Suggestions of “strong negative cloud feedbacks” in a warmer climate

Natural heat engine - the cumulonimbus cloud, transports heat from the lower to upper levels of the atmosphere. Source International Space Station/NASA - click for large image

Natural heat engine - the cumulonimbus cloud, transports heat from the lower to upper levels of the atmosphere. Source International Space Station NASA - click for large image

I thought this post on clouds and climate modeling below from Steve McIntyre’s Climate Audit was interesting, because it highlights the dreaded “negative feedbacks” that many climate modelers say don’t exist. Dr. Richard Lindzen highlighted the importance of negative feedback in a recent WUWT post.

One of the comments to the CA article shows the simplicity and obviousness of the existence of negative feedback in one of our most common weather events. Willis Eschenbach writes:

Cloud positive feedback is one of the most foolish and anti-common sense claims of the models.

This is particularly true of cumulus and cumulonimbus, which increase with the temperature during the day, move huge amounts of energy from the surface aloft, reflect huge amounts of energy to space, and fade away and disappear at night.

Spot on Willis, I couldn’t agree more. This is especially well demonstrated in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) The ITCZ has been in the news recently because early analysis of the flight path of Air France 447 suggests flying through an intense thunderstorm cell in the ITCZ may have been the fatal mistake. There is a huge amount of energy being transported into the upper atmosphere by these storms.

Here are some diagrams and photographs to help visualize the ITCZ heat transport process. First, here is what the ITCZ looks like from space. Note the bright band of cumulonimbus clouds from left to right.

The ITCZ from space. Source: NASA Earth Observatory. Click for larger image

The ITCZ from space. Source: NASA Earth Observatory. Click for larger image

Here is a pictorial showing a cross section of the ITCZ with a cumulonimbus cloud in the center.

Cumulonimbus heat transport diagram

ITCZ Cumulonimbus heat transport diagram

And finally, a 3D pictorial showing ITCZ circulation and heat transport. Note the cloud tops produce a bright albedo, reflecting solar radiation.

Circulation in the ITCZ

Circulation in the ITCZ

And here is the post on Climate Audit

Cloud Super-Parameterization and Low Climate Sensitivity

by Steve McIntyre on June 11th, 2009

“Superparameterization” is described by the Climate Process Team on Low-Latitude Cloud Feedbacks on Climate Sensitivity in an online meeting report (Bretherton, 2006) as:

a recently developed form of global modeling in which the parameterized moist physics in each grid column of an AGCM is replaced by a small cloud-resolving model (CRM). It holds the promise of much more realistic simulations of cloud fields associated with moist convection and turbulence.

Clouds have, of course, been the primary source of uncertainty in climate models since the 1970s. Some of the conclusions from cloud parameterization studies are quite startling.

The Climate Process Team on Low-Latitude Cloud Feedbacks on Climate Sensitivity reported that:

The world’s first superparameterization climate sensitivity results show strong negative cloud feedbacks driven by enhancement of boundary layer clouds in a warmer climate.

These strong negative cloud feedbacks resulted in a low climate sensitivity of only 0.41 K/(W m-2), described as being at the “low end” of traditional GCMS (i.e. around 1.5 deg C/doubled CO2.):

The CAM-SP shows strongly negative net cloud feedback in both the tropics and in the extratropics, resulting in a global climate sensitivity of only 0.41 K/(W m-2), at the low end of traditional AGCMs (e.g. Cess et al. 1996), but in accord with an analysis of 30-day SST/SST+2K climatologies from a global aquaplanet CRM run on the Earth Simulator (Miura et al. 2005). The conventional AGCMs differ greatly from each other but all have less negative net cloud forcings and correspondingly larger climate sensitivities than the superparameterization

They analyzed the generation of clouds in a few leading GCMs, finding that a GCM’s mean behavior can “reflect unanticipated and unphysical interactions between its component parameterizations”:

A diagnosis of the CAM3 SCM showed the cloud layer was maintained by a complex cycle with a few hour period in which different moist physics parameterizations take over at different times in ways unintended by their developers. A surprise was the unexpectedly large role of parameterized deep convection parameterization even though the cloud layer does not extend above 800 hPa. This emphasizes that an AGCM is a system whose mean behavior can reflect unanticipated and unphysical interactions between its component parameterizations.

Wyant et al (GRL 2006) reported some of these findings. Its abstract stated:

The model has weaker climate sensitivity than most GCMs, but comparable climate sensitivity to recent aqua-planet simulations of a global cloud-resolving model. The weak sensitivity is primarily due to an increase in low cloud fraction and liquid water in tropical regions of moderate subsidence as well as substantial increases in high-latitude cloud fraction.

They report the low end sensitivities noted in the workshop as follows:

We have performed similar +2 K perturbation experiments with CAM 3.0 with a semi-Lagrangian dynamical core, CAM 3.0 with an Eulerian dynamical core, and with the GFDL AM2.12b. These have λ’s of 0.41, 0.54, and 0.65 respectively; SP-CAM is about as sensitive or less sensitive than these GCMs. In fact, SPCAM has only slightly higher climate sensitivity than the least sensitive of the models presented in C89 (The C89 values are based on July simulations)…

The global annual mean changes in shortwave cloud forcing (SWCF) and longwave cloud forcing (LWCF) and net cloud forcing for SP-CAM are _1.94 W m_2, 0.17 W m_2, and _1.77 W m_2, respectively. The negative change in net cloud forcing increases G and makes λ smaller than it would be in the absence of cloud changes.

Wyant et al (GRL 2006) is not cited in IPCC AR4 chapter 8, though a companion study (Wyant et al Clim Dyn 2006) is, but only in the most general terms, no mention being made of low sensitivity being associated with superparameterization:

Recent analyses suggest that the response of boundary-layer clouds constitutes the largest contributor to the range of climate change cloud feedbacks among current GCMs (Bony and Dufresne, 2005; Webb et al., 2006; Wyant et al., 2006). It is due both to large discrepancies in the radiative response simulated by models in regions dominated by lowlevel cloud cover (Figure 8.15), and to the large areas of the globe covered by these regions…

the evaluation of simulated cloud fi elds is increasingly done in terms of cloud types and cloud optical properties (Klein and Jakob, 1999; Webb et al., 2001; Williams et al., 2003; Lin and Zhang, 2004; Weare, 2004; Zhang et al., 2005; Wyant et al., 2006).
(Bretherton 2006)

Dessler et al (GRL 2008) made no mention of strong negative cloud feedbacks under superparamterization, stating that sensitivity is “virtually guaranteed” to be at least several degrees C, unless “a strong, negative, and currently unknown feedback is discovered somewhere in our climate system”:

The existence of a strong and positive water-vapor feedback means that projected business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions over the next century are virtually guaranteed to produce warming of several degrees Celsius. The only way that will not happen is if a strong, negative, and currently unknown feedback is discovered somewhere in our climate system.

There are a limited number of possibilities for such a possibility, but it is interesting that cloud super-parameterizations indicate a strong negative cloud feedback (contra the standard Soden and Held results.)

This is not an area that I’ve studied at length and I do have no personal views or opinions on the matters discussed in this thread.

References:
Bretherton, C.S., 2006. Low-Latitude Cloud Feedbacks on Climate Sensitivity. Available at: www.usclivar.org/Newsletter/VariationsV4N1/BrethertonCPT.pdf [Accessed June 12, 2009].
Wyant, M.C., Khairoutdinov, M. & Bretherton, C.S., 2006. Climate sensitivity and cloud response of a GCM with a superparameterization. Geophys. Res. Lett, 33, L06714. eos.atmos.washington.edu/pub/breth/papers/2006/SPGRL.pdf
Bretherton, C.S., 2006. Low-Latitude Cloud Feedbacks on Climate Sensitivity. Available at: www.usclivar.org/Newsletter/VariationsV4N1/BrethertonCPT.pdf [Accessed June 12, 2009].
Wyant, M.C., Khairoutdinov, M. & Bretherton, C.S., 2006. Climate sensitivity and cloud response of a GCM with a superparameterization. Geophys. Res. Lett, 33, L06714.

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151 thoughts on “Suggestions of “strong negative cloud feedbacks” in a warmer climate

  1. How do they get away with ignoring clouds negative feedback?

    This is the real climate denialism.

  2. common sense suggest coulds would be a negative feedback, otherwise the earth would have suffered runaway warming in the past.

    I wander if anyone monitors pyrgeometer data globally to see if downward radiated infrared energy at night during clear skies has increased at all? Wouldnt this show if there was any enhancement of the greenhouse effect or not? Clouds certainly reflect infrared back down but also block the incoming shortwave energy which carries greater energy than that reflected back making then a negative effect.

  3. Somewhat OT – this new publication in the current issue of Nature (June 11-09), as presented by Science Daily, makes a bold claim:

    Title “Carbon Emissions Linked To Global Warming In Simple Linear Relationship” – and excerpt: “… These findings mean that we can now say: if you emit that tonne of carbon dioxide, it will lead to 0.0000000000015 degrees of global temperature change. If we want to restrict global warming to no more than 2 degrees, we must restrict total carbon emissions – from now until forever – to little more than half a trillion tonnes of carbon, or about as much again as we have emitted since the beginning of the industrial revolution.”

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610154453.htm

    of course, it’s mostly based on modeling…

    Such simplistic linearity seems like utter balderdash to me, but I haven’t read the full paper yet. Any insights and comments?

  4. “How do they get away with ignoring clouds negative feedback?”

    Ask the blokes over at RealClimate!

  5. Now we know why the heat is not in the oceans.
    AGW community members still amenable to science will modify their positions, based on this.

  6. Roy Spencer demonstrates very strong negative feedback here: http://www.drroyspencer.com/research-articles/satellite-and-climate-model-evidence/ which shows feedback of 8 W m-2 K-1.

    Together, the CERES data from two separate satellites thus display evidence of what I have used a simple model to explain theoretically: strong negative feedback is observed to occur on shorter time scales in response to non-radiative forcing events (evaporation/precipitation), which are superimposed upon a more slowly varying background of radiative imbalance, probably due to natural fluctuations in cloud cover changing the rate of solar heating of the ocean mixed layer.

  7. How do they get away with ignoring clouds negative feedback?

    Who is? No one.

    Fact is there are both negative and positive cloud feedbacks. The question is which one (if any) predominates if the world warms.

  8. Here is a little bit of ‘home and garden’ style climatology. Let’s think of the Earth in terms of functional zones in terms of cloud cover.

    1. The Inter Tropical Convergence Zone. Here, cumulus cloud is strongly convective. The convecting atmosphere loses heat primarily by decompression, the same process used in refrigeration. So, these zones emit relatively low levels of outgoing long wave radiation. As the tropics has warmed OLR has fallen. So, not much scope for a greenhouse effect there.

    2. The relatively cloud free (in term of low cloud) zones of the trade wind zone. Here, air that is close to the surface is being warmed as it travels towards the equator so not much chance of cloud formation. So, no chance of a greenhouse effect here from back-radiation.

    3 The traveling high pressure cells of the ‘Hadley circulation’ that return air from the upper troposphere to the surface at about 30°North and 30°South. This air is dry for obvious reasons. It is being warmed by compression. Lots of outgoing long wave radiation here but very little cloud or water vapour to act as a feedback mechanism.

    4. The rest. Mostly it could do with a little extra warmth so it can be ignored.

    A complication: Area 2 has high level ice cloud called cirrus generated at the ITCZ. The evidence is that this zone of the upper troposphere heats and cools with the change in stratospheric ozone that goes along with the QBO. As ozone levels increase in the middle stratosphere the upper troposphere is observed to warm. Logically, the cloud evaporates. At any rate, this is the time when the sea is observed to warm. That’s not due to feedback. Its due to more solar radiation getting to the surface of the ocean.

    When I read the stuff that climate modelers talk about I am overcome with a strong desire to give these guys some lessons in elementary geography. Mathematics may be the language of science but great mathematics based on false premises and faulty equations produces ‘spew’.

  9. I’ve seen the airflow (heat transport) diagrams for years but never with any actual numbers quantifying how much heat energy is moved to the upper atmosphere and eventually radiated into space. How good is the understanding of this at the micro and grid-cell level?

  10. So just to make this clear for dummies like me.

    When the earth gets hotter, we get more clouds reflecting energy away from the earth, bringing the earth back towards its “natural” energy state.

    When the earth gets colder, we get less clouds reflecting energy away from the earth, bringing the earth back towards its “natural” energy state.

    That seems to be pretty sensible. After all, if the climate system was unstable, and could run away if unbalanced, then that run away climate change would have happened long before man appeared on the scene.

    I would still like to know though, if, as Ice core samples suggest, that the earth, from time to time, sees sudden temperature movements (5 degrees C or more) happening in less than a year, and those changes are discrete, then what is the mechanism for this?

    Given that the earths atmosphere appears to give us a climate that is stable, can anyone explain how these discrete and sudden changes in temperature come about and appear in our ice cores?

    I have only heard one explanation that makes sense, but it is a bit of a far fetched explanation. Can anyone provide me with a better explanation?

  11. stephen richards (05:45:10) :

    Or
    RealClimate denialism

    I did think about it before hitting the spacebar. ;-)

  12. The specifics of some of the more advanced discussions on this site are outside of the knowledge or experience of readers like myself. But intuitively, water in its various forms is all about negative feedback. Everyone has had the experience of a sunny day when a cloud comes between you and the sun. The effect is immediate. Cloud cover which persists overnight also seems to help retain regional heat. Here in Western WA, our proximity to the Pacific and persistent cloud cover moderate temperatures, producing (usually) mild winters for our relative latitude. Cylinders of water are sometimes used in passively heated construction to gather daytime sunlight, mitigating heat, then radiating that heat during the evening. Negative feedback seems to be the very reason water makes this planet habitable.

  13. It occurs to me that the overall negative feedback from clouds must be mitigated by oceanic cycles and humidity and wind patterns. Otherwise, an 8W/m2 forcing would keep earth closer to equilibrium and damp the effect of those 30 year cycles to a greater degree.

    So much to learn…

  14. This post is entirely correct in flagging up the importance of clouds but I contend that clouds are just one part of a broader negative feedback process controlled by rapid changes in the global air circulation both geographically and in terms of intensity as a result of any extra warming of the air alone (as opposed to extra warming of air and ocean).

    Changing ocean surface temperatures induce air circulation changes as the air seeks to restore the sea surface/surface air temperature equilibrium and at the same time resolve ocean induced variations in the sun to sea / air to space equilibrium.

    The air circulation changes alter all the processes involved in the rate of energy transfer from surface to space. Cloudiness changes are an inevitable by product of changes in the air circulation systems.

    In due course stabilty is always restored between the four said parameters (sea surface / surface air and sun to sea / air to space).

    Only huge catastrophic changes capable of altering the temperature of the whole body of the oceans can set a new global equilibrium in the short term (less than millennia). The sun can also do it gradually but it takes centuries e.g. from Roman Warm Period to Mediaeval Warm Period to Little Ice Age to now. The solar effect is heavily modulated over time by ocean cycles. A change in the composition of the air alone cannot do it due to the thermal inertia of the oceans combined with the speed of responses available in the air.

