Watts Available

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I ponder curious things. I got to thinking about available solar energy. That’s the amount of solar energy that remains after reflection losses. 

Just under a third (~ 30%) of the incoming sunshine is reflected back into space by a combination of the clouds, the aerosols in the atmosphere, and the surface. What’s left is the solar energy that actually makes it in to warm up and power our entire planet. In this post, for shorthand I’ll call that the “available energy”, because … well, because that’s basically all of the energy we have available to run the entire circus.

Now, I don’t agree with the widely-held idea that the planetary temperature is a linear function of the “radiative forcing” or simply “forcing”, which is the amount of downwelling radiation headed to the surface from both the sun and from atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Oh, the radiation itself is real … but it doesn’t set the surface temperature 

My theory of how the climate operates is that the globe is kept from overheating by a variety of emergent phenomena. These phenomena emerge when some local temperature threshold is exceeded. Among the most powerful of these emergent phenomena are thunderstorms. In the tropics, thunderstorms emerge when the sea surface temperature (SST) is above about 27°C (80°F) or so. Here’s a movie I made of how the thunderstorms follow the sea surface temperature, month after month.

Figure 1. Tropical thunderstorms are characterized by tall cloud towers. The average altitude of the cloud tops is therefore a measure of the number and strength of the thunderstorms in the area. Colors show average cloud top altitude, with the red areas having the most and largest thunderstorms, and the blue areas almost none. The gray contour lines show sea surface temperatures (SSTs) of 27°, 28°, and 29°C, with the inner ring being the hottest.

Thunderstorms cool the surface in a variety of ways. They waste little energy in the process because they emerge to cool the surface only where it will do the most good—the hottest part of the system.

Among the ways thunderstorms cool the surface is via an increase in the local albedo. Albedo is the percentage of energy reflected back to space. The increase in this reflection (increasing albedo) occurs because the thunderstorm clouds both cover a larger area and are taller than the cumulus clouds that they replace. Their height and area provide more reflective surfaces to reject solar energy back to space. 

In addition, the thunderstorm generated winds increase the local sea surface reflectivity by creating reflective white foam, spume, and spray over large areas of the ocean. And finally, a rough ocean with thunderstorm-generated waves reflects about two times what a calm ocean reflects (albedo ~ 8% rough vs ~ 4% smooth). That change in sea surface roughness alone equates to about 15 W/m2 less available energy.

Now generally, we’d expect that additional solar energy would be correlated with warmer temperatures. It’s logical that the relationship should go like this:

More available solar energy –> more energy absorbed by the surface –> higher temperatures. 

We’d expect, therefore, that both the available energy and the temperature should be “positively correlated”, meaning that they increase or decrease together. And in general, that’s true. Here’s the available solar energy, which is the sunshine that makes it past all of the reflective surfaces, the sunlight that is the one true source of all of the energy that heats, agitates, and powers the climate.

Figure 2. Available solar energy after all reflection from clouds, atmosphere, and the planet’s surface. The numbers are 24/7 averages.

As you can see, the poles are cold because they only get fifty watts per square metre (W/m2) or so from the sun. And the tropics get up to 360 watts per square metre (W/m2), so they are hot. The tropics are the main area where energy enters the system, and they’re also the hottest.

So far, what we see agrees with what we’d expect—available energy and temperature are correlated, going up and down together.

Now, my theory is that emergent phenomena act to constrain the maximum temperature. So an indication that my theory is valid would be if the amount of available solar energy were to not only stop increasing at high surface temperatures, but would actually go down with increasing temperature when the SST gets over about 27°C.

To see if this is the case, I turned once again to the CERES data, available here. I’m using the EBAF 4.0 dataset, with data from March 2000 to February 2019. The CERES satellite data has month-by-month information on the size of the incoming and reflected solar energy flows. The information is presented on a 1° latitude by 1° longitude gridcell basis.

According to the CERES data, incoming solar energy at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) is ~ 340 W/m2. The total reflected is ~ 100 W/m2. That leaves 240 W/m2 of available energy to warm the world. (Numbers are 24/7 global averages.)

To investigate the relationship between the surface temperature and the available energy, I looked at just the liquid ocean (not including sea ice). I do this for several reasons. The ocean is 70% of the planet. It is all at the same elevation, with no mountains to complicate matters. There’s no vegetation sticking up to impede the winds. It is a ways from human cities. All of this reduces the noise in the data, and makes it possible to compare different locations.

What I’ve done is to make a “scatterplot” of available energy versus sea surface temperature (SST). Each blue dot in the scatterplot below shows the available solar energy versus the sea surface temperature (SST) of a single 1°x1° gridcell.

Then I’ve used a Gaussian average (yellow & red with black outline) to see what the data is doing overall. (In this dataset, it turns out that the Gaussian average is basically indistinguishable from averaging the data in bins of a tenth of a degree (not shown). This lends support to the validity of the line.) The yellow/red line outlined in black shows the 160-point full-width-half-maximum (FWHM) Gaussian average of the data. The red area simply highlights the part above 27°C.

Figure 3. Scatterplot of available solar energy versus liquid sea surface temperature. Blue dots show the results for each 1° latitude by 1° longitude gridcell. Yellow/red line is 160-point full-width-half-maximum (FWHM) Gaussian average. The part of the data where the average SST above 27°C is highlighted in red

In Figure 3 we see that above ~ 27°C, the thunderstorm initiation temperature, the available solar energy stops rising, takes a ninety-degree turn, and starts dropping. You’ve heard of things being “non-linear”? This graph could serve as the poster child of non-linearity … 

It’s worth noting that at temperatures from about 3°C to 27°C, the temperature is indeed a linear function of the available solar energy. So the common misunderstanding is … well … understandable. In that temperature range the sea surface is going up about 0.1°C per additional W/m2, which is the same as ~0.4° C per doubling of CO2 … but of course, that ignores the area in red, where the relationship is totally reversed and energy goes down as temperature goes up.

This is strong support for my theory that emergent phenomena actively regulate the global temperature and constrains the maximum temperature. It is also evidence against the current theory of how climate works, which is that the temperature slavishly follows the available energy in a linear fashion … as I noted, this is as non-linear as you can get..

In the areas where the sea surface temperature is over ~ 27°C there is less and less energy available with each additional degree C of surface warming. The size of the decrease is large—6.6 W/m2 less energy is available when the surface temperature has risen by each additional 1°C. 

Figure 4 shows the location of these areas (shown in blue/green with white borders) where available solar energy goes down when the temperature goes up (negative correlation).

Figure 4. Gridcell by gridcell correlation of available solar energy and surface temperature. Blue box show the tropical area discussed below (130°E – 90°W longitude, 10°N/S latitude).

Investigating the energy flows further, loss of incoming energy via increased albedo is only one way thunderstorms cool the surface. It is an important method of thermoregulation because it acts just like the gas pedal in your car—the thunderstorms are controlling the amount of energy entering the planetary-scale heat engine we call the climate. And above a sea surface temperature of ~ 27°C, they are cutting the incoming energy down.

The thunderstorms which are cutting down the total available solar energy are also cooling the surface in a host of other ways. First among these is evaporation. Thunderstorms make rain, and it takes solar energy to evaporate the rain. That energy is then not available to heat the surface.

Figure 5 Scatterplot of the sea surface temperature versus the rainfall in the equatorial Pacific area shown by the blue box above (130°E – 90°W, 10°N/S). The blue dots show results from the TAO moored buoys in the blue box. The red dots show gridcell results from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite rainfall data and Reynolds OI sea surface temperatures. Graphic from my post Drying The Sky

Figure 5 above has SST data from two separate datasets, Tao buoys and the Reynolds OISST dataset. It also has rainfall data from two separate datasets, the TRMM data and TAO buoys. They agree very well, giving support to the relationships displayed. 

And once again, it is highly non-linear …

Because the tropical oceanic thunderstorms are temperature related, so is the rain. Above 27°C, every single 1°x1° gridcell (red dot) and every TAO buoy (blue dot) in the equatorial Pacific area outlined in blue in Figure 4 above has rain.

In addition, by the time the open ocean temperature reaches its maximum value of 30°C, almost every gridcell has nearly three meters (ten feet, or 120″) of rain. At high sea surface temperatures, rain is not optional. This is clear evidence of the thermal nature of the thresholds involved.

It’s an important point. The thresholds for all of these emergent temperature-regulating climate phenomena (e.g. dust devils, cumulus fields, thunderstorms, squall lines) are temperature-based. They are not based on how much radiation the area is receiving. They are not affected by either CO2 levels or sunshine amounts. When the tropical ocean temperature gets above a certain level, the system kicks into gear, cumulus clouds mutate into thunderstorms, albedo goes straight up, and rain starts falling … no matter what the CO2 levels might be. Temperature-based, not forcing-based. It’s an important point.

And below is the rainfall data from 40° North to 40° South, expressed as the amount of energy needed to evaporate the rain.

Figure 6. Scatterplot of 1° x 1° gridcell annual average ocean-only thunderstorm evaporative cooling on the vertical axis, in watts per square metre (W/m2) versus 1° x 1° gridcell annual average sea surface temperature on the horizontal axis. Evaporative cooling amount is calculated from the rainfall—it takes ~ 80 W/m2 for one year to evaporate a metre of rainfall. Graphic from my post, How Thunderstorms Beat The Heat

As I write this, I think hmm … I could use the relationship shown in red above, between tropical sea surface temperature and evaporative cooling. Then I could add that TRMM data to the solar availability data to see how much is available after albedo and evaporation. Hmm … I’m off to write a another bunch of code in the computer language simply called “R”. 

(Best computer language ever, by the way, and R was something like the tenth computer language I’ve learned. It’s free, cross platform, free, killer free user interface “RStudio”, free packages to do almost anything, good help files, and did I mention free? I owe Steve McIntyre an unpayable debt for convincing me to learn to code in R. But I digress, I’m off to write R code …)

OK, here’s the result. The scatterplot as above, scale about the same, but this time showing what’s left after removing both albedo reflections and the energy used for evaporation. This covers the area where rainfall was measured by the TRMM, from 40° N latitude to 40° S latitude.

Figure 7. Scatterplot, available solar energy minus evaporative cooling, versus sea surface temperature from 40°N latitude to 40°S latitude. Because it is only the middle latitudes the ocean doesn’t get much cooler than 15°C.

I note that when we include evaporative cooling, the drop in available energy starts at a slightly lower temperature, 26°C vs 27°. And it is decreasing much faster and further than just the 6.6 W/m2 decrease per degree of degree warming from albedo alone as shown in Fig. 3 above.

Figure 7 shows that there is 44 W/m2 less available energy per additional degree of warming above 26°C. So it is decreasing about seven times as fast as from albedo alone. On average there is less energy left over for warming at 30°C than at 15°C … go figure.

And finally, here’s the distribution of the solar energy once we’ve subtracted the reflected energy and the energy used for evaporation. What remains is the energy available to heat the planet and to fuel plant growth. 

Figure 8. Available solar energy after albedo and evaporation losses. TRMM data only covers from 40° N to 40°S latitude.

Note that there are some areas of the oceans where any additional solar forcing goes into increasing clouds, increasing thunderstorms, and increasing evaporation, with little to nothing left over to heat the area …

Now, remember that my hypothesis is that the widely-believed claim that there is a linear relationship between forcing and temperature is not correct.

Instead, I say emergent phenomena come into existence when a temperature threshold is passed, and that they act to oppose further heating.

My main conclusions out of all of this? It supports my hypothesis regarding emergent phenomena regulating the temperature, and this is clear evidence that temperature is NOT a linear function of forcing.

And on a side note, the US passed a sad milestone today—the number of COVID pandemic deaths (a once-off phenomenon) finally equaled two-thirds of the annual number of deaths from obesity. In the face of this hidden gustatory emergency of 300,000 US obesity deaths per year, I recommend mandatory gastric banding of the entire populace and fine-enforced social distancing from donuts …

My best regards to everyone, end all lockdowns, the emergency is over. Let’s get back to work, school, and play,


The Small Print: When you comment please quote the exact words you are discussing, so we can all be in on the secret subject of your ideas.

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September 23, 2020 10:45 am

-Very interesting…….the total amount of energy that tropical thunderstorms represent in a single day probably compares with some no. of nuclear weapons energy. Will Scientific American publish this paper? The vast oceans are a main reason Mars and Venus are not comparable to earth when comparing climate. Maybe these observations are finally the CO2 killer?

Mike Smith
September 23, 2020 10:46 am

Wow. This one’s a keeper. Thank you Willis.

David A
Reply to  Mike Smith
September 24, 2020 12:58 am

I agree, very excellent post Willis!

“The thunderstorms which are cutting down the total available solar energy are also cooling the surface in a host of other ways. First among these is evaporation. Thunderstorms make rain, and it takes solar energy to evaporate the rain. That energy is then not available to heat the surface.”

They ( the thunderstorms) are cooling the surface in a way not mentioned. They are greatly reducing SW insolation into AND below the ocean surface, where said energy has a very long residence time, and us lost to the surface for up to 1000 years!

So, in a magical world, even if there were no clouds, the ocean warming would not follow the surface warming of land, as a percentage of the increased incoming W/SQm would go below the surface and not affect the surface air T, except to stabilise it and raise the mean T over time.

Thomas Gasloli
September 23, 2020 10:49 am

Super article–but it seems to me you are doing the work that should have been done by all the “climate scientists”.

Reply to  Thomas Gasloli
September 23, 2020 11:26 am

There are climatologists, and there are climate “scientists”. The two sets are disjoint.

Ed Bo
September 23, 2020 10:50 am

When I was in engineering school in the 1970s, I saw a poster in the “operations research” department (data science modeling) that I still remember.

It showed Snoopy dancing gleefully (a popular meme back then) with a caption that said, “Happiness is assuming linearity!”

Willis — you are going to make the modelers sad!

Reply to  Ed Bo
September 23, 2020 12:05 pm

Ed Bo,

The idea of approximate linearity around the mean between T and W/m^2 seemed to originated with Schlesinger back in the 80’s when he was trying to fix Hansen’s erroneous feedback paper (1984) in order to shoe horn Bode’s LINEAR feedback amplifier analysis to the climate system, which at the time was the holy grail they needed to make a sensitivity large enough to justify the creation of the IPCC seem plausible.

One of the only 2 preconditions for using Bode’s analysis is linearity across all possible inputs and outputs which approximate linearity around the mean doesn’t satisfy anyway, but people can be fooled into thinking that it does.

The other precondition is an implicit source of Joules to provide the output power, that is, input power is not consumed to contribute to the output power which originates from an implicit power supply. Schlesinger tried to claim that the average not accounted for by the incremental analysis was the power supply, but once more, this doesn’t actually satisfy the precondition; moreover; it assumes non linearity!

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but far too many are easily fooled into thinking that it does.

Christopher Game
Reply to  co2isnotevil
September 28, 2020 3:13 am

This admirable comment by co2isnotevil is one sound way of telling why the orthodox Hansen–Schlesinger “forcing and feedback” formalism is nonsense. But there are also other sound and cogent ways. The Bode theory assumes that the driver input is an external factor entirely independent of factors internal to the system. This Bode assumption is violated in the Hansen–Schlesinger “forcing and feedback” formalism, in which the “forcing”, its hybrid version of the “driver”, is derived from the CO2 level along with factors internal to the system, that depend on system temperature, the prime internal variable. The physical reason for Bode’s assumption is that it expresses that the Bode model obeys and exhibits causality. Because the Hansen–Schlesinger formalism doesn’t obey the Bode assumption, it doesn’t obey causality, and consequently is unphysical, or nonsensical. I do not understand why this is not more widely recognised.

Reply to  Ed Bo
September 23, 2020 3:40 pm

No, mad….

As in insane……

David A
Reply to  Ed Bo
September 24, 2020 1:10 am

Sad indeed for lineal models, as this thunderstorm activity also greatly shortens the residence time of TSI. When you accelerate the hydrological cycle you require massive amounts of energy that is NOT converted to heat, but to moving mass/energy within the system, and towards the exit from the system; aloft and poleward!

( So it is not just the Albedo increase that decreases incoming radiative energy residence time, but an accelerated hydrological cycle also decreases the conductive and convective residence time of energy within the atmosphere.)

mario lento
September 23, 2020 10:52 am

Measuring temperature does not indicate the level of energy with any precision without knowing precise absolute humidity levels. Measured temperature changes wildly at a given level of energy because energy changes forms through condensation and vaporization.

Reply to  mario lento
September 23, 2020 12:18 pm

I might think that thermodynamic models of thunder storms are pretty well understood. It is merely a matter of looking up the common humidity levels contained in tropical atmospheres when the sea level temperature is near or above 27 °C. When at saturation all that is required is a minor drop in air pressure or air temperature caused by rising circulation patterns and voila.
The measures of enthalpy for air has been well understood since the steam age.
Even 150 years hence it was required curriculum when I was in school. How exactly do you think nuclear energy turns a turbine? Steam is steam is steam.

Reply to  Rocketscientist
September 23, 2020 10:27 pm

Definitely was in the curriculum when I was doing my Mech Eng degree. Dry steam being the preferred form 😀

Reply to  Rocketscientist
September 24, 2020 3:59 am

The thermodynamic models of thunder storms might be understood – but the problem is likely that the minimum grid sizes in the climate models preclude the addition of transient phenomena like clouds and thunderstorms.
Or put another way: the climate models are Newtonian when climate is really quantum (an analogy, not literally).

Ed Bo
Reply to  mario lento
September 23, 2020 2:20 pm


You are correct with regard to atmospheric temperatures — we really ought to be using “moist enthalpy” instead.

