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Study Finds Stratospheric Water Vapor Is An Important Driver of Decadal Global Surface Climate Change

Solomon2
Decadal warming rates arising from (i) greenhouse gases and aerosols alone (black); (ii) that obtained including the stratospheric water decline after 2000 (red); and (iii) including both the stratospheric water vapor decline after 2000 and the increase in the 1980s and 1990s (cyan). Credit: Solomon et al., Science. Click to enlarge.

A 10% drop in stratospheric water vapor concentrations acted to slow the rate of increase in global surface temperature over 2000-2009 by about 25% compared to that which would have occurred due only to CO2 and other greenhouse gases, according to a new study by researchers from NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory; the University of Colorado, Boulder; and the University of Bern (Switzerland). Their paper was published online in the journal Science on 28 January.

Earlier observations from satellites and balloons suggest that stratospheric water vapor probably increased between 1980 and 2000, which would have enhanced the decadal rate of surface warming during the 1990s by about 30% compared to estimates ignoring this change, according to the authors.

These findings show that stratospheric water vapor represents an important driver of decadal global surface climate change.

—Solomon et al.

Over the last century, global average surface temperatures have warmed by about 0.75 °C (0.42 °C), with much of it occuring the last half. However, note the authors, the trend in global surface temperatures has been nearly flat since the late 1990s despite continuing increases in the forcing due to all the greenhouse gases.

Previous studies suggested that stratospheric water vapor might contribute significantly to climate change. The new study is the first to relate water vapor in the stratosphere to the specific variations in warming of the past few decades.

Solomon
Stratospheric water vapor and radiative processes. Source: NOAA. Click to enlarge.

The stratosphere is the region of the atmosphere from about eight to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface. Water vapor enters the stratosphere mainly as air rises in the tropics.

Stratospheric water vapor changes affect the fluxes of longwave (infrared) and—to a lesser extent—shortwave (solar) radiation, and can thereby influence the temperature in the stratosphere and troposphere. In general, increases in stratospheric water vapor cool the stratosphere, but warm the troposphere; the reverse is true for decreases in stratospheric water vapor.

The researchers used data from the HALogen Occultation Experiment (HALOE) that flew on the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) from late 1991 through November 2005, with coverage from the troposphere to the stratosphere overs 65°S to 65 °N. Combined with two additional and independent sets of satellite data, the data provide evidence for “a sharp and persistent drop of about 0.4 parts per million by volume (ppmv)” in stratospheric water vapor after 2000.

Balloon data suggest a gradual mid-latitude increase in lower stratospheric water vapor of more than 1 ppmv from about 1980 to 2000. Other data also support increased in lower stratospheric water vapor during the 1990s of about 0.5 ppmv.

...recent observations have suggested a correlation of the post-2000 stratospheric water vapor decrease to sea surface temperature [SST] changes near the tropical warm pool region and associated cooling of the cold point that governs water vapor input to the stratosphere in the tropics. However, the relationship between SSTs in the warm pool region and stratospheric water vapor changes character (from negative to positive short-term correlations) from 1980–2009, suggesting that other processes may also be important, or that the correlation may be a transient feature linked to the specific pattern of SSTs at a given time rather than to the average warming of SSTs around the globe.

It is therefore not clear whether the stratospheric water vapor changes represent a feedback to global average climate change or a source of decadal variability. Current global climate models suggest that the water vapor feedback to global warming due to carbon dioxide increases is weak but these models do not fully resolve the tropopause or the cold point, nor do they completely represent the QBO, deep convective transport and its linkages to SSTs, or the impact of aerosol heating on water input to the stratosphere.

This work highlights the importance of stratospheric water vapor for decadal rates of warming based directly upon observations, illuminating the need for further observations and a closer examination of the representation of stratospheric water vapor changes in climate models aimed at interpreting decadal changes and for future projections.

—Solomon et al.

Authors of the study are Susan Solomon, Karen Rosenlof, Robert Portmann, and John Daniel, all of the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo.; Sean Davis and Todd Sanford, NOAA/ESRL and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado; and Gian-Kasper Plattner, University of Bern, Switzerland.

Resources

  • Susan Solomon, Karen Rosenlof, Robert Portmann, John Daniel, Sean Davis, Todd Sanford, Gian-Kasper Plattner (2010) Contributions of Stratospheric Water Vapor to Decadal Changes in the Rate of Global Warming. Science Express doi: 10.1126/science.1182488

Comments

The Goracle

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Any increase in temperature (for example by adding CO2)

Of course this is false. Research shows that CO2 lags Global Warming by between 300-500 years. Please get your facts right.

