Of Water And Albedo

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

As usual, there is more to learn in the CERES satellite dataset. I got to thinking of the idea put forth by Lacis 2010. He announced model results claiming that if the only modeled greenhouse gas in the modeled atmosphere were modeled water, the model world would basically evolve to a modeled ice over condition at a modeled -20°C (-4°F). Here is his money graph, showing the evolution of various modeled climate measurements in the first fifty modeled years after removing all modeled GHGs except for modeled water from the modeled atmosphere. See his paper for details.

Hmmm, sez I … something there doesn’t look right. The modeled planet is frozen solid at -20°C? (black line) … Don’t think so. Oddities.

Now, planetary albedo is what percent of the sunshine is simply reflected back into space. Currently it’s around 30% (orange line, left end, right scale). But how can the planetary albedo be going up in his results by a third, while at the same time the atmospheric water content is reducing by 90%?

Globally the albedo is ruled by clouds. You’d think the variable sea ice and snow on land during winter would matter more to the albedo. But consider how much sunlight there is during a polar winter … the albedo is high up north because of ice and snow, but the weak winter sun may not even come up over the horizon. As a result, ice doesn’t affect the total planetary albedo as much as you might think, much less than clouds, simply because it’s generally not reflecting much sunshine.

So how could albedo be going up when the amount of water in the atmosphere was going through the floor? My intuition, my bad number detector going Hmmm, said no way it could do that—but I realized I didn’t really know that.

So I thought I’d take a look at the data. Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) publishes a gridded dataset of total precipitable water over the ocean. It’s available here as a 3-D NetCDF file (lat/long/time). So I compared that measurement of atmospheric water to the measured albedo of the CERES dataset. The result is below, showing the correlation of total precipitable water (TPW) and total albedo (surface plus cloud). The monthly seasonal variations were removed from the data before analysis. This is the correlation of 17 years of data.

I can’t tell you how much fun it is after laboriously writing the computer code designed to create a new result, hitting run … and then waiting for the image to appear. It’s always a surprise and a joy, new understanding, new intuitions. But I digress …

As you can see, indeed the general pattern is, more water = greater albedo. There are only limited areas of exception to that. This correlation is strongest in the western tropical Pacific, where the ocean is warmest.

So I have to doubt the Lacis result simultaneously claiming much less water and yet greater albedo. Less water = less clouds = less albedo, not more as Lacis claimed.

My next objection to the Lacis result is the precipitous drop in surface temperature. Presumably inter alia it is a result of the great reduction in incoming sunshine due to the fantasized albedo increase. But as shown in the figure above, less water in the air = small albedo, not larger as Lacis claims.

Nor is the temperature drop a result of the loss of atmospheric longwave absorption due to the poorly-named “greenhouse gases” in the atmosphere. There’s an amazing on-line line-by-line atmospheric calculator called MODTRAN. And according to MODTRAN, the loss of all of the GHGs except water would cool the planet by from 6°C to 8°C, with the smaller value in subarctic winter and the larger in the tropics. This is far from enough to take the global average down to minus twenty as claimed.

In addition, there are larger forces at play. Let’s consider three inter-related measurements—ocean sea surface temperature (SST), total precipitable water (TPW), and albedo. All of them rise and fall together. The warmer the sea surface is, the more water there is in the atmosphere, because evaporation increases with temperature.

The warmer the SST, the more water in the atmosphere, the more clouds. The more clouds, the greater the albedo.

Now, think about the effect as this relationship unfolds over time. Warmer ocean waters lead to more atmospheric water leading to greater albedo, which results in less sunshine making it to the surface … which results in cooler ocean waters …

Or we can look at it the other way. Cooler ocean waters lead to less atmospheric water leading to lower albedo, which leads to more sunshine making it to the surface … which results in warmer ocean waters …

How about that for a lovely thermostatic phenomenon? Cools the ocean when it’s warm, warms the ocean when it’s cool!

And that’s the main reason I disbelieve the Lacis model result claiming that the world will go to -20°C. The world is full of many such emergent phenomena that all tend to stabilize the surface temperature. The temperature is not some slavish linear function of the forcing as is generally claimed. It’s far more complex than that.

Best to all on a foggy afternoon. Feel free to come over to my blog or follow me on twitter @WEschenbach

w.

PS—Misunderstandings are the bane of the web. Please QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS you are referring to, so we can all understand both who and what you are talking about.

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113 thoughts on “Of Water And Albedo

    • Mr Eschenbach is doing what every good scientist does and most climate scientists don’t: he is starting with the data. His analysis of the CERES dataset leads him to conclude that, according to MODTRAN, the loss of all of the GHGs except water would cool the planet by from 6°C to 8°C, with the smaller value in subarctic winter and the larger in the tropics.

      Is he right about this? A separate dataset suggests that he is. Jouzel et al. (2007), analyzing the cryostratigraphic record, find that – after allowance for polar amplification – the difference between glacial and interglacial periods is at most 6.5 K, suggesting, as he has long concluded, that various processes in the climate render it formidably thermostatic.

      I suspect his present consideration of the paper by Lacis+ (2010) concluding that removing the greenhouse gases other than water vapor would cool the planet to about 252 K is prompted by my recent posts taking that value as a starting-pont for deriving equilibrium climate sensitivity.

      In fact, our paper allows for wide variations either side of the Lacis starting-point: but little difference in equilibrium sensitivity results, precisely because the climate system is thermostatic. Mr Eschenbach has repeatedly demonstrated that the climate is thermostatic: our paper demonstrates why it is thermostatic. The Sun is shining, that’s why. Official climatology, by defining temperature feedback as responding only to changes in reference temperature, leaves out the sunshine from the calculation, and that proves to be a big mistake. Include it and climate sensitivity is very small, whether one starts with today’s conditions, with Lacis or even with Pierrehumbert (2011), who imagines an iceball Earth with albedo 0.66.

      However one wrenches the numbers, equilibrium sensitivity to doubled CO2 is not going to reach 1.5 K. Why, then, do we start with Lacis? The reason is that, for the sake of argument, we have adopted all of official climatology except what we can disprove. We suspect, no less strongly than Mr Eschenbach, that Lacis is wrong. But we can’t conclusively prove it. So we accept his paper as a starting point. It makes remarkably little difference to the bottom line.

  1. It certainly looks like a simple feedback relationship between cloud cover and temperature and evaporation. If Lacis has some explanation why that relationship does not occur, he should make it very clear why.

  2. How does MODTRAN handle convection? Less water vapor means less convection, wind. That should warm the surface even more would it not?

    • This needs parsing: convective heat transfer to the air from the surface (contact) and convection within the atmosphere which moves energy from low to high altitude (thermals). Cutting out all GHG’s save water would increase the convective heating and vertical convection, while simultaneously reducing the ability of the atmosphere to cool by radiation.

      • Exactly Crispen.

        Its the 98% of none radiative Atmospheric gases that are the greenhouse gases.

        The 2% radiating gases the Atmospheric cooling gases.

        • I think you are right, Gary, and this would be in accord with Professor Feynman’s point that the atmospheric temperature lapse rate is primarily due to gravity, not convection or gas molecule radiation. And the effective blackbody temperature, which occurs fairly high in the atmosphere, is a simple consequence of the albedo and the distance from the Sun.

          • Steve K-J

            Imagine the atmosphere was transparent, no GHG’s. No black body at all. How would it cool? Heating by the surface would continue, 1360 W/m^2 in the tropics. How would that heat energy be shed into space?

            The claim is that as GHG’s reduces, the Earth’s atmosphere will cool. Why? How can reducing the ability of the atmosphere to cool result in cooling?

            The argument that it will cool because it will not be warmed so much by radiative effects, is narrowly true, but radiation is not the only source of heating, so the explanation is incomplete. At present all surface heating is disposed of by radiation. Canceling that capacity will not result in less surface heating, nor will it magically cool the atmosphere by non-radiation.

            This GHG heating/cooling story is fatally flawed (by being an incomplete explanation).

  3. Anybody who thinks that they can model the earth’s temperature with one number, probably has a single digit IQ.

    At a minimum, you need different temperatures, for different latitudes.

    Some time ago, I made a temperature model of the earth, to check if the average temperature with no atmosphere, was really -18 degrees Celsius. My model calculated temperatures for each latitude.

    I was surprised to find that the average temperature of the earth, in my model, was -19 degrees Celsius. Very close to the standard (excessively averaged) model.

    BUT, even though the average temperature was -19 degrees Celsius, at the Equator, the temperature was ABOVE ZERO degrees Celsius, for about 6 hours every day.

    This allows the possibility of life, on Ice Cube earth. AND, with melting water etc, the possibility of positive feedbacks, which warm the planet.

    • “Anybody who thinks that they can model the earth’s temperature with one number”
      Lacis et al don’t model temperature with one number. They used GISS Model E with many thousands of cells.

