Lacis: What is it that determines the terrestrial climate and how it changes?

There’s another comment by Andy Lacis at Climate Etc., and just like the original its deeply under-appreciated by the residents. Indeed it would have been unappreciated by me because I don’t read her posts much less wade into the comments unless someone draws my attention.

Before we go onto AL’s wise words, lets read some very silly ones: Climate and weather model share the same underlying mathematical dynamic. So models are undoubtedly chaotic – this is the kind of stuff that JC chooses to highlight at the top of her posts. You’d be better off with my Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear: chaos, weather and climate confuses denialists and links therein; I remain very fond of Butterflies: notes for a post.

But, without more ado, here is Andy Lacis:

What is it that determines the terrestrial climate and how it changes?

Needless to say the terrestrial climate is the result of complex interactions between the ocean, atmosphere, and biosphere via atmospheric fluid dynamics, thermodynamics, bio-geo chemistry, orbital geometry, and radiative transfer – all processes being driven ultimately by the incident solar energy.

All of these physical processes are modeled explicitly in time stepping fashion in current climate GCMs using a typical spatial resolution of about 1 to 5 degrees in lat-lon, 20 to 50 layers of vertical resolution, and 10 min to 1 hr time resolution. This generates a great deal of time evolution changes in the model-generated wind, temperature, cloud, and humidity fields, accumulated typically in the form of monthly-mean maps of these fields – thus constituting the model generated climate which can be directly compares to similar quantities obtained from global satellite observations as a direct test of climate model worthiness.

Although a climate modeling simulation may typically begin from an initial reference model atmosphere (similar to initiating an initial value weather forecast calculation), the essence of a climate modeling simulation is that of a typical boundary value problem in physics, i.e., the initial starting value does not really matter. For equilibrium sensitivity evaluations, the objective is to reach the equilibrium point toward which the model is being forced independent of the initial conditions. Sometimes model runs are initiated at different points in time to generate ensemble averages, averaging out natural variability effects (which will have different phases for differently initiated runs). Climate models are also used to simulate transient climate change, which then resembles a hybrid between an initial value weather-type model run, but with changing boundary value forcings.

The input solar energy to the climate system has been accurately measured over several decades. Its annual-mean value is 1360.8 W/m2 with an 11-year sunspot cycle variability by about 1 W/m2 (Kopp and Lean, 2011). This puts the global-mean incident solar energy at 340.2 W/m2. However, what actually defines the SW forcing (for a 0.3 global albedo) is the amount of solar energy that is absorbed by the climate system. This, for the sake of this discussion, we will take as being equal to 240 W/m2.

The actual value could be 239W/m2, 242W/m2, or 235 W/m2. The precise value does not matter that much because the climate system’s response is “smoothly continuous” to this SW forcing. While that may be a postulate in need of proof, suffice it here to say that the climate system does not respond like the Mandelbrot fractal set where a small parameter shift in some particular direction might encounter multiple singularity-type responses. The 240 W/m2 is a round number, and is consistent with the accuracy limitations of the ERBE measured value. With SW = 242 W/m2, the climate system would be slightly warmer than with 240 W/m2 (and slightly cooler if SW were 235 W/m2).

The Earth is never in precise SW-LW energy balance equilibrium, but it is always striving to get there. Current climate models exhibit some of the real-world behavior. When models are run for thousands of years with fixed external forcing, they exhibit a natural variability over a broad range of time scales relative to some reference point that can be identified as the global energy balance point of equilibrium. Such behavior is not found in simple 1-D models that can be iterated to energy balance equilibrium to however many decimals required.

In energy balance equilibrium, the thermal energy emitted to space by Earth would be LW = 240 W/m2. If the Earth’s atmosphere were absent, or totally transparent, (but with still the 0.3 global albedo), the surface temperature of the Earth would warm in response to the 240 W/m2 SW forcing until it reached a temperature of about 255 K (with LW = 240 W/m2), at which point Earth would be in SW-LW energy balance equilibrium. But the actual global-mean surface temperature of Earth is about 288 K, and the thermal radiation emitted upward by the ground is 390 W/m2. This global-mean surface temperature difference of 33 K, and the corresponding LW flux difference of 150 W/m2 between the ground surface and top of the atmosphere is a measure of the terrestrial greenhouse effect.

Note that the global SW-LW energy balance at the top of the atmosphere, and the 150 W/m2 greenhouse effect, are described and established completely by radiative means. There is absolutely ZERO convective energy going out to space. Likewise, there is ZERO convective energy represented in the 150 W/m2 greenhouse number. Thus it is radiative transfer modeling that completely describes the SW and LW fluxes as well as the 150 W/m2 strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect.

So, if radiation accounts for all that, where then do the atmospheric dynamics effects come in? Atmospheric dynamics effects are key to establishing the atmospheric absorber-temperature structure that is used by the radiation model to calculate the SW-LW fluxes and the greenhouse effect. If there were no atmospheric dynamics to establish the (convective/advective) atmospheric temperature profile, radiative energy equilibrium could be calculated for the existing atmospheric absorbed distribution. But, the global-mean greenhouse effect for such a radiative equilibrium atmosphere would be about 66 K instead of the present radiative/convective value of 33 K. This demonstrates clearly the importance of why accurate rendering of both the radiative and dynamic climate system processes is so essential.

The key point of all this is to note that the dynamic processes of the climate system are many orders of magnitude slower than the radiative processes. Thus the radiative calculations can be performed on an effectively static temperature-absorber structure without any loss of generality, totally independent of whatever the atmospheric dynamics may be doing.

Assuming for a moment that the radiative calculations can be performed with 100% accuracy, the GCM calculated response to a radiative forcing (say, doubled CO2) should then be representative of the Earth’s climate system response (to the extent that atmospheric dynamics of the GCM simulation can produce a GCM-generated climate that closely resemble that of the Earth).

Given the “smoothly continuous” response of the climate system, whether SW = 242W/m2, or 235 W/m2, or that there happen to be small to moderate difference in the GCM generated cloud fraction, cloud heights, or water vapor distribution, relative to Earth’s current climate distributions, the calculated response to doubled CO2 should then closely resemble that of the Earth’s climate system response.

