# An Inherently Stable System

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

At the end of my last post , I said that the climate seems to be an inherently stable system. The graphic below shows ~2,000 climate simulations run by climateprediction.net.  Unlike the other modelers, whose failures end up on the cutting room floor, they’ve shown all of the runs … including the runs that ran right off of the rails.

Figure 1. Climate simulation runs from climateprediction,net.

Notice that many of the runs go badly wrong, either cooking the planet at some 8°C (14°F) hotter than at present, or spiraling down into an ice-covered unreality. To me this is a perfect example of the basic misunderstanding of how the climate works. People think that the global temperature is free to take up any temperature at all, and that if the forcing changes, the temperature must change. But it is not free to go off of the rails. Instead, the global temperature is an inherently stable system.

Now, what does it require for a natural heat engine like the global climate to be inherently stable? The general way that humans control heat engines like say an automobile engine is by controlling the “throttle”, which in an automobile is what the gas pedal connects to. The throttle decrease or increases the amount of fuel that is entering the engine. To be stable, you need some system that opens or closes the throttle based on some criterion.

In the climate system, of course, the throttle is the variable albedo of the earth. The “albedo” of an object is a number from 0.0 to 1.0 that measures the fraction of solar radiation that is reflected from the surface of the object. It’s usually given as a fraction, although I prefer it as a percentage (0% to 100%). The albedo of the earth is about 0.29, meaning 29% of the sunlight is reflected back to space.

As I showed in my last post, the albedo generally decreases with temperature … up to around 26°C or so. Above that the albedo rises rapidly. As a result, in much of the tropics when the ocean warms the albedo increases, rapidly cutting back on the incoming solar energy.

In such a system, when the earth is cooler than the equilibrium temperature, the solar input goes up, increasing the temperature. And conversely, when the earth is warmer than the equilibrium temperature, the solar input goes down, and the earth cools back to the equilibrium temperature.

In the comments to my last post, someone asked how the increase in albedo worked out on a daily basis. To answer that, I need to take a bit of a diversion.

I got interested in climate in the late nineties. Most folks I read wanted to understand why the earth’s temperature had changed over the 20th century. I had a very different question—I wanted to know why the earth’s temperature had changed so little over the 20th century (a variation of ± 0.3°C). Since the earth’s temperature is about 290 Kelvin, that’s a variation of plus or minus a tenth of a percent or so. As someone who has dealt with regulated engines, to me that was astounding long-term stability. Over the 20th century we had droughts, the clouds came and went, we had volcanoes, times of lots of hurricanes, times of few hurricanes … and the temperature went nowhere. Plus or minus a tenth of a percent.

At the time I started tackling the problem of climate stability, I was living in Fiji. At first, I spent a whole lot of time searching for the reason that there was such long-term stability. I tried to identify and understand any processes acting on multi-decadal time scales. I thought about the ebb and flow of CO2, about how the CO2 makes the rain acidic and dissolves the mountains over millennia. I thought about the purported barycentric solar cycles. I thought about the multidecadal oscillations.

No joy.

In the evenings after work I’d walk and think, think and walk. I picked up and discarded dozens of possibilities. I can’t tell you how far I walked thinking about long-term, slow compensatory systems that could keep the earth on track for a century and more.

Then one day I had a curious thought. I thought, if there were a system that kept each day within a certain temperature range, it would keep that week within that same temperature range, and it would keep that year within that temperature range, and that decade, and century, and millennium … like a fool, I’d been looking at entirely the wrong end of the time spectrum. I needed to look at minutes and hours, not decades and centuries.

This changed the entire direction of my research overnight. I started looking for processes that would regulate the temperatures on a daily basis … and since I was living in Fiji, I didn’t have far to look. I started to think that the action of the tropical cumulus clouds and in particular the thunderstorms were the real actors in the climate pageant.

I could see the daily tropical cycle unfolding most days. Clear at dawn. Then cumulus clouds form usually before noon. Thunderstorms in the afternoon, sometimes lasting into evening or night. However, I was still at a great disadvantage. I didn’t understand how the control worked. The problem was that even in the tropics you have seasons, and not every day is the same. Plus there’s day and night, it was all so complex I couldn’t see how the control was effected. I wanted some point of view where I didn’t have to deal with all of that day/night, seasons stuff.

Then one day I realized that there was a point of view which freed me from all of those problems. This was the point of view of the sun. You see, from the sun’s point of view it’s always daytime—from the sun’s point of view, there is no night. And there are no seasons—underneath the sun, it’s always eternal summer.

So to investigate the cumulus and the thunderstorms from the sun’s point of view, I used the satellite local-noon-time images from the GOES-West weather satellite. I averaged the photos over an entire year, to show the average cloudiness of the Pacific. Figure 2 shows that result:

Figure 2. Average of one year of GOES-West weather satellite images taken at satellite local noon. The Intertropical Convergence Zone is the bright band in the yellow rectangle. Local time on earth is shown by black lines on the image. Time values are shown at the bottom of the attached graph. Red line on graph is solar forcing anomaly (in watts per square meter) in the area outlined in yellow. Black line is albedo value in the area outlined in yellow.

Looking from the point of view of the sun does a very curious thing—it trades time coordinates for space coordinates. For example, in the photo above, it is always local noon at the point directly under the sun. Noon is not a time. It is the vertical line running up the middle of the picture. Sunrise is always at the left edge of the view from the sun, and the left half of the picture is the time before noon. Sunset is always at the right edge of the view from the sun, and afternoon is the right half of the picture. We’ve put spatial coordinates in place of temporal coordinates.

From this, you can see that the onset of cumulus clouds is at about 10:30. This is shown by the increase in albedo (black line at picture bottom). By 11:30 there is a fully developed cumulus field. This shift in albedo changes the reflected sunlight by about 60 W/m2. And that field of clouds persists all through the afternoon (right side of the picture above).

And most important, from the sun’s point of view I could finally understand how the albedo control is actually effected—via variations in the timing of the onset of the cumulus and thunderstorm regimes. What happens is that if the Pacific is warmer than usual, the cumulus clouds and thunderstorms shift to the left in the image above by emerging earlier in the day. This, of course, reflects more of the sunlight. And if the Pacific is cooler than usual, the clouds and thunderstorms shift to the right, emerging later in the day or not at all, and thus exposing more of the area to the stronger sunlight of the mornings. The clouds act like a reflective window screen that covers more or less of the day, depending on the temperature.

Now, from this hypothesis we can advance some testable predictions. First, albedo should be positively correlated with temperature in the tropical Pacific. This is confirmed by my previous post. Next, we should be able to detect the effect of the variations in cloud onset on the daily temperature record … which hopefully will be the subject of my next post.

Finally, while the cumulus and the thunderstorms control the throttle by regulating the amount of energy entering the system, there are a variety of other temperature regulating phenomena as well. What all of these have in common is that they are “emergent” phenomena. These are phenomena that emerge spontaneously, but only when conditions are right. In the climate system, these phenomena typically emerge only when a certain temperature threshold is surpassed.

In the tropical daytime system, once a certain temperature threshold is reached the cumulus clouds start to form. But often, the reduction in incoming sunlight is not enough to stop the daily warming. If the surface continues to warm, at some higher temperature threshold thunderstorms form. And if the surface warms even more and a third temperature threshold is surpassed, yet another phenomena will emerge—the thunderstorms will line up shoulder to shoulder in long serried rows, with canyons of clear descending air between them.

Thunderstorms are natural refrigeration cycle air-conditioning machines. They use the same familiar evaporation/condensation cycle used in your air conditioner. But they do something your air conditioner can’t do. They only form exactly when and where you need them. When there is a hot spot in the afternoon on a tropical ocean, a thunderstorm soon forms right above it and starts cooling the surface back down. Not only that, but the thunderstorm cools the surface down below the starting temperature. This can not only slow but actually reverse a warming trend.

And if there are two hot spots you get two thunderstorms, and so on … do you see why I argue against the entire concept of “climate sensitivity”? When you add additional forcing to such a system, you don’t just get additional hot spots.

You also get additional thunderstorms working their marvels of refrigerational physics, so there is little surface temperature change.

It’s one AM, big moon a few days past full. Think I’ll go back outside, I heard a fox barking outside around moonrise. Best to all, moon over your shoulder, more to come,

w.

The Perennial Request: If you disagree with someone, please have the courtesy to quote the exact, precise words that you disagree with. That way we can all understand your objection.

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June 4, 2015 1:24 am

“….There’s relief all around that the culprit’s been caught;
So Mother Nature’s not as innocent as we had all thought.
Seems that she’s been doing her thing for billions of years,
And has just been hiding behind those man made fears…..”
From Mother Nature Arrested http://wp.me/p3KQlH-qH

cnxtim
June 4, 2015 1:35 am

And that lucky ole sun, got nothing to do, but roll around heaven all day..

Andrew S
June 4, 2015 1:40 am

Outstanding insight. Yet so simple.

george e. smith
June 4, 2015 2:44 pm

Well albedo is only half of it (a most important part.) What positively identifies “albedo” is that the outgoing albedo spectrum essentially matching the incoming solar spectrum. (yes I know that some earth surface features are not uniform spectral reflectance over the solar spectrum range).
But all that variable cloud cover which is the bulk of albedo, also implies a considerable variation in atmospheric water vapor, and water vapor is a significant absorber of incoming solar spectrum energy beginning at about 700 nm wavelength.
That absorption is NOT a part of albedo, but it is spectrum shifted to the LWIR region, where at least half of it escapes to space as IR, and the rest is NOT transported to the deep oceans as is solar spectrum energy.
But the bottom line situation is that the very same negative feedback regulation that Willis describes here is equally applicable to the long wave shifted portion of the driving solar energy. CO2 also has a small but not insignificant absorption of incoming solar spectrum energy, so CO2 also creates a direct negative feedback to the driving signal; the incoming solar energy.
Any solar spectrum energy that is captured by ANY GHG molecule, including ozone, becomes a part of the negative feedback regulation of earth’s stable climate.
In my view, pretty much all of this “forcing” stuff is rather meaningless, when compared to the direct effect on solar energy reaching earth’s surface.
Also it isn’t possible to monitor surface energy losses to clouds from outer space. Well you can meter the “reflected” part which is actually refractively scattered. But satellites can’t tell you how much additional is absorbed by the clouds, and never reaches the ground as solar spectrum energy.
The Wentz et al paper; “How Much More Rain will Global Warming Bring” from SCIENCE around July 13 2007 to me is the definitive statement on how cloud negative feedback climate temperature regulation works. It seems that the effect is about 7% increase in solar energy loss, for a 1 deg C increase in global Temperature.
That is a simply huge negative feedback.
No Wentz doesn’t mention the clouds; perhaps too obvious. They just talk about the increase in atmospheric water. How do you get rid of atmospheric water without clouds ??

June 4, 2015 8:07 pm

Clouds also cause strong self negative feedback.
Data over the oceans show on clear days that sea surface temperature rises about 3 C from early morning to about 2:00 PM. Depending on fast air humidity can rise towards constant relative humidity, this will cause evaporation to increase about 20% to 40% compared to a cloudy day. This temperature rise includes the offsets from surface cooling from evaporation and seawater mixing (cooler, denser saltier water drops). Keep in mind that incoming solar at the surface can be up to about 1000 Wm-2 at low latitudes.
The increased water vapor on clear days will later cause more clouds. This will reduce the fraction of hours with sunshine, evaporation and the cloud cover. This is negative feedback on the cloud cover fraction. So while it appears that clouds can act like a thermostat to control temperatures, since more warming from any cause increases water vapor then clouds, they also regulate themselves regarding the fraction of cloud cover, now at about 60%.

george e. smith
June 4, 2015 10:16 pm

“””””……
Richard Petschauer
June 4, 2015 at 8:07 pm
Clouds also cause strong self negative feedback. ……”””””
I must be going daft. I’d swear I just said that, in plain English.
I guess I need a class in remedial English.

Janne
June 6, 2015 1:21 am

That outgoing radiation spectrum has the spectral fingerprint of the GHG gases. The radiation is attenuated in relation to the gas concentrations in the atmosphere. This means that the GHG’s in fact play a significant role in trapping the radiation, and adding GHG’s to the atmosphere intensifies the process.

Stephen Wilde
June 6, 2015 6:32 am

Janne,
CO2 blocks the outgoing 15u wavelength but that translates into faster convective overturning so that the blocked energy returns to the surface beneath the adjacent descending convective column and can be radiated to space at all available wavelengths.
The convective adjustment removes the blockage.
The surface doesn’t need to warm because faster upward convection cools the surface exactly as much as faster downward convection warms it.
The rate of convective overturning simply increases until stability is regained despite the blocking of outward IR by GHGs.
Now you can argue that faster convective overturning manifests as a climate change even if the surface gets no warmer but the effect from GHGs is miniscule and would never be distinguishable from natural variability caused by sun and oceans.

george e. smith
June 4, 2015 6:22 pm

Don’t go telling Kevin Trenberth about your theory Willis. He believes that the entire earth is equally bathed in solar energy day and night.
The idea that half of the earth’s surface is receiving solar energy constantly, and roughly it only varies annually with the length of the sun -earth vector, seems lost on so many people. Actually it is slightly more than half of the earth surface because the earth atmosphere is a graded index refractive medium, so the apparent sun is above the horizon for about 181-182 out of the 360 degree circumference.

June 4, 2015 1:43 am

I really like the way your mind works. Your story reminds me of what I heard about Darwin who break a problem by walking in a circle round his garden thinking. Every time he passed a particular point in his garden he would put a stone down, in this way he knew how long he had been thinking.
Thinking and understanding seem to me passive experiences. You feed the brain ideas and data and let it happen, then a solution emerges from all that thinking. You never really know how the brain is doing its thinking, or what the results will be, or how they came to you. But you know the problems and if you give the problems to the brain it will solve them.
There is a story of sexing hatchling chicks in Japan in the 1940s. It is almost impossible to tell the difference between hen chicks and cockerel chicks, but with training everyone can do it. What you do is sit looking at hatchling’s backsides putting the ones that might be cockerels in one box and hens in the other, the expert sit by you telling you when you are right and when you are wrong. After a while you know which are male and which are female, but neither the expert of the student knows how the did it, only the brain does in some mysterious way. They have special schools for people to learn to separate cockerel hatchlings from hen hatchlings.
I like this concept of looking at it from the point of view of a day and from the point of view of the sun which drawing a line of clouds as it circles the globe, it intuitively looks like a very simple solution to a very complex matter. It seems to say “Willis you are right”, and you seeing right from wrong, undergo confirmation and rejection, this is perhaps amongst the most important feature of a person who knows how to think right. The AGW crowd do not know about confirmation and rejection, they just do not know how thinking is dome

Reply to  Julian Williams in Wales
June 4, 2015 6:47 pm

I grew up spending a lot of time in the woods. Like with the sexing of chickens, I noticed that over time I was able to see motionless creatures in dense brush that others could not see. It seems you can train your brain to recognize certain patterns over time without actually being told or “trained” to do it. Often we “see patterns” but don’t understand them. But some people find the reasons and usefulness of patterns. This is one of the reasons I am impressed by Bob Tisdale, Willis Eschenbach, and Joe Bastardi. They see patterns and explain them well.

