Perspective On Rain and Heat

OK, after weeks of sitting under constant rain (at one point we were over 600% of “normal” for the month) and with all the “excess rain” events happening around the world, I thought maybe it was time to put some numbers on it.

How much does rain matter?

Folk who have been reading here for a while will know I’ve got the general thesis that the lower atmosphere is dominated by convection. That it completely swamps Infrared. You can see this easily in any given day as the clouds form, water from the seas and trees evaporates, rises into the sky, forms clouds, then falls again as rain.

We’ve also found that the upper atmosphere where heat is dumped via Infrared has that dumping enhanced by CO2. More CO2 means more effective heat loss up high.

That just leaves the middle a bit unexplored (and a minor “dig here”; though if you know one side is getting a load of heat delivered and the other is dumping it faster, the middle is defined by context… but someday I need to look more at heat transport through the stratosphere. For now we’ve mostly just seen how the sun modulates the stratosphere with UV light. As the solar UV has plunged, the stratosphere has cooled, shrunken, and we have gotten colder and wetter (as though the ‘cold end’ of the tropospheric heat engine had gotten colder so more heat was being transported to the stratosphere via evaporation from the ‘hot end’ of the oceans; thus falling as more rain and snow).

Above the Stratosphere, it gets cold. Very cold.



The mesosphere extends from the stratopause to 80–85 km (50–53 mi; 260,000–280,000 ft). It is the layer where most meteors burn up upon entering the atmosphere. Temperature decreases with height in the mesosphere. The mesopause, the temperature minimum that marks the top of the mesosphere, is the coldest place on Earth and has an average temperature around −85 °C (−121 °F; 188.1 K). At the mesopause, temperatures may drop to −100 °C (−148 °F; 173.1 K). Due to the cold temperature of the mesophere, water vapor is frozen, forming ice clouds (or Noctilucent clouds). A type of lightning referred to as either sprites or ELVES, form many miles above thunderclouds in the troposphere.

I note that at those temperatures you could easily have “carbonic gas” instead of CO2 and water vapor, or perhaps it would be “carbonic snow” instead… We really do not know the chemistry at that level of the atmosphere, so any hypothetical CO2 impact is really just that. Hypothetical. What we do know is that it’s cold. Darned cold. Heat is leaving in a tearing hurry and not looking back. And there are clouds, which says water makes it this high and must be considered as part of the heat transport system. And when that water vapor forms those noctilucent clouds? What does THAT mean about IR “trapping” via the “greenhouse gas” of water vapor? When the solar UV dropped low, we had a few more reports of noctilucent clouds. A giant “Dig Here!”, IMHO. What happens to the earth if the sun opens the “Water IR” window above the convecting Troposphere?

For the Stratosphere:


The stratosphere extends from the tropopause to about 51 km (32 mi; 170,000 ft). Temperature increases with height due to increased absorption of ultraviolet radiation by the ozone layer, which restricts turbulence and mixing. While the temperature may be −60 °C (−76 °F; 213.2 K) at the troposphere, the top of the stratosphere is much warmer, and may be near freezing. The stratopause, which is the boundary between the stratosphere and mesosphere, typically is at 50 to 55 km (31 to 34 mi; 160,000 to 180,000 ft). The pressure here is 1/1000 sea level.

OK, so it’s “warm” at “near freezing” at the very top, and due to UV… Still going to be a ‘cold pole’ to the Tropospheric water driven heat engine pumping heat skyward. What happens when the UV plunges (as it just has)? Do we get more rapid trans-stratospheric heat flow? (we ought…) And as that ozone ‘IR window” opens from less UV forming ozone, does the IR transport pick up too? And nearer the bottom of the stratosphere where that Troposphere dump happens? It is -60 C which is “way cold”. Yes, I need to look more closely at stratospheric heat flow to be ‘complete’, but at a first look, it’s a “way cold” end of the Tropospheric Transport and it then has a Solar / UV modulate thickness, temperature, and probably IR heat transport. As there are also stratospheric clouds, there will also be a variety of cloud and water mediated cooling processes as well. The also have a load of interesting gas chemistry going on:

Polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs), also known as nacreous clouds (from nacre, or mother of pearl, due to its iridescence), are clouds in the winter polar stratosphere at altitudes of 15,000–25,000 meters (50,000–80,000 ft). They are implicated in the formation of ozone holes; their effects on ozone depletion arise because they support chemical reactions that produce active chlorine which catalyzes ozone destruction, and also because they remove gaseous nitric acid, perturbing nitrogen and chlorine cycles in a way which increases ozone destruction.

