Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

The current climate paradigm believed by most scientists in the field can be likened to the movement of balls on a pool table.

Figure 1. Pool balls on a level table. Response is directly proportional to applied force (double the force, double the distance). There are no “preferred” positions—every position on the table is equally attainable and probable.

The current climate paradigm is as linear and as mechanistic as that pool table. At its heart is the belief that the controlling equation for the future evolution of the climate is:

Forcing Change of 3.7 watts/metre^2 = 3°C Surface Temperature Change

This can also be written as:

∆T = λ ∆Q

where ∆Q is the change in forcing, ∆T is the change in temperature, and lambda (λ) is the climate sensitivity of 3°C / 3.7 w/m2 = 0.8 degrees C for each additional watt/m2 of forcing.

Everything else is claimed to average out, leaving only that relationship. The ratio between the imposed forcing and the supposed resulting temperature change is assumed to be a constant, called the “climate sensitivity”. There is much discussion as to the value of the climate sensitivity, which swirls around whether there is net positive or negative feedback from things like clouds and water vapor. According to the prevailing theory and equation, if the climate sensitivity is high, a small forcing change is said to cause a larger temperature change, and vice versa.

Me, I don’t believe that equation one bit. I discussed problems with the equation in “The Cold Equations“. For me, the idea that surface air temperature slavishly follows forcing goes against everything I know about complex natural flow systems. I cannot think of any complex natural flow system which is linear in that manner with respect to its inputs. I find it completely astounding that people actually believe that the global climate system, with all of its intricate feedbacks and forcings and resonances and chaotic nature, is that linearly simple. But that is the current paradigm for the climate, a completely linear system.

I am neither a climate sceptic, nor an AGW believer, nor an agnostic on the subject. Instead, I am a climate heretic. I think that the dominant climate paradigm is completely incorrect. I hold that there is no level pool table. I say that there is no constant “climate sensitivity”. Instead, there are preferred states. I say, and have discussed elsewhere, that the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms.

So what is a homeostatic mechanism when it’s at home?

The concept of “homeostat” is a more general version of the word “thermostat”. A thermostat keeps temperature the same. A homeostatic mechanism keeps something the same. A familiar version is the “cruise control” of a car, which keeps the car’s speed the same. Per Wikipedia, homeostasis is “the property of a system, either open or closed, that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition.” Not a bad definition. It is a natural governor which regulates some aspect of the system.

The first thing to understand about climate homeostasis is that it has nothing to do with feedback. This is because in general the controlling mechanism involves a regime shift, rather than a variation in some feedback value. The current furore about the exact level of feedback in the system, while interesting, is not directly relevant, as variations in feedback are not a feature of the control mechanism.

To see why the control mechanism regulating the earth’s temperature does not involve feedback, here is the evolution of the day and night in the tropical ocean. The tropical ocean is where the majority of the sun’s energy enters the huge heat engine we call the climate. So naturally, it is also where the major homeostatic mechanism are located.

At dawn, the atmosphere is stratified, with the coolest air nearest the surface. The nocturnal overturning of the ocean is coming to an end. The sun is free to heat the ocean. The air near the surface eddies randomly.

Figure 2. Average conditions over the tropical ocean shortly after dawn.

As the sun continues to heat the ocean, around ten or eleven o’clock in the morning there is a sudden regime shift. A new circulation pattern replaces the random eddying. As soon as a critical temperature/humidity threshold is passed, local circulation cells spring up everywhere. These cells transport water vapor upwards to the local lifting condensation level. At that level, the water vapor condenses into clouds as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3.  Average conditions over the tropical ocean when cumulus threshold is passed.

Note that this area-wide shift to an organized circulation pattern is not a change in feedback. It has nothing to do with feedback. It is a self-organized emergent phenomenon. It is threshold-based, meaning that it emerges spontaneously when a certain threshold is passed. In the “wet” deep tropics there’s plenty of water vapor, so the major variable in the threshold is the temperature.

Under the new late-morning cumulus circulation regime, much less surface warming goes on. Part of the sunlight is reflected back to space, so less energy makes it into the system to begin with. Then the increasing wind due to the cumulus-based circulation pattern increases the evaporation, reducing the surface warming even more by moving latent energy up to the lifting condensation level.

Note that the system is self-controlling. If the ocean is a bit warmer, the new circulation regime starts earlier in the morning, and cuts down the total daily warming. On the other hand, if the ocean is cooler than usual, clear morning skies last later into the day, allowing increased warming. The system is regulated by the time of onset of the regime change.

Let’s stop at this point in our examination of the tropical day and consider the idea of “climate sensitivity”. The solar forcing is constantly increasing as the sun rises higher in the sky. In the morning before the onset of cumulus circulation, the sun comes through the clear atmosphere and rapidly warms the surface. So the thermal response is large, and the climate sensitivity is high.

After the onset of the cumulus regime, on the other hand, much of the sunlight is reflected back to space. Less sunlight remains to warm the ocean. In addition to reduced sunlight there is enhanced evaporative cooling. Compared to the morning, the climate sensitivity is much lower. The heating of the surface slows down.

So here we have two situations with very different climate sensitivities. In the early morning, climate sensitivity is high, and the temperature rises quickly with the increasing solar insolation. In the late morning, a regime change occurs to a situation with much lower climate sensitivity. Adding extra solar energy doesn’t raise the temperature anywhere near as fast as it did earlier.

So climate sensitivity varies … which means, of course, that the constant “temperature sensitivity” that they claim exists must be an average temperature sensitivity. Fair enough, let’s take a look at how that works.

Suppose the early morning regime and the late morning regime are the same length, maybe three hours each. In that case we take the simple mathematical average. But here’s the problem. As noted above, when it’s warm the cumulus circulation starts up earlier than usual. More hours of cumulus means lower sensitivity.

On the other hand, when the ocean is cooler than usual, the clear skies prevail for more of the morning. As a result, the average climate sensitivity rises.

In other words, in the all-important tropical region, climate sensitivity is not a constant in any sense. Instead, it varies inversely with temperature.

Moving along through the day, at some point in the afternoon there is a good chance that the cumulus circulation pattern is not enough to stop the continued surface temperature increase. When the temperature exceeds a certain higher threshold, another complete regime shift takes place. Some of the innocent cumulus clouds suddenly mutate and grow rapidly into towering monsters. The regime shift involves the spontaneous generation of those magical, independently mobile heat engines called thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms are dual-fuel heat engines. They run on low-density air, air that rises, condenses out the moisture and rewarms the air, which rises deep into the troposphere.

Figure 4. Afternoon thunderstorm circulation over the tropical ocean.

There are a couple of ways to get low density air. One is to heat the air. This is how a thunderstorm gets started, as a strong cumulus cloud. The sun plus GHG radiation combine to heat the surface, warming the air. The low density air rises. When that gets strong enough, a thunderstorm starts to form.

Once the thunderstorm is started, the second fuel is added to the fire — water vapor. Counter-intuitively, the more water vapor there is in the air, the lighter it becomes. The thunderstorm generates strong winds around its base. Evaporation is proportional to wind speed, so this greatly increases the local evaporation.

This, of course, makes the air lighter, and makes the air rise faster, which makes the thunderstorm stronger, which in turn increases the wind speed around the thunderstorm base, which increases the evaporation even more … a thunderstorm is a regenerative system like a fire where part of the energy is used to run a bellows to make the fire burn even hotter.

This gives thunderstorms a unique ability that, as far as I know, is not represented in any of the climate models. It is capable of driving the surface temperature well below the temperature that was needed to get it going. It can run on into the evening, and at times well into the night, on its combination of thermal and evaporation energy sources.

Thunderstorms can be thought of as local leakages that transport heat rapidly from the surface to the upper atmosphere. They cool the surface in a host of ways, utilizing a combination of cold water, shade, wind, spray, evaporation, and cold air.

And just like the onset of the cumulus circulation, the onset of thunderstorms occurs earlier on days when it is warmer, and it occurs later (and sometimes not at all) on days that are cooler than usual.

So again, we see that there is no way to assign an average climate sensitivity. The warmer it gets, the less each additional watt per metre actually warms the surface.

Even what I describe above doesn’t exhaust the variety of self-organization to decrease incoming sunlight and move more energy aloft. If the day continues to warm, the thunderstorms self-assemble into long, long rows of thunderstorms called “squall lines” (not illustrated). Between these long lines of thunderstorms there are equally long areas of clear descending air. Instead of the regime of individual “doughnut-shaped” circulation around each thunderstorm and cumulus cloud, it has all been replaced by long cylinders of air which sink in the valleys between the serried rows of thunderstorms, and rise up through their centers. This increases the rate at which the energy can be moved from the surface and converted into work.

Like all of the regime shifts, the change from individual tropical thunderstorms to squall lines is temperature dependent and threshold based. It occurs at the warmest temperatures.

Finally, once all of the fireworks are over, first the cumulus and then the thunderstorms decay and dissipate. A final and again different regime ensues. The main feature of this regime is that during this time, the ocean radiates about the amount of the energy that it absorbed during all of the previously described regimes.

Figure 5. Conditions prevailing after the night-time dissipation of the daytime clouds.

During the nighttime, the surface is still receiving energy from the GHGs. This has the effect of delaying the onset of oceanic overturning, and of reducing the rate of cooling. However, because there are no clouds, the ocean can radiate to space more freely. In addition, the overturning of the ocean constantly brings new water to the surface, to radiate and to cool. This increases the heat transfer across the interface.

As with the previous thresholds, the timing of this final transition is temperature dependent. Once a critical threshold is passed, oceanic overturning kicks in. Stratification is replaced by circulation, bringing new water to radiate, cool, and sink. In this way, heat is removed, not just from the surface as during the day, but from the body of the upper layer of the ocean.

And as mentioned above, by dawn the combined effect of clear skies and oceanic overturning has lost all of the heat of the previous day, and the cycle starts over again.

So let me recap.

1. There are a series of temperature thresholds in the tropics, each of which when crossed initiates a completely new circulation regime. In order of increasing temperature, these are the thresholds for cumulus formation, thunderstorm formation, and squall line formation.

2. The time of crossing of each temperature threshold depends (on average) on whether the local area is warmer or cooler than usual. As a result, the entire system is strongly homeostatic, tending to maintain the temperature within a certain range.

3. Feedback does not play any significant part in this temperature control system. Nor do small changes in the forcings. The system adjusts by means of the timing. The various regime change occur either earlier or later in the day (or not at all), to maintain the temperature.

4. In each of these separate regimes, the climate sensitivity  is quite different.

5. The climate sensitivity for the tropical ocean varies inversely with the temperature.

My conclusion from all of this is that the climate, like other flow systems far from equilibrium, contains homeostatic mechanisms. One effect of these mechanisms is that the tropical temperature is constrained to remain within a fairly narrow range.

And that’s why I describe myself as a climate heretic. I think the earth has a thermostat, one that is not represented in any of the current generation of climate models. I don’t think that climate is linear. I think that climate sensitivity is not a constant at all, but is a function of temperature. And to return to the title of the post, I think that the debate should not be about feedback at all, it should be a debate about the types and the effects of the various natural homeostatic mechanisms.

And all of those are definitely heresies to the latest IPCC Council of Nicean Climate …

My best to all,

w.

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August 14, 2011 12:27 am

“The current furore about the exact level of feedback in the system, while interesting, is directly relevant, as variations in feedback are not a feature of the control mechanism”
Willis
Should this read….is not directly relevant ? or is it me.
Fascinating article as usual.

Lew Skannen
August 14, 2011 12:30 am

I totally agree. This has been my point for a long time that the models are utterly incapable of handling the complexity of the climate.
When anyone takes a serious look it is obvious that the number of factors, parameters, feedbacks, coefficients, thresholds, mechanisms etc is huge and any model which covered them would be incalculably large. However instead of accepting that the impossible is indeed the impossible the ‘believers’ prefer to just wish away the reality.
“The reality of the climate is so immensly complex and unfathomable that we are forced to …..umm…. just ignore it and carry on making predictions anyway…”

Lew Skannen
August 14, 2011 12:31 am

I totally agree. This has been my point for a long time that the models are utterly incapable of handling the complexity of the climate.
When anyone takes a serious look it is obvious that the number of factors, parameters, feedbacks, coefficients, thresholds, mechanisms etc is huge and any model which covered them would be incalculably large. However instead of accepting that the impossible is indeed the impossible the ‘believers’ prefer to just wish away the reality.
“The reality of the climate is so immensly complex and unfathomable that we are forced to … just ignore it and carry on making predictions anyway…”

Brian H
August 14, 2011 12:35 am

Yummy stuff. Makes eminent sense. Phase and system changes are the tools of the homeostatic engine(s)!
Edit note: missing “not”: The current furore about the exact level of feedback in the system, while interesting, is … directly relevant,

Claes Johnson
August 14, 2011 12:40 am

I agree. Very good arguments.
Claes

Mark Aurel
August 14, 2011 12:49 am

“the sun comes through the clear atmosphere and rapidly warms the surface. So the thermal response is large, and the climate sensitivity is high.
After the onset of the cumulus regime, on the other hand, much of the sunlight is reflected back to space. Less sunlight remains to warm the ocean. In addition to reduced sunlight there is enhanced evaporative cooling. Compared to the morning, the climate sensitivity is much lower.”
I’m sorry, I can’t agree with this. This is not climate sensitivity as per definition thereof, it’s simply the effect of the unhindered or restricted access of the sunlight to the surface.
The sensitivity ie. the reaction to a certain amount of energy is still the same, according to your example it simply means that the surface receives different amounts of it.
Now whether the sensitivity formula is correct or not I wouldn’t know and I’m perfectly happy to be advised on this.
Cheers

Mrsean2k
August 14, 2011 12:54 am

Thanks, very interesting – although it’ll take a while to think through the implications (for me at least)
While I’m mulling, can you entertain a couple of questions?
1) are each of the regime changes discussed amenable to quantitative analysis? Do the measurements exist that could put a figure on the energy exchanges / transformations at each stage?
2) one of the standout “features” of the prevailing consensus seems to be that it doesn’t result in anything that’s falsifiable in a useful way overall. Does your regime change view lend itself to falsifiability, or do you at least believe it would yield to that approach given enough time?

Ursus Augustus
August 14, 2011 1:01 am

Great article. I am an engineer ( naval architect actually) so systems with feedbacks from resonance to damping, fluid flow, turbulent flow etc etc are a daily norm. The notion of a system with water vapour on both sides of the equation so to speak ( greenhouse gas and clouds) and with such variable inputs acting linearly is simply laughable. The only way anyone with any science or engineering/scientific training would accept such a proposition to my mind , in the absence of quite incontravertible proof, is if they are quite obsessed with the notion of linearity or in some other way unhinged. Or corrupt but then the notion of scientific acceptance is out the window anyway.

Geoff Shorten
August 14, 2011 1:16 am

Minor typo:
Thunderstorms can be though of as local leakages

charles nelson
August 14, 2011 1:18 am

Absolutely excellent…an in-depth ‘exploded diagram’ of an argument I have used to hush Warmists for many years now;
I ask them if they’ve ever flown long haul and if they have ever looked at the in-flight display…the one that has a route map, arrival times etc…sometimes these have a temperature read out.
For those who haven’t…I explain that the temperature at 300hPa/10,000m ranges from minus 30 degrees C at the equator to minus 65 at the Poles…(I even ask the suspicious ones if they’d like to google it!)
I then ask them if they’ve ever experienced turbulence on such a flight. I ask them what they think might be happening? The smarter ones get ‘that look’, like beasts at an abbatoir they sense where the path leads… but by now there’s no turning back!
Eventually we settle on an explanation…the explanation…high altitude turblulence can only be caused by one thing…air rising, cooling and falling!
I then ask them if they can think of anything that would or could stop air freely circulating between ground level and 6 miles high… to where the temperature is eternally below -30 degrees C AT ITS WARMEST!
Eventually even the most ardent Believer can be brought back to Newton’s Universe. A place where the laws of thermodynamics still rule, where up is up, down is down, and convection and radiation continue unabated and unabolished.
I detest the term “Greenhouse Theory” with its implicit and impossible lid on the atmosphere.
The very word Greenhouse is redolent of trapped, un-natural and stifling heat. Perfect for scaring the scientifically illiterate who make up such a high proportion of Believers.

Martin Lewitt
August 14, 2011 1:18 am

Willis,
Just because regime shifts, timing and temperature thresholds are involved, doesn’t mean it isn’t feedback. It may be a rapidly responsive feedback that acts as a thermostat, but it is still feedback. I think what you are objecting to is the idea of one sensitivity that that can be projected to higher levels of forcing without considering that the negative feedbacks may become more vigorous and diminish or effectively cap it. I don’t see why you see a need to fight a semantic war about the word “feedback”.

wayne Job
August 14, 2011 1:19 am

Thank you Willis a nice expose’ of heat engine tropics. The next step is tying into the temperate heat engine and the inter-reaction between them. The step after that to the poles will be most enlightening if it is possible to comprehend. Excellent summary.

Anoneumouse
August 14, 2011 1:31 am
chris1958
August 14, 2011 1:46 am

Climate sensitivity may well vary as the day goes on and lots of feedbacks may apply. Nevertheless, even in chaotic systems, an overall “balance” emerges. The human body is an excellent example of a hugely complex and at the micro level chaotic system with more feedbacks than there are stars in the Milky Way which nevertheless functions and malfunctions as a coherent whole. Thus, if you eat more calories than you expend, you will gain weight, develop insulin resistance, and set yourself up for unpleasant consequences, which we know from epidemiological studies.
However, getting people to lose weight is one of the hardest endeavours in public health – precisely because we have a still rudimentary understanding of the metabolic feedbacks in all their glorious complexity. In fact, we now believe that evolution has “hard-wired” us as a species to store fat in times of feast and to slow our metabolism in times of famine. At the same time, we encounter lucky individual who seem able to eat all they want whilst remaining trim, taut, and terrific. These folk however would have been at risk in hunter-gatherer settings. Understanding the feedbacks involved is ultimately fundamental to tackling the obesity epidemic. So too with climate. However, unlike the obesity epidemic which occurs over the lifespan of humans, climate change takes place over the span of generations. Hence, prediction of climate change and devising appropriate interventions is more akin to trying to predict and shape the course of evolution.

eyesonu
August 14, 2011 1:49 am

Very interesting.

