop, is different from a negative feedback. A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses. Only a governor can do that.)

The majority of the earth’s absorption of heat from the sun takes place in the tropics. The tropics, like the rest of the world, are mostly ocean; and what land is there is wet. The steamy tropics, in a word. There is little ice there, so the clouds control how much energy enters the climate heat engine.

I propose that two inter-related but separate mechanisms act directly to regulate the earth’s temperature — tropical cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds. Cumulus clouds are the fluffy “cotton ball” clouds that abound near the surface on warm afternoons. Cumulonimbus clouds are thunderstorms clouds, which start life as simple cumulus clouds. Both types of clouds are part of the throttle control, reducing incoming energy. In addition, the cumulonimbus clouds are active heat engines which provide the necessary overshoot to act as a governor on the system.

A pleasant thought experiment shows how this cloud governor works. It’s called “A Day In the Tropics”.

I live in the deep, moist tropics, at 9°S, with a view of the South Pacific Ocean from my windows. Here’s what a typical day looks like. In fact, it’s a typical summer day everywhere in the Tropics. The weather report goes like this:

Clear and calm at dawn. Light morning winds, clouding up towards noon. In the afternoon, increasing clouds and wind with a chance of showers and thundershowers as the storms develop. Clearing around or after sunset, with an occasional thunderstorm after dark. Progressive clearing until dawn.
That’s the most common daily cycle of tropical weather, common enough to be a cliché around the world.

It is driven by the day/night variations in the strength of the sun’s energy. Before dawn, the atmosphere is typically calm and clear. As the ocean (or moist land) heats up, air temperature and evaporation increase. Warm moist air starts to rise. Soon the rising moist air cools and condenses into clouds. The clouds reflect the sunlight. That’s the first step of climate regulation. Increased temperature leads to clouds. The clouds close the throttle slightly, reduce the energy entering the system. They start cooling things down. This is the negative feedback part of the cloud climate control.

The tropical sun is strong, and despite the negative feedback from the cumulus clouds, the day continues to heat up. The more the sun hits the ocean, the more warm, moist air is formed, and the more cumulus clouds form. This, of course, reflects more sun, the throttle closes a bit more. But the day continues to warm.

The full development of the cumulus clouds sets the stage for the second part of temperature regulation. This is not simple negative feedback. It is the climate governing system. As the temperature continues to rise, as the evaporation climbs, some of the fluffy cumulus clouds suddenly transform themselves. They rapidly extend skywards, thrusting up to form pillars of cloud thousands of meters high in a short time. These cumulus are transformed into cumulonimbus or thunderstorm clouds. The columnar body of the thunderstorm acts as a huge vertical heat pipe. The thunderstorm sucks up warm, moist air at the surface and shoots it skyward. At altitude the water condenses, transforming the latent heat into sensible heat. The air is rewarmed by this release of sensible heat, and continues to rise.

At the top, the air is released from the cloud up high, way above most of the CO2. In that rarified atmosphere, the air is much freer to radiate to space. By moving inside the thunderstorm heat pipe, the air bypasses most of the greenhouse gases and comes out near the top of the troposphere. During the transport aloft, there is no radiative or turbulent interaction between the rising air and the lower and middle troposphere. Inside the thunderstorm, the rising air is tunneled through most of the troposphere to emerge at the top.

In addition to reflecting sunlight from their top surface as cumulus clouds do, and transporting heat to the upper troposphere where it radiates easily to space, thunderstorms cool the surface in a variety of other ways, particularly over the ocean.

1. Wind driven evaporative cooling. Once the thunderstorm starts, it creates its own wind around the base. This self-generated wind increases evaporation in several ways, particularly over the ocean.

a) Evaporation rises linearly with wind speed. At a typical squall wind speed of 10 mps (20 knots), evaporation is about ten times higher than at “calm” conditions (conventionally taken as 1 mps).

b) The wind increases evaporation by creating spray and foam, and by blowing water off of trees and leaves. These greatly increase the evaporative surface area, because the total surface area of the millions of droplets is evaporating as well as the actual surface itself.

c) To a lesser extent, surface area is also increased by wind-created waves (a wavy surface has larger evaporative area than a flat surface).

d) Wind created waves in turn greatly increase turbulence in the boundary layer. This increases evaporation by mixing dry air down to the surface and moist air upwards.

e) As spray rapidly warms to air temperature, which in the tropics is often warmer than ocean temperature, evaporation also rises above the sea surface evaporation rate.
2. Wind driven albedo increase. The white spray, foam, spindrift, changing angles of incidence, and white breaking wave tops greatly increase the albedo of the sea surface. This reduces the energy absorbed by the ocean.

3. Cold rain and cold wind. As the moist air rises inside the thunderstorm’s heat pipe, water condenses and falls. Since the water is originating from condensing or freezing temperatures aloft, it cools the lower atmosphere it falls through, and it cools the surface when it hits. In addition, the falling rain entrains a cold wind. This cold wind blows radially outwards from the center of the falling rain, cooling the surrounding area.

4. Increased reflective area. White fluffy cumulus clouds are not tall, so basically they only reflect from the tops. On the other hand, the vertical pipe of the thunderstorm reflects sunlight along its entire length. This means that thunderstorms shade an area of the ocean out of proportion to their footprint, particularly in the late afternoon.

5. Modification of upper tropospheric ice crystal cloud amounts (Linden 2001, Spencer 2007) . These clouds form from the tiny ice particles that come out of the smokestack of the thunderstorm heat engines. It appears that the regulation of these clouds has a large effect, as they are thought to warm (through IR absorption) more than they cool (through reflection).

6. Enhanced night-time radiation. Unlike long-lived stratus clouds, cumulus and cumulonimbus generally die out and vanish as the night cools, leading to the typically clear skies at dawn. This allows greatly increased nighttime surface radiative cooling to space.

7. Delivery of dry air to the surface. The air being sucked from the surface and lifted to altitude is counterbalanced by a descending flow of replacement air emitted from the top of the thunderstorm. This descending air has had the majority of the water vapor stripped out of it inside the thunderstorm, so it is relatively dry. The dryer the air, the more moisture it can pick up for the next trip to the sky. This increases the evaporative cooling of the surface.
In part because they utilize such a wide range of cooling mechanisms mechanisms, cumulus clouds and thunderstorms are extremely good at cooling the surface of the earth. Together, they form the governing mechanism for the tropical temperature.

But where is that mechanism?

The problem with my thought experiment of describing a typical tropical day is that it is always changing. The temperature goes up and down, the clouds rise and fall, day changes to night, the seasons come and go. Where in all of that unending change is the governing mechanism? If everything is always changing, what keeps it the same month to month and year to year? If conditions are always different, what keeps it from going off the rails?

In order to see the governor at work, we need a different point of view. We need a point of view without time. We need a timeless view without seasons, a point of view with no days and nights. And curiously, in this thought experiment called “A Day In the Tropics”, there is such a timeless point of view, where not only is there no day and night, but where it’s always summer.

The point of view without day or night, the point of view from which we can see the climate governor at work, is the point of view of the sun. Imagine that you are looking at the earth from the sun. From the sun’s point of view, there is no day and night. All parts of the visible face of the earth are always in sunlight, the sun never sees the night time. And it’s always summer under the sun.

If we accept the convenience that north is up, then as we face the earth from the sun, the visible surface of the earth is moving from left to right as the planet rotates. So the left hand edge of the visible face is always at sunrise, and the right hand edge is always at sunset. Noon is a vertical line down the middle. From this timeless point of view, morning is always and forever on the left, and afternoon is always on the right. In short, by shifting our point of view, we have traded time coordinates for space coordinates. This shift makes it easy to see how the governor works.

The tropics stretch from left to right across the circular visible face. We see that near the left end of the tropics, after sunrise, there are very few clouds. Clouds increase as you look further to the right. Around the noon line, there are already cumulus. And as we look from left to right across the right side of the visible face of the earth, towards the afternoon, more and more cumulus clouds and increasing numbers of thunderstorms cover a large amount of the tropics.

It is as though there is a graduated mirror shade over the tropics, with the fewest cloud mirrors on the left, slowly increasing to extensive cloud mirrors and thunderstorm coverage on the right.

After coming up with this hypothesis that as seen from the sun, the right hand side of the deep tropics would have more cloud than the left hand side), I though “Hey, that’s a testable proposition to support or demolish my hypothesis”. So in order to investigate whether this postulated increase in cloud on the right hand side of the earth actually existed, I took an average of 24 pictures of the Pacific Ocean taken at local noon on the 1st and 15th of each month over an entire year. I then calculated the average change in albedo and thus the average change in forcing at each time. Here is the result:

Willis_Image2

Figure 2. Average of one year of GOES-West weather satellite images taken at satellite local noon. The Intertropical Convergence Zone is the bright band in the yellow rectangle. Local time on earth is shown by black lines on the image. Time values are shown at the bottom of the attached graph. Red line on graph is solar forcing anomaly (in watts per square meter) in the area outlined in yellow. Black line is albedo value in the area outlined in yellow.
The graph below the image of the earth shows the albedo and solar forcing in the yellow rectangle which contains the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. Note the sharp increase in the albedo between 10:00 and 11:30. You are looking at the mechanism that keeps the earth from overheating. It causes a change in insolation of -60 W/m2 between ten and noon.

Now, consider what happens if for some reason the surface of the tropics is a bit cool. The sun takes longer to heat up the surface. Evaporation doesn’t rise until later in the day. Clouds are slow to appear. The first thunderstorms form later, fewer thunderstorms form, and if it’s not warm enough those giant surface-cooling heat engines don’t form at all.

And from the point of view of the sun, the entire mirrored shade shifts to the right, letting more sunshine through for longer. The 60 W/m2 reduction in solar forcing doesn’t take place until later in the day, increasing the local insolation.

When the tropical surface gets a bit warmer than usual, the mirrored shade gets pulled to the left, and clouds form earlier. Hot afternoons drive thunderstorm formation, which cools and air-conditions the surface. In this fashion, a self-adjusting cooling shade of thunderstorms and clouds keeps the afternoon temperature within a narrow range.

Now, some scientists have claimed that clouds have a positive feedback. Because of this, the areas where there are more clouds will end up warmer than areas with less clouds. This positive feedback is seen as the reason that clouds and warmth are correlated.

I and others take the opposite view of that correlation. I hold that the clouds are caused by the warmth, not that the warmth is caused by the clouds.

Fortunately, we have way to determine whether changes in the reflective tropical umbrella of clouds and thunderstorms are caused by (and thus limiting) overall temperature rise, or whether an increase in clouds is causing the overall temperature rise. This is to look at the change in albedo with the change in temperature. Here are two views of the tropical albedo, taken six months apart. August is the warmest month in the Northern Hemisphere. As indicated, the sun is in the North. Note the high albedo (areas of light blue) in all of North Africa, China, and the northern part of South America and Central America. By contrast, there is low albedo in Brazil, Southern Africa, and Indonesia/Australia.

Willis_Image3

Figure 3. Monthly Average Albedo. Timing is half a year apart. August is the height of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. February is the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Light blue areas are the most reflective (greatest albedo)
In February, on the other hand, the sun is in the South. The albedo situation is reversed. Brazil and Southern Africa and Australasia are warm under the sun. In response to the heat, the clouds form, and those areas now have high albedo. By contrast, the north now has low albedo, with the exception of the reflective Sahara and Rub Al Khali Deserts.

Clearly, the cloud albedo (from cumulus and cumulonimbus) follows the sun north and south, keeping the earth from overheating. This shows quite definitively that rather than the warmth being caused by the clouds, the clouds are caused by the warmth.

Quite separately, these images show in a different way that warmth drives the cloud formation. We know that during the summer, the land warms more than the ocean. If temperature is driving the cloud formation, we would expect to see a greater change in the albedo over land than over the ocean. And this is clearly the case. We see in the North Pacific and the Indian Ocean that the sun increases the albedo over the ocean, particularly where the ocean is shallow. But the changes in the land are in general much larger than the changes over the ocean. Again this shows that the clouds are forming in response to, and are therefore limiting, increasing warmth.

How the Governor Works

Tropical cumulus production and thunderstorm production are driven by air density. Air density is a function of temperature (affecting density directly) and evaporation (water vapor is lighter than air).

A thunderstorm is both a self-generating and self-sustaining heat engine. The working fluids are moisture-laden warm air and liquid water. Self-generating means that whenever it gets hot enough over the tropical ocean, which is almost every day, at a certain level of temperature and humidity, some of the fluffy cumulus clouds suddenly catch fire. The tops of the clouds streak upwards, showing the rising progress of the moisture laden surface air. At altitude, the rising air exits the cloud, replace by more moist air from below. Suddenly, in place of a placid cloud, there is an active thunderstorm.

Self-generating means that the thunderstorms arise spontaneously as a function of temperature and evaporation. Above the threshold necessary to create the first thunderstorm, the number of thunderstorms rises rapidly. This rapid increase in thunderstorms limits the amount of temperature rise possible.

Self-sustaining means that once a thunderstorm gets going, it no longer requires the full initiation temperature necessary to get it started. This is because the self-generated wind at the base, plus dry air falling from above, drive the evaporation rate way up. The thunderstorm is driven by air density. It requires a source of light, moist air. The density of the air is determined by both temperature and moisture content (because curiously, water vapor at molecular weight 16 is only a bit more than half as heavy as air, which has a weight of about 29).

Evaporation is not a function of temperature alone. It is governed a complex mix of wind speed, water temperature, and vapor pressure. Evaporation is calculated by what is called a “bulk formula”, which means a formula based on experience rather than theory. One commonly used formula is:

E = VK(es – ea)
where

E = evaporation
V= wind speed (function of temperature difference [∆T])
K = coefficient constant
es = vapor pressure at evaporating surface (function of water temperature in degrees K to the fourth power)
ea = vapor pressure of overlying air (function of relative humidity and air temperature in degrees K to the fourth power)
The critical thing to notice in the formula is that evaporation varies linearly with wind speed. This means that evaporation near a thunderstorm can be an order of magnitude greater than evaporation a short distance away.

In addition to the changes in evaporation, there at least one other mechanism increasing cloud formation as wind increases. This is the wind-driven production of airborne salt crystals. The breaking of wind-driven waves produces these microscopic crystals of salt. The connection to the clouds is that these crystals are the main condensation nuclei for clouds that form over the ocean. The production of additional condensation nuclei, coupled with increased evaporation, leads to larger and faster changes in cloud production with increasing temperature.

So increased wind-driven evaporation means that for the same density of air, the surface temperature can be lower than the temperature required to initiate the thunderstorm. This means that the thunderstorm will still survive and continue cooling the surface to well below the starting temperature.

This ability to drive the temperature lower than the starting point is what distinguishes a governor from a negative feedback. A thunderstorm can do more than just reduce the amount of surface warming. It can actually mechanically cool the surface to below the required initiation temperature. This allows it to actively maintain a fixed temperature in the region surrounding the thunderstorm.

A key feature of this method of control (changing incoming power levels, performing work, and increasing thermal losses to quelch rising temperatures) is that the equilibrium temperature is not governed by changes in the amount of losses or changes in the forcings in the system. The equilibrium temperature is set by the response of wind and water and cloud to increasing temperature, not by the inherent efficiency of or the inputs to the system.

In addition, the equilibrium temperature is not affected much by changes in the strength of the solar irradiation. If the sun gets weaker, evaporation decreases, which decreases clouds, which increases the available sun. This is the likely answer the long-standing question of how the earth’s temperature has stayed stable over geological times, during which time the strength of the sun has increased markedly.

Gradual Equilibrium Variation and Drift

If the Thermostat Hypothesis is correct and the earth does have an actively maintained equilibrium temperature, what causes the slow drifts and other changes in the equilibrium temperature seen in both historical and geological timese?

As shown by Bejan, one determinant of running temperature is how efficient the whole global heat engine is in moving the terawatts of energy from the tropics to the poles. On a geological time scale, the location, orientation, and elevation of the continental land masses is obviously a huge determinant in this regard. That’s what makes Antarctica different from the Arctic today. The lack of a land mass in the Arctic means warm water circulates under the ice. In Antarctica, the cold goes to the bone …

In addition, the oceanic geography which shapes the currents carrying warm tropical water to the poles and returning cold water (eventually) to the tropics is also a very large determinant of the running temperature of the global climate heat engine.

On a shorter term, there could be slow changes in the albedo. The albedo is a function of wind speed, evaporation, cloud dynamics, and (to a lesser degree) snow and ice. Evaporation rates are fixed by thermodynamic laws, which leave only wind speed, cloud dynamics, and snow and ice able to affect the equilibrium.

The variation in the equilibrium temperature may, for example, be the result of a change in the worldwide average wind speed. Wind speed is coupled to the ocean through the action of waves, and long-term variations in the coupled ocean-atmospheric momentum occur. These changes in wind speed may vary the equilibrium temperature in a cyclical fashion.

Or it may be related to a general change in color, type, or extent of either the clouds or the snow and ice. The albedo is dependent on the color of the reflecting substance. If reflections are changed for any reason, the equilibrium temperature could be affected. For snow and ice, this could be e.g. increased melting due to black carbon deposition on the surface. For clouds, this could be a color change due to aerosols or dust.

Finally, the equilibrium variations may relate to the sun. The variation in magnetic and charged particle numbers may be large enough to make a difference. There are strong suggestions that cloud cover is influenced by the 22-year solar Hale magnetic cycle, and this 14-year record only covers part of a single Hale cycle.

Conclusions and Musings

1. The sun puts out more than enough energy to totally roast the earth. It is kept from doing so by the clouds reflecting about a third of the sun’s energy back to space. As near as we can tell, this system of cloud formation to limit temperature rises has never failed.

2. This reflective shield of clouds forms in the tropics in response to increasing temperature.

3. As tropical temperatures continue to rise, the reflective shield is assisted by the formation of independent heat engines called thunderstorms. These cool the surface in a host of ways, move heat aloft, and convert heat to work.

4. Like cumulus clouds, thunderstorms also form in response to increasing temperature.

5. Because they are temperature driven, as tropical temperatures rise, tropical thunderstorms and cumulus production increase. These combine to regulate and limit the temperature rise. When tropical temperatures are cool, tropical skies clear and the earth rapidly warms. But when the tropics heat up, cumulus and cumulonimbus put a limit on the warming. This system keeps the earth within a fairly narrow band of temperatures.

6. The earth’s temperature regulation system is based on the unchanging physics of wind, water, and cloud.

7. This is a reasonable explanation for how the temperature of the earth has stayed so stable (or more recently, bi-stable as glacial and interglacial) for hundreds of millions of years.

Further Reading

Bejan, A, and Reis, A. H., 2005, Thermodynamic optimization of global circulation and climate, Int. J. Energy Res.; 29:303–316. Available at http://homepage.mac.com/williseschenbach/.Public/Constructal_Climate.pdf

Richard S. Lindzen, Ming-Dah Chou, and A. Y. Hou, 2001, Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris?, doi: 10.1175/1520-0477(2001)082<0417:DTEHAA>2.3.CO;2
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society: Vol. 82, No. 3, pp. 417–432.
Available online at http://ams.allenpress.com/pdfserv/10.1175%2F1520-0477(2001)082%3C0417:DTEHAA%3E2.3.CO%3B2

Ou, Hsien-Wang, Possible Bounds on the Earth’s Surface Temperature: From the Perspective of a Conceptual Global-Mean Model, Journal of Climate, Vol. 14, 1 July 2001. Available online here (pdf).

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416 Responses to The Thermostat Hypothesis

  1. M. Simon says:

    The sun puts out more than enough energy to totally roast the earth. It is kept from doing so by the clouds reflecting about a third of the sun’s energy back to space. As near as we can tell, this system of cloud formation to limit temperature rises has never failed.

    I guess I’ll have to do a blog post. Thanks Willis!

  2. Fluffy Clouds (Tim L) says:

    good one, a long read!
    Tx

  3. Nylo says:

    Thanks a lot for that article. It is really an eye opener. Every AGWer should have a look at it. I already was a skeptic, but this new point of view “from the sun” makes me doubt even the temperature records provided by GISS and the like. We have no idea of what the planet’s temperature is. Even with satellites, we are only deciding if a place is warming or cooling by checking its maximum and minimum temperature during a day and how the numbers evolve in time. We know nothing about how fast it rises, how fast it falls, for how long it mantains each temperature, all of which affect emisivity of the Earth. And clouds have a lot to say about that. And then there is the UHI effect, of course.

    For me this has been the very best article I have read in WUWT since I follow it.

  4. crosspatch says:

    Well, there can be no doubt that the atmosphere was richer in CO2 billions of years ago. That is where all of today’s coal, oil, limestone, and marble come from. If you take ALL of the coal, ALL of the oil, ALL of the limestone and ALL of the marble on the entire planet and convert it all back to CO2, you have a situation much like what we had back then. Then add the fact that there was much more volcanism at that time. Anyone who would claim that the atmosphere at the time when the sun was 30% dimmer wasn’t much richer in CO2 is not doing the math.

  5. timetochooseagain says:

    A very good essay Willis! Truly fascinating remarks with regard to the importance of wv and clouds.

  6. “The globe has maintained a temperature of ± ~ 3% (including ice ages) for at least the last half a billion years”

    What is this in degrees?

    [REPLY - Degrees Kelvin. The only way you can do degree percentages ins starting from absolute zero. ~ Evan]

  7. Data says:

    I’m a little puzzled by this paragraph:

    “(Note that a governor, which contains a hysteresis loop, is different from a negative feedback. A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses. Only a governor can do that.)”

    But a negative-feedback amplifier, within operating parameters, can maintain a desired output in the face of all of the disturbances you list. Certainly the mechanism of negative feedback as applied in electronics can in principle compensate for any change in forcing, not increases only. And of course a governor mechanism uses negative feedback to operate. Perhaps you mean something different by the term?

  8. UK Sceptic says:

    O/T Paul McCartney is advocating people go veggie on Mondays in order to save the planet from global warming. A cynical person might point out that, given Macca has allegedly suffered tens of millions wiped off his portfolio due to the recession, many people might turn to the McCartney brand of vegetarian food as a convenient option in order to boost his flagging profits.

    Pathetic…

  9. Malcolm says:

    re: “(Note that a governor, which contains a hysteresis loop, is different from a negative feedback. A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses. Only a governor can do that.)”

    A “climate governor” suggests an open loop system (no feedback), whilst “temperature stability” suggests a closed loop system (negative feedback).

  10. Jari says:

    Interesting reading. Since it seems that Willis was correct about the Tuvalu sea level not rising (latest data here http://www.bom.gov.au/ntc/IDO60101/IDO60101.200904.pdf), maybe this hypothesis is correct too.

  11. jmrSudbury says:

    David Montgomery (01:08:11) : The earth’s surface air temperature is currently around 287 K. The 3% of that is +-9 K. I don’t know what the average is, but these numbers indicate a 18K temperature spread from the warmest to the coldest. — John M Reynolds

  12. Anne says:

    Ahhh, now I see why models without clouds can have tipping points, yet no such tipping points have occurred in the past.

    Take that Gavin.

  13. VG says:

    RE this posting: If this did not happen we would not be here In general most life systems (including weather if we could call it a life system!), 1- 1 = 0,
    BTW on anotehr note…Me thinks that in general, the Scandinavians have decided to no longer go on with the charade and are adjusting realistically..
    http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/ice-area-and-extent-in-arctic
    also DMI
    http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/icecover.uk.php lets see in the USA ice monitors realize this the sooner the better.

  14. anna v says:

    OK, this is coherent and plausible.

    Now I would be interested to see in this model whatis the effect of the different absorption by the oceans of different frequencies of incoming sunlight; for example, what percentage of those 90 watts/m2 is due to UV. The 8% change in ultraviolet energy from sun minimum to sun maximum might be effective in modulating the heat engine with no amplification needed.

  15. Mike Lorrey says:

    One thing this post leaves out is the important part that life has played in sequestering most of the early terran atmosphere in limestone deposits. Earth’s atmosphere was, at one point, 52 times more dense than today, with a large CO2 component. Even during the cretaceous and jurassic periods, CO2 levels were significantly higher than today by several times and atmospheric density overall was significantly higher. Over time, as the sun has heated up, CO2 levels have gone down and overall atmospheric density has gone down, as more and more CO2, O2, and H2O have been locked into limestone by coral. It is true that much CO2 has also been locked into fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and methane hydrates in sea bottoms that subducts over time beneath the continent, and that a lot of this CO2 returns to the atmosphere via volcanic erutpions, however this merely gives the CO2 a second shot to be sequestered permanently into limestone via coral deposits.

  16. stumpy says:

    I thought a trace gas regulated the earths climate? Seriously though, excellent post! Love the comment on clouds causing warming, some people are unable to look out the window and make a scientific observation!

    I have come to a similar conclusion where the earths climate is regulated by the ocean, convection, cloud cover and atmospheric mass with greenhouse gasses playing only a small role in the overall scheme of things. The more heat in the system the more the climate will work to remove this heat, increasing outgoing longwave energy observed over the last few decades demonstrates this system of self regulation.

    We cant even start to assess any anthropogenic effect on climate until we fully understand the natural climate system – and so far we are not even close!

    Good work

  17. DJ says:

    Just when might this thermostat kick in? It’s been an extraordinary hot May at the planets surface and that is post La Nina (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/). We will almost certainly see the largest positive monthly temperature anomaly every observed by man at the earth’s surface in the coming months.

    It’s not going to be a pretty sight next year as we go post El Nino and have a warming sun. Watch for a big step up in sea level, a sharp decline in sea ice, and the hottest year on record.

  18. John Wright says:

    The parallel with cruise control is intriguing. Personally I never use it because it is reactive rather than anticipatory. Any experienced driver will tell you that he starts to step on the gas just before reaching the start of an up grade. By the time the cruise control kicks in, the vehicle has already slowed down. You lose speed, and I am sure waste fuel in the long run. However if a similar process takes place in the earth’s temperature control system, this could surely provide an element in weather forecasting precisely because of what I what drives me mad with cruise control i.e. delay in reacting.

    Just an idea I throw in.

  19. captdallas2 says:

    Very nice Willis. Re: Malcolm, It doesn’t mater if the system is open or closed if the thermostat has control of sufficient energy to maintain its set point. In this case the thermostat is cooling only so it can only maintain its temperature range if there is enough heat input to call for cooling. Interestingly, this thermostat appears to have a glacial setback control setting.

  20. Jon says:

    In another thread on this site ref:
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/10/another-scientific-consensus-bites-the-dust/

    based on

    http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/06/02/solar-wind-atmosphere-02.html

    “Despite the rather mind-boggling rate at which Earth is losing atmosphere — 5×1025 molecules per second — scientists say there is no cause for alarm. If the loss rate stays the same, the planet’s atmosphere will last for several more billion years.”

    If Earth has had an atmosphere for lets say 2 billion years at least.

    Is it not then possible then, if this draining of our atmosphere has been going on since, that the atmosphere was thicker and warmer going back in time?

    Theoretically for every 100 meter more air you add in the bottom(ground) of the atmosphere moist air will increase by 0.5C/100m and dry air will increase by 1C/100m in that colum of atmosphere.

    And if the Sun was only 75 % of todays output earlier in time and the Earth at the same time most of the time 10 deg C warmer than today this could be one way to make sense off it?

    Off topic would not atmosphere above desert with dry air be the best place to validate or falsify the UNFCCC/UNEP/IPCC doctrine ?

  21. timbrom says:

    My “eureka” moment came about three quarters of the way through this splendid article. Especially as it opens up a rather neat slot for Svensmark’s theory to drop into.

  22. DocWat says:

    I was wondering if the mass of the earth and its velocity in orbit are considerations here. The theories on formation of the moon suggest a collision of a smaller earth and a mars size object formed the moon. This collision must have changed the mass of the earth-moon system and its velocity, which would have changed its orbital position and its distance from the sun… theoretically moving the earth away from the sun and partially compensating for the increase in solar output… any astronomers out there got comments?

  23. Jon says:

    And maybe the draining of atmosphere is increasing with a more active Sun?

  24. Chris Wright says:

    Another fascinating article about climate feedback. That the earth has remained hospitable to life despite the sun becoming 25% hotter strongly suggests that negative feedbacks dominate. It seems that AGW depends on the assumption of strong positive feedbacks and this is where it is particularly vulnerable. If feedbacks assumed by AGW to be positive can be shown to actually be negative then the whole ridiculous theory will fall apart – or it should if climate science was completely honest.
    .
    One question: if there were no positive or negative feedbacks how much warming would be caused by a 25% increase in solar output?
    Chris

  25. Tenuc says:

    Thanks Willis for an excellent report on what I also think is one of the main processes which regulate our climate. Lots of pro-AGW propagandists seem to consider average global temperature (whatever that means) as the indicator of change, when total it is total system energy budget which is important.

    I also agree that the small ‘drifts’ we see over time are probably made up of several components, as you detail. In chaotic systems even small changes, such as the rate of cloud formation, can result in small changes to the systems ‘balance’ point.

  26. Steve Schapel says:

    Thank you, Willis, for this excellent work, and so carefully explained. I have learned a lot from it.

    With the obsessive narrow focus on atmospheric CO2 as the be-all-and-end-all of all things climate, which so many people still adhere to, it is so wonderful to see another example of significant steps towards a broader understanding of what’s really going on.

  27. jmrSudbury (02:40:37) :

    David Montgomery (01:08:11) : The earth’s surface air temperature is currently around 287 K. The 3% of that is +-9 K. I don’t know what the average is, but these numbers indicate a 18K temperature spread from the warmest to the coldest. — John M Reynolds

    The long-term average temperature of the Earth during the Phanerozoic has been a fairly steady ~22C during “hothouse” or “greenhouse” periods and ~12C during the four “icehouse” periods or “ice ages”.

    Hothouse = 22C…295K
    Greenhouse = 12C…285K
    Median = 17C…290K

    +/- 3% (~9K) is more than adequate to account for the average differences between “hothouse” and “icehouse” periods and the warm anomalies at the end of the Permian and in the early Tertiary.

    crosspatch (01:04:01) :
    Well, there can be no doubt that the atmosphere was richer in CO2 billions of years ago. That is where all of today’s coal, oil, limestone, and marble come from. If you take ALL of the coal, ALL of the oil, ALL of the limestone and ALL of the marble on the entire planet and convert it all back to CO2, you have a situation much like what we had back then. Then add the fact that there was much more volcanism at that time. Anyone who would claim that the atmosphere at the time when the sun was 30% dimmer wasn’t much richer in CO2 is not doing the math.

    Atmospheric CO2 was much higher early in the Phanerozoic; but it has not simply gradually declined from 7,000ppmv in the Cambrian to its current level. CO2 levels have followed a sort of declining saw-tooth pattern…Dropping from ~7000ppmv in the mid-Cambrian to ~200-400ppmv in the Pennsylvanian and then rising to ~2500ppmv in the Jurassic. Since then CO2 levels have gradually declined to current levels. Most of the declines appear to have had a declining saw-tooth pattern, with periodic minor increases.

    Phanerozoic Temp/CO2

    As far as volcanism goes, there’s no clear evidence that the Earth’s volcanic activity has been declining over the Phanerozoic. Volcanism has been episodic, with periods of intense volcanic activity (i.e. late Permian Siberian Traps and late Cretaceous Deccan Traps)…But intense volcanism is associated with cooling and not warming. So, if the Earth was more volcanic “back then” it would have been cooler, not warmer.

  28. DocWat says:

    I just looked it up, for those who do not have the mass of the planets at the tip of their cerebral cortex. Mars’ mass is about 10% of earth. Then any significant difference in velocity changed the mass and velocity of the earth-moon system.

  29. Steve Keohane says:

    Thanks for this article Willis and Anthony. This is a clear mechanism for controlling the climate. I always think of the poles as cryopumps, like in a vapor deposition system, especially Antarctica where H2O is sequestered, and the areas of permafrost and icecap in the north. Water has a one-way ticket to the south pole, yes there is sublimation, but that is a small fraction of the incoming water.

  30. rcrejects says:

    Anthony,

    OT, but I can’t find a way to e:mail you on the site.

    An interesting example of Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann being ‘Economical’ with the truth in the current thread at RC. See http://www.rcrejects@wordpress.com (and RC) for detail.

    rcrejects.

  31. bill says:

    Are you suggesting that the hotter it gets the more clouds we will see?
    But surely the hotter the atmosphere becomes the more water vapour the atmosphere holds before clouds will form (e.g. in the UK it is very common for clouds to be burnt off by the sun’s heat as the day progresses in summer).

    One has to also ask about the effect of clouds in winter where clouds are associated with warmer weather and clear skys with cooler.

    Then of course there are places where there is insufficient vapour in the air to cause clouds (deserts). Fry during the day – freeze during the night.

    For cloud cover to increase the water vapour must increase (or the temperature decrease). Increase in this GHG will lower radiation losses and increase temperature.

    So albedo will change as cloud cover changes (Day time Clouds are a negative feedback – more clouds=cooler temp=lower water vapour=less clouds=lower temp ~and~ fewer clouds= higher temp=more clouds)
    But for clouds to form you need more water vapour
    But Water vapour is a positive feedback (higher temp= more water vapour = higher temp ~and~ lower temp =less water vapour = lower temp)
    And night time clouds act as a blanket more clouds = warmer =? more clouds

    NOTE that feed back is defined above
    positive feedback gives less stability
    negative feedback gives more stability

    I also note that you are suggesting that water vapour/clouds are a feedback and not a forcing

    Whilst thunderstorms will transport heat upwards some will be re-radiated to space but some will radiate to the atmosphere and some will be transported down again as rain and downdraughts and lightning.

    As you are suggesting that the poles radiate some of this heat to space then perhaps the lack of O3 in the antarctic is the reason for it not following modelled temperatures..

    Ahh! so many known unknowns and unknown unknowns!

  32. stuhugfj says:

    Willis. A fascinating study – thank you very much indeed. Are you, by any chance the same Willis Eschenbach I knew in Fiji? If so… Bula!!!

  33. DocWat says:

    I have been a faithful (daily) reader here for more than two years. This contribution is, in my judgment, one of the best. Surely in the top 5. And, not being a PhD in anything, one of the most readable.

  34. Paul R says:

    Interesting article and it makes me wonder if the weakened magnetic field somehow makes the this process more efficient?

  35. smallz79 says:

    It is all starting to come together for one huge almost(~+/-80%) perfect picture of the process that makes the Earth’s climate livable and by large or average homeostatic. Never completely neutral, but always trying to be. Seems like a type of system only a God could create.

  36. M. Simon says:

    A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses.

    This is only true of strictly proportional negative feedback. If there is an integrator in the system or the control loop a steady state is in theory possible if the loop tuning is correct and the noise level does not keep things bouncing around.

    And the system does have an integrator. The oceans.

  37. Lindsay H says:

    Mike Lorrey (02:51:36) :

    One thing this post leaves out is the important part that life has played in sequestering most of the early terran atmosphere in limestone deposits. Earth’s atmosphere was, at one point, 52 times more dense than today, with a large CO2 component.

    interesting

    can you give a reference for the 52 times more dense quote ??

  38. Thanks, Willis.

    A jaw-dropping synthesis with a sound of feasibility to it. Your clear, accessible exposition includes some fascinating information. I hope the hypothesis survives. It’s almost too good to be true.

    Cheers,
    Richard Treadgold,
    Convenor,
    Climate Conversation Group.

  39. joshv says:

    “Anyone who would claim that the atmosphere at the time when the sun was 30% dimmer wasn’t much richer in CO2 is not doing the math.”

    Nobody is claiming that.

  40. Chris Schoneveld says:

    Now I am confused. On the one hand he says: “clouds control how much energy enters the climate heat engine” and a paragraph further on he says: “the cumulonimbus clouds are active heat engines”. They can’t be both.

  41. Gary Pearse says:

    This would appear to be the E=MC(sqd) of Climate. A big light went on when the viewpoint shifted to sun’s eye view. One can now see that, as usual in the progress of science, we start by looking at the micro picture and it takes someone to find the macro view for the elucidation of a phenomenon. Most are still caught up in the micro-picture – counting tree rings, carbon dioxide in ice cores, centimetres in advancing or shrinking of glaciers, fractions of a milimetre in sea-level, changes of 0.5C over a century. In light of the wonderfully simple (like Einstein’s equation looking at the whole universe) sun’s eye view and the simple physical parameters of the “engine”. The 0.037% solution in the atmosphere theory of climate is the flat earth hypothesis and geocentric theory of the universe rolled into one.

    However, I note an almost ho-hum tinge to several of the posts, even though they have a generally positive view of the thesis. Why is it that when shown something truly elegant and inspiring we don’t seem to be very moved by it? Heck, we were animated, enthralled, angry, combative over a misinterpretation of a tree ring count or proper selection of a species of tree to do the count, or whether a countable sunspot had appeared or not. This is an accurate weather retrospect for the past couple of billion years and a forecast for the next several billion!! Perhaps it opens the door to linking the “CO2 cycle” to it – Maybe Geese fly high on the temperate cell and low on the Hadley Cell going south and reverse this going north taking advantage of the engine…. Willis, I’m very impressed (for one thing, the engineer in me likes the idea of carnot cycle running the climate).

  42. Ric Werme says:

    (Note that a governor, which contains a hysteresis loop, is different from a negative feedback. A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses. Only a governor can do that.)

    Like others, I have a significant quibble with this (the rest of the essay more than makes up for this).

    A governor can be a pure negative feedback system. James Watt’s governor is like that, see http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Centrifugal_governor . The automotive cruise controls up to the 1970s or so use this mechanism and add a reference point – setting the control triggers a solenoid that holds the position of the governor’s output. The control system then tries to keep the governor’s output to match the reference, and that’s a simple negative feedback control system.

    Hysteresis entails a system whose internal state has memory of the past. Not quite like I describe above, which may be the source of confusion, but more like soft iron magnets. In facl Merriam-ebster says hysteresis is “a retardation of an effect when the forces acting upon a body are changed (as if from viscosity or internal friction) ; especially : a lagging in the values of resulting magnetization in a magnetic material (as iron) due to a changing magnetizing force.”

    This is best shown in magnetic tape recorders. Applying and removing a small magnetic force to iron will shift its internal structure and then recover back to its original state. A strong force will shift it so far that it doesn’t bounce back. Old
    computer fogeys like me will suggest “core memory” as in example of being serious about using hysteresis for its memory effect.

    There’s nothing quite like that in climate that I can think of at the moment, though frozen ponds and ice cap come close. (They’re more like a control system with a non-linear response.)

  43. Richard111 says:

    Thank you Willis Eschenbach. I have taken the liberty of putting a copy of your essay onto my harddrive for further study.
    For others interested in water and the atmosphere and are battling with the science,
    (I am anyway :-) ) I can recommend a series of essays by Patrick J. Tyson:

    http://www.climates.com/KA/H2OMENU.pdf

    they are all quite small text only files and very easy reading.

  44. Fred2 says:

    Are there any climate scientists with a computational climate model (and enough hardware to run it) with the motivation to include these considerations in the next design iteration of the model?

    If these ideas are right then they deserve a larger set of analysts chewing on them. Even if they are only approximately right.

  45. IW says:

    I love this work.

    I especially like the work on thermostat theory – it turns out that the very mathematics of adaptive systems is entirely general and does not distinguish between mechanical, electronic, biological, or social systems. Yes, thermostats, blood sugar levels in the body, and economics have precise the same mathematics. And as this post shows, so does the earth.

    Check out: http://chanacox.com/reflections.shtml

    Is quite an eye-opener.

  46. Fred2 says:

    Does this analysis automatically include hurricanes/typhoons or would they be an additional heat engine?

    Were there any hurricanes on the earth during the time the GEOS photos were taken?

  47. Chris Schoneveld says:

    Excuse my ignorance, but when you say that “some scientists have claimed that clouds have a positive feedback. Because of this, the areas where there are more clouds will end up warmer than areas with less clouds”, what mechanism could possibly cause clouds to increase temperature. I can only see them keeping night time temperatures higher, like an insulating blanket.

  48. Stephen Wilde says:

    The essence of this helpful post is very similar to that of my various articles published over the pasr 12 months.

    However I think it unnecessarily emphasises the Tropics and fails to treat the net latitudinal position of ALL the air circulation systems as the critical issue.

    I believe that the entire air circulation system in each hemisphere shifts poleward or equatorward as a direct result of net global warming or cooling.

    That initial net warming or cooling seems normally to be a direct result of oceanic changes in net global emission or absorption of solar energy.

    The air circulations as a whole work to maintain equilibrium between sea surface and surface air temperatures.

    From time to time factors other than the oceans alter the overall energy budget but the response of the air circulations is just the same. Following substantial volcanic eruptions we see a similar equatorward shift of the air circulation systems during the short period of cooling that follows such eruptions.

    I propose that if there is a change in the GHG content of the air then any air temperature effect from that change would again be dealt with by an imperceptible change in the latitudinal positions of the air circulation systems so as to change the rate of energy flow to space and thereby prevent any destabilisation of the existing equilibrium between oceans and air.

    The background equilibrium which the system always works back towards is set by the level of solar input combined with the length of time the solar energy stays in the oceans as a whole. That is where Tyndall et al are wrong. They assumed that the chemical characteristics of the components of the air set the equilibrium temperature of the planet.

    In fact the oceans set it in conjunction with solar input and the air is forever fated to maintain that equilibrium between sun and sea whatever happens in the air.

    In fact the net latitudinal position of all the air circulation systems is a diagnostic indicator as to whether the globe is warming or cooling at any given moment.

    We urgently need to divert resources to finding a more precise a method of reading that indicator.

  49. David L. Hagen says:

    BRAVO! Excellent clear description.

    Ferenc Miskolczi developed a planetary greenhouse theory for a semi-transparent atmosphere. Miskolczi’s 1D theory finds that energy conservation and minimization (entropy maximization) results in an effectively constant optical depth of water and carbon dioxide absorption.

    Combining Eisenbach’s Thermostat/Lindaen’s “Iris” model)/ Bejan’s constructal method / Svensmark’s cosmoclimatology/ and Miskolczi’s planetary greenhouse theory promise to provide strong empirical and theoretical basis for a relatively elegant model of earth’s climate and how it varies (or how little it varies) with changes in carbon dioxide concentration.

  50. Gwrs. warm their houses with just A THERMOSTAT, they don´t need a heater!
    LOL

  51. Bill Yarber says:

    This explains so much and, based on my 40+ year old understanding of fluid dynamics, really makes sense. Living in FL, it is typical to see thunderstorms roll in on warm, muggy, summer afternoons. Then the temperature drops even more and the evenings are much more bearable. Thanks for another nail in the AGW coffin.

    Bill

  52. Bill Illis says:

    Great article Willis,

    If the Earth’s temperature has been remarkably stable over time despite significantly changing conditions (faint young sun, significant changes in atmospheric composition, continental drift), then Water has to be that stablizing force.

    Just think about how much water changes state and moves around on the planet throughout the day. Think about how much energy is used to change that state and move that much water each day. These numbers in tonnes and joules would have 50 zeros behind them and would be so big, we could not even understand what they mean.

    I think you are really on to something with the daily/hourly changes in albedo and forcing. Try extending it out over a full 24 hours and put the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment data on the same 24 hour timeline.

    The incoming and outgoing radiation cartoons are very incomplete because they only reflect a point in time. The Sun only shines for 12 hours and the Earth is receiving double the average incoming solar radiation at noon and then none after the Sun sets. What happens to the cartoon after the Sun sets. Answer: all that incoming solar radiation and all those IR photons momentarily intercepted by greenhouse gases still escape to space overnight. The cartoon needs to have a changing face over a full 24 hours.

    Keep digging into the data because there is some compelling evidence there as you have already shown.

  53. This hypothesis is not new. Other researchers have proposed the same hypothesis using data from the GERB project:
    http://www.ssd.rl.ac.uk/gerb/SCIENCE.HTM

    Strong cyclonic storms send columns of heat straight up through the stratosphere, which radiates directly into space. Thunderstorms around the equator release less heat into space than major hurricanes or typhoons because they have weaker updrafts. The key to governing Earth’s temperature is to get warm moist air close enough to space where the heat radiates as longwave radiation. The cooled moist air returns to Earth to cool the troposphere. Such storms work exactly like air conditioners except that instead of pumping heat out of a room they are pumping heat off the planet.

  54. Mike Monce says:

    I think the article is good, but ignores a very crucial aspect of energy transport: namely that of tropical cylones. While daily thuderstorm formation certainly helps the heat engine run, I would supect that tropical cyclones contribute much more to the transport of energy from the tropical regions to the polar regions. Comparing the energy in a cyclone to a thunderstorm is like comparing a ladyfinger firecracker to a nuke.

  55. layne Blanchard says:

    Fascinating reading. It is easy to envision this endless summer cool on the left, warming thru the day, and transitioning to evening/night equilibrium as it rotates to the right. As the surface moves to a more oblique position relative to sun, somewhere along that path the upper atmosphere cools, and the trigger for the rising column is activated.

  56. Stephen Wilde says:

    Expanding my above post a little (05:42:49)

    The idea of the equilibrium temperature being set by the length of time that oceans store the solar input also deals with the ‘faint sun’ issue.

    That length of delay is set primarily by characteristics of the oceans and not primarily by the power of the solar input (up to a point) so that when the solar input was somewhat less it must then have taken longer for the solar energy to negotiate the ocean system and so the temperature difference in the air was not as large as one would expect as against today’s temperatures with a stronger solar input.

    Additionally the land distribution was different then which would have had an effect on the length of time that solar energy then took to circulate through the oceans before emission to the air.

  57. DocWat (03:55:01) :
    moving the earth away from the sun and partially compensating for the increase in solar output… any astronomers out there got comments?
    The collision happened so early in the Earth’s history that what happened before does not matter. At the time the Earth and Moon finally reassembled from the debris after the impact, the Sun was 30% less luminous and has slowly increased since.

  58. Douglas DC says:

    Loved it,need more time to digest,but I too saw an opening for the Svensmark
    theory…

  59. hunter says:

    This speaks very well to one of the many gaping flaws in AGW:
    Much ado about very little- the incredible amount of attention and hysteria focused on a very small change in global temperatures.
    By asserting (falsely, I believe the evidence shows) that marginal changes in temperature, that are well withing the MOE, are actually of huge significance, the AGW community has built an empire of fear.
    This is what has driven terrible abuses of the scientific process like the hockey stick, the rewriting of history irt MWP, the need for the AGW community to claim that each and every weather event is actually *proof* of AGW, etc.
    There have been other forcings as great as human created CO2 over the eons of time Earth has existed in this general state.
    Our climate has pretty much muddled through as it is jsut fine.

  60. son of mulder says:

    Excellent essay. Are the GCM’s programmed to incorporate this mechanism accurately or do they predict it accurately? If neither then how can the GCM’s to date be considered reasonable predictors of climate change?

    If the GCM’s do reflect this well then what is there new in the essay?

  61. Dave Middleton says:

    smallz79 (04:58:16) :

    It is all starting to come together for one huge almost(~+/-80%) perfect picture of the process that makes the Earth’s climate livable and by large or average homeostatic. Never completely neutral, but always trying to be. Seems like a type of system only a God could create.

    The Earth and the Universe certainly do appear to behave as if the system was designed to suit modern man.

    “There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all…. It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe…. The impression of design is overwhelming…The laws [of physics] … seem to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design…. The universe must have a purpose.”

    –Paul Davies

    “It’s as if the universe was expecting us.”

    –Freeman Dyson

    Max Tegmark thinks the Universe might be one big equation…Maybe it’s a Multiverse and we just happen to be living in the right universe within it…Maybe it’s Top-Down Cosmology and the Universe is the product of observation…Maybe it’s God…Maybe it’s one big coincidence.

    Heck, the Tethys Sea couldn’t have been a better source for oil and natural gas and the Carboniferous forests couldn’t have been better sources for coal if man designed them to be such sources.

    Whatever the true cosmology of the Universe turns out to be…all of the Earth’s geological history is part of that cosmology…Including the atmosphere and climate.

  62. The global warming theory in its present form leaves lots of skeptics but it is a theory only because we can’t see it.

    A theory isn’t the required science or you wouldn’t want my industry doing your engineering based on theory.

    For those of you that work in the weather field, I want to share some important information with you and would look forward to an opinion as it relates to climate or your area of expertise.

    I have a background in building engineering, electrical energy provision and infrared consulting for many years. Meteorology plays an important part in building design because we use Regional Climatic Data supplied to building codes by Meteorologists. Meteorologists tell us in code, watch out for solar radiation because interaction with building materials can generate heat. Ideally building exteriors are supposed to reflect solar radiation or the building would be radiated and generate heat it isn’t designed insulated or insured for. The amount of energy consumption and emissions are determined by building within the criteria provided by meteorology.

    Although building engineering is very precise, we are blind and consider regional climate in a calculator where the whole process is signed off as compliant.

    Here is a link to information for you to view as I completed early morning infrared time-lapsed video to see if building exteriors are reflecting solar radiation. The videos are right after sunrise and the results contradicted my own education, we just couldn’t see it. Scroll down at the link and look at the radiation videos to date. You will see buildings being radiated, generating extreme heat without C02 or GHG Production except to react to the indoor heat symptoms. http://www.thermoguy.com/globalwarming-heatgain.html

    How can we superheat the atmosphere with radiated heat while we blame C02? Anthony Watt has shown some important information on weather station placement and urban heat generation. The infrared information is accurate and verifiable to specific pieces of equipment if required, are meteorologists considering building radiation generating extreme heat. At the link there is a cutblock imaged from the air and a forestry consultant contacted me and spoke of germination problems with the amount of heat generated. Thanks

  63. Kasranov says:

    “The earth’s temperature regulation system is based on the unchanging physics of wind, water, and cloud.”

    That should make it easier to model. This hypothesis is worth something if it means the variables (guesses) in the models can be lessened.

  64. barry says:

    Are there any climate scientists with a computational climate model (and enough hardware to run it) with the motivation to include these considerations in the next design iteration of the model?

