Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change

I guess they really don’t have a full handle on the science and consensus after all.

NSF Releases Online, Multimedia Package Titled, “Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change”

Reader-friendly multimedia package covers the crucial but enigmatic role of clouds on climate change, and how scientists are defining that role

Photo of clouds from an airplane over Michigan.

Clouds from an airplane over Michigan.

Credit and Larger Version

November 4, 2010

View a webcast with David Randall, professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University.

As discussions about climate change continue, one critical factor about this phenomenon has remained largely unknown to the public: the important but enigmatic role of clouds in climate change. The role of clouds is important because at any given time about 70 percent of the Earth is covered by clouds. The role of clouds is enigmatic because clouds can exert opposing forces: Some types of clouds help cool the Earth and some types of clouds help warm it. Which effect will win out as our climate continues to change? So far, no one is certain.

In order to help clear the air on clouds, the National Science Foundation is releasing an online multimedia package on the role of clouds on climate change, entitled, “Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change.” It addresses such pressing questions as, will clouds help speed or slow climate change? Why is cloud behavior so difficult to predict? And how in the world are scientists learning to project the behavior of these ephemeral, ever-changing, high-altitude phenomena?

“Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change” features:

  • a live webcast with cloud and climate expert: David Randall, director of the Center for Multiscale Modeling of Atmospheric Processes and a professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University;
  • informative, easy-to-understand texts;
  • eye-catching photos;
  • a narrated slide show;
  • dynamic animations;
  • enlightening interviews with cloud researchers; and
  • downloadable documents.

This package–which provides a wealth of information to reporters, policymakers, scientists, educators, the public and students of all levels–is posted on NSF’s website.

-NSF-

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116 thoughts on “Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change

  1. I guess the science is still not settled…warm, cold, warm, cold.
    Well if you go by our planet moving away from the sun, how can it get any warmer?

  2. There should be very interesting discussions and debates on this topic. I remember Dr. Roy Spencer said that from his initial studies, there is a negative feedback of clouds and water vapor on initial warming by man-made GHGs.

  3. I find the claim that the role of clouds remained largely unknown to the public quite funny. As a member of the public I always felt, for as long as the debate has been going, that the role of the clouds was remaining largely ignored by the alarmists. Perhaps they are finally awakening from their slumber.

  4. My thought is rather simple in that all clouds have an albedo effect. The pro AGW thought is that the net effect is positive, some clouds warm, some cool, some are neutral, depending I suppose on the relative changes in LWIR and SW which reach the surface. The idea being that the clouds increase the residence time of LWIR in the atmosphere while the vast majority of SWR continues to the surface.
    My thought is that not all photons are equall due to their relative residence time in earth’s system, both ocean and amotsphere. So a cloud that blocks 5 W/m’2 of SWR through albedo, but has a 15 W/m’2 warming effect through the GHG effect will warm the atmosphere, but do to the far longer residence time of SWR photons entering the ocean the reduction of those 5 W/m’2 reduced SWR will have a stronger long term effect which is cumlitive depending on the duration of the change in cloud cover, and certainly as Stephen Wilde expresses, their laditude, which as they shift poleward obviously effects an ever greater % of the TSI. Ans so some clouds may indeed cause a short term atmospheic warming, but a longer term ocean cooling.
    I definitely do not have the numbers to quantify the effect I am considering, primarily because I do not know the residence time of SWR photons entering the ocean vs the residence time of LWIR in the atmosphere. Any help here is appreciated.

  5. In their article on clouds, http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/clouds/question.jsp, the NSF says “many scientists say that if warming were to increase the number or kind of cooling clouds or decrease the presence of warming clouds, the current net cooling effect of clouds on the Earth’s climate would probably increase, and thereby moderate, or offset, ongoing warming“.
    Oh dear. Didn’t they read the IPCC report? “the GCMs all predict
    a positive cloud feedback
    ” (AR4 8.6.2.3 page 633). Admittedly the IPCC does go on to say “but strongly disagree on its magnitude“, but that still doesn’t allow cloud feedback to be anything but positive.

  6. david says:
    November 5, 2010 at 4:57 am
    “So a cloud that blocks 5 W/m’2 of SWR through albedo”
    is hardly a cloud.
    Fixed that for ya. Cloud top albedo is on the order of 80%. That means it reflects 80% of the light from the sun straight back out into space. That’s closer to 500 watts per square meter than it is to 5 watts. At night they reflect less than 50% of the upwelling long wave radiation back towards the surface and to make it even more unbalanced clouds tend to form in the morning and early afternoon and dissipate in the late afternoon and early evening.
    The only “mystery” is exactly how unbalanced the situation is on a global average basis but there’s no credible doubt that clouds have a large net cooling effect. There’s also no doubt that there are more clouds when it’s warmer and fewer when it is colder. So if there is any additional forcing (more surface heat) from higher CO2 level this results in more clouds which will negate the additional forcing from CO2.
    The ONLY significant greenhouse effect from CO2 is that first 100ppm or so raises the average temperature of the earth from below freezing to above freezing which activates the water cycle. Once the water cycle is active it takes over the regulation of surface temperature through negative feedback. The only thing to fear is when CO2 is not enough to keep the surface temperature above freezing. When that happens the water cycle effectively screeches to a halt and the surface gets covered with snow which also reflects 80% of the sun’s light and thus fosters even colder surface temperatures and even more snow in a vicious cycle of falling temperatures.
    Evidently the pre-industrial level of 280ppm CO2 isn’t enough to stop the brief interglacial periods from ending as for the past several millions of years the earth is largely covered by glaciers 90% of the time. One can only pray that an anthropogenic driven doubling of CO2 to 560ppm or even a quadrupling to 1100ppm is enough to indefinitely extend the Holocene interglacial. If not then human civilization is in for big trouble. Imagine glaciers two miles thick covering all land surfaces from Washington, D.C. northward and land south of that having harsh winters instead of being above freezing all year round.
    Hastening the end of the Holocene interglacial by reducing CO2 emissions is utter insanity.

  7. Watch the pea,
    ‘Cirrus clouds: These clouds are wispy and feathery, and positioned up to 20 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Cirrus clouds let much sunlight pass through them and may also trap the Earth’s heat, just as greenhouse gases do. Therefore, they have a net warming effect that helps magnify warming. ‘
    So noticeable nowadays.

  8. “The role of clouds is enigmatic because clouds can exert opposing forces: Some types of clouds help cool the Earth and some types of clouds help warm it”
    Well that certainly clears up the certain uncertainties!!!
    What we don’t know is amazing !!

  9. “Which effect will win out as our climate continues to change?”
    Before you use words like that prove to me that climate is actually “changing”. So far all you can show is that it oscillates, and that is not the same thing.

  10. “..moderate, or offset, ongoing warming”?
    Do they have a graph yet that shows the on going unstopable global warming and the current contribution of the negative offset global warming that shows a net non-positive global warming problem?
    If you have more negative ‘offset global warming’ than you have ‘global warming’ isn’t that just called, well, cooling?
    Do there people keep their beer in a warming offset device, or a cooler?

  11. Anytime a cloud comes between the sun and the earth, there is an immediate and noticeable drop in temperatures, that increases the lower a cloud is. That can only mean that the albedo-enhancing effect dominates the heat trapping effect by quite a large margin, so during the day, clouds are a negative feedback.
    When the sun isn’t shining however, clouds do keep things warmer than they would otherwise be, therefore they could be said to have a positive feedback effect at nighttime.
    Overall, given the same amount of clouds at night and day, the effect would be negative, because they are reflecting away a lot more energy than they are retaining. I’ve never noticed a rise in temperatures at nighttime when a cloud comes over as much as the drop in temperatures in the daytime.

  12. Whenever I see a straight line I know that I am looking at an artifact. When I see a feedback loop I know that I am looking at a computer programme. If nature allowed continuous looped feedbacks, the universe would have burned up billions of years before we were born.

  13. I find myself continually questioning CO2 levels in the past for three reasons. I question past estimates of CO2 because of the ubiquitous use of fires in every home as the only means of heat, which is not so now. In high population urban centers, this often meant coal fires. Two, fire suppression was also not the order of the day in our past. State-wide fires raged out of control, pumping tons of CO2 into the air. This is not the case now. Three, that these levels of CO2 emissions were not recorded in ice cores could be related to the fact that rain may have washed out these emissions prior to them migrating the long distance to areas of the globe that entrapped CO2 in ice. In addition, it seems logical to include the fact that population has steadily increased towards CO2 trapping ice. Could the increase in trapped CO2 in recent years be more a product of the encroaching population? Is it because CO2 emissions are simply closer to the ice trapping fields now than in the past? Bottom line, I take past estimates of CO2 with a rather large chunk of salt. More the size of a salt pillar.

  14. From “Prof.” J. Collins:
    “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
    From up and down, and still somehow,
    It’s cloud illusions I recall,
    I really don’t know clouds, at all. ”
    A “golden-oldie” still good today!

  15. david says:
    November 5, 2010 at 4:57 am
    “My thought is rather simple in that all clouds have an albedo effect. The pro AGW thought is that the net effect is positive, some clouds warm, some cool, some are neutral, depending I suppose on the relative changes in LWIR and SW which reach the surface. The idea being that the clouds increase the residence time of LWIR in the atmosphere while the vast majority of SWR continues to the surface.
    My thought is that not all photons are equall due to their relative residence time in earth’s system, both ocean and amotsphere. So a cloud that blocks 5 W/m’2 of SWR through albedo, but has a 15 W/m’2 warming effect through the GHG effect will warm the atmosphere, but do to the far longer residence time of SWR photons entering the ocean the reduction of those 5 W/m’2 reduced SWR will have a stronger long term effect which is cumlitive depending on the duration of the change in cloud cover, and certainly as Stephen Wilde expresses, their laditude, which as they shift poleward obviously effects an ever greater % of the TSI. Ans so some clouds may indeed cause a short term atmospheic warming, but a longer term ocean cooling.
    I definitely do not have the numbers to quantify the effect I am considering, primarily because I do not know the residence time of SWR photons entering the ocean vs the residence time of LWIR in the atmosphere. Any help here is appreciated.”
    Photons have practically no residence time anywhere. They travel with the speed of light, whether they are “short wave” (UV or optical) or “long wave”.
    The clouds absorb the upward moving long wave radiation, and reemit long wave radiation back to the earths surface, where it is absorbed and reemitted. The tops of clouds will also emit IR radiation upward.
    The tops of clouds reflect optical wave length radiation coming from the sun, back into space. The relative amounts of radiation sent back to space, versus sent back to the ground determine the effects of clouds, and are different for upper level and lower level clouds.
    I would not recommend Stephen Wilde as a source. He is not a scientist of any sort, he is a solicitor who dabbles in weather, and passes himself off as a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, which he is not.
    Why not go the the National Science Foundation cloud web site which is the subject of this post?

  16. “Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change”
    I disagree, Volcanos are currently the Wild Card of Climate Change, Clouds just represent a giant gap in human knowledge and understanding of Earth’s climate system…

  17. So we don’t know how the oceans affect the climate (at least the models don’t include the oceans) and we don’t know how clouds really affect the climate either, whether warming causes more clouds or whether less clouds causes the warming (which is cause and which is effect), but we know what the climate is going to be in 20, 30, 50 or 100 years? Really?

  18. Dave Springer says:
    November 5, 2010 at 5:57 am
    “There’s also no doubt that there are more clouds when it’s warmer and fewer when it is colder.”
    I need to qualify that, Dave.
    It’s certainly true locally (after a short period of adjustment when perversely the opposite applies as the system plays catch up with the temperature change) and perhaps regionally, but globally ? There’s the rub.
    The evidence from the Earthshine project is that cloud quantities decreased during the recent warming spell and are now increasing with the cessation of warming and perhaps beginning of cooling. Likewise albedo.
    http://bbso.njit.edu/Research/EarthShine/literature/Palle_etal_2006_EOS.pdf
    So how could that be ? Strange how so many observations are turning out to have the reverse sign from standard expectations isn’t it ?
    I would explain it by reference to the shifting of the jet streams and thus the associated cloud bands latitudinally.
    At the same time as the albedo and cloudiness trends reversed in the late 90s I noted that the jets were starting to shift back equatorwards.
    So my bet is that in shifting equatorward the cloud bands were stretched along a greater global circumference, increasing the length of the air mass boundaries and allowing more air mass mixing to produce more clouds.
    Additionally the equatorward shift makes the clouds more reflective since they block higher intensity insolation.
    That is what primarily causes global albedo changes and thereby changes the amount of solar shortwave able to penetrate the oceans.

