Uncertain Clouds

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I read an interesting quote in the latest Climanifesto from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, their Sixth Assessment Report, known as “IPCC AR6” to the initiates:

Climate Feedbacks and Sensitivity IPCC AR6 WGI Section 7.7

The net effect of changes in clouds in response to global warming is to amplify human-induced warming, that is, the net cloud feedback is positive (high confidence).

Compared to AR5, major advances in the understanding of cloud processes have increased the level of confidence and decreased the uncertainty range in the cloud feedback by about 50%. An assessment of the low-altitude cloud feedback over the subtropical oceans, which was previously the major source of uncertainty in the net cloud feedback, is improved owing to a combined use of climate model simulations, satellite observations, and explicit simulations of clouds, altogether leading to strong evidence that this type of cloud amplifies global warming.

The net cloud feedback, obtained by summing the cloud feedbacks assessed for individual regimes, is 0.42 [–0.10 to 0.94] W m-2 °C–1. A net negative cloud feedback is very unlikely. (high confidence)

The idea of global net positive cloud feedback always seemed very unlikely to me. In part this is because I lived for years in the tropics, spending much time outdoors. When it gets warmer in the tropics, cumulus clouds form, reflect lots of strong tropical sunshine back to space, reduce the incoming energy, and thus cool the surface. And if warming still continues, thunderstorms form, which cool the surface in a host of ways. So I’ve watched cloud feedback happen day after day, seeing more warming leading to more cloud-based cooling, not to amplified cloud warming. And the tropics is a large chunk of the planet.

Now, clouds have two opposite radiative effects on the surface. They reflect solar shortwave radiation back out to space, cooling the surface. And clouds also both absorb and emit longwave (thermal) infrared radiation, leaving the surface warmer than when there are no clouds.

This is not theoretical. You can feel the shortwave effect on a clear summer day when a cloud comes over and leaves the surface cooler than with no cloud. You can also feel the longwave effect on a clear winter night when a cloud comes over and leaves the surface warmer than with no cloud.

[For those objecting that downwelling longwave radiation from cold clouds can’t leave the surface warmer than if there are no clouds, please see my post “Can A Cold Object Warm A Hot Object“.]

The sum of these two radiative effects, shortwave cooling and longwave warming, is called the “net cloud radiative effect” or “net CRE”. If it is positive, the clouds leave the surface warmer, and if it is negative, the clouds leave the surface cooler, than in their absence.

So I turned once again to the CERES satellite-based dataset to see what I could learn. It contains data on the net surface net cloud radiative effect. Figure 1 shows the net radiative effects of clouds (“net CRE”) around the world.

Figure 1a. Net surface CRE, Atlantic view
Figure 1b. Net cloud radiative effect, Pacific view

There are several interesting things regarding the effects of the clouds shown above. First, on average they cool the surface by about twenty watts per square meter (W/m2). Next, clouds warm the poles by about the same amount, twenty W/m2 or so. And clouds cool the ocean about three times as much as they cool the land.

How is the net CRE related to the temperature? We can look at that in a couple of ways. Figure 2 below shows a scatterplot of average net CRE versus average surface temperature.

Because it is using 21-year averages, this type of analysis has the great benefit of including all feedbacks and slow-acting processes. These are the gridcell temperatures that each gridcell has equilibrated to over decades, after the net water vapor feedback and the cloud feedback and any other feedback have had their effect. Thus, this gives us a good idea of the long-term net cloud feedback at various temperatures.

Figure 2. Scatterplot of 1° latitude by 1° longitude gridcell average temperatures and net cloud radiative effect.

In Figure 2, the trend at any temperature is given by the slope of the yellow/black line. It shows on average how much the CRE changes for a given change in temperature. From this, we can see several things. First, at the coldest temperatures the slope is positive—Antarctic clouds lead to warming. But above temperatures of about -20°C, the general trend of the net cloud feedback is negative.

Next, above about 26°C, which is about 30% of the planet, the net cloud feedback is extremely negative. For each additional degree of warming, the net cloud radiative effect decreases by tens of watts.

Finally, there are two areas where the net cloud feedback is positive—where the average temperature is below -20°C (mostly the Antarctic Plateau) and where it is between 15°C and 25°C (temperate zone)

There’s another way that we can look at the long-term net cloud feedback. It also involves the looking at the same gridcell averages of temperature and net CRE, but in a different way. The method involves looking at the area around each gridcell, to see what the trend is at that gridcell.

The logic behind the method is that if we look at some given gridcell, it has an average temperature and an average cloud radiative effect. And if we want to see what happens if the average temperature is 1°C higher or lower, we can look at the surrounding gridcells to see what’s happening at different temperatures in that local area.

For example, here are a couple of typical patches of Pacific Ocean area, each one measuring 9° latitude x 9° longitude. These are 21-year averages of the CERES data.

Figure 3a. 21-year average temperature of a 9° square patch of the Pacific.
Figure 3b. 21-year average net cloud radiative effect of a 9° square patch of the Pacific.

As you can see, in that part of the Pacific the correspondence between ~ steady-state average temperatures and ~ steady-state average net CRE is strongly negative. I calculate the trend, and assign it to the central gridcell of the block. I repeat the process for each of the world’s 64,800 gridcells, examining what’s happening in the local area, and that gives me the global map shown in Figure 4 below.

Figure 4a. Change in cloud radiative effect from a 1°C increase in surface temperature, Atlantic View. White/black lines show the global average, about -2 W/m2.
Figure 4b. Change in cloud radiative effect from a 1°C increase in surface temperature, Pacific View. White/black lines show global average, about -2 W/m2.

Some things of note. The net cloud feedback is positive over the land, and negative over the ocean. In agreement with slope of the yellow/black line in Figure 2, the Antarctic plateau and the temperature zones are the positive areas, while the tropics are negative. And as indicated in Figure 2, some parts of the warmest tropical ocean is strongly negative..

Finally, as a global area-weighted average, this analysis gives a global negative net cloud feedback of -1.9 W/m2 per degree of surface warming. Negative.

Yes, I understand that this is the exact opposite of what the climate model simulations, satellite observations, and explicit simulations of clouds” referenced by the IPCC say… but then, the IPCC is a political body, not a scientific body.

And more to the point, this analysis is based on what the earth is actually doing, not on “climate model simulations” which even the IPCC agrees are greatly flawed and uncertain on clouds.

And yes, it disagrees with the “scientific consensus” … when I was a kid we had asbestos ceiling tiles in our grade school because at that time the scientific consensus was that asbestos ceiling tile was 100% totally harmless. So you’ll excuse me if consensi don’t impress me much.

My very best wishes to all,


Endnote: This is only the radiative effects of clouds. In addition to the cloud radiative effects, clouds cool the surface in a variety of other ways.

• They increase the wind, which increases evaporation, which increases surface cooling.

• Wind also increases sensible heat loss from the surface.

• Wind over the ocean leads to an increase in surface albedo through the effects of white breaking waves, spray, and spume.

• Via both spray and waves, wind increases the surface area of the ocean, which leads to increased evaporative and sensible heat loss.

• Clouds lead to rain and snow, both of which have a strong cooling effect on the surface.

• Thermally driven condensing clouds are surrounded by slowly descending dryer air, which allows more radiation to escape to space.

• Wind increases oceanic surface overturning, which brings cooler deep water to the surface.

So the radiative cooling shown in the graphics above greatly underestimates both the total cooling effect and the total net negative feedback of the clouds.

PS: Can I say how bored I am with personal attacks, and with uncited claims that I’m wrong in some unspecified statement that I purportedly made somewhere, and with people repeating the opposing case without evidence … let me recommend to everyone my post “Agreeing To Disagree”, which contains the following graphic:

Graham’s Hierarchy of Disagreement

If you are commenting, please take a look at that hierarchy and determine where your comment fits … then see if you can move it up a level or two …

Most critically, the author of that graphic said:


The most convincing form of disagreement is refutation. It’s also the rarest, because it’s the most work. Indeed, the disagreement hierarchy forms a kind of pyramid, in the sense that the higher you go the fewer instances you find.

To refute someone you probably have to quote them. You have to find a “smoking gun,” a passage in whatever you disagree with that you feel is mistaken, and then explain why it’s mistaken. If you can’t find an actual quote to disagree with, you may be arguing with a straw man.


That, in part, is why I always ask people to quote the exact words you are discussing.

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John Tillman
September 17, 2021 10:19 am

Global circulation models can’t do clouds, since they lack the resolution by orders of magnitude. Increasing computer power has gotten horizontal grid cell size down to 100 x 100 kilometers. Actually to model clouds would require a maximum scale of a kilometer, although smaller would be better.

