Clouds From Both Sides Now

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Clouds are said to be the largest uncertainty in climate models, and I can believe that. Their representation in the models is highly parameterized, each model uses different parameters as well as different values for the same parameters, and so of course, different models give very different results. Or to quote from the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

In many climate models, details in the representation of clouds can substantially affect the model estimates of cloud feedback and climate sensitivity. Moreover, the spread of climate sensitivity estimates among current models arises primarily from inter-model differences in cloud feedbacks. Therefore, cloud feedbacks remain the largest source of uncertainty in climate sensitivity estimates.

The question of importance is this—if the earth heats up, will clouds exacerbate the warming or will they act to reduce the warming? The general claim from mainstream climate scientists and the IPCC is that the clouds will increase the warming, viz:

All global models continue to produce a near-zero to moderately strong positive net cloud feedback.

My own theory is that clouds and other emergent climate phenomena generally act to oppose any increases in surface temperature. So me, I’d expect the opposite of what the models show. I figured that there should be a negative cloud feedback that opposes the warming.

So I thought I’d take a look at answering the question using the CERES satellite dataset. As a prologue, here’s a short exposition about measuring the effect of clouds.

Clouds have two effects on the surface radiation balance, and thus on the surface temperature. On the one hand, they reflect sunlight (shortwave radiation, “SW”) back out to space, cooling the surface. And on the other hand, clouds block and absorb upwelling thermal (longwave, “LW”) radiation from the surface, and they re-radiate about half of what is absorbed back down towards the surface. This additional downwelling radiation leaves the surface warmer than it would be in the absence of the clouds.

We can actually physically perceive both of these effects. During a clear summer day, a cloud comes over and instantly cools us down. And during a clear winter night, a cloud comes over and we immediately feel warmer. 

These two changes, cooling and warming from different phenomena, are lumped together under the term “CRE”, which stands for the Cloud Radiative Effect. As mentioned above, it has a shortwave (SW) and a longwave (LW) component, and when added together these give us the “Net CRE”. Planetwide, as is generally known, the net CRE averages out to a surface cooling effect of about -20 watts per square metre (W/m2). That is to say, clouds cool the surface more than they warm it. Here’s how that plays out around the planet.

Figure 1. Net cloud radiative effect (LW warming minus SW cooling)

Note the strong cooling along the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) above the Equator, and in the Pacific Warm Pool north of Australia. There, the clouds are cooling things by up to sixty watts per square metre (W/m2). As a comparison, a doubling of CO2 is said to increase warming by 3.5 W/m2, an order of magnitude less …

And here’s the same image, but from the Atlantic side:

Figure 2. As in Figure 1, Atlantic side. Net cloud radiative effect (LW warming minus SW cooling)

As you can see, clouds have a net cooling effect everywhere except over some deserts and at the poles. At the poles, clouds actually warm the surface. And on average, the cooling is much greater over the oceans (-25 W/m2) than over the land (-8 W/m2).

In short, the clouds are cooling the hot tropics and warming the cold poles, just as my theory predicts.

The real question, however, is not the static condition. It’s what happens as the planet warms. For that, I calculated the changes in the net CRE with respect to surface temperature for each 1° latitude x 1° longitude gridcell. Here are those results, again seen from both the Pacific and the Atlantic sides.

Figure 3. Change in net cloud radiative effect (LW warming minus SW cooling) per one degree C of surface warming. Negative values indicate that there is greater cloud cooling with increasing surface temperature.

And here is the Atlantic view.

Figure 4. As in Figure 3, but an Atlantic view. Change in net cloud radiative effect (LW warming minus SW cooling) per one degree C of surface warming. Negative values indicate that there is greater cloud cooling with increasing surface temperature.

Now, this is a most interesting result. As predicted by my theory that clouds are a major part of the thermoregulatory system keeping the planet from overheating, we find that almost everywhere on earth, as surface temperature increases, cloud cooling also increases (negative values). This is true in both hemispheres, in the tropics, on land, on the ocean, and in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. Only in isolated patches of the ocean does cloud cooling decrease with increasing surface temperature.

I’m currently in the process of writing up my theory that emergent phenomena act to keep the surface temperature within narrow bounds, for submission to some as-yet-undecided scientific journal. This analysis is most definitely evidence in support of that theory, so I’m glad I did this particular piece of work. But man, I hate writing for the journals. I always feel like I need to give myself a lobotomy to write in the thick turgid long-paragraph style that they like. Plus with the small word limits and only a given number of graphics, I feel like I’m fighting with my hands tied.

Ah, well, it’s just another part of life’s rich pageant, and I learned an important lesson in my 17 years living on small South Pacific islands—the universe truly doesn’t give a shift what I want to happen next.

So I’ll just have to keep on keeping on …

Tonight we have rain here in a dry year, so life is good. I got my second vaccine shot two days ago. Other than a sore arm and one day of feeling like I was hastily assembled out of random spare parts, not much in the way of side-effects. People have asked me why I got the vaccine … I say everyone has to decide for themselves the balance between their known COVID risk and the unknown vaccine risk.

Me, I’m 74, and if I didn’t do myself serious genetic damage in the ’60s and ’70s, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. Add in the odd co-morbidity or two, not unusual in a man of my late youth. Then there’s the fact that my gorgeous ex-fiancee is a front-line health worker, a family nurse practitioner who is exposed because she administers COVID vaccine shots and gives sports physicals at the local college. (And, I might add, she also did the same before she got vaccinated last month. Big props to her, and to all of the worlds’ medical personnel putting their lives on the line to fight the pandemic.)

Finally, and to our immense delight, our un-vaccinated daughter, son-in-law, and 19-month-old granddaughter are now all living together with us in our big old rambling house in the forest that I built with my own hands …

So getting the vaccine was an easy choice for me … but I don’t fault anyone for whatever they might choose.

Best regards to all, stay healthy,


As Usual: When you comment, I ask that you quote the exact words you are discussing, so we can all be clear as to both what and who you are responding to.

Technical Notes: I’m using the “surf_cre_net_tot” (surface CRE net total) file from the CERES EBAF (Energy Balanced And Filled) dataset for the CRE data. For the surface temperature, I’ve converted the “surf_lw_up_all” (surface longwave up all conditions) CERES file to temperatures using the Stefan-Boltzmann equation. This gives surface temperatures that are slightly different from the Berkeley Earth gridded surface temperature dataset … which in turn is slightly different from the HadCRUT gridded surface temperature dataset … which in turn is slightly different from the GISS LOTI gridded surface temperature dataset … they’re all four close, but which one is right? Nobody knows, so I use the CERES data. It has the huge advantage of agreeing in every gridcell with the energy flows given in the other CERES datasets, including of course the surf_cre_net_tot dataset I used in this analysis.

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March 15, 2021 6:13 am

Wavy jet stream tracks increase the length of the lines of air mass mixing and so produce more clouds which reduces solar energy into the oceans for a cooling world.
Wavy tracks appear to be related to levels of solar activity.
Over time, cloudiness changes affect the balance between El Nino and La Nina events.
We can see that during the recent warming spell there were less clouds, more El Ninos and a more active sun.
If the current solar quietness continues I expect to see more persistent La Ninas and a cooling world with the next PDO related temperature step being downwards after a series of upward steps during the 20th Century.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 6:28 am

That said, Willis’s general theory is correct in that deviations from the temperature set by insolation, atmospheric mass and gravity are indeed prevented by local and regional cloudiness variations but one must distinguish between top down solar induced cloudiness changes that alter global albedo and the bottom up surface temperature changes that help to stabilise the system via convective adjustments. In fact the tropical cloud response is actually a visible proxy for those convective adjustments occurring in the tropics.
The top temperature for the ocean surfaces is actually set by the weight of atmospheric mass bearing down on the water surface because that in turn affects the amount of energy required for evaporation to take place. The heavier the atmosphere at the surface the more energy is required by the phase change since the pressure from above increases the strength of the bonds between water molecules by forcing them closer together. A heavier atmosphere therefore requires a higher water surface temperature to enable a given amount of evaporation.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 6:43 am

You need to account for the emergent property known as wind as well in regards to evaporation and wind itself is affected by atmospheric density.
I hope Willis’ theory of emergent properties regulating the climate system includes wind as well. For instance, on a calm night anywhere on Earth a temperature inversion occurs where the air near the surface is cooler than that above it. This is due to thermal conduction between the atmosphere and surface, where heat is conducted from the gas to the surface where it radiates out to space (direct observation that refutes the GHG back radiation hypothesis). When wind remains in the boundary layer at night a temperature inversion does not form. The wind is increasing the amount of heat that is transferred back to the surface via conduction by mixing heat from aloft back down to the air at the surface.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
March 15, 2021 7:01 am

Yes, convection also involves wind.

Bernard Lodge
Reply to  Robert W Turner
March 15, 2021 11:20 am

Willis Eschenbach:
“And during a clear winter night, a cloud comes over and we immediately feel warmer.”
Stephen Wilde:
“The heavier the atmosphere at the surface the more energy is required by the phase change”

The reason it feels warmer under a cloud is that the cloud is emitting huge amounts of latent heat released by the condensing water vapor. It is not due to the cloud reflecting LW radiation from the surface. Water vapor is a colorless gas and is present in the clear sky – which as Willis indirectly states, does not make us feel warmer – despite presumably reflecting LW radiation from the surface! A visible cloud is visible because it is made up of water droplets that are condensing from the water vapor. The phase change during condensation is what releases the latent heat which makes it feel warmer below the cloud.

Look at a picture of a cloud using infrared photography – the clouds are bright white because of the heat they emit – even when the cloud is not white in a visible light spectrum photograph. In an infrared photograph, the top, side and bottom of a cloud are all bright white as the cloud is emitting latent heat in all directions. If the cloud was warming the surface due to reflecting LW radiation from the surface, only the bottom of the clouds would be emitting heat. That is empirical proof that the cloud warming effect is due to latent heat of condensation, not due to reflecting LW radiation back to the surface. It is phase change latent heat being felt on the surface, not the ‘greenhouse effect’.

Reply to  Bernard Lodge
March 15, 2021 12:43 pm

The cloud has a temperature fixed by its position on the lapse rate slope because that slope determines the height at which condensation will occur. When it releases the latent heat of vaporisation that additional heat results in further uplift which converts excess KE (heat) to PE (not heat). Therefore there is no warming effect at the ground.
However, in so far as the release of latent heat raises the temperature above that determined by the lapse rate then the whole vertical column from surface to cloud will become warmer.
If the cloud is 2C warmer than the lapse rate slope the the surface will also become 2C warmer than the lapse rate slope.
But I don’t see how this is at all relevant to my quoted comment above.

Bernard Lodge
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 16, 2021 8:42 am

Stephen Wilde:
“If the cloud is 2C warmer than the lapse rate slope the the surface will also become 2C warmer than the lapse rate slope.”
Is there any other way that a cloud can be 2C warmer than the lapse rate other than from latent heat? In other words, the latent heat of condensation warms the cloud compared to the surrounding air, which warms the area below it (or at least slows its cooling).

“But I don’t see how this is at all relevant to my quoted comment above.”
You described how the atmosphere becomes charged with latent heat … I completed the loop and described how it discharges that energy … making the point that it is the latent heat that causes the area under a cloud to feel warmer, not the ‘greenhouse effect’.

Reply to  Bernard Lodge
March 15, 2021 5:30 pm

Clouds are even better than CO2 at re-radiating infrared energy. The heat of condensation, occurs at the cloud level and has very little effect on surface temperature, unless the cloud is on the surface (i.e. fog).

It seem obvious to me that cloud would be a negative feedback. Imagine if it were always cloudy everywhere all the time. Would it be hotter or cooler at the surface? Cooler obviously.

Excellent analysis Willis! It should be published.

Reply to  Thomas
March 16, 2021 12:35 pm

H₂O is radiation interactive in all three of it’s physical states; gaseous, liquid and solid.
Gaseous CO₂ is minimally interactive with a few weak infrared frequencies.

Willis’ analysis above considers clouds in their passive interactive form, reflecting higher energy wavelengths from a cloud’s top surface and slowing infrared radiation leaving Earth underneath the cloud.

Clouds also interact directly, as Willis has well described before. Convection, condensation, even evaporation are where clouds actively interact with Earth’s atmosphere.

Admittedly, where CERES is involved, it is difficult to explicitly identify passive versus active cloud radiation involvement. Except perhaps where specific cloud formations are separated.

  • e.g. cirrus clouds minimally slow infrared radiation exiting the Earth but are very effective at reflecting short wave radiation.

Willis clearly proves cloud temperature controls reduce Earth’s surface temperatures and establish maximum temperatures for Earth’s surface.

Cloud feedback is negative.

Reply to  Bernard Lodge
March 16, 2021 12:10 pm

Ah, no.

If want you claim is true, then why no links to examples?

Where a human’s IR color photography is towards orange at 95°F, a cloud that is white on the same film is certainly not hotter than 100°F.

That white does not represent temperature, but sheer volume of water droplets radiating infrared radiation.
It’s like photographing a white sheet in full sunlight.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 7:08 am

Stephen, what proportion of heat transfer from the surface to the top of the troposphere is due to convective forces (including latent heat from evaporation) verses radiative. This is not easy data to find.

Reply to  Nelson
March 15, 2021 7:37 am

It depends on atmospheric composition. For a completely transparent atmosphere then convection would be all of it and just sufficient to balance the upward pressure gradient force with the downward force of gravity.
As one increases radiative opacity then the share involving radiation would increase and the share involving convection would decrease. If the atmosphere became 100% effective at absorbing all energy coming from space then it would be behaving as a solid with zero convection so that is never going to happen with a gas.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 8:11 am

Thks for the reply. I have tried to find an actual percentage of surface heat transferred by convective forces. I would think with radiative gases making up a few percent of atmospheric gases (water vapor dominating) that convective flows would make up 90%+ of heat transfer (WAG). If so, offsetting 3 wm^2 from a doubling of CO2 would be a trivial change in convective forces

Pat Frank
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 6:22 pm

Stephen, “The heavier the atmosphere at the surface the more energy is required by the phase change since the pressure from above increases the strength of the bonds between water molecules by forcing them closer together.

