A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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New Science 21: The mysterious Notch in the Sun-Earth relationship — the dog that didn’t bark

The notch in the Sun-Earth relationship is the dog that didn’t bark — the clue that was there all along, telling us something about the way the Sun influences Earth’s climate. There is a flicker of extra energy coming in at the peak of every solar cycle — roughly every 11 years. It’s only a small peak, but there is no warming on Earth at all — it’s like the energy that vanished. A good skeptic would be saying but, the increase in energy is so small, how could we find it among the noise? And the answer is that Fourier maths is so good at doing this that it is used every day to find the GPS signals which (as David details below) are so much smaller than the noise that they are much harder to find than this signal from the Sun.

Thousands of engineers know about and use Fourier maths and notch filters, but due to a strange one-sided bureaucratic funding model, none of those thousands of experts have applied that knowledge, which is so well adapted to feedback systems to the Sun Earth energy flows. David has used an input-output “black box” method to find [...]

New Science 20: It’s not CO2, so what Is the main cause of Global Warming?

We are back in the hunt for the main mystery drivers of our climate. The IPCC says it can’t be the Sun because the total amount of sunlight barely changes. Which is the usual half-truth that  pretends the Sun is simple a ball of fire with no magnetic field, no solar wind, and has no changes in the “color” of the spectrum it emits. But the Sun has a massive fluxing magnetic field that turns itself inside out and upside down regularly, it churns off a stream of charged particles that rain on Earth, and if human eyes could see infra red and UV, we’d see the color of the Sun change through the cycle. We  are only just beginning to figure out how these aspects affect the climate. But we know these factors influence ozone, probably cloud seeding, and possibly jet streams.

The only good long data we have on the Sun are the sunspots, which give us a reasonable idea of total sunlight since 1610. David uses Fourier maths to find the way that total solar irradiance (TSI) might relate to temperatures on Earth. TSI itself barely changes, so it could only have caused about 10% of the variation [...]

New Science 19: The invisible nameless model that controls the whole field of climate science

Don’t underestimate the importance of the nameless basic model. It sounds small, but in the culture and philosophy of climate science it’s bigger and carries more weight than the massive hairy GCMs. Like an invisible gossamer web, it’s overarching. It spans and defines all the other models. When they produce “dumb” answers, the basic model holds them in, for thou shalt not stray too far from the climate sensitivity defined by the basic model. It defines what “dumb” is. (It’s just “basic physics” after all.) One model to bind them all. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot, apparently. The physics might be right, but the equations are calculating imaginary conditions. The answers might be arithmetically correct but useless at the same time. They miss the real route that energy flows through to space.

By definition, as long as the basic model is wrong, the GCM models can never  get it right.

It’s not like climate scientists consult the oracle of the basic model every day, or even once a year… they don’t need to. They were taught it their climate larval stage, often long before they’d written one paper. The basic model shows that the warming of [...]

New Science 18: Finally climate sensitivity calculated at just one tenth of official estimates.

Image: NASA

In years to come it may be recognized that this blog post produced the first modeled accurate figure for climate sensitivity. Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity sounds dry, but it’s the driving theme, the holy grail of climate science. The accurate figure (whatever it is) summarizes the whole entirety of  carbon dioxide’s atmospheric importance. That number determines whether we are headed for a champagne picnic or a baking apocalypse.

To calculate a better estimate, David identified the flaws of the conventional basic model, and rebuilt it. The basic climate model is the top-down approach looking at inputs and outputs of the whole system. It defines the culture and textbooks of the modern global warming movement. GCMs (the big hairy coupled global models) are bottom-up approaches, doomed to failure by trying to add up every detail and ending up drowning in mile-high uncertainty bands. But the GCMs are ultimately tweaked to arrive at a similar ballpark climate sensitivity as the textbook model for the “basic physics” dictates. Hence this core model is where the debate needs to be. (Everyone knows the GCMs are broken.)

For decades the world of conventional climate research has been stuck in a groundhog day [...]

New Science 17: Solving the mystery of the missing “Hotspot”

Things are hotting up. After all the hard work of the past few posts, the payoff begins. By solving the flaws inherent in the basic conventional model we solve some of its biggest missed-predictions. And the clincher for conventional models has always been the missing hot spot. Without it, over half the projected warming just vanishes. And if it is telling the tale of a negative type of feedback instead of a positive one, then all bets are off — not three degrees, not even one degree, it’s more like “half” a degree. Go panic about that.

Here David gets into the empirical data — the radiosondes, the satellites, and shows how his model fits their results, whereas the establishment models have repeatedly been forced to deny them. Twenty eight million radiosondes get the wrong results: how many ways can we adjust them? Tweak that cold bias, blend in the wind shear, change the color-scales, homogenize the heck. Smooth, sort, shovel and grind those graphs. The fingerprint of CO2 was everywhere in 2005, though gradually became the non-unique signal of any kind of warming, but it still wasn’t there. It kept being “found”, though it was never reported missing. [...]

