Ecclesiastes 1:6
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

This post revises key concepts that relate to the evolution of climate. Good teaching is about saying it again in slightly different ways until it sinks in. This caters for the students who can’t tune in at a particular time and many others whose perceptual frameworks are sort of ‘frozen’. Its also possible that the message can be delivered without the  necessary flair.

Knock-knock.  New idea. Fundamental to the nature of Earth is the difference between  the warmth of low latitudes and the cold of high latitudes.  Without the redistribution of energy by wind and water the extent of the habitable latitudes would be tiny. In the tropics there is little variation in the nature of the air from day to day. But in the mid and high latitudes change is the rule.  When the wind changes in a systematic fashion  to establish new states, we have climate change. The further we depart from the equator, the greater is the change that is experienced.

The air moves from zones of high to zones of low surface pressure. Pre-eminent in terms of low surface pressure is the Antarctic Circumpolar Trough. It is the zone coloured orange in figure 1.

Annual SLP
Figure 1

Kalnay et al’s reanalysis of 1996 to be found here. shows the evolution of surface pressure by latitude over time and is presented in a graphical format in figures 2 and 3.

July pressure
Figure 2.
January pressure
Figure 3

Plainly, the work that is done in redistributing energy across the latitudes is dependent on the evolution of surface pressure in the Antarctic Circumpolar trough and to a lesser extent the latitudes north of 50-60° north.


Figure 4

Figure 4 plots the temperature of the air as it evolved in the year 2015 at  500 hPa at 40-60° of latitude in the northern hemisphere at left and the southern at right. Plainly there is a north-west to south-east orientation in the movement of the air masses as  the atmosphere super-rotates about the Earth in the same direction that the Earth rotates, but faster. The speed of rotation increases in the southern hemisphere where the angle of attack is more aligned with the parallels of latitude. The air spirals from north to south at all latitudes.Warmer parcels will have an ascending  tendency while colder parcels will be descending.


New Concept: It is polar cyclones that are responsible for the intensity and evolution of the circumpolar trough.

A core theme of this work is that Polar Cyclones are energised by warm, low density cores in that space where the troposphere overlaps with the stratosphere. Differences in the ozone content of the air gives rise to differences in air density. A chain of cyclones on the margins of Antarctica   give rise to a rapidly circulating polar vortex in the stratosphere. There are no limits to convection in the stratosphere.

In summer the air rises to the limits of the atmosphere directly over the continent of Antarctica but in winter there is descent. A rising cone of air surrounds the zone of descent. This cone is sometimes described as a polar vortex. The cone begins at 300 hPa over the circumpolar trough and widens to take in the mid latitudes at the highest levels.

The upper troposphere/Lower stratosphere in the region of the circumpolar trough is characterised by intense mixing of air from diverse origins, the troposphere, the stratosphere and the mesosphere.

Between October and March the cone of ascending air below 50 hPa tightens like a hangman’s noose bringing air from the troposphere to the pole, creating an ozone hole, the falling away of surface pressure at this time of the year associated with generalised ascent over the Antarctic continent and so excluding the flow of air from the mesosphere that descends throughout winter.

That the circumpolar trough is due to differences in the ozone content of the upper air should be non-controversial.


The circumpolar trough is an unremarkable aspect of the atmosphere in the view of UNIPCC. The significance of its presence is  unappreciated. This is not an unusual state of affairs in the annals of humanity. In fact,  ‘Climate Science’ has not leaned a lot about atmospheric dynamics since the time of the pioneer Bjerknes who published a work on the near surface characteristics of polar cyclones in 1922.


It is realised, at least in meteorological circles, that a trigger is required for the formation of low pressure cells of rotating air  in the region of the circumpolar trough. That trigger  is an upper level trough, a mass of warmer, low density ozone rich air.

In  1922 it was not apparent that the most vigorous winds are located in the overlap between the stratosphere and the troposphere. Neither was it apparent that cold ozone deficient air  from both the mesosphere and the tropical troposphere are drawn towards the circumpolar front in the space shared by the upper troposphere and the lower stratosphere.

In fact the concept of a ‘stratosphere’ was pretty new in 1922. In many respects we have not moved on from that position despite the passage of 100 years. Indeed much that was known prior to the 1970’s has since been forgotten in parallel with the increasing concern that man and the environment in which he lives are  incompatible entities. Educators went off in socially responsible directions. A fabulous gravy train  was created for scientists and space agencies and all those who aspire to gain their daily bread by looking after the environment, painstakingly monitoring the activities of a an every increasing panoply  of despoilers, at one end mighty global corporations and at the other the humble cow that provides the milk for your morning cereal irresponsibly farting in  its field of green. Such is the work of the modern missionary.

The intensification of polar cyclones in winter, and the consequent lower surface pressure at that time of the year is due to the proliferation of ozone. Gordon Dobson observed in the 1920’s that, in high and mid latitudes low surface pressure identifies areas with high total column ozone. Dobson measured wind velocity and discovered that the strongest winds were not at the surface but in the region of the tropopause. The tropopause is kilometres lower when surface pressure is low than when surface pressure is high. This circumstance may be described as an upper level ‘trough’, a zone of  reduced air density that shows up in elevated geopotential height contours. Had Bjerknes apprehended the structure of the upper air we would not now be worrying about carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We would be aware that the source of long term climate change, the source of decadal variations, the source of inter-annual variations and indeed our daily weather lies in variations in the ozone content of the stratosphere. We would  be at peace with the notion that our ‘rather too cool for comfort’ planet gains and loses energy according to change in the extent of its cloud cover.

There is so much to learn.




The strength of the meridional flow (north-south and south-north) in mid to high latitudes depends upon the distribution of atmospheric mass between the poles and the mid latitudes. That in turn rests on the strength of polar cyclone activity between 50 and 70 degrees of latitude in both hemispheres. Because these cyclones lift ozone rich air to the top of the atmosphere and will do so according to density differences wrought by ozone between 300 hPa and 50 hPa it follows that 10 hPa temperature over the pole is a proxy for the strength of polar cyclone activity. Another good proxy is surface atmospheric pressure.  A third would be geopotential height, a fourth would be the strength of the zonal wind. In this chapter, for simplicity, we look at 10 hPa temperature over the poles.

We are looking at temperature at the top of the stratosphere as one product of the change in atmospheric processes.When this indicator changes we a seeing a change in the parameters of the climate system. We have not one climate system but many across a continuum. If you can’t chart the continuum or predict the course of the climate system within the continuum you can’t mathematically model it.


We notice:

  • 10 hPa temperature varies more in winter and particularly so in the Arctic.
  • The Antarctic is slightly warmer in summer and about 20°C cooler in winter.
  • The discontinuity in Antarctic temperature in winter prior to and after 1976

This data suggests that the two poles are very different environments in terms of their atmospheric processes. If you live in the northern hemisphere welcome to the reality of what drives your weather in the very long term. Broadly speaking, the multi-decadal changes in the global atmosphere are driven from Antarctica while the inter-annual variations are a product of violent swings that occur in the Arctic winter. The long term evolution of northern hemisphere climate can not be understood without reference to Antarctic processes.  In polar regions, in winter, the air is highly mobile.Change in the temperature at 10 hPa indicates a change in the temperature profile due to change in atmospheric processes.


