The Thermostat Hypothesis

Guest Essay by Willis Eschenbach

thermostat_earth

Abstract

The Thermostat Hypothesis is that tropical clouds and thunderstorms, along with other emergent phenomena like dust devils, tornadoes, and the El Nino/La Nina alteration, actively regulate the temperature of the earth. This keeps the earth at a equilibrium temperature.

Several kinds of evidence are presented to establish and elucidate the Thermostat Hypothesis – historical temperature stability of the Earth, theoretical considerations, satellite photos, and a description of the equilibrium mechanism.

Historical Stability

The stability of the earth’s temperature over time has been a long-standing climatological puzzle. The globe has maintained a temperature of ± ~ 3% (including ice ages) for at least the last half a billion years during which we can estimate the temperature. During the Holocene, temperatures have not varied by ±1%. And during the glaciation periods, the temperature was generally similarly stable as well.

In contrast to Earth’s temperature stability, solar physics has long indicated (Gough, 1981; Bahcall et al., 2001) that 4 billion years ago the total solar irradiance was about three quarters of the current value. In early geological times, however, the earth was not correspondingly cooler. Temperature proxies such as deuterium/hydrogen ratios and 16O/18O ratios show no sign of a corresponding warming of the earth over this time. Why didn’t the earth warm as the sun warmed?

This is called the “Faint Early Sun Paradox” (Sagan and Mullen, 1972), and is usually explained by positing an early atmosphere much richer in greenhouse gases than the current atmosphere.

However, this would imply a gradual decrease in GHG forcing which exactly matched the incremental billion-year increase in solar forcing to the present value. This seems highly unlikely.

A much more likely candidate is some natural mechanism which has regulated the earth’s temperature over geological time.

Theoretical Considerations

Bejan (Bejan 2005) has shown that the climate can be robustly modeled as a heat engine, with the ocean and the atmosphere being the working fluids. The tropics are the hot end of the heat engine. Some of that tropical heat is radiated back into space. Work is performed by the working fluids in the course of transporting the rest of that tropical heat to the Poles. There, at the cold end of the heat engine, the heat is radiated into space. Bejan showed that the existence and areal coverage of the Hadley cells is a derivable result of the Constructal Law. He also showed how the temperatures of the flow system are determined.

“We pursue this from the constructal point of view, which is that the [global] circulation itself represents a flow geometry that is the result of the maximization of global performance subject to global constraints.”

“The most power that the composite system could produce is associated with the reversible operation of the power plant. The power output in this limit is proportional to

Willis_eq1

where q is the total energy flow through the system (tropics to poles), and TH and TL are the high and low temperatures (tropical and polar temperatures in Kelvins).

The system works ceaselessly to maximize that power output. Here is a view of the entire system that transports heat from the tropics to the poles.

Willis_Image1

Figure 1. The Earth as a Heat Engine. The equatorial Hadley Cells provide the power for the system. Over the tropics, the sun (orange arrows) is strongest because it hits the earth most squarely. The length of the orange arrows shows relative sun strength. Warm dry air descends at about 30N and 30S, forming the great desert belts that circle the globe. Heat is transported by a combination of the ocean and the atmosphere to the poles. At the poles, the heat is radiated to space.

In other words, flow systems such as the Earth’s climate do not assume a stable temperature willy-nilly. They reshape their own flow in such a way as to maximize the energy produced and consumed. It is this dynamic process, and not a simple linear transformation of the details of the atmospheric gas composition, which sets the overall working temperature range of the planet.

Note that the Constructal Law says that any flow system will “quasi-stabilize” in orbit around (but never achieve) some ideal state. In the case of the climate, this is the state of maximum total power production and consumption. And this in turn implies that any watery planet will have an equilibrium temperature, which is actively maintained by the flow system. See the paper by Ou listed below for further information on the process.

Climate Governing Mechanism

Every heat engine has a throttle. The throttle is the part of the engine that controls how much energy enters the heat engine. A motorcycle has a hand throttle. In an automobile, the throttle is called the gas pedal. It controls incoming energy.

The stability of the earth’s temperature over time (including alternating bi-stable glacial/interglacial periods), as well as theoretical considerations, indicates that this heat engine we call climate must have some kind of governor controlling the throttle.

While all heat engines have a throttle, not all of them have a governor. In a car, a governor is called “Cruise Control”. Cruise control is a governor that controls the throttle (gas pedal). A governor adjusts the energy going to the car engine to maintain a constant speed regardless of changes in internal and external forcing (e.g. hills, winds, engine efficiency and losses).

We can narrow the candidates for this climate governing mechanism by noting first that a governor controls the throttle (which in turn controls the energy supplied to a heat engine). Second, we note that a successful governor must be able to drive the system beyond the desired result (overshoot).

(Note that a governor, which contains a hysteresis loop, is different from a negative feedback. A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses. Only a governor can do that.)

The majority of the earth’s absorption of heat from the sun takes place in the tropics. The tropics, like the rest of the world, are mostly ocean; and what land is there is wet. The steamy tropics, in a word. There is little ice there, so the clouds control how much energy enters the climate heat engine.

I propose that two inter-related but separate mechanisms act directly to regulate the earth’s temperature — tropical cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds. Cumulus clouds are the fluffy “cotton ball” clouds that abound near the surface on warm afternoons. Cumulonimbus clouds are thunderstorms clouds, which start life as simple cumulus clouds. Both types of clouds are part of the throttle control, reducing incoming energy. In addition, the cumulonimbus clouds are active heat engines which provide the necessary overshoot to act as a governor on the system.

A pleasant thought experiment shows how this cloud governor works. It’s called “A Day In the Tropics”.

I live in the deep, moist tropics, at 9°S, with a view of the South Pacific Ocean from my windows. Here’s what a typical day looks like. In fact, it’s a typical summer day everywhere in the Tropics. The weather report goes like this:

Clear and calm at dawn. Light morning winds, clouding up towards noon. In the afternoon, increasing clouds and wind with a chance of showers and thundershowers as the storms develop. Clearing around or after sunset, with an occasional thunderstorm after dark. Progressive clearing until dawn.

That’s the most common daily cycle of tropical weather, common enough to be a cliché around the world.

It is driven by the day/night variations in the strength of the sun’s energy. Before dawn, the atmosphere is typically calm and clear. As the ocean (or moist land) heats up, air temperature and evaporation increase. Warm moist air starts to rise. Soon the rising moist air cools and condenses into clouds. The clouds reflect the sunlight. That’s the first step of climate regulation. Increased temperature leads to clouds. The clouds close the throttle slightly, reduce the energy entering the system. They start cooling things down. This is the negative feedback part of the cloud climate control.

The tropical sun is strong, and despite the negative feedback from the cumulus clouds, the day continues to heat up. The more the sun hits the ocean, the more warm, moist air is formed, and the more cumulus clouds form. This, of course, reflects more sun, the throttle closes a bit more. But the day continues to warm.

The full development of the cumulus clouds sets the stage for the second part of temperature regulation. This is not simple negative feedback. It is the climate governing system. As the temperature continues to rise, as the evaporation climbs, some of the fluffy cumulus clouds suddenly transform themselves. They rapidly extend skywards, thrusting up to form pillars of cloud thousands of meters high in a short time. These cumulus are transformed into cumulonimbus or thunderstorm clouds. The columnar body of the thunderstorm acts as a huge vertical heat pipe. The thunderstorm sucks up warm, moist air at the surface and shoots it skyward. At altitude the water condenses, transforming the latent heat into sensible heat. The air is rewarmed by this release of sensible heat, and continues to rise.

At the top, the air is released from the cloud up high, way above most of the CO2. In that rarified atmosphere, the air is much freer to radiate to space. By moving inside the thunderstorm heat pipe, the air bypasses most of the greenhouse gases and comes out near the top of the troposphere. During the transport aloft, there is no radiative or turbulent interaction between the rising air and the lower and middle troposphere. Inside the thunderstorm, the rising air is tunneled through most of the troposphere to emerge at the top.

In addition to reflecting sunlight from their top surface as cumulus clouds do, and transporting heat to the upper troposphere where it radiates easily to space, thunderstorms cool the surface in a variety of other ways, particularly over the ocean.

1. Wind driven evaporative cooling. Once the thunderstorm starts, it creates its own wind around the base. This self-generated wind increases evaporation in several ways, particularly over the ocean.

a) Evaporation rises linearly with wind speed. At a typical squall wind speed of 10 mps (20 knots), evaporation is about ten times higher than at “calm” conditions (conventionally taken as 1 mps).

b) The wind increases evaporation by creating spray and foam, and by blowing water off of trees and leaves. These greatly increase the evaporative surface area, because the total surface area of the millions of droplets is evaporating as well as the actual surface itself.

c) To a lesser extent, surface area is also increased by wind-created waves (a wavy surface has larger evaporative area than a flat surface).

d) Wind created waves in turn greatly increase turbulence in the atmospheric boundary layer. This increases evaporation by mixing dry air down to the surface and moist air upwards.

e) As spray rapidly warms to air temperature, which in the tropics is often warmer than ocean temperature, evaporation also rises above the sea surface evaporation rate.

2. Wind driven albedo increase. The white spray, foam, spindrift, changing angles of incidence, and white breaking wave tops greatly increase the albedo of the sea surface. This reduces the energy absorbed by the ocean.

3. Cold rain and cold wind. As the moist air rises inside the thunderstorm’s heat pipe, water condenses and falls. Since the water is originating from condensing or freezing temperatures aloft, it cools the lower atmosphere it falls through, and it cools the surface when it hits. In addition, the falling rain entrains a cold wind. This cold wind blows radially outwards from the center of the falling rain, cooling the surrounding area.

4. Increased reflective area. White fluffy cumulus clouds are not tall, so basically they only reflect from the tops. On the other hand, the vertical pipe of the thunderstorm reflects sunlight along its entire length. This means that thunderstorms shade an area of the ocean out of proportion to their footprint, particularly in the late afternoon.

5. Modification of upper tropospheric ice crystal cloud amounts (Linden 2001, Spencer 2007) . These clouds form from the tiny ice particles that come out of the smokestack of the thunderstorm heat engines. It appears that the regulation of these clouds has a large effect, as they are thought to warm (through IR absorption) more than they cool (through reflection).

6. Enhanced night-time radiation. Unlike long-lived stratus clouds, cumulus and cumulonimbus often die out and vanish as the night cools, leading to the typically clear skies at dawn. This allows greatly increased nighttime surface radiative cooling to space.

7. Delivery of dry air to the surface. The air being sucked from the surface and lifted to altitude is counterbalanced by a descending flow of replacement air emitted from the top of the thunderstorm. This descending air has had the majority of the water vapor stripped out of it inside the thunderstorm, so it is relatively dry. The dryer the air, the more moisture it can pick up for the next trip to the sky. This increases the evaporative cooling of the surface.

In part because they utilize such a wide range of cooling mechanisms mechanisms, cumulus clouds and thunderstorms are extremely good at cooling the surface of the earth. Together, they form the governing mechanism for the tropical temperature.

But where is that mechanism?

The problem with my thought experiment of describing a typical tropical day is that it is always changing. The temperature goes up and down, the clouds rise and fall, day changes to night, the seasons come and go. Where in all of that unending change is the governing mechanism? If everything is always changing, what keeps it the same month to month and year to year? If conditions are always different, what keeps it from going off the rails?

In order to see the governor at work, we need a different point of view. We need a point of view without time. We need a timeless view without seasons, a point of view with no days and nights. And curiously, in this thought experiment called “A Day In the Tropics”, there is such a timeless point of view, where not only is there no day and night, but where it’s always summer.

The point of view without day or night, the point of view from which we can see the climate governor at work, is the point of view of the sun. Imagine that you are looking at the earth from the sun. From the sun’s point of view, there is no day and night. All parts of the visible face of the earth are always in sunlight, the sun never sees the night time. And it’s always summer under the sun.

If we accept the convenience that north is up, then as we face the earth from the sun, the visible surface of the earth is moving from left to right as the planet rotates. So the left hand edge of the visible face is always at sunrise, and the right hand edge is always at sunset. Noon is a vertical line down the middle. From this timeless point of view, morning is always and forever on the left, and afternoon is always on the right. In short, by shifting our point of view, we have traded time coordinates for space coordinates. This shift makes it easy to see how the governor works.

The tropics stretch from left to right across the circular visible face. We see that near the left end of the tropics, after sunrise, there are very few clouds. Clouds increase as you look further to the right. Around the noon line, there are already cumulus. And as we look from left to right across the right side of the visible face of the earth, towards the afternoon, more and more cumulus clouds and increasing numbers of thunderstorms cover a large amount of the tropics.

It is as though there is a graduated mirror shade over the tropics, with the fewest cloud mirrors on the left, slowly increasing to extensive cloud mirrors and thunderstorm coverage on the right.

After coming up with this hypothesis that as seen from the sun, the right hand side of the deep tropics would have more cloud than the left hand side), I though “Hey, that’s a testable proposition to support or demolish my hypothesis”. So in order to investigate whether this postulated increase in cloud on the right hand side of the earth actually existed, I took an average of 24 pictures of the Pacific Ocean taken at local noon on the 1st and 15th of each month over an entire year. I then calculated the average change in albedo and thus the average change in forcing at each time. Here is the result:

Willis_Image2

Figure 2. Average of one year of GOES-West weather satellite images taken at satellite local noon. The Intertropical Convergence Zone is the bright band in the yellow rectangle. Local time on earth is shown by black lines on the image. Time values are shown at the bottom of the attached graph. Red line on graph is solar forcing anomaly (in watts per square meter) in the area outlined in yellow. Black line is albedo value in the area outlined in yellow.

The graph below the image of the earth shows the albedo and solar forcing in the yellow rectangle which contains the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone. Note the sharp increase in the albedo between 10:00 and 11:30. You are looking at the mechanism that keeps the earth from overheating. It causes a change in insolation of -60 W/m2 between ten and noon.

Now, consider what happens if for some reason the surface of the tropics is a bit cool. The sun takes longer to heat up the surface. Evaporation doesn’t rise until later in the day. Clouds are slow to appear. The first thunderstorms form later, fewer thunderstorms form, and if it’s not warm enough those giant surface-cooling heat engines don’t form at all.

And from the point of view of the sun, the entire mirrored shade shifts to the right, letting more sunshine through for longer. The 60 W/m2 reduction in solar forcing doesn’t take place until later in the day, increasing the local insolation.

When the tropical surface gets a bit warmer than usual, the mirrored shade gets pulled to the left, and clouds form earlier. Hot afternoons drive thunderstorm formation, which cools and air-conditions the surface. In this fashion, a self-adjusting cooling shade of thunderstorms and clouds keeps the afternoon temperature within a narrow range.

Now, some scientists have claimed that clouds have a positive feedback. Because of this, the areas where there are more clouds will end up warmer than areas with less clouds. This positive feedback is seen as the reason that clouds and warmth are correlated.

I and others take the opposite view of that correlation. I hold that the clouds are caused by the warmth, not that the warmth is caused by the clouds.

Fortunately, we have way to determine whether changes in the reflective tropical umbrella of clouds and thunderstorms are caused by (and thus limiting) overall temperature rise, or whether an increase in clouds is causing the overall temperature rise. This is to look at the change in albedo with the change in temperature. Here are two views of the tropical albedo, taken six months apart. August is the warmest month in the Northern Hemisphere. As indicated, the sun is in the North. Note the high albedo (areas of light blue) in all of North Africa, China, and the northern part of South America and Central America. By contrast, there is low albedo in Brazil, Southern Africa, and Indonesia/Australia.

Willis_Image3

Figure 3. Monthly Average Albedo. Timing is half a year apart. August is the height of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. February is the height of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. Light blue areas are the most reflective (greatest albedo)

In February, on the other hand, the sun is in the South. The albedo situation is reversed. Brazil and Southern Africa and Australasia are warm under the sun. In response to the heat, the clouds form, and those areas now have high albedo. By contrast, the north now has low albedo, with the exception of the reflective Sahara and Rub Al Khali Deserts.

Clearly, the cloud albedo (from cumulus and cumulonimbus) follows the sun north and south, keeping the earth from overheating. This shows quite definitively that rather than the warmth being caused by the clouds, the clouds are caused by the warmth.

Quite separately, these images show in a different way that warmth drives the cloud formation. We know that during the summer, the land warms more than the ocean. If temperature is driving the cloud formation, we would expect to see a greater change in the albedo over land than over the ocean. And this is clearly the case. We see in the North Pacific and the Indian Ocean that the sun increases the albedo over the ocean, particularly where the ocean is shallow. But the changes in the land are in general much larger than the changes over the ocean. Again this shows that the clouds are forming in response to, and are therefore limiting, increasing warmth.

How the Governor Works

Tropical cumulus production and thunderstorm production are driven by air density. Air density is a function of temperature (affecting density directly) and evaporation (water vapor is lighter than air).

A thunderstorm is both a self-generating and self-sustaining heat engine. The working fluids are moisture-laden warm air and liquid water. Self-generating means that whenever it gets hot enough over the tropical ocean, which is almost every day, at a certain level of temperature and humidity, some of the fluffy cumulus clouds suddenly catch fire. The tops of the clouds streak upwards, showing the rising progress of the moisture laden surface air. At altitude, the rising air exits the cloud, replace by more moist air from below. Suddenly, in place of a placid cloud, there is an active thunderstorm.

Self-generating means that the thunderstorms arise spontaneously as a function of temperature and evaporation. Above the threshold necessary to create the first thunderstorm, the number of thunderstorms rises rapidly. This rapid increase in thunderstorms limits the amount of temperature rise possible.

Self-sustaining means that once a thunderstorm gets going, it no longer requires the full initiation temperature necessary to get it started. This is because the self-generated wind at the base, plus dry air falling from above, drive the evaporation rate way up. The thunderstorm is driven by air density. It requires a source of light, moist air. The density of the air is determined by both temperature and moisture content (because curiously, water vapor at molecular weight 16 is only a bit more than half as heavy as air, which has a weight of about 29).

Evaporation is not a function of temperature alone. It is governed a complex mix of wind speed, water temperature, and vapor pressure. Evaporation is calculated by what is called a “bulk formula”, which means a formula based on experience rather than theory. One commonly used formula is:

E = VK(es – ea)

where

E = evaporation

V= wind speed (function of temperature difference [∆T])

K = coefficient constant

es = vapor pressure at evaporating surface (function of water temperature in degrees K to the fourth power)

ea = vapor pressure of overlying air (function of relative humidity and air temperature in degrees K to the fourth power)

The critical thing to notice in the formula is that evaporation varies linearly with wind speed. This means that evaporation near a thunderstorm can be an order of magnitude greater than evaporation a short distance away.

In addition to the changes in evaporation, there at least one other mechanism increasing cloud formation as wind increases. This is the wind-driven production of airborne salt crystals. The breaking of wind-driven waves produces these microscopic crystals of salt. The connection to the clouds is that these crystals are the main condensation nuclei for clouds that form over the ocean. The production of additional condensation nuclei, coupled with increased evaporation, leads to larger and faster changes in cloud production with increasing temperature.

So increased wind-driven evaporation means that for the same density of air, the surface temperature can be lower than the temperature required to initiate the thunderstorm. This means that the thunderstorm will still survive and continue cooling the surface to well below the starting temperature.

This ability to drive the temperature lower than the starting point is what distinguishes a governor from a negative feedback. A thunderstorm can do more than just reduce the amount of surface warming. It can actually mechanically cool the surface to below the required initiation temperature. This allows it to actively maintain a fixed temperature in the region surrounding the thunderstorm.

A key feature of this method of control (changing incoming power levels, performing work, and increasing thermal losses to quelch rising temperatures) is that the equilibrium temperature is not governed by changes in the amount of losses or changes in the forcings in the system. The equilibrium temperature is set by the response of wind and water and cloud to increasing temperature, not by the inherent efficiency of or the inputs to the system.

In addition, the equilibrium temperature is not affected much by changes in the strength of the solar irradiation. If the sun gets weaker, evaporation decreases, which decreases clouds, which increases the available sun. This is the likely answer the long-standing question of how the earth’s temperature has stayed stable over geological times, during which time the strength of the sun has increased markedly.

Gradual Equilibrium Variation and Drift

If the Thermostat Hypothesis is correct and the earth does have an actively maintained equilibrium temperature, what causes the slow drifts and other changes in the equilibrium temperature seen in both historical and geological timese?

As shown by Bejan, one determinant of running temperature is how efficient the whole global heat engine is in moving the terawatts of energy from the tropics to the poles. On a geological time scale, the location, orientation, and elevation of the continental land masses is obviously a huge determinant in this regard. That’s what makes Antarctica different from the Arctic today. The lack of a land mass in the Arctic means warm water circulates under the ice. In Antarctica, the cold goes to the bone …

In addition, the oceanic geography which shapes the currents carrying warm tropical water to the poles and returning cold water (eventually) to the tropics is also a very large determinant of the running temperature of the global climate heat engine.

On a shorter term, there could be slow changes in the albedo. The albedo is a function of wind speed, evaporation, cloud dynamics, and (to a lesser degree) snow and ice. Evaporation rates are fixed by thermodynamic laws, which leave only wind speed, cloud dynamics, and snow and ice able to affect the equilibrium.

The variation in the equilibrium temperature may, for example, be the result of a change in the worldwide average wind speed. Wind speed is coupled to the ocean through the action of waves, and long-term variations in the coupled ocean-atmospheric momentum occur. These changes in wind speed may vary the equilibrium temperature in a cyclical fashion.

Or it may be related to a general change in color, type, or extent of either the clouds or the snow and ice. The albedo is dependent on the color of the reflecting substance. If reflections are changed for any reason, the equilibrium temperature could be affected. For snow and ice, this could be e.g. increased melting due to black carbon deposition on the surface. For clouds, this could be a color change due to aerosols or dust.

Finally, the equilibrium variations may relate to the sun. The variation in magnetic and charged particle numbers may be large enough to make a difference. There are strong suggestions that cloud cover is influenced by the 22-year solar Hale magnetic cycle, and this 14-year record only covers part of a single Hale cycle.

Conclusions and Musings

1. The sun puts out more than enough energy to totally roast the earth. It is kept from doing so by the clouds reflecting about a third of the sun’s energy back to space. As near as we can tell, this system of cloud formation to limit temperature rises has never failed.

2. This reflective shield of clouds forms in the tropics in response to increasing temperature.

3. As tropical temperatures continue to rise, the reflective shield is assisted by the formation of independent heat engines called thunderstorms. These cool the surface in a host of ways, move heat aloft, and convert heat to work.

4. Like cumulus clouds, thunderstorms also form in response to increasing temperature.

5. Because they are temperature driven, as tropical temperatures rise, tropical thunderstorms and cumulus production increase. These combine to regulate and limit the temperature rise. When tropical temperatures are cool, tropical skies clear and the earth rapidly warms. But when the tropics heat up, cumulus and cumulonimbus put a limit on the warming. This system keeps the earth within a fairly narrow band of temperatures.

6. The earth’s temperature regulation system is based on the unchanging physics of wind, water, and cloud.

7. This is a reasonable explanation for how the temperature of the earth has stayed so stable (or more recently, bi-stable as glacial and interglacial) for hundreds of millions of years.

Further Reading

Bejan, A, and Reis, A. H., 2005, Thermodynamic optimization of global circulation and climate, Int. J. Energy Res.; 29:303–316. Available online here.

Richard S. Lindzen, Ming-Dah Chou, and A. Y. Hou, 2001, Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris?, doi: 10.1175/1520-0477(2001)082<0417:DTEHAA>2.3.CO;2, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society: Vol. 82, No. 3, pp. 417–432. Available online here.

Ou, Hsien-Wang, Possible Bounds on the Earth’s Surface Temperature: From the Perspective of a Conceptual Global-Mean Model, Journal of Climate, Vol. 14, 1 July 2001. Available online here (pdf).


