A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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The Skeptics Handbook II

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Clouds dominate everything

Cartoon: Cumulo Maximus

Al Gore describes how carbon dioxide beats up Mr Sunbeam and stops him leaving the atmosphere. But he “forgot” to mention that clouds reflect around a quarter of all the sunlight that hits the earth. Those beams of light travel all the way from the sun to get bounced off into space when they are just a few kilometers from the ground.

Any change in cloud cover makes a major difference. The IPCC assumes clouds respond to warming, but clouds could easily drive the warming.

There are lots of things that could potentially change cloud cover, which would affect our climate. Things like cosmic rays (see page 18), changes in patterns of ocean temperature, land clearing, or aerosols all affect clouds.

The models not only get the feedback effects of clouds wrong, they appear to mix cause and effect

Clouds reflect around a quarter of all the sunlight that hits the earth

Cartoon: Tiny carbon knob on climate control box

The earth has its own evaporative cooler—rain

Evaporation and rain keep the planet 50°C cooler. Fifty! Eighty percent of the natural greenhouse effect is due to humidity and clouds. Clouds cover 60% or so of the entire planet. No one has any idea whether cloud cover was the same in 1200, or 1800, or even 1950. It’s a guess.

The IPCC and the modellers admit they don’t do clouds or rain well. But these factors are the master “knobs” on Earths’ climate control unit.

If the computer simulations are only out by a few percent, any tiny change in evaporation, clouds or rain will wipe out the warming from carbon and it can do it in days.

The climate models rely on best guesses, assumptions and estimates. The models are incredibly accurate on dozens of points that don’t really matter, but they stab in the dark at the one or two points that do.

Source: 50°C cooler, “Water Cycle” NASA Science.

Page 7

TURN THE PAGES (Links in red will become active as pages are published). You are on the page in the Red Square.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 + 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

This is Page 7 of The Skeptics Handbook II, a 20 page PDF.

This post fits especially well with the page on Feedbacks since one of the most powerful factors amplifying or dampening any effect of carbon are clouds.

7.4 out of 10 based on 7 ratings

24 comments to Clouds dominate everything

  • #

    Great to see logical, factual and scientific science being presented instead of hearing the same old hog wash in the MSM from those stuffing their snouts in the trough at Copenhagen!


  • #

    How do you get from CO2 as trace gas to ruling all, that is a feat. No one ever explains that. While pollution can do that, cause widespread and dominate harm, think nuclear fallout and the Van Allen Radiation Belts, pollution is bad — I see a lot of reports that CO2 is a pollutant — which it is not. Atmospheric CO2 is necessary for life on earth.

    Isn’t water vapor responsible for 95% of the earth’s greenhouse gases?

    And why isn’t the missing CO2 greenhouse hotspot, Al Gore’s blanket the end of the argument? Isn’t that how you take down a hypothesis, with empirical proof of it’s falsity.


  • #

    […] As the Copenhagen gravy train rolls on (Cost over $300 million dollars) a Siberian blast is about to hit Europe, with Copenhagen about to drop to minus 15. In the USA a monster storm stretching across the country is causing significant cold and snow. In Australia record cold is being experienced. Meanwhile solar geomagnetic activity hits an all time low meaning an increase in precipitation and cold, and the inconvenient truth is clouds dominate everything. […]


  • #

    Pretty Much what Dr Spencer is trying to get the modelers to appreciate.

    There’s a correlation between cloud cover and warming so, as I understand it, the modelers have assumed that the warming (forcing) has caused the change in cloud cover (feedback).

    Dr Spencer proposes that it’s the other way around. i.e. that the warming is a feedback to the change in cloud cover.

    The first process would give a high climate sensitivity the second would give a low sensitivity yet they appear almost indistinguishable. He thinks that is why it’s been easy for modelers to assume the first process.


  • #


    How do you get from CO2 as trace gas to ruling all, that is a feat.

    That is something that really is an astounding leap of logic to me as well. At 400ppm (0.04%) you just have to suspend all credulity in order to think that something in such a low concentration can be that critical. If that 0.04% was not dispersed through the atmosphere, but somehow congregated (like UN bureaucrats, government officials and climate scientists) in one place then I could see how it could have a significant effect. But CO2 is dispersed throughout the atmosphere and the air is homogenised (rather like meteorological data).


  • #

    Common Sense

    It should be just common sense that clouds have a major effect on the weather and climate. On cloudy days it is significantly cooler, and on cloud free days it is significantly warmer.