Hence, a minimum of 10,000 times more number crunching power is called for, leaving vertical dimension the same as now. So GIGO, question begging parameterization must reign for the foreseeable future.

Reply to  John Tillman
September 17, 2021 5:02 pm

I’ve always wondered why ~ 114 GCMs are needed if “the science is settled”.

Shirley the creators of these 114 versions could have by now agreed (settled?) on maybe 2 or 3 of these?

Reply to  Mr.
September 17, 2021 6:44 pm

Shirley is very busy!

John Tillman
Reply to  Mr.
September 18, 2021 6:29 pm

Most GCMs, ie those with ECSes above 2.0, can all be tossed. But then, no scary result requiring destruction of industrial civilization.

September 17, 2021 10:20 am

So could I get a peer reviewed and published paper if I claim cloud cover is temporarily increasing and that’s causing the varioius ‘pauses’ saving us from all that nasty CO2? 🙂

Tim Gorman
September 17, 2021 10:26 am

“[For those objecting that downwelling longwave radiation from cold clouds can’t leave the
surface warmer than if there are no clouds, please see my post “

It leaves it warmer at night than it otherwise would be. During the day? Not so much. Nighttime temps don’t seem to control daytime temps very much. The daytime temps are more controlled by seasonal variation and cloud cover than by nighttime temperature variation.

This is why alarmist claims that the Earth is going to turn into a cinder are so utterly pathetic.

Curious George
Reply to  Tim Gorman
September 17, 2021 11:14 am

Willis, just curious – are your data daytime data, nighttime data, or 24 hour data? Would it be possible to see all three?

Barrie Reynolds
Reply to  Tim Gorman
September 18, 2021 4:38 am

Thanks for both these posts but especially the one on downwelling radiation. That is has always confused me and I welcome the clarity you bring.

September 17, 2021 10:26 am

A great and well reasoned analysis.

I would like to point out your “Agreeing to Disagree” graphic is totally out of proportion. It’s pretty obvious the Name-Calling and Ad Hominem sections should take up at least 50% of the triangle, the Responding to Tone and Contradiction sections take up the next 25% and the remaining three sections take up the rest.

Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 10:34 am

“Can a Cold Object Warm A Hot Object” NO IT CAN”T. You were wrong then and you are regurgitating the same nonsense now. Both you and Watts need to go back to University and study Thermodynamics which my bud Al Einstein ( we both have IQs of 160 ) can understand the principles. I’d love you to get in a conversation with Joe Olson, PE who as a Civil Engineer will make you look silly. Oh he’s banned from this site….I wonder why???

Tom Halla
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 10:55 am

Does the fact that a given object is cooler than another object somehow make it stop radiating energy?
I really think you are confusing convection, conduction, and radiation.

M Courtney
Reply to  Tom Halla
September 17, 2021 2:35 pm

No Fool.
Only the hottest star in the Universe can emit energy as otherwise it could warm other stars.
My mate Einstein (whom I have an even higher IQ than, by my own metric) agrees.

Reply to  Tom Halla
September 19, 2021 11:43 am

Does the fact that a given object is cooler than another object somehow make it stop radiating energy?”

What is it you don’t understand about the spontaneous transfer of energy defined by the term ‘heat’?

You are another one who confuses radiation with heat flux.

Tom Halla
Reply to  leitmotif
September 19, 2021 11:46 am

You are confusing conduction and convection with any energy transfer

Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 11:13 am

Ho hum, this one again.
The exchange of radiation to and fro between a warm and a cold body will slow down the cooling rate of both bodies taken together.
But the speed of radiation is so fast that the effect would be unmeasurable. To get a measurable result one needs convective overturning within atmospheres around both bodies which converts surface KE to PE and back again thereby slowing the rate of radiation to space from both bodies. That does give a measurable result.

Reply to  Stephen Wilde
September 17, 2021 12:57 pm

Actually, it does. The rate of radiative heat transfer between 2 objects is calculated from the differences between each temperature to the 4th power (that is, each temperature raised to the 4th power then subtract those two much bigger numbers). So when you have a clear night sky you are calculating heat loss to a black body (theoretically absolute zero, but in actuality a couple of Kelvin degrees above absolute zero) so it’s the surface temperature raised to the 4th, minus zero. If you insert a cloud between the black body (nighttime sky for example) and the Earth’s surface, now you’re calculating heat loss to something well above absolute zero, and because of reflection and emissivity it isn’t necessarily the temperature of the water and/or ice droplets that make up the visible portions of that cloud. As I already pointed out, W.E. is correct, I just would prefer if everyone would describe it as insulation and/or heat shielding, rather than making the statements that cause me to cringe.

Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 17, 2021 2:33 pm

Red is exactly right. If one reads Willis’s article with the unfortunate title (because it immediately gets people like BigFoot on their high horse), one will learn the same thing. Clouds, though colder than the ground, make the ground and the air above it “warmer” BUT ONLY in comparison to what those temperature would be if the ground were radiating to space with no H2O in the way because space is 3C, which is waaayyyy colder than the clouds. Clouds are warmer than space, so they cause the ground underneath them at night (no incoming soler) to be warmer than it WOULD BE if the ground were radiating directly to space.

Sheesh, this seems like such a simple notion it boggles me some people either don’t understand it or want to argue a different point entirely.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Meisha
September 17, 2021 4:20 pm

The big problem is pretty much semantics and definitions. Myself and many others take the “SURFACE” to be the land/oceans. It is like the walls of a house. What a number of others take to be the “surface” is the air at some small distance above the Earth’s land/water surface.

When setting up a thermodynamic problem, the basic assumption is that the earth’s atmosphere is not heated by the sun’s shortwave radiation. Only the “surface” consisting of the land/air is heated. (I think the near infrared from the sun has a substantial effect on the atmosphere.). This means the atmosphere from the lower boundary to the top is a separate body, i.e., an insulator.

When calculating what goes on, you simply can not ignore the time portion of gradients. This is why calculus was required to study thermodynamics. Trying to treat all this heat exchange with bodies of different masses, specific heats, emissions, absorptions, temperatures , etc. without also including time varying aspects is leading everyone down primrose paths. Averages of temps, w/m^2, enthalpy, and everything else is just not proper science. 1 w/m^2 at the equator has a much smaller effect than 1 w/m^2 at the poles.

The atmosphere is an insulator, if as assumed, it has no energy of its own. Treat it as a body made up of various components, an alloy as it were, and find the gradients for each component. I have started on this but it gets real complicated real quick. I suspect that is why averages are the predominate math being done and to hell with any time components.

There I feel better!

Reply to  Jim Gorman
September 17, 2021 11:41 pm

Can you elaborate
1 w/m^2 at the equator has a much smaller effect than 1 w/m^2 at the poles.”
I thougth effect was measured in Watt

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Torbjörn
September 18, 2021 8:18 am

You entirely missed the point. The tropics receive a much higher amount of insolation than the poles. An average of 1 w/m^2 at each location is a much higher percent of the total at the poles than at the equator. Averages are misleading.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Torbjörn
September 18, 2021 8:27 am

The bigger point is that effects vary by trig functions in time both based on latitude and the time of day precession. Using averages ignores the effects at the extremes. Basically the variance of the distributions are large and based upon time. Think ±90 deg and day/night temps.

Reply to  Jim Gorman
September 18, 2021 10:29 am

But the atmosphere is heated by shortwave radiation. That’s why the thermosphere.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Sparko
September 18, 2021 7:42 pm

Sorry but you’re way off base. Shortwave (visible) only heats the actual surface, that is the land and oceans. Near infrared from the sun heats H2O. Think about why clouds disappear, that is, revert back to water vapor. CO2 absorbs little near infrared compared to H2O. Outside of H2O, the atmosphere is warmed by energy from the land/water, not shortwave from the sun.

Smart Rock
Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 17, 2021 5:03 pm

You can feel the effect if you live in a cold country and inhabit an old house with single-glazed windows, essentially transparent to IR.

Stand in front of a window on a cold snowy day. Your face (let’s say your skin temp is 35°C) feels cold because your face is radiating heat outwards and receiving a lot less radiative heat from the snowbank outside.

Now move away from the window and stand facing a wall (assuming that you have the heat on, the wall will be at about 20°C). Your face now feels warmer. So is the 20°C wall heating your 35°C face? No, but the wall is radiating more heat at your face than the snowbank was, so your face experiences a smaller heat loss relative to what it had when you faced the window. Your skin temperature might go up to 36°C, so in an indirect way your face has been “warmed” by a colder object.

It’s not difficult, once you get to appreciate that everything that’s not at absolute zero is always exchanging radiative heat with its environment. At “normal” temperatures the great majority of heat transfer is by conduction and convection, so we only tend to think about radiation when we feel heat from a hot source, like the sun, or a nice coal fire in your living room fireplace.

