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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Clouds? What a gas! Anthony Watts and his three year old "bombshell" at WUWT.

Sou | 2:51 PM Go to the first of 19 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts triumphantly crows that physics has stopped working. Once again he shows that he can't tell if something is science or pseudo-science and copies and pastes from another pseudo-science blog (archived here).

He found a denier article about an older paper published three years ago in the Journal of Climate, written by Jonathan Gero and David D. Turner. Anthony is late to the party once again.

The paper was reporting data about downwelling IR radiation from a single instrument at a single site on the U.S. Southern Great Plains. It found that over the 14 year period of observation, there was a drop of downwelling IR radiation over winter, summer and autumn but not spring. They reported that a change in cloudiness in three seasons (all except spring time) meant less outgoing long wave radiation from the surface was being reflected back downwards again.

No bombshell. And clouds are not water vapour.

No, there was no bombshell. Nor a bomb. And clouds are not a greenhouse gas. They aren't any sort of gas. Anthony wrote:
The findings contradict the main tenet of AGW theory which states increasing greenhouse gases including the primary greenhouse gas water vapor and clouds will cause an increase of downwelling longwave infrared “back-radiation.”

Umm, no Anthony. There is no contradiction. You seem to be confusing a single instrument from a single site with the whole world. And I hope that you weren't suggesting that clouds are water vapour - they are primarily liquid and solid water, not gaseous water.

The part of the abstract that confused the deniers was probably this bit:
The AERI data record demonstrates that the downwelling infrared radiance is decreasing over this 14-yr period in the winter, summer, and autumn seasons but it is increasing in the spring; these trends are statistically significant ...

They didn't read any further, so they missed the rest, which was quite important, or it wouldn't have been in the abstract:
...and are primarily due to long-term change in the cloudiness above the site. The AERI data also show many statistically significant trends on annual, seasonal, and diurnal time scales, with different trend signatures identified in the separate scene classifications.  

The changes were primarily because of long term change in the cloudiness above the site. Not because of any change in the physical properties of water vapour. Certainly not because a greenhouse gas suddenly stopped being a greenhouse gas. The authors know that, it's Anthony and his denier blogger who are being really foolish. The authors were exploring changes at a single site to better understand detailed changes on a small scale. Not because they thought that the greenhouse effect wasn't real. It is.

Sheesh denier bloggers are dumb. Or maybe they just think that their main audience is dumb as. Probably both.

If anything, the paper is suggestive of climate change in the region. However the authors are cautious in that regard. Notice the last two sentences of the abstract. The denier bloggers copied and pasted them without reading them:
Given the decadal time span of the dataset, effects from natural variability should be considered in drawing broader conclusions. Nevertheless, this dataset has high value owing to the ability to infer possible mechanisms for any trends from the observations themselves and to test the performance of climate models.

About clouds and the greenhouse effect

If you want to learn about how different clouds behave in regard to incoming short wave radiation and outgoing long wave radiation, there's a good article on the NASA website. The impact of clouds is determined by their temperature (top vs bottom of cloud), the albedo (their reflectivity), how high or low they are in the atmosphere and how thick they are (eg, how deep is the cloud, top to bottom). To sum up:

  • High thin clouds warm on balance. They let a lot of incoming solar radiation through and absorb long wave radiation from the surface.
  • Low clouds cool on balance. 
  • Thick clouds, like cumulonimbus clouds are about even. The "cloud greenhouse and albedo forcings almost balance, and the overall effect of cumulonimbus clouds is neutral-neither warming nor cooling".

Below are some diagrams from the article to show how different clouds can affect surface temperature. The cream coloured arrows are long wave radiation from the surface and the reddish coloured thin arrows are incoming solar radiation (short wave):

High cirrus clouds - large greenhouse forcing

Low clouds - on balance a cooling effect

Deep thick convective clouds - about even, or no net effect on warming.