5 1 vote
Article Rating
415 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
June 14, 2009 11:40 pm

The sun puts out more than enough energy to totally roast the earth. It is kept from doing so by the clouds reflecting about a third of the sun’s energy back to space. As near as we can tell, this system of cloud formation to limit temperature rises has never failed.
I guess I’ll have to do a blog post. Thanks Willis!

Fluffy Clouds (Tim L)
June 15, 2009 12:29 am

good one, a long read!
Tx

Nylo
June 15, 2009 12:47 am

Thanks a lot for that article. It is really an eye opener. Every AGWer should have a look at it. I already was a skeptic, but this new point of view “from the sun” makes me doubt even the temperature records provided by GISS and the like. We have no idea of what the planet’s temperature is. Even with satellites, we are only deciding if a place is warming or cooling by checking its maximum and minimum temperature during a day and how the numbers evolve in time. We know nothing about how fast it rises, how fast it falls, for how long it mantains each temperature, all of which affect emisivity of the Earth. And clouds have a lot to say about that. And then there is the UHI effect, of course.
For me this has been the very best article I have read in WUWT since I follow it.

crosspatch
June 15, 2009 1:04 am

Well, there can be no doubt that the atmosphere was richer in CO2 billions of years ago. That is where all of today’s coal, oil, limestone, and marble come from. If you take ALL of the coal, ALL of the oil, ALL of the limestone and ALL of the marble on the entire planet and convert it all back to CO2, you have a situation much like what we had back then. Then add the fact that there was much more volcanism at that time. Anyone who would claim that the atmosphere at the time when the sun was 30% dimmer wasn’t much richer in CO2 is not doing the math.

timetochooseagain
June 15, 2009 1:06 am

A very good essay Willis! Truly fascinating remarks with regard to the importance of wv and clouds.

June 15, 2009 1:08 am

“The globe has maintained a temperature of ± ~ 3% (including ice ages) for at least the last half a billion years”
What is this in degrees?
[REPLY – Degrees Kelvin. The only way you can do degree percentages ins starting from absolute zero. ~ Evan]

Data
June 15, 2009 1:10 am

I’m a little puzzled by this paragraph:
“(Note that a governor, which contains a hysteresis loop, is different from a negative feedback. A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses. Only a governor can do that.)”
But a negative-feedback amplifier, within operating parameters, can maintain a desired output in the face of all of the disturbances you list. Certainly the mechanism of negative feedback as applied in electronics can in principle compensate for any change in forcing, not increases only. And of course a governor mechanism uses negative feedback to operate. Perhaps you mean something different by the term?

June 15, 2009 1:30 am

O/T Paul McCartney is advocating people go veggie on Mondays in order to save the planet from global warming. A cynical person might point out that, given Macca has allegedly suffered tens of millions wiped off his portfolio due to the recession, many people might turn to the McCartney brand of vegetarian food as a convenient option in order to boost his flagging profits.
Pathetic…

Malcolm
June 15, 2009 1:36 am

re: “(Note that a governor, which contains a hysteresis loop, is different from a negative feedback. A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses. Only a governor can do that.)”
A “climate governor” suggests an open loop system (no feedback), whilst “temperature stability” suggests a closed loop system (negative feedback).

Jari
June 15, 2009 2:15 am

Interesting reading. Since it seems that Willis was correct about the Tuvalu sea level not rising (latest data here http://www.bom.gov.au/ntc/IDO60101/IDO60101.200904.pdf), maybe this hypothesis is correct too.

jmrSudbury
June 15, 2009 2:40 am

David Montgomery (01:08:11) : The earth’s surface air temperature is currently around 287 K. The 3% of that is +-9 K. I don’t know what the average is, but these numbers indicate a 18K temperature spread from the warmest to the coldest. — John M Reynolds

Anne
June 15, 2009 2:44 am

Ahhh, now I see why models without clouds can have tipping points, yet no such tipping points have occurred in the past.
Take that Gavin.

VG
June 15, 2009 2:46 am

RE this posting: If this did not happen we would not be here In general most life systems (including weather if we could call it a life system!), 1- 1 = 0,
BTW on anotehr note…Me thinks that in general, the Scandinavians have decided to no longer go on with the charade and are adjusting realistically..
http://arctic-roos.org/observations/satellite-data/sea-ice/ice-area-and-extent-in-arctic
also DMI
http://ocean.dmi.dk/arctic/icecover.uk.php lets see in the USA ice monitors realize this the sooner the better.

anna v
June 15, 2009 2:48 am

OK, this is coherent and plausible.
Now I would be interested to see in this model whatis the effect of the different absorption by the oceans of different frequencies of incoming sunlight; for example, what percentage of those 90 watts/m2 is due to UV. The 8% change in ultraviolet energy from sun minimum to sun maximum might be effective in modulating the heat engine with no amplification needed.

Editor
June 15, 2009 2:51 am

One thing this post leaves out is the important part that life has played in sequestering most of the early terran atmosphere in limestone deposits. Earth’s atmosphere was, at one point, 52 times more dense than today, with a large CO2 component. Even during the cretaceous and jurassic periods, CO2 levels were significantly higher than today by several times and atmospheric density overall was significantly higher. Over time, as the sun has heated up, CO2 levels have gone down and overall atmospheric density has gone down, as more and more CO2, O2, and H2O have been locked into limestone by coral. It is true that much CO2 has also been locked into fossil fuels like oil, natural gas, and methane hydrates in sea bottoms that subducts over time beneath the continent, and that a lot of this CO2 returns to the atmosphere via volcanic erutpions, however this merely gives the CO2 a second shot to be sequestered permanently into limestone via coral deposits.

stumpy
June 15, 2009 3:16 am

I thought a trace gas regulated the earths climate? Seriously though, excellent post! Love the comment on clouds causing warming, some people are unable to look out the window and make a scientific observation!
I have come to a similar conclusion where the earths climate is regulated by the ocean, convection, cloud cover and atmospheric mass with greenhouse gasses playing only a small role in the overall scheme of things. The more heat in the system the more the climate will work to remove this heat, increasing outgoing longwave energy observed over the last few decades demonstrates this system of self regulation.
We cant even start to assess any anthropogenic effect on climate until we fully understand the natural climate system – and so far we are not even close!
Good work

DJ
June 15, 2009 3:18 am

Just when might this thermostat kick in? It’s been an extraordinary hot May at the planets surface and that is post La Nina (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/). We will almost certainly see the largest positive monthly temperature anomaly every observed by man at the earth’s surface in the coming months.
It’s not going to be a pretty sight next year as we go post El Nino and have a warming sun. Watch for a big step up in sea level, a sharp decline in sea ice, and the hottest year on record.

John Wright
June 15, 2009 3:30 am

The parallel with cruise control is intriguing. Personally I never use it because it is reactive rather than anticipatory. Any experienced driver will tell you that he starts to step on the gas just before reaching the start of an up grade. By the time the cruise control kicks in, the vehicle has already slowed down. You lose speed, and I am sure waste fuel in the long run. However if a similar process takes place in the earth’s temperature control system, this could surely provide an element in weather forecasting precisely because of what I what drives me mad with cruise control i.e. delay in reacting.
Just an idea I throw in.

June 15, 2009 3:40 am

Very nice Willis. Re: Malcolm, It doesn’t mater if the system is open or closed if the thermostat has control of sufficient energy to maintain its set point. In this case the thermostat is cooling only so it can only maintain its temperature range if there is enough heat input to call for cooling. Interestingly, this thermostat appears to have a glacial setback control setting.

Jon
June 15, 2009 3:46 am

In another thread on this site ref:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/10/another-scientific-consensus-bites-the-dust/
based on
http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/06/02/solar-wind-atmosphere-02.html
“Despite the rather mind-boggling rate at which Earth is losing atmosphere — 5×1025 molecules per second — scientists say there is no cause for alarm. If the loss rate stays the same, the planet’s atmosphere will last for several more billion years.”
If Earth has had an atmosphere for lets say 2 billion years at least.
Is it not then possible then, if this draining of our atmosphere has been going on since, that the atmosphere was thicker and warmer going back in time?
Theoretically for every 100 meter more air you add in the bottom(ground) of the atmosphere moist air will increase by 0.5C/100m and dry air will increase by 1C/100m in that colum of atmosphere.
And if the Sun was only 75 % of todays output earlier in time and the Earth at the same time most of the time 10 deg C warmer than today this could be one way to make sense off it?
Off topic would not atmosphere above desert with dry air be the best place to validate or falsify the UNFCCC/UNEP/IPCC doctrine ?

timbrom
June 15, 2009 3:54 am

My “eureka” moment came about three quarters of the way through this splendid article. Especially as it opens up a rather neat slot for Svensmark’s theory to drop into.

DocWat
June 15, 2009 3:55 am

I was wondering if the mass of the earth and its velocity in orbit are considerations here. The theories on formation of the moon suggest a collision of a smaller earth and a mars size object formed the moon. This collision must have changed the mass of the earth-moon system and its velocity, which would have changed its orbital position and its distance from the sun… theoretically moving the earth away from the sun and partially compensating for the increase in solar output… any astronomers out there got comments?

Jon
June 15, 2009 3:56 am

And maybe the draining of atmosphere is increasing with a more active Sun?

Chris Wright
June 15, 2009 4:00 am

Another fascinating article about climate feedback. That the earth has remained hospitable to life despite the sun becoming 25% hotter strongly suggests that negative feedbacks dominate. It seems that AGW depends on the assumption of strong positive feedbacks and this is where it is particularly vulnerable. If feedbacks assumed by AGW to be positive can be shown to actually be negative then the whole ridiculous theory will fall apart – or it should if climate science was completely honest.
.
One question: if there were no positive or negative feedbacks how much warming would be caused by a 25% increase in solar output?
Chris

Tenuc
June 15, 2009 4:05 am

Thanks Willis for an excellent report on what I also think is one of the main processes which regulate our climate. Lots of pro-AGW propagandists seem to consider average global temperature (whatever that means) as the indicator of change, when total it is total system energy budget which is important.
I also agree that the small ‘drifts’ we see over time are probably made up of several components, as you detail. In chaotic systems even small changes, such as the rate of cloud formation, can result in small changes to the systems ‘balance’ point.

Steve Schapel
June 15, 2009 4:06 am

Thank you, Willis, for this excellent work, and so carefully explained. I have learned a lot from it.
With the obsessive narrow focus on atmospheric CO2 as the be-all-and-end-all of all things climate, which so many people still adhere to, it is so wonderful to see another example of significant steps towards a broader understanding of what’s really going on.

June 15, 2009 4:11 am

jmrSudbury (02:40:37) :
David Montgomery (01:08:11) : The earth’s surface air temperature is currently around 287 K. The 3% of that is +-9 K. I don’t know what the average is, but these numbers indicate a 18K temperature spread from the warmest to the coldest. — John M Reynolds

The long-term average temperature of the Earth during the Phanerozoic has been a fairly steady ~22C during “hothouse” or “greenhouse” periods and ~12C during the four “icehouse” periods or “ice ages”.
Hothouse = 22C…295K
Greenhouse = 12C…285K
Median = 17C…290K
+/- 3% (~9K) is more than adequate to account for the average differences between “hothouse” and “icehouse” periods and the warm anomalies at the end of the Permian and in the early Tertiary.

crosspatch (01:04:01) :
Well, there can be no doubt that the atmosphere was richer in CO2 billions of years ago. That is where all of today’s coal, oil, limestone, and marble come from. If you take ALL of the coal, ALL of the oil, ALL of the limestone and ALL of the marble on the entire planet and convert it all back to CO2, you have a situation much like what we had back then. Then add the fact that there was much more volcanism at that time. Anyone who would claim that the atmosphere at the time when the sun was 30% dimmer wasn’t much richer in CO2 is not doing the math.

Atmospheric CO2 was much higher early in the Phanerozoic; but it has not simply gradually declined from 7,000ppmv in the Cambrian to its current level. CO2 levels have followed a sort of declining saw-tooth pattern…Dropping from ~7000ppmv in the mid-Cambrian to ~200-400ppmv in the Pennsylvanian and then rising to ~2500ppmv in the Jurassic. Since then CO2 levels have gradually declined to current levels. Most of the declines appear to have had a declining saw-tooth pattern, with periodic minor increases.
Phanerozoic Temp/CO2
As far as volcanism goes, there’s no clear evidence that the Earth’s volcanic activity has been declining over the Phanerozoic. Volcanism has been episodic, with periods of intense volcanic activity (i.e. late Permian Siberian Traps and late Cretaceous Deccan Traps)…But intense volcanism is associated with cooling and not warming. So, if the Earth was more volcanic “back then” it would have been cooler, not warmer.

DocWat
June 15, 2009 4:11 am

I just looked it up, for those who do not have the mass of the planets at the tip of their cerebral cortex. Mars’ mass is about 10% of earth. Then any significant difference in velocity changed the mass and velocity of the earth-moon system.

Steve Keohane
June 15, 2009 4:31 am

Thanks for this article Willis and Anthony. This is a clear mechanism for controlling the climate. I always think of the poles as cryopumps, like in a vapor deposition system, especially Antarctica where H2O is sequestered, and the areas of permafrost and icecap in the north. Water has a one-way ticket to the south pole, yes there is sublimation, but that is a small fraction of the incoming water.

rcrejects
June 15, 2009 4:35 am

Anthony,
OT, but I can’t find a way to e:mail you on the site.
An interesting example of Gavin Schmidt and Michael Mann being ‘Economical’ with the truth in the current thread at RC. See http://www.rcrejects@wordpress.com (and RC) for detail.
rcrejects.

bill
June 15, 2009 4:37 am

Are you suggesting that the hotter it gets the more clouds we will see?
But surely the hotter the atmosphere becomes the more water vapour the atmosphere holds before clouds will form (e.g. in the UK it is very common for clouds to be burnt off by the sun’s heat as the day progresses in summer).
One has to also ask about the effect of clouds in winter where clouds are associated with warmer weather and clear skys with cooler.
Then of course there are places where there is insufficient vapour in the air to cause clouds (deserts). Fry during the day – freeze during the night.
For cloud cover to increase the water vapour must increase (or the temperature decrease). Increase in this GHG will lower radiation losses and increase temperature.
So albedo will change as cloud cover changes (Day time Clouds are a negative feedback – more clouds=cooler temp=lower water vapour=less clouds=lower temp ~and~ fewer clouds= higher temp=more clouds)
But for clouds to form you need more water vapour
But Water vapour is a positive feedback (higher temp= more water vapour = higher temp ~and~ lower temp =less water vapour = lower temp)
And night time clouds act as a blanket more clouds = warmer =? more clouds
NOTE that feed back is defined above
positive feedback gives less stability
negative feedback gives more stability
I also note that you are suggesting that water vapour/clouds are a feedback and not a forcing
Whilst thunderstorms will transport heat upwards some will be re-radiated to space but some will radiate to the atmosphere and some will be transported down again as rain and downdraughts and lightning.
As you are suggesting that the poles radiate some of this heat to space then perhaps the lack of O3 in the antarctic is the reason for it not following modelled temperatures..
Ahh! so many known unknowns and unknown unknowns!

June 15, 2009 4:37 am

Willis. A fascinating study – thank you very much indeed. Are you, by any chance the same Willis Eschenbach I knew in Fiji? If so… Bula!!!

DocWat
June 15, 2009 4:47 am

I have been a faithful (daily) reader here for more than two years. This contribution is, in my judgment, one of the best. Surely in the top 5. And, not being a PhD in anything, one of the most readable.

Paul R
June 15, 2009 4:54 am

Interesting article and it makes me wonder if the weakened magnetic field somehow makes the this process more efficient?

smallz79
June 15, 2009 4:58 am

It is all starting to come together for one huge almost(~+/-80%) perfect picture of the process that makes the Earth’s climate livable and by large or average homeostatic. Never completely neutral, but always trying to be. Seems like a type of system only a God could create.

June 15, 2009 4:59 am

A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses.
This is only true of strictly proportional negative feedback. If there is an integrator in the system or the control loop a steady state is in theory possible if the loop tuning is correct and the noise level does not keep things bouncing around.
And the system does have an integrator. The oceans.

Lindsay H
June 15, 2009 5:01 am

Mike Lorrey (02:51:36) :
One thing this post leaves out is the important part that life has played in sequestering most of the early terran atmosphere in limestone deposits. Earth’s atmosphere was, at one point, 52 times more dense than today, with a large CO2 component.
interesting
can you give a reference for the 52 times more dense quote ??

June 15, 2009 5:12 am

Thanks, Willis.
A jaw-dropping synthesis with a sound of feasibility to it. Your clear, accessible exposition includes some fascinating information. I hope the hypothesis survives. It’s almost too good to be true.
Cheers,
Richard Treadgold,
Convenor,
Climate Conversation Group.

joshv
June 15, 2009 5:14 am

“Anyone who would claim that the atmosphere at the time when the sun was 30% dimmer wasn’t much richer in CO2 is not doing the math.”
Nobody is claiming that.

Chris Schoneveld
June 15, 2009 5:17 am

Now I am confused. On the one hand he says: “clouds control how much energy enters the climate heat engine” and a paragraph further on he says: “the cumulonimbus clouds are active heat engines”. They can’t be both.

Gary Pearse
June 15, 2009 5:18 am

This would appear to be the E=MC(sqd) of Climate. A big light went on when the viewpoint shifted to sun’s eye view. One can now see that, as usual in the progress of science, we start by looking at the micro picture and it takes someone to find the macro view for the elucidation of a phenomenon. Most are still caught up in the micro-picture – counting tree rings, carbon dioxide in ice cores, centimetres in advancing or shrinking of glaciers, fractions of a milimetre in sea-level, changes of 0.5C over a century. In light of the wonderfully simple (like Einstein’s equation looking at the whole universe) sun’s eye view and the simple physical parameters of the “engine”. The 0.037% solution in the atmosphere theory of climate is the flat earth hypothesis and geocentric theory of the universe rolled into one.
However, I note an almost ho-hum tinge to several of the posts, even though they have a generally positive view of the thesis. Why is it that when shown something truly elegant and inspiring we don’t seem to be very moved by it? Heck, we were animated, enthralled, angry, combative over a misinterpretation of a tree ring count or proper selection of a species of tree to do the count, or whether a countable sunspot had appeared or not. This is an accurate weather retrospect for the past couple of billion years and a forecast for the next several billion!! Perhaps it opens the door to linking the “CO2 cycle” to it – Maybe Geese fly high on the temperate cell and low on the Hadley Cell going south and reverse this going north taking advantage of the engine…. Willis, I’m very impressed (for one thing, the engineer in me likes the idea of carnot cycle running the climate).

Editor
June 15, 2009 5:26 am

(Note that a governor, which contains a hysteresis loop, is different from a negative feedback. A negative feedback can only reduce an increase. It cannot maintain a steady state despite differing forcings, variable loads, and changing losses. Only a governor can do that.)
Like others, I have a significant quibble with this (the rest of the essay more than makes up for this).
A governor can be a pure negative feedback system. James Watt’s governor is like that, see http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Centrifugal_governor . The automotive cruise controls up to the 1970s or so use this mechanism and add a reference point – setting the control triggers a solenoid that holds the position of the governor’s output. The control system then tries to keep the governor’s output to match the reference, and that’s a simple negative feedback control system.
Hysteresis entails a system whose internal state has memory of the past. Not quite like I describe above, which may be the source of confusion, but more like soft iron magnets. In facl Merriam-ebster says hysteresis is “a retardation of an effect when the forces acting upon a body are changed (as if from viscosity or internal friction) ; especially : a lagging in the values of resulting magnetization in a magnetic material (as iron) due to a changing magnetizing force.”
This is best shown in magnetic tape recorders. Applying and removing a small magnetic force to iron will shift its internal structure and then recover back to its original state. A strong force will shift it so far that it doesn’t bounce back. Old
computer fogeys like me will suggest “core memory” as in example of being serious about using hysteresis for its memory effect.
There’s nothing quite like that in climate that I can think of at the moment, though frozen ponds and ice cap come close. (They’re more like a control system with a non-linear response.)

Richard111
June 15, 2009 5:28 am

Thank you Willis Eschenbach. I have taken the liberty of putting a copy of your essay onto my harddrive for further study.
For others interested in water and the atmosphere and are battling with the science,
(I am anyway 🙂 ) I can recommend a series of essays by Patrick J. Tyson:
http://www.climates.com/KA/H2OMENU.pdf
they are all quite small text only files and very easy reading.

Fred2
June 15, 2009 5:29 am

Are there any climate scientists with a computational climate model (and enough hardware to run it) with the motivation to include these considerations in the next design iteration of the model?
If these ideas are right then they deserve a larger set of analysts chewing on them. Even if they are only approximately right.

IW
June 15, 2009 5:33 am

I love this work.
I especially like the work on thermostat theory – it turns out that the very mathematics of adaptive systems is entirely general and does not distinguish between mechanical, electronic, biological, or social systems. Yes, thermostats, blood sugar levels in the body, and economics have precise the same mathematics. And as this post shows, so does the earth.
Check out: http://chanacox.com/reflections.shtml
Is quite an eye-opener.

Fred2
June 15, 2009 5:38 am

Does this analysis automatically include hurricanes/typhoons or would they be an additional heat engine?
Were there any hurricanes on the earth during the time the GEOS photos were taken?

Chris Schoneveld
June 15, 2009 5:42 am

Excuse my ignorance, but when you say that “some scientists have claimed that clouds have a positive feedback. Because of this, the areas where there are more clouds will end up warmer than areas with less clouds”, what mechanism could possibly cause clouds to increase temperature. I can only see them keeping night time temperatures higher, like an insulating blanket.

June 15, 2009 5:42 am

The essence of this helpful post is very similar to that of my various articles published over the pasr 12 months.
However I think it unnecessarily emphasises the Tropics and fails to treat the net latitudinal position of ALL the air circulation systems as the critical issue.
I believe that the entire air circulation system in each hemisphere shifts poleward or equatorward as a direct result of net global warming or cooling.
That initial net warming or cooling seems normally to be a direct result of oceanic changes in net global emission or absorption of solar energy.
The air circulations as a whole work to maintain equilibrium between sea surface and surface air temperatures.
From time to time factors other than the oceans alter the overall energy budget but the response of the air circulations is just the same. Following substantial volcanic eruptions we see a similar equatorward shift of the air circulation systems during the short period of cooling that follows such eruptions.
I propose that if there is a change in the GHG content of the air then any air temperature effect from that change would again be dealt with by an imperceptible change in the latitudinal positions of the air circulation systems so as to change the rate of energy flow to space and thereby prevent any destabilisation of the existing equilibrium between oceans and air.
The background equilibrium which the system always works back towards is set by the level of solar input combined with the length of time the solar energy stays in the oceans as a whole. That is where Tyndall et al are wrong. They assumed that the chemical characteristics of the components of the air set the equilibrium temperature of the planet.
In fact the oceans set it in conjunction with solar input and the air is forever fated to maintain that equilibrium between sun and sea whatever happens in the air.
In fact the net latitudinal position of all the air circulation systems is a diagnostic indicator as to whether the globe is warming or cooling at any given moment.
We urgently need to divert resources to finding a more precise a method of reading that indicator.

David L. Hagen
June 15, 2009 5:42 am

BRAVO! Excellent clear description.
Ferenc Miskolczi developed a planetary greenhouse theory for a semi-transparent atmosphere. Miskolczi’s 1D theory finds that energy conservation and minimization (entropy maximization) results in an effectively constant optical depth of water and carbon dioxide absorption.
Combining Eisenbach’s Thermostat/Lindaen’s “Iris” model)/ Bejan’s constructal method / Svensmark’s cosmoclimatology/ and Miskolczi’s planetary greenhouse theory promise to provide strong empirical and theoretical basis for a relatively elegant model of earth’s climate and how it varies (or how little it varies) with changes in carbon dioxide concentration.

