The Quasi Geostrophic Global Atmosphere and Related Gyres

Guest essay by Michael Wallace, Hydrologist and Graduate Student at UNM Dept of Nanoscience and Microsystems.

I am a hydroclimatologist who works and researches in the area of solar based climate forecasting. In advancing that, I’ve adapted data from various sources of my interest and have run that data through various graphical and stochastic exercises. This has sometimes led to improvements in my forecasting techniques, as well as interesting and apparently unique graphics. I am presenting some of this material next week at a conference focused on the Animas River in the Southern Rocky Mountains. I also post on much of this material at my non-interactive blog at

An internet search on “geostrophic winds” can set the background for this post. In my examples and likely those of others, these winds are averaged across the “entire” atmosphere (100 km according to many sources) and then mapped across the globe. The patterns can be both useful and intriguing. While most other researchers (both orthodox and skeptic alike) appear to favor one or several particular layer(s) of the atmosphere, I favor the full atmosphere for much of my climate work. Accordingly this post is about some examples of those full atmosphere based patterns. Much of my work is still on a steep learning curve across a number of fronts so my apologies in advance as I stumble through topics where my knowledge is still sketchy. I hope readers will view this post as simply an informal report of some work in progress and of course comments are welcome.

It seems safe to suggest that averages of the full atmosphere contoured over any region including and up to the full globe, are an intrinsic adoption of quasi-geostrophic theory (QG). I am still combing through the rich details that the QG perspective affords, precisely because of its useful and often overlooked simplifications.   These limitations are somewhat similar to the ones I’ve long worked in as a hydrogeologic modeler of energy and mass transport in porous media within multiphase flow conditions.

QG approaches are quasi-three dimensional and they can violate many more fully 3D principles at sub synoptic scales (synoptic scale is 1,000 kilometer (km)). For example, QG can nominally fail at some scales in the presence of other larger scale baroclinic and/or vertically sheared domains which are well known. Yet the QG simplifications have proven useful, even in many of those very environments, especially for forecasting moisture frontal movements associated with high velocity parcels moving within the jet streams.

QG theory based forecasts of storms that form in response to bends and velocity changes within jet streams are already well established. Moreover, they are widely agreed to work very well. The QG methods employ a curious conceptualization of a limited segment of relatively high velocity flow within a jet stream. Vortices exist in each corner. The directions of convection and subsidence vary with each corner vortex in relation to the direction of flow within the jet stream segment. All is explained well, by many sources, via reference to so called geostrophic flows which are linked to the Coriolis effect and thermal gradients. There are indeed challenging and dynamic 3D components to the actual systems as well, and notably some aspects of the circulations are often described in terms of the “atmospheric conveyor belt”. Even so, the QG simplifications work at the synoptic scale. I may not be the first to speculate that the same principals can therefore be applied to the entire global atmosphere.

I accordingly decided a few years ago to begin to build an atlas of full atmosphere global maps because in part I was curious to see if QG-styled representations of features such as jet streams and vortexes would manifest. I also wondered how such a map would reflect other well known features as Hadley and Walker circulations, the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), and the OLR along the equatorial west Pacific, as well as a few other intersections of global hydrological interest.

Figure 1 is a typical example of the types of data I graph in this light. This is a comparison of the full atmosphere geopotential height (Z) over the month of December at the end of 2005 and at the end of 2013. I downloaded the underlying data from an ERA Interim archive at a UCAR site over a year ago. The archive included the parameters of Temperature (T), Geopotential Height (Z), Divergence of Latent Energy (LEDIV), and Evaporation – Precipitation (EP), in addition to numerous other parameters, averaged or integrated across the full atmosphere.


Figure 1. Comparison of two months for coverage of QG winds and full atmosphere geopotential heights Z.

Figure 1 and many subsequent figures are based in part on my coarsening of the ERA Interim data. Each cell is 2.8125 degrees in latitude and longitude dimensions. The row and column axes reflect the cell counts accordingly. As mentioned, this figure compares the Z contours across the planet for the month of December at the end of 2005 and at the end of 2013. These years and months are not necessarily any more or less interesting than any other two months. I simply was initially motivated to compare Z for a month following a high Atlantic cyclone count season and for a month following a low count season. According to the HURDAT reference [1], the Accumulated Cyclonic Energy (ACE) record indicates that 2005 was a high energy season and 2013 was relatively low.