John Marshall
August 14, 2011 1:53 am

More like the real thing than the so called ‘concensus’
Having lived in the tropics I can attest to the fact that thunderstorms can last into the night, and sometimes all night given a little orographic help. They can also build to well above the tropopause having tried to climb above their tops and failing at 63,000ft in a Vulcan bomber over the Indian Ocean. Estimated tops were up to 70,000ft and still building.

Jessie
August 14, 2011 2:06 am

Instead, I am a climate heretic.
Great, heresy is such an interesting topic and you are possibly one of the grandest heretics I have had the pleasure reading for some time. I look forward to reading this discussion and learning more.
They will have a difficult time making a pyre for you Willis in the marketplace these days. Various political corrective atmospheric environmental regulations and general antipathy in collecting dry wood from the homes of small animals precludes such interest. Maybe not, we still have massive bushfires.
What mechanism(s) do you propose will they choose… for you?
Carbon steel is out also these days. I guess that just leaves ‘reprogramming’?
There was a reasonable list proposed by your more rabid readers in your article of the 8th August.

Boudu
August 14, 2011 2:12 am

Finally, a description of a physical system (the climate) that actually makes sense to me and does not resort to the requirement of CO2’s magical properties.
It seems obvious to me that the climate is a self-regulating physical system that responds to  energy entering the system as Willis describes above.
Are there records of the frequency and intensity of tropical thunderstorms and do they correlate with the observed warming and cooling trends seen in the temperature records?

Paul
August 14, 2011 2:20 am

Possibly the best explanation I have read. Congrats

Don K
August 14, 2011 2:23 am

While I don’t have any problem with the complexity argument, I think it sort of misses the point. Physical systems like climate (and weather for that matter) may very well be too complex to analyze using the tools we have available. Which likely makes GCMs somewhere between dubious and totally worthless. But that doesn’t mean that simple approximations can’t be useful. Which is not to say that T = lambda Q is the correct simple approximation to be using.
An analogy would be space navigation. It is enormously complex if you look at the details. It involves the effects of numerous overlapping gravity fields, not entirely predictable drag, solar wind, radiation pressure, relativistic effects, etc, etc, etc. However, if you are just trying to dock a transport vehicle to a satellite that is only a few meters away, simple newtonian physics and high school analytic geometry can do the job nicely. Try to use the same model you use for docking to navigate to one of the moons of Pluto, and you will likely end up someplace other than where you wanted to go.
For climate, there are probably simple approximations that could give useful answers to questions like “What is the probable effect of human CO2 emissions on future climate.” Trouble is that we don’t know what the approximations are, and are too arrogant and confused to admit that we don’t have much idea what we are doing.

AlanG
August 14, 2011 2:26 am

Completely agree, Willis. The feedback model is plainly wrong. If anything, feedback starts off strongly positive and ends up strongly negative after the weather really gets going. The idea of a single (average) feedback parameter is nonsense because you cannot average a non-linear system.
As an example, take 2 places which both have an average temperature of 15C. In one, the temperature spends half the time at 10C and half the time at 20C. In the other, the temperature spends half the time at 5C and half the time at 25C. Now apply the Stefan–Boltzmann law (sigma * T^4). You will find that the place with the greater temperature range emits more long wave radiation even the the two average temperatures are the same.

AlanG
August 14, 2011 2:41 am

Another thing that the ‘radiationists’ ignore is mass. The atmosphere has mass so it has inertia and momentum. As you correctly say ‘[thunderstorms] can run on into the evening, and at times well into the night’. I call mainstream climate scientists SLDs – Static Linear Radiationists.

Sean Houlihane
August 14, 2011 2:43 am

So here you have explained how a small perturbation to one of your states can have an unexpectedly large impact. All of the forcings affect these mechanisms to some extent. Maybe they modify the time spent in each state slightly. Maybe some of these stayes are rate limited. Say we make cloud formation occur sooner and faster. Rather than a small change to a steady state, we now have cloudy occurring for a different fraction of the daily cycle.
It only means what you want it to though – untill its all fed into a model.

peter_ga
August 14, 2011 2:51 am

I have read comments that the global climate models they use predict an upper tropospheric bump in temperature, but that this prediction has not been verified. This indicates to me that the greenhouse is expected to operate in between the upper troposphere and outer space, not between the earth’s surface and the upper troposphere, where convection operates. Convection would cap the surface temperature with respect to the upper troposphere, as super-adiabatic lapse rates are rare in nature. The surface temperature would be expected to be limited to the lapse rate temperature difference with the upper troposphere. This only varies with the h2o content of the intervening air.
I believe there should be some negative feedback from extra co2 in the upper troposphere, because that should facilitate the transmission of long wave to outer space, but this facilitation should not be enough to actually make it cooler than it would be without the added co2. I am not even sure if co2 is the dominant greenhouse gas in the upper troposphere. Also ozone is present which absorbs solar UV, which is much more variable than total solar radiance. ozone is also a greenhouse gas, I believe.
In conclusion, arguing that convection disposes easily of any extra greenhouse heat is probably moot, as the models they use would already presume this. Rather the action is probably from upper troposphere to outer space.

August 14, 2011 3:03 am

So how do past climate changes (from snowball earth to the hothouse Cretaceous) fit in your paradigm that “that the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms.”?
After all, paleo shows that significant climate changes (of multiple degrees in the global average) are possible with relatively small changes in the radiation budget.

Andrew Harding
Editor
August 14, 2011 3:07 am

Willis, our experiences in Florida this summer confirm what you said. Sunshine in the morning first thing followed by cloud, a rapid increase in humidity followed by thunderstorms and torrential rain during the afternoon/evening. As a contrast when we were there last Easter the sun’s energy was not strong enough to cause these weather patterns.
I have always maintained that the human race would not have evolved as we have if there were no homeostatic mechanisms to avoid extremes of weather in the habitable areas of Earth. When all of mankinds collective energies are devoted to survival then there is no reserve for cultural and scientific development. Building other than shelters for survival would not happen. That we have the pyramids of Egypt, Stonehenge, Eiffel Tower, Empire State Building etc shows that we have a relative stabilty of climate that has existed for thousands of years and will doubtless exist for thousands of more years. There has been more CO2 in the atmosphere before and there will be times when there will be more in the future, but as you rightly say, there are other things that influence our climate and it is time that fact was acknowledged rather than cherry picking certain facts.

cedarhill
August 14, 2011 3:22 am

This reminds one of other branches of science where inquisitive thought has been radically suppressed. Sometimes for centuries.
It’s a start in the right direction since it simply discards the good old black body theory of the climate modelling simpletons. And, but of course, it’s incomplete. Eschenbach describes, if you will, a segment of the ocean which might be called “stacked cuboid spheroids” or such – call it s “scuboid”. The inclusion of the squall lines shows how how these scuboids can interact with each other.
We can’t model the entire climate system because we simply do not know enough. If you check out the cost per terabyte, some of the recent database technologies, etc., it would seem we have sufficient storage capacity to construct enough scoboids and their boundary state changes (phases). Processing power is a limitation which begs for really great algorithms. I.E., it would be a really big, costly project but just a fraction of what mann made global warming has already cost.
Some of the obvious unknowns is how does the Eschenbach description fit into the Ice Age cycles. For example, the CLOUD experiments could provide insights into the rate of tropical cloud formations which effect tropical cooling and the heat transfer from the tropics to the higher latitudes. Interesting stuff.

charles nelson
August 14, 2011 3:23 am

John Marshall.
I take my hat off to you Sir…
I wonder how many proffessional pilots believe in Climate Change…ha!

Bomber_the_Cat
August 14, 2011 3:35 am

The most interesting thing about this is that a lot of people said they agreed with it.
However, Climate Sensitivity refers to a state of equilibrium. Not a condition in which the sun is coming up, going down, and ocean stratification is doing some other thing. It refers only to a situation in which an equilibrium has been reached after a change in forcing.
Climate sensitivity is normally taken to mean the temperature increase (after equilibrium is attained) which would result from a doubling of CO2. Note, because the effect of CO is logarithmic, it doesn’t really matter what the starting point is, i.e 280 ppm or 400ppm, as long as it is below 1000ppm (after which the relationship breaks down) a doubling will produce the same amount of warming.
In the absence of feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 will cause warming of 1.2deg.C (not 3 deg.C as implied in the diagram). The 1.2 deg C figure is according to the IPCC and makes it first appearance in AR1, page 78, para.3.3.1. Strangely, it is somewhat harder to find in subsequent IPCC assessment reports, probably because 1.1 deg.C is not alarming enough.
So, all other things been equal, if the only parameter we change in the climate system is to double the level of atmospheric CO2, then the IPCC says that the earth will warm by about one degree. Such a warming is probably beneficial, certainly not catastrophic. With this ‘settled science’ supporting the sceptic case I am surprised that sceptics feel a need to seek other explanations.
So, why do he alarmist predict catastrophe? The answer ifs feedback. It is all about feedback.

Alexander K
August 14, 2011 3:42 am

Excellent again (still?), Willis.

A. C. Osborn
August 14, 2011 3:57 am

Bomber_the_Cat says:
August 14, 2011 at 3:35 am
So, all other things been equal, if the only parameter we change in the climate system is to double the level of atmospheric CO2, then the IPCC says that the earth will warm by about one degree.
That is the problem that Willis is highlighting, all things are never equal, it is a state of constant flux and adjustments, on a daily, anual, decadal, century, millenial basis.

August 14, 2011 4:08 am

The global warming hypothesis is based on the projections of climate computer models. Climate computer models are linear. Climate is a non-linear complex system. Therefore climate models are wrong, as is the global warming hypothesis.
http://thepointman.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/the-seductiveness-of-models/
Pointman

Pascvaks
August 14, 2011 4:10 am

Seems that today we do not have the capability to model the system(s) we live in. Too many dimensions. It’s definitely NOT linear. I got the picture, as I read, of a supercomputer dealing with four dimensions for each cell, another dealing with four dimensions of each group of cells, another dealing with four dimensions of each cluster of groups of cells…. etc. etc. The models and programs we have today are toooooo simplistic and only try to treat the super system, and it can’t be done. Thanks Willis, once again you shed light on the matter so well.

Geoff Sherrington
August 14, 2011 4:14 am

Willis, That’s a much-needed description of the many faces of energy transfer in the tropics from day to night. It’s an excellent way to show the over-simplification of a constant climate sensitivity and feedback. However, it remains qualitative, but making it more quantitative might be beyond most readers. This lack of numbers brings me back to an old example, which first arose from a statement (by Judith Curry, IIRC, about 3 years ago) that hurricanes form over hot ocean areas, but not necessarily the hottest ocean areas around. The implication that a modicum of ocean heat is needed to initiate a hurricane needs to be backed up by some back-of-envelope equations that convey heat transfer functions, latent heat, circulation rates etc., to show that the hot ocean is capable to transferring enough heat into a storm to make a difference. It starts to become more complicated when you see that a tropical cyclone can approach the north of Australia, cross the coast, then maintain itself over a dry desert while travelling for several days and over 1,000 miles. That is, hot ocean water is no longer in the equation.
So, yes, I’m in favour of the change of condition and homeostasis explations that you give above, but would like to see some plausibility confirmation with round numbers.

eco-geek
August 14, 2011 4:27 am

I know I’m being stupid but:
Forcing Change of 3.7 watts/metre^2 = 3°C Surface Temperature Change
Surely this isn’t the sum total of the warmist argument? I mean if we turn the Sun off then that means we get over a thousand degrees celcius colder. I guess there is a range of temperatures over which this magical equation is deemed to hold and its seems we are living at temperatures where this “must be” non-linear equation has a maximum value for lambda (must be because: -1000+ celcius isn’t physically real). i.e. lambda = lambda(T). Must be. So can the Warmists graph lambda for us as a function of temperature?

jabbathecat
August 14, 2011 4:31 am

A pleasure to read as always…

August 14, 2011 4:38 am

Excellent. Just being an electronic engineer I have no schooling in climate science but I can appreciate the logic in what you describe. It is always a very nice experience to read an article that explains complex phenomena in a clear and easy to understand way.

Penn State College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
August 14, 2011 4:40 am

Don’t confuse us with your unproven thesis. There is no grant money in it.

Julian Flood
August 14, 2011 4:46 am

John Marshall wrote:
quote
63,000ft in a Vulcan bomber
unquote
Tut tut… unless you were wearing your decompression vests….
JF

huishi
August 14, 2011 4:51 am

Willis,
Great post, and thanks for all you do here.
I have a question about your “heresy”. What causes ice ages and then thawing under your approach? Does the system lose input and then struggle to keep at the preset temperature? (and then later the input heat goes back up)

Roger Longstaff
August 14, 2011 5:01 am

To grossly oversimplify these mechanisms, can we define planetary requirements for life (as we know it) as a planet with an orbit around its star that allows surface water in all 3 phases, and an appropriate atmosphere, mass and rotation that enables long term climate stability via convective forces (the thermostat effect)?
Perhaps O/T, but I have always been interested in SETI.

August 14, 2011 5:01 am

It’s still feedback. Not first-level feedback like a toilet ballcock, but most of the feedback mechanisms in biology and electronics aren’t that direct either.

August 14, 2011 5:13 am

Thank you Willis!
Common sense is not the biggaest asset within the CAGW crouds. What if IPCC instead had to answer “Why is the climate so stable”? That would have sent them in the right direction. You elegantly by common sense have given me a more detailed understanding to why I allways thought clouds to be the allways functioning reliable everlasting reglulator of heat. Thanks for that gift!!

August 14, 2011 5:27 am

Add this to your thought process. The behavior of clouds is controlling the atmospheric concentration of CO2. Cold water in clouds is the nearest sink that absorbs the CO2 that is outgassed from the surface of the ocean. You can expect a temperature-CO2 correlation but that relation is a function of the behavior of clouds. The rather constant global concentration of CO2 indicates that it is a lagging measure of the global distribution and behavior of clouds.

John Ritson
August 14, 2011 5:33 am

Willis,
Thanks for a very interesting article. Your account of the daily pattern of air movement matches closely that given by Frank Bethwaite in his book “High Performance Sailing”. Frank is a sail boat designer and aeronautical engineer, he was previously a commercial airline pilot and was the Australian Olympic sailing team coach.
He flew in tropical Australia and noticed the pattern of thermals organising themselves first into a hexagonal pattern which then breaks up into rows and then thunderstorms.

Bill Illis
August 14, 2011 5:53 am

There are two big problems with the formula.
First, it is a linear equation. Temperatures are not linear with respect to energy levels. Like CO2 has a logarithmic impact, so does temperature with respect to the energy/forcing levels. The 0.8C/W/m2 (or 0.75C/W/m2 when the other GHGs like Methane are added in) is an average of a curved log formula (with temperature between -30C and 10C, not the differential at today’s 15C). It is not based on physics, it is a shortcut used in the late 1970s when they were still trying to work out the theory and they have stubbornly stuck with it, even though it is physically wrong.
Second, the feedbacks are all based on a series of assumptions that climate science will not question (water vapour, positive cloud feedback, no/tiny lapse rate change). These need to be tested against real-world data, not climate model against climate model.
Your thermostat proposition means that the water vapour feedback in particular will be less than assumed and will operate at a faster rate than assumed (I might even convert it into a lapse rate discussion). That is exactly what the real-world data shows.

EdH
August 14, 2011 5:58 am

While I applaud the very clear explanation of some of the complexities of the climate system, it doesn’t demonstrate that there are not simplifying equations for the aggregate behavior of the system. Many years ago, early in my career, I ahd to create an algorithm to calibrate a complex photolithography exposure system for semiconductor manufacture. The electronics had dozens of ADC’s and DAC’s that each could drift as they aged, and so I set about to create a regimen to properly determine the calibration of each component to sum to a properly calibrated whole. I thought that was the only way to get it right, and it was immensely complicated. A more experienced engineer then was able to come in and demonstrate that the aggregate behavior of the exposure system could be calibrated as a whole, with a simplifying approach involving only a few inputs and measurements. It worked. I don’t know whether the traditional linear equation is right for the climate system. I suspect it isn’t by virtue of its linearity. But we should not get caught up in trying to account for every perturbation either. Modelling the aggregate behavior within a range requires observation based validation of various simplifying models. Thoeretical climate models that the AGW crowd use won’t do it, but overly complex models that involve too many variables also are not testeable and won’t do it either.

Bystander
August 14, 2011 6:00 am

Willis – Bart asks a relevant question. For your “heresy” to be valid it needs to explain prior and current climate variation. It does not appear to do that.

