Study: lack of cloud physics biased climate models high

The Hockey Schtick brings this to our attention. It seems Dr. Roy Spencer was prescient with his observation:

“The most obvious way for warming to be caused naturally is for small, natural fluctuations in the circulation patterns of the atmosphere and ocean to result in a 1% or 2% decrease in global cloud cover. Clouds are the Earth’s sunshade, and if cloud cover changes for any reason, you have global warming — or global cooling.”

This view of Earth's horizon as the sun sets o...

This view of Earth’s horizon as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean was taken by an Expedition 7 crew member onboard the International Space Station (ISS). Anvil tops of thunderclouds are also visible. The image is also part of the header at WUWT. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Readers might also recall that evidence has been found for Spencer’s 1-2% cloud fluctuation. Even the National Science Foundation recognizes the role of clouds is uncertain: NSF Releases Online, Multimedia Package Titled, “Clouds: The Wild Card of Climate Change”

WUWT readers may recall the recent paper by Suckling and Smith covered at WUWT: New paper: climate models short on ‘physics required for realistic simulation of the Earth system’

In the Suckling and Smith paper it was concluded that the models they reviewed just don’t have the physical processes of the dynamic and complex Earth captured yet. This paper by de Szoeke et al. published in the Journal of Climate finds that climate models grossly underestimate cooling of the Earth’s surface due to clouds by approximately 50%

According to the authors, “Coupled model intercomparison project (CMIP3) simulations of the climate of the 20th century show 40±20 W m−2 too little net cloud radiative cooling at the surface. Simulated clouds have correct radiative forcing when present, but models have ~50% too few clouds.

Let that 40 watts/ square meter sink in a moment.

The 40 watts/ square meter underestimate of cooling from clouds is more than 10 times the alleged warming from a doubling of CO2 concentrations, which is said to be 3.7 watts/square meter according to the IPCC (AR4 Section 2.3.1)

So the cloud error in models is an order of magnitude greater than the forcing effect of Co2 claimed by the IPCC. That’s no small potatoes. The de Szoeke et al. paper also speaks to what Willis Eschenbach has been saying about clouds in the tropics.

Here is the paper:

Observations of stratocumulus clouds and their effect on the eastern Pacific surface heat budget along 20°S

Simon P. de Szoeke, Sandra Yuter, David Mechem, Chris W. Fairall, Casey Burleyson, and Paquita Zuidema Journal of Climate 2012 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00618.1

Abstract:

Widespread stratocumulus clouds were observed on 9 transects from 7 research cruises to the southeastern tropical Pacific Ocean along 20°S, 75°-85°W in October-November 2001-2008. The nine transects sample a unique combination of synoptic and interannual variability affecting the clouds; their ensemble diagnoses longitude-vertical sections of the atmosphere, diurnal cycles of cloud properties and drizzle statistics, and the effect of stratocumulus clouds on surface radiation. Mean cloud fraction was 0.88 and 67% of 10-minute overhead cloud fraction observations were overcast. Clouds cleared in the afternoon (15 h local) to a minimum of fraction of 0.7. Precipitation radar found strong drizzle with reflectivity above 40 dBZ.

Cloud base heights rise with longitude from 1.0 km at 75°W to 1.2 km at 85°W in the mean, but the slope varies from cruise to cruise. Cloud base-lifting condensation level (CB-LCL) displacement, a measure of decoupling, increases westward. At night CB-LCL is 0-200 m, and increases 400 m from dawn to 16 h local time, before collapsing in the evening.

Despite zonal gradients in boundary layer and cloud vertical structure, surface radiation and cloud radiative forcing are relatively uniform in longitude. When present, clouds reduce solar radiation by 160 W m−2 and radiate 70 W m−2 more downward longwave radiation than clear skies. Coupled model intercomparison project (CMIP3) simulations of the climate of the 20th century show 40±20 W m−2 too little net cloud radiative cooling at the surface. Simulated clouds have correct radiative forcing when present, but models have ~50% too few clouds.

===============================================================

Given this order of magnitude blunder on clouds, it seems like an opportune time to plug Dr. Spencer’s book where he pointed out the 1-2% cloud forcing issue. Click to review and/or buy at Amazon.

