NASA JPL on Heatwaves: "it's the asphalt, not the atmosphere"

UPDATE: Former California State climatologist Jim Goodridge presents some data that suggests that ocean temperature may be an equal or greater driving force behind Los Angeles Temperature increases, see graph below.

Source: NASA JPL

UPDATE: Sea surface temperature anomaly versus Los Angeles air temperature:

Source: Former California State climatologist Jim Goodridge – click for larger image

Perhaps the adjuster should adjust the adjustments a bit. This press release from NASA Jet Propulsion Lab says that most of the increase in temperature has to do with ubanization:

[NASA’s JPL Bill] Patzert says global warming due to increasing greenhouse gases is responsible for some of the overall heating observed in Los Angeles and the rest of California. Most of the increase in heat days and length of heat waves, however, is due to a phenomenon called the “urban heat island effect.”

Heat island-induced heat waves are a growing concern for urban and suburban dwellers worldwide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, studies around the world have shown that this effect makes urban areas from 2 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (1 to 6 degrees Celsius) warmer than their surrounding rural areas.

Patzert says this effect is steadily warming Southern California, though more modestly than some larger urban areas around the world. “Dramatic urbanization has resulted in an extreme makeover for Southern California, with more homes, lawns, shopping centers, traffic, freeways and agriculture, all absorbing and retaining solar radiation, making our megalopolis warmer,” Patzert said.

Then there’s station siting issues, like this station on a rooftop of a fire station in Santa, Ana, CA. Note the air conditioner units all around.

Santa Ana Station looking North.  Click for a larger image

The temperature record from that station, courtesy the Orange County Register:

Warming trend

And my complete write-up on it is available here

Here is the scientifc paper by Patzert, Ladochy, and Tamrazian which is cited by the NASA JPL press release.

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Neil Crafter
September 26, 2008 3:55 pm

NASA JPL vs NASA GISS, sounds like the JPL people at least understand that all that bitumen and concrete have a significant impact on temperature in urban areas. Wonder if there will be an inter-office memo from GISS across to JPL telling them to butt out!

Bobby Lane
September 26, 2008 4:30 pm

“Perhaps the adjuster should adjust he adjustments a bit.”
You could have done that on purpose of course, but if not, you might want to adjust that statement. I know, picky, but ironically funny nonetheless. Keeping it like that would almost be worth it.

Martin M
September 26, 2008 4:51 pm

After lurking about these parts now for about 2 months, I guess it’s time to dip my toe in the water. I love that picture of Downtown Santa Ana as I was born about a mile or so from that station (1960 has it really been that long?). Having lived in the OC for nearly 50 years I can safely say, I can’t tell a difference in the climate then to now. The biggest difference I notice from now and the sixties is the reduction in smog. Despite the dramatic increase in population the air is much better now. Don’t get wrong it’s not mountain fresh, but stage 3 alerts were common in the summer when I was young. I can’t even remember the last stage 1 even though the threshold is much lower than it was back in the old days. As far as climate goes the summers are still warm, winters are mild, the Santa Winds come and go, and so does the June gloom.
Thanks Anthony, this site is daily reading.

September 26, 2008 5:12 pm

“U.K. Ministry of Defence: Global warming goes on, deniers are deluded”

Frank Ravizza
September 26, 2008 5:17 pm

Perhaps the Adjust-in-chief should “adjust” the conclusion of that particular group of NASA that perform a true scientific mission.

Leon Brozyna
September 26, 2008 5:33 pm

Great! A NASA turf battle.
Bad siting + UHI = some really wild temperature extremes. Folks at GISS are really gonna be ticked off at JPL for messing with their parade.

Retired Engineer
September 26, 2008 5:53 pm

I wonder if Hansen will demand Patzert stand trial for hearsay?
Or perhaps Al will call for juvenile vandalism of JPL?

Richard deSousa
September 26, 2008 5:56 pm

This is great news… it’s about time sanity has come to NASA. Now only if NASA gives Hansen the boot. Veritas vos liberabit.

September 26, 2008 6:24 pm

It’s been suggested many times by the AGW crowd that roofs should be white in order to reflect some of that evil warmth back into outer space.
Shouldn’t they be the first to demand that blacktop must now be whitetop?

September 26, 2008 6:37 pm

great article!
Another reason why your blog is a must read for me daily.

September 26, 2008 6:43 pm

Shouldn’t they be the first to demand that blacktop must now be whitetop?

Let the unintended consequences flow forth!

Brendan H
September 26, 2008 7:19 pm

Hi Anthony
One of the implied selling points of WUWT is that it is different from ‘other sites’. As such, you need to justify your decision to censor some conversations.
May we have w ruling on this?

