Lacis at Curry's on Bengtsson

This is a copy (do I say, "reblogged"?) of a comment made by Andrew Lacis1 at Climate Etc (cite) just recently. As DA replied, its a breath of fresh air, but probably won't fare well there. So I'll give it more prominence (ha!) here. There's also a followup: Lacis: What is it that determines the terrestrial climate and how it changes?

A Lacis | May 25, 2014 at 3:22 am | Reply

I know Lennart Bengtsson as one of the reviewers of a paper of mine that was published in Tellus B a year ago. This was a paper was part of the Bert Bolin Symposium held in Stockholm in May 2012. In this paper I describe in detail why it is that atmospheric CO2 is the principal LW control knob that governs the global surface temperature of Earth. For those interested, this paper is available via the GISS webpage at
In writing this paper, I wanted to formulate the discussion of the global warming problem in terms of the basic physics involved, rather than presenting it as just another climate modeling exercise.

The other reviewer of this paper was Ray Pierrehumbert. Lennart Bengtsson is a classical meteorologist with decades of experience in that field; he also has a good understanding of atmospheric physics. Ray Pierrehumbert is known as an outspoken climate scientist; his recent book Principles of Planetary Climate describes well his credentials as a knowledgeable expert in climate science. Both reviewers had numerous criticisms on various aspects of my original manuscript. These criticisms led to a much improved paper, and I stated so in the acknowledgments. The kind of review that I wouldn’t like to see is one that says “Great paper! Publish as is!” To me, a review like that would be a clear indication that the reviewer most likely never read the paper, or simply did not care enough about the topic to express an opinion.

At 25 pages, the paper is a bit long, but it is composed of six distinct sections that are largely self-contained. RP thought the paper was at best a review paper with little new material; he thought that my comparison of the terrestrial greenhouse effect and those of Mars and Venus was weak; he objected to my describing the greenhouse effect as being driven by solar radiation; he liked the section demonstrating the fast-feedback response of water vapor feedback; but he thought that the section on radiative transfer was unnecessary and should have been deleted; and, RP was unhappy with the way I characterized of the run-away greenhouse aspect of ever increasing CO2 in the terrestrial atmosphere.

LB, on the other hand, rather liked the radiative transfer section and thought it provided a useful description of how radiative transfer was calculated; he wanted more discussion of how the greenhouse effect could be evaluated by direct observation; he also wanted more discussion on the nature of feedback effects, and thought that cloud feedback effects were handled poorly, in particular the cloud solar albedo component. LB also raised the issue of transient climate sensitivity vs equilibrium sensitivity. (The paper addresses the equilibrium sensitivity, and not the transient response, except in demonstrating the fast-feedback response of water vapor).

Both reviewers suggested multiple improvements to get the historical facts about the greenhouse effect described and referenced more accurately. Neither reviewer questioned the validity of the main theme of the paper, i.e., that atmospheric CO2 is the principal LW control knob of the terrestrial climate system.

Addressing all of these concerns and criticisms resulted in the quality paper as it now stands. Accordingly, I have absolutely no criticism to direct toward Lennart Bengtsson. What the current GWPF-Bengtsson brewhaha is all about, I really don’t know. And, I am not sufficiently motivated to investigate further. I have seen it pop up on Foxnews, and can surmise that Foxnews would not hesitate to spin and inflate any minor incident into another “climategate” conspiracy.

There are more than a few topics in the climate system where uncertainty abounds. But there are also some aspects of the global climate system that are quite well established and documented, such as the human-caused increase in atmospheric CO2, and the radiative effect of this CO2 increase to intensify the strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect, thus causing global warming and the accelerated melting of polar ice that will eventually make all coastal areas uninhabitable. This is the consequential and serious climate problem that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

In Lennart Bengtsson’s remarks on his view on climate research, there is one telling sentence that summarizes Lennart’s perspective on climate change. Lennart states that “Climate is nothing but the sum of all weather events during some representative period of time.” Superficially, the statement is quite correct. But fundamentally, that statement is flat wrong. This is because climate is a boundary value problem in physics, while weather is an initial value problem. The physical nature of these two problems is quite different, so also is the numerical approach that has to be taken in order to model climate change, and to forecast the changing weather.

In my Tellus B paper, I described the ongoing global warming as a cause-and-effect problem in physics. Understandably, Lennart Bengtsson might be inclined to view the global warming problem from his meteorology perspective in terms of changing weather patterns. But there is a reason why summer weather is warmer than winter weather. And there is a similar physics-based reason why global warming will change the weather patterns as the global temperature rises. There is substantially more uncertainty in how the local and regional weather patterns will change than in how the global temperature will change. So, when it comes to discussing regional climate change, as opposed to global climate change, there is far more room for differences in opinion.

As for Lennart’s joining GWPF, then resigning – I have not formed an opinion. Perhaps Lennart Bengtsson was hoping to instill some rationality to an organization that could benefit from an improved understanding of climate. Perhaps Lennart’s colleagues then persuaded him that that objective would be a hopeless endeavor.