    However, the warmists have brainwashed the population into believing that clouds can be ignored for the purpose of determining climate change. The ONLY thing that matters, Al Gore says, is the increase in CO2 and it is all our fault. Well Al Gore also insists (falsely) that the Hacked emails are from 10 years ago and that the temperature in the centre of the earth is millions of degrees. Well, ROTFL

    In one of the CRU emails, a scientist says that faking up [temperature] data here is very time consuming.
    Well, I know what you are thinking – it is just a quote taken out of context – even suspecting the possibility of any untoward behaviour by a climate scientist reveals my obvious biased political viewpoint. Faking up data is obviously just standard scientific behaviour. Nothing to see here, then, just move along.


  • #
    John Watt

    This is interesting. Svensmark and Calder produced a very readable book on a closely related subject a couple of years ago. Svensmark still pursues related basic science as opposed to stuffing wobbly data into a computer.

    The rub is that Svensmark is based in Copenhagen…wonder if Kev the Great will deign to pay Henrik a visit?


  • #

    Political Fallout

    Dr. Maciej Nowicki , past president of COP14, who made the opening speech of the COP15 conference in Copenhagen has just resigned (i.e. just been sacked) as environment minister by the Polish Government, who now apparently believe that global warming is a hoax. Poland is heavily dependent on coal for its economy.


  • #
    David Jensen

    I agree it should be just common sense that clouds have a major impact on the weather and climate.

    But it is not always cooler on cloudy days nor is it always warmer on cloud-free days.

    Think about winter. It is usually warmer on cloudy days and nights, and colder on cloudless days and nights during winter because the effect of the clouds trapping the heat close to the earth more than offsets any loss of the warming effect from the weak winter sun.

    Which just goes to show that the net impact of some very basic things that affect the weather and the climate, like clouds, can sometimes be positive and sometimes negative, depending on other factors — and those other factors don’t include carbon.


  • #

    THose with a genuine interest in the history and development of climate models may be interested in the following at the American Institute of Physics:



  • #


    This lovely piece uses disarmingly simple logic to effectively deconstruct the warmist arguments of the global warming “faithful”.


  • #


    “Poland is heavily dependent on coal for its economy.”

    So is the US, Australia, China… What is the point of including this??


  • #

    For anyone who’s interested (and has a spare supercomputer lying around) there is an open source GCM called the CCSM (

    This model has an atmospheric model sub sytem called CAM3. I believe the CAM3 allows cloud parametrization as described in Section 4.7 under and Table 2.6 in section 2.5 under

    I’m not a climate scientist but I would be very interested to see if it’s possible to parametrize this model’s cloud behavior (realistically) such that the model showed low climate sensitivity.

    My reasoning is this. If we can show, using one of the IPCC’s climate models, that a doubling of CO2 only leads to around 0.5C then they would have to change their projection range from 1.5 to 4.5 to 0.5 to 4.5. Hence they would need to conclude the possibility that the climate may have negative feedbacks due to clouds.

    As far as I can tell cloud parametrization is the main determinant, in the models, on resultant climate sensitivity. So the IPCC would need to show why the parameterization that gave 0.5C was wrong. i.e. they would need to falsify the low climate sensitivity of 0.5C.

    Don’t know, it’s late, it makes sense to me now but maybe not in the cold light of day 🙂



  • #

    Cloudy don’t really act as insulation. Cloudy nights are warm because atmospheric water vapour condenses after sunset and releases vast amounts of latent heat. This condensation effect is also why it rains so heavily at night in the tropics.

    Desert nights are cold because of a lack of humidity. This means that very little latent heat is released by condensation.

    Cloudy days may seem warmer because of high humidity. However extensive cloud limits maximum temperatures to around 33C – this is the typical summer temperature in cloudy Darwin or Cairns. In fact Darwin is sometimes hotter during the “cooler” dry season than in summer. Cloudless desert regions on the same latitude can exceed 50C.


  • #
    Baa Humbug

    Bloggers can someone help me with the following please, I’ve been scratching my head so much I’ve developed a bald patch.

    In the IPCC AR4 Summary for Policy Makers. The very very last paragaph in the blue box titled “THE EMISSION SCENARIOS OF THE IPCC SRES”. Says the following…

    “The SRES scenarios do not include additional climate initiatives, which means that no scenarios are included that explicitly assume implemantation of the UNFCCC or the emissions targets of the Kyoto protocol.”

