Dust In My Eyes

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I was thinking about “dust devils”, the little whirlwinds of dust that you see on a hot day, and they reminded me that we get dulled by familiarity with the wonders of our planet. Suppose, for example, that “back in the olden days” your family lived for generations in a village on a tiny island where there were no clouds. None at all. Ever.

Now, imagine the consternation that would occur if one day, after centuries without a single cloud, a big fluffy white cumulus cloud suddenly popped into existence one afternoon right over the village, hung around for six hours, and then disappeared in the evening. If it happened once, it would pass into legend as the giant white boulder in the sky that threatened to crush the village, and only disappeared after the priests did their most powerful chants …

Next, imagine that over time the appearance of the clouds became more common, but the priests always successfully chased them off … until one day, a plain old white fluffy cloud suddenly started growing straight towards the sky, and it turned black, and miracle of miracles, pure water started pouring out of the cloud! The cloud turned into a fountain! Who knew? If it happened once, it would be spoken of for years.

Next, imagine that over time, the appearance of rain clouds became more common, and the priests tried to make them stick around … until one day the priests were out doing their rain dance in the pouring rain, when without warning, there was a blinding flash of light and a tremendous sound, and all of the priests were knocked dead by some strange, unknown power … imagine the consternation and wonder that would cause, and what kind of legends that would engender …

emergent cloud over island

I bring all this up to highlight the nature of something called an “emergent phenomenon”. The cumulus cloud is an example of an emergent phenomenon. The rainstorms are a second, different emergent phenomenon. Finally, the lightning is a third example of an emergent phenomenon.

So … what are the characteristics of such a creature? How can we tell an emergent phenomenon from all the other inhabitants of the zoo? The following is not an exhaustive list, and some don’t have every characteristic, but here are the things that set an emergent phenomenon apart from its cousins.

• It has a “lifespan”—it is called “emergent” because it emerges from the background conditions at a certain time, lasts for a certain span of time, and then dies out.

• It emerges spontaneously whenever conditions are favorable, and never emerges otherwise. Often this is associated with the passing of some threshold, with emergence not happening at all below the threshold, and increasing quickly once the threshold is passed.

• It has “edges” that make it clearly distiguishable from its surrounding background.

• It must constantly change and adapt to current conditions in order to persist in time.

• It may split into two or more independent copies of itself.

• It can move independently through its surroundings.

• It can do work on its surroundings.

• Once it emerges, it can persist through conditions below the threshold for emergence.

• It is unexpected in the sense that it is not intuitively predictable from the previous conditions. For example, there is nothing about a clear blue sky that says “here come fluffy white clouds”. There is nothing about white fluffy clouds that screams “Close your car windows.” And there is certainly nothing about a warm summer rain that warns “Don’t stand out in a field or a million volts of electricity might pass directly through your corpus delecti …”.

What does this have to do with climate? Well, emergent phenomena are the missing link in the climate models. They are what keep the planet from overheating.

See, the planet is in a funny position. We’re only running at about 70% throttle. About 30% of the sunlight hitting the planet never makes it into the climate system. So never mind CO2, there’s enough energy from the sun to fry us all to a crisp … but that’s never happened.

The reason it hasn’t happened is that there are a host of emergent phenomena that stand in the way of overheating … which brings me back to the dust devils. Here’s a photo I took of some dust devils at night, cooling the surface of the desert from the effects of the huge fire at the left of the picture … dust devils don’t care about the source of the heat.

burn 13 dust devilsNow, dust devils have all the characteristics of typical emergent phenomena—they have a lifespan, the do work on their surroundings, they move independently, they change and adapt, they are not intuitively predictable from calm air. In this photo they were emerging next to the fire, then spinning off to the right into conditions where the surface is too cool for them to emerge. So they fulfill all the requirements, they are emergent phenomena … and given that the dust devils do work, then what is the dust devil’s day job? That is to say, what work is a dust devil doing on the surroundings?

The answer is, it is cooling the surface in a several ways. First, it is taking warm surface air and spiraling it up rapidly to altitude,  physically removing the heated air from the surface. Next, the increased speed of the wind increases evaporation, further cooling the surface. Next, wind on the earth’s surface increases the “wind chill factor”, which is the increased conduction of heat from surface to atmosphere via surface turbulence.

