Stalking the Rogue Hotspot

[I’m making this excellent essay a top sticky post for a day or two, I urge sharing it far and wide. New stories will appear below this one.  – Anthony]

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Dr. Kevin Trenberth is a mainstream climate scientist, best known for inadvertently telling the world the truth about the parlous state of climate science itself. In the Climategate emails published in 2009, it was revealed that in private he had said:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.

This from a spokesman for the folks who have been telling us for years that the science is settled …  

However, the problem seems to be solved. Kevin Trenberth, Distinguished Senior Scientist, (as he is described on his web page) has emailed Joe Romm, Distinguished Senior Climate Alarmist, about the status of Dr. Trenberth’s tireless quest to find the missing heat, stating (emphasis in Romm’s post):

dr. kevin trenberthWe can confidently say that the risk of drought and heat waves has gone up and the odds of a hot spot somewhere on the planet have increased but the hotspot moves around and the location is not very predictable. This year perhaps it is East Asia: China, or earlier Siberia? It has been much wetter and cooler in the US (except for SW), whereas last year the hot spot was the US. Earlier this year it was Australia (Tasmania etc) in January (southern summer). We can name spots for all summers going back quite a few years: Australia in 2009, the Russian heat wave in 2010, Texas in 2011, etc.”

I’ll return to the serious question of Dr. Trenberth’s missing heat in a moment. But first, let’s consider Dr. Trenberth’ statement, starting with the section highlighted in bold in Joe’s post, viz:

“We can confidently say that the risk of drought and heat waves has gone up and the odds of a hot spot somewhere on the planet have increased but the hotspot moves around and the location is not very predictable.”

That single sentence contains all the required elements of a good novel—unpredictability, increasing risks, a dangerous moving “hotspot”, confident experts, a planet in peril … all the stuff that goes into an exciting story, it’s perfect for a direct-to-DVD movie.

The only problem with Dr. Trenberth’s statement is that like all novels, it’s fiction. To start with, Dr. Trenberth is very careful not to claim that droughts and heat waves and “hotspots” have actually increased. Did you notice that? You need to watch statements about climate very closely. He didn’t say that the number of droughts or heat waves have gone up. That’s a falsifiable statement, and one which is decidedly not true, so he prudently avoided that pitfall. The IPCC itself has said that we have no evidence of any increases in drought, in heat waves, or in any other climate extremes, despite a couple of centuries involving a couple of degrees of warming. But then, Dr. Trenberth didn’t say droughts or heat waves have gone up, did he?

He said the risk of droughts and heat waves has gone up. He said theodds of a hot spot somewhere on the planet” have gone up. Presumably, this deep knowledge of the probability of future climate catastrophes has been vouchsafed to Dr. Trenberth by means of the climate models … the same climate models that are part of the “travesty” because they can’t account for the missing heat. He’s citing risks and odds based on climate models that were unable to forecast the current hiatus in warming which has gone on for fifteen years or so now, despite continuing increases in CO2 and methane and black carbon and the like …

The part that I particularly enjoyed is the foreboding, menacing quality of his claim that there is now some roving “hotspot”, whose location “moves around” and “is not very predictable”. Dang, what if the dreaded “hotspot” comes to my town? Does he mean we might be faced with the much-feared phenomenon known locally as “a really hot summer”. We know those summers, when  bad things happen, like the time when Jimmy Fugate punched out the eleventh guy, by Jimmy’s actual count, who had said “Hot enough for ya?” to him on that fateful August day … but although I digress, we know the danger is real, because as Dr. Trenberth warns us, the hot spot is on the move, viz:

It has been much wetter and cooler in the US (except for SW), whereas last year the hot spot was the US. Earlier this year it was Australia (Tasmania etc) in January (southern summer). We can name [hot]spots for all summers going back quite a few years …

I gotta admit, this is stunning news. Dr. Trenberth is giving us inside climate information, full of extra scientificity, that every summer some places are extra-hot, while you’d be amazed to find out, other locations have extra-cool summers. We’re in one of the latter where I live. Around here, this has been one of the coolest summers in recent years.

