Cooling and Warming, Clouds and Thunderstorms

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Following up on a suggestion made to me by one of my long-time scientific heroes, Dr. Fred Singer, I’ve been looking at the rainfall dataset from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite. Here’s s the TRMM average rainfall data for the entire mission to date:

TRMM annual avg rainfall 1997 2015Figure 1. Average annual rainfall, metres per year, as measured by the TRMM satellite. The TRMM satellite only measures from 40°N to 40°S, hence the “Tropical” in the name. Data source: KNMI: Click on “Monthly Observations”, click the TRMM data checkbox and then click “Select field” at the top of the page. When the page comes up, the NetCDF file link is at the very bottom of the page

Note the horizontal yellow/red area generally girdling the planet above or around the equator. This is the average position of the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ). The ITCZ  is the location of the energetic deep tropical circulation that powers the great atmospheric Hadley circulation. As you can see, the ITCZ is the wettest large area of the planet, with over 4 metres (13 feet) of rain in some areas. Although this is the average position, it moves during the year. You can see in the Pacific south of the Equator near South America the position it takes over part of the year, as a “ghost” of the average position parallel to the Equator.

Now, the TRMM dataset is fascinating in and of itself, but I was interested in it for a specific reason.

My hypothesis is that the earth has a thermoregulatory system keeping the global temperature within narrow bounds (e.g. ±0.3°C over the 20th century). A major part of this thermoregulatory system is that the tropical cumulus and thunderstorms act to limit the tropical temperatures on both the warm and cool ends. Generally in the tropics, when a morning is cooler than usual, cumulus clouds form later in the day and they are weaker. The same is true of the thunderstorms. On cool days, thunderstorms form later than average or not at all. As a result of the reduction of clouds and thunderstorms, the surface is strongly warmed by the sun, and there is reduced loss of surface energy via the various thunderstorm mechanisms.

On days that are warmer than average, the reverse is true. There is an early and strong development of the tropical cumulus field. In addition, the cumulus formation is also earlier and stronger. Both of these act to cool the surface, with both the cumulus and the thunderstorms able to not only slow the warming, but actually cool the surface below their initiation temperatures. I describe the entire daily cycle in my post Emergent Climate Phenomena.

A hypothesis requires observational support, of course. Now, with such a system, according to my hypothesis as the tropical temperature rises, the albedo should go up, and the thunderstorms should also increase. Do the observations support this?

As I’ve discussed before, the CERES satellite radiation dataset lets us test the first of these consequences of my ideas. If my hypothesis is true, in the tropics, we should see a positive correlation of the albedo and the temperature. Here is that relationship on a 1°x1° gridcell basis:

correlation albedo and temperature 2014Figure 2. Correlation of albedo and temperature. A positive correlation means that when temperature increases, so does albedo, and vice versa.

As is predicted by my hypothesis, in the tropics and particularly in the areas just north and south of the Equator where the ITCZ wanders around, there is a strong positive correlation of albedo with temperature.

However, I’d been unable to get any global handle on the effects of the thunderstorms until I started looking at the TRMM. Across the tropics in general and particularly in the ITCZ, the rainfall is from thunderstorms, towering storms that drive the deep tropical convection. Having the rainfall data allows me to do the same thing I did with the albedo—see how the rainfall varies with the temperature. IF my hypothesis is correct, tropical rainfall should increase with temperature, particularly in the ITCZ areas. Figure 3 shows the correlation of rainfall with temperature:

CERES TRMM correlation temperature and rainfall 2000 2014Figure 3. As in Figure 2, correlations. This shows the correlation of rainfall and temperature.  A positive correlation means that when temperature increases, so does rainfall, and vice versa.

Now, in the yellow to red sections, as the temperature increases the rainfall increases. As always, there are mysterious and interesting things revealed by any new observational dataset. In this case, the rainfall increases with temperature in the ocean and in the drier parts of the land. But in the wetter parts of the land such as tropical Africa and the Amazon, the rainfall is about neutral or actually decreases with respect to temperature .. go figure.

In any case, over the tropics in general (shown by dashed lines at 23.5°N/S of the Equator) the correlation is generally positive. So for the tropics, my hypothesis is indeed verified—increasing temperature leads to increasing thunderstorms. You can also see how the extra-tropical areas in general are more negatively correlated than is the tropics.

The TRMM dataset also allows us to see not only the correlation, but how much actual change in rainfall we are talking about. Figure 4 shows the change in rainfall per degree C of warming.

trends rainfall per temperatureFigure 4. Change in annual rainfall per degree celsius of warming.

Now, this is indeed interesting … across the tropics, on average we get 22 mm/year more rain for each degree of surface temperature increase. And since the trends have the same signs as the correlations, as with the correlations the areas north and south of the tropics generally show falling rainfall with increasing temperatures.

Here’s the beauty part. I realized that we can use these TRMM rainfall figures to estimate the amount of energy involved. The main cooling mechanism of thunderstorms is evaporative cooling. We can calculate the energy involved in that evaporative cooling by noting that to reverse the old saying, with rainfall it’s “what comes down must go up” … meaning that whatever water rains down, it had to be evaporated first. To evaporate a cubic metre of seawater in one year takes a constant energy flux of about 80 W/m2. This works out to about 0.08 W/m2 to evaporate one mm of rain. So let me use that conversion, 0.08 W/m2 of evaporative cooling per millimetre of rain, to show the same TRMM data from Figure 1 in terms of the energy needed to annually evaporate the amount of water of the gridcell annual rainfall.

trmm rainfall evaporative wattsFigure 5. Evaporative surface cooling from the evaporation of the amount of water in the annual rainfall. Annual rainfall from TRMM as shown in Figure 1.

I was pleasantly surprised by the very large amount of energy being moved constantly by thunderstorms in the ITCZ and elsewhere. In parts of the ITCZ, the evaporative cooling effect is well over 300 W/m2 … we can compare that to the cooling effect of the earths variable albedo, in W/m2, shown below in Figure 6.

cooling from reflected solar energyFigure 6. Surface cooling from the reflection of the solar energy by the earth’s albedo. This includes both surface and cloud reflections. I note in passing the odd equality of the mean hemispheric reflections.

Taken together these last two graphs show something interesting. In the tropics, the average surface cooling from evaporation is about the same as the cooling from albedo reflection of solar energy. Both are about 90 W/m2. However, the variation in thunderstorm evaporative cooling (Fig. 5, from 0 – 375 W/m2) is much larger than the variation in reflected energy (Fig. 6, from 50 -175 W/m2).

To assess the instantaneous strength of these cloud and thunderstorm thermoregulatory mechanisms, we must bear in mind that these are annual averages. Even in the ITCZ it doesn’t rain all the time. So when it is raining, the effect would be much larger. How much larger? Well, a lot. My guess from living in the tropics near and in the ITCZ is that you might be under a thunderstorm maybe 5%-10% of the time on an annual basis … and if that’s the case, then the instantaneous evaporative cooling effect of individual thunderstorms will be about 10 to 20 times larger than the annual averages shown in Figure 5.

Let me move on to the question of what happens to the cloud reflective cooling and the evaporative cooling as the surface warms. This can be calculated as the trend of evaporative cooling in W/m2 for each additional degree C of warming. This is the same rainfall trend data shown in Figure 4, but expressed as the energy needed to evaporate that amount of rain. Figure 7 shows the change in surface evaporative cooling in watts/m2 per degree C of warming (W/m2/°C):

CERES TRMM trends rainfall watts per temperature.pngFigure 7. Change in thunderstorm evaporative cooling with surface warming, in W/m2 per degree celsius of surface warming. Negative values indicate a reduction in evaporative cooling with increasing temperatures.[NOTE: Figure updated.]

It is important to note that this average of the surface-cooling effect of the clouds and thunderstorms hides the fact that the effects are not applied evenly across an area. Instead, the clouds and thunderstorms form only over the warmer areas, and move huge amounts of energy out of those warmer areas and up into the troposphere. As a result, their efforts are concentrated exactly where and when they are needed. Cooling is applied only when and where the surface is warmer, and warming is applied only when and where it is cooler.

To close the circle, we can compare the amount of change in evaporation (Figure 7) per degree of warming with the change in reflective cooling per degree of surface warming (Figure 8 below). Figure 8 shows the change in albedo per degree of warming times the gridcell annual average downwelling solar.

trend reflected solar per degree warmingFigure 8. Change in the amount of reflected solar energy due to increased albedo for every degree of warming. As in Figure 7, negative values indicate additional warming with increasing temperature.

Near the poles there is a strong negative correlation between albedo and temperature, meaning that there is reflective warming (negative values in Figure 8). However, because the sun is so weak in those areas the additional warming in actual watts per degree of temperature rise is not that large.

Figure 8 also shows that as the surface warms, the change in W/m2 of tropical evaporative cooling per degree C of warming is about twice that of the change in W/m2 of reflective cooling (Fig. 8, 1.2 W/m2 tropical increase in solar reflections per °C of warming, versus Fig. 7, 2.2 W/m2/°C increased evaporative cooling)

Finally, note that albedo changes and evaporative cooling are only two of the ways that clouds and thunderstorms cool the surface. As a result, the effect will be slightly larger than the numbers above indicate. I append a more complete list in the notes.

So that’s why I wanted to look at the TRMM data. I wanted to determine if my hypothesis about thunderstorms increasing with temperature is correct. And in the event, it appears that my hypothesis has been totally supported by the results.


This is a significant addition to the variety of evidence that I’ve amassed showing that the earth indeed has strong thermoregulating mechanisms (see links below). It gives us an idea of the size of the cooling effect due to the tropical thunderstorms, along with actual values for the increase in thunderstorm cooling with increasing temperature.

 As is consonant with my hypothesis, both the tropical albedo and evaporative cooling increase with temperature, especially around the ITCZ.

The evaporative cooling effect in the ITCZ is on the order of hundreds of watts per square metre. This is evidence of the strength of my hypothesized thermoregulatory mechanism.

 The change in evaporative cooling in the ITCZ is on the order of 10-20 W/m2 more evaporative cooling per degree celsius. This is evidence of the thermally responsive nature of the thermoregulatory mechanism.