So a dust devil is a natural cooling machine, a fantastic piece of hardware that is very effective at reducing the surface temperature. And while that is amazing in itself, that’s not the beauty part …

The beauty part is that dust devils only emerge where and when they are needed, at the hot spots. If you’re looking a chunk of real estate, the spot where the dust devil emerges is where the heat is located. This makes it incredibly efficient. Consider how much energy it would take to cool the whole chunk of real estate, and how much less energy it takes to focus the cooling energy exactly where it is needed.

The same is true of the tropical clouds. You don’t want clouds in the tropics all the time, they would reflect all the sunshine, and the planet would cool way down. You only want clouds when it gets hot … which of course is exactly what happens on your average tropical day. In the cool of the tropical morning, it is clear. But when the surface warms, the clouds emerge, and if the warming continues, then the thunderstorms emerge as well.

So to complete the thought, the beauty part of emergent phenomena is that their thresholds are temperature-dependent. As a result, they are independent of both total forcing and total losses. This is a critical point. They are temperature-dependent, not forcing-dependent.

For example, clouds don’t emerge in the tropics when the sun is hot (forcing-dependent). Instead, they only emerge when the surface is hot (temperature-dependent).

And this is why changes in the forcings don’t have much effect on temperatures, particularly on the hot side of the range where the various phenomena emerge in untold numbers. Increases in forcing, whether from CO2, from volcanoes, or from the 5% increase in solar strength over the last half-billion years, don’t affect the temperature much because they don’t affect the emergence thresholds of clouds and dust-devils and thunderstorms. Instead, the emergence of these and other temperature-regulating phenomena is controlled by thresholds related to surface temperature and insensitive to forcing. As a result, the cooling phenomena emerge exactly as, when, and where they are needed, and their emergence is not a function of the forcing in any but the most indirect manner.

Finally, as I mentioned, we’re dulled by exposure to the radical, unusual nature of the emergent phenomena. As a result, for example, the numbers of dust devils could double, and nobody would be the wiser. We hardly notice them, yet they remove huge amounts of energy from the surface in the worlds’ hottest areas. Or, clouds could emerge fifteen minutes earlier in the tropics. Nobody would even remark on it. But either of those shifts would have a profound and lasting effect on the surface temperature …

And that’s why the climate models don’t explain much. They don’t have any of the many emergent mechanisms that preferentially cool the hot spots. No thunderstorms. No dust devils. No waterspouts. No cyclones … and without those temperature-sensitive heat-seeking surface-cooling mechanisms, the models don’t have a chance of reflecting reality.

Regards to all,

w.

NB: Please quote what you disagree with. I can defend my own words, and I am happy to do so. I can’t defend your interpretation of my words. Quote what you disagree with.

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AnonyMoose

Will there be a competition to give this article a title?

AnonyMoose

Oops, too late. There it is now.

Dianne

Wow, I never knew this about dust devils! See them all the time in the summer – different sizes and heights and all. Thanks for the explanation, Willis.

DonV

I grew up in the Sahara Desert. Saw dust devils all the time. It was fun to chase them and try to stay “inside” one. Never realized until now, that I never saw them in the morning.

wsbriggs

Willis, would that perchance be an illustrated example from The Burning Man event?

kenw

so what you are saying is that the science isn’t actually settled? And that mankind isn’t totally in charge? Hmmm….

Gunga Din

I have seen “dust devils”. (Short ones in height.) Odd little mini-tornadoes. Today at work I saw my first “snow devil”. Snow wasn’t falling and it was sunny. No wind to speak of but what wind there was just swirled up what was loose above the frozen crust. It was about 20-30 feet tall.

deadrock

How about…..”The devil gets his dew” for a title.
Good article Willis!

Willis Eschenbach

Gunga Din says:
February 13, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I have seen “dust devils”. (Short ones in height.) Odd little mini-tornadoes. Today at work I saw my first “snow devil”. Snow wasn’t falling and it was sunny. No wind to speak of but what wind there was just swirled up what was loose above the frozen crust. It was about 20-30 feet tall.

