An Explanation for the Decade-Long "Pause" in Global Warming?

Science published a study today which finds that shifts in the amount of water vapor in the lower stratosphere may explain why global average temperatures have basically stopped increasing for the past ten years. As the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains:

Observations from satellites and balloons show that stratospheric water vapor has had its ups and downs lately, increasing in the 1980s and 1990s, and then dropping after 2000. The authors show that these changes occurred precisely in a narrow altitude region of the stratosphere where they would have the biggest effects on climate.

Water vapor is a highly variable gas and has long been recognized as an important player in the cocktail of greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons, nitrous oxide, and others—that affect climate.

“Current climate models do a remarkable job on water vapor near the surface. But this is different — it’s a thin wedge of the upper atmosphere that packs a wallop from one decade to the next in a way we didn’t expect,” says Susan Solomon, NOAA senior scientist and first author of the study.

Since 2000, water vapor in the stratosphere decreased by about 10 percent. The reason for the recent decline in water vapor is unknown. The new study used calculations and models to show that the cooling from this change caused surface temperatures to increase about 25 percent more slowly than they would have otherwise, due only to the increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

An increase in stratospheric water vapor in the 1990s likely had the opposite effect of increasing the rate of warming observed during that time by about 30 percent, the authors found.

The reason for the recent decline in water vapor is unknown? Hmmm. I wonder if there is anything else that the climate computer models on which we are relying to predict future climate change may have missed?

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  • RM||

    Good afternoon Reason!

  • RM||

    Missed? I'm more worried about what they put in there that shouldn't be there.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    The science is settled, bitches.

  • Dello||

    +1

  • Marc||

    Beat me to the punch(line).

  • DADIODADDY||

    fucking clouds...

  • Old Mexican||

    “Current climate models do a remarkable job on water vapor near the surface. But this is different — it’s a thin wedge of the upper atmosphere that packs a wallop from one decade to the next in a way we didn’t expect,” says Susan Solomon, NOAA senior scientist and first author of the study.

    DENIER!

  • Old Mexican||

    Since 2000, water vapor in the stratosphere decreased by about 10 percent. The reason for the recent decline in water vapor is unknown.

    No! It is CO2 that makes the warming, not water vapor, so we must tax everybody to death to save the planet! The Statists told me so . . .

  • The Gobbler||

    No. We tax everyone who makes water.

  • MJ||

    Guess that kills hydrogen as the fuel of the future.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    If we convert existing wind farms into dehumidifiers, I think the whole problem will solve itsefl.

  • ||

    "global average temperatures have basically stopped increasing for the past ten years"

    Is there a link to this? Thanks!

  • ||

    If this is news to you then you probably should not be commenting on the subject.

  • ||

    PM770: Take a look at the UAH satellite data and see this popular account in Der Spiegel. There's lots of information on this in both the scientific and popular press.

  • ||

    No! It is CO2 that makes the warming, not water vapor, so we must tax everybody to death to save the planet! The Statists told me so . . .

    Maybe the solution is to tax water vapor.

  • ||

    A tax on tea kettles ought to do it.

  • Xeones||

    Obviously, water vapor will have to be banned outright.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Ban dihydrogen monoxide instead.

  • ||

    That would have a lot of environmental advantages. DHMO condensation is the immediate cause of acid rain.

  • Pope Jimbo||

    Us Americans are screwed.

    If the future of clean energy requires the banning of DHMO, can anyone doubt that the French will lead the world?

    They are already leading everyone in their avoidance of this substance already.

  • DADIODADDY||

    only for personal hygene applications...

  • Sudden||

    Firstly, wouldn't this be yet further evidence of the lack of global warming, or at least the imagined catastrophic consequences thereof? As I understand it, global warming would lead to greater evaporation of bodies of water (though not enough to counteract the epic rise in sea levels that Al Gore insists are imminent). Greater evaporation would presumably result in greater concentrations of atmospheric water vapor, and ultimately higher global precipitation.

    Secondly, so if what they're saying here is true, that larger concentrations of water vapor in the atmosphere are a causal variable in global warming, shouldn't we just scrap subsidies for hydrogen powered cars and other hydrogen technologies since the final byproduct of hydrogen-engines is water?

  • ||

    Firsties!

    JW|6.9.09 @ 4:38PM|#

    Of course, CO2 (dammit!) is a marginal contributor to warming, with water vapor being the big culprit. As a result, I have unilaterally decided to release sandtrout to set into motion the complete desertification of Terra. I am also, simultaneously, starting a company that will sell water and stillsuits to consumers.

    Mark my words, you just wait until hydrogen cars come onto the market in large numbers. Seeing how they emit no CO2, but do emit water vapor as a product of energy generation, the AGW crowd will again move the goal posts, nibble around the edges and decry the evils of continuing to use hydrogen-based products.

    Can you imagine the cognitive dissonance protests? BETTER TO GLOW THAN USE H20!
  • ||

    JW,

    That is so sick and twisted that it is proabably correct.

  • Francis||

    Correction: you won't have to wait for hydrogen cars because they will soon notice that H2O IS INDEED a product of petrol combustion...

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    No, we need the hydrogen economy to create steam to cause warming to justify government intervention in the economy.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

    Xeones, please head to your nearest Government Health Provider to have all the dihydrogen monoxide removed from your body.

  • ||

    I remember when they did that to the dispensable chick in the red miniskirt on Star Trek - she turned into a little dodecahedron and it made Kirk cry when the alien smashed it.

  • Mango Punch||

    Haha, I had to zoom in on that picture to see it... I really hope it's from the actual scientific paper bc it looks like it was done by a 6th grader with crayons.

  • ||

    That level of quality of art is, sadly, very typical in the scientific literature.

  • DADIODADDY||

    not to mention the quality of the science...

