Climate Dynamics: The True Control Knob of Climate Change

by Jim Steele

The earth’s energy equilibrium is determined by the balance between incoming solar radiation versus radiative cooling that emits infrared radiation back to space. Water vapor primarily and CO2 can slow radiative cooling via the greenhouse effect. I am most grateful for the greenhouse effect. Without it the earth’s average temperature would hover near 0°F instead of our currently more livable 59°F. But in addition to any radiative effects, the earth’s global average temperature is determined by a variety of climate dynamics, such as the balance between ocean heat storage and heat ventilation. This is well established as climate scientists attributed the slowdown in 21st century global warming was due to increased ocean heat storage associated with a period of more La Ninas. Warming in the northeast Pacific Ocean, famously known as the blob, was not caused by added heat, but by reduced winds that ventilated less heat than normal. Cloud dynamics are also important. Clouds can warm the nights and cool the days. Although increased cloud cover can slow the loss of outward‑bound infrared radiation, clouds also block sunlight to cause more cooling. Modeling studies have shown cloud cover trends are more closely related to decadal variability, and dynamics such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, than to any greenhouse gas induced warming.

Changes in land surface conditions are another critical dynamic. For example, given the exact same amount of incoming heat, dry soils will increase surface temperatures twice as fast as moist soils. As expanding human populations drained wetlands, and increasingly shunted rainwater into storm sewers, drier soils have caused abnormally higher temperatures during normally occurring droughts and heat waves. Unfortunately a myopic focus on CO2 hasled to downplaying the vital importance of how climate dynamics affect the global average temperature. But climate dynamics not only offer the best explanation for regional weather extremes, climate dynamics alone can account for 150 years of the earth’s average warming.

Consider that the polar regions are much warmer today than what the physics of radiative heating and cooling would predict. Polar regions should be much, much colder than they are today because they radiate more heat back to space than is absorbed by the sun and the greenhouse effect combined. The dynamic transport of heat from the tropics via ocean and air currents provides the added Arctic “warmth” that’s observed today. While winter temperatures (January) at north pole vary from ‑45°F to ‑15°F, the south pole winter temperatures vary between ‑80°F and ‑67°F. The south pole is so much colder because it is relatively shielded from the warming dynamics of ocean heat transport as well as its higher elevation.

Scientists have noted the warming effects of warm ocean currents travelling poleward to the Arctic for over 100 years. Winds extract heat from the warm poleward bound Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current and carry that heat across the Atlantic to increase northwest Europe’s temperatures by 9-18°F. Thus it is the strength of those winds which is moderated by the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the volume of heat carried by the ocean currents that are the dynamics determining changes in the average European temperature.

With comprehensive modern measurements, researchers now estimate that inflows of warm Atlantic water  “carry enough heat, if released, to melt the Arctic sea ice many times over”. However, when that warm Atlantic water reaches the Arctic Ocean, most sinks below 300‑foot depths due to its greater density caused by its higher saltiness. The dynamics of  an overlying layer of fresh water and the thickness of insulating sea ice determine how much of that intruding Atlantic heat radiates back to space. Between 1950 and 1990, air temperatures exhibited a cooling trend over the western Arctic Ocean where insulating sea ice remained intact and inhibited the ventilation of stored heat. The lack of warming suggested no greenhouse effect.

Recent wind‑driven increases in the volume of intruding Atlantic water  (as well as intruding Pacific water) have melted more Arctic sea ice. Without ice, more heat ventilates and raises Arctic air temperatures. Increased heat ventilation due to reduced sea ice can also be driven solely by changes in the prevailing wind direction that pushes more ice cover out of the Arctic to melt in the warmer Atlantic. The good news is less ice benefits the Arctic food chains. The loss of sea ice has increased photosynthesis and boosted the productivity of the Arctic Ocean food web 3‑fold.

Such complex interplays of climate dynamics can result in abnormally high Arctic temperatures without a contribution from the greenhouse effect. Yet that “Arctic amplification” biases the global average temperature upwards when then incorrectly gets attributed to rising CO2. Unfortunately as Mark Twain warned long ago, “All colleges have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal, valuable knowledge”. Accordingly despite copious published science by “climate dynamicists”, many scientists protect their pet theories and promote a manufactured CO2‑driven “climate crisis” while downplaying the competing importance of natural climate dynamics. I have university colleagues who teach “global warming policy” without having examined the underlying science. They just blindly trust the crisis narrative. Likewise most journalists and politicians lack the needed scientific background and simply perpetuate the narrative because both profit from promoting crises. As a result, climate science is suffering, and the dynamic control knob of climate change gets veiled from the public.

NASA: Temperature trend 2000–2009, showing strong arctic amplification

Winter Weather

The 2021 cold snaps that caused so much misery in the central USA and Europe exemplify the power of climate dynamics. Although Dallas, Texas normally experiences 60°F in mid‑February, temperatures fell by over 50°F  to a low of 4°F with the day’s highest temperature only reaching 14°F. This obliterated the 1909 record low of 15°F and day’s record-low maximum temperature of  31°F. But such cold was not unprecedented. In three of the last 40 years Texas witnessed temperatures drop 50°F below normal. It should be noted, there was no compensating 50°F warming in the Arctic. Coincidentally the United Kingdom recorded -9°F, its coldest February night since 1955, while much of Germany saw temperatures fall below -4°F. The greenhouse effect can neither cause nor prevent such widespread devastating cold.

Record‑breaking cold snaps contradict CO2 warming theory. As one climate scientist published, “The recent perceived prevalence of cold waves, exacerbated by heightened media attention to each event, is at odds with a rather obvious first-order hypothesis: a warming climate should lead to warm extremes getting warmer, and cold extremes getting less cold”. Accordingly in the 1990s, climate scientists who promoted global warming argued rapidly warming temperatures during the winter were evidence of a stronger greenhouse effect.  But their theories failed to explain the colder weather episodes.

A different hypothesis is proving to be more robust. Instead of arguing a warming climate causes fewer cold snaps, climate dynamics flips cause and effect; fewer cold snaps will increase averaged regional temperatures. Climate scientists published, “Like many places, Canada is not warming, it is just getting less cold.” Indeed, while many maximum temperatures have decreased since the 1930s, the increase in average land temperatures has been due solely to higher minimum temperatures,. Appropriately, regions with rising average temperatures have experienced fewer cold snaps. In contrast, due to the dynamics of quasi‑stationary planetary waves, cold snaps remain common over other regions. In much of the southeastern USA, temperatures have failed to exhibit any warming trend in the past 70+ years, despite urban warming effects. Such regions are classified as warming holes because they fail to exhibit the warming trend predicted by rising CO2.

Heat waves and cold snaps, floods and droughts, are often a function of planetary “waveguides” that shepherd the movements of cold and warm and moist and dry air masses. If there were no continents the  “ideal flow” of the polar jet would be in a relatively straight‑line from west to east.  The polar jet stream’s strong westerly winds would more readily restrict cold air masses to the polar regions. But due to the high- and low-pressure systems generated by the contrasting temperatures between land and sea, as well as flow altering mountain barriers, the “ideal zonal flow” is disrupted. In combination with the earth’s rotation (Coriolis effect), those disruptions impart a waviness to surface winds and the jet stream. The screenshot below (from shows the waviness of the jet stream (at 500 mb) on March 25, 2021. The sharp color change reveals the boundary of the cold air which can be thought of as the equatorward limit of the polar vortex.  

Cold Arctic air moves towards the equator via the wave troughs while the wave ridges allow warm air to intrude poleward. Due to an extreme trough in February, cold Arctic air reached down through the Great Plains into southern Texas. Due to a somewhat stationary planetary “waveguide”, such a wave trough is most often located between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians. That pattern also enables descending cold Arctic air to collide with warm air from the Gulf of Mexico to create Tornado Alley. The same trough dynamics that brought the Texas/Oklahoma cold snaps, brings the world’s highest frequency of tornados to the same region. The focus of that trough will shift with the seasons and over decades. As a result tornado activity is decreasing throughout the southern and northwestern portions of the Great Plains and the northern Midwest but increasing throughout the Southeast and southern portion of the Midwest. Decreasing tornado activity contradicts greenhouse warming predictions but is best explained by the dynamics of natural planetary wave motion.

In contrast, when a less wavy jet stream confines the cold air to the polar region, warmer southern air moves further poleward. Due to such a dynamic, Siberia endured a heat wave from January through May of  2020. At Verkhoyansk, Russia the typical maximum January temperature reaches -44°F, rapidly rising 90°F to an average high of 50°F in May as summer sunshine increases. The heat wave caused monthly temperatures to exceed normal temperatures by 10.8°F . Nonetheless, a Siberian heatwave which raises May maximums to just 61°F shouldn’t be hyped as the “earth on fire”, and I suspect any warming in January would be greatly appreciated.  Yet, with the science of climate dynamics obscured, any extreme weather event gets deflected as CO2‑driven “weather weirding”, even though natural climate dynamics provide robust scientific explanations.

Both the Texas cold snap and the Siberian heatwave are the result of changes in the strength of the polar vortex. The vortex and waviness of the jet stream are largely moderated by oscillations in the quasi‑permanent Aleutian Low pressure system, which also regulates changes in the western Arctic sea ice. The Aleutian Low strengthens in the winter and weakens in the summer and its winter-time strength is further moderated by El Nino/La Nina dynamics and the closely related Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Media journalists prefer to avoid explaining the complexity of those basic climate dynamics, because simplistic explanations that are dumbed down are an easier sell. Thus natural climate change remains ambiguous to most people and that’s a problem.

In the 1990s, scientists and environmental groups pushing a CO2‑driven “crisis” hyped decades of the rapidly warming temperatures in Alaska as the fastest warming region on earth. Unexpectedly, Alaska suddenly flipped to become the fastest cooling region. Climate scientists observed, “During the first decade of the 21st century most of Alaska experienced a cooling shift.”  Such a shift was inconsistent with the rising CO2 theory, but again easily attributed to the dynamics associated with “a change in the sign of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO, see graph below). 

When the PDO is positive, the Aleutian Low strengthens, and its counter‑clockwise circulation drives more warm air into Alaska and drives more warm water through the Bering Strait increasing sea ice melt. When the PDO turns negative, it weakens the Aleutian Low, reducing the warm air flow into Alaska, so Alaska cools. A weaker Aleutian Low also reduces its disruption of the jet stream which allows the vortex to strengthen. The power of the ~30‑year cycles of the PDO was first recognized in 1997 as scientists noticed it coincided with changing ocean currents and changing productivity of salmon between the Gulf of Alaska and Oregon. The increasing understanding of natural PDO fluctuations has led climate scientists to argue that the “natural internally generated changes in atmospheric circulation were the primary cause of coastal Northeast Pacific warming from 1900 to 2012”.

Pacific Decadal Oscillation index (PDO) 1900-2020 data:

Summer Weather

When summer arrives in the northern hemisphere, the contrast between colder land and warmer oceans is reduced causing the Aleutian Low to weaken. The growing summer heat causes warmer lands to now contrast with cooler oceans which causes the high‑pressure systems in the northern hemisphere to strengthen in the subtropical Pacific and Atlantic  (Pacific or Hawaiian High and the Bermuda or Azore High). These high‑pressure systems block moist ocean winds from bringing summer rains to the west coast of California and the Mediterranean regions. This dynamic causes several months of summer drought each year, making California one of the most fire prone regions globally. La Nina years extend summer droughts into the winter. Simultaneously, due to the clock‑wise circulation of the Pacific high, moisture carrying winds are pushed northward causing wet summers from Oregon to Alaska.