  19. Considering the general ability of these people to determine cause and effect on anything else, how are they possibly going to determine the long term impact of clouds on climate.
    In all likelyhood the long term effect is neutral as clouds are generally a response. This is especially not surprising considering the little to no impact that anthropogenic CO2 has on long term climate.
    How can they figure clouds out if CO2 confuses them?
    Theinconvenientskeptic.com

  20. Any ‘proper’ cloud reflects most of the sunlight back out into space. As this radiation never actually gets to the surface clouds by definition cool the Earth. Do we have decent records of Earth albedo from projects such as Earthshine and the many satellites we have orbiting us?

  21. Mike Jonas says:
    November 5, 2010 at 5:10 am
    “In their article on clouds, http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/clouds/question.jsp, the NSF says “many scientists say that if warming were to increase the number or kind of cooling clouds or decrease the presence of warming clouds, the current net cooling effect of clouds on the Earth’s climate would probably increase, and thereby moderate, or offset, ongoing warming“.
    “Oh dear. Didn’t they read the IPCC report? “the GCMs all predict
    a positive cloud feedback” (AR4 8.6.2.3 page 633). Admittedly the IPCC does go on to say “but strongly disagree on its magnitude“, but that still doesn’t allow cloud feedback to be anything but positive.”
    It is very funny, indeed.
    Maybe one day they will understand that they need to go back to school, learning about closed feedback loops. Maybe they will be forced to learn about Laplace transformations? One can only hope.
    Maybe they could ask Roy Spencer if he can be their teacher?
    But that would of course lead to a world wide acknowledgement that we would all be better off spending time on soft sciences as a hobby, and learning hard science at school.
    That would be very bad for the post modern types.

  22. Brian M. Flynn says:
    November 5, 2010 at 6:38 am
    From “Prof.” J. Collins:
    “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
    From up and down, and still somehow,
    It’s cloud illusions I recall,
    I really don’t know clouds, at all. ”
    A “golden-oldie” still good today!
    =======================================================
    Dang! I had the tune in my head but just couldn’t remember all the words! Beautiful song! Thanks!

  23. “I would not recommend Stephen Wilde as a source. He is not a scientist of any sort, he is a solicitor who dabbles in weather, and passes himself off as a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society, which he is not.”
    I have a membership card referring to me as a Fellow and a letter from the Chief Executive confirming that I may use the title Fellow on an honourary basis because I have been a member of the Society since 1968. I am not entitled to use the designation FRMetS.
    All that has been disclosed previously as has my personal backround.
    I do not claim to be a ‘source’.
    I do claim the status of an educated amateur with a lifelong interest in the subject. My purpose is to try and reconcile the conflicting sources with real world observations and basic physics.
    In the process of refinement I make mistakes but they are being corrected as I go along so that my position is becoming increasingly robust and in accordance with new observations.
    I have created the only hypothesis that anticipated and accounts for the new data reported by Joanna Haigh.

  24. “Photons have practically no residence time anywhere. They travel with the speed of light, whether they are “short wave” (UV or optical) or “long wave”.”
    The above is a standard diversionary tactic when inconvenient questions are raised. It limits the discussion to radiative physics which is not sufficient on its own to explain what goes on within the Earth system.
    Those inconvenient questions may mention photons but in reality as in this case the question relates to the heat generated when those photons interact with elements of the Earth system.
    Any honest responder to the question would understand that and respond appropriately. This responder did not so I invite others to make their own judgement.
    David’s question was sensible and understandable despite the slight error of terminology. I have done my best to answer it properly in another thread.

  25. mrpkw says:
    November 5, 2010 at 6:00 am
    “The role of clouds is enigmatic because clouds can exert opposing forces: Some types of clouds help cool the Earth and some types of clouds help warm it”
    Well that certainly clears up the certain uncertainties!!!
    What we don’t know is amazing !!
    ==========================
    Indeed. I am endlessly amazed by the same thing. They don’t know if clouds warm or cool, but the models keep merrily chugging away.
    It took decades of intense effort to program chess playing computers that can outplay humans – this for a game whose rules are few, unequivocal, and completely known.
    Constructing climate models with current knowledge, and relying on them, is sort of like programming a computer to play chess, when the programmers don’t know how half the pieces move, or can’t even agree whether a rook is worth more or less than a pawn – and then using the program to predict the outcome of a game or evaluate the consequences of a particular move. CO2-based climate science seems to me like the legitimate heir of ancient astrology.

  26. The two things I don’t get about clouds:
    1) How can we have more water vapor and fewer clouds?
    2) If clouds are such a big deal for the climate, why don’t we address them through irrigation and forest management policy rather than CO2 controls?

  27. Mike Jonas says:
    November 5, 2010 at 5:10 am
    Oh dear. Didn’t they read the IPCC report? “the GCMs all predict
    a positive cloud feedback” (AR4 8.6.2.3 page 633).
    ++++++++++++
    Mike they predict positive feedbacks because they were programmed to give positive feedbacks. IPCC reports reflect prior thinking. Priore to 2007 it was thought that the net effect was positive. Prior to that, IPCC reports say nearly nothing about clouds, in fact about water at all, some of them. I recall one explanation offered for the absence of H2O in the modelling was, “We can’t do anything about it anyway. We can do something about CO2.” Huh.
    It is important to separate models from the real world. GIGO. Of course a model that is programmed to give positive feedback for all clouds gives positive feedbacks for all clouds. There is little point citing such model outputs as evidence for all clouds having positive feedbacks. Such a citation is itself a positive feedback. As Dyson says, people have started believing their models. They literally believe that reality works the way their model works.
    Shoghi Effendi described a chart is “an inaccurate representation of a partially understood truth”. A model is a chart on steroids.

  28. The ocean of air we live at the bottom of is filled with moisture, and the interchange between clouds of water, clouds of ice, haze and humidity and has apparently been nearly ignored by our AGW promotion industry. How strange.

  29. Just a bit off topic, but GCMs predict increase of tropospheric humidity as a side effect of intensified greenhouse warming. There is just one detail, that in reality, the humidity does not increase, but rather decrease or remains constant.
    Relative humidity
    http://climate4you.com/images/NOAA%20ESRL%20AtmospericRelativeHumidity%20GlobalMonthlyTempSince1948%20With37monthRunningAverage.gif
    Absolute humidity
    http://climate4you.com/images/NOAA%20ESRL%20AtmospericSpecificHumidity%20GlobalMonthlyTempSince1948%20With37monthRunningAverage.gif
    All those 3-7 deg C@2100 projections are based on 1) attributing the “greenhouse effect” predominant role in warming, and 3) predicting those curves going up.

  30. This type of amazing discovery has been discussed on WUWT for the several years that I’ve been coming here. I believe I know what is going oTn. The “concensus” is making these late discoveries, taking credit for them and gradually dovetailing into the arguments that sceptics of CAGW have been making since the beginning. And now a word about the cloud feedback issue to settle this nonsense:
    The net effect of clouds – all kinds- is to reduce the warming effect of the sun through albedo. Check it out – on a hot day, when a cloud passes over, you can feel a significant cooling. Let us semi-quantify the effect instead of vaguely talking about IR going back up and being partly reflected back down. If the cloud reflects, say 50% of the sun’s rays coming in, then the sun’s IR reaching the earth’s surface is reduced. Now some of this reduced IR bounces back up to the base of the cloud where a fair percentage (I said semi-quant!) passes through and a fraction of the initial sun’s IR is reflected back which is partly re-reflected and part of it goes through the cloud again…. If you lost half of the incoming IR, these bits bouncing around are not going to make an increased IR heating under the cloud.
    Now if I am wrong about this, I would like a semiquant explanation of the phenomenon instead of …sometimes up and sometimes down.

  31. Dave Springer and paulhan make a lot of sense.
    I think most people have observed that low clouds in daylight hours reduce the temperature and keep it warmer at night. Both by highly measurable amounts. Why, since clouds have such a greater effect on temperature then CO2, have not the wonderful supercomputers many Climate Scientists have at their disposal been put to work to try to determine whether the net effect is positive or negative. Lots of variables involved of course but what are supercomputers for? Maybe this has been studied closely and if so I’d appreciate being pointed in the right direction but all I’ve seen is generalizations without facts and figures.

  32. “How can we have more water vapor and fewer clouds?”
    When the jet streams shift poleward as they do when the troposphere warms the jet streams and their cloud bands extend around a reduced global circumference as they move towards the poles. Thus a shorter length for the air mass boundaries, less air mass mixing and less clouds generated.
    So a warmer troposphere but less clouds and lower albedo exactly as per observations
    http://bbso.njit.edu/Research/EarthShine/literature/Palle_etal_2006_EOS.pdf
    Now in reverse as it happens 🙂

  33. James Sexton says:
    November 5, 2010 at 7:15 am
    “Hey, wasn’t that J. Mitchell?”
    You are correct sir about the lyrics! From wikipedia: “”Both Sides, Now” is a single by Joni Mitchell. … Judy Collins made the first commercially released recording of the song in 1968, shortly after Mitchell wrote it, which reached #8 on the U.S. pop singles charts and won a 1968 Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance.” Provenance remains important!
    “Thanks for the memories”.

  34. The uncertainty caused by clouds is already factored into the IPCC estimates of of probable range of temperature raise.
    From http://www.nsf.gov/news/special_reports/clouds/question.jsp
    CLOUD CLOUT AND DOUBT
    The IPCC reported in 2007 that it projects the Earth’s average temperature to be about 1.8 to 4 degrees Celsius higher by the end of the century than it was in 1900–a rapid rate of increase compared to observed rates of increase in the Earth’s recent history. Scientists could probably narrow down the Earth’s projected temperature range further if they better understood the relationships between clouds and climate as well as other factors, such as the amount of greenhouse gases that will be pumped into the atmosphere by 2100.
    Most scientists doubt that the net cooling effect of clouds will ever be large enough to completely offset ongoing warming. But many scientists say that if warming were to increase the number or kind of cooling clouds or decrease the presence of warming clouds, the current net cooling effect of clouds on the Earth’s climate would probably increase, and thereby moderate, or offset, ongoing warming.
    If warming were to continue, the net cooling effect of clouds would increase and, in a negative feedback loop, perpetuate the moderating force on ongoing warming provided by clouds. The result: The Earth’s end-of-the-century temperature may be pulled down toward the lower end of its predicted range.
    But, if on the other hand, warming were to increase the number or kind of warming clouds or decrease the presence of cooling clouds, scientists say the current net cooling effect of clouds on the Earth’s climate would probably decrease; and an important moderating force on ongoing warming would thereby diminish. The result: The Earth’s end-of-the-century temperature may be pushed up towards the upper end of its predicted range.
    This resulting rise in temperature would, in a positive feedback loop, tend to promote the formation of even more warming clouds or further reduce the presence of cooling clouds. Either way, temperatures would rise even higher. This temperature increase would tend to further increase the presence of warming clouds or decrease the presence of cooling clouds, and thereby perpetuate the warming cycle.

  35. I’m still stuck on the question: Why are we relying on models for anything we can reasonably start actually measuring? Experiments trump theory.
    A satellite can already gather nice information about where clouds are, and what types of clouds they are, and even what the water content of said cloud is. Pair this with a series of radiation detectors to cover the bulk of the spectrum and measure the darn energy balance. Separate things into near-identical gridcells (read: over ocean) andset up control groups etc.
    This patch was at exactly 30.0C and had no clouds, this patch was also at 30.0C and had Cirrus clouds for 17% of the day, go.