Dudley Horscroft
June 4, 2015 1:50 am

Sounds logical. But, this would surely only work with temperatures as is. How come we had “presumably” stable temperatures during thousands of years of ice age, and then warming as the ice ages ended, stable climates like today, then sudden cooling and new ice ages? And on occasion we had temperatures rather warmer than at present – eg +8 degrees over present?
Can the same feedback mechanism keep ice ages cool?

MCourtney
June 4, 2015 2:01 am

I suspect that the regulator is the difference in albedo of free flowing ice and clear water in an Ice Age. With the regulator being from north to South rather than East to West.
Although Ice Age temperatures wouldn’t be so tightly constrained as now. But we’ve no reason think they were.
That change of 90° would allow for two modes of climate – which is what we have.

Peter
June 4, 2015 1:18 pm

But ocean ice is positive feedback for temperature decrease. The colder it is, the more ice shows up, the higher albedo, the lower temperature…

george e. smith
June 4, 2015 6:11 pm

Ice is an almost negligible part of earth albedo.
Remember, albedo is NOT earth’s reflection coefficient; it is the fraction of the incident solar energy that gets reflected back to space.
Ice may have a quite high reflectance (it doesn’t), but who cares if it is all in a region that receives very little incident solar energy ??
Does anybody ever ask themselves why all that ice is there in the first place.
Does lack of incident energy ring a bell ?
And remember, the Gulf Stream and similar currents convey astronomical amounts of heat to the Arctic and the Antarctic, and still that ice persists there.
So the total annual incident solar energy on ice covered ground or water, is pitifully small, which is why the ice is there.
Clouds are on the other hand, are generally in the tropical areas where all of the solar heating of the ocean surface occurs, and where most of the solar albedo reflectance occurs (in the clouds; ocean surface has maybe 3% diffuse reflectance. The normal incidence reflectance of water is 2% and that value persists pretty much out to the Brewster angel which is about 53 degrees from the zenith.

E.M.Smith
Editor
June 4, 2015 2:16 am

See https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/d-o-ride-my-see-saw-mr-bond/
for some of that. the short answer is Milancovitch cycles of orbital parameters melt the north pole to cause interglacials. During glacials, Gulf Stream goes metastable and then other minor changes can cause warm spikes – stadials.
http://www.geology.um.maine.edu/publications/Jacobson%20et%20al.%202012%20Hg%20in%20L.%20Tulane%20ES%26T%2046%20%2011210-11717%5b1%5d.pdf
Temperatures are not purely stable, but cyclical with bounds. Orbital, solar, and lunar tidal changes cause the cycle pressures inside a negative feedback system pushing toward a norm.

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 7:58 am

Dudley Horscroft asks a good question. We can not just say that the climate is super stable, except when it isn’t.
The Milankovitch forcing is tiny compared to the CO2 changes that we are causing. So that can not drive climate change. At most it is a pacemaker for unstable oscillations in the climate system.
The sequence of events during a deglaciation is that first Antarctica gets warmer, then global CO2 rises, then the tropics get warmer and the northern ice caps start to melt, then the Arctic temperatures go up. Not at all compatible with the standard Milankovitch theory. Not to mention that Milankovitch can not explain why the cycle takes about 100 kyr.

E.M.Smith
Editor
June 7, 2015 12:15 am

M:
Nice fantasy, but you have it all wrong. See:
First off, CO2 is irrelevant to the whole process. It does nothing in the troposphere, and radiates heat to space in the stratosphere:
https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/one-tenth-bar-short-waves-and-solar-spectral-change/
https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/le-chatelier-and-his-principle-vs-the-trouble-with-trenberth/
https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/tropopause-rules/
The sequence in “deglaciation” is that the interglacial forms ONLY when the earth is at furthest from the sun (so that the season then is longer by several days as that part of the orbit is slowest) AND the North Pole is pointed toward the sun (so N. Hemisphere summer is longest) AND the tilt is maximized so that insolation is greatest north of 65 degrees. All this is opposite for Antarctica (in fact, Antarctica is irrelevant to interglacials. It NEVER melts as there is so much grounded ice it just can’t.)
It is long after warming has been going strongly for a long time that CO2 rises. 800 years later. As a result of the simple physics that warm water holds less gas than cold water. BTW, at the bottom of glacial cold, the CO2 level is so low plants are starving and dying and the global dust rises dramatically:https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/ice-age-glacials-milankovitch-orbital-mechanics-and-a-place-for-dust/
Milankovitch does a reasonably good job of explaining the 100,000 year pace. That is the cycle time for the orbit to become more / less elliptical. ONLY when it has maximum elliptical shape is the summer in the N.H. long enough to melt the north pole.
It would be really helpful to your understanding if you would actually READ what Milankovich said and pay attention. (BTW, the 41,000 vs 100,000 pacing “question” is not all that hard to answer. We have been in a few million year cooling trend, with cycles in it, and many hundred thousands of years ago were warm enough that the 41,000 cycle of one of the Milankovitch parameters warmed the N. Pole enough. Now we are so cold it takes all three lined up including that 100,000 elliptical one.)
And yes, we certainly CAN say that climate is “super stable” inside any orbital configuration and that, given massive changes in insolation and length of summer, it can shift to another stability point. It is stable inside a range inside our present orbital parameters, but as those parameters shift, the ‘set point’ shifts. Notice that we have seasons of winter to summer and back as our orbital parameters change, yet we are stable in that those seasons repeat… (or, more accurately, the equatorial band of stability moves N /S as the orbital parameters change, as does the snow band as does…)

Owen in GA
June 4, 2015 4:06 am

Some of this may be geography as well. When the continents were aligned differently with large shallow seas dominating the tropics, the regulator temperature likely changed. Today we have a large and very deep Pacific Ocean to deal with. I think that the “what is the geography in the tropics?” question is probably the key to that observation.
The deep water salinity and temperature may have had a difference as well. The shallow seas would have had a very large evaporation rate, causing very salty and relatively hot bottom water. Upwelling currents would have been deadly kill zones due to the lack of oxygen in such water. They also would have been distinct hot points. The edges of such a zone would have been pretty rich though as the oxygen levels became high enough to support animal life.
Plate tectonics may partially answer many questions (along with the aforementioned cosmological effects.)

Mikey
June 4, 2015 4:54 am

You’re onto something here. Our current climate is likely due to the location of our major land masses forcing warm water to the north. The currents transporting heat make northern Europe habitable. If true what are the implications for past climate?

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 8:01 am

Owen,
Continental drift can only change the climate on long time scales, not on the short 100 kyr time scale of glacial-interglacial cycles.

June 4, 2015 8:52 am

There is serious speculation that the onset of pleistocene ice ages beganmwithnthe closing of the Panama isthmus, because the timing is coincident. That forced major changes in ocean circulation.

Jimmy Finley
June 4, 2015 9:19 pm

The comments here are making much of “ice ages”. Well, look at the geological record; we know of glacial deposits in Huronian (~2BYBP), Late Proterozoic, two Paleozoic events, and lately. This is a bit part, not a starring role. Plate tectonics probably is involved, and that connection would make a worthy research study. Some of these occurred when CO2 was much above today’s levels, so that seems to minimize that gas’s role in heating/cooling. More important is the great expanse of time when the earth was hotter, and had much more CO2, and didn’t boil over, go CGW on us. My guess is that Willis’s mechanism has been moderating the T since there was an ocean (i.e. since about 4 BY ago).

asybot
June 5, 2015 12:02 am

@ ristvan, throw in the occasional asteroid and there you go (wasn’t there a strike just east of Panama in the Gulf of Mexico? Could that one have closed the two continents?

Ben Palmer
June 4, 2015 1:57 am

“When there is a hot spot in the afternoon on a tropical ocean, a thunderstorm soon forms right above it and starts cooling the surface back down. ”
Reminds me of blinking eyes and the iris effect …

mobihci
June 4, 2015 6:12 pm

yes the iris effect. Lindzen and later Spencer have really already shown this effect to take place. the problems with the theory are not well defined or expressed by either side of the argument (Dessler et al). looking forward to reading more about the possibilities.

Joe Public
June 4, 2015 1:58 am

Thanks for another enjoyable & informative lesson.

Editor
June 4, 2015 1:58 am

Once again, thanks, Willis.
Cheers.

E.M.Smith
Editor
June 4, 2015 1:59 am

During interglacial solar orbital config, it is stable.
During glacial regimes it is more unstable or bistable.
The ocean currents can rearrange easily during glacials causing Dansgaard Oeschger events, for example.
It is still bounded to the upside at our warmth level and to the downside in frozen glacial poles and warm not hot tropics. So metastable with bounds is likely the best description.

Leo Norekens
June 4, 2015 2:07 am

Everytime I read Willis’ thoughts on the stabilizing factors of the climate, the “emerging” regulating phenomena, such as cumulus clouds, thunderstorms, lightning… I think: doesn’t all this confirm (part of) the “extreme weather” meme of the alarmist crowd? (Hot spots, or rapidly rising temperatures, causing more or more severe thunderstorms, cyclones etc..)

Leo Norekens
June 4, 2015 2:45 am

So it’s not a question of “more thunderstorms” or “more severe thunderstorms” but simply “earlier thunderstorms”? Right?
But you do say that “if the surface warms even more and a third temperature threshold is surpassed, yet another phenomena will emerge—the thunderstorms will line up shoulder to shoulder in long serried rows, with canyons of clear descending air between them”. That sounds like “severe weather” to me. And if… IF that occurs more frequently…

E.M.Smith
Editor
June 4, 2015 3:08 am

It is more that for a place in spring you get one level of response, then in summer with longer days and more sun another level is reacher (and on 20, 000 year scales the planet orbit changes and the tilt change, so you get other changes like a frozen north pole) but inside those, the thunder storms still cycle providing their negative feedback.

June 4, 2015 4:04 am

A Magum Opus Willis.
“And who would notice if on average tropical thunderstorms formed an hour earlier?”
The satellites would, and that can be seen in the imagery. Since we have GOES imagery every 30 minutes now, we should be able to test the imagery for that signal if indeed the ITCZ is creating a higher albedo earlier now than it did 30 years ago.

billw1984
June 4, 2015 5:41 am

“who would notice if on average tropical thunderstorms formed an hour earlier?”
Willis Eschenbach?

E.M.Smith
Editor
June 4, 2015 2:37 am

Take out the word “extreme” and say “not seen by this generation” and the answer is maybe, sort of.
As the ocean heat built up over a 30 year hot half cycle comes out, we get more rain, not seen for about 60 years… soon the oceans will have cooled and the rains will abate. Then we will get cold not seen in 60 years… There is also a 1500 year cycle that pushes things a bit further.
https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2015/05/31/texas-rain-and-1500-year-cycles/
So inside those cycles we see the negative feedback stabilizers working and think this is “extreme” when the reality is that we live very short lives with shorter memories.
Btw, we are near the upper bound for warmth so very stable to the upside. Downside is not so constrained until we reach a glacial bottom.
W. is looking more at the daily and seasonal stability, that is as he describes. In century time scales, other things change the basic parameters and we get cycles of change in weather.

June 4, 2015 10:39 am

Afternoon thunderstorms are not “extreme weather”. And these thunderstorms are not cyclones or hurricanes. They also occur over “ocean” hotspots, specifically in the intertropical convergence zone on days when “rapidly rising temperatures” are normal, common occurrences.

Leo Norekens
June 5, 2015 1:59 am

I didn’t say that thunderstorms are “extreme weather”. What I mean is that it is reasonable to think that in a hypothetical “warming climate” , these regulating mechanisms would occur more frequently and that the chances of “extreme events” happening would increase. Sounds plausible to me.

andrewmharding
Editor
June 4, 2015 2:16 am

Thank you very much for this Willis, absolutely brilliant analysis.
There must be similar systems working in other latitudes (ours is 55 deg North 1 degree West), but I would guess the main driver of Earth’s climate is in the latitudes that you speak of which is obviously hotter than where we live.

Alan the Brit
June 4, 2015 2:21 am

Great post as always! Well reasoned & argued as always! Keep up the good work, Willis.

Alan the Brit
June 4, 2015 2:22 am

@ rhymeafterrhyme: Very good indeed!

June 4, 2015 2:32 am

Excellent as usual

June 4, 2015 2:43 am

I sometimes wonder if most climate alarmists are people who have lived all their lives in temperate zones, and never spent much time in the tropics, especially in the wet season…

June 4, 2015 3:22 am

I got that impression early on, perhaps because up here in the tropics we were used to getting know-alls coming up from down south and lecturing us on tropical design, but having no idea about the subject. Funny thing is, they never seemed to come during the hot/humid/wet cyclone/monsoon period. I suspect that a lot of the alarmists spend most of the time indoors, You would think their junkets in exotic places would teach them something, but that doesn’t seem to happen.

James at 48
June 4, 2015 3:53 pm

Maybe it’s crocaphobia.

steveta_uk
June 4, 2015 7:59 am

Could this explain the surfeit of lukewarm scientists in Georgia and Alamaba?

June 4, 2015 2:47 am

old construction worker
June 4, 2015 2:52 am

As I have always said, We live in a big swamp cooler.

June 4, 2015 12:30 pm

It is a water world…

lgl
June 4, 2015 2:59 am

And the equilibrium temperature is 26 C? Good, that’s only 10 deg higher than today. No problem then.

Kelvin Vaughan
June 4, 2015 5:32 am

London is forecast to reach 25 C Friday with thunderstorms.

Hugh
June 4, 2015 8:09 am

Actually I’m fine with day time high reaching 26C. We got 17C today.
IMO the most important thing is there will be no severe day-time warming in tropics, which takes the burden of ours of protecting Africa from the greenhouse effect. CO2 fertilisation is left, though.
0.11C/decade is all right, it gives enough time to set up some nuclear power.