June 15, 2009 5:45 am

Gwrs. warm their houses with just A THERMOSTAT, they don´t need a heater!
LOL

Bill Yarber
June 15, 2009 5:48 am

This explains so much and, based on my 40+ year old understanding of fluid dynamics, really makes sense. Living in FL, it is typical to see thunderstorms roll in on warm, muggy, summer afternoons. Then the temperature drops even more and the evenings are much more bearable. Thanks for another nail in the AGW coffin.
Bill

Bill Illis
June 15, 2009 6:03 am

Great article Willis,
If the Earth’s temperature has been remarkably stable over time despite significantly changing conditions (faint young sun, significant changes in atmospheric composition, continental drift), then Water has to be that stablizing force.
Just think about how much water changes state and moves around on the planet throughout the day. Think about how much energy is used to change that state and move that much water each day. These numbers in tonnes and joules would have 50 zeros behind them and would be so big, we could not even understand what they mean.
I think you are really on to something with the daily/hourly changes in albedo and forcing. Try extending it out over a full 24 hours and put the Earth Radiation Budget Experiment data on the same 24 hour timeline.
The incoming and outgoing radiation cartoons are very incomplete because they only reflect a point in time. The Sun only shines for 12 hours and the Earth is receiving double the average incoming solar radiation at noon and then none after the Sun sets. What happens to the cartoon after the Sun sets. Answer: all that incoming solar radiation and all those IR photons momentarily intercepted by greenhouse gases still escape to space overnight. The cartoon needs to have a changing face over a full 24 hours.
Keep digging into the data because there is some compelling evidence there as you have already shown.

June 15, 2009 6:06 am

This hypothesis is not new. Other researchers have proposed the same hypothesis using data from the GERB project:
http://www.ssd.rl.ac.uk/gerb/SCIENCE.HTM
Strong cyclonic storms send columns of heat straight up through the stratosphere, which radiates directly into space. Thunderstorms around the equator release less heat into space than major hurricanes or typhoons because they have weaker updrafts. The key to governing Earth’s temperature is to get warm moist air close enough to space where the heat radiates as longwave radiation. The cooled moist air returns to Earth to cool the troposphere. Such storms work exactly like air conditioners except that instead of pumping heat out of a room they are pumping heat off the planet.

Mike Monce
June 15, 2009 6:10 am

I think the article is good, but ignores a very crucial aspect of energy transport: namely that of tropical cylones. While daily thuderstorm formation certainly helps the heat engine run, I would supect that tropical cyclones contribute much more to the transport of energy from the tropical regions to the polar regions. Comparing the energy in a cyclone to a thunderstorm is like comparing a ladyfinger firecracker to a nuke.

layne Blanchard
June 15, 2009 6:14 am

Fascinating reading. It is easy to envision this endless summer cool on the left, warming thru the day, and transitioning to evening/night equilibrium as it rotates to the right. As the surface moves to a more oblique position relative to sun, somewhere along that path the upper atmosphere cools, and the trigger for the rising column is activated.

June 15, 2009 6:15 am

Expanding my above post a little (05:42:49)
The idea of the equilibrium temperature being set by the length of time that oceans store the solar input also deals with the ‘faint sun’ issue.
That length of delay is set primarily by characteristics of the oceans and not primarily by the power of the solar input (up to a point) so that when the solar input was somewhat less it must then have taken longer for the solar energy to negotiate the ocean system and so the temperature difference in the air was not as large as one would expect as against today’s temperatures with a stronger solar input.
Additionally the land distribution was different then which would have had an effect on the length of time that solar energy then took to circulate through the oceans before emission to the air.

June 15, 2009 6:22 am

DocWat (03:55:01) :
moving the earth away from the sun and partially compensating for the increase in solar output… any astronomers out there got comments?
The collision happened so early in the Earth’s history that what happened before does not matter. At the time the Earth and Moon finally reassembled from the debris after the impact, the Sun was 30% less luminous and has slowly increased since.

Douglas DC
June 15, 2009 6:29 am

Loved it,need more time to digest,but I too saw an opening for the Svensmark
theory…

hunter
June 15, 2009 6:30 am

This speaks very well to one of the many gaping flaws in AGW:
Much ado about very little- the incredible amount of attention and hysteria focused on a very small change in global temperatures.
By asserting (falsely, I believe the evidence shows) that marginal changes in temperature, that are well withing the MOE, are actually of huge significance, the AGW community has built an empire of fear.
This is what has driven terrible abuses of the scientific process like the hockey stick, the rewriting of history irt MWP, the need for the AGW community to claim that each and every weather event is actually *proof* of AGW, etc.
There have been other forcings as great as human created CO2 over the eons of time Earth has existed in this general state.
Our climate has pretty much muddled through as it is jsut fine.

son of mulder
June 15, 2009 6:49 am

Excellent essay. Are the GCM’s programmed to incorporate this mechanism accurately or do they predict it accurately? If neither then how can the GCM’s to date be considered reasonable predictors of climate change?
If the GCM’s do reflect this well then what is there new in the essay?

Editor
June 15, 2009 6:51 am

smallz79 (04:58:16) :
It is all starting to come together for one huge almost(~+/-80%) perfect picture of the process that makes the Earth’s climate livable and by large or average homeostatic. Never completely neutral, but always trying to be. Seems like a type of system only a God could create.

The Earth and the Universe certainly do appear to behave as if the system was designed to suit modern man.
“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all…. It seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe…. The impression of design is overwhelming…The laws [of physics] … seem to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design…. The universe must have a purpose.”
–Paul Davies
“It’s as if the universe was expecting us.”
–Freeman Dyson
Max Tegmark thinks the Universe might be one big equation…Maybe it’s a Multiverse and we just happen to be living in the right universe within it…Maybe it’s Top-Down Cosmology and the Universe is the product of observation…Maybe it’s God…Maybe it’s one big coincidence.
Heck, the Tethys Sea couldn’t have been a better source for oil and natural gas and the Carboniferous forests couldn’t have been better sources for coal if man designed them to be such sources.
Whatever the true cosmology of the Universe turns out to be…all of the Earth’s geological history is part of that cosmology…Including the atmosphere and climate.

June 15, 2009 6:52 am

The global warming theory in its present form leaves lots of skeptics but it is a theory only because we can’t see it.
A theory isn’t the required science or you wouldn’t want my industry doing your engineering based on theory.
For those of you that work in the weather field, I want to share some important information with you and would look forward to an opinion as it relates to climate or your area of expertise.
I have a background in building engineering, electrical energy provision and infrared consulting for many years. Meteorology plays an important part in building design because we use Regional Climatic Data supplied to building codes by Meteorologists. Meteorologists tell us in code, watch out for solar radiation because interaction with building materials can generate heat. Ideally building exteriors are supposed to reflect solar radiation or the building would be radiated and generate heat it isn’t designed insulated or insured for. The amount of energy consumption and emissions are determined by building within the criteria provided by meteorology.
Although building engineering is very precise, we are blind and consider regional climate in a calculator where the whole process is signed off as compliant.
Here is a link to information for you to view as I completed early morning infrared time-lapsed video to see if building exteriors are reflecting solar radiation. The videos are right after sunrise and the results contradicted my own education, we just couldn’t see it. Scroll down at the link and look at the radiation videos to date. You will see buildings being radiated, generating extreme heat without C02 or GHG Production except to react to the indoor heat symptoms. http://www.thermoguy.com/globalwarming-heatgain.html
How can we superheat the atmosphere with radiated heat while we blame C02? Anthony Watt has shown some important information on weather station placement and urban heat generation. The infrared information is accurate and verifiable to specific pieces of equipment if required, are meteorologists considering building radiation generating extreme heat. At the link there is a cutblock imaged from the air and a forestry consultant contacted me and spoke of germination problems with the amount of heat generated. Thanks

June 15, 2009 7:01 am

“The earth’s temperature regulation system is based on the unchanging physics of wind, water, and cloud.”
That should make it easier to model. This hypothesis is worth something if it means the variables (guesses) in the models can be lessened.

barry
June 15, 2009 7:01 am

Are there any climate scientists with a computational climate model (and enough hardware to run it) with the motivation to include these considerations in the next design iteration of the model?

What’s the point? They have a built-in CO2 forcing.
Surely we’re not going to turn around and start advocating climate modeling! I will call hypocrisy if that happens.
However, with climate models being useless, I’m not sure how we could verify this hypothesis within our lifetimes.

deadwood
June 15, 2009 7:06 am

I am flabbergasted that such common sense is not accepted wisdom in the climate science community.
Of course our author lives in the tropics and climate scientists live in computer generated realities. That might make a small difference, don’t you think?

Andre
June 15, 2009 7:09 am

Gary Pearse (05:18:12) :
“One can now see that, as usual in the progress of science, we start by looking at the micro picture and it takes someone to find the macro view for the elucidation of a phenomenon. Most are still caught up in the micro-picture – counting tree rings, carbon dioxide in ice cores, centimetres in advancing or shrinking of glaciers, fractions of a milimetre in sea-level, changes of 0.5C over a century …….”
From an Island in the Southern Pacific might well be the right place to get the view of things 🙂
Willis is one of my absolute favorites. Thanks.

Editor
June 15, 2009 7:18 am

w.
Perhaps you could provide a cite or two to support the following?
“There are strong suggestions that cloud cover is influenced by the 22-year solar Hale magnetic cycle, and this 14-year record only covers part of a single Hale cycle.”
This is a major issue for me, with Leif saying that there is nothing in the 22 year cycle to account for all the evidence for bidecadal climate variations.

Michael D Smith
June 15, 2009 7:26 am

Willis, you have a very logical and direct writing style, very readable. I also agree this is one of the finest posts I’ve seen on WUWT.
Presumably an increase in GHG’s, if they caused a decrease in radiative heat loss, would simply make thunderstorms start sooner, last longer, or extend higher to pump out the excess heat. Any thoughts on that?
It would be interesting to analyze the satellite photos you used on a day by day basis (I made a VisualBasic color analyzer program for a different application – I could adapt it to detect clouds, though it would become somewhat complex to set the detection levels correctly for different latitude / longitude / apparent atmosphere thickness, etc). It might make it possible to track certain variables over time, especially albedo.
Do you have a link to the satellite photos that I can use to develop it with? I think I could automate the analysis process.

Nylo
June 15, 2009 7:26 am

re bill:
Yes, water vapour content in the atmosphere is a positive feedback to be expected. The difference between AGWers and skeptics is that AGWers think of this as the ONLY feedback, therefore rising the initial 1-1.2ºC climate sensibility for a doubling of CO2 alone to their claimed 2-4.5ºC, while skeptics think that the system ALSO has negative feedbacks, which would be able to cancel most or all of the water vapour feedback, leading to a much smaller and mostly benefitial temperature increase.

Thom Scrutchin
June 15, 2009 7:28 am

Excellent Post. When I couple this read with the series of posts by Stephen Wilde on climaterealists.com about the ocean mechanisms that regulate climate and Richard LIndzen’s earlier post on negative climate feedback, I am astonished that AGWA (Alarmism) persists.
To suggest that a trace gas is the ultimate overriding driver for climate change in the face of mechanisms this powerful astounds me. It can only be religion. It defies all reason.
In the face of mechanisms this complex and chaotic, It seems arrogant beyond belief to assert that one knows enough to model the climate changes 100 years from now.

Pearland Aggie
June 15, 2009 7:33 am

Dr. Archibald has another presentation out about SC24…
The Past And Future Of Climate by David Archibald June 2009
http://solarcycle25.com/attachments/database/ThePastandFutureofClimate5thJune2009Archibald.pdf

Tom_R
June 15, 2009 7:34 am

DocWat (03:55:01) :
I was wondering if the mass of the earth and its velocity in orbit are considerations here. The theories on formation of the moon suggest a collision of a smaller earth and a mars size object formed the moon. This collision must have changed the mass of the earth-moon system and its velocity, which would have changed its orbital position and its distance from the sun… theoretically moving the earth away from the sun and partially compensating for the increase in solar output… any astronomers out there got comments?
The collision hypothesis has it taking place in the very early history of the Earth, long before the first microorganisms.

Greg
June 15, 2009 7:48 am

OT – Editorial in yesterday’s (Victoria BC) Times Colonist. Noteworthy that this is the hometown for Andrew Weaver.
Settle the science of climate change
Times Colonist June 14, 2009
We think of science as cold and factual, but there have been some highly charged disputes in its history. Much passion was expended trying to decide whether our planet revolves around the sun, or whether homo sapiens and the apes have a common ancestor, or more recently, whether Pluto should be considered a planet.
But nothing in the modern era compares with the full-scale brawl developing over global warming. To date, the high ground has belonged to climatologists who see unmistakable evidence of a crisis.
They point to the rapid melt of sea ice in the Arctic, the receding pattern of glaciers in Alaska, Patagonia and Greenland, the rising level of the world’s oceans. They note the upswing of global temperatures in the 20th century. And they believe this is merely the forerunner of a much larger temperature increase still to come.
Moreover they have no doubt the results will be catastrophic unless corrective measures are taken. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology state bluntly that climate change has the potential of “killing billions of people worldwide and leaving the world on the brink of total collapse.” The United Nations recently issued a publication claiming the annual death count already stands at 300,000.
Beyond question, these views are shared by the great majority of climatologists. Yet not, it seems, by all.
A few isolated critics have raised difficulties. Some were cranks, and few had standing in the scientific community. Their objections were easily dismissed. But now, a group of respected academics has published a study challenging the majority view.
(You can read their report, Climate Change Reconsidered, at http://www.nipccreport.org.)
More than 9,000 scholars with doctorates in scientific disciplines have signed a petition of support.
The group disputes not only the theory of climate change, but many of the facts underlying it.
On the matter of sea ice and glaciers, they note that ice coverage in Antarctica has actually increased, while Arctic levels appear to have stabilized. They see little evidence that recent reductions in glacier size are outside the historical trend.
They found no increase in precipitation worldwide, and no overall rise or decline in river levels. They claim that droughts and floods are no more common, or severe, than before, and that wind speeds and storm intensities are unchanged. These observations appear to contradict some basic predictions of climate change theory.
But their most contentious claims have to do with global temperature trends. They believe the observed increase of just under 1º C in the 20th century has no predictive value.
They point out that during previous warm periods over the last millennium, temperatures rose 2º or 3º C. Moreover, they claim satellite data show the upward shift of recent years has slowed dramatically in the current decade.
Finally, they reject the UN view that global warming has caused heightened mortality.
They argue that moderate temperature increases actually reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and respiratory ailments.
It is impossible for most laymen to weigh the merit of these claims. Much of the argument turns on highly technical areas of oceanography and atmospheric science.
But this is more than an academic dispute. Across the globe, governments are taking unprecedented steps to change the foundations of industrial production. These measures involve significant costs, which the consumer must bear.
Science is rarely settled or static. New information and theories emerge. The free contention of ideas brings progress.
As we embark on policy changes that affect nearly every aspect of our lives, it’s important to recognize that the debate on climate change and its causes should continue.
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist

AnonyMoose
June 15, 2009 7:49 am

DocWat (03:55:01) : The Moon-forming collision happened while the Earth was still forming. I speculate that it also removed some early atmosphere along with many lighter elements. But it essentially happened before our current atmosphere.
Jon (03:46:07) : The atmosphere apparently dates to 4.4 billion years, as an ocean existed in the Hadean. The Moon-forming impact might have briefly created a rock vapor atmosphere earlier but that lasted only a couple of thousand years.
Also, estimates of the amount of CO2 in ancient atmospheres have to consider how much carbon might have been added to the surface by mantle outgassing (primordial carbon) and meteorites. You can’t assume the same amount of carbon has been in the carbon cycle, just as you can’t assume the continental land area has been the same.

dkemp
June 15, 2009 8:03 am

the article is a great one – am i wrong but is the concept[s] supporting this article similar to Dr. Lindgren’s “Iris” hypothesis??
quick question – in the formation of cumulonimbus systems isn’t the existance of a significant temperature difference between the upper and lower troposhere also a critical factor?
in AGW theory – the upper troposhere is supposed to warm more than the lower Trop. – if this were to happen then shouldn’t there have been by now some noticeable decline in cumulonimbus systems over time? – so my question to you Willis is – have you noticed any such declines? thanks again

AnonyMoose
June 15, 2009 8:04 am

So the AGW fear mongers are screaming over estimated changes of 1.6 to 4 W/m^2, and the thermostat is presently causing changes of -60 W/m^2 due to only albedo changes. And the umpteen AGW scientists hadn’t found, reported, and incorporated -60 W in their models? Shameful.
Oh, I’m sure the climate models have some interesting albedo parameters, but surely they haven’t included this behavior despite many people staring at satellite images or else we’d have heard of it from the modeling magicians.

John Galt
June 15, 2009 8:16 am

DJ (03:18:27) :
Just when might this thermostat kick in? It’s been an extraordinary hot May at the planets surface and that is post La Nina (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/). We will almost certainly see the largest positive monthly temperature anomaly every observed by man at the earth’s surface in the coming months.
It’s not going to be a pretty sight next year as we go post El Nino and have a warming sun. Watch for a big step up in sea level, a sharp decline in sea ice, and the hottest year on record.

Yep, just wait ’til next year. Or the year after that. You sound like a Cubs fan. Are you a Cubs fan?
It really doesn’t matter whether it’s hot or cold. It’s the cause that’s the question. By now, you should know the Hansen/Gore/IPCC man-made climate change through greenhouse gas emissions hypothesis is full of holes you could float an iceberg through. It’s been completely invalidated by the observed real climate.
BTW: Did you miss the NASA announcement about the low 2007 summer Arctic ice melt being caused not be heat but by winds blowing the ice flows out into warmer waters?

rbateman
June 15, 2009 8:37 am

This “governor” works whether the Sun has gone up the H-R diagram, or down.
Takes care of the tropics, but what about the rest of the planet?
If the tropical temperature is regulated, that would mean there isn’t much heat excess to be diverted poleward to prevent ice ages.
So, if there is a limit to the governor’s ability to handle more than X% incoming/outgoing, then whatever is left over or defecit is available/not available to moderate the rest of the planet.
In that case, a limited governor has a range of 100% effectiveness.
It can be overrun/starved.
What would be it’s range?

MattB
June 15, 2009 8:39 am

So assuming that the CLOUD experiments come back validating the GCR theory (And Svensmark’s theory is very strong in my opinion) would that make GCR’s the governor of the governor?

Neil Jones
June 15, 2009 8:46 am

I loved this piece it was clear enough for a “Block-head” layman like me to understand
O/T
If you think AGW is questionable try this for stretching the credulity.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/5540634/Phoenix-crop-circle-may-predict-end-of-the-world.html

dennis ward
June 15, 2009 8:54 am

The fact that the earth is colder now than it was during the age of the dinosaurs, despite the sun warming up in between, emphasises my point that what happens to temperature on the earth is far more influenced by what is happening with the earth than what is happening with the sun.
Graphs showing CO2 and temperature changes also indicate a clear link between the levels of CO2 and temperature, no matter what nitpickers may say.
http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/gene/peakoil/co2-400k-years.gif

John W.
June 15, 2009 8:54 am

The same day this terrific piece appears on WUWT, this drivel, by a Left Coast crackpot named Jamias Cascio, appears in the Wall Street Journal:
“It’s Time to Cool the Planet”
“Cutting greenhouse gases is no longer enough to deal with global warming, says Jamais Cascio. He argues that we also have to do something more direct—and risky.”
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204771304574181522575503150.html

June 15, 2009 8:56 am

rcrejects: Your link didn’t work. This one should:
http://rcrejects.wordpress.com/2009/06/15/gavin-schmidt-and-michael-mann-caught-being-economical-with-the-truth/
Nice to see them get caught exaggerating.

anna v
June 15, 2009 9:04 am

I particularly like Fig 2
You are looking at the mechanism that keeps the earth from overheating. It causes a change in insolation of -60 W/m2 between ten and noon.
I think that it illustrates well that the way climatologists have been looking at climate is analogous to as if car engine designers took the average temperature of the whole car and calculated anomalies for the total. The conclusion would be that there would be little energy coming out.
In a similar way, by homogenizing the whole earth as far as all inputs and outputs go, it is inevitable that the heat engine analogy has been lost in the GCMs.
What is important is that there is not only a change in insolation of 60 W/m2 between ten and noon, there is an anomaly of 1200W/m2 between day and night in that swath. Now, going to insolation, a 0.1% change in insolation from minimum to maximum of the solar cycle is 12W/m2, and the question of how much more/less evaporation etc results from this difference may not be trivial, particularly if most of the ocean heating comes from the ultraviole, which varies much more than that.
Another analogy: we boil water in a pan and take the anomaly ( before/after) of the average temperature of everything in the kitchen. Would you predict from that anomaly that the water would boil?

Jim Clarke
June 15, 2009 9:06 am

Thanks Willis!
I note that some comments view this post as a new idea, but there is nothing in it that hasn’t been understood for a long time. That is why so many operational meteorologists and traditional climatologists have been skeptics of an AGW crisis for decades.
Bill talks about the warming influence of nighttime clouds. Others have mentioned this as well. Nighttime clouds are rare in the tropics and that is were the majority of the solar heating takes place. Slight changes in the amount of nighttime clouds at higher latitudes is a small factor compared to slight changes in daytime cumulus development in the tropics. It may make a big difference in England, but not in the global temperature scheme.
Willis also pointed out that evaporation has a linear relationship with the wind. Global wind is driven primarily by the temperature difference between the equator and the poles. The AGW theory predicts that the poles will warm more than the tropics. The net result would be an overall reduction in the global wind and, consequently, a reduction in evaporation, particularly in the mid latitudes where the wind is primarily the result of the global temperature difference. Water vapor, by far the most important greenhouse gas, would be reduced, resulting in cooling at these latitudes, offsetting the warming produced by CO2.
Everywhere we look, the potential warming effect of increasing CO2 is thwarted by the Earth’s natural systems.
So what has caused the recent, minor fluctuations in global climate. Stephen Wilde hits the nail on the head several posts up. It’s the ocean and solar cycles, obviously! Now what is missing from every single GCM? The ocean and solar cycles.
Thanks Stephen!

John G
June 15, 2009 9:14 am

This is what Roy Spencer has been talking about from the point of view of the cloud only explained from the point of view of the sun. The sun has a better vantage point, before it was hard to see the heat pump/shield regulator system for the clouds.