So following in Dr. Trenberth’s trail-blazing footsteps, here’s my new climate theory. It revolves around the dreaded “coldspot”. You may be shocked when I tell you that every summer there’s a “coldspot” somewhere in the world, a place where the summer is much colder than usual. Last year the coldspot was Russia. This year it has moved to Northern California where I live. Here’s what makes coldspots so dangerous, as highlighted by Dr. Trenberth. The coldspot “moves around and the location is not very predictable” … so you should be very afraid, because science.

I mean … are we supposed to take this talk of “moving hotspots” seriously? Is this how desperate the alarmists are  getting?

Joe Romm’s quote of Dr. Trenberth closes with this suitably ominous line, which I assume is preparing us for the sequel …

Similarly with risk of high rains and floods: They are occurring but the location moves.

Ahhh, Dr. Trenberth is referring to the dreaded “wetspot”, and he doesn’t mean the one the baby leaves on your shoulder. Did you know that every year during the rainy season there’s a “wetspot” somewhere in the world, a place where it rains more than usual? And did you know the wetspot moves around the world and the location is not very predictable? There’s no end to the insights available in Dr. Trenberth’s concepts …

I have to say, I find Dr. Trenberth’s claims both very depressing and very encouraging. They’re depressing because they are a million miles from science. It’s just a frightening tale for children around the campfire, about how the risks of bad things are rising, and it’s worse than we thought.

But it’s encouraging, because when the intellectual leaders of the climate alarmism movement sink to peddling those kinds of scare stories, it’s a clear indication that they’re way short of actual scientific arguments to back up their inchoate fears of Thermageddon.

In any case, let me move on to the more serious topic I mentioned above, regarding Dr. Trenberth’s infamous “missing heat”. Let me suggest where some of it is going. It’s going back out to space.

One of the main thermal controls on the planet’s heat balance is the relationship between surface temperature on one hand, and the time of day of cumulus and cumulonimbus formation in the tropics. On days when the surface is warmer, clouds form earlier in the day. The opposite is true when the surface is cooler, clouds form later. This control operates on an hourly basis. I’ve shown how this affects the daily evolution of tropical temperature here and here using the TAO moored buoy data. Here’s a bit of what I demonstrated in those posts. Figure 2, from the second citation, shows how cold mornings and warm mornings affect the evolution of the temperature of the ensuing day.

tao triton all buoys warm cold

Figure 2. Average of all TAO buoy records (heavy black line), as well as averages of the same data divided into days when dawn is warmer than average (heavy red line), and days when dawn is cooler than average (heavy blue line) for each buoy. Light straight lines show the difference between the previous and the following 1:00 AM temperatures.

The control of the surface temperature is exerted in two main ways: 1) in the morning, cumulus cloud formation reduces incoming solar radiation by reflecting it back to space, and 2) in the afternoon, thunderstorms both increase cloud coverage and remove energy from the surface and transport it to the upper troposphere. We can see both of these going on in the average temperatures above.

The black line in Figure 2 shows the average day’s cycle. The onset of cumulus is complete by about 10:00. The afternoon is warmer than the morning. As you would expect with an average, the 1 AM temperatures are equal (thin black line).

The days when the dawn is warmer than average for each buoy (red line) show a different pattern. There is less cooling from 1AM to dawn. Cumulus development is stronger when it occurs, driving the temperature down further than on average. In addition, afternoon thunderstorms not only keep the afternoon temperatures down, they also drive evening and night cooling. As a result, when the day is warmer at dawn, the following morning is cooler.

In general, the reverse occurs on the cooler days (blue line). Cooling from 1 AM until dawn is strong. Warming is equally strong. Morning cumulus formation is weak, as is the afternoon thunderstorm foundation. As a result, when the dawn is cooler, temperatures continue to climb during the day, and the following 1AM is warmer than the preceding 1 AM.

Regarding the reduction in incoming solar energy, in a succeeding post called “Cloud Radiation Forcing in the TAO Dataset“, I provided measurements of the difference between the shortwave and longwave radiation effects of tropical clouds, based on the same TAO buoy data. The measurements showed that around noon, when cumulus usually form, the net effect of cloud cover (longwave minus shortwave) was a reduction of half a kilowatt per square metre in net downwelling radiative energy.