Stanb999
August 14, 2011 6:02 am

Bomber_the_Cat says:
August 14, 2011 at 3:35 am
The most interesting thing about this is that a lot of people said they agreed with it.
However, Climate Sensitivity refers to a state of equilibrium. Not a condition in which the sun is coming up, going down, and ocean stratification is doing some other thing. It refers only to a situation in which an equilibrium has been reached after a change in forcing.
Climate sensitivity is normally taken to mean the temperature increase (after equilibrium is attained) which would result from a doubling of CO2. Note, because the effect of CO is logarithmic, it doesn’t really matter what the starting point is, i.e 280 ppm or 400ppm, as long as it is below 1000ppm (after which the relationship breaks down) a doubling will produce the same amount of warming.
In the absence of feedbacks, a doubling of CO2 will cause warming of 1.2deg.C (not 3 deg.C as implied in the diagram). The 1.2 deg C figure is according to the IPCC and makes it first appearance in AR1, page 78, para.3.3.1. Strangely, it is somewhat harder to find in subsequent IPCC assessment reports, probably because 1.1 deg.C is not alarming enough.
So, all other things been equal, if the only parameter we change in the climate system is to double the level of atmospheric CO2, then the IPCC says that the earth will warm by about one degree
————————————————————————————————–
All of the above is well and good. However your missing the point of the post.
The temperature at the surface “Where we are” is controlled by the water cycle. If as you suggest the temperature in the high atmosphere was to rise. (which hasn’t been noticed in actual measurements.) The storm would just run a bit longer to dissipate the heat. The temperature at the surface wouldn’t change at all. Of course there is also the expected feed back of the thunderstorm “head” rising just a bit higher. The apparent temperature difference for the storm would be the same. So the flow rate would be the same. The condensation point isn’t controlled by altitude alone. It’s not as if there is a ceiling at which convection must stop. It’s temperature and altitude that controls the condensation point. I propose it makes little difference to us on the ground if a thunder head is at 65,000 ft v/s 60,000 ft. Not only will the altitude of the condensation not benefit or harm us. I doubt we will notice.

Jeff L
August 14, 2011 6:11 am

While I find the model interesting, there clearly must be some physics behind the current climate models which drive their construction in their current manner. I mean, whether you agree or not, there are a lot of very smart, well trained people who have constructed these. So, I think you have to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater as I am sure there are elements which are good, but maybe this hypothesis could be integrated in with current models to develop a better model. I would be very interested to Spenser or Pielke comment on your hypothesis.
On a similar & related note, I wonder if anyone has considered a convolutional model to describe the relationship between forcings & outputs & if that is a useful model to describe the climate system. The response function would be much more complicated in output, depending on the forcing operator, but still linear with respect to that operator.

moe
August 14, 2011 6:25 am

Aurel
What you write is true, if you look at very local and short term sensitivities. However, I think Mr. Eschenbach is referring to sensitivities that have been averaged over longer periods of time and large areas of the planet’s surface. During these averaging the direct relation of a constant local and short term sensitivity is, as is shown above, invalidly transfered to a constant global sensitivity that is averaged over a year or even a decade.
With other words: averaged sensitivity does not make physical sense, and is rather a abstract parameter.
Due to these short term changes in the local radiation-pattern and energy-transport through convection, the longterm sensitivity -as a parameter- is not constant.

Caleb
August 14, 2011 6:28 am

As always, very interesting.
At the risk of making things hidiously complex, isn’t the morning sunshine coming down at a slant, and doesn’t it have less power than the noonday sun that pounds down on mad dogs and Englishmen?
Also, at some point, when the sun gets very low, it seems to stop penetrating the ocean’s surface. You no longer see those moving, golden lines on a sandy bottom, and underwater seems in shade even when it is still sunny above the surface. Does this mean the ocean is reflecting most of the incoming sunshine, at that point?

Drew
August 14, 2011 6:32 am

Willis Eschenbach I’ve often quite enjoyed your analysis, it’s fun. And I learn a lot outside my field. I have to take issue with this article because it draws conclusions that don’t follow from the premise. It also appears to me, if you rearrange some of the points, it is the same logic as what mainstream climatologists would agree with, bar the conclusions in it’s entirity because it gets a bit jumbled (imho).
“My conclusion from all of this is that the climate, like other flow systems far from equilibrium, contains homeostatic mechanisms. ” With this you then made your transition through to your final concept as follows, “And to return to the title of the post, I think that the debate should not be about feedback at all, it should be a debate about the types and the effects of the various natural homeostatic mechanisms.”
My conclusion would be that feedback mechanisms, to whatever extent they exist, are superimposed (in a way) on top of these various homeostatic mechanisms which nobody debates do not exist, but rather debate to what extent they can force a system, for what time frame they exist etc.
You can think about what you wrote in another way. The temperature is somewhat regulated to be within a boundary and requires a temperature, or wind speed, or air moisture content etc to create a condition which self rectifies to keep the system in these limits by these pursuing forces. As you gave as your example with thunderstorms, “It is capable of driving the surface temperature well below the temperature that was needed to get it going”. This homeostatic control will operate and can be thought of for simplicity as operating in a different tier to feedbacks because its regulation as you wrote, “the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms.” However, feedbacks operate to change the scale that homeostatatic mechanisms operate. This makes the environment self correcting within a different range, and given that CO2 produces net positives which are consistently retained, the environment does not snap back into place the original system by removing the CO2 from the atmosphere and reinstating a homeostatic process to continue the cycle. This is the principle which is not negated in your article.
If you think the feedback loop doesn’t exist for CO2, that’s entirely different, and is not what you were suggesting.

R. Gates
August 14, 2011 6:40 am

Willis, you have left out many of the actual feedback related elements involved in the creation of clouds over the ocean, chief among them is of course aerosols, which definitely do involve feedback processes. Clouds don’t form just from the heating of the ocean surface alone and convection, yet not once in your rather simple model did you mention aerosols– critical for cloud formation. You also left out key cloud types, such as marine layer stratus and cirrus, which provide much different types of response to daily insulation. This would be part of an entire discussion of clouds and vertical distribution of SW absorption– certainly a critical component. See:
http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ackerman/Articles/McFarlane_2008JD009791.pdf
Other than all these key shortcomings, your simple homeostatic model is interesting.

August 14, 2011 7:04 am

I marvel at the magnificence and glory of the Lord’s work. The Lord has given us really giant heat pumps to keep us cool and they work the same way that the air conditioner in your house works. A liquid refrigerant evaporates at the location to be cooled, the refrigerant is transported to another location to condense and reject heat. Finally the condensed refrigerant is returned to continue the cycle!
Except where the air conditioning in our house may equal a few “tons” of refrigeration, a really big storm, like a hurricane, equals megatons!
(Ton is a measurement of refrigeration capacity: the cooling capacity of one ton of ice per day, standardized to 12,000 Btu/hr. That’s a 2,000lb short ton, not to be confused with a metric ton or a long ton.)
And you can get some really spectacular fireworks with the Lord’s AC where all Carrier delivers is an annoying “hmmmmmm”.
May your Sunday be blessed for this is a day he has given to you.
Regards,
Steamboat Jack (Jon Jewett’s evil twin)

TimC
August 14, 2011 7:06 am

Willis: thank you, but I have problems with this. The “homeostatic mechanisms” you describe are essentially diurnal: you describe how day-time solar heating, and night-time cooling, generate local weather effects in the tropics, the temperate regions etc.
But on larger scales (both in space and time) the earth is a planet of our local star; the sun is our only source of (purely radiative) energy; we have an atmosphere which clearly operates to reduce diurnal variations in temperature (which on black body basis would otherwise be huge, on human scale) and the radiative budget must always be exactly in balance. Unless any changes in solar insolation are immediately matched by total reflected radiation, the earth will warm – even if just to appear brighter to a (hypothetical!) extra-terrestrial observer.
While I agree that ∆T = λ ∆Q is a simplistic approximation, isn’t it just that – an approximation, hopefully tangential to some more complex curve (we haven’t encountered TSI changes of more than a few W/m^2 so just aren’t in a position to estimate what the true ∆T curve might be if ∆Q changed by, say, 10% or more).
If ∆T = λ ∆Q is a reasonable approximation of the (large-scale) effects of forcing on globally averaged temperature, why does it matter if a few clouds are banging around locally on a given day? If you could position yourself to view the earth’s rotation say 1M Km above the sub-solar point the weather (from east to west) would always look much the same, only varying (on any centennial timeframe) according to the sun’s annual declination and the consequent local geographical (land or ocean) effects. Why do you suggest the approximation is disproved by diurnal weather patterns?

Tenuc
August 14, 2011 7:10 am

Julian Flood says:
August 14, 2011 at 4:46 am
“John Marshall wrote:
quote: -63,000ft in a Vulcan bomber – unquote
Tut tut… unless you were wearing your decompression vests…
JF”

Max ceiling for an Avro Vulcan is 65,000ft – what’s your problem???

netdr
August 14, 2011 7:13 am

Interesting.
I believe I have read that the ancient sun was 25 % dimmer than the one we have today but the temperatures were similar.

August 14, 2011 7:20 am

“…the climate, like other flow systems far from equilibrium, contains homeostatic mechanisms.”
Simple.

August 14, 2011 7:29 am

Good article, thanks Willis!

Ian W
August 14, 2011 7:29 am

Bart Verheggen says:
August 14, 2011 at 3:03 am
So how do past climate changes (from snowball earth to the hothouse Cretaceous) fit in your paradigm that “that the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms.”?
After all, paleo shows that significant climate changes (of multiple degrees in the global average) are possible with relatively small changes in the radiation budget.

And for Bystander as well.
The climate is a chaotic system with (as Willis states) preferred states; or, in chaos terms ‘attractors’. The strongest attractor and most preferred state is that of glacial or ice-age, We are lucky enough now to be living in a time when the climate system is in the other state around the interglacial attractor.
If Svensmark and other researchers are correct the switch between these states could be due to weakness in the solar wind leading to more galactic cosmic rays entering the atmosphere and increasing the nucleation for cloud droplets (just as in a ‘cloud chamber’). Of course there may be other reasons for variations in GCR that are not yet known. This does not change Willis’ argument just adds yet another possibly chaotic variable that needs to be factored into chaotic system of chaotic subsystems.
Trying to produce a linear projection from the behavior of a chaotic system displays ignorance.

Jose Suro
August 14, 2011 7:33 am

Hello Willis,
Thanks for the article. I like your explanation except for this:
“Under the new late-morning cumulus circulation regime, much less surface warming goes on. Part of the sunlight is reflected back to space, so less energy makes it into the system to begin with.”
I’m just starting to study IR and how that part of the spectrum works. “Sunlight” is the complete spectrum and yes, while visible light is “reflected” back towards space by clouds (and not all of it by the way), I’m not too sure that a lot of IR is reflected by low clouds (no ice) back into space.
Seems to me from what little I’ve read so far that low clouds could be categorized as a non-grey body material and therefore selective emitters for different wavelengths. If so then the formula for clouds would be more like: Emissivity + Reflectivity + Transmission = 100%IR.
This is why I think that “reflected” is somewhat of a simplistic term that might not fully explain what is going on with low cumulus clouds. I don’t know enough about this yet to make a factual statement but it just could be that low level cloud reflectivity in the IR range is actually rather low…..
All the best,
J.

Camburn
August 14, 2011 7:34 am

Chris1958@146:
Thank you for deomonsrtating an old idea that is wrong, has been proven wrong.
Gaining weight/loosing weight is not only tied to calories. It is tied to the calories you eat, what those calories are from, and the amount of exercise you do. IT is deff not tied to caloric input nor caloric output.
One might call it individual feedbacks because while each body is similiar, it is not the same.
Just as in climate, regional areas affect climate at large. A watt here and a watt there do not produce the same results to the climate.

pochas
August 14, 2011 7:36 am

Boltzmann radiation is the big elephant in the room, and it does no good to obscure that fact. It gets warmer, more heat radiates to space. Its a great, big, negative feedback, raised to the 4th power, that hasn’t changed since the dawn of time. Everything else is of minor significance. Deny it and you speak gibberish.

Alan Clark of Dirty Oil-berta
August 14, 2011 7:40 am

In 1920, scientists believed that adding chlorine to surface water made it “as pure as a mountain stream”. It took over 50 years for science to establish that adding chlorine to surface water broke the chemical equilibrium and set-about the chain-reaction creation of thousands of new chemical compounds, many of which are still unidentified. I suspect that today’s climate scientists may be as unknowingly naive as their previous chemical cohorts.

PJP
August 14, 2011 7:49 am

When I was doing my degree at university, I had to do some one year duration course on topics not related to my degree subject. I chose economics as one of them. This was my first experience of the “soft” sciences.
The first lecture spent an hour doing a somewhat “hand waving” derivation of y=mx c.
Then it was explained that in reality functions were rarely linear, but the simple linear equations were used because they were good enough.
I stopped going to the lectures at that point. Read the book a week before the exam and passed….

Bernie McCune
August 14, 2011 7:50 am

There is probably a similar dynamic mechanism that operates over the New Mexico desert during our summer monsoons. Without an ocean beneath it, the dynamics are likely to be a bit different. I’ll have to think about that.
It has always been obvious to me that these very dynamic atmospheric descriptions are more likely to help us determine what is actually going on rather than the “on average” static calculations that seem to be popular right now. In another life while studying engineering I had two courses – “Statics” and “Dynamics”. Simply put Statics was easy while Dynamics was hard. I learned something from that academic exercise that immediately prepared me for the real world in general as well as later in my life in particular, for the complexities of climate. If it were easy we would not still be arguing about it. Thanks Willis.
Bernie

netdr
August 14, 2011 7:51 am

pochas says:
August 14, 2011 at 7:36 am
Boltzmann radiation is the big elephant in the room, and it does no good to obscure that fact. It gets warmer, more heat radiates to space. Its a great, big, negative feedback, raised to the 4th power, that hasn’t changed since the dawn of time. Everything else is of minor significance. Deny it and you speak gibberish.
****************
True but the alarmists speak their own language. They ignore the fact that the overall system is strongly negative feedback and instead define positive and negative relative to that.
Positive feedback is more warming than found by gray body radiation and negative feedback is less.
When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’

August 14, 2011 7:52 am

There is another remarkable fact about thunderstorms. They effectively short circuit the greenhouse effect, because they change the lapse rate in the troposphere. It is nature’s way to transport huge amounts of latent heat directly to the upper atmosphere where it can then radiate directly to space. The AGW radiative forcing of CO2 is based on the dry adiabatic lapse rate. However, in saturated tropical air the lapse rate is about half that of dry air and the energy loss to space is actually greater despite any higher effective last scattering level. I am convinced that there is indeed a thermostat at work in the tropical oceans along the lines described by Willis Eschenbach. Otherwise how could the oceans have survived Earth’s climate upheavals for billions of years.

rbateman
August 14, 2011 7:55 am

The self-regulating would appear to include the Temperate Zones vs the Polar Zones.

Chris Hall
August 14, 2011 7:56 am

I may be missing something, but I think Willis is describing something like a control system that uses negative feedback to run a step-function or bang-bang heating/cooling cycle. The control is via pulse width modulation (similar to most solid state relay systems) and the periodicity of the pulse train is 24 hr. Now when you drive this system with more energy input (solar, albedo, cosmic rays, ocean current variations, whatever) or energy retention (CO2, CH4, H2O, whatever), this will cause the system to move slightly on the high side of the “set point”. This would define the climate sensitivity, which with this control system would be rather low. Or am I missing some grand cosmic point?

Ric Locke
August 14, 2011 7:59 am

I spent twenty-five years working with aerial photographers. Aerial photography of the precise, mapping-oriented type they did requires cloud-free skies, or at minimum no clouds below the altitude the aircraft will fly to take photos. It also requires that the “sun angle”, the angle at which the sun’s rays hit the ground, be above a certain value, to minimize shadows in the scene that make interpretation difficult.
When attempting aerial photography in tropical climates, the morning phase change Willis describes is well-known and frustrating. The crew goes out and prepares the airplane and camera under clear skies, with hope for a successful mission. Then, at just the time the sun angle becomes sufficient for aerial photography, the phase change occurs. The photographers say “the cu is popping”, and it means that the mission must either be scrubbed entirely, or curtailed long before completion as the cumulus becomes too dense to work around. It can be months before there are enough hours in which the phase change occurs late enough to allow finishing a large project. The crew gets a lot of hours on the beach drinking drinks with fruit in and little hats on top, but they also don’t get to go home, and the per diem costs get the boss antsy.
Importantly: That same phase change occurs over land in temperate climates, especially the wide flat expanses of the center of North America. The chaotic, stratified circulation near the ground is converted into convection cells, and “the cu pops”. The time of onset is much more variable than it is in the tropics, probably (speculation) because the humidity is more variable, and at some times of year it doesn’t happen at all. From the point of view of the aerial photographer, the result is the same: the mission is impossible or must be cut short.
Willis might profitably interview some aerial photographers in the heartland, as a step toward quantifying his theory. Aerial photographers keep logs, and although those logs aren’t oriented toward climate monitoring, they are very sensitive to weather, especially the formation of clouds. Cross-correlation of those logs with known values of weather-related variables might yield useful and interesting results.
Regards,
Ric

ferd berple
August 14, 2011 8:00 am

Boudu says:
August 14, 2011 at 2:12 am
Are there records of the frequency and intensity of tropical thunderstorms and do they correlate with the observed warming and cooling trends seen in the temperature records?
The record becomes clear when one lives in the tropics near or on the ocean. “Winter” in the tropics is almost always known as the “dry” season and summer is almost always known as the “wet” season. Thunderstorms are typically much less fequent in the dry season than in the wet. The situation is not quite as simple as that due to monsoon patterns, but it is generally true.
When is summer and winter in the tropics? It depends on your latitude. Right on the equator it is hottest in spring and fall as the sun passes directly overhead twice a year.
During “summer” in the tropics it can be unbearably hot, but as the thunderstorms build and the rain begins this makes the temperate much less extreme. In fact, “summer” is often a good time to travel if you are not used to the tropic, as the increased cloud cover limits sunburn.
“Winter” in the tropics is typically cooler than summer, especially in the morning, but the skies are often clear all day and by the end of the day it can be as hot or hotter than summer. The main difference between summer and winter in the tropics is not the temperature so much as the humidity. Tropical winters are dry and summers are wet.
The problem with temperature as a measure of climate is that it is misleading without a measure of humidity, as moist air has more thermal energy than dry air of the same temperature.