      ” the temperature was ABOVE ZERO degrees Celsius, for about 6 hours every day”
      Lacis’ model has a large amount of unfrozen sea.

    • Sheldon

      It is OK to model the temperature of the surface without any atmosphere at all (or just look at the measurements from the moon) out of interest but we are talking about the temperature of the earth with an atmosphere that has a reduced ability to cool radiatively while at the same time, an increased solar insolation value.

      I do not see the relevance of a naked earth – the “native state” Monckton calls it, the no-GHG state Gavin Schmidt very incorrectly calls it.

      Suppose I have a cup of coffee and I add 20 g of milk. The colour changes. The modellers are saying that the colour is entirely caused by the milk, and that if no milk had been added, there would be no coffee. Their argument literally is that stupid. They are comparing a cup of coffee with 20 g of milk with an empty cup and saying, “The colour of this coffee is caused by the milk – see? Compare it with this empty cup.”

      And you think the feedback error is basic…

      • With respect, I can’t recall ever having talked of the “native state” of the Earth. But I can explain the reason why we begin our derivation of equililibrium sensitivity by considering the Earth as it might be in the absence of non-condensing greenhouse gases. Accepting Lacis+ (2010) ad argumentum, the albedo would be 0.42 instead of today’s 0.30. From this, we can calculate that the emission temperature of the Earth, quite close to the surface, would be 243.25 K. We can then add back the pre-industrial non-condensing greenhouse gases, warming the world by about 11.5 K before accounting for feedback, and bringing the reference temperature to 254.8 K. Now, by this method we know that the reference temperature is temperature before accounting for feedback. And we know that the equilibrium temperature after feedback in 1850 was 287.55 K, because the HadCRUT4 dataset measured it. We also know that this was indeed a local equilibrium, for there would be no trend in global temperature for 80 years after 1850.

        And that means that, without needing to know anything about the value of any individual temperature feedback, we can derive its effect on temperature. The system-gain factor is simply the ratio of equilibrium temperature (after feedback has acted) to reference temperature (before it acts): i.e., just 1.13. We then update the calculation to 2011 and take the ratio again. It’s still 1.13. This means that 0.13 / 1.13, or 11.5%, of equilibrium sensitivity is attributable to feedback, rather than the 75% imagined by Lacis+ (2010). The feedback error is indeed basic. But, importantly, we can prove it. I don’t think CO2 exercises as much of a forcing as official climatology imagines, but I can’t prove it. We have concentrated, therefore, on what we can prove – and that, on its own, is sufficient to demonstrate that global warming will be small, slow, harmless and net-beneficial.

        • Christopher

          Thank you for you comment. I have studied your presentation in detain and believe I understand it well enough to make a presentation on it.

          The term “native state” I took (as I recall) from your second of three recent posts on the feedback error. I was watching for what you called it v.s. what Gavin calls it – his declaration is more blunt that most (and more directly misleading), but in general everyone compares the Earth with an atmosphere containing GHG’s to a planet without any atmosphere at all. That is an error more fundamental than the math error in the feedbacks.

          What you correctly show above (and I waited and carefully thought about your third post before deciding to write something about this omission) which is that while what you write is quite correct, it only refers to a planet that has not direct heating of the atmosphere by the surface. I believe this is a continuation of the error of comparing the atmosphere as it is now with a naked planet. The calculation includes radiating phenomena only, but the atmosphere is heated by radiation and convection.

          If we want to determine the influence of GHG’s on the atmosphere, that derivation should be made comparing the atmosphere without GHG’s, and with them, not with them v.s. no atmosphere at all.

          If you had included in your analysis the heating of the atmosphere by the surface, agreeing that the emissions with no atmosphere at all and therefore with no convective heat transfer is 243.25, then I agree, but that is not the case for an atmosphere without GHG’s, nor one absent non-condensing GHG’s. If you add the effect of direct solar heating of the surface (which increases as the GHG’s disappear) which in turn cools against the air, recognising two states: no GHG’s or no non-condensing GHG’s, the equilibrium temperature is much higher than 243, in large measure because the atmosphere gains heat from the surface with an attenuated ability to dispose of it radiatively.

          The root problem is that GHG’s are seen as warming only, not cooling as well. I raised this point with you before: that the atmosphere is a grey body, and adding CO2 “darkens it” from a radiative point of view, akin to painting a grey stove black.

          “We have concentrated, therefore, on what we can prove – and that, on its own, is sufficient to demonstrate that global warming will be small, slow, harmless and net-beneficial.”

          I believe, were you to include surface direct heating at low GHG’s concentrations, you would conclude that the proposed rate of heating from additional CO2 is even less than as calculate above, and that starting from a very low base, adding GHG’s cools the atmosphere rapidly. Where the inflection point is, I do not know.

          As for proof of my central point, one only needs to stand in a hot parking lot and feel the air temperature with a sweaty brow. That heating does not disappear when GHG’s are removed.

    • Without an atmosphere, there would be no liquid water on the surface of Earth.

      Please see Mars, with a CO2 atmosphere at on the order of one percent the density of Earth’s mainly N2/O2 atmosphere.

      • “Without an atmosphere, there would be no liquid water on the surface of Earth.”

        Well, liquid water or frozen water will evaporate in vacuum- thereby make an atmosphere of water vapor.
        That atmosphere of H2 gas would inhibit additional evaporation of liquid or frozen water.
        But if return idea of no atmosphere [which includes water vapor] then there would be no liquid or frozen water on Earth.
        Not because water vapor would escape from Earth, but because you have stipulated: “no atmosphere”.
        Or you are ignoring Earth’s gravity and seem to be imagining it’s like some small low gravity comet.

        “Please see Mars, with a CO2 atmosphere at on the order of one percent the density of Earth’s mainly N2/O2 atmosphere.”

        One can have liquid water on the mars surface, as there are locations on Mars in which water doesn’t boil due locations on surface which have a higher pressure [lower elevations].
        But both liquid water and frozen water will evaporate on Mars. And the evaporated water will eventually end up at the polar caps of Mars- which has frozen water [and frozen CO2].
        Mars also has about 210 ppm of water vapor in it’s atmosphere.

        Mars surface is very dry, but if added an ocean of water to Mars, as long the water or frozen water stays at surface, one would get more water vapor in atmosphere and you could have areas of liquid water.

        • gbaikie,

          Liquid water doesn’t last very long on the surface of Mars.

          Water and carbon dioxide ice on Mars naturally sublimate, but Mars, as noted, has very little water vapor in its thin, mostly CO2 atmosphere.

          NASA, no surprise, finds that CO2 sublimation contributes to climate change on Mars:

          https://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20160010510

          • -Liquid water doesn’t last very long on the surface of Mars.-

            If Earth didn’t have oceans, water would not last very long on Earth.

            Mars is dry and Earth is water planet with 70% of surface covered ocean and with average depth of about 12000 feet deep.

            If Mars had oceans like Earth, the ocean would last a long time- and it would increase the amount water vapor in Mars atmosphere.
            And if there was more water vapor in Mars atmosphere, water would require more time to evaporate.
            If Earth didn’t oceans, all the water would end up in polar regions- like it does with Mars- and Earth would perhaps be as dry or drier than Mars. And water would evaporate quicker.
            But one has so much water on Earth- it can’t all end up in polar regions- there simply is not enough room at poles.

            –Water and carbon dioxide ice on Mars naturally sublimate, but Mars, as noted, has very little water vapor in its thin, mostly CO2 atmosphere.–

            It sublimate in winter at poles and evaporates in summer in poles- but the polar region [like polar region of earth] is small portion of the planet, so only provides small amount of global water vapor- and as one pole evaporates the other pole is sublimating.
            But put a ocean of water near tropics of Mars, then it still going to sublimate in the winter pole, but come summer in that pole, it evaporates and ocean in tropics is always evaporating.
            So it will increases global water vapor. And being less dry, it will evaporate less- unless it’s temperature increases significantly.

          • Mars and Earth differ in this important aspect — Earth has a strong magnetic field that protects its atmosphere from ionization stripping into space; Mars does not. Mars has lost much of its N2 and Ar by such action. Venus, without a magnetic field, has lost most of its H2O this way.

          • And Earth has plate tectonic activity- which is one factor related to why Earth has water at it’s surface.

            And where Mars water went, could be related to the lack of Mars having plate tectonic activity within last few billion years.

        • One thing I didn’t mention- if no atmosphere the surface of Earth receives more sunlight. Land ground surfaces heat to 120 C rather than 70 C and ocean absorbs more energy. Oceans should be colder, but oceans would probably evaporate more water than Earth does now.

          • gbaikie

            Can you show how the temperature of 120 was calculated?

            I think it was Roger Pielke (?) who said it would be about that temperature on his website. Obviously it would heat the air, air which would have no ability to cool radiatively in the region of 100 C. The heat would accumulate until it heated the ground at night by as much as was gained during the day. I suspect but have not calculated that he temperature at which it would equilibrate is well over 100 C just above the surface. Adding the first 100 ppm of GHG’s would cool it dramatically.

