Climate change is dominated by the water cycle, not carbon dioxide

Guest essay by Steve Goreham

Originally published in The Washington Times

Climate scientists are obsessed with carbon dioxide. The newly released Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims that “radiative forcing” from human-emitted CO2 is the leading driver of climate change. Carbon dioxide is blamed for everything from causing more droughts, floods, and hurricanes, to endangering polar bears and acidifying the oceans. But Earth’s climate is dominated by water, not carbon dioxide.

Earth’s water cycle encompasses the salt water of the oceans, the fresh water of rivers and lakes, and frozen icecaps and glaciers. It includes water flows within and between the oceans, atmosphere, and land, in the form of evaporation, precipitation, storms and weather. The water cycle contains enormous energy flows that shape Earth’s climate, temperature trends, and surface features. Water effects are orders of magnitude larger than the feared effects of carbon dioxide.

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Sunlight falls directly on the Tropics, where much energy is absorbed, and indirectly on the Polar Regions, where less energy is absorbed. All weather on Earth is driven by a redistribution of heat from the Tropics to the Polar Regions. Evaporation creates massive tropical storm systems, which move heat energy north to cooler latitudes. Upper level winds, along with the storm fronts, cyclones, and ocean currents of Earth’s water cycle, redistribute heat energy from the Tropics to the Polar Regions.

The Pacific Ocean is Earth’s largest surface feature, covering one-third of the globe and large enough to contain all of Earth’s land masses with area remaining. Oceans have 250 times the mass of the atmosphere and can hold over 1,000 times the heat energy. Oceans have a powerful, yet little understood effect on Earth’s climate.

Even the greenhouse effect itself is dominated by water. Between 75 percent and 90 percent of Earth’s greenhouse effect is caused by water vapor and clouds.

Yet, the IPCC and today’s climate modelers propose that the “flea” wags “the dog.” The flea, of course, is carbon dioxide, and the dog, is the water cycle. The theory of man-made warming assumes a positive feedback from water vapor, forced by human emissions of greenhouse gases.

The argument is that, since warmer air can hold more moisture, atmospheric water vapor will increase as Earth warms. Since water vapor is a greenhouse gas, additional water vapor is presumed to add additional warming to that caused by CO2. In effect, the theory assumes that the carbon cycle is controlling the more powerful water cycle.

But for the last 15 years, Earth’s surface temperatures have failed to rise, despite rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. All climate models predicted a rapid rise in global temperatures, in conflict with actual measured data. Today’s models are often unable to predict weather conditions for a single season, let alone long-term climate trends.

An example is Atlantic hurricane prediction. In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its 2013 hurricane forecast, calling for an “active or extremely active” hurricane season. At that time, NOAA predicted 7 to 11 Atlantic hurricanes (storms with sustained wind speeds of 74 mph or higher). In August NOAA revised their forecast down to 6 to 9 hurricanes. We entered October with a count of only two hurricane-strength storms. Computer models are unable to accurately forecast one season of Earth’s water cycle in just one region.

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The IPCC and proponents of the theory of man-made warming are stumped by the 15-year halt in global surface temperature rise. Dr. Kevin Trenberth hypothesizes that the heat energy from greenhouse gas forcing has gone into the deep oceans. If so, score one for the power of the oceans on climate change.

Others have noted the prevalence of La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean since 1998. During 1975-1998, when global temperatures were rising, the Pacific experienced more frequent warm El Niño events than the cooler La Niñas. But the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a powerful temperature cycle in the North Pacific Ocean, moved into a cool phase about ten years ago. With the PDO in a cool phase, we now see more La Niña conditions. Maybe more La Niñas are the reason for the recent flat global temperatures. But if so, isn’t this evidence that ocean and water cycle effects are stronger than the effects of CO2?

Geologic evidence from past ice ages shows that atmospheric carbon dioxide increases follow, rather than precede, global temperature increases. As the oceans warm, they release CO2 into the atmosphere. Climate change is dominated by changes in the water cycle, driven by solar and gravitational forces, and carbon dioxide appears to play only a minor role.

Steve Goreham is Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and author of the new book The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania.

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Old woman of the north

A great post, thanks.
Simple, testable, explanatory. and there all along.