But the temperatures Willis is using in this post are the surface temperatures of the liquid ocean, not the atmosphere.

mario lento
Reply to  Ed Bo
September 23, 2020 8:56 pm

Willis is above my pay grade with analysis and presentation of data, and explanations of complex physics. I get caught up in the parts that I do understand – and – that make it hard for me to accept data and then to use it to form conclusions. Willis’ is amazing at doing it for us all to think about.

I get so fixated on the idea that climate and temperature are so linked in our conversations when really, temperature is not the (complete) thing that tells us how much energy there is accumulating or waning from the planet. It’s just a convenient way to measure part of the answer to a question.

It’s surrounds a story I tell people… it’s way more likely that drought causes high temperature, rather that high temperature causes drought.

Ben Vorlich
September 23, 2020 10:58 am

This seems an appropriate thread to pose a question which has been puzzling be for a while now.

Albedo , is basically reflection of solar energy into space. Snow and ice have a high albedo, and reflect more energy than open water. Fine so far. But in the polar winter there is no solar radiation to reflect so all any energy lost into space is by Radiative Cooling from sea, ice,snow or atmosphere. So the question is more energy lost by Radiative Cooling in winter than is reflected as a result of the albedo of snow and ice.

How is this handled in climate models?

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
September 23, 2020 12:13 pm

“How is this handled in climate models?”

Depends on what you want the climate model to conclude.

(Whatever the result, it will “worse than we thought” 🙂 )

Reply to  Mr.
September 23, 2020 3:16 pm

Worse than we thought is so 2019
2020 is Even worse than worse than we thought!

Reply to  Richard Greene
September 23, 2020 10:28 pm

Unprecedented is the word you are looking for I believe

Reply to  Gnrnr
September 23, 2020 11:53 pm

It sounds like the accountant who, when asked by his client how much profit he had made, answers ‘how much do you want it to be?’
On a side note, the BBC is already starting to get worked up about COP26. I dread to think what the next 12 months evangelising will be like.

Reply to  Ben Vorlich
September 23, 2020 12:16 pm

“How is this handled in climate models?”


The effect of melting ice is also misrepresented where since 2/3 of the planet is covered by clouds, which reflect about the same as ice and snow, only 1/3 of the newly exposed land has an influence on the albedo and only during summer months as it’s still would be covered by snow in the winter.

If the Earth was completely devoid of ice and snow 12 months of the year and the incremental solar input is amortized across the planet, the W/m^2 available are still not enough to offset the extra 3 W/m^2 or so of emissions claimed to be caused by 1 W/m^2 of forcing, above and beyond the average 1.62 W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of forcing which is erroneously referred to as the ‘before feedback’ sensitivity. The actual before feedback sensitivity is 1 W/m^2 of surface emissions per W/m^2 of forcing characteristic of an ideal black body and is about 0.2C per W/m^2 at the average temperature of the surface. The total feedback power is 620 mw per W/m^2 of forcing resulting in a post feedback sensitivity of 1.62 W/m^2 (0.3C) per W/m^2 of forcing.

Reply to  co2isnotevil
September 25, 2020 12:44 pm

The 3 W/m^2 is in the noise. Error is at least 4 W/m^2.

Ron Long
September 23, 2020 11:00 am

Fascinating analysis, Willis. So the addition of forcing elements, like the evil CO2, into the atmosphere will have their effect mitigated by a non-linear response? The zone of maximum thunderstorm formation might expand in latitude, but the moderation process will save the earth? I know for sure when I am on vacation in the Caribbean it is not as hot as many places at higher latitudes. Now if those pesky travel restrictions are tamed down I’m off again. Thanks.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 3:50 pm

Where there are no virgins….

Matthew Sykes
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 1:09 am

Dont forget latent heat loss, I read a hurricane, because of wind, can make the sea give up 1000 Wm^-2.

Reply to  Ron Long
September 23, 2020 1:16 pm

I was on a sailboat off Beef Island, BVI in May in a squall and was shivering. Did not have a raincoat and was at the helm. The rest of the crew were down below letting me be the goat. Tropical squalls in fact do cool things down substantially.

BTW, BVI’s announced they are back open December 1, in time for the winter tourist season.

Reply to  rbabcock
September 23, 2020 4:45 pm

I hope your first name isn’t “Roger”

Because I had a chuckle at that old seafarers’ joke –
Captain to first mate: “go below and fetch my charts, and Roger the cabin boy”
First Mate : “aye, aye Sir. Which do you want me to do first?”

Nick Schroeder
September 23, 2020 11:09 am

30% is the average albedo, more or less.
And it is very high in the polar regions and low around the equator.
http://www.climatedata.info figure 1.
And according to figure 2 around 0.25 in the winter with snow cover and as low as 0.15 in the summer w/o.
And since the albedo is zero on the dark side it would have to be 60% on the lit.
And by reducing the ISR the albedo cools the earth.

Max Dupilka
September 23, 2020 11:13 am

One may well say that all weather is emergent, from the local thunderstorms to the expansive synoptic weather systems. They are all a product of the temperature gradients and baroclinicity of the atmosphere. The greater the temperature gradient the more unstable the atmosphere becomes on all scales and in both the horizontal and vertical, and will act to dissipate this instability through various sized storms.

September 23, 2020 11:16 am

Very nice piece. Very plausible. There has to be something that stops warming becoming runaway. There has to have been something that stopped the MWP turning us into Venusians. This seems like a very promising hypothesis of what it could be.

We will eventually come to the end of this great popular madness. But I’m afraid there is a heap more which will still be fermenting away under the blankets.

Rod Packwood
September 23, 2020 11:17 am

“On the road to Mandalay
Where the flying fishes play
And the sun comes up like thunder
Rolling out across the bay”
……(sung with passion)…
Being almost as mature as Willis, I can hark back to a childhood in WWII and the dusk of Empire. The BBC broadcast musichall style programmes Sunday evenings, the above verse from a very popular song, has stayed with me. Willis’ chart of the ‘thunder belt’ going right through that part of the globe explains the analogy.

September 23, 2020 11:27 am

What I’m taking away from this is that it could be the possible cause of the ice ages. Precipitation increases with the temperature increase, meaning more snow in the extreme north and south. Eventually, albedo increases to the point where so much sunlight is reflected that the snow/ice coverage dominates climate. Am I simplifying too much here?

David A
Reply to  RJ
September 24, 2020 1:20 am

“Am I simplfying to much here.”

I think so, as the WV in the atmosphere rapidly precipitates out as the atmosphere cools, thus the feedbacks the other way increase and counterbalance us achieved.

Bob Tisdale(@bobtisdale)
September 23, 2020 11:27 am

Willis concludes: “My main conclusions out of all of this? It supports my hypothesis regarding emergent phenomena regulating the temperature, and this is clear evidence that temperature is NOT a linear function of forcing.”


Stay safe and healthy, all.


September 23, 2020 11:36 am

Another thunderstorm related thermoregulatory mechanism is Lindzen’s “adaptive infrared iris”. Some years ago Judith Curry and I posted back to back on it. She interviewed Lindzen for the backstory, I covered his paper and the then new results of a GCM that specially incorporated it. IIRC, lowered the model ECS from 3.2 to 2.3 with just that one change.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 8:32 am

Just checked. Go to Climate Etc, type adaptive iris into the search box. My post comes up first; it has a link to Lindzen’s paper. Judy’s complementary post comes up second.

Regards, and kudos on a great analysis.

September 23, 2020 11:36 am

Great informative article Willis.

Don’t answer this if you don’t want to, but I have to ask –
as such a dedicated researcher and prolific technical documenter, how do you find the time?
I’m wondering if, like prolific author Stephen King, you are insomniac?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 1:39 pm

Willis, I’m your age and you make me jealous of your vocation for fact-finding and disclosure.
Your time management skills also obviously contribute a lot to your productivity.

I hope you have many more productive years left practicing your passion, from which we all benefit, particularly because of the debates your posts usually initiate.

Oh, but it’s also so disedifying that you have the gall to disclose here that you really are a fossil fuel industry lackey, what with your $500 ‘cash for comment’ payment from the Heartland Climate Conference. What is wrong with you? David Suzuki doesn’t get out of bed for less than $30k even just to do a boilerplate enviro talk to schoolkids. Why can’t you emulate David’s passion for unbridled capitalism? 🙂

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 3:25 pm

Are you suggesting a weather (water) related negative feedback that will tend to limit climate extremes?

If so, this theory is quite boring compared with the current water vapor positive feedback theory, tripling the effect of CO2 alone, causing runaway warming, ending all life on Earth, except microbes, ants and mother in laws, unless we act radically to limit CO2 emissions in the next 23 years.

Reply to  Richard Greene
September 23, 2020 4:37 pm

Wouldn’t that be “in the next 23.4783 years”?

David A
Reply to  MarkW
September 24, 2020 1:22 am

23.478FOUR years, because G Newsome got rid of ICE in cars.

David L. Hagen(@hagendl)
Reply to  Richard Greene
September 26, 2020 9:30 am

The signature tropical tropospheric temperature predictions of that water vapor positive feedback theory fail spectacularly when tested against independent data of radiosonde temperatures, satellite temperature, and reanalysis temperature. “Only” off by 2.5X to 7X! Eschenbach’s emergent feedback theory has a lot better likelihood of being accurate. See review post:
Ross McKitrick “New confirmation that climate models overstate atmospheric warming” at Climate Etc. re
Mitchell et al. (2020) “The vertical profile of recent tropical temperature trends: Persistent model biases in the context of internal variability” Environmental Research Letters,
McKitrick and Christy (2020) “Pervasive warming bias in CMIP6 tropospheric layers” Earth and Space Science.

Joe Ebeni
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 27, 2020 5:28 am

Willis….My G you are old!!! ;>) I am 73 as well and healthy but holy S%^$, I sure can’t match your energy. Two questions:
1. Are you training an acolyte/ successor to take your great work into posterity?
2. I really enjoy your writings on emergent phenomenon. Is anyone in the “legitimate” academia working to replicate your work. (if there are any left who can afford to be heretics)

Alan Tomalty
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 30, 2020 2:34 am

Willis What are the qualifications to be a minion?

September 23, 2020 11:42 am

Emergent phenomenon arising from chaotic behavior certainly plays a role in how the atmosphere self organizes, but the goal doesn’t appear to be maintaining the surface temperature, but to maintain a constant ratio between the BB emissions of the surface consequential to its temperature and the emissions at TOA above that surface. The data clearly shows how this ratio wants to be remarkably constant at about 620 mw of emissions at TOA for each W/m^2 RADIATED by the surface. Averages of nearly every point on the surface converges to within a few percent of this ratio within a month or so and gets even closer as the averaging increases. The common factor preventing this ratio from emerging is the lack of chaotic variability from clouds.

While you may think that the value of this ratio must just be a coincidence, it would need to be the same coincidence occurring at all points of the surface at all times. This is very unlikely. The fact that 0.62 is 1/g, where g is the golden ratio, doesn’t seem to be a coincidence either, as relatively simple math can readily show how this ratio is very likely to emerge from a chaotically self organized system, where what’s chaotically varying is this ratio and the instantaneous value of this ratio is highly dependent on the instantaneous cloud coverage which is chaotically varying.


Yes, it seems to me that the asymptotic approach of sea surface temperatures to about 300K is the result of incremental solar energy evaporating so much water that the latent heat released is enough to prevent any additional temperature rise. This same asymptotic behavior is seen in atmospheric water content. This is not so much an emergent property, as it is a causal effect related to the rate of evaporation as a function of temperature.


Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 1:57 pm


“The world usually isn’t that neat. ”

But the laws of physics are and math is, so clearly, the climate must be observing these. This is basically how an ideal gray body radiator must behave, that is a constant emissivity, independent of the temperature. The fact that this behavior is observed shouldn’t be surprising.

I’ve done the averaging across 2.5 degree slices of latitude and more consistently arrive at that average, try integrating across slices of latitude and see what you get. I also see deviations in Antarctica and parts of equatorial oceans. As I said, what prevents that average from occurring locally is the lack of suitable chaos, but even globally this fraction still emerges from the math. Think of it as fractal like where the same math and physics applies locally and globally.

Consider that 1/g +/- 5% varies from .589 to .649, so according to your plot, most of the globe falls into this range and the hemisphere averages of .611 and .621 are within about 1% of 1/g, while the global average of .612 is within 0.3% of 1/g. If this is just a coincidence, why are the two hemispheres so similar? Try plotting the ratio as a function of monthly averages and see how constant it will be.

Antarctica suffers from the lack of chaotic variability, but this is offset elsewhere across the planet. My point is that the system tries, even locally, to achieve that average ratio and the more time and space the average is calculated across, the better the self organization becomes at achieving the desired goal. Across large parts of the planet, this average ratio emerges rather quickly.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 5:17 pm


‘”There’re not enough hours in the day for me to waste another minute on you.”

Then you’re missing out on crucial knowledge. The fact that this ratio is so constant has the power to bring down the IPCC, especially since I can now explain why it has the value it does and why it’s not likely to be anything else. I’m assuming you read the link to the math, if not, you should as both of these assertions are explained. You’ve even noticed how constant this ratio seems to be at larger scales. No mention of this being so constant is in any IPCC report and for good reason.

Keep in mind that the math and the model is specific to the bulk radiant behavior of the entire atmosphere and puts an immutable limit on the sensitivity of about 0.3C per W/m^2. Despite it being a global model, it’s exceptionally good per hemisphere and is still a very close approximation locally, PROVIDING THERE”S SUFFICIENT CHAOTIC VARIABILITY. One thing about slices of latitude is that they will have more of this kind of variability.

You’re right that the transfer of energy from the equator to the poles has something to do with it, but this has more to do with the direction the ratio goes when there’s insufficient cloud variability since the effect of the transfer of energy from the equator to the poles is mostly accounted for by its effect on the local surface temperature while the ratio of surface emissions to TOA emissions is largely independent of the surface temperature. Cloud emissions arising from transferred energy are likely responsible for most of the small deviations from golden and is likely a major contributer in Antarctica.

The lack of sufficient variability occurs when there are either way too many clouds or no clouds at all and the theory predicts that under these circumstances the ratio can be arbitrary, so the fact that the outliers vary by so much is expected. It only converges to golden locally when there’s sufficient chaotic variability. Globally and over large areas, this ratio still emerges, despite local variability, and does so very quickly as long as the region the averages are calculated across has sufficient cloud variability, and that’s the crucial point I’m trying to make.

I wasn’t fully aware of how much local deviation was being compensated for globally and across slices of latitude, since the data I used was much coarser, but it was of no real concern, because it was readily explained and not only consistent with the theory, reinforces it since even more local variability has to be compensated for elsewhere in order for the ‘coincidence’ to be realized. I just didn’t expect that explaining it, rather than giving you kudo’s for noticing it would upset you so much.

You will also notice when you calculate shorter term averages, instead of a 20 year average, the distribution of ratios across the surface will not vary by a whole lot, supporting the fact that this ratio is converged to very quickly and the per hemisphere and global averages will vary by even less.

In no way am I inferring that any thing is your fault by suggesting other experiments you could try to further validate this hypothesis. Isn’t this what proper science is supposed to be about?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 2:40 pm


That this ratio is the most consistent variable between hemispheres is something I noticed a long time ago and I’ve also noticed that it’s also most quickly converged variable as well. Interestingly enough, this ratio is highly dependent on the average cloud cover and yet the average cloud coverage per hemispheres is quite different, as are average temperatures, albedo and solar input, all attributed to the varying ratio of land to ocean. It’s the variability in the average cloud coverage that seems to compensate for other differences so that this constant ratio can emerge.

That this emissions ratio is so constant and independent of so much is something I’ve been trying to figure out for a long time. How the math I discovered (I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere else) so elegantly aligns with the radiant transfer function of the bulk atmosphere is almost too good to be true. None the less, when globally, the CERES data shows a result within 0.3% of the prediction and the ISCCP data I used was within 0.5% of the prediction (I had to derive the TOA flux from other data), I would call this a validation of repeatable science.

The question I’ll pose to you, is given how independent this ratio is of everything else, what else would cause it to change?

Where this would be most useful is as a sanity check on GCM’s to make sure that this ratio isn’t bumbling around all over the place.

David L. Hagen(@hagendl)
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 26, 2020 5:50 pm

Willis I encourage you to compare the cloud top altitude of your first graph at the beginning, with the top of atmosphere longwelling as ratio of surface longwelling. Visually there seems to be a negative correlation.
e.g. See the Pacific with the highest cloud top altitude (8 km) compared with the lowest (0.45) atmospheric longwelling ratio to surface longwelling. That has promise as how to predict top of tropospheric tropical temperature from surface temperature. Then be able to test that prediction against independent radiosonde, satellite and reanalysis temperatures. Potentially far more accurately than IPCC’s tropospheric temperature model predictions.

Reply to  David L. Hagen
September 30, 2020 10:08 am


The sentence after the one Willis complained about explains the ITC behavior. Both local and global convergence to the golden ratio requires sufficient chaotic variability. Without sufficient variability, this ratio can be anything, as the math clearly predicts.

In simple terms, if G is the amplification of solar W/m^2 to surface emissions and 1/G is the attenuation of surface emissions to emissions at TOA, there are an infinite number of transformations for any possible G from 0 to 1. However; owing to the unique numerical properties of the golden ratio, for each possible transformation resulting in an arbitrary G, there are an infinite squared number of possible transformations resulting in a golden g. Given that the transformation is chaotically varying as clouds vary, the most likely value of G is a golden g.

Chaotic variability arises from clouds and in the ITC, the cloud coverage is nearly absolute. Sufficient cloud coverage variability doesn’t exist and the same is true in Antarctica which has too few clouds.