  36. DISGUSTING.
    They roll out stuff that Atmospheric Physicists have know about for more than thirty years – and announce it like it was some kind of revelation.
    I am DISGUSTED by what is clearly just “gravy train science”.
    This is like Hollywood or the music industry re-issues of “25th Anniversary Editions” of classic albums of movies!
    Academic Science is now purely a BUSINESS. A damned gravy train. If Colorado State were Hollywood or the music industry, legitimately out to make a profit, then this kind of thing woudl be acceptable.
    Since when did it become acceptable for our Universities to simply regurgitate well know facts trumped up as something new. Did they “remaster” the orginial text books? Have they enhanced the image quality with new rendering of the details in high definition?
    This is most definitely NOT science.
    It reminds me of the outright plagarism in the recent tree ring textbook where there was no reference to the original text and graphics.
    Of course, the climb down for certain “Climate Scientists” is going to be challenging – now that everyone knows of the completely false representation of “Climate Change” by the media, politicians and gravy train seeking academics! I guess they can hardly admit that the uncertainty about the impact of clouds is as old as the hills and as old as climate science itself!
    Now if only all these gravy train seeking liars can divert the Billions in research funding and industry sponsorship of their various departments…..towards the CLOUDS!
    CLOUDS is the new BLACK.
    DISGUSTING

  37. Surely volcanoes are the wild card? The role of clouds is not understood but that does not mean it is not consistent.

  38. @vboring:
    > The two things I don’t get about clouds:
    > 1) How can we have more water vapor and fewer clouds?
    > 2) If clouds are such a big deal for the climate, why don’t we
    > address them through irrigation and forest management policy
    > rather than CO2 controls?
    1) Clouds are formed when air containing water vapor is cooled below a critical temperature called the “dew point”. In the troposphere, where most clouds form, the temperature decreases approx 6C/km as water-laden air rises from the ground (so-called “lapse rate”).
    So, when you look up at the bottom of the cloud layer, you’re not looking a boundary which separates “wet air” from “dry” air. Instead, you’re looking at the temperature isocline where the dew point has been reached and, voila!, the cloud appears. The water vapor content of the air immediately below the cloud is the same as in the cloud. It’s just not cold enough to make the cloud visible.
    2) We obviously need more legislation to control these pesky clouds!
    :-]

  39. Nuke says:
    November 5, 2010 at 6:48 am

    So we don’t know how the oceans affect the climate (at least the models don’t include the oceans) and we don’t know how clouds really affect the climate either, whether warming causes more clouds or whether less clouds causes the warming (which is cause and which is effect), but we know what the climate is going to be in 20, 30, 50 or 100 years? Really?

    May I make just a few minor adjustments?
    …but we know what the climate models are going to say in 20, 30, 50 or 100 years?
    We should.

  40. Alan S. Blue says:
    November 5, 2010 at 8:04 am

    I’m still stuck on the question: Why are we relying on models for anything we can reasonably start actually measuring? Experiments trump theory.

    True, but computers are just so stinkin’ addictive!

  41. Jason says:
    November 5, 2010 at 8:21 am
    Surely volcanoes are the wild card?
    ======================
    I sometimes wonder if the deck of cards used in the climate game contains anything other than Jokers.

  42. This announcement seems more like the “beep-beep-beep” of the NSF slowly backing away from its AGW stance and likely shifting to another position. Biodiversity, anyone?

  43. Clouds: Zillions of tons of WATER floating against the HOLY LAW OF GRAVITATION and we don’t even surprise ourselves!, why do they float over? why do they defy gravity and why do they, after loosing its charges fall down as RAIN, HAIL OR SNOW and we do not know why?. Have we been condemned to not knowing or rather to belief in the abstruse explanation rendered by the voodoo science’s Shamans?
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/40514613/Unified-Field-Explained-8

  44. @Springer:
    > Cloud top albedo is on the order of 80%. That means it reflects 80% of the
    > light from the sun straight back out into space. That’s closer to 500 watts
    > per square meter than it is to 5 watts.
    Excellent comments, Dave Springer! But a minor quibble: since the TSI averages around 1366w/m2 shouldn’t that be 1366 x .80 = 1092.8 watts. (Or perhaps you factored in 45% cloud cover into the equation to get the 500 watts?)

  45. I’ve engaged the Real Climate folks about this in the past, & Gavin managed to scrub all of my posts! Coward. No tolerance for honest scientific discussion.
    It appears that the impacts of cloud formation on climate are very much unknown (i.e. “there is no consensus”). Even measuring “cloud cover” is daunting with today’s instruments!
    This presentation by Dr. Joel Norris of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is excellent, it is highly detailed in terms of the physics & math (he presented this colloquium to a stadium full of Fermilab PhD physicists, including Nobel-laureate Leon Lederman).
    Dr. Norris discusses height of clouds, albedo, positive vs. negative forcing etc.
    Please watch, and download his powerpoint slides.
    http://vmsstreamer1.fnal.gov/VMS_Site_03/Lectures/Colloquium/100512Norris/index.htm

  46. Randall @20:10: “Climate is defined as time averages over 30 years…” and anything less is just weather.
    So for the sake of discussion, given that satellite and other modern methods of data collection began in, say 1970, that means the accumulated data (such as it is) for climate research today amounts to one data point on this time scale. And one data point a trend doesn’t make…
    But they’ll have data point No. 2 in 2030 and I’ll be holding my breath until then… which has the added benefit of lowering my carbon footprint [sarc/off].

  47. If the cloud cover is included in many AGW models, they deal with them on a daily basis, that is, they do not consider the persistence of clouds. When a cloud is formed during the day, it may condense and disperse at night, but equally it may persist for several days.
    One day’s cloud production, reducing the temperature in that first day in a region, may go on to affect perhaps several subsequent days elsewhere. Is this not an extended inter-day and geographically widespread negative feedback effect?

  48. “It addresses such pressing questions as, will clouds help speed or slow climate change?”
    Notice they say ‘slow,’ not prevent. Their bias is hanging out of their drawers.
    “Why is cloud behavior so difficult to predict?”
    Because “scientists” know diddley-squat about clouds, having instead spent billions on cloudless Wank-O-Matic climate models, building the attic without building the foundation.
    “And how in the world are scientists learning to project the behavior of these ephemeral, ever-changing, high-altitude phenomena?”
    Don’t tell me: By building Wank-O-Matic cloud models.

  49. Dr Roy Spencer
    “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.”
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2010/04/the-great-global-warming-blunder-how-mother-nature-fooled-the-world%e2%80%99s-top-climate-scientists/

  50. Jimbo said:
    “The issue is one of causation. They have not accounted for cloud changes causing temperature changes.”
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2010/04/the-great-global-warming-blunder-how-mother-nature-fooled-the-world%e2%80%99s-top-climate-scientists/
    Nor have they considered that the cloud quantity changes might themselves be caused by reverse sign ozone reactions in the mesosphere (cooling when the sun is active and vice versa) altering the atmospheric heights, shifting the jets and their cloud bands and thereby altering albedo.

  51. Fernando (in Brazil) says:
    November 5, 2010 at 9:10 am

    How much water is stored in a cloud? ( kg de water/m^3)

    I beg everybody’s forgiveness for the source, but Wikipedia has a great dissussion here about clouds and their water content. It all depends on the type of cloud.

  52. NSF? Really? Maybe Roy Spencer hasn’t just been pounding his head against the wall in vain on this subject then.

  53. From the article – “Cirrus clouds: These clouds are wispy and feathery, and positioned up to 20 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. Cirrus clouds let much sunlight pass through them and may also trap the Earth’s heat, just as greenhouse gases do. ”
    After 20 years, why haven’t they ever sent up some high altitude balloons with sensors and just measured it? Cannot get off the computer?
    And
    “The scientific community is uncertain about how the effects of clouds will change in the future,” says Hugh Morrison, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colo.
    Why hasn’t the NSF put out press releases countering the “Science is settled” theme?
    Did anyone see any talk about the energy transfer of heat from the surface to high altitude, as so elegantly written by Ellis?

  54. Its not what you know its what you don’t know that get you. The climate scientist have been saying for a long time that they understand the greenhouse effect from CO2 and other trace gases. They probably do and since these greenhouse gases are relatively well mixed in the atmoshpere, their global circulation models probably do a good job of predicting their greenhouse gas warming. However, the role of water vapor is frought with assumptions. It is assumed that relative humidity stays constant if it warms, the amount of water in the atmosphere changes all the time and by region, even at the same lattitude, and then they can form clouds which in turn may warm or cool the surface. It’s pretty clear that a lot of people have known for a long time that the role of water vapor and aerosols and clouds in the atmosphere was very poorly undertood, yet the IPCC could come of with a 90% certainty range for 2-6C warming over the next century. If their is fraud in climate science, it is the “90% certainty” of warming over the next century when so many people knew some of the effects of the most basis components in the atmosphere were so unknown.

  55. All this talk of clouds not being understood. What is to not understand ?
    All clouds of any type, at any height anywhere on earth, at any time, ALWAYS reduce the amount of primary solar radiation energy that reaches the surface. The same is true of just water vapor itself; even in the absence of any clouds.
    More WATER in any form in the atmosphere ALWAYS reduces the amount of solar energy that gets absorbed by the earth; no matter what.
    When climatists start talking about positive cloud feedback; they immediately bring up last night’s balmy weather and the high clouds; And they claim that the higher the clouds are the more they warm the ground, and vice versa. So Noctilucent clouds are really are doing a job on us; keeping us warm.
    The weather was balmy last night because it was even warmer during the day, and humid too, so there was plenty of water vapor in the air. And when the sun went down and that warm moist air rose; it eventually reached the dew point and formed clouds; yes nucleation conditions, will affect just how much and how quickly clouds form; and as it continues to cool at night you will get more of those clouds up high. Those high clouds at night are the result of the balmy weather conditions later in the daytime; they are not the cause of those conditions at the surface.
    And the question is not:- do clouds at night cool or warm the planet ? The question is:- Over some meaningful climate time scale; does an increased amount of cloud cover make earth warmer or does it make it colder? And bear in mind, that MORE clouds ALWAYS means LESS solar energy being absorbed by the earth.
    The sunlight lost to cloud reflectance is a no-brainer; a total loss to space. But the H2O vapor, and liquid, and solid H2O clouds ALL absorb additional solar radiation energy; primarily in the 0.75 to 4.0 micron wavelength range where about 45% of total sun energy resides. And the water absorption spectrum looks like it could be removing up to as much as half of that. I wouldn’t say more than 20% of sunlight.
    That solar energy that is absorbed by the H2O in the atmosphere, warms the atmosphere. In that sense it is quite indistinguishable from the effect of LWIR radiation emitted from the ground. Regardless of GHG species, the net result is to warm the atmosphere. That warmed atmosphere then radiates isotropically, so an average about half can return to the surface, and the other half is lost to space. And don’t forget, whether going up or going down; there will be a cascade of multiple re-absorptions, and reheatings, and re-radiations from that warmed atmosphere; but only half of it should reach the surface.
    And when the atmopsheric downward LWIR thermal radiation reahces the surface IT DOES NOT simply add to the original solar spectrum energy. They are 20 times apart in spectral wavelength, and they DO NOT have comparable effects on the surface. The solar energy propagates tens to hundreds of metres deep (in the ocean), the LWIR propagates tens of microns into the ocean surface; where it promotes prompt evaporation. So how much of that energy is actually re-absorbed in the ocean ?
    In any case the original solar part of it, is a net loss to the planet, since without the water all of it would reach the surface; but with the water, only half will (roughly). < That's half of the energy that got absorbed by the atmosphere; not half of total solar.
    The sun always illuminates half of the earth surface; actually slightly more than half due to atmospheric refraction which adds at least one degree at each end of the day. When the lower limb of the sun touches the horizon off Waikiki beach in the evening, the sun is already completely below the geometrical horizon. Well half is good enough. The other (slightly less than half) has no sunlight.
    Anybody who believes that a cloud blocks more outgoing energy during the shortened night, than it blocks incoming sunlight during the lengthened day; just clearly doesn't understand simple geometry; nor the laws of geometrical optics.
    The FEEDBACK question is very simple. Does a 1% increase in mean global cloud coverage from say 50% to 51%; ( lets say we just average that over a full one year trip around the sun; to get all the nuances), cause the earth to gain energy, or to lose energy ?
    To believe it could cause the earth to gain energy; knowing that it absolutely MUST LOSE solar energy; is just plain idiotic.
    I don't need any supercomputers to tell me that just can't happen.
    There's a handful of seminal papers that between them point to what is wrong with climate science.
    1/ SCIENCE July-7, 2007 Frank Wentz (RSS, Santa Rosa CA) et al. "How much More Rain will Global Warming Bring ?"
    Their MEASURED results say that a one deg C increase in mean global surface Temperature causes a 7% increase, in total global evaporation, total atmospheric water content, and total global precipitation. Arguably the latter must be accompanied by about a 7% increase in precipitable clouds. This is a simply huge negative feedback cooling effect. (Don't for get the astonomical amount of latent heat that is conveyed to the upper atmosphere along with that water vapor, during the evaporation, and the dumping of that heat to the upper atmosphere during the precipitation portion.)
    2/ Geophysical Research Letters (I think) Jan 2001. John Christy et al. A report on results from oceanic buoys of SIMULTANEOUS oceanic near surface water temperatures, and near surface atmospheric temperatures. Over about 20 years of data gathering, the warming of the one metre depth water Temperatures was about 40% greater than the warming of the + 3 metre high atmospheric Temperatures. BUT most importantly; they found that the water Temperatures, and the air Temperatures ARE NOT CORRELATED ! Why the hell would anyone expect them to be, with ocean currents of a few knots, and wind speeds in multi tens of knots.
    SO WHAT. Well for one thing, it means the vast amount of global temperatures data taken from the 70% of the earth's surface prior to about 1980 by reading water temperatures; is all bogus as a measure of lower tropospheric air temepratures to integrate with land station readings.
    And since they aren't correlated; the historic lower air temperatures are not recoverable. So most of that HADCrut global temeprature data, is pure garbage before about 1980.
    Also, you can go back to the exact same GPS global co-ordinates, you were at six months ago; and find yourself in totally different water from that you measured previously.
    So (a), I don't believe their historic measured temperatures data; and (b) I don't believe their GCM cloud models; other than that; those chaps are doing one hell of a job !
    I presume that if anybody had peer reviewed research published that refutes either Wentz et al, or Christy et al, we would all sure have heard about it.

