Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Cooling Side of Greenhouse Gases

Most people are unaware that the greenhouse gases CO2 and H2O, both warm & cool our planet. When I mention that CO2 has a cooling effect, I’m amazed by the hateful tirades from paranoid people who dismiss scientific truth as “dangerous misinformation”.


However, discussions about temperature inversions have occasionally induced more respectful debate with critical thinkers. Most people have observed “frost fans” erected in orchards and vineyards, so are interested in why they work. Frost fans disrupt freezing layers of surface air that can develop at night during the spring, damaging flowers and fruits. Frost fans simply pull warmer layers of air from above down to the surface raising minimum temperatures. But why does that warmer layer of air exist?


During the day, earth’s surface absorbs both solar radiation and the downward infrared heat emitted from greenhouse gases. Absorbing that energy faster than it can emit infrared back towards space, the surface warms. However sunlight doesn’t heat the lower atmosphere (aka troposphere) directly. Nitrogen, oxygen and argon comprise ~ 99% percent of our atmosphere and is transparent to incoming solar energy. Furthermore, unlike greenhouse gases, those gases neither absorb nor emit infrared energy. The troposphere warms primarily by gaining energy via collisions with a heated earth surface. During the day, the warmest air layer lies closest to the heated surface. Rising warm air causes turbulent mixing and collisions with cooler air above that raises air temperatures there. However because air cools as it rises due to decreasing air pressure, warming is limited.


Without solar heating, earth’s surface cools by emitting more infrared heat than it absorbs from recycled heat emitted by greenhouse gases because greenhouse gases don’t intercept all emitted heat. “Atmospheric windows” allow about 23% of the surface heat to escape directly to space without being recycled. The air layer closest to the surface then cools by transferring heat to the colder surface. However, higher air layers can’t sink and collide with the surface again unless they lose their heat. But nitrogen, oxygen and argon can only shed that energy by colliding with cooler greenhouse gases which will absorb their energy and emit half back toward space.


Because the bulk of our atmosphere only cools by transferring heat to greenhouse gases, a small percentage of greenhouse gasses creates a “cooling chokepoint”. Consequently, the atmosphere sheds energy more slowly than the solid earth that more quickly loses energy via atmospheric windows. This difference in cooling rates  creates a warmer layer of air above the cooler surface air and is called a temperature inversion. Now imagine a world without greenhouse gases. Without greenhouse gases nitrogen, oxygen and argon can’t lose enough heat back to space and the atmosphere would keep warming.


Outside the tropics, inversion layers more readily form in winter and spring. The earth’s surface holds less heat during winter’s reduced solar heating. Where people use fireplaces to stay warm, inversions layer are revealed by rising smoke that suddenly flattens when it encounters the warmer air above. Frost fans work by drawing down warmer air layers to mix with cooler surface layers, and thus protect crops from freezing. Similarly, months of “polar nighttime” cools Antarctica’s interior surfaces to as low as −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F), creating a continent?wide inversion layer. When above average surface temperatures are periodically reported, it’s often the result of high winds that, like a frost fan, disrupted Antarctica’s inversion layer.



In the 1990s, climate scientists determined urban heat effects raised minimum temperatures several degrees but not maximum temperatures. Such areas weren’t warming but getting less cold. That suggests urbanization disrupted local inversion layers. Increasingly covering the land with heat retaining asphalt and concrete, reduces surface cooling. Removal of vegetation or wetness results in hotter surfaces that store more heat. Traffic, tall buildings or frost fans disrupt surface winds bringing warmer air to the surface. All those dynamics raise minimum temperatures, and thus average temperature. Various local disruptions of inversion layers may better explain why some US weather stations show warming trends while 36% show long term cooling.




Our atmosphere also has a global inversion layer. Above the troposphere, is the warmer stratosphere where temperatures increase with altitude due to absorbing solar UV. Because CO2  in a warmer stratosphere emits infrared faster than it absorbs it from the troposphere, more CO2  cools the stratosphere. (For similar reasons CO2  has a cooling effect in Antarctica.) Furthermore storm clouds bring the tremendous amounts of heat stored in water vapor to the stratosphere. Again we can see where the warm inversion begins as clouds stop rising and develop an anvil shape at the stratosphere. Because the stratosphere is nearly devoid of water, the wavelengths of infrared heat released as water vapor condenses to liquid and ice, mostly pass freely to outer space, without recycling it back to earth.


If these dynamics were better understood, people would more likely laugh at climate catastrophe narratives rather than succumb to paranoia.


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Earth Day Interview with Sterling Burnett


With the approaching Earth Day in mind, Heartland's Dr. Sterling Burnett interviewed me regards the good and bad science behind claims that falling numbers of butterflies, birds and coral are due to climate change.