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 9:15 am

Thank you Mr. Willis Eschenbach.
A very clear explanation of the convective system with a focus on the tropics.
However, there is much more to it.
The convective system (causing cooling) also works without forming clouds.
When a desert heats up for example, huge airmasses are heated up and transported into high altitudes where they cool down.
Because there are no clouds this process continues all day around.
I read a story of some soaring pilots who flew their gliders in the Gobi Desert.
They needed oxygen to maintain their flight as their gliders were carried up to altitudes above 6.000 meters in thermals that allowed climbing speeds of 20 meteres per second.
At high altitude they needed electric foot warmers to prevent their feet from freezing as their faces were burned by the sun coming through the perspex canopy measuring anoutside temperature of minus 40 degree Celsius.
This convective process works continuous and constantly as long as the sun shines.
At night, with clear skies the heat absorbed by the sand and rock is radiated into space causing temperatures to drop far below 0 degree Celcius.
This cooling proces is very rapid and causes the rocks to crack.
It is one of the major forces responsible for corrosion.
At night in the desert you can hear the rocks crack with big bangs, like gun shots.
The convective process in the deserts are the major source of fine dust, the nuclea that make condensation into clouds possible.
At the tropics approx. 30% of the condensation nuclea are small particles from bio material, from spider eggs to flower pollen.
In Europe where fine dust is measured for many years now it is found that 60% of the finedust captured in the big cities comes from the Sahara desert.
Only a relativ small part is caused by the tire wear, brakes and exhaust emissions from cars and industry.
Because of the spin of the earth wind and ocean patterns are formed (coreolis forces) Pressure differences cause air masses flowing from area’s with high pressure to area’s with low pressure. This is the cause why air masses from homogenic source area’s are transported and collide with eachother.
Look at the weather maps and see the Low pressure area’s move and fronts collide. When a warm air mass collides with a colder airmass, the entire boudary is lifted causing convection and cooldown.
A cold front comes with intense vertical cloud building along the entire front often followed by clear skies and large fields of cumulus clouds.
A warm front comes with, (cirro stratus, alto stratus) low and medium altitude clouds causing rain over a huge area.
Just to make my point, there is much more to the earth’s heat engine than meets the eye.
Our sun sends in the equivelent of all the enery we use world wide in less than 30 minutes of time. Our contribution has ample effect on the earth’s heat engine and so does CO2.
To proof any warming effect caused by CO2 is as futile as proofing how much solar energy is transformed into sound from cracking rocks in the desert to wind blowing through the trees.
Thanks.

hotrod
June 15, 2009 9:16 am

Nicely done!
A very well stated description of the effect of thunderstorms and other convective clouds on the earths temperature. I have lived in a strong thunderstorm environment here on the high plains of Colorado all my life, and in the last couple decades done severe storm spotting.
It is intuitively obvious to anyone who experiences these thunderstorms on a regular basis how much heat they can transport, and how effective they are as thermostats. It is not unusual for temperatures to drop by 30+ degrees F in a matter of 30-90 minutes. You go from sweltering in direct sun to shivering in cold rain in a matter of minutes. The cooling is strong enough to effect the entire eastern half of the state of Colorado for the rest of the day. As mentioned in the article, the skies invariably clear near sunset and you have brilliant clear sky and cool temps in the evening.
Another analogy to the thunderstorm as a heat control mechanism, would be a pan of water slowly heated. As it nears the boiling point, the steam bubbles “turn on” a very powerful heat transport system when you reach the boiling point. In spite of increased heat input they vigorously cool the water due to the boiling.
The thunderstorm is like that rising column of steam in the boiling water is just another convective process that “turns on” suddenly when conditions are right, and once started is a very powerful heat transport system carrying heat energy to very high altitudes.
From the storm spotters point of view, you watch the development of thunderstorms with a more microclimate point of view.
In the mid day near noon the sun will be intense, sky is clear and humidity rises along with temperatures as the suns radiant energy warms the soil and drives water vapor into the air. This is like charging a battery, you are storing solar energy in the latent heat of evaporation of the water.
In the early afternoon, when conditions are favorable for convection, you will begin to see small pop corn cumulus clouds start to form. To the average person they seem to be more or less constant, but as a storm spotter you are watching the clouds more closely than most, and notice that many of them are “bubbling” they grow briefly then they deflate, grow briefly then deflate. On some days it never goes beyond this situation. I attribute that effect to the increased shading and increased reflection of solar energy being sufficient to hold the atmosphere below the temperature necessary to “break the cap” and start active convection.
In an atmosphere that favors large thunderstorm development, you have a very specific temperature/density profile where a lower layer of warm moist air, once it reaches a critical density (temperature and humidity) suddenly bursts through the upper air layers which are cooler and dryer. If the profile is correct this results in sudden dynamic (and almost explosive) growth of the convection column.
At that point, it is as if you have flipped a switch. A small parcel of warm most air that is for what ever reason lifted above some critical altitude, ( see lfc Level of free convection, and lcl lifting condensation level), and starts to condense moisture. As the humidity condenses to water droplets, it releases that stored latent heat of evaporation/condensation warming the parcel of air up. Due to the warming the parcel is even lower density than it was before, and even more buoyant so it rises faster and condenses more humidity. This is the “heat engine” part of the process. Stored solar energy in the form of latent heat of the water vapor, is now actively pushing warm moist air to rise due to buoyancy.
This can form updraft columns of air thousands of feet across, rising at well over 100 mph. Updraft speeds can get high enough to hold a 2.5 inch diameter ball of ice aloft forming very large hail.
It is a humbling experience to watch one of these explosive thunder cells grow. Some of them rise so rapidly that you literally have to slowly lean your head back to watch the top of the thunderstorm convection column rise at rates of 100-200 mph.
Typical updraft speeds are high enough (peak velocities estimated as up to 100 meters/second) that over shooting tops of severe thunderstorms can punch up above the tropopause into the stratosphere by as much as 1-3 kilometers and occasionally to 5 km into the stratosphere.
(Source for peak updraft velocities – Thunderstorm Morphology and Dynamics Edwin Kessler pp 136)
This means that your water vapor has now been lifted to elevations of as high as 85,000 ft in the tropics and 55,000- 65,000 ft in temperate regions. This completely bypasses the radiant heat transfer process in the lower dense atmosphere by physically moving millions to tons of water and warm air to very high altitudes, where it quickly losses heat to space and freezes out to ice crystals, giving up even more heat as the latent heat of fusion is released.
It is hard for people to comprehend the vast amounts of energy transported by this process, but the energy content of the moisture lifted by a thunderstorm is stunning.
Water load carried to high altitude varies strongly with the updraft speed. For low updraft speeds of about 2.5 m/s about 80% of the moisture condensed falls as precipitation. This amounts to about 30% of the total moisture in the air.
With updrafts of about 10 m/s only about 53% of the moisture condensed reaches the ground as precipitation. As a result you have a dynamic process that moves more or less heat to high altitude depending on the heat surplus in the lower atmosphere. To use the analogy of a throttle, the hotter and wetter the lower atmosphere (higher instability conditions) the more water the storm can carry to high altitude due to its higher updraft speeds. In the higher updraft case, more heat is carried to high altitude, but also more water is carried outside the updraft column to evaporate and cool the surrounding air. This causes significant mass cooling of the local air even though much of the condensed water never makes it back to the ground as precipitation. This cooling generates strong cold outflow winds which in many cases serve as triggers for lifting and development of additional thunderstorms.
Here in the high plains you can watch these cold out flow boundaries run for hundreds of miles on Doppler radar and kick off hundreds of other thunderstorms. Sometime you can even see the out flow boundary bounce off the mountains near Denver and then sweep back out across the plains triggering a second wave of storm development later in the evening.
Thunderstorm development is a case of tipping points! Once you reach critical conditions of instability, a very small nudge can “turn on” the convective process, and set off massive heat transport to high altitudes. At lower instability levels the atmosphere will hover close to the turn on point but never release that stored energy in the form of convection and lifting to high altitudes.
(Thunderstorm Morphology and Dynamics Edwin Kessler pp 307)

Less moisture condenses also because there is less to begin with; thus the ratio of precipitation on the ground in the two cases is only 35%, through the drier case has 76% as much moisture as the moister case. These numerical data suggest a remarkable sensitivity of natural precipitation to atmospheric moisture content and stability

In short you have a dynamic system that the more heat induced instability is generated by heating and high humidity, the stronger the storms become and the more efficient they become and carrying large amounts of heat to very high altitudes.
In this case the one true “tipping Point” of the global heat system is the one that the AGW folks consistently ignore or dismiss as trivial, only to fabricate a hypothetical tipping point that they cannot prove exists to support their hypothesis.
Larry

Pragmatic
June 15, 2009 9:29 am

Thank you Willis for this clear and concise view of homeostasis and Earth’s climate. As IW (05:33:13) notes, the mathematics are found universally in all manner of systems, from the microbiological to the cosmic.
That an elegant balancing system may be the real mechanism of climate and not man’s insignificant contribution to a trace gas, tells us much about the competing, heavily funded AGW theory. In light of nature’s magnificent governance, AGW must begin with the premise that man is… bad. And that he, unlike other natural systems, is incapable of self-governance. Therefore his behavior must be controlled by external forces – forces rejecting man’s deserved place in the natural world – forces steeped in misanthropy and a fundamental need for control.
Could human intervention destroy the natural elegance? Absolutely. Tinkering with fission-based weapons and territorial conflict can do this in an instant. Does human nature need guidance in achieving natural balance within its species? Yes. Should that guidance come in the guise of cataclysmic climate change and forced political manipulation? No, because it is false and proof thereof destroys the credibility of its proponents and their entire agenda.
Most likely a better approach to evolutionary guidance would be to do what Willis has done in this post. That is, suggest to people the beautiful, tempered complexity of a great natural system. And remind them that they too, are naturally capable of this same elegant balance. What better schoolyard than a life-affirming planetary system – to teach life-affirming, enlightened behavior?

Editor
June 15, 2009 9:30 am

“Lindsay H (05:01:54) :
Mike Lorrey (02:51:36) :
One thing this post leaves out is the important part that life has played in sequestering most of the early terran atmosphere in limestone deposits. Earth’s atmosphere was, at one point, 52 times more dense than today, with a large CO2 component.
interesting
can you give a reference for the 52 times more dense quote ??”
Martyn J Fogg, “Terraforming: Engineering Terrestrial Environments”

John Galt
June 15, 2009 9:30 am

dennis ward (08:54:04) :
The fact that the earth is colder now than it was during the age of the dinosaurs, despite the sun warming up in between, emphasises my point that what happens to temperature on the earth is far more influenced by what is happening with the earth than what is happening with the sun.
Graphs showing CO2 and temperature changes also indicate a clear link between the levels of CO2 and temperature, no matter what nitpickers may say.
http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/gene/peakoil/co2-400k-years.gif

Yes Dennis, those graphs clearly show hundreds of years time-lag between changes in temperatures and changes in CO2 levels. Except the temperature increases come first.
How can the future effect the past? First it warms, then CO2 goes up. How can increased CO2 cause the increase in temps? Is this some type of quantum-temporal paradox?
And what about the times when temps and CO2 show no correlation? Are you saying that sometimes future CO2 levels causes past warming, but sometimes it doesn’t?
That reminds me of the last episode of Star Trek, the Next Generation where Picard caused some anomaly that gets bigger in the past until it prevents life on Earth from ever evolving. Wow!

Austin
June 15, 2009 9:34 am

The morning begins at some initial temperature that is mainly controlled by the ocean surface temperature.
The daily cycle loads the air with energy. This energy is then transported away by the Hadley cell and by Thunderstorm formation.
What about a simple model based upon a number of Hadley cells as isentropic heat engines that are linked? This should be simple to do.

fieldnorth
June 15, 2009 9:34 am

Good article but you lost me at this point.
“Now, some scientists have claimed that clouds have a positive feedback. Because of this, the areas where there are more clouds will end up warmer than areas with less clouds.”
I don’t know where you’re getting this, I thought it was widely accepted that low to mid altitude clouds cool.

June 15, 2009 9:34 am

Leif Svalgaard (06:22:30) :
DocWat (03:55:01) :
moving the earth away from the sun and partially compensating for the increase in solar output… any astronomers out there got comments?
The collision happened so early in the Earth’s history that what happened before does not matter. At the time the Earth and Moon finally reassembled from the debris after the impact, the Sun was 30% less luminous and has slowly increased since.

It’s supposed the collision happened 35-110 Ma after the solar system started. This means that the Sun has had about 4.69 x 10^9 billion years to reach the current luminosity. The Sun is about halfway of its lifespan, which is about 10 billion years {τ = [0.1 (0.007) (M c2)] / L = 3.3 x 10^17 s = 10.6 billion years} (the small upper dot is for “solar”).
By the way, I was taught since kindergarten by professor Melly that the oceans act like giant thermostats. Of course, she didn’t use the word “thermostat” for teaching very basic climatology to her young students. It’s not a hypothesis, but an observation of a natural phenomenon. Congratulations for this descriptive essay, Willis!

June 15, 2009 9:36 am

Correction: the Sun has had about 4.69 x 10^9 billion years; erase that shaming figure!!! Sorry… 🙂

Mark T
June 15, 2009 9:41 am

dennis ward (08:54:04) :
Graphs showing CO2 and temperature changes also indicate a clear link between the levels of CO2 and temperature, no matter what nitpickers may say.

I suggest you dig a little deeper, dennis ward. If you do, you’ll notice what the nitpickers actually say: in your little graph, temperature precedes CO2, by 800 years on average. Now, using your obvious infinite wisdom, you need to march over to some website that provides a good definition of causality (cause and effect) and understand what the implications are. Note, too, that such a relationship alone cannot provide any direct evidence of the true cause, i.e., this does not rule out the sun as the causative agent (even if other evidence does).
Mark

David Jay
June 15, 2009 9:44 am

DJ (03:18:27) :
“Just when might this thermostat kick in? It’s been an extraordinary hot May at the planets surface and that is post La Nina (http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/). ”
Hey, I actually followed the link. Wow, I would be worried too if the only input I had on climate issues was this GISS page!
2005 and 2007 are the warmest years on record? amazing…

Jeff Alberts
June 15, 2009 9:45 am

DJ (03:18:27) :
Just when might this thermostat kick in? It’s been an extraordinary hot May at the planets surface and that is post La Nina

Depends on which part of the planet you’re on. Here in the US Pacific Northwest it’s still unseasonably cool. We’re barely getting into the mid 70s on sunny days, more often only the mid 60s (because the clouds are sticking around).
We had three hot days in June, that’s it.
Global Warming ain’t global.

bill
June 15, 2009 9:46 am

The Earth’s Radiation Energy Balance
http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/wxwise/homerbe.html
Some excellent animations and information
“The solar and terrestrial properties of clouds have offsetting effects in terms of the energy balance of the planet. In the longwave, clouds generally reduce the radiation emission to space and thus result in a heating of the planet. While in the solar (or shortwave), clouds reduce the absorbed solar radiation, due to a generally higher albedo than the underlying surface, and thus result in a cooling of the planet. View the maps of cloud forcing given above. Does the presence of low level clouds over oceans heat or cool the planet? What about the convective clouds over the oceans?
The latest results from ERBE indicate that in the global mean, clouds reduce the radiative heating of the planet. This cooling is a function of season and ranges from approximately -13 to -21 Wm-2. While these values may seem small, they should be compared with the 4 Wm-2 heating predicted by a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration.
In terms of hemispheric averages, the longwave and shortwave cloud forcing tend to balance each other in the winter hemisphere. In the summer hemisphere, the negative shortwave cloud forcing dominates the positive longwave cloud forcing, and the clouds result in a cooling. For deep convection the solar and longwave effects also cancel.”
Another document suggesting observed tropics cancellation of cloud forcing
http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 9:51 am
June 15, 2009 10:06 am

Curtis Bennett (06:52:50) :
The video you linked it is a clear example of HOW FAST heat is lost in the atmosphere through convection. Why? Because air it is not water, and it only can hold 3227 times less heat than water, that’s why the building in the video releases heat so rapidly. For this to happen, we all know, that there must be a gap, a differential: when the outside is cooler then heat goes out and when the outside is warmer then the building act as a condenser, so it happens with the seas the real earth”s heat condenser…but we must never forget the heater.
Only global warmers believers manage to warm themselves only with CO2.

Robert Austin
June 15, 2009 10:07 am

Chris Schoneveld (05:17:37) :
Now I am confused. On the one hand he says: “clouds control how much energy enters the climate heat engine” and a paragraph further on he says: “the cumulonimbus clouds are active heat engines”. They can’t be both.
They can be both. The albedo of the cumulonimbus clouds causes more visible solar radiation to be reflected back to space thus reducing net incoming radiation. The cumulonimbus cells are also effective heat transport engines carrying surface heat rapidly and directly to the top of the troposphere. Willis’ hypothesis also includes the “overshooting” effect of the cumulonimbus cells continuing to function after the surface temperature is reduced. It seems to me a hurricane is a large scale and dramatic demonstration of this effect. A hurricane once started and fueled by moist warm tropical air does not expire the instant it is over land or cold waters, but lingers for days.
A very thought provoking and well written article.

bill
June 15, 2009 10:08 am

This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs:
http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Harrison%20et%20al%20JGR%2095%20D11%2018687-18703%201990.pdf

John F. Hultquist
June 15, 2009 10:16 am

John W. (08:54:48) : “. . .by a Left Coast crackpot named Jamias Cascio, appears in the Wall Street Journal . . .”
The piece in the WSJ gets its own section called the Journal Report. I didn’t find it until 10 AM pacific time. Holy cripes – am I on the same planet? Cascio is listed as a futurist and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. He must be reading tea leaves.
I like this line:
“It’s relatively cheap, probably costing just a few billion dollars a year.”
Say what? A few billion here and a few billion there and soon you are talking real money. We need and ice age in a hurry.

June 15, 2009 10:18 am

This is a really beautiful theory, and nicely written too. It appeals to my intuition – which is why I first became interested in all this – that the Earth (Gaia) has more homeostatic tricks up her sleeve than we’ve realised yet. It’s the kind of thing James Lovelock wrote about (daisyworld!) before he went off the deep end into catastrophic AGW theory.
But I think it’s worth thinking about *why* Lovelock stopped believing Gaia could ride this out with her “governors” as she has before. Is it not possible that in other ways – deforestation, soil erosion, ocean pollution (you know, all those ‘traditional’ Green concerns) – we are damaging the “governor” itself? Would the thunder-cloud mechanism work so well over a deforested area, with no transpiration, no leaf surfaces and no bacterial clouds to seed the rain? This is a genuine question – are your maps high enough resolution to see differences in albedo effect over (say) deforested Haiti vs. lush Dominica?

anna v
June 15, 2009 10:24 am

bill (10:08:43) :
This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs:
http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Harrison%20et%20al%20JGR%2095%20D11%2018687-18703%201990.pdf
Not really. They still homogenize and average everything. No heat engine.
When one talks of heat engines one talks of specific topologies, l not black spheres and averages over everything.

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 10:24 am

dennis ward (08:54:04) :
The fact that the earth is colder now than it was during the age of the dinosaurs, despite the sun warming up in between, emphasises my point that what happens to temperature on the earth is far more influenced by what is happening with the earth than what is happening with the sun.
Graphs showing CO2 and temperature changes also indicate a clear link between the levels of CO2 and temperature, no matter what nitpickers may say.
http://www.ccs.neu.edu/home/gene/peakoil/co2-400k-years.gif
Dennis Ward,
I give you a much better correlation:
http://joannenova.com.au/2009/05/03/shock-global-temperatures-driven-by-us-postal-charges/
At least the nitpickers you refer to have a brain and use it.

June 15, 2009 10:25 am

I think it’s helpful to regard the oceans as a form of battery with the air circulation systems acting as a thermostat. Tyndall and others thought that the air alone is the battery. To some miniscule extent it is but it is wholly insignificant as compared to the oceans.
The sun charges the oceanic battery and the total energy that the battery will hold depends on it’s internal circulations as does the rate of energy emission to the air.
Sometimes the oceans are net emitters of energy to the air, adding energy to the air faster than it is lost to space and at other times they are net absorbers of solar input with less being released to the air than the air is losing to space.
As regards the Pacific the switch from net aborption to net emission currently seems to occur at about 30 year intervals.
There is similar behaviour in each ocean and at different times they can offset or supplement each other hence the importance of determining the net global ocean/air energy balance at any time.
The thermostat (being the air circulation systems) can react virtually instantly to changes in ocean energy emission and simply adjust their latitudinal positions to work back towards sea surface and surface air temperature equilibrium. They work back towards that equilibrium whether the oceans are warming the air or cooling the air.
It’s simple, elegant, fits observations and complies with basic physics.
The position of the air circulation systems tells us what net effect the oceans are having on the temperature of the air globally at any given moment.
The movement of the air circulation systems poleward and equatorward accounts for all the regional climate variations ever observed. Local weather is determined more by day to day chaotic air movements set within the broader overall scenario.
Cloudiness and all other weather/climate variables are a consequence of the current oceanic thermal behaviour. I accept an influence in the upper atmosphere from direct solar effects but they do not override the oceanic forcings.
The GCMs contain nothing that deals with those obvious ever changing ocean/air interactions. There are coupled ocean/air models and they are making progress but there is insufficient ocean data to render them helpful.
Many have noted the latitudinal movements of the air circulation systems beyond normal seasonal variation but no one seems to have asked why they happen or what the real world function of that movement is.
I submit that such movement is the key to the whole climate conundrum.

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 10:28 am

Who takes the WSJ serious anymore?

bill
June 15, 2009 10:31 am

This page looks useful but does not seem to work!
http://icp.giss.nasa.gov/research/data/erbe/
Some good stuff here too:
Solar Insolation and Earth Radiation Budget Measurements
Topics:
1. Daily solar insolation calculations
2. Orbital variations effect on insolation
3. Total solar irradiance measurements
4. ERBE and Earth radiation budget measurements
http://nit.colorado.edu/atoc5560/week13.pdf

June 15, 2009 10:40 am

Thanks for the post, interesting read. So we have theory… But I think we need a might bit more then that. Only time can tell if indeed these things are true. Based on this information what can we expect and when can we expect it? I mean do not get me wrong I love the explanation, but, just like I reject AGW alarmists I have to reject any science that cannot then use the data to make predictions. This may only be a piece of the puzzle but how does int interact with the other pieces, ect ect…
Sorry but I am a skeptic and while I do not hold with the sky is falling mentality of alarmist I must demand the same from others as well.

John F. Hultquist
June 15, 2009 10:47 am

The beauty of this is that no matter who tries to do what to raise or lower Earth’s temperature will fail. It frees us to try to do some good regarding matters which are tractable.

VG
June 15, 2009 11:05 am

so whats up with this?
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/anomnight.6.15.2009.gif
compared with this?
http://weather.unisys.com/surface/sst_anom.html
maybe NOAA = AGW agenda?
same with ice
same with temps

June 15, 2009 11:15 am

bill (10:08:43) :
This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs

One of the earliest PC games!!

John W.
June 15, 2009 11:18 am

John F. Hultquist (10:16:13) :
… We need and ice age in a hurry.

I’d rather not, thank you very much!
As Christopher Booker reports here, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/5525933/Crops-under-stress-as-temperatures-fall.html, food yields will see a significant drop this year. The longer the cooling trend persists, the scarcer it will become.
However, these people are so detached from reality, I wouldn’t bet on starvation getting through to them.

June 15, 2009 11:19 am

Ron de Haan (10:08:01) : OT, significant volcanic eruption of Sarychev
It will be interesting to follow the statistics of volcanic activity during the present minimum to compare it with previous ones.

June 15, 2009 11:21 am

@Leif Svalgaard and other solar physicists here… I’m just keyed up! The iterated values for the last 70 years on HSG and stacked proxies throw a direct correlation between your database and both databases on HSG and Stacked Proxies. The Correl. Coefficient for TSI/HSG is 1 and, for TSI/SP is 0.67. Isn’t that exciting?

Dena
June 15, 2009 11:23 am

My understanding of the earth/moon system is that the moon is moving away from the earth because the rotation of the earth is transfered to the moon. This results in the earth’s day getting longer over time. Could the same thing be happening in the earth/sun system resulting in the earth’s temperature remaining within the range that Anthony’s system will work?