But some people just can’t get their heads around it, despite elevated IQs. I have a moderately high IQ, but I would never use it in conversation, especially not to justify a point I was tying to make. I’ve either got the facts right, or I’ve got the facts wrong, intelligence has nothing to do with it.

I read somewhere, quite recently, that intelligent people believe more fallacies than less gifted folk, because their intelligence allows them to make plausible-sounding arguments to themselves that appear to justify those fallacies.

Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 11:19 am

I’d say that comment has one foot in the green and one solidly in the orange.

Dave Yaussy
Reply to  BrianB
September 17, 2021 12:37 pm

+1, excellent. It was so orange that I thought at first it was sarcasm, but evidently self-awareness is beyond this fellow. (And it has to be a guy.)

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Dave Yaussy
September 17, 2021 6:25 pm

Nor does he talk like a technical person. I have nothing against him being a social scientist unless he’s pretending to be something else.

Surely a 160 IQ, steeped in thermo would give us a detailed thermodynamic rebuttal of the ‘error’ made by Willis.

Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 11:54 am

For someone who claims to be so smart, you say some pretty stupid things.
The temperature of any object is controlled by the amount of energy entering vs the amount of energy leaving.

When a cold object (cloud) obscures and ever colder object (the sky) then the total energy impinging on the object increases, and the temperature increases.

It’s really very simple, so long as you actually understand both thermodynamics and the nature of radiation.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2021 1:01 pm

The temperature of any object is controlled by the amount of energy entering vs the amount of energy leaving.

Cart before the horse. How about exothermic reactions? What about living creatures? Your body maintains a relatively stable 98.6° F by involuntary responses of shivering, erecting hair follicles, and sweating. Well, OK, in the end the temperature of your body is a result of the amount of heat entering and the amount leaving, but what’s controlling what?

Jim Gorman
Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2021 4:21 pm

I’m sorry but you missed a point. Radiation occurs based upon the temperature of a body. The amount radiated is not dependent on the temperature of any other body. The gradient (i.e., the temperature loss per unit of time) will be affected due to the reception of radiation from another, colder body (i.e., your energy out vs energy in) but the hot body will continue to radiate at whatever temperature point it is at on the gradient curve.

Placing a warmer body in between an even colder body will not drive the hot body back up the gradient. It will only slow how fast heat is then lost by the hot body. Entropy controls what happens. You must be careful to not create a perpetual motion machine.

Reply to  Jim Gorman
September 18, 2021 12:37 pm

So we don’t need to have Schroedinger’s heat source?

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 20, 2021 7:10 am

interesting reading about Schrodinger’s equation. One important point is that time is an important variable. For some reason, climate science has settled on using averages, linear math, and statistical analysis of a single variable to predict the future. No integrals, no differentials, no trig functions, no time relationships.

It’s like the Global Average Temperature (GAT) folks saying the average of summer temps at 35N and winter temps at 35S will give a good approximation of a global temp. Oh,I forgot, throw in the tropics and you will have a good metric for the GAT. Nevermind that the metric doesn’t describe a place or time where that temperature can be can actually be experienced. It really should be renamed Global Average Metric!

Reply to  MarkW
September 18, 2021 12:06 am

I think it’s more complicated, add the albedo

Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 12:03 pm

Einstein never made an IQ test (thats why his IQ varies from 150-175).

Tom Abbott
Reply to  SxyxS
September 17, 2021 2:04 pm

How can it vary if he never took an IQ test? Maybe you mean those are people’s guesses as to what Albert’s IQ is?

M Courtney
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 17, 2021 2:37 pm

And what an IQ is too.

Reply to  M Courtney
September 17, 2021 5:09 pm

Well I did read that AOC was relieved when her IQ test came back negative.

Mike Lowe
Reply to  Mr.
September 18, 2021 3:21 am

No doubt about the validity of that IQ test, then!

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 19, 2021 10:47 am

What he meant was that post hoc estimates of Einstein’s IQ vary with the ‘expert’ making the estimate.

Mark ingraham
Reply to  SxyxS
September 17, 2021 2:40 pm

Iq doesn’t actually mean anything, the test has no internal validity above 130

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 12:59 pm

The inverse of an ad hominem is bragging about how smart you are (With the implication that you think you are smarter than the person you are criticizing, without knowing what the IQ is of that person.).

I have known a lot of Mensans, who scored well on standardized tests. Many of them were underachievers, which may explain why they joined Mensa. Many of the others were bright in certain ways, but sometimes didn’t have the smarts to come in out of the rain. Even my dog was smart enough to come in out of the rain. Her breed was developed to hunt African lions. Therefore, she couldn’t have been too smart.

You need to remember that the concept of IQ was developed to help college administrators decide who to admit to college at a time when the resources were limited and they frowned on high school dropouts. So, IQ tests were developed to help predict the success of those who matriculated. Einstein never took a standardized IQ test and was subjectively evaluated after he achieved fame. However, when he was in secondary school, most of his teachers characterized him as mediocre. There is a good chance he would not have scored high had he taken a formal test.

I think that many of us here are less impressed with your claimed IQ than you are. Being smart has its advantages. Just remember that with 7 billion people in the world, the probability is very high that at least one other person is smarter than you. For all that you know, one of them frequents this blog.

Incidentally, your third sentence is grammatically incorrect. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out why. The exercise will be good for your neurons.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 17, 2021 2:10 pm

I’m still not sure what an IQ tests measures. I can’t reconcile a four-year-old girl having the IQ of an Einstein, with reality. Obviously, the four-year-old does not have as much information in her brain as Albert, so that can’t be what is being measured.

I’m skeptical of IQ tests. I think most everyone is smart at some things and not so smart at other things. There are a few people who appear to be smart at just about everything, but they are few and far between.

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 17, 2021 2:54 pm

The original concept of an IQ test was explicitly normalized by age!

The IQ test calculated a raw number for the participant’s mental age, which was then divided by their actual chronological age.

Both of my parents used to administer IQ tests in the 60s and 70s at a school for special needs children. (Back then, they were called handicapped.)

This was the basis for commentary (like in a court proceeding) that stated “the adult had the mental capacity of an eight-year-old”.

A smart and precocious 4-year-old has a very small denominator for their chronological age in the “IQ” calculation. This is why we hear reports of young children with much higher IQs than Einstein, yet none of them have yet grown up to present a Unified Field Theory.

P.S. Since I am just an “idiot”, I am sure someone with a higher IQ can explain “IQ” in a better fashion!

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Pillage Idiot
September 19, 2021 5:58 am

You gave a pretty good explanation. I understand much more about it now.

Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 17, 2021 6:06 pm

What IQ tests measure is not clear, but whatever it is, it is something humans recognize in each other. For example, the measured IQ of couples in cultures with assortative mating tend to be very highly correlated. The correlation between couples is higher than that between them and their children.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 17, 2021 9:06 pm

As I stated, the tests were originally designed to try to determine how well someone would perform in an academic environment. The following link says more succinctly that the Stanford-Binet test tries to determine a person’s ability to learn:


Dave Fair
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 18, 2021 12:15 pm

Any sort of a test measuring intelligence, including the IQ test, is primarily a measurement of one’s vocabulary. Want to be considered smarter? Read more and figure out (from context) or research unfamiliar terms. Read widely.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Dave Fair
September 19, 2021 5:59 am

That makes sense.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 17, 2021 2:13 pm

Einstein’s brain was studied after his death and found to be within normal limits except for the portion which connects the right and left lobes which was unusually large. This brain portion has a name and is believed to handle the communication between the brain halves.

James Schrumpf
Reply to  Anti-griff
September 17, 2021 4:27 pm

It’s called the corpus callosum.

Reply to  Anti-griff
September 18, 2021 11:55 pm

And no doubt explains why Einstein played Bach on the violin, when he was stuck, to let his brain figure out some tricky problem.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Anti-griff
September 19, 2021 6:08 am

Einstein is born with a brain wired a little differently from others, and next thing you know, he develops the Unified Field Theory.

There are other slightly differently wired people (in a good way) out there in our world, and that’s how humanity has advanced, and will advance.

Teach your children well, and someday they may give back in a very big way, like Albert did.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 17, 2021 6:16 pm

IQ tests were developed for the military. Below 83, soldiers are a liability rather than an asset.

Interesting: Boys born before and after 1922 when salt was iodized in Michigan (a highly deficient area) were tested on call up for WW2. Boys born before iodination were about 1/2 standard deviation lower than those born after due to iodine deficiency when their moms were preganant.


Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Fran
September 17, 2021 9:19 pm

The US army has administered aptitude tests for decades, and the early ones were accepted by Mensa and Intertel as proxies for strictly IQ tests such as the Stanford-Binet. However, I don’t think that they were developed for the military. When I was in Basic Training, I was given several batteries of tests, such as the general aptitude test and a special test for Officer Candidate School. The tests administered by the military today aren’t accepted by high-IQ societies as a substitute for IQ tests.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 1:57 pm

I wondered what Albert’s was.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 17, 2021 9:20 pm

Nobody knows for sure since he never took a standardized IQ test.

I suspect he was a little smarter than carbon bigfoot. After all, he invented tensor calculus along with his other accomplishments.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 19, 2021 6:14 am

I finally got a handle on IQ tests after reading some of the comments above.

I see I was correct to be skeptical about them, although I suppose they are useful in certain circumstances.

Ron Morse
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 19, 2021 9:44 am

Charles Murray’s Human Diversity makes it all clear and in very accessible language.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Tom Abbott
September 19, 2021 10:51 am

Basically, they determine if one is good at taking written tests. That is a useful aptitude or skill if one is going to pursue an advanced education.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
September 19, 2021 10:53 am

Not trying to be an a$$ but from wiki : In mathematics, tensor calculus, tensor analysis, or Ricci calculus is an extension of vector calculus to tensor fields (tensors that may vary over a manifold, e.g. in spacetime). Developed by Gregorio Ricci-Curbastro and his student Tullio Levi-Civita, it was used by Albert Einstein to develop his general theory of relativity. Unlike the infinitesimal calculus, tensor calculus allows presentation of physics equations in a form that is independent of the choice of coordinates on the manifold.
I think that Einstein wasn’t that great with some aspects of calculus too & I want to say his friend ( Besso??) helped him but Besso may have been his friend he used as an idea sounding board and it was another colleague who helped with the calculus.
An amazing man … read one of the biographies on Einstein if u can …. Walter Isaacson”s is the last I read and a good one but there may be better out there.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  stewartpid
September 21, 2021 12:10 pm

You may well be right. I was relying on something I read more than 60 years ago. I don’t know if I mis-remembered or the author of the book was wrong. However, the point was that, despite claiming to have an IQ equivalent to Einstein, I doubt that Carbon Bigfoot is in the same league as Einstein.

Loren C. Wilson
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 5:23 pm

You may not have studied heat transfer and heat shielding. This was well-covered in my class and is experimentally verified and used in many everyday items such as cars. Inserting a layer between a hot surface and a cold surface can reduce the rate of heat transfer, leaving the hot surface warmer than it otherwise would be.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 6:05 pm

Smart Carbon: folks like Einstein never mention their IQ rating. They don’t have to. Nor does any other person with a 160 IQ. Everyone gets to know of them by their work (which they are self compelled to produce). Oh, and no one with a 160 IQ would find himself so nicely triaged in the bottom rungs of Willis’s dispute triangle.

Tombstone Gabby
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 17, 2021 6:31 pm

G’Day Carbon Bigfoot,

“…study Thermodynamics…”

Great, if you plan on becoming an engineer – steam boilers, radiators etc. Gross mechanical objects.

At the atomic level, things are different. (Ever wonder why a negative electron doesn’t just spiral into the positive nucleus of an atom?)

I would suggest “Stars and Nebulas” by William J. Kaufmann, III – Department of Physics, San Diego State University. ISBN 0-7167-0081-6, Copyright 1978. Chapter 2: “Laws of Light”. Or go straight to page 39 and start reading.

I don’t know how many engineering lecturers would mention Rutherford, Bohr, Fraunhofer, or Kirchhoff, or even why they would. BTW – Bohr published his contribution to this discussion in 1913. It’s nothing new.

Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 18, 2021 1:20 am

Maybe you could try to lay out an argument about why they are wrong?

Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 18, 2021 4:34 am

You are wasting your time, CB, arguing with the back radiation buffoons on WUWT. Basically they are warmists who have yet to come out of the closet.

Even though they don’t have a scrap of evidence to show that back radiation is a real forcing they vociferously shout down dissenting voices resulting in huge red downvotes.

They constantly confuse radiation with heat flux and apply the Stefan-Boltzmann equation to gases..

Maybe they haven’t read enough of Nasid Nahle, Claes Johnson or Gerlich and Tscheuschner or maybe they have decided not to.

Reply to  leitmotif
September 18, 2021 12:53 pm

See, that’s what gets my hackles up. I agree there’s no such thing as “back radiation”, that implies (incorrectly) that the air is GENERATING heat, which defies another Thermodynamic Law (the 1st? *shrug* that class was a long time ago). There is, however, insulation and heat shielding (whether something is an insulation or a heat shield often depends solely on the designer’s intent), both of which reduce the rate of heat loss.

Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 18, 2021 5:00 pm

True Red. It is frustrating that an AGW sceptical website like WUWT gives any credibility to the GHE hypothesis.

There is no evidence whatsoever to defend it.


a. Unicorns are causing serious damage in the forests. – climate alarmists

b. Unicorns are causing minor damage in the forests but the vast majority of damage is natural – lukewarmists

c. Unicorns don’t exist – climate realists

Captain climate
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 18, 2021 5:06 pm

What mechanism did Einstein describe that stops cooler bodies from radiating heat just because there’s a warmer body also radiating heat? I doubt your IQ is 160, but your ego weights 160 tons.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 18, 2021 5:36 pm

YES IT CAN. And it is very simple to reason why.

Any object that is not perfectly reflecting (a physical impossibility) can directly receive and absorb radiation, no matter what it’s energy (i.e., it’s wavelength, which in turn is directly dependent on the radiation source’s temperature).

Any increment of radiated (thermal) energy, no matter how small, that is absorbed by a finite object will have its net energy increase and therefore its sensible temperature increase, thus meeting the definition of being “warmed”.

Thus, it is true that a cooler object can radiate energy that can be absorbed by a relatively hotter object.

Many people misunderstand this simple fact by considering the net energy exchange between two bodies that are simultaneously radiating and absorbing energy with each other:
For an arbitrary relatively hot body 1, assumed to be a blackbody for simplification, and another relatively cold arbitrary body 2, also assumed to be a blackbody and of equal radiation interception area, the governing radiation energy exchange equation is argued to be proportional to (T1^4-T2^4), where T is absolute temperature, leading to the incorrect conclusion that because the sum cannot be a negative number (that is, there can be no such thing as negative energy) the only energy exchange must be from the hot body (1) to the cold body (2).

In reality, the governing Stephan-Boltzmann law should have been left in it’s correct form (for this postulated exchange):
Erad1 = σ * A * T1^4 and Erad2 = σ * A * T2^4.

NOTHING related to the Stephan-Boltzman law of radiation states that the ability of a given body to absorb radiation is dependent on that body’s absolute temperature.

From this, it is clear that relatively hot body 1 can intercept and absorb radiation from relatively-cold body 2. A cold object CAN warm a hot object even though net energy flow between the two is from hot to cold.

Reply to  Gordon A. Dressler
September 19, 2021 12:01 pm

Except you don’t have any experimental evidence to back up your claims just assumptions.

You assume you can use the S-B equation for gases.

You assume radiation is always absorbed

You are no better that Michael Mann.

Gordon A. Dressler
Reply to  leitmotif
September 19, 2021 7:03 pm

OK, leitmotif, I address your absurd comments one at a time:

Except you don’t have any experimental evidence to back up your claims just assumptions.

I don’t have any experimental evidence that, in decimal arithmetic, 2,000+3,000 = 5,000, but that does not give me any reason to believe it is not correct.
Hint for you: Einstein did not have any experimental evidence of time dilation occurring for an object traveling at significant fraction of the speed of light, when he published his theory of Special Relativity in 1905 that predicted such. Particle accelerators came after his claims and indeed showed that his scientific reasoning was correct despite lacking “experimental evidence to back up his claims” at the time they were made.

You assume you can use the S-B equation for gases.

I said NOTHING in my previous post (that you are commenting on) about gases. In fact I specifically mentioned “objects” and “bodies” having defined absorption areas. You need Class 101 in “Reading Comprehension”.

You assume radiation is always absorbed

From my second paragraph in my post above: “Any object that is not perfectly reflecting (a physical impossibility) can directly receive and absorb radiation . . .” That is NOT an assumption but rather a statement of fact. Again, I strongly suggest you enroll in a reading comprehension class.

You are no better that Michael Mann.

Well, you are entitled to your opinion even though, in this regard, you are hopelessly wrong. Micheal Mann sees very strange things in consulting selected tree rings—much like examining chicken entrails—whereas I don’t believe in or use voodoo science. And I am much better than Michael Mann for not having been elected to the National Academy of Sciences.