Listen to the podcast i at

Monday, April 5, 2021

Dangerously Stupid Science: Solar Geoengineering


A new report from the National Academies of Sciences recommended the United States pursue a robust research program into solar geoengineering, to reflect sunlight and forestall some of the worst effects of global warming.  Seeking $200 million over 5 years for research from the Biden administration, those scientists push a climate crisis narrative, arguing greenhouse gas emissions are not falling quickly enough and, “Without decisive action and rapid stabilization of global temperature, risks from a changing climate will increase in the future, with potentially catastrophic consequences” This should alarm everyone. Not because a climate crisis is real, but because solar geoengineering is the height of stupidity and truly endangers humanity. Still solar blocking experiments were planned for June 2021 in Sweden. Fortunately objections from other scientists, environmentalists, and Indigenous groups just cancelled those plans … for now. 


In contrast to many failed “climate crisis” predictions, there’s an abundance of research detailing the truly detrimental effects of decreased solar heating. Human suffering during the cooler Little Ice Age (LIA), spanning 1300 to 1850 AD, has been well documented. Scientists agree LIA cooling is linked to volcanic activity and several periods of reduced solar output associated with low sunspots, such as the Maunder Minimum that lasted from 1645 to 1715 AD. Satellites have verified that less solar energy is emitted when sunspots decline. During increased volcanic activity, volcanic aerosols are spewed into the atmosphere reflecting sunlight away from the earth. Likewise climate scientists seek to inject aerosols into the atmosphere to cool the earth. It’s mind-boggling that fear?ridden scientists would want to return our climate to the cooler temperatures like Little Ice Age. So please examine what a similar LIA cooling of 1°C (1.8°F) could do.


Tropical rainfall patterns control the subsistence lifestyle of more than one billion people. Reconstructions of precipitation during the cooler 14th and 15th centuries reveal a series of monsoon mega-droughts in central India, north-central China, and southern Vietnam, each lasting several years to decades. Although the Maunder Minimum increased rainfall in Africa’s Sahel, it also resulted in a megadrought in subtropical West Africa. Could cooling the earth be construed as racist?


Tropical rainfall and the Asian and Australian monsoons are largely controlled by the region where moisture carrying trade winds from the north and south converge. The earth’s greatest rainfall happens there and is called the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). It is easily recognized in satellite images as a band of heavy clouds. 

ITCZ cloud cover


As the sun moves northward during the northern hemisphere’s summer, the ITCZ likewise shifts northward, and a rainy season follows. During the winter as the ITCZ shifts southward the rainy season moves southward while the more northern region then experiences a dry season. Regions south of the ITCZ experience a dry season when northern tropics experience more rain and vice versa. Scientists have shown variations in solar strength alter the ITCZ and the accompanying rainfall.  However the ITCZ does not strictly follow the sun. Its location is also affected by the temperature of the oceans and continents. During the LIA, cooler northern hemisphere temperatures pushed the average position of the ITCZ southward, resulting in the monsoonal megadroughts and famines that devastated India, and southeast Asia.


The LIA cooling of 1°C disrupted ocean and atmospheric circulation around the world, so that alternating good and bad weather whiplashed a struggling humanity. Indeed climate scientist Michel Mann wrote, “the Little Ice Age may have been more significant in terms of increased variability of the climate”. Bouts of extreme inclement weather from about 1550 to I700 AD brought famine and the age of great mortality to Europe. Ten percent of the population of northern France died in 1693-1694. In northern China, rapid cooling and increasing extreme disasters in the late 16th and 18th centuries resulted in severe social consequences characterized by more famine and popular unrest.  The year 1816 was known as the Year Without a Summer, and prompted historians to write about The Last Great Subsistence Crisis in the Western World.


In contrast, with minimal increases in land use, our so-called warming crisis paired with the industrial world’s technological innovations to steadily increase global food production and feed a burgeoning global population that had increased from 600 million in 1700 to 7.7+ billion today.


In the polar Urals where trees had previously existed further northward, the colder 15?19th century temperatures replaced forests with treeless tundra, as  new tree growth was totally inhibited. On the other hand, twentieth century warming has now allowed tree line to recover its pre-LIA habitat. Satellite data reveals a global greening and multiple global ecosystem models suggest CO2 fertilization effects explain 70% of that observed greening trend.  Long appreciating such CO2 fertilization, commercial growers around the world pump an extra 1000 ppm CO2 into their greenhouses to increase plant growth.


By the 1700s a new killer began to dominate the LIA – accidental hypothermia. When indoor temperatures fall below 48°F for prolonged periods, the human body struggles to keep warm, setting off a series of reactions that causes stress and heart attacks. During the intense cold season of I739/40,  indoor temperature readings fell below the freezing point throughout Western Europe. Frozen rivers disrupted transportation, creating a shortage of coal and wood for home heating in urban locations causing numerous deaths from  accidental hypothermia. The cold and dry weather also caused shortages of grass and fodder resulting in widespread death to livestock. Though not as devastating as the LIA thanks to modern heating, Americans from the Great Plains as far south as Texas were killed by cold weather with over 100 humans dying during the February 2021 cold snap.


