The Water Planet Earth And Its Climate

Guest post by Boris Winterhalter

English version March 14th 2021

A seminar talk I gave on August 15th 2020 in Helsinki organized by Ilmastofoorumi, a registered Society with the mission to disseminate correct climate knowledge as compared to the erroneous dogma provided by the IPCC.

Introduction

Many years ago I happened to read a paper by Willis Eschenbach introducing his Water Thermostat. I have forgotten the essence of his paper, but the name stuck with me for years. Now years later and having retired from my normal marine geological activity at the Geological Survey of Finland in 2002, I have been able to dig deeper into the IPCC storyline of manmade global warming. The fact is that my view of the story does not meet ends with the official IPCC storyline where carbon dioxide, instead of being the source of life, is assumed to be the master culprit behind the slight warming of our planet for example since the end of the Little Ice Age 150 years ago. It is said that the warming is caused by the fast developing industrial revolution, luckily learning to exploit fossil fuels, and thus improving human living standards.

Yes! Carbon dioxide has been coined as an evil gas, a pollutant by the US Environ-mental Protection Agency (EPA), warming the atmosphere to catastrophic levels, inducing floods, droughts, super hurricanes and even the “end of humanity”? The ghastly thing is that the IPCC climate narratives have been successfully targeted to scare people in all parts of our wonderful planet with imminent danger due to increasing levels of emissions of CO2 which, as I mentioned above, is in reality, together with water, simply the “must food” for plants, thus also for all life on Earth.

I should point out that from the first IPCC climate assessment report published in 1990, the scare tactics in all four IPCC follow-up reports up to the fifth AR5 WGI science basis report, the scare propaganda has every time intensified. Probably the 6th report, soon to be published, will be close to doomsday propaganda.

In my talk I will try to paint a picture of our planet and how come it has been able to sustain vivid life forms for over half a billion years and this I will do without those complex climate models assumed to be able to mimic nature. But before that, there was recently this interesting link by Professor Toby Tyrrell: https://ift.tt/3vs2o6B. Tyrell a specialist in Earth system science highlighting results of a recent study, published in the Nature Journal Communications Earth and Environment, suggested that “chance” is a major factor in determining whether planets, such as Earth, can continue to nurture life over billions of years. Tyrrell comments: “A continuously stable and habitable climate on Earth is quite puzzling. Our neighbors, Mars and Venus, do not have habitable temperatures, even though Mars probably once did also have water.” Tyrrell concludes: “Pure chance is the reason that Planet Earth has stayed habitable for billions of years.”

I personally do not think that good luck has anything to do with habitability. The fact remains that the conditions for life to evolve have just been plain suitable, i.e. just a few prerequisites are needed:

So what makes Earth so special? Five major reasons!

1. The distance between Earth and our energy source, the SUN, is just about right; we don’t freeze nor boil.

2. About 70% of Earth’s surface is covered by oceans of salty water, the rest being land. (Note! Salt water is heavier than fresh water.)

3. Energy from the Sun drives evaporation; water vapor is the most “powerful” greenhouse gas, acknowledged by the IPCC. Increasing water vapor (air humidity) in the atmosphere makes the air not heavier but more buoyant, forms clouds (adiabatic cooling) and vapor can condense and precipitate as freshwater rain; it keeps our planet suitable for life but also prevents excessive warming by radiating heat out to space. 

4. The thermodynamics (energy transfer) between the three phases of water (gas, liquid and solid) function in unison with a suitable energy supply from our Sun. Together, they form what can be called a very reliable and effective thermostat that regulates global climate within astonishingly narrow bounds (see fig. 4).

5. Despite occasional extreme geographical, geological and climatic perturbations, this climate regulating thermostat has been conducive to an evolution of a myriad of life forms ranging from smallest single celled biota to gigantic “saurians”; virtually all based on carbon and naturally fluid water.