    What’s the point? They have a built-in CO2 forcing.

    Surely we’re not going to turn around and start advocating climate modeling! I will call hypocrisy if that happens.

    However, with climate models being useless, I’m not sure how we could verify this hypothesis within our lifetimes.

  65. deadwood says:

    I am flabbergasted that such common sense is not accepted wisdom in the climate science community.

    Of course our author lives in the tropics and climate scientists live in computer generated realities. That might make a small difference, don’t you think?

  66. Andre says:

    Gary Pearse (05:18:12) :

    “One can now see that, as usual in the progress of science, we start by looking at the micro picture and it takes someone to find the macro view for the elucidation of a phenomenon. Most are still caught up in the micro-picture – counting tree rings, carbon dioxide in ice cores, centimetres in advancing or shrinking of glaciers, fractions of a milimetre in sea-level, changes of 0.5C over a century …….”

    From an Island in the Southern Pacific might well be the right place to get the view of things :-)

    Willis is one of my absolute favorites. Thanks.

  67. Basil says:

    w.

    Perhaps you could provide a cite or two to support the following?

    “There are strong suggestions that cloud cover is influenced by the 22-year solar Hale magnetic cycle, and this 14-year record only covers part of a single Hale cycle.”

    This is a major issue for me, with Leif saying that there is nothing in the 22 year cycle to account for all the evidence for bidecadal climate variations.

  68. Michael D Smith says:

    Willis, you have a very logical and direct writing style, very readable. I also agree this is one of the finest posts I’ve seen on WUWT.

    Presumably an increase in GHG’s, if they caused a decrease in radiative heat loss, would simply make thunderstorms start sooner, last longer, or extend higher to pump out the excess heat. Any thoughts on that?

    It would be interesting to analyze the satellite photos you used on a day by day basis (I made a VisualBasic color analyzer program for a different application – I could adapt it to detect clouds, though it would become somewhat complex to set the detection levels correctly for different latitude / longitude / apparent atmosphere thickness, etc). It might make it possible to track certain variables over time, especially albedo.

    Do you have a link to the satellite photos that I can use to develop it with? I think I could automate the analysis process.

  69. Nylo says:

    re bill:

    Yes, water vapour content in the atmosphere is a positive feedback to be expected. The difference between AGWers and skeptics is that AGWers think of this as the ONLY feedback, therefore rising the initial 1-1.2ºC climate sensibility for a doubling of CO2 alone to their claimed 2-4.5ºC, while skeptics think that the system ALSO has negative feedbacks, which would be able to cancel most or all of the water vapour feedback, leading to a much smaller and mostly benefitial temperature increase.

  70. Thom Scrutchin says:

    Excellent Post. When I couple this read with the series of posts by Stephen Wilde on climaterealists.com about the ocean mechanisms that regulate climate and Richard LIndzen’s earlier post on negative climate feedback, I am astonished that AGWA (Alarmism) persists.
    To suggest that a trace gas is the ultimate overriding driver for climate change in the face of mechanisms this powerful astounds me. It can only be religion. It defies all reason.
    In the face of mechanisms this complex and chaotic, It seems arrogant beyond belief to assert that one knows enough to model the climate changes 100 years from now.

  71. Pearland Aggie says:

    Dr. Archibald has another presentation out about SC24…

    The Past And Future Of Climate by David Archibald June 2009
    http://solarcycle25.com/attachments/database/ThePastandFutureofClimate5thJune2009Archibald.pdf

  72. Tom_R says:

    DocWat (03:55:01) :

    I was wondering if the mass of the earth and its velocity in orbit are considerations here. The theories on formation of the moon suggest a collision of a smaller earth and a mars size object formed the moon. This collision must have changed the mass of the earth-moon system and its velocity, which would have changed its orbital position and its distance from the sun… theoretically moving the earth away from the sun and partially compensating for the increase in solar output… any astronomers out there got comments?

    The collision hypothesis has it taking place in the very early history of the Earth, long before the first microorganisms.

  73. Greg says:

    OT – Editorial in yesterday’s (Victoria BC) Times Colonist. Noteworthy that this is the hometown for Andrew Weaver.

    Settle the science of climate change

    Times Colonist June 14, 2009

    We think of science as cold and factual, but there have been some highly charged disputes in its history. Much passion was expended trying to decide whether our planet revolves around the sun, or whether homo sapiens and the apes have a common ancestor, or more recently, whether Pluto should be considered a planet.

    But nothing in the modern era compares with the full-scale brawl developing over global warming. To date, the high ground has belonged to climatologists who see unmistakable evidence of a crisis.

    They point to the rapid melt of sea ice in the Arctic, the receding pattern of glaciers in Alaska, Patagonia and Greenland, the rising level of the world’s oceans. They note the upswing of global temperatures in the 20th century. And they believe this is merely the forerunner of a much larger temperature increase still to come.

    Moreover they have no doubt the results will be catastrophic unless corrective measures are taken. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology state bluntly that climate change has the potential of “killing billions of people worldwide and leaving the world on the brink of total collapse.” The United Nations recently issued a publication claiming the annual death count already stands at 300,000.

    Beyond question, these views are shared by the great majority of climatologists. Yet not, it seems, by all.

    A few isolated critics have raised difficulties. Some were cranks, and few had standing in the scientific community. Their objections were easily dismissed. But now, a group of respected academics has published a study challenging the majority view.

    (You can read their report, Climate Change Reconsidered, at http://www.nipccreport.org.)

    More than 9,000 scholars with doctorates in scientific disciplines have signed a petition of support.

    The group disputes not only the theory of climate change, but many of the facts underlying it.

    On the matter of sea ice and glaciers, they note that ice coverage in Antarctica has actually increased, while Arctic levels appear to have stabilized. They see little evidence that recent reductions in glacier size are outside the historical trend.

    They found no increase in precipitation worldwide, and no overall rise or decline in river levels. They claim that droughts and floods are no more common, or severe, than before, and that wind speeds and storm intensities are unchanged. These observations appear to contradict some basic predictions of climate change theory.

    But their most contentious claims have to do with global temperature trends. They believe the observed increase of just under 1º C in the 20th century has no predictive value.

    They point out that during previous warm periods over the last millennium, temperatures rose 2º or 3º C. Moreover, they claim satellite data show the upward shift of recent years has slowed dramatically in the current decade.

    Finally, they reject the UN view that global warming has caused heightened mortality.

    They argue that moderate temperature increases actually reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and respiratory ailments.

    It is impossible for most laymen to weigh the merit of these claims. Much of the argument turns on highly technical areas of oceanography and atmospheric science.

    But this is more than an academic dispute. Across the globe, governments are taking unprecedented steps to change the foundations of industrial production. These measures involve significant costs, which the consumer must bear.

    Science is rarely settled or static. New information and theories emerge. The free contention of ideas brings progress.

    As we embark on policy changes that affect nearly every aspect of our lives, it’s important to recognize that the debate on climate change and its causes should continue.

    © Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

  74. AnonyMoose says:

    DocWat (03:55:01) : The Moon-forming collision happened while the Earth was still forming. I speculate that it also removed some early atmosphere along with many lighter elements. But it essentially happened before our current atmosphere.

    Jon (03:46:07) : The atmosphere apparently dates to 4.4 billion years, as an ocean existed in the Hadean. The Moon-forming impact might have briefly created a rock vapor atmosphere earlier but that lasted only a couple of thousand years.

    Also, estimates of the amount of CO2 in ancient atmospheres have to consider how much carbon might have been added to the surface by mantle outgassing (primordial carbon) and meteorites. You can’t assume the same amount of carbon has been in the carbon cycle, just as you can’t assume the continental land area has been the same.

  75. dkemp says:

    the article is a great one – am i wrong but is the concept[s] supporting this article similar to Dr. Lindgren’s “Iris” hypothesis??

    quick question – in the formation of cumulonimbus systems isn’t the existance of a significant temperature difference between the upper and lower troposhere also a critical factor?

    in AGW theory – the upper troposhere is supposed to warm more than the lower Trop. – if this were to happen then shouldn’t there have been by now some noticeable decline in cumulonimbus systems over time? – so my question to you Willis is – have you noticed any such declines? thanks again

  76. AnonyMoose says:

    So the AGW fear mongers are screaming over estimated changes of 1.6 to 4 W/m^2, and the thermostat is presently causing changes of -60 W/m^2 due to only albedo changes. And the umpteen AGW scientists hadn’t found, reported, and incorporated -60 W in their models? Shameful.

    Oh, I’m sure the climate models have some interesting albedo parameters, but surely they haven’t included this behavior despite many people staring at satellite images or else we’d have heard of it from the modeling magicians.

  77. John Galt says:

    DJ (03:18:27) :

    Just when might this thermostat kick in? It’s been an extraordinary hot May at the planets surface and that is post La Nina (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/). We will almost certainly see the largest positive monthly temperature anomaly every observed by man at the earth’s surface in the coming months.

    It’s not going to be a pretty sight next year as we go post El Nino and have a warming sun. Watch for a big step up in sea level, a sharp decline in sea ice, and the hottest year on record.

    Yep, just wait ’til next year. Or the year after that. You sound like a Cubs fan. Are you a Cubs fan?

    It really doesn’t matter whether it’s hot or cold. It’s the cause that’s the question. By now, you should know the Hansen/Gore/IPCC man-made climate change through greenhouse gas emissions hypothesis is full of holes you could float an iceberg through. It’s been completely invalidated by the observed real climate.

    BTW: Did you miss the NASA announcement about the low 2007 summer Arctic ice melt being caused not be heat but by winds blowing the ice flows out into warmer waters?

  78. rbateman says:

    This “governor” works whether the Sun has gone up the H-R diagram, or down.
    Takes care of the tropics, but what about the rest of the planet?
    If the tropical temperature is regulated, that would mean there isn’t much heat excess to be diverted poleward to prevent ice ages.
    So, if there is a limit to the governor’s ability to handle more than X% incoming/outgoing, then whatever is left over or defecit is available/not available to moderate the rest of the planet.
    In that case, a limited governor has a range of 100% effectiveness.
    It can be overrun/starved.
    What would be it’s range?

  79. MattB says:

    So assuming that the CLOUD experiments come back validating the GCR theory (And Svensmark’s theory is very strong in my opinion) would that make GCR’s the governor of the governor?

  80. Neil Jones says:

    I loved this piece it was clear enough for a “Block-head” layman like me to understand

    O/T

    If you think AGW is questionable try this for stretching the credulity.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5540634/Phoenix-crop-circle-may-predict-end-of-the-world.html

  81. dennis ward says:

    The fact that the earth is colder now than it was during the age of the dinosaurs, despite the sun warming up in between, emphasises my point that what happens to temperature on the earth is far more influenced by what is happening with the earth than what is happening with the sun.

    Graphs showing CO2 and temperature changes also indicate a clear link between the levels of CO2 and temperature, no matter what nitpickers may say.

    http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/gene/peakoil/co2-400k-years.gif

  82. John W. says:

    The same day this terrific piece appears on WUWT, this drivel, by a Left Coast crackpot named Jamias Cascio, appears in the Wall Street Journal:

    “It’s Time to Cool the Planet”

    “Cutting greenhouse gases is no longer enough to deal with global warming, says Jamais Cascio. He argues that we also have to do something more direct—and risky.”

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204771304574181522575503150.html

  83. Bob Tisdale says:

    rcrejects: Your link didn’t work. This one should:

    http://rcrejects.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/gavin-schmidt-and-michael-mann-caught-being-economical-with-the-truth/

    Nice to see them get caught exaggerating.

  84. anna v says:

    I particularly like Fig 2

    You are looking at the mechanism that keeps the earth from overheating. It causes a change in insolation of -60 W/m2 between ten and noon.

    I think that it illustrates well that the way climatologists have been looking at climate is analogous to as if car engine designers took the average temperature of the whole car and calculated anomalies for the total. The conclusion would be that there would be little energy coming out.

    In a similar way, by homogenizing the whole earth as far as all inputs and outputs go, it is inevitable that the heat engine analogy has been lost in the GCMs.

    What is important is that there is not only a change in insolation of 60 W/m2 between ten and noon, there is an anomaly of 1200W/m2 between day and night in that swath. Now, going to insolation, a 0.1% change in insolation from minimum to maximum of the solar cycle is 12W/m2, and the question of how much more/less evaporation etc results from this difference may not be trivial, particularly if most of the ocean heating comes from the ultraviole, which varies much more than that.

    Another analogy: we boil water in a pan and take the anomaly ( before/after) of the average temperature of everything in the kitchen. Would you predict from that anomaly that the water would boil?

  85. Jim Clarke says:

    Thanks Willis!

    I note that some comments view this post as a new idea, but there is nothing in it that hasn’t been understood for a long time. That is why so many operational meteorologists and traditional climatologists have been skeptics of an AGW crisis for decades.

    Bill talks about the warming influence of nighttime clouds. Others have mentioned this as well. Nighttime clouds are rare in the tropics and that is were the majority of the solar heating takes place. Slight changes in the amount of nighttime clouds at higher latitudes is a small factor compared to slight changes in daytime cumulus development in the tropics. It may make a big difference in England, but not in the global temperature scheme.

    Willis also pointed out that evaporation has a linear relationship with the wind. Global wind is driven primarily by the temperature difference between the equator and the poles. The AGW theory predicts that the poles will warm more than the tropics. The net result would be an overall reduction in the global wind and, consequently, a reduction in evaporation, particularly in the mid latitudes where the wind is primarily the result of the global temperature difference. Water vapor, by far the most important greenhouse gas, would be reduced, resulting in cooling at these latitudes, offsetting the warming produced by CO2.

    Everywhere we look, the potential warming effect of increasing CO2 is thwarted by the Earth’s natural systems.

    So what has caused the recent, minor fluctuations in global climate. Stephen Wilde hits the nail on the head several posts up. It’s the ocean and solar cycles, obviously! Now what is missing from every single GCM? The ocean and solar cycles.

    Thanks Stephen!

  86. John G says:

    This is what Roy Spencer has been talking about from the point of view of the cloud only explained from the point of view of the sun. The sun has a better vantage point, before it was hard to see the heat pump/shield regulator system for the clouds.

  87. Ron de Haan says:

    Thank you Mr. Willis Eschenbach.
    A very clear explanation of the convective system with a focus on the tropics.

    However, there is much more to it.

    The convective system (causing cooling) also works without forming clouds.

    When a desert heats up for example, huge airmasses are heated up and transported into high altitudes where they cool down.
    Because there are no clouds this process continues all day around.
    I read a story of some soaring pilots who flew their gliders in the Gobi Desert.
    They needed oxygen to maintain their flight as their gliders were carried up to altitudes above 6.000 meters in thermals that allowed climbing speeds of 20 meteres per second.
    At high altitude they needed electric foot warmers to prevent their feet from freezing as their faces were burned by the sun coming through the perspex canopy measuring anoutside temperature of minus 40 degree Celsius.

    This convective process works continuous and constantly as long as the sun shines.
    At night, with clear skies the heat absorbed by the sand and rock is radiated into space causing temperatures to drop far below 0 degree Celcius.
    This cooling proces is very rapid and causes the rocks to crack.
    It is one of the major forces responsible for corrosion.
    At night in the desert you can hear the rocks crack with big bangs, like gun shots.

    The convective process in the deserts are the major source of fine dust, the nuclea that make condensation into clouds possible.
    At the tropics approx. 30% of the condensation nuclea are small particles from bio material, from spider eggs to flower pollen.
    In Europe where fine dust is measured for many years now it is found that 60% of the finedust captured in the big cities comes from the Sahara desert.
    Only a relativ small part is caused by the tire wear, brakes and exhaust emissions from cars and industry.

    Because of the spin of the earth wind and ocean patterns are formed (coreolis forces) Pressure differences cause air masses flowing from area’s with high pressure to area’s with low pressure. This is the cause why air masses from homogenic source area’s are transported and collide with eachother.

    Look at the weather maps and see the Low pressure area’s move and fronts collide. When a warm air mass collides with a colder airmass, the entire boudary is lifted causing convection and cooldown.

    A cold front comes with intense vertical cloud building along the entire front often followed by clear skies and large fields of cumulus clouds.

    A warm front comes with, (cirro stratus, alto stratus) low and medium altitude clouds causing rain over a huge area.

    Just to make my point, there is much more to the earth’s heat engine than meets the eye.

    Our sun sends in the equivelent of all the enery we use world wide in less than 30 minutes of time. Our contribution has ample effect on the earth’s heat engine and so does CO2.

    To proof any warming effect caused by CO2 is as futile as proofing how much solar energy is transformed into sound from cracking rocks in the desert to wind blowing through the trees.

    Thanks.

  88. hotrod says:

    Nicely done!
    A very well stated description of the effect of thunderstorms and other convective clouds on the earths temperature. I have lived in a strong thunderstorm environment here on the high plains of Colorado all my life, and in the last couple decades done severe storm spotting.

    It is intuitively obvious to anyone who experiences these thunderstorms on a regular basis how much heat they can transport, and how effective they are as thermostats. It is not unusual for temperatures to drop by 30+ degrees F in a matter of 30-90 minutes. You go from sweltering in direct sun to shivering in cold rain in a matter of minutes. The cooling is strong enough to effect the entire eastern half of the state of Colorado for the rest of the day. As mentioned in the article, the skies invariably clear near sunset and you have brilliant clear sky and cool temps in the evening.

    Another analogy to the thunderstorm as a heat control mechanism, would be a pan of water slowly heated. As it nears the boiling point, the steam bubbles “turn on” a very powerful heat transport system when you reach the boiling point. In spite of increased heat input they vigorously cool the water due to the boiling.

    The thunderstorm is like that rising column of steam in the boiling water is just another convective process that “turns on” suddenly when conditions are right, and once started is a very powerful heat transport system carrying heat energy to very high altitudes.

    From the storm spotters point of view, you watch the development of thunderstorms with a more microclimate point of view.

    In the mid day near noon the sun will be intense, sky is clear and humidity rises along with temperatures as the suns radiant energy warms the soil and drives water vapor into the air. This is like charging a battery, you are storing solar energy in the latent heat of evaporation of the water.

    In the early afternoon, when conditions are favorable for convection, you will begin to see small pop corn cumulus clouds start to form. To the average person they seem to be more or less constant, but as a storm spotter you are watching the clouds more closely than most, and notice that many of them are “bubbling” they grow briefly then they deflate, grow briefly then deflate. On some days it never goes beyond this situation. I attribute that effect to the increased shading and increased reflection of solar energy being sufficient to hold the atmosphere below the temperature necessary to “break the cap” and start active convection.

    In an atmosphere that favors large thunderstorm development, you have a very specific temperature/density profile where a lower layer of warm moist air, once it reaches a critical density (temperature and humidity) suddenly bursts through the upper air layers which are cooler and dryer. If the profile is correct this results in sudden dynamic (and almost explosive) growth of the convection column.

    At that point, it is as if you have flipped a switch. A small parcel of warm most air that is for what ever reason lifted above some critical altitude, ( see lfc Level of free convection, and lcl lifting condensation level), and starts to condense moisture. As the humidity condenses to water droplets, it releases that stored latent heat of evaporation/condensation warming the parcel of air up. Due to the warming the parcel is even lower density than it was before, and even more buoyant so it rises faster and condenses more humidity. This is the “heat engine” part of the process. Stored solar energy in the form of latent heat of the water vapor, is now actively pushing warm moist air to rise due to buoyancy.

    This can form updraft columns of air thousands of feet across, rising at well over 100 mph. Updraft speeds can get high enough to hold a 2.5 inch diameter ball of ice aloft forming very large hail.

    It is a humbling experience to watch one of these explosive thunder cells grow. Some of them rise so rapidly that you literally have to slowly lean your head back to watch the top of the thunderstorm convection column rise at rates of 100-200 mph.
    Typical updraft speeds are high enough (peak velocities estimated as up to 100 meters/second) that over shooting tops of severe thunderstorms can punch up above the tropopause into the stratosphere by as much as 1-3 kilometers and occasionally to 5 km into the stratosphere.

    (Source for peak updraft velocities – Thunderstorm Morphology and Dynamics Edwin Kessler pp 136)

    This means that your water vapor has now been lifted to elevations of as high as 85,000 ft in the tropics and 55,000- 65,000 ft in temperate regions. This completely bypasses the radiant heat transfer process in the lower dense atmosphere by physically moving millions to tons of water and warm air to very high altitudes, where it quickly losses heat to space and freezes out to ice crystals, giving up even more heat as the latent heat of fusion is released.

    It is hard for people to comprehend the vast amounts of energy transported by this process, but the energy content of the moisture lifted by a thunderstorm is stunning.

    Water load carried to high altitude varies strongly with the updraft speed. For low updraft speeds of about 2.5 m/s about 80% of the moisture condensed falls as precipitation. This amounts to about 30% of the total moisture in the air.

    With updrafts of about 10 m/s only about 53% of the moisture condensed reaches the ground as precipitation. As a result you have a dynamic process that moves more or less heat to high altitude depending on the heat surplus in the lower atmosphere. To use the analogy of a throttle, the hotter and wetter the lower atmosphere (higher instability conditions) the more water the storm can carry to high altitude due to its higher updraft speeds. In the higher updraft case, more heat is carried to high altitude, but also more water is carried outside the updraft column to evaporate and cool the surrounding air. This causes significant mass cooling of the local air even though much of the condensed water never makes it back to the ground as precipitation. This cooling generates strong cold outflow winds which in many cases serve as triggers for lifting and development of additional thunderstorms.

    Here in the high plains you can watch these cold out flow boundaries run for hundreds of miles on Doppler radar and kick off hundreds of other thunderstorms. Sometime you can even see the out flow boundary bounce off the mountains near Denver and then sweep back out across the plains triggering a second wave of storm development later in the evening.

    Thunderstorm development is a case of tipping points! Once you reach critical conditions of instability, a very small nudge can “turn on” the convective process, and set off massive heat transport to high altitudes. At lower instability levels the atmosphere will hover close to the turn on point but never release that stored energy in the form of convection and lifting to high altitudes.

    (Thunderstorm Morphology and Dynamics Edwin Kessler pp 307)

    Less moisture condenses also because there is less to begin with; thus the ratio of precipitation on the ground in the two cases is only 35%, through the drier case has 76% as much moisture as the moister case. These numerical data suggest a remarkable sensitivity of natural precipitation to atmospheric moisture content and stability

    In short you have a dynamic system that the more heat induced instability is generated by heating and high humidity, the stronger the storms become and the more efficient they become and carrying large amounts of heat to very high altitudes.

    In this case the one true “tipping Point” of the global heat system is the one that the AGW folks consistently ignore or dismiss as trivial, only to fabricate a hypothetical tipping point that they cannot prove exists to support their hypothesis.

    Larry

  89. Pragmatic says:

    Thank you Willis for this clear and concise view of homeostasis and Earth’s climate. As IW (05:33:13) notes, the mathematics are found universally in all manner of systems, from the microbiological to the cosmic.

    That an elegant balancing system may be the real mechanism of climate and not man’s insignificant contribution to a trace gas, tells us much about the competing, heavily funded AGW theory. In light of nature’s magnificent governance, AGW must begin with the premise that man is… bad. And that he, unlike other natural systems, is incapable of self-governance. Therefore his behavior must be controlled by external forces – forces rejecting man’s deserved place in the natural world – forces steeped in misanthropy and a fundamental need for control.

    Could human intervention destroy the natural elegance? Absolutely. Tinkering with fission-based weapons and territorial conflict can do this in an instant. Does human nature need guidance in achieving natural balance within its species? Yes. Should that guidance come in the guise of cataclysmic climate change and forced political manipulation? No, because it is false and proof thereof destroys the credibility of its proponents and their entire agenda.

    Most likely a better approach to evolutionary guidance would be to do what Willis has done in this post. That is, suggest to people the beautiful, tempered complexity of a great natural system. And remind them that they too, are naturally capable of this same elegant balance. What better schoolyard than a life-affirming planetary system – to teach life-affirming, enlightened behavior?

  90. Mike Lorrey says:

    “Lindsay H (05:01:54) :

    Mike Lorrey (02:51:36) :

    One thing this post leaves out is the important part that life has played in sequestering most of the early terran atmosphere in limestone deposits. Earth’s atmosphere was, at one point, 52 times more dense than today, with a large CO2 component.

    interesting

    can you give a reference for the 52 times more dense quote ??”

    Martyn J Fogg, “Terraforming: Engineering Terrestrial Environments”

  91. John Galt says:

    dennis ward (08:54:04) :

    The fact that the earth is colder now than it was during the age of the dinosaurs, despite the sun warming up in between, emphasises my point that what happens to temperature on the earth is far more influenced by what is happening with the earth than what is happening with the sun.

    Graphs showing CO2 and temperature changes also indicate a clear link between the levels of CO2 and temperature, no matter what nitpickers may say.

    http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/gene/peakoil/co2-400k-years.gif

    Yes Dennis, those graphs clearly show hundreds of years time-lag between changes in temperatures and changes in CO2 levels. Except the temperature increases come first.

    How can the future effect the past? First it warms, then CO2 goes up. How can increased CO2 cause the increase in temps? Is this some type of quantum-temporal paradox?

    And what about the times when temps and CO2 show no correlation? Are you saying that sometimes future CO2 levels causes past warming, but sometimes it doesn’t?

    That reminds me of the last episode of Star Trek, the Next Generation where Picard caused some anomaly that gets bigger in the past until it prevents life on Earth from ever evolving. Wow!

  92. Austin says:

    The morning begins at some initial temperature that is mainly controlled by the ocean surface temperature.

    The daily cycle loads the air with energy. This energy is then transported away by the Hadley cell and by Thunderstorm formation.

    What about a simple model based upon a number of Hadley cells as isentropic heat engines that are linked? This should be simple to do.

  93. fieldnorth says:

    Good article but you lost me at this point.

    “Now, some scientists have claimed that clouds have a positive feedback. Because of this, the areas where there are more clouds will end up warmer than areas with less clouds.”

    I don’t know where you’re getting this, I thought it was widely accepted that low to mid altitude clouds cool.

  94. Nasif Nahle says:

    Leif Svalgaard (06:22:30) :

    DocWat (03:55:01) :
    moving the earth away from the sun and partially compensating for the increase in solar output… any astronomers out there got comments?
    The collision happened so early in the Earth’s history that what happened before does not matter. At the time the Earth and Moon finally reassembled from the debris after the impact, the Sun was 30% less luminous and has slowly increased since.

    It’s supposed the collision happened 35-110 Ma after the solar system started. This means that the Sun has had about 4.69 x 10^9 billion years to reach the current luminosity. The Sun is about halfway of its lifespan, which is about 10 billion years {τ = [0.1 (0.007) (M c2)] / L = 3.3 x 10^17 s = 10.6 billion years} (the small upper dot is for “solar”).

    By the way, I was taught since kindergarten by professor Melly that the oceans act like giant thermostats. Of course, she didn’t use the word “thermostat” for teaching very basic climatology to her young students. It’s not a hypothesis, but an observation of a natural phenomenon. Congratulations for this descriptive essay, Willis!

  95. Nasif Nahle says:

    Correction: the Sun has had about 4.69 x 10^9 billion years; erase that shaming figure!!! Sorry… :)

  96. Mark T says:

    dennis ward (08:54:04) :

    Graphs showing CO2 and temperature changes also indicate a clear link between the levels of CO2 and temperature, no matter what nitpickers may say.

    I suggest you dig a little deeper, dennis ward. If you do, you’ll notice what the nitpickers actually say: in your little graph, temperature precedes CO2, by 800 years on average. Now, using your obvious infinite wisdom, you need to march over to some website that provides a good definition of causality (cause and effect) and understand what the implications are. Note, too, that such a relationship alone cannot provide any direct evidence of the true cause, i.e., this does not rule out the sun as the causative agent (even if other evidence does).

    Mark

  97. David Jay says:

    DJ (03:18:27) :

    “Just when might this thermostat kick in? It’s been an extraordinary hot May at the planets surface and that is post La Nina (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/). ”

    Hey, I actually followed the link. Wow, I would be worried too if the only input I had on climate issues was this GISS page!

    2005 and 2007 are the warmest years on record? amazing…

  98. Jeff Alberts says:

    DJ (03:18:27) :

    Just when might this thermostat kick in? It’s been an extraordinary hot May at the planets surface and that is post La Nina

    Depends on which part of the planet you’re on. Here in the US Pacific Northwest it’s still unseasonably cool. We’re barely getting into the mid 70s on sunny days, more often only the mid 60s (because the clouds are sticking around).

    We had three hot days in June, that’s it.

    Global Warming ain’t global.

  99. bill says:

    The Earth’s Radiation Energy Balance
    http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/wxwise/homerbe.html
    Some excellent animations and information
    “The solar and terrestrial properties of clouds have offsetting effects in terms of the energy balance of the planet. In the longwave, clouds generally reduce the radiation emission to space and thus result in a heating of the planet. While in the solar (or shortwave), clouds reduce the absorbed solar radiation, due to a generally higher albedo than the underlying surface, and thus result in a cooling of the planet. View the maps of cloud forcing given above. Does the presence of low level clouds over oceans heat or cool the planet? What about the convective clouds over the oceans?

    The latest results from ERBE indicate that in the global mean, clouds reduce the radiative heating of the planet. This cooling is a function of season and ranges from approximately -13 to -21 Wm-2. While these values may seem small, they should be compared with the 4 Wm-2 heating predicted by a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration.

    In terms of hemispheric averages, the longwave and shortwave cloud forcing tend to balance each other in the winter hemisphere. In the summer hemisphere, the negative shortwave cloud forcing dominates the positive longwave cloud forcing, and the clouds result in a cooling. For deep convection the solar and longwave effects also cancel.”

    Another document suggesting observed tropics cancellation of cloud forcing
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf

  100. Curtis Bennett (06:52:50) :
    The video you linked it is a clear example of HOW FAST heat is lost in the atmosphere through convection. Why? Because air it is not water, and it only can hold 3227 times less heat than water, that’s why the building in the video releases heat so rapidly. For this to happen, we all know, that there must be a gap, a differential: when the outside is cooler then heat goes out and when the outside is warmer then the building act as a condenser, so it happens with the seas the real earth”s heat condenser…but we must never forget the heater.
    Only global warmers believers manage to warm themselves only with CO2.

  101. Robert Austin says:

    Chris Schoneveld (05:17:37) :

    Now I am confused. On the one hand he says: “clouds control how much energy enters the climate heat engine” and a paragraph further on he says: “the cumulonimbus clouds are active heat engines”. They can’t be both.

    They can be both. The albedo of the cumulonimbus clouds causes more visible solar radiation to be reflected back to space thus reducing net incoming radiation. The cumulonimbus cells are also effective heat transport engines carrying surface heat rapidly and directly to the top of the troposphere. Willis’ hypothesis also includes the “overshooting” effect of the cumulonimbus cells continuing to function after the surface temperature is reduced. It seems to me a hurricane is a large scale and dramatic demonstration of this effect. A hurricane once started and fueled by moist warm tropical air does not expire the instant it is over land or cold waters, but lingers for days.

    A very thought provoking and well written article.

  102. bill says:

    This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980′s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs:
    http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Harrison%20et%20al%20JGR%2095%20D11%2018687-18703%201990.pdf

  103. John F. Hultquist says:

    John W. (08:54:48) : “. . .by a Left Coast crackpot named Jamias Cascio, appears in the Wall Street Journal . . .”

    The piece in the WSJ gets its own section called the Journal Report. I didn’t find it until 10 AM pacific time. Holy cripes – am I on the same planet? Cascio is listed as a futurist and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. He must be reading tea leaves.
    I like this line:
    “It’s relatively cheap, probably costing just a few billion dollars a year.”

    Say what? A few billion here and a few billion there and soon you are talking real money. We need and ice age in a hurry.

  104. This is a really beautiful theory, and nicely written too. It appeals to my intuition – which is why I first became interested in all this – that the Earth (Gaia) has more homeostatic tricks up her sleeve than we’ve realised yet. It’s the kind of thing James Lovelock wrote about (daisyworld!) before he went off the deep end into catastrophic AGW theory.

    But I think it’s worth thinking about *why* Lovelock stopped believing Gaia could ride this out with her “governors” as she has before. Is it not possible that in other ways – deforestation, soil erosion, ocean pollution (you know, all those ‘traditional’ Green concerns) – we are damaging the “governor” itself? Would the thunder-cloud mechanism work so well over a deforested area, with no transpiration, no leaf surfaces and no bacterial clouds to seed the rain? This is a genuine question – are your maps high enough resolution to see differences in albedo effect over (say) deforested Haiti vs. lush Dominica?

  105. anna v says:

    bill (10:08:43) :

    This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs:
    http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Harrison%20et%20al%20JGR%2095%20D11%2018687-18703%201990.pdf

    Not really. They still homogenize and average everything. No heat engine.

    When one talks of heat engines one talks of specific topologies, l not black spheres and averages over everything.

  106. Ron de Haan says:

    dennis ward (08:54:04) :

    The fact that the earth is colder now than it was during the age of the dinosaurs, despite the sun warming up in between, emphasises my point that what happens to temperature on the earth is far more influenced by what is happening with the earth than what is happening with the sun.

    Graphs showing CO2 and temperature changes also indicate a clear link between the levels of CO2 and temperature, no matter what nitpickers may say.

    http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/gene/peakoil/co2-400k-years.gif

    Dennis Ward,
    I give you a much better correlation:
    http://joannenova.com.au/2009/05/03/shock-global-temperatures-driven-by-us-postal-charges/

    At least the nitpickers you refer to have a brain and use it.

  107. Stephen Wilde says:

    I think it’s helpful to regard the oceans as a form of battery with the air circulation systems acting as a thermostat. Tyndall and others thought that the air alone is the battery. To some miniscule extent it is but it is wholly insignificant as compared to the oceans.

    The sun charges the oceanic battery and the total energy that the battery will hold depends on it’s internal circulations as does the rate of energy emission to the air.

    Sometimes the oceans are net emitters of energy to the air, adding energy to the air faster than it is lost to space and at other times they are net absorbers of solar input with less being released to the air than the air is losing to space.

    As regards the Pacific the switch from net aborption to net emission currently seems to occur at about 30 year intervals.

    There is similar behaviour in each ocean and at different times they can offset or supplement each other hence the importance of determining the net global ocean/air energy balance at any time.

    The thermostat (being the air circulation systems) can react virtually instantly to changes in ocean energy emission and simply adjust their latitudinal positions to work back towards sea surface and surface air temperature equilibrium. They work back towards that equilibrium whether the oceans are warming the air or cooling the air.

    It’s simple, elegant, fits observations and complies with basic physics.

    The position of the air circulation systems tells us what net effect the oceans are having on the temperature of the air globally at any given moment.

    The movement of the air circulation systems poleward and equatorward accounts for all the regional climate variations ever observed. Local weather is determined more by day to day chaotic air movements set within the broader overall scenario.

    Cloudiness and all other weather/climate variables are a consequence of the current oceanic thermal behaviour. I accept an influence in the upper atmosphere from direct solar effects but they do not override the oceanic forcings.

    The GCMs contain nothing that deals with those obvious ever changing ocean/air interactions. There are coupled ocean/air models and they are making progress but there is insufficient ocean data to render them helpful.

    Many have noted the latitudinal movements of the air circulation systems beyond normal seasonal variation but no one seems to have asked why they happen or what the real world function of that movement is.

    I submit that such movement is the key to the whole climate conundrum.

  108. Ron de Haan says:

    Who takes the WSJ serious anymore?

  109. bill says:

    This page looks useful but does not seem to work!
    http://icp.giss.nasa.gov/research/data/erbe/

    Some good stuff here too:
    Solar Insolation and Earth Radiation Budget Measurements
    Topics:
    1. Daily solar insolation calculations
    2. Orbital variations effect on insolation
    3. Total solar irradiance measurements
    4. ERBE and Earth radiation budget measurements
    http://nit.colorado.edu/atoc5560/week13.pdf

  110. Thanks for the post, interesting read. So we have theory… But I think we need a might bit more then that. Only time can tell if indeed these things are true. Based on this information what can we expect and when can we expect it? I mean do not get me wrong I love the explanation, but, just like I reject AGW alarmists I have to reject any science that cannot then use the data to make predictions. This may only be a piece of the puzzle but how does int interact with the other pieces, ect ect…

    Sorry but I am a skeptic and while I do not hold with the sky is falling mentality of alarmist I must demand the same from others as well.

  111. Speaking as a soaring pilot (at 47 deg N) I can confirm fig 2 that convection gets serious at about 11am to 12 noon on your average spring/summer day. That’s when the cumulus clouds get fully formed with nice flat bottoms indicating strong lift. Around each cumulus cloud, of course, is dreaded sink. You know you are getting close to the lift in a thermal when you feel the initial jolt of sink (for us seat-of-the-pants pilots).

    The late afternoon is the time for “overdevelopment” and cu-nims. Next day it all starts again.

  112. John F. Hultquist says:

    The beauty of this is that no matter who tries to do what to raise or lower Earth’s temperature will fail. It frees us to try to do some good regarding matters which are tractable.

  113. VG says:

    so whats up with this?
    http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/anomnight.6.15.2009.gif
    compared with this?
    http://weather.unisys.com/surface/sst_anom.html
    maybe NOAA = AGW agenda?
    same with ice
    same with temps

  114. bill (10:08:43) :

    This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs
    One of the earliest PC games!!

  115. John W. says:

    John F. Hultquist (10:16:13) :

    … We need and ice age in a hurry.

    I’d rather not, thank you very much!

    As Christopher Booker reports here, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/5525933/Crops-under-stress-as-temperatures-fall.html, food yields will see a significant drop this year. The longer the cooling trend persists, the scarcer it will become.

    However, these people are so detached from reality, I wouldn’t bet on starvation getting through to them.

  116. Ron de Haan (10:08:01) : OT, significant volcanic eruption of Sarychev
    It will be interesting to follow the statistics of volcanic activity during the present minimum to compare it with previous ones.

  117. Nasif Nahle says:

    @Leif Svalgaard and other solar physicists here… I’m just keyed up! The iterated values for the last 70 years on HSG and stacked proxies throw a direct correlation between your database and both databases on HSG and Stacked Proxies. The Correl. Coefficient for TSI/HSG is 1 and, for TSI/SP is 0.67. Isn’t that exciting?

  118. Dena says:

    My understanding of the earth/moon system is that the moon is moving away from the earth because the rotation of the earth is transfered to the moon. This results in the earth’s day getting longer over time. Could the same thing be happening in the earth/sun system resulting in the earth’s temperature remaining within the range that Anthony’s system will work?

  119. Rob says:

    Met Office predict likelihood of climate change on your doorstep

    James Murphy, Head of Predicting Climate Change at the Met Office said, because there is so much carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere it was possible to predict a range of possibilities for each area, from the best to the worst case scenarios, based on climate models.

    What utter bunk, lets see whether their latest heat wave prediction for the UK pans out.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/5532147/Met-Office-predict-likelihood-of-climate-change-on-your-doorstep.html

  120. ToddE says:

    I would like to add a “musing” concerning the following quote from this most excellent essay:

    “In addition to the changes in evaporation, there at least one other mechanism increasing cloud formation as wind increases. This is the wind-driven production of airborne salt crystals. The breaking of wind-driven waves produces these microscopic crystals of salt. The connection to the clouds is that these crystals are the main condensation nuclei for clouds that form over the ocean.”

    It is my understanding that over geological time, the salt content of the earth’s ocean has been increasing. To get the same amount of condensation nuclei airborn in the past would require greater wind force than today. Could it be that the salt content of the ocean contributes to the temperature set-point of the Thermostat?

    Todd

  121. George E. Smith says:

    Well I just scanned the essay, and there is too much in there for me to digest while I am trying to work; so I’ll have to print it out, so I can read it at my leisure.

    I’m pretty much in agreement with what I think the general thesis is.

    Actually I believe that the explanation is a whole lot simpler than what people want to make it; although I’m not against digging out the details.

    The “faint early sun paradox” is not really a paradox; well there aren’t any real paradoxes; just unexplained phenomena; but this one is a clue to the answer.

    If the sun’s energy output is not the control knob of an open loop system; and nothing else is eiather, then some feedback control loop must be.

    Now a feedback control loop always has to have a “set point” which is a parameter to which the system variable must be compared. Deviations from that set point then apply drive signals to the system, that move the variable back in the direction of the set poitn. Extraneous perturbing variables can change the displacement of the equilibrium condition; because no real feedback system has infinite forward gain; so there always must be loop errors.

    Well in the cae of the climate of planet earth, that set point to which earth’s climate variables react is simply the physical properties of a totally unique molecule.

    That unique substance is H2O, and its physical and chemical properties are the constraints that result in climate set points.

    A big factor is the 104 degrees bend in the water molecule (I think that is the right number). That assymetry, as distinct from the quite linear symmetrical CO2 molecule, makes water a polar molecule, and has profound effects on many things; us in particular.

    There would be no life on earth is water was a straight molecule like CO2.

    But as to the main climate variable of interest; temperature. the phase diagram ofr H2O dictates the temp[erature on earth; and ultimately the regulation mechanism is through cloud formation.

    The feedback control relies on the simple fact that water in the vapor phase is primarily a positive feedback warming mechanism responsible for the vast bulk of the Greenhouse effect (so-called). But water as a liquid or solid, forms clouds in the atmosphere; and from a climate point of view, clouds are ALWAYS a strong negative feedback cooling effect; that ultimately shuts off the heating caused by greenhouse warming due to water vapor; or any of the trace contibutors to the GH effect, such as CO2.

    One of the most inexplicable false beliefs in meteorology or climate is the silly notion that clouds cause surface warming by “entrapping” infra-red radiation to keep the surface warmer.
    The model is predictable. Higher clouds having lower water content make the surface warmer; and the higher, the warmer.

    On the other hand lower clouds have more water content, and the lower and moister, the cooler the surface gets.

    It astonishes me, that so many people actually believe this; and you can hear iot on any typical weather forecast on radio or TV. Hot balmy nights because of high clouds.

    The problem is that the cause and effect are exactly backwards. The clouds do not cause the surface warming (when they are high and lower water content; those clouds are there in the first p[lace BECAUSE the surface was warmer. And the hotter and dryer the surface is (lower relative humidity) the higher up that expanding hot moist air has to go before the standard temperature droip with altitude reaches the dew point, and clouds form.

    The more moisture in the lower air (higher relative humidity) the lower altitude at which the dew point is reached so the more water laden clouds form at lower altitudes.

    So the supposed positive feedback phenomenon of high wispy clouds keep ing the surface hotter; while lower wetter clouds make it cooler, is a totally false notion. It doesn’t even make any common sense.

    Clouds that are 20 km high or higher; simply do not stop the surface from radiating EM radiation and cooling; they can’t do anything about that radiation till it gets up there to the cloud.

    Yes you have IR re-emission from the warmed atmosphere and clouds. That re-emission, is essentially isotropic, so it splits about in half that goes up and half goes down.

    Closer to the surface where temperatures and pressures are higher, the GH absorption and re-emission specrum are broader due to pressure (collision) and temperature (Doppler) broadening. But as the radiation rises in altitude; it encounters lower density, and lower temperature gases, so the absorptiona nd re-emission bands get narrower, so more radiation escapes from the GH trap.

    Downward radiation from the high wispy clouds, on the other hand encounters exactly the opposite trend. The density and temperature is increasing so the absorption spectrum is broadening, so the IR photons run an increasingly hostile gauntlet, trying to reach the surface.

    Upward radiation is facilitated by the temperature and presure gradiants, while downward radiation is increasingly inhibited. The driving force is inexorably upwards to the freedom of outer space.

    It boggles my mind that you meteorologists and climatologists actually believe that those high clouds heat the surface; instead of the hot surface creating those high clouds.

    The postulated high cl0ud positive feedback simply does not exist; clouds are always a cooling influence on the earth, and it is that inevitable negative feedback that locks the earth temperatures into that narrow range established by the fundamental physical and chemical properties of H2O.

    All of the rest of it is just condiments; the food value is entirely in the water.

    I should add; IMHO.

    So try to blow that out of the water.

    George

  122. Ron de Haan says:

    Adolfo Giurfa (11:19:54) :

    Ron de Haan (10:08:01) : OT, significant volcanic eruption of Sarychev
    It will be interesting to follow the statistics of volcanic activity during the present minimum to compare it with previous ones.

    Adolfo,
    Good idea, be my guest!

  123. Nasif Nahle says:

    George E. Smith (11:48:48):

    It astonishes me, that so many people actually believe this; and you can hear iot on any typical weather forecast on radio or TV. Hot balmy nights because of high clouds.

    Yes, your astonishment takes place. Balmy nights are due to the heat released from the subsurface materials of the ground, including water, and the surface of oceans and other deposits of water. Nothing less, we’ve had a hot last night (31 °C) after three days of scorching daytime at 40 °C; however, the sky was completely clear throughout the 72 hours.

  124. Smokey says:

    John W. (11:18:30) :

    …food yields will see a significant drop this year. The longer the cooling trend persists, the scarcer it will become.

    It’s already started: click

  125. hunter says:

    Rob,
    Dr. Pielke has demonstrated and posted a great deal of information shwoing that the GCM’s have no real predictive ability.

  126. Ron de Haan says:

    woodfortrees (Paul Clark) (10:18:56) :

    This is a really beautiful theory, and nicely written too. It appeals to my intuition – which is why I first became interested in all this – that the Earth (Gaia) has more homeostatic tricks up her sleeve than we’ve realised yet. It’s the kind of thing James Lovelock wrote about (daisyworld!) before he went off the deep end into catastrophic AGW theory.

    But I think it’s worth thinking about *why* Lovelock stopped believing Gaia could ride this out with her “governors” as she has before. Is it not possible that in other ways – deforestation, soil erosion, ocean pollution (you know, all those ‘traditional’ Green concerns) – we are damaging the “governor” itself? Would the thunder-cloud mechanism work so well over a deforested area, with no transpiration, no leaf surfaces and no bacterial clouds to seed the rain? This is a genuine question – are your maps high enough resolution to see differences in albedo effect over (say) deforested Haiti vs. lush Dominica?

    Paul, you are correct.
    Large scale cutting down of the tropical rain forrest will effect weather patterns.
    I think it is a great importance that we take care of our biosystems which are extremely vulnerable to our quest for cheap food and especially to the generation of bio fuels.

    However, our consumption of fossil fuels and the production of CO2 has nothing to do with it.

    On the other hand, our continents can’t get much greener as they are today.
    Thanks to the slightly elevated levels in CO2.

    One other point, in Indonesia, Costa Rica and Panama, I have seen deforested area’s 10 – 20 years ago. When I visited those area’s recently they were covered again with new forrests.

    We underestimate the power of nature to restore damages caused by volcanic eruptions, wild fires etc.

    The same goes for the coral reefs that were destroyed by the US and Frensh nuclear programmes.
    Today these reefs are completely restored.

    I am convinced that taxing fossil fuels by CO2 taxes is a waste of money since real problems have to be confronted.
    We can only confront these problems with healty economies and prosperity.
    Today’s environmental problems in China and India for example were those we had in the sixties and seventies. We have leaned up our act, our cars and factory emissions have been cleaned up and the same will happen in China and India, but not by taxing CO2.

    We have to spread knwoledge, technology and prosperity instead of spreading the wealth.

    The biggest harm to our societies, our economies and our environment are socialist and fanatic greens who intend to send us back into the middle ages.

    It is nice that you have mentioned Haiti as an example.
    This Island has been ruled by corrupt crooks that sold out their population leaving them with a pool of mud to bake cookies.

    We should not accept any ruler to treat his people and his country like that.

  127. Dodgy Geezer says:

    Anyone else seen this item on the BBC?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5392134.stm

    It shows a historical temperature set for the UK which indicates that current temperatures are not unusual at all. I trust the misguided journalist will be severely dealt with….

  128. pwl says:

    For shorthand, not that it’s needed, I’ll call this the Honeywell Hypothesis! Nice picture of Earth in the Honeywell Thermostat control unit! Excellent graphic!

    Very interesting hypothesis.

    Why is the temperature set around it’s current settings… that’s what I didn’t get on the first pass through the article. Why not 10c warmer or 20c cooler?

    Also, don’t the ice ages really change the temperature more than +-3 degrees (c or f?) unless you’re averaging out over a long time…?

    What kind of ACTUAL experiments can be conducted (pun intended) to demonstrate, aka prove, beyond a shadow of doubt that this Honeywell Thermostat Hypothesis has a connection to objective reality?

    I of course ask the AWG Hypothesis folks the same question and so far no takers… other than those that want to play hockey…

    The experiment last week proved to bring everyone back to Earth, so to speak. We need more actual experiments to prove or disprove each Climate Hypothesis or component thereof. Let’s get our thinking caps on and warm up those brains!

  129. John F. Hultquist says:

    John W. (11:18:30) :

    John F. Hultquist (10:16:13) :

    … We need and ice age in a hurry.

    I’d rather not, thank you very much!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Can we have just if tiny one – just to make these folks look like the (-blank-) they are?

    ps: I commented on the Booker post yesterday.

  130. realitycheck says:

    Very interesting and well-written article. Keep them coming!

  131. John W. says:

    Smokey,

    The scary part is that the forecast drops in yield are all based on the effect of prolonged winter conditions. None of the forecasters seem to have asked what will happen to yield if there is an early onset of winter conditions?

    Personally, I plan on hoarding. 8^)

  132. pwl says:

    An idea for an experiment would be to park one or more satellites at some distance from Earth, say at one of the Lagrange Points and have it measure the energy that is radiated from Earth in a full spectrum of frequencies including visible and infrared. This would tell us the amount of energy the Earth is actually radiating. Doing the same with the energy coming in from the Sun should allow us to compare the two over time and correlate that with weather patterns and cloud coverage across the entire globe.

    Would that work to test The Thermostat Hypothesis?

