New paper from Lindzen demonstrates low climate sensitivity with observational data

“…ERBE data appear to demonstrate a climate sensitivity of about 0.5°C which is easily distinguished from sensitivities given by models.”


Lindzen_ERBE_models

figure 3 - click for larger image

On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data

Richard S. Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi
Revised on July 14, 2009 for publication to Geophysical Research Letters

Abstract
Climate feedbacks are estimated from fluctuations in the outgoing radiation budget from the latest version of Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) nonscanner data. It appears, for the entire tropics, the observed outgoing radiation fluxes increase with the increase in sea surface temperatures (SSTs). The observed behavior of radiation fluxes implies negative feedback processes associated with relatively low climate sensitivity. This is the opposite of the behavior of 11 atmospheric models forced by the same SSTs. Therefore, the models display much higher climate sensitivity than is inferred from ERBE, though it is difficult to pin down such high sensitivities with any precision. Results also show, the feedback in ERBE is mostly from shortwave radiation while the feedback in the models is mostly from longwave radiation. Although such a test does not distinguish the mechanisms, this is important since the inconsistency of climate feedbacks constitutes a very fundamental problem in climate prediction.

Introduction
The purpose of the present note is to inquire whether observations of the earth’s radiation imbalance can be used to infer feedbacks and climate sensitivity. Such an approach has, as we will see, some difficulties, but it appears that they can be overcome. This is important since most current estimates of climate sensitivity are based on global climate model (GCM) results, and these obviously need observational testing.


To see what one particular difficulty is, consider the following conceptual situation:

We instantaneously double CO2. This will cause the characteristic emission level to rise to a colder level with an associated diminution of outgoing longwave radiation (OLR). The resulting radiative imbalance is what is generally referred to as radiative forcing. However, the resulting warming will eventually eliminate the radiative imbalance as the system approaches equilibrium. The actual amount of warming associated with
equilibration as well as the response time will depend on the climate feedbacks in the system. These feedbacks arise from the dependence of radiatively important substances like water vapor (which is a powerful greenhouse gas) and clouds (which are important for both infrared and visible radiation) on the temperature. If the feedbacks are positive, then both the equilibrium warming and the response time will increase; if they are negative, both will decrease. Simple calculations as well as GCM results suggest response times on the order of decades for positive feedbacks and years or less for negative feedbacks [Lindzen and Giannitsis, 1998, and references therein].

The main point of this example is to illustrate that the climate system tends to eliminate radiative imbalances with characteristic response times.

Now, in 2002–2004 several papers noted that there was interdecadal change in the top-of-atmosphere (TOA) radiative balance associated with a warming between the 1980′s and 1990′s [Chen et al., 2002; Wang et al., 2002; Wielicki et al., 2002a, b; Cess and Udelhofen, 2003; Hatzidimitriou et al., 2004; Lin et al., 2004]. Chou and Lindzen [2005] inferred from the interdecadal changes in OLR and temperature that there was a strong negative feedback. However, this result was internally inconsistent since the
persistence of the imbalance over a decade implied a positive feedback. A subsequent correction to the satellite data eliminated much of the decadal variation in the radiative balance [Wong et al., 2006].
However, it also made clear that one could not readily use decadal variability in surface temperature to infer feedbacks from ERBE data. Rather one needs to look at temperature variations that are long compared to the time scales associated with the feedback processes, but short compared to the response time over which the system equilibrates. This is also important so as to unambiguously observe changes in the radiative budget that are responses to fluctuations in SST as opposed to changes in SST resulting from changes in the radiative budget; the latter will occur on the response time of the system. The primary feedbacks involving water vapor and clouds occur on time scales of days [Lindzen et al., 2001; Rodwell and Palmer, 2007], while response times for relatively strong negative feedbacks remain on the order of a year [Lindzen and Giannitsis, 1998, and references therein]. That said, it is evident that, because the system attempts to restore equilibrium, there will be a tendency to underestimate negative feedbacks relative to positive feedbacks that are associated with longer response times.

Concluding Remarks

In Figure 3, we show 3 panels. We see that ERBE and model results differ
substantially. In panels a and b, we evaluate Equation (3) using ΔFlux for only OLR and only SWR. The curves are for the condition assuming no SW feedback and assuming no LW feedback in panels a and b, respectively. In panel a, model results fall on the curve given by Equation (3), because the model average of SW feedbacks is almost zero. In panel b, models with smaller LW feedbacks are closer to the curve for no LW feedback; the model results would lie on the curve assuming positive LW feedback. When in panel c we consider the total flux (i.e., LW + SW), model results do lie on the theoretically expected curve.

Looking at Figure 3, we note several important features:

1) The models display much higher climate sensitivity than is inferred from ERBE.

2) The (negative) feedback in ERBE is mostly from SW while the (positive) feedback in
the models is mostly from OLR.

3) The theoretical relation between ΔF/ΔT and sensitivity is very flat for sensitivities
greater than 2°C. Thus, the data does not readily pin down such sensitivities. This was
the basis for the assertion by Roe and Baker [2007] that determination of climate
sensitivity was almost impossible [Allen and Frame, 2007]. However, this assertion
assumes a large positive feedback.

Indeed, Fig. 3c suggests that models should have a range of sensitivities extending from about 1.5°C to infinite sensitivity (rather than 5°C as commonly asserted), given the presence of spurious positive feedback. However, response time increases with increasing sensitivity [Lindzen and Giannitsis,1998], and models were probably not run sufficiently long to realize their full sensitivity. For sensitivities less than 2°C, the data readily distinguish different sensitivities, and ERBE data appear to demonstrate a climate sensitivity of about 0.5°C which is easily distinguished from sensitivities given by models.

Note that while TOA flux data from ERBE are sufficient to determine feedback factors, this data do not specifically identify mechanisms. Thus, the small OLR feedback from ERBE might represent the absence of any OLR feedback; it might also result from the cancellation of a possible positive water vapor feedback due to increased water vapor
in the upper troposphere [Soden et al., 2005] and a possible negative iris cloud feedback involving reduced upper level cirrus clouds [Lindzen et al., 2001]. With respect to SW feedbacks, it is currently claimed that model SW feedbacks are largely associated with the behavior of low level clouds [Bony et al., 2006, and references therein]. Whether this is the case in nature cannot be determined from ERBE TOA observations.

However,more recent data from CALIOP do offer height resolution, and we are currently studying such data to resolve the issue of what, in fact, is determining SW feedbacks. Finally, it should be noted that our analysis has only considered the tropics. Following Lindzen et al. [2001], allowing for sharing this tropical feedback with neutral higher latitudes could reduce the negative feedback factor by about a factor of two. This would lead to an
equilibrium sensitivity that is 2/3 rather than 1/2 of the non-feedback value. This, of course, is still a small sensitivity.

see the full paper here (PDF)

h/t to Leif Svalgaard

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104 thoughts on “New paper from Lindzen demonstrates low climate sensitivity with observational data

  1. Lief/Anthony, it would be a great service if you were able to keep the WUWT readership informed about any serious critiques of this possibly seminal paper, either positive or negative.

  2. “rather one needs to look at temperature variations that are long compared to the time scales associated with the feedback processes, but short compared to the response time over which the system equilibrates. This is also important so as to unambiguously observe changes in the radiative budget that are responses to fluctuations in SST as opposed to changes in SST resulting from changes in the radiative budget”

    This is precisely what Roy Spencer has been saying-one needs to carefully assess what radiative changes are really feedback and which ones correspond to forcing from, say, natural changes in clouds.

  3. 3) The theoretical relation between ΔF/ΔT and sensitivity is very flat for sensitivities
    greater than 2°C. Thus, the data does not readily pin down such sensitivities. This was
    the basis for the assertion by Roe and Baker [2007] that determination of climate
    sensitivity was almost impossible [Allen and Frame, 2007]. However, this assertion
    assumes a large positive feedback.

    This would seem to stick a fork in the Tanaka paper on Insufficient Forcing Uncertainty you posted a few days ago.

  4. BTW The observed behavior of radiation fluxes implies negative feedback processes
    This means one of two things: either the door of the greenhouse was open or there is no greenhouse at all!!
    Truth is surfacing over…after a long history of “adjustments” and “corrections”.

