# Slow Drift in Thermoregulated Emergent Systems

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

In my last post, “Emergent Climate Phenomena“, I gave a different paradigm for the climate. The current paradigm is that climate is a system in which temperature slavishly follows the changes in inputs. Under my paradigm, on the other hand, natural thermoregulatory systems constrain the temperature to vary within a narrow range. In the last century, for example, the temperature has varied only about ± 0.3°C, which is a temperature variation of only about a tenth of one percent. I hold that this astonishing stability, in a system whose temperature is controlled by something as fickle and variable as clouds and wind, is clear evidence that there is a strong thermostatic mechanism, or more accurately a host of interlocking thermostatic mechanisms, controlling the temperature.

Figure 1. The behavior of flocks of birds and schools of fish are emergent phenomena.

However, this brings up a new question—although the change in temperature is quite small, with changes of only a few tenths of a percent per century, less than a degree, sometimes the global average temperature has been rising, and sometimes falling.

So what are some of the things that might be causing these slow, century or millennia long drifts in temperature? Is it changes in the sun? I think that the explanation lies elsewhere than the sun, and here’s why.

The temperature control system I describe above, based on the timing and duration of the onset and existence of emergent temperature phenomena, is temperature based. It is not based on the amount of forcing (downwelling solar and greenhouse radiation).

By that I mean that the control system starts to kick in when the local temperature rises above the critical level for cloud emergence. As a result, by and large the global average temperature of the planet is relatively indifferent to variations in the level of the forcing, whether from the sun, from CO2, from volcanoes, or any other reason. That’s why meteors and volcanoes have come and gone and the temperature just goes on. Remember that at the current temperature, the system variably rejects about a quarter of the available incoming solar energy through reflections off of clouds. We could be a whole lot hotter than we are now, and we’re not …

This means that the system is actively regulating the amount of incoming solar energy to maintain the temperature within bounds. It doesn’t disturb the control system that the solar forcing is constantly varying from a host of factors, from dust and volcanoes to 11 and 22 year solar cycles. The thermoregulation system is not based on how much energy there is available from the sun or from CO2. The resulting temperature is not based on the available forcing, we know there’s more than enough forcing available to fry us. It is set instead by the unchanging physics of wind and wave and pressure and most of all temperature that regulates when clouds form … so when the sun goes up a bit, the clouds go up a bit, and balance is maintained.

And this, in turn, is my explanation of why it is so difficult to find any strong, clear solar signal in the temperature records. Oh, you can find hints, and bits, a weak correlation to this or that, but overall those sun-climate correlations, which under the current paradigm should show visible effects, are very hard to find. I hold that this shows that in general, global average temperature is not a function of the forcing. The sun waxes and wanes, the volcanoes go off for centuries, meteors hit the earth … and the clouds simply adjust to return us to the same thermal level. And this weak dependence of output on input is exactly what we would expect in any significantly complex system.

So if the sun is not guilty of causing the slow drift in global average surface temperature over the centuries, what other possible defendants might we haul before the bar?

Well, the obvious suspects would include anything that affects the timing and duration of the onset and existence of clouds, or their albedo (color). Unfortunately, cloud formation is a complex and poorly understood process. Water droplets in clouds form around a “nucleus”, some kind of particle. This can be sea salt, dust, organic materials, aerosols, a variety of types and species of microorganisms, black carbon, there are a host of known participants with no clear evidence on how or why they vary, or what effects they have when they do vary.  Here’s a quote from the abstract of a 2013 scientific paper, emphasis mine:

The composition and prevalence of microorganisms in the middle-to-upper troposphere (8–15 km altitude) and their role in aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions represent important, unresolved questions for biological and atmospheric science. In particular, airborne microorganisms above the oceans remain essentially uncharacterized, as most work to date is restricted to samples taken near the Earth’s surface. SOURCE

Here’s another example:

Cumulus clouds result from the ascent of moist air parcels. An unresolved issue in cloud physics is why observed cumulus cloud droplet spectra even in the core of cumulus clouds are broader than the spectra predicted by cloud droplet nucleation and condensational growth in adiabatically ascending parcels (Pruppacher and Klett, 1997). SOURCE

Cumulus clouds are one of the most common types on earth and we don’t even understand cloud nucleation there. The problem is that the size and composition of atmospheric aerosols, and the complex interaction between those aerosols and the various organic and inorganic atmospheric chemicals, ions, free radicals, and natural and man-made particles, plus variations in the type and amount of microbial populations of the atmosphere, plus the ability of one chemical to adsorb onto and totally change the surface properties of another substance, all have the potential to affect both the timing and the duration of both cloud formation and precipitation, along with cloud optical properties. As such, they would have to be strong contenders for any century-scale (and perhaps shorter-scale) drifts in temperature.

Another possible cause for the slow drift might be the proposed cosmic ray connection, sun’s magnetic field –> cosmic ray variations –> changes in cloud nucleation rate. I see no theoretical reason it couldn’t work under existing laws of physics, I made a “cloud chamber” as a kid to see radioactivity come off of a watch. However, one difficulty with this cosmic ray connection is that the records have been combed pretty extensively for sun/climate links, and we haven’t found any strong correlations between the sun and climate. We see weak correlations, but nothing stands out. Doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but it may be indicative of their possible strength … or as always, indicative of our lack of knowledge …

Another cause might be the effect on thunderstorms of gradual changes in the earth’s electromagnetic fields. Thunderstorms have a huge (think lightning bolts) and extremely poorly understood electromagnetic complement. They serve an incredibly complex electromagnetic circuit that  couples the atmosphere and the surface. It ties them together electromagnetically from the “sprites”  that form when thunderstorms push high above the surrounding tropopause, and from there in various ways through dimly glimpsed channels the electromagnetic current runs down to and up from the ground. Thunderstorms also are independent natural electrical Van de Graaf machines, stripping electrons in one part of the thunderstorm, transporting them miles away, and reuniting them in a thunderous electrical arc. We have no idea what things like the gradual changes in the location of the Magnetic Poles and alterations in the magnetosphere or variations in the solar wind might do to the timing and duration of thunderstorms, so we have to include slow alterations in the global magnetic and electrical fields in the list of possibilities, perhaps only because we understand so little about them.

