Saturday, July 18, 2015

New paper finds greenhouse gases causing radiative cooling, not warming, at current Earth surface temperatures

A new paper published in the Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society finds radiation from greenhouse gases only begins to cause a positive-feedback warming effect at Earth temperatures 7C warmer than the present (& significantly higher than IPCC projections for the next century), and that at the current Earth temperature of 288K or 15C, greenhouse gas IR radiation has a negative-feedback cooling effect upon surface temperatures. Thus, addition of greenhouse gases at the present surface temperature of 288K (and up to 7C warmer or 295K) would have a negative-feedback cooling effect, not warming effect as claimed by IPCC theory and models.

These findings are incompatible with conventional Arrhenius radiative greenhouse/IPCC theory, which postulates radiative forcing from greenhouse gases has always caused a positive-feedback 'greenhouse' warming effect at all historical Earth surface temperatures and greenhouse gas concentrations. 

However, the findings of this paper demonstrating that greenhouse gases have a negligible or cooling effect at present Earth surface temperatures are compatible with the Maxwell/Clausius/Carnot gravito-thermal greenhouse theory, the HS 'greenhouse equation,' Chilingar et al, Kimoto, Wilde, and others.

The authors find (excerpts),

"shortwave [solar] radiation is a strong positive feedback at low surface temperatures but weakens at higher temperatures, and longwave radiation [from greenhouse gases] is a negative feedback at low temperatures [295K or 15C], but becomes a positive feedback for temperatures greater than 295–300 K [current Earth temperature is 288K or 15C]. 

It has been recently suggested that some modes of convective organization may result from an instability of the background state of radiative-convective equilibrium, which results in separation of the atmosphere into moist regions with ascent and dry regions with subsidence (Emanuel et al. 2014). If such an instability indeed exists in the real [not modelled] atmosphere, it would reshape our understanding of tropical circulations, and could help to explain the growth and life cycle of large-scale organized convective systems such as tropical cyclones and the Madden-Julian Oscillation (e.g., Bretherton et al. 2005; Sobel and Maloney 2012). If this instability is temperature-dependent, as suggested by numerical modeling studies (Khairoutdinov and Emanuel 2010; Wing and Emanuel 2014; Emanuel et al. 2014), then the increasing tendency of convection to organize with warming could also alter the climate sensitivity significantly (Khairoutdinov and Emanuel 2010); it is unclear whether current global climate models capture this process adequately. [Described in a recent post by Stephen Wilde]

Is the phenomenon of self-aggregation in a 200 km × 200 km domain in a model with explicit convection and clouds possibly the same as that in a 20000 km × 20000 km domain in a model with parameterized [fudge-factored] convection and clouds? This question has largely gone unaddressed, but it is essential to answer if we want to understand the robustness of self-aggregation across our modeling hierarchy and its relevance to the real atmosphere. 

In all simulations, the troposphere warms and dries relative to the initial condition (Figure 2(a)), though the stratosphere cools in simulations where Ts is lower than 300 K (Figure 2(b); Table 1). Tropospheric warming overall, and the increase in tropospheric warming with Ts, are consistent with the finding by Singh and O’Gorman (2013) that the lapse rate in RCE depends on entrainment and free-tropospheric relative humidity. In our simulations, aggregation decreases the free-tropospheric relative humidity in the domain mean, but increases the freetropospheric relative humidity in convectively active regions, plausibly reducing the influence of entrainment on the lapse rate and driving the thermal structure of the troposphere closer to a moist adiabat. Warming of the troposphere with aggregation can also be explained as a consequence of convective cores in moist regions drawing air with higher moist static energy from deeper within the boundary layer (Held et al. 1993).

The mean outgoing longwave radiation increases over the course of each simulation as a consequence of this drying, by an amount that increases with TS, ranging from ∼11 W m−2 at 280 K to ∼24 W m−2 at 310 K (Table 1).

The frozen moist static energy (hereafter referred to as h) is conserved in dry and moist adiabatic displacements, as well as freezing and melting of precipitation; h is given by the sum of the internal energy, cpT, the gravitational energy, gz, and the latent energy, Lvq − Lf qc,i (cp is the specific heat of dry air at constant pressure and g is the gravitational acceleration). In the latent energy term, Lv is the latent heat of vaporization, q is the water vapor mixing ratio, Lf is the latent heat of fusion, and qc,i is the condensed ice water mixing ratio: 

h = cpT + gz + Lvq − Lf qc,i. 