Reply to  Carbon Bigfoot
September 19, 2021 1:28 pm

Cold objects (indeed all objects above 0°K) radiate photons. Any object that intercepts any of those “cold object” photons will be warned. And no…the cold object does not “suck” photons out of any other object (warmer or not).

Devils Tower
September 17, 2021 10:34 am

I am looking for a detailed discussion of how the CERES and NOAA OLR databases are calculated. How much from direct measurement and how much from simulation.

I understand how clouds warm, but am more interested in balance at top of atmosphere, including CO2 emissions and especaly how the outgoing OLR from cloud tops is calculated.

Also how solar shortwave radiation mode effectively heats the ocean than downwelling IR.

And how much downwelling IR increases the oceans sensible and latent heat.

Have no doubt that evaporation cools the earth in many ways.

This includes more cooling from ocean evaporation as the sea level/area/tempature inceases and the atmospheric pressure decreases with rising elevation(sea level) elevation.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Devils Tower
September 17, 2021 1:03 pm

My understanding is that they use satellite measurements as input to models that they think are correct. However, I’m of the opinion that they sometimes overlook some important parameters, as is often the case with models. You often don’t know what you don’t know.

Thomas Gasloli
September 17, 2021 10:42 am

The IPCC just bold face lies and they know it. And as has been demonstrated repeatedly, when governments bold face lie, are incompetent or criminally negligent, no one is ever held responsible or faces consequences.

Whether it is COVID, climate change, Afghanistan, or the southern border fiasco, incompetence and criminal negligence by government are rewarded.

September 17, 2021 10:52 am

This one’s for you, Willis. Sunrise clouds on Moosehead Lake.


September 17, 2021 10:53 am

So the “global dimming project” is really other than a climate-fix. It’s a population-fixer.

September 17, 2021 10:54 am

[For those objecting that downwelling longwave radiation from cold clouds can’t leave the surface warmer than if there are no clouds, please see my post “Can A Cold Object Warm A Hot Object“.]

Clouds and humidity slow surface radiative cooling at night they do not warm it.

Reply to  Pablo
September 17, 2021 11:56 am

6 of one half a dozen of the other.

Martin C
Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2021 12:47 pm

I agree with Pablo.
It seems to me the primary issue is the way the statement is worded, and some semantics. To me, ‘warming an object’ is raising its ABOVE its current temperature. The clouds (and ‘greenhouse effect) do not do that.

I would much prefer to see the statement worded as ” . . the clouds leave the surface warmer THAN IT WOULD HAVE BEEN if there are no clouds. . .”. And the clouds ARE RETURNING radiant energy to the surface, which is WHY the surface will be warmer than than without clouds; as Pablo stated, the clouds/humidity (AND CO2 🙂 ) is slowing down the radiative cooling by returning some of the radiant energy to the surface of the earth, which keeps it warmer than it would have been without the clouds/humidity/CO2.

Reply to  MarkW
September 17, 2021 1:04 pm

…but I still cringe when I hear that a cloud is “warming” anything. It’s just slowing down the rate of heat loss. From the standpoint of “feels”, if your body is losing heat faster than you are producing it, you feel cold. If your body is not losing heat fast enough you feel hot, and this activates the sweat glands to produce sweat, evaporation of which increases the rate of heat lost from your body. Thus, some people judge whether or not they feel “hot” by how sweaty they feel, even if the rate of sweating has exactly matched the rate needed to maintain your body temperature at that given air temperature.

Reply to  Pablo
September 18, 2021 4:52 am

If you read the very first paragraph at the link you will find you repeated what it says there.

September 17, 2021 11:04 am

Oh, Willis …. so close…. “Climannifesto” would be even better 🙂

September 17, 2021 11:04 am

The problem with clouds is not “uncertainty”, but a certain zero-understanding of the physics here. If you want to understand ANYTHING on clouds, I suggest to start reading my site, where I have dedicated already 5 articles by now to clean up this mess. That is next to the hugely important overlaps between clouds and GHGs, I am dealing with throughout, and “climate science” completely ignores.


Just to sum up some points:

  • Clouds and GHGs are largely overlapped. 30W/m2 of LWCRE is just the non-overlapped part, while the total CRE is about 80W/m2
  • Clouds are not cooling, but warming the planet, as also the empiric evidence shows
  • CERES (and other) satellite data ignoring this complexety are largely useless
  • The overlap between clouds and GHGs has been wrongly attributed to GHGs only, thereby vastly exaggerating their significance.
  • This is equally true for forcing estimates and one of the main reasons why ECS estimates run magnitudes to high
Reply to  E. Schaffer
September 17, 2021 1:33 pm
  • “Clouds are not cooling, but warming the planet, as also the empiric evidence shows”


Reply to  Pablo
September 17, 2021 3:14 pm

You guys really live in the stone age of climate science. Below the cloud/temperature relation for the aleutian islands, where satellite data suggest the net CRE would be massively negative.

comment image

Here a little more data and background..



Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 17, 2021 5:31 pm

Good gracious! We are NOT talking about feedbacks, but the CRE. And the CRE is strongly negative in the above, and has been throughout all “satellite data”.

Again, the problem is the logic behind the data is wrong! I can’t be so hard to understand. We know why the are wrong, we now the empiric evidence shows they are wrong, really at this point it, given the information I provide, it is not rocket science. Try to get out of your box, look around, learn something new..

Mike Edwards
Reply to  E. Schaffer
September 18, 2021 5:19 am

Mr Shaffer, I think that you make a mistake in connecting CRE to the local temperature in the Aleutians. In maritime environments like the Aleutians and also in the UK where I live, the temperature is typically dominated by the surrounding ocean and the association of temperature with cloudiness can be very weak, particularly when the weather is windy, which it is for much of the time in the Aleutians and the UK.

The temperature in these maritime environments is heavily influenced by the wind direction – as also is the cloudiness. In winter, it is typical for temperatures to be elevated when the wind is in the south west, bringing in subtropical air. But south westerly winds are also associated with more humid air and higher cloudiness. Meanwhile, north and north easterly winds bring much colder temperatures and generally clearer, low humidity air. These effects explain the general association of cloud and higher temperatures, not the CRE.

The CRE is associated with the effects on radiation flows of the presence and absence of clouds. One of the big factors associated with the CRE is the albedo of the earth’s surface at a particular place. In places with high albedo, such as the ice & snow of polar regions but also the sand and dust of major deserts like the Sahara, the effect of introducing high albedo clouds in reflecting radiation in the visible spectrum is much less than for places with low albedo such as the oceans. This enables the heat retaining properties of clouds in the infra-red to dominate in high albedo regions, as can be seen in Figures 1a and 1b posted above by Willis.

CRE can’t be determined from temperature.

Reply to  Mike Edwards
September 18, 2021 12:27 pm

This pattern is not specific to the Aleutians. Rather clouds are associated with higher temperatures everywhere. Really the only distorting factor is “rain chill”, which is strong with dry and warm climate, though negligible with the Bering Sea.

Also there are a lot more details in the data which tell us about the origin of this correlation. The chart below is just one instance, but it tells us how the net-CRE is changing over the seasons, being mildly negative spring to mid summer, and discinctly positive over the rest of the year. And no, that is not a wind pattern.

comment image

Apart from that we also know about the logical fallacy leading to the belief of cooling clouds..

Mike Edwards
Reply to  E. Schaffer
September 19, 2021 7:14 am

The chart below is just one instance, but it tells us how the net-CRE is changing over the seasons”

I don’t think that chart tells us much if anything about the CRE in the Aleutian islands. You are making an incorrect assumption that the local temperatures there are directly influenced by the presence or absence of clouds. Instead, especially in wintertime, the dominant effect is the winds and where the airmass carried on those winds has come from. The wind in the Aleutians is an average of >10kmph in summer and up to an average of 30kmph in the middle of winter (figures are for Akutan) – it is a major factor in the weather.

The airmass source also affects the cloudiness – this means that there is a correlation of temperature with cloudiness, at least in wintertime. But as said many times on this forum, correlation ain’t causation.

If you think that chart can tell us about CRE, I am sure we would be interested to understand how that is done.

Reply to  Pablo
September 18, 2021 1:00 pm

See, there’s the problem. Clouds are insulation. Just like my Thermos flask, how do it know? Whether or not they cool or warm the planet depends on which way heat is going without the clouds. Now whether the clouds cool or warm the planet OVERALL would take an awful lot of differential calculus, and probably a whale of a lot of both computing power and speed. Good luck with that!

Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 18, 2021 3:04 pm

Not really if you have the understanding, though there is a hard nut I will admit. The gross CRElw exceeds the gross CREsw, while with net it is the opposite way. So one could have hard time figuring out what that means in the real world. Anyhow, we can simply look up weather records to find out..

