Willis publishes his thermostat hypothesis paper

I’m sure WUWT readers will recall this excellent guest post at WUWT just over one year ago:

The Thermostat Hypothesis

thermostat_earth

Now published in E&E Volume 21, Number 4 / August 2010

The thunderstorm thermostat hypothesis: How clouds and thunderstorms control the Earth’s temperature

Authors

Willis Eschenbach

Abstract


The Thunderstorm Thermostat Hypothesis is the hypothesis that tropical clouds and thunderstorms actively regulate the temperature of the earth. This keeps the earth at an equilibrium temperature regardless of changes in the forcings. 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.

See it here, PDF is available (£18.00 worthwhile to support E&E in my opinion). Or, read the WUWT version here:

The Thermostat Hypothesis

About these ads
This entry was posted in Climate sensitivity, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

144 Responses to Willis publishes his thermostat hypothesis paper

  1. americansun says:

    [snip] to ‘tips and notes’ please. ;-) RT-mod

  2. Robert E. Phelan says:

    Congratulations on your publication, Willis.

  3. Henry chance says:

    Great article. I am watching thermals and a rapid thunderstorm build up in the last 30 minutes. When the storm hits, it will remove a lot of heat. Wind sheers are examples of redistribution of heat.

  4. Eric (skeptic) says:

    Nice, approachable paper. My biggest beef with the modelers that produce catastrophes (like Greenland ice collapse in 400 years with CO2 at 400ppm! see http://www.the-cryosphere-discuss.net/4/233/2010/tcd-4-233-2010.html) is that they cannot model local convection because of lack of resolution. When they parametrize the convective activity they get the answer they want like Greenland melting with CO2 at 400ppm.

    I wonder if a more quantitative follow-on paper could include measurements of areal coverage of thunderstorms (or some other measurement of convective activity).

  5. latitude says:

    congratulations Willis

  6. tallbloke says:

    Hearty congrats Willis. Well done!

  7. vukcevic says:

    Very interesting hypothesis. It requires a meticulous read.
    I also think the tandem of tropics and poles are the key. One aspect which needs further consideration is that polar temperatures (at least in the Arctic have oscillated to a higher degree than the global estimate, as verified by large coal deposits in Spitsbergen, not to mention huge oil reserves notably in the Alaska’s North Slope etc.
    The Arctic’s ability to reradiate all the excess thermal energy from the tropics is limited and has resulted in temperatures rise there, which also may be currently the case. Transport of the thermal energy is mainly by the Gulf Stream current; since there is a high correlation between the arctic temperatures and the strength of the arctic magnetic field, it can be speculated that the efficiency of the energy transfer is a function of the the Earth’s magnetic field strength.

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/NFC1.htm

  8. Darkinbad the Brightdayler says:

    “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”

    Why?
    Some sweeping statements here without substantiation

  9. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    My congratulations also!

  10. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    This is the paper presented on video by Willis Eschenbach at the 4th conference:

    Part 1

  11. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    Part 2

  12. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    Video is mightier than the pen!

  13. RayG says:

    OT but please let through!
    There has been a real debate going on for the last several days at Bishop Hill around Tamino’s review of Andrew Montford’s The Hockey Illusion. Both sides have been active. Judith Curry weighed in with a very pointed response to the review that is well worth reading. The thread may be found at

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/7/22/tamino-on-the-hockey-stick-illusion.html#comments

    Enjoy, all.

  14. RayG says:

    Oops. Meant Tamino’s review of THI on Real Climate.

  15. Roger Knights says:

    Here’s a clickable link to the discussion of “The Hockey Stick Illusion” that RayG linked to:

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/7/22/tamino-on-the-hockey-stick-illusion.html#comments

  16. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:

    Congratulations, Willis! I remember when you first posted this on WUWT, it is an impressive and thoughtful analysis.

    I’ve long been impressed with the power & function of atmospheric cells, especially the Hadley Cells, and your logical argument comparing these systems to a heat engine is very compelling. Natural systems tend to be rather simple once you understand the basics; however, the climate-change crowd seem very focused upon their narrow areas of expertise, and downplay all others. Imagine that.

    Dr. Joel Norris of Scripps Institution gave a very good colloquium presentation on cloud feedbacks to Fermilab on 12 May, 2010, please see the video archive and powerpoint slides at:

    http://www-ppd.fnal.gov/EPPOffice-w/colloq/colloq.html

    He also challenged conventional thinking of the modeling crew! Cheers & best.

  17. R. Gates says:

    Nicely done Willis. As an amateur scientist, you should feel proud of your achievement. I look forward to reading your paper in detail, or at least watching the above referenced videos. I remember reading your post about this and had a few questions about it. Undoubtedly, thunderstorms do act to control excessive temperature buildup from solar insolation, and so are at least a local and regional “thermostat” in this regard, and if thunderstorms (i.e. cumulonimbus) were the only kind of cloud in the world, and only came out during the heat of the day, and never formed at night, etc. then life would be even more simple.

    Anyway, congrats.

  18. paulhan says:

    Congratulations Willis. Thank you Amino Acids, for putting up the two videos of a really excellent presentation. It’s great to be able to put a face to the name. Looks like there’s hope for us self-taughters yet.

  19. Sonicfrog says:

    Congrats Willis.

    I’d sit down and read it now, but I’ve got to get ready for a gig tonight. Tomorrow??? I’ll be hiking Yosemite! Monday read it is!

    Mike

  20. TomRude says:

    Obsolete atmospheric circulation model.
    Read Leroux “dynamic analysis of weather and climate” 2ed, springer 2010

  21. kwik says:

    Congratulations! Very interesting read!

    When I read this, one thought comes to mind; Surely, SURELY most, or at least some of this is in meteorology text-books already?

    Surely ? I would think that some of it is not, and some is mentioned here to “educate” the reader? Like the “Governor” talk?

    In that case, it would be nice to know which parts are actually “the new idea” ?
    (Sorry, I am not a meteorologist)

    Thanks.

  22. Flask says:

    Congratulations Willis.
    I was very impressed with your thermostat post last year, and happy to hear that it has been published. An elegant explanation of natural regulation which does not require the coincidence of forcing balance that Darkinbad alludes to above.

  23. Jimbo says:

    Is there a silver lining in the clouds? Only time will tell.

    “The most obvious way for warming to be caused naturally is for small, natural fluctuations in the circulation patterns of the atmosphere and ocean to result in a 1% or 2% decrease in global cloud cover. Clouds are the Earth’s sunshade, and if cloud cover changes for any reason, you have global warming — or global cooling.

    How could the experts have missed such a simple explanation? Because they have convinced themselves that only a temperature change can cause a cloud cover change, and not the other way around. The issue is one of causation. They have not accounted for cloud changes causing temperature changes.”
    Dr Roy Spencer

    ————-

    “Although sea ice and snow cover had noticeably declined in the Arctic from 2000 to 2004, there had been no detectable change in the albedo measured at the top of the atmosphere: the proportion of light the Arctic reflected hadn’t changed. In other words, the ice albedo feedback that most climate models predict will ultimately amplify global warming apparently hadn’t yet kicked in.”

    “According to the MODIS observations, cloud fraction had increased at a rate of 0.65 percent per year between 2000 and 2004. If the trend continues, it will amount to a relative increase of about 6.5 percent per decade. At least during this short time period, says Kato, increased cloudiness in the Arctic appears to have offset the expected decline in albedo from melting sea ice and snow.” NASA Earth Observatory

  24. DirkH says:

    Willis,
    i love especially your way of visualizing the distribution of thunderstorms by using the perspective from the sun, a very ingenious step! Congrats!

  25. Douglas DC says:

    Very good Willis-might I add I see someone who has experienced that heat engine from
    say, the bridge or a mast of a Boat or Ship or the Cockpit of an Aircraft. I’ve had similar thoughts over the years fighting fire from a Four-Engine Douglas, not nearly so reasoned or articulate, great job!

  26. mack28 says:

    The thermostat has been turned down in tropical Peru:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10749124

  27. DirkH says:

    Darkinbad the Brightdayler says:
    July 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm
    “[...]Why?[...]”

    Because we still exist. HTH.

  28. u.k.(us) says:

    Good to hear you’re still out there Willis.
    I was concerned the “warmists” might have kidnapped you, and forced you to torture the climate data, even further.
    Congrats.

  29. Roger Knights says:

    PS The Judith Curry comment, which admirably sums up the “Hockey Stick Illusion’s” central points, can be located by clicking on Page “3” at the bottom of the first page you get to, then dragging the slider about down 1/3 of the page. Here’s the link again to the first page:

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/7/22/tamino-on-the-hockey-stick-illusion.html#comments

  30. Roger Knights says:

    Oops, make that page 4, not page 3, in my post just above:

    PS The Judith Curry comment, which admirably sums up the “Hockey Stick Illusion’s” central points, can be located by clicking on Page “3 4″ at the bottom of the first page you get to, then dragging the slider about down 1/3 of the page. Here’s the link again to the first page:

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/7/22/tamino-on-the-hockey-stick-illusion.html#comments

  31. Bravozulu says:

    Brilliant. It made perfect sense to me. That certainly sounds like negative feedback or even better a governor is likely. I suppose the distinction between a governor and pure negative feedback if I understand correctly is that the governor will maintain the temperature in a range of 3 percent in your example and negative feedback would just reduce the magnitude of the warming. It should increase if the forcing increases. We seem to be at a warm point so any significant warming should be resisted by the governor if I understand correctly.