There is a lot of nonsense written about the polar vortex in standard issue climate science. What follows is a common sense interpretation. It describes the archetypal situation in the Antarctic, not the flim-flam phenomenon that manifests in the Arctic.

After 1948 the temperature of the stratosphere over both poles gradually increased in both summer and winter. The greatest increase incurred in winter indicating a change tied to atmospheric dynamics at the winter pole at a time when high surface pressure  results in the intake of cold, ozone deficient air from the mesosphere.

The inflow of mesospheric air is  associated with and strictly dependent on the seasonal advance in surface pressure. It is associated with the establishment of what is very confusingly called the ‘polar vortex’.

There is a cone or funnel shaped interface between two very different types of air in high latitudes in winter.  Think of a funnel with the tube like extension at its bottom removed. This funnel is wide at the top of the atmosphere (50 km in elevation) where it sits at about 40° of latitude and narrow at 200 hPa (10 km in elevation) where it lies at 60-70° of latitude. So, it has an annular or ring like shape about the pole but wider at the top than at the bottom. Ozone warmed low density air from the mid latitudes rises to the top of the atmosphere on the outside of this funnel and cold dense mesospheric air descends within ##the funnel. But there is no actual funnel. There is just an interface between two types of air. Mixing occurs at the bottom, up the sides and down through the top of the funnel. The depth of the funnel takes in a 40 kilometre  extent of the atmosphere and it involves the upper 20% of its mass including most of the part that contains ozone. The funnel tends to be discontinuous. Cold air escapes the interior on daily time scales. By means of the addition of mesospheric air we see change in the ozone content of the global ozonosphere that takes in the upper troposphere where marked differences in air density at 60-70° of latitude are responsible for the formation of polar cyclones. These cyclones move about the Earth in the same direction of rotation as the Earth itself but faster. Within the cyclone the air ascends. That ascent continues to the top of the atmosphere (outside of the funnel) and it sucks in air from the surface. In winter when this phenomenon is strongest, wind speed reaches 400 km per hour at the 200 hPa pressure level and accelerates further as it ascends to the top of the atmosphere. Below 200 hPa wind speed falls away towards the surface by about half. Wind speed is a good guide  to the location of extreme gradients in the density of the air.

The descent of mesospheric air within the funnel constitutes a sort of tongue. The extremely low temperature within the tongue is unrelated to surface conditions. It is due to the origin of the air in the mesosphere. An enhanced intake of mesospheric air  dilutes the ozone content of the stratosphere globally. However, to counteract this erosive force, ozone proliferates in the winter hemisphere due to reduced photolysis due to the absorption of UVB at low sun angles. Secondly, it may well be that ionisation due to cosmic ray activity can produce ozone over the poles. The balance of these competing activities determines whether the partial pressure of ozone increases or decreases. In springtime, as part of the final warming,  air from the troposphere is dragged across the polar cap destroying ozone (creating the ‘hole’) and enhancing the density gradient between ozone rich and ozone poor air driving enhanced polar cyclone activity and forcing surface pressure at 60-70° south to its annual minimum.

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun plays no part in this process because it happens during and following the polar night.

The most extreme temperature response to an increase in the ozone content of the atmosphere occurs over the polar cap at 10 hPa that is virtually the top of the atmosphere. This is due to the highly convective nature of the stratosphere in high latitudes, a concept that is unknown to ‘blinkered standard issue climate science’. At the top of the atmosphere ozone is perhaps being actively photolyised by short wave UVB. But it is also being dragged into the descending cone of mesospheric air that contains mesospheric species like N2O that destroy ozone.Temperature of the atmosphere in the Arctic

From the shape of the curves in the diagram above we can infer that mesospheric air descends to the 200 hPa pressure level. The curves represents the temperature of the air on a particular day. On a different set of days the level may be higher or lower. At the 200 hPa pressure level 80% of the mass of the atmosphere is below and 20% above.


Why did 10 hPa temperature increase after 1948 and particularly after 1976?  I suggest that extra-planetary influences slowed the east west super-rotation of the atmosphere about the pole reducing the intake of mesospheric air. Alternatively, an enhancement of cosmic ray activity resulted in ozone production that in itself, via polar cyclone enhancement is capable of lowering surface pressure in high altitudes. At any rate, surface pressure has fallen by about 10 hPa at the Antarctic pole over the last 70 years as the temperature of the stratosphere over the pole increased as shown in the graphs above.

Standard issue climate science conceives that warming in the stratosphere in high latitudes is generated by activity in the troposphere that propagates upwards as ‘planetary waves’. However, recent work by those who discuss the issue in terms of the ‘annular modes’ phenomenon identifies a top down mode of causation. It is irrational to conceive that shifts in atmospheric mass (decline in polar surface pressure and increase in mid latitude pressure) and upper air temperature that are other than simply oscillatory in nature can be a product of activity in the troposphere. There is nothing internal to the troposphere that could cause the temperature of the stratosphere to rise so precipitately between 1976 and 1980 and then to decline quite slowly as we see in the graphs above.

Neither is it plausible to suggest than an increase in ionising radiation from the sun could cause this phenomenon in the middle of winter. The only source of energy to warm the atmosphere in winter is infrared from the Earth via the activity of ozone.  This is another concept that is foreign to standard issue climate science that comprehensively fails to get to grips with the behaviour of the atmosphere in high latitudes where the global circulation of the air is determined. Climate science and its mathematical modellers are obsessed with the idea that it is the energy that is absorbed in the tropics that drives the system and that the system is self contained. However, it is plain that the atmosphere super rotates in the same direction as the Earth and the closer to the winter pole, and the higher the elevation, the faster it moves. As a rule of thumb in physical systems, the biggest impact is always seen closest to where the force is applied.

The concept of the Earth’s atmosphere as an electromagnetic medium super-rotating in winter in high latitudes and susceptible in its rate of rotation to the solar wind is anathema to climate science. The concept of cosmic rays ionising the air over the poles resulting in the production of ozone is not new to science in central and Soviet Europe. But it is very new to standard issue western climate science. That version of climate science is agenda driven and it does not see what it does not wish to see.

How did the build up of ozone in the stratosphere prior to an after 1976 affect surface temperature? We will now investigate that question systematically. We start in the Arctic, move to the mid latitudes of the northern hemisphere, the low latitudes of both hemispheres, the mid latitudes of the southern hemisphere and finally to the Antarctic continent.

We will see that the manner in which the climate has changed identifies the natural factors at work linking surface temperature change to the properties of the evolving nature of the atmosphere of the winter hemisphere. All data is  sourced here  (http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/cgi-bin/data/timeseries/timeseries1.pl).



First off we examine the Arctic. The graph above indicates the average temperature across the year. This is the sort of data that holiday destinations provide to people thinking of going on vacation. There is a very good reason why the Arctic is virtually uninhabited by man and nobody goes there on vacation. Even if  the Arctic were a little warmer there would be no rush to populate it.

The axes of the graphs below are standardised to facilitate comparison. They trace the evolution of temperature according to the month of the year between 1948 and 2015. Each month is presented successively in an anticlockwise rotation starting with January and February and ending with November and December. We are interested only in the big picture, the differences in the evolution of surface temperature in each month of the year. The differences are enormous. Whether there is an error in the data that of the order of a fraction of a degree is of no interest whatsoever.