I have introduced streamline origin points at various locations across the map to help define flows and gyres more clearly than the underlying vector plots could do. These lines are calculated from the original ERA Interim full atmosphere zonal and meridional wind speed data. As these are excerpts from works in progress, the streamline origin and identification features and later parcel tracking features are not always consistent. For the most part, green streamlines originate along a meridian in the east Atlantic (yet west of the Greenwich Meridian). Cyan streamlines originate along a meridian in the west Atlantic. Black streamlines originate along the east Pacific, and blue lines originate along the central Pacific. Red lines originate along the Greenwich Meridian which also defines the left boundary of each of the maps.

Examinations of the resulting flow patterns appear to confirm the expected Hadley and Walker circulation related middle latitude westerlies, equatorial easterlies, polar vortices, jet streams, and gyres at the very least. One interesting artifact of the QG approach that I looked forward to observing was the inevitable singularities of both “sink” and “source” vortex features created automatically from this mapping of a 3D circulation to an essentially 2D surface.

Figure 1 documents a small number of QG transformed sources and sinks, some of which might be persistent across the years. Each source and sink vortex identified through the streamline coverages are largely understood to be QG artifacts and they are positioned at well known locations. “Sink” gyres appear in the polar regions and two types of “Source” gyres appear in sub equatorial regions. In my view, these more or less stationary gyre features and their arrangement with respect to the ITCZ are reminiscent of the previously mentioned and most curious QG representation of a jet stream and storm generation. But this is just an idle thought and perhaps it has already been more deeply explored by others.

From a conventional perspective, the gyres are simply giant rotating masses of air that are caused by horizontal shear between the mid latitude westerlies and the equatorial easterlies. A purely QG artifact of interest to me which is animated shortly, is that air parcels actually disappear into the sinks and reappear from the sources. That wouldn’t happen of course in the real world. Or would it? 😀

In addition to these fantastic artifacts, actual known weather events can easily be visualized fully automatically using this system. For example, the “Great Polar Vortex” of early 2014 can be seen in Figure 2. This is a good time to note that manually developed artworks are customarily used in depictions of items such as polar vortices and jet streams[2]. Such renderings typically are motivated because the raw data depictions are not often clear. I think however that many would agree that these new automatic QG based maps appear to express more accurate fidelity to observations and appear to naturally highlight the very features most desired to illustrate.

Having said that, it is clear that I’ve somewhat arbitrarily chosen colors, resolutions etc., which give the streamlined maps a ropey texture. That may have risen from personal preference, but my guess is that many would agree that at the very least, these jet streams and vortices are captured in an intuitive way. For my part, I have generated several thousand such images now, which cover about 25 years of satellite data for the three main parameters T, Z and EP.

Our understanding of global atmospheric flow through QG streamlines and isocontours might be augmented further by selected particle (air parcel) tracking. Figure 3 introduces my preliminary application of parcel tracking as a .gif animation of the North Atlantic Gyre for a sampled month. As for all QG styled representations, the featured animation expresses various trajectories and relative velocities of hypothetical full atmosphere-averaged air parcels (symbolized by the red dots).  Note that the velocity field is held constant for this simple comparative trajectory demonstration. Therefore the animations are only suitable for selective relative comparisons between profiled full atmosphere parcel particle tracking (red dot motions).


Figure 2. QG Representation of the Great Polar Vortex of 2014

Hurricanes are not depicted, although the eyes of many hurricanes are roughly the same size as the red dots.  If hurricanes in the west NH Atlantic were rendered over time, they would be confirmed to rotate counter clockwise even as their trajectory takes them in a clockwise path over their lifetimes.

A second animation follows in Figure 4 for a month (July, 2014) in which numerous hurricanes were reported. This image is rougher and only captures three particle tracked frames.  However the equatorial easterlies, middle latitude westerlies, and some aspects of gyre circulation can be seen.    Notably the tracks of the NH Atlantic gyre for this month are in apparent alignment with trajectories of hurricanes in that lobe at that time.  This can be explored and approximately verified via this Wikipedia page[3]. Again please note that the animation is only suitable for relative comparisons of particle trajectories. In other words the time series does not necessarily represent one month. I am working on this for soon to be released updates so that particle trajectories can be properly updated at the end of each month of the “simulation”.

insert animation file into post: NthAtlanGyr1979thru2014ParticleTracking.gif

Figure 3. Animation of the North Atlantic Gyre for a Specified Month.

insert file into post: July2014.gif

Figure 4. Animation of the North Atlantic Gyre for July, 2014.

