NASA says AIRS satellite data shows positive water vapor feedback

From this NASA press release I’ll have more on this later. The timing of this release is interesting.

Distribution of mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide
Animation of the distribution of mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide. The transport of carbon dioxide around the world is carried out in the "free atmosphere" above the surface layer. We can observe the transport of carbon dioxide across the Pacific to North America, then across the Atlantic to Europe and the Mediterranean to Asia and back around the globe. The enhanced belt of carbon dioxide in the southern hemisphere is also clearly visible. Image credit: NASA

› Play animation (Quicktime) | › Play animation (Windows Media Player)

› Related images and animations

WASHINGTON – Researchers studying carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas and a key driver of global climate change, now have a new tool at their disposal: daily global measurements of carbon dioxide in a key part of our atmosphere. The data are courtesy of the Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua spacecraft.

Moustafa Chahine, the instrument’s science team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., unveiled the new product at a briefing on recent breakthroughs in greenhouse gas, weather and climate research from AIRS at this week’s American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. The new data, which span the seven-plus years of the AIRS mission, measure the concentration and distribution of carbon dioxide in the mid-troposphere–the region of Earth’s atmosphere that is located between 5 to 12 kilometers, or 3 to 7 miles, above Earth’s surface. They also track its global transport. The product represents the first-ever release of global carbon dioxide data that are based solely on observations. The data have been extensively validated against both aircraft and ground-based observations.

“AIRS provides the highest accuracy and yield of any global carbon dioxide data set available to the research community, now and for the immediate future,” said Chahine. “It will help researchers understand how this elusive, long-lived greenhouse gas is distributed and transported, and can be used to develop better models to identify ‘sinks,’ regions of the Earth system that store carbon dioxide. It’s important to study carbon dioxide in all levels of the troposphere.”

Chahine said previous AIRS research data have led to some key findings about mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide. For example, the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere, but is rather “lumpy.” Until now, models of carbon dioxide transport have assumed its distribution was uniform.

Carbon dioxide is transported in the mid-troposphere from its sources to its eventual sinks. More carbon dioxide is emitted in the heavily populated northern hemisphere than in its less populated southern counterpart. As a result, the southern hemisphere is a net recipient, or sink, for carbon dioxide from the north. AIRS data have previously shown the complexity of the southern hemisphere’s carbon dioxide cycle, revealing a never-before-seen belt of carbon dioxide that circles the globe and is not reflected in transport models.

In another major finding, scientists using AIRS data have removed most of the uncertainty about the role of water vapor in atmospheric models. The data are the strongest observational evidence to date for how water vapor responds to a warming climate.

“AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor,” said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.

Dessler explained that most of the warming caused by carbon dioxide does not come directly from carbon dioxide, but from effects known as feedbacks. Water vapor is a particularly important feedback. As the climate warms, the atmosphere becomes more humid. Since water is a greenhouse gas, it serves as a powerful positive feedback to the climate system, amplifying the initial warming. AIRS measurements of water vapor reveal that water greatly amplifies warming caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide. Comparisons of AIRS data with models and re-analyses are in excellent agreement.

“The implication of these studies is that, should greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current course of increase, we are virtually certain to see Earth’s climate warm by several degrees Celsius in the next century, unless some strong negative feedback mechanism emerges elsewhere in Earth’s climate system,” Dessler said.

Originally designed to observe atmospheric temperature and water vapor, AIRS data are already responsible for the greatest improvement to five to six-day weather forecasts than any other single instrument, said Chahine. JPL scientists have shown a major consequence of global warming will be an increase in the frequency and strength of severe storms. Earlier this year, a team of NASA researchers showed how AIRS can significantly improve tropical cyclone forecasting. The researchers studied deadly Typhoon Nargis in Burma (Myanmar) in May 2008. They found the uncertainty in the cyclone’s landfall position could have been reduced by a factor of six had more sophisticated AIRS temperature data been used in the forecasts.

AIRS observes and records the global daily distribution of temperature, water vapor, clouds and several atmospheric gases including ozone, methane and carbon monoxide. With the addition of the mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide data set this week, a seven-year digital record is now complete for use by the scientific community and the public.

3-D transport and distribution of water vapor

Animation of the 3-D transport and distribution of water vapor as measured by AIRS from June through November 2005. Image credit: NASA › Play animation (Quicktime) | › Play animation (Windows Media Player)

enlarge image

For more on AIRS, see http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/ .

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crosspatch
December 16, 2009 10:11 am

Considering that China is now the world’s largest emitter of CO2, what is responsible for the large concentration over Nevada and practically none over China?
Since I would expect wind patterns in the Northern Hemisphere to generally go West to East, there really isn’t much West of Northern Nevada except the SF Bay Area and Nevada itself is mostly desert.
That animation doesn’t seem to have any relation to actual CO2 sources.

December 16, 2009 10:15 am

Wow. I had no idea that water vapor was a “feed back”. I guess without anthropogenic CO2 there would be no water vapor. /sarc.

EdB
December 16, 2009 10:16 am

“As the climate warms, the atmosphere becomes more humid
I would expect so! After all, the earth is 70% water, and the evaporation rate has to go up.
But, more water vapour should give more clouds, thus providing a cooling, should it not?
So what are these models doing? Are they showing more clouds or not?

Jim
December 16, 2009 10:16 am

Notably missing is a discussion of clouds.

Jim
December 16, 2009 10:17 am

Hmm … it looks like most of the water vapor is where the highest concentrations of CO2 aren’t.

yvesdemars
December 16, 2009 10:17 am

yes but does the study include the feedback of clouds resulting from the water vapor increase ??
More interesting is the inhomogeneous distribution of CO2 ?

December 16, 2009 10:18 am

Hmmmm – more CO2 – more water vapor – more feedback – unless –
more water vapor = more clouds.
Looks like they forgot to include that little interelation.

Jack Green
December 16, 2009 10:18 am

[AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor,” said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.]
How can this happen when the models are false? They are matching a fraudulent model. I’m puzzled unless the same trick is being used.

Chris R.
December 16, 2009 10:20 am

Interesting. Dessler, with Minschwander, in 2004 published a paper using data from NASA’s Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) that showed water vapor feedback was much weaker than the IPCC value. Then, in 2008, he published a solo paper claiming that it was in fact stronger than the UN IPCC value. Now this.

Skylimey
December 16, 2009 10:21 am

“JPL scientists have shown a major consequence of global warming will be an increase in the frequency and strength of severe storms.”
Could have sworn we’re seeing less, not more?

Alvin
December 16, 2009 10:22 am

Does something sound fishy in this article? How about saying this is a first step in properly analyzing the atmosphere? Also I am not certain the following statement is correct:
“AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor,” said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Gary
December 16, 2009 10:25 am

Well, NASA press release speculation has a dubious track record. Let some independent thinkers have a go at the data before doing the Chicken Little routine again.

Paul Vaughan
December 16, 2009 10:28 am

“[…] scientists using AIRS data have removed most of the uncertainty about the role of water vapor in atmospheric models.” […] “[…] unless some strong negative feedback mechanism emerges elsewhere in Earth’s climate system.”
Why bother attacking the untenable assumptions? Does it make any difference when religion underpins belief? On to other things…

Jim Bob
December 16, 2009 10:29 am

My understanding is that increased water vapor means an increase in low-level cloud cover, which is a negative feedback. The end of the story states that AIRS observes and records clouds but there was no mention of the cloud cover measurements in the body of the story.
Also, my BS flag went up when the story stated that the CO2 patterns are different than the climate models assume, yet the satellite data corroborates the models. If the models were updated to match the true CO2 distributions, would they still validate the satellite data?
I don’t think we are getting the full story here. This is merely another advocacy piece.

December 16, 2009 10:30 am

Does not look like this at all
http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2009/10/20091030_ibuki_e.html
(scroll down)

Jack Green
December 16, 2009 10:32 am

If they have a history match with false results then they don’t have a match. You have been duped. Something is fabricated here is what I’m saying. Interesting measurements but we only have 7 years worth. We need hundreds of years of data.

Jan Lindström
December 16, 2009 10:32 am

I am not sure but if this is findings already reported here: http://geotest.tamu.edu/userfiles/216/Dessler2008b.pdf than this is not worth a iota. Mesurements from 5 years is hardly something that would normally qualify as “climate”science. The results in the article are without any error analysis whatsoever and if you do one you´re in for a surprise: http://landshape.org/enm/propagation-of-uncertainty-through-dessler/
“The confidence limits of the mean are then 1.96*3.16*0.37 or 2.29, giving a lower limits to the estimated 2.04 W/m2/K value of vapor feedback of -0.25 W/m2/K. Being less than zero, this indicates that zero feedback is within the limits of uncertainty.”
Dressler actually shows that there is room for a negative feedback, still.

Stephen Wilde
December 16, 2009 10:33 am

We know the air holds more water vapour when it warms.
The question is whether the warming is caused by extra CO2 or by some other cause such as increased ocean energy release during a positive PDO phase.
Then we need to know how much warming is caused by human CO2 as compared to the natural warming.
Then whether a warming of the air alone from more CO2 is capable of defeating the ability of the oceans to cool the air above the sea surfaces.
Then there is evidence that global air humidity varies vary little because the hydrological cycle simply speeds up to eject extra energy to the stratosphere
thereby ensuring that surface air temperatures do not diverge from sea surface temperaures.
The models and the above assertions seem all to be based on the recent 30 year period when there was a correlation between rising CO2 and rising air temperatures. The cause of the warming was attributed in the models to the CO2 but more likely it was the warmer sea surfaces during that period.
If we now see cooling of the air due to cooling ocean surfaces (already looking likely and partly accepted following the recent powerful La Nina event) then the role of CO2 needs re-assessment despite the overconfident assertions in the above report.

December 16, 2009 10:33 am

I missed something here. I think this is a great story and that AIRS can be a great tool, and I’m excited to see it.
But I missed something here. Exactly how does AIRS validate assumptions about water vapour acting as a positive forcing?
Are they measuring quantity? Distribution? Temperature of water vapor? The press release doesn’t say…

Bruce
December 16, 2009 10:34 am

“virtually certain ” = “wild assed guess”

Bill DiPuccio
December 16, 2009 10:37 am

I would like to know how the warming signal due to the absorption of heat by CO2 was seperated from the water vapor feedbacks, and how the feedback was isolated from other forcings. They make it sound like magic. Yet, as Roy Spencer has pointed out, no one has been able to islolate the water vapor feedback signal and demonstrate anthropogenic causality.
Everytime there is warming, the fascile assumption is made that it must be CO2. This is circular reasoning.

wws
December 16, 2009 10:38 am

They timed it wrong. It was supposed to be released 4 weeks ago. Now it’s too late to save the farce in Copenhagen.

CAS
December 16, 2009 10:38 am

“JPL scientists have shown a major consequence of global warming will be an increase in the frequency and strength of severe storms.”
Just where were the peer-reviewed papers to make this claim?

PJP
December 16, 2009 10:38 am

They did not appear to look for the negative feedback. If I had to guess, it would be along the lines of increased water vapor leading to increased clouds, reducing the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth.
This seems so obvious that one has to wonder if not looking for this is deliberate.

David Schnare
December 16, 2009 10:41 am

I’d like to know what Lindzen (sp?) thinks of this. He has published ERBA (earth radiation budget experiment) data showing that increases CO2 results in more rather than less radiation from the earth at the top of the atmosphere, and argues this is because the response to increases trapped radiation causes an “iris” effect in the cloud cover that results in more clouds, whiter clouds and more reflection of energy back into space. I don’t see the reflected radiation taken into account in this paper.

Gary Palmgren
December 16, 2009 10:41 am

I’ll see your seven years of data and up the bet with sixty years of radiosonde data:
http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/The_Saturated_Greenhouse_Effect.htm
Radiation transport of energy is not nearly as important as convection in the troposphere. Above the tropopause, radiation transport becomes much more important as there is little convection in the stratosphere. At the 300 millibar level the humidity has been dropping over 60 years even as CO2 has risen. The amount of CO2 in the convective troposphere is irrelevant as far as climate is concerned. If the AIRS data is including ground level humidity then the conclusions about climate are bogus.

December 16, 2009 10:44 am

“Researchers studying carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas and a key driver of global climate change”
Pardon me, there are two BS in just one sentence, and by BS I do not mean bachelor of science.
Now check polar regions with almost no water vapor, where an increase of CO2 should manifested strongest increase of “greenhouse effect” and warming:
South pole: no warming since 60ties
North pole: no net warming since 40ties, when positive phase of AMO oscillation drove Arctic temperatures to the same level as observed today.
http://ff.org/centers/csspp/library/co2weekly/2005-04-21/what_files/image014.gif
Result: the most sensitive areas on Earth – polar areas with dry air – has not shown any warming at all (Antarctic), or shown only natural cyclical warming (Arctic). CO2 has no visible effect on temperatures. End of debate.

John in NZ
December 16, 2009 10:44 am

For how long have we been told CO2 is well mixed in the atmosphere?
Apparently that assumption was wrong.

Jack Green
December 16, 2009 10:45 am

This press release is from Washington. There are no scientists there.

stumpy
December 16, 2009 10:45 am

“For example, the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere” I think sceptics have been saying that for years!
Some observations:
Increasing watervapor will lead to increase storminess to remove the additional heat build up, increased clould cover and change the optical transparacny of the atmosphere, I suspect these moderate the water vapour feedback so a “runaway” green house effect does not occur, otherwise it would have happened before!
How does increasing water vapour effect high level ice crystals which are not included in climate models?
The above video of co2 concentration shows a belt around the equator wth low concentrations, hence at the equator extra heat is not be trapped and fed into the ocean which is the IPCC theory of how the earth will warm. The increase water vapour however, seems to be in this area with low co2 concentrations.
Will heat not just escape around the lumps? wasnt a well mixed co2 layer essential to the IPCC climate models for their large predictions of warming?
They should first study the data carefully before making the compulsory “its worse than we thought” statement!

Paddy
December 16, 2009 10:46 am

So what amounts to a snap shot of the atmosphere supposedly confirms the alarmist worst predictions. What is the baseline for their analysis? The beginning of the observations is now. It seems logical to watch and wait for a century or so before making any pronouncements.

JayWiz
December 16, 2009 10:47 am

Long time lurker….
I was looking at the animation and notded that for the most part the CO2 concentrations seemed to be oriented around deserts and low plant life areas(I think). I also noted that deeply forested area had very low CO2 levels. Could this not be an illustration of natural sequestering. I would also be inrested in how the trade winds seem to confine the CO2 into streams (no real mixing).
I’m just an engineer, but that’s what it looks like at first blush.

manfred
December 16, 2009 10:48 am

is there anything new ?
strangely, it is not mentioned, if the estimate given for water vapor feedback differs from previous estimates. (…making it likely that it has not increased or even decreased)
strangely, cloud feed back is not addressed, not even mentioned.

Raven
December 16, 2009 10:49 am

Anthony – this may be old news being rehashed for political purposes.
Here is Roy Spencer thoughts on Dresser from Feb, 2009
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/02/
The other half of the feedback story which Dessler et al did not address is the reflected solar component. This feedback is mostly controlled by changes in low cloud cover with warming. The IPCC admits that feedbacks associated with low clouds are the most uncertain of all feedbacks, with positive or negative feedback possible…although most, if not all, IPCC models currently have positive SW feedbacks.
But I found from the CERES data a strongly negative SW feedback during 2002-2007. When added to the LW feedback, this resulted in a total (SW+LW) feedback that is strongly negative.
Is my work published? No…at least not yet…although I have tried. Apparently it disagrees too much with the IPCC party line to be readily acceptable. My finding of negative SW feedback of around 5 W m-2 K-1 from real radiation budget data (the CERES instrument on Aqua) is apparently inadmissible as evidence.

Seer
December 16, 2009 10:49 am

My crystal ball shows me the EPA declaring water as a pollutant sometime in the near future.

c1ue
December 16, 2009 10:49 am

WUWT,
I would request that the title be changed: it is not NASA saying that the AIRS satellite demonstrates positive forcing – it is Andrew Dessler saying so.
All NASA says is that the satellite allows better direct measurement of CO2, and furthermore that CO2 is not evenly distributed in the atmosphere as the ‘settled science’ presumes.
I am intensely curious as to how Dr. Dessler draws these conclusions – so far I have not been able to find any documentation behind his assertion.

Michael
December 16, 2009 10:50 am

Science should be taken literally. Not figuratively like when people see on TV, a polar bear swimming in the ocean and thinking in the brainwashed mindset, that that is proof of global warming. Rather, in the literal mindset, see I told you, polar bears can swim and that’s why they don’t drown.

Joel McDade
December 16, 2009 10:51 am

“AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor,” said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.”
Only doubled? IMO an accurate summary is, “We found evidence of positive feedback but it looks to be much lower than forecast by IPCC models, which are in the 3x – 5x range” This only gets them to a little over 2 C for 2xCO2. What’s the big deal?

Gareth
December 16, 2009 10:52 am

“The product represents the first-ever release of global carbon dioxide data that are based solely on observations.”
If this is true what have past carbon dioxide data been based on; a few land stations and a lot of guessing? It is pretty late in the game to begin basing your science on observations.

December 16, 2009 10:52 am

I would like to know where those plumes originated. At those altitudes there are jet streams. Also the air is thin and the absolute concentration (molecules per cubic meter) is a lot less than it is at the surface. I suspect it got to those altitudes in tall clouds and traveled with frozen anvils. The equitorial regions (where I suspect the CO2 originated) have been cleaned out.

David L. Hagen
December 16, 2009 10:53 am

In its publicity NASA claims:

AIRS can observe the concentration of carbon dioxide in the mid-troposphere, with 15,000 daily observations, pole to pole, all over the globe, with an accuracy of 1 to 2 parts per million and a horizontal surface resolution of 1 by 1 degree.

The US National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), keeper of the US standards, provides a Standard Reference Material 2626a for Carbon Dioxide in Nitrogen (about 4% mol/mol.) The NIST Certificate of Analysis reports:

Carbon Dioxide Concentration: 3.916 % mol/mol ± 0.008 % mol/mol

which appears to be 80 ppm.
Perhaps NASA can explain to NIST how they have improved on the NIST standards by about two orders of magnitude!
Besides, NIST recommends:

2. Because “accuracy” is a qualitative concept, one should not use it quantitatively, that is, associate numbers with it; numbers should be associated with measures of uncertainty instead.