Dave the Denier
September 26, 2008 7:27 pm


Dave the Denier
September 26, 2008 7:32 pm

I think “Brendan H.’ wants Anthony to justify moderation of comments.
Personally, I prefer no moderation. Moderation stunts the exchange of ideas and opinions with delays. However, this is Anthony’s site and he rules — benevolently, I would add 🙂

Steve Keohane
September 26, 2008 9:00 pm

Someone is starting to pay attention, or speak up…amazing. If the numbers from keep holding up, we will see that we are a lot cooler than we are led to believe. The last time I checked, with over 40% of the stations surveyed, the average minimum error is at least 5 deg F due to siting or UHI. Would anyone have looked at this if not for Anthony? Thank you sir.
Moderation compels some level of civility in what is often a contentious arena.

anna v
September 26, 2008 9:01 pm

On the urban effect:
I live in Athens Greece, and in 1965 moved from downtown to what then was the suburbs at the feet of Mt Hymetus. No car then, but I still remember in the bus rides during the summer how the air changed and cooled, particularly at night, as we reached a specific point on the route. Then Athens started expanding, from 1 million to the 4 million that it is now in the Athens area. The point moved with the years, and it is now way beyond and uphill from where I live. Still we are one to two degrees C better at night in the summer.
Weather forecasts acknowledge this by giving different temperature forecasts for downtown, the seashore and the northern suburbs.

September 26, 2008 9:37 pm

Brendan H (19:19:49) : “One of the implied selling points of WUWT is that it is different from ‘other sites’. As such, you need to justify your decision to censor some conversations.”
Please find elsewhere to post your repetitive off-topic circular logic. Take your veiled insults with you as well.
Moderators need to get back to “thinking like like the boss.” Comments “noise” has become way too loud and marginally on-topic banter should be limited.

September 26, 2008 9:51 pm

AnyMouse (18:43:50) : ” Shouldn’t they be the first to demand that blacktop must now be whitetop?”
Funny. But seriously, on what basis do anything? Blacktop’s potential impact on global climate is, meteorically speaking, a fractional part per million kind of thing.

Mike C
September 26, 2008 9:54 pm

Let us not forget that there is some natural warming from ocean circulation involved that Patzert and his science dude friend continue to deny.

September 26, 2008 9:55 pm

Silly spell check mistake: meteorically s/b metaphorically.

Leon Palmer
September 26, 2008 10:09 pm

Here’s LA county population growth over the same period, for comparison, in millions
1890 0.1
1900 0.15
1910 0.5
1920 1
1930 2.5
1940 3
1950 4.5
1960 6
1970 7
1980 7.5
1990 9
2000 9.7
a pretty good match!

Kohl Piersen
September 26, 2008 10:18 pm

It seems to me that the urban heat island effect is not the real issue. Anyone with any knowledge of the subject would agree that it happens all around the world. Nor are other effects caused by mankind’s activities – agriculture, tree plantations etc etc – controversial.
So I don’t think this paper is going to change the AGW debate very much.
What is in issue, is the exact extent of the heat island effect. I would really like to see a much wider investigation of the quantum of these effects. It would be very interesting indeed to see a study which would allow us to estimate the effect for any particular urban environment. On the other hand it may not be possible.
It’s gotta be better than spending money on hockey sticks 🙂

Jim Goodridge
September 26, 2008 10:19 pm

Hi Anthony
As I read the Los Angeles temperature graph it is not all asphalt in as much as the sea water correlation for the ocean station at 325N, 127.5W has an r^2 of .56 suggesting that the trend is about 56% sea influence and perhaps 44% urban effects.
Jim G
REPLY: For readers that don’t know, Jim is the former California State Climatologist. Welcome Jim. Perhaps you can cite one of your studies on this? – Anthony

Drew Latta
September 26, 2008 10:26 pm

Personally, I think the ability to comment on this blog is a luxury. There are a lot of intelligent people who cast a wide net and bring to light some very thought provoking papers and news articles. A lot of the comments have moved into a more typical realm of internet comments recently due to some of the political posts (Hansen’s testimony, etc) which saddens me. The reason I have frequently read Anthony’s blog is due to the quality of the thoughts in the posts and the comments. My modus operendi here living in the peanut gallery is to try to limit my posts to informative or questioning comments. Going off the project (wish I could afford to buy gas to do a survey in IA) I’ve always thought of this as a place for scientific discourse, which is a real blast to the experimentalist in me.
What I guess I’m saying is keep up the good work Anthony and the moderators he has appointed. Let’s keep the peanut gallery to thoughtful comments!

John Nicklin
September 26, 2008 10:50 pm

Wait for the retraction. The JPL guys will simply have to toe the party line or they will have their jets taken away for bad behaviour.

September 26, 2008 11:17 pm

@Kohl Piersen
this is a global study about about UHI by McKitrick et al., that comes to the following conclusion:
“Using the regression model to filter the extraneous, nonclimatic effects reduces the estimated 1980–2002 global average temperature trend over land by about half.”