September 17, 2021 11:04 am

Why even consider clouds as a “feedback” when the phase changes of water are controlling surface temperature; not CO2. Water cycles also control atmospheric CO2 concentrations and CO2 concentration changes with time.

Water evaporates at the surface near the dewpoint temperature of the air above it. Water vapor is lighter than air and rises taking air with it. The air cools as it rises and the water vapor condenses when it reaches the dew point. Condensation is an exothermal process which heats the air making it lighter and rise faster and forming tall thunderclouds. Rain returns most of the CO2 to the surface but some goes out the top into the upper atmosphere where it is transported to the poles by jet streams. So clouds are neither a positive or negative feedback but the primary surface temperature controller.

Reply to  Fred Haynie
September 17, 2021 12:02 pm

Feedback is a useful analysis in electronics and control systems. The characteristic of those systems is that the power supply is ignored. As such, feedback analysis ignores energy conservation. ie. it’s completely bogus when applied to the planet’s surface temperature.

As you observe, clouds speed the transport of energy away from the surface because they are the result of evaporation. Convection then transports the heat upward in the atmosphere and toward the poles and hastens its departure from the Earth.

I’m being dragged away from my computer by my XYL or I’d do the math but my gut tells me that the latent heat clouds remove from the equator exceeds the heat radiated at the equator by a fair margin.

Reply to  commieBob
September 18, 2021 9:16 am

This paper gives rainfall at the equator as 15 mm per day.

The volume of water falling on a square meter is 1.3 x 100 x 100 cc per square meter. That’s 13 kg.

The heat of vaporization for water is 2260 kJ / kg.

The energy it took to evaporate the water that is returning as rain is
13 * 2260 kJ = 29380 kJ = 29,380,000 Joules

Watt hours = Joules / 3600

29,380,000 / 3600 = 8161 watt hours

The maximum solar energy arriving at the Earth’s surface at the equator is about 1000 watts per square meter.

So the water evaporated at the equator takes about 8 x the peak solar radiation.

If you’re sizing solar panels you multiply the peak solar radiation x 4 to get the daily output.

So, by the above calculations, rainfall at the equator takes up about twice the solar energy available at the equator. WUWT?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 18, 2021 4:16 pm

….Wh/day/sqM ?

Reply to  Fred Haynie
September 17, 2021 7:51 pm

“So clouds are neither a positive or negative feedback but the primary surface temperature controller.”
When someone states that the CRE is zero or some small negative number…I am astonished that their conclusion is “it must be CO2 then” instead of really thinking how a zero number is possible…and you are right, rate of cloud cover adaptability to surface temperature water vapor pressure is the primary control mechanism…
In the following, the blue line is clear sky, red line is radiative….so the vertical distance is the “greenhouse effect”.
This graph is from PNAS but Willis had an article here a couple of weeks ago essentially the same. So it should be obvious that the albedo of clouds is the only explanation sufficiently large to fill the gap.. And weather system adjustment is made so rapidly that it only appears CRE is zero, sort of like doing scientific analysis on the effect of the accelerator pedal on the speed of a car, while ignoring the approach to a brick wall….

Reply to  DMacKenzie
September 17, 2021 8:02 pm
September 17, 2021 11:06 am

And then I see this … “The net effect of changes in clouds in response to global warming is to amplify human-induced warming”

You mean clouds can tell the difference between “human-induced” warming and the other kind (whatever that is)?

Steve Richards
Reply to  Felix
September 17, 2021 12:27 pm

Of course!!!

Joao Martins
Reply to  Felix
September 17, 2021 12:53 pm

Good point. As it is formulated, it seems an autocatalytic, never ending, always increasing, warming process…

September 17, 2021 11:08 am

I agree overall, and the differential net thermal effects of clouds over land/sea and over poles/ tropics alter pressure and wind differentials via the Gas Laws so that the overturning rates within the Polar, Ferrel and Hadley cells alter and thereby neutralise radiative imbalances that might otherwise result from GHG changes.
The circulatory changes required would be indiscernible compared to natural variability.

September 17, 2021 11:48 am

How can personal observations possibly trump model output.
Besides, since you aren’t a government recognized expert, your data can’t be used anyway.

Greg Bone
September 17, 2021 11:49 am

Why do those CERES maps look like the positive feedback is most prominent over the deserts, Antarctic and Arctic? I thought these were among the driest and least cloudy places in the world. It doesn’t make sense to me that they would have the most feedback over a time series. Maybe when there are clouds over these areas these are the feedbacks?

Tim Gorman
Reply to  Greg Bone
September 17, 2021 2:48 pm

Good question.

Mike Edwards
Reply to  Greg Bone
September 18, 2021 11:59 am


It is related to the albedo of the Earth’s surface in those locations.

The negative feedback related to clouds is that they are bright and reflect a high proportion of the sunlight that falls on them in daytime. When the Earth’s surface itself has high albedo, such as locations covered with snow & ice, or very dry locations covered with sand and dust, there is less difference in the reflected sunlight between cloudy & clear conditions. This is a big contrast with low albedo surfaces, such as the oceans, which absorb much of the sunlight falling on them – in contrast to the high reflectivity of clouds over them.

The positive feedback aspects of clouds relate to their absorbing and re-radiating infra-red radiation, which are not related to albedo. The overall effect of clouds (the CRE) is a balance between the positive and negative feedbacks, which thus vary from place to place.

Ron Long
September 17, 2021 11:51 am

Interesting review, and the cumulonimbus/thunderstorm buildup common in the tropics has a twist where I live. In west-central Argentina, at 33 deg south, summertime thunderstorm buildup produces towering cumulonimbus clouds. These clouds commonly produce prodigious amounts of hail, called granizos in Spanish, to the extent that several centimeters accumulation is common. One such storm went through my neighborhood and produced tennis ball sized holes punched through plastic pool furniture, not to mention the rearrangement of the tiles on the roof. So, what is the net energy balance between heat going up and producing the clouds, and frozen hail cascading down and cooling the surface? These events are pretty dynamic and produce strong local results.

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 18, 2021 8:48 pm

To be completely pedantic, Freon™ is simply a brand-name, and I believe was applied to more than one refrigerant, I think R-6, R-11, R-12 and R-22 all have been sold, at one time or another, under the brand name Freon™. Because of alleged damage to the ozone layer, all those refrigerants are phasing, or already have been phased, out. R-22 was the most likely one found in your refrigerator, before it became popular there was R-12 (there were others before that but you likely can’t find any still in operation using the older refrigerants). R-22 was replaced with R-134a (which doesn’t do a really good retrofit, all these refrigerants work best in a system designed for and around them, retrofitting a system can sometimes result in complete failure. So replaced isn’t exactly the right word, but you get the idea.), which is also a GHG, so the next “replacement” is in the works, with many manufacturers already switching to R-600, which is a hydrocarbon and therefore flammable, but you have to make compromises somewhere, I guess. The “phased out” refrigerants, however, have not necessarily gone to the dump, as long as your refrigerator still works, keep using it, regardless what refrigerant it uses. The “phase-out” only means no-one can make any new. I have heard more than one rumor that some of the “phased-out” refrigerants have been stock-piled somewhere by someone, probably China. I think the last time I heard the rumor, it was something like there was enough R-22 stockpiled to last 100 years. Far longer than any of those appliances can continue operating.

Clyde Spencer
September 17, 2021 12:05 pm

Willis, you stated,

… where the average temperature is below -20°C (mostly the Antarctic peninsula) …

Did you mean to say continental or interior Antarctica?

September 17, 2021 12:45 pm

For those objecting that downwelling longwave radiation from cold clouds can’t leave the surface warmer than if there are no clouds, please see my post “Can A Cold Object Warm A Hot Object

I still cringe every time I read this, even after I read your previous article. And Mr. Eschenbach, neither in “Can A Cold Object Warm A Hot Object” nor in this present article did you say anything wrong, you are absolutely correct. Why do I cringe? First, let me start with a joke.

One guy says to the other: the Thermos (double wall evacuated tube flask) is the greatest invention ever!
2nd guy: What’s so great about it?
1st guy: It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold!
2nd guy: Yeah? What’s so great about that?
1st guy: How do it know?

I’m an engineer. We care only about the net effects, the final outcome. If something is irrelevant to that final outcome and can be successfully ignored, we ignore it, that’s what makes a successful engineer, one that comes up with an adequate solution without getting bogged down in minutiae. So despite my admission you are correct, I would much rather see a full embrace of the concepts of heat shields and/or insulation. The atmosphere is best described as insulation (yes air makes a pretty good insulator if you can keep it from moving, that’s why there is yellow or pink stuff in your home attic and walls, to keep the air from moving). Clouds can be treated as either an insulator or a heat shield. Your auto nearly always has some sort of heat shield around and or between it and the fuel tank, it lowers the temperature the fuel tank sees, below the ignition temperature of the fuel within it. In my Heat Transfer Class we spent an entire lesson (1 hour of class time and at least 2 hours worth of exercises and homework problems) on heat shields, and probably more than that on insulation, it’s that important.