  56. Henrik Svensmark: “The bottom line seems to be that instead of thinking of clouds as something being a result of the climate, it actually (is?…garbled word) sort of upside down. It is that the climate is the result of changes in the clouds.”
    From Henrik Svensmark on Global Warming (part 1).
    From “The Chilling Stars”, p. 67: “Taken altogether, clouds are strong coolers. The exceptions are thin clouds, which have an overall warming effect…The most efficient coolers…are thick clouds at middle altitudes, but they occur over only about 7 per cent of the Earth at any one time.
    Covering nearly four times as much of the surface are the low-level clouds. They account for 60 per cent of the total cooling….
    Overall, the clouds of the world cut the warming effect of the incoming sunshine by 8 per cent. If nothing else changed, removing this huge parasol would raise the planet’s mean temperature by about 10 degrees Celsius. Conversely, an increase in the low clouds by only a few per cent would chill the world noticeably.”
    I leave it to the actual scientists to argue the figures he uses, the book did not give specific references.
    But, although anecdotal, I go along with Svensmark and other posters in this thread. If you are outside on a 95 degree day working under the blazing sun and a cloud covers the sun, you can immediately feel the cooling effect. If you go outside on a 15 degree day with the sun shining brightly and clouds block out the sun, you can still feel the effect, no matter how bundled up you are.
    So what happens if the clouds increase worldwide for many many (hundreds, thousands?) years at a time due to decreased solar activity, increased cosmic rays as a result, or whatever the reason??? Just like that, LIA, or even more drastically, real live ice age. Do the computer modelers of the AGW stripe take that into account? I’m sure they have ready explanations why that is stupid. My response? KISS

  57. “It addresses such pressing questions as, will clouds help speed or slow climate change?”
    I’m a simple man, without any scientific training. However, to my classically-educated mind, the above question seems nonsensical. Or, at the least, meaningless. Speed or slow climate change? Well, let’s see. Climate is always changing. The phrase climate change, almost by definition, is redundant. Clouds are a variable within the climate system, not some kind of artificial external forcing.
    It would be like asking, “will a vehicle’s accelerator help speed or slow a moving vehicle?”
    Uhh, yes. Both.
    So as it is with this question, “will clouds help speed or slow climate change?”
    Uhh, yes. Both.
    I’m getting really tired of the patently false premise that “climate change” is somehow abnormal. Where am I going wrong? Or, am I simply picking nits?

  58. Olen says:
    November 5, 2010 at 11:45 am
    Are clouds the new CO2.?

    That’s what the Global Warmers/Climate Changers/Climate disrupters/Gaia believers want us to believe, but common sense, tells everybody that it is the contrary.
    The fact is that we are living in times which will be recorded in future history as a Dark Age. We don’t know it because we have taught to believe in Names and Tags: “That is called WATER, baby, water,…you drink water”, nobody told us we can make water, for example, from protons and ozone, nobody ever told us, except traditional knowledge, that everything can originate from two opposite charges, and that reality and the knowledge of it, it is not an inextricable entanglement of invented by “post normal scientists” Ghosts: like antimatter, black sucking holes, mysterious strings and infinite
    dimensions, etc. something than can only be grasped BY THE HOLY “THEM”, the Shamans of this Era of Darkness. However we can free ourselves from such a servitude by not paying any time more respect to such a witchcraft; we are now at the Apocalypse, at the time of revelation (apocalypse in Greek) :
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/40514613/Unified-Field-Explained-8

  59. Anthony, this statement doesn’t jibe with what I have seen, so I hope you don’t mind me asking if you actually meant to says this:

    The role of clouds is important because at any given time about 70 percent of the Earth is covered by clouds.

    I have simply never seen any image of the Earth that shows 70% overall cloud coverage, nor even over 50%.
    Can you clarify this? Are you including wispy high, thin clouds that don’t show up on satellite photos?

  60. Anthony Watts has written in some detail about the “Urban Heat Island” effect. In fact bricks and concrete are just two types of mud stone (sedimentary). In aired regions throughout the globe large rocks (hundreds of meters) are exposed to blistering sun. Most of these rocks are both darker and denser than cement or brick. There is anecdotal evidence that these rocks act as super heat capacitors. I know of no rigorous study one way or the other. Rocks absorb visible light and radiate infra red. We assume that given no other forcings but the sun and the rocks ability to radiate that the rock would reach thermal equilibrium at 0 degrees Fahrenheit. That would require the rock to completely radiate all the excess heat it picked up at night. My guess is that different rocks absorb and radiate differently. Remember they would be absorbing different radiation than they would be radiating. While the rocks have been there for millions of years this balance would be significantly affected by even a slight change in cloud cover. I’m not a scientist; but, I don’t see how you can separate the effect of clouds from the thermal characteristics of rocks. Furthermore is all of the warming (33 C) due to GHG? Could large rocks coming to equilibrium account for some of that “lost heat” I keep hearing about? I just don’t know.
    Has anybody considered a simple experiment? Get slabs of various rocks. Expose them to sunlight. Measure the ambient temperature, the rocks temperature and the incident sun light (perpendicular to the face of the rock slab). After a year see if the rocks average temperature was the same as the ambient average.

  61. I apologize to the moderators in advance. I realize it is cheesy to just link to some lame YouTube song…but as I was reading through all these comments this song kept playing in my head:

  62. Clouds, pfft, stuff without firm substance, bwahahaha.
    The true wild card is the ice and all that other white stuff on the ground. Brrrrr.
    T’ink ’bout it.
    What do we get with global warming, but less cold therefore snow and ice.
    Now what do we get with less snow and ice but more greenery stuff that produce oxygen while sucking up all over abundance of them truly horribly evil carbon dioxide molecules.
    But who’d be so dumb to model nature as pretty awesome at being able to self balance itself like a proper balanced system that is never at balance but always is trying to balance itself so to speak.

  63. DitelHead says:
    November 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm
    re; do rocks heat up
    At some depth they attain the average annual temperature. On the moon it’s a depth of about 1 meter. On the earth it’s the same for impermeable rock but somewhat deeper where substantial amounts of water can penetrate. This is critical to know for those considering using earth-berm and other thermal mass strategies to assist in heating and/or cooling. I happen to live in a sweet spot for leveraging thermal mass inertia -the average rock/soil temperature at a depth of 3 or more feet is a constant 72F here (south central Texas) which is about the perfect year-round indoor temperature.

  64. feet2thefire says:
    November 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm
    “I have simply never seen any image of the Earth that shows 70% overall cloud coverage, nor even over 50%.”
    70% is a direct quote from NASA:
    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/earthandsun/icesat_light.html

    Everyone knows what a cloud looks like, but scientists need to know what percentage of clouds cover the Earth everyday, in order to make their computer climate models and weather forecast computer models work better. ICESat has provided the most accurate figure to date, and tells us that 70 percent of the world is cloud covered. Previous estimates ranged from 50 to 75 percent.
    Image to right: ICESat Studies the World’s Clouds: ICESat has helped NASA scientists get an accurate picture of the world’s cloud cover. ICESat measurements show that 70% of the world is cloud covered ICESat’s assessment is arguably the most accurate to date. Pictured here are Cumulus clouds. Click on image to enlarge. Credit: NOAA/Historic NWS Collection

  65. DitelHead says:
    November 5, 2010 at 12:27 pm
    It seems that post normal science only deals with only parts of the spectrum, like dermatologists who only deal with the skin and forget the rest of the whole body.
    The all inclusive and much more simple view is absolutely lacking, however either we ignore it or we are afraid of being anathematized by the settled science. An exhausted Weltanschauung is dying to be replaced by the one known from old.
    Buy more popcorn!

  66. nofate says:
    November 5, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Henrik Svensmark: “The bottom line seems to be that instead of thinking of clouds as something being a result of the climate, it actually (is?…garbled word) sort of upside down. It is that the climate is the result of changes in the clouds.”

    Keep in mind the earth without greenhouse gases would have an average temperature of 5F. If there were no ocean and with current concentration of CO2 the average temperature would be 145F. The water cycle (when active, i.e. a liquid global ocean with average temperature above freezing) caps how warm it can get by working as a heat engine to pump heat from the surface into the atmosphere and drive a heat exchanger that removes excess heat from the topics and radiates it out at the poles. On top of that is cloud reflectivity which can reflect up to 80% of the incoming energy from the sun directly back out into space and which cover some 70% of the surface on average. The water cycle (liquid and vapor anyhow) has a negative feedback. Surface heat drives evaporation which forms clouds which shade the surface and reduce evaporation which reduces cloud cover.
    Snow and ice are the things to fear because snow has a positive feedback – snow cover reflects up to 80% of the sun’s energy thus cooling the surface and making conditions favorable for the snow cover to continue growing in extent and longevity eventually reaching a tipping point (last few million years anyhow) which ends the short (15,000yr) interglacial periods and plunges the earth back into a long (120,000yr) glacial epic.
    The key role that CO2 plays is helping to warm the earth from below freezing to above freezing. Below freezing the water cycle is pretty much stopped. Cold air doesn’t hold much water vapor and nothing is evaporating when the surface is frozen over so CO2 is the only thing keeping it from reaching an average temperature of 5F and staying there. However, once CO2 gets it above freezing then the water cycle comes alive and through inescapable negative feedback caps the maximum average temperature at a comfortable level when distributed more evenly through the year and from low to high latitudes. The highest temperature the earth ever attained was barely 10F higher than today and the higher northern and southern latitudes were where most of the warming occured. So unless you’re an ice hugger that values permafrost for some dumb reason then whatever global warming we can possibly get is a good thing as far as abundance of plants and animals is concerned. It may be slightly disruptive to human activities but even then there will be far more winners than losers.

  67. RockyRoad says:
    November 5, 2010 at 9:53 am
    I beg everybody’s forgiveness for the source, but Wikipedia has a great dissussion here about clouds and their water content. It all depends on the type of cloud.

    Rocky,
    Thanks.
    Olen says:
    November 5, 2010 at 11:45 am
    Are clouds the new CO2.

    yes,
    delta T = a ln (C/Co)
    C= clouds
    Co= clouds (initial time)
    when you double the amount of cloud
    a = 5
    in 2100…
    delta (T) = 3,5 K.
    The new model proves the old model.

