Does the Climate System Have a Preferred Average State? Chaos and the Forcing-Feedback Paradigm

Reposted from Dr. Roy Spencer’s website

October 25th, 2019 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

NOTE: I have written on this subject before, but it is important enough that we need to keep thinking about it. It is also related to the forcing-feedback paradigm of climate change, which I usually defend — but which I will here take a skeptical view toward in the context of long-term climate change.

1575 Winter Landscape with Snowfall near Antwerp by Lucas van Valckenborch.StÃ¤del Museum/Wikimedia Commons

The UN IPCC scientists who write the reports which guide international energy policy on fossil fuel use operate under the assumption that the climate system has a preferred, natural and constant average state which is only deviated from through the meddling of humans. They construct their climate models so that the models do not produce any warming or cooling unless they are forced to through increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gases, aerosols, or volcanic eruptions.

This imposed behavior of their “control runs” is admittedly necessary because various physical processes in the models are not known well enough from observations and first principles, and so the models must be tinkered with until they produce what might be considered to be the “null hypothesis” behavior, which in their worldview means no long-term warming or cooling.

What I’d like to discuss here is NOT whether there are other ‘external’ forcing agents of climate change, such as the sun. That is a valuable discussion, but not what I’m going to address. I’d like to address the question of whether there really is an average state that the climate system is constantly re-adjusting itself toward, even if it is constantly nudged in different directions by the sun.

If there is such a preferred average state, then the forcing-feedback paradigm of climate change is valid. In that system of thought, any departure of the global average temperature from the Nature-preferred state is resisted by radiative “feedback”, that is, changes in the radiative energy balance of the Earth in response to the too-warm or too-cool conditions. Those radiative changes would constantly be pushing the system back to its preferred temperature state.

But what if there isn’t only one preferred state?

I am of the opinion that the F-F paradigm does indeed apply for at least year-to-year fluctuations, because phase space diagrams of the co-variations between temperature and radiative flux look just like what we would expect from a F-F perspective. I touched on this in yesterday’s post.

Where the F-F paradigm might be inapplicable is in the context of long-term climate changes which are the result of internal fluctuations.

Chaos in the Climate System

Everyone agrees that the ocean-atmosphere fluid flows represent a non-linear dynamical system. Such systems, although deterministic (that is, can be described with known physical equations) are difficult to predict the future behavior of because of their sensitive dependence on the current state. This is called “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”, and it is why weather cannot be forecast more than a week or so in advance.

The reason why most climate researchers do not think this is important for climate forecasting is that they are dealing with how the future climate might differ from today’s climate in a time-averaged sense... due not to changes in initial conditions, but in the “boundary conditions”, that is, increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. Humans are slightly changing the rules by which the climate system operates — that is, the estimated ~1-2% change in the rate of cooling of the climate system to outer space as a result of increasing CO2.

There are still chaotic variations in the climate system, which is why any given climate model forced with the same amount of increasing CO2 but initialized with different initial conditions in 1760 will produce a different globally-averaged temperature in, say, 2050 or 2060.

But what if the climate system undergoes its own, substantial chaotic changes on long time scales, say 100 to 1,000 years? The IPCC assumes this does not happen. But the ocean has inherently long time scales — decades to millennia. An unusually large amount of cold bottom water formed at the surface in the Arctic in one century might take hundreds or even thousands of years before it re-emerges at the surface, say in the tropics. This time lag can introduce a wide range of complex behaviors in the climate system, and is capable of producing climate change all by itself.

Even the sun, which we view as a constantly burning ball of gas, produces an 11-year cycle in sunspot activity, and even that cycle changes in strength over hundreds of years. It would seem that every process in nature organizes itself on preferred time scales, with some amount of cyclic behavior.

This chaotic climate change behavior would impact the validity of the forcing-feedback paradigm as well as our ability to determine future climate states and the sensitivity of the climate system to increasing CO2. If the climate system has different, but stable and energy-balanced, states, it could mean that climate change is too complex to predict with any useful level of accuracy.

El Nino / La Nina as an Example of a Chaotic Cycle

Most climate researchers view the warm El Nino and cool La Nina episodes conceptually as departures from an average climate state. But I believe that they are more accurately viewed as a bifurcation in the chaotic climate system. In other words, during Northern Hemisphere winter, there are two different climate states (El Nino or La Nina) that the climate system tends toward. Each has its own relatively stable configuration of Pacific trade winds, sea surface temperature patterns, cloudiness, and global-average temperature.

So, in a sense, El Nino and La Nina are different climate states which Earth has difficulty choosing between each year. One is a globally warm state, the other globally cool. This chaotic “bifurcation” behavior has been described in the context of even extremely simple systems of nonlinear equations, vastly simpler than the equations describing the time-evolving real climate system.

The Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age

Most historical records and temperature proxy evidence point to the Medieval Warm Period and Little Ice Age as real, historical events. I know that most people try to explain these events as the response to some sort of external forcing agent, say indirect solar effects from long-term changes in sunspot activity. This is a natural human tendency… we see a change, and we assume there must be a cause external to the change.

But a nonlinear dynamical system needs no external forcing to experience change. I’m not saying that the MWP and LIA were not externally forced, only that their explanation does not necessarily require external forcing.

There could be internal modes of chaotic fluctuations in the ocean circulation which produce their own stable climate states which differ in global-average temperature by, say, 1 deg. C. One possibility is that they would have slightly different sea surface temperature patterns or oceanic wind speeds, which can cause slightly different average cloud amounts, thus altering the planetary albedo and so the amount of sunlight the climate system has to work with. Or, the precipitation systems produced by the different climate states could have slightly different precipitation efficiencies, which then would affect the average amount of the atmosphere’s main greenhouse gas, water vapor.

Chaotic Climate Change and the Forcing-Feedback Paradigm

If the climate system has multiple, stable climate states, each with its own set of slightly different energy flows that still produce global energy balance and relatively constant temperatures (whether warmer or cooler), then the “forcing-feedback framework” (FFF, as my Australian friend Christopher Game likes to call it) would not apply to these climate variations, because there is no normal, average climate state to which ‘feedback’ is constantly nudging the system back toward.

Part of the reason for this post is the ongoing discussion I have had over the years with Christopher on this issue, and I want him to know that I am not totally deaf to his concerns about the FFF. As I described yesterday, we do see forcing-feedback type behavior in short-term climate fluctuations, but I agree that the FFF might not be applicable to longer-term fluctuations. In this sense, I believe Christopher Game is correct.

The UN IPCC Will Not Address This Issue

It is clear that the UN IPCC, by its very charter, is primarily focused on human-caused climate change. As a result of political influence (related to the desire of governmental regulation over the private sector) it will never seriously address the possibility that long-term climate change might be part of nature. Only those scientists who are supportive of this anthropocentric climate view are allowed to play in the IPCC sandbox.

Substantial chaos in the climate system injects a large component of uncertainty into all predictions of future climate change, including our ability to determine climate sensitivity. It reduces the practical value of climate modelling efforts, which cost billions of dollars and support the careers of thousands of researchers. While I am generally supportive of climate modeling, I am appropriately skeptical of the ability of current climate models to provide enough confidence to make high-cost energy policy decisions.

156 thoughts on “Does the Climate System Have a Preferred Average State? Chaos and the Forcing-Feedback Paradigm”

1. commieBob says:

We are currently in an ice age. We are in an interglacial period during an ice age. The climate’s normal state seems to involve a mile high pile of ice where I now sit.

As far as I can tell, the Holocene is way more stable than the previous interglacial periods. The long term trend during the Holocene seems to be a slowly decreasing temperature.

When the Holocene is done, we will bang back into glaciation.

The two apparent stable states in the climate seem to be mostly glaciation interspersed with short interglacials.

• Scissor says:

Unfortunately, the natural climate change deniers disregard those facts.

• Chaswarnertoo says:

They don’t need no stinkin facts, the Gretins believe. You waycist factmonger!

• Joel O'Bryan says:

“…way more stable than the previous interglacial periods”

The pastoral Norse colony-dwellers of Greenland in the 14th Century paid with their lives when they found the seas around them freezing solid for most the year. Seas that seemed for centuries to be ice-free and the land climate gentle enough for grass fields to feed livestock. Once the seas began freezing regular blocking of their trade and escape routes to their brothers and sisters to the east. And then their pastures stayed frozen and they had to eat their livestock in a slow descent to starvation.

Stable is goo until you find yourself at the boundary transition. Adapt, relocate, or die. Today we have fossil fuels and energy sources not available at anytime in the past to save our butts. And the Socialists want to kill most of us off as they sit on their self-proclaimed moral high ground to “Save the Planet.”

For me, there is nothing more despicable than a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren who wants to take us there to achieve a Socialist Dystopia for their political ambitions.

• RickWill says:

I just posted this observation with regard to glaciation at JoNova:
Interglacial brings to mind a period of warm and balmy conditions across the globe while glaciation brings to mind cold and low solar input. However considering glaciation from an energy perspective provides a somewhat different view.

During glaciation, the sea level falls up to 120m. During the times of rapid glaciation, the sea can drop at a rate of 50m in 10,000 years. That equates to a fall of 5mm/yr. That water needs to be evaporated from the oceans then deposits as ice on land. The energy of ice deposition from water vapour is 2590kJ/kg. Every sq.m of ocean, requires excess energy of 12.9MJ each year to enable the ice to be deposited on land. It may not be intuitive, but making ice mountains from sea water is an energy intensive process.

Given that the Southern Hemisphere is 80% water while the Northern Hemisphere is only 60% water and the Northern Hemisphere has twice as much land as the Southern Hemisphere, glaciation requires a significant transfer of energy from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere. Considering the distribution of water, it means the oceans in the Southern Hemisphere require an extra 2W/sq.m for 6 months of the year to evaporate water that gets deposited as ice in the northern hemisphere.

This energy transfer gives insight into why orbital eccentricity is the cause of glaciation.