Exactly the same principle for snow devils. All you need is for the surface to be significantly warmer than the overlying air. Usually that’s in the heat of the summer, but it can happen any time of year.
One place you see a lot of them are the “ash-devils” that occur in the summer in an area recently burned over by a forest fire. The entire ground is painted charcoal black … perfect conditions for dust devils.
w.

Stevek

Willis you are right at heart of the matter. Often someone will come up in finance with a great model that historically when back tested on sample and out of sample data performs great. But start trading that model with good size in real stock or futures market and performance is not so great. Why ? One reason is the act of trading creates negative feedback known as slippage which dampens the profits.

Konrad

When working on a movie at the edge of the Sahara, we learnt to get equipment protected by 3pm as the dust devil’s always started to form then.
However the issue with emergent phenomenon is far larger than just clouds or dust devils. Tropospheric convective circulation is not a constant flow. Due to the diurnal cycle, the breakaway of airmasses from the surface boundry layer stutters. Each dawn the Reyligh number for airmasses must be exceeded before they rise.
All that doubling CO2 can do is cause breakaway to occur a few seconds earlier in the day and slightly speed up tropospheric convective circulation and the non-radiative transport of energy from the surface.
Increased radiative gases will also cause more powerful subsidence of airmasses from altitude due to increased OLR to space.
When their critical role in tropospheric convective circulation is taken into account it can be seen that radiative gases net effect is cooling at all concentrations above 0.0ppm.

rwnj

Willis, I’ve read your essays about heat transport as a governor of climate with great interest. Recently, we’ve experienced unusual amounts of cold air from the Arctic moving south. I suppose the cold air from the arctic must be replaced by warmer air from the lower lattitudes. This would seem to me to be a heat transport that serves to increase the cooling of the Earth. In any case, if thunderstorms and dust devils are climate governors, then will more of them occur if the external forcings are greater? That is, does global warming cause more storms?

“……. that radiative gases net effect is cooling at all concentrations above 0.0ppm.”
————–
AH so, then “greenhouse” gasses were intentionally misnamed ……
because they are actually …. “refrigerant” gasses

stevek

If ocean warms the monsoons off ocean carry more water. With warming some say the monsoon winds are stronger. Those winds head to the himalayas, which act as ramp carrying heat upwards. The mountains are outside side of ac unit. Water dripping out as rain and heat going up towards space. More warming simply turns up power on ac unit.

Brent

I just had a flashback to my younger days flying gliders in New Mexico. Those dust devils can go quite high though you might not see them they don’t always carry the dirt all that high. But it’s those dust-devils, pilots call ’em thermals, that keep the gliders up (altitudes above 20k MSL aren’t at all unheard of).
Large, paved areas or big, dark-colored buildings could kick off thermals in pulses. The water treatment plant near the gliderport I flew from (aka “the officers’ swimming pool” ) was also known to kick off thermals.
They’re also visible with an infrared camera, or so I’d read (from an account of an attack-helicopter pilot who also flew gliders when not deployed somewhere in the middle east).

Konrad says:
February 13, 2014 at 3:32 pm
…… it can be seen that radiative gases net effect is cooling at all concentrations above 0.0ppm.
——————
Ah so, then “greenhouse” gases were actually misnamed ……
Because they are in actuality “refrigerant” gases.
Now why didn’t I think of that, …… it’s so obvious its embarrassing.

dp

This is going to sound like nit picking but this story makes far more sense if you avoid using temperature and start referring to energy. Dust devils move energy from one place to another. That may also change temperature here and there, depending on what happens next to that energy. You used the phrase “For example, clouds don’t emerge in the tropics when the sun is hot…”. Sunlight has no heat so I don’t know exactly what you mean by that, and the sun is always hot from self-heating. For example, if you have a thermal imager and point it 90º to the direction sunlight is moving you will record only the near 0K temperature of deep space. It is only when that light strikes an object that what we call heat is created and that happens because that object is absorbing sunlight which causes the energy level of the object to increase. A dust devil can reverse that.
Emergent phenomena can transport energy or by reflection, prevent the energy from modifying the energy state of blocked objects. It does this because the albedo of the emergent phenomena is often higher than the objects it shields.
I consider Hadley, Ferrel, and polar cells to be emergent phenomena but they may not pass your test. Either way they are amazing energy transporters. So are rivers.
Here is my problem with discussing heat vs discussing energy – you can lose a lot of energy in the oceans without any detectable change in temperature. Our instruments cannot deal with heat at such levels of dilution. But we can precisely say a petawatt of energy was absorbed and dispersed throughout the oceans over a period of time. It is of no consequence that we cannot measure a change in ocean temperature as a result. What matters is that we have no means to verify that energy movement into the seas and it is a travesty we do not.
We should focus like a laser beam on what the long term energy state of the Earth is and not be distracted by unimportant things like temperature. That is why TSI, TOA radiation, and energy storage are so important to understand. Temperature is proving to be a poor proxy for representing that energy state and I don’t think we’ll ever solve the modeling problem if the objective is to compare temperatures over time.