    The role of water vapour combined with the latent heats of evaporation and condensation gives the air circulation changes the major part of their ability to accelerate energy transfer from surface to space.

    So, the most common and by far the largest forcing at any given time is multi decadal variations in energy emissions from the oceans. In the background are slow century scale changes in solar output.

    Temperature changes induced by sun and oceans drive air circulation changes which drive changes in every aspect of climate including convection, conduction, evaporation, condensation, precipitation, windiness, cloudiness, albedo and humidity as regards both quantities and distribution.

    Water vapour in itself is not a driver nor does it have cycles or periodicities of it’s own. It’s a very useful contibutor to the whole process though and without it the Earth would be entirely different

    Any ocean surface warming is caused by solar energy previously absorbed working it’s way back to the surface. It is becoming clear that oceanic energy emission to the air is not stable on multidecadal time scales.

    The air circulation has to balance both the energy flow from ocean to air with the energy flowfrom air to space AND the energy flow from sun to ocean with the energy flow from air to space over time. Everything we observe is a feature of that interplay.

    To deal adequately with any warming of the air from extra CO2 or any other increased GHG the air circulation and weather systems just shift their size and/or positions to adjust the rate of energy emission to space to restore equilibrium between air and oceans.

    It is the latitudinal position of the weather systems which is most significant in changing the rate of energy flow from surface to space. Secondary to that is the speed of the hydrological cycle.

    The equilibrium which the weather systems work back towards is set by the rate of energy flow from the sun modulated by the rate of energy flow through the oceans. It is not set by the characteristics of the air which is the point at which I come to the conclusion that the work of Tyndall and others is faulty.

    The air circulation changes ensure that over time the energy radiated to space matches the energy received from the sun despite disruptions in the flow caused by the effects of the ocean cycles or changes in the composition of the air.

    Everything we see in the air and the oceans is part of that natural energy balancing interaction and human emissions have no part to play other than a very small insignificant human induced shift in positions or intensities of the main air circulation systems. Wholly imperceptible in the face of natural variability.

  15. The problem with models is that it only uses one given fact and extent that fact further in the future neglecting onther inputs.

  16. Since these papers are 3-4 years old I’m sure climate scientists have had plenty of time to debate the results. Unfortunately, I feel too many of them are wedded to their previous positions and will fight hard to discredit anything that does not match their beliefs.

    More and more I’m convinced that climate science is simply too young and naive overall to understand the complexity of nature. These kind of results demonstrate that fact.

  17. I think Stumpy has a point. I am no scientist (ex investment banker…) but I see mean reversion all around me in phenomena where there is volatility (not just in financial markets). Without an in-built mean reversion, things must get out of hand. Even though climate has varied in the past, it still has stayed within a relatively narrow band to allow life to remain on earth. This doesn’t mean there is a guarantee that the earth will always be inhabitable, but if CO2 in the atmosphere has been much higher in some past times and somehow climate didn’t get out of hand. I have not seen scientists make the mean reversion point (or in this case : negative feedback). Did I just miss it ?

  18. Off topic but for those who haven’t seen this news (from the BBC website):

    Tim Berners-Lee the inventor of the world wide web has been asked by the British prime minister to help open up access to government data.

    “I think there’s a public demand for transparency. This is way beyond party politics and beyond global borders,” Sir Tim said.

    He said taxpayers’ money paid for the data so it should be available to them…

    … He also explained he had recently given a speech about the subject in California: “I had the audience chanting ‘raw data now!’ about government data. This is an important thing to be involved, independent of the politics of the moment.”

    See BBC website http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/8096273.stm

  19. Every day the NWS predicts high 80’s here in Pendleton, Oregon. And every day the thunder clouds swoop it all up into the heavens and we stay cool (and very damp).

  20. Great article, Anthony. It helps to remind us of the importance of atmospheric circulation on climate. We spend a lot of time here discussing SST’s — ENSO, PDO — but that’s only part of the picture. To keep a balanced perspective here, in my discussions with Bob I’ve pointed out that atmospheric circulation is, according to at least once source, responsible for 50% more poleward transport of heat from the tropics than is ocean currents. Your third image (a cross section of the ITCZ with a cumulonimbus cloud in the center), which is of course a Hadley Cell, is part of that process.

    I wonder if there are images, from space, of the ITCZ, during the 1997-98 (or the period leading up to) “Super” El Nino. I would expect this to have been a period during which cloud cover was anomalously weak, leading to much more ocean heating than usual.

  21. > This is particularly true of cumulus and cumulonimbus, which increase with the
    > temperature during the day, move huge amounts of energy from the surface aloft,
    > reflect huge amounts of energy to space, and fade away and disappear at night.

    And what fraction of cloud-cover is due to cumulonimbus? Is it as much as 1%, worldwide?

    Yet another classic example of cherrypicking!

    REPLY: Oh puhleeeze. No cherrypicking, just using this as an example of negative feedback by clouds. And for ever CB in the ITCZ, there’s about 100 low level cumulus that do the same thing on a smaller scale, adding to that bright reflective band near the equator.

    Just look at the top satellite image to see how many CU vs CB there are.

    -Anthony

  22. As I commented on a couple of occasions before, large thunderstorms are incredible heat pumps that move vast amounts of heat energy to high altitude in a matter of minutes to easily be radiated away at the tropopause, while simultaneously creating a huge shroud of brilliant white cloud to shade the lower atmosphere and ground, along with the cooling effect of evaporation cooled air and rain.

    As a storm chaser you witness the cooling power of these storms repeatedly, sitting for hours in a hot car in sweltering heat only to have the entire region cooled by 20-30 deg F in less than an hour. When strong thunderstorms kick off here on the high plains of Colorado you can have an area 200 miles wide by 400 miles long go from 18% reflection ground exposed to bright sunshine absorbing solar energy with air temps of 85 deg F to the same area in deep shade, at 55 deg F, with cold rain, with a canopy of brilliant white cloud tops at 55,000 to 65,000 ft altitude radiating heat out to space. All this can happen in less than an hour or two.

    Larry

  23. Anthony, I think it would be interesting to convert Stephen Wilde (06:17:18) : to a full fledged post and get comments from the community on his theory. To me, it makes more sense than the fully atmospheric focus of most of the papers and topics.

  24. It’s not scientific, but a more convincing picture is one from an airplane, like I saw while flying the other day. The shadow the cloud puts on the ground is impressive.

  25. Great comments about how weather and climate work. To this layman, convection is the big engine for heat transport from surface to space. On micro and macro scale, both vertically (e.g. local cumulus) and horizontally (e.g. Hadley cells). And within this transport cycle, water is a huge carrier of heat. Upward. I just wonder how many gigaJoules it takes out of the energy budget, every day, to get the sun to pop those water molecules loose off the ocean surface and move them upward into air packets that have to overcome gravity and eventually discharge their cargo as rain/snow/hail at great heights. Which not only requires the lifting energy to get the water up there, but releases the latent heat (at altitude) when the vapor condenses out.

    Simplistic, I know, but surely that process accounts for a big big part of the budget? And it is a process that has strong negative feedback: the warmer the air gets, the more moisture it can hold, the stronger the vertical temperature gradient, the more (and more quickly) there will be stuff lifted.

    Water: the world’s way of sweating.

  26. deepslope (04:29:48) :
    Title “Carbon Emissions Linked To Global Warming In Simple Linear Relationship” – and excerpt: “… These findings mean that we can now say: if you emit that tonne of carbon dioxide, it will lead to 0.0000000000015 degrees of global temperature change.

    of course, it’s mostly based on modeling…

    Such simplistic linearity seems like utter balderdash to me, but I haven’t read the full paper yet. Any insights and comments?

    It is. The linear relationship between temperature and CO2 has long since been disproved.
    http://www.ecd.bnl.gov/steve/pubs/HeatCapacity.pdf

    I find it funny how people can actually think a complex system is so simplistic. It reminds me of the time when I was in school learning physics. To help us learn, everything was ideal. But in the real world, nothing is ideal. It is almost like these people were never taught nothing is ideal.

  27. Annabelle raises an important point. I don’t believe Hansen, Schmidt, Mann or anyone that is under government employ should be allowed to withhold their data or methods. Yes it is their work, but they and their research are funded by the public’s money. These fellows would have only one reason I can think of for not being transparent,…….

  28. The big point of consideration is cloud cover in the tropics, for it is the tropics that get the most insolation. Increased cloud cover in the tropics would begin a process (which would probably take years) in which there would be less warm air being transported poleward. The same would probably hold true for the oceans (but would even take longer). In the end, if this condition persisted, both the oceans and the atmosphere would cool.

    Of course, our oceans and atmosphere are more complex, but generally speaking, more cloud cover in the tropics means an obvious negative feedback.

  29. Dave (05:56:29) :

    […]

    I would still like to know though, if, as Ice core samples suggest, that the earth, from time to time, sees sudden temperature movements (5 degrees C or more) happening in less than a year, and those changes are discrete, then what is the mechanism for this?

    Given that the earths atmosphere appears to give us a climate that is stable, can anyone explain how these discrete and sudden changes in temperature come about and appear in our ice cores?

    I have only heard one explanation that makes sense, but it is a bit of a far fetched explanation. Can anyone provide me with a better explanation?

    The ice cores and marine sediment cores only have annual-type resolution in the shallower & younger sections. But they do have decadal- and century-scale resolution back many thousands of years.

    Dansgaard-Oeschger events (ice cores) and Heinrich/Bond events (marine sediment cores) indicate that large-scale (~1C to 2C) have occured with onsets measured in a few decades. The cause of these cycles is no known. Broecker and others have suggested changes in deep marine ventilation and oceanic circulation. Holger et al (Nature 2005) related the Dansgaard-Oeschger events to a 1,470-year solar cycle. Although their correlation doesn’t explain a causal relationship.

    The ~1,500-year cycle would include the Medieval Climate Optimum and Little Ice Age. The amplitude of this cycle is about 2C. The current climate is about 1.5C to 2C warmer than the Little Ice Age.

    5C changes are more on the scale of glacial-interglacial cycles.

  30. Anthony,

    I have a question.

    To summarize Steve’s paper in my own words: the parameter “cloud” within each cell of the model was determined by taking a random draw for cloud cover between minimums and maximums for the cloud characteristics. This parametric approach was replaced by an explicit physics based model of cloud formation (“small cloud-resolving model (CRM)”). If this is correct, then the CRM is on a small enough scale (or high enough fidelity/resolution) that it could be verified through observation. That is, they can observe starting conditions, take measurements over the life cycle of the cloud, from formation (or not, both are necessary for an accurate model) to dissipation. These observations can then be compared to the out put of the CRM. This would establish that the CRM had accurately captured the physical behavior of the system.

    Has this work been done?

  31. erlhapp (05:29:37) :
    The evidence is that this zone of the upper troposphere heats and cools with the change in stratospheric ozone that goes along with the QBO. As ozone levels increase in the middle stratosphere the upper troposphere is observed to warm.
    The QBO is driven from below. As we discussed many times, you have cause and effect reversed.

  32. This article is a great reminder of the importance of water in the air as water vapor, in the oceans as liquid, at the poles as ice and in aerosols as clouds. With the uncertainty that the IPCC knows it has in understanding clouds, it was a reckless overreach to give 90% certainty on anthroprogenic global warming and predict at 2-3C warming by the end of the century. The alarmist climate modeling community reminds me of the CEO from Circuit City (Schoenover??) who knew how to calculate how much money he would save if he layed off the top earning employees of the company. He could not accurately calculate how much that would cost him in turnover of experienced people he retained or in sales (which turned out to be much more than he saved). So he took action based on the numbers he could calculate and within 18 months his company was in Chapter 11 and less than 6 additional months later, Chapter 7 liqudation. I think the alarmist climate modeling community has fallen into the same trap as its easy to look at the radiative budget in a very large system but extremely difficult and complex to look at all the vagueries of the water cycle, particularly clouds and weather, so they simple dismiss what they know they don’t understand well and cannot model easily as not important.

  33. Peter Hearnden (05:14:49) :

    “How do they get away with ignoring clouds negative feedback?”

    Who is? No one.

    Fact is there are both negative and positive cloud feedbacks. The question is which one (if any) predominates if the world warms.

    You are correct in your assertion that clouds have both positive and negative effects. Daytime clouds usually keep temps cooler while nighttime clouds during the winter may help trap heat and make the overnight low warmer.

    There is a complete lack of transparency in the climate models used by the IPCC, et al, for making their predictions of a run-away greenhouse effect.

    Nobody but the modelers themselves know how they simulate cloud feedbacks, but my understanding is most models use clouds as a positive feedback. (See http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/05/ and other posts at Dr. Roy Spencer’s blog). According to Dr. Spencer, the climate modelers assume warming causes fewer clouds, but in the real world, fewer clouds usually mean for warmer days. In other words, they appear to have cause-and-effect reversed.

    We’ll never know until everything involving these models is fully disclosed. Until the modelers release the design notes and other documents, the inputs and the full, working source code, we are just left with accepting their conclusions without knowing how they reached those results.

  34. I wondered lonely as a cloud,
    that floats on high o’er vales and hills,
    when all at once I heard a shout,
    get off the bl@#dy daffodils.

    W Wordsworth (original version with raw data)

    S :-)

  35. And here again a clear demonstration on the thermoregulatory effect of oceans. I knew the oceans were the drivers of climate since my childhood, when professor Melly taught us that, “without oceans, the Earth would be a furnace or a freezer”.

    Why after so many years some guys come with tales about a gas, which is not a primary source of heat and is essential for life, is the main driver of climate and that we must reduce its concentration in the atmosphere, even when we know that it is not toxic, not a pollutant, not more dangerous for life than water?

    Generating flawed knowledge against true knowledge, through ignoring the preponderant role of the oceans -the main maker of clouds, on the Earth’s climate is antiscience.

  36. Re the BBC, I overheard a remark today on their ‘Feedback’ programme to the effect that ‘the BBC doesn’t have a point of view – that’s it’s job’. If only that were true!

  37. While this is an improvement, we still have to remember that we are talking about the GCM models. They have been falsely geared to a high sensitivity by assuming that all the warming of the late 20th century was caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases; an assumption that is obviously wrong for many reasons. ‘Adding in’ the negative feedbacks from the improved cloud model will result in a lower sensitivity, but one that is still too high, due to the erroneously high ‘starting’ sensitivity in the models.

    I believe that further reductions in the sensitivity will be found when we truly understand the water vapor feedback. From the beginning, it was the only leg the AGW folks had to stand on and they have found little evidence that it exists as they imagined. Cloud physics and the water vapor feedback are intimately tied together. We cannot understand one without the other and these recent studies indicate that the ‘water vapor feedback’ component in the old models is probably as poor as the cloud modeling.

    Stephen Wilde has it right. The oceans trump the atmosphere everytime when it comes to augmenting global climate on multidecadal time scales. Those who recognized the importance of ocean cycles successfully predicted the recent lack of warming/global cooling, while the expensive GCMs still haven’t got a clue!

