Watts Accessible | Watts Up With That?

Watts Available | Watts Up With That?

Guest contribution by Willis Eschenbach

I think about curious things. I had to think about available solar energy. This is the amount of solar energy that remains after reflection losses.

Almost a third (~ 30%) of the incident sunshine is reflected back into space by a combination of the clouds, aerosols in the atmosphere and the surface. What remains is solar energy, which actually manages to warm up our entire planet and supply it with electricity. In this post, I'll briefly mention the "available energy" because … well, that's basically all of the energy we have available to run the entire circus.

Now I disagree with the popular notion that planetary temperature is a linear function of "radiative forcing" or simply "forcing", that is, the amount of radiation directed to the surface from both the sun and the atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases. Oh, the radiation itself is real … but it doesn't set the surface temperature

My theory about how climate works is that the globe is protected from overheating by a variety of emerging phenomena. These phenomena occur when a local temperature threshold is exceeded. One of the most powerful of these emerging phenomena is thunderstorms. In the tropics, thunderstorms occur when sea surface temperature (SST) is above about 27 ° C (80 ° F). Here is a movie I made of how the thunderstorms follow the sea surface temperature month after month.

Figure 1. Tropical thunderstorms are characterized by tall cloud towers. The average height of the cloud cover is therefore a measure of the number and strength of thunderstorms in the region. The colors show the average height of the cloud cover, with the red areas having the most and largest thunderstorms and the blue areas almost none. The gray contour lines show sea surface temperatures (SSTs) of 27 °, 28 ° and 29 ° C, with the inner ring being the hottest.

Thunderstorms cool the surface in various ways. They don't waste much energy because they only cool the surface where it works best – the hottest part of the system.

Thunderstorms cool the surface, among other things through an increase in the local albedo. Albedo is the percentage of energy that is reflected back into space. The increase in this reflection (increasing albedo) occurs because the storm clouds both cover a larger area and are larger than the cumulus clouds they are replacing. Their height and area provide more reflective surfaces for diverting solar energy back into space.

In addition, the winds created by thunderstorms increase the reflectivity of the local ocean surface by creating reflective white foam, foam and spray over large areas of the ocean. Finally, a rough ocean with waves generated by thunderstorms will reflect roughly twice what a calm ocean will reflect (albedo ~ 8% rough versus ~ 4% smooth). This change in the roughness of the sea surface alone corresponds to about 15 W / m2 less available energy.

In general, we would now expect additional solar energy to correlate with warmer temperatures. It is logical that the relationship should look like this:

More available solar energy -> more energy absorbed by the surface -> higher temperatures.

We would therefore expect both the available energy and temperature to be "positively correlated," meaning that they will increase or decrease together. And in general that's true. Here is the available solar energy, i.e. the sunshine that passes by all reflective surfaces. Sunlight is the only true source of all the energy that heats, moves and powers the climate.

Figure 2. Solar energy available after all reflections from clouds, atmosphere and the surface of the planet. The numbers are 24/7 averages.

As you can see, the poles are cold because they only receive about fifty watts per square meter (W / m2) from the sun. And the tropics reach up to 360 watts per square meter (W / m2) so they're hot. The tropics are the main area where energy enters the system and they are also the hottest.

So far, what we see is what we would expect – available energy and temperature correlate with each other and go up and down together.

My theory now is that emergent phenomena limit the maximum temperature. An indication that my theory is valid would be if the amount of available solar energy not only stopped increasing at high surface temperatures, but actually decreased with increasing temperature when the SST rises above 27 ° C.

To see if that is the case, I turned back to the CERES data available here. I use the EBAF 4.0 dataset with data from March 2000 to February 2019. The CERES satellite data contains monthly information on the size of the incoming and reflected solar energy flows. The information is presented on a grid cell basis of 1 ° latitude and 1 ° longitude.

According to the CERES data, the incident solar energy at the upper edge of the atmosphere (TOA) is ~ 340 W / m2. The reflected sum is ~ 100 W / m2. This means that 240 W / m2 of available energy are available to warm the world. (The numbers are 24/7 global averages.)