Alex Llewelyn
September 27, 2008 12:26 am

Off topic, Anthony, but while messing around on Wood for Trees, I took the 1st derivative of CO2 and noticed it looked like the temperature during that period.
So I added UAH and scaled it and Voilá! It’s virtually identical! EVERY up spike EVERY dip is in absolute lock-step correlation with temperature. It’s startelling:
I have the two graphs separated so you can properly see the incredible correlation.

September 27, 2008 12:41 am

@Alex Llewelyn:
It appears Temp is leading CO2 derivative. I suspect you are seeing the CO2 released from the oceans as SST varies due to ENSO.

September 27, 2008 1:13 am

Dee Norris is right. They’re not quite in ‘lockstep.’ Look closer. The CO2 increases lag the temp.

September 27, 2008 1:26 am

Alex and Dee
The sinusoidal nature of the Mauna Loa CO2 measurements tells it’s own tale.
If one takes the levels from the drop-down list here:
and checks the global temps against them…….
I trust nature to produce waves and cycles (and spheres and circles).

September 27, 2008 1:30 am

“Smokey (01:13:47) :
Dee Norris is right. They’re not quite in ‘lockstep.’ Look closer. The CO2 increases lag the temp.”
Except when they don’t.

September 27, 2008 1:38 am

Alex, Dee, Smokey: this looks exactly like what Josh Hall found a while back and posted here. I was so excited to find it! Allan MacRae has done a paper on it. I think it’s a clincher, a really important current piece of proof that temperature drives CO2. Josh also shows the reverse idea and side by side you can really see which drives which. It’s here on my skeptics’ climate science primer.
Taken together with new material I’ve just learned about the “atmospheric pipe” effect, we have an incredibly solid wall of evidence about CO2, where it really comes from and where it really goes, making the human contribution so tiny as to be a non-starter.
I’d like to suggest this deserves a thread of its own.

September 27, 2008 2:28 am

To further explain –
The derivative function at WFT shows the rate of change in a value. Quite naturally, the rate of the CO2 change is higher when there is a warming ocean (which is releasing CO2) and lower when there is a cooling ocean (and absorbing CO2).
Correction – My brain is not working at 5 AM… a better explanation is that the oceans are always emitting and absorbing CO2 and the changes in Temp change the ratio of absorption and emission. Therefore as Temp changes, the rate of change in CO2 level matches the Temp change.
I have removed the scaling of UAH Temp from the original plot.
This better represents the relationship of the values

September 27, 2008 2:41 am

Jim Goodridge: Here’s a graph of SST anomalies of the waters off the Southern California Coast. SSTs would definitely have contributed to the warming. (Source: NOAA NOMADS, ERSST.v2 data) Note: The coordinates used reflect the 2 deg (lat & long) limitations of the data. I couldn’t really make the area any smaller in size.
Alex Llewelyn & Dee Norris & Others: The monthly change in CO2 at Mauna Loa does vary with North Pacific SST anomalies and therefore with ENSO.
Monthly Change in CO2 vs NINO3.4 SST anomaly:
Monthly Change in CO2 vs North Pacific SST anomaly:
Discussed here:

September 27, 2008 3:14 am

I agree that this would justify a thread of it’s own as I would be interested in any theoretical justification for this such as an environmental reaction to the rate of change of CO2 levels and whether this is positive or negative feedback

September 27, 2008 3:32 am

Dee: If you or someone else is capable of calculating the “absorption-emmision” of CO2 in sea water, I can get you SST data (not anomaly) for the North Pacific or NINO3.4 or the waters around Hawaii or wherever you want.

September 27, 2008 3:32 am
Lucy. Love your stuff. You have come a long way in a year. More power to your elbow.
It is disturbing that trillion dollar punitive actions are attempted in the absence of engineering quality, repeatable CO2 science and that the only proclaimed protestations are reserved for those who would prefer the first above the second.
Bob. I am envious of talent such as yours. Thanks for the graphs.

September 27, 2008 3:37 am

Dee: You’re right; it is early. I couldn’t think of the word solubility a few moments ago. I need more coffee.

September 27, 2008 3:40 am

What sounds like an easy task – the solubility of CO2 in Sea Water – may turn out to be much more complex, IMHO. Atmospheric CO2 concentration will play a factor as well as SST. A mixing model would have to be set up and the ocean temperature gradient would have to be included. Add in Salinity, other gases, etc…
I suspect that this work has been done while attempting to model ocean acidification, so perhaps one of the budding oceanographers here can dig it up.

September 27, 2008 5:24 am

i noticed in the pdf reporting the study they used the global warming figure to state about 26% of the warming is due to “normal global warming” and the urban heat effect to the rest. As Anthony is in the process of showing, the number used for global warming must include many urban heat island effects. Is it known or is there a reasonable guess how much the global average is perturbed?
Just curious, thanks!

