Spencer and Braswell 2011: Resignation of journal editor and Trenberth’s attack don’t change facts

Posted: September 5, 2011 by tallbloke in climate, flames, Ocean dynamics, Politics, solar system dynamics

The hoo-ha surrounding the publication of the Spencer and Braswell 2011 paper rumbles on. With the Ad-Homs and libels starting to fly from the lips of prominent alarmists it’s time to calm the troubled waters with some talkshop common sense.

Why all the fuss?

All Spencer is demonstrating is that the amount of the temperature change due to unforced changes in cloud albedo in relation to the amount of cloud change being caused by temperature is not able to be determined by regression of the satellite data on surface temperature against measures of outgoing longwave radiation. This is obvious to anyone who thinks about it for a minute. The ocean overturns on a 1500 year timescale, and has a heat capacity 4000 times bigger than the atmosphere. It tends to thermally stratify, but ‘folds’ and mixings of those layers occur due to changes in Earth rotation speed etc. As a consequence, the energy of past warmings can pop out of the ocean back into the atmosphere on various timescales and in quantities which don’t directly relate to current forcings and feedbacks within the climate system. These energy releases affect cloud amount, which then affects current amounts of insolation. Because we can’t model the ocean’s history and overturning activity or predict/quantify ENSO well enough, we can’t model cloud behaviour solely as an outcome of algorithms based on parameters underlying current climate states.

No amount of huffing and puffing by Trenberth, Abrahams or Gleick  changes that. Nor does the resignation of Wolfgang Wagner over the paper’s publication. John Christy has already responded to their libellous and vindictive article. He can reasonably have expected better from Trenberth who was his MS and PhD graduate adviser at Univ. of Illinois.

Wolfgang Wagner, the resigning editor of journal ‘Remote Sensing’ is a fine scientist in his own right. He needs to concentrate on his valuable contribution of global soil moisture models and metrics and stop worrying about the sensibilities of his over-reaching colleagues who integrate such remotely sensed data into their GCM’s and then make inflated claims about their ability to represent the Earth’s systems. Roy Spencer responded to the resignation with an article on his blog.

The Forbes article is wrong in that what Spencer is telling us is not that he has ‘blown a gaping hole in mainstream climate theory’. He has merely and correctly pointed out the *uncertainty* in our assessment of the magnitude of cloud feedback. That’s what Trenberth and the other mainstream guys don’t like, because it makes a mockery of their assertion that we can know the extent of human contribution to temperature change at the probability levels they claim we can. And that casts doubt on the principle parameters used in the GCM’s, the computer models which provide the predictions about the future course of climates around the world.

Trenberth: Get over it. Stop telling us “the data are surely wrong”. The data are the data. If it means your model has missing heat you can’t account for, sort it out. Stop trying to destroy the reputation of scientists who are trying to help get the science right.


  1. Chuckles says:


    As I’ve said elsewhere, much of the faux outrage floating around seems focused on the publicity the S&B paper received, rather than the paper itself. The resignation seems to me to be a mea culpa from the editor as his publication was the ‘unwitting vehicle’ that made the widespread publicity possible?
    It seems the paper itself is to be given the usual ‘it’s been rebutted’ treatment.

    The media publicity given to the paper however was absolutely unacceptable to the usual suspects, and HAD to be counteracted at all costs, with the above being the result.
    That said, it seems odd that they don’t seem to understand that if you are concerned about the amount of publicity something has received, the last thing you want to do is give it even more publicity?
    The publication by Daily Climate and The Guardian of Abraham’s statements about Spencer is also extraordinary. They are not presented as opinion, but as fairly forceful statements of fact, and in an academic context, and under British law, seem very close to libel to my admittedly untrained eye.

  2. Richard S Courtney says:


    You say;
    “Trenberth: Get over it. Stop telling us “the data are surely wrong”. The data are the data. If it means your model has missing heat you can’t account for, sort it out. Stop trying to destroy the reputation of scientists who are trying to help get the science right.”

    Yes! Those are the issues.

    Low level clouds reflect solar heat and a mere 2% increase to cloud cover would more than compensate for the maximum possible predicted warming due to a doubling of carbon dioxide in the air.

    Good records of cloud cover are very short because cloud cover is measured by satellites that were not launched until the mid 1980s. But it appears that cloudiness decreased markedly between the mid 1980s and late 1990s. Over that period, the Earth’s reflectivity decreased to the extent that if there were a constant solar irradiance then the reduced cloudiness provided an extra surface warming of 5 to 10 Watts/sq metre. This is a lot of warming. It is between two and four times the entire warming estimated to have been caused by the build-up of human-caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution. (The IPCC says that since the industrial revolution, the build-up of human-caused greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has had a warming effect of only 2.4 W/sq metre).