  38. @Stephen Wilde (06:17:18) :

    “Any ocean surface warming is caused by solar energy previously absorbed working it’s way back to the surface. “

    Are you implying then that the ocean surface cools when the ocean surface absorbs energy? You might want to get rid of that word “any” in that sentence because it’s leaving me to wonder what was going on at the surface when the ocean was absorbing energy. [/nitpick]

  39. Stumpy, Dave, and Maximus5: “positive feedbacks” do not imply “runaway climate”. The reason being that radiation away from the earth increases approximately as T^4 (Stefan-Boltzmann law for a black body) – you need a lot of positive feedback to overcome that.

    Another way to think about it is infinite series: X + X/2 + X/4 + X/8 + … = 2X. Basically, a given unit of heating might cause additional heating, and that additional heating might cause even more heating – but as long as each increment of additional heating is less than the increment immediately before, then the series will eventually converge.

    So looking at historical temperature changes, the question is not “why would the earth have stable temperature if there are positive feedbacks?” but rather “why would the earth’s temperature have changed as much as it has if there are negative feedbacks?” If the climate system really has strong negative feedbacks, it makes it very hard to explain the glacial – interglacial cycle – large ice sheets are one positive feedback mechanism that we don’t have anymore, but calculations suggest that ice sheet retreat alone is not sufficient to explain temperature differences between today and 30,000 years ago. Indeed, it would be very difficult to explain the temperature changes over the last century if there were strong negative cloud feedbacks.

  40. Stephen Wilde:Only huge catastrophic changes capable of altering the temperature of the whole body of the oceans can set a new global equilibrium in the short term
    If we imagine a system like a fridge system, what the post is describing it is only the heat exchange, radiator at back of the fridge and the freezer and compression/decompression system, and you complete the fridge by adding the liquid cooling gas (the seas), then and only then, as you point out, we have our “fridge” completed with all its parts.
    The old and faithful “water cycle”. Similarity would be closer to reality if we compare this “earth fridge” with those kerosene fridges of the 50’s, where a small candle like burner heated the liquid. (that constant or almost constant TSI which Dr.Svaalgard uses to refer to).
    Thanks for the simplicity and for returning us to common sense.

  41. “”” Dessler et al (GRL 2008) made no mention of strong negative cloud feedbacks under superparamterization, stating that sensitivity is “virtually guaranteed” to be at least several degrees C, unless “a strong, negative, and currently unknown feedback is discovered somewhere in our climate system”:

    The existence of a strong and positive water-vapor feedback means that projected business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions over the next century are virtually guaranteed to produce warming of several degrees Celsius. The only way that will not happen is if a strong, negative, and currently unknown feedback is discovered somewhere in our climate system. “””

    “”” This emphasizes that an AGCM is a system whose mean behavior can reflect unanticipated and unphysical interactions between its component parameterizations. “””

    Do classical climatology courses at modern Universities ever explain to the students, the meaning of the word “gobbledegook”.

    Gobbledegook can be found in almost any scientific peer reviewed paper. It is the standard language of scientific paper abstracts; so that is where to look for it.

    “”” The conventional AGCMs differ greatly from each other but all have less negative net cloud forcings and correspondingly larger climate sensitivities than the superparameterization “””

    Now everybody knows what a “parameter” is; it’s a fancy four syllable word for “variable”. Quite often “parameters” are used in equations, as “dummy” variables, that are actually not a part of the function being described; so they may not even be measurable variables in a real system.

    A good example of the use of parameters can be found in the parametric form of the Tchebychev Polynomials, Tn(x). Which are power series polynomials in which every other power term is zero, either all the even powers or all the odd powers.

    They can be described in the “Parametric” form :

    x = cos(p) ; Tn(x) = cos(np)

    Here (p) is a parameter having nothing to do with the Tchebychev polynomials, which have the form:

    T0(x) = 1
    T1(x) = x
    T2(x) = 2x^2 – 1
    T3(x) = 4x^3 – 3x etc

    T(n+1)(x)=2xTn(x)-T(n-1)(x) is a recursion formula that generates the entire set.

    Well the problem is that Tn(x) is defined for all real values of (x) between =/- infinity, and Tn(x) has the same range.

    The parametric form is only defined for -1<= x <= 1 since it is bound by the cosine function.

    The cognoscenti may recognize that the parametric form of the Tchebychev polynomials describes the Lissajous figures formed with an n:1 vertical to horizontal frequency ratio, when you apply in phase sinusoidal signals to an oscilloscope.

    I often think of parameters as being like catalysts that take part in a reaction but aren't a part of the reaction.

    So what the blazes any of that has to do with "superparameterization" and clouds is way beyond my pay grade.

    The role of clouds in climate, as in temperature control, is something you can do with a stick on the sand of a desert island.

    You don't need some megaparameterizationology science to understand what is going on.

    More surface temperature warming leads to more evaporation (7% / deg C); more evaporation leads to more atmospheric water vapor (7% / deg C) ; more atmospheric water vapor leads to more clouds; and more clouds leads to more precipitation (7% / deg C), and more clouds leads to more albedo; more albedoe leads to more solar energy reflected back into space; more precpitable clouds leads to more heating of that atmosphere; which leads to more moisture and energy being transported to higher altitude, which leads to more energy loss to space; and more precipitable clouds leads to blocking more solar radiation from reaching the surface, and less solar radiation reaching the surface leads to lower surface temperatures.

    In summary, more surface warming leads to more surface cooling; a reasonable definition of NEGATIVE feedback.

    So why does this "Climate Process Team" of fatheads, have to make something so simple, into something so complicated; and then make up silly buzz words to describe what they are doing.

    They are superparameterizing themsleves into oblivion.

    CLOUDS ARE NEGATIVE FEEDBACK; ALWAYS !

    High clouds at night are way up there BECAUSE it was hot and steamy during the day; and the hotter it was, the higher those clouds will form when the moist air finally gets to the dew point temperature.

    And when it is cooler and dry during the day, it will get even cooler when the sun goes down and there will be no clouds formed.

    The temperature causes the clouds NOT the other way round; there is NO positive cloud feedback; it always gets colder when a cloud passes between the sun and the surface (in the shadow zone).

    George

    PS a nice find there Steve; I guess they want to bamboozle us with BS.

  42. “”” Peter Hearnden (05:14:49) :

    “How do they get away with ignoring clouds negative feedback?”

    Who is? No one.

    Fact is there are both negative and positive cloud feedbacks. The question is which one (if any) predominates if the world warms. “””

    So give us a simple Physical explanation of how more cloud cover leads to more surface warming; i.e. positive feedback ?

    Just one example will do; unless you know more than one.

    George

  43. Seems like there are two situations – daytime and nightime:

    In the daytime you have the heat of the sun radiating to the earth together with the heat of the earth reradiating heat outward. It doesn’t seem hard to see that if you insert a cloud barrier between the two you are not only shutting down the direct heat of the sun but you’re also shutting down that process that supplies heat to be re-radiated by the earth.

    At night the situation is different; only the earth radiates at night and so the cloud barrier could be said to have a warming tendency. And it is my experience that cloudy winter nights where I live tend to be warmer than bitterly cold clear nights. Please notice though, that saying cloudy nights are warmer is a bit of a misstatement because what is really happening is that you are only slowing down cooling. Climatologically, nights are still cool and days are warm – on balance all that really happens at night is cooling.

    Take the above understanding together with my guess is that most clouds are generated during the day. And take from that, that the average day should have more clouds in it than the average night. I have to conclude that any tendency for the earth’s atmosphere to warm inherently carries with it a cooling effect through the increase action of cloud generation. In other words clouds must provide a negative feedback.

  44. H.R. (09:22:18)

    Thanks for highlighting that point. It is impossible to achieve perfection in communication of new ideas and any feedback is helpful.

    In fact the cooling of ocean surfaces means that more solar energy is being retained and the ocean heat content will increase UNLESS solar input is too low to take advantage of the reduced energy emissions to the air (as at present, I suggest).

    Likewise, the warming of ocean surfaces means that less solar energy is being retained and the ocean heat content will decrease UNLESS solar input is so high that it more than replaces the losses (as during the period 1975 to 2000 I suggest).

    Note that ocean heat content normally increases when the air cools and vice versa subject only to an overriding contribution from solar input or lack of it.

    The word ‘any’ seems to be correct.

  45. It is my understanding that the clouds that are the main sensitivity issue are low clouds, not high Cn clouds.

    REPLY: True, and Svensmark’s GCR premise says similar things, but what I’m expounding on here is a demonstration of negative feedback using the CB as an example as a way to help readers understand the reflectivity issue. The ITCZ does become quite a reflective band at times. Also I’ll point out that there are about two orders of magnitude more low level cumulus form that also have this heat transport turned solar shield character, that don’t make it to CB. status. Just look at the cumulus distribution around the CB in the top satellite photo from ISS. They have a significant reflective role also.

    And I’ll point out in on of the papers you reference, the title contains the word “low latitude”, which point directly at the ITCZ. The ITCZ does create a lot of low level cumulus. – Anthony

  46. OT, but you guys might get a kick out of this header at the top of the “debate message board” at “GoodPlanet.org”

    “Leave scepticism to others and take action. And let’s make this forum a space that is 100% positive.”

    LOL!

  47. Pamela Gray (06:39:48) :

    Every day the NWS predicts high 80’s here in Pendleton, Oregon. And every day the thunder clouds swoop it all up into the heavens and we stay cool (and very damp)

    This summer is starting look similar to the summer after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo except for the lack of a major eruption.

  48. I have done some parametrization in the molecular dynamics field but I wouldn’t say I am an expert molecular modeller.

    The word ‘superparametrization’ intrigues me. By reading the post it is not clear to me what the authors of the study mean by ‘superparametrization’ Could anybody who has read the original study explain what is the difference between this and the ‘normal’ parametrization?

    Usually, when some parametrization is done in the computational chemistry field, a ‘reality check’ is needed to verify the values you are using. Sort of validation of the parameters. Long story short, you run some computational jobs with the new parameters and you compare the results of the model with the ones obtained empirically. I have always wondered how climate models are validated. How do they validate the ‘climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling’ parameter? It seems to me that the only thing you can do is to wait for 30 years and see if your 30 years long climate model was right or it deviates from reality.

    I just hope this ‘superparametrization’ thingy doesn’t mean that these parameters don’t need to be validated.

  49. OT, but get a load of this guy using a school project to prove why he believes that CO2 is the cause of Global Warming. He seems to forget that there is more involved than adding a some co2 to a bottle. But this can explain the computer models way of testing. No wind, no clouds, etc.. Any way read it you may laugh.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/climatechange/2009/06/the_unpredictable_weather.html

    28. At 07:44am on 11 Jun 2009, SheffTim wrote:
    #26. “I put a link simply to save people time and trouble; Wikipedia is just one site/page. Use Google / Bing / or whatever search engine you prefer on the same topic:
    Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum

    Can it be demonstrated that additional CO2 can affect temperature in the atmosphere?
    A small experiment any high school lab can do.

    Take two airtight glass tanks, each with a thermometer inside, and a means of introducing a gas into one without breaking the airtight seal. (An intake pipe etc.)
    Each box to contain ordinary air. Seal both tanks and place both in sunlight so that both are receiving approx. equal amounts. The thermometer readings of both should match at this point.
    Introduce a small amount of additional CO2 into one tank; its thermometer reading will rise above that of the other box.

    For those that read books and want to become more informed I suggest: (Try your library service.)
    ‘Ice, Mud and Blood’ by Chris Turney.
    A summary of key discoveries by scientists about past climate change going back deep in time and the implications for the present.
    ‘An Ocean of Air: A Natural History of the Atmosphere’ by Gabrielle Walker.
    A history of some of the major discoveries about air, gasses and the atmosphere from Galileo to the present day together with explanation as to their importance for life on Earth.
    ‘Earth: The Power of the Planet’ by Iain Stewart & John Lynch.
    An accessible introduction to earth systems and earth’s history.
    ‘Earth’s Climate Past And Future’ by William F. Ruddiman.
    An account of known factors that have influenced climate change over earth’s history”

  50. Pamela Gray (06:39:48) :

    It reaches for 80 here, but then up go the cumulo-nimbus, down comes the temp and the monster raindrops. Very damp here, too, just 450 miles to your south. Supposedly, by middle of next week we will go back to sunny.

  51. Guys, it’s just a model result. It may turn out that this new parametrization brings us closer to reality-I suspect so myself-but models are models and it is not clear how solid their results are. They are hypotheses which must be tested. I’ll believe the model results when they agree with observations-which is why I think Roy’s work is so important, he is looking for observational evidence of feedbacks and isolating the effects from natural variations.

  52. This is particularly true of cumulus and cumulonimbus, which increase with the temperature during the day, move huge amounts of energy from the surface aloft, reflect huge amounts of energy to space, and fade away and disappear at night.

    I was watching this happen last night. (In an earlier comment on another thread I’d point out the odd “hazy cloud” turning into cumulus late in the day). But I had not watched it through the night. But something had to change to let the cycle repeat… So last night I spent a few (cold) hours in a lawn chair watching the night sky. It was clear.

    Little did i know that this was an understood behaviour. So here I am with clear starry nights radiating away what little thermal energy we got for the day, then turning back into overcast cumulus days “protecting” me from all that solar heat…

    I may not like it, but at least now I have a clue why it’s so cool here.

    Spot on Willis, I couldn’t agree more. This is especially well demonstrated in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) The ITCZ has been in the news recently because early analysis of the flight path of Air France 447 suggests flying through an intense thunderstorm cell in the ITCZ may have been the fatal mistake. There is a huge amount of energy being transported into the upper atmosphere by these storms.

    When I was taking ground school, it was strongly emphasized that we were, when confronted with “weather”, to simply avoid a “thunderhead”. The received wisdom was that you could not go over it, going through it was lethal, and even around the edges the downdrafts could be extremely violent. I’ve been in commercial aircraft that were weaving their way between convection cells, so some of the pilots do this. I suspect some of the folks flying jumbos may be forgetting that a bigger airplane is not any stronger WRT thunderstorms.

    Also, my personal speculation still in the “is this even worth looking at?” stage: With an increase in GCRs, we get an increasing shower of particles. Modern memory cells have gotten small enough that a single cosmic ray can cause a “bit flip” so we have gone to ECC – Error Correcting Code memory. Extra parity bits are stored so you can repair a flipped bit. This has been used on larger computers for 20-40 years, but is still “new” in the smaller machines. The Speculation:

    Could it be that the ECC memory was developed in a lower cosmic ray field and now, with higher than “spec” bit flips is being overwhelmed? Especially if the GCRs are not smoothly distributed in time and space? (i.e. if they are very “bursty”).