Oh, it’s the clouds that make the ozone hole? I thought it was me and my air conditioner… who knew? (No, really. I want to know “WHO, exactly, knew this and when did they know it…”)

But if we’re making clouds, removing O3 (and opening that part of the “IR Window”) removing water vapor into ice clouds, and generally shifting the chemistry and IR character all over the place; you think maybe that might matter as the UV catalyzed effects and UV heating plunge off a cliff? Think that might impact how much water gets sucked up there to dump heat?

But that leads back to the original question of this thread:

How big is rain?

Can rain have a thermal size? If so, how big is it?

Well, yes, it can have a size. What would be ideal would be a total rainfall of the planet historical record. Then we could just measure the impact for the whole planet and be done. But we don’t have that. Huge chunks of the ocean have heavy rains, but no station to measure them.

Global Precipitation Pattern

Global Precipitation Pattern

Original Image

What we can do is look at just one place. A sample. Then we will have a general idea of the size of things. Is it a whole lot smaller than the 1 W or 2 W of “excess heating” being attributed to CO2 (and thus to people) or is it about the same? Or maybe even a bit larger? Could a 30% increase in precipitation “cover” the added heat budget of the (hypothetical…) CO2 “greenhouse effect”?

That can be done with some fair precision, as we have numbers for some selected places that are pretty good. We can, for example, measure the rainfall over an identified geography and measure the stream flow out of it. Between those two, we have a good idea what fell from the sky and what ran off back to the ocean. (It does NOT capture that which soaked into the ground and was released back to the sky via transpiration of plants, but you can get a rough estimate by comparing the two numbers – what fell and what ran off.)

So is there a well defined geography that is fully isolated from our tendency to dam up rivers and move the water 1000 miles away? Somewhere that is well instrumented and reported in the literature? Sounds like we might be looking for a US Island or Territorial Island. There are many to choose from and it would be interesting to compare a lot of them, but this is the one I found.

Puerto Rico

If you look at that global precipitation map up top, you will see that Puerto Rico is in that green area just south of Florida and near Cuba. About 1/2 way from the yellow deserts to the dark blue tropical seas. A reasonable “first sample”. (Though please note that the scale is non-linear and that dark blue is 300 mm / month vs about 100 for the dark green).

A hurricane can dump a lot of rain …
Science News, June 11, 2005

The large masses of warm, moist air that fuel hurricanes also prime those windstorms to drop a lot of precipitation in a short time, a phenomenon that residents of Puerto Rico experienced in spades when Hurricane Georges struck their island in 1998. Now, new hydrological analyses indicate just how much storm runoff and sediment washed into the surrounding waters in the wake of that storm.

In the course of a normal year, the 8,700-square-kilometer island of Puerto Rico gets about 1.6 meters of rain, says Matthew C. Larsen, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va. That’s about 14 billion cubic meters of precipitation. About 6 billion [m.sup.3] of that water recharges the island’s aquifers, but the other 8 billion [m.sup.3] runs off the island in streams, carrying around 5.9 million metric tons of sediment.

In September 1998, however, Hurricane Georges swept over the island, dumping an islandwide average of 0.3 m of rain–more than 2 months’ worth of precipitation in a mere 2 days. The deluge triggered landslides, flooding, and severe erosion. Data from flow meters in streams indicate that more than 1 billion [m.sup.3] of runoff reached the ocean in those 2 days, along with 2.4 million metric tons of sediment, says Larsen. That’s about 40 percent of the average annual sediment load and amounts to about seven large dump truck loads of sediment from each square kilometer of the island.–S.P.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Science Service, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group

This article has two nice sets of numbers in it. The typical annual precipitation and what a large hurricane looks like. While it is “unusual” to have a hurricane over any one spot on the planet, it is absolutely typical for us to have several ‘cyclonic storms’ happening for months on end ‘somewhere’ on the planet. As those are often ‘out to sea’ where the energy to drive them is found, it wold be good to estimate how much water THEY are pumping to the stratosphere and how much heat that machine is dumping “up high” as it runs for weeks on end…

The Math:

