Stratospheric Water Vapor is a Global Warming Wild Card

Jan 28, 2010
Image: NOAA

A 10 percent drop in water vapor ten miles above Earth’s surface has had a big impact on global warming, say researchers in a study published online January 28 in the journal Science. The findings might help explain why global surface temperatures have not risen as fast in the last ten years as they did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Observations from satellites and balloons show that stratospheric has had its ups and downs lately, increasing in the 1980s and 1990s, and then dropping after 2000. The authors show that these changes occurred precisely in a narrow altitude region of the stratosphere where they would have the biggest effects on climate.

Water vapor is a highly variable gas and has long been recognized as an important player in the cocktail of greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, halocarbons, nitrous oxide, and others -- that affect climate.

“Current do a remarkable job on water vapor near the surface. But this is different — it’s a thin wedge of the that packs a wallop from one decade to the next in a way we didn’t expect,” says Susan Solomon, NOAA senior scientist and first author of the study.

Since 2000, water vapor in the stratosphere decreased by about 10 percent. The reason for the recent decline in water vapor is unknown. The new study used calculations and models to show that the cooling from this change caused surface temperatures to increase about 25 percent more slowly than they would have otherwise, due only to the increases in and other greenhouse gases.

An increase in stratospheric water vapor in the 1990s likely had the opposite effect of increasing the rate of warming observed during that time by about 30 percent, the authors found.

The stratosphere is a 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. 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 to the specific variations in warming of the past few decades.

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.

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jonnyboy
1.8 / 5 (18) Jan 28, 2010
Using new satellites with precise observations and comparing them to OLD data from less precise sources and they somehow think this gives them valid results. I don't get it.
dachpyarvile
1.7 / 5 (19) Jan 28, 2010
Don't try to get it--at least not yet. While I think the study is of interest and think they may be onto something here, I still remember something (which I read again the other day) in one of my old, dust-laden, school textbooks (yes, I keep them for sentimental reasons):

The elements of weather and climate are so numerous and combine in such endless variety that the complete description of a climate is extremely difficult. Accurate description involves the extensive use of climatic tables and extensive statistical analysis.... To be complete, the tables should include all the elements that affect man and his activities. To acquire from such tables a correct idea of what a given climate is like requires not only a careful comparison of the data with similar data for climates with which one is familiar, but also the exercise of some imagination.

Blair and Fite, "Weather Elements: A Text in Elementary Meteorology," 5th Edition (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1965), 274-275.
GrayMouser
2 / 5 (20) Jan 28, 2010
One of the major criticisms of the computer models (beyond the fact that they don't work) has been that they don't model clouds and atmospheric H2O (they treat them as insignificant. Now with a unpredicted decade long cooling period they are scrambling for reasons why the models failed.
Funny how their reasons seem to match the original criticisms.
mosahlah
1.8 / 5 (16) Jan 29, 2010
Does it suprise ANYONE that there are factors that contribute to our weather which are not clearly understood? Practically everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, contributes to AGW, if you want to believe it does. But, why wait for models that accurately predict the weather next month, when we can start handing over the keys of our economic policy to eco-nazis, socialists, vegetarians, urban-hobbits, anarchists, academic elitists, who and whatever... without a real clue whats going on?
Skeptic_Heretic
1.7 / 5 (12) Jan 29, 2010
Truth is, papers like this are published daily however they don't provide the level of alarm that makes for a good or interesting news story for the 1 minute media. Science never left the discussion. The discussion left science, much like it did in the 70's when the new hypothesis was global cooling.

If anything it can be said that Michael Mann is one of the most marketing savy scientists out there seeing as he was central to the coverage of both hypotheses.
croghan26
2.1 / 5 (7) Jan 29, 2010
"surface temperatures to increase about 25 percent more slowly than they would have otherwise, due only to the increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases."

Hummm .... can someone decypher this sentence? Perhaps put it into english.
ArtflDgr
1.5 / 5 (15) Jan 29, 2010
when things like this pop up, are we smart enough to realize the models previously run are useless as they did not include such things? (and tehre are dozens of such things now)
AAhhzz
2 / 5 (16) Jan 29, 2010
I wish someone would list all the thousands of possible factors that impact the climate and in a second column answer one question...Is this factor included in your assessment of global warming. Any model that doesnt include at least 90% of the factors isnt science, its just an approximation of science and should be given all the regaurd that the mumblings of an intoxicated grad student are given.

Granted you have to start somewhere, but as this story illistrates when you leave out factors that you know are significant, just because you dont have data for them,...Dont try to tell me your "Science" is sound and that the debate is over
Mudshark
1.6 / 5 (7) Jan 29, 2010
Let's see, when the Earth was warming more water evaporated and worked its way up into the higher atmosphere. When the Earth stared to cool more of the water vapor condensed and reentered the lower atmosphere. Is that to simple an explanation?
3432682
2 / 5 (16) Jan 29, 2010
The UN IPCC does not know how the climate works. But they firmly affirm that they do. For those who are not yet IPCC skeptics, add this to the long list of evidence that the IPCC does not have the answers. Consider too that we should take back the climate keys and start over, without the panic and subterfuge. Clearly the IPCC is practicing politics disguised as science.
DGBEACH
1.6 / 5 (14) Jan 29, 2010
Let's see, when the Earth was warming more water evaporated and worked its way up into the higher atmosphere. When the Earth stared to cool more of the water vapor condensed and reentered the lower atmosphere. Is that to simple an explanation?

