Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nothing is Obvious

I love the complexity of the natural world. It is utterly amazing to me that scientists ever decoded anything. I remember as a kid "deciding" that I would be a great chemist. But I had no chemicals, so I mixed things that were around me. Mostly I got mud. No brilliant insights, no atomic theory of matter, no complexity about valence electrons. The real world is very complex and very opaque. It takes lots of hard thinking, experimentation, and clever theorizing to make any sense of anything.

Here's a simple example of how counter-intuitive the world is:
The orbit of the Earth’s around the sun is slightly eccentric. The closest point is called the perihelion. On January 4th the Earth is just 147,098,291 km away from the sun. Aphelion occurs July 4th when the Earth is 152,098,233 km away from the sun, a difference of +3.3%. Naturally the power of the sun falls away with distance. Its radiation is 7% weaker in July than in January. Strangely, near surface air temperature for the Earth as a whole is 3.3°C warmer in July than in January. Yes, the surface is warmest when the Earth is furthest from the sun!
I find it funny that the "global warming" crowd is convinced there is a very tight relationship between CO2 and air temperatures. They think CO2 can drive up temperatures. Actually the evidence is mostly the other way around: warmer climate releases more CO2. But don't let such facts cloud the mind of an ideologue!
Climatologists have long wondered why a 1°C increase in temperature at the sea surface relates to as much as a 3° increase in temperature of the upper troposphere. They call this phenomenon ‘amplification’ as if the temperature of the upper troposphere in some way depended on the temperature at the surface and there was a transistor circuit between the two. Hey guys, its the other way round. Turn the telescope round. The presence of a long wave absorber namely ozone, is responsible for this phenomenon. The warming of the upper troposphere results in cloud loss and then, after a little time lag, the surface temperature increases.

In the mid and high zone, cloud is present as highly reflective interlacing micro-crystals of ice that we describe as cirrus and stratus. When the air warms these crystals sublimate. Ice cloud is the dominant cloud of the subtropical region. In IPCC climate science high altitude ice cloud is supposed to warm the surface by enhancing back radiation. But when radiation from the atmosphere increases in winter relative humidity falls. This radiation it is not bounced back by the cloud, the cloud disappears and lets the sun shine through. The surface temperature response is due to the disappearance of the cloud, not back radiation. Oops.


The $164,000 question is what is causing cloud cover to rise and fall on decadal and centennial time scales.

The answer to both questions lies in the activity of the coupled circulation of the stratosphere and the troposphere at the poles that feeds ozone into the troposphere. The upper troposphere warms or cools depending upon the feed rate of ozone. The feed rate changes over time.

The ozone content and temperature of the upper stratosphere depends in the first instance upon the activity of the night jet at the poles that introduces NOx from the mesosphere. Less NOx means more ozone. The activity of the night jet depends upon surface pressure and the concentration of NOx in the jet depends upon solar activity. In Antarctica, surface pressure has been falling for sixty years indicating a continuous increase in the ozone feed into the troposphere, the second major influence upon the ozone content of the polar stratosphere.

In that the coupled circulation of the stratosphere and the troposphere over Antarctica changes surface pressure at 60-70° south it changes the strength of the westerly winds in the southern hemisphere, cloud cover and surface temperature on all time scales. Stratospheric ozone is wasted above and below the stratosphere, processes referred to as ‘unknown dynamical influences’ in the more respectable polar ozone studies.

These phenomena are the very essence of the Southern Annular Mode, arguably the fundamental mode of global climate variation on all time scales.

One thing is plain. High altitude ice cloud in the southern hemisphere is plainly a reflector of solar radiation. It does not promote warming (positive feedback). It promotes cooling (negative feedback). It’s presence depends upon the flux in ozone in the upper troposphere as governed by processes in the stratosphere. So the UNIPCC climate models are 180° out of whack.
The above snippets are from an article by Erl Happ, a wine maker:
I am a winemaker and grape-grower with a strong interest in climate. I was interested enough to try and discover the common thermal characteristics that are seen in great vineyard locations and did a lot of work with hourly temperature data from around the world. Climate sets the limit on what can be achieved in the vineyard. I became interested in climate change when I noticed the growing season temperature falling in our part of the world, the south west of Western Australia. That set me on a quest to work out why. Soon, it became apparent that parts of the Southern Hemisphere like Antarctica and Southern Chile had been cooling for fifty years or more. My experience in analyzing temperature dynamics for vine sites and working out just how much heat these plants need to bring their fruit to maturity gave me a focus on sourcing data and figuring out what has been happening on a regional scale, both at the surface and in the upper atmosphere. I think there is room for a subject called historical climatology. We can learn a lot just by looking at what has happened over long periods of time. Good data sets are readily available on the net. All one needs is a little curiosity, a facility with spreadsheets and a lot of determination.
Erl Happ's real "job" is wine...

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