    The Airbus is a highly automated airplane… The pilot basically makes requests of the flight computers and the computers decide what to do with them. Given the reports of a cascading electrical failure reported by the in flight avionics, this would be “bad news” to say the least. (Why I like aircraft with mechanical backup systems – my favorite being the A10 Warthog with a few hydraulic flight controls AND a cable control system – but they don’t do commercial flights ;-)

    There were a couple of years, near the top of the solar output, with NO major airline accidents. Now we’ve had a couple of crashes on the double quick. Could be statistical noise, or it could be that convection has picked up, or GCRs are causing computers to sporadically get flakey. But the trend is real and the statistics are public.

    FWIW, the NYSE had a server outage today that took down trading on 250 major stocks. These folks have some of the best, most redundant, most outage resistant systems in the world. Literally $Billions of dollars depend on them so money is no object. And it went down. (This isn’t a single computer like most folks think of it, it’s a high availability cluster. A couple or a few computers working in tandem and if one goes flakey the rest keep on keeping on… for one of these clusters to go down is, er, odd. Not unheard of, but very rare.)

    So I’m now watching my patch of sky and thinking about a dynamic system that is valving the heat out at night but shutting down the warmth in the day; and wondering just how many cosmic rays it takes to swamp the ECC memory in an airliner… So little time, so much to contemplate…

  53. Thom Scrutchin (07:22:53)

    Thanks Thom.

    Nowadays the greatest problem with new ideas is not protecting them but getting anyone to take them seriously.

    As a non scientist I have an uphill struggle despite the fact that my suggested description of the climate system complies with both observations and basic physical principles.

    Mind you, I do have 50 years obsessive interest in the subject with just as many years of reading and observation to inform me. Add to that a professional life of analysis and weighing of evidence.

    As to the logic (or otherwise) of my conclusions, that can be followed through various articles prepared by me over the past 15 months and first published here:

    http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=37

    The worldwide response has been unexpected and rewarding.

    Proper climatology died 20 years ago when the CO2 idea was found to be a source of unlimited taxpayer funding.

    The professionals have had their eyes off the ball for so long that modern instrumentation and real world observations are discrediting them day by day.

    Fixing on a simplistic, fixed, climate explanation in return for money was as good an idea as assuming that we had come to the end of ‘boom and bust’ in the commercial world.

  54. smallz79,
    No one doubts that CO2 in a sealed box will do what it does.
    The question is how is this manifested on the vastly larger, vastly more complex, Earth climate system?
    AGW has made the case for an apocalyptic climate future from CO2 driven change, and it is not happening.
    Skeptics point out that is not happening, and are correct.

  55. A diagnosis of the CAM3 SCM showed the cloud layer was maintained by a complex cycle with a few hour period in which different moist physics parameterizations take over at different times in ways unintended by their developers. A surprise was the unexpectedly large role of parameterized deep convection parameterization even though the cloud layer does not extend above 800 hPa. This emphasizes that an AGCM is a system whose mean behavior can reflect unanticipated and unphysical interactions between its component parameterizations.

    For folks not into geek speak, what this says is roughly:

    The computer program does some really interesting things that never happen in nature and goes into a runaway fantasy mode with strange results you will never see in the real world. This happens because the hard coded guesses about how things work that the computer programmer made (the prameterizations) have little to do with reality and interact with each other in strange unexpected ways. What most programmers would call “a bug”…

    Or in short form: The circulation models are bogus and busted and give you bad results because the prameterized code is bogus and flakey in strange ways.

  56. smallz79 (10:10:17) :

    Each box to contain ordinary air. Seal both tanks and place both in sunlight so that both are receiving approx. equal amounts. The thermometer readings of both should match at this point.
    Introduce a small amount of additional CO2 into one tank; its thermometer reading will rise above that of the other box.

    LOL! Apparently, the Ideal Gas Law is now an Inconvenient Truth.

  57. “”” Urederra (10:06:46) :

    I have done some parametrization in the molecular dynamics field but I wouldn’t say I am an expert molecular modeller.

    The word ’superparametrization’ intrigues me. By reading the post it is not clear to me what the authors of the study mean by ’superparametrization’ Could anybody who has read the original study explain what is the difference between this and the ‘normal’ parametrization?

    Usually, when some parametrization is done in the computational chemistry field, a ‘reality check’ is needed to verify the values you are using. Sort of validation of the parameters. Long story short, you run some computational jobs with the new parameters and you compare the results of the model with the ones obtained empirically. I have always wondered how climate models are validated. How do they validate the ‘climate sensitivity to CO2 doubling’ parameter? It seems to me that the only thing you can do is to wait for 30 years and see if your 30 years long climate model was right or it deviates from reality.

    I just hope this ’superparametrization’ thingy doesn’t mean that these parameters don’t need to be validated. “””

    Su-per-pa-ra-met-ri-za-tion is an eight syllable word for fudge-ing, which is two syllables.

    It amounts to writing an expression with a big enough array of adjustable fudge factors to get it to fit any observed set of data. So it is curve fitting ala King.

    Doesn’t mean there is any causal physics associated with any of those parameters.

    Scientists have proved before that you can fit observed measured data to as close as eight significant digits of precision; by doing nothing more than playing around with numbers.

    Superparametrization is just as bogus; it is not going to realize any advance in climate physics; just make for prettier looking video games.

    Cloud feedback is 8th grade high school meteorology science; more sun, more heating, more evaporation, more clouds; more clouds, less sun, less heating, less evaporation. QED

    You don’t need a Cray computer to model cloud feedback.

    George

  58. Peter Hearnden (05:14:49) :
    “How do they get away with ignoring clouds negative feedback?”

    Who is? No one.

    You are absolutely right. The models do not ignore cloud feedbacks, as the prior geek speak translation shows, they make up a fictional non-physical positive feedback and ignore the negative feedbacks. That’s hardly ignoring them. It takes hard work to make a decent bit of coded fiction…

  59. Walt Stone (10:46:47) : I used to read XKCD, but then his politics started to slip into the comics, greatly diminishing their quality IMHO.

    Got a kick outta that one though. Hehe…

  60. Water acts as the “working fluid” for natural convective refrigeration system. It isn’t that hard to grasp and I can’t understand why the warmers are such “denialists” in this regard.

  61. Anthony,

    Re Thom Scrutchin (07:22:53)

    How about it ?

    If I’m wrong then the sooner someone tells me the better. I’ve got an alternative life to pursue if I’m wasting my time.

    REPLY: “I’ve got an alternative life to pursue…”

    As do I. I can’t be on this blog 24/7 to answer every question, challenge and request. I’m a finite resource. I’m only online now because it is noon PST and I’m at work break.

    I’ll review it, but I have other stories that are scheduled in the que right now, most importantly the CO2 freezing on Antarctica story – Anthony

  62. Dave (05:56:29) : I would still like to know though, if, as Ice core samples suggest, that the earth, from time to time, sees sudden temperature movements (5 degrees C or more) happening in less than a year, and those changes are discrete, then what is the mechanism for this?

    The short answer is: Unknown.

    There are many “maybe”s:

    Their is evidence for a major ‘rock fall’ from space onto the ice sheet causing the rapid change 13,000 years ago. We get hit with about 2 “small nuke” sized explosions each year high in the sky mostly over nowhere. Junk from space is a big issue. Sometimes it’s bigger and reaches the ground and all hell breaks loose…

    There is also the explanation of volcanic cycles. There are times when the earth just makes a whole lot more volcanoes than at other times. We’ve been in a “quiet time” and seem to be heading back into a more “active time” with Chaiten and Redoubt both picking up activity (along with about 20 others…). If Chaiten blows at a supervolcano scale, we will be seeing snowfall in Phoenix in August… and it will be dark at high noon. (Hyperbole, but you get the point…)

    There is also “antipodal focusing” that means when a big rock hits, the energy travels around the globe and you get a matching “whack” on the far side of the planet. This would explain the constant bickering between rock fall and volcano folks. Both come together. (big rock hits near Mexico, we get massive lava flows near India…).

    Finally, there are a couple of speculative “positive feedback” possibles:

    Right now we are water phase moderated, but what happens as we get very very cold and the global surface water phase approaches solid? Less moderation… One could have a catastrophic change in cloud cover… Basically, part of that historical record may be from non-stable regimes.

    Or what happens as the ice accumulates and ocean levels fall? At some point a few gigatons of Methane Clathrate on the ocean bottom catastrophically destabilize and we get an immense methane flood. Talk about your “greenhouse gas warming”! These clathrate destabilizations on a small scale have been observed and can lead to massive releases. Enough that the frothy ocean would not support a ship and it sinks. This may explain ships disappearances in some places with high incidence of both ship losses and clathrate boils on the ocean bottom.

    And then there is the possibility of a plant mediated cyclicality. As ice forms in an ice age, fewer plants. Less CO2 removed from the air and it accumulates over thousands of years (from volcanos). Eventually enough to cause warming, that causes an albedo feedback along with releasing methane and CO2 from plant matter trapped under the global glaciers for who knows how long. This leads to a rapid albedo / gas feedback the other way as the glaciers runaway melt. Eventually the planet is warm and wet enough for an explosion of plants that rapidly sequester the CO2 leading to another plummet into cold.

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/of-trees-volcanos-and-pond-scum/

    And there is also the possibility that it is just the interaction of a bunch of independent oscillating systems. Rather like the “rogue wave” effect (that was thought to be bunk by the scientific community despite many sailors telling the same tale for generations – never dismiss anecdotal evidence out of hand.) until an interesting bit of computer work and some satellite photos showed it to be the natural result of wave interference patterns… So PDO flips and AMO flips and a Solar flips and sometimes they converge into an Oh My God hot year like 1998 that comes fast, and just as fast evaporates. And sometimes they converge into a Big Blue Blob of cold air sitting on my head 8-{

    There is also the possibility that it has to do with our place in the cosmos or other larger changes in the planet. Volcanic cyclicality has an eery correlation with sunspots (on a very long time scale) and climate cycles that both have an eery correlation with planetary positions.

    http://www.schulphysik.de/klima/landscheidt/iceage.htm

    Ice epochs have a fairly strong correlation with our position in the galactic spiral arms (that changes over time).

    http://www.sciencebits.com/ice-ages

    Our magnetic field oscillates and we don’t really know what happens when it “goes to zero” mid flip. And our sun is a variable star. We don’t really know what happens as it varies nor what the bounds are on that variation. We like to think that it is stable, but we have only really watched it for less than a fraction of a millisecond on a solar clock time scale.

    There is a known 1500 year climate cycle called the Bond Event. Clearly seen in the geologic record. Nobody knows why, but every 1500 years we get a big cold snap. Last one was about 1500 years ago… It is most remarkable for it’s periodicity. Until we are talking about 3000 year spans of data, we are not talking about climate (IMHO) and all the folks getting excited about this or that fantasy cause of change may just be making stuff up to explain their current position on a known 1500 year cycle (or a 176 year solar cycle, or a 30 year PDO cycle, or…). To talk about “stability” we really need the context:

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/04/06/bond-event-zero/

    And there are more, but I’m going to stop here. (Too many links and I’ll end up in the spamfilter que for a few hours…)

    The bottom line is that nobody knows. But some folks think “the science is settled” and you caused it with soda fiz (and it only goes one way). Such hubris. But just take a minute to look at the chart of ice and cold during an ice age cycle and notice that we are this little tiny flat shelf of about 1 mm on the left side of gigantic plunges and soaring rises. That little shelf is 10,000 years long and encompasses all the “extreme” climate we know as long as history records.

    We think the system is stable because we have only seen it in the narrowest of bands. In the longer run, the system is stable, but as an ice ball with sporadic moments like now when the Milankovitch Cycle is just right…

  63. ” Stephen Wilde (06:17:18) : ”

    Was reading a paper recently about a very dry spell that seems to have happened in East Africa a few thousand years ago. It mentions that it appears that the entire ITZ shifted South by a couple of hundred miles greatly altering precipitation patterns over much of Africa.

    And what you say is consistent with evidence of changes in precipitation patterns uncovered over time by studying lake sediment for pollen content and lake level (shoreline) histories. Journals such as Quaternary Research are filled with such papers each month.

  64. Ramanathan has some interesting thoughts on Cloud radiative forcing.

    Cloud radiative forcing (CRF) is defined as the difference between the radiation budget (net incoming solar radiation minus the outgoing long wave) over a cloudy (mix of clear and clouds) sky and that over a clear sky. If this difference is negative clouds exert a cooling effect, while if it is positive, it denotes a heating effect. Five-year average of the cloud radiative forcing [1] is shown in Fig. 2. The global average forcing is about –15 to –20 W m-2 and thus clouds have a major cooling effect on the planet.

    The enormous cooling effect of extratropical storm track cloud systems
    Extra-tropical storm track cloud systems provide about 60% of the total cooling effect of clouds [2]. The annual mean forcing from these cloud systems is in the range of –45 to –55 W m–2 and effectively these cloud systems are shielding both the northern and the southern polar regions from intense radiative heating. Their spatial extent towards the tropics moves with the jet stream, extending farthest towards the tropics (about 35 deg latitude) during winter and retreating polewards (polewards of 50 deg latitude) during summer. This phenomenon raises an important question related to past climate dynamics. During the ice age, due to the large polar cooling, the northern hemisphere jet stream extended more southwards. But have the extra tropical cloud systems also moved southward? The increase in the negative forcing would have exerted a major positive feedback on the ice age cooling. There is a curious puzzle about the existence of these cooling clouds. The basic function of the extra tropical dynamics is to export heat polewards.

    While the baroclinic systems are efficient in transporting heat, the enormous negative
    radiative forcing (Fig. 2) associated with these cloud systems seems to undo the
    poleward transport of heat by the dynamics. The radiative effect of these systems is working against the dynamical effect. Evidently,we need better understanding of the dynamic-thermodynamic coupling between these enormous cooling clouds and the
    equator-pole temperature gradient, and greenhouse forcing.

    1 Ramanathan V, Cess RD, Harrison EF, Minnis P, Barkstrom BR, Ahmad E and Hartmann D 1989. Cloud-radiative forcing and climate: results from the Earth radiation budget experiment. Science 243, 57–63.

    2 Weaver CP and Ramanathan V 1997. Relationships between large-scale vertical velocity, static stability, and cloud radiative forcing over Northern Hemisphere extratropical oceans. Journal of Climate 10, 2871–2887.

    The importance of changes in CRF and Downward shortwave radiation can be seen quite clearly in ENSO dynamics.eg

  65. Could that be where the “missing heat” is going? Squeezed out of the system like toothpaste out of a tube?

  66. “The ITCZ does become quite a reflective band at times. Also I’ll point out that there are about two orders of magnitude more low level cumulus form that also have this heat transport turned solar shield character, that don’t make it to CB. status.”

    One of the observational problems I remember when I was an observer was affixing the correct cloud code to the 6 hour observations. If I remember correctly, the code 1963 stood for Low Cloud -9 (CB), Mid Cloud 6 (Altocumulous) and HIgh Cloud 3 (Cirro-Stratus). High Cloud 3 could be providing a 10/10ths overcast, but no one doubted that the high level cirrus came from the CB. My time spent at the JTWC as a tropical sat analyst saw many weeks where entire regions of the Pacific were covered in a thick CS shield, which orginated from multiple storm clusters.