  5. FAO study Abstract:
    ABSTRACT
    The main objective of the study was to develop a predictive model based on the observable correlation between well-known climate indices and fish production, and forecast the dynamics of the main commercial fish stocks for 5–15 years ahead.
    Populations of the most commercially important Atlantic and Pacific fish species – Atlantic and Pacific herring, Atlantic cod, European, South African, Peruvian, Japanese and Californian sardine, South African and Peruvian anchovy, Pacific salmon, Alaska pollock, Chilean jack mackerel and some
    others – undergo long-term simultaneous oscillations. Total catch of these species accounts for about 50% of total fish harvest over Atlantic and Pacific.
    It was found that the dynamics of global air surface temperature anomaly (dT), although in correlation
    with the long-term dynamics of marine fish production, is of poor predictive significance because of high inter-annual variability and a long-term trend. The Atmospheric Circulation Index (ACI), characterizing the dominant direction of air mass transport, is less variable and in closer correlation
    with the long-term fluctuations of the main commercial stocks (r = 0.70-0.90).
    Spectral analysis of the time series of dT, ACI and Length Of Day (LOD) estimated from direct observations (110-150 years) showed a clear 55-65 year periodicity. Spectral analysis of the reconstructed time series of the air surface temperatures for the last 1500 years suggested the similar
    (55-60 year) periodicity. Analysis of 1600 years long reconstructed time series of sardine and anchovy biomass in Californian upwelling also revealed a regular 50-70 years fluctuation. Spectral analysis of the catch statistics of main commercial species for the last 50-100 years also showed cyclical
    fluctuations of about 55-years

  6. Let me get this straight. The Chris de Freitas, et al paper accounts 80% of GW due to ENSO, the Goetz analysis accounts for 10% and now we know the sensitivity should be small. All of these would seem to put AGW in some serious trouble as well as explaining the recent cooling trend.

    It will be interesting to see what discussion transpires.

  7. The blackbody temperature of the equatorial oceans at high noon is approximately 181F=83C (flux = 1360 w/m^2, emissivity = 0.67). Add in the radiative effect of water vapor and they should be almost boiling. Of course the “feedback” is negative.

  8. John (09:03:58) :

    Lief/Anthony, it would be a great service if you were able to keep the WUWT readership informed about any serious critiques of this possibly seminal paper, either positive or negative.

    Response times for negative feedbacks are expected to be short. :-)

  9. I recall from lots of prior work that “Climate Sensitivity” (to doubling of atmospheric CO2) is theoretically about 1 degree C with no feedback; AGW models assume significant strong positive feedbacks (which is false); and actual feedbacks are negative such that Climate Sensitiy is about 0.5C.

    This latest paper by Lindzen et al is consistent with that conclusion.

    There is less and less justification for alarm from increasing atmospheric CO2. The last ~decade of global cooling tends to disprove the AGW hypothesis.

    If we were really truthful about the science, we would have to admit that we don’t even fully understand what is driving increased CO2 – could this too be partly or even mostly natural?

    We know that CO2 lags temperature at all measured time scales – about 600 years in a cycle of about 100,000 years, and 9 months in a cycle of ~3 to 5 years.

    We also know that during recent times of global cooling, 12-month CO2 increments have actually decreased – in some months in 1958, 1964, 1965, 1971 and 1974.

    Will this happen again? Perhaps, we just have to wait to see what cooling brings.

  10. Isn’t this what people like Dr Roy Spencer and Prof Bob Carter have been saying?

    And don’t most people know 5 day forecasts are revised each day?

  11. Wonder if RC & co will respond with positive or negative feedback and just how high their sensitivity will be.

  12. Richard M (10:48:24) :They explain 80% of the VARIANCE of tropospheric temperatures, which aren’t effected by John’s findings.

    AFAIK there is a trend in the satellite data which, while small, doesn’t appear to be entirely an ENSO or volcano or combined effect-which MAY indicate a CO2 effect, but there are weird latitude variations. See:

    http://www.pas.rochester.edu/~douglass/papers/E&E%20douglass_christy-color.pdf

    Which basically agrees with Lindzen’s paper that the feedbacks don’t seem to be positive.

  13. Allan M R MacRae (11:37:54) :
    Will this happen again? Perhaps, we just have to wait to see what cooling brings.
    For sure, low temperature increases CO2 solubility in water…but, for sure, increases wishes for “correcting” figures up or it will be explained as a consequence of “recently adopted” correct enviromental policies.

  14. Excellent paper, it seems observation and common sense supports a negative feedback to warming as one would expect. As the sea warms, evaporation increases, more cloud cover forms and the clouds are white, blocking more of the incoming SW energy, hence the outgoing SW increase. You can see it happen with your own eyes in the tropics, it happens everyday! I only wish the RC team would do some model vs observation testing, rather than using their incorrect models to play down the suns role.

    Unfortunetly I can hear them now….. “GRL will publish any old rubbish” “Lindzen works for big oil” regardless of what the hard data says, but Mann & Steig can fix that to.

    The public and the media really need to understand that co2 doubling on its own is a small issue. The whole “big” issue is created by assuming a strong positive feedback. This is not supported by observation! Hence there is no solid science or certainty behind claims of 4 degrees warming etc…

  15. joshv (12:32:51) :

    So wait, when the earth gets hotter, it radiates more energy, not less. Shocker.

    That’s what feedbacks are for…to send it back. :-)
    The truth is, that is usually called “rain”: when seas loses heat water evaporates and rain falls, and heat goes up, up and away..
    There is not any greenhouse, up to now nobody has covered the earth with glass.

  16. joshv (12:32:51) : Not really-What’s “surprising” is that the release of additional energy is GREATER than the Planck response-meaning there is more going on here than just that basic physical property.

    Incidentally, the planck response is part of the confusion many people have about positive feedbacks “runaway” warming, because if you consider the planck response a feedback, then even with strong positive feedback, the situation is not unconditionally unstable because the net feedback is, in engineering terms, weakly negative.

    This situation can be seen if you were to graph hypothetical variations in radiation leaving the Earth (y axis) against temperature (x axis). If the follow a line with a slope greater than 3.3 W/m^2 that corresponds to negative feedback, less corresponds to “positive” feedback. A negative or zero slope in such a situation corresponds to unconditional instability and is unphysical. Note however that if a change in the radiation lost to space is the RESULT of a of a temperature change, corresponding to feedback and thus giving the slope of the sensitivity, but if it is a change of radiation which CAUSES the temperature to change, it will bias the slope downward. Lindzen alludes to this confounding factor and how to account for it, but the seminal work was done by Spencer and Braswell (2008).

  17. RE: Nogw (09:54:54) :

    BTW The observed behavior of radiation fluxes implies negative feedback processes
    This means one of two things: either the door of the greenhouse was open or there is no greenhouse at all!!

    ==================
    There is a greenhouse. It’s just a very fancy greenhouse.

  18. Richard S. Lindzen has always been skeptical of a positive global temperature feedback loop … as have scientists outside the AGW community. 3rd parties wonder why we would not get stuck in an ice age (or heat age) if feedback was positive.

    Will this paper lead to revision of GW models? My guess: No.

    My understanding is (1) the vast majority of CO2 is stored in the ocean and (2) CO2 has increased at a very consistent pace since the Mauna-Loa measurements started (pre-1960). In fact, the increases don’t seem to track industrial activity (reduced increases in a recession). Are these assumptions correct? If so, has any consideration been given to the possibility that current CO2 increases are mostly a reflection of the ocean/atmosphere re-establishing an equilibrium? (Ocean releasing CO2 very slowly because it is warmer?)

  19. I am back to the same comment I made in another thread. Are hypothesized drivers such as solar or CO2 additive to natural variability or simply buried by it? I think the coupling of endogenous nature and exogenous solar or pollution, if there is one, that would explain an additive nature, has not been proposed that I know of. The IPCC sponsored models ignore or have not mechanized natural variability so they fudge it. If it is not additive and nature trumps, we can ignore both solar and CO2. If it is additive, does nature undo the warming and reset the clock? If this is true, we can still ignore solar and/or CO2. If it is additive and permanent (as in the tipping point case), we should try to reverse, prepare and adjust. What is important here is to flesh out the mechanism that can be substantiated with observed phenomena, or else we buy a pig in a poke. The current IPCC modeled CO2-temp scenarios do not match observations. Somebody needs to go back to the drawing board.