SAT 60-90N

In winter, between November and April there is enormous variability in surface temperature from one year to the next. This is not the case in summer.

After 1976 winters were warmer. Yes, the Arctic warmed in the dead of winter at a time when the sun does not shine and outgoing radiation reaches its seasonal minimum. Plainly this sort of warming is not due to back radiation from carbon dioxide that should warm in both summer and winter, and given the extra radiation in summer more warming would be expected in summer than in winter.

All months exhibit cooling prior to 1976. After 1976 all months exhibit warming but to varying degrees and with different patterns and slopes.  Temperature changes differently according to the month of the year as does the ozone content of the air in high latitudes and the direction of the surface winds. The temperature of the near surface air is determined according to its origin. The atmosphere above the icy surface in winter is warmer than the surface. Generalised warmth in winter is associated with an intake of warm moist air from the mid latitudes. Whether the air is flowing in or out of the Arctic is a function of local surface pressure in relation to that in the mid and low latitudes. The latter vary very little but polar pressure varies a lot. An inflow of warm air from the mid latitudes is the essence of the warm phase of the ‘Arctic Oscillation’. Napoleon, impulsively chose to invade  Russia during a cold phase of the Arctic Oscillation in in 1812. Hitler ran into another cold phase in his invasion of Russia in 1941. The cold phase in the mid latitudes is associated with a deficiency of ozone over the polar cap, low temperatures in the stratosphere, weak polar cyclone activity at 50-70° north,  high surface pressure over the pole and the jet stream looping southwards to bring icy conditions to the mid latitudes.

In the very long term, over hundreds of years,  the ozone content of the global stratosphere is modulated by the relatively steady state the southern polar vortex with enhanced variability in winter and spring. Along with the final warming in Antarctica there is ‘the hole’ that is part and parcel of the warming and has always been so. The increase in the temperature of the Arctic stratosphere in summer after 1976 is due to to influence of the Antarctic. Notice the static surface temperature in November, December, January and February since the turn of the century. It seems we had a ‘change point’ about the end of the century where the warming ceased.

The month of greatest temperature variability in the Arctic is January and February when the stratospheric vortex is at its height of activity but establishing either weakly or strongly from year to year.  In fact, the ozone charged nature of the northern stratosphere forces the most extreme variability in surface temperature in the months of January and February  all the way between the northern pole and 30° south latitude.

In standard issue climate science there is no explanation for this marked variability in the surface temperature in the middle of winter. The ‘amplification’ of temperature swings in the middle of winter is not simply a function of latitude. As we will see it extends across latitude bands and is tied to January and February even in the tropics. The ‘polar amplification’ proposition that purports to explain the enhanced temperature variability in high latitudes is implausible, first because the warming is confined to just the winter months and secondly because it is not confined to polar latitudes. This AGW story does not add up.

The anthropogenic mode of surface temperature increase in standard issue climate science should have no seasonality. In the real world we observe a natural mode of climate change driven from the poles in winter. It emanates from the stratosphere as it responds to external stimuli. It’s mode of operation involves shifts in atmospheric mass wrought by change in the ozone content of the air. There is a waxing and a waning of the zonal and meridional components in the movement of the air affecting the equator to pole temperature gradient. That is the true nature of climate change. This mode of climate change has nothing to do with the activities of man.



The unfortunate thing about the mid latitudes in the northern hemisphere is the severe  winters. The nice thing about the change in the climate that has occurred since 1976 is that, following a period of cooling up to 1976, winter temperatures became less severe while summer temperatures remained virtually unchanged. But all good things come to an end and since the turn of the century winter temperatures are no longer increasing.

The scale on these graphs is the same as used for the Arctic with 8°C on the vertical axis. We needed that much to cater for change in the Arctic. Notice the much reduced variability at 30-60° north by comparison with the Arctic.

SAT 30-60N

Again, we see that winter is the season of change. Again we see cooling prior to 1976.

The silly thing about the calculation of the global temperature statistic is that it can never be an index of human welfare or the suitability of the planet for human habitation. The bulk of the Earths population lives in the northern hemisphere and the truth of the matter is that winter is inconveniently cold. The warming that occurred has been wholly beneficial. Why would the proponents of standard issue climate science complain about that? In truth, these people live in a world of their own where apples and oranges are aggregated as if they grew on the same tree and tasted exactly the same.


o-30° n

The northern tropics are a truly favourable zone for agriculture with temperature hovering about the 25°C optimum for photosynthesis across the entire year.

SAT 0-30N

Temperature variability is greatest in January and February. There has been little change in these months over the last seventy years except for an uptick of about half a degree from the mid 1990’s probably reflecting the process of warming in higher latitudes. The temperature of the tropics very much depends on the intake of cold waters on the eastern sides of the ocean basins. The ocean currents respond to wind and surface pressure. Surface pressure depends on the ozone content of the upper half of the atmospheric column. A step increase in the temperature of the tropics occurred after 1976 in January and February. That step change is reversible.



SAT 0-30S

Between the equator and 30° south air temperature from October to March moved to a plateau at a slightly elevated level in relation to the gradually warming regime that existed prior to 1976. Enhanced variability is driven primarily from the Arctic between November and April. This continues the theme that prevails across the northern hemisphere.



The temperature of the mid latitudes of the southern hemisphere reflects the the dominance of sea over land in terms of surface area. Winter temperatures are far less extreme than in the northern hemisphere but cool enough to strongly inhibit photosynthesis in winter. Summer temperatures are  about 10°C short of the optimum for photosynthesis. Plants are at the base of the food chain. Humanity depends upon plant growth for its sustenance.These latitudes are a tough gig for humanity especially on the west coasts and continental interiors that tend to be very dry.In inland areas winters are distinctly chilly. This latitude band is a bit cool for both  personal comfort and plant productivity.

SAT 30-60S

Surface temperature at 30-60° south is much less variable than in the mid altitudes of the northern hemisphere.  There is  a slight tendency for variability to be stronger in July and August. Some months show warming after 1976 and other months no warming.

The years prior to 1976 showed a relatively steep increase in surface temperature but in most months the rate of increase falls away after 1976.



The Antarctic is unremittingly cold all year round. No plants can grow. This is a place of scientific interest only. Hardy souls come here in search of adventure. Many pay with their lives. The interest in the climate of Antarctica resides in whether it will ever warm sufficiently to release the ice that depresses the continent into the Earths crust. The area of solid ice that forms about the margins of the continent in winter is as large as the continent itself. Antarctica has the same area as Australia. Ice mass has been increasing in spring and summer as Arctic ice has been retreating. While the temperature of the air remains below zero all year round this situation is unlikely to change very much.

Surface Air 60-90S

Temperature variability is extreme all year round but particularly so in winter from March through to November. Between November and February when the ice mass might be under threat if the temperature of the air were to rise above freezing point, the continent has cooled continuously over the period of record. In autumn, winter and spring the air warmed strongly after 1976. Strongest warming occurred at the coolest time of the year in July and August. A warming of the air by 2°C when that air is 30°C below zero in a location where nobody lives is not a threat to the existence of humanity. It is not the result of selfish consumption by the few scientists that keep their lonely vigil at the expense of succeeding generations. Why would we think it appropriate to include statistics for Antarctica in an index that  is supposed to relate the the welfare of succeeding generations unless the intent were to deceive?