Think about how clouds affect this ratio. More clouds decreases the average of this ratio, less clouds increases it while average clouds drive the system to its converged ratio. The ITC has too many clouds and the ratio is lower, while Antartica has too few clouds and the ratio increases.

None the less, the planet has sufficient global chaotic variability in cloud coverage to insure that this ratio emerges globally and the data is unambiguously clear that it does, exactly as the math predicts. The math also predicts how and why expected local deviations will occur and why such deviations have no effect on the global convergence to this ratio.

As a further test of the golden warming hypothesis, when averages are calculated across shorter periods of time, they will vary very little from the 20 year average in Willis’s plot and this is what I meant by quickly converges. Also note that even in Willis’s plot, the vast majority of the planet has sufficient cloud variability and maintains local ratios centered on and within 5% of the golden ratio as it maintains a nearly invariant global ratio within a tiny fraction of a percent of golden.

Note as well that the IPCC’s nominal sensitivity requires incremental surface emissions of 4.4 W/m^2 per W/m^2 at TOA, that is, the increase in surface emissions from the next W/m^2 of forcing will require a ratio of 1/4.4 = 0.23 which would mean each of the next 4.4 W/m^2 of surface emissions arising from the next W/m^2 of forcing only results in 0.23 W/m^2 of emissions at TOA. Obviously, this can’t be true as the next W/m^2 is no different than the average W/m^2 relative to the work done maintaining the surface temperature and replacing emissions is the only work required.

The fact that the average ratio is so constant confirms that a gray body with an emissivity of 1/g quantifies the bulk behavior of the plant better than anything else as it limits the ECS to 1.62 W/m^2 of incremental surface emissions (0.3C) per W/m^2 of forcing. This demonstrable truth paves the way to undermining the IPCC and its false consensus. There is no other way.

Mike Dubrasich
September 23, 2020 11:44 am

I would not necessarily call it an “emergent” phenomenon, but the smoke cloud from the recent fires cooled surface temps by 20°F. The forecast temp was in the 80’s, the actual on the ground temp was in the 60’s, for a week. When the smoke finally cleared and the sun went from red to yellow, it warmed up considerably.

Albedo has a huge effect. The failure of GCM’s to correctly predict/model clouds is their greatest failing. Well, one of them.

Mike Smith
Reply to  Mike Dubrasich
September 23, 2020 12:56 pm

As a resident of the Bay Area I can confirm the dramatic impact of the smoke on temperatures.

I will also note that a neighbor reported his solar output was 2% of normal.

Reply to  Mike Smith
September 23, 2020 4:02 pm

NOAA has a Smoke Plume Map on one of their websites and it shows the Left Coast fires’ smoke reaches all the way to the UK! That’s a hell of a lot of albedo, above 20 degrees N, and we just entered Autumn. So, How could this “emergent phenomenon,” impact the temperatures for Winter 20-21?

Joe Ebeni
Reply to  Yooper
September 27, 2020 5:34 am

1783 and1816….The years without a summer.
Now add 2020…brutal tough winter??

September 23, 2020 11:48 am

Great post!

Re: “My theory of how the climate operates is that the globe is kept from overheating by a variety of emergent phenomena.” Does this statement reveal a bias around heating? Who is to say it is overheating or overcooling? Weather is local. Or does this mean that these local effects are what are preventing heating that would result from increasing atmospheric CO2 if the hypothesis of AGW were true?

D. Boss
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 25, 2020 7:36 am

An excellent article Willis!

I can confirm your postulate with direct observation. I live in South Florida. And our “rainy” season starts when ocean temp reaches 80F, and ends when it falls below. (May to November)

During this time, we typically get almost daily pop up thunderstorms in the afternoon, which serve to cool things down. These are not to be trifled with – tropical downpours of 4” per hour are the norm, and you must slow down when driving as suddenly visibility can drop to less than the hood of your car. (bonnet for Brits)

These storms can form in minutes, and usually form either east of the coast (where the Gulf Stream is only a mile or two off the east coast here), or at a convergence zone of onshore and offshore winds.

This year has “felt” hotter than normal, but this sense has nothing to do with trace gases. Rather it is because we have had a dearth of the daily storms, so haven’t had this natural cooling effect as much.

I certainly cannot match your maths skills, but can muster some basic “self checking” of an hypothesis on this notion.

The following is a “back of the envelope” cross check on the notion Tropical Thunderstorms provide a net cooling effect on the planet. It’s not comprehensive, but is based on real typical pop up thunderstorm parameters here in the sub tropics.

Actual Values used:

Solar Input with Clear Sky = 835 W/m²

Duration of Thunderstorm = 20 minutes (1200 seconds)

Area of Thunderstorm/Rainfall = 1 km² (1,000,000 m²)

Rain Rate = 4” /hr (0.1016 m/hr)

Mean Altitude of the CB (Cumulo Nimbus) = 20,000 ft (6400 m)

Water Mass = 1,000 kg/m³

water evaporation energy = 2,430 kJ/kg @30C

Downdraft Velocity = 27 m/s

Downdraft Gust Duration = 100 seconds

Lightning Energy = 6 GJ per strike

Lightning strikes = 33

Now this is not a comprehensive analysis of thunderstorm physics, but just takes the most easily obtained facts about these typical almost daily storms here in southern Florida. And uses physics principles to calculate the energy output of this storm as a heat engine.

Thunderstorm as heat engine output energy:

Water: 1,000,000 m² area x 0.1016 m rain depth/hr x 0.33 hrs = 33,867 cubic meters of water fell as rain. This is 33,866,667 kg of water.

Evaporation Energy = 33,866,667 kg x 2,430 kJ/kg = 82 GJ
Raising that mass of water to the mean altitude required 33,866,667 kg x 6100 m x 9.8 N/kg = 2,025 GJ
The downdraft gust entails 27,000,000 m³ of air* which is 32,400,000 kg x 27^2 m/s x 0.5 x 100 seconds = 1,181 GJ of energy.
And 33 lightning strikes at 6 GJ per strike is 165 GJ

*(each second, the downdraft encompasses 27 m high x 1,000,000 square meters area and kinetic energy is 1/2mv^2)

So we have a total output energy of 3,453 GJ from this 20 minute tropical thunderstorm.

Now Solar input in a clear sky, is on average (daylight only, not the silly 24hr average) is 835 W/m² at this latitude. 20 minutes of this over 1,000,000 square meters is 1,002 GJ.

So either the storm took 69 minutes of solar input to form, or it formed faster (which does occur here) and drew in warm moist air from a far larger area of the ocean surface to satisfy conservation law.

Either way the net effect of the thunderstorm as heat engine is it converts heat to useful work which is then not available for heating the planet via the solar energy input.

This “cross check” does not account for the increased albedo of the CB, or the fact that heat from the ocean or ground is transported to high altitudes and released there by convection and water phase changes. (when it condenses it releases heat – and this causes the runaway rise in the cumulus clouds – otherwise it should only condense at the dewpoint temp which is at the cloud base) Nor does it account for how much cold air from high altitudes are brought down by the rain entraining downdraft.

Willis’ postulate that thunderstorms are a cooling mechanism is correct. And they do in fact self generate as soon as the ocean temp reaches 80F in the spring and continues until it drops below 80F in the fall. Thus they are a form of self regulation of climate.

The thunderstorm not only converts the solar heating input to useful work, thus that energy cannot heat the planet, but it transports surface heat to high altitudes where it can more easily be radiated to space. And it brings cold air from high altitudes down to ground level as well as rain that is significantly cooler than ground level temps.

You could say that tropical thunderstorms are nature’s thermostats!

And just for Schist and Giggles, assume the IPCC value for CO2 heating is correct at 1.8 W/m². If we use the storm’s area and duration, the demon carbon molecule adds just a hair over 2 GJ compared to the thunderstorm dissipating 3,453 GJ. Put another way, each 20 minute tropical thunderstorm dissipates as much energy as carbon dioxide adds over 48 days. i.e. Water is the earth’s thermostat, not CO2!

Timo Soren
September 23, 2020 11:51 am

Since energy is not lost in the evaporative cooling, where does it end up in the system? This long term
balancing act would fail as there would be all the water in the atmosphere.

So it is definitely a local cooling, but how can it later cause greater radiation?

Rich Davis
Reply to  Timo Soren
September 23, 2020 2:33 pm

Timo, the latent heat is released into the upper troposphere when the water vapor condenses in the clouds. It then radiates to space and the water returns to the surface. There is no accumulation of water vapor in the atmosphere.

Reply to  Rich Davis
September 23, 2020 9:15 pm

And the radiation into space is facilitated greatly by the CO2 in the upper atmosphere (where there is little to no water).

Reply to  Timo Soren
September 24, 2020 11:32 am

Timo Soren
September 23, 2020 at 11:51 am

What you asking for, has an answer.
But you will never get to understand that answer unless first you understand that the main point of this particular post is not about the RF being non existent.

Once you get to understand this very simplicity, maybe you get a chance to see that your question as put is a fallacy.

You see, Willis is not claiming that RF is non existent.
Simply pointing out that the variation of the radiation potential does not seem to effect it… even in short term.

Before one can destroy, one has to build.

Unless understanding how it builds up, no chance of figuring out how it is squared off.
(my understanding and position is that Willis doing a great work)


September 23, 2020 11:54 am

Worth repeating.

It’s an important point. The thresholds for all of these emergent temperature-regulating climate phenomena (e.g. dust devils, cumulus fields, thunderstorms, squall lines) are temperature-based. They are not based on how much radiation the area is receiving. They are not affected by either CO2 levels or sunshine amounts. When the tropical ocean temperature gets above a certain level, the system kicks into gear, cumulus clouds mutate into thunderstorms, albedo goes straight up, and rain starts falling … no matter what the CO2 levels might be. Temperature-based, not forcing-based. It’s an important point.

Excellent point.

September 23, 2020 11:56 am

The emergent “negative feedback” phenomena limiting tthe upside if ocean temperatures seems almost like a no brainer once you have explained it. Embarrassing for “climate scientists”, if they were capable of embarrassment.

One issue: among the thunderstorm-related coolings in addition to the albedo and rain/evaporation effects, I have thought that updrafts within towering thunderstorm clouds transports heat from the surface to high enough in the atmosphere to be far more readily radiated into space.

Indeed, once transported to an altitude above most of the H2O in the atmosphere, the “greenhouse gas” effect now would hinder the return of heat energy to the surface. This would be like heat being above a blanket lying on you—-the blanket would keep you cooler by keeping the heat away.

And, if the heat is regularly carried well above most CO2 in the air, any rise in CO2 level would have, if anything, a slight cooling effect in the thunderstorm region.

Steen Rasmussen
September 23, 2020 12:02 pm

Hi Willis! Thank you for your effort to get the science right. The energy budget of the Earth could be the final brik to stop the AGW theory, although there already seems to be so many falsifications to that theory, that it should have been put back into the history of science. Does the average energy model even comply? As you mention 70% of the surface of the Earth is water not soil, most of the energy of the Sun is received near equator, the energy from the equator region is transfered north or south through strong wind systems with high kinetic energy – as I find it even not reflected in the official IPCC energy budgets based on IR radiation forcing of CO2. I would so much encourage all of you bright scientific guys to join effort to finally come up with a scientific and bullet poof evidence that the AWG is wrong. We use too much money and energy on what seems to be a false theory.
kind regards SteenR

Reply to  Steen Rasmussen
September 23, 2020 1:53 pm

… energy from the equator region is transfered north or south …

In fact, the transfer is such that the temperature of the tropics away from the equator is warmer than at the equator itself. link

Robert Davis
September 23, 2020 12:16 pm

I agree Willis. I believe we live in a world that has a nonlinear chaotic climate. Good luck trying to come up with computer model for that. It’s why they can’t simulate cloud formation or pressure system’s in the atmosphere.

September 23, 2020 12:27 pm

Excellent Article, Willis. I always look forward to your essays as they are always very enlightening as well as enjoyable reading. I agree with you that the climate self-regulates generally in the manor that you put forth but I have to play devils advocate for a minute and ask a question that may be posed by alarmists and luke-warmers alike. Assuming the general tenant of AGW and the greenhouse hypothesis in general, and that the temperature in the tropics have essentially a max temperature limited by the atmospheric water cycle as you propose, wouldn’t increased greenhouse gasses just push the max temperature into higher latitudes, thereby increasing the global average temperature?

Electrical Engineer

September 23, 2020 12:31 pm

Nice job Willis. Compelling to say the least.

I suspect this will play an integral role in the development of CMIP Phase 200 at centuries end, as the modelers will be scared stiff to consider your analysis for decades to come 😉

Philip Mulholland
September 23, 2020 1:07 pm

Two comments.
I think that your figure 1 animation is a superb piece of work. Please publish this.
For me Figure 8 is a delight. What it shows is that the solar energy capture process takes place in the Horse Latitudes beneath the descending limbs of the Hadley Cell. Go back to the Cretaceous, replace the African Sahara with the shallow seas bordering the Tethys Ocean and you have a world geared to capturing more solar energy.
Your work confirms my thoughts of The Oceanic Central Heating Effect.

September 23, 2020 1:12 pm

The water vapor in question is formed at the sea surface and picks up the heat of vaporization from surface water. As the high-humidity air rises (“wet” air is lighter than dry air) it cools until it condenses and forms a cloud giving up the heat of vaporization as IR, half up, half down. I suppose the up part is largely lost to space.

Is this effect included in your calculations?

September 23, 2020 1:30 pm

Dear Willis,

On November 17, 2018, I posted a comment in response to your question: “Why does the global temperature change so little?”

The conclusion of my comment was as follows:

In conclusion, water, due to both its abundance and its unique properties, is responsible for governing the earth’s temperature.
If the heat balance becomes energy deficient, water reduces outgoing radiation by the green-house gas effect and the insulating effect of snow.
If heat balance has excess energy, water increases outgoing radiation by mass transfer cooling, which increases exponentially with temperature.
And finally, both of these variants are buffered by the energy storage capacity of the oceans with a time constant of the order of decades.
How could a simple linear constant called “climate sensitivity” possibly describe the multi-mechanism, time-lagged, highly non-linear climate phenomena driven by water?

In today’s paper, you have covered the phenomenon of ‘mass transfer cooling’, and shown that this is the principle mechanism by which the earth sheds excess heat, and that this mechanism is so strong that it makes the idea of catastrophic’ warming seem preposterous.

It would also be good if somebody could have a look at the buffering effect, of energy storage in the oceans, that makes futile any attempt to correlate atmospheric temperatures with the radiation balance on time scales of less than centuries.

Philip Mulholland
Reply to  dh-mtl
September 24, 2020 10:53 am

“the phenomenon of ‘mass transfer cooling’,”
Modelled here by Stephen Wilde and myself:
“Return to Earth: A New Mathematical Model of the Earth’s Climate”

“if somebody could have a look at the buffering effect, of energy storage in the oceans,”
For this you need to look at Alex Pope’s work

John F Hultquist
September 23, 2020 1:36 pm

Along with linear functions, another assumption, often not justified, is a normal distribution.

_ _ _ _ _
From the you brought it up department: Obesity
Monday afternoon I saw a female, about age 14, that weighed about 3 times what she should have. This morning I saw two, about mid-30s, that were 2X weight.
Not to put too fine a point on this, but this is ridiculous.

September 23, 2020 1:48 pm

The hazard of analyzing climate data without understanding physics is grave mistakes of attribution. In the present case, it’s claiming that tropical line-squalls are a temperature-driven “emergent” phenomena. In reality, they are produced by easterly gravity waves in the atmosphere–quite independently of SST.

Bob boder
Reply to  1sky1
September 25, 2020 10:34 am


September 23, 2020 1:54 pm

The hazard of analyzing climate data without understanding physics is gross mistakes of attribution. In the present case, it’s claiming that tropical line-squalls are a temperature-driven “emergent”phenomenon. In reality, they are produced by easterly gravity waves in the atmosphere–quite independently of SST.

September 23, 2020 1:59 pm

“What’s left is the solar energy that actually makes it in to warm up and power our entire planet. In this post, for shorthand I’ll call that the “available energy”, because … well, because that’s basically all of the energy we have available to run the entire circus.”

There we go again. Another geothermal denier making ludicrous claims.


Fool: But Zoe, geothermal heat flux is small!

Zoe: Yeah, the smaller, the hotter! Inverse relationship.


Fool: But muh conservation of heat flow in steady state blah blah blah!

Zoe: Radiation is based on temperature (and emissivity), not conductive heat flux. Boltzmann and Planck never claimed radiation is based on conductive heat flux steady state blah blah blah.
Your heat flux W/m^2 is not even in the same dimension as a radiating surface:


Fool: But Zoe, that’s not what warmists and lukewarmists teach. You must be wrong.

Zoe: I suggest looking at actual experiments. Here’s two at the end here:


Summary: The sun is not the only game in town. The idea that it is creates the pseudoscience of the greenhouse effect. Hot can’t cool because of cold so becomes hotter. Dumb AF.

Peace :), -Zoe

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 2:59 pm

Just answer one thing:
If you place a blanket over you while your laying down and sandwich a pyrgeometer between you and the blanket, do you think you’re 98.6F because of 522 W/m^2 of “Downwelling” IR?

I’m serious. It’s very important.

Sorry, but the quote I picked literally shows you to deny geothermal. Maybe you don’t, but that’s what I see.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 4:46 pm

Thank you for the response, Willis.

“On a Venn diagram, our individual understandings of physics and thermodynamics don’t appear to overlap at all”

That’s true. I think radiation is based on Temperature (and emissivity), while you think it’s based on internal conductive heat flux.

I believe in conservation of energy, and you believe in conservation of heat flux.

