Thermosphere is Cooling, Bad for Satellites. Thermosphere is Heating, Bad for Satellites.

There’s a long running joke about stories with the structure: world will end tomorrow women and minorities hurt the most. Either that or heads I win tails you lose after reading the following two articles.

Going through emails today I received a tip about this story from Tom F

In an article in Yale 360 about a new study, Exceptional stratospheric contribution to human fingerprints on atmospheric temperature by our old friend Ben Santer, atmospheric scientist Martin Mlynczak, an atmospheric physicist at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, amplifies Santer’s concerns about the cooling, shrinking thermosphere.

Santer just knows that these observations prove the accuracy of climate models. All emphasis mine.

new study published in May in the journal PNAS by veteran climate modeler Ben Santer of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found that it increased the strength of the “signal” of the human fingerprint of climate change fivefold, by reducing the interference “noise” from background natural variability. Santer says the finding is “incontrovertible.”

But the new discoveries about the scale of cooling aloft are leaving atmospheric physicists with new worries — about the safety of orbiting satellites, about the fate of the ozone layer, and about the potential of these rapid changes aloft to visit sudden and unanticipated turmoil on our weather below.

Santer has been searching for that fingerprint for close to three decades. He has a lot time invested in finding it, from 1996:

The observed spatial patterns of temperature change in the free atmosphere from 1963 to 1987 are similar to those predicted by state-of-the-art climate models incorporating various combinations of changes in carbon dioxide, anthropogenic sulphate aerosol and stratospheric ozone concentrations. The degree of pattern similarity between models and observations increases through this period. It is likely that this trend is partially due to human activities, although many uncertainties remain, particularly relating to estimates of natural variability. July 4th, 1996

It is worth reading a takedown of Santer’s 1996 paper by the now deceased John Daly.

Mlynczak noted on May 18th in the Yale 360 article:

Above the stratosphere, Mlynczak found that the mesosphere and lower thermosphere contracted by almost 4,400 feet between 2002 and 2019. Part of this shrinking was due to a short-term decline in solar activity that has since ended, but 1,120 feet of it was due to cooling caused by the extra CO2, he calculates.

This contraction means the upper atmosphere is becoming less dense, which in turn reduces drag on satellites and other objects in low orbit — by around a third by 2070, calculates Ingrid Cnossen, a research fellow at the British Antarctic Survey.

On the face of it, this is good news for satellite operators. Their payloads should stay operational for longer before falling back to Earth. But the problem is the other objects that share these altitudes. The growing amount of space junk — bits of equipment of various sorts left behind in orbit — are also sticking around longer, increasing the risk of collisions with currently operational satellites.

Continuing through my tip emails today reader yirgach alerted me to this story at


If you’re a satellite, this story is important. A series of geomagnetic storms in 2023 has pumped terawatts of energy into Earth’s upper atmosphere, helping to push its temperature and height to a 20-year high. Air surrounding our planet is now touching satellites in Earth orbit and dragging them down.

Only three weeks after the previous article Mlynczak says.

“Blame the sun,” says Martin Mlynczak of NASA Langley. “Increasing solar activity is heating the top of the atmosphere. The extra heat has no effect on weather or climate at Earth’s surface, but it’s a big deal for satellites in low Earth orbit.”

“Right now we’re seeing some of the highest readings in the mission’s 21.5 year history,” he says.

The story continues.

If current trends continue, the thermosphere will warm even more in 2023 and 2024.

Thermospheric cooling, it’s CO2 and climate models are proved again, bad for satellites.

Thermospheric warming, it’s that damn sun and its storms, bad for satellites.

All change is bad. Everything must remain exactly the same.

I have no doubt that an expanding thermosphere is VERY bad for low altitude orbiting satellites. I just love the rationalization that a shrinking one was bad, cuz humans did it guvner.

HT’s to yirgach and Tom F

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Richard Page
June 5, 2023 6:20 am

Or it’s just a natural cooling/warming cycle that we’re only glimpsing snapshots of at different times.
I guess, like the rest of the climate change debate, time and more data will tell.

