In the AGW FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) push, and in all the computer climate models (i.e. fantasy) projections (i.e. a prediction that has ‘plausible deniability’ built in) the Big Scare comes out of a positive and fairly strong Water Vapor Feedback value.
CO2 alone is not enough to get things hot, so there is a postulated positive feedback loop of more heat causing more water vapor causing more IR trapping causing more heat causing…
This got me thinking:
Is there any way to OBSERVE the actual nature of “water feedback”? (Notice I’ve left out the world “vapor”. Why? Because water does not STAY vapor. As a first direct observation, we observe that water vapor rapidly turns into things like clouds and rain. It is the entire system that matters and what really happens that matters, not just some theoretical water vapor that never changes phase…)
I just did a 2 day rapid run from coast to coast. During that time, you get to see things. How do clouds form over the day? How does the weather change and how do the temperatures change with an 8000 foot drop of elevation in an hour or two… What happens between the high desert and the low plains. Gets a fellow to thinking.
First off, lets look at a temperature map for today:
This was picked more or less at random from:
but conforms pretty much to a thousand others I’ve seen over the years.
UPDATE: Added GEOS screen capture
This is an image grabbed from an animated loop at:
http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/natl/flash-rb.html per the discussion below.
The violet over the west looks like it is from the far cold end of the caption, if I’m reading it right. My guess, and it is only a wide guess, is that this satellite is looking at a band and altitude that is high up in the sky, so cold over the desert west. There was snow on the mountain tops (even while warm in the sun in the valley) so I think what we are seeing is differential heat transport. To the ground as light in the west (leaving “high cold air” with little convective heat deposition) and with heat being dumped at cloud tops in the East. But I could be all wrong, this is just an “on the fly” attempt at interpretation.
Back to the original posting
As the West Coast has air that generally comes in from “up north” and over cold water (typically about 45 F off the California north coast as a rough ‘typical’ number) it is clearly not arriving in the inland areas of The West as hot air. In Florida, the air tends to arrive in a north bound flow from over nice warm water (about 80 F in summer). The West gets a cool air feed, the East a warm air feed.
If we pick areas of about the same latitude, we can say they are getting about the same sunshine. What varies is how much water vapor is in the arriving air. IMHO, this gives us an “existence proof” of “water vapor feedback”. Looking more north means less sun, more south more sun; so we would expect a “bit north” compared to a “bit south” to give the bias toward a cooler north and warmer south. (That can be seen on the East Coast as a temperature gradient from Main to Florida)
What happens to the dry air when it has sunshine vs the wet air when it gets sunshine? Which one heats up more?
Even a casual inspection of the map shows that the entire dry desert band, from inland Washington state (they have a bit of desert behind their mountains) all the way on down through Nevada ( nice high desert there) and Utah ( I reached 8000 Ft plus elevation at one point) and on into West Texas (known for Mesquite and BBQ using same ;-) are all quite hot. 84 F to 108 F. Now, if “water vapor feedback” is a positive value, we would expect that areas more south, at lower elevations, with even MORE sunshine, would be even hotter.
I can tell you that for most of today in Orlando, the humidity was 100%. It started off very sunny, and was quite hot at noon. A strong tropical (or near tropical) sun. I was out in it. Observing it. Then it clouded up, and began to rain. The formation of tropical thunderstorms is characteristic of hot summer days. They are welcome as they cause a rapid plunge of temperatures. (As I’m typing this, it’s 11 pm and I’m feeling a bit of ‘chill’ from the cool. I’m on the patio again.) Tomorrow morning will be sunny, and then it will get humid and “hot”, and then the rain will come again. Now look at the map.
The midwest is known for humidity, as is Farm Country. Iowa corn puts a lot of water into the air, and I’ve taken a shower in Iowa only to towel off and still be soaking wet as the humidity condenses. Anyone who has been on the Gulf Coast on a sunny day can tell you that 90 F and 99% humidity is brutal. Now look at that map. The high humidity areas are in the 60 F to 70s F range, getting up to 82 F in the far southern tip of Florida. Looking back to the West Coast, it is hot inland where it is dry, but look at the edge of the water. You can see the low and cold coastal temperatures where the cold air comes in from over the water with humidity in it. Then it warms inland where it is dry.
More water vapor makes for colder air temperatures. NOT warmer.