          • –Crispin in Waterloo
            gbaikie

            Can you show how the temperature of 120 was calculated?–

            The airless moon, when sun is near zenith has surface temperature of 120 C

            And a very thin atmosphere would about the same- or you would get about 1360 watts per square in terms of average of year. Due varying distance from the the Sun. At Perihelion distance: 1,413 and Aphelion is 1,321 watts per square meter.

            With Earth with it’s atmosphere, at surface one gets about 1050 watts per square meter of direct sunlight and 1120 watts per square meter of direct and indirect sunlight [clear day, noon, sun near zenith]:
            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunlight

            So with a thin Mars like atmosphere on Earth when sun at zenith one gets about 1360 watts per square meter of direct sunlight. Or about same at Moon.

            “I think it was Roger Pielke (?) who said it would be about that temperature on his website. Obviously it would heat the air, air which would have no ability to cool radiatively in the region of 100 C. ”

            I am referring to ground surface temperature, not air surface temperature. unless ground was wet, there would be very little convectional loss of the ground- if you have thin atmosphere.
            If use insulated box [preventing air convectional loss] the sun heats to about 80 C under our atmosphere when sun is near zenith- and it’s the 1050 watts of direct sunlight which causes it to be about 80 C.
            In natural setting- say deserts with high air temperature the ground heats to about 70 C {the warmer air [say at around 40 to 50 C] has less convectional heat loss and so it allow ground surface to get to about 70 C}.

          • Oh, the air temperature [of thin atmosphere] would be quite cool or cold.
            Or I said the ocean would be quite cold, and ocean cover 70% of surface air. And because oceans cover most of surface and because ocean would cool less at night, the average ocean surface temperature “controls” global average air temperature.

            Or with Earth, our average ocean surface is about 17 C and it makes Earth have a average global surface air about 15 C
            The average global land is about 10 C, but is only 30% of entire surface area.

            In the thin atmosphere Earth, where the sun is near zenith the ground is hot, but air is not very warm, and at night, the ground cools quickly and air above ground also cools.
            So in terms averages, ocean surface is cool and land is colder on this thin atmosphere world [there is much less atmospheric greenhouse effect- it just having the thin atmosphere of water vapor]

          • And I think CO2 causes an increase in average temperature.
            I think if add Co2 to this thin atmosphere it do some warming.
            But would guess less warming as compared to warming effect of our more massive atmosphere.
            I think a doubling of CO2 with our more massive atmosphere is about .5 C or less. And with thinner atmosphere much less than that.
            So I don’t think Earth’s greenhouse gases cause 33 K, rather I guess it’s maybe 1/2 or less- so say about 15 K.

            And I think having a ocean can cause a significant increase global average temperature. Or Earth without it’s oceans and if add all kind of greenhouse gases- say 1% methane [which very very high levels of a supposedly potent greenhouse gas] or whatever greenhouse gases to want to add] Earth would have a low average temperature- global average temperature might be about 0 C. And with oceans, earth has had an average global temperature is high as 25 C.
            And at moment it’s around 15 C because we are Ice Age which related to how ocean circulate heat and how land mass are arranged which have a cooling effect. Or it’s due to geology and/or plate tectonic activity and land arrangement and mountain building, and etc.

          • I am a bit surprised by your reply – I said nothing about a “thin atmosphere” I was talking about one without GHG’s. The very problem I am trying to highlight is that the comparison “explaining” the GHG effect is to compare a standard atmosphere with GHG’s in it, to a planet with no atmosphere – which is an invalid comparison if one is trying to demonstrate the effect of GHG’s. Obviously the correct comparison is 1 bar of atmosphere with GHG’s and 1 bar without. Without GHG’s the air will be hotter.

            It is clear that surface heating will continue without GHG’s, but the atmosphere will lose its ability to cool radiatively, therefore it will heat up, continuously until it is hot enough to heat the surface at night – something gases do very inefficiently downwards.

            I am continuously surprised by this fundamental error made in hundreds of papers and articles. The atmosphere is not only heated by radiative effects. Canceling them has no influence on convection and conduction save to get out of the way and increase the insolation striking the surface. It’s pretty basic mechanical engineering.

  4. “The key is the alia. Removal of non-condensable GHG, increasing IR emission to space.”

    It also increases the direct heating of the surface, and convective heat transfer to the atmosphere without involving radiation. It also reduces the ability of the atmosphere to dump that energy from direct heating into space.

    “Yes, but that assumes that the water vapor will remain in the air. It omits the positive feedback from loss of wv IR blocking.”

    You are supporting my argument: the lower the WV content goes, the more direct heating of the air by the surface and the less ability the atmosphere has to radiate it into space. All cooling of the atmosphere is by radiative gases. Reducing them reduces the ability to cool.

    • “The key is the alia. Removal of non-condensable GHG, increasing IR emission to space.”

      It also increases the direct heating of the surface, and convective heat transfer to the atmosphere without involving radiation. It also reduces the ability of the atmosphere to dump that energy from direct heating into space.

      “Yes, but that assumes that the water vapor will remain in the air. It omits the positive feedback from loss of wv IR blocking.”

      You are supporting my argument: the lower the WV content goes, the more direct heating of the air by the surface and the less ability the atmosphere has to radiate it into space. All cooling of the atmosphere is by radiative gases. Reducing them reduces the ability to cool.

      • Spot on again,…..

        Reduce radiating gases, increase the greenhouse effect of the 99% of the other none radiating gases.

        The ”heat” loss is reduced/stalled from the top down.

      • No idea what has happened here Nick except to say that the WordPress commenting plugin we use here may have had some unknown error. On occasion even I’ve had comments get munged by it.

  5. 1 – If you google for greenhouse gases, you will have a bit of trouble noticing that water is, by far the most important.
    2 – It is likely that during the last glaciation there was much less water in the atmosphere. link
    3 – Ignoring clouds, more water in the atmosphere should enhance the greenhouse effect.

    Lacis’ model contradicts the present observed reality and the evidence of what happened to atmospheric water during the last glaciation. It’s probably not valid, with a confidence of 95%. That last bit about confidence is to conform to climate science standard operating practice. 97% of actual scientists would agree.

    • Another counter example is Venus which is very cloudy and very hot. If the Earth were completely covered with clouds, not much energy would reach the surface but not much energy would leave the surface. I suspect that the first approximation to Earth’s temperature is given by the lapse rate, as is the case with Venus. link

    • The more I think about it …

      Conventional wisdom is that clouds reflect light and have a net cooling effect. link

      Clouds also absorb solar energy. link

      As far as I can tell Lacis does not account for the fact that clouds absorb solar energy. It seems like a big problem.

  6. Excellent contribution Willis. That temperatures plummet at night on deserts by even larger amounts, says boatloads about amount or lack thereof of precipitable water as an agent of temperature change. CO2, not so much since it doesnt really change much diurnally. I know this is a bit off topic not touching on albedo but it does separate the men from the boys on which gas has is the real control knob.

    • Gary P

      Let’s talks about the temperature of the sand in the desert in the daytime and at night. Is the hot air above the sand in the daytime heated by the sand (convective heat transfer) or “radiation” from the surface to the air? I think it is by contact with the very hot ground.

      At night, there is also a lot of direct heating of the air by the ground. My point is it is not all about radiation. If the GHG content were lowered, the air would be heated even more (lack of blocking on the incoming side) and the air would lose some of its ability to cool by GHG radiation into space.

      There is zero chance in a million that the air temperature 1.5m above the ground would be the same with no atmosphere at all and an atmosphere with as much water vapour in it as it could hold (at any temperature). Lacis was fiddling something to reproduce the silly claim (-18 C) that all the heating of the atmosphere is caused by radiative gases, with no contribution from the hot surface. Read what Gavin has to say and be amazed/shocked. Remove all GHG’s, increase the incident radiation from 1000 to 1360 W/m^2 and see if the surface temperature drops or rises.

      Consider a solar PV panel. Remove all GHG’s. Does the panel output go up or down? It goes up. That means it will be hotter, just like the surface. If the surface heating increases the cooling to the air will also increase, and the air has no ability to cool by radiation. The heat will accumulate. All that extra heating and loss of cooling ability will not reduce it to -20 C.

      • “My point is it is not all about radiation. If the GHG content were lowered, the air would be heated even more (lack of blocking on the incoming side) and the air would lose some of its ability to cool by GHG radiation into space.”

        But the “incoming” is overwhelmingly SW – which gets through GHG’s no problem. So no “blocking”, unless you remove H2O and therefore clouds.

        “There is zero chance in a million that the air temperature 1.5m above the ground would be the same with no atmosphere at all and an atmosphere with as much water vapour in it as it could hold (at any temperature). Lacis was fiddling something to reproduce the silly claim (-18 C) that all the heating of the atmosphere is caused by radiative gases, with no contribution from the hot surface. Read what Gavin has to say and be amazed/shocked. Remove all GHG’s, increase the incident radiation from 1000 to 1360 W/m^2 and see if the surface temperature drops or rises.”

