Senseless about sensitivity

The speculative press release below is from the University of Gothenburg.  After having a paper published earlier this year  in Science that argues climate sensitivity might be lower than the IPCC stated in AR4, we have a new press release (and not even a paper as far as I can tell) that says it is greater. Honestly I don’t think anyone knows what the true sensitivity is.  Even CRU’s/NCAR’s Dr. Tom Wigley knows this as illustrated in a ClimateGate2.0 email:

Quantifying climate sensitivity from real world data cannot even be done using present-day data, including satellite data. If you think that one could do better with paleo data, then you’re fooling yourself. This is fine, but there is no need to try to fool others by making extravagant claims.

That’s from this WUWT story on email 0303.txt.

Kent Salo measures particles in the Aida chamber, located at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Karlsruhe, Germany.

Climate sensitivity greater than previously believed

Many of the particles in the atmosphere are produced by the natural world, and it is possible that plants have in recent decades reduced the effects of the greenhouse gases to which human activity has given rise. One consequence of this is that the climate may be more sensitive to emissions caused by human activity than we have previously believed. Scientists at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden) have collected new data that may lead to better climate models.

“Emissions by plants to the atmosphere are influenced by climate change – higher temperatures can increase the rate of the biological processes that control the emissions. If natural emissions increase as the temperature rises, this in turn increases the amount of particles that are formed”, says Kent Salo of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Gothenburg.

The interactions between particles and the climate constitute a very complex web of processes. The particles in the atmosphere consist to a large part of organic substances, which may arise from incomplete combustion in engines or boilers. Such substances may also arise from plant growth. Emissions from plants occur as gases, and are greater than emissions from other sources, in a global perspective.

Once released into the atmosphere, the gases from plants are converted by many chemical processes, such that they can eventually condense and form particles. The particles that are formed in chemical reactions in the atmosphere are known as “secondary organic aerosols” (abbreviated to “SOA”), and consist of a complex mixture of organic substances. The particles age and change with time, and this process influences the effects that the particles have on human health and on the climate.

“Particles in the atmosphere basically have a cooling effect on the Earth, and they affect cloud formation. The greater the number of particles in the air, the greater will be the number of cloud droplets. This affects the lifetime of the clouds and the amounts of precipitation, and consequently, the climate. Today, we do not have a fundamental understanding of how SOA particles are formed and the properties they have, despite them being an important component of, for example, climate models.”

Kent Salo has studied organic substances that are known to be components of particles in the atmosphere and how their physical properties can be used in models to understand the complicated systems that the SOAs constitute, and the effect they have on the climate.

In order to study these processes, Kent Salo has developed a special instrument that measures the degree to which the particles evaporate when they are heated. He has carried out experiments at several major research facilities in Europe using this instrument.

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December 21, 2011 10:04 am

Were you equally as skeptical of these estimates when reporting on the lower than estimated sensitivity that Pat Michaels commented on a month ago? Food for thought.

More Soylent Green!
December 21, 2011 10:14 am

Anything to prove they are not wrong. Unless of course, IT’S WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!
~More Soylent Green!

December 21, 2011 10:26 am

We are reasoned to follow not the weather man, as one can only wait a moment for his failure.

December 21, 2011 10:27 am

Ah yes, if nothing else, the 6000+ years of written history tell us how the Earth’s atmosphere has a positive feedback loop where increasing temps cause the release of more greenhouse gases and vice versa. Aren’t we so lucky that the Earth made it this long without becoming a permanent ice-ball or another Venus? 😉

December 21, 2011 10:30 am

For crying out loud!</b.
These #$%^tards describe a new
negative feedback mechanism and use it to claim that sensitivity is higher than previously thought?

December 21, 2011 10:31 am

This fly’s in the face climate sensitivity. If these organic aerosols increase cloud formation that cools atmospheric temperatures, then so does a rise in temperature. More heat=>more water vapor=> more clouds=> more cooling=>less temperature=>less climate sensitivity. They can’t have both ways. Either AGW causes an out of control positive feedback that destroys all life on earth or a relatively stable negative feedback exists that allows for a relatively stable atmospheric temperature quite similar to the one that has existed for the last gazillion years.

December 21, 2011 10:32 am

Re: Jeff
If you actually read this they are saying that in a warmer climate plants give off more particles that act to cool the atmosphere. Or in other words a negative feedback which lowers the overall sensitivity of the climate to CO2 (when all feedbacks are included).
The logic of their claim for a higher sensitivity is as follows:
1. Climate models do not take account of secondary organic aerosols (SOA).
2. Since SOA will lower sensitivity due to negative feedback, climate models need to increase sensitivity to maintain same overall sensitivity.
In other words they have found a negative feedback (SOA) and want to spin it as something bad.