OK, some folks love numbers, other folks hate them. I try to put things in verbal form most of the time as most folks seem to hate numbers. (I’m rather fond of numbers as they answer so many things so well, but they also trap a lot of folks who think numbers are reason or logic; they are not, they just put sizes on the thinking, so if you have ‘thought well’ you get a very sharp edge, but if you have “thought poorly” the numbers just put a sharp edge on your bed of nails…) But in this case, we are particularly looking for a ‘size of rain’ in heat. We need numbers. So I’m going to “show my work” here (and folks can check if I’ve lost an order of magnitude anywhere or not… it’s easy to do in this kind of thing as we have billions of mega – kilo things…) and then we’ll have a single number at the end that’s easy to grasp. The “Watts per meter” of heat transport represented by that water.

OK, to the slide rule (or spreadsheet for folks not blessed with analog logic and math ;-)

Puerto Rico Area:

8700 square kilometers. As that is 1000 x 1000 meters on a side, the area in square meters is:
8.7 x 10^9 square meters

Puerto Rico Rainfall:

First up, our cross check number is that there is about 1.6 meters of rain per year in Puerto Rico. 1600 mm. As we run the numbers, if at any time we get something like “1.6 mm” of rain, we know we’ve lost a ‘kilo’ somewhere… Yes, it’s an old “sliderule habit”. First you find a very rough ‘guide solution’ then you keep checking against that ‘order of magnitude’ to make sure you have not ‘slipped a digit’…. Yes, we could just use the 1.6 m directly (and I suspect it may be what was used in the first place to calculate the total m^3 of rainfall) but what fun would there be in that? ;-)

14 Billion m^3 of rainfall total / year (13.92 calculated from 1.6 m x 8.7 10^9 m^2)

Rainfall / m^2:

14 10^9 / 8.7 x 10^9 = 1.609 m / m^2

(so we’ve got a ‘cross check’ on that 1.6 m number and it looks like that’s what they used to come up with the total in the first place. OK, at this point we need to pick one and use it, but with the ‘error’ in the 4th digit, I’m not real worried. [ For “young ‘uns”, in sliderule terms, you just count all the digits without looking at the decimal point to know ‘how many digits you are working with’. A sliderule can typically stay precise to 3, but sometimes out to 4. Beyond 3 you are usually ‘making things up’ so ignore them… the decimal point is ‘added back in later’ so doesn’t matter to ‘how many digits’…] but at least we know about how much rain they have.)

This is not all that different from most tropical places and many not-so-tropical. Recent snowfall in the Sierra Nevada has run out to about 50+ feet or 16 meters as measured. That’s about 1.6 meters of rainfall equivalent in snow. So now we have another ‘sanity check’ that says this is a wet place, but that it’s not a particularly uncharacteristic place and even non-tropical places like California can be ‘in the ball park’ of that precipitation level.

OK now lets “find the heat”.

The water evaporates from the ocean or land, so we need the “heat of vaporization”, then it rises to altitude where it typically forms snow or hail in a thunderstorm. That means we need to add the “heat of fusion” too. Now some folks my holler that it’s not always frozen, but the heat of fusion is pretty small in any case. We need to look at it so we can “discover” that, so I’m putting it in. In many cases, like those California mountains, the heat of fusion is not “dealt with” until spring, so for some places, like where I live, it very much does matter.

In theory, we also ought to deal with the heat of the air itself, as it rises, and the expansion of water vapor in the air, and a whole lot of other detail of heat and expansion / compression of air. I’m going to leave those out (if someone want’s to put them back in, be my guest…) We’re looking for how much does the water count, and not for total heat transport, so “how big is the water?” means we look at the water. Leaving out the heat in the “delta T” of about 40 C at the tropical ocean surface to 0 C at altitude is not a large number and it “is an error against our thesis” that water matters, so to some extent leaving it out is “money in the bank” if someone wants to attack the computed number as “too high” later. We can just say “Hang on a moment, and let me add back in the specific heat of the water itself…” Again, if someone else wants to compute that, be my guest (it’s easy …)

So how do we measure this? Our ultimate goal is Watts (instantaneous energy flow) but we have heat over time.