Sssshhhhhh don't tell anybody and maybe we'll get a big grant to study it!
joefarah
1.7 / 5 (12) Jan 29, 2010
The UN IPCC does not have to know how climate works. There purpose has nothing to do with climate change. CC is only a means of getting money, forming a one-world government, and controlling (unnecessarily) population. GW is useful because there are always some places where there is extended warming periods (as well as cooling periods). During the warming, they do their fear mongering to get governments to fund GW. Eventually they want a one-world government control (to ensure nations are helping to "protect" the earth. Then they can implement their population control schemes they've been plotting for half a century.
croghan26
3.2 / 5 (9) Jan 29, 2010
"Eventually they want a one-world government control (to ensure nations are helping to "protect" the earth. Then they can implement their population control schemes they've been plotting for half a century."

WOW - and WWII was begun by The Pope In Rome: the CIA downed the WTC in 01 and the Canadian medical system is ruled by death panels .....

Oh yes .... and if you are talking to dachpyarvile ask him what grassy knowl he was on in a certain 22 November morning in '63.
Thrasymachus
4 / 5 (12) Jan 29, 2010
You people are crazy. You act like you've never heard of a "margin of error" and how unknown variables can be estimated. A theory that manages to make a perfect prediction of a physical process every time and in every situation isn't science, it's magic. Stop insisting that science has to live up to your inane metaphysical presuppositions of perfection, and maybe reflect on the fact that your bizarre paranoia implies that virtually every competent climate scientist and the majority of politicians are all involved in a vast world-wide conspiracy, where there is no evidence of, you know, conspiring. As opposed to the paid "scientists" of big oil and coal where the evidence of conspiracy is blatant and easily verifiable.
croghan26
1.4 / 5 (9) Jan 29, 2010
But Thrasssymachus - are you trying to say that Obama was NOT born in Africa and that FDR was NOT a closet communist. Next thing you know you will try to tell us the Nancy Pelosy is NOT enthrawled to the feminist/left wing/homosexual agenda.

GEEZE!
Skeptic_Heretic
1.6 / 5 (13) Jan 29, 2010
the Canadian medical system is ruled by death panels .....
Being a Canadian I can tell you that this statement isn't that far from the mark if you have a serious disease or require surgery involving a specialist.
As opposed to the paid "scientists" of big oil and coal where the evidence of conspiracy is blatant and easily verifiable.

Like Rajendra Pachauri? http://www.glorio...sors.htm
freethinking
1.5 / 5 (17) Jan 29, 2010
If your healthy the Canadian system is best, if your not healthy, the US system is best (I know Ive lived in Canada, and now live in the US.)
Your right there are no Death Pannels in Canada, they're just called another name, just like they would be called something else in the US. Remember Progressives hate the truth, they hate clear speach.

I'm sure if the oil industry hid data that showed global warming, lied about it, tried to prevent any opposing views to be expressed, broke the law while doing all of the above, they would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

But If you lied, mislead, falsified, broke the law, etc. in the name of global warming, you will get away with it.

http://www.dailym...ics.html

Why is that?

Onto the margin of error. Since I'm in the engineering field, I can tell you using a guess ontop of a guess, leads only to a guess.
goldengod
3.2 / 5 (11) Jan 29, 2010
And in the meantime the ice is still melting at the poles. New Zealand is covered by a hole in the ozone layer that means it takes 10 minutes for a white person to get sun burnt at midday in summer. The 3rd gen prius is the highest selling car in Japan this past year.

Anyone who buys into the anti gw fud needs to get out and have a real look at the real world.

We are entering the second Eocene. Interesting times ahead if you like boating and hunting big scary meat eating aquatic creatures. Not so great for all the islands and 60% of the worlds population who live within 3 km's of the sea and lower than 20m above sea level.

Skeptic_Heretic
1.9 / 5 (13) Jan 29, 2010
And in the meantime the ice is still melting at the poles.
Pole. The Arctic was never at play in the polar ice loss statements.
New Zealand is covered by a hole in the ozone layer that means it takes 10 minutes for a white person to get sun burnt at midday in summer.
Welcome to the wonderful world of Anglican heritage. 10 minutes in the sun roasts most New Englanders as well. Couple that with the fact we didn't and still don't know anything about what caused the holes in the ozone layer and didn't even discover them until the 70's, I'm not sure what you're trying to prove.
The 3rd gen prius is the highest selling car in Japan this past year.
Because foamed nickle produced in Japan is cheaper than gasoline refined in America for the Japanese.