 The thermoregulation from tropical clouds and thunderstorms occurs on a daily and hourly basis, not on the yearly basis shown in the Figures. As a result, we know that the instantaneous changes from clouds and thunderstorms are many times larger than the averages shown above. In addition the clouds and thunderstorms only emerge in response to local high temperatures, so their effect is not averaged across space and time as is shown in the Figures. The result is that the thermoregulatory system is applying cooling on the order of hundreds of watts/m2, but not blindly—the cooling is focused only where and when it is needed, towards the warmer sections of the local areas.

My best to you all at one am of a foggy night,


To Avoid Misunderstandings: Let me request that if you disagree with someone, you quote the exact words you disagree with. This lets all of us understand just what you are objecting to.

TRMM Data: For convenience I’ve placed the KNMI TRMM netCDF file here

Ways Other Than Albedo and Evaporation That Thunderstorms Cool The Surface

Cold rain and cold wind. As the moist air rises inside the thunderstorm’s heat pipe, water condenses and falls. The water starts out at the very cold or freezing temperatures aloft. As a result, it cools the lower atmosphere it falls through, and it cools the surface when it hits. The falling rain also entrains a downwards wind which is strongly cooled by the evaporation of the falling raindrops. When it strikes the ground, this cold wind blows radially outwards from the center of the falling rain. Because it is much cooler than the surrounding air, this radial wind runs along the ground, cooling the surrounding area. When I lived in the tropics, at night this wind was often the first indication of a nearby thunderstorm, as it outpaces the rain. It smells wonderful, crisp like the pure upper air … and best of all, on a muggy tropical night it blows through the open windows of all the houses and chills the entire area surrounding the rain.

This combination of cold rain and cold wind could be a shocking change, particularly when I’d be running an open skiff across the ocean at night. The temperature would go from a warm tropical night before I’d hit the thunderstorm, to cold and shivering under the storm, and back into the warmth once I’d run clear of the storm. Not fun. Well, yeah, fun, but cold fun …

Modification of upper tropospheric ice crystal cloud amounts (Lindzen 2001, Spencer 2007) . These clouds form from the tiny ice particles that come out the top of the smokestack of the thunderstorm heat engines. It appears that the varying amounts of this type of clouds has a large radiative effect, as they are thought to warm (through IR absorption) more than they cool (through reflection).

Enhanced night-time radiation. Unlike long-lived stratus clouds, tropical cumulus and cumulonimbus often die out and vanish as the night cools, leading to the typically clear skies at dawn. This allows greatly increased nighttime surface radiative cooling to space.

Drying of the bulk atmosphere. Thunderstorms move huge amounts of air vertically at a rapid rate. During the ascent, almost all the water vapor is stripped from the rising air column and falls as rain. After exiting the top of the thunderstorms, the now-dry air descends in the area around and between the thunderstorms. And because this air is dryer than it would be without the thunderstorms, the reduced levels of water vapor allow for increased longwave radiative surface cooling in the bulk of the atmosphere between the storms.

I haven’t even attempted a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the global average size of those effects. And of course, having mentioned it, I now have to give it a shot. Rats, I thought I was almost done with this post … here we go.

The effect of the cold rain, well, in the tropics if the temperature is say 26°C and the rain is maybe at 10°C when it hits the ground, for each cubic metre of rain that’s about 2 W/m2 of cooling effect. (I use my rule of thumb, that 1 W/m2 over 1 year heats 1 cubic metre of water by 8°C.)

I couldn’t even guess the amount of change from the Iris Effect per degree of surface warming. I’ll leave that to the good Drs. Lindzen and Spencer.

The night-time radiation … the night-time cloud radiative effect is entirely longwave, and is about 26 W/m2 of warming. So if there’s say a 10% decrease in night-time clouds that would also be one or two watts/m2.

Finally, the drying of the bulk atmosphere. This is a tough one, in part because the maximum daytime drying will likely occur around the afternoon peak in the temperature, and will be at a minimum around dawn when it’s cool. Hang on, I’ve got an idea … ok, MODTRAN says that in the tropics, if I set the water vapor to zero it lets an additional 58 W/m2 through the atmosphere.

So if the drying of the bulk atmosphere is on the order of 10%, it would be a cooling effect of about 6 W/m2.

Between these three, then, we have a total cooling effect of somewhere around 10 W/m2 on a 24/7 basis. Compare this to the thunderstorm evaporative effect, which Figure 5 says in the tropics averages about 90 W/m2. Thus, it appears that these secondary effects increase the total thunderstorm evaporative effects by on the order of 10%.

There is one more factor that increases thunderstorm cooling, but generally is not occurring on the above Figures. This is when a storm is delivering freezing rain and snow. In that case, the latent heat of fusion also needs to be considered. This is the energy needed to melt the ice at the surface. Energy to melt ice is about an eighth of the energy needed to evaporate the same amount of water. So for polar storms with snow, sleet, hail, or graupel, they would have a total cooling effect about 10% greater than a storm delivering the same amount of rain.

Further Reading About My Thermoregulatory Hypothesis

The Thermostat Hypothesis 2009-06-14
Abstract: The Thermostat Hypothesis is that tropical clouds and thunderstorms actively regulate the temperature of the earth. This keeps the earth at an equilibrium temperature.

Which way to the feedback? 2010-12-11
There is an interesting new study by Lauer et al. entitled “The Impact of Global Warming on Marine Boundary Layer Clouds over the Eastern Pacific—A Regional Model Study” [hereinafter Lauer10]. Anthony Watts has discussed some early issues with the paper here. The Lauer10 study has been controversial because it found that…

The Details Are In The Devil 2010-12-13
I love thought experiments. They allow us to understand complex systems that don’t fit into the laboratory. They have been an invaluable tool in the scientific inventory for centuries. Here’s my thought experiment for today. Imagine a room. In a room dirt collects, as you might imagine. In my household…

Further Evidence for my Thunderstorm Thermostat Hypothesis 2011-06-07
For some time now I’ve been wondering what kind of new evidence I could come up with to add support to my Thunderstorm Thermostat hypothesis (q.v.). This is the idea that cumulus clouds and thunderstorms combine to cap the rise of tropical temperatures. In particular, thunderstorms are able to drive…

It’s Not About Feedback 2011-08-14
The current climate paradigm believed by most scientists in the field can be likened to the movement of balls on a pool table. Figure 1. Pool balls on a level table. Response is directly proportional to applied force (double the force, double the distance). There are no “preferred” positions—every position…

A Demonstration of Negative Climate Sensitivity 2012-06-19
Well, after my brief digression to some other topics, I’ve finally been able to get back to the reason that I got the CERES albedo and radiation data in the first place. This was to look at the relationship between the top of atmosphere (TOA) radiation imbalance and the surface…

The Tao of El Nino 2013-01-28
I was wandering through the graphics section of the TAO buoy data this evening. I noted that they have an outstanding animation of the most recent sixty months of tropical sea temperatures and surface heights. Go to their graphics page, click on “Animation”. Then click on “Animate”. When the new…

Emergent Climate Phenomena 2013-02-07
In a recent post, I described how the El Nino/La Nina alteration operates as a giant pump. Whenever the Pacific Ocean gets too warm across its surface, the Nino/Nina pump kicks in and removes the warm water from the Pacific, pumping it first west and thence poleward. I also wrote…

Slow Drift in Thermoregulated Emergent Systems 2013-02-08
In my last post, “Emergent Climate Phenomena“, I gave a different paradigm for the climate. The current paradigm is that climate is a system in which temperature slavishly follows the changes in inputs. Under my paradigm, on the other hand, natural thermoregulatory systems constrain the temperature to vary within a…

Air Conditioning Nairobi, Refrigerating The Planet 2013-03-11
I’ve mentioned before that a thunderstorm functions as a natural refrigeration system. I’d like to explain in a bit more detail what I mean by that. However, let me start by explaining my credentials as regards my knowledge of refrigeration. The simplest explanation of my refrigeration credentials is that I…

Dehumidifying the Tropics 2013-04-21
I once had the good fortune to fly over an amazing spectacle, where I saw all of the various stages of emergent phenomena involving thunderstorms. It happened on a flight over the Coral Sea from the Solomon Islands, which are near the Equator, south to Brisbane. Brisbane is at 27°…

Decadal Oscillations Of The Pacific Kind 2013-06-08
The recent post here on WUWT about the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) has a lot of folks claiming that the PDO is useful for predicting the future of the climate … I don’t think so myself, and this post is about why I don’t think the PDO predicts the climate…

Stalking the Rogue Hotspot 2013-08-21
[I’m making this excellent essay a top sticky post for a day or two, I urge sharing it far and wide. New stories will appear below this one. – Anthony] Dr. Kevin Trenberth is a mainstream climate scientist, best known for inadvertently telling the world the truth about the parlous…

The Magnificent Climate Heat Engine 2013-12-21
I’ve been reflecting over the last few days about how the climate system of the earth functions as a giant natural heat engine. A “heat engine”, whether natural or man-made, is a mechanism that converts heat into mechanical energy of some kind. In the case of the climate system, the…

The Thermostatic Throttle 2013-12-28
I have theorized that the reflective nature of the tropical clouds, in particular those of the inter-tropical convergence zone (ITCZ) just above the equator, functions as the “throttle” on the global climate engine. We’re all familiar with what a throttle does, because the gas pedal on your car controls the…

On The Stability and Symmetry Of The Climate System 2014-01-06
The CERES data has its problems, because the three datasets (incoming solar, outgoing longwave, and reflected shortwave) don’t add up to anything near zero. So the keepers of the keys adjusted them to an artificial imbalance of +0.85 W/m2 (warming). Despite that lack of accuracy, however, the CERES data is…

Dust In My Eyes 2014-02-13
I was thinking about “dust devils”, the little whirlwinds of dust that you see on a hot day, and they reminded me that we get dulled by familiarity with the wonders of our planet. Suppose, for example, you that “back in the olden days” your family lived for generations in…

The Power Stroke 2014-02-27
I got to thinking about the well-known correlation of El Ninos and global temperature. I knew that the Pacific temperatures lead the global temperatures, and the tropics lead the Pacific, but I’d never looked at the actual physical distribution of the correlation. So I went to the CERES dataset, and…

Albedic Meanderings 2015-06-03
I’ve been considering the nature of the relationship between the albedo and temperature. I have hypothesized elsewhere that variations in tropical cloud albedo are one of the main mechanisms that maintain the global surface temperature within a fairly narrow range (e.g. within ± 0.3°C during the entire 20th Century). To…

Enjoy …


138 thoughts on “Cooling and Warming, Clouds and Thunderstorms

  1. Willis,
    Nice work. More evidence the tuned positive feedback of water vapor forcing in the GCMs is dead wrong.

    Have looked over Dr Roy Spencer’s latest blog post on his work in regards to water vapor feedbacks measured with the AMSU and its comparison to a GCM tuned water vapor forcing?

