Global Warming: The Big Picture

Regular readers know that we have been debunking global warming (aka “climate change”) hysteria for a long time. As data accumulate the realist position that we have espoused becomes ever stronger. While it is often useful to take a deep dive into the data, it is also helpful to step back and see the big picture. That is what Ken Haapala, President of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, did in the most recent The Week That Was–an email to which you should subscribe, if you haven’t already. Turning the floor over to Haapala:

Last week’s TWTW discussed the two primary energy flows from the surface through the atmosphere into space as speculated in the influential 1979 Charney report: 1) carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbing and re-radiating (interfering with) some of the outbound long-wave radiation from the surface to space and 2) increased water vapor absorbing and re-radiating (interfering with) even more outbound long-wave radiation. According to the Charney Report, the increased water vapor is more significant than the CO2 in causing a warming of the planet.

Two key points here: 1) pretty much everyone agrees that the scientifically supportable consequence of doubling the CO2 in the atmosphere, a 1 degree increase in mean global temperature, would be a good thing. To get to the alarmists’ horror stories, you need to assume that increasing temperature by 1 degree would entail positive feedbacks that would quadruple that increase, or more. (This supposition seems obviously false, since in the past, when global temperatures were more than 1 degree warmer than they are today, no such feedbacks appeared.) The main positive feedback is a hypothetical increase in water vapor, which is far and away the main “greenhouse gas.” There is no basis in observation for this theory.

Further, TWTW discussed the 1997 model of the earth’s “Annual Global Mean Energy Budget” as presented by Kiehl and Trenberth paper published by the American Meteorological Society. In their graph, Figure 7, one can see the component allocated to outgoing longwave radiation and the component allocated to increasing water vapor, evapotranspiration and latent heat. Other publications disagree with the specific numbers but accept the concept.

According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and their followers, there is a water vapor component of release of latent heat in the upper troposphere. This is the so called “hot spot,” which is assumed to be located over the tropics and strongest at a pressure between 300 to 200 millibars (mb) (roughly 9 to 11 km, 30,000 to 36,000 feet above the tropics). Over 50% of the atmosphere is below 6 km.

This “hot spot” has not been found and is not increasing as it should if the water vapor component of “CO2- caused global warming” is as strong as claimed in the Charney Report and repeated by the IPCC and others for 40 years. The recent McKitrick and Christy paper demonstrated that 60 years of weather balloon data have shown no such warming is taking place. Many other publications have likewise not found it.

If the “hot spot” doesn’t exist, the models on which global warming hysteria is based are wrong. Period.

Sunlight creates thermal chaotic motion of the atmosphere, which causes air with water vapor entrained to rise up. This convection process drives the winds and turbulence of the atmosphere. At the much cooler temperatures of altitudes like 10 km, water vapor condenses and becomes liquid, then ice. The conversion (phase change) from a gas back to a liquid (or solid) releases the latent heat into the atmosphere, slightly warming the nitrogen and oxygen. From high altitude, some heat is radiated into space, and part remains in the atmosphere. The entire process can be called a heat engine, or weather engine. When the Charney Report was written, the process was understood. This issue in question was: will a CO2-caused warming increase the intensity of this process, the weather engine?

That would seem to be an empirical question. But for the global warming hysterics, theory predominates over observation. That is the opposite of the scientific method.

Forty years of comprehensive atmospheric temperature trends, the last twenty years with no statistically significant warming, and 60 years of balloon observations show that the global atmosphere is not warming in a way indicating that the process is intensifying. The weather engine is not becoming more extreme. Thus, projections / forecasts / predictions from climate models or other means that CO2 warming is causing more extreme weather events are not supported by the hard evidence of temperature trends in the atmosphere.

If there is any greenhouse gas effect that is significant at this time, it is the warming of the Arctic, not the Antarctic that is both warming and cooling. The Daily Mean Temperature graphs of the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), from 1958 to current, north of the 80th northern parallel, show that temperatures are rising in the cold months, not the summer. In the cold months, the Arctic is extremely dry, thus the warming may be from an increase in water vapor from El Niños, the causes of which are not understood.

Please note that the above discussion does not include transport of heat from the tropics to the polar regions both by the oceans and the atmosphere. As Richard Lindzen has discussed, any greenhouse gas warming of the polar regions is likely to be beneficial, because it lessens the temperature extremes (temperature gradient) between the tropics and the polar regions, thus reducing the driving forces of winds and severe storms. As climate change pioneer H.H. Lamb discussed in his book, “Climate, History and the Modern World,” the fiercest storms to hit Western Europe occurred during the Little Ice Age, a cold period.

To repeat: the alarmists’ models predict warming over the poles. That would reduce severe weather events, which are largely driven by the temperature difference between the poles and the equator. The corrupt alarmist kleptocracy ignored this rather obvious fact and propagandized a non-existent increase in severe weather events to keep the cash flowing. However low your opinion of global warming hysterics may be, it isn’t low enough.


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