And how would the results look completely different when those deletions and manipulations had not taken place?

Do you ever bother to read both sides of the "science?" The hockey stick suddenly straightened out when the data was released and analyzed. Of course it didn't straighten out until the "skeptics" forced the issue. Also, your silly statement: "... was not easy to get for a non-scientist" is again, false. The data was illegally (recent findings by law enforcement say so) blocked from being released.

Please read more than Green Car Congress and Globalwarmist talking points for your information. GCC refuses to print "skeptic" papers and articles so you end up incredibly ignorant by placing such limitations on your knowledge.

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Arne

Research shows that CO2 lags Global Warming by between 300-500 years. Please get your facts right.

That is only true if you assume there is only one relationship possible between CO2 and temperature. Of course this has been explained to you over and over again, but either you are incapable of comprehension or unwilling to accept reality. Read up on Henry's law and the IR absorption of CO2 to learn why CO2 in the atmosphere can be dependent on temperature and at the same time temperature can be dependent on CO2 level in the atmosphere. The lag proves nothing. Please get your physics right.

Also, your silly statement: "... was not easy to get for a non-scientist" is again, false. The data was illegally (recent findings by law enforcement say so) blocked from being released.

The raw data that was not provided by Phil Jones was simply available (mostly free of charge) at the source: the met services. It would have been possible to request it there. That would require some work and perhaps would cost some money, and that's why I was right in saying that it was possible, but not easy.

You are so willing to believe the conspiracy that you fail to see the bleeding obvious: that the denialists were never really interested in the data. Had they been interested, they could have gotten it. But denialists don't do science. They only throw around unproven accusations and create confusion.

Arne

The hockey stick suddenly straightened out when the data was released and analyzed

I'm not gonna take your word for it. I need proof. Blog posts do not qualify as proof. A link to peer reviewed science would do just fine thank you.

Matthew

A link to peer reviewed science would do just fine thank you.

So you're going to rely on the corrupted peer review process to enhance your understanding of the corrupted science that went into the hockey stick?

Brilliant.

ai_vin

Research shows that CO2 lags Global Warming by between 300-500 years.

CO2 can be BOTH a forcing and a feedback, and there are two kinds of carbon - fossil carbon and carbon cycling through the biosphere. In the past CO2 lagged GW because only biosphere carbon was involved: The Earth's temperature rose because of something, like orbital forcing, which caused CO2 to be released from the medium term CO2 sinks in the environment, like the oceans, which caused a feedback which raised the temperature even more. That's the past, what's happening now is we are amplifying the warming by taking carbon out of the long term sinks (the fossil carbon) and putting it into the air.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hWJeqgG3Tl8
http://www.grist.org/article/co2-doesnt-lead-it-lags/

Stan Peterson

Who said there is no way to control water vapor?

I once published a monograph on an idea to create a vaste project to solve the dreaded hydro di-oxide menace.

I proposed we start a project to reduce both CO2 emissions and H20 emissions as well. Roof over the Oceans.

It was greeted as a reasonable approach to geo-engineering by Green Slime and World Wide Drivel, WWD.

All the worlds noted green fundraisers signed on to this reasonable proposal, as long as fundraising costs were allowed to be the customary 99% of all money raised.

It foundered on predictable arguments as to whom to assign to roof over each Ocean. Europe got the Atlantic, and Japan and America the Northern Pacific. But Australia protested that they had too big a responsibility for the entire Southern Pacific. India was stuck with the Indian Ocean, but they got taxes from the Arabian Peninsula to help. China tried to evade its responsibilities, not agreeing to contribute to this massive and absolutely necessary project. They said it should be done by the developed capitalistic West.

Mr. Hands-on, well known astronomer/stargazer and Gore appointed resident expert on anything and nothing at all, said we must act immediately if not sooner! Or we would all die from CAGW! He demanded completion within ten weeks; or was it ten days? Or everyone would die of fire; and drown, simultaneously. But every one knows he exaggerates a little.

None the less his acolyte, Mr. Gabbage Smythed, posted a tribute and called it a well researched, and well considered commentary, on his Blog 'Real Whether.goo'.