Water doesn’t compress much. A heavier atmosphere increases the boiling point of water, because water does not boil until its vapor pressure equals atmospheric pressure. Higher atmospheric pressure = higher boiling temperature means rate and amount of evaporation is suppressed over the same temperature range as imposed by the lower atmospheric pressure.

Here’s an illustration of the boiling point of water on the moom, Mars, and Venus. On Venus, water boils at 282 C.

The terrestrial rate of evaporation over the range of 0-100 C is suppressed on Venus because the vapor pressure of water at 100 C on Venus is far below the atmospheric pressure.

Reply to  Pat Frank
March 16, 2021 11:17 am

Poor wording on my part. The pressure adds to the amount of energy required to break the bonds and your description is better.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 15, 2021 7:32 am

Nobody has ever tried to measure it. I wish they would.
There are plenty who agree that it does vary and the historical charts that I have seen do confirm it. The most extreme waviness was during the Little Ice Age with lots of ships logs available indicating that mid latitude depressions and their frontal zones then ran nearer the equator than they do currently.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 15, 2021 8:34 am

The old charts and records show that during the LIA the mid latitude depressions much more commonly entered the Bay of Biscay during the winter whilst still passing to the north of Scotland in summer. During the recent warming spell such depressions rarely went that far south.
In the Mediaeval Warm Period the most frequent depression tracks were even further north such that the Isles of Scotland were pretty equable, with more agriculture and greater populations than today and a lot of easy interisland travel.
We do know that global cloudiness decreased during the 1980s and 90s which coincided with reduced meridionality in the jet stream tracks around the world.
Finally, I would just mention that despite my agreeing with your basic thermostat hypothesis I have never tried to cast doubt on it by asking you to quantify, precisely, the variations in convective activity that you have observed.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 9:57 am

If it helps, I have been putting together a series of charts, taken at the same time each year, showing both upper atmosphere (500hpa level) and surface level isobars. The intention is to record and assess whether there is any identifiable long term change, both year to year and over the decades.
Obviously changes of this nature do occur and we can see that temperatures in the late 1800’s were – on the basis of the chart data – significantly cooler than today and the resulting tracks of the cyclonic depressions very much further south with the noted results.
The charts are the product of the European weather service, older ones obviously being ‘Reanalysis’ of available data but they do give a useable visual assessment of general trends.
Historical Charts – How the Atmosphere Works (

Reply to  The Atmosphere Guy
March 15, 2021 11:54 am

Thanks. good work.

Philip Mulholland
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 15, 2021 9:21 am

“FAIK you can get cold fronts without jet steam waviness”

Jet streams correlate with cold fronts and jets are strongest above the largest horizontal surface temperature gradient.
Null Earth Surface Temperature
Null Earth Winds at 250 mbar

Last edited 2 years ago by Philip Mulholland
Philip Mulholland
Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 15, 2021 10:24 am

BTW Notice the good example of a westerly flowing Arctic Jet north of the coast of Siberia.

Max Dupilka
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 11:30 am

I have been doing weather forecasting and research for over 40 years now. And this entails regular analysis of all the charts. I still do contract work. This is only my anecdotal feeling, which is shared by other forecasters, but I have noticed in about the past 15 years that the jet stream and 500 mb patterns seem to be more chaotic than they used to be. I would not say more “wavy|”, but not as smoothly defined as I remember. This makes for a lot more difficult forecasting. I did not do forecasting before the 80s so I can’t say what they were like back then.

Reply to  Max Dupilka
March 15, 2021 11:58 am

My experience goes back to the late 1950s. There was more chaotic behaviour back then but it smoothed out in the late 70’s to late 90’s and I’ve been saying for over 10 years that I noticed increasingly chaotic behaviour since 2000 which has since become more pronounced. Those three stages coincided with cooling, then warming and now cooling again.

Max Dupilka
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 12:12 pm

I remember our forecasting last summer for western Canada and analyzing some really wacky 500 mb patterns. One fellow commented, “whatever happened to the regular Gulf of Alaska trough and the upper ridge over western Canada?”.

Gerald Machnee
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 16, 2021 6:02 am


Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 15, 2021 7:43 am

May it be a question of the speed ? Slower =”wavier” ?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 15, 2021 9:11 am

Could it not be measured by determining the overall length of the tropospheric jet stream? Longer means wavy, shorter means more circular. Data from airlines might do it. Or perhaps there is some satellite way of measuring wind speed.

Bill Treuren
Reply to  DHR
March 15, 2021 12:37 pm

The problem with measuring these things is that you first have to build bins of cloud type just to start.
I had a discussion with a scientist about this and the point that came out is that clouds can heat or cool the world.
The drivers, or a few are, time of day, time of year, latitude cloud altitude just to name but a few.
We also know from the work of Willis that a change of 1% in gross cloud cover can move the climate from warming to cooling, just not sure which way without knowing exactly the radiative balance.
Please write the paper up, I don’t hold much hope that it will alter the religion.
It may lead to more proper brains applying rigor to the field.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 1:49 pm

I would like to suggest the waviness of the polar jet streams should be measured in terms of the curvature and torsion of the midpoint of a bundle of velocity vectors plotted on a polar coordinate system. The surface of the base coordinates is a plane tangent to the earth’s surface at the intercept of the axis of rotation of the earth.The plane may be translated parallel to the axis of rotation to align it with a given pressure altitude. Note that there is no requirement for the pressure altitude to remain at a constant altitude above the ground level at the axis of earth’s rotation.

So how to measure the curvature and torsion of the wind vectors within the pressure level? Certainly mapping general airline aircraft GPS motion would give local information on the necessary vectors. The delta between GPS altitude and pressure altitude gives a delta z, while GPS x,y coordinates allow computation of the necessary components for the two curviness components. Additionally, weather balloons can provide data more suitable for mapping the entire curve by floating at defined pressure level together with GPS information somewhat analogous to the Argo floats. This is using first order derivatives of the flow vectors to determine waviness elements.

Conceptually the idea works, however the chaotic nature of winds and the ability of airflows to quickly change direction, the assumption of function continuity for the mapping can lead to problems. The solution of these boundary value problems is, as they say, an exercise left to the reader.

Curious George
Reply to  wsbriggs
March 15, 2021 2:33 pm

A physical quantity should be independent of a coordinate system.

Reply to  Curious George
March 15, 2021 6:13 pm

Hmm, there are a number of interesting physical quantities handled via tensors. Tensors are the descriptions on how these elements transform between different coordinate systems. So to what physical quantity are you implying that is varying as a function of coordinate system?

Ed Zuiderwijk
March 15, 2021 6:18 am

If that’s your big rambling house, Willis, I’d sign for one. And sea-level-rise-proof too!

John Garrett
March 15, 2021 6:18 am

Mr. Eschenbach,

Thank you for this work. You have the patience of Job.

Robert W Turner
March 15, 2021 6:23 am

A third way they affect thermodynamics in the atmosphere – they provide a surface for gas to conduct heat to which is then radiated to space at a higher rate than the gas is able to radiate it. Temperature inversions form above cloud layers just like at the surface at night, which is yet more proof that the back radiation “greenhouse gas” hypothesis is erroneous.

Robert W Turner
March 15, 2021 6:32 am

I suspect that the net change in CRE is due to weather patterns that occur in those regions and the types of clouds associated with those patterns.

Steve Case
March 15, 2021 6:39 am

“We can actually physically perceive both of these effects. During a clear summer day, a cloud comes over and instantly cools us down. And during a clear winter night, a cloud comes over and we immediately feel warmer.”

Absolutely regarding #1. On a breezy partly cloudy day, alternate sunshine and shadow results in dramatic warming and cooling. But #2? Dunno, maybe I don’t get out at night enough, but if I’m outside on a partly cloudy night I doubt very seriously that I would immediately feel warmer if a cloud came over.

Regarding, “…will clouds exacerbate the warming or will they act to reduce the warming?” Well reflection of the sun’s rays seems to be a primary effect, that is to say, clouds prevent some of the heat from the sun to never reach the surface. Retaining heat from the surface day or night is secondary. After all, it can only retain a portion of the heat the absence of clouds allowed in in the first place.

Thanks for the IPCC link I’ve added it to my file of factoids and suchlike.

Last edited 2 years ago by Steve Case
Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 7:00 am

I have spent thousands of nights outside all night during my plant nursery days in West Central Florida.
I do not know about feeling warmer, but I can tell you for certain, having measured the change on hundreds of seperate occasions, that when clouds stream overhead on a cold night undergoing radiational cooling, the temperature of the air as measured by thermometers jumps up several degrees in minutes, where without the clouds it had been dropping steadily and often rapidly to the dew point and sometimes below the dew point slightly.
This is true for even a tiny wisp of high jet stream cirrus.
Everyone doing agriculture in Florida has had entire crops saved by a streak of thin high clouds that prevented or lessened hard freezes.
And if that is not enough, there were many occasions that the cloud streak was temporary, and when it passed or moved south or north of our location, the temp quickly resumed downwards.
I am not talking about a sometimes or a small effect, but every single time, several to five or more degrees in minutes.

This is a factual first had account, and the effect can be observed in real time whenever those conditions exist.

I have always said that it is obvious that many of the warmistas have never spent any time outside.
Spending entire nights outside with your livlihood on the line, with thermometers all over the property, while studying subjects such as meteorology and climatology and indisciplinary natural science at the nearby University…or even just doing it cause you like to stay up all night walking around outside…will teach an observant person many things that cannot possibly be gleaned without this experience.
So your intuition is on point Steve. There are things we can only truly know deep down and for sure when we have direct personal experience.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nicholas McGinley
Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 15, 2021 7:05 am

And believe me, I have wondered long and hard exactly where the energy for this jump in temps came from.
Most of this experience was in the mid 1980s to early to mid 1990s, so it predates all of the many discussions and such about radiative gasses in the context of global warming alarmism.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 15, 2021 11:09 pm

I have wondered long and hard exactly where the energy for this jump in temps came from.”
The heat comes from the ground.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Mike
March 16, 2021 7:58 am

No, not it these instances.Heat flow from the ground to the air is not even close to fast enough to warm air 5 to 6 off the ground by several degrees.
Heat flow from the ground is not even fast enough for 70° soil to prevent frost from forming at 38° of air temp.
Subsurface heat does not warm air by any appreciable amount.
Think of the opposite situation…a hot sunny day on a beach. The top few inches of sand are scorching hot by early aftrrnoon, but a few inches below that the sand is cool, and even cold if it is early in the year, such as New Jersey on a warm Memorial Day weekend.

Soil is a very poor conductor of heat.
In Florida the sandy soil is an even worse conductor than more typical soils with a high organics content.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nicholas McGinley
Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 15, 2021 7:08 am

Oh, one more thing…these clouds originate in the tropical Pacific, and streak from the southwest to northeast behind cold fronts in that part of the country.
They are far more common when the Pacific is in a particular state re ENSO…I will leave it anyone interested to guess which state leads to these types of clouds occurring with regularity.

Steve Case
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 15, 2021 7:31 am

Like I said, maybe I don’t get outside at night enough and certainly not with my eyes glued to a thermometer (-:

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 8:30 am

The stories I have from those days…
Things very few people know anything about, like what are called “frost pockets”…places that on cold nights (and only cold nights, that is when there is radiational cooling) are routinely as much as tens of degrees colder than surrounding areas; preventing freeze or frost damage to sensitive crops with a layer of ice; how a dust devil or a hail storm can wipe out a grower in literally minutes, while a (or a few) hundred feet in any direction nothing at all happened; how fast a single cow that jumps a fence can eat an entire vegetable garden without making a sound, and do so faster than can be believed; how a person can literally levitate and run across the top of knee deep swamp when a alligator creeps up behind you…

We had a neighbor who was a strawberry grower, who lost everything one night because he and his wife went to a movie.
In two hours a front moved through and temps dropped so much so fast that by the time he got home, his valves were frozen and he could not turn on his water .
He said he knew when he walked out of the theatre and smelled the air that he was ruined. He had been one of the wealthiest people in Pasco county at the time…

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 15, 2021 8:37 am


  • This freeze was more severe than the 1977 and 1981 freezes. It occurred on December 24-25 and was so detrimental because the Frost Warning Service missed the forecast. By the time growers knew about the freeze, much of the damage was already done.”

In cold pockets (what locals in Pasco county called “Frost Hollows:
Weather Facts: Frost hollow |, there were many more freezes than this list shows. We had freezes every Winter back then, with one as late as April.
The night/day of the space shuttle disaster, it was 17°F that morning at our place:

Timeline of Major Florida Freezes – Florida Citrus Mutual (

Last edited 2 years ago by Nicholas McGinley
Philip Mulholland
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 24, 2021 4:37 am

This is a factual first had account, and the effect can be observed in real time whenever those conditions exist. – tiny wisp of high jet stream cirrus.

Can you kindly supply some more weather details?
I assume that your observations were made in Pasco County.
Roughly how far inland from the gulf coast?
I assume that these streaming clouds were mostly cirrus?
If so, did they show evidence of descending ice crystal virga below them?
Did the effect only occur with the clouds directly overhead or to the side?
Was there evidence of a front, in particular did the cloud line descend to the west or were they in a horizontal layer?
Any estimate on how high up the clouds were?


Jean Parisot
Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 8:00 am

The effect is also noticeable in the high desert – esp. when the clouds leave and the temp drops several degrees.

Erik Magnuson
Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 8:15 am

I would say absolutely for #2 as well. In SoCal, cloudy nights are warmer than clear nights.