  • Chad||

    Ron, you of all people around here should know that AGW didn't "pause" in the last decade. I am very disappointed in you, all the more so because you repeated this oft-refuted myth in a *headline*.

    Ironically, this Science article *harms* your position, because it is unlikely that stratospheric water vapor would continue to decline. In the absence of better evidence or models indicating a trend, one would assume this is yet another random fluctuation that will someday reverse, and add upon AGW instead of temporarily offsetting it.

    What would *advance* your argument is a sound theory, backed by solid evidence evidence, that stratospheric water vapor will continue to drop as an effect of anthropogenic changes. You have nothing of the sort.

  • Sudden||

    Perhaps you failed to notice the links Ron provided above that clearly document the lack of warming:

    http://www.spiegel.de/internat.....92,00.html

    And your last paragraph is utter bullshit. Like, stratopheric level bullshit, no pun intended. Were AGW occurring, we would expect there to be greater concentrations of water vapor in the atmosphere because increased temperature would increase the rate of evaporation. The fact that it is not occurring isn't a temporary and unexplained factor that is lessening the effects of warming, it is a product of the lack of warming.

  • ||

    Could this be a negative feedback or "buffering" effect that enables the earth to counter or at least dampen sudden changes (such as CO2 spikes) that would otherwise affect climate more drastically?

    That's where the predictions of the climate models (in particular, the "curve upward" in predicted time-temperature graph and hence the "tipping point" effect) have been counter-intuitive to me. I've long suspected some "negative feedback mechanism" that the models don't incorporate, because we haven't learned of them yet.

  • Chad||

    You know, anyone dumb enough to bet their planet on the random suspicions of some random non-specialist on an internet forum would have to be insane.

    If you got a negative feedback, show us the DATA. Show us where this mother-of-all-negative-feedbacks has been hiding all these years. Please.

  • ||

    Chad: On the feedback question you might want to take a look at this 2008 study from The Journal of Climate. I am NOT saying it's dispositive, but is perhaps relevant. If you know of any peer-reviewed responses to it, please send me the links.
    From the abstract:

    Feedbacks are widely considered to be the largest source of uncertainty in determining the sensitivity of
    the climate system to increasing anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations, yet the ability to diagnose
    them from observations has remained controversial. Here a simple model is used to demonstrate that any
    nonfeedback source of top-of-atmosphere radiative flux variations can cause temperature variability, which
    then results in a positive bias in diagnosed feedbacks. This effect is demonstrated with daily random flux
    variations, as might be caused by stochastic fluctuations in low cloud cover. The daily noise in radiative flux
    then causes interannual and decadal temperature variations in the model’s 50-m-deep swamp ocean. The
    amount of bias in the feedbacks diagnosed from time-averaged model output depends upon the size of the
    nonfeedback flux variability relative to the surface temperature variability, as well as the sign and magnitude
    of the specified (true) feedback. For model runs producing monthly shortwave flux anomaly and
    temperature anomaly statistics similar to those measured by satellites, the diagnosed feedbacks have positive
    biases generally in the range of 0.3 to 0.8 W m2 K1. These results suggest that current observational
    diagnoses of cloud feedback—and possibly other feedbacks—could be significantly biased in the
    positive direction.

  • Chad||

    I am not aware of any peer-reviewed responses to that particular paper (I work for a corporation, and searches cost $$$, so I can't look just for fun). However, there was a scathing response at RC, so I expect that there WAS a peer-reviewed response somewhere.

    http://www.realclimate.org/ind.....y-lessons/

  • cfcalan||

    Right. BTW, the great planet-eating dragon is on its way to Earth as we speak, and is on a direct collision course with it in 100 years, when it will devour the Earth completely.

    All forms of invesment, development and research need to be halted in lieu of erecting anti-dragon defense mechanisms.

    Anyone dumb enough to bet their plantet against the possibility of this happening would have to be insane.

  • ||

    Chony,

    First, global warming did pause. Even the infamous West Anglia e-mails admit that fact and find it "disgraceful" that the models can't account for it.

    Second, since no one knows why water vapor levels dropped, no one can make any prediction on future levels. What this shows is that we really don't understand anything about how the atmosphere and climate actually work.

  • Chad||

    Show me the "pause", please.

    http://www.realclimate.org/ind.....#more-2743

    Second, show me that it is statistically significant, even if it exists. The statisticians disagree.

    http://www.newsvine.com/_news/.....al-cooling

    Please try again, this time without letting yourself be fooled by noise.

  • ||

    Real Climate is not a valid source. See the Der Speigal article above. Propeganda organs don't count as evidence.

  • Chad||

    RC was showing NASA data. Refute it if you can, or simply concede (the latter is both correct, and easier).

  • ||

    "Ron Bailey|1.28.10 @ 5:01PM|#
    PM770: Take a look at the UAH satellite data and see this popular account in Der Spiegel. There's lots of information on this in both the scientific and popular press."

    I know you are an illiterate. But really, what part of that is so hard to understand. The warming has stopped. Even the fucking IPCC admits that for Christ's sake.

  • Chad||

    That's just Ron being a typical libertarian and cherry-picking. He should be looking at all the data sets (which ALL show warming, including UAH) and using the AVERAGE of them as his best-guess. But because he has to write for this magazine, he picks the one with the lowest warming. It is clearly not a coincidence.

  • Chad||

    That's just Ron being a typical libertarian and cherry-picking. He should be looking at all the data sets (which ALL show warming, including UAH) and using the AVERAGE of them as his best-guess. But because he has to write for this magazine, he picks the one with the lowest warming. It is clearly not a coincidence.

  • ||

    The average from bad data sets still doesn't make it better ^^
    Just because RC tends to ignore the big chunks of bad data gathering and maintainance for their models doesn't make it any better.