Marcel Leroux on average global temperature

The IPCC has decided that the current global average temperature should not be allowed to increase more than 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial average temperature; whatever that might be? In a speech some two decades ago French  climatologist Marcel Leroux wondered what is the point of discussing average global temperature when there is no average global climate.

Please enjoy one of my favorites:

Fig. 1. During a cold winter spell with freezing tempera-tures, the main Finnish newspaper showed on 27th Feb 2005 a cartoon with the text: don’t people know that Earth’s climate is getting warmer?

This same cartoon could be just as well applied today in February 2021 while I am finalizing this text on my views pertaining to climate variability and why globally speaking Earth’s climate has been throughout the Phanerozoic Eon strangely stable with only very occasional catastrophic events e.g. due to impacts of extraterrestrial bodies or large scale volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. We can say that drastic changes in past climates have been really rare and have always returned to a “normal” climate that we humans today inhabit; WHY? 

Primaeval Earth

Before looking for an answer to WHY? we have to go back in time. It is widely assumed that billions of years ago our Earth was very hot and grew in size by accreting space debris and gases possibly from the asteroid belt. Eventually the hot planet began to cool down with a probable atmosphere of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, methane and also obviously a lot of overheated (supercharged) water vapor, etc. However, at this stage the atmosphere was still probably void of oxygen.

Eventually the overheated atmosphere cooled sufficiently to allow the very hot water vapor to condense and precipitate (rain) to form the initial oceans. The water in the oceans is thought to come from several sources; one source being the so-called “juvenile” water freed from mineral matter, mainly of volcanic origin or as some scientists assume that asteroids and other celestial bodies could also be the source. 

Anyhow, let’s accept that a young Earth had an ocean of salty “brine” water dissolved from various minerals. Solar energy was beaming down on the ocean surfaces and depending on the transparency of the water a warm top layer (water layer above the thermocline) of varying thickness developed. Windy conditions led to waves and spray and a warm sea surface, being together conducive to water being easily evaporated and forming a variably humid atmospheric environment for our planet.

Compared e.g. to nitrogen (N2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) water vapor H2O is a lightweight gas. The more water vapor in the atmosphere the more buoyant the ambient air becomes causing an uplift of this moist air. Eventually the humid air reaches an altitude where adiabatic cooling (decrease in ambient pressure) leads to cloud formation and finally precipitation. This process naturally guarantees that depressions on dry land will fill with fresh rain water which will later be one of the main requirements for complex life forms to evolve.

The first life forms

Some 3.5 billion years (Ga) ago possibly in volcanically active springs solar radiation or like some researchers suggest through lightning activity, simple carbon based compounds were formed. These could have formed chemoautotrophs capable of breaking down CO2 for carbon and oxygen for energy. The next important biological change occurred with the evolution of photosynthesis by “blue-green algae” i.e. cyanobacteria capable of using solar energy to break down CO2 and H2O. Both of these simple molecules are still the main building blocs of all life on Earth.

The introduction of oxygen into Earth’s atmosphere changes dramatically conditions for future evolution of plant and animal life. Nature was quick at using the new environment for the evolution of multitudes of life forms to populate our Earth with flora coming first and followed by fauna making use of the abundant new plant life.

Fig. 2 Active accretion of cyano-bacteria and carbonate off the southern shore of Australia known as stromatolites are close relatives to similar stromatolites found in Archaean bedrock of Finland.[1]  These ancient cyano-bacteria have modern relatives (blue green algae) that during strong summer blooms tend to spoil the day for beach enthusiasts at least in the Baltic Sea region.

Fig. 3. shows how the  oxygen content in the atmosphere is slowly increasing from stage 2 (2.45-1.85 Ga) onwards. Stage 4 (0.85–0.54?Ga) saw a rapid rise in atmospheric oxygen to a partial pressure of 0.2 atm. Similar to present air pressure found at ocean level today. Oxygen levels  during stage 5 (0.54 Ga-present) probably rose to a maximum value of abt. 0.3 atm (30%) during the Carboniferous before return-ing to current value of 0.2 atm. 

