The climate system is one of the most complex things out there. It is something that is not fully understood, nor will it ever be. There are many things that drive the climate and there are many factors that come into play when the climate changes.
THE SUN (MOVEMENT OF ENERGY & HEAT)
The main driver of the climate system is the Sun. The Sun gives out energy to the planets in our solar system. This energy comes from TSI (Total Solar Irradiance) and sunspot count. The energy given out by the Sun is energy in motion, otherwise known as kinetic energy. Temperature is a measurement of the amount of kinetic energy possessed by the particles of an object. The more energy given out by the Sun means that Earth will be warmer. The less energy from the Sun means that Earth will be cooler.
When the Sun’s rays enter the atmosphere, some of the energy is absorbed by plants, some heats the Earth’s surface, and some is reflected back into outer space by clouds.
Most of the energy reflected off of the Earth’s surface goes back into outer space and some of it is absorbed by greenhouse gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and ozone. Those greenhouse gases then reflect the absorbed energy back to the Earth’s surface and heat it again, while some of the re-reflected energy is absorbed by plants for photosynthesis again.
However, most of the atmosphere is made up of only two elements; nitrogen and oxygen, of which neither absorb the reflected energy from the Earth’s surface. Greenhouse gases like CO2, methane, and ozone, are trace gases, which means that they are not abundant in the atmosphere, which also means that the energy they absorb from the reflected energy is very little, which in turn means that the energy they reflect back to Earth, is even less.
Nitrogen is the most abundant gas in the atmosphere, at 78%. Oxygen makes up 21%, Argon makes up 0.93% and carbon dioxide only makes up only 0.04% of the Earth’s atmosphere. Together, the other trace gases make up about 0.03% of the atmosphere.
Nevertheless, one of the weakest greenhouse gases is in fact carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is only 4% of all greenhouse gasses. About 0.2% of that CO2 is man-made. Water vapor, is by far, the biggest greenhouse gas according to the chart below.
Eventually, all of the energy will escape to outer space.
The solar output by the Sun is unevenly distributed around the Earth. This is because of the tilt of the Earth’s axis and Earth’s shape. The levels of the energy given out by the Sun change at different latitudes. This changes from season to season. The north and south poles receive less solar energy than the Equator, which is why the poles are cold and the Equator is hot.
The climate system likes to try and balance the unevenly distributed energy by moving it around the globe, particularly from the equator to either pole. The oceans and air currents help move this energy around daily.
Near the equator, there is more energy in the atmosphere. This allows thunderstorms to develop. The cumulonimbus clouds allow warm air to rise and move to either the north or south pole.
Rising air forms low pressure, which brings in stormy weather and cooler temperatures. When air goes down, it compresses and forms high pressure, which brings warmer air and clearer skies. This circulating air forms into multiple cells which cover the globe. This is what constantly keeps heat circulating in the atmosphere and the weather changing.
The oceans also move energy and heat around. The energy moves with ocean currents, such as the Gulf Stream. Ocean currents are driven by the salinity of the ocean water and changes in SST (Sea Surface Temperature), NOT trade winds.
For instance, we will use the Gulf Stream to explain how the ocean moves around heat and energy, which affect the climate.
The Gulf Stream is one of the longest and strongest ocean currents in the world. The North Atlantic is cooled by strong Arctic winds. The cold salt water becomes dense, which sinks and travels to the equator. The warmer water stays near the surface as the Gulf Stream takes water from the Gulf of Mexico to the North Atlantic Ocean to replace the cold, dense water. The warm water makes northwestern Europe’s climate milder than most places at the same latitude.
THE SUN (SOLAR CYCLES)
The Sun goes through different solar cycles. There are periods of low solar activity, known as solar minimums and there are periods of high solar activity, known as a solar maximums. Every eleven years, there are fluctuations in the quantity and size of sunspots. Each group of sunspots have a magnetic field, with a north and south pole. Every eleven years, the polarity leads in a given hemisphere, while the opposite polarity goes in the other. The cycle lasts eleven years and reverses back to the previous state every 22 years.
The Sun also goes through cycles of 120 years and 230 years. The same thing happens in these cycles as the eleven year cycle, but they last longer. All of these cycles can last longer or shorter than the average.
