Reposted from Dr. Roy Spencer’s weblog
September 13th, 2019 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
Have you ever ever questioned, “How can we predict international common temperature change after we don’t even know what the worldwide common temperature is?”
Or perhaps, “How can local weather fashions produce any significant forecasts once they have such massive errors of their part vitality fluxes?” (That is the difficulty I’ve been debating with Dr. Pat Frank after publication of his Propagation of Error and the Reliability of World Air Temperature Projections. )
I like utilizing easy analogies to show primary ideas
Pots of Water on the Range
A pot of water warming on a gasoline range is helpful for demonstrating primary ideas of vitality acquire and vitality loss, which collectively decide temperature of the water within the pot.
If we view the pot of water as a easy analogy to the local weather system, with a range flame (photo voltaic enter) heating the pots, we are able to see that two similar pots can have the identical temperature, however with completely different charge of vitality acquire and loss, if (for instance) we place a lid on one of many pots.
A lid reduces the warming water’s potential to chill, so the water temperature goes up (for a similar charge of vitality enter) in comparison with if no lid was current. Consequently, a decrease flame is important to keep up the identical water temperature because the pot with out a lid. The lid is analogous to Earth’s greenhouse impact, which reduces the power of the Earth’s floor to chill to outer area.
The 2 pots within the above cartoon are analogous to 2 local weather fashions having completely different vitality fluxes with recognized (and unknown) errors in them. The fashions might be adjusted so the varied vitality fluxes steadiness in the long run (over centuries) however nonetheless keep a continuing international common floor air temperature someplace near that noticed. (The mannequin habits can be in comparison with many noticed ocean and atmospheric variables. Floor air temperature is just one.)
Subsequent, think about that we had twenty pots with varied quantities of protection of the pots by the lids: from no protection to finish protection. This is able to be analogous to 20 local weather fashions having varied quantities of greenhouse impact (which relies upon totally on excessive clouds [Frank’s longwave cloud forcing in his paper] and water vapor distributions). We are able to alter the flame depth till all pots learn 150 deg. F. That is analogous to adjusting (say) low cloud quantities within the local weather fashions, since low clouds have a robust cooling impact on the local weather system by limiting photo voltaic heating of the floor.
Numerically Modeling the Pot of Water on the Range
Now, let’s say we we construct a time-dependent laptop mannequin of the stove-pot-lid system. It has equations for the vitality enter from the flame, and lack of vitality from conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation.
Clearly, we can not mannequin every part of the vitality fluxes precisely, as a result of (1) we are able to’t even measure them precisely, and (2) even when we may measure them precisely, we can not precisely mannequin the related bodily processes. Modeling of real-world techniques all the time includes approximations. We don’t know precisely how a lot vitality is being transferred from the flame to the pot. We don’t know precisely how briskly the pot is dropping vitality to its environment from conduction, radiation, and evaporation of water.
However we do know that if we are able to get a continuing water temperature, that these charges of vitality acquire and vitality loss are equal, regardless that we don’t know their values.
Thus, we are able to both make ad-hoc bias changes to the varied vitality fluxes to get as near the specified water temperature as we would like (that is what local weather fashions used to do a few years in the past); or, we are able to make extra physically-based changes as a result of each computation of bodily processes that have an effect on vitality switch has uncertainties, say, a coefficient of turbulent warmth loss to the air from the pot. That is what mannequin local weather fashions do at the moment for changes.
If we then take the ensuing “pot mannequin” (ha-ha) that produces a water temperature of 150 deg. F as it’s built-in over time, with all of its unsure bodily approximations or ad-hoc vitality flux corrections, and run it with just a little extra protection of the pot by the lid, we all know the modeled water temperature will improve. That a part of the physics continues to be within the mannequin.
That is why local weather fashions can have unsure vitality fluxes, with substantial recognized (and even unknown) errors of their vitality flux parts, and nonetheless be run with rising CO2 to supply warming, regardless that that CO2 impact may be small in comparison with the errors. The errors have been adjusted so that they sum to zero within the long-term common.
This instantly contradicts the succinctly-stated principal conclusion of Frank’s paper:
“LWCF [longwave cloud forcing] calibration error is +/- 144 x bigger than the annual common improve in GHG forcing. This truth alone makes any potential international impact of anthropogenic CO2 emissions invisible to current local weather fashions.”
I’m not saying that is preferrred, or perhaps a protection of local weather mannequin projections. Local weather fashions ought to ideally produce outcomes totally primarily based upon bodily first rules. For a similar forcing situation (e.g. a doubling of atmospheric CO2) twenty completely different fashions ought to all produce about the identical quantity of future floor warming. They don’t.
As an alternative, after 30 years and billions of of analysis they nonetheless produce from 1.5 to four.5 deg. C of warming in response to doubling of atmospheric CO2.
The Large Query
The large query is, “How a lot will the local weather system heat in response to rising CO2?” The reply relies upon not a lot upon uncertainties within the part vitality fluxes within the local weather system, as Frank claims, however upon how these vitality fluxes change because the temperature modifications.
And that’s what determines “local weather sensitivity”.
That is why individuals like myself and Lindzen emphasize so-called “feedbacks” (which decide local weather sensitivity) as the primary supply of uncertainty in international warming projections.