If I really thought that I could instill some common sense regarding the nature of global climate change to such organizations like the Cato, Heartland, and George C. Marshall Institutes (among others), I too would be more than willing to go talk to them. But their goal and agenda (on behalf of the short-sighted interests of the fossil fuel industries) is to spread disinformation about global warming, rather than to seek a clearer understanding of global climate change. Thus, I don’t think that they would really want to hear from me. So far, they have succeeded in deceiving, duping, and brainwashing a significant fraction of the American public into believing that global warming is some sort of hoax perpetrated by the climate scientists.

This unfortunate nonsense needs to be counteracted by continuing to repeat ever more clearly the basic facts and physics of global climate change. As the climate effects of global warming become ever more apparent (increases in larger weather extremes – droughts, floods, forest fires), the public awareness will shift in favor of the science and away from the climate deniers.

Climate etc. denizens should keep in mind that the consequences of global warming are not a question of “if”, but of “when”, and that the climate modeling uncertainties are not one-sided, but cut both ways. Thus, the nasty stuff in ecological disruption and the rise in sea level that is predicted to happen by the end of the century could be arriving a lot sooner than expected, accompanied perhaps by totally unanticipated maladies.

Follow up by Lacis

I would say that AL's words largely fell on deaf ears, no great surprise there. But he felt moved to reply, so I'll copy it in here:

Some remarks regarding some of the comments from above

Skippy –
The universe – and the terrestrial climate system – both operate according to the laws of physics. That means that even the chaotic looking climate system variability is ultimately the result of cause-and-effect physical processes subject to the conservation of energy. That makes climate modeling possible, and understandable. Things don’t just happen for no reason at all.

nottawa rafter –
Climate is best understood as a problem in physics. The natural variability of the climate system is too large, and the documented climate record is too short to enable a clear understanding of climate change in terms of its statistical variability alone. By the way, I am not looking for enemies. By definition, climate skeptics are those who do not yet have a clear understanding of the climate problem at hand. Climate deniers are those who have made up their minds without taking the time to consider the relevant facts and physics. You should not be so trusting as to automatically believe everything that is said in the public forum either for or against the ongoing global climate change. There really are organized efforts out there to deliberately spread disinformation about climate change. Climate change is a matter of physics. If you stay focused on the basic physics of global climate change, you will be less likely to become misinformed.

Pekka –
Whether or not a discussion is productive depends on the expectations of the participants, and I suppose, the expectations of any onlookers as well. I have set the bar rather low for myself in that if I feel that I have made my point clearly enough, then my expectations have been met. If anybody else finds my statements informative, then I am gratified beyond my expectations. Also, I don’t harbor expectations that any of my comments will positively advance the understanding of climate by Climate etc. denizens – that way I will never be disappointed. Occasionally, there are comments made here by some people that are useful and informative – that is a plus. But at this point in time I am more interested in the science of global warming, and much less about all the possible options and costs of adaptation, mitigation, and/or geoengineering countermeasures to counteract global warming.

Steve Fitzpatrick –
Glad to hear that you are not influenced by the likes of Heartland and Cato Institute propaganda. But I would not say that makes you have a good understanding of the basic physics relevant to global warming. Try reading that Tellus B paper I mentioned above. It is not just me who is blaming the fossil fuel interests for spreading climate change misinformation – the Koch brothers efforts in this effort have been well documented by many others. As for MY failure to convince people, I tend not to blame myself too much, being satisfied for the most part in just placing my climate research material out in the public forum. How about YOUR failure to understand the basic aspects of the global warming problem? Who do blame for that?

Don Monfort –
I don’t really care that much what some climate dissenters may or may not think about global climate change – they all have the Constitutional right to believe whatever their hearts may desire to believe, even if their beliefs are totally contrary to reality. But when people make deliberately erroneous public statements regarding the nature of global climate change, then we do have an obligation to make an effort to correct those misrepresentations – that’s part of our job. Then too, the climate system could not possibly care less whether some public opinion poll is 57% against with 13% undecided. The climate system responds only to the laws of physics, and to the fact that atmospheric CO2 has continued to increase.

Rud Istvan –
While the EPA and WMO are both respectable government supported organizations, why on Earth would you take as the Gospel Truth their arbitrary definition that climate is weather averaged over 30 years? Relying on the basic physics approach taken for weather forecasting and climate modeling provides a far more reliable assessment. As you may know, weather forecasts begin with an accurate characterization of the reference pressure, wind, temperature, and humidity fields. Hydrodynamic modeling calculates how this atmospheric reference state evolves with time. After about a week of simulated time, the unresolved eddy energies will have overwhelmed the initial wind field configuration, and the weather forecast will have totally exhausted its predictive capability. In climate modeling, while the evolving weather patterns are continuously being calculated, it is only the statistical distribution of these weather patterns that is of interest. There is obviously a reference atmosphere that serves as the initial modeling starting point, but it does not define the final equilibrium state of the modeled climate – that is defined by all the radiative forcings that define that particular climate change simulation. A notable example of climate forcing in action is the seasonal change from warm weather in the summer time to cold weather in the winter time, driven the seasonal shift in solar irradiance. Over longer time scales, it is the radiative flux imbalance at the top of the atmosphere due to changes in greenhouse gases, solar luminosity, or aerosol distributions that drive the climate system toward a new energy balance equilibrium.