    Many aspects of these ideas would be very threatening to those that rely doomsday scenarios. Even questioning how the thunderstorms are not positive feedback is going to be threatening. It seems obvious by your showing how the clouds follow the sun that the idea of thunderstorms causing the heat is foolish. The ideas used in the climate models seem counterintuitive and even contrived. I can’t make logical sense out of it. What you said makes logical sense and seems obvious after it is explained.

  32. Ric Werme says:

    americansun says:
    July 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    > [snip] to ‘tips and notes’ please. ;-) RT-mod

    I wish people wouldn’t try to make the first comment be some OT comment to get their comment in the “sun”. RT, thank you for snipping.

    Americansun, the URL you provide, http://americansun.wordpress.com is dysfunctional. Please use a real link in the future.

  33. Dave Worley says:

    Convection is the most obvious stabilizing mechanism, and the one most overlooked in the alarmosphere.

  34. DirkH says:

    Bravozulu says:
    July 24, 2010 at 5:02 pm
    “[...]temperature in a range of 3 percent in your example and negative feedback would just reduce the magnitude of the warming.”

    No; strong enough negative feedback could completely offset an input force. But simple negative feedback has no hysteresis; a governor as proposed by Willis kicks in after a threshold is reached, brings down the variable until a lower threshold is reached and stops there. The hysteresis is the interval between these two thresholds.

  35. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R Gates

    You are always quick to question anyone who shows that manmade global warming is wrong. But you never question the PIOMAS graph. No. Instead you come up with all kinds of poor arguments to defend it. This shows everything about you.

  36. Gnomish says:

    Good work, Willis.
    best part: global albedo animation
    worst part: not counting the calories, enthalpy of phase changes
    missing part: condensation (and subsequent precipitation) lowers volume/pressure & draws up more

  37. Dave Dardinger says:

    I’m glad to see this thread. I hope Willis is able to chime in a time or two. I got engaged in a discussion of skeptic theories on Lucia’s Blackboard last week and when challenged to show a skeptic theory which has scientific merit I remembered something I’d read by Willis and went looking. It was the Thermostat Hypothesis, of course, so I read his posts here and the lightbulb turned on so that now I’ve internalized the argument. Then yesterday someone linked Willis’ speech above and now here’s an entire new thread.

    Frankly, whether others have come up with similar theories before or Willis is the first, this is a potential game-ender for team CAGW. They’d better come up with a good counter and soon. And one which isn’t just hand-waving, either. Frankly I don’t think they can as it’s seemed obvious to me from the beginning that there must be a mechanism to keep the climate within bounds.

    The fellow I was arguing with was complaining about the theory not being able to account for entering or exiting ice ages, but I think that’s a solvable problem and really less of a problem for the thermostat hypothesis than it is for CAGW.

  38. H.R. says:

    The Thermostat Hypothesis made sense to me when I first read it on WUWT. It would seem to work during glaciations and interglacials. So what causes the switch between glaciations and interglacials?

  39. H.R. says:

    Dang it! I forgot. I’m very pleased to see this published, Willis. Congratulations!

  40. JimF says:

    Bravo, Willis.

    I’ve thought a lot about this hypothesis since you first presented it here, and I have to liken it to the first papers encircling plate tectonics (e.g. the magnetic stripes on the sea floor, the increasing ages of rocks measured away from the mid-ocean rifts, and so on) – that is, identifying the signature of a global, long-lived process run principally by heat transfer (or density differences caused by heat content). In other words, seminal work.

    I look at your Figure 1: the same process that transfers so much heat from the surface to near-space in the equatorial area of earth (Hadley cells) is repeated in more northerly and southerly areas by the Temperate cells (and maybe the mobile polar cells). The earth is rejecting quantities of heat from the sun, and transporting lots of what it accepts back to near-space where it can be got rid of easily.

    CO2 has little to do with it; water is the magical ingredient. It’s the elixir of life. Imagine if Venus had oceans of H2O – it would probably be like Fiji year-round (but you’d be built like Shrek to withstand the pressure!).

  41. Paul Clark says:

    Willis (and Vukcevic if you’re reading) can you please reconsider putting backgrounds on your graphs and slides? It makes it harder to read. Thanks.

  42. Dave Dardinger says:

    So what causes the switch between glaciations and interglacials?

    One thing that strikes me is that the Theromostat Hypothesis is based on the tropics. But what happens in the polar areas? It might be that a lot of heat gets sent there in normal circumstances until… until orbital changes overcome it by a series of randomly cold winters which change the albedo which feeds back to the thermostat making it ease off which makes the poles even cooler and so forth. Of course the thermostat is a daily system, but as we know there are long-term systems like the PDO which regulate SSTs and the SST setting at a particular time will interact with the activity of the thermostat. Thus if the SST is higher, it will take less time in the morning before cumulus clouds form, decreasing solar input. But this will also mean there would be fewer thunderstorms, perhaps, and this would keep the SST higher by the next morning. Contrawise, if SSTs start out low, it will take longer for cumulus to form in the morning and there will be more evaporation and then more thunderstorms in the afternoon, cooling the surface resulting in a cool SST by morning. Of course that’s just one guess about how things might happen. Others could be imagined.

  43. Michael Schaefer says:

    Earth has been in one or the other kind of atmospheric equilibrium for milions of years, already. I doubt, that the engines driving the Earth’s climate to one or the other kind of equilibrium will cease to exist, only because some warmists say so. Mother Earth remains to be inherently good to us – because, otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to know.

  44. Tom in Texas says:

    Congrats Willis.

    Love to see a post on the interaction between you and the reviewers, as per Leif recently.

  45. R. Gates says:

    Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
    July 24, 2010 at 6:29 pm
    R Gates

    You are always quick to question anyone who shows that manmade global warming is wrong. But you never question the PIOMAS graph. No. Instead you come up with all kinds of poor arguments to defend it. This shows everything about you

    ___________________
    Wow, that came out of left field. Your bitterness toward those who think the AGW hypothesis is likely correct is overpowering. Good luck with that…

  46. R. Gates says:

    Willis,

    I would ask you to clarify what forcings can overpower or overwhelm the ability of thunderstorms to act as a thermostat. Certainly there must be limits to the range of control under your theory.

  47. _Jim says:

    Henry chance July 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Great article. I am watching thermals and a rapid thunderstorm build up in the last 30 minutes. When the storm hits, it will remove a lot of heat. Wind sheers are examples of redistribution of heat.

    Great. Latent heat of evaporation is released into the ‘air’ at altitude … can you ‘splain to me how it gets into ‘space’ via air that is a poor black body at best (bearing in mind effective IR emission occurring only from certain molecules like CO2 and H2O)?

    (I say that the effect you describe is only secondary at best to thermal IR emission from the surface … now clouds with reflectivity, high albedo is a different story)

    .

  48. Gnomish says:

    July 24, 2010 at 8:45 pm
    Willis,
    I would ask you to clarify what forcings can overpower or overwhelm the ability of thunderstorms to act as a thermostat. Certainly there must be limits to the range of control under your theory.
    ———————————–
    If I may-
    As long as this planet has 75% ocean and water in all 3 phases, there is nothing that will alter the equilibrium range which is the temperature range of liquid water.
    Storage of energy for overshoot on either end is provided by phase change by ice and by ocean.
    Not catastrophic bombardment by meteors, volcanic eruptions, nuclear explosions, nor the breath of babies change that.

  49. Gnomish says:

    Jim….
    Where do you think the heat goes when vapor condenses in a cloud? How do you think it is radiated?
    Check what you bear in mind.

  50. Willis Eschenbach says:

    First, my thanks to all for the kind comments.

    Next, R. Gates raises an interesting question:
    July 24, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Willis,

    I would ask you to clarify what forcings can overpower or overwhelm the ability of thunderstorms to act as a thermostat. Certainly there must be limits to the range of control under your theory.

    If we imagine a much cooler earth, and then mentally turn the sun up, what we will see is more and more clouds. At some point, the clouds will form thunderstorms, which will prevent the temperature from rising further. This makes for a very stable system.

    Now, I would put changes to that system into two groups. First would be forcings that would “overpower or overwhelm” the system. I don’t know what those might be. The earth has seen giant meteor strikes, huge millennium long volcanic eruptions, and a host of other destabilizing events. None of these have caused more than short-term (geologically speaking) changes in the temperature. So I don’t know what it would take to make a long-term change in the temperature.

    The second group would be things that might change the equilibrium temperature without overpowering or overwhelming the system. First among these would include anything that would affect cloud formation, type, or color. The obvious candidates would be changes in cosmic rays, and changing levels of various aerosols (both natural and man-made) that modify clouds.

    Also in the second group would be anything affecting the average wind speed. I’m not sure what might do that, but I can see the possibility. It appears, for example, that winds were stronger during the ice ages.

    Next would be anything affecting evaporation. The most obvious candidate there would be monomolecular surface films from things like ship sinkings, oil leaks, and hydrocarbon smog.

    So in answer to your question, R. Gates, I don’t know the answer.

  51. Jim Butts says:

    Seems like there a lot of papers coming out now showing the negative feedback of clouds. Could it be that we are nearing the end of this insanity!?

    JB

  52. andyscrase says:

    Willis,
    Congratulations on the publication.

    My late uncle, Fred Scrase, ScD, OBE had done some early research into thunderstorms and lightning at Kew in London. circa 1930s

    I feel an obligation to dig out his contribution to geophysical research, which I am sure was not without significance.

  53. TomRude says:

    JimF writes: “I look at your Figure 1: the same process that transfers so much heat from the surface to near-space in the equatorial area of earth (Hadley cells) is repeated in more northerly and southerly areas by the Temperate cells (and maybe the mobile polar cells). The earth is rejecting quantities of heat from the sun, and transporting lots of what it accepts back to near-space where it can be got rid of easily.”

