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Sunday, September 21, 2014

"Believers and "Hoaxers" will likely Attack Steve E. Koonin's Position on Climate Change

Steve E. Koonin, a theoretical physicist of some standing in the community, has an essay, in the Wall Street Journal on climate change aka Global Warming, entitled, Climate Science is not Settled.  It could have been called Climate Science is not Settled nor is it a Hoax.  Then it would be easier to understand why it will catch flak from both extremes of the climate change debate.  If you are trying to figure out which factions are clueless in the debate, just look for Koonin bashers.  In the essay Koonin lists three challenging fundamentals.

The first, Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole. For example, human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere's natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%. Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences.

If you consider that the "normal" greenhouse effect produces a lower atmospheric average temperature of about 4 C degrees, the impact of a "normal" GHE would be about 334 Wm-2.  A 1% increase would be 3.4 Wm-2 and a 2% increase would be 6.8 Wm-2.  That is roughly the range of impact based only on the CO2 portion of the anthropogenic changes to the atmosphere.  If you are looking for impact in terms of temperature, then the "average" change in temperature would be 0.7 C for the 1% and 1.4 C for the 2% impacts.  Since this is based only of the CO2 change, these would be "no feedback" estimates for the Greenhouse Effect.

A second challenge to "knowing" future climate is today's poor understanding of the oceans. The oceans, which change over decades and centuries, hold most of the climate's heat and strongly influence the atmosphere. Unfortunately, precise, comprehensive observations of the oceans are available only for the past few decades; the reliable record is still far too short to adequately understand how the oceans will change and how that will affect climate.

There is currently some controversy surrounding the lower than anticipated rise in "average" global surface temperatures.  This hiatus, pause, slowdown or hiccup has been contributed to a variety of potential "causes", but the most recognized is a change in the rate of ocean heat uptake.  Since the "average" energy of the global oceans would be related to the "average" temperature of the global oceans which is about 4 C degrees, no feedback on the global oceans should be about the same as the no feedback impact on the lower troposphere, i.e. global average Down Welling Longwave Radiation (DWLR) which is roughly estimated to be 334 Wm-2.  Challenge one and two are likely linked.

A third fundamental challenge arises from feedbacks that can dramatically amplify or mute the climate's response to human and natural influences. One important feedback, which is thought to approximately double the direct heating effect of carbon dioxide, involves water vapor, clouds and temperature.

Atmospheric water vapor and clouds are directly related to the ocean and lower troposphere temperatures, absolute temperatures not anomalies, so water vapor and cloud "feedback" would be related to any cause of temperature change, not just changes "caused" by CO2.  The third challenge is directly related to the first two challenges.

If you follow the "believers" of dangerous Anthropogenic Global Warming which has been repackage with terms like "climate change" or "climate disruption", they will most likely point out fallacies in Koonin's essay that are related to "beliefs" that all warming and all feedbacks are due to anthropogenic "causes".  If you follow the "hoaxers", they will argue that the "physics" violates some law of thermodynamics or that there is no direct, indisputable measurement of CO2 impact.

Koonin's essay should equally  piss both extremes off which is in my mind a great scientific and social evaluation of the issue.  So anyone that vehemently disagrees with Koonin is likely a whack job or has a political ax to grind.

Those less agenda driven will notice that there are three "states" that would need to be in thermodynamic equilibrium for "standard" physics to easily apply, the ocean temperature would have to be in equilibrium with the lower atmospheric temperature while atmospheric water vapor and cloud conditions would have to be in equilibrium with both of the other two conditions.