    Have I been up too late? Does this mean what I think it does?
    How to explain it???? maybe an analogy…

    I go to a financial consultant, after lecturing me for an hour that I’m going bankrupt, he tells me that I have to cut back my CO2TS (costs) back to 2000 levels. I ask OK so if I do that, where will my financial position be in the future?

    He says “Stuffed if I know, I didn’t work that out.”

    So the collective brains of the world are meeting for the 15th time now, hammering out how much emissions to cut, how many billions it will cost BUT NONE OF THE #@%&ERS KNOW WHAT RESULTS THAT WILL ACHIEVE????

    Somebody please tell me I’ve been up too late and have misunderstood this final paragraph.


  • #

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Green For You, christie lim. christie lim said: Clouds reflect around a quarter of all the sunlight that hits earth… #green (via @greenforyou) […]


  • #
    chris y

    Joanne, this is an excellent post!
    Keep an eye on your link to NASA oceans and water cycles, for the following reason.
    I posted a comment over at Dot Earth concerning NASA’s water cycle discussion on how weather dramatically cools the Earth from an otherwise intolerable 67 C for a weather-free, atmosphere-laden, greenhouse-rich Earth. Dr. Roy Spencer makes the same argument in his excellent 2008 book Climate Confusion on page 54-
    “Because, while many people have heard that ‘the greenhouse effect makes the Earth habitably warm,’ virtually no one has heard that ‘weather makes the Earth habitably cool.’ Quantitatively, the cooling effects of weather are actually stronger than the greenhouse warming effect. So, why is it that we never hear about that in discussions of global warming? HMMM?”

    So far, we have the climate realist Roy Spencer and Gaia-hugging NASA oceans in complete agreement.

    Along comes Andy Lacis from NASA GISS, who throws NASA oceans under the bus today at Dot Earth-

    “Chris Y, in comment #83, has pointed out what appears to be an embarrassing bit of erroneous PR information on the part of NASA that has clearly fallen far short of its intended objective.”
    “It is painfully clear that whoever wrote this, really had no clue of how the Earth’s greenhouse effect works,…”
    “I hope that NASA will fix this bit of embarrassment soon, and have their next PR piece checked for basic accuracy by someone knowledgeable in the field.”

    Now that NASA GISS has been alerted to this PR ‘leak’, I expect the NASA site linked above to be ‘adjusted’ in the next few days or weeks to conform…


  • #

    Aerosols appear poorly understood. IPCC says they are cooling. A recent paper says they are not as cooling as IPCC thought. But aerosols help cloud formation, which could be even more cooling.

    General information at:
    “pollutants create brighter clouds that retain their water and do not produce rain”

    What if natural “dirty” combustion causes its own built-in cooling effect? …and co-called “clean” nuclear does not? ..and Nordell is right about thermal pollution causing warming?

    More research and less dogma p-l-e-a-s-e.


  • #


    “My reasoning is this. If we can show, using one of the IPCC’s climate models, that a doubling of CO2 only leads to around 0.5C then they would have to change their projection range from 1.5 to 4.5 to 0.5 to 4.5. Hence they would need to conclude the possibility that the climate may have negative feedbacks due to clouds.

    As far as I can tell cloud parametrization is the main determinant, in the models, on resultant climate sensitivity. So the IPCC would need to show why the parameterization that gave 0.5C was wrong. i.e. they would need to falsify the low climate sensitivity of 0.5C.

    Don’t know, it’s late, it makes sense to me now but maybe not in the cold light of day”

    Good post Steve – you are indeed thinking very clearly!

    You will be happy to note that Roy Spencer has done in effect just what you ask. See his elegant paper at this week’s AGU meeting in San Francisco:

    FYI, on the WUWT page there is an excellent .pdf of Roy’s presentation you can download and read at leisure. Well worth it.

    What is particularly interesting is that Roy notes that:

    “Andrew Lacis, who works climate modeling with Jim Hansen, came up and said he agreed with me that, in general, the feedback problem is more difficult than people have been assuming. In a talk after mine, Graeme Stephens gave me a backhanded compliment when he agreed with at least my basic message that the way in which we assume the climate system functions (in my terms, what-causes-what to happen) IS important to how we then deduce how sensitive the climate is to such things as our carbon dioxide emissions.

    The three organizers of the session were very gracious to invite me, since they knew my views are controversial. One of the three was Andrew Dessler, who works in water vapor feedback. I had never met Andy before, and he’s a super nice guy. They all agreed that there needs to be more debate on the subject.”