The weaker LIA sun also cooled the upper 600 meters of the oceans, and reduced upwelling. Based on marine sediments off Peru, oceanographers uncovered very low marine productivity during the cooler LIA. But warming that began in 1850 soon brought rapid expansion of upwelled nutrient-rich waters, resulting in the present-day higher biological productivity from plankton to pelagic fish throughout the marine food web.


Peruvian Upwelling and Marine Productivity from Chavez 2011

Its most disturbing that the varied crises predicted for a warmer 21st century were worse during the cooler LIA. For example global warming is predicted to spread tropical disease. However from 1564 to the 1730s - the coldest period of the Little Ice Age - malaria was an important cause of illness and death in several parts of England. Malaria outbreaks expanded into the Arctic. Transmission began to decline only in the 19th century, when the present warming trend was well under way. Similarly the first mosquito-borne yellow fever outbreaks in the United States occurred in late 1690s. Nearly 100 years later, in the late summer of 1793, refugees from a yellow fever epidemic in the Caribbean fled to Philadelphia. By the middle of October, 100 people were dying from the virus every day. Those outbreaks encouraged the US to move its capital from Philadelphia to Washington DC.


Major media outlets frequently fearmonger headlines such as “Melting Antarctic ice will raise sea level by 2.5 meters – even if Paris climate goals are met, study finds” . But the scientific community has produced solid evidence that Antarctica’s surface temperature has been cooling for the past 2000 years. The entire period from 141–1250 AD was warmer than 1971–2000. The LIA period of 1671–1700 was warmer than Antarctica is today. Scientists report that changes in the winds and natural upwelling of warmer deep waters best explain any changes in the basal melting of Antarctica’s ocean-terminating glaciers


Major media outlets will cherry-pick speculative research to proclaim, “Climate Change Is Making Hurricanes Stronger, Researchers Find”. However the Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index suggests other factors are in play. In the Southern Hemisphere (green line), there has been no change in cyclone energy. However in the Northern Hemisphere (blue line), hurricane energy varies with El Ninos and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.


Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index

Experts examining historic archives of hurricane disturbances found the frequency of intense Caribbean hurricanes increased at around 1700 AD. Despite the region’s cooler LIA ocean temperatures, sediment records from Puerto Rico to New York indicate an increase in intense hurricane landfalls since about 1700 AD. Other researchers found more than 13 category-2 or stronger hurricanes per century hit the Bahamas between 1500 to 1670 AD, compared to just 9+ per century since 1850 AD.  Thus many experts now believe that sea surface temperatures as high as we now observe are not necessary to support intervals of frequent intense hurricanes. Intervals of frequent intense hurricane strikes over the past 5000 years corresponded primarily to periods with relatively few El Nino events and the strength of West African monsoon. Thus to accurately predict changes in intense hurricane activity, it is more important to understand how El Ninos will respond to future climate change. But there is absolutely no consensus on how rising CO2 affects natural El Ninos.


Media outlets, politicians and some scientists have also profited by blaming wildfires on climate change. The Union of Concerned Scientists (as many others have) presents a misleading graph of increasing wildfires since 1985. But cherry-picking a 1985 start date is blatant dishonesty. If we extend observations back into the LIA starting in 1700, there has been a clear decline throughout the fire prone southwestern US. Similarly in Quebec, a 300-year fire history from 1688 to 1988 AD  shows wildfires decreased starting 100 years ago.

Southwest fire frequencies from Swetnam 1996


The USGS admits there is no direct relationship between climate and wildfires. However the evidence clearly shows a direct relationship with more humans causing more wildfire ignitions while additionally making landscapes more fire prone. Fires need kindling like dead grass and twigs to start, and human disturbance has increased the supply invasive grasses. Dead grasses and twigs become highly flammable within just hours of warm dry temperatures that are common every summer regardless of climate change. Large fires also need an adequate fuel supply, and decades of fire suppression and poor fuel management have created more fuels that promote bigger fires. Furthermore many of California’s largest fires in recent decades occurred when local  maximum temperatures were lower than in the 1930s.


So why are climate scientists suggesting the cooler temperatures of the LIA are the wiser ideal to pursue? It’s hard to comprehend when the science suggests otherwise. Of course every profession has its share of idiots and misguided professionals. In 1970 Harvard biologist George Wald estimated that “civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against the problems facing mankind. To ‘celebrate’ the 1970 Earth Day, Stanford’s Paul Ehrlich wrote “that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.” In 2012, the media trumpeted the prediction of Cambridge University’s world leading expert on sea ice of “the final collapse of Arctic summer sea ice within four years”. And in 2000 climate expert David Viner wrote, “Within a few years winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event…Children just aren’t going to know what snow is."

None of these “expert opinions” have come to past. So why do some climate scientists continue to push climate crises???