jim2 –
It is very important to distinguish between the natural variability of the climate system (in particular the local and regional variability) and the steadily rising global warming component (which is the long-term problem that we need to worry about). Droughts, heat waves, and floods have many contributing factors. So it is not really a proper inference to state that a particular extreme weather event either was, or was not, caused by the increase in atmospheric CO2. Suffice it to say that with global warming, the sea surface temperatures are warmer and the atmosphere can hold more water vapor (the principal fuel for weather activity). Climate models suggest that a more strongly activated hydrological cycle arising from global warming enhances weather extremes such as droughts, floods, and heat waves. In regard to the likes of Cato, Heartland, and Marshall Institutes, what makes you thing that these “Institutes” are really interested in understanding global climate change. Typically, the publications that they produce do not pass objective scientific muster, and are not designed to inform but rather are designed to confuse and obfuscate climate science issues. Take for example their NIPCC report, total garbage compared to the far more objective analysis of climate science as reported in the series of IPCC reports.

R. Gates –
The climate modeling runs in the 2013 Tellus B paper were designed to simulate the equilibrium climate response over a wide range of CO2 concentrations. So, the ocean heat content was never an issue. Proper accounting of the ocean heat content is an important issue for transient climate simulations over the recorded surface temperature period. For those climate simulations a fully interactive coupled atmosphere-ocean model is used with the full SW and LW radiative effects of all major volcanoes included. A detailed description of such climate simulations for the 1880-2003 time period with the GISS climate GCM can be found at via the GISS webpage at

Canman –
It might appear that the global warming problem merits little urgency since the rise in global temperature is slow in coming and sometimes even exhibits pauses in the steady rise in global temperature. The climate indicator that you should be watching is the unending rise in the atmospheric CO2 concentration (now topping 400 ppm compared to the interglacial maximum of 280 ppm). Failure to address that problem serves only to make fixing the climate problem that much more difficult. This will surely make life that much more miserable for future generations. But perhaps that does not concern you.

mosomoso –
I am sure that you will not be disappointed if continued global warming brings more fire and drought episodes to the outback. Same here for your conservative Foxfriends in the southwest. As the polar ice keeps on melting at an accelerating pace, the sea level has nowhere else to go but up. If you happen to reside on high ground, then you have nothing at all to worry about. It is just us low-lifers here in New York, Miami, and New Orleans that might need to be thinking about re-locating before this century runs out of time.

Raving –
Modeling climate is indeed a boundary value in physics. But the radiative forcing at the top of this atmospheric boundary is actually NOT constant. That is why we have a climate problem. It appears that it is the desire of the humans to want to keep burning 10 cubic km of fossil fuel per year so as to increase the concentration of atmospheric CO2. This upsets the radiative energy balance of the Earth causing the global surface temperature to rise, the polar ice to melt, the sea level to rise, etc.

Jim D –
If understanding could be so easily achieved, I am sure that a great many of us would be more than willing to engage in discussing climate issues with Cato and Heartland denizens, even Congressional Republicans. But I hardly think it rational to expect good things to happen when there is so much irrationality to overcome to deal with.

kim –
Sour grapes – buying or selling?

David Young –
Bob Woodward resolved the Watergate problem by adopting the approach of “follow the money”. In modeling climate you need to adopt a similar recipe, except that in climate you “follow the energy”, and make damn sure that energy (also mass, water substance, angular momentum, and vorticity) stays conserved at every single modeling time step.

Steven Mosher –
Interesting contemplations about improving the climate discourse. Like the saying goes, you can bring horses to water, but you can’t make them discuss climate in any productively rational manner. Would discussions with climate skeptics and climate deniers actually accomplish anything useful? I suppose that we will never know, if we don’t try. But I remain skeptical that Pat Michaels would even care to read my comments here on the Climate etc. blog. The principal objective of any meaningful discussion would be to first establish a clear understanding of just what are the relevant facts and physics of global warming. But that is a topic that the climate skeptics tend to avoid – because they can’t win their case on that topic.

AK –
Climate modeling, as it is performed with current state-of-the-art climate GCMs, is basically a problem in physics, and not one of statistics or abstract mathematics. You should look at the Hansen et al. (1983) paper which describes the primitive equations that are being solved to simulate the atmospheric dynamics. There is also the current GISS ModelE2 version at Or, for a simplified conceptual overview, but with a more detailed description of the radiative transfer modeling, there is my 2013 Tellus B paper at There are also a great many climate modeling simulations generated with the GISS ModelE version at with more than a superficial resemblance to real-world climate variability.

GaryM –
I think you are viewing the climate science landscape through the wrong end of the telescope. I would characterize most climate scientists as being quite objective as to the basic nature of climate change. And I tend to see the “skeptics” as being stuck in their dogmatic views, unable to comprehend the basic facts and physics of global warming that are really quite well understood. At the same time it is also well known that there are some aspects and areas of climate modeling that have significant degrees of uncertainty. The climate system is after all quite complex. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be understood if there are some aspects that are less well understood. I do tend to view organizations such as GWPF, Cato, and Heartland as having a set dogma and agenda on global warming with a distinct reluctance to accept or address the basic facts and physics. Can holding discussions with these guys really lead to improved understanding?

Jacob –
What makes you think that fossil fuel industries don’t have interests?

Fernando Leanme –
The recent paper by Hansen et al. (2011) available from the GISS webpage at should provide a good description of the Earth’ energy imbalance and its implications.