Reply to  Erik Magnuson
March 15, 2021 8:48 am

The explanation is that clouds moving in overhead are associated with warmer air moving in overhead at whatever level that cloud occurs. It will suppress radiative cooling by radiating down but will never actually raise the surface temperature above the point that it would have been in the absence of radiative cooling.
The suppression of radiative cooling at the surface allows conducted energy from below to reach the surface without being lost to space which is what bounces the surface temperature up again a few degrees.
Under a clear sky the surface temperature is derived from the balance of energy between that flowing up from beneath to the surface and that flowing from the surface to space.
That is why you get more radiative cooling over snow. The snow cover suppresses warming from beneath by acting as an insulator.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 8:54 am

One might ask why very cold cirrus cloud can have such an effect when it is at a height far colder than the surface. The reason is that the downward radiation reduces cooling of the entire vertical column and so follows the lapse rate down. If the high cloud is say 2 degrees warmer that the clear air that was previously in place then it knocks 2 degrees off the cooling effect at the surface.
Note that the downward radiation warms nothing, it just reduces the rate of cooling all the way down between surface and cloud base.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 9:08 am

You are not speaking from experience, that is for sure.
I know you know physics, but intuition and what should be true are no help in specific situations, and this is one of those situations.
What I have seen many many times is not what you describe.
There is no time for what you are talking about to cause the temp rise that occurs.
It is something else, like perhaps reflected heat from warmer areas that may be hundreds of miles away (maybe, IDK for sure…I only know for sure what I and many others have seen and continue to see every single time this occurs), but photons move fast.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 9:33 am

Now where there is water is another story.
Frost will not form near water very readily, and near a large body of water like an ocean, it may be nearly impossible to get frost.
Key West has never had frost, although the temp and dew point have at times been low enough to cause frost to form.
Growers in Florida have sought out large bodies of water such as lakes or east/west stretches of rivers such as the Withlacootchee or the Caloosahatchee, for over 100 years, and planted preferentially on the south sides of them, although any grove or field next to water will be protected by many degrees compared to nearby areas.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nicholas McGinley
Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 9:46 am

It is very surpising that ice crystal clouds many miles up in the atmosphere, which are certainly many tens of degrees below zero, can have an effect of causing warming to occur at the surface, where it is far warmer (or less chilly in the cases in question here). Obviously (or seemingly obviously at least) it is not any sort of direct transfer of energy from the clouds to the ground, and there has to be more to it than just blocking the flow of energy from the surface and more particularly from the air just above the surface (I have not measured the temp of the ground surface in these cases, but I will next time. I had no devices like laser thermometers back in the day, or a infrared camera either).Back when I was observing this to occur with some frequency, there was no internet and few people even had a PC, and in any case there were no websites for weather services. It was never exactly frequent, I wish it had been. The first time I saw this, it was not clear what had caused the reversal in the trend lower. But eventually I/we had seen it happen many times, and on at least one occasion more recently, a predicted freeze was occurring and was reversed over a large part of the state when cirrus clouds moved in. I was looking for the news story in a newspaper archive but have so far not found it.
Eventually we knew well that those streaks of clouds most would ignore on a satellite picture could and would have a warming effect. And it did/does have the effect, every single time.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nicholas McGinley
Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 9:27 am

Heat flow from the ground is astoundingly slow.
As an example, I have seen and it is demonstrably true that in the month of October, in Florida, when the temperature was over 85° during the day every single day for the previous 6 months if not more, a cold front goes through and drops the dew point to a very low value, and then after sunset the wind dies down to calm. The temperature drops rapidly to the dew point, and within hours of sunset, there is frost on every blade of grass for tens and tens of miles (It always forms first on the roofs of cars,BTW). The ground is obviously very warm beneath the surface, but that matters not at all for the formation of frost. Only the wind, and the dewpoint, and the lack of clouds. Then some high clouds streak overhead, and the temp warms from, for example, 28° to 34°, or from 34 to 39°, and seemingly as fast as you can walk over and look at some thermometers placed at eye level all around the farm, and with frost still all over the ground.
I have never seen that the soil temperature has any effect on frost formation. The ground in peninsular Florida is never very cold, and often very warm, and the frost and the falling temps simply do not care.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 15, 2021 9:53 am

Due to the speed of photons any warming effect down along the lapse rate slope is immediate so you get the air temperature increase straight away. It then takes time to raise the surface temperature, as you say.
If the change takes the temperature above freezing point then you don’t need to wait for energy to come up from below because the warmer air will work on it in the meantime. I have often seen ground frost persist until the air temperature gets up to about 39F if the sky is clear but lower if the cloud cover is thicker.
So, your streak of high clouds will warm the air to the extent you say due to the effect travelling down the lapse rate slope but because the clouds are high or thin there will still be enough radiative cooling to offset both the warmer air and any heat coming up from below for a longer period than for thicker or lower cloud
It is a balance of multiple energy flows.
You could get ground frost persisting even with an air temperature of 39F.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 10:10 am

I do not recall ever seeing frost melt prior to sunrise…personally.
I have routinely prevented frost damage to by bananas by waiting until sunrise and then turning on the sprinklers to melt it.
It takes a lot of energy to melt ice, and when it melts is when the plant damage occurs.
There can be frost of the leaves of sensitive plants all night, and as long as it does not melt by itself, there will be no damage, but if it is allowed to melt from the Sun hitting it or the air warming it, the leaves will be destroyed.
Farmers that protect crops with water to form a layer of ice know well that you have the leave the water on until all ice has melted, to prevent damage.
If one, for example, turns of the water in the morning after the temp has risen above any temp that can cause damage, but before the ice has completely melted, then the plants are destroyed. The melting ice absorbs a huge amount of energy, as anyone who has studied physics knows.
And yet it still seems surprising:
It is not the frost forming or persisting that damages…it is when it melts.
Melting it off with water prevents the latent heat to melt the ice crystals from being taken from the plant tissue.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 10:22 am

Here is another thing I had not made clear perhaps: Often these streaks of cirrus clouds are very narrow. You can look up at the sky and see that it is clear to the south and to the north, then look at the satellite shot on the news and see how narrow in extent it sometimes is.
But it does not matter to the effect.
I do not exactly know what you are saying when you talk about “due to the effect travelling down the lapse rate slope”.

I suppose one would have to send up a radiosonde balloon to know anything much about what is occurring between the thermometers and the clouds or the open sky.
If I say anything about where I think the energy is coming from, I am not going to assert I know for certain. I only know it happens fast. I cannot say if it is a few seconds or maybe five minutes, but I know it is very fast…seemingly immediately.
To know how fast, one would I think need to see the clouds coming and watch the thermometer and the sky and try to tell exactly when the leading edge of the cloud passed your ground location.
Those clouds move fast…hundreds of miles an hour, at least some of the time. Maybe all of the time, but when it is continuous it is hard to say.
When spotty or streaky, they appear suddenly.
At times I am fairly certain they went from over the Pacific, past Mexico, past the Gulf, to over Florida in under an hour or maybe a few hours.

Last edited 2 years ago by Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 15, 2021 12:03 pm

Even though those high clouds might be narrow they still signify the arrival of a layer of warmer air up aloft.
If that warmer air is ,say, 2C warmer than the air it replaces then due to the speed of photons the entire vertical column from surface to cloud also becomes 2C warmer.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 1:33 pm

It might help this discussion if you would describe the “adiabatic lapse rate” under “normal, dry and humid” conditions and why such effects vary over surface type.

Bob boder
Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 1:26 pm

Funny that down dwelling IR doesn’t seem to melt snow, the snow in my neighborhood melts under direct sunlight but not in the shade. DWIR should be relatively evenly distributed. I would think that IR would melt snow faster than UV

Steve Case
Reply to  Bob boder
March 15, 2021 3:41 pm

I love it when people poke holes in sacred cows.

rhoda klapp
Reply to  Steve Case
March 16, 2021 2:51 am

Also, why don’t solar panels work at night, as DWIR is what really warms the earth, not that shiny sunlight thing, which effect is far less?

Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 11:06 pm

”But #2? Dunno”

We have a thermometer on the front porch. Temp goes up at night when it clouds over.
Up a lot too, sometimes as much as 5C.
I’m not sure it’s back radiation though I guess that’s happening too. For me, most of the heat comes from the land heated during the day and clouds simply slow down the convection. Temp must go up.

March 15, 2021 6:40 am

Where I live, winter tends to be cloudless and dry. I am always happy to see clouds on a winter night, as it portends a morning after without black frost. Always important for us mudgrub veggie-heads, the frost… and the drought…
I find this true only for full, horison-to-horison clouds. Whereas I have ample opportunity to enjoy the fleeting pleasure of a small-to-medium cloud blocking the sun’s heat enough to work outside while it lasts, I must say, I have never looked up at one night time cloud and thought; “wow, that’s nice and cosy”. At 1614 meters above sea level, I feel close enough to the average cloud to have noticed?
Thus, sir, I respectfully state my doubts about radiative clouds, I always thought of them more as insulating, keeping the little heat we have in via reflection from below, rather than overpowering the cold by sending me heat. I even considered that they may simply disturb convection, keeping daytime air down near the ground? A type of inversion?
But then, you are the expert, so I’ll keep your theory at the back of my mind until proven wrong. Or right, of course.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  paranoid goy
March 15, 2021 6:48 am

Clouds consist of ice crystals which have a high emissivity, not to mention a relatively high emitting surface area.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
March 15, 2021 9:56 am

Are they indeed always crystals?…any numbers on the IR reflectivity? Or at least the temperature I can expect from your average winter night airborne ice crystal? Plus, are these crystals aligned horisontally, so they can radiate at the ground? Just asking. For my plants…

Tim Gorman
Reply to  paranoid goy
March 15, 2021 8:36 am
  1. Clouds never reflect back as much as they get. So all they do is slow down heat loss, they don’t prevent it.
  2. That’s why minimum temps go up but not maximum temps.
March 15, 2021 6:45 am

One point to add to discussion, downwelling IR is refected at the surface and does not warm the ocean at depth…

Steve Case
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 15, 2021 8:10 am

Willis, from your link:

“Look, folks, there’s lot’s of good, valid scientific objections against the AGW claims, but the idea that DLR can’t heat the ocean is nonsense. Go buy an infrared lamp, put it over a pan of water, and see what happens. It only hurts the general skeptical arguments when people believe and espouse impossible things …”

Willis, if you can supply a link or an argument as to how CO2 absorbing and reradiating at 15µm acts as a greenhouse gas without comparing it to an IR lamp, that would be great (-:

Me? I think downwelling 15µm IR cancels out upwelling 15µm IR resulting the surface not cooling off as fast. But it does cause warming, and the warming comes from the sun, not from the downwelling 15µm IR from CO2. And the sun at over 5,000K, not a puny IR lamp, continues to warm the surface until equilibrium once again occurs.

Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 1:46 pm

So long as the pan itself isn’t heated, not much except evaporation

Try heating a plastic bath from above with an IR lamp, you won’t get far at all.

Irrespective, the temperature of CO2 radiation is very cold.

The only way it can even be measured is by creating a negative temperature gradient using a strongly cooled sensor.

Reply to  fred250
March 15, 2021 2:08 pm

The only way ocean heat can increase below 700m in 65 years is for net evaporation (evaporation less precipitation) rate to REDUCE.

I just lost James Hansen missing heat. It is physically impossible for heat to conduct down a 700m deep column and warm the mass to 2000m by the “observed”. 0.06C since 1955.

The only way to increase ocean heat content in that time is to reduce net evaporation rate. That is consistent with larger warm pools because warm pools have net precipitation.

Steve Fitzpatrick
Reply to  RickWill
March 15, 2021 5:57 pm

The heat transfer down the water column is not by conduction. If it were, then you would be correct. But heat transfer down the water column is via turbulent mixing (called ‘diapycnal mixing’), not thermal conduction. Diapycnal mixing is counterbalanced by slow upwelling of very cold deep water, driven by the thermohaline cycle. The result is the ocean’s well known thermocline temperature profile. Anything which raises the average temperature of the ocean’s well-mixed surface layer will lead to a gradual warming of the thermocline. The process is relatively slow, but not nearly as slow as thermal conduction.

Steve Fitzpatrick
Reply to  fred250
March 15, 2021 5:44 pm

Carbon dioxide lasers are used to cut steel (and many other materials). What wavelength do you suppose is generated by a CO2 laser? Answer:about 10 microns…. corresponding to the peak emission from a very low blackbody temperature. But surely that 10 micron infrared laser easily cuts steel. Microwaves (corresponding to peak emission from extremely low blackbody temperatures.. see cosmic background radiation) can heat food in an oven, and easily burn skin… the army has a microwave based crowd control weapon which can burn skin from hundreds of meters away. You seem confused about how radiation transfers energy; radiation does not have a ‘temperature’.

Steve Case
Reply to  Devils_Tower
March 15, 2021 7:39 am

Especially if you’re referring to the 15µm IR downwelling from CO2. A black body that radiates predominately at around 15µm would be a block of dry ice.

Granum Salis
Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 8:09 am

AFAIK, a black body emits more intensely at all wavelengths than another body with a lower temperature, notwithstanding one of those wavelengths is the peak emission of the cooler body.

Steve Case
Reply to  Granum Salis
March 15, 2021 8:50 am

And if those two bodies are radiating toward each other, Does the peak emission of the cooler body warm the other or just cause it to cool off slower?

Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 9:39 am

The cooler body blocks some of the warmer body’s view of -270 C outer space is the best way to understand it.

Steve Case
Reply to  DMacKenzie
March 15, 2021 11:45 am

Yep! There’s a nice little thought experiment with various temperatures of the cooler body from cryogenic temperatures to becoming as warm as and then finally the warmer body.

Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 10:09 am

Cool off slower. So the next day the earth is a little warmer when the sun comes out and begins heating it up again, but from a slightly warmer starting temperature so the final temperature of the day is slightly warmer. Don’t get me wrong, as I’m the first to say that there is no impending climate crisis, but the greenhouse effect from CO2 is real. Real but small. The S-B T^4 causes radiation to increase dramatically as temps increase, limiting the high temperature. That’s why the global average temperature can’t go up very much from even a large increase in CO2 reradiating LWIR.

Granum Salis
Reply to  Meab
March 15, 2021 11:17 am

I’m curious to know how, while the atmosphere is not a black body and 0.04% of the atmosphere is not a black body and the spectral lines of CO2 are well known, Stefan-Boltzmann is applicable to this question.
The question is not whether CO2 absorbs IR; we know it does. It’s a matter of whether the net result of conduction, convection, advection and water phase change and variability in heat capacity of the atmosphere is a delayed cooling of the surface.

Reply to  Granum Salis
March 15, 2021 4:40 pm

I didn’t say the atmosphere is a blackbody. It isn’t. I was referring to the surface temperature when I said earth. I assumed that would be obvious to everyone, but apparently not. By the way, I taught Thermodynamics at a major University for years.

Steve Fitzpatrick
Reply to  Meab
March 15, 2021 6:13 pm

Yup, exactly right. The effect is a reduction in cooling rate, not a warming. Take an infrared thermometer and point it at a clear portion of the sky…. it will read a very low temperature. Then point it at a cloud… it will read many degrees warmer. In both cases (cloud and clear sky) the temperature is lower than ambient at the ground…. but clear sky cools the ground by radiative loss more quickly than clouds do.

Granum Salis
Reply to  Steve Case
March 15, 2021 10:10 am

The warming can only go from hotter to colder, of course.
As to whether the warm body cools more slowly than in the absence of the cool body, it’s less clear.
A cloud can soak up a lot of energy without changing temperature, and there’s no vacuum between Earth and the cloud. There’s more than radiation going on.

Reply to  Granum Salis
March 16, 2021 8:42 pm

“As to whether the warm body cools more slowly than in the absence of the cool body, it’s less clear.”

No it’s perfectly clear: that is exactly what happens.

” It’s a matter of whether the net result of conduction, convection, advection and water phase change and variability in heat capacity of the atmosphere is a delayed cooling of the surface.”

The net is an average 16C, so yes.

comment image

Last edited 2 years ago by Loydo
Reply to  Devils_Tower
March 17, 2021 10:11 am

downwelling IR is refected at the surface and does not warm the ocean at depth…

Almost everything solid/liquid, including water, absorbs IR. Almost nothing “reflects” it, except polished gold (hence the coating on the James Webb infrared telescope mirror).

Last edited 2 years ago by beng135
Reply to  beng135
March 17, 2021 2:14 pm

The point is all downwelling IR is captured at the surface and thermalized. Then convection, IR upward radiation, or mixing happens.

Mumbles McGuirck
March 15, 2021 6:56 am

“they’re all four close, but which one is right? Nobody knows,”

One of my favorite adages is, ‘A man with a watch always knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never quite certain.’

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
March 15, 2021 7:46 am

I always said, why bother to carry around a watch, when one can always just ask someone else who is lugging one of those fragile and expensive things around all the time.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 15, 2021 8:58 am


When I as working construction, a carpenter asked an electrician, my journeyman at the time, what time it was. The electrician told him: “Time to buy a watch”. The carpenter asked again, and the reply was the same. He never told the carpenter the time.

A different perspective.

The electrician was in his 60s, and apparently had, for 40 years, been asked the time by those who refused to lug around those “fragile and expensive things”, although they are neither fragile nor expensive. I still have the same Seiko watch my wife bought me some 47 years ago, wore it while I worked as an electrician, taking it off and sticking it in my pocket whenever I had to work things “hot”. Scrapped up, replaced the crystal multiple times, but it still works and I still wear it when out and about, even though I have a phone/clock, habit.

Nothing against you Nick. Even after this bit of apprentice training, I usually told the time when asked, but there were times when I, like my then retired and deceased JW, would answer the same as he. I had a job to do and keeping the time for others was not part of that job. And it is not a common courtesy to provide that information when negligence is the reason for the asking.


Abolition Man
Reply to  Drake
March 15, 2021 9:39 am

Hey, Sparky!
You got prejudice against wood boitchers?
As a carpenter I always took off my watch at start of workday and left it in the truck to save it from being destroyed! I’d be worried about a rude sub contractor finding nails in his Romex or piping, but that’s just me. Once electronic leashes (pagers) were developed most workers have their own time piece available at hand!

Bob boder
Reply to  Abolition Man
March 15, 2021 2:09 pm

Any Moe can be a carpenter, it takes an electrician to really Curly you.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 15, 2021 5:32 pm

If one who proudly displays his time piece and doesn’t want to share the time just ask if it’s 25 or 6 to 4 (with a little rhythm)!

Curious George
Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
March 15, 2021 8:28 am

To be absolutely certain, you should have no watch.

Reply to  Mumbles McGuirck
March 15, 2021 9:17 am

Why worry about what time it is? You can’t change it or do anything about it.

Reply to  eyesonu
March 15, 2021 6:58 pm

Does anybody really know what time it is? …..

March 15, 2021 6:58 am

A very interesting exercise. The side look is how temperature effects the water vapor in the atmosphere which of course effects cloud cover. Additionally one has to consider the inertia from drought and rainy conditions over land (dry conditions perpetuate dry conditions, wet perpetuate wet unless something happens to feed in dry or wet air from elsewhere).

Then you can get to where the atmosphere is so warm as you go up no clouds will form. We have that a lot in the Southeast US in the hot months where we have days where it is very hot, hazy and cloudless. A lot of variables around cloud formation. A sticky wicket as they say.

Reply to  rbabcock
March 15, 2021 9:24 am

I have pondered that thought many occasions. Never have I seen it discussed.

Reply to  rbabcock
March 15, 2021 2:17 pm

Additionally one has to consider the inertia from drought and rainy conditions over land

Land holds negligible heat so its role in climate is limited. Weather occurs over land. And weather is important for habitation but the energy that sustains the climate system is almost all stored in and released from the oceans. The atmosphere plays a role in regulating the heat input to the ocean surface and driving ocean currents that transfer heat poleward from the tropics.

Peta of Newark
March 15, 2021 7:00 am

I’m trying to construct myself a Solar Power Datalogger
You’d have thought = fairly simple.
viz: take a small solar cell panel. Because solar cells are ‘current sources’ you connect a resistor across it to convert the current to voltage and then record the voltage
Easy peasy and inexpensive – big thanks to Lascar for the EL3 data logger

But then, to calibrate the thing
So, get a proper solar power meter (SPM) (
One that not already a logger – not easy to find apart maybe in the proper Weather Station kits. Hideous expensive

Then the fun starts because it is obvious that the solar cell and the SPM don’t see the same sky. SOMETIMES.
Never mind for now

Just a few days ago it was cloudy here at lunchtime:

  • Grey clouds but ‘bright’
  • SPM said 45 Watts per square metre
  • …….
  • Next day was clear and sunny
  • SPM said 550 Watts per square metre

Get your round head around those numbers then: explain how clouds cause Positive Feedback heating.

Even worse, they simply can not ‘force’ the surface or in fact anywhere in the atmosphere below them.

Lapse Rate says that the cloud, whatever height is it at, is always colder than everything everywhere below it and Entropy says that cold things do not warm warmer things.

The tops of clouds, in fact ALL parts of clouds, are dazzling white.
Grey clouds are an optical illusion
Clouds thus have epic high Albedo

But also, they are made of (droplets of) liquid water and thus have very high emissivity, easily 0.99
And where they emit (upwards) from is at the very base of the Stratosphere

(Perhaps remind now that CO2 has perfectly Zero Emissivity)

The Stratosphere being noted not only for its Stratification but also that is is very very dry.
There is no water there and thus, is nearly transparent to the Infra-Red Radiations coming off the tops of the clouds.

Poor hapless old Climate is thus dealt a humongous Double Whammy by the tops of clouds….

  1. Very low Solar Energy coming in
  2. Massive infra-red energy going out

Q. Why did the Polar Vortex come pouring down the Great Plains corn belt and dump on Texas and not land on the ocean(s) either side of North America?
A. Lapse Rate

Tillage/farming/corn growing has dried out the land, over huuuuge area.
The air above it was/is very dry so that air would have had a Lapse Rate of 10C per km
Compare to wet air with a Lapse Rate of 6C per km
Thus the thermal gradient above the Great Plains was very steep and whatever energy there was in the dirt/soil/landscape simply poured out, or down (always down) the thermal gradient as heat energy is want to do.
Thus the steeper Lapse Rate very effectively reduced the height of the Tropopause

So: The dry air above the Plains effectively opened the door and threw out the red-carpet Welcome Mat for the Stratosphere to come and pay a visit.
It obliged.

a bit OT…
If anyone is into graphs and correlations, an interesting one to go research is the per capita rate for heart attacks.
Which anecdotally corresponds with places where huuuuge amounts of Roundup are used?
And you thought Roundup caused cancer?!!?

The Great Plains use massive quantities of Roundup. That is why the plants are all dead, the dirt is so dry, the lapse rate is so high and why the stratosphere came calling.

Another place, also bizarrely where its been cold recently and has a high per capita heart attack rate and high Roundup use, is Florida.

Apart from being an Organophosphorus compound, very lovely I’m sure, Roundup is a chelator.
It locks up metals.
Like Zinc, Magnesium, Copper = things that might cause dementias, heart attacks, strokes and ‘co-morbidities’ if they run into short supply………..

funny old world innit

Last edited 2 years ago by Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 15, 2021 7:11 am

You may want to look at the high pressure ridge that formed over far western North America that directed the very cold polar air into Texas and why these highs form there in the winter. Might have to do more with ocean water temperatures and where mid ocean lows and highs form than lapse rates. What is happening in the Indian Ocean can directly effect what is happening over you head. It’s all interconnected.

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Peta of Newark
March 15, 2021 8:53 am

Tillage/farming/corn growing has dried out the land, over huuuuge area.”

It’s probably much more complicated than this. Those crops also shade the ground and reduce evaporative water loss by the ground so what rain does fall stays around longer. Evapotranspiration also increases the humidity directly above the crops. Higher CO2 decreases the water pulled from the ground by the crops. No till farming gets larger every year. Crops like hay and pasture lessen ground water loss from runoff. Crops really only impact the ground from May to Sept, about 5 months out of 12. Rain and snow during the rest of the year don’t see much “crop drying”.

I would *really* like to see how the climate models handle land use. My guess is that they don’t even try. It’s just part of their larger “tuning” parameters.

March 15, 2021 7:03 am

Have you ever stood in the sun then been shaded by a passing cloud? Did that produce heat or cooling?

March 15, 2021 7:14 am

With my deepest apologies to Joni Mitchell…

Both Sides Now
Woes and blows to warmist scares
Excise schemes now in cross hairs
And weather claxons now despair
I’ve looked at clouds that way

We all know that they block the sun
And rain and snow on everyone
So many things frauds would have done
But clouds got in their way
We’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From cool and warm, and still somehow
Warmist delusions I recall
They really don’t know clouds at all

Loons and goons with feckless deals
Are busy advancing their ideal
And so their fairytale reveal
We’ve heard them yack away

But now it’s not supposed to snow
So we’re laughing as they eat crow
And polar bears, their numbers grow
Hint: check the Hudson bay

We’ve looked for signs of high tides now
From near and far, no rise somehow
Warmist delusions we recall
They really don’t know squat at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “It’s bullshit!” right out loud
Dreams and schemes of circus clowns
The crooks’ in disarray

This now transends just acting strange
We shake our heads, they’re so deranged
They’re data’s lost, still unexplained
United Nations way

We’ve heard their crap, their sacred cow
From kin and news and still somehow
It’s Mann’s delusions I recall
He really don’t crap at all

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From cool and warm, and still somehow
Those warmists really are dirt balls
They really don’t know clouds at all

Reply to  Gator
March 15, 2021 9:11 am

Almost perfect:

And so their fairytale(s) reveal

Otherwise their fairytale reveal(s)” and screws up the rhyme. and they have MANY fairytales.

Really great parody, wish I had the talent to write and perform this type of thing.

Can you get it produced and out to Fox or OANN or Newsmax?

Reply to  Drake
March 15, 2021 11:46 am

One more imperfection- claxon?

Reply to  farmerbraun
March 16, 2021 6:27 am

Alternative spelling with which I grew up.

Reply to  Drake
March 16, 2021 6:34 am

No work of man is ever perfect. And in my defense, if you look at the original lyrics, my parody rhymes match Joni’s original masterpiece. When writing parodies it is important to stick as close as possible to the original word sounds.

Moons and Junes and ferries wheels
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

Glad you guys enjoyed it!

Abolition Man
Reply to  Gator
March 15, 2021 9:46 am

That was one of the first songs I had to learn in my first guitar class; Folk Guitar at the local
Co-op when I was thirteen. You definitely need a “know” in the line after Mann’s delusions!

Reply to  Abolition Man
March 16, 2021 6:39 am

Wow! Not sure how that “know” was omitted, and I never noticed it was missing. I “know” it was there in my original rendering. Good catch!

March 15, 2021 7:28 am

I made pass one through your post, pass two is necessary. Two comments:

Aerosols seem to have much greater uncertainty, but much, much less impact. They do make a good fudge factor though.

I haven’t looked at weather/climate models, but the fact that a visibly transparent atmosphere laden with the greenhouse gas water vapor transforms into a visibly opaque atmosphere with a very high albedo that reflects a huge amount of sunlight is something that I find completely daunting and is far outside anything I have tried to model. The transition can be just a fraction of a degree, 100 meters in elevation (or less!) is just amazing.

I’m sure glad I never had to code atmospheric models for a living.