In addition to that reduction in downwelling radiation, there is another longer-term effect. This is that we lose not only the direct energy of the solar radiation, but also the subsequent “greenhouse radiation” resulting from the solar radiation. In the TAO buoy dataset, the 24/7 average downwelling solar radiation reaching the surface is about 250 W/m2. Via the poorly-named “greenhouse effect” this results in a 24/7 average downwelling longwave radiation of about 420 w/m2. So for every ten W/m2 of solar we lose through reflection to space, we also lose an additional seventeen W/m2 of the resulting longwave radiation.

This means that if the tropical clouds form one hour earlier or later on average, that reduces or increases net downwelling radiation by about 50 W/m2 on a 24/7 basis. This 100 W/m2 swing in incoming energy, based solely on a ± one-hour variation in tropical cloud onset time, exercises a very strong daily control on the total amount of energy entering the planetary system. This is because most of the sun’s energy enters the climate system in the tropics. As one example, if the tropical clouds form on average at five minutes before eleven AM instead of right at eleven AM, that is a swing of 4 W/m2 on a 24/7 basis, enough to offset the tropical effects of a doubling of CO2 …

Not only that, but the control system is virtually invisible, in that there are few long-term minute-by-minute records of daily cloud onset times. Who would notice a change of half an hour in the average time of cumulus formation? It is only the advent of modern nearly constant recording of variables like downwelling long and shortwave radiation that has let me demonstrate the effect of the cloud onset on tropical temperatures using the TAO buoy dataset.

While writing this here on a cold and foggy night, I realized that I had the data to add greatly to my understanding of this question. Remember that I have made a curious claim. This is that in the tropics, as the day gets warmer, the albedo increases. This means that we should find the same thing on a monthly basis—warmer months should result in a greater albedo, there should be a positive correlation between temperature and albedo. This is in contrast to our usual concept of albedo. We usually think of causation going the other way, of increasing albedo causing a decrease in temperature. This is the basis of the feedback from reduced snow and ice. The warmer it gets, the less the snow and ice albedo. This is a negative correlation between albedo and temperature, albedo going down with increasing temperature. So my theory was that unlike at the poles, in the tropics the albedo should be positively correlated with the temperature. However, I’d never thought of a way to actually demonstrate the strength of that relationship at a global level.

So I took a break from writing to look at the correlation of surface temperature and albedo in the CERES satellite dataset. Here’s that result, hot off of the presses this very evening, science at its most raw:

correlation between albedo and temperatureFigure 3. Correlation between albedo and temperature, as shown by the CERES dataset. Underlying data sources and discussion are here.

Gotta confess, I do love results like that. That is a complete confirmation of my claim that in the tropics, as the temperature increases, the albedo increases. Lots of interesting detail there as well … fascinating.

My conclusion is that Dr. Trenberth’s infamous “missing heat” is missing because it never entered the system. It was reflected away by a slight increase in the average albedo, likely caused by a slight change in the cloud onset time or thickness.

My regards to everyone,

w.

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DirkH

BTW it’s Puff The Magic Hotspot (h/t Kim2000).

steveta_uk

… so you should be very afraid, because science.

Indeed. At first I thought there was a word or two missing, but then I realised that is because science.

Perhaps Mr Trenberth should study historical weather records of the Dalton Minimum. He will see a lot of similarities with today. in his terms then there were hot spots, cold spots, dry spots, and wet spots. The problem then was that their locations weren’t very predictable – just as today. But how different is the predictability now compared to 10 and 20 years ago?

SteveV

The moving hotspot. I believe there is a term for this. It’s called the Texas sharpshooter fallacy.

steveta_uk

It was reflected away by a slight increase in the average albedo, likely caused by a slight change in the cloud onset time or thickness.

Ahhh – you lose, ‘cos the IPCC claims range from very likely to extremely likely but your claim is only likely.

Greg

I wonder what is driving this devilish hot spot around the planet. Giant bubbles of CO2, no doubt.

Greg

Opps, I forgot to mention giant bubbles of CO2, plus water feedback amplificaiton. It would be silly to suggest CO2 could do that on its own , wouldn’t it.

Chris Schoneveld

Willis, could you explain this: ” the net effect of cloud cover (longwave minus shortwave)”?

