Climate dynamics of clouds

by Judith Curry

So, what’s going on in the world of research on the climate dynamics of clouds?

In two words: not much.

In the past decade, cloud-climate research has been focused on the aerosol indirect effect (aerosol-cloud interactions), improving climate model parameterizations of clouds, and evaluating new satellite cloud observing systems.  What exactly do I mean about the climate dynamics of clouds?  Here are some key questions that I see:

  • Could changes in cloud distribution or optical properties contribute to the global surface temperature hiatus?
  • How do cloud patterns (and TOA and surface radiative fluxes) change with shifts in in atmospheric circulation and teleconnection regimes (e.g. AO, NAO, PDO)?
  • How do feedbacks between clouds, surface temperature, and atmospheric thermodynamics/circulations interact with global warming and the atmospheric circulation and teleconnection regimes?

This particular post is triggered by the following paper that was recently published:

Late 20th century warming and variations in cloud cover

John Lean

Abstract.  From 1950 to 1987 a strong relationship existed between the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and HadCRUT4 global average temperature anomaly, interrupted occasionally by volcanic eruptions. After 1987 the relationship diverged, with temperature anomaly increasing more than expected, but was re-established after 1997 at an offset of ~0.48˚C higher. The period of increased warming from 1987 to 1997 loosely coincided with the divergence of the global average temperature anomalies over land, which are derived from observation station recordings, and the global average anomalies in sea surface temperatures. Land-based temperatures averaged 0.04˚C below sea temperatures for the period 1950 to 1987 but after 1997 averaged 0.41˚C above sea temperatures. The increase in the global average temperature anomaly and the divergence of land and sea surface temperatures also coincided with two significant changes in global average cloud cover. Total cloud cover decreased during the period from 1987 to 1997 and, for most of the remainder of the period from 1984 to 2009, decreases in low-level cloud were accompanied by increases in middle and upper level cloud. These changes can be found in both global average cloud cover and in each of the six 30˚-latitude bands. The impact of these changes in cloud cover can account for the variations in HadCRUT4 global average temperature anomalies and the divergence between land and sea temperatures.

The paper is published online in Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, full manuscript available [here].

The paper provides some interesting observational analyses.  I’m not going to critique the paper in detail, although I will state that the last sentence in the abstract is very weakly supported in the paper, which states in the conclusion:

According to the energy balance described by Trenberth et al. (2009) [34], the reduction in total cloud cover accounts for the increase in temperature since 1987, leaving little, if any, of the temperature change to be attributed to other forcings.

You cannot simply infer changes to global surface temperature from changes in horizontal and vertical distribution of clouds using Trenberth et al’s global energy balance.

The paper is significant in that it attempts to address some big questions in the climate dynamics of clouds, a topic where there is somewhat of a research void.

IPCC AR5

Why the relative research void on the topic of the climate dynamics of clouds?  What does the IPCC have to say?  The AR5 has an entire chapter (Chapter 7) entitled Clouds and Aerosols, but doesn’t have much to say on the questions that I posed above and barely mentions the the satellite cloud datasets, other than to show a few pretty global images.  However, there are some interesting insights from the AR4 section 3.4.3.2 Satellite Cloud Observations:

Since the TAR, there has been considerable effort in the development and analysis of satellite data sets for documenting changes in global cloud cover over the past few decades. The most comprehensive cloud climatology is that of the International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP), begun in July 1983. The ISCCP shows an increase in globally averaged total cloud cover of about 2% from 1983 to 1987, followed by a decline of about 4% from 1987 to 2001 

In summary, while there is some consistency between ISCCP, ERBS, SAGE II and surface observations of a reduction in high cloud cover during the 1990s relative to the 1980s, there are substantial uncertainties in decadal trends in all data sets and at present there is no clear consensus on changes in total cloudiness over decadal time scales.

WCRP Assessment

In 2012, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Global Energy and Water Experiment (GEWEX) prepared a comprehensive report Assessment of Global Cloud Data Sets from Satellites.  A reader’s digest version of this report is published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society by Stubenrauch et al. From the Executive Summary of the WCRP Report:

Only satellite observations provide a continuous survey of the state of the atmosphere over the whole globe, at space-time scales at which cloud processes occur. Satellite cloud data records now exceed more than 25 years in length. While not as long as records from human observers, satellites provide the only globally complete data record at spatial and temporal scales consistent with cloud processes (approximately 3 hr, 25 km). The International Satellite Cloud Climatology Project (ISCCP), which is the GEWEX cloud project, uses multi-spectral imager data from a combination of polar orbiting and geostationary weather satellites to achieve the necessary sampling. During the past decade, other global cloud data records have been established from various instruments, mostly onboard polar orbiting satellites. New sensors such as MODIS, POLDER, CALIPSO and CloudSat have expanded cloud measurement capabilities. It is imperative that the longer time series products such as ISCCP be compared to recent intruments to assess the accuracy and error sources relevant for climate studies and for evaluation of general circulation models (GCM). In 2005, the GEWEX Radiation Panel (GRP, now GEWEX Data and Assessments Panel) initiated the GEWEX Cloud Assessment to intercompare these cloud data with ISCCP.

Conclusions, Recommendations and Outlook: In addition to self-assessments (summarized in Annex I), which show the maturity of the various data sets, the analyses have shown how cloud properties are perceived by instruments measuring different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum and how their averages and distributions are affected by instrument choice as well as some methodological decisions. These satellite cloud products are very valuable for climate studies or model evaluation: even if absolute values, especially those of high-level cloud statistics depend on instrument (or retrieval) performance to detect and/or identify thin cirrus, relative geographical and seasonal variations in the cloud properties agree very well (with only a few exceptions like over deserts and snow-covered regions). The study of long-term variations with these data sets requires consideration of many factors, which have to be carefully investigated before attributing any detected trends to climate change. This database will facilitate future assessments, climate studies and the evaluation of climate models. ISCCP cloud properties have also been assessed during the GEWEX Assessment of Global Radiative Flux Data Sets, revealing excellent quantitative agreement between fluxes.

ISCCP is not mentioned in the AR5, although the Stubenrauch et al. (BAMS article) receives a cursory mention.

ISCCP – fit for purpose?

The ISCCP cloud data set is the only one that has the time/space coverage to be useful for climate dynamics analyses (and ISCCP was used in the McLean paper).  So . . . is the ISCCP data set useful for climate studies?

The ISCCP project has an excellent and comprehensive website at [link]. ISCCP cloud properties are one of the most mature climate data records that we have – for a discussion of climate data record maturity, see this previous post Climate Data Records – Maturity Matrix.   The WCRP and BAMS articles provide clear guidance as to uncertainties in the ISCCP data set.

Relative to ocean heat content, for example, the ISCCP cloud data set is very mature and fit for purpose of climate dynamics analysis.  I find the IPCC neglect of this important data record and resource to be inexplicable.

The time is ripe for application of satellite cloud data sets (particularly ISCCP) to addressing the fundamental questions related to the climate dynamics of clouds.

I have invited the father of ISCCP, Bill Rossow, to do some guest posts on this topic, something to definitely look forward to.

 

177 responses to “Climate dynamics of clouds

  1. Clouds are important, but as an internal feedback parameter are unlikely to reveal too much.

    • I normally only look at the North Hemisphere’s temperatures, since the South has a high uncertainty even for the most recent decades.
      Here is a simple reconstruction of HADCRUT4

      from just two external variables..

      • And how do you estimate the uncertainty of averaging near surface air temps over land and sea surface temperatures? The former changes at about twice the rate on both short and longer term scales; the two media have vastly different heat capacities. Even if you consider land SAT as an indication of land temps, you still have factor of two difference in heat capacity.

        What’s the average of an apple and an orrange ? A fruit salad ?

        IMO these hybrid datasets have no physical meaning.

        Neither does your secret forumla until you are prepared to say document what you are doing.

      • SH SST does mirror changes is TLS rather closely if exponential relaxation due to ocean heat capacity is allowed for:

        This is explained in more detail here:
        http://climategrog.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=902

        The periods of warming indicated by the Lean paper match well with the counter reaction to the two volcanic eruptions that I have identified.

        The traditional volcanic cooling is only the start of the effects. The persistent effect is one of stratospheric cooling and surface warming.

        From ERBE data, I estimated about 1.8 W/m2 extra SW making it into the lower climate system after Mt Pinatubo.

        With an apparent time constant of around 2 years, these changes get near to a new equilibrium about 5 or 6 years after the “dust” settles. That, IMO, is the principal cause of the pause.

      • Also note that TLS is essentially flat since 1996 and SST ( with greater residual variability ) is essentially flat since 1997/8.

        Lean also uses HadCRUT4 and the remaining, small rise in that data from 1997 onwards is largely due to a helping hand from “bias correction” at Hadley and UHI in the land record. It is notable that the satellite data do not show this continued rise.

  2. I would like to hear evidence for and against the possibility clouds form in response to ionizing radiation from

    1. Interstellar space
    2. The Sun’s pulsar core

  3. I am interested in the evidence for and against the possibility that clouds form in response to Thawed or Frozen Oceans.

  4. Climate stability is the rule not the exception; and, clouds are one of the governors in understanding climate change.

    The stability of the earth’s temperature over geological time has been a long-standing climatological puzzle. The globe has maintained a temperature of ± ~ 3% (including ice ages) for at least the last half a billion years during which we can estimate the temperature. ~Willis Eschenbach

    • Plus or minus ~3% is plus or minus ~9 kelvin. Since the IPCC is only talking about 3 to 4 kelvin for a doubling of CO2, how does +/- 9 kelvin observed in geologic history support your claim that the system is too stable to undergo the changes predicted by the majority of researchers?

      • …because, humanity had nothing to do with those swings, the warming swings were good for humanity, and increases in atmospheric CO2 levels followed the rises global temperatures by 700 or more years… sometimes, over a thousand years. Obviously, other factors cause global temperatures to rise. Computer models don’t know what they are. Using the scientific method, the null hypothesis of AGW has been rejected, that all warming and cooling can be explained by natural factors.

      • … has NOT rejected: that all global warming can (and cooling) can be explained by natural factors.

      • “humanity had nothing to do with those swings”
        So? That has the same logical correctness as saying that there were fires before there were humans; therefore, humans can’t make fire.

        “the warming swings were good for humanity”
        Were the heat waves in Europe in 2003, Russia in 2010, and the U.S. in 2011 good for agriculture? Do humans need to eat? Heat waves like that cover about 10 percent of the globe in an average year now; they covered less than 1% 30-60 years ago.

        Can you point us to the research which overthrows Fourier’s work from the 1820s, Tyndall 1854, or Arrhenius 1896? Otherwise, you’ve got nothing more than wishful thinking to back up your claims. There is this thing called the conservation of energy; increasing CO2 content explains the buildup of energy in the earth system perfectly well. What is your better model?

      • BTW, you still haven’t explained how wider swings in temperature support the idea that the system is self-stabilizing enough to preclude narrower swings.

  5. Myself and Euan Mearns studied this subject in detail and submitted a paper to Climate Dynamics. We developed a simple combined cloud and CO2 forcing model and the fitted it to the H4 data. The result was an underlying TCR value of 1.4 ± 0.3 degC. Unfortunately the paper was rejected by one of the referees after 4 months. Without the (financial) backing of a university we simply gave up on the project. I wrote a post about it all here The referees objections concern the ISCCP data and previous reported viewing angle biases. NASA have now corrected these and several studies show good agreement with ground station data, but the stigma remains. Another objection of the reviewer was simply based on the principal that clouds themselves could ever be a driver of climate rather than just a feedback. However we showed that if ISCCP cloud really data are valid as claimed, then the observed changes in cloud cover since 1983 can indeed explain about 40% of the observed warming until 2000. The hiatus is then mainly due to a flat to slight increasing cloud cover thereafter.

    Our model and data can all be downloaded from this site

    • The net change from the 1980’s to the 1990’s was 1.9W/m2 – with warming of 2.4W/m2 in SW and cooling of 0.5W/m2 in IR. This is data that doesn’t have viewing angle effects and is confirmed by ERBS.

      40% seems a bit of an underestimate. .