The next possibility for slow changes involves the idea of bifurcation points. Let me take the alteration between the two states of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation as an example. In each of the states of the PDO, we have a quasi-stable (for decades) configuration of ocean currents. At some point in time, for unclear reasons, that configuration of ocean currents changes, and is replaced by an entirely different quasi-stable (for decades) state. In other words, somewhere in there is a bifurcation point in the annual ebb and flow of the currents, and at some point in time, the currents take the path not recently travelled and as a result, the whole North Pacific shifts to the other state.

Now, even in theory one of these two state has to be more efficient than the other in the great work of the heat engine we call the climate. That great work is moving energy from the equator to the poles. And in fact there is a distinct difference, one of the two states is called the “warm” state and the other is called the “cool” state.

Intuitively, it would seem that IF for whatever reason the Pacific Decadal Oscillation stayed permanently in one state or the other, that the world would end up either warmer overall or cooler overall. Let me explain why I don’t think the PDO or the El Nino/La Nina or the North Atlantic Oscillations are responsible for slow drifts in the regulated temperature.

The reason is that just like the thunderstorms, all of those are emergent phenomena of the system. Take the PDO as an example. Looking at the Pacific Ocean, you’d never say “I bet the North Pacific stays warm for decade after decade, and then there’s a great shift, all of the sea life changes, the winds change, the very currents change, and then it will be cold for decade after decade”. No way you’d guess that, it’s emergent.

And because they are emergent systems, I hold that they too are a part of the interconnected thermal regulation system, which in my view includes short term emergent systems (daily thunderstorms), longer term (multi monthly Madden Julian oscillations), longer term (clouds cooling in summer and warming in winter), longer term (3-5 years El Nino/La Nina), and longer term (multidecadal PDO, AMO) emergent systems of all types all working to maintain a constant temperature, with many more uncounted.

And as a result, I would hold that none of those emergent systems would be a cause of slow drift. To the contrary, I would expect that they would work the other way, to counteract slow drift and prevent overheating.

Moving on, here’s an off-the-wall possibility for human induced change—oil on the global oceans. It only takes the thinnest, almost monomolecular layer of oil on water to change the surface tension, and we’ve added lots of it. This reduces evaporation in two ways. It reduces evaporation directly by reducing the amount of water in contact with the air.

The second way is by preventing the formation of breaking waves, spray, and spume (sea foam). Spray of any kind greatly increases the water surface available for evaporation, depending on windspeed. Remember that evaporation due to wind speed is the way that the thunderstorm is able to sustain itself. So when the amount of area evaporating is decreased by ten or twenty percent due to lack of spray, that will commensurately decrease the evaporation, and thus affect the timing of the onset and the duration of thunderstorms.

OK, you gotta love this. I thought “time for more research” after writing the last paragraph, and I find this:

Sailors who traditionally dumped barrels of oil into the sea to calm stormy waters may have been on to something, a new study suggests. The old practice reduces wind speeds in tropical hurricanes by damping ocean spray, according to a new mathematical “sandwich model”.

As hurricane winds kick up ocean waves, large water droplets become suspended in the air. This cloud of spray can be treated mathematically as a third fluid sandwiched between the air and sea. “Our calculations show that drops in the spray decrease turbulence and reduce friction, allowing for far greater wind speeds – sometimes eight times as much,” explains researcher Alexandre Chorin at the University of California at Berkeley, US.

He believes the findings shed light on an age-old sea ritual. “Ancient mariners poured oil on troubled waters – hence the expression – but it was never very clear what this accomplished,” says Chorin. Since oil inhibits the formation of drops, Chorin thinks the strategy would have increased the drag in the air and successfully decreased the intensity of the squalls.

SOURCE

Hmmm … good scientists, not such good sailors. As scientists, I’d say they only have part of the answer. They should also run a calculation on the increase of the evaporative area due to the spray, and then consider that the hurricane runs on evaporation. That’s why they die out over the land, no moisture. Cut down the spray, put oil on the water, cut down the evaporation, cut down the power of the storms. And just like you get sweatier and hotter if a muggy day prevents evaporation, the same is true of the ocean. If you cut down evaporation, it will get warmer.

Of course, the counter-argument to the oil-on-the-water cuts evaporation and warms the ocean hypothesis was World War II. It put more oil into all of the oceans of the world than at any time before or since, and during the war in general the world was quite cold … dang fact, they always get in the way.

Having said that, as a blue-water man I can assure you that the authors of that claim are not sailors. Sailors don’t dump oil in the water to lower the wind speed, that’s a landlubber fantasy. They do it because it prevents waves from breaking and drops and spray from forming, so it can help in rough conditions. It doesn’t take much, you’d be surprise at the effect it has. You soak a rag in motor oil and tow it a ways behind the boat when you are drifting downwind. If the Coast Guard catches you, you’ll get a ticket for causing a sheen on the water and rightly so, but if it saves your life once, it’s probably worth it. Heck, when you’re caught in a big offshore blow, if it just has a placebo effect and reduces your personal pucker factor, its probably worth it … but I digress.

One thing is clear, however. The climate has been on a slow drift up and down and up and down, warm in Roman times, cold in the Dark Ages, warm in the Middle Ages, cold in the Little Ice Age, warm now … so while humans may indeed play some part the post-1940’s drift (down, then up, now level), it’s likely not a big part or we would have seen it by now … and in any case if we did have an effect, we still don’t know how.