If a body A, be in thermal equilibrium with two other bodies, B and C, then B and C are in thermal equilibrium with one another.  Is a simple way to state the zeroth law of thermodynamic.  That would be the only "law" of thermodynamics that might be violated in the climate change debate.  What it boils down to is you have to know the "normal" condition of the atmosphere, oceans and cloud cover if you are going to determine impact of any change in any of the "initial" conditions.  If you pick a variety of "initial" conditions and get a variety of answers that are inconsistent, then you didn't have the Zeroth Law equilibrium requirements met or your theory is wrong.  The smaller the range of inconsistencies, the less wrong you are likely to be.  The first estimate is the 1% to 2% "no feedback" or all other things remaining equal condition of 0.7 to 1.4 C degrees, is the one to beat.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Those Pesky Clouds

There is a new article out on those pesky Arctic clouds that climate models and Earth Energy Budget estimates don't even come close to getting right.  This is the Abstract:

This study demonstrates that absorbed solar radiation (ASR) at the top of the atmosphere in early summer (May–July) plays a precursory role in determining the Arctic sea ice concentration (SIC) in late summer (August–October). The monthly ASR anomalies are obtained over the Arctic Ocean (65°N–90°N) from the Clouds and the Earth's Radiant Energy System during 2000–2013. The ASR changes primarily with cloud variation. We found that the ASR anomaly in early summer is significantly correlated with the SIC anomaly in late summer (correlation coefficient, r ≈ −0.8 with a lag of 1 to 4 months). The region exhibiting high (low) ASR anomalies and low (high) SIC anomalies varies yearly. The possible reason is that the solar heat input to ice is most effectively affected by the cloud shielding effect under the maximum TOA solar radiation in June and amplified by the ice-albedo feedback. This intimate delayed ASR-SIC relationship is not represented in most of current climate models. Rather, the models tend to over-emphasize internal sea ice processes in summer.

Every since I noticed the Earth Energy Budget screw up I have focused on mixed phase clouds, the "atmospheric window" and the very simple approximation of incident Solar radiation.  Liquid topped mixed phase clouds produce a radiant "ground plane" of sorts that really should be treated as a different "surface".  The models and the "experts" mention that sea ice melt would increase the albedo of the polar oceans allowing greater ocean heat uptake.  That is true, but direct solar isn't really the issue in the Arctic due to the low solar angle of incidence.  Thanks to the atmospheric lens effect and the liquid water surface of the mixed phase clouds, how much the lensing, mixed phase cloud area and sea ice area all interact to increase or decrease Arctic ocean heat content is one hell of a nifty puzzle.  Older papers I have perused indicate around 18Wm-2 of uncertainty which is about what I estimated from the older K&T energy budgets.  Soon to be if not already Dr. Barrett's thesis indicated that "global" liquid topped mixed phase clouds cover around 7.8 percent of the surface at any given time.  For a quick estimate, that could produce around 15 Wm-2 +/- 10 of uncertainty which as you can see is a pretty large WAG.  It could be that mixed phase clouds account for the majority of the model error.  Don't know of course, but it is in the ballpark.

The models wouldn't just rely on the crude estimates tossed around by the online groupies.  They would attempt to use actual incident radiation from both the sun and the clouds, provided they get the clouds right.  Mixed phase clouds, they obviously don't, but it looks like the other types of clouds might not be as far off as some suspect.  

I haven't sprung to read the article, but once I can find a free copy I probably will.  Until then Watts Up With That, the Hockey Sctick and a few other more skeptic types of sites have reports that I really can't confirm.  Anywho, the interesting thing to me is that the models might be repairable.  The question though is if the modelers will actually read and incorporate these newer developments or just continue with their old song and dance.  Since that might involve eating some crow, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Does "Surface" Temperature Confuse the Hell Out of People?

Pretty much.  This chart compares the difference between the GISS LOTI product and the RSS Lower Troposphere product.  The GISS product interpolates large regions of the poles that have very limited coverage and the RSS product doesn't include a small portion of the poles due to orbital/imaging limits.  The most obvious issue is that the northern hemisphere comparison is diverging significantly while the southern hemisphere agrees very well.  Most of the difference is likely due to polar interpolation of very low temperatures that have much less related energy than the mid and lower latitude temperatures.  This goes back to the zeroth law issue where the greater the temperature range and variation of the data averaged the less likely that average temperature will faithfully represent average energy.

This has been mentioned so often that it is one of those issues that is refused to be considered because it has been "settled".  Settled means it has to become so glaringly obvious that the geniuses cannot possibly defend their simplistic dismissals.  So if you bring it up too soon, you can expect a psychological analysis of your online history and likely a few more serious insults if you are in a position of scientific authority.