The Stratosphere Has Warmed Profoundly This Month. What are the Implications?

Reposted from The Cliff Mass Weather Blog

Earlier this month, stratospheric temperatures warmed by roughly 100F over a period of a few days, in what is known as a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW).  Should you be concerned?  The stratosphere, by the way, is the layer of the atmosphere from roughly 10 to 50 km above sea level.

As we will discuss, such stratospheric warmings are sometimes associated with distortions and alterations of the winds and temperatures in the lower atmosphere, resulting in anomalous weather from heat waves to snow storms.  And major changes in the infamous polar vortex.

There are actually two polar vortices:  one high in the stratosphere and another in the troposphere

Based on this incipient warming, some media has been warning about severe weather for several weeks, including major snowstorms over the eastern U.S. (see below).  

The Warming

    Early in January, the temperatures high in the polar stratosphere started to warm suddenly and profoundly.    Take are look at this NASA plot of temperatures at a pressure at 10 hPa (roughly 85,000 ft above the surface) at the North Pole for this year (red/pink) and last year (blue) by date.  The solid black line shows the average temperatures and the gray shading illustrates typical variability of the temperature at that location.

There was quite a warming in early January to about 250 K, roughly 50 K (or Celsius) above normal.  That is 90F above normal!  Wow.  

This is a sudden stratosphere warming, something we typically see once a year in winter.  You can view another such warming last winter in March of last year (blue colors).  

Importantly, this month’s warming did not last long and is predicted to be gone completely during the next week.   Why do such warmings occur?  A lot of research has shown they are associated with high amplitude waves in the troposphere that propagate vertically into the stratosphere and disturb the flow there.  Waves caused by mountain ranges and land-water contrasts, among other reasons.   I have personally done research on such issues, but I won’t get into the details here.
To understand the potential impacts of the stratosphere warming, let’s go back to the figure at the top of the blog, showing the two polar vortices (shown again below).  During a normal winter period, there is an area of very cold air in the upper stratosphere near the North Pole, which is not surprising consider since there is virtually no solar heating!   A jet westerly (from the west) jet stream (the polar night jet) surrounds the cold air and in fact creates a protective barrier around it.

In the lower atmosphere (troposphere), there is also cold air near the pole and a westerly jet at its southern boundary:  commonly called the jet stream and strongest from roughly 25,000 to 35,000 ft above the surface.   
The undulations of the jet stream and the associated cold air to the north have a HUGE impact on weather near the surface.   For example, a southward undulation can bring a cold wave and snow;  a northward undulation, warm temperatures.How stratospheric warming affect surface weather
When a polar stratosphere warming occurs, it is associated with strong sinking (which causes warming by compression); the weakening of the temperature difference between a cold pole and warmer air to the south causes the polar night jet to weaken and buckle, and the stratospheric polar vortex circulation weakens and can get distorted or even move off the pole.
The effects of the stratosphere polar warming and undulations/distortions of the cold air tends to propagate downward into the troposphere, where the tropospheric polar vortex can weaken and the tropospheric jet stream become wavier.
For the event of this month, it was clear that the upper jet  stream weakened during the warming. To illustrate, here is the eastward-directed (zonal) winds at 60N for a level near the boundary between the stratosphere and troposphere (150 hPa pressure, about 45,000 ft).  The winds (purple) dropped below normal after the warming began early in this month.

But has this stratospheric warming had a major impact on the undulations of the jet stream well down in the troposphere where we are?
To examine this, I plotted the difference from normal of the heights of the 500 hPa pressure surface (roughly 18,000 ft).  You can think of this as pressure. And the plots show averages over one week.
For the week prior to the warming (Dec. 26- January 1), there are a lot of strong anomalies (difference from normal)…including some anomalous ridging (high pressure over the pole)

The week following the warming (January 10-16th), the polar warming has weakened but perhaps has spread around a bit.  Nothing to write home about.  One big changing was the ridging (high pressure) over the West Coast and troughing over the eastern US., but hard to point at the warming as the cause.  And, in fact, the eastern half of the U.S. has been relatively mild this winter…no severe cold outbreaks.  And persistent blocking (locking up of the atmospheric flow) has been relatively absent this winter.

Looking ahead this week, the models are going for cold weather later in the week…but not in the eastern U.S, BUT OVER the Northwest.

The latest European Center forecast for 500 hPa height anomalies (think of difference from normal of pressure at 18,000 ft), shows higher than normal heights over near the pole and a major trough (low pressure) over the western US.  The kind of pattern that occurs more frequently in La Nina years (as this year is).

Let me make it clear, this pattern will not produce colder than normal temperatures over the eastern U.S. as some of the media were calling for.

And yes…this IS a snow threat for the Northwest lowlands. But I will wait until Tuesday to talk about that in depth.

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January 18, 2021 6:10 am

What are the Implications?Very cold February in the North hemisphere.

Reply to  Vuk
January 18, 2021 8:16 am

I guess that is the alternative to my comment above.

Hell is freezing over in America.

Reply to  BlueCat57
January 18, 2021 9:33 am

A few years ago I looked into SSW. It appeared to me that within a few weeks of a Kamchatka volcanic eruptions sending huge volumes of ash high into atmosphere the SSW event occurs.
“Tue, 22 Dec 2020
Sheveluch volcano (Kamchatka, Russia): powerful eruptionA few hours later, at 19:30 local time on today evening, another strong explosion detected by Volcanic Ash Advisory Center (VAAC) Tokyo produced spectacular ash plume rising up to 28,000 ft (8,500 m) altitude and extended about 130 km to the southeast of the volcano. Incandescence continues to be observed in the crater identified in satellite data.”
See also, but number of useful links in there are not active any longer 

Reply to  Vuk
January 18, 2021 10:50 am
Reply to  Vuk
January 18, 2021 10:58 am

I wish I had more time to research all this.

