Volcanic Corroboration

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Back in 2010, I wrote a post called “Prediction is hard, especially of the future“. It turned out to be the first of a series of posts that I ended up writing on the inability of climate models to successfully replicate the effects of volcanoes. It was an investigation occasioned by the oft-repeated claim from the modelers that the models are wizards at replicating volcanoes, such as this claim from Andrew Lacis:

There we make an actual global climate prediction (global cooling by about 0.5 C 12-18 months following the June 1991 Pinatubo volcanic eruption, followed by a return to the normal rate of global warming after about three years), based on climate model calculations using preliminary estimates of the volcanic aerosol optical depth. These predictions were all confirmed by subsequent measurements of global temperature changes, including the warming of the stratosphere by a couple of degrees due to the volcanic aerosol.

My research showed that contrary to the claims of the modelers, the models did a very poor job of replicating the effect of the volcanoes. In particular, they overestimated the amount of the global temperature change resulting from an eruption. I wrote these and subsequent results up in a number of following articles (list appended). Many people objected strongly to my results that showed the volcanoes didn’t have the huge effect claimed by the models.

As a result, I was pleasantly surprised to find an article in press at JGR entitled “Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) simulations of climate following volcanic eruptions“. The paper is not yet published, but the Abstract says it all:

ABSTRACT (emphasis mine)

Key Points

• Large volcanic eruptions cause a major dynamical response in the atmosphere

• CMIP5 models are assessed for their ability to simulate this response

No models in the CMIP5 database sufficiently represent this response

The ability of the climate models submitted to the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) database to simulate the Northern Hemisphere winter climate following a large tropical volcanic eruption is assessed. When sulfate aerosols are produced by volcanic injections into the tropical stratosphere and spread by the stratospheric circulation, it not only causes globally averaged tropospheric cooling but also a localized heating in the lower stratosphere, which can cause major dynamical feedbacks. Observations show a lower stratospheric and surface response during the following one or two Northern Hemisphere (NH) winters, that resembles the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Simulations from 13 CMIP5 models that represent tropical eruptions in the 19th and 20th century are examined, focusing on the large-scale regional impacts associated with the large-scale circulation during the NH winter season. The models generally fail to capture the NH dynamical response following eruptions. They do not sufficiently simulate the observed post-volcanic strengthened NH polar vortex, positive NAO, or NH Eurasian warming pattern, and they tend to overestimate the cooling in the tropical troposphere. The findings are confirmed by a superposed epoch analysis of the NAO index for each model. The study confirms previous similar evaluations and raises concern for the ability of current climate models to simulate the response of a major mode of global circulation variability to external forcings. This is also of concern for the accuracy of geoengineering modeling studies that assess the atmospheric response to stratosphere-injected particles.

So it turns out to be even worse than I have been saying for a couple of years now.  Not one of the models used by the IPCC was able to replicate the effects of volcanoes. The problem, as always, is that the climate is not dead. It actively responds to mitigate and alter the effects of a volcanic eruption, and the models are unable to replicate that active evolution of the global meteorology that occurs in response to the eruption.

It’s always nice to see other scientific studies backing up the results of my own research, particularly when I’ve taken lots of flak for the positions I have espoused. And it’s good to know that once again, WUWT has been publishing tomorrow’s science today …

w.

APPENDIX: My other posts on volcanoes:

Pinatubo and the Albedo Thermostat

Volcanic Disruptions

Missing the Missing Summer

Dronning Maud meets the Little Ice Age

New Data, Old Claims about Volcanoes

BEST, Volcanoes, and Climate Sensitivity

Zero Point Three Times the Forcing

The Nuclear Winter of our Discontent

About these ads

41 thoughts on “Volcanic Corroboration

  1. Good for you, Willis. The gentleman who can visit the Playa is the man who actually gets out in the (sur)real world of life. Not unlike some psychologists from down under who cannot put a decent, coherent questionaire together and then get this peer reviewed. It must be very satisfying to notice that one is right. (probably, this is science, after all).
    Have fun.