I want to close by noting the power of the paradigm. If the paradigm is that greenhouse gases are the likely reason for slow climate drift because you assert (curiously and incorrectly) that temperature slavishly follows forcing, then you will look for variations in all the things that affect those GHGs.

But once the paradigm shifts to describing the climate as composed of interlocking active thermoregulatory mechanisms, we find ourselves with a range of entirely different and credible candidates for slow drift that are untouched and uninvestigated. It may be something above, or something I haven’t even considered, the change in plankton affecting the clouds or something.

This is why the claim that we have identified the “major forcings” as being say CO2 and methane and such ring hollow. Those are only the major players within the current paradigm. The problem is, that paradigm cannot explain a system so tightly thermoregulated that over the last century, the global average surface temperature only varied by ± one tenth of a percent … engineers, please correct me if I’m wrong, but given volcanoes and aerosols and the like that is a record that any control systems engineer would be proud of, and it is done with things as ephemeral as clouds. To me, that fact alone proves that the earth has a thermostat, and a dang precise one for that matter. A truly wondrous and marvel-filled planet indeed.

In friendship and exploration of the aforesaid marvels,

w.

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As always, Willis, you bring up interesting stuff to think about.
I liked the quote including the unknown factor of “airborne microorganisms above the oceans.”
Just suppose those critters are microorganisms that, in some way, respond to their environment in a way that alters their environment. If it gets too hot, they cool it, and if gets too cool, they warm it back up.
I could get grant money to study these possible microorganisms, if only I could figure out some way to blame mankind’s progress for reducing their population, and consequently altering the weather and dooming all life as we know it.
You have such skill as a writer, I was wondering if you would mind writing the grant proposal for me?

So if the sun is not guilty of causing the slow drift in global average surface temperature over the centuries, what other possible defendants might we haul before the bar?
==============
Life (microorganisms) evolved the ability to control the temperature of the earth within a narrow range to ensure life’s continued existence. If this were not true then life would have long ago gone extinct on earth from run-away cooling or warming, to be replaced eventually by organisms that could regulate the temperature.
This is really nothing surprising. 90% of the cells in a person’s body are not made up of the person’s DNA. Rather they are microorganisms that keep us alive. Without them we would not exist. Yet we barely recognize the role these microorganisms play.
The same is true for the oceans and the soils. Microorganisms rule the earth and control the climate through their evolved response to climate change. We like to believe we are the dominate life form. This is however an arrogant delusion. We are simply one of a long line of hosts.

JP Miller

I would love to know what a representative sample of climatologists would have to say about these musings. Willis suggests many potentially important, unexplored factors in climate. Would the climatologists agree on the “unexplored,” what about the “potentially important”?
The thing that strikes me is that ALL of us (and climatologists) know that it does not take much change in global cloud cover to have a pretty big impact on global temperatures. And, many of us (and many climatologists) will assert that current theory, data, and models do a fairly poor job explaining clouds…
The only thing I’ve heard is the belief that more CO2 leads to higher temps, leads to more evaporation (and clouds), and that the water vapor/ clouds mix this “forced” are a net positive feedback. Makes no real sense (wouldn’t temps “runaway” if that were true), but it’s the primary (if not only) way current AGW climatology seems to deal with water vapor/ clouds.

RichardD

Mr. Eschenbach, thanks very much for your interesting ideas regarding thermoregulation. In living systems, biologists would call it homeostasis by negative feedabck. And thanks for explaing the use of oil by sailors in heavy weather. I sail and have read of the practice. Thanks again.

Jeremy

The oil layer on the water dampens waves because surface tension within the oil layer acts to against the waves – it is like an elastic band stretched over the water – you get the same effect with a plastic sheet.
In the case of the atmosphere we need look no further than water vapor: evaporation, condensation and convection of water is the great thermal stabilizer, distributing heat very efficiently and reducing extremes.

Graham W

The Earth in a way is a kind of organism, it self-regulates, and will “look after itself”. If not, we would not even be here to write these words. Our very existence is proof that this is the case. Levels of all forcings have varied a great deal over geological time and yet life persists. This alone is enough. Even when you break down the ultimate question of life, the Universe, and everything, the answer is it exists because it does. If not, nothing could be. Therefore it is. The answer may as well be 42.
Climate science is enormously complex. It is not that the scientists themselves haven’t necessarily considered the points Willis raises. It is more that the mathematics does not even currently exist to deal with the complexities involved. Therefore no climate models can currently be accurate at any level. This does not mean that the scientific endeavour to further human understanding should cease. Climate scientists should be applauded for continuing the process as best they can with the current knowledge.
The problem in my opinion is not the science but the intrusion of politics. Climate scientists should not be in a position of advising governments at this stage, and I don’t believe it’s their fault that they are.
Power corrupts.

James Allison

A heartfelt thank you for your all your writings on this blog Willis.

Stuart Elliot

Old paradigms die hard, their adherents clinging grimly till the end while those who were not invested might nod and say “Yeah, I can see how they would have thought that but this new explanation makes so much more sense.”
Willis, I don’t know whether what you describe here will prove to be the next paradigm or just a plausible enough alternative that it convinces someone else to look in new places. But either way, you are doing a service to science and society. Cheers!

markx

Fascinating stuff Willis. Very well observed that (as far as we can measure to date) that in the last century the global temperature has varied only about a tenth of one percent.
“…..and then consider that the hurricane runs on evaporation. That’s why they die out over the land, no moisture…..”
True enough …they always start over water and die quickly enough over land .. but a slight digression and a question … what do you think of the work of Anastassia Makarieva etal re the role of condensation in driving storms/cyclones/hurricanes/typhoons? To me it makes a lot of sense when you consider the escalating nature of such events… that there is more going on than just uprising/buoyancy as incoming air is both warmed and evaporates warm water. An added ‘draw’ from condensation seems logical (to me at least) but it seems that is quite controversial … and is discussed here on Judith Curry’s site:
http://judithcurry.com/2013/01/31/condensation-driven-winds-an-update-new-version/

We have described a new and significant source of potential energy governing atmospheric motion. Previously, the only such recognised energy source was the buoyancy associated with temperature gradients.
Unlike the buoyancy mechanism, that applies to both liquids and gases, our new mechanism applies only to gases. Water vapor condenses and disappears from the gas phase when moist air ascends and cools. For this reason the water vapor pressure declines with height much faster than the other (non-condensable) atmospheric gases.