The rapid addition of oxygen to the atmosphere triggered an expansion of biota and in fact opened the doors to countless, you might say, mind-boggling evolutionary life forms exposed to us by paleontologists.

Fig. 4.  The above graph spans the entire Phanerozoic eon (540 million years to the present) and shows a decreasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from 7000 ppm down to the present 400 ppm (the red line). The black line marks the average global surface temperature anomaly (the temperature difference compared to the present average global temperature). To put the temperature range into context it seems obvious that the average conditions on our planet have not changed that much during the past eon, even compared to this day.

Looking at the above graph it is tempting to link the centrally located very large dip in both carbon dioxide and temperature values to what is being done with ice core studies and the tendency to prove that CO2 drives temperature. Nothing doing, because the old extremely high atmospheric CO2 is a remnant from the past awaiting the realm of cyanobacteria and photosynthesis.

A special feature during the Carboniferous, 360-300 million years ago, saw vast forests flourishing and increasing photosynthesis raising the atmospheric oxygen content to about 30% (0.3 atm). It seems to be common knowledge that high levels of oxygen in dry forests are prone to cause forest fires. The fires naturally consumed oxygen and lowered the concentration to the earlier level of 20%, and at the same time fires causing an increase in atmospheric CO2. Fires become again significant in the late Jurassic and also during the Cretaceous. Forest fires are generally assumed to be destructive to flora and fauna, but the fact remains that for many species fires provide a chance to rejuvenate.

Plate tectonics and volcanism

Old and new research in paleontology has shown that throughout Earth history condi-tions for life have varied from tranquil to tumultuous. Radical changes have included new life forms while others went extinct. Some of the changes were due to changes in the environment and others due to competition between species. But some of the most dramatic events could be related to geology and geography in the form of earth-quakes, volcanic eruptions and even extraterrestrial impacts, like the asteroid hitting the Yucatan peninsula 66 million years ago. The asteroid impact caused a almost total extinction of the large dinosaurs and many other species. Wikipedia: “a widely accepted theory is that worldwide climate disruption from the event was the cause of the Cretaceous–Paleocene extinction event, a mass extinction in which 75% of plant and animal species on Earth became extinct, including all non-avian dinosaurs. New species evolved filling the spaces vacated by extinction of others”.

A more subtle force causing changes in geography is plate tectonics originally known as continental drift “invented” in 1912 by Alfred Wegener. He compared maps of South America and Africa and was astonished how well the two continents align as though torn from each other by some magical force. He also noted many similarities in animals and plants on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.There are countless examples of species adapting to changing environments. A very good example often mentioned by environmentalists is the assumed demise of polar bears due to man-made global warming. In fact the polar bear originated from the brown bear probably a million years ago to be better adapted to living in a cold arctic ice-environment being a precursor to a series of Arctic glaciations.

The Wandering of Continents

Those readers that want a better understanding of regional climate variability due to geographic changes thru time, please go to Christopher Scotese’s internet site on paleomaps of our Earth and watch e.g. the youtube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_iEWvtKcuQ

which shows the “drift” of land masses starting with the Cambrian 540 million years) ago and up to the present. The video shows the location of land masses moving across our globe; a closer scrutiny will also show contour lines of the present land areas for orientation. For the benefit of readers, I copied two frames, from the video animation as an example how plate tectonics changes global and “local”geography. Fig. 5a shows the present location of a land mass in northern most part of Europe, and Fig. 5b. the location of the same landmass from the time when carbonate sediments and corals were deposited during the Ordovician 480 million years ago in a subtropical environment on the bottom of what is now the Baltic Sea.

Fig. 5a. Shows the present location of my home country Finland and also Scandinavia in a sub-arctic environment (cyan ring) partly engulfing the Arctic Circle.