The radiative part of the climate system processes is a much easier process to model compared to the dynamic processes, so much so, that it is not preposterous to be thinking in terms of 100% accuracy for computing the radiative heating and cooling effects for a specified temperature-absorber distribution. To this end, Mie scattering theory is an exact theory for calculating radiation scattering by spherical cloud droplets, and similarly, line-by-line calculations using the comprehensive HITRAN absorption line database provide the means for calculating gaseous absorption by atmospheric gases with a great deal of precision and accuracy. While line-by-line calculations are numerically too intensive to be included in GCM radiation models, the correlated k-distribution treatment of gaseous absorption can closely approach the line-byline accuracy, as illustrated in my 2013 Tellus B paper http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/la06400p.html

Clearly, most of the climate modeling uncertainties reside in our inability to model the atmospheric and ocean dynamical processes with sufficient accurately. Those aspects of modeling climate change that depend for the most part on radiative processes are going to be far more certain than those that are associated more directly with atmospheric dynamics, and especially ocean dynamics.

As a result, the radiative effects arising from the different climate forcings, their effect on the strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect, and the attribution of the relative strengths of climate forcings and feedbacks, are aspects of global climate change that are mostly radiative in nature. Accordingly, these quantities have a significant robustness that stems from very basic physics with little dependence on arbitrary assumptions or parameterizations.

Regional climate changes, on the other hand, are very dependent on the horizontal energy transports by dynamical processes which must necessarily include significant parameterizations to account for the unresolved sub-grid eddy transport contributions. For the longer time-scale variability, current ocean models are only barely able to simulate some El Nino-type variability, with no skill for decadal-scale variability. But note that this form of natural variability consists primarily of oscillations about a zero reference point, and thus does not produce a bias to the steadily increasing global warming component. Also, the radiative effects listed above become more robust in the form of global averages because the horizontal energy transports must by definition average to zero globally, thus averaging out any regional differences associated with differences in regional climate change.

The one really big advantage in modeling radiative process effects over dynamic processes is the feasibility of attribution. Although the modeling of radiative transfer effects is straightforward and simple in concept, it is not so simple as to be preformed on the proverbial back of an envelope – capable computer is required.

As described in Table 2 of my 2013 Tellus B paper, attribution analysis was performed on this nominal 150 W/m2 measure of the atmospheric greenhouse effect. Where actually does the 150 W/m2 come from? It is not simply the flux fraction that gets absorbed by the atmosphere – that is an oversimplified and erroneous assumption – rather, this 150 W/m2 is a combination of layer-by-layer absorption and emission that occurs throughout the atmosphere. If all absorbed are removed from the atmosphere, the greenhouse effect goes to zero. If all contributors are in the atmosphere, it is 150 W/m2. We show explicitly what happens to the LW flux difference when the absorbers are inserted into atmosphere one-by-one, or removed one-by-one.

Those results are summarized in Table 2 of the Tellus B paper. They show that of the total terrestrial greenhouse effect, water vapor accounts for about 50% of the effect; clouds contribute 25%; CO2 accounts for about 20%; and the other minor greenhouse gases like CH4, N2O, O3, and CFS account for the remaining 5%. Now we apply a little physical reasoning. Water vapor and clouds are FEEDBACK effects – meaning they can’t stay in the atmosphere on their own power; they condense and precipitate out; their equilibrium concentration in the atmosphere is strongly limited by the Clausius-Clapeyron relation. (See Section 3 of my Tellus B paper; water vapor and clouds are fast-acting feedbacks; if perturbed, they return to equilibrium distribution in only a couple of weeks).

CO2 and minor greenhouse gases are all non-condensing at current climate temperatures – meaning, once you stick them into the atmosphere, they are not going to condense and precipitate out; they are going to stay in the atmosphere and perform their radiative effects essentially forever, or until atmospheric chemistry finally does them in. These non-condensing gases constitute the radiative FORCINGS of the climate system.

The definition of climate sensitivity is f = (forcing+feedback)/forcing. What this means is that the climate sensitivity derived just from the current climate temperature-absorber structure of the atmosphere is: f = (0.25 + 0.75)/0.25, or f = 4. Given the Hansen et al. no-feedback global surface temperature change of 1.2 K for doubled CO2, this analysis gives a “structural” climate feedback sensitivity of 4.8 K for doubled CO2.

A bit too high? But note that this is not a “perturbation” type of feedback sensitivity evaluation, so it is completely missing the negative lapse rate feedback (which is about 1.2 K according to Hansen et al., 1984). This gets us to 3.6 K for doubled CO2. There is still a further small reduction (for which I don’t have a precise value at this time) that is needed to account for the fact that when all of the non-condensing greenhouse gases are removed, water vapor doesn’t actually go all the way to zero, being supported at about a 10% value relative to current climate by the Clausius-Clapeyron relation.

The net result of these adjustments is that a climate feedback sensitivity of about 3 K for double CO2 is obtained just from the current climate atmospheric structure, which is in good agreement with paleo-climate reconstructions and direct climate GCM modeling results. This implies that the 1 to 2 K climate sensitivity inferred for doubled CO2 in some studies is not going to be self-consistent with the current climate temperature-absorber distribution.

These deductions based on the radiative transfer analysis performed on temperature-absorber structure of the atmosphere are fairly robust and self-consistent. Their principal certainty/uncertainty is directly constrained by how well the GCM generated atmospheric structure resembles the real-world, keeping in mind the “smooth continuity” that is expected for the climate system response for both the real-world and climate GCMs.

It is also clear form this analysis that atmospheric CO2 (being the principal non-condensing gas in the atmosphere) does indeed perform as the LW climate control knob. That is clearly demonstrated in rather complicated Figure 13 of my 2013 Tellus B paper, where the equilibrium response of the climate system is evaluated for different concentrations of atmospheric CO2 ranging from 1/8x (snowball Earth) to 256x (uninhabitable hot-house).

What stands out in Figure 13 is that it is the exponential nature of the Clausius-Clapeyron relation dependence on temperature that makes water vapor, driven by atmospheric CO2, a very formidable cause-and effect combination that could take the terrestrial climate to extremes that we would rather not think about. Cloud feedback effect does not appear to be a major player since the cloud SW albedo effect is largely counteracted by the cloud LW greenhouse effect.