    • Clive Best, “Another objection of the reviewer was simply based on the principal that clouds themselves could ever be a driver of climate rather than just a feedback.”

      There seems to be some serious communication issues and limitations in the typical forcing/feedback concepts. Clouds would respond to some conditions and impact others making them appear to be forcing if the exact cause of the change in cloud dynamics is placed in the proper perspective. Natural and “unforced” variability should be replaced with something more realistic like FIIK or unicorns since most appear to be assuming they know more than they do.

      • In the broadest sense clouds respond to changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation. In a secondary effect this changes the energy dynamic of the planet.

      • Rob, “In the broadest sense clouds respond to changes in ocean and atmospheric circulation. ”

        Right, but when the cause(s) of those changes in O/A circulation are unknown or poorly understood you have the forced/natural/unforced attribution dilemma. Right now aerosols are the silver bullet for some while centennial and longer scale ocean circulation is ticket for others. If someone screws up a statement like, “clouds appear to have forced the shift in surface temperature circa 2000.” their study is dismissed due to improper use of jargon. What should be a forcing, feedback or response should depend on the specific model used not some generic idea of what a model should use.

      • If we are caught up in terminology the best might be cloud radiative effect. And rather than theory only data is of much avail.

        Warming and cooling are the inevitable consequence of TOA radiant flux changes from the Sun but predominantly from cloud, ice, dust, vegetation.

      • Cloud radiative effect is much better than just generic feedback fer sure. Sometimes it is better to just describe changes than try and assign causes to the changes.

    • Another objection of the reviewer was simply based on the principal that clouds themselves could ever be a driver of climate rather than just a feedback.

      Assuming for the sake of discussion that the whole “stable system responding to external ‘forcings'” paradigm is anything but a myth, seems to me clouds, by definition are an internal mechanism. But they are highly complex mechanisms capable of magnifying the effects of a variety of apparently insignificant factors, both internal (“feedbacks”) and external (“forcings”), and applying them at very large scales.

      Thus, one can expect to find changes in clouds that are not “feedbacks” for any of the “traditional” “forcings”. Whatever causes them, they represent potentially major effects on the energy budget.

    • Clive: rejections by journals are par for the course throughout the scientific world. Why not submit to another journal?

    • Clivebest I would like to have a look at your paper. I spent several years studying anisotropic correction factors (viewing angle corrections for albedo) for ERBS satellite and the old METEOSAT 7 satellite. I have used combined ERBS and AVHRR to study cloud fraction. I have been away from research for many years but maybe I can find what the reviewer thought was wrong with your results. I’ll check your blog beginning next week.
      Rose

  6. For the Record:
    Friday, 6 October 2000
    Clouds won’t counter global warming
    http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2000/10/06/196029.htm

    • You write

      “Critics of global warming theory – some with vested interests – have tried to discredit the climate change models on the basis that the observed temperature drops were lower than expected,” he says. “But that’s because until recently, we only used changes in carbon dioxide levels to calculate temperature change. Once we put in the aerosol data we found the models were in much better agreement with the observed temperatures”.

      However Chapter 7 in AR5 WG1 acually says:

      ‘Aerosols dominate the uncertainty in the total anthropogenic radiative forcing. A complete understanding of past and future climate change requires a thorough assessment of aerosol-cloud-radiation interactions.

  7. ‘ Climate forcing results in an imbalance in the TOA radiation budget that has direct implications for global climate, but the large natural variability in the Earth’s radiation budget due to fluctuations in atmospheric and ocean dynamics complicates this picture.’ http://meteora.ucsd.edu/~jnorris/reprints/Loeb_et_al_ISSI_Surv_Geophys_2012.pdf

    Palle and Laken use an interesting cross validation of ISCCP and MODIS using equatorial Pacific SST. It extends the record and shows the consistency of the records.

    It is half of the story of course. The other half being the IR effect. Loeb et all (2012) combine ISCCP and CERES.

    There is something here that is at the core of climate variability.

  8. “So, what’s going on in the world of research on the climate dynamics of clouds?
    In two words: not much.”

    For some reason I’m reminded of sex education in Catholic schools in the 1950s. Perhaps the catechists of the IPCC think some subjects, however important, are best left for later. “Later” meaning “just shut up about that, willya”.

    • John Smith (it's my real name)

      “not much”
      astounding to me
      all these great pronouncements and predictions
      and nobody has bothered to figure out how cloud cover affects the system?
      no need
      trust the priests
      it’s the carbon devil
      oh yeah, and as I just heard on NPR
      methane from cows
      I pray thee Gaia, make me vegetarian

  9. From the referenced paper:

    One forcing that might have been under-estimated is cloud cover. Variations in total solar irradiance are often discussed but not variations in cloud cover, but cloud cover impedes the flow of radiation, which in general means that it controls the amount of radiation reaching the Earth’s surface during the day, and how much heat is lost during overnight cooling.

    I’m not really an expert on the mythology of “forcing”, but I thought the word was usually applied to external factors rather than internal. If this is true, what does it say about the author’s expertise in the subject?

    • It gives away a bias that the author thinks clouds can change spontaneously in the way the sun does for example, or volcanoes. In that situation it would be a forcing.
      However, the elephant in the room was that a reduction in clouds during a time of strong warming is entirely consistent with a positive cloud feedback. This is not mentioned anywhere. Also, as the land warms faster than the ocean in response to external forcing such as GHG increases, clouds should reduce because the humidity over land decreases. This is analogous to having less clouds in summer than winter over continents.

      • Jim D, we’ll just leave you to ponder where all that moisture in the land comes from in the first place.

      • phatboy, this is the point. It comes from the ocean and the amount is governed by the ocean temperature, so when the land is warmer, the same moisture equals lower relative humidity equals less clouds (as this article says is observed) and less rainfall. This is a growing trend because the land has been warming twice as fast as the ocean for the last few decades.
        http://woodfortrees.org/plot/crutem4vgl/mean:240/mean:120/from:1900/plot/hadsst3gl/mean:240/mean:120/from:1900

      • So let’s get this straight – less cloud cover causes the land to heat up more, which leads to less cloud cover?
        Do you know what you’re talking about?

      • Hang on. I thought you said more warming caused more snow. Snow doesn’t fall from a clear sky you know.

      • So let’s get this straight – less cloud cover causes the land to heat up more, which leads to less cloud cover?

        It’s called “positive feedback”

      • It gives away a bias that the author thinks clouds can change spontaneously in the way the sun does for example, or volcanoes. In that situation it would be a forcing.

        As I mentioned below:

        [… Clouds] are highly complex mechanisms capable of magnifying the effects of a variety of apparently insignificant factors, both internal (“feedbacks”) and external (“forcings”), and applying them at very large scales.

        Thus, one can expect to find changes in clouds that are not “feedbacks” for any of the “traditional” “forcings”. Whatever causes them, they represent potentially major effects on the energy budget.

        The problem is that the author doesn’t make that distinction, thus we’re left to ponder whether he understands it.

      • It’s called “positive feedback”

        Except that the effect on temperature from changes in cloud cover is very large in both amplitude and frequency in comparison to the ‘warming’ signal

      • Here’s how feedbacks work in a real feedback system:

        Your base effect is 1 (by definition, setting the scale).

        Let’s suppose you have a positive feedback equivalent to 0.5 (50%):

        •       When you add in the feedback from the base effect, the result is 1.5: 1+0.5.

        •       When you add in the feedback from original feedback, the result is 1.75: 1+0.5+0.25.

        •       When you add in the feedback from that feedback, the result is 1.875: 1+0.5+0.25+0.125.

        And so on. Carrying that series to infinity, the result is 2 (twice the base effect).

        A similar process might be performed with a feedback equivalent to 0.8 (80%): 1+0.8+0.64+0.523+…=5 (5 times the base effect).

        One (of very many) discussions of the process is wiki’s

        Obviously, if your feedback reaches 1.0 (100%) the series doesn’t converge, you have a runaway process, of the sort experienced when a microphone gets too close to the amplified loudspeaker.

        But when feedback levels get up around 80% or so, the amplified result can be far larger than the base effect.

      • AK, the question is about what’s doing the wagging – the tail or the dog.

        BTW I don’t need lecturing on feedback loops

      • BTW I don’t need lecturing on feedback loops

        If you really think which is bigger offers any significant information regarding which is the tail and which is the dog, you need to listen to ” lecturing on feedback loops”.

      • AK, you have evidently misconstrued my reply to Jim D.
        Now I’m going to stop this particular thread before it gets ugly.

      • AK,

        It’s all well and good hypothesizing about positive feedbacks from clouds. However, in the real world, they exhibit a very different pattern. Clouds by and large work as a NEGATIVE feedback to surface processes. Clouds warm (slow down cooling) in winter and during the night, and cool (slow down heating) in summer and during the day. Net CRE is strongly negative in the summer hemisphere extratropics, and moderately positive in winter. In the tropics, clouds exert a cooling influence during El Niños (warm ENSO events) and a warming influence during La Niñas (cool ENSO events). It is no use bringing in relative humidity. Nowhere in this world is the sea surface consistently as warm across such a vast area, than in the West Pacific Warm Pool. Does this lead to less clouds? Of course not. Quite the opposite. It leads to more. It is one of the cloudiest regions of the world. Why? Because of massive constant evaporation. Yes, above some dry land areas, there would be a positive cloud feedback (less clouds when warming), but these areas cover only a small portion of the globe. Globally, clouds would NOT constitute a positive feedback to surface warming. They would constitute a negative feedback.

    • Does it seem easier to think about it as a cloud radiative effect.that varies spontaneously as a result of ocean and atmospheric changes?

      Cloud is overwhelmingly ocean sourced as is hydrology.

      • Rob said:

        “Cloud is overwhelmingly ocean sourced as is hydrology. ”

        The vapour certainly is but condensation into cloud is more dependent on the amount of mixing of air masses with different characteristics.

        There is much more of such mixing when the jet stream tracks are looping about meridionally (quiet sun) than when they follow a straighter more poleward zonal track (active sun).

        In the end the entire system is balanced between the top down solar effect on stratosphere temperatures via varying ozone amounts and the bottom up oceanic effect on troposphere temperatures from water vapour.

        Both affect tropopause heights and the configuration of the air circulation in the troposphere depends on the gradient of tropopause height between equator and poles.

        Overall one gets more zonal jets, less cloud and warming oceans when the sun is active with more meridional jets, more clouds and cooling oceans when the sun is less active.

      • Condensation in cloud happens when moisture rises to the dewpoint. Cloud thus formed is distributed across the globe by pressure differences and the Coriolis force.

        The most fundamental driver of ENSO is upwelling in the eastern Pacific. This is the result of wind driven currents in a baroclinic ocean (Sverdrup 1947).

        Multi-decadal variability in the Pacific is defined as the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (e.g. Folland et al,2002, Meinke et al, 2005, Parker et al, 2007, Power et al, 1999) – a proliferation of oscillations it seems. The latest Pacific Ocean climate shift in 1998/2001 is linked to increased flow in the north (Di Lorenzo et al, 2008) and the south (Roemmich et al, 2007, Qiu, Bo et al 2006) Pacific Ocean gyres. Roemmich et al (2007) suggest that mid-latitude gyres in all of the oceans are influenced by decadal variability in the Southern and Northern annular Modes.

      • Condensation into clouds can just be, as you say, when uplift cools the air below the dew point but you get far more clouds when cold dry polar sourced air mixes with warm humid tropically sourced air in the horizontal plane such that the cold air cools the warm air to the dew point without prior uplift being necessary.

        I agree that upwelling in the Pacific is ultimately wind driven but I think that the ‘excess’ energy that becomes stored there prior to the colder upwelling event is due to the clouds of the ITCZ being on average north of the equator so that there is an imbalance of incoming solar energy entering the oceans north and south of the equator.

        Over time an ‘excess’ builds up in the southern oceans near the equator and then the scale and timing of upwelling is determined by winds.

        Periodically, the excess energy is discharged across the equator and into northern hemisphere ocean circulations during ENSO events.

        Those winds, in turn, resulted from the constant interplay between top down solar effects and bottom up oceanic effects on the gradient of tropopause height between equator and poles. It is that gradient which ultimately controls global cloudiness and therefore the proportion of solar energy able to enter the oceans to drive the system.