  2. I think albedo likely also modulates humidity. I suspect that drying of the atmosphere from cloud cover shielding bodies of water has been incorrectly attributed to temperature change, exagerating the water vapor feedback.

  3. One thing I found recently is that volcanoes seem to have a greater impact in the Arctic (specifically northern hemisphere impacting volcanoes I guess).

    The UAH north pole Ocean lower troposphere temperatures for example, clearly show the impact of Pinatubo and El Chichon – an impact which is about 2 to 3 times the global impact

    Perhaps polar amplification showing up; perhaps something else. But this is also going to have an impact on sea ice conditions. I note that the NSIDC often says something occurred in 1995 which started the sea ice on its downward trend. Perhaps it was just Pinatubo wearing off. Maybe volcanoes have a greater impact on sea ice conditions than has been thought.

  4. Good post. Two comments:

    1. This is one of the many reasons James Hansen’s infamous 1989 predictions (based on late 1980’s climate model projections) are so far from reality.

    2. IPCC climate modeler Eduardo Zorita, commented (at Die Klimazwiebel) that volcanic forcings are one of several parameters that can be tweaked to improve a model’s hind-cast of the climate. But this illustrates why climate hind-casting is worthless. Accurate hind-casts are products of ‘after the fact’ adjustments, usually made to make models look better than they really are. They have no bearing whatsoever on a model’s ability to predict the future.

    FYI: For those unaware, Eduardo Zorita is one of the few climate scientists who commands respect. In November of 2009, Zorita put his career on the line by stating publicly that Michael Mann, Phil Jones, and Stefan Rahmstorf should be barred from the IPCC process because “the scientific assessments in which they may take part are not credible anymore”:

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/11/eduardo-zorita-on-climategate.html

  5. They should change the name to Coupled Hemisphere Model Intercomparison Project Simulation.
    CHIMPS. Because their models aren’t any better than having chimps do it.

  6. Back in ’08 I had an article in New Scientist that claimed some fraction (half or third) of the warming over the past 30 years was due the absence of volcanic aerosols since 1995 (when Pinatubo’s stuff settled out). In other words, the aerosol from Agung, el Chichon, and Pinatubo cooled the earth by 0.2C before 1995.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13376-lunar-eclipse-may-shed-light-on-climate-change.html?feedId=earth_rss20

    New Scientist got a second opinion from Susan Solomon, a chemist, who said not so, the models had this under control and volcanoes have no effect on the warming/cooling. So you mean to tell me the models could have been wrong????
    Tell me it isn’t so!

  7. Willis,

    When I saw your name and the picture of airborne particles…
    I thought you had a good demo about getting the Playa dust out of your truck…

    Both great articles. Welcome home.

  8. “””””…..Mark Wagner says:

    September 10, 2012 at 11:09 am

    Is dynamical even a word?…..”””””

    Dynamic would be an adjective; I believe that dynamical is an adverb, indicating activity, rather than simply active.

  9. Anthony says…….”The problem, as always, is that the climate is not dead. It actively responds to mitigate and alter the effects of a volcanic eruption, and the models are unable to replicate that active evolution of the global meteorology that occurs in response to the eruption.”

    Have you thought about extending this logic a little further? I would think that the earth and it’s various systems are comparably as complex as a human being. So one could say that making a model of climate that is accruate enought to predict true climate change is as complicated as making a model of a human climate scientist (or skeptic) that will correctly predict their behavior.

  10. Myron Mesecke says:
    September 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Slight error; CHIMPS or CHMIPS [Model Intercomparison]

    Very good tho —

  11. “The problem, as always, is that the climate is not dead. It actively responds to mitigate and alter the effects of a volcanic eruption, and the models are unable to replicate that active evolution of the global meteorology that occurs in response to the eruption.”

