Willis publishes his thermostat hypothesis paper

I’m sure WUWT readers will recall this excellent guest post at WUWT just over one year ago:

The Thermostat Hypothesis

thermostat_earth

Now published in E&E Volume 21, Number 4 / August 2010

The thunderstorm thermostat hypothesis: How clouds and thunderstorms control the Earth’s temperature

Authors

Willis Eschenbach

Abstract

The Thunderstorm Thermostat Hypothesis is the hypothesis that tropical clouds and thunderstorms actively regulate the temperature of the earth. This keeps the earth at an equilibrium temperature regardless of changes in the forcings. Several kinds of evidence are presented to establish and elucidate the Thermostat Hypothesis-historical temperature stability of the Earth, theoretical considerations, satellite photos, and a description of the equilibrium mechanism.

See it here, PDF is available (£18.00 worthwhile to support E&E in my opinion). Or, read the WUWT version here:

The Thermostat Hypothesis

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[snip] to ‘tips and notes’ please. 😉 RT-mod

Congratulations on your publication, Willis.

Henry chance

Great article. I am watching thermals and a rapid thunderstorm build up in the last 30 minutes. When the storm hits, it will remove a lot of heat. Wind sheers are examples of redistribution of heat.

Eric (skeptic)

Nice, approachable paper. My biggest beef with the modelers that produce catastrophes (like Greenland ice collapse in 400 years with CO2 at 400ppm! see http://www.the-cryosphere-discuss.net/4/233/2010/tcd-4-233-2010.html) is that they cannot model local convection because of lack of resolution. When they parametrize the convective activity they get the answer they want like Greenland melting with CO2 at 400ppm.
I wonder if a more quantitative follow-on paper could include measurements of areal coverage of thunderstorms (or some other measurement of convective activity).

latitude

congratulations Willis

Hearty congrats Willis. Well done!

Very interesting hypothesis. It requires a meticulous read.
I also think the tandem of tropics and poles are the key. One aspect which needs further consideration is that polar temperatures (at least in the Arctic have oscillated to a higher degree than the global estimate, as verified by large coal deposits in Spitsbergen, not to mention huge oil reserves notably in the Alaska’s North Slope etc.
The Arctic’s ability to reradiate all the excess thermal energy from the tropics is limited and has resulted in temperatures rise there, which also may be currently the case. Transport of the thermal energy is mainly by the Gulf Stream current; since there is a high correlation between the arctic temperatures and the strength of the arctic magnetic field, it can be speculated that the efficiency of the energy transfer is a function of the the Earth’s magnetic field strength.
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/NFC1.htm

Darkinbad the Brightdayler

“However, this would imply a gradual decrease in GHG forcing which exactly matched the incremental billion-year increase in solar forcing to the present value. This seems highly unlikely.
A much more likely candidate is some natural mechanism which has regulated the earth’s temperature over geological time”
Why?
Some sweeping statements here without substantiation

Amino Acids in Meteorites

My congratulations also!

Amino Acids in Meteorites

This is the paper presented on video by Willis Eschenbach at the 4th conference:
Part 1

Amino Acids in Meteorites

Part 2

Amino Acids in Meteorites

Video is mightier than the pen!

RayG

OT but please let through!
There has been a real debate going on for the last several days at Bishop Hill around Tamino’s review of Andrew Montford’s The Hockey Illusion. Both sides have been active. Judith Curry weighed in with a very pointed response to the review that is well worth reading. The thread may be found at
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/7/22/tamino-on-the-hockey-stick-illusion.html#comments
Enjoy, all.

RayG

Oops. Meant Tamino’s review of THI on Real Climate.

Roger Knights

Here’s a clickable link to the discussion of “The Hockey Stick Illusion” that RayG linked to:
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/7/22/tamino-on-the-hockey-stick-illusion.html#comments

CRS, Dr.P.H.

Congratulations, Willis! I remember when you first posted this on WUWT, it is an impressive and thoughtful analysis.
I’ve long been impressed with the power & function of atmospheric cells, especially the Hadley Cells, and your logical argument comparing these systems to a heat engine is very compelling. Natural systems tend to be rather simple once you understand the basics; however, the climate-change crowd seem very focused upon their narrow areas of expertise, and downplay all others. Imagine that.
Dr. Joel Norris of Scripps Institution gave a very good colloquium presentation on cloud feedbacks to Fermilab on 12 May, 2010, please see the video archive and powerpoint slides at:
http://www-ppd.fnal.gov/EPPOffice-w/colloq/colloq.html
He also challenged conventional thinking of the modeling crew! Cheers & best.