  • ||

    Aehm, actually, if you zoom in on Figure 1a, you will see that after 2000 the "rise" flatlines, so yes, there is a pause.

    Plus, what the RC crowd use (again and again) are temperature data from a station network that was tampered with (no raw data), has lost a lot of stations since its beginnings and doesnt account well for any kind of UHI effects. And this has been demonstrated several times (just visit surfacestations.org).

    If you look at satelite data, you will see that the actual rate of temperature rise is not so much different from before the coal burning days and thus is more natural than one might think.

  • Chad||

    Global cooling since 1998?

    But...

    Massive global warming since 1997 and 1999. Two out of three, I win.

    Again, I defer to the statisticians, who call out your cherry-picking.

  • ||

    No I don't, but as I ask below, how do researchers know that the cooling/drying is a "natural" variation and not a feed back effect that tends to cool the climate? Further research is needed to resolve this question.

  • Chad||

    How do you know the 1990's increase in stratospheric water vapor was not a positive feedback that tends to warm the climate?

    Given the data we have, this phenomenon could be a positive feedback, a negative feedback, or neither. You can't just make it the one you want (and in sufficient magntitude) just by wishing.

  • DADIODADDY||

    unlike the AGW "true believers" who make it all happen in the tiny little heads...

  • The Man||

    Fluctuations . . . Fluct you europeans too.

  • ||

    one would assume this is yet another random fluctuation that will someday reverse

    Oh how funny this is.

    Hey chad you might actually look up how AGW works. the premise of the theory is that fluctuations in water vapor are not random and will go up due to increases in CO2.

  • Ratko||

    My condolences concerning your mild mental retardation, sir. I'd recommend you enlist the aide of a non-learning disabled individual to help you understand the article and it's links, but that would serve no purpose since you still wouldn't have anything more than a pretend understanding of scientific matters and that's not going to get you where you'd like to be. So how about I break it on down for you, just simplify and condense it all into a more easily digestible form you should have no problem grasping.

    >>>The gig is up.

  • Ratko||

    Was that still too complex? If it is that's understandable, no one said wealth redistribution via pseudo-science would be simple. You could try copying the above line to your notes and then just study it at your own pace, maybe a few minutes a day until it starts to make sense. Or you could just try a more honest frontal assault on the problem by cutting the chase and signing on with VHEMT. They have all the Malthusian quasi-science your misanthropic heart could ever desire. And it's voluntary, too, so no one is going to justly hate your filthy guts and wish death upon you over it.

    All this plus VHEMT logo merchandise like coffee mugs, shirts, and hats. Sounds pretty good doesn't it.

    You'll probably want to thank me later for turning you on to the link, but that's not necessary. Knowing I helped another is thanks enough

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, the great and powerfull OZ has spoken!

  • Sean Davis||

    Hi,

    Thanks for your interest in our article, which is available at
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/.....ce.1182488
    (Unfortunately that is a pay site)

    The statement "The reason for the recent decline in water vapor is unknown." is not completely accurate, and probably should have been worded differently. Actually, in a sense, we do know why the water went down -- it went down because the tropical upper atmosphere cooled suddenly around 2000. Of course, that begs the question, what caused the upper atmosphere to cool?

    That is the question we really don't know the answer to as of yet. We have some ideas, but this question is an active topic of research.

    However, I should stress that the appropriate way to view this article is that it in no way calls into question the longer-term warming of the climate -- it's really focused on understanding the shorter-term "volatility" in the climate.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "However, I should stress that the appropriate way to view this article is that it in no way calls into question the longer-term warming of the climate "

    Don't worry - Climategate handles that job quite nicely.

  • semm||

    Wow, an author of the article! Welcome. Several commenters above claim that warmer global temperature would lead to more water vapor in the upper atmosphere. Is this correct? Or would warmer global temperatures only lead to more water vapor in the lower atmosphere? Is this even relevant concidering the time scales of the changes observed?

    Thank you.

  • Sean Davis||

    Hi Semm,

    "Several commenters above claim that warmer global temperature would lead to more water vapor in the upper atmosphere. Is this correct?"

    Yes, that is correct -- if by upper atmosphere you mean "upper troposphere". Although it is not the subject of our paper, both models and observations indicate that water vapor has/will continue to increase in the troposphere as the climate warms. This constitutes the well-known water vapor feedback, which you can google and read about many places if you are interested.

    However, at this point, we can't predict very well what will happen to the temperatures that control STRATOSPHERIC water in the future. It is possible that what we discuss in the paper is a STRATOSPHERIC water vapor feedback, which could enhance the warming. It could also go the other way, and damp the warming somewhat. Regardless, it's important to realize that the feedback (if it exists at all) isn't going to be that big. As we showed in the paper, even for the relatively huge drop we had in 2000, it is only able to contribute a bit to slowing the warming. It's not enough to overcome the warming by any stretch.

  • ||

    Sean: Thank you again. But as I understand your paper, the stratospheric effects account for only a quarter of the recent dampening down of the expected increase of global average temperatures over the past decade. That means that three quarters is unexplained so far. Is that right?