Russia considered taking responsibility for the Arctic Ocean. And then announced the discovery of a great hydrated material to use for its roof. It said it was far advanced on its project and the Arctic Ocean Roof, would soon have a roof composed of this marvelous building material, developed by its scientists in Siberia. It is called I-C-E.

They recommended its use as a roofing material, in Equatorial areas as well, but it presently had a minor engineering flaw, in such applications. Effective as always, government-sponsored research, paid for by UN tithes, would solve that thermal stability problem... soon.

AlGore picked up the challenge and has created a new televised sermon in the 'New Dogma series', for his Druidic Gaian religion, in support. But only as long as he got the contract to use cotton from his "cotton fields back home" as a roofing/tenting material...

See there are things that can be done fully as reasonable or maybe more so, than present CAGW battling proposals.

ai_vin

So you're going to rely on the corrupted peer review process

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXesBhYwdRo

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer_review

Matthew

Spend some time on the 'criticisms' section of that Wikipedia article you so cleverly located, and ponder how it pertains to the misbehavior of the CRU crew.

Then consider that the IPCC report, supposedly the most awesomest, authoritativest collection of peer-reviewed science EVAR is beginning to unravel as nonsense.

You true-believers have been had. When are you going to wake up to that fact?

Arne

Matthew,

Duh. Of course they tell you that the peer review process is broken. Did it ever occur to you that they tell you that because what they fear most is you actually looking at the science itself and discovering it makes a whole lot more sense than their handwaving and explanations that always involves some unnamed, unknown 'natural cycle'?

You are knowingly and willingly promoting the idea of shutting out all information that does not support your opinion. You are such an easy target.

Arne

Matthew,

Never mind the peer review. I will lower my standards to anything that makes sense. Can you deliver me that to help out your pal Goracle whom I asked the question?

Matthew

Anne - See, here's the thing...I was suspicious of the whole global warming thing long before Climategate broke, so what anyone says about the peer review process has no bearing on where I stand. Besides, if anyone's showing fear it's the people (Jones, Mann, et al) who are perverting the process...haven't you wondered yet what it is they're hoping YOU don't discover?

As for the rest of it...I'll let Goracle answer your question, since he's much more amusing than I am. Besides, I suspect you already know how to use Google.

sulleny

Officer Anne shows her colors too easily. She and ai stand on one crippled leg - appeal to the authority of crony... er, peer review. That dog don't hunt.

Arne

If what someone says about the peer review process has no bearing on where you stand, why would I have to change my opinion on the science based on *your* opinion of the peer review process?

I am wondering indeed what they wouldn't want me to discover. I was kinda hoping you could tell me. But I have yet to see direct answers from any denialist. It is all same with you. A lot of suspicion and vague accusations and nothing solid.

Here's my side of the story. I once read an article by Steven Goddard (he regularly posts on WUWT too) on The Register about how the 2008 arctic ice extent as published by the NSIDC was wrong. He came to his conclusion - you're not gonna believe this - by pixel counting the NSIDC images using Photoshop. That is the type of 'science' you are applauding.

And he regularly posts whenever some ice statistic is above average. His contributions sound like he is reporting a football match and his team is in the lead. My guess is we won't be hearing anything from Steven Goddard anytime soon. How do I know that? Simple: global sea ice area is well below the 1979-2008 mean.

By the way, Steven Goddard is a pseudonym. I wonder why....

Most of the posts on WUWT are usually based on this sort of cherry picking. One of the most egregious recent examples I remember was Willam Eschenbachs attempt to 'prove' the corruptness of the temperature record by the handpicking 1 (!) station out of the several thousands. Other things include suggestive charts (I very much like this one: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2008/10/20/national-post-thirty-years-of-warmer-temperatures-go-poof/) and shoddy statistics.

The average crap on WUWT is a very long way from convincing me.

As for the rest of it...I'll let Goracle answer your question, since he's much more amusing than I am. Besides, I suspect you already know how to use Google.

Ah what an elegant way to sidestep my question. I take it the 'hockey stick' wasn't straightened out after all and Goracle was joking.

The reason I can't google this is simple. If I enter 'hockey stick', I get about 7 million hits. I really don't know what Goracle is referring to. The straightening out of the hockey stick could mean only one thing: that the temperature trend over the 20th century has been revised with no warming as a result. That has not happened afaik. You may be more aware of what talk is doing the rounds in the denialosphere and so you could point me in the right direction.

