1 HOW DO WE KNOW THINGS?

When we are  trying to understand how a machine or a process works we can approach via a study of each of its particular elements including its physical, chemical and metallurgical character, its motions, the sources of energy that drive the system and the lubricants that facilitate its smooth working.  That’s the long route.

By contrast just a moment or two of observation of the working machine can be revelatory.

In a flash we observe that the machine has two wheels; you sit on the seat, grasp the handlebars and provide energy with your legs going up and down. We witness its performance over time. It might be just a minute long, it might contain the going round in circles part, the climbing the hill part or the free-wheeling part and perhaps the falling off part. But just imagine how little we would learn if the only part we saw was the front wheel and the handlebars with the hands hanging on.

Until 1996 when a 48 year history of the atmosphere became available in the form of reanalysis data a portion of natural world was missing from the field of view. That portion was the mid to high latitudes of the southern hemisphere where the global circulation of the atmosphere is determined. Unfortunately, the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change had already made up its mind that man was the agent of change and disaster was at hand.

Via reanalysis, we can now see the entire structure of the atmosphere. It is apparent that the nature of the atmosphere changes over time. Today, in 2015 we have nearly sixty eight years of data. But it appears that we need at least two hundred years of data to see the workings of the atmosphere through its shortest cycle of change.

The Earth system can be known via the results that it produces even though the  sixty-eight year period of observation is short…comparable to that where the bike rider  settles into his seat, takes his feet off the ground and starts pedalling.

We don’t have to travel into the Antarctic stratospheric vortex and measure the concentration of NOx that erodes ozone to know what the Antarctic vortex is doing. We observe the perennial deficit in ozone in the southern hemisphere by comparison with the northern hemisphere and the long cycle of change in Antarctic surface pressure. Ozone partial pressure, the temperature of the stratosphere, the kinetic energy imparted to the atmosphere, surface pressure, wind velocity and the evolution of the planetary winds are inseparably linked. If the tongue of mesospheric air over the Antarctic shrinks away, less erosive NOx is drawn into the stratosphere and ozone partial pressure increases, the air warms driving a further fall in surface pressure in a circle of self reinforcement that has headed in the same direction for the last sixty-eight years, the entire period of modern observational record.

To all those earnest chemists who will maintain that the ‘ozone hole’ is due to the works of man I would say, stand back.  Appreciate that the ozone hole occurs at that time of the year when the ozone content of the southern stratosphere PEAKS outside the perimeter of the ozone deficient polar vortex that is loaded with mesospheric air. Yes, it PEAKS. Think about the circular motion of the atmosphere over the pole and what governs the presence of mesospheric NOx that erodes ozone. Appreciate the fact that, in winter, the entire atmospheric column from fifty to seventy degrees of latitude is rich in ozone throughout most of its depth. At this time the high latitude stratosphere takes on the role that the troposphere seems to perform in determining the movement of the air. The stratosphere becomes the ‘weather sphere’. Outside the tropics rules of thumb that enable us to differentiate between a ‘troposphere’ and ‘stratosphere’ no longer apply. In terms of convection, neither surface temperature nor the release of latent heat of condensation can explain convection in high latitudes. That role belongs to ozone. It is ubiquitous, unaffected by cold traps, has a ready supply of energy to drive warming both day and night and that energy is at the very peak of the spectrum of long wave energy emitted by the Earth at 9-10 µm, virtually unlimited in its supply. Hence the warmth of the stratosphere and the vigour of a polar cyclone.

Why is the stratosphere warm? Is it primarily because the ozone molecule absorbs at 9-10 µm serendipitously at the peak of Earth energy emission rather than photolysis by very short wave radiation from the sun that impinges in the main at the upper margins of the stratosphere above 1hPa? Is the warmth of the stratosphere that varies little between day and night, much less in fact than the variation at the surface, not the result of the constant emission of long wave radiation from the Earth itself, day and night and via the transfer of energy from low to high latitudes, across the seasons? How can we account for the fact that the mid latitude stratosphere is warmer in winter than it is in summer?