  • ||

    Mr. Bailey, this could be of interest to you:

    http://scienceandpublicpolicy......e_temp.pdf

  • ||

    Sean: Is it possible that the findings in this 2009 paper about water vapor trends in the upper troposphere from Theoretical and Applied Climatology are relevant? From the abstract:

    The National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) reanalysis data on tropospheric humidity are examined for the period 1973 to 2007. It is accepted that radiosonde-derived humidity data must be treated with great caution, particularly at altitudes above the 500 hPa pressure level. With that caveat, the face-value 35-year trend in zonal-average annual-average specific humidity q is significantly negative at all altitudes above 850 hPa (roughly the top of the convective boundary layer) in the tropics and southern midlatitudes and at altitudes above 600 hPa in the northern midlatitudes. It is significantly positive below 850 hPa in all three zones, as might be expected in a mixed layer with rising temperatures over a moist surface. The results are qualitatively consistent with trends in NCEP atmospheric temperatures (which must also be treated with great caution) that show an increase in the stability of the convective boundary layer as the global temperature has risen over the period. The upper-level negative trends in q are inconsistent with climate-model calculations and are largely (but not completely) inconsistent with satellite data. Water vapor feedback in climate models is positive mainly because of their roughly constant relative humidity (i.e., increasing q) in the mid-to-upper troposphere as the planet warms. Negative trends in q as found in the NCEP data would imply that long-term water vapor feedback is negative—that it would reduce rather than amplify the response of the climate system to external forcing such as that from increasing atmospheric CO2. In this context, it is important to establish what (if any) aspects of the observed trends survive detailed examination of the impact of past changes of radiosonde instrumentation and protocol within the various international networks.

  • ||

    Of course if our models can't explain the short term volitility, what reason is there to believe they have the long term right?

  • Sean Davis||

    Sorry John, but this doesn't make any sense. It's like saying that because I can't predict the weather next week, I can't have any confidence that it's going to be warmer next summer than it is this winter.

    Or, for that matter, because I can't predict the stock market next month, I shouldn't expect that my 401k that's invested in the stock market should increase in value by the time I retire.

  • ||

    Sean: So adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is analogous to economic growth?

  • ||

    Maybe it's more like this:

    If you can't predict the weather next week, you can't have any confidence that it's going to be warmer or cooler next winter than this winter, or during the winter of 2100, which is what climate scientists have been predicting.

  • ||

    Sorry Sean,

    But what you are saying doesn't make sense. We are not talking about the weather next week. We are talking about what has become a decade long trend. Now, granted, that is not long term, but it is not next week either.

    Further, CO2 is small percentage of the total warming gases in the atmosphere. In order to get to the conclusion that man made CO2 is causing warming, the models have to rely on all sorts of multipiers. If you can't understand or predict natural cycles that can change climate for a decade or more, why on earth should anyone have any confidence in your ability to predict the effects of one variable over the course of decades?

  • Sean Davis||

    Sorry John, but what you are saying about CO2 is factually inaccurate, and I'm not going to get caught in a "climate wars" debate here. I have actual work to do and I've already spent enough time here today.

    There are plenty of resources out there for you to read and learn about why CO2 causes a long-term warming of the mean temperature of the Earth. Based on your statements above, it sounds to me like there is nothing that I would say to convince you of that anyways, so I'm not going to bother.

  • ||

    Sean,

    Yes, appeal to authority and tell us how it is not in your interest to engage with lesser beings. That will help your cause.

    I wish you and everyone else in your field would understand the damage you are doing to science and scientific credibility in general. After the revelations contained in the e-mails and the lies about Nepalese glaciers and hurricanes, no one believes you anymore. I am sorry, but "I have a lab coat" doesn't cut it now.

  • Chad||

    How are we harming ourselves when we actually do our work rather than arguing with people who don't want to understand either the data or their own mile-deep biases?

    "I have a lab coat" doesn't cut it, but it sure annihilates "I heard it from Rush, so it's gotta be so!".

    Every argument you guys make has been smacked down, smacked down again, and then had its ass kicked. Yet you just keep making them over and over and over and over. Why?

  • Mr. Inaccuracy||

    Just so we're clear: do you agree or disagree with the following statement...

    "The global climate record indicates that periods of warming have been preceded by increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere."

  • Chad||

    They are concomitant.

    In any case, a feedback loop works regardless of which happens first.

  • ap||

    Sean, you have not read the warnings on your prospectus have you?

  • Bernie Made-off||

    C'mon. Nobody reads the prospectus. Trust me!

  • ||

    Sean,

    I am not going to enter "climate wars" debate either, but I am going to point out that your argument through analogy is fundamentally broken and a more than bit silly.

    When you are making the claim that you can't predict the weather today, but can predict the summer will be warmer than winter you aren't using the same equations and models are you ? One model's set of equations is a bit more deterministic than the other isn't it ?

    This is also related to the other standard lunkheaded argument that I see advanced by those only slightly brighter than dryer lint: "We can't predict wave motion but we can predict tides". Yes, but again you are using fundamentally different constructs to predict those two things. Come back and talk to me when you are using accumulated wave motion to actually predict the tides instead of orbital dynamics.

    However, I actually do think your 401K example is spot on. You really don't know the equations the govern the market. With something that has the complexity of the stock market, you have absolutely no clue. Many things could happen. The dollar could collapse, China could call in their loans. Maybe our erstwhile President could lead us to the golden age of socialism where everyone has what they want and money is obsolete.

    In this case, you have nothing but blind faith in a "better future". Funny that you should choose that scenario as an example of things you can predict .... Lets hope your climate science arguments are a bit less "faith based" than the argument you just regurgitated.

    Say what you want about stratospheric water vapor feedback, but this particular argument is exceptionally lame.

  • Chad||

    Yes, just like I can't explain the short-term volatility of a craps table, but I can bet my lucky undies the house has the long-term odds spot on.

  • Warty||

    Are you saying that the weather is rigged by shady mafiosi, cockgobbler?

  • Choad||

    No but the climate forecasts might as well be.

  • ||

    "it's really focused on understanding the shorter-term "volatility" in the climate."
    Do we as yet have any idea as to how 'short-term' the effect is?

  • JSinAZ||

    As the Climategate folks with the data decided to game-away features such the mideval warming period from the historical record, I'm not sure of whom that question should be asked.