        Do not take the apparent simplicity of my ‘Model’ as meaning that there is not complex thought and substantial data underlying it.

      • ‘In experimental philosophy, propositions gathered from phenomena by induction should be considered either exactly or very nearly true notwithstanding any contrary hypotheses, until yet other phenomena make such propositions either more exact or liable to exceptions.

        This rule should be followed so that arguments based on induction be not be nullified by hypotheses.’ Isaac Newton

        No Stephen – I take the self referential circularity of the argument and lack of an observational basis to be diagnostic of complete blather.

        It is the difference between induction and wild flights of fantasy. Not even hypothesis – because hypotheses by the nature of science are testable and certainly not correct unless tested.

      • There are plenty of relevant observations and my model can be falsified if the real world fails to follow the sequence I have specified.

        No problems so far :)

  10. I have had a hypothesis covering all the relevant issues in the public domain for several years.

    Solar variations alter the gradient of tropopause height between equator and poles by acting on ozone in the stratosphere differently above equator and poles.

    The effect is to make jet stream tracks vary and climate zones shift latitudinally in order to affect global cloudiness.

    The changes in global cloudiness alter the proportion of incoming solar energy able to enter the oceans, skew the balance between El Nino and La Nina and thereby create a warming or cooling trend.

    http://www.newclimatemodel.com/new-climate-model/

    • Usually we find that claims of new climate models are based on flimsy narrative and a cloying and transparent conceit. They tend to be simplistic and dogmatic.

      As a complete theory – I don’t think you are quite there yet.

      http://watertechbyrie.com/2014/06/23/the-unstable-math-of-michael-ghils-climate-sensitivity/

      • Hello Rob,

        I see that you have covered much the same ground albeit more recently.

        However, my scenario provides a step by step sequence that can be compared to real world observations in order to test validity.

        Your work raises lots of questions but does not provide a coherent overview

        I am sorry that my narrative style doesn’t meet with your approval but it is helpful to many.

      • You miss a vital link in the evolution of Pacific Ocean ocean circulation and miss entirely the fundamental dynamical mechanism underlying climate as a whole.

      • And my review is of data driven science all the way. As opposed to a wild string of conjecture based on a single idea of the effect of polar annular modes.

        Ultimately it is a theory of the underlying driver of ENSO. It begins to explain decadal and longer variability in both the north and south Pacific. Based on the central idea of the polar modes spinning up the sub-polar oceanic gyres and facilitating – or not – turbulent upwelling. Upwelling kicks of the propagation of La Nina across the Pacific. Ultimately there is a relaxation event and warm water washes back towards the east.

        Very founded in observation of a fundamental mode of climate variability. Data is everything – and burdening it with extended claims of causality is a prime objective. Stick close to data in other words.

      • Thank you, Rob.

        I have no problem with ypur comments since all the phenomena you refer to can fit into my ‘conjectures’ about the chain of causation.

        Although my ‘Model’ is not as replete with data as you might like it to be I can assure you that as far as I can tell it complies with all the observational data that I have seen thus far.

        It isn’t intended to be a complete theory but rather a basic structure into which one can then slot every other aspect of climate behaviour.

        Of course, if you have data that does not fit the conjecture then I’d like to hear it in case I need to refine my narrative.

        The chances of it being completely wrong are IMHO very low.

      • So you can fit in a fundamental driver for ENSO, the PDO and AMO – but don’t – in fact get the mechanism utterly wrong – and could consider dynamical complexity – but don’t?

        Of course.

      • “in fact get the mechanism utterly wrong –”

        Please specify the mechanism and indicate how it invalidates the chain of causation set out in my Model.

  11. A couple of graphs to try to back up my previous comments ( assuming they load OK !)

    First a simple comparison of ISCCP cloud over with global temperature anomalies

    next an integral calculation of ICCP CO2 forcing using Moana-Loa data and ISCCP cloud cover data. The bottom curve shows the Chi^2 distribution varying TCR with CERES derived cloud forcing. This gives the error on TCR of ± 0.3C

    I strongly suspect there is still much to learn about natural climate variability.

  12. Matthew R Marler

    WCRP Assessment

    In 2012, the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Global Energy and Water Experiment (GEWEX) prepared a comprehensive report Assessment of Global Cloud Data Sets from Satellites.

    thanks for the link. That will take a while to read.

  13. The physics of atmospheric forcings and feedbacks are different over land masses and the oceans. Primarily because the ocean absorbs SW radiation below the surface and LW radiation only at the surface, whereas on land the surface absorbs both L and SW radiation.

    What that means is that in the tropics and subtropics, the ocean is a net absorber and conducts the energy to higher latitudes which are a net loser of energy.

    The oceans primary way to emit energy is via evaporation, which is adiabatic and does not contribute to the atmospheric radiation.

    The Ocean is the “GreenHouse” of the the world.

  14. Matthew R Marler

    You cannot simply infer changes to global surface temperature from changes in horizontal and vertical distribution of clouds using Trenberth et al’s global energy balance.

    The best we can hope for from that paper is that it stimulates a lot of other people to work on the same problem.

  15. Climate4You, http://www.climate4you.com/ClimateAndClouds.htm
    has some interesing plots, including:

    and

  16. Two items I rarely ever see mentioned in connection with cloud formation particularly oceanic cloud formation.

    The first is the biological influences on cloud formation with some known oceanianic bacterial and virus species being actively involved in low level cloud formation. which implies that as the ocean currents regularly swing between moving vast amounts of warm and cold surface waters from one part of the global oceans to another, the biological activity will vary according to water temperatures and the bacterial and virus nutrient load of those surface waters.
    I don’t know if such cloud forming / water droplet conglomerating bacterial and viral effects are included under the “aerosol” definition in cloud research but I doubt that they are as assessing such biological activity on cloud and cloud droplet and ice crystal formation is an extremely complex bit of research compared to the far easier job of just calculating the effects of some inert aerosols on cloud formation.
    __________________________
    Then there are the chemical releases of the phytoplankton blooms , the aerosol part of ocean biological activity in cloud formation;

    From Georgia Tech

    November 7, 2006

    The Biology Connection: Researchers Link Ocean Organisms with Increased Cloud Cover — and Potential Climate Change;

    [ Selected quotes ]
    Researchers had previously theorized that dimethyl sulfide (DMS) – which is also emitted by phytoplankton – affects the formation of clouds by increasing the number of sulfate particles, which can absorb moisture and form cloud droplets. When oxidized, isoprene may enhance the effect of DMS by increasing the number and size of the particles while helping them to chemically attract more moisture. The impact of isoprene on atmospheric particulate matter was previously thought to be important only for terrestrial plants, Nenes said.

    [ Graphic shows changes in the concentrations of cloud droplets over the Southern Ocean. Researchers believe emissions from phytoplankton are increasing cloudiness in the area.
    Image courtesy Nenes/Meskhidze ]

    The researchers stumbled upon the phytoplankton-cloud connection quite accidentally. “While looking at the satellite pictures, I noticed that cloud properties over large phytoplankton blooms were significantly different from those that occurred away from the blooms,” recalled Meskhidze, now an assistant professor in NC State’s College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences.

    The Southern Ocean normally has relatively few particles around which cloud droplets can form. The isoprene mechanism could therefore have a significant effect on the development of clouds there – and may account for most of variation in the area’s cloud cover.

    “If a lot of particles form because of isoprene oxidation, you suddenly have a lot more droplets in clouds, which tends to make them brighter,” Nenes explained. “In addition to becoming brighter, the clouds can also have less frequent precipitation, so you might have a build-up of clouds. Overall, this makes the atmosphere cloudier and reflects more sunlight back into space.”

    In their paper, the researchers estimated that the isoprene emissions reduced energy absorption in the area by about 15 watts per square meter. “This is a huge signal,” said Nenes. “You would normally expect to see a change of a couple of watts.”
    _______________________

    Another never mentioned item in cloud effects is the almost invisible cloud halos of water vapour surrounding clouds out as far as tens of kilometres around clouds

    From Nature; 2007

    Every cloud has an invisible halo;
    Unseen particles may confuse climate models.

    [ http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070424/full/news070423-6.html ]

    [ selected quotes ]

    Clouds are bigger than they look, according to new measurements by atmospheric scientists in Israel and the United States. They say that clouds are surrounded by a ‘twilight zone’ of diffuse particles, invisible to the naked eye, extending for tens of kilometres around the cloud’s visible portion.

    These vast, sparse haloes of droplets may have been overlooked in atmospheric studies, the researchers say. And they think that this could have skewed attempts to understand how clouds influence climate.
    &
    Koren and his colleagues first demonstrated that it is relatively easy to see from digital photographs that clouds are surrounded by an invisible haze, made up of these water-coated, or humidified, aerosols. If the parts of the photo containing visible white stuff are masked out, the surrounding haze comes into view.

    This haze extends far further than anyone has ever imagined. “People may have seen these extended haloes anecdotally,” says Koren’s colleague Lorraine Remer of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “But thanks to a new generation of instruments, the satellite observations have got much better, and we can look on larger scales, with more sensitivity and at finer resolution.”

    Satellite images of clouds over the Atlantic Ocean show that the sky’s reflectance — a measure of how much humidified aerosol it contains — falls very gradually with increasing distance from the edge of a cloud, and is still declining at least 20-30 kilometres away, Koren’s team says.

    Into the twilight zone

    To study these twilight zones further, the researchers studied several years’ worth of images collected by a global network of ground-based lightmeters called AERONET, usually used to ðmonitor the brightness of the Sun.

    Sudden dips in the light detected by these instruments are automatically logged as indicating the passage of a cloud. Koren and colleagues discovered that it can take well over an hour for light levels to recover fully after a cloud has passed, indicating that their haloes are very broad.

    Not all clouds will have a big twilight zone, the researchers say. For example, the halo might be tightly reined in around the sharp-edged white cumulus clouds that form when moist, warm air rises and cools. But they estimate that for typical global cloud coverage, the halo could encompass as much as two-thirds of the sky usually classed as cloud-free.
    _________________

    As an old glider pilot who has been flying since late 1959 I have regularly seen very diffuse layers of water vapour, extremely diffuse, invisible from angles more than a few degrees above or below the layers of water vapour which are found at the atmospheric temperature inversions where
    [ cloud forming ] thermal activity will cease as the warm air of the surface created thermal hits the layer of warm air above the cooler air at the inversion levels..

    Obviously to myself, these extremely diffuse and very wide spread layers of invisible even to the naked eye except at very low angles, layers of water vapour will through their sheer scale and area have a significant effect on the energy radiation transfers between surface emmissions of energy and incoming radiation energy.

    • Matthew R Marler

      ROM, that was a good post. And thanks for the links.

    • As an old glider pilot who has been flying since late 1959 I have regularly seen very diffuse layers of water vapour, extremely diffuse, invisible from angles more than a few degrees above or below the layers of water vapour which are found at the atmospheric temperature inversions

      As another glider pilot with 35+ years experience I confirm this is a very frequent phenomenon, in particular on ‘blue’ days (thermally active but no cumulus) it is very frequently the case that by turning to fly directly into the sun one can see haze caps at the inversion and thus locate the next source of lift. If it’s possible to climb through the inversion (stubble fire or lee wave) one looks down upon a flat sea of ‘dirty’ air interspersed with irregular ‘humps’ where a thermal’s mass is pushing through the inversion a few tens of feet.

      The contrast between the ‘seeing’ above and below the inversion is stark, evidence that the convective layer is very much more opaque to visible wavelengths. I would be interested in any study which measures how opaque the convective layer is to infra red!

  17. Oops! Georgia Techs article URL;

    The Biology Connection: Researchers Link Ocean Organisms with Increased Cloud Cover — and Potential Climate Change;

    [ http://www.gtresearchnews.gatech.edu/newsrelease/phytoplankton-clouds.htm ]

  18. According to my theoretical model (underlined above), the global average temperature rise after 1970 was due to the transport delay of heat in the oceans finally reaching the extent that the oceans were now heating the atmosphere again. An atmospheric temperature rise of 0.48C after 1970 is consistent with that. After being a large heat sink after 1940, we would expect the oceans to return their heat to the atmosphere eventually.