Humans have had the means at hand to self-destruct for decades. Fortunately, they have refrained from dropping H-bombs to quell every pesky brushfire as they frequently erupt. Now, by burning all of the available carbon resources in the coming decades, humans would appear have another option available to achieve their self-destruction.

Comment by me

On the “initial value problem” vs “boundary value problem” issue: there’s a question of terminology, and discipline. Technically, GCMs (weather or climate) are both integrated forwards from an initial state; and in that sense are IVP. But as said, the climate of the GCM doesn’t actually depend on the initial state3 and so its natural to thing of it as a boundary problem, with the various forcings as the boundaries.

That was a sensible comment. More amusing is this from JC’s: Michael Larkin: “Would some kind soul please explain, in layman’s terms, what “initial value” and “boundary value” problems are?” curryja: Hi Michael, try these links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Initial_value_problem http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boundary_value_problem…
Michael Larkin: “Thank you, Dr. Curry. I’ve checked those out, but found them a bit inscrutable because they immediately leap in with talk of differential equations…”. Ah, you get quality commentators at JC’s.

3. Well, that’s certainly true for atmosphere-only GCMs. For atmosphere-ocean GCMs its clearly not true over the 100 year timescale, as shown by the “cold start” problem; but its true-ish.

Lacis at Curry’s on Bengtsson

This is a copy (do I say, “reblogged”?) of a comment made by Andrew Lacis1 at Climate Etc (cite) just recently. As DA replied, its a breath of fresh air, but probably won’t fare well there. So I’ll give it more prominence (ha!) here. There’s also a followup: Lacis: What is it that determines the terrestrial climate and how it changes?

A Lacis | May 25, 2014 at 3:22 am | Reply

I know Lennart Bengtsson as one of the reviewers of a paper of mine that was published in Tellus B a year ago. This was a paper was part of the Bert Bolin Symposium held in Stockholm in May 2012. In this paper I describe in detail why it is that atmospheric CO2 is the principal LW control knob that governs the global surface temperature of Earth. For those interested, this paper is available via the GISS webpage at http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/la06400p.html
In writing this paper, I wanted to formulate the discussion of the global warming problem in terms of the basic physics involved, rather than presenting it as just another climate modeling exercise.

The other reviewer of this paper was Ray Pierrehumbert. Lennart Bengtsson is a classical meteorologist with decades of experience in that field; he also has a good understanding of atmospheric physics. Ray Pierrehumbert is known as an outspoken climate scientist; his recent book Principles of Planetary Climate describes well his credentials as a knowledgeable expert in climate science. Both reviewers had numerous criticisms on various aspects of my original manuscript. These criticisms led to a much improved paper, and I stated so in the acknowledgments. The kind of review that I wouldn’t like to see is one that says “Great paper! Publish as is!” To me, a review like that would be a clear indication that the reviewer most likely never read the paper, or simply did not care enough about the topic to express an opinion.

At 25 pages, the paper is a bit long, but it is composed of six distinct sections that are largely self-contained. RP thought the paper was at best a review paper with little new material; he thought that my comparison of the terrestrial greenhouse effect and those of Mars and Venus was weak; he objected to my describing the greenhouse effect as being driven by solar radiation; he liked the section demonstrating the fast-feedback response of water vapor feedback; but he thought that the section on radiative transfer was unnecessary and should have been deleted; and, RP was unhappy with the way I characterized of the run-away greenhouse aspect of ever increasing CO2 in the terrestrial atmosphere.

LB, on the other hand, rather liked the radiative transfer section and thought it provided a useful description of how radiative transfer was calculated; he wanted more discussion of how the greenhouse effect could be evaluated by direct observation; he also wanted more discussion on the nature of feedback effects, and thought that cloud feedback effects were handled poorly, in particular the cloud solar albedo component. LB also raised the issue of transient climate sensitivity vs equilibrium sensitivity. (The paper addresses the equilibrium sensitivity, and not the transient response, except in demonstrating the fast-feedback response of water vapor).

Both reviewers suggested multiple improvements to get the historical facts about the greenhouse effect described and referenced more accurately. Neither reviewer questioned the validity of the main theme of the paper, i.e., that atmospheric CO2 is the principal LW control knob of the terrestrial climate system.

Addressing all of these concerns and criticisms resulted in the quality paper as it now stands. Accordingly, I have absolutely no criticism to direct toward Lennart Bengtsson. What the current GWPF-Bengtsson brewhaha is all about, I really don’t know. And, I am not sufficiently motivated to investigate further. I have seen it pop up on Foxnews, and can surmise that Foxnews would not hesitate to spin and inflate any minor incident into another “climategate” conspiracy.

There are more than a few topics in the climate system where uncertainty abounds. But there are also some aspects of the global climate system that are quite well established and documented, such as the human-caused increase in atmospheric CO2, and the radiative effect of this CO2 increase to intensify the strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect, thus causing global warming and the accelerated melting of polar ice that will eventually make all coastal areas uninhabitable. This is the consequential and serious climate problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

In Lennart Bengtsson’s remarks on his view on climate research, there is one telling sentence that summarizes Lennart’s perspective on climate change. Lennart states that “Climate is nothing but the sum of all weather events during some representative period of time.” Superficially, the statement is quite correct. But fundamentally, that statement is flat wrong. This is because climate is a boundary value problem in physics, while weather is an initial value problem. The physical nature of these two problems is quite different, so also is the numerical approach that has to be taken in order to model climate change, and to forecast the changing weather.

In my Tellus B paper, I described the ongoing global warming as a cause-and-effect problem in physics. Understandably, Lennart Bengtsson might be inclined to view the global warming problem from his meteorology perspective in terms of changing weather patterns. But there is a reason why summer weather is warmer than winter weather. And there is a similar physics-based reason why global warming will change the weather patterns as the global temperature rises. There is substantially more uncertainty in how the local and regional weather patterns will change than in how the global temperature will change. So, when it comes to discussing regional climate change, as opposed to global climate change, there is far more room for differences in opinion.

As for Lennart’s joining GWPF, then resigning – I have not formed an opinion. Perhaps Lennart Bengtsson was hoping to instill some rationality to an organization that could benefit from an improved understanding of climate. Perhaps Lennart’s colleagues then persuaded him that that objective would be a hopeless endeavor.