Rob
June 15, 2009 11:31 am

Met Office predict likelihood of climate change on your doorstep
James Murphy, Head of Predicting Climate Change at the Met Office said, because there is so much carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere it was possible to predict a range of possibilities for each area, from the best to the worst case scenarios, based on climate models.
What utter bunk, lets see whether their latest heat wave prediction for the UK pans out.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/5532147/Met-Office-predict-likelihood-of-climate-change-on-your-doorstep.html

ToddE
June 15, 2009 11:40 am

I would like to add a “musing” concerning the following quote from this most excellent essay:
“In addition to the changes in evaporation, there at least one other mechanism increasing cloud formation as wind increases. This is the wind-driven production of airborne salt crystals. The breaking of wind-driven waves produces these microscopic crystals of salt. The connection to the clouds is that these crystals are the main condensation nuclei for clouds that form over the ocean.”
It is my understanding that over geological time, the salt content of the earth’s ocean has been increasing. To get the same amount of condensation nuclei airborn in the past would require greater wind force than today. Could it be that the salt content of the ocean contributes to the temperature set-point of the Thermostat?
Todd

George E. Smith
June 15, 2009 11:48 am

Well I just scanned the essay, and there is too much in there for me to digest while I am trying to work; so I’ll have to print it out, so I can read it at my leisure.
I’m pretty much in agreement with what I think the general thesis is.
Actually I believe that the explanation is a whole lot simpler than what people want to make it; although I’m not against digging out the details.
The “faint early sun paradox” is not really a paradox; well there aren’t any real paradoxes; just unexplained phenomena; but this one is a clue to the answer.
If the sun’s energy output is not the control knob of an open loop system; and nothing else is eiather, then some feedback control loop must be.
Now a feedback control loop always has to have a “set point” which is a parameter to which the system variable must be compared. Deviations from that set point then apply drive signals to the system, that move the variable back in the direction of the set poitn. Extraneous perturbing variables can change the displacement of the equilibrium condition; because no real feedback system has infinite forward gain; so there always must be loop errors.
Well in the cae of the climate of planet earth, that set point to which earth’s climate variables react is simply the physical properties of a totally unique molecule.
That unique substance is H2O, and its physical and chemical properties are the constraints that result in climate set points.
A big factor is the 104 degrees bend in the water molecule (I think that is the right number). That assymetry, as distinct from the quite linear symmetrical CO2 molecule, makes water a polar molecule, and has profound effects on many things; us in particular.
There would be no life on earth is water was a straight molecule like CO2.
But as to the main climate variable of interest; temperature. the phase diagram ofr H2O dictates the temp[erature on earth; and ultimately the regulation mechanism is through cloud formation.
The feedback control relies on the simple fact that water in the vapor phase is primarily a positive feedback warming mechanism responsible for the vast bulk of the Greenhouse effect (so-called). But water as a liquid or solid, forms clouds in the atmosphere; and from a climate point of view, clouds are ALWAYS a strong negative feedback cooling effect; that ultimately shuts off the heating caused by greenhouse warming due to water vapor; or any of the trace contibutors to the GH effect, such as CO2.
One of the most inexplicable false beliefs in meteorology or climate is the silly notion that clouds cause surface warming by “entrapping” infra-red radiation to keep the surface warmer.
The model is predictable. Higher clouds having lower water content make the surface warmer; and the higher, the warmer.
On the other hand lower clouds have more water content, and the lower and moister, the cooler the surface gets.
It astonishes me, that so many people actually believe this; and you can hear iot on any typical weather forecast on radio or TV. Hot balmy nights because of high clouds.
The problem is that the cause and effect are exactly backwards. The clouds do not cause the surface warming (when they are high and lower water content; those clouds are there in the first p[lace BECAUSE the surface was warmer. And the hotter and dryer the surface is (lower relative humidity) the higher up that expanding hot moist air has to go before the standard temperature droip with altitude reaches the dew point, and clouds form.
The more moisture in the lower air (higher relative humidity) the lower altitude at which the dew point is reached so the more water laden clouds form at lower altitudes.
So the supposed positive feedback phenomenon of high wispy clouds keep ing the surface hotter; while lower wetter clouds make it cooler, is a totally false notion. It doesn’t even make any common sense.
Clouds that are 20 km high or higher; simply do not stop the surface from radiating EM radiation and cooling; they can’t do anything about that radiation till it gets up there to the cloud.
Yes you have IR re-emission from the warmed atmosphere and clouds. That re-emission, is essentially isotropic, so it splits about in half that goes up and half goes down.
Closer to the surface where temperatures and pressures are higher, the GH absorption and re-emission specrum are broader due to pressure (collision) and temperature (Doppler) broadening. But as the radiation rises in altitude; it encounters lower density, and lower temperature gases, so the absorptiona nd re-emission bands get narrower, so more radiation escapes from the GH trap.
Downward radiation from the high wispy clouds, on the other hand encounters exactly the opposite trend. The density and temperature is increasing so the absorption spectrum is broadening, so the IR photons run an increasingly hostile gauntlet, trying to reach the surface.
Upward radiation is facilitated by the temperature and presure gradiants, while downward radiation is increasingly inhibited. The driving force is inexorably upwards to the freedom of outer space.
It boggles my mind that you meteorologists and climatologists actually believe that those high clouds heat the surface; instead of the hot surface creating those high clouds.
The postulated high cl0ud positive feedback simply does not exist; clouds are always a cooling influence on the earth, and it is that inevitable negative feedback that locks the earth temperatures into that narrow range established by the fundamental physical and chemical properties of H2O.
All of the rest of it is just condiments; the food value is entirely in the water.
I should add; IMHO.
So try to blow that out of the water.
George

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 12:00 pm

Adolfo Giurfa (11:19:54) :
Ron de Haan (10:08:01) : OT, significant volcanic eruption of Sarychev
It will be interesting to follow the statistics of volcanic activity during the present minimum to compare it with previous ones.
Adolfo,
Good idea, be my guest!

June 15, 2009 12:06 pm

George E. Smith (11:48:48):
It astonishes me, that so many people actually believe this; and you can hear iot on any typical weather forecast on radio or TV. Hot balmy nights because of high clouds.
Yes, your astonishment takes place. Balmy nights are due to the heat released from the subsurface materials of the ground, including water, and the surface of oceans and other deposits of water. Nothing less, we’ve had a hot last night (31 °C) after three days of scorching daytime at 40 °C; however, the sky was completely clear throughout the 72 hours.

June 15, 2009 12:21 pm

John W. (11:18:30) :

…food yields will see a significant drop this year. The longer the cooling trend persists, the scarcer it will become.

It’s already started: click

hunter
June 15, 2009 12:24 pm

Rob,
Dr. Pielke has demonstrated and posted a great deal of information shwoing that the GCM’s have no real predictive ability.

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 12:29 pm

woodfortrees (Paul Clark) (10:18:56) :
This is a really beautiful theory, and nicely written too. It appeals to my intuition – which is why I first became interested in all this – that the Earth (Gaia) has more homeostatic tricks up her sleeve than we’ve realised yet. It’s the kind of thing James Lovelock wrote about (daisyworld!) before he went off the deep end into catastrophic AGW theory.
But I think it’s worth thinking about *why* Lovelock stopped believing Gaia could ride this out with her “governors” as she has before. Is it not possible that in other ways – deforestation, soil erosion, ocean pollution (you know, all those ‘traditional’ Green concerns) – we are damaging the “governor” itself? Would the thunder-cloud mechanism work so well over a deforested area, with no transpiration, no leaf surfaces and no bacterial clouds to seed the rain? This is a genuine question – are your maps high enough resolution to see differences in albedo effect over (say) deforested Haiti vs. lush Dominica?
Paul, you are correct.
Large scale cutting down of the tropical rain forrest will effect weather patterns.
I think it is a great importance that we take care of our biosystems which are extremely vulnerable to our quest for cheap food and especially to the generation of bio fuels.
However, our consumption of fossil fuels and the production of CO2 has nothing to do with it.
On the other hand, our continents can’t get much greener as they are today.
Thanks to the slightly elevated levels in CO2.
One other point, in Indonesia, Costa Rica and Panama, I have seen deforested area’s 10 – 20 years ago. When I visited those area’s recently they were covered again with new forrests.
We underestimate the power of nature to restore damages caused by volcanic eruptions, wild fires etc.
The same goes for the coral reefs that were destroyed by the US and Frensh nuclear programmes.
Today these reefs are completely restored.
I am convinced that taxing fossil fuels by CO2 taxes is a waste of money since real problems have to be confronted.
We can only confront these problems with healty economies and prosperity.
Today’s environmental problems in China and India for example were those we had in the sixties and seventies. We have leaned up our act, our cars and factory emissions have been cleaned up and the same will happen in China and India, but not by taxing CO2.
We have to spread knwoledge, technology and prosperity instead of spreading the wealth.
The biggest harm to our societies, our economies and our environment are socialist and fanatic greens who intend to send us back into the middle ages.
It is nice that you have mentioned Haiti as an example.
This Island has been ruled by corrupt crooks that sold out their population leaving them with a pool of mud to bake cookies.
We should not accept any ruler to treat his people and his country like that.

Dodgy Geezer
June 15, 2009 12:30 pm

Anyone else seen this item on the BBC?
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5392134.stm
It shows a historical temperature set for the UK which indicates that current temperatures are not unusual at all. I trust the misguided journalist will be severely dealt with….

pwl
June 15, 2009 12:31 pm

For shorthand, not that it’s needed, I’ll call this the Honeywell Hypothesis! Nice picture of Earth in the Honeywell Thermostat control unit! Excellent graphic!
Very interesting hypothesis.
Why is the temperature set around it’s current settings… that’s what I didn’t get on the first pass through the article. Why not 10c warmer or 20c cooler?
Also, don’t the ice ages really change the temperature more than +-3 degrees (c or f?) unless you’re averaging out over a long time…?
What kind of ACTUAL experiments can be conducted (pun intended) to demonstrate, aka prove, beyond a shadow of doubt that this Honeywell Thermostat Hypothesis has a connection to objective reality?
I of course ask the AWG Hypothesis folks the same question and so far no takers… other than those that want to play hockey…
The experiment last week proved to bring everyone back to Earth, so to speak. We need more actual experiments to prove or disprove each Climate Hypothesis or component thereof. Let’s get our thinking caps on and warm up those brains!

John F. Hultquist
June 15, 2009 12:31 pm

John W. (11:18:30) :
John F. Hultquist (10:16:13) :
… We need and ice age in a hurry.
I’d rather not, thank you very much!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Can we have just if tiny one – just to make these folks look like the (-blank-) they are?
ps: I commented on the Booker post yesterday.

realitycheck
June 15, 2009 12:33 pm

Very interesting and well-written article. Keep them coming!

John W.
June 15, 2009 12:35 pm

Smokey,
The scary part is that the forecast drops in yield are all based on the effect of prolonged winter conditions. None of the forecasters seem to have asked what will happen to yield if there is an early onset of winter conditions?
Personally, I plan on hoarding. 8^)

pwl
June 15, 2009 12:43 pm

An idea for an experiment would be to park one or more satellites at some distance from Earth, say at one of the Lagrange Points and have it measure the energy that is radiated from Earth in a full spectrum of frequencies including visible and infrared. This would tell us the amount of energy the Earth is actually radiating. Doing the same with the energy coming in from the Sun should allow us to compare the two over time and correlate that with weather patterns and cloud coverage across the entire globe.
Would that work to test The Thermostat Hypothesis?

Adam from Kansas
June 15, 2009 12:50 pm

VG: It almost looks like NOAA’s maps have a warm bias in the Northern Hemisphere and a somewhat cold bias in the Southern Hemisphere.
plus it looks like Unisys is showing NOAA’s ‘predicted’ El Nino is started to run out of steam.
The UAH temp. site is back up, the channel Roy Spencer uses is showing the 2009 temps. just below the yellow line again. Also noticing the Mexico region forecast map on Intellicast, no wonder Texas upwards to my state is getting or is about to get a heatwave, the heat is getting sucked out of an area from Northern Mexico to the middle of Central America, they get cooler air, we get warmer air.
http://www.intellicast.com/Global/Temperature/Maximum.aspx?location=MXZS0123

Sandy
June 15, 2009 1:11 pm

It seems to me that if Man had never emitted significant CO2 then the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere today would be
precisely the same.
The Ocean wouldn’t have it any other way.
Also with large ice caps do you get 2 sets of Hadley cells between the equator and pole or just one set from the equator to the ice cap edge? (Guessing massive katabatic winds).

bill
June 15, 2009 1:15 pm

pwl (12:43:02) :
An idea for an experiment would be to park one or more satellites at
Are these that I posted earlier, what you are looking for:
http://icp.giss.nasa.gov/research/data/erbe/
http://nit.colorado.edu/atoc5560/week13.pdf
http://cimss.ssec.wisc.edu/wxwise/homerbe.html
http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Harrison%20et%20al%20JGR%2095%20D11%2018687-18703%201990.pdf
http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf
Note that the erbe data is satelite measured radiation budget. I.e. clouds/thunderstorms/etc are included.

June 15, 2009 1:20 pm

pwl (12:31:22) :
[…]
Why is the temperature set around it’s current settings… that’s what I didn’t get on the first pass through the article. Why not 10c warmer or 20c cooler?
Also, don’t the ice ages really change the temperature more than +-3 degrees (c or f?) unless you’re averaging out over a long time…?
[…]

If you look at the long-term averages…Since the Cambrian, Earth has had a fairly steady average surface temperature of ~22C. Over the last 600 million years, the Earth has experienced four “ice ages”…Late Ordovician, Pennsylvanian-Lower Permian, Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous and Upper Tertiary-Quaternary. Three of the four ice ages lowered the Earth’s average temperature to ~12C…The U. Jurassic-L. Cretaceous ice age was a bit warmer (~17C).
In degrees Kelvin, the ice ages average ~285K and the warm periods ~295k…The median is ~290K. That’s about a +/-2% variation from the mean.
Within the current ice age (Plio-Pleistocene/Holocene), Earth’s average temperature oscillates between glacial and interglacial episodes. During the glacial episodes, Earth’s average temperature was about 6-7C lower than it is today. During the interglacial episodes, the average temperature has ranged from the current level to 3-4C warmer.

Craig Loehle
June 15, 2009 1:42 pm

Fantastic Willis–great job. A really big confirmation of your theory is that during ice ages the climate was quite dry globally. The tropical rain forests such as the amazon shrank and fragmented. The Eastern US forests were dominated by pine/oak woodland. etc. This is because the heat engine was cooled down by all the ice (high albedo) and thus not as much evaporation was going on.

Editor
June 15, 2009 1:45 pm

VG (11:05:52) :
so whats up with this?
http://www.osdpd.noaa.gov/PSB/EPS/SST/data/anomnight.6.15.2009.gif
compared with this?
http://weather.unisys.com/surface/sst_anom.html
maybe NOAA = AGW agenda?

Reminds me of Anthony, dedicating a blog post to explaining the blip in the ice data each June.
I’ve answered this question at least a couple of times before: different climatologies (i.e. different base periods for computing anomaly).

Indiana Bones
June 15, 2009 1:51 pm

Ron de Haan (10:28:20) :
Who takes the WSJ serious anymore?
No thinking person. The MSM has taken on a distinct Ringling Bros. appearance.

Willis Eschenbach
June 15, 2009 1:53 pm

First, my thanks to Anthony for allowing me to post here, and for his marvelous picture of the earth’s thermostat at the top of the article.
Second, my thanks to all who have contributed. And yes, StuHugFJ, I am the same person you knew in Fiji.
There seems to be some confusion about the difference between a governor and negative feedback. In my terminology at least, a governor uses both negative and positive feedback to control a system so that it maintains a steady state. Negative feedback by itself is like say the effect of air friction on a car. As you increase your speed, the friction goes up, reducing your speed. It is a negative feedback affecting your speed. However, it is only a negative feedback, it can never speed the car up.
A governor, on the other hand, is quite different. It must perforce be able to increase as well as decrease the overall performance. In other words, when the earth gets too cold, the governor must be able to warm it up, and when it gets too cool, the governor must cool it down. A simple negative feedback cannot do that.
In order to maintain a steady state, governor also must be able to bring the system back to the starting point. In terms of temperature, it must be able to more than just reduce the size of an increase, it must actively cool the earth down to (or in practice below) the starting point. This is what thunderstorms can do.
Regarding evidence that the Thermostat Hypothesis is correct, the averaged photos of the tropical ocean are the best evidence that I have been able to think of to date. They are strong evidence in that they were a testable proposition resulting from my Thermostat Hypothesis, and in the event, the test agreed with the Hypothesis. In common with much of climate science, however, it is difficult to test. Any suggestions in this regard would be most welcome.
I was surprised when I analyzed the tropical ocean photo average (Figure 2) that the threshold was so evident. Albedo is about flat level until 10:30, when a rapid rise causes an average insolation loss of about 60 W/m2. This also seems like strong evidence in support of the Thermostat Hypothesis.
Now, having been wrong many times in my life, I would not be surprised to be wrong again. But if you do not agree with my proposed climate control mechanism, then what is it that has kept the earths temperature so constant through millennia of volcanoes and meteor strikes and changing continental positions and a host of other phenomena that could easily have sent the earth spiraling into excess heat or cold?
This is not a rhetorical question. If the cloud cover of the earth were to change the tropical albedo from its current ~30% to say 20%, it would let in about than 30W/m2 more energy than the earth currently receives, enough to fry the earth completely … but we know that has not ever happened. So if my hypothesis is wrong, as it may be, then what is responsible for the temperature stability of the earth?
Again, my thanks and best regards to all, and a hat tip to Anthony Watts for the science, the style, and the general ambience of this most excellent site.
w.
PS – for those who have mentioned being interested in modeling this type of understanding of climate, I refer you again to the most interesting papers by Bejan and by Ou listed at the end of the head post.

Craig Loehle
June 15, 2009 2:02 pm

Someone asked about the nightime. Having lived in the South I can tell you that we would pray for late afternoon thundershowers because then the evening might be bearable. By removing a huge amount of water vapor from the air the thunderstorm allows night time heat to escape, and thus while it takes water vapor (a GHG) to create clouds, the storms remove water vapor from the air. This mechanism is discussed by Spencer.

June 15, 2009 2:04 pm

Great Essay Willis – thank you. I’ve always wondered what linked GLAAM to temperature, and you have shone light on that for me.
Ron de Haan, thanks for your post too, fascinating about the clouds being seeded by updrafted pollen, dust etc.
Other albedo factors acting as negative feedbacks:
Late summer vegetation lightens in colour as it dries and withers.
Algal blooms on oceans also reduce the absorption of insolation.

Aron
June 15, 2009 2:07 pm

Yet more proof that billions of dollars won’t buy you a cent’s worth of intelligence if you don’t know how to purchase some science books and an internet connection to read sites like WUWT.
Paul McCartney wants a a certain carnivore called Homo Sapiens Sapiens to turn to vegetarianism to fight global warming.
http://www.radaronline.com/exclusives/2009/06/paul-mccartney-gets-celebs-go-veggie
Has the world gone veggie since 1998 when temperatures peaked? Considering the economic growth in developing countries since then I think not. More meat is being consumed than at any time since the Jurassic Era.
McCartney should go back to India and this time instead of smoking lots of pot and hanging out with charlatan gurus he should meet all those millions of people who are vegetarian because they are too poor to afford the meat and dairy products that their bodies sorely need to meet nutritional requirements. They cannot afford to eat five veggie meals a day like he can either. He once tried to convince the Dalai Lama to turn to vegetarianism. His request was turned down because the Dalai Lama said his doctor recommended he eat meat otherwise he would be too weak to perform his duties on just a couple of bowls of rice and beans a day. Now look at the millions of Indians who toil the fields under the baking sun on less than 400 calories a day and imagine what they would think of this McCartneyism.
Between pot headed celebrities and Marxist political activists we have a cacophony of pure unadulterated, unscientific and elitists nonsense.

kmye
June 15, 2009 2:11 pm

“The globe has maintained a temperature of ± ~ 3% (including ice ages) for at least the last half a billion years during which we can estimate the temperature. During the Holocene, temperatures have not varied by ±1%.”
I think I may just be being slow today, but can someone explain what this actually represents? 3% of what, the absolute temperature? Meaning absolute zero would be -%100?

June 15, 2009 2:28 pm

Nasif Nahle (11:21:26) :
The Correl. Coefficient for TSI/HSG is 1 and, for TSI/SP is 0.67. Isn’t that exciting?
Not really, because the data has too few degrees of freedom, for the correlation coefficient to mean anything. Start with 1000 data points of random data, then compute the mean of the first half and of the last half. that cooks the points down to only two data points [the averages] with a correlation of 1.00000, but a significance of 0.000000.
Dena (11:23:13) :
My understanding of the earth/moon system is that the moon is moving away from the earth because the rotation of the earth is transfered to the moon. This results in the earth’s day getting longer over time. Could the same thing be happening in the earth/sun system resulting in the earth’s temperature remaining within the range that Anthony’s system will work?
The solar tidal effects are smaller than the moons and the distance is 400 times larger, so there’ll be discernible effect on the distance between the sun and the Earth due to tidal effects. When the solar system formed almost 5 billion years ago there were significant changes in the distances, but that stopped when the ‘dust cleared’.

Willis Eschenbach
June 15, 2009 2:29 pm

kmye, thanks for your question, viz:

I think I may just be being slow today, but can someone explain what this actually represents? 3% of what, the absolute temperature? Meaning absolute zero would be -%100?

3% of the temperature in Kelvins, as you suggest, the absolute temperature.
w.