From 2001 to 2100, the globe will be 16700km further from the sun during the austral summer and 7000km closer during the boreal summer; the orbital eccentricity is still reducing and will continue to reduce for the next 10,000 years or so:

Under these conditions, the difference in energy input between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres over an annual cycle are reducing. We should expect to observe ongoing retreat of land ice in the Northern Hemisphere. In 10,000 years or so the next glacial period will begin. For now, enjoy the interglacial although I expect Australia will be a wetter place during the glacial period, which would be nice.

I wonder how many climate models incorporate orbital eccentricity? It is the most powerful and predictable driver of global climate change.

• crosspatch says:

I disagree. Requires no more energy transfer than today. Only difference is that today the precipitation falls as rain and returns to the ocean via rivers instead of falling frozen and staying there. In fact, there is LESS precipitation during glacial periods and deserts expand, it just doesn’t go back into the ocean. A few thousand years of piled up precipitation that doesn’t flow back to the sea is going to have a major impact on sea level. But glacial periods are generally less energy intensive than interglacials as there is generally less evaporation going on.

• RickWill says:

The fact that the ice piles up indicates that there is a massive transfer of energy from ocean to land.

The mass of land ice increases by 4.3E16 tonne during glaciation; more than the current total ice mass. With annual runoff, there is no accumulation of water as ice so no accumulation of energy. The energy transfer occurs only over the annual cycle.

• crosspatch says:

No more water piles up on land with ice than piles up today in the form of water. The difference is that the water flows back to the ocean. Once the usual winter snow doesn’t all melt in a summer, the snow will begin to accumulate year to year and eventually form ice. In fact, MORE water falls on land today than during an ice age. So according to your logic, there is more energy transfer today. All the snow that falls in Idaho today melts and runs into the ocean in summer. In an ice age, LESS snow actually falls per year but it doesn’t melt. Oh, and the world’s largest desert is Antarctica. The south pole station gets about 0.1 inch of water equivalent precipitation per year.

Also, the ocean becomes saltier during an ice age which probably results in it being more difficult to form sea ice.

• RickWill says:

The water is returned to the ocean each year at present. The Northern Hemisphere is receiving enough energy to melt the snow that falls each year. During a glacial phase there is not enough energy arriving in the Norther Hemisphere each year to melt the snow but there is enough energy arriving in the Southern Hemisphere to evaporate the water from the oceans.

It is the large energy imbalance between the hemispheres and the dominance of water in the Southern Hemisphere that results in glacial phase.

By my logic the energy imbalance is accumulating year on year by shifting vast volumes of water from the oceans to land. At present there is insufficient imbalance for that accumulation.

The fact that Antarctica receives little precipitation supports the energy intensive nature of transfer of ocean water to land ice. If the globe was just cold over the entire surface there would be very little precipitation anywhere because evaporation would be low.

• Ben Vorlich says:

Isn’t most of the energy lost in space? Tbe two lots of latent heat have to go somewhere, it’s not the atmosphere or the ocean and not the land mass that’s buried under the ice.

• I think you should go back and read up on latent heat.

To deposit all that water as ice means a LOSS of energy from the system to space.

Not a gain..

• RickWill says:

The loss of heat occurred in the Northern Hemisphere because that is where the ice was deposited – as you pint out. BUT the gain in heat occurred in the Southern Hemisphere because that is where the water came from. So the build up of ice on land in the northern hemisphere indicates a huge transfer of energy from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere. Significantly greater than in the current era.

• tty says:

The difficulty with this theory is that the glaciations tend to follow the obliquity cycle rather than the excentricity cycle.

And if you knew something about the Pleistocene you would be aware that Australia is much drier during glaciations, not wetter.

• RickWill says:

Going back a few million years the distribution of water across the globe was different than now. Opening of Drake Passage enabled the southern ocean circulation and that resulted in significant heat transfer from Earth’s main solar collector, the Pacific Ocean, to the second biggest collector, The Atlantic Ocean.

• tty says:

That is pure CAGW propaganda. A difference of 2.1 degrees between the LGM and “preindustrial” climate? Ridiculous.

It is rather difficult to find a place anywhere on Earth where the difference was as small as that. Possibly parts of the Western Pacific would fit. On land the temperature difference is on the order of 5-7 degrees in the tropics and much more at higher latitudes.

• tty says:

“As far as I can tell, the Holocene is way more stable than the previous interglacial periods.”

That is highly doubtful. Interglacials are in general much more stable than glacials, but they are usually interrupted by brief cold intervals. There was one during the Eemian, and there has been two, or three in the present one (the 9.6 KA event, the 8.2 KA event and perhaps the 4.2 KA event, though this was more dry than cold).

2. Joel O'Bryan says:

“But what if the climate system undergoes its own, substantial chaotic changes on long time scales, say 100 to 1,000 years? The IPCC assumes this does not happen. But the ocean has inherently long time scales — decades to millennia.”

This is exactly why the IPCC’s claim that all the recent (since 1950) global temperature change is mostly due to CO2 increases is mere hogwash. And why their 1980-present warming trend attributed to CO2 fails because CO2 can’t explain the 1910-1945 warming trend. This internal natural cycling certainly didn’t stop after 1950, or 1960, or 1970 ….

Complex, multi-compartmented systems with energy flows through them exhibit multiple periodic behaviors – behavior cycles with different time scales, even if at the longest times scales there appears zero secular trend. The Time constant for the energy flow through each compartment is different. Thus the system oscillates. And long-term prediction (deterministic calculation of) is impossible as Dr Spencer acknowledged –the sensitive dependence of initial state.

This is such a basic obvious understanding of a complex physical system that it really is sad that alarmist Climate Scientists, claiming all recent warming (or most) is due to human activity added CO2, think the rest of the intelligent, technically competent, mathematically literate public do not understand that and that we see through their deceptions. Deceptions driven by political ideology adherence, Noble Cause Corruption, Rent-Seeking job-protection behaviors, reputation protection, and/or All the Above.

• michael hart says:

Yes. All of this has been long known, and ignored.
As Dr. Spencer points out, funding and whole careers are built on the unspoken understanding that the leaders of the field will never rock the boat and openly admit to policy-makers that what they do is probably entirely worthless.

That doesn’t mean that all climate modelling is necessarily entirely worthless but they chose to play the game for high stakes when the Godfather of the discipline, Ed Lorenz, cautioned them to only take on tractable problems. It is long since too late for them to acknowledge their errors. Only externally imposed funding cuts may produce the needed course correction.

• Brian R Catt says:

“Deceptions driven by political ideology adherence, Noble Cause Corruption, Rent-Seeking job-protection behaviours, reputation protection, and/or All the Above. ” Perfect.

And this science happened in the wrong order to be well intended. As with Nazi science, the science came last, as a tool to justify the beliefs, and the action taken in their name, once the beliefs were indoctrinated in the faithful so they believed they were doing god’s work, etc..

Climate “science” departments were created to prove the political justification for pre ordained “action”., never to find out ho what changed the climate and how. Which is why the models don’t are not supported by 50 years of satellite observations.

Follow the money. The money to expand the pseudo science of climate change came from UN politicians, to promote their beliefs and deceits to control energy use and hence deliver their political and fiscal agendas.

Once your life and career depends on the climate nasties, then their rackets become your pay cheque, loyalty is not a choice, the truth becomes betrayal, punishable by taking you out, of your career at least.

What applied to Michael in the Godfather applies equally to these damned to eternal deceit climate “scientists”. Trapped, willingly or not, knowingly or not, in the deceit based, money driven, \$1T pa UN climate change protection racket. Never able to do real science again. A non numbers game, that you realise, as your expertise grows, only supports avoidable economic misery imposed on Billions of people , forced to pay regressive in fact renewable energy tributes to subsidise solutions that can’t work, to solve a problem that isn’t real, justified by the pseudo science that these inadequate fraudsters must support for their publishing eternity, and can never tell the truth about, except as a retired “denier”.

I’m Winston Wolf, and I’ve come to retire you…….

3. Latitude says:
• Loydo says:

Why omit the most recent 70 years of data?
Wait, never mind.

• tty says:

Because the GISP core does not go further. Though one wonders why. It would have been easy to take snow samples going right up to the present and analyze them, but for some reason none of the ice-core teams seems to have done so….

• Oddgeir says:

“Snow samples” do not trap-, and are continuously exposed to- and contaminated by the atmosphere (air). Need to wait until the snow is so compacted that it has turned to ice with trapped air.

Snow samples will be “off” at best.

Oddgeir

• tty says:

Not.

That only applies to the trapped gases (e. g. CO2). The temperature is derived from the isotope ratios (oxygen and hydrogen) from the snow itself, which is not affected by this.

If this wasn’t so it wouldn’t be possible to track the changing seasonal temperature and counting (and measuring) the annual layers which is routinely done.

The only exception is when there is a major “melt event” (about once a century at the ice-divide, the last ones were in 1888 and 2012). This will mess up both temperature and atmospheric gas proxies for several years, by distributing meltwater vertically and creating an airtight sealing ice layer.

4. Tonyb says:

Averaging the global temperature tells us nothing of the real world weather as experienced by individual countries.

A glance at central England temperature back to 1659 illustrates there is no such thing as an average, the climate varies wildly with periods of warmth and cold and even those periods of warmth are interspersed with periods of cold and periods of cold are interspersed with periods of warmth. Stable periods are relatively rare.

The longest was probably the MWP but even this 400 year long period had its cold times but we could say its main characteristic were warm summers, moderate winters, limited rain and moderate winds.

The most violent weather occurred in the LIA which also had surprising periods of warmth interspersed with savage storms and ice cold winters. So is there an ‘average’ climate? Not in the real world of real countries but perhaps only in the average and artificial global temperature.

Tonyb

• leitmotif says:

“Averaging the global temperature tells us nothing of the real world weather as experienced by individual countries.”