Have any of the recent volcanic eruptions coincided with this warming?

Or maybe some sort of “pre-eruption” release of something (pressure change or bulge in the earth’s crust?) that would cause this effect?

I’m just tossing out ideas.

Reply to  BlueCat57
January 18, 2021 12:09 pm

See ‘hal.archives‘ link for number of years I looked at.
My hypothesis has two parts.

  • In the arctic region stratosphere starts at about 10km. Hot ash (from northern volcanoes) often rises to 8 km and the hot air even higher. Polar jet stream takes it around the globe slowly rising to stratosphere while it expands it dislocates cold air from the vortex which sinks further down.
  • The fine ash particles due to friction are electrically charged and due to the strong magnetic field the vortex spreads out and eventually splits out at two much weaker vortexes located in the regions of the strongest field (N.Canada & Central Siberia), see above . Weaken polar vortex looses control of the polar jet stream, which now slows down, meanders southwards taking with it cold Arctic air. Due to the warm Atlantic currents often jet stream northern lobe gets stuck over it for a number of days, while two southern lobes bring cold Arctic air to the E. part of USA and most of the W. Europe (see articles headline image from the MET office)

see these links toocomment image
and the N. Hemisphere’s magnetic field distribution
andcomment image

Reply to  Vuk
January 22, 2021 10:43 am

I’m trying to make time to read more about all this.

I came back to suggest you visit volcanodiscover .com, but you already know about that website.

I looked for a site that listed current eruptions since an article popped up in my feed about one going off today, Jan. 22.

To my surprise, there is a list of around 28 “Currently erupting” and another 15 or so warnings.

I guess like everything else, most of what I thought I knew about volcanic activity is wrong, and that volcanic activity has a much more complex effect on climate than it first appears.

I’m going back to: It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. and Mother Nature can take care of herself. Just don’t get in the way.

I thought volcanic activity might be a good diversion from political activity. Alas, that is not to be.

Joel O’Bryan
January 18, 2021 6:25 am

This also a traditional setup for a very active tornado season from mid/late-February-April.

Reply to  Joel O’Bryan
January 18, 2021 8:17 am

Really? YOU want to get into the predictions game?

Pop Piasa
Reply to  BlueCat57
January 18, 2021 6:22 pm

What prediction?
I believe Joel is only referring to the historical observance of a cold air mass from the north pushing into a stream of warm, moist gulf air. Some short-term outcomes are quite predictable when you base them on past observations. Even so, the complexly interactive and therefore chaotic drivers of weather can upend our most confident intuitions.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
January 22, 2021 10:32 am

I was just being a bit snarky.

Steve Case
January 18, 2021 6:38 am

“This is a sudden stratosphere warming, something we typically see once a year in winter.”

Or maybe not at all or more than once. It’s probably more important than knowing about the discovery of some new type of celestial object a gazilllion light years away, but unless the media starts to scream “Climate Crisis” over it, and we have to lock down and hunker in the dark, it really shouldn’t cause any concern.

David Kamakaris
Reply to  Steve Case
January 18, 2021 6:45 am

My thoughts exactly, Steve. I think we can expect our oh-so-unbiased, totally objective media to do just that. We need to know just how un-unprecedented is this stratospheric warming to counter the coming bombast from our usual propaganda outlets.

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  David Kamakaris
January 18, 2021 7:25 am

‘ unless the media starts to scream “Climate Crisis” over it’
Oh, they will. Polar vortices occur every winter, but a couple winters ago the media discovered the term. Suddenly it was a frightening”new” phenomena due to climate change. It really doesn’t take much to set them on a rant.
I for one don’t mind an occasional astrophysics article in WUWT. We can all use a break from Mikey Mann now & then. 😉

Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
January 18, 2021 8:27 am

Oh how I laughed the first time my most liberal friend started in with “..but what about the polar vortex…”
The last time I had such a good giggle, was when they told me about the ‘hole in the ozone layer’. I am no meteorologist, I don’t even care much for things that Nature just throws at us, like weather, but ten seconds of imagining the earth in 3d, spinning around at (this took most my thinking time ) a thousand miles an hour, and I nearly fell off my chair laughing. Polar vortex, hole in the ozone… I didn’t even know the term “fluid dynamics” and I could work it out for myself.
I demonstrate this to libtard geniuses by having them stir half a glas of water around until they see their very own “polar vortex”.

January 18, 2021 7:03 am

If a hot arctic stratosphere is a problem, a good geo-engineering solution would be to put more CO2 into the atmosphere to more efficiently radiate that stratospheric heat into outer space….just sayin’….

Nick Schroeder
January 18, 2021 7:08 am

1,368 W/m^2 of solar energy arrive at the earth.
Spread over the discular cross section that is 6.28 E17 kJ/h.
The albedo reflects away 30% so the net is: times 0.7 = 4.4 E17 kJ/h.
At equilibrium the same amount must leave the spherical surface in all directions 24/7.
A sphere of r has 4 times the area as a disc of r or 1.1 E17 kJ/h.
Assuming the ToA temperature is -60 C or 213 K and the GMST is 16 C or 289 K the effective thermal conductivity, U=Q/AdT, of the atmospheric thermal blanket would = 1.45 kJ/h m^2 T
If the albedo increased from 0.30 to 0.31 the surface temperature would decrease 1 C.

In other words, a natural variation in the albedo that cannot even be reliably measured could easily account for the perceived GMST increase.