John Galt
June 15, 2009 2:35 pm

OT: It’s Time to Cool the Planet with Geoengineering
————–
It’s Time to Cool the Planet
Cutting greenhouse gases is no longer enough to deal with global warming, says Jamais Cascio. He argues that we also have to do something more direct—and risky.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204771304574181522575503150.html#articleTabs%3Darticle
By JAMAIS CASCIO
If we’re going to avoid climate disaster, we’re going to have start getting a lot more direct. We’re going to have to think about cooling the planet.
The concept is called geoengineering, and in the past few years, it has gone from being dismissed as a fringe idea to the subject of intense debates in the halls of power. Many of us who have been watching this subject closely have gone from being skeptics to advocates. Very reluctant advocates, to be sure, but advocates nonetheless.
The Journal Report
See the complete Environment report.
What has changed? Quite simply, as the effects of global warming have worsened, policy makers have failed to meet the challenge. As a result, if we want to avoid an unprecedented global catastrophe, we may have no other choice but to reduce the impact of global warning, alongside focusing on the factors that are causing it in the first place. That is, while we continue to work aggressively to reduce the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere, we also need to consider lowering the temperature of the Earth itself.
To be clear, geoengineering won’t solve global warming. It’s not a “techno-fix.” It would be enormously risky and almost certainly lead to troubling unforeseen consequences. And without a doubt, the deployment of geoengineering would lead to international tension. Who decides what the ideal temperature would be? Russia? India? The U.S.? Who’s to blame if Country A’s geoengineering efforts cause a drought in Country B?
Also let’s be clear about one other thing: We will still have to radically reduce carbon emissions, and do so quickly. We will still have to eliminate the use of fossil fuels, and adopt substantially more sustainable agricultural methods. We will still have to deal with the effects of ecosystems damaged by carbon overload.
View Full Image
Viktor Koen
But what geoengineering can do is slow the increase in temperatures, delay potentially catastrophic “tipping point” events—such as a disastrous melting of the Arctic permafrost—and give us time to make the changes to our economies and our societies necessary to end the climate disaster.
Geoengineering, in other words, is simply a temporary “stay of execution.” We will still have to work for a pardon.
Nothing New
Altering the Earth’s temperature, of course, is hardly anything new. Human civilization has been changing the Earth’s environment for millennia, often to our detriment. Dams, deforestation and urbanization can alter water cycles and wind patterns, occasionally triggering droughts or even creating deserts. On a global scale, industrial activity for the past 150 years or so has changed the Earth’s atmosphere, threatening to raise average world temperatures to catastrophic levels, even if we were able to stop releasing carbon into the atmosphere immediately.
What we’re talking about with geoengineering, however, is something new. It’s a more deliberate manipulation of the environment, rather than a byproduct of other activities. And while we know more than we did just a few years ago about how it might work, there are still plenty of unknowns.
Geoengineering mainly takes two forms: temperature management, which moderates heat by blocking or reflecting a small portion of the sunlight hitting the Earth; and carbon management, which gradually removes large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere (as opposed to simply reducing the amount of additional carbon we’re releasing into the atmosphere). Temperature management is the more likely course of action, as it has the advantage of potentially quick results, while carbon-management techniques that would have a global impact might take decades or centuries to show results.
Sun Block
Temperature-management proposals boil down to increasing how much sunlight the Earth reflects, rather than absorbs. (Increasing the planet’s reflectivity by 2% could counter the warming effects of a doubling of CO2 emissions.) While a variety of techniques have been suggested, some don’t pass the plausibility test, either due to cost, clear drawbacks, or both.
For instance, one proposal would place thousands of square miles of reflective sheets in the desert to reflect sunlight—an interesting plan, until you realize that this would effectively destroy desert ecosystems. Another proposal calls for launching millions of tiny mirrors into orbit, where they would block some sunlight from reaching the atmosphere. But one study of the orbiting-mirror plan concluded that, to keep pace with the continual warming, we’d need to launch one square mile of sunshade into orbit every hour.
Join the Discussion
Jamais Cascio says that cutting greenhouse-gas emissions is no longer enough to deal with global warming. He advocates a form of geoengineering called temperature management, which moderates heat by blocking or reflecting a small part of the sunlight hitting the Earth. What do you think of these proposals?
Two approaches hold the most promise: injecting tons of sulfates—essentially solid particles of sulfur dioxide—into the stratosphere, and pumping seawater into the lower atmosphere to create clouds. A recent report in the journal Atmospheric Physics and Chemistry Discussions identified these two approaches as having a high likelihood of being able to counter global temperature increases, and to do so in a reasonably short amount of time.
The sulfate-injection plan, which has received the most study, is explicitly modeled on the effects of massive volcanic eruptions, such as Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines; in the months after the 1991 eruption, global temperatures dropped by half a degree Celsius.
To trigger a drop in global temperatures, we’d need to loft between two million and 10 million tons of sulfur dioxide (which combines with oxygen to form sulfate particles) into the lower stratosphere, or at about 33,000 feet. The tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere act like a haze, reflecting a significant amount of sunlight—though not enough to notice at ground level (except for some superb sunsets).
While this seems like a large amount, several studies have shown it could be done using some combination of high-altitude balloons, dispersal in jet-aircraft exhaust, and even more exotic platforms such as artillery shells. As with volcanic sulfates, the particles would eventually cycle out of the atmosphere, so we’d have to refresh that two to 10 megatons of sulfur dioxide roughly every year.
Stratospheric sulfate injection appeals to many geoengineering proponents for a few reasons. It doesn’t require a massive leap in technology to carry out successfully; arguably, we could start doing it this year, if we needed to. It’s relatively cheap, probably costing just a few billion dollars a year. And because stratospheric sulfate injection emulates an effect of volcanic eruptions, we already have some idea of what to expect from it—for better and worse. We know, for example, that the cooling effect could start within weeks of the injection process.
We also know that stratospheric sulfates will likely damage the ozone layer (as happened after Mount Pinatubo erupted), potentially resulting in more skin cancer and damage to plants and animals. In addition, the scattering of sunlight will reduce the efficiency of some kinds of solar power, and some studies have suggested that it could disrupt monsoonal rain cycles.
While efforts to curb carbon emmissions are under way, some scientists argue more drastic measures need to be taken to combat global warming. WSJ’s science columnist Robert Lee Hotz discusses geo-engineering with environmental experts Alan Robock and Dale Jamieson.
A Higher Chance of Clouds
The other high-impact proposal, cloud brightening, increases the amount of reflected sunlight by making more clouds and thickening existing ones. One idea is to use ships to propel seawater thousands of feet in the air, where it would form or increase cloud cover.
The technique has both advantages and disadvantages compared with the sulfate-injection method. Lofting seawater into the air to seed cloud formation would have fewer environmental side effects than the sulfates, and may allow for targeted use to counter droughts. Because it would be relatively low altitude, it wouldn’t have the same scattering effect on sunlight as sulfate injection.
But increasing the extent and thickness of cloud cover could also have at least as powerful an effect on rainfall patterns as sulfate injection, increasing downpours in one area or contributing to unexpected droughts in others. Finally, the technologies required for cloud brightening are still experimental, though initial proposals look to be markedly more environmentally benign than those used for sulfate injection.
Both solutions could present a more dramatic problem if the geoengineering was to stop abruptly. According to some studies, global temperatures would spike once the geoengineering steps were ended, actually exceeding for a short time where they would have been without any geoengineering. Afterward, the temperature increase would continue as if nothing had been done to slow it. While this doesn’t mean we’d have to undertake geoengineering indefinitely, it underscores why geoengineering must be accompanied by carbon cuts.
Also, neither would do anything to solve other problems that arise from excessive levels of carbon dioxide, such as oceans becoming more acidic from increased carbon loading.
The Political Impact
Any kind of geoengineering would also face other issues. Most prominent are the political concerns. Since geoengineering is global in its effects, who determines whether or not it’s used, which technologies to deploy, and what the target temperatures will be? Who decides which unexpected side effects are bad enough to warrant ending the process? Because the expense and expertise required would be low enough for a single country, what happens when a desperate “rogue nation” attempts geoengineering against the wishes of other states? And because the benefits and possible harm from geoengineering attempts would be unevenly distributed around the planet, would it be possible to use this technology for strategic or military purposes? That last one may sound a bit paranoid, but it’s clear that any technology with the potential for strategic use will be at the very least considered by any rational international actor.
There are also more mundane questions of liability. If, for example, South Asia experiences an unusual drought during cyclone season after geoengineering begins, who gets blamed? Who gets sued? Would all “odd” weather patterns be ascribed to the geoengineering effort? If so, would the issue of what would have happened absent geoengineering be considered relevant?
Consider the Alternative
With all of these drawbacks, why would I consider myself an advocate of geoengineering, no matter how reluctant? Because I believe the alternative would be worse.
The global institutions we rely on to deal with a problem like climate change seem unable to look past short-term roadblocks and regional interests. At the same time, climate scientists are shouting louder than ever about the speed and intensity of environmental changes coming from global warming.
In short, although we know what to do to stop global warming, we’re running out of time to do it and show no interest in moving faster. So here’s where geoengineering steps in: It gives us time to act.
That’s if it’s done wisely. It’s imperative that we increase funding for geoengineering research, building the kinds of models and simulations necessary to allow us to weed out the approaches with dangerous, surprising consequences.
Fortunately, the deployment of geoengineering need not be all or nothing. Though it would have the greatest impact if done globally, some models have shown that intervention just in the polar regions would be enough to hold off the most critical tipping-point events, including ice-cap collapse and a massive methane release.
Polar-only geoengineering strikes me as a plausible compromise position. It could be scaled up if the situation becomes more dire and could be easily shut down with minimal temperature spikes if there were unacceptable side effects.
Still, we can’t forget: Geoengineering is not a solution for global warming. It would simply hold temperatures down temporarily, doing nothing about the causes of climate change, let alone ocean acidification and other symptoms of a carbon overdose. We can’t let ourselves slip back into business-as-usual complacency, because we’d simply be setting ourselves up for a far greater disaster down the road.
Our overall goal must remain the reduction and then elimination of greenhouse-gas emissions as swiftly as humanly possible. This will require feats of political will and courage around the world. What geoengineering offers us is the time to make it happen.
–Mr. Cascio, based in the San Francisco Bay area, is a futurist and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. He can be reached at reports@wsj.com.

June 15, 2009 2:38 pm

Aron (14:07:41) :
Between pot headed celebrities and Marxist political activists we have a cacophony of pure unadulterated, unscientific and elitists nonsense.

Really deep!..but why to separate, in your sentence, pot headed…..political activists…you told me both used to eat from the same pot.
When got inspired they use to fight boredom creating NGOs which disgustingly interfere with our peaceful third world common life.

June 15, 2009 2:38 pm

kmye (14:11:42) :
“The globe has maintained a temperature of ± ~ 3% (including ice ages) for at least the last half a billion years during which we can estimate the temperature. During the Holocene, temperatures have not varied by ±1%.”
I think I may just be being slow today, but can someone explain what this actually represents? 3% of what, the absolute temperature? Meaning absolute zero would be -%100?

Average “non-ice age” Temp ~ 22C (295K)
Average “ice age” Temp ~ 12C (285K) (not counting U. Jur./L. Cret ice age)
Median Phanerozoic Temp ~ 17C (290 K)
That is a variation from the median of less than 3% over the last 600 million years or so. During the current ice age, the glacial period average temp’s are ~6C cooler than the current ~15C average temp.
Average Quaternary/Holocene glacial Temp ~ 8C (281K)
Average Quaternary/Holocene interglacial Temp ~15C (288K)
Median ~12C (285K)
That is a variation from the mean of a bit over 1%.
Since the onset of the Holocene, the variation from the mean has been less than 1%…~3C.
Think of it like a nested series of oscillating functions.

jae
June 15, 2009 2:39 pm

Great discussion. I note that the phrases “greenhouse gas” and “radiative equilibrium,” are not mentioned at all. Infrared radiation is discussed only in reference to loss of heat from high in the atmosphere. Hmmm…

DJ
June 15, 2009 2:41 pm

NCDC now places May as the 4th warmest on record – http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/2009/may/glob-may-pg.gif
The oceans which have been the drag on temperatures in recent years are now warming rapidly as La Nina is replaced by El Nino – 3rd warmest on record (yep and no heat islands there).
Year will now come in in the top 2-4 years. .. amazing for a deep solar minimum.
REPLY: and UAH places it as the 15th coldest. There’s some disconnect somewhere. I wonder if the surface record has been corrupted? BTW, why not show us what your employer, BoM says about Australia? – Anthony

June 15, 2009 2:43 pm

John Galt,
Did you find Jamais Cascio’s article above or below the daily astrology column?

Cathy
June 15, 2009 2:45 pm

I almost swallowed my tongue when I opened Sunday’s WSJ and found that article on which a few above have already commented. The one about geo-engineering to cool the planet.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203658504574191922455122210.html
What’s up with that ?!!!!!

Mike M
June 15, 2009 3:08 pm

I don’t think there’s any question that clouds help keep us cool in the day and warm at night. However the active process of condensation whereby the heat of change of state is released is, in my opinion, occuring mainly during daylight when convection of the water vapor is actively rising, (as opposed to night when existing clouds are more often than not like big inert thermal blankets.) So, during the day, how is it determined how much of the IR being seen by satellite is that radiated directly from the change of state of water vapor back to liquid, (noting that there is no change in temperature during the phase change but energy MUST be released up there), versus incoming solar IR being reflected back by the clouds?

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 3:15 pm

Mike Monce (06:10:47) :
I think the article is good, but ignores a very crucial aspect of energy transport: namely that of tropical cylones. While daily thuderstorm formation certainly helps the heat engine run, I would supect that tropical cyclones contribute much more to the transport of energy from the tropical regions to the polar regions. Comparing the energy in a cyclone to a thunderstorm is like comparing a ladyfinger firecracker to a nuke.
Mike,
Although you are correct with your assessment, the continuity sticks in the frequency and the numbers.
A tropical strom is nothing more but an over energized depression, fueled by the relative warm ocean waters.
If you make the calculations you will find that the cyclones only represent a relative small percentage of the overall, daily and seasonal activity powered by our sun.

DJ
June 15, 2009 3:19 pm

>REPLY: and UAH places it as the 15th coldest. There’s some disconnect somewhere. I wonder if the surface record has been corrupted? BTW, why not show us what your employer, BoM says about Australia? – Anthony
Anthony why do you respond with irrelevant ad hominen attacks? Perhaps you might stick to the science and stop throwing up insults and strawme – we live at the surface and the MSU data is a complex function of temperature 1000s of feet above our heads.
In your quest to understand the science you might start with a critical look at the MSU which is strongly contradicted by ocean, land, ice, snow, sea level, and heat content data. Does it make sense that with a significant El Nino developing in the Pacific we have a cold tropics as the MSU implies? Where are all the reports of cold tropical temperatures? expanding glaciers? snow? frost etc? which should accompany a cold tropics. Why is sea level rising rapidly upwards – http://sealevel.colorado.edu/current/sl_ib_ns_global.jpg – with all that “cooling”?
You know that the MSU is a patch of a dozen satellites with large corrections applied for orbital drift, diurnal drift, calibration drift etc. You also know that it is affected by moisture variations, pressure changes (pressure levels rise as the planet warms and moisture increases), and includes data which is fictional as its extrapolated 100s of metres below the the earth’s surface in places such as the Antarctic.
REPLY: And you also know that the satellite and surface record are divergent right now. Since you are the climate expert at BoM, why not tell us why? I’ll even offer you a guest post provided you have the courage to use your own name. – Anthony

Benjamin P.
June 15, 2009 3:37 pm

Maybe I am ignorant, but whats new here? I mean, isn’t this already common knowledge?
“7. This is a reasonable explanation for how the temperature of the earth has stayed so stable (or more recently, bi-stable as glacial and interglacial) for hundreds of millions of years.”
There is strong evidence to suggest the earth was frozen pole-to-pole during the neoproterozoic. So if a “snowball Earth” is considered stable climate, that’s news to me.
Also, where is the data? We have some albedo measurements, but beyond that and some “thought exercises” where’s the data?
Interesting afternoon read nonetheless though.
Cheers,
Ben

Willis Eschenbach
June 15, 2009 3:46 pm

John Galt (14:35:20), as you yourself note, your post is off topic. In addition, it’s generally considered to be bad blog manners to post an entire long article. If the article is interesting and relevant, give us a link to it, along with your ideas about why it is interesting and relevant.
While your participation is welcome, merely parroting another man’s thoughts by posting a long, rambling, and admittedly off-topic article will not gain you any traction.

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 3:52 pm

DJ (14:41:57) :
NCDC now places May as the 4th warmest on record – http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/img/climate/research/2009/may/glob-may-pg.gif
The oceans which have been the drag on temperatures in recent years are now warming rapidly as La Nina is replaced by El Nino – 3rd warmest on record (yep and no heat islands there).
Year will now come in in the top 2-4 years. .. amazing for a deep solar minimum.
DJ,
You can forget all about your El Nino and any reference that presents May 2009 as the 4th warmest this century is a joke.
Have you forgotten that NOAA curently serves a Political Agenda and has lined up with the UN. They sing the the same biased tune as the British Weather Service.
Why don’t you consult other )non biased) sources that tell an entirely different story.
You must be a true believer!

June 15, 2009 3:57 pm

With reference to these words from Willis:
“A governor, on the other hand, is quite different. It must perforce be able to increase as well as decrease the overall performance. In other words, when the earth gets too cold, the governor must be able to warm it up, and when it gets too cool, the governor must cool it down. A simple negative feedback cannot do that.
In order to maintain a steady state, governor also must be able to bring the system back to the starting point. In terms of temperature, it must be able to more than just reduce the size of an increase, it must actively cool the earth down to (or in practice below) the starting point. This is what thunderstorms can do.”
I don’t think the Earth gets too cold or too warm.
What seems to happen is that the solar energy input is slowed down in it’s passage through the Earth’s system of ocean and air and some of the energy is thereby converted to heat just as in an electrical resistor.
The oceans create nearly all that slowdown and the air just an insignificant bit of the total.
It is the level of solar input combined with the length of the delay in the transmission of energy through the oceans and air that fixes the equilibrium temperature of the Earth’s climate. It is a dynamic and constantly varying equilibrium temperature because of the variability of the solar input and the complex and very different circulations in both oceans and air.
It is primarily variations in the oceans that periodically alter the speed of the flow of energy through the system. Once that happens then as Willis says a thermostat does indeed kick in and tropical weather and especially tropical convection are indeed part of the thermostatic process.
However that thermostatic process actually involves all the air circulation systems and not just the tropics.
As I say in an earlier post it is the movement of the latitudinal position of all the air circulation systems that has the required effect. That movement has profound effects on the overall rate of energy transfer from surface to space.
Willis is also correct in asserting that the air has to both reduce a trend of warming and similarly reduce any cooling trend and so shift both back to the equilibrium point.
Now in my view the equilibrium point in practical climate terms is the sea surface temperature. The sea surface temperature varies up and down but never goes too far from the basic equilibrium set by the input of solar energy combined with the length of time it takes to be transmitted through the oceans and back into the air (then space).
Thus, if the sea surfaces warm up (from internal oceanic variability) then the equatorial air masses expand and energy is accelerated to space faster by the air whilst the temperature of the air catches up with the warming of the sea. That is of course a self limitimg process such that in due course the excess energy is removed from the sea surfaces out to space and the basic equilibrium of the entire system is restored.
Then, if the sea surfaces cool down (from internal oceanic variability) then the equatorial air masses shrink and more polar air is able to encroach equatorward. That has the effect of that cooler drier air pulling more energy from the water to try to offset the net loss of energy to space caused by the shortfall of energy coming from the oceans. So again the system works to limit the cooling of the air and work back towards the basic equilibrium of the entire system.
The air can only push excess energy to space or pull a deficit from the oceans. It cannot pull energy from space or push energy into the oceans.
That fits with Willis’s suggestion of a climate ‘governor’ but it involves all the air and not just the tropics.
The basic equilibrium around which it all happens is set in the way I have said and it is the oceans that induce variability around that equilibrium with the air a mere passenger (albeit the climate governor) and CO2 changes of no significant account.

Willis Eschenbach
June 15, 2009 3:59 pm

Benjamin P. (15:37:23), you say:

Maybe I am ignorant, but whats new here? I mean, isn’t this already common knowledge?
“7. This is a reasonable explanation for how the temperature of the earth has stayed so stable (or more recently, bi-stable as glacial and interglacial) for hundreds of millions of years.”
There is strong evidence to suggest the earth was frozen pole-to-pole during the neoproterozoic. So if a “snowball Earth” is considered stable climate, that’s news to me.
Also, where is the data? We have some albedo measurements, but beyond that and some “thought exercises” where’s the data?

The idea that the earth has an active climate system which works to maintain a set temperature is hardly “common knowledge”.
As to evidence, I have given what evidence I know of. However, as with evidence about anything to do with the climate, evidence is in short supply. The cited work of Bejan and Ou are relevant in this context.
I know of some evidence for a “snowball earth”, but I would hardly call it “strong evidence”. In addition to the lack of strong evidence, there are also theoretical problems with how the earth would freeze over to start with, and if it did so, how it would emerge from the frozen state.
More than direct evidence, however, my hypothesis is built on circumstantial evidence, observation, and logic. Not as good as evidence, I know, but Einstein dealt heavily in “thought experiments”, and my thought experiment was verified by the albedo study.
Overall, I am reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s famous line. To understand his line, you need to know that in earlier times, it was common to adulterate milk by adding water to it, in order to increase profits. Thoreau said:
“Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk” …
I would love to find more evidence. I would say, though, that already my hypothesis has more observational support than the climate models. It has made a testable proposition, and it passed the test … don’t know of a single climate model that has done that.
However, one has to start somewhere. If you know of further evidence that might either support or demolish my hypothesis, I invite you to present it.
All the best,
w.

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 4:10 pm

Smokey (14:43:56) :
John Galt,
Did you find Jamais Cascio’s article above or below the daily astrology column?
Smokey and John,
American Thinker already took care of the WSJ publication in an effective manner.
http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2009/06/wsj_publishes_nutty_global_war.html

pwl
June 15, 2009 4:10 pm

Well Bill those links are interesting… it’s going to take a while to digest what they are saying… what is the conclusion that they make then regarding the Earth’s Energy Balance and Budget?

Jim K
June 15, 2009 4:16 pm

Dear Willis,
Some ideas have a sense of rightness, internal consistency, believability and inevitability. Congratulations, in my opinion you have hit the bullseye.
Cheers,
Jim K

Bob Wood
June 15, 2009 4:17 pm

It makes sense to me except for the “4 billion” year idea. Seems to me only a billion or two years would be more than enough to level all the mountains in the world what with the amount of erosion being carried downstream in the rivers with the water being returned by evaporation and condensation, but none of the eroded material being carried back up.

JamesD
June 15, 2009 4:24 pm

Another important regulating feature is the strange characteristics of water. It is an extremely light gas with a Molecular weight of 18, so as a gas it rises quickly. But it is an extremely dense liquid, so once it condenses, it forms rain.
Furthermore water holds a heck of a lot of heat. Basically water is an ideal convective heat medium to carry heat high up into the atmosphere.
Finally, ask any engineer what is an order of magnitude more potent, convective or radiant heat transfer. Convective heat transfer overpowers radiant heat transfer.
One more thing, consider the moon. It is hotter than the earth during the day, and colder during the night.

June 15, 2009 4:28 pm

A truly great contribution Willis. The ‘big picture’ is there and also lots of little pictures too that make a great deal of sense.
I see some controversy in this thread about the role of high cloud and whether it traps energy or not (Bill, George Smith) . Recently I came across this:
http://www.aero.jussieu.fr/~sparc/SPARC2000_new/OralSess1/Session1_3/X_Zhou/CPT_sparc.htm
“A warming trend in SST was found almost everywhere in the tropics. The warming SST tends to destabilize the static stability of the troposphere, and convection will occur more frequently and/or be more intense. Convective clouds will reach higher altitude and/or cover larger area. As an indication of this, the OLR shows a decreasing trend almost everywhere in the tropics. The OLR trend corresponds closely to the trends observed directly from the in situ rainfall observation (Waliser and Zhou, 1997). Stronger convection and more precipitation produce larger diabatic heating in the tropics, which forces a higher tropopause so that the pressures and temperatures of the tropical tropopause become lower and colder.”
So, the cooling process in the equatorial zone involves a fair degree of decompression (due to uplift) rather than radiation and as the engine warms there is more of the former than the latter. It’s the ‘refrigeration’ process. on the other hand, where the air descends it will warm by compression, just as it does in a bike pump. Roy Spencer explains this very well.
At the poles an increase in surface pressure is accompanied by a warming of the air. As the air warms ice cloud disappears. In high pressure zones world wide, radiation should increase as the tropical turnover increases. There are large high pressure cells at the poles, over Greenland and Siberia and also in the subtropics. Because of compressive warming these zones are relatively cloud free, particularly at the lower levels. The first sign of a change in the weather is the appearance of very high cloud coming from the tropics.
Between the areas of tropical convection characterized by decompressive cooling and the high pressure cells of the subtropics characterized by radiative cooling there is a zone of relatively abundant high ice cloud. The amount varies directly with the rate of uplift in the ITCZ. This cloud can be observed to reach into the stratosphere.
The temperature of the air in which this ice cloud resides varies directly with the ozone content and temperature of the tropical stratosphere at 20hPa.
As this ice cloud comes and goes in response to change in upper troposphere/lower stratosphere temperature (on an average 27.1 month schedule), the ocean outside the zone of tropical convection warms and cools. The response peters out at about 40° of latitude. The surface waters are driven towards the equator by the trades.
We measure the change in water temperature in the ENSO 3.4 region and call this the ENSO phenomenon.
The flux in the ozone content of the tropical stratosphere is ultimately driven by the sun via its effect on the abundance of nitrogen oxides that keep the mesosphere cool and are always eating into ozone levels at the margins of the stratosphere and via the polar vortexes. This dynamic can change gradually over long periods of time or quite abruptly as it did in the period 1978-83.
The warming and cooling of the globe over long periods of time owes a great deal to the dynamic that determines the temperature of the air in the ice cloud zone between the equator and about 40° of latitude.
The dynamic of an appearing and disappearing zone of high ice cloud with the associated cooling and warming of the ocean shows what ice cloud does. It reflects sunlight.
To understand the climate one must understand the complexities that space and geography introduces to the argument. The atmosphere is a collection of heat pumps and radiation shields in constant motion. These heat pumps and radiation shields very sensitively reflect the influence of the sun.
This is not an atmosphere that can be readily modeled. Nor is it an atmosphere that responds to change in trace gas composition. There is no water vapour amplifier. There is no high cloud blanket to trap infrared. It doesn’t work that way at all.

Gilbert
June 15, 2009 4:38 pm

Great post. Lots to think about.
bill (10:08:43) :
This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs:

Methinks you should read the whole thing:
Since there appears to be good agreement between modeled and observed clear-sky fluxes, it is evident that the parameterizations of cloud amount, type, and optical properties used in the various GCMs are inadequate at this point.

Owen Hughes
June 15, 2009 4:45 pm

Great exposition. It introduces a powerful and (to me) original new concept, the “sun’s eye view” that dispels a lot of confusion and gives us the heating picture with time function converted to spatial map. Brilliant. It also works intuitively: we’ve all watched those T-storms and wondered at their power. For myself, in trying to get a “feel” for the AGW argument and where the heat was going, I kept going back to the question of all the work that is done by evaporating water and carrying it to great heights. it would be interesting to try to figure out (in the sun’s eye view, at some reasonable granularity) how many T-storms are there, how much work each is doing, thus how much of the sun’s inbound energy at that moment is being offset by the albedo, the water-lift, the radiation off cloud-tops and from the cooling packets of lifted air. Not a strict accounting but maybe suggestive.
Bottom line, a most informative and well-written article. I have some friends whom I am trying to cure of carbonophobia and this should prove very useful. Thanks: to Anthony, to Willis Eschenbach, and to the other commenters. I always profit from my visits to this excellent blog.