From the wiki on heat of fusion and heat of vaporization for water we get:

Water heat of fusion: 334 kJ / kg

Water heat of vaporization: 2257 kJ / kg

Total of the two: 2591 kJ / kg

So we can see right off that the heat of fusion is about 1/10 or “one order of magnitude” smaller than the heat of vaporization. That evaporation at the surface counts for most of the heat, the freezing at altitude is just ‘icing on the cake’…

(The specific heat of water is about 4.18 Joules / cc or 4.18 kJ / kg so you can see why I’m willing to ignore it. It is about 1/500 th the heat of vaporization… at 1/540 it’s the ‘chump change’ in the equation. Though with a 40 C temperature drop it would be 40/500 or about 1/12 of the total. An error term of 0.083 ‘in my favor’ I can live with…)

OK so just what is a Joule? It is one Watt for one Second. A Watt-second. And a kJ is a kiloWatt-second. Run your kiloWatt room heater for one second, you’ve got a kJ of heat energy flowing.

OK, so each of our kg of water now represents 2591 kW-seconds of energy flow.

With 1.6 m^3 of water, that’s 1.6 10^3 kg of water.
(A cubic meter is 100 cm on a side, so 10^6 cc, but a kilo of them is 10^3, after the division you get 10^3 kg / m^3 ) So we’ve got 1600 kg of water.

1600 * 2591 = 4145600 kW-Seconds or 4,145,600,000 W-seconds.

How many seconds are there in a year? About 31,536,000 (using round days and ignoring the fractional bit)

Divide those ‘Watt-Seconds” by “Seconds” and you get:

131 Watts.

(A “slide rule guy” would note that there are 4 x 10^9 Watt-seconds and 3 x 10^7 seconds so we’re looking for about 4/3 10^2 Watts, or about 133 as a mental ‘cross check’…)

At this point I’ve done this calculation about 4 times. 2 of them I “lost a kilo” somewhere along the way in the spreadsheet. 2 of them “I found it again” after the cross check sent me back to check my units. So it wouldn’t hurt to have someone else double check that in all the kilo-mega-billion-ton-gram-etc. conversions I didn’t ‘slip a digit’…. but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right this time ;-)

OK, so we’re looking at an order of magnitude of 130 ish Watts per Square Meter of heat transport by precipitation. Our “size of rain” is about “130 Watts”.

How Big Is the Sunshine?

This, it would seem, is a harder question to answer than to ask. I’ll cut to the chase here. Nobody really knows because we don’t really have a good handle on the albedo impact (how much snow and low angle light on water reflects sunshine back into space) and nobody really knows how much cloud we have. There are some guesses, but that’s all they really are. (Later satellite measures are a bit better. see below). We measure some points in space and some points in time on a fractal surface then try to make up a number that ‘seems right’. It will never be right as the size of the measurement of a fractal surface is directly related to the size of the ruler you use. Change the ruler, change the result…

(See: for an example of the problem).

At this point I could run off into trying to correct for all the clouds and trying to figure the albedo impact of snow and the reflectivity of ocean at low angles of attack of sunshine and a host of other things. But I won’t. You can do that if you wish. I just want a general idea:

Is the rain large or small compared to the sun?


we find (after a lot of figuring in nighttime and the sideways angle of light at the poles):

Over the course of a year the average solar radiation arriving at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere is roughly 1,366 watts per square meter (see solar constant). The radiant power is distributed across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, although most of the power is in the visible light portion of the spectrum. The Sun’s rays are attenuated as they pass though the atmosphere, thus reducing the insolation at the Earth’s surface to approximately 1,000 watts per square meter for a surface perpendicular to the Sun’s rays at sea level on a clear day.

The actual figure varies with the Sun angle at different times of year, according to the distance the sunlight travels through the air, and depending on the extent of atmospheric haze and cloud cover. Ignoring clouds, the average insolation for the Earth is approximately 250 watts per square meter (6 (kW·h/m2)/day), taking into account the lower radiation intensity in early morning and evening, and its near-absence at night.

OK, we get to ignore clouds. As I’ve noticed they do a lot of that in “climate science” I guess it’s ok /sarcoff>

But there is our one simple number. 250 Watts.

130/250 = 0.52 or roughly 1/2.

Fully one half of all the heat delivered to this part of the planet is taken away by rain alone.

Ignoring clouds.

Send In The Clouds, There Must Be Clouds…

Cloud Fraction from December 2011

Cloud Fraction from December 2011

From NASA we get this nice picture of the typical cloudiness of the earth. Looks cloudy to me…

One of the biggest sources of uncertainty in computer models that predict future climate is how clouds influence the climate system and how their role might change as the climate warms.