September 27, 2008 5:59 am

Dee, I’m curious about something. In your 2:28:40 comment, in which you corrected your earlier comment, you revised Alex Llewelyn’s graph to eliminate the scaling and said it better represented the relationship of the values. Why? Alex wasn’t using the graph to calculate a coefficient of global temperature to the change in CO2 level; he was simply illustrating that there was, in fact, a correlation. The scaled graph does a better job of that. And since it does list the scaling factor, there’s no misrepresentation of what’s being shown.

September 27, 2008 6:13 am

I was just looking at it without the scaling, that’s all. No slight on Alex’s original graph implied or intended.
Alex didn’t indicate any causality for the correlation and in my attempt to explain the causality, I wanted readers to look at the plot with a different eye to help set aside any preconceived notions.
They are both equally important plots of the same data, one building on the other.

Mike Bryant
September 27, 2008 6:49 am

garron (21:51:58) :
AnyMouse (18:43:50) : ” Shouldn’t they be the first to demand that blacktop must now be whitetop?”
“Funny. But seriously, on what basis do anything? Blacktop’s potential impact on global climate is, meteorically speaking, a fractional part per million kind of thing.”
True, but if they want it cooler in LA, maybe whitetop would be a good thing?

September 27, 2008 6:53 am

Alex Llewelyn (00:26:24) :

Off topic, Anthony, but while messing around on Wood for Trees, I took the 1st derivative of CO2 and noticed it looked like the temperature during that period.
So I added UAH and scaled it and Voilá! It’s virtually identical! EVERY up spike EVERY dip is in absolute lock-step correlation with temperature. It’s startelling:

Star telling? I could make a crack about astrology, but I don’t do that. I often fix typos, but this is too cute.
I don’t see much of a time shift, but let me point out that a decline in the CO2 derivitive means one (or both) of two things:
1) Less CO2 is going into the atmosphere.
2) More CO2 is leaving the atmosphere.
If 1), then either we’re adding less CO2 to the carbon cycle (i.e. we’re using less fossil fuel) or other CO2 sources are holding back.
If 2), then either the ocean is sucking up CO2 or plants are thrilled with the climate change.
Of those, my guess is that the ocean effect is biggest (note Argo measured cooling).
At any rate, good messing around. Nice graph.

Chris D.
September 27, 2008 6:54 am

Who knows what that temp profile would look like if SoCal didn’t spray all that Colorado River water all over the place just to keep things green.

September 27, 2008 8:19 am

I wonder how much black rooftops and asphalt actually enhance precipitation as well as increase temperatures. In Mediterranean environments, it would lead to more heating than precipitation enhancement, because the strong sun coincides with a time of year when it is almost impossible for rainfall to occur anyway. However, I bet at an open continental on the plains/prairies, that the effect could be very significant. The radiation absorption could act as a trigger mechanism by causing turbulent eddies. An interesting experiment would be to blacken deserts and see if it increases precipitation (of course, that neither would nor should pass the environmental ethics boards). It would be possible, I imagine, to compare rainfall in urban areas to rural areas, but it would be hard to separate the orographic effects of the buildings from the albedo suppression effect.

September 27, 2008 8:53 am

From the Abstract:

The average annual maximum temperature in Los Angeles has warmed by 5.0°F (2.8°C), while the average annual minimum temperature has warmed by 4.2°F (2.3°C).

That’s strange. The daily range has increased and the maximum has increased more than the minimum. Both trends are backward from those promised by Certified Climatologists, if I recall correctly.

Alan S. Blue
September 27, 2008 9:27 am

That graph is interesting enough to pursue as an empirical model. Empirical just means you aren’t trying to prove the theory – just trying to quantify the correlation. So you can essentially make your own formula trying to get perfect overlap.
“It looks like temperature leads the derivative of carbon dioxide” is one thing. But you might be able to make more concrete statements with just a tiny bit of math.
You’ve got:
T = Temperature in Kelvin
d = derivative of carbon dioxide levels in ppm/??
t = time
You’re scaling vertically, so that’s an ‘A=Amplitude’ fudge factor. And you think there’s a lag – which I normally represent with theta. How about “L” for lag here.
d(t) = A*T(t) + L
What sort of correlation does that give? And what does the residual look like?

September 27, 2008 9:29 am

Mike Bryant (06:49:09) : “True, but if they want it cooler in LA, maybe whitetop would be a good thing?”
Could be.
I think that qualifying/quantifying “urban heating” factors is beyond current technology. and therefore, causes, effects, and cost of problems/solutions are indeterinate.
LA can do whatever they want. They can white-top everything and the rest of the world can evaluate the impact — so to speak.

Richard deSousa
September 27, 2008 9:30 am

The ocean near Los Angeles modifies its weather and climate. If LA were inland, we would see a larger drop in temperature at night.