In combination with summer high pressure systems and low-pressure regions formed by rising convection in the tropics, the “ideal zonal flow” of westerly winds is disrupted, causing various jet stream wave patterns across the mid-latitudes. When a pattern of 5 or 7 waves encircles the globe, the waves resonate in such a way they cause storms to be somewhat blocked and move slower than normal. It is slower‑moving storms that generate the longer‑lasting extreme weather events such floods, droughts and heat waves. As seen in the illustration above (from Kornhuber 2020) when a pattern of 5 waves forms, heat waves are 20 times more likely in specific regions (in red) of North America, eastern Europe and eastern Asia. Because a pattern of 5 circum‑global waves tend to precede heat waves by 15–20 days, meteorologists have greatly increased their ability to forecast heat waves by including the state of planetary waves in their analyses. A similar resonance increases extreme weather events when patterns of 7 waves form. Fortunately, there is no evidence to suggest the earth is experiencing an increasing trend in blocking and resulting weather extremes. However, unaware that circum‑global wave guides can cause similar extreme weather around the globe, some climate scientists were misled to think that such extremes (i e. widespread heatwaves) could only be caused by a global blanket of CO2‑driven warming.

Still some events remain unpredictable. When the trough of a jet wave reaches its lowest point, it pinches off to form a “cut-off low” which makes the ensuing extreme weather highly unpredictable. Meteorologists nicknamed the cut-off low, the “weatherman’s woe” because cut-off lows can become stationary or flow against the general direction of the prevailing wind. Such a cut-off low formed over the Sahara Desert in the summer of 2019. The naturally heated desert air then moved northwestward, first bringing a heat wave to western Europe and then to Greenland where it caused extreme melting by raising temperatures 18°F above normal for 3 consecutive days. But yet again that Greenland melting was falsely attributed to amplification by CO2‑driven global warming while the natural climate dynamics were obscured.

El Nino Cycles Drive Global Warming and Modulate Planetary Wave formation

The ocean’s heat content naturally oscillates, discharging enough heat during an El Nino to create a net loss of ocean heat, then recharging and gaining enough heat during a La Nina for a net gain of ocean heat.

However, the heat gained during a La Nina is not completely balanced by the heat discharged during an El Nino. La Nina events usually last twice as long as El Nino events. Some El Ninos don’t fully discharge the ocean’s stored heat.  Heat that is not released to the atmosphere remains sequestered below the surface for years and decades, contributing to the long‑term cycles of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. According to Harvard and MIT oceanographers parts of the deep ocean is still cooling, releasing heat acquired centuries ago. Thus unbalanced El Nino/La Nina cycles will affect the long‑term heating or cooling of the oceans.

First consider the impacts during a La Nina. Climate scientists all agree that “under normal conditions, and even more so with La Nina,” east to west trade winds pile up warm waters in the western tropical Pacific. By removing warm solar‑heated water from the eastern Pacific, trade winds also cause cooler subsurface waters to upwell and replace the surface waters transported to the west. So during a La Nina a large temperature difference is created that further amplifies the trade winds (the Walker Circulation). Counter-intuitively the widespread upwelling of cooler water causes the average global temperature to decline while the ocean is gaining heat at greater depths.

During a La Nina the pile‑up of warm waters in the western Pacific increases the largest body of warm water on earth, aka the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool. Convection increases over the warm pool and strengthens the Asian and Australian summer monsoons. Regions of rising convection also move across the Indian and Pacific Ocean alternating warmer and cooler patches of the oceans every 30 to 60 days (Madden‑Julian Oscillation). Pressure from the growing Pacific warm pool pushes heated water through channels between the Indonesian Islands and increases temperatures in the Indian Ocean. Warmed Indian Ocean water can leak around the southern tip of Africa and adds heat to the Atlantic. Simultaneously, the northward flow of warm water increases along the eastern Asian coast via the Kuroshio current, as well as pushing warm water southward along the Australian west coast via the Leeuwin Current. An especially strong La Nina amplified the warm Leeuwin Current causing a marine heatwave along the western Australian coast in 2011, with severe coral bleaching and devastation to marine fisheries.

After that La Nina ended, the southward flow of warm Pacific water subsided allowing cooler southern waters to then flow equatorward. As a result the region began experiencing cold waves and a strong rebound in marine life from coral to fish. Such oscillating ocean temperatures and marine life productivity exemplifies how naturally dynamic climate change can affect biology. It also contradicts CO2‑driven predictions of steadily increasing warmth and increasing extinctions.

During an El Nino, all the phenomenon associated with a La Nina weaken or reverse. The trade winds weaken and warm waters surge eastward along the equator, causing sea level to fall in the west and rise in the east by as much as 25 cm. Discharging heat warms the ocean surface causing global temperatures to spike upwards. Warm water sloshing eastward reduces the west-east temperature difference, reducing the trade winds which reduces upwelling. During an El Nino the centers of rising warm air shifts eastward. Sometimes the warm El Nino waters only reach the center of the Pacific. At other times the warm waters reach the coast of  the Americas and then move poleward up their coasts. In 1998 this caused heavy rains and floods in California. In the 1800s, warm water reaching the coast brought flooding to Ecuador and washed river crocodiles down to Peru, while heavy rains turned Peruvian deserts into grasslands. These constantly changing regions of convection naturally alter atmospheric waves that encircle the earth. Extreme weather events will depend on wave interactions.

During the Little Ice Age, according to Michael Mann and others, the temperature difference between the western and eastern Pacific Ocean was in an El Nino‑like condition. That does not mean the Pacific was constantly discharging heat. It means the La Nina-like or the negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation‑like conditions that are associated with recharging ocean heat were largely absent. This is consistent with observations of low sunspot minimums during the Little Ice Age and solar effects on the trade winds. Although some correctly argue observed changes in energy output during sunspot cycles is too low to directly explain the earth’s warming and cooling, small solar changes are amplified by ocean dynamics. Any decrease in solar irradiance cools the equator far more than higher latitudes. This decreases the north‑south temperature difference that drives the trade winds. Reduced trade winds cannot transport as much warm surface water westward into the warm pool reducing the monsoons and causing mega‑droughts in southeast Asia. Slower trade winds reduced upwelling in the eastern tropical Pacific. As evidenced in sediments along the Peruvian coast, reduced upwelling clearly reduced marine productivity during the Little Ice Age.  As solar irradiance increased during the 20th century, so did the El Nino/La Nina cycles. Upwelling and marine productivity increased as the earth gradually warmed, and the earth exited the climate‑driven catastrophes of the Little Ice Age.

Tree ring studies similarly show PDO variability was also weak during the Little Ice Age, but strong during the Medieval Warm Period from 993 and 1300 AD. During the Medieval Warm Period, solar irradiance was higher and strong La Nina‑like conditions existed. With a larger Pacific warm pool, southeast Asian mega-droughts were absent but megadroughts devastated the western United States and Canada. As sunspot activity now wanes from it peaks in the 1950s and 1990s, we are provided with a natural experiment to evaluate how the Pacific Ocean will respond to lower sunspot activity. Will the monsoons and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation weaken as they did during the Little Ice Age?

Unfortunately for now, definitively distinguishing the causes of 20th century warming between greenhouse warming versus warming from climate dynamics is currently impossible. A simple experiment done at home using just an infrared thermometer gun can demonstrate why. Heat up a large pot of water, say to 150°F. Then turn off the heat. Measure the temperature of the pot’s surface water and randomly measure 9 spots on the kitchen floor. The average temperature would compute to about 78°F. That determines the “energy state of the kitchen”. Then scoop out half the water from the pot and throw it across the floor. Then repeat the measurements. The average temperature will be significantly higher, even though there was no added heat to the state of the kitchen. The warmer average was simply due to re-distribution of heat and the way the average surface temperature was calculated.  Also notice the temperature of the pot will not have changed. One might argue that the water on the kitchen floor will quickly cool and the average temperature will revert back to the original state. But in real life, solar heated ocean water becomes saltier and denser due to evaporation. The warm water then sinks below the surface where its insulated for years.

Because we performed the experiment, we know that spreading the heat from the pot across the floor caused the average temperature to increase. However in nature we would need to precisely know the volume and degree of heat that has been re‑distributed across 3 dimensions. Our current technology and methods cannot precisely measure that. Scientists recently attempting to measure the discharge of ocean heat during an El Nino and reported quantities but with 25% uncertainty.

Scientists who assume recent global warming is due to rising CO2 concentrations have simply argued “there is no viable alternative explanation”. So they assume every change, warming or cooling, drought or flood,  is due to rising CO2 concentrations. But atmospheric physicists have shown that CO2 concentrations in the lower atmosphere are now saturated, and the increased “competition” between greenhouse molecules greatly attenuates any additional greenhouse effect imparted by rising CO2  concentrations. At higher altitudes CO2 is not saturated, but because the stratosphere warms with increasing altitude, any increasing stratospheric CO2 will enhance the export of infrared to outer space and cool the earth. To attribute any global warming to rising CO2, the warming effect of redistribution of heat around the world must be precisely measured and factored out. How the calculation of the global average is affected by heat redistribution must be accurately ascertained. Until then, climate dynamics appear to be the better climate control knob and offer the best  explanation for both a warming climate and episodes of extreme weather. And natural oscillations suggest a human caused climate crisis is highly unlikely!

Jim Steele is Director emeritus of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and a member of the CO2 Coalition

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March 27, 2021 6:12 am

Bravo!! Like a breath of fresh air in the stinking morass of CAGW climate alarmism. Thanks for that excellent analysis.

Reply to  Dave
March 28, 2021 8:19 am

Very nice basic textbook – review, and clearly written. Thank you!

March 27, 2021 6:16 am

Averages, Trends and Anomalies, the unholy trinity of climastrology. Pfrrr…

Reply to  paranoid goy
March 27, 2021 6:49 am

All in an attempt to explain observations using a single variable.

Reply to  paranoid goy
March 27, 2021 7:22 am

Don’t forget the models…

6 months of summer could be the norm by 2100, study finds

The team also used climate models to predict how much the seasons are likely to change in the future.

Last edited 1 year ago by strativarius
Reply to  fretslider
March 27, 2021 9:12 am

….. and also don’t forget phony positive feedbacks.

That’s five Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Do we have a six ??

To bed B
Reply to  philincalifornia
March 27, 2021 1:50 pm

Reconstruction. You can’t forget that global average temperature is an average of what would be an ideal data set obtained from data that is not fit for purpose.

Reply to  fretslider
March 27, 2021 11:22 am

Carbon dioxide is 0.0286 joules per 1004.5 joules or 0.00003/1°C. CO2 was measured by Daniel Feldman. His spreadsheet adjusted the milliwatts from CO2 to watts(as like radiant light from the sun). Sum all the milliwatts to get the temperature of a CO2 gas released from a CO2 fire extinguisher. The article is propaganda and the climate models were written by idiots that kept adjusting the parameters to create this imagined dystopia world. As is the study (a imagined dystopia) being reported.