Take a look at page 1 and 2 here:


Funny how textbooks miss the opportunity to claim what you claim. This one had the perfect opportunity to claim

q_rad = q_x
q_x => q_conv + q_rad

It’s obvious that emission is based on TEMPERATURE, not heat flux.

I see that you’re still stuck on “geothermal heat flux is small”, and can’t get past that.

Well, here’s a reductio ad absurdum to demonstrate a point:

IF the geothermal heat flux was 0 W/m^2 from Earth’s core to the surface (a hypothetical), it would imply the surface and core had the same temperature, i.e. 5400C. And the theoretical emission to space from that would be: 58,732,722 W/m^2.

5400C would CERTAINLY not produce 0 W/m^2 of radiation just because the conductive heat flux was 0 W/m^2.


P.S. I don’t know how you got such a small 0.05 heat flux. I examined 312 sites that have data for 50m and 100m depth and got 49mW/m^2.

This number tells you nothing about what will be emitted at the top. That will depend on Temperature. Please read:


Ed Bo
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 4:58 pm


You are making the mistake of assuming that you are talking to someone who understands the most basic concepts involved, such as conservation of energy, and even the very concept of energy itself.

I have taught comparable subjects at the university level, and I have never had a single student who could not fundamentally understand these introductory concepts. (Thanks to the admissions office, I think.)

She is literally arguing that 0.09 W/m2 of upward geothermal flux ALONE can maintain steady state conditions in the surface layer that is radiating over 300 W/m2 upward.

It’s as absurd as thinking that $0.09 of interest a week into your bank account by itself can maintain a constant week-to-week balance while spending over $300 per week, but there’s no convincing her otherwise.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 6:57 pm

You’re still not getting what I’m doing.

I’m not arguing geothermal would emit 330 W/m^2 to surface boundary GASES in NET terms. 330 W/m^2 is NOT heat transfer. It is an absolute energy level equivalent.

I’m describing what geothermal would emit in ABSOLUTE terms without regard to what’s further down the line, so to speak.

So while your body normally emits 522 W/m^2, in a room at 98.6F, your body’s heat flow to the room would be 0 W/m^2.

Knowing that the heat flux is 0 W/m^2 in this example doesn’t tell you much. You’d get the same with for a 20C object in a 20C room.

Likewise, knowing the geothermal heat flux doesn’t tell you what geothermal ENERGY level is delivered to the surface.

My aim is to explain why global avg. temp. is ~15C, not explain NET heat flow.

If you want to discuss heat flow into the atmosphere, then we should look at surface boundary NET conduction, NET convection, NET radiation between surface and gases. And I’m not talking about flows into the middle of the atmosphere. I’m talking about that tiny sliver hovering just above the surface. Those values will be small, as in milliWatts/m^2.

“It’s as absurd as thinking that $0.09 of interest a week into your bank account by itself can maintain a constant week-to-week balance while spending over $300 per week”

No, silly, your spending is $300 and you get $299.91 back. Your $0.09 was used for conduction + convection + radiation directly to the immediately neighboring layer of gases.

Summary: Don’t confuse heat flow with energy. Don’t confuse a differential with an absolute.

If temperature was based on heat flux and not energy, then the definition of temperature would say so. What’s the definition of temperature?

Strange, I don’t see the definition of temperature as NET flows of 3 types of heat transfer.

One must look into what TEMPERATURE geothermal delivers.

One must look into what ENERGY geothermal delivers, not the HEAT FLOW!

Energy != Heat Flow (with understood exceptions)

Was that understood?

$330 = Energy
$0.09 = Heat Flux

Ed Bo
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 8:47 pm


It is painfully obvious that you have never taken a thermodynamics course in your life, or for that matter actually understood a thermodynamics text and done any of its problems.

I have previously laid out the most fundamental equations for conservation out of the 1st chapter of a typical text, in a form that I would expect any student of mine to grasp immediately without any effort. Yet time after time you cannot understand it at the most basic level.

The fundamental equation for the 1st Law of Thermodynamics, found at the beginning of any text, is:

DeltaE = Q + W

where E is the energy of the system in question, Q is the (signed) sum of the heat flows in and out of the system, and W is the (signed) sum of the work done to and by the system. All terms are energy values, typically expressed in Joules.

In differential form, it can be expressed in terms of rates (in Watts) as:

dE/dt = Q’ + W’

In the systems we are considering, no work is done, and splitting the heat flows into input and outputs we have:

dE/dt = Sum(Q’in) – Sum(Q’out)

For simplicity, let’s consider a surface layer with area of 1.0 m^2 with a thickness of 0.01 m (or 1cm). You claim that the only heat flow in (Sum(Q’in)) is the geothermal conductive flux from the bottom of 0.09W.

The top of this thin surface layer will radiate upwards. At common temperatures and emissivities, this section of the surface will radiate upwards a power flow of about 330W. This IS a heat flow out of the system — it is NOT the energy of the system. It is thousands of times greater than the

You can’t even follow the simple financial analogy I use for non-technical people. Heat flows in are deposits ($0.09/week), and heat flows out are withdrawals ($330/week). The energy of the system is the bank balance, whose rate of change is easy to compute (-$329.91). I said nothing about the absolute level of the bank balance, analogous to the energy level (and corresponding temperature) of the system.

You say: “If temperature was based on heat flux and not energy, then the definition of temperature would say so.” Once again you betray the fact that you have never solved even the most basic of thermo problems. You don’t understand at all the interplay between (temperature-dependent) heat fluxes and temperature.

Here’s a typical easy problem of the type. Prove me wrong by solving it correctly. You have a spherical satellite with a 1.0 m^2 surface area (think Sputnik). It has an internal radioactive power source of 240 watts. The satellite is out in interstellar space, far from any other power source. The surface has unit emissivity. What is the steady-state temperature of the surface?

The problem has a definite answer and could be given as an uncontroversial exam question. There is a definite SS temperature that can be calculated based on the heat flux.

Back to your geothermal flux assertions. You have repeatedly claimed that the 0.09 W/m2 upward geothermal flux BY ITSELF is sufficient to maintain the type of surface temperatures we see (so roughly steady state), even though the upward radiative heat fluxes from the surface are thousands of times greater. To anyone who understands the first thing about thermodynamics, this is complete nonsense.

You say: “One must look into what ENERGY geothermal delivers.” OK: For a typical square meter, it delivers 0.09 Joules each second. That’s a completely insignificant amount, as is the ~$0.09 interest my bank gives me each week. I don’t expect it to maintain my spending.

Trivially simple concepts, yet totally beyond you!

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 10:37 pm


“this section of the surface will radiate upwards a power flow of about 330W. This IS a heat flow out of the system — it is NOT the energy of the system.”

You obviously refuse to learn or you’re purposefully mixing heat flow and energy.

Let’s take a typical surface temperature of 288K and typical lapse rate of 0.0065 C/m. This means that the air 1 meter above the surface is 287.9935 K.

So what’s the actual heat flow from surface to 1 meter above?

s = 5.670367e-8

s(288^4-287.9935^4) = 0.035 W/m^2

35 mW/m^2 is the HEAT FLOW. I would never argue that 390 W/m^2 of surface emission from 288K surface was the HEAT FLOW. It’s clearly not, it’s just the radiative equivalent of available energy (emis = 1).

Likewise, when I say geothermal provides 330 W/m^2, I mean geothermal delivers ~4C worth of energy to the surface. Why not? geothermal 0.09 W/m^2 seems just fine delivering ~5C 10 meters below the ground where the sun doesn’t go.

Your 0.09 W/m^2 geothermal flux CAN NOT explain energy delivered to the surface. In fact there is an infinite variety of temperature profiles that match same geo flux:

comment image

Now think again. We saw that heat flux in the lowest 1 meter of air is 35 mW/m^2 ! And that’s with the sun!

Geothermal is 91 mW/m^2, that is higher.

“You have a spherical satellite with a 1.0 m^2 surface area (think Sputnik). It has an internal radioactive power source of 240 watts. The satellite is out in interstellar space, far from any other power source.”

Funny you should ask that. Same problem, but the power source is Earth, nothing inside the satellite. Don’t you think that over time the Earth’s 240 W/m^2 will eventually heat the super thin sensor to -18C, and thus diminish the actual heat flow from Earth to 0 W/m^2 ??? Don’t you think the geothermal heat flux alone could power such a satellite, that’s leaking 0 W/m^2 of heat flux from Earth?

Or do you believe the satellite sensor is immune from getting heated? And thus must receive an actual HEAT FLOW of 240 W/m^2?

“You claim that the only heat flow in (Sum(Q’in)) is the geothermal conductive flux from the bottom of 0.09W.”

Sure, aside from the fact that geothermal made the surface ~4C in the first place (0C by convention), there is also some heat flow … enough heat flow to cover the heat flow of the first meter of air in the atmosphere.

I swear you’re just barking for excuses to deny geothermal. It’s so obvious that you’re conveniently confusing heat and energy when it suits you.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 11:16 pm


“dE/dt = Q’ + W’”

“Back to your geothermal flux assertions. You have repeatedly claimed that the 0.09 W/m2 upward geothermal flux BY ITSELF is sufficient to maintain the type of surface temperatures we see (so roughly steady state), even though the upward radiative heat fluxes from the surface are thousands of times greater. To anyone who understands the first thing about thermodynamics, this is complete nonsense.”

Genius, Temperature is based on ENERGY. Energy is E. Heat flux is dE/dt.

dE/dt might be 0.09 W, but E is MUCH GREATER. I can’t tell you what E is, because that depends on the properties of matter, but I can tell you geothermal delivers at least 0C worth of energy for that matter at the surface.

Why are you having such a hard time with this?

I’m glad you understand thermoDYNAMICS, as do I, but you failed to look at the available BASE thermo. That’s why you are so confused.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 12:30 am

Zoe says:

“P.S. I don’t know how you got such a small 0.05 heat flux. I examined 312 sites that have data for 50m and 100m depth and got 49mW/m^2.”

Because the last time I checked Zoe your 49 mW/m^2 is the same as Willis’ 0.05 W/m^2.

You appear to be disagreeing with Willis when he got the same answer?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 1:12 am

Good catch, ThinkingScientist.
For some reason I read that as 0.05 mW/m^2, and I remembered I got forty-something in my old post. I thought he must’ve done something else since I used only a small subset of the data. But he didn’t. Thanks for clearing that up.

Ed Bo
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 12:17 pm


As always, you present such a target-rich environment!

You say:

So what’s the actual heat flow from surface to 1 meter above?

s = 5.670367e-8

s(288^4-287.9935^4) = 0.035 W/m^2

So now you are at least acknowledging the principle of “radiative exchange”, which when I earlier pointed you to that section of the MIT engineering heat transfer text, you vehemently denied was correct.

So progress, but baby steps. You still get a couple of things horribly wrong. (I noticed both as a student and later a teacher that the weaker students would find some equation that seemed to deal with the situation at hand without understanding what the equation meant or when it was appropriate to use.)

First, you are treating the first meter of the atmosphere as completely opaque to all wavelengths of thermal radiation from the surface (that is, as an idealized blackbody). This is not remotely true. Only a minuscule fraction of surface radiation is absorbed in the first meter, and only a tiny bit radiated back. You have actually treated it like Willis’ “steel greenhouse” shell, whether you realize it or not.

Second, the presence of any downward radiation from the atmosphere, serving to reduce the net upwards heat flux, IS THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT. An atmosphere transparent to longwave infrared (including N2, O2, and Ar) would neither absorb nor radiate this radiation, so the surface radiation of 300+ W/m2 would radiate directly to space. (If you wanted to apply the equation you used, you would plug in 3K for the sky temperature.)

So even though you got the quantities grossly wrong, you argued FOR the principle of the greenhouse effect very well. More commonly used numbers – globally averaged — are 390 W/m2 upward, 324 W/m2 downward (because mostly coming from significantly higher in the atmosphere), yielding a net upward radiative heat flux of 66 W/m2.

There is so much more that I could attack, but I have to get back to real technical work.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 1:27 pm


“you vehemently denied was correct”

False. I denied two-way photon flow. There are only waves. Heat transfer is from hot to cold.

“Only a minuscule fraction of surface radiation is absorbed in the first meter, and only a tiny bit radiated back.”

That’s true, but I didn’t want to complicate things with conduction and convection.

Surely you recognize that the meter above is only 0.0065C cooler and hence the heat flux to that level is TINY.

You missed the important point, as usual.

“Second, the presence of any downward radiation from the atmosphere, serving to reduce the net upwards heat flux, IS THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT.”

Wrong! The greenhouse effect is the warming of the surface due to this downward radiation. The fact that the surface warms the atmosphere and then this reduces heat flow to that atmosphere is just basic thermodynamics.

“so the surface radiation of 300+ W/m2 would radiate directly to space.”

No, it wouldn’t. Conduction and convection would still create a thermal gradient. Look at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune’s emission to space. It’s pitiful. They have extremely hot interiors and almost no GHGs.

“More commonly used numbers – globally averaged — are 390 W/m2 upward, 324 W/m2 downward (because mostly coming from significantly higher in the atmosphere), yielding a net upward radiative heat flux of 66 W/m2.”

No! There is 66 W/m^2 of heat transfer from the surface to the atmosphere. The downwelling IR is derived. The surface (and some sun) heated the atmosphere.

The GH effect argues that 324 W/m^2 originates in the atmosphere due to the sun’s 240 W/m^2 trying to escape, and this is what creates 390 at the surface.

This is bunk! The 324 (~330 by my method) ORIGINATES from geothermal.

Add 168 to that ~330 and you get 390 + latent + sensible.

There is no energy creation in my method from attempting to conserve heat flow. The energy is already abundantly present from geothermal. And since Earth emits what it receives, geothermal is not drained AT ALL. Therefore it can sit still and maintain ~4C at the surface.

So why is the surface ~15C?

~4C + 168 W/m^2 Solar – 18 W/m^2 Sensible – 86 W/m^2 Latent = ~15C

There is no mystery here.

The moon only provides ~105K. The sun should would provide ~270K, but because moon is so cold, the solar energy is dissipated into sub-surface conduction. In other words, the cold dampens the hot, so much so, that it leaves only 200K at the surface.

This might be hard for you to understand since you only know boundary level heat fluxes and nothing about bulk mass – whether dirt, rocks, or air.

Ed Bo
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 2:13 pm


You continue to outdo yourself! You say: “I denied two-way photon flow. There are only waves.”

We have over 100 years of spectacularly successful predictions based on the quantization of electromagnetic radiation. We have multibillion-dollar industries completely dependent on understanding and using this quantization. (I have personally worked in these industries, and none of the designs would make sense without this quantization.) Yet little Zoe waves it all away on a whim…

You say: “Surely you recognize that the meter above is only 0.0065C cooler and hence the heat flux to that level is TINY.”

The radiant power fluxes THROUGH this level are huge comparatively. The majority of sunlight makes it through the entire atmosphere without being absorbed, so an absolutely tiny fraction is absorbed in this last meter.

You say: “I mean geothermal delivers ~4C worth of energy to the surface.” This is completely meaningless gobbledygook. Energy, or even power, is not measured in C or K. You might as well have said “geothermal ~4 meters worth of energy to the surface.” All you are saying is that you do not understand the fundamental concepts AT ALL.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 2:39 pm

“successful predictions based on the quantization of electromagnetic radiation.”

Sure. Between matter and using waves. E+M are waves.

“so an absolutely tiny fraction is absorbed in this last meter.”

Blah blah. Small temperature differences between every meter = small heat flux between every meter.

“Energy, or even power, is not measured in C or K”

I said “worth”. Q = m Cp dT

Learn science.

Ed Bo
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 4:06 pm


You just keep getting more ridiculous. Treating EMR as waves alone cannot explain literally hundreds of phenomena we see and use every day. We have known this for at least a century now, through thousands of repeatable controlled laboratory experiments.

The well-known distinction between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation cannot be understood by wave theory. Phototransistors work on the principle that one photon absorbed causes the transfer of one electron.

The evidence for the existence of photons is every bit as strong as the evidence for the existence of electrons (quantized electrical charge). And electrons have wave properties too — they can generate diffraction patterns.

It is pathetic that you do not understand this in the 21st Century.

You say: “Small temperature differences between every meter = small heat flux between every meter.”

True if you are talking about conductive transfer. The conductive heat flux through the atmosphere is about one-millionth that of the radiative heat fluxes that overwhelmingly pass through each meter. That is why they are usually ignored in at least first cut calculations.

You say: “I said “worth”. Q = m Cp dT”.

Here’s yet another case where you just grab an equation without understanding what it means. The clue should have been the “dT”. The equation expresses the energy input required to create a CHANGE in temperature. You are using it incorrectly as an absolute temperature value. Rookie mistake!

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 4:38 pm

The discussion was about the invalidity of corpuscular theory of light. There is no justification for it. “Wavelength” means nothing to a corpuscle. So they don’t exist. And they don’t travel from something to nothing.

Everything else is irrelevant to this point. Everything has been explained with waves. Listening to scientists who believe in corpuscular theory doesn’t mean its true. If helps them to conceive of it that way, that is their own choice.

“the radiative heat fluxes that overwhelmingly pass through each meter.”

Uhuh, and what’s the NET of up and down through a meter? You won’t answer !

“You are using it incorrectly as an absolute temperature value”

I fed you a clue, dummy.

You said:
‘You say: “I mean geothermal delivers ~4C worth of energy to the surface.” This is completely meaningless gobbledygook.’

It sounded like you don’t understand there’s a relationship between energy and temperature.

If I told you my electric heater brought 100C worth of energy to the top of the water, you would say “This is completely meaningless gobbledygook”.

It’s pretty obvious what I’m saying. Why not to you?

Obviously my equation is iterative. You add delta T to the current T. Duh!