  68. These are just a layman’s observations that relate to clouds, but given the fact that the science is obviously not settled, a layman’s observations and thoughts are as good as those of someone who has a string of Phd’s: Where I live, Hobart Tasmania, Australia, (43 degrees south, roughly), the coldest-ever maximum temperature, (4 degrees C), occurred after a minimum of about – 1.5. The sky had been covered by cirrostratus for a few days. This uniform sheet reduced the sun to a pale disc by day and did absolutely nothing to keep Hobart warm by night. Decks of high clouds do not prevent frost here.
    Hobart, like San Francisco, is often kept cool by a stubborn layer of marine stratocumulus on summer mornings when the anticyclone produces a southeast breeze. You don’t have to have a computer model to work out that high clouds keep the surface temperature down and do nothing to keep the nights warm, while hill-hugging clouds keep the weather cool by day, and retain some heat during the night.
    These low clouds moderate the overnight temperature, but delay the warming of the ground until around midday or sometimes mid afternoon so their presence in the morning keeps the maximun temperature down because the ground has less time to soak up the sun.
    A warming climate world-wide, will mean more evaporation but the atmosphere can’t hold H2O vapour when it cools. Man might contribute to GW, which I doubt, but there is no doubt that man can’t stop the earth from spinning and from revolving around the sun, so increased evaporation in a warming world inevitably leads to the world being cooled by clouds which form when air is cooled during the daily and seasonal cycles. Therefore GW is self limiting! It is scandalous that so much money is wasted on a phantom problem. Meanwhile Australian politicians have done nothing to bolster the defences of places like the Gold Coast. The 1954 Gold Coast cyclone destroyed a sleepy little village. A similar cyclone today would wash the sand away from the foundations of skyscrapers, inundate the canal estates and destroy highways and communications. But we don’t have to worry, because we can prevent cyclones by controlling our emissions!!!!!!! Green pundits like Tim Flannery have been made to look like fools by the recent floods. Melbourne is going to use massive amounts of coal-fired electricity to remove NaCl from seawater, because rainfall was supposed to be a thing of the past. I wonder what the people in Gippsland think about that while they scrape silt off their walls and carpets. A dam on the offending river could be built at a fraction of the cost of the desal plant and relieve Gippslanders of their dreary floods. Ask any farmer over eighty years of age. The recent drought in SE Oz was not unprecedented; it was just part of what mother nature does in the “sunburned country the land of drought and flooding rains.” When opera singe Dame Nellie Melba returned to her home state early last century she was horrified by the news that Victorians were actually starving to death because of drought and famine. So what’s unprecendented about the recent drought?
    I used to vote Labor, but I can’t do that anymore. A vote for Labor in Australia is a vote for Green madness. I consider myself a true green. Green politicians have the lost their way; they are looking at the wrong side of the carbon cycle. They need to ask themselves where molecular oxygen comes from. It is apparent in Australia that the Greens in parliaments are interested in all sorts of non-green things, (eg euthanasia, gay marriage), and they are quite happy to promote so-called eco-friendly cars, and solar panels as long as the minerals needed for their electronic components are not mined at Uluru or Fraser Island. What the world needs is plenty of forests and plenty of phytoplankton in clean oceans. I just read Andrew Bolt’s blog. Apparently the Taiwanese people have lower electricity bills than the Australian people, even after paying for Australian coal and paying for its shipment. I just read an article on WUWT, “Carbon Shoe Comparisons”and it put my blood pressure up. I get really mad every time I think about the hypocrisy of politicians. I would like to see the greens get out of politics and rediscover their true purpose in the scheme of things, which is to agitate to preserve forests and keep the world clean.

  69. Well how well do you believe those Temperatures and values.
    Let’s start with a fairly non controversial mean value for the TSI at 1366 W/m^2. I assume that’s an average value over the earth’s elliptic orbit, and say averaged over a sunspot cycle.
    At that irradiance level; the equlibrium Temperature for an insulating Black Body (cavity) is 393.96… Kelvin; call it 394 or 120.8 deg C
    Now the earth is not an open black body cavity facing the sun. Next approximation would be a perfectly conducting black body, so it is isothermal. So we expect it to be radiating at an average of 341.5 W/m^2 from 4 times the area that is receiving solar energy. The equilibrium Temperature at 341.5 W/m^2 is 278.575 K or 5.425 deg C
    Well the earth is not one of those either.
    Next version seems to be the above isothermal earth with an albedo of 0.3
    That has the effect of dropping the TSI down to 239.5 W/m^2 everywhere on an isothermal planet. and now we get an equilibrium Temperature of 254.81 K; the often cited 255 Kelvins; sans greenhouse effect.
    Problem is that a 255 K body with no greenhouse gases also has no clouds; so no way is it going to have an albedo of 0.3
    70% of the surface is ocean, and that tends to be concentrated in the tropics, so somewhat greater than 70% of the incoming solar radiation, will see an albedo that is more like 0.03; 3% instead of 30%.
    Well I could go on twiddling and you would get bored as fast as I would.
    But if you get just a little bit more real, and actually let the planet rotate, as it is believed to do, then suddenly the earth’s surface sees more like that 1000 -1366 range of insolation values, albeit over only part of a 24 hour cycle; but no way is that going to permit, a cloudless water vapor less atmosphere.
    During the sunlit noonday tropical period, the earth is going to be shooting for that 394 K (121 C) equilibrium Temperature; and that most certainly is going to result in lots of evaporation, and lots of H2O vapor, and H2O cloud , so I can’t see how the need for the CO2 kindling wood is proven.
    With NO GHG other than H2O, the earth will self start just fine. Actually, even in a CO2 less situation you will have an ozone band right at that 9.6 micron wavelength where the earth wants to head to as it warms up.
    The requirement for CO2 to jump start this planet from a frozen ice ball is pure speculation; and a big part of the problem is this silly insistence that the earth is an isothermal body in stable thermal equlibrium.
    It isn’t; it rotates; and that’s why I ROFLMAO every time I see Trenberth’s caricature of what HE thinks the earth energy budget is.
    The TSI is 1366 W/m^2 part time, not 341.5 full time.

  70. Bob Tisdale says:
    November 5, 2010 at 6:17 am (Edit)
    Honesty about climate change uncertainties? My hat is off to the National Science Foundation!!

    Amazing how a brewing scandal will get a previously uncritical organisation to start backpedalling to simple truths the rest of us were aware of years ago isn’t it.

  71. I think that it should be pointed out that no heating is required for clouds to form.
    Water will evaporate or sublimate if the water vapor pressure is low enough according to Henry’s law. Air with water vapor in it is lighter than air that is dry, therefore the dry air will displace the humid air upward. This results in more dry air passing over the surface of the water, damp soil or ice and more evaporation or sublimation as air movement increases the effect. Therefore, water on its own can cause convective currents and the hydrologic cycle. Once the air currents are large enough then the Coriolis force will start altering the vector of the winds and colder air from the poleward side will move under warmer air from the equatorward side and weather fronts can start forming a larger version of the small scale with cold dry air moving under the warm humid air the air will be lifted till the lapse rate results in 100 percent humidity at the dew point and cloud will form. As the water condenses out it releases heat either warming the atmosphere or being radiated – slightly more than 50% will of the radiated IR will be upward to space. As the convection continues the water carried upward will turn to ice again releasing latent heat. If the winds cross hills then there will be orographic uplift and it may rain on the windward side of the hills.
    No GHG are needed only water.
    Even in ice ages the tropics will be above freezing with similar insolation as now. So there will be clouds forming in the tropics but their albedo could keep the Earth cold.
    The idea that ‘clouds are only a feedback’ is incorrect. Clouds will form if there is water on the surface. Water vapor is light and is its own GHG and will self generate more water vapor. All that CO2 can do is move the hydrologic cycle faster to a climatological equilibrium point where cloud albedo cancels out any warming due to the CO2.

  72. CRS, Dr.P.H. says:
    November 5, 2010 at 9:05 am
    A major reason that so little is known about the effects of clouds is that “climate scientists” such as Joel Norris fundamentally miscast the problem in the analytic framework of phantom “feedbacks.” Clouds are a system-response-altering adaptation to solar forcing, not a fixed-response looping back of LWIR output upon the solar input. To anyone with a serious comprehension of system analysis, Norris’ slide-show presentation at Fermilabs is a hand-waving hoot.

  73. The mechanism of clouds and what controls their formation are so complex that it is impossible to quantify the effect they have on climate. They are a major part of the heat pump which maintains our climate in it’s benign state, and which allows the biosphere to thrive. They are driven by the same deterministic chaos which produces the regular quasi-cyclic oscillations we observe, and the sudden ‘black swan’ events of temperate zone glaciation – the ice ages.
    It is not just the type, height, colour, density, temperature e.t.c. which is important, but when and where they form and their persistence. Climatologists really don’t know clouds, at all.

  74. “The shortwave impact of changes in boundary-layer clouds, and to a lesser extent mid-level clouds, constitutes the largest contributor to inter-model differences in global cloud feedbacks. The relatively poor simulation of these clouds in the present climate is a reason for some concern. The response to global warming of deep convective clouds is also a substantial source of uncertainty in projections since current models predict different responses of these clouds. Observationally based evaluation of cloud feedbacks indicates that climate models exhibit different strengths and weaknesses, and it is not yet possible to determine which estimates of the climate change cloud feedbacks are the most reliable.”
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/10/21/climate-model-deception-–-see-it-for-yourself/

  75. “All that CO2 can do is move the hydrologic cycle faster to a climatological equilibrium point where cloud albedo cancels out any warming due to the CO2.”
    Exactly Tenuc, you’ve got it.
    And the change in speed of the hydrological cycle manifests itself by a miniscule unmeasurable shift in the air circulation systems that are regularly moved latitudinally by 1ooo miles or more over a few centuries by entirely natural forces.

  76. @ sky says:
    November 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm
    ——
    Sky, thanks for taking the time to watch! What I took away from Dr. Norris’s talk was the following;
    a) the effects of clouds on climate change have not been adequately addressed by the climate change community in AR4 etc.
    b) clouds of different altitudes and depth can have quite different effects upon forcing
    c) technology to different cloud cover from snow-covered ground is much less than perfect, so actual cloud coverage is very much guesswork.
    His was nowhere close to the barn-burner that Dr. David Archer gave to Fermilab with his “The Big Thaw” lecture!
    I’m professional enough to engage in the most vociferous climate change proponent or absolute climate change skeptic. In fact, I quite enjoy the fight! I would have enjoyed having an open debate with Dr. Archer, but the crowd would have torn me to bits…
    I’m quite impressed with Dr. Spencer’s “global thermostat” concept, and believe this has great merit for further exploration!
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/08/28/congratulations-finally-to-spencer-and-braswell-on-getting-their-new-paper-published/

  77. There still seems to be the underlying belief in the infallibility of the climate models coming through in the presentation. The disclosure that one day models will be able to predict the past climate I found most illuminating. Who knows, perhaps one day the models may even be capable of predicting future climate variations.
    Strikes me as irresponsible folly in the extreme for world nations to embark on the economically ruinous spending of countless trillions of dollars on the strength of projections by models that can’t even recreate the past climate, let alone the future

  78. Tenuc says:
    November 5, 2010 at 4:48 pm
    “The mechanism of clouds and what controls their formation are so complex that it is impossible to quantify the effect they have on climate.”
    I would approach this the other way round and look at the effect of climate on clouds, and most importantly, precipitation. And there is no point in looking at this with yearly averages, because it takes a temperature drop in summer to increase precipitation, and a temperature rise in winter to increase precipitation.
    As the short term temperature deviations are solar forced, and well predictable, very long range schedules for rainfall at a fine timing resolution can be mapped for any continent. I would argue that it is the seasonal detail that concerns us most, not that there is much of a trend to speak of in England and Wales rainfall since 1766 anyway :-
    http://hadobs.metoffice.com/hadukp/data/monthly/HadEWP_monthly_qc.txt
    I would expect to see a very similar rainfall signal through Europe, as the temperatures do move largely in unison with the UK :-
    http://members.casema.nl/errenwijlens/co2/europe.htm
    So it is over simplified to say that more warmth causes more water vapour and more cloud cover, as the relationship between temperature and rainfall is completely opposite from summer to winter.

  79. @George Smith
    If you’re looking for proofs in science you’re looking in the wrong place. Proofs are found in math. Science is all about best explanations and where there is more than one equally valid explanation the tie is traditionally broken by employing Occam’s Razor.
    While there is certainly no proof that CO2’s primary role is “kindling” (good analogy there) for the water cycle there is little credible argument that CO2 isn’t an effective insulator (GHG) in very dry air. The physics are pretty straightforward in the absence of significant amounts of water vapor as is the case in very cold air where it is frozen out. While that doesn’t prove it is kindling for the water cycle it’s a reasonable explanation given the physics of IR absorption by gases demonstrated experimentally by John Tyndall 150 years ago. If you don’t think CO2 helps to keep the earth thawed out and the water cycle active then, absent you proferring an equally valid explanation for what CO2 does in cold dry air then the kindling theory remains the best explanation.