Richard M
December 21, 2011 10:33 am

Let’s see if I understand this … warming leads to a higher release of certain organic substances. These, in turn, cool the climate. Sounds to me like a negative feedback and reduced climate sensitivity.

December 21, 2011 10:33 am

Jeff … Did you go back and check to see what he said about the earlier report ? homework is no fun I know but a little effort would go along way … you do know what the actual “food” for thought is don’t you ? its called information which comes from research … its kind of like greens, good for you but not always tasty …

December 21, 2011 10:34 am

If the emissions are from plants and increase due to extra CO2 or warmth then ARE a “NEGATIVE FEEDBACK”. What’s the problem here?
Barry Strayer

December 21, 2011 10:35 am


Bob B
December 21, 2011 10:37 am

“Today, we do not have a fundamental understanding of how SOA particles are formed and the properties they have, despite them being an important component of, for example, climate models.”
Who cares how thes particles affect the actual climate, it’s the models that matter most.

December 21, 2011 10:39 am

More CO2 leads to more plants emitting more SOAs leading to more cooling. WUWT? It’s not even a new discovery.

December 21, 2011 10:43 am

This is beginning to resemble a “mating net” in chess, where the mathematical logic of the stronger position culminates in checkmate.
The twin fallacies of (a) high CO2 sensitivity and (b) positive feedback are the warmists’ weak spots. I am so pleased that the debate is focussing on these. The warmists’ position is on the brink of collapse.

Joachim Seifert
December 21, 2011 10:45 am

Sensitivity and senseless = a good word combination!
Why? Because nobody in the world knows, all they do is reckon values of betwen 6 and 0,5.
A the PIK Potsdam Institut they carried out 1000s of model runs, wasting taxpayers money and conclude: “We prefer to stay in the middle and the value therefore is between 2 and 3 and we are 95% confident about it.
I am sure you feel great if your board your airplane and they tell you that it will arrive with 95% confidence at its destination……
All these guys should be shot to the Moon without ticket of return…

December 21, 2011 10:56 am

He is being skeptical, that’s why he’s saying nobody knows what the sensitivity is, including Pat Michaels.
The more science that is done, the more obscure the sensitivity seems to be; but it’s darkest before the dawn they say, so we should be in for a breakthrough soon that’ll help us actually get at the real values.

James Sexton
December 21, 2011 10:58 am

lmao!! So, it it weren’t for natural feedbacks decreasing sensitivity, then our sensitivity would be greater!…… Ok, got that.
And, if H2O didn’t evaporate, rain wouldn’t refill our lakes.
Is it just me or has climatology slipped into the delusional world of full stupid?

More Soylent Green!
December 21, 2011 11:21 am

We don’t know how any of this works, but
1) The models are still accurate
~More Soylent Green

December 21, 2011 11:30 am

JJ beat me to it. Talk about spin. Jeez.

December 21, 2011 11:32 am

Anthony, uncanny – I’ve had “Sense and sensitivity” in my head today as a title for a different story, although ultimately I decided not to use it.
It does seem as though they’ve got ‘high sensitivity’ backwards compared to what climate scientists usually mean. I kept thinking about the CERN Cloud experiment results. This could certainly act as a lovely natural feedback control.

December 21, 2011 11:50 am

The press release is probably an advert for the instrument, maybe soon to be for sale?

December 21, 2011 11:54 am

James Sexton said @ December 21, 2011 at 10:58 am:
“Is it just me or has climatology slipped into the delusional world of full stupid?”

George E. Smith;
December 21, 2011 11:56 am

Well it would be a great help if there actually was a definition of “Climate Sensitivity” that everyone agreed on.
Somehow, I got the idea that the term was invented by the Late Dr Stehen Schneider of Stanford University. I’ve never been able to confirm that or confirm, any alternative inventor.
But as I understand CS, it simply defined by the equation:-
T2-T1 = (CS) log2((CO2-2)/(CO2-1)) Where it should be obvious to even lay readers what the notation means.
T2 and T1 are two values of the earth’s global mean surface Temperature (at two different times); and CO2-2 and CO2-1 are simply the then prevailing atmospheric CO2 abundances. Notice that NO OTHER variables or parameters are involved in Climate Sensitivity, which is driven entirely by CO2
Well that is the way it is supposed to be, so they say. And they say that despite a complete absence of evidence; either experimental observation; or theoretical physics causation to support it.