John Nicklin
September 27, 2008 9:32 am

Another viable explanation of the CO2/Temp correlations in the graphs presented by Alex and Dee is this:
I will make a hypothesis that says that CO2 and temperature are linked but neither one “drives” the other. They are not mutually bound in a cause and effect relationship. Some other agent is responsible for both rising and falling.
This is not impossible, so it must be probable, even if the probability is very small. So much effort has been put into the CO2-Temperature relationship that we have forgotten to step back and look at the bigger picture.
The human brain is very highly tuned to see patterns, often in completely or loosely related things. We see bunnies in clouds, faces in rocks, etc. When two things happen in close temporal proximity, we see cause and effect as a pattern.
In all the CO2 vs. Temp charts, one factor leads the other, it may be temp leading CO2 in some periods or CO2 leading temp in others. This alone makes the cause/effect arguement weak on both sides.
If one asserts that temperature leads CO2 75% of the time, for example, then one would have to explain why it does not lead in the other 25% as well. CO2 leading temperature would have the same problem. So we could postulate probability that another agent in play that in effect changes the conditions to which CO2 and temperature react.
Maybe my hypothesis is wrong, that’s ok.

September 27, 2008 9:33 am

S. Blue:
The raw data for T and d are available here (d is not scaled):

Steve Keohane
September 27, 2008 9:36 am

Dan Hughes, that is my recollection too. Roger Pielke Sr. has covered a lot of the ground regarding land-use change and seems to believe (my perception) it is a bigger issue than CO2/GHG, as seems borne out here. Scroll down to Sept. 12th at his site for the most recent relevent posting at his site:
There are many other papers previous to this one.

Kum Dollison
September 27, 2008 10:10 am

Could it have something to do with cleaning up the smog?

September 27, 2008 11:02 am

John Nicklin, you might like to check out Josh Hall’s two graphs shown here where with temp leading CO2, r squared is 0.569, but with CO2 plotted to lead temp, r squared is 0.085

Alex Llewelyn
September 27, 2008 11:36 am

Well I seem to have started a considerable discussion here…
One observation about the derivative CO2/temperature discussion: the temperature fell because of the 1991 pinatubo eruption and so did the CO2 emission rate. If it was to do with ENSO, it would have risen, because it was in an el nino phase. But it follows temperature instead, indicating it is that, not ENSO, which is linked to the CO2 derivative.
startelling… lol

Dan Lee
September 27, 2008 12:02 pm

Temp driving CO2 or not seems like a simple chemistry experiment, but I’m too far (in years) from my old college chem lab to try it out. Surely there’s some science already out there on CO2 absorption under different temperatures.

Dave Andrews
September 27, 2008 12:11 pm

Don’t forget Anthony posted a paper from Compo & Sardeshmukh of the University of Colorado and NOAA in July
The abstract says
“Evidence is presented that the recent worldwide land warming has ocurred largely in response to a worldwide warming of the oceans rather than a direct response to increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) over land.”

John Nicklin
September 27, 2008 12:26 pm

Thanks Lucy.
Still, what causes the flip from temp —> CO2 to CO2 —> temp. Other factors must be at play and it is not a simple cause and effect relationship and certainly no where near the proof that the IPCC claims it to be.

September 27, 2008 12:31 pm

Retired Engineer (17:53:55) :
I wonder if Hansen will demand Patzert stand trial for hearsay?
Or perhaps Al will call for juvenile vandalism of JPL?
Slamdunk: Did you mean hearsay, or heresy? 🙂

September 27, 2008 12:49 pm

I read a study that the addition of large amounts of surface water for crop irrigation (and lawn watering) significantly increases near surface water vapor and causes a near surface greenhouse warming effect that tends to have a greater effect at increasing night time lows.
That would go along with nearby ocean warming which would increase air temperature directly and also increase near surface water vapor to augment the increasing night time lows from irrigation.
And doesn’t the warm phase Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) form a horseshoe shape of warmer water that goes along the CA coast, so the ocean effect on Sanata Ana might correlate the PDO shifts like the 1977 PDO shift to warm phase?

Alan the Brit
September 27, 2008 12:58 pm
I couldn’t log into this site easily. However, the use of the word kudos is problematic! The word sod is a mild profanity in the UK implying a certain sexual act, eg to sodomise as in the Bible, Soddam & Gomarah. So the inverted term kudos = soduk or sod UK, which is possibly an interesting take on the AGW movement’s attitude to this great country that I adore so much!
Please feel free to comment, my back is wide enough & can take all the flailing & knives out there!
We really aren’t a bad race I swear, we are mostly decent people. Just lacking in direction. I wish I could vote in the upcoming USA election as I know who I would vote for!

Kum Dollison
September 27, 2008 1:02 pm

Has anyone ever done a definitive experiment on CO2 sensitivity?
I mean, how hard can it be to fill 3, or 4 greenhouses with varying percentages of CO2 in the atmosphere, and track the temperatures?