Joe Born
June 4, 2015 3:02 am

Bookmarked.
This is the aspect of your work I’ve always found compelling. Thanks for the list of related posts

old construction worker
June 4, 2015 3:12 am

For those who get up early, construction workers, farmers, etc., the coldest part of the day feels to me to be about an hour or so before sun rise. The warmest part feels to me to be an hour so after high noon.

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley
June 4, 2015 5:56 am

Here in England, the warmest part of the day is around 16.00 in Summer, sometimes 15.00.

June 4, 2015 3:18 am

You are in good company using thought experiments to organize your analysis. Einstein famously relied upon them to develop the special theory of relativity.
The question we landlubbers confront is whether a step-wise shift in land temperatures can co-exist within the stabilizing oceanic climate system. The answer one gets probably depends on the time scale chosen.

Kevin Hearle
June 4, 2015 3:22 am

Eric you are right I will never forget my first day in Singapore late afternoon and the never seen before thunder heads building and then releasing all that energy in a spectacular display that we never see on that scale below Lat 30 S.

johnmarshall
June 4, 2015 3:31 am

Or even above it to the north. Tropical thunder storms are a force not to be toyed with. Try flying between them at night. Quite frightening to say the least.

David Chappell
June 4, 2015 6:02 am

and definitely do not try to fly through them…

sonofametman
June 4, 2015 6:05 am

My father was a meteorolgist, and in the late 1940’s he was on RAF met research flights from Negombo in Ceylon to Singapore and back. He said that the trip up the Malacca Strait was terrifying, with thunderstorms rolling down off Malaysia and Sumatra. He was glad when they were clear of Banda Aceh and could head out over the open ocean.

zemlik
June 4, 2015 3:25 am

you must have a really big hard drive.

johnmarshall
June 4, 2015 3:27 am

It all depends on the climate being driven by the GHE which is a theory yet to be validated by empirical data. It is not any use claiming that the models prove the theory when the models themselves are “driven” by the very same theory. That is sophistry in the extreme.

lgl
June 4, 2015 3:28 am

Why then did the temp of the WPWP increase more than the global average last century?

Bernie
June 4, 2015 4:07 am

Around 1-2 degrees / century. Catastrophic? The globe has warmed, the globe has cooled. At last we are here to record and marvel.

Owen in GA
June 4, 2015 4:12 am

Maybe they are still recovering from the cooling of the little ice age?

Pamela Gray
June 4, 2015 6:05 am

Why do people always assume that increased SST is new heat recently added? Or the reverse, the surface has cooled and we are all going to die because heat has been lost because the sun is dead!!!! Let’s pretend I am a giant (I know…hard to imagine but try). I pick up a deep swimming pool that has quietly sat out in the sun and shake it. Suddenly the surface has cooled. Did I lose heat just then? Then I set it back down in its quiet location but without benefit of the sun to heat it back up again. Miracle!!!! The surface warms again!!!! Now imagine the ocean surface calmly sitting there. The surface is warm. Shake it. The surface is now cool. Let it calm down again, and the surface becomes warm again.
Now, of course there are other variables involved in slight new build up or slight new loss over centennial time scales (such as a recovery from the end of an ice age) as well as daily/seasonal gains and losses, but these issues I have not addressed and I consider them trivial. I only address the mistaken notion that all recent increases must be new heat, not old heat.

VikingExplorer
June 4, 2015 6:19 am

Great point Pamela. There is a conveyor belt of ocean currents, so what we see today is a combination of current and past conditions.

Raykra
June 4, 2015 4:06 am

Have you also looked at the desert areas that do not have the thunderstorm effect?

KeithW
June 4, 2015 5:56 am

There are other emergent phenomena in desert conditions such as dust devils or willy-willy’s. They form when the air near the surface gets very hot and produce what is in effect a weak tornado that carries hot air and dust into the higher levels of the atmosphere. As with a tropical thunderstorm the air carried up colls by radiation and the dust reduces the amount of light reaching the ground.

jaffa68
June 4, 2015 4:13 am

Yep – any process engineer would agree that if negative feedback didn’t dominate the planet would have become either a freezer or an oven a very long time ago.

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 8:07 am

“Yep – any process engineer would agree that if negative feedback didn’t dominate the planet would have become either a freezer or an oven a very long time ago.”
Any climate scientist would agree with that also, if “feedback” is defined the way you define it.

Hugh
June 4, 2015 8:22 am

IMHO the way we define words has no effect on whether the Earth becomes a freezer or an oven.

george e. smith
June 4, 2015 10:28 pm

Negative feedback is simply defined as a system in which a portion of the OUTPUT response is fed back to the INPUT with a phase such as to cancel a portion of the INPUT signal.
In the earth climate system, the INPUT is the total solar energy that reaches the earth surface to be converted mostly to HEAT energy (and stored mostly in the deep ocean). The OUTPUT response is the change in global Temperature as a result of that solar energy input.
That is what “feedback” is.

June 4, 2015 4:17 am

Presumably increased levels of CO2 or water vapour near the surface will lead, all else being equal, to earlier onset of substantial convection produced by heating from the surface since the absorption of infra-red provides an additional mechanism for warming the air near the surface. Sources of CO2 are at the surface, and the biggest sources are in the tropics. As far as I know, the GCMs do not model spatial, and in particular height and latitude, variations in CO2 concentrations. They generally do not model CO2 at all, except as a label given to a presumed change in net radiation flow at the top of the model atmospheres which is attributed to CO2. A good many other factors are able to be readily incorporated, in a sense, in the models in the same way.

DHR
June 4, 2015 4:21 am

From the Earth’s standpoint, when the sky is clear IR losses will not be “throttled” by clouds and during cloudy times, the opposite. Is this a negative or positive feedback situation?

Hugh
June 4, 2015 8:26 am

It depends on the temperature. At least.
At northern latitudes, you’ll notice that a summer day with cumulus like cloud cover is cooler than a sunny day, but during winter all cloudy days and nights are warmer than clear crisp days and nights.
Adding cumulus clouds moderates the temperature.

sergeiMK
June 4, 2015 4:21 am

if the regulation is working then why is there a continual considerable increase in heat content of the oceans?

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta
June 4, 2015 7:04 am

Define “considerable”. It is so little that it is barely detectable within the accuracy of modern instrumentation.
Monckton says the rate of temperature rise is less than a quarter of a degree C per century. The measurements have overall an error band of 0.3 which is greater than the claimed warming per century. And this rate was established over how long a period?
If the oceans as a whole are warming, or cooling at the same rate no one can ‘prove’ it.

Hugh
June 4, 2015 8:47 am

Maybe the feedback is slightly smaller than the effect of CO2 forcing? Or maybe the ocean circulation just happens to be in warming phase? Or maybe the OHC calculations are not as precise as marketed by tenure seeking scientists? They kept digging and digging to find the error which caused the cooling result, and then stopped digging?

george e. smith
June 4, 2015 10:49 pm

You’ve got to be kidding.
The Wentz et al paper says that a 1 deg. C increase in global Temperature results in a 7% increase in total global evaporation, and a 7% increase in total global precipitation, and a 7% increase in total atmospheric water content. That is a huge feedback factor. A 1% cloud cover change makes CO2 doubling look paltry by comparison.
As I have mentioned on many occasions here at WUWT, although Wentz et al didn’t say so in their paper. In most polite circles when you have a 7% increase in total global precipitation, it is traditional in most locations to have a commensurate increase in total global precipitable cloud cover.
And I have suggested that this might take the form of increased cloud AREA, and or increased DENSITY of moisture in the clouds, and or increased persistence time of those precipitable clouds.
Another regular poster at WUWT added that this change could also include a movement of cloud formation to the warmer regions of the planet (tropics) where more incoming solar energy is.
My apologies to that person, as my short term memory has failed me, and I’ll remember his name the moment I send this.
So the earlier onset of thunderstorm building that Willis documents here in this essay is a demonstrable incidence of the sorts of cloud MODULATION which I alluded to.
It’s one that I hadn’t specifically thought about. To me clouds is clouds, and more clouds is more clouds, and I agree that thunderstorm clouds are great solar input controls.
I’m amazed that Willis had access to the sort of photographic evidence to bring this subject down to earth in a concrete way.
One of your best missives yet Willis.
G

Hugh
June 5, 2015 4:43 am

What is your answer, then, to the question “if the regulation is working then why is there a continual considerable increase in heat content of the oceans?”

Stephen Wilde
June 5, 2015 9:57 am

“Another regular poster at WUWT added that this change could also include a movement of cloud formation to the warmer regions of the planet (tropics) where more incoming solar energy is.”
Well I’ve been drawing attention to latitudinal climate zone shifting and changes in jetstream zonality / meridionality since 2007.

george e. smith
June 5, 2015 12:45 pm

And yes it was indeed Stephen Wilde who first (to my recollection) mentioned the latitudinal migration of cloud formation as a feedback influence.
Sorry for the mental block there Stephen. My short term memory is going haywire. There are times I can’t even come up with Albert Einstein.
It s a real conversational problem as I can’t spit out some simple word when needed, but easily recall it after it is moot.
The key thing about the various “cloud negative feedback” processes that you, myself, and here Willis, have noted, is that there is no need to invoke any sort of CO2 mechanism.
It doesn’t matter a hoot how much CO2 there is, the cloud cover just adjusts to the proper required amount.
The CO2 GW mechanism is a complete red herring. Yes I know, CO2 and zone do absorb LWIR radiation. Nobody disputes that. But if cloud feedback can completely overcome the considerable change in TSI vale during the annual orbit change, what chance does a pipsqueak effect like CO2 have.
No I don’t deny that CO2 is a GHG that absorbs LWIR outgoing radiation. The cloud feedback just wipes the floor with that harmless change.
g

sergeiMK
June 6, 2015 4:57 am

water vapour coms from the surface of the water. It is the surface of the water that absorbs IR (it only penetrates a few molecules deep (other than wave action mixing). IR WILL therefore have an effect on evaporation.
The top metre or so of sea changes by many °C over the course of a year as you get outside the tropics.
Air temperature will be affected by the SST and the SST will be affected by the air temp (heat flow is a 2 way thing)
OHC is over 2000metres of depth – there will be a delay from surface to 2000m Looking at wiki for SST and OHC it appears that perhaps 20 years may be a figure (peak at 1945 and peak at 1963) but the data is insufficient to accurately say.
CiW says the increase is insignificant – this is just not true it is energy stored which was not there before. can you prove that this massive amount of energy is benign?

Peter
June 4, 2015 1:54 pm

It is simply because of hysteresis in ocean temperature. Like room thermostat it has some setting values. If you want to keep 20C, It will start heating at 19.5C and stop heating at 20.5C. From very slowed point of view you can see temperature rising from 19.5C to 20.5C and no thermostat in action.

Mikey
June 4, 2015 4:46 am

Good post Willis! We see something very similar here in the Great Lakes region all summer. Clear mornings followed by increasing cloudiness followed by afternoon thunderstorms. And it results in the same thing — a decrease in temperature.
On the much grander scale of the tropical oceans I can understand how this feedback stabilizes temperature.

Tony
June 4, 2015 4:48 am

Excellent Willis.
“… onset of cumulus clouds is at about 10:30 …” How does this vary as the Earth passes through its perihelion and aphelion?

June 4, 2015 4:57 am

This second post gives a more wholistic view of the various mechanisms you tried to tie together in your first post. The “view from the sun” investigation also provides your most compelling evidence for your theory.
If correct it should also show the “left of picture”, “right of picture” differences as the Earth moves nearer or further away from the sun through its yearly elliptical orbit. When the Earth is closer to the sun, we would expect to see more clouds “earlier” in the day from the sun’s perspective further to the left on satellite photographs and further to the right when the Earth is furthest away from the sun in it’s orbit.
This would be the simplest way to confirm or refute your theory and would be an incredible discovery if you are correct and the issue of why Earths mean temperature remains stable through the year is resolved.

June 4, 2015 5:03 am

That is an excellent description of the semi-diurnal wave pattern that I have been recording for the last year with my cheap little barometer I bought at Wally World. It also describes to a tee the actions that occur at “high noon”.
And I have been walking and mummering about the same “out of phase” patterns that the changes in atmospheric pressure when compared to solar observations. Maybe, just maybe, there is a time delay of 4 to 6 hours between the observed sun at “high noon” and the temperature changes on earth. Seems like it takes the plasma longer to get here than the light.
Has anyone noticed the glitches that occur several times during the temperature rises from day to day. I plotted RH vs Temp and came up with a graph that shows where enthalpy is changing at those short times. Could that be the missing energy that was suposed to be in the bottom of the ocean? If so it is right in front of our eyes.
Recently, after the sun went down the stillness path (cycle 24), the di-urnal pattern has changed. From a well formed, repeatable pattern to one that is truncated on either side of high noon. The only THING that could cause that is the non-forcing caused by the reduction of the solar wind.
That shining orb puts out a full range of signals containing every possible frequency and mass movement. If I was to cherry pick my data, I could probably make it appear like anything I wanted. But for the life of me, I would not know what to cherry pick at all.
Well I have the right to say I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON UP THERE. After all I am not a scientist.

June 4, 2015 5:09 am

This is an excellent video on solar plasma and it’s possible terestrial effects and why solar cycles could play a role in climate despite total solar irradiance remaining basically the same.

Pamela Gray
June 4, 2015 6:10 am

Wow. Excellent source. Not.

June 4, 2015 8:21 am

June 4, 2015 8:22 am

Excellent and interesting.

Bernard Lodge
June 4, 2015 2:42 pm

Very interesting. I now understand much better what Svensmark is proposing. Bob Johnson’s speculations about other possible links of the sun to the climate are also intriguing. This is one of those places where we should be spending some of that climate research money, rather than chasing CO2 molecules round with computer models.

June 4, 2015 3:55 pm

Im not sure we are seeing the same sun. I am measuring sun energy not light. Not quite sure what the 36 dollar solar charger I am using is looking at.
I have always thought that irradiance encompases that heating aspect of the sun. I now know that each frequency ejected from the sun takes different transit times to get to the earth. Just like the picture in the video of the solar wind wrapping around the sun and ending up on earth days later.
Thanks for the url. At the end he brought up a lot of items that is not settled science yet. Im still trying to wrap my thoughts around how the magnetic field affects our atmosphere without having some kind of mass to force the barometric pressure to change.

