Wednesday, February 12, 2014

WUWT boasts: "We don’t know clouds". Indeed they don't!

Sou | 12:22 AM Go to the first of 32 comments. Add a comment

It's raining, it's pouring psoo-do-science at WUWT.

WUWT is struggling, trying to find something to publish.  Anthony's resurrected a snippet from an umpteen-year-old email stolen from Professor Jones as his Quote of the Week.  He did that to prove what awful people mild-mannered, inoffensive, hard-working, pioneering climate researchers are.  His quote of the week was written by Eric "eugenics hoax" Worral (archived here).  He followed this up with a guest article by Rolf Westgard, which Anthony called an "essay" as if that adds panache or somehow makes up for it being so full of pseudo-science waffle. (Archived here.)

Here are some gems:
It is actually not clear that our fossil fuel burning CO2 emissions are a serious global warming threat. 
Huh? If it's not clear to Rolf by now then it never will be. There have been thousands of scientific papers explaining this and they've been compiled into five mammoth reports over twenty four years.  Rolf should be very embarrassed that he still doesn't understand the basic science of global warming.

But this should embarrass him even more. Rolf wrote:
Clouds are water vapor, a green house gas which warms us. 
Oops.  And to think that Anthony Watts advertises his blog as "The world's most viewed site on global warming and climate change." and winner of umpteen "bloggie" awards, beating all the other science denying blogs for the honour!  You've got to wonder where all his readers come from.  Clouds are not water vapour. Clouds are composed of liquid and solid water and other stuff, not gaseous water.

Never mind, Rolf managed to get this next bit half right:
Clouds reflect the sun’s light, cooling us. 

Rolf forgot to mention that clouds also absorb and emit longwave radiation, warming us.  Then he scores a plus - he does get this bit right:
Clouds produce rain which removes CO2 from the atmosphere, etc.

Thing is, there's rather a lot of CO2 in the air these days.  Rain does dissolve some CO2.  It always has.  Nothing much has changed.  Sure, there's a bit more rain now than their used to be because of global warming.  And there's a whole heap more CO2.  So those two factors probably mean that a bit more CO2 will dissolve in the rain.  However whatever might be dissolving in rain is not making a dent in the build up of atmospheric CO2.  Our emissions totally swamp anything that rain might wash out of the air.

Rolf finishes with a flourish - of sorts. Australians will be used to deniers quoting Dorothea Mackellar at them to "prove" that our climate has extremes.  Rolf goes for something as prosaic, lyrics from Joni Mitchell. The last line he quotes is most appropriate to his "essay".  Sing it with feeling:
 I really don’t know clouds at all.

I agree. Rolf Westgard knows precious little about clouds.

Would you believe that Rolf Westgard claims to be a member of the guest faculty (or is it a guest of the faculty) on energy subjects for the U of MN Lifelong Learning program. He recently taught class #17016 “America’s Climate and Energy Future: the Next 25 Years”

Pity the poor sods at U of MN, whatever that is.

Just to inject a bit of science, here is the energy budget diagram from the IPCC AR5 WG1 report, which shows how energy bounces around the surface and moves through and in and out of the atmosphere:

Fig. 2.1 IPCC AR5 WG1

And here's a nice introduction to clouds from the Bureau of Meteorology, and a Mr McCloud quiz.  Or click here to read about what has recently been occupying the minds of NASA and other scientists who are studying clouds.

From the WUWT comments

There haven't been too many comments so far.  I guess the WUWT-ers are so overwhelmed by all the psoodisciency cloudy stuff they are lost for words. (Archived here.)