  133. Adam from Kansas says:

    VG: It almost looks like NOAA’s maps have a warm bias in the Northern Hemisphere and a somewhat cold bias in the Southern Hemisphere.

    plus it looks like Unisys is showing NOAA’s ‘predicted’ El Nino is started to run out of steam.

    The UAH temp. site is back up, the channel Roy Spencer uses is showing the 2009 temps. just below the yellow line again. Also noticing the Mexico region forecast map on Intellicast, no wonder Texas upwards to my state is getting or is about to get a heatwave, the heat is getting sucked out of an area from Northern Mexico to the middle of Central America, they get cooler air, we get warmer air.
    http://www.intellicast.com/Global/Temperature/Maximum.aspx?location=MXZS0123

  134. Sandy says:

    It seems to me that if Man had never emitted significant CO2 then the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere today would be
    precisely the same.
    The Ocean wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Also with large ice caps do you get 2 sets of Hadley cells between the equator and pole or just one set from the equator to the ice cap edge? (Guessing massive katabatic winds).

  135. bill says:

    pwl (12:43:02) :
    An idea for an experiment would be to park one or more satellites at

    Are these that I posted earlier, what you are looking for:
    http://icp.giss.nasa.gov/research/data/erbe/
    http://nit.colorado.edu/atoc5560/week13.pdf
    http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/wxwise/homerbe.html
    http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Harrison%20et%20al%20JGR%2095%20D11%2018687-18703%201990.pdf
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf

    Note that the erbe data is satelite measured radiation budget. I.e. clouds/thunderstorms/etc are included.

  136. pwl (12:31:22) :

    [...]

    Why is the temperature set around it’s current settings… that’s what I didn’t get on the first pass through the article. Why not 10c warmer or 20c cooler?

    Also, don’t the ice ages really change the temperature more than +-3 degrees (c or f?) unless you’re averaging out over a long time…?

    [...]

    If you look at the long-term averages…Since the Cambrian, Earth has had a fairly steady average surface temperature of ~22C. Over the last 600 million years, the Earth has experienced four “ice ages”…Late Ordovician, Pennsylvanian-Lower Permian, Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous and Upper Tertiary-Quaternary. Three of the four ice ages lowered the Earth’s average temperature to ~12C…The U. Jurassic-L. Cretaceous ice age was a bit warmer (~17C).

    In degrees Kelvin, the ice ages average ~285K and the warm periods ~295k…The median is ~290K. That’s about a +/-2% variation from the mean.

    Within the current ice age (Plio-Pleistocene/Holocene), Earth’s average temperature oscillates between glacial and interglacial episodes. During the glacial episodes, Earth’s average temperature was about 6-7C lower than it is today. During the interglacial episodes, the average temperature has ranged from the current level to 3-4C warmer.

  137. Craig Loehle says:

    Fantastic Willis–great job. A really big confirmation of your theory is that during ice ages the climate was quite dry globally. The tropical rain forests such as the amazon shrank and fragmented. The Eastern US forests were dominated by pine/oak woodland. etc. This is because the heat engine was cooled down by all the ice (high albedo) and thus not as much evaporation was going on.

  138. Basil says:

    VG (11:05:52) :

    so whats up with this?
    http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/anomnight.6.15.2009.gif
    compared with this?
    http://weather.unisys.com/surface/sst_anom.html
    maybe NOAA = AGW agenda?

    Reminds me of Anthony, dedicating a blog post to explaining the blip in the ice data each June.

    I’ve answered this question at least a couple of times before: different climatologies (i.e. different base periods for computing anomaly).

  139. Indiana Bones says:

    Ron de Haan (10:28:20) :

    Who takes the WSJ serious anymore?

    No thinking person. The MSM has taken on a distinct Ringling Bros. appearance.

  140. Willis Eschenbach says:

    First, my thanks to Anthony for allowing me to post here, and for his marvelous picture of the earth’s thermostat at the top of the article.

    Second, my thanks to all who have contributed. And yes, StuHugFJ, I am the same person you knew in Fiji.

    There seems to be some confusion about the difference between a governor and negative feedback. In my terminology at least, a governor uses both negative and positive feedback to control a system so that it maintains a steady state. Negative feedback by itself is like say the effect of air friction on a car. As you increase your speed, the friction goes up, reducing your speed. It is a negative feedback affecting your speed. However, it is only a negative feedback, it can never speed the car up.

    A governor, on the other hand, is quite different. It must perforce be able to increase as well as decrease the overall performance. In other words, when the earth gets too cold, the governor must be able to warm it up, and when it gets too cool, the governor must cool it down. A simple negative feedback cannot do that.

    In order to maintain a steady state, governor also must be able to bring the system back to the starting point. In terms of temperature, it must be able to more than just reduce the size of an increase, it must actively cool the earth down to (or in practice below) the starting point. This is what thunderstorms can do.

    Regarding evidence that the Thermostat Hypothesis is correct, the averaged photos of the tropical ocean are the best evidence that I have been able to think of to date. They are strong evidence in that they were a testable proposition resulting from my Thermostat Hypothesis, and in the event, the test agreed with the Hypothesis. In common with much of climate science, however, it is difficult to test. Any suggestions in this regard would be most welcome.

    I was surprised when I analyzed the tropical ocean photo average (Figure 2) that the threshold was so evident. Albedo is about flat level until 10:30, when a rapid rise causes an average insolation loss of about 60 W/m2. This also seems like strong evidence in support of the Thermostat Hypothesis.

    Now, having been wrong many times in my life, I would not be surprised to be wrong again. But if you do not agree with my proposed climate control mechanism, then what is it that has kept the earths temperature so constant through millennia of volcanoes and meteor strikes and changing continental positions and a host of other phenomena that could easily have sent the earth spiraling into excess heat or cold?

    This is not a rhetorical question. If the cloud cover of the earth were to change the tropical albedo from its current ~30% to say 20%, it would let in about than 30W/m2 more energy than the earth currently receives, enough to fry the earth completely … but we know that has not ever happened. So if my hypothesis is wrong, as it may be, then what is responsible for the temperature stability of the earth?

    Again, my thanks and best regards to all, and a hat tip to Anthony Watts for the science, the style, and the general ambience of this most excellent site.

    w.

    PS – for those who have mentioned being interested in modeling this type of understanding of climate, I refer you again to the most interesting papers by Bejan and by Ou listed at the end of the head post.

  141. Craig Loehle says:

    Someone asked about the nightime. Having lived in the South I can tell you that we would pray for late afternoon thundershowers because then the evening might be bearable. By removing a huge amount of water vapor from the air the thunderstorm allows night time heat to escape, and thus while it takes water vapor (a GHG) to create clouds, the storms remove water vapor from the air. This mechanism is discussed by Spencer.

  142. tallbloke says:

    Great Essay Willis – thank you. I’ve always wondered what linked GLAAM to temperature, and you have shone light on that for me.

    Ron de Haan, thanks for your post too, fascinating about the clouds being seeded by updrafted pollen, dust etc.

    Other albedo factors acting as negative feedbacks:
    Late summer vegetation lightens in colour as it dries and withers.
    Algal blooms on oceans also reduce the absorption of insolation.

  143. Aron says:

    Yet more proof that billions of dollars won’t buy you a cent’s worth of intelligence if you don’t know how to purchase some science books and an internet connection to read sites like WUWT.

    Paul McCartney wants a a certain carnivore called Homo Sapiens Sapiens to turn to vegetarianism to fight global warming.

    http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2009/06/paul-mccartney-gets-celebs-go-veggie

    Has the world gone veggie since 1998 when temperatures peaked? Considering the economic growth in developing countries since then I think not. More meat is being consumed than at any time since the Jurassic Era.

    McCartney should go back to India and this time instead of smoking lots of pot and hanging out with charlatan gurus he should meet all those millions of people who are vegetarian because they are too poor to afford the meat and dairy products that their bodies sorely need to meet nutritional requirements. They cannot afford to eat five veggie meals a day like he can either. He once tried to convince the Dalai Lama to turn to vegetarianism. His request was turned down because the Dalai Lama said his doctor recommended he eat meat otherwise he would be too weak to perform his duties on just a couple of bowls of rice and beans a day. Now look at the millions of Indians who toil the fields under the baking sun on less than 400 calories a day and imagine what they would think of this McCartneyism.

    Between pot headed celebrities and Marxist political activists we have a cacophony of pure unadulterated, unscientific and elitists nonsense.

  144. kmye says:

    “The globe has maintained a temperature of ± ~ 3% (including ice ages) for at least the last half a billion years during which we can estimate the temperature. During the Holocene, temperatures have not varied by ±1%.”

    I think I may just be being slow today, but can someone explain what this actually represents? 3% of what, the absolute temperature? Meaning absolute zero would be -%100?

  145. Nasif Nahle (11:21:26) :
    The Correl. Coefficient for TSI/HSG is 1 and, for TSI/SP is 0.67. Isn’t that exciting?
    Not really, because the data has too few degrees of freedom, for the correlation coefficient to mean anything. Start with 1000 data points of random data, then compute the mean of the first half and of the last half. that cooks the points down to only two data points [the averages] with a correlation of 1.00000, but a significance of 0.000000.

    Dena (11:23:13) :
    My understanding of the earth/moon system is that the moon is moving away from the earth because the rotation of the earth is transfered to the moon. This results in the earth’s day getting longer over time. Could the same thing be happening in the earth/sun system resulting in the earth’s temperature remaining within the range that Anthony’s system will work?
    The solar tidal effects are smaller than the moons and the distance is 400 times larger, so there’ll be discernible effect on the distance between the sun and the Earth due to tidal effects. When the solar system formed almost 5 billion years ago there were significant changes in the distances, but that stopped when the ‘dust cleared’.

  146. Willis Eschenbach says:

    kmye, thanks for your question, viz:

    I think I may just be being slow today, but can someone explain what this actually represents? 3% of what, the absolute temperature? Meaning absolute zero would be -%100?

    3% of the temperature in Kelvins, as you suggest, the absolute temperature.

    w.

  147. John Galt says:

    OT: It’s Time to Cool the Planet with Geoengineering
    ————–

    It’s Time to Cool the Planet
    Cutting greenhouse gases is no longer enough to deal with global warming, says Jamais Cascio. He argues that we also have to do something more direct—and risky.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204771304574181522575503150.html#articleTabs%3Darticle
    By JAMAIS CASCIO

    If we’re going to avoid climate disaster, we’re going to have start getting a lot more direct. We’re going to have to think about cooling the planet.

    The concept is called geoengineering, and in the past few years, it has gone from being dismissed as a fringe idea to the subject of intense debates in the halls of power. Many of us who have been watching this subject closely have gone from being skeptics to advocates. Very reluctant advocates, to be sure, but advocates nonetheless.
    The Journal Report

    See the complete Environment report.

    What has changed? Quite simply, as the effects of global warming have worsened, policy makers have failed to meet the challenge. As a result, if we want to avoid an unprecedented global catastrophe, we may have no other choice but to reduce the impact of global warning, alongside focusing on the factors that are causing it in the first place. That is, while we continue to work aggressively to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, we also need to consider lowering the temperature of the Earth itself.

    To be clear, geoengineering won’t solve global warming. It’s not a “techno-fix.” It would be enormously risky and almost certainly lead to troubling unforeseen consequences. And without a doubt, the deployment of geoengineering would lead to international tension. Who decides what the ideal temperature would be? Russia? India? The U.S.? Who’s to blame if Country A’s geoengineering efforts cause a drought in Country B?

    Also let’s be clear about one other thing: We will still have to radically reduce carbon emissions, and do so quickly. We will still have to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and adopt substantially more sustainable agricultural methods. We will still have to deal with the effects of ecosystems damaged by carbon overload.

    View Full Image
    Viktor Koen

    But what geoengineering can do is slow the increase in temperatures, delay potentially catastrophic “tipping point” events—such as a disastrous melting of the Arctic permafrost—and give us time to make the changes to our economies and our societies necessary to end the climate disaster.

    Geoengineering, in other words, is simply a temporary “stay of execution.” We will still have to work for a pardon.
    Nothing New

    Altering the Earth’s temperature, of course, is hardly anything new. Human civilization has been changing the Earth’s environment for millennia, often to our detriment. Dams, deforestation and urbanization can alter water cycles and wind patterns, occasionally triggering droughts or even creating deserts. On a global scale, industrial activity for the past 150 years or so has changed the Earth’s atmosphere, threatening to raise average world temperatures to catastrophic levels, even if we were able to stop releasing carbon into the atmosphere immediately.

    What we’re talking about with geoengineering, however, is something new. It’s a more deliberate manipulation of the environment, rather than a byproduct of other activities. And while we know more than we did just a few years ago about how it might work, there are still plenty of unknowns.

    Geoengineering mainly takes two forms: temperature management, which moderates heat by blocking or reflecting a small portion of the sunlight hitting the Earth; and carbon management, which gradually removes large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere (as opposed to simply reducing the amount of additional carbon we’re releasing into the atmosphere). Temperature management is the more likely course of action, as it has the advantage of potentially quick results, while carbon-management techniques that would have a global impact might take decades or centuries to show results.
    Sun Block

    Temperature-management proposals boil down to increasing how much sunlight the Earth reflects, rather than absorbs. (Increasing the planet’s reflectivity by 2% could counter the warming effects of a doubling of CO2 emissions.) While a variety of techniques have been suggested, some don’t pass the plausibility test, either due to cost, clear drawbacks, or both.

    For instance, one proposal would place thousands of square miles of reflective sheets in the desert to reflect sunlight—an interesting plan, until you realize that this would effectively destroy desert ecosystems. Another proposal calls for launching millions of tiny mirrors into orbit, where they would block some sunlight from reaching the atmosphere. But one study of the orbiting-mirror plan concluded that, to keep pace with the continual warming, we’d need to launch one square mile of sunshade into orbit every hour.
    Join the Discussion

    Jamais Cascio says that cutting greenhouse-gas emissions is no longer enough to deal with global warming. He advocates a form of geoengineering called temperature management, which moderates heat by blocking or reflecting a small part of the sunlight hitting the Earth. What do you think of these proposals?

    Two approaches hold the most promise: injecting tons of sulfates—essentially solid particles of sulfur dioxide—into the stratosphere, and pumping seawater into the lower atmosphere to create clouds. A recent report in the journal Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Discussions identified these two approaches as having a high likelihood of being able to counter global temperature increases, and to do so in a reasonably short amount of time.

    The sulfate-injection plan, which has received the most study, is explicitly modeled on the effects of massive volcanic eruptions, such as Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines; in the months after the 1991 eruption, global temperatures dropped by half a degree Celsius.

    To trigger a drop in global temperatures, we’d need to loft between two million and 10 million tons of sulfur dioxide (which combines with oxygen to form sulfate particles) into the lower stratosphere, or at about 33,000 feet. The tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere act like a haze, reflecting a significant amount of sunlight—though not enough to notice at ground level (except for some superb sunsets).

    While this seems like a large amount, several studies have shown it could be done using some combination of high-altitude balloons, dispersal in jet-aircraft exhaust, and even more exotic platforms such as artillery shells. As with volcanic sulfates, the particles would eventually cycle out of the atmosphere, so we’d have to refresh that two to 10 megatons of sulfur dioxide roughly every year.

    Stratospheric sulfate injection appeals to many geoengineering proponents for a few reasons. It doesn’t require a massive leap in technology to carry out successfully; arguably, we could start doing it this year, if we needed to. It’s relatively cheap, probably costing just a few billion dollars a year. And because stratospheric sulfate injection emulates an effect of volcanic eruptions, we already have some idea of what to expect from it—for better and worse. We know, for example, that the cooling effect could start within weeks of the injection process.

    We also know that stratospheric sulfates will likely damage the ozone layer (as happened after Mount Pinatubo erupted), potentially resulting in more skin cancer and damage to plants and animals. In addition, the scattering of sunlight will reduce the efficiency of some kinds of solar power, and some studies have suggested that it could disrupt monsoonal rain cycles.

    While efforts to curb carbon emmissions are under way, some scientists argue more drastic measures need to be taken to combat global warming. WSJ’s science columnist Robert Lee Hotz discusses geo-engineering with environmental experts Alan Robock and Dale Jamieson.
    A Higher Chance of Clouds

    The other high-impact proposal, cloud brightening, increases the amount of reflected sunlight by making more clouds and thickening existing ones. One idea is to use ships to propel seawater thousands of feet in the air, where it would form or increase cloud cover.

    The technique has both advantages and disadvantages compared with the sulfate-injection method. Lofting seawater into the air to seed cloud formation would have fewer environmental side effects than the sulfates, and may allow for targeted use to counter droughts. Because it would be relatively low altitude, it wouldn’t have the same scattering effect on sunlight as sulfate injection.

    But increasing the extent and thickness of cloud cover could also have at least as powerful an effect on rainfall patterns as sulfate injection, increasing downpours in one area or contributing to unexpected droughts in others. Finally, the technologies required for cloud brightening are still experimental, though initial proposals look to be markedly more environmentally benign than those used for sulfate injection.

    Both solutions could present a more dramatic problem if the geoengineering was to stop abruptly. According to some studies, global temperatures would spike once the geoengineering steps were ended, actually exceeding for a short time where they would have been without any geoengineering. Afterward, the temperature increase would continue as if nothing had been done to slow it. While this doesn’t mean we’d have to undertake geoengineering indefinitely, it underscores why geoengineering must be accompanied by carbon cuts.

    Also, neither would do anything to solve other problems that arise from excessive levels of carbon dioxide, such as oceans becoming more acidic from increased carbon loading.
    The Political Impact

    Any kind of geoengineering would also face other issues. Most prominent are the political concerns. Since geoengineering is global in its effects, who determines whether or not it’s used, which technologies to deploy, and what the target temperatures will be? Who decides which unexpected side effects are bad enough to warrant ending the process? Because the expense and expertise required would be low enough for a single country, what happens when a desperate “rogue nation” attempts geoengineering against the wishes of other states? And because the benefits and possible harm from geoengineering attempts would be unevenly distributed around the planet, would it be possible to use this technology for strategic or military purposes? That last one may sound a bit paranoid, but it’s clear that any technology with the potential for strategic use will be at the very least considered by any rational international actor.

    There are also more mundane questions of liability. If, for example, South Asia experiences an unusual drought during cyclone season after geoengineering begins, who gets blamed? Who gets sued? Would all “odd” weather patterns be ascribed to the geoengineering effort? If so, would the issue of what would have happened absent geoengineering be considered relevant?
    Consider the Alternative

    With all of these drawbacks, why would I consider myself an advocate of geoengineering, no matter how reluctant? Because I believe the alternative would be worse.

    The global institutions we rely on to deal with a problem like climate change seem unable to look past short-term roadblocks and regional interests. At the same time, climate scientists are shouting louder than ever about the speed and intensity of environmental changes coming from global warming.

    In short, although we know what to do to stop global warming, we’re running out of time to do it and show no interest in moving faster. So here’s where geoengineering steps in: It gives us time to act.

    That’s if it’s done wisely. It’s imperative that we increase funding for geoengineering research, building the kinds of models and simulations necessary to allow us to weed out the approaches with dangerous, surprising consequences.

    Fortunately, the deployment of geoengineering need not be all or nothing. Though it would have the greatest impact if done globally, some models have shown that intervention just in the polar regions would be enough to hold off the most critical tipping-point events, including ice-cap collapse and a massive methane release.

    Polar-only geoengineering strikes me as a plausible compromise position. It could be scaled up if the situation becomes more dire and could be easily shut down with minimal temperature spikes if there were unacceptable side effects.

    Still, we can’t forget: Geoengineering is not a solution for global warming. It would simply hold temperatures down temporarily, doing nothing about the causes of climate change, let alone ocean acidification and other symptoms of a carbon overdose. We can’t let ourselves slip back into business-as-usual complacency, because we’d simply be setting ourselves up for a far greater disaster down the road.

    Our overall goal must remain the reduction and then elimination of greenhouse-gas emissions as swiftly as humanly possible. This will require feats of political will and courage around the world. What geoengineering offers us is the time to make it happen.

    –Mr. Cascio, based in the San Francisco Bay area, is a futurist and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. He can be reached at reports@wsj.com.

  148. Aron (14:07:41) :
    Between pot headed celebrities and Marxist political activists we have a cacophony of pure unadulterated, unscientific and elitists nonsense.

    Really deep!..but why to separate, in your sentence, pot headed…..political activists…you told me both used to eat from the same pot.
    When got inspired they use to fight boredom creating NGOs which disgustingly interfere with our peaceful third world common life.

  149. kmye (14:11:42) :

    “The globe has maintained a temperature of ± ~ 3% (including ice ages) for at least the last half a billion years during which we can estimate the temperature. During the Holocene, temperatures have not varied by ±1%.”

    I think I may just be being slow today, but can someone explain what this actually represents? 3% of what, the absolute temperature? Meaning absolute zero would be -%100?

    Average “non-ice age” Temp ~ 22C (295K)
    Average “ice age” Temp ~ 12C (285K) (not counting U. Jur./L. Cret ice age)
    Median Phanerozoic Temp ~ 17C (290 K)

    That is a variation from the median of less than 3% over the last 600 million years or so. During the current ice age, the glacial period average temp’s are ~6C cooler than the current ~15C average temp.

    Average Quaternary/Holocene glacial Temp ~ 8C (281K)
    Average Quaternary/Holocene interglacial Temp ~15C (288K)
    Median ~12C (285K)

    That is a variation from the mean of a bit over 1%.

    Since the onset of the Holocene, the variation from the mean has been less than 1%…~3C.

    Think of it like a nested series of oscillating functions.

  150. jae says:

    Great discussion. I note that the phrases “greenhouse gas” and “radiative equilibrium,” are not mentioned at all. Infrared radiation is discussed only in reference to loss of heat from high in the atmosphere. Hmmm…

  151. DJ says:

    NCDC now places May as the 4th warmest on record – http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/2009/may/glob-may-pg.gif
    The oceans which have been the drag on temperatures in recent years are now warming rapidly as La Nina is replaced by El Nino – 3rd warmest on record (yep and no heat islands there).

    Year will now come in in the top 2-4 years. .. amazing for a deep solar minimum.

    REPLY: and UAH places it as the 15th coldest. There’s some disconnect somewhere. I wonder if the surface record has been corrupted? BTW, why not show us what your employer, BoM says about Australia? – Anthony

  152. Smokey says:

    John Galt,

    Did you find Jamais Cascio’s article above or below the daily astrology column?

  153. Cathy says:

    I almost swallowed my tongue when I opened Sunday’s WSJ and found that article on which a few above have already commented. The one about geo-engineering to cool the planet.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203658504574191922455122210.html

    What’s up with that ?!!!!!

  154. Mike M says:

    I don’t think there’s any question that clouds help keep us cool in the day and warm at night. However the active process of condensation whereby the heat of change of state is released is, in my opinion, occuring mainly during daylight when convection of the water vapor is actively rising, (as opposed to night when existing clouds are more often than not like big inert thermal blankets.) So, during the day, how is it determined how much of the IR being seen by satellite is that radiated directly from the change of state of water vapor back to liquid, (noting that there is no change in temperature during the phase change but energy MUST be released up there), versus incoming solar IR being reflected back by the clouds?

  155. Ron de Haan says:

    Mike Monce (06:10:47) :

    I think the article is good, but ignores a very crucial aspect of energy transport: namely that of tropical cylones. While daily thuderstorm formation certainly helps the heat engine run, I would supect that tropical cyclones contribute much more to the transport of energy from the tropical regions to the polar regions. Comparing the energy in a cyclone to a thunderstorm is like comparing a ladyfinger firecracker to a nuke.

    Mike,
    Although you are correct with your assessment, the continuity sticks in the frequency and the numbers.

    A tropical strom is nothing more but an over energized depression, fueled by the relative warm ocean waters.
    If you make the calculations you will find that the cyclones only represent a relative small percentage of the overall, daily and seasonal activity powered by our sun.

  156. DJ says:

    >REPLY: and UAH places it as the 15th coldest. There’s some disconnect somewhere. I wonder if the surface record has been corrupted? BTW, why not show us what your employer, BoM says about Australia? – Anthony

    Anthony why do you respond with irrelevant ad hominen attacks? Perhaps you might stick to the science and stop throwing up insults and strawme – we live at the surface and the MSU data is a complex function of temperature 1000s of feet above our heads.

    In your quest to understand the science you might start with a critical look at the MSU which is strongly contradicted by ocean, land, ice, snow, sea level, and heat content data. Does it make sense that with a significant El Nino developing in the Pacific we have a cold tropics as the MSU implies? Where are all the reports of cold tropical temperatures? expanding glaciers? snow? frost etc? which should accompany a cold tropics. Why is sea level rising rapidly upwards – http://sealevel.colorado.edu/current/sl_ib_ns_global.jpg – with all that “cooling”?

    You know that the MSU is a patch of a dozen satellites with large corrections applied for orbital drift, diurnal drift, calibration drift etc. You also know that it is affected by moisture variations, pressure changes (pressure levels rise as the planet warms and moisture increases), and includes data which is fictional as its extrapolated 100s of metres below the the earth’s surface in places such as the Antarctic.

    REPLY: And you also know that the satellite and surface record are divergent right now. Since you are the climate expert at BoM, why not tell us why? I’ll even offer you a guest post provided you have the courage to use your own name. – Anthony

  157. Benjamin P. says:

    Maybe I am ignorant, but whats new here? I mean, isn’t this already common knowledge?

    “7. This is a reasonable explanation for how the temperature of the earth has stayed so stable (or more recently, bi-stable as glacial and interglacial) for hundreds of millions of years.”

    There is strong evidence to suggest the earth was frozen pole-to-pole during the neoproterozoic. So if a “snowball Earth” is considered stable climate, that’s news to me.

    Also, where is the data? We have some albedo measurements, but beyond that and some “thought exercises” where’s the data?

    Interesting afternoon read nonetheless though.

    Cheers,
    Ben

  158. Willis Eschenbach says:

    John Galt (14:35:20), as you yourself note, your post is off topic. In addition, it’s generally considered to be bad blog manners to post an entire long article. If the article is interesting and relevant, give us a link to it, along with your ideas about why it is interesting and relevant.

    While your participation is welcome, merely parroting another man’s thoughts by posting a long, rambling, and admittedly off-topic article will not gain you any traction.

  159. Ron de Haan says:

    DJ (14:41:57) :

    NCDC now places May as the 4th warmest on record – http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/2009/may/glob-may-pg.gif
    The oceans which have been the drag on temperatures in recent years are now warming rapidly as La Nina is replaced by El Nino – 3rd warmest on record (yep and no heat islands there).

    Year will now come in in the top 2-4 years. .. amazing for a deep solar minimum.

    DJ,
    You can forget all about your El Nino and any reference that presents May 2009 as the 4th warmest this century is a joke.
    Have you forgotten that NOAA curently serves a Political Agenda and has lined up with the UN. They sing the the same biased tune as the British Weather Service.

    Why don’t you consult other )non biased) sources that tell an entirely different story.

    You must be a true believer!

  160. Stephen Wilde says:

    With reference to these words from Willis:

    “A governor, on the other hand, is quite different. It must perforce be able to increase as well as decrease the overall performance. In other words, when the earth gets too cold, the governor must be able to warm it up, and when it gets too cool, the governor must cool it down. A simple negative feedback cannot do that.

    In order to maintain a steady state, governor also must be able to bring the system back to the starting point. In terms of temperature, it must be able to more than just reduce the size of an increase, it must actively cool the earth down to (or in practice below) the starting point. This is what thunderstorms can do.”

    I don’t think the Earth gets too cold or too warm.

    What seems to happen is that the solar energy input is slowed down in it’s passage through the Earth’s system of ocean and air and some of the energy is thereby converted to heat just as in an electrical resistor.

    The oceans create nearly all that slowdown and the air just an insignificant bit of the total.

    It is the level of solar input combined with the length of the delay in the transmission of energy through the oceans and air that fixes the equilibrium temperature of the Earth’s climate. It is a dynamic and constantly varying equilibrium temperature because of the variability of the solar input and the complex and very different circulations in both oceans and air.

    It is primarily variations in the oceans that periodically alter the speed of the flow of energy through the system. Once that happens then as Willis says a thermostat does indeed kick in and tropical weather and especially tropical convection are indeed part of the thermostatic process.

    However that thermostatic process actually involves all the air circulation systems and not just the tropics.

    As I say in an earlier post it is the movement of the latitudinal position of all the air circulation systems that has the required effect. That movement has profound effects on the overall rate of energy transfer from surface to space.

    Willis is also correct in asserting that the air has to both reduce a trend of warming and similarly reduce any cooling trend and so shift both back to the equilibrium point.

    Now in my view the equilibrium point in practical climate terms is the sea surface temperature. The sea surface temperature varies up and down but never goes too far from the basic equilibrium set by the input of solar energy combined with the length of time it takes to be transmitted through the oceans and back into the air (then space).

    Thus, if the sea surfaces warm up (from internal oceanic variability) then the equatorial air masses expand and energy is accelerated to space faster by the air whilst the temperature of the air catches up with the warming of the sea. That is of course a self limitimg process such that in due course the excess energy is removed from the sea surfaces out to space and the basic equilibrium of the entire system is restored.

    Then, if the sea surfaces cool down (from internal oceanic variability) then the equatorial air masses shrink and more polar air is able to encroach equatorward. That has the effect of that cooler drier air pulling more energy from the water to try to offset the net loss of energy to space caused by the shortfall of energy coming from the oceans. So again the system works to limit the cooling of the air and work back towards the basic equilibrium of the entire system.

    The air can only push excess energy to space or pull a deficit from the oceans. It cannot pull energy from space or push energy into the oceans.

    That fits with Willis’s suggestion of a climate ‘governor’ but it involves all the air and not just the tropics.

    The basic equilibrium around which it all happens is set in the way I have said and it is the oceans that induce variability around that equilibrium with the air a mere passenger (albeit the climate governor) and CO2 changes of no significant account.

  161. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Benjamin P. (15:37:23), you say:

    Maybe I am ignorant, but whats new here? I mean, isn’t this already common knowledge?

    “7. This is a reasonable explanation for how the temperature of the earth has stayed so stable (or more recently, bi-stable as glacial and interglacial) for hundreds of millions of years.”

    There is strong evidence to suggest the earth was frozen pole-to-pole during the neoproterozoic. So if a “snowball Earth” is considered stable climate, that’s news to me.

    Also, where is the data? We have some albedo measurements, but beyond that and some “thought exercises” where’s the data?

    The idea that the earth has an active climate system which works to maintain a set temperature is hardly “common knowledge”.

    As to evidence, I have given what evidence I know of. However, as with evidence about anything to do with the climate, evidence is in short supply. The cited work of Bejan and Ou are relevant in this context.

    I know of some evidence for a “snowball earth”, but I would hardly call it “strong evidence”. In addition to the lack of strong evidence, there are also theoretical problems with how the earth would freeze over to start with, and if it did so, how it would emerge from the frozen state.

    More than direct evidence, however, my hypothesis is built on circumstantial evidence, observation, and logic. Not as good as evidence, I know, but Einstein dealt heavily in “thought experiments”, and my thought experiment was verified by the albedo study.

    Overall, I am reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s famous line. To understand his line, you need to know that in earlier times, it was common to adulterate milk by adding water to it, in order to increase profits. Thoreau said:

    “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk” …

    I would love to find more evidence. I would say, though, that already my hypothesis has more observational support than the climate models. It has made a testable proposition, and it passed the test … don’t know of a single climate model that has done that.

    However, one has to start somewhere. If you know of further evidence that might either support or demolish my hypothesis, I invite you to present it.

    All the best,

    w.

  162. Ron de Haan says:

    Smokey (14:43:56) :

    John Galt,

    Did you find Jamais Cascio’s article above or below the daily astrology column?

    Smokey and John,
    American Thinker already took care of the WSJ publication in an effective manner.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2009/06/wsj_publishes_nutty_global_war.html

  163. pwl says:

    Well Bill those links are interesting… it’s going to take a while to digest what they are saying… what is the conclusion that they make then regarding the Earth’s Energy Balance and Budget?

  164. Jim K says:

    Dear Willis,

    Some ideas have a sense of rightness, internal consistency, believability and inevitability. Congratulations, in my opinion you have hit the bullseye.

    Cheers,

    Jim K

  165. Bob Wood says:

    It makes sense to me except for the “4 billion” year idea. Seems to me only a billion or two years would be more than enough to level all the mountains in the world what with the amount of erosion being carried downstream in the rivers with the water being returned by evaporation and condensation, but none of the eroded material being carried back up.

  166. JamesD says:

    Another important regulating feature is the strange characteristics of water. It is an extremely light gas with a Molecular weight of 18, so as a gas it rises quickly. But it is an extremely dense liquid, so once it condenses, it forms rain.

    Furthermore water holds a heck of a lot of heat. Basically water is an ideal convective heat medium to carry heat high up into the atmosphere.

    Finally, ask any engineer what is an order of magnitude more potent, convective or radiant heat transfer. Convective heat transfer overpowers radiant heat transfer.

    One more thing, consider the moon. It is hotter than the earth during the day, and colder during the night.

  167. erlhapp says:

    A truly great contribution Willis. The ‘big picture’ is there and also lots of little pictures too that make a great deal of sense.

    I see some controversy in this thread about the role of high cloud and whether it traps energy or not (Bill, George Smith) . Recently I came across this:

    http://www.aero.jussieu.fr/~sparc/SPARC2000_new/OralSess1/Session1_3/X_Zhou/CPT_sparc.htm

    “A warming trend in SST was found almost everywhere in the tropics. The warming SST tends to destabilize the static stability of the troposphere, and convection will occur more frequently and/or be more intense. Convective clouds will reach higher altitude and/or cover larger area. As an indication of this, the OLR shows a decreasing trend almost everywhere in the tropics. The OLR trend corresponds closely to the trends observed directly from the in situ rainfall observation (Waliser and Zhou, 1997). Stronger convection and more precipitation produce larger diabatic heating in the tropics, which forces a higher tropopause so that the pressures and temperatures of the tropical tropopause become lower and colder.”

    So, the cooling process in the equatorial zone involves a fair degree of decompression (due to uplift) rather than radiation and as the engine warms there is more of the former than the latter. It’s the ‘refrigeration’ process. on the other hand, where the air descends it will warm by compression, just as it does in a bike pump. Roy Spencer explains this very well.

    At the poles an increase in surface pressure is accompanied by a warming of the air. As the air warms ice cloud disappears. In high pressure zones world wide, radiation should increase as the tropical turnover increases. There are large high pressure cells at the poles, over Greenland and Siberia and also in the subtropics. Because of compressive warming these zones are relatively cloud free, particularly at the lower levels. The first sign of a change in the weather is the appearance of very high cloud coming from the tropics.

    Between the areas of tropical convection characterized by decompressive cooling and the high pressure cells of the subtropics characterized by radiative cooling there is a zone of relatively abundant high ice cloud. The amount varies directly with the rate of uplift in the ITCZ. This cloud can be observed to reach into the stratosphere.

    The temperature of the air in which this ice cloud resides varies directly with the ozone content and temperature of the tropical stratosphere at 20hPa.

    As this ice cloud comes and goes in response to change in upper troposphere/lower stratosphere temperature (on an average 27.1 month schedule), the ocean outside the zone of tropical convection warms and cools. The response peters out at about 40° of latitude. The surface waters are driven towards the equator by the trades.

    We measure the change in water temperature in the ENSO 3.4 region and call this the ENSO phenomenon.

    The flux in the ozone content of the tropical stratosphere is ultimately driven by the sun via its effect on the abundance of nitrogen oxides that keep the mesosphere cool and are always eating into ozone levels at the margins of the stratosphere and via the polar vortexes. This dynamic can change gradually over long periods of time or quite abruptly as it did in the period 1978-83.

    The warming and cooling of the globe over long periods of time owes a great deal to the dynamic that determines the temperature of the air in the ice cloud zone between the equator and about 40° of latitude.

    The dynamic of an appearing and disappearing zone of high ice cloud with the associated cooling and warming of the ocean shows what ice cloud does. It reflects sunlight.

    To understand the climate one must understand the complexities that space and geography introduces to the argument. The atmosphere is a collection of heat pumps and radiation shields in constant motion. These heat pumps and radiation shields very sensitively reflect the influence of the sun.

    This is not an atmosphere that can be readily modeled. Nor is it an atmosphere that responds to change in trace gas composition. There is no water vapour amplifier. There is no high cloud blanket to trap infrared. It doesn’t work that way at all.

  168. Gilbert says:

    Great post. Lots to think about.

    bill (10:08:43) :

    This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs:

    Methinks you should read the whole thing:

    Since there appears to be good agreement between modeled and observed clear-sky fluxes, it is evident that the parameterizations of cloud amount, type, and optical properties used in the various GCMs are inadequate at this point.

  169. Owen Hughes says:

    Great exposition. It introduces a powerful and (to me) original new concept, the “sun’s eye view” that dispels a lot of confusion and gives us the heating picture with time function converted to spatial map. Brilliant. It also works intuitively: we’ve all watched those T-storms and wondered at their power. For myself, in trying to get a “feel” for the AGW argument and where the heat was going, I kept going back to the question of all the work that is done by evaporating water and carrying it to great heights. it would be interesting to try to figure out (in the sun’s eye view, at some reasonable granularity) how many T-storms are there, how much work each is doing, thus how much of the sun’s inbound energy at that moment is being offset by the albedo, the water-lift, the radiation off cloud-tops and from the cooling packets of lifted air. Not a strict accounting but maybe suggestive.

    Bottom line, a most informative and well-written article. I have some friends whom I am trying to cure of carbonophobia and this should prove very useful. Thanks: to Anthony, to Willis Eschenbach, and to the other commenters. I always profit from my visits to this excellent blog.

  170. John F. Hultquist says:

    ““Willis Eschenbach (15:59:00) :
    Overall, I am reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s famous line. To understand his line, you need to know that in earlier times, it was common to adulterate milk by adding water to it, in order to increase profits. Thoreau said:

    “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk” … ””

    When I was about 8 dad got a higher paying job. Until then I thougt all milk had trout! Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

    Seriously, Willis and the rest of you, this has been informative, entertaining, and even fun. Thanks to all.

  171. Mike Ramsey says:

    “For story ideas or other items related to this website: leave a comment on any thread.”

    Here is an idea. This paper proposes that Changes In the earth’s main magnetic field are induced By the oceans’ circulation. The entire concept of the dynamo operating in the Earth’s core is called into question.

    Cool. I love “settled science”.~

    http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1367-2630/11/6/063015/

    –Mike Ramsey

  172. Eric (skeptic) says:

    The postulated high cl0ud positive feedback simply does not exist; clouds are always a cooling influence on the earth, and it is that inevitable negative feedback that locks the earth temperatures into that narrow range established by the fundamental physical and chemical properties of H2O.
    George,

    That’s not correct. The cooling effect from high clouds is well known. The simplest example is an IR satellite picture that shows that cold cloud tops radiate significantly less IR to space than land or water or low cloud tops.

    The University of Wisconsin blog has lots of IR satellite pictures and analysis of various features. Here’s the home page http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/ and I found a 6MB PDF http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/overview/ssec-booklet2007.pdf with lots of extraneous info, but it did explain how satellite IR sensors work.

    Here’s a NASA site with some information on outgoing IR as seen from satellite: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=45

  173. Ron de Haan says:

    OT Sarychev eruption gets serious:
    Plume altitde now reaching 10 miles up causing major flight cancellations.

    http://scienceblogs.com/eruptions/2009/06/sarychev_peak_eruption_update.php

  174. peter_ga says:

    Over geological timescales, temperatures have been stable and CO2 levels have varied greatly. I wonder what that could mean.

  175. Eric (skeptic) says:

    Whoops, I should have said “warming effect or global warming effect” from high clouds.

  176. Dave Wendt says:

    DJ (15:19:15) :
    >REPLY: and UAH places it as the 15th coldest. There’s some disconnect somewhere. I wonder if the surface record has been corrupted? BTW, why not show us what your employer, BoM says about Australia? – Anthony

    Anthony why do you respond with irrelevant ad hominen attacks? Perhaps you might stick to the science and stop throwing up insults and strawme – we live at the surface and the MSU data is a complex function of temperature 1000s of feet above our heads.

    As an observer I find your charge that Anthony’s response was an irrelevant ad hominen(sic) interesting. It seems to me that he offered direct contradictory evidence to your main point and offered a question and, while his BTW might be characterized as a bit snarky, it hardly seems to rise to the level of an ad hominem. You then proceed to offer a couple of paragraphs of unsupported assertions and irrelevant questions about the reliability of satellite data, punctuated by a rather abrupt about face in the middle when you cite satellite derived data as proof that sea level is rapidly rising. Since you seem to have a preference for land based measurement perhaps you could reconcile for me the divergence of satellite sea level data from this information http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/MSL_global_trendtable.html

    I realize that land based gauges are subject to a variety of errors, but aren’t the apparent levels they record more “relevant” to human coastal populations, than the absolute sea levels that satellites provide, even if the satellite record should prove to be more accurate?

  177. Nasif Nahle says:

    Leif Svalgaard (14:28:10) :

    Nasif Nahle (11:21:26) :
    The Correl. Coefficient for TSI/HSG is 1 and, for TSI/SP is 0.67. Isn’t that exciting?
    Not really, because the data has too few degrees of freedom, for the correlation coefficient to mean anything. Start with 1000 data points of random data, then compute the mean of the first half and of the last half. that cooks the points down to only two data points [the averages] with a correlation of 1.00000, but a significance of 0.000000.

    The correlation exists. I admit there are few degrees of freedom; it was the first observation from the p. r.; however, as I argued on the p. r., each point represents 70 years of data for a total of 420 years. I’ve iterated the data, so I hope the article will be accepted with few modifications which I have made to the manuscript.

  178. Mr Wooly Mammoth says:

    I’ve believed in a stable climate for as long as I’ve been non-extinct.

  179. J.Hansford says:

    Yep…… This makes more sense than a Hypothesis that places supernatural powers on a humble Gas that somehow allows 1 Anthropogenic CO2 molecule per 100 000 molecules of air to heat the atmosphere Catastrophically….

    …. The Thermostat Hypothesis makes a Lot more sense.

  180. Indiana Bones says:

    Aron (14:07:41) :

    Yet more proof that billions of dollars won’t buy you a cent’s worth of intelligence…

    Sir Paul is concerned with the treatment of billions of farmed animals, and to some degree! bovine methane which has twenty times the greenhouse effect. I eat neither meat nor five veggie meals a day and feel just fine, thanks.

    Life goes on bra…

  181. AnonyMoose says:

    bill (10:08:43) :
    This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs:
    http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Harrison%20et%20al%20JGR%2095%20D11%2018687-18703%201990.pdf
    As others have pointed out, the Harrison et al 1990 article actually states that the CGM parameterization was inadequate.

    More relevant to this discussion, the ERBE measurements described by Harrison confirm this article’s -60 W/m^2 is in the ballpark. Notice figure 1c (page 11) shows seasonal forcing over -50 to -140 W/m^2. It doesn’t seem to point out that the latitudes where the seasonal forcing is strongest are outside 30N and 30S; the area between is dominated by the ITCZ — the ring of thunderstorms and their Hadley circulation.

  182. Jim says:

    crosspatch (01:04:01) and Mike Lorrey (02:51:36) and others: Does anyone know if the climate models correctly backcast the temperature when CO2 was in the thousands. If they are worth anything, they should.

  183. bill says:

    pwl: one conclusion:
    The present analysis has employed two independent satellite datasets in conjunction with recent in situ measurements to answer the question, Why is net cloud radiative forcing in tropical deep convective regions near zero? By correlating ERBE cloud radiative forcing with ISCCP cloud types, it is found that both the tropical long-wave and shortwave cloud forcing are determined by high optically thick clouds. This result, in conjunction with a simple analytic expression for the ratio of cloud forcing,implies that the dominant factor in the cancellation of the cloud forcing is cloud top height. Based on in situ observations, it is further assumed that the cloud-top height of the thick cirrostratus clouds is near the tropical tropopause. Thus, to the extent that the tropopause height is weakly dependent on sea surface temperature, the tropical near cancellation of cloud radiative forcing is fortuitous. This conclusion is dependent on the assumption that the cloud tops of the cirrostratus are near the tropical tropopause and that these clouds arc optically thick in both the shortwave and longwave regimes. These assumptions perhaps can best be validated by in situmeasurements from the Central Equatorial Pacific Experiment (CEPEX) and from the Tropical West Pacific Site of the Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program.This analysis also explains why the near cancellation of cloud radiative forcing occurs over land and ocean deep tropical convective regions, since the major determinant is the tropical tropopause height. It is important to point out that this analysis does not rule out the importance of microphysical processes in cloud forcing. It suggests, however, that these microphysical effects arc not the dominant factor in determining the near cancellation effect. Indeed, as the data clearly ex-hibit, the exact magnitude of the near cancellation varies. This variation may be due to variations in the microphysical properties, leading to changes in cloud albedo. Again, improved in situ measurements are required to answer these questions.
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf

    Gilbert (16:38:29) :
    Perhaps the date is important – there have been a further 20 years of satelite data to improve the cloud forcing data in model. I assume you beleive that this has now been forgotten or munged in some way?

    The ERBE satellites measure actual solar radiation and radiation from the earth. I.e. ALL radiation from the earth is accounted for (thunder cells, albedo of clouds, hurricanes, atomic bombs, power stations.

    By the 90′s, modelers would have incorporated cloud forcing into GCMs. So what is actually new in this well written piece?

  184. Bob Tisdale says:

    Dave Wendt: DJ’s preference for in situ-based global temperature readings requires that he disregard GISTEMP. Since 1982, GISS has used satellite-based OI.v2 SST data. Sounds like a major conflict for him.

  185. Willis Eschenbach says:

    bill, you say:

    By the 90’s, modelers would have incorporated cloud forcing into GCMs.

    Indeed they did … but with very limited success. Part of the problem is that the forcing is parameterized, they just pick numbers that they think are in the right range.

    A second problem involves albedo. The GISSE model has the correct albedo … but the way that they obtained it is by playing around with the threshold relative humidity, viz:

    The model is tuned (using the threshold relative humidity
    U00 for the initiation of ice and water clouds) to
    be in global radiative balance (i.e., net radiation at
    TOA within 0.5 W m 2 of zero) and a reasonable
    planetary albedo (between 29% and 31%) for the control
    run simulations.

    SOURCE:http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2006/Schmidt_etal_1.html

    Now, that’s the word from the chief modeler himself. The only problem with this approach is that they end up with only 59% global cloud cover instead of the observed 69%, a large error … which of course means that their cloud reflectivity is way off.

    You need to distinguish between “included in the model” and “properly included in the model.” The GISS folks, running of the worlds best models, can’t get even the amount of clouds right, much less the effect of clouds..

    Their incorrect amount of clouds is not the main problem. The biggest issue is that all of the modelers assume that cloud forcing overall is positive … which for me is simply absurd.

    So yes, there are “clouds” in the models … but they are parameterized tinkertoy “clouds” in a parameterized tinkertoy model. Note that without the bogus cloud parameterization, the freakin’ GISS model does not even achieve radiative balance. If you have to tune your global radiative balance by screwing around with your parameterized threshold humidity, your model is in deep trouble.

    Color me unimpressed with the clouds in the models, to me it’s just more models in the clouds …

    w.

  186. Ron de Haan says:

    For those of you who are interested in the detailed basics of clouds, cloud forming processes and flow patterns I have found this excellent site presenting theory for aviators with good ilustrations and clear explanations.
    This is up to date information.

    http://www.auf.asn.au/meteorology/section3.html and section 4

    Have you ever heard of a cloud type called “Pyro Cumulus”?

    REPLY: Yes from convection/heat associated with forest fires and volcanoes. – Anthony

  187. Melinda Fairchild says:

    Great post!

    The idea of the perspective of viewing earth’s climate from the sun reminds me of the views of Jupiter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter About half way down on the left is an animation of Voyager’s approach and I notice that the upper equatorial band changes left to right like the clouds in the yellow box above.

  188. bill says:

    Another negative feedback:

    Stefan-Boltzmann’s Law.
    If the temperature of the earth rises from 16C to 18 C blackbody radiation suggests that the radiation will go up by about 3%

    If the output of the sun does not vary but the global temperature risess then radiation from the earth will increase leadingto cooling.

  189. Nasif Nahle says:

    An article before the AGW idea start, which demonstrated that “anomalous heat from changing solar irradiance is stored in the upper layer of the ocean”:

    White, W. B., J. Lean, D. R. Cayan, and M. D. Dettinger (1997), Response of global upper ocean temperature to changing solar irradiance, J. Geophys. Res., 102(C2), 3255–3266.

    The forcing by solar irradiance plus the forcing by cosmic rays was ~0.35 K/W^2:

    Nir J. Shaviv, “On Climate Response to Changes in the Cosmic Ray Flux and Radiative Budget”, JGR-Space, vol. 110, A08105.

    After the AGW idea start, oceans stopped storing anomalous heat and are passive victims of CO2, the Sun doesn’t heat up the Earth, and the solar forcing is 0.01 K/W^2. This kind of Climate “Science” changed in less than one year. Isn’t AGW agenda obvious?

  190. Frank K. says:

    Willis Eschenbach (19:14:53) :

    “The GISS folks, running [one] of the worlds best models, can’t get even the amount of clouds right, much less the effect of clouds..”

    One of the world’s best models?? I’m sorry – Model E is a piece of FORTRAN junk! There are much better models out there, e.g. NCAR’s CAM 3.

  191. Ron de Haan says:

    Read this quote and make a guess where it is from, you won’t believe it.