John F. Hultquist
June 15, 2009 4:45 pm

““Willis Eschenbach (15:59:00) :
Overall, I am reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s famous line. To understand his line, you need to know that in earlier times, it was common to adulterate milk by adding water to it, in order to increase profits. Thoreau said:
“Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk” … ””
When I was about 8 dad got a higher paying job. Until then I thougt all milk had trout! Sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Seriously, Willis and the rest of you, this has been informative, entertaining, and even fun. Thanks to all.

Mike Ramsey
June 15, 2009 5:05 pm

“For story ideas or other items related to this website: leave a comment on any thread.”
Here is an idea. This paper proposes that Changes In the earth’s main magnetic field are induced By the oceans’ circulation. The entire concept of the dynamo operating in the Earth’s core is called into question.
Cool. I love “settled science”.~
http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1367-2630/11/6/063015/
–Mike Ramsey

Eric (skeptic)
June 15, 2009 5:05 pm

The postulated high cl0ud positive feedback simply does not exist; clouds are always a cooling influence on the earth, and it is that inevitable negative feedback that locks the earth temperatures into that narrow range established by the fundamental physical and chemical properties of H2O.
George,
That’s not correct. The cooling effect from high clouds is well known. The simplest example is an IR satellite picture that shows that cold cloud tops radiate significantly less IR to space than land or water or low cloud tops.
The University of Wisconsin blog has lots of IR satellite pictures and analysis of various features. Here’s the home page http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/ and I found a 6MB PDF http://www.ssec.wisc.edu/overview/ssec-booklet2007.pdf with lots of extraneous info, but it did explain how satellite IR sensors work.
Here’s a NASA site with some information on outgoing IR as seen from satellite: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=45

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 5:08 pm

OT Sarychev eruption gets serious:
Plume altitde now reaching 10 miles up causing major flight cancellations.
http://scienceblogs.com/eruptions/2009/06/sarychev_peak_eruption_update.php

peter_ga
June 15, 2009 5:13 pm

Over geological timescales, temperatures have been stable and CO2 levels have varied greatly. I wonder what that could mean.

Eric (skeptic)
June 15, 2009 5:14 pm

Whoops, I should have said “warming effect or global warming effect” from high clouds.

Dave Wendt
June 15, 2009 5:18 pm

DJ (15:19:15) :
>REPLY: and UAH places it as the 15th coldest. There’s some disconnect somewhere. I wonder if the surface record has been corrupted? BTW, why not show us what your employer, BoM says about Australia? – Anthony
Anthony why do you respond with irrelevant ad hominen attacks? Perhaps you might stick to the science and stop throwing up insults and strawme – we live at the surface and the MSU data is a complex function of temperature 1000s of feet above our heads.

As an observer I find your charge that Anthony’s response was an irrelevant ad hominen(sic) interesting. It seems to me that he offered direct contradictory evidence to your main point and offered a question and, while his BTW might be characterized as a bit snarky, it hardly seems to rise to the level of an ad hominem. You then proceed to offer a couple of paragraphs of unsupported assertions and irrelevant questions about the reliability of satellite data, punctuated by a rather abrupt about face in the middle when you cite satellite derived data as proof that sea level is rapidly rising. Since you seem to have a preference for land based measurement perhaps you could reconcile for me the divergence of satellite sea level data from this information http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/MSL_global_trendtable.html
I realize that land based gauges are subject to a variety of errors, but aren’t the apparent levels they record more “relevant” to human coastal populations, than the absolute sea levels that satellites provide, even if the satellite record should prove to be more accurate?

June 15, 2009 5:20 pm

Leif Svalgaard (14:28:10) :
Nasif Nahle (11:21:26) :
The Correl. Coefficient for TSI/HSG is 1 and, for TSI/SP is 0.67. Isn’t that exciting?
Not really, because the data has too few degrees of freedom, for the correlation coefficient to mean anything. Start with 1000 data points of random data, then compute the mean of the first half and of the last half. that cooks the points down to only two data points [the averages] with a correlation of 1.00000, but a significance of 0.000000.

The correlation exists. I admit there are few degrees of freedom; it was the first observation from the p. r.; however, as I argued on the p. r., each point represents 70 years of data for a total of 420 years. I’ve iterated the data, so I hope the article will be accepted with few modifications which I have made to the manuscript.

Mr Wooly Mammoth
June 15, 2009 5:24 pm

I’ve believed in a stable climate for as long as I’ve been non-extinct.

J.Hansford
June 15, 2009 5:29 pm

Yep…… This makes more sense than a Hypothesis that places supernatural powers on a humble Gas that somehow allows 1 Anthropogenic CO2 molecule per 100 000 molecules of air to heat the atmosphere Catastrophically….
…. The Thermostat Hypothesis makes a Lot more sense.

Indiana Bones
June 15, 2009 5:43 pm

Aron (14:07:41) :
Yet more proof that billions of dollars won’t buy you a cent’s worth of intelligence…
Sir Paul is concerned with the treatment of billions of farmed animals, and to some degree! bovine methane which has twenty times the greenhouse effect. I eat neither meat nor five veggie meals a day and feel just fine, thanks.
Life goes on bra…

AnonyMoose
June 15, 2009 6:18 pm

bill (10:08:43) :
This document indicates that cloud forcing in 1980’s was already incorporated in at least 2 GCMs:
http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications/Harrison%20et%20al%20JGR%2095%20D11%2018687-18703%201990.pdf
As others have pointed out, the Harrison et al 1990 article actually states that the CGM parameterization was inadequate.
More relevant to this discussion, the ERBE measurements described by Harrison confirm this article’s -60 W/m^2 is in the ballpark. Notice figure 1c (page 11) shows seasonal forcing over -50 to -140 W/m^2. It doesn’t seem to point out that the latitudes where the seasonal forcing is strongest are outside 30N and 30S; the area between is dominated by the ITCZ — the ring of thunderstorms and their Hadley circulation.

Jim
June 15, 2009 6:29 pm

crosspatch (01:04:01) and Mike Lorrey (02:51:36) and others: Does anyone know if the climate models correctly backcast the temperature when CO2 was in the thousands. If they are worth anything, they should.

bill
June 15, 2009 6:35 pm

pwl: one conclusion:
The present analysis has employed two independent satellite datasets in conjunction with recent in situ measurements to answer the question, Why is net cloud radiative forcing in tropical deep convective regions near zero? By correlating ERBE cloud radiative forcing with ISCCP cloud types, it is found that both the tropical long-wave and shortwave cloud forcing are determined by high optically thick clouds. This result, in conjunction with a simple analytic expression for the ratio of cloud forcing,implies that the dominant factor in the cancellation of the cloud forcing is cloud top height. Based on in situ observations, it is further assumed that the cloud-top height of the thick cirrostratus clouds is near the tropical tropopause. Thus, to the extent that the tropopause height is weakly dependent on sea surface temperature, the tropical near cancellation of cloud radiative forcing is fortuitous. This conclusion is dependent on the assumption that the cloud tops of the cirrostratus are near the tropical tropopause and that these clouds arc optically thick in both the shortwave and longwave regimes. These assumptions perhaps can best be validated by in situmeasurements from the Central Equatorial Pacific Experiment (CEPEX) and from the Tropical West Pacific Site of the Department of Energy’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Program.This analysis also explains why the near cancellation of cloud radiative forcing occurs over land and ocean deep tropical convective regions, since the major determinant is the tropical tropopause height. It is important to point out that this analysis does not rule out the importance of microphysical processes in cloud forcing. It suggests, however, that these microphysical effects arc not the dominant factor in determining the near cancellation effect. Indeed, as the data clearly ex-hibit, the exact magnitude of the near cancellation varies. This variation may be due to variations in the microphysical properties, leading to changes in cloud albedo. Again, improved in situ measurements are required to answer these questions.
http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0442/7/4/pdf/i1520-0442-7-4-559.pdf
Gilbert (16:38:29) :
Perhaps the date is important – there have been a further 20 years of satelite data to improve the cloud forcing data in model. I assume you beleive that this has now been forgotten or munged in some way?
The ERBE satellites measure actual solar radiation and radiation from the earth. I.e. ALL radiation from the earth is accounted for (thunder cells, albedo of clouds, hurricanes, atomic bombs, power stations.
By the 90’s, modelers would have incorporated cloud forcing into GCMs. So what is actually new in this well written piece?

June 15, 2009 6:54 pm

Dave Wendt: DJ’s preference for in situ-based global temperature readings requires that he disregard GISTEMP. Since 1982, GISS has used satellite-based OI.v2 SST data. Sounds like a major conflict for him.

Willis Eschenbach
June 15, 2009 7:14 pm

bill, you say:

By the 90’s, modelers would have incorporated cloud forcing into GCMs.

Indeed they did … but with very limited success. Part of the problem is that the forcing is parameterized, they just pick numbers that they think are in the right range.
A second problem involves albedo. The GISSE model has the correct albedo … but the way that they obtained it is by playing around with the threshold relative humidity, viz:

The model is tuned (using the threshold relative humidity
U00 for the initiation of ice and water clouds) to
be in global radiative balance (i.e., net radiation at
TOA within 0.5 W m 2 of zero) and a reasonable
planetary albedo (between 29% and 31%) for the control
run simulations.

SOURCE:http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2006/Schmidt_etal_1.html
Now, that’s the word from the chief modeler himself. The only problem with this approach is that they end up with only 59% global cloud cover instead of the observed 69%, a large error … which of course means that their cloud reflectivity is way off.
You need to distinguish between “included in the model” and “properly included in the model.” The GISS folks, running of the worlds best models, can’t get even the amount of clouds right, much less the effect of clouds..
Their incorrect amount of clouds is not the main problem. The biggest issue is that all of the modelers assume that cloud forcing overall is positive … which for me is simply absurd.
So yes, there are “clouds” in the models … but they are parameterized tinkertoy “clouds” in a parameterized tinkertoy model. Note that without the bogus cloud parameterization, the freakin’ GISS model does not even achieve radiative balance. If you have to tune your global radiative balance by screwing around with your parameterized threshold humidity, your model is in deep trouble.
Color me unimpressed with the clouds in the models, to me it’s just more models in the clouds …
w.

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 7:16 pm

For those of you who are interested in the detailed basics of clouds, cloud forming processes and flow patterns I have found this excellent site presenting theory for aviators with good ilustrations and clear explanations.
This is up to date information.
http://www.auf.asn.au/meteorology/section3.html and section 4
Have you ever heard of a cloud type called “Pyro Cumulus”?
REPLY: Yes from convection/heat associated with forest fires and volcanoes. – Anthony

Melinda Fairchild
June 15, 2009 7:28 pm

Great post!
The idea of the perspective of viewing earth’s climate from the sun reminds me of the views of Jupiter: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter About half way down on the left is an animation of Voyager’s approach and I notice that the upper equatorial band changes left to right like the clouds in the yellow box above.

bill
June 15, 2009 7:29 pm

Another negative feedback:
Stefan-Boltzmann’s Law.
If the temperature of the earth rises from 16C to 18 C blackbody radiation suggests that the radiation will go up by about 3%
If the output of the sun does not vary but the global temperature risess then radiation from the earth will increase leadingto cooling.

June 15, 2009 7:30 pm

An article before the AGW idea start, which demonstrated that “anomalous heat from changing solar irradiance is stored in the upper layer of the ocean”:
White, W. B., J. Lean, D. R. Cayan, and M. D. Dettinger (1997), Response of global upper ocean temperature to changing solar irradiance, J. Geophys. Res., 102(C2), 3255–3266.
The forcing by solar irradiance plus the forcing by cosmic rays was ~0.35 K/W^2:
Nir J. Shaviv, “On Climate Response to Changes in the Cosmic Ray Flux and Radiative Budget”, JGR-Space, vol. 110, A08105.
After the AGW idea start, oceans stopped storing anomalous heat and are passive victims of CO2, the Sun doesn’t heat up the Earth, and the solar forcing is 0.01 K/W^2. This kind of Climate “Science” changed in less than one year. Isn’t AGW agenda obvious?

Frank K.
June 15, 2009 7:34 pm

Willis Eschenbach (19:14:53) :
“The GISS folks, running [one] of the worlds best models, can’t get even the amount of clouds right, much less the effect of clouds..”
One of the world’s best models?? I’m sorry – Model E is a piece of FORTRAN junk! There are much better models out there, e.g. NCAR’s CAM 3.

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 7:40 pm

Read this quote and make a guess where it is from, you won’t believe it.
” Someone has to take the unpopular stand and say it: We had record cold temperatures in many American cities last winter, and many well-respected scientists doubt the thesis behind global warming. Even if global warming is happening, there is no clear evidence mankind is the cause. And even if mankind was causing the globe’s temperatures to rise, it isn’t clear that would be calamitous for us and what’s more, the solutions offered by the proponents of global warming may be worse than the problem itself.
OT;
Take cap and trade for example. In the midst of a deep recession, cap and trade would substantially raise the cost of energy and shut down U.S. factories, shipping jobs to China. The only beneficiaries will be government bureaucrats who, in running the oversight and enforcement of the new environmental rules, will see their power soar and authority expand at the expense of ordinary Americans.
Lyndon Johnson once said “being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing to do but stand there and take it.” Sometimes a President has to internalize that lesson”.
This quote comes from the Huffington Post, the same online paper that kicked out Harold Ambler’s piece on Al Gore stating it was a mistake.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harold-ambler/mr-gore-apology-accepted_b_154982.html
What about them apples?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-schram/the-myth-of-energy-indepe_b_215647.html

hotrod
June 15, 2009 7:46 pm

If you know of further evidence that might either support or demolish my hypothesis, I invite you to present it.

I can think of two possible ways to add additional data to the puzzle.
One would be based on simple mass and heat content calculations.
Lets take as an example a stationary thunderstorm that simply sits in one place and dumps water. In the Big Thompson flood in Colorado in 1976 a upslope flow developed and created a thunderstorm that parked over the Estes Park area and dumped approximately 7.5 inches of rain in an hour and about 12 inches of water in a period of about 4 hours. Peak flow in the river was about 1000 cubic meters/second. This rain fall fell over approximately 70 square mile area.
http://www.assessment.ucar.edu/flood/flood_summaries/07_31_1976.html
For a back of the envelope calculation lets look at how much water would be needed to cover 20 square miles to a depth of 8 inches. The tally works out to about 418176000 cubic feet of water or about 1.18 x 10^7 cubic meters of water fell as rain in a period of 4 hours. That water was converted from vapor to liquid water and as a result had to release the latent heat of condensation for that amount of water in a similar period of time.
I think if you crunch the numbers you will find that the heat loss necessary to condense that much water far exceeds the solar isolation.
This thought experiment leads me to think there are two ways to test your theory at least on a proof of concept basis.
One would be an energy balance calculation of the rate of heat release that would be required by a thunderstorm to condense out its precipitation. I suspect that heat release rate would provide strong evidence that the top of the storm is dissipating enormous amounts of energy to space. A second check on this would be for a high resolution measurement of IR emissions from the top of a thunderstorm while it is actively building and raining out. If it is acting as an active heat pump and dumping heat to very high altitudes it should be very hot compared to near by parcels of high altitude air where no precipitation is occurring. If the IR irradiance of the cloud tops significantly exceeds simple reflected sun light then you have an active radiator dumping heat to space.
The question is do current satellites that record IR temperatures have sufficient resolution to measure the local heat emissions of an active cloud top, or are their “cells” so large that the clouds IR emissions would be lost in the background noise?
Once you have a good number about the rate of heat release correlated with precipitation rate, you can use the storm total precipitation as a proxy for the heat dumped to space. If all that latent heat of condensation does not show up in the upper atmosphere, it must be getting radiated to space in real time.
Larry
Larry

June 15, 2009 7:47 pm

Bob Wood (16:17:33) :
It makes sense to me except for the “4 billion” year idea. Seems to me only a billion or two years would be more than enough to level all the mountains in the world what with the amount of erosion being carried downstream in the rivers with the water being returned by evaporation and condensation, but none of the eroded material being carried back up.
It takes about 500 million years to wear all mountains down, but plate tectonics have split and then reassembled the continents about eight times since the Earth was born, so the cycle has started anew several times.
Nasif Nahle (17:20:05) :
however, as I argued on the p. r., each point represents 70 years of data for a total of 420 years.
I seem to remember that you have said repeatedly that the values were not means, but instantaneous single year values…

Ron de Haan
June 15, 2009 7:49 pm

OT
http://yosemite.epa.gov/opa/admpress.nsf/0/E2D4E47E1638FB46852575D6005FC2AF
$10 Million in First EPA Grants to Develop Climate Change Showcase Communities
Release date: 06/15/2009
Contact Information: Dave Ryan (News Media Only) ryan.dave@epa.gov 202-564-7827 202-564-4355
WASHINGTON – EPA is announcing the availability of up to $10 million in first of its kind, “Climate Showcase Communities” grants to local and tribal governments to establish and implement climate change initiatives that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agency expects to award approximately 30 cooperative agreements, each one ranging from $100,000 to $500,000. Approximately 5 percent of the funds ($500,000) are set-asides for tribal governments.
“Ending climate change and moving to a sustainable, clean energy future begins on the ground in our communities,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. “We’re offering a helping hand to local areas that are leading the way in confronting climate change, and a call to action for anyone concerned about making a difference where they live. We can cut energy costs and reduce harmful emissions at the local level, and build a model for fighting climate change in every community.”
EPA requests proposals from local governments, federally-recognized Indian tribal governments, and inter-tribal consortia to create replicable models of sustainable community action, generate cost-effective greenhouse gas reductions, and improve the environmental, economic, public health, and social conditions in a community. A 50 percent cost-share is required for recipients, with the exception of tribal governments and intertribal consortia which are exempt from matching requirements under this grant.
This grant program is administered by EPA’s Local Climate and Energy Program, an initiative to assist local and tribal governments to identify, implement, and track policies and programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions within their operations and surrounding communities. Over the course of the grant program, EPA will offer training and technical support to grant recipients, and share lessons learned with communities across the nation.
Proposals are due by July 22, 2009, at 4:00 p.m. EDT. Grants are expected to be awarded in January 2010.
Additional grant information: http://epa.gov/cleanenergy/energy-programs/state-and-local/showcase.html
May I propose an application for this funding by the WUWT Community?
It’s the most effective way to deal with Climate Change.
Who gives them a call?

June 15, 2009 8:09 pm

So DJ is [snip]

Chris V.
June 15, 2009 8:14 pm

Willis Eschenbach (19:14:53) wrote:
Their incorrect amount of clouds is not the main problem. The biggest issue is that all of the modelers assume that cloud forcing overall is positive … which for me is simply absurd.
Willis- according to table 3 from your link:
http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2006/Schmidt_etal_1.html
The total cloud forcing (short wave plus long wave) is NEGATIVE in both the models and observations.
If I am reading that table right, the cloud forcings in the models are actually “more negative” than the observed forcings. The models yield a net cloud forcing of – 23 to -24 W/m2, while observations show it to be -17.3 W/m2.

Melinda Romanoff
June 15, 2009 8:18 pm

Two things come to mind, firstly, just being the naif that I am, the higher temperatures experienced while the Sun was 75% less radiative might be explained by a thinner mantle, and hotter iron dynamo within the Earth itself. It has cooled over time, and might explain, to a degree, the higher temps, due to the radiative effect of the core. This should also play a bit of a role in current temperature readings, because if we didn’t have a “live” core, the energy needed from other sources to warm things up from “zero degrees kelvin” might not be too favorable for life.
The second thing concerns the photonic energy radiated by the sun, especially absorbed at the poles, and it’s direct impact on particulate matter, let alone the addition to the total energy equation. It kind of explains the “healing” effects of thunderstorms in replacing the O3 layer. This never seems to come up in observations, it would certainly play a role in wind origination, or “fuel” for wind currents already started by the spin of the planet.
Just some things that bother me, if anyone has some insight or further direction, I’d be obliged.

The Big Fish
June 15, 2009 8:22 pm

DocWat , Nobody I can see is answering your question. Can I re ask his question? The sun has slowly increased output over the last 4.4 billion years. Has the Earths orbit shifted slowly over the same time frame. e.g. the Moon use to be 1/4 of the distance from the Earth as it is now, tides were 100 of feet. Has the Earth slowly drifted away from the Sun in the same time frame. Although Sun got brighter the Earth distance has reduced energy arriving?

Alan D. McIntire
June 15, 2009 8:25 pm

I read Ou’s paper some time ago, and it made perfect sense to me in expalining the “faint young sun” paradox. Currently about 30 percent of the sun’s radiation is reflected away, and the earth absorbs 70%. If there were no clouds on an early earth, that same 70% would have hit the earth’s surface without being reflected away.
The moon was also a lot closer to earth in the remote past. Would increased tidal energy also have an effect? I think tidal effects increase roughly with the cube of the distance, so if the moon started out at 1/5 its current distance, tidal effects would have been 125 times as strong. I’m sure tidal effects even then would have been orders of magnitude lower than solar effects, but would they have been great enought to make a 3 or 4 watt difference?

Just Want Results...
June 15, 2009 8:31 pm

NCDC now places May as the 4th warmest on record
Something seriously wrong there.

Gilbert
June 15, 2009 8:39 pm

bill (18:35:52) :
Perhaps the date is important – there have been a further 20 years of satelite data to improve the cloud forcing data in model. I assume you beleive that this has now been forgotten or munged in some way?

I guess you should have provided more recent evidence?
The ERBE satellites measure actual solar radiation and radiation from the earth. I.e. ALL radiation from the earth is accounted for (thunder cells, albedo of clouds, hurricanes, atomic bombs, power stations.
By the 90’s, modelers would have incorporated cloud forcing into GCMs. So what is actually new in this well written piece?

I’m not prone to accepting such assumptions without evidence. So did they or didn’t they? Everything I’ve read, says that the CGMs assume a net warming from clouds altho they admit they don’t understand cloud effects well enough to model them. The article you cited says otherwise.

Gary P
June 15, 2009 8:40 pm

This is a wonderful post. It suggests some nice of testable ideas such as how the ITCZ cloud band changed over the last thirty years with the climate. I hope there is enough satellite data to make a good test.
I believe this could be one of the mechanisms by which Miskowczi’s theory would work. There has to be mechanisms to maintain the constant average optical density and this could explain part of how the clouds fit in. It looks like it will be a little more complicated to fit this in with the temperate cells where weather is dominated by cyclonic air masses and standing waves. Does average cloud cover in the temperate cell correlate with the number of waves? More waves suggest more fronts generating more clouds.
I really like the change of viewpoint to see the earth from the suns point of view.

Just Want Results...
June 15, 2009 8:42 pm

To pick out one data set, NCDC, and emphasize it while not at all mentioning all the others is that hackneyed term–cherry picking.

June 15, 2009 8:47 pm

Leif Svalgaard (19:47:02) :
Nasif Nahle (17:20:05) :
however, as I argued on the p. r., each point represents 70 years of data for a total of 420 years.
I seem to remember that you have said repeatedly that the values were not means, but instantaneous single year values…

Well, I was wrong! Through reexamination of Bond’s paper I found that they were not instantaneous magnitudes but 70-years means (1 sample/0.5 = 20 years resolution):
“The stacked record was calculated by averaging all detrended and resampled records…” (Bolds are mine).