  80. Always useful to get the palaeoclimate perspective:
    Sturtian and Marinoan ice ages, ~6-700 mya – atmospheric CO2 5000 ppm
    Andean-Saharan ice age, ~400 mya – atmospheric CO2 2000 ppm
    Put that in your GCM and smoke it.

  81. @Stephen Wilde
    George Smith came up with kindling to describe CO2’s hypothetical primary role of activating the water cycle. The hypothesis is mine but not the metaphor.
    The sun doesn’t provide enough energy to raise the surface equilibrium temperature above freezing. If we only had an atmosphere but no greenhouse gases and a liquid ocean the earth would be the same average temperature as the moon (5F) albeit with less radical day/night temperature swings. Albedo would be about the same at around 15%. Fortunately the earth is large enough so that gravity is sufficient to hold an atmosphere. The most critical role of the atmosphere is it gives us 14.7 psi surface pressure which allows liquid water to exist on the surface over a broad range of temperatures. But a liquid ocean does not in and of itself help to warm the earth above freezing. It drastically lowers the day/night temperature swing but without a greenhouse gas it would be a frozen ocean and even colder than the moon because frozen water has a very high albedo. Now we get to where CO2 is critical. The earth does get enough energy from the sun to keep CO2 gaseous at all times so its action as greenhouse gas is never diminished by freezing it out of the atmosphere.. Because its insulating effect requires exponentially more of it to get a linear increase in effect it’s only the first 100ppm or so that is critically important to surface temperature. That is sufficient to raise the average surface temperature above freezing. Once we get above freezing we get a liquid ocean and a water cycle. Water vapor is a far more powerful greenhouse gas which, unlike CO2, has many wide infrared absorption bands and on average it exists at hundreds of times the concentration of CO2. Once the water cycle is activated it essentially makes CO2 into a bit player and takes over as the primary greenhouse agent. The neat thing is that the water cycle has a negative feedback called clouds. As the surface temperature rises from water vapor acting as a greenhouse gas its material properties (lighter than air) causes it to rise and then due to gas laws (expanding gases get cooler) it gets cool enough to condense into a cloud some small number of kilometers above the surface. The cloud then reflects most of the sunlight away from the surface back into space which greatly reduces the energy available for evaporation at the surface which reduces the cloud cover and lets in more energy. So as long as the water cycle is active we get a self-regulating surface temperature that is uneffected by further increases in CO2. The only game changer is then a tipping point (we’re close to that tipping point now) where snow and ice, which has a positive feedback, can freeze enough water out of the atmosphere to start runaway cooling. But there’s another very long term feedback there as well. As the land and ocean freezes over and green plants are drastically reduced the carbon cycle screeches to a halt. At that point there’s little left to remove CO2 added to the atmosphere from vocanic emissions so over the course of thousands and millions of years atmospheric CO2 doubles several times until there’s enough of it acting as a greenhouse gas to overcome the runaway cooling and re-activate the water cycle. Green plants then recover with a vengeance feasting on the excess CO2 quickly turn the earth back into a liquid water world again. The only thing we have to fear is runaway cooling – there’s no such thing as runaway warming.

  82. @phlogiston
    Yes, the testimony of the geologic column is irrefutable. The much higher CO2 level in most of the past is what kept the earth green from pole to pole for tens or hundreds of millions of years at a stretch uninterrupted by ice ages. What triggers an ice age, such as the last few million years, I can only presume must be the result of exceedingly large and rare asteroid or comet impacts which raise enough particulates into the stratosphere that stay aloft shading the surface for enough years to trigger runaway cooling from the albedo raising effect of ice and snow. Essentially the same thing as the “nuclear winter” hypothesis that became sensationalist back in the beginning of the atom bomb era 50 years ago only in the case of the asteroid it’s naturally ocurring and really works.
    I think there are practical ways of cooling the planet should the need arise by injecting particulates into the stratosphere. It might be a bit cooler for instance if the acid-rain and global cooling scare back in the 1970’s hadn’t resulted in cleaning up sulfate emissions from fossil fuel smoke. The CAGW crowd still insists that the global cooling from 1940-1980 was because of anthropogenic particulate emissions cooling the surface more than CO2 emissions were warming it.
    What I can’t figure is a practical artificial way of warming the planet should it start getting too cold. Cold is what we should fear and cold is due to return as the Holocene interglacial comes to a close. If anthropogenic CO2 can halt that it would be great but I don’t believe there’s enough economically recoverable fossil fuel to do more than delay the inevitable return to a glacial age. Maybe if we can get atmospheric CO2 back up to the level it was at during the Eocene climatic optimum (2000+ ppm) that would be enough to break out of the ice age but I don’t think there’s enough oil, natural gas, and coal reserves to get it up that high.

  83. Thanks Dave, an interesting perspective.
    A couple of thoughts though:
    i) I think that from the very beginning the water on Earth was in liquid or vapour form because it started to accumulate on the surface when the Earth was young enough for the necessary energy to be geothermal. Therefore I’m not sure there was ever a point at which the water cycle ever needed to be activated from a frozen start.
    ii) Once the water cycle exists then as you say it dominates any similar effect from GHGs and I would argue that the water itself including the oceans should be regarded as part of Earth’s atmosphere for the purpose of solar energy retention. Thus in comparison to water those GHGs have never been of any great significance. It is not the GHGs in the air that keep the troposphere warm. it is all that water in the oceans and in the water cycle.
    iii) Even if the entire surface freezes over as per the so called speculation about a snowball Earth it is only the top of the oceans that freezes and the Earth is still young enough for volcanic activity to break through and start a water cycle based global melt process so even then I don’t see the GHGs themselves to be necessary. Once sunlight gets in through a volcanically damaged or discoloured ice surface an unstoppable process would begin would it not ?
    iv) If we had an atmosphere with no GHGs other than water vapour from the oceans I don’t see that the temperature of the troposphere would be much different ?

  84. “The much higher CO2 level in most of the past is what kept the earth green from pole to pole for tens or hundreds of millions of years at a stretch uninterrupted by ice ages.”
    Yet the CO2 increases followed the warming and did not lead it. Furthermore the elevated CO2 then failed to prevent subsequent cooling back to another ice age.
    “What triggers an ice age, such as the last few million years, I can only presume must be the result of exceedingly large and rare asteroid or comet impacts.”
    The ice age cycling is too regular for that to be plausible. Astronomic causes as per Milankovitch modulated by shorter term oceanic and solar effects shifting the air circulation systems latitudinally are more likely.
    Once the jets get to the equatorward positions they achieved during the LIA then ice buildup in continental mid latitudes is inevitable. Continue that for long enough and there is your ice age.
    Mankind has had a very good run for 10,000 years with the jetstreams more towards the poles than the long term average.

  85. “What I can’t figure is a practical artificial way of warming the planet should it start getting too cold.”
    All our proposed nuclear energy generating plants from now onward should be placed in a ring along the equator and the warm water from them allowed to flow freely into the oceans. That should minimise the equatorward drift of the jet streams when the sun becomes less active for long periods of time or the astronomic cycles return to conditions favouring reduced solar energy reaching Earth. One could even build plants with the exclusive function of heating up the equatorial seas. Before long we should become much more efficient at avoiding radiation leakages but anyway there is evidence that at low levels additional radiation stimulates the immune systems and evolutionary efficiency of biological organisms.
    We could prevent dangerous global cooling and improve the efficiency of the entire biosphere from the same technology and if the globe warms then we can convert the plants into giant water cooling devices instead.
    A win win scenario from all angles 🙂

  86. @Stephen Wilde says:
    November 7, 2010 at 9:58 am
    “The ice age cycling is too regular for that to be plausible. Astronomic causes as per Milankovitch modulated by….”
    Don`t take it personally Stephan, but if the dominant changes in Earth`s temperature are due to big changes in the solar wind speed, then changes in EMR (TSI) received, due to Earth`s orbital changes, have little significance.
    Then there is the problem of why the sequence changed from c.41,000yrs to c.100,000yrs, Milankovitch cannot account for that. I suggest the orbital periods are in resonance with what is actually causing the gross solar variation, and are merely a proxy and not the cause. Also the rise out of glaciations is so fast that the overall signal is very saw-toothed, hardly what one would expect from slowly moving orbital changes.

  87. Ulric,
    I agree that we don’t have a complete solution but I’d rank the causes in order of length of timescale involved as astronomic then oceanic then solar. In the short term solar may well be the greater forcing but the longer the timescale one looks at the more influential the other forcings become in comparison.
    I think you favour planetary gravitational influences as the factor inducing the gross solar variation and that may be so but I don’t know either way.
    I see the saw toothed pattern as the product of a period when the solar and oceanic cyclical influences were phased so as to compound one another to produce large climate swings.

  88. The lunar declinational total portended angle, is driven from the tilt of the poles magnetic fields of the sun, resulting in pulses in magnetic field’s flux of polarity N/S on a 27.32 day cycle. The lunar declinational angle movement is the part of the atmospheric tidal component that causes the positions of the jet streams to be close or far from the Equator.
    IF the astrological effects of the long term patterns of Ice age periods, is driven by the actual movement of the tilt of axis of the magnetic poles of the sun, to where when it decreases, the polarity shifts in the solar wind weaken. Thus less driven declinational movement = total included angle reduced = less atmospheric tidal effect mixing equatorial ITCZ warmth into the mid-lattitudes.
    Then IF the alignment of the magnetic poles of the sun continued to decrease to where they were almost vertical at some point, the gradual declinational electromagnetic drive component would by then affect a much smaller included declinational angle for the moon….Hardly moving any massive surges of warmth off of the equator = onset of long term Ice age, until the return of increased strength and critical orientation of the galactic magnetic fields that allow a re-tilt of the solar magnetic poles, to the axis of rotation and we come out of the ice age.
    This is the basic premise of action in shifting the spin of atoms and watching them rebound in MRI Magnetic Resonance Imaging. We have it down on an atomic level to where it is used daily thousands of times to save lives. Why could the Galaxy not use the same methods by an external magnetic field surge maintained for the duration of the Ice covered state of the glacial stages?
    Thus the quick recovery with the magnetic flip, with the return of the pulses in solar wind polarity shifts once again driving the declinational angle of the moon to greater extremes.

  89. Stephen Wilde says:
    November 6, 2010 at 10:17 am
    CO2 as ‘kindling’ for the water cycle.
    I like that. A very helpful metaphor, thanks.
    Its a useful metaphor – but does it not imply positive feedback? George Smith who made the quote also distances himself from the implication of positive feedback, if I understand correctly.

  90. Dave Springer says:
    November 7, 2010 at 7:37 am
    @phlogiston
    Yes, the testimony of the geologic column is irrefutable. The much higher CO2 level in most of the past is what kept the earth green from pole to pole for tens or hundreds of millions of years at a stretch uninterrupted by ice ages.
    Based on the palaeo timelines of CO2 and global temperature:
    http://biocab.org/Geological_Timescale.jpg
    I cant quite accept that over the last half billion years (the history of multicellular life), that CO2 and temperature are at all correlated. Both temperature and CO2 are now lower than in the Cambrian – but that is as much as you can say. Looking at the temperature line – it appears to seek two stable levels, about 12C and 22C globally. 22C appears to be the more stable, with a dip toward 12C regularly every 150 million years (Marinoan ice age 600 Mya, Saharan-Andean ice age 450 Mya, cold dip between Carboniferous and Permian 300 Mya, cold dip between Jurassic and Cretaceous 150 Mya, present cold dip and glacial period now). Of course the fly in the ointment is the prolonged fall in temperature during the tertiary epoch. But a bi-stable pattern is none the less discernable. (It has been suggested that the 150 My spaced cold spells are related to galactic rotation and cosmic ray / dust clouds.)
    And this biphasic pattern bears no evident relationship to CO2 levels whatsoever. It is quite possible that CO2 plays no role in these temperature fluctuations.
    The prediction based on this pattern is that sometime in the next 100 My or so we pop back up to 22C globally – with as you say rainforests at the poles. Regardless of CO2.
    Just remember also – according to this paper by Franck et al – CO2 starvation – not overheating – will be the final cause of extinction of life on earth (see fig. 6) – worth remembering before getting too enthusiastic about removing CO2 from the atmosphere.
    http://www.biogeosciences.net/3/85/2006/bg-3-85-2006.pdf

  91. phlogiston says:
    November 8, 2010 at 4:48 am

    CO2 as ‘kindling’ for the water cycle.
    Its a useful metaphor – but does it not imply positive feedback?