See:
B.N. Taylor and C.E. Kuyatt, Guidelines for Evaluating and Expressing the Uncertainty of NIST Measurement Results, Technical Note TN 1297, National Institute of Science and Technology, US Department of Commerce.
Furthermore, in Climate Uncertainty with Carbon Dioxide Rise Due to Uncertainty About Aerosols, Nov. 1, 2004, NASA reported:

“Knowledge of Earth’s climate sensitivity is central to informed decision-making regarding future carbon dioxide emissions and developing strategies to cope with a greenhouse-warmed world,” Schwartz says.
However, as he points out, not knowing how much aerosols offset greenhouse warming makes it impossible to refine estimates of climate sensitivity. Right now, climate models with low sensitivity to CO2 and those with high sensitivity are able to reproduce the temperature change observed over the industrial period equally well by using different values of the aerosol influence, all of which lie within the uncertainty of present estimates.
In order to appreciably reduce uncertainty in Earth’s climate sensitivity the uncertainty in aerosol influences on climate must be reduced at least threefold,” Schwartz concludes. He acknowledges that such a reduction in uncertainty presents an enormous challenge to the aerosol research community.

December 16, 2009 10:53 am

This sounds very unlikely to impossible to me. “AIRS can observe the concentration of carbon dioxide in the mid-troposphere, with 15,000 daily observations, pole to pole, all over the globe, with an accuracy of 1 to 2 parts per million”

Scott
December 16, 2009 10:54 am

I see zero correlation between the CO2 distribution and the water vapor distribution and patterns, other than the both seem to move easterly in the Northern Hemisphere and Westerly in the Southern Hemisphere.
Water Vapor seems to be more affected by the sun, gasp, than anything else, as it is primarily focused around the equator.

Ryan Stephenson
December 16, 2009 10:55 am

“As the climate warms, the atmosphere becomes more humid. Since water is a greenhouse gas, it serves as a powerful positive feedback to the climate system, amplifying the initial warming”.
Following this logic, the seasonal variation known as “summer” should cause excessive water vapour formation as the atmosphere becomes more humid causing a powerful positive feedback leading to more evaporation and hence more humidity and further warming as a rersult leading to an unstoppable heating with the eventual result that the oceans boil into space, all without the help of CO2.
Thus life on earth was wiped out millions of years ago, human kind has never existed and this whole discussion is a figment of our own imaginations.
OR:-
Water vapour traps heat radiated from the earths surface and by an equal amount prevents radiant heat from the sun reaching the earths surface. This means that earths days are cooler than they would be and earth’s nights are warmer than they would be, thus making life possible. Otherwise temperature variations would be as they are on the Moon (ranging from +122Celsius to -233Celius) and life would never have begun. This is the real “greenhouse effect” as proposed by Tyndall and far from being dangerous this insulating blanket is positively crucial to life on earth.

John in NZ
December 16, 2009 10:56 am

OT but breaking news from Icecap.
Climategate has already affected Russia. On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.
The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory. Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports. Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.
The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.
The HadCRUT database includes specific stations providing incomplete data and highlighting the global-warming process, rather than stations facilitating uninterrupted observations.
On the whole, climatologists use the incomplete findings of meteorological stations far more often than those providing complete observations.
IEA analysts say climatologists use the data of stations located in large populated centers that are influenced by the urban-warming effect more frequently than the correct data of remote stations.
http://icecap.us/images/uploads/BOMBSHELL.pdf

Jim Arndt
December 16, 2009 10:57 am

Hi,
I think this article in the WSJ by Richard Lindzen is insightful.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703939404574567423917025400.html

Michael
December 16, 2009 10:59 am

Al Jazeera shows this on TV but it’s not allowed on American TV.
Climate expert questions the basis of climate change talks – 14 Dec 09

December 16, 2009 11:01 am

I am sure the timing of the release has been arranged to coincide withe the last phase of negotiations in Copenhagen.

Gary Hladik
December 16, 2009 11:01 am

Skylimey (10:21:20), CAS (10:38:45), yes the claim of increased storm frequency and strength really undermines the credibility of this press release. Sounds more like old mantra than new science.
[Jerry Maguire mode] Shooooow me the data! Shooooow me the data!

brad
December 16, 2009 11:03 am

I like this study. It’s big, uses satellites, has lots of fine-grained data for the entire globe, appears to not need heavy data adjustment, and conclusions are relatively straightforward. It’s a welcome change from past studies, such as “Antarctica is warming” from cheerleading scientists that heavily manipulate what little data exists. This study correctly focuses on CO2 not being a leading greenhouse effect, but seeing if CO2 increases water vapor, which can have a major effect. It makes new discoveries (the CO2 belt in the southern hemisphere). The conclusions are even well stated “CO2 increases water vapor, which is a big positive feedback. That will cause things to warm, unless unknown negative feedbacks exist” This study is very welcome in comparison to what we usually see.
Like the others have said, I’m interested in cloud formation as a result of increased water vapor. How does that fit into the study? Also, did climate models predict the southern hemisphere CO2 belt? It doesn’t seem so.

son of mulder
December 16, 2009 11:04 am

CO2 is denser than air. Gravity at equator slightly less than the poles because of equatorial bulge exacerbated by further reduction due to centripetal effect. So would not the denser gas tend to migrate to where gravity is stronger ie away from the equator. Now the equator is warmer so more outward IR but less CO2 to stop it. Whereas the CO2 tends to concentrate where the earth is cooler so less outward IR and hence less effective in global terms as a greenhouse gas than if uniformly distributed.
Models previously did not consider such transport. I’d vote this a negative forcing relative to previous models.

December 16, 2009 11:04 am

The thing I wonder about with positive feedback loops, is whether there is evidence of them in the past?
If positive feedbacks are real, wouldn’t the temperature record show a series of rapid swings in global temperature caused by small temperature change?
A large volcano eruption would cause a cold year, which would then lead to an ice age.
Does it makes sense that the world would still be habitable today if it exists in a sensitive equilibrium that can be easily pushed over the edge into extreme temperatures?

December 16, 2009 11:05 am

Although this news release follows the pattern for the carbon scam, I sense voters are getting numb to the message, possibly because of record cold temperatures.
Science, however, is our most effective defense against the carbon scam. Commentators at this site, and others I am sure, are already demanding quantification and empirical evidence for this claim.

December 16, 2009 11:06 am

Slightly off topic 😉
With just days to reach a deal, the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen has erupted in chaos.
At least 240 protestors were arrested on Wednesday when they tried to get past the perimeter fence at the venue, Bella Centre.
Danish police in riot gear were firing teargas.
Turmoil also marked the talks with Danish environment minister Connie Hedegaard stepping aside to allow the prime minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen to take over as president of the conference.
Ms Hedegaard says the move is procedural.
Former New Zealand Prime Minister and UN development programme head Helen Clark is in Copenhagen. She says it’s a very unusual conference.
Miss Clark says it’s been described as “WTO meets Woodstock”
Copyright © 2009 Radio New Zealand

rbateman
December 16, 2009 11:06 am

Jim (10:17:31) :
Hmm … it looks like most of the water vapor is where the highest concentrations of CO2 aren’t.

There’s no scale to this, either.
There is also no C02 over the Himalayas, so there goes the excuse for global warming melting the glaciers.

Todd
December 16, 2009 11:06 am

I love how they color the CO2 concentrations in their animation brownish “smog” color to give the impression of CO2 as a pollutant.

Mikael Schmidt
December 16, 2009 11:07 am

To mee it seems that the global column of water vapor has decreased over the past 10 years. I refer to the following page http://isccp.giss.nasa.gov/products/browseatmos.html where it is possible to exmamine the content of water vapor in the atmosphere in many different ways.

syphax
December 16, 2009 11:07 am

“The timing of this release is interesting.”
I’m deeply suspicious about why someone would time the introduction of a cool new earth-related dataset with, I don’t know, an AGU conference.
I continue to be intrigued by how this community approaches new information with an open, inquisitive attitude.

RockyRoad
December 16, 2009 11:08 am

My cousin, a horticulturalist, tells me that a big problem corn farmers face in the midwest is windless days–as a consequence, the corn plants quickly reduce the CO2 content in the air around them below uptake threshold and they just quit growing.
I’d say the low CO2 concentrations seen over deeply forested areas are the result of continuous uptake as abundant plantlife there grows…these should be considered carbon (CO2) sinks. Deserts, on the other hand, have little plant life compared to deeply forested areas, hence are not carbon sinks–perhaps there are factors there that would cause release of CO2? Anybody have information on this possibility?
JayWiz: Engineers Rule… they put the data scientists find to beneficial use.

December 16, 2009 11:09 am

O/T – the Climategate story just got a whole lot bigger –
http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2009/12/sheeet.html
This is SERIAL!

syphax
December 16, 2009 11:09 am

http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/AIRS_CO2_Data/
The scale ranges from 382 to 389 ppm.
I’d call that “pretty well mixed”.
Raw data here: http://disc.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov/AIRS/data-holdings

Dan
December 16, 2009 11:09 am

Interesting…
How were Mann and his cohorts able to get a mean CO2 value for the entire globe before this data was available?
http://www.biomind.de/realCO2/ and others say CO2 varies by the time of day, the season and, probably has a lot of other variations too.
Seems the very basis of alarmism has eroded to nothing.

Scott B
December 16, 2009 11:12 am

Looks like this is the paper they are using to make the claim:
http://geotest.tamu.edu/userfiles/216/Dessler2008b.pdf

boballab
December 16, 2009 11:15 am

Yes I also noticed that clouds are not mentioned, however Dr. Spencer is supposed to do a presentation that started at about 2pm EST at AGU on Feedbacks from clouds with Satellite evidence. Will be interesting to see what happens after that.

Steve
December 16, 2009 11:15 am

Hmmm… Nothing in the article nor the animations actually substantiates the water vapor feedback evidence. The water vapor animation depicts but 90 days from summer 2005. How to rectify with the raob data which actually
indicate ANTI-correlation ( that is NEGATIVE feedback for water vapor)?
http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/FOS%20Essay/GlobalRelativeHumidity300_700mb.jpg

Doug in Seattle
December 16, 2009 11:16 am

Jack Green (10:32:24) :
We need hundreds of years of data.

Wave those arms any harder and you might take off.
The short record of the aqua data is the reason the Lindsen used mixed data sets to do his analysis last summer. However even his analysis uses much less than 100 years of data.
True, Lindsen’s analysis is weakened by both the (still) limited length of the record and the mixing of more than one data set, but it is still a better analysis that what a press release can provide.
I did find it it interesting that who evever wrote this had to go outside of NASA JPL to get a quote that supports climate models and positive feedback.
And also interesting they do not mention Lindsen, while clearly adressing what he claims. Kinda like RC and their never mentioning McIntyre by name.

NickB.
December 16, 2009 11:16 am

Tom Fuller (10:33:53) :
I don’t get it either. You’d think they would explain what specific mechanism(s) they observed that confirmed the CO2->Water Vapor feedback relationship in the climate models.
Hell, even if it was just an observed correlation (up-trend in water vapor observed alongside up-trend in CO2) a *little* explanation to the implication that this supports or validates in some way the model predictions would be nice.
It almost seems like they observed a correlation in temperature delta and water vapor delta… which doesn’t really prove anything about CO2

Wondering Aloud
December 16, 2009 11:16 am

Dear Andrew
““AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor,” said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.”
Respectfully
B.S.
Supporting models that are already disproven by the actual temperature data doesn’t suggest they are right. It suggests your method is crap.

Richard111
December 16, 2009 11:18 am

Look at channel 510, CCTV, China, and you will see the occasional outside shot showing quite severe smog. I would have expected that to show up on the AIRS data.
WUWT

Ray
December 16, 2009 11:18 am

– At 5 to 12 kilometers, the water vapour concentration must be very low.
– Are the two pretty pictures animations taken at the same time of year?
– Maybe the measurements at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, are useless.
– Can someone match the temperature distribution during that time, at that altitude… was there a hot spot?
– Could it be the other way around? The increase of water vapour (due to SUMMER warming) displaces the CO2 in those bands, making their concentration go up at those latitudes? The warmer the water in the ocean gets the more CO2 that degases, the more CO2 that get displaced by water vapour to those locations?

yonason
December 16, 2009 11:19 am

How does all that correlate with volcanic activity?
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=114703

John Doe
December 16, 2009 11:22 am

“Chahine said previous AIRS research data have led to some key findings about mid-tropospheric carbon dioxide. For example, the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere, but is rather “lumpy.” Until now, models of carbon dioxide transport have assumed its distribution was uniform.”
What does that mean to the Holy CO2-measurements in Mauna Loa? Are they lower or higher than the global average? What about earlier chemical measurents? Can we now assume some validity for them.
How important impact that mixing has to the results of the climate models? Is the science settled or not?

taxtrumpet
December 16, 2009 11:22 am

This picture makes me wonder about the whole greenhouse analogy. A greenhouse has glass walls and a glass roof. If there are holes in the glass, heat escapes. The picture of the globe with CO2 plumes shows a very uneven distribution. If the greenhouse analogy held, then the areas without the CO2 plumes are the equivalent of holes in the greenhouse. I would think that the heat (if any) in the areas with higher CO2 would escape through the “holes” where the CO2 is low. Is the greenhouse concept a bad model for thinking about the atmosphere?

Dave Wendt
December 16, 2009 11:22 am

Juraj V. (10:30:04) :
Does not look like this at all
http://www.jaxa.jp/press/2009/10/20091030_ibuki_e.html
(scroll down)
The difference between the JAXA CO2 map from 2009 and NASA animation are quite profound, suggesting that CO2 distribution is not only non uniform, but subject to nearly as much chaotic variability as the atmosphere. I would note also that the measurements displayed seemed to indicate that the 388 ppm number in Anthony’s widget is hardly representative, by my eyeball avg. I’d say at least 15 to 20 ppm on the high side.
It seems a more appropriate headline for this PR would have been “New Data Shows GCMS to a Complete Crock”.

David L. Hagen
December 16, 2009 11:22 am

For perspective, Leroy et al. 2009 observe:

Leroy et al. (2008a) showed that a twenty year timeseries of longwave spectral data is expected to provide a 50% uncertain estimate of the water vapor-longwave feedback of the climate system and a 20% uncertain estimate of the longwave forcing by carbon dioxide in 5 years.

Testing Climate Models Using Infrared Spectra and GNSS Radio Occultation2009 S. S. Leroy, J. A. Dykema, P. J. Gero, and J. G. Anderson, Springer

Dave Wendt
December 16, 2009 11:24 am

oops, to be a Complete….

December 16, 2009 11:26 am

Anthony did you put this article up to exercise the reflexes of WUWT readers and check they were transparently healthy?

tunka
December 16, 2009 11:26 am

This IS interesting. Before we have dismissed the models because the warming of the 6000 – 12000 m in the tropics just weren’t there, therefore the models looked suspect, while the explanations of Lindzen were more according to the observations.
Now, the assumptions behind the models seem to be confirmed by observations. If so, the hypotesis of global warming is certainly more likely than before.
One thing that strikes me: CO2 is supposed to be a long lived gas in the atmosphere, why is it not then well mixed in the air? Why is it “lumped together”?
I will wait until further information to draw any conclusions; this science is so politicized that anything is possible.

R. Craigen
December 16, 2009 11:26 am

I loved this part:

Dessler explained that most of the warming caused by carbon dioxide does not come directly from carbon dioxide, but from effects known as feedbacks. Water vapor is a particularly important feedback

It is designed to suggest some important, heretofore-unknown relationship between H2O and CO2, vindicating the “feedback” speculation of the AGWers that forms a central feature of GCM’s. It is verbal sleight-of-hand. Dessler essentially admits that CO2, nor any GHG, plays any special role in spawning H20 vapor in the atmosphere — it is a purely temperature-driven phenomenon. DUH!
The two animations say it all. In between the Northern and Southern “bands” of increased CO2 activity shown in the first animation is an empty band of lower activity. But in the second animation, it is along this EMPTY CO2 activity band that the most intense level of atmospheric H2O is generated. Well…OBVIOUSLY! That is the equator! It’s hottest there!
It looks possible that statistical analysis of the underlying data would reveal a NEGATIVE correlation between regions of high CO2 activity and regions of high H2O activity in the atmosphere.

Olle
December 16, 2009 11:27 am

http://www.stoptheaclu.com/2009/12/14/another-defection-from-warmism-un-ipcc-coordinating-author-dr-philip-lloyd-calls-out-ipcc-fraud/hello!!!!
You have to read this!!!
Is it saying what its really saying???? And this is written BEFORE “climategate”!

Steve
December 16, 2009 11:27 am

So the AIRs data for five years, 2003-2008, a period of FALLING global temperatures, and increasing humidity is taken as positive feedback?
Uhmmmm isn’t that really proof of NEGATIVE feedback?
And the entire raob record, marked by RISING global temperatures and decreasing humidity is ignored as NEGATIVE feedback?
Hooo boy.

coaldust
December 16, 2009 11:29 am

This doesn’t make sense to me. If water vapor feedback is positive, I expect to see more warming over the oceans where there is obviously more water available for a positive feedback loop to operate.
But isn’t most of the warming supposed to be over land? From this is I conclude this must be due to one of these:
A) Water vapor feedback is negative
B) The observed warming over land is polluted by other effects
C) It’s more complex than I am making it
D) All of the above

Jack Green
December 16, 2009 11:32 am

I just read Dressler’s paper and he matched the HadCRUT3 data set. Isn’t this the one that was tricked? If so then he matched something that was falsified thus leading to false conclusions.
This work was supported by NASA grants NNG04GL64G, NNG04GH67G, and NNX08AF68G, all to Texas A&M.

WAG
December 16, 2009 11:33 am

November temperature data is up. 4th warmest November on record:
http://akwag.blogspot.com/ 2009/ 12/ global-cooling-at-sarah-palins-house.html
But there’s global cooling both at Sarah Palin’s house AND the country she can see from her house.

hunter
December 16, 2009 11:33 am

Anything Dessler says or claims should be viewed very critically. He is more of a politician than a scientist. He worked for Gore in the Clinton WH, and is a strong AGW promoter.
He has been trying to find ‘fingerprints’ in the troposphere for a long while, and if I recall correctly, has been shown to be misleading people.
Sort of Mann-eque, as it were.

Ed
December 16, 2009 11:36 am

Russia says the CRU appears to have cherry picked which Russian weather stations to use:
Climategate has already affected Russia. On Tuesday, the Moscow-based Institute of Economic Analysis (IEA) issued a report claiming that the Hadley Center for Climate Change based at the headquarters of the British Meteorological Office in Exeter (Devon, England) had probably tampered with Russian-climate data.
The IEA believes that Russian meteorological-station data did not substantiate the anthropogenic global-warming theory.
Analysts say Russian meteorological stations cover most of the country’s territory, and that the Hadley Center had used data submitted by only 25% of such stations in its reports.
Over 40% of Russian territory was not included in global-temperature calculations for some other reasons, rather than the lack of meteorological stations and observations.
The data of stations located in areas not listed in the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK (HadCRUT) survey often does not show any substantial warming in the late 20th century and the early 21st century.
The HadCRUT database includes specific stations providing incomplete data and highlighting the global-warming process, rather than stations facilitating uninterrupted observations.
Source: http://en.rian.ru/papers/20091216/157260660.html
(May have to page down to see this item – the above is worthy of a front page item at WWUT)

rbateman
December 16, 2009 11:37 am

syphax (11:09:09) :
7 ppm difference? That’s many times weaker than the TSI range.