    ” Someone has to take the unpopular stand and say it: We had record cold temperatures in many American cities last winter, and many well-respected scientists doubt the thesis behind global warming. Even if global warming is happening, there is no clear evidence mankind is the cause. And even if mankind was causing the globe’s temperatures to rise, it isn’t clear that would be calamitous for us and what’s more, the solutions offered by the proponents of global warming may be worse than the problem itself.
    OT;

    Take cap and trade for example. In the midst of a deep recession, cap and trade would substantially raise the cost of energy and shut down U.S. factories, shipping jobs to China. The only beneficiaries will be government bureaucrats who, in running the oversight and enforcement of the new environmental rules, will see their power soar and authority expand at the expense of ordinary Americans.

    Lyndon Johnson once said “being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but stand there and take it.” Sometimes a President has to internalize that lesson”.

    This quote comes from the Huffington Post, the same online paper that kicked out Harold Ambler’s piece on Al Gore stating it was a mistake.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harold-ambler/mr-gore-apology-accepted_b_154982.html

    What about them apples?

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-schram/the-myth-of-energy-indepe_b_215647.html

  192. hotrod says:

    If you know of further evidence that might either support or demolish my hypothesis, I invite you to present it.

    I can think of two possible ways to add additional data to the puzzle.

    One would be based on simple mass and heat content calculations.

    Lets take as an example a stationary thunderstorm that simply sits in one place and dumps water. In the Big Thompson flood in Colorado in 1976 a upslope flow developed and created a thunderstorm that parked over the Estes Park area and dumped approximately 7.5 inches of rain in an hour and about 12 inches of water in a period of about 4 hours. Peak flow in the river was about 1000 cubic meters/second. This rain fall fell over approximately 70 square mile area.

    http://www.assessment.ucar.edu/flood/flood_summaries/07_31_1976.html

    For a back of the envelope calculation lets look at how much water would be needed to cover 20 square miles to a depth of 8 inches. The tally works out to about 418176000 cubic feet of water or about 1.18 x 10^7 cubic meters of water fell as rain in a period of 4 hours. That water was converted from vapor to liquid water and as a result had to release the latent heat of condensation for that amount of water in a similar period of time.

    I think if you crunch the numbers you will find that the heat loss necessary to condense that much water far exceeds the solar isolation.

    This thought experiment leads me to think there are two ways to test your theory at least on a proof of concept basis.

    One would be an energy balance calculation of the rate of heat release that would be required by a thunderstorm to condense out its precipitation. I suspect that heat release rate would provide strong evidence that the top of the storm is dissipating enormous amounts of energy to space. A second check on this would be for a high resolution measurement of IR emissions from the top of a thunderstorm while it is actively building and raining out. If it is acting as an active heat pump and dumping heat to very high altitudes it should be very hot compared to near by parcels of high altitude air where no precipitation is occurring. If the IR irradiance of the cloud tops significantly exceeds simple reflected sun light then you have an active radiator dumping heat to space.

    The question is do current satellites that record IR temperatures have sufficient resolution to measure the local heat emissions of an active cloud top, or are their “cells” so large that the clouds IR emissions would be lost in the background noise?

    Once you have a good number about the rate of heat release correlated with precipitation rate, you can use the storm total precipitation as a proxy for the heat dumped to space. If all that latent heat of condensation does not show up in the upper atmosphere, it must be getting radiated to space in real time.

    Larry

    Larry

  193. Bob Wood (16:17:33) :
    It makes sense to me except for the “4 billion” year idea. Seems to me only a billion or two years would be more than enough to level all the mountains in the world what with the amount of erosion being carried downstream in the rivers with the water being returned by evaporation and condensation, but none of the eroded material being carried back up.
    It takes about 500 million years to wear all mountains down, but plate tectonics have split and then reassembled the continents about eight times since the Earth was born, so the cycle has started anew several times.

    Nasif Nahle (17:20:05) :
    however, as I argued on the p. r., each point represents 70 years of data for a total of 420 years.
    I seem to remember that you have said repeatedly that the values were not means, but instantaneous single year values…

  194. Ron de Haan says:

    OT
    http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/E2D4E47E1638FB46852575D6005FC2AF

    $10 Million in First EPA Grants to Develop Climate Change Showcase Communities

    Release date: 06/15/2009

    Contact Information: Dave Ryan (News Media Only) ryan.dave@epa.gov 202-564-7827 202-564-4355

    WASHINGTON – EPA is announcing the availability of up to $10 million in first of its kind, “Climate Showcase Communities” grants to local and tribal governments to establish and implement climate change initiatives that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agency expects to award approximately 30 cooperative agreements, each one ranging from $100,000 to $500,000. Approximately 5 percent of the funds ($500,000) are set-asides for tribal governments.

    “Ending climate change and moving to a sustainable, clean energy future begins on the ground in our communities,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re offering a helping hand to local areas that are leading the way in confronting climate change, and a call to action for anyone concerned about making a difference where they live. We can cut energy costs and reduce harmful emissions at the local level, and build a model for fighting climate change in every community.”

    EPA requests proposals from local governments, federally-recognized Indian tribal governments, and inter-tribal consortia to create replicable models of sustainable community action, generate cost-effective greenhouse gas reductions, and improve the environmental, economic, public health, and social conditions in a community. A 50 percent cost-share is required for recipients, with the exception of tribal governments and intertribal consortia which are exempt from matching requirements under this grant.

    This grant program is administered by EPA’s Local Climate and Energy Program, an initiative to assist local and tribal governments to identify, implement, and track policies and programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions within their operations and surrounding communities. Over the course of the grant program, EPA will offer training and technical support to grant recipients, and share lessons learned with communities across the nation.

    Proposals are due by July 22, 2009, at 4:00 p.m. EDT. Grants are expected to be awarded in January 2010.

    Additional grant information: http://epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-programs/state-and-local/showcase.html

    May I propose an application for this funding by the WUWT Community?
    It’s the most effective way to deal with Climate Change.
    Who gives them a call?

  195. Chris V. says:

    Willis Eschenbach (19:14:53) wrote:

    Their incorrect amount of clouds is not the main problem. The biggest issue is that all of the modelers assume that cloud forcing overall is positive … which for me is simply absurd.

    Willis- according to table 3 from your link:

    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2006/Schmidt_etal_1.html

    The total cloud forcing (short wave plus long wave) is NEGATIVE in both the models and observations.

    If I am reading that table right, the cloud forcings in the models are actually “more negative” than the observed forcings. The models yield a net cloud forcing of – 23 to -24 W/m2, while observations show it to be -17.3 W/m2.

  196. Melinda Romanoff says:

    Two things come to mind, firstly, just being the naif that I am, the higher temperatures experienced while the Sun was 75% less radiative might be explained by a thinner mantle, and hotter iron dynamo within the Earth itself. It has cooled over time, and might explain, to a degree, the higher temps, due to the radiative effect of the core. This should also play a bit of a role in current temperature readings, because if we didn’t have a “live” core, the energy needed from other sources to warm things up from “zero degrees kelvin” might not be too favorable for life.

    The second thing concerns the photonic energy radiated by the sun, especially absorbed at the poles, and it’s direct impact on particulate matter, let alone the addition to the total energy equation. It kind of explains the “healing” effects of thunderstorms in replacing the O3 layer. This never seems to come up in observations, it would certainly play a role in wind origination, or “fuel” for wind currents already started by the spin of the planet.

    Just some things that bother me, if anyone has some insight or further direction, I’d be obliged.

  197. The Big Fish says:

    DocWat , Nobody I can see is answering your question. Can I re ask his question? The sun has slowly increased output over the last 4.4 billion years. Has the Earths orbit shifted slowly over the same time frame. e.g. the Moon use to be 1/4 of the distance from the Earth as it is now, tides were 100 of feet. Has the Earth slowly drifted away from the Sun in the same time frame. Although Sun got brighter the Earth distance has reduced energy arriving?

  198. Alan D. McIntire says:

    I read Ou’s paper some time ago, and it made perfect sense to me in expalining the “faint young sun” paradox. Currently about 30 percent of the sun’s radiation is reflected away, and the earth absorbs 70%. If there were no clouds on an early earth, that same 70% would have hit the earth’s surface without being reflected away.

    The moon was also a lot closer to earth in the remote past. Would increased tidal energy also have an effect? I think tidal effects increase roughly with the cube of the distance, so if the moon started out at 1/5 its current distance, tidal effects would have been 125 times as strong. I’m sure tidal effects even then would have been orders of magnitude lower than solar effects, but would they have been great enought to make a 3 or 4 watt difference?

  199. Just Want Results... says:

    NCDC now places May as the 4th warmest on record

    Something seriously wrong there.

  200. Gilbert says:

    bill (18:35:52) :

    Perhaps the date is important – there have been a further 20 years of satelite data to improve the cloud forcing data in model. I assume you beleive that this has now been forgotten or munged in some way?

    I guess you should have provided more recent evidence?

    The ERBE satellites measure actual solar radiation and radiation from the earth. I.e. ALL radiation from the earth is accounted for (thunder cells, albedo of clouds, hurricanes, atomic bombs, power stations.

    By the 90’s, modelers would have incorporated cloud forcing into GCMs. So what is actually new in this well written piece?

    I’m not prone to accepting such assumptions without evidence. So did they or didn’t they? Everything I’ve read, says that the CGMs assume a net warming from clouds altho they admit they don’t understand cloud effects well enough to model them. The article you cited says otherwise.

  201. Gary P says:

    This is a wonderful post. It suggests some nice of testable ideas such as how the ITCZ cloud band changed over the last thirty years with the climate. I hope there is enough satellite data to make a good test.

    I believe this could be one of the mechanisms by which Miskowczi’s theory would work. There has to be mechanisms to maintain the constant average optical density and this could explain part of how the clouds fit in. It looks like it will be a little more complicated to fit this in with the temperate cells where weather is dominated by cyclonic air masses and standing waves. Does average cloud cover in the temperate cell correlate with the number of waves? More waves suggest more fronts generating more clouds.

    I really like the change of viewpoint to see the earth from the suns point of view.

  202. Just Want Results... says:

    To pick out one data set, NCDC, and emphasize it while not at all mentioning all the others is that hackneyed term–cherry picking.

  203. Nasif Nahle says:

    Leif Svalgaard (19:47:02) :

    Nasif Nahle (17:20:05) :
    however, as I argued on the p. r., each point represents 70 years of data for a total of 420 years.
    I seem to remember that you have said repeatedly that the values were not means, but instantaneous single year values…

    Well, I was wrong! Through reexamination of Bond’s paper I found that they were not instantaneous magnitudes but 70-years means (1 sample/0.5 = 20 years resolution):

    “The stacked record was calculated by averaging all detrended and resampled records…” (Bolds are mine).

  204. Dave Wendt says:

    Bob Tisdale (18:54:47) :
    Dave Wendt: DJ’s preference for in situ-based global temperature readings requires that he disregard GISTEMP. Since 1982, GISS has used satellite-based OI.v2 SST data. Sounds like a major conflict for him.

    I thought about including that in my comment, but I didn’t want be abusive by piling it on too thick. The lad does seem to possess fairly delicate sensibilities.
    I probably wouldn’t have bothered at all, but as a DJ myself, I hate to see the initials brought into disrepute. I had a pretty good line here about a busload of rappers and “DJ, the Dirty Guy” from the “Beanie and Cecil” cartoons of my youth, but in the interest of equanimity and civil discourse, I best forego it. BTW, are there any other fossilized old crocks here, old enough to remember “Beanie and Cecil”?

  205. Just Want Results... says:

    OT

    WattsUpWithThat mentioned again :

    “Right on cue comes another article on sunspot activity from Watts up with that…”

    http://www.anorak.co.uk/media/213435.html

    (h/t Just The Facts)

  206. Ric Werme says:

    bill (18:35:52) :
    > … I assume you believe that this has now been forgotten or munged in some way?

    Munged? As in “Mung Until No Good”? :-)

    An ancient programmer? A fellow TECO user?

    REPLY: Careful, I have a server on my network named “munger”. It does a specific job with data formatting. – Anthony

  207. Allan M R MacRae says:

    Interesting work Willis. I only had time to scan this quickly tonight, so please excuse my question if answered above.

    What about all that area outside the tropical strip?

    Does it show any similar trends?

    Does your paper relate to other work such as Svensmark, Veizer and Shaviv (2003), Veizer (2005), etc.?

    Regards, Allan

  208. Just Want Results... says:

    The Weather Channel gives reassurance :

    They just said with the cool weather in the US if we were wondering about global warming that the cooling is just a weeks snap shot. Global warming is for the decades and centuries–pushing fear! But they, of all people, should know that it isn’t possible to accurately forecast weeks in advance. Yet they reassure of what centuries ahead will be bringing us.

    Don’t they have the same access to data that is showing a cooling trend in the world that we do? Maybe they don’t have internet at The Weather Channel like us.

  209. Just Want Results... says:

    Just Want Results… (21:22:15) :

    The Weather Channel specifically mentioned “a year without a summer” in that report. Were they talking about Accuweather and Joe Bastardi?

  210. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Allan M R MacRae (21:01:32), good to hear from you, and thanks for your post. You ask:

    Interesting work Willis. I only had time to scan this quickly tonight, so please excuse my question if answered above.

    What about all that area outside the tropical strip?

    Does it show any similar trends?

    Don’t know the answer, Allan. I have focused on the tropics because that’s where the heavy lifting is going on. Also because I live there. Also because the systems seem to be simpler there. But mainly because that’s where the action is.

    The entire global heat engine we call climate is spun into motion by the ascending air and thunderstorms at the tropics. It is the hot end of the heat engine, where the the majority of the solar energy enters (or is reflected from) the system. It absorbs much more heat than it can radiate to space. This heat is exported polewards, where it loses heat by radiation to space. As such, the tropics play a huge part in the thermal balance of the earth.

    So yes, there is much more to the system, but I started with what I see as the most important part. So many variables … so little time …

    w.

  211. Benjamin P. says:

    @Bob Wood (16:17:33) :

    “It makes sense to me except for the “4 billion” year idea. Seems to me only a billion or two years would be more than enough to level all the mountains in the world what with the amount of erosion being carried downstream in the rivers with the water being returned by evaporation and condensation, but none of the eroded material being carried back up.”

    Mountain ranges come and go thanks to plate tectonics. Some of those sediments you speak of are turned to rock and then thrust sky-high during the collision of continents forming a new mountain range that will only be eroded back to sediments.

    Talk about a climate disruption.

    @ Willis Eschenbach (15:59:00) :

    “The idea that the earth has an active climate system which works to maintain a set temperature is hardly “common knowledge”.”

    Sure it is. The earth receives a certain amount of energy from the sun and that energy is unevenly distributed on the earth, right? So to find (or try too find!) equilibrium the fluids of the earth work to move that uneven heat around. And that’s climate? Well that and a whole host of other variables. But regardless, all things in nature want to be at “equilibrium” its what drives everything. And that’s all you are really saying when you say set temperature?

    Unless I am completely missing what you hypothesis is. Which may well be the case!

    As for snowball earth, right now its the best model to explain the observations. Unless you have a better model for banded iron formations with cap carbonates 1Ga years after an aerobic atmosphere. Not to mention glacial drop stones in the tropics.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/281/5381/1342

    Article is free if you are a member of AAAS.

    Cheers,
    Ben

  212. Jim Latta says:

    This was a wonderful, thought provoking paper.

    Professor of Meteorology at M.I.T. Richard Lindzen published a paper around 2002 which used satellite measurements to show that higher surface temperatures over tropical oceans caused a reduction in high level cirrus cloudiness. Lindzen stated that less cirrus cloudiness allowed more IR radiation to escape into space, cooling the earth – a negative feedback to global warming. He called this the “Iris Effect”.

    In 2007 Roy Spencer & John Christy of the Univ. of Alabama Huntsville’s Earth System’s Science Center and Danny Braswell, and Justin Hnilo of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory confirmed Linden’s work with newer satellite data. They showed that increased sea surface temperatures over the tropics correlated with reduced net radiative forcing from clouds – a negative feedback.

    So, in some ways you paper is not original, but I wonder if perhaps your ideas expand on this earlier work by introducing the concept that surface temperatures over the tropics will lead to increased cumulous and cumulonimbus cloudiness during the day, thus shielding the earth from the sun and then subsequently clearing the sky to allow more IR radiation to escape during the following night. Added to this is the tremendous heat that is forced up through the atmosphere by convective thunder storms, which only form if the sea and air are warm enough to exceed a certain threshold.

    I did see one little mistake, you showed the molecular weight of water as being 16. It’s 18.

  213. Mike Ramsey says:

     Benjamin P. (21:36:57) :

    [snip]

    @ Willis Eschenbach (15:59:00) :

    “The idea that the earth has an active climate system which works to maintain a set temperature is hardly “common knowledge”.”

    Sure it is. The earth receives a certain amount of energy from the sun and that energy is unevenly distributed on the earth, right? So to find (or try too find!) equilibrium the fluids of the earth work to move that uneven heat around. And that’s climate? Well that and a whole host of other variables. But regardless, all things in nature want to be at “equilibrium” its what drives everything. And that’s all you are really saying when you say set temperature?

    Unless I am completely missing what you hypothesis is. Which may well be the case!

    As for snowball earth, right now its the best model to explain the observations. Unless you have a better model for banded iron formations with cap carbonates 1Ga years after an aerobic atmosphere. Not to mention glacial drop stones in the tropics.

    [snip]

    Ben,
     The energy principles that maintain the earth’s temperature are critically dependent on the energy input from the sun.  A snowball earth can be explained if the sun’s energy output was dimmed.

    –Mike Ramsey

  214. Indiana Bones says:

    Ron de Haan (19:40:05) :

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-schram/the-myth-of-energy-indepe_b_215647.html

    Alan Schram suggests that continuing our escalating consumption of foreign oil is a good thing: “we must remember that we do business with the Middle East in the open market. Voluntary exchanges are not zero sum, rather they are positive sum.”

    No, it is hardly an open market. Nor is it a “voluntary” exchange. It is trade caused by short sighted development of non-petroleum resources and by environmental legislation limiting domestic petroleum production. Assuming the $700B sent to the Middle East annually is a “positive sum” for Americans is malarky. We are being squeezed by oil cartels foreign and domestic and it is finally coming to an end.

    Electrification of transportation (starting with Tesla) will rapidly erode the demand for foreign oil. Electric demand at home can be met by a broad portfolio of domestic resources including nuclear, coal, and alternatives. Energy independence strikes fear in the hearts of old-school monopolies accustomed to peddling resources to dependent nations. Their time is over.

  215. Onward to the topic: I suspect there’s a similar controller at the poles. Many people assume that an ice-free pole has lower average albedo, but that isn’t necessarily true. Seawater at high zenith angles has a very high albedo AND it has an emissivity of 0.993, which increases its ability to radiate heat to the nighttime sky (4°K) much of the year. (Weathered ice has a lower albedo than seawater at high zenith angles.) To see this effect, drive down to the seashore when the sun is near the horizon and note how bright the sun’s reflection is.

    Dave Wendt (20:50:08) :”…BTW, are there any other fossilized old crocks here, old enough to remember ‘Beanie and Cecil’?”

    Yes, and Clowny, Wong, Peeper Frijole, Dishonest John, Capn. Huffnpuff & the Leakin’ Lena, as well.

  216. Nasif Nahle says:

    Benjamin P. (21:36:57) :

    …As for snowball earth, right now its the best model to explain the observations. Unless you have a better model for banded iron formations with cap carbonates 1Ga years after an aerobic atmosphere. Not to mention glacial drop stones in the tropics.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/281/5381/1342

    Article is free if you are a member of AAAS.

    The authors are using simulators which rely 100% on carbon dioxide; hence they had to lower the carbon dioxide concentration to get the conditions for a snowball Earth. Not based in real data, the whole work is based on conjectures, except for the data obtained from proxies which mainly are biotic systems. Biosystems adapt and evolve…

  217. KlausB says:

    re: DJ (14:41:57) :

    Anthony,
    Simply ignore him. He isn’t worth the effort.

  218. Benjamin P. says:

    Mike Ramsey (22:05:53) :
    “The energy principles that maintain the earth’s temperature are critically dependent on the energy input from the sun. A snowball earth can be explained if the sun’s energy output was dimmed.”

    And also critically dependent on how much energy is absorbed by the earth.

    Snow ball earth is an interesting idea, it explains the observations fairly well, but its tough to swallow. There have been some interesting alternatives presented to explain some of the features, but not a lot of data on either side really.

  219. John F. Hultquist says:

    Bob Wood (16:17:33) :
    “ .. but none of the eroded material being carried back up.”

    I saw this and wondered if you wrote what you intended. There are many examples although the “carrying back up” part is different than evaporation and condensation. Search for Himalayas and limestone for an example. The rocks in the Cascades of Washington State are of sedimentary origin. My favorite is a ridge of conglomerate at roughly 5,000 feet. I can attested to it being up there – you can figure out how it got there.

  220. tallbloke says:

    Chris V. (20:14:45) :

    Willis Eschenbach (19:14:53) wrote:

    Their incorrect amount of clouds is not the main problem. The biggest issue is that all of the modelers assume that cloud forcing overall is positive … which for me is simply absurd.

    Willis- according to table 3 from your link:

    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2006/Schmidt_etal_1.html

    The total cloud forcing (short wave plus long wave) is NEGATIVE in both the models and observations.

    If I am reading that table right, the cloud forcings in the models are actually “more negative” than the observed forcings. The models yield a net cloud forcing of – 23 to -24 W/m2, while observations show it to be -17.3 W/m2.

    I note also that in the extremely long and tedious geo-engineering article posted by John Galt that :

    “The other high-impact proposal, cloud brightening, increases the amount of reflected sunlight by making more clouds and thickening existing ones. One idea is to use ships to propel seawater thousands of feet in the air, where it would form or increase cloud cover.”

    So it seems the negative feedback of low cloud at least is well understood.

    What Willis has emphasized in his essay is that thunderstorm cumulonimbus goes beyond being a feedback, and actually forces the temperature down below initial condition locally. This is where the models fail, through the dogma of according ‘forcing’ status to co2, and ‘feedback’ status to everything else. The tail wagging the dog par exellence.

    I wonder if the ‘more negative forcing of the clouds’ in models vs observed is due to the models grossly underestimating total global cloud cover, as pointed out by Willis earlier. Maybe another ad hoc tweak to get the model slightly closer to observed reality? There certainly seems to be a schizophrenic disconnect between what warming alarmists say about clouds, and the negative forcing accorded them in the model data Willis linked.

  221. Benjamin P. says:

    @Nasif Nahle (22:24:24) :

    “The authors are using simulators which rely 100% on carbon dioxide; hence they had to lower the carbon dioxide concentration to get the conditions for a snowball Earth. Not based in real data, the whole work is based on conjectures, except for the data obtained from proxies which mainly are biotic systems. Biosystems adapt and evolve”

    Well they are trying to explain data in the rock record, and in this case, most of the data are not from biotic systems. And I would not simply brush it off as conjecture there are a lot of observations that need an explanation.

    Banded iron formations (BIFs) are a unique rock that are found mostly in the oldest of rocks. Reduced iron is soluble in water, but oxidized iron is not. When the earth’s atmosphere went from anaerobic to aerobic, the BIFs stopped forming. Except for a brief period of time in the neoproterozoic. Why? And why are there glacial drop stones in those BIFs? And why are their glacial deposits in the tropics? And why are those glacial deposits overlain by carbonates?

    Snowball earth gives a good explanation for this, but as I said, it could use more data. We have a hard enough time reconstructing climate 300 years ago, let alone 800 Ma.

    As for the modeling, there are folks who have tried their models to produce a snowball earth (with limited success) but I thought everyone here hated climate models anyway?

  222. tallbloke says:

    John F. Hultquist (22:47:34) :
    The rocks in the Cascades of Washington State are of sedimentary origin. My favorite is a ridge of conglomerate at roughly 5,000 feet. I can attested to it being up there – you can figure out how it got there.

    My favourite example is the fossil sea shells to be found on the summit of Snowdon, the highest point in Wales at 3,600ft.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northwest/outdoors/placestogo/reserves/snowdon.shtml

  223. tallbloke says:

    KlausB (22:29:31) :
    re: DJ (14:41:57) :
    Anthony,
    Simply ignore him. He isn’t worth the effort.

    Seconded, and I’m impressed bythe fact that intis thread at least, few have risen to the stinky bait. Trust the judgement of your readership Anthony!

    Without replying, i actually saved DJ’s firstpost to a notepad document, so we can revisit it next year after the non-appearance of the ‘super el nino’.

    Not that he ever will admit he was wrong. Climate professionals don’t do that sort of thing.

  224. NS says:

    I don’t know, it’s not news that clouds, oceans distribute heat energy.
    Even my school geography lessons talked about the oceanic conveyor & cloud effects.

    The warmers will agree, but with the caveat that man did not exist before and thus human CO2 is a new factor which will throw this finely balanced system out of range (see Gaia “theory”).

  225. Stephen Wilde says:

    This extrct from another article seems relevant:

    “the weather systems on Earth (primarily the jet streams and the high pressure cells either side of them) ramp up their thermal efficiency in tune with the scale of any positive or negative energy input changes from any source including that from human CO2. Just like increasing or decreasing the flow of air across a resistor.

    Shifting large volumes of air towards the poles increases radiation of energy to space thus neutralising any warming of the air and shifting large volumes of air towards the equator draws heat from sunshine and oceans thus neutralising any cooling of the air.

    The air can only push energy towards space or draw it from the oceans. Air cannot draw energy from space or push it into the oceans.

    At this point I should mention the vast energy transfer potential of the latent heats of evaporation and condensation. Huge quantities of energy are taken from water surfaces by evaporation then dumped higher up in the air by condensation to accelerate the expulsion of energy to space. That process is highly variable in scale and speed and is intimately linked to the air circulation that drives weather and climate. It is that process which gives the weather systems an overwhelming power to vary quickly in response to any imbalance between energy flowing into the air from the oceans and into space from the air.

    Whether the air warms or cools the weather systems change to cancel it out.

    Thus there does seem to be a mechanism whereby the warming effect from human CO2 (indeed all greenhouse gases) could be removed naturally as it arises. The weather systems accelerate the expulsion of the additional energy to space in order to return the energy inputs and outputs of the air to balance. ”

    Full article here:

    http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=2581

  226. tallbloke says:

    Benjamin P. (23:26:25) :
    but I thought everyone here hated climate models anyway?

    A fairly vacuous statement. What I dislike is garbage output from incorrectly parameterized models paraded as truth to a compliant media.

  227. pkatt says:

    Re: temp data sets saying May is .. whatever warmest on record. I cant resist. One month is weather, not climate:P Sux to have that turned around on you doesnt it?

  228. tallbloke says:

    NS (23:40:32) :
    The warmers will agree, but with the caveat that man did not exist before and thus human CO2 is a new factor which will throw this finely balanced system out of range (see Gaia “theory”).

    The Co2 level was 20 times higher than today long before man came on the scene. Didn’t boil the seas then either.

  229. Willis Eschenbach says:

    First, my thanks to all who have contributed.

    Next, let me say that this thread is not really about snowball earth, and I was foolish to enter that discussion. It is fascinating, and I got sucked in, but it is a side track to discussing the implications of the Thermostat Hypothesis. Not sure where the Snowball Earth thread is, but it would be great if you took the snowballs there, or even better if you just put the snowballs in your pockets and stuck around.

    The oddity under discussion is that the Earth’s temperature has stayed within a narrow band for at least the last half a billion years. During that time it has seen meteor strikes, and centuries long widespread volcanic eruptions, and huge forest fires, and oceans disappearing as continents were lifted out of the sea, and all manner of the good, bad, and ugly. Despite all of that, despite all of the variation in the forcings and the changes in the losses during all of that geological time, the earth’s temperature hasn’t moved around much at all. A few percent.

    Seems evident to me that this is not a system that will be thrown off balance by changes in trace gases. I have proposed a mechanism that governs the temperature. It involves a combination of throttle control through cloud albedo, combined with active heat transport and surface cooling through thunderstorms.

    While my hypothesis may not be correct, something is constraining the Earth’s temperature to a fairly narrow band. I think its cumulus clouds and thunderstorms.

    Thunderstorms are weird creatures. They are what is known as an “emergent phenomenon”. This means that they emerge out of a set of conditions (warm clear morning air over the ocean) with properties that have little to do with either air or ocean. Both clouds and thunderstorms are emergent phenomena.

    One oddity about emergent phenomena is that they are usually associated with a “threshold” below which they will not emerge. Above that threshold, however, they may form in great numbers. It’s that way with clouds, for example. First there’s none, then there’s 1, then 2, then 17 …

    The same is true of the threshold for the metamorphosis of a little innocent cumulus cloud, happily reflecting sunlight, into a towering, raging cumulonimbus thunderstorm. Once that combined temperature/humidity threshold is passed, thunderstorms can form in large numbers.

    This non-linearity, of course, makes both cumulus and thunderstorms ideal candidates for temperature control mechanisms. When the tropics is cool, it’s below the first threshold. No clouds form, and the full heat of the sun rapidly brings up the temperature. When the first threshold is crossed, rapidly spreading cumulus quickly turn down the sun. When the second threshold is passed, a host of thunderstorms soon start vacuuming up the warm moist surface air and shooting it skywards, while pelting the earth with cool rain and wind. Between them, cumulus and thunderstorms put an upper bound on the earth’s temperature. That’s the Thermostat Hypothesis.

  230. Eric (skeptic) says:

    I would add just two thoughts to the article, the first is that models confirm that concentrated convection has a global cooling effect, see #3088067 here:
    http://www.ccsm.ucar.edu/publications/PhD%20and%20Masters%20Theses.htm
    for example. Their hypothesized reason that concentrated convection cools the planet is that it dries the upper troposphere.

    I would also add that what goes up must come down, so a big part of the effect from concentrated convection is the subsidence around it (especially prominent around tropical cyclones). That large area of downward moving air prevents clouds and thus allows a large amount of outgoing IR.

  231. Benjamin P. (15:37:23) :
    Maybe I am ignorant, but whats new here? I mean, isn’t this already common knowledge?
    “7. This is a reasonable explanation for how the temperature of the earth has stayed so stable (or more recently, bi-stable as glacial and interglacial) for hundreds of millions of years.”
    There is strong evidence to suggest the earth was frozen pole-to-pole during the neoproterozoic. So if a “snowball Earth” is considered stable climate, that’s news to me.
    Also, where is the data? We have some albedo measurements, but beyond that and some “thought exercises” where’s the data?
    Interesting afternoon read nonetheless though.
    Cheers,
    Ben

    It’s important to note that the climate stability to which Mr. Eschenbach refers only goes back about 600 million years(the Phanerozoic Eon). “Snowball Earth” and the “Faint Sun Paradox” hypotheses are attempts to explain things that appear to have happened prior to the Phanerozoic.
    Prior to the Phanerozoic (“visible life”) Eon, the Earth’s atmosphere is believed to have been quite different…Possibly 80% CO2 and/or CH4.

    The geological evidence points to a very stable Phanerozoic climate with, as Mr. Eschenbach stated, a total variation from the median temperature of less than +/-3%.

    600 million years of no evidence of CO2-driven climate change may not be 4 billion years…But it’s a long time and it is the entire time span of Earth’s modern atmosphere.

  232. TomVonk says:

    Even if this idea is not really new (Bejan’s method to only mention his name go in the same direction) it is refreshing to see a bit of common sense physics .
    Thanks Willis .
    We have been fed for the last 15 years by 19th century physics of naive equilibrium systems .
    All and any GCMs past , present and future are based on this 19th century physics where Arrhenius is still cited as reference even if he ignored everything about non linear dynamics and matter/radiation physics .
    Most climate “scientists” are trying to brainwash everybody by babbling about static systems with constant temperatures and “departures from equilibrium” .

    Well of course as the real Earth system is neither static nor in equilibrium , GCM can only produce garbage painfully data fitted with ad hoc parametrizations .
    So obviously the right way is to treat the Earth system like what it really is – a dynamical system out of equilibrium with all governing parameters FUNDAMENTALLY time dependent .
    Willis shows that this (only) correct approach is not only feasible but clear and enlightening .
    Even if here are some very complex aspects in climate dynamics , they have nothing to do with esoterical “radiative equilibriums” and “GHG forcings” .

    You are on the right track Willis . The Earth is a dynamical self regulating out of equilibrium system and as long as your working hypothesis are consistent with these facts , you have a chance to be right .

  233. John W. says:

    Willis Eschenbach (19:14:53) :

    The model is tuned …

    Willis, and others, that phrase should set alarm sirens off at full volume. The only, I say again only, time an honest user of modeling and simulation introduces a “tuning” or “fudge” factor is when it’s necessary to get M&S to reproduce observed results. Having done so, the M&S is presented as: a. corresponding well to observations, b. the fudge factor indicates area requiring further research.

    Introducing the fudge factor to get the result you want, then changing or creating “observational” data to support it is fraud.

    Frank K. (19:34:03) :

    One of the world’s best models?? I’m sorry – Model E is a piece of FORTRAN junk!

    Hey! FORTRAN is my Mother Tongue (so to speak). It’s still a good language for science and engineering. It just requires more intelligence to use properly than these people possess.

  234. David Jay says:

    RE: Dave Wendt (20:50:08) :

    I too wish to stand up for the honor DJs everywhere!

    Help, Cecil, help! Help, Cecil,help!

  235. Tom in Florida says:

    Willis Eschenbach (01:33:12) : “One oddity about emergent phenomena is that they are usually associated with a “threshold” below which they will not emerge. Above that threshold, however, they may form in great numbers. It’s that way with clouds, for example. First there’s none, then there’s 1, then 2, then 17 … ”

    Kind of like a tipping point?

    ” Once that combined temperature/humidity threshold is passed, thunderstorms can form in large numbers.”

    There must be other factors involved as over the last several days in my part of the central west coast of Florida we have had temps in the low 90′s and humidity above 72% but no thunderbumpers. The wind was NNW so perhaps that helped to stablize the upper atmosphere. Suffice it to know that even my periwinkles needed water.

  236. ALAN D. MCINTIRE says:

    To tie in the thermostat effect with snowball earth: This model assumes the
    result is due to the effects of weathering and removal of CO2 when the continents are near the equator.

    http://www.applet-magic.com/snowball.htm

    If the continents were near the equator, that would have reduced significantly the amount of ocean near the equator, leaving the ocean thermostat less effective.

  237. Steve Keohane says:

    Melinda Romanoff (20:18:02)I think the insulation or R-factor of rock is too high to get much of an effect from heating from the core of the earth. Presently, there is about .08 watts per sq. Km from the inner earth, not much compared to ~1360W/Km from the sun.

    Bob Wood (16:17:33) Here in Colorado we have lots of sedimentary rock, as well as marble, metamorphized limestone, at 5-14 K feet. This used to be a sea bed.

    Dave Wendt (20:50:08)” BTW, are there any other fossilized old crocks here, old enough to remember ‘Beanie and Cecil’?” Sure do, and how about Tom Terrific?

  238. Nasif Nahle says:

    Benjamin P. (23:26:25) :

    @Nasif Nahle (22:24:24) :

    “The authors are using simulators which rely 100% on carbon dioxide; hence they had to lower the carbon dioxide concentration to get the conditions for a snowball Earth. Not based in real data, the whole work is based on conjectures, except for the data obtained from proxies which mainly are biotic systems. Biosystems adapt and evolve”

    Well they are trying to explain data in the rock record, and in this case, most of the data are not from biotic systems. And I would not simply brush it off as conjecture there are a lot of observations that need an explanation.

    I opine the contrary because they used mostly stromatolites and other biotic proxies.

    Banded iron formations (BIFs) are a unique rock that are found mostly in the oldest of rocks. Reduced iron is soluble in water, but oxidized iron is not. When the earth’s atmosphere went from anaerobic to aerobic, the BIFs stopped forming. Except for a brief period of time in the neoproterozoic. Why? And why are there glacial drop stones in those BIFs? And why are their glacial deposits in the tropics? And why are those glacial deposits overlain by carbonates?

    Glacial diamictons and dragged debris, not an abrupt decrease of CO2.

    Snowball earth gives a good explanation for this, but as I said, it could use more data. We have a hard enough time reconstructing climate 300 years ago, let alone 800 Ma.

    Again, not due to abrupt decreases of CO2. During the Carboniferous the CO2 was low and remained los until the Permian; however, the icehouse was interrupted by a short warmhouse followed by a short icehouse which gave pass to a warmhouse, and the CO2 remained at low levels until the Creatceous.

    As for the modeling, there are folks who have tried their models to produce a snowball earth (with limited success) but I thought everyone here hated climate models anyway?

    Models are useful when we need to interpret data from real world and make some predictions based strictly on the data taken from real world. Models are not for inventing worlds; for example, this revealing paragraph from the article:

    To simulate a snowball Earth, coupled energy-balance models require that atmospheric CO2 levels be lowered dramatically (~10^-4 bar), even with lower-than-present solar luminosity…

  239. Benjamin P. says:

    @ tallbloke (00:34:04) :

    Yes Tallbloke, sorry that was mostly sarcasm. Sarcasm is one of those things that does not work well in written form.

    @ Dave Middleton (04:03:15) :

    600 Ma to present. Works for me.

    @ Willis Eschenbach (01:33:12) :

    “Next, let me say that this thread is not really about snowball earth, and I was foolish to enter that discussion. It is fascinating, and I got sucked in, but it is a side track to discussing the implications of the Thermostat Hypothesis. Not sure where the Snowball Earth thread is, but it would be great if you took the snowballs there, or even better if you just put the snowballs in your pockets and stuck around.”

    My apologies for starting that distraction.

    “The oddity under discussion is that the Earth’s temperature has stayed within a narrow band for at least the last half a billion years.”

    I’d argue that when we are looking for climatic variations (thousand year scales) in the geologic record (million year scales) it might be hard to put a lot of faith in that paleoclimate reconstruction. When you have a few data points over millions of years of data, I am not sure how you could account for what is going on in that “thousands of years” time scales.

    Ben

  240. Nasif Nahle says:

    I stand for the theory that there are external and internal drivers of the Earth’s climate; nevertheless, I cannot integrate the carbon dioxide within the internal causes of warmhouse and icehouse on our planet because, simply, the carbon dioxide lacks the physical thermal properties which could make it able to drive the Earth’s climate. The changes of atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide obey to changes of climate, never the opposite.

    Many authors changed data and viewpoints exactly after the advent of the mythical role of CO2 on climate changes, in 1998. Many, many honest scientists, are yet adhered to real data, real physics, real world.

  241. Frederick Davies says:

    OW!

  242. 3x2 says:

    Thanks for a very pleasant read. Thermostat Hypothesis – clear, to the point, observable and probably testable.

    It would have made the article longer but it would have been nice to see the same band from the opposite view. The reverse effect as the system collapses and dissipates in preparation for the next day.

  243. Richard Sharpe says:

    Alan D Macintyre says:


    If the continents were near the equator, that would have reduced significantly the amount of ocean near the equator, leaving the ocean thermostat less effective.

    How intriguing. If my quick attempt at trying to find a formula for the surface area encompassed up to X degrees North and South of the Equator is correct, ~30% of the surface area resides between 20N and 20S. That’s about the land surface area. (It looks like the function is 4.r^2.Sine(Lat).)

  244. Benjamin P. (08:02:16) :

    [...]

    “The oddity under discussion is that the Earth’s temperature has stayed within a narrow band for at least the last half a billion years.”

    I’d argue that when we are looking for climatic variations (thousand year scales) in the geologic record (million year scales) it might be hard to put a lot of faith in that paleoclimate reconstruction. When you have a few data points over millions of years of data, I am not sure how you could account for what is going on in that “thousands of years” time scales.

    Ben

    Without a doubt our resolution of past events becomes much coarser with the increasing age of the events we are trying to resolve…But there are quite a few rather drastic climate changes that have occurred over the last few thousand to few hundred thousand years that can be resolved to decadal or century scales. Most notably: Dansgaard-Oeschger events in Pleistocene ice cores and the Heinrich/Bond events in Pleistocene to Holocene marine sediment cores. These rapid climate changes (on the order of Medieval Warm Period to Little Ice Age scale) appear to have had very rapid onsets…As little as a few decades in many cases.

  245. Richard Sharpe says:

    Willis said:

    and oceans disappearing as continents were lifted out of the sea

    I find your hypothesis to be very interesting and think it likely correct, however, I do not think oceans disappeared in any useful way. Sure, a particular part of the ocean surface might have been obliterated, but the volume of water is essentially constant, it seems to me. Of course, land emerging at the equator and displacing ocean surface elsewhere is likely to have a bigger effect than the same occurring elsewhere.

  246. Ron de Haan says:

    Indiana Bones (22:07:53) :

    Ron de Haan (19:40:05) :

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-schram/the-myth-of-energy-indepe_b_215647.html

    Alan Schram suggests that continuing our escalating consumption of foreign oil is a good thing: “we must remember that we do business with the Middle East in the open market. Voluntary exchanges are not zero sum, rather they are positive sum.”

    No, it is hardly an open market. Nor is it a “voluntary” exchange. It is trade caused by short sighted development of non-petroleum resources and by environmental legislation limiting domestic petroleum production. Assuming the $700B sent to the Middle East annually is a “positive sum” for Americans is malarky. We are being squeezed by oil cartels foreign and domestic and it is finally coming to an end.

    Electrification of transportation (starting with Tesla) will rapidly erode the demand for foreign oil. Electric demand at home can be met by a broad portfolio of domestic resources including nuclear, coal, and alternatives. Energy independence strikes fear in the hearts of old-school monopolies accustomed to peddling resources to dependent nations. Their time is over.

    Indiana Bones,

    Although I agree with your remarks about the oil market, I disagree with the wondeful green future provided by the electrification of transport.

    Tesla is currently the best technology available and unfortunately it is not enough.

    We need better (much better) batteries (higher capacity, shorter charging time at much, much, much lower costs).
    As long as this is not the case the electric vehicle will be a niche product.

    As long as these batteries are not available we will not come very far.

    Untill that moment arrives we will use good old plain oil and natural gas to power our rides.

    I am not very optimistic about the development in regard of battery performence nor the raw materials that make the core.

    Solar and wind scream for serious storage solution.
    This ‘pressure’ on development should have resulted in cheap, high energy density battery packs years ago.

    There is also the difficulty of availability of the basic amterials to produce batteries.
    It does not make sence to swap dependence of oil for dependence on the basic materials to produce batteries.

    I am confident that we will get where we want to be in time, but not within the next thirty years.

  247. Ron de Haan says:

    Just Want Results… (21:24:24) :

    Just Want Results… (21:22:15) :

    The Weather Channel specifically mentioned “a year without a summer” in that report. Were they talking about Accuweather and Joe Bastardi?

    Just Want Results,

    I think they refer to a PDF File that you can find here:
    http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=115

  248. Benjamin P. says:

    @ Nasif Nahle (07:47:30) :

    yes, Nasif, I get it, you are not a fan of CO2. Its pretty amazing that you tie in CO2 in your reply to every part of my post when I really was not saying anything about CO2, other than the fact that there are some what seem to be unreasonable levels predicted by the models.

    Okay, I told Willis I was sorry for the distraction with Snowball earth, but I need to reply!

    “I opine the contrary because they used mostly stromatolites and other biotic proxies.”

    Well opine all you want, but your wrong.

    From Hoffman et al, “Here, we present new data on the amplitude, timing, and duration of inorganic Delta13C variations in Neoproterozoic rocks of northern Namibia … ”

    Pay close attention to that word inorganic.

    I say, “Banded iron formations (BIFs) are a unique rock that are found mostly in the oldest of rocks. Reduced iron is soluble in water, but oxidized iron is not. When the earth’s atmosphere went from anaerobic to aerobic, the BIFs stopped forming. Except for a brief period of time in the neoproterozoic. Why? And why are there glacial drop stones in those BIFs? And why are their glacial deposits in the tropics? And why are those glacial deposits overlain by carbonates?”

    To which you reply, “Glacial diamictons and dragged debris, not an abrupt decrease of CO2.”

    What? First, why even mention CO2 since I said nothing about it at all? Second, glacial deposits and “dragged debris” (whatever that is) explains BIFs in the neoproterozoic? I think you just wanted to say something about CO2! Because your reply doesn’t make much sense to me if you were trying to “counter” what I said.

    Anyway…

    Ben

  249. Nasif Nahle says:

    Benjamin P. (09:51:13) :

    @ Nasif Nahle (07:47:30) :

    yes, Nasif, I get it, you are not a fan of CO2. Its pretty amazing that you tie in CO2 in your reply to every part of my post when I really was not saying anything about CO2, other than the fact that there are some what seem to be unreasonable levels predicted by the models.

    Did I say you had mentioned CO2? The authors had to “fix” the simulator by lowering the atmospheric CO2, not you.

    I’m a fan of CO2, but as the essential compound for life that it is. I’m not a fan of distorted science, like AGW.

  250. hotrod says:

    Tom in Florida (07:21:35) :
    There must be other factors involved as over the last several days in my part of the central west coast of Florida we have had temps in the low 90’s and humidity above 72% but no thunderbumpers.

    Yes there are other factors, it is not just the temperature and humidity but the temperature and humidity profile as you go up in altitude.

    In an atmosphere that promotes thunderstorm development you have an unstable atmosphere because you have warm moist air in a layer near the ground but above it you have a layer of relatively dryer and cooler air.

    Moist air has a lower density than dryer air at the same temperature and pressure.
    Air pressure drops with altitude as does temperature (most of the time). This drop of temperature is called the lapse rate. If you raise a parcel of dry air 1000 ft, it will lose about 5.4 deg F in temperature. If you raise a parcel of saturated air by 1000 ft it will lose only about 2.7 deg F. This is due to the high specific heat of the water vapor in the saturated air. These are called the Dry adiabatic lapse rate and the moist adiabatic lapse rate.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapse_rate

    If the atmosphere has relatively dryer air sitting over air of high humidity, you can have a situation of “unstable air” where you have all the conditions needed for thunderstorms to develop. If that unstable situation does not exist you can have very high heat and humidity with no thunderstorm development.

    This unstable condition depends on the fact that the lower atmosphere has a very specific temperature and humidity profile. The lower layer must have relatively high humidity compared to a layer just above. This stratification creates a “coiled spring” of available energy. This coiled spring is the “Convective available potential energy” often referred to as the cape.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convective_available_potential_energy

    Storm chasers talk about “breaking the cap”. This phrase refers to the above situation, where you have the proper temperature/humidity profile to create an unstable atmosphere. There are generally two ways for that coiled spring to be released. You can continue to warm the lower layer of moist air, and at some point it will cross a critical temperature/humidity/density where it is lower density than the “cap” of dryer air above it. When this happens any random motion of the lower moist air that lifts it will cause it to be warmer than the surrounding dry air due to the differences in their lapse rates. Once this happens you have “broken the cap” and that lifted parcel of air starts to accelerate upwards like a hot air balloon due to buoyancy. It is lighter than the dryer air around it and as it rises, it pulls up more warm moist air from below which likewise once it crosses that critical density point takes off . This is what forms the rapidly rising columns of cloud and updrafts which form the thunderstorm.

    That runaway process can also be triggered by any process that mechanically lifts air that is just short of the point it would rise naturally. For example if the local winds cause the warm moist air to flow up a small rise in the terrain, this “Orographic Lifting” mechanically raises the air enough to set off the runaway convection. An upper level disturbance (small pressure change at high altitudes due to jet stream etc.) can also cause enough lifting to trigger the convection by pulling up unstable air above that critical altitude/pressure/density point where the instability is released. Lifting can also be caused by converging low level winds or frontal passages that locally pushes up warm moist air as the air masses collide.

    http://www.forestencyclopedia.net/p/p387

    It is possible to have very high CAPE and not trigger thunderstorms because conditions do not quite reach the critical trigger conditions. On other occasions at relatively low CAPE you can get thunderstorm development if you have strong enough lifting to trigger the instability that is available.

    This is one of the reasons thunderstorm development is essentially impossible to model. It is a chaotic process that depends on multiple factors many of which are difficult to impossible to predict.

    I have spent many hours sweltering in hot muggy weather with the National Weather Service telling us that the CAPE conditions favored explosive thunderstorm development only to see clear skies and get a sun burn. This was because there was not enough lifting to trigger the release of all that energy.

    On other days we have had “surprise storms” when all the conditions for thunderstorm development were marginal, but a unique set of events combined at just the right time to kick off a storm.

    That is why the models will never be sophisticated enough to “predict” next weeks thunderstorm development let alone world wide behavior 100 years down the road.

    Right now the Severe Storm Prediction Center ( http://www.spc.noaa.gov/products/outlook/ ) only gives severe storm outlooks for a few days and only the day 1 and day 2 have much reliability. They are slightly better than flipping a coin.

    That is not a dig, the job they are trying to do is enormously complex and to beat even odds is a very significant accomplishment!

    Larry

  251. Richard Sharpe says:

    Of course, I was out by a factor of Pi!

  252. CodeTech says:

    hotrod, that was an extremely lucid and educational description of something I have observed many times.

    Here in Calgary at 3500 feet we tend to get large, billowy thunderstorms, often with hail, and from time to time extremely massive. I believe our 1991 hailstorm is still holding the record for single-storm damage, in fact.

    However, while traveling for work I have flown around thunderstorms around Toronto which looked entirely different. They were towering columns that we zigged and zagged through as they loomed thousands of feet above us, and relatively small compared to what I’m used to seeing.

    Your description of how these things form makes complete sense. The Toronto area storms looked like the wake of a passing bubble, while ours look more like the interaction of fronts. The difference in energy, moisture and pressure would account for this, I think.

  253. George E. Smith says:

    “”” Eric (skeptic) (17:05:38) :

    The postulated high cl0ud positive feedback simply does not exist; clouds are always a cooling influence on the earth, and it is that inevitable negative feedback that locks the earth temperatures into that narrow range established by the fundamental physical and chemical properties of H2O.
    George,

    That’s not correct. The cooling effect from high clouds is well known. The simplest example is an IR satellite picture that shows that cold cloud tops radiate significantly less IR to space than land or water or low cloud tops. “””

    Let me see if I have this straight ; “the cooling effect from high clouds is well known.” I’ll take your word for it; but that is contrary to everything I have ever read elsewhere that says high clouds are a positive feedback warming effect by trapping otherwise outgoing long wave infrared radiation.