Warming in high latitudes in winter is the product of a process set in train by an increase in the ozone content of the air. An increase in the ozone content of the air can result from a reduced intake of mesospheric air or an increase in cosmic ray ionisation. The former depends on the rate of super-rotation of the atmosphere that is dependent on the electromagnetic character of the near Earth environment as it reacts to the solar wind and the radiant output of the sun. Once set in train an increase in the ozone content of the air enhances polar cyclone activity that shifts atmospheric mass to the mid latitudes with knock on effects on the polar vortex via the loss of atmospheric pressure over the polar cap.

The impacts of the increase in the ozone content of the air are multiple. The westerlies blow harder in winter bringing warm air from tropical latitudes to high latitudes.This changes the equator to pole temperature gradient. It is one of two mechanisms involved in high latitude warming. The second involves a loss of cloud cover in the mid latitudes where the westerlies originate. As surface pressure increases in the mid latitudes the area occupied by  high pressure  cells increases. The increase in the ozone content of the air gives rise to warming of the atmospheric column, increased geopotential height and surface warming. The relationship between geopotential height and surface temperature is observed and acknowledged. The result of an increase in the ozone content of the air is an increase in geopotential height.


Warming in cold climates in the depth of winter should not be a matter for concern but congratulation. It beneficially extends the growing season on a planet that tends to be unfavourably cool in winter. This good news is turned into bad news when incorporated in an average  for the  temperature of the globe as a whole. That perceived increase then becomes as excuse for a social agenda involving widespread interference in markets to favour producers of particular forms of energy. These forms of energy are only available intermittently.   These intermittent systems must be backed up with plants that are capable of running continuously. All plants are most efficient when run at close to capacity. All plants are more expensive to run when ramped up and down or stopped altogether to cater for the input of energy from variable sources like wind and solar. This idiocy comes with a big price tag when we factor in the capital costs  to enhance energy efficiency in buildings. We pay for energy three or four times over when all the adaptations are factored in.

There is no virtue in a precautionary principle  unless we are sure that the works of man are changing the climate system in such a way as to promote warming  in summer. Plainly other forces are involved.

Here are some polite reminders:

  • The pattern of temperature change that is observed is very different to that expected from back radiation by uniformly distributed absorbers of long wave radiation.
  • For many people (activists) this notion of anthropogenic climate change is a matter not of knowledge and observation but of belief. Actions based on belief are non adaptive. These actions can be very costly.
  • The globe has not warmed for sixteen or more years while the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere has continued to increase.
  • Carbon dioxide is plant food and has beneficial effects for plant life and photosynthesising organisms in the sea. These forms of life are at the base of the food chain.
  • The use of a global temperature as a metric of human welfare is insupportable.
  • Science that is funded out of the public purse always becomes a servant to those in control of the public purse.
  • The poor people of the world require the least expensive sources of energy and it is selfish and inhumane to deny them supply.

The green agenda on ‘climate change’ is not humane. It   is an agenda for social change involving impoverishment and deprivation. We need a new breed of politician who can take advantage of the support that is waiting in the wings for a rallying cry. The bulk of humanity is waiting in a state of increasing frustration and dismay. How many ratbags will we have to put up while waiting for a person with a modicum of common sense to turn up?










The map below has been edited by the author, adding red lines drawn freehand, to outline the darker areas over the oceans where cloud is, on average, less dense. The land tends to be relatively cloud free by comparison with the sea and shows up in tones of blue.In the mid latitudes there is a band of relatively cloud free air over the oceans, a ‘clear sky window’ if you will.

distribution of cloud global

I am indebted to NASA for the photo above and the description of global cloud cover below. The original can be located at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=85843&src=eoa-iotd

Over to NASA.

Decades of satellite observations and astronaut photographs show that clouds dominate space-based views of Earth. One study based on nearly a decade of satellite data estimated that about 67 percent of Earth’s surface is typically covered by clouds. This is especially the case over the oceans, where other research shows less than 10 percent of the sky is completely clear of clouds at any one time. Over land, 30 percent of skies are completely cloud free.
Earth’s cloudy nature is unmistakable in this global cloud fraction map, based on data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite. While MODIS collects enough data to make a new global map of cloudiness every day, this version of the map shows an average of all of the satellite’s cloud observations between July 2002 and April 2015. Colors range from dark blue (no clouds) to light blue (some clouds) to white (frequent clouds).
There are three broad bands where Earth’s skies are most likely to be cloudy: a narrow strip near the equator and two wider strips in the mid-latitudes. The band near the equator is a function of the large scale circulation patterns—or Hadley cells—present in the tropics. Hadley cells are defined by cool air sinking near the 30 degree latitude line north and south of the equator and warm air rising near the equator where winds from separate Hadley cells converge. As warm, moist air converges at lower altitudes near the equator, it rises and cools and therefore can hold less moisture. This causes water vapor to condense into cloud particles and produces a dependable band of thunderstorms in an area known as the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).
Clouds also tend to form in abundance in the middle latitudes 60 degrees north and south of the equator. This is where the edges of polar and mid-latitude (or Ferrel) circulation cells collide and push air upward, fueling the formation of the large-scale frontal systems that dominate weather patterns in the mid-latitudes. While clouds tend to form where air rises as part of atmospheric circulation patterns, descending air inhibits cloud formation. Since air descends between about 15 and 30 degrees north and south of the equator, clouds are rare and deserts are common at this latitude.Cloud Africa

Ocean currents govern the second pattern visible in the cloudiness map: the tendency for clouds to form off the west coasts of continents. This pattern is particularly clear off of South America, Africa, and North America. It occurs because the surface water of oceans gets pushed west away from the western edge of continents because of the direction Earth spins on its axis.
In a process called upwelling, cooler water from deep in the ocean rises to replace the surface water. Upwelling creates a layer of cool water at the surface, which chills the air immediately above the water. As this moist, marine air cools, water vapor condenses into water droplets, and low clouds form. These lumpy, sheet-like clouds are called marine stratocumulus, the most common cloud type in the world by area. Stratocumulus clouds typically cover about one fifth of Earth’s surface.
In some of the less cloudy parts of the world, the influence of other physical processes are visible. For instance, the shape of the landscape can influence where clouds form. Mountain ranges force air currents upward, so rains tend to form on the windward (wind-facing) slopes of the mountain ranges. By the time the air has moved over the top of a range, there is little moisture left. This produces deserts on the lee side of mountains. Examples of deserts caused by rain shadows that are visible in the map above are the Tibetan Plateau (north of the Himalayan Mountains) and Death Valley (east of the Sierra Nevada Range in California). A rain shadow caused by the Andes Mountains contributes to the dryness of the coastal Atacama Desert in South America as well, but several other factors relating to ocean currents and circulation patterns are important.
Note because the map is simply an average of all of the available cloud observations from Aqua, it does not illustrate daily or seasonal variations in the distribution of clouds. Nor does the map offer insight into the altitude of clouds or the presence or absence of multiple layers of clouds (though such datasets are available from MODIS and other NASA sensors). Instead it simply offers a top-down view that shows where MODIS sees clouds versus clear sky.
Since the reflectivity of the underlying surface can affect how sensitive the MODIS is to clouds, slightly different techniques are used to detect clouds over the ocean, coasts, deserts, and vegetated land surfaces. This can affect cloud detection accuracy in different environments. For instance, the MODIS is better at detecting clouds over the dark surfaces of oceans and forests, than the bright surfaces of ice. Likewise thin cirrus clouds are more difficult for the sensor to detect than optically thick cumulus clouds.