Evan Jones
Editor
December 16, 2009 11:37 am

As pointed out by others:
It all depends on what happens to the water vapor. If it remains ambient, it contributes to warming. If cloud cover increases, however, the feedback will be negative.
Also, if CO2 accumulates in the mid-troposphere (the upper and lower going around like a conveyor belt), why is there no hot spot?

Filipe
December 16, 2009 11:37 am

A factor of only two as the upper limit for any possible positive feedback? I thought models predict much more than that…

hunter
December 16, 2009 11:37 am

the reason this cannot be correct is that pesky historical record that shows CO2 going up after warming, and ahead of cooling.
If what Dessler is promoting were accurate, we would see it in the historical record.
It is not in the historical record, so it is yet more AGW hype and fear mongering.
How much data do these AGW promoters get to torture before the human rights people movee in on these cruel torturers?

Erik Anderson
December 16, 2009 11:38 am

Jim (10:17:31): Hmm … it looks like most of the water vapor is where the highest concentrations of CO2 aren’t.
That’s what my eyes see too — no only in the latitudinal banding but also for the big wet spot in the southern Himalayas.

Alvin
December 16, 2009 11:39 am

Ah! So it IS the humidity. /sarc

Michael
December 16, 2009 11:40 am

CO2 Contributed by Human Activity: 12 to 15ppmv / version 1

AK
December 16, 2009 11:40 am

Wondering Aloud says: “Supporting models that are already disproven by the actual temperature data doesn’t suggest they are right. It suggests your method is crap.”
Actually, the fact that Dessler’s OBSERVATIONS corroborate what models predicted shows that the models are correct. Also, temperature data confirms the models are correct – the meme that “temperature doesn’t match the model” has no basis in the evidence. See here (solid lines are actual temps, and they fall toward the upper end of model predictions):
http://tamino.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/rahmstorf2.jpg
And if you think the temperature data is all faked anyway, how are you going to now say that this flawed temperature data proves the models incorrect?
What your statement shows is that you should not be drawing your own conclusions on climate science based on your layperson’s understanding the issue.

Jack Green
December 16, 2009 11:41 am

Next story. This one is full of holes already. We need to stop giving these people money to study air. We could feed a lot of hungry people and buy some nice bikes for the poor children with this grant money.

Alba
December 16, 2009 11:41 am

Brilliant headline on the BBC website today:
“Met was dysfunctional”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8415000/8415634.stm
Unfortunately the Met in question is not the one which issues scarey forecasts about 2080 but the one which is responsible for policing in London.

SteveSadlov
December 16, 2009 11:41 am

Once again, they fail to deal with the interaction between cosmic rays and the atmosphere.

Mark
December 16, 2009 11:43 am

“The timing of this release is interesting.”
Not according to email number 1257881012.txt
“As you know, the Copenhagen negotiations (Dec. 7-18) are attracting hundreds of journalists and will result in a proliferation of media articles about climate change. Recently, the American public’s “belief” in climate change has waned (36% think humans are warming the earth according to the Pew Center’s October poll), and December’s media blitz provides an opportunity to reverse the trend.”

astonerii
December 16, 2009 11:45 am

If warmer temperatures have a feedback of more water in the air, which warms the temperatures which then adds more water to the air that then warms the temperatures ad infinitum, why do we even need CO2 to get this to happen? There can be no net positive feedback mechanism on Earth, as it is impossible to have the climate we have today with it.

Karl Maki
December 16, 2009 11:49 am

If CO2 warming leading to temperature amplification via water vapor were that straightforward, the IPCC models wouldn’t be failing.
It also contradicts Lindzen’s recent ERBE results.

Jason
December 16, 2009 11:51 am

Hey people up top, water vapor /itself/ is a greenhouse gas. A durr..
Damn you’re really desperate aren’t you? Another of your arguments is “water vapor, not CO2 causes most of the greenhouse effect, so we shouldn’t be concerned.”

Martin Brumby
December 16, 2009 11:53 am

Of course, just because this come from a NASA press release timed to coincide with the Copenhagen three ring circus, it doesn’t HAVE to be crap. (But my BS detector is flashing like mad.)
It has to be good from the paper that “The product represents the first-ever release of global carbon dioxide data that are based solely on observations.” But are these real observations, I wonder? Or just observations of what the output of his X-box looks like?
I wonder if he found that pesky missing tropical hot-spot whilst he was poking around? Did he say?

hunter
December 16, 2009 11:57 am

AK,
Why is Tamino credible?
The claim makes no sense, and the observations claimed are under the control of an extreme AGW promoter.
This reminds me of the ‘Antarctic warming’ fraud of last spring.
It was obviously designed to make a claim to support AGW theory, not to actually tell the truth, and the claim of Antarctic warming fell apart under modest scrutiny.
The obvious lack of strong positive feedbacks is stretching the ability of AGW promoters to distract people. Making claims that there is now tropospheric evidence of it -minor, difficult to verify, and likely at the limits of detectability, is like so much of the rest of AGW evidence: bogus.

December 16, 2009 11:59 am

A cold warmist (11:09:04) : O/T – the Climategate story just got a whole lot bigger – http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2009/12/sheeet.html … This is SERIAL!
Nice one, might warrant a thread to itself? FYI, it’s about Russian scientists saying CRU cherrypicked only a small proportion of the available Russian station records, and it appears CRU picked the ones that show warming…
[REPLY – Check it out. ~ Evan]

Cassandra King
December 16, 2009 12:00 pm

Lets read between the lines a little and find what they really mean. Atmospheric CO2 is no longer seen to be a primary driver of global warming, the proof can no longer be hidden so they are including a long ignored bit part player long dismissed as inconvenient to the narrative that CO2 is the global warming culprit.
Enter the former bit part player water vapour stage left to prop up the obviously failing CO2 star, a Hollywood trick of old now dusted down and used in climate ‘science’.
Its as obviously weak as it is desperate, the increasing contortions of a dying theory seen just before plate tectonics theory ousted the consensus and very like the age of the earth consensus and so on.
To protect a dying but dominant theory the adherents will attempt ever more complex assertions based on ever more tenuous evidence to prop up their their consensus and ending up so confused and twisted that the theory eventually fails and another takes its place.
A great many reputations are at stake and a great deal of grant/research money is on the line, but mainly it is the age old human weakness, the inability to accept defeat and error. Ego and reputation and the inevitable humiliation that comes from being wrong will drive scientists to the most extreme lengths in order to protect themselves, the single admission of failure will be incredibly difficult for some to come to terms with.
Science has given us wonderful gifts yet the scientific community shows the same human weaknesses perhaps even amplified somewhat by egotism,pride,jealousy and spite, the elevation of science and scientists in the public imagination is not like the reality.
What previously ignored factor will be piled on to mask the failing theory next, perhaps they have a list of extra ingredients to add?
The sun/cosmic rays/nitrogen/oxygen/the kitchen sink?

December 16, 2009 12:01 pm

Aha! as usual Anthony got there first (Russian stations)

Vincent
December 16, 2009 12:02 pm

So the Clausius-Clapeyeron relationship is correct after all. Who would have thought it?
No seriously, the lumpy CO2 findings were quite interesting and go some way to supporting Beck’s paper on past CO2 measurements. However, the water vapour feedback just confirms what all skeptics have already known – warmer conditions lead to greater absolute humidity. It tells us nothing about clouds, nor the role in cloud feedbacks, so my understanding it, we haven’t moved from where we were previously.

supercritical
December 16, 2009 12:04 pm

Hmm; a few initial speculations:
Strange that there seems to be low CO2 in the tropics, and at the poles, and also over the himalayas.
I’d be interested to find out if there are any interference effects with this instrument. For example: if there is a high measured level of atmospheric H20, will that mask the measurement of CO2?
And what about albedo? For example, could the reflectance from Cumulus, and from Icecaps, somehow reduce the instrumental sensitivity to CO2?
Could it be, that a major sink of CO2 is actually clouds? And can the instrument measure CO2 that is absorbed within water-vapour? All those microscopic droplets with a combined huge surface area, and enormous changes of partial pressure as they go up and down in their great convective loops, would seem to be the ideal CO2 ‘scrubber’
Then there is the question of icing; if CO2 comes out of solution when water droplets turn to ice-crystals, could this account for the increased concentrations of CO2 in the just those zones we see, where the highest combination of water-vapour and atmospheric freezing occur ?

anna v
December 16, 2009 12:06 pm

The data in the pr seem cherry picked, few months. One has to see the publication to make a judgement.

JerryM
December 16, 2009 12:07 pm

Steve (11:27:33)
“So the AIRs data for five years, 2003-2008, a period of FALLING global temperatures, and increasing humidity is taken as positive feedback?
Uhmmmm isn’t that really proof of NEGATIVE feedback?
And the entire raob record, marked by RISING global temperatures and decreasing humidity is ignored as NEGATIVE feedback?
Hooo boy.”
Good point. It’s almost as if the increasing water vapor was cancelling out the possible CO2 warming effect during that time.
Another problem – this is only 7 years of data. It’s all great information, but such a short time frame isn’t enough to draw firm conclusions one way or the other, though initial indications are that the water vapor could be a negative feedback rather than a positive one. The AGW’ers have been hanging their hat on satellite data that started in 1979. But since we’ve only been using Mauna Loa for credible mean CO2 measurements from 1979 to, the theory that water vapor feedback mechanism was positive was that – just a theory.
As for Dressler’s comments, as Chris R. said earlier, this guy is all over the lot. First his feedback multiplier was lower than the IPCC’s in 2004, then far higher in 2008, and now lower assuming I’m right that the IPCC projected a feedback of 3-5 times CO2’s influence, he’s lower.
One thing I look forward to is for scientists to take a look at and analyze localized conditions for the correlation of CO2 concentration, water vapor density and temperature changes on a regional level (i.e., Arctic, Antarctic, continental, etc.) to see if the AGW theory holds water.

foinavon
December 16, 2009 12:07 pm

Not really astonerii (11:45:48),
If some forcing (solar, greenhouse gas or whatever) results in a 1 oC warming of the atmosphere, and the resulting water vapour feedback adds an additional x of warming then the total warming from the primary forcing+ water vapour feedback is something like 1 + x + x^2 + x^3 + x^4 …
which is 1/(1-x).
This doesn’t lead to the “ad infinitum” notion that you suggest obviously. It’s perhaps easier to think of the water vapour feedback as an “amplification” of the primary forcing.
That’s all pretty well established science…

December 16, 2009 12:13 pm

If CO2 does not mix evenly, then what are spatial error components of the CO2 measurements? It is a duplication of the surface station sampling problem. I would love to see those pretty pictures of CO2 dispersion with a indicator of the CO2 sampling locations used to support AGW.

Ryan Stephenson
December 16, 2009 12:13 pm

@Jason:
“Hey people up top, water vapor /itself/ is a greenhouse gas”
It sure is Jason. And do you know what a greenhouse gas is? A greenhouse gas is just a gas that is good at absorbing radiant heat. Basically greenhouses gases are good for planet earth, because they provide protection from the extremes of temperature that would otherwise occur if their insulating cover was not present.
The theory was that CO2 was “different” as a greenhouse because it was good at letting heat in from the sun but bad at letting heat out from a warmed planet earth – a kind of “one-way” heat effect. That theory seems to have somehow gotten forgotten – perhaps because it never made much sense in the first place?

foinavon
December 16, 2009 12:13 pm

Steve Sadlov (11:41:45)
I don’t think there’s any compelling evidence for a cosmic ray atmosphere interaction effect that is significant for climate. Since the secular trend in the cosmic ray flux has been pretty flat (drifting slightly in a cooling direction since the cosmic ray has been measured in detail from the late 1950’s), we know any putative CRF effect can’t have contributed to the marked late 20th century and contemporary warming.
What did you have in mind?

RockyRoad
December 16, 2009 12:17 pm

AK says (in part): “What your statement shows is that you should not be drawing your own conclusions on climate science based on your layperson’s understanding the issue.”
True, but with the Russians now saying their data was fudged, along with New Zealand and Australia, it appears this is becoming a global conspiracy to arrive at anything but the truth.
That, apparently, is more obvious and despicable to a bunch of us “laypersons” than a bunch of “climate scientists” that have been on the gravy train for decades.
By the way… will “climate scientist” now become equivalent to car salesman and insurance agent?
I hope not, because as a geologist I want at least some advanced warning of the next glacial epoch, but AGWers will never see it coming.

u.k.(us)
December 16, 2009 12:19 pm

need to first prove it’s warming (and please show your work), then we’ll look for causes.

KeithGuy
December 16, 2009 12:21 pm

“AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor,”
OK! Back of an envelope Math coming up:
CO2 has already increased from 284 ppm (pre-industrial level) to 384 ppm (2007). Using the formula for radiative forcing for Carbon Dioxide I make that an increase in the temperature of the atmosphere of half a degree.
If we only consider the most important positive feedback mechanism (water vapor) and completely ignore the possibility that clouds could be an equally important negative feedback mechanism, then we are looking at 1 degree C so far.
If we go the whole way and double CO2 in the atmosphere to 568 ppm, and allow ONLY for the negative feedback effects of water vapor, then we can expect a further increase in temperature of 1.4 degrees centigrade.
Is that it? Is that the worst?
We’re all doomed! (Sarcasm intended)

Martin B
December 16, 2009 12:22 pm

“tunka (11:26:13) :
One thing that strikes me: CO2 is supposed to be a long lived gas in the atmosphere, why is it not then well mixed in the air? Why is it “lumped together”?”
That was exactly the first thought that came to me, but as Syphax pointed out above, the color scale ranges from about 381 – 389 ppmv, so the CO2 is indeed well mixed. However, I don’t understand why the science team leader would say this:
“For example, the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere, but is rather “lumpy.” Until now, models of carbon dioxide transport have assumed its distribution was uniform.”
A variation of one part out of 38 does not seem “lumpy” to me – indeed I would call it pretty well mixed.
Anyway, it’s good to have a new comprehensive data-set that might be able to answer some questions.

AK
December 16, 2009 12:27 pm

hunter –
Tamino didn’t produce that data, so whether or not he’s credible doesn’t matter. If Tamino or Al Gore or Michael Mann say the sky is blue, it doesn’t make it green.
The fact is, temperatures confirm the model predictions, water vapor data confirm the model predictions, sea level rise confirms the model predictions, etc.
Time to concede the “observations don’t back the models” meme.

Barry L.
December 16, 2009 12:29 pm

Here’s my take on the following comment:
“Dessler explained that most of the warming caused by carbon dioxide does not come directly from carbon dioxide, but from effects known as feedbacks. Water vapor is a particularly important feedback. As the climate warms, the atmosphere becomes more humid.”
So if humidty is DECREASING; http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/FOS%20Essay/GlobalRelativeHumidity300_700mb.jpg
and co2 does not cause most of the warming, as stated above,when it is actually cooling, and becoming less humid. Then what is actually going on here floks?
Is the entire study based on tainted temperatures, false feedbacks and lacking logic oh my? tainted temperatures, false feedbacks and lacking logic oh my?

Keith W.
December 16, 2009 12:30 pm

” rbateman (11:06:18) :
Jim (10:17:31) :
Hmm … it looks like most of the water vapor is where the highest concentrations of CO2 aren’t.
There’s no scale to this, either.
There is also no C02 over the Himalayas, so there goes the excuse for global warming melting the glaciers.

Based upon the animation, who knew that Mongolia, and the Sino-Siberian border were carbon dioxide traps. That explains all those big red heat spots in Siberia! [/sarcasm]
The perspective on this animation is extremely skewed. We can see the edges of Antarctica, but not the Northern areas of Russia and Canada. It looks like its midline is not the Equator, but several degrees south of it. And if the difference between a pristine blue and an angry red is only 7 particles per million, they are really treading a thin line here for saying carbon dioxide is aggressively causing global warming. Several of the “high” carbon dioxide regions are not noticeably warming.

Martin B
December 16, 2009 12:32 pm

“supercritical (12:04:02) :
Could it be, that a major sink of CO2 is actually clouds? And can the instrument measure CO2 that is absorbed within water-vapour? All those microscopic droplets with a combined huge surface area, and enormous changes of partial pressure as they go up and down in their great convective loops, would seem to be the ideal CO2 ’scrubber’”
I recently had much the same idea. The water-droplets in clouds provide a lot of surface area for the uptake of CO2. If the clouds then rain out over the ocean, that might be a more efficient mechanism for the exchange of CO2 between air and sea than the direct adsorption at the air-sea interface. Or alternatively, if they don’t rain out, it might be a mechanism for the transport of CO2 across the earth’s surface (as the clouds drift with the wind). I suppose that some of the CO2 could become sequested in the land too (in ground-water that is) as the clouds rain out over land.
These are all interesting questions, which I would hope some enterprising atmospheric scientist or oceanographer would also be asking, and attempting to answer. Do climate scientists ask interesting questions anymore? Are they even curious anymore? Or do they simply assume that they already completely understand how the Earth works?

KeithGuy
December 16, 2009 12:34 pm

Excuse the mistake in the last post:
…and allow ONLY for the negative feedback effects of water vapor, then…
should read
…and allow ONLY for the positive feedback effects of water vapor, then…

foinavon
December 16, 2009 12:34 pm

Martin B (12:22:03)
Yes, you’re right. It’s really a question of timescales. CO2 is pretty well mixed on the annual timescale and rather less well mixed on the monthy timescale. But overall the spatial difference in CO2 levels is small (since CO2 levels mix rather well on the annual timescale!).
One can get a better picture of the spatial variation in CO2 levels from the AIRS data; e.g.:
http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpegMod/PIA11194_modest.jpg

Martin B
December 16, 2009 12:38 pm

“AK (12:27:02) :
hunter –
Tamino didn’t produce that data, so whether or not he’s credible doesn’t matter. If Tamino or Al Gore or Michael Mann say the sky is blue, it doesn’t make it green.
The fact is, temperatures confirm the model predictions, water vapor data confirm the model predictions, sea level rise confirms the model predictions, etc.
Time to concede the “observations don’t back the models” meme.”
Did the guys who run the climate simulations predict the interruption of the warming trend seen over the last several years? The one of which Kevin Trenberth said that it was a travesty that it could not be explained? Did the authors of the IPCC TAR, back in 2001, warn us that “you may see a slackening in the rate of global warming over the next few years, but do not be deceived – it is still real, and will pick up pace again in about a decade or so”. Or is this another climate trend which can only be predicted in hindsight?