Now let’s suppose the lit side average is 20 C high and the dark side average is 20 C low. Because the heat rate is a function of dT to maintain equilibrium the lit side will move about 65% of the heat, the dark side about 35%

Albedo & Q U A dT.jpg
Reply to  Nick Schroeder
January 18, 2021 7:14 am

Do you think Biden would understand this if you presented it to him? His science advisors?

Reply to  Nick Schroeder
January 18, 2021 9:08 am

On the topic of GHGE and atmosphere: can someone please post me a link to PDF of Roger Revelle 1982 (in Sci Am.) “Carbon dioxide and world climate“. PDF please but otherwise DOI or PMID reference codes.

Reply to  rd50
January 18, 2021 1:04 pm

I already saw that link. It gives neither an abstract, nor DOI, nor PMID code. I have the first page of the article but that’s no help either.

Isn’t it funny how a famous scientific article which popularized the greenhouse gas effect is nowhere to be found? I’d normally assume lecturers would keep it online for their students.

Also amusing that Sci Am haven’t bothered to classify their historical content using journal standards (with a DOI); but not unexpected – it’s run by activists playing at science.

Mumbles McGuirck
January 18, 2021 7:14 am

“Let me make it clear, this pattern will not produce colder than normal temperatures over the eastern U.S. as some of the media were calling for.”

But because the MSM is based in NY and DC that is what will drive the reporting. I don’t recall how many times there has been a trough over the western US and ridge over the east. The West is locked in a deep freeze while the East is mild. The headlines are all about how remarkably warm the weather has been. So it must be global warming.

Ulric Lyons
January 18, 2021 7:45 am

This is always accompanied by strong stratospheric cooling 25N-25S, down to about 30-hPa currently. This is at 10-hPa:

comment image

Martin Cropp
Reply to  Ulric Lyons
January 18, 2021 1:23 pm

Hi Ulric
And here in the link below we have the same for the SH stratospheric warming in 2019 above Antarctica.
Pole ward atmospheric transport is interrupted, causing zonal winds to reduce causing the vortex to collapse = warming. It is the winds that reduce the temperature, not the temperature that increases the winds. It is a symbiotic relationship.

comment image

January 18, 2021 8:09 am

Newsflash, and physics of the CO2 molecule are constant and show a gradual log decay in their impact on W/M^2. In other words, CO2 can’t cause dramatic changes in anything, especially the climate and temperatures. CO2 is basically a constant in any model over the short term, so if there is volatility in any climate metric over the short run, it can’t be caused by CO2.

January 18, 2021 8:15 am

Hell is coming to America?

Reply to  BlueCat57
January 18, 2021 9:04 am

Yes, its name is Joey….Joey Biden.

Mumbles McGuirck
Reply to  Anti-griff
January 18, 2021 9:29 am

Well, he DID promise us a dark winter.

Reply to  Anti-griff
January 18, 2021 11:26 am

China Joe (I owe ya) Biden.

Pop Piasa
Reply to  Anti-griff
January 18, 2021 7:21 pm

You might think we got Joe B.
What we really get is Kamal A.

Reply to  Pop Piasa
January 19, 2021 3:05 pm

If Commie-La waits two years, she can run for POTUS twice more.

Reply to  BlueCat57
January 18, 2021 9:53 am

I don’t think people realize what is going on, attm. A massive armed presence in DC and all capitals? These people don’t waste energy; they attempt to appear to. Then you had ABC and their “population cleansing”, MSNBC and their “deprogramming” and “elimination” followed by a publicly funded organ talking about removing children and sending them to re-education camps. It smells like the Russian Revolution and what happened to Venezuela.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  EOM
January 18, 2021 7:03 pm

The radical Democrats are drunk with their newfound political power. It is causing them to go to extremes. And the DC Republican politicians are in retreat, abandoning the battlefield to their opponents.

I see where Fox News went from being the number one cable network for the last two decades, to number three behind both CNN and MSNBC, after the November election, when Fox started treating Trump like CNN and MSNBC treated him, not giving Trump the benefit of the doubt.

There are consequences to abandoning the battlefield. In Fox’s case, I imagine that adds up to a lot of money lost. That’s why they are revamping their lineup starting today. I don’t know if that will help. Some of them showed their true, ugly face when they thought Trump was losing. They came out of hiding. When I see those faces, I turn the channel because I don’t trust them to be fair and balanced. Apparently, a lot of people are doing like me.

It was a joy when Fox News came into being in 1996, a counter to the blizzard of leftwing propaganda that was all we had to listen to before that. A true joy.

Now, Fox News is edging closer to the leftwing CNN and MSNBC, although Fox does have very good conservative hosts in the evening, and I still think the morning program Fox and Friends is the best morning show on TV, although one female weekend host gives me heartburn sometimes.

I hope Fox News can continue to be a conservative voice, as we need it now more than ever. Meanwhile, the radical Left is trying to shut down Fox News and Newsmax and any other conservative publication. The Purge is in motion. The Demonization of the Right is in motion. The Propaganda Organs of the Elite State are going full blast.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
January 19, 2021 9:48 am

“Drunk (mad) with…power”, you manage to quote from more than one ancient warning. Have you read “Gentleman from Moscow”? There are real tid-bits all over the place in that informative book. The Kremlin being lit up all night along, filled with the incessant raving of those “drunk with power”; such a psychosis prevents the afflicted from sleeping. There were endless meetings in the hotel; those who got too close, physically, or inadvertently said something amiss, ‘made that one mistake that every creature gets to make in nature’, and got “disappeared:

Trust God (Christ) and not anything else; this situation requires His wisdom and becomes His fight, for everyone who trusts.

Martin Mason
Reply to  EOM
January 19, 2021 3:27 pm

Religion is nonsense and nothing in a scientific debate.