    Trenberth asserts that heat is stored in the climate system (almost all in the oceans) but work of Spencer et al. suggests solar energy has been reflected by clouds so has been lost from – and not stored in – the climate system.

    Importantly, there is a fundamental relationship between Trenberth’s “missing heat” and the IPCC’s assertion of “committed warming” which has also vanished.

    The AGW hypothesis says increased atmospheric GHG concentration increases IR back radiation to the surface. The hypothesis asserts that this back radiation causes surface warming which has two effects; viz.
    Effect 1.
    The warmed surface warms the air
    Effect 2.
    The warmed ocean surface warms the oceans.

    Effect 1 is an almost instantaneous (the GH effect occurs at the speed of light). Hence, it cannot discernibly contribute to “committed warming” from one year to subsequent years.

    Effect 2 is probably wrong and is certainly overstated by the IPCC, but here I am considering the IPCC version of what they think is reality.

    The ocean warming of Effect 2 establishes a new thermal equilibrium between air and ocean.

    There is a lag (of several years) to obtain this equilibrium because net energy (from back radiation) is absorbed in the oceans until equilibrium is achieved. Upon achievement of the equilibrium then the air temperature is raised and, importantly, the air/and oceans obtain zero net energy exchange as a result of the increased atmospheric GHG concentration.

    So, until equilibrium is achieved the oceans absorb more energy from the air and this is why there is “committed warming”. When equilibrium is achieved then the oceans continue to absorb more energy but they also emit more energy back to the air: in other words, “committed warming” is increase to energy from the oceans in response to previous IR back radiation to the surface.

    Simplisticly, “committed warming” is heat of the IR back radiation to the surface that is stored in the ocean until it is later released to the air.

    Trenberth’s “missing heat” equates to missing “committed warming” and, therefore, it is not surprising that the “committed warming” has vanished when Trenberth’s “missing heat” exists: they are the same thing.

    Spencer’s work provides an explanation of where Trenberth’s “missing heat” has gone; it has been reflected back to space by clouds so did not enter the ocean.

    In this circumstance it is not surprising that Trenberth et al. have resorted to mud-slinging. People are often forgiven for being wrong but rarely forgiven for being right. The mud-slinging is a strong indication that Trenberth et al. think Spencer is right.


  3. tallbloke says:


    indeed, though I suspect the time for equilibrium will be considerably longer than several years, assuming extra back radiation has warmed the air near the surface at all. This is because the warming effect on the ocean is actually not a warming effect but a theoretical reduction in the rate it cools at, due to postulated effects of increased back radiation on the rate of convection of heat from the ocean surface and a tiny amount of extra conduction of heat from air to ocean when the air temperature is higher than the ocean surface (rarely).

    I think it likely that since convection dominates energy transfer in the lower troposphere, (and convection is driven by the energy in the ocean bulk which gets very little in the way of energy from back radiation mixed down into it), the effects of increased co2 are largely confined to the upper troposphere.

    There however, it is solar activity levels which determine specific humidity, and therefore the majority of the radiation of heat to space by water vapour.

  4. oxonmoron says:

    Your reference above to John Christy’s response to Trenberth et al’s criticisms merely points to the WUWT posting. Couldn’t find any links or postings from Christy. Please clarify.

  5. Richard S Courtney says:


    I completely agree with the statements in your response to my post. Of course the summary of physical effects in my post omits much important detail, but I stand by its being true.

    Importantly, the purpose of my summary was to explain the conclusion of my post. And I am now writing in an attempt to ensure that the conclusion is not obscured by technical discussions. That conclusion said;

    “Spencer’s work provides an explanation of where Trenberth’s “missing heat” has gone; it has been reflected back to space by clouds so did not enter the ocean.

    In this circumstance it is not surprising that Trenberth et al. have resorted to mud-slinging. People are often forgiven for being wrong but rarely forgiven for being right. The mud-slinging is a strong indication that Trenberth et al. think Spencer is right.”


  6. tallbloke says:

    OM: thanks, fixed.

    Richard: I completely agree with your conclusions and my brief delve into the technical aspects of the argument was to support my contention that the re-equilibriation of the ocean to a purported forcing from additional co2 would be too slow to account for the mild warming we saw 1980-2003.

    As you correctly stated, the reduction in low level tropical cloud empirically measured by ISCCP was more likely responsible for that.

  7. tallbloke says:


    Roy Spencer, however, told BBC News: “I stand behind the science contained in the paper itself, as well as my comments published on my blog at drroyspencer.com.