Roy
August 14, 2011 8:07 am

Willis,
Excellent model. One point didn’t quite ring true as it didn’t have a mechanism attached.
“The main feature of this regime is that during this time, the ocean radiates about the amount of the energy that it absorbed during all of the previously described regimes”
The amount of energy radiated may vary dependent on such things as how long the thunderstorms lasted overnight. So the ocean temperature at dawn may vary a bit. The fixed point in the cycle is at the late morning transition. The point would be better put as “The morning phase absorbs as much energy as net lost over the previous afternoon and night’s regimes”.
This statement is true for each day, rather than for an average over time.

Theo Goodwin
August 14, 2011 8:19 am

What I find most important about Willis’ work is that he has provided a clear example of the physical science that must be undertaken if we are to understand how temperature (heat exchange) interacts with other environmental factors. This knowledge can take us down the path of discovering the environmental factors that control temperature. Of course, Willis’ physical hypotheses are neither quantitative nor complete for the obvious reason that a large research program would be necessary to test them and refine them.
If you have lived in the tropics for a number of years (or out of the tropics as far north as central Florida) and you are fascinated by nature, you can give testimony to the existence of the natural pattern that Willis describes. Using a homeostatic mechanism as the basis for description of the mechanism underlying this pattern makes perfect sense and is a good starting point.
There are some objections. I would not use the word ’emergent’ and would instead use the phrase ‘threshold phenomenon’. The word ’emergent’ suggests that the characteristics of the phenomenon described are not real but express an underlying reality. We should not follow the Gaia Modelers into metaphysics.
Some have objected that billions of little homeostatic cells would be too difficult to model. Forget the models and do physical science. Use Willis’ starting point to create a refined set of hypotheses that can be used for prediction. Then randomly select environments and see if the predictions hold in all of them. That traditional technique of physical science is far superior to computer modeling.
Others have suggested that such homeostatic phenomena require the investigator to accept the claim that climate science is chaotic or something like chaotic. Excuse me, but the behavior of homeostatic phenomena is deterministic and fits the traditional model of physical science perfectly. The fact that there might be billions of these cells changes nothing.
Some have wondered how ice ages could have occurred if temperature is maintained by homeostatic phenomena. Willis’ hypotheses do not apply to Earth’s entire atmosphere. Once you leave the tropics, other mechanisms might come into play. To my mind, the biggest failure of climate science is that they insist on making assumptions needed by their Gaia Models. Their broad assumptions simply trash the empirical phenomena that they claim to study.
Some have objected that Willis is changing the definition of “feedback.” Such a change is unavoidable. Willis is using physical hypotheses to describe natural regularities in our humanly observable environment. Definitions of “feedback” in use by climate scientists today are limited to Arrhenius’ equations and to computer models. Someone who has done work along the lines suggested by Willis, someone like Roger Pielke Sr who has done considerable work on land use changes, might be called upon to explain how best to define “feedback.”
In conclusion, Willis’ program is strictly within the confines of physical science as it has been practiced since Galileo. Everyone should learn from the example that Willis has given us.

August 14, 2011 8:20 am

“….it should be a debate about the types and the effects of the various natural homeostatic mechanisms.”
Well, they can’t. One would have to identify all of the mechanisms first. And, I think that task would be rather impossible. That stated, it would be nice if a few climatologists would acknowledge our limitations in understanding our climate.
Loved the pool analogy. While, our climatologists are stuck in linear thoughts, even the pool table creates seemingly unsolvable problems. And that’s only one a plane! I seriously doubt a climatologist could come anywhere close to describing the all of the scientific and mathematical dynamics that occur in the game of pool, much less our climate. I’ve been studying the trigonometry and calculus of “spheres on planes” for some time now……and still get shown new things from time to time!

cal
August 14, 2011 8:25 am

Willis, I found the paper very interesting and useful. However whilst I think I sympathise with the sentiment I was not entirely convinced that you proved your point conclusively.
You talk about the climate but you seem to be describing weather systems. These weather systems must be well modelled by meteorologists since they have a pretty good record of short term forecasting. So surely the question is how well these weather systems are represented by climate models. In other words how are they affected by changes in the consituents of the atmosphere such as GHGs and aerosols as well as long term changes in things like land use, solar iradiance and possibly related cosmic rays. So, whilst I agree that the issue is about regime change and not linear feedback, I am not convinced that the models used by climate scientists cannot represent the actual system. To do this they need to model each of the regimes and then model and paramaterise the phase changes involved in switching from one to the other. One might even find that the output of this complex sytem model could be approximated to a relatively simple linear system with feedback just as complex socioeconomic sytems are often modelled. I doubt it, but it is not impossible. However, if this approximation exists it surely has not been adequately validated. For examples deep ocean currents and clouds are not well modelled by any of the IPCC models, all of which employ fudge factors to make the models fit. Until we have more historic data regarding overall system response and more detailed ocean and satellite data to parameterise the radiation balance equations, we have no way of determining whether these fudge factors are constants or not.

Roger Knights
August 14, 2011 8:29 am

“I am a climate heretic.”

Here’s a term with more “punch”: “I am a hot-air heretic.”
That’s similar to my other suggested term for our side: scorcher-scam scoffers.

Bruce Cobb
August 14, 2011 8:30 am

Bart Verheggen says:
August 14, 2011 at 3:03 am
So how do past climate changes (from snowball earth to the hothouse Cretaceous) fit in your paradigm that “that the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms.”?
After all, paleo shows that significant climate changes (of multiple degrees in the global average) are possible with relatively small changes in the radiation budget.

Do you really think our modern-day climate is in any way comparable to then? For starters, there were no ocean circulation patterns then, no polar regions, or separate continents.
Modern climate only started to develop about 5 million years ago, with the alternating ice ages lasting roughly 100k years and interglacials lasting 10 – 20k years appearing about 2 million years ago.
Ice ages and interglacials are, of course, entirely sun-driven. I think this essay of Willis’s needs a 2nd part, showing how homeostasis rules during the two different periods (which I think it does). The great oceanic conveyor belt is one huge homeostatic influence, as well as the poles.
The role of C02 is simply as an additional homeostatic influence, not as a climate driver.

ferd berple
August 14, 2011 8:31 am

Bart Verheggen says:
August 14, 2011 at 3:03 am
So how do past climate changes (from snowball earth to the hothouse Cretaceous) fit in your paradigm that “that the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms.”?
If one looks at the paleo records for the past 600 million years, it is obvious that for most of earth’s past the average temperature was 22C or 11C. Those are the preferred states, with attractors in the climate system that causes this. We don’t know what these are, but it could easily be the step function in energy required by the phase change between water vapour/water/ice.
As the paleo record shows, our current temperature of 14.5C is unstable. There is no reason that the temperature wants to stay at 14.5C, so there are large natural variations that have no “forcing” at all. The climate system is trying to head towards 11C and 22C at the same time, and swings back and forth as a result.
What we see as “forcings” are not forcings at all. They are natural variability of a chaotic system than is currently between two strong attractors. The attractors are not static, they are also in motion around each other. As one of the attractors (say cold for example) comes closer to us, the climate swings cold. However, before we go into orbit around the 11C attractor, the two attractors change places, and we now swing towards the 22C attractor and the climate warms. This then repeats as the attractors again change places.
This simplistic model assumes that there are only two attractors, one at 11C and one at 22C, but this is unlikely to be the case, with many attractors influencing temperature. However, we know from the 3 body problem, that even a system that has one body and two attractors cannot be solved by Newtonian mechanics. You need a probability function as used in quantum mechanics.
Climate science ignores the reality of the three body problem and continues to assume that simple linear equation can be used to predict the future. That the universe is a simple clockwork mechanism, with everything today fully determined by events yesterday, and those events determine by the day before, back to the beginning of time. Under that model, our climate and the actions of all humans, all decisions we make, were determined at the birth of the universe, and in the universe before. That indeed, the future is already written, and whatever the climate will be in 100 years was decided long ago.

pochas
August 14, 2011 8:36 am

netdr says:
August 14, 2011 at 7:51 am
“True but the alarmists speak their own language. They ignore the fact that the overall system is strongly negative feedback and instead define positive and negative relative to that.”

August 14, 2011 8:43 am

As Willis points out, the equation which states:
∆T = λ ∆Q
plays a leading role in the climatology of the IPCC “consensus.” As a conjecture, this equation has the property of being non-falsifiable thus lying outside science. The non-falsifiability follows from the fact that the equilibrium temperature ∆T is not an observable.

Roger Knights
August 14, 2011 8:57 am

Typos:
homeostasis is ” the property of a system,
(Reverse the curly quote and remove the space after it)
A new circulation pattern replace the random eddying.
(Change to “replaces”)

R. Gates
August 14, 2011 9:18 am

Jose Suro says:
August 14, 2011 at 7:33 am
Hello Willis,
Thanks for the article. I like your explanation except for this:
“Under the new late-morning cumulus circulation regime, much less surface warming goes on. Part of the sunlight is reflected back to space, so less energy makes it into the system to begin with.”
I’m just starting to study IR and how that part of the spectrum works. “Sunlight” is the complete spectrum and yes, while visible light is “reflected” back towards space by clouds (and not all of it by the way), I’m not too sure that a lot of IR is reflected by low clouds (no ice) back into space.
Seems to me from what little I’ve read so far that low clouds could be categorized as a non-grey body material and therefore selective emitters for different wavelengths. If so then the formula for clouds would be more like: Emissivity + Reflectivity + Transmission = 100%IR.
This is why I think that “reflected” is somewhat of a simplistic term that might not fully explain what is going on with low cumulus clouds. I don’t know enough about this yet to make a factual statement but it just could be that low level cloud reflectivity in the IR range is actually rather low…..
All the best,
J.
____
Your intuition about the simple model of 100% reflectance of clouds being wrong is correct. Clouds of different heights and densities respond to SW radiation in completely different ways, One interesting bit of research related to this ist:
http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~ackerman/Articles/McFarlane_2008JD009791.pdf

R. Gates
August 14, 2011 9:28 am

ferd berple says:
August 14, 2011 at 8:31 am
“Climate science ignores the reality of the three body problem and continues to assume that simple linear equation can be used to predict the future.”
_____
This is nonsense. The three-body problem is of course at the center of Chaos theory and climate research has long acknowledged that the climate is a dynamical system existing on the edge of spatio-temperal chaos and that the complexity of multiple interacting positive and negative feedbacks make it so particularly complex and nonlinear. This is one of the reasons that the study of past climates is so particularly important, as patterns of relationships between all the interacting forcings and feedbacks can be seen.

Matt Skaggs
August 14, 2011 9:37 am

“Counter-intuitively, the more water vapor there is in the air, the lighter it becomes.”
I’ve thrashed my intuition mercilessly over this inexcusable error. But if it asks where it went wrong, what should I tell it?

anticlimactic
August 14, 2011 9:38 am

To me one key question is : Would AGW be invented now?
If AGW had not been invented when it was is there anything in the current climate that would require AGW to explain it? I think the answer would be an emphatic ‘No’.
We are left fighting an idea which no longer has any reason to exist. So much has been shown to be lies, propaganda and obfuscation that in terms of TRUE science it has been defeated. When you realise someone is consistently lying you will tend to dismiss everything they say, not just the things you currently know to be a lie. Unfortunately, in the process, it has debased science. The majority of the public now think science is ‘making things up’ rather than ‘finding things out’.
The battleground is now more in the political arena, where politicians still seem hell bent on harming their country’s economy, despite so much evidence which undermines the idea of AGW. No doubt it is just coincidence that the main beneficiaries are the wealthy, who have the land and/or the money to invest in wind and solar and then rake in the profits. Despite being ‘critical for the future of mankind’ I have not heard of any ‘not for profit’ installations! This suggests profiteering at the public’s expense rather than being ‘for the good of mankind’. At least that is something I can believe to be true.

Spector
August 14, 2011 10:00 am

For this to work as a temperature regulating system, you have to assume that air convected to the top of the troposphere must be able to radiate their convected heat energy to outer space. As the primary CO2 band is still saturated there, however the H2O absorption/emission bands are open to outer space at this altitude since there is very little water in the upper atmosphere above the troposphere.
There are those who appear to steadfastly maintain that all thermal radiation is from the surface and the and the convection return flow, which must heat at the dry adiabatic rate of 9.8 deg C per 1000 meters going down–unless it is gobbling up condensed water vapor on the way, and reach the surface before it can be cooled again.
A thunderstorm event might be best depicted as a run-away rising column of air that is becoming progressively warmer than the surrounding air as condensing water vapor yields its heat of vaporization until almost all water vapor has condensed out and then cooling at a rate of 9.8 deg C per 1000 meters, it eventually reaches a warmer layer of air and spreads out like smoke over a ceiling.

Roger Knights
August 14, 2011 10:00 am

Willis says:
As far as I know, there is no homeostatic system in the body to maintain weight, so I think you have the wrong example to compare with climate homeostasis. Try the example of the human body’s regulation of temperature as a metaphor, there’s a much better fit.

Well, there is a hypothesized “set point” that regulates appetite and tends to maintain weight at too-high levels, causing most dieters to fail to lose weight permanently.
In addition to your pool table analogy, you ought to incorporate the warmists’ body-weight = Calorie-consumption assumed analogy into your paper, because it is a better fit to the way they are thinking, and enables you to point out its subtle flaw: the human body can’t increase its metabolism rate (via a higher body temperature) to keep its weight down, but the climate system can increase its convection rate; i.e., the rate at which it sheds heat.

Philip
August 14, 2011 10:01 am

Hi Willis,
Thanks for another nice article. I have a question. How does the temperature profile in the troposphere develop during the sequence of regime changes you describe?
Best regards.

timetochooseagain
August 14, 2011 10:12 am

It seems to me something of a weakness of these explanations that there is a strong focus on the tropical region. The dynamics of the rest of the planet should be considered. Willis, have you considered how the behavior of the extratropical regions may/does occur and how it relates to the system? Do the extratropics rely on the tropical regions to maintain their homeostasis, do they have their own mechanisms, or do they tend to act against these stabilizing mechanisms? The current paradigm seems to place a great deal of importance on these regions. It seems to me that they are perhaps were a more clear difference in understand may lie.

gnomish
August 14, 2011 10:15 am

The heat pump Willis describes is observable any time – unfortunately for academia, it’s outdoors and away from the supermodels on the supercomputer.
i’m glad to see that the density of water gas has been selected for notice.
it’s interesting to note that there is no temperature change as a result of phase change – therefore it can not be seen on a thermometer. (heat is not measured in degrees)
the essay would be improved, imo, without the unnecessarily contrived semantic quibble about ‘feedback’.
All homeostatic control mechanisms are feedback systems. there is no sense rejecting the word – it will have to be replaced with another that means the same. no such neologism is called for because the concept is valid; the word is perfectly good.

viejecita
August 14, 2011 11:26 am

Dear Willis Eschenbach:
Just a few words to thank you for calling yourself a heretic, and for the way you explain these things, so that even an old woman with no credentials like myself can understand and take pleasure in what you say.
María

Steve McIntyre
August 14, 2011 11:27 am

The concept of “snowball earth” is based on interpretation of some geological formations as evidence of glaciation – an interpretation that is not shared by a number of Canadian geologists specializing in glaciation (an important phenomenon in Canadian geology). They interpret the main ‘evidence” for snowball earth as formed by turbidites.and therefore not establishing snowball earth.
I presume that Verheggen is not personally familiar with the geological literature. It’s quite interesting and I would urge him to take a look at it before using a snowball earth argument.

Gary Pearse
August 14, 2011 11:29 am

Willis, this is a compelling theory. However it’s no good just to say existing models are crap. You have the makings of an all embracing model here. If you boil up tea in Halifax or Lagos, you pretty well get the same drink at the same temperature. The reactions to temperature you describe work elsewhere than just in the tropics. The only thing is, with the sun angle increasing with latitude, the warming effect on the ocean is diminished. This means that your early morning case, mid afternoon cummulus case and thunderstorm case extends later with increasing latitude with the thunderstorm period narrowing and disappearing (no thunderstorms in the polar regions). One could record sun angle, actual sea and air temps, humidities and winds and match these to the different atmospheric dynamics in the tropics and develop a quantitative formula (I guess this is called a model these days). This should work over the rest of the globe. Superimpose the various oscillations, solar cycles, and aerosols from volcanoes, desert dust and industrial sources, etc. and see if you have better skill than existing models. Probably the satellite imagery of clouds would help quantify the various phases you describe, etc. I think this is worth the effort and you may be able to employ willing volunteers to the task

August 14, 2011 11:50 am

charles nelson says:
August 14, 2011 at 1:18 am
I detest the term “Greenhouse Theory” with its implicit and impossible lid on the atmosphere.
The very word Greenhouse is redolent of trapped, un-natural and stifling heat. Perfect for scaring the scientifically illiterate who make up such a high proportion of Believers.
========================================================
…….. but, in fact, that can be turned around as it does actually and very clearly illustrate the importance of convection.
Matt Skaggs says:
August 14, 2011 at 9:37 am
“Counter-intuitively, the more water vapor there is in the air, the lighter it becomes.”
I’ve thrashed my intuition mercilessly over this inexcusable error. But if it asks where it went wrong, what should I tell it?
========================================================
It’s a molecular mass thing (due to oxygen and nitrogen existing as dimers). From Wiki:
http://img534.imageshack.us/img534/6381/picture3iuk.png
Unless you were asking why it’s counter-intuitive, in which case the answer would be that most people would think that water is heavier than air.