Geothermal makes the surface ~4C. I blurred the specifics since it’s hard for you. Is that better?

Ed Bo
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 6:48 pm


You say: “Everything has been explained with waves.”

As a crusty old thermodynamics professor of mine would roar when someone made a ridiculous claim: “HORRRRRRSESH*T!”

Way back in the 19th century, scientists were noticing phenomena that could NOT be explained with WAVE theory. Starting in the early 20th century, quantum theory COULD explain these phenomena, and VERY successfully and accurately. I’ve listed just a few of these.

But Zoe is stuck in the 19th century and believes that every physics textbook written in the last century is wrong, that whole industries that have been operating successfully for decades can’t possibly be working. Amazing arrogance!

You ask: “what’s the net up and down through a meter?” Well to use typical low-altitude values for thermal infrared alone, with 400 W/m2 up and 300 W/m2 down, the net is 100 W/m2 up, with virtually none of this absorbed in a 1-meter layer.

You say: ‘If I told you my electric heater brought 100C worth of energy to the top of the water, you would say “This is completely meaningless gobbledygook”.’

Yes I would because it is true! You might say that you have an electric heater that is capable of raising the temperature of a certain vessel of water (say, 1 liter, well insulated) to 100C in an ambient of say, 25C. But that very same electric heater probably would be able to “bring 100C worth of energy to the top of the water in, say, a 100 liter poorly insulated vessel in an ambient of -10C. So your statement is indeed meaningless gobbledygook!

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 8:15 pm

Zoe Phin

You say heat only flows from hot to cold.

Perhaps you could use your science to explain how an UNCOOLED thermal imaging camera works?
Modern cameras using microbolometers can measure to better than 0.03 °C differences in temperatures from -20°C to a few hundred °C. in one range. other ranges allow much higher temps 2700°C to be measured.
Now obviously temperatures above the temperature of the microbolometers can warm them above ambient changing their resistance. But how do colder temperatures, -20°C remember, cause the micro bolometer to cool and its resistance change.
The lens images the subject onto the microbolometer array. What magic allows the image of cold objects to change the resistance of the bolometer sitting at +40°C? There is no such things as cold rays.

The way it works is that all parts (hot or cold) of the image warm the bolometers. Cold parts of the image (above 0K) warm the bolometers less than the warmer things so resistance of the bolometers follows the temperature.

Remember the bolometer array is at a warm temperature gaining heat from all its surroundings – electronics, mechanical bits, lenses so will be above ambient.

It will continue working when focussed objects are just above 0K but the small changes caused by minimal added energy at these temperatures will be lost in the noise of detection. Hence most uncooled machines only show temperatures down to -20C

David L. Hagen(@hagendl)
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 26, 2020 8:14 pm

Zeo Phin
“49mW/m^2” rounds to “0.05 W/m^2” as Willis Eschenbach stated.

Reply to  Zoe Phin
September 23, 2020 4:39 pm

“Zoe: Yeah, the smaller, the hotter! Inverse relationship.”

When your whole argument is based on a falsehood, it’s no wonder it falls apart so easily.

Reply to  MarkW
September 23, 2020 5:27 pm

You are nothing but a warmist, MarkW. Come out of that closet!

Reply to  leitmotif
September 24, 2020 9:28 am

Only a sith thinks in absolutes.

The idea that everyone who doesn’t agree with you 100% is evil is a religious statement, not a scientific one.

Reply to  MarkW
September 24, 2020 1:05 pm

Groupthink, MarkW, groupthink.

Warmists believe the GHE exacerbated by humans will cause untold damage. Lukewarmers like yourself don’t believe it is that serious.

Me? I see no evidence for either stance. I see no evidence for climate change, rapid climate change that is, either.

What climate are we talking about? The one in Mumbai? The one in the English Lake District, the one in New York?

Grow up, plonker.

Reply to  MarkW
September 24, 2020 5:09 am

Ed Bo

“OK For a typical square meter, it delivers 0.09 Joules each second. That’s a completely insignificant amount, as is the ~$0.09 interest my bank gives me each week.”

How about 9 cents a second if you compare apples to apples instead of apples to assholes…

Ed Bo
Reply to  Gary Ashe
September 24, 2020 8:28 am

I was comparing $0.09 interest per week to spending of $330 per week. Zoe analysis says that the account balance could remain steady with those as the only input and output.

So, let’s ramp it up to a huge account that earns $0.09 per second of interest, but spends $330 per second. Same problem. Trivial to see, but Zoe can’t understand it no matter how many times it’s explained to her.

Reply to  Ed Bo
September 24, 2020 10:50 am

The sun emits at 5778K, that is equivalent to $63,196,526.55

Let’s say the meter below the emission surface is 5779K. The net radiative heat flux (the photonic version of conductive HEAT FLUX) between this layer and next is $43,761.11.

So the emissive layer is getting $43,761.11, but spending $63,196,526.55.

That’s a ratio of 1 to 1444.

Yet no one doubts the sun shines just fine, and will continue for billions of years.

Of course here on Earth, the sun gives us $240 and we spend $240, geothermal doesn’t need to spend anything. $330 is not spent. It’s just an SB equivalent of ~277K of energy provided by geothermal (273K by convention).

Ed Bo
Reply to  Ed Bo
September 24, 2020 12:57 pm


You keep making a fool of yourself with these “drive-by” analyses.

You make completely arbitrary and unsupported assumptions (1 K/m solar temperature gradient, layers interacting as blackbody radiators only), then try to make definitive arguments based on these assumptions.

It doesn’t even pass the laugh test!

Reply to  Ed Bo
September 24, 2020 2:04 pm

The sun is not considered a black body generator?

If the emission layer is considered a blackbody generator, surely the denser layer beneath would be more so.

1 K/m is indeed made up. The real gradient is much less than this, and it only bolsters my point.

You’re a sophist, Ed.

Ed Bo
Reply to  Ed Bo
September 24, 2020 2:39 pm


Every time I think you can’t outdo yourself, you manage it!

You say: “If the emission layer is considered a blackbody generator, surely the denser layer beneath would be more so.”


I’ve designed heatsinks with black-anodized surfaces that radiate outwards almost as perfect blackbodies (emissivity ~0.97.) But underneath the surface, heat transfer acts NOTHING LIKE blackbody radiative transfer. Our experimental results show that Fourier’s conduction equations predict very well what really happens.

Oh, and there is no “more so” than blackbody radiation. BB radiation is the idealized limit for thermal radiation.

In every argument you make, you simply show that you have no idea what you are talking about.

Reply to  Ed Bo
September 24, 2020 3:38 pm

You’re not even going to attempt to figure out what the heat flux through a meter near the emission level is, because it would leave you embarassed.

You say more about yourself than me.

Ed Bo
Reply to  Ed Bo
September 24, 2020 4:22 pm


Because I understand that the 1st LoT is a fundamental and universal law, and I understand how to apply it, I can confidently state that the power transferrate from the interior to the top layer that radiates to space (which is a lot thicker than a meter, by the way) is fundamentally equal to the radiative power transfer out, because the sun is in close to steady state conditions.

And I can state this without being an expert in the details of the mechanisms of heat transfer in a plasma. I can also state confidently that you know nothing about heat transfer in plasmas, because you know nothing about heat transfer in solids, liquids, and gases.

Loren C. Wilson
September 23, 2020 2:04 pm

Has anyone simulated the earth’s energy budget by actually using a sphere that spins and only half is receiving incoming energy at a time? And adds clouds based on a yearly pattern or average for each 1×1 degree quadrant? As most of the processes are not linear over even modest temperature changes, assuming an average for very different modes of operation sounds like a gross simplification. We have the computational power to do this type of simulation and verify if the average is a reasonable approximation.

Philip Mulholland
Reply to  Loren C. Wilson
September 23, 2020 2:10 pm

“Has anyone simulated the earth’s energy budget by actually using a sphere that spins and only half is receiving incoming energy at a time?”
Careful Loren.
That will really upset the apple cart.

Philip Mulholland
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
September 24, 2020 3:27 am

Have a look at this paper and tell me what the value of the solar flux is used on their model.
Leconte, J., Forget, F., Charnay, B., Wordsworth, R. and Pottier, A., 2013. Increased insolation threshold for runaway greenhouse processes on Earth-like planets. Nature, 504(7479), pp.268-271.
Hint “Figure 1 | Temperature and radiative budget for the Earth under two
insolations. a, b, Maps of the annual mean surface temperature for the models
corresponding to present Earth (F* = 341W m^-2 ; a) and to a mean solar flux of 375W m^-2 (b)”

Let me remind you that the NASA value of the Earth disk interception is :
Solar irradiance 1361.0 (W/m2) – a value 4 times bigger, so yes in climate models the sun does shine onto the ground at night.

Komerade Cube
September 23, 2020 2:21 pm

Great article Willis, thank you. Articles like these are why I come to WUWT.

Robert W. Turner
September 23, 2020 2:37 pm

I like the theory overall, it’s just another piece of the mountain of evidence that water moderates temperature extremes on this planet.

There’s one thing I’d like to say about figure 8 though, direct downwelling solar energy is not the only and may not even be the primary energy source for evaporation because of kinetic energy from wind. Gas has inherent properties that make it an energy reservoir with far more thermal feedbacks to the surface than radiant emission.

September 23, 2020 2:41 pm

Recipe for a Hurricane
Whipping up a hurricane calls for a number of ingredients readily available in tropical areas:

A pre-existing weather disturbance: A hurricane often starts out as a tropical wave.

Warm water: Water at least 26.5 degrees Celsius over a depth of 50 meters powers the storm.

Thunderstorm activity: Thunderstorms turn ocean heat into hurricane fuel.


Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Ghalfrunt.
September 23, 2020 3:30 pm

And angular momentum. You get more of that in the tropics.

Reply to  Ghalfrunt.
September 23, 2020 4:42 pm

Don’t forget the lack of vertical shear, which tears hurricanes apart before they can form.

Phil Salmon
Reply to  Ghalfrunt.
September 26, 2020 12:36 am

Another thing that hurricanes do is cool the local ocean surface quite significantly, partly by causing upwelling. This can be of comparable significance to the atmospheric convective and radiative cooling from storms and thunderclouds. All in all a big burp of energy from ocean to space.

Reply to  Phil Salmon
September 28, 2020 8:59 am

It can only get to space from radiative gasses and clouds (greyish body)
clouds need to be above 10km before they can directly radiate all wavelengths to space otherwise some wavelengths are intercepted by ghgs just as the radiation from the sea is
cooler ocean = less radiation (black body)
convection will move heat upwards perhaps quicker than if no upwelling. Radiation from ghgs plays little part a lower altitudes – collison between molecule is too frequent and transfers hot ghg to non ghg.
so just how much cooling do you really get

Gordon A. Dressler
September 23, 2020 2:42 pm

Willis, this is a great article! Thank you for taking the time to create all the detailed plots and to put forth, in detail, your reasoning. Overall, I find what you say to be very credible.

However, there is one thing nagging at me: what is the root case of the marked inflection point at 27 C?

You posted (two paragraphs before Figure 4): “In the areas where the sea surface temperature is over ~ 27°C there is less and less energy available with each additional degree C of surface warming.” That cannot be correct, as stated. The specific heat capacity of seawater near the surface is basically constant over the range of, say, 20 to 30 °C, so the energy content change in the ocean surface per degree temperature change should be the same going from, say 27 to 29 °C, as it is going from 25 to 27 °C.

Something else is in play. If I accept that 27 °C is the ocean surface “trigger temperature” for thunderstorms, then it seems that thunderstorms would cause sea-surface evaporative cooling to be maximized at that temperature (i.e., RH ~100%) and the resulting atmospheric albedo (from CN cloud tops) to be also be maximized at that temperature. I am at a loss at to the mechanism that might explain ADDITIONAL COOLING for sea surface temperatures higher than the asserted 27 °C trigger point . . . shouldn’t both sea-surface and atmospheric temperatures be stabilized by the massive energy exchanges engendered by thunderstorms, as you have so aptly described their influence. By what mechanism does additional heat loss at the surface above 27 °C actually occur . . . could it be that precipitation out of CN thunderheads sends enough cold water/hail coupled with very cold air downwashes to provide net COOLING that increasing with sea surface temperature above 27 °C? But then again shouldn’t this energy exchange be obvious in the CERES data for cloud tops?

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
September 23, 2020 5:54 pm

Evaporative cooling is a mass transfer phenomenon, i.e. the transfer of water vapor from the water surface to the ambient atmosphere.

The rate of mass transfer = kc x A x Driving Force.

The Driving Force is the difference between the saturation vapor pressure of water and the ambient partial pressure of water. The saturation vapor pressure (and thus the Driving Force) increases exponentially with temperature (approximately 6% / degree C at 25 C).

The mass transfer coefficient kc is, in this case, driven by natural convection, which in turn is a function of density differences between different air masses. The main cause of the density differences is the amount of water vapor in the air, whose density is 40% lower than dry air. Thus a 1 C increase in temperature results in both a 6% increase in mass transfer because of the vapor pressure, plus a positive feed-back of a similar magnitude because of the effect of water vapor on natural convection.

The effective area, A, is the ocean surface, if the ocean is calm. However, if the winds increase (i.e. natural convection driven by the concentration of water vapor) and there are waves and swells with broken surface, then the area becomes the sea surface area plus the surface area of all of the water droplets associated with the broken surface.

In other words once there is sufficient evaporation to cause natural convection to increase until the winds are strong enough to cause waves with broken surface, then the surface area can increase explosively.

Thus one gets a situation where a small increase in temperature, causes an exponential increase in water vapor pressure, which drives multiple positive positive feed-backs that can cause an explosive increase in the mass transfer rate.

From Willis’ paper, it seems that the minimum temperature for this to occur is about 26 C.

The maximum mass transfer rate will be limited by ability to transfer heat, within the water, required to support the rate of evaporation required for the mass transfer to occur. It seems from the data presented by Willis, that heat transfer within the water cannot support the mass transfer rates at temperatures above 30C.

Reply to  dh-mtl
September 23, 2020 6:04 pm

In the above comment, in the first two sentences, ‘heat transfer’ should be ‘mass transfer’.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  dh-mtl
September 23, 2020 8:19 pm

OK, but my question still is: what is the root case of the marked inflection point at 27 C?

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
September 24, 2020 5:23 am

Gordon Dressler

It appears that above 27 C, the rate of evaporation is high enough to cause winds that are strong enough to cause rough seas, which then causes a massive increase in the rate of evaporation.

It’s the classic run-away feed-back loop.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  dh-mtl
September 24, 2020 8:58 am

Except for the fact that Willis has already pointed out “The thunderstorms which are cutting down the total available solar energy are also cooling the surface in a host of other ways. First among these is evaporation. Thunderstorms make rain, and it takes solar energy to evaporate the rain. That energy is then not available to heat the surface. . . . In addition, the thunderstorm generated winds increase the local sea surface reflectivity by creating reflective white foam, spume, and spray over large areas of the ocean. And finally, a rough ocean with thunderstorm-generated waves reflects about two times what a calm ocean reflects (albedo ~ 8% rough vs ~ 4% smooth). That change in sea surface roughness alone equates to about 15 W/m2 less available energy.”

So, it seems that these mechanisms would combine to REGULATE the maximum sea surface temperature at a “balance point” of around 27 °C, but do not explain the mechanism of active cooling of ocean temperatures above 27 °C. In other words, if 27 °C is the point at which tropical thunderstorms are triggered, how is it possible that open ocean surface waters can be heated above 27 °C in the first place so that they can be “cooled down” from those higher temperatures?

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  dh-mtl
September 24, 2020 12:19 pm

Hi Willis, thank you for the prompt response to my recent comment.

I’m apparently not clearly communicating my major question about the data you present in support of your theory of “emergent phenomena”, which has great intrinsic appeal to me.

Let me try approaching it another way. In your Figure 3 scatter plot graph, the FWHM Gaussian average trend line of available solar energy (after albedo reflections) versus liquid sea surface temperature has a sharp reversal in slope (going from yellow to red color indication) at close to 27 °C . . . not at close to 26 °C, and not at close to 28 °C. And the downward (red) slope is shown to continue up to 30 °C.

So, fundamentally, if not coming from residual incoming solar radiation, what is the source of energy (or W/m^2) to heat, on average, ocean surface waters to temperatures above that relative sharp and dramatic 27 °C reversal point for solar heating?

This appears to me to present the quandary of what is the source of energy for heating the ocean’s surface above 27 °C if the solar energy available for such heating is actually declining above 27 °C as this graph indicates is happening . . . all this based on statistical averages, of course.

[Note that the above is true and even more evident in your Figure 7, although the sharp slope inflection point has shifted downward to 26 °C.]

Is this a case where I am making a mistake in taking that red slope literally, whereas I should instead be considering the vertical min/max range of observations (max variations providing more solar heating than the FWHM Gaussian average trend line peak implies, at least out to 29 °C)?

I do understand that the development of thunderstorms is not an “all-or-nothing” proposition, and this is clearly implied by the data scatter, both vertically and horizontally, in your Figures 3 and 7. But the breakpoints in Figure 3 and Figure 7 are very sharp.

Please understand that I am not trying to be argumentative, but just to obtain understanding, along the lines of the Biblical advice: “Test all things; hold fast what is good.”


Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
September 24, 2020 8:01 am


If atmospheric pressure were to increase by 10%, due to more N, O2, CO2 in the air, then the thunderstorm inflection point would move up several degrees C.

Grandma’s kitchen had a pressure cooker. There was a weight sitting on the steam vent, which regulated the internal increase in temperature. That increase made for faster cooking.

100 million years ago, do we know what the mass of the earths atmosphere was? I keep following the discussions on “can Pterodactyls fly?” No one has a fix on the fundamental question as to the atmospheric density. Perhaps that density question is involved with the GAT more than CO2 changes.