Hans Kelp
December 16, 2009 12:42 pm

How much of the CO2 shown is caused by humans burning fossil fuels? 1 % ?
[REPLY – 3% or so per year, supposedly. Around half of that accumulates. So it’s likely that the CO2 increase is anthropogenic. But what effect that has (if any) is very questionable. ~ Evan]

Dr A Burns
December 16, 2009 12:43 pm

Chris R,
You might find this interesting:
http://www.warwickhughes.com/hoyt/wvfeedback.htm

RobJM
December 16, 2009 12:44 pm

I love water vapour positive feedback because it defies logic!
Think about it, they claim evaporation causes warming, which means warming must occur if evaporation occurs! Evaporation has been occurring for billion of years yet the world hasn’t boiled to its death! But apparently it will now that man is putting back a tiny amount of CO2 that has been sequestered by plants.
Often these water feedback proof articles forget to compare the increases in water vapour to increases in temp, ie they compare over a period when the earth cools. Increases in water vapour in the upper atmosphere always lead to subsequent decreases in surface temp (due to those cloud things cutting off the energy supply.) I always wonder if these model forget to use the big climate forcing, such as the difference between day and night.

Ryan Stephenson
December 16, 2009 12:46 pm

@foinavon 12:07:42
What you have described is not positive feedback. A simple way of describing positive feedback would be with a sampled data system. Consider a system with gain = 1 (to make life easier) and positive feedback P.
On each succesive pass we would then get:
1
1+P
P(!+P)+1 = P^2 + P + 1
P(P^2 + P + 1) +1 = P^3 + P^2 + P + 1
and so on leading to an exponential increase, which is the classic output of a positive feedback system.
All positive feedback systems are unstable this way. Of course positive feedback systems are always controlled in practice by strong negative feedbacks – so the question is what actually controls water vapour so any positive feedback it introduces is in fact nullified by that negative feedback. A desire by scientists to actually understand the climate mechanism and hence detect the negative feedbacks would be beneficial, but it seems there is a strong bias amongst climate scientists to look only for the positive feedbacks which of course then “proves” to anyone with a grasp of what a positive feedback mechanism is that earth is already uninhabitable, and the fact that it appears not to be can only be an illusion.

RockyRoad
December 16, 2009 12:47 pm

To answer Martin B… as any geochemist will tell you, average rain water is rather acidic (pH of 5.2) and is very effective in developing Karst topography (holes of sizable dimensions) anywhere the country rock is limestone/dolostone. The carbonic acid contained in the rain is due to absorption of CO2 in the atmosphere, and you’re right–the surface area of droplets in clouds is HUGE, perhaps exceeding the surface area of the ocean. Besides, constant movement among the clouds allows for greater transfer than a relatively static ocean surface, and involves most of the air column over both land and sea.

RobJM
December 16, 2009 12:51 pm

Rain does scrub CO2 out of the atmosphere as any cave lover would tell you!
Cave formations are formed when rain containing acid CO2 dissolves limestone and redeposits it at evaporation points. I also wonder how much CO2 is absorbed and lost during the transition from snow to ice in glacier formation.

Michael
December 16, 2009 12:52 pm

I’ve been watching videos out of COP 15. It looks like a three ring circus over there. Investment advice, Sell everything related to alternative energy and carbon credit trading now.

John Spencer
December 16, 2009 12:55 pm

I’m skeptic on this. Looking at NASA site
the data seems to be highly cherry picked.
It’s mostly data from July, why?
They must have data from January and that would highlight
better maybe northern cities contributions of CO2.
But they’ve focused on July instead, Why, because
there was nothing to see in the North in January ?
Perhaps with July things look better for them to
blend the gulf stream and plant life so they can
try and infere that it equals man made CO2 ?
When the reality of their pictures is showing
something nearing 100% Natural CO2.
What is the relationship between troposphere
temperatures and the NASA CO2 pictures ?

December 16, 2009 12:58 pm

foinavon (12:34:45) :
Martin B (12:22:03)
Yes, you’re right. It’s really a question of timescales. CO2 is pretty well mixed on the annual timescale and rather less well mixed on the monthy timescale. But overall the spatial difference in CO2 levels is small (since CO2 levels mix rather well on the annual timescale!).
— At what altitude does this longer term mixing occur. If the short term accumulations are at altitudes that may matter for climate influence, does the longer term mixing remain at those altitudes or precipitate prior to sequestering. Additionally, do you have a reference to how the global CO2 level is measured (calculated)?

Richard Henry Lee
December 16, 2009 1:01 pm

Dr Roy Spencer’s Power Point presentation of his AGU talk on negative feedbacks is available here:
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/12/cloud-feedback-presentation-for-fall-2009-agu-meeting/

Jack Green
December 16, 2009 1:01 pm

Is the Pajama still going over there?

Michael
December 16, 2009 1:02 pm

First comment on a Senator Kerry article in the Green tab of Huffington post confirms the observation I made yesterday.
This comment from;
freshmind I’m a Fan of freshmind I’m a fan of this user 17 fans
“The world will end if we don’t do something, yet I hardly see any comments in the green section, if the world was really ending you’d think that would be even more important than health care, can’t have health care if the world ends.”
There were 14 comments to this article at time of observation.
John Kerry In Copenhagen: “I’m Just Describing The Reality Of What It Will Take”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/16/john-kerry-in-copenhagen-_n_393980.html

foinavon
December 16, 2009 1:04 pm

well yes Ryan Stephenson (12:46:56)…
that’s why I said: “It’s perhaps easier to think of the water vapour feedback as an “amplification” of the primary forcing.”
One can’t use semantic “arguments” to attempt to negate real phenomena! “Feedback” is used in a rather straightforward manner in characterising climate-related radiative forcing (a positive feedback is essentially a positive amplification whereas a negative feedback opposes the primary forcing). That may not be the manner in which “feedback” is used in engineering applications, for example, but that’s a matter of semantics…..

Stephen Skinner
December 16, 2009 1:04 pm

“Water vapor is a particularly important feedback. As the climate warms, the atmosphere becomes more humid. Since water is a greenhouse gas, it serves as a powerful positive feedback to the climate system, amplifying the initial warming.”
I would have thought the presence of water vapor would moderate any heating or cooling and is dependent on latitude. Why aren’t record temperatures anywhere that has a high humidity? All record temperatures are in arid locations and in the case of Death Valley it also has the added ‘cooling benefit’ of white salt, which should reflect heat. In addition the presence of water in the atmosphere further North can kill you if you don’t keep dry, as damp air will remove heat faster than dry air, and once the heat has been removed I haven’t noticed damp air want to give it back.

RockyRoad
December 16, 2009 1:04 pm

After doing a bit of research (The Canadian Encyclopedia), I found this:
“The droplets in a small cumulus cloud have a total surface area of about 1000 km2. Thus even a small cloud reflects 90% or more of the incident sunlight, making it appear brilliantly white when seen from above or from the side. Viewed from below, however, clouds appear dark, because most of the sunlight that enters them has already been scattered back to space or absorbed by the cloud droplets.”
Who wudda thunk?

Allan M
December 16, 2009 1:07 pm

Positive feedback – schpositive feedback. Where’s the amplifier?
I see the trolls are returning though.

Steve
December 16, 2009 1:09 pm

foinavon (12:07:42) :
“It’s perhaps easier to think of the water vapour feedback as an ‘amplification’ of the primary forcing.
That’s all pretty well established science…”
Except… that over the RAOB era, a period reputedly marked by ‘global warming’,
relative AND absolute humidity as measured by the imperfect but best we’ve got measurements,
indicate a NEGATIVE FEED BACK!
http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/FOS%20Essay/GlobalRelativeHumidity300_700mb.jpg
The errors of the water vapor feedback are pretty obvious,
even without the RAOB data falsifying it.
For one thing, the source of water vapor is the surface, namely the oceans,
so subsiding air is largely impervious to additional water vapor.
And by surface area, most of the atmosphere
(by surface area, not mass which must balance) is subsiding.
And rising air is precisely that from which precipitation is likely to occur.
In addition, dynamics drive water vapor. Notice in the animation the ITCZ.
Cold air masses plow humid air back toward the equator, a process that will not cease with CO2.
But the biggest logical issue with water vapor as a positive feedback is the obvious: Why isn’t water vapor a feedback to WATER VAPOR?
Clearly there are times with lesser and greater water vapor.
Why wouldn’t a period of greater water vapor lead to warmer temperatures which would lead to greater water vapor which would lead to higher temperatures, which would…

Phil A
December 16, 2009 1:09 pm

“They found the uncertainty in the cyclone’s landfall position could have been reduced by a factor of six had more sophisticated AIRS temperature data been used in the forecasts.”
Is it just me or would most people need to analyse more than one storm to get any sound statistical basis for improvements in prediction uncertainty? Maybe even analyse some for which they didn’t know the landfall before they made the prediction…

Michael
December 16, 2009 1:18 pm

Barrasso demands independent UN Climategate Investigation
http://www.littlechicagoreview.com/pages/full_story/full_story?content_instance_id=5178645

MikeC
December 16, 2009 1:18 pm

It would be nice if we could get some data, there is no color scale related to the annimation so its difficult to come to any conclusions.

RockyRoad
December 16, 2009 1:21 pm

Steve said:
“Clearly there are times with lesser and greater water vapor.
Why wouldn’t a period of greater water vapor lead to warmer temperatures which would lead to greater water vapor which would lead to higher temperatures, which would…”
Eureka! You may have hit upon the very crux of this entire argument. Kudos!

hunter
December 16, 2009 1:22 pm

AK,
The fact is that, as the post above this one show, the temp records are not reliable.
Tamino being a proven partisan hack does matter. Truthiness matters.
AGW promoters have little and diminshing truthiness.
And people I trust, and who have proven themselves to be credible, look at the temps vs. predictions and their analysis shows the emp realities vs. the AGW predictions to be outside the 955 confidence range, which means the predictions are not credible.
You can make all of the cummarizations and dismissals you want. You can ignore the clear corruption in the AGW promotion all you want. that does not mean it is not there.
But to come into a forum of reasonably informed people and just assert everything is Okeydokey with the models and that this pile of poop confirms it is just silly.

foinavon
December 16, 2009 1:27 pm

Jean Parisot (12:58:03) :
atmospheric CO2 levels are directly measured at a large number of sites around the world:
http://gaw.kishou.go.jp/wdcgg/wdcgg.html
one can make lots of intercomparisons of the data. For example,
compare the two data sets here (Mauna Loa and the averaged sea surface sites):
http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/
or look at an entirely seperate data set. For example the atmospheric CO2 measure at the South Pole:
http://cdiac.ornl.gov/trends/co2/csiro/CSIROCO2SOUTHPOLE.JPG
These differ by very small amounts (less than 1%).
Very small local differences in CO2 are unlikely to be climatically significant. The equilibrium temperature rise from a change in atmospheric CO2 levels is small (it’s somethng like:
Temp rise = ln([CO2]2/[CO2]1)*3/ln2
within the median value of the climate sensitivity), and one can determine that the difference in forcing between a value of 386 ppm and 378 ppm (say) is not very significant.
I don’t know what the altitude depndence of CO2 mixing is. I expect it’s likely to be more efficiently mixed at higer altitudes because the major differences must relate to the CO2 sources which are ground level (apart from methane oxidation to CO2). Once CO2 levels mix, they’re not going to “un-mix”. The climatically relevant altitudes for the CO2 greenhouse effects are the high ones since it’s the average height from which longwave IR is emitted to space that is relevant to CO2-enhancement of the greenhouse effect.
That’s what comes to mind.

Adam Soereg
December 16, 2009 1:32 pm

Maybe it is my fault but I couldn’t understand the claims of this article. They’ve said the following:
“Dessler explained that most of the warming caused by carbon dioxide does not come directly from carbon dioxide, but from effects known as feedbacks. Water vapor is a particularly important feedback. As the climate warms, the atmosphere becomes more humid.”
If our atmosphere is more humid globally than it was 30-40 years ago please quantify it and support your claims with publicly available observational data.
According to data provided by ISCCP and ESRL the global absolute humidity is going down, with a very prominent decrease at mid-tropospheric levels (500 to 300 hPa). I highly recommend using instrumental data or anything which has an empirical origin instead of ‘magical’ computer models.

foinavon
December 16, 2009 1:38 pm

Steve (13:09:28) and RockyRoad (13:21:38) :
I answered that point here:
foinavon (12:07:42) :
“If some forcing (solar, greenhouse gas or whatever) results in a 1 oC warming of the atmosphere, and the resulting water vapour feedback adds an additional x of warming then the total warming from the primary forcing+ water vapour feedback is something like 1 + x + x^2 + x^3 + x^4 …
which is 1/(1-x). ”
So water vapour is a feedback (or amplification) to water vapour (that’s where the decreasing series comes from). That’s really straightforward. It would only be the “runaway”-style effect that you insinuate, if the water vapour response to the primary warming produced a warming close to or greater than the primary forcing…but it doesn’t.

Jon-Anders Grannes
December 16, 2009 1:39 pm

Anything that is presented so close too this attempt to radicalize the West can not bee taken seriously!
The time is just to short to find out if its correct or again just propaganda to push the radical change of society further.

TheGoodLocust
December 16, 2009 1:40 pm

That’s funny, because I know I’ve heard several AGW people tell me that CO2 is dangerous because, unlike water vapor, it is evenly distributed and because of that it’ll make water vapor at the poles and destroy us all through the horrors of feedback loops.
If CO2 is distributed where we already have water vapor then I imagine its greenhouse effect would be negligible in comparison.

Robert Wood
December 16, 2009 1:41 pm

Any system with positive feedback is inherently unstable. If thsi were the case with the Earth’s atmosphere, we wouldn’t be here now, after 4.5 billion years of much warmer temperatures and all that positive feedback.
They’ve maybe got some interesting data, but I don’t buy their interpretation of that data.

David L. Hagen
December 16, 2009 1:41 pm

Clarification to my previous post on what NASA means by “2 ppm accuracy”:
In About the AIRS Global Carbon Dioxide Data of Earth’s Mid-Troposphere
NASA’s describes AIRS as “Better than 2 ppm accuracy”. From NASA’s graph this appears to be 2 ppm out of 385 ppm.
i.e. the relative standard deviation for CO2 data is 0.5%.

foinavon
December 16, 2009 1:44 pm

Allan M (13:07:22) :

Positive feedback – schpositive feedback. Where’s the amplifier?

It’s not clear what your point is, but it’s pretty straightfoward that water vapour partitions into the atmosphere according to the atmospheric temperature (and pressure)…a warmer atmosphere contains higher levels of water vapour on average. This can be measured in the real world.
So as the atmospheric temperature rises as a result of enhanced radiative forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever), so the atmospheric water vapour concentration rises. Since water vapour is a strong greenhouse gas, the effect of the primary forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever) is amplified.

Robert Wood
December 16, 2009 1:44 pm

AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated [failed]; climate model predictions

Nigel Brereton
December 16, 2009 1:46 pm

ReadMe file for gridding a la Mark New 2000
Tim Mitchell, 30.3.04
The main program for gridding is quick_interp_tdm2.pro
This program is based on one of Mark New’s called quick_interp.pro
This program takes as inputs the outputs from anomdtb.f90 option 3 –
see ~/code/linux/cruts and the readme file there. The location of
these files is identifed as pts_prefix. There may be an additional input
required of synthetic data, to augment sparse grids for secondary
variables – see the published literature for the reasoning here. The
synthetic files are in binary format and are identified to the program
through synth_prefix. Both identifiers are only prefixes, not full names,
because the program itself supplies the year-specific file endings.i Use
anomfac and synthfac as appropriate.
Use year1 and year2 to specify the range of years to process.
Use out_prefix to specify the location of the output files.
Use dist to specify the correlation decay distance for the climate
variable being interpolated – necessary information to determine where
to add dummy or synthetic data.
Use gs to specify the grid size – 0.5 for half-degree
Use dumpbin to dump, Mark New style, to unreadable IDL binary files
Use dumpglo to dump, Tim Mitchell style, to .glo files (suite of processing
software for .glo files under ~/code/linux/goglo)
Don’t bother with dumpmon
Use binfac and actfac as appropriate
If creating primary variables, don’t bother with synthetics.
If creating secondary variables, create (or find) primary variables, grid
at 2.5deg resolution, and store as IDL binary files. Then use
frs_gts_tdm.pro
rd0_gts_tdm.pro
vap_gts_anom.pro
to create synthetic grids for the correct variables. Then use quick_interp_tdm2.pro
on the secondary variable, with synth_prefix supplied, to create the new grids.
Bear in mind that there is no working synthetic method for cloud, because Mark New
lost the coefficients file and never found it again (despite searching on tape
archives at UEA) and never recreated it. This hasn’t mattered too much, because
the synthetic cloud grids had not been discarded for 1901-95, and after 1995
sunshine data is used instead of cloud data anyway.
To convert the output .glo files into the grim formatted files supplied to users:
1. convert these land+ocean files to land-only files using globulk.f90 option 1
(globulk.f90 is under ~/code/linux/goglo)
2. convert the land-only files to grim using rawtogrim.f90 (~/code/linux/grim)

RockyRoad
December 16, 2009 1:49 pm

Of course, we were insinutating out of jest…. But good mathematical response, foinavon.

lowercasefred
December 16, 2009 1:50 pm

Somebody help me. As I read this they are saying that warmer air holds more water. Who does not know that? The satellite gives them the ability to measure in more detail which I am sure is a good thing.
Where is the cause and effect of CO2 to temperature? They have 7 years of data during which time the temperature has not risen while CO2 has. It seems to me that this indicates there may be negative feedbacks.
Are they saying that water vapor rises with CO2 regardless of temperature??
What gives?

Malc
December 16, 2009 1:51 pm

I think the science of Man’s contribution to climate change, (if any) is compromised beyond redemption. The science of climate is in its infancy and may give us some interesting new insights but the political investment in this particular branch of it has killed it as a legitimate topic forever. Not just since climategate. Politics and science don’t mix. It would be rather like extending the current legislature on road speed to the world of F1 and still expecting a meaningful outcome from the racing. Can’t happen.

lowercasefred
December 16, 2009 1:53 pm

This looks to me like “proof by smiling, waving of hands, and analogy” – in other words, nothing.

December 16, 2009 1:53 pm

Isn’t it patently obvious that, on balance, water vapor feedback is negative?
Otherwise, the earth would have overheated millenia ago.
Scientists must reconcile their findings with what is known to be true.

Wm T Sherman
December 16, 2009 1:55 pm

Is this the satellite that crashed on takeoff recently? I was thinking maybe they reconstructed the data that it would have measured had it survived.