Readers might also find it interesting to compare this animation to Figure 5 in which the counterpart and much larger North Pacific Gyre is shown. In that animation, I’ve averaged about 25 years of monthly data (432 months from 1979 through 2014) to produce the parcel tracks. In this quarter century average and in the other animations, the QG air parcels exit the NH Atlantic Gyre to the north and proceed east.   Meanwhile the parcels in the NH Pacific gyre exit to the south and proceed west.  This arrangement is roughly mirrored in the southern hemisphere (SH).  Mass balance is thereby preserved quasigeostrophically.

insert file into post: GyreFlowExMWAfromERAIUV1979through2014.gif

Figure 5. Animation of Selected Parcel Tracks Based on Average QG Winds from 1979 through 2014.

The circulation and vorticity mapping of the QG continuum may also be consistent with Hadley Walker circulation dynamics papers and maps by numerous authors.  It also seems possible within the narrow QG focus that momentum balances can be achieved in examinations of all or any subsets of this data. For example, the inner particles of the gyres in Figures 3 and 5 complete full revolutions much faster than outer particles. Often cyclones are described as if they do not express conservation of angular momentum but that appears to be more of a question of whether the momentum is perfectly balanced or slightly out of balance. The animations suggest gyre flow is not unlike flow down a drain (or out of a fountain) for example. To me this lends a robust and dynamic flavor to the QG simplifications, even though no global circulation models (GCMs) were used in the development of this post.

If I’m not mistaken, these QG maps and animations appear to offer additional prospects for improved understanding of our global circulation. For example, descriptions and models of global circulation often bypass clear quantification of flows into the ITCZ. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I’ve never seen a flow description such as Figure 5 and its annotated companion Figure 6. In that figure I have placed two open circles over the map to highlight the remarkably few “QG portals” where sub equatorial air parcels can directly reach the ITCZ without first getting hijacked by a gyre.


Figure 6. Identification of ITCZ Inflection Entry Points from Five Year Trailing Average QG Winds for 2004.

In this explicit QG conceptualization of the Hadley Walker circulation pattern, many air parcels passing through the middle latitudes ultimately enter the ITCZ via first entering the two Pacific gyres. QG parcels then exit the ITCZ largely through the two Atlantic gyres. Of course this is a QG simplification that doesn’t capture the realities of top of atmosphere divergence and the like. But as I’ve said, the QG simplification has impressive fidelity to many observed climate and weather features. For those mindful of the benefits and drawbacks of such simplifications, value can be added over the status quo.

Peer review papers on residence times of air parcels in gyres are not common, but the few I’ve seen, such as Wyrtki, 1989 [4] or Groth et al., 2017 [5], suggest that such parcels are trapped in these gyres for up to a decade. I’ll be working further on related characteristic times of gyres and the stable or unstable attractors that they may represent in my ongoing learning and research. For now, I think that given the amazing fidelity of the QG method to capture gyres, jet streams, equatorial easterlies, mid latitude westerlies, polar vortexes, and even hurricane tracks, that that these “portals” to the ITCZ are potentially important to know more about.

Much might be gained through hybridizing the information further with a more literal implementation of the concept of a global atmospheric conveyor belt. In many ways this is expected to be somewhat of a mirror to the well known ocean conveyor belt. One can find precedence for these thoughts at least in part from various sources including Webster, 2005 [6] where the Hadley circulation is evaluated for both the atmosphere and the oceans.

Gyres are also largely dry as well. Accordingly the heat that they tie up is sensible heat as opposed to latent heat for the most part. Anyone who views the QG gyre plots over the 25 years will not be able to miss these giant vortices routinely apparently spinning up and then winding down. What doesn’t seem to change much are the centers of each major subequatorial gyre. Perhaps others have already speculated that these roughly 4 semi stationary, sub equatorial gyres serve as energy capacitors for the entire planet. If one also attributes some confidence to the idea of a global atmospheric conveyor belt, then in principal, trajectories of “full atmospheric thickness heat parcels” may be estimated months and years in advance, perhaps even regardless of diabatic or adiabatic transport. If this sounds absurd, I recommend skeptical readers take a look at a recent post in which I forecast the AMO 8 years in advance.

I’ve only scratched the QG surface in this guest post. I think the full atmospheric simplifications cannot be seriously disregarded given the potential suggested here. Readers are invited to visit my non-interactive web site posts for the numerous QG lines of exploration and the resulting, often highly accurate multi year forecasts of streamflows and of temperature that I derive from that.