1. At least, I assume its by him. I have no way to verify this2.

2. I now know it really was him.

More like this

Thanks for the re-blog.

Lacis is far too sensible for the seedy crowd at dotty Aunt Judy's place, of course. Is he wasting his efforts there any less than he would be at GWPF? Well, at least his name isn't on the masthead.

"But there are also some aspects of the global climate system that are quite well established and documented, such as the human-caused increase in atmospheric CO2, and the radiative effect of this CO2 increase to intensify the strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect,"

Thanks a lot. So we can settle the science concerning "Climate Sensitivity"? You just did.

By Jimmy Senkov (not verified) on 25 May 2014 #permalink

A marker like that is quite useful.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 25 May 2014 #permalink

@Jimmy, you've misinterpreted "climate sensitivity." It's a specific number, not the general concept of the ability of "the radiative effect of this CO2 increase to intensify the strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect."

By Don Brooks (not verified) on 25 May 2014 #permalink

Nice to see Lacis' comments about the seasons. I must admit, when I read Lennart Bengtsson's remarks about chaos theory I wondered what kind of coincidences he figured were behind summer being so often warmer than winter.

By Mark Ryan (not verified) on 25 May 2014 #permalink

Lacis sounded reasonable & calm until he went & spoilt it all with the conspiracy theory rant. Evil scientists & others, paid by big oil, out to destroy the earth. Please.

And to top it off, the 'must act now or we're doomed scenario' is growing ever more tiresome.

He states -"there are also some aspects of the global climate system that are quite well established and documented, such as the human-caused increase in atmospheric CO2, and the radiative effect of this CO2 increase to intensify the strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect."

yes, & that is

ΔF = 5.35 x 1n C/Co W/m2

2 x CO2 = 3.7 W/m2 x 0.3 °C = 1°C

That's not catastrophic, it's mild warming well within historic natural values. The strong amplification shown in models, needed to make it catastrophic are missing in the observations.

[You're forgetting feedbacks -W]

Well, you've been one of those who have enthusiastically trashed Curry, but perhaps you're unaware that Lacis has done several guest posts there.

As for his welcome, obviously the consensus type commenters were thrilled to see him, but the scurrilous skeptics managed to say things like,

"Dr Lacis has provided a very interesting insight and it would be nice to get more such input here, but I dare say many scientists are put off commenting by the continual and increasingly irritating food fights and outright snark that often go on here."

"lowlot, quite evidently neither you nor Appell actually read what Andy Lacis wrote, otherwise you’d know that there’s no reason to attack him over anything he wrote within the context of this thread."

I thought 99% of your comments were objective and balanced. A thoughtful piece. Until you said the public was being brainwashed."

"It is clear that you want to convince people about the potential for catastrophic consequences. Fair enough. But you aren’t making much progress, so I would suggest three things if you want to actually engage those who are skeptical of the future consequences of warming:..."

You keep painting your opponents as rabid dogs. They aren't and it just makes it tougher for a reconciliation that has to happen if we are to move forward.

[I don't think you know what is going on -W]

By Tom Fuller (not verified) on 26 May 2014 #permalink

Nic Lewis's critique would be more interesting if he actually acknowledged that the AMO probably does still have a forced component and probably isn't - as currently defined - necessarily a good representation of internal variability. Happy to be corrected by those who know more, but the AMO is - I think - simply a detrended sea surface temperature dataset. So, it would only properly represent internal variability if the forcings (anthro, solar, volcanoes) only contributed to the linear trend. Since they probably don't, the AMO is probably still partly forced. What Mann was trying to do therefore (identify the underlying forced contribution and then determine the residual) seems interesting, even if he did make some kind of mistake in his analysis (which I don't know, because I haven't been through it in any detail).

By And Then There… (not verified) on 26 May 2014 #permalink

> [You're forgetting feedbacks -W]

No, I clearly mentioned amplification.

[Only in order to ignore it; that's not good enough. Your 1o C figure forgets feedbacks, so is meaningless by itself. "The strong amplification shown in models, needed to make it catastrophic are missing in the observations." isn't really clear. I'll parse it as "(a) only catastrophe is worth worrying about, and (b) you're sub-classing the models by feedback amount and (c) the obs (unspecified) rule out some of the models". (a) is wrong, obviously. (b) is a sensible thing to do, but should be done more clearly. (c) is close to false, depending on exactly what you mean -W]

Your apparent belief that all models produce strong amplification is wrong (although it isn't clear what you mean - perhaps you mean that only those models with strong feedbacks are ruled out, which is wrong too), as is your apparent belief that there is nothing in between -W]

#7 is also forgetting the increase in aerosol negative forcing over the last several decades.

And who TF is "Will"?

That was, obviously, a rhetorical question, WMC.

[:-) TbZ is on moderation, and will remain so until he can learn some manners -W]

Or, why Nic Lewis is wrong. (agane)…

Any reason that Nic's comment is on all the usual denial sites, instead of being submitted to GRL? Peer review?

Of course the Mann, Steinmann & Miller abstract says that "Claims of multidecadal “stadium wave” patterns of variation across multiple climate indices are also shown to likely be an artifact of this flawed procedure for isolating putative climate oscillations."
A red rag to a Curry?