Of course it doesn’t, Tonyb, as I have pointed out to Roy Spencer a few months ago.

Lukewarmers need to get off the fence.

• David Chappell says:

Individual climate zones might be a better reference than individual countries.

• Mike says:

”Lukewarmers need to get off the fence.”

Agreed. Pick a side. We have enough historical information now that points to natural warming being a way stronger hypothesis than the co2 nonsense.

• Phoenix44 says:

The most striking thing about all UK weather data over any length of time is that an “average” recording is extremely rare. It is almost always wetter or dryer, hotter or colder than average. It is like having a population of only quite short and quite tall people – there are very few if “average” height.

And we swing around the average on quite short time-scales. A few days quite colder than average followed by a few days quite warmer. Or as our wholly arts-educated like to shout “a months rain in just two days!”.

5. Gunga Din says:

To say “Does that “the Climate System Have a Preferred Average State’ infers that it is sentient.
The laws of nature regarding “climate” just … are. There is no “Ma’ Gaia” (Mother Nature if you prefer) to decide that some Mann has disturbed her blankets.

• Scissor says:

Your response is understandable, though the meaning in this case is more like – a tendency toward.

6. Tonyb says:

The wintry scene depicted at the head of this post are most often depicted by Brueghel paintings with the first around 1565 as Europe descended into one of the periods of the intermittent little ice age

Yet the years around 1540 were probably the hottest and driest in 500 years. So variability is the norm. Average weather is a chimera.

Tonyb

7. Bill Rocks says:

Dr. Spencer,

Excellent essay. Thanks for sharing your experience and thinking.

• Steven Mosher says:

unfortunately he is wrong

• I love a good bit of ‘proof by assertion’ from the resident warmist.
Weak, Steven. Pathetically weak.

• Kneel says:

Apparently, it’s wrong to speculate.
Or maybe that’s: it’s wrong to make simplifying assumptions.
Can’t see what else could be assumed you mean Mr Mosher – surely the genralist nature of your assertion should be applied to the entire article, if not the man.
Otherwise, why not be a little more specific? You might teach something.

• Phoenix44 says:

No, you are wrong.

Oh I think I win that argument!

Seriously, nobody knows who us right or wrong, claiming knowledge that doesn’t exist is pretty pathetic.

• Chaswarnertoo says:

And we trust your opinion because? Try some evidence and proof. Tumbleweed…..

• Gard R. Rise says:

Heh. My 2-year old son uses that tactic too. Whenever he is dissatisfied with something in his life, he just says “No!” or “It’s wrong!”. Usually he resorts to shouting (or violence) when I gently point out to him that merely stating that something is wrong without providing a proper reason doesn’t necessarily, in fact, make it wrong (for the rest of the world/us/the known existence).

• Gard R. Rise says:

I’ve discovered Mosher’s argument further below, by the way. Whenever he actually explains what he means, I always find it very interesting to read his comments, uncouth as they sometimes might be. Contrary opinions are almost always useful, provided that any clear and semi-coherent argument is presented.

• Bernd Palmer says:

It’s difficult to write comments when using a smartphone while driving ..

• ResourceGuy says:

Yes, excellent essay.

8. Ed Zuiderwijk says:

About that painting. We had at home a book with many illustrations of paintings from the period. Hendrick Avercamp is another painter of such wintery landscapes, look him up. So, being familiar with those works, when mr Mann managed to get his pseudo science in print, disappearing the little ice age, I knew at once and without a shadow of a doubt that it was nonsense.

9. The climate system does indeed have a preferred steady state, but this is not a preferred steady state surface temperature, but a preferred steady state relationship between the planets emissions and the NET surface emissions, where this preferred relationship requires the surface to emit about 1.62 W/m^2 for each W/m^2 emitted by the planet. The reciprocal of this, 0.62 W/m^2 of planet emissions per W/m^2 of surface emissions, represents the dimensionless emissivity of an EQUIVALENT gray body model of the Earth whose temperature is that of the surface and whose emissions are that of the planet.

This average ratio is repeatably and testably constant across slices of latitude from pole to pole and over periods as short as 1 month, each of which, while having a different average temperature, maintains a constant average ratio of surface emissions to planet emissions. The relationship between the instantaneous incident energy and the instantaneous planet emissions is where the chaos lies, however; in the long term steady state; the average input is equal to the average output, thus the average between the input energy and surface emissions converges to the same constant ratio, albeit in a far more chaotic manner, since albedo (clouds) affect both the input energy and the surface temperature. You don’t have to take my word on any of this, as it’s all readily testable.

Some may claim that the system is more complicated than this and cite things like latent heat and other non radiant forms of energy as contributing to the radiant balance. However; all such things represent is the redistribution of existing energy around the planet and thus do not contribute to the RADIANT balance of energy entering and leaving the planet, or for that matter, even the RADIANT balance of the surface.

Others reject the idea that the planet can be so simple as to be represented as a gray body. Surely, this would have already been discovered if it was the case. The simple fact is that there’s no other physics that can quantify the relationship between temperature and W/m^2. The IPCC implicitly assumes that physics exists to quantify a linear relationship between them, but fails to identify or explain what this new physics is, especially considering that approximate linearity around the mean is all they do claim which is wildly insufficient for the analysis being used.

• Joel O'Bryan says:

If we treat the Earth as a Black Box at the TOA, then certainly what you say is true — radiant incoming-outgoing balance occurs. This is what GCM modelers hope to achieve, but frequently do not in their simulations.

But below the skin of Black Box is where we live and the interesting stuff happens.

• Joel,

Yes, interesting things happen at the micro scale, but at the macro scale, it’s even more interesting as the system MUST conform to the laws of physics, where the 2 most important ones are COE and the Stefan-Boltzmann LAW and that to accomplish this requires counter intuitive cloud behavior in order to maintain a constant effective emissivity from pole to pole. What makes this so interesting is that so much of what’s perceived as ‘complications’ are actually moot as a consequence of the predicted counter intuitive cloud behavior, which itself has been observed, confirming my hypothesis.

Apply these laws and the sensitivity takes on the deterministic value of 1/(4eoT^3), where e is the effective emissivity of 0.62 W/m^2 of emissions per W/m^2 emitted consequential to a BB at T and o is the SB constant. Plug in the average temp of 288K and the sensitivity becomes 0.3C per /m^2 which is below the IPCC’s lower limit of 0.4C per W/m^2 which is so small already, the IPCC doesn’t even bother to construct an RCP scenario around it.

BTW, the data couldn’t be any more conclusive that the planet behaves like a gray body, as seen in this scatter plot, that additionally confirms a low ECS (0.3C per W/m^2 @ 288K).

The green line is the deterministic behavior of an ideal gray body whose emissivity is 0.62. The small red dots are monthly averages for each 2.5 degree slice of latitude from pole to pole and the larger dots are the averages for each slice over about 3 decades of weather satellite data. Plot monthly averages of any two climate variables against each other and no other pair has as tight of a distribution of dots as seen in this plot which is the unambiguous signature of a goal driven system.

The short blue line is the IPCC nominal ECS plotted to the same scale as the data which is so obviously wrong it’s impossible to miss.

Of special importance is the tight clustering of the blue and green long term averages where they align virtually on top of each other appearing as black dots. This indicates the exact same behavior between the hemispheres and this is the only relationship between any pair of climate variables that does not show significant differences between hemispheres. Many such plots can be found here:

Even more interesting is this scatter plot of the fraction of the surface covered by clouds vs. the surface temperature.

Note the distinctively different behavior between the 2 hemispheres (green vs. blue). Also note that the ratio of surface emissions to planet emissions is highly dependent on the amount of clouds hence my earlier assertion that a counter intuitive cloud behavior is required to maintain a constant emissivity from pole to pole. The question this raises is does a really bizarre hemisphere specific behavior of clouds coincidentally result in a mostly constant effective emissivity of 0.62 from pole to pole, or is a mostly constant effective emissivity of 0.62 from pole to pole the goal (i.e. a constant ratio between surface emissions and planet emissions) and the clouds adapt to meet this requirement. There can be only one correct answer, hence my initial assertion. I’m also closer than ever to being able to explain why 1.62 W/m^2 (the golden mean) emerges as the goal.

• Joel O’Bryan says:

There are so many reasons the IPCC ECS is fundamentally defective that it is difficult to say which one has priority.
Ultimately the CMIP ensemble is just an enormous stinking pile of poo. A very expensive pile of poo though.

• The error I’ve identified upon which all other errors depend is the incorrect linearization of the relationship between W/m^2 and temperature while ignoring the linearity required by COE between W/m^2 and other W/m^2 independent of whether the W/m^2 are quantifying forcing or emissions which in the steady state must be equal to each other. The IPCC has framed the problem incorrectly from the get go.

The only possible linear metric for the climate sensitivity is W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of forcing. The data is unambiguously clear that this relationship is indeed linear which is a necessary condition for manifesting a constant ratio quantifying W/m^2 of output (equivalent SB emissions consequential to a temperature) as a function of W/m^2 of input (forcing).

The more I’ve looked in to this, the more I’ve become concinced that an energy balance consistent with a constant emissivity from pole to pole must be the goal of the climate system. How can the data be explained in any other way? The behavior is far too complex to be just a coincidence. I’ll even go out on a limb and predict that we will observe this same ratio on exoplanets whose dynamically semi-transparent atmosphere spans an emissivity of 1/g, where g is the golden mean.

• Patrick MJD says:

Can’t treat Earth as a black body as it is not, therein lies the problem with models (And all predictions based on them).

• Patrick,

The Earth would be a black body if there was no atmosphere, just like the Moon. An atmosphere adds a layer between the source of stored energy resulting in emissions (the surface) and space that turns a black body surface into a gray body planet. In fact, it’s this grayness that’s directly responsible for a surface temperature warmer than the incident energy can support directly. Note that a gray body is not a black body. The Stefan-Boltzmann LAW quantifies both because the T^4 relationship between W/m^2 and degrees is immutable physics.