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
September 24, 2020 6:21 am

My opinion is that this is related to water vapor partial pressure and buoyancy of humid air. Somewhere around 27C is buoyancy of 100% relative humidity air high enough to reach condensing altitude.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Peter
September 24, 2020 9:16 am

Peter, cumulus clouds (perhaps stratus clouds also) form above oceans having sea surface temperatures well below 27 °C (81°F). Look at Figure 1 in the above article to see the widespread distribution of 2-4 km high clouds for sea surface temperatures less than 27 °C.

September 23, 2020 3:27 pm

Thanks Willis, a valuable supplement to your EP (emergent phenomena) sequence.
Where I live, 19°11’34.27″S,146°40’39.74″E, anyone who cares to look can see the reality of EP. The “West Pacific Warm Pool” is not far away, and the dominant (60%) airflow is from the NE. You only need to be on elevated ground here on a late summer afternoon to see the whole thing boiling up. Even happening now (early spring) to a minor extent.
An interesting point:
“… when we include evaporative cooling, the drop in available energy starts at a slightly lower temperature, 26°C vs 27°”
An early technical paper from JCU CTS (Cyclone Testing Station) says cyclones can be triggered by a sea temperature in excess of 24°C and a thunderstorm in the Solomon Sea, which is then likely to track south and west (except when it doesn’t).
You also say ” … by the time the open ocean temperature reaches its maximum value of 30°C … “. Also correct in my opinion, but the BoM (Australian Bureau of Meteorology) “MetEye” device http://www.bom.gov.au/australia/meteye/ is currently showing a range of 24 – 26°C along the shore line here, and 32 – 36°C further out. One reason why I never look to BoM for reliable information.

Mike Lawden
September 23, 2020 3:36 pm

Very interesting article. Actually based on data, rather than models.

I’ve been thinking about the albedo effect on the earth’s temperature.

Solar panels are designed to absorb solar energy. In general, their albedo is less than that of the ground they cover. This means that a solar farm must increase the amount solar energy absorbed by the earth. Eventually, this must end up as heat (Second Law of Thermodynamics). This heat will warm the atmosphere. So the effect of the transition to solar energy will be global warming. Not what is being advertised.

Have I missed something?

Reply to  Mike Lawden
September 25, 2020 5:22 am

The cells are as black as can be made to absorb solar visible radiation where energy is at a peak.
This unfortunately in simple cells (no wavelength selective coatings) also means that they absorb thermal radiation.
The sum of the solar input and losses due to electrical resistance heats the panels more than the ground that they are covering would heat.
However they are black and emit at black body spectrums (less the bits removed for elect energy) so compared to ground which emits grey body radiation they will emit more energy. They are also thin and will be cooled by conduction to air, both sides. There would be little heating of the grond so ;ittle storage of energy (like open ground would give).

Paul of Alexandria
September 23, 2020 3:40 pm

A corollary question would be: for those eras where the global temperature has been higher or lower, what changed the setpoint?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 12:28 am

Probably random. There are a lot of interacting mechanisms, so it would be surprising if there were not variation. Its like an imperfectly tuned car idling. You get periodic changes in tone and frequency, but it carries on idling and reverts back.

The ‘slow drift’ piece was very interesting in ruling out the intuitively promising contenders, but there could be interactions between their effects which are not captured by examining them individually.

Have you considered putting the key pieces together in book format, and publishing on Amazon? Most of the work is done, they are pretty much organized in chapters already. Need some editing, it would be work, but it would be a valuable contribution.

Reply to  michel
September 28, 2020 5:15 am

September 24, 2020 at 12:28 am

That’s a great idea…it would be a wonderful reference for all us minions and those to come.
One downside is that it might divert Willis from generating new and useful ideas.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 5:22 am

Is it cosmic effects [ phenomena ] Willis, do you think, or do they explain some of it..

Reply to  Paul of Alexandria
September 24, 2020 2:16 am

for those eras where the global temperature has been higher or lower, what changed the setpoint?

The current temperature is controlled by the connectedness of the oceans. The tropical ocean cannot be more than 303K providing the air in the ocean circulation gets cooled to 271K. The temperature where sea ice forms. Under those conditions all the water evaporated into the air circulating into the tropics has to be dropped out by the time the air returns to to the pole/s.

Before Drakes passage opened, there was no Southern Ocean circulation. That meant that there was no sea ice on the southern side of the Pacific Ocean. That enabled higher sea surface temperature than 303K, the present limit. If the sea surface never gets to freezing then the circulating air does not lose all its water and the water column increases; still varying from tropics to poles but above zero baseline at the poles. That means the elevation of the condensing air and cloud formation is higher resulting in higher sea surface temperature.

Drakes passage formed to enable the southern ocean circulation from 60M to 40M years ago. That enabled heat transfer from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. Cooling the Pacific and warming the Atlantic. The trees in Antarctica died.

The distribution of water over the planet and properties of water control the sea surface temperature to a narrow range. Up to 303K in the tropics and down to 271K at the sea ice interface. Providing there is sea ice at the poles this temperature range will be maintained.

Opening and closing of Bering Strait controls heat transfer from the Northern Pacific to the Northern Atlantic in the northern hemisphere. Bering Strait is only 50m deep so it works as a regular switch in the current ice age that gets flicked by the small changes in earth’s rotational eccentricity to cause glaciation in the Northern hemisphere.

Gerald Browning
September 23, 2020 3:41 pm

Evaporative cooling at the warm ocean surface makes sense.
Where does the latent heating of condensation go?


Gerald Browning
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 10:32 am


In our manuscripts on equatorial and mesoscale motions, the vertical velocity is directly proportional to the total of the heating plus cooling. And the main contributions to that total are evaporative cooling and latent heating. Thus your description of what happens in tropical storms is in complete agreement with the mathematical Bounded Derivative Theory. That theory also proves that the climate models are based on the wrong atmospheric dynamical of equations. 🙂


Reply to  Gerald Browning
September 24, 2020 12:26 pm

Indeed, the failure to recognize that surface-to-air heat transfer is predominantly via surface evaporation and that latent heat bypasses “greenhouse” effects is the egregious dynamical error of most climate models.

Gerald Browning
Reply to  1sky1
September 28, 2020 8:24 am


See my manuscript in the September issue of Dynamics of Atmospheres and Oceans or on this site Under the thread “Structural Errors in ….”
For mesoscale case see the Browning and Kreiss 2002 manuscript on google scholar and for the equatorial case the manuscript with Wayne Schubert.

David L. Hagen(@hagendl)
Reply to  Gerald Browning
September 26, 2020 8:20 pm

Any handy list of references?
Is that phenomena linear or a rapid onset? etc.

September 23, 2020 3:56 pm

Somewhat off topic, but the first graph got me curious about what’s going on around 0 to 10 deg C. You used a gaussian, but the distribution in that area looks like a poisson? I’m wondering if that’s just a state change from ice to water?

September 23, 2020 4:10 pm

Why don’t we count heat from the earth ? ie, the millions of undersea volcanoes and hydrothermal vents ? We now know there are several moons with subsurface oceans that are heated from their cores (and one or two like Enceladus that are heated by gravitation forces), but if there is enough residual heat in small moons to keep liquid oceans going, then it makes sense that there is SIGNIFICANTLY more residual heat coming from earth. We know that the boundary of the mantle-crust is 200 degrees C and the bottom of the mantle is over 900 degrees C. We know from deep mines that just a few kms down the temperatures is so high that people cant survive without cooling – so there is obviously a flow of heat to the surface. 30 years ago they thought there was just a few undersea volcanoes and hydrothermal vents. A decade later it was hundreds. A decade later thousands. And today it’s in the millions. And then you have the sea floor ridges where the plates are spreading and constantly spewing out lava across thousands of kms. I struggle to believe that all of this is not significantly heating the planet.

John F Hultquist
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 6:17 pm

Willis wrote: “ it is stable,

This seems to be a point many miss.
We are not concerned with the concept of “deep time” with our discussions of global warming. The argument seems to be since the industrial revolution and the use of carbon based fuels by humans. I live on top of the Columbia River Basalts that came in the middle Miocene, 17 to 15 Million years ago. I read those flood basalts vented a lot of heat. Not of interest now, though. Landforms are interesting.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 7:09 pm

“So let’s assume for the sake of argument that sea floor heat is ten times that. It’s not, but let’s assume it were that large.”

Say, government was crazy {obviously, it is} and wanted to match that amount heat with nuclear bombs {under deep blue sea- no one would notice it].

Other the waste money {and nuclear bombs] would you regard it as problem?

{I wouldn’t- but it would be doing more global warming than CO2 emission}.

Thing is global climate is long term thing- and no crazy government could do it, for such a long term- if nothing else get Peak Uranium. Maybe whales wouldn’t like it, or maybe they be liking the noise.

What I think is damaging to the world is the stupid global warming religion. Some might think it’s good idea to terrify the kiddies.
Did duck and cover cause that much problems? ?
I think so.
Anyhow, our global climate is set by the entire ocean average temperature. It’s cold and that is why we been in Ice Age for millions of years.
Why we have low CO2 levels.
If ocean were to warm from 3.5 C to 10 C, that is huge change.
Sea levels go thru roof just from thermal expansion, and no more polar ice caps, but even that not much problem. I think we should live on ocean- and such a thing could make that easier.
But in terms of global temperature- it’s “worse than was thought” but not if you thought it going to get hot- as 10 C is not vaguely, hot.
But warming ocean to 10 C, way beyond what humans or space alien could do. Space alien could drop huge space rock on Earth- but it’s the impact being the problem rather any warming of ocean. Same goes for massive increase in volcanic activity- it’s the volcanic activity, which the immediate or only actual problem.

But if ocean warms up to 4 C, that is a lot climate change. It possible within few centuries. Only about 1 foot sea level rise, but maybe have orange tree growing in Oregon- which I would count that as definitely, climate change.
Not against it, but no doubt about it being “climate change”.
Or orange trees growing in Oregon I count as a good sign. And probably or maybe never happened in 100,000 years.
Anyhow, warming or cooling ocean by .5 C matters, warming global air by 1 C doesn’t matter. Though cooling global air 1 C, that obviously is bad news.

Anyhow, modeling- what causes ice box or greenhouse {hothouse} global climate, and in regard to that issue, geothermal heating of ocean is a part of it.
Why are living in time when sun putting out the most energy, and we living in Ice Age. Why was so much warmer, tens, hundreds of million years ago {with sun putting out less energy].
And plus such things where continents are {though again also related to geothermal factors]. Or where continents are- the entire global topography is big
Also ocean floor {70% of Earth surface] is roughly less 200 million years old- just that fact, with all the unknowns about this, has got force one consider the geothermal as part of Earth’s climate history.

September 23, 2020 4:27 pm
Robert of Texas
September 23, 2020 4:31 pm


If you supply enough energy to the heat engine, it cranks up in efficiency. This is just like some chemical reactions that can only move forward given some minimum amount of energy.

Now if your theory is correct, think about the consequences – more water in the air, more rainfall, more weathering, more snowfall in some areas which could lead to glacier development.

And with any luck…lower summer temperatures in Texas!

Joel O’Bryan(@joelobryan)
September 23, 2020 4:36 pm

your 27C hypothesis would be dependent on surface salinity as well. Higher salinity increasingly needs more energy, and thus higher temps, for evaporation.
so salinity would also be a controlling variable.

Long ago ancient tropical seas have been speculated to be much warmer than today. That would imply ocean salinity was substantially higher than today, thus pushing your emergent behavior threshold temp upward as well.

Much like Carbon being sequestered through the eons to bring pCO2 levels down to modern values, salt sequestration also has been undoubtedly going on. The evidence is the many thick salt deposits around the world where ancient seas evaporated, and then the salt layers were buried.

Joel O'Bryan(@joelobryan)
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 8:57 pm

I don’t know where you got your numbers on Latent heat of vaporization versus salinity.
(rounding to zero decimal places)
At 30ºC, the latent heat of vaporization of 20 g/kg seawater is:
h ≈ 2,400 kJ/kg. But at 40 g/kg,
h ≈ 2,350 kJ/kg.
35 g/kg seawater is going to have a latent heat of vaporization of around h ≈ 2,387 kJ/kg.
36 g/kg seawater, h ≈ 2,390 kJ/kg,
37 g/kg seawater, h ≈ 2,393 kJ/kg,
38 g/kg seawater, h ≈ 2,395 kJ/kg,
39 g/kg seawater, h ≈ 2,398 kJ/kg,
40 g/kg seawater, h ≈ 2,400 kJ/kg.

Salinity of seawater physical properties, Reference: see Figure 12 in this publication:

Those are probably not inconsequential as you suggest from your flawed latent heat numbers. Those differences are probably substantial enough to to support the hypothesis that ancient tropical seas with higher SS temps than today were supported by elevated salinity relative to modern day values.

Joel O'Bryan(@joelobryan)
Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
September 23, 2020 10:47 pm

Oopps wrote that backwards on the latent heats.

But the point is the increasing salinity would mean more seawater has to be evaporated to convert the same kJ from sensible heat to latent heat. And thus yoiur threshold temperature will rise as well. It is not an insignificant rise.

“The highest surface salinities in the open Pacific occur in the southeastern area, where they reach 37 parts per thousand; in the corresponding trade-wind belt in the North Pacific, the maximum salinity seldom reaches 36 parts per thousand. Pacific waters near Antarctica have salinities of less than about 34 parts; the lowest salinities—less than about 32 parts—occur in the extreme northern zone of the Pacific.

The heavy rainfall of the western Pacific, associated with the monsoons of the region, gives rise to relatively low salinities. Seasonal variations are significant in the western Pacific as well as in the eastern Pacific, caused by seasonal changes in surface currents.

Those small variations in salinity matter in regards to how much seawater must be evaporated to “move” a kJ of heat energy (sensible to latent) from the sea to atmosphere.

I’m pretty certain your analysis needs to consider the salinity changes across the equatorial Pacific to account for the energy budget you are studying.

And salinity has been rising:
“Examining the salinity change in the upper Pacific Ocean during the Argo period”

September 23, 2020 4:47 pm

the number of COVID pandemic deaths (a once-off phenomenon) finally equaled two-thirds of the annual number of deaths from obesity.”

Classic case of Willis comparing apples to oranges. The number of COVID-19 deaths has four more months to go before you compare it to an annual number of anything.

Reply to  TL Winslow
September 23, 2020 6:18 pm

So, 2/3rds of obesity, in 2/3rds of the year. Sounds like a pretty fair comparison to me!

John F Hultquist
Reply to  TL Winslow
September 23, 2020 6:26 pm

Note that the number of virus deaths is dropping while continuing the little surges as new subpopulations are encountered.
Meanwhile the deaths that obesity contributes to increase yearly and will remain high while this virus will fade to background in two years.

Reply to  John F Hultquist
September 23, 2020 7:12 pm

“while this virus will fade to background in two years”

Making an assertion without evidence is stupid. This virus may remain in circulation for decades.

John F Hultquist
Reply to  TL Winslow
September 23, 2020 9:28 pm

Epidemiological curves are well known.
Please do more reading and less ranting.
Example: The 2009 swine flu pandemic was an influenza pandemic that lasted for about 19 months, from January 2009 to August 2010, … {Wiki}

Max Dupilka
September 23, 2020 4:48 pm

Jerry, yes a good question. For a buoyant process, such as a thunderstorm, an air parcel will rise to the CCL (convective condensation level) where is condenses to cloud droplets and begins to release the latent heat. This is the base of the thunderstorm. The parcel will continue to rise, cool, condense, and release latent heat which keeps it warmer than the environment and keeps it rising at a steadily faster rate. This produces the strong updraft of thunderstorms. So the latent heat of condensation is released steadily through the updraft.

Reply to  Max Dupilka
September 24, 2020 3:29 am

Not all of it can be released. During the uplift process heat is converted to potential energy as the air density falls and the molecules occupy a larger volume. That potential energy cannot be radiated away. It is only recovered when the air sinks back towards the surface.
So, within the global scale Hadley, Ferrel and Polar cells heat is constantly being added back to the surface recovered from potential energy as the density increases and the molecules occupy a smaller volume under the descending legs.
That is where the so called greenhouse effect really comes from.
The radiative theory misses all that.

John F Hultquist
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
September 24, 2020 10:04 am

” back to the surface ”

Poor wording. Atmosphere is meant, I think, not surface.

September 23, 2020 4:50 pm

Well something must stop runaway global warming. Higher temperature means more water vapor which means higher temperature and so on. Willis’ theory looks good to me and backed up by data. The agw models have failed in that they run hot, and have made other predictions that have not occurred, so something obviously is wrong with them. In any other scientific field they would be considered total failures.

September 23, 2020 5:53 pm

Off topic, Willis, but I’ve been watching


The conditions aboard that ship are horrible. Staph infections and shipmates, some are children, are driving each other batty.

Were your experiences sailing pleasant? Just wondering.

September 23, 2020 5:55 pm

27 C or 80.6 F in the tropics is not end of world.
Earth has always had this.
Let’s get back to our Ice Age.
Though mid latitudes with the larger loss with 27 C ocean surface is interesting in terms
global temperature. I don’t have particular good reason for that- other than it’s on receiving end of the tropical heat engine and having the much colder region towards the poles.
I don’t know, but it seems that could vary a bit. If get a lot of it, with thunder storms of much ocean mixing- global warming??

John Carter
September 23, 2020 6:02 pm

Regards bore holes etc
(1) removal of tree cover can increase head storage and temperature in upper layers perhaps 100’s of meters depending on age of tree cover removal. Not sure if anyone as accounting for this .. probably not big in regards ocean heat storage though.