    One other point concerning dirurnal cooling in the tropics: since the tropics (at least over the oceans) are at near saturation, the night time lows are fairly consistent. Even the presence of high clouds do not change this consistency that much. Radiative cooling and the attendent night time temp inversion are not that pronounced -especially when compared to the deserts. On the other hand, overcast skies during the day block insolation, and do have an pronounced effect on daytime highs.

  67. E. M. Smith (11:51:17)

    Excellent post indicating just how little we can know and putting it in a universal perspective.

    On the scale of a human lifetime (or even a couple of centuries) it seems that our environment is reasonably stable or at least the prospect of a major natural disruption seems too small to consider. For day to day living that is fine.

    The trouble is that there is a huge number of unknown variables that can whack us at any time and the chances of one or other of those variables giving us a whack during any single human lifetime is probably higher than ongoing stability for more than a couple of centuries.

    People who lived during major and rapid past climate and other changes may just have been less lucky than those of us alive today but the fact is that no one alive today can be sure that there will be no major natural (and not anthropogenic) worldwide event within our remaining lifetimes.

    Even the climate change from 1600 to date if reversed would have a devastating effect on our current hard earned civilisation whatever it’s flaws.

    We have the privilege of being at the top of a rising curve of increased average individual prosperity ( despite the fact that many are not yet sharing in it) and it would take but a minor blip in any number of natural phenomena to take the whole of the benefits of the past 500 years away from us.

    Yet so many are so cavalier about our hard earned progress against natural depredations that they now tell us that abandonimg all that has been achieved is the sole route to moral and material nirvana.

    We are engaged in a desperate battle against an anti human (indeed an anti life ) natural environment yet we are attacked on all sides by fuzzy minded individuals and organisations (usually funded by us) who think that nature is our friend.

    There lies the decadence and destruction of our species. Rot starts from within and nature revels in it.

    A bit off topic but relevant to the general tenor of climate catastrophism.

  68. George E. Smith (10:49:04) :

    The word ’superparametrization’ intrigues me. By reading the post it is not clear to me what the authors of the study mean by ’superparametrization’ Could anybody who has read the original study explain what is the difference between this and the ‘normal’ parametrization?

    The superparameterization replaces the regular cloud parameterization with a (higher-resolution) cloud-resolving model in each column of the GCM. The cloud-resolving model is better physics and more verified for small scale processes and short timescales, so the idea is to find out it does anything different when it’s embedded in the GCM (it does).

  69. jeroen (06:21:02) : The problem with models is that it only uses one given fact and extent that fact further in the future neglecting onther inputs.

    BINGO! Give that person a Cupie Doll!

    A model, by definition leaves out a lot of stuff and extends the other stuff to try to make up for it. (Some of the “stuff” it extends being hard coded Fudge Factors put in by programmers to simplify some hard bits they don’t understand, like clouds).

    This is why the proper use of models is not to predict, but to inform our ignorance. You see where the model “goes off the rails” and that tells you what you don’t know and need to work on. Any other use is to “believe your own bull sheist”

    All models are only predictive over a very narrow range where the parameters (Fudge Factors) are modestly valid. As soon as anything goes outside those built in hard coded assumptions, the model derails. Kind of like GIStemp right now with a large high anomaly when the world is stacking up snow so fast it’s looking like Christmas in June:

    http://chiefio.wordpress.com/2009/05/23/south-hemisphere-record-early-snow/

    A classic “derailment” in the making. Sit back, pop a cool one, and watch the show. For the next decade GISS will become ever more histrionic as their Favorite Toy diverges ever more strongly from reality. Then they will have an organizational “personality breakdown disorder” as a new person takes the helm and tosses out the trash…

    This happens with astounding regularity in the stock trading world. Someone with the New Shiny Thing Stock Prediction Model promises to make millions, and it works for a bit until it doesn’t and they go through this cycle. The only difference here is the time scale. Instead of a 10 year cycle like in the stock market, it’s a 30 year PDO cycle and an 88 year or 176 year solar cycle (and maybe a bit of a 1500 year cycle…) so it all takes longer.

    Per “superparameterization”:

    I took this to mean that they had a plug number (a Fudge Factor parameter) that they knew wasn’t cutting it. They decided to make it variable in a range via modeling an underlaying event, but did not change how the parameter is used within the model. So instead of saying, for example, that

    CloudFeedback = +2 (somethings)

    it becomes

    CloudFeedback = FunctionOfFoo(foo[time+1])

    but you don’t change what you do with CloudFeedback in the model itself. So if the model has another bogusness, like saying

    IceChange=CloudFeedback*0;

    that would still be in the model and left for the next program review…

    I could be wrong, but that is how I took the term to mean something. As a programmer, that is what I would expect the client to be asking me to do in the code if presented with this word. An actual climate scientist might want to comment on what they expected. If it turns out that we have a different idea of what it means, well, then you have a great example of how “bugs” get into programs and why they don’t always do what the designer thought he was asking them to do…

  70. crosspatch (11:58:57)

    Thank you.

    What I say is consistent with every regional, local and global climate observation ever recorded.

    Poleward and equatorward shifts in the air circulation systems explain them all.

    The response of the air circulation systems to the fact of net global warming or net global cooling explains those shifts.

    Variations in solar input over centuries combined with oceanic energy input/output over decades combined with chaotic weather variation from year to year cover every observation so far recorded.

    That’s not to say that some other natural event couldn’t disrupt the pattern at any time.

    Whatever, CO2 in the air is irrelevant.

  71. George E. Smith (10:49:04) :

    It amounts to writing an expression with a big enough array of adjustable fudge factors to get it to fit any observed set of data. So it is curve fitting ala King.

    Doesn’t mean there is any causal physics associated with any of those parameters.

    Scientists have proved before that you can fit observed measured data to as close as eight significant digits of precision; by doing nothing more than playing around with numbers.

    Superparametrization is just as bogus; it is not going to realize any advance in climate physics; just make for prettier looking video games.

    George, I have to disagree. In developing a model or simulation, we frequently use surface response curves to study the system as whole in context. If we’re interested in the sensitivity of the system do specific design details, we replace the surface with a physical model. i..e Superparametrization. The technique is not only legitimate, when it involves substituting actual hardware for the response surface, it’s called HardWare In the Loop (HWIL).

    However, used also raised the point: “I just hope this ’superparametrization’ thingy doesn’t mean that these parameters don’t need to be validated.” You’re dead on, they absolutely do. In fact the whole point of superparametrization is replacement of the unvalidated with the validated parameters.

    In this case, whether they use Lagrangian or Eulerian gridding, the meshing represents a small enough area of the real world that the cloud model can be validated and verified. I think we both agree that if they haven’t, the results are bogus.

  72. E.M.Smith (12:33:31) :

    Per “superparameterization”:

    I took this to mean that they had a plug number (a Fudge Factor parameter) that they knew wasn’t cutting it. They decided to make it variable in a range via modeling an underlaying event, but did not change how the parameter is used within the model. So instead of saying, for example, that

    CloudFeedback = +2 (somethings)

    it becomes

    CloudFeedback = FunctionOfFoo(foo[time+1])

    See my response, above, to George. If they did as you described, they would be lying about superparameterizing the simulation. They have to use a physically descriptive model of the process.

  73. hotrod (07:21:44) : As I commented on a couple of occasions before, large thunderstorms are incredible heat pumps that move vast amounts of heat energy to high altitude in a matter of minutes to easily be radiated away at the tropopause, while simultaneously creating a huge shroud of brilliant white cloud to shade the lower atmosphere and ground, along with the cooling effect of evaporation cooled air and rain.

    Just to put some numbers on this… from:

    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/C5c.html

    we have:

    A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20×10 to the 13 th watts and converts less than 10% of the heat into the mechanical energy of the wind. The heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. According to the 1993 World Almanac, the entire human race used energy at a rate of 10 to the 13 th watts in 1990, a rate less than 20% of the power of a hurricane.

    (I modified the quote to say “to the 13 th” since the superscripts got eaten in the cut / paste and I don’t know how to put them back. HTML is about my 15+ th computer language and I’m learning it against my will ;-)

    Now think about that for a moment. 1/5 the power of ONE hurricane is everything we do with all power all year long. And how many hurricanes are there in a year? But we all know it’s your gas fireplace that is dominating the system… that and your light bulbs…

    Anyone know how well hurricanes are modeled in the climate models?

    (Hint: They contain clouds, and clouds are a Fudge Factor…)

  74. The water cycle is poorly understood from a thermodynamic perspective.

    Water vapor evaporates from the ocean and is transported to land where it condenses and falls as snow. That is a lot of heat that has been transported – the heat of evaporation and the heat of fusion plus the heat in between the evaporation and fusion.

    Note that the process from evaporation to freezing which leads to glaciers is a much more thermodynamically efficient process than just the ITCZ convection process so there is less waste heat staying in the system.

    Another way to mpa this is to plot the seasonal Availability of the various regions of the Earth vs the moisture sources that feed into them. If Availability is going up, then we are seeing a net outflow of heat from the Earth that is getting more efficient.

  75. Wade (07:42:22) : I find it funny how people can actually think a complex system is so simplistic. It reminds me of the time when I was in school learning physics. To help us learn, everything was ideal. But in the real world, nothing is ideal. It is almost like these people were never taught nothing is ideal.

    Reminds me of an old Economist joke, used to get the newbies to understand that econometric models are nor reflective of reality:

    Three scientists are stranded on a desert island with one big can of beans. A physicist, a chemist and an economist. They decide that each will apply the strongest tools in their arsenal of science to figure out a way to open the can of beans, having no can opener.

    The physicist says: “I will tie a rock to a sapling, bend it down, and when released it will smash the can open”.

    The chemist says: “Using sea water and other liquids I will make a corrosive fluid that will dissolve the lid, opening the can”

    The economist says: “If we assume the can is open … “

  76. Anthony I appreciate you have so much on your plate but FWIW I for one would like to see the theories of Stephen Wilde debated more fully on this excellent blog. Prima facie they make eminent sense to me but there may be other folks who would disagree and it would be useful to see the discourse IMHO.

  77. It is interesting if you look at this study and the latest study/story reported on RealClimate …

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090610/ap_on_sc/us_sci_diminishing_winds

    … that for the two most important facets of the atmosphere, water vapour/clouds and winds, we have no idea what is going on and no way to properly model them, yet we are still supposed to consider the climate models as reasonably accurate approximations of the atmosphere.

    Doesn’t hold water (whatever form, vapour, liquid or solid).

  78. @ Stephen Wilde (12:25:49) :

    Thanks!

    I’m thinking of making the “longer picture” comment into a posting on chiefio.wordpress.com and would like to know if I may include your comment here, with attribution, as part of that posting?

  79. John W. (12:48:34) :
    E.M.Smith (12:33:31) : CloudFeedback = FunctionOfFoo(foo[time+1])

    See my response, above, to George. If they did as you described, they would be lying about superparameterizing the simulation. They have to use a physically descriptive model of the process.

    I was presuming a “physically descriptive model of the process” as the “FunctionOfFoo”, or at least an good attempt at one… sorry for the unclarity.

  80. See, what they base the positive feedback claims on is that at NIGHT, clouds are positive feedback, they reduce surface radiation to space, and because water vapor has higher heat content than, for instance, ice or snow, the effects are mistaken for the cause and vice versa. They completely ignore the shading effects of clouds in the daytime, as if every day is california sunshine the world over and it only rains or snows at night.

  81. “”” E.M.Smith (12:52:30) :

    hotrod (07:21:44) : As I commented on a couple of occasions before, large thunderstorms are incredible heat pumps that move vast amounts of heat energy to high altitude in a matter of minutes to easily be radiated away at the tropopause, while simultaneously creating a huge shroud of brilliant white cloud to shade the lower atmosphere and ground, along with the cooling effect of evaporation cooled air and rain.

    Just to put some numbers on this… from:

    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/tcfaq/C5c.html

    we have:

    A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20×10 to the 13 th watts and converts less than 10% of the heat into the mechanical energy of the wind. The heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. According to the 1993 World Almanac, the entire human race used energy at a rate of 10 to the 13 th watts in 1990, a rate less than 20% of the power of a hurricane.

    (Hint: They contain clouds, and clouds are a Fudge Factor…)

    One other often missed fact is that after the passage of a hurricane across the ocean, the water behind it is left considerably colder. This is often mistakenly attributed to the hurricane “stirring up” the colder water from the depths. Not so, that cooling is the result of all those meagaton uields of energy that is in the hurricane.

    The normal process of evaporation leaves the water surface film colder, because it is the high energy tail of the MB molecular distribution that is the first material to escape; thereby lowering the mean molecular energy and thus the temperature. Not to mention the 545 cal/grm of latent heat of evaporation that goes up into the storm along with the water.

    Hurricanes are among the best on Nature’s refrigeration processes that cool the earth.

  82. E.M. Smith (13:35:17)

    Certainly. Please proceed.

    The more my stuff is promulgated the sooner I will find out whether I’ve hit the mark or am talking nonsense.

    That said I’ve been at this for 15 months now and as yet no killer rebuttal from the AGW community.

  83. I was camping once and it was 70 during the day and 27°F at night. We camped by a river next to a hill. Very cold air came rushing down the hill at night, hit the warm water and formed fog. I saw every cloud formation within 2 feet of the surface I’ve ever seen, except cumulonimbus. New layer of cold air comes down and overlays the warm water, instantly forming fog 2 feet thick. Water flow provides shear. Stratus clouds form with rolling bands. Another layer comes in at a different angle and speed, creates vertical shear, and we saw hundreds of “tornadoes”, really realistic ones that you could see sucking up the lower layer and taking it higher. Another layer hits a stationary layer and pushes up cumulus clouds which have their bottoms quickly sheared away by the air layer below following the water flow, some with tornadoes at the tail. Every possible combination of layer thickness, speed, shear angles, etc was visible. It was so amazing I tried to video it but there was not enough light. I remember thinking how very simple the inputs were, and yet how chaotic and wild the resulting patterns were. I think some of the simpler patterns could be modeled as they were fairly predictable, but trying to get a realistic result with anything other than very small 3D grids would be impossible.

    You could actually see how all of those strange cloud formations we see every day happen, except at about 50x speed. I only wish I had a better camera at the time, I watched it for about 3 hours.

    This might be a job for the folks at Industrial Light & Magic. I’ll bet they could add a whole new level of insight into the modeling capabilities of 3D phenomena, then you could apply physics to that framework to arrive at a somewhat decent model, and finally compare it to real measurements.

    I think the first order of business would be to shoot for a 3D, semi-transparent model that actually LOOKS like clouds forming. Adjust your model physics until the visual representation of each cloud type that is formed naturally from simple inputs looks visually correct over time from a virtual point on the ground. The visualization would probably be key to understanding whether you can model a single cloud, much less all of them. Once you have that, a numerical model that also LOOKS like a cloud, you would be well on your way to having at least some of the physics of cloud formation understood. THEN I think we could talk sensibly about modeling cloud feedbacks. The albedo and shadow aspects should come out fairly easily once the visual representation and scale looks reasonably close to real-world clouds… The rest is just superparameterization.