Grayness is manifested by atmospheric absorption by clouds and GHG’s that temporarily blocks surface emissions from leaving the planet. About half of the energy absorbed by the atmosphere is returned to the surface replacing emissions in excess of the solar forcing allowing a higher LTE surface temperature while the remaining half is ultimately emitted into space contributing to the planets radiant balance.

If you disagree with this, then you must be able to say what other law(s) of physics, other than the SB Law, can quantify the relationship between the surface temperature and the planets emissions? Keep in mind that the SB relationship for a gray body whose temperature is that of the surface, whose emissions are that of the planet and whose effective emissivity is 0.62 already precisely quantifies the measured relationships between the surface temperature and the planet emissions above that point on the surface.

Whatever physics you can come up with to support your position, must have the same behavior as the SB Law for a gray body, as required by the data. I will ask you to support your position in another way, which is explain what physics exhibits the behavior of the SB Law for a gray body that’s not the SB Law?

I get that many have been conditioned to believe that the climate is so complicated that only extraordinarily complex models can reproduce its behavior. This is the desired outcome of the IPCC’s pseudo-science since if people actually recognized the simple elegance of the planets bulk behavior, the IPCC would no longer have any reason to exist.

• Patrick MJD says:

Well, that is the point. IIRC, all models initialise the earth as an idealised black body radiator which it isn’t.

• Patrick,

The Earth at TOA is an EQUIVALENT black body, that is, the 255K temperature assigned to it is the equivalent temperature of its outgoing radiation of about 240 W/m^2. The surface itself is very close to an actual black body with an emissivity close to 1 and average emissions of about 390 W/m^2 corresponding to an average temperature of about 288K. The linear reduction from 390 W/m^2 at the source to 240 W/m^2 at TOA is trivially quantified as an emissivity whose value is 240/390 = 0.62.

Note that the proper way to calculate an average temperature is to calculate average emissions first, whose linear average is absolutely representative of the whole and then convert the result to an EQUIVALENT average temperature. This concept of equivalence is crucial to understanding how modeling works and why changes to averages are representative of changes to the whole. There’s no such thing as an exact model of the climate. All models are equivalent models and the best model is the simplest model that matches the data and this is unambiguously the SB Law with an emissivity of about 0.62.

The simplest proper model of the Earth is a gray body whose temperature is that of the surface and whose emission are that of the planet. This not a black body, but is a gray body, satisfying your assertion that the Earth is not a black body, but none the less the SB equation can still exactly quantify the systems behavior. Moreover; it’s trivial to connect the dots between a black body and a gray body, while it’s impossible to connect to dots from a black body radiator to what the IPCC claims happens when a thin layer of gas is inserted between a nearly ideal black body surface and space.

The SB constant and the exponent in the T^4 relationship between W/m^2 and temperature are immutable. The only possible way to change the relationship between W/m^2 and temperature is to scale it with a non unit emissivity between 0 and 1. THERE IS NO OTHER RELEVANT PHYSICS!

• Patrick MJD says:

Models.

10. James Snook says:

Good post.
The elephant in room of climate prediction is the ocean. The baby elephant in the room is cloud.

• Robertvd says:

And only the Sun can warm the ocean.

• James Snook says:

Yes, the question of how the ‘Hiroshimas’ of warming in the oceans is achieved by LW penetration tends to be hand waved away by alarmists. The proposition is that LW warms the thin film layer on the surface, altering its temperature gradient so that heat loss by conduction is reduced. I’ve never seen any numbers attached to this mechanism.

11. J Mac says:

RE: “Does the Climate System Have a Preferred Average State?”
Yes! 100,000 year continent spanning glacial periods interrupted by brief 10,000 year warming periods. Well documented science, for those that understand real climate change.

12. angech says:

ATTP has an article up on societal tipping points with the comment
“one issue in the future could be that climate change will increase the probability of us experiencing multiple, severe, climate-related events at the same time”.
The article highlights the issue Roy makes that only human induced warming is considered by warmists and the IPCC.
I pointed out the multiple probability fallacies in the statement in that going into the future alone is sufficient to increase probability without climate change needing to be invoked at all and that the reverse could also equally likely occur.
That is that that climate change will also decrease the probability of us experiencing multiple, severe, climate-related events at the same time and that the change goes could equally be beneficial.

13. jtom says:

I’m not sure about ‘A’ preferred natural states, but I suspect there are a few preferred states involving precession, orbital perturbations, and tectonics, all creating very slow processes of climate change. During transitions caused by those variables, I believe the oceans create a large inertia to any significant climate change, with perhaps the Roman Warm Period and Little Ice Age representing the two extremes for the current orbital characteristics, earth tilt, and land mass configuration.

All this, of course, precludes one-off events like an asteroid collision.

Further, I think the only thing that really has been established is that the Earth does go through periods of climate change, and a climate colder than we have today is the most common condition.

• Robertvd says:

‘ and a climate colder than we have today is the most common condition.’

only for the last 2.5 million years.

• tty says:

A bit more as a matter of fact. Four of the five latest interglacials (MIS 1, 5e, 9 and 11) are actually the warmest intervals for about 3 million years.

But before that it was warmer than now for c. 300 million years

14. angech says:

“But what if the climate system undergoes its own, substantial chaotic changes on long time scales, say 100 to 1,000 years? The IPCC assumes this does not happen. But the ocean has inherently long time scales — decades to millennia. An unusually large amount of cold bottom water formed at the surface in the Arctic in one century might take hundreds or even thousands of years before it re-emerges at the surface, say in the tropics.”
“A nonlinear dynamical system needs no external forcing to experience change.”

It is very hard to conceptually understand heat loss from the planet in general to pockets of retained or lost heat circulating out of sight.
I understand it happens but at the same time there “has” to be a balance. If unusually large amounts of cold water form in one place other areas have experienced more heat gain even if it was thousands of years ago.
External forcing still goes on with minor variations due to the variable cloud formations that the variable surface temperatures from past and more recent past events cause.
The point that this can cause global surface temperatures to increase or decrease by a degree C for over a hundred years naturally is well made.
The fact that such large amounts of heat or colds can come back for such a long time leads back to the amount of uncertainty possible.
This would allow with reasonable possibility a rise or fall of at least 3 degrees centigrade for a century plus once every other millenia. A bit like a 1 in 500 year flood event.
On a smaller local scale we see the tropics being unusually 2C colder off Darwin and every one remembers the hot blob off Alaska for years.

15. The IPCC does not want to discus any “”Facts”” which go against its long term ideological viewpoint of a Socialistic i.e. Communist World government.

Weather and the 30 year “”Climate”” average are always changing, but that is of no interest to the IPCC. Its just the smoke screen to fool all of the sadly numerous “” Useful Idiots” out there.

The politicians while pretending to actually represent the people, are in it for what they can get out of it.

MJE VK5ELL

16. Michael Carter says:

My observation of nature and my profession as a geologist are what make me a skeptic. Numbers are nice to play with, but not essential.

Everything in a nature is in a state of change. Over the long-term there is no ‘preferred’ average state. Within the short-term there may appear to be one as the essential cyclical processes, on which short-term stability is reliant, are in play. Without a degree of short-term stability natural diversity on Earth would not exist. There is a dominant state-range that makes up the chunk of the bell curve representing values within cycles. However these values will be trending in one direction over time.

Climate, like all other natural processes, acts like a pendulum on a boat, swept along by the river of time. To suggest that negative feed-backs don’t control the swing of the pendulum or that climate will reach a tipping-point is the height of stupidity IMO.

Cheers

M

17. Nicholas McGinley says:

How sceptical is “appropriately skeptical”?
It seems to me that is the same thing as asserting that however skeptical you are, it is the correct amount.
The amount could be on the continuum of phrases such as “…hardly at all, very slightly, somewhat, kind of, moderately, more or less, pretty much, rather, mostly, highly, extremely, almost completely…”, or so it seems to me.
Just sayin’.

18. Stevek says:

I’m not sure at all if the model predictions are valid. One thought is that heat finds different ways to escape. If it is humid in one area and drier in a close by area the heat will escape through the drier area. An analogy is with trying to make a home insulated. It is not so easy to insulate a home because there are many ways for the heat to escape, for example windows, chimney, poorly sealed doors and windows, and areas that the insulation did not cover.

19. F. Ross says:

Very informative post. Thank you.
Maybe it is time to kick the sand out of the UN IPCC sandbox. Make them play in the real world.

20. Loydo says:

..or how doubt-monger Roy beats the snot out of a scarecrow, ’cause BAU.

“The UN IPCC scientists who write the reports which guide international energy policy on fossil fuel use operate under the assumption that the climate system has a preferred, natural and constant average state which is only deviated from through the meddling of humans.”

First strawman. Where is this is “assumption” stated by the IPCC? Nowhere.

“whether there are other ‘external’ forcing agents of climate change, such as the sun.”

Second strawman. Who thinks there are not other external forcing agents? No one.

“But what if there isn’t only one preferred state?”

Third strawman. Who thinks there is? No one.

“But what if the climate system undergoes its own, substantial chaotic changes on long time scales, say 100 to 1,000 years? The IPCC assumes this does not happen.”

Fourth strawman. Where is this assumption stated? Nowhere.

“As a result of political influence … it will never seriously address the possibility that long-term climate change might be part of nature.”

Fifth strawman and here we get to the nub of Roy’s message: there is too much uncertainty because its too chaotic and its all political anyway so lets do nothing.

Meantime Actic ice continues to fall of a cliff, etc, etc, etc.

• clipe says:

What’s Actic ice? Or do you mean Walruses “continues to fall of a cliff”?

• Tonyb says:

Loydo

The met office until ten years ago used to have a variation of your second paragraph on their web site. So yes, that was the presumption.

Tonyb

• Loydo says:

Can you clarify what you say they were presuming?