Henry Clark says "it's only warmed 0.2%!" (excerpt - minus a link):
February 11, 2014 at 1:30 am
Earth’s average cloud cover has changed by multiple percent over recent decades*, let alone compared to further back, and the impact of the corresponding albedo change is large in context (when, for perspective, all of global warming over the past century was merely <=~ 0.6 K or thus <=~ a 0.2% change in an average absolute temperature near 298 K).

tango must be off his meds and says:
February 11, 2014 at 1:51 am
I have been informed by a doctor that they will not take there medication please take it for they no not what they a doing

Kelvin Vaughan gets it sort of back to front when he says:
February 11, 2014 at 2:09 am
I would have thought the radiation from a cloud depends on its height. The higher a cloud is the colder it is. The colder it is the less the energy it is radiating down. So if CO2 warms the atmosphere the clouds will warm, rise higher, get even colder and radiate back less energy.
(Low clouds tend to be thicker and reflect more solar radiation.  High thin clouds let the solar radiation through but still absorb and emit longwave radiation.  That's in the daytime of course.  At night it's a different story.)

johnmarshall starts off saying what he always says.  Then he decides that scientists don't know nuffin' and mutters some nonsense about latent heat, "convective clouds" and missing heat.
February 11, 2014 at 2:36 am
There is no empirical data showing that CO2 causes temperature increases. In fact empirical data shows the exact opposite.
Clouds, well we do not understand them. 90% are caused by convection which disproves IPCC claims that latent heat is not an important sink for heat. Convective cloud is full of heat that is lost to space. That is where Trenberth,s missing heat is not the oceans.

MikeB chides Rolf Westgard and Anthony Watts and says:
February 11, 2014 at 3:18 am
Clouds are water vapor, a green house gas which warms us.
Clouds are NOT water vapour. Water vapour is an invisible gas. You can see clouds, so they are NOT water vapour.
In a field where there is so much misunderstanding already, I think it is important to avoid adding to the confusion by using loose, inaccurate or incorrect statements [where possible].

Andyj has the climate science hoax all worked out.  No flies on Andyj:
February 11, 2014 at 3:22 am
Fossil fuels already are trapped and stored underground carbon.. So why do they want to re-bury it along with our oxygen this time?
Seriously, anyone and everyone who proposes or implements this needs a bullet in the brain.


  1. U of MN is the University of Minnesota, one of the largest university's in the US.

  2. fwiw, "U of MN" would be the University of Minnesota.

  3. Thanks, Anonymous and ligne. I wonder if the "lifelong learning program" is like the University of the 3rd Age? Although I think there are stricter requirements to teaching at U3A.

    In his case, it looks as if there is no barrier, like having some knowledge, to running classes. I suppose Rolf might have been teaching the energy side of things not the climate side of things.

  4. This looks like something from twenty-five years ago explaining why what's happened since won't have because of stuff like clouds. F for effort on this one, frankly.

    1. Yes, as well as the mistakes and misleading content, it is pitched at seven-year-olds. It's only there because Anthony was running out of material and wanted to fill his daily quote is my guess.

    2. "Clouds are water vapour"

      This makes as much sense as saying that a glass of water is water vapour.

      Water vapour is gas, and is invisible. Clouds are water that is in the liquid state, but the the droplets are very small.


      Another oops moment from a guest on WUWT. WUWT seems to have a habit of getting the most basic concepts wrong, yet people keep flocking to the site. Some people seem to like having a distorted version of the facts, especially those who refuse to accept the fact that AGW exists. They prefer instead to soothe themselves within a Bizarro fantasyland. Quite childish really.

    3. Water vapour is gas, and is invisible. Clouds are water that is in the liquid state, but the droplets are very small.

      Well since you are being pedantic, that is actually not exactly correct.

      Clouds are visible because the vapour has condensed into tiny liquid water droplets and/or ice crystals .

      It is not incorrect to say that clouds comprise of water vapour - the process of the water molecules condensing does not mean all the water vapour suddenly disappears, and there is nothing to stop liquid water evaporating into a gas again.

      It is also correct to say that clouds comprise of dust, since nucleation of the water vapour typically forms on tiny dust particles.

      This is high school science. If you are going to poke fun at people for not being precise in their language, it is important to be precise yourself.

    4. Actually clouds are viruses, because there are some viruses in clouding. Alle cooking utensils are viruses too.
      Gaseous Greig.

    5. If you are going to pick nits, it probably helps to know what you are talking about. Otherwise people might come to the mistaken conclusion you are a pillock.

      In fact it is incorrect to say "that clouds comprise of dust". The correct usage would be "that clouds are comprised of dust. Or "that dust comprises clouds".

      On the other hand, there is still the problem that clouds are not comprised of dust. Clouds are comprised of water droplets, ice crystals, dust, vapour and other stuff.

