Heat Waves Validate the Skeptics

Essay by Jim Steele, Director emeritus, Sierra Nevada Field Campus, San Francisco State University

The heat wave and near record-breaking temperatures in Death Valley provides a superb teaching moment to show why CO2 has nothing to do with heat waves whether the record is ever broken or not.

  1. Most heat waves are associated with dry conditions. Water vapor contributes between 80 and 94% of the greenhouse effect. But during a dry heat wave, greenhouse gases are reduced, and that fact should alert people that other more critical factors are governing heat waves. The dryness lowers the soil’s heat capacity and allows temperatures to rise more rapidly. The dryness also creates clear skies that increases incoming solar radiation. The winter drought set the stage for this west coast heat wave as well as Europe 2003 and Russia 2010.
  1. All heat waves are caused by stationary high pressure systems. Always! High pressure systems are driven dry descending air currents. In addition to the dryness amplification mentioned above, Highs cause two other critical weather events.

2.1 High pressure systems force the jet stream northward and prevent cooling air from moving southward.

2.2 Most importantly descending air currents adiabatically generate a thermal ceiling that prevents rising convection currents from carrying away surface heat. Models have demonstrated that if convection stops the global temperature could rise by 100° F. Adiabatic heating means no heat is added. Temperatures rise because the air is compressed and the constrained molecular motion releases heat. Many cultures in southeast Asia used fire pistons to start fires by simply squeezing air in a tube. When that adiabatically heated air reaches the ground we get foehn storms, when it hovers a few hundred feet above the ground we get heat waves. Air only rises if it is warmer than its surroundings. When rising air reaches a layer of adiabatically heated air the rising convection currents stop and the surface heat is trapped just like the raised windows in your car trap the heat.

 

Descending air currents of High pressure systems are also the reason we have deserts and why the world’s records for hottest temperatures on each continent are not at the equator but about 32 to 36° North.

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The reason for this pattern is the Hadley Cells. At the equator despite the greatest heating by the sun, convection currents carry away the heat. Those rising currents are balanced by descending currents that are most powerfully focused in the regions that hold the world’s records. Those dry descending currents also cause the pattern of the world deserts. Those descending currents also create the quasi permanent high pressure system in the Pacific and the Bermuda High in the Atlantic.

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Finally heat waves are caused by stationary blocking highs and all research shows that blocking highs are most common during the cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or North Atlantic Oscillation. The PDO cool phase occurred from about 1900 to 1920, again from 1946 to 1976, and we have currently been in the cool phase since about 2003. I bet most heat wave records for the western half of the USA occurred during those time periods. Death Valley’s record was 1913. However nearly every single model driven by CO2 failed to predict the cooling in the eastern Pacific Ocean

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The CO2 advocates simply predicted heat waves in the future, but anyone can do that and be right eventually. However, the mechanisms of every heat wave contradict nearly every aspect of the global warming theory. They cannot even argue that it is more likely because its warmer. Death Valleys maximum temperatures have not exceeded the 1930s. These heat waves are good examples of how weather dynamics cause extreme heat independently of the sun or CO2.

This article is adapted from Landscapes & Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism

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From here, it’s just a small leap to realizing that adding the CO2 molecule that wasn’t there before is an agent of cooling via convection…I’m not worried, you guys will get there.
REPLY: No, it isn’t, and that crap you are spewing comes from John O’Sullivan’s epic misunderstanding of how the thermosphere works. – Anthony

Ryan

While the post is correct that adiabatic heating is involved in heat waves, this in no way invalidates the greenhouse effect. That’s like saying that has gas pedals disprove combustion. They are different but related events in a system.
REPLY: actually, note that most of the greenhouse effect has to do with CO2 molecules slowing heat transfer to the Top of the Atmosphere, a feature most strong at night due to slowing of LWIR radiating from Earth’s surface to TOA, not daytime when lots of solar shortwave, surface heating, and Tmax occurs.
The four fundamental heat transfer processes are:

Conduction or diffusion
The transfer of energy between objects that are in physical contact.
Convection
The transfer of energy between an object and its environment, due to fluid motion.
Radiation
The transfer of energy to or from a body by means of the emission or absorption of electromagnetic radiation.
Advection
The transfer of energy from one location to another as a side effect of physically moving an object containing that energy

Explain how CO2 works in reaching even higher Tmax when advection and convection (far more powerful forms of heat transport in our atmosphere) are muted by that blocking high pattern. Blocking high patterns reduce advection (atmospheric circulation), and vertical convection from thunderstorms which also help transport heat to TOA. CO2 radiative forcing doesn’t even operate in the same orders of magnitude when advection and convection (atmospheric mass transport) are in action or muted. Those that want to equate CO2 as the cause probably don’t understand the difference. -Anthony

Jorge

I think this summer’s naked alarmism will actually cost them support overall. I know DOZENS of people who turned against AGW last year with a similar campaign and they are even worse this year and there have been FEWER weather events to hype up. Once you lose the confidence of the people, you lose them forever. The global warming movement may be in its death throes.