Pamela Gray
June 4, 2015 4:30 pm

I went looking for any university based research Bob Johnson has done on solar plasma. I went looking for major journals he has published in. I went looking for book chapters he has authored. I went looking for mainstream solar groups. I could not find his name anywhere. The only place I found his name was in the completely debunked elect+++ universe side show group.
So yeh. I would not give his theories anymore wasted time than the hour I spent searching for published work under his name. And I want that hour back. I could have been watching grass grow.

Alan Robertson
June 4, 2015 6:15 am

” I DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON UP THERE. After all I am not a scientist.”
—————
That’s ok Lee, it doesn’t appear that “scientists” know what’s going on up there, either.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta
June 4, 2015 7:09 am

Lee O
You do not need to be a scientist to think. Put in the time needed to understand. That’s all the scientists did.

Paul
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta
June 4, 2015 8:09 am

Agreed, sometimes passion trumps pedigree,

Matt Bergin
Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta
June 4, 2015 9:55 am

Sorry Crispin You should have said ” You don’t have to have a PHD to think, but if you think and try to understand you are a Scientist.”

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo but really in Yogyakarta
June 4, 2015 8:24 pm

Well Crispin and Paul
I believe that there are many people like me just reading and learning from these blogs everyday. I do not think they have made the transition to involvement, otherwise we would hear from them. But, when they do, Katy bar the door.

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 8:12 am

Lee Osburn,
“I plotted RH vs Temp and came up with a graph that shows where enthalpy is changing at those short times.”
Does that happen a few hours after sunrise? When the inversion layer breaks up?

June 4, 2015 1:02 pm

On 2-12-14 I graphed a detail of the temperature. My temperature dropped to 20.6 degrees F and then began to rise at 7:17cst. The first dip occurred 13 minutes later. The second in about 40min. The third about an hour and a half. Three more occurred of which the last occurred around high noon (that is around 12:30pm cst). Temperature peaked at 62deg at 3:00 pm and remained constant til about 5pm when it started dropping. After sundown at 6:22 it began to free fall until it reached 36deg where a spike occurred followed by two more before dropping below freezing at midnight cst.
I have not seen a duplication of the times. It seems very random.

zemlik
June 4, 2015 5:05 am

excuse me for an off topic post.
If you look at all of the people and things that they say you might yourself say that the upbringing shapes the individual thoughts, the way the individual looks at the world in trying to understand all and everything.
Well I will just cut straight to my point that the Christian and the islamic fundamentals can be dispensed with and we (humans ) should adopt Buddhist teaching. I think this way a lot of hardships can be avoided.
to further say I know for a fact that thought influences reality, Why do you think that people believe in curses ?
the biological effect should not be ignored in any study trying to say something about the nature.

June 4, 2015 5:07 am

Thanks, Willis. I am updating your Thermostat articles in ARVAL.

June 4, 2015 5:11 am

I postulate that those tropical thunderclouds are controlling the atmospheric concentration of CO2 as well as temperature, with cold rain returning a fraction that has been emitted to the ocean surface. Think Henry’s Law at work near the top of those thunderclouds. The pH of clean rain is a function of the atmospheric concentration of CO2 (around 4.2). In the tropics the freezing level is between 600mb and 500mb.

Richard111
June 4, 2015 5:15 am

I’m sure I read, years ago, in a Lovelock book, about bugs in the ocean that gave off a gas when things got too warm. This gas encouraged the water vapour above the ocean to form clouds, lowered the dew point or something. Those critters are smarter than we are.

paulatmisterbees
June 4, 2015 5:52 am

It would be interesting to do the same exercise on the ‘other side’ of the picture where it is always midnight. Perhaps there is an outgoing. Regulator too.

Peter
June 4, 2015 2:06 pm

Yes there is and very simple too. It is dew point of water vapors and creation of fog, which retains Earth heat. It is changing nighttime Earth from high radiating blackbody to low radiating white body.

June 4, 2015 2:41 pm

Yes there is and very simple too. It is dew point of water vapors and creation of fog, which retains Earth heat. It is changing nighttime Earth from high radiating blackbody to low radiating white body.

This shows up long before fog does, I have noticed the rate of cooling changing at the high 80% to mid 90% rel humidity, this might be a air pressure adjustment, which would make some sense.

June 4, 2015 8:13 am

That was my first thought as well. The new knowledge that bacteria release rain causing chemicals when the surface water gets “too warm” for them. (or it could be they are using warm water to spread their kind). Bacteria that live on plants do the same thing, when it’s very warm they spread by riding the updrafts, and end up in the clouds. And both kind cause it to rain.
This next part I find important. These same plant bacteria are the ones that cause frost damage, because they can cause water to freeze above the normal freezing point. This ability, to form ice crystals around them above freezing, is thought to be the source of rain, since they seed clouds before dust or soot would. The bacteria may actually be causing both the clouds and the rain to form.
This goes hand in hand with the idea that the warmer it gets, the quicker clouds form, and the sooner rain falls. Fascinating stuff.
Also, during the warm season, lack of rain is almost 100% correlated with hot periods, and rain is connected with cool periods.

VikingExplorer
June 4, 2015 6:06 am

Excellent post. Plausible and well written. My only nit pick is the vague implication that there is some magic going on, or that this is new information or a new theory. Let me add in the same style:
Of course, there is another way that thunderstorms cool the surface off. Water molecules which have been near the TOA, have been cooled considerably by the exposure to the icy blackness of outer space. By an emergent phenomena of spontaneous physical transport, rain drops fall. When they suddenly stop moving, the surface is forced by some magic to Heat the water by another emergent phenomena (known as thermodynamics). This has the effect of cooling the surface. Sun Heats surface. Surface heats water, surface cools. Water evaporates, surface cools. Water rises, surface cools. Space cools water. Water falls. Surface Heats fallen Water, surface cools.
This all points to a system which is inherently stable.

VikingExplorer
June 4, 2015 7:17 am

I’m reading the book 1984. In the book, Big Brother changes the past to match his latest pronouncements. Thank goodness, there is nothing like that happening today (or is there?).
Anyways, the main character Winston finds it remarkable that the people went right along with it. One day, the amount of chocolate was reduced from 30 to 20 grams. The next day, it was announced that it had been raised from 10 to 20. Winston is amazed and thinks surely, people remember yesterday, and that it was 30, not 10.
Speaking of stability, I wonder if the argument is stable. Just over one week ago (seems longer, doesn’t it?), this article argued rather vehemently that the climate was unpredictable. Sir Monckton even got into the fray to support the notion of climate unpredictability.
I found this rather perplexing, because although I’m not quite sure where Willis stands, Sir Monckton is clearly anti AGW. Yet, he was arguing the pro AGW position, which is that the climate is unstable, and could reach a tipping point, if we’re not really, really careful. Don’t drive muscle cars, and if you see a butterfly, catch it before it leads to our doom.
Like Winston, I’m amazed that the readers of this blog don’t seem to remember that the allotment of chocolate yesterday was 30 grams and not 10. Just over one week ago, the climate was so unstable that it could not be predicted. Today, it’s inherently stable. I assert that it can’t be both.

June 4, 2015 8:31 am

Well there are many different viewpoints on here. The only consensus being that man isn’t going to cause a catastrophe to do with temperature.
It’s not when separate bloggers contradict one another that it’s worth worrying about, only when one contradicts himself/herself

VikingExplorer
June 4, 2015 9:16 am

wickedwenchfan, both are written by the same person.

VikingExplorer
June 4, 2015 9:18 am

It also seems likely that there are readers of both posts that have commented favorably to both, but I’m not sure of that.

VikingExplorer
June 4, 2015 9:31 am

For example, this commenter calls this a Magnificent post, while calling a post with the opposite thesis a
brilliant exposition.
surely, people remember yesterday, and that it was 30, not 10? Apparently, like in 1984, people can have it both ways.

June 4, 2015 1:06 pm

Just for info:
In Willis’ post yesterday he did say that this system of stability he is describing isn’t the only factor in`climate stability and that there are probably many more.

Jimmy Finley
June 4, 2015 10:08 pm

You are making a really stupid (and I suspect, not a charitable) assumption, which is that I and however many others, completely agreed with one point of view or another, and then turned around and bought into a diametrically opposite argument. Yeah, I see the various arguments, and some I agree with, some I reject, and some I have no opinion about. On this particular argument (Willis’s hypothesis) I am in full agreement. His mechanism keeps the zone on earth that receives the bulk of the Sun’s heat input from boiling over. It also is the basis of several other earthly phenomena, like the Hadley cells, the obviation of greenhouse gas involvement in temperature, the strength of the equatorial trade winds, and perhaps more.

Jimmy Finley
June 4, 2015 10:51 pm

This reply is responding to things said further down the chain that don’t allow a reply. Essentially, you are an ass. Yes, physics surrounds us, doing its thing. Unlearned men make it out to be magic. Scientists study it and propose an hypothesis that ties together what the physics is doing. Willis has done that. If you have an issue with it, refute it. Otherwise, shut up, you embarrass us with your stupid animosity.

VikingExplorer
June 5, 2015 4:12 am

James Finley,
Me thinks thou dost protest too much. Animosity? You’re the one calling me an ass and stupid. All I did was point out that in the span of just over a week, opposite viewpoints were expressed, and no one seemed to notice. It can’t be both ways.
Why should I refute this post, since I agree with it? I agree with it, because it seems correct to me, not because it’s my side. Now, why would you react so strongly? Curious…

June 4, 2015 10:05 am

other than you, previously, on this web site…

VikingExplorer
June 4, 2015 10:20 am

Willis, it’s an excellent essay. You have a knack for bringing things together into a compelling story. My only issue is the way you’re describing the underlying scientific ideas as new: “emergence of various emergent phenomena”. Adding the word “emergent” periodically doesn’t make it new.
In reality, the laws of physics are always in operation. Of course, a hot spot causes thunderstorms. It’s not by magic, so there is no artificial timing involved. The hotter, the quicker it will form.
There is no need to find a scientific paper, because it’s well known that a hot spot causes thunderstorms. Scientists know, and many, many people, including myself, have been saying for years that there are multiple Energy transfer mechanisms in place, which are operating in parallel.
And just like with parallel circuits, if one increases the resistance of one leg, the existing voltage difference will cause more current to flow in the others (Kirchhoff’s current law). In the same way, many people have been saying that a slight change in radiative resistance will have no effect for this same reason.
That’s the meaning of my analogy of a house with the doors and windows wide open:

As I explained on CA many years ago: Imagine a house with R12 insulation in the walls, the heater on full blast, with all doors and windows wide open. How do we warm up the house on a cold, windy winter night?
AGW believer: Switch to R13 insulation.
Skeptic: Close the doors and windows.

The point is that there are energy transfer mechanisms (like evaporation, physical transport, rain fall, thunderstorms, etc.) which all serve to transfer energy from the surface to the TOA. They are like the open doors and windows.

June 4, 2015 6:08 am

Thanks Willis, very enlightening but I have a question for you.
If albedo is the emergent phenomena at the equator, is there a corresponding effect at the poles. And, if there is do you think it might be found in the phase transition between ice and water? (As the cloud formation in the tropics is due to the cyclic phase transition between liquid water, water vapour and back to liquid water at different pressures)

June 4, 2015 6:59 am

The Arctic is interesting this time of year because in a sense it is “always noon.” To my simplistic way of thinking it seems there should be no cooling if it is “always noon.” Yet then you see cooling occur. That gets me walking around my garden, (or kneeling and weeding), and wondering, “Where did the cooling come from, if it is :”always noon”?”
Midsummer polar cooling seems to occur, (using my haphazard observations), when a summer low up over the arctic is filling and weakening. Sometimes the cameras up there show the sun comes out, and it is a bit baffling because it gets abruptly colder.
Hopefully Willis will find time to ponder the Poles at some point.

June 4, 2015 8:22 am

The arctic is never at noon. Much less “always noon”.

June 4, 2015 10:12 am

By noon I meant, “as high as the sun gets on a given day.” Sorry if that was unclear.
At the Pole itself the sun is up for six months. During roughly two of those months the sun is high enough to warm the air at the surface to just above freezing. Because the sun just travels around and around the sky, I wondered why temperatures didn’t stay stuck at just above freezing. In actual fact temperatures can dip quite low after summer gales. I saw it get down to -7° C a couple summers ago.

commieBob
June 4, 2015 10:26 am

Most of the heat in the Arctic is transported there by the atmosphere and ocean. Because the sun strikes at a shallow angle, its main effect is to reduce the net heat loss to outer space*. In July the top of atmosphere (TOA) shows approximately a 10 watt per square meter heating from the sun. In the winter, there is approximately 180 watts per square meter heat loss.
Given the tiny net solar heat gain in the summer, it doesn’t take much to swing it to a loss.
Note also that the Arctic heat budget is not well understood. ie. The numbers don’t balance. http://www.colorado.edu/geography/class_homepages/geog_4271_f10/lectures/week_2.pdf
Usually we define noon as the time when the sun is highest in the sky. That coincides with when it is directly south. At the exact north pole, neither of those definitions works. Elsewhere in the Arctic, noon happens once per day as it does down south.
*Even so, the sun feels wonderful. I remember glorious days, the sun warming my face, stripped down to only a couple of layers of clothing, the temperature a balmy -15 F.

Chuck L
June 4, 2015 6:40 am

Willis, another beautiful scientific essay pure in its simplicity. To Chiefio’s point, how do you feel the tropical thunderstorms fit in with large-scale phenomena like TSI/solar activity and orbital perturbations?

June 4, 2015 7:09 am

Brilliant, well written and enjoyable.as usual.
Thanks Willis

Arthur the Ignoramus
June 4, 2015 7:16 am

But how do your theory account for what happens outside the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone? It is a larger area and some of it quite cold.

Arthur the Ignoramus
June 4, 2015 12:38 pm

Thank you for the explanation.

June 4, 2015 1:16 pm

Look at all the heat and rain El Nino just transported north and flooded Texas with.

Hugh
June 5, 2015 5:20 am

First, there are thunderstorms all over the world, just not as regularly as those in the tropics.

Well, if the surface temperature rises to 300K, then yes, but very seldom at under 280K.
But do you really need thunderstorms and 26C, would it not be enough to have some clouds, which basically requires some moisture and some reason for convection, like a cliff.