Erik Magnuson
Reply to  Ric Werme
March 15, 2021 11:20 am


From my experience with SPICE modeling, highly nonlinear devices (diodes, inductor/transformer core, etc) really slow down the modeling process. I can only imagine that first principles modeling of cloud formation would a royal pain. Unfortunately, not a lot of people get that.

Combining Willis’s analysis of cloud feedback with Happer’s high resolution modeling of IR and CO2 concentrations showing ~2.1C ECS without cloud feedback suggests that the real world ECS may be on the order of 1C with a doubling of CO2.

One other reason that I’d expect cloud feedback to be negative is that the temperatures in the interglacials appear to be bumping up against a form limit.

Sweet Old Bob
March 15, 2021 7:28 am

” Planetwide, as is generally known, the net CRE averages out to a surface cooling effect of about -20 watts per square metre (W/m2). That is to say, clouds cool the surface more than they warm it. ”

  Something the ” modelers ” strive to NOT know …

Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
March 15, 2021 7:49 am


March 15, 2021 7:45 am

Interesting article.
Looking forward to your review of cloud cover periodicity.
Forced by changes in the Solar Cycle and Cosmic Rays.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 15, 2021 9:08 am

That is what led me to discount cosmic rays and look elsewhere.
The unexpected observation that from 2004 the quieter sun actually increased ozone in the stratosphere over the poles at heights above 45km made sense to me because one needs more ozone creating a warmer stratosphere to push the tropopause down over the poles and send cold surface high pressure cells to move equatorward across the middle latitudes and thereby force a wavier jet stream.
That finding also explains why the ozone hole reduced in size independently of the Montreal Protocol.
The climate establishment has failed to follow up on that observation.

Reply to  Bob Hoye
March 15, 2021 1:08 pm

“found nothing”
Young man, and use use this accurately. 1957 was designated as “International Geophysical Year” and I completed a BSc in geology and geophysics in 1962. Worked in mining exploration of a while. Your comment on Cosmic could be suffering the old saying in physics that if you keep your data base short enough it will fit your theory.
The Cosmic Ray hypothesis works in the accelerator that Svensmark used, works on the “Forbush” events which term is weekly or less and Nir Shaviv has traced it out to a something like a 25 million year cycle.
In 1960, lectures were not about “Climate Change” they were about Ice Ages. Caused by the oddity of a more open Arctic Ocean providing humidity to frozen continents. It wasn’t credible then.
The other was Milankovitch theory that Ice Ages were periodical.
But there was not enough evidence to conclude either way. It has been exciting beginning in the early 1970 to see the assembly of data that confirmed “M”. However the temp changes have been greater than could be explained by variation in the Sun’s output or in the Earth’s distance from the Sun.
The something else turned out to be Cosmic and cloud formation. As advanced by Svensmark some 10 years ago.
To make sure I understand it I’ve corresponded with Svensmark, Will Happer and I’ve met Ian Plimer a number of times on the speaking circuit.
And, sigh, I still have my copy of Walt Kelly’s “G.O.Fizzickle Pogo”, bought in 1957.
Shaviv has yet to return my email.

Reply to  Bob Hoye
March 15, 2021 1:38 pm

One of the reasons I ditched the cosmic ray hypothesis was that there is no shortage of cloud seeding aerosols in the first place so changes in cosmic ray intensity would make no difference.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 15, 2021 3:02 pm

Sure works for me.
What measure of “cloud seeding aerosols” do you use?

March 15, 2021 7:58 am

There will be more clouds on the edge of the deserts and elsewhere as the world continues to green thanks to the wonderful plant food, CO2, that is increasing.

March 15, 2021 7:59 am

Good post Willis, as usual.

However it seems to me that you, and the climate modellers as well, are looking at clouds statically.

I think that you also need to look at clouds dynamically, i.e. the rate of cloud formation and dissipation.

According to the earth’s energy budget in Wikipedia (Dec 29, 2020), evaporative cooling is approximately 85 W m–2. This should necessarily approximate the rate of energy release upon condensation to form clouds. This energy of condensation is largely radiated directly into space, bypassing the green-house gasses.

The rate of evporative cooling, and thus cloud formation, should increase at least in proportion to the partial pressure of water vapor, which increases exponentially with temperature (approximately 8% per degree Celsius), especially when one considers that the mass transfer coefficient for natural convection, which depends on density differences, will also increase with increasing evaporation.

Thus the increase in evaporative cooling with temperature, which drives increasing cloud formation and dissipation, should be at least 6 W m–2 / C and is likely to have a larger effect on the earth’s energy budget than the static effects that you have explored in this post.

Andrew Chantrill
Reply to  dh-mtl
March 16, 2021 3:27 am

Firstly let me thank Willis for another excellent post. Secondly, dh-mtl beat me to it. I think the 8% per degree is with no wind, and it may be as high as 15% under typical conditions. As you say, it’s more significant than other factors that are likely to change as a result of our emissions.

March 15, 2021 8:00 am

So, with all the hubbub about arctic amplification and enhanced warming at the poles, how do we know that CO2 is the culprit and not increased cloudiness? Seems to me that there are at least two confounding factors in that analysis, possibly three if sea ice fluctuation is taken into account.

Bruce Cobb
March 15, 2021 8:01 am

Clouds, hoo-boy. All types, low, medium, high, thin, fat, short, tall, warming and cooling depending what time of day and where. It’s complicated. Me, I wish I had a river…

Patrick Hrushowy
March 15, 2021 8:23 am

As person who is always wanting to figure out how things work, I have never been able to see how CO2 could possibility be the control knob for maintaining the remarkable stability in temperatures over the long term on this planet. Born and raised on the Prairies in Canada I’ve experienced the emergent phenomena of huge cumulus clouds drifting in on a hot summer afternoon and then dropping rain. Even as a child I recognized that things cooled down quickly.

Rick C
March 15, 2021 8:36 am

Willis: Thanks, great post. I’ve been telling my “climate worried” family members that the models and predictions are very uncertain mainly because no one knows how big the effect of clouds is on cooling or warming or even the sign of that effect. I will now amend that to say the evidence strongly supports the conclusion it is negative.

(Typo alert: just above figure 3 -grid cells – not in degrees C)

March 15, 2021 8:40 am

If I might be so bold as to state that which you probably already know…

  1. the difference in Albedo between white clouds, .8 or so, and open ocean, .05 or so, are the “shutters” that control how much of the Sun’s heat reaches us here at the surface.
  2. In your emergent phenomena theory, you concentrate mainly on convective thunderstorm formation.  This is fine, but represents only about 1/4 of the cloud cover of the planet.  Most cloud cover is due weather fronts, ie advection, not thunderstorm type convection.
  3. What causes this?  Well cold, dense, dry upper stratospheric air always wants to fall down.  When it falls, it displaces moist lower air sideways. Coriolis forces take over as that air moves sideways, and eventually the moist air climbs up and over the next patch of cooler surface air that it meets (which is likely air that sank the previous week) As that parcel rises, clouds are produced as the lapse rate lowers the parcel temperature.  You can see the coriolis driven clouds daily at .  The Hadley and Ferrel cells that climate scientists like to see in their models are generally NOT clearly evident, which shows the tunnel vision of these folks.
  4. FYI, a good rundown of the model treatment of convective activity is described in this thesis, and recent “improvements” to the models unfortunately results in Monte Carlo simulations showing a wider range of ECS.

Best wishes on your paper.  Your skill at extracting sensible results from those huge satellite databases is admirable.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
March 15, 2021 4:47 pm

So Willis, look what you have done…..your Figs 3 and 4 tell the story, increase the temperature by a degree and you get 6 watts negative cloud feedback. However, then substitute 288 K and 289 K into the SB equation , and the difference is 5.5 watts. Therefore say the climate Chicken Littles, net cloud feedback is close to zero. Hmmm….as I said to a Rud comment somewhere yesterday, two offsetting effects can be misinterpreted as zero effect rather easily.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
March 15, 2021 6:32 pm

Third time through ….notice you say ”For the surface temperature, I’ve converted the “surf_lw_up_all” (surface longwave up all conditions) CERES file to temperatures using the Stefan-Boltzmann equation.” Oops, might be circular reasoning, if what i said above is a correct interpretation…reviewers might not like that, depending on how you explain it.

March 15, 2021 9:09 am

To me the it is ridiculous to believe that clouds can have a positive feedback that can lead to a tipping point and a “hot house”. In fact I think we have proof that cannot be the case. Why did not the earth get stuck in a “hot house” scenario way back when CO2 was over 2000 ppm ? Clouds are not water vapor, they are water droplets and ice crystals resulting in a net increase in incoming energy being reflected away from earth. Logically, according to me.

John Tillman
Reply to  Rudi
March 15, 2021 5:05 pm

Or when it was over 7000 ppm, with solar irradiance only under five percent lower than now, in the Cambrian.

Scott Snell
March 15, 2021 9:22 am

Good analysis, as always.

It almost seems as though we are overthinking this issue. A little extra CO2 means a little extra downwelling energy means a little faster convection, i.e. heat transport. A bit more cloud is the signature of the enhanced convection. But clouds reflect incoming radiant energy back into space, and condensation at the cloudtops also releases energy back to space. If there’s a net temp increase it is likely a very small one, and under only certain conditions.

Is it an oversimplification to observe that in nature feedback is always negative because the echo is always weaker than the signal, and the effect always of lesser magnitude than the cause? The idea that there could be some kind of runaway hothouse effect relies on essentially the same logic as Zeno’s paradox.

Nice house, by the way. Not only are you a wizard with data, but you are a craftsman as well.

Gary Ashe
Reply to  Scott Snell
March 15, 2021 12:39 pm

It also means less energy in the atmosphere, as it mean a ”little extra” is also radiated to space.
And that is cooling not warming, and i think thats what you mean anyway by the slightly speeded up energy flow through the atmosphere.

”It almost seems as though we are overthinking this issue. A little extra CO2 means a little extra downwelling energy means a little faster convection, i.e. heat transport.” 

Last edited 2 years ago by Gary Ashe
Joseph Zorzin
March 15, 2021 9:30 am

“Me, I’m 74, and if I didn’t do myself serious genetic damage in the ’60s and ’70s, it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying.”

Cool, a discussion of clouds and psychedelics. I recall one day in ’69, while er… uh… under the influence…. on a nice August afternoon- watching clouds. Greatest light show I’ve ever seen. They looked like one celled creatures under a microscope and every color in the rainbow- plus, they looked like they were only about 100′ off the ground. All the small parts of them were swirling around like crazy and the entire show was at a ultra fast speed. Never to be forgotten. This was a few weeks after going to see “2001 Space Odyssey” at a drive in theatre, also under the same influence. The next morning, my mother asked, “how was the movie?”. “pretty good” I said. After that, I decided to spend the rest of my life hiking the forests of Massachusetts.

Gary Ashe
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
March 15, 2021 12:36 pm

looking for more mushrooms, any luck.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Gary Ashe
March 15, 2021 12:43 pm

never tried those- but a nephew tried them at an outdoor concert in a wooded area- while listening to the music and getting off he started staring at the trees surrounding the site- he told me later, “hey uncle Joe, now I know why you got into forestry”. I enjoyed watching trees dancing like belly dancers- with no wind- waving their branches. After such grooving on clouds and trees- how I could I work in an office or factory? Now I have to listen to the clean and green crowd tell me that forestry is a bad thing- that all forests should be locked up to sequester carbon to save the Earth. I get explicit when I tell them where to go. 🙂

Richard S Courtney
March 15, 2021 9:52 am


Thanks for your analysis.

I think it is important to note that your work concurs with empirical – n.b. not model-derived – determinations which indicate feedbacks are negative so climate sensitivity is less than 1.0deg.C for a doubling of atmospheric CO2 equivalent.
This is indicated by the studies of
Idso from surface measurements
Lindzen & Choi from ERBE satelite data
and Gregory from balloon radiosonde data
I especially commend the suite of 8 (yes, eight) “natural experiments” reported by Idso.


Abolition Man
March 15, 2021 10:14 am

Hey, Willis!
Great post as usual! I look forward to your study as I know it will be well outside the norm in climate science; BS will be sorely lacking in yours!
Love the photo of the house, but was wondering why you chose full length pickets; and if that is a composite decking like Trex? Stay safe and healthy; we need you to continue writing for more ammunition in the war against ignorance and insanity!

Abolition Man
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 15, 2021 9:04 pm

Forgive my lapse, I neglected to say good design and excellent workmanship! I particularly like the polygonal sweep of the windows looking out on the deck!
The only reasons I prefer a bottom rail to capture the pickets is it makes sweeping the deck easier if you have a lot of tree litter,and I really hate stubbing my toe when I’m leaning on the rail; enjoying the view and a cold beverage! Cheers!

March 15, 2021 10:23 am

Given that we are talking about clouds, is it possible to separate the radiative effects from the vertical convective effects, especially of storm clouds in that tropical region?

March 15, 2021 10:28 am

Very nice analysis. The IPCC AR4 and AR5 both insist cloud feed back is significantly positive albeit uncertain. You show that clouds cool on average. A positive cloud feedback means them must cool less. That is conceptually physically possible in two ways. Less cloud—but ICOADS data shows no indication of that. Or the cloud ‘structure’ changes, for example more warming cirrus—but Lindzen’s adaptive iris paper shows just the opposite, in a fashion similar to your second set of figures. And adding adaptive iris to a climate model lowered its ECS significantly. Judith and I did back to back posts on that over at Climate Etc a few years ago. She interviewed Lindzen, I deconstructed the the new paper about the model.

Another strong reason to think the climate models are junk science filled with alarmist fudge factors like warming cloud feedback, as your recent post on models described.

Bill Rocks
Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 15, 2021 1:59 pm

“…climate models are junk science filled with alarmist fudge factors like warming cloud feedback…”

Very descriptive.