Joe Wagner
January 18, 2021 8:41 am

> And, in fact, the eastern half of the U.S. has been relatively mild this winter…no severe cold outbreaks. 

Well- we haven’t gotten a deep cold, but at least here around D.C. its felt consistently slightly colder than in recent years. We haven’t had our usual January 60+ degree day yet.

Reply to  Joe Wagner
January 19, 2021 3:08 pm

Here in Chicago, the temps have generally been in the mid-to-upper 30s, higher than it usually is this time of year.


January 18, 2021 8:54 am

 [There are actually two polar vortices: one high in the stratosphere and another in the troposphere]

No problem. For public consumption it is:

[a “Drunken Arctic.” Stumbling south with polar winds and snow] – Michael Mann.

Reply to  fretslider
January 18, 2021 9:24 am

Judah Cohen suggests that a distorted polar vortex (PV) leads to cold for eastern USA while a split in two PV leads to cold in western Europe.

January 18, 2021 8:58 am

Judah Cohen over at AER has been talking about this for months already

January 18, 2021 9:20 am

Cause of effect? I say effect, being just a result of the instability in the polar vortex, when the polar low gets replaced by a high.

Normal or unusual? The chart shows the +90 deg warming on a given day is in the 90%-ile so perhaps it is not particularly unusual. However I do question their 10%/90% lines as the data from last two years appears to only run up to them only about 2% of the time. But perhaps that is a sign that the weather has not been as “extreme” the past two years though?

January 18, 2021 9:22 am

The latest forecast map suggests possible cold for Western Europe, as well as the southwestern USA.

Jan 18 polar vortex color map.png
Martin Cropp
January 18, 2021 9:25 am

And look what happened in the at 60degree lattitude south.

January 18, 2021 10:01 am

[[There was quite a warming in early January to about 250 K, roughly 50 K (or Celsius) above normal.  That is 90F above normal! Wow.]]

250K is -23C, 200 K is -73C, and the stratosphere starts at 6 mi. altitude, plus this so-called sudden stratospheric warming comes and goes in days, and is localized to the North Pole, so it’s yawn not wow.

Meanwhile the CO2 global warming hoax keeps rolling down the tracks to the bank, hoping to swindle trillions out of billions of suckers to save the Earth’s surface 6 mi. down from weak puny 15 micron -80C CO2 photons that are colder than dry ice (-79C).

What other so-called scientific field has skyscrapers of parasites living off billions in taxpayer funding and producing only boatloads of fake scientific papers for political reasons, namely, mass redistribution of wealth for Marxist social-racial justice?

Until the fake/junk scientists can prove how CO2’s 15 micron radiation can melt an ice cube, and show their working models for the dry ice-powered microwave oven and flamethrower, they should not be allowed another dollar of taxpayer money. Until then, it should be held in escrow to give back to the taxpayers along with a lien on all the other moneys and recoverable assets.

So many so-called physicists don’t know the first thing about thermal physics based on Planck’s Radiation Law, and its profound implications. I know physics, and I’m offering free lessons to all who can handle the truth. Is 2021 going to be the year that the IPCC fake physics CO2 global warming hoax was finally exploded in the minds of the general public? Just Say No to the IPCC and -80C. Once it’s realized that human CO2 emissions can’t affect the climate, the climate science field should be greatly defunded and left to real physicists, not clowns who flunked physics in college and moved to the politically-driven climate science pseudofield because they’ll never have to learn it.

Do yourself a favor and settle this issue in your mind now before the year 2021 passes you by:

Jim Gorman
Reply to  TL Winslow
January 18, 2021 11:37 am

I have become convinced that the CO2 radiation and back again is a pretty bad story. I’ve been asking what atom/molecule on the surface emits 15 um radiation. Alternatively, what atom/molecule on the surface absorbs 15 um. Oh, it’s a black body and absorbs everything, right, LOL. If it’s a black body it emits at all frequencies, most of which will miss CO2 invalidating radiative theory, to say nothing about showing the satellite emission spectrum to be wrong. I have yet to have anyone tell me what atom/molecule absorbs the sun’s incoming visible or IR and then converts those to 15 um emission to warm CO2.

In addition, let’s do a thought experiment on radiation. I am an atom lying in the dirt and I absorb some energy from the sun and my temperature becomes 100 deg. Also, assume that I emit energy at 15 um and cool in the process. Next, a CO2 molecule absorbs the energy I emitted and re-emits 100% back toward me. Will I get hotter than what I originally was? Nope. Therefore, back radiation can not make me hotter than when the process started. Add in the fact that CO2 can only re-emit 50% of the original energy downward and it does even less to raise my temperature to > 100.

Reply to  Jim Gorman
January 19, 2021 12:49 am
  1. A molecule does not have a temperature.
  2. if your premise was right (see 1.) and the atom reabsorbs the 15 um IR energy package it has to increase in energy to what it was before.
  3. If it cooled by emitting, your words, it must heat up by absorbing
Tim Gorman
Reply to  angech
January 19, 2021 4:55 am


Did you actually *read* what Jim posted?

When the atom re-absorbs the radiation it *does* heat up. It heats up back to what it was before it emitted the radiation and cooled off.

The atom cannot emit radiation and stay the same temperature! It’s pretty damn simple when you think about it!

Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 19, 2021 8:24 pm

Atoms and molecules have energy states, not temperature.
you seem to forget that the atom, in the dirt, is constantly receiving energy from the sun. The mass of dirt may well have reached 100 C.
as soon as the atom loses energy the sun puts more back into it .
It presumably received more energy than a 15 um IR could supply so when it loses 15um worth of IR it is till in a higher energy state than it’s original state.
now it gets hit by another SW input and, wait for it, also the returning IR radiation which it absorbs.
you did state it would get this back.
You are ignoring the continuing input to which the returning input has to be added.
You are confusing input to dirt from SW, dirt putting out more than one packet of 15um IR with back radiation 15um from CO2.
The dirt atom is kept at a higher energy level than it would otherwise be by the presence of CO2 returning extra energy to it.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  angech
January 20, 2021 8:05 am


Atoms and molecules have energy states, not temperature.”

INDIVIDUAL atoms and molecules have energy states, not temperature. But individual atoms and molecules in a higher energy state *do* have higher kinetic energy. In a material with multiple atoms or molecules that kinetic energy manifests itself as the temperature of the material. The higher the energy states of the atoms or molecules in the material the higher the temperature of the material is.

But what Jim posted *is* correct. An atom or molecule that emits radiation does *NOT* stay at the same energy level, its energy level decreases, i.e. radiation towards the sky from the ground. If that atom or molecule then receives radiation back from the atmosphere it returns to its original state, with its original kinetic energy. With the original kinetic energy you get the same temperature of the material the atom or molecule is a part of, you don’t get a higher temperature than original.

What kind of “continuing input” does a surface atom or molecule get at night? The radiation from the sun during the day swamps any temperature increase you will see from “back radiation”. Nighttime is the only period where “back radiation” might be effective. But every time that atom or molecule radiates toward the sky some is lost to space, so the back radiation is damped, with less and less being returned all night. That is why things cool. Most of that back radiation at night will be from water vapor which is far more available in the atmosphere than CO2 so a small percentage increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is, again, swamped by the radiation from the water vapor.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 20, 2021 4:42 pm

There are two absorbed inputs, not one. SW from the sun and any spare IR from the atmosphere.
There is only one source of output. IR.
The energy in during the day from both sources means the molecules in the earth [dirt] and the molecules in the atmosphere are at higher energy levels than if there was no back radiation

Tim Gorman
Reply to  angech
January 20, 2021 6:35 pm

The sun outputs IR as well as SW. IR and SW make up almost all of the sun’s radiation, UV is a small percentage.

And, once again, back radiation is from *cooling* radiation headed outward to space from the surface. Since some of the outgoing radiation from the surface *does* make it out to space, the “back” radiation is always less than the surface originally emitted. Therefore the back radiation cannot heat the surface even back to the starting point, let alone to a higher point.

The increase in surface energy during the day is primarily from the IR and SW radiation from the sun during the day, not from back radiation. Think about it, if the back radiation could raise the surface energy then how would the earth cool at night?

Do you know what a damped sine wave is? How is the surface radiation at night and the “back” radiation from the atmosphere similar to a damped sine wave?

Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 21, 2021 4:28 am

Tim, this is a difficult subject.
The concept of energy in should equal energy out.
And the concept of back radiation and black bodies.

Jim, ” I’ve been asking what atom/molecule on the surface emits 15 um radiation.”

Good question.
Continuous spectra of electromagnetic radiationSuch spectra are emitted by any warm substance. Heat is the irregular motion of electrons, atoms, and molecules; the higher the temperature, the more rapid the motion. Since electrons are much lighter than atoms, irregular thermal motion produces irregular oscillatory charge motion, which reflects a continuous spectrum of frequencies. Each oscillation at a particular frequency can be considered a tiny “antenna” that emits and receives electromagnetic radiation. As a piece of iron is heated to increasingly high temperatures, it first glows red, then yellow, and finally white. In short, all the colours of the visible spectrum are represented.

Basically the earth emits infrared over a spectrum centered on its surface temperature. Since the earth is 15C average surface temperature of the planet at 288 degrees kelvin (15 degrees Celsius or 59 degrees Fahrenheit).
The 15 um blackbody temperature is about 215 K, which we recognize as a typical tropopause temperature.

-All bodies radiate IR even the hot sun [not just light] emission of electromagnetic radiation, which occurs primarily in the subrange of the IR spectrum with wavelengths of 5–50 µm for planets with temperatures between about 50 K and 1000 K.

Answer The IR from a black body is due to more than molcule or atom emission.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  angech
January 21, 2021 9:47 am


You really aren’t addressing the issue. It’s just Baffle ’em with BS.

The issue is that if Body A radiates energy up and Body B reflects part of that energy back then Body A can, at most, only return to the same energy it started out at. Back radiation can’t heat Body A to a higher energy than it started with.

Since each time Body A radiates energy outward some of that energy is lost to space, Body B can’t send enough energy “back” to Body A to actually return Body A to the same energy state it started at. That’s why the Earth cools at night, the “back” radiation gradually decreases like a damped sine wave. The same process actually continues during the day. The only difference is that the sun swamps out the back radiation.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 21, 2021 5:45 pm

“Body A can, at most, only return to the same energy it started out”.
Body A becomes more energetic by receiving energy from the sun.
It keeps on receiving energy input from the sun to be as warm as it can be from the sun input, all the time while the sun is up.
This does not suddenly stop.
If it was in space, alone it would emit multiple amounts of IR to get rid of the the energy that the SW puts into it.
There is a formula for it.
It accepts SW lets say 1 energy package and puts out longwave.10 smaller energy packets, in equilibrium.
The IR never comes back to it.
Now you admit there is some back radiation of IR on earth at the surface.
Lets say 1 in 10 of those packets come back [it is more than this for two reasons]
That adds extra energy to that molecule or atom. It is now at an 11 energy state rather than a 10.
It needs to get rid of 11 energy packeys not 10.
Wherever it is it it is now 10% more energetic than a similar molecule in space receiving the same amount of SW energy.
Due to the atmospheric back radiation. that you yourself admits happens.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  angech
January 21, 2021 7:27 pm


You are still blowing smoke. The issue is the back radiation, not the radiation from the sun.