  20. The climate models are still producing the same numbers they did 30 years ago. All of the improvements, additional data and greater understanding hasn’t changed the results much at all. If you ask any of the main modelers if any new information will change the numbers significantly, they all answer “certainly not lower, if anything the sensitivity will go higher”.

    So, we don’t need any further modeling or newer, faster climate models. It won’t make any difference, we’ve reached equilbrium/the end with respect to theoritical modeling.

    What we need now is actual measurements.

    This paper provides measurements of the basic system itself and the basic GHG sensitivity itself so now we are moving forward again.

  21. It appears that the editors of these journal (Journal of Geophysical Research and Geophysical Research Letters) have finallly shed their bias for papers advocating AGW.

  22. “”” Paul Linsay (10:52:10) :

    The blackbody temperature of the equatorial oceans at high noon is approximately 181F=83C (flux = 1360 w/m^2, emissivity = 0.67). Add in the radiative effect of water vapor and they should be almost boiling. Of course the “feedback” is negative. “””

    You want to specify where abouts in the equatorial oceans, at high noon the water temperature gets to 181 F or 83 C. You realize that 1360 W/m^2 is just 6 below the extra atmospheric TSI level. And just how did the emissivity of the oceans get down to as low as 0.67; it should be more like 0.97, certainly for the LW radiant emissions.

    You need to go back to the drawing board, and do some recalculations.

  23. I would like to share the following extracts that show in order:
    [1] ‘Interpretation’of observation.
    [2] Observation
    [3] Puzzlement where observation is not expected.
    All are related to positive feedback or lack of.

    [1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/low/sci/tech/7786910.stm
    17 December 2008 Autumn return
    Theory predicts that as ice is lost in the Arctic, more of the ocean’s surface will be exposed to solar radiation and will warm up. When the autumn comes and the Sun goes down on the Arctic, that warmth should be released back into the atmosphere, delaying the fall in air temperatures.Ultimately, this feedback process should result in Arctic temperatures rising faster than the global mean. Dr Stroeve and colleagues have now analysed Arctic autumn (September, October, November) air temperatures for the period 2004-2008 and compared them to the long term average (1979 to 2008). The results, they believe, are evidence of the predicted amplification effect.

    “You see this large warming over the Arctic ocean of around 3C in these last four years compared to the long-term mean,” explained Dr Stroeve. “You see some smaller areas where you have temperature warming of maybe 5C; and this warming is directly located over those areas where we’ve lost all the ice.”

    NSIDC – November 10, 2008
    An expected paradox: Autumn warmth and ice growth
    As is normal for this time of year, ice extent increased rapidly through most of October. However, this year, the increase was particularly fast, which contributed to above-average air temperatures near the surface.Figure 3. In this image, near-surface air temperatures show strong warming near the surface in the Beaufort sea region, an area with substantial open water at the end of the melt season. The anomalously high temperatures extend well up into the atmosphere, showing that the ocean is transferring heat to the atmosphere as ice forms.

    [2] NOAA – Arctic summer time the puzzling summer of 2003 Norbert Untersteiner

    Observations from the North Pole in summer 2002

    The recently recorded data from automatic buoys and web cams represent a large, and very inexpensively obtained, increment of information about summer conditions in the central Arctic.

    Fig. 2 (no image) Late July 2002 at the NPEO drifting station. The onset of surface melting is exceptionally late.
    The onset of melting usually occurs in early June, when the temperature reaches 0°C and the surface layer turns into a constant-temperature ice bath. In 2002, the temperature record shows an abrupt warming to about 0°C, on 24 May, suggesting an early arrival of the melt season. The warming event coincides with about a week of low short-wave (250 Wm-2) and high long-wave (300 Wm-2) down-welling radiation, which are typical of low overcast conditions. The web cam pictures of that period confirm the overcast. Both radiation and temperature values remained in the normal range for the rest of the summer, and freeze-up occurred as usual in the last week of August. Based on the early warming event in May, one may have expected an early onset of surface melting. Contrary to that expectation, the web cams show that it was not until late July 2002 when the snow cover took on a soggy appearance and isolated melt ponds appeared on the surface (Fig.2).

    For the rest of the summer, the web cam pictures show only insignificant melt pond coverage until the deposition of new snow in late August. The pictures clearly show that snow from the preceding winter survived the entire summer, and we must assume that there was no, or very little, ice ablation at the surface.

  24. I am a little concerned that the last time that Dr Lindzen referenced the ERBE data on a WuWT guest post, there were a number of questions raised about the validity of the data. These questions were not answered fully apart from a very brief reference to the lack of credibility of some of the adjustments. On scanning the full paper here, I still cannot find a rebuttal of the proposed data adjustments which would have the effect of reducing the OLR and hence the validity of the conclusions of the paper.

  25. Woaa boy !
    from solar cycle 24:
    “A small new sunspot is trying to form in the middle of the solar disk. It belongs to Cycle 23. Just when you think that Cycle is over, another sunspot appears”. D Archibald = 100% correct

  26. As a follow-up to my previous post, I should say that I am a confirmed sceptic, but I believe that for the best science to win, the sceptics need to follow some traditional tests of scientific integrity, including a willingness to challenge one’s own views. We do not win this argument by trying to match the overbearance of our opponents.

  27. There is a small but steady flow of peer reviewed analysis of real data that is being produced by real scientists like Lindzen and Spencer. These guys are not making an assumption that the numerous GCM’s truely reflect the real earth climate system. Its about time for some of the climate modellers to closely examine this work and build the results into the models. Then they might actually start to get useful results.

  28. COMMENTS IN CAPS

    Gary Crough (13:20:18) :

    Richard S. Lindzen has always been skeptical of a positive global temperature feedback loop … as have scientists outside the AGW community. 3rd parties wonder why we would not get stuck in an ice age (or heat age) if feedback was positive. TEND TO AGREE – THE FACT THAT WE ARE HERE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION SUGGESTS THAT FEEDBACKS ARE NEGATIVE.

    Will this paper lead to revision of GW models? My guess: No.

    My understanding is (1) the vast majority of CO2 is stored in the ocean YES
    and (2) CO2 has increased at a very consistent pace since the Mauna-Loa measurements started (pre-1960) THERE HAS BEEN SOME UPWARD SLOPE IN CO2 AT THE SAME TIME AS INCREASED INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITY. In fact, the increases don’t seem to track industrial activity (reduced increases in a recession). CORRECT – ATMOSPHERIC CO2 DOES NOT TRACK PERTERBATIONS IN INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITY DUE TO MAJOR RECESSIONS, THE OIL CRISIS, ETC. Are these assumptions correct? If so, has any consideration been given to the possibility that current CO2 increases are mostly a reflection of the ocean/atmosphere re-establishing an equilibrium? (Ocean releasing CO2 very slowly because it is warmer?) PPOSSIBLE – THE ONLY SIGNAL I’VE BEEN ABLE TO DETECT IN THE CO2 PROFILE IS A LAG OF 9 MONTHS BEHIND GLOBAL AVERAGE TEMPERATURE. dCO2/dt TRACKS TEMPERATURE WITH LITTLE OR NO LAG, AND TEMPERATURE LAGS CO2 (THE INTEGRAL OF dCO2/dt) BY ~ 9 MONTHS.
    SEE

    http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/carbon_dioxide_in_not_the_primary_cause_of_global_warming_the_future_can_no/

  29. The thing I’m concerned about is that Lindzen has to write:

    “and these obviously need observational testing.”

    Now of course it should be obvious, because it is a fundamental component of the demarcation of science. To me however whenever someone writes something like that to me it sounds like a polite way of saying ‘some people seem to be ignoring this obvious statement’.

  30. CORRECTION – PLEASE DELETE/DISREGARD MY PREVIOUS VERSION

    COMMENTS IN CAPS

    Gary Crough (13:20:18) :

    Richard S. Lindzen has always been skeptical of a positive global temperature feedback loop … as have scientists outside the AGW community. 3rd parties wonder why we would not get stuck in an ice age (or heat age) if feedback was positive. TEND TO AGREE – THE FACT THAT WE ARE HERE HAVING THIS CONVERSATION SUGGESTS THAT FEEDBACKS ARE NEGATIVE.