Michael D

This discussion is interesting, Willis. Thanks.
From what you say, in the tropics clouds come out at mid-day and limit the warming effect. Here in the temperate zone, we often have clouds that stay all night long, and they tend to keep the air warmer. You can see this in thermal IR images of a night sky with scattered clouds – the clouds are clearly warmer than outer space behind them, and they are radiating back toward us. Plus at night they are not reflecting any sunlight away from us. Do you think there is a night-time reverse thermostatic effect as well? I.e. do clouds tend to come on cold nights to insulate the Earth and prevent global cooling?

Katherine

And this is why changes in the forcings don’t have much effect on temperatures, particularly on the hot side of the range where the various phenomena emerge in untold numbers. Increases in forcing, whether from CO2, from volcanoes, or from the 5% increase in solar strength over the last half-billion years, don’t affect the temperature much because they don’t affect the emergence thresholds of clouds and dust-devils and thunderstorms.
This got me wondering, might climate optima be considered emergent phenomena against the background of ice ages? Sorry, your mention of half-billion years sent my thoughts off on a tangent.

Willis Eschenbach

dp says:
February 13, 2014 at 4:22 pm

This is going to sound like nit picking but this story makes far more sense if you avoid using temperature and start referring to energy. Dust devils move energy from one place to another.

The problem with that is the dust devils are not driven by differences in energy. They are driven by differences in temperature.
Consider equal amounts of energy falling on a lake and a nearby desert. Assume they absorb the same amount of energy … which one will get warmer? Where will the dust devils forrm?
So we can’t do what you suggest, we need both temperature and energy to understand the dust devils and how they work.
w./

Video of multiple dust devils following a pyroclastic flow out of Sinabung some days to weeks ago:
http://strangesounds.org/2014/02/volcanic-eruption-creates-tornadoes-at-sinabung-volcano-video-february-2014.html
The active rovers on Mars have seen and been visited by multiple dust devils. Good news as one cleaned dust off solar arrays of one rover some years ago and improved its power levels during the day. Tracks are visible from the orbiters. Cheers –
http://science1.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2005/14jul_dustdevils/

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Nairobi

I confirm the high altitudes reached. I have seen and flown through them – towering above the plane, the dust concentration making them visible 000’s of ft above us. It was on the way to Mthatha from JHB. It was so violent the pilot threw up! As did most of the passengers. They can certainly punch through 40,000 ft of atmosphere.

dp

The problem with that is the dust devils are not driven by differences in energy. They are driven by differences in temperature.

This is going to be harder than I thought.

Luke Warmist

Now I know what I was looking at for all the years I lived in the desert. I seldom saw them over the planted fields, but they would be in abundance in a freshly plowed section with the darker dirt exposed, and of course all over the desert in the summer.
L.

Michael D

You call dust devils an “emergent phenomenon” but I am inclined to think of them as a “spontaneous symmetry breaking” phenomenon. The air above a large hot flat plain all wants to go up as fast as possible. The air has symmetry with respect to horizontal translation – no one spot is more desirous of going up than any other – but the whole air mass cannot go up together because that would create a vacuum. A dust devil spontaneously breaks that symmetry at a random (and non-stationary) location, thus permitting the mixing of near-ground hot air with upper cooler air.

Willis Eschenbach

Luke Warmist says:
February 13, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Now I know what I was looking at for all the years I lived in the desert. I seldom saw them over the planted fields, but they would be in abundance in a freshly plowed section with the darker dirt exposed, and of course all over the desert in the summer.
L.