The radiation coming back only adds back part of what was lost. The atmosphere cannot generate energy, it can only reflect some of it back.And once the back radiation hits the earth, the earth re-radiates it back again, losing some to space each time. Like a tennis ball bouncing off the court after being dropped – it always loses energy on each bounce and the bounce height gets less and less each time.

Plot the height of the tennis ball against time and you get a damped sine wave, just like the back radiation.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 22, 2021 11:23 pm

The concept of back radiation is well accepted.
You accept that.
You insist on missing the point that the back radiation adds to the new energy coming in from the sun.
hence the energy of the molecule is now higher than that from just the sun itself.
If you recognise that there are two inputs, not one and add them together then GHW is possible.
Sadly it also fits the facts.

I would suggest you read Roy Spencer’s take on GHG warming.

I will join you everyday in debating the AGW where evidence is lacking but CO2 back radiation does have a known effect that lets us be alive to write on this blog.

the tennis ball anology misses the point.

You could try a tennis ball being bounced on a racquet where it is initially hit into the air from rest. Goes up 10 feet. When you hit it again at the same level it now will go up 11 feet due to the extra potential energy it carries plus the impact from the tennis racquet.
It will keep going up 11 feet every impact because the energy that put it up 10 feet now has an extra 1 foot of recoil energy .

Still not a good analogy and the physics has some potential holes in it but IG gives the idea of addition of energy and synergy of energy

Tim Gorman
Reply to  angech
January 23, 2021 5:53 am


Of course the concept of back radiation is accepted! The consequences of that back radiation are *not* accepted. Most climate scientists speak of back radiation being absorbed by the earth and never re-radiated again, thus heating the earth more and more.

Such a concept would see Tmax increasing *everywhere* over the globe. The truth, however, is that Tmax is not increasing all over the globe, Tmin is. In fact, Tmax is *decreasing* over a growing portion of the earth which can be seen in the cooling degree-day data.

Back radiation only replaces a portion of the heat energy that the earth has sent skyward and that back radiation is a damped sine wave trending to zero over time. Back radiation cannot RAISE the temperature of the earth, the atmosphere doesn’t generate radiant heat on its own. You don’t see the sky burning when you look up do you? Most people don’t, maybe you do.

the energy of the molecule is now higher than that from just the sun itself.”

Again, back radiation can only replace what was radiated away. It can’t raise the temperature of the earth past where it was. Back radiation is not an energy source. When the earth sends radiation skyward it cools, back radiation can only raise the temperature part way back to original since some of the earths radiation is lost to space.

If back radiation were a true energy source the earth would have become a cinder early on and would never have supported life.

” When you hit it again at the same level it now will go up 11 feet “

You keep missing the point that the second hit can’t be a large as the original hit. When you drop a tennis ball on the court the earth hits it back – but with less energy each time since some of the energy is absorbed into the earth. It’s the same with back radiation. Each time the earth sends radiation to the atmosphere less and less comes back, so the earth can never be heated more than it was originally.

“Still not a good analogy and the physics has some potential holes in it but IG gives the idea of addition of energy and synergy of energy”

Your physics has a *BIG* hole in it. The addition of energy from back radiation can *never* be as big as the original radiation from the earth which caused it to cool. If it cooled 1degree when it radiated and only gets back enough radiation to raise it to 0.5degree then you have a net cooling effect. The earth will radiate 0.5degree back to the atmosphere and only get back 0.25degree. And the next go-round will see 0.25degree radiated by the earth and only 0.125degree returned. It is a damped sine wave. (I picked 50% as an easy number to use, it might be something else but it will never be 100%).

Back radiation simply cannot warm the earth. The atmosphere is not a generator of heat. If we didn’t have the sun’s radiation input, e.g. infinite night, the earth would at some point be in heat equilibrium with space. It would take a while since the magnitude of the damped sine wave is asymptotic to zero.

What the atmosphere *can* do is interfere with the heat loss of the earth at night (the damping factor goes down) through the back radiation causing an increase in Tmin. But an increase in Tmin does *not* imply an increase in Tmax. An increase in Tmin, however, *does* imply longer growing seasons, more food, less loss of life around the globe, and a more hospitable climate around the globe.

Reply to  Tim Gorman
January 23, 2021 10:31 pm

“the atmosphere doesn’t generate radiant heat on its own.”
True but it re radiates energy.

put an IR meter up to the sky.
It measures IR .
not from the sun, that does not get through.
It is all IR from back radiation.

because, as you said “the atmosphere doesn’t generate radiant heat [or energy] on its own.”
That extra input of IR slows down the loss of energy at night and allows the temperature of the atmosphere to increase during the day to more than what it could by sunlight effect alone.

Two fires are hotter than one fire even if one is very small.

Think we can stop now the circles are complete. You may have the last word of course.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  angech
January 24, 2021 7:46 am

True but it re radiates energy”

It *reflects* energy, it doesn’t create it.

“It measures IR .
not from the sun, that does not get through.
It is all IR from back radiation.”

I assume you mean at night. Leave that measurement device on all night and record the readings every minute. You will find that the IR reading gradually goes down. That is because the atmosphere is not a source of heat.

And IR from the sun *does* get through the atmosphere. Most of the IR from the sun is in wavelengths that are not at the CO2 wavelength.

“That extra input of IR slows down the loss of energy at night “

That is exactly what I said. Because of losses to space the reflected energy is always less than impinging radiation from the earth. A lossy system decays toward zero.