For those who see some of the potential of these maps for climate and planning applications, I’ve also created a stochastic atlas, covering QG maps of T, Z and EP for every month from 1979 through 2014 (and counting) which I call a stochATLAS at my site. It is available for a nominal subscription license under $60 per year to cover costs.


[1] HURDAT reference:

[2] 2014 Polar vortex reference:

[3] Wikipedia page on July 2014 hurricane tracks

[4] Wyrtki, K. 1989 Some thoughts on the Pacific Warm Pool. in Western Pacific International Meeting and Workshop on TOGA COARE (May 24 – 30) 1989, New Caledonia Proceedings

[5] Groth, A., Y. Felix, D. Kondrashov, and M. Ghil, 2017. “Interannual Variability in the North Atlantlic Ocean’s Temperature Field and Its Association with the Wind Stress Forcing” Journal of Climate Vol. 30. pp. 2655-2678

[6] Webster, P.J. 2005. “The Elementary Hadley Circulation” Chapter 1. H.F. Diaz and R.S. Bradley (ed.), THE HADLEY CIRCULATION: PRESENT, PAST, AND FUTURE. 2005 Kluwer Academic Publishers, The Netherlands.

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June 18, 2017 1:18 pm

Glitches with inserting GIFs. More than a bit dense with modeling I presume the missing GIFs were supposed to show.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 18, 2017 1:23 pm

Yes, a number of GIFs are just listed, not linked.

Reply to  Tom Halla
June 18, 2017 10:46 pm

Thanks Tom and Will, I’ll get that fixed asap, likely tomorrow.

June 18, 2017 1:24 pm

Fantastic article! You all are doing a fantastic job while Anthony has a little time off!
Though this would be of interest Regarding land subsidence.
The ocean is not rising in Louisiana, USA…the land is subsiding.

Reply to  john
June 18, 2017 1:32 pm

1898 – “San Francisco is sinking!”

Reply to  richard
June 19, 2017 8:07 am
Richard G
Reply to  richard
June 19, 2017 3:58 pm

2017 — CAGW is sinking.

June 18, 2017 1:43 pm

I very much appreciate anything which gives me a better picture of the atmosphere of the Earth and how it moves. Thanks very much for this, I’ve got new images in my mind!

June 18, 2017 2:13 pm

Here is an particular research arena where 3D modeling would be very useful for illustrating insanely complex interactions – time and space made interactive would be even more useful… This article also hints at another large scale influence on climate that will NOT be in the models even if it becomes more fully developed and understood because it is NATURAL, and therefore cannot be taxed/controlled/feared…

Old England
June 18, 2017 2:14 pm

Slightly off topic but Today was set to be the warmest 18th of June in the UK since “records began 169 years ago”. (They seem to forget the CET)
What an amazing and much needed boost to climate change and AGW … until that is you read that the Record Temperature it might just beat is 89.9F (32.2C), set 120 years ago (18th June 1893) in Ochtertyre, Perth and Kinross, Scotland.
So if we have had ‘unprecedented warming’ in the latter part of the 20th century caused by mankind how come we haven’t yet reached the record temperatures of 120 years ago – long before man is supposed to have altered temperatures ?
Today may well be trumpeted as a record but I expect that if it is then it will have been set at Heathrow Airport amidst the acres of tarmac and jetwash from 2 or 3 planes landing every minute ….. those must be good for 2 or 3 C extra ‘warming’, if not more.
( )

Reply to  Old England
June 18, 2017 2:39 pm

..sorta like being the third hottest

Reply to  Old England
June 18, 2017 3:08 pm

A similar case was made re the recent ‘warmest spring’ record in CET, which was set this year, 2017. Clive Best and others pointed out that it only just beat the previous warmest spring set in 1893.
However, if you look closely at that chart you’ll see that spring temperatures in CET have only risen to or above 10C six times since 1659. Four of those 6 times have occurred since 2007.
Spring temperatures in 1893 in central England were an outlier. Spring temperatures in 2017 in central England appear to be the new normal.

Reply to  DWR54
June 18, 2017 3:55 pm

If you have a long-term warming (or cooling) you will have “new normals” frequently. Warming (or cooling) and “new normal” is the same thing. Every f****** idiot knows there’s been a warming, but a warming doesn’t tell you the cause or a “problem”.
Can we please change the music?

