We don't know clouds

CloudsToo many variables like clouds to model future climate with precision

Guest essay by Rolf Westgard

A new United Nations report suggests an imminent danger from global warming. It states that without drastic action we may have “to develop the ability to suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and store them underground”.

Minnesota already has millions of devices which do that. They are called trees and plants. They take in carbon dioxide(CO2), store the carbon(C), and return the oxygen(O) for us to breath.

It is actually not clear that our fossil fuel burning CO2 emissions are a serious global warming threat. There are many poorly understood ocean temperature variables which have a bigger impact on earth temperatures. These include the El Nino cycle and the Pacific Decade Oscillation. Confusion over how those work helps to cause the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) to regularly over estimate temperature warming trends.

Undeterred, federal and state legislatures are spending billions in response to guesses about our climate future. In addition to ocean cycles, there are several other poorly understood natural climate feedbacks.  These act as natural thermostats, keeping the earth’s average temperature during inter glacial periods within a fairly narrow range. One of the most important is the action of clouds. Clouds are water vapor, a green house gas which warms us. Clouds reflect the sun’s light, cooling us. Clouds produce rain which removes CO2 from the atmosphere, etc.

A few lines from a popular song about clouds, “Both Sides Now”,  pretty much sums up where we are with clouds and other climate variables:

“But now they only block the sun, they rain and snow on everyone.

So many things I would have done but clouds got in my way.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow

It’s cloud illusions I recall.

I really don’t know clouds at all.”

At this point, no one knows how to accurately plug the impact of clouds or other climate variables into climate forecasting models.

(Westgard is guest faculty on energy subjects for the U of MN Lifelong Learning

program. He recently taught class #17016 “America’s Climate and Energy Future: the Next 25 Years”)

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Symon

We know clouds here in the UK. They’re full of water. For a while.
(BTW, breath is a noun, breathe is the verb.)

More clouds, less energy into the oceans to drive the climate system.
Less clouds, more energy into the oceans to drive the climate system.
Solar variations appear to change global cloudiness by expanding and contracting the polar vortices thereby making the polar air masses change the extent to which they encroach across middle latitudes.
A quiet sun gives more equatorward / meridional jets and more clouds whereas an active sun gives more poleward / zonal jets and less clouds.
The mechanism appears to involve changes in stratosphere temperatures via changes in the net ozone creation / destruction balance which cause tropopause heights to rise or fall in higher latitudes relative to the heights above the equator.
The effect is to greatly amplify the scale of the initial solar variations by altering Earth’s albedo to affect energy amounts taken up by the oceans.
That mechanism is not proved yet but looking more likely as more data comes in.

Henry Clark

Earth’s average cloud cover has changed by multiple percent over recent decades*, let alone compared to further back, and the impact of the corresponding albedo change is large in context (when, for perspective, all of global warming over the past century was merely <=~ 0.6 K or thus <=~ a 0.2% change in an average absolute temperature near 298 K).
* (As illustrated along with much else in http://img213.imagevenue.com/img.php?image=62356_expanded_overview3_122_1094lo.jpg )

Edim

Not only total cloud cover can have an influence on global climate – change in latitudinal distribution of clouds will have an influence, even at constant average cloud cover.

tango

I have been informed by a doctor that they will not take there medication please take it for they no not what they a doing

Henry Clark

Edim: Yes, and also variation in average cloud altitude.

Kelvin Vaughan

I would have thought the radiation from a cloud depends on its height. The higher a cloud is the colder it is. The colder it is the less the energy it is radiating down. So if CO2 warms the atmosphere the clouds will warm, rise higher, get even colder and radiate back less energy.

Richard.

NASA states clouds on average cause cooling.

johnmarshall

There is no empirical data showing that CO2 causes temperature increases. In fact empirical data shows the exact opposite.
Clouds, well we do not understand them. 90% are caused by convection which disproves IPCC claims that latent heat is not an important sink for heat. Convective cloud is full of heat that is lost to space. That is where Trenberth,s missing heat is not the oceans.