Gordon Dobson, who developed the use of a spectrophotometer almost a century ago, to measure total column ozone, discovered that ozone distribution mapped surface atmospheric pressure with 25% less ozone in the core of a high pressure system than at its perimeter. Zones of low surface pressure exhibit the highest total column ozone. Plainly there is more ozone in the upper air, and the stratosphere is warmer when surface pressure is low.  A cold core polar cyclone is a warm core polar cyclone aloft.  Is it not the warming aloft that drives uplift?  Indeed, warming in the stratosphere is linked to the creation of polar cyclones. Palpably ozone drives surface pressure and the high latitude jet stream. Ozone variation is therefore linked to the annular modes of inter-annual climate variation and its northern hemisphere manifestation, the Arctic Oscillation. Why, where and how do variations in ozone occur and at what time? Dobson established the fact that there is a direct relationship between ozone and weather phenomena. That was a vital clue as to the origin of climate change. That all important ‘clue’ just slipped through the cracks. It was replaced with a particular notion that, while it has no relation to what we actually observe, is a better fit to the ideology of the age. We choose to believe what we desire to believe.

We establish the presence of a high pressure cell of descending air by measuring atmospheric pressure at the surface. There is a zone of high pressure centred on latitude 30° in both hemispheres. But where is the head of a high pressure cell located? Is its head in the stratosphere, and at what level?  How does that play out in determining the quotient of cloud that shelters the Earth from the rays of the sun? If ozone came and went on a 200 year time scale what would that mean? Would we not need 200 years of observation to properly describe the climate of any particular place?

The temperature of the surface of the Earth will vary if there is change in either the input side or the output side. Changes on the input side can account for both warming and cooling. In the 1960s the northern hemisphere cooled and Antarctic summers have been getting cooler for the last fifty years. Logic and observation are important.

At particular places the direction of the wind changes coming from a warmer or a cooler place, it contains more or less moisture and there is more or less cloud to shield us from the burning rays of the sun. Surface temperature is intimately tied to the global circulation of the air and the distribution of cloud. This in turn is governed by shifts in atmospheric mass to and from Antarctica. Ozone is inextricably linked to surface pressure phenomena and shifts in atmospheric mass from high latitudes.

So far as the ‘greenhouse effect’ is concerned, is this mental construct compatible with cooling? The temperature of the surface across the entire globe varies strongly in winter tied to polar atmospheric processes that are inseparably linked to the arrival of the polar night and the intensification of the stratospheric circulation in winter. Is the greenhouse effect compatible with warming that occurs only in winter, only in one hemisphere? Is it compatible with a hiatus in warming. Is it consistent with the cooling of the entire system that is evident in the last decade? At a very basic level, we need to answer this very simple question: Can air that is free to move constitute an effective insulator? Or is it better described as a medium for energy transfer from one place to the other just like the ocean, except that in the case of the atmosphere the ‘other place’ is in the vertical dimension……’space’ where that energy is dissipated, never to return.

Science could be described as the practice of critical examination of the validity of the interpretations drawn from data. The problem with ‘climate science’ as it manifests in the works of the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C) is that it fails to offer a plausible explanation for the patterns of warming and cooling that we observe. In the 1960s and early 70s, the Earth warmed in the southern hemisphere while cooling in the northern hemisphere. Of what use is a brand of climate science that cannot explain the patterns of variation  that we actually observe?

Here is the ultimate kicker: The basis of the alarm concerning the way the globe has warmed over the period of record needs to be critically assessed at the most elementary level. Is the warming that has undoubtedly occurred beneficial or harmful? Looked at dispassionately, the tropics is the only location where the Earth is sufficiently warm in all seasons to enable photosynthesis to achieve peak rates of carbon assimilation. The remainder of the globe experiences temperatures that are sub optimal for photosynthesis for part of, or the entire year. Plants use carbon dioxide in the air to create complex carbohydrates that are the basis of the food chain upon which all species depend. Carbon dioxide at 400 ppm., from a plants point of view, is at a concentration that is very close to starvation levels. When CO2 concentration is enhanced, plants require less water and the entire planet greens. This improves the environment, a thoroughly desirable end. From the point of view of mankind, sitting at the head of the food chain, from the point of view of man as farmer, the Earth is cooler than is desirable.

What I offer in the chapters to come is a novel explanation of the real world of climate change. That explanation is grounded in the reality of temperature change as it is observed. If you are keen to see the book of about 30 chapters that I have written on this subject over the last year simply subscribe to this blog to receive it in serial form.

I want to make a difference. The sooner the better. Don Quixote is riding again and this time he is not tilting at windmills but building them at our expense. One would not mind perhaps if he did not have his hand in our pocket.

I need help to make a difference. If you could pass on the address of this blog to your friends that will materially help.

If there is anything that is unclear, obscure, badly expressed, poor grammar, lousy spelling or needs further explanation or you want to challenge my conclusions I want to hear about that too. Please email me erlathapps.com.au

 

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