Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
This is an extension of the ideas I laid out as the Thunderstorm Thermostat Hypothesis on WUWT. For those who have not read it, I’ll wait here while you go there and read it … (dum de dum de dum) … (makes himself a cup of coffee) … OK, welcome back. Onwards.
The hypothesis in that paper is that clouds and thunderstorms, particularly in the tropics, control the earth’s temperature. In that paper, I showed that a falsifiable prediction of greater increase in clouds in the Eastern Pacific was supported by the satellite data. I got to thinking a couple of days ago about what other kinds of falsifiable predictions would flow from that hypothesis. I realized that one thing that should be true if my hypothesis were correct is that the climate sensitivity should be very low in the tropics.
I also figured out how I could calculate that sensitivity, by using the change in incoming solar energy (insolation) between summer and winter. The daily average top of atmosphere (TOA) insolation is shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Daily TOA insolation by latitude and day of the year. Phi (Φ) is the Latitude, and theta (Θ) is the day of the year expressed as an angle from zero to 360. Insolation is expressed in watts per square metre. SOURCE.
(As a side note, one thing that is not generally recognized is that the poles during summer get the highest daily average insolation of anywhere on earth. This is because, although they don’t get a lot of insolation even during the summer, they are getting it for 24 hours a day. This makes their daily average insolation much higher than other areas. But I digress …)
Now, the “climate sensitivity” is the relationship between an increase in what is called the “forcing” (the energy that heats the earth, in watts per square metre of earth surface) and the temperature of the earth in degrees Celsius. This is generally expressed as the amount of heating that would result from the forcing increase due to a doubling of CO2. A doubling of CO2 is estimated by the IPCC to increase the TOA forcing by 3.7 watts per metre squared (W/m2). The IPCC claims that the climate sensitivity is on the order of 3°C per doubling of CO2, with an error band from 2°C to 4.5°C.
My insight was that I could compare the winter insolation with the summer insolation. From that I could calculate how much the solar forcing increased from winter to summer. Then I could compare that with the change in temperature from winter to summer, and that would give me the climate sensitivity for each latitude band.
My new falsifiable predictions from my Thunderstorm Thermostat Hypothesis were as follows:
1 The climate sensitivity would be less near the equator than near the poles. This is because the almost-daily afternoon emergence of cumulus and thunderstorms is primarily a tropical phenomenon (although it also occurs in some temperate regions).
2 The sensitivity would be less in latitude bands which are mostly ocean. This is for three reasons. The first is because the ocean warms more slowly than the land, so a change in forcing will heat the land more. The second reason is that the presence of water reduces the effect of increasing forcing, due to energy going into evaporation rather than temperature change. Finally, where there is surface water more clouds and thunderstorms can form more easily.
3 Due to the temperature damping effect of the thunderstorms as explained in my Thunderstorm Thermostat Hypothesis, as well as the increase in cloud albedo from increasing temperatures, the climate sensitivity would be much, much lower than the canonical IPCC climate sensitivity of 3°C from a doubling of CO2.
4 Given the stability of the earth’s climate, the sensitivity would be quite small, with a global average not far from zero.
So those were my predictions. Figure 2 shows my results:
Figure 2. Climate sensitivity by latitude, in 20° bands. Blue bars show the sensitivity in each band. Yellow lines show the standard error in the measurement.
Note that all of my predictions based on my hypothesis have been confirmed. The sensitivity is greatest at the poles. The areas with the most ocean have lower sensitivity than the areas with lots of land. The sensitivity is much smaller than the IPCC value. And finally, the global average is not far from zero.
While my results are far below the canonical IPCC values, they are not without precedent in the scientific literature. In CO2-induced global warming: a skeptic’s view of potential climate change, Sherwood Idso gives the results of eight “natural experiments”. These are measurements of changes in temperature and corresponding forcing in various areas of the earth’s surface. The results of his experiments was a sensitivity of 0.3°C per doubling. This is still larger than my result of 0.05°C per doubling, but is much smaller than the IPCC results.
Kerr et al. argued that Idso’s results were incorrect because they failed to allow for the time that it takes the ocean to warm, viz:
A major failing, they say, is the omission of the ocean from Idso’s natural experiments, as he calls them. Those experiments extend over only a few months, while the surface layer of the ocean requires 6 to 8 years to respond significantly to a change in radiation.
I have always found this argument to be specious, for several reasons:
1 The only part of the ocean that is interacting with the atmosphere is the surface skin layer. The temperature of the lower layers is immaterial, as the evaporation, conduction and radiation from the ocean to the atmosphere are solely dependent on the skin layer.
2 The skin layer of the ocean, as well as the top ten metres or so of the ocean, responds quite quickly to increased forcing. It is much warmer in the summer than in the winter. More significantly, it is much warmer in the day than in the night, and in the afternoon than in the morning. It can heat and cool quite rapidly.
3 Heat does not mix downwards in the ocean very well. Warmer water rises to the surface, and cooler water sinks into the depths until it reaches a layer of equal temperature. As a result, waiting a while will not increase the warmth in the lower levels by much.
As a result, I would say that the difference between a year-long experiment such as the one I have done, and a six-year experiment, would be small. Perhaps it might as much as double my climate sensitivity values for the areas that are mostly ocean, or even triple them … but that makes no difference. Even tripled, the average global climate sensitivity would still be only on the order of 0.15°C per CO2 doubling, which is very, very small.
So, those are my results. I hold that they are derivable from my hypothesis that clouds and thunderstorms keep the earth’s temperature within a very narrow level. And I say that these results strongly support my hypothesis. Clouds, thunderstorms, and likely other as-yet unrecognized mechanisms hold the climate sensitivity to a value very near zero. And a corollary of that is that a doubling of CO2 would make a change in global temperature that is so small as to be unmeasurable.
In the Northern Hemisphere, for example, the hemispheric average temperature change winter to summer is about 5°C. This five degree change in temperature results from a winter to summer forcing change of no less than 155 watts/metre squared … and we’re supposed to worry about a forcing change of 3.7 W/m2 from a doubling of CO2???
The Southern Hemisphere shows the IPCC claim to be even more ridiculous. There, a winter to summer change in forcing of 182 W/m2 leads to a 2°C change in temperature … and we’re supposed to believe that a 3.7 W/m2 change in forcing will cause a 3° change in temperature? Even if my results were off by a factor of three, that’s still a cruel joke.