If I really thought that I could instill some common sense regarding the nature of global climate change to such organizations like the Cato, Heartland, and George C. Marshall Institutes (among others), I too would be more than willing to go talk to them. But their goal and agenda (on behalf of the short-sighted interests of the fossil fuel industries) is to spread disinformation about global warming, rather than to seek a clearer understanding of global climate change. Thus, I don’t think that they would really want to hear from me. So far, they have succeeded in deceiving, duping, and brainwashing a significant fraction of the American public into believing that global warming is some sort of hoax perpetrated by the climate scientists.

This unfortunate nonsense needs to be counteracted by continuing to repeat ever more clearly the basic facts and physics of global climate change. As the climate effects of global warming become ever more apparent (increases in larger weather extremes – droughts, floods, forest fires), the public awareness will shift in favor of the science and away from the climate deniers.

Climate etc. denizens should keep in mind that the consequences of global warming are not a question of “if”, but of “when”, and that the climate modeling uncertainties are not one-sided, but cut both ways. Thus, the nasty stuff in ecological disruption and the rise in sea level that is predicted to happen by the end of the century could be arriving a lot sooner than expected, accompanied perhaps by totally unanticipated maladies.

Follow up by Lacis

I would say that AL’s words largely fell on deaf ears, no great surprise there. But he felt moved to reply, so I’ll copy it in here:

Some remarks regarding some of the comments from above

Skippy –
The universe – and the terrestrial climate system – both operate according to the laws of physics. That means that even the chaotic looking climate system variability is ultimately the result of cause-and-effect physical processes subject to the conservation of energy. That makes climate modeling possible, and understandable. Things don’t just happen for no reason at all.

nottawa rafter –
Climate is best understood as a problem in physics. The natural variability of the climate system is too large, and the documented climate record is too short to enable a clear understanding of climate change in terms of its statistical variability alone. By the way, I am not looking for enemies. By definition, climate skeptics are those who do not yet have a clear understanding of the climate problem at hand. Climate deniers are those who have made up their minds without taking the time to consider the relevant facts and physics. You should not be so trusting as to automatically believe everything that is said in the public forum either for or against the ongoing global climate change. There really are organized efforts out there to deliberately spread disinformation about climate change. Climate change is a matter of physics. If you stay focused on the basic physics of global climate change, you will be less likely to become misinformed.

Pekka –
Whether or not a discussion is productive depends on the expectations of the participants, and I suppose, the expectations of any onlookers as well. I have set the bar rather low for myself in that if I feel that I have made my point clearly enough, then my expectations have been met. If anybody else finds my statements informative, then I am gratified beyond my expectations. Also, I don’t harbor expectations that any of my comments will positively advance the understanding of climate by Climate etc. denizens – that way I will never be disappointed. Occasionally, there are comments made here by some people that are useful and informative – that is a plus. But at this point in time I am more interested in the science of global warming, and much less about all the possible options and costs of adaptation, mitigation, and/or geoengineering countermeasures to counteract global warming.

Steve Fitzpatrick –
Glad to hear that you are not influenced by the likes of Heartland and Cato Institute propaganda. But I would not say that makes you have a good understanding of the basic physics relevant to global warming. Try reading that Tellus B paper I mentioned above. It is not just me who is blaming the fossil fuel interests for spreading climate change misinformation – the Koch brothers efforts in this effort have been well documented by many others. As for MY failure to convince people, I tend not to blame myself too much, being satisfied for the most part in just placing my climate research material out in the public forum. How about YOUR failure to understand the basic aspects of the global warming problem? Who do blame for that?

Don Monfort –
I don’t really care that much what some climate dissenters may or may not think about global climate change – they all have the Constitutional right to believe whatever their hearts may desire to believe, even if their beliefs are totally contrary to reality. But when people make deliberately erroneous public statements regarding the nature of global climate change, then we do have an obligation to make an effort to correct those misrepresentations – that’s part of our job. Then too, the climate system could not possibly care less whether some public opinion poll is 57% against with 13% undecided. The climate system responds only to the laws of physics, and to the fact that atmospheric CO2 has continued to increase.

Rud Istvan –
While the EPA and WMO are both respectable government supported organizations, why on Earth would you take as the Gospel Truth their arbitrary definition that climate is weather averaged over 30 years? Relying on the basic physics approach taken for weather forecasting and climate modeling provides a far more reliable assessment. As you may know, weather forecasts begin with an accurate characterization of the reference pressure, wind, temperature, and humidity fields. Hydrodynamic modeling calculates how this atmospheric reference state evolves with time. After about a week of simulated time, the unresolved eddy energies will have overwhelmed the initial wind field configuration, and the weather forecast will have totally exhausted its predictive capability. In climate modeling, while the evolving weather patterns are continuously being calculated, it is only the statistical distribution of these weather patterns that is of interest. There is obviously a reference atmosphere that serves as the initial modeling starting point, but it does not define the final equilibrium state of the modeled climate – that is defined by all the radiative forcings that define that particular climate change simulation. A notable example of climate forcing in action is the seasonal change from warm weather in the summer time to cold weather in the winter time, driven the seasonal shift in solar irradiance. Over longer time scales, it is the radiative flux imbalance at the top of the atmosphere due to changes in greenhouse gases, solar luminosity, or aerosol distributions that drive the climate system toward a new energy balance equilibrium.

jim2 –
It is very important to distinguish between the natural variability of the climate system (in particular the local and regional variability) and the steadily rising global warming component (which is the long-term problem that we need to worry about). Droughts, heat waves, and floods have many contributing factors. So it is not really a proper inference to state that a particular extreme weather event either was, or was not, caused by the increase in atmospheric CO2. Suffice it to say that with global warming, the sea surface temperatures are warmer and the atmosphere can hold more water vapor (the principal fuel for weather activity). Climate models suggest that a more strongly activated hydrological cycle arising from global warming enhances weather extremes such as droughts, floods, and heat waves. In regard to the likes of Cato, Heartland, and Marshall Institutes, what makes you thing that these “Institutes” are really interested in understanding global climate change. Typically, the publications that they produce do not pass objective scientific muster, and are not designed to inform but rather are designed to confuse and obfuscate climate science issues. Take for example their NIPCC report, total garbage compared to the far more objective analysis of climate science as reported in the series of IPCC reports.