Wondering Aloud
December 16, 2009 1:59 pm

I am not a Lay person and corroboration of this type most certainly does not mean the models are correct.

lowercasefred
December 16, 2009 2:01 pm

Foinavon: 13:44:37:
“So as the atmospheric temperature rises as a result of enhanced radiative forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever), so the atmospheric water vapour concentration rises. Since water vapour is a strong greenhouse gas, the effect of the primary forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever) is amplified.”
What in the world do you mean “as” temperature rises. It’s IF temperature rises, THEN water vapor rises and that still does address other feedbacks.
Your problem is obvious.

December 16, 2009 2:02 pm

foinavon (13:44:37) :

…a warmer atmosphere contains higher levels of water vapour on average. This can be measured in the real world.
So as the atmospheric temperature rises as a result of enhanced radiative forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever), so the atmospheric water vapour concentration rises. Since water vapour is a strong greenhouse gas, the effect of the primary forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever) is amplified.

Earth to foinavon:
The temperature isn’t rising. If it was, your argument that water vapor [as measured by relative humidity] would be correct.
But since the climate has generally been cooling, relative humidity has been declining: click
This is one more piece of evidence that the numbers showing global warming have been fudged. If the planet was warming, then R.H. would be increasing.
I’ll go with empirical evidence over computer based conjectures any time.

Wondering Aloud
December 16, 2009 2:03 pm

AK
Even the faked and flawed temperature data shows far less warming than the models. Please don’t “correct” things with deliberately mendacious statements.

fabius
December 16, 2009 2:04 pm

Hi there
As someone with limited scientific knowledge I was wondering how the atmosphere responds to differences in pressure, temperature and volume. Does altering one of these parameters have any effect on interactions of greenhopuse gases, cloud formation etc.

oneuniverse
December 16, 2009 2:05 pm

How did NASA come up with that?
This NASA page on AIRS findings shows 3 papers finding that the models disagree with AIRS observations w.r.t. water-vapor, and 2 papers (including Dessler’s) finding that the models agree well with observations:
http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/science/major_findings/climate/
It also has another paper finding that “the apparent good agreement of a climate model’s broadband longwave flux with observations may be due to a fortuitous cancellation of spectral errors.”
The most comprehensive seems to be Pierce et al. 2006, which finds that the models significantly overestimate upper-tropospheric water vapor, and underestimate it for the lower troposphere.

David L. Hagen
December 16, 2009 2:11 pm

Preliminary results have been reported for Japan’s GOSAT satellite:
T. Yokota, Y. Yoshida, N. Eguchi, Y. Ota, T. Tanaka, H. Watanabe and S. Maksyutov; “Global Concentrations of CO2 and CH4 Retrieved from GOSAT: First Preliminary Results”, SOLA, Vol. 5, pp.160-163 (2009) . PDF

After confirming the accuracy of calibration and the validation activities, we plan to release the calibrated measurement spectrum data (TANSO-FTS data) and the imager data (TANSO-CAI data) to the public nine months after the satellite launch (i.e., by late October 2009). We also plan to release the validated XCO2, XCH4 and cloud coverage flag data three months later (i.e., by late January 2010).

lowercasefred
December 16, 2009 2:14 pm

My 14:01:09
“does NOT address….”

Hawaii Don
December 16, 2009 2:15 pm

I couldn’t help but notice the strong concentration of C02 over the US which has had a decade of declining temps. OMG! C02 causes global cooling! And we just had a below normal amount of storms in the Atlantic this year! Someone better inform the UN IPCC so they can tax the crap out of us for this phenomenon as well! /sarc

foinavon
December 16, 2009 2:17 pm

Smokey (14:02:14) :
Not really Smokey. As atmospheric temperatures rise the absolute humidity should rise. The relative humidity may or may not rise. Direct measurement and theory indicate that the relative humidy might stay roughly constant in a warming (or cooling atmosphere). However there is very clear evidence that the water vapour content of the atmosphere is rising as the earth’s temperature rises.
The earth may not have warmed during the last few years (2005 was the post 2008 max in all the surface data sets), but that doesn’t negate the rather well established increase in atmospheric water vapour during the last couple of decades:
Santer BD et al. (2007) Identification of human-induced changes in atmospheric moisture content. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 104, 15248-15253
Soden BJ, et al (2005) The radiative signature of upper tropospheric moistening Science 310, 841-844.
Buehler SA (2008) An upper tropospheric humidity data set from operational satellite microwave data. J. Geophys. Res. 113, art #D14110
Brogniez H and Pierrehumbert RT (2007) Intercomparison of tropical tropospheric humidity in GCMs with AMSU-B water vapor data. Geophys. Res. Lett. 34, art #L17912
Gettelman A and Fu, Q. (2008) Observed and simulated upper-tropospheric water vapor feedback . J. Climate 21, 3282-3289
and so on…

Peter
December 16, 2009 2:17 pm

I have lost all trust in government controlled groups such as NASA. I would not trust any of their modeling work. We need complete transparency so that scientists around the world can verify the findings.

Vincent
December 16, 2009 2:21 pm

lowercasefred,
“It’s IF temperature rises, THEN water vapor rises and that still does address other feedbacks.”
I think we are becoming fixated on half the story. We all know that as temperature rises, water vapour increases (Clausius-Clapeyeron). You hinted at other feedbacks, and that is entirely the point that is being missed.
Lindzen, Spencer and others have explained that there are convection and cloud formation processes that occur which are entirely missing from GCM’s. It is perfectly consistent with that view to have water vapour increasing without having a net positive feedback, if the water vapour feedback (positive) is cancelled by cloud and convection feedbacks (negative).
This tells us nothing that we don’t already know.

lowercasefred
December 16, 2009 2:21 pm

fabius 14:05:53
“I was wondering how the atmosphere responds to differences in pressure, temperature and volume. Does altering one of these parameters have any effect on interactions of greenhopuse gases, cloud formation etc.”
Pressure, temperature and volume are all interrelated (PV=MRT), these things do not relate linearly by this formula in open atmosphere, but they do still relate and they affect almost any other physical or chemical process.
Problem is that we do not know the all the processes well enough to quantify the effects.

David L. Hagen
December 16, 2009 2:22 pm

Per oneuniverse’s note:

[15] The results show the models we investigated tend to have too much moisture in the upper tropospheric regions of the tropics and extra-tropics relative to the AIRS observations, by 25–100% depending on the location, and 25–50% in the zonal average.

Pierce D. W., T. P. Barnett, E. J. Fetzer, P. J. Gleckler (2006), Three-dimensional tropospheric water vapor in coupled climate models compared with observations from the AIRS satellite system, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L21701, doi:10.1029/2006GL027060.
A remarkable achievement to only predict 100% higher water than measured. Only two more orders of magnitude improvement needed in modeling to approach the 0.5% relative uncertainty of CO2 measurements!

cohenite
December 16, 2009 2:32 pm

This really is alarming; Dessler has form; David Stockwell did a nice rebuttal of Dessler’s 2008 paper claiming a +ve feedback due to increasing water vapor;
http://landshape.org/enm/dessler-zhang-and-yang-fail-significance-tests/#more-1772
David notes;
“Using data on water vapor and temperature fluctuations between 2003-2008 collected by the NASA satellite AIRS, Dessler et al. 2008 claim independent confirmation of a strongly positive feedback in the specific humidity parameter λq of 2.04W/m/K. However, they did not calculate an uncertainty for this value, raising the question of whether the results are distinguishable from the null hypothesis of no water-vapor feedback.”
This is a key issue and one should remember that Paltridge et al have examined the AIRS data and found a completely opposite finding to what Dessler’s team have. Then there are clouds; Ramanathan found that clouds have a net cooling effect using ERBE back in 1989;
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/243/4887/57
And then there is the issue of the decline in pan evaporation. Dessler’s results are very suspect.

Mooloo
December 16, 2009 2:36 pm

Some of you loons should read the scale on the NASA map/activation before rabbiting on stupidly about “no CO₂” over this part or that part of the world.
The variation is only ∓ 1% from the median. That means, for most purposes, CO₂ is very evenly spread around the earth.
Ranting how this shows there can be no AGW because bits of the earth are missing CO₂ coverage just makes you look like an idiot.

Richard
December 16, 2009 2:41 pm

From this study a few things are not clear to me:
1. That more warming means more water vapour is nothing new and a very obvious effect of warming. Warming causes evaporation and warm air holds more moisture.
2. But water in the atmosphere changes phase and can form clouds also. Does more evaporation form more clouds? It should – the same logic as more waming means more water in the air.
3. The study says “AIRS measurements of water vapor reveal that water greatly amplifies warming caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide.” Of course but where is the study which directly links more CO2 and more water vapour? Its not there is in that article anywhere.
4. Adam Soereg (13:32:17) : has pointed out that the global absolute humidity is going down, with a very prominent decrease at mid-tropospheric levels (500 to 300 hPa).
here: http://www.climate4you.com/GreenhouseGasses.htm#Atmospheric%20water%20vapor
and here: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/
So observations dont even match up with what should logically happen
5. the staudy states that “The implication of these studies is that, should greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current course of increase, we are virtually certain to see Earth’s climate warm by several degrees Celsius in the next century,..” – there is absolutely no evidence of that. In fact the temperature trends fall outside the ±95% uncertainty intervals, on the lower side, of the IPCC projections.
http://rankexploits.com/musings/2009/gisstemp-for-november-0-68-c/comment-page-2/#comment-28299
All in all this doesnt add up.

pat
December 16, 2009 2:41 pm

Water vapor as feed back? It was but a few months ago warmists were claiming water vapor was responsible for that devilish cold that seem to be attributable to AGW.

December 16, 2009 2:52 pm

Olle (11:27:18) :
http://www.stoptheaclu.com/2009/12/14/another-defection-from-warmism-un-ipcc-coordinating-author-dr-philip-lloyd-calls-out-ipcc-fraud/ hello!!!!
You have to read this!!!
Is it saying what its really saying???? And this is written BEFORE “climategate”!

URL corrected

Jason
December 16, 2009 2:54 pm

Ryan (12:13:44):
The Earth glows in mid-Infrared because it’s a few hundred Kelvin. How did it get a few hundred Kelvin to glow in mid-Infrared in the first place? Sunlight. Almost all of sunlight’s energy is visible light (~1/2), UV and near-Infrared (the rest). CO2 AND water vapor just happen to be /transparent/ in light and much near-Infrared (just like all the other atmosphere gasses) while blocking much mid-Infrared. I see that you are in control of my dial. I like /my/ greenhouse effect firmly between ‘Ice Age’ and ‘The Ocean Is In My Pantry’ thank you.
Read about blackbodies and greenhouse gases.
And some food for thought: Metros/subways and trains make 10 times less emissions per person than cars. And by 2020 China will be kicking our ass. You will be able to go on thousands of miles of 220mph high speed rail – the first thousand kilometer line opening next week. I don’t want China kicking our ass while they’re still a not developed-yet country!

Steve
December 16, 2009 2:57 pm

It would only be the “runaway”-style effect that you insinuate, if the water vapour response to the primary warming produced a warming close to or greater than the primary forcing…but it doesn’t cause warming of our climate
Of course, Dessler thinks it does:
warming produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor
And, of course, the RAOB data, suspect as it may be, indicate a half century
of DECREASING humidity.

boballab
December 16, 2009 3:02 pm

@Richard (14:41:13) :
Here is a paper that Dr. Spencer presented to the same AGU panel that shows that you can see Higher temps make more clouds and that reduces temp from Satellite Data. Here is the link to his paper:
http://www.drroyspencer.com/research-articles/satellite-and-climate-model-evidence/
And here is the PP presentation from the Fall 2009 AGU meeting:
http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/Spencer-Forcing-Feedback-AGU-09-San-Francisco-final.pdf

DaveE
December 16, 2009 3:08 pm

Michael (10:59:49) :
In case you hadn’t noticed Michael. Peter posts here under his real name.
DaveE.

xyzlatin
December 16, 2009 3:12 pm

As someone who lives in a tropical area a few hundred metres from the sea, I have always been puzzled by the theory that more water vapor causes higher temperatures. Is it a coincidence that the major centres of science don’t appear to be by the sea, but inland? Do these scientists have no practical knowledge of what actually happens?
This is my experience, but it can be validated simply by comparing the daily temperatures of seaside areas with corresponding latitude temperatures of inland areas.
The seaside areas usually have quite even temperatures within a smaller range between cold and high. In our area, summer and winter, there is not much difference. Lowest temperature is about 14 deg, highest about 30 deg celcius.
Yes it can be knee bendingly humid at times. However, after a week of cloudy skies, and high humidity, the temperature does not get hotter, it actually gets cooler! When the cloud goes and the sun shines directly, there is a day or so of even higher humidity, as the sun dries out the land, and then it settles back into normal tropical just hot n humid.
But take a look at the inland temps of towns at the same latitude. They get much hotter during the day, and much colder during the night.
Absence of water vapour means higher temperatures, and higher extremes.
That’s just my take on the whole science of the amplification feedback theory … and I am not on the payroll of anyone, just retired.

NickB.
December 16, 2009 3:12 pm

RE: oneuniverse (14:05:36) :
How did NASA come up with that?
This NASA page on AIRS findings shows 3 papers finding that the models disagree with AIRS observations w.r.t. water-vapor, and 2 papers (including Dessler’s) finding that the models agree well with observations:
http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/science/major_findings/climate/
It also has another paper finding that “the apparent good agreement of a climate model’s broadband longwave flux with observations may be due to a fortuitous cancellation of spectral errors.”
The most comprehensive seems to be Pierce et al. 2006, which finds that the models significantly overestimate upper-tropospheric water vapor, and underestimate it for the lower troposphere.
_____________________________________________
So that gets us back to the old “our methods might be crap but we get the right results so this makes good science” argument. Correlation of net effects from complex models does not make good science… according to the Wegman Report at least 🙂

foinavon
December 16, 2009 3:18 pm

Steve (14:57:55) :
A doubling of the primary warming by the water vapour feedback is perfectly consistent with empirical and theoretical understanding and observation.
If the water vapour response to 1 oC of atmospheric warming is 0.5 oC, then the total feedback (amplification) is 1/(1-0.5) = 2 oC. In other words a doubling as Dessler indicates. If it is 0.6 oC then the net warming from a 1 oC pimary rise with feedbacks is (1/(1-0.6) = 2.5 oC.
This doesn’t lead to a “runaway” effect, obviously.
I suspect that the RAOB data (which I’m not familiar with; can you clarify a source for this please) concerns relative humidity and not absolute humidity. There’s pretty incontrovertible evidence that absolute atmospheric humidity is risen dring the last several decades. In fact it rises and falls as the atmospheric temperature rises and falls (e.g. it’s decrease is measured following major volcanic eruptions); see references in my post [foinavon (14:17:30) ]

Gary Hladik
December 16, 2009 3:22 pm

taxtrumpet (11:22:29) : “Is the greenhouse concept a bad model for thinking about the atmosphere?”
The Earth’s atmosphere is pretty much the opposite of a real greenhouse. The inside of a greenhouse is warmer than the outdoors because the building inhibits the mixing of inside air with outside, i.e. the process of convection.
Our atmosphere, however, is turbulent, always on the move, constantly transporting heat energy from warmer to cooler areas. The so-called “greenhouse” gasses don’t warm the atmosphere by inhibiting this mixing, but by slowing the radiation of heat energy to space. The radiative effect of a real greenhouse is negligible, as can be shown by making one out of materials that don’t block infrared radiation.
The only thing the so-called “greenhouse” gasses have in common with a real greenhouse is that the net effect of both is warming.
To see the effect of a “real” greenhouse on a model planet, see Willis Eschenbach’s “Steel Greenhouse” article here on WUWT:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/11/17/the-steel-greenhouse/

Stefan
December 16, 2009 3:22 pm

OT but Sir David King was just on BBC Newsnight in front of a small audience to try to convince them of the science, given that polls show 50% of UK people are unconvinced.
Someone asked him about CRU emails, and his reply was words to the effect, “you have to ask yourself their motives, as these emails go back 10 years so someone was gathering them all this time, only to release them now… and also bear in mind this was a highly sophisticated hack, so who did it, a highly skilled foreign service.. ?”
I don’t know what I found most insulting to the audience’s intelligence, his cock and bull story that CRU was hacked 10 years ago and their communications have been monitored ever since, or the scientist who came on to prove global warming using two plastic bottles with water, one with and one without CO2, being heated by a couple of lamps.
Anyway, the way Sir David King avoided the question and spun a yarn about highly sophisticated hacking by foreign secret services…. my wife said he came across as sinister.

xyzlatin
December 16, 2009 3:28 pm

And furthermore, it is because seaside areas have such benign climate, that there is a large movement of the population to these areas, called “The Seachange Syndrome” in Australia, with TV series devoted to illustrating this trend, and much social commentary on it. People are called “Seachangers” and so on.
Australia is a good country to study the differences between seaside areas (plenty of water vapour) and inland areas (totally dry with no humidity), as it does not have hugely high mountain areas as the US and other countries do, and the countryside is about the same level wherever you go inland.

Ryan Stephenson
December 16, 2009 3:32 pm

@foinavon: 13:04:08 ” positive feedback is essentially a positive amplification”
No, positive amplification means that the input is made greater by some factor to produce a greater output, but is not fed back to the input again. Positive feedback means that the output is returned to the input in such a way as to aid the original input to make a larger output which then feeds bacxk again to the input to make a yet larger output thus becoming unstable. That is exactly what is being suggested with the water vapour. Warming causes the oceans to evaporate which releases more water vapour, water vapour is a greenhouse gas so more warming occurs (that isn’t actually what a greenhouse gas does but nevermind), this causes more evaporation which then causes yet more water vapour causing more warming causing yet more evaportation until the whole thing becomes unstable.
It doesn’t actually matter in a positive feedback system how big the positive feedback is – because the effect will simply rotate around the feedback system getting bigger and bigger until it was first noticeable and ultimately disastrous.
However, since the logic of this would hold equally true without CO2 involved, then the earth’s climate would already have hit an unstable point which would have wiped out life on earth. Since this has not happened we can clearly see the presence of a positive feedback mechanism involving water vapour can be dismissed, and since this has held true over a long time and with a variety of different climatic conditions since the over millions of years we can futher suggest that water vapour impact on climate must be inherently stable and thus must introduce a negative feedback mechanism – i.e. any increase in water vapour is likely to produce an effect that opposes the effect that originally caused the increase in water vapour.
The fact that neither you nor the subject of this thread can appreciate the lack of logic in the concept of water vapour having a positive feedback effect says a lot about the knowledge of both of you. Biologists understand positive feedback, so to physicists, mathemeticians and evolutionists. So why do climate scientists sturglle with this simple concept?

foinavon
December 16, 2009 3:34 pm

Stefan (15:22:42) :
I just watched David King on newsnight too
He neither said that the emails were hacked 10 years ago, nor did he he “spin a yarn about highly sophisticated hacking by foreign secret services”.
perhpas you should go back and re watch on your IPlayer

dipole
December 16, 2009 3:36 pm

On the conjunction of NASA and Andrew ‘Positive Feedback’ Dessler. A year ago Dessler was calling for the removal of NASA chief administrator Michael Griffin for some incautiously skeptical remarks about climate change:
http://www.grist.org/article/What-to-do-on-day-one/
Shortly afterwards Griffin was gone, replaced by Obama’s appointee.