    Will this paper lead to revision of GW models? My guess: No.

    My understanding is (1) the vast majority of CO2 is stored in the ocean YES
    and (2) CO2 has increased at a very consistent pace since the Mauna-Loa measurements started (pre-1960) THERE HAS BEEN SOME UPWARD SLOPE IN CO2 AT THE SAME TIME AS INCREASED INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITY. In fact, the increases don’t seem to track industrial activity (reduced increases in a recession). CORRECT – ATMOSPHERIC CO2 DOES NOT TRACK PERTERBATIONS IN INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITY DUE TO MAJOR RECESSIONS, THE OIL CRISIS, ETC. Are these assumptions correct? If so, has any consideration been given to the possibility that current CO2 increases are mostly a reflection of the ocean/atmosphere re-establishing an equilibrium? (Ocean releasing CO2 very slowly because it is warmer?) PPOSSIBLE – THE ONLY SIGNAL I’VE BEEN ABLE TO DETECT IN THE CO2 PROFILE IS A LAG OF 9 MONTHS BEHIND GLOBAL AVERAGE TEMPERATURE.
    dCO2/dt TRACKS TEMPERATURE WITH LITTLE OR NO LAG, AND CO2 (THE INTEGRAL OF dCO2/dt) LAGS TEMPERATURE BY ~ 9 MONTHS.
    SEE

    http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/carbon_dioxide_in_not_the_primary_cause_of_global_warming_the_future_can_no/

  31. I have some questions that I hope might be interesting enough to answer. From the NSIDC observation (posted previously) the air above Arctic ocean that is beginning to freeze will be warmed by the transfer of heat out of the water. In this case the air temperature will be warmer than the Ocean as it freezes but it does not re-warm (feedback) that Ocean and prevent freezing.
    My question is, if the surface temperature is 20C and radiation from the surface warms a parcel of air at altitude from say 10C to 12C, how does that warm the surface?
    Also how does the air choose which method to transfer heat? Why is it always with radiation? If a parcel of air warms I thought it would expand and then rise up in relation to the surrounding air – first.

  32. RE: Stephen Skinner (14:45:34) :

    **“You see this large warming over the Arctic ocean of around 3C in these last four years compared to the long-term mean,” explained Dr Stroeve. “You see some smaller areas where you have temperature warming of maybe 5C; and this warming is directly located over those areas where we’ve lost all the ice.” **

    Can someone tell me where this warming was and how it was measured?
    For example, Resolute did not change anywhere near 3 degrees.

  33. Gerald Machnee (15:23:09) :
    Can someone tell me where this warming was and how it was measured?

    Unfortunately I cannot find the link to the NSIDC article directly below that (should have been labelled [2]). This showed temperatures around this figure. My point was, NSIDC noted the high temperatures was normal when ice is forming. Dr Stroeve appears to be implying that these same high temperatures around the same time of year are odd.

  34. Paul (14:59:54) : It is way past time the warmers started doing some real science without prodding from skeptics. Certainly all climate science should be examined and re-examined, confirmed or refuted by others, and refined or rejected. The warmers don’t seem to try to come up with ideas or alternative explanations that might prove them wrong. There is no examination of one’s own work. This sort of self-criticism and soul searching is the mark of a good scientist. Instead, hostility and belittlement is directed at anyone who dares suggest any alternative explanation for climate phenomena. I would say it’s anti-science or perhaps even pathological science.

  35. Warning. Whacky hypothesizing.

    1) Even 0.5 degrees of permanent warming is not trivial. Look at the UAH satellite temperature record and add 0.5 to it.

    2) The real sensitivity of the climate system may take centuries to manifest. The periodicity of the ice ages started when the isthmus of Panama was raised 3 million years ago. The changed continental configuration caused the Earths climate to go from a low sensitivity to a high sensitivity mode. Because this sensitivity occurs via ocean currents, and ocean currents take hundreds of years to modify their courses, then the real sensitivity may take a long time to demonstrate its true value. Perhaps this ice age sensitivity is only to short wave radiation and not long wave radiation, but I don’t understand how.

    3) This long-term sensitivity suggests that there is no short-term non-oceanic sensitivity via the water vapor feedback, otherwise this water vapor feedback would have masked out the oceanic sensitivity, and there would have been permanent periodic ice ages irrespective of the continent positions. A low short-term sensitivity measurement is consistent with the fact of the onset of ice age periodicity.

    So it would be good to have a theory that accounts for everything.

  36. Well it is already known the Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t work like a commercial greenhouse.

    1). Glass in the sun holds in heat a heck of a lot better than anything CO2 could do.
    2). Convection to transport heat out of the greenhouse is not possible because it’s encased in glass.

    And also, because the Earth’s atmosphere gets thinner the higher you go, the highest GHG concentrations would be at your feet, the gases are not forming a wall high in the atmosphere to bounce heat back down like some science textbooks show.

  37. “”” Stephen Skinner (15:19:19) :

    I have some questions that I hope might be interesting enough to answer. From the NSIDC observation (posted previously) the air above Arctic ocean that is beginning to freeze will be warmed by the transfer of heat out of the water. In this case the air temperature will be warmer than the Ocean as it freezes but it does not re-warm (feedback) that Ocean and prevent freezing. “””

    Where on earth did you come up with the idea that when the ocean freezes, that the atmosphere above it will warm up. It’s a reasonably safe bet, that the ocean will not freeze unless the air above it is much colder than the sea water.

    For the sea water to cool down around -2.5 deg C, where is can start to freeze, it can only lose energy by either radiation, or by conduction to a cooler atmosphere. If the air is warmer than the water, the “heat” energy would be going into the ocean to stop it from freezing.

    Does the air in your refrigerator heat up when you make ice cubes ? I don’t think so !

  38. As I said before, what worst than being cold and hungry?
    Being WET, cold and hungry. How the clouds may move out and the sun may warm your face, but you are still WET, cold and hungry.

  39. Stephen, do you know where the Arctic currents are and whether they be hot or cold? Here is a website for your education. The warmth is where the warm currents are and always have been. The cold is where the cold currents are and always have been. Some of these currents circulate within the Arctic, some come from outside of it. You should spend some time understanding these currents and their oscillations before you simply accept someone else’s view of a “warming” ocean in the Arctic. It would also be wise to follow the Northern Hemisphere jet stream on a daily basis. This will explain both ice behavior in situ and ice melt. Right now, ice is not melting, it is being compacted into a smaller area, thanks to a fairly strong jet stream shoving ice into bigger and bigger piles on all sides. The charts that show sudden catastrophic melt are misrepresenting the situation big time.

    http://www.aquatic.uoguelph.ca/oceans/ArticOceanWeb/Currents/frontpagecur.htm

    http://squall.sfsu.edu/crws/jetstream.html

  40. “It appears, for the entire tropics, the observed outgoing radiation fluxes increase with the increase in sea surface temperatures (SSTs). The observed behavior of radiation fluxes implies negative feedback processes associated with relatively low climate sensitivity.”

    How long until this makes it into text books ?

  41. VG (14:57:05) : D Archibald = 100% correct

    Maybe we’ll get an guest post update from Archibald soon.

  42. peter_ga (16:52:04) : “So it would be good to have a theory that accounts for everything.”
    A worthy goal, but I fear that there are too many moving parts . . . too many exogenous variables which are not repetitive in a reasonable time frame . . . too much “chaos” to develop a complete climatology theory that can be modeled. We can talk about influences, but to account for everything in the past — much less the future — seems doubtful to me.
    Financial models have failed spectacularly, and the relevant issues for them are probably smaller in number than for the climate.

  43. @Nogw (09:50:07) :

    “UN´s FAO forecasts only a variation of temperatures ranging from -0.1 to +0.1 degrees to the year 2099.

    I’m just as skeptical of that projection as I am of a projection of +7 degrees. I am willing to go out on a limb here and predict another continental glaciation. I’m just not sure when it will happen.

  44. All the scientific gobbledy-gook above hurts my brain. Does not the concept of the cooler atmosphere heating the (already) warmer planet violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics? The “debate” should end right there!

  45. Nogw:

    “This means one of two things: either the door of the greenhouse was open or there is no greenhouse at all!!”

    Or that the greenhouse has a built-in climate control system.