March 15, 2021 10:49 am

“This additional downwelling radiation leaves the surface warmer than it would be in the absence of the clouds.”

No it does not. Net heat transfer is driven by temperature differences, and always results in heat transferred from warm to cool, and NEVER EVER the other way around. Clouds can prevent some radiation from the surface from reaching space, thus retaining some extra energy in the atmosphere, but they cannot heat the surface by themselves. This is a vast over-simplification and leads to many mistakes such as the ridiculous Trenberth cartoon.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 16, 2021 12:38 pm

Not according to Professor Smith, Engineering Professor of the Year at the Big U of Michigan.

Wim Röst
March 15, 2021 11:09 am

Willis: “we find that almost everywhere on earth, as surface temperature increases, cloud cooling also increases (negative values)
WR: So nearly everywhere on Earth there is a huge potential to cool when forcing rises.
It must be interesting to see the cooling mechanism at work during the summer seasons of both hemispheres: where and when forcing goes up, cloud cooling rises. A mechanism that is already visible by the displacement over seasons of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone.
The same for the warming function of clouds: extending over larger areas during each hemisphere’s winter season and shrinking during their summer months.
When it gets ‘too cold’ warming clouds will be visible over larger surface areas and when it gets ‘too hot’ their cooling function will show up over larger areas. ‘Too cold’ and ‘too hot’ coincide with the ‘preferred range’ for most life forms, being adapted to a system that has been rather stable over hundreds of millions of years. Besides, all life forms knew the solution for occurring natural variability: migration.  
Great post and very nice to see also the maps with the ‘Atlantic view’! They really add.

March 15, 2021 11:19 am

all living together with us in our big old rambling house in the forest that I built with my own hands …”

I read badly nowadays. I understood you built a forest with your own hands. Oops.

March 15, 2021 11:26 am

Adrian Bejan asked for your email address. His is here

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 16, 2021 7:11 pm

I let Adrian know I posted this. You both are heros of mine

March 15, 2021 11:29 am

Earth has a fairly large atmosphere, which 10 tons per square meter. The large atmosphere
causes a lower daytime high temperature, but causes a higher global temperature, due to the atmosphere warming up. This is greenhouse effect before get into any effect from “greenhouse gases”.
The land ground surface can warm up to about 70 C whenever the sun is close to zenith and the air is warm. Though more commonly the ground warms to about 60 C and is preventing warming higher due to convectional heat loss to cooler atmosphere. The warmest land surface air gets is about 50 C.
Earth is 70% covered with ocean and since the ocean covers most of surface it dominates
the global surface temperature. And generally [due to weather effects} the ocean surface temperature can reach as high as 30 C. This largely due to partial pressure of H20, at 30 C
the partial pressure of water is 0.0419 atm when 30 C:
At 40 C is it is 0.0728 atm. In terms of psi: .0728 times 14.7 = 1.07016 psi or compared
10 tons per square meter of atmosphere it is .728 tons per square meter. And indicates why one should put lid on pot, if want water to reach boiling temperature quicker. And why get a lot water vapor in a bathroom when you take a warm shower.

Similar to the atmosphere, the ocean causes lower daytime high temperature though increases the global average temperature- or if you like, a greenhouse effect. And the warm ocean kept Europe a lot warmer- the gulf stream is said to add about 10 C to Europe’s average temperature.
But I would say the ocean keeps the entire world warmer and one significant and well known way the ocean warms the entire world is that tropical ocean is the world “heat engine”. Near equator or tropical zone which is covers 40% of surface of the planet, get more than 50% of total sunlight reaching earth. And Tropical ocean is close to 80% of the tropical zone surface area.
Without the ocean {with less atmosphere- say less 5 tons per square meter} daytime high temperature could be much hotter, though night time temperatures could be colder. And without an Ocean, you don’t have a heat engine warming the rest of the world. The rest of world would have lower average temperature, though one could have higher daytime high temperature.
Anyhow, clouds are also a greenhouse effect, they generally increase average temperature and can lower day time high temperature.
It should be noted, that the ocean is warmed by both direct and indirect sunlight, and clouds can cause less direct sunlight and more indirect sunlight reaching the surface.

Max Dupilka
March 15, 2021 11:37 am

Some of the CMIP6 Chinese models and the 2 Russian models are actually very close to the Hadcrut4 observations, and as such project a much tamer warmer the 2100. Meanwhile, our two Canadian models are at the top of the worst performers. I wonder what the difference in cloud schemes might be between the models?

Reply to  Max Dupilka
March 15, 2021 1:42 pm

Hadcrut 4,5.6 are highly altered to promote global warming that does not exist.

With that in mind, all the models mentioned especially the Canadian’s, are useless. Consider that Canada destroyed 100 years of temperature data because it did not support the global warming theory.

Reply to  Max Dupilka
March 15, 2021 2:30 pm

According to Australian CSIRO models, the Nino34 region cooled by 0.8C in the 4 years between AR4 and AR5. In reality the temperature of the Nino34 region has no trend over the past 4 decades.

Climate models need to cool the past in order to maintain the warming trend. The groups responsible for the temperature records are complicit in this hoax.

Stephen Richards
March 15, 2021 11:54 am

Spectacular house young man. Yes young. We are both the same age

Gary Ashe
March 15, 2021 11:58 am

This is nonsense.

”And on the other hand, clouds block and absorb upwelling thermal (longwave, “LW”) radiation from the surface, and they re-radiate about half of what is absorbed back down towards the surface. This additional downwelling radiation leaves the surface warmer than it would be in the absence of the clouds.”

Willis is claiming half the surface emitted longwave radiation returned to the surface by the cloud cover is keeping the surface warmer than in it would be under a full flux of short wave solar radiation.

And that’s just weapons grade bollox.
I didnt read any further because any conclusions drawn from such utter bollox can only be utter bollox.

Last edited 2 years ago by Gary Ashe
Gary Ashe
Reply to  Gary Ashe
March 15, 2021 1:05 pm

Perhaps i should have read a bit further, my bad Willis

The reason the surface ”stays” warmer at night under cloud cover has nothing to do with back radiation, it simply loses far less energy to a cloud base that is +C than a clear sky with a cold sinc of minus -272C.

”’Clouds have two effects on the surface radiation balance, and thus on the surface temperature. On the one hand, they reflect sunlight (shortwave radiation, “SW”) back out to space, cooling the surface. And on the other hand, clouds block and absorb upwelling thermal (longwave, “LW”) radiation from the surface, and they re-radiate about half of what is absorbed back down towards the surface. This additional downwelling radiation leaves the surface warmer than it would be in the absence of the clouds.
We can actually physically perceive both of these effects. During a clear summer day, a cloud comes over and instantly cools us down. And during a clear winter night, a cloud comes over and we immediately feel warmer. ”’

Last edited 2 years ago by Gary Ashe
Jim Gorman
Reply to  Gary Ashe
March 15, 2021 6:23 pm

First, the earth radiates based upon its temperature. It doesn’t care if the sky @ 3 K is in its way or if the atmosphere at 220 K is in the way.

Second, anything that intercepts the EM IR will, at best, radiate 50% of that downward, and 50% upwards. I say at best, because collisions of CO2 with other N2/O2 molecules will remove radiation from the equation. Then energy loss by convection and the lapse rate takes over and not radiation.

Thirdly, The net radiation between the earth and the sky/clouds is always toward the sky/clouds. If the earth is radiating upward 10 W/m^2 and clouds radiating downward at 5 W/m^2, the net is still 5 W/m^2 away from the earth. It is then incorrect to say that clouds warm the earth. What happens is the gradient over time is reduced which means the earth does not cool as fast. A cold body simply can not transfer net heat to a hotter body, it is that simple.

Lastly, what can happen during the day is that condensed water vapor, i.e. water droplets, or in other words clouds, can absorb EM near IR directly from the sun and become water vapor once again. That limits the near IR reaching earth. As evidence, think of what burns off fog. It isn’t visible light. It isn’t back radiation from CO2. It is near IR being absorbed by H2O.

Reply to  Jim Gorman
March 16, 2021 12:40 pm


March 15, 2021 12:05 pm

“our big old rambling house in the forest that I built with my own hands …”


So you you built the forest with your own hands.

Very industrious 🙂

March 15, 2021 12:19 pm

Here’s my take on clouds: They create a shadow on the ground, which means that they act as a barrier to the light/heat from the Sun.

Therefore, this sentence: {The general claim from mainstream climate scientists and the IPCC is that the clouds will increase the warming, viz: ] means (to me) that the so-called general claim by so-called mainstream climate scientists and their buddies at IPCC do not leave the building to find out for themselves exactly what does happen when a cloud comes between the Sun (heat and light source) and the Earth (absorbs whatever Sol hands out).

A simple experiment on a sunny day that is also partly cloudy can support the statement that the cloud blocks both the light and heat of the Sun. I guess that means that, come summer, I will have to buy a thermometer and put it on a tripod, and go find a spot where there is plenty of sunlight being blocked by cumulus and altocumulus clouds, just to prove that I’m right and the desk jockeys are incontrovertibly wrong.

Since it’s supposed to snow today and the temps right now reflect that (low 30s), I will wait until we really to get to summer, go to the beach on a partly cloudy day and shoot pictures of the thermometer “with clouds” and “without clouds”. That should settle that issue.

I’ll pick a good day for it, and take a picnic lunch with me.

Wim Röst
March 15, 2021 12:27 pm

A very interesting number: per one degree Celsius there is extra cooling for the ‘average globe’ of 4.3 W/m2 (figure 3 and 4).
For ‘double CO2’ it is estimated that the radiative effect of CO2 is 3.7 W/m2 or about one degree Celsius of initial warming.
Combining the two, the initial one degree of warming for double CO2 will result in 4.3 W/m2 extra cloud surface cooling.

  1. Double CO2 does not have any surface temperature effect at all (3.7 W/m2 rise in forcing is compensated by the [potential] cooling of 4.3 W/m2 for every degree Celsius of [initial] temperature rise)
  2. Any (decadal/centennial) temperature change on Earth must be ‘natural variation’: caused by the constant changing interplay between forces of the ocean/atmosphere climate system.
Reply to  Wim Röst
March 17, 2021 3:56 pm

I would guess the cooling may be less, as the time span is short and his previous evaluation with end point in 2017 resulted in 0.0 W/m2 cloud feedback.

March 15, 2021 1:13 pm

removing this

Last edited 2 years ago by gringojay
Robert of Texas
March 15, 2021 1:49 pm

“The question of importance is this—if the earth heats up, will clouds exacerbate the warming or will they act to reduce the warming? The general claim from mainstream climate scientists and the IPCC is that the clouds will increase the warming”

It simply is not possible for clouds to add to warming because we would end up in a run-away warming event. Since the Earth has never experienced run-away warming (at least since life began) and has had higher carbon dioxide levels this proves clouds cannot produce a net warming unless you also speculate that it is somehow capped at some speculative upper-bound temperature. Then you have the problem of how does anything ever cool off to produce glaciers again.

Clouds are the visible part of an energy balance engine that keeps Earth’s temperatures tightly controlled. Through physical state conversion of water and convective movement of air it works harder when temperatures rise to vent heat out of the atmosphere.

March 15, 2021 2:16 pm

I was thinking how appropriate the science in this post is for publication when I arrived at the point where you said that’s what you are considering. I agree with you about the difficulty of writing for the scholarly literature. (I’m going through that process now.) There’s also the problem of page charges. (That’s why 2 of my earliest papers were published by Nature–which did not charge page fees way back then.) The bottom line is that my published papers have opened doors that would have remained forever closed. So, I encourage you to consider a paper based on this post.

March 15, 2021 2:31 pm

Good post. I hope that you do get to publish. I’ve often wondered how the exhaust of hot water vapor from hydrocarbon combustion affects the atmosphere, I feel that it has been neglected since Ahrennius, and I think that your work will be essential to understanding that factor in the chaotic, complex climate system.

Reply to  dk_
March 15, 2021 6:01 pm

Water vapor from hydrocarbon combustion is tiny compared to water vapor from increased irrigation

March 15, 2021 2:40 pm

The atmospheric window closes to sunlight when the water surface reaches 32C; cyclic cloudburst with perpetual cloud. Surface temperature is regulated to 30C by cloud and moisture convergence from nearby surface at 28C that is absorbing the majority of the heat input.

Clouds will be whatever is needed to regulate the temperature to 30C. It is a process that works across three tropical oceans.

John Tillman
Reply to  RickWill
March 15, 2021 5:20 pm

Hotter oceans during the Cretaceous have been attributed to lack of clouds due to fewer biological condensation nuclei, resulting from high surface temperatures. A vicious circular, positive feedback loop.

Amplification of Cretaceous Warmth by Biological Cloud Feedbacks

Lee R. Kump1 * and David Pollard2

Submarine volcanism during the rifting apart of Gondwana and continued seafloor spreading of the Central and North Atlantic may have gotten the heat on to start.

Last edited 2 years ago by Milo
Reply to  John Tillman
March 15, 2021 11:09 pm

It is possible to get larger warm pools not not possible to exceed 30C for more than a cloudburst cycles; about 24 hours. The only exception is the Persian Gulg where convective instability is rare.

The linked paper is based on models and we know how reliable they are. There are far better reconstructions that show tropical warm pools do not exceed 30C.

Last edited 2 years ago by RickWill
Wim Röst
Reply to  John Tillman
March 16, 2021 12:20 am

John Tillmann: “Hotter oceans during the Cretaceous (…) resulting from high surface temperatures”

WR: Apart from the circular reasoning by the authors of the article, there are always cooler places on Earth (closer to the poles) where biological condensation nuclei still can be / could be produced and where condensation will take place at known altitudes. And if not near the surface those places to condense are found higher in the atmosphere because of stronger cooling. Salt (from oceans, wind and waves) also acts as a condensation nucleus: “If a sea salt particle is introduced into an atmosphere of sufficiently high relative humidity, the particle will grow to a droplet by condensation of water vapor.”