Reply to  fretslider
March 27, 2021 1:31 pm

From Canada…. Yeah! 6 months of summer! Much better than none!

Bob boder
March 27, 2021 6:36 am

The southern pole being covered by land and limited ability of warm water reaching the northern pole is the primary reason the earth is as warm as it is.

March 27, 2021 6:51 am

Excellent article. More proof that CO2 is plant food and not a pollutant, as well as a reminder of how little we really know given the complexities of climate dynamics. If we throw out the computer models and use thermometers, we still see roughly 30 year patterns of warming and cooling. That’s an indication of consistency and stability showing no reason to fear. Global average temperature is a measure no one has ever lived in in human history. The wailing from warm-monger ranks is more cultism than science—and politicians worship at this alter because carbon regulation promises a bonanza of looting.

Reply to  Capitalist-Dad
March 27, 2021 1:38 pm

And even if we accept all the crappy science from IPCC alarmists, it’s still only 2 or 3 degrees C by 2100 (disregarding the crazy exaggeration and climate catastrophe porn from the media). What’s the big deal? That would would not offset another sink into cold like the Little Ice Age or when glaciation returns.

March 27, 2021 6:51 am

Another excellent post.

 “I have university colleagues who teach “global warming policy” without having examined the underlying science.”

If this fact is pervasive across campuses in America, it’s one of the most depressing things I’ve read about climate science in the last 10 years.

It doesn’t take much investigation to realize politicians have only the most superficial of information, scant knowledge and no understanding. Most journalists only have information for that day’s story and have no knowledge or understanding. I would have expected anyone teaching climate science to have information, knowledge and understanding of the subject matter.

But, why am I not surprised.

Reply to  cerescokid
March 27, 2021 8:19 am

Sadly, I think that has been true for a long time. Too few people who call themselves scientists and engineers are willing to look past the published authority of colleagues and peers to ask inconvenient questions.

And that lack of scepticism is what we are teaching our college graduates. When my daughter the travel advisor (graduated 2008) spouts it, I give her the benefit of doubt with her lack of science background. When my son the engineer (graduated 2009 Colorado School of Mines) does so, it drives me nuts. He is way smarter than that. Yet he pesters me to listen to podcasts by one of his former professors, who teaches this uncritically, and with no apparent underlying knowledge of what he is teaching. My son sees no problems with this, and thinks I am the dumb one for asking reasonable questions.

Last edited 1 year ago by starzmom
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  starzmom
March 28, 2021 1:50 pm

It reminds one of something Mark Twain said to the effect that when he was seventeen he couldn’t bear to have his Father around while they were discussing important questions but when he was twenty-five it was wonderful how the old man had improved. Some college students think their opinions on such subjects are final—poor chaps, they sure have another guess coming.

Attributed to Fred N. Rindge (1915)

Reply to  cerescokid
March 27, 2021 12:24 pm

Their job function is to teach global warming policy, not climate science….

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  cerescokid
March 28, 2021 1:41 pm

It strikes me that most trolls that show up here have a very shallow understanding of the problem and the supporting math and physics. They are quickly taken to the wood shed for their poorly considered remarks. Yet, apparently having no shame, they come back for more abuse, rather than educating themselves.

Rick K
March 27, 2021 6:53 am

Excellent summary and a great reference article! Thanks, Jim.

March 27, 2021 6:56 am

No greenhouse effect, 1kg generates 1 watt per meter per second against a force of 1 newton. Heating the air by 0.286°C.Tropopause average is -61.55°C -80° and surface 6.8°C 44° (not 59° and Trop -68.8°(-56°C)) difference of 68.35°C 155° giving 239 watts atmosphere heat content. At zenith of the sun 1004 watts reaches surface of which 44w escapes to space. As earth is a sphere this is divided by 4 where 25% reaches the surface. 240 watts powers atmosphere, 163 watts absorbed by surface, 68 watts absorbed by atmosphere and 9 watts reflected.

March 27, 2021 7:08 am

During the last 15 months, man made CO2 surely dropped due to the Wuhan Virus but Mauna Loa CO2 measurement did not decline – why? Average temp dropped slightly from about 1940 to 1980 while CO2 went steadily up by about 15% – why? NASA, hello?

Pat from kerbob
Reply to  Anti_griff
March 27, 2021 9:38 am

And increased steadily this past decade yet the headline in January was that 2020 was tied with 2016 for “hottest ever”, which is another way of writing “no increase for 5 years”.

Reply to  Anti_griff
March 27, 2021 12:33 pm

Mauna Loa measures what remains in the atmosphere at that height. It does not and never has measured the gross input, by both human and biosphere.

Reply to  Ozonebust
March 27, 2021 12:40 pm

A good place to start is by laying on your back outside and looking upward into the sky. Where do you think the increasing levels of CO2 at very high altitude comes from.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Anti_griff
March 27, 2021 2:25 pm

“Average temp dropped slightly from about 1940 to 1980 while CO2 went steadily up by about 15% – why? NASA, hello?”

Good question.

In the United States, the temperatures dropped about 2.0C from 1940 to 1980. If you start back at the “hottest year evah!” in the U.S., the year 1934, then the temperature drop from 1934 to 1980 was about 2.5C.

And all that time CO2 was increasing but the temperatures were not. CO2 is a minor player in the Earth’s atmosphere.

March 27, 2021 7:14 am

But “its all natural” doesn’t get you research grants and trips to conferences. Until we change the focus of funding to understanding nature the research won’t happen. But that takes ignoring the MSM propaganda that feeds the beast. Chicken little sells, while adapt to nature like we’ve always had to do doesn’t bring home the bacon.

John Tillman
March 27, 2021 7:18 am

While TSI doesn’t fluctuate much with sunspots, the spectral composition of solar radiation does. UV varies much more than visible or IR. It’s also qualitatively different, as it makes and breaks ozone, which process affects air pressure and winds, including the trades behind the ENSO.

Last edited 1 year ago by John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 28, 2021 8:29 am

Very important point! Ozone converts UV to IR, causing ozone-blue sky to radiate. UV from the sun converts O2 to O3. Solar UV output or lack thereof has a huge multiplier effect.

March 27, 2021 7:21 am

All good stuff but in the end it all boils down to convection and albedo as per the Dynamic Atmosphere Energy Transport model designed by myself and Philip Mulholland.
Every observed phenomenon fits neatly into that model which also fits the observations obtained for several other bodies in the solar system.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
March 27, 2021 12:50 pm

A link to the model would be great.

Robert W Turner
March 27, 2021 7:32 am

How do night time temperature inversions form?

Jim Steele
Reply to  Robert W Turner
March 27, 2021 8:59 am

In contrast to the atmosphere’s greenhouse gases, the land radiates heat across a wider infrared spectrum including the large atmospheric window where water vapor and CO2 have negligible absorption. Oxygen and nitrogen 99% of the atmosphere) dont cool radiatively and can only cool by colliding with greenhouse gases. Thus the land cools faster than the atmosphere. During the winter or at the poles where heating of the land is minimal the colder surface cools the layer of air directly above, while higher layers remain warm. Cold at the surface and warm above very stable and prevents convection. Its called an inversion relative to daytime heating of the land that generates warmer air at the surface and cooler above, an unstable arrangement that promotes convection. Most of Antarctica exist with a permanent inversion layer. When we would go out to do wildlife recordings, the optimum time to record was just before dawn because noise from the winds are typically absent (except during a storm) because of the slight early morning inversion.

Reply to  Jim Steele
March 29, 2021 12:42 am

Satellite temperature measurements are made on the emissions of O2, therefore it must be the case that O2 is doing its part to cool the atmosphere. There being more than 500 times as much O2 as CO2, perhaps the contribution of outward radiation from O2 is not entirely negligible.

Jim Steele
Reply to  AndyHce
March 29, 2021 10:44 am

My understanding is the energy emitted by microwave is insignificant to thee energy budget relative to infrared, but I never looked at the calculated values. Do you have W/m2 value of O2 microwave emissions?

Reply to  Jim Steele
March 30, 2021 3:15 pm

I’ve never even seen the topic mentioned. No doubt microwave photons are less energetic that IR photons but with more than 500 times the source molecules, it seems like it could add up.

March 27, 2021 7:49 am

Believing the false narrative there is no viable alternative explanation” is the source of this mass delusion. Once a lie is accepted as truth circular reasoning kicks in to create a closed loop of perception that rejects any information contrary to the false belief. Intelligent people can find more examples to support their fixed belief so become more narrow minded and sure of themselves than the average person.

CO2 is considered a potent GHG because it contributes about 1% to Earth’s heat budget while only making up 0.04% by volume in the atmosphere. The false narrative being promoted is that 1% dominates the other 99% of variable’s. That lie obscures the fact that internal variability dwarfs CO2’s tiny effect. Ignorance of the complex dynamics creating individual weather events is what needs to be exposed to wake people out of their false beliefs.

Immense thanks for this detailed analysis!

Jackie Pratt
Reply to  Gyan1
March 27, 2021 7:08 pm

Honest questions:

  1. What mechanism/explanations are there as to how the 0,04% of CO2 does 1% of the GHG heavy lifting?
  2. What are the volume percentages of the top GHGs, as a percentage of total GHG volume?


Reply to  Jackie Pratt
March 28, 2021 9:01 am

At surface CO2 is 400 ppm and and water vapor can be 10 or 20 thousand ppm, so IR absorption and radiation at ground level due to CO2 is insignificant compared to relative humidity variations. However, at top of troposphere, only 11 Km up, CO2 is still 400 ppm and water vapor is down in the 10 ppm region. CO2 is is the dominant radiative gas above about 7km. Considering the whole vertical column, the net radiative effect at ground level turns out to be about 4 additional watts per doubling of CO2. Whether this is huge or trivial depends on your proclivity to belief in science and/or pseudo-science.

Jim Steele
Reply to  DMacKenzie
March 28, 2021 9:17 am

Oh please DmacKenzie,

Dont pretend you have a superior grasp of “science” and all others who disagree must believe in pseudo-science.

Your argument glosses over many important details and creates an unscientific conclusion

At the top of the troposphere where water vapor is reduced to ~10 ppm million a huge atmospheric window opens that allows ~70+% of the once absorbed IR to then freely escape to outer space. I suggest you are the one who is guilty of believing in pseudo science if you are suggesting the loss of water vapor enables CO2 to at 11 km altitude to have a greater warming effect on the surface.

Steve Z
Reply to  DMacKenzie
March 29, 2021 9:08 am

The amount of IR radiation absorbed by any gaseous molecule is proportional to the number of molecules of absorptive gas per cubic meter of gas. This is proportional to the partial pressure of absorptive gas, or total pressure times mole fraction.

At a sea level pressure of about 1013 millibars, the number of CO2 molecules per m3 would be about 3.35 times higher than at 10 km altitude, with a total pressure of about 300 millibars, even at a constant “400 ppm” (number of CO2 molecules per million molecules of all gases).

At 10 km altitude, the CO2 can only absorb about 0.3 times as much energy as at sea level, and that is only a small fraction of the IR energy that has already been absorbed at lower altitudes, some of which is absorbed by the higher water vapor concentrations at low altitudes (below cloud level).