Terry Jackson

Without severe disagreement, the Middle Ages theorem was that the price of grain varied by the number of sunspots. That seemed to be a pretty tight correlation. Today you would have to factor in motor fuel, but going back to then… Propose a control or regulatory mechanism with somewhat sinusoidal properties that does not involve the sun. Me thinks you can conjure one entirely consistent with the thunderstorm theory presented.
Net of everything, the sun matters.

Len

Another thought provoking post Willis. Thank you. You add so much to the thinking and writing of your audience at WUWT, I wish there were some better way to acknowledge you and your contributions. All I know to say is thank you and please keep it up. All the best.

I went through diferent logic some time ago, and came up with ‘Climate change is caused by factors that affect the phase changes of water’. You don’t mention snow and ice, but particulates and aerosols affect their creation through precipitation and melting/sublimation.
The key question in the AGW debate is what caused the modern warm period that commenced after the Little Ice Age. I maintain that the likely culprit is reduced black and organic carbon emissions from charcoal production in Europe and fire stick practices in the rest of the world. Resulting in reduced cloud seeding.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, charcoal production was a very large industry primarily to feed the many blacksmiths who required charcoal for their forges. That there were large of numbers of blacksmiths can be inferred from Smith being the commonest name in English and Schmidt the second commonest in German.
So, contrary to the widespread belief that black and organic carbon emissions increased with introduction of coal as the primary fuel for the Industrial Revolution, emissions in fact substantially decreased. Anyone who has seen charcoal made, as I have, knowns it produces huge amounts of smoke for about 3 days to produce a single batch of charcoal, and coal requires no such production process.
To support this theory, I looked for a cooling dip in the paleo record after the Black Death when Europe’s population reduced by a third and charcoal production would have reduced by a similar amount, but couldn’t find any evidence.
The post 1975 warming is largely the result of eliminating open hearth fires, catalytic converters, scrubbers and similar measures. Initially in the developed world and then spreading to the developing world, and the ex-Soviet Block after 1991.
When different people arrive at the same conclusion from different directions, its a good indication the conclusion is sound.

Marc

“… for example, the temperature has varied only about ± 0.3°C, which is a temperature variation of only about a tenth of one percent. I hold that this astonishing … ”
That’s funny. You switch to the Kelvin scale to get an astonishingly small number and are then astonished! Percent temperature change depends on the scale used and is meaningless as an measure of stability. What matters is what is the impact of a given temperature change on the ecological systems on which we depend. If that is low then the change is not important (to us) and if it is high it is, although it would be hard to reduce to just one number.

Larry Wirth

Bravo, Willis. My takeaway is that the Earth and Sun were formed at the same time and have co-evolved ever since. The human bacterium has virtually nothing to do with the larger scheme of solar system evoultion, so the best we can do is make ‘intelligent’ obsrvations about the ongoing process. We are spectators, not players.

BFL

A little disconcerting in that since you show pretty clearly that no one knows squat about how real climate systems function; we are very likely to be blindsided by the next big freeze event (which historically constitutes a high percentage of the last half million years of Earth’s climate).
And if anything like the Younger Dryas, the temperature changes could be very rapid.

Willis Eschenbach

Terry Jackson says:
February 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm

Without severe disagreement, the Middle Ages theorem was that the price of grain varied by the number of sunspots. That seemed to be a pretty tight correlation. Today you would have to factor in motor fuel, but going back to then… Propose a control or regulatory mechanism with somewhat sinusoidal properties that does not involve the sun. Me thinks you can conjure one entirely consistent with the thunderstorm theory presented.
Net of everything, the sun matters.

Thanks, Terry. An actual citation to such an actual correlation sunspots/grain prices would make your claim more than an anecdote. There are many alleged correlations, some of which run for decades, half a century … and then the stop, for the next half century there’s no correlation, then it starts again …
My point is that IF the current paradigm is true, if
$latex\frac{Temperature Variation}{Forcing Variation} = Constant$
then the 11-year variation in the sun should be much more visible than it is. But in fact such correlations as you speak of tend to be very weak and often disappear with a longer record.
So yes, the sun matters … just not much.
w.

Lloyd Martin Hendaye

As Edward Lorenz noted in 1960, over the long term Planet Earth may not have a “climate” at all. Regardless of total solar irradiation (TSI) and various global atmospheric factors, not climatological but geophysical influences are all-determining.
When all Earth’s landmasses clustered together in a super-continent called Pangaea centered on the South Pole for a billion years, pre-Cambrian ice ages dominated “snowball Earth” for a quarter of this world’s existence. Only when Pangaea fragmented, setting great chunks adrift to equatorial regions, did “climate” begin accumulating atmospheric oxygen sufficient to support land life– a “warming” process lasting several hundred million years which had precisely nothing to do with astro-solar cycles or intermittent exo-stellar influences.
For some time now, and probably for another 50 – 100 million years, North and South American continents have walled off atmospheric/oceanic circulation from Eastern vs. Western hemispheres, inducing the cyclically recurrent glaciations that characterize Earth’s current Pleistocene. Only when plate tectonic dispositions remove hemispheric barriers will periodic Ice Times end– and then only supposing that continental landmasses remain dispersed in temperate rather than Arctic or Antarctic zones.