“So if CO2 warms the atmosphere the clouds will warm, rise higher, get even colder and radiate back less energy.”
I would go further and say that if GHGs do have a net warming effect within an atmosphere then that simply causes more and larger parcels of air to rise higher, become colder and radiate less energy back to the surface.
Thus does a change in the vigour of convection apply an equal and opposite thermal response to any GHG effect.
The presence of water vapour low down and condensate higher up simply lubricates the process by converting KE near the surface to latent form and releasing it from the condensate higher up for radiation to space from that greater, colder height thereby accelerating radiative loss to help offset any net warming from GHGs that would have occurred in the absence of increased convection.
Note that increased convection does not need a warmer surface, merely warmer parcels of air within the vertical column.
However such an effect on convection from GHGs appears to pale into insignificance compared to the changes in convection caused by solar and oceanic variability.
The thermostatic response of global convection (and the clouds generated by it) is simply a global expression of the tropical thunderstorm hypothesis promulgated by Willis Eschenbach and others but carried to the logical conclusion in a global context.
The physical purpose of convection (lubricated by the water cycle) is in providing a mechanism whereby conduction and radiation within the Earth system are balanced as necessary to ensure the long term maintenance of radiative balance with space.

MikeB

Clouds are water vapor, a green house gas which warms us.

Clouds are NOT water vapour. Water vapour is an invisible gas. You can see clouds, so they are NOT water vapour.
In a field where there is so much misunderstanding already, I think it is important to avoid adding to the confusion by using loose, inaccurate or incorrect statements [where possible].

Andyj

Fossil fuels already are trapped and stored underground carbon.. So why do they want to re-bury it along with our oxygen this time?
I have the answer.. TO TAKE MONEY OFF THE SCHMUCKS!
Seriously, anyone and everyone who proposes or implements this [snip].
[OTT – mod]

pat

in line with the “underground” theme, what to make of this?
30 Jan: UK Independent: Jamie Merrill: Growing Underground: Michel Roux Jr reveals plans for subterranean farm in the depths of empty south London tunnels
Thanks to advancement in LED lighting technology, the plant-friendly temperature found 100ft below ground and some support from celebrity chef Michel Roux Jr, the damp Second World War air raid shelter is being transformed into the capital’s first underground farm.
The brainchild of foodie entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring, and their firm Zero Carbon Foods, the project, which covers 2.5 acres has already harvested some of its first crop of peashoots, micro radish and mustard redleaf.
Mr Roux, the two-star Michelin chef behind Le Gavroche and one of the stars of “Masterchef: The Professionals”, was an early fan and is now a director of the company…
The site has been leased by Zero Carbon Foods from its owner Transport for London for 25 years but trials have been running for 18 months already. Now the firm is expand production and is seeking £1m in crowd-sourced funding to bring its subterranean herbs, shoots, miniature vegetables, edible flowers and other delicacies to Britain’s high-end restaurants and food stores…
Ballard: “The advancements in LED lighting technology mean we can do this more affordably and efficiently and because we’re underground at a constant temperature we don’t need to add a lot of heat, which they often have to do in conventional farming.”….
According to the farm’s creators the project will be carbon neutral and use low-energy LED bulbs and an integrated hydroponics system…
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/growing-underground-michel-roux-jr-reveals-plans-for-subterranean-farm-in-the-depths-of-empty-south-london-tunnels-9096184.html
VIDEO: 31 Jan: UK Telegraph: Growing Underground: London’s subterranean farm
Harry Wallop visits a futuristic market garden that lies a full 100 feet under the streets of central London
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/10607635/Growing-Underground-Londons-subterranean-farm.html

Dodgy Geezer

…30 Jan: UK Independent: Jamie Merrill: Growing Underground: Michel Roux Jr reveals plans for subterranean farm in the depths of empty south London tunnels…
Presumably using similar technology to that used by the drug gangs to grow cannabis plants in basements and attics…