While there may be more CO2 than water vapor at 10 km altitude (about the altitude where jet planes fly), there is very little upward IR radiation left to absorb, and the number of CO2 molecules per m3 is 70% less than at sea level.

Ted Pilewski
Reply to  Jackie Pratt
March 28, 2021 4:37 pm

1.CO2 is 0.04% of the total volume of the atmosphere, but depending on humidity (water vapor content) only 1% to 4% of the atmosphere is GHG, so CO2 accounts for 1% or more of the GHG volume. It’s important to note that comparing volumes is not a great way to estimate effects.

2.Water Vapor is highly variable, but always dominates the volume of GHG, accounting for 90% to 99% of GHG volume. All other GHG combine to form about one tenth of one percent of the total atmosphere. CO2 is ~200 times as prevalent as methane, but estimates of relative effect are far lower. CO2 is estimated to contribute 9% to 26% of total GHG warming, while methane could contribute 4% to 9%.

Jackie Pratt
Reply to  Ted Pilewski
March 28, 2021 5:21 pm

Thanks folks for the explanations.

Ted, Gyan1 says CO2 contributes 1%, you say 9-26%. Are these different numbers (in units)?

Reply to  Jackie Pratt
March 28, 2021 8:35 pm

My figure was about 1% of Earth’s heat budget not just GHG’s. CO2 is 3-30% of the greenhouse effect depending on who you believe. I lean towards 3% because of the dominance of water vapor.

Abolition Man
March 27, 2021 7:51 am

Thanks for another excellent solo, beating the drum for climate realism! If you wish to skip a few beats and smack some science denying alarmists upside the head you have my hearty approval! This post looks like it would make an excellent chapter in a new book; hint, hint!

Have you looked at Willis E’s theory of emergent phenomena? It seems to me that between that and your climate dynamics there is no reason think CO2 has ANY significant effect on climate; which may be a source of great grief when Earth returns to a period of glaciation!

I am thinking of sending my little sister back in California a copy of your book to try and teach her about the realities of weather and climate. She lives at Lake Tahoe, so I thought she would enjoy reading about your adventures at the Sierra campus! Are there any other works you would recommend for enlightening those who have gotten their climate science from the nightly TV news programs? I wish I could also send Dr. Patrick Moore’s latest, but it has a blurb from President Trump on the back and I think TDS would cause her to burn the book, not read it!

Jon R
Reply to  Abolition Man
March 28, 2021 9:50 am

A practical course in how to best be an evangelical skeptic of global warming would be of great value. It sounds like you have that thinking down.

March 27, 2021 8:03 am

Practical and clear explanation.
A longer article could include how volcanic activity in the Aleutians or Kamchatka alters the storm systems hitting the west side of North America.
And then their is the periodicity of casmic rays and cloud cover.

March 27, 2021 8:12 am

Cliff notes version: Its advection, convection, oceans and the sun that drive climate.

Reply to  Nelson
March 27, 2021 1:40 pm

As I have said several time…

the CONTROL is bulk energy movements in the oceans and in the atmosphere.

These are many time larger than any piddling change in ASSumed, unmeasured CO2 effects

March 27, 2021 8:39 am

“The earth’s energy equilibrium is determined by the balance between incoming solar radiation versus radiative cooling that emits infrared radiation back to space. Water vapor primarily and CO2 can slow radiative cooling via the greenhouse effect.”

In a steady state, there is always the balance, no matter the surface temperature. Water vapor and CO2 increase the emissivity of the atmosphere and thereby enhance its radiative cooling. Evaporative cooling of the surface is also the most significant surface-atmosphere heat flux.
Yes, water vapor and CO2 absorb a part of the surface radiation, but they also radiate to space. The bulk of the atmosphere (N2 and O2) “absorb” energy from the surface too, by convection, and this energy needs to be transferred to the water vapor and CO2 first, to be radiated to space. If you think N2 and O2 do not play a role in the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect, you are wrong. And if the natural greenhouse effect is not understood properly, you cannot say how a change in CO2 affects the surface temperature, if at all (significantly).

Are not the highest average surface temperatures in deserts, where water vapor (the greenhouse gas) content is the lowest?

Reply to  Edim
March 27, 2021 9:16 am

Great post otherwise, Jim. I just disagree what constitutes the Earth’s greenhouse effect. The bulk of the atmosphere (N2 and O2) plays a significant role.

Reply to  Edim
March 27, 2021 1:42 pm

So-called GHE = Retention of energy by atmospheric mass.

Jim Steele
Reply to  Edim
March 27, 2021 9:49 am

Hi Edim,

I agree there is much room for debate about how much of a greenhouse effect is in play, but that is a topic for a few other posts. Here I am just pointing out all the natural dynamics that affect weatHER events that the media blindly attributes to CO2.

I agree O2 and N2 help warm the atmosphere via conduction with the earth’s heated surface as well as collisions with “heated” greenhouse gases. Indeed the only way 99% of the atmosphere can cool, is via a collision with a greenhouse gas that can then radiate the energy away. As I commented in this thread on inversion layers, the atmosphere cools more slowly than the surface because O2 and N2 will hold the heat until transferred via collisions. It is certain that added CO2 helps radiate heat back to space more quickly in the stratosphere. Because the stratosphere is warmer due to shortwave heating, the warmer stratosphere will emit infrared heat faster than it receives from thee layers below

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Steele
Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Edim
March 27, 2021 4:53 pm

“Are not the highest average surface temperatures in deserts, where water vapor (the greenhouse gas) content is the lowest?”
No, not really.
If you mean the hottest average daytime temp during the high Sun months, then probably.
Deserts tend to cool off a lot at night though.
They are, hot in the daytime for several reasons, some of which also explain why they are cool at night: The air is dry, and dry air has a low specific heat (easier to heat but also to cool); there is a dearth of clouds (no clouds means warmer by day but cooler by night) which would otherwise moderate daytime heating; they occur in zones of high pressure which means air is decending and heating up adiabatically; many of them are in the subtropics, and so they get a lot of insolation.
There are also very cold deserts.
Antarctica is a cold desert, as is the Gobi, and the Atacama.
Some of the driest deserts are over ocean.
The hottest temp ever recorded was in a desert, that also happens to be one of the lowest spots on Earth, which is a significant factor. But it gets very cold in Death Valley too.
Some zones classified as deserts are among the locations with the highest annual mean temp, but most places that have the highest mean temp are those that are closer to the Equator and thus get even more insolation than the ~30° N & S desert belts: Tropical savannas and tropical rainforests.
The hottest parts of South America, India, and Australia incluse the parts that tend to be the wettest. The hottest parts of Africa tend to be shifted south of those parts that are the driest.
In the selvas, it is hot all the time, day and night, all year around.
The slightly dryer tropical savannas tend to be hotter during the days when it is not raining, while remaining humid enough to not cool off much at night.

The most general rule is that there is nothing very simple about the atmosphere, anywhere.

Average annual temp map, precip map, and map of climate zones:

Temp, precip, and Koppen zones.PNG
Last edited 1 year ago by Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 28, 2021 12:45 am

The highest average manual temperatures are in deserts, of course there are cold deserts. The point is, vater vapor warming is overrated. The bulk of the atmosphere and its warming/greenhouse effect is completely dismissed.

“The most general rule is that there is nothing very simple about the atmosphere, anywhere”

Reply to  Edim
March 29, 2021 12:55 am

The energy required to raise the temperature of water by any given amount is significantly greater than the energy required to raise (at least most) other atmospheric constituents, especially during water’s phase changes. Therefore, when there is little or no water, any given amount of energy results in a higher temperature than when there is plenty of water.

Dave Yaussy
March 27, 2021 8:50 am

Jim, I always look forward to your posts. They are engaging and understandable to a layperson who has an interest in the science you are explaining. Keep on writing!

March 27, 2021 8:55 am

I think the greenhouse temperature is overstated. The circulation of the oceans and the atmosphere distributes energy around the planet.

The big deal is that energy is radiated in proportion to the fourth power of the temperature (in kelvins).

The energy the planet receives from the sun is 1380 watts per square meter times the cross sectional area of the planet.

On the other hand, the planet radiates energy from its whole surface area.

The following python code assumes the Earth is a black body and that the energy is evenly distributed around its surface and that the temperature of deep space is 0 kelvin.

from math import pi

d = 12742e3 #Earth's diameter
r = d/2.
sc = 1380. #w / m^2  solar constant

   q = σ T^4 A                                      (1)


   q = heat transfer per unit time (W)
   σ = 5.6703 10-8 (W/m^2K^4) - The Stefan-Boltzmann Constant
   T = absolute temperature in kelvins (K)
   A = area of the emitting body (m^2)
sbc = 5.6703e-8

#cross sectional area
csa = pi * r**2

P = csa * sc

#area of sphere = 4 pi r^2
#Earth's surface area
ea = 4 * csa

#P = sbc * T^4 * ea
#T^4 = P / (sbc * ea)
T = (P / (sbc * ea))**0.25
TC = (T - 273.15)
TF = TC * 1.8 + 32

The result is
279 K
6 C
43 F

Of course, none of the program’s assumptions is exactly correct. What we do see though is that there’s good reason to believe that the greenhouse effect may be quite a bit over stated.

Reply to  commieBob
March 27, 2021 3:41 pm

there’s good reason to believe that the greenhouse effect may be quite a bit over stated.

The “greenhouse effect” will go down in history as one of the greatest fairy tales of all time. Future generations will laugh at this nonsense in the same way our generation giggle at the thought of reaching the end of the Earth and falling off. It is probably the only fairy tale that is widely spun across the entire globe. Maybe somewhere in the highlands in PNG there would be some who have not heard the story.

How could this nonsense get traction when simple observation shows that the energy balance is thermostatically controlled to reduce heat loss below -2C and limit heat uptake above 30C. It has been doing the same every second of every day for at least the past 10 million years.

Screen Shot 2021-03-28 at 9.39.53 am.png
Reply to  RickWill
March 28, 2021 7:00 am

Rick you keep repeating the -2 to +30 meme….but the relationship is continuously related to the vapor pressure of water on our nearly water covered planet to average sea surface temperature. Your meme is a bit like saying your car gas pedal controls your speed between zero and 100mph….an oversimplification to the point of meaninglessness.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
March 29, 2021 1:14 am

I have a globe where the middle is held at 30C and the ends are held at -2C. It is presently averaging 14C. While the extremes are maintained then it will remain very close to the same temperature. If sea ice disappears from one of the poles for any year then it could be signs the globe warming. If the Atlantic does not make it to 30C in any year then it could be due to the globe cooling.

Reply to  commieBob
March 28, 2021 6:49 am

On a quick look….where’s your (1-Albedo) reduction in sc ?

Reply to  DMacKenzie
March 28, 2021 8:26 am

The black body assumption makes that moot.

What I’m talking about is something like a proof of concept, rather than anything with much nuance.

March 27, 2021 9:31 am

Excellent article. Thanks Jim!

E. Schaffer
March 27, 2021 9:47 am

“..the greenhouse effect. Without it the earth’s average temperature would hover near 0°F instead of our currently more livable 59°F.”

No, it would not! First of all you need to decide whether clouds are GHGs or not. If you say yes, than the absence of clouds would drop the albedo and we never get to 255K. If you say no, you can not count SWCF to the GHE. With clear skies emissions are 270W/m2 on average (as opposed to 240W/m2 including clouds). Either way, under no circumstances GHGs cause 33K of GHE.

