A few days ago I posted a story highlighting the drop in water vapor in the atmosphere which initially looked like the entire atmosphere due to a labeling issue by ESRL, but turned out to be only at the 300 millibar height and not up to 300mb as the ESRL graph was labeled.
Even so, that brought a lot of people into looking at and analyzing the issue further. Barry Hearn of the website junkscience.com brought to my attention a review of the various atmospheric levels contained in the ERSL database. I had planned to do this myself, but I’ve been traveling this week and didn’t have as much time as I normally would, so I’m pleased to present Barry’s writeup here for further consideration.
For some background into atmospheric absorption efficiency of common gases compared to the electromagnetic spectrum, this graph is valuable:
Note the CO2 peak at 15 microns is the only significant one, as the 2.7 and 4.3 micron CO2 peaks have little energy to absorb in that portion of the spectrum. But the H2O (water vapor) has many peaks from .8 to 8 microns, two that are fairly broad, and H2O begins absorbing almost continuously from 10 microns on up, making it overwhelmingly the major “greenhouse gas”.
Is the atmosphere holding more water vapor?
As followers of the enhanced greenhouse controversy are no doubt aware carbon dioxide cannot, unaided, drive catastrophic global warming — it simply lacks the physical properties.
In order to generate interesting outcomes climate modelers include impressive positive feedback from increasing atmospheric water vapor (marvelous magical multipliers, as we call them). By trivial warming of the atmosphere increased CO is supposed to facilitate an increase in the atmosphere’s capacity for the one truly significant greenhouse gas, water vapor, which then further heats the atmosphere, facilitating more water vapor and so on.
So, the obvious question is, is the atmosphere getting “wetter” and, if so, where?
Fortunately ESRL provides time series for various layers of the atmosphere:
Note that all graphics are confusingly labeled “up to 300mb only” but this refers to their maximum availability and not the current representation. Water vapor is given as specific, not relative humidity (grams water per kilogram of air) and is thus temperature independent for our purposes.
850mb (to about 5,000 feet — underground in much of Colorado. Colorado’s mean altitude is 6,800 feet) trend is essentially flat, perhaps lower than the 1950s.
700mb (about 10,000 feet) down and flat.
600mb (under 15,000 feet or about the height of Colorado’s tallest peaks) Well down and flat.
500mb (about 18,000 feet) Same again.
400mb (under 25,000 feet) Falling.
300mb (30,000 feet or just above Mt. Everest) A little quirky but falling.
So, what do these time series tell us?
Secondly, the atmospheric region of most interest from a weather/climate perspective appears to be on a drying trend, contrary to that expected under the enhanced greenhouse hypothesis.
Simply eyeballing the time series suggests the 1977 Pacific phase shift is a much better fit with changes in trends than is the steady increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Bottom line is that the regions climate models are programmed to expect atmospheric moistening are not actually doing so, making either the models or the atmosphere wrong. None of the above time series leads to a plausible conclusion that we should anticipate any increase in weather activity.