These maps show what fraction of an area was cloudy on average each month. The measurements were collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Colors range from blue (no clouds) to white (totally cloudy). Like a digital camera, MODIS collects information in gridded boxes, or pixels. Cloud fraction is the portion of each pixel that is covered by clouds. Colors range from blue (no clouds) to white (totally cloudy).

Uh, yeah, I can agree with that…

As a first approximation, my eye says that the picture is about 1/2 way from dark blue to white. So looks to me like about 1/2 of the sunshine is going to be reflected away. Leaving just about the amount that gets removed by water vapor / rain to be ‘returned’ to altitude via water.

As a first approximation: It’s ALL about the water and CO2 / Infrared radiation is just a fantasy down in the lower atmosphere layers. We also know that “up high” it acts to radiate heat away from the planet, so more CO2 means more effective heat loss. At this point, I’m just not finding anything “left over” for CO2 to do…

OK, at this point some “Warmer Wag” will be setting their tongue to wagging about how some clouds are “warming” and that they “trap heat” via the “back radiation” that moves heat from cold places to warmer places. This, of course, ignores the heat loss that very cloud represents via its formation. But, just to be clear, we have been conservative about how much cloud cover is out there, and how much it will be reflecting heat back to space during the daytime:

has a nice graph of total cloud cover trends here: cover change observed

Since clouds have a net cooling effect on climate, the above would imply (Svensmark 1998) that the estimated reduction of cosmic ray flux during the 20th century (Marsh and Svensmark 2000) might have been responsible for a significant part of the observed warming. Since 1983, the cooling cover of low clouds have decreased from 29% to about 25% (see below). During the same period the net change of warming high clouds have been small (see below).

Total Cloud Cover

Total Cloud Cover

which shows two very interesting things. First off, total cloud cover runs about 64% to 70%. There is a whole lot of heat being reflected back out into space by those clouds, so you get to “trap” about 20% of the “heat” just to reach a break even at about 1/2 for water transport. You’ve got a big hill to climb before any “trapping” starts to have a net warming compared to the heat LOST via reflection.

Second, it shows cloud cover dropping from 70% to 63.5% over the period from 1986 to 2000; exactly in sync with the warmer temperatures GISS / CRU / NCDC found and attribute to CO2.

So, until that impact of clouds is addressed and not just ‘hand waved away’ with a “some warm some cool” it looks to me like we’ve got more Climate Clowns than Clouds in the picture…

In Conclusion

So we’ve got things of “order of magnetude” hundreds of Watts driving things (rain and sun) and with variations of 10% range for clouds (so order of 10’s of Watts at least). And how much does all of “human activity” count for as a “forcing function”? Per this chart from the IPCC, less than 2 Watts. We’re ignoring the dollars and dimes and focusing on the pennies when we look at CO2:

"Radiative Forcing" per the IPCC

"Radiative Forcing" per the IPCC

Original Image

OK, I need to polish this a bit more. There are some more bits to add in the way of references to prior articles, etc.. Given a choice of leave this in the hopper, or send it out 3/4 done, I’m going to let folks see it now, and polish later. I also need to do the same exercise for the hurricane water dump to show how mammoth they are. But right now the clouds have parted and the sun is in the garden again. I’m going to “jump on it” while I can and worry about clouds some more when they come back ;-) For now, this is all the “Kitchen Science” that fits in the time available. More later… after a bit ‘o sun and fun…

So remember that it’s all about the convection and you ignore the day at your peril.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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13 Responses to Perspective On Rain and Heat

  1. Interesting Connections says:

    Isn’t Puerto Rico pretty close to or in the tropics?

    Is it correct to extrapolate the rate of heat removal for the tropics to the rest of the planet? You might have a correction in there but I didn’t notice.

    Also, is there some way to figure the total moisture content in the atmosphere?

  2. unInteresting Connections says:

    Why is that stupid icon associated with me?

    [Because at some time someone with the same “tokens” as you selected it as their “gravitar”. See: Their “FAQ”:

    My email address is already in use, but I never signed up: and share the same user database. It’s possible that you registered a account (either for a blog or for an Akismet API key,) which automatically now gives you a account. If you use your password to log in you should experience no problems using Gravatar. If you cannot remember that password you may use the forgotten password link on the login page to reset your password.

    All I can do is globally allow, or not allow, gravitars, not manage them.