JimS

I always love this quote from the late Dr. Reid Bryson, aka the father of Climatology:
“You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as doubling carbon dioxide.”
http://www.uncommondescent.com/off-topic/father-of-climatology-calls-manmade-global-warming-absurd/

Not new:
http://www.newclimatemodel.com/our-saviour-the-hydrological-cycle/
Published by Stephen Wilde July 17, 2009

Anomalatys

But isn’t the water cycle created by the Sun? I don’t know how the Sun can create the water cycle if the IPCC K-T diagram says the sun provides only 168 W/m^2 of input power, which is only -40F if converted into a temperature that sunlight would induce on a surface if totally absorbed. -40F can’t melt ice, can it? But direct sunshine DOES melt ice, doesn’t it? And create the water cycle? I guess the energy from the water cycle must come back to help create the water cycle in the first place.

milodonharlani

To quote distinguished WUWT contributor Dr. Tim Ball, former Professor, University of Winnipeg: “The analogy I use is: ‘My car is not running very well, so I’m going to ignore the engine which is the sun, and I’m going to ignore the transmission which is the water vapor, and I am going to look at one nut on the right rear wheel which is the human produced CO2.’ The science is that bad.”

greater

Somewhere in our darkest past, there was an optimum climate…everywhere on the planet. If we could just decide what that climate was and how we can get back to it…dial it in as we have been told we have the power.

Bill

Of course they are obsessed with carbon dioxide because it is the one thing they can tax. If they can get it taxed then they can get paid for more research and after all, that is what matters the most to them.

P Wilson

Simple Physics. Water has a high heat capacity and can hold heat. Air has a low heat capacity and cannot hold heat, and consequently cannot heat oceans. Therefore oceans heat the air as heat leaves the ocean

Anomalatys

@P Wilson – the low heat capacity of air means that it loses heat very quickly, which means that it can heat the oceans very quickly. If the air couldn’t lose heat very quickly, it wouldn’t warm the surface, and then the sun could only heat the surface to -40F.

Another interesting post. Is there an estimate for the total energy generated by the water cycle? It would be illuminating to compare that with the total energy generated by human beans. My guess is orders of magnitude smaller. Any one know?

bones

Anomalatys says:
October 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm
@P Wilson – the low heat capacity of air means that it loses heat very quickly, which means that it can heat the oceans very quickly. If the air couldn’t lose heat very quickly, it wouldn’t warm the surface, and then the sun could only heat the surface to -40F.
—————————————————
Nonsense! The low heat capacity of air means that if it encounters cold water, it doesn’t contain enough energy to raise the water temperature.

Reblogged this on Power To The People and commented:
CO2 is Not The Enemy – Fuel Poverty Is

Anomalatys

@bones – but the air is obviously heating the water somehow…air is the main source of heat for the oceans. The K-T energy budget shows it – air provides two to three times more heat to the oceans than the sun does. I think you must be wrong about air’s heat capacity and ability to heat something with higher heat capacity than it. Air is the main thing heating the oceans.

P Wilson

Anomalatys. Air cannot heat oceans. The sun does. Oceans release this heat to thermalize the air above it, as nature’s way is upwards. That’s why when the sun goes down, the air temperature goes down (because air cannot hold heat) whilst oceans remain warm (because water retains heat)

Anomalatys

@P Wilson –
Well, even if the thermal capacity from air can’t heat the oceans, radiation from the air can heat the oceans…the energy budget shows it…air provides 2 or 3 times more heat to the oceans than the sun does.

P Wilson

not so. The sun goes directly through air regarding radiation, due to the electromagnetic – in the shortwave – range, to heat land and oceans. When heat -re-radiates in the longwave, it does so by land and oceans heating the air, as air isn’t invisible to longwave radiation

Mayby you all should cut the climate scientist some slack. They are only human.
“In his book Human Universals (1991), Donald Brown defines human universals as comprising “those features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exception”, providing a list of 67 items[
The emergence of these universals dates to the Upper Paleolithic, with the first evidence of full behavioral modernity.
Among the cultural universals listed by Brown* (1991) are:
Myth, ritual and aesthetics
Divination
Attempts to control weather
Dream interpretation
Beliefs and narratives
Proverbs, sayings
Poetry/rhetorics
Healing practices, medicine
Childbirth customs
Rites of passage
Music, rhythm, dance
Play
Toys, playthings
Death rituals, mourning
Feasting
Body adornment
Hairstyles
*Donald E. Brown is an American professor of anthropology (emeritus). He worked at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is best known for his theoretical work regarding the existence, characteristics and relevance of universals of human nature. In his best known work, Human Universals, he says these universals, “comprise those features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exceptions.” He is quoted at length by Steven Pinker in an appendix to The Blank Slate, where Pinker cites some of the hundreds of universals listed by Brown. In area studies his doctoral research on the structure and history of Brunei was foundational.

mkelly

Anomalatys says:
October 7, 2013 at 1:11 pm
@P Wilson – the low heat capacity of air means that it loses heat very quickly, which means that it can heat the oceans very quickly. If the air couldn’t lose heat very quickly, it wouldn’t warm the surface, and then the sun could only heat the surface to -40F.
Where does the air get the heat it loses to “warm the surface” or “heat the oceans”?