What do I make of the underground farm? This is what I think of the underground farm :
http://metronews.ca/news/vancouver/921946/vancouvers-first-vertical-urban-farm-goes-bankrupt/

steveta_uk

A few lines from a popular song about clouds, “Both Sides Now”

Pretty poor form to quote the song without creditting the writer.

steveta_uk says:
February 11, 2014 at 4:33 am
>> A few lines from a popular song about clouds, “Both Sides Now”
> Pretty poor form to quote the song without creditting the writer.
Joni Mitchell, best sung by Judy Collins.
Its about time someone looks at climate science from both sides, now.
Oh what the heck, this isn’t a major post, I can go off on a tangent and not feel apologetic.
Heinlein wrote the best SF novel that should be a movie, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. Judy Collins sang a song of the same title that would be a wonderful opening scene. Between the CGI in Titanic and the vomit comet in Apollo 13, would someone please make the movie?

john Peter

“garymount says:
February 11, 2014 at 4:04 am
What do I make of the underground farm? This is what I think of the und11erground farm :
http://metronews.ca/news/vancouver/921946/vancouvers-first-vertical-urban-farm-goes-bankrupt/
garymount could have missed the point.
“Now the firm is expand production and is seeking £1m in crowd-sourced funding to bring its subterranean herbs, shoots, miniature vegetables, edible flowers and other delicacies to Britain’s high-end restaurants and food stores…”
The point is that production costs are not likely to be an issue here.

taxed

l don’t think its so much that clouds are a big game changer in climate. But rather the size and the movement of the weather patterns that help to cause them. Because l think that a cause of ice age was that the weather patterns became larger in surface area and so became much slower moving and stable, so as to let cold winter weather bed in year after year. Because a waving jet stream will not form a ice age because it makes the weather to changeable for that to happen. What’s needed for a ice age to form is for the jet stream to push south and go zonal over a large area of the globe so as to allow huge area’s of high pressure to form in the NH and set up huge pools of cold air. Because of this growth in the size of the area’s high pressure it means the area’s of low pressure also become larger and much slower moving, and because of this the whole weather patterns in the NH starts to grind to a halt and become stable. Which is just what is needed for a ice age to form.

Apology on breath vs breathe. I’m a geologist, not an English major. Rolf

John Peter says:
February 11, 2014 at 4:58 am
– – –
If you read my link, you would see that the technologies are similar.

The problem is that what we do know about clouds is not incorporated into IPPC models. If the processes that occur in clouds were included in those models, there would very likely be no CO2 “sensitivity”. From what I have observed, clouds are controlling both the atmospheric concentration and distribution of CO2. CO2 concentration changes lag temperature changes.

SAMURAI

I’m sorry, guys…
I couldn’t resist; it’s such a beautiful song by Joni:
http://youtu.be/bcrEqIpi6sg
Cheers!

Berényi Péter

Distribution of atmospheric water is uneven, fractal like, in a scale invariant manner. Therefore, even under clear sky conditions, average optical depth in a water vapor absorption band is pretty independent of average specific humidity, the latter providing only an upper bound. Higher moments of distribution, necessary to calculate radiative properties, are neither measured nor represented in computational models.
Clouds are roughly defined by regions, where relative humidity exceeds 100%, this is why they are fractals as well.
Atmospheric lifetime of moisture is restricted, it is 9 days on average. Absolute humidity of an air parcel depends on its history, that is, on its temperature the last time it got saturated, not on its immediate surroundings. Shape of this parcel gets distorted with time into a fine mesh due to turbulent flows, described by mathematically intractable Navier-Stokes equations. Unfortunately neither Reynolds averaging nor large eddy simulation can offer help in this case, because in the real atmosphere the parameter regime needed for closure is never covered with experimental data. With a submillimeter mixing length scale, the 100 km resolution of general circulation models is somewhat ridiculous.
As none of the water vapor feedback effects can be modelled computationally using first principles, neither experimental control is possible in the atmosphere, only unverified &. unverifiable guesses are available to incorporate them into models by parametrization. Still, with no large positive “water vapor feedback” all dire predictions (projections!) evaporate.