    The whole positive feedback scenario presupposes a very unstable equilibrium in climate. If water vapor acts as a feedback for temperature, then any perturbation in temperature – be it from CO2 forcing, solar variation, vulcanism, or some other cause – would be amplified into a major fluctuation. Any warming would cause the atmosphere to hold more water vapor and any cooling would cause the atmosphere to hold less water vapor. Minor warming would be amplified into major warming and minor cooling into major cooling. Any equilibrium the atmosphere reached would be very unstable. It would be like a pool ball balanced on the bottom of an upturned bowl. Any perturbation would cause the ball to roll off one way or the other.

    What is remarkable about the history of the planet, though, is how stable the climate has been. Over hundreds of millions of years (at least) major changes in the composition of the atmosphere, variations in the arrangement of continents and oceans, solar and orbital variations, vulcanism, bolide impacts, and many other variations gradual or catastrophic have failed to push the Earth’s temperature outside the range where the oceans remain liquid and life can exist on the land and in the atmosphere. None of these large perturbations ever sent the Earth into a runaway warming or a runaway cooling. To me this suggests not an unstable equilibrium, but a very stable one. Like a pool ball in the bottom of an upright bowl: perturbations would push the ball a little way up the side of the bowl, but the ball would return to the bottom of the bowl when the perturbation ceased. To put it succinctly, I think the Earth’s atmosphere is self-stabilizing. It is a homeostatic system.

    I have heard at least one hypothesis that might yield such homeostatic behavior. The tropical infrared iris hypothesis as mediated by precipitation efficiency (which increases as temperature increases) would tend to dampen any variations from an equilibrium. Of course, this would not yield a constant temperature, but one tightly linked to the factors that determine the equilibrium temperature. Thus you would see temperature variations tightly coupled to variations in incoming solar radiation, volcanic aerosols, anthropogenic sulfates, and internal dynamic phenomena like El Nino that release or store large amounts of heat in the ocean. If, however, the feedback system is based on the abundance of water vapor in the atmosphere, it seems unlikely that CO2 and other greenhouse gasses that are far less abundant and/or radiatively active than water vapor would be unlikely to change the behavior of the system, except in places where there is very little water vapor in the atmosphere. You would expect maybe a small warming of the polar winter, but little or no change in the tropics from an increase in atmospheric CO2.

    The data we have is, like almost anything, is open to many interpretations. The way I see it, the correlation of atmospheric temperature to solar variations, volcanic areosols, and ENSO and PDO/AMO strongly suggest a stable equilibrium rather than an unstable one.

  46. Simple calculations as well as GCM results suggest response times on the order of decades for positive feedbacks and years or less for negative feedbacks [Lindzen and Giannitsis, 1998, and references therein].

    That is the exact same thing the Ice Ages tell me: It takes a lot longer to warm than it does to freeze up. The way it works.

  47. Simple calculations as well as GCM results suggest response times on the order of decades for positive feedbacks and years or less for negative feedbacks [Lindzen and Giannitsis, 1998, and references therein].

    That is the exact same thing the Ice Ages tell me: It takes a lot longer to warm than it does to freeze up. The way it works. Whatever warming we get out of CO2 or soot, all it takes is for the things that force it down to take a pot shot at our climate, and it’s all undone.

  48. George E. Smith:
    You are correct that only radiation loss and conduction cooling from the air can contribute to cooling and thus freezing of the water. However if the air is warmer than the water, the radiation alone can still freeze the water as long as the radiation out exceeds the heating input from warmer air, and the surface water temperature has dropped to the freezing point (about -2 degrees C for seawater). In extended dark conditions, the radiation out is typically several times as large as the heat transfer in from the air, so it is quite possible to freeze even with a significant higher air temperature (think of frost on a car in above freezing air temperature on a clear night). If the air is colder than the water or ice, just conductive heat transfer to the air will bring the air temperature at the surface closer to the water/ice temperature. The phase change requires additional cooling to overcome, but this is not ever going to raise the air temperature warmer than the forming ice temperature.

    Stephen Skinner:
    The freezing does not release heat energy at an increased temperature, it just requires additional radiating or air cooling to remove that much more energy at constant temperature (think of ice cubes melting in water. Once the water reaches the freezing temperature, the remaining ice and water coexist at the same temperature, and the remaining ice only melts due to added heat loss from the container wall). Pure ice requires 80 calories per gram to be removed to freeze at constant temperature. Seawater is slightly different, but same ballpark.

  49. Leif Svalgaard (20:30:19) :

    “Except that the temperature rose rapidly after glaciations, while therm was a long. slow slide down to the next glaciation.”

    Which would be why I feel like the sensitivity number is a variable, and not a constant 0.75°C, or a constant 0.5°C. I know you don’t like the ‘I feel like’ part, but I don’t see anyone else nailing it down either. :)

  50. Mac (08:53:59) :
    There is also this paper which is causing a stir.

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2008JD011637.shtml

    A deserved stir Mac. The conclusion of this paper is yet further confirmation of the near certainty natural variation is the predominant climate influence.

    “That mean global tropospheric temperature has for the last 50 years fallen and risen in close accord with the SOI of 5–7 months earlier shows the potential of natural forcing mechanisms to account for most of the temperature variation.”

  51. Leif Svalgaard (20:30:19) : Not that it matters as unfortunately rbateman misunderstood what he was quoting.

    “Simple calculations as well as GCM results suggest response times on the order of decades for positive feedbacks and years or less for negative feedbacks [Lindzen and Giannitsis, 1998, and references therein].”

    Has nothing whatsoever to do with the rate of change from interglacial to glacial or vice versus. It simply has to due with the climate system taking longer to respond the more sensitive it is. So the rate of change coming in and out of Ice Ages is only relevant in terms of what the change is in response to. My understanding is that Milankovitch variations are slow compared to the apparent sudden warming out of Ice Ages and maybe not so much going into them, but the Ice Age situation is really complicated and it’s hard to say how everything fits in. But Short response times are found in analysis of volcanic eruptions and the annual cycles of insolation, and now ERBE data corroborates the implications of such.

  52. lweinstein (20:48:06) :
    Thank you for the very clear explanation. That helps. My initial post had an extract (NSIDC – November 10, 2008 An expected paradox: Autumn warmth and ice growth) which I understand to fit with your explanation to George E Smith. The extract before that from the BBC and Dr Stroeve looks like they took the same data as NSIDC and observed the same phenomena, but interpreted as evidence of a positive feedback.
    Anyway having asked similar questions to the BBC, The MET office, The Hadley Centre and more, over a number of years, yours is the FIRST reply.

  53. Pamela Gray (17:27:10) :
    Thank you for your comments, but I think you are confusing me with someone else.

  54. rbateman:

    Pinatubo had a rapid and pronounced cooling effect… this should be a lesson for us all. Cooling is FAR more of a threat than warming can be.

    Planetary atmospheres are far better at shedding heat than retaining it. Even Venus’.

  55. H.R. (19:07:56) :

    I’m just as skeptical of that projection as I am of a projection of +7 degrees. I am willing to go out on a limb here and predict another continental glaciation. I’m just not sure when it will happen.

    Summer of 2008, we were being told that oil would NEVER be below $70 again, there just was no possible way the market would allow it, what with China and everything.

    I definitely agree… projections are only ever to be used as a possibility. Nobody can ever really project anything with certainty.

    Although, I tend to believe that projections of an overall neutral anomaly in 100 years are the most likely. Then again, treasure these days, if GISS has their way in 100 years today’s high will be remembered as -20C

  56. timetochooseagain (21:41:49) :
    I did not misunderstand. I was relating microcosm to macrocosm.
    First I have seen of rapid warming out of Ice Ages.
    The references in the paper are very recent and some governmental.
    Alternate view boring down into individual regions.
    Depending on where the data was taken and how closely one zooms in, the overall picture is different even in that paper. No surprises there.
    Keep going down and you might find Grand Minimum and Maximums to toss about.
    As far as I know the topic here is how the overall planet Earth responds, though there is the Baranyi study that demonstrated certain areas of the Nothern Hemisphere that are more affected than others to certain kinds of events.

  57. This is important since most current estimates of climate sensitivity are based on global climate model (GCM) results, and these obviously need observational testing.

    Quote of the week?