R. Gates –
The climate modeling runs in the 2013 Tellus B paper were designed to simulate the equilibrium climate response over a wide range of CO2 concentrations. So, the ocean heat content was never an issue. Proper accounting of the ocean heat content is an important issue for transient climate simulations over the recorded surface temperature period. For those climate simulations a fully interactive coupled atmosphere-ocean model is used with the full SW and LW radiative effects of all major volcanoes included. A detailed description of such climate simulations for the 1880-2003 time period with the GISS climate GCM can be found at via the GISS webpage at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/modelE/transient/climsim.html

Canman –
It might appear that the global warming problem merits little urgency since the rise in global temperature is slow in coming and sometimes even exhibits pauses in the steady rise in global temperature. The climate indicator that you should be watching is the unending rise in the atmospheric CO2 concentration (now topping 400 ppm compared to the interglacial maximum of 280 ppm). Failure to address that problem serves only to make fixing the climate problem that much more difficult. This will surely make life that much more miserable for future generations. But perhaps that does not concern you.

mosomoso –
I am sure that you will not be disappointed if continued global warming brings more fire and drought episodes to the outback. Same here for your conservative Foxfriends in the southwest. As the polar ice keeps on melting at an accelerating pace, the sea level has nowhere else to go but up. If you happen to reside on high ground, then you have nothing at all to worry about. It is just us low-lifers here in New York, Miami, and New Orleans that might need to be thinking about re-locating before this century runs out of time.

Raving –
Modeling climate is indeed a boundary value in physics. But the radiative forcing at the top of this atmospheric boundary is actually NOT constant. That is why we have a climate problem. It appears that it is the desire of the humans to want to keep burning 10 cubic km of fossil fuel per year so as to increase the concentration of atmospheric CO2. This upsets the radiative energy balance of the Earth causing the global surface temperature to rise, the polar ice to melt, the sea level to rise, etc.

Jim D –
If understanding could be so easily achieved, I am sure that a great many of us would be more than willing to engage in discussing climate issues with Cato and Heartland denizens, even Congressional Republicans. But I hardly think it rational to expect good things to happen when there is so much irrationality to overcome to deal with.

kim –
Sour grapes – buying or selling?

David Young –
Bob Woodward resolved the Watergate problem by adopting the approach of “follow the money”. In modeling climate you need to adopt a similar recipe, except that in climate you “follow the energy”, and make damn sure that energy (also mass, water substance, angular momentum, and vorticity) stays conserved at every single modeling time step.

Steven Mosher –
Interesting contemplations about improving the climate discourse. Like the saying goes, you can bring horses to water, but you can’t make them discuss climate in any productively rational manner. Would discussions with climate skeptics and climate deniers actually accomplish anything useful? I suppose that we will never know, if we don’t try. But I remain skeptical that Pat Michaels would even care to read my comments here on the Climate etc. blog. The principal objective of any meaningful discussion would be to first establish a clear understanding of just what are the relevant facts and physics of global warming. But that is a topic that the climate skeptics tend to avoid – because they can’t win their case on that topic.

AK –
Climate modeling, as it is performed with current state-of-the-art climate GCMs, is basically a problem in physics, and not one of statistics or abstract mathematics. You should look at the Hansen et al. (1983) paper http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha05900x.html which describes the primitive equations that are being solved to simulate the atmospheric dynamics. There is also the current GISS ModelE2 version at http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/sc02500z.html Or, for a simplified conceptual overview, but with a more detailed description of the radiative transfer modeling, there is my 2013 Tellus B paper at http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/la06400p.html There are also a great many climate modeling simulations generated with the GISS ModelE version at http://data.giss.nasa.gov/modelE/ with more than a superficial resemblance to real-world climate variability.

GaryM –
I think you are viewing the climate science landscape through the wrong end of the telescope. I would characterize most climate scientists as being quite objective as to the basic nature of climate change. And I tend to see the “skeptics” as being stuck in their dogmatic views, unable to comprehend the basic facts and physics of global warming that are really quite well understood. At the same time it is also well known that there are some aspects and areas of climate modeling that have significant degrees of uncertainty. The climate system is after all quite complex. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be understood if there are some aspects that are less well understood. I do tend to view organizations such as GWPF, Cato, and Heartland as having a set dogma and agenda on global warming with a distinct reluctance to accept or address the basic facts and physics. Can holding discussions with these guys really lead to improved understanding?

Jacob –
What makes you think that fossil fuel industries don’t have interests?

Fernando Leanme –
The recent paper by Hansen et al. (2011) available from the GISS webpage at http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abs/ha06510a.html should provide a good description of the Earth’ energy imbalance and its implications.

Notes

1. At least, I assume its by him. I have no way to verify this2.

2. I now know it really was him.

Adventures in the denialosphere

LB-Close-Up_5c5a19b2-1e9d-4600-8bc1-aadcbd23fc9f_large Words carefully chosen, as you’ll discover. The back story: Lennart Bengtsson has a paper rejected by ERL0 because, amongst other failings, the “overall innovation of the manuscript is very low”. In a huff, he joins the GWPF1, which is much trumpeted by the Dork Side. His colleagues point out this is a mistake, and he changes his mind, but blames his colleagues for his error2. LB then leaks a deliberately partial version of his rejection letter to the Times, in order to make it look like he’s being repressed3. Not everyone was terribly impressed4. [Update: see also Lacis.]

Aanyway, it was all good fun and lead to the sort of blogostorm that we haven’t seen in, ooh, months. It was just like the old days. So I thought I’d venture off into the trackless wilds, and visited NoTricksZone5, all-European winner of the “most hyperbolic headline of the affair” competition. NTZ believed everything LB had told them4a, and weren’t very amused when I commented Oh the poor dahling. LB is such a delicate wilting flower. Don’t you think someone who fades so easily ought to have kept out of the limelight? Or, in more vigorous terms, that he ought to stop being such a crybaby and Man Up? Their unamusement was somewhat dull, but it did provoke a post all about me, which was more interesting6. But third time is the charm: an ostensibly unpromising post about some German Meteorologists mumbling into their beer about the evils of the world7 included them saying These developments involve first of all something in the lines of a democratization of science: Everyone is allowed and should have a say in it… in our opinion (and that of others) led to very negative impacts on the quality standards of science which sounded to me like the aged German Met folk being sniffy about “Citizen Science”. Since that’s the kind of stuff NTZ and their ilk thrive on8 their backs were up9; skipping over some invective the conversation returns (at last!) to LB, and I respond by pointing out that he’s been “economical with the truth”10. “Graeme No.3” suggests that I had best rush over to the Bishop where he’s pointing out that it was the reviewer who made the mistake. Nothing much more happens at NTZ (oddly enough, not one of them are interested in discussing the second referee), so its on to stage 2: the Bish.