    The Lean result supports my theoretical model.

  19. The foremost problem with cloud behavior (and its accompanying dynamical response evolution over time) is with the theory , ie the absence of one eg Ramanthan at Gewex.

    It is remarkable that general circulation climate models (GCMs) are able to explain the observed temperature variations during
    the last century solely through variations in greenhouse gases, volcanoes and solar constant. This implies that the cloud contribution
    to the planetary albedo due to feedbacks with natural and forced climate changes has not changed during the last 100 years by more than ±0.3%; i.e, the cloud forcing has remained constant within ±1 Wm–2. If indeed, the global cloud properties and their influence on the albedo are this stable (as asserted by GCMs), scientists need
    to validate this prediction and develop a theory to account for the stability.

  20. I think I’ve never heard so loud
    The quiet message in a cloud.
    =======================

    • The moon enables us to monitor aspects of climate change,
      the Earth’s reflectance. ‘Earth-shine’ is the ghostly glow on
      the dark side of the moon first explained by Leonardo da Vinci
      and first explored in the 1920s.

      Palle’s Earth Shine Project is a viable way to monitor the climate
      system on a large scale over a long period.

      Summary:

      * ‘By combining the Earth Shine and International Satellite Cloud Climatology project data we have a record of the Earth’s SW
      reflectance that:

      * Shows surprising inter-annual coherence and a large decadal
      variability that is likely natural (why??)

      * Is not reproduced by current models.’

      [PDF]Earth’s albedo
      lasp.colorado.edu/sorce/news/2004ScienceMeeting/…4/4_12_Palle.pdf

    • Kim

      I think you would appreciate the poetry and imagery inherent in clouds and would benefit from joining the ‘Cloud Appreciation Society’

      http://cloudappreciationsociety.org/

      People from the society that observe clouds at first hand might well be a good resource for some serious scientific cloud studies.

      tonyb

  21. Something which staggers me is when people draw conclusions from looking at temps, especially minima, without considering cloud cover and even the daily times of cloud cover.

    The winter of 1946 here was extremely dry. The winter of 1950, as for all eastern Australia, was phenomenally wet. So winter 1946 had our lowest mean minimum post 1906 (but high maxima). Winter 1950 had low maxima and freakishly high minima. It was easily our “warmest” on record by mean minimum. A metre of rain in June and July will do that. I believe there’s a greenhouse principle involved?

    Anybody just looking at temp numbers without taking into account what actually was going on with cloud is likely wasting their time. Doesn’t stop ’em doing it.

    Numbers are okay. But they’re just okay.

  22. Energy from the Sun warms the surface in proportion to that which is absorbed.

    Clouds reflect much of this energy, at wavelengths between UV and 10 cm at least, dependent on droplet size, temperature, thickness, nature of condensation nuclei and other factors. A proportion, therefore, does not reach the surface.

    An example of this effect is to notice the temperature drop when bright sunlight is obscured by a cloud passing overhead.

    During the day, clouds can reduce the rate at which the surface heats. At night, clouds reduce the rate at which the surface cools, by exactly the same mechanism.

    If meteorological conditions lead to a diminution in cloud over a period, it will no doubt be perceived as warming, due to greater energy from the Sun being absorbed by the surface.

    It is no more or less than the effect of stepping into direct sunlight, after being in the shade. Conversely, you will be aware that nights become colder, if clouds reduce.

    Unfortunately, none of this helps at all with peering into the future. If the lithosphere, aquasphere, and atmosphere behave chaotically in the mathematical sense, you will be able to count yourself a seer if you can forecast any more effectively than the average 12 year old Chinese student.

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

  23. If we want to talk about global warming in the short term and by extension, climate change over the long term we should be talking about CLOUD COVER CHANGE.

  24. In relation to energy balance and energy budgets in general, there is a generally a lot of energetic but unbalanced talk.

    For each point on the surface, there are at least two times a day when radiative balance exists. These of course are at the temperature inflection points, minimum and maximum. If the temperature is unchanging, then energy in equals energy out. If temperature is changing, energy flows are unbalanced. Confusing the issue by referring to short waves, long waves, Mexican waves, or hand waves, is just confusing the issue.

    People talking about heat being accumulated, hidden or trapped, obviously have little to no comprehension of physics, or the difference between heat, temperature, energy, work and all the rest.

    This might go some way to explaining why the waste of billions of dollars has resulted in precisely no scientific advances or benefits of any sort, and why some supposed scientists claim that contributing to an organisation which was awarded a Nobel Peace prize, is evidence of scientific prowess of some sort.

    A pox upon all their houses, say I! Onwards and upwards, to the next spectacular example of human folly!

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

    • Let’s be a little precise.

      d(W&H)/dt = energy in (J/s) – energy out(J/s)

      W&H is work and heat and by the nature of things can be approximated by ocean heat content.

      The inflection points in ocean heat are the zero points for radiative imbalance.

      • Rob Ellison,

        You wrote –

        “Let’s be a little precise.

        d(W&H)/dt = energy in (J/s) – energy out(J/s)

        W&H is work and heat and by the nature of things can be approximated by ocean heat content.”

        If I understand you correctly, you say that at the daily inflection points to which I referred, the change in work and heat relative to the change in time equals zero, that is, when energy out minus energy in equals zero.

        So far so good, although lumping work and heat together is odd, given that you seem to demanding precision. As well, your units of energy seem to be units of power, but maybe you do not understand the difference between the joule and the joule per second. Then you say that, in spite of your demand for precision, that work and heat can be approximated by ocean heat content.

        Seeing that you have not the faintest idea of what the heat content of the ocean is, saying that it approximates anything at all of relevance is just another example of Warmist Waffle – sounding scientific, but logically inconsistent, irrelevant, and containing no useful content whatsoever.

        Conflating heat and work is just silly. The Antarctic icecap contains a vast amount of heat energy. However, the amount of work that can be done by this energy is indeterminate without more information.

        If you are taking exception to any statements in my previous comment, you might care to state which ones and why.

        Otherwise, it may appear that you are just another pseudo scientific Warmist acolyte, assuming that adopting a condescending patronising tone will engender belief amongst the more gullible. You may well be correct in your assumption, but I can’t see what is to be gained by such a course. Do you have any points of disagreement with anything I said in my previous comment, or are you just trying to be annoying for some strange Warmist reason?

        Yes indeed. Let’s be precise. I’m right – and you have nothing relevant to supply in rebuttal. Do you agree?

        Live well and prosper,

        Mike Flynn.

      • Heat and work have of course the same unit and are thermodynamically interchangeable. I loosely take it to include enthalpy.

        Joules/second is of course the average unit energy. A Joule is of course one Watt for one second.

        Ocean heat in the top 1900m looks to be some 6.55 degrees C from Argo on average. But of course we are merely looking at the change – d(W&H)/dt – assume it is largely in the top 1900m and that a change in temperature is a change in heat content. All safe assumptions. We further assume that the oceans are by far the largest repository of stored energy on the surface of the planet. Again a safe assumption.

        And no you don’t seem to understand. That the radiative imbalance of the planet is zero whenever the surface at a point starts to warm or cool is intolerable nonsense from an insufferable fool.

      • Rob Ellison,

        First, you might care to reread what I wrote. I may be expressing myself in a manner you cannot comprehend. If so, I apologise.

        Second, you demand we be precise.

        You then go on to say –

        “Ocean heat in the top 1900m looks to be some 6.55 degrees C from Argo on average. But of course we are merely looking at the change – d(W&H)/dt – assume it is largely in the top 1900m and that a change in temperature is a change in heat content. All safe assumptions. We further assume that the oceans are by far the largest repository of stored energy on the surface of the planet. Again a safe assumption.”

        If this is the Warmist idea of precision, then I understand why Warmists are steadily losing what minor respect they may have had in the past.

        Looks to be, some, assume, largely, assume, safe assumption, and so on, are Waffling Warmist words masquerading as facts.

        I say roses are red, you respond by telling me that goldfish clump around in bright blue gumboots singing the Messiah.

        The world continues to cool.

        Live well and prosper,

        Mike Flynn.

      • The 1st order differential global energy equation can be as precise as required. We may take into account sunlight, waste heat, core heat, cloud, IR flux, enthalpy etc.

        It is so because it is based on first principles – the first law of thermodynamics.

        But we are interested in the zero point for radiative imbalance. It is when the change in global heat content transitions from negative to positive and positive to negative.

        As by far the largest repository of global heat – the oceans provide the best indication of when this happens.

        What we see instead is your usual unprincipled defense of the nonsensical proposition that local surface temperature maxima and minima is the point of global radiative balance. It is at best times of changing local heat flow and has nothing much to do with global radiative flux – i.e. local versus global averages.

        Eccentric and nonsensical best describe Flynn’s excursions into the murkiest realms of pseudo science.

      • The world is cooling from the core out is the prime example of eccentric and nonsensical – not to mention being utterly irrelevant to climate dynamics – in murky pseudo science from Flynn.

    • Mike Flynn – “For each point on the surface, there are at least two times a day when radiative balance exists.”

      Not true….. The Ocean is never in radiative balance even though the surface temperature can remain unchanged for weeks at a time (personal measurements). It absorbs short wave flux from the sun and cools by transporting the energy horizontally and by evaporation. Kirchhoff’s law does not apply.

      The rest of the energy in the system is a rounding error, by comparison.

      • Genghis,

        You wrote –

        “Not true….. The Ocean is never in radiative balance even though the surface temperature can remain unchanged for weeks at a time (personal measurements). It absorbs short wave flux from the sun and cools by transporting the energy horizontally and by evaporation. Kirchhoff’s law does not apply.”

        You may care to reread what I said. If you believe that a body emitting as much energy as it receives, and thereby exhibiting no change in temperature is not in radiative balance, then I would be grateful if you provide a reference, as this is my belief. I acknowledge that at the quantum level the concept of radiative balance needs some adjustment, as it takes a finite time for the photon – electron interaction to occur.

        In essence, if the surface is receiving more energy than it is emitting, its temperature will rise, if it is emitting more energy than it receives, the temperature will fall. I am of course talking in the general to avoid arguments about phase changes and so on.

        Water absorbs more than just what you might describe as short wave flux, and a good example of this is using 12 cm or so wavelengths to boil water in a microwave oven. The Sun emits a lot of energy in other than visible light.

        I am not sure what you mean by transporting energy horizontally, so you have me there.

        Anyway, it doesn’t matter. The Earth is not warming due to CO2 in the atmosphere. Nothing you or I do or say will change this. Thanks for your input anyway.

        Live well and prosper,

        Mike Flynn.

    • Matthew R Marler

      Mike Flynn: If the temperature is unchanging, then energy in equals energy out.

      Sure, but radiation is not the only process of energy transfer. Think of currents, advection and water phase changes.

      • Matthew R Marler,

        You wrote –

        “Mike Flynn: If the temperature is unchanging, then energy in equals energy out.

        Sure, but radiation is not the only process of energy transfer. Think of currents, advection and water phase changes.”

        I might be being a little picky here, but currents, convection, advection and so on, are useful concepts to avoid discussing what really takes place, and are probably based in the useful but erroneous theory that heat is a fluid, capable of being transferred from object to object. Intuitive, of course, but wrong nevertheless .

        Thinking about phase changes is quite interesting. The concepts of latent heat as opposed to sensible heat rear their heads, and are of course useful. However, energy transfer is required to enable a phase change to occur in either direction, so I think I am still safe at the macro level of perceivable matter. Although I am in general not a fan of averages, you might allow me a little latitude as I move from the micro to the macro. If you choose not to, then I accept your castigation.

        Live well and prosper,

        Mike Flynn.

      • Matthew R Marler

        Mike Flynn: I might be being a little picky here, but currents, convection, advection and so on, are useful concepts to avoid discussing what really takes place, and are probably based in the useful but erroneous theory that heat is a fluid, capable of being transferred from object to object. Intuitive, of course, but wrong nevertheless .

        Only you would deny the ocean and wind currents.

      • Matthew R Marler,

        If you can point out where I denied the ocean and wind currents, I would be grateful. I am not sure how one can deny a fact, unless, like Rob Ellison or another Warmist, one simply refuses to accept reality.