But actually it is far worse. Surface emissivity is 0.91, surface absorptivity is 0.94. So without atmosphere, without GHGs, the surface as it is, would like to take on the temperatur of ((0.94/0.91)*342/5-67e-8)^0.25 = 281K.

That is only 7K less than the 288K we observe. The whole GHE, regardless of what constitutes it, is only 7K in size. Once you understand that, it becomes understandable how there can not be a lot climate variability. With given solar radiation, Earth is about just as warm as it should be. The major factors which constitute this little GHE are not subject to significant changes.

Jim Steele
Reply to  E. Schaffer
March 27, 2021 10:06 am

E. Schaffer,

Thank you for advancing a debate about quantifying the greenhouse effect. However that is not the focus of this article. It is also a debate that can be too technical for the average reader, I simply re-stated NASA’s accepted estimate only to assure readers who are not familiar with the science that to be clear 1) I am not suggesting there is no greenhouse effect and 2) suggest that CO2 warming is a benefit.

The relevant question to the public is how will additional CO2 affect future warming, so at the end of the article I referenced a recent paper by Wijngaarden & Happer titled Dependence of Earth’s Thermal Radiation on Five Most Abundant Greenhouse Gases, who suggest there will be very little additional warming

E. Schaffer
Reply to  Jim Steele
March 27, 2021 3:39 pm

I know, you are only quoting NASA. And I also understand discussing the magnitude of the GHE is the not the scope of your article. Yet there is a problem.

It is like you were defending someone who is perfectly innocent of the crime he is accused with, and your strategy is to concede he did it, while focusing on the arguement he was not responsible for his actions. You concede to what is wrong, and try to argue what is weak. It is a disservice to your defendant.

Jim Steele
Reply to  E. Schaffer
March 27, 2021 5:24 pm

E. Schaffer, It appears you and another are on the extreme end of the spectrum of people who doesnt believe there is any such thing as a greenhouse effect. So instead of discussing the climate dynamics presented here and their effect, you choose to take one snippet as an opportunity to grandstand your belief with gooble-dee-gop about a disservice to your defendant.

E. Schaffer
Reply to  Jim Steele
March 27, 2021 8:53 pm

No, there is a “GHE”, although I subject (as we all might do) to the terminology. The question is what size it has, as much as what causes it. Apart from that, there is no “exremism” in science! There is accuracy, or inaccuracy. I do my best to be extremely accurate, if that makes sense..!?

Reply to  Jim Steele
March 27, 2021 3:55 pm

I simply re-stated NASA’s accepted estimate only to assure readers who are not familiar with the science

The “greenhouse effect” is not science. It is a fairy tale, bunkum, rubbish or any other descriptor that aptly conveys a story unrelated to reality.

Simple observation shows that tropical oceans regulate to 30C and polar ocean water does not exist below -2C. Average of extremes is 14C or 57F. The silly notion that the “greenhouse effect” makes up the 33C between the radiating temperature and the surface temperature is, well, SILLY.

Reply to  E. Schaffer
March 27, 2021 3:49 pm

Once you mention emissivity I know you are off track. The “greenhouse effect” is simply a fairy tale – it does not even make the grade of junk science. It has no basis in science. It is unphysical claptrap.

Earth’s temperature it regulated by two processes; formation of sea ice at -2C and formation of persistent convective cloud over open water at 30C. The average surface temperature is therefore 14C or 57F. The energy balance will be whatever is necessary to set the two extremes.

You can observe the result every second of every day in any year:,-6.22,376/loc=155.390,-9.177

Reply to  RickWill
March 28, 2021 5:54 am

Rick, how do you explain the Younger Dryas?

Reply to  Nelson
March 29, 2021 1:17 am

Tropical Atlantic goes cold. The Atlantic has been on the verge of going cold since the globe moved into the ice age.

Reply to  E. Schaffer
March 27, 2021 7:39 pm

Without an atmosphere and oceans, why would the Earth’s temperature be much different than that of the moon?

E. Schaffer
Reply to  commieBob
March 27, 2021 9:12 pm

No, it would not. The basic problem with the moon is its slow rotiation, lack of atmosphere, and a dusty surface which is a poor storer of heat. So it gets extremely cold and extremely hot. The moon emits most radiation on its hot day side. And of course emissions are a function of temperature by the power of 4.

If you average the moons surface temperatures arithmetically you will get 200-210K. Now if you had 2 sides of a disk, one 100K the other 300K, you might say it is 200K on average. However, this disk will emit like ((100^4+300^4)/2)^0.25 = 253K on average.

If you allow for this basic issue, the average surface (emission-) temperature of the moon is about 276K. That is my best estimate, running the calculations back and forth. And yes, that temperature is not very different from the 281K I named above.

Reply to  E. Schaffer
March 28, 2021 5:29 am

I did specify a lack of atmosphere and, importantly, water.

The joy of the moon and Mercury is that we have measurements. example

Last edited 1 year ago by commieBob
March 27, 2021 10:01 am

This post is very timely because as we move into the next weekend there is going to be a great example of how waves in the jet stream can have a large impact on the planets weather.
As we move into next weekend there looks to be a huge blocking high setting up over the northern Atlantic. Which will cause a large northward bow in the jet stream as it moves over the Atlantic and thus driving a strong jet stream into the Arctic. lts a pattern set up which reminds me of the type which happened during the winter of1962/63.
What can we expect from this weather set up. Well lots of warm air been driven up across eastern Canada and western Greenland as it makes its way into the Arctic. So expect very warm temps over these area’s. Meanwhile lots of Polar air will be driven into, europe and the way the jet stream bends over europe this could lead to extreme winter weather (at least for the time of year) over europe. This pattern set up is just made for climate study.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  taxed
March 27, 2021 5:07 pm

This is a weather pattern, not a climate pattern.
Conflating weather and climate is what warmistas do.
We should be careful not to make the same mistakes as they do.
BTW…good memory. Most people cannot recall what the weather was in Greenland 60 years ago.
I am just looking forward to some extra days of nice cool weather down here in Florida.
The pattern reminds me of last week.

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
March 27, 2021 6:44 pm

This weather pattern interests me because its linked to colder winters in the UK. The more often this pattern turns up then the more the UK’s climate will turn cooler.
What l want to know is there a link to this weather patterning and lower sun spot activity. Because the LIA suggests there maybe.

Steve Case
March 27, 2021 10:24 am

“Water vapor primarily and CO2 can slow radiative cooling via the greenhouse effect.”

The other day we were treated to NASA’s Sofie Bates and her Earth Science News Team essay where she told us that green house gas absorbs energy emitted from black asphalt which can be re-emitted back toward Earth, where it will warm the surface even more.

Even well known skeptics compare downwelling radiation to something hot like an infrared lamp heating water in a pan.

Yes, the green house effect slows the cooling. The warming effect comes from the sun, not reradiation from black asphalt or anything else as hot as an infrared heating lamp.

March 27, 2021 10:37 am

lts good to see “cut off lows” getting a mention. As l think these could have a overlooked effect on the earth’s climate. By the way they tend to push cloud cover closer to the equator then otherwise would be the case.

Giordano Milton
March 27, 2021 10:48 am

People like to hear and use / abuse simple explanations—like “she’s a witch”, or “Satan caused it”, or “it’s CO2″—the new Satan.

Truth doesn’t matter.

Last edited 1 year ago by MiltonG
March 27, 2021 11:30 am

Snowstorm and volcan activity in Iceland – live webcam

Last edited 1 year ago by Krishna Gans
Reply to  Krishna Gans
March 27, 2021 1:01 pm


Reply to  Philip Mulholland
March 27, 2021 2:33 pm

Interesting that the lava spill from the Gildingadalir volcano is not obvious on Ventusky.

March 27, 2021 12:32 pm

“The earth’s energy equilibrium is determined by the balance between incoming solar radiation versus radiative cooling that emits infrared radiation back to space”

Absolutely correct, but it does not determine earth´s equilibrium temperature.

Earth´s outgoing radiation can very well be the same at very different average temperatures. This is a simple fact due to the T^4 dependence in Stefan Boltzmanns law,

E.g. if one lowers the temperatures at the poles and increase the temperature around the equator, that can be consistent with radiation balance. However, the average temperature will be different.

There is no physical law that states anything about earth´s average temperature. Multiple average temperatures are consistent with radiation balance.

This is equivalent to say that earth´s average temperature has a chaotic characteristic (= undefined).

Reply to  Jonas
March 28, 2021 7:42 am

Cloud covered Venus has an albedo of .75, and half cloud covered Earth has an albedo of .3. When you go through the basic equations, it is albedo and hence clouds that control the planet’s radiative temperature. Thermodynamic lapse rate from the equivalent emission altitude to surface is the next step.

Tom Abbott
March 27, 2021 1:06 pm

From the article: “Warming in the northeast Pacific Ocean, famously known as the blob, was not caused by added heat, but by reduced winds that ventilated less heat than normal.”

I’m elaborating on your statement, Jim.

The Blob was formed by a high-pressure weather system sitting over the same ocean location for a long time.

When a high-pressure system sits over an area for a long time, the area underneath the dome of high pressure increases in temperature and will continue doing so as long as the system sits there.

The Blob warmed the water underneath it to several degress higher than the surrounding ocean but the extra warmth only went a few meters deep. That’s how we know the Blob’s warmth was coming from the atmosphere and not from underwater volcanic activity.

When a high-pressure system stalls over land, it causes heat waves and droughts, and is characterized by very light winds (not good for windmills). When one stalls over the ocean, it causes things like the Blob.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 27, 2021 2:51 pm

Area’s of high pressure don’t just cause heat waves, they can also cause intense cold. Because when they form over large extended snow fields like in Russia then most of the heat leaks away into space. Thanks to the snow cover during the day and the clear cloudless sky’s during the long winter nights.So as the high remains in place over many days the air within them becomes colder and colder.
l suspect the cause of The Blob was not just caused by light winds. But also because clear sky’s under the high pressure allowed extended sunshine hours. Which in turn allowed increased amounts of heat to be soaked up by the water under the high.

Jim Steele
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 27, 2021 3:08 pm

I agree with you both. The high pressure system over the “blob” in addition to low winds caused clear skies that enhanced solar heating. For many marine heat waves, clear skies allow a greater escape of OLR but is offset by increased solar heating causing a net warming. In the winter the greater escape of OLR under clear skies offsets the reduced warming by low winter sunshine and produces cooling.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Steele
Burl Henry
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 27, 2021 6:23 pm

Tom Abbott:

I was about to make the same comment.

Although I wonder whether the warming went only a few meters deep. The normal marine life fled the area, and reportedly millions of seabirds starved to death when their food supply vanished.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Burl Henry
March 28, 2021 5:23 am

Burl, yes the warmer water was determined to be just a few meters deep. I looked for a link to that but haven’t found one yet. One argument was that the warming was caused by undersea volcanic activity but that was shown to be wrong.

Here’s a link to a general, hyperbolic, description of the Blob events, but it doesn’t go into detail about the actual ocean warming. Rather, it seems to suggest that the ocean was warmer because of Human-caused climate change, but that doesn’t explain why the surrounding ocean’s temperatures were cooler than the water underneath the high-pressure system.