Master of Space and Thyme

This is how you break a record!
The record broken was by 15 degress F, which occurred Saturday in Kugluktuk, NU Canada. It reached 91.5 F, which is an incredible 44F above normal.
Kugluktuk is on the shores of the eastern Beaufort Sea
http://www.wunderground.com/history/airport/CYCO/2013/6/29/DailyHistory.html?req_city=NA&req_state=NA&req_statename=NA
Reply

Jorge

It’s currently 50 degrees in Kugluktuk, for the rest of the week the highs will be in the mid-to-high 60s. Alarmists are turning into psychotics.

As a fellow environmentalist who made the same journey…..I have been wanting to talk to someone about the way high pressure systems affect the jetstream….given that they are downward directed air masses, and the jetstream is at such a high altitude….can you direct me to an appropriate textbook, if possible with some 3D diagrams of what happens to the airmasses and what generates the vorticies? I can be mailed at peter.taylor(at)ethos-uk.com…..and would very much appreciate the mail as I am not now able to access the blogosphere as often as I once did.

“However nearly every single model driven by CO2 failed to predict the cooling in the eastern Pacific Ocean”
————————————————————————————————————————————
What’s this “nearly every single model” stuff? Did all the models fail or not?

Ryan

Nobody is arguing that the direct warming of CO2 caused that heat, Anthony. I can’t even imagine what you think climatologists think for that reply to make sense.
REPLY: I never thought of you as a climatologist, just an activist. So of course the reply wouldn’t make sense to you. Many activists (and some scientists that are activists) blame CO2 induced AGW for increasing heat waves. -Anthony

DaveG

Jim Steele. Excellent post and information.
Warmist will cry a river!!!

MarkW

Tom Trevor says:
July 1, 2013 at 9:42 am

Each model gets about 90% wrong and about 10% right.
What differs between the models is that each one gets a different 10% right.
Just because one of the models got this right in that 10% is not evidence that over all, the model did not fail.

Yesterday, Steven Goddard highlighted EPA data showing more heat waves in the 1930s. My comment: Steven, if my memory serves me correctly you have done some posts showing that perhaps it was hotter in the US, and the world, during the thirties than it is now. And look at your EPA link, it’s like 5 times the amount of heat waves (500%!!) in the 1930s then we have now. http://www.epa.gov/climate/climatechange/pdfs/print_heat-waves.pdf

DaveG

NSA please pass this on to Obama as a MUST read, maybe his eyes will be opened!!!

RHS

One unique feature of Death Valley is that is sits in a triple Mountain Rain shadow. Triple in that there are three mountain ranges which force nearly all the moisture from the weather systems which move in to Death Valley. This is the main reason it is so hot and dry.

Why this is an interesting post, everyone knows that global warming causes weirdness in the jet stream and that leads to these strong high pressures forming. (end sarcasm)

pochas

I learned a lot from this article. I read it several times. It seems to me that it covers all of the essential elements of climate for the lower troposphere. Those blocking high pressure regions that sit over the oceans will be important under conditions of quiet sun in winter as they channel cold air southward over the continents.

milodonharlani

Master of Space and Thyme says:
July 1, 2013 at 9:14 am
On Earth, 90 minus 58 yields 32, not 44.

milodonharlani

Besides which, here are the actual data for today:
http://weather.yahoo.com/canada/nunavut/kugluktuk-23405898/

It should be noted that during the Maunder minimum (1660-1710) the average England’s winter temperatures were about 2.5C colder than the average since 2000 (due to less evaporation and the absence of clouds), while the summer temps were only about 1C lower than those since 2000, mainly due to colder N. Atlantic’s sea surface. Future low solar activity it is likely to be associated with dry climate. Solar cycle SC24 just sailed through its solar max
http://www.vukcevic.talktalk.net/SSN.htm
and despite its meagre sunspot numbers in the last couple of years, it is unlikely that they will be reached again for at least two to three decades.

pochas

Anthony’s comment to Ryan above completes the picture. The radiative gasses do their thing in the upper atmosphere, not at the surface.

Gibby

Master of space and thyme, if you take a look at the humidity as those high temperatures were reached it explains a lot of what was going on that day and this post fills in some of the details. Humidity sure was low for a town on the coast of a sea.