    • There I can see it on the maps.

      40 deg. S latitude goes right smack dab through Wanganui.

      Went through there on the back of a 350 Norton, just to check that out.


  2. There is also an interesting article along these lines called, “New Evidence Regarding Tropical Water Vapor Feedback, Lindzen’s Iris Efffect, and the Missing Hot Spot” on Dr. Roy Spencer’s web site.

  3. My hypothesis is that the earth has a thermoregulatory system keeping the global temperature within narrow bounds (e.g. ±0.3°C over the 20th century). A major part of this thermoregulatory system is that the tropical cumulus and thunderstorms act to limit the tropical

    Willis says but the only problem is it does not work in the long run, or even in the short run as is evidenced time and time again by the many abrupt past climatic changes, and the changes from a glacial to inter-glacial state.

    Talk about insane here Willis has a theory that is PROVEN to be wrong by the historical climatic record and yet he goes right ahead and criticizes al other climatic theories that conform to the historical climatic record such as the one I have proposed.

    Now that does not make sense to me.

    • Salvatore, I think that Willis is right on the spot with this problem. Just check this temperature graph for 600 million years.

      There is clear top cap on Earth temperature. Somewhere around 26C which interestingly corresponds with sea temperature found by Willis in “Albedic Meanderings” post, where albedo is starting to increase.

      You can explain flat temperature graph only by some thermo regulatory mechanism with strictly defined temperature level.
      It is very simply possible, that based on current configuration of Earth, gravity, density of atmosphere, atmosphere height this is maximum temperature of Earth.
      With increasing energy input, only tropical band of saturated temperature 26C is widening. And only area outside of this band is able to warm up. This is in line with findings that tropics are refusing to warm, what was impossible to explain by GW theory.

      • Wait it depends on what one means when referring to a thermo regulatory mechanism. If it means a range of plus or minus .3c as Willis suggested, to it does not hold up, if your talking about a range of plus or minus 6c or so that is a different story but a thermo regulatory mechanism in that context is meaningless.

        In addition I am talking about the globe as a whole not the tropics which feature much greater climate stability.

        As I have said his theory as a daily regulator of the climate in the context of the climate being in a given a given climate regime has merit.

      • The rise in temperature that does happen is in the regions below the heavily buffered maximum temperature. The average rises but the maximums don’t rise much at all.

    • The system Willis describes has a lower boundary. There is no negative portion of the regulator. If there is not enough energy arriving at the Equator then the thunderstorms don’t form at all. They can’t do anything less than not kick in.

      If one were to hook up the Earth to a cable and tow it away from The Sun then at some point clouds would cease to form on the Equator. Towing it further away wouldn’t form a negative regulator. The regulator Willis describes has done all it can do by not forming at all.

      Willis says but the only problem is it does not work in the long run, or even in the short run as is evidenced time and time again by the many abrupt past climatic changes, and the changes from a glacial to inter-glacial state.

      Talk about insane here Willis has a theory that is PROVEN to be wrong by the historical climatic record and yet he goes right ahead and criticizes al other climatic theories that conform to the historical climatic record such as the one I have proposed.

      So, no, Willis is not ‘insane’. You were so busy typing (as usual) that you completely forgot to read and digest.

  4. Nice work joelobryan says . I say are you kidding it does NOT hold up because if it did the climate would flat line forever within a narrow plus or minus.3c range.

    How obvious does it have to be? Wow!

    • a) Stop thread bombing anything Willis publishes
      b) Think about what Willis is saying before typing.
      c) See my earlier reply to your last ill conceived post.

      I say are you kidding it does NOT hold up because if it did the climate would flat line forever within a narrow plus or minus.3c range.

      How obvious does it have to be? Wow!

      Obviously somewhere beyond your comprehension.

    • Review the concept of “potential energy surfaces”. If could very well be that there is a strong thermoregulatory mechanism that caps the maximum SST/air temperatures and has a dominant impact in today’s climate. However, if something radically changes, the earth could move into a completely different scenario where a different thermoregulatory mechanism (runaway albedo/snowball earth) dominates.

  5. IPCC AR5 Effects of Clouds on the Earth’s Radiation Budget

    The effect of clouds on the Earth’s present-day top of the atmosphere (TOA) radiation budget, or cloud radiative effect (CRE), can be inferred from satellite data by comparing upwelling radiation in cloudy and non-cloudy conditions (Ramanathan et al., 1989). By enhancing the planetary albedo, cloudy conditions exert a global and annual shortwave cloud radiative effect (SWCRE) of approximately –50 W m–2 and, by contributing to the greenhouse effect, exert a mean longwave effect (LWCRE) of approximately +30 W m–2, with a range of 10% or less between published satellite estimates (Loeb et al., 2009). Some of the apparent LWCRE comes from the enhanced water vapour coinciding with the natural cloud fluctuations used to measure the effect, so the true cloud LWCRE is about 10% smaller (Sohn et al., 2010).

    !!!!!The net global mean CRE of approximately –20 W m–2 implies a net cooling!!!!
    (emphasis mine)

    Anthropogenic GHGs add less than 3 W/m2. CRE cooling is six times as much as GHG warming.

    • Evaporation of water from the surface of the World Ocean and land of the planet is the main process providing water vapor transport to the atmosphere. Evaporation of water takes much heat (1.26 x 10^24 joules), or about 25% of all the energy received at the Earth’s surface.

      Willis, something you might miss on use of annual data for the Temperate latitudes

      Total annual evaporation from most water areas of the World Ocean depends on the conditions during the autumn-winter period. During this time of the year the water surface is warmer than the air. Concurrently, the highest wind velocity above the water surface is observed during this period. The range of evaporation distribution during a year is especially wide at temperate latitudes and in the west of the subequatrorial zone of the northern hemisphere. Cold and dry Arctic and continental air masses move onto warm water areas in these zones. Therefore, more water evaporates from the water surface during this time, i.e. up to 15-20% of annual evaporation during some months.

      Both from –

      • DD More August 18, 2015 at 3:39 pm

        Willis, something you might miss on use of annual data for the Temperate latitudes

        Total annual evaporation from most water areas of the World Ocean depends on the conditions during the autumn-winter period. During this time of the year the water surface is warmer than the air.

        One of the joys of having my analysis programs written is that I can investigate questions like this quite quickly. The TRMM rainfall (aka evaporation) data for the northern hemisphere oceans 0-40°N varies from a low of about 70 mm/month in March to an evaporation of about 110 mm/month in September. This agrees with their claim. NH ocean rain/evaporation is below average from January to June, and above average from July to December. On NH land the peak rain/evaporation is in August and the minimum in January.


      • “””””….. Nicholas Schroeder

        August 18, 2015 at 4:07 pm …..”””””

        Well actually water evaporates into air when the WATER is relatively warm. It has nothing to do with what the air thinks.

        Now condensation / precipitation does depend on the air temperature and relative humidity, and is independent of the water temperature.

      • Gonna have to disagree that evaporation is only a function of water temp.
        A wet floor will dry, even in a cold room. A fan will speed this up quite a bit. Dry air will speed it up a whole lot. If it is foggy (100% humidity), nothing will dry.

      • Willis, something you might miss on use of annual data for the Temperate latitudes …

        It is difficult to quantify the effects at higher latitudes simply because ‘water vapour’ is so mobile.

        The eg. cloud over my part of England right now might well have its beginnings somewhere far away in the SW Atlantic. (our (British) prevalent weather direction). Pretty much impossible to apply what Willis is describing at the Equator to eg England.

  6. Tropical thunderstorms (according to NASA) link directly into ionosphere and the equatorial electrojet created by solar effects.
    I would dare say it could also be the other way, the equatorial electrojet provides some of the power to the tropical thunderstorms
    Some more details HERE

    Image of ultraviolet light from two plasma bands in the ionosphere that encircle the Earth over the equator. Bright, blue-white areas are where the plasma is densest. Dotted white lines mark regions where rising tides of hot air indirectly create the bright, dense zones in the bands. Credit: NASA/University of California, Berkeley

  7. Thanks very much not only for the work in the main post but also for pulling together the previous posts on the same subject. I have almost always found them compelling.

    This one gets bookmarked.

  8. Here is what regulates the climate , in a brief concise nutshell.

    Land/Ocean Arrangements and Land Elevation.

    Milankovitch Cycles- where earth is in regard to these cycles.

    Solar Variability- primary and secondary effects..

    Geo Magnetic Intensity- which moderates solar activity.

    Initial State Of The Climate- how far the climate is from the glacial /inter-glacial threshold.

    Ice ,Snow, Cloud Cover Dynamic – which are tied to the above to one degree or another.

    Intrinsic Earth Bound Climatic Items- such as ENSO which refine the climate trends.

    Rogue Terrestrial Event- such as a Super Volcanic Eruption.

    Rogue Extra Terrestrial Event – such as an impact.

    Willis is so big on correlations, and yet his theory does not correlate and or reconcile with the historical climatic record.

    • I don’t think anyone would expect you to presume he (or anyone else) would completely dismiss the effects of any of those listed.

      Are you not curious about the mechanisms behind the stability of the temperature during the holocene?