The Bishop (warning: shameless self-indulgence ahead)

in-assoc Who wrote the only concern in the reviewer report published to date seems to be with Bengtsson’s temerity in thinking that observations and models really ought to match up, and of course the concern that sceptics might be keen on the paper. The gullible folk at the blog were lapping it up, of course, so I felt obliged to throw in No. There’s a previous, fatal concern: “The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low”. Its curious that you managed to miss that. Perhaps you need to read it more carefully. Unfortunately for them, there’s really not much you can say to argue with this, so they’re down to denial and diversion. The most common response11 was something like “I can assess the overall quality of that review”, or “Review papers by definition aren’t ‘innovative'” – something that just doesn’t address the issue; which is the Bish’s error. Another attempt (we’re on page 2 now) was You changed the topic. The topic was error. There is no way that the judgement “overall innovation of the manuscript is very low” can be understood as a claim about an error. Please stick to the topic. At this point the conversation becomes rather hard to follow, because a number of my comments have been invisibly censored. Here’s one in reply to those last:

viz_slug

> Review papers by definition aren’t ‘innovative’

Says you. But you’re missing the point; the point is the falsity of our host’s text. Our host asserted that “the only concern in the reviewer report published to date seems to be with Bengtsson’s temerity..”, and yet the reviewer said “The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low”. You may, if you like, assert that the reviewer was wrong to raise the point of originaility – I’d disagree with you – but you may not gloss over the problem that the review *did* raise this point; and thus our host is in error.

> I don’t see why focusing on this point is somehow lying.

*Focussing* on that point is entirely permissible – albeit distinctly one-sided. I’m not complaining about that. I’m pointing out that our host is lying when he says that was the only concern raised (I think one could originally have forgiven him for an honest error committed in haste, but time has now passed and its clear he intends to hope his error gets buried rather than correcting it; that is now lying).

> Please stick to the topic.

Aka “Please do not under any circumstances think for yourself”. Will you, similarly, condemn “Leave Savonarola alone” type comments as off topic? Of course you won’t! They’re by people you regard as on your side, and so they are above criticism.

> Wikipedia Bans Radical Global Warming Propagandist From Editing All Pages

Seems rather off-topic too. Its also false, but that won’t stop you repeating it.

Some of the censorship is a bit incompetent; the fragment “”but time has now passed and its clear he intends to hope his error gets buried rather than correcting it; that is now lying” exists now only in being quoted by someone else; the original comment is invisibly deleted.

After a while, when its clear that the monekys aren’t doing very well, the organ grinder turns up with “I am not sure if I have ever come across anyone quite so disagreeable”. That’s an open goal (thanks NikfromNYC and ThomasFuller2, and indeed many others), for

> I am not sure if I have ever come across anyone quite so disagreeable.

You must have lead a very sheltered life. Allow me to point you at this gem from NikfromNYC: http://stoat-spam.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/you-are-fanatically-pure-evil.html

Or perhaps you prefer Thomas Fuller: http://stoat-spam.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/id-take-tattoo-on-my-body-la-glover.html

> feels that my failure to mention a criticism made of it on grounds of “lack of originality” means that I have been lying.

No. You need to try reading what people say. I’m saying (sigh. I’ll say it again) that your statement “the only concern in the reviewer report published to date seems to be with Bengtsson’s temerity in thinking that…” is false.

There. Its really that simple. The falsity of your statement doesn’t depend on the contents of the Sekrit manuscript; it isn’t affected by whether the reviewer was right to say it or not; its simply a consequence of the reviewer having said

“The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low” (http://ioppublishing.org/newsDetails/statement-from-iop-publishing-on-story-in-the-times)

Now, I can see why you wouldn’t want to draw attention to that rather embarrassing fact. From your POV, sweeping it under the carpet is very much what you want; and I’d have understood, had you just ignored it. But asserting that it doesn’t exist is false.

> And that my absence from my desk on a Sunday means that I am running from facing the facts.

Not a very good try; see my comment of May 17, 2014 at 8:41 AM.

> I think he “has issues”. Serious issues. But he can explain himself on his own website, where only the fruitcakes go.

Well, I’ve had comments from NikfromNYC on my blog, so I can’t completely disagree with you about fruitcakes.

So, there you have it (or rather you don’t, any more, because it got vanished). Just one of the Bish’s people (I record my gratitude to Jonas N) stood up against censorship. But more than that, I was disappointed by their ability to think, to read, to argue. By their simple denial of what was in from of their eyes. By their total lack of skepticism about what they were being fed. NTZ isn’t any better, of course, but somehow I’d expected some kind of superior quality “skepticism” from the Bish; and all I got was std.denial.

Notes

0. Well, there’s never a beginning I suppose. LB’s friends wouldn’t want anyone to look at the rather regettable things he said earlier in Swedish, hoping that the wider world wouldn’t read them.

1. I admit, the causality proposed here is speculative.

2. I doubt he’d agree with me, but that’s my reading. You can read his “it’s all someone’s else’s fault” statement if you like.

3. This bit is genuinely murky: did LB show the review to the GWPF, who then showed it to the Times, who then printed only part? Did the GWPF only show part to the Times? Did LB show only part to the GWPF? Did LB leak it directly to the Times? Those who know (LB and the GWPF) aren’t about to enlighten anyone.

4. And other links far too numerous to mention.

bent 4a. These “sup” things are great, I must over-use them more often. But they’re a pain when they get out of order. So: LB becoming a hero of the nutters is a bit weird, given stuff like Determination of a lower bound on Earth’s climate sensitivity which none of them would touch with a bargepole. Incidentally, the graph of downloads per month is amusing, no?