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norah4you

Some most have forgotten to follow what’s known in real Science world….
Göran Frank, Experimental studies of the interaction of atmospheric aerosol particles with clouds and fogs, dissertation Lund University 2001, ISBN 91-7874-169-6

Rob Dawg

And here all this time I thought I was imagining that on those cloudy overcast nights it was not cooling off as much as on those bright cloudless evenings.

nlmangin3

Good point Rob, as well on warm, sunny day’s cloud’s move in and temps drop 10 degrees or more…also at CERN , new experiments have shown that the recent collapse of the solar winds allows more cosmic rays to penetrate our atmosphere and INCREASE cloud cover, therefore more cooling ahead

Yes, changes in cloud cover are the main cause of short-term fluctuations in global temperature. See Monckton of Brenchley (2010), Global brightening and climate sensitivity, Annual Proceedings, World Federation of Scientists. From 1983-2001 the naturally-occurring reduction in cloud cover possibly linked to the positive phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation caused close to 3 Watts per square meter of radiative forcing (the entire anthropogenic ghg forcing since 1750 was less than that). Late in 2001, according to the ISCCP dataset, the cloud cover returned to normal and there has been no global warming since.

High Treason

As all WUWT readers should know, it is not really about the science, it is about the conclusion and the unpalatable manipulations that can be achieved via these conclusions. All the “studies” that get trotted out are like the pathetic excuses habitual liars use to deflect attention from arguing the actual issue. Wait for the brush off. The liars behind the scenes will not want any attention for this article, so they will come out with another round of baseless BS as a diversion.
Bottom line- climate and weather are so complicated that we are unlikely to understand more than 40% of it. Claiming the science is settled is BS in the extreme. Really, the whole box of theories must be taken back to the drawing board since it is very clear the model MUST be incomplete as a parameter is missing.
Coming to a conclusion knowing important parameters have been omitted is scientific fraud.

Jquip

“The 40 watts/ square meter underestimate of cooling from clouds …” — OP
So if the models were actually based on physics, and our best understanding of the inputs, they’d have been projecting that we’re well into the next ice age and need to step up coal burning exercises to stave off the encroaching glaciers.
Well, thank goodness for models based on physics. >_>

Paul Vaughan

Clouds are just one of the components coupled into the neverending chicken-egg tail-chase. Getting a grip on constraints demands a broader perspective.

Readers might also recall that evidence has been found for Spencer’s 1-2% cloud fluctuation.

Henrik Svensmark’s The Chilling Stars suggests, IIRC, that similar increase in maritime stratus clouds would be enough change warming to cooling.
Lotsa of ways to say CO2 isn’t the demon gas some make it out to be.

jorgekafkazar

A similar issue is the method of estimation of ocean reflectance/absorbtivity within climate models. Reflectance of sunlight is a complex phenomenon and is dependent on zenith angle, wind temperature, density, humidity, velocity and direction, and ocean surface tension, viscosity, salinity, and plankton content, I doubt that any factor other than zenith angle is used by the models. Anyone know?

Martin Hertzberg

“When present, clouds reduce solar radiation by 160 W m−2 and radiate 70 W m−2 more downward longwave radiation than clear skies, “.
The first part of the sentence makes sense, but it is hard to understand how either clouds or clear skies at a lower temperature than the surface or the atmosphere below can radiate anything downward..

David, UK

[i]Let that 40 watts/ square meter sink in a moment.[/i]
I’m having trouble comprehending that figure. Could somebody convert it into Hiroshimas for me please?

“Let that 40 watts/ square meter sink in a moment.”
But with a little bit of thought. They are talking about a specific area. 20 °S and 10 ° of longitude. Just 7 cruises – we don’t know what time of year.
And the 40 W/m2 is an instantaneous variation in surface radiation balance. It isn’t loss to the planet, else we’d certainly have an ice age. There may be some extra albedo. But overall, the difference would mostly add to the large component of SW thermalized in the air rather than at the surface.
“When present, clouds reduce solar radiation by 160 W m-2 and radiate 70 W m-2 more downward longwave radiation than clear skies.”
This is an odd statement, when you think about it. Clouds come in all shapes and sizes. Insolation varies a lot during the year. But no distribution quoted?

It has been obvious from the get-go that anthropogenic CO2 was not an important factor (if one at all) in explaining the changing climate on planet earth. It is nice to see that a few hardy men and women are still willing to practice science in spite of all the money and accolades flowing to those practicing mindless myth-making.
Very good article today. Thanks Anthony.