    I’m going to use that in a meeting at work and see what happens.

  84. “”” John W. (12:44:26) :

    George E. Smith (10:49:04) :

    It amounts to writing an expression with a big enough array of adjustable fudge factors to get it to fit any observed set of data. So it is curve fitting ala King.

    Doesn’t mean there is any causal physics associated with any of those parameters.

    Scientists have proved before that you can fit observed measured data to as close as eight significant digits of precision; by doing nothing more than playing around with numbers.

    Superparametrization is just as bogus; it is not going to realize any advance in climate physics; just make for prettier looking video games.

    George, I have to disagree. In developing a model or simulation, we frequently use surface response curves to study the system as whole in context. If we’re interested in the sensitivity of the system do specific design details, we replace the surface with a physical model. i..e Superparametrization. The technique is not only legitimate, when it involves substituting actual hardware for the response surface, it’s called HardWare In the Loop (HWIL).

    However, used also raised the point: “I just hope this ’superparametrization’ thingy doesn’t mean that these parameters don’t need to be validated.” You’re dead on, they absolutely do. In fact the whole point of superparametrization is replacement of the unvalidated with the validated parameters.

    In this case, whether they use Lagrangian or Eulerian gridding, the meshing represents a small enough area of the real world that the cloud model can be validated and verified. I think we both agree that if they haven’t, the results are bogus. “””

    So John, I take it that after you have superparametricized your model and properly gridded it, that you can run the model and it will replicate the actual measured values that you read at each of those gridded points on planet earth; If it does not, why do you continue to use that model ?

    George

  85. David Ball (07:45:19) :
    Annabelle raises an important point. I don’t believe Hansen, Schmidt, Mann or anyone that is under government employ should be allowed to withhold their data or methods. Yes it is their work, but they and their research are funded by the public’s money. These fellows would have only one reason I can think of for not being transparent,…….

    Has anyone tried a Freedom of Information Act request to get this information?

    If not, why not? It doesn’t take a big organization. It is helpful to have standing, i.e. scientific credentials, and legal help. There are lawyers on this board who might be willing to assist, I’ll bet.

    Time to turn up the heat and hold those guys accountable. We taxpayers paid for those models, and that data, and we deserve to see every dirty little detail.

    Maybe it’s time for a “Transparency Project,” a la the Surface-Stations one. . .

    /Mr Lynn

  86. Bill Illis (13:29:31)

    When the globe is warming the jets are pushed poleward and compressed due to expansion of the equatorial air masses which gives them greater east/west force. In so far as they are still able to deviate poleward or equatorward then the increased force is maintained.

    When the globe is cooling, as now, the equatorial air masses, having contracted, allow greater latitudinal movement of the jets which are then moving less fast. However there are greater poleward and equatorward movements of air.

    When the globe is cooling the polar air masses move equatorward and try to extract more energy from the oceans in order to compensate for the net loss of energy to space.

    When the globe is warming the equatorial air masses expand to try and push the net exess energy from the oceans into space..

    All nice and logical and consistent with both observations and basic physics.

    The reason for the observed decreasing wind speed is, in fact. global cooling.

  87. Mike Lorrey (13:47:53) :

    See, what they base the positive feedback claims on is that at NIGHT, clouds are positive feedback, they reduce surface radiation to space,

    Actually that is not positive feedback. An electrical analogue would be increasing the value of a resistor, (add clouds), across the output of a capacitor, (the Earth surface).

    Dave.

  88. David Ball: I agree.. but I don’t think many people will be interested in Hansen’s, Schmidt’s, or Mann’s data anymore quite soon.

  89. “”” Hank (09:48:29) :

    Seems like there are two situations – daytime and nightime:

    In the daytime you have the heat of the sun radiating to the earth together with the heat of the earth reradiating heat outward. It doesn’t seem hard to see that if you insert a cloud barrier between the two you are not only shutting down the direct heat of the sun but you’re also shutting down that process that supplies heat to be re-radiated by the earth.

    At night the situation is different; only the earth radiates at night and so the cloud barrier could be said to have a warming tendency. And it is my experience that cloudy winter nights where I live tend to be warmer than bitterly cold clear nights. Please notice though, that saying cloudy nights are warmer is a bit of a misstatement because what is really happening is that you are only slowing down cooling. Climatologically, nights are still cool and days are warm – on balance all that really happens at night is cooling. “””

    Well Hank you are making the same error that everybody makes.

    High clouds at night; balmy nights and warming; no high clouds at night dry and cold night.

    It ALWAYS cools down at night clouds or no clouds; UNLESS warm air moves in from some other location.

    But what is happening is somethign entirely different.

    Those high clouds at night are NOT keeping the surface warmer; they are only there at all BECAUSE it was warmer st the surface during the day along with moisture to give some humidity; and the warmer it was at the surface for a given moisture level the high those clouds will be when they form at night because the hotter surface air and moisture will have to rise to a higher altitude before the dew point is reached.

    And when it is cooler, and there isn’t any moisture during the day, it will get colder yet at night, but no high clouds will be formed because of the lack of moisture.

    The temperatures and humidity are driving the clouds not the clouds driving the temperature.

    And the reason it FEELS colder on a dry cool night is because the lack of humidity encourtages evaporation from your skin and cools YOU; but if it is warm and humid, then your porse don’t get to evaporate any sweat from your skin so you FEEL warmer.

    When you cut all four legs off a frog; they will not jump; no matter how loudly you shout and scream at them.
    That does NOT mean that frogs become stone deaf when you cut all four legs off.

    And as to the subject of feedback; last night’s weather IS NOT climate; so in discussing the thermal effect of cloud cover; you have to consider the effect of an increase (or decrease) in total cloud cover over a meaningful CLIMATE SCALE TIME like how about 30 years like all other climate studies.

    And increases in total global cloud cover over years or decades or centuries result in global cooling by reducing the total amount of solar flux that can reach the surface; either by albedo reflection back into space, or by blockage in the cloud; which cools the ground but warms the cloud so it rises higher.

    Thermal radiation from the warmed cloud mass is radiated more or less isotropically, so about half of it goes up, and about half goes down.

    And the fact that the atmosphere does very little observable warming of the gournd on a cold dry cloudless night demonstrates hwo totally ineffective CO2 is in warming the surfgace like a blanket. The CO2 hasn’t changed at all, and now it doesn’t have water molecules competing for absorption of the long wave IR emission from the surface; yet is still accomplishes virtually no observable heating.

    Trying to piggy back water vapor feedback onto a lame duck CO2 GHG is just silly; the water vapor alone can do all of the blanket “warming” without any assistance from CO2 or any other “trigger” GHG.

    These supercomputerparametrizations are simply trying to create an effect where there is none to be had.

    The surface radiant emittance of long wave infrared radiation emitted from the earth’s surface varies by more than an order of magnitude from the hottest to the coldest surfaces and is more than a 12:1 ratio in the extreme cases. The 4th root of 12 is 1.86.

    So if CO2 absorbed every bit of the surface emitted IR; the CO2 “forcing” of surface temperature rise would vary by 12:1 across the earth’s surface, and the possible maximum temperature rise caused by a doubling of CO2 would vary by something like that 1.86 factor from place to place.

    So any claim of a constant “climate sensitivity” temperature rise caused by a doubling of CO2 is just plain silly so trying to pick a value for something that has a 12:1 forcing variation over the planet is hardly science.

    And when was the last time that climatologist modellers mapped the actual “climate sensitivity” all over the earth or measured it using whatever griderization that they use in their cloud parameterization.

    No wonder that the IPCC reports contain all these 3:1 fudge factors in their predictions; excuse me projections, of future catastrophic global warming.

    When the NOAA official global energy balance budget that they plot sets the solar incoming radiation at 1366 or so W/m^2, instead of a fictitious 342; and adjusts all the other parametrizations as well; then maybe I’ll pay some attention to ccomputer models.
    Of course that doesn’t help much because all of the ancient surface measurment data from over the oceans is bogus anyway; so climate history really doesn’t go back much earlier than 1978-80; so it doesn’t matter if the models are any good the data they use to parameterize them is rubbish.

    George

  90. I have to agree with Stumpy:
    “common sense suggest clouds would be a negative feedback, otherwise the earth would have suffered runaway warming in the past.”

    As I understand the current AGW theory, CO2 alone does not cause significant warming. The small warming it does create causes more water vapor which is also a greenhouse gas and which greatly amplifies the CO2 warming. But if that’s the case then why doesn’t a small increase in water vapor by itself cause a similar effect? More water vapor would produce warming which would cause more water vapor and more warming. Absent a negative feedback, the result should be runaway warming attributed to water vapor only.

  91. Im In Miami, and in relation to rain and cooling.. I.E. cloud formation, as negative feedback… I witness it regularly.
    the greatest swing in tempuratures on the planet from day to night happen in areas with the fewest total hours of canopy in percentage anually.
    Deserts.
    Now I always try to abide Mr Watts steadfast rules on Blog decorum, less we become Algorites ourselves, issuing ignorant diatribes filled with vitriol and spite.
    But on this singular issue, I would say that those who believe the clouds are not the primary component for heat exchange in our climate engine, and carbon emissions are, are riding the short bus(bio diesel and solar power of course) to the AGW rally.

  92. Urederra (10:06:46) :

    “Could anybody who has read the original study explain what is the difference between this and the ‘normal’ parametrization?”

    A “normal” parameter is from Earth. A “super” parameter is from the planet Krypton.

    E.M.Smith (10:40:36) :

    This emphasizes that an AGCM is a system whose mean behavior can reflect unanticipated and unphysical interactions between its component parameterizations.

    Or in short form: The circulation models are bogus and busted and give you bad results because the prameterized code is bogus and flakey in strange ways.”

    Exactly. To me this is the real meat of the 2006 report. Superparameterization is just another model that may or may not be an improvement, but the unquestionably non-physical AGCM calculations (tuned to give the desired results) take the models straight to the realm of stopped-clock accuracy.

  93. http://www.heartland.org/publications/NIPCC%20report/PDFs/Chapter%202.1.pdf
    “Global Atmosphere—Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment, Sud et al. (1999) demonstrated that deep convection in the tropics acts as a thermostat to keep sea surface temperature (SST) oscillating between approximately 28° and 30°C. Their analysis suggests that as SSTs reach 28°-29°C, the cloud-base airmass is charged with the moist static energy needed for clouds to reach the upper troposphere, at which point the cloud cover reduces the amount of solar radiation received at the surface of the sea, while cool and dry downdrafts promote ocean surface cooling by increasing sensible and latent heat fluxes there. This “thermostat-like control,” as Sud et al. describe it, tends “to ventilate the tropical ocean efficiently and help contain the SST between 28°-30°C.” The phenomenon would also be expected to prevent SSTs from rising any higher in response to enhanced CO2-induced radiative forcing.”

  94. Stephen Wilde:

    Thanks for the reply and I really liked your original comment. I just wanted to explain that the first thing that popped into my mind when I read that sentence in your original comment is, “But what about Virginia Beach in the summer?” Hence, the nitpick.

    I think your overall explanation has merit and I’d like to see you expand on it a bit. Your idea might even cover vulcanism it would seem. As for me, I think the positions of the continents and their topography give the ‘why’ of climate and your explanation gives the ‘how’ of climate.

    I’m looking forward to an expanded post from you either here or on E.M. Smith’s blog.

  95. George E. Smith (14:48:40) :

    Holy cow George. You gave me a lot to chew on there. I was trying express a simple thought. Namely, if you interpose a barrier between something warm (the sun) and cold (the earth) the cold thing is gonna get colder. And so, overall, how could clouds do anything but tend to cool? That’s my basic simple minded thought – absent considerations of nighttime.

  96. George E. Smith (14:48:40) :

    Hank (09:48:29) :

    Seems like there are two situations – daytime and nightime:

    At night the situation is different; only the earth radiates at night and so the cloud barrier could be said to have a warming tendency. And it is my experience that cloudy winter nights where I live tend to be warmer than bitterly cold clear nights. Please notice though, that saying cloudy nights are warmer is a bit of a misstatement because what is really happening is that you are only slowing down cooling. Climatologically, nights are still cool and days are warm – on balance all that really happens at night is cooling.

    Well Hank you are making the same error that everybody makes.

    High clouds at night; balmy nights and warming; no high clouds at night dry and cold night.

    It ALWAYS cools down at night clouds or no clouds; UNLESS warm air moves in from some other location.

    But what is happening is something entirely different.

    Those high clouds at night are NOT keeping the surface warmer; they are only there at all BECAUSE it was warmer at the surface during the day along with moisture to give some humidity; and the warmer it was at the surface for a given moisture level the high those clouds will be when they form at night because the hotter surface air and moisture will have to rise to a higher altitude before the dew point is reached.

    Careful – some of what you’re saying matches a dry area like California, but things can be quite different elsewhere like here in New Hampshire where we normally get 3-4″ of precip every month.

    High clouds tend not to be connected with ground moisture unless convective conditions exist, and often warm and moist conditions near ground drive that. However, a lot of altostratus and altocumulus comes from approaching warm fronts, passing extratropical storms, etc. During the day such cloud cover suppresses convection, on cloudy nights there’s even less. BTW, clouds from an approaching warm front can be hundreds of miles ahead of the ground level manisfestation of the front.

    And the reason it FEELS colder on a dry cool night is because the lack of humidity encourages evaporation from your skin and cools YOU; but if it is warm and humid, then your pores don’t get to evaporate any sweat from your skin so you FEEL warmer.

    On a cloudy night I’d agree that a cool night feels cooler than a warm night (you might want to try that sentence again!). A clear dry night with light wind is ideal for radiational cooling. On long winter nights when the cooling curve is close to exponential I can often spot where the wind has picked up a bit and stirred up the inversion (temperature increase and wind in the log) or where high clouds (approaching storm) has blocked the sky and reflects the IR back to the ground (sudden decrease in the cooling slope). A meteorogist has saved some traces where a stray cloud moves by and interrupts cooling only briefly.

    When the NOAA official global energy balance budget that they plot sets the solar incoming radiation at 1366 or so W/m^2, instead of a fictitious 342;

    1366 is the incident (Sun overhead) value, 342 is the average over the entire Earth (surface area 4 x pi x r^2, area intercepted pi x r^2).

  97. E.M.Smith (11.51.17),

    All very well and complicated possibilities – wouldn’t it be easier to acknowledge that it’s the mice changing the parameters of their experiment with Earth? :-)

  98. Often I see references to Lindzen or someone consenting that some specific rise in C02 will have a corresponding rise in temp, and the one that comes to mind is doubling the current 385ppm to get 1 degree. It seems many assume this means a doubling of 385ppm gets us 1 degree higher than we are today. But in a system of many independent variables with feedbacks back and forth among them, the actual temp after that rise would depend upon the sum of effects of that collection of variables as a whole. The net result could put us anywhere.