K. Kilty
June 4, 2015 7:22 am

The better analogy in this case is not to governing engine speed, as done through the gas pedal, but engine coolant temperature. In an internal combustion engine, there are two ways to adjust this. The first is as this article says by increasing the fuel rate use–especially that used against parasitics. But there is a second means, which is to adjust the coolant flow through the radiator. Likewise the earth has several such throttles at least. In addition to the visible iris of albedo, there is also, potentially, an IR iris that acts like a throttle on the heat rejection end of earth’s climate. Lindzen postulated this some 15 years ago, upon which the idea was rejected immediately by the climate science “community”, but the idea is now having a revival. The vigor of the heat transfer system from equator to pole should also have an impact on global temperatures–i.e. what mean earth temperature difference is there when flow is zonal versus meridional? Or even the mode of transfer ( fraction in ocean versus atmosphere) could provide another throttle.

June 4, 2015 9:14 am

And I think Arctic ice is one of the thermostats, open water radiates more than it gains at least 18 hours a day.

K. Kilty
June 4, 2015 3:58 pm

Yes, when a person begins to build a list of potential “throttles” it turns out to be surprisingly long. Some interact with one another, they have very different response times, and the end result is a very complex system.

Russ R.
June 4, 2015 7:23 am

“We’ve put spatial coordinates in place of temporal coordinates.”
Willis, that’s so clever and simple (and so obvious in hindsight), I’m kind of kicking myself for not having thought of it. Show’s how easy it is to let one’s thinking become trapped in a particular frame of reference.
Hat tip to you sir.

June 4, 2015 7:33 am

Willis,
I have been following your WUWT posts for quite a while now and your writings on your adventures on the sea or at different jobs in your past are always enjoyable. However, when you start to venture in your ‘thought experiments’ to meteorological issues, and you build climate-oriented hypothesis’s out of it, well, you lack of tropical meteorology knowledge shows. I hate to throw cold water on your Thermostat Hypothesis but the tropical atmosphere just does not work the way you explain in your simplistic model. It is much more complex in how it governs and modulates deep convection.
Through out your various Thermostat Hypothesis write ups in your analysis of the tropical atmosphere, focus on water temperature as being the sole variable.
“It [daily weather] is driven by the day/night variations in the strength of the sun’s energy. Before dawn, the atmosphere is typically calm and clear.”
Satellite imagery shows that the low level trade wind cumulus clouds are present in a near continuous mode through day & night and the trade winds are, for the most part, continuous but they do modulate over time in response to the dynamic pressure systems which may move through a particular area.
” As the ocean (or moist land) heats up, air temperature and evaporation increase. Warm moist air starts to rise. Soon the rising moist air cools and condenses into clouds.”
Ocean water temperature does not track the short-term day/night atmospheric temperature swings. From the short-term perspective, it is constant – only changing slowly over weeks/months in response to solar illumination angles.
“The full development of the cumulus clouds sets the stage for the second part of temperature regulation. This is not simple negative feedback. It is the climate governing system. As the temperature continues to rise, as the evaporation climbs, some of the fluffy cumulus clouds suddenly transform themselves. They rapidly extend skywards, thrusting up to form pillars of cloud thousands of meters high in a short time. These cumulus are transformed into cumulonimbus or thunderstorm clouds.”
While trade wind cumulus clouds are near-continuous, deep convection is active in both day and night regimes and their development is *not* governed by water temperature alone. In your analysis, you leave out three very important words which are critical in tropical thunderstorm/deep convection – ‘trade wind inversion’ (TWI). This is a stabilizing feature in the lower atmosphere caused by the sinking air of the Hadley Cell circulation and modulated in strength from upper-level dynamics. Also, the tropical atmosphere is conditionally unstable to deep convection and near-absolute unstable to shallow convection (trade wind cumulus). The shallow convection is capped by the TWI and, due to the conditional nature of the tropical atmosphere, a trigger or forcing must come along to force deeper convection and the strength of the TWI. The weaker the TWI is, the more more cloudiness there is and the less forcing required to establish deep convection. However, when the TWI is strong, clouds are suppressed (even trade wind cumulus) and deep convection cannot exists even with the strongest of forcing.
A forecast tool has been developed at the NWS/HPC Tropical Desk (http://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/international/gdi/) called the Galvex-Davison Index (GDI) where it states “The GDI is a stability index developed for tropical and subtropical locations in which (1)subsidence inversions and (2)stabilizing/destabilizing effects of upper ridges/troughs play an important role in modulating convective development.” This is correct because throughout the tropics where there is uniform water temperatures, there are areas where there are clouds/deep convection day/night *and* areas where there are few clouds/no deep convection day/night as seen in satellite images.
In short, water temperature is not the driving force in tropical clouds/deep convection – the upper atmosphere is. Water temperature is the fuel/energy source (heat/moisture) for the clouds & storms but, by itself, cannot get warm enough to spontaneously trigger deep convection.
Also, in reference to your discussion of the ITCZ (Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) as seen in your GOES-West local noon image over the year, you are misinterpreting the information. The ITCZ, as with any other deep convection in the tropics, is not modulated with daytime heating as you say your picture is showing. As explained above, tropical deep convection can occur any time of the day there is forcing to overcome the TWI, and with the ITCZ, the forcing is surface convergence from the northern hemisphere/southern hemisphere trade winds along a specific latitude. That convergence will cause lift & the ITCZ is proof the convergence is overpowering any TWI present and, as long as the warm water & surface convergence exists, the ITCZ convection will persist…day & night.
Continuing on…
“The thunderstorm sucks up warm, moist air at the surface and shoots it skyward. At altitude the water condenses, transforming the latent heat into sensible heat. The air is rewarmed by this release of sensible heat, and continues to rise.
“At the top, the air is released from the cloud up high, way above most of the CO2. In that rarified atmosphere, the air is much freer to radiate to space.”
Are you implying that air rising through deep convection gets warmer with height and is hotter at the top of the cloud than the surface air that originated? The adiabatic process and satellite imagery says that is incorrect. Clouds cool as they grow vertically not warm and the tops of deep convection are cold not hot. Deep convection block/reduce Outgoing Long Wave Radiation (OLWR) not enhance it. This is basic stuff.
Now, please understand, all of this is not to say there is no overall climate governor mechanism occurring in the tropical area. I’m just saying the weather processes occurring in the tropics are not nearly as simplistic as your description is. I’d be more inclined to lean toward the low-level trade wind cumulus being modulated as opposed to deep convection due to the extra atmospheric requirements to getting deep convection going.
Regards,
Jeff

June 4, 2015 8:52 am

From what I understood of his post, the central premise is that when viewed from the view of the Sun (ie the face of the earth always in daylight) satellite imagery shows more tropical clouds on the side that has been in daylight longest (as the earth rotates one side will be continuously coming out of darkness and the other moving into it). If this is correct, then regardless of any ignorance on how specific processes work, the theory should hold some merit. If this claim is wrong however…..

June 6, 2015 7:20 am

Gosh, you mean that tropical meteorology is more complex than can be explained to educated laymen in a couple of pages?
Who knew? …

Sorry, it’s not my job to read your mind. It’s your job to communicate clearly (for someone who does so much communication in your writings, you would think that would be obvious, but…). I, nor anyone else, has any idea what you know or don’t know and with what I’ve see in the past with your posts concerning statistics, you can get pretty deep into things which can go over ‘educated laymen’s ‘ heads so, sorry, that is no excuse for not including and addressing other impacts to tropical weather besides the Sun and clouds.

No, I focus on it as being the main variable.

Fair enough, I should not have used the definite word ‘sole’ but since you don’t list any other (than Sun & clouds, of course) what is one to think (see above on clear communications)?

Cumulus clouds are not “present in a near continuous mode”. Nor are the trade winds “for the most part continuous”. Like the clouds, they change all the time.

Now Willis, I didn’t say they were ‘continuous’, I said they were near continuous. IOW, allowing for change. Reading is fundamental.

It appears you’ve never heard the term “trade wind season”.

(sigh…)
noun
1. Also, trade winds. Also called trades. any of the nearly constant (my bold) easterly winds that dominate most of the tropics and subtropics throughout the world, blowing mainly from the northeast in the Northern Hemisphere, and from the southeast in the Southern Hemisphere.
2. any wind that blows in one regular course, or continually in the same direction.
or…
The trade winds are the ‘prevailing pattern’ of easterly surface winds found in the tropics, within the lower portion of the Earth’s atmosphere, in the lower section of the troposphere near the Earth’s equator.(Glossary of Meteorology (2010). “trade winds”. American Meteorological Society. Retrieved 2008-09-08.)
“Prevailing winds” – are winds that blow predominantly from a single general direction over a particular point on the Earth’s surface.
or…

You’re trying to explain trade winds to a long time tropical sailor, my friend. Bad idea.

…and your trying to defend a really foolish position to someone who has 40+ years in meteorology and 25+ years in GOES Satellite operations/meteorology – worse idea…
Also, to be clear, I’m talking about the Global Tropics basin wide, not just what is in front of your front porch in Fiji.

Really … truly … you need to get out more. If you actually think that the ocean surface has no day/night variations, I encourage you to spend a few months sailing and surfing and both day and night diving in the tropics. Not only are the ocean temperatures different day and night, but during the day the ocean is thermally stratified, while at night it overturns, bringing water up from below to cool.

I sailed the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean & Atlantic in the Navy for 6 years so I’m familiar with tropical weather, thanks.
Again, sorry, in my explanation of surface water temperature, I left out the word ‘basicly’ when saying it’s short-term constant. But since you ignored my modifiers “near” and “most part” above, it wouldn’t have made much difference.
In saying above, the surface cools & overturning brings up [warmer] water from below, THANKS! – you proved my point that the surface stays “basicly” the same temperature. From your reference from the Journal of Oceanography, “large diurnal SST rise occurs over wide areas in a specific season, and in an extreme case the diurnal amplitude of SST exceeds 5 K.” EXTREME CASES??? Please make up your mind if you are talking about day/night variation or El Nino. You can’t have both. I’m not going to allow you to ‘move the goal posts’ to justify your position.

So no, ocean temperatures are by no means “constant” in the short term, nor are diurnal swings non-existent or unimportant as you claim.

Yes they are, Willis, you are wrong.

First off, “trade wind cumulous clouds” are not what I was talking about. I’m talking about cumulus clouds whether it is trade-wind season or not. And neither the trade winds nor the cumulus clouds are “near-continuous”. If you can’t make it to the tropics, you should spend a couple of weeks wandering around in the TAO buoy data before you start up with that kind of misconception.

(double sigh…)
Wikipedia
Shallow cumulus clouds are seen within trade wind regimes, and are capped from becoming taller by a trade wind inversion, which is caused by descending air aloft from within the subtropical ridge. The weaker the trade winds become, the more rainfall can be expected in the neighboring landmasses.
or…
The Free Dictionary
The characteristic cumulus cloud of the trade winds over the oceans in average, undisturbed weather conditions; the individual cloud usually exhibits a blocklike appearance since its vertical growth ends abruptly in the lower stratum of the trade-wind inversion; a group of fully grown clouds shows considerable uniformity in size and shape. Also known as trade cumulus.
or…
Betts, A. K., 1997: Trade cumulus: Observations and modeling. The Physics and
Parameterization of Moist Atmospheric Convection, R. K. Smith, Ed., Kluwer
or…
Siebesma, A. P., 1998: Shallow cumulus convection. Buoyant Convection in Geophysical
Flows, E. J. Plate el al., Eds., Kluwer Academic, 441 – 486.
or…
Stevens, B., 2005: Atmospheric Moist Convection. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci., 33,
605 – 643.
or…
Bob Rauber (2009-05-22). “Research-The Rain in Cumulus over the Ocean Campaign”.
http://www.atmos.uiuc.edu/~rauber/researchRICO.htm
Trade-Wind Cumulus is EXACTLY what you are talking about! I watch the tropics from the satellite point of view nearly every day. I see the trade-wind cumulus in the morning, noon, evening & overnight with very little change (and when the TWI [trade wind inversion, remember that?] allows it). I know exactly what I am talking about…Willis, you are wrong.
Also, the Rain in Cumulus over the Ocean Campaign (RICO) paper has a very nice graph over several days of their research showing the ‘very slight’ temperature variations of the surface ocean temperature. Again, I’m right, you are wrong.

The ITCZ is “not modulated with daytime heating”? Really? The instantaneous strength of the sun has zero diurnal effect on the deep circulation of the ITCZ? Like I said … you need to get out more. You could start by reading things like “The diurnal variation of deep convection and inferred precipitation in the central tropical Pacific during January-February 1979″ … it’s about the non-existent diurnal variation that you say isn’t happening …

Again, now Willis, you really need to read what you reference to defend your argument to keep yourself from looking like a fool… If this reference was to defend that deep cumulus is a primary afternoon event (as is stated in your paper), your reference didn’t agree with you.
There were five areas of investigation; 1)SPCZ(South Pacific Convergence Zone)-West, 2)SPCZ-East, 3)ITCZ(Inter Tropical Convergence Zone), 4)the tropical cloud intrusion region and 5)the convectively suppressed region. In the SPCZ-West, it showed two modes of behaviour “…The deepest clouds…exhibited maximum coverage near sunrise and minimum coverage near sunset.” “thus, the picture emerges of a population of very deep clouds that increases in areal coverage during the night and reaches its peak near sunrise…” (bold mine).
It continues; “A somewhat similar pattern of behaviour is observed in the SPCZ-east region”.
And again: “The ITCZ region is also characterized by a convective regime in which the deepest clouds (those reaching above 300mb) are most prevalent near sunrise and least prevalent near sunset”. Now, this was written back in 1985 using data from January-February 1979. This was way before the current knowledge of what triggers/drive deep tropical convection…and it’s not what you say it is Willis.
Well, that doesn’t look very good for you, Willis…but it sure does for me because it goes to show that tropical deep convection can occur anytime of the day/night if the TWI allows it and, more importantly, if the forcing is present.

Are you implying that air rising through deep convection gets warmer with height and is hotter at the top of the cloud than the surface air that originated?

Nope. You’re inferring that.

Uh, I didn’t have much choice because you did not explain yourself clearly.

“At the top, the air is released from the cloud up high, way above most of the CO2.

I’m sorry…CO2?!?!?! You would only include the issue of CO2 if you believed it has a major impact. The impact of CO2 in the broad IR spectrum is extremely narrow – almost to the point of being ignored compared to water vapour & the like. I though that was pretty much established on this blog by the evidence but…I guess you do not agree.

What I said was that the higher up in the atmosphere a parcel of air might be, the less greenhouse gases there are between that parcel and space. As a result, whatever does radiate say up by the tropopause will be relatively unimpeded in its path to space, and thus whatever heat it contains will be rapidly radiated to space. I hold to that.