  9. Hi Willis,

    Your thermostat theory, I believe, also meshes well with the Kimoto papers, which show how an increase of water vapor, or an increase of ‘radiative forcing’ from doubled CO2, decreases the lapse rate (contrary to the false fixed-lapse rate assumption in climate models), resulting in negligible surface warming of only 0.1-0.2K:

    I’d appreciate your opinions on Kimoto’s works Willis, if you wish.

    By the lapse rate equation,

    dT/dh = -g/Cp

    whereby dT is inversely related to change in heat capacity at constant pressure Cp

    Since GHGs increase Cp (especially water vapor), they decrease the lapse rate by ~1/2, thereby cooling the surface, up to 25C in the case of water vapor:

    Best regards, HS

  10. Salvatore Del Prete remarks that the the Eschenbach hypothesis “does not correlate and or reconcile with historical climatic record.”

    Leading me to ask for clarification — WHICH climate record? Dr Mann’s hockey stick, with the implicit assertion that climate had done nothing interesting at all for approximately 1000 years despite Solar Variability, Volcanic Eruptions, etc? Or is there a Hubert Lamb or other sort of historical climatic record the Eschenbach formula might be correlated to, reconciled with, or tested against?

  11. My hypothesis is that the earth has a thermoregulatory system keeping the global temperature within narrow bounds (e.g. ±0.3°C over the 20th century). A major part of this thermoregulatory system is that the tropical cumulus and thunderstorms act to limit the tropical temperatures on both the warm and cool ends.

    I understand the daily processes you describe but there must be larger forces that overwhelm or cancel out this thermoregulatory system outside of the tropics since the earth has seen multiple ice ages.
    Or are you saying that for short periods of time this system works to maintain whatever climate/temperature the earth happens to be experiencing?

    • Eschenbach seems to be saying a lot of this happens in the equatorial regions. During a glacial we’d expect less cooling there and more warming. Diminished clouds is what the doctor ordered. During an interglacial, more cooling with more clouds. The relatively lower temperature changes expected in the tropics by climate scientists seems to agree with the idea that that place regulates itself, it adapts to changing conditions. It has resiliency. The rest of the globe less so, showing larger changes. Glaciations do happen and then the equatorial oceans are expected to help retain habitable areas for life which they’ve done for the past 400,000 years successfully.

  12. Will rainfall and evaporation line up like that? Won’t winds carry the moisture from where it evaporated to where it will fall, or is that distance expected to be small enough to not matter at the scales involved here?

  13. Willis and his theory show how the climate is REGULATED on a daily basis against the back drop of the forces that actually change the climate from one regime to another regime which I have outlined.

    So if you want to talk about climate regulation by what he proposes, when the climate is in a particular climatic regime I can go with that, but as far as being a climatic governor over the long run it fails miserably as is evidenced by the historical climatic record.

  14. Salvatore Del Prete August 18, 2015 at 2:42 pm

    Willis reconcile your theory with the reality which is in the above ice core climatic record.

    You can not do it. It does not hold up.

    Thanks, Salvatore. It’s clear that you don’t understand what an amazing thing it is that the 20th century temperature varied by only ± 0.3°K. Since the average global temperature is on the order of 290K, that means that this is a system which is thermally stabilized to within a tenth of a percent.

    As someone who has had to regulate a balky diesel generator to maintain a constant speed despite varying loads, I can assure you than regulating a machine to a tenth of a percent is very, very difficult. And the regulation of the planet’s temperature is done by nothing more tangible than winds and clouds …

    And I can also say that that kind of temperature record is very strong evidence of a very strong thermoregulatory system. We can debate just what kept the temperatures so stable over the 20th century … but it’s obvious that something kept them stable.

    Now, of course this natural thermal regulation system is subject to physical constraints. For example, the position and height of the continents affects how fast and how efficiently the climate system can move energy from the tropics to the poles. This of course affects the global temperature, as does anything affecting the energy throughput of the system.

    In addition, for unknown reasons, about a million years ago the climate took up a condition we can describe as “bi-stable”. Although it is statistically related to the Milankovic cycles of the earth’s orbit, it is not clear why this change to ice ages and interglacials happened a million years ago, and not five or fifty million years ago.

    And even the variation ice age to interglacials to ice age is only about ± 2.5°K, or about ± 1%. So in the interglacial the regulation is to ± .1%, and over the last million years the regulation is still to ± 1%.

    Finally, we have things like the “Younger Dryas” event you point to in your link. These were abrupt temporary breakouts from the regulated interglacial state of climate to a much cooler climate. As I’ve said to you before, any regulatory system can be overwhelmed by physical conditions, so I fail to see why you continue to harp on this issue. I thought we’d settled this one.

    These breakout coolings seem to be related to the changing conditions during the emergence from the last glaciation, as they have not occurred for about 10,000 years or so. Their various causes have been much debated. A huge influx of fresh water from the melting and release of ice-bound lakes in Canada is one theory. And yes, if you dump a jillion cubic kilometres of ice water into the North Atlantic, the northern hemisphere temperature just might change … I fail to see what that has to do with the existence of a thermoregulatory system.

    The point to recall is that yes, we had all those events … and after those events, we ended up about where we started. The regulatory system continued to work, despite volcanoes and changing insolation and melting ice lakes and all the rest.

    Best regards,


    • Bravo Willis. This is real climate science. Obviously it is not the final word, but the regulation mechanism is highly plausible and fits well with observations.

    • Willis , I think we are mixing words in that yes there is a thermo regulatory system at work but our view of the efficiency or lack of it is different.

      I do not view a thermo regulatory system as being efficient as far as climatic impacts to humans if the climate of the globe can go from glacial to inter- glacial conditions or have periods of abrupt climatic change such as the YD , one of many. Even though the climate will not go in one direction for eternity and always comes back to a mean.

      That is where the difference is.

      My idea of an efficient thermo regulatory system would keep the climate forever in the 20th century range which we know will not happen going forward. Sooner or late the climate will emerge from this range.

      Willis you are presenting great post and bringing up great points. I respect your knowledge, and I am as always trying to play the other side.

      I am not against you just questioning as you always do with me and everyone else which is good ,do not miss understand.

      This is a complex tough muddy subject and one thing I can say for guys like us is at least we try to tackle it even if view points may differ but that is what it is all about. I have high regard for you, despite my post at times.. Take Care

      • “My idea of an efficient thermo regulatory system would keep the climate forever in the 20th century range”
        . . . . . . . . . . . .
        Who says the 20th c. range was the stable or “normal” climate? Hydrologists and climate scientists agree in general that when the Glen Canyon and Hoover Dams were built in the early 20th c. that rainfall rates were far above what turns out to be a historical “normal”. It explains the drought today, why Lakes Mead and Powell are so low and why there may be nothing we can do to stop their eventual drying up.

        I fail to see how your opinion of what an efficient, stable thermoregulatory earth system is can be justified by relating to a single historical century. It is entirely feasible that Willis’ data is relevant regardless of whether the earth is in a glacial or interglacial geological period because of the focus on tropical zones.

      • Any regulatory mechanism seems limited to equatorial regions. During ice ages, colder regions have a larger impact on the planet wide average, but the warmer regions still exist. At the boundary between ice and no ice the net feedback is actually positive (due to forming/melting ice) and during ice ages there is more of this as well.

      • Frank Wentz et al; ” How much more Rain will Global Warming bring ? ”

        Says 7% increase in evaporation / atmospheric water / precipitation (ergo cloud cover).

        That’s one mighty fine thermo-regulatory system in my book.

        The ergo is my postulated extension of what Wentz et al wrote.


      • Salvatore you have fixed your thinking on one aspect of earth climate and conflating it with a completely different aspect. Go have a lie down and re-engage your brain. Then come back and read Willis’ post.

        It’s a good post, lots of info to digest and yes there are times when large perturbations occur but this is not one of them.

    • I believe your regulatory system and glaciation was addressed by Rondanelli & Lindzen. Comment on “Clouds and the Faint Young Sun Paradox” by Goldblatt &Zahnle. OOPS! Addressed to W.

    • Willis,
      Life has the ability to react quicker than most other processes and microbes in clouds make a big difference (so Judith Curry said in one of her blogs). I’ve seen somewhere that microbes can produce the ‘particles’ which seed clouds …

      Another area for Life to confound the physicists is the carbon cycle – plankton and single-celled diatoms may have a big influence that’s not been allowed for.

  15. I’ve also noticed that as the average tropical input power increases, the temperature starts to level off and even decrease. I attribute this to incremental solar input evaporating incrementally more water and consequently removing more latent heat than the incremental solar input. Most of the latent heat is returned to the surface as liquid water, as the heat removed from the surface by evaporation is released into droplets of water as they condense, eventually falling as rain that’s warmer than it would be otherwise,

    Each dot is a month of data for one 2.5 degree slice of latitude and the larger dots are the average across 3 decades of weather satellite imagery. Poles are at the lower left and the equator is upper right. Note how the temperature starts to decrease as input energy increases at the equator. The reason is in the next plot which shows an exponential increase in atmospheric water content (evaporation) as the input power increases (towards the equator). This appears nearly asymptotic to an average surface (mostly ocean) temperature of about 300K which is the temperature where Hurricanes start to form.

    • So the question is would the people of the world be able to flourish if more of the world were tropical in climate. (should you buy the CAGW story)
      The question i ask is how many of us travel to the tropics to enjoy the weather on our vacations.
      Now that’s a saving.

  16. Great to see that you’ve obtained data that backs up your theory. The fact that it doesn’t work the same over the tropical (wetter) land masses is one of those fascinating findings that jump out by accident. I also notice that the areas east and west of Indonesia have a negative correlation with rainfall vs increasing temps. Could this be because these are areas that produce rain more from other types of clouds than thunderstorms? I wonder if anyone knows of a data set that shows thunderstorms (lightning?)

    • “Great to see that you’ve obtained data that backs up your theory. The fact that it doesn’t work the same over the tropical (wetter) land masses is one of those fascinating findings that jump out by accident. ”

      Other folks would call it falsification..