    “Our university press release necessarily put our scientific results in lay language, and what we believe they mean in the larger context of global warming research. This is commonly done in press statements made by the IPCC and its scientists, too, when reporting on research which advocates the view that climate change is almost entirely caused by humans.

    “The very fact that the public has the perception that climate change is man-made, when in fact there is as yet no way to know with any level of scientific certainty how much is man-made versus natural, is evidence of that.”

  8. Nice post Tallbloke. Enjoyed it very much and agree wholly with your assessment of the Spencer Braswell paper.

    As the astrometeorologist who forecasted the recent ENSO, all of this is not a surprise at all to me since those involved in the AGW ideology do not forecast in the real world. At last count, the 22 international climate centers – including NCAR – did not forecast the 2009-2011 ENSO. It continues to amaze me to hear these wild ‘forecasts’ for decades of future warming in advance when not one of these scientists are able to forecast monthly or seasonal weather.

    I knew and interviewed Trenberth and those who worked at NCAR so I am not surprised whatsoever by the continued ideological warfare which has been a hallmark of the AGW crew. The arguments are not against proper science, but has to do with money, and then careers and ego plays.

    Climate science has suffered under the baby boomer generation, a highly ideological generation noted for its desire to “disrupt” while maintaining a hegemony over all others. Their time is coming to an end, so we are bound to witness ever more desperation in these waning times for boomers.

    The Spencer paper is simply another nail in the coffin of AGW – and people like Trenberth know it, as you correctly presumed; which is why we see such attacks on Spencer and others when the fallacy of man-made global warming is proven a myth time and again by scientific rigor.

    Yet, the evidence that AGW violates the laws of physics is plenty.

    For instance, Physicists Dr. Gerhard Gerlich and Dr. Ralf Tscheuschner clearly proved that AGW is mathematically impossible to occur on the Earth:

    Some highlights:

    1) The mechanism of warming in an actual greenhouse is different than the mechanism of warming in the atmosphere, therefore it is not a “greenhouse” effect and should be called something else.

    2) The climate models that predict catastrophic global warming also result in a net heat flow from atmospheric greenhouse gasses to the warmer ground, which is in violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    Essentially, any machine which transfers heat from a low temperature reservoir to a high temperature reservoir without external work applied cannot exist.

    If it did it would be a “perpetual motion machine” – the realm of pure science-fiction.

    (a) There are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effects.

    (b) There are no calculations to determine an average surface temperature of a planet.

    (c) The frequently mentioned difference of 33 degrees Celsius is a meaningless number calculated wrongly.

    (d) The formulas of cavity radiation are used inappropriately.

    (e) The assumption of a radiative balance is unphysical.

    (f) Thermal conductivity and friction must not be set to zero, the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified.

    Gerlich’s and Tscheuschner’s scientific climate report is detailed at 115 pages and includes 144 equations, 13 data tables, with 32 figures and graphs as well as 205 references.

    The German physicists prove without a doubt that even if CO2 concentrations double – a prospect even global warming advocates admit may be many decades away – the thermal conductivity of air would not change more than 0.03%.

    They show with facts that the classic concept of the glass greenhouse wholly fails to replicate the physics of Earth’s climate.

    They also prove that a greenhouse operates as a “closed” system while the Earth works as an “open” climate system and the term “atmospheric greenhouse effect” does not occur in any fundamental work involving the physical laws of thermodynamics, physical kinetics, or radiation.

    All through the paper both scientists clearly show how the greenhouse gas theory relies on ‘guesstimates’ about the scientific properties involved to ‘calculate’ the chaotic interplay of such a myriad and unquantifiable array of factors that is beyond even the abilities of the most powerful of modern supercomputers.

    “This thorough debunking of the theory of man-made warming disproves that there exists a mechanism whereby carbon dioxide in the cooler upper atmosphere exerts any thermal ‘forcing’ effect on the warmer surface below.

    To do so would violate both the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics.

    As there is no glass roof on the earth to trap the excess heat, it escapes upward into space. Thus we may conclude that the common sense axioms are preserved so that the deeper the ocean, the colder the water and heat rises, it does not fall. QED.”

    See -> http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0707/0707.1161v4.pdf

  9. tallbloke says:

    Wagner works for organisations whose funding would suffer if it was admitted that AGW is not identifiable due to the reasons Spencer and Braswell (correctly in my view) outline in their Paper. Having been involved in the production of a global dataset for soil moisture, he is a de facto part of the GCM ‘team’. He has stated that he believes remote sensing experts must run their results by modelers before publishing any conclusions about the logical deductions which can be made from the data plus a simple model. His allegiance is to them. He joined their tribe.