From the WUWT comments

Let's see how dumb or smart are the commenters at WUWT. Some of them are just as big idiots as Anthony Watts and his HockeySchtick:

sleepingbear dunes says:
August 5, 2014 at 4:24 pm
How many ways can AGW predictions be proven wrong. Let me count the ways.
This appears to be one of the most significant findings in a long time. Anticipating the criticisms, what are the holes or weaknesses in the study?
dccowboy says:
August 5, 2014 at 4:25 pm
There, I’ve dealt with this inconvenient research in the most scientific manner possible.
Readers here have seen that jim Steele is just another denier. True to form he says:
August 5, 2014 at 4:27 pm
The truth is out there!

pokerguy is impressed that the three and a half year old "not a bombshell" paper was published and says he liked that scientists learn from science:
August 5, 2014 at 4:28 pm
The mere fact that the paper was published strikes me as important as its findings. I’m not a scientist…I’m not even all the bright…so I might well have missed it, but I don’t see any of the usual pro forma obeisances to the CAGW party line. .
I really like this part: “Nevertheless, this dataset has high value owing to the ability to infer possible mechanisms for any trends from the observations themselves and to test the performance of climate models.”

sturgishooper decides there were "more clouds" (the abstract doesn't say) and asks if it's magnetism, cosmic causes or aliens from outer space:
August 5, 2014 at 4:30 pm
More clouds from more condensation nuclei thanks to reduced solar magnetism, or from some other terrestrial or cosmic cause? 

Theo Goodwin says:
August 5, 2014 at 4:38 pm
So, AGW becomes ZombieAGW? Or is it AGWZombie? The first ever theory that is living dead.

ossqss says:
August 5, 2014 at 4:39 pm
That is difficult to homoogenize away..

Steve Mosher was the first person to point out that it's a single site and gets flack from lots of people among the denier crowd for doing so. Steven Mosher says:
August 5, 2014 at 4:52 pm
One site.

 Bob says:
August 5, 2014 at 4:59 pm
Steven Mosher says: August 5, 2014 at 4:52 pm One site.
OK Steven, point out a site where IR has increased.

Willybamboo says:
August 5, 2014 at 5:44 pm
Mosh says its just one site. What else could he say? He’s trapped in the corner, there is no way out. He’s a desperate man. 

It took quite some time before anyone noticed how old the paper was. Nick Stokes was the first (and only?) one to do so and gets flack from Anthony Watts for it. He says:
August 5, 2014 at 5:01 pm
This is hardly a bombshell. The paper was published in 2011.
But it doesn’t contradict any main tenets. It states explicitly that the result is due to a change in cloudiness. And since they measured cloudiness, that is not speculation.
REPLY: So because it is from 2011 and was only noticed today, that makes it not significant for you? Oh wait, I forgot, nothing fits the racehorse equation for significance except the latest pony scores. ...Show something to counter it, then you’ll have an argument. Otherwise, meh. – Anthony

dmacleo asks for help, but in vain, and says:
August 5, 2014 at 5:38 pm
I’m just an average guy, is this as important as it seems to me or am I readign into it incorrectly? 

I'll give him a hand. First, I don't know how "important it seems" to dmacleo. I'll say that it's of minor importance in the wider scheme of things. It was important enough to get published in the Journal of Climate. It was a diligent piece of work. It didn't change science. It provides some insight into changes that can take place at a single location. In this case, a single location as measured by a single instrument in the U.S. Southern Great Plains. This work can inform science more generally and add to the understanding of changes in weather patterns elsewhere in the world.

I'll leave you with this comment from S. Geiger who sums it up fairly well when he/she says:
August 5, 2014 at 8:07 pm
Mosh and Nick. Thanks for keeping things ‘real’, as they say. The findings are interesting, but by no means do they overthrow the current theory, IMO. Certainly shows that (in some areas, at some times) that other ‘knobs’ certainly play an important–and yes sometimes primary–role along with the GHGs. FWIW, I do appreciate papers like this being posted (whether at time of publishing or later), however, in some cases it seems as though the implications are a bit over hyped. Just my own 2 cents.