        If you say so…
        However, No “fiddle”, just physics ( the stuff proven correct by repeated examination and theory) put into a model.
        Try observing a calm night in winter with 100% thick low cloud cover.
        I have, professionally, thousands of times.
        The temp goes nowhere (practically).
        The GHE is powerful.
        The atmosphere is also heated by convection, by taking heat away from the surface. Only GHG’s put extra W/m^2 into the surface
        Yes, the 33C excess from (the hypothetical) BB is caused by GHG’s, and it will “drop” as the LWIR has no impediment to leave to space in their absence. So solar SW in = terrestrial LW out with no delay. The temp defined by Planck et al.
        The only thing that makes it warmer at the surface is GHG’s reducing cooling to space.

        “Consider a solar PV panel. Remove all GHG’s. Does the panel output go up or down? It goes up. That means it will be hotter, just like the surface. If the surface heating increases the cooling to the air will also increase, and the air has no ability to cool by radiation. The heat will accumulate. All that extra heating and loss of cooling ability will not reduce it to -20 C.”

        The output would go down (vs a cloudless day with GHG’s present) if the panel were sensitive to IR.
        Little difference otherwise because, as I say, SW gets past GHG’s.
        You are not considering the outgoing side of the equation.
        It would reach an equilibrium at a lower level.
        Same thing happens with weather when on a sunny morning the temp does not go up immediately the Sun rises, but an hour of so later, due the outgoing being higher than the incoming for a while.
        The panel would cool quicker.

        • TBanton said “Try observing a calm night in winter with 100% thick low cloud cover.
          I have, professionally, thousands of times.
          The temp goes nowhere (practically).
          The GHE is powerful.”

          Low cloud is liquid water not WV and you ignore the that on the following winter’s day the temp also doesn’t rise because of the high albedo of the cloud tops. If this pattern persists temps gradually get colder each day which I have also witnessed hundreds of times.

          • I should have added that the cloud top becomes the new radiating surface at night which cools the near air layer to dew point thus thickening the low cloud/fog layer and deepening the low level inversion. You see this regularly in the Alps valleys where valleys can be -10C with freezing fog but above freezing above the cloud top inversion.

        • Anthony B

          A few points:

          “But the “incoming” is overwhelmingly SW – which gets through GHG’s no problem. So no “blocking”, unless you remove H2O and therefore clouds.”

          That is a mistake. Please check the number of Watts collected from the non-SW portion of the incoming radiation picked off by GHG’s on the inward journey. Half of it is radiated into space and never reaches the surface. All that energy would reach the surface in their absence. You can start with Trenberth 1997. Miskolczi clarified some numbers (2009).

          “Yes, the 33C excess from (the hypothetical) BB is caused by GHG’s,”

          This is not correct. It would be correct if there were no direct surface heating – also if there were no atmosphere at all. In fact Gavin at NASA makes exactly that comparison : current atmosphere and no atmosphere at all, and says the difference in temp is all due to the GHG’s, no surface heating. It is a basic error. The IPCC repeats the error many times.

          “The output would go down (vs a cloudless day with GHG’s present) if the panel were sensitive to IR.”

          They are not. They would still run hotter though, because the absorbed energy is converted to heat, if not electricity.

          “You are not considering the outgoing side of the equation.”

          I have definitely considered the outgoing side of the equation! It seems you have not. GHG’s cool. Yeah back radiation warms the surface, but GHG’s cool by radiation. It the atmosphere had none, it would be much hotter for a lack of cooling capacity because of a constant input of heat from the surface contact, which contribution would not cease in the absence of GHG’s – forgotten everyone it seems. It is a physical effect with well known formulae for calculating it. People are preoccupied with the radiation and forgetting to check what is actually happening.

          “Same thing happens with weather when on a sunny morning the temp does not go up immediately the Sun rises, but an hour of so later, due the outgoing being higher than the incoming for a while.”

          This is also incorrect. The delay in temperature rise in the morning is because of the presence of water and the energy needed to evaporate it. Go to a desert and try the same experiment. The temperature rises very rapidly.

      • Crispin, I agree with your point. My somewhat off topic posting was making a much smaller point concerning the relative importance of water vapor and CO2 in maintaining earth’s heat. The huge temperature drops at night over the Sahara arent noticeably impeded by 400ppm CO2.

        This should be more prominently studied as an experiment on a planet with ~no precipitable water but the same CO2 content. I’m aware of the importance of atmospheric heating by a hot surface having geologically mapped in the Sahel during the dry season over 50 yrs ago.

        Regarding convection, I know I’m not educating some one as knowledgeable as you clearly are, when I add that evaporated water is convected certainly by being heated by the surface, but also in a higeway by its buoyancy, being a much lighter molecule than the main components of the atmosphere.

  7. The only problem is what leads to more clouds, and a higher overall albedo. It is just not oceanic temperatures. If only so simple.

    For clouds it is also GCR(forbush events lend much evidence, along with the global electrical circuit) , and the atmospheric circulation patterns. For albedo it is explosive volcanic eruptions , greater snow coverage and of course cloud coverage.

    My climate forecast thus far is coming along quite well. As I have said this year is the transitional year to lower temperatures(which it occurring thus far). As we move forward this should continue and if it does should put an end to AGW theory by any one who is objective.

    Very low solar moderated by a weakening geo magnetic field equates to lower overall oceanic sea surface temperatures and a slightly higher albedo resulting in lower global average temperatures which is happening now and always has.

    • Salvatore, I have followed your comments with interest. You have a hypothesis and a mechanism, and predictable results. Are there enough cloud cover data of sufficient quality or do we need a better satellite?

  8. That’s the best article you’ve ever posted! And, me being biased and all, it is consistent with my contention that feedbacks in nature most always function to bring the condition back to a state of what “should be”based on the primary drivers. In the climates case, it involves the amount of sun reaching the ocean, vs the amount that is leaving. It’s simply down to the behavior of water in the conditions of the earth being a certain distance from the sun. There are minor perturbations, like aresols, CO2, etc …. but it really all comes down to water in all its states of existence.

  9. I’ve always believed that the use of Earthshine, ie the reflected light from the Earth’s albedo, studied years ago by the Big Bear Solar Observatory, was the answer to all this climate change madness. I suspected that their unpopular notion that CO2 wasn’t all that bad might have factored in to a reduced emphasis in research in this area.

    Willis’s discussions of what goes on in the equatorial convergence zones convinces me that clouds are the feedback mechanism that explain much of “Climate Variability.” Will the GOES satellite(s) ever confirm this? The Dalton Minimum, now beginning, may be the trigger for knowledge.

  10. Now, think about the effect as this relationship unfolds over time. Warmer ocean waters lead to more atmospheric water leading to greater albedo, which results in less sunshine making it to the surface … which results in cooler ocean waters …

    Or we can look at it the other way. Cooler ocean waters lead to less atmospheric water leading to lower albedo, which leads to more sunshine making it to the surface … which results in warmer ocean waters …

    How about that for a lovely thermostatic phenomenon? Cools the ocean when it’s warm, warms the ocean when it’s cool!

    This is true, but an over-simplification, as it is all more dependent on the energy in the sunlight, from TSI.

    Evaporation is also responsive to the difference between the surface and air temperatures, ie, cold arctic air over warm lake/ocean water evaporates copious lake effect precipitation.

    The hydrological system is very much solar cycle dependent. The roughly 1.5W min to max over time in solar cycle monthly TSI makes it happen. The following changes in correlations cover TSI data since 1979, are statistically significant over 95%. The correlation values would’ve been higher if the solar cycles were exactly the same in timing and strength, which they aren’t. I’m sure a cloud-solar xc would fit right in there, but which one to take out?

    https://s20.postimg.cc/kbxyfgthp/Cross_Correlations_of_Climate_and_Solar_Indices.jpg

  11. Comment: “(Polar) ice doesn’t affect the total planetary albedo as much as you might think, much less than clouds, simply because it’s generally not reflecting much sunshine.”

    Willis, this is misleading. At summer solstice, 90N latitude receives more TOA insolation than either 60N or 30N, and way more than the equator. It is the presence of sea ice (and land ice) through much of the summer that produces high albedo. Arctic Ocean ice generally minimizes in September. Whether that ice is present or not over ~April-Sept is the major factor in high polar albedo.

    • donb said:

      Willis, this is misleading. At summer solstice, 90N latitude receives more TOA insolation than either 60N or 30N, and way more than the equator. It is the presence of sea ice (and land ice) through much of the summer that produces high albedo. Arctic Ocean ice generally minimizes in September. Whether that ice is present or not over ~April-Sept is the major factor in high polar albedo.