Willis Eschenbach

Marc says:
February 8, 2013 at 10:11 pm

“… for example, the temperature has varied only about ± 0.3°C, which is a temperature variation of only about a tenth of one percent. I hold that this astonishing … ”
That’s funny. You switch to the Kelvin scale to get an astonishingly small number and are then astonished!

“Switch” to the Kelvin scale? Are you seriously proposing that we look at percentage variations using the Celsius scale?

Percent temperature change depends on the scale used and is meaningless as an measure of stability.

There is one and only one temperature scale that is used for percentage change, the Kelvin scale. Truly, my friend, your grasp of numbers is weak.

What matters is what is the impact of a given temperature change on the ecological systems on which we depend.

No, what matters is that we learn to understand the climate system, and we won’t do that by going all Disney and Bambi on the question. The ecological changes are indeed important, but if we cannot understand the climate, that doesn’t matter.

If that is low then the change is not important (to us) and if it is high it is, although it would be hard to reduce to just one number.

Marc, you seem to believe that I am championing action, or that I’m in favor inaction, or something. I’m not. I’m trying to understand how the climate works, not guess what it might do if it doesn’t work. If you wish to worry about what will happen if the climate goes off the rails, be my guest. Me, I’m just trying to understand what has kept the climate from going off the rails for the last half billion years …
w.

” Under my paradigm, on the other hand, natural thermoregulatory systems constrain the temperature to vary within a narrow range. In the last century, for example, the temperature has varied only about ± 0.3°C, which is a temperature variation of only about a tenth of one percent.”
Exactly what you would expect from a system with a huge amount of inertia. On the scale of the last 200 years the temperature has varied considerably more that .3C so the 1/10th of a percent is more like 5% or more. During the course of human history the climate has varied from about 12C to 16C. Guess thurnderstorms dont work on a long scale as a governor.
How about the constructual paper.. hows that looking?

Marc

You reported the change as +/- 0.3 C. Then did the average using Kelvins. That is called switching. I do not care what scale you use but be honest about it. Further, this average says nothing about stability.

Richard G

Willis, you have the gift for expressing the boggling complexity of the Earth system, our water planet. I would like to share a video link my son recently sent to me.
“Water, Energy, and Life: Fresh Views From the Water’s Edge “.
If you have not seen it I am certain it will increase your gob smacking awe of nature’s complexity. It is full of manifold implications.
Dr. Gerald Pollack, UW professor of bioengineering, has developed a theory of water that has been called revolutionary. The researcher has spent the past decade convincing worldwide audiences that water is not actually a liquid. Pollack explains his fascinating theory in this 32nd Annual Faculty Lecture”
http://youtu.be/XVBEwn6iWOo

garykk5st

Willis,
Your mention of thin film oil on (troubled) waters reminded me of the rule of thumb back in the 50s or 60s (it may be older than that, but the world only came into existence for me a few years earlier ;)) that one pint of light machine oil per 1000 acres was sufficient to suffocate nearly all mosquito larvae in that body. Wonderful stuff that petroleum stuff.
cheers,
gary

Mike McMillan

±0.3°C would be about 2/10 of 1%, wouldn’t it? Or am I setting myself up for another example of Muphry’s Law?
Next big hurricane to come along, we should have a courageous ship cut a diagonal swath in its path spraying a band of bunker fuel. Any effect should show up on radar and satellite images.

Brian H

And understanding the climate will achieve … what? Best (and IMO inevitable) case: awareness of the wasteful futility of trying to manipulate it, and get on with making best accommodation to it.

Mark Aurel

Steven Mosher
Am new here as far as comments go but noticed your negative comments no matter what the subject.

Mark, C stands for centigrade, the units that the kelvin (and celsius) scales use. Simples.

Willis Eschenbach

Marc says:
February 8, 2013 at 11:32 pm

You reported the change as +/- 0.3 C. Then did the average using Kelvins. That is called switching. I do not care what scale you use but be honest about it.

I had said above that your grasp of the subject is weak. This is another example. Perhaps you could tell us the difference between a temperature that varies by +/- 0.3 C, and a temperature that varies by +/- 0.3 K.
w.

David

If we propose that life plays a (major) part in regulating temperature, the most appropriate temperature scale to use may not be degrees Kelvin. Nor degrees Celsius. My recollection from studying biochemistry nearly 50 years ago is that (most) life forms thrive between around 10C and 45C. Call it a 30 degree range. A human constructed system which regulated itself to ±1% without intervention for a century or so would be quite impressive.

Willis Eschenbach

Steven Mosher says:
February 8, 2013 at 11:30 pm

” Under my paradigm, on the other hand, natural thermoregulatory systems constrain the temperature to vary within a narrow range. In the last century, for example, the temperature has varied only about ± 0.3°C, which is a temperature variation of only about a tenth of one percent.”

Exactly what you would expect from a system with a huge amount of inertia.

A huge amount of inertia? The surface temperature changes by 30°C in a day, my friend, where is your “inertia” in that? The global average surface temperature varies by about 5°C in the course of a single year, each hemisphere swings twice that … and you think it is sufficient to wave your hands and say the magic word “inertia”, and that shows that thermal inertia is keeping the average temperature within ± 0.3°C per century? Really?
If that is the case, then I’m sure that you can provide mathematical details on how the physics of thermal inertia allow it to operate as a governor on a complex system to that extent … I’m not seeing how that works. I mean, when the earth starts to heat or cool like it does every year, how does “inertia” act on the system to keep it within ±0.3°C over the 20th century?