kenin

[snip – chemtrails junk, policy violation -mod]

Taxed said:
“What’s needed for a ice age to form is for the jet stream to push south and go zonal over a large area of the globe so as to allow huge areas of high pressure to form in the NH and set up huge pools of cold air.”
There is truth in that. For a full on ice age one would need both equatoward jets and a greater degree of low latitude zonality than we currently observe.
I think that, during periods of transition, meridionality increases first then as cooling digs in the expansion of the polar air masses pushing outwards begins to reintroduce zonality but at a lower latitude.
During an interglacial, one mostly sees changes in zonality / meridionality rather than poleward / equatorward shifting though the latter still occurs to some degree but is less obvious on short time scales.

steveta_uk

Look now folks – kenin’s comment will soon be disappeared (as it should be).

Roy

Why do we need to understand clouds; it is not as if they have anything to do with the weather, is it? After all, we know that the science is settled. Therefore, since we already know everything about climate change, anything that we don’t know must be irrelevant.

Gail Combs

Stephen Wilde says: @ February 11, 2014 at 1:26 am
…..That mechanism is not proved yet but looking more likely as more data comes in.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
I do not know if you have seen these papersthat have to do with the sun, ocean and possible cloud cover.: (I adjusted the links so WordPress would not kick me into the nearest snowdrift)
“Atmospheric Ionization and Clouds as links between solar activiy and climate”
(wwwDOT)agu.org/books/gm/v141/141GM22.pdf‎ (Note: American Geophysical Union killed my old link so this might not work either ) or try – onlinelibrary(DOT)wiley.com/doi/10.1029/141GM22/summary
Solar forcing of the Indian summer monsoon variability during the Ållerød period(wwwDOT)nature.com/srep/2013/130925/srep02753/full/srep02753.html
Possible Solar Forcing of Late Holocene Mega-Droughts in India lasp{DOT}colorado.edu/sorce/news/2005ScienceMeeting/presentations/thur_am/Sinha_India_Droughts.pdf
There are several other papers on the India Monsoon – solar connection. Monsoons are too critical to India, southeast Asia and China for the politics to get in the way of science so it is a “Dig Here” area.
Regional atmospheric circulation shifts induced by a grand solar minimum (wwwDOT)nature.com/ngeo/journal/v5/n6/abs/ngeo1460.html
Variations in solar magnetic activity during the last 200 000 years: is there a Sun–climate connection? (wwwDOT)sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0012821X02005162
Two solar cycles of nonincreasing magnetic flux onlinelibrarywiley(DOT)com/doi/10.1029/2001JA000503/abstract
Multidecadal Covariability of North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature, African Dust, Sahel Rainfall, and Atlantic Hurricanes journals(DOT)ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-11-00413.1
Persistent influence of the North Atlantic hydrography on central European winter temperature during the last 9000 years onlinelibrary.wiley(DOT)com/doi/10.1029/2006GL028600/abstract
Multidecadal variability and late medieval cooling of near-coastal sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropical North Atlantic onlinelibrary(DOT)wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2011PA002130/abstract
Trends in sunspots and North Atlantic sea level pressure onlinelibrary(DOT)wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2012JD017502/abstract
Given the recent increase to record ice in the Antarctic these papers may also be of interest. Please note this map showing a tongue of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current headed up the side of South America to the place where El Niño and La Niña starts. Bob Tisdale and Willis have connected clouds to changes in ocean and atmospheric temperature, so again a possibly good “Dig Here’ place.
Orbitally paced shifts in the particle size of Antarctic continental shelf sediments in response to ice dynamics during the Miocene climatic optimum geosphere(DOT)gsapubs.org/content/9/1/54.abstract
On the meridional extent and fronts of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (wwwDOT)sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/096706379500021W
Intrinsic variability of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current system: low- and high-frequency fluctuations of the Argentine Basin flow (wwwDOT)ocean-sci-discuss.net/10/1933/2013/osd-10-1933-2013.html
New Source Found For Cold, Deep Antarctic Currents (wwwDOT)livescience.com/27390-antarctic-bottom-water-current-found.html

Jeff Alberts

Symon says:
February 11, 2014 at 1:23 am
We know clouds here in the UK. They’re full of water. For a while.
(BTW, breath is a noun, breathe is the verb.)