5. Motto: Not here to worship what is known, but to demonstrate our inability to spell.

6. To me, not you. It gets briefly exciting when they deny that LB received the emails that he said he received, but that was just too wacko to pursue.

7. Tell me I’m wrong, Victor. Its not as if I read the whole thing.

8. The “Dumb America” fallacy. See-also me on Citizen Science.

9. Weeell, really, anything I say puts their backs up, they really are very sensitive creatures. “Gareth” does make a perfectly reasonable response, and in a better environment I’d have continued the conversation with him.

10. One of those useful phrases like “terminological inexactitude” (i.e., “lie”) that can be uttered in polite company without seeming too rude. As wiki notes, it is “popularly used as a euphemism for deceitful, whether by volunteering false information (i.e., lying) or by deliberately holding back relevant facts”.

11 Actually the most common response was an ad-hom of the intellectual level of Sorry Connolley but your not in your realm surrounded by sock-puppets any-more, but putting those aside.

Refs

* Popcorn of a different sort is also available from Bonny Prince Charlie.
* Adventures on the Hill by ATTP

Atmospheric Layers, The Biosphere, The Boundary Layer, Microclimate and Inadequate Tim Ball thinking

I was – I still am – going to write a post about my recent adventures in “skeptic” land, but I’ve got distracted by Atmospheric Layers, The Biosphere, The Boundary Layer, Microclimate and Inadequate IPCC Models which is comically incompetent. To a degree that I found hard to believe. There’s an open goal there waiting for shots, yet Tim Ball hits every one wide. Lets go: (oh, but don’t miss the update at the end)

Milankovitch Effect

TB begins by complaining

During a university presentation I said the climate models do not include the Milankovitch Effect… My mistake was I forgot to say I was talking about Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) models.

He then continues – just to prove that he’s already been told the correct answer, but is too dumb to understand it – “An IPCC climate modeller told me the time scale was not appropriate to include the Milankovitch Effect”. Which is correct: Milankovitch cycles have their shortest period at ~20 kyr; over the typical IPCC runtime of 1850 to 2100, the change is too small to be worth worrying about. Incidentally, I could point out that in this, rare, case the reason for not adding the effect is only that its too trivial to be worth it, not because of increased runtime or such.

Climate below 2 m

We’re now talking about the boundary layer, and then the near-surface layer. Most people when talking about GCM resolution focus on the horizontal (typically ~100-300 km) and forget about the vertical. Martin et al., in Geosci. Model Dev. Discuss., provide some helpful info about The HadGEM2 family of Met Office Unified Model Climate configurations, so we can discover that the lowest model level is at 10 m and (scroll down to fig 2, and bump up the magnification) the next one up is at 50 m. The problem here isn’t the time-lag that TB identifies, its just that you can’t throw too much resolution at the near-surface because it would use up too much processing time. How much of a problem is it? Not as much as you might think, because the boundary layer is parameterised – the model is not relying on its own native resolution to get things right.

There’s a more interesting issue with the thickness of the ocean surface layers and the effects on ?tropical evaporation? but I forget the details; that one *is* related to the time-lag problem.

…and CO2

That one was a bit so-so. But TB totally blows it with:

Other near surface measures like CO2 are taken above 2 meters. “Air samples at Mauna Loa are collected continuously from air intakes at the top of four 7-m towers and one 27-m tower.” How does that help understand energy flows in the atmosphere?

WTF? GHGs like CO2 are well mixed – at least, they’re well mixed enough for the purposes of a GCM. Yes, I know, if you look closely you can see variations in space or time, but look at the scale. We’re back to his failure to understand the Milankovitch forcing; its the new Aristoleans all over again. If you want to understand something, and make progress, you have to not insist on getting every teensy tiny thing right down to the finest level of detail. Trying to do that leaves you as stuck as Greek Science.

Fundamental Problem

(This is TB’s ection header, not mine) TB then helpfully explains that models run on a discretised grid, and that this is a problem because

There is virtually no weather data for some 85 percent of the world’s surface. Virtually none for the 70 percent that are oceans… It’s worse in the vertical with virtually no data in space and time and constantly changing very complex conditions.

The more data we have the better of course, but the lack of “weather” data isn’t a great problem. The data we already have (on, say, sea ice extent) is enough to know that the models have flaws. Describing this as a “fundamental” problem is wrong. Or, less esoterically, you can just look at the seasonal MSLP (mean sea level pressure) pattern, which we know very well from the reanalyses. Or warm biases in the tropopause. None of these are strongly affected by lack of obs; all of them are enough to show up model errors.

Stratosphere

Not having a proper stratosphere is a bit of a model problem. But TB manages to mangle even this. After a brief- presumably obligatory, but irreleveant – fling at Mann, coupled with a brief genuflection towards the adored Lamb he continues

We know from Pinatubo and all other major eruptions a significant factor is the amount of dust injected into the stratosphere. The IPCC models don’t appear to include the stratosphere as they state “Due to the computational cost associated with the requirement of a well-resolved stratosphere, the models employed for the current assessment do not generally include the QBO.”

Yes, that’s right: TB doesn’t really know if the models have a stratosphere or not; he has to rely on the IPCC to tell him, obliquely. But he’s missed “well-resolved”. The Martin et al. paper does discuss how increasing stratospheric resolution improves the QBO. But at this point, TB is talking about aerosols, which are prescribed in the models, so the need for higher resolution in the stratosphere isn’t obvious.

Lower Layers of the Atmosphere

We’ve been up, we come back down (I’m following TB’s sequence, not anything logical :-). TB complains:

Boundary layer; Surface fluxes are computed from bulk relationships with transfer coefficients according to Monin-Obukhov similarity theory… What are they using to create parameterised values? Most of the references in reports are to 1990s material.

Errm, yes: an Euclid was written more than 2000 years ago, but is still valid. The point is that boundary layer theory was largely worked out some time ago, though I’m sure many exciting problems still remain.

The top two meters of the Earth’s surface and the bottom two meters of the atmosphere are the most critical layers… Too bad they are the least measured or understood of all the layers and omitted from the IPCC models.

Well they’re certainly not the least measured. The fact that they’re so near the ground tends to mean they get measured a lot. Nor are they least understood – they are more complex, though, unlike the more free-flow stuff higher up. And “omitted” isn’t quite right either, as discussed above.