    This is a perspective I like, derived from NOAA ice core data providing a really long term view of what stable might mean: http://wattsupwiththat.files.w.....i-def3.gif

  • ||

    However, I should stress that the appropriate way to view this article is that it in no way calls into question the longer-term warming of the climate

    Of course it doesn't--wink-wink. They'll never hear it from us that it does.

  • ||

    Give the poor guy a break. If he said anything against the Dogma, he would never work in his field again.

  • ||

    Sean: Thanks for the link, but I did link to it in my blogpost. Thanks also for your input on how the paper should be interpreted, but as you point out the cooling of the upper atmosphere "begs the question, what caused the upper atmosphere to cool?"

    I note that a lot of reporting says that the cooling/drying is the result of "natural" variations. How do researchers know that it is not a feed back response tending to cool the climate?

    In any case, I look forward to the results of the active research taking place into this topic.

    Again, thank you for comments.

  • Chad||

    Ron, how do we know the rising stratospheric water vapor in the 1990s was not the feedback, and the drop in the 2000s just "natural", rather than the reverse, which is what you seem to be wishing. Or they could both be "natural".

    You are just grasping at straws today. There is no demonstrated long-term trend in either direction, nor a strong theory to support one.

    What this paper does is take us one step further down the "why" rabbit hole when it comes to some of the short-term climate fluctuations we see.

  • ||

    Chad: You can't have it both ways -- If there was no "pause" then the research reported in Science today would never have been undertaken to explain it in the first place. Why? Because there would have been nothing that needed explaining.

  • Chad||

    The "pause" you are looking at is an artifact of looking at short-term trends, which they are trying to explain. If you look at the data for the last few decades, you see plenty of such "pauses" right smack in the middle of a very obvious upward trend. These pauses are NOT pauses in the underlying trend, but rather fluctuations in other factors added on top of the underlying trend. AGW did not "pause". Random effects mitigated it, and will only continue to do so until they flip and amplify it.

    In any case, you are all too fascinated with atmospheric temps. Ocean temps keep rising, and honestly, they are much more relevant, as the ocean has a much higher heat capacity than the air. We also melted an enormous amount of ice and vaporized a lot of water, both of which require energy.

  • Sean Davis||

    Hi,

    Sorry, didn't notice the link in your blog post.

    "How do researchers know that it is not a feed back response tending to cool the climate?"

    That's a great question. The short answer is -- We don't know!

    We speculated several things in the article -- one speculation is that this could be a negative feedback to climate (e.g., warm the climate -> cool the tropical upper troposphere -> dry the stratosphere -> cool the climate), although that is VERY speculative. It could go the other way too, and be a positive feedback. The main key is what happens to tropopause temperatures (the tropopause is the boundary between troposphere and stratosphere) in a warmed world.

    The other speculation was that the post-2000 changes in stratospheric water were due to "natural" variability -- particularly El Nino, which may have altered the stratospheric water vapor by affecting the upper tropospheric temperatures.

    Finally, I should throw this out -- one thing that doesn't seem to be getting 'press', is that the pre-2000 increase in stratospheric water vapor added to the global warming contributed by CO2 and other greenhouse gasses.

    Although, again, we don't know for sure -- this increase in water was likely related to increases in methane, which breaks down in the stratosphere to form water. IF methane emissions continue to increase in the 21st century (which is expected under business-as-usual scenarios), this will create more water in the stratosphere, which will have a warming effect, and could very easily outweigh any hypothetical negative feedback from decreasing tropopause temperatures.

    OK, sorry if I digressed into something too techy here ;)

  • Chad||

    Thanks Sean, for the explanation. It is clear as day.

    Just remember that these guys around here are *desparate* for a negative feedback...and not just a little one. They need to find the mother-of-all-negative-feedbacks to offset all the positive ones that we know exist.

  • ||

    And Sean,

    Feel free to come back anytime. But remember to avoid eye contact or any engagement with Chad. The doctors have told us that it aggrivates his condition.

  • ||

    Chad,
    Many small ones (as we seem to be seeing) will do just fine. All 'the guys around here' need is the *lack* of evidence that the world's gonna end tomorrow.
    OTOH, you, as a socialist, need true catastrophism to justify your position and grabs of power.
    Doesn't look too good for you right now.

  • Chad||

    No one is claiming that the world is going to end tomorrow. You seem to be mistaken in that you are implying one needs to be certain before one acts, which is patently and absurdly false. We act based on the *odds*, both publically and privately, every day.

  • ||

    Yes, and as thinking animals, we take cautious steps when dealing with predictions, because they are not reliable.
    We do not turn over our economy to the government based on what is obviously less and less reliable prediction.
    So long as you agree there's no reason for 'cap-and-trade' or any other foolish moves, I guess we agree.

  • Chad||

    Prudence would dictate that we would slow down and be cautious - the exact opposite of what you are calling for, which is to ignore the data and charge full speed ahead because there is a remote chance the entire scientific establishment could be wrong.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Chad,

    Prudence would dictate that we would slow down and be cautious - the exact opposite of what you are calling for, which is to ignore the data and charge full speed ahead because there is a remote chance the entire scientific establishment could be wrong.

    You have a very funny (i.e. totally fantastic) view of things. How is calling for prudence become imposing an economy-destroying juggernaut, and how can one construe as "flooring it" the call to NOT commit pillaging and thievery against productive people?

  • Chad||

    Ahh, hyperbole.

    Please explain why Europe and Japan, who have energy prices far beyond anything that cap-and-trade would cause (and in the case of the former, super dooper high taxes) have economies that are doing just fine, and rich, happy people. Somehow, they manage to use about half the energy and resources we do per GDP, yet have done so without serious harm to their "economy".

    In any case, most of our economic growth lately has been a combination of financial engineering (whoops!) and wiping grandma's butt, neither of which is sensitive to energy prices.