In the 120 year Grand Solar Minimum solar cycle, the Sun goes blank as the sunspot count drops. The individual eleven year cycles are still into play, but they become weak. During this time, the global temperature will drop one to two degrees Celsius for about 120 years. This leads to a lot of Arctic high pressure blocking, which makes way for a brutally cold and snowy winter in the Northern Hemisphere. Snow will fall later in the spring and earlier in the fall. There tends to be wild temperature swings occasionally, especially in the winter and summer months due to a weaker magnetosphere. Glaciers will grow as well as polar sea ice volume and extent.
In the 230 year Grand Solar Maximum solar cycle, the sunspot count goes up, and the Earth begins to warm. Winters become shorter and summers become longer. The global temperature will rise between 1 and 3 degrees Celsius during this time. Arctic and Antarctic sea ice will start to melt, and glaciers will start to recede.
In the early 1900s, Russian scientist Milutin Milankovitch proposed a theory for how glaciers grew and receded with ice age cycles. The time scales for these cycles are 100,000 years, 41,000 years, and 23,000 years. The cycles are called eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession.
- Eccentricity is the shape of the Earth’s orbit as it goes around the Sun.
- Earth’s orbit shape changes from 0% elliptical to 5% and back.
- Corresponds to ice age (glacial) cycles.
- Timescale | 100,000 years.
- When the orbital shape changes, the Sun’s energy is further away from the Earth, which allows glaciers to grow.
- Axial Tilt is the tilt in degrees of Earth’s axis.
- Axis tilt changes from 21.5 degrees to 24.5 degrees and back.
- Timescale | 41,000 years.
- The axial tilt results in the growing and recession of glaciers every 50,000 years.
- Precession is Earth’s wobble on its axis as it goes around the Sun.
- Timescale | 23,000 years.
- The North Pole points at the North Star, Polaris. Every 23,000 years, it will shift to point at the star, Vega.
- Affects the growth and recession of glaciers and ice sheets during ice ages.
Trade winds affect the evaporation of ocean water as well as the monsoon season for Asia. Without the trade winds, the evaporated water would not make it to Asia, which would lead to a massive drought for the majority of the continent.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the warm air near the equator rises and the cool air sinks. As the warm air flows toward the north pole, the Arctic winds cool the air while the Coriolis Effect pushes the air from northeast to southwest back toward the equator.
In the Southern Hemisphere, the warm air near the equator rises and flows toward the south pole. The cold air from Antarctica cools the air while the Coriolis Effect pushes the air back toward the equator from southeast to northwest.
In both cases, as the air is returning to the equator, the cool air sinks and forms low clouds, which bring precipitation to certain areas. This is part of what causes the monsoon season.
EL NIÑO (ENSO)
The Equatorial Pacific Ocean’s sea surface temperatures change often and they are unpredictable. However, there is a recurring pattern every two to eight years, where the Equatorial Pacific goes through a warm and cool phase (positive phase = El Niño; cool phase = La Niña). El Niño begins when the eastern tropical surface waters begin to warm. The warming then causes water to evaporate more, leading to heavy rains off the coast of Ecuador and Peru.
It has been theorized that the changes in the ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific are due to changes in trade wind patterns.
PACIFIC DECADAL OSCILLATION (PDO) & ANNUAL ATLANTIC MULTIDECADAL OSCILLATION (AMO)
The Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is a consistent pattern of climate variability between warmer and cooler than normal temperatures in the Central Pacific Ocean. The Central Pacific goes through warm (positive) and cool (negative) phases, each lasting approximately 30 years.
When the PDO turns negative, the global temperatures will drop and stay on the cool side. When the PDO turns positive, the global mean temperature will rise and stay on the warmer than normal side.
The Annual Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), like the PDO is also a consistent pattern of climate variability, but in the Atlantic Ocean. The positive and negative phases of the AMO both tend to last 60 to 70 years. When the AMO turns positive, it favors more hurricane activity in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, and when the AMO turns negative, it means that hurricane activity will be quieter in the Atlantic.
Also, while the AMO is positive, there tends to be high latitude Arctic high pressure blocking events over North America, which can imply a cold winter. However, overall, like the PDO, the positive phase of the AMO usually means a warmer than average global temperature.
Volcanoes have a big impact on the global climate system as well.