December 21, 2011 12:05 pm

James Sexton says:
December 21, 2011 at 10:58 am
lmao!! So, it it weren’t for natural feedbacks decreasing sensitivity, then our sensitivity would be greater!…… Ok, got that.
And, if H2O didn’t evaporate, rain wouldn’t refill our lakes.
Is it just me or has climatology slipped into the delusional world of full stupid?
OK, I got that. It’s full stupid. LOL

Dale Cozort
December 21, 2011 12:14 pm

Wow! That’s a really stupid spin to put on an investigation into a negative feedback. On the other hand, I suspect it had something to do with trying to slip followup grants past funding committees that don’t fund investigations into negative feedbacks, so this might actually be rather clever in the context of getting additional funding.

December 21, 2011 12:21 pm

I think the real solution to all this Hoy polloy re warming could be solved by a long enema for the warmists. This would hopefully get all their [snip . . cut it out . .] out in the open. We could all then flush it,and get on with life!

December 21, 2011 12:31 pm

Please explain again as loudly as you can that there can be no ‘forcings’ in the presence of a governor, which is provided by equatorial cu-nims.
Any chance you could get a paper published on it??

December 21, 2011 12:40 pm

I think I get it. If global warming gets bad, then plants would die off and wouldn’t emit so many particles, which would reduce convection, which would make it even worse, even though we didn’t know they were contributing to controlling the problem in the first place.

John West
December 21, 2011 12:59 pm
John West
December 21, 2011 1:15 pm

Another miss-match between paper and press?
Press release titled: “Climate sensitivity greater than previously believed”
From the Thesis:
1.3.4 Climate
Aerosols have significant direct and indirect climate effects. The direct effects are scattering and
reflection of radiation. Examples are reduced visibility and “global dimming” influencing the
radiation budget of the Earth with a net cooling effect. Some particles can also provide a net
heating effect by absorption of radiation, i.e. the case for soot or black carbon aerosols. In
addition, the deposition of soot particles on ice and snow covered surfaces can lower the albedo
and thereby contribute to additional warming. In the troposphere the climate direct effects of
particles are very heterogeneously distributed due to the short days to week lifetime of particles.
However, in the stratosphere the effect will be more globally distributed. For example volcano
ash particles emitted to the stratosphere can be transported long distances and cause failure of
crops globally due to their cooling effect. There are even serious suggestions to use the long
stratospheric lifetime of particles too, by dispersion of ammonium sulphate aerosol in the lower
stratosphere, counteract the global warming (Rasch et al. 2008).
The indirect effect is the aerosols influence on the presence and size distribution of cloud
droplets, e.g. if more aerosol particles are available a larger number of smaller cloud droplets will
be formed. Clouds that are composed of smaller droplets have other optical properties and will
also have longer lifetimes. The indirect effects can cause possible altering of precipitation
systems, possessing large and often unknown feedback mechanisms to the climate change
(Solomon et al. 2007).
Since many of the SOA precursors are emitted from different biological processes i.e. BVOC,
a global increase in for examples temperature will have an effect on the emission of SOA
precursors, hence have a large effect on the amount of SOA produced. Since the composition of
the precursors will control the composition of the biogenic SOA formed not only the mass but
also the chemical and physical properties will be altered in a changing climate (Arneth et al. 2010;
Peñuelas et al. 2010).
Perhaps my reading skills are slipping in my old age, but I don’t see anything there that comes close to suggesting an increase in climate sensitivity. A search for the word “sensitivity” doesn’t even get any hits in the thesis. WUWT?!

Agile Aspect
December 21, 2011 1:37 pm

Climate forcings and sensitivities are junk science.

Tim Clark
December 21, 2011 1:53 pm

I did a privately funded paper on evolution of volatile nitrogenous compounds from soybean leaves in response to temperature, which I’n not at liberty to discuss at this time.
Nothing to see here. Evolution increases only slighty until the stomates CLOSE.
Connect the dots………..

December 21, 2011 2:00 pm

Please always remember that THE EARTH HAS NO LID.
Then, the question arises: Where is heat saved?

1) Atmosphere: Air: Volumetric heat capacity: 0.00192 joules /cu-cm.
2) Oceans: Water: Volumetric heat capacity:4.186 joules/cu-cm, i.e., 3227 times than that of Air.

3) Soil: Ground: volumetric heat capacity: About 2.0 joules /cu-cm.
Green House Effect = Confined Heat Effect

No confinement = No effect.

Remember: How soon atmosphere cools down during an eclipse.

Why is it so? Entiende lo que digo?

December 21, 2011 2:36 pm

The press release seems to have introduced a confusion. The climate may be more sensitive to human related emissions, etc., than previously assumed. However that is being mixed up with the issue of “climate sensitivity”. In other words, if the climate is more sensitive to particulates of a certain type then previously thought, which effectively constitutes a negative feedback, then overall, “climate sensitivity” is actually reduced. In other words, the opposite of the press release heading.