On the scale of the last 200 years the temperature has varied considerably more that .3C so the 1/10th of a percent is more like 5% or more.

We don’t have global temperature records back 200 years, and for a man who is always calling for data and code, as usual you have provided none, so I don’t have a clue what you are talking about.
And IF the temperature actually were fluctuating ± 5% instead of ± 0.1% as you fatuously claim above, that would be a temperature swing of 28 FREAKING DEGREES in the last 200 years … so I gotta believe you are drunkblogging, or you’ve lost the plot.
Finally, this should be a warning to you:
Mark Aurel says:
February 9, 2013 at 12:43 am

Steven Mosher
Am new here as far as comments go but noticed your negative comments no matter what the subject.

When even the new folks see through your act that fast, you have problems, my friend. I have to confess that I agree with him, the constant negativity and sniping grows old.
It wouldn’t be bad, but you rarely back up your goofy claims, you rarely follow up on my requests for actual data, you rarely provide citations, you rarely answer objections to your claims.
Mostly you just come in, squat, take a dump on the floor, and leave without cleaning it up.
It’s getting old, my friend, how about you try something else. Or if not, how about you go take a dump on someone else’s floor. I’m tired of it.
w.

Greg Goodman

“Of course, the counter-argument to the oil-on-the-water cuts evaporation and warms the ocean hypothesis was World War II. It put more oil into all of the oceans of the world than at any time before or since, and during the war in general the world was quite cold … dang fact, they always get in the way.”
Now that is a very interesting point. Here is what the ICOADS ship based SST record looks like. Here I have removed a fixed 0.4K from when the US got involved in WWII, until the demobilisation of US Navy after the war. My adjusted (green) line looks “correct”. The red plot is the actual ship-based data:
The Met Office Hadley group have taken the odd approach of correcting one side but not the other, but that is another storey. A much closer look at that here for anyone interested:
I had always regarded the war-time increase in SST as an obvious sampling problem due to changes in maritime circulation (convoys etc) ; mobilisation of US Navy with possibly different water sampling methods etc. It is easy to come up with reasons to dismiss it as a sampling issue and attempt to remove it. Indeed this is probably the biggest issue in the 20th c. SST record.
This idea that it may be a real phenomenon is interesting. You say that “during the war in general the world was quite cold ” . Now since that was not the case for SST , I assume you are referring to air temperatures.
Far from being a fact that gets in the way, it would seem to be totally consistent with the idea that oil on the oceans was preventing heat from escaping. Warmer oceans, cooler land.
What data were you basing the “during the war in general the world was quite cold ” comment on?

Greg Goodman

Damn, have a look at this too:
http://oi49.tinypic.com/xbfqtw.jpg
Again, I had concluded that the marked drop in cyclone energy during the war was that many non land-falling storms simply did not get noticed because of much reduced shipping patterns in the Atlantic.
Is that your oil too ?!

johnmarshall

OK? but our temperature measuring system is flawed, surface land coverage is uneven and concentrated in warmer areas presumably because it makes servicing/data collection easier, and ocean surface temperature measurement is poor at best. Satellite measurement has its own problems that pose data problems though better coverage. Using temperature alone is wrong because there is no allowance for heat content and it is heat that drives climate. There is only one source of global climate energy, the sun. GHG theory ignored because thermodynamic law violations make that a hopeless case. We do have one exceptional thermoregulating substance— water. when the sun forces temperature up surface water evapourates soaking up heat, as latent heat, convecting, forming clouds which increase albedo and release the latent heat which escapes to space. It is simple. CO2 has no place in this system because it has no physical property, apart from adsorbing and emitting IR, that would act like water’s holding onto latent heat and releasing this heat on condensing. No other system required. In fact there is no need of the GHG theory because we get more than enough heat from the sun.

dumbvoter

Thank you Willis for your timely “cold shower” article. I think you called it a new paradigm. Very readable, calmly presented veiwpoint that made plenty of sense to me. Just for your interest it is 9.30pm in Sydney Australia and i’m sitting at my desk eating my dinner and reading these comments. Your demolition of S.M was brilliant and long overdue, i almost choked on my spagetti bol. Keep up the good work.

JP Miller

The video of Gerald Pollack explaining “EZ Water” certainly suggests that electricity/ magnetism and photons in certain energy ranges may have significant impact on the hydrological cycle, which governs the nature of cloud formation. Certainly relates to Wllis’ thoughts on things like oil on water. Possible there are effects here relevant to emergent phenomena and important to climate.

Great again Willis! I love the little fishies in the cartoon,amazing how
they can act as a single unit.Microoganisms swimming in the air,think of
them as little fish….. just saying
BTW do not ban Steven Mosher.Why? Well when I am having hard time
understanding,he posts something and i can see my way to the correct
understanding. I take the view contrary to his….he is a great help to me ];{)
Alfred

Greg Goodman

Here is a closer look at accumulated cyclone energy, annual totals, with less filtering
http://i47.tinypic.com/vg769i.png
The general pattern would lead to the expectation of one or two strong peaks in the war years.
There is current work on trying to asses under-counting (Vecchi et al from memory) that estimates there was probably one missed storm in that period. This would increase it a bit but not really change the notable lack of storm energy in that period.

Stacey

Excellent Willis as ever.
We used to do something in fluid mechanics called dimensionless analysis which I never quite understood? To determine a formulae for a given effect all the likely variables and constants were brought together and to me if course as if by magic a formula would result. So what’s this got to do with the price of bread?
What are some of the major constants which are largely un changing?
The earths rotation, orbital speed around the sun, gravitational pull of the sun and moon etc etc.
The output of these major constants is a chaotic system of weather wrapped in a stable climate.
Just maybe it these constants combined which are the controllers of the emergent system so well put forward by Willis.