George E. Smith
December 16, 2009 3:41 pm

Well this is getting tiresome. Read Wentz et al SCIENCE July 7 2007, “How Much More Rain will Global warming bring ?”
Bottom line a 1 deg C rise in mean global surface (lower atmosphere) temperature gives a 7% increase in total global evaporation MORE WATER VAPOR DUMMIES, and a 7% increase in total atmospheric water; MORE WATER VAPOR DUMMIES, and a 7% increase in total global trecipitation. MORE WATER DUMMIES.
Wentz et al didn’t say so in their paper, but where I grew up, we had a bsolutely perfect climate so none of this mattered much; but we still had a tradition that when we got precipitation such as rain hail, snow, sleet etc, we had a high preference for having clouds at the same time; so wouldn’t it be amazing if a one deg C temp rise a la Wentz et al also caused an increase; like how about 7% +/-7% in precipitable cloud cover, to go along with the 7% increase in precipitation.
Water vapor caused greenhouse warming will cause more water vapor; even in the total absence of CO2 or any other GHG.
So get off this water vapor feedback kick. Water vapor is a greenhouse gas, that can cause warming, and it can cause cooling too, and it can form clouds to cut off the warming if it gets too much.
And I still believe it is true that water vapor always exceeds CO2 in the atmosphere, so water vapor is a PERMANENT CONSTITUENT OF THE ATMOSPHERE, just like CO2 is.
Give credit, where credit is due; water vapor causes greenhouse warming; and it doesn’t have to answer to CO2 to do that.

Ryan Stephenson
December 16, 2009 3:42 pm

@ Jason: “The Earth glows in mid-Infrared because it’s a few hundred Kelvin.”
Sure is. Which is roughly were it stays. About 293Kelvin, day or night. Whereas the moon varies between 3Kelvin and 400Kelvin depending on whether the sun is shining on it or not.
Thank goodness for those greenhouse gases! Now tell me why I should be so concerned about getting precisely the RIGHT sort of greenhouse gases? Oh – you believe in the great celestial thermostat where exactly the right types of gases in exactly the right proportions have been carefully mixed t make life on earth possible for eons. Get down on your knees and pray my son – you’ve just seen God’s signature written in the stratosphere. Funny, he’s not usually so obvious….
By the way trains don’t really emit less CO2 than cars unless….
you are comapring diesel trains to petrol cars.
the train is full both going and on return
you really want to go from C to D and not from A to B.
You forget that the first carriage of a train needs to be built to take the strain of the following carriages which is why….
… they are really very heavy and the ticket is strangely expensive compared to taking the car.
You know, you really ought to write down some of these myths you believe in Jason. I reckon they’d make a good yarn if you joined them all together.

December 16, 2009 3:45 pm

a leading greenhouse gas and a key driver of global climate change
To NASA, dogma is more impotant than science. It’s a dead give away.

sjg
December 16, 2009 3:49 pm

This data seems to raise more questions which deserve analysis rather than an early conclusion that it supports the AGW models.
I don’t see how this shows anything “significant” at all. Surely no one believes that the atmosphere immediately mixes CO2 uniformly as soon as it is emitted. Didn’t the AGW models take account of wind. I think it’s been around for a few decades, at least since records began… at least long enough to build it into the models.
If the AGW models assumed it was uniform then surely that is a major weakness, especially given that latitude is a very significant factor in radiated heat impacting the earths temperature. But seriously if I half filled my bathtub with cold water and then turned on the hot tap and swished the water around while the tap was running would I expect to get the same temperature across the whole bathtub? No, I get hotter temps near the hot tap (which is why I move my ass to the other end of the tub!) but the general temp will be pretty close i.e. it’s not icy at one end and scorching at the other – there will be a temperature gradient. So surely the question is “what is the CO2 concentration gradient that we would expect to see around the earth?”. Then this could be used to see if that CO2 gradient per the model was correct.
They state “the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere, but is rather “lumpy.”
The CO2 ppm range shown is 382 to 389 “with a sensitivity of 1 or 2 ppm” – a difference of less than 2% a relative;y low gradient I would have thought. The use of red and blue suggests a much steeper gradient. Is a 2% variance between the high and the low concentration really all that dramatic given that the industrial nations that are emitting most CO2 underpin the higher concentration areas, so one would expect to find a higher concentration there? Is it “lumpy” or is it not? What is the benchmark. Uniformity is not a very scientific benchmark .
Seems to me the “scientists” don’t really know what this shows or what causes CO2 dispersal let alone where the ‘sinks’ are.

Editor
December 16, 2009 3:57 pm

rediculous that they claim to be able to reach any conclusion about the net water vapor feedback without accounting for clouds. Are they completely ignorant of what other scientists are doing?

George E. Smith
December 16, 2009 3:58 pm

“”” Ryan Stephenson (15:32:05) :
@foinavon: 13:04:08 ” positive feedback is essentially a positive amplification”
No, positive amplification means that the input is made greater by some factor to produce a greater output, but is not fed back to the input again. Positive feedback means that the output is returned to the input in such a way as to aid the original input to make a larger output which then feeds bacxk again to the input to make a yet larger output thus becoming unstable. That is exactly what is being suggested with the water vapour. Warming causes the oceans to evaporate which releases more water vapour, water vapour is a greenhouse gas so more warming occurs (that isn’t actually what a greenhouse gas does but nevermind), this causes more evaporation which then causes yet more water vapour causing more warming causing yet more evaportation until the whole thing becomes unstable.
It doesn’t actually matter in a positive feedback system how big the positive feedback is – because the effect will simply rotate around the feedback system getting bigger and bigger until it was first noticeable and ultimately disastrous. “””
I have no idea where @foinavon ends, and Ryan Stephenson begins in the above, but positive feedback does not just keep growing and growing without limit regardless of the amount of feedback but it can.
If I have a positive feedback amplifier with a loop gain of 0.1, and I input a +1 Volt step, after a propagation delay, the feedback will return a +0.1 Volt step which will add to the input Volt; so after a further propagation delay, that will return an additional 10mVolt step to the input, which will subsequently give a 1 mVolt addition. Eventually after an infinite time, the total effective input will be 10/9 Volts, and the amplified output will be 10/9 times what it would be without the feedback, and the whole thing will be perfectly stable.
And water vapor does that to keep the earth at around 288Kelvins, instead of 255 or whatever the presumed black body equilibroium temperature is at the earth’s orbital distance from the sun. and moreover it would do that even in the complete absence of CO2 from earth’s atmosphere. The average amount of global cloud cover would likely be different without the CO2 but the average temperature won’t be much differnt from what it is now.
Water vapor is a green house gas; all greenhouse gases can cause warming, and global warming can produce increased amounts of water vapor, and also CO2 due to ocean outgassing.
So CO2 is also a feedback component just like water vapor is claimed to be; but both are permanent components of the earth’s atmosphere, with H2O always in excess of CO2 by a long way, and doing much more LWIR absorption by a long way,a nd much more atmospheric heating by a long way.

NickB.
December 16, 2009 4:02 pm

On the Positive feedback loop issue please look here:
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/04/when-is-positive-feedback-really-negative-feedback/
According to the good Doctor positive feedback in climate speak /= positive feedback in the engineering world (where the term originated). In the climate world a positive/negative feedback equates to an amplification/suppression of an expected effect (ex: an expected 1 deg increase would become 2 from a positive feedback, or .1 from a negative)

Arn Riewe
December 16, 2009 4:16 pm

Tom Fuller (10:33:53) :
“But I missed something here. Exactly how does AIRS validate assumptions about water vapour acting as a positive forcing?
Are they measuring quantity? Distribution? Temperature of water vapor? The press release doesn’t say…”
Good questions. I haven’t had time to review the commentary, but I’d sure be interested in Roy Spencer’s comments on this study.
I wonder if this is another “science by press release” story. If so, has it been peer reviewed?

foinavon
December 16, 2009 4:19 pm

Ryan Stephenson (15:32:05) :
Not really Ryan. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the phenomenon exists. If one raises the atmospheric CO2 levels the atmospheric and surface temperature rises (all else being equal), and the atmospheric water levels will rise yielding an amplification (due to a feedback of the form T2 = T1 + (x/1-y), where x is the CO2-induced primamry warming and y is the water vapour feedback (T1 and T2 are the initial and final equilibrium temperatures). We can measure this in the real world.
This doesn’t cause an unstable system. The system just evolves towards a new equilibrium temperature (around which it fluctuates due to cyclic and stochastic variation in the climate system). One could also factor in albedo feedbacks due to sea and land ice melt which casues a further amplification and pushes the new equlbrium temperature a tad higher.
Of course one has to factor in natural variation that introduces interannual noise into the system. But persistent changes in forcings from whatever source (solar, greenhouse) with their associated feedbacks is expected to shift the earth’s temperature to new equilibrium temperatures (warmer or cooler), without inducing instability in the system.

December 16, 2009 4:21 pm


Gary Palmgren (10:41:29) :

Radiation transport of energy is not nearly as important as convection in the troposphere.

I’m going to challenge this as being distinctly wrong headed.
What is the BB efficiency of atmosphereic gases vs the surface of the earth?
Seen an IR satellite image recently (pick your band/wavelength)?

woodNfish
December 16, 2009 4:22 pm

An awful lot of you put way to much faith in the veracity of NASA science. NASA has been promoting fraudulent science for many years. Remember the ozone hole? NASA is just another organization of fraudulent government hacks that should be shut down. The EPA is another one.
I know some of you are going to say they do a lot of valuable work. Yes they do, but it could be done cheaper and more effectively in the private sector. NASA’a time came and went a long time ago. Shut them down. That includes GISS and every other part of NASA.

Steve Hempell
December 16, 2009 4:26 pm

Just had a thought:
If the CO2 is distributed unevenly about the globe as per the graphic above what does this say about the levels of CO2 in the Antarctic and Greenland Ice cores? (sorry if someone has mentioned this as I have not read all 192 comments!)

Thom
December 16, 2009 4:52 pm

This cannot be simply reproduced. Given the aims of this site, these data need to be interpreted. So, what does it mean? How does it make/unmake your point?

Bob Boulton
December 16, 2009 5:08 pm

If $50 billion is offered to prove Man Made Global Warming, you gotta go for it.
If global cap and trade is introduced it will only be Other People who suffer.
The choice seems simple!

Dave F
December 16, 2009 5:25 pm

If that is CO2 over NA, then why is NA experiencing such a cooling?

Mariss Freimanis
December 16, 2009 5:43 pm

Couple of questions:
1) I assume “blue” is lower concentrations of CO2. The blue region seems to be coincident with the extents of the tropical vegetation belt around the earth. Can one assume that this region depletes the atmosphere of CO2?
2) Assuming “red” is high concentrations of CO2, the northern and southern hemisphere yellow and red belts seem to be above 30 degrees latitude. Prevailing mid-troposphere winds are westerlies at these latitudes so how does one account for the highest CO2 concentrations being over the Atlantic, east of the US Atlantic seaboard and particularly, west of the Mexican Pacific coast? The troposphere has strong vertical mixinig to the surface so I would assume CO2 concentrations should be just east of their origin.
The biggest red blob is over the US desert southwest, stretching from Arizona to Oklahoma, a region that isn’t exactly a nexus of heavy industry. The map outline is a bit tough to read. Is there an animated sequence of these pictures? Maybe Mexico’s red blob is due to northeast trade-winds?

John Phillips
December 16, 2009 5:46 pm

“the data have shown that, contrary to prior assumptions, carbon dioxide is not well mixed in the troposphere, but is rather “lumpy.” Until now, models of carbon dioxide transport have assumed its distribution was uniform.”
This may be an indication that C02 is not long lived in the atmosphere. If it was, it should be more evenly distributed.

December 16, 2009 5:52 pm

Is 3 to 7 miles above the Earth low level? As in low level clouds.

Bill Illis
December 16, 2009 6:14 pm

I would put no stock in the water vapour claims until we see the data. Nice water vapour animation (what is the scale and why didn’t they quote at least one number).
Dessler’s 2008 study (funded by NASA GISS) found declining relative humidity when temperatures declined (as a result of the 2007 La Nina) when relative humidity is supposed to remain more-or-less constant. Furthermore, the different trends in different levels of the atmosphere were also exactly opposite to that predicted in the models in this situation (but the fact that humidity levels changed at all were trumpeted as consistent with global warming but they were opposite to that expected).
I like the CO2 animation though. It does show there are a few more things going on than predicted.

Mariss Freimanis
December 16, 2009 6:18 pm

foinavon,
Help me with understanding this: If water vapor is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 and given it’s far more plentiful than CO2, why does one need to concern themselves with CO2’s minuscule contribution to positive feedback? Why can’t the system be entirely described using only water vapor as a first order approximation?
It just doesn’t sit well with me that CO2, a minor constituent gas of relatively mediocre greenhouse properties, can influence the behavior of the dominant greenhouse gas.
Please excuse my perspective. I’m an EE so I’m used to using positive and negative feedback as terms in understanding things in my world instead of “forcing”.

Dave F
December 16, 2009 6:27 pm

A ? for you foinavon:
Why would CO2 cause water vapor to be more plentiful but not other greenhouse gases, like say, water vapor?

Dave F
December 16, 2009 6:32 pm

Also, is the whole of the greenhouse effect logarithmic? Or just CO2?

Norm in Calgary
December 16, 2009 6:41 pm

If NASA doesn’t trust use satellite temperature why would they trust their CO2 machine?
What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!
I don’t believe anything NASA says anymore, they’re all a bunch of lying scum bucket socialists with their own agenda. That’s what they get when they cry wolf as much as they have in the last several years.

Steve Hempell
December 16, 2009 6:46 pm

Steve Hempell (16:26:06) :
Just found the scale on the graphic.
“If the CO2 is distributed unevenly about the globe as per the graphic above what does this say about the levels of CO2 in the Antarctic and Greenland Ice cores?”
Not an issue.

Pamela Gray
December 16, 2009 7:09 pm

I apologize if someone has posted this comment. But between the two hemispheres, the fact that far more land mass is in the Northern rather than the Southern hemisphere adequately explains the abundance of CO2 in the former. One does not need to add, or in this case trumpet alone, “population” as an explanation for CO2 differences between hemispheres. Any geologist understands this basic land mass premise. The article uses “population” as a spin term, not a scientifically valid explanatory term.
Further, if humans were not here, the CO2 wafting about would be even greater (when the oceans are warmer of course). We really are a rather puny species compared to other CO2 producing life.
The entire article can easily be dismissed as political spin. Too bad. An unbiased analysis of natural climate and weather components compared against AIRS CO2 data would be most valuable. I doubt anyone in NASA’s climate department has the guts to go there. After all, the folks that land there were rejected by NASA’s space program because they puked in the centrifuge. How’s that for spin!!!!!

David Thomson
December 16, 2009 7:10 pm

Apparently, volcanic activity explains most of the carbon spots around the globe. It is rather odd the Northeast US has practically no CO2 over it, even though one fourth of the US population lives in the upper corner. These are seven year averages. Contrast the US Northeast to the tightly constrained and highly concentrated CO2 over the Gulg Stream in the North Atlantic Ocean. Any skeptic would have to question whether the warm ocean currents are the source of the carbon dioxide.
Also, the carbon dioxide distribution over the rest of the planet seems related to either active volcanoes known to be emitting large quantities of CO2, or over warm ocean water. For example, the CO2 concentration off the coast of Mexico coincides almost exactly with warm ocean waters.
To be consistent with the Warmers religion, they would simply blame humans for the CO2 without attempting to prove its origin. The Warmist logic seems to be that if there is CO2, it must be humans who are responsible. Yet any climatologist knows anthropogenic CO2 is only 5% of the world carbon budget. Nature is providing the other 95%, as is clearly seen in the CO2 distribution.

Tenebris
December 16, 2009 7:14 pm

Better stop watering the lawn and irrigating the fields. And, since transpiration dominates the introduction of moisture into the air, I guess we should cut down all the trees as well.

Pamela Gray
December 16, 2009 7:23 pm

I sorta feel like the drunk in “Independence Day” when the aliens finally show up. “I been sayin it and sayin it! CO2 is a globby substance that does NOT mix well!”

Dave F
December 16, 2009 7:40 pm

Pamela Gray (19:09:29) :
I didn’t puke in the centrifuge, but I did spray my drink from my nose reading that. Spin indeed!!

yonason
December 16, 2009 7:40 pm

Why the hot spot in Western US, when there’s relatively nothing there?
http://www.worldmapsonline.com/SatPosters/NorthAmericaNight.htm
Why the hot spot in South America (end of animation and this link)?
http://airs.jpl.nasa.gov/AIRS_CO2_Data/AIRS_CO2_Data_files/droppedImage.jpg
What’s there besides volcanoes?
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-563975/Amazing-pictures-The-lightning-storm-engulfed-erupting-volcano.html

yonason
December 16, 2009 7:54 pm

Here’s another image, with obligatory scary CO2 increase superimposed.
http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/jpeg/PIA11395.jpg
Funny thing, though, is that the hot spots are nowhere it would intuitively seem that they should be.
Also, notice that if you put a straight edge up to the peaks of the CO2 curve, there actually seems to be a relatively consistent deceleration in the rate of increase. I wonder why they don’t talk about that, eh?
ASIDE – move over man-bear-pig
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_saKQ607KvoI/SrsGO-PKtXI/AAAAAAAADWg/5lMH0nU749w/s1600-h/bearsharktopus.jpg

Steve
December 16, 2009 8:03 pm


foinavon (15:18:10) :
A doubling of the primary warming by the water vapour feedback is perfectly consistent with empirical and theoretical understanding and observation.

Unless of course the feedback is actually negative, which is what the
best long term record indicates. Humidity is notoriously difficult to
measure of course, and there are known errors with sonde instrument changes. But the long term record with best available corrections applied
indicates drying aloft.

I suspect that the RAOB data (which I’m not familiar with; can you clarify a source for this please) concerns relative humidity and not absolute humidity.