    He believes Trenberth’s model trumps the logical outcome of Spencer and Braswell’s study of the data coupled with a simple model suggested by Isaac Held.

    It’ll be fun to see Andy Dessler diss Held in his rebuttal paper published with unseemly haste tomorrow don’t you think?

  10. Viv Evans says:

    Thanks for this, tallbloke – I followed your link at Climate Etc – it is a great explanation.

    As for Trenberth et al ‘sorting things out’ – on the evidence of the last few years he’s more interested in mud-slinging and hatchet jobs than in doing proper science. So I won’t hold my breath …

  11. Stephen Wilde says:

    My top down solar and bottom up oceanic hypotheses are looking good in the light of all this.

    We now need to decide whether cloudiness changes arise most from changes in cosmic ray quantities as per Svensmark or from changes in air mass mixing as the atmospheic circulation shifts between zonal and meridional modes as proposed by me.

    The degree of zonailty/meridionality seems to be a result of the interaction between solar and oceanic variability.

  12. tallbloke says:


    “In Feb 2010, the very Institute directed by Wolfgang since 2006 announced the establishment of the “International Soil Moisture Network“. With a key weak point, unfortunately:

    The success of the International Soil Moisture Network will be based on the voluntary contributions of scientists and networks from around the world. With this announcement we call upon the scientific community to support this worthwhile initiative. We hope that many more networks are willing to contribute.

    One has to wonder if there was any hint of reduction in voluntary contributions, or just a sudden lack of willingness to contribute, unless Wolfgang killed his Remote Sensing position? After all, the news appeared alongside the announcement of a new Chairman of the GEWEX Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment Scientific Steering Group (some Kevin E. Trenberth).

    Some “Kevin”, indeed..no wonder there’s been apologies. Alas, they weren’t enough to stop Remote Sensing from getting trivialized by the same Kevin, as noted by Pielke Sr.”

  13. cementafriend says:

    Trenberth is committing scientific fraud in that he still has not corrected or withdrawn his papers K&T 2008 (Earth’s Global Energy Budget) and T, F&K 2009 (Energy Budget which should never have been published as it contained nothing new) which both contain a value for the atmosphere radiation window of 40 W/m2 which Trenberth has admitted that he knows satellite measurements have the window at 66 W/m2.
    Trenberth clearly has no understanding of the (chemical) engineering subjects thermodynamics and heat&mass transfer (basically convection and evaporation/consensation heat changes are ignored when they are the most important heat transfer mechanism in the lower atmosphere) . Nobody should take any notice of him.
    Abrahams understanding of technology is less than high school standard. He has been shown up by Monckton as not even being able to read the IPCC documents. One has to wonder if Abrahams obtained his qualifications from a mail order university of which there are several in US or paid someone to write his assignments.

  14. tallbloke says:

    Isn’t it an interesting coincidence that the atmospheric window at 66W/M^2 pretty much matches the net longwave radiative flux?

  15. Joshua says:

    tallbloke –

    “With the Ad-Homs and libels starting to fly from the lips of prominent alarmists it’s time to calm the troubled waters with some talkshop common sense.”

    I also followed your, er, link over at Climate etc., because I was wondering if you’d like to weigh on on this comment by Ross McKitrick?:

    But all that means is that he is even more of a grovelling, terrified coward than he already has made himself out to be”


    I assume that is one of the Ad-Homs that you were referring to? It’s funny, I didn’t know that McKitrick is a prominent “alarmist.”

  16. klem says:

    Why did he really quit? I know of no journal editor who has resigned over a published paper. Even if they found the paper to be full of errors, that has never been good enough reason to quit in the past. Journals publish bad science all the time, the editors don’t quit over it, so why did this guy really quit? I don’t believe this paper by Spencer was the real reason, this does not pass the sniff test. I’m sorry but there is something else going on here that we’re not hearing about. This sounds just too perfect, I’m not buying it, I smell a rat.

  17. Doug Proctor says:

    Talkbloke says: “The Forbes article is wrong in that what Spencer is telling us is not that he has ‘blown a gaping hole in mainstream climate theory’.”

    When a proposition to act is based on a science that is “settled”, and an outcome that is “certain”, the introduction of unsettledness and uncertainty is terminal to the proposition. The Forbes article is correct in its meaning that Spencer et al pose a serious blow to the IPCC/Hansen/Trenberth position.

  18. tallbloke says:

    Hi Joshua.

    It’s an overheated debate I agree. Hence the storm in teacup graphic, which also neatly alludes to the uncertainty around ocean emission of energy. 🙂

  19. tallbloke says:

    Hi Doug,

    Theory is not policy. Spencer is restricting himself in his paper to theory. IPCC theory claims a 95% confidence that more than 50% of the warming since ~1960 is human caused. He demonstrates they don’t have sufficient evidence to warrant that confidence.