Gero, P. Jonathan, and David D. Turner. "Long-term trends in downwelling spectral infrared radiance over the US southern Great Plains." Journal of Climate 24, no. 18 (2011): 4831-4843. doi:


  1. Am I imagining things or has S. Geiger been pointed out by you to have made sane comments in the past as well?

  2. Found another article on this subject:
    This article discusses a different trend, but still reading up on the subject. Thanks Sou for getting me to learn.

    1. Here's a bunch more, although older:
      In case anybody was wondering, the trend is towards increasing downwelling longwave radiation.

  3. The statistical significance of climate trends in any study on 14 years data is going to be dubious.

  4. You do not realise this sort of paper 'speaks' to Wattsy : three years old and he missed it. The data is short term, and localised [one station]. The paper has unremarkable caveats, and is typical cautious, and makes no claims about global warming..

    All this is obviously a coded message from a pair climate researchers trapped inside the insane and all-powerful AGW fraud... a message that a keen mind like Watts can discern: help, we are prisoners of the science machine, AGW is a fraud, CO2 is plant us, Mr Watts!!

    You'll understand too, Sou, you just mustn't allow yourself to be fooled by things like the text, the abstract, the methodology, the discussion and the need to see beyond that ephemera....

  5. "What Barry says is true, I believe in climate change & AGW fx, magnitude in question." – A. Watts.

    How does Watts reconcile "believing" in AGW and the existence of his blog?

  6. those people are dumber than creationists


    1. not simply global warming deniers, but rather "globe" deniers.


  7. lol nick.
    made my day

    I am actually a little fearful that you might be right. This would move Anthony from stupid, where I have always assumed he belongs, into the downright delusional.

  8. I agree that one instrument in one location does not get much weight from me but at least its was measured, not theorized.

    I've been observing a larger area, the eastern 2/3rds of the US for 30 years. Mind you, it's still small compared to the entire planet but it's a pretty dang big laboratory and it is the real atmosphere, not equations to represent in on a climate model.

    Dew points in the growing season have greatly increased, mainly from the tightly packed rows of corn and other crops which were not so dense 30 years ago. The increase is mostly from (evapo)transpiration from crops/plants.
    This is causing:
    1. Lower lifting condensation levels
    2. More low level/cumulus clouds
    3. Increased rainfall
    4. Positive feedback to additional low level clouds and additional rainfall
    5. Cooling of temperatures, mainly effecting afternoon/early evenings
    6. In addition, increased vegetative health has also contributed to daytime cooling

    Since global vegetation has increased from the atmospheric fertilization effect of CO2, I suspect(but only analyze global weather patterns for variables not linked in this same way as described above) that this same thing is happening(with much less magnitude) on a larger scale.

    This is not disputing the greenhouse effect from CO2 or from water vapor, just making an observation of what my huge US laboratory shows with regards to clouds over the 3 decades that I've been observing it.

    I am not interested in debating climate/weather from 96,000,000 years ago or projecting a century from now. My area of expertise is observing the atmosphere in depth, analyzing and applying the data and noting changes as well as the reasons for those changes.

    The length of time and geographical size of the changes are significant.

    These changes contribute a negative feedback not accounted for in current global climate models that is at least partly responsible for the flattening of the warming curve from observations over the last decade.

    I don't have or would ever intend to use this to publish. I use this data for predicting crop conditions and yields, which is how I generate an income.

    I've not even looked to see if any papers regarding this have been published to show you, as it seems like this is the only way other scientists will believe something.

    You guys seem pretty smart. Use your understanding and reason it out.
    I'm not here to prove you wrong about anything, just to share something I know is factual science which is widely overlooked.
    You can assign any intention you want to my post. If you knew me personally, you would know it's intended to be a positive contribution.

    1. You've already said that a half dozen times, Mike. Stop repeating yourself. It's half wrong and getting very boring. Your "cooling temperatures" don't mean zilch when the world is rapidly getting hotter.