Evaporative surface cooling will continue at known surface temperatures as long as there is water in the oceans. And so ocean surface temperatures will remain maximized. As they have always been.

March 15, 2021 3:21 pm

Is here really a single climate phenomenon called “clouds”. That do anything – either heat or cool? Isn’t it the case that tghere are at least four different types of clouds in general, and that they all occur at differing altitudes? and that clouds at differing altitudes have differing effects on incoming and outgoing short- and long-wave energy flows?

Can those different types of clouds be accounted for in a single model of the future and just be “clouds (undifferentiated)”? and then those undifferentiated clouds be counted on to produce a certain pre-identified and quantified effect?

It may be that way . . . . but I don’t think so.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 15, 2021 5:15 pm

Kip, I wrote a partial empirical answer to your explanation in essay ‘Models all the way down’ in ebook Blowing Smoke. I compared two actual sat based cloud observations to 6 models of those same clouds over the same hindcast period over the same surface. There was essentially zero correspondence of either cloudiness or cloud type as measured by top height temp.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
March 17, 2021 11:07 pm

Rud ==> I have the Kindle version of your book, and will re-read the section on clouds to remind myself of the details.

The ability to programmatically create “pretty pictures” from crappy un-physical data has ruined many fields of science and is a real temptation for far too many otherwise good minds.

Part of the reason I wrote that piece “Throwing Out the Numbers“….

John Tillman
Reply to  Kip Hansen
March 15, 2021 7:12 pm

NASA admits that the net effect of clouds is to cool, although GIGO model parameterization by computer game programmers don’t give them their due.

“Clouds within a mile or so of Earth’s surface tend to cool more than they warm. These low, thicker clouds mostly reflect the Sun’s heat. This cools Earth’s surface.

“Clouds high up in the atmosphere have the opposite effect: They tend to warm Earth more than they cool. High, thin clouds trap some of the Sun’s heat. This warms Earth’s surface.”

NASA also says that “climate scientists” predict more warming will cause fewer clouds, thus further warming, a positive feedback. This forecast is strange, since warming is supposed to produce more water vapor in the air.

Gunga Din
March 15, 2021 3:47 pm

Clouds are said to be the largest uncertainty in climate models, and I can believe that.”

I remember a couple of decades ago while nesting several “If-Then” (conditional) statements in an Excel spreadsheet, I learned the hard way that you have to be very careful the order you place them in to get the correct, that is an accurate result. The first time the condition is satisfied (comes back “TRUE”) the rest of the conditions in were formula ignored.
It seems that in climate modeling, “Man’s CO2” is way too often the first “condition” in their models. “Clouds” and “Natural” come last.

PS I’ve always liked how you refer to your wife as “my ex-fiancée”. 😎

Ulric Lyons
March 15, 2021 4:22 pm

“I calculated the changes in the net CRE with respect to surface temperature for each 1° latitude x 1° longitude gridcell.”

How is that achieved?

Ulric Lyons
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 17, 2021 6:11 pm

So I assume your increasing cloud cooling effect with a rising surface temperature would imply increased low cloud cover. Surely low cloud cover has declined since the mid 1990’s?
My frame of reference is that ENSO and the AMO act as negative feedbacks to net changes in climate forcing, and they control low cloud cover and amplify the warming or the cooling. Such that post 1995 AMO warming is the response to a decline in indirect solar forcing, via the northern annular mode, which is then self amplified by the reduction in low cloud which the warmer SST’s drive.

March 15, 2021 5:06 pm

A good guess would be to argue well if the clouds cool the tropics, then if earth gets warmer other areas start to get a closer temperature to that of the tropics so in theory will start behaving more like the tropics.

I mean if you start in the tropics that have the negative cloud feed back and move a few hundred miles north or south, what is the difference? Is it mainly temperature or sun position that starts to dampen the negative cloud feedback? Something is causing it.

Pat Frank
March 15, 2021 6:04 pm

You built that forest with your own hands??!!?? I was impressed with you already, Willis, but now the impressionism is off the charts. 🙂

About length or writing style, you might try the online journal PeerJ. Their series includes Environmental Science. They’re well-respected and as an on-line journal they don’t have strict word limits.

PlosOne has similar standing, but my expereince trying to publish there was so poor that I can’t in good conscience recommend them.

I’ve always wondered whether warming would cause increase the rate of Hadley cell convective circulation. Presumably that would increase the rate of IR radiation to space. Is there any way your data addresses that possibility?

Last edited 2 years ago by Pat Frank
John Tillman
Reply to  Pat Frank
March 15, 2021 7:23 pm

IMO, Willis should write it as he wants, submit it and see what stylistic changes the journal might urge for acceptance, if it pass review on its scientific merits.

Wim Röst
Reply to  Pat Frank
March 16, 2021 2:42 am

Pat Frank: “I’ve always wondered whether warming would cause increase the rate of Hadley cell convective circulation. Presumably that would increase the rate of IR radiation to space.”

WR: Convective circulation is dependent on both temperature and water vapor. High temperatures before the monsoon starts show that a large quantity of water vapor (caused by the first rains) is needed before the convective cooling mechanism starts working well. Only after the first rains the temperature at the surface will drop. See monthly New Delhi temperatures and rainfall: July has about the same insolation as May but only after the first rains maximum temperatures drop by 6 degrees.

Over oceans there are probably two systems. First the rate of convection will go up, stimulated by the higher evaporation. Willis already showed that clouds form earlier on the day when the temperature in the early morning is higher than normal. In case that is not sufficient and further warming of the tropics/subtropics continues the area of ‘high evaporation’ will extend to higher latitudes. On its (longer) way to the equator high moisture surface air will earlier reach momentum to create high convection. Then the surface area from which high convection takes place broadens.

The result is for both cases the same: more surface energy will reach the higher elevations lacking abundant water vapor and therefore from those elevations the released energy can be radiated to space. A widening of the area of subtropics (descending dry air) also extends the surface area with ‘low water vapor’ from where also from lower elevations effective radiation to space can take place. The whole system enables radiative heat loss from the higher elevations, cooling the warmest wet surfaces below and cooling the Earth as a whole.

March 15, 2021 7:00 pm

[Snipped. Violates site policy, and is childish and nasty to boot.

Policy: Trolls, flame-bait, personal attacks, thread-jacking, sockpuppetry, name-calling such as “denialist,” “denier,” and other detritus that add nothing to further the discussion may get deleted;


Last edited 2 years ago by Willis Eschenbach
Reply to  William Teach
March 15, 2021 7:06 pm

Where you live, and how old you are is irrelevant to climate science.

Alexy Scherbakoff
Reply to  William Teach
March 15, 2021 10:00 pm

Most of us here, are old and feeble. Be grateful we don’t post pictures of our operation scars.

Last edited 2 years ago by Alexy Scherbakoff
John Dilks
Reply to  William Teach
March 15, 2021 10:42 pm

Why are you so rude?

Michael S. Kelly
March 15, 2021 7:13 pm

Wonderful post, as always, Mr. Eschenbach. And as a bonus, I finally found buried within the link to your website, and more of your amazing personal stories. I love ’em!

March 15, 2021 7:23 pm

w – As you may have seen, I looked at a temperature-cloud relationship a while ago, and found that globally a cloud increase followed a temperature increase a few months later. To my mind, the time difference is important. The paper was never in fact published – the journal ended up saying they weren’t interested – and you are most welcome to use any part of it or any idea in it in any way you like.

John Tillman
Reply to  Mike Jonas
March 15, 2021 7:33 pm

That’s the effect that makes sense, yet NASA claims that “climate scientists” predict fewer clouds in a warming world. Counterintuitive, and contrary to your finding.

Warming causes more clouds, whose net effect is cooling, thus a negative feedback as an element of Earth’s homeostatic processes.

March 15, 2021 8:49 pm

It has long been my understand that it was generally conceded on all sides that volcanic eruptions caused temporary atmospheric cooling by seeding increased cloud cover. I’ve even seen that used as an excuse for why predicted warming had not occurred at various times. So how can modelers or anyone else turn around and argue that clouds do not constitute negative feedback?

March 15, 2021 10:41 pm

No, thats a misunderstand CLAUDE.

“the most important climatic effect of explosive volcanic eruptions is through their emission of sulfur species to the stratosphere, mainly in the form of SO2 [Pollack et al., 1976; Newhall and Self, 1982; Rampino and Self, 1984] but possibly sometimes as H2S [Luhr et al., 1984; Ahn, 1997]. These sulfur species react with OH and H20 to form H2SO 4 on a timescale of weeks, and the resulting H2SO 4 aerosols produce the dominant radiative effect from volcanic eruptions. Bluth et al. [1992], from satellite measurements, estimated that the 1982 E1 Chich6n eruption injected 7 Mt of SO2 into the atmosphere, and the 1991 Pinatubo eruption injected 20 Mt.”

March 16, 2021 12:09 am

“So how can modelers or anyone else turn around and argue that clouds do not constitute negative feedback?”

The IPCC/modelling process is strange, in a world of settled science. When you read an IPCC report, you read things like “the spread of climate sensitivity estimates among current models arises primarily from inter-model differences in cloud feedbacks” (
Given that the spread of climate sensitivity estimates is a factor of 3, that adds up to a lot of uncertainties re clouds.

As far as I can make out, this is what happens: The modellers create their models with a bit of physics and a lot of parameters. They manipulate all the parameters to get a match to the overall temperature change up to today. They get as far as they can on matching interim changes, like the modest cooling up to ~1970, but of course it’s all very difficult because their only major parameters involve clouds and aerosols while the real climate drivers on those timescales (ocean oscillations etc) are not in the models. Because CO2 and temperature are both knowns, and because they have to tune the models to fit both, the main variations come from clouds and aerosols. As Wang et al say “models with a more positive cloud feedback also have a stronger cooling effect from aerosol-cloud interactions. These two effects offset each other during the historical period when both aerosols and greenhouse gases increase, allowing either more positive or neutral cloud feedback models to reproduce the observed global-mean temperature change.” ( But the cloud feedback in all if this isn’t a real cloud feedback; it’s all based on the parameters manipulating till they match temperature – with no mechanism for the cloud and aerosol behaviour just parameters – and then the cloud behaviour is called cloud feedback. It doesn’t actually matter whether the clouds grow or shrink, as long as they get the temperature to match

Alexy Scherbakoff
March 15, 2021 8:50 pm

 ‘And on the other hand, clouds block and absorb upwelling thermal (longwave, “LW”) radiation from the surface, and they re-radiate about half of what is absorbed back down towards the surface.’ 
How do you determine that about half absorbed is re-radiated?
Clouds radiate regardless of the surface based on their temperature.
I understand that the surface radiates towards the clouds. 
I can accept radiation from IR gasses can be downwelling and upwelling, but it would be closer to 30% rather than %0% downwelling(hitting the surface effectively).
Clouds are not IR gasses they are bits of water that would radiate like a blackbody (taking reflectance into account).

March 15, 2021 9:55 pm

Willis; I must say, these two threads on climate modeling have been a delight to read. The comments(+links) have been excellent in regards to subject matter. Not an IT but competent in electronics. I’m sure Heath Kit is familiar to most. Have always enjoyed computers. Started out with Texas Instr. programmable handheld in the 80’s. To the point: all modeling is absolutely trash. Three links below show what is missing.(1)a good start is here+ (2)missing from above-add electricty+ biosphere disaster+( And we haven’t even touched the nuclear radiation aspect. Another subject. If you wish to do research; 3-11 truth + the pommer report

March 16, 2021 12:07 am

The thinking in the “climate theory” is that the troposphere expands when earth get warmer.

That will cause top of cumulus clouds to reach higher altitudes. The “theory” assumes that the lapse rate stay the same.

The cloud top will thus be cooler (due to higher altitude) and subsequently radiate less -> warming effect !!
That is the “theory”.

I have spent a lot of time to read the “climate theory”. Almost all of the CO2 warming comes from increased radiation altitude (from CO2 and clouds). Not increased absorption.

March 16, 2021 2:21 am

Leftists know clouds’ net effect is global cooling rather than global warming, however, if they revised their silly models to reflect reality, CAGW would be a disconfirmed hypothesis.

it’s also important Leftists keep this net-cloud warming charade going, because when (not if) CAGW is officially disconfirmed, they’ll need a good excuse as to why they: wasted $100’s of trillions, destroyed electrical grids, made energy prices skyrocket, caused rolling blackouts, destroyed economies, kept 3rd-World countries impoverished, lowered living standards, held back technological advancements, attacked/fired skeptical CAGW scientists, scared our kids, etc.,,

”Never let a good charade go to waste”…..

March 16, 2021 3:24 am

From Mishra, 2018 : Investigating changes in cloud cover using the long‐term record of precipitation extremes
“The Global Precipitation and Climatology Project (GPCP) precipitation data are used in this study to relate the changes in heavy and light precipitation with those in convective and low cloud cover, respectively, from the Visible and Infrared Scanner data of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission available from 1998 to 2014. Slopes were derived between changes in precipitation extremes and cloud cover using monthly data. These slopes were applied to long‐term trends of precipitation extremes from GPCP data (1979–2016) to infer long‐term changes in convective and low cloud cover. Cloud cover derived using this technique shows substantial inter‐monthly and inter‐annual variability. The results show an increase of about 4.48 ± 1.9% per decade in convective cloud cover over tropical ocean (25 ° S–25 ° N). This is consistent with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) High Resolution Infrared Radiometer Sounder (HIRS) observations, which show an increase of about 5.04 ± 2.18% per decade in convective cloud cover over tropical ocean. In the present study an increasing trend of about 5.54 ± 2.07% in convective cloud cover over land (20 °–60 ° N) is also derived, which is comparable to the NOAA HIRS trend of about 6.57 ± 2.53% increase per decade. Decreases of about 3.52 ± 1.69% and 4.26 ± 1.48% per decade in low cloud cover over tropical ocean and northern mid‐latitude land, respectively, are reported and are consistent with decreases of about 3.05 ± 1.68% and 5.31 ± 2.22% from NOAA HIRS data over those regions.”