June 5, 2023 6:27 am

Well, it is the Thermosphere and thermospheres everywhere like to heat up.

Reply to  antigtiff
June 5, 2023 9:40 am

Define yourself in terms of something believed, not something opposed (anti-anything).

Richard Page
Reply to  KevinM
June 5, 2023 3:10 pm

Oh but he has. Antig is a word in Tagalog, I believe, translated as ‘a gentle reminder’ and, of course, a tiff is a minor disagreement or difference of opinion. Antigtiff is obviously making a statement – a gentle reminder of a minor disagreement. We just need to narrow down which one…..

June 5, 2023 6:41 am

In model world
The good news for climate scientists is that the data on cooling aloft do more than confirm the accuracy of the models that identify surface warming as human-made.

We rely on satellite data from three groups and on model data from phase 6 of the Coupled Model

In the real world, temperature and height of the thermosphere are at a 20-year high. So say Spaceweather

June 5, 2023 6:50 am

Stumbled across this article in my twitter feed this morning. I’m by no means a climate expert, but I do know BS when I read it..anytime someone uses the terms “human finger print” and “incontrovertible” you can pretty much be certain the reality is the exact opposite..

“found that it increased the strength of the “signal” of the human fingerprint of climate change fivefold, by reducing the interference “noise” from background natural variability. Santer says the finding is “incontrovertible.”

Reply to  jeremymillrood
June 5, 2023 9:47 am

Many articles read like word generators loaded with jargon lists containing phrases like “human finger print”. Some tech jargon generators have been converted to funny web pages. Once a publication has sold its ad space, writing news headlines months in advance seems good time management?

Jeff Alberts
Reply to  jeremymillrood
June 5, 2023 10:45 am

The problem for Santer is that he can’t really separate natural from human-induced change. But all he has to say is he has, and it’s all good.

Chris Nisbet
Reply to  jeremymillrood
June 5, 2023 6:14 pm

Remind me – what’s 5 x 0?

Krishna Gans
June 5, 2023 6:54 am

Also on you find all informations about the TCI, the Thermosphere Climate Index:

comment image
in case the graph dosn’t show-up



The thermosphere always cools off during Solar Minimum–and it warms up again during Solar Maximum,” explains Martin Mlynczak of NASA’s Langley Research Center. “It’s one of the most important ways the solar cycle affects our planet.”

Richard Page
Reply to  Krishna Gans
June 5, 2023 10:01 am

So no new bad news for satellites, they’ve coped with it for decades?

June 5, 2023 6:57 am

Now all we need is a book / paper telling us that CO2 has little or nothing to do with the temperature of any of the atmosphere and the full set of all 3 findings, of hotter, colder and little change, will be available

Oh, wait, …… .

Ron Long
June 5, 2023 7:01 am

Good posting by CR. Regarding the “…strength of the signal…climate change…” and “…he calculates…”, calculate this: in the last 5 million years the earth has been in an Ice Age, featuring intra and inter glacial phases. During this time the sea level (the only grand indicator of earth climate, as long as there is a continent in a generally polar region) has varied from 40 meters higher to 140 meters lower, a normal change of 180 meters. If you are worried about 1 meter of sea level change, you are worried about 0.6% of normal. Never mind.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Ron Long
June 5, 2023 10:48 am

A better metric for the Holocene is glacial advance and retreat and forest tree line elevation changes. They generally show today’s global temperatures are lower than most of the Holocene and the Little Ice Age was a bitch.

Peta of Newark
June 5, 2023 7:12 am

Most of us knew this already and the story here is another tiny example.

Quote:Physicist Sabine Hossenfelder, in a Guardian article, calls attention to a peculiar phenomenon in physics, the hardest of hard sciences: Since the 1980s, physicists have invented an entire particle zoo, whose inhabitants carry names like preons, sfermions, dyons, magnetic monopoles, simps, wimps, wimpzillas, axions, flaxions, erebons, accelerons, cornucopions, giant magnons, maximons, macros, wisps, fips, branons, skyrmions, chameleons, cuscutons, planckons and sterile neutrinos, to mention just a few.
None of these particles turned out to be real, but more are proposed constantly.