    Yup. That was the money quote, Willis. I’m guessing it’s just not possible to nest enough “IFs” to cover every change.

  12. Maybe it’s because we don’t really understand how aerosols impact climate after all?

    Aerosols, Climate Change and The Dramatic Failure of Planck’s Law

    Physicists show how Planck’s law of black body radiation breaks down for nanoparticles, a discovery that could have huge implications for climate science

    The effect of aerosols on the Earth’s climate is hugely important but mind-bogglingly complex. In addition to cooling the Earth, some aerosols, such as soot, tend to absorb sunlight and so heat up the atmosphere.

    A huge outstanding question in climate science is how these processes of heat absorption and reflection balance out.

    Part of the problem is that nobody understands how nanoparticles absorb and emit heat. In theory, this process is governed by Planck’s law, which describes the amount of electromagnetic radiation emitted by a perfect black body at a given temperature

    http://www.technologyreview.com/view/429112/aerosols-climate-change-and-the-dramatic-failure/

  13. “The problem, as always, is that the climate is not dead. It actively responds to mitigate and alter the effects of a volcanic eruption, and the models are unable to replicate that active evolution of the global meteorology that occurs in response to the eruption.”

    That’s the problem with the entire AGW enterprise in a nutshell – the models are kluged together out of odds and ends without taking into account the complexity of the interactions between subsystems. Years ago, my advisor gave me a sheet on “How to Read the Literature,” which had a number of pat phrases one tends to find, and what they really mean, e.g.,

    It is known = I think

    It is generally known = A couple of other guys think so, too

    Of great theoretical and practical importance = It’s the only problem I can solve

    The guys on the forefront of this fiasco became enamored of the simple problems they could solve, and their handiwork appeared so beautiful to them that they assumed it must represent truth.

  14. “So it turns out to be even worse than I have been saying for a couple of years now. Not one of the models used by the IPCC was able to replicate the effects of volcanoes. The problem, as always, is that the climate is not dead. It actively responds to mitigate and alter the effects of a volcanic eruption, and the models are unable to replicate that active evolution of the global meteorology that occurs in response to the eruption.”

    It looks to me that the models must have positive feedback in order to be unstable and show huge temperature gains in the future based on human CO2 generation. The problem with that is that volcanos would trigger the same “tipping point” and obviously haven’t done so in the past.

  15. “Prediction is hard, especially of the future”

    Come clean, Willis. You’ve been hanging around with Yogi Berra!

  16. The significance of the climate models volcanic forcing and why it is too large by a factor of 2 to 3 by my estimate is that the models need a large negative anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic aerosol forcing in order to maintain the large CO2 forcing, and produce output that has some (but not much) correspondence with reality.

    As someone noted above, we know very little about what effects the different types of aerosols, size of particles, and multiple interactions actually have on the climate. That more work isn’t done measuring aerosol effects, is IMO scandalous, but the reason is obvious. Accurate values for aerosol forcings are going to invalidate the claimed CO2 forcing.

  17. September 10, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Bart says:

    “[ ... ] the models are kluged together out of odds and ends without taking into account the complexity of the interactions between subsystems. [ ... ]”
    —————————-
    One could describe them as the moose of modelling techniques?

  18. I think what’s not being fully appreciated here is that in engineering and physics, we try to analyze systems under the impetus of sudden large transfers of energy (impulses) because this is the best way of describing the dynamics of the situation. If you can’t model the “finite impulse response” of the system you certainly don’t understand it and cannot model it in the presence of random noise.

    The mathematics of this sort of thing is utilized by the electrical engineers in their finite impulse response (FIR) filters and is worth looking up if you’re interested in that aspect of modeling climate.

  19. Philip Bradley says:
    September 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    The significance of the climate models volcanic forcing and why it is too large by a factor of 2 to 3 by my estimate is that the models need a large negative anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic aerosol forcing in order to maintain the large CO2 forcing, and produce output that has some (but not much) correspondence with reality.