When a volcano erupts, a mixture of gases are emitted from the volcano. One of the main gases is sulfur dioxide (SO2). Sulfur dioxide is a good reflector of the Sun’s energy. If the eruption from the volcano is powerful enough, the volcanic ash and SO2 may enter the stratosphere, just above the troposphere, where jet airliners fly. There, the SO2 will quickly become a sulfate aerosol, which will spread around the globe and cause global cooling lasting two to three years. Global temperatures will drop between 0.2 to 0.5 degrees Celsius if the eruption is major. This theory has been put to the test and proven multiple times, especially after the Mt. Tambora eruption in 1815 (which caused 1816‘s ‘Year Without A Summer), El Chichon in 1982, and Pinatubo in 1991.
During the winter months, the location of a volcano may determine whether the winter will be cold or mild in the Northern Hemisphere. During the 1982 eruption of El Chichon and the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo, the Northern Hemisphere winter was milder because those volcanoes were closer to the Equator. This happened because the volcanoes favored a positive NAO (North Atlantic Oscillation) and AO (Arctic Oscillation), which forced low pressure and cold air to stay in higher latitudes. The jet stream shifted westerly, which allowed southern winds to push warm air to the United States and Europe.
It has been researched and well understood, that volcanoes in low or high latitudes favor the negative phases of the NAO and AO, while volcanoes near the equator favor the positive phases. When a higher latitude volcano erupts, the negative NAO and AO results in cold winters, in which the jet stream expands and pushes cold air southward. Such was the case in the winter of 1911 – 1912, which was one of the coldest winters in the thermometer record for the United States.
Overall, global temperatures should drop when there is a major volcanic eruption, no matter the latitude of the volcano.
GALACTIC COSMIC RAYS THEORY
It has been theorized that galactic cosmic rays influence climate more than we once thought.
Galactic cosmic rays are pieces of atom fragments which come from outer space, usually from supernovas. They enter Earth’s atmosphere and they go through the sky. Cosmic rays can cause electronics problems, especially on satellites.
Many scientists have come up with the theory that galactic cosmic rays increase cloud nucleation (formation). Clouds reflect the energy from the Sun back into space. With an increase in cloud cover, this means that more of that solar energy will be reflected back into outer space and less of that energy will hit the Earth’s surface.
The increase in albedo also means an increase in precipitation. During Grand Solar Minimums, the Sun has a weaker magnetic field, and so does the Earth in this case. The low sunspot count means that the Sun has less energy; this makes the magnetic field weaker. This also means that there will be less solar wind to help block out the galactic cosmic rays from the solar system.
During a Grand Solar Maximum, there are more sunspots, which strengthens the magnetic field, which sustains the solar wind, which helps block out cosmic rays.
It has been predicted, that the Sun is set to go into ‘hibernation’ for 120 years into another Grand Solar Minimum, called the Eddy Minimum. Sunspot activity is at the lowest it has been in years, and solar cycle 25 is forecasted to be even lower.
Along with the steep decline in solar activity, we have also had an increase in galactic cosmic rays, and there has already been and increase in cloud nucleation.
Since carbon dioxide is only a small fraction of the atmosphere and only 0.2% of it is man-made, and the climate system is mostly CO2 insensitive, the only man-made global warming there is, if that is even what you want to call it, is due to the urbanization of large cities and improper placement of thermometers.
In the 1930s, a German scientist named A. Kratzer discovered that temperatures were higher in developed areas such as cities, and that temperatures were lower in rural areas. His discovery and work were ignored until the 1950s, when a man named T.J. Calendar discovered the same thing as he was traveling through London, England.
Over time, other cities have been studied such as New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, Miami, Boston, Chicago, and Washington D.C. in the United States, and Winnipeg, Hamilton, Montreal, Quebec, and Vancouver in Canada.
All of the cities studied around the world had one thing in common. There is a ‘dome’ of warm air over the center of the city, which goes up approximately 300 meters, and extends to the surrounding suburbs.
The urban heat island effect is caused by these factors.
Overnight temperatures in Las Vegas have increased by ten degrees Fahrenheit since 1937 due to urbanization. However, daytime temperatures have declined by approximately two degrees Fahrenheit since 1937. The main cause for the huge increase in overnight temperatures is due to the heat island effect from urbanization.
However, in most cities, the increase in temperature due to urbanization has only been 0.1 to one degree Fahrenheit.
In Australia, six capital cites have seen an average 0.9 degree Celsius increase in annual average temperature.
Meanwhile, 27 rural Australian stations have seen an average 0.3 degree Celsius decline in annual average temperature.
The biggest problem with urbanization and annual temperature is not necessarily the urbanization itself, but the placement of thermometers.