• Tonyb says:

Loydo

That the earth had a stable climate until man started interfering with it

Tonyb

• Mike says:

”Meantime Actic ice continues to fall of a cliff, etc, etc, etc.”

So what?
Would you perhaps be more at ease if ice were growing? Or maybe staying the same forever?

• Chaswarnertoo says:

Far too polite. Loydo refuses to accept reality, being a believer.

• TimTheToolMan says:

[…] strawman

All those assumptions are stated in the models. The control runs dont deviate over the long term.

• Loydo says:

“All those assumptions are stated in the models.”

Care to provide some evidence?

• TimTheToolMan says:

Just go and look at the control run results. Its an implicit assumption by the modelers.

21. Steven Mosher says:

“They construct their climate models so that the models do not produce any warming or cooling unless they are forced to through increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gases, aerosols, or volcanic eruptions.”

WRONG.

You can produce warming and cooling by changing TSI as well. Further, in all models even if you hold the sun (TSI) and everything else constant you will still get change. FFS Roy havent you every looked at the
CONTROL RUNS? Jesus. what happens when you hold everything constant? YOU STILL GET SOME CHANGE. this is one way the impact of natural variability is assess

• Patrick MJD says:

Changing TSI by how much? We have Lief (Sp?) who says the difference between solar TSI minima and maxima is not enough to affect climate and temperatures.

• Joel O'Bryan says:

AR5 WG1 Chapter 8 say this on TSI:

the few tenths of a percent bias in the absolute TSI value has minimal consequences for climate simulations because the larger uncertainties in cloud properties have a greater effect on the radiative balance. “

Thus the cloud formation-water vapor properties, precipitation rate the modellers tune and hand massage to achieve whatever sensitivity they expect creates internal variability and an uncertainty magnitudes greater than historical absolute excursions of TSI min to max.

• Patrick MJD says:

Well, modellers…

• Mike Jonas says:

Steven Mosher, I think that you have stuffed up on this one. The fact is that unforced internal variability will sum to zero over time, or basic laws of physics are violated. In other words, the models necessarily operate as described by Roy Spencer.

Am I correct in saying that unforced internal variability will sum to zero over time, or basic laws of physics are violated? Well, I’m quoting from a comment further down in this thread – by Steven Mosher.

• J Mac says:

Just ‘this one’? Mosher’s bias keeps him so stuffed he needs a month of Exlax to clear his vision.

• Mike says:

For the life of me I cannot understand that people still defend climate modelling and hold a straight face.

• Rod Evans says:

Mike, It is one of the benefits of having two faces…. 🙂

• Chaswarnertoo says:

It’s amazing how hard it is to convince a man of truth when his income depends on denying reality.

• TimTheToolMan says:

Mosher writes

CONTROL RUNS? Jesus. what happens when you hold everything constant? YOU STILL GET SOME CHANGE. this is one way the impact of natural variability is assess

Sure. Noise but no “change”. From

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2011JD016263

Santer tells us

[1] We compare global‐scale changes in satellite estimates of the temperature of the lower troposphere (TLT) with model simulations of forced and unforced TLT changes.
[…]
Our results show that temperature records of at least 17 years in length are required for identifying human effects on global‐mean tropospheric temperature.

And this is because models’ control runs are noisy but neutral for change and only after 17 years can a distinction be made between noise and signal. In other words the models remain neutral and observations of change become significant.

Specifically

We analyze three different types of simulation in the CMIP‐3 multi‐model archive: (1) pre‐industrial control runs with no changes in either anthropogenic or natural external influences on climate. These simulations provide information on internal climate noise;

• Michael S. Kelly LS, BSA Ret. says:

TSI varies by 6.9% every 182.5 days, as the Earth goes from perihelion to aphelion. That’s a change of 94 W/m^2, and dwarfs all other solar variations combined. Almost every time TSI variation is discussed, I ask how the climate models respond to this, and have never gotten an answer (perhaps because I got tired of waiting for one, and stopped checking).

22. Gary Pearse says:

Roy, given that warming occurs when exit of the insolation heating from the sun is delayed from escaping to outer space, what do you think of the phenomenon of rapid convective by-passing of the lower troposphere component of the thermal system? This must delay the exiting heat even more than radiative gases given that the interruption time for convection is orders of magnitude greater than for the the speed of photons.

My eyes were opened by the WUWT article on this topic by Stephen Wilde and John Hultquist who showed that convective heat transfer may well be the main way that warming of a planet takes place.

• I think it was Philip Mulholland rather than John Hultquist.
See my comment below for a reminder.

• Gary Pearse says:

My apologies to Phillip Mulholland!

23. Chris Hanley says:

The assumption that there is a ‘preferred, constant and average’ climate state is analogous to the religion-imposed geocentric model of the cosmos and is similarly quasi-religious or teleological, akin to the Gaia hypothesis IMO.
For some reason people find the idea of chaos and purposelessness in nature disturbing and unacceptable.

• Loydo says:

Unless its a false assumption.

24. Stevek says:

Are the models valid? Nobody really knows. The earlier models certainly were not as they greatly overestimated the sensitivity. As any analogy many drugs have cured disease in a mouse model, but when applied to humans they did not work. Is the mouse model valid ? It is to a point. We need more acknowledgment from the climate modelers that their models may not be valid. It doesn’t mean that the models have no value. The models DO have value, but I think being honest about their limitations would help move the debate forward.

• Mike says:

”The models DO have value”

Only to the people employed to piss-fart around with them.

25. Steven Mosher says:

a few minutes of research shows that Roy is wrong.

the first mistake he makes is leaving TSI out of the things that drive changes in GCM.

Here is the thing. Chaos, in an of itself cannot cause long term climate change. If you do not change the energy
IN to the system, then the change will be limited to what is known as UNFORCED INTERNAL VARIABILITY.
you cannot, over the long run, create more energy in the system out of nothing.

unforced internal variability will sum to zero over time, or basic laws of physics are violated.

To get a picture of unforced variability you do control runs. you hold all forcings constant
( the sun, ghgs, aerosols) and you let the model run. YOU STILL GET CHANGES ( because) chaos
But over time those changes sum to zero.

What kind of changes? things like El nino

https://atmos.washington.edu/~david/Atwood_ENSO_etal_2016.pdf

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41612-018-0043-7

• Richard S Courtney says:

Steven Mosher,

You say,
“you cannot, over the long run, create more energy in the system out of nothing.”

True, but so what?
1.
You can change both the Earth’s average surface temperature and its average radiative temperature by redistributing that heat, and the oceans move much heat.
2.
Stores of energy in the system (notably, ice) can add energy to the system behaviour or remove it from the system behaviour by melting or freezing.
etc.

Richard

• TimTheToolMan says:

Mosher writes

Here is the thing. Chaos, in an of itself cannot cause long term climate change. If you do not change the energy

That is an assertion, not a fact. The earth is big and not a bathtub where change is readily reflected throughout. Regional climate change over the long term is possible. We know this to be true because of archaeological evidence of Vikings in Greenland. I’m pretty sure they weren’t driving SUVs.

• Ben Vorlich says:

Please clarify this energy /mass thing. When a fossil fuel is used to create energy is produced from the mass of the fuel in the classic e=mc^2? So was the mass being converted into energy created by photosynthesis or some other natural process or are the chemical bonds mass less and in fact overall there is a mass loss?

• David Hoffer says:

When a fossil fuel is used to create energy is produced from the mass of the fuel in the classic e=mc^2?

No. E=MC^2 applies to splitting or fusion of atoms (nuclear bombs & reactors do this).

Burning fossil fuels breaks up molecules, not atoms. The energy released by breaking up molecules and attaching them to different molecules (CH4 => CO2 + 2x H2O) releases energy, but doesn’t change mass.

• Bob boder says:

Steven

With an ocean system that can store and release massive amounts energy on times scale of thousands of years you don’t need a change in input to have long term global variations in temperature that are in fact relatively small in comparison to the mean energy state of the system. What you see as Global Climatic change is a rounding error.

26. angech says:

Mosher,
Roy’s full comment was
“The UN IPCC scientists who write the reports which guide international energy policy on fossil fuel use operate under the assumption that the climate system has a preferred, natural and constant average state which is only deviated from through the meddling of humans. They construct their climate models so that the models do not produce any warming or cooling unless they are forced to through increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gases, aerosols, or volcanic eruptions.”
I.e not changing the TSI
“what happens when you hold everything constant? YOU STILL GET SOME CHANGE.”
To run a computer programme you need to introduce changing elements, one is called time.
You can only get the possibility of change when you allow a change in some variable to occur.

27. Hans Brinker says:

I’m Hans Brinker (of the silver skates, you know, that guy!). Please bring back the “little ice age”, it’s hard to skate on canals that aren’t frozen.
Thank you. Hans

28. Bob Irvine says:

Mosher
The AR5 IPCC Forcings bar graph for the period 1750 to 2011 shows an increase in Anthropogenic Forcings of 2.29 W/M2 (1.13 to 3.33) and all natural Forcings, in this case identified as solar, are said to have added only 0.05 W/M2 in this period.
Internal variability is then said to explain all other temperature change.
It is not hard to remove the Anthropogenic Forcings from our best temperature series and see what is left.
I have done this exercise out of interest. The result shows internal variability adding significantly to global temperature for 50 years followed by a precipitous drop after about 1990.
The result looks unlikely to me.

29. Dr. Spencer mentions chaotic system and feedback mechanisms, which some may use to try to explain what’s going on.
Which reminded of in the 1980s, when Chaos Theory became the buzz. “Fractals” and chaos stuff was applied to most anything. Within this was the “Butterfly Effect”, whereby a butterfly flapping its wings in the tropics would eventually set off a storm in the Atlantic.
“Chaos” and “Fractals” were even applied to the financial markets. As in stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities.
Serious financial researchers were trying to forecast trend and trend changes using Chaos Theory.
At the time, the only concept that seemed worthwhile was “Constrained Randomness”.
And, it is a good explanation for the history of financial markets and climate.
On the latter, there has been very long-term trends, such as the current interglacial.
Within this there has been some weather extremes.
Like Vancouver suffering its first frost on October 5th, when the typical is a month later.