    The question of policy is one he pursues on his blog, along with layman’s explanations of the science.

  20. Ian W says:

    Stephen Wilde Says:
    We now need to decide whether cloudiness changes arise most from changes in cosmic ray quantities as per Svensmark or from changes in air mass mixing as the atmospheic circulation shifts between zonal and meridional modes as proposed by me.

    Why do we need to decide? – it could easily be both. Cloudiness could also be affected by other climate variables that we do not yet know such as variations in percentage concentration of nitrogen compounds or even airborne bacteria. Rather than there being ‘one cause’ for increase in clouds – it is more likely an ‘all of the above’ plus others.

  21. Stephen Wilde says:

    Whatever changes cloud quantities also has to alter the surface air circulation and pressure distribution because they change when cloud quantities change.

    That means that the atmospheric heights have to change and nothing will do that from above except a change in atmospheric chemistry caused by a change in solar activity. As far as I know simple creation of more cloud condensation nuclei would not have such profound effects. I think it will be found that cloudiness changes are caused primarily by chemical changes in the upper atmosphere and not significantly by more (or less) cosmic rays.

  22. tallbloke says:

    Ian W: good point.

    One thing we do know however is that cloud amount seems to be linked to solar activity levels. I suggest that whatever the mechanisms are, and I agree with you there are probably more than we’ve thought of or investigated, the Sun affects them as well as cloud amount via GGR’s and via upper troposphere humidity and is the primary driver. The reason I assert that is because Sunshine hours over Japan and over the UK both match reasonably well to the cumulative integration of sunspot numbers departing from the value which both matches the long term mean Sunspot number and the ocean equilibrium value too.

  23. tchannon says:

    Deeply brilliant.

  24. Joshua says:

    It’s an overheated debate I agree


    End times?

  25. tallbloke says:

    When Milady and I met Josh in person we had a riot. Great sense of humour.

  26. tallbloke says:

    “End times?”

    Is this some Anglo-American phrase I should understand in this context?

  27. Joshua says:

    Left Behind is a series of 16 best-selling novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, dealing with Christian dispensationalist End Times: pretribulation, premillennial, Christian eschatological viewpoint of the end of the world

    When you and I agree on something – it might be time to get worried.

  28. tallbloke says:

    Wildly off topic Joshua. Further distractions will be removed.

  29. Joshua says:

    Remove as you will, tallbloke; it’s your blog.

    I was making a joke about you and I agreeing being a sign of the apocalypse. Sorry if you find my jokes offensive or egregiously off-topic.

  30. Paul Vaughan says:

    Judith Curry writes:
    “JC conclusion: […] This is not the way to do it, and this kind of behavior, particularly from […] who is in a position of responsibility at a government lab […] will backfire on them.”

    Say it with a song:

    “So now you’d better STOP and rebuild all your ruin.
    Peace & trust can win the day despite all your losin’.”

    — Led Zeppelin

  31. Paul Vaughan says:

    Stephen Wilde, bear in mind that what people call “cosmic rays (CR)” is actually neutron Count Rate (nCR if you like). Think of it as in indicator of something solar – specifically the “something solar” that correlates MOST STRONGLY with terrestrial processes …out of ALL of the solar variables in the OMNI2 database – which is “a whack of data” in layman’s terms. Btw I looked carefully to make sure of this when I was refining and extending the seminal work of LeMouel, Blanter, Shnirman, & Courtillot (2010). Neutron count rate might be TIGHTLY confounded with something other than cosmic rays, but that “something else” isn’t something in the OMNI2 database. Possible exception: proton counts were close …but people are quick to point out that it’s protons that produce the neutrons that get counted ON EARTH, so what info does this add?… I’m not satisfied with explanations I hear from physicists about where the particles are coming from and how the proportions vary over time (i.e. stars vs. Sun). Anyway, the problem now is that people are erroneously conflating CR with clouds (that’s NOT how it works according to the data) when, as you point out, it’s not just clouds – i.e. NOTHING VITAL is riding on the very interesting [& expensive] CERN CLOUD experiment because the data have already spoken clearly [EOP (Earth Orientation Parameters) & global atmospheric angular momentum]. Another problem is that people aren’t thinking clearly about “global average cloud”. Does that mean a cloud in the polar night is the same as one on the equinoctial equator? Plenty of opportunity for online climate discussion participants to sharpen up conception & articulation. I advise everyone to get a firm handle on LeMouel, Blanter, Shnirman, & Courtillot (2010) with as little delay as possible. Without that, the discussion not only won’t advance; it literally can’t. I mean this in all seriousness and yes I’m asking for trust on this (knowing full well – & accepting upfront – that I won’t get it from everyone). Regards.