…we can separate the ocean into areas where clouds decrease with increasing temperature from other areas where clouds increase with increasing temperatures … and we separate them by temperatures alone.

So, now you say clouds both increase and decrease with increasing temperature?? Well, if that’s not confusing, I don’t know what is.

No need to check whether the low-level trade wind cumulus is modulated or not.

Sorry, disagree since it has already been shown the upper atmosphere is the thing doing the regulation along with temperature & not temperature alone.

For example, if the sea surface is below a certain temperature, we don’t get cyclones. Yes, there are other factors in play, upper atmosphere wind shear, all kinds of things … but temperature alone lets [you] identify where cyclogenesis will occur.

Tropical cyclones, yes because it is the heat from the sea surface which is driving the cyclone, but as for cold-core cyclones, you are quite wrong…again. And as for your other quote, if I may;
“…but temperature alone lets [you] identify where cyclogenesis may occur.”
There fixed.

So you are correct that there are a host of other things that affect the timing of thunderstorm development. However, in the real world, they seem to average out over time and space, leaving temperature as the key variable.

Average out over time & space…isn’t that what climate is?? But your hypothesis is based on a “repeatable, daily” event of clear in the morning & cloudy-rain in the afternoon & my position is that those “repeatable, daily” events are interrupted for, at times, weeks or months swinging from extended clear/dry to extended cloudy/rainy and that cloudy/rainy can occur at anytime during day or night if the upper atmospheric forcing is present.
As for everything else,
Finally, I have shown that, as you wrote & presented your hypothesis, it is incorrect. You have presented a simple model to represent a very complex situation and, as in the world of meteorology & climatology, if you don’t get it right, you are wrong. I challenge you to go back, perform deeper research to the complete working of the tropical atmosphere (as we know it) & see if it still matches your idea of the climate ‘governor’. As presented, I’m not impressed.
Regards,
Jeff

Stephen Wilde
June 6, 2015 8:44 am

JKrob,
Good to see someone else referring to hydrostatic balance and air warming at the Dry ALR as it descends after the initial convective ascent at the Moist ALR.
The rest of your post provides a detailed explanation of my basic point previously expressed that Willis’s hypothesis being limited to the tropics does not adequately deal with the overall stability of Earth’s climate system. For that one needs to involve the entire global air circulation including latitudinal climate zone shifting.
Also, Willis fails to account for how stability is achieved in the absence of water vapour yet it surely is hence the similarity between the atmospheres of Earth and Venus (and other planets) at similar pressures.
Willis is really only referring to the way that the water cycle helps to maintain stability in a system that would be stable even without water.
The main value in Willis’s hypothesis is that he shows how in the tropics we see an upper bound on temperatures set by the fact that water vapour is lighter than air and so beneath humid air the weight of the atmosphere is more readily overcome than beneath dry air and that is the factor that limits Earth’s equatorial surface temperatures to about 26C over water.
Willis makes good points but claims more for his hypothesis than is justified.

Stephen Wilde
June 6, 2015 10:15 am

Sad to see the rather testy exchange between Willis and JKrob since I see most of the disagreements as semantic issues and differences of scale.

VikingExplorer
June 7, 2015 12:47 pm

…and your trying to defend a really foolish position to someone who has 40+ years in meteorology and 25+ years in GOES Satellite operations/meteorology – worse idea…

🙂
Let the record show that JKrob’s first response was constructive and cordial. Willis responded with unpleasantness.

Bill Illis
June 4, 2015 7:39 am

The Earth’s Albedo does change over longer time-scales.
Clouds are one of the great governors, but it is white snow and glacial ice that has the greatest capacity to make a lasting change in Albedo. Ice is the biggest make or break between a very cold Earth or a hot Earth. Normal ocean water only has Albedos in the 10% range while sea ice and land glaciers can get to 80%. The difference in the Albedos between frozen water and liquid water is the Earth surface substance that has the greatest capacity to change the climate.
The most obvious example is the ice age cycles when Milankovitch changes end the summer melt season in the far north and south. Sea Ice and land glaciers build up, causing an initial cooling and then snow and ice spreads away from the poles and the Albedo rises and rises and there is a cold Earth ice age. Successive further changes in Milankovitch over a long period of time eventually melt back the snow and ice from the mid-latitudes toward to poles and an warmer interglacial Earth arises.
In the ice ages, the global Albedo rises to 33% to 34%.
The continental alignments through continental drift over even longer periods of time can also change the Earth’s Albedo.
We can have supercontinents like Pangea centred at the equator or sea level rise caused by new spreading but shallow oceans covering more of the land as in the Cretceous when 30% of the continents were flooded by ocean.
In the hot periods of these land/ocean arranagements, Albedo can decline to about 24%.
Then we have periods when the continents are weighted towards the poles as in Gondwana and the Carboniferous and Ordovician Ice Ages. Again Albedo in the 32% to 35% range.
Then there are supercontinents over top of the poles as in Pannotia (635 Mya) and Rodinia (715 Mya) in the last snowball Earth periods where Albedo rose to as high as 50%.
The Earth’s Albedo has varied between 24% and 50% in the last 1 billion years.
We also have at least two other Snowballs at 2.4 Bya and 2.2 Bya when Albedo got into the 45% to 50% level but we don’t have good evidence for periods other than these except that Albedo was likely less than 24% due to fewer clouds and a different atmosphere given the lower solar irradiance and little evidence for glaciers in all the other epochs.

June 4, 2015 7:48 am

Bill , very good points.

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 8:21 am

Bill Illis,
“Clouds are one of the great governors, but it is white snow and glacial ice that has the greatest capacity to make a lasting change in Albedo. ”
We don’t know that. There is far more snow, ice, and desert (high albedo) in the NH and far more ocean (low albedo) in the SH. So how do the albedo’s of the two hemispheres compare? They are identical, due to clouds. So although the albedo of the surface was surely higher during glacial periods the albedo of the planet may not have been higher.

June 4, 2015 8:29 am

The albedo was as Bill has said much higher during glacial periods. The climate Mr. Mike is not as stable as Willis keeps trying to portray.

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 9:09 am

Salvatore,
I am pretty sure there is zero evidence for your assertion that “The albedo was as Bill has said much higher during glacial periods”. If there is, I would be grateful if you could point me towards it.

June 4, 2015 9:32 am

It is obvious that the albedo during glacial versus inter-glacial conditions can not be of the same value. I will try to get some studies to lend support to this conclusion over the coming days.

Bill Illis
June 4, 2015 9:55 am

Mike M. first of all, the global temperature was as much as 5.0C lower during the last glacial maximum.
The only way that occurred is if:
—> the Albedo was 31% (versus 29.8% today) and CO2 produces 3.0C per doubling; or,
—> the Albedo was 33% (versus 29.8% today) and CO2 produces 1.5C per doubling.
Furthermore, according to global warming theory, cloud cover actually INCREASES in the ice ages. The theory is based on cloud radiative forcing changing by 0.7 W/m2/1.0C. If temperatures actually fell by -5.0C, then cloud radiative forcing changed from -21.0 W/m2 today to -24.5 W/m2 in the ice ages. (Noting of course, that cloud radiative forcing is negative due to about -44 W/m2 reflectance of sunlight (ie. albedo) versus +23 W/m2 of greenhouse OLR reduction).
Sorry, the math can only be that global Albedo rose to 31% to 33% in the ages. I also built an Albedo calculation spreadsheet based on each 10 degree latitude band and how it varies based on conditions in those latitude bands) and the math works out to 33.5% with that calculation for the last glacial maximum.

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 10:26 am

Bill Illis,
It is possible that the albedo was higher during glacial periods but that has not been demonstrated.
“the global temperature was as much as 5.0C lower during the last glacial maximum.” Or as little as 2.0C lower, according to the MARGO assessment. Probably somewhere in between.
“The only way that occurred is if:”
Or if the T change was not so large, or if there were variations in solar output, or if it was something else we don’t understand.
“Furthermore, according to global warming theory, cloud cover actually INCREASES in the ice ages.”
And we all know that the positive cloud feedbacks in the models must be right. Unless they aren’t. The same models say that the SH has a lower albedo than the NH. Wrong.
“Sorry, the math can only be …”
The math depends on the assumptions you make and can not tell you if those assumptions are right or wrong.
The assumption of a higher albedo helps to explain glacial periods. But it leaves a whole lot unexplained. Until we have an explanation that fits all the facts, we don’t know that your assumption is true.

Mark Lee
June 4, 2015 8:56 am

And don’t forget the effect of changing continents and the effect on the cyclical ocean currents. Most recently, the effect of closing the Pacific-Atlantic connection at Panama and the effects on salinity and circulation. This has no effect on the observations stated by the original poster, but it is and should be significant when trying to compare climates across millions of years.

June 4, 2015 9:02 am

Yet one must conclude from this information about large changes in Albedo that it too has large stabilising negative feedbacks affecting it. Though Ice Age to totally Ice free Ages may look like huge differences in temperature, in absolute terms measured in Kelvin they do not correspond to the much larger changes in Albedo. Especially so if there is also an underlying change in the Sun’s activity to start the original shift from one climate to another in the first place.

June 4, 2015 7:45 am

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/02/multiple-intense-abrupt-late-pleisitocene-warming-and-cooling-implications-for-understanding-the-cause-of-global-climate-change/
Willis, inherently stable meaning what? Does that include a range in temperature that delineates glacial conditions versus non glacial conditions such as in the data I presented? If so then I agree in principal, but nevertheless even so one can say the climate is stable but the threshold between glacial versus glacial conditions is unstable meaning it only takes a small change of the so called stable climate system to plunge a good portion of the earth from glacial versus non glacial conditions.
So inherently stable I think needs to be specified in so much of what limits of variability does that lend to the climate system and does that meaning incorporate the degree of change the climate can under go from glacial versus interglacial conditions?
Willis does your inherently stable climate reconcile with changes in the climate from a glacial state to a non glacial state?
Thanks.

June 4, 2015 7:46 am

correction- threshold between NON glacial versus glacial conditions is unstable.

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 7:47 am

Willis,
Figure 1 is intriguing. Could you provide some details on the source? The link to climateprediction.net does not really help. The question I have is why do some of the simulations go off the rails? Everything that I have seen indicates that climate models are very stable as long as the forcing is not perturbed. That is a key part of the argument that the observed 20th century variation can not be natural. So if much of the observed change is natural, the implication is that the models are *too* stable. I suspect that what is shown in Figure 1 are perturbed physics ensembles and that the ones that go off the rails are parameter combinations that are unphysical. As such, it would say nothing about the stability or instability of climate models.
You wrote: “People think that the global temperature is free to take up any temperature at all, and that if the forcing changes, the temperature must change”. Who are these people? Certainly not climate modellers. They think that the global temperature is only free to take a very small range of values, determined by the forcing.

Bob Boder
June 4, 2015 10:12 am

Mike M.
You make a lot of statements about what Climate scientist and climate modelers think. When did you become the official climate community spokesman? I feel privileged to have you available here to talk to.

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 10:32 am

Bob Boder,
I certainly not some sort of spokesman. But I have read quite a bit of the primary literature. And I think I only make claims about what the specialists think in response to clearly false statements about what they think.

June 4, 2015 10:54 am

Mike M statement about albedo is absurdity. What he is trying to convey is somehow cloud albedo and surface(ocean/land albedo) are anti correlated so that if one increases the other will decrease keeping albedo at a constant value. That is not the case..

June 4, 2015 11:09 am

Article
Nature
(Impact Factor: 42.35).
03/1975;
254(5495):44-44.
DOI: 10.1038/254044a0
ABSTRACT THE surface temperature of the Earth depends primarily on the solar constant, the Earth’s albedo and the total mass and chemical composition of the terrestrial atmosphere. Studies of climate covering the past few million years have generally allowed for variations in albedo in calculating average values of the surface temperature. But over longer periods of time, however, less allowance has been made for albedo variations; it has, indeed, frequently been assumed that the albedo, when averaged over a long enough time, can be taken to be constant (see ref. 1). We wish to point out that, on the contrary, long term variations in the albedo can be expected to occur, and to produce significant changes in the average surface temperature.
Long term variations in the albedo and surface temperature of the Earth. Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/242861911_Long_term_variations_in_the_albedo_and_surface_temperature_of_the_Earth [accessed Jun 4, 2015].
Here is the research Mike.
http://www.researchgate.net/publication/242861911_Long_term_variations_in_the_albedo_and_surface_temperature_of_the_Earth [accessed Jun 4, 2015].

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 11:36 am

Salvatore,
I agree that the surface albedo changes. The question is the extent to which it my be countered by changes in clouds. The paper you cite makes no effort to account for clouds other than to observe “the effect of introducing cloud cover … is to reduce the change in albedo”.
You assert that an anti-correlation between surface and cloud albedo is “absurd”. I admit it is not intuitive. But how do you explain the virtually perfect compensation between the hemispheres?
I am not saying that such a compensation happens on 100 kyr time scales. I am saying that we do not know if it happens or not.

June 4, 2015 11:36 am
JFD
June 4, 2015 8:41 am

Willis, I always enjoy reading your ponder pieces. You have a great mind and ability to bring simplicity to issues, then set them in prose for all to see. The changes in warming and cooling trends that have occurred since temperature measurement began in 1659 have been triggered in both directions by the natural ocean cycles (longer term PDO and AMO, shorter term NINO and in a lesser manner and frequency NAO). The degree of change and direction depends on whether two of the oscillations are opposing, supporting or out of phase with each other. The flat spots in temperature, such as currently, last until one of the oscillations changes phase when supporting another. The temperature can then either cool or warm depending on the change. The oscillations primarily affect the winds.
JFD

June 4, 2015 8:44 am

LGL: You believe that GARBAGE presented as fact?
Complete NONSENSE to think that we have reliable temperature data back to the 19th century.
Even more NONSENSE to think it means ANYTHING sans the humidity tied in with it. (See: Average blood pressure.)

June 4, 2015 9:09 am

Willis, you focus on albedo, but I believe there are two other negative feedbacks operative in your mechanism, both testable in theory. First, the latents heatnof evaporation is released at altitude as Tstorms form percipitation. Itbhas an easier time escaping since there is less or no GHG ‘blanket’. That should show up in Ceres radiative balance for tropical grids in differences between morning and afternoon OLR. Second, the precipitation lowers specific humidity, lowering water vapor feedback, especially in the upper troposphere. Testable with morning/evening radiosonde readings, maybe also with GPS occultation if there is sufficient vertical resolution.
Backed into these because the CMIP3 and CMIP5 models get tropical humidity and precipitation wrong. Which why they model the non-existant tropical troposphere hot spot.
Magnificent post. Should be a paper.

