The UN IPCC reports on climate are truly unusual scientifically. Without any serious discussion or even an attempt to point out their unusual nature, they try to convince readers that the basic nature of Earth’s climate has been radically changed after millions of years, all because one very minor constituent of the atmosphere has been increasing, as it usually does during interglacial periods in response to higher temperatures.
During this long period the basic nature of Earth’s climate can be characterized as bistability. In other words, Earth has had dual climate equilibria. One occurs during ice ages and the other during interglacial periods. Both are very stable except that Earth flips from the ice age equilibrium to the interglacial roughly every 100,000 years and flips back again after another 10,000 to 12,000 years. History suggests that we may be close to the next flip into an ice age, the colder of the two bistability climates. This has enormous implications for humans and all life on Earh. But the upper “limit” on interglacial temperatures does not appear to have been breached in all that time.
But during interglacial periods Earth’s climate is very stable despite constant changes in the many factors that influence climate.
The Reason for Earth’s Climate Bistability Equilibria
A very important question is why Earth’s climate is so stable in each of these two equilibria. One leading hypothesis is that it is due to something called emergent climate phenomena. It is these phenomena that keep Earth’s climate from warming beyond various thresholds in the interglacial case and presumably for the ice age one as well. These phenomena operate dynamically on a minute by minute basis on the basis of local conditions and cannot be reliably predicted no matter how sophisticated the climate model or how large the computer it is run on. They operate independently but overall have the effect of creating a self-governing system that keeps Earth as a whole from going outside narrow bands of the two temperature equilibria. This means that it would be extremely unusual if climate ever experienced a runaway increase in temperatures, which is the basic scare posed by the UN IPCC. Yet the UN wants you to believe that the upper limit established by the interglacial equilibrium has suddenly disappeared.
The “green” climate alarmists claim that unless human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are radically curbed global temperatures will increase catastrophically. They claim that these minor changes in a very weak greenhouse gas will result in increased climate “forcings,” but conveniently ignore the profound effects of the emergent climate phenomena which appear to have the capabiilty of preventing such a minor change from pushing Earth’s temperatures beyond the boundaries set by the interglacial equilibrium. The UN’s hypothesis is known as the Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) Hypothesis.
I have previously explained why there are numerous problems with these claims including that CAGW does not survive application of the scientific method. It is now clear that the alleged catastrophic increase cannot happen wherever there is sufficient warm water or water vapor nearby. There are areas that lack such access to warm water or water vapor. Many such areas are not relevant because they are too cold to “need” cooling anyway to stay below the equilibrium. I will discuss an important area that does not have access to water or water vapor for most of the year below to show how potent the emergent phenomena are.
The reason is that the physical attributes of water, particularly its two major phase changes, are such that in Earth’s atmosphere, a variety of emergent climate phenomena act to control increases in temperatures above thresholds established by their physical characteristics. These thresholds have and will continue to prevent such temperature increases without regard to any likely level of CO2.
Whether the emergent climate phenomena are responsible for the higher equilibrium is of extreme importance for climate policy. If the Emergent Climate Phenomenon Hypothesis is correct, no expenditure that seeks to reduce CO2 emissions will have any effect on global temperatures since the phenomena will simply adjust for any added CO2 “forcing.” I believe that the preponderance of the evidence strongly favors the Hypothesis. The fact that this issue has never been seriously studied and cannot be usefully modeled suggests how much needs to be learned before humans can actually do anything useful to influence climate by varying human CO2 emissions.
The Wide Variety of Emergent Climate Phenomena
How can I be so sure of this? Because there is strong evidence that emergent climate phenomena have been occurring in areas which exceed the thresholds just discussed during all or part of the year for millions of years. I have personally experienced the emergent cloud/thunderstorm phenomena in both tropical oceania and in the Sierra Nevada of California, and can report that what I experienced fully corresponded to observations by others, including John Muir in the case of the Sierra. And there is no reason to expect these phenomena to suddenly change as humans gradually increase their emissions of CO2 or other greenhouse gases (excluding water), which may increase temperatures, but if so, only by a very small amount. These emergent climate phenomena include the following: Cloud formation, thunderstorm development, hurricanes, El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), tornadoes, and monsoons. These phenomena constitute a self-regulating system that appears to prevent temperature increases in many areas, particularly those with ready access to warm water or water vapor, from exceeding the thresholds and to return these areas to the thresholds (and sometimes lower) if they do temporarily exceed the thresholds.
It is possible for the areas subject to these various phenomena to expand if the temperatures increase (as in summer in the Northern Hemisphere) or that the phenomena will take effect earlier in the day or remain in effect longer or with greater effect, but the temperatures in all areas with ready access to warm water or water vapor will not increase beyond these thresholds except for brief excursions, all thanks to the emergent phenomena. This means that CAGW is impossible at least in these areas. These areas include all those with sufficient temperatures and humidity to exceed the thresholds of the emergent phenomena.
Thunderstorms were discussed in a previous post. They essentially serve as a governor regulating temperatures where they occur and keeping them within the interglacial equilibrium.
In any area with enough moisture to support clouds, the incidence of solar energy on areas beneath them is decreased during hot periods because much of the incoming energy from the sun is partially reflected back towards outer space. The reflectivity of clouds often varies with the extent of the temperature excess which is being reduced. Clouds located in tropical oceanic areas effectively serve as regulators of incoming solar energy in areas that receive the most solar radiation, thus serving as a gatekeeper for much of the solar energy entering the climate system. In other areas clouds serve a similar role, but are less crucial because other areas receive less incoming radiation.