It appears many intelligent scientists proclaiming a climate crisis suffer from the Pygmalion syndrome. Pygmalion was a great sculptor from Greek mythology who thought his statue of a woman was so beautiful and realistic he fell in love with it. He no longer became interested in real women. Likewise some climate modelers having invested their life’s work in sculpting life?like climate change models, have become smitten with their model’s limited perspective and so downplay contradictory real-world observations. Some narcissistic scientists crave the attention that the media gives for predicting crises. Imitating the devious world of advertising, politicians pushing their own agenda seek out sympathetic scientists and under?informed children to give credence and sympathy to whatever they are selling. Some junior scientists are afraid to contradict a bogus consensus even when their research suggests they should, while other climate scientists like Michel Mann hire their own PR person to sway opinions to favor their research.


Modelers too often eschew the bountiful evidence of real natural climate change when it competes with their CO2-driven models. They downplay the myriad of critical factors that have caused change throughout history, to eliminate challenges to their belief only CO2 is the climate change control knob. Unprofessionally they denigrate all who dare question their model as deniers. But their deep love for their own models has become a fatal attraction. Not only do they try to suppress the very foundations of science and dismiss calls for further debate, they are advocating for  highly dangerous and wasteful actions to block the sun. As the Little Ice Age scholar Robert Bolton insightfully warned, “A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind". Far too many are possessed by their willing belief in a climate crisis.

April 5, 2021


Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Cherry-picking to promote a Climate Crisis

This is another blatant example of the media spreading misinformation to foment a climate crisis to an unsuspecting public. 

On March 29th, the Guardian ranted, “Climate crisis 'likely cause' of early cherry blossom in Japan”. Washington Post blasted “Japan’s Kyoto cherry blossoms peak on earliest date in 1200 years, a sign of climate change.” The BBC proclaimed cherry blossoms “in the city of Kyoto peaked on 26 March, according to data collected by Osaka University. Increasingly early flowerings in recent decades are likely to be a result of climate change, scientists say.” Similar stories suggesting evidence of climate crisis were repeated by virtually all the media outlets. 

 This year’s bloom was indeed very early, that much is true. But how does published science compare to media narratives that suggest crisis after crisis to attract readers and profit. First consider the previous record was set during the Little Ice Age, when peak flowering in Kyoto happened on March 27, 1409. More importantly, urbanization is known to cause earlier bloom times. So observing the earliest peak blooming date is just 1 day earlier after 600 years, certainly doesn’t suggest a climate crisis. 

 In the 2009 peer-reviewed research paper “The impact of climate change on cherry trees and other species in Japan”, scientists compared peak blooming date in cities compared to dates in nearby rural areas to estimate the urban heat effect. Researchers determined, “At locations near Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, urban, suburban, and rural locations had similar times of cherry blossom festivals in the 1950s. The similarity indicates that urban, suburban and rural areas had essentially the same temperatures in the spring. However, over next 50 years, flowering times in urban, suburban, and rural sites at each of these cities gradually began to diverge, with urban areas flowering earlier than nearby rural and suburban areas. By the 1980s, the warmer temperatures in the city had shifted the flowering of cherry trees 8 days earlier in central Tokyo in comparison with nearby rural areas, and 4–5 days earlier in central Kyoto and Osaka than nearby rural areas.” 

 Osaka is just 34 miles from Kyoto. A detailed study in 1989 from 80 locations around Osaka City “determined the first flowering was recorded starting on March 19 at locations in the city center Flowering was recorded at successively later dates at distances farther from the city center. At around 7 km from the city center, plants were starting to flower as much as 8 days later than in the city center.” Peak flowering happens about 1 week after first flowering, so that would make Osaka’s peak flowering date March 26, 1989, the exact same as Kyoto in 2021. 

Finally consider the science presented by NOAA’s Thomas Karl in his 1988 publication Urbanization: Its Detection and Effect on the United States Climate Record. After controlling for other factors, NOAA scientists determined to what degree a larger population affected the average temperature. Tokyo’s population is 13.5 million, Osaka’s population is 2.7 million and Kyoto’s population is about 1.5 million. According to Karl that would increase Kyoto’s average temperature by about 1.8F (1C), and Tokyo’s by 4.6F (2.6C), relative to natural habitat or rural areas. That’s the same or more than is attributed to the increased global average from rising CO2. Make no mistake about it, the media is inciting climate alarm where there is none, and they imply their false narratives really represent “good science”. Beware. Like the range of peak cherry blossom flowering dates, the wisdom shared in an 1849 Edgar Ala Poe short story also remains unchanged. “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.”


March 30, 2021  


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Climate Dynamics: The True Control Knob of Climate Change

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The earth’s energy equilibrium is determined by the balance between incoming solar radiation versus radiative cooling that emits infrared radiation back to space. Water vapor primarily and CO2 can slow radiative cooling via the greenhouse effect. I am most grateful for the greenhouse effect. Without it the earth’s average temperature would hover near 0°F instead of our currently more livable 59°F. But in addition to any radiative effects, the earth’s global average temperature is determined by a variety of climate dynamics, such as the balance between ocean heat storage and heat ventilation. This is well established as climate scientists attributed the slowdown in 21st century global warming was due to increased ocean heat storage associated with a period of more La Ninas. Warming in the northeast Pacific Ocean, famously known as the blob, was not caused by added heat, but by reduced winds that ventilated less heat than normal. Cloud dynamics are also important. Clouds can warm the nights and cool the days. Although increased cloud cover can slow the loss of outward-bound infrared radiation, clouds also block sunlight to cause more cooling. Modeling studies have shown cloud cover trends are more closely related to decadal variability, and dynamics such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, than to any greenhouse gas induced warming.