(2) The energy balance equations (terrestrial) I have seen have a point (guessing at 7 meters) where there is considered no further downward movement of heat in the system. This is likely incorrect. I would also suspect that there is no upward movement of geothermal heat into the bottom of oceans , soil profile.

Does anyone know if current GCM models have a spatially explicit upwelling geothermal heat in their energy balance

Reply to  John Carter
September 24, 2020 12:40 pm

When we built a pool in Montreal we noted that other pools, even with ‘blankets’ cooled very substantially every night. 8 feet down, the soil temperature is about 10C in summer. We installed 1/8 in closed cell foam between the concrete and the liner and our pool did not require any additional heating. While the temperature goes up as you go down, in temperate regions the heat coming out of the earth is not enough to warm the top 3m.

September 23, 2020 6:14 pm

Willis, are you familiar with the concept of a thermosiphon?

Burl Henry
September 23, 2020 7:30 pm


You have an excellent explanation of how the Earth tends to limit its temperature increases through the increase in cloud formation.

However, you do not touch on WHY its temperatures fluctuate up and down, as seen in the formation of El Ninos and La Ninas.

As I have repeatedly pointed out, El Ninos are caused by decreased levels of SO2 aerosols in the atmosphere, caused by either periods of ~3 years or more between VEI4 eruptions, or after a volcano’s aerosols have settled out, forming a volcanic-induced El Nino, or reductions in SO2 aerosol emissions due to Clean Air efforts.

The above is prelude to a very great danger that we are facing. If Joe Biden is elected president, he will implement the “Green New Deal”, whose centerpiece is the complete abolition of the burning of fossil fuels, which produce both CO2 and SO2.

Currently, the amount of anthropogenic SO2 emissions in our atmosphere is an estimated 80 Megatons. If they are driven to near zero, Earth’s temperatures will SOAR, probably rising by 1.6 to 2 deg. C from present levels. This will increase weather-related disasters, as well as make much of the Earth unlivable, through unbearable temperatures and sea level rise.

A real worry to add to your worry list. And if American, DON’T vote for Joe Biden.

Reply to  Burl Henry
September 23, 2020 7:56 pm

”Currently, the amount of anthropogenic SO2 emissions in our atmosphere is an estimated 80 Megatons. If they are driven to near zero, Earth’s temperatures will SOAR, probably rising by 1.6 to 2 deg. C from present levels. This will increase weather-related disasters, as well as make much of the Earth unlivable, through unbearable temperatures and sea level rise.”

This sounds like hysterical garbage to me. What were the anthropogenic SO2 emissions in 1777?

Burl Henry
Reply to  Mike
September 24, 2020 8:57 am


I am using the Community Emissions Data Set (CEDS) of the University of Maryland. It tracks reactive atmospheric emissions, which includes SO2. It spans the years 1750-2014, but will eventually be updated to the present.

For 1777, total anthropogenic aerosol emissions were 0.59 Megatons. In 2014, they were 111 Megatons, but have fallen since then due to global Clean Air efforts.

Definitely NOT hysterical garbage.

Burl Henry
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 27, 2020 8:42 pm


You completely deny any climatic effects from volcanic eruptions, or the effects of SO2 aerosols in our atmosphere, and I have failed to convince you otherwise.

However, I do have a recently published peer-reviewed article titled “Experimental proof that Carbon Dioxide does NOT cause global warming”, which is based upon the changing amounts of SO2 in our atmosphere, which may convince you. And others.


Burl Henry
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 28, 2020 9:24 pm


I have a problem in understanding your Dronning Maud graphs and comments.

First, you say there is a large expansion in the century between 900 to 1000, with “nary a volcano in sight”. However, there were actually 12 VEI4, 2 VEI5 and 1 VEI6 volcanoes in that interval, easily enough to start and maintain the cold summers from 900 to 1000.

Then a huge SO2 spike is shown in 1258, which would have been from the VEI7 eruption of Mount Rinjani (Samalas) in 1257 (per Wikipedia), and the VEI6 eruption of Katia in 1262. This would have been the cause of the ice expansion in 1280, with eruptions preceding
the ice expansion in 1280, as earlier.

Then in 1435, there is another large expansion, but without any prior large SO2 spike. Perhaps it was generated out of whole cloth by the PDF? Or one of the 1435 or 1455 dates is in error, as the authors speculated.

In any event, 2 of the 3 expansion peaks were clearly associated with prior volcanic eruptions, which is sufficient to show ice expansion after volcanic activity, as I maintain.

Burl Henry
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 29, 2020 5:19 am


You said my link went to 404.

It turns out that the link that I gave was for the article prior to being published in the Journal.

After publication, the link is: http://www.scholink.org/ojs/index.php/se/

Have at it!

Philip Mulholland
Reply to  Burl Henry
September 29, 2020 5:51 am


I love your Figure 2 example of the Global Distribution of Surface SO2 in the Atmosphere dated 27 June 2020.
It is full of detail for example the plume from South Africa into the Southern Ocean, and the similar plume south from Western Australia.
In particular also are the Ship Tracks in the South Atlantic Ocean from West Africa to South Africa sailing directly against the prevailing wind.
and the Ship Tracks in the Indian Ocean from the Gulf of Aden via Sri Lanka to the Malacca Strait at the time when the surface winds of the Indian Ocean Monsoon will drive ship engine emissions to the north.
Ventusky 27June 2020 1:00pm

Burl Henry
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 30, 2020 1:17 pm

Hi Willis:

More later, but here are a few responses to your questions regarding my paper:

Which ENSO temperatures? Just the ones caused by business-recession warming.

Here is the link to the Climate Prediction Center, for ENSOs since 1950:


Yes, the more SO2, the lower the temperatures. Recall that in the early 1970s there were fears of a New Ice Age because of the lower temperatures at that time.

You said that SO2 emissions peaked in 1988–actually, they peaked in 1979, at 136 Megatons. They were a bit lower in 1988, at 132 Megatons.

Anthropogenic SO2 aerosol emissions have trended downward since 1979, due to global Clean Air efforts, and, as a result, temperatures have warmed up, because there are fewer SO2 aerosols in the atmosphere. Present SO2 levels are estimated to be ~ 80 Megatons. Per CEDS, they were 111 Megatons in 2014.,

Burl Henry
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
October 2, 2020 7:56 pm


Any ice expansion has to be driven by lower temperatures, and if sufficient volcanic eruptions, are present, their SO2 emissions will lower temperatures enough to cause the necessary cooling.

From Figure 3 in your paper, peak ice growth from the 1257 VEI7 Rinjani (Samalas) eruption and the 1262 VEI6 Katia eruption resulted in a large peak in 1280, ~23 years after the first eruption.
There were numerous prior volcanic SO2 peaks, but they were during the MWP and did not cause any ice growth.

The graph also shows several smaller peaks before then, the first being in ~830.

In 1800, there were two VEI6 eruptions, and two later VEI4 eruptions, whose SO2 would have caused the ~830 ice growth peak, ~30 years later.

In 823, there was a Plinian eruption [the most powerful type known (per page 17 of “Volcanoes of the World”, third edition), probably a VEI5, or a VEI6], which, along with 10 VEI4 and 1 VEI5 (860) eruptions, in between, would have caused the next growth peak, in ~875.

In 890, there was another Plinian eruption, and, along with 5 VEI4 and 2 VEI5 eruptions, their SO2 emissions would have been responsible for the growth peak in ~925, about 35 years later (there is a shoulder on that peak, which was probably caused by the VEI6 eruption of Ceboruco, in 930).

So, all of the peaks prior to 1262 were also driven by volcanic SO2 emissions. Instead of 1 peak out of 5 (with the dating of 5th peak questioned by the authors), I find 4 out of 5 peaks being caused by prior volcanic eruptions. Surely, this should be enough to convince you.

With respect to your unscientific comment that the volcanoes in my earlier list did not “appear” to have much SO2, I examined the Central England Temperatures data set. Every known VEI4, and higher, eruption appeared on the data set, to varying extents, so VEI4’s DO effect the climate.

You do great work. but I have never seen any decrease in temperatures not associated with increased SO2 in the atmosphere, and the above are just other examples.

Pat from Kerbob
September 23, 2020 7:31 pm

A great post by Willis and no sight of the usual trolls Griff, Loydo, jack Dale, etc etc etc trying their best to obfuscate.

Good to see that people understand their limitations.

No one likes having their arse handed to them in public.

Reply to  Pat from Kerbob
September 24, 2020 1:50 am

You’re not even wrong Pat. I enjoy reading most of Willis’ posts because I often learn something and he tends not to resort to gratuitous ad hominem attacks.

September 23, 2020 7:39 pm

In figure 3 you show post-albedo insolation versus temperature. The highest gaussian average value is around 325 W/m^2, just a little over ice cube level (315), yet its correlates with 27 degrees C.

You know that all those fluxes on the left-hand side don’t produce those temperatures.

Given what you said …

‘Now, I don’t agree with the widely-held idea that the planetary temperature is a linear function of the “radiative forcing” or simply “forcing”, which is the amount of downwelling radiation headed to the surface from both the sun and from atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Oh, the radiation itself is real … but it doesn’t set the surface temperature’

Where do you think the extra energy comes from to create those temperatures?

Or did I misunderstand something?

Thanks, -Z

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2020 9:19 pm

Thanks Willis. I’m familiar with your steel greenhouse, I’m just confused about your language here.

“Oh, the radiation itself is real … but it doesn’t set the surface temperature”

So what sets the surface temperature?

You don’t believe there’s a literal force involved?

You just think the steel shell MAKES the surface hotter without a “force”?

Cold communicates to hot via something other than a force, such as electromagnetic force?

It’s like a remote ping that leaves no trace?

Hot becomes hotter to maintain heat flow and it just happens automatically?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 1:26 am

On my planet the atmosphere is not a thin shell with an abstract thickness of 0, lacking any heat capacity and separated from the surface by a vacuum.

So tell me again why the inner sphere “must” warm up …

To conserve heat flow, you just add energy that wasn’t present. Where’d it come from? Who knows? But the equations balance, so it’s all good, right?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 11:33 am

Not so fast, Willis.
Your thin shell has a conductive heat flux of 0 W/m^2, yet emits 275 W/m^2 to space. How do you justify that?

Philip Mulholland
Reply to  Zoe Phin
September 24, 2020 11:40 am

I must get some more popcorn in.

Ed Bo
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 1:11 pm


Your thin shell has a conductive heat flux of 0 W/m^2, yet emits 275 W/m^2 to space. How do you justify that?

If you want to make it a little more realistic, let’s make the shell 1 cm (0.01m) thick. Steel has a thermal conductivity of about 48 W/m/K, so to conduct 240 W/m2 through the shell, there would need to be a temperature drop from the inside to the outside of the shell of 0.05K.

Anyone with actual experience in these types of problems would quickly do that calculation as a sanity check and realize that it had a trivial impact on the overall problem. You are simply showing that you have no such experience. You are completely out of your depth here.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 1:59 pm

But you forgot about all the HEAT flow!

According to Willis, the shell radiates back to sphere all it receives!

The heat flow to the shell is 0 W/m^2 !

The shell comes to thermal equilbrium (assuming vacuum gap is negligible) with the sphere.

The conduction through the shell becomes 0, but … emission to space is still ~240.

But you will say there is still 240 W/m^2 of conduction. OK, if you do that then there is no 240 W/m^2 of backradiation. Can’t have both.

Ed Bo
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 3:40 pm


Once again you demonstrate that you have not ever actually worked with even the most simple thermodynamic problems. So let’s work through it step by step as you would in a beginner’s class.

First, define the “control mass” (look it up) as the combined sphere and shell system. In steady state conditions dE/dt is zero, so Qin heat flows must equal Qout heat flows by the 1st LoT.

Qin is 240*Area (given), so Qout must be 240*Area. (This assumes that the shell has a neglibly larger radius and area than the sphere. With a little more math, you could get a neglibly different answer.) The only mechanism for Qout is radiation to deep space, and for simplicity we use an emissivity of 1.0. In order for the shell to radiate this amount outwards, the outer surface of the shell must have a temperature of:

Toutershell = (Q / Sigma) ^ (1/4) = (240 / 5.67E-8) ^ (1/4) = 255.07K

Now consider the shell alone as the control mass. In steady-state conditions, dE/dT must be zero, so there must be a net Qin to the inside of the shell. This can only come from radiative transfer from the sphere, so using the equation you have used:

Q(net sphere-to-shell) = Sigma * (Tsphere^4 – Tinnershell^4) = 240

You can take Tinnershell = Toutershell as a good approximation, or if you want, compute a slightly higher temperature to account for finite conductivity of 240 W/m2 through the shell. It makes almost no difference. I will use the 0.05K difference I computed earlier. Solving for Tsphere, we have:

Q + (Sigma * TinnerShell^4) = Sigma * Tsphere^4

Tsphere = ([240 + (5.67E-8 * 255.12^4)] / 5.67E-8) ^ (1/4)

Tsphere = 303.35K

Double checking by consider the sphere alone: It has an internally generated 240*Area Qin and a radiative heat transfer out of 240*Area, so its dE/dt is zero and it is in steady-state conditions.

This is exactly how it would be solve in an introductory thermodynamics class. You keep demonstrating that you have never taken one.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 5:00 pm


“In fact, the shell radiates half of what it receives inwards and half is radiated outwards.”

Only after you added virtual flux.

The only real and raw flux you have is 235.

Forgeting conduction for a moment, that 235 goes to shell and at steady state: 235 returns. Nothing goes to space. There is nothing in space close enough to dampen the motion of your molecules.

You can ONLY derive Planck’s Law by counting WAVE modes in a cavity. You can’t then replace those waves with two-way photon motion (doubling photon density is not in the formula), and you certainly can’t then claim a one-way photon flow to NOTHING. There’s nothing for the photon to charge to, and so there is no reason for electron level to jump down and create a photon.

If you placed a sensor to monitor this experiment, the situation changes.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 6:01 pm

“The only mechanism for Qout is radiation to deep space …

In steady-state conditions, dE/dT must be zero, so there must be a net Qin to the inside of the shell.”

Uhuh, sounds like you want 240 W/m^2 to enter from sphere and 240 W/m^2 to leave from both sides of the shell, so you can make dE/dt equal to zero. You imagine the different directions cancel each other out? No, you just doubled the power.

“Q(net sphere-to-shell) = Sigma * (Tsphere^4 – Tinnershell^4) = 240

You can take Tinnershell = Toutershell as a good approximation”

OK that approximation results in Q = 0. Heat flow is zero at steady state. Agree!

“Q + (Sigma * TinnerShell^4) = Sigma * Tsphere^4

Tsphere = ([240 + (5.67E-8 * 255.12^4)] / 5.67E-8) ^ (1/4)”

And now you’ve made Q = 240. Nice job!

“Double checking by consider the sphere alone: It has an internally generated 240*Area Qin and a radiative heat transfer out of 240*Area, so its dE/dt is zero and it is in steady-state conditions.”

The “internal generation” is now manifest on the inside of the shell. Your heat flow is zero. You’re not sending 240 anymore. But you do it anyway.

You doubled 240 to 480, so you could send 240 to space and 240 back to justify your doubling to 480 in the first place.

Don’t think anyone serious believes you scammers.

“This is exactly how it would be solve in an introductory thermodynamics class.”

Uhuh, I’ll wait for a very similar example rather than rely on your interpretation of the rules.

Ed Bo
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 24, 2020 7:13 pm


You say: “Nothing goes to space.” But you have an input to the sphere+shell system of (235*Area) watts. If there is no power output to space, then the internal energy of the system is increasing by this same (235*Area) watts, by the most basic 1st Law analysis. So it is not remotely steady state.

Only someone with absolutely no concept of the 1st LoT could make such a ridiculous analysis.

You then say: “you certainly can’t then claim a one-way photon flow to NOTHING.”

We have many telescopes on earth that can easily see stars a million light years away. I have worked on several of these, and know that the detectors for this type of observation are capable of detecting individual photons. It’s how they work.

Think of what has happened in the million years since the star initially output that radiation, with the movement of galaxies, solar systems, and the planet. The telescope just happened to sweep across the path of that photon that was emitted a million years ago. A very slight difference in the direction of the photon would mean it missed the telescope and even the earth and just kept moving on.

But by your analysis, the photon (or even the wave) would not have been emitted a million years ago unless it somehow “knew” that it would be incercepted and absorbed a million years later. This is the “Tom Brady” radiation theory, knowing to emit to where the receiver will be.

Burl Henry
Reply to  Zoe Phin
September 24, 2020 9:06 am

Zoe Phin:

“So what sets the surface temperature?”

The control knob for our temperatures is the amount of SO2 aerosols in our atmosphere.

Decrease them, and it warms up.

Increase them, and it cools down.

Reply to  Zoe Phin
September 24, 2020 11:41 am

“So what sets the surface temperature?”

Ocean surface temperature.
One also say tropical ocean surface temperature sets the surface
Or knowing tropical ocean surface temperature “allows” one to say
Earth average surface temperature is about 15 C- without even going anywhere near to Antarctica.
You simply need to know tropics is 40% of Earth surface. Useful to know about 80% of tropics is the tropical ocean and the tropical ocean average temperature is about 26 C.
But entire ocean surface temperature sets or makes global air temperature-
Tropical ocean 26 C, rest of ocean about 11 and entire ocean averages about 17 C. Or 70% of earth surface has average temperature of 17 C.
Average land is 10 C.
Useful trick, ocean warms land.
And Land does not warm ocean. Or Land cools the ocean. If had more ocean, global temperature would be higher.
Less cooling by land- more warming. More cooling by land, more cooling.