The link does go into a lot of detail about how wildlife was affected by the Blob.

Last edited 1 year ago by Tom Abbott
Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 28, 2021 5:40 am

I found something on the depth of the Blob warming, Burl.

“Initially the Blob was reported as being 500 miles (800 km) wide and 300 feet (91 m) deep.[1] It later expanded and reached a size of 1,000 miles (1,600 km) long, 1,000 miles (1,600 km) wide, and 300 feet (91 m) deep”

end excerpt

Burl Henry
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 28, 2021 12:51 pm

Tom Abbott;

Thanks for the info. .I suspected that it had to be more than a few meters deep to cause the marine life to flee the area.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Burl Henry
March 30, 2021 8:59 am

Yes, I wasn’t precise enough when I referred to the depth as a few meters.

I think what happened was I have seen several reports about the situation over the years and shallower depths were reported at that time but it probably just depends on when you look at it.

In the beginning, the warmth was not so deep, but kept getting deeper as time went along until it reached about 90 meters deep at the end.

That’s a lot of warmth built up by the Sun, isn’t it.

Burl Henry
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 30, 2021 5:02 pm

Tom Abbott:

The “Blob” extended from the Gulf of Alaska down to Southern California, and probably also extended over parts of the California coast, as well. It was a stalled high-pressure weather system, which is characterized by cloudless skies and low winds within the system (but high winds at its periphery)

The warming within such a system has been stated to be due to compressive heating from the descent of colder air down to the Earth’s surface. However, once it reaches the surface, there is zero velocity and, hence, no more heating.

So, why do temperatures increase so much within a stalled weather system, exceeding those of normal moving weather outside the system, under the same sun at the same time?

The answer is that our atmosphere contains Megatons of circulating industrial SO2 aerosols, which reflect sunshine, and reduce global temperatures. They settle out rapidly, within a week or so, but since they are constantly being replaced, they are always present.

However ,the atmosphere within a stalled high pressure weather system is isolated, allowing its aerosols to settle out, without being replaced, The resultant cleansed air increases insolation, and temperatures can soar.

(This was also the cause of the heat waves in Europe in 2003 and 2019).. .

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Burl Henry
April 1, 2021 5:35 am

“So, why do temperatures increase so much within a stalled weather system, exceeding those of normal moving weather outside the system, under the same sun at the same time?

The answer is that our atmosphere contains Megatons of circulating industrial SO2 aerosols, which reflect sunshine, and reduce global temperatures. They settle out rapidly, within a week or so, but since they are constantly being replaced, they are always present.

However ,the atmosphere within a stalled high pressure weather system is isolated, allowing its aerosols to settle out, without being replaced, The resultant cleansed air increases insolation, and temperatures can soar.”

Now that is an interesting theory. I might buy into something like that.

This article is getting a little old. I know you will see this message but probably not many others will, so why don’t you wait and re-introduce this theory in a future article where appropriate. I would like to hear more about the behavior of aerosols inside high-pressure systems.

Burl Henry
Reply to  Tom Abbott
April 1, 2021 6:44 am

Tom Abbott:

I have a published article on the role of SO2 aerosols and their effect upon our climate which you which you might find interesting: It is titled “A Graphical Explanation of Climate Change”

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 30, 2021 8:48 am

And if the Blob, high-pressure system, had stalled out centered over California, instead of out in the Pacific Ocean, then it would have caused a multi-year heatwave and drought in California and surrounding areas.

In the past, California has had droughts that lasted for many decades at a time. Something like the Blob over land is what would cause such a thing.

The next question to ask is what climate circumstances would set up a persistent high-pressure system that would last for decades over the same spot on the Earth (California)?

Last edited 1 year ago by Tom Abbott
Burl Henry
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 30, 2021 5:34 pm

Tom Abbott:

You ask “what climate circumstances would set up a persistent high pressure system that would last for decades over the same spot on the Earth (California)”

A high pressure weather system is not necessary for periods of high temperature.

All that is necessary is for Atmospheric SO2 aerosols to decrease for warming to occur.. There were very few volcanic eruptions during the MWP, and it was quite warm.

Since the, there have been intervals of about 3 years or more between VEI4, or larger, eruptions, and all have resulted in temperature increases..

Clean Air efforts to reduce industrial SO2 aerosol emissions has also caused temperatures to rise.


Tom Abbott
March 27, 2021 1:16 pm

From the article: “They just blindly trust the [climate change] crisis narrative.”

I think this applies to about 99 percent of alarmists. They started out with an unsubstantiated assumption and have never looked back.

One of these days they will think to themselves: “Everything I thought was true about climate change was wrong!”

Let’s hope they get there before we waste Trillions of dollars trying to fix a problem that doesn’t need fixing.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 29, 2021 1:16 am

And you still believe fixing a climate problem is behind the politics?

Tom Abbott
Reply to  AndyHce
March 30, 2021 9:02 am

I don’t know. I think some people are very good at fooling themselves in some circumstances. Even smart people.

Antero Ollila
March 27, 2021 1:24 pm

Quote: “But atmospheric physicists have shown that CO2 concentrations in the lower atmosphere are now saturated, and the increased “competition” between greenhouse molecules greatly attenuates any additional greenhouse effect imparted by rising CO2 concentrations. At higher altitudes, CO2 is not saturated, but because the stratosphere warms with increasing altitude, any increasing stratospheric CO2 will enhance the export of infrared to outer space and cool the earth.”

CO2 concentration is not saturated in any part of the atmosphere. Saturation would mean that CO2 concentration would not increase anymore. But it is increasing all the time, and there is no practical upper limit for CO2 concentration; the whole atmosphere could be CO2 like in Venus.

Steele probably meant that the absorption by CO2 is saturated in the troposphere, but it is not true either. The increased CO2 concentration in the stratosphere does not increase the outgoing LW radiation (=OLR) even though it is a popular misconception. The OLR must be the same as the incoming net SW radiation from the Sun. The CO2 concentration has nothing to do with the magnitude of the OLR. If CO2 concentration would be able to increase the OLR, from which source this energy would come from?

Jim Steele
Reply to  Antero Ollila
March 27, 2021 2:05 pm

Antero, you are correct regards saturation. It should have read ” the forcing from CO2 concentrations are saturated.

From the 2020 paper Dependence of Earth’s Thermal Radiation on Five Most Abundant Greenhouse Gases

“at current concentrations, the forcings from all greenhouse gases are saturated. The saturations of the abundant greenhouse gases H2O and CO2 are so extreme that the per-molecule forcing is attenuated by four orders of magnitude with respect to the optically thin values. Saturation also suppresses the forcing power per molecule for the less abundant greenhouse gases, O3, N2O and CH4, from their optically thin values, but far less than for H2O and CO2.”

Regards “The OLR must be the same as the incoming net SW radiation from the Sun”, your statement is incorrect. Energy from the sun and stored in the ocean , cause OLR to be less at least for a while.

It was never argued that CO2 determines the magnitude OLR, only the rate of emission. It is in agreement with current science that CO2 can slow its escape, because temperature determines the rate of emission, in the colder upper troposphere CO2 emits OLR at a slower rate that a warm surface emits OLR, causing warming. A warmer stratosphere emits OLR at a faster rate than the colder upper troposphere, which is why climate scientists expected rising CO2 to cause the straosphere to cool.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Steele
Antero Ollila
Reply to  Jim Steele
March 28, 2021 2:21 am

Jim, Maybe we are using different terms. My point was – and it remains – that the CO2 concentration does affect the magnitude of OLR, which is about 240W/m2. The cooling of the stratosphere due to the increased CO2 concentration is a fact and there is a scientific reason. The increased CO2 concentration absorbs more LW radiation emitted by the surface and this absorption happens below 1 km altitude. Therefore less LW radiation in the absorption wavelength zone of CO2 is available in the stratosphere and it means a little bit lower temperature.

The observed cooling in the stratosphere from 1980 to 2000 was due mainly to decreased ozone concentration. After 2000 the stratospheric cooling has stopped thanks to the banning of ozone-depleting chemicals.

Jim Steele
Reply to  Antero Ollila
March 28, 2021 10:04 am

Antero, Indeed, much of the stratospheric cooling resulted from a decline in UV but I must disagree with your statement “The increased CO2 concentration absorbs more LW radiation emitted by the surface and this absorption happens below 1 km altitude. Therefore less LW radiation in the absorption wavelength zone of CO2 is available in the stratosphere and it means a little bit lower temperature.”
CO2 absorbs then emits LW in less than a thousandth of a second. LW absorption by CO2 does not prevent LW from reaching the stratosphere.
Look at all the energy balance estimations, (with the caveat that different authors have different numbers and there is a high level of uncertainty) Using Stephens 2012 budget, absorption of SW by the surface and atmosphere totals to about 240, while outgoing LW amounts to 239.7 at the top of the atmosphere, which is typically assumed to be the mesopause which is above the stratosphere. Outgoing LW eventually passes through the stratosphere. Stephens budget only finds 0.6 W/m2 imbalance, but the all-sky absorption of LW is only 189.9. Is the overall alleged imbalance due to the tremendous uncertainty in measurements? Heat storage in the oceans? Latent heating contributions is estimated with a 10 W/m2 uncertainty

Last edited 1 year ago by Jim Steele
Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Antero Ollila
March 28, 2021 2:23 pm

Antero, you said,

After 2000 the stratospheric cooling has stopped thanks to the banning of ozone-depleting chemicals.

You might be engaging in wishful thinking. 2020 had one of the largest ozone ‘holes’ on record:

The annual Antarctic ozone hole – the 12th-largest on record – reached its peak size for 2020 on September 20, at about 9.6 million square miles (24.8 million square km),…

… the 2020 ozone hole is also one of the deepest and shows record-low ozone values.

It is low temperatures that facilitates the photo-catalytic destruction of ozone.

Last edited 1 year ago by Clyde Spencer
March 27, 2021 1:30 pm

Thank you Jim! A ‘Magnum Opus’ of compiling the state of real scientific research regarding climate. Bookmarking this!

March 27, 2021 1:33 pm

La Nina, “pile up warm waters in the western tropical Pacific.” Takes time…

El Nino is a release of that water…. (short and sharp initially, hence the temperature spikes)
….. so “causing sea level to fall in the west and rise in the east by as much as 25 cm”

It would be interesting to see how much of that store potential energy converts to kinetic energy during an El Nino release.

25cm change over a large area is a lot of potential energy. !

Its more than just “warm water”

Last edited 1 year ago by fred250
To bed B
March 27, 2021 2:08 pm

Most of the population see the global average temperature as the reading of a probe up Gaia’s kyber pass. They need to appreciate that it’s more like measuring the average height of a moving crowd, with sampling that has only become sufficiently widespread in recent times to not be so affected by the society of dwarfs swapping places with the national basketball team.

Meanwhile, the company selling bigger seats and pushing for refurbishment have written an algorithm to take care of that. They found that the crowd has increased in height 1 cm since the stadium was made, and is trending at 0.02 cm/year since 1990, significantly more than determined from an aerial l shot of the crowd.

There is no doubt that people are getting taller in recent times, but the changes to the algorithm over the years have made the trends less consistent with a cyclic trend into one that is, barely, more hyperbolic (that’s a pun, for all you autistic readers).