Julian Flood
March 16, 2021 3:26 am

Willis, have a look at the satellite image of the Deepwater Horizon spill, the big one that covers most of the Gulf. Look carefully at the shades of colour, the cloud lines and the texture of the sea surface.

I see a large, oblong shape that is a darker shade of grey blue, with its edges roughly defined by lines of what looks like stratocumulus clouds. It’s the top image at h etc w etc etc (not a proper link because I can’t remember if they end up in the sin bin.)

Guess: within that shaded area a very thin layer of light oil is supressing wave breaking, reducing the number of salt aerosols and hence the amount of stratocu.

Your theory that temperature is controlled by cloud formation is obviously correct. However, it is possible to supress the cloud effect by altering the physical characteristics of the ocean surface. Look at Seawifs for (old) data about how much light oil is spilt on the oceans.

Feynman says first we guess, then we check the data. If the data doesn’t agree with the guess then the guess is wrong. The data here would be aerosol counts over the spill and the smoothed area, but unfortunately when Judith Curry tried to get a sampler over the Gulf the aircraft was tied up on another project. Sea surface temperatures may be recorded somewhere.

A smooth supresses wave breaking up to Force 4 (personal observation over Atlantic en-route to Madeira, images available) and prevents cloud formation. The cloud thermostat is thus reset to a higher level — even the most convinced anti-AGWer accepts that there is some warming, even though it is nowhere near the models’ panic results.

Essentially the needed data is by how much polluted surface would result in an albedo reduction sufficient to explain the lukewarming, and how much polluted surface is actually out there?

Guess 2: the Blip was caused by the Battle of the Atlantic. The data has been very thoroughly stamped on by the UEA so good luck with that one.

Guess 3. Lakes with runoff from large modern towns will warm at a rate connected somehow to the growth of the population on their shores.

Guess 4. Smoothed surfaces have lower albedo than unpolluted. Evaporation is reduced. (So less cloud even absent the aerosol effect.)
Experiment: Find a large unpolluted lake. Spill a sufficient amount of olive oil on it — for calculation refer to Benjamin Franklin, Clapham Common pond. Measure the warming effect and humidity.



Jeremy Poynton
March 16, 2021 5:06 am

NASA quite clear they cannot model clouds…

NASA has conceded that climate models lack the precision required to make climate projections due to the inability to accurately model clouds. “

March 16, 2021 6:51 am

Looks like Figures 3 and 4 support Svensmark’s hypothesis and CERN’s research. Biogenic amines (primary aerosol of cloud condensation nuclei in the Southern Hemisphere) and galactic radiation steadily increasing in the last two solar cycles.

Simon Derricutt
March 16, 2021 7:15 am

Willis – maybe turn the question around. If the cloud feedback was indeed positive, then more cloud would produce warmer temperatures which would cause more water to evaporate, causing more clouds, thus you’d soon have total cloud-cover. Similarly, less cloud-cover would lead to lower temperatures, less evaporation, and even less cloud-cover. Only the exact cloud-cover to maintain the current temperature would result in a constant level of cloud-cover, and it would be an unstable equilibrium that, if disturbed, would then head inexorably to one extreme or the other.

Given the daily variation of cloud-cover, this unstable equilibrium is obviously not tenable. It follows that feedback from clouds can only be neutral or negative, and observation (measuring temperature when a cloud goes over) implies a strong negative feedback.

A couple of years back I spent a while watching a small cloud (maybe 30m or so across) on an otherwise pretty cloudless and windless day (I was out pruning so over a few hours). The shape was changing as some parts condensed and others evaporated. It’s easier to see this on a small cloud, though of course if you look carefully at a large cloud you also see the shape change over time. Given that a cloud is thus a dynamic form, and obviously pretty localised, it’s going to be hard to parameterise a large cell to determine what percentage cloudiness it will be. For that little cloud, why was it precisely there and not 100m further away? There must be a dependence on precise ground conditions and where the updraughts occur.

Climate models thus can’t get the cloudiness right if they try to have 100km cell sizes. You need to use cells of around 100m or less, and you also need to divide with more resolution vertically. Over at Chiefio there was a discussion on the development of a new climate model (see ) and if you use 100m cells then to cover the world you need 51 billion cells (5.1e+10), and if you run 100m divisions in height you need around 500 times that. Call it 25 trillion (2.5e+13) cells total. If we then move the air-mass from one cell to its neighbour, and allow for winds up to 250km/h (70m/s), you need to run a maximum time-step between calculations of around 1.5 seconds. You need a pretty huge computer to be able to do the calculations for those 25 trillion cells each 1.5 seconds and even run a real-time simulation using the real physics of what happens. What happens at ground-level is pretty complex, of course, but once you’re above ground-level the calculations mainly involve conservation of momentum and energy, together with condensation or evaporation of the water and whether or not a cloud forms to reflect incoming radiation and shadow the ground.

Given that even a reasonably-dense simulation is so far beyond capability, the only practical possibility is to use larger cells, and since they will be too large to resolve the clouds you have to parameterise the “cloudiness” rather than being able to predict actual clouds individually and calculate their effects as they shadow the ground under them, where the current angle of the Sun determines where the shadow occurs relative to where the cloud is. It’s thus necessary to simplify the problem to one that our computers can actually calculate this side of the end of the world, but that model is actually too simple to give results that are anyway near accurate. Instead of using physics principles to calculate things, you would have to have adjustable parameters and they would interact, so you can’t be certain you’ve got the calculations right, but only that the general situation matches the historic data.

It’s thus not so much that we don’t know clouds, but that the amount of computer-power needed to resolve individual clouds and their effects, over the entire globe, is far too large to actually calculate. Even the data-entry for the ground-level for 100m cells (51 billion cells) is daunting, though some automation would be possible, and what happens at ground level (inclination, type of surface, dampness, albedo, etc.) will determine where clouds form and their size and density.

The salient point about global temperatures is really how stable they are, despite the variations in actual power received from the Sun based on our varying distance from it as well as the solar cycles. That implies a negative feedback.

March 16, 2021 9:26 am

I suggest that clouds act as a resistance rather than a forcing agent, slowing surface warning during the day and slowing cooling by radiation at night. The daily rate of change in dew point is our best evidence of this.

March 16, 2021 9:39 am


Thanks for this analysis of cloud effect.
If you have time can you have a quick look a this work by Erich Schaffer who looked at aviation data on cloud cover and temperature and – to his surprise – came away with the conclusion that on average, clouds warm, not cool:

Austrian Analyst: Things With Greenhouse Effect (GHE) Aren’t Adding Up…”Something Totally Wrong” (

To quote from his article:

A huge surprise
Finally, if we add up the above results and look at the annual average (thus seasonally adjusted), we are in for a huge surprise (or possibly no more at this point). The correlation between clouds and temperature is strictly positive. The more clouds, the warmer it is, and that is in a region where models suggest a massively negative CRE.
Obviously something is totally wrong here.

Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
March 16, 2021 12:36 pm


Schaffer shows that there tends to be more cloud when the temperature is warmer, e.g. more cloud in summer, less in winter. One would expect this because when the sun is shining the air is warmer, there is more water vapor present, and more convection, so more cloud. However, Schaffer seems to have gotten cause and effect backwards. He claims (I think) that more cloud causes warmer air, but, in reality, warmer air, in locations like the Aleutian Islands where water is available, causes more cloud.

Willis looked at what happens to the cloud radiative effect “when the world warms.” Figure 3 above shows that a degree Celsius of warming, results in more clouds, which shade more of the earth, thereby preventing further warming.

This is a profound finding. It shows that all global climate models are biased hot because, as the IPCC explains, “All global models continue to produce a near-zero to moderately strong positive net cloud feedback.”

I cannot understand how anyone could think that, over all, cloud has a warming effect. It can keep a cold night from cooling as quickly, but cloud does not only happen at night, and reflecting sunlight (1,360 w/m2) must be a much large effect than re-radiating a few w/m2 on a cold night.

Last edited 2 years ago by Thomas
E. Schaffer
Reply to  Thomas
March 17, 2021 2:48 pm

No, that is not what it is. For good reasons I provided a resolution of this relation by month. In July and August for instance, overcast scenarios show lower temperatures than clear skies, which is the opposite of what you suggest. Clouds show the strongest warming effects during autumn and winter. I did explain why that is, so I hopefully do not need to repeat it here.

Reply to  Hatter Eggburn
March 16, 2021 1:55 pm

Thank-you, that’s very helpful.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 16, 2021 11:01 pm

Hi Willis, its been a while since I commented on things. Love the house and the post. Learned tons from the comments.

Just an observation, comes from your figure 2, net CRE, Atlantic view.

The net CRE, especially over land, seems to reflect average humidity.
Low humidity desert areas warm while humid forest lands cool.
Overall something like 20-30% relative humidity being the point where an increase in temp has a net cooling effect.

The greening sahara could impact that significantly.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 17, 2021 8:58 am

Thanks Willis.
As for the “new” data source that Schaffer identified, aviation records of temperature and cloud cover – does this have value, beyond what is available already in CERES for example?

E. Schaffer
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 17, 2021 3:10 pm


You like dismiss arguments based on your lack of understanding them. And obviously you did not understand this part. So let me explain it.

First let us look at the energy balance as presented by the NOAA:

The chart says clouds would reflect 23% of solar radiation, which means 342 x 0.23 = 78.7W/m2. Obviously they did not differentiate between aerosols and clouds. But it is true that the surface is very dark and hardly reflects more than 7%.

The IPCC however suggests 50W/m2 in LWCF, which is a lot less than 78.7W/m2. Why the difference?

Without reflecting too much about it, one might simply assume it is due to aerosols. And a part of it actually is. But there is something more important going on here. Clouds indeed easily reflect some 70W/m2 of solar radiation. However the LWCF as it is being measured, is defined as the difference between clear and all conditions. So sun light which is reflected by clouds, but would be reflected if there were no clouds, is not counted to the LWCF. For instance LWCF over snow and ice is therefore almost negligible.

For this reason LWCF, as it is defined, is far smaller than the actual amount of solar radiation reflected by clouds.

E. Schaffer
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 18, 2021 6:41 am

It is not an insult when I tell you failed to understand. Btw. we all make mistakes or miss out on something and the discussion should help us in sorting these things out. If you value everything that contradicts your oppinion as an insult, rather than considering the argument, you eventually will become a) very angry and b) very wrong.

Lawrence E Todd
March 16, 2021 10:51 am

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s cloud’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

March 16, 2021 3:17 pm

In tropics an increase in temperature will cause rise in humidity which will block heat from escaping. But at the same time if rise in temperature causes more clouds this could very well be a stronger negative feedback than the humidity positive feedback. Tropics are already humid so more humidity will not add as much positive feedback it seems. Also sun is so strong in tropics clouds have more of an effect since they block a stronger sun. Any cloud changes in tropics are very significant.

Matthew Sykes
March 17, 2021 1:59 am

 clouds are cooling the hot tropics and warming the cold poles”. And as we know they cool hot days and warm cold nights.

So clouds act to mediate temperature extremes, as does CO2 in fact, because that also warms the cold places and times.

And if we look at the moon, same insolation, +105 C, – 140 C day to night, we should be dam grateful for our atmosphere, clouds, and CO2!

E. Schaffer
March 17, 2021 7:28 am

These radiation measurements are not appropriate to determine LWCF! There are only two results derived from it, which are emissions with clear skies and emissions with average skies (meaning average cloudiness). Since GHGs and clouds are overlapped in the way they impair emissions, there is no way to determine LWCF from it.

Clear skies (including the effect of GHGs only)
Average skies (including the effect of GHGs AND clouds)

We are obviously missing a measurement of the effect of “clouds only”. In other words, we need more information to determine the size of the overlapped, redundand component here, where GHGs and clouds reduce emissions together. The redundant “space” right now is only allocated to GHGs, which is wrong. It underestimates the GHE of clouds, and overestimates that of GHGs.

Anyhow, with accurate data on cloud opacity and altitude it should be possible assess it.

E. Schaffer
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 17, 2021 3:12 pm

Only if they magically made GHGs disappear.. 😉

March 17, 2021 12:06 pm

Great Post Wills!
It gave me an idea that should work for all. From Figure 1 & 2 it is clear Desert Areas are a large source of warming. Deserts need to be covered with Vegetation to add cloud cover. So build Nuclear Power Cogeneration Plants that use Seawater Cooling and produce fresh water through desalination near the deserts as the water source.
The plants could be run at full load if the extra power not required by a connected grid was use to run additional desalination units.
So we could get a cooling impact from the additional clouds, non CO2 produced Power with additional food and or lumber production.

March 17, 2021 12:58 pm

Last time you did this in 2017, the average was 0.0 W/m2. Not it is negative with a rather high value.How come and what does this high negative value mean for climate sentivity?

Reply to  MS25
March 17, 2021 1:19 pm

And wouldn’t this cloud feedback together with the assumed IPCC forcing values for GHG etc, lead to cooling?

So, either the cloud feedback may be negative but somewhere between the 2017 and 2020 results,
or GHG + etc forcings are higher than thought?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
March 18, 2021 1:46 pm

Thank you.
So the last one is the one to be compared with climate model input, and how did it change with 3 years more data?

barn E. rubble
March 18, 2021 4:21 am

I recall Richard Lindzen having a similar theory, that clouds had an ‘iris effect’ on cooling the planet. And of course, was attacked for even suggesting something beyond the consensus. Good luck Willis, in your attempts . . .