      Comprised of doesn't mean "contains". It comes from the same root as "comprehensive". That's not a fluke.

      I tried to bake a cake the other day comprised of flour, and all I got was a tinful of burnt flour. See...

      This is high school English. If you are going to chide people for not being precise in their language, it is important to be precise yourself.

      So when you say "it is important to be precise yourself", maybe you should look in a mirror...

      File under "Skitt's Law"

    6. Ah yes but - by Greig's logic - cooking utensils are only viruses if you think that cooking utensils are made from solid metal. If you think that cooking utensials are made from gaseous metal then cooking utensils are not viruses.

    7. Greig's logic is fubaring my grammar. Elsewise the present British troubles that I'm following to the minute are.

    8. I am not discussing grammar nor vocabulary, I am discussing science.

      To say that "Clouds are water that is in the liquid state", is wrong from a scientific perspective, in the same way it is wrong to say that clouds are water vapour, and as you sarcastically comment - is also wrong to say that clouds are viruses.

      Get over yourselves, your childish bullying and intimidation reflects poorly on you.

    9. @Greig: I don't see any "bullying", although I suspect many people here are less than charitable to you because of some of your past postings. I agree that your post here is a reasonable contribution to the discussion and, in isolation from your history, should have been treated better.

      But the point in Sou's post here is that people who are clearly *not* scientists get to post at WUWT and treated there as though they are. If some of Sou's regulars posted at RealClimate, they'd probably appear under-scientific there as well. The difference is, they don't; they don't claim to know more than the scientists, just more than the WUWTians.

    10. Meaning no disrespect to the participants, my feeling is that this discussion has veered into pedantry and is ending its useful life. I will leave off with two items:

      First, the definition of "cloud" from the American Meteorological Society Glossary of Meteorology, http://glossary.ametsoc.org/wiki/Cloud

      Second, Isaac Asimov's wonderful essay "The Relativity of Wrong", http://chem.tufts.edu/answersinscience/relativityofwrong.htm

    11. oh the last desperate resort of denialists - claims of bullying and intimidation. Because being disagreed with hurts your feeling just oh so much ...

    12. Indeed, I have shown great concern for Greig in the past, urging him to get a brain scan when his severe memory loss manifested itself in a discussion concerning his tobacco scientist heroes.

    13. Millicent, you are so witty. Flashheart, so ironic.

      PL, are you sure you can't see any bullying?

    14. Greig

      Not smart-arsed, no. But you are incorrect above:

      To say that "Clouds are water that is in the liquid state", is wrong from a scientific perspective, in the same way it is wrong to say that clouds are water vapour

      It is wrong to state that clouds are water vapour. Wrong. It is correct but slightly incomplete to state that clouds are liquid water, since high altitude cloud can be partially or entirely composed of ice crystals. It is *not* "wrong from a scientific perspective in the same way it is wrong to say that clouds are water vapour". Your claim is *false*. For a pedant, you are very sloppy. Either that or you are being intellectually dishonest.

    15. BBD, you are wrong, as I have explained clouds ARE made up partially of water vapour. If you want to argue that there is 0% water vapour in clouds, be my guest.

      And there you go again accusing me of being intellectually dishonest. Even though a year 9 science student knows I'm right. Does the bullying ever stop at this site?

    16. Sure, clouds are made up partially of xenon and methane, too. Because they are made up partially of air. Well well how informative. As if no-one knew but Greig.

      Is being feeling bullied all the time part of the Dunning-Kruger pathology?

    17. BBD, you are wrong, as I have explained clouds ARE made up partially of water vapour. If you want to argue that there is 0% water vapour in clouds, be my guest.

      No, I am *not* wrong, Greig. You, however, are pushing your luck with such blatant lies. Clouds are made of liquid water droplets. Those at the highest altitudes are made of ice crystals. They form from water vapour but the cloud itself - the visible phenomenon (the clue is in the name) does not consist of water vapour.

      If you lie to me or about what I have said like this again, I will ask that you be moderated.

    18. @Greig: As I said, I think your original comment here was reasonable, and that you're paying the price for reputation from past, less controlled, posts. If you hadn't brought baggage with you, the conversation might have been productive, maybe everyone would have left a little wiser about cloud physics. In that sense, maybe everyone should give you a fresh start.