Kevin Kilty

Most importantly descending air currents adiabatically generate a thermal ceiling that prevents rising convection currents from carrying away surface heat. Models have demonstrated that if convection stops the global temperature could rise by 100° F.

One such model would be the interior of my black Hyundai Santa Fe.

…Adiabatic heating means no heat is added. Temperatures rise because the air is compressed and the constrained molecular motion releases heat….

Temperatures rise because the air is compressed and the work involved acts exactly the same as input of heat.

What’s this? Real science?
There is no place for that in climate science!

Very good article

This is how you break a record!
The record broken was by 15 degress F, which occurred Saturday in Kugluktuk, NU Canada. It reached 91.5 F, (or 33C) or which is an incredible 44F above normal.
Kugluktuk is on the shores of the eastern Beaufort Sea

Only one problem –
Record high is 36.8C.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kugluktuk,_Nunavut#Climate

Gibby

Paul that number is the “humidex” record high, for the month of June in that same chart it is 88F. So, a new record for that month but not terribly significant.

Chad Wozniak

The statement in the post that the hottest temperatures are all at latitude 30 or higher may be incorrect, if informal measurements by the National Geographic Society and others in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia are correct. Those ran as high as 145 degrees.
However, even if the Danakil temps are accurate, this does NOT affect the overall conclusion of the article as to the adiabatic processes or the lack of any role for CO2 in heat waves.,

jim Steele

@ Peter Taylor
I will also email you this reply. I recommend one book for general knowledge “Severe & Hazardous Weather: An introduction to High Impact Meterology” . They have a short section on convergence and divergence of air streams that is instructive. I also recommend the CRWS Jet Stream website at http://squall.sfsu.edu/crws/map_info/jetstream_info.html The have archived maps and animations which you can construct to see how the jet streams have been behaving.

Jim Breeding

Hope this guy has tenure or is retired or he will be unemployed soon

jim Steele

@ Chad Wozniak
Interesting fact. I was unaware of Danakil Depression’s unoffical record heat but it maybe the exception that proves the rule. That region is still about 12 to 14 degrees north of the equator and receives very little rain. Like Death Valley locations below sea level experience higher pressures that trap the heat.

Ryan

[snip – not interested – Anthony]

jim Steele

@Ryan,
I never suggested adiabatic heating invalidates the greenhouse effect. I argued that the lack of water vapor minimizes the contribution from the greenhouse effect. Strong convection currents naturally short circuit the greenhouse effect by carrying heat directly to the stratosphere. When convection stops temperatures rise far more dramatically than can be possibly explained by added CO2.
Typically due to convection, maximum temperatures represent a well mixed column of air and are a better indicator of the atmosphere’s heat content, whereas there is virtually no convection when minimum temperatures are measured. So minimums are mostly an indication of surface conditions, which is why urban heat islands often amplify the minimum far more than the maximum. This is why CO2 advocates do not like to focus on maximum temperatures.
In addition to reducing the greenhouse effect and amplifying surface temperatures, the lack of moisture also makes it more difficult for convection currents to rise and break through that adiabatic ceiling. When moist air rises the moisture condenses and releases latent heat that provides the necessary energy to maintain the upward motion as observed in thunderstorms and tornados. CO2’s affect on convection is trivial compared to water vapor. You might argue that when CO2 absorbs heat it should augment convection.

Ryan

“I argued that the lack of water vapor minimizes the contribution from the greenhouse effect.” -Jim
Yes, but that in no way threatens the link between the heat wave and anthropogenic global warming. You’re arguing against CO2 being DIRECTLY responsible for the extra heat that breaks a record. But nobody is claiming that it is DIRECTLY responsible. A hotter planet will mean more records because it adjusts circulation patterns, not because it directly and evenly raises the temperature of the globe by some small increment.

TomRude

Sorry but although the title is right, a much more comprehensive demonstration was given by Leroux in Dynamic Analaysis of Weather and Climate, Springer 2010.

Arkansas Gary

Meanwhile, here in North Arkansas, we’re enjoying absolutely splendid “weather.” Almost 2:00pm and it still hasn’t reached 80F. Yes, it’s dry as a bone, but the temp just keeps staying so very nice and cool. Cool in July? In Arkansas, one of the leading producers of cotton in the world? Yup. And they’re calling for upper 50s for the next three nights. The climate might be boiling but the weather is fine for many of us in the middle of the country. (condolences to victims of the wildfires. no way is any flippant attitude intended on my part)

Louis

“At the equator despite the greatest heating by the sun, convection currents carry away the heat.”
Does the equator receive greater heating by the sun than 32 to 36° North during summer? With the earth tilted toward the sun, the days will be longer at higher latitudes. Wouldn’t that result in greater heating, at least during summer months? I can see where the equator would receive the greatest heating year around, but not during summer months, which is when record temperatures are reached. I just want to make sure I understand what was meant by that statement.