R. Gates

Nicely done Willis. As an amateur scientist, you should feel proud of your achievement. I look forward to reading your paper in detail, or at least watching the above referenced videos. I remember reading your post about this and had a few questions about it. Undoubtedly, thunderstorms do act to control excessive temperature buildup from solar insolation, and so are at least a local and regional “thermostat” in this regard, and if thunderstorms (i.e. cumulonimbus) were the only kind of cloud in the world, and only came out during the heat of the day, and never formed at night, etc. then life would be even more simple.
Anyway, congrats.

Congratulations Willis. Thank you Amino Acids, for putting up the two videos of a really excellent presentation. It’s great to be able to put a face to the name. Looks like there’s hope for us self-taughters yet.

Congrats Willis.
I’d sit down and read it now, but I’ve got to get ready for a gig tonight. Tomorrow??? I’ll be hiking Yosemite! Monday read it is!
Mike

TomRude

Obsolete atmospheric circulation model.
Read Leroux “dynamic analysis of weather and climate” 2ed, springer 2010

kwik

Congratulations! Very interesting read!
When I read this, one thought comes to mind; Surely, SURELY most, or at least some of this is in meteorology text-books already?
Surely ? I would think that some of it is not, and some is mentioned here to “educate” the reader? Like the “Governor” talk?
In that case, it would be nice to know which parts are actually “the new idea” ?
(Sorry, I am not a meteorologist)
Thanks.

Flask

Congratulations Willis.
I was very impressed with your thermostat post last year, and happy to hear that it has been published. An elegant explanation of natural regulation which does not require the coincidence of forcing balance that Darkinbad alludes to above.

Jimbo

Is there a silver lining in the clouds? Only time will tell.

“The most obvious way for warming to be caused naturally is for small, natural fluctuations in the circulation patterns of the atmosphere and ocean to result in a 1% or 2% decrease in global cloud cover. Clouds are the Earth’s sunshade, and if cloud cover changes for any reason, you have global warming — or global cooling.
How could the experts have missed such a simple explanation? Because they have convinced themselves that only a temperature change can cause a cloud cover change, and not the other way around. The issue is one of causation. They have not accounted for cloud changes causing temperature changes.”
Dr Roy Spencer

————-

“Although sea ice and snow cover had noticeably declined in the Arctic from 2000 to 2004, there had been no detectable change in the albedo measured at the top of the atmosphere: the proportion of light the Arctic reflected hadn’t changed. In other words, the ice albedo feedback that most climate models predict will ultimately amplify global warming apparently hadn’t yet kicked in.”
“According to the MODIS observations, cloud fraction had increased at a rate of 0.65 percent per year between 2000 and 2004. If the trend continues, it will amount to a relative increase of about 6.5 percent per decade. At least during this short time period, says Kato, increased cloudiness in the Arctic appears to have offset the expected decline in albedo from melting sea ice and snow.” NASA Earth Observatory

DirkH

Willis,
i love especially your way of visualizing the distribution of thunderstorms by using the perspective from the sun, a very ingenious step! Congrats!

Douglas DC

Very good Willis-might I add I see someone who has experienced that heat engine from
say, the bridge or a mast of a Boat or Ship or the Cockpit of an Aircraft. I’ve had similar thoughts over the years fighting fire from a Four-Engine Douglas, not nearly so reasoned or articulate, great job!

mack28

The thermostat has been turned down in tropical Peru:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-10749124

DirkH

Darkinbad the Brightdayler says:
July 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm
“[…]Why?[…]”
Because we still exist. HTH.

u.k.(us)

Good to hear you’re still out there Willis.
I was concerned the “warmists” might have kidnapped you, and forced you to torture the climate data, even further.
Congrats.

Roger Knights

PS The Judith Curry comment, which admirably sums up the “Hockey Stick Illusion’s” central points, can be located by clicking on Page “3” at the bottom of the first page you get to, then dragging the slider about down 1/3 of the page. Here’s the link again to the first page:
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/7/22/tamino-on-the-hockey-stick-illusion.html#comments

Roger Knights

Oops, make that page 4, not page 3, in my post just above:

PS The Judith Curry comment, which admirably sums up the “Hockey Stick Illusion’s” central points, can be located by clicking on Page “3 4″ at the bottom of the first page you get to, then dragging the slider about down 1/3 of the page. Here’s the link again to the first page:
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/7/22/tamino-on-the-hockey-stick-illusion.html#comments