To study the relationship between surface temperature and available energy, I only looked at the liquid ocean (excluding sea ice). I do this for several reasons. The ocean makes up 70% of the planet. It's all on the same level, with no mountains to complicate matters. There is no vegetation to obstruct the wind. It's a way from human cities. All of this reduces the noise in the data and allows different locations to be compared.

What I've done is make a "scatter plot" of available energy versus sea surface temperature (SST). Each blue dot in the scatter plot below shows the available solar energy versus sea surface temperature (SST) of a single 1 ° x1 ° grid cell.

Then I used a Gaussian average (yellow and red with a black outline) to see what the overall data is doing. (In this data set it turns out that the Gaussian average cannot be distinguished from the averaging of the data in containers of one tenth of a degree (not shown). This supports the validity of the line.) The yellow / red line in black shows the 160 -Dot Gaussian average of full-width, half-maximum (FWHM) data. The red area simply highlights the part above 27 ° C.

Figure 3. Scatter plot of available solar energy versus liquid sea surface temperature. Blue dots show the results for each grid cell with 1 ° latitude and 1 ° longitude. The yellow / red line is a Gaussian average with 160 points and half maximum (FWHM). The portion of the data where the average SST is above 27 ° C is highlighted in red

In Figure 3 we can see that above ~ 27 ° C the thunderstorm triggering temperature, the available solar energy no longer increases, rotates by ninety degrees and drops. Have you heard of "nonlinear" things? This graphic could serve as a figurehead for non-linearity …

It's worth noting that at temperatures around 3 ° C to 27 ° C, the temperature is actually a linear function of the available solar energy. So the common misunderstanding is… well… understandable. In this temperature range the sea surface increases by about 0.1 ° C per additional W / m2, which corresponds to ~ 0.4 ° C per doubling of CO2 … but that of course ignores the area in red where the relationship is completely reversed and the Energy drops when the temperature rises.

This is strong support for my theory that emergent phenomena actively regulate global temperature and limit maximum temperature. It is also evidence against the current theory of how climate works, namely that temperature slavishly follows the available energy in a linear manner … as I have noted, this is as non-linear as possible.

In areas where the sea surface temperature is above ~ 27 ° C, less and less energy is available with each additional degree C of surface warming. The decrease is large – 6.6 W / m2 fewer Energy is available when the surface temperature has increased by every additional 1 ° C.

Figure 4 shows the position of these areas (shown in blue / green with white borders) into which the available solar energy flows Low when the temperature rises (negative correlation).

Figure 4. Correlation of grid cells according to grid cells between available solar energy and surface temperature. The blue box shows the tropical area discussed below (130 ° E – 90 ° W longitude, 10 ° N / S latitude).

If the energy flows are studied further, the loss of energy from increased albedo is just one way thunderstorms cool the surface. It's an important method of thermoregulation because it works just like the accelerator pedal in your car. The thunderstorms control the amount of energy that gets into the heat engine on a planetary scale, which we call climate. And above a sea surface temperature of ~ 27 ° C, they reduce the incoming energy.

The thunderstorms, which reduce all available solar energy, cool the surface in many other ways. First of all, these include evaporation. Thunderstorms make rain and it takes solar energy to evaporate the rain. This energy is then not available to heat the surface.

Figure 5 Scatter plot of sea surface temperature versus precipitation in the equatorial Pacific region, represented by the blue box above (130 ° E – 90 ° W, 10 ° N / S). The blue dots show the results of the TAO buoys in the blue box. The red dots show grid cell results from the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite rainfall data and Reynolds OI sea surface temperatures. Graphic from my post Drying The Sky

Figure 5 above shows SST data from two separate datasets, Tao Buoys and the Reynolds OISST dataset. It also includes precipitation data from two separate data sets, the TRMM data and the TAO buoys. They match very well and support the relationships shown.

And once again it's very non-linear …

Because tropical oceanic thunderstorms are temperature dependent, so is rain. Above 27 ° C, every single 1 ° x1 ° grid cell (red point) and every TAO buoy (blue point) in the equatorial Pacific area, which is outlined in blue in Figure 4 above, has rain.