  • ||

    And here we come to the psychological crux of the AGW argument within Reason. Here is what you're average libertarian AGW denier is thinking: "Accepting AGW science = accepting political AGW = accepting that we need government action to prevent the political AGW appocalypse." See any gaps in logic here?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Heller,

    "Accepting AGW science = accepting political AGW = accepting that we need government action to prevent the political AGW appocalypse." See any gaps in logic here?

    Yes - yours. Would you grant that it is possible libertarians do not subscribe to AGW precisely BECAUSE it has been politicized (and thus tainted in the science) and not because accepting AGW ipso facto makes one subscribe to taxing everybody to Kingdom Come?

  • ||

    Thank you for the interesting post. And good luck with your work. If and when your work ever rises above the level of speculation and you are able to make real, testible and accurate predictions about the climate, please be sure to tell us. Until then continue on and stop letting people use your work and work like it as an excuse to destroy the world's economy.

  • ||

    Sean: Thanks very again for your response and it's not at all "too techy."

    I did link to a paper above, Paltridge et al.. that suggests that tropospheric water vapor trends are not consistent with climate model predictions and suggests the possibility of the negative feedback effect you mention. I am sure that other H&R commenters and readers would like to hear your thoughts on it. So at the risk of tiring other commenters, I include the abstract again:

    The National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) reanalysis data on tropospheric humidity are examined for the period 1973 to 2007. It is accepted that radiosonde-derived humidity data must be treated with great caution, particularly at altitudes above the 500 hPa pressure level. With that caveat, the face-value 35-year trend in zonal-average annual-average specific humidity q is significantly negative at all altitudes above 850 hPa (roughly the top of the convective boundary layer) in the tropics and southern midlatitudes and at altitudes above 600 hPa in the northern midlatitudes. It is significantly positive below 850 hPa in all three zones, as might be expected in a mixed layer with rising temperatures over a moist surface. The results are qualitatively consistent with trends in NCEP atmospheric temperatures (which must also be treated with great caution) that show an increase in the stability of the convective boundary layer as the global temperature has risen over the period. The upper-level negative trends in q are inconsistent with climate-model calculations and are largely (but not completely) inconsistent with satellite data. Water vapor feedback in climate models is positive mainly because of their roughly constant relative humidity (i.e., increasing q) in the mid-to-upper troposphere as the planet warms. Negative trends in q as found in the NCEP data would imply that long-term water vapor feedback is negative—that it would reduce rather than amplify the response of the climate system to external forcing such as that from increasing atmospheric CO2. In this context, it is important to establish what (if any) aspects of the observed trends survive detailed examination of the impact of past changes of radiosonde instrumentation and protocol within the various international networks.

  • Sean Davis||

    Hi Ron,

    I haven't read this paper, so I can't comment in detail on it's contents. Overall, I'd be pretty careful about placing too much weight on an individual paper (including our own!!!).

    If you survey the landscape of water vapor feedback literature, the vast majority of the literature indicates that water vapor feedback is positive. Some of those papers are referenced in the one you quote above.

    Also, I would add that one has to be VERY careful interpreting trends from meteorological reanalyses. Although they are constrained by observations, there are many caveats to looking for trends in them. One common technique is to intercompare the results from different reanalyses to see if they are "robust" to the differing methods used by the various reanalyses. That was not done in this case, and even when trends are "robust" across the different reanslyses, there are still potential problems.

  • ||

    Again thank you very much for your helpful response. Looking forward to the further research about the other effects that are dampening the warming trend.

  • ||

    "one thing that doesn't seem to be getting 'press', is that the pre-2000 increase in stratospheric water vapor added to the global warming contributed by CO2 and other greenhouse gasses."
    IOWs, the amount of water vapor in the tropopause has a pretty direct effect on global temps?

  • Ratko||

    "Why do we need to deconstruct global warming? Simply because it has been an issue that has been routinely treated with misinformation and sophistry abetted by constant repetition, institutional endorsements, and widespread ignorance even (perhaps especially) among the educated. Because of the increasingly dangerous and expensive approaches being promoted to deal with this alleged problem, it is, I think, important to understand what is being said as well as to understand how climate actually works.
    I will begin with a few items that illustrate how this issue has been manipulated, and how, to a great extent, global warming has been merely a device for implementing broader agendas. I will then continue with an emphasis on the science.

    From the 1970’s, there was a general feeling that ‘climate change’ would be an excellent vehicle for a variety of agendas. People openly espousing this included Bert Bolin, who was an adviser to the Swedish prime minister, and later the first head of the IPCC.
    Once the global issue emerged on the public scene, two cooperating institutions were formed in the 1990’s with interlocking leadership: The Tyndall Centre for Climate Studies at the University of East Anglia, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The latter is headed by Hans Joachim Schellnhuber and the former by Michael Hulme. These institutions epitomize the exploitation of the climate issue. Their members constitute numerous participants in the IPCC."

    If you'd like to read the entire paper by Dr Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology email him at: rlindzen et mit dot edu [et = @ dot = .] And request the slides on "decontructing global warming."

    Bold type in the quote is my emphasis.

    My involvement on this issue began shortly after it surfaced, The M.O. favored by those selling the pseudo-science isn't something new.

    NOAA, in my opinion, has done well and deserves recognition for sticking to the science. The importance of water vapor has been known very long time. Unfortunately, as Dr Lindzen pointed out, we don't much about these critical components thanks mostly to the campaigns using misinformation to push the political agenda and the resulting over flow of junk science muddying and dilluting the legitimate science.

    It should be expected we are in trend of general climate warming that should continue for some time. This is not a surprise, nor is it anything to fear. If it in itself has caused you any concern, my friend, you have accepted a false bill of goods.