    If the higher the clouds are the more trapping and more surface warming (as is claimed) why are those higher clouds colder; if they are trapping more surface infra red. Oh I agree that the colder high clouds will radiate less than the warmer surface or warmer lower clouds; there’s very little about black body like thermal radiation that I am unfamiliar with. So that’s no mystery higher colder clouds radiate less, and if they radiate less and yet remain just as cold, one can conlcude that they also intercept (trap) less radiation from lower down; unless there is something new about the conservation of energy that you want to reveal to us.

    That is entirely my point; there is no way that high clouds can be warming the surface by trapping and then re-radiating downwards a lot of energy that otherwise would escape from the earth.

    Any simple analysis of a chain of resonance absorptions followed by molecular collisions and thermalization of the energy, followed by re-emission as a continuum radiation, will show that the easy path of propagation is upwards towards colder less dense atmosphere, and not donwards towards denser hotter layers that absorb over broader spectral bands

    So I don’t need your satellite photos to convince me that higher clouds radiate less than lower denser warmer more moisture laden clouds.

    But all of them; persistent over time scales of meaning to climate result in cooling of the surface rather than heating of the surface; since they block more sunlight from reaching the ground. More clouds of any kind; less surface heating.
    The surface conditions generate the clouds; not the other way round.

  254. Pofarmer says:

    I hope this isn’t a dead thread, but it seems the best place to ask this.

    I’m continually having a conversation with a young man on an Ag Forum that is convinced that the Atmosphere is heating the oceans. It seems that there are two camps coming about. The AGW camp beleives that a trace gas is causing heating of the atmosphere and that is heating the oceans and the rest of the planet.

    The skeptic camp seems to be coalescing around the idea that the sun controls the temperature of the oceans and various feedback mechanisms regulate the earths temperature from there.

    Is this basically correct? Is there any way to change somebodies mind on this?

  255. Willis Eschenbach says:

    TomVonk (04:06:58), thanks for an interesting post. You say inter alia:

    Even if this idea is not really new (Bejan’s method to only mention his name go in the same direction) it is refreshing to see a bit of common sense physics.

    As you you say that “this idea is not really new”, I’d be very interested in any references you might have to the idea that the earth’s temperature is regulated by cumulus/cumulonimus being put forwards previously.

    Best to all,

    w.

  256. Nasif Nahle says:

    I know Leif won’t like this but his TSI database shows a more convincing correlation with HSG:

    Correl. 70 yrs. mean-Lean/Stacked = 0.36
    Correl. 70 yrs. mean-Lean/HSG = 0.364
    Correl. 70 yrs. mean-Sval/Stacked = 0.97
    Correl. 70 yrs. mean-Sval./HSG = 0.875

    (Bolds only for characterizing one line from another)

    Conclusion: HSG constitutes a very accurate proxy on calculations of past TSI. Point.

    The mean values of HSG for the last 70 years were computed considering a variance of ~0.15 HSG/year. :)

    We know that the excess of solar irradiance striking on the surface is stored mainly by the oceans and secondarily by the subsurface materials of the ground:

    White, W. B., J. Lean, D. R. Cayan, and M. D. Dettinger (1997), Response of global upper ocean temperature to changing solar irradiance, J. Geophys. Res., 102(C2), 3255–3266.

    Thus, the main role on the Earth’s climate is played by the Sun, followed by the oceans and finally by the subsurface materials of the ground.

  257. Nasif Nahle says:

    Pofarmer (12:52:16) :

    I hope this isn’t a dead thread, but it seems the best place to ask this.

    I’m continually having a conversation with a young man on an Ag Forum that is convinced that the Atmosphere is heating the oceans. It seems that there are two camps coming about. The AGW camp beleives that a trace gas is causing heating of the atmosphere and that is heating the oceans and the rest of the planet.

    The skeptic camp seems to be coalescing around the idea that the sun controls the temperature of the oceans and various feedback mechanisms regulate the earths temperature from there.

    Is this basically correct? Is there any way to change somebodies mind on this?

    I think my previous post answers the first part of your question. For the last question, I think there is no way of changing somebody’s mind on AGW because long time ago they abandoned the main objectives of science and reason.

  258. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Pofarmer (12:52:16), you say:

    I hope this isn’t a dead thread, but it seems the best place to ask this.

    I’m continually having a conversation with a young man on an Ag Forum that is convinced that the Atmosphere is heating the oceans. It seems that there are two camps coming about. The AGW camp beleives that a trace gas is causing heating of the atmosphere and that is heating the oceans and the rest of the planet.

    The skeptic camp seems to be coalescing around the idea that the sun controls the temperature of the oceans and various feedback mechanisms regulate the earths temperature from there.

    Is this basically correct? Is there any way to change somebodies mind on this?

    Well, I hope this thread is not dead myself.

    As you point out, the two major opposing camps are “CO2 did it” and “some natural force did it, likely the sun”. I have proposed a third possibility, “thunderstorms did it”.

    However, the key point is that recent studies have shown that the oceans are no longer warming. Nor is the atmosphere warming. Antarctic ice is at the largest extent ever measured. So your friend’s basic thesis (the oceans are warming) is currently not true.

    You do point out one of the major difficulties with the CO2 hypothesis, however, which is that it is very, very hard to falsify. This is because it makes very, very few testable propositions.

    That is one reason that I was so happy to realize that my hypothesis did indeed make a testable proposition. This is the proposition that as seen from the sun, the right hand side of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone would be cloudier than the left. I was even happier when I was able to confirm this. The icing on the cake was the timing and size of the daily jump in albedo. This turns out to be a very sharp rise between 10:30 and 12:00 (see Fig. 2) and to involve a forcing change of ~ 60 W/m2. These were unexpected and welcome confirmations of the Thermostat Hypothesis

    But the CO2 hypothesis does not make such conveniently testable propositions.

    Whether you will change anyone’s mind is an open question. As a friend of mine used to say, “Your argument is so persuasive, if I had a mind, I’d change it” …

    I fear all of us inconvenient skeptics find ourselves faced with that point of view far too often.

    Thanks for the question,

    w.

  259. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Richard Sharpe (08:42:25), you say:

    Willis said:

    “and oceans disappearing as continents were lifted out of the sea”

    I find your hypothesis to be very interesting and think it likely correct, however, I do not think oceans disappeared in any useful way. Sure, a particular part of the ocean surface might have been obliterated, but the volume of water is essentially constant, it seems to me. Of course, land emerging at the equator and displacing ocean surface elsewhere is likely to have a bigger effect than the same occurring elsewhere.

    Of course, you are correct that the oceans did not disappear. However, as one example of what I was referring to, most of the central US was underwater at one time, then it emerged. It was one among a list of occurrences that one would expect to have changed the climate, but didn’t. My point was that a host of things have happened over geological time that you would expect to greatly affect the earth’s temperature … but they haven’t done so. That’s the puzzle … why not?

    Regards,

    w.

  260. Pamela Gray says:

    Willis Eschenbach, your thesis is entirely testable, reasonable and well-mechanized. This is the kind of theory that some doctoral candidate worth his or her salt should take to task, narrow down to some testable point in the hypothesis, and test the bejazes out of it. Good stuff this. Eye candy for someone like me who is a total weather freak.

  261. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Tallbloke, you raised an interesting issue, viz:

    Willis- according to table 3 from your link:

    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2006/Schmidt_etal_1.html

    The total cloud forcing (short wave plus long wave) is NEGATIVE in both the models and observations.

    If I am reading that table right, the cloud forcings in the models are actually “more negative” than the observed forcings. The models yield a net cloud forcing of – 23 to -24 W/m2, while observations show it to be -17.3 W/m2.

    I note also that in the extremely long and tedious geo-engineering article posted by John Galt that :

    “The other high-impact proposal, cloud brightening, increases the amount of reflected sunlight by making more clouds and thickening existing ones. One idea is to use ships to propel seawater thousands of feet in the air, where it would form or increase cloud cover.”

    So it seems the negative feedback of low cloud at least is well understood.

    The recent study by Soden and Held does not confirm this claim from Gavin Schmidt:

    The feedbacks from clouds and surface albedo are also found to be positive in all models, while the only stabilizing (negative) feedback comes from the temperature response. Large intermodel differences in the lapse rate feedback are observed and shown to be associated with differing regional patterns of surface warming. Consistent with previous studies, it is found that the vertical changes in temperature and water vapor are tightly coupled in all models and, importantly, demonstrate that intermodel differences in the sum of lapse rate and water vapor feedbacks are small. In contrast, intermodel differences in cloud feedback are found to provide the largest source of uncertainty in current predictions of climate sensitivity.

    SOURCE: http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-pdf&doi=10.1175%2FJCLI3799.1

    Note the part where they say that “The feedbacks from clouds and surface albedo are also found to be positive in all models.”

    So while some modelers may claim that their model shows negative feedback from clouds, studies of their models do not bear out that claim.

    w.

  262. tallbloke says:

    George E. Smith (12:06:12) :

    Any simple analysis of a chain of resonance absorptions followed by molecular collisions and thermalization of the energy, followed by re-emission as a continuum radiation, will show that the easy path of propagation is upwards towards colder less dense atmosphere, and not donwards towards denser hotter layers that absorb over broader spectral bands

    This was well known to those eminent scientists Michael Flanders and Donald Swann in the sixties:

    “Heat cannot of itself pass from one body to a hotter body
    You can try it if you like but you far better notter
    ‘cos the cold in the cooler will get hotter as a ruler”

  263. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Melinda Romanoff (20:18:02), you say inter alia:

    Two things come to mind, firstly, just being the naif that I am, the higher temperatures experienced while the Sun was 75% less radiative might be explained by a thinner mantle, and hotter iron dynamo within the Earth itself. It has cooled over time, and might explain, to a degree, the higher temps, due to the radiative effect of the core. This should also play a bit of a role in current temperature readings, because if we didn’t have a “live” core, the energy needed from other sources to warm things up from “zero degrees kelvin” might not be too favorable for life.

    When it comes to climate, all of us are naifs …

    Regarding your question, the amount of heat coming out of the earth is quite small. From memory it’s on the order of hundredths of a watt per square metre. That’s why snow sticks when it falls on the ground, there’s not enough heat emerging to melt it.

    So even if geothermal heat was ten times the size in the past, it still wouldn’t make a perceptible difference.

    My best to you, never be afraid to ask questions. We’re all bozos on this bus …

    w.

  264. Pofarmer says:

    Willis Eschenbach, your thesis is entirely testable, reasonable and well-mechanized.

    Not only that, but it works with meteorological mechanisms we already use in weather forecasting. Be a bummer for the climatologists if it turns out the climate really is just weather, though. d;0)

  265. Richard Sharpe says:

    Willis says:

    My point was that a host of things have happened over geological time that you would expect to greatly affect the earth’s temperature … but they haven’t done so. That’s the puzzle … why not?

    Yes, I agree. Also, I always felt that the argument that CO2 levels dropped at exactly the correct rate to compensate for the increasing solar output was a crock.

  266. tallbloke says:

    Willis Eschenbach (13:58:57) :

    Tallbloke, you raised an interesting issue, viz:

    “Willis- according to table 3 from your link:

    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2006/Schmidt_etal_1.html

    The total cloud forcing (short wave plus long wave) is NEGATIVE in both the models and observations.”

    Note the part where they (Soden and Held) say that “The feedbacks from clouds and surface albedo are also found to be positive in all models.”

    So while some modelers may claim that their model shows negative feedback from clouds, studies of their models do not bear out that claim.

    Willis, just to set the record straight, that was Chris V’s observation not mine. I speculated that it may be an ad hoc adjustment to compensate for their 16% or so underestimation of total global cloud cover.

    There again, if their model actually has cloud as a positive feedback in it’s output, despite the entries in the table, that would be opposite sign.

    Colour me confused…

  267. Robin Kool says:

    This is exhilarating science. The main part of science is the production of new ideas that can be tested. And this is certainly a bold new idea.

    So at a certain trigger temperature and humidity, the thunderstorm starts and transports warm, humid air upward at high speeds.
    In the process enlarging evaporation of the ocean, thus creating more light, humid air that reinforces the upward movement.
    In the end the thunderstorm leaves the ocean and atmosphere at lower temperatures than it’s trigger temperature.
    And it doesn’t just move heat around: by bringing warm air at high altitudes where it can radiate it’s heat directly into the cosmos, and through the formation of high altitude clouds that reflect sunlight, the thunderstorm actually tips the balance so that the earth cools down.

    Brilliant.

    One first remark is that if anything, this phenomenon at least sets a stable temperature for the humid tropics. And that is a great relief. Because, while a bit of warming is clearly beneficial in Europe and the US, the tropics would get in serious problems.
    (And it’s good news for the tropical coral reefs, which were supposed to die when the oceans warmed one degree Celsius.)
    Second: Here in the Netherlands we have thunderstorms too, but only on hot summer days and later in the day – the trigger temperature is obviously reached much later in the day here in our cooler climate.
    Now if there is climate warming from whatever cause – sun, oceans, CO2, Urban Heat Island Effect – I can’t see our few thunderstorms turning that back.
    So I wonder how large this effect is in different parts of the world. (Since you need humid air, what does that say about the deserts?)
    Third: A debate has raged over whether the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age were global phenomena of just happened in Europe.
    This thermostat hypothesis indicates that thunderstorms keep the tropics at a constant temperature and that climate variation will happen more to the north and the south. This casts a whole new light on the debate.
    Four: What is that spike in cloud cover at 15:30?
    Five: Wow. It is exciting to witness the birth of a bold new idea.

  268. Chris V. says:

    tallbloke (14:57:53) :

    There again, if their model actually has cloud as a positive feedback in it’s output, despite the entries in the table, that would be opposite sign.

    Colour me confused…

    Tallbloke and Willis- the Total forcing of clouds is negative (cooling). This is true for the models, and observations. And while the models underestimate the actual cloud cover, they overestimate the cooling effect of clouds (compared to observations).

    As to the CHANGE in the cloud forcing due to temperature changes (the cloud feedback), the models show that to be positive (in total), so with increasing temperature, the cloud forcing becomes “less negative”, meaning they have less of a cooling effect. I don’t think anybody has worked out the real cloud feedback from observations.

    BTW, the models don’t “assume” a positive cloud feedback; that’s a result of the physics of the models.

  269. Pofarmer says:

    Now if there is climate warming from whatever cause – sun, oceans, CO2, Urban Heat Island Effect – I can’t see our few thunderstorms turning that back.

    I think the theory would go like, if it’s warmer, you’d have more thunderstorms and more cloud cover, because you would evaporate more water.

    BTW, the models don’t “assume” a positive cloud feedback; that’s a result of the physics of the models.

    So, the physics are wrong, nothing to see here, move along.

  270. Mike Bryant says:

    “BTW, the models don’t “assume” a positive cloud feedback; that’s a result of the physics of the models.”

    Ya, that’s it… the models don’t assume anything, they KNOW because of PHYSICS and other reall impressive-sounding stuff, so just accept it because computers are much smarter than people…

  271. Peter says:

    Jari says:
    “Since it seems that Willis was correct about the Tuvalu sea level not rising (latest data here http://www.bom.gov.au/ntc/IDO60101/IDO60101.200904.pdf), maybe this hypothesis is correct too.”

    No such pdf there at present. (Maybe it had inconvenient implications.)

    Reply: Remove closing parenthesis from link and try again. ~ charles the moderator

  272. Nasif Nahle says:

    Peter (17:25:39) :

    Jari says:
    “Since it seems that Willis was correct about the Tuvalu sea level not rising. Latest data here http://www.bom.gov.au/ntc/IDO60101/IDO60101.200904.pdf

    This way, Jar…

  273. Richard M says:

    Willis, very well written and very logical exposition. I really like what you have put together. I think this is a step in the right direction. I also like Stephen Wilde’s more general concepts which tie in very closely.

    One thought occurred to me. If you assume Co2 is responsible for some warming which is then nullified by the Earth’s thermostat, then there will be changes in the global weather patterns. That is, the Co2 will continue to generate more heat and the additional clouds/rainfall will continue as a result. Just how that impacts those regions needs to be considered.

  274. Richard M says:

    Chris V. (16:33:31) :

    “Tallbloke and Willis- the Total forcing of clouds is negative (cooling). This is true for the models, and observations. And while the models underestimate the actual cloud cover, they overestimate the cooling effect of clouds (compared to observations).

    As to the CHANGE in the cloud forcing due to temperature changes (the cloud feedback), the models show that to be positive (in total), so with increasing temperature, the cloud forcing becomes “less negative”, meaning they have less of a cooling effect. I don’t think anybody has worked out the real cloud feedback from observations.

    BTW, the models don’t “assume” a positive cloud feedback; that’s a result of the physics of the models.”

    Please explain what “result of the physics” causes an “underestiimate” and an “overestimate”.

  275. Chris V. says:

    Mike Bryant (17:10:59) :

    >b>Ya, that’s it… the models don’t assume anything, they KNOW because of PHYSICS and other reall impressive-sounding stuff, so just accept it because computers are much smarter than people…

    Please don’t put words in my mouth. The models may very well be wrong. Any climate modeller will tell you that clouds are the biggest source of uncertainty. A lot of researchers are working on the cloud problem.

    My point is that the models are not built with the “assumption” that clouds are a positive feedback.

    The cloud feedback, like the climate sensitivity, is a RESULT of the models, not an input.

    I should also point out that it’s very tough to explain ice ages if there is some strong, still-undiscovered negative feedback mechanism.

  276. Bill Illis says:

    Just making a point about how continental positions and deep ocean circulation can affect Willis’ proposition.

    As long as the oceans have complete unfettered deep access to the poles, they are able to redistribute heat across the planet much more efficiently. When you have continents at the poles, continental-scale glaciers can build up and increase the albedo and oceans are not able to fully redistribute heat to and cold from the poles.

    Snowball Earth came up a few times in the thread. During the last Snowball event that we know of (there may have been several), ALL of the continents were locked together over the South Pole. Think Antarctica times 20.

    Nothing will stop the glaciers from building up (5 kms high in the simulation) and spreading out across all the land that is available with the resulting one-third of the Earth under glaciers with a further few thousand kilometres frozen in sea ice. That is a pretty big reduction in solar impact/forcing and it wouldn’t take much to freeze just about everything except the tropics.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/15/SnowballGeography.gif

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/d/dc/SnowballSimulations.jpg/436px-SnowballSimulations.jpg

  277. Eric (skeptic) says:

    But all of them; persistent over time scales of meaning to climate result in cooling of the surface rather than heating of the surface; since they block more sunlight from reaching the ground. More clouds of any kind; less surface heating.
    Hi George,

    I see what you are saying. I forgot about the reflected sunlight (shortwave) part of the equation, depends on cloud albedo. Certainly in some cases the clouds will be substantially cooling because of that. And from what I can find, the net effect of all clouds is cooling. The IR satellite was meant not to compare clouds, but clouds to land or ocean underneath. Specifically, the LW radiated by the surface in the tropics is substantially more energy than the combined radiated LW and reflected SW from most high clouds.

    But that is angels on a pin head considering the net cooling effect is what matters.. Also the net effect of clouds will change in a warmer climate and will likely result in more cooling.

  278. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Chris V. (18:04:37), thanks for posting. You say:

    …The models may very well be wrong. Any climate modeller will tell you that clouds are the biggest source of uncertainty. A lot of researchers are working on the cloud problem.

    My point is that the models are not built with the “assumption” that clouds are a positive feedback.

    The cloud feedback, like the climate sensitivity, is a RESULT of the models, not an input.

    I should also point out that it’s very tough to explain ice ages if there is some strong, still-undiscovered negative feedback mechanism.

    A few citations would be useful in establishing those claims. For example, I showed above that the GISSE (as well as other) models play with the threshold relative humidity (the cloud or ice cloud forming threshold) to adjust the overall radiation balance and the albedo.

    Once you have done that, anything might be possible in the model. It could increase or decrease the amount of rain, or any other variable.

    As to whether the clouds give positive or negative feedback, this is a RESULT (to use your style) of the ASSUMPTIONS made at a host of places in the model. It is not the result of a physic-based first-principles calculation. As such, it bears no more weight than any other model result. It is governed by the ASSUMPTIONS about threshold relative humidity and a host of other parameters. So although it appears as a RESULT, it is just the result of the ASSUMPTIONS, not the result of physics.

    Finally, I would point out that it is tough to explain the ice ages no matter what assumptions you make ….

    w.

  279. Mike Bryant says:

    Hmmmmm… sea level falling in Tuvalu… I’m sure this will be all over the news soon…

  280. Mike Bryant says:

    It’s the thunderstorms, stupid… Bula!!!

  281. Chris V. says:

    Willis Eschenbach (18:49:23) :

    Let me get this straight- do you think that the same scientists who are telling us that cloud feedbacks are the major source of uncertainties in the models are also “jigging” the models to make cloud feedbacks positive?

  282. Pofarmer says:

    I should also point out that it’s very tough to explain ice ages if there is some strong, still-undiscovered negative feedback mechanism.

    Not really, it’s pretty common for control systems to overshoot, and takes time for them to come back into equlibrium. The Earth is a pretty big system, with a pretty small energy driver, therefore, large changes are going to take a long time to occur, one way or the other. This theory would also seem to explain why ice ages appear to come on suddenly. If all the rain that we are having right now had come as snow, we would have FEET of it on the ground, probably still, and, bang, the start of an ice age. Add in a few Volcanoes going off, and, shoot, who knows……………

  283. Pofarmer says:

    That is, the Co2 will continue to generate more heat and the additional clouds/rainfall will continue as a result. Just how that impacts those regions needs to be considered.

    First, you need to prove that adding Co2 actually “generates” more heat.

  284. Gilbert says:

    Willis Eschenbach (13:22:19) :

    You do point out one of the major difficulties with the CO2 hypothesis, however, which is that it is very, very hard to falsify. This is because it makes very, very few testable propositions.

    Atmospheric greenhouse effect makes at least two testable predictions.

    1 The tropical troposphere should warm at a rate of two to three times
    the rate at the surface.
    2 The surface at the poles should warm first.

    The first is demonstrably false. The second is where the debate is. That would seem to be the reason that, likely false claims of warming, particularly in the Arctic are being pushed so hard.

    The effect can also be falsified by demonstrating that the underlying assumptions are wrong. One of those underlying assumptions are a primary target of this blog. I. E., temperature stations.

    IMHO, there is no rigorous science underlying AGW.

    A wonderful post in case I forgot to mention it earlier. I will have to reread it several times before it all sinks in. The discussion has been terrific as well.

    Trolls are best dealt with by ignoring them. Difficult in practice.

  285. bill says:

    Presumably if the thermostat works one should see a stable temperature over time :
    http://img44.imageshack.us/img44/8274/tropicstemp.jpg
    These mainly rural stations show a 1.5 degree rise. At what point will the thermostat begin controlling.

    Looking at other records in the tropics (usually very disjointed/short records) even wilder swings are seen – not always positive some without any trend.

    Is this still feasible in this model? If so then this control will surely not stop GW/GC at an acceptable deviation from todays temperature?

  286. bill says:

    Mike Bryant (18:57:13) :
    Hmmmmm… sea level falling in Tuvalu… I’m sure this will be all over the news soon

    Where does this info come from?
    Tuvalu 8°30’8.9″S / 179°11’42.6″E Mar 1993 +5.5 -0.2
    Fig 13 shows a positive monthly average still.

  287. Nasif Nahle says:

    bill (21:18:57) :

    Mike Bryant (18:57:13) :
    Hmmmmm… sea level falling in Tuvalu… I’m sure this will be all over the news soon

    Where does this info come from?
    Tuvalu 8°30′8.9″S / 179°11′42.6″E Mar 1993 +5.5 -0.2
    Fig 13 shows a positive monthly average still.

    Now I see why for you stromatolites are abiotic material. The info on Fig. 13 says it clearly:

    Figure 13. This figure illustrates that as the sea level record becomes
    longer, the relative sea level trend estimates become more stable and reliable. The reason for this is that the trends from short sea level records are affected by the natural sea level variability occurring on inter-annual, El Niño and decadal timescales due to atmospheric, oceanographic and geological processes.
    (Bolds are mine)

    Heh! :)

  288. tallbloke says:

    Chris V. (18:04:37) :

    The cloud feedback, like the climate sensitivity, is a RESULT of the models, not an input.

    I should also point out that it’s very tough to explain ice ages if there is some strong, still-undiscovered negative feedback mechanism.

    If the cloud feedback is underestimated as much as the climate sensitivity is overestimated, maybe they should adjust the forcing parameter for co2 doubling and run the model again.

    In fact I bet they have, but won’t publish the results.

    Willis:
    I would point out that it is tough to explain the ice ages no matter what assumptions you make

    If much water is locked up in ice, and the earth is generally cooler, less warmth will be transported from the tropics to the poles by quieter weather systems operating over lowered seas with less surface area.

    The question is how we get tipped into an ice age.

    Would the continents drift around more quickly following a major meteor strike? Or less dramatically, could the opening and closing of gaps between north and south america and africa/europe have a pronounced effect on ocean circulation? The problem of why ice ages changed their periodicity from 45K years to 100K years seems to me to be likely concerned with the changing environment the solar system moves through. Something to do with the circulation of the local star cluster perhaps.

    Sorry to drift off topic, just thinking out of the box.

  289. oms says:

    tallbloke (22:07:01) :

    Would the continents drift around more quickly following a major meteor strike? Or less dramatically, could the opening and closing of gaps between north and south america and africa/europe have a pronounced effect on ocean circulation?

    My guess is that there would be no Gulf Stream or Atlantic MOC for starters; that ought to have a pretty pronounced and dramatic effect compared to changes in the (slower than glacial) rates of “continental drift.”

  290. tallbloke says:

    Chris V. (16:33:31) :

    As to the CHANGE in the cloud forcing due to temperature changes (the cloud feedback), the models show that to be positive (in total), so with increasing temperature, the cloud forcing becomes “less negative”, meaning they have less of a cooling effect. I don’t think anybody has worked out the real cloud feedback from observations.

    Which of course is where Willis’ hypothesis on the ‘overshoot’ of thunderstorms comes into play, making the clouds a forcing rather than merely a feedback.

    But I wonder why the models have clouds feedback becoming ‘less negative’ with increasing temperature. Less cloud, or less effect? And Why?

  291. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Gilbert (21:03:43), you say of testable propositions:

    Willis Eschenbach (13:22:19) :

    You do point out one of the major difficulties with the CO2 hypothesis, however, which is that it is very, very hard to falsify. This is because it makes very, very few testable propositions.

    Atmospheric greenhouse effect makes at least two testable predictions.

    1 The tropical troposphere should warm at a rate of two to three times
    the rate at the surface.
    2 The surface at the poles should warm first.

    The first is demonstrably false. The second is where the debate is. That would seem to be the reason that, likely false claims of warming, particularly in the Arctic are being pushed so hard.

    The tropical troposphere actually does warm faster than the surface (although not as much as you state). The 200 hPa level in the tropics warms about twice as much as the surface (or cools twice as much as the surface) for reasons unconnected with CO2. I’m writing a paper on this now. However, this is not a feature which is unique to CO2 warming. Any type of warming will result in this phenomenon.

    Regarding the Thermostat Hypothesis, if more energy enters the system at the tropics, some of it will be transported to the poles, while the equatorial temperature will not change much. So again, any type of warming is likely to warm the poles a bit more than the tropics.

    The poles, however, are not equal. Warm water runs under the North Pole, while the South Pole is cold to the bone. In addition, much of any Arctic warming is likely caused by black carbon deposition on ice and snow. So again, this proposition is not particularly testable either.

    Net result is that there isn’t much that is falsifiable in the CO2 hypothesis. The hypothesis is very hard to test because it says that the earth is warming at something like a hundredth of a degree per year … kinda hard to measure.

    Thanks for your contribution,

    w.

  292. Willis Eschenbach says:

    bill (21:09:47), you raise an interesting point, viz:

    Presumably if the thermostat works one should see a stable temperature over time :
    http://img44.imageshack.us/img44/8274/tropicstemp.jpg
    These mainly rural stations show a 1.5 degree rise. At what point will the thermostat begin controlling.

    Looking at other records in the tropics (usually very disjointed/short records) even wilder swings are seen – not always positive some without any trend.

    Is this still feasible in this model? If so then this control will surely not stop GW/GC at an acceptable deviation from todays temperature?

    Looking at four short records such as those in your citation is useless for seeing what’s happening in the tropics. If you want to know what’s going on in the tropics, the best source is the UAH satellite data. It shows that the trend in the tropics (20 N/S) is 5 hundredths of a degree per decade … which as you might imagine is not statistically different from zero.

    So the basic hypothesis of your argument, that the tropics is warming, is not supported by the evidence.

    All the best,

    w.

  293. tallbloke says:

    oms (22:14:59) :

    My guess is that there would be no Gulf Stream or Atlantic MOC for starters; that ought to have a pretty pronounced and dramatic effect compared to changes in the (slower than glacial) rates of “continental drift.”

    So if the earth warmed enough, the sea level would rise until it flowed across the joins between the americas, and africa/europe, reducing the poleward ocean circulations and causing strong cooling.

    Another longer term and larger scale negative feedback to the Earth’s climate system maybe?

  294. E.M.Smith says:

    DJ (03:18:27) : Just when might this thermostat kick in? It’s been an extraordinary hot May at the planets surface

    What a hoot! You really believe this stuff or what? Here, for your edification, is what is really happening on the planets surface:

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/23/south-hemisphere-record-early-snow/

    Snow leaving the northern hemisphere a month late, arriving at the southern hemisphere a month early, and about 5 F to 10 F lower than expected in between.

    So whatever computer fantasy anomaly you are looking at is way out of touch with the facts on the ground. I’ll take the facts on the ground…

    and that is post La Nina (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/). We will almost certainly see the largest positive monthly temperature anomaly every observed by man at the earth’s surface in the coming months.

    Oh, I see, GIStemp. The pasteurized processed data food product homogenization anomaly fabrication program. No wonder you are so confused…

    It’s not going to be a pretty sight next year as we go post El Nino and have a warming sun.

    So you are predicting the sun will finally start having sun spots and more output based on what again? Just wondering where your crystal ball is hiding…

    Watch for a big step up in sea level, a sharp decline in sea ice, and the hottest year on record.

    Uh huh… Sea level going to just jump right up… feet , no meters, no, by miles and miles… Or maybe not. Since the sea has not risen at all in the last decade or so, I think this falls under the heading of “wishful thinking” or worse…

    Look, could you at least pretend to have some decent methodology and / or data sources? This rampant “the end is neigh” is just sooo much like, well, a bad dream, that it makes me wonder if you have been a bit too much at the post graduation parties…

  295. tallbloke says:

    So if the earth warmed enough, the sea level would rise until it flowed across the joins between the americas, and africa/europe, reducing the poleward ocean circulations and causing strong cooling.

    Another longer term and larger scale negative feedback to the Earth’s climate system maybe?

    And if the ‘overshoot’ of the effect precipitated an ice age, the sea level would then fall as more ocean became locked up as ice at the poles, restoring the poleward ocean circulations, and lifting us back out of the ice age.

    Hmmm, the dambuster hypothesis. :-)

  296. E.M.Smith says:

    bill (10:08:43) : This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs:

    And what, exactly, is a ‘cloud forcing’? What physical property, documented in a physics text, is a ‘forcing’? In what units is a ‘forcing’ measured?

    This hand waving of “forcing” is just silly. Give something that has SI units, please…

    BTW, having a constant Fudge Factor is not the same has having proper clouds.

  297. tallbloke says:

    And if the americas and europe/africa have been pushing together for a long time, raising the land level at the interfaces, might that explain the shift from the 45K year interglacial to 100K year interglacial periodicities?

    OK, I’ll wait for a thread on tectonics, sorry to clutter this one Willis.

  298. Stephen Wilde says:

    Willis,

    I’ve been giving your hypothesis more thought overnight and trying to see how best to fit it in with my own more general scenario.

    I confirm that I agree with you. Basically warmer air in the tropics brings forward the timing of cloud development each day and the earlier the clouds develop the sooner they increase albedo to reduce solar input and the sooner they start their work of ejecting energy into the upper air. Both mechanisms increase cooling to negate the initial excess warmth and importantly are scaled up in proportion to the degree of any excess warmth.

    On the other hand cooler air in the tropics delays the whole process and reduces the energy flow to the upper air and thence to space.

    However one should go on to consider matters of causation and scale.

    On a day to day basic I agree that your hypothesis is overwhelming in scale. On that timescale it clearly is the main temperature stabilising process.

    Unfortunately I’m not sure that it does the business ON IT’S OWN over longer timescales and more particularly on multidecadal and century or more timescales.

    Something clearly sets the initial starting point to which the process you describe is a response.

    Your process is so effective on a short short day to day basis that on the face of it NOTHING should be able to alter the initial base temperature.

    Nevertheless we do see that over several decades or more that initial base temperature does change over time both up and down. In the case of CO2 the alarmists speculate a permanent change in the base level temperature for as long as extra CO2 (and consequent extra water vapour) stays in the air. I think we have to concede that variations in solar input and variations in ocean energy emissivity and possibly (on a theoretical basis) CO2 are all capable of changing that base temperture over longer timescales despite your hypothesis. Simple observations since at least the LIA have demonstrated that fact.

    Thus we need something else that stabilises much larger effects on the base temperature over much longer periods of time.

    I think that that is where my scenario supplements yours. Your process is a powerful day to day influence but to deal with long term changes in the base temperature one has to see your process itself change in intensity on a long term basis and not just as a response to the other main long term forcings of sun, ocean variability and (if it exists) extra GHGs. Your process would need to be a driver and not just a response and it would need to overcome all other drivers, which it seems it does not.

    To have the required effect the entire global air circulation has to be involved and that is where my proposition about the latitudinal positions of all the air circulation systems becomes important.

    I think one has to take that extra step to deal adequately with long term changes in the base temperature so that one can then say that the effects of more GHGs are likely to be negated by air circulation changes BEFORE extra warmth in the air can warm up the oceans. I think that since the air temperature is set by the SSTs especially in the Tropics any extra energy has to have got into the oceans BEFORE your process begins.

    It is essential to stop extra GHGs warming up the oceans first because I have no doubt that if they could warm up the oceans then they would inevitably warm up the air on a permanent basis and your process might become more active each day but would not lower that increased long term base temperature.

    Warmer oceans would result in a ramping up of your process as you suggest but the base level temperature would have been raised permanently by the GHGs so your proposition does not seem to solve the AGW problem.

    Once one involves a latitudinal shift in the air circulation patterns that should actually stop any extra GHG generated energy from getting into the oceans in the first place because it is ejected to space straight away and is not then available to upset the base equilibrium between sea surface and surface air temperatures which is initially set by sun and sea rather than the composition of the air.

    If there is something about your idea which I have not understood please say so.

  299. tallbloke says:

    Sorry can’t resist, ideas tumbling out.

    The near 4:2:1 ratio between the 100K year interglacial regime, the 45K year regime, and the Earth’s precessionary period is suggestive of an additional solar forcing, i.e differential insolation varying between south pole sunwards at perihelion and north pole sunwards at perihelion.

  300. tallbloke says:

    Stephen Wilde (23:43:28) :

    On a day to day basic I agree that your hypothesis is overwhelming in scale. On that timescale it clearly is the main temperature stabilising process.

    Unfortunately I’m not sure that it does the business ON IT’S OWN over longer timescales and more particularly on multidecadal and century or more timescales.

    Stephen, have you considered the results from the earthshine project?
    http://www.bbso.njit.edu/Research/EarthShine/

    Admittedly a short data series, but shows that increased cloud cover on a decadal scale at least is having an effect on base temperature.

    1998 – cloud cover increases, and stays that way.
    2003 (or a bit earlier?) – oceans stop gaining heat (ARGO – Josh Willis’ corrected results)
    2005 – Land temps start to fall rapidly
    2009.5 Global temp 0,25C lower than 2005.

  301. Willis Eschenbach says:

    I do not wish to divert this to Tuvalu any more than to snowballs. However, I wish a correct a misconception. I did not say that the sea level was not rising at Tuvalu. Sea levels have generally been rising for decades. Tidal records from Tuvalu are too short (and contradictory) to say too much about exactly what’s happening there.

    What I said can be summarized as:

    1. There is no sign of acceleration in the rate of global sea level rise. It has been rising in general since the end of the last Ice Age. And it has been rising over the last century. This means whatever is happening in Tuvalu can’t plausibly be blamed on CO2.

    2. The problems in Tuvalu are not due to the unchanged historical rate of sea level rise. They are the result of:

    • coral mining
    • man-made channels and changes to the reef
    • overuse of water
    • human-caused erosion
    • paving much of Funafuti for the airport.

    And perhaps most of all, atoll sand loss is from killing the beaked fish that grind up the coral to make the lovely sand beaches. Without those fish, the change in the delicate long-term balance of sand gained from the reef and sand lost to wind and wave can tilt an atoll right back into the ocean. The parrotfish should be the national bird of every tropical atoll, they constantly rebuild the place … but I digress.

    On the larger scale, let me take this misunderstanding of what I actually said as an illustrative example. The way we can all avoid this kind of difficulty is to quote what someone actually said. That’s why I generally quote the part of someone’s message that I’m responding to. I invite you to do the same, particularly as regards the Thermostat Hypothesis, and in general for discussions of what each other have written.

    Onwards, with appreciation,

    w.

  302. oms says:

    tallbloke (23:30:56) :

    So if the earth warmed enough, the sea level would rise until it flowed across the joins between the americas, and africa/europe, reducing the poleward ocean circulations and causing strong cooling.

    Sorry, I misunderstood your original conjecture to mean closing the gap between N./S. America and Europe/Africa, aka the Atlantic Ocean.

    But if you are talking about sea level rise which is severe enough to inundate a sizeable part of Central America, then yes I’m sure you’d find a much different pattern of ocean circulations as well. :)

  303. oms says:

    E.M.Smith (23:36:13) :

    And what, exactly, is a ‘cloud forcing’? What physical property, documented in a physics text, is a ‘forcing’? In what units is a ‘forcing’ measured?

    I thought this one had been answered earlier in another thread. The “forcing” is usually exactly that.

    The forcing term is F0 sin…, usually from an accelerating “force.”

    Here the forcing is f(x,t),, usually corresponding to a heat source.

    This hand waving of “forcing” is just silly. Give something that has SI units, please…

    W/m2 I believe all refers to SI units.

  304. oms says:

    P. S.: The previous post was referring to the typical “forcing” terms in the harmonic oscillator equation and the heat equation, respectively, but the equations didn’t appear properly.

  305. Indiana Bones says:

    Ron de Haan (09:00:39) :

    Ron, you’re right to doubt the rosy greenness of electrification. But things are further along than you might think.

    The identified lithium resources total 760,000 tons in the United States and more than 13 million tons in other countries (USGS) – enough for 1.1B, 1st generation hybrid batteries. Lithium-ion packs can be fully recycled.

    Hitachi just announced a 4.5kW/kg power density for their 4th generation batteries.

    http://fleetowner.com/green/hitachi-lithium-ion-hybrid-battery-0519/

    There are nearly 60 hybrid and or full EVs announced for 2010-12 production. Far from perfect but enough to begin to reduce demand for gasoline.

  306. Patricia says:

    According to Wilhelm Wien’s displacement law (approx. …. earth surface temperature in Celsius = 2898 / wave length in µm – 273,15) the CO2 contributes very very very slightly to the global temperature at surface temperatures round 3 Celsius and 32 Celsius. There are not so many places on Earth, where the surface temperature equals 32 or 3 Celsius.
    There is also a second limitation – gas concentration. If gas concentration is too high, the moleculs do not flash back the heat but transfer it to the next molecule. It is because the electrons orbiting on a higher level do not have the time to fall down to the lower energy level again and to de-excitate the gained energy. Before they do so, they hand their gained energy over to another molecule.
    I browsed this article and found the sentece “The majority of the earth’s absorption of heat from the sun takes place in the tropics.” This is a proofless premise and compared to above limitations seems to be a nonsense. So, without actually reading the article, I believe this thermostat hypthesis has no substance and is probably a nonsense. In case someone made in principle similar objection I appologize to the rest of the community as they have to read this twice. I just scanned the comments if there is a notice to Wien’s displacement law.

  307. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Stephen Wilde (23:43:28), thank you for your thoughtful and interesting post. Inter alia you say

    On a day to day basic I agree that your hypothesis is overwhelming in scale. On that timescale it clearly is the main temperature stabilising process.

    Unfortunately I’m not sure that it does the business ON IT’S OWN over longer timescales and more particularly on multidecadal and century or more timescales.

    I used to think the same thing, that the feedback system would have to operate over longer timescales. I wasted a lot of time trying to imagine what that system would be.

    But one day I realized that if on average the cloud/thunderstorm combo kept the daily temperature on average between 72° and 78°F, then the million year average would also be between 72°F and 78°F …

    Something clearly sets the initial starting point to which the process you describe is a response.

    Your process is so effective on a short short day to day basis that on the face of it NOTHING should be able to alter the initial base temperature.

    Nevertheless we do see that over several decades or more that initial base temperature does change over time both up and down. In the case of CO2 the alarmists speculate a permanent change in the base level temperature for as long as extra CO2 (and consequent extra water vapour) stays in the air. I think we have to concede that variations in solar input and variations in ocean energy emissivity and possibly (on a theoretical basis) CO2 are all capable of changing that base temperture over longer timescales despite your hypothesis. Simple observations since at least the LIA have demonstrated that fact.

    The base temperature is set by the physics of atmosphere and cloud formation and thunderstorms and the like. As I discussed above, anything that affects those will push the thermostat up or down. These include cosmic rays changing cloud formation rates, aerosols affecting cloud cover, average wind speed, and the like.

    Note that the base temperature is not affected by some of your suggestions. Variations in solar energy will be matched by changes in cloud cover. The same is true of changes in oceanic emissivity. (Although ocean emissivity doesn\’t vary much. Water is nearly a perfect absorber of IR, which of course means a near perfect emitter. Geiger, The Climate Near The Ground, gives a value of 0.96.)

    … I think that since the air temperature is set by the SSTs especially in the Tropics any extra energy has to have got into the oceans BEFORE your process begins.

    It is essential to stop extra GHGs warming up the oceans first because I have no doubt that if they could warm up the oceans then they would inevitably warm up the air on a permanent basis and your process might become more active each day but would not lower that increased long term base temperature.

    Infrared (greenhouse) radiation (IR) is very inefficient at warming water from the top. This is because, in stark contrast to the penetrating solar rays, all of the IR is absorbed within the first millimetre of the surface.

    This immediately raises the temperature of the skin of the water. Since radiation varies with the fourth power of the temperature, there is a large increase in radiation with this increase in skin temperature. Evaporation also goes up very sharply with temperature, so IR immediately increases both evaporation and radiation. As a result, there is less energy available for heating the ocean.

    Sunlight, on the other hand, penetrates into the upper mixed layer of the ocean. There, the energy makes little difference to the surface temperature, so evaporation and radiation are not increased as with IR.

    But that, while interesting, doesn\’t really address your question. The real answer is that if there is extra heat in the ocean from any source, the cloud cover increases. The thunderstorms increase. This is visible in the course of each day. As the sea heats, clouds increase.

    A change in albedo of 2% is equivalent to two doublings of CO2 (from the current 380 ppmv to 1,520 ppmv!) … so a tiny, undetectable change in cloud cover is more than enough to offset any conceivable variation in CO2.

    CO2 does not directly affect the rate of cloud formation. According to reports, cosmic rays directly affect the rate of cloud formation. Accordingly, of these two only one will change the base temperature of the cumulus and thunderstorm based global thermostat.

    My best to you, and everyone,

    w.

  308. tallbloke says:

    The parrotfish should be the national bird of every tropical atoll

    Can\’t see that one flying. ;-)

  309. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Hotrod, you say:

    Lets take as an example a stationary thunderstorm that simply sits in one place and dumps water. In the Big Thompson flood in Colorado in 1976 a upslope flow developed and created a thunderstorm that parked over the Estes Park area and dumped approximately 7.5 inches of rain in an hour and about 12 inches of water in a period of about 4 hours. Peak flow in the river was about 1000 cubic meters/second. This rain fall fell over approximately 70 square mile area.

    http://www.assessment.ucar.edu/flood/flood_summaries/07_31_1976.html

    For a back of the envelope calculation lets look at how much water would be needed to cover 20 square miles to a depth of 8 inches. The tally works out to about 418176000 cubic feet of water or about 1.18 x 10^7 cubic meters of water fell as rain in a period of 4 hours. That water was converted from vapor to liquid water and as a result had to release the latent heat of condensation for that amount of water in a similar period of time.

    I think if you crunch the numbers you will find that the heat loss necessary to condense that much water far exceeds the solar isolation.

    Not sure what you mean by this. Some water is evaporated. In a thunderstorm it condenses. The energy in and out in this system is the same. This is because (neglecting a small difference due to temperature) the latent heat released by condensation is the same as the latent heat required for evaporation.

    What am I missing?

    w.

  310. bill says:

    Willis Eschenbach (23:06:55) :
    … If you want to know what’s going on in the tropics, the best source is the UAH satellite data. It shows that the trend in the tropics (20 N/S) is 5 hundredths of a degree per decade … which as you might imagine is not statistically different from zero.
    So the basic hypothesis of your argument, that the tropics is warming, is not supported by the evidence.

    If you read my post you will see that I did not say temps were increasing/decreasing just that there were large variations.

    A thunderstorm can only react to current air temperatures i.e. no delay. For the thermostat to function as you suggest then there should be NO wild swings in measured AIR temperatures.

    Those few plots were used as they were long (most from 1949 so longer than any satellite record) and relatively complete. There are others showing wilder swings over a year\’s average.

  311. bill says:

    Nasif Nahle (22:06:36) :
    The info on Fig. 13 says it clearly:
    Figure 13. This figure illustrates that as the sea level record becomes
    longer, the relative sea level trend estimates become more stable and reliable. The reason for this is that the trends from short sea level records are affected by the natural sea level variability occurring on inter-annual, El Niño and decadal timescales due to atmospheric, oceanographic and geological processes. (Bolds are mine

    What are you saying!!??
    Fig 13 shows a time average of rate of sea level rise The average becomes more stable as more readings are taken (the max and min excursions become less significant). The plot shows that the rise is positive. From the table this is 5.5mm/year.

    Willis Eschenbach (00:13:43) :
    … Sea levels have generally been rising for decades. Tidal records from Tuvalu are too short (and contradictory) to say too much about exactly what’s happening there.

    Not so, see fig 13

    What I said can be summarized as:
    1. There is no sign of acceleration in the rate of global sea level rise. It has been rising in general since the end of the last Ice Age. And it has been rising over the last century. This means whatever is happening in Tuvalu can’t plausibly be blamed on CO2.
    2. The problems in Tuvalu are not due to the unchanged historical rate of sea level rise. They are the result of:
    • coral mining
    • man-made channels and changes to the reef
    • overuse of water
    • human-caused erosion
    • paving much of Funafuti for the airport.

    1 and 2 are not compatible unless coral mining/channel digging/manmade erosion/paving have been occuring since the last ice age.

    The last century is exactly when GW has had an effect!

  312. Stephen Wilde says:

    Thanks Willis, points taken, but I think we have a basic difference of opinion that will have to be resolved by real world observations over time.

    I certainly agree about the ineffectiveness of IR impacting the ocean surface (the skin) as compared to the impact of solar energy. Indeed the evaporative and other responses in the air to IR hitting the sirface are so quick that I doubt the validity of the concept of such a skin existing at all.

    Where we seem to disagree is that you do not see ocean emissivity as varying much so, inevitably, logic pushes you to favour the tropical convection scenario. Nor do you yet accept those oceanic variations and the solar variations as the underlying driver of all those changes in the air which you describe.

    I still think that the base temperature is set by sun and sea and not by the physics of air and clouds. I think that the physics of air and clouds (more broadly the air circulation systems) modulates the oceanic variations in emissivity just as the physics of the ocean circulations modulates solar variations in energy supply to the oceans.

    I saw the oceans and then the air warm from all those strong El Ninos from 1975 to 2000 and at the same time the air circulation systems moved poleward. From 2000 the air circulation systems started to move back equatorward and the warming first stopped and we are now cooling with less (and less powerful) El Ninos.

    Recent observations about multidecadal ocean cycles (seperate in each ocean) that seem to operate over 30 to 60 years or more show that net ocean emissivity/absorption does change on such timescales and I believe we have seen enough to link those emissivity changes to air circulation changes and to link them to all observed global temperature changes and regional climate shifts without needing to involve CO2.

    Once one accepts significant variations in ocean energy emissivity working with longer term solar variability then the logic shifts away from tropical convection to the wider concept which I describe.

    I think the fuller truth is as follows:

    1) Day to day (diurnal) temperature disequilibrium is dealt with very effectively by the process you describe.

    2) Seasonal temperature disequilibrium is dealt wth by the observed latitudinal shifts in the air circulation systems which we see every year.

    3) Longer term temperature disequilibria caused by solar variation, changes in ocean emissivity or changes in the composition of the air are dealt with by additional shifts in the air circulation systems beyond normal seasonal variation.

    Combining all three pocesses is needed in order to account for the observed apparent stability of Earth\’s temperatures for so long.

    The point about CO2 or any other GHGs including water vapour is that they alter the characteristics of the air alone. As you have observed, the reaction of the air above water when warming of the air occurs is so strong (due to the energy values of the latent heats of evaporation and condensation combined with accelerated air movement) that warming of the air alone cannot warm the water.

    Thus the only available global response to changes that affect the air alone is to accelerate the extra energy to space by shifting the air circulations latitudinally imperceptibly and thereby maintain the sea surface. surface air temperature equilibrium.

    Thank you for enlivening this aspect of the climate debate so effectively.