Willis would say that doesn’t matter, since English isn’t logical. So feel free to orange water given bucket of plaster.

Thanks, Gail.
I’m mainly waiting on new data for the post 2007 period as regards ozone and temperature changes in the stratosphere above and below 45km.

kenin

can someone please explain why my last comment about geo-engineering
was cut?

Theo Goodwin

MikeB says:
February 11, 2014 at 3:18 am
Clouds are water vapor, a green house gas which warms us.
“Clouds are NOT water vapour. Water vapour is an invisible gas. You can see clouds, so they are NOT water vapour.
In a field where there is so much misunderstanding already, I think it is important to avoid adding to the confusion by using loose, inaccurate or incorrect statements [where possible].”
Yes, it is very important to stick to the facts. Clouds reflect visible light. Water vapor does not reflect visible light. Determining Earth’s albedo is crucial for any science of global warming. We cannot know what Earth’s albedo is if we are unwilling to research clouds as reflectors of visible light.

kenin

The following was taken from section two of the Weather Modification Act of The government of Canada:
“weather modification activity” includes any action designed or intended to produce, by physical or chemical means, changes in the composition or dynamics of the atmosphere for the purpose of increasing, decreasing or redistributing precipitation, decreasing or suppressing hail or lightning or dissipating fog or cloud.

usurbrain

It is not JUST the clouds it is ALL of H2O. I have never seen any paper that talks about all of the different phases of H2O ascribed to their affects on the atmosphere and “Global Warming.” All I ever get when I ask about it is “the water vapor leaves the atmosphere in a few days and has no effect.” Well the “water” that is in a river leaves the position it is in, in the river, in a few seconds – AND YOU CAN STILL DROWN IN THAT SPOT IN THE RIVER. The fact that the percent of water in the atmosphere remains fairly constant and at a level that means it is about 20 – 100 times as effective at controlling the temperature of the earth means a lot more that “it leaves the atmosphere in a few days.”
First off you have the latent heat of fusion (melting) and latent heat of vaporization (boiling). [Latent heat – enthalpy] When this happens there is a flow of energy when changing from one phase to the next: from solid to liquid, and liquid to gas. Melting and boiling are endothermic, meaning that the system absorbs energy when going from solid to liquid to gas. However the change is exothermic (the process releases energy) for the opposite direction – gas to liquid, liquid to solid. When a water molecule evaporates from the surface of any body of water, energy is absorbed by the water molecule and results in a lower temperature of the a few molecules of the air in the immediate vicinity of this transformation. It does not have to “boil” like a pot of water on a stove to get this energy. A few rays of sunlight striking the surface of the water can get it close and then the rest comes from the air. This water vapor is now a gas, like O2, and is carried in rivers in the atmosphere that carry more water vapor than the Amazon River carries water. When it rains, that water vapor, will, has to, MUST, release that energy, enthalpy, back into the surrounding air, making that area warmer, transporting that energy miles high into the atmosphere. Now you have to throw in the fact that this temperature (of fusion or vaporization) changes with pressure.
Similarly when that water vapor freezes, energy will be released and the air temperature will increase in the immediate vicinity.
Some of the various atmospheric currents can cause the water vapor that has turned into water droplets (clouds) again reabsorb that energy. Or the rain that is falling to “evaporate” – absorb energy and make it cooler, and never hit the ground. Other currents and conditions can cause the vapor to turn into snow and release that stored energy. Or the snowflakes that are on their way down to melt and cool the air in that area. Just like the old fashioned ice-cream maker worked – the salt started the melting which required more energy which was taken from the cream.
Then we have sublimation and that energy transfer and it also works both ways Solid to Gas and Gas to Solid. If there are rivers of water larger than the Amazon, and many of them I am told, then there are actually transmission line of energy larger than any power transmission lines man has built on Earth. AND NO ONE IS TALKING ABOUT WHERE ALL OF THAT ENERGY IS GOING OR WHAT IT DOING.
All of this makes even a model of just this one concept of the atmosphere (near) impossible.