Matthew

If what someone says about the peer review process has no bearing on where you stand, why would I have to change my opinion on the science based on *your* opinion of the peer review process?

You don't *have* to do anything. I was just pointing out that demanding only peer-reviewed papers as evidence of truth is a bit silly given that the peer-review process stands accused of blocking the very evidence you seek. What you do with that information is up to you.

My guess is we won't be hearing anything from Steven Goddard anytime soon. How do I know that? Simple: global sea ice area is well below the 1979-2008 mean.

You might be right...you might not. 2008's minimum ice extent was higher than 2007's, and 2009's was higher than 2008's. If one of those mysterious 'natural cycles' is at play here, how do you suppose 2010's minimum might compare to that of 2009?

Ah what an elegant way to sidestep my question. I take it the 'hockey stick' wasn't straightened out after all and Goracle was joking.

You'd have to ask him...we in the denialosphere don't actually share a brain, whatever you may have been told. For myself, I know that the hockey stick has been debunked, but whether that's the same as being 'straightened out' I have no idea. I imagine he'll be along sometime soon.

Will S

Matthew, are you even aware of the article that was discussed by Jones re: the peer review process? That article was so poor it should never have been published to begin with (and the editorial staff went into convulsions even before the Jones email about that very topic).

Concerned that the peer review process "is broken" over a couple of paragraphs in a 983 page report? If so, you're asking for 100.000% accuracy in a human process, and are setting the bar artificially far too high. Even the scientist that blew the whistle said;

"This was a bad error. It was a really bad paragraph, and poses a legitimate question about how to improve IPCC’s review process. It was not a conspiracy. The error does not compromise the IPCC Fourth Assessment, which for the most part was well reviewed and is highly accurate."

http://web.hwr.arizona.edu/~gleonard/2009Dec-FallAGU-Soot-PressConference-Backgrounder-Kargel.pdf

Matthew

Yes, we've heard that several times recently, have we not, Will? "OK, you got us here...but everything else is completely accurate. Really! And you're still oil industry-funded denialist poopyheads for doubting our totally accurate and not-at-all made up conclusions."

Will S

Matthew, you're not providing much of an argument. You're like a kid in a row boat having just shoot a few BBs at a battleship, jumping up and down saying "I WON!!!"....

sulleny, peer review won't dry up and blow away, unless we descend back into the Dark Ages. There's a reason for a hard examination of everything published in a journal that wants to be taken seriously.

Will S

Matthew, you're not providing much of an argument. You're like a kid in a row boat having just shoot a few BBs at a battleship, jumping up and down saying "I WON!!!"....

sulleny, peer review won't dry up and blow away, unless we descend back into the Dark Ages. There's a reason for a hard examination of everything published in a journal that wants to be taken seriously.

Matthew

That's because I'm not here today to argue, but to help Anne with her logic. I've long since learned that arguing on the internet gets you nowhere.

mds

ia vin,
fair dinkum. Thanks for the wiki link.

Steve Funk & Anne,
Thanks. Actually does make some sense now. Sorry.

What about Azmi Osman comment? :
"high temperature desert surface is a really bad news"

"The Weather Makers" talks about proof the Amazonian rain forest makes much of it's own down wind rain via transportation. This proof is in the form of oxygen isotopes in the rain water. Doesn't this mean deforestation causes reduced availability of water in some areas, desertification? What does this do to climate?

mds

That should say "transpiration"

Arne

Matthew,

Every time I press you to produce some evidence you start making evasive manoeuvres slinging around accusations of fraud and misconduct. But I want to see *scientific evidence*.

For example, a statistically sound analysis of the instrumental record that shows no temperature rise since pre-industrial times. Or ice core measurements that show no correlation between CO2 and temperature. Or the revelation of the elusive 'natural cycle' that explains everything.

Of course you'll not be giving me such evidence, you have a much better explanation: the evidence is suppressed by the evil scientists.

Admit it, you stand empty handed.

Matthew

Of course you'll not be giving me such evidence, you have a much better explanation: the evidence is suppressed by the evil scientists.

That's a fairly good summary of my point, so my job here is done.

Will S

Matthew wrote;

That's because I'm not here today to argue, but to help Anne with her logic.

"Physician, heal thyself"...

.

sulleny

Will, more appropriately it should be "climate scientist" heal thyself.

http://xrl.in/4eon

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