Reply to  DWR54
June 18, 2017 9:17 pm


Every f****** idiot knows there’s been a warming…

Apparently not everyone does ‘know’ this. For instance, see the comment above from ‘Old England’, to which I was replying. People are still using cherry-picked individual temperature records from centuries ago, records that were extreme outliers at the time, in order to convince themselves that the current more frequent high temperatures somehow aren’t unusual.

Sweet Old Bob
June 18, 2017 2:53 pm

Interesting blog . Do you and “Big Joe” Bastardi communicate ? Compete ?
Would be neat if you and Joe were able to assist each other …. (:>))

Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
June 18, 2017 10:54 pm

No collaboration with him or any other forecaster so far, either private or publicly funded. Thanks for asking, as I look forward to working with many such forecasters eventually.

Reply to  Mike Wallace
June 19, 2017 1:58 pm

Judith Curry too.

June 18, 2017 3:31 pm

What about the influence of atmospheric tides? Do they show up at all?

Reply to  noaaprogrammer
June 18, 2017 10:43 pm

Thanks, They might show up, I haven’t looked. Same for many other features. I’m beginning to crawl forward in regard to Rossby waves for example, but as I pointed out, I have yet a steep learning curve. I welcome additional eyes to look, which is why I wrote this post.
One thing I haven’t seen in any of those maps, is the influence of fossil fuel emissions.

Reply to  Mike Wallace
June 20, 2017 6:18 am

One thing I haven’t seen in any of those maps, is the influence of fossil fuel emissions.

Oops, you just lost a load of potential taxpayer funding with that statement. Obviously you have much to learn in the ways of climate science. /sarc
I appreciate the post and hope to hear more. From my read, you sound like someone genuinely trying to advance the science and understanding and not coming from a position of supporting a preconceived position. Also appear to be looking for other eyes to critique and provide feedback and knowledge–actual peer review. That sounds like actual science to me. Refreshing.

Gary Pearse
June 18, 2017 3:37 pm

Can one think of the patterns of air motion in 3D as interactions between a non-weather based simple pattern due to earth’s rotation and various weather induced motions? That is to say, the actual motion at a given point is the resultant of the vectors of, say a Hadley cell induced motion and the base motion from rotation? If so, I think a simplified discussion of your model could be easier to understand. Perhaps it was constructed this way? Or am I completely lost on this subject?

Reply to  Gary Pearse
June 18, 2017 10:57 pm

As I understand it, you have just defined geostrophic winds, which are based on a vector combination of Hadley type thermal gradients from equator to pole and the impact of Earth’s rotation via the Coriolis effect.
That could have been explained better, but perhaps this comment section offers an opportunity for me to explain more and to learn more from those who work in QG land more intensively than I.

June 18, 2017 3:52 pm

A recent article in the Express discusses the effects of volcanic ash injected into the atmosphere and adds an interesting twist. They manage to say it will cause both warming and cooling.

Reply to  Periwinkle
June 18, 2017 4:51 pm

Greg Goodman covered that around 3+ years ago in the commentary of the related post as to volcanic effects, perhaps in 2013. Big discussion here with many comments.

June 18, 2017 3:57 pm

Well, you are living in the perfect place to test out any computer runs 🙂

June 18, 2017 4:31 pm

Thanks for the very interesting post, Michael. Great work. The idea that gyres can trap air for a decade is amazing (to me at least!). I am really looking forward to seeing how this line of inquiry develops. Here in Australia I (as a layman) am interested in how the southern polar region affects our weather / climate, and watch this view on our Bureau of Meteorology:
which often shows deep low pressure cells (<950 HPa). However the lack of data inside 70 degrees S is a little frustrating.

charles nelson
Reply to  BoyfromTottenham
June 18, 2017 4:45 pm

Boy. You really should check out Nullschool Earth if you want to get a great view of what goes on down there.,-90.88,609
Looks like there’s a big up of cold stuff ready to spin our way in the next week, wrap up!

Reply to  charles nelson
June 18, 2017 4:53 pm

I noticed some chill temps down there in the heart of the continent yesterday, low point as -95.5 F

Reply to  charles nelson
June 18, 2017 7:29 pm

Thanks, Charles!

Reply to  charles nelson
June 19, 2017 12:46 pm

That is awesome. Do you know the time frame, is it weeks? Thanks

Reply to  BoyfromTottenham
June 18, 2017 11:00 pm

Thanks! I can hardly believe the gyre residence times myself. But I haven’t found any sources that indicate otherwise.