Its actually an inspired fib – it evokes image like that ghastly moving anti-cyclone in “The Day After Tommorow”, your town could be next. I think Trenberth is slime, but you’ve got to admire his creativity on this one.

dudleyhorscroft

If temperature falls fast in the second half of the night, it is probably because the air is dry and clouds do not form, hence the heat is being radiated away. If clouds do form, it is because the air temperature at which they are forming has reached dew point, and there is enough dust, etc, to enable water vapour to condense. So your blue line is equivalent to dry air, and the red line to humid air. A dry day means then that tomorrow will be warmer, and a wet day means it will be cooler. Until the usual sequence of depressions and anticyclones sweeps the humid air or the dry air away.
You might as well rely on your bits of seaweed. As it tends to be hygroscopic, when it is soggy, tomorrow will be cooler. And if it is crispy, tomorrow will be warm.
QED, something or other!

Tom in Florida

So do we have a moving cloud/albedo spot and where is it now?

Chris Schoneveld

Why is the correlation negative over the tropical rainforests of Africa and South America?

I didn’t see a good explanation of the hot spot. Does that mean temperatures above average? Or, like the case of Richmond weather it has been cooler than normal for several days and warmed up to about normal yesterday. So, was that retreating cool spot and then hot spot or just hot spot? And now Willis wants hot spots, cool spots, wet spots, dry spots, cold spots. It’s all so confusing.
I’m glad the science is settled and so solid it cannot be questioned. It’s all so confusing to the laity and common folk.

richardscourtney

Willis:
Thankyou for your comment which is wiity and accurate.
I agree with your opinion that

My conclusion is that Dr. Trenberth’s infamous “missing heat” is missing because it never entered the system. It was reflected away by a slight increase in the average albedo, likely caused by a slight change in the cloud onset time or thickness.

However, I write to point out another problem with the quoted Statement from Trenberth.
He talks about a ‘hot spot’ as being a region of high temperature which moves around.
This is NOT what is meant by the missing Hot Spot when considering AGW.
Trenberth’s phrase of “hot spot” quoted above – either deliberately or inadvertently – confuses discussion of the missing Hot Spot.

For the benefit of those who do not know, the AGW hypothesis as exemplified by climate models predicts that temperature at ~10 km altitude will rise by between 2X and 3X the rate of temperature rise at the surface. So, a region of elevated temperature (i.e. the Hot Spot) will occur at altitude.
This Hot Spot is induced by warming from greenhouse gases and NOT by warming from any other source. This is shown by Figure 9.1 and the associated text of the most recent IPCC Scientific Report (AR4) and its associated text which can be seen and read here
http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch9s9-2-2.html
Clearly, the indication is that the Hot Spot is only visible in the Figure as 9.1 (c) showing effect of “well-mixed greenhouse gases” and Figure 9.1. (f) “the sum of all forcings”.
But no such enhanced warming at altitude has been observed by radiosondes mounted on weather balloons since 1958 or by microwave sounding units mounted on satellites since 1979.
Hence, the absence of the Hot Spot indicates
(a) The AGW hypothesis emulated by the climate models is wrong
OR
(b) There has been no discernible global warming from “well-mixed greenhouse gases” since 1958
OR
(c) There has been no discernible global warming from any cause since 1958.
The next IPCC Report (AR5) will need to explain this absence of the Hot Spot if the AGW hypothesis – and scare – is to be continued.
The above quotation from Trenberth inhibits clear discussion and understanding of the missing Hot Spot by the public.

Richard

cd

Very funny. I’m starting to worry if they’re even taking themselves seriously anymore.

Nylo

Brilliant, Willis, as always. And this time very funny too! It was quite hard to avoid starting to laugh out loud here in the office with the misteriously moving hotspots, coldspots and wetspots!

Bruce Cobb

Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis? The missing heat is in the deep oceans, having been transported there via teleportation. Star Trek was all about science.

MattN

I don’t think this hotspot is the droid he is looking for.