September 27, 2008 1:11 pm

Dan Lee (12:02:29) :
“Surely there’s some science already out there on CO2 absorption under different temperatures.”
There is lots. I went looking for some, but didn’t find it readily. I did find an interesting link to a John Daly page, , which says “As one could expect, a temperature increase of one degree celsius will increase the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in the range of 8 ppm (150 m layer) to 18 ppm (600 m layer).”

Leon Brozyna
September 27, 2008 1:14 pm

Appreciate that input from Jim Goodridge.
That graph is suggestive, to me at least, that the warm/cool phases of the PDO affect not only the global climate, but coastal climate as well. I would think that, were it not for the UHI effect as Los Angeles grew, the temperature graph for LA would show the effects of the ocean more clearly.
This seems to serve as a simple object lesson in the complexity of climate. Can’t focus on a single explanation for temperature changes. It would seem that, during the previous cool phase, there was also growth in the LA area which reduced the ocean’s cooling effect. It would seem that in judging temperature variations the changes in LA land uses as the city grew, as well as the PDO phases ought to be considered. And, of course, changes in air quality as pollution was abated, resulting in clearer skies.
Oh such a tangled web is this thing called climate.

September 27, 2008 2:10 pm

Keep in mind it was Hansen who used the ocean warming as proof for his “smoking gun”.
I’ve yet to see a quantified explanation for how rising CO2 levels can warm the oceans more than direct solar radiation. It appears to be a perpetuum mobile.
Did California cause the nearby ocean to warm? 🙂

Brendan H
September 27, 2008 2:23 pm

Anthony: “A ruling on what?”
I was referring to your decision to close down a thread: “NSIDC’s Dr Walt Meier…” without allowing as right of reply.
In this case you shut down the debate immediately following some charges against my claim.
Don’t take the wrong message. I’m not claiming prior deliberation on your part. I am asking you to clarify your position. If it’s “property rights rule”, fine. But please be more explicit in your rulings, so we all know where we stand.
REPLY: The thread is still open, I just wanted the off topic discussion to stop.

September 27, 2008 2:24 pm

“That graph is suggestive, to me at least, that the warm/cool phases of the PDO affect not only the global climate, but coastal climate as well”
Of course costal climate is affected, as are regional sealevels seen to differ from other areas due to conditions such as the PDO.

September 27, 2008 2:33 pm

The lagging/leading issue in Alex’s plot is an artifact of using UAH rather than SST. There is a delay during the transfer of heat between the ocean and the lower troposphere.
Here is the same plot of CO2 derivative and Temp, but this time it is using Hadley SST. Please note that I have slightly detrended SST with an offset and a scale to fit the plot to CO2 derivative.

September 27, 2008 2:42 pm

“Don’t take the wrong message. I’m not claiming prior deliberation on your part. I am asking you to clarify your position. If it’s “property rights rule”, fine. But please be more explicit in your rulings, so we all know where we stand.”
Seems some here have a basic problem with reading for comprehension, since
Anthony clearly explained his reasons in that thread. It needed no “clarification” and couldn’t have been more explicit.

Brendan H
September 27, 2008 2:54 pm

Glenn: “Seems some here have a basic problem with reading for comprehension…”
Hmm: “Ok, I’m going to shut this down, this thread has gone waaaayy off topic.” Reads like a shutting down. If not, fine.

Leon Brozyna
September 27, 2008 2:54 pm

Glenn (14:24:58)
Another thing I forgot to mention is that we should bear in mind that an event such as the PDO should not be viewed as a monolithic event. The warm/cool phases indicate the type of pattern that is dominant; you can have a warm spell during the cool phase, just as you can have a cool spell during th warm phase. This just adds another complicating matter in trying to comprehend what the climate is doing.

September 27, 2008 3:00 pm

I reconsidered the detrend on SST and decided to switch the detrend to CO2 derivative which in turn produced a slightly better plot:
Also, as discovered by this blog, the CO2 values out of Mauna Loa are adjusted and in some cases bulldozed to fill-in for missing data.
Obtaining accurate data seems to be a on-going problem for climate studies. It will be interesting to see how Hadley SST stacks up against Argo data in the long run.

September 27, 2008 3:14 pm

@Kum Dollison:
Has anyone ever done a definitive experiment on CO2 sensitivity?
There are several studies. Here is a graph of the results of three of them.
The various authors include skeptics and supporters. You can read more on the studies here:

Robert Wood
September 27, 2008 4:40 pm


Robert Wood
September 27, 2008 4:45 pm

Regarding the CO2 discussions, I am still awaiting the AIRS measurements, whereat CO2 is NOT well mixed and the whole cherade of AGWM is demonstrably unsuopportable.

Kum Dollison
September 27, 2008 5:11 pm

Thanks, Dee. Pretty complex stuff.

September 27, 2008 6:48 pm

Dee: Just noticed your use of Hadley SST in a comparative graph with CO2. Be aware of a step change (rise) in the HADSST data, after the 97/98 El Nino, that doesn’t occur in any other data set.