Fig 5b. The light green ring encircles the “same” shallows and land masses located half way between the Equator and the South Pole during the Ordovician 480 million years ago. The area would later be known as the Baltic Sea with Ordovician warm water carbonate deposits exposed on the island of Gotland in the middle of the Baltic Sea.

The fact that continents or parts of them have wandered across many climatic zones must be kept in mind when discussing regional climates because especially their seasonal climates (average temperatures) can vary a lot. During the hundreds of millions of years that have passed, the global average temperatures have, however, remained astonishingly stable (cf. Fig. 4). Thus discussing global average tempera-tures makes little sense unless regional temperature variations are accounted for.

Although the wandering of continents happens mostly in slow motion some collisions have been revolutionary causing havoc and destruction. An excellent example was the detachment of India from Antarctica in the Early Cretaceous and colliding with the Asian massif less than 100 million years later. The speed of the collision was by some researcher calculated to have been 45 to 75 cm/yr. Must have been a terrific calamity when the Himalayan mountain range reached its newborn height.

Earth Recuperates from the Calamities.

“Strangely enough” the plentitude of water has guaranteed a global climate that has been to this day conducive to life unabated in the form we have learned to know from paleontology. The funny thing is that atmospheric carbon dioxide, although crucial to the prosperity of life forms, has had only a very minor if any role in regulating the average global temperatures despite the contrary views propagated by IPCC.

I should add that Antarctic ice core data show that atmospheric CO2 concentration has followed temperature with a delay of hundreds of years, not driving temperature. Although we humans have thru increasing use of fossil fuels added some CO2 gas into the atmosphere, this minor gas (0.04%) like other gases soluble in water, are absorbed in cold water and are likewise emitted (de-gassed) from warming water. A good example of gas exchange in water bodies can be observed in small lakes and ponds that are during warm summer days being depleted in dissolved oxygen causing fish to suffocate; “dead fish” floating to the surface.

The IPCC’s Climate Role and Reporting

Before proceeding to more modern times and the POLITICALLY MOTIVATED man-made global warming hype, a few words on the IPCC. The organization was originally formed in 1988 with a defined mandate to study to what extent human activities might be changing Earth’s climate. The first Assessment Science Report (FAR) was published in 1990. I recall having been enthusiastic awaiting new information on the state of Earth’s climate. I read the many pages and learned a lot. However, getting my hands on the first Summary for Policy Makers was an anticlimax with a message drastically different from the actual Science Report.

During the following years the science reports still contained a lot of interesting information on Earth’s climate and the various factors affecting both weather and climate. However , the consecutive Summaries for Policy Makers seemed to escalate “climate scare-mongering” on which media was quick to develop horror stories of extreme natural catastrophes in a very near future unless CO2 emissions are curbed “immediately”. This message was further distorted by narratives from IPCC chairman Pachauri and ex-vice-president Al Gore. I could not believe that the climate science was settled!

The IPCC tries feverishly to prove that human emissions of CO2 has a detrimental impact on global temperatures. This requires a blind belief in computer modeling.

Fig 6. Shows computer model runs (gray band) using natural forcing (a) and observed temperature data (red line). Model run (b) same red line but using anthropogenic forcing only.  (c) Model run using both natural and anthropogenic forcings seem to give wanted “correct” result. But, how about the reliability of climate modeling? 

Fig. 7. Similar uses of models to prove something, was used in the fourth assessment report IPCC 2007 WG1.AR4. One of the goals was to “calculate” the so-called carbon dioxide climate sensitivity typically defined as the global temperature rise following a doubling of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere compared to pre-industrial levels. Here again comparing Anthropogenic + Natural Forcings and only Natural Forcings.

https://ift.tt/3eK3KDG Various versions of the same idea (model fiddling) can be found in the AR4 report, etc. Reliable data? NO!

The critical me was born! I became a writing and talking climate skeptic.