      However, the point of Sou's post was that WUWT puts up posts by people who don't know what they are talking about. They then get lauded in the comments by people who know even less. Yet somehow you manage to give the impression that that extreme level of stupidity is less important than minor simplifications made on blog posts here.

    19. This is just silly. I am not lying to you BBD, you are just being more pedantic than me, and then declaring me to be sloppy, so too is Frank who is dissecting my language.

      Read Asimov's essay, and take a chill pill.

      BTW, if we wanted to be really pedantic we might have raised the fact that there are dust clouds, and PSGs (crystals of nitrous compounds). They are clouds too, right? But let's not go there OK?

      PL, I get what you are saying, and I am not being critical of Sou in her approach to this subject. I have been reading WUWT (for the first time, believe it or not) and there are certainly some underqualified people writing articles there.

    20. I am not lying to you BBD

      Yes, you are.

      Clouds are made of visible droplets of liquid water and/or ice crystals. That is why we can see them and we gave them a special name - "clouds" - as in "clouds of liquid water droplets that we can see in the sky". This distinguishes them from the more ubiquitous water vapour from which they form, which is transparent and so invisible.

      I do understand that you are trolling this thread by pushing the definition of "cloud" past reasonable limits. I do appreciate that this is intellectual dishonesty and I do understand that you do this because you are a denier and so by definition committed to disrupting constructive discourse of any kind relating to the climate problem.

      Presumably you imagine that you are so clever that we don't see you for what you actually are. I'd hate for that misconception to persist.

    21. OK BBD, if you want to play your silly game, here's my move.


      You are the one who is lying. Firstly you ignore the whole process of cloud formation (condensation) and assume clouds just magically appear from nowhere. Then you ignore the process of nucleation. Then you ignore the fact that clouds can also be made entirely of dust or nitrous compounds (eg PSGs) and have no liquid water nor ice crystals at all. You deliberately mislead on this because you obviously know nothing about science, or you are being intellectually dishonest, because you are an alarmist. And like most alarmists you think you hold higher moral ground, which you don't, it is just based on ignorance.


      Is there any chance BBD, that you will not call for moderation to have this post removed? Because I think it is an important counterpoint to your post that illustrates a great deal about the lack of respect that people are showing each other around here. In my view it is completely unnecessary and pointless, but you appear to insist on it.

    22. Firstly you ignore the whole process of cloud formation (condensation) and assume clouds just magically appear from nowhere.

      No, that is a false claim:

      They [clouds] form from water vapour but the cloud itself - the visible phenomenon (the clue is in the name) does not consist of water vapour.

      So, another lie. Ho hum.

  5. @Greig

    It is not incorrect to say that clouds comprise of water vapour

    Had Rolf Westgard said that, it would indeed not have been incorrect. Alas, what he said - Clouds are water vapor, a green house gas which warms us. - is wrong. Plainly wrong.

    So your point was? Discuss science? Mon œil !

    1. Raoul, read comments above carefully - obviously I agree that Westgard's statement is wrong. (although wrong is relative - great essay by Asimov, I enjoyed that Don).

      So shall we leave this one now, or does anyone else want to make a smart-arse comment?

    2. I can never resist an invitiation to be a smart-arse!

      "Clouds comprise of water vapour" is grammatically incorrect. The structure would "are comprised of" (or "water vapour comprises clouds"). However this would still be incorrect, because they are not comprised of water vapour.

      "Comprised of" connotes "wholly made up of (etymologically, it is related to "comprehensive"). Since clouds are comprised of many things, as we have seen, they are not comprised of water vapour.

      If I bake a cake comprised of flour, all I'm going to get is a tin full of burnt flour.

      Now normally, I wouldn't give a toss, but since you chided Dave: "you are going to poke fun at people for not being precise in their language, it is important to be precise yourself", the irony was too delicious to pass up.

    3. I'll apologise for blogger, which at random and for no reason I can fathom, sometimes dumps comments into the spam folder. Sometimes it does this even after they are first published. I do check the folder but not as often as I probably should do.

    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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