“we don’t know what time of year”
I see I was wrong there; the cruises were always in about November. An even narrower range of observations.
The paper is available here. They are basically trying to explain a known local SST discrepancy between models and measured SST. Models are known to overestimate in this particular region.

SandyInLimousin

Nick Stokes
Models are known to overestimate in this particular region.
Any other known errors in the models, it’s only a model after all?

john robertson

well they are consistent, pretty much everything the Team(TM IPCC) does biases the models high.
No highly alarming preprogrammed results results in no more funding.
Science was never more than a cloak for their naked ambition.

jones

David, UK says:
November 29, 2013 at 1:21 pm
[i]Let that 40 watts/ square meter sink in a moment.[/i]
I’m having trouble comprehending that figure. Could somebody convert it into Hiroshimas for me please?
But of course….
It’s approximately 0.0000000000000000000000032128% of a Hiroshima per metre square per calender month. Approximately.
Henceforth to be annotated as Hiro’s.
I hope I have been of assistance..Have a nice day.
Dr Evil

dp

Because of vertical structure and slant range cloud shadows cover more surface area than their footprint might suggest and because they move, they cannot be considered to be near the source of heat that created them.

Mark Bofill

But.. But… Energy budget! blah blah blah… Models show! blah blah blah… Tree rings! blah blah blah
/ sarc

Henry Clark

When, for example, a paper calculates that “0.5 +/- 0.2K out of the observed 0.6 +/- 0.2K global warming” over the past century comes from natural solar/GCR variation (Shaviv 2005), the primary observed mechanism is variation in cloud cover (and actually also in average cloud heights though with that usually less discussed).
Variation in albedo (including clouds) is the prime driver of changes in Earth’s climate on most relevant timescales.
Variation in cloud cover, temperature, glacial extent, cosmic ray flux, solar activity, and more all tie together for timeframes from recent decades to data centuries back, as illustrated in http://img176.imagevenue.com/img.php?image=81829_expanded_overview_122_424lo.jpg
But once that is seen, there is nothing left for CAGW to stand on.
Like the enormous tens of percent increase in plant productivity and water usage efficiency in going from pre-industrial to future levels of CO2, the large overall net cooling effect of white clouds is among the facts very deliberately not publicized by activists.
“Given this order of magnitude blunder on clouds, it seems like an opportune time to plug Dr. Spencer’s book where he pointed out the 1-2% cloud forcing issue.”
Indeed. And another publication of Dr. Spencer is also relevant:
http://www.drroyspencer.com/2011/05/indirect-solar-forcing-of-climate-by-galactic-cosmic-rays-an-observational-estimate/
When Dr. Spencer’s analysis of cloud variation under cosmic ray influence leads to him remarking:
The results suggest that the total (direct + indirect) solar forcing is at least 3.5 times stronger than that due to changing solar irradiance alone
… that is a ratio fitting the results of others like Dr. Shaviv and, for instance, a Dergachev et al 2004 paper which noted “Svensmark [1998] proved that a temperature change produced by the GCR effect on the clouds from 1975 to 1989 was 3-5 times greater than the temperature change caused by changes in the total solar irradiation.”

apachewhoknows

The next group who get the low bid U.N. contract to study Global Warming aka Climate Change aka CO2 kills should be required to do all the work out doors with no heating or cooling of the people involved in the data gathering. Seems that it is/would be important that this be done considering these prior did not get much real world experience while on the job. Junk in, junk out.
Sort of a control of the control group.

Thanks Nick,
It gets weary pointing out the obvious. 40 watts, 40 watts, 40 watts, is all they read and jump to conclusions. not very skeptical this crowd.. well selectively skeptical.
When the models are improved they will complain that the models are being fixed.

Alec aka Daffy Duck

Something else new: 11/28/2013
Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation slowdown cooled the subtropical ocean
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013GL058464/abstract

Steven Mosher says:
November 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm
Thanks Nick,
It gets weary pointing out the obvious. 40 watts, 40 watts, 40 watts, is all they read and jump to conclusions. not very skeptical this crowd.. well selectively skeptical.
When the models are improved they will complain that the models are being fixed
==============================================================
Well, you didn’t disappoint.
What are chances the models will correctly reflect the clouds in the near future?