Reliability of Climate Models

The IPCC seems to rely more and more on climate models developed by various research institutes. I probably am not aware of the newest developments in climate modeling, but the fact remains that global climate is regulated by a multitude of processes part of which are poorly known or simply too complex to model. Such problems are solved by reverting to so-called intelligent guesswork or simplifying the algorithms. This dilemma was well demonstrated by Roy Spencer and John Christy working on NASA’s climate satellite data. To check the reliability of modeling Roy ran 90 different climate models and came up with the following graph.

Fig. 8. The graph shows climate model runs using 1983 as a starting point and ending in 2030. The observed data covers the time from 1983 to 2013 and obviously aimed to “compete” with the new fifth IPCC AR5WGI assessment report. The black-sphere-line denotes the average of the model runs, while the green line shows the actual global surface temperature from the British Hadley Centre and the blue line global UAH lower tropospheric average temperature. The text in RED is Roy’s sense of humor:“since 95% of climate models seem to agree, the observations must be wrong”. 

More IPCC Wonders

Last fall (2020) I decided to once again read the “latest” IPCC AR5/WGI/science basis report from 2013.  I couldn’t find the report from the original IPCC site https//www.ipcc.ch/ipcc.ch/, but I did find an updated version: https://ift.tt/38bzsUn which made me wonder why has the 2013 publication of WGIAR5 been updated in February 2018. My interest was really aroused when reaching page 666 and FAQ 8.1

Not having a copy of the original WGIAR5 from 2013, I was not sure whether this FAQ 8.1 existed in the 2013 version. Anyhow, I was rather astonished by the question and answer in the FAQ 8.1: How Important is Water Vapour to Climate Change?

The answer was rather cryptic: Water vapour is the primary greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. The contribution of water vapour to the natural greenhouse effect  relative  to  that  of  carbon  dioxide  (CO2) depends on accounting  method (bold by BW),  but  can  be considered to be approximately two to three times greater. Really?

The text goes on explaining how different H2O is compared to CO2, etc. and finally noting that H2O  behaves differently from CO2 in one fundamental way: it can condense and precipitate and has a typical residence time of ten days in the atmosphere. My point: so what? We all know that evaporation from water surfaces and to a lesser extent from biota and naturally also volcanism, is more or less a continuos atmospheric process controlled mainly by our energy source, the SUN.

Then FAQ 8.1 continues by mentioning the obvious, that water vapor from anthropogenic sources is considerably less than from ‘natural’ evaporation and therefore has a negligible greenhouse effect. Ok!

FAQ 8.1 continues: Currently, water vapour has the largest greenhouse effect in the Earth’s atmosphere. However, other greenhouse gases, primarily CO2, are necessary to sustain the presence of water vapour in the atmosphere. This I find questionable, because surely solar energy is the main driver of evaporation?

FAQ 8.1 continues as a matter of fact:  Indeed, if these other gases e.g. CH4 (methane)  were removed from the atmosphere, its temperature would drop sufficiently to induce a decrease of water vapour, leading to a runaway drop of the greenhouse effect that would plunge the Earth into a frozen state. Is that a fact? So greenhouse gases other than water vapour provide the temperature structure that sustains current levels of atmospheric water vapour. Therefore, although CO2 is the main anthropogenic control knob (bold by BW) on climate, water vapour is a strong and fast feedback that amplifies any initial forcing by a typical factor between two and three. Water vapour is not a significant initial forcing, but is nevertheless a fundamental agent of climate change. The meaning of the sentence eludes me? Here again I am confused by the way that IPCC seems to belittle the role of our SUN in providing the main source of energy not only for evaporation, but also for growth of flora and fauna.

The IPCC faces a credibility problem.

To sustain credibility it is obvious that IPCC has to provide CO2 with a special role because on its own it is only a minor greenhouse gas. Thus IPCC grabs the idea of giving CO2 the role of a climate control knob, as originally introduced in 2010 by Lacis et.al. Atmospheric CO2: Principal Control Knob Governing Earth’s Temperature. Science 15 Oct 2010: Vol. 330, Issue 6002, pp. 356-359.