    If the 1970s is a time you missed or don't recall, it was a time when a similar "consensus" existed, one that claimed we were on the edge of being plunged into a global ice age with horrific loss of life and detrimental changes to the planet.

    My advice on this one would be to excercise extreme caution on this one. As Dr Lindzen pointed out "misinformation and sophistry" have been used mislead many very educated people into utter states of ignorance on this issue. If you understand how science works you'll understand why I opposed this from the start. There has never been a "consensus" I come from a large family involved in the sciences from this present time stretching back into the old country. Not one has been part of the supposed "consensus." This garbage is no more science than eugenics was, but very much in that disgraceful tradition.

    A word to the wise is sufficient, buyers, especially those without a sound knowledge of how modern science works, should be very wary about making any purchases of "facts" on this issue. Science isn't about "facts" nor is it a democracy. Consensus means nothing in science, as Einstein stated concerning an attempt by 100 authors to condemn his theories: "Why 100 authors? If I were wrong, then one would have been enough!"

  • Ratko||

    That should have read "deconstructing global warming."

    My apologies for the half dozen spelling mistakes, I've been drinking and forgot to read what I wrote before I clicked submit.

  • robc||

    We don't know!

    This is why you do science for another 20 years before we talk about anything political related.

  • ||

    Sean,

    Sean,

    Hmmm, I had always thought that the stratosphere was too high to contain anything but trace amounts of water vapor.

    Are the transport mechanisms understood or is this another topic of current research ?

  • The Gobbler||

    "(Unfortunately that is a pay site)"

    Goddamn capitalists!

  • Chinny Chin Chin||

    I wonder if there is anything else that the climate computer models on which we are relying to predict future climate change may have missed?

    Try reading the the following article in the American Meteorological Society's Journals of Climate, "GFDL's CM2 Global Coupled Climate Models. Part I: Formulation and Simulation Characteristics". 1 March 2006. pp 643 - 674

    Especially interesting to me is the section where they discuss altering the "cold state" of the model to make it more Earth-like. In other words, to get a warmer planet, they've fudged certain physical properties, like the viscosity of sea water.

    The use other fudge factors, as well. They'd never be off on their fudges, would they?

  • rho||

    The author comes to Reason to discuss his article.

    I should, you know, send Reason some money or subscribe or something.

  • Warty||

    I don't like the idea of a respectable scientist coming to sully this place with his respectablility.

    Here, enjoy something stupid and almost topical.

  • Ratko||

    Heavy metal rains, that was enjoyable.

    OK, I better go to bed before I injure myself or wake up wondering where am I with QWERTY stamped backwards into my forehead.

  • ||

    You know, I hate to say I was on to something in my posts on reason.comn back during Copenhagen/Climategate, but I think this study points to my idea regarding displaced humidity from jet contrails being an out-sized contributor to any anthropogenic input on global temperatures.

    Since 2001, air travel in the United States has declined by ~60%. Also - as a result of the 1990 Clean Air Act - refiners in the USA (hence the world over) switched from naptha-based JP-4 to distillate-based JP-4, with resulting changes in the combustion properties of the fuels (including the water in the combustion products assay, and smoke point - critical property for condensation). It took about ten years to fully transfer over to this new fuel regime (circa 2000).

    Just say'in!

  • ||

    What if it turns out that the real culprit in global warming isn't the CO2, but the water vapor in all the plant exhaust?

    Wouldn't that mean a lot of our attempts to combat global warming actively exacerbate it?

    Shit, maybe we should be burning dirty, so there's lots of particulate matter to block the sunlight.

  • Chad||

    Water vapor is in fast equilibrium with the oceans, and therefore follows temperature, rather than leading it. If you took a super-dooper-uber-soaker and blasted the entire Great Lakes into the atmosphere tomorrow, a few weeks from now, the atmosphere would be right back to normal.

  • ||

    If you took a super-dooper-uber-soaker and blasted the entire Great Lakes into the atmosphere tomorrow, a few weeks from now, the atmosphere would be right back to normal.

    Wow that sounds like an amazingly resilient system you just described there!

  • Ratko||

    Picture the earth as a very large vagina, you can poke it and stretch it and basically do whatever and it'll spring right back. Sort of like a huge pig's snout.

  • Chad||

    On the other hand, if you heated the atmosphere up a few degrees, the amount of water vapor would increase (duh), further increasing the temperature. Get it? The amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is determined primarily by the temperature.

  • ||

    Get it?

    Got it! It takes two weeks for an atmosphere of supersaturated humidity and an arid earth below it to return to equilibrium but if there is a slight variation in concentrations of gasses like CO2, CH4, H2O and others, such as has been occurring since the atmosphere came into existence, the earth is headed into an irrecoverable tailspin and human life is doomed.

  • ||

    This is a critical assumption in Warmer models and its fundamentally correct. However, when you are dealing with a real-time thing (like thousands of aircraft flying around at any given second), you are dealing with a system where on net there is more humidity than otherwise. Its like turning off or on a big humidifier.

    I think its that reason why everyone noted the temp decrease after 9/11 and planes were grounded for five days. Its a real-time effect that goes away in a couple days when you turn the humidifier "off."

  • Chad||

    Oh, I agree that contrails are a serious issue that need to be further studied. They are a continuous emission source which change the equilibrium. Technically, so is the water we emit at ground level via combustion, but this amount is trivial relative to the natural amount.

  • ||

    That's why contrails are so outsized in my opinion. Humidity does not reduce in a linear fashion with atmospheric pressure. The higher you go, the drier it gets on a molar basis in the atmosphere.

  • ||

    you're a fucking idiot. It's about flux. If you increase d(in)/dt, yes, d(out)/dt will increase to match, but the equilibrium will be pushed up.