Cloud levelsAbout half of the atmosphere is below 5 km in elevation and half above. Cloud is present in both the upper and the lower half of the atmospheric column.  In near equatorial latitudes very high cloud extends into the stratosphere. The jet streams at 8-15 km in elevation were first identified by tracking the movement of cirrus clouds.


Landscape from space

The photo above was taken from the International space station at an altitude of 431 kilometres above the surface of the Earth. A red circle is marked in the sea off Christchurch, New Zealand.

Gravity holds the Earth’s atmosphere in a close embrace.  Really close. As seen in the photo the atmosphere refracts blue light like a prism on the margins of the globe. The red line at the margin, in its thickness, represents a depth of about 27 km. Some 98% of the atmosphere lies within 27 km of the surface of the planet.

Project Loon, a venture by Google, employs balloons that travel at an elevation of 20 km finding sufficient variation in the winds to enable these balloons to circumnavigate the globe in 10 days and land at preordained locations.

In 1920 Gordon Dobson registered his interest in the winds of the stratosphere using theodolites to track sounding balloons. Strong winds in the stratosphere led Dobson to the measurement of ozone as the source of density variations that could explain these winds.

The stratosphere is a vigorous medium. The tongue of mesospheric air inside the polar vortex penetrates to the 250 hPa pressure level at 8 km of elevation and tracers of mesospheric air from both the mesosphere and the near surface atmosphere can be observed mixed with ozone throughout the stratosphere. NOx is a potent source of ozone depletion  changing surface climate because of its effect on ozone and surface pressure.

In 1956 when a Dobson spectrometer was utilized to measure total column ozone for the first time at the British Antarctic base at Halley Bay, the Antarctic  ‘ozone hole’ was discovered, amazing Dobson who was familiar with the pattern of ozone variation in the Arctic and therefore completely outside his field of experience. This ‘hole’ was later seized upon by environmentalists  as an instance of man’s capacity to abuse the planet.In truth, the 1956 observation indicates that the ozone hole existed prior to the widespread use of refrigerants and is a product of the atmospheric circulation in high latitudes. The ozone hole narrative, a pillar of today’s climate science’ stands in the way of a true appreciation of atmospheric processes.


The atmosphere is heated by contact with warm surfaces, secondly at cloud level by the release of the latent heat of condensation (notably tropical cyclones) and thirdly in the  as ozone absorbs radiation from the Earth itself. Low pressure systems at latitudes between 30° and 70° of latitude have their origin in ozone heating. These low pressure cells set up a rising circulation that engages the totality of the atmospheric column. In mid to high latitudes ozone is the primary driver of lapse rates. In high latitudes ozone is ubiquitous throughout the atmospheric column. Low pressure systems (cold core polar cyclones) form over the oceans. In the northern hemisphere winter the Pacific sector in overwhelmingly dominant. Once initiated in the stratosphere, a low pressure system lifts ozone into the ascending circulation accounting for the relatively static  location for elevated total column ozone and markedly lower surface pressure over the north Pacific in late autumn/ winter. In the southern hemisphere polar cyclones surround the Antarctic continent with a tendency to be most intense south of New Zealand.

A high pressure system in the mid latitudes can span 3,000 kilometres in its horizontal extent and manifestly involves the circulation of the air in both the troposphere and the stratosphere. As surface pressure increases so does geopotential height, indicating ozone heating. In chapter 3 we noted that the surface warms as geopotential height increases as a simple result of the expansion of the ‘clear sky window’.

At the equator convective clouds push wet air upwards to 15 km in elevation and moist air rich in tropospheric NOx invades the stratosphere, the prime reason for the relatively low levels of total column ozone in low latitudes.It is for this reason that high pressure cells are much denser aloft than low pressure cells, compensating for the warmth and lack of density near the surface to the point that surface atmospheric pressure is enhanced.

The novelty of this view of the atmosphere resides in the recognition of ozone as the source of surface pressure variation. It is in the mid to high latitudes of the winter hemisphere that surface pressure varies most aggressively. Secondly the novelty resides in the view of the stratosphere as a vigorous deterministic medium. Thirdly, it is novel in the notion that the entire atmospheric column moves ‘wholus bolus’ with scant regard to conceptual notions relating to a vigorous ‘troposphere’ and a static, quiescent stratosphere.

As Gordon Dobson observed back in the thirties , total column ozone maps surface pressure, the ozone content of the upper air determining the character of the winds at the surface. In fact, this view of the atmosphere is not so new. It was prevalent in the 1950’s when RM Goody, a colleague of Dobsons at Cambridge wrote:’The idea is gaining ground that, from the dynamical standpoint, the stratosphere and the troposphere should be treated as a single entity’. RM Goody, The Physics of the Stratosphere 1954. p. 125.

Our imaginations baulk at the idea that the atmosphere is thin and vertically interactive. The mental constructs that we have been taught, involving a supposedly quiescent stratosphere, lead us astray, especially when it comes to appreciating atmospheric dynamics in high latitudes.   High latitudes are so cold that few of us venture there. A very few hardy souls actually reside there. One thinks of the monkeys who take advantage of hydrothermal energy in northern Japan, the hardy Eskimos of North America and the wildlife that visits Antarctica for the ‘season’.

Palpably, change in what we refer to as ‘the stratosphere’ is the source of variations in surface pressure on daily, weekly, decadal and centennial  time scales. The stratosphere has a geography that is as fascinating as that at the surface of the planet, in fact, given its importance in determining daily weather it should be more so. The search for the origins of natural climate variation takes us inevitably to the stratosphere. In order to appreciate the power in the processes involved we need to maintain a sense of scale. This helps us to understand the coming and going of cloud, the most important determinant of surface temperature.


In the main cloud is made up of highly reflective crystals of ice because within a couple of kilometres of the surface, in temperature latitudes, temperature is at freezing point. Less cloud forms over land. The mid latitude high pressure cells are relatively cloud free. These clear sky windows expand and contract on a seasonal basis being more expansive in the winter hemisphere driven by heating in the summer hemisphere and a seasonal movement in atmospheric mass from the high latitudes of the winter hemisphere. It is the accumulation of ozone in the winter hemisphere that drives inter-annual climate variations. It is the ozone narrative of the environmental movement that stands in the way of an appreciation of the source of natural climate variation.


The phenomenon of mass transfer associated with ozone heating in high latitudes in winter has long been described as the Arctic or the Antarctic Oscillation, or on a regional scale as the North Atlantic Oscillation. Only recently has it come to be called the ‘Annular (ring like) Modes of inter-annual and inter-decadal climate variation’ that affects both hemispheres primarily in winter.

There is a very long period of variation in the Antarctic Oscillation that is undocumented. It is inter-centennial in its time scale and we don’t have the data to represent it. As of 2015 reliable data for the atmosphere goes back just 70 years. Of that period the first thirty one years has been documented by a process of interpolation based on sketchy data from the pre-satellite age and this especially applies to the southern hemisphere.