Changes in land surface conditions are another critical dynamic. For example, given the exact same amount of incoming heat, dry soils will increase surface temperatures twice as fast as moist soils. As expanding human populations drained wetlands, and increasingly shunted rainwater into storm sewers, drier soils have caused abnormally higher temperatures during normally occurring droughts and heat waves. Unfortunately a myopic focus on CO2 has led to downplaying the vital importance of how climate dynamics affect the global average temperature. But climate dynamics not only offer the best explanation for regional weather extremes, climate dynamics alone can account for 150 years of the earth’s average warming.

Consider that the polar regions are much warmer today than what the physics of radiative heating and cooling would predict. Polar regions should be much, much colder than they are today because they radiate more heat back to space than is absorbed by the sun and the greenhouse effect combined. The dynamic transport of heat from the tropics via ocean and air currents provides the added Arctic “warmth” that’s observed today. While winter temperatures (January) at north pole vary from -45°F to -15°F, the south pole winter temperatures vary between -80°F and -67°F. The south pole is so much colder because it is relatively shielded from the warming dynamics of ocean heat transport as well as its higher elevation.

Scientists have noted the warming effects of warm ocean currents travelling poleward to the Arctic for over 100 years. Winds extract heat from the warm poleward bound Gulf Stream and North Atlantic Current and carry that heat across the Atlantic to increase northwest Europe’s temperatures by 9-18°F. Thus it is the strength of those winds which is moderated by the North Atlantic Oscillation, and the volume of heat carried by the ocean currents that are the dynamics determining changes in the average European temperature.


With comprehensive modern measurements, researchers now estimate that inflows of warm Atlantic water  “carry enough heat, if released, to melt the Arctic sea ice many times over”. However, when that warm Atlantic water reaches the Arctic Ocean, most sinks below 300-foot depths due to its greater density caused by its higher saltiness. The dynamics of  an overlying layer of fresh water and the thickness of insulating sea ice determine how much of that intruding Atlantic heat radiates back to space. Between 1950 and 1990, air temperatures exhibited a cooling trend over the western Arctic Ocean where insulating sea ice remained intact and inhibited the ventilation of stored heat. The lack of warming suggested no greenhouse effect.


Recent wind-driven increases in the volume of intruding Atlantic water  (as well as intruding Pacific water) have melted more Arctic sea ice. Without ice, more heat ventilates and raises Arctic air temperatures. Increased heat ventilation due to reduced sea ice can also be driven solely by changes in the prevailing wind direction that pushes more ice cover out of the Arctic to melt in the warmer Atlantic. The good news is less ice benefits the Arctic food chains. The loss of sea ice has increased photosynthesis and boosted the productivity of the Arctic Ocean food web 3-fold.


Such complex interplays of climate dynamics can result in abnormally high Arctic temperatures without a contribution from the greenhouse effect. Yet that “Arctic amplification” biases the global average temperature upwards and then incorrectly gets attributed to rising CO2. Unfortunately as Mark Twain warned long ago, “All colleges have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal, valuable knowledge”. Accordingly despite copious published science by “climate dynamicists”, many scientists protect their pet theories and promote a manufactured CO2-driven “climate crisis” while downplaying the competing importance of natural climate dynamics. I have university colleagues who teach “global warming policy” without having examined the underlying science. They just blindly trust the crisis narrative. Likewise most journalists and politicians lack the needed scientific background and simply perpetuate the narrative because both profit from promoting crises. As a result, climate science is suffering, and the dynamic control knob of climate change gets veiled from the public.



Winter Weather


The 2021 cold snaps that caused so much misery in the central USA and Europe exemplify the power of climate dynamics. Although Dallas, Texas normally experiences 60°F in mid-February, temperatures fell by over 50°F  to a low of 4°F with the day’s highest temperature only reaching 14°F. This obliterated the 1909 record low of 15°F and day’s record-low maximum temperature of  31°F. But such cold was not unprecedented. In three of the last 40 years Texas witnessed temperatures drop 50°F below normal. It should be noted, there was no compensating 50°F warming in the Arctic. Coincidentally the United Kingdom recorded -9°F, its coldest February night since 1955, while much of Germany saw temperatures fall below -4°F. The greenhouse effect can neither cause nor prevent such widespread devastating cold.


Record-breaking cold snaps contradict CO2 warming theory. As one climate scientist published, “The recent perceived prevalence of cold waves, exacerbated by heightened media attention to each event, is at odds with a rather obvious first-order hypothesis: a warming climate should lead to warm extremes getting warmer, and cold extremes getting less cold”. Accordingly in the 1990s, climate scientists who promoted global warming argued rapidly warming temperatures during the winter were evidence of a stronger greenhouse effect.  But their theories failed to explain the colder weather episodes.