Nick Stokes

“The heat wave and near record-breaking temperatures in Death Valley provides a superb teaching moment to show why CO2 has nothing to do with heat waves whether the record is ever broken or not.”
But who to teach? Ryan’s right. No-one is saying that CO2 is involved in the mechanics of a heat wave event.
The AGW argument is that anthropogenic GHG’s cause a net radiative forcing of about 1.6 W/m2 (AR4, 2007). That’s far too little to have an effect over a few days. But it accumulates, causing long-term warming. Heatwaves come and go as they always did, with blocking highs and all. But they build on a higher base.

kramer

during a dry heat wave, greenhouse gases are reduced, and that fact should alert people that other more critical factors are governing heat waves
Here’s a bit of into on this by Freeman Dyson:
In humid air, the effect of carbon dioxide on radiation transport is unimportant because the transport of thermal radiation is already blocked by the much larger greenhouse effect of water vapor. The effect of carbon dioxide is important where the air is dry, and air is usually dry only where it is cold. Hot desert air may feel dry but often contains a lot of water vapor.
http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge219.html#dysonf

James at 48

In a Greehouse Maximus scenario, the great deserts centered on 25 Deg N would shrink and summers in most places would be moister and rainier. There would be more of the nasty sort of 85/85 type heat and less of the 125/5 type heat.

jim Steele

@ Nick
Where is the “higher base” in Death Valley? See Death Valley’s USHCN temps in the article. The world record in 1913 occurred when there was a much lower base. If your reasoning was correct then we should have shattered the old record years ago.
For most of the USA there has been no higher base in the Maximum temperatures since the 1930s. See Shen (2012) “The twentieth century contiguous US temperature changes indicated by daily data and higher statistical moments.” They looked at weather variability using temperature data that was quality controlled for documented changes but not homogenized. Those temperatures show a cyclical pattern in agreement with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation with maximum annual temperatures never exceeding the 1930s and 40s.
The most reliable models that forecast seasonal heat waves are driven primarily by soil moisture and ocean surface temperatures. If CO2 had any credible link to heat waves, you would first need to prove that rising CO2 has caused more droughts which contradicts Trenberth’ s mantra of a “warmer and wetter” world. El Ninos and La Ninas are much more reliably implicated in droughts, and CO2 models fail miserably at simulation El Nino cycles, often acting in the exact opposite manner than predicted by rising CO2.
For Death Valley, La Nina conditions cool the eastern Pacific and intensify the blocking High causing more drought. More direct human affects have also dried the landscape as we have lost 50% of our wetlands and degraded 99% of our stream channels. Urbanization dries the landscape and shunts water underground into our sewer systems. And the widespread effect of vegetation removal that holds the moisture further dries the soil. The most dramatic evidence of that is the Dust Bowl. Any increase in heat waves would be more realistically correlated with the drying of the land — not rising CO2!

DirkH

Nick Stokes says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm
“But who to teach? Ryan’s right. No-one is saying that CO2 is involved in the mechanics of a heat wave event.”
Warmunists are only on the record predicting more extreme heat waves, caused by increased CO2. Now you say, yes, but it is not CAUSED by CO2? That’s what I call a flexible brain.
“The AGW argument is that anthropogenic GHG’s cause a net radiative forcing of about 1.6 W/m2 (AR4, 2007). That’s far too little to have an effect over a few days. But it accumulates, causing long-term warming.”
But I guess we can agree that that long-term warming happens only in the deep oceans.
” Heatwaves come and go as they always did, with blocking highs and all. But they build on a higher base.”
Because of the hotter deep oceans?
The AGW argument is that anthropogenic GHG’s cause a net radiative forcing of about 1.6 W/m2 (AR4, 2007). That’s far too little to have an effect over a few days. But it accumulates, causing long-term warming. Heatwaves come and go as they always did, with blocking highs and all. But they build on a higher base.

jim Steele says: July 1, 2013 at 12:40 pm
Jim, you’re creating a straw man. Try quoting a scientist who says that CO2 is involved in the mechanics of heat waves. Quote what they actually say. Then we could see if heat waves disprove it.
But the fact that it’s getting warmer doesn’t mean that this, or any other heat wave, is guaranteed to break a record. It just means that over time it’s more likely. And getting some very hot weather now certainly isn’t evidence to the contrary.