Thanks, Luke. You and I and others who commented above are perfect examples of what I was saying, that we are dulled by the repetition of exposure to the amazing climate phenomena that surround us. We say “It’s just a dust devil” and stop thinking about it.
Best regards,
w.

Willis Eschenbach

dp says:
February 13, 2014 at 5:21 pm

The problem with that is the dust devils are not driven by differences in energy. They are driven by differences in temperature.

This is going to be harder than I thought.

That’s totally unclear … what’s going to be harder? Convincing me that delta T is not a cause of a whole host of climate phenomena will definitely be hard if that’s what you mean … but that may not be what you mean at all.
w.

Michael D

Willis and dp said “we need both temperature and energy to understand the dust devils and how they work.”
The immediate driving physical attribute, surely, is density? The air at ground level heats up and expands (increases in volume, thus decreases in density) according to the ideal gas law PV=nRT, creating a density inversion.

Gary Pearse

Would a large sandstorm be the rush of air toward a very large low pressure area of rising air – a grand daddy dust devil?

jakee308

I’m beginning to believe that the CAGW folks just don’t want to believe that the Earth has such a very elegant and efficient means of controlling the Global temperature and as such almost appear as if some “Intelligent Design” might have had a hand in it’s creation.
Not that there’s any proof of that particular fork but it is particularly amazing how the system seems to work. Of course we know that it’s all based on the physics involved and no master craftsman had any hand in it’s evolving.
Don’t we?
Yet many seem quite comfortable believing that man in less than a hundred years can upset the apple cart that’s been toiling away for millions.
Who’s believing in fairy tales now?

“the models don’t have a chance of reflecting reality”
Pan evaporation data collected for decades from thousands of sites worldwide shows climate models also incorrectly assume evaporation is just a function of temperature, and
evaporation will increase as temperatures rise, but in reality measurements reveal that evaporation has been dropping off worldwide since the 1950s, that evaporation is controlled by surface solar radiation and wind speeds, not temperature.
http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2014/02/evaporation-research-reveals-another.html
If the models don’t even have the fundamental assumptions of the hydrological cycle correct, how can they possibly model the trivial CO2 effect or assume amplification by water vapor?
They don’t.

Halcyon

I used to see this at work back in the days of yore when we would burn a stubble paddock and then proceed to plough it.
This would be in the Autumn and in southern Australia at this time the ravens would congregate in large numbers and follow the tractor getting the bugs and worms (and mice) that the plough unearthed. Come afternoon the thermals would develope over the blackened earth and occasionally in a strong one the ravens would all take to the wing and use it to go to great height with minimal effort before peeling off and ‘rocketing ‘ back to the ground. There seemed to be no reason for this behaviour other than the fun of the decent.
These days we use minimum till/direct drill which is better for soil health and profits, but I miss that smell of freshly turned soil.

oMan

Brilliant in its clarity and economy. Thanks.

Konrad

Samuel C Cogar says:
February 13, 2014 at 4:17 pm
“Now why didn’t I think of that, …… it’s so obvious its embarrassing.”
—————————————————————————————-
I suspect you are being facetious. This is ill advised. You would need to be better at empirical experiment than me to challenge. And I am better than Dr. Spencer at this.
Bottom line – the sun heats our oceans, the atmosphere cools our oceans and radiative gases cool our atmosphere. AGW is a physical impossibility.

Lee from WA

Years ago in a plowed field in eastern Washington, I saw something I had a hard time believing: perhaps 50 to 100 dust devils, each independently rotating, revolving together in a giant ring. Spooky…

dp

Willis – heat is a perception. Energy is the capacity of an object to do work. We feel heat because our brain converts an elevated surface energy state to a feeling of warmth. In fact what we feel is the direction of energy flow through our skin layers. Incoming energy feels warm, outgoing energy feels cold. We are very aware of the rate of heat movement in and out of our skin and our perceptions of it range from reflexive contraction (burn) to shivering (cold). At some state we tend to be unaware of our energy state and we call that our comfort point – we eliminate energy at approximately the same rate we produce convert it biologically.
Incoming energy increases the energy state of the earth’s surface. Air that comes in contact with it the surface expands that air asymmetrically causing some to rise. Other factors cause it to spin as it rises. The result is a dust devil. The dust devil does not care where the energy comes from as your night time fire shows. All this happens because energy is a fundamental property of physical objects. Heat is perceived energy.
And my point is because we hand wring over temperature here and temperature there we’re not paying attention to the balance of energy of the planet. We cannot perceive what we cannot measure. It is equivalent trying to measure our electrical power consumption by measuring the temperature of the wires, grounding pads and the ground current heat of the Pacific DC Intertie.