So let me ask you directly, why do you not want to use the term(s) insulation or heat shield?

Greg Bone
Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 17, 2021 2:20 pm

It also bothers me. Do I insulate with copper which is a great radiator and could back radiate and back conduct with the best of them just like CO2 and theoretically heat the hell out of my house according to greenhouse theory or do I insulate with fiberglass which doesn’t conduct or radiate well like oxygen and nitrogen? Does a atmospheric particle that hangs on to energy(can’t radiate it away) keep me warm (what thermometers measure) or is it that rapid radiator that shooting half of it’s cooling power back at me and half away from me? Is it the oxygen and nitrogen that refuse to give up their energy that they acquire in the relatively massively larger acquisition of energy through conduction than CO2 can hope to intercept from small very certain bandwidths of surface radiation. Does CO2 heat when we know that first of all radiation travels at the speed of light between the surface and the CO2 particle and during this time both have no excess energy. and every second time this happens it will be aiming that energy at outerspace ie constantly cooling through two radiation cycles. CO2 is highy radiative meaning that it is cooling fast. How do oxygen and nitrogen containing 98 % of the earths atmospheric energy cool? Don’t they need to conduct to a radiating particle and then have that energy transferred to outer space or combined into an endothermic reaction such as plant growth? All energy systems come to a balance between incoming and outgoing energies and the incoming energy ie the sun, exothermic energy such as wildfires and mankind’s use of carbon fuels or energy put into batteries via solar arrays must and will ultimately balance against the energy bound in endothermic reactions or sent via radiation away from the planet. Does a nitrogen particle that holds onto its energy for 10 seconds not outweigh a particle that can’t hang onto energy at all and in fact actively ejects this energy to outer space in less than a microsecond? What really causes global warming? I know what I believe.

James Schrumpf
Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 17, 2021 4:40 pm

A thermodynamics lunchtime story: A buddy of mine at work bought a lunchbox that he said was the greatest insulator ever; would keep his lunch cold for hours. He triumphantly opened up his lunchbox… and everything in it was lukewarm! He was baffled. “I put that in the refrigerator last night. Why is everything still warm?”

“Keeps warm things warm, keeps cold things cold,” we pointed out. “You put your room temperature lunch, in this wonderful insulator, into the fridge, all closed up. It did its job.”

The expression on his face was priceless.

Reply to  Red94ViperRT10
September 18, 2021 4:57 am

Could you please quote the very first paragraph WE wrote at the link?

September 17, 2021 1:10 pm

Uncertainty clouds of CO2 and H2O, too. Perhaps a simple scalar will do.

September 17, 2021 1:12 pm

On some level I am in agreement with the author – but hear me out.

“Antarctic clouds lead to warming”
“[cloud] increase the wind, which increases evaporation, which increases surface cooling”
“Wind increases sensible heat loss from the surface”
“Wind increases oceanic surface overturning, which brings cooler deep water to the surface”

It is this type of reasoning that will result in spinning wheels on these issues for many more decades to come. 

Is it Antarctic cloud leading to warming, or is it a relatively warm moist airmass that to leads to Antarctic cloud? Does wind change sensible heat, or does sensible heat change wind? Does wind change ocean surface overturning, or does surface overturning change wind? Does it matter? In my opinion it does not matter. The use of the language of one thing leading to something is revealing of a flowchart mental model.

This false conceptualization of a flowchart of ‘forcings’ in climate is a never ending pursuit of chasing one’s own tail – the epistemology of quantifying internal feedbacks permeates almost all writing on climate. It will be an endless pursuit – it is borrowed from the notion of trying to quantify the effect of changing one variable – a so-called CO2 forcing – and now we’ve all been sucked into this game of cause and effect. It is a flawed mental model and omits the coupled nature of the Earth system.

All internal processes are coupled in an optimized state of affairs we label “nature”. Cause and effect does not apply- it is a nebulous system of interactions constrained by the fundamental Earth system properties – solar input and planetary mass – expressed as ‘climate’ in a fluid equilibrium hydrostatic atmosphere. 

The cloud process are an observable expression of some of these equilibrium processes playing out in a continuous dance ad infinitum. Ocean circulation is another, vertical temperature profile and lapse rate is another, atmospheric pressure gradients and wind another. The variables are endless and interlinked; a mechanistic model of the nature of the Earth system is not within grasp. One cannot separate cloud from ocean from land from atmosphere from cryosphere from biosphere. Clouds cannot force the system one way or another, they are internally coupled with all other aspects of the Earth system simultaneously.

Earth albedo itself is an expression of equilibrium. Does more snow and ice lead to cooling, or does cooling lead to more snow and ice? Does it matter? no. One cannot separate atmosphere from hydrosphere from biosphere from lithosphere from cryosphere. The exist as one coupled system. No internal perturbation will ‘force’ the Earth system anywhere. The state of the cryosphere is coupled with all other aspects of the Earth system. It is only in our minds that they are separate systems that can force one another.

“There are several interesting things regarding the effects of the clouds shown above. First, on average they cool the surface by about twenty watts per square meter (W/m2). Next, clouds warm the poles by about the same amount, twenty W/m2 or so.”

The simplest approach here is to recognize that the global net cloud effect is zero on any timescale and to stop there – but we can acknowledge that cloud do represent a beautiful expression of the equilibrium processes playing out in the dynamic coupled Earth system.

I appreciate the opportunity to add my own perspectives in these comments. And for the record: no I do not have peer reviewed papers on this comment. And yes, I do use my initials instead of my full name – it is my personal preference. With respect, take it or leave it as a view to considering our own epistemology in how the issue of climate is conceptualized. It is not meant as a critique.


Rud Istvan
September 17, 2021 1:18 pm

Willis, an interesting confirmation of your analysis was done by McIntyre long ago by reanalyzing the Dessler 2010 ‘positive cloud feedback’ paper that actually showed zero feedback. Steve wondered why Dessler paired ERA clear sky with Ceres all sky, when Ceres clear sky was available. So he redid Dessler using only Ceres and found a negative feedback of -0.98W/m^2. Go to climateaudit.org/2011/09/08/more-on-Dessler-2010/ for the details.

Reply to  Rud Istvan
September 22, 2021 9:19 pm

Rud, and Willis,
Despite the “high confidence” expressed in WG1.of A6 on positive feedback from water vapour, and the Dessler paper, here is the Gaia author James Lovelock in the Guardian on 29 March 2010-
“ The great science centres around the world are well aware how weak their science is.
If you speak to them privately they are scared stiff of the fact they don’t know what the clouds and aerosols are doing. They could be absolutely running the show. We haven’t got the Physics worked out yet.”
And that is from the “ greenest” man on earth and one who is an acknowledged Climate Scientist.

September 17, 2021 1:29 pm

Willis, in your last post about surface radiation you had a plot showing the NH and SH having the same radiation at the surface. Your plot above about clouds shows about a 3 w difference in NH and SH due to clouds. Something has to make up that difference in the SH. Any ideas?

Ken Irwin
September 17, 2021 1:38 pm

Nice one Willis – Fig.2 is a doozi.
Added to my list of useful information.
I always knew that cloud feedback was likely to be non-linear and temperature dependent – that graphic tells me what I wanted to know.
Your musings on this subject are inspirational.

September 17, 2021 2:25 pm

You mentioned “thunderstorms form, which cool the surface in a host of ways.”
Relative to cloud feedback, how important are these host of ways?

September 17, 2021 3:14 pm

I have been wondering about this for a long time and appreciate your very readable post. The best part for me was the explanation about longwave radiation effects which I did not understand.

navy bob
September 17, 2021 4:29 pm

Always enjoy your posts, but I have an incidental quibble with this one. My classroom also had asbestos ceiling tiles when I was a kid, and our house siding was rugged, completely fireproof asbestos shingles that lasted forever. The consensus then was right: they were completely harmless. They posed no threat to anyone, ever. In fact, they no doubt saved lives because they were fireproof. The supposed danger of asbestos from those forms of the mineral and other similar applications was not based on data, but was a simulation created by lawyers who grew rich from lawsuits.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  navy bob
September 17, 2021 9:33 pm

Had the use of asbestos (crysotile) siding and shingles not been virtually banned, there might have been fewer homes burned out in California. There are always unintended consequences for social actions. It is almost like a corollary to Newton’s Third Law.

Reply to  navy bob
September 18, 2021 4:50 am

Asbestos, in the form of shingles or other well fixed material is very safe and very effective.