A different hypothesis is proving to be more robust. Instead of arguing a warming climate causes fewer cold snaps, climate dynamics flips cause and effect; fewer cold snaps will increase averaged regional temperatures. Climate scientists published, “Like many places, Canada is not warming, it is just getting less cold.” Indeed, while many maximum temperatures have decreased since the 1930s, the increase in average land temperatures has been due solely to higher minimum temperatures. Appropriately, regions with rising average temperatures have experienced fewer cold snaps. In contrast, due to the dynamics of quasi-stationary planetary waves, cold snaps remain common over other regions. In much of the southeastern USA, temperatures have failed to exhibit any warming trend in the past 70+ years, despite urban warming effects. Such regions are classified as warming holes because they fail to exhibit the warming trend predicted by rising CO2.



Heat waves and cold snaps, floods and droughts, are often a function of planetary “waveguides” that shepherd the movements of cold and warm and moist and dry air masses. If there were no continents the  “ideal flow” of the polar jet would be in a relatively straight line from west to east.  The polar jet stream’s strong westerly winds would more readily restrict cold air masses to the polar regions. But due to the high- and low-pressure systems generated by the contrasting temperatures between land and sea, as well as flow altering mountain barriers, the “ideal zonal flow” is disrupted. In combination with the earth’s rotation (Coriolis effect), those disruptions impart a waviness to surface winds and the jet stream. The screenshot below (from shows the waviness of the jet stream (at 500 mb) on March 25, 2021. The sharp color change reveals the boundary of the cold air which can be thought of as the equatorward limit of the polar vortex.  


Cold Arctic air moves towards the equator via the wave troughs while the wave ridges allow warm air to intrude poleward. Due to an extreme trough in February, cold Arctic air reached down through the Great Plains into southern Texas. Due to a somewhat stationary planetary “waveguide”, such a wave trough is most often located between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians. That pattern also enables descending cold Arctic air to collide with warm air from the Gulf of Mexico to create Tornado Alley. The same trough dynamics that brought the Texas/Oklahoma cold snaps, brings the world’s highest frequency of tornados to the same region. The focus of that trough will shift with the seasons and over decades. As a result tornado activity is decreasing throughout the southern and northwestern portions of the Great Plains and the northern Midwest but increasing throughout the Southeast and southern portion of the Midwest. Decreasing tornado activity contradicts greenhouse warming predictions but is best explained by the dynamics of natural planetary wave motion.


In contrast, when a less wavy jet stream confines the cold air to the polar region, warmer southern air moves further poleward. Due to such a dynamic, Siberia endured a heat wave from January through May of  2020. At Verkhoyansk, Russia the typical maximum January temperature reaches -44°F, rapidly rising 90°F to an average high of 50°F in May as summer sunshine increases. The heat wave caused monthly temperatures to exceed normal temperatures by 10.8°F . Nonetheless, a Siberian heatwave which raises May maximums to just 61°F shouldn’t be hyped as the “earth on fire”, and I suspect any warming in January would be greatly appreciated.  Yet, with the science of climate dynamics obscured, any extreme weather event gets deflected as CO2-driven “weather weirding”, even though natural climate dynamics provide robust scientific explanations.

Both the Texas cold snap and the Siberian heatwave are the result of changes in the strength of the polar vortex. The vortex and waviness of the jet stream are largely moderated by oscillations in the quasi-permanent Aleutian Low pressure system, which also regulates changes in the western Arctic sea ice. The Aleutian Low strengthens in the winter and weakens in the summer and its winter-time strength is further moderated by El Nino/La Nina dynamics and the closely related Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Media journalists prefer to avoid explaining the complexity of those basic climate dynamics, because simplistic explanations that are dumbed down are an easier sell. Thus natural climate change remains ambiguous to most people and that’s a problem.


In the 1990s, scientists and environmental groups pushing a CO2-driven “crisis” hyped decades of the rapidly warming temperatures in Alaska as the fastest warming region on earth. Unexpectedly, Alaska suddenly flipped to become the fastest cooling region. Climate scientists observed, “During the first decade of the 21st century most of Alaska experienced a cooling shift.”  Such a shift was inconsistent with the rising CO2 theory, but again easily attributed to the dynamics associated with “a change in the sign of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO, see graph below). 

When the PDO is positive, the Aleutian Low strengthens, and its counter-clockwise circulation drives more warm air into Alaska and drives more warm water through the Bering Strait increasing sea ice melt. When the PDO turns negative, it weakens the Aleutian Low, reducing the warm air flow into Alaska, so Alaska cools. A weaker Aleutian Low also reduces its disruption of the jet stream which allows the vortex to strengthen. The power of the ~30-year cycles of the PDO was first recognized in 1997 as scientists noticed it coincided with changing ocean currents and changing productivity of salmon between the Gulf of Alaska and Oregon. The increasing understanding of natural PDO fluctuations has led climate scientists to argue that the “natural internally-generated changes in atmospheric circulation were the primary cause of coastal Northeast Pacific warming from 1900 to 2012”.