  3. gnomish says:

    yah. i did the calcs once, too. if i find the link i’ll stick it at the end of this post. being generous on the side of co2 and stingy on the side of water in the atmosphere, water moved 50,000 times more heat.

    confusion between temperature and heat seems to be the crux of the matter. you can’t convert degrees to watts. they are not the same entity.

    consider that temperature is a measure of kinetic energy, not radiation. so is pressure.
    consider that the temperature of a local region of gas is kinetically shared and virtually identical throughout – radiation is not required at all to do this.
    consider than any improvement in the heat carrying capacity of a working fluid such as our atmosphere, must necessarily improve the coupling and efficiency of the heat transport.
    observe that a phase change, absorbing or releasing heat, causes no change in temperature – and no change in the IR ‘black body’ radiation. temperature measuring instruments do not measure heat.

    — found the post – i’d put it on scienceofdoom with a different nick:

    All things radiate as blackbodies (or maybe a bit grayish) and noting that while water does not change temperature as it changes phase, it radiates many hundreds of times more energy in the process than any other gas.
    Therefore, the blackbody spectrum may not change a whit, but …

    There are a number of things that water gas does which are scarcely mentioned. It seems to be considered nothing but a handmaiden to CO2.

    However there are many things that water does which define the atmosphere, the lapse rate and the thermal equilibrium.

    In the first place, it evaporates. When it does, 3.7 teaspoons of liquid becomes one liter of gas, absorbing 0.462 kJ/kg. This happens without temperature change. No change occurs in the black body spectrum.

    The expansion increases the local pressure above what a dry gas can under the same conditions.
    At the same time, water is much lighter than any other gas in our atmosphere (except the traces of He and H), , massing a measly 18g/mole – so it rises straight up, shifted by coriolis effect as it billows wider and wider.

    When it finally condenses, at the same temperature as the surrounding gas, it radiates the one spectrum throughout its phase change, indicating no higher temperature while it radiates 0.462 kJ/kg and changes back to 3.7 teaspoons from (a bit less than, now) a liter of gas, producing a local low pressure drop of that draws the atmosphere below up to fill it. (To get a 1% pressure drop by changing the temperature in a dry gas you need to do from 298 to 292.04 = 5.96 degrees instead of no temperature change with 1% water gas in it.)

    If water is but one percent of the volume, (using a sample volume of 100 liters that started at STP) the constituents would radiate their share as well, depending on the specific heat-

    um… well, the other gases don’t radiate any more than they gain from below or sideways, or the temperature would actually drop- but for a one degree drop:

    N2 (89.3g = 78%) 1.039 kJ/kg = 92.J
    O2 (13.1g= 20%) 0.915 kJ/kg = 12.0J
    CO2 (0.02g = 500ppm) 0.189 = 0.008J
    H2O (18g = 1%) 0.462 kJ/kg = 406.41367968J

    Unless my math is horribly wrong, water does more work than everything else combined – without changing its blackbody spectrum.
    Water powers the convection engine due to its mass, phase change and relative density. Everything else is just along for the ride. Radiative effects within the working fluid are high frequency transients in the resounding roar of the refrigeration cycle.
    (Compared to the CO2, water moves 50,000 times more energy from surface to space.)

    there’s a reason phase change is used for moving heat.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    @Interesting Connections:

    I’m not particularly extrapolating it so much as I’m picking a sample. On the “to do” list is to find some other sample points and try to come up with some way of tying it together. But the fact is that most of the planet surface gets a fair amount of rain. (I’ve got a chart of total precip to add too.. but the sun is calling me right now ;-)

    So as a “order of magnitude” check, it’s an OK starting point. Yes, places like where I live in California can get 12 inches ( or more like 30 cm) or rain and in New Mexico you can get down to about 7 inches (or about 17 cm) there are also places that get 400 inches…

    Record rain in Hawaii? Yes, fabled though it may be as a climatic Eden, Hawaii in fact is the site of the rainiest place on earth Mt. Waialeale, with an average of 460 inches per year. But that’s not all. Hawaii also has the second rainiest city in the United States Hilo, on the northeast corner of the Big Island, which receives an average of about 129 inches of precip a year, just a tad under Yakutat, Alaska¹s 134.96.

    or about 11.6 Meters of rain…

    So you can try to “measure that fractal” (and it’s worth trying, if only to put some kind of bounds on things) or you can accept that a lot is going on we just can’t track well and pick a sample to find “order of magnitude”… Between 11 Meters and 0.1 Meters is 1.0 Meters, and that’s about what is in Puerto Rico… on an order of magnitude basis.