        If you wish to believe that heat is a fluid, you are in good company. Lord Kelvin, (who had a unit of measurement named after him, unlike any of the third raters masquerading as scientists, like Hansen, Mann et al.), took many years before he was convinced, by the experimental work of Joule and others, that the caloric theory of heat was erroneous.

        Unfortunately, it is obvious that many self appointed climatologists are still besotted with discredited theories relating to heat, and its nature.

        Be that as it may, as much as you may wish it to be so, efforts to trap, accumulate, store, or hide heat are doomed to failure. Light interacts with matter, apparently to reasonably well understood processes – at least according to real scientists – Richard Feynman being but one example.

        Things warm up, things cool down. The Earth has cooled from a molten state, as far as I know. Just as Rob Ellison, you may deny this, but it does seem that more than 99% of the Earth’s volume is in a molten state. You will need to do more than wrapping gas or liquid, or the finest insulation you can find, around this molten blob on which we live, if you wish to reverse, or even halt, four and a half billion years of slow inexorable cooling.

        By all means place your faith in a crew of bizarrely misguided individuals with a record of precisely no useful achievement to date. Or you might care to believe geophysicists and the like, who actually experiment, measure, accept new concepts such as the fact that continents move in three dimensions and so on.

        Unlike climatologists, who believe that continents are rigidly fixed, and the oceans expand and contract at the behest of CO2 levels. Or you might believe that the world is warming due to increasing CO2 levels, and it will keep warming until the seas boil and we all fry. Some people are obviously gullible enough to believe anything.

        Believe as you wish, but don’t expect me to willingly pay to participate in your fantasy. I’m having enough fun, thank you.

        Live well and prosper,

        Mik Flynn.

  25. What with even warmist scientists admitting clouds hold much uncertainty, one would expect more activity in this area. Maybe they really don’t want to know the answers contained in the clouds?

    • nottawa rafter

      Those were my very first thoughts. When the answers precede the questions, why waste all that brain energy just to get confused again. Greater knowledge about clouds is another casualty of this inverted science.

  26. Rud’s essay, “Cloudy Clouds” in Blowing Smoke is a pretty good summary of how poorly this issue has been handled by IPCC and the GCMs.

    • I think we have to go back a decade and take a look at the historical context of so much of the what we are coming to realise are the essentials that are lacking in climate research today.
      By the mid 2000 noughties the CRU. GISS and NOAA “CliFi” [ Climate Fiction ] Carbonista factions controlled almost in totality, the climate publication industry even down to trying to get journal editors fired, the climate funding organisations almost totally through their proxies in the academia and the access to the political and bureaucratic policy decision makers plus exclusive access to the MSM.
      Plus ensuring by what ever fair or foul and nefarious means available they had at their disposal, the castigation and exclusion and denigration of anybody, scientific or otherwise who dared to try and challenge their hold on climate science.
      Some of them are still at it; ie; Mann plus many others.

      That all started to come apart after Climate Gate and the Copenhagen debacle in late 2009 but it has taken another 3 or 4 years for other researchers to try and pick up the loose ends and restart research into other more genuine aspects of climate factors outside of the pathological fixation by the CRU and GISS CliFi carbonistas and their running dog support factions in academia and the science publication industry.

      Still a very difficult task for most more independent minded researchers as they are still subject to extreme denigration and exclusion from funding and facilities by the still mostly CRU, GISS, NOAA factions plus their running dogs across the science publication and CliFi propaganda industry, the funding bodies and the MSM who still cling desperately to their CliFi belief in the power of “Carbon” to reign supreme over every other influence and factor that are part and parcel of the immensely complex and ultimately and most likely in the long run, a realisation that they are trying to research a completely unpredictable global climate system.

    • Thanks Mark. The essay Models all the way down shows how poorly the CMIP5 models do with clouds (the example is ice because of the larger SW/LW impact). Appalling that this model failure got translated into mere uncertainty.

      • I’m working my way through the book, reading Climatastrophistry now.

        You have really done an incredible amount of work and I appreciate it.

        Good thing I have my blood pressure under control though! In an editorial today, Paul Krugman writes about how the Republicans are wrong on Climate Change. I would send the Professor a copy of your book if I thought he would read it.

  27. A clear atmosphere earth is ~20 C (?)hotter than for average conditions!!
    Similarly if the cloud coverage were doubled, the earth would be roughly 20 C colder!! Consider that!!!
    The effect of clouds (due to solar radiation reflection) dwarfs the effect of CO2 or even water vapor as a green house gas! Cloud coverage is ultimately set by the nearly equal and opposite addition of two VERY large numbers,eg,cloud condensation versus cloud evaporation rate is one way to look at it. Fortunately these two effects are relatively stable, and track one another, but the slightest change can produce relatively large
    forcing and temperature changes, relative to all other forcings!
    In my studies, I have recently come to the same conclusion…J.C is exactly correct about the overwhelming importance of cloud coverage as a reflector of incoming solar radiation.

    • m.d.mill, – “A clear atmosphere earth is ~20 C (?)hotter than for average conditions!!
      Similarly if the cloud coverage were doubled, the earth would be roughly 20 C colder!! Consider that!!!”

      It doesn’t work that way. Albedo is irrelevant (largely irrelevant anyway) to the equilibrium temperature. Albedo only affects the rate of energy flow. Doubling or halving the clouds wouldn’t affect the average surface temperature of the Oceans which is 22˚ C.

      The reason why is that increased clouds would decrease the SW radiation into the ocean, but the increased atmospheric radiation from the clouds would also decrease the LW radiation from the ocean by the exact same amount.

      And vice versa for fewer clouds.

      The kicker though is that through evaporation the system is self regulating.

      • What you are missing is that the Sun is the source of energy. The oceans are not. So, if the clouds persisted long enough, the oceans would begin to cool. This is because clouds are not perfect insulators. Some of the ocean LW will make it into space. You are assuming clouds are a perfect insulator which is the flaw in your argument.

      • Genghis, “It doesn’t work that way. Albedo is irrelevant (largely irrelevant anyway) to the equilibrium temperature. Albedo only affects the rate of energy flow. Doubling or halving the clouds wouldn’t affect the average surface temperature of the Oceans which is 22˚ C.”

        I believe it is more like it wouldn’t affect the average ocean temperature which is more indicative of the average ocean energy. Average surface temperature has some pretty regular swings of +/- 1.25 C degrees in most of the paleo data and unfortunately average ocean temperature is difficult to reconstruct.

        In any case, the average ocean temperature is ~ 4C degrees which agrees with what the average ideal black body temperature would be. That 4 C has in addition the stabilizing influence of the maximum density of water which should control the main thermocline temperature, but not depth which would be dependent on salinity and average energy.

      • I am quoting from Manabe and Wetherald
        “Thermal equilibrium of the atmosphere with a given distribution of relative humidity” Journal of the atmospheric science May 1967…a seminal paper I believe.
        Just think for a minute, the sun delivers 340 w/m^2 global average and clouds reflect >26% on average = 88 w/m^2 !!!!
        On a cloud free earth you gain 88 w/m^2,
        plus the warmer atmosphere “holds ” more water vapor and thus increases night time greenhouse insulation further, the loss of the clouds for long wave reflection is trivial.
        You are simply wrong, of course. To say that albedo and energy flow are irrelevant boarders on the surreal. I believe my statement above holds.

    • Jim2, “You are assuming clouds are a perfect insulator which is the flaw in your argument.”

      Only if there was total cloud coverage and no SW made it into the oceans. Otherwise the SW absorbed by the ocean would stay in the ocean. It all depends on the rate of transmission and absorption. The absorption is instantaneous and the transmission and ultimate emission times of a portion of the energy might be infinite (or close enough that it doesn’t matter).

      ***********

      Capt Dallas, “In any case, the average ocean temperature is ~ 4C degrees which agrees with what the average ideal black body temperature would be.”

      That observation needs to be declared a lot more…..

      It also goes hand in hand with the observation that the average surface temperature of the Ocean is ~22C which is where the energy that warms the earth comes from. (Of course that is the absorbed energy from the sun, for those mentally challenged who may think that I am neglecting the solar insolation component).

  28. This is OT, but interesting. Is this another part of the “stadium wave” or something else? From the article:

    About 14.1 million square kilometers of snow blanketed Siberia at the end of October, the second most in records going back to 1967, according to Rutgers University’s Global Snow Lab. The record was in 1976, which broke a streak of mild winters in the eastern U.S. In addition, the speed at which snow has covered the region is the fastest since at least 1998.

    Taken together they signal greater chances for frigid air to spill out of the Arctic into more temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia, said Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, who developed the theory linking Siberian snow with winter weather.

    “A rapid advance of Eurasian snow cover during the month of October favors that the upcoming winter will be cold across the Northern Hemisphere,” Cohen said in an interview yesterday. “This past October the signal was quite robust.”

    There are a few steps to get from the snows of Siberia to the chills in New York City.

    Cold air builds over the expanse of snow, strengthening the pressure system known as a Siberian high. The high weakens the winds that circle the North Pole, allowing the cold air to leak into the lower latitudes. The term Polar Vortex actually refers to those winds, not the frigid weather.

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-06/harsh-winter-outlook-made-a-bit-more-dire-by-early-snow.html

    • Jim2,
      That’s interesting thanks for the link. I noticed that arctic polar ice pushed east early this year. The sst temperatures look cooler in bot hemispheres than I ever remember seeing:

      • Notice the Bering Strait. Last year there was an orange red hot spot through much of the first half of the winter along with several large hot spots in the northern Pacific.

      • Scratch that, I looked at last year, My memory was faulty

    • nottawa rafter

      jim2
      I’ll be watching the arctic sea ice extent in the next few weeks. It might be interesting.

    • So, in Britain due to “green” energy, we see an inadequate power system and more money charged to electricity consumers to pay for bringing some coal plants back into service. Do the lefties EVER look at reality?

      From the article:

      Four nuclear plants have closed unexpectedly for repairs – although Mr Holliday said two may be ready by the end of the year.
      The result is the total amount of electricity that can be supplied could be just 5 per cent greater than demand from consumers.
      National Grid has commissioned firms to bring mothballed power plants back into operation, and will pay manufacturers to turn off machines on peak afternoons.
      Some £75million has been set aside for this over the next two winters, money that will be added to customers’ bills.

      ‘This is about trying to manage the coldest, darkest day of the year not average demand.’
      Mr Holliday, who was speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, said National Grid is a ‘long long way’ from the need to have a conversation about whose lights would have to be turned off.
      ….

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2751356/Old-power-plants-standby-blackouts-fear-National-Grid-boss-admits-emergency-measures-needed.html

      • Matthew R Marler

        jim2: Four nuclear plants have closed unexpectedly for repairs – although Mr Holliday said two may be ready by the end of the year.

        Notice that this supports the assertion of Stephen Segrest that we should not overrate the availability of electricity from nuclear power plants.

      • MRM – you spout this without a shred of context. One of the four reactors developed a problem and a decision was made to shut down three others of similar design. These all are nearing the end of their useful life. So, had Britain built new nuclear plants in a timely manner, they wouldn’t be in a pinch now. So, this shortage of electricity is mainly due to mismanagement of the energy infrastructure.

        If I researched it more, I might find that greens are the reason nuclear plant weren’t built in a timely manner.

      • Matthew R Marler

        jim2: So, had Britain built new nuclear plants in a timely manner, they wouldn’t be in a pinch now.

        Yes. Even the nuclear power plants require backup. Had the backup been built, there wouldn’t be the pinch now.

        You overreacted to a minor point. The robustness of the grid requires overcapacity.

      • MRM – nowhere did I use the word “backup.” I said if they had been building nuclear plants in a timely manner, these four coming offline would be a non-event. Not for backup, but for base load. Try to keep up.

      • Let’s take a moment to appreciate the good effects of cheap fossil fuels. You can’t make this claim about wind and solar. In fact, considering the countries from which these industries originate, you could say wind and solar are an anathema to economic growth. From the article:

        German chemicals giant BASF, which operates the plant here, has announced plans for wide-ranging expansion in the United States, where natural gas prices have fallen to a quarter of those in Europe, largely because of American innovations in unlocking shale gas.