    It’s a positive feedback (melting of ice and snow) that activates a negative feedback (evaporation and cloud formation).

  92. Stephen Wilde says:
    November 7, 2010 at 9:58 am
    re; ice age regular cyclicity
    Ice ages aren’t so regular. Interglacial/glacial periods during the most recent ice age are exhibit some regular cyclicity.
    re; CO2 levels millions of years ago
    I’m not sure but I don’t think the geologic column has the resolution to say whether CO2 leads or lags global temperature. All I know is that when CO2 levels were far higher than today, which is the case during most of the last half billion years, there were stretches of time measuring in the tens and hundreds of millions of years where there were no ice ages. Today we’re in an ice age that has persisted for about 3 million years with brief interglacial respites where the glaciers retreat to high northern latitudes only to return almost like clockwork. The current ice age is about tied for the deepest freeze in the last 500 million years where the other one this deep was over 400 million years ago.
    It might be that orbital mechanics are at least partly responsible for the onset of major ice ages with cyclicity in the hundreds of millions of years. This would be the orbital mechanics of our sun in relation to the rest of the galaxy. Our solar system orbits the galactic center at a different rate then the spiral arms such that the solar system transits a spiral arm every couple hundred million years. The density of cosmic rays inside a spiral arm are much greater than outside due to the higher density of stars and hence higher density and proximity to supernovas. If the hypothesis that cosmic rays inhibit or accelerate high altitude cloud formation is correct then the short term cyclicity of the sun’s magnetic field which deflects more or less cosmic rays has a confounding factor which is a very long term cyclic change in the density of the rays it is defecting.
    Continental drift must also play some role in very long time frames. Whether one or both poles are occupied or not by a continent would vastly change the mechanics of heat transfer. The poles are like a radiator in a car with ocean currents moving heat from the tropics to the poles. If a continent is blocking the warm current from reaching the pole it’s like your car radiator has a restriction in it which limits the flow which will of course cause the radiator to be cooler and the engine warmer than it otherwise would be. We can see this in the disparity in average temperature between the north and south poles today. The north pole is our most effective radiator today and the less difference in temperature between tropics and poles means the cooling system is working better.
    From an engineering (always the way I look at things) viewpoint the melting of arctic ice cap has a negative feedback associated with it. Ice is a good insulator and albedo at the poles means little. A low angles of incidence water is a pretty good reflector of short wave (visible light) and at the poles insolation is minimal to begin with so surface albedo there changes little and on top of that there’s little to change. The interesting thing is that when the ice is gone so is the insulation which is hampering the escape of long wave energy from the surface to space. So as the ice cap extents and duration lessens the radiator performance improves. As the radiator performance improves the source of the heat (the tropical ocean) has heat removed from it faster. This is a negative feedback. Climate boffins believe this is a positive feedback entirely due to albedo change from ice (high albedo) to water (low albedo). But that’s just nonsense when you figure in the amount of insolation potentially changeable by polar albedo change and the inconvenient fact that water has a much higher albedo at low incidence angles.
    Another negative feedback in this is the temperature differential between the tropics and the poles in relation to energy available to accomplish the work of moving warm water from the tropics to the poles. A larger temperature differential has a larger potential for producing work. So as the pole gets colder in relation to the tropics the heat pump has a greater potential energy source to move warm water from the tropics to the poles. As more water is moved the temperature gradient decreases and hence less energy available to accomplish the work.
    CO2 is insignificant in this interplay as it’s well mixed and doesn’t change phase in the earth’s temperature range. It cannot be a working fluid for a heat pump as your working fluid gets the job done through phase changes. Water is a superb working fluid for heat pumps and heat engines in the phase change from liquid to vapor and vice versa due to it’s extreme latent heat capacity and non-extreme working temperatures.
    It seems almost without doubt that orbital mechanics are what is currently tipping the earth in and out of interglacial periods but my question is what happened 3 million years ago that tipped the earth out of a warm period that had lasted for

  93. @phlogiston
    “it appears to seek two stable levels, about 12C and 22C globally”
    12C appears to be about 8C too high for the cold side. The average temperature of the global ocean is 4C. The bulk of it lies below the thermocline at 3C while a shallow surface layer is predominantly much warmer until you get near the poles.
    While mixing between the thermocline and bulk of the ocean is limited and in the short term driven by convection where the convective energy is supplied by the temperature gradient between tropics and poles in the longer term, such as the time it takes to complete one glacial/interglacial cycle, conduction should suffice to bring the water below the thermocline to the average of the surface temperature. Thus I consider it almost certain that the average temperature of the earth in during the last few hundred thousand years is 4C not 12C. Brrr… that’s pretty chilly.

  94. @phlogiston
    Actually I think the great attractor on the cold side is well below the average temperature of the moon if it weren’t for atmospheric CO2. The moon’s average temperature is -23C and its average albedo is near 15%. The earth receives exactly the same amount of insolation but when it gets cold its average albedo rises far higher than the moon due to being covered with ice and snow which of course means the equilibrium surface temperature would be far lower. This is where CO2 greenhouse effect becomes critical. In clear sky with dry air a mere 100ppm or so keeps the surface warmer by a calculated 30C or so which, in most times, is enough to spell the difference between being covered by liquid water and being covered by snow and ice.
    Obviously it isn’t always enough as ice ages present well in the geologic column and we’re living in a deepest ice age of the last few hundred million years right now. Complaining about anthropogenic warming in the midst of an ice age seems to me to be something that could only be embraced by those who are grossly uninformed, in a state of denial, or have some vested interest in keeping the FUD (fear, uncertainty, and dread) surrounding the dumbass controversy alive and growing.

  95. @Stephen

    iii) Even if the entire surface freezes over as per the so called speculation about a snowball Earth it is only the top of the oceans that freezes and the Earth is still young enough for volcanic activity to break through and start a water cycle based global melt process so even then I don’t see the GHGs themselves to be necessary. Once sunlight gets in through a volcanically damaged or discoloured ice surface an unstoppable process would begin would it not ?

    Snowball earth is a bit controversial but ice ages where glaciers cover the surface two miles deep down to at least 40 degrees north and south latitude are not. Volcanic activity over a long period of time I think is almost certainly what brings the earth out of an ice age. Ash cover lowers the albedo of snow & ice and CO2 emitted by volcanoes will also accumulate absent the normal sinks of ocean surface and green plants. CO2’s potential as a greenhouse gas is beyond credible dispute when it is unfettered in cold dry cloudless air. In warmer conditions it is fettered by the water cycle. Just as indisputable is its diminishing effectiveness as a greenhouse gas per unit increase in concentration. At the current concentration with the water cycle modestly active additional CO2 greenhouse warming can only be a good thing as it might be enough to break the earth out of the ice age. Less CO2 can only be a bad thing as it’s beyond dispute that the earth is and continues to be in an ice age that began about 3 million years ago is still getting colder with no end in sight. See here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_glaciation#Known_ice_ages

  96. @Stephen Wilde says:
    November 7, 2010 at 6:29 pm
    “I agree that we don’t have a complete solution but I’d rank the causes in order of length of timescale involved as astronomic then oceanic then solar.”
    Astronomical is solar, whether at a daily scale, or glaciation cycles.
    I get a feel for the oceanic effects by looking at how fast land temperatures can change, despite the heat capacity of the oceans.
    “I think you favour planetary gravitational influences as the factor inducing the gross solar variation and that may be so but I don’t know either way.”
    From what I am looking at, I would say it has to be electromagnetic, and nothing to do with barycenters or solar tidal effects.

  97. On feedback:
    When the garbage truck backs up to the edge of the landfill, and tips its load onto the side of a slope covered with previous loads of garbage, you can expect that that dumped truckload will bounce or roll or sink, or blow around, until it all reaches new locations and everything settles down. In the process garbage that had previously been dumped; will also get displaced; and find new locations; until all is quiet again; or the next truck load arrives.
    That IS NOT FEEDBACK !!! All that is happening, is that everything is adjusting to a new condition once the existing stationary state is disturbed.
    If you launch your boat onto the ocean; the sea level will rise. That is NOT FEEDBACK; it simply is a system readjusting itself to its new conditions.
    When you add CO2 (extra) to the atmosphere; you don’t need all of the existing GHG molecules of all other species; to keep the atmosphere at the same temperature; and the abundance of every other species of GHG molecule in the atmosphere will settle on some new value; with pretty much the same total atmospheric heating effect. In the case of H2O where more H2O in the atmosphere menas less solar energy captured by the planet; a rise in CO2 will simply end up with evnutally more clouds. Who knows; eventually the ozone level would likely change as well as all the other various atmospehric reactions rattle aorund; just like that truck load of garbage that just got dumped on the landfill.
    The difference between H2O and every other common GHG species, is that as a vapor, it has both surface cooling (absorbs sunlight) and atmospheric warming (absorbs sunlight, & also absorbs LWIR) effects; but once it forms clouds out of vapor, liquid, and solid phases, H2O takes planetary cooling to a new level.
    H2O is the only player, that plays both for the offense, and the defence; HEY ; IT’S THE WATER !!

  98. George,
    At what level of cloud affects would increasing albedo causing a decrease in SWR reaching the surface of the ocean, overwhelm the atmospheric warming of increased LWIR in the atmosphere? In other words can high thin clouds cause a short term warming but a long term cooling due to reduced SWR impacting the oceans?

  99. Dave Springer says:
    November 8, 2010 at 8:15 am
    It is annoying that the Nahle 2007 timeline figure for temp and CO2 is the absence of y axis values – thus I may have used the wrong numbers.
    CO2 does trap heat of course, in a logarithmic relation to its concentration in air. However, in my view CO2’s most significant effect on climate is not this physical radiative balance effect, but in sustaining the biosphere. No CO2 – no life. The spread of photosynthesizing plants across land and sea brought down atmospheric CO2, and the land plants – particularly trees – mixed humates into the weathered silicates (from glaciations) to give us soils and trap more water on land, extending the hydrological cycle. Over the sea also sulphides emitted by plankton nucleate clouds and further accellerate the hydrological cycle.
    Thus the big fall in both temperature and CO2 from the Cambrian to the Carboniferous does not prove CO2 causality – I believe the primary mechanism was extension and accelleration of the hydrological cycle over (previously arid) land. A nice paper by Beerling and Berner 2005 showed that transiently there was a positive feedback between evolution of more efficient trees and leaves and falling CO2.
    http://www.pnas.org/content/102/5/1302.full.pdf+html
    Separating a small effect (CO2 on global temperature) from a big effect (hydrology on global temperature) is difficult analytically – like in the medical field separating a handful of radiation induced cancers epidemiologically from thousands of “background” naturally occurring cancers.
    But looking at the whole picture, I agree fully with you that the case does not really exist for claiming catastrophic consequences (FUD etc.) of rising CO2 concentration from trace levels. The effects on the biosphere of rising CO2 (plants will evolve to exploit more abundant CO2) could well be greater than direct physical effects on radiative balance.