      • Steven, perhaps you could let us all know just what proposition you think has been falsified …


      • others would, in this case be wrong.
        Of course when one creates work that by definition cannot be falsified one is creating Climate Science.

      • Steven Mosher: Other folks would call it falsification..

        The geographic variation does indeed display clearly in the graphs. It cries out, as do all the geographic variations, for extensions to the basic ideas, for extensions to provide more complete and accurate explanation. All it shows about Willis’ hypothesis is that it does not apply universally to all wet areas. I don’t think he claimed that it did.

        Besides, you don’t have a better theory, so by the idiosyncratic “Mosher principle” (recall that Stigler’s principle, first enunciated by Morris Degroot, is that most scientific principles are misnamed), you have to believe Willis’ theory.

      • God you have become just the most awful person over these past years. Stay away from Howsyerfather and you might revert to the Mosher we used to like.

      • And they would be just as snarky as you are. Get a grip. If I found cases where your BEST adjustments were off would you stop touting BEST temp data and declare it falsified or analyze why they didn’t work in that situation? Your contributions to the discussion have really deteriorated.

      • Those other folks would be jumping to conclusions – as Mr. Mosher certainly knows. I think he is just ridiculing the commenters on this site (and elsewhere) that call “falsification” all the time for all the wrong reasons.

        In this case the finding that rainfall is going up with temperature over the oceans and down over land does not disprove the thermoregulatory effect Mr. Eschenbach describes: There is more ocean than land and the increase in rainfall over water is also stronger than the decrease over land. The net effect is still …thermoregulatory.

        One could have actually anticipated this pattern: there is less water in a rainforest to form thunderstorms than over the open ocean. Land does get hot and dry. Try this with an ocean…

    • The heat capacity just affects the time constant, not what the equilibrium temperature will be. Regulation requires negative feedback. My guess is that the net effect of weather is to cool the surface, which means that the net effect from evaporation, clouds and rain is surface cooling. More surface heat means more evaporation, more clouds, more weather, more rain and more surface cooling and this is the basic regulation method. Evidence of this is that hurricanes leave a trail of cold water in their wake, rather than the trail of warm water they would leave if the net water vapor feedback was positive. Further confirmation comes from the Second Law of Thermodynamics which says that a heat engine (i.e. the heat engine driving weather) can not warm its source of heat (the surface). This also means that the net feedback from water vapor is not the strongly positive feedback required for CAGW.

  17. Nice work Willis.

    I have always though the evaporo-transpiration cycle must be a significant element in the planets climate system. Evaporate 1 kg of water and the latent heat required is enough to cool over 2000 cubic metres of adjacent air (~2230 cu m is the correct value as I recall). Now that is an effective mechanism considered just at that simplistic level (no wonder all those plants and animals use it).

    The trouble for the models is that their grid size is way too big to even hope to ‘model’ the mechanism as it actually happens. To even hope to do so the ‘modellers’ would have to reduce the grid size in the most active areas by one or two orders of magnitude and in doing so drive up the calculation time inversely. The alternative is to resort to fudge factors. Say no more.

    Basically this post identifies the most likely reason why the models are so out of whack with reality, well leaving aside the eco-political fundamentalism of so many CAGWarmists.

    M Seward (not M Simon – :) )

  18. Salvatore, Willis’s hypothesis applies in detail on a daily basis where the changes in the factors you are dealing with over 100,000yrs. Let’s take the argument to pieces. You probably grant that thunderstorms are a common feature of the ITCZ. Do you argue the figures for evaporative cooling that gives water for the storms? Do you accept the physics of energy required for evaporation? Do you accept increased albedo of the storm clouds, the cooled water falling down, the cool dry decending winds. Is it your hypothesis that the reverse happens, that these things warm the ITCZ? If not, then you may not realize it, but you actually accept the hypothesis.

    Let’s see if I can integrate your 100,000 yr look at climate. Willis’s idea even has something for you here. Ask your self what keeps the engine going. It is the temperature of the surface. What happens when this surface is a few degrees cooler than average. Well, Willis himself says the clouds don’t form until it does reach a certain temperature so, if for some reason the temperature of this region doesn’t rise adequately to bring on clouds, then this engine stops!!

    Imagine us heading off toward the apogee of your Milankovitch cycle. At some point, the temperature of the tropics drops those few degrees that brings on perennial clearing – its effort to let the sun heat up the surface. The heating is thwarted as Milanko does its work. This in turn reduces warm water and warm air for melting the ice and the ice grows. The tropics now have gorgeous sunny days 24/7, but the water still cools and the ice grows….

    Salvatore, cut this baloney out already. You fill acres of web space without showing finesse and insight. All of global warming is happening during an interglacial and this is being regulated by negative feedbacks. When the the holocene is over, the warming reverses and we go into a glacial period. Are you saying that lovely steam locomotive at the Museum of Science and Technology lying there frozen in the next glacial ice sheet didn’t exist or couldn’t have worked? Let’s all accept as given that we go into ice ages, and then move on to the topical climate stuff that is being slung at us today. I studied ice ages in Manitoba in 1957 sitting in a building on the bottom of glacial lake Agassiz where all this stuff was discovered. As Keynes said, in the long run we will all be dead. It’s the now we are battling with in terms of climate (and everything else). Your long run doesn’t contribute to the debate.

    • Well done Gary. It really bugs me when readers ignore the good stuff, only criticising without trying to work out what the guy is trying to say. Technically, Willis had only omitted one word which all readers should try to work out for themselves rather than beating up the author.

  19. Bottom line, no matter what humans do to the earth, there is a regulatory system to make sure that temperatures stay the same withing a few degrees. To think that anything that Humans can do will affect the climate (especially increasing a miniscule component of the atmosphere) is shear stupidity.We are but an infitesimally small part of this living breathing entity that may or may not be unique in the universe for its ability to sutain life.

  20. Fascinating work, Willis. Analysis of the surface energy budget is complementary with analysis of energy flux to and from space. This is because changes in the energy flow between the surface and the atmosphere are approximately equal to changes in energy flow between the atmosphere and space.

    We have:

    -dABS + dEBS – dBR + dCV + dLH = dSW + dOLR

    Where ABS is the solar radiation absorbed by the surface, EBS is the radiation emitted by the surface upwards, BR is the radiation emitted by the atmosphere downward, CV is the conductive/convective cooling of the surface, LH is the latent heat flux (mostly evaporation) SW is the solar radiation reflected out to space, and OLR is the radiation emitted out to space. Since a decrease (increase) in the solar radiation absorbed by the surface and an increase (decrease) in the solar radiation reflected out to space must be the same thing, these terms cancel out of the above equation, meaning that:

    dEBS – dBR + dCV + dLH = dOLR

    In other words, the change in the radiation emitted to space is partly determined by the change in evaporative cooling at the surface!

    Climate feedback flux is usually calculated as dSW/dT + dOLR/dT, but we could just as easily express climate feedbacks in purely surface flux terms!

    I calculated dLH/dT to be on the order of 6 W/m^2/K which is a very strong negative feedback. Of course this doesn’t take into account possible non linearities which are at the heart of what makes your hypothesis distinct, but it agrees with your analysis here in that it shows that evaporative cooling helps to stabilize the Earth’s climate.

  21. In this post discussing Willis Eschenbach’s theory, I couldn’t help but recall this comment from the other day.

    “Willis, is very good when it comes to saying why climate change theories are not correct but short in coming up with any theories himself to account for why the climate changes.

    This to me is a problem, which is to have someone shoot down all theories and have no counter theory.”

    • Well that is not a logical statement.

      The scrap heap of history is piled with theories which were subsequently shown not to work.

      Perhaps Willis has added more to the pile (I don’t know).

      But knowing what doesn’t work, does not imply that we must know something that does work.


      • Thanks George. I thought that Cates very stupid remark deserved something very rude in return but you nailed it.

      • george e. smith says, “Well that is not a logical statement.”

        I think you misunderstood my post. I was quoting a comment from the other day made by someone else.

        I only intended to highlight how recent it was Willis Eschenbach was taking heat for not having a “theory” to defend. Clearly that’s not the case.


    • You post this here, where Willis is explaining his theory of what DOES work? You said it yourself:
      “In this post discussing Willis Eschenbach’s theory…”

      • leafwalker,

        It appears I should have attributed the quote and used html tags. I chose not to do so, but linked to the original quote. I thought that was enough… obviously a mistake on my part.

    • Gentlemen, I think you will find that Mark Cates is highlighting this quote from someone else to provide a sense of irony regarding such a view versus Willis’ obvious efforts. It is by *no* means a “stupid remark” but instead a dead-on-target lampoon of something someone else said in regard to Willis! (Note commenter “Judge” also points this out in response to George and Stephen.)

      @ Willis: +10 for making this reasonably understandable and visual to an utter layman!

      • mdmnmdller,

        Phew. for a second there I thought I had forgotten how to communicate completely. I wasn’t trying to slam Salvatore Del Prete, as I appreciate many of his comments and find them interesting, but I thought his comment need to be pointed out for what it was. Inaccurate. I guess I was too subtle.

        I’ve been reading this blog daily for probably over a decade now and even donated. I read everything, but comment very little. No doubt Willis’s work is +10.

  22. Very interesting & quite similar to summer observations in the US Southwest monsoon season. You might be able to confirm some of your numbers based on local weather measurements. The surface temperature in the US Southwest this time of year can cool by 15-20F in a few minutes when big thundershowers start. In New Mexico in August, it seems that whenever the temperature gets to about 85F at 7000ft elevation or to about 95F at 5000ft elevation, the clouds billow (>albedo), rain falls, and evaporative cooling drops the surface temperature right down.

  23. Roy Spencer posts complementary :New Evidence Regarding Tropical Water Vapor Feedback, Lindzen’s Iris Effect, and the Missing Hotspot

    For years I have claimed that the missing hotspot could be evidence of neutral or even negative water vapor feedback, which would also help explain weaker than expected surface warming. . . .we might have some important insight into how the models might not be accounting for increasing precipitation efficiency during warming, and in turn why the hotspot hasn’t developed… and why global warming in general is weaker than programmed into the climate models.