Julian Flood
August 14, 2011 11:56 am

Tenuc wrote
quote
Max ceiling for an Avro Vulcan is 65,000ft – what’s your problem???
unquote
Hypoxia and explosive decompression. Above 50,000 ft the crews had to wear… damned if I can recall the name… vests which squeezed the chest so that 100% O2 could be breathed under pressure. I’ve forgotten the 100% oxygen equivalent sea level — perhaps that was one requirement as the cabin pressurisation was much reduced compared to airliners. The biggy was explosive decompression when you’d probably burst something and maybe not get down to breathable air.
No pressure vest, ceiling 50k ft.
Further up, the sensible wear full pressure suits.
HTH.
JF

Phil.
August 14, 2011 11:59 am

Ian W says:
August 14, 2011 at 7:29 am
The climate is a chaotic system with (as Willis states) preferred states; or, in chaos terms ‘attractors’. The strongest attractor and most preferred state is that of glacial or ice-age, We are lucky enough now to be living in a time when the climate system is in the other state around the interglacial attractor.
If Svensmark and other researchers are correct the switch between these states could be due to weakness in the solar wind leading to more galactic cosmic rays entering the atmosphere and increasing the nucleation for cloud droplets (just as in a ‘cloud chamber’). Of course there may be other reasons for variations in GCR that are not yet known. This does not change Willis’ argument just adds yet another possibly chaotic variable that needs to be factored into chaotic system of chaotic subsystems.
Trying to produce a linear projection from the behavior of a chaotic system displays ignorance.

Actually that’s exactly what you do when analysing such a system, you linearize the equations about the equilibrium point for a small perturbation.

murrayv
August 14, 2011 12:00 pm

Thanks Willis. Possibly your most profound and lucid post yet. and that is saying a lot.
On the subject of feedback, it seems to me that feedback is part of what goes on for any of the described regimes, but is not part of regime change, and you emphasize that what is important is regime change. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Murray

DirkH
August 14, 2011 12:04 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
August 14, 2011 at 9:58 am
“My point is that the main issue is not the exact value of the feedback from clouds and from water vapor, because those values are not what affect the operating point temperature of the tropics. Instead, the control system involves regime changes, not changes in feedback.”
You’re talking about something like this.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relaxation_oscillator
You can build one with an UJT Transistor or a Neon Lamp where you have a characteristic like this
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Doutnavka.svg
So, that’s a highly non-linear characteristic. An oscillator built with such an element produces sudden vertical jumps from one branch of the characteristic to another one. In the diagram, from A to C or from B to D – it has nowhere else to go when pushed.

DirkH
August 14, 2011 12:11 pm

R. Gates says:
August 14, 2011 at 9:28 am
“The three-body problem is of course at the center of Chaos theory and climate research has long acknowledged that the climate is a dynamical system existing on the edge of spatio-temperal chaos and that the complexity of multiple interacting positive and negative feedbacks make it so particularly complex and nonlinear.”
Complete gobbledigook. “the complexity of multiple interacting positive and negative feedbacks” – please. When two LINEAR feedbacks are added or subtracted the result is necessarily LINEAR so i wonder whether you know what kind of interaction you talk about.
Linear feed-back systems are already completely capable of chaotic behaviour, no non-linearity required; see coupled pendulums; and the SB Law feedback (grey body IR emission) is on the other hand highly non-linear all on its own…

Phil.
August 14, 2011 12:46 pm

charles nelson says:
August 14, 2011 at 1:18 am
Absolutely excellent…an in-depth ‘exploded diagram’ of an argument I have used to hush Warmists for many years now;
I ask them if they’ve ever flown long haul and if they have ever looked at the in-flight display…the one that has a route map, arrival times etc…sometimes these have a temperature read out.
For those who haven’t…I explain that the temperature at 300hPa/10,000m ranges from minus 30 degrees C at the equator to minus 65 at the Poles…(I even ask the suspicious ones if they’d like to google it!)
I then ask them if they’ve ever experienced turbulence on such a flight. I ask them what they think might be happening? The smarter ones get ‘that look’, like beasts at an abbatoir they sense where the path leads… but by now there’s no turning back!
Eventually we settle on an explanation…the explanation…high altitude turblulence can only be caused by one thing…air rising, cooling and falling!

Or by Jet streams or is that something else you don’t believe in?
I then ask them if they can think of anything that would or could stop air freely circulating between ground level and 6 miles high… to where the temperature is eternally below -30 degrees C AT ITS WARMEST!
Eventually even the most ardent Believer can be brought back to Newton’s Universe. A place where the laws of thermodynamics still rule, where up is up, down is down, and convection and radiation continue unabated and unabolished.
I detest the term “Greenhouse Theory” with its implicit and impossible lid on the atmosphere.

Unfortunately for your argument the tropopause exists and is observable, your personal incredulity notwithstanding.

Ken Harvey
August 14, 2011 12:50 pm

Boudu says:
August 14, 2011 at 2:12 am
“Are there records of the frequency and intensity of tropical thunderstorms and do they correlate with the observed warming and cooling trends seen in the temperature records?”
The process is continuous: never ending. Right now – no matter what time right now might be where we are, It is four o’clock in the afternoon somewhere in the tropics. The storms will vary in character and detail, but they are there doing their job at any given moment. We don’t have temperature records for every minute of every day.

August 14, 2011 1:06 pm

From the article: “And all of those are definitely heresies to the latest IPCC Council of Nicean Climate …”
Heh. I only vaguely remembered the Council of Nicea from hours of fidgeting in school, so I looked it up. Very VERY good comparison to the IPCC!
It’s too bad that America’s Founding Fathers didn’t think to prohibit government establishment of religion.
Oh, wait…

timetochooseagain
August 14, 2011 1:09 pm

With regard to Bart’s argument that large changes in climate were associated with small changes in the radiative balance, put aside for the moment that it is laughable to suggest that we know the “forcing” associated with past changes in climate when we don’t know the “forcing” currently influencing climate (ie “aerosols” and there associated uncertainties, not even getting into natural effects…) Surely it makes sense to expect extremely large changes in climate associated, then, with much larger changes in radiative input. The biggest change would have to be the fact that the sun was about 75% as bright as presently 3.8 billion years ago, a forcing of a whopping 85 W/m^2 (compared to a forcing going from CO2 going from 280 to 560 ppm of about 3.7 W/m^2 this is a really huge forcing) and yet there is abundant evidence that the Earth had a stable ocean and liquid water as early as 3.9 billion years ago. This despite the fact that such a “forcing” should have, according to the current paradigm, lead to global mean temperatures about 68 degrees colder than the present, which would have lead to a completely frozen Earth, with the mean temperature at about 54 degrees below the freezing point of water. So somehow we are expected to believe it is a mere coincidence that, in point of fact, at least 78% of this “forcing” was canceled out by “something” (usually postulated to be CO2, except the geological evidence is that the concentrations then simply couldn’t have been high enough) so that there could have been a world which was at least similar in climate to the present. This is pretty absurd. It makes more sense to postulate a mechanism that tends to keep the Earth’s climate within a narrow range than to postulate a pure coincidental forcing cancelling out that faint sun. Especially since the physical evidence pretty conclusively shows that such a strong forcing is inconsistent with the possible levels of greenhouse gases at that time.

August 14, 2011 1:16 pm

Willis Eschenbach says (August 14, 2011 at 10:15 am): “Part of the reason that thunderstorms can grow so fast is that the thunderstorms actually produce their own cloud nuclei, from the salt particles that are created by and swept up in the winds around the base of the thunderstorms.”
It just occurred to me that variations in ocean salinity over geological time might affect cloud nucleation, in addition to affecting ocean circulation, CO2 solubility, etc.
Darn, and I thought my understanding of the planet’s climate system was “settled”. 🙁

Ian W
August 14, 2011 1:17 pm

pochas says:
August 14, 2011 at 7:36 am
Boltzmann radiation is the big elephant in the room, and it does no good to obscure that fact. It gets warmer, more heat radiates to space. Its a great, big, negative feedback, raised to the 4th power, that hasn’t changed since the dawn of time. Everything else is of minor significance. Deny it and you speak gibberish.

It would appear that you are unaware of a very much larger elephant in the room that was the main subject of this post. Water vapor and the latent heat of state change.
EVERY cloud droplet, ice crystal, rain drop, hail stone was once water vapor. The water vapor evaporated from the surface taking with it latent heat of evaporation (the molecules’ kinetic energy) when those water vapor molecules reach the condensation level they change state – and release energy – then again when they freeze they release energy.
Remember that convection and latent heat are the major transport of energy to the tropopause. Some convective updrafts can be more than 100kts vertically – with liquid water carried up to the tropopause where the air temperature is minus 40 deg or colder – and the water as it freezes releases latent heat – that is not in accordance with Stefan Boltzmann. In fact every single water molecule in the clouds has released latent heat.
Pochas – show us in the Stefan Boltzmann equations based on surface temperatures where the latent heat of water changing state is considered.

Owen
August 14, 2011 1:18 pm

Mr. Eschenbach,
This is a brilliant article. Thank you for posting you ideas. Every time I read something you’ve written I learn something that is often startling and always insightful. You and Anthony Watts are the best !

August 14, 2011 1:20 pm
old engineer
August 14, 2011 1:40 pm

Willis-
I always enjoy your articles, they provoke really interesting and informative discussions. Your article seems to be only about the diurnal convection patterns in the tropics.
All I know about the climate temperature models I have learned here at WUWT. While they are apparently called General Circulation Models (GCM’s), when it comes to CO2 effects they are apparently only about radiation at the top of the atmosphere (TOA).
I like the term “radiationist” that AlanG (August 14, 2011 at 2:41am) uses. So many of the arguments I read are all about radiation at the TOA. These arguments seem to ignore the other two means of heat transfer- convection and conduction. These two would appear to be all important at the sea surface if you are considering what happens to the radiative energy at the planet’s surface.
But certainly models with such a grand name as “General Circulation Model”, would include average diurnal atmospheric circulation patterns in tropics, and diurnal and seasonal patterns at latitudes outside the tropics, as well as heat transfer to the deeper ocean. If I am wrong about this, would someone please correct me, because if they don’t consider all that we do know about the atmosphere, of what use are they?.

Bart
August 14, 2011 1:46 pm

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
“The first thing to understand about climate homeostasis is that it has nothing to do with feedback.”
Homeostasis is feedback. It’s almost definitional. First reference in web search:

Homeostasis is a state of balance in the body. The balance is maintained through a series of negative feedback mechanisms.

“I cannot think of any complex natural flow system which is linear in that manner with respect to its inputs. “
If the system is smooth and mathematically representable, then it can be approximated as a deterministic system with perturbations described by a linear system model.
The term “linear system” is much more general than a constant gain. It is more general even than a frequency dependent gain and phase response – this describes only the subclass of linear time invariant (LTI) systems. Linear perturbation theory leading to linear time varying systems is the founding principle which allows us to control everything from rocket ships to hard disk drives via feedback. And, linear time varying but periodic systems are amenable to modeling via LTI methods.
“I find it completely astounding that people actually believe that the global climate system, with all of its intricate feedbacks and forcings and resonances and chaotic nature, is that linearly simple.”
Arrrggghhhh!

Bart
August 14, 2011 1:56 pm

Bart Verheggen says:
August 14, 2011 at 3:03 am
‘So how do past climate changes (from snowball earth to the hothouse Cretaceous) fit in your paradigm that “that the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms.”?’
In my post above, I am not disagreeing with Willis’ claims in general, just his understanding of what “feedback: encompasses. For this comment from the other Bart, I would direct his attention to information on bistable systems.
In a nonlinear system, you can have two or even many equilibrium points. The system can be linearized about a given equilibrium and perturbations from the equilibrium described by a generally time varying linear system, as I described in the previous post. When the system is far from an equilibrium, the perturbed linear system description no longer holds. But, when it flips from one equilibrium state to another, you can re-linearize about that equilibrium, and describe perturbations from it with a linear system model.

August 14, 2011 2:42 pm

Yes this is a brilliant article. I also love the animation link from Richard. I have the strong impression that the oceans must be the Earth’s thermostat. They react to any increase in temperature through evaporation thereby directly cooling the surface by release of latent heat. This energy is then released to the atmosphere through condensation – just like a refrigerator. Water vapor is the major greenhouse gas and helps to warm the Earth if temperatures are below the “equilibrium” level ( thermostat temperature) – so called positive feedback. However if temperatures rise too much above the “equilibrium” then thunderstorms and tropical storms are then triggered which transfer vast amounts of heat energy to the upper troposphere to radiate directly to space. At these heights any remaining CO2 is basically irrelevant because the mean free path for absorption is of the order of kilometers. In effect convective thunderstorms can simply short-circuit the greenhouse effect and blast heat out to the top of the atmosphere to radiate unimpeded. In addition the extra humidity reduces the environmental lapse rate ( 9.8C/km for dry to 4.5C/km fro saturated) which reduces the greenhouse effect of CO2 to below pre-industrial levels.
If I have my sums right – then the extra radiative forcing from one year of increased CO2 levels results in about 10**17 joules of extra heat energy for the earth to shed each day in order to maintain a constant temperature. This is the equivalent of about 100 daily thunderstorms in the tropics or just one large tropical storm. One large tropical storm can release a total heat energy from the ocean of the order of 10**20 joules.

Dave Springer
August 14, 2011 3:02 pm

Piss poor thermostat that lays mile thick ice sheet over most of the northern hemisphere for 100,000 years then melts it for 10,000 like an antique freezer getting a periodic defrost.
Spare me.
Bottom line is current epoch is an ice age and if there’s any damn thing humans can possibly to warm it up to the normal non-ice age conditions it should be embraced not shunned. Fat chance burning off a few pockets of gas & oil are going to cause any long term change. Temporary at best until there’s none left to burn. Then what?

TimC
August 14, 2011 3:07 pm

Willis – thanks but I’m afraid I am still against you on this.
I accept that there are complex weather systems bubbling away at any given point over the earth’s surface but, on a planetary scale as the earth rotates on its axis, I suggest these will essentially average out, at similar angular distances as from the sub-solar point, at decadal and centennial timeframes. (Of course it may well be different if you take geological timeframes involving land mass movements).
For average global temperatures the determining factor is TSI, at some 1,366 W/m^2 (averaged over the orbital cycle). Apart from the effect of the ellipticity in orbit the TSI is very stable – it changed by only some 0.3% (say 4 W/m^2) during the Maunder minimum.
This stability in TSI has 2 effects: (i) as you say it makes global average temperatures remarkably stable (but I suggest the temperature stability is principally down to the TSI stability) and (ii) estimating the effect of a TSI forcing on global average temperatures is difficult when you have only a 0.3% forcing range. All one can really do is estimate the best linear approximation, so ∆T = λ ∆Q is just the best you can practically do.
I of course accept that ∆T = λ ∆Q is only a testable hypothesis, over this narrow range – but I’m afraid I can’t see that (as applying to global average temperatures) it is falsified by your “homeostatic mechanism” examples. You have perhaps shown coincidence, but I suggest causation is the constant TSI – at the enormous 1.3 kilowatts/square metre figure, which of course causes all the tropical thunderstorms).

Alcheson
August 14, 2011 3:36 pm

NIce article. Willis, you say “In other words, in the all-important tropical region, climate sensitivity is not a constant in any sense. Instead, it varies inversely with temperature.”
If we take it that increasing CO2 levels result in a positive increase in temperature, then your statement above would be tantamount to saying that the feedbacks are NEGATIVE because the climate sensitiviy varies inversely with temperature. This is exactly what one would anticipate in a robust system. More evidence the warming from CO2 is significantly less than the 1,5C per doubling in the absence of feedbacks.

Norm Donovan
August 14, 2011 3:42 pm

I used to simulate semiconductor device physics. Early primitive models had gross parameters (like Vt) that applied to the whole device. As devices kept shrinking we found that these gross parameters were less and less useful and our simulators changed to use point equations where we divided a piece of silicon into millions of small volumes each of which had a voltage, current, temperature, concentration of dopants, etc. The gross behavior of the device then became the sum of the pieces. We no longer had simplistic parameters like “Sensitivity”. instead we could say for a given set of voltages and configuration of device, we could expect a certain switch time or current, etc.
Don’t climate models break the Earth (mostly atmosphere) into billions of small volumes, each of which has a density, temp, humidity, radiative flux, albedo etc. and then isn’t a climate simulation the process of combining the behavior of these billions of volumes to simulate large scale phenomena? I assume the circulation cells and thunderstorms would just sort of drop out of the well-constructed point-equation model.
Don’t climate models work this way? If not, how can they hope to simulate the wildly complex climate?

Theo Goodwin
August 14, 2011 3:43 pm

Willis writes:
“Under the new late-morning cumulus circulation regime, much less surface warming goes on. Part of the sunlight is reflected back to space, so less energy makes it into the system to begin with.”
Can Willis or anyone answer a question for me, please? How does the Warmista account of warming caused by IR tie into what Willis says? Is the Warmista position that IR is only partially reflected by clouds and that only heating from IR should be taken into account and, therefore, that the decreased surface warming described by Willis is irrelevant to Earth’s energy budget? In other words, do Warmista simply ignore the warming from visible sunlight and, for that reason, ignore the changes in surface warming that Willis describes in his several regimes?