• Gary Mount says:

“Like Vancouver suffering its first frost on October 5th”

We haven’t had frost yet this fall in the Vancouver region. We did have record lows however( +1C ). My weather app is predicting freezing overnight temperatures for tuesday, October 29. I will finally have to bring some of my plants indoors for the winter).
Our lawn sprinkling restrictions don’t end until the end of the month. The restrictions keep getting extended for pure propagandist reasons.

30. les7 says:

Roy, consider for a moment that any equilibrium is a balance of at least two forces. Call them X2 and Y2 ( my phone is not doing powers) Mathematically that is X2 + Y2 = 0. The solution to that equation is a U shaped graph (or upside down U shaped) with either a single minimum or a single maximum. I’m sure you know this

A third order equation – X3 – solves with a maximum and minimum. Stability could be seen as oscillation between them.

Radiation is a fourth order equation, X4, and those graphs have a curvy W shape, with either two minimums and a maximum or two maximums and a minimum ( for the upside down version)..

The implications should be obvious- stability oscillates around those maximums and minimums

There is more than one solution, stability point.

31. Patrick MJD says:

Does the Earth system have any concept of what climate is, what a climate state is, what an preferred average is? I would guess the Earth system hasn’t a clue what they are and just exists.

Dr Spencer’s comment about the IPCC charter being written around anthropogenic causes is perhaps key to understanding why this whole, mad CAGW thing keeps running.

It is not so much that non-anthropogenic mechanisms are or are not in evidence it is just that only anthropogenic explanations get rewarded with IPCC recognition and therefore indirectly, funding.

The great green blob is not interested in the science per see, it is ony interested in a scientific basis to blame some human entity, be that western capitalism or whoever.

33. Jones says:

Average state?

Indeed there is.

An average global mean temperature of 16.7138163421 degrees of Celsius +/- 0.00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 degrees of Celsius.

Percentage atmospheric nitrogen of 77.826361616362616263748882153% +/- 0.00000000000000000000000000000000001%

Zero carbons of course.

Oxygen? We should get rid of that entirely. The stuff’s far too reactive.

I’m sure and act of parliament (or a UN diktat) will sort all that out no prob.

• Chaswarnertoo says:

More taxes! That always works…….

34. Michael Carter says:

On how nature works. Take river/stream drainage systems:

The drainage system architecture evolves to carry the seasonal variation of water flow and sediments with near maximum efficiency. Within natural waterways there are some fascinating mathematical relationships:

– On a given gradient and topography the length ratio between rapids and pools will remain similar
– The banks will overflow on average once/year
– Short of being on a fault-line or confined by a rock mass the channel will never be straight

But

The stream bed will migrate laterally over time or change its channel through erosion and deposition at the banks.

My belief is that climate is an evolved system involving all components within ecology with the purpose of moderating temperature variation with efficiency in spite of forcing variation. It will take a heck of lot more than a blip in atmospheric CO2 levels to make it even sneeze.

If my theory is right there should be a decade-scale down-trend in temperatures sometime within the next (say) 30 years. These are the cycles within a trend. There is no such thing as a straight trend. There is always a lag period while negative feedback components (e.g. plankton/vegetation) within the system build their response. I am convinced that we have little understanding yet as to what the complete negative feedback system entails.

I recall driving for several hundred KM through a flood basalt landscape in Ethiopia. Outcrops displayed up to 12 different events of up to 4 m thickness. This is just one of several traps around the world each of which probably had a activity duration of centuries. What was the impact of these throughout the globe? Hell on earth I imagine. Yet, here we are arguing about a storm in a tea cup.

The climate system has evolved. Without its inherent resilience we would not be here.

M

• Mike says:

”If my theory is right there should be a decade-scale down-trend in temperatures sometime within the next (say) 30 years.”
”Yet, here we are arguing about a storm in a tea cup.”

Yes I agree. And therefore long term climate modelling is at present a complete joke. So much so that any discussion of them should be banned for wasting everyone’s time.

“But the ocean has inherently long time scales — decades to millennia. An unusually large amount of cold bottom water formed at the surface in the Arctic in one century might take hundreds or even thousands of years before it re-emerges at the surface, say in the tropics. This time lag can introduce a wide range of complex behaviors in the climate system, and is capable of producing climate change all by itself.”

I think Mosher missed that part of Spencer’s article, or he simply does not understand the concept.

• Joel O'Bryan says:

I think Mosh has had too much EtOH tonight.

36. Mike Jonas says:

Roy Spencer – I’m not sure that this statement of yours is correct:

If there is such a preferred average state, then the forcing-feedback paradigm of climate change is valid. In that system of thought, any departure of the global average temperature from the Nature-preferred state is resisted by radiative “feedback”, that is, changes in the radiative energy balance of the Earth in response to the too-warm or too-cool conditions. Those radiative changes would constantly be pushing the system back to its preferred temperature state.

My understanding is that the climate models are coded with positive feedbacks – that is, that an increase (or decrease) in temperature caused for example by increase (or decrease) in atmospheric CO2 will be reinforced by ‘feedbacks”. My understanding also is that these “feedbacks” operate regardless of the cause of the initial temperature change. So, for example, they would operate equally if the original change was caused by a TSI change.

These positive feedbacks in the models appear to me to be the exact opposite of your description.

37. boffin77 says:

Dr. Spencer, I have long believed that there is at least a high probability that the climate system is a (multi-year-Stabilizing) Chaotic Force Feedback (SCFF) system with long time constants (long time constants are by definition – if they were short time constants we would call it “weather”). Climate scientists who say “the science is settled” are presumably denying this possibility – a denial that is fundamentally unscientific unless and until it has been studied to death.
You are precisely right to point out that the phase space diagrams point to SCFF – not least because measurables such as average temperature are remarkably stable year-to-year. If the Earth-system is so sensitive to greenhouse gas warming that 100ppm of CO2 will initiate destabilizing feedbacks, then one extra-humid summer on the East Coast would initiate destabilizing feedbacks.
What would stabilizing feedbacks SCFF look like? Almost certainly they have to do with water vapour (credit to Eschenbach for first introducing this possibility to me) because it is (a) spatially varying and (b) the only greenhouse gas strong enough to fight CO2. Atmospheric water just has to change state (liquid to gas) to shift from a reflector of incoming light (clouds) to a blocker of outgoing heat (humidity).

38. Rod Evans says:

A period of contemplation may be required by the climate computer model enthusiasts. Can I suggest spending a summers day outside, from early morning through to dusk. Look at the sky and watch as clouds form. Watch as they come and they go all in the same portion of sky,with little to indicate what any particular part of the sky will do next. Then ask yourselves, does my much loved program have so much detail written into its code, that it can account for this chaotic completely unpredictable change in transient solar reflectivity. If the computer model has such detail, then perhaps we should pay attention to the outputs. If it doesn’t, then it is simply a toy fascinating but lacking in sufficient process detail to be of any value and unable to predict anything with accuracy.

39. Phoenix44 says:

Non-linear, highly complex systems where everything affects everything else are unlikely to have a long-term steady state, even with no changes in external inputs. They may fall into such states at random but that is simply random. How many possible combinations of each possible state of each parameter are there? Tens of billions? Trillions? The differences between each combination may be quite small when netted but each one is a different state, not a steady state – even though it appears to us to be a steady state because we measure only a few things at a gross level and quite inaccurately.

There’s no steady state, just the illusion of one because of our limitations of measurement.

40. There is, of course, a stable average state which climate always works back towards.
The essential outcome to sustain an atmosphere long term is to ensure that there is always sufficient kinetic energy at the surface to provide both radiation to space equalling radiation in from space and to support the mass of the atmosphere off the surface against the downward force of gravity in hydrostatic equilibrium.
If either of those conditions are not satisfied for any length of time then the atmosphere must either be lost to space or will freeze to the ground.
The mechanism for constant ongoing adjustments is variable convection which involves a combination of locally and regionally changing lapse rate slopes with the inevitable consequence of shifting climate zone boundaries.
It has long been known that to maintain hydrostatic equilibrium it is necessary for convective changes to neutralise radiative imbalances but the implications of that principle for climate have been ignored by the radiative theorists.
One need only look at the analyses by me and Philip Mulholland to verify the outcome on multiple worlds with atmospheres.

https://www.researchgate.net/project/Dynamic-Atmosphere-Energy-Transport-Climate-Model

I have been unable to post this at Roy’s site because I remain banned for life as a result of trying to politely remind him of some basic meteorology. Perhaps he might reconsider?

41. John says:

From a somewhat naive point of view, the answer to the question at the head of the article is a resounding yes. Is calling it preferred wrong? I would say not really as it is used to introduce a topic of learning. After all similar phraseology is used in secondary school chemistry and physics when teaching atomic structure, with the ground state being referred to as the preferred state, or the explanation of diatomic structure for all gases except the noble gases. Then there’s nature abhors a vacuum.
Personally I am of the opinion that there are multiple ground states for the climate, dependent on the multiple factors that are involved, TSI across the whole EM spectrum, orbital mechanics, plate tectonics, solar electromagnetic activity (sunspots etc) and cosmic ray interactions, then there’s adiabatic changes as well as the influences of water vapour, Carbon Dioxide etc.

42. Richard S Courtney says:

Roy Spencer,

My opinion of this matter has remained unchanged for the last two decades, and during that time I have repeatedly posted that view in many places, e.g. see here
It seems appropriate for me to post it again here.

The climate models are based on assumptions that may not be correct. The basic assumption used in the models is that change to climate is driven by change to radiative forcing. And it is very important to recognise that this assumption has not been demonstrated to be correct. Indeed, it is quite possible that there is no force or process causing climate to vary. I explain this as follows.