Pacific Decadal Oscillation index (PDO) 1900-2020 data: 

Summer Weather


When summer arrives in the northern hemisphere, the contrast between colder land and warmer oceans is reduced causing the Aleutian Low to weaken. The growing summer heat causes warmer lands to now contrast with cooler oceans which causes the high?pressure systems in the northern hemisphere to strengthen in the subtropical Pacific and Atlantic  (Pacific or Hawaiian High and the Bermuda or Azore High). These high?pressure systems block moist ocean winds from bringing summer rains to the west coast of California and the Mediterranean regions. This dynamic causes several months of summer drought each year, making California one of the most fire prone regions globally. La Nina years extend summer droughts into the winter. Simultaneously, due to the clock?wise circulation of the Pacific high, moisture carrying winds are pushed northward causing wet summers from Oregon to Alaska.



In combination with summer high pressure systems and low-pressure regions formed by rising convection in the tropics, the “ideal zonal flow” of westerly winds is disrupted, causing various jet stream wave patterns across the mid-latitudes. When a pattern of 5 or 7 waves encircles the globe, the waves resonate in such a way they cause storms to be somewhat blocked and move slower than normal. It is slower-moving storms that generate the longer-lasting extreme weather events such floods, droughts and heat waves. As seen in the illustration above (from Kornhuber 2020) when a pattern of 5 waves forms, heat waves are 20 times more likely in specific regions (in red) of North America, eastern Europe and eastern Asia. Because a pattern of 5 circum-global waves tend to precede heat waves by 15–20 days, meteorologists have greatly increased their ability to forecast heat waves by including the state of planetary waves in their analyses. A similar resonance increases extreme weather events when patterns of 7 waves form. Fortunately, there is no evidence to suggest the earth is experiencing an increasing trend in blocking and resulting weather extremes. However, unaware that circum-global wave guides can cause similar extreme weather around the globe, some climate scientists were misled to think that such extremes (i e. widespread heatwaves) could only be caused by a global blanket of CO2-driven warming.


Still some events remain unpredictable. When the trough of a jet wave reaches its lowest point, it pinches off to form a “cut-off low” which makes the ensuing extreme weather highly unpredictable. Meteorologists nicknamed the cut-off low, the “weatherman’s woe” because cut-off lows can become stationary or flow against the general direction of the prevailing wind. Such a cut-off low formed over the Sahara Desert in the summer of 2019. The naturally heated desert air then moved northwestward, first bringing a heat wave to western Europe and then to Greenland where it caused extreme melting by raising temperatures 18°F above normal for 3 consecutive days. But yet again that Greenland melting was falsely attributed to amplification by CO2-driven global warming while the natural climate dynamics were obscured.

El Nino Cycles Drive Global Warming and Modulate Planetary Wave formation


The ocean’s heat content naturally oscillates, discharging enough heat during an El Nino to create a net loss of ocean heat, then recharging and gaining enough heat during a La Nina for a net gain of ocean heat.

However, the heat gained during a La Nina is not completely balanced by the heat discharged during an El Nino. La Nina events usually last twice as long as El Nino events. Some El Ninos don’t fully discharge the ocean’s stored heat.  Heat that is not released to the atmosphere remains sequestered below the surface for years and decades, contributing to the long-term cycles of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. According to Harvard and MIT oceanographers parts of the deep ocean is still cooling, releasing heat acquired centuries ago. Thus unbalanced El Nino/La Nina cycles will affect the long?term heating or cooling of the oceans.


First consider the impacts during a La Nina. Climate scientists all agree that “under normal conditions, and even more so with La Nina,” east to west trade winds pile up warm waters in the western tropical Pacific. By removing warm solar?heated water from the eastern Pacific, trade winds also cause cooler subsurface waters to upwell and replace the surface waters transported to the west. So during a La Nina a large temperature difference is created that further amplifies the trade winds (the Walker Circulation). Counter-intuitively the widespread upwelling of cooler water causes the average global temperature to decline while the ocean is gaining heat at greater depths.


During a La Nina the pile-up of warm waters in the western Pacific increases the largest body of warm water on earth, aka the Indo-Pacific Warm Pool. Convection increases over the warm pool and strengthens the Asian and Australian summer monsoons. Regions of rising convection also move across the Indian and Pacific Ocean alternating warmer and cooler patches of the oceans every 30 to 60 days (Madden-Julian Oscillation). Pressure from the growing Pacific warm pool pushes heated water through channels between the Indonesian Islands and increases temperatures in the Indian Ocean. Warmed Indian Ocean water can leak around the southern tip of Africa and adds heat to the Atlantic. Simultaneously, the northward flow of warm water increases along the eastern Asian coast via the Kuroshio current, as well as pushing warm water southward along the Australian west coast via the Leeuwin Current. An especially strong La Nina amplified the warm Leeuwin Current causing a marine heatwave along the western Australian coast in 2011, with severe coral bleaching and devastation to marine fisheries.