Mike Bromley the Kurd

“Full of extra scientificity”….Brilliant, Willis. I’m still wiping coffee off my Macbook. It’s a travesty, all right….that Trenberth’s ego is so large it obscures the view of his mirror, and he cannot see just how really how lofty he looks, if ‘lofty’ be the appropriate term. Hey Kevin, Your missing heat? It’s roving around roasting different places, just before Willis’ Cold spot comes a-cryovanting along.

So my theory was that unlike at the poles, in the tropics the temperature should be positively correlated with the temperature.
Presumably a typo?? Otherwise stating the obvious.
[Thanks, Murray, fixed. -w.]

johnmarshall

Trenberth’s main problem is his climate model which is as far from reality as is possible to get. Anyone who believes that the planet is flat, zero rotation, 24/7 weak sunshine will always come up with the wrong answer about planetary heat gain and loss.

michael hart

“Out, damned spot! out, I say!” Macbeth Act 5, Scene 1.

Bloke down the pub

Gotta confess, I do love results like that. That is a complete confirmation of my claim that in the tropics, as the temperature increases, the albedo increases. Lots of interesting detail there as well … fascinating.’
Interesting too that the Arctic shows higher albedo. Maybe this from wiki indicates why.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Water_reflectivity.jpg

techgm

Maybe the movement of that hotspot caused a partial vacuum that sucked in the record-low high temperature in Atlanta last week. Maybe he could find it if he looked in Alabama.

Pete Brown

Apologies for my ignorance, but I don’t understand what the correlation picture is saying. Any chance of spelling it out for the uninitiated?
Also, is this essentially the same basic premise as Dr Roy Spencer advocates?

aaron

It’d be nice if this was broken into two seperate posts.
I’d like to share the part about the missing heat, but no one I know wants to sit through talk about rhetoric.

aaron

The true brilliance, is it get us talking about their rhetoric, which makes us seem like cranks. He also gets to rederfine “the hotspot” away from the finger-print.

Gary Pearse

I get it, there are also windy spots, snowy spots…hey, this could indicate that climate is chaotic. Now there’s a concept. One more thing discovered here: the alarmist bloggers and news media don’t have to to any research at all for their articles. They just sit by the computer or phone and the distinguished senior scientist contact them whenever they have a vision.
Man, Willis, you are getting climate science stuffed into a nutshell and it is readily understandable. I am impressed. I hope you are considering broadening this idea broadly to higher lattitudes. The ocean and sky don’t know where they are, they just respond to the temperature at any given time to counter swings. The the temperate zones’ heavy thunderstorms (and tornadoes -this zone’s additional sun blockers and heat chimneys) also respond to the summer heat.
One excellent example of the large effect of small changes (your 1/2 hr differences in the onset of clouds) is the double rainy season in eastern Tanzania and Kenya. The border between them is roughly 4 degrees South. When the ITZ moves south through Tanzania it creates the “little rains” (called vuli) in October to December and when it comes back and N into Kenya and beyond, it creates the big rains (called Masika). The duration of these rains tells us that the onset occurs when the sun’s angle is only a few degrees off vertical. Very small changes indeed for such a response. I think a data set here would fine tune the model showing small differences. Willis, you have a lot of work to do – I certainly don’t trust the synod of climate science with this stuff.

Stephen Wilde

Willis is clearly right about the tropical response to any additional energy in the air of those regions.
Now extend it globally and factor in variable ocean cycles in each ocean basin altering the rate of energy release from oceans to air and add to that variable solar activity altering stratospheric temperatures so as to change the tropopause height gradient between poles and equator.
The interaction between top down solar and bottom up oceanic effects gives us climate zone shifting which alters the amount of energy entering the oceans and the tropical events noted by Willis are part of the negative global response to any forcing elements other than mass gravity or ToA insolation.

Jonathan Abbott

“I have to say, I find Dr. Trenberth’s claims both very depressing and very encouraging. They’re depressing because they are a million miles from science. It’s just a frightening tale for children around the campfire, about how the risks of bad things are rising, and it’s worse than we thought.”
Exactly. The alarmist hand-waving is getting more and more desperate in the convolutions they employ to avoid the oncoming train of actual data.