The climate system is seeking an equilibrium that it never achieves. The Earth obtains radiant energy from the Sun and radiates that energy back to space. The energy input to the system (from the Sun) may be constant (although some doubt that), but the rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the Sun ensure that the energy input/output is never in perfect equilibrium.

The climate system is an intermediary in the process of returning (most of) the energy to space (some energy is radiated from the Earth’s surface back to space). And the Northern and Southern hemispheres have different coverage by oceans. Therefore, as the year progresses the modulation of the energy input/output of the system varies. Hence, the system is always seeking equilibrium but never achieves it.

Such a varying system could be expected to exhibit oscillatory behaviour. And, importantly, the length of the oscillations could be harmonic effects which, therefore, have periodicity of several years. Of course, such harmonic oscillation would be a process that – at least in principle – is capable of evaluation.

However, there may be no process because the climate is a chaotic system. Therefore, the observed oscillations (ENSO, NAO, etc.) could be observation of the system seeking its chaotic attractor(s) in response to its seeking equilibrium in a changing situation.

Very, importantly, there is an apparent ~900 year oscillation that caused the Roman Warm Period (RWP), then the Dark Age Cool Period (DACP), then the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), then the Little Ice Age (LIA), and the present warm period (PWP). All the observed rise of global temperature in the twentieth century could be recovery from the LIA that is similar to the recovery from the DACP to the MWP. And the ~900 year oscillation could be the chaotic climate system seeking its attractor(s). If so, then all global climate models and ‘attribution studies’ utilized by IPCC and CCSP are based on the false premise that there is a force or process causing climate to change when no such force or process exists.

But the assumption that climate change is driven by radiative forcing may be correct. If so, then it is still extremely improbable that – within the foreseeable future – the climate models could be developed to a state whereby they could provide reliable predictions. This is because the climate system is extremely complex. Indeed, the climate system is more complex than the human brain (the climate system has more interacting components – e.g. biological organisms – than the human brain has interacting components – e.g. neurones), and nobody claims to be able to construct a reliable predictive model of the human brain. It is pure hubris to assume that the climate models are sufficient emulations for them to be used as reliable predictors of future climate when they have no demonstrated forecasting skill.

Richard

43. The UN IPCC scientists who write the reports which guide international energy policy on fossil fuel use operate under the assumption that the climate system has a preferred, natural and constant average state which is only deviated from through the meddling of humans. They construct their climate models so that the models do not produce any warming or cooling unless they are forced to through increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gases, aerosols, or volcanic eruptions.

Excellent article Roy, this statement is unquestionably and undeniably true. Mosher and Lloydo can deny it with all the bluster they want, but this belief in Edenic stasis is as central to contemporary popular green ideology and the existence of God is to monotheistic religion. Mosher and Lloydo are of course intelligent enough to realise that Edenic stasis is false, but they are silent and make no attempt to contradict the assumption of Edenic stasis that underlies all alarmist climate narrative.

The term “pre-industrial climate” assumes Edenic stasis, that is, that before human CO2 emissions, there was one climate, one temperature, one CO2 level, one humidity, one sea temperature, one everything.

This is where climate double speak, or Parceltongue, comes in. The scientific literature of course is filled with evidence from ice ages and all past climate, that there was never any Edenic stasis. Journalists and activists don’t read scientific papers. Or if they do, they learn climate doublespeak-parceltongue. “Le plus ca change, le plus c’est la meme chose.” The more it changes, the more it stays the same. One reality for professional science. Another one for the political narrative. Side by side in perfect harmony.

44. bonbon says:

I would hazard guess that the good Dr. has acquired some uncertainty about models after Pat Frank quantified that not too long ago?
The science is not settled, rather uncertain?

45. Javier says:

The climate system has a preferred natural average determined by the distribution of insolation according to Milankovitch forcing, and this preferred state is not constant but changes so slowly that we can assume it is constant over the period of one or two centuries. What most climate scientists don’t realize is that the forcing-feedback changes to the climate system are adjusted to the preferred Milankovitch average so that the bigger the departure the stronger the feedbacks to return to it. The Little Ice Age constituted a strong departure from the preferred Milankovitch average towards the cold side, and was followed by a strong feedback-driven rebound. We are now in a strong departure from the preferred Milankovitch average towards the warm side, so growing feedbacks will act as an impediment to further warming.

Global warming is set to decelerate, not to accelerate, until a time in the future when it will naturally revert. Our effect on climate is not enough to drive the system.

• Loydo says:

“the bigger the departure the stronger the feedbacks to return to it”

If that was all there was to it then over the longer term temperature would closely correlate with the Milankovitch cycle.

• Javier says:

The longer term temperature does closely correlate with the Milankovitch cycle

https://i.imgur.com/fI1uUqZ.png

This is known since the mid-70s when δ¹⁸O was measured in benthic cores.

Same for the Holocene with multiple global proxies

https://i.imgur.com/GiJgCwo.png

Eventually temperature will return to its Milankovitch preferred state. People will like that a lot less than global warming.

• Loydo says:

You say above “The Little Ice Age… was followed by a strong feedback-driven rebound. We are now in a strong departure… towards the warm side, so growing feedbacks will act as an impediment to further warming.” In other words the system is “rebounding” over periods of decades but there are periods of tens of thousands of years with poor correlation.

• Javier says:

Yes, we are in a strong upward departure driven by the rebound from the LIA, by a long period of above average solar activity, and by the anthropogenic effect. The rebound from the LIA was over about 100 years ago, or so. Solar activity won’t go higher that it has been during the 20th century, so it is up to the anthropic effect to fight the increasing strength of feedbacks trying to return the temperature to the preferred natural average. This means decelerating warming, not accelerating as the models say.

Nature has a preferred natural average that changes over time, but it is almost never there in a scale of centuries because of the lags and overreactions. In a scale of tens of thousands of years the correlation used to be much better, but the accumulation of extra-polar ice during glacial periods since the Mid-Pleistocene Transition was too much to be melted by obliquity forcing alone. Hence interglacials started to skip some obliquity oscillations (it can be hindcasted and forecasted which ones) and the correlation became poor, but still interglacials only happen when obliquity is high and the system can move towards its preferred natural average. The poor correlation does not indicate a lack of causal relation but the inability at certain times of the system to approach its preferred state by the massive ice build up.

• Javier
If I’m not mistaken, currently (post MPR) an interglacial requires an obliquity peak – lagged by 6500 years for ocean thermal “inertia”, plus coincident peaks in eccentricity and both precession and the amplitude of precession modulation (which is practically the same thing as eccentricity). Thus – as you say – we get an interglacial every 2-3 obliquity peaks. (When an eccentricity peak is half way between two obliquity peaks then we get a double-header interglacial e.g. 200, 600 kya.) Before the MPR ~ 1 Mya, the system was easier to pull to interglacial and an interglacial happened with every single obliquity peak (after a lag).

The big picture would be that the climate system is moving slowly from hot house to ice house attractors. There is a transitional period of flicker between the two attractors that we are now in. But as the system as a whole sinks deeper into a cold place, the affinity of the warm attractor diminishes. If the trend continues the eventually we get permanent deep glaciation.

The same thing would happen when we move out of, as well as into, a period of deep glaciation. It’s been found that at the end of the Marinoan glaciation about 640 million years ago, just before (or even during) the Cambrian explosion, there was also glacial-interglacial flicker:

https://www.nature.com/articles/ngeo2502

• Javier says:

Phil, that is what the data indicates.

The big picture would be that the climate system is moving slowly from hot house to ice house attractors. There is a transitional period of flicker between the two attractors that we are now in. But as the system as a whole sinks deeper into a cold place, the affinity of the warm attractor diminishes. If the trend continues the eventually we get permanent deep glaciation.

But the system appears to have stabilized and the planet is not cooling further. The flickering has increased in amplitude and this results in very cold glacials and very warm interglacials. Post MPT interglacials are actually warmer than Early Pleistocene interglacials.

My opinion is that we are at the bottom of the Late Cenozoic Ice Age, and the planet will remain in this situation for a few million years before starting slowly to get out of the Ice Age, something that can take another 50 million years.

• Loydo says:

Interesting discussion and while it maybe true that, apart from when passing through tipping points and despite some noise the climate tends back towards the TSI trend.
However this: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/styles/full_page_width/public/Reconstructed-Northern-Hemisphere-annual-temperature-during-the-last-2000-years-v2.jpg?itok=RPG6MRlA does not support your statement: “This means decelerating warming, not accelerating…”

Further, this has only been true for the Pliocene (apart from what Phil mentioned), liberating 1Tt of CO2 ends the Pliocene. So by “eventually” you mean when that exhaust plume has largely cleared?

• Javier says:

However this: … does not support your statement: “This means decelerating warming, not accelerating…”

The data neither supports nor weakens the deceleration hypothesis. When we look at the temperature rate of change in HadCRUT4 what we see is the two big periods of warming from 1910-1945 and 1975-2005. The big El Niño of 2014-2015 is very clear too, but since 1997 the rate of warming has been decreasing, and since 2016 it has turned negative again. This is why 2016 has been warmer than any subsequent year and it is likely to remain so. While we can expect the warming to be negative over the next 15 years, to see if long-term the warming is decelerating we will have to wait until the next warming period centered in 2060-2065.
https://i.imgur.com/V5RZaPJ.png

liberating 1Tt of CO2 ends the Pliocene.

Well that is not a fact, is it? That is what you and others believe. Paleoclimate data does not support the hypothesis that CO2 drives climate. Then we have the fact that glaciations start when CO2 is highest and proceed even when CO2 is not reduced for many thousands of years. So your group considers that this time it will be different without much support from evidence. How lucky we are. But even if that hypothesis was correct (it isn’t), it also requires that we continue emitting increasing amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere and that has two problems. First, we are trying not to. Second, we are reaching peak oil (or we wouldn’t bother fracking), and peak coal isn’t far behind. Our times of exponentially increasing emissions are about to end.