Max™

What’s this? Climate science without the alarmism?
Can’t have that, someone find me a big rug to sweep this under.

Jim Steele
“More direct human affects have also dried the landscape as we have lost 50% of our wetlands and degraded 99% of our stream channels. Urbanization dries the landscape and shunts water underground into our sewer systems”
That’s very interesting. The UHI-effect is primarily concerned with a bias of measuring surface temperatures with thermometers in such regions where people are around to install and read them.
But you suggest another effect om population, namely drier surface conditions due to a much more efficient use of water resources? Both in cities, around rivers and streams and also i though farming and irrigation practices!? At least during daytimes.Is that what you suggest?
It would be interesting to study those numbers. And at least, it is in the northern hemisphere and tempered and populated regions where the warming is recorded (OK, it is hypothesized between surface stationed far apart too, further north. But that’s a different story)

Russ in TX

CLEARLY lack of CO2 in Texas is responsible for our nearly-unheard-of cool temperatures this week of early July. 🙂

Gunga Din

Nick Stokes says:
July 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm
The AGW argument is that anthropogenic GHG’s cause a net radiative forcing of about 1.6 W/m2 (AR4, 2007).

==============================================================
I noticed you left the “C” off of “AGW”. (as in “Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming”)
If there is no catastrophe on the horizon, why spend trillions or billions (and, perhaps impoverish millions) to try to prevent it?

@ Nick Stokes Jim, you’re creating a straw man. Try quoting a scientist who says that CO2 is involved in the mechanics of heat waves.
As you suggest, I am sure those quotes would be rare. CO2 advocates are careful not to claim CO2 is directly involved in the mechanics of a heat wave. However Trenberth just implies CO2 when he suggests a ” warmer and wetter” world causes everything and you seem to be a disciple of such simplistic weather analyses.
CO2 advocates created the global average as the penultimate strawman. However the global average has nothing to do with local heat waves. To quote the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, The Physical Science Basis, 2007 — “No single location follows the global average”
It is the local and regional maximums that are important. Again in Death Valley and the USA in general, there is no increased base since the 30s. In fact much of the USA has been a warming hole. As Kunkel (2006) in “Can CGCMs Simulate the Twentieth-Century “Warming Hole” in the Central United States?” wrote, “An interesting regional feature of the spatial pattern of temperature trends is the lack of twentieth-century warming in portions of the United States.” Or as Pan (2004) in “Altered hydrologic feedback in a warming climate introduces a ‘‘warming hole.’’ wrote “the central United States had cooled by 0.4-1.4°F during the 20th century. You keeping talking about a nebulous increase in the statistical “base” that means precious little to the areas under discussion.

taxed

l don’t think we should get to carried away with these heat waves.
Because what the current jet stream and weather patterns give with one hand it will take with the other. Because with the current jet stream set up, l can see winter coming in hard and early over the N H. With eastern Canada and northern central Asia looking the most at risk.
Note how cool the temps in the Arctic are at the moment. Which risks a forming a very cold Arctic come the winter time. lf the current jet stream/ weather patterns stay in place, a lot of this cold air will be making its way southwards as we move towards winter.

Bill Illis

I would still like to see a scientific explanation for why the hottest places on the planet are mostly those that are below sea level.
There’s more CO2 backradiation when elevation is lower? Evidence?
There’s obviously less water vapor so that’s not it.
There is greater atmospheric pressure? But its not supposed to make any difference except when the air is sinking/compressing.

Dr. John M. Ware

I just looked at the Wikipedia chart for Kugluktuk and found an incredible anomaly: the record high temp for December was 81.3 degrees F! The surrounding months have nothing remotely similar, and the only months with warmer maxima were July, August, and perhaps September. Where did that wildly high maximum come from?

Marc77

About Kugluktuk, July 1989 had three consecutive days warmer than the new June record peaking at 94.8F on the 15th of July. And Coppermine, not far from there, had 87F the 7th of July 1936 and 90F the 9th of July 1964. The 29th of June this year had a reading of 90.1F and another of 90.5F.
Now there is something about greenhouses gases and heatwaves. It seems that greenhouses gases might increase the speed of diffusion of heat within the atmosphere. If you have more greenhouse gases in a warm volume of gases, it means you have more emitters of heat. The emitted heat might be absorbed and emitted back toward the center by other molecules, but only proportionally to the amount of heat emitted by the center.
So it could be different than the problem of transfer of heat between the ground and the atmosphere. The ground needs to get warmer in order to emit more heat. But the atmosphere emits more heat when it contains more greenhouse gases. So the increase in greenhouse gases might increase diffusion in this case.