    This figure is reflecting an obsolete knowledge and the circulation described does not stand to observation. This has been known since 1993!

    http://ddata.over-blog.com/xxxyyy/2/32/25/79/Leroux-Global-and-Planetary-Change-1993.pdf

    Leroux “Dynamic analysis of weather and climate” Springer 2ed 2010

  54. Gary Hladik says:

    Belated congrats on the publication of your article, Willis. I look forward to your next contribution here at WUWT.

  55. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R. Gates

    So you dispute what I said about you is true?

  56. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R. Gates

    Your bitterness toward those who think the AGW hypothesis is likely correct is overpowering.

    I ask that you publicly retract this lie.

  57. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R. Gates,

    are there limits to the accuracy of the PIOMAS graph?

  58. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R. Gates,

    Are there any questions about what global warming says about glaciers? The polar bear population? North Pole ice? South Pole ice? Hurricanes? Heat waves? Snow in the Sierra Nevada? Snow extent in Northern Hemisphere winters? Missing heat? Rotted ice? Tropospheric warming? Integrity of data handling among global warming scientists? Political involvement in global warming science? Co2 controling climate?

    Do you have questions or doubts about any of these things?

  59. anna v says:

    _Jim says:
    July 24, 2010 at 9:19 pm
    Great. Latent heat of evaporation is released into the ‘air’ at altitude … can you ‘splain to me how it gets into ‘space’ via air that is a poor black body at best (bearing in mind effective IR emission occurring only from certain molecules like CO2 and H2O)?
    Air is a poor black body, the atmosphere I think goes like T^6 instead of T^4, but the common misconception that it is only green house gases that are emitting radiation from the atmosphere is something that should be corrected. All matter at a certain temperature emits radiation according to the black/gray body or whatever body formula. . Thermodynamics knows nothing of green house gases, just specific heats and heat capacities are enough to have the energy content of the matter under consideration.
    To say that only 0.4% of the atmosphere ( combined H2O and CO2) radiates away is very wrong, and illustrates the confusion climate blurbs have introduced on all our houses ( from a “plague on both your houses”).

    Lets take this further. If the energy lost through the black body ( for simplicity) radiation is not replenished by an outside source, the temperature of the body falls. It keeps radiating and loosing temperature until it reaches 0K, green house gases or no.

  60. vukcevic says:

    Paul Clark says: July 24, 2010 at 8:04 pm
    ….. Vukcevic if you’re reading can you please reconsider putting backgrounds on your graphs and slides? It makes it harder to read. Thanks.

    Thanks for the note. You may have a point there, I have removed dark-grey background in this version.

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/NFC1a.htm

  61. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Darkinbad the Brightdayler says:

    July 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    “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”

    Why?
    Some sweeping statements here without substantiation

    There are two statements that I made. Thank you for quoting them, much appreciated. Quoting is much better than paraphrasing.

    For the first, I find that the idea of a gradual, billion year long decrease in average GHG forcing, at exactly the same rate but in the opposing direction of the change in solar forcing, to be very unlikely. I can’t quote odds or give references for that, we have no other billion year old Earth-like planet to compare it to. But it would be one hell of a coincidence …

    As to the second statement that I made, I said I find it likely that there is a natural regulating mechanism. I would base this on the Constructal Law (Wiki, main site. This law applies to all flow systems far from equilibrium, such as the climate.

    The Constructal Law says that the flow system will reshape itself constantly so as to maximize some aspects of the system. Constructally, climate operates so as to maximize the sum of the work done and the work that is lost to turbulence.

    What all this means is that the operating point of the climate heat engine is not randomly pushed around by small changes in forcing. There are much larger forces at work that set the operating point.

    Climate is a flow system like a lowland river. A river constantly changes shape. It widens at the bends and builds up land elsewhere. It cuts new channels, it creates oxbow lakes, it moves and shifts.

    But through all of that, the length of the rive changes very little. When one section of the river gets a bit longer, another gets a bit shorter. The length of the river oscillates around some fixed value. Basically, the river stays as long as it can possibly be given the physical constraints.

    So that’s why I think that there is some natural governing system at work maintaining the global temperature within a narrow range. This type of maximization is common in natural flow systems.

  62. Pete says:

    Thank you very much for such an elegant hypothesis.

    I have a question, which may be a little simplistic, but here goes.

    How much would global cloud cover have to increase as a % to nullify any potential from Co2, or how much would the equatorial cloud mass(es) have to move toward the equator to achieve the same?

    Many thanks for such a great website A- my education continues due to the work everyone does here.

  63. vukcevic says:

    Mr. Eschenbach
    The ocean currents as the principal transporters of heat to the poles, have variability factor in the certain critical areas by factor of 2. Efficiency of ocean currents heat transfer is crucial to the temperature oscillations in the polar regions, consequently to the ice coverage and albedo; resulting in a feedback.
    Faster currents more heath to the poles, less ice, less reflection, more energy absorption, even warmer poles.
    Of course, the reverse also holds true: slow current, less heath to the poles, more ice, more reflection, even colder poles.
    I wonder what is your view of this particular feedback effect ?
    See also my post

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/07/24/willis-publishes-his-thermostat-hypothesis-paper/#comment-438689

  64. vukcevic says:

    Correction
    Must disable auto spell checker !
    Heat Heath

  65. Joe Lalonde says:

    Congratulations Willis!!!

  66. Paul Vaughan says:

    vukcevic, keep in mind the effect of reduced ice on cloud during the polar day. I certainly wouldn’t be inclined to think that most polar heating is of polar origin.

    The other important thing to bear in mind is that temperature-precipitation relations flip sign around the freezing point. Arctic hydrology is confounded with Arctic temperature due to the low temperatures.

    Furthermore temperature is not independent of pressure, so I would be interested in seeing some studies on how decadal-timescale atmospheric pressure variations impact geomagnetism via relative motion of Earth’s shells – (i.e. the causation chain seems more likely to run from hydrology to geomagnetism than vice versa, as is suggested by piecing together clues from the Russian literature).

    As for the larger swings in the northern polar region, that’s easy: Continental vs. maritime. [And bear in mind that ice is continental from an atmospheric perspective.] Also, there isn’t the giant stir-stick (the Southern Ocean) in the NH to rapidly mix (and even out) inter-basin differences.

    One last note: I would advise not underestimating the role of the N. Pacific. It’s not all about the Gulf Stream. Bear in mind atmospheric teleconnection.

    Thanks for sharing your very interesting GMF graphs. They really reinforce the Russian literature on hydrology.

  67. Stephen Wilde says:

    I’ve always liked Willis’s hypothesis because it concentrates on the obvious importance of equatorial tropospheric air circlation and explains it very nicely.

    As Willis says there does seem to be a climate ‘governor’ in place and the findings of Miscolczi concerning a stable optical depth add weight to the idea.

    As for my part I have tried to collate all those ideas into a broader global climate description and to do that one needs to go somewhat further to consider internal oceanic cycling, solar cycling and the latitudinal shifting of the air circulation systems which indicate cycling in the speed of the hydrological cycle globally and not just in the tropics. All those aspects show cycles on varying periodicities but the most apparent one of significance is the 500/1000 year cycling from the historical past (as far as our records go) through the MWP to LIA to date.

    Anyway, it all seems to be coming together with a set of workable hypotheses that account for observations, comply with basic physics and present AGW alarmists with an alternative that cannot be ignored for much longer.

  68. anna v says:

    Willis, well done. I came to the thread wanting to congratulate you but got distracted by a bad physics argument:).

    I looked a bit into “constructal law” and it does sound applicable to the climate:
    Adrian Bejan in 1996: “For a finite-size (flow) system to persist in time (to live), its configuration must evolve such that it provides easier access to the imposed currents that flow through it.”
    It is a fascinating research direction.

  69. vukcevic says:

    Paul Vaughan says: July 25, 2010 at 3:49 am
    One last note: I would advise not underestimating the role of the N. Pacific. It’s not all about the Gulf Stream. Bear in mind atmospheric teleconnection.

    Thanks for the notes. North Pacific and the PDO are not immune to the geomagnetic variations, although correlation is not so clear cut. There are a number of crossover points, shifting with the pacific currents.

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/PDO.htm

  70. H.R. says:

    The way I look at it is that the thermostat setpoint is determined by the position of the land masses, which determine oceanic currents and heat redistribution, and determines where mountains and snow/ice can settle. Then comes axial tilt, which changes regional setpoints. But through it all, the Thermostat should work to keep temperatures close to the setpoint.

  71. Dave Springer says:

    “historical temperature stability of the Earth”

    Ice ages?

    I think it’s safe to say there’s a thermostat (essentially the water cycle) which limits maximum temperature but ice ages appear to be prima facie evidence that the only lower limit is established by the amount of energy the earth receives from the sun which, in the case of a snowball earth, is not much as most of it is reflected.

    Current thinking holds this is where greenhouse effect comes to the rescue. Volcanism is constantly belching CO2 and soot into the oceans and atmosphere. Absent abundant plant life to use it, and absent complete melting, the CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and the soot (which floats) accumulates on top of the snow and ice. Over the course of time it builds up enough to start melting the snow. Once the melt starts positive feedback from a falling albedo takes over and it’s off to the races. Plants can increasingly utilize to their benefit CO2 up to near 2000ppm in some cases and can tolerate far more. Animals can tolerate a lot more than that too with no ill effects.