[Tol going round in circles chez JA I see -W]

Is there anything in climate science that Nic Lewis isn't suddenly an expert in?

NL's contrarian agenda is now so well established and widely known that his credibility must surely be suffering.

Further star turns at JC's or Bishop Hill aren't going to help, so hopefully he will keep on providing them.

NL’s contrarian agenda is now so well established and widely known that his credibility must surely be suffering.

BBD, you clearly don't understand how you build credibility in the climate debate :-)

If this comment gets through, I have another that seems to be stuck in moderation.

[You used a naughty word, you bad boy -W]

By And Then There… (not verified) on 26 May 2014 #permalink

Naturally I liked this remark..

These criticisms led to a much improved paper, and I stated so in the acknowledgments.

because it exemplified the point
made in the footnote
except that Andrew Lacis generously acknowledged the referees.

By deconvoluter (not verified) on 26 May 2014 #permalink

AL deserves a medal. What is so depressing about this is that if it were pretty much any other topic, a senior scientist in the field pitching up in blog comments would be met with enthusiasm, gratitude and questions, not so much opinion.

Glad to see you've put that trouble-maker ATTP into moderation btw. Long overdue.


the IPCC states that water vapour feed-back is by far the strongest feedback & the stronger the water vapour feed-back in their models – the stronger the negative lapse rate feed-back {{cn}}.

RSS temp data for the mid & lower troposphere clearly shows that lapse rate feed-back is not negative {{cn}} as the IPCC models projected {{cn}}, but positive; this along with the data that shows atmospheric water vapour has not increased but decreased {{cn}} confirms {{cn}} that amplification is not occurring in the real world.

[I've added {{cn}}'s for the places you need citations to the texts concerned, or where you need to make it clear whether you're (claiming to report results of scientific papers, or your own synthesis) -W]

> [TbZ is on moderation, and will remain so until he can learn some manners -W]

After reading your 'Ha ha: Lennart Bengtsson' article I felt compelled to respond to you for the demeaning & arrogant way in which you refereed to him. And then to condone your own behaviour by using examples of supposedly "disgraceful treatment" by others of Mann is hypocritical & childish, as I have already pointed out.

In my opinion you owe Lennart Bengtsson an apology.
And if your behaviour is acceptable then expect sinilar in return.

If negative feedback dominates it should suppress GAT variability but that's not what happens, from paleoclimate to the modern instrumental record.

Forgive me for veering briefly off topic. I thought you'd like to know of this: '75 author of the notorious "global cooling" story speaks.…

[Thanks, yes, I'd seen that. I really ought to do a post on it though. My initial very rough read and thought was that it doesn't add much, and he's still a touch defensive -W]

{{cn}} # 1, 3 - IPCC What Explains the Current Spread in Models’ Climate Sensitivity Estimates?
In AOGCMs, the water vapour feedback constitutes by far the strongest feedback, with a multi-model mean and standard deviation for the MMD at PCMDI of 1.80 ± 0.18 W m–2 °C–1, followed by the (negative) lapse rate feedback (–0.84 ± 0.26 W m–2 °C–1) and the surface albedo feedback (0.26 ± 0.08 W m–2 °C–1). The cloud feedback mean is 0.69 W m–2 °C–1 with a very large inter-model spread of ±0.38 W m–2 °C–1 (Soden and Held, 2006).

Because the water vapour and temperature responses are tightly coupled in the troposphere (see Section, models with a larger (negative) lapse rate feedback also have a larger (positive) water vapour feedback. These act to offset each other (see Box 8.1). As a result, it is more reasonable to consider the sum of water vapour and lapse rate feedbacks as a single quantity when analysing the causes of inter-model variability in climate sensitivity.

Isaac M. Held and Brian J. Soden
Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory/National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, Princeton, New Jersey 08542
“Models of the Earth’s climate indicate that Positive water vapour feedback is an important positive feedback that increases the sensitivity of surface temperatures to carbon dioxide by nearly a factor of two when considered in isolation from other feedbacks, and possibly by as much as a factor of three or more when interactions with other feedbacks are considered.”

{{cn}} # 2 _ RSS data

RSS Temperature Middle Troposphere (TMT) Anomalies 1979 to Present
Trend = 0.077 K/decade…

RSS Temperature Lower Troposphere (TLT) Anomalies 1979 to Present
Trend = 0.124 K/decade…

Data shows positive - not negative lapse rate feedback (opposite to models)

[Those are just plots of temperature variation. As the quote above, which you've so helpfully provided, says "it is more reasonable to consider the sum of water vapour and lapse rate feedbacks as a single quantity". So I'm puzzled as to how you tease "positive - not negative lapse rate feedback" out of those pictures. Could you elucidate? -W]

{{cn}} # 4, 5
From an article by Dr. Robert G. Brown of the Physics Department at Duke University.
Is the climate computable?
Posted on May 21, 2014
On positive water vapour feedback -
“This last assumption is finally dying a quiet and well deserved death. AFAIK, it is due to Hansen, who in his original papers predicting disaster assumed universally positive water vapor feedback (and for no particularly scientifically motivated reason that I can see, hypothesized truly absurd levels of water vapor feedback that doubled or tripled the CO_2-only warming of his then very simple models). Naturally, some of the GCMs out there have built into them parametric assumptions that preserve this much “climate sensitivity” — total ACO_2 warming plus feedback, usually at the expense of an overdriven response to e.g. volcanic aerosols necessary to explain periods of global cooling and to keep the model from having a runaway exponential instability (because one has to have a mechanism that keeps positive feedback water vapor from causing increase of water vapor without bound just from FLUCTUATIONS in water vapor content or global temperature — the climate cannot be a biased random walk where every time the temperature goes up a bit, average water vapor increases and hence resets the Earth’s average temperature a bit higher unless a competing process can completely erase the gain when the temperature fluctuates down a bit).