Dave Wendt
June 15, 2009 8:50 pm

Bob Tisdale (18:54:47) :
Dave Wendt: DJ’s preference for in situ-based global temperature readings requires that he disregard GISTEMP. Since 1982, GISS has used satellite-based OI.v2 SST data. Sounds like a major conflict for him.
I thought about including that in my comment, but I didn’t want be abusive by piling it on too thick. The lad does seem to possess fairly delicate sensibilities.
I probably wouldn’t have bothered at all, but as a DJ myself, I hate to see the initials brought into disrepute. I had a pretty good line here about a busload of rappers and “DJ, the Dirty Guy” from the “Beanie and Cecil” cartoons of my youth, but in the interest of equanimity and civil discourse, I best forego it. BTW, are there any other fossilized old crocks here, old enough to remember “Beanie and Cecil”?

Just Want Results...
June 15, 2009 8:50 pm

OT
WattsUpWithThat mentioned again :
“Right on cue comes another article on sunspot activity from Watts up with that…”
http://www.anorak.co.uk/media/213435.html
(h/t Just The Facts)

Editor
June 15, 2009 8:59 pm

bill (18:35:52) :
> … I assume you believe that this has now been forgotten or munged in some way?
Munged? As in “Mung Until No Good”? 🙂
An ancient programmer? A fellow TECO user?
REPLY: Careful, I have a server on my network named “munger”. It does a specific job with data formatting. – Anthony

Allan M R MacRae
June 15, 2009 9:01 pm

Interesting work Willis. I only had time to scan this quickly tonight, so please excuse my question if answered above.
What about all that area outside the tropical strip?
Does it show any similar trends?
Does your paper relate to other work such as Svensmark, Veizer and Shaviv (2003), Veizer (2005), etc.?
Regards, Allan

Just Want Results...
June 15, 2009 9:22 pm

The Weather Channel gives reassurance :
They just said with the cool weather in the US if we were wondering about global warming that the cooling is just a weeks snap shot. Global warming is for the decades and centuries–pushing fear! But they, of all people, should know that it isn’t possible to accurately forecast weeks in advance. Yet they reassure of what centuries ahead will be bringing us.
Don’t they have the same access to data that is showing a cooling trend in the world that we do? Maybe they don’t have internet at The Weather Channel like us.

Just Want Results...
June 15, 2009 9:24 pm

Just Want Results… (21:22:15) :
The Weather Channel specifically mentioned “a year without a summer” in that report. Were they talking about Accuweather and Joe Bastardi?

Willis Eschenbach
June 15, 2009 9:32 pm

Allan M R MacRae (21:01:32), good to hear from you, and thanks for your post. You ask:

Interesting work Willis. I only had time to scan this quickly tonight, so please excuse my question if answered above.
What about all that area outside the tropical strip?
Does it show any similar trends?

Don’t know the answer, Allan. I have focused on the tropics because that’s where the heavy lifting is going on. Also because I live there. Also because the systems seem to be simpler there. But mainly because that’s where the action is.
The entire global heat engine we call climate is spun into motion by the ascending air and thunderstorms at the tropics. It is the hot end of the heat engine, where the the majority of the solar energy enters (or is reflected from) the system. It absorbs much more heat than it can radiate to space. This heat is exported polewards, where it loses heat by radiation to space. As such, the tropics play a huge part in the thermal balance of the earth.
So yes, there is much more to the system, but I started with what I see as the most important part. So many variables … so little time …
w.

Benjamin P.
June 15, 2009 9:36 pm

@Bob Wood (16:17:33) :
“It makes sense to me except for the “4 billion” year idea. Seems to me only a billion or two years would be more than enough to level all the mountains in the world what with the amount of erosion being carried downstream in the rivers with the water being returned by evaporation and condensation, but none of the eroded material being carried back up.”
Mountain ranges come and go thanks to plate tectonics. Some of those sediments you speak of are turned to rock and then thrust sky-high during the collision of continents forming a new mountain range that will only be eroded back to sediments.
Talk about a climate disruption.
@ Willis Eschenbach (15:59:00) :
“The idea that the earth has an active climate system which works to maintain a set temperature is hardly “common knowledge”.”
Sure it is. The earth receives a certain amount of energy from the sun and that energy is unevenly distributed on the earth, right? So to find (or try too find!) equilibrium the fluids of the earth work to move that uneven heat around. And that’s climate? Well that and a whole host of other variables. But regardless, all things in nature want to be at “equilibrium” its what drives everything. And that’s all you are really saying when you say set temperature?
Unless I am completely missing what you hypothesis is. Which may well be the case!
As for snowball earth, right now its the best model to explain the observations. Unless you have a better model for banded iron formations with cap carbonates 1Ga years after an aerobic atmosphere. Not to mention glacial drop stones in the tropics.
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/281/5381/1342
Article is free if you are a member of AAAS.
Cheers,
Ben

Jim Latta
June 15, 2009 10:00 pm

This was a wonderful, thought provoking paper.
Professor of Meteorology at M.I.T. Richard Lindzen published a paper around 2002 which used satellite measurements to show that higher surface temperatures over tropical oceans caused a reduction in high level cirrus cloudiness. Lindzen stated that less cirrus cloudiness allowed more IR radiation to escape into space, cooling the earth – a negative feedback to global warming. He called this the “Iris Effect”.
In 2007 Roy Spencer & John Christy of the Univ. of Alabama Huntsville’s Earth System’s Science Center and Danny Braswell, and Justin Hnilo of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory confirmed Linden’s work with newer satellite data. They showed that increased sea surface temperatures over the tropics correlated with reduced net radiative forcing from clouds – a negative feedback.
So, in some ways you paper is not original, but I wonder if perhaps your ideas expand on this earlier work by introducing the concept that surface temperatures over the tropics will lead to increased cumulous and cumulonimbus cloudiness during the day, thus shielding the earth from the sun and then subsequently clearing the sky to allow more IR radiation to escape during the following night. Added to this is the tremendous heat that is forced up through the atmosphere by convective thunder storms, which only form if the sea and air are warm enough to exceed a certain threshold.
I did see one little mistake, you showed the molecular weight of water as being 16. It’s 18.

Mike Ramsey
June 15, 2009 10:05 pm

 Benjamin P. (21:36:57) :
[snip]
@ Willis Eschenbach (15:59:00) :
“The idea that the earth has an active climate system which works to maintain a set temperature is hardly “common knowledge”.”
Sure it is. The earth receives a certain amount of energy from the sun and that energy is unevenly distributed on the earth, right? So to find (or try too find!) equilibrium the fluids of the earth work to move that uneven heat around. And that’s climate? Well that and a whole host of other variables. But regardless, all things in nature want to be at “equilibrium” its what drives everything. And that’s all you are really saying when you say set temperature?
Unless I am completely missing what you hypothesis is. Which may well be the case!
As for snowball earth, right now its the best model to explain the observations. Unless you have a better model for banded iron formations with cap carbonates 1Ga years after an aerobic atmosphere. Not to mention glacial drop stones in the tropics.
[snip]

Ben,
 The energy principles that maintain the earth’s temperature are critically dependent on the energy input from the sun.  A snowball earth can be explained if the sun’s energy output was dimmed.
–Mike Ramsey

Indiana Bones
June 15, 2009 10:07 pm

Ron de Haan (19:40:05) :
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alan-schram/the-myth-of-energy-indepe_b_215647.html
Alan Schram suggests that continuing our escalating consumption of foreign oil is a good thing: “we must remember that we do business with the Middle East in the open market. Voluntary exchanges are not zero sum, rather they are positive sum.”
No, it is hardly an open market. Nor is it a “voluntary” exchange. It is trade caused by short sighted development of non-petroleum resources and by environmental legislation limiting domestic petroleum production. Assuming the $700B sent to the Middle East annually is a “positive sum” for Americans is malarky. We are being squeezed by oil cartels foreign and domestic and it is finally coming to an end.
Electrification of transportation (starting with Tesla) will rapidly erode the demand for foreign oil. Electric demand at home can be met by a broad portfolio of domestic resources including nuclear, coal, and alternatives. Energy independence strikes fear in the hearts of old-school monopolies accustomed to peddling resources to dependent nations. Their time is over.

jorgekafkazar
June 15, 2009 10:22 pm

Onward to the topic: I suspect there’s a similar controller at the poles. Many people assume that an ice-free pole has lower average albedo, but that isn’t necessarily true. Seawater at high zenith angles has a very high albedo AND it has an emissivity of 0.993, which increases its ability to radiate heat to the nighttime sky (4°K) much of the year. (Weathered ice has a lower albedo than seawater at high zenith angles.) To see this effect, drive down to the seashore when the sun is near the horizon and note how bright the sun’s reflection is.
Dave Wendt (20:50:08) :”…BTW, are there any other fossilized old crocks here, old enough to remember ‘Beanie and Cecil’?”
Yes, and Clowny, Wong, Peeper Frijole, Dishonest John, Capn. Huffnpuff & the Leakin’ Lena, as well.

June 15, 2009 10:24 pm

Benjamin P. (21:36:57) :
…As for snowball earth, right now its the best model to explain the observations. Unless you have a better model for banded iron formations with cap carbonates 1Ga years after an aerobic atmosphere. Not to mention glacial drop stones in the tropics.
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/281/5381/1342
Article is free if you are a member of AAAS.

The authors are using simulators which rely 100% on carbon dioxide; hence they had to lower the carbon dioxide concentration to get the conditions for a snowball Earth. Not based in real data, the whole work is based on conjectures, except for the data obtained from proxies which mainly are biotic systems. Biosystems adapt and evolve…

KlausB
June 15, 2009 10:29 pm

re: DJ (14:41:57) :
Anthony,
Simply ignore him. He isn’t worth the effort.

Benjamin P.
June 15, 2009 10:43 pm

Mike Ramsey (22:05:53) :
“The energy principles that maintain the earth’s temperature are critically dependent on the energy input from the sun. A snowball earth can be explained if the sun’s energy output was dimmed.”
And also critically dependent on how much energy is absorbed by the earth.
Snow ball earth is an interesting idea, it explains the observations fairly well, but its tough to swallow. There have been some interesting alternatives presented to explain some of the features, but not a lot of data on either side really.

John F. Hultquist
June 15, 2009 10:47 pm

Bob Wood (16:17:33) :
“ .. but none of the eroded material being carried back up.”
I saw this and wondered if you wrote what you intended. There are many examples although the “carrying back up” part is different than evaporation and condensation. Search for Himalayas and limestone for an example. The rocks in the Cascades of Washington State are of sedimentary origin. My favorite is a ridge of conglomerate at roughly 5,000 feet. I can attested to it being up there – you can figure out how it got there.

June 15, 2009 11:18 pm

Chris V. (20:14:45) :
Willis Eschenbach (19:14:53) wrote:
Their incorrect amount of clouds is not the main problem. The biggest issue is that all of the modelers assume that cloud forcing overall is positive … which for me is simply absurd.
Willis- according to table 3 from your link:
http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2006/Schmidt_etal_1.html
The total cloud forcing (short wave plus long wave) is NEGATIVE in both the models and observations.
If I am reading that table right, the cloud forcings in the models are actually “more negative” than the observed forcings. The models yield a net cloud forcing of – 23 to -24 W/m2, while observations show it to be -17.3 W/m2.

I note also that in the extremely long and tedious geo-engineering article posted by John Galt that :
“The other high-impact proposal, cloud brightening, increases the amount of reflected sunlight by making more clouds and thickening existing ones. One idea is to use ships to propel seawater thousands of feet in the air, where it would form or increase cloud cover.”
So it seems the negative feedback of low cloud at least is well understood.
What Willis has emphasized in his essay is that thunderstorm cumulonimbus goes beyond being a feedback, and actually forces the temperature down below initial condition locally. This is where the models fail, through the dogma of according ‘forcing’ status to co2, and ‘feedback’ status to everything else. The tail wagging the dog par exellence.
I wonder if the ‘more negative forcing of the clouds’ in models vs observed is due to the models grossly underestimating total global cloud cover, as pointed out by Willis earlier. Maybe another ad hoc tweak to get the model slightly closer to observed reality? There certainly seems to be a schizophrenic disconnect between what warming alarmists say about clouds, and the negative forcing accorded them in the model data Willis linked.

Benjamin P.
June 15, 2009 11:26 pm

@Nasif Nahle (22:24:24) :
“The authors are using simulators which rely 100% on carbon dioxide; hence they had to lower the carbon dioxide concentration to get the conditions for a snowball Earth. Not based in real data, the whole work is based on conjectures, except for the data obtained from proxies which mainly are biotic systems. Biosystems adapt and evolve”
Well they are trying to explain data in the rock record, and in this case, most of the data are not from biotic systems. And I would not simply brush it off as conjecture there are a lot of observations that need an explanation.
Banded iron formations (BIFs) are a unique rock that are found mostly in the oldest of rocks. Reduced iron is soluble in water, but oxidized iron is not. When the earth’s atmosphere went from anaerobic to aerobic, the BIFs stopped forming. Except for a brief period of time in the neoproterozoic. Why? And why are there glacial drop stones in those BIFs? And why are their glacial deposits in the tropics? And why are those glacial deposits overlain by carbonates?
Snowball earth gives a good explanation for this, but as I said, it could use more data. We have a hard enough time reconstructing climate 300 years ago, let alone 800 Ma.
As for the modeling, there are folks who have tried their models to produce a snowball earth (with limited success) but I thought everyone here hated climate models anyway?

June 15, 2009 11:28 pm

John F. Hultquist (22:47:34) :
The rocks in the Cascades of Washington State are of sedimentary origin. My favorite is a ridge of conglomerate at roughly 5,000 feet. I can attested to it being up there – you can figure out how it got there.

My favourite example is the fossil sea shells to be found on the summit of Snowdon, the highest point in Wales at 3,600ft.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northwest/outdoors/placestogo/reserves/snowdon.shtml

June 15, 2009 11:35 pm

KlausB (22:29:31) :
re: DJ (14:41:57) :
Anthony,
Simply ignore him. He isn’t worth the effort.

Seconded, and I’m impressed bythe fact that intis thread at least, few have risen to the stinky bait. Trust the judgement of your readership Anthony!
Without replying, i actually saved DJ’s firstpost to a notepad document, so we can revisit it next year after the non-appearance of the ‘super el nino’.
Not that he ever will admit he was wrong. Climate professionals don’t do that sort of thing.

NS
June 15, 2009 11:40 pm

I don’t know, it’s not news that clouds, oceans distribute heat energy.
Even my school geography lessons talked about the oceanic conveyor & cloud effects.
The warmers will agree, but with the caveat that man did not exist before and thus human CO2 is a new factor which will throw this finely balanced system out of range (see Gaia “theory”).

June 16, 2009 12:10 am

This extrct from another article seems relevant:
“the weather systems on Earth (primarily the jet streams and the high pressure cells either side of them) ramp up their thermal efficiency in tune with the scale of any positive or negative energy input changes from any source including that from human CO2. Just like increasing or decreasing the flow of air across a resistor.
Shifting large volumes of air towards the poles increases radiation of energy to space thus neutralising any warming of the air and shifting large volumes of air towards the equator draws heat from sunshine and oceans thus neutralising any cooling of the air.
The air can only push energy towards space or draw it from the oceans. Air cannot draw energy from space or push it into the oceans.
At this point I should mention the vast energy transfer potential of the latent heats of evaporation and condensation. Huge quantities of energy are taken from water surfaces by evaporation then dumped higher up in the air by condensation to accelerate the expulsion of energy to space. That process is highly variable in scale and speed and is intimately linked to the air circulation that drives weather and climate. It is that process which gives the weather systems an overwhelming power to vary quickly in response to any imbalance between energy flowing into the air from the oceans and into space from the air.
Whether the air warms or cools the weather systems change to cancel it out.
Thus there does seem to be a mechanism whereby the warming effect from human CO2 (indeed all greenhouse gases) could be removed naturally as it arises. The weather systems accelerate the expulsion of the additional energy to space in order to return the energy inputs and outputs of the air to balance. ”
Full article here:
http://climaterealists.com/index.php?id=2581

June 16, 2009 12:34 am

Benjamin P. (23:26:25) :
but I thought everyone here hated climate models anyway?

A fairly vacuous statement. What I dislike is garbage output from incorrectly parameterized models paraded as truth to a compliant media.

pkatt
June 16, 2009 12:49 am

Re: temp data sets saying May is .. whatever warmest on record. I cant resist. One month is weather, not climate:P Sux to have that turned around on you doesnt it?

June 16, 2009 1:25 am

NS (23:40:32) :
The warmers will agree, but with the caveat that man did not exist before and thus human CO2 is a new factor which will throw this finely balanced system out of range (see Gaia “theory”).
The Co2 level was 20 times higher than today long before man came on the scene. Didn’t boil the seas then either.

Willis Eschenbach
June 16, 2009 1:33 am

First, my thanks to all who have contributed.
Next, let me say that this thread is not really about snowball earth, and I was foolish to enter that discussion. It is fascinating, and I got sucked in, but it is a side track to discussing the implications of the Thermostat Hypothesis. Not sure where the Snowball Earth thread is, but it would be great if you took the snowballs there, or even better if you just put the snowballs in your pockets and stuck around.
The oddity under discussion is that the Earth’s temperature has stayed within a narrow band for at least the last half a billion years. During that time it has seen meteor strikes, and centuries long widespread volcanic eruptions, and huge forest fires, and oceans disappearing as continents were lifted out of the sea, and all manner of the good, bad, and ugly. Despite all of that, despite all of the variation in the forcings and the changes in the losses during all of that geological time, the earth’s temperature hasn’t moved around much at all. A few percent.
Seems evident to me that this is not a system that will be thrown off balance by changes in trace gases. I have proposed a mechanism that governs the temperature. It involves a combination of throttle control through cloud albedo, combined with active heat transport and surface cooling through thunderstorms.
While my hypothesis may not be correct, something is constraining the Earth’s temperature to a fairly narrow band. I think its cumulus clouds and thunderstorms.
Thunderstorms are weird creatures. They are what is known as an “emergent phenomenon”. This means that they emerge out of a set of conditions (warm clear morning air over the ocean) with properties that have little to do with either air or ocean. Both clouds and thunderstorms are emergent phenomena.
One oddity about emergent phenomena is that they are usually associated with a “threshold” below which they will not emerge. Above that threshold, however, they may form in great numbers. It’s that way with clouds, for example. First there’s none, then there’s 1, then 2, then 17 …
The same is true of the threshold for the metamorphosis of a little innocent cumulus cloud, happily reflecting sunlight, into a towering, raging cumulonimbus thunderstorm. Once that combined temperature/humidity threshold is passed, thunderstorms can form in large numbers.
This non-linearity, of course, makes both cumulus and thunderstorms ideal candidates for temperature control mechanisms. When the tropics is cool, it’s below the first threshold. No clouds form, and the full heat of the sun rapidly brings up the temperature. When the first threshold is crossed, rapidly spreading cumulus quickly turn down the sun. When the second threshold is passed, a host of thunderstorms soon start vacuuming up the warm moist surface air and shooting it skywards, while pelting the earth with cool rain and wind. Between them, cumulus and thunderstorms put an upper bound on the earth’s temperature. That’s the Thermostat Hypothesis.

Eric (skeptic)
June 16, 2009 3:49 am

I would add just two thoughts to the article, the first is that models confirm that concentrated convection has a global cooling effect, see #3088067 here:
http://www.ccsm.ucar.edu/publications/PhD%20and%20Masters%20Theses.htm
for example. Their hypothesized reason that concentrated convection cools the planet is that it dries the upper troposphere.
I would also add that what goes up must come down, so a big part of the effect from concentrated convection is the subsidence around it (especially prominent around tropical cyclones). That large area of downward moving air prevents clouds and thus allows a large amount of outgoing IR.

June 16, 2009 4:03 am

Benjamin P. (15:37:23) :
Maybe I am ignorant, but whats new here? I mean, isn’t this already common knowledge?
“7. This is a reasonable explanation for how the temperature of the earth has stayed so stable (or more recently, bi-stable as glacial and interglacial) for hundreds of millions of years.”
There is strong evidence to suggest the earth was frozen pole-to-pole during the neoproterozoic. So if a “snowball Earth” is considered stable climate, that’s news to me.
Also, where is the data? We have some albedo measurements, but beyond that and some “thought exercises” where’s the data?
Interesting afternoon read nonetheless though.
Cheers,
Ben

It’s important to note that the climate stability to which Mr. Eschenbach refers only goes back about 600 million years(the Phanerozoic Eon). “Snowball Earth” and the “Faint Sun Paradox” hypotheses are attempts to explain things that appear to have happened prior to the Phanerozoic.
Prior to the Phanerozoic (“visible life”) Eon, the Earth’s atmosphere is believed to have been quite different…Possibly 80% CO2 and/or CH4.
The geological evidence points to a very stable Phanerozoic climate with, as Mr. Eschenbach stated, a total variation from the median temperature of less than +/-3%.
600 million years of no evidence of CO2-driven climate change may not be 4 billion years…But it’s a long time and it is the entire time span of Earth’s modern atmosphere.

TomVonk
June 16, 2009 4:06 am

Even if this idea is not really new (Bejan’s method to only mention his name go in the same direction) it is refreshing to see a bit of common sense physics .
Thanks Willis .
We have been fed for the last 15 years by 19th century physics of naive equilibrium systems .
All and any GCMs past , present and future are based on this 19th century physics where Arrhenius is still cited as reference even if he ignored everything about non linear dynamics and matter/radiation physics .
Most climate “scientists” are trying to brainwash everybody by babbling about static systems with constant temperatures and “departures from equilibrium” .
Well of course as the real Earth system is neither static nor in equilibrium , GCM can only produce garbage painfully data fitted with ad hoc parametrizations .
So obviously the right way is to treat the Earth system like what it really is – a dynamical system out of equilibrium with all governing parameters FUNDAMENTALLY time dependent .
Willis shows that this (only) correct approach is not only feasible but clear and enlightening .
Even if here are some very complex aspects in climate dynamics , they have nothing to do with esoterical “radiative equilibriums” and “GHG forcings” .
You are on the right track Willis . The Earth is a dynamical self regulating out of equilibrium system and as long as your working hypothesis are consistent with these facts , you have a chance to be right .

John W.
June 16, 2009 6:02 am

Willis Eschenbach (19:14:53) :
The model is tuned …

Willis, and others, that phrase should set alarm sirens off at full volume. The only, I say again only, time an honest user of modeling and simulation introduces a “tuning” or “fudge” factor is when it’s necessary to get M&S to reproduce observed results. Having done so, the M&S is presented as: a. corresponding well to observations, b. the fudge factor indicates area requiring further research.
Introducing the fudge factor to get the result you want, then changing or creating “observational” data to support it is fraud.
Frank K. (19:34:03) :
One of the world’s best models?? I’m sorry – Model E is a piece of FORTRAN junk!

Hey! FORTRAN is my Mother Tongue (so to speak). It’s still a good language for science and engineering. It just requires more intelligence to use properly than these people possess.

David Jay
June 16, 2009 6:23 am

RE: Dave Wendt (20:50:08) :
I too wish to stand up for the honor DJs everywhere!
Help, Cecil, help! Help, Cecil,help!

Tom in Florida
June 16, 2009 7:21 am

Willis Eschenbach (01:33:12) : “One oddity about emergent phenomena is that they are usually associated with a “threshold” below which they will not emerge. Above that threshold, however, they may form in great numbers. It’s that way with clouds, for example. First there’s none, then there’s 1, then 2, then 17 … ”
Kind of like a tipping point?
” Once that combined temperature/humidity threshold is passed, thunderstorms can form in large numbers.”
There must be other factors involved as over the last several days in my part of the central west coast of Florida we have had temps in the low 90’s and humidity above 72% but no thunderbumpers. The wind was NNW so perhaps that helped to stablize the upper atmosphere. Suffice it to know that even my periwinkles needed water.

ALAN D. MCINTIRE
June 16, 2009 7:22 am

To tie in the thermostat effect with snowball earth: This model assumes the
result is due to the effects of weathering and removal of CO2 when the continents are near the equator.
http://www.applet-magic.com/snowball.htm
If the continents were near the equator, that would have reduced significantly the amount of ocean near the equator, leaving the ocean thermostat less effective.