Spector
August 14, 2011 4:04 pm

Regarding Cloud Condensation Nuclei, here is what the Wikipedia has to say:
“Cloud condensation nuclei or CCNs (also known as cloud seeds) are small particles (typically 0.2 µm, or 1/100 th the size of a cloud droplet [1]) about which cloud droplets coalesce. Water requires a non-gaseous surface to make the transition from a vapour to a liquid. In the atmosphere, this surface presents itself as tiny solid or liquid particles called CCNs. When no CCNs are present, water vapour can be supercooled below 0 C (32 F) before droplets spontaneously form (this is the basis of the cloud chamber for detecting subatomic particles). In above freezing temperatures the air would have to be supersaturated to around 400% before the droplets could form.”
This would seem to indicate that condensation is greatly helped by these nuclei, but, depending on conditions, they are not absolutely required for condensation to begin, especially in subfreezing air.
Until condensation begins, a rising column of air cools at 9.8 deg C per 1000 meters. As the standard lapse rate in the lower atmosphere is about 6.5 deg C per 1000 meters, it will be cooling with respect to the surrounding air at 3.3 deg C per 1000 meters. This rising column of air will soon cool down to the temperature of the surrounding air and stop rising unless condensation begins first. If that happens, the column will only cool at the saturated or wet adiabatic rate of only 5 deg C per 1000 meters and at this rate, it will actually be warming with respect to the surrounding air at 1.5 deg C per 1000 meters. This relative warming is what makes the rise a runaway process until almost all the water vapor has condensed out.

Steve Garcia
August 14, 2011 4:17 pm

I am maybe showing my naivete, but every step here described by Willis seems like it can be re-started as a term in an overall equation, and all the terms (steps) together then make for one overall equation. In the morning the first term is at maximum heat accumulation and some of the others are zero or nearly so. As the day moves along, each term has an increase in its heat accumulation and then a die-off.
It seems like this would be able to be set up and empirically tested, and perhaps over time a functional average COULD be arrived at. At the same time, with the power of computers, maybe an average isn’t needed; the daily cycle can be lat/long gridded for the entire ocean.
Likewise adding stepped daily cycle heat accumulation terms for land types, all this should be able to be churned out. I don’t have the expertise to do it, but if no one in the climatology/meteorology field don’t, what are they doing with their time?
Like I said, maybe I am just naive enough to not see that this is anything more than a big compound equation. What can be described can be turned into an equation. The various necessary constants can be arrived at empirically and then tested against reality – then plugged into the proper terms. What am I missing here?

R. Gates
August 14, 2011 4:25 pm

Dirk H. said:
“When two LINEAR feedbacks are added or subtracted the result is necessarily LINEAR so i wonder whether you know what kind of interaction you talk about.”
____
Who said anything about linear feedback? When feedback is positive, it most definitely may not linear…for if it was, we would never have gotten out of the last glacial period.

R. Gates
August 14, 2011 4:30 pm

Gary Pearse says:
August 14, 2011 at 11:29 am
Willis, this is a compelling theory. However it’s no good just to say existing models are crap. You have the makings of an all embracing model here.
____
Really? An “all embracing model”? It takes supercomputers to simulate the global climate and Willis has created something that can be calculated on a cell-phone and it is “all embracing”? He should go down in history then, I’m sure.

Tom S
August 14, 2011 5:22 pm

They attempt to quantify the AGW threat by simplifying, hence the linearity of it all. More dumming down is all….

August 14, 2011 5:54 pm

R. Gates says:
August 14, 2011 at 4:30 pm
Gary Pearse says:
August 14, 2011 at 11:29 am
Willis, this is a compelling theory. However it’s no good just to say existing models are crap. You have the makings of an all embracing model here.
____
Really? An “all embracing model”? It takes supercomputers to simulate the global climate and Willis has created something that can be calculated on a cell-phone and it is “all embracing”? He should go down in history then, I’m sure.
============================================================
Uhmm…. no and no. Gary, Willis brought up several great points and mechanisms which aren’t currently included in the models. All embracing as in all encompassing? Nope, not anywhere close. There are mechanisms out there that no one has considered….. I posit that there are mechanisms which engage and disengage depending upon the conditions of our climate. So, to accurately model our climate, we’d have to model things we haven’t seen before. In other words, things act differently when things are different. The pool analogy is a great example of such occurrences. One can exercise the same force, hitting the same exact spot on the cue-ball, striking a ball in the exact same spot, while the ball being exactly in the same location relative to the pockets, and we can get a different result. Why? Because things act different when things are different. And nothing is ever exactly the same.
R. Gates……. It doesn’t take super-computers to make models…… they run the models. Repeat after me….. “There is no such thing as Artificial Intelligence.” “There is no such thing as AI.” “There is no such thing as AI.” “There is no such thing as AI.” “There is no such thing as AI.” Super-computers are used because the models are wrong. If the model was correct, we wouldn’t need the hundreds of runs they do.

August 14, 2011 6:00 pm

http://research.aerology.com/natural-processes/sea-ice-thermostat/
From a comment I made over on the open thread, my ideas on the polar ice process.

Camburn
August 14, 2011 6:03 pm

R. Gates says:
August 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm
Dirk H. said:
“When two LINEAR feedbacks are added or subtracted the result is necessarily LINEAR so i wonder whether you know what kind of interaction you talk about.”
____
Who said anything about linear feedback? When feedback is positive, it most definitely may not linear…for if it was, we would never have gotten out of the last glacial period.
Robert:
And what would cause you to think that if the positive feedback was linear that that in any way affects whether we would enter an interglacial? We know that there are huge problems using Milankovitch theory, with one of the main ones being phase change. A bit of correlation, but just as many factors not adding up to what would be expected.
What this shows us is that linear or parabolic, we just don’t understand why. Nor do we understand Bond events, Heinrich events, D-O events. There are more things that show how little we know and understand climate than we can prove.

Christopher Game
August 14, 2011 6:30 pm

Willis uses the phrase ‘heat engine’ to refer the earth’s energy transport process, but he doesn’t seem to use it in the sense to be found in thermodynamics. For thermodynamics, a heat engine takes in a certain amount heat from a hot reservoir and puts some lesser amount of heat out to a cooler reservoir, while the energy difference in heats is put out by the engine as work. Willis’s usage doesn’t seem to mention any work output from his ‘heat engine’.

HR
August 14, 2011 6:43 pm

Willis,
You draw critics attention to your other post,specifically the section that starts “Gradual Equilibrium Variation and Drift”. I read it. This section includes speculations that includes
“On a shorter term, there could be slow changes in the albedo……”
“For snow and ice, this could be e.g. increased melting due to black carbon deposition on the surface. For clouds, this could be a color change due to aerosols or dust.”
“Finally, the equilibrium variations may relate to the sun…..”
The simple equation you start with which you say encapsulates mainstream views can be written in an expanded form to include all these forcings/feedbacks that make up the total forcings.
My question is why you’re speculations also doesn’t include other forcings such as CO2 or GHGs in this list of speculations. There doesn’t seem to be any good reason to exclude them?
Also because you may identify possible non-linear processes controlling day-to-day temperature fluctuations doesn’t mean that all processes controlling temperature change (especially on different time scles) are non-linear or can’t be approximated by simple linear equations. I’m with other critics in that I don’t understand how identifying a particular non-linear process specifically rules out the existence of approximately linear ones.

August 14, 2011 6:44 pm

Christopher Game,
Couldn’t a thunderstorm or a hurricane be considered work?

HR
August 14, 2011 6:54 pm

You also seem to approve of body temperature control as a relevant example of homeostasis as a good analogy. I can think of both non-linear and linear processes that can work on this to maintain temperature or cause excursions. Clothed/nakedness or infections/uninfected may be examples of non-linear processes representing regime shifts on one particular time frame. Calorie burning may be an example of a linear process on a different time scale. All of them contribute to the complex of processes that affect one’s body temperature. Non of them are necessarily exclude the others.

August 14, 2011 7:14 pm

Norm Donovan (August 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm):
You’ve provided an apt description of the analytic method. The behavior of the whole is implied by the behavior of the component parts.
In a system that is describable by linear equations, the analytic method is logically justified. In a system that is not describable by linear equations, the analytic method is not logically justified; for confirmation see Alwyn Scott’s article “Reductionism revisited” ( http://redwood.berkeley.edu/w/images/5/5e/Scott2004-reductionism_revisited.pdf ). In the latter case, the whole exhibits “emergent properties” that are not implied by its component parts.
The view in which the behavior of whole is not implied by the behavior of the components parts is called “holistic.” In his article, Willis adopts this view.
The alternate view is called “reductionistic.” IPCC climatology adopts the reductionistic view. Though this view is logically unjustified it might be a useful approximation as I gather it was in the modelling of semiconductor devices.

Ian W
August 14, 2011 7:21 pm

Dave Springer says:
August 14, 2011 at 3:02 pm
Piss poor thermostat that lays mile thick ice sheet over most of the northern hemisphere for 100,000 years then melts it for 10,000 like an antique freezer getting a periodic defrost.
Spare me.
Bottom line is current epoch is an ice age and if there’s any damn thing humans can possibly to warm it up to the normal non-ice age conditions it should be embraced not shunned. Fat chance burning off a few pockets of gas & oil are going to cause any long term change. Temporary at best until there’s none left to burn. Then what?

Its a chaotic system with two strong attractors. The stronger of these is the glacial state. The ‘attractor’ effect is the ‘thermostat’ or ‘homeostasis’ that Willis is talking about. This is quite a simple concept despite the complexity of the chaotic system.

August 14, 2011 7:29 pm

TimC (August 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm):
Your assertion that “∆T = λ ∆Q is only a testable hypothesis” is false, for the equilibrium climate sensitivity ∆T is not an observable.

R. Gates
August 14, 2011 7:37 pm

Camburn says:
August 14, 2011 at 6:03 pm
R. Gates says:
August 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm
Dirk H. said:
“When two LINEAR feedbacks are added or subtracted the result is necessarily LINEAR so i wonder whether you know what kind of interaction you talk about.”
____
Who said anything about linear feedback? When feedback is positive, it most definitely may not linear…for if it was, we would never have gotten out of the last glacial period.
Robert:
And what would cause you to think that if the positive feedback was linear that that in any way affects whether we would enter an interglacial? We know that there are huge problems using Milankovitch theory, with one of the main ones being phase change. A bit of correlation, but just as many factors not adding up to what would be expected.
What this shows us is that linear or parabolic, we just don’t understand why. Nor do we understand Bond events, Heinrich events, D-O events. There are more things that show how little we know and understand climate than we can prove.
———
Tip a dynamical system that exists in a state of spatio-temporal chaos just enough in the right way and it jumps to a new state. Willis’ “regime change” for cloud dynamics over the ocean is perhaps an example of this, and the climate in general is just such a system. Milankovitch forcing proceeds in a very linear way, but at some point, positive feedbacks get kicked into high gear, leading to a whole new climate regime, not predictable by simply looking at changes in Milankovitch forcing alone. We only understand these shifts occur by looking at evidence of them from the past, as they are not predictable by linear or even nonlinear extrapolation.

RoHa
August 14, 2011 8:32 pm

Does the fish get smaller at night, or just farther away?

David Falkner
August 14, 2011 9:20 pm

Not real sure how I missed this post, since I usually read you r stuff, Willis, but I’ve been saying this for a while now. Why would you expect sensitivity to be the same? In fact, things like albedo would affect sensitivity more directly than they would actual climate indicators.

Caleb
August 15, 2011 1:39 am

.RE: Willis Eschenbach says:
August 14, 2011 at 10:07 am
Thanks for responding.
(I wish Real Climate would learn to respond to innocent and perhaps naive questions with simple answers, rather than sneering or, more commonly, deleting.)
They make me feel rotten while you make me feel respected. A world of difference.
RE: Q: “Also, at some point, when the sun gets very low, it seems to stop penetrating the ocean’s surface. You no longer see those moving, golden lines on a sandy bottom, and underwater seems in shade even when it is still sunny above the surface. Does this mean the ocean is reflecting most of the incoming sunshine, at that point?
A: Also yes. The ocean’s albedo rises sharply when the sun gets near the horizon.”
This suggests another thought provoking article you could write about the “melting icecap reducing albedo which leads to run-away warming.” I hear this scare-tactic every September, yet it doesn’t ring true to me, because by September the sun gets so low in the arctic that albedo rises sharply from the flat surface of the melted sea. At the same time any bit of ice that sticks up, casting a long shadow, is catching the sun on the surface facing the sun, and may even have a reduced albedo. This throws a wrench into the works of the scare-tactic, (or at least into the works of my thinking.)
It is not that hard to throw a wrench into the works of Real Climate theory, whereupon they throw a lot of wrenches back at you. Rather than a simple answer you get a smoke screen.
The simple question about heat-causing-thunderstorms-to-pop-off-and-cool-things-down is glaringly obvious. It is not a wrench thrown in malice; it is a question a child would ask.
The idea of a “lid” being created by heat aloft, which represses the development of thunderstorms, begets the simple question: Is there any evidence that such a “lid” exists? The simple answer is, “No.”
In India such a “lid” does exist, during the lead-up to the monsoon. It just gets hotter and hotter, as all the farmers pray for rain. Then, if and when the rains come, people are full of gratitude. Pretty young girls go out in their saris and push each other on swings, despite the deluge, with white smiles on wet and shining faces.
It is not only a beautiful sight to behold; it is also a beautiful attitude to behold.
They are facing the difference between want and plenty, between drought and watered crops, between even famine and eating. They look up, and what controls the clouds is above their heads. It is vast and complex, and they are humble about it. They know they can’t understand “the complexity of loops and feedbacks,” (though they don’t use those words,) and rather than despair they have faith.
I think that, when Climate Scientists face the simple fact weather is above their heads, and they may never figure out the “loops and feedbacks,” they get really frustrated and crabby. Rather than humble, they punch their computer’s screen.
Then, (and this strikes me as really bad,) they don’t confess it is above their heads, and instead seize upon a grossly simplified answer, and try to ram it down everyone’s throats. This wouldn’t be so bad if their answer was merely a botched forecast, but when it starts to involve the lives of others it can get scary.
The scariest gross over-simplifications involve “over-population.” Rather than humbly stating, “I have no answer,” (and perhaps going to crowded parts of India to learn how they handle it,) the answer is: “Reduce the world’s population by five billion.” This sort of thinking is the fume of a frustrated mind, and scares my socks off.
The correct response is to calm such thinkers down with quiet logic, which is what I think this posting holds.

tallbloke
August 15, 2011 2:14 am

I say, and have discussed elsewhere, that the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms.
Willis, you and James Lovelock are a lot closer together in your ideas than you realise. By the way, I hear he has reverted to his earlier views now, and abjures the climate pessimism he propounded in ‘Revenge of Gaia’. His first book is all about homeostasis, and is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in atmospheric chemistry and big picture stuff on the feedbacks which bring about that homeostasis.
So in fact it is about feedbacks, but not the ones the IPCC is hooked on.

Smoking Frog
August 15, 2011 2:25 am

pochas said:

Boltzmann radiation is the big elephant in the room, and it does no good to obscure that fact. It gets warmer, more heat radiates to space. Its a great, big, negative feedback, raised to the 4th power, that hasn’t changed since the dawn of time. Everything else is of minor significance. Deny it and you speak gibberish.

No. If Boltzmann radiation were a negative feedback, it would be impossible for the temperature of the earth or any other object ever to increase.

August 15, 2011 2:31 am

The analogy with Gaia is a good one. James Lovelock proposed a simple model of “Daisy World” with two types of daisy growing – black ones and white ones. The sun output slowly increases from a cold climate to a hot one and the daisy population adjusts to keep the temperature just right. I have been wondering about another simple model “water world” which is a hypothetical planet covered 100% in water with an atmosphere exactly like earth but no other greenhouse gas except water. When the sun is weak 4 billion years ago the greenhouse effect of evaporated water keeps the planet warm enough to maintain liquid water a the equator. As the sun’s output grows so evaporation increases leading to clouds which shade the planet. Convection and ocean currents carries heat north and south to cool the tropics. As things heat up other cooling mechanisms arise like thunderstorms and tropical storms etc. Meanwhile the temperature stays within +- 10 degrees for billions of years despite a 30% increase in incident solar radiation. I can’t help thinking that something like this must be close to reality, so I will try to work on a simple model to simulate it.

Dave Springer
August 15, 2011 3:11 am

Christopher Game says:
August 14, 2011 at 6:30 pm
“Willis uses the phrase ‘heat engine’ to refer the earth’s energy transport process, but he doesn’t seem to use it in the sense to be found in thermodynamics. For thermodynamics, a heat engine takes in a certain amount heat from a hot reservoir and puts some lesser amount of heat out to a cooler reservoir, while the energy difference in heats is put out by the engine as work. Willis’s usage doesn’t seem to mention any work output from his ‘heat engine’.”
Work is evidenced in the motion of air and water. Winds, waves, and raising water against the force of gravity. Rivers wouldn’t flow without it as something has to lift the water in the ocean and deposit it on higher ground. Indeed, we attach gears and axles to these natural heat engines and make them work for us wherever we use hydroelectric generators or windmills. The destruction wrought by hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods are all examples of work performed by heat engines. In those cases it’s work we might wish they didn’t do.

Spector
August 15, 2011 3:27 am

I believe the ‘thermostat’ in Willis’s Thunderstorm Thermostat theory is also related to relative humidity. It might be called a thermo-humidistat. Heated air must able rise to the altitude where condensation begins before adiabatic cooling has reduced its temperature and density to that of the surrounding air at the same altitude. This must happen for thunderstorms to occur; in dry areas like Texas now, this does not occur. One can usually see the flat bottoms of the clouds in rising columns of air indicating where the onset of condensation is. Once this altitude is reached, the continued return of the heat of vaporization to the atmosphere will buoy the column up to ever-greater heights until it runs dry. In figure 4 above, I believe the short columns represent non-condensing circulation and the tall columns represent condensing circulation.
The rising arrows represent columns of air, but I believe the descending arrows represent, by in large, a more diffuse long-term circulation. Most downdrafts associated with thunderstorms, I believe, are caused by falling precipitation showers. Heated by condensation on the rise, the descending dry air would adiabatically heat up at 9.8 deg C per 1000 meters and so that it would rapidly become warmer than surrounding atmosphere having a standard lapse rate of 6.5 deg C per 1000 meters.