  72. polistra says:

    The pattern of Earth’s temperature shows a recognizable signature to anyone who has dealt with waveforms, whether in electronic circuits or automotive suspension systems. At longer time-scales you see a soft and flat top, and a widely variable spiky bottom. This means some form of negative feedback is strongly damping the upward moves, and only weakly damping the downward moves.

    Thus we shouldn’t be worrying about a wild ‘hotward’ swing in response to external forcing; clearly the world’s climate system is incapable of such a response because negative feedback is in full control. We should be worrying about an out-of-control ‘coldward’ swing!

  73. vukcevic says:

    Paul Vaughan says:July 25, 2010 at 3:49 am
    One last note: I would advise not underestimating the role of the N. Pacific. It’s not all about the Gulf Stream.
    Additional note to my previous post: vukcevic July 25, 2010 at 4:44 am
    There are two crucial differences between the Arctic and Pacific re :GMF vs. currents
    – Gmf in the Pacific is much weaker, around 40 or less against 55-60 microTesla in the Arctic
    – The Arctic Ocean currents are often constrained by topography and forced trough narrow straits such as Fram, Denmark, Davis etc, while the Pacific currents take ocean wide sways.
    As consequence the AMO shows mush higher correlation then PDO.

  74. Steve Keohane says:

    Congratulations on the publication of your paper, it is an elegant hypothesis. Spending a lot of time outdoors, I am often captured by the at first rolling of small clouds by the sun, the sun side is warmed and rolls up, the shaded side comes down. At some size the internal convection takes over and the cauliflower top emerges. Another, albeit more subtle convection/heat loss, mechanism that seems significant to me is the inverse of cloudiness, the desert and near-desert climes. Moving from the midwest to Colorado almost forty years ago, I have always been impressed with the day/night thermal change, which is typically 30-40°F and can be in the 50-60°F range. While dry air does not have the mass of humid air, I submit these large gradients are evidence of a great deal of heat loss, especially since the area would be several orders of magnitude greater than one or many thunderstorm cells.

  75. Willis,

    I haven’t read the full text, and your other presentations don’t mention your methodology for calculating the energy/albedo effects, but if rigorous enough, this should be able to result in a model diagnostic. Similarly for the works of Spencer and Lindzen, if the supporters of the AGW hypothesis can’t yet accept the final conclusions, they should at least have to face comparisons of their model results to the data.

    thanx and regards

  76. Enneagram says:

    The beauty of simplicity!. Remarkable description of the thermostat functioning. Now we need a view from the thermostat back to the plug.

  77. Enneagram says:

    vukcevic says:
    July 25, 2010 at 8:24 am
    It´s Ok!, we need now a description how this system is powered and connected to the grid.

  78. Vuk etc. says:

    Enneagram says: July 25, 2010 at 8:55 am
    It´s Ok!, we need now a description how this system is powered and connected to the grid.

    No idea; I am electronic not electrical engineer. My late compatriot Nikola Tesla (Serbian Cyrillic: Никола Тесла) probably had an answer (The Art of Projecting Concentrated Non-dispersive Energy through the Natural Media) but they set his lab on fire.
    March, 13th: 5th Ave. Lab Burns
    A fire broke out in the basement of 33-35 South 5th Ave. (now West Broadway) and swept through the entire structure, including Tesla’s laboratory, which occupied the entire fourth floor of the six-story building. All of his hundreds of invention models, plans, notes, laboratory data, tools, photographs, valued at $50,000, were destroyed.

  79. Dave Springer says:

    Hey Willis,

    I didn’t read the paper but did you mention that the heat pump in a thunderstorm can work so well that ice can fall from the sky on a hot summer day in south central Texas?

    The latent of heat of melting is less than the latent heat of vaporization but it’s still quite significant and hail on a hot day is an even more dramatic illustration and, I think, more intuitively obvious to the layman about what that thunderstorm is actually doing – hot air goes up, ice comes down.

  80. Chris Schoneveld says:

    “vukcevic says:
    July 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm
    Very interesting hypothesis. It requires a meticulous read.
    I also think the tandem of tropics and poles are the key. One aspect which needs further consideration is that polar temperatures (at least in the Arctic have oscillated to a higher degree than the global estimate, as verified by large coal deposits in Spitsbergen, not to mention huge oil reserves notably in the Alaska’s North Slope etc.”

    Have you considered plate tectonics and thus the fact that the Carboneferous coal deposits in Spitsbergen originate from a time when Spitsbergen was in a near equatorial position. Also the Paleocene coals at Spitsbergen and the oil accumulations in Alaska have nothing to do with past polar climates but everything with the paleogeographical position at the time of deposition.
    The same

  81. Enneagram says:

    Last but not least: Lunar tides on the atmosphere:
    http://www.scichina.com:8080/sciDe/fileup/PDF/07yd1380.pdf

  82. Enneagram says:

    Vuk etc. says:
    July 25, 2010 at 9:25 am
    they set his lab on fire
    Regrettable!, however knowledge, gnosis, reborns.

  83. Enneagram says:

    Vuk etc. says:
    That Nikola Tesla´s Projecting Concentrated Non-dispersive Energy through the Natural Media looks like a plasma torch welding machine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_cutting

  84. Vuk etc. says:

    Enneagram says: July 25, 2010 at 10:02 am
    That Nikola Tesla´s Projecting Concentrated Non-dispersive Energy through the Natural Media looks like a plasma torch welding machine.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_cutting

    Precisely, but far more lethal.

    http://www.teslaradio.com/pages/teleforce.htm

    Copy of the manuscript is held in the Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla museum.

  85. Enneagram says:

    In Willis´ model electric thunderstorms are forgotten, and these are intrinsically associated with tropical storms/hurricanes. What is more frequently forgotten and missed is the fact that clouds, those nice and white “cotton balls” floating over our heads, contain thousands of tons of water….just flying against the law of gravity. Water droplets to fall down need to lose its electric charge….
    If we are to unravel the mysteries of the atmosphere we must not satisfy ouselves, or rather to gratify ourselves by just describing how it seems to work, but to find how it really works, and if by doing so we hurt some “flintstones universe” believers´so dear and so self indulging egos, it will have to be so.

  86. phlogiston says:

    I wonderd why WUWT threads have been Willisless the past couple of weeks – now we know.

  87. R. Gates says:

    Willis Eschenbach says:
    July 24, 2010 at 10:23 pm
    First, my thanks to all for the kind comments.

    Next, R. Gates raises an interesting question:
    July 24, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Willis,

    I would ask you to clarify what forcings can overpower or overwhelm the ability of thunderstorms to act as a thermostat. Certainly there must be limits to the range of control under your theory.

    If we imagine a much cooler earth, and then mentally turn the sun up, what we will see is more and more clouds. At some point, the clouds will form thunderstorms, which will prevent the temperature from rising further. This makes for a very stable system.

    Now, I would put changes to that system into two groups. First would be forcings that would “overpower or overwhelm” the system. I don’t know what those might be. The earth has seen giant meteor strikes, huge millennium long volcanic eruptions, and a host of other destabilizing events. None of these have caused more than short-term (geologically speaking) changes in the temperature. So I don’t know what it would take to make a long-term change in the temperature.

    The second group would be things that might change the equilibrium temperature without overpowering or overwhelming the system. First among these would include anything that would affect cloud formation, type, or color. The obvious candidates would be changes in cosmic rays, and changing levels of various aerosols (both natural and man-made) that modify clouds.

    Also in the second group would be anything affecting the average wind speed. I’m not sure what might do that, but I can see the possibility. It appears, for example, that winds were stronger during the ice ages.

    Next would be anything affecting evaporation. The most obvious candidate there would be monomolecular surface films from things like ship sinkings, oil leaks, and hydrocarbon smog.

    So in answer to your question, R. Gates, I don’t know the answer…

    _______
    Willis, thanks for your well thought out answer. Every control mechanism has a limit beyond which it can’t keep up with the extremes one way or another. Obviously, for example, the Milankovitch cycles overwhelm the ability of system to keep up, for we do have ice ages, as other posters have pointed out. True, thunderstorm and the general hydrological cycles are reduced during these ice ages, so the thermostat is attempting to keep up (by turning down, so to speak), but it simply can’t do the full job…it can’t turn down far enough..it has hit its range of control.

    But your speculations and your general theory have given me much to think about. One thing, only perhaps tangentially related to thunderstorms is the whole issue of “sprites” or this only recently discovered form of lighting that goes from the tops of thunderstorms into space itself. This has to be a tremendous amount of energy, and I’m wondering if anyone thought of looking at exactly how much energy this is that is being vented into space via sprites. Lighting in general is simply another form of converted sunlight, so in essence, the sprites have to be considered in the net outflow of energy form earth to space, in addition to the LW radiation that leaves.

  88. R. Gates says:

    Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
    July 24, 2010 at 11:46 pm
    R. Gates,

    Are there any questions about what global warming says about glaciers? The polar bear population? North Pole ice? South Pole ice? Hurricanes? Heat waves? Snow in the Sierra Nevada? Snow extent in Northern Hemisphere winters? Missing heat? Rotted ice? Tropospheric warming? Integrity of data handling among global warming scientists? Political involvement in global warming science? Co2 controling climate?

    Do you have questions or doubts about any of these things?

    _________
    All of these things are great interest to me and many others who actively study climate change every day. I’m not sure what you mean by “doubt” though. Do I doubt that AGW is affecting these things? Of course…I reserve some skepticism on all things. My watershed year won’t come for a few more though, as the most obvious and first canary in the coal mine is the Arctic Sea Ice. It is in general behaving pretty much as GCM’s would suggest is will (albeit a bit faster than predicted). It is in a general state of decline and has been for a long period of time. However, it could begin a slow recovery. I hold out that remote possibility. If it were, for example, not to hit a new low by 2015 at the latest, I would begin to have doubts about AGW. This, however, seems a remote possibility to me, as the next solar max in 2013 combined with another El Nino in 2012-2013 could be just the added warmth we would need to kick the Arctic Sea ice to a new low around 2.5 million sq. km.