darrylb

MikeB
That water vapor and cloud equivalence statement caught might eye also. I am generally skeptical of AGW but it and a few things made me skeptical about this post.
Clouds and water vapor have distinctly different effects on heat absorption and reflection.
There was much concern among the climate change community when at the Hadron collider
at Cern it was shown that the possibility of variations in solar emissions could cause vapor to coalesce into larger water particles (clouds)
In general high clouds and vapor in the atmosphere tend to cool the earth and Roy Spencer has indicated that only a 1 or 2% change in the higher atmosphere could account for all the changes we see. The higher clouds cool because on average they reflect more solar irradiance back into space. Incidently, Spencer used that ‘I have looked at clouds from both sides now’ in his book.
Low clouds tend to warm the atmosphere because of their back radiation of IR (Heat) frequencies
coming from the earth. It was known a hundred years ago that CO2 was saturated with respect to the IR frequencies it could absorb. Then came quantum mechanics and the idea that the feedback from the CO2 could cause more water vapor/ and clouds to form.
So the idea of not knowing about clouds and water vapor is generally at the core of the uncertainty and what could be. Water Vapor is the only gas in the atmosphere which is not homogeneous.
Assumptions have simply been made about historical quantities at various altitudes because until recently there is no record.

Bill Parsons

Minnesota already has millions of devices which (store greenhouse gasses and make it cooler). They are called trees and plants. They take in carbon dioxide(CO2), store the carbon(C), and return the oxygen(O) for us to breath.

And look at where that’s gotten them: http://blogs.mprnews.org/updraft/2014/02/coldest-winter-in-30-years-so-far-warmer-pattern-shift-next-week/?from=weather
It’s so cold there that people beat each other with sticks to stay warm.
http://www.teamusa.org/Road-to-Sochi-2014/Features/2013/June/24/USA-Hockey-Announces-Roster-For-US-Womens-National-Team
What’s needed in Minnesota is fewer trees and more teeth.

Gail Combs

taxed says: @ February 11, 2014 at 5:05 am
…. Because a waving jet stream will not form a ice age because it makes the weather to changeable for that to happen. What’s needed for a ice age to form is for the jet stream to push south and go zonal over a large area of the globe so as to allow huge area’s of high pressure to form in the NH and set up huge pools of cold air….
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
The shape of the Laurentide Ice Sheet from the Wisconsin Ice Age suggests different. link The cold weather from the ‘polar vortex’ link
The Rocky Mtns help funnel the cold air towards the plains while the oceans act as giant modifiers for the east and west coast.

Alan McIntire

“Edim says:
February 11, 2014 at 1:51 am
Not only total cloud cover can have an influence on global climate – change in latitudinal distribution of clouds will have an influence, even at constant average cloud cover.”
Also the day/night ratio of cloud cover- as anyone who steps outside on a winter clear night versis a winter overcast night will notice immediately,