  • robc||

    Since 2000, water vapor in the stratosphere decreased by about 10 percent. The reason for the recent decline in water vapor is unknown.

    Anyone want to place bets on feedback loop? Increased temp leads to decreased water vapor leading to decreased temp?

  • robc||

    See it was discussed above.

    The fact that the AGW folks are admitting they dont know if this is the case or not proves the ultimate point. Keep the fucking politics away. Let the scientists science for a while without trying to "act" on the science.

    And scientists need to shut the fuck up (in the political arena) until they know of what they speak.

  • Ratko||

    Politics in science is the result of government funding research. But you are absolutely correct, politics has no business in "science." Once it's involved science is out the door.

    The people at NOAA have been good about sticking to the science, Susan Solomon stating they don't know is an honest assessment, the opposite of the AGW frauds who claim they know the unknowable and we'll need to redistribute wealth as the politicians see fit to fix the unknowable problem.

  • Chad||

    Given the data we have, the "feedback" could be non-existent, positive, or negative, and is unlikely to be big enough to save the day in any case.

    So why does this change anything?

  • Ratko||

    Save the day from what? Holy

    shit! You must be God. Pleased to meet you sir. If you have a moment I have some complaints about how you set this place up.

    For starters, and no offense intended, but why are dildoes like you allowed to have any control over my life or anyone else's?

    Just because you know the unknowable isn't enough, I mean that may be true, but you're still dumber than a box of rocks and have no common sense. So maybe you could at least fix that while you're here.

    That and beer should be free, and since women have all the pussy they shouldn't need half the money too.

  • RM||

    I find it difficult to understand how you can claim that 10 years in not a statistically significant sample while 100 years is in a system that's existed for millions and has, on average, defied current trends related to global warming via the relationship between CO2 levels and global temperature changes for as long back as we can measure.

  • Ratko||

    It is important, the only problem is it was a completely unexpected event for these people. They know everything that's going to happen and exactally why it will, except for the immediate future, it's much easier to accurately predict what will happen in 11 years, or how ever many it takes, but the difficulty is in predicting any period less than that.

    Does that make sense?

    If it does, well, the short bus just pulled out and you were supposed to be on it. Of course it doesn't make sense. They're just making it up as they go.

  • Stretchy||

    Let's see, scientists admit they don't know something and work toward a greater understanding of the world around us and your reaction is a snarky "Hmmmm I wonder..."

  • Thomas||

    Relevant to some of Chad's assertions:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....134721.htm

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    2.6MB jpegs cause Global Warming Climate Change.

  • Old Mexican||

    Chad's version of logic:

    Re: Chad,

    Prudence would dictate that we would slow down and be cautious - the exact opposite of what you are calling for, which is to ignore the data and charge full speed ahead because there is a remote chance the entire scientific establishment could be wrong.

    You have a very funny (i.e. totally fantastic) view of things. How is calling for prudence become imposing an economy-destroying juggernaut, and how can one construe as "flooring it" the call to NOT commit pillaging and thievery against productive people?

  • Ratko||

    Chad's logic is very unique. I think he must be God, only God, and select learning disabled individuals, can know the unknowable things Chad knows.

    Chad must be God, therefore God must be a tool.

    Go forth and multiply! Just don't be successful, or Chad will descend into the world from Heaven and destroy everything you've built.

    It is written. Amen.

  • jester||

    How did I know this posting would be a chad-magnet? Maybe someone could design a perpetual-motion based on this obviously correct assuption.

  • jester||

    machine. perpetual-motion machine.

  • ||

    The Chony-magnet is easy to construct. AGW post + dozens of people to argue with = masturbatory materiel for hours.

    I don't know why so many people like helping him jack off. Personally, I'd rather not.

  • Ratko||

    Are perpetual motion machines a vehicle for the socialist political agenda? If not Chad won't be interested. Chad is God, and God is only interested in science when it's purpose is creating the Holy Socialist Kingdom of Chad, er, God.

  • ManikMonkee||

    This does kind of remind me of the Penn & Teller episode where they get a few thousand hippies to sign a petition demanding the banning of Dihydrogen Monoxide

    "Its a greenhouse gas that's produced by nearly every industrial process"

  • Ratko||

    I don't know much about Teller, but Penn is a wise man and on that there is no doubt.

  • ||

    Folks. Just because it's water doesn't mean it's no longer AGW. I have been saying this for years. Problem is, irrigation is the primo political issue of the farm lobby, and the farm lobby is far, far more powerful than the oil lobby ever will be.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    Blah blah blah, all that the AGW chicken-littles have is appeal to authority.

    Show me a perfectly linear one for one correlation between man made so-called "greenhouse gasses" and average global temperature that tracks consistently over every single second of the entire timespan of human existence on this earth.

    That is the only thing that would ever be definitive enough to actually prove it.

    Hell, they can't even actually prove that they are capable of determining what the actual global temperature is at any given point in time AT ALL - much less prove anything about what is causing changes in it.

  • ||

    Clouds!

  • Wildmonk||

    If you'd like to see both an explanation of feedback mechanisms and a description of how the fall in Water Vapor may be related to the rise in Co2 (as a feedback result) then you should be familiar with the work of the Hungarian climatologist Ferenc Miskolczi. Most recent publication at http://miskolczi.webs.com/2007.pdf. To see a friendly summary (rather than the original science), see http://www.examiner.com/x-7715.....te-Science

    The review is a bit breathless and over-the-top but the original work appears quite solid. It also answers your question about why any heating wouldn't lead to more water vapor, leading to more heating, leading to runaway greenhouse effect.

  • ||

    Check out my video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7I_eFoIk64
    It’s about climate change, earth catastrophe and our planet as we lives in.

  • Ernie the Bear||

    I didn't actually watch your video, but it was awesome!

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