“At the moment, estimates of climate sensitivity are struggling to retain any net positive feedback from water vapor in the face of data that already solidly excludes the kind of absurd feedback levels Hansen originally hypothesized. Even the question of net negative feedback from water vapor, long considered to be anathema in climate science (except for a few mavericks who managed to publish papers suggesting that clouds could easily lead to net negative feedback through the dual mechanism of latent heat transport and modulation of albedo) is no longer completely off of the table.”…

[Brown is silly. I've already done of of his earlier ones (; I didn't really want to read yet another error-riddled "computable" post. To give your quote some context, without which it doesn't make sense: preserve the central tenet that CO_2 causes X amount of baseline warming that is on average augmented by additional water vapor. This last assumption is finally dying a quiet and well deserved death. This appears to be the std.septic mistake when "looking" at WV feedback in the models: the unshakeable believe that it is prescribed, when it isn't. Brown is simply making things up; you need to actually try looking at how WV is included in the models, rather than believing people who just don't know -W]

and further from McKitrick;
the original paper – Panel and Multivariate Methods for Tests of Trend Equivalence in Climate Data Series
and the follow up paper - Multivariate trend comparisons between autocorrelated climate series with general trend regressors

Lacis seems spot on. His message gets lost when the discussion devolves into political motivations of various political organizations. Science isn't bounded by "good" and "evil." The review comments on Laci's paper were scientific opinions based on the scientific backgrounds of those reviewers even as they differed. To an extent, I'm glad the "good" vs "evil" scientific arguments have congealed around climate change. That allows organizations like the Vatican to actually fund astronomical research without having the researchers being hounded away because of the churches history and beliefs. Perhaps someday, the scientists that couch their colleagues work on "good" vs. "evil" based on their associations will end and they will realize that there are no "evil" scientific contributions or contributors. This is the future of climate research funding and understanding. The sooner the labels are dropped, the sooner solutions can be implemented. The reality is that energy replacements and improvements can't/won't happen without energy companies.

[I think the shame about Lacis's comment - which I entirely expected, it was inevitable - that the people who most need to read it, read it partially; or reject the important bits of it -W]

By Tim Beatty (not verified) on 26 May 2014 #permalink

Re #94

Its not so off topic as you will see.
William is an expert and has lots of references.

People in the UK tended to be influenced by BBC TV, rather than Newsweek, and Peter Gwynne's (PG) counterpart in the UK was Nigel Calder (NC) who had published a letter on the timing of the ice ages and its relationship to the Milankovitch effect. Its out of date now, but at the time was peer-reviewed.

So far so good. But then NC did what others have done (probably including Benctsson) which is to hype a publication into a non peer reviewed opinion piece. The resulting unbalanced review called the 'Weather Machine' discussed the 'possibility' of an imminent ice age while discounting anthropogenic effects. This led to a TV programme of the same name broadcast by the BBC. It was so sensational that almost everybody * saw and discussed it. Unlike PG, NC has never recanted his contribution. Only the other day, Matt Ridley was on Radio 4 recalling this myth.
* A possible research topic into the influence of the media?

[Nigel Calder still believes all that stuff, BTW, or did when we last conversed, perhaps 5-10 years ago -W]

By deconvoluter (not verified) on 26 May 2014 #permalink


Wake me up when you win your Nobel for overturning mainstream science, OK? Until then, you're just a crank.

[Meh. Without wishing to offend you, I'd rather not see this kind of comment. If you wonder why, take a glance at the comments at Curry's -W]

You write, "[I don't think you know what is going on -W]"

Funnily enough I feel exactly the same about you. What were the odds...

By Tom Fuller (not verified) on 26 May 2014 #permalink

How much does the review process differ from journal to journal and paper to paper? The reviews of AL's paper seem more thoughtful and detailed than those of LB's.

I have a question about the lack of innovation in LB's paper. Does this mean that the methods and equations et al used have been used before, perhaps often?

By Paul Kelly (not verified) on 27 May 2014 #permalink

Paul Kelly,
I have a question about the lack of innovation in LB’s paper. Does this mean that the methods and equations et al used have been used before, perhaps often?

I haven't seen the submitted paper, but I did see a conference paper that appeared to be a pre-cursor to what was submitted. Essentially, yes the paper didn't do anything that hasn't been done recently. The results were essentially the same, but there were actual errors (incorrect baselining of some of the terms). So, nothing particularly new. That was one issue. Another was that the other authors had recognised that some of these methods are rather simplistic and don't capture all aspects of the system and may well be underestimates of climate sensitivity. The Bengtsson paper appears to have, however, drawn much stronger conclusion from the differences between the different methods than would seem warranted, given these uncertainties.