Geoff Sherrington

Emergent systems were part of a talk I gave on ornamental horticulture in Jersey in the early 1990s. Just as flowers can be considered to be more complex developments of leaves, flowers can get their construction out of order and end up missing usual parts like petals or stamens – or even including residual leaf parts. I showed a series of slides of camellias and how they could have parts emerging out of order. For some flowering plants, the order that produces a certain colour of flower can be disrupted, so that “sports” of different colour, striped ones, spotted ones, can evolve spontaneously.
I mention this because the origin of the change is reasonably assumed in the first instance to be at the molecular level to protein size. This leads to the easy introduction here of nucleation as a topic in the formation of cloud and rain.
The cause of the emergence seems to me to be more likely to act on small particles, where less energy is required to commence it. Small particles with nominated similar properties are generally more abundant than large systems with nominated properties, so the frequency of these events is not population limited so much with smaller particles.
However, there are still some questions, not for immediate answer but for thought. I’ll mention but one. Below is a map showing some tropical cyclone paths. Three factors might be real. First, the tracks often take a 90 degree turn after some days out to sea and head for the coast. Second, many of them (at map scale) cross the cost at very near to perpendicular to the general shoreline; and third, the hard one, many tracks continue for several days over hot, dry desert, covering up to 2,000 km.
Might it be a rider to your explanations that not all storms follow the pattern of behaviour that you describe?
The interactive site for cyclone tracks by the BoM is at http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/silo/cyclones.cgi?region=aus&syear=1992&eyear=2006&loc=0
A less cluttered illustration from this source is at http://www.geoffstuff.com/tracks.jpg

Gail Combs

Lloyd Martin Hendaye says:
February 8, 2013 at 11:15 pm
As Edward Lorenz noted in 1960, over the long term Planet Earth may not have a “climate” at all. Regardless of total solar irradiation (TSI) and various global atmospheric factors, not climatological but geophysical influences are all-determining…..
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Agreed. It is something that is often left out of the discussions on climate.

lgl

Intuitively, it would seem that IF for whatever reason the Pacific Decadal Oscillation stayed permanently in one state or the other, that the world would end up either warmer overall or cooler overall.
Yes it would,

So what you are saying is that the atmosphere could be a lot more complex, with a host of still-unknown factors, than the “brilliant” minds of the IPCC/CRU/UEA have been telling us. Egad, sir! Who would have thunk it?

Another possible route of solar effects on cloud formation is the UV shift, which is known to have an impact on the position of the jet streams, which as Stephen Wilde keeps pointing out, are major main corridors of cloud formation. It the polar jet moves equator-ward, or shows higher amplitude Rossby waves, the amount of jet-associated cloud cover increases.

oldfossil

Willis Eschenbach says to Steven Mosher:
February 9, 2013 at 1:33 am

so I gotta believe you are drunkblogging, or you’ve lost the plot… this should be a warning to you…Mostly you just come in, squat, take a dump on the floor, and leave without cleaning it up. It’s getting old, my friend, how about you try something else. Or if not, how about you go take a dump on someone else’s floor. I’m tired of it.

When I see a WUWT post authored by Willis I normally give it a miss and now I’m reminded why.

Bloke down the pub

Another cause might be the effect on thunderstorms of gradual changes in the earth’s electromagnetic fields.
This led me to look up wiki here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Magnetic_North_Pole_Positions.svg
Maybe little ice age when magnetic pole drifts south, then getting warmer as it heads towards the geographic pole?

Willis’ first point about temperature stability is a good one. The electronic thermostat controlling your heating system, the similar thermostat in your refrigerator or freezer can’t achieve the low variability of the Earth’s natural thermostat. Less than 1°C over more than a century is quite an achievement for natural processes.

Stacey:
This is an off-topic aside provided for amusement.
At February 9, 2013 at 3:03 am you said

We used to do something in fluid mechanics called dimensionless analysis which I never quite understood?

A beauty of dimensionless analysis is that it enables simplified physical modelling of fluid dynamic systems: simply, if you keep the dimensionless numbers the same then a physical model will behave similar to the real thing when the model is at different scale and/or different temperature and/or different pressure than the real thing.
In the 1980s at the UK’s Coal Research Establishment (CRE) we were developing advanced power generation systems (PFBC, ABGC, etc.). These systems have combustion chambers that are fluidised beds of ash particles at high temperatures and pressures. Behaviours of the beds needed to be studied, and this could be done relatively cheaply at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature by choosing the correct flow rates, particle sizes and particle densities.
Dimensionless analysis enabled choice of appropriate particles and it was determined that grain (i.e. wheat) was ideal. So a large grain store was needed (the models were full-size replicas of power station combustors).
However, the grain store was rodent paradise. Unknown to us, it became infested with countless numbers of mice. They stayed in the store so went unnoticed.
The work was stopped in the 1990s, the equipment was sold for scrap, and the grain was disposed of. The mice fled the emptying grain store and very, very rapidly dispersed throughout CRE. They would pop up on and under, desks, lab. benches and equipment.
Everybody played ‘Bat A Mole’ with the mice for weeks until they were eradicated.
Richard

Gail Combs

[*NB* I know you don’t mind the short wait Gail but for the benefit of others. The use of multiple links in a post results in the automatic diversion of the post to the spam bin for human attention. Some of you become anxious over the delay in your post appearing and this would be one of the reasons. Don’t worry, we will get it and post it up . . mod]
Willis Eschenbach says:
February 9, 2013 at 1:33 am

Steven Mosher says:
February 8, 2013 at 11:30 pm
” Under my paradigm, on the other hand, natural thermoregulatory systems constrain the temperature to vary within a narrow range. In the last century, for example, the temperature has varied only about ± 0.3°C, which is a temperature variation of only about a tenth of one percent.”
Exactly what you would expect from a system with a huge amount of inertia.