And finally

All you “skeptics” out there… I’m a little shaky on all this, its been seven years after all. If you can’t pick decent holes in this post, you may as well give up.

Refs

>My opinion on the Global Climate Model clique feedback loop

Update

There’s an other even more like totally-wacky-maaaan post at WUWT, Steve Burnett’s Hard vs. the Soft Sciences Essay; An Ongoing Debate Central To Climate which is Tim Ball trying to explain to the Watties why they shouldn’t look down on him for being a geographer. But in the course of it he goes even further overboard in demonstrating he knows nothing about parameterisation in GCMs.

More minor roadkill in the wiki-wars

But its topical! We have the bizarre and deeply stupid ruling from the EU re the “right to vanish“. But wikipedia has a quasi “right to vanish” too. People use it to sweep their embarrassing past under the carpet. Which brings me to:

Wikipedia:Requests for adminship/Thegoodlocust.

Ho ho.

Update:

(User rename log); 07:40:16 . . Nihonjoe (talk | contribs) renamed user Thegoodlocust (2640 edits) to Vanished user oerjio4kdm3 ‎(courtesy vanishing)
(Move log); 07:40:16 . . Nihonjoe (talk | contribs) moved page User talk:Thegoodlocust to User talk:Vanished user oerjio4kdm3 without leaving a redirect ‎(Automatically moved page while renaming the user “Thegoodlocust” to “Vanished user oerjio4kdm3”)

Refs

* User talk:Thegoodlocust

Bad beekeeping, May 2014

It is May, when an old man’s thoughts turn to bees. There’s been a certain amount of swarm-catching but nothing too exciting. I thought I’d write down where I’m up to, for future reference and perhaps as some light relief from the silliness.

Lesson number one, of course, is that if your hive has a pitched roof you need to make sure that the wire mesh covering the ventilation holes hasn’t got eaten away by time. Or this may happen.

DSC_3563

The bizarre roof-garden effect is mostly a bird’s nest, and either the moss has survived and thrived or the bird got carried away. If you can’t cope with tragedy, don’t look at this pic.

DSC_3565

Continuing on in, we discover that I didn’t fill the top box completely up with frames, with the predictable result that the bees have filled up the spaces with comb, now largely capped. So next weekend I think I’ll be extracting. That was as far as I went with hive one; leave well enough alone I always say.

DSC_3555

Hive two had been empty all winter, and a few weeks ago I noticed it had a small population. As in, I thought “oh, I wonder if there’s anything in here”, took the top off and realised “oops yes there is” and hastily put it back on again. So when some bloke phoned me up and offered me a swarm I accepted. It turned out to be this lot, fairly small. I used the old trick of “put a sheet of newspaper between the two sets of bees; by the time they’ve chewed through their scents will have mixed, and internecine war will not ensue”. And so it was.

DSC_3556

Here they are, all dumped inside.

DSC_3567

And here’s how many they are: about 4 bars, or a bit less, which is OK; they should have time to build up over the summer.

Refs

* Bad beekeeping, again 2013/06
* Bad beekeeping 2010/10
* Bad beekeeping 2009/05

Ha ha: Lennart Bengtsson leaves advisory board of GWPF

So says the Onion, Germany’s finest news source.

This has so many shades of “Chinese academy endorses NIPCC report”. The back story: Lennart Bengtsson, sounding somewhere between very naive and emeritus, joins the GWPF, talking the usual nonsense (I believe most serious scientists are sceptics) indicating that either he really doesn’t know what’s going on, or is deliberately obfusticating. Now, it seems, his various respectable colleagues have pointed out his silliness to him. So he’s ditching the GWPF, because he doesn’t want to be an outcast. But he hasn’t got the grace to admit the foul-up is all his error.

Update: watching the wackos on this one is fun. There ought to be a prize for the most over-the-top Godwinism. So far the clear winner by quite a margin is NTZ with the gloriously hyperbolic Boko Haram Science…Thought-Tyranny, Vicious Hounding Shame, Blacken Climate Science Community. LB himself manages a merely silly It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy. AW is dull; RP Jr is merely a tosser again, sigh.

Update: whilst LB has clearly gone off the rails wrt the GWPF, I should point out that he has a genuine solid scientific reputation; see his page at U Reading for example. And he has genuine recent publications in respectable journals as well. I went to ECMWF for their meteorology course for a month or two in ?1991? when I first joined BAS; he had just left as Director of ECMWF then, for MPI. His first publication was the year I was conceived.

Late update: Olle Häggström has a good background article on LB, available to anyone capable of speaking Foreign, or pressing the “translate” button in Chrome. Or, its up at Eli’s.

Climate Change Reconsidered – again

While you’re here, consider TPP’s review of NIPCC Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts.

I win

Well, for the moment anyway:

lb

Update: Why?

Its interesting to ponder why LB has gone off the rails.

In they Are Mad As Hell And Not Going to Take it Anymore, Eli links to some (translated, thank heavens) Swedish provided by MW (originally here, thanks, but I got busy) wherein LB says:

I surely do not imagine our romantic green Communists want a one-way ticket to North Korea. But if interested I will gladly contribute to the trip as long as it concerns a one way exit.

This rather hints towards right-wing views, which would fit neatly in with the GWPF. I provide my own speculation in answer to comment 56 below. Oh yeah, and I wrote something in my post above, too 🙂

DA also wonders. OH, in the comments notes that LB can appear a touch over-sensitive, which makes me wonder, again, whether his emails are entirely accurate.

Update: the Paper of Death

News about Lennart Bengtsson’s paper. It looks as though he may have been just a touch economical with the truth. Shades of Lindzen, Spencer et all to wearily al.: old folk who just can’t accept that sometimes, peer reviewers are right.

* Statement from IOP Publishing on story in The Times.
* Eli.
* expert reaction to claims climate research was ‘suppressed’ including LB (via QS)

The second referee is now available (see Eli and its now even worse for LB.

Refs

* Nigel Lawson’s climate-change denial charity ‘intimidated’ environmental expert
* Bengtsson burns his boats?-JA
* Lennart Bengtsson and his media gambit on climate change by MW at Uppsalainitiativet – some background.
* The Bengtsson Affair and the Global Warming Policy Foundation – by the GWPF’s David Henderson.