March 27, 2021 2:11 pm

I would point out that the primary driver of unexpected changes in localized climate on a global scale is morons paving shit over and building shit on it then running power plants. Convection is the enemy of stable climate. CO2 itself cannot cause convection.

Tom Abbott
March 27, 2021 2:19 pm

From the article: “But atmospheric physicists have shown that CO2 concentrations in the lower atmosphere are now saturated, and the increased “competition” between greenhouse molecules greatly attenuates any additional greenhouse effect imparted by rising CO2 concentrations. At higher altitudes CO2 is not saturated, but because the stratosphere warms with increasing altitude, any increasing stratospheric CO2 will enhance the export of infrared to outer space and cool the earth.”

CO2 cooling the Earth. What a concept!

Somebody ought to tell Biden that CO2 is saturated, and that means we don’t have to worry about CO2 and we don’t need to spend Trillions of dollars trying to reign in CO2.

Biden claims he follows the science.

Abolition Man
Reply to  Tom Abbott
March 27, 2021 2:38 pm

No money in it! All the money is in Climastrology alarm and unreliable energy; politicians, like pigs, follow their snouts! My apologies to any pigs offended by being likened to politicians!

March 27, 2021 2:44 pm

 I am most grateful for the greenhouse effect. 

Labelling the “greenhouse effect” junk science gives it credibility way beyond its due. At best it is a fairy tale. So it is OK to be grateful for the fairy tale but it should not be confused with anything related to Earth’s climate.

The climate on Earth is controlled by two powerful processes. At the poles, sea ice limits the heart loss. At the tropics persistent convective cloud limit the heat input.

Sea ice forms at -2C and tropical warm pools regulate to 30C so average global surface temperature is 14C or 57F. The result can be observed every day of every year in any century, any millennium or the last million years:
comment image

Antero Ollila
Reply to  RickWill
March 28, 2021 2:30 am

I have concluded from different comments that the key persons of this site do not believe the GH effect. It is a sad observation that this site supports such denying of scientific fact. Many comments show that there are many readers of this site who has the same opinion.

For these deniers, I have a simple question based on reliably measured observations. The Earth’s surface emits radiation about 395…398 W/m2 and the same surface absorbs direct solar radiation about 165 W/m2. How is this possible? How it is possible that the surface radiates more energy than it receives from the Sun (240 W/m2). I have never received any explanations but comments that we cannot rely on any NASA measurements.

Richard M
Reply to  Antero Ollila
March 28, 2021 5:59 am

The view of many people is that the entire concept of the GHE is faulty. These folks are not denying radiation physics. Clearly, you haven’t looked into the details of what they are saying.

One part of the GHE claims is that downwelling IR is what warms the surfaces. Another view that completely accepts that GHGs absorb and emit IR is that the surface warming is independent of downward IR. It would be exactly the same independent of that IR. The warming is simply due to the absorption of energy from the surface and distribution within a mass with a gravitationally determined structure. You’d get the same temperature with all IR radiation moving towards space.

Reply to  Antero Ollila
March 28, 2021 6:07 am

How about geothermic heat! I grew up caving. Go 50 feet below the surface in WVA and and its 50-55 degrees no matter what the air temperature is. The idea that geothermic heat from the earth’s core has no impact on the surface temperature just makes no sense to me.

Reply to  Antero Ollila
March 29, 2021 1:25 am

The Earth’s surface emits radiation about 395…398 W/m2 

No it doesn’t – where do you get this nonsense from?

Reply to  Antero Ollila
March 29, 2021 1:35 am

Find out where and how those alues you quote have been measured and you may gains some significant understanding.

To bed B
March 27, 2021 3:21 pm Sydney and Narooma’s hot spot of ocean warming is more than three times the global average.

Another warming three times faster. Places cooling three times faster rarely make the news. It does highlight how much a good measure, rather the dogs breakfast we have, is.

Burl Henry
Reply to  To bed B
March 27, 2021 6:32 pm

to bed b:

Undoubtedly a stalled high pressure weather system parked there

Happens frequently around Australia.

Gordon A. Dressler
March 27, 2021 5:28 pm

This is a terrific article from Jim Steele!

I would like to comment on Jim’s second sentence: “Water vapor primarily and CO2 can slow radiative cooling via the greenhouse effect.”

This is the usual statement that is asserted—even by non-AGW-proponent scientists—regarding the radiation effect of water vapor and gaseous CO2 affecting Earth’s total radiation balance, but it is misleading since it fails to tell the whole story of their roles.

Because both water vapor and CO2 have very high molecular collision rates with N2 and O2 (collision frequencies are on the order of 1E+8 to 1E+10 per second, depending on the Boltzmann energy distribution at a given average temperature), together comprising 99% of dry air in Earth’s atmosphere, they actually serve to enhance radiative cooling to deep space when considering Earth’s total radiation balance.

Normally, N2 and O2 being homonuclear diatomic gases without a dipole moment should not, in isolation, be able to absorb or emit EM radiation . . . and thus, should theoretically not be involved in the radiation balance of the atmosphere when considering either incoming solar radiation (mostly visible and near-IR) or outgoing (mostly LWIR) thermal radiation from Earth’s land and ocean surfaces. The commonly-used phrase is that N2 and O2 are “transparent” to LWIR, as they are for incoming solar radiation.

However—and this is the key point that is often not considered—it is the very rapid collisions of LWIR-absorbing (therefore, excited) water and CO2 molecules that enables the “thermalization” of LWIR energy throughout the atmosphere . . . basically, ensuring an essentially equal average temperature of all atmospheric gases for a given altitude above sea-level (neglecting local vertical convection currents, of course). The fundamental reason that this occurs is that molecular-to-molecular collisions do, in fact, cause rapid acceleration/deceleration of each molecule’s shared electron cloud and each atom’s nuclear magnetic moment) at the “instant of collision” and it is this momentary charge acceleration/deceleration that permits the N2 and O2 molecules to emit EM photons that they would otherwise be incapable of doing in isolation from just their molecular symmetrical stretching vibration mode. This type of radiation is most commonly referred to as “thermal radiation from gases” (see ).

Note that such thermal radiation from homonuclear diatomic gases is not classic temperature-dependent blackbody thermal radiation nor is it restricted to discrete spectral absorption/emission lines (such as those that are associated with the binary compounds water vapor and CO2, absent molecule-molecule collisions).

The collision-induced radiation from 99% of the volume of Earth’s atmospheric gases (tied to the Boltzmann distribution of thermal energy of each gas specie) is the predominate source of Earth’s radiation energy going to deep space . . . not that directly from water vapor, not that directly from cloud tops, not that directly from CO2, and not that directly from Earth’s surface.

Jackie Pratt
March 27, 2021 6:58 pm

Changes in land surface conditions are another critical dynamic. For example, given the exact same amount of incoming heat, dry soils will increase surface temperatures twice as fast as moist soils.

So, dry soils under the same daylight conditions as ‘wet’ soil will reach a higher temperature. But ‘wet’ soil is wet, as in ‘wet with water’, and as such wouldn’t the wet soil have a much higher heat/energy capacity? So the wet soil, even at a lower temperature, could have absorbed more energy than the dry soil? And I’d guess that the wet soil’s heat transfer coefficient is higher than dry soil, so the temperature gradient would be such that the elevated temperature ‘goes deeper’. Sounds like wet soil would be a much better ‘thermal energy battery’ than dry soil, as far as building an ‘energy charge’.

not to mention that ‘twice as fast’ is just junk terminology.

Walter Sobchak
March 27, 2021 9:46 pm

This article needs to go into Everything Climate

Michael Fox
March 27, 2021 10:15 pm

Jim, I’m not a climate scientist. This is the clearest explanation of climate dynamics (and most comprehensive) I’ve read.

However, you say: “These high‑pressure systems block moist ocean winds from bringing summer rains to the west coast of California and the Mediterranean regions. This dynamic causes several months of summer drought each year, making California one of the most fire prone regions globally. La Nina years extend summer droughts into the winter. Simultaneously, due to the clock‑wise circulation of the Pacific high, moisture carrying winds are pushed northward causing wet summers from Oregon to Alaska.”

Well, I’m approaching my 50th consecutive summer in western Oregon where I’ve yet to experience a wet one (despite that the local joke is that you don’t schedule picnics until July 5; that’s when you’re guaranteed to have nice weather). Can you please explain?

Jim Steele
Reply to  Michael Fox
March 27, 2021 10:34 pm

My son attended Oregon University (the Ducks) and just by looking at the lowland vegetation it certainly appeared Oregon gets more moisture than California. The precise latitude of blocking would be hard to predict, but from my casual observations driving up into Oregon and Washington, the further north you go the more likely you are to get rain. I dont have the stats to argue quantitatively, but northern Washington and southern Alaska are home to temperate rainforests.

Working in the Sierra Nevada I could be in completely dry, clear-sky weather due to the blocking of moisture from the west due to that Pacific high pressure, but at the same time look across to the Reno area, and watch thunderstorms and rain because those rains are driven by monsoonal activity bringing moisture from the south.

Where do you live? southern Oregon? Since you’re west of the Cascades you should be getting more rain, than at least eastern Oregon. I suggest getting Cliff Mass’s The Weather of the Pacific Northwest  for insights to weather in your location and how local circulation affects you.

Michael Fox
Reply to  Jim Steele
March 28, 2021 11:38 am


Thanks for your response. Go Ducks!

I live in the southern end of the Willamette Valley. And indeed, your casual observations are correct: you do get more rain the farther north you go. Salem and Portland get more precipitation than Eugene, and it seems like it’s always gray in Seattle.

Counterclockwise lows off the Pacific bring us the rain from October through late spring. Summer clockwise highs bring western Oregon winds from the northwest, and “the skies are not cloudy all day” from the first week in July through September. My casual observation by looking at the satellite pix daily is that the Pacific lows go up over the top of the high into SW Alaska. Western Oregon’s summer climate is essentially the same as California’s, but not nearly so warm as, say, Chico’s or Redding’s. See, e.g.:

If you’re in the Sierra Nevada looking at Reno you’re sitting in the Sierra rain shadow, which is essentially the same as the Cascade rain shadow affecting eastern Oregon.

I also have a home in far south-eastern Oregon, which is susceptible to the same summer monsoonal thunderstorms as Reno, but with usually less moisture. See, e.g.:

So, I guess the western Oregon climate is Mediterranean with oceanic influences, or oceanic in the winter, and Mediterranean in the summer. See, e.g.:

Kind regards,

Mike Fox

John Tillman
Reply to  Michael Fox
March 28, 2021 10:27 am

Born in Eastern Oregon over 70 years ago, I’ve lived in Central and Western Oregon, but not Southern. Also in Southern and Northern CA.

The transition from California’s Mediterranean climate to the Pacific NW’s Western Marine zone is gradual, however there is a movable weather feature distinguishing the two systems.

Unlike their equatorward neighbors, marine west coast climates lie beyond the farthest poleward extent of the subtropical anticyclone. They experience the midlatitude westerlies and traveling frontal cyclones all year. Precipitation totals vary somewhat throughout the year in response to the changing location and intensity of these storm systems, but annual accumulations generally range from 20 to 100 inches, with local totals exceeding 200 inches where onshore winds encounter ranges.