Alan McIntire

Speaking of clouds, I thought this post by Michael Hammer on Jennifer Marohasy’s website was interesting. Check the figures- most of earth’s greenhouse effect is due to CLOUDS
http://jennifermarohasy.com/2009/03/radical-new-hypothesis-on-the-effect-of-greenhouse-gases/

george e. smith

As soon as the word “clouds” gets mentioned, people forget that the issue is CLIMATE and not LAST NIGHT’S WEATHER !!
So if talking about CHANGES in cloud cover, we have to talk of changes that PERSIST for climatically significant periods of time; like 30 or 60 years or so; not here tonight and gone tomorrow.
Clouds (liquid and solid H2O) react differently to Solar spectrum energy (0.2 to 4.0) micron wavelength (for 98% of the total), and LWIR Radiant energy; either surface or atmospheric emitted thermal radiation, or GHG emitted band spectra radiation.
Incoming solar spectrum radiation; particularly visible wavelengths shorter than about one micron, get highly scattered by multiple refractions by water droplets and ice crystals. It is NOT reflection; well maybe 3-5% is reflection. Water droplets of suspendable size, refract a highly collimated (0.5 deg. divergence) solar beam, into a very wide angle (approaches 90 deg.) exit distribution, so just three or so sequential refractions, renders the suns rays almost totally isotropic. Even very small droplets that become diffraction limited, result in wide angle scattering. The result is as much as 80% isotropic scattering that looks like diffuse reflection to the eye (from a plane). The important thing is that it is solar spectrum radiant energy; that is largely directed out into space..
Well, of course, tall cumulous type structures, will scatter plenty of oblique solar energy down to the surface. That radiation might have simply gone right on by, in the absence of the cloud, so it adds to the surface energy. But such clouds, will also scatter solar energy that would have totally missed the surface, back to space; so it’s a debatable point. The tops of course should be a net energy loss to the surface.
With the surface emitted LWIR radiation that is somewhat black body like (thermal radiation) , at the purported mean surface Temperature of 288 K, is centered at 10.1 microns, and should have most of its energy between 5 microns, and 80 microns. CO2 in the atmosphere will alter the spectrum, in the 15 micron band, perhaps 13 to 17 microns.
A good part of this spectrum, is highly absorbed by water, with of course the atmospheric window in the 10 micron region, where the ozone GHG hole resides at 9.6 microns.
But the surface of the earth is anything but 288 K. Large portions of the surface area is ocean, much of which is warmer than 15 deg. C. And on land, the tropical deserts, are radiating at much higher Temperatures and shorter wavelengths, peaking nearer 8 microns, than 10.1.
In any case, water and ice in clouds, is highly absorbing at these wavelengths, and droplets around 50 microns or larger, absorb almost all of the radiation in the water bands. The true reflectance of water and ice in the long infra-red is not very different from the visible, so clouds do not really REFLECT the upward LWIR radiant energy. They absorb it, and then re-emit it largely as a thermal spectrum characteristic of the cloud Temperature, but also with an H2O band spectrum signature.
The portion of this in the CO2 15 micron band, now has to face re-absorption in the atmosphere on the way to the surface, so CO2 would inhibit that portion of the thermal spectrum, from reaching the surface.
Well this would then be expected to warm the atmosphere, just as the upward LWIR does, but it does not seem to be much of a surface warmer. Certainly the cloud downward LWIR energy, is not likely to get stored in the deep oceans.
Even small increases (for climate time scales) of the global amount of cloud cover can have a large effect on the total solar energy reaching the deep ocean storage.
How anyone can make positive feedback warming out of cloud increases over multi-decadal time scales, is beyond me.
But I’m always happy to learn.

CRS, DrPH

I’ve noticed that folks focus on the big, white fluffy Cumulonimbus when it comes to radiative forcings, albedo etc. However, as we’ve discussed in the past, noctilucent clouds exist…what is their effect upon climate?
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/04/20/nasa-takes-aim-on-noctilucent-clouds/

Gail Combs

usurbrain says: @ February 11, 2014 at 8:41 am
…. All I ever get when I ask about it is “the water vapor leaves the atmosphere in a few days and has no effect.”….
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
The smart aleck answer to that is “water droplets absorb CO2 molecules and wash the CO2 out of the atmosphere so CO2 should also have no effect.”

eyesonu

I sense the coming of a very detailed dicussion on clouds and water vapor here on WUWT in the near future. When that occurs I don’t now what or who will be right but I will be right there.