  100. “”””” david says:
    November 8, 2010 at 7:30 pm
    George,
    At what level of cloud affects would increasing albedo causing a decrease in SWR reaching the surface of the ocean, overwhelm the atmospheric warming of increased LWIR in the atmosphere? In other words can high thin clouds cause a short term warming but a long term cooling due to reduced SWR impacting the oceans? “””””
    Well David, I am not sure that I exactly understand your question.
    First off, I presume that you DO understand that ANY H2O vapor in the atmosphere WILL block (some) sunlight from reaching the surface (by absorbing it); and maybe 20% of the Total solar spectrum energy is available to be absorbed by H2O vapor. (over the spectral region from about 750 nm to 4.0 microns. Only 1% of solar energy arrives beyond 4.0 microns.
    I presume you also understand that ANY increase in H2O vapr in the atmosphere WILL result in more absorption, and even less sunlight reaching the surface; and we are not talking about here today; gone tomorrow; we mean amounts and changes, that persist for climae meaningful times. I’d be happy even with one full trip around the sun.
    Then we come to clouds. I presume you understand that ANY cloud will reflect SOME sunlight off the tops back out into space. (albedo); and bear in mind that now we are talking about the WHOLE solar spectrum containing significant energy. Clouds scatter and “reflect”most of the visible range; so a lot more than just the 20% that water vapor could capture. And I assume you understand that ANY increase in clouds will reflect EVEN MORE sunlight back into space. Also I assume you understand that those same clouds will absorb additional sunlight so it doesn’t reach the ground; and that more clouds will absorb even more sunlight.
    So any way you want to skin the cat; water in the atmosphere in any and all phases WILL reduce the ground level solar energy; and MORE water, WILL mean LESS solar energy at the ground.
    Now the albedo reflections from the clouds are simply lost solar energy; end of story. The atmospheric water absorptions WILL warm THE ATMOSPHERE. The atmospheric warming caused by absorbed SOLAR ENERGY; will result in LWIR emissions; about half of which will reach the surface and MAY warm it; BUT not as much as would have the ORIGINAL solar energy that was intercepted.
    NOW THAT is ALL the warming energy there is in the system (neglecting geo-thermal which is miniscule). There is NO OTHER significant source of energy input; it all comes from the sun. (I can just see all the ambulance chaser nit picking lawyers lining up their exceptions).
    Now what about the LWIR thermal radiation emitted from the earth surface; and that emitted from the atmosphere. We already explained that a part of the atmospehric LWIR thermal emission is due to the original solar energy absorbed by the water vapor and clouds.
    THE REST OF IT CANNOT warm anything. The surface, and the atmosphere, and the clouds are simply swapping that LWIR energy back and forth between themselves; but it is slowly being DISSIPATED to space.
    So the most you can say is that the atmospehric absorption of LWIR can and does slow down the cooling of the surface; but it cannot warm the surface. ONLY the SOLAR INPUT can warm the surface; and no matter how you slice it; water in the amosphere can only reduce the amount of solar energy and warming that the earth receives from the sun.
    As to the height of the clouds. The sun is a near point source (to some people); specifically it has an angular source diameter of 30 minutes of arc; 1/2 degree. So a cloud casts a shadow, with a 1/2 degree penumbral edge on it. You can see these shadows on the ground from an aeroplane so they are quite real. So a one square km cloud casts a one square km shadow on the ground; and inside that shadow, the surface solar irradiance (W/m^2) is reduced. That same ground shadow zone is also reflecting some sunlight, and emitting some LWIR thermal radiation. Except for a calm water surface, both the reflection and the emission have at least a Lambertian . That is the Radiant intensity varies as Cosine of the angle off normal.
    I = Izero.Cos (theta). (Watts per Steradian) We can show that the total energy is simply pi.Izero Watts. Now if we wanted to factor in the area; we would start with the Radiance, in Watts per m^2 per steradian; and we would end up with Watts per m^2 for total Emittance. In this case the Radiance is independent of angle; since the projected area also changes as Cosine(theta).
    Now that is the best case. Since the earth surface is quite rough; each surface element radiates in a Lambertian pattern; but the surface orientation is random; so the end result is that the radiation pattern is isotropic.
    The point is that whereas the cloud shadow is essentially the same size as the cloud; the emitted LWIR from that area WILL illuminate THE ENTIRE SKY; and out of that entire sky area our cloud is one square km; and it will intercept very little of the LWIR emission from that shadow zone; most of it will escape the cloud. And the higher the cloud is; the less of that surface emission it will intercept.
    And what of the LWIR that the cloud DOES intercept. Well some may be reflected again; and some will be absorbed; and subsequently re-emitted; and in both cases; those emissions too, will be at least Lambertian, and more likely isotropic; and the amount of that which returns to our shadow zone is going to be minute in the extreme.
    Well actually it will fall off (for the round trip) as 1/H^4 where H is the cloud height; and then there is an obliquity factor of Cosine^8(theta) For 30 degrees off normal, the obliquity factor is about 32%; for 60 degrees off normal it is 3.9%.
    Now don’t let the quickness of the hand deceive the eye. We must not forget; that every other spot outside our shadow zone is also emititng LWIR and reflecting sunlight. Each of those elemental areas will have its own cloud height and obliquity factor; so the cloud will receive a lot more LWIR than just from our shadow; BUT on the return trip; when the cloud radiates to the surface; we still have a full 1/H^2, and a cos^4(theta) obliquity, and that cloud radiation will be spread over the entire surface.
    But remember that this is just a redistribution of energy which has already been acccounted for in the original solar input.
    And no matter what; the clouds; and more clouds will mean less; and even less total energy captured by the earth from the sun; and it WILL cool down. The GHGs just slow the cool down process; but they DO NOT prevent it.

  101. George, thank you for taking the time to write this, and yes I do follow it. One point you have not addressed as directly as I am hoping to understand is in my question, “In other words can high thin clouds cause a short term warming but a long term cooling due to reduced SWR impacting the oceans?” Your answer is in the affirmative, but not at all quanative.
    The orthodox view is that the increased residence time of LWIR within the atmosphere due to increased GHG overwhelms the decrease in SWR reaching the ocean surface when compared on a WM/2 basis, and somehow this increased atmosphere temperature and LWIR somehow warms the ocean, creating an additional warming over a decade or longer lag effect and that feedbacks such as high clouds amplify this warming further.
    On the other hand your presentation appears more intuitive to me. However I have seen neither scenario quantified on a WM/2 basis along with an analysis of the radiative spectrum effects that appear critical to me. So, (please forget the inaccuracy of my any numbers, they are illustrative only) the high thin clouds that “climate scientist” consider to have a net warming on the planet, (atmosphere, earth and ocean), change the incoming TSI from what spectrum and WM/2 to what spectrum and WM/2 at the OCEAN surface, and further how does this DECREASE in SWR affect the ocean LONG TERM even though there is a rapid increase in atmospheric temperature due to LWIR bouncing all around before finally leaving?
    My questions are awkwardly formatted because I am not a scientist so please understand the poorly worded structure and ignore the numbers. Perhaps a more simple assertion would be something like this. High thin clouds, which produce an ocean surface REDUCTION of 5 WM2 SWR in these spectral WL, have greater long term cooling of the planets heat content then the increase in LWIR in the atmosphere which achieves a temporarily higher atmospheric radiative balance until the oceans radiative balance equalizes to a cooler temperature, which then reduces the LWIR from the surface, counteracting the temperature rise from the increased residence time of LWIR due to increased GHGs.
    Or to really shorten the assertion” Over X time a reduction of 5 WM/2 of SWR at the ocean surface negates 10 WM/2 increase in LWIR in the atmosphere. (Again the numbers are merely illustrative.)
    Now I know there are many other factors, the ones you mention, an increase in all clouds, the speeding of the hydrologic cycle, the increased biomass which has a CO2 reducing lag effect via absorbing more CO2 as the biomass increases, latitude shifts in jet streams and therefore cloud cover, etc, but the different long term effects of changes in the radiative spectrum is what I am trying to understand and I think the oceans and how they absorb radiation have everything to do with this. As you say, “The GHGs just slow the cool down process; but they DO NOT prevent it.”
    Thanks for your time, the layman’s understanding is greatly increased by sites such as this when we take the time to understand.

  102. Hell George, let me make the assertion really simple, One SW photon in the ocean is worth two IR photons in the atmosphere. (Only the real numbers need to be quantified). (-:

  103. “”””” david says:
    November 11, 2010 at 3:07 am
    George, thank you for taking the time to write this, and yes I do follow it. One point you have not addressed as directly as I am hoping to understand is in my question, “In other words can high thin clouds cause a short term warming but a long term cooling due to reduced SWR impacting the oceans?” Your answer is in the affirmative, but not at all quanative. “””””
    Well David, my stick for scratching in the sand; contains NO memory chips; so I can only scratch about stuff that I can remember in my gray, and ever graying matter.
    I do have access to some very ancient but extensive text book data; but very little to much current work. But from time to time a lot of the regulars here publish links to all sorts of really interesting stuff.
    As to your question; I am not sure that I can agree with the premise. I don’t buy the climatism 101 mantra that high thin clouds warm the earth up and so are a positive feedback.
    You see the choice is; will the earth (the whole thing) get warmer without those high thin clouds; or with them.
    So my experimental grant money would be spent measuring the global temperature without clouds over some useful time scale; and then adding in those high thin clouds to observe whther the temeprature now goes up or down; surface temperature that is.
    And I simply can’t find any Physical mechanism that would cause the Temperature to go up.
    Suppose for example that the earth surface; and the clouds had a very high and specular reflectance for LWIR as if they were two plane mirrors (well large radius curved mirrors); which they certainly don’t. Now we won’t make them perfectly reflecting; say 95% for a start. I don’t care if we call it 95 or 99 or 99.9; just not 1.0 reflectance.
    So the ground will absorb some of the LWIR energy falling on it; 5%, and for the time being we won’t get intot what happens to that; we just assume that it goes into the earth and stays there.
    Likewise the cloud doesn’t reflect everything; it absorbs 5% too.
    Now both the cloud and the surface are also emitting LWIR Thermal radiation just because of their Temperatures, and that is what is rattling around back and forth between the two highly reflective layers.
    As a result of the 5% that is absorbed at each end, the cloud or surface will re-emit some more thermal LWIR radiation. But that radiation is emitted isotropically; and in the case of the cloud; only half of it will go back down to the surface, and the rest is lost to space. Likewise the surface emits some of that energy but the rest is conducted into the earth.
    So we have a sort of resonant cavity, with LWIR radiation bouncing back and forth between the two “mirrors”; BUT with that inexorable continuous loss through the mirrors to get removed from the cavity.
    So absent any new energy input, this radiation filled cavity can only cool down. There is no process by which its Temperature could go up; since it is constantly losing energy.
    Well of course the initial input of energy to this system can only come from the sun, as short wave, or at least solar spectrum radiant energy; and no matter how long it takes the cavity to “ring down” as they say (depending on its Q), it will ring down and lose energy and can only be heated up again by input of solar energy, and the more water vapor, and the more clouds of any sort in the sky the less of that soalr energy that can get into the cavity to heat it to tis operating temperature; it MUST cool down.
    Now I chose to make the mirrors high reflectance like those of an Optical Fabry-Perot Etalon; but in reality, they aren’t anywhere near as good as that, and in addition to being lower reflectance; they are also highly scattering or diffuse in their radiation patterns.
    And I believe that the key to understanding this, is to realize that those high wispy clouds are the RESULT of the warmer muggier surface conditions during the day; which will rise during the night and form those clodus. The clouds are NOT the CAUSE of the warm balmy daylight conditions.
    As to radiation levels; the TSI is 1366 W/m^2 extra-terrestrially, and maybe 1000 W/m^2 at the surface with average atmospheric water contents (vapor) and assuming no clouds. Of that over 70% arrives over tropical oceans; and about 97% of that is absorbed quite deepluy in the ocean 10s to 100s of metres. For terra firma terrains the absorption and reflectances are quite diverse; and one problem is that they vary wildly from solar spectrum wavelengths to the LWIR wavelenghts which are typically 20 times longer. So the hard surface picture is much more complex; but also deals with less than 30% of the area, and somewhat less than that of the total solar energy input.
    You see I’m not too concerned about what exactly all those other W/m^2 numbers are; because I don’t think it matters; except in the details.
    The picture which I find completely inescapable; is that the water evap/condensation/precipitation cycle is in firm and complete negative feedback control of a robust stable system; and CO2 doesn’t have much to do with it.
    And for the legal disclaimer; NO I do not believe that CO2 is not a GHG that absorbs LWIR and warms the atmosphere; it is and it does; mox nix because H2O puts the kibosh on any of that.

  104. Don’t know if anyone’s still reading this. Primary benefit of clouds is that they cool the earth by carrying heat up in water vapour, high heat storage capacity, conductivity, without this we’d have desert conditions globally, as we have locally (+20-30degrees C global estimate). CO2 can only join in the cooling, and the rest of cycle, the distribution of water and food for life.
    Can’t do the link, but google books Oceanography:an invitation to marine science By Tom Garrison Page 161 for the amazing properites of water.

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