September 27, 2008 10:12 pm

From the NASA JPL website at
” It is not NASA’s role to develop solutions or public policies related to global climate change. Instead, the agency’s mission is to provide the scientific data needed to understand climate change and to evaluate the impact of efforts to control it. ”
Too bad Jim Hansen doesn’t understand this NASA policy.

September 28, 2008 7:57 am

[…] I was going to post something along those lines tonight but I just noticed JPL kind of beat me to it (via Watts Up With That?). […]

September 28, 2008 7:25 pm

John Nicklin, no offense intended, but I have to agree with Lucy Skywalker: click
There appears to be almost no correlation [R^2 = .07] between increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature.

September 28, 2008 7:50 pm

I must give kudos to Lucy Skywalker‘s site: click
Ms Skywalker has put together a very interesting site with numerous graphs [which I love; I’m a big believer in visual aids].
Alarmists will tie themselves in knots attempting to refute her very credible climate information.
Thanks, Lucy.

September 29, 2008 3:00 am

Great to see WFT being used so intensively!
Here’s another way of looking at the CO2/Temperature relationship which I quote in the examples:
The “isolate:60/mean:12” trick focusses on signals between 1 and 5 years. You could do the same thing with Fourier but you have to work around the large end-to-end change in the CO2 signal by detrending which makes things messy.
However, beware of ascribing too much meaning to this. The variation in CO2 here is pretty tiny compared to even the annual variation (which is probably caused by the same factor, AIUI), never mind the overall slope:
It is also an indication of a (small) positive feedback…
Best wishes

September 29, 2008 9:48 am

I just want to emphasise this point a bit further, if I may, because I’ve seen a few sites using similar graphs to try to show that temperature change causes all the CO2 change rather than the other way round, and I think this is an over-extension of what is being shown here.
I think this comes about from the nature of the CO2 curve:
It’s clearly an almost linear increase of 1.4ppm/yr (actually slightly faster than linear, as can be seen in comparison with the linear trend), with an annual signal of about 8-10 ppm overlaid. If you arrange to remove both of those you can see what’s left:
The bowl shape comes from the increase in rate of change over time (=economic growth, if you accept this is human generated). Apart from that, all you have is some short-term (1-5) year variation at around 2ppm magnitude. If you compare that to a (somewhat bastardised) temperature curve:
you can see that it correlates very well with the well-known temperature peaks and troughs, with a slight lag from temperature to CO2, as a number of people have pointed out here and elsewhere.
But what have we shown here? Only that the small 1-5 year, 2ppm variation is plausibly created by temperature changes (ocean outgassing, for example). We haven’t said anything about either the annual cycle (which could be temperature, or plant growth etc.), nor, more importantly the huge long-term linear increase.
In fact, the graph above comes close to disproving that the long-term CO2 change has been caused by temperature change. Look at the past decade of static temperature that we are all so familiar with. Yet the CO2 carries on regardless. Some have claimed that this disproves the CO2->temperature causation (though I doubt it), but it cuts both ways. Certainly if temperature were the only effect on CO2, and there is such a good correlation at 1-5 years timescales in the small scale, wouldn’t you expect to see it in decadal timescales at the large scale too?
It’s the relentless linearity which makes this look like a man-made signal to me, when compared to the messy, cyclical temperature signal.
The simplest explanation which fits the facts is that
a) We are pumping significant amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, slightly faster than linear growth, and this is not reaching equilibrium with the oceans in this timescale.
b) CO2 greenhouse effect is causing very long term temperature rise (although possibly not all of it).
c) There is a pile of noise and variation at up to decadal timescale overlaid on top of this.
I know this is the standard theory, so won’t be popular here, but I’ve no reason to doubt this part. What I’m more interested in is how much of the temperature rise is CO2 generated, whether there are other multidecadal temperature cycles, and whether on top of this fairly simple equation there is positive or negative feedback.
The CO2 outgassing we’ve shown here is a small positive feedback – are there other worse ones, as Hansen thinks, or will negative feedbacks (Iris effect?) dampen the effect? This could be the difference between 1.3K/century and 6K/century, which is all that really matters, in my view.