    Thanks, Philip. You got it in one. IF the climate sensitivity is as large as the modelers claim, then the known forcing changes from an eruption should cause a much larger response than actually occurs. That is is the fork of their dilemma.

    w.

  20. Excellent, Willis. Glad to see that whatever you have been saying about models, feedbacks and volcanoes etc. coming true.

  21. Willis and Philip Bradley:

    At September 11, 2012 at 12:27 am Willis writes

    Philip Bradley says:

    September 10, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    The significance of the climate models volcanic forcing and why it is too large by a factor of 2 to 3 by my estimate is that the models need a large negative anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic aerosol forcing in order to maintain the large CO2 forcing, and produce output that has some (but not much) correspondence with reality.

    Thanks, Philip. You got it in one. IF the climate sensitivity is as large as the modelers claim, then the known forcing changes from an eruption should cause a much larger response than actually occurs. That is is the fork of their dilemma.

    It seems appropriate for me to repost a comment I made in the thread at

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/02/aerosol-sat-observations-and-climate-models-differ-by-a-factor-of-three-to-six/#comment-711396

    It is below.

    Richard

    **********

    Richard S Courtney says:
    August 2, 2011 at 6:46 am

    Friends:

    The article quotes Penner saying:
    “The satellite estimates are way too small,” said Joyce Penner, the Ralph J. Cicerone Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric Science. “There are things about the global model that should fit the satellite data but don’t, so I won’t argue that the models necessarily are correct. But we’ve explained why satellite estimates and the models are so different.”

    Hmmm. Let us consider what we know about how the models incorporate climate sensitivity and aerosol effects.

    None of the models – not one of them – could match the change in mean global temperature over the past century if it did not utilise a unique value of assumed cooling from aerosols. So, inputting actual values of the cooling effect (such as the determination by Penner et al.) would make every climate model provide a mismatch of the global warming it hindcasts and the observed global warming for the twentieth century.

    This mismatch would occur because all the global climate models and energy balance models are known to provide indications which are based on
    1.
    the assumed degree of forcings resulting from human activity that produce warming
    and
    2.
    the assumed degree of anthropogenic aerosol cooling input to each model as a ‘fiddle factor’ to obtain agreement between past average global temperature and the model’s indications of average global temperature.

    More than a decade ago I published a peer-reviewed paper that showed the UK’s Hadley Centre general circulation model (GCM) could not model climate and only obtained agreement between past average global temperature and the model’s indications of average global temperature by forcing the agreement with an input of assumed anthropogenic aerosol cooling.

    And my paper demonstrated that the assumption of aerosol effects being responsible for the model’s failure was incorrect.
    (ref. Courtney RS An assessment of validation experiments conducted on computer models of global climate using the general circulation model of the UK’s Hadley Centre Energy & Environment, Volume 10, Number 5, pp. 491-502, September 1999).

    More recently, in 2007, Kiehle published a paper that assessed 9 GCMs and two energy balance models.
    (ref. Kiehl JT,Twentieth century climate model response and climate sensitivity. GRL vol.. 34, L22710, doi:10.1029/2007GL031383, 2007).

    Kiehl found the same as my paper except that each model he assessed used a different aerosol ‘fix’ from every other model.

    He says in his paper:
    ”One curious aspect of this result is that it is also well known [Houghton et al., 2001] that the same models that agree in simulating the anomaly in surface air temperature differ significantly in their predicted climate sensitivity. The cited range in climate sensitivity from a wide collection of models is usually 1.5 to 4.5 deg C for a doubling of CO2, where most global climate models used for climate change studies vary by at least a factor of two in equilibrium sensitivity.