        Among those most affected are energy-intensive industries such as steel and chemicals, because they use natural gas as a raw material and power source. With Europe lagging in energy production, manufacturers on the continent warn that a chain reaction could shift more and more investment to U.S. shores.

        “It’s become clear, with the drop in gas and electricity prices in the United States, that we are, at the moment, at a significant disadvantage with our competitors,” said Gordon Moffat, director general of Eurofer, the main lobbying group for European steel manufacturers.

        http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/european-industry-flocks-to-cheap-us-gas/2013/04/01/454d06ea-8a2c-11e2-98d9-3012c1cd8d1e_story.html

      • Matthew R Marler

        jim2: MRM – nowhere did I use the word “backup.” I said if they had been building nuclear plants in a timely manner, these four coming offline would be a non-event. Not for backup, but for base load. Try to keep up.

        You are correct: you did not use the word “backup”. I used the word “backup” in reference to the notion that even nuclear power plants require backup for their scheduled and unscheduled downtime.

      • 2 + 2 = 5

      • Matthew R Marler

        jim2, complete comment: 2 + 2 = 5

  29. According to the linked article about the, ‘wait for El Nino,’ that apparently has not arrived yet, Wahoos caught off the coast of Southern California over the last few weeks just don’t agree with that.

  30. A 13% increase in cloudiness is associated with a 10°C drop in temperature.

  31. For those with the stamina and funding it is likely we could draw some worthwhile general conclusions of cloudiness at times during the MWP, LIA and other periods

    This from the 1908 meeting of the Royal Meteorological society

    “For the custom of the Roman historians to note in their annals the more important atmospheric phenomena, especially those necessitating sacrifices, was handed down to the chroniclers of the Middle Ages, whose chronicles became richer and richer in entries of the weather, till at the end of the thirteenth century these records are so replete with remarks on the weather that the character of the seasons could be traced back.

    I had noticed that some copies of the large astronomical work, published in 1199 by Justus Stoeffler and Jacob Pflaum at Tiibingen, Alnuimxh-nam plurimis nniiis ventuiis inservientia, containing ephemerides for the years 1499 to 1531, were full of meteorological entries written on the broad margins.

    This induced me to make systematic inquiry into copies of the work named containing such entries preserved in the great libraries of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The result of this inquiry was rather astonishing. No less than 123 different series of meteorological observations belonging to the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries mere dug out. Considering that this number of necessity represents but a small proportion, and concerns only some parts of Central Europe, we may safely presume that in the whole of Europe their number must have been far greater. Some of those early series of weather-observations are even corresponding ones, made by agreement.’

    Of course these observational studies are merely anecdotal and can be safely ignored in favour of computer models using dubious numbers.

    tonyb

    • Suppositions built into cloud tower models versus …
      ice fairs on the Thames, farmers records of the summer that wasn’t,
      silver mines in Switzerland or farms swallowed by LIA encroaching
      glaciers, ships’ logs recording navigation of the NW Passage (or sometimes not,) Viking fraught settlements in Greenland, their graves buried beneath the perma frost today, in this, er, present Mannian unprecedented period of global warming, multi-multi-multi cross- referenced historic data, much of it, thankfully, gathered by Tony
      Brown’s historical record that defies the ‘down the memory hole’ politicization of climate -sci actibvists.

      Fffftt!!!!!! A serf out in all whethers.

    • John Smith (it's my real name)

      “Of course these observational studies are merely anecdotal and can be safely ignored in favour of computer models using dubious numbers.”

      the modern tyranny of the technocratic age
      nothing is true unless there is a computer generated graph

      like the last act of pilots
      watching the altimeter
      when I quick look out the window could have saved them
      trust in the machines
      it is written
      mathematical models shall explain the entire universe

    • “Of course these observational studies are merely anecdotal and can be safely ignored in favour of computer models using dubious numbers.”

      One thing we care about is the global cloud cover and any secular trends in that coverage. So a few questions, when you answer them then these old observations could be put to use.

      1. What cloud layer was observed.
      2. what was the the spatial coverage
      3. what time of day were the observations made

      simple question; in 1400 what was the cloud cover at hPA 427 over africa?

      Nobody want to ignore the historical observations in favor of computer models. ideally folks would love to use the historical data. but it has to be
      fit for purpose. For an observation to be fit for purpose there must be.

      1. adequate metadata ( how when and where was the data collected)
      2. some sort of QA and QC.. how do we calibrate past data to present instrumentation.

      If you dont have that for historical data…. some quantified metadata and some quantifed QC, some quantifed Method for connecting it MATHEMATICALLY to modern observations.. then its not fit for purpose.

      • Mosh

        As you often say, read harder. This is what I wrote;

        ‘For those with the stamina and funding it is likely we could draw some worthwhile general conclusions of cloudiness at times during the MWP, LIA and other periods.’

        Note the words ‘likely’ ‘worthwhile’ and ‘general.’ Also the word ‘funding’ is pretty crucial as no doubt hundreds more studies could be found, given time and effort.

        Si its potentially useful in a broad sense, but. like tree rings and other novel proxies, you shouldn’t try to change the worlds economy on its findings, it needs context.

        It would also be my observation that if information isn’t digitised it doesn’t exist for many researchers. A huge percentage of the older material which MAY be useful when used in context, falls into this category.

        tonyb

    • TonyB Is there a dedicated website for those observations or are they still sitting in the libraries?

      I’ve been helping a Canadian scientist digitize weather observations from the early 1800’s. The area is around Quebec. It is usually 3 times a day, temperature and pressure. The cloud situation is sometimes described but it is often unclear what is meant (gray, heavy). There’s a discussion of a tree-ring paper over at Climate Audit for the same area (northeast Canada) and I hope that the two data sources can help add to understanding, even if for one area.

      There is also “Old Weather” which is a site where one can help transcribe old shipping logs. I find it fascinating.

      Rose

      • Rmdobservations

        There have been a number of studies but not necessarily gong as far back as might be possible, because as mosh points out the scientific basis is not robust. However that applies to many over promoted aspects of climate change.

        This is a good article on interpreting clouds with some worthwhile references at the end.

        http://bib.gfz-potsdam.de/pub/wegezurkunst/paintings_as_climate_archives.pdf

        I think such things need to be used in conjunction with a palette of other clues in much the same way as you are suggesting with your work.

        Whilst not strictly in the ame area the Hudson bay company kept some good records as did the British which might help you to put the Quebec material into its broader contrxt

        I mention some of these sources in my article ‘ historic variations in Arctic ice part 1’
        Tonyb

      • rmdobservations

        I don’t know if you realise I assemble pre 1850 data here

        http://climatereason.com/LittleIceAgeThermometers/

        tonyb

      • TonyB
        Thanks for the link to your web page. ACRE is the name of the project to which the Canadian data contributes. I just wandered around wikipedia and found the youtube videos of philipbrohan. I’ve never seen them before but it is interesting. It would be nice if it was more interactive. The change in the number of stations over time is the most illuminating, especially over the ocean.
        Rose

  32. David L. Hagen

    Statistical Complexity of Clouds
    A recent comment by Robert G. Brown (RGBatDuke), to Willis’ Splicing Clouds Nov 1st WUWT post, highlights a few of the incredible difficulties of trying to sort out climate parameters:

    I think that you’ve already made assertions for causal relationships of precisely the form that would confound this yourself in the past. Water warming because of e.g. seasonal changes produces more water vapor (a potent greenhouse gas). But more water vapor makes more clouds (a potent high-albedo covering and latent heat transportation system). The greenhouse warming is offset by the albedo cooling and the climate is (likely to be) far less sensitive to increases in water vapor content caused by warming or cooling variations than one expects by considering only the direct relationship “more water vapor means more warming”, or the direct opposite relationship “more water vapor means more cooling”. This is further compounded by the fact that this same phenomena could (still) be net warming or net cooling systematically, but only in a way that depends on average latitude, or a way that depends on average latitude and whether one is over certain kinds of surface, or a way that depends on average latitude, whether one is over certain kinds of surface, and time of year/local mean surface temperature!
    Seriously. Water vapor and consequent clouds and cooling might well dominate heavily over otherwise dry tropical or subtropical deserts, be irrelevant (on average) in the temperate zone, and be net warming in the polar regions, but only over ice where the increase in albedo is invisible. You might see a very clear signal if you look at these regions independently, but by the time you average the warming and cooling globally the signal all but vanishes. The systems dynamically redistributes many things, to be sure, but perhaps the average temperature, the average total cloudiness, and so on, do not change (much) as it does so.

    I highly recommend reading rgbatduke’s entire comment briefly discussing the statistical challenges involved, and his following comments: chaos and the Kolmogorov scale mismatch
    attractors

    • Matthew R Marler

      David L. Hagen: Water vapor and consequent clouds and cooling might well dominate heavily over otherwise dry tropical or subtropical deserts, be irrelevant (on average) in the temperate zone, and be net warming in the polar regions, but only over ice where the increase in albedo is invisible. You might see a very clear signal if you look at these regions independently, but by the time you average the warming and cooling globally the signal all but vanishes. The systems dynamically redistributes many things, to be sure, but perhaps the average temperature, the average total cloudiness, and so on, do not change (much) as it does so.

      rgbatduke write very good comments, and I second your recommendation to read that comment.

      Given the regional and temporal variability of cloud cover, it is quite possible that the cloud cover could increase sufficiently to blunt (partially or completely) the hypothetical effect of the CO2 increase, and yet still be undiscoverable through analysis of cloud cover statistics. All that would be required would be for summer storm clouds to form (say, to 90% of their max) about 15 minutes earlier on summer stormy days than what they do now. Or, for maximum cloud thickness on cloudy days to increase by 1% or less. One can imagine many other small scale changes in cloud cover that would have an equal effect in blocking incoming sunlight (or other effects at other times of day and other seasons), that are supported by reasonably conjectures about the effects of warming on surface evaporation rates, and that are not ruled out by present knowledge.

      There are many aspects of cloud cover change that are potentially relevant to the climate response to CO2 increase that are not known.

      • David L. Hagen

        Matthew
        Roy Spencer observed:

        “The most obvious way for warming to be caused naturally is for small, natural fluctuations in the circulation patterns of the atmosphere and ocean to result in a 1% or 2% decrease in global cloud cover. Clouds are the Earth’s sunshade, and if cloud cover changes for any reason, you have global warming — or global cooling.

        Easy to see that happening- yet very difficult to detect as you note.

  33. Re Climate dynamics of clouds: Some relevant facts to add to the mix:

    1. The greatest effect from clouds is cloud albedo because it is as powerful as the Sun to the climate, cloud reflection overwhelming the greenhouse effect, including the GHE from cloud absorption of radiation.

    2. The greatest effect of cloud albedo on average is over the ocean because it is dark and highly absorptive compared to land.

    3. The greatest effect of cloud albedo is over the tropics because solar radiation is reduced by the cosine of latitude, seasonally adjusted, and because the proportion of ocean to land mass is greater over the tropics.

    4. The greatest effect of cloud albedo is over the Eastern Equatorial Pacific because of the upwelling of cold water, saturated with CO2, at the outlet of the misnamed Thermohaline Circulation (it should be called the Thermohalinecarbon circulation). As this cold water is warmed, it releases CO2, becoming twice lighter. Being less dense, it remains on the surface to circulate with the currents, cooling and therefore recharging with CO2, until it reaches the intake of the THC near the poles. Dense from being cooled and absorbing CO2, it plunges to the ocean bottom. It remains dense and cold as it travels back to the THC outlets about a millennium old. At the Equator, it is lifted to the surface by the Ekman transport. The colder the absorber, the more the energy it absorbs.

    5. Cloud albedo is proportional to cloud cover.

    6. Cloud cover decreases in the morning as the atmosphere is warmed by the Sun, amplifying solar radiation at the surface, a positive feedback to the Sun.

    7. Cloud cover increases with humidity because the atmosphere on average has a surplus of Cloud Condensation Nuclei, some of which are supplied continuously by ocean evaporation. Since humidity increases with surface temperature, cloud cover is a negative feedback to global warming from all causes, including especially solar radiation and the greenhouse effect.