  24. Willis, congrats. Brilliant analysis of observational data. A corollary is the falsification of all climate models. Your posted thesis is equally an observational explanation for the missing tropical troposphere hot spot, which all CMIP5 GCMs model, but which neither radiosondes nor satellites (including the newest better vertical resolution UAH v.6) detect.

  25. Mark Cates August 18, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    In this post discussing Willis Eschenbach’s theory, I couldn’t help but recall this comment from the other day.

    “Willis, is very good when it comes to saying why climate change theories are not correct but short in coming up with any theories himself to account for why the climate changes.”

    Actually, most of my theories are about why the climate doesn’t change. That was what got me into the field, my wonder at how little the climate changes.

    However, I did put up a post about that subject, called “Slow Drift in Thermoregulated Emergent Systems“, linked to at the end of the head post.


    • Willis Eschenbach,

      I greatly appreciate the effort you make. It is monumental. Unfortunately, it appears my comment was misinterpreted by quite a few.

      Regardless, a significant way your work is different (in my opinion) is that you haven’t written it in stone or claim that it should be written in stone. When it comes to climate science, many out there express far more certainty than what is remotely reasonable. This pattern has grown very tiresome over the decades.

      What drew me into this field about 25 years ago (and validated in Anthony’s surface stations project), was my college professor who worked with temperature data. His comment at that time with respect to James Hanson’s testimony to Congress…. he said, “We could be on a snow ball headed straight for hell, but Hanson couldn’t tell you anything about that with the data he is using.”


  26. My hypothesis is that the earth has a thermoregulatory system keeping the global temperature within narrow bounds (e.g. ±0.3°C over the 20th century)

    In principal I like the theory but I think you’ve spent long enough finding reasons to believe in it. I think to give it credibility you need to think of reasons why it might not be true and try your hardest to prove your own theory wrong.

    The fact we move in and out of ice ages, on the surface, disproves it. Long term warming or cooling trends also seem to disprove it at some level. You concentrate on the tropics with its thunderstorms but cant really say with any confidence whether non-tropics changes rule the overall climate. There are quite a few areas you could consider.

    Just a suggestion…

    • Tim –

      I think if we have a particular issue, then maybe we ought to flesh it out ourselves. Willis has already covered a lot of things that may cause instability and cyclic swings. We have many hypotheses. We know the temperate Northern Hemispheres bis much different from the temperate Southern Hemisphre and the Yropics are are goon unto themselves and we know why.

      The GCM modellers know that too. The trouble is they “picked” a particular control knob for CLIMATE CHANGE (aka Global Warming) even as the IPCC said it was a chaotic unpredictable system that requires years of study to determine all the important variables. Then they look backward at palaeontology to. I would suggest we look forward to collecting 1000 years of future data and upgrade the GCM’s as we go and see if we develop anything of predictive value. Precautionary principle be damned.

      In the meantime, we know CO2 is just a GHG Political football used for political leveraging purposes which have no relationship to science. It is good politics. Its good for BIG GREEN Businesses. It’s bad science.

      The IPCC says so:

      Other reports in this collection

      14.2.2 Predictability in a Chaotic System
      The climate system is particularly challenging since it is known that components in the system are inherently chaotic; there are feedbacks that could potentially switch sign, and there are central processes that affect the system in a complicated, non-linear manner. These complex, chaotic, non-linear dynamics are an inherent aspect of the climate system. As the IPCC WGI Second Assessment Report (IPCC, 1996) (hereafter SAR) has previously noted, �future unexpected, large and rapid climate system changes (as have occurred in the past) are, by their nature, difficult to predict. This implies that future climate changes may also involve ‘surprises�. In particular, these arise from the non-linear, chaotic nature of the climate system … Progress can be made by investigating non-linear processes and sub-components of the climatic system.� These thoughts are expanded upon in this report: �Reducing uncertainty in climate projections also requires a better understanding of these non-linear processes which give rise to thresholds that are present in the climate system. Observations, palaeoclimatic data, and models suggest that such thresholds exist and that transitions have occurred in the past … Comprehensive climate models in conjunction with sustained observational systems, both in situ and remote, are the only tool to decide whether the evolving climate system is approaching such thresholds. Our knowledge about the processes, and feedback mechanisms determining them, must be significantly improved in order to extract early signs of such changes from model simulations and observations.� (See Chapter 7, Section 7.7).

    • “Why is it disproved? Remind me again.”

      It is obvious “on the surface” why going into and out of ice ages disproves Willis’ theory of a highly stable system. I was very careful not to say it DID disprove it and instead suggest that there are issues that need to be dealt with that he hasn’t addressed (or possibly even considered)

    • Well, this regulator works in one direction. It limits the upper end of the temperature range. Nobody pretended that it can also control the lower end.

      • “Nobody pretended that it can also control the lower end.”

        Actually Willis’ theory says it does control at the low end. Specifically he says (in the tropics) clouds form later in the day or not at all and so the earth receives more energy from the sun and reflects less.

        So within that, he needs to explore ice ages and the LIA and the MWP and so on. AFAIK he’s not really done any of that.

      • My take is that the regulatory mechanism (negative feedback) kicks in at higher temperatures and acts more like a maximum temperature limiter. At lower temperatures, when the surface is covered in ice and snow, the negative feedback from incremental clouds reflecting incremental solar power disappears as the surface reflectivity becomes about the same as the reflectivity of clouds.

        The range of temperatures during ice ages and interglacials is likely to be about the same. The main difference is the relative proportion of cold surface to warm surface.

      • Specifically he says (in the tropics) clouds form later in the day or not at all and so the earth receives more energy from the sun and reflects less.

        Tim, you are confused in your thinking that Willis’s “thermostat” is regulating the amount of energy that the Sun is permitted to radiate.

        The Sun transmits as much energy as it wants to …… and Willis’s “thermostat” adjusts Tropical Zone surface temperatures accordingly.

      • nice addition by co2 is not evil there to explain how willis theory is compatible with glacial and interglacial periods.

      • “Tim, you are confused in your thinking that Willis’s “thermostat” is regulating the amount of energy that the Sun is permitted to radiate.”

        Nope. Not in the slightest. I said receives more energy from the sun. Not that the sun was producing more or less energy. If there are fewer clouds in the way, then more of the suns energy makes it to the ground. Its a straightforward argument Willis is making.

      • Tim, you have misunderstood Willis’s statement of : “and so the earth receives more energy from the sun and reflects less.

        Tim, there is a big difference in …… receiving (absorbing) energy ….. and reflecting energy.

        Thus, …. when a cloudless sky, … the earth’s surface will absorb more of the incoming energy from the sun and thus reflect less of the incoming energy back into space.

        But when there is a cloudy sky, the earth will reflect more of the incoming energy back into space and thus less of the incoming energy will be absorbed by the earth’s surface.

        If the earth’s surface absorbs the incoming energy ….. then it is either radiated or conducted away from the earth’s surface, ….. not reflected.

  27. It’s nice to see the data showing exactly what many of us have assumed. It seems so obvious. The only question I have is when will this and other negative feedbacks be accurately accounted for in the GCMs.

  28. So how do you know just what the average lower tropospheric temperature of the earth was during those ice ages.

    We have a -94 deg. C to +60 deg. C range now that averages out to 288 K or 15 deg. C or 59 deg. F

    So you can have oodles of ice and the same average Temperature too.

    Come to think of it; that is one of the arguments against talking about anything as silly as an earth average Temperature.

    Now just last weekend, I actually saw live on the T&V evening news, an actual real live news person actually measure the Temperature of an object in a local UHI; likely a blacktop strip on the road, and for that location the instrumental reading was 190 deg. F which I think is close enough to + 105 deg. C

    So that means earth’s daily temperature extreme range is at least 200 deg. C, from -94 to +105.

    But we think that the average is one deg. F higher than it was in 1852.

    So there.


  29. Why Tropical Sea Surface Temperature is Insensitive to Ocean Heat Transport Changes

    Daniel D. B. Koll and Dorian S. Abbot

    “Previous studies have shown that increases in poleward ocean heat transport (OHT) do not strongly affect tropical SST. The goal of this paper is to explain this observation. To do so, the authors force two atmospheric global climate models (GCMs) in aquaplanet configuration with a variety of prescribed OHTs. It is found that increased OHT weakens the Hadley circulation, which decreases equatorial cloud cover and shortwave reflection, as well as reduces surface winds and evaporation, which both limit changes in tropical SST. The authors also modify one of the GCMs by alternatively setting the radiative effect of clouds to zero and disabling wind-driven evaporation changes to show that the cloud feedback is more important than the wind–evaporation feedback for maintaining constant equatorial SST as OHT changes. This work highlights the fact that OHT can reduce the meridional SST gradient without affecting tropical SST and could therefore serve as an additional degree of freedom for explaining past warm climates.”

  30. ” … tell us …how your hypothesis accounts for/allows glaciation… ”

    Why must it also explain glaciations? It is completely possible that a stabilizing mechanism may work nicely for long periods, until external forces/events combine to take it past a tipping point. Then eventually that system stabilizes at that new point (perhaps by a different mechanism or predominance of factors) until tipped back out of it. Then the ‘Willis Mechanism’ comes back into effect.

  31. God there are some idiots out today. They show a complete lack of ability to read English.

    Thanks Willis. Your data presentations are logically sound and very thought provoking. Un fortunately ther are a lot of people here incapable of thinking.

  32. So, the theory predicts that as global temps rise storms will increase.

    The warmistas will use that as proof of impending doom whilst completely ignoring the point.

  33. Thanks for Your guidance-always so clear and educational.
    As stated above snow can give additional cooling. That might disturb the circulation during colder conditions. But not around the equator now days!