    The question is: if climate models differ by a factor of 2 to 3 in their climate sensitivity, how can they all simulate the global temperature record with a reasonable degree of accuracy. Kerr [2007] and S. E. Schwartz et al. (Quantifying climate change–too rosy a picture?, available at http://www.nature.com/reports/climatechange, 2007) recently pointed out the importance of understanding the answer to this question. Indeed, Kerr [2007] referred to the present work and the current paper provides the ‘‘widely circulated analysis’’ referred to by Kerr [2007]. This report investigates the most probable explanation for such an agreement. It uses published results from a wide variety of model simulations to understand this apparent paradox between model climate responses for the 20th century, but diverse climate model sensitivity.”

    And, importantly, Kiehl’s paper says:
    ”These results explain to a large degree why models with such diverse climate sensitivities can all simulate the global anomaly in surface temperature. The magnitude of applied anthropogenic total forcing compensates for the model sensitivity.”

    And the “magnitude of applied anthropogenic total forcing” is fixed in each model by the input value of aerosol forcing.

    Thanks to Bill Illis, Kiehl’s Figure 2 can be seen at
    http://img36.imageshack.us/img36/8167/kiehl2007figure2.png ]

    Please note that the Figure is for 9 GCMs and 2 energy balance models, and its title is:
    ”Figure 2. Total anthropogenic forcing (Wm2) versus aerosol forcing (Wm2) from nine fully coupled climate models and two energy balance models used to simulate the 20th century.”

    It shows that
    (a) each model uses a different value for “Total anthropogenic forcing” that is in the range 0.80 W/m^-2 to 2.02 W/m^-2
    but
    (b) each model is forced to agree with the rate of past warming by using a different value for “Aerosol forcing” that is in the range -1.42 W/m^-2 to -0.60 W/m^-2.

    In other words the models use values of “Total anthropogenic forcing” that differ by a factor of more than 2.5 and they are ‘adjusted’ by using values of assumed “Aerosol forcing” that differ by a factor of 2.4.

    In summation, all the model projections of future climate change are blown out of the water by the findings of Penner at al.

    Richard

  22. Carl Brannen says:
    September 10, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    Slight correction: In the case of natural systems, you generally get infinite impulse responses (IIR). Finite impulse responses are generally the result of artificial manipulation in digital computers.

  23. ” Observations show a lower stratospheric and surface response during the following one or two Northern Hemisphere (NH) winters”

    Like Willis, I find it good to see this fact getting recognition. I remember commenting in Willis’ “spot the volcano challenge” that I was able to identify several of the events correctly, not by looking for the global cooling that is supposed to follow but by spotting a couple of successive warmer than usual winters, which I had already noticed to be a typical “fingerprint” of major eruptions.

    Yet another sign of some sanity creeping into published climate science.

  24. Just to back Willis up here, climate science likes to pretend they have got the volcanoes right, but it is entirely 100% inconsistent with the theory in general.

    All of it. From the temperature response to a given forcing, to the impacts on the Stratosphere and Ozone, to the temporal nature of the response.

    At some point, someone has to entirely redo the theory based on volcano impacts on the climate.

  25. How can any model get volcanic effects correct when no climate scientist has noticed the obvious domination of lower stratospheric cooling due to volcanoes.
    The following graph shows the obvious boom and bust effect on LST (lower stratospheric temps)

    SO2 combines with water to form sulphuric acid droplets that initially absorb shortwave energy before being rained out. The Lower stratosphere is then left with less water vapour as it cant be replenished due to the temp inversion and subsequently cools.
    Since stratospheric changes seem to precede the inverse changes to the troposphere it is quite possible the warming during the satellite age was driven by volcanoes!

  26. Rob JM says: Since stratospheric changes seem to precede the inverse changes to the troposphere it is quite possible the warming during the satellite age was driven by volcanoes!

    compare to:

    http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/Ap-VI.htm

    Lower tropo warming (dT/dt) has been on the decline since 1995 as has volcanic activity in Vuc’s plot.

    The last two surges in LT warming coincide with the recovery period immediately after the pluse in stratospheric temps. That would at least be “consistent with” your suggestion that volcanoes caused the warming.

Comments are closed.