We have excellent well standardised data from 1979 from a few well maintained and closely scrutinised instruments that travel around the globe on a twice daily schedule, an immense improvement on the past where many instruments, poorly standardised, poorly located, subject to re-siting and the vagaries of interpretation by multitudes of observers, but during working hours only, who could nevertheless cover just a fraction of the whole with spot rather than continuous observations. Observations were recorded on fragile pieces of paper. Data from the pre satellite age is ……well, despite all the effort, very hard to locate, full of gaps, in the case of temperature much affected by the choice of housing for the instrument and change in the local built and natural environment, therefore of questionable utility and much subject to ‘reinterpretation’. But, there is one parameter in the climate record, atmospheric pressure, that is entirely unaffected by the choice of location for the instrument. The instrument we call a ‘barometer’ that works as well on a rolling ship as on land, in the sun or in the shade. There is therefore no reason for re-interpretation  of the surface pressure record.

Here is the kicker: The surface pressure record indicates that it is in high southern latitudes that surface pressure varies most widely. It also indicates that there has been a loss of atmospheric pressure over Antarctica of about 15 hPa over the last 70 years.

Those who are employed to predict the weather diligently map surface pressure variations and they see the origin of surface pressure variation here: http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/stratosphere/strat_a_f/

Their focus is on the stratosphere.


Observe the dense cloud cover over the Congo in the second photo above,and to a lesser extent over East Africa by contrast with cloud cover over the Sahara and the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa and the very cold waters coursing northwards from Cape Town.

It takes particular circumstances to produce cloud over land in summer . What is required is a cover of actively transpiring vegetation that launches water vapour into the atmosphere. Nowhere is this more obvious than the zones that support tropical rain forest. As a general rule, if we desire cooler surface temperatures and more precipitation we should plant trees and avoid clearing high density vegetation unless it is to be replaced by a higher density of vegetation. It is commonly observed in the more arid portions of Australia that cloud forms over native vegetation rather than land cleared for pasture or grain growing.

From a plants point of view carbon dioxide is a scarce resource that is available at near starvation levels. When more carbon dioxide is available plants that are at the dry end of the spectrum in terms of available water respond magnificently. Australian CSIRO scientist Randall Donohue published the image below that documents the re-vegetation response to carbon dioxide . Apparently, the drier the environment the better the foliage gain from increases in CO2. This gain documented in the map has accrued between 1982 and 2010. Source: http://www.csiro.au/en/News/News-releases/2013/Deserts-greening-from-rising-CO2


Urbanization has contributed to the warming of the planet as societies have cleared natural vegetation, industrialized, laid down roads to facilitate the  movement of people and goods on a massive scale, provided lighting at night, expanded the suburbs on the margins of cities and built glass covered multi story buildings that trap heat and require air conditioning. Man has harnessed the power of fossil fuels, falling water, the sun and the wind to drive engines to perform work and to cool and warm the structures he creates. All this results in localized heating but the area involved is tiny. Look for the night lights as you travel by air and observe their sparsity. Trust to enhanced convection to deal with the temperature increase. Remember that much of the Earth is undesirably cool from the point of view of plant productivity.

All life depends upon the productivity of plants and much of the earth is arid. It is in these areas that enhanced availability of carbon dioxide gives the greatest response. Remember that there is nothing like native vegetation for producing clouds and cooling the surface. With the enhancement of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere the earth is entering a golden age of enhanced plant productivity.

Along with enhanced leaf area in dry areas we get greater evaporation, greater cloud cover and enhanced rainfall.Irrigation of dry areas enhances this process actively changing the climate for the better.


The two maps  below reflect the distribution of cloud and surface atmospheric pressure. Large areas over the oceans experience high surface pressure, sparse cloud cover, low precipitation and relatively high evaporation.  Except for a band of high precipitation extending south easterly from New Guinea almost the entire zone between the equator and 30° south is ‘clear sky window’. The sea traps energy by virtue of its transparency to as much as 300 metres in depth.  It yields that energy slowly, transferring it to colder regions. Operationally, if one were to increase the areas that are coloured brown you increase the energy cycling within the ocean and this raises the surface temperature of the globe. The flux in the cloud free areas involved is driven by the annular modes phenomenon, a response to ozone in the stratosphere.

Observe the symmetry in the two maps below. The distribution of evaporation less precipitation maps surface pressure and the distribution of cloud.

Evaporation minus precipitationSource: http://ds.data.jma.go.jp/gmd/jra/jra25_atlas/eng/indexe_surface13.htm

distribution of cloud global


Consider the annual average of global air temperature as against top of atmosphere global outgoing radiation as documented on the left and right axis of the figure immediately below. The placement of the curves in the vertical dimension is arbitrary.I bring them into close association only to assess variation in their evolution according to the time of the year.

A system that is neither heating or cooling needs to be in balance across the year. From September through to January outgoing long wave radiation lags the temperature curve indicating energy entering the system in excess of that leaving. This seasonal increase in energy acquisition relates to the annular mode phenomenon. It is at this time of the year that the southern and the northern annular modes most drive change in the distribution of atmospheric mass opening up the ‘clear sky window’. In effect the ocean absorbs energy without immediately re-transmitting it.

OLR and Air T

In a system where surface temperature is static then outgoing long wave measured at the top of the atmosphere should also be static. Below is the data for both air temperature in the 0-30° latitude band (where the clear sky window is most extensive) and whole of Earth outgoing long wave radiation. Since 1998 both are essentially static despite the steep increase prior to that date. In the short term air temperature in the near tropical ocean is a function of the changing volumes of cold water introduced into the tropics due to flux in the planetary winds but in the long term these two series must vary together.

OLR and progress of T

The stabilization of  long wave radiation after 1998 at about 230 watts per square metre indicates a system that is no longer gaining energy. This, despite the vagaries of change in surface temperature, is the plain reality.

In the relatively cloud free zone between the equator and 30° of latitude  we would expect temperature to increase as surface pressure increases due to an expansion of the ‘clear sky window’. The diagram below indicates a relationship but it is plainly not direct, at least in the short term and we see that the increase in temperature frequently precedes the increase in surface pressure.Why is this so? There are several reasons:

  1. Ocean currents driven by the planetary winds  bring cold water from higher latitudes into the tropics displacing warmer water, the primary mode of short term variation in the temperature of the waters in the tropics.This acts to cool the tropics as surface pressure increases in mid latitudes opening the clear sky window that warms the extra tropical waters.
  2. A  strong warming dynamic in the South Eastern Pacific about the continent of South America precedes the temperature increase in the tropics by as much as a year. The flux in surface pressure across the Pacific is much stronger than across other oceans or indeed the global tropics taken as a whole.
  3. The Arctic Oscillation Index is currently in decline indicating an increase in surface pressure in the Arctic, a loss of surface pressure in the mid latitudes and a falling away of the strength of the winds that drive the circulation of the waters in the northern hemisphere. So, since 1998, El Nino bears the stamp of Arctic processes in the way that it manifests.