The RAOB data indicates humidities aloft have fallen in both relative and absolute terms. The analysis indicates that surface humidities have risen
while upper levels are drier. This situation actually enhances cooling.

There’s pretty incontrovertible evidence that absolute atmospheric humidity is risen dring the last several decades. In fact it rises and falls as the atmospheric temperature rises and falls (e.g. it’s decrease is measured following major volcanic eruptions); see references in my post [foinavon (14:17:30) ]
http://www.theclimatescam.se/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/paltridgearkingpook.pdf

Go back and look at figure 5 indicating the drying above 800mb.
You missed this in the paper:
“The upper-level negative trends in q are inconsistent with climate-model calculations”
Here is what the author had to say about the paper and it’s reception:
(including quotes by Dessler.)
http://climateaudit.org/2009/03/04/a-peek-behind-the-curtain/

December 16, 2009 8:09 pm

As a former Weather Forecaster with some experience, knowledge and expertise… I’m curious- Has anyone determined exactly what the CO2 animation is purporting to represent — is it…
– 7 years of CO2 ‘hot spot’ accumulation locales?
– Any ‘measurement/metric’ scale of what the light/dark brown colorations are purported to be representing?
– Do CO2 dark brown ‘Hot Spots’ purport to represent high ppm CO2 concentrations?
– What is the time scale of the ‘hot spots’ purported to be? One hour; one day; week; month; 7-years of accumulated data?
Since the Northern Hemisphere’s Jet Stream oscillates in sinusoidal waves both in the areal and vertical extents, it’s quite unclear of what the animation is purporting to represent – especially since the ‘Hot Spots’ don’t appear to conform to the normal sinusoidal paths but rather seem to be somewhat more ‘zonal’ in nature;
I’m sorry, without a more meaningful context, metrics and time scales, it’s mostly propaganda… or am I missing something?

An Inquirer
December 16, 2009 8:09 pm

AK (12:27:02) :
. . . “The fact is, temperatures confirm the model predictions, water vapor data confirm the model predictions, sea level rise confirms the model . . .”
Whoa! There is a difference between a model having a good fit (which is easy to do with a multitude of variable) and a model providing reliable predictions. Only in fits, do the models match observations. Even in Scenario B, the famous 1988 prediction of Hansen has been dramatically above observations. Of course, later models could be improved, but as Lucia has detailed, more recent models have not provided reliable forecasts on temperatures. The jury is out on water vapor which has more quantification and causation issues, but it is just as likely if not more likely that observations are contradicting model predictions. (Dessler’s paper is the not first nor the last on this issue.) Polar ice observations are not following model predictions. (If the observations are consistently “worse,” then consider the likelihood that the model is unreliable.) The sea level has been doing what it has been doing since the demise of the LIA – no useful insight has been provided by models. In fact, in the last seven years, sea level increases have lowered from a 3.3 pace to a 2.7 pace, and has been quite flat for three years, quite contrary to model predictions. Of course, one should not get excited about a three year trend in climate; so let’s look at a 15 year trend: for 15 years stratospheric temperature trends are counter to model predictions. In essence, model predictions have not been reliable in the near term, but I am willing to wait for the long term analysis of predictions – just don’t do any foolish policy moves in the meantime.

syphax
December 16, 2009 8:13 pm

I see a few obligatory ad-hominem attacks on Dessler in this thread.
So it may interest you all that Roy Spencer thanks Dessler in his blog today for inviting Spencer to speak at an AGU session.
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/12/little-feedback-on-climate-feedbacks-in-the-city-by-the-bay/
He even calls Dessler “a super nice guy”!
Cognitive dissonance!

yonason
December 16, 2009 8:34 pm

telecorder (20:09:26) :
“I’m sorry, without a more meaningful context, metrics and time scales, it’s mostly propaganda…”
THANKS! I was trying to figure out how to say that.

JerryM
December 16, 2009 8:34 pm

syphax (20:13:42) :
“I see a few obligatory ad-hominem attacks on Dessler in this thread.
So it may interest you all that Roy Spencer thanks Dessler in his blog today for inviting Spencer to speak at an AGU session.”
Earlier, I said that Dressler appeared to be inconsistent in his estimates of water vapor multiples of CO2 warming effects. This observation isn’t ad hominem.
He is due credit for his invitation to Spencer.

astonerii
December 16, 2009 8:41 pm

Jason (14:54:47) :
Yeah, outside of New York city and maybe a few other huge metropolitan areas in the United Stats of America, every last railway has been a disaster, not only in costs, but in fuel consumed per passenger mile. The reason is that Americans do not want to use public transportation, and it is absolutely our right to make that choice. The government signs onto these big projects with big ideals and dreams and time after time after time it is billions spent and few passengers forever subsidized by everyone else’ tax dollars. If that is not bad enough, all the money going to upkeep for the failing trains and subways, causes the government to be unable to do necessary upgrades to ground transportation. Sometimes the government even deliberately sabotage ground commuting routes trying to force the populace to take their predetermined mode of transport, to the point of canceling profitable bus routes and changing lighting patterns.
Sorry, but trains are a touchy thing. Not that I have ever been harmed in any direct way, just the idea of the government running rip-shod over the population in backroom deals for commuter train lines that the population does not want rubs me the wrong way.

toyotawhizguy
December 16, 2009 8:44 pm

I zeroed in on this:
““The implication of these studies is that, should greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current course of increase, we are virtually certain to see Earth’s climate warm by several degrees Celsius in the next century, unless some strong negative feedback mechanism emerges elsewhere in Earth’s climate system,” Dessler said.”
“virtually certain” I detect some hedging here.
“Several Degrees’ is intentionally vague for obvious reasons.
“unless some strong negative feedback mechanism emerges elsewhere in Earth’s climate system”
I think I found it, it emerged from inside my dusty college Physics textbook!
Lets see what the Stefan-Boltzmann law says about the black body radiation for a few scenarios:
(note 1 deg C = 1 deg K)
Present global average = 287 deg K (Wikipedia)
2 deg C increase = 289 deg K = 2.8167% increase in black body radiation
3 deg C increase = 290 deg K = 4.2472% increase in black body radiation
4 deg C increase = 291 deg K = 5.6926% increase in black body radiation
5 deg C increase = 292 deg K = 7.1529% increase in black body radiation
In order for the black body radiation to increase, it means the earth is absorbing more of the sun’s radiation and converting it to broad band IR, which implies a decrease in albedo, but this can be influenced by other factors such as a (hypothetical) net ice melt. The Stefan-Boltzmann black body radiation is a very strong negative feedback mechanism, which is raised to the fourth power of the black body temperature and helps to regulate temperature in both directions.
“in the next century”
Who is going to be around in 100 years to call NASA on the carpet for this?
I say it’s Chicken Little.

F. Ross
December 16, 2009 9:04 pm

“WASHINGTON – Researchers studying carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas and a key driver of global climate change, …
[emphasis mine]
Statement assumes facts not in evidence.

Evan Jones
Editor
December 16, 2009 10:08 pm

Wait a minute.
On closer examination they do not even make any direct connection between CO2 and water vapor. All they do is correlate vapor and temperature. They make no mention whatever of clouds vs. ambient vapor.
In other words, there is no “corroboration”. There is nothing at all, and nothing we didn’t know already. And no mention of what has occurred over the last decade-plus. All the essential questions are entirely unanswered.

photon without a Higgs
December 16, 2009 10:12 pm

evanmjones (22:08:04) :
Wait a minute.
On closer examination…

You’re the Holmes to out Watson!

photon without a Higgs
December 16, 2009 10:14 pm

I thought someone would have posted these 2 videos by now. But I do see some have talked about Roy Spencer.
Part 1

photon without a Higgs
December 16, 2009 10:15 pm

Part 2

Elizabeth
December 16, 2009 10:18 pm

Not a scientist, just an interested amateur so don’t feel the need to pounce if I get something wrong.
So they make the claim that CO2 is not all that well-mixed, instead calling it lumpy despite the fact that the variances only seem profound because of the color scale used in the graphs. Why do that? Perhaps because it helps to distract us from another conclusion we could draw from this study (if it is indeed accurate, who knows?). They claim that man-made Co2 causes extraordinary warming. We know from this study that the concentration of CO2 varies some but not much. However, actual temperatures vary widely. If man-made CO2 concentrations are roughly the same everywhere, why don’t temperatures everywhere all show increases of the same or at least similar percentages? In some places it is cooler, in some much warmer. To me this says that other factors influence weather and climate much more than CO2 .
Perhaps the “lumpy argument” is meant as an attempt to explain this global variance in temperatures. Some one could use this study perhaps to argue that CO2 is such a sensitive climate modifier that even a difference of a few ppm makes a huge difference in temperature and then adjust the data to make it agree.

Bart
December 16, 2009 10:20 pm

foinavon (12:07:42) :
“If some forcing (solar, greenhouse gas or whatever) results in a 1 oC warming of the atmosphere, and the resulting water vapour feedback adds an additional x of warming then the total warming from the primary forcing+ water vapour feedback is something like 1 + x + x^2 + x^3 + x^4 …
which is 1/(1-x). “

The series only converges if |x| is less than unity, in which case, it is actually a negative feedback, in traditional systems theory (because log|x| is less than 0). This causes a lot of confusion when people with control systems background read the climate literature. Climate scientists have abused the traditional nomenclature, and term something which amplifies as “positive feedback” and which attenuates as “negative feedback”. For control systems analysts, a positive feedback is a destabilizing input, which must be counteracted by a stronger negative feedback or you will get instability.

photon without a Higgs
December 16, 2009 10:22 pm

Roy Spencer spoke today, December 16th, 2009, at the Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco.
“It was standing room only…close to 300 scientists by my estimate” he says.
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/12/little-feedback-on-climate-feedbacks-in-the-city-by-the-bay/
And it was about clouds and negative/positive feedback.
————————————————
I’m curious if Anthony would want him to guest post, if Mr. Spencer wanted to, on this NASA press release.

geo
December 16, 2009 10:38 pm

This is a huge deal if confirmed. Seriously. I want to see what Roy Spencer has to say about it.

Dave F
December 16, 2009 10:55 pm

Can anyone say why an increase in water vapor will not also cause an increase in water vapor? As strange as that reads, if GHGs cause more evaporation, then wouldn’t water vapor cause more evaporation and hence more water vapor? What would make CO2 special in this regard?

Worked in past on Temp. Sounding Instruments
December 16, 2009 11:03 pm

People discussing the AIRS results here should realized how these sorts of instruments measure temperature, H2O concentration, etc. In general what these satellites measure directly are the infrared and microwave spectral intensities of the electomagnetic radiation leaving the earth’s atmosphere and reaching the orbiting satellite. For any given column of air with known concentrations of gases at known temperatures (from ground to top of atmosphere), you can predict exactly what these spectral intensities ought to be (in the absence of clouds and aerosols). Going the other direction, however, is a very different kettle of fish — you have to start with a reasonably good guess as to the gas concentrations and temperatures from the ground up, and then adjust within constraints until you match the observed spectral intensities. Change the initial guesses and overall constraints, and you change the final estimate or “measurement” of the gas concentrations and temperatures. These programs involve lots of high-powered statistics, lots of calculations, lots of dependence on what we think the atmosphere is like, and are thoroughly understood by only a very small and relatively inbred community of scientists. Other scientists and engineers working on the project are never really in a good position to debate the validity or performance of this community’s science products and computer programs — they tend to be a “black box” to everybody else on the team. By the way, the big uncertainty when I was working in this area was clouds — ideally you want a clear view down to the ground from the satellite or, second best, a single opaque layer of clouds at a known altitude. The game is often to exclude parts of the satellite field of view seriously contaminated by clouds and then calculate gas concentrations and temperature values “in between” the multiply cloudy parts of the scene.

photon without a Higgs
December 16, 2009 11:09 pm

Dave F (22:55:59) :
Can anyone say why an increase in water vapor will not also cause an increase in water vapor?
Seems to make as much sense.

photon without a Higgs
December 16, 2009 11:14 pm

Dave F (22:55:59) :
Can anyone say why an increase in water vapor will not also cause an increase in water vapor?
H2O isn’t the bread winner at this point in history. CO2 is. So I wouldn’t wait to see water vapor talked about too much.

toyotawhizguy
December 16, 2009 11:48 pm

I have not read all comments, and apologize if this has already been discussed.
Quote: “The new data, which span the seven-plus years of the AIRS mission, measure the concentration and distribution of carbon dioxide in the mid-troposphere–the region of Earth’s atmosphere that is located between 5 to 12 kilometers, or 3 to 7 miles, above Earth’s surface.”
This statement immediately got me thinking that it would be interesting to collect the data and overlay worldwide airline traffic routes over this global mapping of CO2, and look for correlations. After all, CO2 is a constituent in jet contrails (which are mostly water vapor), and 3 to 7 miles elevation is right in their alleys. (Commercial jets can fly as high as 9.3 miles). Launched in May 2002, AIRS was 8 months too late to monitor the skies over the USA during the three day grounding of most all air traffic after 911. Very unfortunate, that would have been a valuable dataset.
Any thoughts on this by anyone?

Allan M R MacRae
December 17, 2009 12:24 am

Her is the 15fps AIRS data animation of global CO2 at
http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a003500/a003562/carbonDioxideSequence2002_2008_at15fps.mp4
It is difficult to see the impact of humanity in this impressive display of nature’s power.
BUT: Why is this so different from the above animation?????

peeke
December 17, 2009 12:28 am

In another major finding, scientists using AIRS data have removed most of the uncertainty about the role of water vapor in atmospheric models. The data are the strongest observational evidence to date for how water vapor responds to a warming climate.
“AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor,” said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.

Exactly what have they found? This article just states that they have a major finding which removes uncertainty. Am I misreading this? Because I would like to know what that major finding actually consists of. Areas with higher CO2 also have higher water vapour content? Water vapour clouds increased the last five years?
There seems to be no data here.

Anders L.
December 17, 2009 1:07 am

Dave F:
“Can anyone say why an increase in water vapor will not also cause an increase in water vapor?”
Because water vapor eventually condensates and comes back down as rain or snow. CO2 does not. CO2 is kind of the “platform” that temperature rests on. When CO2 levels change, this platform is “raised” or “lowered”. Without any CO2 in the atmosphere, this planet might well be in the “snowball Earth” state.
“Too much” CO2 on the other hand, and many parts of the world may become uninhabitable – either because they turn into deserts, or that they become submerged by the ocean. I don’t think we are looking at impending doom – but a severe climate crisis sure would cost a lot more to fix than the recent financial crisis.
The less we tamper with the climate system, the better off we are.

Ed Zuiderwijk
December 17, 2009 1:09 am

Perhaps this guy can now explain why the oceans haven’t been evaporated long ago because if water vapour feedbacks on CO2 it must also do that on itself, producing an ever increasing feedback frenzy until all the water has disappeared and gets boiled off into space.
On another note: the snow is early this year, here in England.

December 17, 2009 1:15 am

I don’t quite understand this. They have measured water vapor for 7+ years when there has been no global warming and find that water vapor increases when there is global warming? Have I understood it correctly? How did they then get this result? How can they draw conclusions about what global warming will do when they do measurements in a period with no global warming?

Stefan
December 17, 2009 2:07 am

Stefan (15:22:42) :
OT but Sir David King was just on BBC Newsnight in front of a small audience to try to convince them of the science, given that polls show 50% of UK people are unconvinced.
Someone asked him about CRU emails, and his reply was words to the effect, “you have to ask yourself their motives, as these emails go back 10 years so someone was gathering them all this time, only to release them now… and also bear in mind this was a highly sophisticated hack, so who did it, a highly skilled foreign service.. ?”
I don’t know what I found most insulting to the audience’s intelligence, his cock and bull story that CRU was hacked 10 years ago and their communications have been monitored ever since, or the scientist who came on to prove global warming using two plastic bottles with water, one with and one without CO2, being heated by a couple of lamps.
Anyway, the way Sir David King avoided the question and spun a yarn about highly sophisticated hacking by foreign secret services…. my wife said he came across as sinister.

foinavon (15:34:38) :
Stefan (15:22:42) :
I just watched David King on newsnight too
He neither said that the emails were hacked 10 years ago, nor did he he “spin a yarn about highly sophisticated hacking by foreign secret services”.
perhpas you should go back and re watch on your IPlayer

foinavon, just for you, I have transcribed word for word what Sir David King said from iPlayer.
Please read this word for word, and if you refuse my transcription, please provide one of your own. I have triple checked this transcription. You will notice the subtlety of the wording. Oh, and whilst making allegations, he doesn’t answer the woman’s question either.

Transcript of Sir David King answering a question from a member of the public about the hacked emails:
Ethical Man presenter: Somebody was asking questions about the emails from East Anglia… that was you right?
Woman in audience: Yes, I mean I’ve always really believed in climate change and been an advocate of us trying to stop global warming but then these emails come out and then I think, ok it sounds like something has been exaggerated, it sounds like things have been held back from the public, and this sense of distrust has me concerned.
Sir David King: And by the way, that is exactly the object that the hackers had in getting into the emails. Remember that these emails go back to 1998, so they’ve been accumulating them, and they’ve just released them in the week before Copenhagen.
Ethical Man presenter: Yeah but that doesn’t take away from…
Sir David King: No no let me come to the fact, let me come to the fact, I just wanted to — this is very important — …
Woman in audience: I mean I recognise that…
Sir David King: … the strategy of these people who are hacking is important. Let me also make this allegation, for the first time in public: it is an extraordinarily sophisticated piece of work, to hack into all of these emails, and, and mobile phone conversations. Right? What agencies have got the sophistication to manage that? I leave you to think about that.

What are we to make of the wording, “Remember that these emails go back to 1998, so they’ve been accumulating them…”, in the context of, “an extraordinarily sophisticated piece of work, to hack into all of these emails, and, and mobile phone conversations”, and, “what agencies [can] manage that?”
They go back to 1998 and they’ve been accumulating them… ?????
There is nothing sophisticated about grabbing an email archive snapshot from a server. But he’s answering a question about emails with an allegation about mobile phone conversations and agencies with extraordinary sophistication accumulating stuff over 10 years, including mobile phone conversations?
If he was just some guy down the pub it would be entertaining. But coming from a Chief Scientific Advisor, I feel he is insulting our intelligence.
Remember, this is the man who was asked to leave South Africa because he felt that the colored man working in the kitchen was just as intelligent an individual as anybody else. It was really disappointing to hear this story about how you should focus on the motivations of the hackers, “agencies”. And he didn’t convince the woman nor the presenter either. She had to ask him again and the presenter had to ask him again and then he was forced to point blank state that the behaviour revealed in the East Anglia emails was “unacceptable”.
Sir David King: “Let me say this as clearly as I can: that sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable”.
Yes, we know. Pity the interviewer and audience had to press you to get that answer, after he’d “left them” to think about sophisticated agencies recording phone conversations.