      Thanks, Don. First off, all statements about the climate are in some sense generalizations, with lots of “except for” …

      Next, while that’s true at the top of the atmosphere, sunlight at the top of the atmosphere is NOT reflecting off of sea ice. Here, by contrast, is the amount of solar energy actually reaching the surface

      https://wattsupwiththat.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/RStudioScreenSnapz035.png

      As you can see, in the area of the poles only about 60 W/m2 of solar energy reaches the surface in the area of the sea ice, compared to up to 300 W/m2 in the tropics.

      Some other things conspire to minimize the role of polar ice and snow.

      First, the ice, as well as the unfrozen land and sea, are very often covered by cloud. And when that is the case, it doesn’t matter if there is ice below or not.

      Second, when the sun is near the horizon below a critical angle, the albedo of the water jumps way up. You can see it when you look at a sunset. And again, whether there is ice there or not is not material … and in arctic winters when the sun is low to the horizon all day long, this situation is common.

      Third, scattered low clouds directly below an airplane have holes between them. But scattered low clouds seen in the distance near the horizon from the same airplane appear solid. This increases the albedo at low solar angles, which as noted above prevail in the arctic.

      Fourth, absolute size. Sea ice varies from around 14 to 26 million square km. That’s a variation about the mean of ± 1% of global surface area … land snow variation is a bit larger, 5 to 40 million square km, a variation of about ± 4% of surface area. However, these values do NOT include the three caveats above.

      In short, we have a small area with weak sun at a low angle often covered by clouds, and in that small area, snow and ice are at a minimum when sun is at a maximum and vice versa.

      As a result, variations in sea ice and snow don’t have anywhere near as much effect as you would suspect.

      Best to you,

      w.

      PS—Final fun question. Which location(s) at the top of the atmosphere receive the most hours of sunlight per year?

      • Willis Eschenbach

        Fourth, absolute size. Sea ice varies from around 14 to 26 million square km. That’s a variation about the mean of ± 1% of global surface area …

        You’re using total sea ice there, right?
        514 Mkm^2 total wrapped surface? The image seems to assume a flat earth model of uniform TSI of 1362/4, no rotation, no nights.

        Do we not need to correct for the Arctic’s 4-14 Mkm^2 cycle from 90 north down to 70 north, while the Antarctic sea ice cycles also cycles from 3 Mkm^2 to 17 Mkm^2 (area, not extents), but from latitude 69 south to 60 south. Antarctic (land ice plus fixed ice) stays right at 14 Mkm^2 + 1.5 Mkm^2 all year round between 90 south and 69 south.

        My calc’s show Antarctic sea ice reflect some 1.7 times the energy that Arctic sea ice reflects. (Year round daily numbers.)

        • The angle of incidence of sunlight is also important.

          As noted, Antarctic sea ice is about five times as important to planetary albedo as Arctic, since Antarctic ice extends so much farther toward the equator.

          • Five times? A bit much, but are you including the Antarctic land ice and fixed ice to that total? At Antarctic sea ice maximum, there is more total ice area around Antarctic than all of the rest of the land area south of the equator. Combined.

            Yes, the Antarctic sea ice does receive its 24-hour-day insolation when the sun is 6% higher in TOA radiation than when the Arctic sea ice receives its 24 hour illumination.

            The Antarctic sea ice is “cleaner” (brighter) with a significantly higher albedo than the Arctic sea ice, which is dirtier both from the soot and dirt from China’s unregulated smokestacks and general blown dust, pollen, and dirt; but also with large sea ice areas covered by surface melt ponds.

            Antarctic sea ice melts from below, with many areas always covered solid with new-fallen snow. At mid-summer, the Antarctic has an albedo of 0.75 (Warren), the Arctic as low as 0.39 (Curry, SHEBA, 1998.)

            Caution! The angle of incidence (solar elevation angle) of the sun affects water’s albedo only for direct beam radiation. (Diffuse radiation is reflected by a very constant albedo at all solar elevation angles above water.)

            All the above (plus a few other factors involving water’s albedo differences between diffuse solar radiation and direct solar radiation) combine to make Antarctic sea more important than Arctic sea, but not at a 5:1 ratio. One calculated ratio is 1.7 to 1. (The difference in absorbed energy over a year’s time between the Arctic Ocean and Antarctic Ocean (Southern Sea) if a sq kilometer of sea ice melts in both areas.)

          • I should have said that Antarctic sea ice receives five times more solar energy than does Arctic sea ice.

            Among the reasons for much higher contribution of Antarctic sea ice to total global albedo are:

            1) As noted, Antarctic sea ice extends much farther toward the equator than does Arctic. This means that the sun’s rays are more direct than any light hitting Arctic sea ice.

            2) At winter maximum, it covers over three million square kilometers more area, meaning that more of it is sunlit in winter than is Arctic ice.

            3) Even in summer, Antarctic sea ice is usually covered with snow, so that it’s whiter and brighter than Arctic ice, which is often covered with melt water ponds. Antarctic albedo can be as high as 0.87.

          • Ah! I was only looking at watts/m^2 on each hour of each day. You (more properly) multiplied that by the area illuminated each day.

          • RA,

            Yes. There are a lot of moving parts, but the area illuminated and the angle of the sun, hence, energy, striking the surface during those periods, is what matters for albedo.

            Being closer to the equator makes a big difference. While sea ice above the Antarctic Circle in winter has not affect on albedo, that stretching toward South America, Africa and Australia still does.

            I trust I haven’t made myself very clear. Pretty sure that I understand it, even if I can’t communicate the situation very well.

      • Yearly TOA insolation between poles and equator differs by just over a factor of two. But the poles receive all of that over 6-months, the majority over 4-months. So to the extent polar cloud cover may strongly change this difference, that cloud cover would have to occur around polar summers. But North polar cloud cover tends to be less at these times.
        Further, the albedo of sea ice is several times that of open ocean.

        • But North polar cloud cover tends to be less at [polar summer].

          Per satellite measurements Arctic cloud fraction increases over the summer, peaks in Sept. and drops to a minimum in February. More, average cloud fraction in Sept. hovers around 90%, but is significantly greater than average over open sea where it is often 100%.

      • PS—Final fun question. Which location(s) at the top of the atmosphere receive the most hours of sunlight per year?

        Should be a question on all high school geography exams. Maybe a trick question but places on the Arctic Circle have the longest total annual daytime, 4,647 hours, while the North Pole receives 4,575. Because of elliptic nature of the Earth’s orbit, the Southern Hemisphere is not symmetrical… the Antarctic Circle, with 4,530 hours of daylight, receives five days less of sunshine than its antipodes.

        • Those calculations need to be corrected. Significantly corrected.

          Now, understand that those figures are correct, but only for Beam Direct Normal Irradiation! That is,

          IF there were 24 perfectly hours of perfectly clear atmosphere at the North Pole,
          IF there were 4575 hours of perfectly clear weather up at the North Pole every year from March to September,
          IF a solar collector were raised UP from the flat surface of sea ice to be aligned directly perpendicular to the sun elevation angle every hour of every day the sun is visible,
          IF that solar collector were rotated around the north pole to directly face the sun every minute of every hour of every day that the sun is visible,

          THEN that factoid would be true.

          But, even with real atmospheric clarity much cleaner (no dust, no pollen, very, very little water vapor, no pollution) at the South Pole (which is why there are several telescopes at the pole!), the South Pole is also on the continent’s interior plateau at an elevation of 2,836 meters/9,306 feet. With the real TOA solar insolation 6% higher in the southern summer (Sept-March) than in the northern summer (March-Sept), the south pole actually does receive much more BDNI radiation over the course of the entire year.

          • Earthling2 said, top of the atmosphere.
            Though you do need to always be facing towards the sun- or some 1/2 of a sphere would be in sunlight.

          • Just talking daylight hours when Sun is above the horizon…not talking solar insolation or how many w/sq/m2. It is a mechanical orbital feature of our present elliptical orbit. Of course this is always slowly changing over the course of the Milankovitch cycles. That is why TOA prefaced the quiz.

  12. Willis: I am not so sure this is complex at all. I see three problems with the determination of the temperature, the equilibrium temperature and your argument (not all faults, just that your presentation encompasses them.

    First
    “And according to MODTRAN, the loss of all of the GHGs except water would cool the planet by from 6°C to 8°C, with the smaller value in subarctic winter and the larger in the tropics. This is far from enough to take the global average down to minus twenty as claimed.”

    Lacis is probably assuming there is a positive feedback mechanism of large value in there somewhere. There are two principal mechanisms that heat the air reaching a Stevenson Screen to yield the “air temperature” we are following so closely: direct heating of the ground which cools against the air, and GHG effects incoming from the sun and outgoing from the surface: whether by reflection or absorption and re-radiation.

    I label the direct heating by the surface (technically: convective cooling) “A” and the radiative component “B”. Total heating of the air is (A+B).