  34. Many thanks, Willis, for having actualized observations as well as your comments about processes involved in climate regulation in tropical regions.
    Climate changes must be pulled out of the frame of this work. The heat accumulated during the interglacial periods, or dissipated during the ice ages, or even during the Holocene (including the current climate) are of course far different from those mentioned in the tropics throughout the seasons. The energy exchanged through the ocean surface is small (of the order of W / m2) in the Milankovitch cycles and tens of W / m2 during an El Nino event, but for a period ranging from a few months to several tens of thousands of years.
    Mechanisms mentioned by Willis are very effective for controlling the temperature of the atmosphere. They work little on ocean temperatures due to their high thermal capacity and the smoothing effect that follows, by averaging the effects of warming and subsequent cooling of the atmosphere.
    Also the phenomena mentioned by Willis are important in seasonal regulation. But even to explain the El Nino phenomenon, these phenomena are involved only marginally. That is long-term climate variability results from baroclinic waves in the oceans.
    The observations of the oceans, the reconstruction of solar and orbital forcing as well as the Earth’s global temperature from ice and sediment cores converge in the same direction: the oceans have a major role in climate variability and allow explaining all or part of what we observe (including the warming that occurred during the 20th century) while referring to irrefutable physical concepts.
    To synthesize:
    1) The tropical oceans produce quasi-stationary baroclinic waves (which store or release heat by oscillation of the thermocline) whose mean periods are 1, 4 or 8 years, which resonate with trade winds and ENSO.
    2) The western boundary currents (Gulf Stream, Kuroshio …) carry this succession of warm and cold water to the subtropical gyres. Again a resonance phenomenon occurs. But these waves that I call ‘gyral’ and which wind around the 5 subtropical gyres have a remarkable property they do not deaden when the period increases (driver = Earth’s rotation + gravity). They have another property, they resonate with the solar and orbital cycles whose periods coincide with their natural periods. These baroclinic gyral waves store or otherwise release heat resulting from changes in solar irradiance.
    3) At mid-latitudes thermal equilibrium occurs between the sea surface temperature anomalies of the subtropical gyres and thermal anomalies of impacted regions of continents (Western Europe is one), due to cyclones and highs (depending on the sign of anomalies, deficit or excess of latent heat withdrawn from the oceans, then restored by condensation of water vapor).
    4) Global temperature anomalies are homogenized from the impacted areas, this resulting from the high specific heat of seawater compared to that of continents.
    After very complicated models and parameterized so as to explain what is expected of them, simple ideas, even simplistic are not useless…

  35. Willis, your regulater as laid out by this post and your previous ones appears to be self eveident when so clearly explained.
    There are however a couple of other “stages” in the process that would bear inspection.
    How much energy is put back in to the atmosphere when the water condences back in to snow/hail/rain, which is now already closer to space and hence more quickly lost.
    Also there is the aspect of the actual precip itself, I am sure everyone has experienced the “Summer Storm” and how quickly those large drops of rain cool the atmosphere at ground level, where does that heat go so suddenly?

  36. I’ve long been a supporter of the basic proposition that the hydrological cycle achieves a negative system response to forcing elements via emergent phenomena such as those described by Willis.

    Nonetheless I think it needs to be extended globally because every cloud and thermal updraft anywhere is an emergent phenomenon and part of the negative system response.

    It isn’t just a matter of the tropics or of thunderstorms.

    Then there are other interesting issues as to how and why the mechanism works and whether it would work with no water at all.

    I assume that Willis would suggest a warmer surface in the first instance so as to provoke the emergent phenomena but if the system is to remain stable one also needs a cooled surface elsewhere to offset it.

    Which has led me to this:

    My article points to the vertical displacement of air at the tropopause at the top of convective columns whereby cold air is displaced downwards from the top of ascending columns to the top of descending columns without changing its temperature since it is in contact with the stratospheric air mass and follows the inevitable distortion of tropopause height between ascending and descending columns.

    It then follows that descending air compresses and warms less than it otherwise would have done because it is starting at a lower height along the lapse rate slope and it is that which offsets the additional surface warming at the surface beneath ascending columns that provoked the additional convection required by Willis’s emergent phenomena.

    An advantage of that proposition is that it works even without emergent phenomena from the hydrological cycle.

    The vertical displacement of air between the tops of ascending and descending columns at the tropopause causes surface temperature differentials at the surface which are then countered by horizontal winds so that the average surface temperature stays the same as before.

    Now the AGW proponents could argue that those windiness changes at the surface constitute climate change but the scale of such changes from our CO2 emissions compared to those from changes in the effects of sun and oceans would count for nothing.

  37. @Mardler: No, I think the theory will say that ‘around’ the equator, changes in the level of rain/clouds etc will dump more ‘heat’ out of the atmosphere to stabilise the temperature.

    A physical mechanism could be: “Maxwell-Boltzmann Distribution”.

    We all know that melting ice is typically at 0 degrees C, and remains so until the heat input to it melts all the ice. We also know that water (without ice) increases in temperature for each unit of energy injected until the water starts to boil at 100 degrees C. (all at atmospheric pressure).

    However, the amount of heat transferable by water/water vapour varies with temperature.

    If we look at psychrometric chart we can see a non linear response: the difference between the energy requirements 25-20 degrees C require 18 kJ/kg whereas 20-15 degrees C require 15 kJ/kg.

    My interpretation of this is that in a nonlinear manner, warmer water vapour can transmit/communicate/pass/dump more heat energy than cooler water vapour.

    This variation in heat flux would contribute to the thermo regulating effect.

    • The sensible heat capacity of dry air is 0.24 – F. Sensible heat of liquid water is 1.0 Btu/lb F.
      The latent heat of water vapor in the air is about 1,000 Btu/lb. And, yes, it varies slightly with temperatures.
      It remains obvious that water/water vapor absorbs/releases huge amounts of energy compared to dry air. The major flaw w/ the GHE is that it ignores water vapor, focuses only on SWIR/LWIR and air temperatures.
      A greenhouse without water vapor is an oven.

  38. Your paper is fascinating. The one thing that looked odd was your negative correlation of rainfall and temperature across tropical, wet, land areas such as the Amazon Basin and wetter parts of West Africa (only). In that limited case, what causes what. Drying of a normally extremely wet column would allow higher temperatures there. If you get over a desert, which is always hot, high afternoon temperatures would cause dry-adiabatic mixing well above the 500 mb level. If any slight amount of moisture would reach such a desert column, very high base convection would result. Maybe, just maybe, some of those hail-stones would fall far enough to melt, and actually reach the ground, occasionally, as spotty but measurable rain, preserving your general finding of a positive correlation between rainfall and temperature. Thank you for your paper.

    • another great reply highlighting how important this blog is. gets the idea to many people instantly,allowing them to think aloud after reading the post. i hope willis takes a look at this contribution.

    • Salvatore Del Prete

      “The global temp. range is higher then what Willis has suggested between ice Ages and Inter- glacial periods of time.”

      Even during the 20th century. Willis suggests “…that earth has a thermoregulatory system keeping the global temperature within narrow bounds (e.g. ±0.3°C over the 20th century).”

      NOAA uses the 20th century as its anomaly base period, i.e. 20th century average temperature = zero. According to NOAA, half the years between 1901 and 1920 were cooler than -0.3°C, while 12 out of the 20 years between 1981 and 2000 were warmer than 0.3°C.

      The last full year that was cooler than 0.3°C on average was 1993. I don’t see where Willis is getting his ‘narrow bound of ±0.3°C over the 20th century’ figure from.

  39. Willis said: “In this case, the rainfall increases with temperature in the ocean and in the drier parts of the land. But in the wetter parts of the land such as tropical Africa and the Amazon, the rainfall is about neutral or actually decreases with respect to temperature .. go figure.”

    I would hazard a guess this is to do with the effects of vegetation. The evaporation in the tropical forests happens at the canopy level rather than the ground level, with a sort of microclimate under the canopy.

  40. As far as the thermo regulator you have suggested again that works to keep the tropics regulated within a range as dictated by the overall climatic regime the earth is in.

    Your regulator however can not does not stop the climate from going from one regime to another as the historical climatic record shows and in no way does it give a semi cyclicality to the climate.

    What gives a cyclicality to the climate is most likely extra- terrestrial beats ranging from Milankovitch Cycles to Solar Variability to the Geo Magnetic Field Strength to Land/Ocean Arrangements .

    Your thermo regulator at best keeps the earth range bound but the range is to large to stop the earth from going from a glacial state to an inter- glacial state which for practical terms makes the climate of the earth unstable.

    So yes the earth has the regulator you suggest which keeps the tropics more stable then what they would be otherwise, but this regulator at the same time is unable to keep the climate of the earth from going from a glacial to inter- glacial state.

  41. And even the variation ice age to interglacials to ice age is only about ± 2.5°K, or about ± 1%. So in the interglacial the regulation is to ± .1%, and over the last million years the regulation is still to ± 1%

    Willis says which is much to conservative, try plus or minus 4c. In addition this range in global temperatures is much greater in the mid and high latitudes when the earth transits from glacial to inter-glacial periods.

  42. Willis,

    First off, thanks for presenting this work in the Gladiator Pit.

    Although I’ve generally been a fan of the reflective cooling part of your hypothesis as a factor in global (rather than local) climate, I think some pieces of the puzzle are still missing for the evaporative part of climate self-regulation.

    I agree with your conversion from rain (mm) to evaporation Watts, but what is missing is where all that latent heat goes. Either it rains back down, gets moved to other regions, or it’s radiated out to space. The first two options are neutral on a global scale. The last one should show up as a component in the LWIR part of CERES, but I think it’s hard to distinguish it from the LWIR component that is directly related to the temperature. So can you really talk about 100s W/m2 of cooling (your third conclusion) unless you have a good idea of what part of that evaporation heat comes straight back?

    By the way: which parts of the CERES data are you using for the reflective and evaporative cooling graphs?

    • Frank,

      The latent heat removed from the surface by the evaporation of water warms the atmospheric water that the water vapor ultimately condenses upon which then falls as rain. To the extent that in LTE, there are net emissions to space from atmospheric water, the emitting water must be receiving an equal amount of power to replace those emissions (otherwise. it’s not in LTE), thus emissions from water are only offsetting emissions that would be present if the water wasn’t there.