Bravozulu

Brilliant. It made perfect sense to me. That certainly sounds like negative feedback or even better a governor is likely. I suppose the distinction between a governor and pure negative feedback if I understand correctly is that the governor will maintain the temperature in a range of 3 percent in your example and negative feedback would just reduce the magnitude of the warming. It should increase if the forcing increases. We seem to be at a warm point so any significant warming should be resisted by the governor if I understand correctly.
Many aspects of these ideas would be very threatening to those that rely doomsday scenarios. Even questioning how the thunderstorms are not positive feedback is going to be threatening. It seems obvious by your showing how the clouds follow the sun that the idea of thunderstorms causing the heat is foolish. The ideas used in the climate models seem counterintuitive and even contrived. I can’t make logical sense out of it. What you said makes logical sense and seems obvious after it is explained.

americansun says:
July 24, 2010 at 1:16 pm
> [snip] to ‘tips and notes’ please. 😉 RT-mod
I wish people wouldn’t try to make the first comment be some OT comment to get their comment in the “sun”. RT, thank you for snipping.
Americansun, the URL you provide, http://americansun.wordpress.com is dysfunctional. Please use a real link in the future.

Dave Worley

Convection is the most obvious stabilizing mechanism, and the one most overlooked in the alarmosphere.

DirkH

Bravozulu says:
July 24, 2010 at 5:02 pm
“[…]temperature in a range of 3 percent in your example and negative feedback would just reduce the magnitude of the warming.”
No; strong enough negative feedback could completely offset an input force. But simple negative feedback has no hysteresis; a governor as proposed by Willis kicks in after a threshold is reached, brings down the variable until a lower threshold is reached and stops there. The hysteresis is the interval between these two thresholds.

Amino Acids in Meteorites

R Gates
You are always quick to question anyone who shows that manmade global warming is wrong. But you never question the PIOMAS graph. No. Instead you come up with all kinds of poor arguments to defend it. This shows everything about you.

Gnomish

Good work, Willis.
best part: global albedo animation
worst part: not counting the calories, enthalpy of phase changes
missing part: condensation (and subsequent precipitation) lowers volume/pressure & draws up more

Dave Dardinger

I’m glad to see this thread. I hope Willis is able to chime in a time or two. I got engaged in a discussion of skeptic theories on Lucia’s Blackboard last week and when challenged to show a skeptic theory which has scientific merit I remembered something I’d read by Willis and went looking. It was the Thermostat Hypothesis, of course, so I read his posts here and the lightbulb turned on so that now I’ve internalized the argument. Then yesterday someone linked Willis’ speech above and now here’s an entire new thread.
Frankly, whether others have come up with similar theories before or Willis is the first, this is a potential game-ender for team CAGW. They’d better come up with a good counter and soon. And one which isn’t just hand-waving, either. Frankly I don’t think they can as it’s seemed obvious to me from the beginning that there must be a mechanism to keep the climate within bounds.
The fellow I was arguing with was complaining about the theory not being able to account for entering or exiting ice ages, but I think that’s a solvable problem and really less of a problem for the thermostat hypothesis than it is for CAGW.

H.R.

The Thermostat Hypothesis made sense to me when I first read it on WUWT. It would seem to work during glaciations and interglacials. So what causes the switch between glaciations and interglacials?

H.R.

Dang it! I forgot. I’m very pleased to see this published, Willis. Congratulations!

JimF

Bravo, Willis.
I’ve thought a lot about this hypothesis since you first presented it here, and I have to liken it to the first papers encircling plate tectonics (e.g. the magnetic stripes on the sea floor, the increasing ages of rocks measured away from the mid-ocean rifts, and so on) – that is, identifying the signature of a global, long-lived process run principally by heat transfer (or density differences caused by heat content). In other words, seminal work.
I look at your Figure 1: the same process that transfers so much heat from the surface to near-space in the equatorial area of earth (Hadley cells) is repeated in more northerly and southerly areas by the Temperate cells (and maybe the mobile polar cells). The earth is rejecting quantities of heat from the sun, and transporting lots of what it accepts back to near-space where it can be got rid of easily.
CO2 has little to do with it; water is the magical ingredient. It’s the elixir of life. Imagine if Venus had oceans of H2O – it would probably be like Fiji year-round (but you’d be built like Shrek to withstand the pressure!).

Willis (and Vukcevic if you’re reading) can you please reconsider putting backgrounds on your graphs and slides? It makes it harder to read. Thanks.

Dave Dardinger

So what causes the switch between glaciations and interglacials?