    8. Of these dynamic effects, the only ones modeled in the GCMs appear to be the greenhouse effect and specific humidity, while cloud cover is not modeled dynamically.

    • 2. The greatest effect of cloud albedo on average is over the ocean because it is dark and highly absorptive compared to land.

      True, however, the greatest short term effect of cloudiness on global temperature may be the fluctuations over land, since the oceans have high heat capacity and greater propensity toward latent heat of evaporation. Land, on the other hand, is more prone to directly raise temperatures of the atmosphere.

      • Agree.

        Cloud cover is such an interesting subject. Clouds can have different effects on the surface temperature, both cooling and warming, depending on latitude, land/ocean, season (month), day/night…

      • I wanted to post this image:

      • Lucifer, 11/7/14 @ 1:00 pm said,

        [T]he greatest short term effect of cloudiness on global temperature may be the fluctuations over land, since the oceans have high heat capacity and greater propensity toward latent heat of evaporation. Land, on the other hand, is more prone to directly raise temperatures of the atmosphere.

        I’m not sure of the meaning of “short term” here, since the problem is a matter of climate, meaning global average surface temperature (GAST), day and night, summer to winter, over at least 30 years, and better, several centuries. The land has relatively negligible heat capacity, meaning the heat that it absorbs causes a large rise in temperature, and vice versa. It loses much of which its thermal energy overnight and in the winter. Land heating is a transient effect, negligible on global scales. Also, the global temperature problem is that of the hypothetical surface, not of the atmosphere, and averaged over the globe, and all time. GAST is a Parameter for All Seasons.

        Latent heat has the effect of transferring thermal energy from the ocean surface to the atmosphere above, but the ocean surface temperature doesn’t change much, even on geological time scales. That follows from its high heat capacity—by definition.

        Cloud fluctuations over land are a low order effect. Science is just trying to get the average hypothetical global surface temperature right, and not even second order effects as yet. The discount of land temperature due to its low heat capacity is compounded by the surface loss due to its (relatively) high reflectivity (high albedo). Unlike the ocean, not much of the land outside the shadow of clouds is absorbed.

        A case can be made that GAST should not be the direct, arithmetic, 24-hour average of effective surface cell temperatures over the Earth, but instead with each cell also weighted by the heat capacity of the surface. (Surface temperature is reckoned as air temperature at the bottom of the troposphere, as if already weighted by the heat capacities of the air and the surface, making the atmosphere itself negligible.) This weighted GAST would be skewed toward the ocean surface temperature, helping to emphasize the lesson that one should first consider Earth’s atmosphere to be a by-product of the ocean, chemically and thermodynamically.

        (To consider such a model as if published in a peer-reviewed, certified climate journal, imagine the compulsory paragraph at the beginning about “notwithstanding the greenhouse effect from manmade CO2 emissions and deforestation.”)

      • Edim, the higher levels of cloud cover beyond 30° latitude moves poleward in summer for the longer days, reducing the albedo, and equatorward in winter, giving more surface warming in the longer winter nights.

    • I read a comment on CE way back (22/07/12) by David Springer
      about the halo effect of water vapor called ‘The Glory.’ DS wrote:

      ‘It was very recently discovered that an effect called quantum
      tunneling takes place in the water droplets that compose clouds.
      A photon passing within one wave length of a water droplet can
      quantum tunnel through the droplet and emerge on the opposite
      side travelling in exactly the opposite direction.

      The visual effect of this was first discovered centuries ago by
      mountain climbers who could look downward at clouds and see
      their own shadow cast upon them. A rainbow-like halo could be
      seen surrounding one’s own shadow but not around the shadow
      of a person standing close to you.That’s was because of the 180
      -degree reflection. Only someone directly behind his own shadow
      could see the rainbow halo surrounding it.

      The origin of this has been a mystery for centuries because in
      classical physics it is impossible for a water droplet to refract
      light 180 degrees.The halo is called ‘The Glory.’ It may also be
      witnessed in an aircraft that is casting a shadow of itself on clouds
      below. A multicolored halo will surround the aircraft shadow.’

      So basically clouds are reflecting more light than the classical
      physics in climate models is accounting for.’

  34. Should “John Lean” be “John McLean”.

  35. Judith, it is a shame your conclusion on new research into the climate dynamics of clouds is ‘not much’. I woildmhave though ‘a lot’. Because as Stevens et. al. 2012 Nat. Geos. Paper (5: 691-696) illustrated, almost all of the uncertainties in radiative imbalances and feedbacks are cloud process related. Comments here have focused on simple albedo. But there is so much more.
    For example, Cloud formation releases the latent of evaporation from water vapor. How high in the troposphere depends on the cloud type. The higher, the easier for the OLR to radiate away. Further condensation into precipitation reduces humidity and so the water vapour feedback. And those two processes alone are the essence of Lindsens tropical ‘adaptive infrared iris’ hypothesis about convection cells and the thunderstorms visible from space along the ITCZ.

    • Rud, cloud dynamics is something different than what you describe. Cloud dynamics is the interaction with the atmospheric/ocean circulation patterns/regimes.

      There is a lot of research going on on cloud microphysical and radiative processes, related to fast thermodynamic feedbacks, as you describe.

      • Yes, I am struggling through your new textbook. Point taken.
        I perhaps misunderstood the title of the post on a macro level.

      • Dr Curry

        Are there any efforts underway, or in the planning stages, to improve our knowledge of cloud dynamics? Did the Dynamo Field Campaign provide any useful data?

        Thank you

        Richard

  36. The higher [ the level of cloud ], the easier for the OLR to radiate away.

    Yes. However, at the same time, reflect that the higher the cloud layer, the lower the temperature at which it radiates and so the lower the amount of outgoing longwave radiation.

  37. Condensation trails in humid air are only initiated by deliberately generated high energy particles and occur only in chambers specifically designed to produce such trails for research purposes.

    Outside the laboratory, wild high energy particles such as found in solar wind, cosmic rays and the like do not interact with humid air and can therefore be ignored for the purpose of figuring out how the climate system actually behaves and what factors influence it.

    This is fortunate for climate scientists; otherwise when predicting the future behavior of the climate they would have to make long term predictions as to the type and magnitude of the radiation impacting on our atmosphere from all extraterrestrial sources. A daunting task, at best.

  38. In all this conversation, not a single mention of the possibility that the whole system has been significantly influenced by a phenomenon that did not exist before 1940. High altitude aircraft contrails create some extraordinarily persistent clouds that would, otherwise, not be there.

  39. Let’s introduce Fig 5 from Loeb et al 2012.

    Loeb et al 2012 – Advances in Understanding Top-of-Atmosphere Radiation Variability from Satellite Observations

    The yellow highlight is the 2008 La Nina with globally cool conditions. It shows ENSO as having both a tropical and global influence on LW TOA flux. The mid latitude data (graph b) for 2008 shows less and lower cloud and higher LW emissions. The LW emission changes are both from changing atmospheric temperature and cloud and water vapour changes.

    From another source we have the spring cloud fraction over Arctic seas.

    I doubt very much that a coherent theory of cloud is possible. The best that seems possible is paremetisation of – and tuning to – cloud and TOA flux – and the problem of projecting this forward – or even backwards very far – remains intractable.

    On the one hand there is an interesting Earth science and hydrology problem. Soluble for a matter of days at best – or statistically over longer periods. On the other there is a technically insoluble problem chasing an immediate policy outcome. The one hand would not be problematic without the other.

  40. Looking at the Huffington Post link, will some liberals deny global cooling (that some of those Conservative scientists have predicted) for as long as they denied the pause?

    • Here’s another example of anything to cling to the idea that increasing the amount of heat energy trapped by long lived atmospheric molecules to levels not seen on earth in millions of years, will not significantly change our climate:

      will some liberals deny global cooling (that some of those Conservative scientists have predicted) for as long as they denied the pause

      It’s some cooling. And some pause. Polar arctic sea ice is decreasing at between 5 and 10x the rate http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ of antarctic ice increase, http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/SeaIce/page4.php itself caused by a CC effected winds blowing northward and cold runoff from increasing glacial melt insulating the surface. The arctic is open sea at the poles, the antarctic isn’t, but has a huge ice continent there, which is melting.

      That antarctic ice sheet is not only melting, but at an accelerating rate http://climate.nasa.gov/news/242/
      Greenland is also melting. And at an accelerating rate. An alarming one: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28852980

      The oceans are not just accumulating heat energy, that is, energy being (in effect) taken out of the air, that keeps the air cooler than it would otherwise be, but are so at a faster rate than at any point in the past 10,000 years plus, and at a rate that is several times (the leading study claims 15x http://www.sciencemag.org/content/342/6158/617.short ) faster than at any point in over 10,000 years.

      Not only that, the rate of heat energy retention, is ALSO accelerating, http://www.weather.com/news/science/environment/where-global-warming-going-ocean-20140205%20 as several times more energy went into the oceans in the 2000s than in an ever longer period immediately prior, and

      Over 9/10ths of all of the extra atmospheric heat energy being absorbed is going not into heating the air, but the oceans alone. http://www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n11/full/nclimate2389.html yet the level

      Yet the 80s were the warmest decade on record. Then the 90s were. And even with, in the 2000s, ice melt starting to accelerate, and ocean warming greatly accelerating — taking most of the energy away for the time being to increasingly alter what will drive future climate – the 2000s were then in turn the warmest decade in modern history. In fact every single one of the 14 years in the 2000s but for 1998 have been one of the 14 warmest years we’ve had. Every single one but oneAnd NOAA has 2014 on track to be the warmest year we’ve ever experienced, global air temp wise.

      Permafrost region is also experiencing increasing, and accelerating, net melt, and in a much more key sign, the actual physical earth itself in some of these regions has warmed faster than the earth above, and there nearly twice the carbon stored in the permafrost as there is in the entire atmosphere.

      And warmer water columns are starting to heat the sea bed floor, less than two weeks ago some arctic levels of methane spiked to whopping 2600+ ppb as a result http://climatesolutionsandanalysis.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/major-methane-spikes-from-warming-sea-beds-are-compounding-an-underestimated-climate-change-challenge/

      So compare those facts ….which the skeptic wants to find ways to ‘reason around’ rather than integrate into a data picture that has our atmospheric now capturing more thermally emitted heat radiation by long lived molecules, than at any point in the past several MILLION years…. compare those facts, with the statement of the climate change skeptic religious mind, simply bent on not accepting the basic reality of climate change, and convincing itself of nearly anything under the sun, but that.

      • @ John Carter

        “That antarctic ice sheet is not only melting, but at an accelerating rate http://climate.nasa.gov/news/242/
        Greenland is also melting. And at an accelerating rate. An alarming one: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-28852980

        I followed the first link (from 2010, before the record Antarctic sea ice of this year) and found that Antarctic was indeed losing ice at an alarming rate: 100 +/-0 km^3/year. This means that in only 26.5 e^4 years, it will be ice free. On the other hand, they DID say that the rate was increasing, so if increases tenfold, we are facing the prospect of an ice free Antarctic in only 26.5 e^3 years. We need to stop fossil fuel use NOW!!!

        The second link, from August of this year, was primarily focused on the Greenland ice sheet (although they did mention that since the above 2010 paper the Antarctic sheet had accelerated its rate of loss from 100 +/-0 km^3/year in 2010 to 128 +/- 83 km^3/yr) which is melting at the terrifying rate of 375 km^3/yr, meaning that we can start homesteading Greenland in only 8000 years.

        Along with the angst of learning that my beachfront property will be worthless in a mere 10,000 years or so comes pride, however. Pride in the fact that we can measure the ice content of a continent 40% larger than the continental US with such precision that we can track annual variations in its volume with a precision of +/- 0.0003%. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t just got done reading it.

        Fortunately, the onrushing disaster can be avoided if we just tax our consumption of fossil fuel enough and give the politicians the power to regulate and/or issue permits for any activity that produces a ‘carbon signature’. With said politicians identifying and quantifying the carbon signature to be taxed, regulated, or permitted.

