During a university presentation I said the climate models do not include the Milankovitch Effect. A person challenged me saying he worked on climate models and it was included. My mistake was I forgot to say I was talking about Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models. Here is a summary of that and other missing pieces.
An IPCC climate modeller told me the time scale was not appropriate to include the Milankovitch Effect. IPCC models project 50 years plus and Milankovitch variables change every year so when or where does a variable become important? What if one is omitted as inconsequential but becomes important even critical as thresholds change? A measure of the problem is given by the IPCC’s comment that underscores the subjectivity.
The differences between parameterizations are an important reason why climate model results differ.
What other variables, mechanisms or regions are omitted in the IPCC models? We know they don’t work because their predictions (projections) are wrong. Is it because of omitted variables or incorrect representation of atmospheric structure? Yes, but these limitations apply to all climate models. Of particular importance is the layer of air in contact with the land and water surface within the Biosphere. I love the Wikipedia definition that says
“It can also be termed the zone of life on Earth, a closed system (apart from solar and cosmic radiation and heat from the interior of the Earth) an largely self-regulating.”
This is like saying I am out of debt except for the house, the furniture and the car. The IPCC Report says,
“Nevertheless, models still show significant errors. Although these are generally greater at smaller scales, important large-scale problems also remain.” (My emphasis)
Generally the Biosphere lies within the Boundary Layer usually defined as the zone of turbulent flow below 1000 m. Climate below 2 m is very different yet ignored because it is below the standard Stevenson Screen weather station. Rudolf Geiger wrote about some of the differences in his classic 1957 book Climate Near The Ground” now updated by Aron and Todhunter. Dynamics and constituents in this microclimate layer are very different from the rest of the atmosphere yet they’re excluded from climate models. In a 2012 WUWT article Eschenbach identified the time-lag situation. His postscript says—
“And yes, I’m sure that there are folks out there who knew this all along … but I didn’t, which is why I’m discussing it.”
Much more is bypassed because of the thirty-year hiatus caused by IPCC machinations and focus on human causes of climate change.
Other near surface measures like CO2 are taken above 2 meters.
“Air samples at Mauna Loa are collected continuously from air intakes at the top of four 7-m towers and one 27-m tower.”
How does that help understand energy flows in the atmosphere? CO2 and all other greenhouse gas (GHG) levels are higher in the first 2 m and the incoming solar radiation and outgoing long wave radiation have to pass through. At what level do greenhouse gases and aerosols start functioning?
Models are three-dimensional mathematical representations of the atmosphere and oceans. Figure 1 shows the depiction at the IPCC web site.
The horizontal grid size rectangles are measured in latitude and longitude and determine the resolution of the picture you can draw. Pictures, whether printed or imaged on a screen are made up of individual dots that on computer screens are called pixels. The more dots the greater the clarity of the image. Similarly the more and smaller the rectangles for the climate model the better the picture. The trouble is it doesn’t matter how many or how small the grid, with no data the picture remains a blur.
There is virtually no weather data for some 85 percent of the world’s surface. Virtually none for the 70 percent that are oceans, and of the remaining 30 percent land there are very few stations for the approximately 19 percent mountains, 20 percent desert, 20 percent boreal forest and the 20 percent grasslands and 6 percent tropical rain forest.
It’s worse in the vertical with virtually no data in space and time and constantly changing very complex conditions. Again the illusion exists that increasing the number of layers built into the model creates better results. There are virtually no weather data measures and even fewer measures of atmospheric composition such as changing aerosol types and volumes.
General Atmospheric Aerosols levels
Hubert Lamb considered levels and nature of aerosols in the overall atmosphere with his 1970 work on a Dust Veil Index (DVI). How did changes in aerosols quantity and types result in changes in atmospheric opacity? The IPCC people knew of the issue because Michael Mann worked on the DVI.