• Phil Salmon says:

Javier
Yes I remember the data you posted about the coldest point being around 200,000 years ago.

Lloydo
I think you meant Pleistocene, not Pliocene (last ~3 million years of glacial-interglacial alternation).

46. Phil Salmon says:

But a nonlinear dynamical system needs no external forcing to experience change. I’m not saying that the MWP and LIA were not externally forced, only that their explanation does not necessarily require external forcing.

This is an extremely important point.
Assuming all climate variation is from solar forcing is exactly the same mistake as assuming it is all CO2 forcing.
The nonlinear-chaotic system changes by itself with no need of external forcing.

You can also have both.

Oscillation driven by internal dynamic but entrained, in either simple or complex ways, by external periodic forcing.

47. Phil Salmon says:

An excellent article from Dr Spencer which makes a compelling and vitally important point, and to which little needs to be added.

and so the models must be tinkered with until they produce what might be considered to be the “null hypothesis” behavior, which in their worldview means no long-term warming or cooling.

Ed Lorenz In 1962 defines the null hypothesis in his paper “Deterministic Nonperiodic Flow”. A simple climate simulation in which there was no change in any external forcing, produced endless change in the climate state, in a pattern that resembled (but is not) random walk.

• In short – Lorenz’ discovery is the cornerstone of climate science:

For climate, change is the null hypothesis.

• Phil Salmon says:

If that curve is true then no – the spike is unlikely to be internal.

48. Kevin kilty says:

I have tried to suggest, without success, that the idea of a long term mean temperature may not apply to the Earth for about 25 years now. Few people acknowledge it to be possible. And one may not even have to have a set of stable states to wander amongst, but just a very broad, flat extremum in parameter space in which the climate wanders, being pushed around by rather small changes to input.

With regard to variations to TSI as an input, let’s suppose it is as large as $2-4 \, W/m^2$. There is also water vapor feedback which will operate on this change to magnify it, change its phase, etc, etc. It seems there is plenty of known variability, to which one also has to add our uncertainty of the explicit factors in a model (parameterization particularly) and the uncertainty of potentially having incomplete models in the first place, to credibly estimate how well climate models should be expected to project future temperatures — or to credibly identify one factor versus another as the cause of a climate excursion.

49. jeff says:

There could just be a self obsessed species, full of it’s own self importance with the ability to make observations of it’s surroundings. They could even collate those observations that span a whole two hundred years and pretend that it somehow matters when it comes to observing the Weather.
They could even invent a whole array of fine tuned equipment dedicated to measuring and interpreting their understanding of Weather and develop an entire industry dedicated towards predicting the future.
They could classify it, spend billions of dollars devoted to predicting it, develop whole scientific classifications and denote a label for those who spend a lifetime dedicated to such endevours.

But Weather will still be Weather, and the best of the best will still struggle to predict it three days out let alone three decades out.

Thirty years on and the IPCC is still yet to get a Single thing right, Thirty years on, I can still rely upon my local Termites building new mud that Rain will arrive in the following next three weeks.

How long will this charade continue ?

50. Brian R Catt says:

Yes. Its glacial without the lithospheric effects. Also where the climate spends most of its time.

The only thing that varies that is the 100Ka, was 41Ka, interglacial warming events of some +8 degrees average SST (was nearer 4 degs for the 4!Ka interglacials). This is flat lined after a short 7Ka of warming by the natural feedbacks from oceanic evaporation, until the surplus heat from within reduces then dissipates, the short warm interglacial with its couple of degrees solar driven ups and downs ends, as will probably civilisation as nation states battle to move to a survivable climate and move ports 130metres downhill, and the stable equilibrium global SST returns slowly to glacial levels, until the next interglacial event recurs, as a repeat result of the varying combination of all three main milankovitch cycles’ gravitational effects on the oceanic crust. Solid gravitational tides return to 1 metre from 2+metres per day.

Eventually the amount of energy available from the 100Ka eccentricity effect will be inadequate to reach the flat line interglacial max point where water vapour seriously intervenes, just as the 41Ka events ran out of adequate impulse energy 1 Million years ago, and now can only vary the effect of the 100Ka cycle. Not yet.

I have described how this can happen, by the large variation in the average output of the 100,000 or so large submarine volcanoes that is observed and known to occur at the three main Milankovitch gravitational variability cycles of eccentricity, obliquity and precession. The change in emissions at these times is enough to warm the oceans the required amount by direct volcanic heat of 6×10^25 Joules in 7Ka, and then regresses to the more normal stable levels of warming at around 1×10^22 Joules pa before returning to the stable/quiescent glacial phase of the cycle.. Paper with all the description and quantification below. Nice simple deterministic stuff using real physics. No models, other than deterministic ones.

Without this actual, not modelled, volcanic effect of ocean submarine volcanicity every interglacial, massively underestimated in amount and variability by geological and climate science “consensus”, the natural stable state from external effects is ice age glacial. Simples! Next question please.

http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3259379

51. Phil Salmon says:

Here’s one.
All interglacials following the MPR (last million years) have happened exactly 6500 years after a peak in the obliquity Milankovitch cycle:

https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/figure-35.png

This is understandable as obliquity is the Milankovitch cycle with the biggest effect on insolation. The lag of 6500 years is important, this is the length of time it takes for a changed insolation to significantly change ocean temperatures.

So the above graph makes sense of orbitally driven insolation change drives the glacial-interglacial cycle. But if glacial termination was driven by volcanoes, how could the 6500 year lag be explained?

Volcanoes are not a driver of climate.

52. David Blenkinsop says:

“If the climate system has multiple, stable climate states, each with its own set of slightly different energy flows that still produce global energy balance and relatively constant temperatures (whether warmer or cooler), then the “forcing-feedback framework” (FFF, as my Australian friend Christopher Game likes to call it) would not apply to these climate variations, because there is no normal, average climate state to which ‘feedback’ is constantly nudging the system back toward.”

Now, granted that the earth’s climate (including all that danged “weather”) is *very* complicated, I still wonder if the above is going in the direction of complicating things just a bit *too* much? At any given time, we are going to be very far from knowing where on earth to measure a ‘true’ average temperature. Plus, as far as *time* is concerned, who knows how far we might currently be lagging ‘behind’ (versus whatever the overall solar power flow is tending to ‘set’ as an average temperature over time)? There can be lots of fluctuational possibilities, I’m sure, including ones that ‘plateau’ at a somewhat lower temperature (i.e., ice ages). However, is that really telling us that there simply *is* no one overall normative temperature for the whole planet? It seems to be almost a matter of common sense that there should be a normative average temperature over some long period of time, even if it is nearly impossible to tell for sure which fluctuation or variation we are going through relative to the ‘current normal’, this exact temperature being one that we can only guess at?

For comparison, just think of the old concern over “the earth might become like Venus”. Venus has a different distance from the Sun, a different atmosphere, different overall solar flow and temperature balance. The thick atmosphere there has quite the lapse rate with height too, with the upper layers cool enough that it is harder to get rid of heat than you might think from the hot surface, etc. Does anyone want to say that the Earth doesn’t have a different ‘normal’ average temperature than Venus?

• Patrick MJD says:

Alarmists still roll out that “Earth will be like Venus due to CO2” rubbish all the time. They are told Earth has CO2 in the atmosphere and so too Venus (And Mars) and they equate CO2 with “heat”. Forget Mars, it’s too cold. Earth is cool Venus, due to CO2, is hot. And they cannot be persuaded to think otherwise. CO2 on Earth is ~410ppm/v, or 0.041%, is all they need to believe Earth will become a Venus unless we suck all CO2 out of the air. Venus is ~95% CO2. The main reason Venus is hot at the surface is, primarily, due to the mass of the atmosphere which is about 90 times that of the Earth.

Ideal gas laws at work.

• Venus has the same ‘normal’ temperature as Earth at the same pressure within its atmosphere subject only to an adjustment for distance from the sun. That has been known for a long time but the implication has been ignored.

• Patrick MJD says:

Normal for Venus. Still hot due to the ideal gas laws and pressure. Distance to the sun not so much.

• Still hot at the surface for the reason you state but the same as Earth at the same pressure as Earth higher up in the atmosphere. The only adjustment required is for distance from sun.
Similar for other planets with atmospheres too.

• Patrick MJD says:

The alarmists don’t get that, and that was my point. Venus is not hot at the surface (Which is where the “worry” is) BECAUSE of CO2. It is hot BECAUSE of PRESSURE. Alarmists claim increasing CO2 on Earth will lead to a Venus Earth (Runaway global warming). The physics is well understood and will never happen on Earth no matter the concentration of CO2 (All O2 breathers will be long dead by then).

• Phil Salmon says:

Stephen
Are you referring to Nikolov and Zeller’s observed relationship?
That is, of Ts / Tna with pressure
(Surface temperature / temp with no atmosphere)

• They make use of the relationship but it predates their work.

53. Ulric Lyons says:

“As I described yesterday, we do see forcing-feedback type behavior in short-term climate fluctuations, but I agree that the FFF might not be applicable to longer-term fluctuations. In this sense, I believe Christopher Game is correct.”

El Nino conditions increase during centennial solar minima, because increased negative NAO slows the trade winds. The warmer parts of the MWP for Northern Europe had a dominance of La Nina conditions. The Holocene Optimum had a dearth of El Nino conditions for thousands of years, while glacial maximum states have near permanent El Nino conditions.

54. Ulric Lyons says:

“Everyone agrees that the ocean-atmosphere fluid flows represent a non-linear dynamical system. Such systems, although deterministic (that is, can be described with known physical equations) are difficult to predict the future behavior of because of their sensitive dependence on the current state. This is called “sensitive dependence on initial conditions”, and it is why weather cannot be forecast more than a week or so in advance.”

The greatest heatwaves and cold-waves can be predicted for thousands of years ahead. Weather drives climate change.