  32. Stephen Wilde says:

    Thanks Paul but I must admit that I have a bit of difficulty interpreting the concepts behind your words.

    I think I agree with the gist of what you say but it’s not clear enough to me to be sure.

    What I think happens is that for whatever reason the atmosphere expands when the sun is active and contracts when it is inactive.

    In the process the temperature of the stratosphere and mesosphere changes oppositely to the sign of the temperature change in thermosphere and troposphere.

    The effect is to draw the tropopause upward when the sun is active and push it down when the sun is less active. Globally averaged of course.

    The size and intensity of the polar vortices is a relevant factor and the outcome is latitudinal shifting of all the components of the surface air pressure distribution which changes the sizes and positions of the climate zones.

    That changes the energy budget via the speed of the water cycle.

    All the other features that you mention could well be components of such a process.

    So an active sun tries to COOL the system by changing the structure of the atmosphere to let energy OUT of the system FASTER via the higher tropopause but in the process clouds are drawn poleward to let more energy into the oceans which offsets the faster loss to space.

    The opposite when the sun is less active.

    So the cloud changes provide a negative response to the solar effect on the structure of the atmosphere and will apply the same negative response to changes in other factors such as the rate of energy release from the oceans or the amount of GHGs in the atmosphere.

    Thus whatever changes the vertical temperature profile of the atmosphere will cause cloudiness changes that then exert a negative response by adjusting energy flow into the oceans and what we then experience is shifting climate zones as the speed of energy flow through the system varies.

    It is a neat solution to the problem.

    It is the vertical temperature profile of the atmosphere that is key because that then causes the cloudiness changes.

  33. “So now you’d better STOP and rebuild all your ruin.
    Peace & trust can win the day despite all your losin’.”
    — Led Zeppelin

    Just when truth was needed someone told a lie —

  34. Paul Vaughan says:

    Stephen Wilde, Tallbloke, & Others,

    The sun modulates equator-pole pumping.
    That is what we know for sure.

    However, we MUST acknowledge interannual spatiotemporal variability.

    I’ve got my hands more than full already, particularly given HARD constraints on my time & finances. Some months ago I asked Bob Tisdale if he might find time to explore pole-equator differences (in absolutes, NOT anomalies). I already know in broad terms what will be found (from analyses demanding specialized interpretive skill), but the problem is that some volunteer with reach & talents in this area has to find the time to make illustrations that will be easily digested by a lay audience.

    Stephen is correct about changing atmospheric shape. That comes from solar-modulated changes in equator-pole pumping. [ http://wattsupwiththat.com/2010/12/23/confirmation-of-solar-forcing-of-the-semi-annual-variation-of-length-of-day/ ]

    At multidecadal timescales there’s another simple twist beyond this (analogous to DNA), which comes from differentially changing gradients since the sun affects continents & oceans differently and since the distribution of oceans & continents on Earth is hemispherically asymmetric. [For those looking to get a leg up on this one, google “differential pulse-position modulation”.]

    However, people will NEVER understand Chapter 3 if they haven’t yet grasped Chapter 1 FOUNDATIONS.

    I think someone like Bob Tisdale could help people (including Gavin Schmidt) get their conceptions right. Most of the discussion around clouds & the CERN CLOUD experiment (by alarmists & nonalarmists alike) FLIES IN THE FACE of what we already know from observations of EOP & AAM.


  35. Stephen Wilde says:


    I think that on longer timescales we can probably ignore short term effects such as interannual spatiotemporal variability.

    Translation – changes in the position and timing of air mass (or ocean) movements as a result of differences from one year to the next.

    The same applies to differential pulse-position modulation.

    Translation: different portions of the system change at different rates to other parts of the system as a result of moving pulses of energy through the system.

    However both those features become increasingly relevant to weather as the timsecales reduce and I can see that keeping track of them to produce better forecasts would be somewhat problematic given an element of chaotic variability in there too.

    However I see such matters as just an overlay on the basic process of a more active sun moving the climate zones poleward and a less active sun moving them equatorward.

    As far as global cloudiness changes are concerned I think we can ignore those short term variables. There was a decline in cloudiness from about 1975 to 2000 or so and an increase since. That is enough to direct us to the current trend in global system heat content but we have to wait for the oceanic lag to see more significant effects on tropospheric temperatures. Can’t be much longer now though.

  36. tallbloke says:

    Stephen: Uh-oh, you said the naughty word. 🙂

    On the subject of lags, I was interested to read the discussion between Leif and lgl regarding the heating of water on Paul’s thread linked above.