At the limit case, at about 84F to 88F, thunderstorms form and eventually, with enough area of hot water and enough of the right winds, even hurricanes / cyclones. They, too, cool things down dramatically. A hurricane passed off shore some years back when I was here. For 100 miles from the hurricane, surface winds evaporated water, rushed to the cyclonic center, were lofted to altitude, condensed that water dumping massive heat at altitude, and returned that cold water (and hail…) to the surface to cycle again. About a 10 F drop.
With a lot MORE tropical surface heating (and lots of water to store heat from UV penetration) the result is a faster driving of the water cycle, and COOLING of the surface. The water vapor feedback is aggressively negative and more so with any rise about about 84 F to 88 F.
In short, the models are horridly wrong simply from having the sign backwards on water feedback. More water vapor does NOT make things hotter, it makes them cooler (if wetter…)
It is trivial to observe. Look at any temperature map that includes both dry and humid areas. Look at what happens to the temperatures as a tropical storm passes. Look at what happens to surface winds near thunderstorms and the temperature changes. Water cools.
While driving across the Plains, I noticed an interesting pattern to the clouds over the day. I was “holding a line” of relatively constant latitude, and there was not a significant weather system happening. What I saw was a clear sky morning, then with a bit of warmth, the greenery gave humidity, that rose to make “puffy clouds” down low about 10 am. Those then evaporated over the next couple of hours (as the sun heated them) and then another “pulse” of humid air headed up. In the afternoon, a larger and fuller cloud deck started to form as even more water vapor ended up higher in the air. This was from the center of Nebraska to Missouri. You could watch the humidity pump pulse upward into the sky, taking loads of latent heat with it. (Eventually it rained, but I was all the way down to Tennessee / Georgia by then and it was coming up on the next day, so not a direct comparison).
Clear sky at the start of the day.
These clouds formed locally. The ‘wind’ was near zero and any body of water of any size was days away. This is local low cloud formation from water evaporating from the surface. As clouds form, the surface is notably cooler under them. (Driving under cloud patches would give significantly cooler feeling on the skin.)
A bit before noon, it’s even thicker clouds, still low, and starting to get a ‘banding’ pattern where air is rising in rows, making bands of clouds.
Then an odd thing happens. The sun near noon is quite hot, and it looks like the land has been shaded and dried a bit, so the clouds evaporate and the humid air rises a bit higher. A bit more sun / heat reaches the ground, and the cycle repeats. While hard to see in the pictures, from the ground it looked like the could deck re-formed a bit higher up in the sky. As though the second “pulse” pushed higher. Then the cloud deck fills in more fully.
So I stopped for lunch in the town of Aurora Nebraska (subject of another posting to come) and this is on the way back to the interstate after the stop. The clear sky didn’t last long, as the next picture shows. It was not just ‘cloud banks’ drifting by. Things didn’t move sideways much; they formed in place, barely drifted, and changed form over time more or less ‘in place’.
Here’s the view at the Missouri welcome station just over the border, and then one from the entry to Florida the next morning. Clearly further south with even more sun at Top Of Atmosphere is NOT having a lot of ‘positive’ feedback from the added water vapor…
So that’s my “trip pix” and my interpretation of them. I have some more from the desert areas (for yet another posting). The simple fact is that having gone from one coast to the center of the country in one day (a very long one ….) and then from the center to the other coast in the next day (another very long one), you “notice things”. One very obvious one is just that the lack of water vapor in the high desert makes it hotter. Even though it is at higher altitude, higher latitude, and has cold air flow coming in off the Pacific. With all that “against it”, the low water vapor air heats up more. Then, middle of the country where you just can’t get air changing very fast, there is a rapid daily cloud cycle. That cycle clearly shows how water vapor makes clouds, that result in lower surface temperatures. Further on, near huge amounts of water, and hotter water at that, with a load of water vapor in the air, the result is a cooling rain and the lowest air temperatures of the trip.
The more water vapor, the cooler the temperatures. It is really that simple, and anyone can observe it.
The models are flat out wrong, and spectacularly so, with the wrong sign on water vapor feedback. Most likely from applying a “theoretical” of IR radiation physics and failing to deal with clouds, convection, enthalpy, and precipitation: the things that dominate and determine what actually happens.
Just For Fun
I found this sign interesting. It would seem that even the fates think that there’s the right way to do things, and the wrong one. You can do things “Like a Smith”, or go the other way…