June 18, 2017 4:44 pm

A, little OT but, Finally….
“Trump Energy Dept. Seeks to Mine Elements Monopolized By China”

Reply to  Butch
June 18, 2017 4:54 pm

Nice, that would mean more jobs for the area. What a boon that would be.

Reply to  Butch
June 18, 2017 4:56 pm

“The Energy Department said it will invest nearly $7 million into researching ways to mine and produce these elements in the United States.”
As so often, no sense of history there. From 1960s to 1980s the Mountain Pass mine in California was the worlds largest producer Basically, China undercut them on price. There isn’t any mystery about how to mine and produce.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 18, 2017 5:03 pm

Simple answer to a simpleton troll….E…P…A……. D’OH !

Michael darby
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 18, 2017 5:09 pm

Complicating your simple answer Butch is the difference between labor costs in China versus California.

Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 18, 2017 5:16 pm

Also REAL pollution regulations that are enforced in the U.S.A… the E.P.A. !!!!

Mike the Morlock
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 18, 2017 7:04 pm

Nick Stokes June 18, 2017 at 4:56 pm
It was national policy by China to undercut and destroy competing US industries.
We had administrations which let them do it. They did not merely dump refined rare earths on the US market they actively bought the US mining operations out. Closed them down and and shipped the equipment out.
Wrong type of people were running things. Both Democrat and Republican.

Eric Barnes
Reply to  Nick Stokes
June 18, 2017 7:23 pm

They let them do it *and* make a profit at it. They represent the donor class, the only people with real representation (apologies to Mr. Trump and a few conservatives).

Retired Engineer John
June 18, 2017 6:58 pm

I wish you would include the GIFs in a large window where they can be easily followed. The Earth turns at 1000 mph at the Equator and the warming and expansion of the air and the subsequent downhill flow must be influenced by the change from supersonic to subsonic speeds at the higher latitudes; have you seen this in your simulation? Does this influence the Hadley flow or the upper bounds of the warm layer that floats on the cold Ocean? Please give us more details.

Reply to  Retired Engineer John
June 18, 2017 11:11 pm

Thanks, I know the gif animations have gone missing, and I’ll try to get them inserted tomorrow. I think this resource, or at least this approach of mapping the full atmosphere will present many interesting patterns that can be recognized by skilled meteorologists. Since I’m not a skilled meteorologist, I am looking at the items most related to my particular research. For what it is worth, in the first contour plots, the darkest regions represent the areas with the thinnest full atmospheric columns and the lightest areas represent the thickest atmospheric columns. Accordingly, the white patches overlying the gyres (they ALWAYS seem to overlie the gyres) represent the thickest atmospheric columns and accordingly the highest pressures (and accordingly, some of the highest temperatures..).

June 19, 2017 1:57 am

Very useful material.
In due course I would expect it to reveal that all circulation changes are simply the negative system response to any imbalances (including radiative) that threaten to destabilise the hydrostatic equilbrium between atmospheric mass and gravity which fixes surface temperature at a specific level which is adequate to both match energy out to space with energy in from space AND sustain continuing convective overturning of the atmosphere.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
June 19, 2017 6:51 am

Thanks Stephen, I see the potential in very much the same way. For what it is worth, I have a paper in peer review which explores that somewhat. In that paper (and a number of my own web site posts) I’m more explicit regarding the high correlations between solar cycles and some of these mapped features.
For example there is an open rectangle in my images on the equator just between the two Pacific Gyres. There’s also a horizontal line which crosses that. These cover regions where I extracted time series of various parameters over the satellite record. There are also some small blue dots located over the Southern Rocky Mountains. Those are areas where I extracted some streamflow time series.
I then developed regressions between these sites, and the Solar cycles. Then I used those to make forecast exercises extending several years into the future. I applied the exercise to the past years of satellite record as well and compared these regressions and forecasts to other more conventional forecasts as well as to some existing CMIP-blessed GCM and VIC simulations applied to one of the same streams. The Solar method was far superior to both the conventional and the alarming greenhouse gas emissions GCM approach. (In fact, the conventional method was far superior to the greenhouse gas method as well). However the most impressive results appeared to be limited to regions where the geopotential height Z is relatively low within a certain latitude band, such as the Rocky Mountains. That paper in review also explores the Himalayas briefly in the same context.
Accordingly I do find myself entertaining the same thoughts you have expressed. As the sun “heats up” and “cools down”, the water on the Earth responds accordingly and this appears to be most clearly expressed within the so called Hot Tower which is closely associated with the twin Pacific gyres straddling the equator. Experts who currently reign don’t appear to accept that as the solar insolation fluctuates up and down by about 0.1% over its decadal plus cycle, that this might have an observable and important if not primary effect upon much of the global climate. If I understand correctly, according to those experts, the exponential impact of changes in radiation forcing upon evaporation and condensation via the Clausius Clapeyron relation doesn’t apply to anything other than the minuscule CO2 forcing category (through extraordinarily recursive logic).