    Paul: do you believe the longer term changes in LOD arise from the integral sum of the short term changes due to AAM or do you now agree with Gross that subsurface flows likely play a larger role?

  37. Stephen Wilde says:

    lag, lag, lag ,lag ,lag. OOh, I am naughty 🙂

  38. Paul Vaughan says:

    Stephen, a few points:

    The reason why interannual spatiotemporal variations are so important:
    Those signals MASK:
    1. the solar modulation of semi-annual power.
    2. the differential solar-pulse-position modulation (which aliases into an observed multidecadal signal).

    Someone who doesn’t have a firm handle on the topological nature of interannual spatiotemporal variability will assuredly MISINTERPRET the stats. Serious misinterpretation of stats is pathologically widespread in the climate discussion (both academic & informal). This works out to be very convenient for those who prefer the perception & persuasion of “uncertainty”.

    Tallbloke & Stephen,

    On lags:
    If one has no observational data to spatially trace something that disappears from view and then reappears, we might speak of a “lag”, but the stuff was somewhere the whole time with lag zero. Where you guys see temporal “lags” I see spatiotemporal “phases”. It’s just semantic & paradigmatic. There’s no right or wrong framework for an informal discussion – just efforts to make sure we don’t misunderstand one another.

    Where we might actually disagree is on terrestrial aliasing of solar patterns. I know aliasing is front & center in Tim’s mind. That’s valuable awareness that Tim brings to the discussion.


    I haven’t seen any time series that support the abstract-assumption-based core models. I have seen observations which point with crystal clarity to the atmosphere. (However, there’s complex confounding. Years from now when I have 10 free minutes away from work, I have a tailored analysis to run on geomagnetic aa index that might help resolve longstanding controversial disputes.)

    A question for you:
    Do you understand the observation of solar modulation of semi-annual equator-pole pumping? (If so, that’s a step towards understanding how differential solar-pulse-position modulation aliases into OBSERVED multidecadal terrestrial variations.)

  39. tallbloke says:

    “Do you understand the observation of solar modulation of semi-annual equator-pole pumping?”

    Paul, yes, but with some caveats concerning interpretation. I’ve seen it said that meridional flow actually is more to do with coriolis/topography effects than thermodynamic pumping. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but variation of input is the key. I’m about to do a basic engineers back of envelope calc on LOD variation which might give some clue as to relative scale of effect.

  40. Paul Vaughan says:

    At semi-annual timescales? We must be having a misunderstanding.

  41. tallbloke says:

    How many months is a semi-annual timescale? A few examples of what you have in mind would be helpful. Or are you referring only to the orbital cycle and the pumping effect due to orbital eccentricity and the alternating seasons of the hemispheres?

  42. Paul Vaughan says:

    Summers/winters occur in opposite hemispheres every 6 months.

    Since this is SUCH an obvious no-brainer, I’ve prudently concluded that we’re having a misunderstanding (something which tends to happen quite easily via the online communication medium – just a hazard of the medium that we all have to live with – no one’s to blame, but we all share the responsibility of being careful about it).

    Best Regards.

  43. tallbloke says:

    Paul, I’d just updated/expanded my comment to try to clarify as you posted your comment.

    Here’s my interim calc, not sure if it’ll become an article yet.

    The volume of the Atlantic is 323,600,000 cubic kilometres = 3.326 x 10^17 m^3 with a mass of 3.40 x 10^20kg
    At the equator, the ocean is turning along with the Earth at 40,075.036 kilometers per day = 463.83m/sec
    When Earth’s length of day lengthens by 2 milliseconds, the velocity changes by 1.074 x 10^-5 m/sec
    Applying this acceleration to the mass of the ocean we find the force with which the Atlantic ocean pushes into Africa is 3.6516 x 10^20N
    This force is sufficient to lift half the ocean mass by 2.14m which is what must happen, since Africa refuses to move out of the way. This will change the rate of circulation of the north and south Atlantic ocean Gyres as the piled up water runs back down the hill towards America along the equator, accelerating the anticlockwise gyres when Earth slows on it’s axis and retarding them when Earth speeds up and water flows the other way.