    Heat waves and cold spells and hurricanes are pretty much weather events, but I’m interested in their trends over longer periods, but not in specific storms or snowy periods. As far as the rest of it, the polar bears, glaciers, hurricanes, etc. I’ve only studied them a bit. To me, mainly because I happen to be Norwegian in background perhaps, the Arctic is the most fascinating area of study, and it also happens to be on the front line for AGW.

  89. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Pete says:
    July 25, 2010 at 2:35 am

    Thank you very much for such an elegant hypothesis.

    I have a question, which may be a little simplistic, but here goes.

    How much would global cloud cover have to increase as a % to nullify any potential from Co2, or how much would the equatorial cloud mass(es) have to move toward the equator to achieve the same?

    On average, the earth at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) receives around 340 watts of solar energy for every square metre of the planet (W/m2).

    In round numbers, about 75 W/m2 are reflected back to space by clouds. Now, global cloud cover is on the order of about 70%. This gives us about 1 W/m2 for each 1% change in cloud cover, which is conveniently simple.

    However, that’s global cloud cover on average, which means little. In the tropics, mid-day surface insolation averages about a kilowatt per square metre, and the amount reflected by clouds is on the order of 340 W/m2.

    This gives us a cloud effect about five times as strong as the global average. In the tropics there is a change of 5 W/m2 in reflected energy for each 1% change in cloud cover. This allows for large swings, as I showed in my paper.

    Many thanks for such a great website A- my education continues due to the work everyone does here.

    I second the thanks to Anthony.

  90. Chris R. says:

    To R.Gates:

    I have seen one estimate of energy in a red, or high-altitude sprite:

    http://www.athena-spu.gr/~upperatmosphere/index.php/Sprites

    of up to 5 kJ of optical energy per discharge. Otherwise, we can probably just estimate
    from electric field strength (the well-known formula (1/2)*permittivity*E**2 times the estimated volume for the sprite.

  91. Robin Kool says:

    Hi Willis.
    I was impressed with your hypothesis a year ago.
    And since then I hoped you would published it.
    Congratulations.

  92. Willis Eschenbach says:

    vukcevic says:
    July 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Very interesting hypothesis. It requires a meticulous read.
    I also think the tandem of tropics and poles are the key. One aspect which needs further consideration is that polar temperatures (at least in the Arctic have oscillated to a higher degree than the global estimate, as verified by large coal deposits in Spitsbergen, not to mention huge oil reserves notably in the Alaska’s North Slope etc.

    As far as I know, Spitsbergen was much further south when the coal formed.

  93. R. Gates says:

    Chris R. says:
    July 25, 2010 at 12:13 pm
    To R.Gates:

    I have seen one estimate of energy in a red, or high-altitude sprite:

    http://www.athena-spu.gr/~upperatmosphere/index.php/Sprites

    of up to 5 kJ of optical energy per discharge. Otherwise, we can probably just estimate
    from electric field strength (the well-known formula (1/2)*permittivity*E**2 times the estimated volume for the sprite.

    __________

    Thanks for that Chris. There is no doubt that a lot of energy is being released by sprites and I don’t think that has been accounted for in GCM’s. I suppose on the scale of the total energy balance of the earth, it could be a small amount, but since sprites are fairly new in terms of being studied, and we don’t really know that much about their frequency etc. I would think it would be at least worth a look.

    Also, my physics here may be wrong, but wouldn’t sprites going from the tops of thunderstorms into space be energy lost from earth, or do they really go that high? Certainly since sprites can be seen from space, we know at least some of the energy is going into space. In general, when a normal lighting bolt releases its light, heat, and electricity, that energy is simply converted but stays in the earth’s system.

  94. Vuk etc. says:

    Willis Eschenbach says: July 25, 2010 at 12:50 pm
    As far as I know, Spitsbergen was much further south when the coal formed.

    Yes, that probably was the case and a wrong examples. Let’s say we know that in its recent past Greenland was much warmer than today.
    Essence of my posts was:
    Efficiency of the ocean currents heat transfer is crucial to the temperature oscillations in the polar regions, consequently to the ice coverage and albedo; resulting in a feedback.
    Faster currents more heath to the poles, less ice, less reflection, more energy absorption, even warmer poles.
    Of course, the reverse also holds true: slow current, less heath to the poles, more ice, more reflection, even colder poles.
    Either of above would lead to a completely ice free poles or in reverse permanently fixed ice cap. However neither appear to be the case, and reason could be that the ocean currents as the principal transporters of heat to the poles, have variability factor in the certain critical areas by factor of 2.
    Since there is a high correlation between the arctic temperatures and the strength of the arctic magnetic field, it can be speculated that the efficiency of the energy transfer is a function of the Earth’s magnetic field strength.

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/NFC1.htm

    There is a similar correlation in the North Pacific

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/PDO.htm

    Question was:
    I wonder what is your view of this particular feedback effect ?

  95. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R. Gates

    You did not address this:

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Your bitterness toward those who think the AGW hypothesis is likely correct is overpowering.

    I ask that you publicly retract this lie.

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Please address this so I don’t have to ask again.

  96. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R. Gates,

    I really did want you to answer this so I could know your view of the PIOMAS graph:

    are there limits to the accuracy of the PIOMAS graph?

    If you don’t want to that is fine. But I will note that you do answer.

  97. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R. Gates

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/07/24/willis-publishes-his-thermostat-hypothesis-paper/#comment-438915

    …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Since you didn’t say anything about this should I assume that I was correct in what I said?

  98. John Whitman says:

    Willis,

    Congratulations!

    Did you enjoy the peer review process?

    John

  99. Casper says:

    Willis,
    Congratulations! But I wouldn’t call that as the thermostat hypothesis. I’d rather call that as the buffer hypothesis. The system undergoes the reactions as a answer for circumstances coming from the sun and space. So it isn’t independently. But it acts as a buffer, keeping itself parameters constantly for a input range. If the input range is to wide, the system must be changed. This behavior is well known for the chemists, if they are working with the buffer solutions.
    BTW. I hope you had corrected the molecular weight for water vapor. It is 18 g/mol, not 16 g/mol.

  100. Chris R. says:

    To R. Gates,

    No, your physics is largely correct. Sprite discharges reach essentially to the threshold of space, so that energy is in fact carried out into an extremely low-density regime of the atmosphere. At that altitude, the physical processes that dominate are far different than low-altitude ones. As you note, the electromagnetic energy at optical wavelengths does propagate into space. The electrical discharge energy is another story. It MAY, repeat MAY, couple significantly to ionospheric layers. It has been quite a while since I looked at sprites, but I recall during the 1990s there was some excitement over sprites in the space physics community as a means of looking at ionospheric and magnetospheric processes. I’m sorry that I don’t recall more detail off the top.

  101. tallbloke says:

    I think it would be fun to boycott certain journals which have stonewalled papers which don’t fit the AGW agenda and show E&E support in the future for their open and eclectic policy.

    I bought Craig Loehle’s book on becoming a successful scientist today and I’m looking forward to a good read..

  102. R. Gates says:

    Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
    July 25, 2010 at 1:27 pm
    R. Gates

    You did not address this:

    ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

    Your bitterness toward those who think the AGW hypothesis is likely correct is overpowering.

    I ask that you publicly retract this lie.

    ______________
    I find this comment you made about me to be tinged with bitterness, especially when jumped in when I was addressing Willis about a different topic, and not you:

    “Instead you come up with all kinds of poor arguments to defend it. This shows everything about you…

    Also, in past posts you’ve added the label “catastrophic” to my belief that the AGW model is likely correct. I resent this adjective.

    Perhaps your comments toward me are only “caustic” and not bitter, in which case, I apologize for the poor choice. In general, I avoid posting to you and I would prefer you don’t post anything to me, especially when it tries to “hint” at your perception of my character…using such phrases as “shows everything about you…”

    You know absolutely nothing about me, and you ought not post statements hinting that you do. If you can stick to the science and the facts, and make no comments about me personally, I will do the same for you, and that will be best for both of us.
    ___________
    I really did want you to answer this so I could know your view of the PIOMAS graph:

    are there limits to the accuracy of the PIOMAS graph?

    _________
    PIOMAS is a model, and as such is subject all the inaccuracies inherent in models. It will be improved upon by the upcoming CryoSat 2 data, as will everyone’s models.

  103. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    H.R. said on July 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm:

    The Thermostat Hypothesis made sense to me when I first read it on WUWT. It would seem to work during glaciations and interglacials. So what causes the switch between glaciations and interglacials?

    If nothing else, it would be the humidity. Cold glaciated areas tend to have very low atmospheric humidity, the H2O would rather be in solid form. Offhand I would expect at some point with growing worldwide glaciation that low atmospheric humidity would greatly reduce cloud cover. Snow cover would also come into play. Snow is a diffuse cover, reflecting incoming light. With its small crystal size it would sublimate relatively quickly in an ultra-low humidity environment. Then the ice would be exposed. As is noted with glaciers where calving is occurring, light will penetrate glacial ice, and thick ice is not clear but has a bluish color therefore it absorbs some amount of visible light. With very low humidity, without snow cover, and with greatly reduced cloud cover, it seems likely sufficient sunlight would penetrate to permit a slow warming.