New Science 16: Building the alternative model and why it solves so many major problems

In typical style I looked at this draft and told David that the second half of his post should be at the top (that’s where he discusses how his model solves so many problems). He replied that the equations were the most important part, and he wasn’t going to flip them around. So, for readers who don’t speak mathematica-lingua, all I can say, is don’t miss the second half below.

Also in typical style, David prefers this picture he’s just drawn in his diagramming software, to my cartoon in the intro to post 11:


In this post, David combines the two smaller models to make one basic climate model (that’s the sum-of-warmings and the OLR models). Unlike the mainstream conventional basic model that underlies the entire establishment culture and philosophy, the alternative model uses more empirical data (and from the real world too, not just the lab). It’s also less reliant on hypothetical partial derivatives. Plus, in the alternate model, different forcings can cause different responses. In the conventional model, the architecture assumes the climate responds to to all forcings the same way.

CO2 has a warming effect on the atmosphere, rather than just on the surface, and [...]

New Science 15: Modeling outgoing radiation (OLR)

OLR — outgoing longwave radiation — is so key, so central to the climate debate that if we had top notch data on the radiation  coming off the planet, we would have solved the effect of extra CO2 a long time ago. That we don’t have a specific satellite  monitoring these changes in detail is like the dog that didn’t bark. Apparently a specialist OLR satellite was to be launched in  2015. More info on the RAVAN Satellite here (was supposed to launch in Sept 2015). (UPDATE: Planned for 2016) h/t siliggy.

There are four main pipes to space, and in David’s work each pipe is considered separately. The conventional model assumes that increasing atmospheric CO2 constricts the CO2 pipe, which warms the surface, causing more evaporation, which then constricts the Water Vapor pipe (this is the “water vapor amplification”, even more constriction of radiation to space by water vapor that forces the surface to emit more by being yet warmer). But the missing hot spot tells us that this theory is wrong. In this OLR model, the water vapor pipe could either expand or constrict. An expansion means a drop in the height of the emissions layer, [...]

New Science 14: Greenhouse Emission Layers — which pipe is the biggest?

Here we get into the nitty-gritty (as much as we can) of the energy coming off the planet. Looking at the spectrum of outgoing infrared we can learn a lot from the Nimbus data. In the graph below we can see a lot more energy comes from certain wavelengths, and given that the curve would follow the “grey” shape if it was a single body emitting, we can also see how some “pipes” are blocked.

The CO2 band shows a large obvious indentation, but don’t be fooled, most of that curve looks the same at much lower concentrations of CO2. As CO2 levels rise in our atmosphere there is little effect on the radiance of the coldest parts of the CO2 band, what changes is in the “wings”.

The hotter a thing is, the more energy it radiates, so in this graph the higher amounts of OLR (outgoing longwave radiation) are coming off the warmer surface or air closer to it. Turn things upside down in your mind, the high readings come from low-altitude places which are warm (like the surface), and as the readings get lower in radiance, they must be coming from colder spots at higher altitudes. [...]

New Science 13: The Start of a New Architecture for Climate Models

In most ways, David Evans’ alternative model is exactly the same as the conventional model. But a reconnection of one forcing, and an additional factor, can make all the difference. Finally, climate model architecture is getting analyzed and discussed — the conventional structure has been in place for over 40 years.

In the conventional basic model the radiation imbalance caused by CO2 is treated like extra sunlight, amplified by the same feedback processes that amplify warming caused by the sun. But as we explained, the effects of CO2 are not just confined to the surface of Earth, but spread through the atmosphere. In the alternative model the warming caused by CO2 is allowed to have its own unique response. Only after the separate “warmings” of the Sun and CO2 are calculated can they be added together. The conventional model adds them too soon, while they are still radiation imbalances, and assumes the Earth’s climate responds to both in the same way — it’s too simplistic.

David’s model also allows for other factors to change cloud cover, with the addition of an input for externally driven albedo (EDA). In conventional models, clouds are just a feedback to surface warming, [...]

New Science 12: How do we model the thermal inertia of the Earth?

Basic models take a top down approach, focusing on gross input and output rather than all the details within the system (which is mainly left to the feedbacks parameter). This makes them very different to the GCMs, which attempt to add up the climate from the bottom up and predict based on adding up grids and guesstimates of clouds, humidity, ice, etc.

The energy coming in to the Earth is called absorbed solar radiation (ASR). It varies significantly. The Earth will absorb the peaks and troughs of this to a certain extent. If we step back and look at the big picture, the question is how many years does it take for a step up in incoming energy to spread its way through the climate system, vanish into the top layer of the ocean, come back out and be released to space. To some extent that extra energy gets absorbed for a while before being released. David analyzed this system from the outside, graphing it like a low pass filter in electronics. (How much “noise” of spikes and troughs in ASR is being smoothed out by the Earth’s climate?)

In a [...]