By And Then There… (not verified) on 27 May 2014 #permalink

#29 re "the lack of innovation in LB’s paper. Does this mean that the methods and equations et al used have been used before, perhaps often?"

See the Statement from IOP Publishing…

The first referee report states:
"The overall innovation of the manuscript is very low, as the calculations made to compare the three studies are already available within each of the sources, most directly in Otto et al."

What possible physical process could produce a positive lapse rate feedback? Seriously, I can't even begin to imagine how that could work.

As far as lapse rate feedbacks are concerned, this is worth reading

What I think Tby...Z is forgetting - amongst other things - is that the water vapour provides an additional change in radiative forcing. So, in the absence of a lapse rate feedback, you could estimate the change in temperature as

dT = (dQ_anthro +dQ_wv)/(4 \sigma T^3)

The lapse rate feedback acts to change this dT because it changes the temperature profile. However, it can't really change it so that it completely removes the radiative influence of the water vapour, because I think that would be logically inconsistent. If I've read the link I provided properly, the overall effect is - consequently - quite small.

By And Then There… (not verified) on 27 May 2014 #permalink

I notice that TbZ simply ignored my earlier comment, so I will repeat it:

If negative feedback dominates it should suppress GAT variability in response to radiative perturbation but that’s not what happens, from paleoclimate to the modern instrumental record.

TbZ is just misinterpreting what he's read. The IPCC report notes that, in models, differences in lapse rate and WV feedback mostly cancel out so that it is convenient to consider both feedbacks together when comparing models. This does not mean that if lapse rate feedback is found to be positive in the real world that WV feedback is therefore negative.

At least that's how I read the section.

I thought Lacis's coment was reasonable enough, but now that you added his responses to specific comments I am much less impressed. In fact, it is he that does not know what he is doing or talking about. Yes, of course, it is about physics, but when the physics become so complex that it is impossible to accurately model in closed form, then it very much becomes an issue of satistics and modelling strategy. His apparent inability to understand that really calls all else into question.

but when the physics become so complex that it is impossible to accurately model in closed form

You have evidence for this, right? Published in a high impact journal, not on a blog, of course.

As WMC might say, {{cn}}

Got news for you BBD, Lacis does not have any evidence for the opposite position. It will be a long time before there is conclusive evidence either way.

But "the models" exist and work, Tom C. You, on the other hand are arguing from assertion alone.

Talking of minority views in blog comments, I think Nick Stokes at climateaudit needs a medal for putting up with its denizens and host on the Bengsston thread.

[Whenever I venture into the WUWT comments I find him a near-lone voice of sanity. Perhaps there should be a "Nick Stokes medal" for valour in comment threads -W]

By Steve Milesworthy (not verified) on 28 May 2014 #permalink

TF: You keep painting your opponents as rabid dogs.

No painting is required. Observations from those who are not rabid dogs are useful.

We have McI going total Godwin. And this week we have AW losing his cool after Nick Stokes tries to be helpful. Both are prominent leaders of the tribe.

NS: What data? They are simply making a perfectly valid statement about CO2 increase and the forcings. You can measure and talk about CO2 concentration without getting into temperature issues.

REPLY: Oh, bullshit, you left out this part: “the warming effect on our climate – over the decade 2002-2012″. Nick Go obfuscate the truth someplace else. Now I’m SURE you are a paid troll. – Anthony…

Why does AW claim NS is a "paid troll"? Because he has the nerve to disagree with AW and be one of the earlier commenters on some of his threads. There's that old saying that goes something like "a lie gets around the world before the truth puts its boots on". AW is furious that his material has only made it to Nevada before NS shows up.

There are many daily examples of rabidness, as Sou has the stomach to read, and sadly, they are the norm rather than the exception. There's a lot the tribe could learn about science if they stopped yelling, screaming, and spitting at scientists, and instead spent some serious effort at it without the blinding filters. For ideological reasons, I think some are truly afraid of what they might find. AL gets at that.

Tom C
Yes, of course, it is about physics, but when the physics become so complex that it is impossible to accurately model in closed form, then it very much becomes an issue of satistics and modelling strategy.

Red herring.

There is no "closed form" solution to many physical problems (most, in fact).

Are you "skeptical" that aircraft can fly or that space probes can be soft-landed on other planets?

By The Very Rever… (not verified) on 28 May 2014 #permalink

TVRJH, flight by airplanes is obviously impossible.

"TVRJH, flight by airplanes is obviously impossible."

or is it those gravitationist scientists making things up for that sweet grant money? they say "gravity" is supposed to make things fall to the ground, but also that there are things that don't? explain that, Einstein!

New York J, I don't think the remarks you quote rise to the level of rabid. I on the other hand could quickly find comments from people you know quite well--people you would quickly recognize, that do.

As for Anthony, given that one of your pals said he'd like to 'rip the motherfucker's throat out', I believe in comparison he was the model of restraint.

I don't think Stokes is a paid troll. 'Considering what they'll do unbribed, there's no reason to', and all that.

By thomaswfuller2 (not verified) on 29 May 2014 #permalink

I think Tom Fuller is projecting in his comment about Nick Stokes.

TF is projecting in general. He does that.

An example of "comments from people you know quite well–people you would quickly recognize, that do."