Science is broken (a pdf from netzerowatch)

Reply to  Peta of Newark
June 5, 2023 9:56 am

“None of these particles turned out to be real, but more are proposed constantly.”

So long as known fakes are thrown out, I’m okay with them proposing millions a day. I worry when someone works thirty years trying to tease a result out of data, claims to succeed then can’t. express their result coherently.- and/or they won’t share the recipe they used to cook the result.

Adding: I also like the funny names. Lets not take ourselves too seriously.

June 5, 2023 7:40 am

High solar activity is a real drag. It’s true that higher solar activity can cause more debris to burn in while active satellites can keep doing station keeping maneuvers to maintain their orbits (but burn through propellant faster), but usually you want less drag. You can always do CA (conjunction assessment/collision avoidance) as needed. The primary and obvious reason for the increase in space debris is from the increased launch tempo in recent years.

Reply to  johnesm
June 5, 2023 10:01 am

Space Roomba? Someone would have to fund it, but it could dangerously shift university research dollars to kids who know math.

Richard Page
Reply to  KevinM
June 5, 2023 3:16 pm

Go and have a search for a Swiss based company called ‘ClearSpace’ – they’ve raised over €26 million so far to do just that.

June 5, 2023 7:44 am

Rocket fuel/propellants are fossil fuel derived, so isn’t it just a matter of time before man made satellites and space travel is restricted?

Richard Page
Reply to  Scissor
June 5, 2023 10:14 am

Already in the works, unfortunately. New Zealand activists want to ban rocket launches as they could ‘punch more holes in the ozone layer’ and there are moves to ban some rocket fuels in the EU. Several companies around the world are developing ‘green’ rocket fuels and both NASA and SpaceX are switching over to methane, at least in part because it’s cleaner than other fuels.

Reply to  Richard Page
June 5, 2023 11:47 am


Richard Page
Reply to  Scissor
June 5, 2023 3:18 pm

Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up.

June 5, 2023 7:45 am

Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold …….

June 5, 2023 8:08 am

Global Warming™ is all things to all people at all times, but all bad.

June 5, 2023 9:03 am

All change is bad.
Even if the change merely undoes the bad change that happened yesterday.

Hoyt Clagwell
Reply to  MarkW
June 5, 2023 10:31 am

But if things stayed the same, that would really be a change! Goof grief!

Rud Istvan
June 5, 2023 9:18 am

Thought I would do a reality fact check on Santer. Result—as suspected, he is in model CO2 fingerprint lala land. His statement cannot be true, let alone the contradictory satellite sequelae Charles amusingly calls attention to.

The highest resolution vertical atmosphere model in CMIP6 has 40 layers and stops at 0.1hPa. That is an altitude of 40 km. That is also ridiculous model overkill, since 99% of the atmosphere mass lies below 32km—where CMIP6 models typically stop vertical resolution.

The thermosphere lies between ~85km and ~600km depending on solar activity. There is NO modeled thermosphere anywhere in CMIP6 for Santer to diagnose a fingerprint from. Really embarrassing expert ‘climate science’.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 5, 2023 10:56 am

All it shows is Santer’s fingerprint on CO2 hysteria, beginning with his politician-sanctioned rewriting of a UN IPCC CliSciFi assessment report’s summary of the science from that approved by the report’s authors.

Richard Page
Reply to  Dave Fair
June 5, 2023 3:20 pm

And there I was thinking that sooty bootprints on the rug and teethmarks in a carrot on Christmas morning was Santer’s fingerprint, so to speak.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Rud Istvan
June 6, 2023 7:49 am

“Really embarrassing expert ‘climate science’.”

It looks like fraud to me.

Gary Pearse
June 5, 2023 9:37 am

Interesting how the most notorious climateers are one trick ponies and there’s a kind of passive aggressiveness to their personalities. Santer’s quest for a human fingerprint on warming goes back almost 3 decades when he grossly altered a summary for policymakers insisting that a human fingerprint had been found. He followed up with a 1996 paper that was trashed by Daly and here he is 8 yrs after retirement clarioning a human crime beyond the stratosphere!

