UPDATE: Dr. Roger Pielke Sr. has a comment on the paper here: Comments On The Dessler 2011 GRL Paper “Cloud Variations And The Earth’s Energy Budget also, physicist Lubos Motl has an analysis here. The press release from TAMU/Dessler has been pushed to media outlets on Eurekalert, see update below.
I’ve been given an advance copy, for which I’ve posted excerpts below. This paper appears to have been made ready in record time, with a turnaround from submission to acceptance and publication of about six weeks based on the July 26th publication date of the original Spencer and Braswell paper. We should all be so lucky to have expedited peer review service. PeerEx maybe, something like FedEx? Compare that to the two years it took to get Lindzen and Choi out the door. Or how about the WUWT story: “Science has been sitting on his [Spencer’s] critique of Dessler’s paper for months”.
If anyone needs a clear, concise, and irrefutable example of how peer review in climate science is biased for the consensus and against skeptics, this is it.
I’m sure some thorough examination will determine if the maxim “haste makes waste” applies here for Dessler’s turbo treatise.
Cloud variations and the Earth’s energy budget
Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
Abstract: The question of whether clouds are the cause of surface temperature changes, rather than acting as a feedback in response to those temperature changes, is explored using data obtained between 2000 and 2010. An energy budget calculation shows that the energy trapped by clouds accounts for little of the observed climate variations. And observations of the lagged response of top-of-atmosphere (TOA) energy fluxes to surface temperature variations are not evidence that clouds are causing climate change.
The usual way to think about clouds in the climate system is that they are a feedback — as the climate warms, clouds change in response and either amplify (positive cloud feedback) or ameliorate (negative cloud feedback) the initial change [e.g., Stephens, 2005]. In recent papers, Lindzen and Choi [2011, hereafter LC11] and Spencer and Braswell [2011, hereafter SB11] have argued that reality is reversed: clouds are the cause of, and not a feedback on, changes in surface temperature. If this claim is correct, then significant revisions to climate science may be required.
These calculations show that clouds did not cause significant climate change over the last decade (over the decades or centuries relevant for long-term climate change, on the other hand, clouds can indeed cause significant warming). Rather, the evolution of the surface and atmosphere during ENSO variations are dominated by oceanic heat transport. This means in turn that regressions of TOA fluxes vs. ΔTs can be used to accurately estimate climate sensitivity or the magnitude of climate feedbacks. In addition, observations presented by LC11 and SB11 are not in fundamental disagreement with mainstream climate models, nor do they provide evidence that clouds are causing climate change. Suggestions that significant revisions to mainstream climate science are required are therefore not supported.
Acknowledgments: This work was supported by NSF grant AGS-1012665 to Texas A&M University. I thank A. Evan, J. Fasullo, D. Murphy, K. Trenberth, M. Zelinka, and A.J. Dessler for useful comments.
h/t to Marc Hendrickx
UPDATE: Here is the press release from Texas A&M via Eurekalert:
Texas A&M prof says study shows that clouds don’t cause climate change
COLLEGE STATION, Sept. 6, 2011 — Clouds only amplify climate change, says a Texas A&M University professor in a study that rebuts recent claims that clouds are actually the root cause of climate change.
Andrew Dessler, a Texas A&M atmospheric sciences professor considered one of the nation’s experts on climate variations, says decades of data support the mainstream and long-held view that clouds are primarily acting as a so-called “feedback” that amplifies warming from human activity. His work is published today in the American Geophysical Union’s peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Dessler studied El Niño and La Niña cycles over the past 10 years and calculated the Earth’s “energy budget” over this time. El Nino and La Nina are cyclical events, roughly every five years, when waters in the central Pacific Ocean tend to get warmer or colder. These changes have a huge impact on much of the world’s weather systems for months or even years.
Dessler found that clouds played a very small role in initiating these climate variations — in agreement, he says, with mainstream climate science and in direct opposition to some previous claims.
“The bottom line is that clouds have not replaced humans as the cause of the recent warming the Earth is experiencing,” Dessler says.
Texas is currently in one of the worst droughts in the state’s history, and most scientists believe it is a direct result of La Niña conditions that have lingered in the Pacific Ocean for many months.
Dessler adds, “Over a century, however, clouds can indeed play an important role amplifying climate change.”
“I hope my analysis puts an end to this claim that clouds are causing climate change,” he adds.
For more information about Dessler’s research, go to http://goo.gl/zFJmt
About Research at Texas A&M University:
As one of the world’s leading research institutions, Texas A&M is in the vanguard in making significant contributions to the storehouse of knowledge, including that of science and technology. Research conducted at Texas A&M represents an annual investment of more than $630 million, which ranks third nationally for universities without a medical school, and underwrites approximately 3,500 sponsored projects. That research creates new knowledge that provides basic, fundamental and applied contributions resulting in many cases in economic benefits to the state, nation and world.