Mike M.
June 4, 2015 11:10 am

ristvan,
“there are two other negative feedbacks operative in your mechanism, both testable in theory. First, the latents heatnof evaporation is released at altitude as Tstorms form percipitation. Itbhas an easier time escaping since there is less or no GHG ‘blanket’.”
That is actually in the models; it is called the “lapse rate feedback” and significantly reduces the water vapor feedback. It is also, I think, the cause of the predicted “hot spot” since the enhanced latent heat transfer causes warming to be greater aloft than at the surface.
“Second, the precipitation lowers specific humidity, lowering water vapor feedback, especially in the upper troposphere.”
I think that is very like Lindzen’s iris hypothesis.
“Backed into these because the CMIP3 and CMIP5 models get tropical humidity and precipitation wrong. Which why they model the non-existant tropical troposphere hot spot.”
A recent modelling study seems to indicate that including the iris hypothesis improves tropical humidity an precipitation. There is a discussion at: http://judithcurry.com/2015/05/26/modeling-lindzens-adaptive-infrared-iris/
But I don’t think that any of this is easy to test observationally since the mean effect is small compared to the natural variation.

June 4, 2015 9:17 am

Willis, I got hooked standing outside at night taking astro pictures and really noticed how quickly it cooled.
Averaging the surface data into long periods throws away so much useful data.
I’ve been looking at the difference between how much it warmed during the day, and how much it cools at night.

June 4, 2015 9:25 am

Here’s another emergent behavior as it warms during the day water evaporates, but when it cools at night it condenses excess water out, some of which ends up in the water shed. So there’s limits to daily humidity, and all of that steam that’s generated over the oceans is transported poleward, where is gets wrung out of the air.

Silver ralph
June 4, 2015 9:44 am

Nice observations, Willis.
I loved your ‘dawn on the left’ and ‘sunset on the right’. I had to think about that one for about ten minutes, before I could place myself on the Sun instead of on the Earth. My normal life is dictated by timezones going the other way…. Makes a nice picture, though – a whole ‘year-day’ in one picture..
We have the same effect at 52 degrees north, but it is dictated more by radiation rather than albedo. The clouds form again at about 10am or so, but perhaps the greatest cooling effect is their transport of moisture and heat high up into the atmosphere, where I presume that more can radiate away into space, without hitting that pesky CO2 and H2O and getting re-radiated back down again.
Half pressure in the atmosphere is at 18,000 ft. So any heat transported to above this level has only half the CO2 and H2O to worry about, before escaping into space. I am fairly sure this regulates the temperature of the atmosphere – you can certainly feel the cold gusts it lets descend down to earth.
Ralph

BoulderSkeptic
June 4, 2015 10:13 am

re: “argue against the entire concept of “climate sensitivity”? ”
Yup, unfortunately even some skeptics seem to be drawn into debating values for climate sensitivity, which is essentially assuming that there is a linear relationship between CO2 and temperature, which seems a rather unjustified leap of faith. Even if past data was fit to a line for some period of time, that doesn’t mean there is a linear relationship that will usefully continue to hold in the future. On a short enough stretch any sort of curve can be appear to be linear, especially with an approximate fit to uncertain data, that doesn’t mean the relationship is actually linear and talking about it as linear can be misleading. Past history doesn’t show a direct correlation between temperature and CO2 over the long run. The whole reason for needing models rather than being able to rely on such an equation is due to the existence of interacting feedbacks (some of which may be step functions, factors only triggered at certain tipping points) and that the fact that other factors do change over time. The *only* use for talking about climate sensitivity seems to be merely for rough reality checks, e.g. comparing approximate ballpark figures to reality check things at the level of a “back of the envelope” calculation that those engaging in such things usually realize are uncertain and not to be trusted. Unfortunately of course non-skeptics seem to have trouble recognizing the degree to which an approximation can be trusted, leaping to conclusions prematurely to an unjustified level of certainty.

June 4, 2015 11:01 am

Thank you Willis for a profoundly simple illustration of how real critical thinking occurs. Long hours of contemplation, questioning, rearranging, along with the humility and open mindedness to question your own assumptions and biases in search of the truth, rather than validation of ego or personal theory. Bravo! You embody a skill that sooooo many people “think” they have, but clearly do not.
You caused me to think new thoughts today Willis. Thank you!

Jquip
June 4, 2015 11:10 am

Willis: Now we’re talking, a good exposition on the necessity of looking where the sunlight actually lands versus averaging over all the places is doesn’t.

Jquip
June 4, 2015 11:15 am

All: On a slight tangent to the topic here: The first image in the post reminds me of a basic curiosity that I haven’t seen discussed, and I’m hoping someone can point me to the answer. (I can’t fathom that it hasn’t been done yet.)
Namely, taking a black body curve for 288K and then excising the entirety of the CO2 bands, or even double it for the giggles, what is the necessary increase in temperature such that we have the same area under the curve for a black body at 288k (or whatever) and one that has the given bands excised?
It seems to me that this is a rather crucial boundary constraint on any model or theory of the thermodynamics of climate. Thanks in advance.

June 4, 2015 11:41 am

I’ve created a spread sheet that does something like what you’re asking.
Takes a surface temp, add some w/m^2 to it, calculates the resultant surface temp.
Reply to let me know what w/m^2 you’d like me to use.
I did take 59F=288.15K and added a full 22w/m^2 additional the surface temp was then 66.5F=292.33K
with 3.7w/m^2 = 60.29F 292.87K
Now, I show that surface temps for 30 of the last 34 years cool more at night than they warmed during the day, this is the excess loss due to a warmer climate, as 50 of the last 74 show excess cooling, which covers the the cooler period (which are slightly more warming than cooling).
So this would be the instantaneous warming of radiant IR, the ground might not warm all that much (grass, trees, etc since they are generally cooler during a warm day), so very little of the ground would warm, but we would feel it to be slightly warmer, until the sun sets and it cools again.
Humid air cools until rel humidity get above 80-90% then condensing that humidity slow nightly cool, hence why tropical nights don’t cool as fast as dry air nights.
You can feed me a net value for the Co2 notch if you don’t like what I chose.

Jquip
June 4, 2015 12:39 pm

The reply is much appreciated. I think, however, I either didn’t describe what I’m looking for or didn’t understand your response. My fault in either case, so forgive me for attempting to clarify:
1) A basic idea is that if we prevent some band of radiation from exiting a system, then we have induced an imbalance between incoming and outgoing radiation. By normally stated consequence this will cause the temperature of the object to increase until a balance is regained.
2) So if we assume, very roughly and incorrectly, that the Earth is emitting at 288.15K with a perfect black body curve, and then carve out the CO2 absorption bands in toto; we will have created such an imbalance. The temp must increase until equality is reached with the original and unmolested black body curve.
3) But as the temp increases, the curve changes, and so the area excised by the CO2 absorption bands changes. That is, we are trying to find the equality between one unmolested black body curve and another molested black body curve.
This is obviously oversimplified and thusly just wrong with respect to reality on the ground. But there are a number of sanity check sketches about the black body temperature of Earth, Earth with atmosphere, Earth with water, Earth as a grey body, and so on that are in use for just such sanity checks. Or, on occasion used rather perversely as the sole ‘target’ of higher order models.
The idea here being that if any conception starts flirting with such a boundary condition, then we are well in hand to demand a lot of work and answers shown on the subject. Doubly so for any model that uses the black body curves as priors to denote maximal warming/forcing from various values of radiative gas X concentrations.
I hope that helps illuminate my confusions for you. And thanks again for the reply.

June 4, 2015 2:39 pm

The reply is much appreciated. I think, however, I either didn’t describe what I’m looking for or didn’t understand your response. My fault in either case, so forgive me for attempting to clarify:

I think I understood the first time, but I wasn’t sure what values to use, Willis provided that.
What I wrote was a excel that takes some BB temp, turn it into a W/M^2, then you can add or subtract watts, and then it turns those watt’s/M^2 back to a BB temp.
My thought was that you could add and subtract watts as needed and get the equivalent temp. But when I use Willis’s number 38W’sM^2 make bigger difference. I also have a 1 body, a 2 body, a Cooling in J/day, and surface +/- Watts/M^2 in that spreadsheet.
Unfortunately I will have to do more at another time, but if you have excel maybe you can play around and see if you can get the limits you’re looking for.
I would be interested in how you did it, if you do it.

Jquip
June 4, 2015 2:25 pm

Appreciate the response, Willis. Granted, I’m looking for what the equivalent temperature would have to rise to to maintain the area, rather than as a cooling to maintain the balance. Sadly, I think I broke Modtran. Zeroing out everything except water vapor scale, 17km look down, I get ground temps identical for 0, 400, and 800ppm of CO2.

RWturner
June 4, 2015 11:38 am

Stable is relative but I see what you mean Willis. I prefer to look at it as an unstable system within boundaries.

June 4, 2015 12:16 pm

Great post Willis! But it seems that this can be handled using conventional methods with feedback defined correctly as I have proposed based on changes in surface temperature, not changes in TOA forcing as IPCC and the climate models do. Your methods shows large negative feedback from increased evaporation with clear skies which moves heat to the atmosphere, some of which goes to space, and also increased albedo from more clouds.
http://edberry.com/blog/climate-clash/g90-climate-sensitivity/improved-simple-climate-sensitivity-model/

ferd berple
June 4, 2015 12:17 pm

Clear at dawn. Then cumulus clouds form usually before noon. Thunderstorms in the afternoon, sometimes lasting into evening or night.
===========
Willis this is not isolated to the tropics. It happens just about everywhere there is a coastline. The land heats during the day, air rises and drags in moist sea air. Clouds form which rain over the land, cooling everything down. At night the land cools, the air descends and flows back out to the oceans to get recharged with moisture and the cycle repeats.
The big difference in the tropics is that it happens everywhere in the wet season (local summer). Over the ocean, over the land, it makes no difference. And if you live right on the equator it happens during traditional spring and fall, when the sun passes overhead, which are summer on the equator. on the equator, traditional summer and winter are winter, as the sun is no longer overhead.

June 4, 2015 3:34 pm

In Ohio we frequently get the warm day cumulus clouds, but probably don’t have either heat or moisture to get the afternoon storms in”calm” atm.
Also, when we lived in FL in the early 80’s around Orlando east and west we’d get the storms, in the 90’s they stopped but seem they might be coming back, I wondered if they just moved (north?).

ferd berple
June 4, 2015 12:26 pm

And if the surface warms even more and a third temperature threshold is surpassed, yet another phenomena will emerge—
===========
Sumatra’s. The wikipoo article does not do them justice.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumatras
Sumatras or Sumatra Squall Lines (SSL) is a term used in Singapore and Malaysia to describe squall lines that develop over Sumatra at night usually between April and November and then steered towards the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore by the southwesterly winds of the southwest monsoon and usually arrives during the pre dawn and early morning.[1][2][3]

ferd berple
June 4, 2015 12:33 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squall
Severe weather
A squall line is an organized line of thunderstorms. It is classified as a multi-cell cluster, meaning a thunderstorm complex comprising many individual updrafts. They are also called multi-cell lines
Regional terms
Argentina
Known locally as pamperos, these are characterized as strong downsloped winds that move across the pampas, eventually making it to the Atlantic Ocean.[6][verification needed]
Central America
Offshore Central America, a gully squall is characterized by strong increases of the wind forced through sharp mountain valleys on the Pacific Ocean side of the isthmus.
Cuba
A bayamo is a squall emanating from tropical thunderstorms near the Bight of Bayamo.[7]
East Indies
In the East Indies, brubu is a name for a squall[8]
Pacific Northwest (North America)
In the Pacific Northwest, a squall is a short but furious rainstorm with strong winds, often small in area and moving at high speed, especially as a maritime term. Such a strong outflow occurring in fjords and inlets is referred to by mariners as a squamish.
South Africa
Bull’s Eye Squall is a term used offshore South Africa for a squall forming in fair weather. It is named for the appearance of the small isolated cloud marking the top of the squall.[9]
Philippines (West Pacific)
In most parts of the country, squalls are called subasko and are characterized by heavy rains driven by blustery winds. Local fishermen at sea are often on the lookout for signs of impending squalls on the open water and rush to shore at its early signs.
South-East Asia
“Barat” is a term for a northwest squall in Manado Bay in Sulawesi.[9]
“Sumatra” squall is a term used in Singapore and Peninsular Malaysia for squall lines that form over the island of Sumatra and move east across the Straits of Malacca. Gusts can reach up to 28 m/s (100 km/h).[10]

Michael Wassil
June 4, 2015 12:56 pm

For any warmunists who mistakenly think the earth’s climate is not stable, or that the earth has any remote chance of ‘runaway warming’:
http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/PageMill_Images/image277.gif

June 4, 2015 1:49 pm

Willis…Great arguments in defense of your post. I have a question. What effect does the thinning of the atmosphere at higher altitudes have on cumulonimbus clouds, if any? It seems that they sort of blow up and grow larger at top.

June 4, 2015 7:21 pm

It is the rarefied air at higher altitudes where cumulonimbus clouds release their heat and at partial vacuum that heat is….

Leonard Lane
June 4, 2015 3:50 pm

Willis, excellent essay and discussion. Thank you very much. Thought experiments are fun and have helped me in the past.
Have you ever tried to scale your thermostat process to tornado and hurricane scale? It might be a couple of knotty thought experiments.
Take care.

Ed
June 4, 2015 4:21 pm

A corollary is that if the onset moves all the way to the left or right, the equatorial clouds would cease to be regulatory. IOW they’re potential tipping points.

Claude Harvey
June 4, 2015 4:31 pm

I think there’s no doubt that cloud-induced albedo variations are a part of “the thermostat”. But there’s another part of that thermostat that clouds complicate; radiant transfer of surface heat to outer space. Anyone who has ever had the bright idea of replacing power plant evaporative cooling towers with “spray ponds” has learned that the effectiveness of the spray-pond combination varies so drastically with “night cloud cover” that it renders itself unreliable for the heat rejection purpose intended.

June 4, 2015 4:42 pm

yet another phenomena will emerge
Nitpick Alert! “Phenomena” is plural. “Phenomenon” is singular.
More importantly, thank you for the essay.