A huge amount of inertia? The surface temperature changes by 30°C in a day, my friend, where is your “inertia” in that?
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
The daily surface air temperature variation is a function of the sun as can be seen in the temperature changes of the air and sand during a total eclipse graph
The inertia is from the huge amount of water in the oceans namely 70% of the earth is covered by water.

…The ocean surface is approximately 3 degrees warmer than the atmosphere….
The upper 700 meters of the ocean has 50 times as much mass as the entire atmosphere. The specific heat of water is 4 times higher than that of air, so water contains 200 times as much heat energy as the total atmosphere (for the entire ocean, this is even as much as 1200 times).
…In general, the temperature is higher in the ocean from the bottom (2 ° C) towards the surface (17 ° C). But in the thin layer of the upper 500 microns, we see that this is suddenly reversed, it becomes increasingly cooler closer to the surface. This is the boundary layer where water evaporation takes place, and here the temperature drops a few tenths of a degree.
CHART
…the temperature gradient in the boundary layer at night (a) holds. Daytime (b) when the sun shines we see the temperature profile of the upper few meters as a whole shift to higher temperatures. This is due to the solar radiation that heats clear seawater, and the closer to the surface, the stronger is the warming. But in spite of that, there is a negative temperature gradient in the boundary layer, whereas the water evaporation is increased….
The above temperature profiles are from various studies adopted in Donlon et al. The following sentence from this study says “In all cases, the absorption of shortwave radiation in the molecular boundary skin layer is not enough to overcome the heat loss due to the sensible and latent heat fluxes, and the SSTskin Remains cooler than the water beneath. “.
Source (google translated from Dutch with me cleaning it up a bit.)

Dr. Nir Shaviv has a paper out Nir J. Shaviv (2008); Using the oceans as a calorimeter to quantify the solar radiative forcing, J. Geophys. Res. and a layman’s article The oceans as a calorimeter

…It turns out that one can use the Earth’s oceans as one giant calorimeter to measure the amount of heat Earth absorbs and reemits every solar cycle…..
One of the raging debates in the climate community relates to the question of whether there is any mechanism amplifying solar activity. That is, are the solar synchronized climatic variations that we see (e.g., take a look at fig. 1 here) due to changes of just the solar irradiance, or, are they due to some effect which amplifies the solar-climate link. In particular, is there an amplification of some non-thermal component of the sun? (e.g., UV, solar magnetic field, solar wind or others which have much larger variations than the 0.1% variations of the solar irradiance). This question has interesting repercussions to the question of global warming, which is why the debate is so fierce….
So, what do the oceans tell us?
…The “Low Clouds+TSI” point is the expected oceanic ﬂux based on the observed low altitude cloud cover variations, which appear to vary in sync with the solar cycle (while assuming several approximations). Evidently, the TSI cannot explain the observed ﬂux going into the ocean. An ampliﬁcation mechanism, such as that of CRF modulation of the low altitude cloud cover is required.
So what does it mean?
First, it means that the IPCC cannot ignore anymore the fact that the sun has a large climatic effect on climate. Of course, there was plenty of evidence before, so I don’t expect this result to make any difference!
Second, given the consistency between the energy going into the oceans and the estimated forcing by the solar cycle synchronized cloud cover variations, it is unlikely that the solar forcing is not associated with the cloud cover variation….

Does the biosphere play a part in temperature modification? Yes
Phytoplankton are thought to influence ocean cloud cover directly link Trees modify the temperature around their leaves. …plants protect one of their most important functions – photosynthesis – by maintaining average leaf temperatures at around 21 °C, regardless of the weather.
For those interested “Just The Facts” compiled this set of Potential Climatic Variables for WUWT.

Steve B

oldfossil says:
February 9, 2013 at 3:35 am
When I see a WUWT post authored by Willis I normally give it a miss and now I’m reminded why.
***************************************************************************************************
So what happened this time???

Willis
thanks for your continuing efforts to shed light into a world of darkness. Your posts always stimulate the grey cells (and confirmation bias?) in this old aquatic mammal.
Some observations:
1. I have read somewhere that the GHE is greatest at the poles and reduces as one approaches the tropics where the GHE = zero. I don’t know if this is generally accepted, but your writings about the self-regulating mechanism of tropical thunderstorms driven purely by the energy of the sun seems to support this view. Now if this is true (no GHE in the tropics) then any fluctuations in the temperature record of the tropics on a daily, seasonal, annual, decadal or longer basis must be due to something other than greenhouse gasses. Do you agree and if so what does the record show? Does this support the slow longterm temperature drift? Do we actually have enough reliable data to form a view?
2. Do fluctuations in the temperature record in other parts of the globe (where GHE applies) follow a different pattern? or a similar pattern? or is there a lagged response to changes in the tropics? is the lag over days weeks months years decades? Given that the tropics are the throttle of the earth’s heat engine, is there empirical evidence that it drives temperatures in other parts of the world notwithstanding the mooted effects of GHG’s?
3. Would one not expect that there would be greater fluctuation in temperature in the higher latitudes – lower temperatures (and possibly less humidity) requiring less heat to drive them one way or the other? Does the record reflect this?
4. Even within the tropics, on an annual basis the proportion of land/water presented to the sun varies fairly significantly with substantially more land mass in the northern hemisphere. Is there anything within the annual temperature records that correlates with these changes that may or may not support your hypothesis?
Apologies if this is somewhat rambling and/or displays any basic lack of understanding. Hopefully we are all here to extend our limited understanding of what is truly an incredible system.
Kind regards
DH

michael sweet

Willis,
How do you explain the ice ages using your hypothesis that the Earth naturally keeps temperatures steady? Why does the temperature change during ice ages? Perhaps the natural temperature is cold and the current warm era is a fluke?