  58. George E. Smith (14:21:48)

    “You want to specify where abouts in the equatorial oceans, at high noon the water temperature gets to 181 F or 83 C. You realize that 1360 W/m^2 is just 6 below the extra atmospheric TSI level. And just how did the emissivity of the oceans get down to as low as 0.67; it should be more like 0.97, certainly for the LW radiant emissions.”

    It doesn’t, that’s the point. See for example, Willis Eschenbach’s article on this site a few weeks back which gives an explanation of how the tropics are cooled by convection and cloud formation. He notes in passing at the end that without these cooling mechanisms the tropics would be ferociously hot.

    The emissivity is at the wavelengths of the incoming solar radiation that heats the surface.

    I should have made my point more clearly. The surface temperature of the earth is naturally quite high. For comparison, the moon, which receives the identical solar flux, has a daytime surface temperature of 107C. The cooling forces due to convection and the various phase changes of water vapor, evaporation, condensation, and clouds are very large and bring temperatures down to the livable range. The difference is about 60 C, a lot more than the puny 1-2 C predicted by models from doubling CO2. The real question is not warming, it’s why the earth’s surface stays so cool.

  59. George DeBusk says:

    What is remarkable about the history of the planet, though, is how stable the climate has been.

    Well, alas, those who study paleoclimate tend to disagree with you ( http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/sci;306/5697/821 ):

    Climate models and efforts to explain global temperature changes over the past century suggest that the average global temperature will rise by between 1.5º and 4.5ºC if the atmospheric CO2 concentration doubles. In their Perspective, Schrag and Alley look at records of past climate change, from the last ice age to millions of years ago, to determine whether this climate sensitivity is realistic. They conclude that the climate system is very sensitive to small perturbations and that the climate sensitivity may be even higher than suggested by models.

    George DeBusk says:

    Over hundreds of millions of years (at least) major changes in the composition of the atmosphere, variations in the arrangement of continents and oceans, solar and orbital variations, vulcanism, bolide impacts, and many other variations gradual or catastrophic have failed to push the Earth’s temperature outside the range where the oceans remain liquid and life can exist on the land and in the atmosphere.

    Well, you may indeed be correct that, on these very large geologic timescales, there are negative feedbacks. In fact, it is believed that one of the most important such feedbacks involves CO2 and how changes in weathering of rocks influence its concentration in the atmosphere (a short discussion of which is given here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faint_young_sun_paradox ). Unfortunately, negative feedbacks that operate on long geologic timescales won’t save us and (as the Schrag and Alley paper points out) the evidence is that on shorter timescales (but still quite long in comparison to the decades-to-century-scale timescales of interest to us) the climate system is quite sensitive to perturbations.

  60. Hi Joel. Again, how can you compare the climate sensitivity of a glacial maximum with what we are experiencing now? Why would the climate mechanisms be the same?

  61. Joel Shore (10:29:02) : Jeez, why won’t this stupid “paleo argument” for high sensitivity die already? At the very least, even not taking into account any unknown effects or the non-homogeneous nature of Milankovitch forcings, the idea that “climate sensitivity may be even higher than suggested by models” is totally absurd! At best the paleoclimate might indicate sensitivity around 2 degrees C per CO2 doubling:

    Chylek, P., and U. Lohmann, 2008. Aerosol radiative forcing and climate sensitivity deduced from the Last Glacial Maximum to Holocene transition. Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L04804, doi:10.1029/2007GL032759.

    BTW responding to a post about actual observational data by pointing to proxy evidence is…pitiful. Is this what alarm has come to?

  62. timetochooseagain: The fact that you can find a paper in the literature that reaches a different conclusion than most of the rest does not mean that the conclusions of all the rest are “totally absurd”. In fact, the paper of Chylek and Lohmann has been heavily critiqued here: http://www.clim-past-discuss.net/4/1319/2008/cpd-4-1319-2008.html I doubt that there are too many people in the scientific community who still believe its result.

    And, I don’t understand why you are so dismissive of the paleoclimate evidence (other than because it doesn’t support the conclusion that you favor). Furthermore, Lindzen’s paper is based on an analysis of observational data that I am sure will be critiqued in time by scientists who know more about this than I. Lindzen is probably smart enough that he hasn’t made as obvious a mistake as de Freitas, McLean, and Carter have in their recent paper, but I would be wary of putting too much faith in any new paper that seems to contradict a lot of evidence going the other way.

  63. Paul Linsay (05:53:01) :

    “The real question is not warming, it’s why the earth’s surface stays so cool.”

    Quite so Paul. I have never understood the AGW argument that ‘global warming’ gases keep us warm and we would be a lot cooler without, as you rightly compare the moons temperature with ours. I overheard someone on the radio talking about fridges using environmentally friendly coolant like CO2 as it is a “natural refrigerant”!
    I think the term greenhouse gas is more emotive than descriptive as the actual quality of being able to absorb heat means that cooling is as likely as warming. What I find dishonest is the highlighting of the % increase in CO2 in relation to itself. Meanwhile, if CO2 does reflect all this heat back to the surface, the heat characteristics of the atmosphere that it is part of has changed 1% of 1% of 1%.

  64. The presence of liquid h2o in vast quantities guarantees a rather stable system. Certainly the Earth is not in the uniform unchanging radiative conditions assumed and promoted by the AGW crowd. It’s also key to the very short term negative feedbacks – the h2o vapor cycle and cloud albedo. Cloud fraction (daytime) even determines the necesssary balance T for radiative. It runs about 62% cover and requires an average balance of around 239 w/m^2 to balance the nonreflected incoming power. This 62 % cover is responsible for around 0.22 of the 0.30 nominal albedo while the surface – oceans, land, current glaciers and snow account for only around 0.07 to 0.09. Oceans are what reduces the land albedo so that the surface is significant lower albedo than other bodies, like the Moon.

    When you see the supposed effect of a co2 doubling at around 3.7w/m^2 – that’s for clear skies as clouds have significant effects on OLR. If the norm were clear skies, the incoming absorbed power would average more like 311 than 239 w/m^2, requiring a higher T to bring the radiative into balance. Greater cloud cover would result in even higher albedo and less absorbed incoming power which would result in a lower T for balance.

    Considering that h2o evaporating absorbs energy, it’s a very light molecule relative to the average (18 vs 29 molecular wt), and it significantly absorbs energy in the IR, it is going to tend to rise up into the atmosphere. As the saturation level is T dependent, it’s going to start to exceed the saturation limits as the altitude increases and surrounding T decreases. It’s also going to radiate quite well – quickly giving off energy that it captures – either by photon absorption, or from higher states due to kinetic interactions with other molecules. It’s going to cool down, become super saturated and form clouds of droplets or ice – giving up that energy used to evaporate it. Typically, it’s going to form more clouds, reducing the incoming solar power and completing the negative feedback loop – without violating the 2nd law of thermo.

  65. Joel Shore (12:23:42) : The Paleoclimate argument starts by saying: Given large CO2 induce climate changes in the past, how can climate sensitivity not be high? But that is looking at it backwards. The proper question should start with observations, saying “given observational evidence for low sensitivity, how can large past changes be attributed to CO2?”-I dismiss the argument because it’s ludicrous-avoiding dealing with the present to blather on about the past that is understood even less.

    But I love how “Chylek’s been debunked” (with an argument from numbers!!!) and soon “Lindzen will be debunked”-your faith is truly touching. Let us know when the high priests at RC add a new verse to the Bible you’re thumping.

  66. CO2 cannot change the climate. A desert night with dry air has only CO2 to keep it warm.
    It doesn’t succeed!
    Desert nights are cold because the CO2 in the atmosphere has no thermal effect. That really should be that.

  67. Sandy (13:56:02) :
    “Desert nights are cold because the CO2 in the atmosphere has no thermal effect. ”
    It might also be that a desert surface only absorbs heat in the top millimetres of sand. At sunset there may not be much stored heat to lose, and of course the lack of humidity as you say.

  68. Stephen Skinner says

    Paul Linsay (05:53:01) :

    “The real question is not warming, it’s why the earth’s surface stays so cool.”

    Quite so Paul. I have never understood the AGW argument that ‘global warming’ gases keep us warm and we would be a lot cooler without, as you rightly compare the moons temperature with ours.