Gail Combs

george e. smith says: @ February 11, 2014 at 9:33 am
As soon as the word “clouds” gets mentioned, people forget that the issue is CLIMATE and not LAST NIGHT’S WEATHER !!
So if talking about CHANGES in cloud cover, we have to talk of changes that PERSIST for climatically significant periods of time….
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
It has changed over time if you consider changes to albedo as a good approximation to changes in cloud cover: GRAPH from the Earthshine Project. WUWT discussion HERE
Sort of looks like the inverse of the temperature over the same period of time. http://www.drroyspencer.com/wp-content/uploads/UAH_LT_1979_thru_January_2014_v5.61.png

george e. smith

per darylb,
“””””…..In general high clouds and vapor in the atmosphere tend to cool the earth and Roy Spencer has indicated that only a 1 or 2% change in the higher atmosphere could account for all the changes we see. The higher clouds cool because on average they reflect more solar irradiance back into space. Incidently, Spencer used that ‘I have looked at clouds from both sides now’ in his book.
Low clouds tend to warm the atmosphere because of their back radiation of IR (Heat) frequencies…..””””””
Actually, the usual weatherman wisdom, is exactly the reverse. The standard weather text books claim that high clouds warm, and the higher the warmer., while low clouds cool.
The graphs I have seen seem to show that at one particular cloud altitude, the Surface Temperature does not change from zero cloud to 100% cloud. If the clouds are higher than that altitude, then more cloud cover gives more surface warming. If the clouds are lower than the critical altitude, then more cloud cover means more surface cooling.
Those observations may in fact be true; but their interpretation is not..
Those higher warming clouds, are usually high cirrus clouds such as one sees developing in the late afternoon and early evening, after a warm or hot and likely humid day.
It was that hot steamy day that CAUSED those high cirrus clouds; not verse vicea.
On such hot days, lots of water evaporates giving humid days, and as the sun gets lower, and the warm moist air rises; it eventually reaches the dew point, and something or other results in nucleation of water droplets. The hotter it was during the day, for a given humidity, the dew point will be at a higher altitude so the clouds will form higher up. And the night time temperatures will be warmer BECAUSE OF THE HOTTER DAY, but it will still COOL at night, and be decidedly cooler at dawn.
Lower clouds are usually of the heavy moisture laden kind, that precipitate, and they block a whole lot of solar radiation from the surface; which results in cooling.
Nobody seriously thinks that dark low clouds warm anything.

darrylb

Bill Parsons Hey, from inside (Minnesota) and looking out, yeah it has been cold, but I would like a few more trees. The reason: I like trees—-and marshes—-and creeks and rivers—and lakes and we have about 15,000 of those (10,000 was just a nice rounded number).
So go CO2 we need you to help everything GREEN to grow.—-but I will be glad when spring gets here.

eyesonu

george e. smith says:
February 11, 2014 at 9:33 am
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Thank you. That was an explaination I have been looking for.
One other question, please explain the vapor state of H2O (that which is not visable) in the same context as your explaination above.
Thanks in advance.

Bill Parsons

@ darrylb says:
February 11, 2014 at 10:15 am
; – )
I absolutely agree. I was there in Rochester for two few weeks in December. To counterfeit a phrase by Mark Twain, it was the coldest winter I ever spent.

“Solar variations appear to change global cloudiness by expanding and contracting the polar vortices thereby making the polar air masses change the extent to which they encroach across middle latitudes.”
Look at the active region count of sunspots at the begining of 2003
Look at the active region count of sunspots in 2009.
is that a solar variation?
If so, then your hypothesis is that it will change global cloudiness.
Predict: how will the global cloudiness change at various pressure levels
what will it do to cloud fraction at 1000hPa? 925? 850? 700? 600? 500?.. 400, 300? 250? 150?
Go ahead, lets test your theory. make a testable prediction and I’ll plot the data.
How much will it increase or decrease cloud fraction at each of these levels