    With similar water levels in the mountains of California, it’s also pretty clear that it’s not just a ‘tropical thing’… and as the surface area drops with latitude, places like the arctic ends of the planet just don’t figure into the picture much.

    Basically, once you know “the problem is in the water”, then it’s worth it to go back and find more about the details. This is the first “Ah Hah!” point, not the end of the treasure map…

    OK I couldn’t step outside again fast enough, so I’ve added that rainfall chart… now you can see that Puerto Rico is in a “green” area about midway between the yellow and blue. Yes, all sorts of “area adjustments” and “evaporated before reaching the ground but still transported heat skyward” and “seasonal” and … loads of details to “dig into”. BUT, the “order of magnitude” says “it’s all about the water…”

  5. Interesting Connections says:

    The reason I am interested is that I saw someone’s calc on how much water would have to moved to the poles via the atmosphere over, say, 100,000 years (the period that some fanatics choose) …

    The fanatics were making the claim that during colder temperatures there is less moisture in the air, but I wondered if that could be true given that the process removed 100m of the sea and piled it up at the poles (radiating southward in the case of the Arctic to around 48 degrees N in the case of North America. That is, it seemed like it must transport an enormous amount of water and even dividing it by five orders of magnitude is still a large amount of water per year.

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    @Interesting Connections:

    Very Interesting point!

    Yes, they like a ‘static model’ and forget that ‘dynamic models’ are best. So “when it’s stable and really cold” there isn’t much moisture in the air. But getting cold, and unstable, there is a heck of a load of water being evaporated out of those relatively HOT oceans and THEN squeezed out of the air onto those cold dry arctic plains…

    Think in terms of “hot pole to cold pole” and it makes MUCH more sense. The Ocean never freezes solid, so you have a lower bound of about 4 C to deal with. As the tropics stay hot (Brazil testifies to that… a whole lot of species of plants they die if they EVER have frost, so it’s never frosted them…) you still have the hot midrift kicking up loads of water. That then transports to where it’s cold. In our case, it then melts and returns. In the ice age glacial case, it doesn’t melt.

    The difference is all in the melting, not in the evaporating…
    or the deposition…

  7. E.M.Smith says:

    In a comment here:

    Scarlet Pumpernickel says:

    Strato is cooling too

    I’ve reproduced it here as it is more a match to this thread.

    My reply:

    Except that story has the causality wrongly attributed and has it running the wrong direction:

    Global Warming Causes Stratospheric Cooling
    By Jeffrey Masters, Ph.D. — Director of Meteorology, Weather Underground, Inc.

    Global temperatures in 2006 were the third coldest on record in the lower stratosphere, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Only 1997 and 2000 had colder temperatures since record keeping began in 1979 (Figure 1). Why is this important? Well, the stratosphere is that layer of the upper atmosphere approximately 14-22 km (9-14 miles) above the surface that contains our protective ozone layer. The main reason for the recent stratospheric cooling is due to the destruction of ozone by human-emitted CFC gases.

    How about the fact that UV from the sun has fallen of a cliff? Maybe “there isn’t any UV to absorb” matters more. Oh, and that the UV MAKES ozone is also ignroed. Maybe the ozone is dropping because the UV that makes it has gone away? Hmmm?

    Ozone absorbs solar UV radiation, which heats the surrounding air in the stratosphere. Loss of ozone means that less UV light gets absorbed, resulting in cooling of the stratosphere. Cooling of the stratosphere results in the formation of more polar stratospheric clouds, which require very cold temperatures to form. The presence of these clouds allows even more ozone destruction to occur, since the reactions responsible for ozone destruction occur much faster in clouds than in dry air. Thus, the recent cooling of the stratosphere allows high levels of harmful UV light to reach the surface. As CFC gases begin to decline in coming years thanks to banning of these substances in 1987, the stratosphere should start to warm, and ozone levels will recover.

    And that whole line about “harmful levels of UV reaching the ground” is just bogus. My SKIN tells me so. I sunburn in about 20 minutes without sunblock. I’ve not bothered to use ANY at all for the last 3 or 4 years. The UV is just not there to be a problem. (Now I also don’t go sunbathing at high noon either, but still, in the ’80s and ’90s if I worked in the garden sans hat, sleeves, or sunscreen I was “crispy critters” on the exposted bits. Now I’m working no hat, no sleeves no sunscreen and not even a tan to show for it.