Until the temperature of the open ocean reaches its maximum value of 30 ° C, almost every grid cell has almost three meters of rain. Rain is not optional at high sea surface temperatures. This is clear evidence of the thermal nature of the thresholds involved.

It's an important point. The threshold values ​​for all of these emerging temperature-regulating climatic phenomena (e.g. dust devils, cumulus fields, thunderstorms, gust lines) are based on temperature. They are not based on how much radiation the area receives. They are not influenced by CO2 levels or sunshine. When the temperature of the tropical ocean rises above a certain level, the system goes into gear, cumulus clouds mutate into thunderstorms, the albedo rises directly and it starts to rain … regardless of the CO2 levels. Temperature based, not force based. It's an important point.

The following shows the precipitation data from 40 ° North to 40 ° South, expressed as the amount of energy required to evaporate the rain.

Figure 6. Scatter plot of the annual average evaporative cooling of the thunderstorm with only 1 ° x 1 ° grid cells on the vertical axis in watts per square meter (W / m2) versus the annual average sea surface temperature of 1 ° x 1 ° grid cells on the horizontal axis. The amount of evaporative cooling is calculated from the precipitation – it takes ~ 80 W / m2 for one year to evaporate one meter of precipitation. Graphic from my post, How Thunderstorms Hit the Heat

As I write this, I am thinking, hmm … I could use the relationship shown in red above between the temperature of the tropical ocean surface and evaporative cooling. Then I could add this TRMM data to the solar availability data to see how much is available after albedo and evaporation. Hmm … I'm on my way to write another code in the computer language "R".

(Best computer language ever, by the way, and R was like the tenth computer language I learned. It's free, cross-platform, free, killer-free "RStudio" UI, free packs for almost everything, good help files. I owe one to Steve McIntyre priceless debt for convincing me to learn how to code in R. But I digress, I set out to write R code …)

OK, here is the result. The scatter plot as above is scaled roughly the same, but this time it shows what is left after removing both the albedo reflections and the energy used for evaporation. This includes the area in which the precipitation was measured with the TRMM, from 40 ° north latitude to 40 ° south latitude.

Figure 7. Scatter plot, available solar energy minus evaporative cooling, versus sea surface temperature of 40 ° N to 40 ° S. Since these are only mid-latitudes, the ocean doesn't get much cooler than 15 ° C.

I find that when evaporative cooling is included, the drop in available energy starts at a slightly lower temperature, 26 ° C versus 27 ° C. And it's decreasing much faster and further than just the 6.6 W / m2 decrease per degree Albedo alone warming, as shown in Figure 3 above.

Figure 7 shows that 44 W / m2 less energy is available for each additional degree of heating above 26 ° C. So it decreases about seven times as fast as by albedo alone. On average, there is less energy left for heating at 30 ° C than at 15 ° C.

And finally, here is the distribution of solar energy after we subtracted the reflected energy and the energy used for evaporation. What remains is the energy available to heat the planet and fuel plant growth.

Figure 8. Available solar energy by albedo and evaporation losses. TRMM data only covers latitude from 40 ° N to 40 ° S.

Note that there are some areas of the oceans where additional solar radiation enters increasing clouds, increasing thunderstorms, and increasing evaporation, with little to nothing left to warm the area.

Now remember that my hypothesis is that the popular claim that there is a linear relationship between forcing and temperature is incorrect.

Instead, I say that emergent phenomena occur when a temperature threshold is exceeded and that they counteract further warming.

My main conclusions from all of this? It supports my hypothesis about emergent phenomena regulating temperature and this is clear evidence that temperature is NOT a linear function of forcing.

As an aside, the US passed a sad milestone today – the number of COVID pandemic deaths (a one-off phenomenon) ended up being two-thirds of that yearly Number of deaths from obesity. Given this hidden taste emergency of 300,000 obesity deaths per year in the US, I recommend mandatory gastric bandage for the entire population and a finely forced social distancing from donuts …

My best regards to everyone, end all bans, the emergency is over. Let's get back to work, school and play.


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