    Well, you might try reading up on it then. While the surface of the moon facing the sun may be hot, the other surface is very cold…and the average is well below the average temperature of the earth. This is a good place to start: http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0802/0802.4324v1.pdf

  69. stored heat – be it desert or ocean only has so much thermal transfer to deal with. Granted that some energy penetrates the ocean more than a mm or two and that convection also exists, but it’s still a matter of just how much heat can be transfered per unit time versus how much it is going to radiate per unit time. We’re sitting on top of a core that is as hot as the surface of the Sun just a few miles below our feet. It’s been that way for billions of years because we’re sitting atop some pretty good insulation in between and there is basically only conduction at work. Just because there’s a temperature difference and hence condution going on, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to have a significant effect as compared with other factors. ultimately, it matters less just how large the thermal sink is than how fast the thermal transfer is in this sort of situation.

    Joel shore,

    what was the cloud cover like in paleo times and how did that affect the albdeo? When the warming feedback requirements (temperature setpoint) were short circuited by glacial buildups which cut down on surface absorption when cloud cover was less, do you think it required high sensitivity to CO2?

  70. Stephen Skinner (14:12:41) :

    “It might also be that a desert surface only absorbs heat in the top millimetres of sand. At sunset there may not be much stored heat to lose, and of course the lack of humidity as you say.”

    Interesting. Is the same true over oceans?

  71. Great work, I like the analysis. I would comment though, that the presentation is not to a standard others apply. Richard, if you’re reading this, drop Anthony a line, I can polish up your paper and make it look, well, presentable. The figures should be in-line with the document. I volunteer to be of any help I can to make the document easier to follow. I would be honored to make any contribution I can to help your research and give its conclusions a wider audience.

    I also have some interesting ideas on analysis of satellite images and data that might further bolster your claims, more of a near real-time analysis that might make it possible to separate the SW and LW effects on a much shorter time scale. The analysis, taken over time, may provide further insight into the negative feedbacks you are explaining, and should give better understanding of cloud, convection, and storm effects in general. I’ve written a lot of code for image analysis for industrial applications (not vision systems, real home-grown application specific image analysis) and I think I could apply the same techniques to satellite images to discern feedback effects on a shorter time scale… Mike S.

  72. Joel Shore (14:39:09) :

    There is a larger range on the moon, thank you Dr. What is it that regulates Earth’s temperature to avoid such a range? Also, why would the climate respond the same way now that it did in the glacial maximum?

  73. Lindzen’s work appears to contradict a recent study of 50 years of low level clouds in the Northeast Pacific Ocean.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090723141812.htm

    Strong Evidence That Cloud Changes May Exacerbate Global Warming
    ScienceDaily (July 24, 2009)

    …low-level stratiform clouds, which currently shield the earth from the sun’s radiation, may dissipate in warming climates, allowing the oceans to further heat up, which would then cause more cloud dissipation.
    One key finding in the study is that it is not the warming of the ocean alone that reduces cloudiness — a weakening of the trade winds also appears to play a critical role. All models predict a warming ocean, but if they don’t have the correct relationship between clouds and atmospheric circulation, they won’t produce a realistic cloud response.

    Perhaps the low level cloud positive feedback is canceled by the high level cloud negative feedback.

  74. Nice analysis by Lindzen – thank god for more extremely uncommon common sense. Thanks Anthony.

  75. David (14:49:13) :
    “Interesting. Is the same true over oceans?”

    I wouldn’t have thought so because of the huge heat ‘inertia’ in the oceans. An obvious example are the sub-tropical gardens at Inverewe in Scotland. As I’m sure you know the gardens are possible because of the gulf stream, which has picked heat up from the Carribean and is still warm enough to influence the climate in Western Scotland. Now my experience of sand is that I have burnt my feet on holiday beachs and relief has come by simply getting my feet below the surface, or getting in the sea. In the deserts there are animals that survive by doing the same thing. In addition, come the evening the surface of the sand on the beach will be cool, while surrounding tarmac, brick walls concrete will be radiating stored heat well into the night.
    I dont think the assumption that night time desert temperatures are only as a result of cloudless skies. I think it is a combination of very little stored surface heat, and then low atmospheric moisture content and clear skies.

  76. Joel Shore (14:39:09) :

    ” While the surface of the moon facing the sun may be hot, the other surface is very cold…and the average is well below the average temperature of the earth.”

    This is as it should be. The incident radiation flux on the sunward side of the moon is 1360 W/m^2. The incident radiation flux on the dark side of the moon is approximately zero. Outer space is really, really cold, actually at 2.7 K, the leftover radiation from the Big Bang.

    You can test this for yourself on a warm night when the air is dry and still. Put a little bit of water at the bottom of a tall thermos bottle and point it at the sky. It will freeze because the incident radiation flux from outer space is much less than the outward radiation from the water, which will turn to ice as a consequence of the radiative imbalance.

  77. Paul Linsay (06:09:15) :
    Joel Shore (14:39:09) :
    ” While the surface of the moon facing the sun may be hot, the other surface is very cold…and the average is well below the average temperature of the earth.”

    I’m wondering if an average temperature for the moon is unhelpful. It is either hot or cold and there is no average. Earth on the other hand does have a whole series of average temperatures depending on where you are.
    There are a couple of other characteristics used for theoretically calculating earth’s temperature that I think are incomplete or incorrect.

    One is Albedo. The highest albedo is of course snow, and the lowest is water. The reason water is the lowest is because it’s very dark. However, I don’t think this is correct as water is clear and it is the absence of light within it’s depths that makes it look dark. Water is highly reflective. Accordingly, forest, bare soil and cities share the same albedo rating, which to my experience is not the case. Any glider pilot will tell you that the best places for thermic lift is built up areas followed by bare soil / farmland. If a glider pilot wants to find thermals the worst place is over forest or water.

    The other is calculating the average solar flux as it strikes the Earth as a sphere. Theoretically, if it is as simple as that then having a brick floor exposed to the sun at the equator and a brick wall at the North pole, so solar radiation strikes both at the same angle, will heat both equally. What is missing from attempts to understand and calculate this is the amount of atmosphere the suns radiation has to travel through, which can weaken the effect of the sun considerably.

    I may be completely wrong but my experience is telling something different. Of course for hundreds of years it was the common understanding that the Sun went round the Earth, because that is how it looks. But at the same time there were plenty of calculations, models and measurements that showed that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

  78. David says:

    There is a larger range on the moon, thank you Dr. What is it that regulates Earth’s temperature to avoid such a range?

    Well, I would point to a number of different effects off the top of my head (and I am not sure what their relatively quantitative contribution is):

    (1) Having a significant atmosphere period, since the mixing of the atmosphere and its thermal inertia both help to keep the temperatures more uniform.

    (2) The greenhouse gases. In fact, I believe Venus has an extremely uniform temperature.

    (3) The thermal inertia provided by all of the liquid water…i.e., the oceans.

    However, my point of pointing you to Arthur Smith’s paper is that he shows that a planet without IR-active gases in the atmosphere will have an average surface temperature at or below a certain value (its blackbody radiating temperature).

    Also, why would the climate respond the same way now that it did in the glacial maximum?

    I can’t say I can give you a great answer on this…It would be a good question to ask an expert in the field (rather than just a physicist who reads climate science stuff in his spare time). However, I believe that both the theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that the sensitivity is not going to vary too much over such a range.

    The one thing that you could argue could vary most significantly is ice-albedo feedbacks since there was more ice to melt between going from the LGM to now than there would be going from now to a warmer climate. Unfortunately however, the estimate of 3 C per doubling from the LGM to now is derived from considering the ice albedo changes to be a forcing, not a feedback. If you considered them to be a feedback (as they are in our current “experiment” of raising the levels of greenhouse gases), then you get a number more like 6 C per doubling! James Hansen has actually recently been arguing that this 6 C per doubling value may be more realistic although it seems like other scientists such as James Annan are skeptical. (I think the skepticism comes from questioning how fast the ice will melt…and also the issue that I mentioned that it seems like there is less ice that would melt in going from current conditions to a warmer climate than there was going from the LGM to now.)

    Paul Linsay says:

    This is as it should be. The incident radiation flux on the sunward side of the moon is 1360 W/m^2. The incident radiation flux on the dark side of the moon is approximately zero. Outer space is really, really cold, actually at 2.7 K, the leftover radiation from the Big Bang.