Tisdale suggests it is another example of Mann’s “adjustment” of the record for a predetermined result. Generally, when any one associated with the IPCC is working on an issue it is not for enlightenment but because it undermines their hypothesis. The aerosol issue is much larger than the impact of volcanic aerosols. But even there the IPCC models are inadequate. We know from Pinatubo and all other major eruptions a significant factor is the amount of dust injected into the stratosphere. The IPCC models don’t appear to include the stratosphere as they state,
Due to the computational cost associated with the requirement of a well-resolved stratosphere, the models employed for the current assessment do not generally include the QBO.
There appears some effort to get better measures of aerosols throughout the atmosphere.
The global Aerosol Model Intercomparison project, AeroCom, has also been initiated in order to improve understanding of uncertainties of model estimates, and to reduce them (Kinne et al., 2003).
Notice this is only the uncertainty of model estimates. Even if more accurate estimates are derived they face the problems of the physics applied to how these aerosols interact with radiation. Pierre Marie Robitaille explains some of the problems in a video.
Only crude estimates of the volume and nature of aerosols in the atmosphere exist at any level. Two major sources of condensation nuclei, prior to Svensmark’s addition of the third from cosmic radiation, were clay particles, particularly the smallest kaolinite with its hygroscopic characteristics, and salt particles from the ocean. The latter are in large quantities over the oceans. We had to wash down the planes after long anti-submarine low level patrols to remove the salt encrustations.
I was involved in measurements of aerosols as part of heat island studies for the City of Winnipeg in the late 1960s and 1970s. We had air samplers throughout the city and High volume samplers at ground level and on the roof (60m) of the university. Aerosol amounts and types varied considerably from hour to hour and on every other time scale. What was especially significant was the decrease in particle size with altitude as gravity and precipitation reduced the percentages of larger particles. The importance of this for input of IR to the surface and escape of long wave is dramatic, but also the direct heating of the atmosphere by the insolation they absorb and the LW emitted. The most critical portion is the layer beneath the Stevenson Screen as we found and Geiger identified.
In this layer physical quantities such as flow velocity, temperature, moisture, etc., display rapid fluctuations (turbulence) and vertical mixing is strong.
In a desperate understatement the IPCC tells us
Unfortunately, the total surface heat and water fluxes (see Supplementary Material, Figure S8.14) are not well observed.
Lower Layers of the Atmosphere
I was also involved in studies of the lower layers with weather instruments placed every 61m up a 305m tower just outside Winnipeg. Figure 2 shows a similar tower set up in Germany
On many days we found a remarkable number of temperature layers and more inversions than expected. These layers change in surprisingly short times hourly, daily, and all other time scales. This matched what I learned by taking and studying temperature layers in the ocean. We obtained temperature layers remotely using a Sonobouy. Dropped from the aircraft it released a thermometer on impact that measured to 100m and transmitted data back to the aircraft. We created bathythermographs indicating different temperature with depth from which we determined sound transmission layers.
Structure and dynamics of ocean and atmospheric layers within 100 meters of the surface are extremely complicated yet critical to movement of energy, especially vertically.
Characteristics of IPCC models are available in a table titled CMIP3 Climate Model Documentation, References, and Links. Models vary considerably, for example the Max Planck model says,
Boundary layer; Surface fluxes are computed from bulk relationships with transfer coefficients according to Monin-Obukhov similarity theory. Transpiration is limited by stomatal resistance and bare soil evaporation by the availability of soil water. Eddy viscosity and diffusivity are parameterized in terms of turbulent kinetic energy and length scales involving the mixing length and stability functions for momentum and heat respectively (Brinkop and Roeckner, 1995).
What are they using to create parameterized values? Most of the references in reports are to 1990s material. The number of vertical layers below 850 hPa varies: NCAR has 4, Planck 5 and NASA GISS 2. The Planck model has most, but layers every 300 m is inadequate.
The top two meters of the Earth’s surface and the bottom two meters of the atmosphere are the most critical layers. They are at an interface critical in understanding weather and climate. Aerosols, gas levels, energy exchanges, evaporation among other factors are far greater than for the rest of the atmosphere so the effect on insolation and long wave energy are significantly different. Too bad they are the least measured or understood of all the layers and omitted from the IPCC models.