  99. Anthony,
    The observed 5% decrease in cloud cover is the main cause of global warming, why is nobody looking at it as the cause.
    please look at the Ole Humlum climate and clouds page at http://www.climate4you.com its awesome!
    Cloud changes correspond almost perfectly with temperature changes and the observed forcing (including negative feedback) is much larger than CO2 forcing.
    Cheers

  100. Ric Werme (16:13:42) :

    1366 is the incident (Sun overhead) value, 342 is the average over the entire Earth (surface area 4 x pi x r^2, area intercepted pi x r^2).

    My problem with that is this.

    1) do they include all the other confounders?

    The extremities of the presented disc receive far less insolation for the reasons of incidence, extra atmosphere, refraction, reflection & probably others I’ve not thought of!

    DaveE.

  101. Excellent post and intelligent comments. However, I feel that for all the science being debated between the AGW proponent and skeptics, the issue is more political than anything else. Whether you admit it or not, the congress is corrupted. Just look at how they pass the bailout awhile ago, despite the opposition from the majority of Americans. Same for the coming carbon tax and cap-and-trade. As long as the congress follows their marching order and vote for whatever they’re commanded to, any discussion in science is futile.

  102. Mike Ramsey (15:27:29) :

    http://www.heartland.org/publications/NIPCC%20report/PDFs/Chapter%202.1.pdf
    “Global Atmosphere—Coupled Ocean-Atmosphere Response Experiment, Sud et al. (1999) demonstrated that deep convection in the tropics acts as a thermostat to keep sea surface temperature (SST) oscillating between approximately 28° and 30°C.

    Indeed there are several such mechanisms that appear to function as a part of this “thermostat.” AGU published a paper: “Unexpected consequences of increasing CO2 and ocean acidity on marine production of DMS and CH2ClI: Potential climate impacts”

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2007/2006GL028139.shtml

    demonstrating increased marine microorganism gases which may impact cloud formation and albedo. Beautifully complex, if not outright clever.

  103. George E. Smith:

    As a surfer, my observation has been that a hurricane does not need to come overhead to cool the water at my location. The groundswell itself is enough to cool the inshore water by as much as 2 degrees Celsius in 24 hours. So, although you can surf without a wetsuit in late August and early September at various surf breaks on the U.S. northeastern coast, by the time hurricane waves have been coming through for a day or so you frequently need to shift back to a wetsuit of some kind.

    The cooling of the water, in those circumstances, generally takes place without a single hurricane cloud coming within 300 miles of shore.

    Thus, from what I have seen personally, I think you might be underestimating the power of stirring.

  104. If clouds are formed and how they are formed depends on the following factors.

    1. The temperature characteristic of the source area of a specific air mass.
    2. The relative geographic position and season.
    3. The characteristics of the land mass, flat land, mountenous land, woods, deserts, cities and industrialized area’s, farmland etc.
    4. The wind speed and wind direction.
    5. The temperature of the land or ocean.
    6. The air pressure. (and changes in air pressure)
    7. humidity
    8. the availablity of condensation nuclea. (dust particles, biomaterial, cosmic rays?

    An airmass can be stable, unstable or indifferent.

    In a standard atmosphere the air temperature is going down 0,65 degree Celsius for every 100 meter altitude.

    At a specific altitude there is an inversion. An inversion is an area where the temperature goes up by increasing altitude instead of going down.

    You can see an inversion when the clouds reach a maximum altitude and flatten off. The altitude of an inversion varies during the day and if sufficient heat is absorbed by the land, an inversion can disappear.

    This happens at the ITCZ where Cumulonimbus clouds reach altitudes of 15.000 meters.

    In the morning the day often starts with a ground inversion and an inversion at a higher altitude.

    The sun heats up the earth and the earth heats up the air.
    The local temperature depends on the heat absorbing characteristics of the undergroud, the wind speed and direction.

    The air that is heated up builds a bubble which is sticking to the gound untill it reaches a certain volume and gets triggered by an impulse.
    An impulse can be a passing truck, a tree line or a small hill in a flat landscape.

    The heated and expanded air takes of like a hot air balloon.
    The rising speed depends on the relative differens in temperature between the heated air and the surrounding air.

    As the rising air cools down and the condesation level is reached, a cloud is formed. If there still is a heat surplus the cloud will build untill it reaches inversion level.

  105. Mr. Watts:

    I always thought the picture in your web site header was an excellent example of this issue; a picture from the Space Shuttle I expect. I am quite surprised there is any debate, or disregard, of this phenomenon.

    Great Blog; keep up the good work.

    REPLY: Believe it or not, you are the first person to comment on it – thanks – Anthony

  106. When a cloud fades and disappears, surely the energy released in its formation is re-adsorbed. It would only have an effect when it rains, and when it reflects.

    OTOH the current atmosphere warms the surface by 150 W/m2 on average, warming it by about 30 degrees C. This suggests an obvious ratio of 30/150 or 0.15K/WattM-2. The “low” figure of 0.4 in the OT seems rather high to me, and for me would require some explanation of why it is so high. A climate model that calculates this figure to be more than an order of magnitude larger requires some serious evidence. However the state of climate science is such that serious evidence against it being an order of magnitude greater is required.

  107. Some excellent points above and some bizarre ones esp. with the non-weather analogies. Despite the disdain for models here, they provide accurate results for different cloud scenarios. The reason they are not useful for AGW predictions is that the models cannot predict the cloud scenario accurately unless they accurately model future weather (ie the weather in a world with more CO2) in sufficient detail. Since computational power essegntially limits model resolution (both vertical and horizontal), weather effects including cloud are parameterized at smaller scales. Those parameterizations can be somewhat validated by performing high res modeling on a small scale in high CO2 scenarios. Or you can just put in some garbage and see what happens!

    Here are a lot of modeling abstracts to get an idea:
    http://www.ccsm.ucar.edu/publications/PhD%20and%20Masters%20Theses.htm

    Another way to get an idea about clouds is to look at IR satellite pictures. They are generally false color where white means less outgoing IR and dark means more. High clouds are white so less IR out, so global warming. Low and mid clouds are ambiguous, but lower ones tend to be dark (cooling). Lower ones also tend to be diurnal which is definitely cooling. The models generally back that up, higher clouds are warming, lower clouds are cooling, mid clouds are ambiguous.

    The key notion is that how the clouds allow or block IR output to space is more important to global warming or global cooling than how they block sunlight from reaching earth. That is why the the idea that “bright white” clouds are cooling after or near a thunderstorm is a bit of misattribution. The coolness has likely come from downdrafts or evaporation, not the shade from the cloud. In fact those high clouds from the thunderstorm cause “global warming”. But here is where the models help a lot, the thunderstorms, or any concentrated convection actually cause global cooling.

    The case of concentrated convection is complicated because clouds are not the determining factor but the fact that CC causes drying of the upper troposphere which is cooling. Hurricanes cause global cooling for the same reason and because of the large cloud-free subsidence zones around them allowing IR radiation to space even though the high clouds of the hurricane itself are IR trapping and warming.

    It also depends on what is underneath the clouds. Ice is rare so not really a factor. Land radiates more IR than ocean so clouds over land tend to be more warming than clouds over ocean. Most of what clouds do depends on clouds in the tropics (ie whether convection is concentrated or not) and most of that modeling requires model fidelity at a small scale (ie mesoscale) because that is the scale at which there will be the greatest differences between the current world and a world with more CO2.

  108. Sorry, I was not finished with my earlier posting.

    The rising air is replaced by air that is succed in by the drop in air pressure that is caused when the pocket of heated air takes of from the ground.

    Sometimes this effect is visible by dust devils or flying parasols and even entire terraces in front of a resraurant can take to the air.

    The surrounding area of the rising aircollumn that keeps a cumulus cloud aloft
    makes a downward movement.

    The energy involved in the process is enormous.
    There are day’s when the rising air currents make speeds between 4 and 10 meters per second.

    In Cumulonimbus clouds that form in extremely unstable airmasses, the speed of up- and down currents can reach 25 to 35 meters per second.
    Rising and sinking currents can occure in a very small areas and they are responsible for the big hail up to the size of a tennis ball.

    We know about soaring pilots in Bitterwasser (Namibia) that made a flight into a CB at the end of the day just to cool a pack of beer.
    One of them (a crazy German) flew a metal glider (Blanick) made in Poland and lost half a wing. He made a safe landing and enjoyed his beer.

    Other pilots are less fortunate.

    During the day, with the inversion in place, the clouds start to spread out under the inversion at a level where they block the sun in such a manner that the heating process comes to a rest. After some time the clouds dissolve and the process starts all over again.

    From my own experience, I know that different landscapes produce thermals (rising air currents) at different times during the day.

    The first significant source of rising air currents are dry sand area’s which heat up very quickly. Extremely strong currents can be found at the boundary area of dry sand or rocks and water. Later during the day, villages, cities, rail stations and shopping mauls whith huge parking lots generate thermals. At the end of the day, cities, and later the woods which have been absorbing the heat during the day perform a slow release where air currents still climb with speeds between 0.5 and 1.5 meter per second.

    Soaring pilots today have huge databases where to find the best thermals depending on the wind direction.

    Anyhow, the process of rising air currents is a continuous process which also happens on cloudless days as long as the sun heats the earth.
    The relative difference in temperaure is what makes this natural air mixing machine. Just remember, relative warm air always goes up.

    The effect of any CO2 in this process is entirely irrelevant.

    One remark:

    Some posters believe that the convective process stops when the sun goes down. This is not always the case.
    If the air is sufficient unstable and energy is retracted form the land or water, heavy storms also occure by night, including tornado’s.

  109. If models are only accurate at the mesoscale level, and inaccurate at any higher level, then the best thing to do with them is ignore them.

    Another way of looking at it. Suppose there was an anti-greenhouse effect of about 10 percent of the long-wave warming from the atmosphere, about 20 watts/m2. Using the 1.5K/Wm2 sensitivity figure, that would mean cooling below the black-body radiation equilibrium temperature of the Earth.

  110. Stephen Wilde (06:17:18) :
    Stephen Wilde (10:33:30) :

    Anthony, if he is willing to write it, it might be nice to post?

    just one vote here lol
    Tim

  111. Hi Peter,

    I agree we should ignore climate models. On the 10% anti-greenhouse effect, do you mean 10% of outgoing LW reflected back or trapped in the atmosphere by clouds? I think the bulk of LW is trapped or lost to space by GH gases, mostly water vapor and not clouds. The atmosphere sends 10 times as much energy to space as the ground which is why high clouds versus low clouds is such an important factor. High cloud tops are cold and low cloud tops are warm, a fact I should have mentioned above. Warmer cloud tops send more IR to space.

    Clouds are less important than the weather that creates them since it is the upper tropospheric moisture that really matters.

  112. Eric (skeptic) (19:07:59) :

    Despite the disdain for models here, they provide accurate results for different cloud scenarios. The reason they are not useful for AGW predictions is that the models cannot predict the cloud scenario accurately unless they accurately model future weather (ie the weather in a world with more CO2) in sufficient detail. Since computational power essegntially limits model resolution (both vertical and horizontal), weather effects including cloud are parameterized at smaller scales.

    The argument for bigger and bigger computer facilities can be used, but is perpendicular to whether a model is good or not. If the model is inherently bad in its initial assumptions it will be bad with infinite computational capacity.

    I am convinced that the climate models by construction cannot be projected to the time scales that are presumed possible. I have two arguments, one dovetailing into the other:

    1) There is an underlying assumption that the solutions of the fluid dynamics equations used are well behaved and stable. This hidden assumption is what would legalize the use of averages over grid boxes for many of the variables that are being integrated over when doing a time stepping. This is a wrong assumption for a system that is based on a chaotic substratum. Turbulences, convections etc.

    2) argument 1) is demonstrated in the inability of GC models to predict weather for more than a weak or so. It is not the computer power, it is the unpredictability, instability, multiple solutions available of the chaotic weather system. As climate models are glorified weather models the result is the same. Use of simplifying first order approximation of solutions of chaotic systems are bound to diverge from reality after a certain number of time steps. For weather, it is a week that proves it, for climate evidently a decade .

  113. Jeff F (19:06:54) :

    I always thought the picture in your web site header was an excellent example of this issue; a picture from the Space Shuttle I expect. I am quite surprised there is any debate, or disregard, of this phenomenon.

    REPLY: Believe it or not, you are the first person to comment on it – thanks – Anthony

    Hmm, that’s rather rude of us. And I even spent some time marveling at it. The storm isn’t associated with a cold front, so the anvil isn’t being blown well ahead of the storm. Hence the central convection is surrounded by anvil.

    The small cumulus is interesting in its own right. The clouds seem to reach a certain height and then start growing quickly. Is that an example of what I think is called “marginally stable” air?

    You do a good job picking photos to go along with the stories.

  114. Hank (15:50:12) :

    I was trying express a simple thought. Namely, if you interpose a barrier between something warm (the sun) and cold (the earth) the cold thing is gonna get colder…And so, overall, how could clouds do anything but tend to cool?

    Well, sometimes you can be in a (cool) house that the sun is beating down on through a barrier (the roof) and it gets warmer inside than it is outside. How do you explain that?

  115. Fascinating discussion.

    I can’t add to it, but that picture of the cumulonimbus cloud is fantastic. Where was it taken?

  116. Ric Werme (16:13:42) :

    1366 is the incident (Sun overhead) value, 342 is the average over the entire Earth (surface area 4 x pi x r^2, area intercepted pi x r^2).

    r=6371km
    pi=3.1416

    4 x pi x r x r = 510065664km² but this leads up the wrong path since 1366W/m² is the Top Of Atmosphere value.

    A better way is to calculate how much energy is notionally received by earth at any given time. The first step is to calculate the area of the earths disk given the above value of “r” and “pi”.

    pi x r x r = 127516117km² or 127516117×10^6m² then multiply it by the energy received over the area 1366W/m²

    = 17.4187×10^16 W.

    Now 4 x pi x r x r = 510065664km² gives surface area so

    17.4187×10^16 W divided by 510065664×10^6 = 341.5 Approx.

    The easy way is just to divide the energy input by 4 but I wanted to remind myself how we get there.

  117. Eric,
    “On the 10% anti-greenhouse effect, do you mean 10% of outgoing LW reflected back or trapped in the atmosphere by clouds? I think the bulk of LW is trapped or lost to space by GH gases, mostly water vapor and not clouds. The atmosphere sends 10 times as much energy to space as the ground which is why high clouds versus low clouds is such an important factor. High cloud tops are cold and low cloud tops are warm, a fact I should have mentioned above. Warmer cloud tops send more IR to space.
    Clouds are less important than the weather that creates them since it is the upper tropospheric moisture that really matters.”