Thomas Fuller of Lukewarmer's Way: "Michael Mann, shoddy workman, arrogant child, power hungry jerk. Go to hell. Peter Gleick, thief, liar and fool–you too. Stephan Lewandowsky, charlatan, pimp and village idiot–begone,wretch."

I felt dirty just reading that. Need a shower.

The Lacis comment is for the most part well written and well argued. There is much common ground in it that all thinking people to this argument can agree with. But, it’s passages like this that hurt this effort:

“There are more than a few topics in the climate system where uncertainty abounds.” AGREED

“But there are also some aspects of the global climate system that are quite well established and documented, such as the human-caused increase in atmospheric CO2”, AGREED

“and the radiative effect of this CO2 increase to intensify the strength of the terrestrial greenhouse effect,” AGREED

“thus causing global warming” AGREED

“and the accelerated melting of polar ice that will eventually make all coastal areas uninhabitable.” Now, this statement just does not belong in the same class as the others. It is not clear that the south polar ice, the only polar ice that has a clear effect on sea level, is moving to the ocean in a significant way. There may be loss of ice through mechanical means that can have significant sea level effect but who truly knows what role, if any, atmospheric CO2 has on this activity. Also, stating “making all coastal areas uninhabitable” is just too strong for general agreement. If he states that as his opinion, no problem, but to state this in the same tone and confidence as man’s contributing to increased CO2 levels hurts his credibility.

[The statement is correct; you should be objecting to the unexpressed timescales. There's a pretty good case (probably stronger) for the eventual melt of Greenland, and bits of W Ant, adding up to 5-10 m is SLR; and that being human caused; but that won't be for quite a long time; certainly not this century -W]

“and the accelerated melting of polar ice that will eventually make all coastal areas uninhabitable” can't be true, as new habitable coastal areas will be formed inland of the current coast.

The real point is that "eventually" reasonably infers a couple of centuries, within the next 86 years would be rather immanent though not on the short-term political timescale which doesn't look beyond four or five years..

dave s -- "can’t be true, as new habitable coastal areas will be formed inland of the current coast."

umm dave, isn't it likely he was referring to *current* coastal areas becoming uninhabitable? And isn't it also likely that the areas that will become coastal are *already* inhabited? And isn't it true that for some countries (small island nations) their total land area will just disappear? Other than that ... :/

By Kevin O'Neill (not verified) on 31 May 2014 #permalink

Was being a bit pedantic saying that it can't be true that "accelerated melting of polar ice that will eventually make all coastal areas uninhabitable", but really it should be explicit rather than vaguely implied that this refers to existing coastal areas, not all coastal areas over time.

Also, it seems rather dubious even for existing coastal areas: I live in a coastal town, and although only about 6 minutes walk from the sea, my house is around 30m above sea level and my previous house just up the road is about 50m above sea level. Other houses are higher uphill.
The figures currently being mentioned suggest 10m rise over the next few centuries, this would be inconvenient for transport access as the main roads and railways would be underwater, and current minor roads would have to be enlarged to cope with delivery of supplies, but most of the town would remain habitable.

Of course this is a hilly area, and other places such as Tuvalu, the Somerset Levels and Florida would be rather less habitable. So, considerable disruption even for those well above the water, and significant changes to the coastline, especially in low lying areas.

> really it should be explicit ... that this refers to existing
> coastal areas, not all coastal areas over time.

Because when you risk a haircut, you worry they will keep cutting til they cut your shoelaces, unless you're very careful to specify stopping when they see blood?

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 02 Jun 2014 #permalink

> my house is around 30m above sea level
> my previous house just up the road
> is about 50m above sea level.

Well, with those two points, you can project a trend, eh?

By Hank Roberts (not verified) on 02 Jun 2014 #permalink

Careless talk causes confusion, so just a suggestion to avoid a slight exaggeration which could be attacked as misinformation for the lack of a defensible definition of "coastal areas". Perhaps best to qualify it as "low-lying coastal areas".

A sea level rise of 50m would devastate our economy, but hilly coastal areas above that level (plus allowance for storm surges) would remain habitable, and of course where lower lying lands were flooded, new coasts would be formed. This coastal area currently has areas of housing and industry over 100m above sea level, and it's not unique.

As it happens, it also has Iron Age hut circles and a Roman fortlet at 225m above sea level, so if modern civilisation is destroyed we could hope for a resumption of subsistence farming. Climate permitting.

Yep, that's Norfolk which somewhat suggests a county just north of William's Fen country ;-)

The worst-case scenario shows a modest 2.4m by 2102, which would overwhelm the Broads, but even near there Lowestoft seems to have large areas above the 10m contour, and parts above 25m. Further north up the same coast, parts of Whitby town seem to be above 60m, though the Dracula Experience is down near the harbour so bad news for the undead.

Yes, I know the figure refers to Norfolk, Virginia, from whence Mr. Berry set out for the Promised Land, but it's easier for me to find onine contour maps of Britain.

More informatively, DA links to the source of that graphic and outlines the issue for Norfolk VA:…

So, quite a few residents might wish to follow Mr. Berry to the promised land, but as Mr Cooder reminds us, they might not be welcome what with the drought and all. That's the problem with global warming, it's kind of widespread.