The Interesting Case of Monsoons in India
Now not all areas of the world have ready access to warm water or water vapor during all or part of the year. India is an example for most of the year. But another emergent climate phenomenon, monsoons, control temperatures even there and in a number of Southeast Asian countries. As temperatures rise in India as summer approaches, ocean air is drawn over the land to replace the rising heated air resulting from the increasing temperatures normally experienced as the sun’s energy reaching India increases. This ocean air deposits its water on the land in the early summer months, thereby reducing temperatures. I again experienced this during my residence there, but it has been widely reported by many observers over several hundred years. So the climate control is much less precise in the case of monsoons, but allows humans to live in India thanks to them since they bring lower temperatures and lifegiving rain during the summer months. So even here CAGW is not possible. Temperatures will not go above those required to draw ocean air over the subcontinent and initiate rain. Higher spring temperatures will simply result in a heavier monsoon and added temperature relief.
Hurricanes: A Major Emergent Phenomena in Many Oceanic Sub-tropical Areas
Still another emergent climate phenomenon, hurricanes (also called tropical cyclones), play a major role in regulating temperatures in many semi-tropical areas during the warmer parts of the year. In areas with warm water during some part of the year, hurricanes are formed and bring down temperatures over the oceanic areas they pass over, ultimately pushing some of the heat into outer space. Accumulated cyclone energy corresponds closely to temperatures/warming in the last 40 years. So by one or another of these emergent phenomena ground level temperatures are controlled to a point at or below various thresholds for these phenomena. This leaves areas without access to water or water vapor where increases in CO2 forcing might have some effect on temperatures. Presumably these are largely in large land areas with desert-like conditions. In most cases they are probably desert areas with little human habitation. Areas with large areas covered by lakes, such as the Sierra of California, are not included in these areas since the emergent thunderstorm phenomenon is alive and well in warm such areas during the summer (only). And there are sometimes emergent phenomena like dust devils and non-emergent phenomena in these areas as well, such as wind and rain, which redistribute heat from high to low temperature areas.
Tornadoes equalize temperatures between high temperature areas near ground level and lower temperature areas at higher altitudes. They have the effect of reducing temperatures which are out of equilibrium with other areas. They are thus still another emerging phenomenon that helps keep temperatures in equilbrium.
Wind and Rain
Wind and rain do not appear to fit the definition of emergent climate phenomena but do have the effect of reducing temperatures that are much warmer than surrounding areas, and therefore play a role in preventing global temperatures from exceeding the interglacial temperature maximums.
Possible Relation to Wallace et al. Study Finding
In last week’s post I discussed the impact of the combination of two particular emergent climate phenomenon, thunderstorms and clouds, on global temperatures, primarily in tropical oceanic areas. I also pointed out that the most sophisticated econometric analysis available, Wallace, et al., 2016, concludes that changes in atmospheric CO2 have no significant effect on global temperatures. And I raised the question whether there was a connection between the two. I pointed out that the Emergent Climate Phenomena Hypothesis would appear to offer one explanation for the Wallace et al., 2016 findings in those areas where the Hypothesis holds, which includes the oceanic tropics since it provides thresholds of temperature and humidity wherever they occur. If emergent climate phenomena emerge every time global temperatures and humidity exceed certain levels, it does not matter what the IPCC’s alleged CO2 “forcings” may be; temperatures will never increase significant above the temperature thresholds. Instead, clouds and thunderstorms will appear slightly earlier in the day to keep temperatures more uniform in the case of the cloud/thunderstorm emergent climate phenomenon.
In part due to the IPCC’s fixation on CO2 forcings and its decision to ignore emergent climate phenomena, these phenomena do not appear to have been researched or modeled by the IPCC, perhaps because the phenomena are impossible to predict. But they need to be thoroughly understood before even $1 (let alone $1.5 trillion per year) more is spent in response to the IPCC policy recommendation to reduce human-caused CO2 emissions. We know that some emergent climate phenomena have the effect of controlling global temperatures in a critical area (tropical oceania) for solar radiation to reach Earth’s surface, as well as in many other warm areas.
We need to better understand how emergent phenomena affect temperatures in each region of the world. If there are regions where they have no or only a minor effect, presumably these regions will experience slightly higher global temperatures IF the CO2 heating hypothesis actually operates in the real world. Or, are global temperatures primarily controlled on the upside by emergent phenomena, as I believe? If so, NO expenditure will ever “control climate change” And the developed world will have wasted $1.5 trillion per year in recent years by ignoring emergent climate phenomena and the critical role they play in climate.
Emergent climate phenomena are greatly underappreciated as determinants of climate stability, and have unfortunately been ignored by the IPCC and climate alarmists over the history of the climate controversy. Unless the role of these phenomena is proven to be ineffective in preventing climate equilibrium, all government-supported expenditures on so-called “climate change control” (including alarmist-inspired but not neutral research) should be suspended unless work by neutral researchers overturns these conclusions. Even if increased human-caused CO2 emissions increase atmospheric CO2 levels, the emergent phenomena will not allow them to increase global temperatures in many areas of the world and probably overall.