Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
I wrote before of my investigations into the surface air temperature records of the TAO/TRITON buoys in the Pacific Ocean. To refresh your memory, here are the locations of the TAO/TRITON buoys.
I have hypothesized that there is a thermostatic mechanism involving clouds and thunderstorms that maintains tropical temperature within a certain range. To investigate this mechanism, I decided to look at what happens at a given buoy on days when dawn temperatures are warmer than average, versus what happens at the same buoy on days when dawn temperatures are cooler than average.
My speculation was that when it was warmer at dawn, there would be more cloud and thunderstorm activity during that day. This would tend to drive the temperature down. On the other hand, when it was cooler at dawn, there would be less or no clouds or thunderstorms during that day. As a result, this would tend to drive the temperature upwards. And while I did find this, I was still surprised by the exact patterns.
To begin with, I compared the overall average of all days for each station with the overall average of the warmer days for each station, and the overall average of the cooler days for each station. Here are those results:
Figure 2. Average of all buoy records (heavy black line), as well as averages of the same data divided into days when dawn is warmer than average (heavy red line), and days when dawn is cooler than average (heavy blue line) for each buoy. Light lines show the difference between the previous and the following 1:00 AM temperatures.
First, the black line, showing the average day’s cycle. The onset of cumulus is complete by about 10:00. The afternoon is warmer than the morning. As you would expect with an average, the 1 AM temperatures are equal (thin black line).
The days when the dawn is warmer (red line) show a different pattern. There is less cooling from 1AM to dawn. Cumulus development is stronger when it occurs, driving the temperature down further than on average. In addition, afternoon thunderstorms not only keep the afternoon temperatures down, they also drive evening and night cooling. As a result, when the day is warmer at dawn, the following morning is cooler.
In general, the reverse occurs on the cooler days (blue line). Cooling from 1 AM until dawn is strong. Warming is equally strong. Morning cumulus formation is weak, as is the afternoon thunderstorm foundation. As a result, when the dawn is cooler, temperatures continue to climb during the day, and the following 1AM is warmer than the preceding 1 AM.
So this is the result that we would expect with a thermostat operating on a daily basis. If the dawn is warm, clouds and thunderstorms ensure that the following day starts out cooler. And when the dawn is cool, extra sun and few clouds and thunderstorms warm the day up, with the warmth lasting into the night.
Now … is this just a statistical oddity? One way to determine if we’re looking at a real phenomenon is the “dosage effect”. That is to say, the response should be proportional to the dosage. In this case, the “dosage” is the overall average temperature for that particular buoy. My hypothesis says that the effect seen above in Figure 2 should be greater in those buoys where the average air temperature is warmer, and less in those buoys where the air temperature is lower. And indeed, that proved to be the case, as is shown in Figure 3. This shows the buoys divided into four quarters (quartiles) on the basis of annual average temperature.
Note that the response systematically grows larger and more exaggerated as we go from the first quartile (the coolest quarter of the buoys) sequentially to the fourth, warmest quarter of the buoys.
I hold these results out as strong support for my hypothesis that the temperature of the tropics is regulated by the combined action of clouds and thunderstorms. The difference in the temperature response of the warm and cool days shows the homeostatic mechanism in action, with warm mornings having cooler afternoons, and vice versa. All of this shows the clouds and thunderstorms at work.
I will ask again that if you disagree with something I’ve said, please quote it so that we both know what we’re discussing.
All the best,