George E. Smith
September 29, 2008 1:52 pm

Well woodfortrees needs to look at longer time scales of history, before declaring that he can see any correlation with recent history.
The Vostok Ice core data for example which Al Gore makes a big deal about in his movie and his book (p66/67) show CO2 and temperature data over the past 650,000 years. Notice that while the CO2 plot in Gore’s book has an actual scale, the temperature plot has no temperature scale. The scale in fact was empirically adjusted so that the temperature ups and downs matched the CO2 ups and downs in rough amplitude so that the two curves look similar (which Gore points out in his movie). OK fair enough to scale the temperature to get two similar curves. But one also has complete freedom to set the origin of the arbitrary temperature scale; and if Gore had done that, the two graphs would have overlapped on each other so that one could accurately see whether the CO2 rises and falls preceed the Temperature rises and falls or the other way round.
So you have to conclude that Gore is either too stupid to realize that or that he does realize it and is a plain crook, so he separated the two curves to maker it harder to see the true time relationship. Any 8th grade science student would have overlapped the two graphs so that the only useful information; the relative timing of events could be discerned.
No matter, the picture in Gore’s book clearly shows that the temperature rises BEFORE the CO2 rises, and the temperature falls BEFORE the CO2 falls, and moreover the CO2 falls slower than the temperature falls (longer decay time constant)
Well of course the people who have the raw core data have already mentioned this time lag, and shown that the two curves give the highest correlation for a time delay of 800 years for the temperature curve.
So if you go back 800 years from the present, to see what causes the Mauna Loa CO2 to be rising now; you see it put you right in the middle of the mediaeval warm period from 1000 to 1400 AD. And that 800 year delay can be explained, by the time to turn over the ocean and bring up cold CO2 bearing waters from the ocean depths; where the CO2 is constantly pumped to because of the ocean temperature falling with depth, and the increased solubility of CO2 in colder water. So surface CO2 is continuously pumped into the deeper colder waters by the segregation coefficient effect due to the temperature gradient.
The Mauna Loa CO2 data is misleading, because at the North Pole, the peak to peak annual CO2 cycle due to plant growth is about 18 ppm in amplitide, whereas it is only 6 ppm at ML. And that 18 ppm drop in CO2 at the north pole happens in just 5 months.
So any claim of a 200 year time scale to remove CO2 from the atmosphere is plain nonsense.
As for the asphalt heat island effect; it is true that the black asphalt absorbs solar spectrum radiation more efficiently and so gets hotter than ordinary natural surfaces; BUT it is also true that those much hotter asphalt surfaces radiate much more efficiently than ordinary natural surfaces; and that radiative loss goes as the fourth power of the absolute temperature. More importantly; the peak radiant emittance increases as the fifth power of the temperature, and because of the Wien displacement, the hotter asphalt surface radiates at a peak wavelength shorter than the 10.1 micron peak that corresponds to the mean global temperature of about 15 C.
So not only does the spectral pak radiant emittance increase as the fifth power of T, but it shifts further away from the 15 micron CO2 absorption resonance, so the effect of CO2 is considerably reduced by the heat island effect. These hotter heat islands actually cool the earth more than other regions do.
Where the error is made, is that the measurmeent of temperature in one of these heat islands is erroneously applied to large areas outside the heat island so the global warming effect is incorrectly accounted for. It is a problem of failure to sample the global temperature map correctly, in accordance with the Nyquist sampling theorem. The result is that computed global mean temperatures are largely nonsense; besides being of no scientific significance whatsoever; because the relation between temperature and heat flow is grossly non linear, and very dependent on local terrain and local thermal processes. There simply is no point in averaging the temperature of all points on earth, which can simultaneously stretch from about +60 C in the hottest desert or heat island surfaces, down to nearly -90 C at places like Vostok in the antarctic winter night.
These places have different temperaturesw because they are supposed to, so why average them to get the temperature of no particular place at no particular time.

September 30, 2008 1:20 am

That’s interesting… I knew about the 800 year temp->CO2 lag in geological time, of course, but I hadn’t thought about applying it to current time.
Out of interest, do the numbers for CO2 sensitivity stack up? i.e., if you look at the relationship in geological time, and assuming a top end of the MWP warming of 1K, is this enough to cause a 100ppm CO2 rise now? My understanding was that the geological CO2 changes were of a similar magnitude but the warming was much greater (8K?) – but I don’t have the figures to hand.
It seems to me quite possible that there are three separate layers of effect here, working at different timescales and magnitude, and in alternating directions:
1) A short term (3-9 months) effect of temperature on CO2 from surface water outgassing
2) A medium-term (30+ year) effect of CO2 on temperature from “greenhouse effect”
3) A long term (800 year) effect of temperature on CO2 from deep ocean outgassing
Even if (3) turns out to be significant, it doesn’t mean (2) isn’t operating, and in fact it could provide a large positive feedback which could tend to ‘lock in’ some of the short term changes (hysteresis?). But it does go to the question of CO2 residence time, as you say. I just doubt that (3) is sufficient to explain all the modern CO2 rise.

September 30, 2008 1:35 am

OK, I finally found a graph with a sensible scale!
From this it looks like a 1K change could account for no more than 20ppm, even being generous. So there’s at least another 80ppm of CO2 kicking around which presumably must be anthropogenic and isn’t disappearing back into the oceans.

October 1, 2008 6:01 am

[…] outstanding website Watts Up With That has weblogged (see) on an interesting new paper on the urban heat […]

October 1, 2008 6:34 am

[…] outstanding website Watts Up With That has weblogged (see) on an interesting new paper on the urban heat […]

October 20, 2008 2:28 am

hearing enhancement…
Interestingly, this was on CNN last week….

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