One thing that strikes me is that the Theromostat Hypothesis is based on the tropics. But what happens in the polar areas? It might be that a lot of heat gets sent there in normal circumstances until… until orbital changes overcome it by a series of randomly cold winters which change the albedo which feeds back to the thermostat making it ease off which makes the poles even cooler and so forth. Of course the thermostat is a daily system, but as we know there are long-term systems like the PDO which regulate SSTs and the SST setting at a particular time will interact with the activity of the thermostat. Thus if the SST is higher, it will take less time in the morning before cumulus clouds form, decreasing solar input. But this will also mean there would be fewer thunderstorms, perhaps, and this would keep the SST higher by the next morning. Contrawise, if SSTs start out low, it will take longer for cumulus to form in the morning and there will be more evaporation and then more thunderstorms in the afternoon, cooling the surface resulting in a cool SST by morning. Of course that’s just one guess about how things might happen. Others could be imagined.

Michael Schaefer

Earth has been in one or the other kind of atmospheric equilibrium for milions of years, already. I doubt, that the engines driving the Earth’s climate to one or the other kind of equilibrium will cease to exist, only because some warmists say so. Mother Earth remains to be inherently good to us – because, otherwise, we wouldn’t be here to know.

Tom in Texas

Congrats Willis.
Love to see a post on the interaction between you and the reviewers, as per Leif recently.

R. Gates

Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
July 24, 2010 at 6:29 pm
R Gates
You are always quick to question anyone who shows that manmade global warming is wrong. But you never question the PIOMAS graph. No. Instead you come up with all kinds of poor arguments to defend it. This shows everything about you
___________________
Wow, that came out of left field. Your bitterness toward those who think the AGW hypothesis is likely correct is overpowering. Good luck with that…

R. Gates

Willis,
I would ask you to clarify what forcings can overpower or overwhelm the ability of thunderstorms to act as a thermostat. Certainly there must be limits to the range of control under your theory.

Henry chance July 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm
Great article. I am watching thermals and a rapid thunderstorm build up in the last 30 minutes. When the storm hits, it will remove a lot of heat. Wind sheers are examples of redistribution of heat.

Great. Latent heat of evaporation is released into the ‘air’ at altitude … can you ‘splain to me how it gets into ‘space’ via air that is a poor black body at best (bearing in mind effective IR emission occurring only from certain molecules like CO2 and H2O)?
(I say that the effect you describe is only secondary at best to thermal IR emission from the surface … now clouds with reflectivity, high albedo is a different story)
.

Gnomish

July 24, 2010 at 8:45 pm
Willis,
I would ask you to clarify what forcings can overpower or overwhelm the ability of thunderstorms to act as a thermostat. Certainly there must be limits to the range of control under your theory.
———————————–
If I may-
As long as this planet has 75% ocean and water in all 3 phases, there is nothing that will alter the equilibrium range which is the temperature range of liquid water.
Storage of energy for overshoot on either end is provided by phase change by ice and by ocean.
Not catastrophic bombardment by meteors, volcanic eruptions, nuclear explosions, nor the breath of babies change that.

Gnomish

Jim….
Where do you think the heat goes when vapor condenses in a cloud? How do you think it is radiated?
Check what you bear in mind.

Willis Eschenbach

First, my thanks to all for the kind comments.
Next, R. Gates raises an interesting question:
July 24, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Willis,
I would ask you to clarify what forcings can overpower or overwhelm the ability of thunderstorms to act as a thermostat. Certainly there must be limits to the range of control under your theory.

If we imagine a much cooler earth, and then mentally turn the sun up, what we will see is more and more clouds. At some point, the clouds will form thunderstorms, which will prevent the temperature from rising further. This makes for a very stable system.
Now, I would put changes to that system into two groups. First would be forcings that would “overpower or overwhelm” the system. I don’t know what those might be. The earth has seen giant meteor strikes, huge millennium long volcanic eruptions, and a host of other destabilizing events. None of these have caused more than short-term (geologically speaking) changes in the temperature. So I don’t know what it would take to make a long-term change in the temperature.
The second group would be things that might change the equilibrium temperature without overpowering or overwhelming the system. First among these would include anything that would affect cloud formation, type, or color. The obvious candidates would be changes in cosmic rays, and changing levels of various aerosols (both natural and man-made) that modify clouds.
Also in the second group would be anything affecting the average wind speed. I’m not sure what might do that, but I can see the possibility. It appears, for example, that winds were stronger during the ice ages.
Next would be anything affecting evaporation. The most obvious candidate there would be monomolecular surface films from things like ship sinkings, oil leaks, and hydrocarbon smog.
So in answer to your question, R. Gates, I don’t know the answer.