    I smell a great big Agenda Rat coloring everything said in that OPINION piece from Mr. Jeffrey Masters. He needs to start from the data and work to what happened, not start from the speculated model and work to a fantasy…

    1) UV off cliff from solar changes.
    2) Ozone drops.
    3) Cloud formation.
    4) Cooling world, and fast.
    5) Acceleration of water transport as “cold pole” now colder.
    6) Heck of a lot more rain and snow as water dumps ocean heat into cold stratosphere CAUSED BY THE SUN.

    People? We are just too puny to matter to any of it. IMHO, of course.

  8. John F. Hultquist says:

    There is too much of a back story to believe pure science triumphed regarding CFCs. Rule 1: Follow the money. Patents were about to expire and new chemicals would renew the income stream.;2-A/abstract

    TITLE = There’s money in the air: the CFC ban and DuPont’s regulatory strategy

    While the scientists said it would take years for all the CFCs to work up over the South Pole it is a wonder that the largest ozone hole ever observed occurred on 24 Sept 2006, just 5 years ago.

    Maybe that is because there are compounds (halogens) naturally available to do the work blamed on CFCs. The ocean’s surface is a source.

    TITLE = Extensive halogen-mediated ozone destruction over the tropical Atlantic Ocean

    Last year a couple of WUWT posts focused on ozone.

  9. intrepid_wanders says:

    Okay Chiefio, thanks for the wasted Sunday. Here is your punishment, clouds ‘r us (climate4you source)…

    I am not sure why they stopped after 2009, but very interesting.

    Keep an eye on that skin, the UV is firing up these days ;)

    If I may ask a question, what do you suppose the redshift is for the solar radiation entering the gravity well of the Earth (frequency time dilation).

    Always an enjoyable waste of time…

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    OK, it’s pushing midnight and NOW I see your link!

    Sir, you have your revenge… ;-)

    FWIW, I’ve developed a fairly fine sense of the “tingle” that is just enough UV exposure and not yet a burn… thanks to all those time I ignored it… Only once to the point of blisters and oozing and only able to sleep on my stomach for a week… (I briefly fell asleep on my stomach after swimming…)

    There is nothing quite so pathetic as someone with the redhead gene who has been ‘too long in the sun’…

    I don’t have any mathematical basis for it, but given how small the earth gravity well IS, I’d expect it to not do much to any given photons… Otherwise a flashlight would change color as we pointed it up / down… I suspect you need to be “several solar masses” before you could even measure much…

  11. Laurence M. Sheehan, PE says:

    Seemed to me, in college chemistry, I was told that the ozone up there was formed when high energy UV light struck oxygen molecules (O2), and divided them into two free atoms of oxygen. Some of these free atoms of oxygen merged with O2 molecules to form O3, or ozone molecules.

    Since there is much more O2 at lower levels of altitude, it stands to reason that all of the UV with enough energy to break O2 molecules apart is absorbed by high altitude O2 molecules.

    I have also read that the density of O3 in the “ozone layer” correlates very well with sunspot activity.

    I don’t think that chlorine has a darned thing to do with it, but sunspot activity sure seems to. The more UV with enough energy to break O2 molecules apart, the “thicker” the ozone layer will be.

  12. E.M.Smith says:

    @Laurence M. Sheehan, PE:

    There are supposedly both UV / O3 creation and destruction processes depending on altitude and UV wavelength. But the ‘creation’ dominates overall.

    It would be interesting to match sunspot activity with the N/S disparity and see if when the spots are more active you get more N.H. Ozone… then just showing that spots toss out more Birkeland current, and… ;-)

    That ozone wobbles all over like crazy says on the face of it that the CFC’s are not causing the changes. How can a nearly constant level of gas be properly accounted against a product that is changing dramatically hour by hour? Nope, something else, something much more dynamic, is at work.

  13. Sandy Rham says:

    I think the escape velocity of Earth is 7 miles/sec.
    So mass M has rest energy of M*186000^2 and needs an additional 1/2*M*7^2 to escape, a ratio of (7/4*186000)^2 or about 9E-11.
    So a photon falling into Earth’s gravity well gains 90 trillionths of its energy.
    About right??

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