    Eventually, after a very long warming, glaciers would stop growing, humidity will rise, more clouds will form, precipitation will occur. With rain at the edges of the glaciated areas, the rain will transfer heat and become runoff before freezing. Some will also go into any cracks at the edge, expanding and freezing thus worsening the cracks leading to calving. Net result is edge loss. This effect will be greater than the reduced insolation due to increased cloud cover as the loss will occur relatively fast. Then comes less ice cover, more exposed area soaking up more light, more warming… Interglacial occurs.

    (And yes, water vapor is a potent “greenhouse gas” so as the humidity rises there will be greater retention of heat, promoting faster ice loss. But water vapor is the only “greenhouse gas” in this possible description, no CO2 increases need be involved.)

  104. LarryOldtimer says:

    Not only an excellent hypothesis, Willis, but good of you to call it by its correct term, that is “hypothesis”, rather than the term so often wrongly used nowadays, “theory”.

    I personally think that electrostatic electricity plays a large part in not only thunderstorms, but rainfall in general, and would explain why those particles of water which clouds consist of seem to defy gravity.

    But then, who am I to even dare to attempt to speak of “scientific” issues? I am only a civil engineer.

  105. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R. Gates

    Thank you for addressing this. I appreciate it.

    My comments toward you are not caustic of bitter. They just are not softball. This is something you should expect.

    If you had serious questions about the PIOMAS graph like you have serious questions about other things I would think differently of you. And I think others would too. But you find nothing wrong with it. You portray it as virtually correct with nothing other than needing small improvements. But it is clear the PIOMAS graph is seriously flawed. It is making wrong assumptions, assumptions that should have been corrected by the programmers by now. It doesn’t just have “inaccuracies inherent in models”. That graph is showing something that is laughable in the real world. And that’s not being bitter. That’s not being caustic. The PIOMAS graph diverges from reality.

  106. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    Climate Models are Like Ouija Boards

  107. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:

    R Gates,

    maybe you shouldn’t take my comments so personally. I write comment with readers in mind, not with you, per se, in mind.

  108. DirkH says:

    LarryOldtimer says:
    July 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm
    “[...]I personally think that electrostatic electricity plays a large part in not only thunderstorms, but rainfall in general, and would explain why those particles of water which clouds consist of seem to defy gravity.[...]”

    Very good, i never thought much about that but the atmosphere has a vertical voltage gradient… Some research seems to be ongoing to find out about the electric charge of a microdroplet:

    http://www.opticsinfobase.org/abstract.cfm?URI=ol-30-7-759

  109. Thomas L says:

    Chris Schoneveld says:
    July 25, 2010 at 9:37 am

    Have you considered plate tectonics and thus the fact that the Carboneferous coal deposits in Spitsbergen originate from a time when Spitsbergen was in a near equatorial position. Also the Paleocene coals at Spitsbergen and the oil accumulations in Alaska have nothing to do with past polar climates but everything with the paleogeographical position at the time of deposition.
    The same

    Redwoods grew on Greenland only 450,000 years ago. A bit too recent to invoke plate tectonics. And I thought it was all ice for Greenland. Must have been warmer for far longer than the MWP, where people grew grapes far north.

    And it gets cold fast. Mammoths munching on warm-weather plants in Alaska.

  110. H.R. says:

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    July 25, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    in response to
    H.R. said on July 24, 2010 at 7:29 pm:

    Thanks for your response. The only question is how rapidly the processes in your explanation could occur. If the paleos and geologists are correct, the earth sometimes experiences a rapid descent into glaciations. All that I’ve read so far is that it is a slower climb out of them.

    Wait a sec! I think I’ve just answered my own question. The H2O precipitates out rapidly as snow (increased albedo), but given relatively constant incoming solar energy, it takes a lot of crumbling and other edge effects to reduce the albedo and release H2O vapor back into the atmosphere. You can get a meter of snow in a short time (hours) during a blizzard, but it takes a long time (days or weeks or months) to melt off. Does that sound about right?

  111. _Jim says:

    DirkH July 25, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Very good, i never thought much about that but the atmosphere has a vertical voltage gradient… Some research seems to be ongoing to find out about the electric charge of a microdroplet:

    ‘Open sky’ generally won’t read (does not show any reading/voltage) using an electrometer (device capable of non-contact reading on a static electric field) … so how does this work again?

    .

  112. _Jim says:

    LarryOldtimer July 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    Not only an excellent hypothesis, Willis, but good of you to call it by its correct term, that is “hypothesis”, rather than the term so often wrongly used nowadays, “theory”.

    I personally think that electrostatic electricity plays a large part in not only thunderstorms, but rainfall in general, …

    Cause or effect (the static charge?) i.e., it causes rain or is a result of rain?

    Consider the Triboelectric effect might play a part – drops hitting each other – water surface tension, drops being torn apart – or the formation of ice particles/drops and collisions?

    Now … which is cause and which is the effect?

    Also please not observers report _no lightning_ except upon reaching a certain heavier-level of rainfall, and, usually at the point where the cell extends higher in altitude above the freezing level …

    Quick ref: http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/primer/lightning/ltg_climatology.html
    .

  113. _Jim says:

    Gnomish July 24, 2010 at 10:00 pm says:

    Jim….
    Where do you think the heat goes when vapor condenses in a cloud? How do you think it is radiated?

    Is this a trick question – aren’t the physical processes that are involved what really matter?

    Do you think the ‘airmass’ radiates it’s energy directly into space?

    Everybody else does …

    Bonus question: Which air molecules are capable of IR radiation?

    .

  114. _Jim says:

    Henry chance July 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm says:

    “Great article. I am watching thermals and a rapid thunderstorm build up in the last 30 minutes. When the storm hits, it will remove a lot of heat. Wind sheers are examples of redistribution of heat. ”

    _Jim July 24, 2010 at 9:19 pm writes in response:

    Great. Latent heat of evaporation is released into the ‘air’ at altitude … can you ‘splain to me how it gets into ‘space’ via air that is a poor black body at best (bearing in mind effective IR emission occurring only from certain molecules like CO2 and H2O)?

    No one has contested/argued this response? Do they all acquiesce to the answer given (actually, implied, i.e. air is a poor black body radiator and it is actually the ‘land’ masses that provide the majority of cooling via their much greater black-body IR radiating ability … and it is the transport of this ‘warmed’ air to the higher latitudes where the IR radiation of the surface cools the incoming air – via circulation from the mid-level cells and further south from the Hadley cells)?

    .

  115. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Casper says:
    July 25, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Willis,
    Congratulations! But I wouldn’t call that as the thermostat hypothesis. I’d rather call that as the buffer hypothesis. The system undergoes the reactions as a answer for circumstances coming from the sun and space. So it isn’t independently. But it acts as a buffer, keeping itself parameters constantly for a input range. If the input range is to wide, the system must be changed. This behavior is well known for the chemists, if they are working with the buffer solutions.

    Actually, no. I am talking about something which is completely different from a buffer system.

    Thunderstorms are an emergent phenomenon of the climate system. Emergent phenomena are ephemeral. They are created, have a lifespan, and then go out of existence. In addition, emergent phenomena are self-organizing. And in certain cases, such as thunderstorms, they can even be self-sustaining.

    Emergent phenomena are often associated with threshold conditions. These are conditions which must be met before the phenomenon forms or occurs. Examples would be threshold ground temperatures, air temperatures, or relative humidity. Absent these conditions, they will not form. Above the threshold, however, they form rapidly and very prolifically.

    Finally, in the case of thunderstorms, what is formed is a very efficient air conditioning solar driven heat pump. A thunderstorm can cool the surface well below the temperature threshold necessary to initiate the thunderstorm formation. It is this ability to “overshoot”, to move the system to a lower temperature than the starting temperature, that makes thunderstorms the active governors of the temperature.

    And to return to your initial statement, this is why what I describe is not like a buffer system. Instead, it is an active control system which can overshoot the desired state. A buffer system can’t do that.

    Many thanks.

    w.

    BTW. I hope you had corrected the molecular weight for water vapor. It is 18 g/mol, not 16 g/mol.

    Grrrr …

  116. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Chris R. says:
    July 25, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    To R. Gates,

    No, your physics is largely correct. Sprite discharges reach essentially to the threshold of space, so that energy is in fact carried out into an extremely low-density regime of the atmosphere. At that altitude, the physical processes that dominate are far different than low-altitude ones. As you note, the electromagnetic energy at optical wavelengths does propagate into space. The electrical discharge energy is another story. It MAY, repeat MAY, couple significantly to ionospheric layers. It has been quite a while since I looked at sprites, but I recall during the 1990s there was some excitement over sprites in the space physics community as a means of looking at ionospheric and magnetospheric processes. I’m sorry that I don’t recall more detail off the top.

    In my opinion, we are only starting to understand the huge role that atmospheric/cloud electromagnetic fields and discharges play in the climate. And to that we have to add the geo- and helio-magnetic fields, plus of course solar winds and storms, plus coronal mass ejections …

  117. Paul Vaughan says:

    vukcevic, we seem to be in agreement:
    1) The lower correlation with PDO is not surprising given that the teleconnection is atmospheric.
    2) AMO & PDO are related but there is a 1/4-cycle phase-difference.

  118. Gnomish says:

    _Jim says:
    July 25, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Gnomish July 24, 2010 at 10:00 pm says:

    Jim….
    Where do you think the heat goes when vapor condenses in a cloud? How do you think it is radiated?

    Is this a trick question – aren’t the physical processes that are involved what really matter?

    Do you think the ‘airmass’ radiates it’s energy directly into space?

    YES, Jim. I know it for a fact. Did you think conduction or convection works in a vacuum?