Asbestos that is frangible or friable, able to spread easily inhalable fibers (most likely to occur in the mining process, not in the consumer product usage) upon being disturbed is extremely bad. Worse than coal miner’s black lung bad, but much less obvious as to why. Probably why it took so long to get the lawyers interested. Where the lawyers got really rich was not on all the people who were directly affected, but on all the people who they could claim were affected because many things exhibit similar symptoms that the technology of the day could frequently confirm only at autopsy.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  QQBoss
September 19, 2021 10:53 am

Interestingly, there is a high correlation between asbestos-related lung diseases and smoking tobacco (probably marijuana, too).

James Schrumpf
September 17, 2021 4:43 pm

Whatever happened to the simple fact that water vapor already covers most of the absorption spectrum of CO2, and is 2500 times more prevalent in the atmosphere? The contribution of CO2 is like putting a layer of tissue paper on top of a 6″ down comforter.

Gary Pearse
September 17, 2021 5:37 pm

“CERES satellite-based dataset to see what I could learn. It contains data on the net surface net cloud radiative effect”

If it is that straight forward a use of available data, then IPCC is demonstratively disingenuous! Do the consensus not know what this satellite technology is doing up there?

September 17, 2021 8:00 pm

To Willis Eschenbach ; another excellent presentation of data with mathematical analysis .
If only you had a PHD and got peer reviewed , the climate warmists would still ignore you .
Common sense tells us clouds cool us during the day and keep us warmer overnight .
Some how the AGW enthusiasts only seem to be able to blame local weather events on CO2.
This might be a big ask , but you are the man to do it , could you possibly correlate cloud cover , local air pressure and obvious wind resultation with any of the recent or previous droughts,floods,wildfires,hurricanes,tornado’s ,etc only looking at those specific areas where ‘disaster’ has struck rather than the entire globe .
Of course there is also the sun strength , seasonal time , sea surface temp etc to deal with , but the IPCC’s super computers can only model what they think or expect to happen rather than what how or why it happened previously .
I think you could teach them more than they want to know , but they get paid not to make waves.

September 17, 2021 8:00 pm

The heating and cooling process of water vapour hinges around 45mm TPW.

If you look at the globe month-by-month you will find atmospheric water provides net warming for November, December and January while net cooling for atmospheric water for the other 9 months:

The paper explains the process of cloud persistency.

Ulric Lyons
September 17, 2021 8:19 pm

Big negative values in figure 4 over the West Pacific Warm Pool, what’s the sea surface temperature trends there like?

Reply to  Ulric Lyons
September 17, 2021 9:08 pm

The trend for the Nino34 region is zero for the satellite era.

September 17, 2021 10:58 pm

Finally, as a global area-weighted average, this analysis gives a global negative net cloud feedback of -1.9 W/m2 per degree of surface warming. 

Surely this questions the meme that water vapour is the most powerful “Greenhouse Gas”. Clouds are just a different phase of water.

Why treat water vapour and clouds separately – they are just different phases of the same substance.

Atmospheric water is a net cooling agent. Why select one of the phases and claim it to be the most powerful “Greenhouse Gas”.

If clouds show such dominant cooling in response to surface temperature, what wins out, the “Greenhouse Gas” or the cloud cooling. Why separate the effects. They are both water in the atmosphere. Why not just consider what the water does as whole rather than treating the phases separately.

The concept of “Greenhouse Effect” is fundamentally flawed. The surface energy balance is set by thermostatic upper and lower limits on ocean temperature. The “Greenhouse Effect” does not exist.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  RickWill
September 18, 2021 5:02 pm

Because water responds differently to radiation according to the phase it is in. You can <b>see</b> that with your own eyes – clouds vs ice vs snow vs liquid vs other phases of ice if the pressure is high enough, rainbows and similar optical effects that depend on small droplets. It’s also very much the case that there are big differences in infrared response as the individual molecules cluster into droplets. Water is a polar molecule, which gives it a tendency to cluster as it cools in ways that change the vibrations of its bonds that it can achieve.

September 17, 2021 11:22 pm

Thanks for an interesting article.

After reading some “IPCC related” papers, I realized that the positive CRE comes from increased altitude of the tropopause.

The “theory” is that global warming will increase tropopause altitude. Anvil clouds reach up to the tropopause. Since top of anvil clouds will get higher up, the cloud top will be cooler.
Subsequently, they will radiate less.

I think “IPCC related” papers say the same thing as you. If “top of cloud altitude” stays constant, then an increased surface temperature will have a negative CRE.

As a matter of fact, almost all warming from CO2 is related to increased altitude of tropopause. So far, there are no hard experimental evidence that the altitude is going up.

Reply to  JonasW
September 18, 2021 7:09 am

I have a question: In my youth, doing oceanography for the Navy, we would spot where islands were by looking at the horizon for clouds. They usually were over islands and not the surrounding ocean. So, could the same thing being happening with the higher night time temps being recorded? Do clouds tend to form over heat islands and keep the night time temps higher than the surrounding rural areas? The argument is that the world is warming, primarily by higher night time temps making the daily average higher.

September 18, 2021 7:16 am


I wonder if climate models see clouds as a positive feedback because they rely mostly on terrestrial temperatures.

Clouds are a positive feedback over land…

September 18, 2021 7:38 am

Cloud modeling needs a few more variables if you want to look at how their formation changes over multiple decades.

Biological contributions to clouds are obvious over land. Forests create clouds. Deserts don’t. Plants enhance evaporation.

Plants also emit clouds condensation nuclei. The blue mountains have blue air because of these emissions.

I’m not aware of any claims that sea life enhance evaporation, but there is solid science around sea life creating cloud condensation nuclei. An ocean full of life will be cloudy more often, all else being equal.

The interesting tie-in is that primary productivity of the oceans has been falling. This is an observed fact during the satellite era.

The explanations I find most compelling is that land use changes have reduced wind erosion over land. This has reduced mineral fertilization of the oceans. And that overfishing and especially killing whales has reduced the availability of nutrients at the sea surface.

Long story short, emissions from sea life helped clouds form more easily, then we reduced their nutrient supply. This caused part of the warming we see today.

Coach Springer
September 18, 2021 8:00 am

I have a pet theory. Authoritative climate opinion is based on the pet theories of a select number of conveniently useful people who use statistical tools to support their pet theories. Left out are the real world investigations that are needed to disprove – or possibly support – the theory.

w seems to ask the common sense real world questions. On the matter of clouds, that question should already be fully investigated. It appears that the data available would answer much, but not in support of pet theories – so no further investigation would be undertaken until they can find a way to spin the inconvenient truths.

Michael Nagy
September 18, 2021 9:15 am

You broke me up Willis with that “ass hat” stuff. HAHAHA

Ken Irwin
Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 23, 2021 4:22 am

It’s the last item under Gregory’s hierarchy – name calling.

It is in your post. I also laughed at that one !

Captain climate
September 18, 2021 4:00 pm

Excellent analysis

Reply to  Captain climate
September 20, 2021 1:30 pm

The slope of the data of figure 2 shows how much the CRE changes per degree of temperature change, which is the net cloud feedback. Strangely, Willis didn’t calculate the resulting global average net cloud feedback from this curve, so I digitized the curve and calculated the global net cloud feedback of -2.6 W/m2/°C. [Excel file here]
Willis also calculated the net cloud feedback by comparing the CRE at gridcells surrounding each gridcell. Figure 4a shows that the global average net cloud feedbacks is -1.9 W/m2/°C. Both methods give strongly negative cloud feedbacks. I am surprized that there is such a large difference between the two results. I wonder why and which result is more accurate?

Reply to  Willis Eschenbach
September 20, 2021 7:05 pm

Your figure 2 does show the fraction of the earth to which each 10 deg. latitude corresponds. Those fractions is included in the spreadsheet (see the above link), so the calculated -2.6 W/m2/°C feedback is area weighted.

September 19, 2021 3:42 pm

Willis, be wary about “feeling” effects of clouds. Human body interprets hot/cold by humidity and evaporation from the skin. Clouds that block sun may feel warm while the temperature is lower.

Wim Röst
September 21, 2021 3:42 pm

A comparison between All-Sky and Clear-Sky radiative effects from Martin Wild et al. 2018:The cloud-free global energy balance and inferred cloud radiative effects: an assessment based on direct observations and climate models

comment image

Illustration of the magnitudes of the global mean shortwave, longwave and net (shortwave + longwave) cloud radiative effects (CRE) at the Top-of-Atmosphere (TOA), within the atmosphere and at the Earth’s surface, determined as differences between the respective all-sky and clear-sky radiation budgets presented in Fig. 14. Units Wm−2

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