    Yes…But, my point just is that the average temperature of the moon is lower than the earth and the reason that this is so (despite the fact that the earth has higher albedo) is the presence of greenhouse gases. (Another contributing factor that makes the average temperature even lower than it would otherwise be is the fact that the temperature is so non-uniform since the blackbody bound that I spoke of above is met in the limit of a uniform temperature and the average temperature deviates lower as the temperature becomes more non-uniform. This is because the radiative balance imposes a constraint on , not .)

    Anyway, my larger point in all this is that you can’t start talking about the moon and the desert and conclude that CO2 doesn’t have an effect. The relative radiative effects of water vapor and CO2 are well-understood (and, yes, the effect of water vapor is larger but that of CO2 is still significant…even ignoring the fact that without the CO2, it would be colder and hence there would be less water vapor in the air). You are going to find yourself really lonely in the scientific discourse if you choose to try to argue about them. There is more room to argue about the feedbacks, and hence the resulting climate sensitivity as Lindzen does in this latest paper (although, needless to say, his view of such a low sensitivity puts him pretty far out on the edge of the scientific thinking).

  79. On the rare occasions when I’ve been able to locate a graph of the global mean TOA net radiative flux from the satellite data, each has consisted of a neat and hardly varying sinusoidal wave form with a profile which appears, at least to my eye, to be as flat as the Bonneville or Muroc salts. To my, perhaps overly simplistic, view this seems to indicate that the percentage of solar energy being retained by the planet has been essentially constant for the quarter century of the record. To my , again perhaps naive, thinking this should be a direct contradiction of the CO2 theory of global warming which requires that each addition of CO2 to the atmosphere lead to the retention of a greater percentage of solar input. Admittedly, this data set is a bit problematic, but as far as I can tell that criticism is applicable to nearly every data set in the climate field, and if Mr. Hansen and his cohort can use his BS GISS temp data to support their hysterical alarmism I see no reason to exclude contradictory evidence just because it may not be as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. Of course, I expect that there will be no shortage of commenters who will be willing to explain to me why I’m totally wrong, but we live to learn.

  80. Joel Shore (12:42:01) :

    I wouldn’t think it is attributed solely to gases. The moon does get hotter than Earth, so how would heat-trapping gases prevent heat? What about the oceanic effect on climate? I doubt very much that ocean oscillations of today are the same, or maybe not even similar, to the processes present in an ice age. It seems that the evidence points to the oceans as our main climate regulator.

  81. timetochooseagain (17:58:58) :
    “Please read the paper.”
    Thanks. I have rescanned the paper and agree that the text suggests that the data used incorporate the 2006 Wong altitude adjustments. Previously, I eyeballed the plots for the non-scanner data which appear to be identical to those of a couple of months back. I may need to hunt for a magnifying glass or get some new glasses.

  82. David (14:38:22):

    I don’t disagree with you in terms of regulation of the variations in temperature, which is why my post listed the oceanic effects. However, the question as to why the **average** surface temperature more than 30 C higher than what basic physics says ought to be the upper bound for an IR-inactive atmosphere (and the present albedo of the earth) is that it is due to the greenhouse gases, with the biggest contribution coming from water vapor and CO2 being the next most significant contributor.

  83. Joel Shore (12:42:01) :” There is more room to argue about the feedbacks, and hence the resulting climate sensitivity as Lindzen does in this latest paper (although, needless to say, his view of such a low sensitivity puts him pretty far out on the edge of the scientific thinking).”

    People who advance science in larger steps usually are “pretty far out on the edge of scientific thinking.”

  84. Joel Shore (17:43:45) :

    Actually, your post talked about sea ice, and not oceanic oscillation. It may very well be that greenhouse gases are the largest contributor to our current scenario, but I remain unconvinced. I accept the theoretical possibility that it could happen, but the part I remain unconvinced about is that we can actually override natural processes.

    I always think of freak weather events when thinking of climatic shifts, like the tornado outbreak that leveled Xenia, Ohio. It was early for the Pacific Ocean shift, for sure, but could it have been an indicator had we been able to look at it with the technology we now have available? Perhaps such a freak event is the harbinger of a turning point, and perhaps (I really hope not, as I live in OH) it will happen again soon, and be ignored again. Actually, last year we had the leftovers from a hurricane come through and flatten local crops and infrastructure with hurricane force winds, some of us were without power for 2 weeks, and this year we have what can be charitably described as a cool summer so far. And how does the jet stream compare to last year’s?

    I know, you will say this is weather, but perhaps not every weather event is so easily written off. I have been through two hurricanes in my lifetime, and what hit us last year in Ohio was definitely the wind from a hurricane, but the rain left the wind behind and visited Chicago for the weekend instead. Freak event, sure. More important, maybe.

  85. Jim (19:40:00) :

    Tesla says thank you. Three times. Why three? He was nuts by the account of most who he spoke to.

  86. Paul (14:53:33) :

    I am a little concerned that the last time that Dr Lindzen referenced the ERBE data on a WuWT guest post, there were a number of questions raised about the validity of the data. These questions were not answered fully apart from a very brief reference to the lack of credibility of some of the adjustments. On scanning the full paper here, I still cannot find a rebuttal of the proposed data adjustments which would have the effect of reducing the OLR and hence the validity of the conclusions of the paper.

    If you go to the ‘method’ section, p.4, you’ll find:

    The observed data used in this study are the 16-year (1985–1999) monthly record of the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction, and the earth radiation budget from the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) [Barkstrom, 1984] nonscanner edition 3 dataset. Note that the ERBE nonscanner data are the only stable long-term climate dataset based on broadband flux measurements, and they were recently altitude-corrected [Wong et al., 2006].

    I can’t help wondering if Lindzen was just stirring by using the uncorrected data in that guest post, or claiming that he was using the uncorrected data. It seems to me that his argument has been based upon the Wong et al. 2006 corrections to that data all along. I could be wrong.

    Otherwise, disappointing to see how few comments there are here actually discussing the paper.

  87. I would like to draw attention to the following potentially explosive concluding remark:

    3. The theoretical relation between ΔF/ΔT and sensitivity is very flat for sensitivities greater than 2°C. Thus, the data does not readily pin down such sensitivities. This was the basis for the assertion by Roe and Baker [2007] that determination of climate sensitivity was almost impossible [Allen and Frame, 2007]. However, this assertion assumes a large positive feedback. Indeed, Fig. 3c suggests that models should have a range of sensitivities extending from about 1.5°C to infinite sensitivity (rather than 5°C as commonly asserted), given the presence of spurious positive feedback. However, response time increases with increasing sensitivity [Lindzen and Giannitsis, 1998], and models were probably not run sufficiently long to realize their full sensitivity.

    That seems to be saying that the GCM models that yielded the very large CO2 sensitivities were probably in fact tending to much higher values. If that’s right, it would follow that by running them again, for longer, we could test the prediction: If by simply running them for longer, and higher and higher sensitivities were yielded, we could surely settle this matter once and for all: the models would be shown to be obviously flawed. Otherwise, Lindzen would be shown to be wrong.

  88. David (21:47:22) : “Jim (19:40:00) : Tesla says thank you. Three times. Why three? He was nuts by the account of most who he spoke to.”

    Were Erwin Schrodinger, Einstein, Planck, Bohr, Maxwell, Lorentz, and the Curies nuts? I don’t think so.

  89. Paul Linsay (06:09:15) : “You can test this for yourself on a warm night when the air is dry and still. Put a little bit of water at the bottom of a tall thermos bottle and point it at the sky. It will freeze because the incident radiation flux from outer space is much less than the outward radiation from the water, which will turn to ice as a consequence of the radiative imbalance.”

    What about the IR radiation from water vapor in the air? Won’t that keep the water liquid?

  90. “has any consideration been given to the possibility that current CO2 increases are mostly a reflection of the ocean/atmosphere re-establishing an equilibrium? (Ocean releasing CO2 very slowly because it is warmer?)”

    I`m a bit surprised that no one has troubled themselves to point out to Gary Crough and Allan M R MacRae that this postulating is obviously wrong; for the time being, the oceans remain a net large sink of atmospheric COW, as demonstrated by the fact that the oceans are becoming increasingly acidic (viz., the reverse Coke effect: the fizz is being forced INTO solution in the oceans, by an increasing atmospheric partial pressure).

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