    Everybody else does …

    Bonus question: Which air molecules are capable of IR radiation?

    EVERY SINGLE ONE, Jim.
    Just like every last loving bit of mass in the universe, Jim.

    It’s dead, Jim.

    .

  119. Stephen Wilde says:

    Willis,

    How well can we ascertain changes in global cloud quantities ?

    I ask because most ideas linking clouds to albedo changes (Svensmark and others) rely on changes in quantity yet it seems to me that the task is virtually impossible due to the huge variability in cloud types and heights and the speed of changes.

    I have recently begun to favour the view that global cloud quantities may not vary much at all and that the real cause of global albedo changes is movement of all the cloud bands latitudinally so that the angle of incidence of solar radiation changes.

    They all seem to move either poleward or equatorward in unison.

    That suggestion seems to be supported by the observation that albedo started to rise again around 2000 when the jet streams started moving back equatorward. Before that albedo had been declining as the jets had moved poleward.

    Doesn’t that simple proposition resolve a number of problems ?

  120. Casper says:

    Thanks for your answer Willis!
    [i] A buffer solution is an aqueous solution consisting of a mixture of a weak acid and its conjugate base or a weak base and its conjugate acid. [/i] It has the property that the pH of the solution changes very little when a small amount of strong acid or base is added to it. Many life forms thrive only in a relatively small pH range; an example of a buffer solution is blood. But such systems are having a limited capacity and it can be described via derivative dn/dpH.
    I have an impression that the system is acting as a buffer. Because it protects the life anytime and tries to keep its state at the constant value for a input range . However overshooting can take place due to limited capacity.
    I’m a physical chemist…

  121. Paul Birch says:

    Willis:
    I have only read the WUWT version of your fascinating paper, so forgive me if any of the following is outdated.

    The mechanism you describe is so obviously real that it must be at least a major contributing factor in setting planetary temperatures. Whether the effect is quite strong enough to be the full governor you envisage is less clear. I have been trying to think of a clear-cut test, but have not yet found a suitable one (unfortunately, observing daily or seasonal albedo changes only shows the mechanism is operating, not whether it is sufficient to overcome long-term changes in the inputs or boundary conditions).

    Your exegesis is I think somewhat marred by a confusion over negative feedback. Even simple linear negative feedback without lag can come arbitrarily close to eliminating variations (that’s what an op-amp does). With lag or underdamping, it can even reverse the change. A governor, such as you describe, is in fact a classic case of nonlinear negative feedback. Whereas your example of friction slowing a car isn’t actually negative feedback at all – it’s a loss or damping factor. None of this directly affects the substance of your hypothesis; however, it would be relevant to those regions in which the cloud formation/thunderstorm mechanism does not reach full strength. Even where the active governor does not fully operate, the negative feedback implicit in the process will still contribute largely to stabilising temperatures against changes in irradiance.

    As has been noted, there must be limits beyond which the governor will not work. A lower limit would be when the input of solar energy is insufficient to create any thunderstorms before the evening or night. We could perhaps get a handle on this by observing the latitudes above which the mechanism does not operate. This would seem to be somewhere in the 30-40 latitude range, which might suggest that a reduction in irradiance of 10-20% would be enough to turn off the governor. I would be cautious about that, though, because clearly irradiance is not the only driver, or it would operate even at the poles (due to axial tilt, the mean irradiance at midsummer at the poles is actually slightly higher than at the equator!). An upper limit will be reacheed when so many thunderclouds are formed so early in the day that there’s no room for any more. Your albedo diagrams may give a handle on that. Another possible upper limit obtains if the thunderclouds, after their active phase, fail to dissipate before morning; we might then switch to a mode with a comparatively thin stratus cover, which substantially blocks nighttime cooling, yet permits enough sunlight to filter through to maintain surface conditions; the governor would no longer work, and any residual negative feedback would be weak.

    Your hypothesis does not, it seems to me, depend upon any particular theory of global circulation, so the emphasis on the tropic-polar heat engine is perhaps misplaced. As a thought experiment, consider a planet in which only the tropics exist (slice off the ends or raise them above the atmosphere like Niven’s easter-egg planet Jinx) . Your governor will operate just fine, maintaining the tropical temperature on that world even if irradiance varies over a considerable range.

    I have further thoughts, but don’t want to overload a single post.

  122. vukcevic says:

    Paul Vaughan says: July 26, 2010 at 2:54 am
    vukcevic, we seem to be in agreement:
    1) The lower correlation with PDO is not surprising given that the teleconnection is atmospheric.
    2) AMO & PDO are related but there is a 1/4-cycle phase-difference.

    Agree with the “teleconnection is atmospheric” but that may not be whole story (work in progress).
    There is also a strong possibility that intensity of the huge arctic storms is influenced and directed by the Arctic’s geomagnetic flux, having direct reflection on the temperatures. Additionally precipitations’ strength affects amount of the ice build-up and also salinity of the surface currents.

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/PS.htm

    More details here

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/NFC1.htm

  123. Tenuc says:

    Congratulations, Willis, on having your paper published.

    At the moment mainstream climate science does not understand enough about how the hydrological cycle produces the observed climate oscillations, which are quasi-cyclic in nature. Your paper provides a framework for a better understanding of how Earth’s energy budget changes due to the turbulence inherent in the system. This explains why climate has not warmed as much as expected over the last 30y and why we are now dipping down into a period of cooling.

    The IPCC spectre of run-away climate warming has now been exorcised!

  124. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Re: H.R. on July 25, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    The answers are nice and simple, and we don’t like them. Systems tend to go to a lower energy state, shedding energy to do so. A shiny glaciated Earth is at a low energy state, going as low as possible with a planetary atmosphere.

    Look at the Vostok ice core data, courtesy of JoNova on her “The 800 year lag – graphed” page. What it actually shows is that the temperature repeatedly will bottom out, followed by a rapid rise. Going by my description, the humidity bottoms out, the snow cover sublimates, then the warming of the exposed ice actually goes relatively fast. It is the overall cooling that takes a long time.

    There are two features to take note of, most noticeable on the larger peaks. The rate of cooling curves downward generally, it goes along so far then the rate of cooling increases. As the planet cools and more H2O gets extracted from the air, the “greenhouse effect” provided by H2O drops off, and presumably the effect is logarithmic as with CO2, so the greatest temperature increases are found with the smallest concentration increases. Likewise, as the last dregs of water vapor get removed the rate of temperature drop will get steep.

    Now examine the high peaks. A frequent feature, the temperature will peak at a high point, then comes a steep drop, then comes the long cooling. This looks like the “rapid descent into glaciation” you were mentioning, which is actually something else.

    This is the overheat condition, referred to as an interglacial. The ice sheets melt, there is lots of liquid water, humidity rises, there are lots of clouds and storms. The planet’s system switches over to a very dynamic state, where it efficiently sheds lots of heat into space. More energy is absorbed than in the shiny glaciated state, and more is shed, much more. Eventually what yielded the condition passes, the system remains at the highly dynamic state shedding more energy than received for awhile, cooling the planet away from the overheat condition. Then the planet can begin icing up again and the long cooling off begins.

    Thus we are currently in an extreme condition, which the planet is busy trying to end. And we don’t want it to end, thus we don’t like those answers.

    To toss it out there, from the Vostok data, better seen with this graph (same source), something happened about 12,500 years ago. Temperatures have moderated and stuck to a somewhat narrow band, following a step rise. What happened? Offhand, might have been the Amazonian rainforest. As talked about here on WUWT when we were discussing biochar (see comments), that area actually shows signs of ancient land management, transforming the soil itself. As mentioned in Wikipedia’s Amazon Rainforest article:

    Based on archaeological evidence from an excavation at Caverna da Pedra Pintada, human inhabitants first settled in the Amazon region at least 11,200 years ago.[12] Subsequent development led to late-prehistoric settlements along the periphery of the forest by 1250 CE, which induced alterations in the forest cover.

    The timing fits, and that rainforest is very dynamic, soaking up more sunlight than the savannah that otherwise would be expected to be there, and releasing water vapor and heat into the atmosphere for distribution elsewhere. Granted it seems a bit of a stretch to propose that something we mere humans did over 10,000 years ago has kept us in a climate amenable to us for so long, without even realizing what we were doing. Therefore alternative explanations are welcomed, although ones proposing “The CO2 must have done it!” will be looked at decidedly askance. ;-)

  125. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Stephen Wilde says:
    July 26, 2010 at 5:25 am

    Willis,

    How well can we ascertain changes in global cloud quantities ?

    I ask because most ideas linking clouds to albedo changes (Svensmark and others) rely on changes in quantity yet it seems to me that the task is virtually impossible due to the huge variability in cloud types and heights and the speed of changes.

    Satellites allow us global coverage of clouds, 24/7. Analyses of microwave brightness allow us to determine the elevation of the cloud tops. Bottoms are more problematic. However, in general we have a reasonably good idea of the number and types of clouds around the globe.

    I have recently begun to favour the view that global cloud quantities may not vary much at all and that the real cause of global albedo changes is movement of all the cloud bands latitudinally so that the angle of incidence of solar radiation changes.

    They all seem to move either poleward or equatorward in unison.

    When I entertain an idea like this, my first action would be to run a “back of the envelope” calculation. Suppose at the equinox that cloud coverage is 69% on a cloud band at say 10°N, and the band moves to 15°N. How much difference would that make?

    The surface insolation varies roughly as the cosine of the latitude. The change from 10°N to 15°N gives a change in insolation of ~ 7 W/m2. That is a maximum, however, and is reduced by several things.