Atmospheric heating and cooling lead, respectively, to moistening and drying, because the weak temperature gradient approximation implies that anomalous heating is largely balanced by ascent, converging moisture into the column, while anomalous cooling is largely balanced by descent, diverging moisture out of the column.

In the four coldest simulations, (TS = 280K, 285K, 290K, 295K), the longwave radiation is at first a negative feedback, but in the warmer simulations [>295K], it is an important positive feedback. The magnitude of the shortwave feedback decreases by nearly a factor of 10 as the surface temperature increases from 280 K to 310 K, and the shortwave feedback also becomes much less important relative to the other feedbacks.

Although the behavior of the longwave radiation feedback term in our channel simulations appears to be consistent with the temperature-dependence suggested by Emanuel et al. (2014), cloud effects rather than clear-sky radiative transfer lead to our negative longwave feedback at low Ts (Figure 5). As predicted by Emanuel et al. (2014), the clear sky longwave feedback is weaker in the colder simulations – near zero or slightly negative – but this contributes only a small amount to the total longwave feedback. Aggregation occurs in spite of an initially negative longwave feedback at Ts <= 295 K, because this negative feedback is overridden by the combination of a positive surface flux and shortwave feedbacks; recall that the increasing strength of the shortwave feedback with decreasing temperature is largely due to clouds. 

A negative longwave cloud feedback implies that the atmosphere itself is cooling more in the moist regions and cooling less in the dry regions, due to the presence of clouds. We speculate that this occurs because a low-temperature atmosphere is optically thin, so the addition of clouds can increase the atmospheric longwave cooling by increasing its emissivity. An increase in longwave cooling due to greater cloud fraction in moist regions (where bh 0 > 0) is then a negative feedback on aggregation.

A key result is that the behavior of the radiative feedbacks varies with temperature, primarily due to the contribution of clouds. The longwave radiative feedback at the beginning of the simulation becomes negative as Ts is decreased, which is compensated for by an increase in the magnitude of the shortwave radiative feedback."

Self-aggregation of convection in long channel geometry

Allison A. Wing1,* and Timothy W. Cronin2

Abstract: Cloud cover and relative humidity in the tropics are strongly influenced by organized atmospheric convection, which occurs across a range of spatial and temporal scales. One mode of organization that is found in idealized numerical modeling simulations is self-aggregation, a spontaneous transition from randomly distributed convection to organized convection despite homogeneous boundary conditions. We explore the influence of domain geometry on the mechanisms, growth rates, and length scales of self-aggregation of tropical convection. We simulate radiative-convective equilibrium with the System for Atmospheric Modeling (SAM), in a non-rotating, highly-elongated 3D channel domain of length > 104 km, with interactive radiation and surface fluxes and fixed sea-surface temperature varying from 280 K to 310 K. Convection self-aggregates into multiple moist and dry bands across this full range of temperatures. As convection aggregates, we find a decrease in upper-tropospheric cloud fraction, but an increase in lower-tropospheric cloud fraction; this sensitivity of clouds to aggregation agrees with observations in the upper troposphere, but not in the lower troposphere. An advantage of the channel geometry is that a separation distance between convectively active regions can be defined; we present a theory for this distance based on boundary layer remoistening. We find that surface fluxes and radiative heating act as positive feedbacks, favoring self-aggregation, but advection of moist static energy acts as a negative feedback, opposing self-aggregation, for nearly all temperatures and times. Early in the process of self-aggregation, surface fluxes are a positive feedback at all temperatures, shortwave [solar] radiation is a strong positive feedback at low surface temperatures but weakens at higher temperatures, and longwave radiation [from greenhouse gases] is a negative feedback at low temperatures but becomes a positive feedback for temperatures greater than 295–300 K [current Earth temperature is 288K]. Clouds contribute strongly to the radiative feedbacks, especially at low temperatures [ < 295 K].

PDF here


  1. I'm going to be curious to see if anyone jumps all over this paper in the next few days.

    1. Good luck to them...paper is 29 pages long & repeats countless times that GHGs cause radiative *cooling* for surface temps up to 295K. Paper also uses the same radiative code as IPCC/NCAR models, and another popular radiative code for verification.

  2. Hi. I've been working on globally averaged altitude figures recently and can see some analogies here. I have a calculation that supports fully the dT/dh=-g/Cp argument through comparison of relevant energies per unit mass. This simple calculation supports the assumption that the atmosphere is extremely adiabatic with zero radiative enhancement of lower tropospheric temperatures.
    The globally averaged properties of air at 7.5km (potential, thermal, and latent) are compared with surface conditions by projection of a near dry air lapse. If the thermal pool has then subtracted from it the required difference in specific humidity (the energy required to vaporise the difference) then the globally averaged surface temperature is revealed. To 0.2K.