The Prius is a bigger polluter from manufacture to disposal than even the biggest gas guzzler in the class.
freethinking
1.9 / 5 (16) Jan 29, 2010
ozone hole is a real problem. One that is being solved. How many real environmental problems are not being solved because of AGW scam.

Who cares what the highest selling car in Japan is.

goldengod, you need to have a real look. Your god of AGW has fallen.
mary_hinge
5 / 5 (3) Jan 30, 2010
If higher temperatures result in larger thunderstorms then more h2o would get in to the stratosphere, which results in a negative feedback and cooler temperatures. I think the reason that temperatures remained high but, until the last six months, steady is more to do with the -ive PDO and extended La Nina, but this latest research is very interesting and could be very important.
dachpyarvile
1.4 / 5 (11) Jan 31, 2010
"Eventually they want a one-world government control (to ensure nations are helping to "protect" the earth. Then they can implement their population control schemes they've been plotting for half a century."

WOW - and WWII was begun by The Pope In Rome: the CIA downed the WTC in 01 and the Canadian medical system is ruled by death panels .....

Oh yes .... and if you are talking to dachpyarvile ask him what grassy knowl he was on in a certain 22 November morning in '63.


1. I was nowhere around that area at the time.

2. I think you have me confused with one of several MikeyK sockpuppets, such as Dachpyarviie, dachpyarviie_, and dachqyarvile, which he uses to try to make people with whom he disagrees and cannot answer adequately appear to be conspiracists.

I am dachpyarvile. You can distinguish us by selecting the username and pasting it into Notepad using Lucida Console font. The same can also be done in other text editors not using an Arial font.
dachpyarvile
1.4 / 5 (11) Jan 31, 2010
And in the meantime the ice is still melting at the poles....Not so great for all the islands and 60% of the worlds population who live within 3 km's of the sea and lower than 20m above sea level.


One of the larger contributers of melting ice in the Arctic and on Greenland--as elsewhere in the form of glacial melt--is black carbon soot.

There is a little melting at the WAIS where it touches the sea. The EAIS still is doing quite well and is stable at present as well as growing in mass. And, there still is plenty of ice at the poles so your polemic regarding melting ice "at the poles" is not entirely accurate.
eachus
2.1 / 5 (7) Jan 31, 2010
"You people are crazy. You act like you've never heard of a "margin of error" and how unknown variables can be estimated. A theory that manages to make a perfect prediction of a physical process every time and in every situation isn't science, it's magic."

Sigh! Nope. I have a degree in Statistics, but there are some rules you should have learned in high school math classes if not in an Elementary Statistics class. To use statistics properly, you form two hypotheses, H0 and H1. H0 is called the null hypothesis. H1 is what you are trying to prove. I won't go into type 1 and type 2 errors here, just note that you have to pay attention to the effects of both.

When your statistical test is significant, you reject H0 and accept H1. This should only be done based on an experiment or data analysis performed after you formed H1. If you test, or subsequent tests are not significant, you fail H1 and accept H0. AGW has failed many, many tests, but is still being pushed by politicians.
lewando
1 / 5 (6) Jan 31, 2010
Sounds like this observation is outside the "margin of error" (otherwise this would not be news)and would serve as an indication that there is something structurally deficient in the model used to make the prediction. Are the climate models presently in use subject to independent verification and validation? If so, there may be a problem with this process as well.
dachpyarvile
1.6 / 5 (12) Feb 01, 2010
We already know that the models were deficient. The above fact as named in the article title caught a great many by surprise. I hope that lessons have been learned and now the models are corrected to account for this.

Let's run them again and see after a few more years whether the mark was hit or missed.
Thrasymachus
1 / 5 (1) Feb 01, 2010
Congratulations on your degree in statistics, eachus. Statistics, being a branch of mathematics, is, like geometry or any other axiomatic or a priori body of knowledge, not science, but rather a propaedeutic of science. Together, they provide the basic conceptual tools and methods that let science's unique methods be successful. Every science makes use of these tools in different ways, depending on the nature of the data and the hypothesis to be tested. Basically, everything you just said about statistics is irrelevant. When devising your test, you still have to weigh whether Type I or Type II errors matter more to your decision, and account for systematic errors. Your self-proclaimed expertise in math does not override the expertise of peer-accredited climate scientists when it comes to matters of climate. They make those decisions better than you, because they know better the nature of the data and the implications of that data than do you.
Skeptic_Heretic
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2010
They make those decisions better than you, because they know better the nature of the data and the implications of that data than do you.

The professors and researchers responsible for the current science of climatology are statisticians, not physical scientists.

You just jammed your foot knee deep into your mouth.
GrayMouser
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 02, 2010
Sigh! Nope. I have a degree in Statistics, but there are some rules you should have learned in high school math classes if not in an Elementary Statistics class.

In that case you might want to look at a paper applying the Chow test to find "breaks" in climate trends.
http://arxiv.org/abs/0907.1650

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