    One is that oftentimes thunderstorms are nearly as tall as they are wide (10 km or 6 miles). This means that their albedo doesn’t change much with changing solar angles.

    As a result, actual measurements of the tropical surface insolation don’t change much over the latitudes of the tropics. However, it does change more in the temperate zone by latitude.

    That suggestion seems to be supported by the observation that albedo started to rise again around 2000 when the jet streams started moving back equatorward. Before that albedo had been declining as the jets had moved poleward.

    Doesn’t that simple proposition resolve a number of problems ?

    In a complex situation such as the climate, it is difficult to see what the overall effect might be. Could be large or small. However, you might be on to something.

  126. Stephen Wilde says:

    Thanks Willis, very helpful.

    I think that the best indication we currently have as to whether any such effect is large or small is the ‘coincidence’ of albedo trends changing just when the jets started moving equatorward again around 2000.

    Interestingly the earlier stratospheric cooling stopped and there may now be slight warmig, ozone levels started to recover and the sun became less active.

    All around the same time and all the reverse of what had been going on for the previous 30 years or so.

    That still leaves plenty of room for your hypothesis though because the tropics are an integral part of the mechanism.

  127. Stephen Wilde says:

    “One is that oftentimes thunderstorms are nearly as tall as they are wide (10 km or 6 miles). This means that their albedo doesn’t change much with changing solar angles.”

    They cast longer shadows though.

  128. Paul Vaughan says:

    Re: vukcevic
    Agree that there is also a direct (oceanic) Pacific connection. Where we seem to disagree is on the direction of causation. My instinct is that geomagnetic variation is a byproduct of other processes. I do not suspect that magnetism drives weather/climate. However, it appears to be a useful indicator of patterns & processes (e.g. geography, lunisolar tides, hydrology).

  129. Gail Combs says:

    Willis, Congratulations!

    For another comment I did a quicky look at afternoon rain on the east coast (USA)

    Florida had about 20 -25 days of rain per month. Georgia,South Carolina and southern North Carolina had 20 days of rain per month. In the middle of North Carolina – between Fayetteville and Sanford (or Rocky Mount) a distance of fifty miles further north, the number of rain days changed from 20/month to 10/month.

    The Sanford area is also the present “snowline” It snows regularly further north and rarely further south.

  130. Bill Illis says:

    I think this hypothesis has much explanatory power.

    I haven’t been able to read the paper but I have some data which I think very much supports it.

    Outgoing long-wave radiation is a method to measure cloudiness. OLR falls when there is more clouds and rises when there is less. [There is also less solar energy getting in as a result of more clouds].

    There are cloud cover estimates which semi-match the OLR numbers but I don’t think we have good measures of cloud cover and with my work on the ENSO, I know that OLR and cloudiness are closely related.

    Here is the OLR for the wide-tropics 20S-20N versus the ENSO going back to 1974. The OLR values don’t change a great deal (+/- 12 Watts/m2) but this area represents a huge percentage of the Earth.

    It represents 34% of the total surface area and 41% of the total solar energy received by the Earth so it would have a big enough impact.

    Well, the OLR (which is a close indicator of cloudiness) does track the ENSO very closely and it does vary by large enough amounts to support Willis’ hypothesis. [One would also have to build-in the resulting reduction of solar energy from the clouds to complete the picture].

  131. Pascvaks says:

    Thanks Willis! Seems “Climate” is a function of the size/strength of Hadley, Temporate, and Polar Cells, and the strength/location of Jet Streams (as well as much more;-) Has anyone produced a graphic of the globe similiar to the one you show at the deepest point of the Glacial periods? Wouldn’t the cells be different? Thanks again!

  132. H.R. says:

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    July 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks, again. those were a couple of very clear explanations. I appreciate your taking the time to answer thos equestions.

  133. Paul Vaughan says:

    Re: Bill Illis

    Thanks for the notes & graphs. That inspired a look at how cumulative OLR relates to OHC — see some of Bob Tisdale’s OHC graphs here:
    1) http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2010/02/ohc-linear-trends-and-recent-update-of.html
    2) http://bobtisdale.blogspot.com/2009/09/enso-dominates-nodc-ocean-heat-content.html

  134. Mr. Willis Eschenbach,

    I read your article a year ago and liked it very much.

    I have just republished it in my Website, Observatorio ARVAL, at

    http://www.oarval.org/Thermostat.htm (English) and
    http://www.oarval.org/Termostato.htm (Spanish).

    I corrected a couple of obvious typos in the original and did a careful Spanish translation.
    I hope this pleases you, and will make any and all changes you might suggest.

    Thank you very much,
    Andrés Valencia
    Observatorio ARVAL

    http://www.oarval.org

  135. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Andres Valencia says:
    July 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Mr. Willis Eschenbach,

    I read your article a year ago and liked it very much.

    I have just republished it in my Website, Observatorio ARVAL, at

    http://www.oarval.org/Thermostat.htm (English) and
    http://www.oarval.org/Termostato.htm (Spanish).

    I corrected a couple of obvious typos in the original and did a careful Spanish translation.
    I hope this pleases you, and will make any and all changes you might suggest.

    Qdo. Andres;

    Mil gracias pa’ traducirla en Español. Es muy interesante ver mis palabras en otra lengua.

    Lo mejor a Vd,

    w.

  136. Dear Willis,

    In “But where is that mechanism?”, you write “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.”

    How could this GOES-West view be “always summer”?

    Best regards

  137. Dear Willis,

    In the next paragraph down, you write “And it’s always summer under the sun.”

    It is always noon, but not summer, I think.

    Best regards

  138. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Andres Valencia says:
    July 29, 2010 at 8:34 pm (Edit)

    Dear Willis,

    In the next paragraph down, you write “And it’s always summer under the sun.”

    It is always noon, but not summer, I think.

    Best regards

    Andres, thanks for your question. The sun is north of the Equator during the NH summer, and south of the Equator during the SH summer. When the sun is north of the equator, it is not summer in the south, and vice versa. So yes, summer follows the sun …

    You ask:

    How could this GOES-West view be “always summer”?

    It’s not, because it is only an approximation of the view from the sun. It is in geostationary orbit directly over the equator, so the sun moves north and south in the GOES-West view.

    Thanks,

    w.

  139. Thanks Willis,

    I had mixed up your thought experiment with the GOES view.

    Best regards

  140. I have added at the end:

    ARVAL Note:
    The global images from the meteorological satellites in the visible, infrared and water vapor wavelengths show the Earth’s recent cloud cover and storm activity.

    See NRL Monterey Global Imagery (GOES 11/13, METEO 7/9, MTSAT2).

    http://www.nrlmry.navy.mil/sat-bin/global.cgi

  141. Dave Springer says:

    Hi Willis,

    Hope you noticed this in a buried thread.

    We’ve had a some scorching heat lately here in south central Texas but I noticed something that begs for quantization. We get afternoon thunderstorms here quite often on hot days with 40+ mph winds and hail. When one of those boomers rolls through, often right at the peak temperature, it will lower the air temperature 10-20 degrees F in a matter of minutes for miles in every direction around the center of the cell. The rest of the day stays that much cooler. This cooling won’t register on max/min thermometers as they record the low at night and have already recorded the high, or very close to it, in the afternoon before the storm rolls through out of a clear blue sky. As far as total degree-hours for the day a thunderstorm can knock it down considerably – say if instead of max/min the record was hourly and you added up 24 records for the day and divided by 24.

    My question is whether there’s any database or proxy for thunderstorm frequency such that we could estimate whether the frequency changing on a global basis from year to year. A second question would be how these are treated in GCMs – I’m guessing it’s just a constant like they use for albedo.

    One final thing – there must be a plethora of hourly records from automated stations that also report min/max used in GISS etc. and also metadata about thunderstorms coming through, particularly I’d think at airports. It would be interesting to see the difference, if any, in station records averaged by daily min/max and averaged by hourly temperatures.

    As I wrote this a second cell just passed over me. The first knocked the temperature down from 103F to 93F at 2:30 and this second an hour later dropped it another 10 degrees to 83F at 3:30PM. That removed probably 100 degree-hours or more from our day which is quite a bit of missing energy at the surface.

  142. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Dave, thanks for the comment. I don’t know of any database or proxy for thunderstorm numbers, it is a moving target that would be very difficult to define.

    In GCMs, thunderstorms are way sub gridcell size, which is typically 200 km on a side. So they are parameterized, which is how climate scientists describe unsupported assumptions …

    There definitely are differences between the average of the min/max and the hourly temps. However, many stations don’t have hourly temps, so we’re stuck with (min + max) / 2 for the time being.

    And yes, as your experience with local thunderstorm cells highlights, thunderstorms cool the surface greatly.

    Thanks,

    w.

  143. Thomas L says:

    Willis Eschenbach – August 24, 2010 at 11:33 pm
    However, many stations don’t have hourly temps

    Couldn’t we use the stations that have hourly temps as proxies for those that don’t? Just thinking that 12 hours of proxy using the same unit of measurement is more likely to be skillful than tree rings at 1000 years.

    Nice work. In Ohio, plenty of convection in August. We tend to catch the tail end of hurricanes. Difficult part is quantifying thunderstorm energy on a historical basis. Going forward, the satellite data for albedo should be good. Is that data kept from 1979 forward?

  144. jim hardy says:

    A repeat of my post at other site…

    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.
    I see a couple prior comments mentioned it, the ones on waveforms and negative feedback.
    My opinion is the climate models are just in the appetizer stage, the main course of 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. Partial derivatives of air’s specific heat and density(hence convection propensity) wrt H2O and CO2 content….

    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

Comments are closed.