For example, San Francisco averages ~24 inches per year, Eureka 43″, Coos Bay 64″, La Push, WA 100″ (backed by the Olympics rather than the lower Coast Range), Nanaimo 71″ and Ketchikan 140-160″. Anchorage, by contrast, averages only ~17″.

The Willamette and other inland valleys west of the Cascades get less, for example Portland 43″, and of course Central Oregon, in the rain shadow of the volcanic range, is a high desert.

Chile, where I live now, experiences the same transition. I’m in the central, Mediterranean zone, but have also lived in the southern Western Marine zone. A coast range and even higher inland volcanic range, ie the Andes, makes the NH and SH situations similar. The Humboldt Current is however colder than the Kuroshio and California Currents. The equatorward Desert zone here is even drier than Baja. In fact the Atacama rivals the Namib as driest on the planet.

John Tillman
Reply to  John Tillman
March 28, 2021 10:56 am

Also lived in England, another western maritime climate, but with a warmer, poleward current offshore, rather than cooler, equatorward flow. All of Britain lies north of the 49th parallel, much of the US-Canadian boundary.

Michael Fox
Reply to  John Tillman
March 28, 2021 1:24 pm

Thanks, John! Very interesting and informative.

~~ MF

March 27, 2021 10:47 pm

Changes in land surface conditions are another critical dynamic. For example, given the exact same amount of incoming heat, dry soils will increase surface temperatures twice as fast as moist soils. As expanding human populations drained wetlands, and increasingly shunted rainwater into storm sewers, drier soils have caused abnormally higher temperatures during normally occurring droughts and heat waves. 

For me, this is one of the true man made contributions to warming.

It ain’t global, it ain’t CO2* and it ain’t catastrophic

I also think the changes in land surface conditions and lack of maintenance of surface water drainage contributes a great deal to localised flooding

*beyond normal bounds blah, blah, blah

Last edited 1 year ago by Redge
Harri Luuppala
March 27, 2021 11:25 pm

There is rather new knowledge of Solar Barycenter. The very first calculation using that and measured TSI gives interesting outcome for coming centuries.

Study is paid by public supporters and partly by ”US Airforce grant PRJ02156” and it is reviewed last month and published some days ago.

Some highlights:

This amount of the extra solar radiation input into the terrestrial atmosphere and ocean has not been yet considered in the current climate models.”

Hence, in 1600–2600 the Earth will be turning closer to the Sun for up to 25 additional days after the summer solstice, while turned towards the Sun with its Northern hemisphere, before it approaches the local aphelion.”

”the solar irradiance S can vary either because of the variations of intensity I of solar radiation at the Sun itself or because of the variations of a distance d between the Sun and Earth.”

Inverse square law [see picture] -> max irradiance 1411 W/m^2 during the above millenia 1600 – 2600.

The difference in the irradiance is 1411–1366 = 45 W/m^2, that is 3.3%”
[1366 e.g. by Lean et Al,]

The study:
DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.96450

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Harri Luuppala
March 28, 2021 7:55 am

How can you go wrong making a prediction that spans one thousand years, including 580 years into the future?

Go for it!

March 28, 2021 1:24 am

If you admit that GHG are warming the earth, additional CO2 will bring additional warming , that’s pure logic. We know that the relation between greenhouse effect in watts/m and concentration in ppm, there is a logarithmic function , but the CO2 effect is not saturated according to MODTRAN model…
The big open question is HOW MUCH ??? but we cannot measure it ,even the effect of total CO2 alone …
IPCC over estimates CO2 cause, but we cannot eliminate it , that’s also an error !
The truth is between both …
in 2040, we expect to have solar minimum and also low phase of AMO cycle , this should give us the opportunity to measure the real difference from anthropogenic radiative forcing …

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Hubert
March 28, 2021 6:00 am

“If you admit that GHG are warming the earth, additional CO2 will bring additional warming , that’s pure logic.”

It would be logical to assume that, unless you have heard of Dr. Happer’s new research paper which claims CO2 has an upper limit to how much warmth it can add to the Earth’s atmosphere, and at current CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, we are almost there. Adding more CO2 won’t add that much additional warmth. We are home free, if Dr. Happer proves to be correct. And my money is on Dr. Happer. He has a proven track record.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Hubert
March 28, 2021 8:08 am

“If you admit that GHG are warming the earth, additional CO2 will bring additional warming , that’s pure logic.”

That “pure logic” is WRONG! There is a common physical process known as reaching an asymptotic limit (aka a physical process becoming “saturated”), wherein adding additional amounts of something known to cause changes in a variable ceases doing so beyond a certain point. A commonly-cited example of such is that dissolving salt in water continues only to a certain salinity level, which is a function of water temperature . . . beyond that salinity point, adding further salt does NOT result in it going into solution.

Wijngaarden and Happer present the scientific evidence that atmospheric CO2 at its present concentration level is very close to—if not already—saturated in its ability to contribute any additional “greenhouse gas” feedback to Earth’s surface temperature (related discussion and link to pre-print at ).

Matthew Sykes
March 28, 2021 2:42 am

I dont accept that the oceans can absorb global warming. LW energy from CO2 can not penetrate water to any meaningful depth, a micron or so, and cant climb the uphill temperature gradient.

The SAGE Tangaroa experiments detected, with 100 watts m^-2 of cloud cover IR, a 0.2 C increase in this few micron thick layer.

CO2 is giving 2 watts a sq meter.

And any effect on causing the ocean to retain heat, by raising the skin temp this tiny amount, is heat it got from visible light, that can penetrate water.

So no, the oceans can not absorb global warming, global warming is 15 micron energy from CO2. It cant penetrate water.

Reply to  Matthew Sykes
March 29, 2021 2:05 am

Short wave (light) solar radiation can penetrate ocean waters to 100 meters or so, depending on water conditions. Everything radiates IR but IR cannot radiate out of the ocean except at the very surface. Much of the daily absorbed energy is lost from the ocean during the tropics’ nightly overturning and various other processes that depend on convection and conduction but considerable energy can accumulate below the surface. Some of that energy may remain for decades, centuries, perhaps millennia, which are climate lengths of time.

Gerry, England
March 28, 2021 6:14 am

Another excellent and reasoned article by Jim Steele. I have one quibble and this is that journalists and politicians lack the necessary scientific knowledge. I think they lack the necessary intelligence and couldn’t even get close to any scientific understanding. Do you need any scientific knowledge to grasp that the world does not possess enough minerals for all the batteries their policies require even on a national basis let alone worldwide?

Mark Fife
March 28, 2021 6:32 am

You are missing the most important part of the El Nino, La Nina phase change which is variation in wind driven coastal upwelling, As this upwelling water is rich in CO2 ENSO cycles have a profound affect upon the CO2 cycle. During an El Nino upwelling is suppressed, reducing the ocean to air flux of CO2. This is why El Nino years make for poor fishing seasons off the coast of Peru.

El Nino events cause warming in the Nino regions (Nino 1,2,3,3.4, and 4) because the upwelling of cold water is reduced. This has nothing to do with how much energy is absorbed from the sun. This is analogous to what happens in your water heater when you are using hot water, which is replaced by cold water flowing in. When you stop or reduce the flow of water out the flow of cold water in is also stopped or reduced. The result is the temperature of the water in the tank increases.

La Nina events are the opposite of this.

El Nino events result in a net increase in atmospheric CO2 because the increase in CO2 net emissions are greater than the reduction in ocean to air flux.

You need to read this paper concerning what was learned from the OCO-2 satellite launched in 2014.

“During strong El Niño events, there is an overall increase in global atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This increase is predominantly due to the response of the terrestrial carbon cycle to El Niño–induced changes in weather patterns. But along with the terrestrial component, the tropical Pacific Ocean also plays an important role. Typically, the tropical Pacific Ocean is a source of CO2 to the atmosphere due to equatorial upwelling that brings CO2-rich water from the interior ocean to the surface. During El Niño, this equatorial upwelling is suppressed in the eastern and the central Pacific Ocean, reducing the supply of CO2 to the surface.”

Jim Steele
Reply to  Mark Fife
March 28, 2021 9:05 am

The only thing I am missing is what is your point and what are you disagreeing with?

March 28, 2021 12:13 pm

Thanks Jim – a treasure trove of useful knowledge, as usual!

Clyde Spencer
March 28, 2021 2:51 pm

It looks to me that your Fig. 4 is demonstrating a high correlation between US warming and metropolitan urban corridors. That is, it demonstrates how the Urban Heat Island effect is biasing the average temperatures.

Jim Steele
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
March 28, 2021 3:28 pm

Yes, it suggests an urban effect too. Boston to DC, SF, LA and the Tampa areas all stand out for their lack of cooling stations

However the graphic comes from  Wickham (2013) Influence of Urban Heating on the Global Temperature Land Average using Rural Sites Identified from MODIS Classification, who claim because rural regions also experienced warming there is no urban heat effect. However their methods use a static division of urban versus rural yet failed to determine if both urban and rural experience increasing population trends that would cause both regions to warm via urbanization effects

Steve Z
March 29, 2021 8:41 am

An excellent analysis! What this shows is that there are many “control knobs”, some of which can operate in opposite directions simultaneously, and generate unusually hot or dry weather in some areas and unusually cold or wet weather in other areas at the same time, and CO2 concentration is one of the weakest “control knobs”.

Jim Steele correctly points out that the CO2 absorption bands in the IR wavelengths are nearly saturated at low altitudes, and increasing CO2 concentrations would simply cause the same amount of energy to be absorbed closer to the earth. However, at higher altitudes, very little outgoing IR energy is left to be absorbed, and the lower atmospheric pressure means that there are fewer molecules of CO2 per cubic meter than at lower altitudes, so that very little IR energy could be absorbed in the stratosphere.

Kevin kilty
March 30, 2021 8:33 am

Great article. Pertinent, topical, and with informative examples.

Ulric Lyons
March 31, 2021 1:38 pm

“Although some correctly argue observed changes in energy output during sunspot cycles is too low to directly explain the earth’s warming and cooling, small solar changes are amplified by ocean dynamics. Any decrease in solar irradiance cools the equator far more than higher latitudes. This decreases the north‑south temperature difference that drives the trade winds.”

Weaker solar wind states cause negative North Atlantic & Arctic Oscillation conditions, the then more southerly jet stream inhibits the trade winds. The negative NAO/AO is what causes the cold shots to the continents, and drives Arctic warming directly with increased warm humidity events and cyclones into the Arctic, and indirectly through driving a warmer AMO by the changes in wind patterns. The AMO also has a lagged positive feedback from ENSO, with major AMO warm pulses peaking roughly 8 months after the December peak of an El Nino episode. This is why Arctic warming is normal at least during each centennial solar minimum. Study the OMNI solar wind data, it accounts for the important detail like the great 1976-77 climate shift, and the AMO warm and cold anomalies at inter-annual scales, and the AMO envelope. It’s an amplified negative feedback, as the warmer SST’s reduce low cloud cover.

Rising CO2 forcing is modeled to increase positive NAO/AO conditions, that cannot drive AMO and Arctic warming, neither can stronger solar wind states. So their model is of the correct sign, but weaker solar wind states since 1995 are clearly overwhelming the effects of any rise in CO2 forcing.

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