” allows the temperature of the atmosphere to increase during the day to more than what it could by sunlight effect alone.”

Nope. Tmax is not affected by Tmin. Tmax is driven by the energy input from the sun and not by reflected energy from the atmosphere. Remember, the earth radiates at all kinds of IR wavelengths, not just at the wavelength absorbed by CO2. CO2 is a miniscule part of the total heat loss by the earth.

“Two fires are hotter than one fire even if one is very small.”

Two fires represent two heat generating sources, not one. The atmosphere doesn’t generate heat.

You seem to be laboring under two misconceptions.

  1. The atmosphere can generate heat
  2. The atmosphere blocks IR wavelengths from the sun.

Read Planck’s 1914 treatise on The Theory of Heat Radiation

The earth, the sun, and the atmosphere represent three bodies in a closed thermodynamic system. The only heat source is the sun. The sun and the earth represent one pair and the atmosphere and the earth represent a second pair.

The atmosphere, being colder than the earth, cannot warm the earth, especially since it is not a heat source. It can affect net rate of heat loss from the earth but it can never warm it.

The sun, being warmer than the earth, *can* warm the earth. Since it is a point source it really can’t affect the net rate of heat loss to space from the earth or from the earth to the atmosphere.

The atmosphere simply does not “trap” heat nor does it generate heat. Think of a house with insulation. With no heat source in the house the insulation may slow the transfer of heat from the house to the outside but it can’t stop it. Nor can it generate heat to warm the house. (and I know one is convection and the other is radiation but the comparison is still valid thermodynamically)

I am apparently unable to convince you to examine your misconceptions. So be it.

Peta of Newark
January 18, 2021 10:23 am

Its in this statement – a Cause & Effect error
“”When a polar stratosphere warming occurs, it is associated with strong sinking (which causes warming by compression); the weakening of the temperature difference between a cold pole and warmer air to the south causes the polar night jet to weaken and buckle, and the stratospheric polar vortex circulation weakens and can get distorted or even move off the pole.
The effects of the stratosphere polar warming and undulations/distortions of the cold air tends to propagate downward into the troposphere, where the tropospheric polar vortex can weaken and the tropospheric jet stream become wavier.””

There is also the word ‘jet
I’m sure that to to most people, ‘jet’ implies something big, strong and powerful

Okaaay, Polar Vortex is big and is very fast moving, but it is very VERY fragile

The reason it is that way, (fast and fragile) is for the same counter intuitive reason that cars are fitted with air-dams, under the front bumper/fender
In order to improve their aerodynamic efficiency???!!!
A dam? An artificial block on the moving air!??
Helps the car go faster???
You hardly get crazier than that do you?

The air-dam creates a thin layer of air, moving with Laminar Flow under the car.
Laminar Flow has zero turbulence and it is turbulence that creates drag and would slow the car down and or burn extra fuel at any given speed

So it is with Polar Vortex. It has Laminar Flow, thus has very low drag and can therefore go very fast. Which it does.
It does so because, to create turbulence requires Energy, which the Polar Vortex spectacularly lacks.
It is very very cold. It cannot afford (the luxury of) turbulence

So, think of it as a thin flat (ish) circular sheet of ice on a record-turntable. maybe speeded up to, lets say, 100rpm instead of 33.
While it stays intact, you could speed it up even more, and it will stay on the turntable.

BUT but but, introduce some energy.
On the turntable, you might drop a glass marble onto it, near the fast moving edge.
That;s not a lot of energy.
But the effect will be spectacular. Your ice-disc will shatter and bits will come off in all shapes/sizes and in all (outward) directions. Inertia controls that bit

The equivalent for the Polar Vortex, would be a pulse of warm, energy dense air hitting it from underneath.
Lets say, an old hurricane/storm system bouncing upwards off the side of a mountain range as said storm comes ashore off the ocean.
The Rockies could not be better placed to do exactly that

It will add energy to the vortex and vortex will duly indulge itself in some turbulence.
Bits will come flying off. And the only way they can go is South (lower latitude)

Thus, an old hurricane punched a hole in the vortex (the Sudden Warming) and as a consequence, at some unknown time and unpredictable place later, folks down-wind and down south will ‘see’ bits coming off the vortex.
Very very cold bits

And everyone will blame the Jet Stream
That’s how it is. Makes them feel wanted, needed and important.
Everyone likes that so its OK
Except bits of snow & ice laden Polar Vortex coming through your living room at 60 and 70+ mph is maybe not quite so ‘OK’

(That was entirely my own personal opinion/idea of what happens.
YMMV and in all probability will.
Chew it over at least, that’s all I ask)

Actually, is it Planet Uranus, maybe Neptune that has laminar flow winds all around its equator? Not just the poles.
Because it is such an insanely cold place
And the winds blow at 600mph+
No turbulence you see, no energy to make any turbulence.

Now there is a True Vision of what Hell is actually like.
It is NOT A Hot Place at all.

Bit like Canadia in fact

January 18, 2021 10:55 am

The Stratosphere Has Warmed Profoundly This Month. What are the Implications?

The warmistas will cry about global warming in the stratosphere, but the actual implications are very cold air spreading out southward from the Arctic regions.

January 18, 2021 10:58 am

Okay, well do I have to get to the grocery store again? Not sure what else I could stock up on other than ice cream and turtle cheesecake, but if you warn me far enough ahead, I could put together a really nice BBQ beans with sausage in the Crockpot… and cornbread. Gotta have cornbread, and lots of butter…..

Reply to  Steve Oregon
January 18, 2021 12:38 pm

Great for stimulus timing though and national carbon tax push.

January 18, 2021 11:19 am

“Check your sensors, Mister Sulu.”

