Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Natural Global Warming Solution

Dr. Roy W. Spencer earned his Doctorate from UW’s Meteorology Program, he is perhaps the clearest thinker on the affect of man-released carbon dioxide on the climate. I first heard Dr. Spencer when he was a guest on the John Gibson radio show. I learned more in 10 minutes of listening to him than in the previous decade of climate change propaganda that has been force-fed to me.He simply makes more sense about the way that the climate works.

Dr. Spencer’s book, Climate Confusion, is now a must-read for me. He presents the basis behind the book in this on-line essay. I highlight some points from his essay below.

Al Gore likes to say that mankind puts 70 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day. What he probably doesn't know is that mother nature puts 24,000 times that amount of our main greenhouse gas -- water vapor -- into the atmosphere every day, and removes about the same amount every day. While this does not 'prove' that global warming is not manmade, it shows that weather systems have by far the greatest control over the Earth's greenhouse effect, which is dominated by water vapor and clouds.

Context – something sorely needed by Al Gore. As well as a knowledge of thermodynamics. That water vapor holds over 100,000 times the energy of those 70 million tons of CO2.

What is the greenhouse effect?

The natural greenhouse effect makes the lower atmosphere warmer, and the upper atmosphere cooler, than it would otherwise be without the greenhouse effect.

Contrary to what the climate change alarmists want you to believe, the greenhouse effect does not warm the earth. Dr. Spencer states that the greenhouse effect is the net movement of heat from the upper atmosphere to a lower level of the atmosphere due to capture of infrared energy by water vapor, clouds and, to a much smaller extent, carbon dioxide at low altitudes.

The greenhouse effect doesn't make the earth as a whole warmer, the warmth is just in a different place. For the earth to become warmer increased energy must be produced by the sun and absorbed by the earth.

How the earth compensates for the greenhouse effect

You don’t need to be a climatologist to figure this one out. The negative feedback mechanism that predominates is mostly common sense.

As man releases more CO2 at lower atmospheric levels, this additional CO2 causes the retention of addition heat at these levels – that is what they call Global Warming. But that isn’t the end of the process.

Those higher ground level temperatures cause more evaporation of water. That water vapor rises to form high-level clouds. Any moisture as these high levels will condense as it moves into colder high level air. The condensing water in turn becomes rain and snow, which falls bringing the cooler water molecules back to the earth’s surface. Some of the excess energy that leaves the water as it condenses from vapor to liquid is released to space as infrared energy.

The Global Warming effect in undone, thusly.
The high level clouds also have a minor affect in absorbing energy at high levels, before it can warm low level CO2 and cause Global Warming.

What the models are missing

One inconvenient truth about all the climate models that predict disaster for the planet is that they don't model cloud formation and behavior with any accuracy. Dr. Spencer explains.
Climate model representations of precipitation processes are very crude. In fact, for warm air masses, the models don't actually grow precipitation systems. They instead use simple 'parameterizations' that are meant to represent the net effects of precipitation on the atmosphere in some statistical sense. There is nothing inherently wrong with using parameterizations to replace more complex physical processes - as long as they accurately represent what controls those processes.

What we really need to know is how the efficiency of precipitation systems changes with temperature. Unfortunately, this critical understanding is still lacking. Most of the emphasis has been on getting the models to behave realistically in how they reproduce average rainfall amounts and their geographic distribution -- not in how the model handles changes in rainfall efficiency with warming.

Fortunately, we now have new satellite evidence which sheds light on this question. Our recently published, peer-reviewed research shows that when the middle and upper tropical troposphere temporarily warms from enhanced rainfall activity, the precipitation systems there produce less high-altitude cirroform (ice) clouds. This, in turn, reduces the natural greenhouse effect of the atmosphere, allowing enhanced infrared cooling to outer space, which in turn causes falling temperatures. (Our news release describing the study is here.)

This is a natural, negative feedback process that is counter-intuitive for climate scientists, most of whom believe that more tropical rainfall activity would cause more high-level cloudiness, not less. Whether this process also operates on the long time scale involved with global warming is not yet known for sure. Nevertheless, climate models are supposedly built based upon observed atmospheric behavior, and so I challenge the modelers to include this natural cooling process in their models, and then see how much global warming those models produce.
We'll hear a lot of crickets chirping, before that ever happens.

It is not as hot as they want you to believe
Global average temperature reconstruction based upon 18 temperature proxies for the period 1 A.D. to 1995, combined with the thermometer-based dataset from the UK Met Office and University of East Anglia, covering the period 1850 to 2007. Note that for both datasets each data point represents a 30-year average.

We are just beginning to reach the temperature levels of the Medieval Warm Period. A very good period for life on earth, indeed.

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