Tom G(ologist)

In the many years that I have been an adjunct prof of geology in addition to my career as a water resources consultant (and now the director of water and environment for a, dare I say it, natural gas frac’ing company), I have spent inordinate time per semester on the hydrologic cycle because it is so important to Earth processes. This post is a very succinct and relevant ‘sound bite’ easily readable in a couple minutes, and easily understood by everyone. This is the kind of communication which has been needed to counter the shrill, emotional cries of apocalypse over the past 25 years.
Well done – most people tend to want to convey too much technical information to bolster their case. Herein we see the power of “less is more”.
Thanks

Anomalatys

“When heat re-radiates in the longwave, it does so by land and oceans heating the air”
And also by air heating the land and oceans.
“Where does the air get the heat it loses to “warm the surface” or “heat the oceans”?”
Well it has it. The air has a temperature and so it has heat, and it will heat the land and oceans with it. The air GETS heated from the land and oceans, but then with that heat it also heats the land and oceans.

P Wilson

air does not heat oceans. The sun heats oceans that the oceans retain, due to its relatively high heat capacity. It takes a lot of energy to heat something with a high heat capacity. Air has a very low heat capacity, meaning that it cannot heat water. That heat in the air that the air cannot retain goes upwards.
it makes little sense to speak hypothetically by proposing “If the air couldn’t lose heat very quickly” since that isn’t a valid argument.
Simply put, the sun heats oceans. Water retains some of that heat, that in turn regulates the temperature of the atmosphere

The problem with this explanation is that there’s no way to concoct a semi-plausible guilt-based pseudo-religion with it.

P Wilson

Its something like a storage heater, if you like. It takes several hours to produce heat but when it does, due to the high heat capacity of the storage, you can turn it off and it retains heat to heat your room. The air in the room doesn’t heat the storage heater.

Anomalatys

Well, the K-T diagram shows the air heating the oceans with radiation from the air, at about 2 or 3 times the power of the Sun. So, obviously the air is heating the oceans somehow, or else there is something wrong with the K-T energy budget.

Anomalatys

“The air in the room doesn’t heat the storage heater.”
But insulation makes the heater hotter.

mkelly

Anomalatys says:
October 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm
@P Wilson –
Well, even if the thermal capacity from air can’t heat the oceans, radiation from the air can heat the oceans…the energy budget shows it…air provides 2 or 3 times more heat to the oceans than the sun does.
Your comments are really like a candid camera episode aren’t they. You say silly stuff just to see who would say something. OR you forgot the sarc at the end of you comments. ‘Cause really no one can say the things you say and mean it.

Anomalatys

Guys, radiation from the air heating the oceans, as shown in the IPCC K-T energy budget, etc., is just the greenhouse effect. The energy budget shows that air heats the surface with 2 or 3 times the power of the Sun.

Konrad

Anomalatys says:
October 7, 2013 at 1:36 pm
—————————————————
One can but hope and pray that you simply forgot the “/sarc” tag on your last few comments. The empirical evidence is stacked against your claims.
1. Tmax of the airless lunar surface, even when adjusted for longer diurnal cycle, contradicts your claim of -40F.
2. how do you heat a plastic tub of water with a hair drier? Pointing the hair dryer at the surface of the water does not work as the energy is rejected by the skin evaporation layer. Pointing the the hair dryer at the side of the plastic tub however does work.
3. Incident LWIR does not heat nor slow the cooling of liquid water that is free to evaporatively cooled as shown by this simple experiment you and other readers can build and try for themselves –
http://i42.tinypic.com/2h6rsoz.jpg
Radiative physics is fine, it has just been misapplied to a moving gaseous atmosphere over a moving liquid ocean. There is a slight radiative GHE on earth, most notable over the land at night. However the net effect of radiative gases in our atmosphere is atmospheric cooling at all concentrations above 0.0ppm.