    After much googling, I finally found this climate model here.
    http://www.windows.ucar.edu/tour/link=/earth/climate/warming_clouds_albedo_feedback.html&edu=high
    It has the following heat balance for the Earth’s surface:
    Incoming:
    Solar radiation absorbed by surface = 168W/m2
    Atmospheric Back Radiation = 324 W/m2
    Outgoing:
    Thermals = 24 W/m2
    Evaporation = 78 W/m2
    Surface radiation to atmosphere = 350 W/m2
    Surface radiation to space = 40 W/m2

    The greenhouse effect means there is a bit more surface radiation to the atmosphere and a bit less radiation to space. My point is if the atmosphere was 10 percent less absorbing of surface radiation, then if the sensitivity of the Earth’s surface temperature is 1.6 K/W/m2 to the surface radiation to the atmosphere , then feeding in 10 percent of that 350 w/m2 figure, this would mean a decrease in surface temperature of 1.6 x 35 = a hell of a lot, less than the blackbody equilibrium temperature. So a figure of 1.6 for the sensitivity seems absurd to me.

  118. hunter (10:36:35) :
    “No one doubts that CO2 in a sealed box will do what it does.
    The question is how is this manifested on the vastly larger, vastly more complex, Earth climate system?”

    I know that, but the person that wrote the comment was replying to an the question of another blogger that asked for real(physical proof). What I posted was his reply. I thought it silly and funny for the poster to use a high school project as his proof or reason for believing in AGW. The poster obviously forgot that the Real Earth atmosphere is not a sealed box and has 1000’s of variables involved in determining our current climate. I just posted it so that maybe some else would get a little chuckle out of it, like I did. ;)
    Smallz

  119. A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20×10 to the 13 th watts and converts less than 10% of the heat into the mechanical energy of the wind. The heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. According to the 1993 World Almanac, the entire human race used energy at a rate of 10 to the 13 th watts in 1990, a rate less than 20% of the power of a hurricane

  120. George E. Smith (13:54:01) :

    So John, I take it that after you have superparametricized your model and properly gridded it, that you can run the model and it will replicate the actual measured values that you read at each of those gridded points on planet earth; If it does not, why do you continue to use that model ?

    George

    I think we’re in violent agreement. 8^)

    If it does not replicate the observed data, the model is invalid. Continuing to use it is sloppy science. Changing the observed data to match the model, and then claiming the model is “validated” or “verified” is fraud.

    A note on gridding (or meshing). A big source of error in modeling and simulation is defining meshes that don’t have homogenous properties. Large problems are usually run for a number of time steps, intermediate results examined, and the model remeshed to obtain homogeneity, then continued. Some examples are studying how a vehicle structure plastically deforms to absorb energy, analyzing warheads, or studying terminal ballistics. (I’ve been involved in all three, so I’m well aware of the dangers of sloppy analytical technique.) I wouldn’t see any need for remeshing in a climate or cloud model, but proper meshing is critical.

    I don’t recall if I read it here or on another site, but someone was describing meshing techniques in some of the GCMs. Apparently, some of them model the ocean in wedges from the equator 100s of kms long – WRONG. Others have meshes that include ocean, city and mountains – WRONG. Any “scientist” doing this would be more correctly understood as a child playing with tools he doesn’t understand.

    A further observation on the GCMs. If I took on the program of building a climate model, based on my own experience, I’d have a staff of 15-20 Ph.D.s in solar physics, atmospheric science, optical physics, oceanography, thermodynamics, computational fluid dynamics, and finite element modeling. I’d have an additional staff of 10 or so software professionals. I wouldn’t promise the first version for 3 to 5 years. And, yes, the model would be independently validated (to ensure we actually built what we thought we’d built) and verified against observational data. If there’s a GCM out there developed using this approach, I haven’t heard of it.

  121. oms (22:11:34) :
    Hank (15:50:12) :
    I was trying express a simple thought. Namely, if you interpose a barrier between something warm (the sun) and cold (the earth) the cold thing is gonna get colder…And so, overall, how could clouds do anything but tend to cool?

    Well, sometimes you can be in a (cool) house that the sun is beating down on through a barrier (the roof) and it gets warmer inside than it is outside. How do you explain that?

    Dark shingles, and lack of air-flow, ie greenhouse effect. Open your windows. Don’t worry, the models have the same problem, no empirical evidence in an open-air experiment.

  122. peter_ga,

    One of the biggest uncertainties and one of the biggest leaps of faith/assumption in greenhouse theory is the ?K/W/m2 value.

    The estimates for its value range from 0.1 to 1.0.

    The climate models are presently using about 0.32C in hindcasts and for short-term predictions but the value increases over time up to 0.75C as the long-term equilibrium sets in. Hansen may have used 1.5C as the long-long-term value in his most recent paper.

    And I’ve seen climate models use different values for different forcings such as 0.15C for volcanoes.

    This is one of the big shortcomings in greenhouse theory that is not talked about much. I think they need to start over with this and develop a theory that is more robust and one that works in the same timelines that the energy being talked here works in [EM radiation that is and that works at the speed of light modulated by the ability of atmospheric, land and ocean molecules to store up this energy – in essence quantum physics/mechanics].

    On average, a photon of light received from the Sun escapes back into space within 18 hours. In the cloud feedback example of this thread, the length of time that a photon is “reflected” (more accurately absorbed by a cloud H20 molecule and then emitted back into space) is less than 1 minute. It is possible that a photon absorbed by an ocean H20 molecule may spend more than a thousand years in the deep ocean. I don’t think the physics have been worked out for the proper ?K/Wm2 value at all, they are just guessing based on solving a few equations.

    It is literally the second half of the equation for the temperature impact of global warming and we don’t have a solid foundation for its value.

  123. oms
    What I always heard was that the heat hits the roof (the barrier) and then once the barrier heats up it conducts in and heats the air inside. Also, since the air is trapped and can’t convect, heat builds up. That is the other part of what I had always heard, namely, that the heat inside a greenhouse (or attic) mostly results just because the air is trapped, and that outdoors as air heats up it convects upward. What I’m not clear on is to what degree heat that convects up to the upper parts of the atmosphere cools by anything other that temperature/volume considerations.

    I suppose what my statement presupposed was that I was talking about heat transferred by the radiative process from sun to earth.

  124. As climate models are glorified weather models the result is the same. Use of simplifying first order approximation of solutions of chaotic systems are bound to diverge from reality after a certain number of time steps. For weather, it is a week that proves it, for climate evidently a decade .
    Hi anna,

    I think the chaos argument is valid, but climate chaos has some different sources than weather chaos. I assume the sun is a chaotic system which makes us unable to predict the current cycle (or perhaps we just don’t know enough or aren’t taking the right measurements?). The effects on weather are somewhat unknown and possibly chaotic.

    Then the circulations like ENSO and PDO are chaotic and coupled. Unfortunately they are also coupled to the atmosphere and the chaotic influences of weather. So presumably it goes butterfly somewhere -> hurricane -> puff of wind somewhere -> PDO shift. None of that will ever be predictable but I still believe that improvements in model fidelity will yield more accurate depictions (a weasel word instead of predictions) of climate under new forcings like more CO2.

  125. Incoming:
    Solar radiation absorbed by surface = 168W/m2
    Atmospheric Back Radiation = 324 W/m2
    Outgoing:
    Thermals = 24 W/m2
    Evaporation = 78 W/m2
    Surface radiation to atmosphere = 350 W/m2
    Surface radiation to space = 40 W/m2

    Hi peter,
    I see what you are saying. But is climate sensitivity really based on the surface radiation to atmosphere, or on atmosphere radiation to space? It seems to me that clouds (and of course water vapor and weather in general) affect both and the surface radiation to space. I don’t see how the 1.6 figure can only be applied to one quantity in your list and not the others (to a greater or lesser extent).

    For example if the atmosphere is 10% less absorbing of surface radiation, wouldn’t the amount of energy of atmospheric back radiation also change?

  126. Eric (skeptic) (21:01:34) :

    “Clouds are less important than the weather that creates them since it is the upper tropospheric moisture that really matters”.

    Eric, this statement is utter BS.
    First of all, there is no tropospheric moisture in the troposphere.
    If any it’s ice or ice needles from Cirrus clouds and the upper amsel of CB clouds. In general the temp at tropospheric level is minus 55 degree celcsus.

    Clouds are the visual weather and the proces of heating causing the air to expand and rise (convection) is the
    most important energy destructor of the entire weather system.

  127. During Solar minimum the vertical height of the atmosphere is reduced and the upper atmosphere is colder. Would this not cause the vertical movement described to be stronger and carry more heat to be radiated to space?

  128. Smallz7
    Introduce a small amount of additional CO2 into one tank

    I bet experiment doesn’t call for calculation of the pre-existing volume of CO2 in both tanks! A 10 litre bell jar of air will contain less than 5ml of CO2 – I wonder how much the temperature rises with another teaspoonful..?

  129. John W. (05:25:45):

    Youre absolutely right about the professional, multi-disciplinary way to construct a climate model. But, then again, you’ve apparently never heard things discussed in a faculty club or a bureaucratic agency. Those guys know EVERYTHING!

  130. By the way, the world’s largest carbon emitter has told the UN to take their climate treaties and stick them.

    Climate pact in jeopardy as China refuses to cut carbon emissions

    China will not make a binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions, putting in jeopardy the prospects for a global pact on climate change.

    Officials from Beijing told a UN conference in Bonn yesterday that China would increase its emissions to develop its economy rather than sign up to mandatory cuts.

    The refusal is a setback for President Obama’s efforts to drum up support for an agreement at Copenhagen in December on a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. As argument erupted between rich and poor nations at the Bonn talks, Yvo de Boer, the UN climate change chief, said that a worldwide pact to prevent global warming was “physically impossible”.

  131. John W. (05:25:45) :

    A further observation on the GCMs. If I took on the program of building a climate model, based on my own experience, I’d have a staff of 15-20 Ph.D.s in solar physics, atmospheric science, optical physics, oceanography, thermodynamics, computational fluid dynamics, and finite element modeling…

    If there’s a GCM out there developed using this approach, I haven’t heard of it.

    You provide the people and the funds, and I’m sure it will be done.

  132. Hank (06:24:38) :

    What I always heard was that the heat hits the roof (the barrier) and then once the barrier heats up it conducts in and heats the air inside.

    The barrier itself has a temperature, and it radiates downward and upward (in addition to conduction as you mentioned). If it were only conduction, then you might expect the top of the room to heat up in statically stable configuration (since only the air at the top can touch the hot roof) and the bottom to remain cool, (except for the very slow rate of downward heat diffusion).

    What I’m not clear on is to what degree heat that convects up to the upper parts of the atmosphere cools by anything other that temperature/volume considerations.

    Eventually, the air has to radiate heat to space, right? There’s nothing else to conduct to at the top boundary and yet heat does escape.

  133. oms
    eventually, yes. That seems to be the nub of the whole problem – how long… to what degree. Modelers have taken on an big task for themselves.

  134. First of all, there is no tropospheric moisture in the troposphere.
    If any it’s ice or ice needles from Cirrus clouds and the upper amsel of CB clouds. In general the temp at tropospheric level is minus 55 degree celcsus

    Ron,

    That’s not correct. Here’s the current upper troposphere plot of winds, heights, temperatures and dewpoints: http://weather.unisys.com/upper_air/ua_300.html The sky above me is completely clear (northern VA) is completely clear due to very dry air (300mb dewpoint is -63). That means I have global cooling in my local area.

    There is gaseous water (water vapor) in that -41C air and there is always water vapor in -55C air. There will be water vapor in any air above absolute zero provided there was some to start out (e.g. ice crystals to sublime like when you watch a contrail disappear). The amount of water vapor will depend on air temperature and pressure.

  135. Well several people raised issues with elements of one of my posts.

    Ric Werme introduced the 4:1 ratio of a sphere surface are a to a circle of the same diameter. That has little to do with the issue I raised. When the sun comes up over San Jose California; it doesn nto radiate at 342 W/m^2 less atmospheric absorption; we are used to getting the full 1366 W/m^2 less atmospheric absorption which brings it down to aorund 1000 W/m^2 which is a far cry from the 168 +30 reflected, that NOAA claims. Now we also have a latitude obliquity factor to get actual ground area insolation; but the point is that when we get sun, we get it at a level that is about 5 times what NOAA figures suggest.

    This does two things; first of all our surface temperatures warm up much faster than they would under the NOAA sun, and because of the greater flux; the surface temperatures get very much higher than the 15 deg c that corresponds to NOAA’s budget. That means that our surfaces radiate infra red energy at a much higher rate than the NOAA model would lead to, and when the sun goes down in the evenings which it doesn’t in the NOAA budget, our suface temperatures drop very rapidly.

    My whole point is that the real planet earth responds completely differently to the real energy and temperature variations than some fictitious planet would to NOAAs global average fictional model.

    Harold Ambler says that his surfing temperatures go down evn though no hurricane comes within 300 miles.

    Well then that has nothing to do with my post; because what I talked about was what happened to the water surface temperatures AFTER a real live hurricane had already passed over those waters. So NO Harold, if the hurricane didn’t come within 300 miles of you then what I said would not apply to your surfing waters. The astronomical thermal energy in a hurricane can only come from the waters that the hurricane passed over; it won”t transport enegy from the sourth pole or any other place that the hurricane didn’t pass over.

    Bill Illis mentioned that a photon escapes from the atmosphere on average within 18 hours. I would venture that it doesn’t last here for more than 18 milliseconds.

    An incoming solar photon can traverse 300 km of the atmosphere in a single millisecond. If it encounters elastic scattering on the way, it may meander for a bit, somewhat like Brownian motion or a random walk problem; and something tells me that doesn’t increase the travel time by more than a factor of pi on average, or maybe it is sqrt (pi). So solar photons are all dead in less than 5 milliseconds; having hit something fatal to their existance; like the waters of the ocean mostly; where their energy becomes thermalized as waste “heat energy”, or else they get capture by some clorphyl or other biologicvally active molecule and energise some life form.

    Outgoing thermal radiation photons have a more bizarre life since they can escape in one msec or else get captured; and at high altitudes coud re-radiate; but at lower altitudes they get lost to thermalization by collisions with atmospheric gases. This will result in thermal emission at some other energy level and wavelength; only to run the gauntlet again.

    But once agfain I don’t see any photon surviving for 18 msec, let alone 18 hours.

    Photons are not like high energy neutrons that can get thermalized down to a few eV, and then wander around aimlessly; but they too suffer oblivion; since free neutrons have a half life of 14 minutes

    So nearly 99% fo thermal neutrons would be gone in just one hour.

    Most of the time, when I post something here; I specify the conditions I am talking about rather carefully. You can introduce arbitrary variation like surfing wet suits if you want to; but that makes it a diffeent problem from the one I was talking about.

    I once wrote in Physics Today, in commenting on a review of Spencer Weart’s book; “The Discovery of Global Warming”, that when the floating se ice melts, the latent heat to melt it comes out of the ocean water it is floating on which thereby cools, and shrinks so the sea level will go down when the floating sea ice melts.

    Weart scoffed at that suggestion, in his response to my letter; and affirmed that whent he ocean waters heat up; they expand so the sea level will rise.

    I couldn’t agree more; but what the blazes does that have to do with the melting of the floating sea ice; which is what I was talking about.

    So if you want to change the problem conditions then don’t expect to come up with the same conclusion I reach for my set of conditions.

    George

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