The IPCC presents the anthropogenic control knob idea as a new dogma and flags CO2 as the main radiative forcing driving the man-made global warming hype. From this follows, according to IPCC, that carbon emissions have to be quenched globally (Note e.g. the Paris agreement). To retain the “proper” narrative IPCC insists that the increase in atmospheric CO2 acts as a forcing but the same is not true of solar energy nor water vapor which is considered only as a strong feedback, i.e. something that needs a forcing, in this case even by a small increase in CO2.

We know that IPCC has a “morbid” demand for CO2 to be the input (forcing), not water vapor nor the Sun. A tricky dilemma, but never mind there is a solution: We all know that the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere is controlled mostly by air temperature, i.e. the warmer the air the more water vapor can be retained in the atmosphere, which results in an increase in greenhouse effect. However, the IPCC neglects the role of solar energy and instead relies on man-made carbon emissions. It is here that radiative forcing steps in and CO2 gets the job to warm the air.

The IPCC remedy: We are told that even a small increase in CO2 that has absorbed infra red energy will spontaneously emit a forcing, which will warm the water surface and cause water molecules to evaporate, and as previously acknowledged by the IPCC this will increase the greenhouse effect (higher air humidity) by a factor of 2 to 3 compared to carbon dioxide.

Ain’t that a cute trick?

The IPCC concludes: According to IPCC dogma “Water vapour has the largest greenhouse effect in the Earth’s atmosphere. However, other greenhouse gases, primarily CO2, are necessary to sustain the presence of water vapour in the atmosphere. Indeed, if these other gases were removed from the atmosphere, its temperature would drop sufficiently to induce a decrease of water vapour, leading to a runaway drop of the greenhouse effect that would plunge the Earth into a frozen state. Therefore, although CO2 is the main anthropogenic control knob on climate, water vapour is a strong and fast feedback that amplifies any initial forcing by a typical factor between two and three. Water vapour is not a significant initial forcing, but is nevertheless a fundamental agent of climate change.

Final Conclusions: In my view the main mistake made by the IPCC is the insistence that CO2 is the main climate driver, possibly with some assistance from other minor greenhouse gases. It is now the official climate control knob.

I wonder how the IPCC explains the actual processes involved in a CO2 molecule absorbing IR energy of solar origin and then emitting (forcing) energy quanta capable of detaching a water molecule from a water surface despite a strong molecular bond called surface tension.

The IPCC also states erroneously that even a slight increase in atmospheric CO2 will increase several fold the greenhouse role of evaporated water which in reality is the doings of the Sun. Does this misinformation not prove that CO2 should be down-graded from the climate control knob duty and instead given back the original role as the ultimate nutrient for life on Earth

As far as I can see, my usage of the term water thermostat is the balance of water in the atmosphere being regulated between three phases: vapor (latent energy), droplets (clouds) and ice (clouds) and IR radiation to space and all of this in very close dependence with our Sun, the source of life! We should also remember that water vapor has a crucial convective role in meteorology i.e. adding buoyancy to an air mass as compared to dry air.

Reverting back to professor Toby Tyrrell and him being astonished over the stability and habitability of Earth’s climate; I don’t really agree with him. I have in this story tried to my best ability to show some basic assumptions why our planet is a suitable candidate to support what we know as life. In fact any celestial body with a similar setup could manage the same???

My guess is that many climate researchers have been misled by the flood of research projects developing extremely complicated climate models based on assumptions that global climate responds to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide. This error has caused tremendous loss of money and manpower without actually being able to solve the question how Earth has succeeded in keeping global climate conducive to the various life forms that have inhabited our wonderful planet. My answer is WATER!


 

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March 16, 2021 at 04:55AM

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