  313. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Patricia (00:37:47), thank you for your objection. You say inter alia:

    I browsed this article and found the sentece “The majority of the earth’s absorption of heat from the sun takes place in the tropics.” This is a proofless premise and compared to above limitations seems to be a nonsense. So, without actually reading the article, I believe this thermostat hypthesis has no substance and is probably a nonsense. In case someone made in principle similar objection I appologize to the rest of the community as they have to read this twice.

    You are the first to raise this objection, no apologies necessary.

    I did not offer proof for the statement because it is widely known.

    Absorption of solar energy rapidly decreases as you move away from the equator. This is the result of a variety of mechanisms:

    1. The surface of the earth is more and more tilted to the sun as one moves towards the poles. This means that each square meter intercepts less and less sun as you move polewards. At 60° latitude, the surface only gets half the sun that hits the tropics.

    2. The thickness of the atmosphere the suns rays must traverse increases with latitude. This is why even the full sun seems wimpy when it is near the horizon. Much more is energy is absorbed in the atmosphere.

    3. Surface reflection (albedo) increases with latitude. The increase is slow in the lower latitudes, but increases rapidly at higher latitudes. This is particularly true of the ocean, as you can see if you look at the ocean in the late afternoon.

    4. Clouds have greater albedo at high latitudes. This is because when the sun is overhead, it can shine down through the gaps between the clouds. When seen from an angle, however, the clouds may overlap and reflect the sun entirely. In addition, tall clouds have much more surface area from the side than from the top. This also increases high latitude albedo.

    5. Ice and snow have a high albedo.

    The net result of all of these is that the amount of solar heat absorbed by the surface is much, much greater in the tropics than at the poles. Around two thirds or more of the absorbed sunlight occurs in the band 30N – 30S.

    As evidence of this preponderance of heat in the tropics, consider Fig. 1 and Fig. 2above. Note the intense band of thunderstorms surrounding the equator, called the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). These drive the great Hadley Cells. The system (like all good systems) is solar driven … so the location of the ITCZ indicates where the solar energy driving the system is being absorbed.

    Finally, the atmospheric circulation constantly moves terawatts of energy from the tropics to the poles. Were it not for this movement from hot to cold, consider how hot the tropics would be and how cold the poles would be! That also shows how most of the heat enters the tropics. The poles get most of their heat from the equator, not from the sun.

    This is all well known, which is why I did not cite or support the statement.

    My best to you,

    w.

    PS – I loved your statement that

    So, without actually reading the article, I believe this thermostat hypothesis has no substance and is probably a nonsense.

  314. Willis Eschenbach says:

    E.M.Smith (23:36:13), you ask:

    And what, exactly, is a ‘cloud forcing’? What physical property, documented in a physics text, is a ‘forcing’? In what units is a ‘forcing’ measured?

    In climate science, a “forcing” is some kind of energy that enters or is transferred around the climate system. “Solar forcing” for example refers to the energy entering the climate system from the sun. Forcing is measured in Watts per square metre (W/m2). As such, it is an instantaneous measurement.

    For example, TOA (top of atmosphere) instantaneous solar forcing perpendicular to the sun is about 1360 W/m2. However, this has to be divided by 4 to average it over the surface of the earth. Thus, incoming solar forcing is usually taken to be 340 W/m2.

    “Cloud forcing” comes in two varieties. Clouds reflect about 70 W/m2 of the incoming sun, which is called a negative forcing. They also emit infrared that warms the surface. This is called a positive forcing.

    The question at hand regards the “net cloud forcing”. In total on a global average basis, do clouds reflect more sunlight (in W/m2) than the amount of infrared they emit (again in W/m2)? The models say yes. I and others say no.

    Hope this clears up the confusion,

    w.

  315. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Hmmm … this site doesn’t like quotation marks …

    w.

    [Reply: It appears to be a WordPress glitch. ~dbstealey, mod.]

  316. Richard S Courtney says:

    Willis:

    I write to answer a question you posed (above), but I begin by offering my thanks.

    Firstly, thankyou very much indeed for your superb article.

    Secondly, I am especially grateful because your article is the first cogent answer to a question I have been asking (as I am aware you know) for nearly two decades; viz.

    Why is ~0.4% increase to radiative forcing from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide thought to be potentially catatrophic when radiative forcing from the Sun has increased ~30% with no discernible effect in the ~2.5 billion years since the Earth has had an oxygen-rich atmosphere?

    Importantly, your article fits with a long-standing dispute which you highlight by your question that asks:

    “I’d be very interested in any references you might have to the idea that the earth’s temperature is regulated by cumulus/cumulonimus being put forwards previously.”

    The earliest reference which I know is
    Ramanathan & Collins, Nature, v351, 27-32 (1991).

    This showed a negative feedback prevents tropical ocean surface temperatures rising above 305K (i.e. present maximum ocean surface temperature).

    Ramanathan & Collins argued that an effect occurs in the tropics where sea surface temperature is observed to have a maximum value of 305 K. Any additional warming (from any source) increases evapouration, and that evapouration removes the additional heat.
    (People have all experienced this effect personally: it is why people sweat when too hot).

    But over the oceans the increased evapouration also increases cloud cover over and near the region of maximum temperature. And the clouds shield the surface from the Sun (as every sunbather has noticed). This reduces the heat input to the ocean surface (from the Sun) near the region of maximum temperature.

    So, sea surface temperature has a maximum value of 305 K and additional heat input reduces solar heating near the region of the maximum temperature. This reduction to solar heating in the surrounding region provides a net effect that warming the tropical ocean causes its temperature to fall.
    n.b. this is an unusual effect whereby any additional heat input causes temperature to fall.

    The theory of Ramanathan & Collins obtained much dispute that can be traced in the literature, but – in my opinion – the evidence for it is clear and not refuted.

    Your article can be considered to be an extension of that theory by inclusion of
    (a) the contributions of storms and their initiation
    and
    (b) the consideration of global climate as a heat engine that is governed by tropical cloud formation.

    I point out that solar input to the Earth is predominantly in the tropics. Indeed, the tropics are net absorbers of radiation while polar regions are net emitters of radiation. Hence, if the climate system does operate as a heat engine with a governor then that governor must be most effective in the tropics. And it can be argued that it only needs to be operative in the tropics because – as you say in your article – the cloud effect is so large in the tropics (variation of 60 W/m^2).

    Again, thankyou.

    Richard

  317. erlhapp says:

    Willis,
    I note your comment re an impending paper on the reason why 200hPa temperature varies much more than surface temperature. Any chance of a preview?

    Thanks in anticipation.

  318. Patricia says:

    Willis Eschenbach (03:29:29) : One of your sentences:
    “The net result of all of these is that the amount of solar heat absorbed by the surface is much, much greater in the tropics than at the poles.” tells me that we probably talk on different levels. This sentence and the listed factors have nothing in common. Also, I think, you should take into account the subtropical bands instead of the tropical one.

    Please forget all the factors you have named. They are all secondary. The dynamics of heat transportation on Earth starts at the moment when the heat is being reflected from Earth surface (or from the clouds but I exclude this factor for the moment). It is unimportant whether the surface of the earth is more tilted or less tilted, thickness of the atmosphere is low or high (gas pressure) etc.
    In case of H2O heat absorption (or any other gas like CO2, metan etc.) the Earth surface has to heat up to several degrees of Celsius in order that the gases or the vapour would be able to absorb the heat and then to reflect it. And once again – this is where it starts. At the moment I cannot say nothing about albedo’s influence on the heat transportation.

    So, I insist that any hypothesis which does not take into account the basic laws of physics – like Wilhelm Wien’s displacement law – that such a hypothesis cannot claim of being scientific.

    At the beginning of the considerations you should first take into account places on Earth where the surface temperature reaches 3 Celsius or 32 Celsius. You can exclude any other area on Earth surface which do not reach these temperatures. Do you understand? This is the main factor. Everything else is secondary.

    Please, replace the words “without actually reading” with “without actually studying”. Also, English is not my native language – I am Czech. So, when answering something or writing a comment requires much more time in comparison to a native English speaker.

  319. bill says:

    I will post this reference again as it seems to be very relevant to this discussion. It is an analysis of the ERBE satellite data:
    http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Harrison%20et%20al%20JGR%2095%20D11%2018687-18703%201990.pdf

    Sincwe this is based on actual measurements it presumably includes storm heat pumps.

    Fig 1 especially
    Fig 2 shows solar insolation vs latitude
    Table 4 gives a comparison of GCMs and ERBE

    It is very readable!

  320. Chris V. (18:04:37) :

    […]

    I should also point out that it’s very tough to explain ice ages if there is some strong, still-undiscovered negative feedback mechanism.

    Not if the ice age mechanism reduces the incoming solar heating. If the Milankovitch Cycles really are the drivers of the Plio-Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles, cloud/albedo negative feedbacks aren’t much of a deterrent to cooling…The Earth simply receives less heating from the Sun. As the Earth “wobbles” into glacial episodes, sea level drops by more than 100 meters…This might release sufficient methane hydrates from the sea floor to actually accelerate the warming process as the Earth “wobbles” its way out of glacial episodes.

  321. Stephen Wilde says:

    Just a thought on Richard’s contribution (04:27:41)

    I note that the process of tropical convection appears to limit tropical SSTs to 305K. That begs the question as to whether that top temperature can very over time but no matter for present purposes.

    It seems to me that whether or not Tropical SSTs can get no warmer than 305K it would still be possible for average global SSTs to vary considerably albeit below that temperature. Indeed the Tropical SSTs would often be below that temperature but still transporting energy elsewhere at varying rates.

    A great deal would depend on how efficiently (or not) the solar warming of the Tropical waters is transported from the Tropics either from the surface or via deeper levels.

    The average global equilibrium temperature might be very different from the equatorial SSTs for a large number of reasons. In fact I seem to recall a figure around 10C for the average global air temperature. That figure could vary considerably without the maximum Tropical SST ever having to be exceeded.

    It’s all a matter of interply between the very different circulations in the air and those in the oceans.

    That is why I think one should nevertheless regard the internal oceanic circulations and the level of solar input combined as the ultimate driving forces with Tropical weather systems being just the first stage of the response of the air to changes in oceanic energy emissions.

    Enhanced Tropical weather activity translates into an expansion of the equatorial air masses which has a knock on effect to all the other air circulation systems and thus the rate of energy transfer from surface to space. That is entirely consistent with my more general description.

    Likewise if energy release from the Tropical oceans is reduced then the equatorial air masses contract.

    Willis is obviously correct but I think a few more logical steps need to be taken to get a coherent overall climate scenario rather than a Tropocentric one.

  322. bill says:

    Another good one I referenced above is:
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf
    Fig 5/7 gives high trop cloud amount vs SST (very little cloud if SST is less than 299K

    Unfortunately it concludes that the cloud forcing is near zero for the tropics

  323. tallbloke says:

    oms (00:17:30) :

    But if you are talking about sea level rise which is severe enough to inundate a sizeable part of Central America, then yes I’m sure you’d find a much different pattern of ocean circulations as well. :)

    The summit section of the Panama Canal is 26 metres above sea level.

    There is a 9500 year old submerged city in the gulf of Bombay which is 36 metres below sea level.

  324. Nasif Nahle says:

    Willis Eschenbach (03:41:47) :

    E.M.Smith (23:36:13), you ask:

    And what, exactly, is a ‘cloud forcing’? What physical property, documented in a physics text, is a ‘forcing’? In what units is a ‘forcing’ measured?

    In climate science, a “forcing” is some kind of energy that enters or is transferred around the climate system. “Solar forcing” for example refers to the energy entering the climate system from the sun. Forcing is measured in Watts per square metre (W/m2). As such, it is an instantaneous measurement.

    I was surprised also when for the first time I heard the word “forcing” in Climate Science in the Faculty. Then the teacher explained us why climatologists used the word “forcing” comparing it to “external operator”. The problem is that in physics we understand that a “forcing” factor is nothing less than a man-made mechanism which forces the heat to go anywhere, for example a fan, a coolant liquid in an engine, etc.

    Given that the Sun, the clouds, the oceans, the water vapor, etc. are all natural, from the physics standpoint the heat transfer from one system to another performed by any natural operator is not considered a “forcing” process, but a “natural” process.

    That’s the origin of the confusion. “Forcing” in climate science is for “external operator” acting onto the system. “Forcing” in physics, biophysics, etc. is for any artificial process, not natural.

  325. TomVonk says:

    Willis wrote :

    “As you you say that “this idea is not really new”, I’d be very interested in any references you might have to the idea that the earth’s temperature is regulated by cumulus/cumulonimus being put forwards previously.”

    To be more precise .
    There are 2 ideas in your “thermostat” proposal .
    .
    First is to consider the Earth’s system as a dynamical heat machine .
    This one is not new as Bejan already worked on it . R.Courtney also provides a reference . There are more .
    Bejan with a relatively simple model convincingly showed how the general circulation system will organise itself in order to transfer heat from equator to poles . He was even able to predict the size of the Hadley cell with a surprising accuracy for such a simple model .
    This part shows that ANY planetary system equipped with a transfer medium (atmosphere&liquid) will spontanously organise itself to transfer heat from hot to cold with the highest efficiency possible .
    A corollary of that “maximum efficiency” principle is that the system will have to regulate the “hot end” which can potentially move much because the “cold end” moves little .
    .
    Second is new and original . At least to my knowledge nothing has been published along this road .
    It is the idea of OVERSHOOTING .
    If one admits the idea supported by observation of 4 billions years that the system operates at constant (or very slightly varying) temperature , the overshooting hypothesis becomes almost necessary .
    Indeed anybody faimliar with non linear dynamics (and there are several of this kind here) knows that if you have a lagged system and want to regulate it , you MUST overshoot (or undershoot) .
    The trick being to get the right timing when to stop overshooting (or undershooting) because else the system won’t stabilize .
    If you have a lagged system , reacting proportionally (via feedbacks) on deviations will NEVER stabilise the system , it will make it either oscillate wildly or to blow up .
    Now as our Earth system is a lagged system AND it is stable , the natural consequence is that the regulating mechanism must necessarily be overshooting (and undershooting) .
    I found it really impressive to see formulated for the first time a real mechanism which seems to do exactly that – overshooting and undershooting .
    I freely admit that while I have always been conviced that such a mecahnism must exist and that it will manifest itself on the “hot end” (aka equator) I have never thought about your cumulus/cumulonimbus interactions .
    Now to be honest , I also noticed that while you have stated that this mechanism overshoots and undershoots , you have not given the proof that it really does so over longer time periods (more than a season) .
    .
    2 particular remarks .
    - This overshooting/undershooting mechanism would also explain the appearance 2 or more different stable states (f.ex Ice Earth , Desert Earth etc) in the case if the climate was chaotic . Indeed the chaotic bifurcations (analogous to the phase change of a fluid) can happen even with an infinitesimal variation of the control parameter provided that the system finds itself in the right region of the attractor .
    - The 19th century physics based on equilibriums and time independent states which is what 90% of the official authorised climate science is doing can neither confirm nor falsify your idea because they simply live in another (non dynamical) world .
    More particularly no numerical model based on equilibriums will be able to reproduce your result .
    This is of course no problem because computer programs are not reality so one doesn’t need to consider them .
    But I bet that there is/will be a large amount of people who would say “Willis is wrong because the computer models don’t say what he’s saying” :)

  326. tallbloke says:

    Correction: Bay of Cambay

  327. peter bartner says:

    was unable to copy the thermostat hypothesis. why?

  328. Gary Pearse says:

    Ron de Han, Indiana Bones:
    Re: abundance of resources (specifically Lithium for electric cars). I know this is OT but the subject is so broadly misunderstood that it should be pointed out. Reserves of a material are the measured economically mineable tonnages, not how much there is out there. When there has been only slight demand for a metal, no one is “developing reserves”. Indeed, there are almost innumerable lithium-bearing pegmatite deposits (as well as brines and billions of tons of clays with adsorbed lithium ions. Average abundance in the earth’s crust is 20ppm. Compare that with the battery materials lead- 14ppm and cadmium 110 pp billion. As we speak, lithium reserves are busy doubling and redoubling.

  329. Chris V. says:

    Dave Middleton (05:57:34) :

    If the Milankovitch Cycles really are the drivers of the Plio-Pleistocene glacial-interglacial cycles, cloud/albedo negative feedbacks aren’t much of a deterrent to cooling…The Earth simply receives less heating from the Sun. As the Earth “wobbles” into glacial episodes, sea level drops by more than 100 meters…This might release sufficient methane hydrates from the sea floor to actually accelerate the warming process as the Earth “wobbles” its way out of glacial episodes.

    The direct forcing from Milankovitch cycles is tiny- a fraction of a W/M2.

    But M cycles result in cooler summers in the northern hemisphere, which allows winter snow and ice to last longer into the spring/summer, which increases the earths albedo (a positive feedback), which lowers temperatures, and allows more snow and ice to accumulate…

    Nobody has come up with way to get ice ages without strong positive feedbacks. Climate sensitivities calculated by comparing modern conditions to the last glacial maximum (LGM) are the same as determined by climate models (about 3C +/-).

    In the calculations using the LGM, clouds did whatever they do (positive or negative feedback). The fact that the LGM calculations yield sensitivities of around 3C shows that if clouds are a negative feedback, that feedback is not strong enough to overcome the other positive feedbacks in the system.

  330. Chris V. (08:27:16) :

    [...]

    The direct forcing from Milankovitch cycles is tiny- a fraction of a W/M2.

    But M cycles result in cooler summers in the northern hemisphere, which allows winter snow and ice to last longer into the spring/summer, which increases the earths albedo (a positive feedback), which lowers temperatures, and allows more snow and ice to accumulate…

    I’m not sure about Milankovitch yielding only a fraction of a w/m-2…But that’s the basic process – At least as far as it’s understood.

    Nobody has come up with way to get ice ages without strong positive feedbacks. Climate sensitivities calculated by comparing modern conditions to the last glacial maximum (LGM) are the same as determined by climate models (about 3C +/-).

    By “ice ages”, I’m assuming you mean Plio-Pleistocene glacial episodes (as opposed to the large-scale icehouse periods that occur about every 130 million years.)

    The feedback mechanism is probably the ice accumulation in the Northern Hemisphere and its effects on sea level and oceanic circulation.

    In the calculations using the LGM, clouds did whatever they do (positive or negative feedback). The fact that the LGM calculations yield sensitivities of around 3C shows that if clouds are a negative feedback, that feedback is not strong enough to overcome the other positive feedbacks in the system.

    That’s correct. Clouds aren’t a strong enough mechanism to prevent warming events on the scale of the Holocene or the Medieval Warm Period. However, they certainly can play a role in moderating those type of events. And clouds could play a major role in smaller-scale cycles like the PDO and ENSO.

  331. Nasif Nahle says:

    bill (03:25:37) :

    Nasif Nahle (22:06:36) :
    The info on Fig. 13 says it clearly:
    Figure 13. This figure illustrates that as the sea level record becomes
    longer, the relative sea level trend estimates become more stable and reliable. The reason for this is that the trends from short sea level records are affected by the natural sea level variability occurring on inter-annual, El Niño and decadal timescales due to atmospheric, oceanographic and geological processes. (Bolds are mine

    What are you saying!!??
    Fig 13 shows a time average of rate of sea level rise The average becomes more stable as more readings are taken (the max and min excursions become less significant). The plot shows that the rise is positive. From the table this is 5.5mm/year.

    Hahaha… It’s not me who said it, but the authors of the paper. I only copied and pasted the quote… :)

  332. hotrod says:

    Willis Eschenbach (02:58:22) :

    Hotrod, you say:

    Not sure what you mean by this. Some water is evaporated. In a thunderstorm it condenses. The energy in and out in this system is the same. This is because (neglecting a small difference due to temperature) the latent heat released by condensation is the same as the latent heat required for evaporation.

    What am I missing?

    w.

    Yes you are correct viewing that closed loop system. Energy in must equal energy out. To use your heat pipe analogy, x amount of energy is put into the heat pipe to evaporate water to vapor (warming the ground and sea surface). That vapor moves to the cold end of the heat pipe and condenses releasing exactly the same amount of energy.

    The point I was making is the cold end of the thunderstorm heat pipe is a heat sink that must dissipate that heat of condensation to some place. That heat released as latent heat of condensation must either go into the upper atmosphere warming the air near the tropopause, or it must be radiated to space. In either case the quantity of water condensed to liquid is probably a valid proxy for the amount of heat lost to one or the other of those heat sinks.

    If satellite measurements do not show significant warming of the air near the cloud tops, then they must be losing that energy to space by radiation (unless I am missing another heat sink). Most likely they are losing the energy to space via both mechanisms one being prompt radiation directly to space as the warm updraft cools by radiation, and physical mixing with cold high altitude air, and delayed radiation to space as this slightly warmed high altitude air re-radiates heat energy to space from the top of the anvil cloud structure.

    This then forms the basis for a testable case:
    That would allow you to determine how much energy a large thunderstorm dumps to the upper atmosphere by advection and mixing, (which in short order gets radiated to space), and how much gets immediately radiated directly to space in the IR spectrum.

    The cooling effect of a thunder storm as I am visualizing it, consists of several components.

    1. direct reflection of incoming solar energy from the cloud tops (reducing heat input to the earth system)
    2. Heat mechanically carried to high altitude by the updraft in the latent heat of the moisture and released to space via either direct prompt radiation or delayed radiation from the slightly warmer cloud tops. (active cooling of the earth system as warm lower altitude air, is lifted, and physically transported to high altitude. This air which has already absorbed solar energy would be a form of active refrigeration as heat is mechanically moved to high altitude for rapid re-radiation of that heat to space).

    My comments were intended to point out a possible test.

    If thunder storm cloud tops are only reflecting incident solar energy (simple albedo effects) they cannot be radiating more energy to space than the current solar flux striking them.

    If they are actively pumping heat to high altitude, they will be radiating more energy to space than the incident solar energy and their reflectivity would imply. This extra energy is a measure of the active cooling they provide above and beyond their simple change in albedo.

    If true, once demonstrated and quantified, the storm total rain fall from the storm should be able to be used to estimate how much energy that storm actively moved to high altitude for radiation to space, as all the heat lost as the humidity condensed must be lost to a heat sink at high altitude. This would provide a relatively simple means to quantify the active heat pumping of a large storm by measuring its total precipitation.

    Hope that makes sense?

    Larry

  333. KLA says:

    Just a thought:

    If clouds cause a negative feedback because of albedo changes, that feedback range should be large on a warm planet. Basically the upper limit is reached when the whole sun-exposed hemisphere is covered in clouds. The feedback “gain” is the albedo change between cloud covered and clear surface.
    On the cold side the cloud feedback should be limited. Clouds over an ice or snow covered surface would not change albedo appreciably and in that case hardly have an albedo feedback towards warmer condition.

    Just looking at it simplistically, the clouds could therefore prevent runaway warming, but can not prevent runaway cooling once a lower temperature threshhold is crossed.
    Am I on the right track, or am I falling in Heinleins trap:
    “Logic is an organized way to go wrong with confidence” ?

  334. George E. Smith says:

    “”” Willis Eschenbach (03:41:47) :

    E.M.Smith (23:36:13), you ask:

    And what, exactly, is a ‘cloud forcing’? What physical property, documented in a physics text, is a ‘forcing’? In what units is a ‘forcing’ measured?

    In climate science, a “forcing” is some kind of energy that enters or is transferred around the climate system. “Solar forcing” for example refers to the energy entering the climate system from the sun. Forcing is measured in Watts per square metre (W/m2). As such, it is an instantaneous measurement.

    For example, TOA (top of atmosphere) instantaneous solar forcing perpendicular to the sun is about 1360 W/m2. However, this has to be divided by 4 to average it over the surface of the earth. Thus, incoming solar forcing is usually taken to be 340 W/m2.

    “Cloud forcing” comes in two varieties. Clouds reflect about 70 W/m2 of the incoming sun, which is called a negative forcing. They also emit infrared that warms the surface. This is called a positive forcing.

    The question at hand regards the “net cloud forcing”. In total on a global average basis, do clouds reflect more sunlight (in W/m2) than the amount of infrared they emit (again in W/m2)? The models say yes. I and others say no. “””

    Willis, E.M’s question is an issue that also rankles me; I detest the term “forcing”, and the notions behind it. The solar “forcing” of 1366 W/m^2 is simply the energy input to the earth’s environment, and it isn’t forcing anything; and it is 1366 W/m^2 and not 340; it does not fall on all of the earth’s surface at the same rate at the same time. You yourself ddescribe a forcing as instantaneous.
    Well I submit that an instantaneous input of 1366 W/m^2 has a totally different effect on the earth from a 24 hour time average, 4pi.r^2 surface average 340 w/m^2.
    After atmospheric losses, the surface insolation is about 1kW/m^2, normal to the sun, and not the 168 +30 W/m^2 that the official NOAA earth energy budget diagram asserts. Those NOAA figures imply a 15% reflection coefficient at the earth’s surface, yet 71% of that surface is ocean, and an even greater fraction of that surface in the tropical zones is ocean, and the reflection coefficient of the oceans for solar radiation is more like 3%, not 15%.
    My point is that the whole physics of the interraction between intermittent solar energy incident on earth, is totally different from that which would be elicited by a fictional 168 +30 reflected system that is described by the NOAA budget chart; which I am told originated with Trenberth et al.

    The real world numbers drive surface temperatures much higher resulting in much higher infrared radiation fluxes, which have totally different IR spectra via Wien displacement.

    Well I’m not going to go on and on, I am sure you already know all this anyway.

    As to the effect of cloud “forcings”, you talk about the 70W/m^2 cloud reflectance; NOAA’s chart suggests 77, but here once again this is a fictitious number extracted from the 342 W.m^2 allegedly incoming from the sun. So maybe your 70 number should be 280-308 W/m^2; those clouds can only reflect sunlight during the daylight hours.
    You then assert that the IR emission from clouds is greater than the reflected solar energy. How do those clouds come by that large amount of energy; what is the energy generation mechanism inside those clouds.

    Well I can think of several; three to be precise. First there is the one time deposition of around 545 calories per gram of Latent heat of condensation, plus possibly another 80 calories per gram of latent heat of freezing, if ice crystals are formed; but that is a one time event to form the cloud in the first place, and ALL of that energy came from the surface of the earth; mostly from the oceans, so it is a vast transfer of energy towards outer space.
    Then there is the direct absorption of incoming solar radiation in the spectral range beyond about 750 nm . That solar sourced energy is a loss from the ground level insolation, and it is a very important loss. If that energy which might be as much as 270 W/m^2 out of the sunlight had reached the surface; mainly the oceans, it would have propagated many tens of metres into the oceans, before slowly returning to the surface due to the vertical convection gradient set up by the warming of the ocean water. Instead that energy is absorbed by the cloud, warming the cloud and atmosphere, resulting in a nearly isotropic emission of infrared radiation, and since the cloud region is a lot colder than the ground,a nd colder than the mean earth temperature, then the spectral peak wavelength of that IR is longer than surface emitted IR. On average, only half of that emitted IR from the clouds is going to proceed downward toward the surface, and that half is going to run the gauntlet of an increasing density and temperature atmosphere, and GHG, whose IR absorption bands become increasingly broad at lower altitudes due to collision (pressure) and Doppler (temperature) broadening, all of which inhibits the passage of that ir downwards; while the exact opposite effects enhance the escape of the upward components.

    The third source of cloud energy to fuel that IR emission is the upward IR emission from the surface that was heated by the sun.

    As to the effect of the downward IR, which you say warms the surface; what fraction of it survives the multiple absorption cascades is mostly going to be absorbed in the top ten microns of the ocean surface and is going to lead to prompt evaporation, which returns that energy back to the upper atmosphere in the form of latent heat of evaportation, and more water vapor to form more clouds (see Wentz et al, SCIENCE for July 7 2007; “How Much More Rain Will Global Warming Bring ?”

    I enjoyed your paper immensely Willis; and largely it goes to solidify my conviction that cloud feedback is NEVER positive; clouds ALWAYS cool the surface of this planet (speaking climatically of course; not last night’s weather).

    George

    It is postulated that

  335. anna v says:

    Stephen Wilde (03:28:17) :

    Where we seem to disagree is that you do not see ocean emissivity as varying much so, inevitably, logic pushes you to favour the tropical convection scenario. Nor do you yet accept those oceanic variations and the solar variations as the underlying driver of all those changes in the air which you describe.

    I still think that the base temperature is set by sun and sea and not by the physics of air and clouds. I think that the physics of air and clouds (more broadly the air circulation systems) modulates the oceanic variations in emissivity just as the physics of the ocean circulations modulates solar variations in energy supply to the oceans.

    I have been trying to connect this with my day to day experience. When a high pressure sits on Siberia, we get cold winds in Greece and the temperature falls several degrees. When a low sits over Italy we get winds from the Sahara and can fast get into the 45C in summer. etc. etc. Day do day experience tells me “it is the winds stupid”, mostly changing from west to east .

    But I do see the el Nino and la Nina argument, due to the computer age practically day to day, and realize the great heat capacity of the oceans.
    In this thermostat picture of Willis the PDO ENSO etc are not there.

    The solutions must lie in treating the full complexity dynamically, as Tom Vonk has been saying. One needs to pay more than lip service to the fact that climate is complex and chaotic. Tsonis et all did make an effort to model the chaotic nature of the ocean currents , as was discussed here a while ago. This thermostat function seems to be important and should be incorporated in a bigger framework.

  336. Kalirren says:

    I am a bit confused by all of the comments that suggest that the heat-engine model of atmospheric/oceanic water here expounded is inconsistent with CO2-mediated AGW. The reason why the political emphasis is being placed on CO2 is that we are able to -control- CO2 emissions, whereas we would be hopeless to influence the water cycle directly by drawing down water vapor.

    The scientific community has long acknowledged that water is the most important greenhouse gas, and a good understanding of clouds has been big missing piece of the puzzle for some time. This theory of clouds makes everything fall much more neatly into place. In particular, it provides a rather succinct mechanism for the magnification of the heating effect of CO2, which as several commenters before have pointed out, would not alone suffice through its own spectral absorption to cause the amount of warming we have seen. Extra heat trapped by CO2 gets shunted to the poles by the global heat engine. As the poles warm, the global heat engine’s efficiency decreases, causing it to dissipate less heat and us to experience warming at all latitudes.

    For a while the cloud umbrella will be able to stave it off as described here. This is entirely consistent with the greater frequency and severity of tropical storms that we have endured in recent years. We will have lost the Arctic ice cap by 2015. If we’re barking up the right tree with this model, then (optimistically speaking) all of that albedo will be made up for in the form of additional tropical storms cooling the earth for the same amount of heat that would have been reflected into space by the ice cap.

    (Whether or not that’s a “good thing” is another debate. I doubt, for instance, that the economic benefits of having a navigable Arctic ocean would outweigh the damage caused by the storms, the damage to the agricultural industry caused by warming-associated droughts, etc.)

    An extremely valuable contribution to our understanding of our changing climate.

  337. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Stephen Wilde (03:28:17), you say:

    Where we seem to disagree is that you do not see ocean emissivity as varying much so, inevitably, logic pushes you to favour the tropical convection scenario. Nor do you yet accept those oceanic variations and the solar variations as the underlying driver of all those changes in the air which you describe.

    I still think that the base temperature is set by sun and sea and not by the physics of air and clouds. I think that the physics of air and clouds (more broadly the air circulation systems) modulates the oceanic variations in emissivity just as the physics of the ocean circulations modulates solar variations in energy supply to the oceans.

    The emissivity of water is about 0.96. You seem to think that it varies considerably. I don’t understand this. Perhaps you could explain a) what causes the emissivity to vary, and b) what is the size of that variation?

    I think that the clouds cap the temperature of the earth in part because I live in the deep tropics (9°S) and I see the process happening every day. The temperature is not governed by “sun and sea”. The temperature falls when the clouds come over, and when the rain comes. It does not fall before that, it is rising. Seems fairly obvious …

    Thanks,

    w.

  338. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Kalirren (12:48:32), you say:

    I am a bit confused by all of the comments that suggest that the heat-engine model of atmospheric/oceanic water here expounded is inconsistent with CO2-mediated AGW. The reason why the political emphasis is being placed on CO2 is that we are able to -control- CO2 emissions, whereas we would be hopeless to influence the water cycle directly by drawing down water vapor.

    We’re able to “-control-” CO2? Funny, the Kyoto Protocol tried that and failed miserably.

    In any case, my Thermostat Hypothesis is not inconsistent with the effects of CO2. It is simply much stronger than the effects of CO2. Perhaps you believe that a change in CO2 levels from 0.03% (three hundredths of a percent) to 0.04% will radically change the earth’s temperature. But the models are only able to predict this by including a non-physical positive feedback. This feedback is said to be larger than the actual change in forcing due to the CO2 itself. I doubt that greatly.

    … For a while the cloud umbrella will be able to stave it off as described here. This is entirely consistent with the greater frequency and severity of tropical storms that we have endured in recent years. We will have lost the Arctic ice cap by 2015. …

    I’m not sure you understand the size of the forces involved. A 2% change in albedo (undetectably small) gives the same effect as CO2 going from its current 380 ppmv to 1520 ppmv. Clearly the cloud umbrella is much more powerful than CO2.

    Next, I’d need a citation for the “greater frequency and severity of tropical storms”. While storm frequency and size have increased slightly in the Atlantic, this is not matched in any other ocean.

    And if you’d like to make a large-money bet on whether we will have “lost the Arctic ice cap by 2015″, well, I’m your man.

    Additionally, for the reasons given in my post to Patricia (03:29:29), snow and ice have only a small effect on the albedo. This is because during the wintertime there is fewer hours of sun, and it is at a low angle to the horizon. What sun there is travels through lots of atmosphere. In addition, it is at an ideal angle for reflection rather than absorption. So atmospheric absorption and both cloud and surface reflectance is high, and surface absorption is low towards the poles, whether or not there is snow on the ground. This greatly reduces the effect of the change in ground albedo due to snow and ice.

    Finally, you mention “the damage to the agricultural industry caused by warming-associated droughts”. In general, a warmer world is a wetter world, because of increased evaporation. Let me repeat that in case someone missed it. A warmer world is, ceteris paribus, a wetter world. Droughts historically have been more severe during colder times. If you truly want to spend your time worrying about the effects of a possible temperature increase … that’s not one of them.

    Regards,

    w.

  339. Willis Eschenbach says:

    anna v (12:16:38), thanks for your contribution. You say:

    But I do see the el Nino and la Nina argument, due to the computer age practically day to day, and realize the great heat capacity of the oceans.
    In this thermostat picture of Willis the PDO ENSO etc are not there.

    The solutions must lie in treating the full complexity dynamically, as Tom Vonk has been saying. One needs to pay more than lip service to the fact that climate is complex and chaotic. Tsonis et all did make an effort to model the chaotic nature of the ocean currents , as was discussed here a while ago. This thermostat function seems to be important and should be incorporated in a bigger framework. …

    The earth is chaotic, as you point out, and it does not run smoothly. The earth releases its energy in the same way, in chunks and gouts. Thunderstorms are an example of this. Another is the inter-seasonal swings in tropical temperature described by Spencer et al, whose reference I don’t have to hand. During these times, the numbers of thunderstorms rise and fall.

    On a larger scale, we have things like the El Niño, the Atlantic and the Pacific Oscillations, the Madden-Julian Oscillations, and the like.

    I see all of these as examples of how the earth self-organizes to lose heat. Radiation goes up as the fourth power of temperature. This means that if an object spends two days at 30° and two days at 34°, it will lose more energy than if it spends the same four days at the average temperature.

    My sense is that all of these are ways that the earth varies the temperature above and below the average, in order to increase the average heat loss … but that is another Hypothesis outside the scope of this one.

    Much appreciated,

    w.

  340. Willis Eschenbach says:

    KLA (11:41:59), thanks for your thoughts, viz:

    If clouds cause a negative feedback because of albedo changes, that feedback range should be large on a warm planet. Basically the upper limit is reached when the whole sun-exposed hemisphere is covered in clouds. The feedback “gain” is the albedo change between cloud covered and clear surface.

    On the cold side the cloud feedback should be limited. Clouds over an ice or snow covered surface would not change albedo appreciably and in that case hardly have an albedo feedback towards warmer condition.

    Just looking at it simplistically, the clouds could therefore prevent runaway warming, but can not prevent runaway cooling once a lower temperature threshhold is crossed.

    Am I on the right track, or am I falling in Heinleins trap:
    “Logic is an organized way to go wrong with confidence” ?

    While your logic is correct, the effect of snow and ice on the albedo is smaller than you would think at first blush. Ice and snow hang out where the sun is weak or absent (think long winter nights and no sun at the poles). As a result, they do not have as large an effect as one might imagine.

    Next, the daily shift in the cloud albedo is about 60 W/m2 (see Fig. 2). If you believe the IPCC climate sensitivity (I don’t, but let’s use it), if this shift were permanent that would equate to about 50°C. Even with a more reasonable climate sensitivity that doesn’t contain the bogus positive feedbacks used by the IPCC, it is still 10°-20°C.

    So as you can see, the power of the albedo is very large. My sense is that it is actually larger on the cold side. This is because at the equator, the sun is strongest, so a cloud-free day can let in a huge amount of energy in a short time.

    w.

  341. George E. Smith says:

    “”” Finally, you mention “the damage to the agricultural industry caused by warming-associated droughts”. In general, a warmer world is a wetter world, because of increased evaporation. Let me repeat that in case someone missed it. A warmer world is, ceteris paribus, a wetter world. Droughts historically have been more severe during colder times. If you truly want to spend your time worrying about the effects of a possible temperature increase … that’s not one of them.

    Regards,

    w. “””

    Willis, to me, one of the biggest fallacies perpetrated by the warming alarmist crowd is the silly notion that warmer means dryer; eg drought.

    I find the crucial bit of experimental actual real world measured evidence in this regard is the paper by Wentz et al (he’s at RSS) “How Much More Rain Will Global Warming Bring ?” SCIENCE July 7 2007.

    The essentials of this paper are from satellite measured data. A 1 deg C increase in mean global suface temperature (global warming) CAUSES a 7% increase in total global evaporation; a 7% increase in total atmospheric water, and a 7% increase in total global precipitation. It isn’t rocket science that total evap = total precip overall, otherwise we would end up with the oceans over our heads.
    In contrast Wentz reported that the GCMs (of unknown species) AGREE with the 7% increase in total atmospheric moisture, BUT they claim only a 1-3% increase in total global precipitation (and ergo evaporation. That is a 2.33 to 7:1 discrepancy between what a fictional computer model predicts and what a real world experiment measures.

    Yes I can see it now, a 1% increase in evaporation causes a 7% increase in total atmospheric water, nad of course precipitation can’t exceed evaoration for any length of time; what an absurd claim that is.

    Now wentz et al didn’t say so; but I did; that a 7% increase in total global precipitation sort of implies (or at least I infer) something like a 7% increase in total global precipitable cloud cover; that comprising either an increase in total cloud area, or an increase in total cloud density and moisture content, or an increase in total cloud persistence time, or some combination of all three of those. In any case, I would infer that there might be a very significant reduxction in ground level insolation as a result of that increase in precipitable cloud cover. And yes I would expect most of that extra cloud to appear in the tropics where most of the ocean water is, and where most of the incoming solar energy arrives; so the negative cooling feedback from that cloud modulation is not insignificant; but it certainly renders the impact of CO2 doubling as quite negligible; the water can do it all without any CO2 assistance.

    And water in all three phases is a permanent part of the atmosphere, and has been for the duration of life on earth. So nutz to those who claim that CO2 is a long lived component of the atmosphere, but water vapor isn’t.

    This whole surface warming/evaporation/cloud formation/solar flux blockage/precipitation cycle is so 8th grade high school science; and it boggles my mind that there are serious scientists who don’t see that and adhere to the ridiculous CO2 and “climate sensitivity” “forcing” that Arrhenius bequeathed to us.

    It is time to tell climatologists that the forcing (W/m^2) due to a CO2 doubling varies by at least a factor of 12:1 depending on where you are on earth, and the local terrain and temperature; so to imply that it is some universal constant that can be applied all over the globe is laughable; and puts “climatology” in the same class as “economics” and “ancient astrology”.

    And while they are trying to measure and compute some global mean value for “climate sensitivity” please make sure they conform to the rules of sampled data systems, specifically the Nyquist sampling theorem.

    Whatever the “climate sensitivity” value for the San Francsisco Bay area may be, it is certainly not possible to use that value 1200 km away in the middle of the Sea of Cortez; like they do for “temperature anomalies”.

    Anyhow, it is well past time to put CO2 and clouds both in their proper places in global climate; which is nowhere for the CO2, and stage front and center for clouds.

    George

  342. George E. Smith says:

    “”” Willis Eschenbach (13:19:44) :

    Stephen Wilde (03:28:17), you say: “”

    Willis, it is amazing how easily misunderstood this simple fact is.

    Water has a refractive index of 1.333 over the solar spectrum range, so the Fresnel reflection coefficient is about 2% ((n-1)/(n+1))^2 for normal incidence.
    also the Brewster angle for water (arctan(n)) is 53 degrees, so the reflection coefficient is almost constant out to that angle of obliquity, and then climbs quickly to 1005 at grazing incidence. The net effect is about 3% of incident solar flux is propagated into the surface of the oceans, and the bulk of that is ultimately absorbed. Consequently the world’s oceans are quite close to black body absorbers for solar radiation, and even moreso for long wave infra red radiation where water is nearly totally opaque.

    So as you state the total emissivity of the oceans over the range of wavelengths of interest to weather and climate has to be in the 96-97% range.

    Were it not for atmospheric scattering, this planet would be the black planet, rather than the blue planet.
    You mention that the oceans have a max temperature limit of 305K; about 32 C or around 89 F. they also have a minimum of about -3 deg C, so the total temperature range of the earth’s oceans is around 35 deg C from extreme to extreme. Contast this with a total global surface range from about +60 deg C (or higher) and -90C, giving a total global range of 150 deg C (all of which could be present on the same day, in northern midsummers, and Antarctic winter midnights.

    So the oceans are hardly the global temperature drivers; althought they do play an immense role via the evaporation cloud formation cycle.

    Certainly oceanic circulations affect local climates and weathers, but they are not the drivers of temperature extremes.

  343. Stephen Wilde says:

    Willis (13:19:44)

    During an El Nino the SSTs in the Pacific become warmer and impart more energy to the air.

    During a La Nina the SSTs in the Pacific cool and withhold energy from the air.

    Those are the most obvious examples of changing ocean energy emissivity.

    There are similar phenomena in other oceans.

    The amount of variation in emissivity varies from cycle to cycle.

    It seems that during the entire positive phase of 30 years or more the enhanced energy emissivity of the Pacific gradually warms up the temperature of the air and at the same time the air circulation systems migrate poleward.

    The opposite happens during a 30 year negative phase.

    The scale of the changing energy input to the air dwarfs anything that Tropical convection can achieve hence the need for the air systems to move latitudinally IN ADDITION TO any enhancement of just the Tropical convection process.

    If the Tropical convection process were able to deal with such changes in energy transfer values from the oceans over 30/60 year timescales then we simply would not observe those latitudinal shifts in ALL the air circulation systems.

    As you seem to agree cloudiness follows warming rather than causing it.

    Warmer seas do enhance Tropical convection but cooler seas suppress it.

    The driver is the ocean not the air and cloudiness is a response and not a driver.

    I do agree that this is where I appear to differ from you, Erl Happ, Bob Tisdale, Svensmark and others who rely on the cloudiness changes as a driver to explain their opinions about how it all works.

    We shall just have to see where the data leads us over time.

    Best Wishes.

    Stephen.

  344. oms says:

    Stephen Wilde (15:42:17) :

    Warmer seas do enhance Tropical convection but cooler seas suppress it.
    The driver is the ocean not the air and cloudiness is a response and not a driver

    I find it hard to clearly separate the driver from the response when both are so intertwined. The behavior of the ocean is pretty clearly related to wind driving (closely linked to convection in the tropics) and differential heating (affected by clouds, for example).

    On the other hand, I also find it hard to agree with strong assertions in the other direction, such as
    George E. Smith (15:26:51) :

    So the oceans are hardly the global temperature drivers; althought they do play an immense role via the evaporation cloud formation cycle.
    Certainly oceanic circulations affect local climates and weathers, but they are not the drivers of temperature extremes.

    If the ocean heat transport goes one place and not another, are the currents then the anti-drivers of extreme temperature differentials?

  345. Stephen Wilde says:

    George E Smith (15:26:51)

    You say:

    “So the oceans are hardly the global temperature drivers; althought they do play an immense role via the evaporation cloud formation cycle.

    Certainly oceanic circulations affect local climates and weathers, but they are not the drivers of temperature extremes.”

    The oceans do and must control the flow of solar energy passing into the air because such a huge amount is stored in the oceans.

    Oceanic cycles over 30/60 years or more vary that supply of energy to the air.

    Those cycles are not what are ordinarily referred to as currents or circulations. By virtue of the observed fact that Pacific SSTs vary on multidecadal timescales it must be the case that there are other inadequately understood events within the oceans that give rise to such changes.

    Those ocean changes do not need to drive temperature extremes. All they do is alter the rate of solar energy transfer from oceans to air.

    All else follows from those changes.

    The combination of sun and oceans sets the global equilibrium temperature and the air has to adjust to deal with variations in the energy flow from sun to ocean to air to space.

    The air does not and never did set the global equilibrium temperature and changes in the air alone cannot change it.

    I am aware of the uniqueness of this proposition and that it tramples on ideas not only of warming alarmists but also of those sceptics who, like the alarmists, think that the drivers are all in the air (whether from cloudiness or whatever).

    The key observation is the recognised latitudinal shift in the air circulation systems in response to changes in ocean SSTs. That observation is inconsistent both with alarmist theory and any sceptic theory that relies on the air as a driver.

    To make that simple observation consistent with such sceptical theories the changes in SSTs would have to FOLLOW the latitudinal shift in the air circulation systems and it would have to be accepted that warmer air warms the oceans DESPITE the efficiency of the evaporative and convective processes.

    It would also be necessary to postulate HOW the changes in the air alone might cause those global latitudinal shifts without oceanic involvement.

    If you can deal with those inconsistencies I will reconsider.

  346. KLA says:

    Willis (14:16:38):

    Thank you for your answer.
    Just to clarify:
    My thoughts were more directed towards why, with cloud feedback, it is still possible to have a “snowball earth”, but not an AGW hell. Increasing snow/ice cover to lower latitudes would constitute an accelerating positive feedback mechanism towards cold, even when cloud cover decreases (likely) or stays the same (unlikely). However, an increase of thermal energy input into the heat engine would cause (I think) a total increase in cloud cover, and therefore would cause a strong negative feedback to dampen increased temperatures, overwhelming positive “forcings”.
    While cloud feedback works mainly on diurnal cycles, the ice/snow feedback would work much slower though.

    BTW, I have not seen mentioned anywhere in the climate discussion the Anasazi people, which lived in the American southwest around the time of the medieval warm period. I understand the archaelogical “consensus” is that they dissapeared from there because of increasing drought. And they disappeared just about at the end of that medieval warm period.
    Coincidence?

  347. Stephen Wilde says:

    Further to my post (16:06:58) and playing ‘Devils Advocate’.

    1) Under Svensmark:

    Suppose the ocean energy emissivity is stable.

    Increase cloudiness from,say, the Svensmark theory (weak sun and more cosmic rays).

    Less energy reaches the surface from the sun, Earth’s air cools, equatorial air masses contract, all the air circulation systems move equatorward, oceanic SSTs fall.

    On the face of it that sounds plausible but the observed changes in SSTs and the accompanying shifts in the air circulation systems occur at approximately 30 year intervals which does not match the timing of the necessary variations in solar energy and the levels of cosmic rays. Furthermore the timings of the cycles differ from ocean to ocean whereas one would expect them all to change in unison (albeit at differing rates) if cosmic ray/cloudiness variations were the driver.

    2) Under Willis’s Thermostat Hypothesis:

    Suppose the ocean energy emissivity is stable.

    Warming of the Tropics from ANY cause results in enhanced convective activity in the Tropics which prevents the air from warming beyond 305 Kelvin and that has the side effect of preventing warming of the rest of the globe as well or at least keeping temperature variation within a narrow range.

    Again, initially plausible but:

    If the process of Tropical convection is that efficient there would be no need for any latitudinal shift in the air circulation systems. Yet such shifts clearly occur.

    The degree of stability imposed by such a fast day to day response to warming would preclude any warming of the underlying ocean surfaces at all let alone anything that might exceed 305 K. Yet we see that ocean SSTs do vary and not just in the Tropics.

    That idea ignores the possibility of any large natural forcings such as might overwhelm the Tropical convective response and reset the base equilibrium (solar variations) and ignores also the likelihood that there will be variation of energy flows away from the Tropics from time to time such that the Tropical activity may decline but the energy remains in the global system because it has been transported elsewhere.

    All such issues are resolved if independently varying oceanic energy emission rates are the real driver.

    It was not long ago that significant solar variation was discounted. The discovery of the Maunder and other minima has pretty much scotched that (with all due respect to Leif). We are currently at a point where significant variation in oceanic energy emissivity is being discounted. I beg to differ.

    Alternative attempts to knock down my hypotheses are invited.

  348. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Stephen Wilde (15:42:17), you say:

    Willis (13:19:44)

    During an El Nino the SSTs in the Pacific become warmer and impart more energy to the air.

    During a La Nina the SSTs in the Pacific cool and withhold energy from the air.

    Those are the most obvious examples of changing ocean energy emissivity.

    Stephen, it appears we may have a terminology problem here.

    The amount of radiation emitted by a body is equal to

    e * s * T^4

    where “e” is the emissivity, “s” is the Stefan-Bolzmann constant, and T is the temperature in Kelvins.

    “e”, the emissivity, is how well the material in question emits IR radiation. For water, this is usually taken to be 0.96. It generally doesn’t vary much.