Dave Springer
August 15, 2011 3:34 am

Clive Best says:
August 15, 2011 at 2:31 am
“When the sun is weak 4 billion years ago the greenhouse effect of evaporated water keeps the planet warm enough to maintain liquid water a the equator.”
Greenhouse gases don’t work over water. They require a surface that can be heated by long wave infrared. Water cannot be heated in that manner as all LWIR does is raise the evaporation rate and the energy is carried away in latent heat of vaporization.
Fortunately for the operation of your operation greenhouse gases aren’t required for it to work. Liquid water in the ocean generates its own greenhouse effect because, you see, visible light from the sun easily penetrates to a depth of about 30 meters to warm the water. The entrained energy cannot escape from depth by radiation. It must make its way to the surface by convection and conduction where it then escapes primarily via evaporation. The heating from the sun is instantaneous but the cooling mechanism is slower. This is exactly how greenhouse gases operate i.e. they are transparent to visible and opaque to infrared. The ocean is actually a greenhouse fluid.
Climate boffins have so far refused to model an earth without a liquid ocean to see what would happen. That’s because they know what would happen. Absent the greenhouse effect of the global ocean the planet would quickly drop to the temperature of the earth’s moon which is some 23 degress celsius below zero. That exercise would reveal where the lion’s share of the greenhouse effect comes from.

Dave Springer
August 15, 2011 3:55 am

Ian W says:
August 14, 2011 at 7:21 pm
“Its a chaotic system with two strong attractors. The stronger of these is the glacial state. The ‘attractor’ effect is the ‘thermostat’ or ‘homeostasis’ that Willis is talking about. This is quite a simple concept despite the complexity of the chaotic system.”
Thermostats are not ‘attractors’. The great attractors are the solid and liquid phases of water. The modus operandi is the huge difference in albedo between the two phases. Ice breeds more ice because it reflects most of the sunlight falling on it. Water breeds more water because it absorbs most of the sunlight falling on it. These are both positive feedbacks which lead to steady states of all solid water or all liquid water. Water vapor as a thermostat is misleading. It’s more like the pressure release valve on a pressure cooker which establishes a maximum permissible temperature but does not establish a minimum permissible temperature. If it worked to set a floor on minimum temperature the earth wouldn’t have ice ages which is what inspired me to say “spare me” when thermostats got mentioned. Thermostats establish both maximum and minimum temperatures. The earth’s ‘thermostat’ is broken when it comes to minimum temperature setting.

keith at hastings uk
August 15, 2011 3:56 am

Great article, really enjoyed seeing the issue of convection and heat transport via evaporation/condensation clarified.
However, rather worried by seeing “climate sensitivity” used as a descriptor of the diurnal variations in heat absorption, etc: could be an “own goal” in any debate, since climate is over long periods and geographies.
Also, could stumble over the meaning of words. The stepwise regime changes are part of a feedback mechanism, in the general sense of the word. I suppose one has to define the notion of “feedback” one is arguing against ie the linear positive or negative sort in the models (?)
Last, there is a philosophical point that complexity on a small scale, can be described by simpler descriptions when dealing with a much larger or aggregated scale. Gas “laws” I dimly recall from school, such as PV(at fixed temp) = a constant, but if one could see the molecules, they are all dashing about randomly and unpredictably. Also, I suppose, quantum physics Vs the everyday behaviour of stuff we can see and touch. So, just because there is all this complexity of diurnal cycles etc, doesn’t necessarily mean the simple equation is wrong – or right. Observation should triumph here.
But I thank you again for the post. keep up the good work.

JdeJ
August 15, 2011 4:50 am

It’s always a surprise to me that no one refers to the work of Makarieva and Gorshkov in this field. An aposite example is “Potential energy of atmospheric water vapor and the air motions induced by water vapor condensation on different spatial scales” which can be found at http://www.bioticregulation.ru/common/pdf/neraz-en.pdf.
Perhaps the neglect is because they are more concerned with the fact that rain follows the trees – ie they’re tree huggers; or that they believe that life itself, mainly trees, is part of the homeostatic system – far too Gaiaish. Or maybe it’s that they’re Russian. Most likely though is that it’s too mathematical.
Whatever, if you want to scare yourself silly have a look at their stability analysis of the global energy flows, discussed in http://www.bioticregulation.ru/common/pdf/02e02s-acpd_gm_.pdf, see especially lines 15ff in 7. Conclusions on page 323 for the diminishing effect of carbon dioxide contribution.
List of their publications at http://www.bioticregulation.ru/pubs/pubs2.php.
Regards,
JdeJ.

Bruce Cobb
August 15, 2011 5:22 am

R. Gates says:
August 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm
Tip a dynamical system that exists in a state of spatio-temporal chaos just enough in the right way and it jumps to a new state.
In the case of the climate system, though, and unfortunately for the Warmist hyperventilaters, the new state can only mean cooling, since we’ve already had warming. It was nice while it lasted, though.

Jose Suro
August 15, 2011 6:04 am

“Theo Goodwin says:
August 14, 2011 at 3:43 pm
Willis writes:
“Under the new late-morning cumulus circulation regime, much less surface warming goes on. Part of the sunlight is reflected back to space, so less energy makes it into the system to begin with.”
Can Willis or anyone answer a question for me, please? How does the Warmista account of warming caused by IR tie into what Willis says? Is the Warmista position that IR is only partially reflected by clouds and that only heating from IR should be taken into account and, therefore, that the decreased surface warming described by Willis is irrelevant to Earth’s energy budget? In other words, do Warmista simply ignore the warming from visible sunlight and, for that reason, ignore the changes in surface warming that Willis describes in his several regimes?”
Hello Theo,
I have been trying to ascertain these same questions myself. As far as I can tell, 46% of the Sun’s energy is in visible light, whereas 49% is in the infrared:
http://www.azsolarcenter.com/design/documents/passive.DOC
That said, the real questions remains: How much heat is created by visible light (VL) alone? That would depend on they type of object VL strikes and how much VL is absorbed and then emitted at the longer wavelengths (IR), while at the same time negating (subtracting) the emissions from the object’s absorption of original, incoming IR wavelengths. I still have not found an answer to that……
Best,
J.

DirkH
August 15, 2011 6:53 am

Smoking Frog says:
August 15, 2011 at 2:25 am
“No. If Boltzmann radiation were a negative feedback, it would be impossible for the temperature of the earth or any other object ever to increase.”
The climate models do incorporate it as a negative feedback; it is the “default” negative feedback. Smoking Frog, a negative feedback does not necessarily imply that no change is possible; it depends on the gain of the feedback. The effect of the Stefan-Boltzmann-Law is that heating up a body becomes harder the hotter it is already; nothing more. The emitted radiation removes heat and thus it is a negative feedback; and it depends on the 4th power of the temperature, so it is a non-linear negative feedback.
(Whether the climate models model it CORRECTLY is a different question – Roy Spencer has published a paper disputing this; saying they get the temperature response on a warming ENSO event wrong; reacting too slowly)

August 15, 2011 7:59 am

Dave Springer wrote
“Greenhouse gases don’t work over water. They require a surface that can be heated by long wave infrared. Water cannot be heated in that manner as all LWIR does is raise the evaporation rate and the energy is carried away in latent heat of vaporization.”
I would like to understand the above statement. The sea surface radiates IR like any other black body. If some % of that radiation gets trapped by an increase in greenhouse gases, then there will be an energy imbalance. So the surface can warm to a higher temperature to rebalance the energy loss, or evaporation can increase the latent heat losses to rebalance, or what surely happens is that processes occur together. Which process actually dominates the increased energy loss (i.e. cooling) surely must dependent on temperature with evaporation dominating at higher temperatures. Looking at a skew-T graph implies to me that the cross over point is around 15 degreesC. Or am I completely mistaken ?

August 15, 2011 8:09 am

Dave Springer says:
August 15, 2011 at 3:34 am
Climate boffins have so far refused to model an earth without a liquid ocean to see what would happen. That’s because they know what would happen. Absent the greenhouse effect of the global ocean the planet would quickly drop to the temperature of the earth’s moon which is some 23 degress celsius below zero. That exercise would reveal where the lion’s share of the greenhouse effect comes from.

This is an interesting concept given the fact that over 70% of the earth is covered by water which implies that increased amounts of CO2 are less likely to cause any amount of noticeable warming.

Greenhouse gases don’t work over water. They require a surface that can be heated by long wave infrared. Water cannot be heated in that manner as all LWIR does is raise the evaporation rate and the energy is carried away in latent heat of vaporization.

But wouldn’t the heat being released from the surface of the water into the air be restricted by increased levels of CO2 the same way it would be restricted over land? I’m not sure why the cooling mechanism would be any different for air above land as it is for air above water.

Nuke
August 15, 2011 8:17 am

Willis:
Has anybody ever shown the actual existence of these feedbacks as a part of the real climate system?
The problem is, when you boil it down to it’s essence, is nobody has shown the climate models accurately model the actual climate.

Spector
August 15, 2011 9:46 am

The Stefan-Boltzmann law states that the power radiated from a surface is proportional to the fourth power of the absolute temperature. Thus the rate change of radiated power with respect to temperature is four times that constant times the cube of the absolute temperature.
It is my understanding that the common practice, in some cases, is to say the change in absolute temperature over the range being examined is minimal and this allows replacement the cube of the temperature in the original equation with temperature times the square of some average absolute temperature over the range of interest. Now an easily solved, slightly inaccurate linear equation is obtained.
The important thing is not to forget that this has done.

Spector
August 15, 2011 9:49 am

Correction:
The Stefan-Boltzmann law states that the power radiated from a surface is proportional to the fourth power of the absolute temperature. Thus the rate change of radiated power with respect to temperature is four times that constant times the cube of the absolute temperature.
It is my understanding that the common practice, in some cases, is to say the change in absolute temperature over the range being examined is minimal and this allows replacement the cube of the temperature in the original equation with temperature times the square of some average absolute temperature over the range of interest. Now an easily solved, slightly inaccurate linear equation is obtained.
The important thing is not to forget that this has been done.

DirkH
August 15, 2011 9:51 am

R. Gates says:
August 14, 2011 at 7:37 pm
“Who said anything about linear feedback? When feedback is positive, it most definitely may not linear…for if it was, we would never have gotten out of the last glacial period.”
So we agree that feedbacks are non-linear. Fine. So we don’t need any further assumptions about complexity to agree that the system as a whole is non-linear.

DirkH
August 15, 2011 10:08 am

DirkH says:
August 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm
“Linear feed-back systems are already completely capable of chaotic behaviour, no non-linearity required; ”
I was wrong with that – linear systems are only capable of chaotic behaviour when they are infinite-dimensional. Says Jimbo Wales and i trust him on that one.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaos_theory#Minimum_complexity_of_a_chaotic_system
So, the coupled pendulum must be a non-linear system. Sorry; i assumed it to be linear. Must have some quadratic term or the likes.

TimC
August 15, 2011 1:14 pm

Willis – thank you again. May I make clear that (a) I state no claims and submit no proofs, just my personal view of what the climate effects are (for what this might be worth as an interested but non- scientific commentator to this blog) and (b) I hesitate to cross swords with such a learned gentleman as yourself and will be very happy to stand corrected, as your view that “that the temperature of the Earth is kept within a fairly narrow range through the action of a variety of natural homeostatic mechanisms” is very seductive – but I am afraid I still personally think it is wrong. The stablity in TSI is the main factor.
You wrote an earlier article for WUWT at
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/14/the-thermostat-hypothesis/
In that article you suggested that that tropical clouds and thunderstorms actively regulate the temperature of the earth to keep it at equilibrium temperature. You described “a pleasant thought experiment” showing how this cloud governor works at a given point on the earth’s surface (very similarly to the homeostatic mechanism described in this present thread).
Somewhat graphically you said “We need a timeless view without seasons, a point of view with no days and nights”, and “The point of view without day or night, the point of view from which we can see the climate governor at work, is the point of view of the sun. Imagine that you are looking at the earth from the sun. From the sun’s point of view, there is no day and night. All parts of the visible face of the earth are always in sunlight, the sun never sees the night time. And it’s always summer under the sun.”
You then described the cloud system from that perspective; you hypothesised that “a self-adjusting cooling shade of thunderstorms and clouds keeps the afternoon temperature within a narrow range” and contended “I hold that the clouds are caused by the warmth, not that the warmth is caused by the clouds.”
I go only slightly further than you. In addition to TSI being very stable I do indeed hypothesise that global cloud cover is also quite stable (taken always in sunlight as viewed from your imaginary sub-solar point as above, and averaged at centennial length timeframes). I also agree that “clouds are caused by the warmth, not that the warmth is caused by the clouds”, in other words that the underlying cause of the mechanism you describe is actually also the (stable) TSI warmth.

Joachim Seifert
August 15, 2011 2:01 pm

Dear Willis,
the climate sensitivity is high on your mind and I remember that at a last years
thread, you tried to grasp the matter, which you now have turned into the global
thermostatic approach.
Indeed, for the impartial spectator, it is hard to figure out, how the Lambda, the Watts,
the 3 ; 3.7 relation to temperature, the 1.6 Watts/sqm of total global RF (radiative forcing)
for the time period (also labelled as total anthopogenic forcing) 1750-2000, the share of
Watts/sqm for each atmospheric constituent, and global temperature intertwine and produce a senseful scientific meaning.
Let me demonstrate, how I did resolve the subject in my booklet ISBN 978-3-86805-604-4:
1. We take the AR3 formula (as you started out in your article beginning), take away
the Delta by analyzing one year only, the year 2000. The linear equation is
T = Lambda x Q, we transform to Lambda = T : Q
2. –Now we need T und Q: We take the climate condition for this particular year 2000,
which are for T= global 14,5 C which is 287 K (is Celsius degrees from absolute
freezing point on) , thus T=287 K
–Now to Q in the year 2000: The measured energy from the Sun is the TSI-value with
1365 W/sqm on a 1 sqm-plate “hinged in space ” receiving vertical solar irradiation.
This has to be divided by 4 to transform this value onto W/per sqm Earth’ surface and
we receive 342 W/sqm per sqm of Earth’s surface, which arrive at the top of the
atmosphere. Now the Albedo (backradiation into space, energy losses) has to be
subtracted with 30% and the IPCC gives the figure of 242 W/sqm on the Earth’surface
received and worked into the climate system after subtraction of the albedo….
.(until here nothing new…)
3 We then calculate: Lambda = 287 K (Temp) : 242 Watt/sqm = 1.18
(conversion factor), therefore:
(A) 1.18 K = 1.00 Watt/sqm (straighforward linearyly),
(B) Lambda is nothing more than a conversion factor between two (T and Q)
scales
4. Now, we have to see, to what does this calculation leads us to: and how we
get from the T and Q values (Q to remember, constitutes the TSI-sunshine
value) to the RF (the IPCC radiative forcing values for 1750-2000):
4.1. We take the 100 year temp-increase 1900-2000 of 0.74 C per century and convert it
with our factor Lambda to Watts: 0.74 : 1.18 = 0.63 Watts/sqm/per century
4.2. The time span 1750- 2000 is 2.5 times 1 century, therefore 0.63 x 2.5 =
1.575 Watts/sqm of more energy received from the Sun, rounded up
makes 1.6 W/m^2 of Radiative Forcing (RF) as it is labelled now by
the IPCC.
5. To continue: The IPCC/RealClimate follows this with the argumentation:
We, with OUR eyes, cannot see further natural RF forcings, therefore, our
result, the 1.6 W/m^2, is AGW man made.
In order to calculate further, the ppm’s of CO2 increase in the atmosphere is
brought into the game and they simply invent the “climate sensitivity” of 380 ppm
of more CO2 (doubling 2000) “is” equal to 3.7 W/sqm on the Earth’s surface.
6. Now the way is free to establish the RF-list 1750-2000 distributing the 1.6 W/sqm
among the various GHGs. Percentage-wise.
Dear Willis,, the IPCC tries to make believe : Due to the Percentages of different
GHGs (“forcing agents”), the Climate scientists arrived at a total sum of
1.6 W/sqm of total forcings, and you are trying to make sense of it and follow this argumentation.
In reality: It is the other way around: The IPCC followed exactly this calculation
from 1 to 4.2, also reached 1.6 W/sqm, because this is absolutely correct and then,
as second step,
filled in their putative forcing shares of the GHG……. with which you are struggling
now…….
The only question for the reader here remains: “Where then do the 1.6 W/sqm
inceased heat energy since 1750 come from?”
google at wikipedia” LIBRATION” (contains one animated picture).
The Earth does the same libration movement, as the moon, as the other planets
and the Trojan accompagnon of the Earth numbered 2010TK_7…..and the
varying distances from libration to the Sun explain the 1.6 W/m^2……
Those, who read this rather long blog, have indeed learned something new…..
Yours
JSei.
.

Nuke
August 15, 2011 2:17 pm

Willis Eschenbach says:
August 15, 2011 at 11:58 am
Nuke says:
August 15, 2011 at 8:17 am
Willis:
Has anybody ever shown the actual existence of these feedbacks as a part of the real climate system?
The problem is, when you boil it down to it’s essence, is nobody has shown the climate models accurately model the actual climate.
Which feedbacks are you referring to?
w.

Any of them!
Sorry if that’s vague, but to get the warming, various feedbacks were added to the models. Otherwise, we’d get the widely accepted number of 1.6 degrees C of warming for doubling CO2.