But this about weather. Which many imagine is global temperature, because that what is we measure- 5 feet above surface in a white box {in natural setting without site having “artificial” warming or cooling effects- or say under a “natural” tree}.
BUT better or “real” global temperature is the temperature of entire ocean- which has average temperature of about 3.5 C.
Or the entire ocean “sets” global air temperature. Or since tropical ocean is important {and is disconnected to the entire ocean temperature} it could reasonable the global heat engine average temperature counts or sets global average temperature.
But journey of the story of global warming starts with Europeans wondering why Europe is warmer than “it should be”. The answer was already known, before they wondered, Europe is warmer than it should be due to ocean heating from the Gulf Stream.
And the journey of idiocy ran into fork in the road called Venus. Which caused much pondering by the morons. The morons were once wondering how pleasant Venus was going to be, and were surprised.

Anyhow, ocean of 3.5 C determine Icebox or Greenhouse {hothouse} global climate. And 3.5 C means we are in Ice Age.
Ocean temperature determine “the Age” or even “the World” we are in.

Reply to  gbaikie
September 24, 2020 1:30 pm

Where’d the ocean get the temperature?

The sun can only make it -42C (168 W/m^2).

Reply to  gbaikie
September 24, 2020 5:59 pm

–Zoe Phin September 24, 2020 at 1:30 pm
Where’d the ocean get the temperature?

The sun can only make it -42C (168 W/m^2).–

The ocean can absorb 1120 watts per square meter of sunlight on clear day and when sun is near zenith. {Oceans absorbs the 70 watts of indirect sunlight}

168 W/m^2 is average and an average that includes night time.

1/2 of Earth doesn’t get a lot sunlight, and tropics is the middle part of the 1/2 of Earth that gets most of sunlight.
Europeans wondered why they were so warm {not freezing to death}, because they actually once knew they receive very little sunlight- and the reason they can be called white people- as their skin can absorb more UV and thereby can get enough Vitamin D, within an environment with little sunlight- so, in other words not die off from being severely deficient in Vitamin D – though that is assuming they don’t stay in their caves to too long.
Chinese also have white skin and likewise don’t get much sunlight- though more sunlight than Europeans, though southern European and southern China get more than the northern parts, of course. Or with Spain almost make sense to have solar panels {almost- or, closer to almost being close to rational]. Solar panels anywhere on Earth surface is pretty much a bad idea- it’s not just the clouds, it’s also 10 tons per square of air.
If had lot less of both of these, then you get 12 hours instead of 6 hours per average day- which is would be important. And solar power in Germany would be as good as in Spain- and white skin would not had any genetic benefit. So, would not gotten any white people.
And only, the crazy white people, living in Ice Age can be delusional enough to worry about “global warming”.
So, get no global warming cargo cult, either.
Though humans can imagine all kinds of cults and religions- but I guess, on average, probably not quite that stupid.

Reply to  Zoe Phin
September 25, 2020 9:55 am


“If there is no power output to space, then the internal energy of the system is increasing”

Wrong. The nuclear core just makes the molecules vibrate with a given intensity. There is no increase in intensity over time.

‘would not have been emitted a million years ago unless it somehow “knew” that it would be incercepted and absorbed a million years later’

So derive Planck’s law by emission to nothing!

If you believe in the big bang, you know everything was tethered to everything else. Things moved apart, but they still know where everything else is.

Things moved apart and radiation followed from object to object.

Everything is still tethered to everything else.

Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance” only applies between TWO or more things. Right? You can know something without an observer. Why you assume the observer creates actions too?

Ed Bo
Reply to  Zoe Phin
September 25, 2020 3:03 pm


You remind me of a couple of kids in my high school science classes who were always reading about advanced science concepts in the popular press, but couldn’t be bothered to learn the basics, such as basic “F=ma” problems like “How long would it take an object to fall 10 meters to the earth’s surface, neglecting air resistance?”

And because they never learned the basics, they never actually understood any of the advanced concepts either. So it is with you.

You can’t grasp the most basic concept in thermodynamics, that of conservation of energy, or the simple accounting that the balance changes by the difference between the input and outputs. This has been verified countless times over the last 200 years, and is one of the most basic cornerstones of successful modern technology, but you don’t understand it!

So when you reject the claim that “If there is no power output to space, then the internal energy of the system is increasing”, you are simply displaying your total ignorance of this fundamental concept.

If you are so sure of this, try an experiment. Your body’s metabolism produces thermal energy at a rate of about 100 watts. By your logic, you do not need to output any of this power to ambient to keep your body temperature steady. So insulate your body with layers and layers of insulation to prevent any of this power output: plastic wrap to prevent evaporation, metal foil to prevent radiation, and multiple layers of down clothing to prevent conduction/convection to ambient.

Now just sit in a room at about 25C and monitor your temperature. You think you will be fine…

You continue to assert that “wave theory explains everything” about electromagnetic radiation. Yet you also, hilariously, continue to cite Planck’s Law, which was the first to use corpuscular theory (successfully) to explain observations that wave theory could not. Only someone totally confused on the basics could argue both.

In response to my example of the light from star a million light years away reaching a detector on telescope on earth, you ask: “Why [do] you assume the observer creates actions too?”

NO! You are the one claiming the star did not actually emit the radiation if it wasn’t absorbed. I do not believe this, because it is absurd.

You seem to have read some things about quantum entangled. But no, this is NOT a case of quantum entanglement, which only happens under very special circumstances. And Einstein was arguing AGAINST the concept.

So yes, you are like my high school classmates, reading about advanced concepts without remotely understanding them, and missing the most basic concepts as well.

Reply to  Zoe Phin
September 25, 2020 4:57 pm


“Yet you also, hilariously, continue to cite Planck’s Law, which was the first to use corpuscular theory”

Absolute lie. Planck didn’t use corpuscar theory. He won the 1900 Nobel Prize. It was only later did Einstein regurgitate Newton’s corpuscular theory.

The derivation of Planck’s Law is on Wikipedia, do look into it, if you can’t find it in your textbooks.

Your body will produce that energy assuming you eat or have stored fat. Wrapping yourself in many many layers will never increase your temperature, except possibly as a chemical response due to not being able to get rid of toxins. This increase will not be anywhere near a doubling.

I’m getting tired of refuting all your silly points. Please read my new article:

Ed Bo
Reply to  Zoe Phin
September 25, 2020 6:22 pm


Do you make a special effort to get EVERYTHING wrong???

The KEY innovation of Planck’s law was that radiation is quantized. This permitted him to explain things that classical wave theory could not. I am very familiar with its derivation.

From britannica.com:

In 1900 the German theoretical physicist Max Planck made a bold suggestion. He assumed that the radiation energy is emitted, not continuously, but rather in discrete packets called quanta.

Oh, and Planck won the Nobel in 1918, not 1900. You can’t get even the simplest things right!

On the body example: Have you never heard of heatstroke? Have you ever stopped to think why people wear less clothes when it’s hot? Little kids can understand this, but it is beyond you!

September 23, 2020 7:43 pm

Willis, this is outstanding. Congratulations.

September 23, 2020 7:50 pm

I’ve always believed that the only reason life continues to exist on this planet is due to it’s self regulating temperature and all the tears flowing from the CliSci zombies was/is in vain.
So, Willis, what’s the ECS? 🙂

Richard M
September 23, 2020 8:06 pm

This data from CERES and analysis by Willis provides climate modelers with an excellent test for their products. If their models end up with ocean temperatures over 27 C then their model has failed to support now known physical processes. That means their model is missing something and they need to halt all development until it is fixed.

This should be a validation test for admittance into the IPCC set of models.

Another clear problem just like the missing hot spot. In fact, missing these dynamics may be the very reason they end up with a hot spot.

September 23, 2020 8:12 pm

As a longterm resident of the wet Tropics thunder cloud screening is a frequent summer observation for me. Its strong effect on local temperature is equally clear. All people outside the wet tropics could notice this only during a holiday or during a climate conference in an exotic location. Also a matter of wanting to see something which could go against a narrative – Science.

Not surprised that Micheal Mann of Miami Vice “fame” didn’t notice 😀

September 23, 2020 8:17 pm

Impressive and compelling post.
How does your Emergent Phenomena hypothesis relate to the work of meteorologists Herbert Riehl and Joanne Markus in 1958, as well as the great research of Dr. Joanne Simpson?
On the latter scientist, see the paper given in September, 2001 by Tao and others to the AMS Meteorological Monographs Symposium on Cloud Systems, Hurricanes etc. entitled “The Research of Dr. Joanne Simpson:Fifty years investigating Hurricanes, tropical clouds and cloud systems.”
Dr. Simpson has 9 specific accomplishments in her fifty year career, (1) Hot tower hypothesis,(2) Hurricanes, (3) airflow and clouds over heated islands,(4) cloud models,(5) trade winds and their role in cumulus development,(6) air-sea interaction,(7) cloud-cloud interactions and mergers,(8) waterspouts and (9) TRMM science.

September 23, 2020 8:48 pm

Very elegant, Willis.

Your observations of the data reveals a very sharp boundary depicting conditions where thunderstorms always occur…and reveals the resulting observed (associated and very sharp) ocean surface temperature limits.

I’ve always wondered why the steep “runaway global warming” — that occurs at the end of each glacial period — stops climbing at about the same average global temperature. The CO2 rise from ocean outgassing probably does drive a lot of the early steady warming when CO2 concentrations are ~180 ppm…until it reaches a saturation point near 275 ppm after the oceans have warmed considerably… and where additional CO2 has little additional “greenhouse” effect. But the CO2 saturation limit would be a pretty “dirty” upper limit regulator when H2O dominates CO2’s contribution at levels way below CO2’s 275ppm saturation point.

This Eschenbach Climate Thermostat provides the (or at least a) “hard stop” mechanism for interglacial peak temperature limits. And it provides (CO2 independent) local warming upper limits. And it is a temperature based “hard attractor” (due to the sharp condition boundaries) in the Climate’s repertoire of natural chaotic variations. Only very non-linear phenomena (like emergent phenomena) can produce these sharp boundaries. Earth’s observed very narrow temperature variability requires the existence of some “hard” regulators.

September 23, 2020 9:43 pm

Figure 3 is “available solar energy vs. liquid sea surface temperature.” If there were multiple energy sources, a separate chart could be made for each available energy source. A GHG such as CO2 is reradiating otherwise unused solar energy. If the back radiated CO2 energy can be considered a separate energy source, a new Fig 3 could be generated showing “available back radiated energy vs. liquid surface temperature.” Assuming such a figure would be similar to the existing Fig 3, it should show if and where the feedback from GHGs goes from positive to negative (if it does indeed switch polarity). Hope this makes sense.

Martin Mason
September 23, 2020 11:47 pm

Excellent Willis, many thanks for your efforts.

September 24, 2020 12:56 am

Well done. It does seem strange that a prof from a good university does not run with this and produce a paper. It would confirm these findings or expose holes.
If it could get traction from within the ‘team’ think what progress could be acheived.

I wonder why a mainstream ‘scientist’ does not run with it?

September 24, 2020 1:06 am

I have stated this many times before. The energy in the climate system is a function of the distribution of water of the surface and the unique properties of water.

Ocean surface temperature cannot exceed 303K because of the rapidly increasing rate of evaporation above 298K resulting in cloud formation that reduces surface insolation. Ocean surface cannot get colder than 271K because of the formation of sea ice and the insolation of sea ice.

It should be no surprise that average ocean surface temperature is the area average of these two extremes.

David Blenkinsop
September 24, 2020 1:07 am

I like the idea of clouds and/or storms regulating daily temperature, but aren’t there some fairly awkward questions remaining as to the source of long term stability for the earth’s temperature? If the earth’s weather thermostat works so well, then why do we have ice ages? Technically we’re still in an ice age (witness the sad state of Greenland, frozen up as it is). However, we were in a much worse glaciated portion of the ice age not very long ago in geological terms, and things could get that bad again.

When it comes to temperature stability, maybe it is just the tropics that are well regulated — but can we even count on that in the long run? What are the chances that the whole earth temperature could drop us into a world-as-snowball situation, the bitter (cold) end of life as we know it?

Reply to  David Blenkinsop
September 24, 2020 2:30 am

The current limit on the tropical ocean temperature of 303K is because all oceans have sea ice at their interface with pole/s where the temperature is 271K. That has been the case since the southern ocean circulation began some 60M years ago.

Bering Strait, that connects the northern Pacific with the northern Atlantic is only 50m deep. The slight variation in Earth’s rotational eccentricity and domination of ocean water in the Southern Hemisphere cause a build up of sea and land ice in the northern hemisphere that eventually closes Bering Strait t heat transfer. This results in accelerating glaciation around the North Atlantic.

Reply to  RickWill
September 24, 2020 3:18 am

The limit on the tropical sea surface temperature is set by the weight of the atmosphere bearing down on the sea surface because that is what determines the amount of energy required to sustain the evaporative process.
The heavier the atmosphere the more energy is needed for evaporation to occur and the higher the temperature must rise.
If there is no atmosphere to press down on a water surface then the entire body of water converts to water vapour pretty much instantaneously.

David Blenkinsop
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
September 25, 2020 12:09 pm

So, hypothetically, if the mechanism of storm formation were derailed somehow, there could still be a basis for temperature stability?

September 24, 2020 2:06 am

How can we test Willis’s theory of these emergent processes and the 27 C figure.
Since building a 1 km tower would be a tad expensive a series of radiospndes launch in a target area at say, 30 min intervals. If these detected a change in some parameters, at a point in time, then a batch of radiosondes could be launched at 10 min intervals to get a greater resolution of measurement.
If a layer effect was found then drones could be sent up to closely investigate these measurement.

Reply to  Steve Richards
September 24, 2020 3:37 am

Water vapour pressure rises rapidly above 298K.

Ocean air circulates from high latitudes over the poles gaining water vapour over the warm oceans until saturated then that water vapour condenses to form clouds each afternoon as the air temperature cools resulting in rain then the cycle repeats the next day. The daily cycle of cloud formation reduces the surface insulation from the clear sky condition so act as shutters. Ocean air circulations eventually lose water as they move back to higher latitudes and near zero water as the air moves over sea or land ice at higher latitudes, to start the cycle again.

The air circulation creates ocean currents that also distribute heat from the tropics to higher latitudes. So sea surface temperature at the tropics does not exceed 303K due to the high rate of evaporation above that temperature and the consistent starting condition of near zero water and 271K surface temperature where sea ice forms.

The negative feedback based on the property of water is many times more powerful than any tiny changes from radiative transmission due to changes in CO2.

The factors altering sea surface temperature over eons are related to ocean connectedness that changes with movement of land masses and surface level of the oceans.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  RickWill
September 24, 2020 10:04 pm

“Water vapour pressure rises rapidly above 298K.”

Actually not, at least over the temperature ranges being considered in the above article. The change in water vapor pressure going from 298 K to 300 K is about +12.6%. In comparison, the change in water vapor pressure going from 296 K to 298 K is about +12.8%.

Even at a wider range, water vapor pressure increase from 301 K to 303 K is about 12.3%, but the vapor pressure increase from 293 K to 295 K is about 13.1% . . . that’s less than a 10% change in slope over a span of 10 °C.

Here are the raw numbers: water temperature (K) vapor pressure (mb)
293 5.794
295 6.553
296 6.964
298 7.854
300 8.842
301 9.375
303 10.526

September 24, 2020 2:39 am

Hello Willis,

You say:

“… emergent phenomena come into existence when a temperature threshold is passed, and that they act to oppose further heating.”

In that case, how do we account for the long term statistically significant warming trend since the late 1970s that is found in all the global surface and lower troposphere (satellite) temperature data sets? If emergent phenomena check warming then a warming trend should not be observed, or is that too simplistic? Thanks.

Philip Mulholland
Reply to  TheFinalNail
September 24, 2020 3:01 am

“If emergent phenomena check warming then a warming trend should not be observed, or is that too simplistic? Thanks.”
Willis is studying the tropics, in particular the meteorology of the ITCZ that drives the Hadley Cell.
Your question is global in scope. It is well established that the Arctic Polar cell is warming. The Polar cell is at the receiving end of the atmospheric transport system that delivers energy from the tropics to the poles (via the intermediary Ferrel cell).
There is a very simple arithmetical method for calculating the average global temperature based on the areal extent of the 3 atmospheric cells per hemisphere, the height of the tropopause for each and their associated lapse rates.
If the Polar cell receives more energy then the planetary temperature will rise. However as Willis clearly shows the constraints on the collection process (tropical sea surface temperature cut-off) mean that even as the hydrological cycling rate changes in the Hadley cell the temperature in the tropics is fixed by an upper limit at the point of storm activity. It is only at the downstream end (the poles) where the temperature increase occurs and global warming ensues.

Reply to  Philip Mulholland
September 24, 2020 3:33 am

Thanks Philip,

As I understand it you’re saying (or Willis is saying) that these emergent phenomena that limit or reverse (?) warming are restrained geographically to the tropics. They are not capable of preventing warming on a global scale.

I looked at the UAH lower troposphere data for tropics and the rate of warming there since the late 1970s is pretty consistent with the global rate. Global is +0.57C/dec and tropics is +0.55C/dec. Warming above oceans has actually been slightly faster over the tropics than globally (+0.51C/dec decade over the tropical oceans versus +0.49C/dec globally).

As you say, the global figure is influenced warming in the Arctic, which has been very fast, especially over the oceans. However, the warming rate in the Antarctic is almost flat, in fact slightly negative over the ocean areas since the late 1970s (-0.05C/dec). Even so, a rate of +0.55C/dec warming above tropical regions hardly seems consistent with emergent phenomena that contain warming in that region.

Most recent UAH lower troposphere data here: https://www.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/v6.0/tlt/uahncdc_lt_6.0.txt