January 18, 2021 12:11 pm

Press the space bar to animate.

StratObserve 3D Vortex

James F. Evans
Reply to  Ossqss
January 18, 2021 12:33 pm

The 3D representation of the structure of the vortex suggests an idea: a flow of matter from space down into the vortex. Could the temperature reading be a misinterpretation of moving matter that gives a false impression of how hot or cold it really is?

A hypothesis: Temperature is a Brownian motion of atoms, but could this reading be distorted by other motions of the matter in that region which appear as an increase of temperature, but is functionally not Brownian in nature?

James F. Evans
January 18, 2021 12:14 pm

We still have Winters & it still gets cold, and we still get snow.

So much for the predictions made by Al Gore back in 2005 and all the rest ( just like Gilligan’s Island).

January 18, 2021 3:17 pm

Is the increased temperature caused by heat added to the whole climate system? or
If the same total energy just moving around so LT may be cooler?

Does having more heat in the Stratosphere increase radiant heat into space to cool us down more than when the heat is closer to the surface?

Does the Stratosphere warming come from natural events like volcanic eruptions (ash & gasses) which I think are then associated with surface cooling trend (temperature) for many months?

You can’t blame an event of several days on changes that happen over 60+ years. But you can blame a small proportion of an event (a smaller change over time) on small changes that accumulate in proportion to normal variability (as long as you can prove causation, don’t trust the climate alarmists). A 20% accumulated change cannot be blamed for a 100% increase. Earth’s climate has many negative feedbacks that decrease the effect of change & work against it to some degree.

Reply to  tygrus
January 19, 2021 12:54 am

I am not good at recording and remembering the exact articles that abound.
I did note somewhere that BOM (Australian dodgy meteorology site) made a comment about a SSWE that would occur over the South Pole a couple of months ago and in their words would cause hotter temperatures in the Antarctic this Summer.
Sins then the event has happened, I believe and the temperature in the Arctic has been extra cold instead for the last two months.
If anyone could find the prediction and post it here it would be good for a laugh.

Harry Davidson
January 19, 2021 2:29 am

We haven’t needed an SSW to make the jetstreams wavy this winter, they have been all over the place and very disorderly for about a year. This has led to warming in the Arctic as the streams have frequently wandered close to the North Pole, dragging warm air from the south with them. It has also led to a rather cold Autumn and Winter in the UK, as instead of our usual ‘from the SW’ airstream we have frequently been north of the jetstream in a loop, under a northerly jetstream from Greenland, or Norway.

An SSW has the most effect when it splits into two separate areas, and stays that way.

Reply to  Harry Davidson
January 19, 2021 6:24 pm

Two years actually.

Donald C. Armstrong
January 19, 2021 6:21 am

Didn’t that heat just eventually escape into outer space?

January 19, 2021 6:15 pm

What needs to be added to this, is that the SSW warming is caused by deep tropospheric fast jetstream flows, in just the right vector, hitting the top of high terrain (greenland ice sheet for instance which produced SSWs rather regularly) and then being deflected on a trajectory upwards, as a ‘wave’ flow. And if the jet is vigorous enough, warmer wetter mid level troposphere flows into the lower Stratosphere.

Hence the very rapid warming.

It then gradually cools off (remains near 100% RELATIVE humidity the whole time) then drops back into the troposphere, days or even weeks later, as now super chilled, but relatively still more humid air (than stratosphere near it) is almost always nearer -80C.

But it warms again as it falls back into the troposphere, to about ambient T by 30,000 feet as a parcel that then loses identity.

Until you include that simple mechanical aspect to what’s occurring, the whole thing sounds spooky, worrying and potentially a Climate-Catastrophe™!

Even though it’s a WX cycle.

But the reason why the jets that do this are stronger, deeper, lower down in the troposphere, is the key to understanding why they occur, or occur more often, or are moe pronounced.

Hint: It’s not global warming, which simply slows down the jetstream every Summer, and makes it weaker, and less likely to produce SSW vectors over high terrain. This is why it is a predominantly a winter phenomena. Winter makes the jets swell deeper and get wider and faster. A colder winter will do it even more. And the result is … increased WX variability and a higher average tropospheric wind speed, and higher volume of jet flow, and surface wind speeds elevate with it also. Higher wind equals higher evaporation, higher evaportation goes to more cloud and rain. Which goes to cooling effect. So if the jets were stronger in Summer as well …

This is what is occurring this Summer in the Southern hemisphere:comment image

That looks like a super strong WINTER jet, except it’s occurring the middle of Summer, and it is about 190km/h faster than it should be for this time of year (it’s also very deep vertically).

And that sort of swollen jet in Summer is what’s producing this heavy snowfall in New Zealand’s mid Summer:comment image

And the reason why these southern jets are being accelerated and swollen in depth, even in mid Summer, is this, sinking ultra-dry Stratosphere (pink tones, either side or them and even under them, this is 24kft)
comment image

And this is the 408 km/h jet it produced east of Japan:
comment image

Exact same things occurred 12 months ago.

This sinking stratosphere is what is increasing troposphere WX variability globally.

As far as I can tell the process was underway already in the first quarter of 2019, and has gotten stronger since. As you can see, if this continues, SSW swill become more routine (even into Summer) and the troposphere variability will increase due to the sinking ultra dry stratosphere, that is coming into the troposphere as well. In fact it occasionally reaches ground level, before losing identity.

And the curious thing is, it does it over deserts.

i.e. the extra shot of cold and dry does not come from the pole, it comes from 20 km above.

So which came first? Chicken or the egg? Desert, or sinking stratosphere, in that same location over millennia?

And is it that sinking stratosphere which actually migrates with time?

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