  41. Why are we even having this conversation: If we can continue to find things we don’t know, we can convince ourselves that a multi million year increase in the amount of energy recaptured in the lower atmosphere does not pose an enormous to assured likelihood of major changes to what is over the long run ultimately a reflection of energy – Climate. (While at the same time the still largely hidden signs of increasing corroboration are but mere bizarre “coincidences”: All also similarly conveniently explained away as skeptics, fossil fuel backed think tanks, misinformed, non climate and often ideologue scientists who don’t fully understand the issue of climate change itself, and Judy Curry, scramble to come up with any reasons under the sun but the most basic, obvious, long predicted, and probably all but unavoidable one: Trapping more net heat – on a geologically radical scale – is over time going to heat the earth: its oceans, its ice sheets, and its air, which all in turn over the long run drive climate, or in the case of air, also reflect part of it, and most certainly, is going to change it.)

    That is about all this site does, and all it is focused on; as is most climate change skepticism.

    All to drive a perpetuating belief in skepticism, and what is at heart a basic misconstruction of the actual climate change issue itself – and variations, in some way or another, of what this points out:

    It is scientifically specious to conflate our knowledge of a geologically enormous ongoing net addition of energy onto a dynamic, complex long term and non linearly changing global climate system (that is itself ultimately a reflection of long term energy), with the idea that we must therefore know not only that the system has to significantly change, but also know nearly every detail about it in advance, as if we could predict, or model it out as if writing a movie script after the fact.

    Yet, dressed up in various rhetorical and ostensibly logical ways, and in one form or another, this is exactly the argument that has served as the core basis for misnamed climate change “skepticism.”

    Here. As well as one of the several key reasons why the phenomenon known as climate change is going to overwhelmingly, disproportionately, hurt the poor. The defense of which, in turn, and as yet another example of “any argument under the sun,” climate change naysayers have used as an ongoing and sometime even zealous, argument, in favor of not transforming off of fossil fuels.

    But this won’t be seen by most, but the brave of mind:

    We desire what we’re addicted to, energy wise. We rationalize ways, to perpetuate it.” This is exactly what most cc skepticism is driven by. Not real, objective, analysis,examination, questioning and adjustment that actually constitutes science and that skeptics are also constantly using as a false (but self re-affirming) “refutation” of significant ACC. But rationalizing ways to perpetuate an intellectual (and economic fear based) addiction to the use and idea of fossil fuels under the guise of something else entirely, along with fear of change, and massive macroeconomic presumption.

    Not helped by then in turn many well meaning climate change redress advocates ascribing only the worst of motives to skeptics – and in turn thus only further entrenching their recalcitrance as righteous defiance – rather than seeking to address their fears, and also only increasing the false sense of insular Internet created “solidarity” on all these polarizing, self reinforcing CC issue misconstruing websites, that then in turn erroneously misinterpret all disavowal of misinformation as an unwarranted and rigorous science quashing “stifling” of “different points of view.” (Something Climate, Etc. mistakenly does probably more than anything else.)

    • Regarding efforts to look at cloud cover, this piece covers a famous one that at first glance seemed to add much that was relevant. But wait, it turns out, not only was the entire premise upside down, the work itself, in the words of the editor who mistakenly published it, went “outside of the normal curve of mistake,” and included false claims.

      Shocker, that – given who the study was by: One of the VERY few (more misconceptions about even the general scientific “consensus” also perpetuated by CC skeptics, aside), actual atmospheric or climate scientists who professionally studies the issue of climate change, who DOESN’T think the issue is a big deal.

      • John Carter,

        I presume by actual climate scientists, you mean people who actually know that climate is merely the average of weather, rather than the self proclaimed climatologists who frantically pretend climate is something else.

        Any number of studies, emanating from any number of fools, frauds, or delusional second rate wannabes, demonstrate only the abilities of charlatans to part suckers from their money, in the main.

        Is it the foolish leading the demented, or the other way round perhaps? What is it that this pseudo-scientific charade is supposed to achieve? World peace? An end to want? Possibly, even, a chicken in every pot?

        Anything is better than nothing, which seems to be the sum total of all the billions wasted to date.

        For a small fee, I will allow you to worry about the future on my behalf. After all, what harm could it possibly do?

        Live well and prosper,

        Mike Flynn.

      • “”””I presume by actual climate scientists, you mean people who actually know that climate is merely the average of weather, rather than the self proclaimed climatologists who frantically pretend climate is something else.”””

        Well of course, by climate scientists I mean climate skeptics, almost none of whom are scientists who professionally study the issue of our long term geologically radical alteration of the atmosphere (aka “climate change”)

        Climate is the general pattern of weather over very long periods of time within a region (regional climate) or global (global climate.) and yes climate scientists probably have “at least” the same degree of appreciation for what this means, as Mike Flynn, from whom the above quote was taken.

        Captain Dallas

        Thanks for the response, but in technical terms, precise projections about exactly what the temp change will be in response to x change in CO2 is poppycock. But as far as the science goes, as an estimate, those jury rigged climate denier (under the guise of science zealously driven to try and “disprove” this issue by any means possible) numbers are, again to use the scientifically technical term, ludicrous.

        You’re argument that it is “not as bad as we thought” cherry picks (and largely misrepresents) select portions of the ongoing process of science (that you yourself refer to.) It’s also moot, bc depending on what “we” thought, it is kind of irrelevant. As far as the IPCC, most projections have been revised upward not down, some down (but see the latest statement.)

        In addition, unlike the horse malarkey that comes out of Climate Etc about how the IPCC Is a forced consensus to overestimate the problem. It is a necessary consensus of the lower common denominator of agreement – so it is extremely conservative in its estimates. It is also, being politically, sensitive to the intense world wide misinformation campaign on this issue.

        And, since for the most part it doesn’t take into account uncertain (but very real, and in many cases significant) risks, its overall risk range assessment understates the problem.

        Lastly, on clouds, no one knows. Studies suggest it has been and will be a positive reinforcing effect due to overall increased water vapor and thus higher average concentrations of short term GG as well, but the issue is still a wild alteration of the earth’s net energy balance and it’s ensuing ocean, and in particular permafrost and ice sheet structural energies (which right now stabilize the climate, relatively speaking). To the extent not, that will only worsen areas that become more arid due to regional changes, and intensify precipitation problems, as with a hotter atmosphere more water vapor can potentially be absorbed, and held, and so patterns can intensify even if water vapor winds up being a mild negative effect (thru increased overall dryness) meaning, again with increased heat and regional changes, major drought issues.

        Most of what is written contrary is again poppycock designed to fulfill the need for doubt in or disbelief over the issue so the issue of redress – which is tied to political issues doesn’t need to be addressed, fealty (if not addiction) to fossil fuels, and fear of change.

        As the bottom line is pretty basic. The change has been radical, and an expectation – forget all the massive corroborating evidence that “skeptics” self selectively cherry pick apart and both misrepresent and mistakenly conflate with the entire issue – that a radical geological shift in the long lived atmospheric energy re absorption capacity won’t shift the climate, is fanciful. To use a nice term.

        Ellison

        You’re incorrect. The net long lived molecular recapture quotient via absorption and re radiation of thermal radiation is a function of the concentration of those molecules. There is nothing to indicate that an increase in them leads to a decrease in overall net energy so that the amount of energy absorbed (and subsequently emitted) by the earth itself is lessened. But technically, yes, it is a specific increase in the long lived molecules themselves, to in the case of CO2 alone, probably 3 million years or more, and longer when adding in the other major GG gases thav have already risen considerably, and total long lived molecular GWPe is considered.

        I notice also that while a good portion of climate skepticism hinges on the assertion that the globe is not warming, the fact that the air is warming, permafrost is warming, and the oceans are warming at a geologically radical (and increasing) rate, and ice sheets are starting to warm at a geologically radical rate (which together essentially comprise the entire system, which is clearly, and acceleratingly, warming), when it’s not being wildly misrepresented, is ignored.

        It’s sort of like using convoluted but nice sounding equations to prove that the sun revolves around the earth. Which if it was complex, involved a range of both possibility and time, could be “proven” sufficiently to skeptics if that is what they were driven to prove. Which is the exact case on CC denial or “skepticism.”

      • D o u g  C o t t o n 

        When anyone here can respond to the two critically important questions in this comment we may get somewhere with the question as to what’s valid and what’s not.

    • John Carter, “Why are we even having this conversation: If we can continue to find things we don’t know, we can convince ourselves that a multi million year increase in the amount of energy recaptured in the lower atmosphere does not pose an enormous to assured likelihood of major changes to what is over the long run ultimately a reflection of energy – Climate.”

      John, the basic impact of a doubling or CO2 equivalent gases is approximately 3.7 Wm-2 which should produce 0.8 to 1.2 C of warming depending on the absolute temperature of the surface retaining the heat, that would be the oceans. The water vapor, clouds and cloud dynamics being discussed are alleged to be the major factor that would cause any extreme warming and the models basically don’t do an adequate job with respect to clouds and water vapor to the point that even the sign of cloud feedback is unknown, i.e., clouds can cause cooling.

      If you want a specific example, research Mid-Level Liquid-Layer Topped Stratiform Clouds.

      Since you referenced the Spencer/Dessler rebuttal battle, radiosonde data tends to not indicate the formation of a Tropical Troposphere Hot Spot (TTHS), Dessler used the changes in the balloon (radiosonde) velocities to create a temperature data set that indicated there was an indication of a TTHS even though radiosondes and satellite data indicates there isn’t one. Since then there has been a lot of research directed towards the issues with modeling clouds that looks like it will greatly reduce the sensitivity of the models in general to around the 1.6 C per doubling range. That would be consistent with just about every newer sensitivity paper published by anyone not a part of the original fanatical climatastrophy teams.

      Want you are witnessing here is that “Science Corrects Itself” stage of Climate Science which is forcing the old guard to reconsider actual observations instead of modeled “projections” or creating data to “fit” projections. “It’s not as bad as we thought.” should be welcomed a little more warmly I would think.

  42. Carter’s opening premise is seemingly millions of years out.

    The real facts stripped of extreme and incoherent verbosity is that recent warming (1944 to 1998) was some 0.4K at 0.07K/decade. It seems very unlikely that this rate will continue in the 21st century.

    The rational approaches to new energy sources in the 21st century – and these are needed – are fairly obvious. It includes this – http://www.ga.com/energy-multiplier-module – as a fallback if nothing better comes along.

    But clouds are an interesting Earth science question – and not an excuse for another long winded and self referential, ideologically inspired rant.

  43. According to the energy balance described by Trenberth et al. (2009) [34], the reduction in total cloud cover accounts for the increase in temperature since 1987, leaving little, if any, of the temperature change to be attributed to other forcings.

    You cannot simply infer changes to global surface temperature from changes in horizontal and vertical distribution of clouds using Trenberth et al’s global energy balance.

    On the other side, you cannot simply rule it out.

  44. A fascinating natural physical realization of the effects of the micro-physics of the thermodynamics phases of water on clouds is summarized in this short article.

    This is the photo cited in the article. Another photo is included in the article.

    The physical phenomena and processes are the subject of this book.

  45. D o u g  C o t t o n 

     

    The current slight cooling and all past and future temperature trends are very clearly and cogently correlated with the 934-year and superimposed 60 year cycles in the inverted plot of the scalar sum of the angular momentum of the Sun and all the planets.*

    Magnetic fields from the planets reach to the Sun and probably affect solar intensity and cosmic rays which, in turn, affect cloud formation.

    The current slight cooling will thus continue until about 2028, followed by half a degree of warming from 2029 to 2058. The year 2058 or 2059 will be the last 60 year peak for over 900 years whilst nearly 500 years of cooling then warming follow.

    * See earth-climate dot com – foot of first page.
     

  46. Pingback: Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #155 | Watts Up With That?

  47. Pingback: Scientists explore causes of the pause in warming, perhaps the most important research of the decade | Fabius Maximus

  48. “According to the energy balance described by Trenberth et al. (2009) [34], the reduction in total cloud cover accounts for the increase in temperature since 1987, leaving little, if any, of the temperature change to be attributed to other forcings”

    What is the distribution of the low level clouds though? If they are more concentrated at higher latitudes, a reduction of lower altitude clouds, and an increase of mid altitude clouds, could both be acting as negative feedbacks to increases in forcing of the climate.