June 19, 2017 7:13 am

Thanks Mike.
I agree that changes in external insolation would change the global air circulation and additionally would change surface temperatures.
Similarly, changes in global albedo from cloudiness changes would also be apparent in both the air circulation and surface temperatures because albedo changes mimic changes in external insolation by altering the proportion of that insolation being absorbed by the syste.
However, in the case of purely internal system forcings such as from changes in GHG amounts I would expect a change in global air circulation INSTEAD of a surface warming.

June 19, 2017 7:52 am

You might be right. I still have much to learn. But the albedo observation is interesting. In my work I found a very high correlation between the Outgoing Longwave Radiation (OLR) track (that horizontal line I mentioned), and sunspot numbers. It’s rather amazing in my view and directly illustrates your concept I think. Perhaps I will have an opportunity to write more posts here, but in the meantime the short story there seems to be that as solar forcing rises, convection across that OLR footprint increases. As that convection increases, among other things I have observed (and still awaiting some closure on peer review) I note that the OLR signature drops rather dramatically (not a controversial observation I’m certain). That’s albedo for you!

June 19, 2017 9:26 am

Sorry for clumsy handling of the .gif animation files. It seems best for me to simply cite the source web posts where context is also embedded.
The files for Figures 3, and 4 are featured at:
The file and more for Figure 5 is featured at:

June 19, 2017 9:27 am

my clumsy handling I meant 😀

June 19, 2017 9:31 am

Here is my suggested mechanism for the link between solar variability and global cloudiness (albedo):
It turns out not to be a simple convective response but rather a change in the gradient of tropopause height between equator and poles allowing changes in the degree of meridionality of the jet stream tracks.
The more meridionality, the longer the lines of air mass mixing around the globe and the more clouds there are.
You may be able to see those meridionality changes in your work.

June 19, 2017 12:16 pm

Wow this is very interesting. I’ll take a quick casual look through the stochATLAS. At first glance it just seems very plausible and authentic so far as I can tell. I dont know if a full atmosphere monthly average will capture that signature but it certainly seems likely and ozone is not my forte, yet ha ha

June 19, 2017 12:32 pm

Great. You get my point.
I’ve been pushing this concept for a while and your data could well be helpful.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
June 19, 2017 1:35 pm

And vice versa with regard to your work!
For my part, I’ll place a few responses that involve any kind of graphic I can cobble together quickly with designations such as
Figure GACoWUWTJune2017 A
which is now uploaded to
It’s the most recent post there. It is in follow up to one of your comments. I happened to have that handy which covers about half a year for two different years, one with a high ACE and the other with a low one. I touch on that with a coarse still image near the beginning of my guest post, but this is an extension of that.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
June 24, 2017 9:47 am

I’ve added another figure
Figure CACOWUWTJune2017 C
I compare an aurora map from September 11, 2005 to a QG map for that month. I leave it to you to interpret Stephen. My guess is that you would like to look at many cases if not all months. Or perhaps even daily averages. Unfortunately, although a Lat Long map is easy for me to automatically produce in a 2D cartesian format, the polar plots take a number of manual steps which becomes time consuming. Of course the comparisons could be done that cartesian way but also I don’t know of a single aurora map repository. It is certainly interesting to look at auroras in this perspective.

Reply to  Mike Wallace
June 26, 2017 9:21 am

Perhaps one parameter resembles a rotated version of the other. That is interesting if true. Also it seems that if polar vortices are captured with high fidelity, then the same goes for the gyres. If those pan out, then they pose several more challenges if not obstacles to the current orthodox narrative and associated programs.

June 19, 2017 12:48 pm

Mike very interesting. At the end of the 98/99 El Nino, surface Temp response over land from ~20N to about 35N lat bands went up a lot. Something changes sensitivity to solar. That was the source of the step in global temps whatever it was. I suspect it’s ocean SST’s or prevailing wind patterns, and how tropical air is blown poleward to cool.
I live in Ohio, and we get Canadian Air, and we get Tropical Air, and they are 10-20F different in temps. just altering the ratio for a majority of a continent would register as warming.
I have some stuff, if you follow my name url link.