    You seem to be saying that the amount of energy transferred from the ocean to the air is greater when the ocean is warmer, which is true. However, this has little or nothing to do with the emissivity of the ocean, and everything to do with the temperature of the ocean.

    w.

  349. Melinda Romanoff says:

    Williis Eschenbach said:

    “Regarding your question, the amount of heat coming out of the earth is quite small. From memory it’s on the order of hundredths of a watt per square metre. That’s why snow sticks when it falls on the ground, there’s not enough heat emerging to melt it.

    So even if geothermal heat was ten times the size in the past, it still wouldn’t make a perceptible difference.”

    I fully agree that the wpsm is not so much now, but it is way warmer than zero K, and 4.5B yrs ago, the thickness of the mantles would be logarithmically thinner, not linearly thinner. The relative newness of the core in organizing itself, as demonstrated by the repeated early flips of the magnetic poles, would in itself, demonstrate a near quantum level higher energy quotient. This is a thought more to do with geologic theory, despite the physics.

    My real question is how does any one explain the balance in an energy equation involving galactic, and solar, winds, and their influence on atmospheric activity. This always seems to be brushed aside for one reason or another.

    And thank you for your patience.

  350. Stephen Wilde says:

    Willis (19:10:39)

    Thank you for correcting me on the terminology point.

    I had assumed that the term ‘emissivity’ would suffice as a term for the rate of energy ‘emission’ from the oceans.

    In fact it seems that the term is usually reserved for the normal radiative property of a material such as water.

    I will take account of that in future posts.

  351. anna v says:

    This has been an interesting thread, that shows the need for a new framework, in my opinion based on chaotic dynamics that can incorporated all these interesting features in tandem. To an outsider it is evident that most of the hypotheses put forth are a part of the solution, and not the total as the proposer hopes.

    All of us have been trained in our science courses to think linearly, to expect well behaved functions and trust first and second order expansions in various series because this method works in the laboratory conditions most of the time. All solutions to equations can be expanded as

    a +bx +cx**2 + etc

    The crux is whether c is smaller than b and etc expansion constants. This is the way climate modeling is being done, but it becomes more and more evident that In turbulent and chaotic systems this is not true.

    Our training goes with the linear approximation naturally, but the research into dynamical chaos and the ongoing research into complex systems shows that this thinking limits us and does not allow us to see solutions outside the box.

    Both in climate and in sun science chaos has to be used with more than lip service if the arguments are not to deteriorate in the famous elephant example ( one blind man holding the tail says an elephant is like a snake, another holding a leg says an elephant is like a tree).

  352. ginckgo says:

    Willis

    “In general, a warmer world is a wetter world, because of increased evaporation”

    On average maybe, but you’re assuming that the increase in evaporation at point A will also result in an increase in precipitation at point A; whereas it’s actually more likely that point B will get the increase in precipitation. So you might end up more like drying out some regions, and ‘water logging’ some others.

  353. Jim Masterson says:

    >> This is called the “Faint Early Sun Paradox” (Sagan and Mullen, 1972), and is usually explained by positing an early atmosphere much richer in greenhouse gases than the current atmosphere. <<

    There was a paper published in 2001 that deals with this problem (see The First Million Years of the Sun: A Calculation of the Formation and Early Evolution of a Solar Mass Star, G. Wuchterl and Ralf S. Klessen, The Astrophysical Journal, 2001 October 20). From the abstract: . . . at an age of 1 million yr, the proto-Sun is twice as bright and 500 K hotter than according to calculations that neglect the star formation process.

    There may not be a paradox, but I’m not sure if their theory is correct.

    Jim

  354. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Melinda (20:04:57), thanks for your thoughts. You say:

    Williis Eschenbach said:

    “Regarding your question, the amount of heat coming out of the earth is quite small. From memory it’s on the order of hundredths of a watt per square metre. That’s why snow sticks when it falls on the ground, there’s not enough heat emerging to melt it.

    So even if geothermal heat was ten times the size in the past, it still wouldn’t make a perceptible difference.”

    I fully agree that the wpsm is not so much now, but it is way warmer than zero K, and 4.5B yrs ago, the thickness of the mantles would be logarithmically thinner, not linearly thinner. The relative newness of the core in organizing itself, as demonstrated by the repeated early flips of the magnetic poles, would in itself, demonstrate a near quantum level higher energy quotient. This is a thought more to do with geologic theory, despite the physics.

    My real question is how does any one explain the balance in an energy equation involving galactic, and solar, winds, and their influence on atmospheric activity. This always seems to be brushed aside for one reason or another.

    And thank you for your patience.

    To put some real numbers on your interesting ideas, the current flow of geothermal heat from the interior of the earth is on average about 0.06 W/m2.

    By the Stefan-Bolzmann equation, this is enough to raise the temperature by a whopping 0.01°C. If it were ten times as large, it is still only enough to warm the earth by a tenth of a degree.

    I know nothing about how the mantle thickness has changed in the past. However, if the sun has strengthened by say only 4% in the last half a billion years, this would be a change in average solar forcing of about 12 W/m2 … hardly something that could be counterbalanced by even a hundred-fold increase in the current flow rate of geothermal heat.

    It would take a 200-fold decrease in the geothermal heat flow to counterbalance the ~ 12 W/m squared increase in solar forcing in the last half-billion years. Do you have a citation showing that magnitude of change in the mantle? I find nothing in a short google search.

    All the best,

    w.

  355. Willis Eschenbach says:

    ginckgo (22:36:53), you raise an interesting point:

    Willis

    “In general, a warmer world is a wetter world, because of increased evaporation”

    On average maybe, but you’re assuming that the increase in evaporation at point A will also result in an increase in precipitation at point A; whereas it’s actually more likely that point B will get the increase in precipitation. So you might end up more like drying out some regions, and ‘water logging’ some others.

    Certainly any change will not be uniform, nature never is uniform. But in the historical record, there’s more droughts during cool times than during warm times. This makes perfect sense, as with less heat there is less evaporation. Since every drop of rain comes from evaporation, we will definitely have less rain in cool times and more rain in warm times. It will be distributed unevenly as it always is, we can forecast that the Sahara Desert will not get a hundred inches per year … but there will definitely be more rain falling.

    w.

    PS – see, for example, Huang, C.C., J. Pang, X. Zha, H. Su, Y. Jia, and Y. Zhu. 2007. Impact of monsoonal climatic change on Holocene overbank flooding along Sushui River, middle reach of the Yellow River, China. Quaternary Science Reviews, 26, 2247–2264.

    Our data show that the last three episodes of overbank flooding, including the catastrophic floods recorded in literature, coincide with the cold-dry stages during the late Holocene. During these three episodes there were not only catastrophic floods, but also extreme droughts over the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River drainage basin. For example, the last episode of overbank flooding event corresponds with the well documented ‘Little Ice Age,’ during which there were frequent natural disasters including catastrophic floods, droughts, dust storms, heat waves, migratory locusts and frequent famines and plagues in the middle-lower reaches of the Yellow River drainage basin. Climate departed from its long-term average conditions and was unstable, irregular, and disastrous during these anomalous episodes.

    Note they say that the disruption of climate patterns (complete with your “drying out some regions, and ‘water logging’ some others”) that you postulate occurred, not when the earth warmed, but when it cooled …

    w.

  356. Willis Eschenbach says:

    anna v (22:31:53), I appreciate your most thought-provoking post.

    This has been an interesting thread, that shows the need for a new framework, in my opinion based on chaotic dynamics that can incorporated all these interesting features in tandem. To an outsider it is evident that most of the hypotheses put forth are a part of the solution, and not the total as the proposer hopes.

    I’m sorry for the lack of clarity of my writing. I have described, not the “total solution” you describe, but the mechanism of the governor of the planet-sized heat engine we call “climate”.

    I also included a host of things that could affect, in both the short and longer terms, the running temperature of the earth. The main one of these is the Constructal Law that governs flow systems. How my understanding fits in with Bejans work is still not clear to me. I continue to experiment with various models

    … All of us have been trained in our science courses to think linearly, to expect well behaved functions and trust first and second order expansions in various series because this method works in the laboratory conditions most of the time.

    We use linear methods because we are desperately short of non-linear methods.

    Both in climate and in sun science chaos has to be used with more than lip service if the arguments are not to deteriorate in the famous elephant example ( one blind man holding the tail says an elephant is like a snake, another holding a leg says an elephant is like a tree).

    I’ll see your elephant, and raise you an elephant:

    Let me start from a very simple, albeit circular, definition: nonlinear science is the study of those mathematical systems and natural phenomena that are not linear. Ever attuned to the possibility of bons mots, Stan once remarked that this was “like defining the bulk of zoology by calling it the study of ‘non-elephant animals’.” His point, clearly, was that the vast majority of mathematical equations and natural phenomena are nonlinear, with linearity being the exceptional, but important, case.

    SOURCE: David K. Campbell 1987 NONLINEAR SCIENCE from Paradigms to Practicalities, Los Alamos Science Special Issue 1987

    I wish you sunlight,

    w.

  357. anna v says:

    Willis Eschenbach (01:59:32) :

    I’m sorry for the lack of clarity of my writing. I have described, not the “total solution” you describe, but the mechanism of the governor of the planet-sized heat engine we call “climate”.

    Fair enough and clear enough. I was including Stephen’s different POV also in my comments.

    Now on droughts and temperatures, this ice core record is quite clear:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c2/Vostok-ice-core-petit.png/400px-Vostok-ice-core-petit.png

    One should note that dust level in ppm peaks at temperature minima and disappears at the maxima. Dust comes from desertification and if that is not the result of drought, what is? Too much water is tied up in ice during the cold.

  358. anna v says:

    Willis Eschenbach (01:59:32) :

    corrected italics :
    I’m sorry for the lack of clarity of my writing. I have described, not the “total solution” you describe, but the mechanism of the governor of the planet-sized heat engine we call “climate”.

    Fair enough and clear enough. I was including Stephen’s different POV also in my comments.

    Now on droughts and temperatures, this ice core record is quite clear:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c2/Vostok-ice-core-petit.png/400px-Vostok-ice-core-petit.png

    One should note that dust level in ppm peaks at temperature minima and disappears at the maxima. Dust comes from desertification and if that is not the result of drought, what is? Too much water is tied up in ice during the cold.

  359. bill says:

    Willis Eschenbach (13:39:33) :
    …. Perhaps you believe that a change in CO2 levels from 0.03% (three hundredths of a percent) to 0.04% will radically change the earth’s temperature.

    I wish people would stop intimating that changes in trace gas concentration can obviously have no effect.

    Consider ozone:
    Ozone concentrations are greatest between about 20 and 40 km (66,000 and 130,000 ft), where they range from about 2 to 8 parts per million.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_atmosphere

    so this gas with 1/100th the concentrration of co2 will have no effect on life if for instance the level halved.
    Wrong/
    http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=SP06004.pdf
    Figure 1
    this shows measured UV vs ozone levels at South Pole. reduce the ozone by 50% and double your exposure to UV.
    i.e. a change of 0.0002% (approx) in ozone concentration will double your exposure to UV.

    Willis, I referenced a document above which you did not comment on:
    bill (06:13:27) :
    Another good one I referenced above is:
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf

    This seems to suggest that there is no overall cloud forcing. The data is taken from 2 series of satellites measurements of LW and SW radiation and cloud cover. I assume this would therefore include any of your heat transport engines (thunderstorms).
    So even if they are transporting/reflecting heat to space the overall effect is neglegable.

    Are there later documents from measurements that support you proposition?

  360. tallbloke says:

    Willis, I’d be grateful if you’d take a look at this graph I’ve produced and let me know whether you think it might be relevant to the discussion. It might fit in with what Stephen Wilde has been saying and Bob Tisdales work on heat retained and re-emerging from the Pacific Warm Pool too.

    Thanks

    http://s630.photobucket.com/albums/uu21/stroller-2009/?action=view&current=ssa-sst-ssn.jpg

  361. oms says:

    Willis,

    Have you seen this recent paper by Tapio Schneider et al., “Water vapor and the dynamics of climate changes”?

    http://www.gps.caltech.edu/~tapio/papers/revgeophys09.pdf

  362. George E. Smith says:

    “”” Willis Eschenbach (19:10:39) :

    Stephen Wilde (15:42:17), you say:

    Willis (13:19:44)

    During an El Nino the SSTs in the Pacific become warmer and impart more energy to the air.

    During a La Nina the SSTs in the Pacific cool and withhold energy from the air.

    Those are the most obvious examples of changing ocean energy emissivity.

    Stephen, it appears we may have a terminology problem here.

    The amount of radiation emitted by a body is equal to

    e * s * T^4

    where “e” is the emissivity, “s” is the Stefan-Bolzmann constant, and T is the temperature in Kelvins.

    “e”, the emissivity, is how well the material in question emits IR radiation. For water, this is usually taken to be 0.96. It generally doesn’t vary much.

    You seem to be saying that the amount of energy transferred from the ocean to the air is greater when the ocean is warmer, which is true. However, this has little or nothing to do with the emissivity of the ocean, and everything to do with the temperature of the ocean.

    w “””

    When we are talking about the EM radiation emitted from a surface as in Watts Per square metre; the correct technical term is “Radiant Emittance”, which is universally shortened colloquially to just “Emittance”. If we were talking about the radiation emitted per unit of solid angle (from ideally a point source) the term is “Radiant Intensity” or simply “Intensity”, and finally if we are talking about the emission from a finite source per unit of area and per unit of solid angle then the Term is simply “Radiance” which is Watts per square metre, per steradian.

    “Emissivity” (e) is the factor which connects and actual real source “emittance” to the ideal emittance of a black body; which is defined as a body that absorbs 100% of all electromagnetic radiation that falls on it at any wavelength from down to but not including DC, up to and far beyond the upper reaches of the gamma ray spectrum.

    So a body that absorbed or emitted say 90% of the emittance of a black body over the whole wavelenght range, would be described as a “grey” body with an emissivity of 0.9, or 90%.

    Any real body emitting thermal radiation, even if close to a black body for some wavelenghts may not do so at all wavelengths, so “emissivity” of real surfaces is a spectrally varying value; so we talk a about “spectral Radiant emissivity” or simply “spectral emissivity”

    Bodies that may emit efficiently at shorter wavelengths but less so at long wavelengths are often referred to as “blue” bodies, and the reverse condition would be referred to as “red” bodies (or sometimes pink).

    Deep ocean water makes a very good grey body with a total emssivity of 0.96-0.97, close enough to black body like. And the reason is that only about 3% of incident light in the solar spectrum reflects off the surface via ordinary Fresnel optical reflection. The normal reflection coefficient is” ((n-1)/(n+1))^2 where n is the refractive index of the water to air interface.

    For water the visible light index is about 1.333 or 4/3, so r = ((4/3-1)/(4/3+1))^2, which is (1/7)^2 or 2%. Over the whole hemisphere iof incidence angles the total reflectance is between 3 and 4 %. All the rest of the radiation enters the water, some of it to 100 metre depths and more but it ultimately gets absorbed by something, so the ocean behaves very much like a black body.

    On the emission side, the water temperature ranges from a low of -3 deg C to a high of +32 deg C (305K) so thermal emission is in the range of about 9.5 to 10.5 microns peak wavelength; long wave IR where water is essentially totally opaque.

    Consequentially, the radiation emitted form the ocean can only come from the top few microns, since any emission from deeper down would be re-absorbed before reaching the surface. So ocean thermal emission is completely characterised by the sea surface temperature, and has as willis says the very high emissivity of 0.96-0.97, and for all practical purposes the emissivity is spectrally flat since the ocean SST is constrained in such a narrow temperature range (-3 -> +32 C)

    I’m not exactly sure what the spectral emissivity of ice is, but i suspect that in the infrared range it too is black, for the same reason as sea water is black.

    Caution ; Seawater is black (dark grey) for solar spectrum radiation, but ice is not; well heck we can see the reflectance of ice; but both are likely black for the thermal radiation spectrum.

    George

  363. George E. Smith says:

    “”” Stephen Wilde (16:06:58) :

    George E Smith (15:26:51)

    You say:

    “So the oceans are hardly the global temperature drivers; althought they do play an immense role via the evaporation cloud formation cycle.

    Certainly oceanic circulations affect local climates and weathers, but they are not the drivers of temperature extremes.”

    The oceans do and must control the flow of solar energy passing into the air because such a huge amount is stored in the oceans. “””

    Stephen, solar energy is not stored in the ocean and passed to the air.

    Of the incident solar eenergy, only about 3% is reflected immediately into the atmosphere, most of it to immediately escape to space.
    The remaining 97% enters the ocean depths where it is mostly dissipated to become thermal (heat) energy. Some small amoutn of solar energy is absorbed into aquatic plant life (phytoplankton and seaweed (algae) but most of it is thermalized and very little emerges in the original solar spectrum form.
    Once absorbed it is simple thermal energy, and it matters not a jot that it originated from the sun; it is now molecular agitation of the seawater. As a result it’s interraction with the atmosphere has little to do with the original supplier of the energy.

    As a result of the thermal heating of the ocean the sea water expands since it has an always positive coefficient of expansion, so an upward convection force is generated and permanently present, sot he warmer waters eventually move to the surface where conduction, radiation and evaporation transfer thermal energy and latent heat energy to the atmosphere; but the original solar radiation is long gone before that happens.

    George

  364. Nasif Nahle says:

    bill (05:09:38):

    I wish people would stop intimating that changes in trace gas concentration can obviously have no effect…

    That’s the reason of the existence of thermodynamics and heat transfer science. At its current concentration, carbon dioxide has not the thermal properties as to have an effect on climate.

  365. Stephen Wilde says:

    tallbloke (09:00:59)

    Thanks for the link to those charts. I assume they are lined up to each cover the same time period.

    On the basis of them the sunspot activity appears to dictate the general slope of the global temperature trend whilst the ENSO signal superimposes variability on it. Exactly the data which underlies my suggestions.

    Willis’s Thermostat Hypothesis would prevent Tropical waters going above 305 K but would not appear to prevent the solar activity trend from creating a general temperature trend over multidecadal periods of time.

    Nor does it seem to be able to suppress the variations in the trend superimposed on the solar trend by the ENSO signal.

    However it may be critical to the process which I have described because if there is a maximum set for Tropical SSTs then if extra energy tries to raise those SSTs further that excess energy has to be redirected and that redirection would then drive the changes in the air circulation systems that I have mentioned.

    Thus Willis’s Thermostat Hypothesis meshes perfectly with what I have described here and elsewhere (and as The Hot Water Bottle Effect) by identifying the precise mechanism in the air by which any excess energy in the air can be redirected and neutralised without affecting the global temperature equilibrium.

    Changes in the sun and in oceanic energy output will still change the global equilibrium temperature but changes in the air alone cannot. In particular extra GHGs cannot do it because as soon as they try to do so the extra energy is redirected within the air and ejected to space.

    There is a global thermostat. It applies to the air alone althought it’s effect is to put a top limit on SSTs. Willis’s observations identify the starting point of the process in the air which I had previously described in a general global context. The reason being that if the Tropical SSTs cannot go above 305 K then the air temperatures cannot go above that figure either and the speed of the hydrological cycle simply accelerates with a consequent shift in all the air circulation systems.

    Likewise falls of Tropical SSTs below 305 K are met with the opposite response in the air.

    As I had hoped, if one gets the initial scenario right then everything else falls into place.

    Thanks Willis.

    anna v

    I’m trying to create a first step towards a total hypothesis by concentrating on the entire flow of energy from sun to sea to air to space. Critical to the way that flow varies is the characteristics of both oceans and air because both materials slow down the transmission of solar energy and thereby generate heat which sets the global equilbrium temperature.

    That equilibrium is constantly varying due to solar variation but additionally because both ocean and air circulations are always both varying due to their very different internal circulations the interplay is very difficult to unravel.

    My hypotheses are incomplete because we do not yet have enough data about ocean imposed variations in the energy flow to be able to link the solar variations to the variations in the air (climate).

    The observations of underlying long term variability of the rate of energy emission from the ocean surfaces are very recent and their significance has been underappreciated.

    Likewise, many have noted the latitudinal movement of the air circulation systems but the implications have not been properly considered.

    I have created what I think is the first description of the energy flow from sun to space through the oceans and air whilst at the same time incorporating both oceanic variations in the release of that energy to the air AND the observed response in the air by way of the shifts in the air circulation systems.

    Willis has provided a very useful building brick.

    I do not say it is complete but it is new. It cannot be proved by laboratory experiments, only by continuing observation and analysis of the real world.

    It complies fully with basic physics and observations which is currently an advantage over any of the existing models.

  366. Stephen Wilde says:

    George E Smith (10:36:10)

    “Stephen, solar energy is not stored in the ocean and passed to the air.

    Of the incident solar eenergy, only about 3% is reflected immediately into the atmosphere, most of it to immediately escape to space.
    The remaining 97% enters the ocean depths where it is mostly dissipated to become thermal (heat) energy. Some small amoutn of solar energy is absorbed into aquatic plant life (phytoplankton and seaweed (algae) but most of it is thermalized and very little emerges in the original solar spectrum form.
    Once absorbed it is simple thermal energy, and it matters not a jot that it originated from the sun; it is now molecular agitation of the seawater. As a result it’s interraction with the atmosphere has little to do with the original supplier of the energy.

    As a result of the thermal heating of the ocean the sea water expands since it has an always positive coefficient of expansion, so an upward convection force is generated and permanently present, sot he warmer waters eventually move to the surface where conduction, radiation and evaporation transfer thermal energy and latent heat energy to the atmosphere; but the original solar radiation is long gone before that happens.”

    I think you have missed my point.

    Obviously the solar energy is converted to thermal energy within the oceans. That happens as a direct result of the oceans slowing down the speed of transmission of that solar energy.

    Shortwave goes in, longwave comes out. Exactly analogous to the reduction of voltage when a current passes through a resistor and generates thermal energy.

    My point is that the longwave comes out at varying rates on multidecadal time scales for whatever reason but no doubt due to internal ocean circulations.

    That variation in the flow of thermal energy from ocean to air changes the sea surface temperatures and drives temperature changes in the air.

    Variations in the input of shortwave solar radiation to the oceans over longer timescales alter the amount of thermal energy in the oceans and therefore ultimately drive the release of that energy as longwave subject to modulation by variations within the oceans.

  367. anna v says:

    Stephen Wilde (11:48:20) :

    I know that most of us following this board are allergic to computer modeling, nevertheless appropriate computer models can be useful tools.

    In Tsonis url http://www.uwm.edu/~aatsonis/BAMS_proofs.pdf is described an approach of modeling a nonlinear chaotic climate system using neural nets. They have been incorporating the effects of the ocean currents and thus come to predict a cooling for the next thirty years, as mentioned in the recent news.

    I would think that such an approach would allow for modeling much more than what they have included so one would not need to wait for observations to see the validity of a climate model.

    Another way of integrating non linear differential equation systems is by analogue computing, ( which neural nets resemble) but that road has not been traversed for some decades.

  368. Stephen Wilde says:

    Having merged Willis’s Thermostat Hypothesis with my previous description of the climate mechanisms there now seems to be a plausible mechanism whereby changes in greenhouse gases can naturally be prevented from influencing the global air temperaure equilibrium.

    1) There is a maximum attainable sea aurface temperature of about 305 Kelvin. That maximum has already been attained as a result of the current global temperature.

    2) That maximum sea surface temperature is set by the temperature of space and the density of the air.

    3) There is an overall global equilibrium temperature but it is set by sun and oceans combined and varies over time and is influenced by the speed of the hydrological cycle.

    4) If extra greenhouse gases try to raise the sea surface temperature in the tropics above the current level they cannot do so and instead the extra energy is redirected into an acceleration of the hydrological cycle and a miniscule latitudinal shift of the air circulation systems.

    5) Such extra energy is thus ejected to space without being able to affect the temperature equilibrium of the air set by sun and oceans.

    Although the water on the Earth is not at 100 C it is nevertheless ‘boiling’.

    The situation is analogous to an open pan of boiling water on a stove. If extra energy is added from any source the temperature of the boiling water will not increase. All that happens is that the rate of evaporation increases.

    So it is with the Earth. Extra energy in the air alone just accelerates the hydrological cycle and the air gets no warmer from that cause.

    The analogy is not quite right for the Earth because of the capacity of the oceans to hold thermal energy initially received from the sun and which is, I believe, released at variable rates.

    The oceans are so large that they can alter the equilibrium temperature temporarily by releasing energy to the air faster than the hydrological cycle can dispose of it. However the area of sea surface temperatures around 305 K increases, the hydrological cycle speeds up, the air circulation systems migrate poleward and after a while a new equilibrium is restored until the release of energy from the oceans declines again.

    Note that when the temperature of the air is trying to rise due to increased energy emission from the oceans the thermal energy stored in the oceans is declining unless solar input is high enough to offset the losses.

    So, extra GHGs apparently cannot raise the equilibrium temperature of the globe, the oceans or even the air.

  369. tallbloke says:

    Stephen Wilde (11:48:20) :

    tallbloke (09:00:59)

    Thanks for the link to those charts. I assume they are lined up to each cover the same time period.

    On the basis of them the sunspot activity appears to dictate the general slope of the global temperature trend whilst the ENSO signal superimposes variability on it. Exactly the data which underlies my suggestions.

    Hi Stephen, yes same timescales, the bottom graph has month numbers from may 1874. We are thinking on the same lines here. I’m reposting the following from Bob’s thread because it seems to have better context and more fertile ground here:
    =====================
    it’s not so much SSN in red I want you to look at, but the cumulative total of sunspot area below. The build up and sudden release of peaks in SST coincide with the ends of el nino dominant periods around 1880, 1940 and 1998. The 60year oscillation overlays the underlying cumulative solar trend it seems to me.

    I agree with what you and Bob say anout the PWP, but in the end, the energy is coming from the sun (where else?). The issue is the mysterious way it hides in the climate system and manifests in the 30 up 30 down 60 year cycles. I think my graph goes some way to explaining that. The downslope in the cool la nina dominated period from 1880-1910 is steeper than the fall in my cumulative solar index. Then an el nino dominated phase takes over while the solar accumulation is bottoming out. It then crashes at 1945 and we get a cool phase as the solar accumulation is picking up again in the background.

    I don’t see why there couldn’t be both fairly immediately felt effects of solar energy via cloud mediation, as well as longer term buildup and releases such as the big events in 1998. It just means there’s more than one type of oscillation going on, with more than one factor involved.
    ========================
    I’d like to be able to swap further ideas so please drop me a line to rog at tallbloke dot net if you find the time or keep this thread going because I’m getting a lot out of this.

    Thanks for your contributions

  370. L says:

    The physics by means of which thunderstorms transfer heat to space have been well known for many decades; what makes Willis’ elegant hypothesis so original is the proposal that this mechanism is both necessary and sufficient to explain the long-term stability of Earth’s temperature. Maybe so, maybe not, but it is certainly leaning the right direction and doen’t need no stinkin’ CO2 to work.

    Steven Wilde’s contributions add considerable understanding to the subject and no, the phenomenon isn’t confined to the tropics. Thunderstorms are found in the continental interiors throughout the temperate zones. Most of the AGW proponents happen to live in costal areas and have far less exposure to these events.
    The deserts of the Southwest (from SE California to the Gulf of Mexico) are known for frequent thunderstorms, particularly during our “monsoon” season. Most years, by mid-July, moist warm air from the Gulf is moving westwards and rising and condensing to create the earliest monsoon storms. Once it begins, the system remains in place for 6-8 weeks. Most of the intense rain that falls most afternoon has evaporated by sunset providing the water vapor needed for the next day’s storm; little additional moisture from the Gulf is required to keep the process going. But each cycle removes heat from the desert, so July and August are comparatively cooler than June. By September when the storms abate, the seasonal cooling has already begun.

    For the record, Tucson had five days in May in the 100′s and none in June, so far. Local conditions to be sure, but May was warmer than usual and June much cooler. Last year at this date we had had more than twenty consesecutive days above 100. Hard not to notice.

    Finally, I prefer that Dr. Strangelove confine his sulfate belching and man-made waterspouts to the privacy of his bathroom.

  371. son of mulder says:

    Willis, So in a nutshell, when El Nino warms the surface you expect an increase in clouds that reduce the overall insolation to the surface ie El Nino removes heat from the oceans and the consequent additional clouds further reduce the level of solar warming of the oceans, so the effective net loss of heat from the ocean is amplified. Additionally the consequent extra precipitation that follows further cools the surface. So I should expect to see an amplified reduction of surface temperature following a strong El Nino.

    Is there historically a statistically significant correlation between the magnitude of El Nino temperature rise above average and the subsequent fall below average? Am I right in thinking that this would be needed to support your theory and that a contrary result or no correlation would discredit it?

  372. Willis Eschenbach says:

    bill (05:09:38), thanks for your comment. You say

    I wish people would stop intimating that changes in trace gas concentration can obviously have no effect.

    Consider ozone:
    Ozone concentrations are greatest between about 20 and 40 km (66,000 and 130,000 ft), where they range from about 2 to 8 parts per million.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_atmosphere

    so this gas with 1/100th the concentrration of co2 will have no effect on life if for instance the level halved.
    Wrong/
    http://www.publish.csiro.au/?act=view_file&file_id=SP06004.pdf
    Figure 1
    this shows measured UV vs ozone levels at South Pole. reduce the ozone by 50% and double your exposure to UV.
    i.e. a change of 0.0002% (approx) in ozone concentration will double your exposure to UV.

    You are 100% correct that there are a few trace gases with big effects, far out of proportion to their size. So you are right, size alone is not the determinant.

    CO2, however, is not one of those high-effect gases. If you cut ozone levels in half, since it is the only significant absorber of incoming UV, it will make a big difference in UV levels. According to your most interesting citation (thanks, it went into the library), basically, cut ozone in half and UV doubles.

    CO2, on the other hand, is not the major absorber of outgoing IR. Double the CO2 and surface forcing definitely does not double.

    Total downwelling radiation at the surface is on the order of 490 W/m2. This is comprised of about 170 W/m2 downwelling longwave radiation from the sun, and about 320 W/m2 from downwelling IR (so-called greenhouse radiation).

    If we double the CO2 in the air to 720 ppmv (which is a century away if not more), it will increase the downwelling radiation by something on the order of 3.7 W/m2. This is less than a one percent change in total forcing, far too small to measure.

    So I fear your analogy doesn’t fit the situation. Yes, cutting ozone in half will double downwelling UV … but doubling CO2 only changes surface forcing by less than 1%, an undetectable amount.

    Often, people don’t realize how much energy runs through the heat engine w call climate. One of the ways of discussing such a system involves the idea of first-order and second-order forcings. First-order forcings for me are ones that can change a system’s forcings by ten percent or more. ote that a doubling of ozone make a 50% change in the UV, so it is a first-order forcing for UV.

    Since the total downwelling radiation at the surface is about 500 W/m2, ten percent of that is 50 W/m2. So what are the first-order forcings?

    I show above that in the ITCZ, clouds can cause a 60W/m2 change in about an hour and a half. And a cloud covering your head, or your state, can reflect 500 W/m2 or more of sunlight, so certainly clouds have to be a first-order forcing.

    Land use and land cover change (“LULC” in the trade) is another first-order forcing. If you cut down a forest, the albedo skyrockets. Going from a fir forest (albedo 0.1) to bare earth (albedo 0.3) is about a seventy W/m2 change, so that is a first order forcing.

    Water vapor is another first-order forcing. It absorbs more than three-quarters of the 350 w/m2 of IR intercepted by the atmosphere, call it about 250 W/m2. Cut H2Ovap in half, a swing of 125 W/m2 … yes, water vapor is a first order forcing.

    Wind is most definitely a first order forcing. Doubling the wind speed doubles the evaporation, radically changing the evaporation rate and moving huge amounts of energy.

    Second-order forcings for me are those that make a change of one to ten percent of the total forcing. For the climate system, this is five to fifty W/m2. By this criteria, at 3.7 W/m2, a doubling of CO2 doesn’t make the grade. It is a third-order forcing.

    So like I tried unsuccessfully to say before, if you want to spend your time concerned with third-order forcings, that’s fine by me. You are correct that the issue is not the amount in the atmosphere, my bad. What I was trying to say is that I’m working to understand the first-order forcings …

    w.

  373. Willis Eschenbach says:

    bill (06:13:27), sorry, it’s taken me a big to take a hard look at your citation, “On the observed near-cancellation between longwave and shortwave cloud forcing in tropical regions”. You had said:

    Another good one I referenced above is:
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf
    Fig 5/7 gives high trop cloud amount vs SST (very little cloud if SST is less than 299K

    Unfortunately it concludes that the cloud forcing is near zero for the tropics

    This is an excellent example of the kind of thing that goes on in climate science. Go and take a look at Figure 1 of that citation. Take a hard, close look. Come back and I’ll tell you what I see there.

    The first thing that struck me is that the majority of the data points are below the central black like. The second thing was that it tailed off low in the lower right of the graph. The lines fool your eye into thinking that it is more balanced and “cancelled” than it is. The third thing was that the “outliers” were almost all in the bottom of the graph.

    So being a very suspicious guy, I did what I do in these cases. I took a screen shot of the graph in the PDF, at 500% scale. I digitized the graph manually, I use a program called “GraphClick” but there’s others.

    To my lack of surprise, when I ran the numbers on the actual data I find that the relationship is:

    Longwave = Shortwave * 0.88

    Hmmm … I wouldn’t call that “near cancellation”, that’s 12% difference on data running from 20 to 110 W/m2.

    Forewarned, I took a close look at Figure 2 and found the same thing. While the two datasets have a similar shape, longwave peaks out at about 70 W/m2. Shortwave, on the other hand, is often near 100, with a lot of data above 70. I can see why they didn’t use a standard scatterplot …

    So there’s chartmanship going on, don’t like that. But in any case, the take-home message I get from the data is that shortwave (reflected solar) on average runs about 10% higher than longwave. That is to say, net cooling from the clouds.

    However, there’s a huge problem with averages. It’s like say trying to determine the “average humidity” of some square miles of ocean containing say three thunderstorms … you can get the average, but it is meaningless regarding what’s actually happening in that volume of sea and air. Nature is a piecemean creature, full of boundaries, discontinuities, self-organizing criticalities, and non-linear phenomena.

    In such a situation, averages are often less than useful or representative of what is happening on the ground …

    The main lesson from this is, don’t trust peer-reviewed science. Until someone (perhaps you) takes the trouble to run the numbers themselves, and determine if the claims are actually true, they are just anecdote. Peer reviewed anecdote, to be sure … but without replication and reanalysis, anecdote just the same.

    My best to everyone,

    w.

  374. Willis Eschenbach says:

    son of mulder (16:00:56), you raise an interesting possibility, viz:

    … when El Nino warms the surface you expect an increase in clouds that reduce the overall insolation to the surface ie El Nino removes heat from the oceans and the consequent additional clouds further reduce the level of solar warming of the oceans, so the effective net loss of heat from the ocean is amplified. Additionally the consequent extra precipitation that follows further cools the surface. So I should expect to see an amplified reduction of surface temperature following a strong El Nino.

    Is there historically a statistically significant correlation between the magnitude of El Nino temperature rise above average and the subsequent fall below average? Am I right in thinking that this would be needed to support your theory and that a contrary result or no correlation would discredit it?

    I don’t know how you would answer that question. I mean, how much would we expect it to cool without clouds doing what they do?

    There is an interesting paper on a closely related question at . Read it and let me know what you think.

    w.

  375. Willis Eschenbach says:
  376. bill says:

    But clouds are a 2 edged sword. They trap LW radiation from the earth, and reflect sw radiation ito space. This document suggests there is little net forcing
    On the observed neanr cancellation between LW and SW cloud forcing in tropical regions
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf

  377. Stephen Wilde says:

    Willis,

    I’m thinking of referring to your hypothesis in a future article at climaterealists.com

    It is a useful supplement to my global climate description as regards the air side of things.

    To discuss that possibility you may email me if you wish on wilde.co@btconnect.com

  378. JRP says:

    Stephen Wilde (13:06:21) :

    “The situation is analogous to an open pan of boiling water on a stove. If extra energy is added from any source the temperature of the boiling water will not increase. All that happens is that the rate of evaporation increases.

    So it is with the Earth. Extra energy in the air alone just accelerates the hydrological cycle and the air gets no warmer from that cause.”

    I’ve been following these comments with Stephen’s exact analogy in mind. The diathermic system that this pan of water represents is about the first thing seen in an undergrad thermodynamics course.

    I’d like to extend Stephen’s analogy slightly to consider a constant heat source and a pan with insulated sides. The insulation, be it the pan’s sides or atmospheric CO2, will increase the rate of evaporation, but not the temperature of the boiling water.

    Of course the properties of water are what govern this closed system. The quantity of water available to drive the heat engine is infinite for all practical purposes. The “setpoint” cannot change, because the properties of water and its vapor do not change at a constant atmospheric pressure.

  379. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Stephen Wilde (08:18:03), you say:

    Willis,

    I’m thinking of referring to your hypothesis in a future article at climaterealists.com

    It is a useful supplement to my global climate description as regards the air side of things.

    To discuss that possibility you may email me if you wish on wilde.co @t btconnect.com

    First, note that I changed your email address to something you can recognize but less chance for a machine. It’s generally not a good idea to hang your email out on the web for the spambots to gather.

    Regarding using my work, I have no objection to someone quoting my work and then discussing it. That’s great. I do not like it when someone says “Well, Willis said …” and launches into their interpretation of what I said.

    So to quote and attribute, and only then discuss my ideas is great. That is what science is about.

    But when it gets to “Willis says there is no global warming”, well no, I never said that. My position (I think) is nuanced and subtle and complex. It doesn’t fit well into sound bytes, except maybe “Thunderstorms Roolz OK”.

    For me, science is (or should be) the public marketplace of ideas based on facts and observations. I claim no copyright on this post, it was designed to stir discussion and foment ideas. You or anyone else is free to quote and/or reproduce any and all of it. The more it gets reproduced and quoted and referred to, the happier I am.

    I have the ultimate luxury. I am an amateur scientist. My livelihood doesn’t depend on what I publish or get credit for. I don’t have to guard it. My analyses, my data, the graphs and charts and graphics that I do, that’s all yours. I made it for you. I create it and toss it all to the electronic winds to blow around the world, use it as you like.

    w.

  380. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Stephen Wilde (13:06:21) raised an excellent analogy

    The situation is analogous to an open pan of boiling water on a stove. If extra energy is added from any source the temperature of the boiling water will not increase. All that happens is that the rate of evaporation increases.

    So it is with the Earth. Extra energy in the air alone just accelerates the hydrological cycle and the air gets no warmer from that cause.

    JRP (08:37:23) replied:

    I’ve been following these comments with Stephen’s exact analogy in mind. The diathermic system that this pan of water represents is about the first thing seen in an undergrad thermodynamics course.

    I’d like to extend Stephen’s analogy slightly to consider a constant heat source and a pan with insulated sides. The insulation, be it the pan’s sides or atmospheric CO2, will increase the rate of evaporation, but not the temperature of the boiling water.

    Of course the properties of water are what govern this closed system. The quantity of water available to drive the heat engine is infinite for all practical purposes. The “setpoint” cannot change, because the properties of water and its vapor do not change at a constant atmospheric pressure.

    Both of you are quite correct. It is an analogy that I have examined myself. This, of course, leads to the question … why is water boiling like thunderstorm formation?

    The answer, of course, is that they are both examples of self-organized criticality involving phase transformations. The atmospheric example is much more complex, of course, and the cloud temperature regulation is not as rigid.

    The crazy truth is, the earth is a giant steam engine. Like any steam engine, it evaporates water. Like any steam engine, it condenses the water someplace cooler than the hot end. Like any steam engine, the water is then recirculated to start the cycle again. This is the engine that drive the atmospheric from equator to poles, and powers the ocean currents on the same journey. Steam driven climate, go figure … but I digress.

    What the analogy with boiling misses is the particular emergent phenomena we call thunderstorms. We grew up with them, so we don’t find them odd. But imagine that you’d never seen a thunderstorm. You’re in the tropics, for some reason it’s a little cool. Cumulus form every afternoon, but no thunderstorms.

    After a days of watching the clouds, one afternoon you watch a cumulus cloud, only one of many, start boiling skywards. As it heads skyward, it darkens. Within an hour, as it builds and drifts over your head, there’s rain and lightning and thunder all around you. You are shivering wet in the cold downwash of chilly air entrained with the rain.

    Like clouds, thunderstorms are another emergent phenomenon. They arise spontaneously when conditions exceed some threshold, and their properties and abilities are not predictable from the properties of the materials that generated them. If all you ever knew was air and cumuls clouds and ocean, you would not predict that it could deafen, blind, or even kill you where you stand as a thunderstorm can.

    There is a further distinction. Clouds and thunderstorms are both emergent phenomena. They are self-generating. If you take cool ocean and start to warm it, there is a threshold above which clouds emerge. They are created without any intervention.

    Thunderstorms, on the other hand, are also heat engines. They turn heat into work. But the most important distinction is that thunderstorms are self-sustaining heat engines. The thunderstorm generates wind at the base. Evaporation is proportional to windspeed, so evaporation under the thunderstorm is greatly increased. This lowers the air density under the thunderstorm, so it rises and the thunderstorm continues to run. This lets the thunderstorm continue to cool the surface until the surface temperature is lower than the temperature necessary to ignite the thunderstorm.

    I stress this because it is an important point. Thunderstorms are not a negative feedback mechanism. They are an active heat engine, that is born in response to rising temperature, lives of temperature and wind, and eventually dissipates and dies. Negative feedbacks can only slow things down. Clouds are a negative feedback. They cannot drive the temperature below the starting point. Thunderstorms can.

    w.

  381. Willis Eschenbach says:

    JRP, I wanted to comment on one thing. You say:

    Of course the properties of water are what govern this closed system. The quantity of water available to drive the heat engine is infinite for all practical purposes. The “setpoint” cannot change, because the properties of water and its vapor do not change at a constant atmospheric pressure.

    In the initial post I listed a variety of ways that the “setpoint” could vary. These included cosmic rays, anything affecting wind speed, and anything affecting cloud cover or color.

    For example, if you cut down a forest, you often cut down the clouds with it. There is no longer enough available moisture at the surface for the clouds to form. That’s what happened to Kilimanjaro, they logged the lower slopes and cut down the clouds. Less snow, less glacier.

    In the long run, however, you are right in that some parts of the governor mechanism are set in stone. They are governed by unchanging physical laws.

    My regards to you,

    w.

  382. Richard S Courtney says:

    Willis:

    I understand your arguments and agree with them, but I write to correct an assertion you made which is incorrect and could be used against you by opponents of your hypothesis.

    You said (at 08:37:23):

    “I stress this because it is an important point. Thunderstorms are not a negative feedback mechanism. They are an active heat engine, that is born in response to rising temperature, lives of temperature and wind, and eventually dissipates and dies. Negative feedbacks can only slow things down. Clouds are a negative feedback. They cannot drive the temperature below the starting point. Thunderstorms can.”

    However, your “important point” is not entirely correct. I remind that I wrote above (04:27:01):


    Ramanathan & Collins argued that an effect occurs in the tropics where sea surface temperature is observed to have a maximum value of 305 K. Any additional warming (from any source) increases evapouration, and that evapouration removes the additional heat.
    (People have all experienced this effect personally: it is why people sweat when too hot).

    But over the oceans the increased evapouration also increases cloud cover over and near the region of maximum temperature. And the clouds shield the surface from the Sun (as every sunbather has noticed). This reduces the heat input to the ocean surface (from the Sun) near the region of maximum temperature.

    So, sea surface temperature has a maximum value of 305 K and additional heat input reduces solar heating near the region of the maximum temperature. This reduction to solar heating in the surrounding region provides a net effect that warming the tropical ocean causes its temperature to fall.
    n.b. this is an unusual effect whereby any additional heat input causes temperature to fall.

    So, since 1991 the literature has contained evidence that clouds do “drive the temperature below the starting point” in the tropics.

    Please note that this correction does not reduce the effectiveness of your argument. Indeed, it supports it because it says that both clouds and thunderstorms can cause ‘overshoot’ of temperature adjustment.

    I hope this helps

    Richard

  383. bill says:

    of interest
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0450/41/5/pdf/i1520-0450-41-5-473.pdf
    Radiative Impacts of Anvil Cloud during the Maritime Continent Thunderstorm Experiment

  384. bill says:

    Another (perhaps more useful) reference:
    http://www.arts.monash.edu.au/ges/staff/jberinger/pubs/2001-jd001431.pdf

    Surface energy exchanges and interactions with thunderstorms during the Maritime Continent Thunderstorm Experiment (MCTEX)

  385. bill says:

    And another
    http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0493/129/6/pdf/i1520-0493-129-6-1550.pdf
    Understanding Hector: The Dynamics of Island Thunderstorms

  386. Ian says:

    Thank you for the article.
    Can anything be inferred on the influence of biomass on cloudiness ? It would seem that it amplifies the opacity in the shown images.

  387. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Richard S Courtney (01:30:46), many thanks for your interesting points. You say:

    Ramanathan & Collins argued that an effect occurs in the tropics where sea surface temperature is observed to have a maximum value of 305 K. Any additional warming (from any source) increases evapouration, and that evapouration removes the additional heat.
    (People have all experienced this effect personally: it is why people sweat when too hot).

    But over the oceans the increased evapouration also increases cloud cover over and near the region of maximum temperature. And the clouds shield the surface from the Sun (as every sunbather has noticed). This reduces the heat input to the ocean surface (from the Sun) near the region of maximum temperature.

    So, sea surface temperature has a maximum value of 305 K and additional heat input reduces solar heating near the region of the maximum temperature. This reduction to solar heating in the surrounding region provides a net effect that warming the tropical ocean causes its temperature to fall.
    n.b. this is an unusual effect whereby any additional heat input causes temperature to fall.

    So, since 1991 the literature has contained evidence that clouds do “drive the temperature below the starting point” in the tropics.

    Please note that this correction does not reduce the effectiveness of your argument. Indeed, it supports it because it says that both clouds and thunderstorms can cause ‘overshoot’ of temperature adjustment.

    The simplest example that I can give to show that tropical clouds don’t cause overshoot is the tropical day. This typical day in the tropics, which I referred to above, shows that the clouds are not enough to stop the warming of the day. The day continues to warm. This is proven by the afternoon emergence of thunderstorms. Not only are the clouds unable to drive the temperature below the starting point. They are unable to stem the rise.

    One of the unexpected findings in Fig. 2 above is the nature of the change in albedo from early morning to late afternoon. Albedo runs level at 0.30 from eight am to ten-thirty am. In the next hour, it takes a very quick one-hour jump to 0.34. From there it stays level (except for coastal clouds below Central America) until 16:00.

    My interpretation of that is that once the cumulus starts to form, it forms in 1-2 hours. At the end of that time, it has covered all possible area. Remember that a cumulus cloud is not a “thing”. It is a flag marking an area of rising air.

    Well, what goes up must come down. So these areas of rising air must be, and in fact are, accompanied by areas where the air is descending.

    Fairly quickly, it seems, the limit of cumulus growth is reached. Figure 2 shows that cumulus growth ends around 11:30. The growth limit is where cloud cover starts to seriously cut into the area available for descending air. That ratio of cumulus area to area of descending air appears to be maintained for the rest of the day. To me, this is a sign of a system that is maxed out.

    I understand that this doesn’t answer the question of whether clouds can drive the temperature below the cloud initiation temperature. I still say no on that one.

    It does answer the question of whether on an average day clouds do drive the temperature below the cloud initiation temperature. The answer has to be no.

    It’s late, I’ll get to the other question tomorrow.

    w.

  388. Chana Cox says:

    [If possible, I'd love to do a full guest post fleshing out the below. If not, please post this!]

    As Willis Eschenbach and others have noted, the earth seems to be a homeostatic system with respect to global climate. The mathematics of adaptive homeostatic mechanisms are fairly easy to identify and entirely general. Control system mathematics is essentially similar for mechanical, electronic, and biological control systems. The word “homeostasis” was coined in the ‘30s to describe physiological control systems. In order to survive, organisms must be able to react to essentially unpredictable shocks to the system. Like tight rope walkers they must be able to oscillate widely and then return to relatively narrow steady state levels. Given the radical variation in energy from the sun, it would probably be impossible for life to survive on this planet without some overall controls for wide variations in climate. Fortunately, those control mechanisms seem to be in place. In this respect, at least, the earth’s climate system seems to be imitating a living system.

    While each mechanism in a homeostatic system can be modeled, adaptive systems as a whole cannot be modeled in a way which would allow us to make reliable predictions. Our models do fairly well predicting what clocks will do. They do badly at predicting what clouds will do. Even in mechanistically-engineered control systems with several control mechanisms in place, models make poor predictors largely because of our inability to predict the particulars of external stimuli, and the necessary time lags in adapting to those stimuli. For example, we may know that there will be accidents on I-5 in the Seattle area, but we cannot know precisely when and precisely where those accidents will occur. If we could know the particulars they would not be accidents. To the extent that the highway control systems fail, we have slow downs, pile-ups, and delays. In biological systems, we know that the system will tend toward a homeostatic mean until and unless the system as a whole fails – in which case the organism dies.

    The thermostat is a part of an essential control mechanism in heating systems. We should not be surprised, however, to discover that the homeostatic climate control systems will operate with many different and largely independent “thermostats” and control mechanisms. In a multiparty democracy, one party will damp the other, and, hopefully, scientific blogs such as this one will damp the overwhelming strength of the scientists currently in control of policy. In naturally occurring homeostatic systems there will be many control mechanisms operating largely independently of each other simultaneously. The homeostatic regulation of serum glucose levels involves at least two neural systems and over twenty hormones. Each single control system must be damped or the system will oscillate out of control. Diabetes is a problem at least because a single hormone, insulin, is overwhelmingly important in bringing blood sugar levels down. And, as we would expect, the diabetic’s failure to maintain acceptable steady state levels creates chronic disease. Unless systems are damped by other systems, the organism will tend to spiral into chaotic conditions and the tendency of the system to oscillate widely between diabetic coma and insulin shock may lead to death.