    MODTRAN would calculate that the radiative component which in the absence of all GHG’s is zero. What it does with water only (as miscalculated by Lacis) is debatable and I favour your use of observations far more than models that don’t come to the same or similar values. Nuff said about B for a moment.

    But how is MODIS dealing with A? The heating of the surface from direct radiation has two components: impacting insolation (168 Watts/m^2 according to Trenberth 1997) and impacting IR back-radiation from GHG’s (324 W ibid). The only credit Trenberth gives for convective heat transfer to the atmosphere (visible as the wavy light just above a hot parking lot) is 24 W credited to “Thermals”. In short, the cartoon shows 168+324 = 492 W/m^2 labeled “absorbed by the surface”, but only 18 (3.6%) of that total supposedly reaches the top of the troposphere in the form of “thermals”. FWIW Miskolczi disputes the figures but by less than 10%.

    What’s weird about this picture is that the energy supposedly received from back-radiation does not heat the air by convection – at all – according to Trenberth. And everyone else that I can find, for that matter. WUWT?

    Total heating is (A + B). Lacis proposes that removing all the GHG’s but water would reduce B and he conveniently ignores A. Let’s look:

    Adding any GHG increases the ability of the atmosphere to cool by radiation. Removing all GHG’s kills that ability. Leaving the rest of the atmosphere would leaving only the “A” component of heating which would drop in total W (because of the loss of back-radiation) to the incoming value of 342 W/m^2 (average).

    But in the tropics, (without any GHG’s) this is not going to be the insolation value. In the daytime it will be 1362 and at night it will be zero. Consider what the surface temperature will be in the tropics in the daytime when there is 1362 W incident on the surface in real time. It will be one heck of a lot warmer than it is now. No UV filtering, no IR capture in the atmosphere, no shading by clouds. The maximum incoming now reaches about 1000 W so an increase of 36% will be seen. When the surface is that hot, it will heat the air by cooling against it. Every mountainside will have thermals running up the surface carrying heat high into the air – air which, by definition, cannot cool by radiation.

    That heat will accumulate. As you have pointed out, there is nearly no warming (or cooling) from the polar regions because there will be little coming and zero going out from the warm air. The next day, more heat, no cooling – save conduction to the ground and that happens with dreadful efficiency because warmer air rises. Thermal stratification and all that. Being totally dry, the air temperature rises more per Joule than when it is humid so the temperature effect will be much greater than for the current atmosphere. Enthalpy and all that.

    So the air temperature in the Stevenson screen will not be going down in the absence of GHG’s, it will rise because of the absorption of (approx.) a kW /m^2 over millions of sq km each day accumulating in the atmosphere. The only way Lacis can avoid this rather obvious effect (anyone can see “heat” shimmering over a parking lot) is to ignore it and pretend that all heating of the atmosphere is from radiation alone, using the false argument that all energy leaves the planet by radiation. While technically true, it doesn’t address the contributions to the air temperature.

    Leaving in the water diminishes A and ignites B. OK – there is some temperature at which it will become stable, but sure as heck it is not -20 C which is the average temperature of the surface of the moon which has no atmosphere at all. Read what Gavin says about this – even he gets it wrong. With water only, we would see an increase in the absorbed energy at the surface and a reduction in the ability of the atmosphere to radiate, which increases A and yields a lower B than now. That’s all.

    Second
    The “warmer ocean = more water in the atmosphere” has a limit which is the foundation of your thunderstorm hypothesis so while the graphs shows some correlation, it is not always true. In theory the air can saturate with water but the ocean cannot saturate with heat. I will leave it at that. The important thing is that incident light heats the water.

    Third
    Encapsulated it is this: According to the arguments, the sea water is heated by the sun but the land surface is not.

    Interesting is the notion that the sea surface can be heated by the sun and turned into evaporated water but the land surface is not heated by the same sun and the energy transferred directly to the air by convection. How is that possible? How does the land know that it can get hot in the sun but it can only cool by radiation of IR, instead of cooling against the atmosphere the way a hot stove cools against the air in a room?

    So there are a couple of pieces missing from this thermal equilibrium with GHG’s, without, and with water only. I see this error as absolutely fundamental. Everyone is so preoccupied with calculating the radiative heating of the atmosphere and forgetting that there is a heck of a lot of heat getting into the air from surface contact. Walk over a parking lot at night. Feel the warm air coming up off the tarmac? That sir, is convective cooling. If the atmosphere had no radiative gases, that heat would accumulate in the atmosphere and run the temperature up and up until equilibrium was reached – which would take place when the cooling of the air against the ground at night balanced the heat gained during the day which is way into Terawatt territory.

    So take the Black Temperature Line in his chart and add a few million GWh per day of direct heating and see if it nudges the line above 0 C. If so, that “ice albedo” argument literally melts away.

  13. Despite there being a “lovely thermostatic phenomenon” the climate stubborn moves back and forth between quasi-stable states: hothouse, glaciated, intergalcial. I don’t know if you can call it “static” – something nudges it. No-one should be surprised if our friendly trace gas turns out to be the catalyst.

    • Ryan s,
      You said, “No-one should be surprised if our friendly trace gas turns out to be the catalyst.” Sounds like wishful thinking to me. It is pretty well established that the Milankovitch cycles are the primary drivers of the start and stop of glaciation, and the Antarctic ice cores make a strong case for the temperature changes leading CO2 changes by about 800 years.

  14. 1) 33 C warmer with atmosphere is rubbish,
    2) GHG LWIR energy loop is thermodynamic nonsense,
    3) BB upwelling LWIR from surface is impossible.

    1 + 2 + 3 = 0 RGHE & 0 CO2 warming & 0 man caused climate changing.

    When 3 doesn’t work none of it works.

  15. I am interested in what regularly flips the Earth’s climate from temperate to glacial, and back. It is generally thought from geological observation that average temperatures are approx 10 deg lower in glacial times. And in recent earth history it seems to be either one state or the other, with no in-between. From the MODTRAN calculation, could the loss of all GHGs and some water be capable of causing this?

  16. Hi Mr. E.

    Saw the same thing, with the cloud cover increasing to 75% while the column water vapor plummets to 15% (of saturation, we must suppose, so essentially RH). Now 15% RH is a number suited to desert under a high pressure system, but seems absurd planet-wide. How the devil do you get *more* clouds from worldwide Mojave conditions?

    The clouds seem to be the principal driver of his Albedo, as should be true. What the model is making them out of is the question.

    I think somebody missed a minus sign.

  17. Good analysis Willis.

    However a couple of comments.

    1. Your correlations show that the amount of water vapor in the air increases with temperature. It should be noted that the amount of water vapor in the air increases exponentially with temperature (it should be proportional to vapor pressure). Thus a small green-house gas effect of water vapor should generate a larger effect through self-feed back.

    2. In addition to albedo as a cooling effect, increasing amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere also increase energy transport throughout the atmosphere. This is because water vapor is less dense than dry air. Increasing amounts of water vapor lead to increasing density differences and increasing convection. Water vapor also carries a tremendous amount of energy as latent heat. Thus increasing amounts of water vapor serves to transport energy from the tropics to the higher latitudes where it can be radiated into space.

    3. With increasing amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere,
    – The green-house gas effect will increase at a diminishing rate as the absorption/emission bands become saturated.
    – The cooling effects, albedo and energy transport, will increase, at least proportionally to the amount of water vapor in the air.

    Thus an incremental increase in temperature leads to an incrementally larger increase of water vapor in the atmosphere. And the incremental cooling effects of the incremental water vapor are proportionally larger than the incremental green-house gas effect. Thus ensuring that global temperature increases are self-limiting.

  18. Willis,
    You would appear to be neglecting the rise in sea ice. Lacis et al. note that the global sea ice rises
    from 4% to about 46% causing the albedo to rise from 29% to 41%. Which dominates over the
    change in cloud cover from a change in water vapour. Nor is it clear that any correlations derived from
    the CERES satellite data that are valid for the current atmosphere would be valid in a world where there is no CO2 in the atmosphere. Finally I would be curious to know where you think Lacis et al. went wrong?
    You appear to be claiming that the GISS climate model gets the global temperature wrong by about 30 degrees or so which is a huge error and one that should be obvious to point out and fix.

    • Percy Jackson

      You would appear to be neglecting the rise in sea ice. Lacis et al. note that the global sea ice rises
      from 4% to about 46% causing the albedo to rise from 29% to 41%.

      You’re claiming that this model projects sea ice over 41% of the world?

  19. Antarctic sea ice has about five times the effect on albedo of Arctic sea ice, because it extends so much farther into lower latitudes.

  20. Willis: “As you can see, indeed the general pattern is, more water = greater albedo.”

    Willis,

    You can’t sit in the sun when it is foggy. When do you get this fog? Fog develops as it gets colder (!). It is the – 0.2 correlation in your first map: as Total Precipitable Water goes down, albedo goes up. The more fog, the more albedo. And you don’t need much water vapor to get fog.