Jimbo
December 17, 2009 2:41 am

yonason (11:19:38):
“How does all that correlate with volcanic activity?”
Maybe the following explains why measurements at at CO2 monitoring stations are error prone.
“Greenhouse Gas Observatories Downwind from Erupting Volcanoes”
“If localized volcanic activity is affecting CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa, why would the “global network” be following along? Perhaps it’s because all of the CO2 stations — including the NOAA’s other baseline stations at the South Pole; American Samoa; Trinidad Head, CA; and Pt. Barrow, AK — are subject to localized, and in some cases regional, CO2 influences. ”
http://www.americanthinker.com/2009/12/greenhouse_gas_observatories_d.html

Allan M
December 17, 2009 2:47 am

foinavon (13:44:37) :
Allan M (13:07:22) :
Positive feedback – schpositive feedback. Where’s the amplifier?
It’s not clear what your point is, but it’s pretty straightfoward that water vapour partitions into the atmosphere according to the atmospheric temperature (and pressure)…a warmer atmosphere contains higher levels of water vapour on average. This can be measured in the real world.
So as the atmospheric temperature rises as a result of enhanced radiative forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever), so the atmospheric water vapour concentration rises. Since water vapour is a strong greenhouse gas, the effect of the primary forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever) is amplified.

The only sort of amplifiers that drive themselves are the political ones. So perhaps it is fitting that in your thermosocialist paradise, where everything warms everything else – nothing can ever be allowed to cool (and governments can print infinite quantities of money), that this feedback-which-doesn’t-feed-back can be used to artificially inflate the inconveniently small numbers. The rest of the universe is restricted by the First Law of Thermodynamics. But this is seemingly not a problem. When the greenies take power they will immediately repeal this capitalist creation, and everygreen will live happily ever after.

Arthur Glass
December 17, 2009 2:56 am

” There’s pretty incontrovertible evidence….’
How can anything be ‘pretty’ incontrovertible? It’s like saying a woman is ‘pretty pregnant’, or that a corpse is ‘pretty dead.’

Arthur Glass
December 17, 2009 3:22 am

” toyotawhizguy (20:44:53) :
“I zeroed in on this:
““The implication of these studies is that, should greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current course of increase, we are virtually certain to see Earth’s climate warm by several degrees Celsius in the next century, unless some strong negative feedback mechanism emerges elsewhere in Earth’s climate system,” Dessler said.”
“virtually certain” I detect some hedging here.”
______________
See above comment, although, save in mathematics, there are things that can be ‘virtually’ certain, i.e. a guilty verdict of a jury should be ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’
I’m a language guy, so I may be overly keyed into word usage, but note that there are, in that sentence, two loopholes big enough to drive a fourteen-wheeler through, one being ‘virtually’ and the other the ‘unless’ clause, which concedes the possibility of processes of negative feedback that remain to be discovered.
Is understanding of the dynamics of the atmosphere so nearly perfected that a concession of the possibility of as yet undiscovered ‘negative feedbacks’ can be relegated to an ‘unless’ clause?

December 17, 2009 3:27 am

yonason (11:19:38):
“How does all that correlate with volcanic activity?”
Maybe the following explains why measurements at at CO2 monitoring stations are error prone.
“Greenhouse Gas Observatories Downwind from Erupting Volcanoes”
“If localized volcanic activity is affecting CO2 measurements at Mauna Loa, why would the “global network” be following along? Perhaps it’s because all of the CO2 stations — including the NOAA’s other baseline stations at the South Pole; American Samoa; Trinidad Head, CA; and Pt. Barrow, AK — are subject to localized, and in some cases regional, CO2 influences. ”

peeke
December 17, 2009 3:36 am

@foinavon
So as the atmospheric temperature rises as a result of enhanced radiative forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever), so the atmospheric water vapour concentration rises. Since water vapour is a strong greenhouse gas, the effect of the primary forcing (solar, greenhouse, albedo or whatever) is amplified.
I think that wouldn’t count for albedo, since higher temperatures and consequential more watervapour do not automatically lead to less clouds. I can even imagine it leading to more clouding, which then would increase albedo of earth, thus resulting in a negative feedback.

tim c
December 17, 2009 4:47 am

Is there a pocket of CO2 around Moana Loa? (sp) May be CO2 data points should be checked.

Martin Lewitt
December 17, 2009 4:47 am

It is no surprise that the water vapor feedback is positive. What needs to be understood is that water vapor is just one component of the water cycle, and the net feedback of the water cycle may be negative. Wentz’s paper in Science found that precipitation increased significantly during the recent warming, but that all of the AR4 models reproduced less than one third to one half of the increase. This is a correlated under representation of the negative feedback of precipitation. This and other correlated errors found in diagnostic studies of the models are far larger than the less than 1 W/m^2 of energy imbalance Hansen found in the warming of the 90s. The models don’t yet qualify as quantitative evidence for the attribution and projection of the small a phenomenon.
The alarmism requires climate sensitivities to CO2 in the model range, 2 to 4+ degrees C. The null hypothesis should be that climate sensitivities to CO2 are in the range of CO2’s direct effects 0.5 to 1.5 degrees C. I’ve yet to see model independent evidence that the current climate sensitivities to CO2 are in the higher range.
Spencer’s work confirms and supplements what Wentz found. If sensitivities to CO2 are in the null hypothesis range, then the future climate will be warmer than it would otherwise have been, but it may not necessarily be warmer than the 1990s unless solar activity returns to grand maximum levels and the Atlantic and Pacific multidecadal oscillations also “coincidentally” return to their warm phases. In other words, AGW may only be a slight warming shift in climate swamped by natural variation which may well make most of the decades in the next century cooler than the 1990s.

Stephen Skinner
December 17, 2009 5:11 am

toyotawhizguy (23:48:43) :
“This statement immediately got me thinking that it would be interesting to collect the data and overlay worldwide airline traffic routes over this global mapping of CO2, and look for correlations. ”
Looking at the following map I cannot see any correlation.(http://www.nasa.gov/images/content/411791main_slide5-AIRS-full.jpg)
The North Atlantic route between Europe and the USA cannot be identified, and I would have thought that routes from Atlanta or Chicago would also show as each is busier than say London Heathrow by a factor of 2.
Of course the Troposhere mixes freely and different manmade sources of CO2 cannot be identified and it is unreasonable to think that the small contribution from avaition is just going to sit there while all other sources move about.

Mike Ramsey
December 17, 2009 6:59 am

Increasing CO2 driving increasing H2O (vapor) is the key hypothesis that the AGW crowd has to prove. I don’t see how they can possibly be right.
We haven’t already been fried since CO2 concentrations were higher in the past
Energy principles (The Miskolczi-principle, http://miskolczi.webs.com/ ) preclude it
Evaporating water carries latent heat to the cloud tops where condensation (cloud formation) releases it; This acts as an efficient global cooling system
to name just a few.
I am very interested in the detailed proof of this assertion. I suspect that it will not hold up under scrutiny.

JP
December 17, 2009 7:48 am

When I read this piece I had the same question as Lars. If global temps have been neutral to falling for the last 10 years, how can the JPL attribute the increase in water vapor to AGW for the last 7 years? There has been no AGW during thier test period. Either thier water vapor calculations are off, or something else is at play.

December 17, 2009 8:01 am

“The water-droplets in clouds provide a lot of surface area for the uptake of CO2. If the clouds then rain out over the ocean, that might be a more efficient mechanism for the exchange of CO2 between air and sea than the direct adsorption at the air-sea interface.”
While that’s a possible theoretical mechanism, it doesnt change the gross level of absorption of Co2 by the oceans, which was recently measured at about 4Gt/yr if I recall correctly.
water surface area on earth =61,132,000 km² or 61 trillion square meters, turns into
=> 0.065 Kg/m^2 /yr.
Unless my math is wrong, a mere 65 grams of Carbon in CO2 is absorbed per square meter of sea per year. So the surface area hardly seems to be the constraint, although the mechanism you postulate might a part of how it happens.

Editor
December 17, 2009 9:05 am

If this is NASA press release it true and the Aqua data really do say what the Aggie climatologist says they do…

In another major finding, scientists using AIRS data have removed most of the uncertainty about the role of water vapor in atmospheric models. The data are the strongest observational evidence to date for how water vapor responds to a warming climate.
“AIRS temperature and water vapor observations have corroborated climate model predictions that the warming of our climate produced as carbon dioxide levels rise will be greatly exacerbated — in fact, more than doubled — by water vapor,” said Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas.
Dessler explained that most of the warming caused by carbon dioxide does not come directly from carbon dioxide, but from effects known as feedbacks. Water vapor is a particularly important feedback. As the climate warms, the atmosphere becomes more humid. Since water is a greenhouse gas, it serves as a powerful positive feedback to the climate system, amplifying the initial warming. AIRS measurements of water vapor reveal that water greatly amplifies warming caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide. Comparisons of AIRS data with models and re-analyses are in excellent agreement.
“The implication of these studies is that, should greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current course of increase, we are virtually certain to see Earth’s climate warm by several degrees Celsius in the next century, unless some strong negative feedback mechanism emerges elsewhere in Earth’s climate system,” Dessler said.

… Then some rather large component of the warm up from the Little Ice Age was caused by a combination of CO2 and water vapor… Right?
So… Without all that CO2 and water vapor, Moberg’s climate reconstruction would show that it would be considerably colder now if not for the rising CO2 and water vapor over the last couple of hundred years… Right?
If all that is true… There should be some evidence that the rate of warming increased after man started burning lots of coal, oil and natural gas… Right? But the warm up from the bottom of the Little Ice Age began about 260 years before CO2 levels started to rise and the rate and magnitude of warming from 1850-2009 AD was no different than it was from 740-899 AD… Nor was the rate and magnitude of warming 1975-2009 any different than it was from 1912-1945.
The Earth’s climate is not doing anything differently than it did in the Medieval Warming… So either the Earth should be a lot colder than it was during the Medieval Warm Period or the additional CO2 and water vapor over the last 200 years hasn’t made any difference… Or pre-instrumental atmospheric CO2 levels were actually a lot higher than the ice cores indicate.
Which is it?
Should the Earth not have warmed up after the Little Ice Age? Should this warm phase of the 1,470-yr cycle be colder than the Medieval, Roman and other previous warm phases of this well documented, solar-driven cycle?
Has all of the anthropogenic CO2 and concomitant water vapor simply not made much difference?
Or were CO2 levels of 330-390 ppmv simply the norm in prior warm periods and just not apparent from ice cores (but very apparent from plant stomata data)?

Mike Bryant
December 17, 2009 9:06 am

I find it odd and troubling that Mauna Loa and other CO2 monitoring stations don’t have raw data. We also are not in posession of protocols for the creation of their adjusted data sets. Could the CO2 Protocols be the model for GISS and HADCRUT?
Mike

StevenJames, Houston
December 17, 2009 9:18 am

Logic of positive feedback doesn’t hold up to critical thought.
Why isn’t water vapor showing positive feedback on itself. The first drop of water vapor would bring the next drop, and so on. We should be Venus by now but we are not.

December 17, 2009 10:55 am

Haven’t they ever heard of the water cycle. Also important is how water vapor travels and the amount of time it spends in the atmosphere.
Pluto is 10C cooler than we would expect due to the phase change of N2.
Higher temps means more heat is absorbed in evaporation, transported to high in the atmosphere, then release when it condenses. Unless the water cycle slows, this will offset most of the water vapor GH effect.

Syl
December 17, 2009 12:47 pm

I love it. Lumpy CO2. But of course. Okay, they did not mention clouds and the water cycle but something else to think about that would contribute to the lumpiness is the carbon sink never mentioned……rain.
Think about it!

December 17, 2009 1:27 pm

This image tells me that Antarctic CO2 levels should be 20 to 30 ppmv less than Mauna Loa.
All of those charts of “unprecedented” atmospheric CO2 levels were made by tacking Mauna Loa data on to the end of ice core (usually Law Dome) data. This means that about 20% to 30% of the widely assumed CO2 increase from pre-industrial times is simply due to physical geography.

Joel Shore
December 17, 2009 6:18 pm

aaron says:

Haven’t they ever heard of the water cycle. Also important is how water vapor travels and the amount of time it spends in the atmosphere.

Higher temps means more heat is absorbed in evaporation, transported to high in the atmosphere, then release when it condenses. Unless the water cycle slows, this will offset most of the water vapor GH effect.

In fact, they have heard of it. And, the feedback that you are talking about even has a name — It is called the “lapse rate feedback” and it is indeed a negative feedback included in the climate models that takes back some (but not “most”) of the positive feedback due to water vapor. In fact, since much of the same physics of the transport of water vapor controls both the water vapor and lapse rate feedbacks, climate models tend to show considerably less spread in their prediction of the sum of these two feedbacks together than they do for each of the feedbacks separately. You can read more about this, for example, in Section 8.6.2.3 of the IPCC AR4 WG-1 report: http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg1.htm

Joel Shore
December 17, 2009 6:31 pm

David Schnare says:

I’d like to know what Lindzen (sp?) thinks of this. He has published ERBA (earth radiation budget experiment) data showing that increases CO2 results in more rather than less radiation from the earth at the top of the atmosphere, and argues this is because the response to increases trapped radiation causes an “iris” effect in the cloud cover that results in more clouds, whiter clouds and more reflection of energy back into space. I don’t see the reflected radiation taken into account in this paper.

Even Roy Spencer has expressed a lot of skepticism regarding Lindzen’s results…mainly because he makes a comparison of the ERBE data to climate models run in a mode that isn’t really relevant for comparison to real data.
Also, Lindzen’s “iris hypothesis” as originally stated is pretty much the reverse of what you say. What Lindzen argued is that warming would lead to a DECREASE in cirrus (high) clouds in the tropics and, since the effects of high clouds tend to be to cause more warming (by reducing the emission of “longwave” IR radiation from the earth) than cooling (due to reflection of “shortwave” radiation from the sun), this decrease in high clouds would produce a negative feedback. (See, e.g., here for a description of Lindzen’s iris hypothesis: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Iris/ )

Joel Shore
December 17, 2009 6:58 pm

Ryan Stephenson says:

No, positive amplification means that the input is made greater by some factor to produce a greater output, but is not fed back to the input again. Positive feedback means that the output is returned to the input in such a way as to aid the original input to make a larger output which then feeds bacxk again to the input to make a yet larger output thus becoming unstable. That is exactly what is being suggested with the water vapour. Warming causes the oceans to evaporate which releases more water vapour, water vapour is a greenhouse gas so more warming occurs (that isn’t actually what a greenhouse gas does but nevermind), this causes more evaporation which then causes yet more water vapour causing more warming causing yet more evaportation until the whole thing becomes unstable.

It doesn’t actually matter in a positive feedback system how big the positive feedback is – because the effect will simply rotate around the feedback system getting bigger and bigger until it was first noticeable and ultimately disastrous.
No…When climate scientists talk about a net positive feedback, they are including the case where the feedback is such that the response is amplified by a finite amount. The idea is one of a converging geometric series, such as 1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + … The sum of such an infinite series is not infinite…It is two, meaning that a water vapor feedback behaving in this manner would amplify the warming by a factor of 2.
Note that climate scientists talking of a positive feedback in this way are defining feedback in a somewhat different way as it is apparently defined in system control theory (or whatever one calls it). If you want to adopt the “control theory” point of view, you have to consider the increased radiation as the earth warms that is described by the Stefan-Boltzmann Equation as a feedback and, indeed, if you do then when climate scientists talk about a positive feedback, you have to convert that to “positive feedback not counting the radiative feedback implied by the S-B Equation but still a negative feedback overall when you do”. Some climate scientists have adopted terminology more compatible with the control theory point-of-view, for example, Dennis Hartmann in his book “Global Physical Climatology” (see p. 231 here: http://books.google.com/books?id=aKPxctcJNNUC&printsec=frontcover&dq=dennis+hartmann+global+physica+climatology&cd=1#v=onepage&q=&f=false ).
However, the important point is that, whether you think the choice that many climate scientists have made in using the term “feedback” is bad or good, it doesn’t affect the actual physical result. It is just a matter of definition: Climate scientists like to think of the “base case” as the temperature rise that would be implied by considering the Stefan-Boltzmann Equation and to ask what the temperature rise is relative to that, whereas a viewpoint in line with system control theory would consider the radiative feedback implied by the Stefan-Boltzmann as a negative feedback on the original change in radiative balance.

However, since the logic of this would hold equally true without CO2 involved, then the earth’s climate would already have hit an unstable point which would have wiped out life on earth. Since this has not happened we can clearly see the presence of a positive feedback mechanism involving water vapour can be dismissed, and since this has held true over a long time and with a variety of different climatic conditions since the over millions of years we can futher suggest that water vapour impact on climate must be inherently stable and thus must introduce a negative feedback mechanism – i.e. any increase in water vapour is likely to produce an effect that opposes the effect that originally caused the increase in water vapour.

Unfortunately, your logic is based on your misunderstanding of how climate scientists use the term “positive feedback”. And, in fact, the paleoclimate record, including the glacial-interglacial cycles, are hard to explain without invoking a positive feedback (in the sense that many climate scientists use it, meaning one that amplifies the climate sensitivity relative to the value implied by the radiative forcing and the S-B Equation).

The fact that neither you nor the subject of this thread can appreciate the lack of logic in the concept of water vapour having a positive feedback effect says a lot about the knowledge of both of you. Biologists understand positive feedback, so to physicists, mathemeticians and evolutionists. So why do climate scientists sturglle with this simple concept?

The logic is fine, although one might quibble with the terminology that climate scientists have adopted. Issues of terminology are often confusing…I just had lunch with someone today who was complaining about the awful choices that he thought physicists had made in terminology, such as using “specific heat” to refer to something that is not heat (He thought it should be called “specific heat capacity”) and calling lots of things constants, like “optical constant” or “dielectric constant” that can in fact vary considerably as a function of wavelength, temperature, or what have you.

Joel Shore
December 17, 2009 7:10 pm

I made a formatting error in my previous post: The paragraph starting “It doesn’t actually matter in a positive feedback system how big the positive feedback is…” should have been included in the quote from Ryan. They are his words, not mine.

Tom Jones
December 17, 2009 8:51 pm

I’m puzzled. Heterogeneous CO2 distribution would imply that, after factoring out solar irradiance, a heterogeneous temperature field. But I can’t find that data, only a high-level summary of consequences. I’m still trying to understand the data, but I’m suspicious

Dave F
December 17, 2009 10:11 pm

Joel Shore (18:58:52) :
So, the thing I think everyone is trying to understand here is why this process needs anthropogenic CO2 to begin. Wouldn’t this process be at play already in a warming world? Wh