      If you calculate the power of the photons emitted by the surface that do not pass directly through the atmosphere it’s about 300 W/m^2 including absorption by clouds, leaving about 90 W/m^2 exiting to space (Trenberth fails to account for surface energy passing through ‘average’ clouds and instead assumes that all clouds have unit emissivity and absorb all surface emissions). In LTE, the atmosphere must be emitting what it’s absorbing. If you calculate the difference between the power passing directly through the atmosphere from the required 240 W/m^2, there’s a 150 W/m^2 shortfall which is half of what the atmosphere is absorbing. The remaining half makes up the difference between the 240 W/m^2 of input from the Sun and the 390 W/m^2 emitted by the surface at its average temperature. The 50/50 split is expected, in fact required if the planet behaves as a gray body, as power enters the atmosphere from half the surface area over which the atmosphere emits power. Proof that the planet does behave as a gray body is here:

      The implication is that any non radiant energy that enters the atmosphere (latent heat, convection, etc) can only be returned to the surface and can not increase or decrease the radiant energy otherwise emitted by the planet. Of course, this is also a zero sum process (COE) and the difference between the non radiant energy entering the atmosphere and whatever fraction of this is returned to the surface is already accounted for by the average temperature of the planet and the emissions consequential to that average temperature.

      • CO2, your argument that “any non-radiant energy that enters the atmosphere can only be returned to the surface” seems to hinge on the assumption that the Earth is in thermal equilibrium everywhere and at all times. Although that may be true in the long term on a global scale, I don’t see why that should be the case in the time frame and locality of Willis’ emerging thunderstorms?

      • Frank,

        Transiently, the Earth is rarely in balance (except twice per year near the equinoxes). During winter months, the surface emits more than it receives as it cools while during summer months it receives more than it emits and warms. The crossover point is shortly after each equinox. This becomes clear when you examine the seasonal difference between the emissions of the planet and the post albedo input power arriving from the Sun.

        LTE describes the behavior after all seasonal variability has been averaged out and all ‘feedback’ has had its influence. It’s unambiguously clear that the current steady state where each W/m^2 of solar input results in an average of 1.6 W/m^2 of surface emissions represents LTE which the planet has had billions of years to converge upon (consensus claims that the gain of 1.6 is pre-feedback are ignorantly ludicrous). My analysis is based strictly on the average steady state behavior as this is all that matters relative to how the LTE steady state of the planet varies in response to change and the long term data suggests that none of the non radiant power leaving the surface affects LTE, except to the extent that water vapor yields clouds which do have an effect. The main effect non radiant energy has is to redistribute energy throughout the atmosphere.

        Any year to year imbalance will not be more than a fraction of a W/m^2 or so and varies around zero from year to year. The idea that there is some long term imbalance is absolutely wrong since the planet responds far too quickly to seasonal variability for any perceived imbalance to persist for very long. The consensus incorrectly assumes that the entire mass of the oceans must adapt for any change to be fully realized and this gives them the wiggle room to claim time constants on the order of decades to centuries, rather than the approximately 12-24 months that the seasonal response suggests. If the dominant time constants were really on the order of decades to centuries, we wouldn’t even notice the seasons!

        Emergent thunderstorms are part of the chaotic path from one steady state to another, but have little to do with what the new steady state will be in response some change. The feedback from clouds does have an effect and that effect seems to be consequential to net negative feedback towards the equator (thermostatic control), net positive feedback towards the poles (warming and/or cooling is amplified) and zero somewhere in between. One of the biggest errors made by the consensus is to extrapolate the positive feedback in colder climate to the entire surface of the planet.


      • Thanks, George. I understand and do agree with a lot of what you are saying, but it doesn’t seem to address my main concern.

        As I understand it, Willis hypothesizes that the climate is more stable than the IPCC suggests because the planet can get regulate its temperature through the forming (or not) of thunderclouds. So he’s hypothesizing that despite CO2 levels rising, the Earth climate will still be stable due to this self-regulation.

        Now if you want to prove that precise fact, you can’t also assume it is so — that would be a circular argument. So it’s gotta come from the data: when he suggests that the evaporation can soak up lots of heat from surface, all of it has to be accounted for in the data — without assuming that the Earth is in thermal equilibrium a priori.

        So my point is that the only way in which evaporation can help stability on a global scale is if somehow some of that heat can be radiated out to space when necessary. Since you believe all heat must come back to earth because of LTE, I guess your point is that it can’t??

      • Frank,

        The ‘regulatory’ property Willls describes is an observation that the net feedback in the tropics is quite negative (the mechanism he describes seems plausible) and that the net feedback acting on the entire planet is slightly negative, but not negative enough for the level of stability he asserts. Remember that the effect of net positive feedback is to amplify change, while the effect of negative feedback is to oppose change and its this opposition to change that manifests a regulatory mechanism. Also, much of the recent stability is a consequence of near constant solar input.

        Just as warmists incorrectly extrapolate positive feedback at the poles to the entire planet, it’s incorrect to project negative feedback in the tropics across the planet. The net feedback must be calculated as the weighted fraction of input energy each kind of feedback affects. This is also why warmists think melting ice feedback is important, they fail to understand that as the planet warms, there’s less ice to melt and the effect of this feedback is reduced, moreover; as we are in an interglacial period, there’s not much dynamic range left in this feedback as there’s little headroom to decrease average ice much more than it already is.

        During ice ages, more of the planet is cold and the feedback is net positive which both amplifies cooling as temperatures drop and amplifies warming as the temperatures rise. But, as the temperatures rises, less of the planet is cold and the global effect of the positive feedback in polar latitudes decreases until the negative feedback in the tropics starts to dominate. I should point out that cold itself does not determine feedback, but that it’s surface ice and snow that reduces the negative feedback effect of reflection from incremental clouds.

  43. What Willis fails to address is how his tropical regulator give the climate a semi cyclic beat.

    In addition the regulator he proposes from a practical stand point does not make the climate stable as far as humans are concerned unless one thinks a glacial versus an inter -glacial period is of no significance.

    This is what matters.

  44. As allways good. I have one comment regarding this:
    “Drying of the bulk atmosphere. Thunderstorms move huge amounts of air vertically at a rapid rate. During the ascent, almost all the water vapor is stripped from the rising air column and falls as rain. After exiting the top of the thunderstorms, the now-dry air descends in the area around and between the thunderstorms.”
    When the dry air goes down again it is heated more than the air going up is cooled. Humid and dry lapse rate.
    I would like some evaluation of that.

  45. Willis,

    Very interesting article, backed with data…

    Some idea for a next one: there is no trace of the 11 year solar cycle in the temperature record, neither in sea level, while many would expect one, even if it is small. Maybe thanks to the water/vapor/clouds/precipitation thermostat…
    My question: if it is possible to look for a 11-year cycle in cloud formation and precipitation. There are some indications for such a cycle in river discharges and cloud patterns (be it mainly in the mid-latitudes):
    Rainfall in Portugal:
    Monsoon in India:
    River Po (Italy) discharge:
    Nile discharge:
    South Africa:

    The main mechanism in this case may be solar UV – ozone – statospheric temperature – jet stream – cloud/rain patterns, but the water thermostat may have helped a lot…
    At high solar activity more ozone is formed in the lower stratosphere and the temperature difference with the poles increases, shifting the jet streams towards the poles. I had a reference for that paper, but the link is gone…
    Some additional mechanism:

  46. Typo Alert:

    “To close the circe”… unless you are talking about the Greek godess of magic, I think you meant “circle”.


    Nicely done.

    I ‘d only tack on that trees and plants evaporate more water to cool themselves in an attempt to keep about an 86F leaf temperature. Land tropics will have a tendency for that to confound the plain water process. Basically, water doesn’t have a large positive feedback to more evaporation at 86F or so and a large reduction below that, nor a seasonal reduction as the soil gets dried out via plants / roots. That might help explain the rain forest non-correlate zones.

    Also I’d add that in frozen places you don’t get much evaporation to make rain. The temp correlation would be low below that cut off. As things warm, they will tend to dry via sublimation and then evaporation without rain from it in places like the western deserts and Canadian snow fields. The deserts, especially, will dry out and then rush higher in temperature with ever less rainfall. Given that, I think a “desert regime” vs “snow regime” vs “tropical wet regime” vs “tropical plant dominated regime” split is needed to have more clarity in those areas.

    To be clear, I think your Thunderstorm Thermostat Hypothesis is correct over water once warm enough. Just needs extending into very cold regimes (where feedback is iced) and very dry places (where water can’t function). When those are “netted out” I think the warm thunderstorm will be shown a much stronger negative feedback in the wet warm places and THE active ingredient in keeping the place nice once above freezing.

    In my view, it puts a hard lid on warming. But there is no such limit to the downside and once below the ice point, nothing much prevents accelerated cooling into an ice ball. Thus our predominantly ice age era the last million years or so and the only occasional interglacial that gets a hard lid slapped on warming at about the present temps. (Cold only really limited by just how hot the ITCZ always is)

  47. Figure 1 shows something I do not understand. The band of high rainfall shown is so narrow in latitude. The ITCZ varies in latitude over the course of the year (as you noted), following (lagging) the zenith of the sun in general and it can wander even further away from the equator. So in the annual average the band might be expected to be blurred wider. Is rainfall in the tropics so asymmetric w.r.t. seasons?

    BTW, there is another analogy which I don’t recall you mentioning. Anyone on the water could notice the remarkable consistency of wave sizes at any given time and place. There is variation of course, yet rogue waves are rare. One reason for this is that when waves become too steep, they break. It’s not exactly a regulator or governor, just a non-linear effect.

  48. Follow-up to my August 19th comment — Figure 1 is too good to support the ITCZ interpretation. The ITCZ moves around enough that the rainfall band should be blurred wider north-south. ITCZ could still be involved, but it is not the whole story

    This later post suggests that the rainfall band may have a more direct relationship with the warm ocean currents:

    • Just take a look at the monthly changes in TRMM rainfall, and you will see that indeed they do move around, and are at times south of the equator. Which is why I pointed out the “ghost” of the main rainfall area, which you can see in the Pacific below the equator.

      You really, really should have examined the actual monthly average TRMM data before theorizing about whether the rainfall is moving around or not. As Sherlock Holmes said, “”It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”


Comments are closed.