Teddi

@ Steven Mosher says:
November 29, 2013 at 2:54 pm
The fact is the models were wrong. And those models were used to push an agenda which at the very least has lead to bad policies and a great waste of money, effort and time throughout the world – not to mention crashing some careers [for speaking out] along the way.
Statements like this “When the models are improved they will complain that the models are being fixed.” are both arrogant and misleading. Based on what has transpired, people have an inherent right to be skeptical of the credibility of any who attached themselves to this magnificent failed theory called CAGW.

jmorpuss

It’s my belief the main driver for climate change is the difference in temperature of the ELECTRON in the troposphere paticals float around in a sea of electrons Look into the fairweather and foul weather electric fields and how they work in oposite direction . This process drives high and low pressure systems.Now wrap this process around Coulomb’s Law

aaron

I still suspect that a lot of the believed water vapor feedback is based on the change during the Pinatubo cooling, which I think ignored the effect of decreased direct SW radiation on water and moist surfaces (e.g. soil).

Jquip

@Nick Stokes: “They are basically trying to explain a known local SST discrepancy between models and measured SST. Models are known to overestimate in this particular region.”
Ah, good then. Since it’s a known bad value they can correct it like TOBS, right?
Simulated clouds have correct radiative forcing when present, but models have ~50% too few clouds. — Right there in the OP
So yeh, yet another empty sophistry on your part. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply appreciate that your statements are so consistently false in a backwards fashion. It’s a good signpost to where the truth lies.

Leonard Lane

I think we should also acknowledge Willis’ work at the “small scale” of individual thunderstorms and how in aggregate they regulate temperature over the ocean.

Jquip says: November 29, 2013 at 3:34 pm
“Since it’s a known bad value they can correct it like TOBS, right?”

That’s not what they are doing. You should read the paper. It begins:
“Accurate simulation of tropical southeastern Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) is challenging for coupled general circulation models (GCMs; Mechoso et al. 1995; Davey et al. 2002; de Szoeke and Xie 2008). Warm errors of 2°C in SST are found at 20°S, 75°W in most of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) models assessed by de Szoeke et al. (2010).”
So they made observations to find out, and ascertained that in that transect, in November, models are underestimating observed cloud.
Isn’t this how science should proceed?

Pippen Kool

Teddi says: “Statements like this “When the models are improved they will complain that the models are being fixed.” are both arrogant and misleading. Based on what has transpired, people have an inherent right to be skeptical of the credibility of any who attached themselves to this magnificent failed theory called CAGW.”
Sort of like being skeptical of cars because model T’s were so lame. But, at the time, they were the best that we had.

davidmhoffer

I would like to thank Steven Mosher for reminding me how stupid I am while doing nothing to educate me. I would also like to thank Pippen, who makes me even more stupider just from reedng wut him dun sed.

dalyplanet

Paul Vaughan
Thank you for the excellent link to Sidorenkov. It will take some time to read and understand it all, but it is a remarkable reference.

Robert of Ottawa

I can almost hear http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slartibartfast saying: “Climate models don’t do clouds|”.

Gavin Hetherington

Pippen Kool says:
“Sort of like being skeptical of cars because model T’s were so lame. But, at the time, they were the best that we had.”
Argument by analogy is almost always a waste of breath but that’s just cretinous.

rogerknights

CliSci—Good enough for government work.

James Smyth

Sort of like being skeptical of cars because model T’s were so lame. But, at the time, they were the best that we had.
Great analogy. My Grandmother was always complaining that the Model T took their family to the butcher’s, rather than the baker’s on the next block.