December 21, 2011 3:17 pm

More Soylent Green! on December 21, 2011 at 10:14 am said:
Anything to prove they are not wrong. Unless of course, IT’S WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT!
~More Soylent Green!
Well I have not read the thesis but the press release is referring to a climate sensitivity which is not the same as the climate sensitivity you are all familiar with. It looks like a mistranslation to me.
In fact the press release is referring to increased aerosol production at higher temperatures. This, if accompanied by increased cloud formation, would REDUCE climate sensitivity perhaps, if this acted to increase albedo.
Note the large number of ifs in that sentence.
So maybe you guys need to read this more carefully.

December 21, 2011 3:48 pm

LazyTeenager said @ December 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm
“This, if accompanied by increased cloud formation, would REDUCE climate sensitivity perhaps, if this acted to increase albedo.
Note the large number of ifs in that sentence.”
Sounds a bit iffy to me 😉

John West
December 21, 2011 4:40 pm

LazyTeenager says:
“It looks like a mistranslation to me.”
So, you’re saying the press release just happens to use the same wording as that used by the IPCC as the basis for mitigation of CO2 necessity in a different meaning completely by accident even though the word “sensitivity” doesn’t even show up in the thesis?

December 21, 2011 6:44 pm

LazyTeenager says:
December 21, 2011 at 3:17 pm
“It looks like a mistranslation to me.”
If perhaps maybe it could be possible that there is a chance that if in some circumstance under the right conditions some scientists believe there may be conceivably a possibility suggesting that it appears that it was anticipated with a high degree of probabiliy that most likely without a doubt be a mistranslation to me.
Got it.

Tilo Reber
December 21, 2011 8:07 pm

Jeff: “Food for thought.”
Not really. 0.8C of change over 150 years with 40% of a CO2 doubling already in the bag. And the UHI hasn’t ever been properly removed from that 0.8C. Nor has account been taken of the fact that some warming would be expected after a little ice age. All of that says lower estimates are likely reasonable and higher estimates are likely BS.

Dale Cozort
December 21, 2011 9:02 pm

The thesis actually sounds interesting. In terms of the press release, I can sort of understand the reasoning now that I’ve had more time to think about it. I suspect that what they were trying to get at is that increased plant-based aerosols would counterbalance warming to some extent up to a point, but might have a saturation point, in which case it would stop counterbalancing at saturation. Yes, I know there are a lot of assumptions in there, and yes, I know the thesis doesn’t appear to support any of it. But I can sort of see where they are coming from on the press release.

December 21, 2011 10:07 pm

Exactly what are we talking about here? According to RSS, nothing happened temperature wise for almost 15 years. This is despite the fact that CO2 went up by a certain amount during this time. So is the claim being made that the CO2 alone could have made the temperature go up by say 0.5 degrees but the negative feedbacks reduced it by the same 0.5 degrees. Or are they saying the CO2 had a larger effect by making the temperature go up by 0.8 degrees (higher sensitivity) but the negative feedbacks lowered things by the same 0.8 degrees?

John West
December 22, 2011 12:47 am

Werner Brozek says:
“Exactly what are we talking about here? ”
Oh, we’re just eating popcorn and watching the CAGW proponents wriggling around “hoping” for the warming to return and becoming less and less secure in the knowledge that they are so much smarter than us with every passing year.

Brian H
December 22, 2011 2:22 am

First major surge of hoomon CO2 emissions, 1940s. Result: 30 yrs of cooling. Highest levels of emissions, 21st C. , to date. Result: temperature plateau, beginning of cooling.
Those two “exceptions” disprove the rule/speculation.

richard verney
December 22, 2011 3:01 am

JJ says:
December 21, 2011 at 10:30 am
For crying out loud!</b.
These #$%^tards describe a new negative feedback mechanism and use it to claim that sensitivity is higher than previously thought?
They might have an argument if the world was warming as per the projections made by the various IPCC climate models. But since it is not warming as per those projections, and since the warming appears to have stalled for approximately the past 15 years, their conclusion is illogical in the extreme.
I guess it is just another example of climate science at its rational best.

December 22, 2011 4:12 am

“Kent Salo has developed a special instrument that measures the degree to which the particles evaporate when they are heated …” – that’ll be a frying pan?

Julian Flood
December 22, 2011 9:18 am

I’m not sure the abstract says what the headline says. Dr (I bet it’s good to see that written down, all new and fresh) Salo’s abstract just covers some research into aerosol pollution.
If you read this, Dr Salo, check [Garrett 1978] which says that an oily oceanic boundary layer generates oily water droplets which are more prone to join together and fall back. Which means fewer clouds, and, in turn, means that a _heating_ mechanism not incorporated into the models may be acting. Or, put briefly, climate sensitivity even lower than previously thought.

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