      This isn't WUWT. HotWhopper exists to demolish disinformation not promote it.

    2. MM: I'm not sure why Sou continues to give you space for what now seems like self-promotion for your company; she's very generous.

      As for "I agree that one instrument in one location does not get much weight from me but at least its was measured, not theorized."

      I assume you want readers to infer something from this? You couldn't even get logarithms right, so the chance seems small that you actually understand the theories, and how heavily based on measurements they are.

    3. Ok, at least I presented the information. Sorry to be a pest. You will see all of it again down the road.....from some other published source.

      Regarding logs, since CO2 absorbs in bands, some of which(we can only guess) are becoming saturated, the curve changes.

      As mentioned, it was my oversight to not elaborate properly as I did not intend to debate theories that are partly just guesses in the models that nobody can prove.......without observations.

      Maybe I was not as clear as I should have been.

    4. While Mike makes wild guesses, real scientists measure and science historians document.

    5. @MM: Like you, I've been plying my trade (in climate science) for over three decades. My colleagues and I spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort collecting geophysical climate data for in difficult places, and making sense of it. We have the guts to routinely submit our work for peer review and, because we know it is being rigorously reviewed both before publication and after, we take care to ensure that we know what we’re talking about before embarrassing ourselves. You don't have a monopoly on carefully analyzing data, with or without the context of theories. Your suggestion that climate science is “just theory” shows profound ignorance of what climate scientists do. Have you even opened a journal since you graduated? Possibly not: even with regard to science topics you profess to be interested in, you state that “I've not even looked to see if any papers regarding this have been published”.

      I don’t have any problem with you being more interested and informed in your own pet topics than in human contributions to climate change: weather is an extremely interesting topic. However, I wonder why you come to Sou’s blog other than to promote yourself. I *do* have a problem with people who criticize climate science and its practitioners, but can’t be bothered sorting out their own misunderstandings about it.

    6. Seriously, what "skeptic" can't be bothered to learn? "I am not interested in debating climate/weather from 96,000,000 years ago or projecting a century from now. " "I've not even looked to see if any papers regarding this have been published "

      Look, you keep asserting there's some negative feedback, yet surface temps are still increasing (hottest May and June if I remember right), the oceans are gaining heat, arctic ice has been in a downward trend, glaciers are melting, need I go on? The TOA radiative imbalance is only getting worse and therefore energy will keep going up. You've got a bunch of bullets, but your making logical leaps to conclude that this will change TOA (mind you, against observational evidence that is showing that the energy is increasing). You're so in love with observational evidence, yet you ignore it. Why is that?

  9. Since a big part of the topic here is "clouds" and especially since the measurements for this research were done within the area that my observations/analysis pertains to, I believe that my points very much provide a substantive contribution to the relevant discussion.

    I see no reason to call me names or change the topic to something different than the 6 numbered clear points that were made.

    I would be very happy to discuss any of these items in my area of expertise, which again relates to changes in low cloud cover, precipitation and a micro climate that has evolved in the main US growing regions over the past 30 years.

    1. You can't run away by starting new threads.

      You made 6 assertions with no proof. Even if they were all true, you haven't connected any of them with data relevant to your resultant thesis of increased cooling. You seem unable to connect those 6 points to the global energy balance, which actually is the main point here. Finally, if you're thesis were true (but it isn't cooling, right Mike?), you'd have to test it against other similar situations of high CO2 such as paleoclimate...saying you don't want to discuss research papers, existing data and paleoclimate just doesn't wash at this site. It's not about conjecture, it's about evidence, learning, admitting mistakes, all that stuff called science.

      To be clear, if you have some new insight and can provide some evidence, we'd all love to learn. So far you've provided none. Also, you've spoken beyond your experience on topics such as climate models without willing to challenge your own convictions there. It thus comes across as insincere when you imply that you want to make a "substantive contribution" to the discussion. Sounds more like you want to pontificate.

      Be a real skeptic, what are you afraid of?


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