Temperature and pressure


  1. Earth is a very watery, very cloudy planet much subject to temperature swings according to the extent and density of cloud cover.
  2. Over land, 30 percent of skies are completely cloud free but the land is incapable of transferring energy to depth or retaining it and transfers that energy to the atmosphere, mostly within the 24 hour cycle, in the process reducing cloud cover in the middle of the day and allowing it to increase in the late afternoon. The annual cycle in global temperature involves a maximum  in northern summer as the enormous land masses of the northern hemisphere heat the atmosphere and cloud falls away. Solar radiation is 6% less intense in northern summer due to orbital considerations. However a falling away of cloud cover at this time of the year allows more energy to reach the surface producing a temperature maximum for the globe as a whole in mid year.
  3. The oceans are transparent to solar radiation and consequently store energy. Over the oceans, less than 10 percent of the sky is completely clear of clouds at any one time. This limits the uptake of energy by the oceans delaying and transferring the surface temperature response to a reduction in cloud cover. In clear waters light penetrates to a depth of 300 metres.
  4. Two thirds of the global oceans are in the southern hemisphere.
  5. Globally, cloud cover is greatest in southern summer when the Earth is closest to the sun and solar radiation is 6% stronger due to orbital considerations. This is when the globe as a whole is coolest and most susceptible to warming via loss of cloud cover. The evidence is that between September and January, the Earth emits less energy than it receives. At this time polar processes drive change in atmospheric ozone levels from year to year and across the decades.
  6. The expansion and contraction of the Hadley cell in the southern hemisphere affects the distribution and extent of cloud across the southern hemisphere. On an inter-decadal scale an expansion of the Hadley cell as surface pressure rises in the mid latitudes exposes more of the southern oceans to solar radiation. This is palpably the most important dynamic driving global surface temperature in the long term. Neither this nor the impact of ozone in driving  shifts in atmospheric mass that lies behind the expansion of the Hadley cell are recognized in the works of the UNIPCC.
  7. The Southern and the Northern Annular Modes govern the extent of the relatively cloud free high pressure cells that form over the ocean The NAM is influential in determining the swings in surface temperature between  30° south latitude and the northern pole with regular repeating variations that reach a maximum in January and February. The SAM cycles on an inter-centennial time scale providing the long swings upon which the NAM creates the surface chop.It produces the largest temperature swings that are seen in June and July south of 30° south. Although apparently lacking potency by comparison with the NAM on a centennial scale the SAM is much more variable than the NAM and drives the whole.
  8. The origin and cause of the NAM and the SAM is unknown to climate science because the role of ozone in giving rise to polar cyclones that determine the flux in surface pressure in high southern latitudes is as yet unrecognised. The most important source of convection, the jet streams and the flux in the weather on all time scales is still a mystery to climate science even though the importance of the stratosphere in determining the flux in surface pressure was realised a hundred years ago. The source of the natural variability that vacillates on centennial time scales is not a question that exercises the minds of climate scientists. Climate science of the IPCC variety appears to be blissfully unaware of the marked loss of mass in high southern latitudes over the period of record.
  9. In Southern summer the concentration of ozone in the global stratosphere is controlled by Arctic stratospheric processes. This is expressed as a dynamic fluctuation in surface temperature in the 0-30°south latitude band, and across the entire northern hemisphere, in the months of January and February. This is the signature written in the temperature record that identifies the source of surface temperature change.
  10. Surface temperature anomalies are associated with anomalous increases in geopotential height that manifest from the surface through to the stratosphere. This surface temperature increase is related to cloud cover variation due to ozone heating. We know this is the case because the temperature of the upper air varies more strongly than the air at the surface. It is not possible for change at the surface to produce an amplified change at elevation. Dissipation rather than gain is the rule.
  11. As a surface dweller humans are well aware that temperature varies according to the origin of the air that meets us when we step outdoors in the morning. Change in the planetary winds changes the origin of surface winds and is conjunction with change in surface pressure, geopotential height and upper atmosphere ozone. The chain of causation is top down. Climate science as presently  promulgated is unaware of this dynamic. It is in a sad state of constipation due to an ideological insistence that change must be bottom up in origin. Climate science is unaware of the basic dynamic governing the planetary winds and surface temperature.
  12. Recognition of ozone as the driver of the annular modes via the marked increase in ozone partial pressure outside the margins of the tongue of mesospheric air that descends from the stratosphere would interfere with the favoured ozone hole narrative of environmentalists. The Montreal Protocol for the phasing out of certain chemicals used as propellants and refrigerants,  a high water mark for the environmental movement  would then be seen as resulting from a mistake in the interpretation of atmospheric processes. There is too much at stake for the environmental movement to revise its opinion on this matter.
  13. Given the active circulation in the global oceans the temperature of tropical waters is probably a reasonable indicator of the amount of energy stored in the system, at least on decadal scales that average for the flux in the planetary winds and the resulting ENSO phenomenon. The rate of inflow of cold waters into the tropics via the currents that flow equator-wards along the western margins of the continents is highly variable. It is driven by the planetary winds that vary in velocity with changes in surface pressure. It is commonly observed that tropical waters cool as the trade winds strengthen. Increased velocity in the trade winds and the westerlies is due to the transfer or atmospheric mass from high to mid latitudes as ozone levels increase at the pole driving enhanced vorticity in cyclones of ascending air and the jet stream aloft. This is in turn associated with increased geopotential heights in the mid latitudes reduced cloud cover and surface warming. So, we have a conjunction of mid latitude warming due to reduced cloud cover and cooling in the tropics as increased wind velocity drives more cold water into the tropical circulation displacing warm waters into higher latitudes to raise surface temperature in those higher latitudes as it falls in equatorial latitudes. The action that really matters, in terms of energy acquisition, happens outside the narrow latitudes where ENSO is measured and in the southern hemisphere in particular.For most observers this is mind boggling.Those who look for the origin of the El Nino phenomenon are looking in the wrong place if they confine their attention to the narrow latitude bands where surface temperature varies most strongly.
  14. By virtue of the area involved, the tropics as a whole makes a large but somewhat misleading contribution to the global temperature statistic. The flux in temperature in the tropics is large in amplitude but it is driven according to a longer time schedule, years rather than months in accord with change in the planetary winds. The flux in temperature in the mid to high latitudes is vigorous, particularly so in the northern hemisphere and peaks with monotonous regularity in particular months of the year under the influence of polar atmospheric processes.
  15. Change in sea surface temperature on inter-decadal time scales is signalled in the months of January and February and July through to October under the influence of the Arctic and the Antarctic respectively. The change in surface temperature in other months is muted by comparison and in some instances opposite in sign to that in the months that show peak variation. There is no apparent groundswell of temperature increase across all months in accord with the increase in the atmospheres burden of well mixed long wave absorbers that would indicate a greenhouse effect at work.
  16. Taken together, these observations support the contention that cloud cover is the prime source of variation in the amount of solar energy stored in the earth system.
  17. The atmospheric column over Antarctica is the source of climate variation globally. Change in geopotential height over Antarctica precedes change elsewhere frequently imposing mirror image responses in the Arctic.
  18. Extremes in weather in the tropics, such as tropical cyclones and cyclones of polar origin are driven by entirely different modes of causation, the former by warm seas, moist air and precipitation the latter by change in the ozone content of the air aloft. We do not have to have recourse the grab bag called ‘climate change’ that implies anthropogenic modes of causation to explain extremes in climate and weather. We should be more discerning, more observational and more logical, in our thought processes. Currently those who pretend to have all the answers are behaving like primitives.



Ninety nine percent of the atmosphere lies within the ambit of a vigorous day’s walk, just 30 kilometres!