A great number of the USHCN station thermometers used to be in the middle a field or grassy area. After World War II, urbanization increased and since the 1950s, there has been an increase in annual mean temperature from many of these USHCN locations.
Take Fort Collins, CO for example. In 1937, the station was in the middle of a field.
By 1950, the urbanization started.
By 1969, the city was surrounding the station.
Today, it looks like this…
With the urbanization of that parking lot in Fort Collins, you can only assume that the temperature there has risen since 1969.
Many USHCN stations, like the one shown below, which is in Marysville, CA, is also not placed in a great spot. Meteorologist Anthony Watts from Watts Up With That? has done a great job taking pictures of these stations and investigating how much of the urbanization, if any at all, has affected the average temperatures at that location.
Others, like this station in Orland, CA, are in a great spot.
- There are no exhaust fans blowing hot air on the thermometer, especially at night.
- There are no brick buildings beside it; bricks absorb heat during the day and release the heat at night.
- There are no parking lots or asphalt near it.
- There are no cell towers beside it.
As Anthony Watts has concluded, most of the USHCN stations are biased with urbanization or other disturbances such as cell towers or parking lots, which have made the temperatures ‘rise,’ when they really haven’t at all.
The worst part; you can NOT distinguish biased temperature data from data that has no outside influences by looking at the dataset. You can, however tell the difference, only if the station has been moved to another location, or whether the area surrounding it has been developed over time.
The one thing we don’t know, is how much of a percent of the temperature rise at a particular station is due to the urbanization, versus how much of it is naturally influenced by the Sun and other influences.
In order to properly measure U.S. temperature, the government needs to be better about urbanization laws and regulations regarding development of land near these USCHN stations.
Article – Education Resources. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hko.gov/m/article_e.htm?title=ele_00246
“Article – Education Resources.” What Is UV Radiation, http://www.hko.gov.hk/m/article_e.htm?title=ele_00246
Atmospheric Radiation Update. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://spaceweatherarchive.com/2018/05/20/atmospheric-radiation-update/
Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://seawapa.org/co2/index.html
Dobler, S. (n.d.). The next Grand Solar Minimum, Cosmic Rays and Earth Changes (an introduction). Retrieved from https://abruptearthchanges.com/2018/01/14/climate-change-grand-solar-minimum-cosmic-rays/
Ed, D. (n.d.). Temperature and CO2 History – edberry.com. Retreived from http://edberry.com/blog/climate/physics/agw-hypothesis/temperature-and-co2-history-2/
Hflink, C. (. 2., Hfpack, A. D. O., & Inc. (n.d.). HFLINK | ALE HF Automatic Link Establishment HF Interoperability HF LINK. Retrieved from http://hflink.com/
Home. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.surfacestations.org/
How does the climate system work?. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lrPS2HiYVp8
How Not to Measure Temperature | The Deplorable Climate Science Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://realclimatescience.com/2018/05/how-not-to-measure-temperature/
Join the Debate!. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.climatechange101.ca/many-factors-affect-climate.html#elninenso
Join the Debate!. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.climatechange101.ca/many-factors-affect-climate.html#tradewinds
Milankovitch Cycles and Glaciation. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~geol105/images/gaia_chapter_4/milankovitch.htm
NASA/Marshall Solar Physics. (n.d.). Retrieved from
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/FoS_Urban Heat Island.pdf
(n.d.). Retrieved from https://icecap.us/images/uploads/URBAN_HEAT_ISLAND.pdf
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://icecap.us/docs/change/HOWVOLCANISMAFFECTSCLIMATE.pdf
(n.d.). Retrieved from http://icecap.us/docs/change/OceanMultidecadalCyclesTemps.pdf
NOAA’s National Ocean Service Education: Currents: Trade Winds. (n.d.). Retrieved from https;//oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/currents/05currents2.html
Ocean Currents – Lessons – Tes Teach. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.tes.com.lessons/OAhtY6FP_NHDPQ/ocean-currents
Solar cycle | astronomy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/science/solar-cycle
Watts, A. (n.d.). Online Petition: The next significant solar minimum should be called “The Eddy Minimum”. Retrieved from https://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/06/13/online-petition-the-next-solar-minimum-should-be-called-the-eddy-minimum/
What Happens When You Build A Parking Lot Around A Thermometer? | The Deplorable Climate Science Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://realclimatescience.com/2016/03/what-happens-when-you-build-a-parking-lot-around-a-thermometer/