Hugh
June 5, 2015 5:47 am

“Agendum, an agenda with a single item on it”
I always wonder why should you use an obscure Latin inflection in English, but not in all foreign words.
Just asking. I’d like people to nitpick on incorrect dual forms. (a dual is between singular and plural)

Peter
June 4, 2015 6:09 pm

Willis, excellent thinking and point of looking on problem. I think you are right, you identified negative feedback causing upper limit in Earth temperature. I’m from Central Europe, not much sea 1000km around and I could also clearly see effect of increasing cumulus clouds during day. It is clearly function of day temperature and humidity. It can be that 26C is point of maximum temperature of ocean in current, ocean – atmosphere (density, content) setup. It is too much coincidence with 26C stable upper maximum temperature on Earth on Michaels picture above. Any increased radiation input to Earth will result only in increased cloudliness spreading from equator to higher latitudes. Final stage would be whole earth covered by clouds with very high albedo and temperature of 26C from equator to poles…
On the other side your mechanism is not providing lower limit for temperature. There can be some mechanism working on dark side of Earth where decreasing temperature coming to dew point of water will create fog which is blanketing Earth and shifting it from blackbody more toward whitebody. For sure it works in visible spectrum where invisible water vapor in air will become visible white fog reflecting white light. This means less radiated energy to space.
Earth is vulnerable to decrease of temperature, not increase. And I think main driver of temperature decrease is CO2 (surprise) but not through greenhouse effect, but through atmospheric content. CO2 is constantly sequestrated in carbonates by corals and shells. Such carbon is taken from circulation in biosphere and stored for millions years underground. So without replenishing, biosphere will suffocate itself by missing CO2. CO2 is released back only by volcanism. So that means that we are solely dependent on carbon stored in Earth millions years ago and how much of life there was. We are dependent of how much limestone is entering magma chambers under Earth crust and escaping through ocean ridges and volcanos.
So the normal state of CO2 in atmosphere is steady decrease. When it reaches around 260ppm, higher plants like trees starts to suffocate. When it is going to 180ppm only grasses can survive. And that means transformation of Earth from green lush world covered by forests to dry dusty desert and savanna. Deserts and savannas have much higher albedo than forests creating positive feedback for cooling. Glaciers are advancing to lower latitudes decreasing albedo more. Dessert dust in atmosphere is another positive feedback for cooling, increasing albedo further. It is clear from ice core samples that onset of ice ages is accompanied by increased dust content in atmosphere. So Earth becomes cloudless, dry dusty place with a lot of glaciers. Probably there is stable state which keeps balance between low albedo of open cloudless ocean and high albedo of continents and glaciers.
This is quite persistent state in which Earth is whole ice age. As Earth is cooling earth crust contracts increasing inner pressure inside of Earth. Then suddenly threshold is reached, maybe caused by Milankovitch cycle as trigger and sudden increase in volcanic activity starts release of CO2 back to interglacial levels. Higher plants spread again, decreasing albedo, lowering dust, decreasing albedo more. Hydrological cycle recovers, lowering dust spreading plants further and we are for short time back in interglacial.

Donb
June 4, 2015 8:30 pm

Willis, we already knew you are a climate scientist. The manner in which you explain your science demonstrates that you are also a philosopher. And your much earlier post on “Here there be Dragons” proves that you are a poet as well. Made the road rise up to meet you……

Stephen Wilde
June 5, 2015 9:45 am

“I got interested in climate in the late nineties. ”
I got interested in the 1950s and became a member of the Royal Meteorological Society as a student in 1968.
In so far as the water cycle enables albedo variations Willis is correct in that such variations in albedo do indeed make it easier for the system to remain stable than without such variations.
However, the system would remain stable even without water and its phase changes because convection alone will always adjust to remove destabilising influences.
http://www.public.asu.edu/~hhuang38/mae578_lecture_06.pdf

June 6, 2015 6:54 am

“However, the system would remain stable even without water and its phase changes because convection alone will always adjust to remove destabilising influences.”
I think you are right. Meridonial heat transport is a more important thermostat than changes of the albedo. But it is not so popular as the “sunshade” theory of Willis because the average global temperature goes up when you increase the meridonial heat transport. (This is caused by the nonlinearity of the SB-law). Unfortunately, nature doesn’t care about that.

Stephen Wilde
June 6, 2015 7:10 am

Paul Berberich said:
“the average global temperature goes up when you increase the meridonial heat transport”
Only if one increases either top of atmosphere insolation or the proportion of that insolation reaching the surface.
In that case you can have a warmer surface and latitudinal shifting is needed to keep energy out equal to energy in.
Since non condensing GHGs such as CO2 affect neither TOA insolation nor albedo they will not influence meridional heat transport and nor will they affect surface temperature because the rate of convective overturning in the vertical plane adjusts instead.
My view is that latitudinal shifting deals with changes in TOA insolation or albedo variations because both are capable of warming the system but the speed of convective overturning in the vertical plane deals with changes in the radiative capability of an atmosphere.
It is necessary to carefully distinguish between the effect on the lapse rates in ascending and descending columns of air when one has, no GHGs at all, condensing GHGs such as water vapour or non condensing GHGs such as CO2.
Each of the three scenarios works out differently and I hope to have an article providing diagrams and more detail ready shortly.

June 6, 2015 12:11 pm

Stated similarly: The earth has self regulated with the negative feedback hydrologic cycle forever. With apologies for repetition here is a version in English:
Yes Virginia, There is a Positive Feedback)
(but it augments the negative water vapor feedback in the earths climate)
Water vapor has been the primary atmospheric energy transfer and earth cooling agent since the earth first acquired a hydrosphere. It would stretch logic beyond credulity to think that it suddenly has become a warming factor in the climate energy balance equation.
There has been in the literature an assertion that although the CO2 alone greenhouse effect would only raise the earth temperature by ~1 C per century, that an additional positive feedback by thermally excited water vapor would increase this climate warming by a factor of between 1 and 6 to reach the catastrophic warming promoted in the UNIPCC Summary for Policy Makers. This letter addresses the absurdity of that assertion and hopes to refocus the point of view of the climate study community to further address quantitatively this area of atmospheric physics.
There is in the lower surface level of the boundary layer, a positive water vapor feedback which enhances the transfer of surface energy into the latent heat of vaporization of water. This enhances the cooling rate of the surface and enhances the primary heat energy transport to the level at which there can be radiation to space. It is not unusual in complex systems having outer loop negative feedback to find minor positive feedback loops within which augment the performance of important processes inside the system. These in no way detract from the overall system behavior. Water vaporization, vertical energy transport and radiation control the negative feedback response to any internal or external forcing that might drive climate temperature to change.
Stated simply; positive water vapor IR feedback exists and is limited by IR’s short, mean free path to the lowest strata of the boundary layer. Increased energy rate transfer in this strata is limited to the bulk surface energy transfer rate response but adds nothing to the total latent energy flow. Water vapor energy absorption and transport is the negative feedback factor driving the earth thermostat. Stated otherwise: Increased water vapor or carbon dioxide is not an additional radiation source since it has no internal source of energy but functions only as an incremental enhancement to energy transfer rate across the surface-atmosphere boundary. The point of view that adding water vapor and CO2 to the atmosphere will increase downward radiation and heating is backwards. They have no source of energy to radiate. Instead, looking up from the surface we see that surface IR is totally captured and thermalized by these gasses in the bottom surface layer of the atmospheric boundary layer. The vaunted 3.7 watts/m2 increase CO2 radiation to space is not relevant to its effect in this part of the atmosphere.
This discussion regarding water vaporization applies to the 90% of the earth covered by water in the form of open surface liquids and transpiring vegetation. The desert regions have their own less constrained radiation physics.
To tediously belabor the point in English:
Water vapor is of course the major ‘Greenhouse’ ie IR absorbing Gas’. By virtue of its broad spectral response as well as its dominating volumetric ratio it is dominant in the atmospheric boundary layer all the way through the troposphere to its final condensation and radiation escape altitudes. It captures IR from the surface radiation in the first several IR mean free path lengths in the first several meters above the surface. CO2 is also active in this region. By virtue of its volume density some 12 to 50 times smaller than water vapor in this region its mean free path is more than 10 times longer than water vapor. IR will thus encounter ~many attenuation lengths of water vapor absorption before encountering one absorption length of CO2. So we see that additional CO2 in the energy transfer equation will be minimum. Its effect could only serve to slightly lower the vertical level at which all IR is captured and thermalized in the boundary layer Any potential increment to the positive water vapor feedback loop slightly increases the rate but cannot increase the total of captured IR beyond that which water vapor has already done. Available IR absorption is complete in this bottom strata of the atmosphere. This short distance radiation inherent in any ‘greenhouse gas’ heat transfer thus serves only to improve the effective conductivity of air in this strata of the boundary layer. This conductivity is in series with and does not bypass the conductivity/convection resistance of the surface mass energy flow to the evaporating and radiating surface.
*ref. Complete thermalization
To recapitulate:
The total energy transfer rate is limited to the bulk surface mass conductivity/convectivity energy transfer rate supplying energy to the surface and is further limited by the cooling effect of surface water evaporating into the accumulating local relative humidity. This surface heat transfer process is thus rate enhanced by the positive water vapor feedback but self limited by these physical heat transfer rate limits. The water vapor positive feedback merely reduces the surface temperature required to effect the energy transfer from the surface. It cannot increase the energy transfer beyond that available through the surface mass.
Regardless of the balance of IR radiation capture resulting from these effects, CO2 influence on the energy transfer rate from surface to boundary layer is minimal to none. Relative to water vapor its share in capturing IR is not important but as we shall see any captured IR by any ‘greenhouse’ molecule is a desired benefit to increase the efficiency of energy transfer across the surface boundary and to the water vaporization process and thus to the ultimate water vapor energy convection transport to the radiation level in the troposphere.
Water being an IR absorption molecule it has always had its positive feedback influence on the boundary layer temperature by virtue of the complete thermalization of the captured IR., Due to spectral overlap in the 15 u band this is also true though to perhaps lesser degree than the CO2 contribution in the 2 u wide lower side band slice of unsaturated spectrum. However it plays out between conduction and radiation into the top 10 u film of surface liquid water, the end effect is still total thermalization of the IR in the lowest reaches of the boundary layer. To complete the positive feed back loop, any net thermalized air and any direct radiation of IR contributes to further vaporization of water from the surface and contributes to atmospheric convective lift of the water vapor entrained in the warm rising columns of air.
This local positive water vaporization loop through direct radiation and air thermalization does not add any energy to the system but merely lowers the resistance and thus enhances the rate at which the available energy from the surface converts its heat energy into thermalized air and latent heat of water vaporization. In other words and terms it increases the gain and therefore the rate in a surface-power limited positive feedback energy transfer loop from surface to air and water vaporization but cannot increase the total amount of energy transfer since the surface mass is the the only source of energy. This positive feedback water vapor loop is already essentially power limited (saturated) and thus can have no significant response to additional IR capture by additional CO2 gas. In feedback system terms; the loop is already driven by positive feedback to its power supply limit. If surface mass heat energy flow constraints allowed it to respond faster, it would already have evaporated more water to do so.
The surface transfer would take place without water vapor positive feedback albeit at a higher surface temperature, slower air conduction/convection limited rate. The positive feedback merely speeds up the process toward the surface energy rate limit, it generates no more total water vapor or energy but brings the surface energy transfer to its physical limit more efficiently at a lower surface temperature than would be required in a conduction-only limited heat transfer. In this respect a local delicately balanced positive feedback factor is not required to prevent runaway since the process is power limited to the rate at which the surface can transfer energy from its thermal mass to the water-air boundary. Thus positive feedback is not to be feared since it makes the surface cooling more efficient and promotes the normal hydrologic cooling cycle of the climate by enhancing latent heat capture in the water vapor at a lower surface temperature.
This provides a strong negative feedback to the surface temperature rising and to the overall climate response to either internal or external forcing, since the evaporated water with its latent heat of vaporization dominates the surface cooling effect by enhancing transfer of energy from the surface. Convection of this latent heat to the mid and upper level of the troposphere where water, both liquid and vapor dominates the total radiation spectrum to space is the major factor in the earth cooling energy balance.
Above the final condensation and freezing level the increased (doubling) CO2 content of the thin atmosphere would have a minor effect due to its low partial pressure and density and perhaps narrowing side band spectral lines. The final IR radiation temperature (~217K) of the TOA CO2 spectrum implies that its radiation to space takes place at the tropopause level where the vaunted colder temperature due to negative lapse rate is diminishing to zero. This further brings into serious question that there can be any significant CO2 ‘greenhouse effect’ anywhere in the earth climate system but that on balance additional CO2 may have at most a slight net cooling effect on the climate. Ref. IR radiation enhancement.
A note:
Perhaps this helps explain why the ocean thermal energy increase is on the order of ½ watt/m2 or less and does not reflect the predicted (1.6 watt) CO2 energy increase let alone any positive feedback energy increase effects.

Dinostatus
June 7, 2015 7:04 am

“Now, what does it require for a natural heat engine like the global climate to be inherently stable?”
It has to be dissipative.
No throttling is required. The throttling can be constant. It can vary. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. What DOES matter is that the system be able to dissipate energy.

June 8, 2015 2:09 am

Thankyou for your outstandingly-brilliant-and-always-interesting posts ! Whilst I’m not sure if you are right about the throttling, etc, I am certain that the question, “Why is the earth’s climate so stable?” is the right question to be asking.

Hereward
June 8, 2015 2:25 am

I used to live on the Malacca Straits coast in Malaysia. 5 miles inland, the weather followed the usual pattern in the tropics – cumulonimbus build-up early afternoon, with torrential rain at 4.30 pm. But on the coast this rarely happened – most of the rain fell in the early hours of the morning. How does that work?

June 9, 2015 8:07 am

“The general way that humans control heat engines like say an automobile engine is by controlling the “throttle”, which in an automobile is what the gas pedal connects to. The throttle decrease or increases the amount of fuel that is entering the engine. To be stable, you need some system that opens or closes the throttle based on some criterion.”
It’s called the “cruise control” system, that maintains speed by varying throttle opening. In of course a limited context, not implemented as well as we’d like.
In modern fast airplanes it’s called “autothrottle and associated monkey-motion that maintains speed by varying throttle opening.
(With the possibility of avoiding the throttle actuator by controlling fuel input directly from the engine computer, but that’s not desired by Boeing designers as they see great benefit of pilot awareness from actual movement and position of throttle levers.)