    The ‘reflecting work’ by clouds is done by the upper layers of the clouds. So the mass of water vapor below the upper surface of the cloud – which is important to bring up energy from the surface to a place above net emission level and in doing so is having an important cooling function – has no function in reflection.

    I agree with Nick Stokes to think the model is correct in assuming that very low temperatures can/will result in a higher albedo. Because we need only a tiny bit of water vapor to get fog (or a comparable very thin layer of clouds).

    The graph of correlation of water vapor with temperature could have an U-shape. Lower temperature means less water vapor = less clouds = less reflection. But below a certain temperature fog develops: a lower temperature means MORE fog = more albedo.

    Why we don’t finally result in a Snowball Earth is that at low temperatures but above dew point there is no fog and there are but a few clouds. Even at very low average (!) temperatures the tropical oceans don’t have ice: full insolation will maximally be absorbed by the tropical oceans. This conservation of energy below/at the surface of the oceans will keep the tropical ocean belt from freezing. A high absorption will remain and no 100% Snowball Earth will develop.

    In the model’s result Cloud Cover raises from around 60 to 75 percent, leaving 25% of ‘clear sky’ for the tropical oceans to absorb energy.

    • CORRECTION: “The graph of correlation of water vapor with temperature could have an U-shape” must be: “The graph of correlation of albedo with temperature could have an U-shape.”

  21. Willis

    As usual, an interesting and thought provoking article.

    How about coming at it from a different direction. Put at its simplest, the radiant GHE theory is that the planet receives energy from the sun at a wavelength to which the atmosphere is largely transparent, this energy is then absorbed by the surface and then radiated from the surface at a different wavelength to which the atmosphere is significantly opaque.

    I would suggest that the starting point to the consideration of what this planet would be like without non condensing GHGs in its atmosphere, ie., without CO2 (the other non condensing GHGs being de minimis) is to consider the absorption characteristics of the CO2 molecule, and to identify and locate the source of photons that that molecule is said to absorb and then re-radiate. In that manner, one can get a feeling for what CO2 actually does. When one knows what it does, it is easier to understand what would happen if it does not exist and is taken out of the equation. Although for present purposes I intend ignoring the point, it is necessary to remember that there is considerable overlap in the absorption characteristics of water vapour and CO2 and this may be important as to whether the appropriate bands are already saturated.

    Whilst photons do not per se have a temperature, their wavelength is related to a BB temperature spectrum. CO2 has 3 main absorption wavebands, ie., which according to Wein’s law corresponds:

    15 µm = surface BB temperature -80 C
    4.3 µm = surface BB temperature 400 C
    2.7 µm = surface BB temperature 800 C

    We can ignore, as far as surface emissions are concerned, the 4.3 µm and 2.7 µm photons since apart from active lava lakes and lava flows there are no surfaces on the surface of planet Earth emitting these photons. We need only consider the 15 µm photons and their source.

    Now this is a BB spectrum where the 15 µm photons peak at – 80 deg C, such that there are 15 µm photons being emitted from surfaces that are warmer say at – 60 degC – 40 degC and even – 20 deg C, but the point I make is that the further one gets away from a – 80 deg C surface the less 15 µm photons will be emitted from that warmer surface.

    As one can see from the current sea temperatures, the bulk of the planet’s surface is at 20 degC or above., viz:

    https://www.seatemperature.org/public/sea-temperature.png

    At such temperatures, these surfaces will not be emitting 15 µm photons, in any great number. The bulk of 15 µm are to be found in 3 locations, namely from the surface of Antarctica, from the surface of the top of high altitude mountain ranges such as the Himalayas, and from the top surface of clouds. I would suggest that there are relatively few 15 µm photons to be found in the tropopause, and the bulk of 15 µm photons is to found in the boundary layer at the top of clouds.

    I would suggest that below the tropopause the dominant energy flows are conduction, convection and sensible energy flows such as evapo-transpiration and thermals, with the radiative effect of water vapour playing a minor role. Non condensing GHGs play an insignificant/unmeasurable role.

    Where non condensing GHGs come into their own is above the tropopause, where they are effective in carrying large amounts of energy upwards to TOA, whereat they radiate the energy away from the Earth and in to the great void of space.

    Finally, we should not overlook the fact that our atmosphere, at any rate during the day, serves to cool the planet. Under the lunar midday sun, the surface of the moon reaches about 127 degC, whereas the surface of the Earth under the noon day sun only reaches about 55 deg C, and rarely above 45 deg C. This suggests that the atmosphere cools the surface of the planet, by up to about 70 deg C or even 80 deg C, although probably some of the difference is explained by differences in albedo between the moon surface and the Earth’s sandy dessert. Further, there are arguments that water vapour is a net coolant, witness the difference between wet and dry adiabatic lapse rates and Dr Spencer’s theory that overall clouds are a net negative feedback.

    Like everything, the devil is in the detail, and I consider that we simply do not know enough or understand enough even to begin to undertake the task that Lacis is seeking to evaluate. No one knows what this planet would be like with no atmosphere, or with an atmosphere which did not contain non condensing GHGs such as CO2. Any such claims are simply wild speculation.

    • Further to the above, please note that the map above is updated daily, and it shows the ocean water temperature as recorded on 28th Aug 2018. Today’s maximum sea temperature is 34.4°C / 94°F (Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates) and Today’s minimum sea temperature: -1.7°C / 29°F.

      Unfortunately the colour bar code has not been copied, but the colour coding confirms that most of the oceans are at a temperature of above 20 deg C.

      https://www.seatemperature.org/

      PS. Sorry that I erroneously failed to close a bold annotation.

    • ” the point I make is that the further one gets away from a – 80 deg C surface the less 15 µm photons will be emitted from that warmer surface”
      Actually, that isn’t true, and is a fallacy resulting from identifying a wavelength with a temperature. -80°C is the temperature at which the spectral peak is at 15 μm. However, as the surface warms, the peak moves to shorter wavelengths, but the curve overall rises, and increases monotonically at each wavelength, as you can see from Planck’s Law. So the intensity of 15 µm (and number of photons, rises with rising temperature, even though it rises even faster at shorter wavelengths.

        • I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to correct this (including to richard). A surface at 300K emits ~7W/m^2/sr between 14-15 microns compared with one at 190K which emits ~1W/m^2/sr.

      • Thanks Nick. I stand corrected, but does this not mean that the overwhelming majority of 15 μm photons are those incoming from solar irradiance itself, rather than those emitted by the surface of the planet? In making that statement, I am aware that surface is emitting 24/7 whereas solar irradiance is not, and is received in bursts, but the surface is a low intensity source whereas solar is a high intensity source. What I am suggesting is that solar contains far more 15 μm photons in its wings than does the surface, and this is so notwithstanding that the surface is nearer the – 80 deg C peak.

        Does this not suggest that as CO2 rises, the CO2 molecule will absorb more incoming solar irradiance sourced 15 μm photons and reradiate these upwards and away from the planet so that they will never get to be absorbed by and warm the surface, than it will absorb surface emitted 15 μm photons and back radiate them to the surface?

        As I see it, the effect of CO2 is a question of the ratio of the number of incoming 15 μm photons from solar compared to the number of outgoing 15 μm photons emitted from the surface. If the ratio favours solar sourced 15 μm photons then increasing levels of CO2 would appear to be a net cooler, and perhaps this is what it is really doing above the tropopause..

        • Richard,
          “but does this not mean that the overwhelming majority of 15 μm photons are those incoming from solar irradiance itself, rather than those emitted by the surface of the planet?”
          No. It is true that the Sun’s surface emits more 15 μm photons per sq m than the Earth’s surface, but the proportion of energy is tiny compared with SW emitted. So what then counts is geometry. We are far from the Sun, which occupies about 0.004% of the sky. In total energy, the intensity from that small disk and from the Earth (LWIR) are comparable, so the amount of LWIR from the Sun, being a tiny proportion, is much lower intensity.

    • “Under the lunar midday sun, the surface of the moon reaches about 127 degC, whereas the surface of the Earth under the noon day sun only reaches about 55 deg C, and rarely above 45 deg C. This suggests that the atmosphere cools the surface of the planet, by up to about 70 deg C or even 80 deg C”

      2 meter surface temperature maybe, but fresh asphalt can reach over 80°C.
      6% of insolation is reflected by the atmosphere, 16% is absorbed by water vapour absorbing near infrared, and fresh asphalt has about 4% albedo. That would bring a maximum of 1366.5W/m2 (120.85°C) down to close to 92°C.

      • Further:
        Conduction and convection surface losses at 4% would reduce 92°C to 87°C, and at 7% to 83°C.

        • But with a typical used asphalt albedo of 0.1. it would be down to 79°C, and pavements and roads have been measured warmer than that, so there is room for additional longwave warming.

          • That looks like bad maths though. If one subtracts the scattering and absorption first and then the albedo and other surface losses, it results in a higher temperature than summing the lot and taking it off the 394K in one go.