    1. Kimoto's papers may also be of interest to you.

      If you'd be interested in submitting a guest post, contact me at hockeyschtick at g mail dot com

  3. The IPCC (2007) has identified the extent to which we are uncertain about our observational estimates of radiative forcing of ocean heat content changes and longwave forcing.
    "Unfortunately, the total surface heat and water fluxes (see Supplementary Material, Figure S8.14) are not well observed. Normally, they are inferred from observations of other fields, such as surface temperature and winds. Consequently, the uncertainty in the observational estimate is large – of the order of tens of watts per square metre for the heat flux, even in the zonal mean."
    The uncertainty range for the estimate of heat flux forcing of ocean heat content is *tens* of W/m-2. Conservatively, then, we're looking at least ~20 W/m-2 worth of uncertainty in the observational estimates of the CO2 forcing of ocean heat content. Consider that the IPCC has concluded that the total radiative forcing for CO2 since 1750 is ~1.8 W/m-2. This means that the observational uncertainty range is at least ten times larger than the assumed forcing itself.
    The error range for longwave forcing is also depicted in the Supplementary Material section of AR4:
    Figure S8.7 (page SM.8.36) shows: "Individual model errors in annual-mean zonally-averaged outgoing longwave radiation" The error range for longwave forcing is ~20 W/m-2, which means, again, that the observed model errors are more than 10 times greater than the alleged net radiative forcing for CO2 (1.8 W/m-2).
    The American Physical Society climate change framework document (2014) also focused on this very observational uncertainty/error radiative forcing problem when they asked this highly relevant question (that has gone unanswered):
    "Reliable climate hindcasts and projections therefore require that the state of the oceans (current, temperature, salinity …) be known well on long timescales. Yet, as illustrated in WG1 AR5 Figure 3.A.2, good observational coverage has been available for less than a decade. With uncertainty in ocean data being ten times larger than the total magnitude of the warming attributed to anthropogenic sources, and combined with the IPCC’s conclusion than it has less than 10% confidence that it can separate long-term trends from regular variability, why is it reasonable to conclude that increases in GMST are attributable to [anthropogenic] radiative forcing rather than to ocean variability?"

  4. Again, this article shows why these blogs are so often misleading, with quotes taken from papers out of context and without any understanding of the science.

    The quote in question "longwave radiation [from greenhouse gases] is a negative feedback at low temperatures [295K or 15C], but becomes a positive feedback for temperatures greater than 295–300 K" - is referring to the feedback relating to the ORGANISATION OF CONVECTION, (the subject of the paper) not the feedback on surface temperatures. i.e. Longwave feedback acts to organise convection above the threshold temperature.

    In fact, this could indicate a strong negative feedback on temperatures; another paper
    "Missing iris effect as a possible cause of muted hydrological change and high climate sensitivity in models Thorsten Mauritsen & Bjorn Stevens, Nature Geoscience, 8, 346–351, doi:10.1038/ngeo2414 " picks up on this -

    had the blog author understood the science, then this point would have surely have been picked up, but instead the quote is completely incorrect and misleading to readers. So to repeat, the blog title is completely incorrect, the article is referring to something completely different!!!

    1. Bull. No quotes are taken out of context, and a full 8 paragraphs from the paper are excerpted above, as well as a copy of the entire paper.

      If ANONYMOUS understood radiative-convective equilibrium on Earth and other planets as outlined by the Maxwell/Clausius/Carnot gravito-thermal greenhouse theory, the HS 'greenhouse equation,' Chilingar et al, Kimoto, Wilde, et al, ANONYMOUS would understand that at current Earth surface temperatures, CONVECTION greatly dominates over radiation in establishing the radiative-convective equilibrium of the troposphere, or as ANONYMOUS refers to it as ORGANIZATION OF CONVECTION.

      ANONYMOUS is so confused he/she quotes another source ALSO indicating a strong negative feedback on surface temperatures.

      Had ANONYMOUS understood the science, ANONYMOUS wouldn't be so confused and making false claims that the blog title is incorrect, etc.

  5. MS,

    As far as I can see, the original article is only about the organization of convection/clouds/thunderstorms from individual small scale one's into one of much larger scale. No mention of this anywhere in the article about the influence of the reorganization on surface temperatures...
    I don't know what that influence is, I suppose that aggregation intp one big convection will have a cooling effect, but you can't deduce that from this article.
    The "negative feedback" of GHGs is this article is about aggregation, not directly about temperatures...