K. Trenberth, big on hot spots, began chasing then all over the world and into the deepest parts of the oceans for the rest of his professional life when the troposphere above the tropics failed to host a hotspot that models said should be there.

Michael Mann wrote his hockeystick paper in 1998 using cherry-picked proxies cropped to remove “the declne”, one used upside-down and then applied “novel statistics” that made all red noise into hockeysticks with the side benefit of erasing the LIA and the MWP, which was on the wish list in the climategate email release! Most of the rest of his career has been used defending the stick which was trashed by statisticians a suing people.

John Hultquist
June 5, 2023 9:59 am

Maybe I’m the only one that gets a chuckle when I read “state-of-the-art climate models“. I get an image of Fred & Wilma** road-tripping in their wood and rock Flintmobile that gets a fill-up via the trunk of a woolly mammoth marked “ETHEL”.
State of the Art doesn’t mean what Ben Santer thinks it means.

**Flintmobile.jpg (400×240) (

Dave Fair
June 5, 2023 10:39 am

Here is the fundamental problem for science and society: Lies and rank speculation by government-funded academics and governmental Deep State actors to support ideological agendas are eroding the public’s trust in both science and government. How is the average citizen to differentiate truth from “governmental truth?”

The mass cynicism of the Russian population that fed into the fall of the Soviet Union is creeping into American society. How can any society function when lies are the norm? The only winners are the Leftist/Marxist that benefit from the hate generated by a fractured oppressed/oppressor populace.

Reply to  Dave Fair
June 5, 2023 11:51 am

Jordan Peterson addresses that very topic is this 6 minute video.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Scissor
June 5, 2023 12:08 pm

Thanks, Scissor. The only hope is to remove the Leftists from all of our institutions.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Dave Fair
June 6, 2023 7:52 am

I think the Leftists/Marxists are the source of all this turmoil and division. And I think they are doing it deliberately in a effort to destroy our society.

Americans should wake up and smell the coffee.

Ireneusz Palmowski
June 5, 2023 2:14 pm

comment image

Ireneusz Palmowski
Reply to  Ireneusz Palmowski
June 5, 2023 11:28 pm

 The thermosphere in the 25th solar cycle does not reach the warm level and the graph drops. In this cycle, there will be one stronger solar peak and solar activity will decline rapidly. Unlike in the previous cycle, spots appear synchronously in both solar hemispheres.
comment image

June 5, 2023 3:13 pm

One other thing that is important is the Earth’s magnetic field is waning and will continue to do so. This allows weaker pulses inbound from the Sun to interact with the upper atmosphere. So we may not get as much of a thermosphere cooldown expected at the end of this cycle and it may get even worse during the next solar peak.

Things are a changing. We need to get ready for it.

June 5, 2023 3:48 pm

The Earth Climate is dominated by negative feedback——proof being its astonishing stability over the last billion years despite many perturbations (big meteors, ice ages, CO2 up to 5000ppm as examples).

But a bunch of humans are dominated by positive feedback——proof being how frequently they fly off the handle. Some of those have diagnosable Emotional Instability Personality Disorder (used be called Borderline Personality)

Climate alarmists seem of this type. Or they have a punishing parent of the type (I have a friend like that)——they just expect things to explode out of control at any moment——as my friend’s father did.

My friend, who has many awesome positive traits and is of great character, a classic Harvard/MIT geek, would call me in a panic in the 1970’s about the Ice Age (“We’re already in it!” he would declaim, “We just don’t know it yet!”). He’s the one who clued me in to the terror of the frogs failing to spawn and the bees dying off (“Didn’t I realize this means the end of life on Earth!” he would shout when I seemed a bit ho hum about it.)

There is no dealing directly with these folks. We can just hope that a prolonged AMO reversal or some such leads to distinct cooling so they get back to THE NEXT ICE AGE IS NOW UPON US! (They tend to think in all caps)

Reply to  kwinterkorn
June 6, 2023 5:50 am

The best observation and explanation I’ve seen in a long time!

Tom Abbott
Reply to  rbabcock
June 6, 2023 7:54 am

Me, too! 🙂

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