    Even in finely controlled engineered systems there are multiple sorts of “thermostats” and governing mechanisms. If there is only one heating system operating off of one thermostat, the temperature in a building could not be controlled unless the external temperature was very steady – which it is not. And so it is actually far more efficient to have furnaces, air conditioning units, automatic light shades and ventilators all operating at the same time. Infant incubators are even more complex.

    In such circumstances modeling as we now understand it is at best a method of explaining mechanisms after the fact. It cannot be used to predict the response to an essentially unknown set of shocks to the system as a whole. Clouds are not clocks and people are not simply wind-up toys. The universe doesn’t operate that way. Systems are complex and adaptive systems are both complex and given even very very small changes in initial conditions single control mechanisms are potentially chaotic.

    But the above explains why the system, in order to work well, *needs* to be complex, and have many different actors working at cross-purposes. The more independent systems there are at play, the more dynamic the control response as seen from the top, and the better the earth, as a whole, adapts and reacts to different inputs and changes.

  389. son of mulder says:

    Willis,

    “I don’t know how you would answer that question. I mean, how much would we expect it to cool without clouds doing what they do?

    There is an interesting paper on a closely related question at . Read it and let me know what you think.”

    I’d try to support or contradict your hypothesis by creating a staged model of El Nino and it’s impacts within the context of your hypothesis.

    As I understand it I’d consider the upwelling of energy to the surface of the El Nino as an impact on the climate system in equilibrium.

    I suggest this would give the following ‘impact effects’ at each El Nino event if your hypothesis is correct varying in the different transition phases as defined below.

    1. Increase in observed surface average temperature (to a certain maximum depending on the strength of El Nino). This is known quantity from the temperature histories. The kick to the system.

    2. Associated increase in tropical daytime cloud to a maximum. The hypothesis. Known or unknown amount? A surface cooling driver.

    3. Decrease in Solar insolation at the surface to a minimum. From 2. Known or unknown amount? A surface cooling driver.

    4. Increase in precipitation. A consequence of 1. Known or unknown? A surface cooling driver.

    5. Increase in Boltzmann radiation reflecting the surface temperature increase. Known or unknown? A surface cooling driver.

    6. Increase in Latent heat transport upwards. Related to subsequent precipitation and a consequence of 1. A Surface cooling driver.

    7.A transient increase in absolute humidity. Related to evaporation. A surface warming driver. Known or unknown?

    8. Nightime increased cloud? A surface warming driver. Known or unknown? Or do thunderstorms cool and reduce the night time cloud?

    9. Increased tropical thunderstorm activity? More ? Stronger?

    10. A subsequent fall to minimum surface temperature below the pre El Nino equilibrium temperature. Assumes the upwelling reverts to ‘normal’ but cloud effects lag.

    Look at the above list in terms of the most recent El Nino events where appropriate data (hopefully) exists to model 4 stage posts of El Nino with 3 associated transition phases as follows (i)=>(ii)=>(iii)=>(iv). Analyse the measurements at each stagepost and the mid point of each phase.

    (i) Equilibrium immediately before El Nino
    (ii) Status at maximum surface temperature.
    (iii) Status at minimum surface temperature immediately after El Nino.
    (iv) Status at return to equilibrium

    Then go back to earlier El Ninos (checking other sudden effects eg Volcanoes weren’t corrupting the scenario) and apply known data and estimate other quantities based on your ‘El Nino Model’.) Does the model fit the actuals well? Statistics needed here.

    Maybe there’s a certain critical strength of El Nino before enhanced thunderstorm activity. Just looking at the temperature record in 1998-99 it looks consistent.
    Maybe increased tropical thunderstorm activity is the real consequence of AGW as it limits global temperature rise.

    A whole mass of statistical analysis possible and going forward fairly frequent El Nino’s to measure and compare.

    What about La Nina’s? Is a reverse characterisation possible and complementary conclusions possible to be drawn?

    Judging from the paper by Spencer et al that you quoted the advent of satellite observation will help on the go forward in measuring this stuff.

    If the above programme is happening in the climatology world then when (are) will the results be available?

    If the above analysis has not been done then how can the models be of any real value?

  390. Chana Cox says:

    Speaking of models…

    Climate change cannot be predicted by a single model no matter how complex that model. Today model building is the preferred method of research in fields as otherwise diverse as economics, population control, and climatology. Experts in the various disciplines are convinced of the efficacy of their models. Such reliance on models has proven disastrous in the past and may continue to do so.

    At its core, a model consists of a series of equations, a set of variables, and a list of relations between those variables expressed by coefficients of the model. For example, although the original in-put out-put equations for a macro-economic model may have been created by means of observations of a functioning market-based economy, once fixed into the model, empirical and theoretical in-puts became conceptually redundant. For the most part the predictions of the model are in fact merely restatements of the assumptions of the model and the coefficients, more often than not, are derived by means of empirical generalizations from outdated and possibly irrelevant data. According to Freeman Dyson of Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study, almost all funding in global warming research is now being devoted to model building and relatively little funding has been devoted to actually determining what is happening in the real world. In the hands of the policy makers, the model itself becomes a black-box mechanism for implementing and formulating economic policy. And so, for example, from 1930s to 1970s macro-economists built enormously complex models of economic systems designed to serve as basis for long term economic planning. Psychologically the models were impressive in that they gave people the illusion of knowledge and control. Unfortunately, those models didn’t work except perhaps to provide employment and professional advancement for cadres of economists and to motivate whole populations to accept poor economic policies. From the beginning, motivating the public was essential to the planners. According to developmental economist Michael Todaro such plans provided important psychological benefits in “mobilizing popular sentiment and cutting across tribal factions with the plea to all citizens to ‘work together,’” so that an “enlightened central government, through its economic plan, [could] provide the needed incentive to overcome the inhibiting forces of traditionalism in the quest for widespread material progress.” Reliance on such models by central governments was often disastrous for developing economies and may very well turn out to be even more disastrous in dealing with global climate change.

    Despite the solemn assurances of the experts, such models have proved to have very little explanatory power or predictive power. They rely on equations which are themselves time and place dependent. At best these economic models represented snapshots of a particular economy at particular times although they were used to predict the behavior of other economies at other times. Not only were macro-economists unable to predict the state of an economy ten years out, they were rarely able to predict the state of an economy ten weeks out.

    With the enormous computing capability of computers and advances in statistical analysis models have become more and more sophisticated although they may in fact be based on very little theory and relatively few well chosen empirical observations. The logic of the underlying model and assumptions is buried in a sea of equations, calculations, and estimates or probabilities all of which are seemingly theoretically and empirically sound. And, psychologically, even the numbers have become largely redundant. Linked to computer graphics, today’s models are as beautiful, as impressive, and as entertaining as Star Wars battle scenes. We seem to quite literally see the world developing before our eyes. Nevertheless, the fundamental logic of model building has not changed. In many respects Google Earth is the finest of models. Its empirical content is many times more solid than the empirical content of global warming models. Nevertheless, while Google Earth can tell us a great deal about Portland Oregon today or even tomorrow it cannot tell us a great deal about Portland Oregon 50 years from now. Such snapshots can give us no very dependable method of predicting the future and thus formulating and implementing rational policy.

    Or, to take other examples, population growth models based on data from 1950 -1970 is inapplicable to population growth patterns in 2009. Investment banking models were based on data from 1945 – 2005 during which time single family housing prices in aggregate increased. The models based on these data predicted that single home mortgages in aggregate had less than a 1% chance risk of default. As a result neither the government nor the investment houses required margins for trading in these aggregated mortgages and their derivatives and the derivatives of their derivatives. The unintended consequences of these models led to an enormous multiplication of liquidity and astronomic growth in leverage and thus M3. Financial collapse was not predictable from within these particular models, although any economists with a scrap of paper and a pencil should have been able to predict the likelihood of that collapse.

    The results of this reliance in climatology on models rather than on observation, experiment, and theory is as likely to be as disappointing as similar reliance on econometric models was in the mid 20 century and investment banking models which led to our current financial collapse. Believers in these climate change models, in particular, are becoming increasingly dogmatic. No countervailing opinions even from within particular disciplines are allowed to undermine the faith in the model itself. Critics are castigated as heretics. Unlike genuinely scientific theories like Newtonian mechanics, these models cannot be tested. The models create the appearance of precision by the magic of long division, but there is little real precision in their predictive ability more than two or three weeks out. When the model builders encounter facts which seem to contradict the predictions of they invariably tinker with the model and announce that the model simply needed a little adjusting. The proponents of these models will not admit even the possibility of being fundamentally in error. Tautological arguments are very convincing.

    A model is not a theory, although it will contain theoretical elements. And even a genuine scientific theory is a net which addresses, at best, only certain aspects of reality. In its essence a theory is a simplification and so while its powers to explain are high, its ability to predict is limited except in very controlled conditions. What the theory cannot interpret in its terms, it must ignore. A sophisticated theorist will recognize the limitations of any particular theory. Models are most helpful in explaining mechanisms after the fact and even then multiple models must be used to explain events. Today’s model builders, in contrast, believe that they have somehow reproduced reality and in their zeal they are often able to use “enlightened central governments” “to mobilize public sentiment” in their various causes.

  391. Willis Eschenbach says:

    I decided to re-read the thread to see what I have missed or had not responded to. I find:

    M. Simon (00:49:17), thanks for your crossposting at:

    http://powerandcontrol.blogspot.com/2009/06/cloud-cover.html

    crosspatch (01:04:01), you say:

    Well, there can be no doubt that the atmosphere was richer in CO2 billions of years ago. That is where all of today’s coal, oil, limestone, and marble come from. If you take ALL of the coal, ALL of the oil, ALL of the limestone and ALL of the marble on the entire planet and convert it all back to CO2, you have a situation much like what we had back then. Then add the fact that there was much more volcanism at that time. Anyone who would claim that the atmosphere at the time when the sun was 30% dimmer wasn’t much richer in CO2 is not doing the math.

    CO2 has been higher in the past. That’s not the problem, or problems to be exact. One is the improbability of GHGs decreasing over billions of years, exactly in tune with the increasing sun.

    The other is that CO2 is not big enough. It is a third-order forcing. Here’s the math:

    Current solar strength “S” = 340 W/m2 (averaged over the planetary surface)

    30% reduction in S = 0.3 * 340 = 102 W/m2

    Increased forcing per doubling of CO2 concentration = 3.7 W/m2

    Number of CO2 doublings required = 113 / 3.7 = 28

    Increase from twenty-eight doublings = 134,217,728 times larger

    Heck, suppose the change in the sun’s strength was only 10%. That gives 10% change in sun strength = 34 W/m2 change = 9 doublings. That would give a CO2 concentration of 12,160 ppmv … I haven’t seen an estimate of CO2 that high ever.

    Data (01:10:11), you say about feedback:

    I’m a little puzzled by this paragraph:

    “(Note that a governor, which contains a hysteresis loop, is different from a negative feedback. A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses. Only a governor can do that.)”

    But a negative-feedback amplifier, within operating parameters, can maintain a desired output in the face of all of the disturbances you list. Certainly the mechanism of negative feedback as applied in electronics can in principle compensate for any change in forcing, not increases only. And of course a governor mechanism uses negative feedback to operate. Perhaps you mean something different by the term?

    The key is in your last statement, “a governor mechanism uses negative feedback to operate”. Simple negative feedback on its own cannot do what a governor does … that’s why it’s a separate thing called a governor.

    M. Simon (04:59:53), you raise an interesting point:

    A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses.

    This is only true of strictly proportional negative feedback. If there is an integrator in the system or the control loop a steady state is in theory possible if the loop tuning is correct and the noise level does not keep things bouncing around.

    And the system does have an integrator. The oceans.

    While you are correct in theory, in practice that kind of system takes a delicate balance to keep it working.

    In addition, the ocean is not a linear integrator in any sense. Over the weekend I finally got my Rescue diver certification, so I had a chance to experience this first-hand. Once again, I found the curious phenomenon where my body at the surface was in water warmed by the tropical sun, with my hands dipping into much cooler water at the bottom of each swimming stroke. There was a clear division between the warm and cool layers, a very definite line.

    This kind of “thermocline” is quite common in the ocean at various levels. As such, it is a very non-linear integrator, with cold currents coming to the surface over here and stratified warm water over there.

    So, the ocean integrating the temperature fluctuations does happen. But I doubt greatly whether it governs day-to-day temperature in anything like the manner that thunderstorms do.

    Michael D Smith (07:26:19), you ask:

    It would be interesting to analyze the satellite photos you used on a day by day basis (I made a VisualBasic color analyzer program for a different application – I could adapt it to detect clouds, though it would become somewhat complex to set the detection levels correctly for different latitude / longitude / apparent atmosphere thickness, etc). It might make it possible to track certain variables over time, especially albedo.

    Do you have a link to the satellite photos that I can use to develop it with? I think I could automate the analysis process.

    Go to

    http://dcdbs.ssec.wisc.edu/inventory/

    Fill in the date and time, a list of satellites comes up. I used a free and quite powerful program called ImageJ to do the analysis. The actual images have a URL like:

    http://dcdbs.ssec.wisc.edu/inventory/image.php?sat=GOES-11&date=2008-04-16&time=21:00&type=Imager&band=1&thefilename=goes11.2008.107.210013.INDX&coverage=FD&count=1&offsettz=0

    so you can hack that to automate downloading the images.

    Pamela Gray (13:38:53), you recommend:

    Willis Eschenbach, your thesis is entirely testable, reasonable and well-mechanized. This is the kind of theory that some doctoral candidate worth his or her salt should take to task, narrow down to some testable point in the hypothesis, and test the bejazes out of it. Good stuff this. Eye candy for someone like me who is a total weather freak.

    I plan to go back to school soon to work on my PhD … take a guess about my intended thesis …

    Robin Kool (15:57:29), you ask:


    Four: What is that spike in cloud cover at 15:30?

    Good question. My best guess is that we are seeing the effect of looking sideways through the clouds. At 4 PM the sun is only 30° above the horizon, so the sides of the tall cumulus clouds may be dominating and increasing the albedo … but that’s just a guess.

    George E. Smith (10:22:22), thanks for your very clear description of emissivity in water. You say:

    I’m not exactly sure what the spectral emissivity of ice is, but i suspect that in the infrared range it too is black, for the same reason as sea water is black.

    According to my bible, Geiger’s Climate Near The Ground, the emissivity of fresh snow is even greater than water, 0.986. And ice has about the same emissivity as water, around 0.98.

    Finally, Chana Cox (09:55:04), among a host of interesting things you include:

    Climate change cannot be predicted by a single model no matter how complex that model. Today model building is the preferred method of research in fields as otherwise diverse as economics, population control, and climatology. Experts in the various disciplines are convinced of the efficacy of their models. Such reliance on models has proven disastrous in the past and may continue to do so.

    At its core, a model consists of a series of equations, a set of variables, and a list of relations between those variables expressed by coefficients of the model.

    Well, yes and no. I would remind you of the old computer modeler’s axiom that “All models are wrong … and some models are useful.” For example, both Bejan’s and Ou’s model referred to in the “Further Reading” at the end of my post are highly simplified models. As such they are assuredly wrong … but they provide a host of insights and surprises.

    I have written and use a simplified radiation / reflection / absorption / convection / evapotranspiration climate model which is also wrong, but was very useful in developing the ideas that became the Thermostat Hypothesis.

    So you are correct, no model can predict climate change, but they still can be of great value. Unfortunately, the current crop of climate models start from the wrong end and work backwards …

    My thanks to everyone for your contributions. Once again I invite people to contribute, in particular any objections anyone can see to the Thermostat Hypothesis, and any ways that it might be tested.

    w.

  392. David H. Walker says:

    Willis,

    Thanks for telling us something that will NEVER get on the news.

    The fact Earth spends at roughly 1,000 mph at the equator and essentially zero at the pole; that the equator receives rougly an equal amount of sun and dark every day but the poles’ exposure fluxuate greatly over the year; surely provokes immense climate dynamics that must be taken into account but seem to be largely ignored by the AGWers. Seems they’ve ignored the same dynamics when raising CFCs.

    The argument, that a trace source of CO2 can overcome the more pervasive and historical climate enhancements, gets more and more absurd. Obviously, for the Al Gore’s of the world it’s about money and power. I hope they choke on their own greed.

  393. Melinda Romanoff says:

    MR. Eschenbach-

    Thank you for your patience, as I had to go and dig out my old notes from ages ago, now I can’t decipher whether it was one of three things: my observation at the time, my professors opinion, or a reference. There were only two other people in the class, so I’m going to have to make a call, because this will drive me up the wall.

    Wonderful discussion.

  394. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Melinda, thank you for your participation. I await your findings.

    All the best,

    w.

  395. ginckgo says:

    Well, we better tell all the geologists, palaeontologists and palaeoclimatologists that their reconstructions of past climates are completely wrong (you’ve got a model to prove it).

    Calculations for ‘super greenhouse’ times like during the Cretaceous indicate low latitude oceans to have topped 310 Kelvin. But more importantly, high latitude waters probably reached temperatures of 300 Kelvin. A flattening of the temperature gradients, coupled with the lack of significant polar ice resulted in very weak oceanic circulations (halothermal is about 2 orders of magnitude weaker than today’s thermohaline). This probably resulted in stratified and stagnant oceans, which were much less productive than our modern ocean. A significant reduction in algal productivity will also reduce the amount of dimethylsulfide that is released as a byproduct of their growth; this chemical eventually becomes the sulfuric acid or methane sulfonic acid, which are very important cloud condensation nuclei. Bingo, a positive feedback from warming oceans, weakening circulation, lowered productivity, reduced cloud cover, higher insolation, warming oceans, etcetc.

  396. ginckgo says:

    Regarding the change in solar strength (S): Most palaeotemperature graphs are only for the past 600 million years or less (the Phanerozoic). S is thought to increase by 10% every billion years, so since the Ediacaran it has increased 6%, leading to a shortfall of 0.06 * 340 W/m2 = 20.4 W/m2 back then. For CO2 alone to make up for this, it would have required 20.4/3.7 = 5.5 doublings = ca 10,000ppmv CO2. CO2 is thought to have been about 7000ppmv at the start of the Phanerozoic, pretty close from where I stand.

  397. maksimovich says:

    ginckgo (21:16:47) :

    Variability of UVB and global cloud cover
    S.H. Larsen G.E. Bodeker E. Pallé 2007
    .
    Abstract. The role of Dimethyl Sulphide (DMS) in regulating climate has been the focus of much research in the last 20 years. In particular, that warmer ocean temperatures might increase the production of DMSP and subsequent flux of DMS to the atmosphere, increasing the number of cloud condensation nuclei and so cloud albedo and duration. In turn this could act to reduce solar heating of the surface, and such a negative feedback would act as a natural thermostat.

    However, temperature is not the only environmental variable that may affect the production of DMS. Another forcing factor is the flux of ultraviolet (UV) light into the
    oceans, Larsen (2005). It is hypothesised that increased UV decreases the flux of DMS to the atmosphere. In which case, cloud cover is reduced, further enhancing the flux of UV into the ocean, and vice versa. In this case a positive feedback would result. The oceans most likely to be susceptible to such a forcing are those where the mixing depth is lowest, and incoming solar-UV flux greatest. These include the subtropics (and higher latitude oceans in summer). The effect of variations in the solar flux on any DMS-climate link are therefore more complex – enhanced solar heating potentially having a negative feedback, but the simultaneously enhanced solar-UV flux having a positive feedback.

    In order to test this hypothesis, UVB data were compared with Earthshine data (a measure of the Earth’s albedo) over the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Significant negative correlations were obtained, especially in the northern hemisphere Pacific and Atlantic in the summer half of the year

  398. Stephen Wilde says:

    ginckgo (21:35:18)

    Why does no one manage to hold in their heads the fact that the circulations in the air are seperate from the circulations in the oceans although influenced by them ?

    If ocean circulations are weaker then less solar energy is taken away from the upper layers into deeper layers and ocean surfaces will warm.

    Warmer ocean surfaces result in FASTER circulations in the air as the air tries to restore the balance between surfaces and space.

    Furthermore those faster air circulations would result in faster circulation of solar energy through the upper layers of the oceans and serve to reduce any oceanic ‘stagnation’.

    We really have very little knowledge of those far off times and lazy speculation is not helpful, especially if it is designed to serve an agenda.

  399. Willis Eschenbach says:

    ginckgo (21:35:18), thank you for your interesting post, viz:

    Regarding the change in solar strength (S): Most palaeotemperature graphs are only for the past 600 million years or less (the Phanerozoic). S is thought to increase by 10% every billion years, so since the Ediacaran it has increased 6%, leading to a shortfall of 0.06 * 340 W/m2 = 20.4 W/m2 back then. For CO2 alone to make up for this, it would have required 20.4/3.7 = 5.5 doublings = ca 10,000ppmv CO2. CO2 is thought to have been about 7000ppmv at the start of the Phanerozoic, pretty close from where I stand.

    That is true. And CO2 is also though to have been much lower at other geological times.

    But as I said above, it is improbable that we would have had changing forces (increasing solar and decreasing GHG) that would have so nearly and neatly balanced each other for 600 million years. In part, the problem is that one is linear (solar forcing change). The other is logarithmic (CO2 forcing change). What would keep them in balance? It’s one of those “possible but doubtful” things.

    One of the citations upstream showed that tropical cumulus don’t form when the sea surface is below 299 K. When the sea is below that temperature, it gets the full force of the sun. In the tropics at noon, this is over a kilowatt per square meter. Our climate system has a lot of power in reserve to warm up the earth when it gets cold. That’s what’s keeping it in balance day in and day out, and thus century in and century out … not changing CO2.

    w.

  400. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Stephen Wilde (01:25:06), thanks for your thoughts about the ocean, viz:

    Why does no one manage to hold in their heads the fact that the circulations in the air are seperate from the circulations in the oceans although influenced by them ?

    If ocean circulations are weaker then less solar energy is taken away from the upper layers into deeper layers and ocean surfaces will warm.

    Warmer ocean surfaces result in FASTER circulations in the air as the air tries to restore the balance between surfaces and space.

    Furthermore those faster air circulations would result in faster circulation of solar energy through the upper layers of the oceans and serve to reduce any oceanic ’stagnation’.

    We really have very little knowledge of those far off times and lazy speculation is not helpful, especially if it is designed to serve an agenda.

    Moving away from the far off times to the present, the ocean and how it circulates the heat from the downwelling solar and infrared radiation is a fascinating and imperfectly understood subject.

    Radiation heats and cools the ocean very unevenly, both temporally and spatially. First, spatially.

    Spatially, the tropics receive most of the heat. When water heats it expands. It rises, and spreads out towards the poles. This is the driving force of the overall ocean circulation of the tropical heat to the poles. It is the oceanic counterpart of the atmosphere being heated and rising in the tropics.

    The speed of this current varies with the amount of energy driving it (which in turn is regulated by clouds and thunderstorms). Note that the amount of energy transferred is a different thing than the temperature.

    Again spatially, light penetrates tens of meters into the ocean. Infrared (greenhouse radiation), on the other hand, is absorbed in the first millimeter. This leads to very different outcomes. And this leads to the second uneven distribution, the temporal distribution of radiation.

    During the day, the atmosphere is unstable because it is warmest at the bottom. Hot air rises, and it overturns. At night, the bottom of the atmosphere cools, and overturning stops. The atmosphere is thermally stable at night.

    The opposite is true of the ocean. During the day, about 80% of the sunlight is absorbed in the upper ten meters of the ocean, and IR is absorbed right at the surface. At the very surface skin, IR immediately and strongly affects re-radiation and evaporation rates. Sunlight affects those as well, but half of the solar energy is absorbed at depths deeper than half a meter. A quarter of the solar energy is absorbed below five meters. Sunlight heats the bulk of the top of the ocean. It has less immediate effect on outgoing radiation or evaporation.

    Now, other things being equal, heat in the ocean doesn’t mix downwards. It rises. So during the day, the ocean is generally thermally stratified and stable, with the warmest water at the top. The top skin gets all the IR plus some of the solar energy, so it is strongly radiating and evaporating. Below it the solar energy is absorbed logarithmically, with deeper layers receiving less energy. This increases the thermal stratification.

    At night, on the other hand, the only downwelling radiation is the IR absorbed in the top mm. The body of the ocean is no longer warming. Outgoing IR radiation is greater than incoming (because the earth is warmer than the atmosphere, and thus radiates more). The skin starts to cool. As soon as it becomes cooler than the underlying layer, it will start to sink through that warmer water until it reaches water of its own temperature. This happens in well defined descending columns of cooler water. These are fed by a larger drainage area around the top of each column.

    In between the descending columns, the water is slowly rising to the surface. Curiously, this is the mirror image of what happens in the atmosphere during the day. There, the bulk air slowly moves toward the surface in between the columnar thunderstorms with their rapidly rising warm air. In the ocean, the bulk ocean slowly moves toward the surface in between the rapidly sinking columns of cool water.

    The system naturally produces the maximum possible radiative cooling and evaporation. Radiative cooling and evaporation are dependent on the temperature of the free surface of the water. What’s happening a centimeter below the surface doesn’t change either of those in the slightest. It’s the skin temperature that counts. And other things being equal, the hottest water in the whole column is always at that top surface.

    This leads to a curious situation where the instantaneous energy flow through the ocean surface is not dependent on the bulk temperature of the ocean. It depends only on the skin temperature, which is to say, it is generally the temperature of the warmest water.

    Makes for complex calculations, and prevents easy or simple answers …

    w.

  401. ginckgo says:

    Stephen Wilde, you’re not distinguishing between climate and weather. Regional ocean surface temperatures certainly influence regional weather (as well as regional climate). But ocean circulation patterns heavily influence global climate. You need to read up on Thermohaline vs Halothermal circulation.

    The main driver of today’s global ocean circulation system is the Thermohaline system (TH), not solar irradiance. Basically when sea ice forms at high latitudes it leaves behind near freezing and very saline waters that sink. In the North Atlantic this can generate a volume transport of 15 sverdrup (1 Sv = 1 million cubic meters per second, equivalent to all the water input of the worlds rivers), and reaches 150Sv by the time it joins the deep Circum-Antarctic current.

    When no significant polar ice exists, then the dominant regime is Halothermal circulation (HT), which is driven by the evaporation at low latitudes that leaves behind heavy saline waters to sink. This is no mainly driven by solar irradiance, but it is calculated to be 1-2 orders of magnitude weaker than the Thermohaline system. Note that these HT waters are relatively warm and only sink due to their salinity, while TH deep waters are saline and cold; therefore we have much weaker circulation, plus it’s likely that these ‘deep’ waters don’t easily turn over the whole ocean, leading to stratification and stagnation (during the Eocene deep waters are thought to have reached 14 degrees C, compared to the near zero of today).

    A lot of the major changes in global climate during the Cainozoic are probably due to continental rearrangement, when old ocean passages closed (Tethys, Panama, Indonesian Gateway almost) while others opened (Drake Passage, Tasman Strait, Denmark Strait and Iceland Faroe Passage), the global climate very abruptly stepped from Greenhouse to IceHouse mode.

    So what the air temperatures are in our IceHouse world has been secondary to the ocean system in producing our current global climate. But the big unknown is, what whould happen if humans manage to influence the climate enough to weaken to HT system. Climate systems appear to often switch abruptly, and we don’t know if the current climate system is robust enough to ignore what we’re doing to it.

    By saying ignorant stuff like “We really have very little knowledge of those far off times and lazy speculation is not helpful” you’re dismissing all the work of Palaeoclimatology, which includes Palaeontology, Sedimentology, Geochemistry, and a host of other disciplines.

  402. Willis Eschenbach says:

    ginckgo (20:09:37), thanks for your interesting points. If I can drag you briefly back to the present, consider this:

    From Science News

    Cold Water Ocean Circulation Doesn’t Work As Expected
    ScienceDaily (May 14, 2009) — The familiar model of Atlantic ocean currents that shows a discrete “conveyor belt” of deep, cold water flowing southward from the Labrador Sea is probably all wet.

    New research led by Duke University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution relied on an armada of sophisticated floats to show that much of this water, originating in the sea between Newfoundland and Greenland, is diverted generally eastward by the time it flows as far south as Massachusetts. From there it disburses to the depths in complex ways that are difficult to follow.

    A 50-year-old model of ocean currents had shown this southbound subsurface flow of cold water forming a continuous loop with the familiar northbound flow of warm water on the surface, called the Gulf Stream.

    “Everybody always thought this deep flow operated like a conveyor belt, but what we are saying is that concept doesn’t hold anymore,” said Duke oceanographer Susan Lozier. “So it’s going to be more difficult to measure these climate change signals in the deep ocean.”

    And since cold Labrador seawater is thought to influence and perhaps moderate human-caused climate change, this finding may affect the work of global warming forecasters.

    Original study is subscription, abstract here

    Given that our understanding of what the oceanic currents do now is incomplete, our understanding of currents in the past must necessarily be poorer than that of today. As the study shows, the ocean currents are not the simple lines we like to draw on charts. They are complex networks that shift location and speed and direction on scales from minutes to months to millennia.

    So you are correct to identify the changes in the continents, particularly opening and closing gaps between islands and continents, as being crucial.

    On a shorter timescale, things like the PDO indicate that there is more than one “quasi-stable” pattern in which the oceanic currents can flow.

    Regarding the concern you expressed at the end:

    But the big unknown is, what whould happen if humans manage to influence the climate enough to weaken to HT system. Climate systems appear to often switch abruptly, and we don’t know if the current climate system is robust enough to ignore what we’re doing to it.

    The changes that humans have made to the surface of the earth are likely to have warmed it. Chop down the trees and you chop down the clouds. More sun plus less moisture means greatly enhanced surface heating (more heating plus less evaporative cooling).

    I’d say that “are we pushing the climate away from a tipping point” is as valid as “are we pushing the climate towards a tipping point”. Since we have no knowledge or definition of what might constitute a tipping point, the odds seem equal. The climate is an infinitely complex chaotic system. We don’t know what switches the PDO from the cool phase to the warm phase and back again every thirty years or so. How do we know what change will have what effect overall?

    I return again, however, to the question of relative size. Averaged over the globe, the earth receives almost 500 W/m2 (170 solar plus 320 IR). In the the day to night swing is about a kilowatt/m2 (1000 Watts/m2).

    If CO2 was to double tomorrow, it would be 3.7 W/m2. That’s less than 1%. It is a tiny, third order forcing. And in the tropics, because the solar input is so large, CO2 makes even less change in the total forcing. If the earth were to be tossed into a tipping point by less than 1% change in forcing, it would have fallen off its perch centuries ago.

    I’ll tell you what I don’t like. Black soot. Falls on ice and melts it. Ever toss cold ashes from a dead fire out on the snow? Melts right down through the snow as the black carbon pick up solar heat, it just keeps going. The gift that keeps on giving. Plus it floats on water, so it stay up at the top absorbing sunlight. Talk about forcings, that’s a strong one. Lots of it gets swept up in the Northern Hemisphere in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. That’s worth being concerned about.

    But CO2? No, too small to worry about. It’ll get adjusted out by the thunderstorm and cumulus governor system. A 1% adjustment in overall albedo will cancel out a CO2 doubling. The Earth has been here before …

    Next, I would take gentle exception to your claim that

    The main driver of today’s global ocean circulation system is the Thermohaline system (TH), not solar irradiance

    Oceanic circulation is driven at both ends of the heat engine. At the hot end, surface waters warm, expand, and flow by gravity towards the poles. At the same time polar waters radiate away their heat into the cold polar sky, cool, sink, and flow towards the equator to complete the circuit. As you imply, either a hot end or a cold end by itself is enough to drive this kind of thermo-circulation. In the case of the earth, however, we have both.

    The change in current caused by fresh water being removed and replaced by the freezing and melting of the ice averages out over the year. It intensifies the current when it freezes as you explain, but it slows the same current when it thaws. Overall, I’d expect there to be no significant net effect. Also, most of the year any particular part of the ocean is neither freezing nor thawing. So on any given square metre of ocean, the annual current change will be small.

    Finally, the idea that evaporation density driven circulation (HT circulation) will take over as the dominant force seems extremely doubtful. It’s so small. Evaporation in the tropics is on the order of a cm/day. To dilute this effect by one hundred to one, it suffices to mix up the top metre of water. And that top meter is well mixed over most of the tropical ocean every day.

    At night, of course, that slightly denser, slightly saltier water joins the radiation cooled surface water. It drops down one of the descending columns of water at night, and mixes with the main upper layer of the ocean. There’s a great temperature and salinity chart here. You can see that the salinity is not penetrating very deep into the Pacific.

    You can also see that the cold water is rising at the equator, being heated, and spreading out towards both poles. At the equator, this rising cool water overwhelms the downward flow of the saline water, pushing that towards the poles as well. There, without the uprising water at the equator, it can sink deeper into the ocean and slowly mix away. There is a corresponding cross section of the Atlantic here, scroll down. It shows the same features of rising water at the equator and spreading warmth and salinity at the surface.

    So no, I don’t see HT circulation dominating that any time soon …

    Thanks for your ideas, they push me to think and explore.

    w.

  403. Willis Eschenbach says:

    ginckgo (20:09:37), thanks for your interesting points. If I can drag you briefly back to the present, consider this:

    From Science News

    Cold Water Ocean Circulation Doesn’t Work As Expected
    ScienceDaily (May 14, 2009) — The familiar model of Atlantic ocean currents that shows a discrete “conveyor belt” of deep, cold water flowing southward from the Labrador Sea is probably all wet.

    New research led by Duke University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution relied on an armada of sophisticated floats to show that much of this water, originating in the sea between Newfoundland and Greenland, is diverted generally eastward by the time it flows as far south as Massachusetts. From there it disburses to the depths in complex ways that are difficult to follow.

    A 50-year-old model of ocean currents had shown this southbound subsurface flow of cold water forming a continuous loop with the familiar northbound flow of warm water on the surface, called the Gulf Stream.

    “Everybody always thought this deep flow operated like a conveyor belt, but what we are saying is that concept doesn’t hold anymore,” said Duke oceanographer Susan Lozier. “So it’s going to be more difficult to measure these climate change signals in the deep ocean.”

    And since cold Labrador seawater is thought to influence and perhaps moderate human-caused climate change, this finding may affect the work of global warming forecasters.

    Original study is subscription, abstract here

    Given that our understanding of what the oceanic currents do now is incomplete, our understanding of currents in the past must necessarily be poorer than that of today. As the study shows, the ocean currents are not the simple lines we like to draw on charts. They are complex networks that shift location and speed and direction on scales from minutes to months to millennia.

    So you are correct to identify the changes in the continents, particularly opening and closing gaps between islands and continents, as being crucial.

    On a shorter timescale, things like the PDO indicate that there is more than one “quasi-stable” pattern in which the oceanic currents can flow.

    Regarding the concern you expressed at the end:

    But the big unknown is, what whould happen if humans manage to influence the climate enough to weaken to HT system. Climate systems appear to often switch abruptly, and we don’t know if the current climate system is robust enough to ignore what we’re doing to it.

    The changes that humans have made to the surface of the earth are likely to have warmed it. Chop down the trees and you chop down the clouds. More sun plus less moisture means greatly enhanced surface heating (more heating plus less evaporative cooling).

    I’d say that “are we pushing the climate away from a tipping point” is as valid as “are we pushing the climate towards a tipping point”. Since we have no knowledge or definition of what might constitute a tipping point, the odds seem equal. The climate is an infinitely complex chaotic system. We don’t know what switches the PDO from the cool phase to the warm phase and back again every thirty years or so. How do we know what change will have what effect overall?

    I return again, however, to the question of relative size. Averaged over the globe, the earth receives almost 500 W/m2 (170 solar plus 320 IR). In the the day to night swing is about a kilowatt/m2 (1000 Watts/m2).

    If CO2 was to double tomorrow, it would be 3.7 W/m2. That’s less than 1%. It is a tiny, third order forcing. And in the tropics, because the solar input is so large, CO2 makes even less change in the total forcing. If the earth were to be tossed into a tipping point by less than 1% change in forcing, it would have fallen off its perch centuries ago.

    I’ll tell you what I don’t like. Black soot. Falls on ice and melts it. Ever toss cold ashes from a dead fire out on the snow? Melts right down through the snow as the black carbon pick up solar heat, it just keeps going. The gift that keeps on giving. Plus it floats on water, so it stay up at the top absorbing sunlight. Talk about forcings, that’s a strong one. Lots of it gets swept up in the Northern Hemisphere in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. That’s worth being concerned about.

    But CO2? No, too small to worry about. It’ll get adjusted out by the thunderstorm and cumulus governor system. A 1% adjustment in overall albedo will cancel out a CO2 doubling. The Earth has been here before …

    Thanks for your ideas, they push me to think and explore.

    w.

  404. Willis Eschenbach says:

    ginckgo (20:09:37), thanks for your interesting points. If I can drag you briefly back to the present geological era, consider this:

    From Science News

    Cold Water Ocean Circulation Doesn’t Work As Expected
    ScienceDaily (May 14, 2009) — The familiar model of Atlantic ocean currents that shows a discrete “conveyor belt” of deep, cold water flowing southward from the Labrador Sea is probably all wet.

    New research led by Duke University and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution relied on an armada of sophisticated floats to show that much of this water, originating in the sea between Newfoundland and Greenland, is diverted generally eastward by the time it flows as far south as Massachusetts. From there it disburses to the depths in complex ways that are difficult to follow.

    A 50-year-old model of ocean currents had shown this southbound subsurface flow of cold water forming a continuous loop with the familiar northbound flow of warm water on the surface, called the Gulf Stream.

    “Everybody always thought this deep flow operated like a conveyor belt, but what we are saying is that concept doesn’t hold anymore,” said Duke oceanographer Susan Lozier. “So it’s going to be more difficult to measure these climate change signals in the deep ocean.”

    And since cold Labrador seawater is thought to influence and perhaps moderate human-caused climate change, this finding may affect the work of global warming forecasters.

    Original study is subscription, abstract here

    Given that our understanding of what the oceanic currents do now is obviously incomplete, our understanding of currents in the past must necessarily be poorer than that of today. As the study shows, the ocean currents are not the simple lines we like to draw on charts. They are complex networks that shift location and speed and direction on scales from minutes to months to millennia.

    So you are correct to identify the changes in the continents, particularly opening and closing gaps between islands and continents, as being crucial to the setting of the global thermostat. And certainly we know, from drill cores and sediment beds and the like, that a current flowed here 1.5 million years ago, and there 3.7 million years ago, and in a third place 4.6 million years ago. However, determining where the currents flowed a million years ago on anything resembling a global scale when we don’t know where they flow today is a bit of a stretch.

    On a shorter timescale, things like the PDO indicate that there is more than one “quasi-stable” pattern in which the oceanic currents can flow. But what flips the PDO from one state to the other? We haven’t a clue.

    Regarding the concern you expressed at the end:

    But the big unknown is, what whould happen if humans manage to influence the climate enough to weaken to HT system. Climate systems appear to often switch abruptly, and we don’t know if the current climate system is robust enough to ignore what we’re doing to it.

    The changes that humans have made to the surface of the earth are likely to have warmed it. Chop down the trees and you chop down the clouds. More sun plus less moisture means greatly enhanced surface heating (more heating plus less evaporative cooling).

    But I’d say that “are we pushing the climate away from a tipping point” is as valid as “are we pushing the climate towards a tipping point”. Since we have no knowledge or definition of what might constitute a tipping point, the odds seem equal. The climate is an infinitely complex chaotic system. We don’t know what switches the PDO from the cool phase to the warm phase and back again every thirty years or so. How do could we know what oceanic current change will have what effect overall on the globe?

    I return again, however, to the question of relative size. Averaged over the globe, the earth receives almost 500 W/m2 (170 solar plus 320 IR). In the tropics, the day to night swing is about a kilowatt/m2 (1000 Watts/m2).

    If CO2 were to double tomorrow, according to IPCC figures it would give us a forcing change of about 3.7 W/m2. That’s less than 1% change in downwelling radiation. It is a tiny, third order forcing. And in the tropics, because the solar input is so large, CO2 makes even less change in the total forcing. If the earth were to be tossed into a tipping point by less than 1% change in forcing, it would have fallen off its perch centuries ago.

    I’ll tell you what I don’t like. Black soot. Falls on ice and melts it. Ever toss cold ashes from a dead fire out on the snow? Melts right down through the snow as the black carbon pick up solar heat, it just keeps going. The gift that keeps on giving. Plus carbon floats on water, so it stay up at the top absorbing sunlight. Talk about forcings, that’s a strong one. Lots of it gets swept up in the Northern Hemisphere and is deposited on snow and ice in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions. That’s a forcing worth being concerned about.

    But CO2? No, too small to worry about. It’ll get adjusted out by the thunderstorm and cumulus governor system. A 1% adjustment in overall albedo will cancel out a CO2 doubling. The Earth has been here before …

    Next, I would take gentle exception to your claim that

    The main driver of today’s global ocean circulation system is the Thermohaline system (TH), not solar irradiance

    Oceanic circulation is driven at both ends of the heat engine. At the hot end, surface waters warm, expand, and flow by gravity towards the poles. At the same time polar waters radiate away their heat into the cold polar sky, cool, sink, and flow towards the equator to complete the circuit. As you imply, either a hot end or a cold end by itself is enough to drive this kind of thermo-circulation. In the case of the earth, however, we have both.

    The change in current caused by fresh water being removed and replaced by the freezing and melting of the ice averages out over the year. It intensifies the current when it freezes as you explain. On the other hand, it slows the same current when it thaws. Overall, I’d expect there to be no significant net effect. Also, most of the year any particular part of the ocean is neither freezing nor thawing. So on any given square metre of ocean, the annual current change from freezing/thawing will be small.

    Finally, the idea that evaporation density driven circulation (HT circulation) will take over as the dominant force seems extremely doubtful. It’s so small. Evaporation in the tropics is on the order of a cm/day. To dilute this effect by one hundred to one, it suffices to mix up the top metre of water. And that top meter is well mixed over most of the tropical ocean every day.

    At night, of course, that slightly denser, slightly saltier water joins the radiation cooled surface water. It drops down one of the descending columns of water at night, and mixes with the main upper layer of the ocean. There’s a great temperature and salinity chart here. You can see that the salinity is not penetrating very deep into the Pacific.

    You can also see that the cold water is rising at the equator, being heated, and spreading out towards both poles. At the equator, this rising cool water overwhelms the downward flow of the saline water, pushing that towards the poles as well. There, without the uprising water at the equator, it can sink deeper into the ocean and slowly mix away. There is a corresponding cross section of the Atlantic here, scroll down. It shows the same features of rising water at the equator and spreading warmth and salinity at the surface.

    So no, I don’t see HT circulation dominating that any time soon …

    Thanks for your ideas, they push me to think and explore.

    w.

  405. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Well, I posted it once and it didn’t appear, so I cut it in half and tried again. Still didn’t appear.

    Went to bed, and when I got up, both were there … go figure.

    w.

    REPLY:
    Posts with a lot of words + URLs tend to get put in the spam filter, we regularly rescue them – Anthony

  406. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Thanks, Anthony. I thought that might be the case that I had two many words etc, so I cut it in half and tried reposting …

    Next time, if it disappears I’ll just wait.

    Thanks for providing the venue for what has turned out to be a most interesting discussion.

    w.

  407. ginckgo says:

    Willis,

    I don’t have access to the actual Nature article, so I’ll address the popular press summary (ugh!): It appears that the floats they used to measure the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC) only reached a maximum depth of 1500m. At that shallow depth I would expect there to still be some influence by the Gulf Stream. Considering that the ocean basins are generally deeper than 2000m, and on average 3-4000m, I would expect the main flow of the DWBC to occur at those depths.

    I agree, ocean currents are anything but simple lines (we always try to spot the circulation maps that have the major current arrow going right across New Zealand). The details don’t change the fact that there is a major ocean circulation system the governs the movement of water in the oceans, and along with it energy.

    Things like the PDO only seem to temporarily alter some aspects the large scale flow of the ‘conveyor belt’, such as dragging up more deep water along the west coast of South America than normal. This does not currently change the actual circulation system in any major way. What is not know is if significant climatic changes could flip the whole circulation pattern from one state to another.

    It’s not an either/or of “pushing towards a tipping point” vs “pushing away from a tipping point”. There are likely to be many tipping points, and pushing away from one may push towards another at the same time. Yes, if forced to chose, I’d probably rather live in a Greenhouse world than in a Snowball world, but in reality, I prefer a nice interglacial.

    And if you don’t like the idea that Thermohaline circulation is largely driven by polar ice, you’re a lone voice. But by the way you describe the process, I take it you haven’t actually understood it. Deep water creation at the poles is huge (check the figures I stated). Thawing in summer doesn’t warm the waters (physics of phase transitions) and enough ice remains (yet) to maintain the system. There is certainly not “no net effect”.

    Warming waters at low latitudes create a weak enough flow to be overwhelmed by other factors such as winds and upwelling of deep sea currents. As you point out in the salinity chart you link to, in the current state the tropics are unable to affect the current as a driver because of the strong and continuous flow of very cold deep waters. However, should these deep waters weaken, and at some point even warm up, then it’s possible that the evaporative driver could become significant. But as I said, Halothermal circulation is several orders of magnitude weaker than Thermohaline – you could probably kiss the fishing industry goodbye.

  408. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Gingko, there is certainly thermal circulation from pole to equator. My contention was that:

    1. During part of the year, water is freezing. This leaves behind a heavier liquid, which tends to sink. This helps the thermally driven current that moves towards the equator.

    2. During another part of the year, ice is thawing. This leaves behind a lighter liquid, which tends to float. This hinders the thermally driven current that moves towards the equator.

    w.

  409. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Gingko, a couple of further thoughts:

    Things like the PDO only seem to temporarily alter some aspects the large scale flow of the ‘conveyor belt’, such as dragging up more deep water along the west coast of South America than normal. This does not currently change the actual circulation system in any major way. What is not know is if significant climatic changes could flip the whole circulation pattern from one state to another.

    Since the PDO lasts on the order of thirty years or so, I’m not sure what you are calling “temporarily”. Also, we don’t yet understand what drives the PDO, or what actually changes during the PDO. So I would doubt very much that we can state that the PDO “does not currently change the actual circulation system in any major way”. Seems like a bridge too far.

    It’s not an either/or of “pushing towards a tipping point” vs “pushing away from a tipping point”. There are likely to be many tipping points, and pushing away from one may push towards another at the same time. Yes, if forced to chose, I’d probably rather live in a Greenhouse world than in a Snowball world, but in reality, I prefer a nice interglacial.

    My point was simple. We don’t know what a tipping point looks like. We can’t identify them in past climates, other than to note that some climate changes occur fairly quickly … but that tells us simply that some particular threshold was exceeded. It does not, however, tell us anything about what that tipping point was.

    Myself, I find the discussion of “tipping points” generally to be a lot of handwaving. Yes, they might exist … but since we don’t have a clue what they look like even if we were to see one, what good does the entire “tipping points” discussion do? People rave on about how we’re going towards some “tipping point”, but when push comes to shove, they can’t say what a tipping point might look like if it hit them in the face.

    w.

  410. Willis Eschenbach says:

    I realized today that there is another piece of evidence that bears on this question. This is the relationship between CO2 and temperature as shown in the Vostok ice cores. The Vostok CO2 data is here, and the Vostok temperature data is here.

    An analysis of the Vostok data gives the following relationship:

    T0 – T1 = 14 log(C0/C1,2), r^2 = 0.66

    where T0-T1 is the temperature change (°C), and C0/C1 is the ratio of the starting and ending CO2 levels (ppmv).

    This has two consequences. First, it indicates that the change in temperature in the 20th century is not the cause of the current rise in CO2. If the Vostok data is correct, a 0.6°C temperature rise would only raise CO2 by about 10 ppmv.

    Of more import to the present discussion is that if CO2 is driving temperature, according to the Vostok cores a change in CO2 from 280 ppmv to 380 ppmv should have resulted in a 6°C temperature rise.

    Obviously this hasn’t happened … and the question is, why not? I believe that my thermostat hypothesis explains why not, although certainly there may be other explanations.

  411. jim hardy says:

    Mr Eschenbach — Wow!
    As an engineer whose Dad was a meteorologist i applaud your essay.

    I have been asking “Where’s the control system theory in all this?” It’s an equilibrium seeking system subject to the math of feedback controls.
    My opinion is the climate models are just in the appetizer stage, the main course straight thinking on this matter is still out there in the kitchen .
    You are more on track than the rest i’ve seen.

    And your points about water vapor are right on target.
    Please see my tweak of the ocean heat guys a couple years ago,
    comment #96 on this ocean heat content blog,
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/08/ocean-heat-content-latest-numbers/comment-page-2/#comments

    I believe the regulating mechanism you seek lies in the slope of the saturation pressure curve for water.
    Given that our atmosphere has a particular weight hence a particular pressure, there exists a temperature around which the vapor pressure of water will affect the thermodynamics of air with maximum effect. That is, it will make density of air change more than it would from temperature alone, and even more significantly will optimally affect its specific heat as a working fluid in your heat engine. Mother nature loves a balance!

    Were i forty years younger i’d try to calculate it for you.

    I spent a lifetime fixing feedback control based regulating systems and am fascinated by the math involved. See any text on Modern Control Systems.
    That math was discovered by Descartes but set aside as an interesting curiosity. Well, that is until WW2 when the German scientists found it’d make their rockets work. The German texts were brought back as a war prize along with Dr Von Braun who explained them to our guys.
    But i digress.

    Anyhow – if i can find my steam tables and Dad’s old “Climate and Man” textbook i might try to horse out some simple approximations …

    meantime, i applaud you as the first climate guy to put Descarte before the hors d’ouvres.

    Sincerely, old jim hardy

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