P Wilson

your understanding of thermodynamics are in reverse, i’m afraid. I can’t find a simpler way to express it. If you heated a boiler of water to 30C then the air above it would see a rise in temperature. If you turn off the heat and let the water cool then the air will also cool. That’s why they use water in boilers instead of air. Because air has a low heat capacity that cannot heat water. Flame can heat water in a pan, and the sun can heat oceans and land, but air cannot heat water. Since water has some 1000 times the heat capacity of air, meaning it has not the thermodynamic energy to heat water

P Wilson

^^@anomalytis

@P Wilson: air does a fine job of transferring heat, either heating or cooling by convective transfer. It’s low heat capacity means it is not efficient as other fluids with both higher density and heat capacity. I heat my house by forced air, I can peal paint with a hot air gun, and even ignite the wood if the volume of hot air is excessive and I can melt ice by exposing it to warmer air. The low heat capacity means you need a large mass (volume) of air to work quickly. If air couldn’t transfer heat to a cooler mass, how would it remove heat (transfer) from a warmer mass, say as with your car radiator.
If I put an open container in an ice-water bath and let it equilibrate with the bath temperature (0°C), then place ice in the container it will melt. If is use a fan to move more room temperature air across the ice, it will melt faster.

Anomalatys

“slight radiative GHE” ??????
The energy budget shows the GHE provides 2 to 3 times as much heat as the Sun does to the surface! Hardly slight.

Latitude

But for the last 15 years, Earth’s surface temperatures have failed to rise, despite rising atmospheric carbon dioxide…..
…at the exact same time that CO2 levels should have had the most effect

P Wilson

insulation doesn’t make the heater hotter. It slows the escape of heat from theroom.

captainfish

I’ve been having much of the same argument with a commenter on another blog site. He claims that CO2 is the single driving force of greenhouse effect. he also believes that the moon is not warmed because there is little CO2 there. he also claims to believe that all the CO2 present from those levels during 1850, thus all CO2 gained since 1850, are man-made.
I’ve asked him how he can tell one CO2 molecule from another, but he can’t tell me. I’ve asked him how something that is 0.03% of our giant atmosphere can heat our atmosphere. He also believes that natural processes provide no warmth at all.
The inanity it burns.
He probably also signed the Zombie-Blog’s petition to have Carcinogens added to our water supply like so many others did.

Great! Now you have gifted the Chicken Little Alarmists a new religous icon.
All those modern electricity generating plants with their hourglass shaped exhuast stacks are belching – Wait for it Kate Blanchet and Michael Katon Aussie actors/activists; not insidious “greenhouse gas” pollution but mostly – water vapour!
So now these deluded folk can keep using the powerstation stacks as icons and blame the upwardly thrusting columns of water vapour for AGW.

P Wilson

Bob Greene. You are in fact using a heat source with a hair dryer to melt ice. In terms of volume there is a lot more ocean than air. So when the temperature of the air goes down when the sun passes, you are arguing that the oceans ought to cool down to the air temperature, since all of a sudden the air has more heat capacity than oceans.

ThinkingScientist

Anomalatys
The heat capacity of water is more than 3200 times larger than air. Therefore the energy released by a one degree celsius drop in air temperature would only be enough energy to raise the temperature of the same volume of water by 1/3200th degrees celsius (that’s 0.0003 degrees celsius)..
The atmosphere stores almost no energy at all. The storage of energy in the oceans is enormous. The oceans drive the atmosphere, not the other way round. Water is truly remarkable stuff, chemically and physically. Air (and CO2) are not.

ThinkingScientist

Direct sunlight, away from the tropics at the north and south edges of the Hadley cells, can heat the surface of the earth (not the air, the actual rocks and sand) to over 70 degrees celsius even though the sun is not even directly overhead Sunlight is hot, not cool. GHE is trivial by comparison.
In the tropics, without the power of the water cycle, cloud formation and convection to cool the surface to around 30 degrees, sunlight could heat the surface of the earth to around 88 degrees celsius (or even more without cloud to change the albedo). GHE is trivial by comparison.

Berényi Péter

Robert Bissett says:
October 7, 2013 at 1:13 pm
Is there an estimate for the total energy generated by the water cycle?

Yep. Global average precipitation is about 1000 mm/annum. One obviously has to evaporate that much water in advance to have it come down later. That’s 1000 kg/m². Heat of vaporization for water is 2.26 MJ/kg, so heat going to evaporation is 2.26 GJ/m² per annum. Length of mean tropical year is 31,556,925 sec. Therefore corresponding heat flux is ~72 W/m². Compare it to average TSI (Total Solar Irradiance) at ToA (Top of Atmosphere) of 340 W/m² or its absorbed and thermalized portion, 238 W/m². Direct forcing of CO₂ doubling is assumed to be 3.7 W/m², average geothermal heat flux is 0.08 W/m², can be as high as 0.3 W/m² in certain regions.

AS

@Anomalatys
Loving it. Just loving it. You’re like a cat with the world’s stupidest mouse, which is being slain.

GAT

Anomalatys, your body is roughly 70% water. much like the Earth’s surface so let’s use your body as a test. If the sun doesn’t directly heat the surface then why are you cooler in the shade than when exposed to direct sunlight?