Latitude

Now the hot spot moves around…but only in the summer
…and the cold spot doesn’t count
because up to now, we were looking really stupid
…and we’re only going to count and promote those places where the hot spot is…because the cold spot doesn’t fit our agenda
Nothing has changed

Alpha Tango

“the dreaded “wetspot”,”
goddammit its all over my keyboard and screen – thanks dude – best laugh I’ve had in a while

thingadonta

So Trenberth’s mystery of the missing heat has turned into the mystery of the moving hotspot. I suppose summers in the past were never variable.
I wonder if the current pause in temperature has made alarmists start to worry about the effect that a LACK of climate change will have on sea levels, coral reef growth, ocean acidity, biodiversity, etc. After all, they have devoted their careers to worrying about something, so if there is nothing to worry about, they will have to make something up. If climate change stops, won’t there be all sorts of problems with the earth’s systems being unable to adapt back fast enough to the lack of change? (One thing they might start to do is see the natural variation in summers as moving climate-change induced ‘hotspots’…….)

richardscourtney

aaron:
I write to emphasise the important points you make in your succinct post at August 21, 2013 at 4:48 am which says in total

The true brilliance, is it get us talking about their rhetoric, which makes us seem like cranks. He also gets to rederfine “the hotspot” away from the finger-print.

For those who do not understand “the finger-print” I provide a link to my above post which explains the matter
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/08/21/stalking-the-rogue-hotspot/#comment-1395986
Trenberth has obfuscated that and made us “seem like cranks” with one statement.
As you say, that is very clever.
Those above who think this is only about rhetoric have missed the point.
Richard

jones

I’m extremely worried that with all these hotspots and coldspots that we are going to have an awful lot of tepidspots and all the catastrophe that might entail.
Anyone want to lay odds?

Navy Bob

I thought the wet spot was what you move off of afterwards.

Tom Stone

Dr. Trenberth is a warmist who retains some of the doubt of a true scientist. Joe Romm, James Hansen and Michael Mann are beyond doubt….. .

Horse

I assume that for Dr. Trenberth to claim “missing heat” he must be making some sort of extrapolation of measured incoming and outgoing energy and concluding that there is an imbalance. Can anyone tell me how these data are collected and a ‘budget’ calculated?

Eggy_01

Loving your work.

Tom Jones

Willis, you have outdone yourself. It is so enjoyable to get up in the morning and find something really funny waiting on your computer. The saga of people who desperately want to be taken seriously but are so silly continues.

WJohn

The Uncertainty Principle. This Hot-Spot follows the same rules. The very act of looking at it causes it to move.
See also Scarlet Pimpernel and The man Who Was Not There.

sailboarder

You never cease to amaze me!

David

Somebody should draw Trenberth’s attention to Psalm 148 verse 8 (King James version). “Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:”. Sorry Kevin, King David published first.

KNR

Its crap science , but its right in-line for the guy that wanted to reverse the null hypotheses because that is the only way he could get this claims to make ‘any sense ‘
Even after all time I am still amazed that the standards seen in this area of ‘science’ are so shockingly low. Perhaps that is the only way they can actual work.

jones

What about the G-spot?

Peter Dunford

So what we’ve been calling natural variability is the result of greenhouse gas emissions?
That explains everything.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialst Level 7

Dr. Trenberth is correct when he says:

We can confidently say that the risk of drought and heat waves has gone up …

It all depends on how you define “risk”. Now I bet because the above fragment came just in front of:

… and the odds of a hot spot somewhere on the planet have increased …

you thought that “risk” and “odds” are different words used to mean the same thing — not so fast. As Steve McIntyre continually reminds us, you have to watch the pea under the thimble.
In the context of losses, “risk” means the total exposure in dollars, i.e., the cost of making good on damages. “Odds” means the likelihood of some loss occurring. So Dr. Trenberth is absolutely right to say that the “risk” of drought and heat waves has increased, because basically the risk (cost) of everything has increased, what with inflation, new regulatory compliance cost, etc. This is true even if the odds of droughts and heat waves decline.

Gary

Don’t forget about the dreaded, fugitive bald spot, Willis.

Mike from the cold side of the Sierra

will we be seeing these climate scientists jetting around the globe trying to keep up with this elusive roaming (romming) hot spot and what if it bifurcates, what then ?

RockyRoad

[snip . . I thought we had gotten past all the name calling stuff . . mod]