    In other words, the models may well be misinterpreting the direction of cause and effect between clouds and temperature. As Chris also noted (thanks Chris) cracks in the NASA models are appearing.

    Roy nicely summed up for WUWT the reception he got and the situation as follows:

    “It was standing room only…close to 300 scientists by my estimate. There were only a couple of objections to my presentation…rather weak ones. Afterward I had a number of people comment favorably about the ‘different’ way I was looking at the problem.

    And while that should be comforting, it is also disturbing. Since when in science did the issue of ‘causation’ become a foreign concept? When did the direction of causation between two correlated variables (in my case, clouds and temperature) become no longer important?

    If temperature and clouds vary together in ‘sort of’ the same way in satellite observations as they do in climate models, then the models are considered to be ‘validated’. But my message, which might not have come across as clearly as it should have due to time constraints, was that such agreement does NOT validate the models when it comes to feedback, and feedbacks are what will determine how much of an impact humans have on the climate system.”

    That, ladies and gentlemen, is the bottom line.


  • # – Danger In The Sky – The Chemtrail Phenomenon – Chemtrails: Inside and Out – CHEMTRAILS: Cliff Carnicom 2008 – HAARP – Benjamin Fulford China HAARP Earthquake Attack By USA – HAARP – Nature Modification Weapon – H A A R P Project Bluebeam China Earthquake connection


  • #

    Kevin Trenberth wrote:
    > Hi Tom
    > How come you do not agree with a statement that says we are no where
    > close to knowing where energy is going or whether clouds are changing to
    > make the planet brighter. We are not close to balancing the energy
    > budget. The fact that we can not account for what is happening in the
    > climate system makes any consideration of geoengineering quite hopeless
    > as we will never be able to tell if it is successful or not! It is a
    > travesty!
    > Kevin


  • #

    IGBP report 58 is a bit more emphatic on IPCC weaknesses in aerosols and clouds – p22 of report

    IPCC AR4:
    Uncertainty in aerosol-cloud interaction and associated indirect
    radiative effects
    Major reasons:
    • Lack of understanding of fundamental processes
    • Insufficient model parameterizations
    • Lack of observations and data quality
    Negative consequences:
    • Large uncertainty in GCMs and in estimating climate sensitivity
    • Uncertainty in prediction of regional precipitation
    Possible solutions:
    • Ground-based, balloon-based and aircraft-borne column
    measurements, and collocating measures of clouds, aerosols
    and soil moisture from satellites such as CALIPSO
    • Improved process research (eventually including ice clouds), on
    a more global scale than GEWEX does now; high-resolution
    regional modelling (e.g., in low shallow clouds) and better
    representation in GCMs
    Linked issues:
    • Volcanic forcing uncertainty, solar variability inadequately


  • #

    IGBP report 58 p23 specifically on clouds:

    IPCC AR4:
    Models differ considerably in their estimates of the strength of
    different feedbacks in the climate system; the response of clouds
    to global climate change is particularly uncertain
    Major reasons:
    • Lack of understanding of fundamental processes
    • Inadequate model parameterization of processes; model
    resolution issues (e.g., when accommodating poorlyparameterized
    small-scale processes)
    • Response of tropical low clouds particularly uncertain
    Negative consequences:
    • Not understanding feedbacks a key problem of climate models
    Possible solutions:
    • Better observations of clouds, e.g., using CloudSat
    • Constrain radiative forcing
    • Link cloud-resolving models to AOGCM
    • Improve parameterization of convection processes
    • Reduce uncertainties in cloud feedbacks, e.g., through
    collaborative efforts between cloud feedback model
    intercomparison project (CFMIP) and the GEWEX cloud system
    study (GCSS)
    • Develop a proven set of model metrics (before including them in
    a future IPCC assessment), e.g., through working groups,
    comparing for feedbacks, to be validated from observations; use
    perturbed parameter ensembles to indicate sensitivity and
    spread feedbacks
    Linked issue:
    • What will be the use of model metrics, particularly with respect to
    future climate change assessments?
    • Identify where the issue of model performance is (1) scale, i.e.,
    likely to be addressed by simply increasing resolution, (2)
    parameterization, e.g., convective processes (3) more physical
    process understanding/data is required before (2) can be
    achieved, e.g., soil moisture and land use feedbacks


  • #

    Do not pass up plane pollution as a major player in the chain of the pollution what you like it is still pollution….