After reading here for some time, like from 2006 or so can not remember for sure. Do post some.
Got an EE degree back in the 1960’s and it was not easy at all then. Used it all the way to the research and development operation at GD Ft. Worth Tx. on the F-111 terrain following radar.
Any how lots of info here and there are lots of good facts now on the net for all to see. This information and the East Anglia University together I am sure have reached Pres. Obama and the decision makers in the White House Executive part of the U.S. Government. Therefore I am sure as you all should be that they will do the right thing and follow the facts known by all who truly want to know.
We can rest easy tonight and in the days ahead knowing they will not follow the mis-information
from the likes of Michael Mann eta that will only cause great harm to our country and most of humanity world wide.
Lets all just get along and let one another feel good and let our emotions rule us all.
Sweet dreams, nite nite
(sarc)

As Spencer says, a few percentage of cloud cover change can cause climate changes of the magnitude of the observation via an albedo change.
See Figure 19 in
Scafetta, N. 2013. Discussion on climate oscillations: CMIP5 general circulation models versus a semi-empirical harmonic model based on astronomical cycles. Earth-Science Reviews 126, 321-357.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012825213001402
where it is observed a very good correction between the global surface temperature against variations in total global cloud cover since July 1983 (P(|r| ≥ |ro|) b 0.0005. The cloud data are from the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP)).
Figure 20 of the same paper shows a comparison with the cosmic ray index.

scf

Who knew shade was cooler?

We don’t understand clouds so the models are an order of magnitude off. The “best minds” of climate science have resolved the energy balance to 0.6 +/- 17 watts/m^2, and discuss it as a “budget”. In most disciplines and my years in chemical processes an order of magnitude uncertainty would negate the model I’m using. The uncertainty in the energy balance would be 0 in any process model/estimate I’ve ever been around. If I had ever proposed expensive changes based on schlock like that all I’d hear was the laughter as I started with my new employment with the State Employment Security Commission.
If I were a real scientist studying climate, I’d really be upset at by the charlatans who claim to be climate scientists and use stuff like this.

SAMURAI

In IPCC’s AR reports, these scoundrels freely admit Climate models don’t model clouds well at all… (accidentally on purpose…)
Under any interpretation of the Scientific Method, CAGW already deserves to be thrown on the trash heap of failed hypotheses, with NO RSS warming trend since October 1996– despite 1/3rd of ALL manmade CO2 emissions since 1750 made over the last 17 years…
This, umm, cloud “misunderstanding” is the IPPC’s get-out-of-jail-free card, which “scientists” will play to the hilt when this CAGW scam crashes and burns within the next 5 years and they’re testifying in front of Parliamentary and Congressional CAGW hearings explaining how they could have been so wrong for so many years about this CAGW scam.

Joni Mitchell had our knowledge of clouds down pat.
http://songmeanings.com/songs/view/25181/

Paul Vaughan

dalyplanet (November 29, 2013 at 4:12 pm) wrote:
“Thank you for the excellent link to Sidorenkov. It will take some time to read and understand it all, but it is a remarkable reference.”
You’re very welcome. It’s a very refreshing read.
It gives background for interpreting Dickey & Keppenne‘s (NASA JPL 1997) figure 3a&b, which has simple consequences.
Regards

r murphy

Pippin really? That has to be the most disconnected analogy I ever….

Brian H

So the warming anomaly, already carefully and egregiously overstated, is also swamped by major omissions and error sources in the models.
What could go wrong?

@ Mosher.
Uh … the Models are “fixed”. 😃

r murphy says:
“Pippin really? That has to be the most disconnected analogy I ever…”
Agreed, that is a really bad analogy.
Why?
Because models are not a hundred years old like a Model T; they are current, and extremely expensive, and they are still completely wrong!
After wasting more than a $BILLION every year since 2001 on these worthless models, they should either perform, or be trashed.
GCMs are always wrong for one simple reason: they are programmed with the assumption that CO2 causes rising temperatures, when in reality, it is ∆T that causes ∆CO2.
Start with a wrong assumption, and the conclusion is bound to be wrong.

Nick Stokes

dbstealey says: November 29, 2013 at 8:28 pm
“GCMs are always wrong for one simple reason: they are programmed with the assumption that CO2 causes rising temperatures, when in reality, it is ΔT that causes ΔCO2.”

You have no idea how they are programmed. No such assumption is made.

John F. Hultquist

Isn’t this how science should proceed?
[Nick Stokes says: November 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm]
Indeed. Scientists, especially those pushing CAGW, should admit the “challenging” nature of the subject and explain to all the activist policy makers that clarity has not yet been achieved. Please spare us this sort of statement:
““ There is now, he said, “much more clarity.” It “is a scientific finding” that climate change is humanity’s fault. ”” [Ban Ki-moon, 2013, Warsaw]
See post here:
http://nofrakkingconsensus.com/2013/11/29/un-climate-fanatics/