Willis Eschenbach

Lee from WA says:
February 13, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Years ago in a plowed field in eastern Washington, I saw something I had a hard time believing: perhaps 50 to 100 dust devils, each independently rotating, revolving together in a giant ring. Spooky…

Thanks, Lee. One of the amazing things about emergent phenomena is that their behavior is so varied. Dust devils dancing in a ring … who knew?
w.

Hi Willis, what about forcings which adjust the threshold of the emergent phenomena? Such as Svensmark’s GCR (assuming his theory is correct)? Surely this would have a more direct influence than heating / cooling forcings?

Duster

kenw says:
February 13, 2014 at 2:58 pm
so what you are saying is that the science isn’t actually settled? And that mankind isn’t totally in charge? Hmmm….

I think what Willis is implying is not that the “science isn’t settled” but that overly simple models are not necessarily science, merely because they invoke some laws of physics. If you consider the old dictum of Occam’s Razor, the injunction is to avoid unnecessary addition of explanatory elements (overly complex explanatory systems). Essentially the razor is an ancient framing if the KISS principle. The alternative way to say effectively the same thing is that no explanation (model) should be less complicated than is necessary to deal with the system being studied. Occam’s approach is elegant because it indicates when to stop work and have a beer; that is, stop when your explanation accounts for the known systematic variability in a system.
Emergent phenomena are abundant in nature, and some phenomena like vortices (eddies, dust devils, tornadoes, storms, hurricanes and typhoons) are vital elements in the operation of the planetary thermal regime that are ignored at the model framer’s peril. Yet, probably because emergent systems are very difficult to model, they are not well handled in climate models.

Willis Eschenbach

dp says:
February 13, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Willis – heat is a perception.

Thanks for the reply, dp. You’re mixing up the common usage of the term with the scientific usage. In science (e.g. here on WUWT) “heat” has the thermodynamic meaning-it is the net flow of energy from a warmer to a cooler object. Note that in terms of radiation, heat is quite different from the individual flows of radiation from body A to body B, and from B to A. Heat is the NET of those two flows.
I fear I didn’t read the rest of your comment, because when you start with “heat is a perception”, there’s no point—if you start there, you’re not voyaging in the world of science, which is where I sail …
w.

Willis Eschenbach

Konrad says:
February 13, 2014 at 9:34 pm

… I suspect you are being facetious. This is ill advised. You would need to be better at empirical experiment than me to challenge. And I am better than Dr. Spencer at this.
Bottom line – the sun heats our oceans, the atmosphere cools our oceans and radiative gases cool our atmosphere. AGW is a physical impossibility.

Bottom line – whatever the subject of the thread might be, Konrad will appear and not say a word about what everyone else is discussing. Instead, he will talk endlessly and painfully about a) his experiment, and b) his theory.
Doesn’t matter what the focus of the discussion might be. Doesn’t matter if people tell him they wish he’d go flog his theory elsewhere. Doesn’t matter that he exists in what appears from the outside to be a completely logic-free zone. Like the proverbial bad penny, you can depend on Konrad to turn up, and to be hard to get rid of …
w.
PS—I did love Konrad’s new threat, though, where he says something like “Don’t mess with me, I’m badder than Roy Spencer” … dang, Dr. Roy, you’re now the standard of excellence, how cool is that?

Willis Eschenbach

Eric Worrall says:
February 13, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Hi Willis, what about forcings which adjust the threshold of the emergent phenomena? Such as Svensmark’s GCR (assuming his theory is correct)? Surely this would have a more direct influence than heating / cooling forcings?