Joachim Seifert
August 15, 2011 7:03 pm

Hallo, Willis, again, just one more point (No. 7) to my blog, above, at 08/15/ 2:01 pm,
for rounding up the analysis:
(7) After having the value of 1.6 Watt/sqm determined (1.57 more exactly, which was
used in papers about the year 2000), the IPCC needed the connection to CO2 and,
I am convinced, they did this the following way:
(A) The CO2 content will increase from pre-industrial 280 ppm to 560 ppm in 100 years,
2100, due to an exponential increasing CO2-curve ( today already up 100 ppm over 280 ppm).
(B) Estimations were then made (SRES-scenarios, 2001 ) in which the temperature
increase for the time of doubling (2000 to 2100) was estimated. These scenarios
ranged from 1 to 9 C of global warming. The IPCC then stayed conservatively in the
middle, took 4.5 C as anticipated temp-increase due to CO2-doubling and converted
this value with the Lambda relation 1: 18 into W/sqm, arriving at 3.7 W/sqm and kept
silent on how this value was derived, just pronounced was that 280 ppm CO2 more
produce additional 3.7 W/sqm RF, and leaned back, to see how institutional
calculations went.
As can be expected, this 3.7 W/sqm tied to additional 280 ppp CO2, led to nothing
more than confusion, especially after evaluating paleoclimatic ice cores, as Wostok
or GRIP2 etc.
The conversion factor kept at 1:1.18 showed that CO2 played no role whatsoever.
In order to rescue the situation, Mr. Venkatachalam Ramaswamy had the idea to
” float” Lambda, called it “Climate sensitivity”, and so was the fixed conversion factor
floated (due to “unsure feedbacks etc”) and is floating now between 1:1.5 and 1:4.5,
Dear Willis, and if you ponder about applying this climate sensitivity, you only
have to stay within this 1:1.5 to 1:4.5 Lambda range and you can prove, whatever
you want, Lambda can be used according to your individual “gusto”……. Just go
With regards
JSei.

RW
August 15, 2011 7:14 pm

The problem is ∆T = λ ∆Q quantifies climate sensitivity as units of temperature per units of ‘forcing’ power. Why even define sensitivity in this way, as temperature is already quantified by units of power via the Stefan-Boltzman law?
This formula allows them to claim watts of ‘forcing’ from GHGs are nearly 3 times more effective at warming the surface than watts from the Sun, so the nonsense continues. If watts are watts, for what physical or logical reason would incremental GHG ‘forcing’ will be amplified by over 400% when solar forcing is only amplified by about 60%?

Dave Worley
August 15, 2011 8:23 pm

…and toward the end of summer, the most powerful heat engines take over to “balance” any remaining “excess” heat. Hurricanes are magnificent thermostats and a wonder of our world.
Even beyond hurricanes, less visible or noticable are the three bands of air circulation for each of the North and South hemispherers. There is a constant circulation up and down of the entire atmosphere, and it is driven by heat. All of these convective mechanisms serve to carry “excess heat” outward toward space, thus governing a “global temperature”.
One might wonder why our planet would have some general range of atmospheric temperature that it tends to maintain. Some might surmise that an inteligence monitors and regulates it for us. Being personally unsatisfied with the idea of a Hall Monitor version of a deity, I prefer to believe that the size of our planet (and so its gravitational force and solar exposure area) the presence of liquid water, and the distance from the sun result in an atmosphere that self regulates to a specific temperature range. A major factor is that all of these variables add up to a temperature near the phase change temperature of all that liquid water, and that the phase change of all that water is by far the largest regulator of temperature. If you want to give thanks to a deity, thank him for coming up with the idea of a phase change medium and turning the idea loose to work its magic in the universe.
Life may evolve on other planets with greater temperature variation or different phase change mechanisms, but there can be very little debate that the earth’s relatively stable temperature envelope has been quite conducive to the support of living things for a very very long time. And so, possibly with help from above, we are fruitful and we multiply.

Caleb
August 16, 2011 12:38 am

RE: Willis Eschenbach says:
August 15, 2011 at 10:13 am
Thanks again for responding.
RE: “…It also has the other polar issues (ground angle, thick atmosphere, long cloud shadows) that ensure that little solar heat actually makes it into the ground…”
I’d never thought about the “long cloud shadows” before. However that is the sort of point my mind seizes upon, and mulls over: Simple, practical matters. One doesn’t need to utilize the math (which you are so adept at) to begin to distrust the Real Climate conclusions. Often a brief comment by an unknown here at WUWT gives me a mental cud to chew for a week.
I read that paper you linked us to, that you wrote back in 2006. Whew! The alarms were going off in the back of my mind back then, but I never began to look hard at Alarmist statements, and to doubt them out loud, until McIntyre came out with the posting , “A New Leaderboard At The US Open,” on August 8, 2007.
Once again, I didn’t need to brush off my rusty math skills to doubt. Although there are scriptures which warn us that we should be careful about judging others, “lest ye be judged,” I have been a naive chump in my time, and have been stung by waking to the fact I’ve been played for a fool by con artists. Therefore I recognize certain behavior, having met it before, and cannot help but become highly suspicious when I see it again. The behavior of Real Climate, and Hansen, set off around sixty hooting alarms in my head. And that was just day one, back in 2007. They have only increased my suspicion during the four years since then.
Merely being suspicious may not convict anyone in a court of law, but in the court of public opinion Abraham Lincoln’s statement kicks in, “You can fool some of the people some of the time…”
Sadly, I am suspitious to a fault, now. I doubt all data. For example, as soon as I heard they threw out “outlier readings” on Mauna Loa, all their data, which is tantamount to gospel, was under a cloud in my mind.
Another bit of gospel I doubt is the CO2 levels as revealed by those little bubbles in ice cores. I was reading about the mechanics the air undergoes, during the sixty years (at the very least) between the time it is in fresh fallen snow, and the time firn turns to ice, and I felt my credulity being stretched to the breaking point. Sometime I’d be interested to hear your opinion on this topic, (which got Zbigniew Jaworowski into such trouble.)

Smoking Frog
August 16, 2011 4:34 am

Smoking Frog says:
August 15, 2011 at 2:25 am
No. If Boltzmann radiation were a negative feedback, it would be impossible for the temperature of the earth or any other object ever to increase.
DirkH says:
The climate models do incorporate it as a negative feedback; it is the “default” negative feedback. Smoking Frog, a negative feedback does not necessarily imply that no change is possible; it depends on the gain of the feedback. The effect of the Stefan-Boltzmann-Law is that heating up a body becomes harder the hotter it is already; nothing more. The emitted radiation removes heat and thus it is a negative feedback; and it depends on the 4th power of the temperature, so it is a non-linear negative feedback.
Of course it is true that a negative feedback does not imply that no change is possible, but it does imply that the temperature is lower than it would be without the negative feedback. There is no such thing as being without Stefan-Boltzmann radiation (SBR), but calling it a negative feedback implies a possibility of being without it. To entertain this nonsense, we have to ask what the temperature would be without SBR, but this question has no answer, so the only temperature we can talk about is the one we have in the first place.
(Whether the climate models model it CORRECTLY is a different question – Roy Spencer has published a paper disputing this; saying they get the temperature response on a warming ENSO event wrong; reacting too slowly)
That’s not a question of whether they are modeling SBR correctly. It’s a question of whether they are modeling the climate system correctly. Modeling SBR incorrectly would consist of assuming that an object radiates either more or less than it receives. By the same token, if I calculate the time it takes a body to fall from a certain height, and I neglect air resistance, this doesn’t mean that I am modeling gravity incorrectly.

Robert Clemenzi
August 16, 2011 7:29 pm

First, Willis, I agree with most of what you said.
However, no matter how complex an equation, the first derivative is always a straight line. The question should not be whether ∆T = λ ∆Q is valid, but instead over what range it gives reasonable results. For the sake of argument, if that form is assumed to be sufficiently accurate, the question becomes – How should lambda be determined? By simply taking the first derivative of Stephan’s equation (λ=T/4Q), at 15C, λ=0.185, not even close to the 0.8 you (maybe IPCC) provide. Using this (more correct) value means that a 4 W/m2 increase (from doubling CO2) should produce a temperature increase of only 0.74C. (I have no idea where the IPCC gets its 3C value.)
has nothing to do with feedback.
I totally disagree – in any system, there are only forcings and feedbacks. Forcings include the energy from the Sun, various orbital parameters, the period of rotation, and the like. (Basically, things that do not change based on the surface temperature.) Feedbacks include clouds, snow, ice, and the like. (Anything that changes when a forcing changes and also causes a change in the surface temperature.) Your article quotes the wikipedia definition of homeostasis, but if you had read further you would have seen that homeostasis is simply a form of negative feedback. When you continue
variations in feedback are not a feature of the control mechanism.
you miss the point that when clouds block the heat of the Sun, that is the definition of feedback (since the Sun evaporated the water, that became the clouds, etc.).
Yes, I have read several replies above where you try to say that feedbacks don’t really mean feedbacks (or something like that), but the fact that several people have questioned you on this means that the article is not as clear as it should be.
So, as many others have said above – It really IS about the feedbacks.

carlo napolitano
August 17, 2011 1:20 am

The article is interesting in my opinion since it gives some mechanistic insight on one of the many homeostatic temperature regulators. BUT it is not a way of proving the equation is incorrect. I encourage everybody to read the comment form EdH (August 14, 2011 at 5:58 am). It goes straight to the point. The two reasoning lines (feedback equation and homeostatic mechanisms) live on different dimensions . The only way to prove/dismiss the null hypothesis here is to verify experimentally if the system behaves like that while in equilibrium or to find the way, again experimentally, to define the value of lambda which (in my understanding), if far to be “settled”:

August 17, 2011 2:03 pm

Robert Clemenzi (Aug. 16 at 7:29 pm):
The existence of the functional relation ∆T = λ ∆Q is logically in doubt. In addition to being functional, the relation from ∆Q to ∆T may be non-existent or ambiguous.

Spector
August 18, 2011 3:15 am

RE:Willis Eschenbach says: (August 18, 2011 at 1:30 am)
“∆T = λ ∆Q
“is not correct over any range. Since climate sensitivity is a function f(T, x, y, …) of the temperature and some other things, maybe humidity and cosmic rays just to pick examples…”

I believe in the multi-variable case above that ‘range’ is some hyperspace volume of all the ‘independent’ variables. Of course we may have no way of knowing where we are in some cases.

August 18, 2011 5:37 am

A really good book showing how homeostasis is the *ideal* approach for systems ranging from the political to the mechanistic to the economic is found in this amazing book.
http://www.amazon.com/Reflections-Logic-Good-Chana-Cox/dp/0739119257/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1313670919&sr=8-3
Reflections on the Logic of the Good argues that a single overarching theory of the good is not possible or desirable. Nor can the common good be achieved by means of the perfect cooperation between the members of the community. In fact, a coherent plan for what Isaiah Berlin calls a “frictionless and factionless society” is a priori impossible. All such plans fail not simply because of a failure of nerve, or commitment, or idealism. The failure of each of these utopian visions is inevitable. In this respect the mathematics of control systems is entirely general and does not distinguish between mechanical, electronic, biological, or social systems. In adaptive systems, multiple automatic control mechanisms are far more effective than any single central plan, no matter how benevolent, rational, or enlightened that single source of control. Even reason itself, on this account, is best understood as a complex, constantly adapting system. In fact, stability and the health of the community is achieved by checks and balances, agonists and antagonists, forces and counterforces, rather than by central guidance and near perfect cooperation.

August 18, 2011 8:33 am

Willis (Aug. 16, 2011 at 7:29 pm):
The notion that there is, in nature, “the climate sensitivity” (TECS) is scientifically nonsensical, for TECS is defined in terms of the equilibrium temperature ∆T but ∆T is not an observable feature of the real world. In view of the non-observability of ∆T, TECS cannot be observed and thus the claim that under given circumstances TECS has a particular numerical value is insusceptible to being falsified by the evidence.

Spector
August 18, 2011 1:21 pm

In regard to the point being made about feedback, it seems that the CO2 sensitivities reported in the new paper by Lindzen and Choi are close to the raw CO2 sensitivities I obtained by analyzing the calculated data returned from the online ModTran utility for clear tropical air. My calculations from this does show a gradually increasing sensitivity (deg C per doubling) beginning at current concentrations (around 400 PPM) and slowly changing from about 0.9 to 1.8 degrees per doubling when the atmospheric concentration gets, theoretically, as high as 18,000 PPM CO2.
The ModTran tool provides a direct indication of total energy radiated to outer space (or to some high altitude receptor) as a function of the atmosphere, weather conditions, and temperature offset that you select. I based my conclusions on the hunt-and-pick temperature required to radiate an output flux of 292.993 W/m2 at my selected CO2 concentrations as *calculated* by the webtool.
http://geoflop.uchicago.edu/forecast/docs/Projects/modtran.orig.html

August 18, 2011 2:50 pm

More thoughts on this.
Imagine a world 100% covered in water with an atmosphere similar to that on Earth but with no other greenhouse gas present except water vapor. The climate is then driven just by the thermodynamics of water evaporation and solar forcing. Due to solar radiation the atmosphere is never in a state of thermodynamic equilibrium as energy and temperature gradients are always present. For simplicity, the axis of rotation is taken as perpendicular to the orbit plane so there are no seasons. Lets call this imaginary world “Water World”. In all other respects conditions on Water World are exactly the same as on Earth. Can such a water covered planet self regulate it’s temperature as the sun’s output gradually increases? The motivation for proposing such a Water World follows Daisy World [1] proposed by James Lovelock to justify Gaia theory. When the planet’s sun is 4 billion years younger it’s output is 33% less than it is today, so under clear skies with an albedo for water of 0.1, the average incident solar energy would be ~ 274 watts/m2. The solar constant slowly increases over the following 4 billion years resulting in a current average value of 342 watts/m2 equivalent to that on Earth today.
The only greenhouse gas present on Water World is water vapor and it’s concentration is determined by thermodynamic balances in the atmosphere. Evaporation transfers latent heat from the surface to the atmosphere, enhancing H2O greenhouse effect and condensing to form low level clouds which increase planet’s albedo. Further heating in the daytime can trigger thunderstorms which transfer heat directly to the top of the troposphere and rain out humidity at the end of the day. The 12 hours of darkness then allow cooling from the surface with a reduced greenhouse effect. The average global temperature is then given by the total Outgoing Long Wave radiation (OLR) at the top of the atmosphere through stefan bolltzman’s law = e*sigmaTeff**4.
Breaking all the rules…. I propose a simple dependence of cloud cover and water vapor greenhouse effect on incident solar radiance which can maintains temperatures to 0.5 degrees over the last 4 billion years.
full details here http://clivebest.com/blog/?p=2525

Robert Clemenzi
August 18, 2011 3:44 pm

Willis, I agree that a derivative of a function produces another function, but when the derivative is evaluated at a specific point, that value is the slope of a straight line tangent to function at that point. And I agree with your statement
I say, and have adduced evidence above, that climate sensitivity is temperature dependent—the warmer it is, the lower the climate sensitivity.
However, I don’t agree with the following claim
As a result, the equation is not correct over any range.
When evaluated at a point, the tangent line is a good estimate of the curve around that point. The question really is one of range around that point.
Stephan’s equation – Qs = ε σ Ts^4
Derivative – ∆Qs = 4 ε σ Ts^3 ∆T = 4 Qs/Ts ∆T
where λ = Ts/(4 Qs)
When Qs and Ts are plugged in, you get λ=0.185 when Ts=15C and Qs=390.
The question of range is – Can this linear approximation be used when ∆Qs = 0.1 W/m2 or 1.0 W/m2 or 10 W/m2, and so forth? Using a spreadsheet, this simple linear equation produces about 0.03% error (0.07C) over a range of +/- 20 W/m2 . At ∆Qs = +100 W/m2, the error is about 0.5% (1.5C), while at ∆Qs = -100 W/m2, the error is about 0.78% (2C). Therefore, it appears that the linear approximation looks pretty good for small changes in forcing and fairly worthless for large changes.
Granted, this is just based on the math and may not apply to a real climate. However, the first step to proving a theory wrong is to understand what it actually says.
That said, the λ based on blackbody equations is more than four times smaller than the IPCC value. So far, I have not been able to find out why. However, that is not the full story. The claimed feedback (about 4W/m2 for doubling CO2) is based ONLY on the absorption of IR radiation. As you correctly point out, many other factors contribute to the value that should be used in that equation. From the data I’ve seen, it is likely that even though CO2 absorbs radiation, simply doubling it does not have any effect on the temperature..

Septic Matthew
August 19, 2011 6:34 pm

Willis wrote: Which means that, contrary to your claim, frequently the tangent line is not a good estimate of what’s happening around a given point.
Over a short enough interval the tangent line is an accurate enough approximation to the function, if the function is absolutely continuous (which most are in practice.) This is the principle behind all methods of numerically solving differential equations. How short the intervals have to be to achieve the required accuracy is studied mathematically, but for practical purposes you have to experiment with the differential equation solvers and differential equations of interest. A good text is “Solving Ordinary Differential Equations: I &II”, by E. Hairer, S.P. Norsett, and G. Wanner. The book addresses chaotic examples as well as many other cases.

Jesse Fell
August 21, 2011 6:16 pm

I’m a scientific layman, and all you guys leave me in the dust with your discussions of albedo, etc. I have three man on the sidewalk questions I would like to have your answers to:
1) Does the theory of global warming depend on computer models? Haven’t the temperature records shown that global warming has been taking place? Don’t computer models merely have reference to the course that global warming might take in the future?
2) If global warming isn’t taking place, why are most (not all, of course) of the world’s glaciers melting? What has made it possible to navigate the Northwest Passage in summer for the past three years?
3) If global warming is taking place, but is not caused by the burning of fossil fuels, what is causing it? If it’s a “cycle of nature”, what is the cause and nature of this cycle? If it’s a product the ordinary chaotic behavior of weather, why is chaos producing a steady (two steps forward one step back) rise in the Earth’s temperature, instead of the patternless disturbance that we would expect from — chaos?
It seems to me that fully to overturn the consensus opinion on global warming requires an alternative explanation of the things that we can see happening that is at least as plausible as the consensus opinion. That will be the coup de grace