Water Vapor Feedback
The other major feedback is water vapor, which approximately doubles the 1 deg of first principles warming in the models. Here the modelers believe they are on firmer ground than for cloud feedbacks, since there is plenty of observational evidence that warming is associated with more atmospheric water vapor, on average, in the lower troposphere, due to increased surface evaporation caused by warmer temperatures.
But even in the case of water vapor feedback, the situation might not be as simple as they believe. By far the biggest impact of water vapor on the Earth’s ability to cool itself is in the middle and upper troposphere, where it is precipitation processes – not surface evaporation — that determine the water vapor content.
Most of the air at these altitudes was detrained out of precipitation systems, which removed most of the vapor as precipitation. This is why the water vapor content at those altitudes is so low.
So, what determines the efficiency of precipitation systems? If warming increases their efficiency at removing vapor, there could be a slight drying of the middle and upper troposphere at the same time that the lower troposphere becomes more humid. The net result would be negative water vapor feedback, even though the total absolute amount of water vapor in the troposphere has increased (because a tiny decrease in upper tropospheric vapor causes more cooling than a large increase in lower tropospheric vapor causes warming).
This possibility is nothing new; it’s been known for decades (see an extended water vapor feedback discussion here). Long-term weather balloon data we have extending back to the 1950s actually shows lower tropospheric moistening and mid-tropospheric drying, at least suggesting the possibility that multi-decadal climate change involves negative, not positive, water vapor feedback. Miskolczi’s (2010) results of a constant greenhouse effect were basically due to the observed decrease in upper tropospheric water vapor exactly offsetting the greenhouse enhancement of increasing CO2 in the last 50 years.
The above is thoughts from Dr. Spencer, who I agre with on this matter.

Box of Rocks

Amount of Heat Required to Rise Temperature
The amount of heat needed to heat a subject from one temperature level to an other can be expressed as:
Q = cp · m · dT (2)
where
Q = amount of heat (kJ)
cp = specific heat (kJ/kg.K)
m = mass (kg)
dT = temperature difference between hot and cold side (K)
Example Heating Water
Consider the energy needed to heat 1.0 kg of water from 0 oC to 100 oC when the specific heat of water is 4.19 kJ/kg.K (kJ/kg.oC):
Q = (4.19 kJ/kg.K) · (1.0 kg) · ((100 oC) – (0 oC))
= 419 (kJ)
Note cp of air is 1.005

LKMiller

ThinkingScientist says:
October 7, 2013 at 2:13 pm
“Anomalatys
The heat capacity of water is more than 3200 times larger than air. Therefore the energy released by a one degree celsius drop in air temperature would only be enough energy to raise the temperature of the same volume of water by 1/3200th degrees celsius (that’s 0.0003 degrees celsius)..
The atmosphere stores almost no energy at all. The storage of energy in the oceans is enormous. The oceans drive the atmosphere, not the other way round. Water is truly remarkable stuff, chemically and physically. Air (and CO2) are not.”
***********
Permit me to relate a real-life situation that I believe clearly illustrates the concept that water is way more important than air in determining ambient air temperature.
Duluth, MN is located at the mouth of the St. Louis River, which empties eventually into Lake Superior. The lake that “never gives up her dead” is an extremely cold body of fresh water. Even in the summer months, life expectancy in the water is measured in minutes. I used to live over the hill in Cloquet, MN, about 20 miles west of Duluth. I’ve started out the day in Cloquet in the summer time with the air temperature about 80. Drop down over the hill into Duluth on the same day, and it likely will be 55 – 60.
That big mass of cold water doesn’t blink at the warm air around it, and doesn’t accept any of it either.

G. Karst

Tom G(ologist) says:
October 7, 2013 at 1:43 pm
This post is a very succinct and relevant ‘sound bite’ easily readable in a couple minutes, and easily understood by everyone. This is the kind of communication which has been needed to counter the shrill, emotional cries of apocalypse over the past 25 years.

I agree completely. It is easy for the general public to forget that Earth is a water planet and water rules. GK

Of course the point is, we humans can’t be blamed for the water cycle or what it does. They wanted something to blame humans for, some “sin” to hit us with and justify the taking away of our toys (technology, advancement, civilization). Blaming us for water just doesn’t sound the same.

Tom G(ologist)

Hey G-Karst. I take it you are a karst guy. Living in the Lehigh Valley PA, that was a LARGE part of my livelihood for many years.

peter

seems to me that Desserts are very real test beds for the effect of water vapor in the air. In extremely dry deserts you get radical temperature changes when the sun goes down and the temperature plummets.