  22. “Now, planetary albedo is what percent of the sunshine is simply reflected back into space. Currently it’s around 30% (orange line, left end, right scale). But how can the planetary albedo be going up in his results by a third, while at the same time the atmospheric water content is reducing by 90%?” — it is not the sunshine that is reflected back in to space but it is the solar radiation part:

    Rt = Ra x [a + b (n/N) in which Ra is the radiation at the top of the atmosphere that vary with the latitude, declination of the Sun and and hour angle of the Sun; n & N are the hours of bright sunshine and length of the day. n can be estimated through cloud cover or measured using the sunshine recorder and N can be estimated from latitude, declination of the Sun and hour angle of the Sun.

    As Ra passes through the atmosphere part of it is obsrbed and part is reflected. Albedo varies from the lowest with white bodie to a maximum with block bodies. Atmosphere consists of several objects that reflect and absorb the energy coming from the sun.

    Practically the Figure 2 has no meaning in real terms.

    Dr. S. Jeevananda Reddy

  23. So, looks like water is the temperature control knob. You arent the first to say this. Heat enters the oceans at the equator, and this is limited by evaporation and clouds. This heat is then distributed about the planet by ocean currents.

  24. w. ==> I would have predicted the Lacis result, or something similar, from Chaos Theory alone. Fiddling with the numeric climate models, dependent on non-linear equations, is very likely to throw the “future climate” (chaotic model output) into one or the other of the two known possible climate extremes, and leave it trapped there. This is very easily demonstrated with any of the common examples of non-linear formula output.
    This does not happen in the Real World, of course. It only happens in numeric climate models, as accidentally discovered by Edward Lorenz long ago.
    The Real World climate does occasionally stray to extremes but eventually recovers from the extreme and we have an Interglacial period., as we do now.

  25. My jaw drops every time I look at the Lacis 2010 paper. A 90% reduction in column water vapor leads to a large increase in cloud cover? Wouldn’t that ridiculous result cause anyone with sense to go back and question their analysis?

    • It’s called the Clausius-Clapeyron relation coupled with condensation and a stratification of the boundary layer due to surface cooling.

  26. It’s total BS. What ends interglacial warming of a steady 0.001 deg K pa for 7Ka, while CO2 from the oceans is still accelerating to a maximum, with NO effect on the temperature shut down at this point in the cycle? Why didn’t it warm a lot more when humans nearly doubled the CO2, with an actual maximum 0.3% sensitivity re absolute temperature over the same period – if CO2 was all the cause. RUBBISH.

    ANSWER? Cloud control. GHE warming from water vapour is small vs other cooling effects , only impactful during the stable ice age cold periods of low humidity, temperature hence cloud cover. GHE water vapour effect kis useful to keep things above freezing at this time, but insignificant in precipitous (0.001 deg K pa) interglacial peak temperature and humidity events. NB: Nothing changes at more than noise levels in human lifetimes. FACT.

    Under iterglacial conditions Water Vapour has over 140W/m^2 of negative feedback to warming available – from 90w/m^2 evaporation, cloud formation and precipitation, and 50W/m^2 of cloud albedo , a tiny variation can crush all the GHE from CO2, for example.

    Of course this virtual reality is nonsense, as any fool knows, except the so called climate scientists. They look at the climate big picture through IPCC virtual reality modellers goggles that have gone beyond the physical limits of deterministic science, to eschew a trust in actual data in favour of their beliefs and prophesies. In short, they believe their own bullshit, like the papal forgiveness salesmen they are.

    I can see NASA at the Challenger enquiry, as Feynman elegantly demonstrated the physical reality of their deceitful assertions with some ice water and a clamp. Nothing much has changed in the management team or their preference for their own opinions over the actual facts, IMO.

    Time for a repeat demonstration of reality to law makers as regards NASA et al, this time re climate? But who can do this? Once the regressive and truly fraudulent on the absolute energy science fact energy subsidies disappear, then the grants to prove a position that support the subsidies will disappear with them, the BS dies along with the easy money subsidies that fill the renewable energy trough for the cynical insiders, be they academics, politicians or renewable lobbyists.

  27. And another thing…. is this a very revealing demonstration of how wrong the underlying model assumptions are?

    I am no expert on computer model prophesies, I prefer Feyman’s idea of deterministic physics that follows laws to the pseudo science prediction by extrapolation of correlation without proof. Neural nets are not science. And unsafe outside their data limits. As AI will be. And cliate models, IMO.

    Does Lacis simply remove the dreaded killer AGW gasses from the IPCC default climate model to arrive at this history denying conclusion?

    If so, comparing the outcome of his virtual reality model with the actuality of a low CO2 interglacial, for example, seems to demonstrate rather neatly just how much the GHE effect from trace gasses is over amplified in the models, when compared to the inconvenient truths of the climate record. Not also might this underestimate the actual effect of water vapor, but it may also show many other potentially significant effects may be artificially inhibited in their effect by modeller’s assumptions, designed to make make their chosen causes appear the main contributors to warming, as per the terms of their grants.

    Or perhaps I over simplify 😉 ?

    A bigger or different model is not the answer. Some deterministic reality is. Regarding both climate unknowns and energy reality. Is it yet time to call BS on the whole renewable subsidy racket and the pseudo science of computerised rune casting behind it? It’s frauds are busting out all over.

    • Thanks, David. Sadly, all I could find at that site were their graphics. It’s a great dataset, daily, but only images … anyone know where the data for this might be available

      w.

  28. “And according to MODTRAN, the loss of all of the GHGs except water would cool the planet by from 6°C to 8°C, with the smaller value in subarctic winter and the larger in the tropics.”

    Good to have that confirmed, I have heard claims of the larger value in subarctic winter and the smaller value in the tropics.

  29. The snowball earth hypothesis, (probably wrong) holds that Earth was completely covered in ice and snow (yes right down to the equator) about 700 million years ago.
    What was the atmospheric make-up back then? How much CO2? (Oh, nothing, nothing. Why do you ask?)

  30. The result is below, showing the correlation of total precipitable water (TPW) and total albedo (surface plus cloud).

    Oh dear, I think you’ve just proved water vapor is a negative feedback Mr Eschenbach.
    The climate cabal is not going to be happy with you…

    (PS, nice data!)

  31. Thanks Willis for revisiting Lacis[2010].

    Planetary albedo may be much more stable than previously thought. One almost astonishing example of cloud feedback from The albedo of Earth: “The Northern and Southern Hemispheres (NH, SH) reflect the same amount of sunlight within ~ 0.2 W/m2”.

  32. the model world would basically evolve to a modeled ice over condition –>

    the model world would basically evolve to a modeled ice cover condition

  33. Willis wrote: The warmer the SST, the more water in the atmosphere, the more clouds. The more clouds, the greater the albedo.

    This post shows a correlation between Ts, TPW and cloudiness, but – as we both know – correlation is not causing. Clouds are produced by rising air masses, not temperature or TPW. Rising air masses are produced by an unstable lapse rate and the inability of radiation alone to carry away all of the energy arriving at the surface. For air masses to rise, there must be air masses subsiding elsewhere and subsiding air is always clear (except for marine boundary layer clouds). To a first approximation, one might expect the area occupied by rising and subsiding air masses to remain constant.

    Globally cloud cover is about 68%. Over the South Pole, 55% of the sky is cloudy in the summer when the average surface temperature is -25 deg, slightly colder that Lacis’s planet. In the winter, it drops to 35% when the average temperature is -58 degC, almost 40 degC lower than Lacis’s planet. Along the coast (where the temperature is near 0 degC, 75% of the sky is cloudy year round. Cold doesn’t prevent cloud formation – subsidence does.

    https://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/10.1175/1520-0442%282004%29017%3C1198%3AACARWT%3E2.0.CO%3B2

    You are worrying about a small fraction of the changes that would follow removing CO2 from the atmosphere. The lower the temperature and water vapor, the smaller the greenhouse effect. With all CO2 gone and 90% of the water vapor gone, almost nothing interferes with LWR radiative cooling to space.

    According to MODTRAN, with 0 ppm CO2 and 10% normal water vapor, the planet with a US Standard Atmosphere (no clouds) at 288 K would emit 329 W/m2 to space, up 63 W/m2 from the current 268 W/m2 that escapes from clear skies. (The lower emission from cold cloud tops lowers this to 240 W/m2.) Lowering the surface temperature to 281 K (down 7.2 K) lowered OLR to 268 W/m2. So the 90% reduction in water vapor produces a reduce GHE that lowers the temperature 7 K.

    The second important factor you haven’t considered is how the height of the cloud tops will change. Low cloud tops radiate almost as much energy as the surface, while high cloud tops at 218 K emit 1/3 as much thermal radiation as the surface. Convection carries water vapor aloft only until the atmosphere is transparent enough so that radiation can remove all the heat delivered to the surface. Lower cloud tops means more effective radiative cooling to space and a lower surface temperature.

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