The atmosphere efficiently conveys heat to space via convection (transport) and radiation.  This is apparent in the 24 hour cycle of temperature as a point on the Earth’s surface alternately faces the sun and enters the night zone and the more so in inland locations where the daily range of temperature is accordingly much greater.We call this increase in the daily range of temperature the ‘continental’ effect.

In the northern hemisphere where there is a relative abundance of land the seasonal extremes are wider we have another example of the ‘continental effect’. The strong maximum in outgoing radiation in summer should promote summer warming if the atmosphere were subject to a ‘greenhouse effect’. But, consult the graph below and see that in the mid latitudes of the northern hemisphere we find that the temperature has increased mainly in spring and autumn. In high latitudes the increase in temperature has been in winter when outgoing radiation plunges to a  minimum.

Change in T in NH according to month of the year

Under an imaginary greenhouse regime the atmosphere becomes an impediment to heat transfer and we should see an increase in temperature in all seasons and in all locations just as the ocean limits the variation in temperature of proximate locations. But in fact we observe that the temperature increase that has occurred is variable according to the month of the year. This temperature increase does not tally with the mechanism that is proposed by the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change that was set up to examines man’s influence on the climate of the globe.

In cold conditions humans make sure that the air close to their skin is contained and unable to move. But, the Earth’s atmosphere is not confined in this way. Consequently it acts as a river for energy transfer from the surface to space. As a river it is perhaps the most vigorous on the planet. The ‘supposed greenhouse effect’ is no impediment to this process. Common sense dictates that a static atmosphere is required if the rate of loss of energy is to be curtailed and back radiation is to return energy to the surface via a so-called greenhouse effect. The atmosphere is anything but static. We insulate to stop the air moving. The atmosphere is air.

Plainly we must look to other modes of causation to explain the temperature increase that has been observed.


The following observations demonstrate the primacy of cloud that acts to reflect solar radiation, so determining surface temperature:

  1.   For the globe as a whole the sea is always warmer than the land and the global average for both the land and the sea is greatest in July.Global sea and air
  2.  A maximum in June/July is an anachronism. Earth is farthest from the Sun on July 4. The quotient of energy available from the sun (above cloud level) is 6% less in July than in January.

Why is the Earth warmest when it is most distant from the sun?

In northern summer the sun heats the abundant land masses and the land being opaque the surface quickly warms and with it the atmosphere.  The supply of water vapour to the atmosphere lags behind the increase in the water holding capacity of the air. There is less ocean in the northern hemisphere. In any case water is transparent and it stores energy to depth releasing it slowly. The upshot is that the heating of the atmosphere by the land rich northern hemisphere directly and dramatically reduces cloud cover.  The July maximum in global temperature is due to an increase in the diminished total of solar energy that is available in July. The amount made available at the surface is so much greater in mid year as to result in a temperature peak in mid year.

In northern autumn gathering cloud reflects more solar radiation and the globe therefore cools as its orbit takes it closer to the sun. That’s a pity because as I explained in the last post the globe as a whole is cooler than is desirable from a plant productivity point of view and all life ultimately depends on plants.


From:http://www.iac.es/adjuntos/cups/CUps2015-1.pdf we have direct measurements for Izana observatory in the Canary Islands of  the number of days where cloudiness (red and yellow) is recorded and conversely the number of days where the sky is sufficiently devoid of clouds to achieve a clear sky rating (green).  The attenuation of cloud cover in northern summer is evident.
Cloud cover Teide Observatory, Spain


From http://www.ccfg.org.uk/conferences/downloads/P_Burgess.pdf we have direct measurements of solar radiation at the surface.

Radiation as a function of time of year and cloud cover in Bedordshire

At this site in the UK cloud is responsible for the attenuation of solar radiation by a minimum of 26%  and a maximum of 90%.


Surface temperature is directly modulated by cloud cover as demonstrated in the following satellite photograph.Temp varies with cloud cover



It should be abundantly clear that it is the mediation of energy input by clouds that is the most influential determinant of surface temperature. Zones that experience high surface pressure are relatively cloud free. The essence of change in the ‘annular modes’ lies in a shift of mass from high latitudes due to ozone heating that drives down surface pressure. High southern latitudes have lost atmospheric mass for seventy years on the run. Lost mass has been distributed across the globe adding to surface pressure in those parts of the globe where increased surface pressure  is allied with relatively cloud free skies. In chapter 3 we observed that the globe warms when geopotential height increases. Geopotential height increases when surface pressure increases as the core of a high pressure cells entrains ozone from the stratosphere.


Cloud comes in all shapes, types, sizes altitudes and density and is notoriously difficult to measure.

At http://www.atmos.washington.edu/~sgw/PAPERS/2007_Land_Cloud_JClim.pdf  we have a paper documenting change in cloud cover and establishing correlations between cloud cover over Europe and the North Atlantic Oscillation, a local manifestation of the the northern annular mode.

Survey of cloud cover change


Note that in the mid latitudes in winter, cloudiness is associated with incursions of warm, moist air from the tropics promoting a positive correlation between the presence of clouds and surface temperature. The band of cloudiness formed by frontal activity occurs in the interaction zone between cold dry air of polar origin and warm air of tropical origin. People  might observe that ‘its too cold to rain’ when the air is coming from high latitudes. Alternatively they might say, they can ‘smell’ the rain coming when the air is humid and it comes from lower latitudes. Or they might say, ‘the temperature will increase when it starts to rain’.

To suggest that the positive correlation between cloud cover and temperature in winter is due to back radiation from clouds or that there is a positive causal relationship between the presence of cloud and surface temperature due to back radiation involves an error in logic. Its warmer in winter when there is cloud about  because the cloud arrives with a warmer, moister body of air that originates in tropical latitudes.  Cloud does not cause warming in winter and an opposite effect in summer. Cloud always involves an attenuation of solar radiation.


There should be no confusion as to the effect of cloud on surface temperature. To suggest that the climate is warming due to back radiation indicates a lack of appreciation of the reality of the way in which the atmosphere mediates the flow of solar energy to the surface of the planet and a lack of appreciation of the manner in which the atmosphere actively cools the surface.

To suggest that back radiation is causing warming without first ascertaining that cloud cover has not fallen away indicates an appalling lack of common sense and responsibility.  This brand of ‘science’ is unworthy of the name.

Many sceptics of the AGW argument wrestle with the notion that there is some sense in the idea of ‘back radiation’ from clouds and a CO2 rich atmosphere and try and assess whether the ‘feedbacks’ built into IPCC climate models are an exaggeration of reality. Most unfortunately this belief in cloud radiation feedback and the primacy of a ‘back radiation effect’ has given the ‘anthropogenic’ argument legitimacy.

Back radiation is no defence against a wind chill effect! You wear clothes to combat conduction and convection. To think otherwise is to be muddle headed.

The manner in which the Earth warms and cools indicates that there is another mechanism at work. This other mechanism has primacy and a study of the manner in which the globe has warmed and cooled suggests that it is also a sufficient explanation of the change that has occurred. It is a two way process, capable of warming and cooling as we observe on an inter-annual basis. The mechanism that is responsible for inter-annual variations is also responsible for the decadal and longer trends. When you understand the mechanism you will see that cooling has already begun and more cooling is the immediate prospect.

If you can not explain the inter-annual variations you fail climate 101. UNIPPC, you fail climate 101.