    I haven’t yet worked out the magnitude of the change in rotation rate of the gyres. Comparing the magnitude of the force with the Moon’s tidal force, the lunar tidal acceleration at the Earth’s surface along the Moon-Earth axis is about 1.1 × 10−7 g. The equivalent acceleration for for LOD I get to be 1.39 x 10-8 g. However, due to the differential forces across latitudes, the force due to LOD may do more to spin the gyres than the Moon’s tides. Next I need to look at coriolis forces. =8-o

    “Trade Winds and Westerlies drag water along their path, causing surface water currents that move towards the W near the equator and towards the E in the mid-latitudes. Interaction of these currents with continents sets up a wind driven gyre system. Coriolis forces, however, tend to deflect water masses to the right (on N – hemisphere), causing a deflection to the right of the surface water current by 20 – 45°. The surface water
    interacts with water deeper below and drags it along. The Coriolis force, again, causes this deeper water to be deflected by 20-45° to the right with respect to the surface water, or about 40-90° with respect to the original wind current. Consequently, deeper water layers are moving at larger and larger offset angles, causing a net-transport of surface water at 90° to the original wind current into the center of the gyre where it piles up. The surface water tends to flow out of the gyre, but is again, deflected to the right by the Coriolis force, causing a geostrophic flow, which reinforces the original wind-driven gyre.”

    I’m not sure I follow this.

  44. Paul Vaughan says:

    I have no comment on your ocean modeling exercise Tallbloke. I stick to exploration of observations, in this case observations from the atmosphere (AAM = Atmospheric Angular Momentum), not the ocean.

    I hope people stop to realize the implications of objecting to the notion of differential solar-pulse-position modulation. Let’s break it down into 2 parts:
    1. solar-pulse-position modulation.
    2. differential.

    Objecting to 1 means:
    People believe there’s no solar max vs. solar min effect on Earth – whatsoever.

    Objecting to 2 means:
    People believe Earth has an INTERNAL clock with a stationary period of near 11 years.

    I do hope folks will think this through carefully.
    a. http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/scl_northpacificsst.png
    b. http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/scl_0-90n.png
    c. http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/vaughn_lod_amo_sc.png

    People may think I’m messing around. I’m not.

    Earth doesn’t only naturally integrate, it also naturally aliases. Differential pulse-position modulation of this [ http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/vaughn_lod_fig1b.png ] yields patterns a, b, & c. It’s actually dead simple, but misconceptions abound and people are conditioned to assume that the development of understanding of natural climate can only be incremental.


  45. tallbloke says:

    Paul, I don’t think you are messing around, and I’m impressed by your work. I just struggle to get to where you are by trying to follow your descriptions. I want to though, so please help me.

    I totally agree than semi-annual variation is important.
    I totally agree that solar cycle length variations are important.

    Looking at your graphs, I’m asking myself why the rate of change of LOD is correlating so well to the AMO. That’s why I did my calcs to see the energy scale of possible positive feedback between AAM and LOD. We need amplification mechanisms to get past objections that the phenomena are to energy weak to bring about observed changes in Tsfc.

    I appreciate that you are not trying to work out the physical mechanisms and just “exploring the observations”. I hope you can see however, that a consideration of possible mechanisms can lead to intelligent guesses concerning the choosing of potentially fruitful lines of data investigation. It seems to me that the potential benefit of our interaction lies in my ability to conceptualise the forces involved, thus elucidating resonance and feedback, and your creativity and knowledge of data investigation and representation techniques.

    In this case, I’m considering the following interlinking phenomena as one of the lines of feedback reinforcement:

    *Angular momentum exchange between solid Earth and atmosphere
    *Resulting change in LOD causes pile-up of water against continental mass, amplifying wind driven water pile-up.
    *Resulting upwelling of nutrient rich bottom water feeding planktonic blooms which generates UV protection for themselves via generation of airborne sulphurics promoting formation of CCN’s.
    *Resulting cloudiness over ocean sections changing surface temp and so creating pressure differentials.
    *Resulting wind leading to Angular momentum exchange between solid Earth and atmosphere…

    Are we on the same wavelength?

    Now, Your very wide graphs in your WUWT post seem to indicate you’ve found a very solid looking connection between Lunar cycles and LOD. Please tell me more, so I can have a think about how that links into the picture.


    P.S. I read the solar-semi annual LOD change paper three times, and I’m partway through two fat tomes by Leroux.

  46. Paul Vaughan says:

    Tallbloke, the mechanisms are already known. (In a rush – more later…)

  47. barn E. rubble says:

    RE: “No amount of huffing and puffing by Trenberth, Abrahams or Gleick changes that. Nor does the resignation of Wolfgang Wagner over the paper’s publication.”

    From a Canadian perspective, I can think of only 2 reasons to pull your goalie; and neither happens when you’re winning . . .


  48. tallbloke says:

    Paul says:
    Tallbloke, the mechanisms are already known.

    I know, but the energies are small. We need to get to grips with resonance.

    (In a rush – more later…)

    Hope so. I’ll set up a new post, There’s more to the developing Spencer & Braswell vs Dessler story to add to this thread.