Paul Maxit
June 19, 2017 1:03 pm

interesting. I suggest that you get familiar with Marcel Leroux’s fabulous work on Mobile Polar Highs. A marvelous discovery that explains all the climate et weather patterns that we see.
Little room left for CO2 involvement. Fascinating.

Reply to  Paul Maxit
June 19, 2017 2:42 pm

Yep, that reference all seems to fit, I think. In fact many thanks. .This was and is a target of mine to track that mass migration as represented geostrophically somehow. I think could fail myself because the upper and lower surfaces of the air and the oceans ultimately balance. But particle / parcel tracking offers a solution I think.. maybe others have already done the heavy lifting.
I’ll study more closely over the near future myself and will reference in any future revision of my academic works in progress..

June 19, 2017 1:31 pm

Thanks again all, many amazing things for me to follow up on.

Reply to  Mike Wallace
June 19, 2017 4:25 pm

In relation to pressure driven changes, perhaps look at Southern hemispheric ozone here… where Erl happ has lots of observations and zero modelling.

June 19, 2017 5:04 pm

Mike… Can you point me to some methods of calculating the coordinates of the jet stream. I’ve tried using only those coordinates with the highest velocities with mixed results:comment image

Reply to  climateadj
June 19, 2017 6:30 pm

Thanks I have looked at various maps at various heights from the surface to 50 mb and many coverages designated as TOA. Also I’ve looked at numerous meridional profiles. Yes many contours are similar. I think this is interesting for many reasons. For one reason, average global temperature measured for full atmosphere doesn’t appear to suffer from the controversies associated with surface temperature. I guess in part much of this means that in the global picture, what is the point of only looking at half of the thickness of the atmosphere or so, when the full thickness yields such robust results? But I certainly plan over time to continue to look at numerous levels and profiles. I will take your advice and start at that point with 500 mb.

Reply to  climateadj
June 19, 2017 6:35 pm

Nice work! I accidentally produced the Jet stream depictions by simply assigning a set of streamline origins at various longitudes and latitudes. The streamline feature (and particle tracking feature) of Matlab did the rest. I haven’t checked all but seems to me that some common jet streams can be identified where the streamlines converge most strongly. Also, in my images, the lat and long cells are coarsened considerably from the original ERA Interim resolution. More interesting details no doubt await when if I return to the original resolution (or when if some other enterprising analyst does so).

David Riser
June 19, 2017 6:18 pm

Have you spent any time looking at the 500mb (height of atmosphere at 500mb around 5000meters) charts next to the prevalent surface charts (some 500mb charts have a surface chart plotted in dashed red) and compared that to your larger total atmospheric height. a lot of weather forecasting is done using these tools which replicate what you are showing.
Dave Riser

Reply to  David Riser
June 24, 2017 9:33 am

Hi Dave, my focus was on a view of the full atmospheric thickness. Accordingly, I haven’t looked at selected surfaces within that sandwich at least yet. On a related note, I haven’t looked at any meridional cross sections either. I’m still looking though, and will keep my eyes peeled for convenient means to compare to selected surfaces such as 500mb. If you would find it of interest to compare to your resources, please consider purchasing the atlas at my site (under $60.) Then you won’t have to wait on my own learning curve. 😀

Reply to  David Riser
June 25, 2017 7:28 am

Thanks again Dave, I’ll continue to explore these surfaces that you pointed out. One item I’d be curious to see is whether those gyres show up well for the 500mb surface. If I’m not mistaken, a Taylor Column is expected for a vortice of Pacific Gyre size. I’m only learning in real time so could be wrong.

Reply to  Mike Wallace
June 26, 2017 11:29 am

Taylor columns are alive and well. I found this site which appears to confirm that gyre expression at planetary surface is well documented:
A similar coverage for the 500 mb surface is included at:
On other note, at least some, if not all global circulation models appear to simulate gyres, and some simulations may be of high fidelity. I don’t know much at this point but gyres are certainly clear and topical to Figure 8 and Discussion from this gcm paper by Wang et al., 2015 :
As often found the paper appears to tilt towards emissions as a driver but also appears to look at information from a limited perspective. Perhaps if they turned off the Clausius Clapeyron impact upon ghgs, and turned that same impact on for solar (I’m assuming it’s not and I could be wrong) they might see something interesting.

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