Good question, Eric. I discussed this in some length in my very first post on the subject of emergent phenomena, The Thermostat Hypothesis. See the section entitled “Gradual Equilibrium Variation and Drift”.
Regards,
w.

negrum

I found Langton’s Ant interesting as an example of emergent phenomea.

gbaikie

“See, the planet is in a funny position. We’re only running at about 70% throttle. About 30% of the sunlight hitting the planet never makes it into the climate system. So never mind CO2, there’s enough energy from the sun to fry us all to a crisp … but that’s never happened.”
I don’t think there enough energy from the sun to fry us to a crisp.
A clear sky at noon has about 1000 watts per square meter.
So the 1000 watts can warm a surface to about 80 C. And you don’t want to walk on a 80 C surface with tender feet or without shoes [it you didn’t wear shoes, you wouldn’t have tender feet]. But point is 80 C is about as hot as the sun gets going thru our atmosphere.
The Moon lacking atmosphere can warm the surface to 120 C.
Anyhow, we have atmosphere and this prevents it for getting hotter than 80 C, and highest air
temperatures being about 56 C.
So nothing in the greenhouse theory nor “full throttle” can cause the sun to warm earth surface more than 80 C
Then of course it’s not always around noon. A sun at 4 pm, is not going to heat a surface up to 80 C, because sun at such low angle will not be 1000 watts per square meter. Or 75% of the time sunlight is less than 1000 watts per square. And regions of earth [higher latitude] never get as much as 1000 watts per meter.
All greenhouse theory can do and all “full throttle” could do is increase night time temperatures.
Or warm up areas which would otherwise be cooler.
And also the most significant thing “full throttle” or greenhouse effect could do- what in theory it has most change it could bring about is warm the ocean or melt ice caps. Because both are quite cold. So ocean with average temperature of 3 C could in theory warm significantly- meaning it’s allow as possible according to it’s model.
But most greenhouse theory and full throttle can do simply in terms energy available from the sun is warm the ocean by 1 or 2 C in thousand years.
If given forever the tropic surface temperature could same temperature as water at depth- but this doesn’t fry us.
So most allowable is globally hot tropical world- more regions matching tropical hot condition that already exist and far more region warm tropical conditions- or eliminating temperate and arctic type temperature- fullest throttle and vast amount super greenhouse gases.
So there is not enough energy from present sun at current distance and with current 1 atm of atmosphere “to fry us all to a crisp”.

johnmarshall

You did not mention the most important process
Water Evapouration Using Latent Heat.
Latent heat removes emormous amounts of heat which is lost to space when clouds form.
The heat required to evapourate 1liter of water at temperature 100C is 7.6 times that needed to raise that same water’s temperature from 0C to 100C.

Konrad

Willis Eschenbach says:
February 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm
—————————————-
Bad penny was it?
I say the net effect of radiative gases in our atmosphere is cooling, you say warming.
Your position is noted.
Were you laughing at me? You’re smart Willis, but not smart enough.

jhborn

gbalkie:
When I did the back-of-the-envelope calculation, I got the average surface temperature going from 61 deg. F to 109 deg. F.: 289 K * (100 / 70) ^ (1/4) = 315 K.

Tim Clark

Back in the day I worked on a farm operating an open air tractor, driving through very huge manifestations of these was suffocationg. Thank god for cabs.

jhborn

Nice discussion, Mr. Eschenbach.
An interesting coda, which some of this site’s regular visitors may be able to supply, would be the computational expense of numerically solving the three-dimensional compressible-flow Navier-Stokes equations at the spatial and temporal resolution required to capture dust devils; there are some problems, I’m told, that can be shown to be beyond the capability of mankind’s entire computing power, even if we were given all the time since the Big Bang. I believe I’ve understood Dr. Brown to say that the GCMs’ resolutions are orders of magnitude too coarse to capture thunderheads.

Dirk McClaggen

I remember well in my childhood, in the hot summers of the 1960s, seeing these “dust devils” as I now know they are called. At the time I used to see them in the late afternoon, in tarmacadamed car parks. They swept long plumes of ash and debris, some ten feet or more into the air.
As children we did not query their existence, nor link them to CO2 or anything else really. We just accepted them as a natural phenomena, and played the game of chasing them and throwing paper airplanes into them and watch them swirl high into the sky.
Thanks for the explanation of this phenomena, which has puzzled me for many long years,