 Madden Julian Oscillation

After that La Nina ended, the southward flow of warm Pacific water subsided allowing cooler southern waters to then flow equatorward. As a result the region began experiencing cold waves and a strong rebound in marine life from coral to fish. Such oscillating ocean temperatures and marine life productivity exemplifies how naturally dynamic climate change can affect biology. It also contradicts COdriven predictions of steadily increasing warmth and increasing extinctions.


During an El Nino, all the phenomenon associated with a La Nina weaken or reverse. The trade winds weaken and warm waters surge eastward along the equator, causing sea level to fall in the west and rise in the east by as much as 25 cm. Discharging heat warms the ocean surface causing global temperatures to spike upwards. Warm water sloshing eastward reduces the west-east temperature difference, reducing the trade winds which reduces upwelling. During an El Nino the centers of rising warm air shifts eastward. Sometimes the warm El Nino waters only reach the center of the Pacific. At other times the warm waters reach the coast of  the Americas and then move poleward up their coasts. In 1998 this caused heavy rains and floods in California. In the 1800s, warm water reaching the coast brought flooding to Ecuador and washed river crocodiles down to Peru, while heavy rains turned Peruvian deserts into grasslands. These constantly changing regions of convection naturally alter atmospheric waves that encircle the earth. Extreme weather events will depend on wave interactions.


During the Little Ice Age, according to Michael Mann and others, the temperature difference between the western and eastern Pacific Ocean was in an El Nino-like condition. That does not mean the Pacific was constantly discharging heat. It means the La Nina-like or the negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation-like conditions that are associated with recharging ocean heat were largely absent. This is consistent with observations of low sunspot minimums during the Little Ice Age and solar effects on the trade winds. Although some correctly argue observed changes in energy output during sunspot cycles is too low to directly explain the earth’s warming and cooling, small solar changes are amplified by ocean dynamics. Any decrease in solar irradiance cools the equator far more than higher latitudes. This decreases the north?south temperature difference that drives the trade winds. Reduced trade winds cannot transport as much warm surface water westward into the warm pool reducing the monsoons and causing mega-droughts in southeast Asia. Slower trade winds reduced upwelling in the eastern tropical Pacific. As evidenced in sediments along the Peruvian coast, reduced upwelling clearly reduced marine productivity during the Little Ice Age.  As solar irradiance increased during the 20th century, so did the El Nino/La Nina cycles. Upwelling and marine productivity increased as the earth gradually warmed, and the earth exited the climate-driven catastrophes of the Little Ice Age.


Tree ring studies similarly show PDO variability was also weak during the Little Ice Age, but strong during the Medieval Warm Period from 993 and 1300 AD. During the Medieval Warm Period, solar irradiance was higher and strong La Nina?like conditions existed. With a larger Pacific warm pool, southeast Asian mega-droughts were absent but megadroughts devastated the western United States and Canada. As sunspot activity now wanes from it peaks in the 1950s and 1990s, we are provided with a natural experiment to evaluate how the Pacific Ocean will respond to lower sunspot activity. Will the monsoons and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation weaken as they did during the Little Ice Age?

Unfortunately for now, definitively distinguishing the causes of 20th century warming between greenhouse warming versus warming from climate dynamics is currently impossible. A simple experiment done at home using just an infrared thermometer gun can demonstrate why. Heat up a large pot of water, say to 150°F. Then turn off the heat. Measure the temperature of the pot’s surface water and randomly measure 9 spots on the kitchen floor. The average temperature would compute to about 78°F. That determines the “energy state of the kitchen”. Then scoop out half the water from the pot and throw it across the floor. Then repeat the measurements. The average temperature will be significantly higher, even though there was no added heat to the state of the kitchen. The warmer average was simply due to re-distribution of heat and the way the average surface temperature was calculated.  Also notice the temperature of the pot will not have changed. One might argue that the water on the kitchen floor will quickly cool and the average temperature will revert back to the original state. But in real life, solar heated ocean water becomes saltier and denser due to evaporation. The warm water then sinks below the surface where it is insulated for years.

Because we performed the experiment, we know that spreading the heat from the pot across the floor caused the average temperature to increase. However in nature we would need to precisely know the volume and degree of heat that has been redistributed across 3 dimensions. Our current technology and methods cannot precisely measure that. Scientists recently attempting to measure the discharge of ocean heat during an El Nino and reported quantities but with 25% uncertainty.


Scientists who assume recent global warming is due to rising CO2 concentrations have simply argued “there is no viable alternative explanation”. So they assume every change, warming or cooling, drought or flood,  is made worse by rising CO2 concentrations. But atmospheric physicists have shown that the forcings from CO2 concentrations in the lower atmosphere are now saturated, and the increased “competition” between greenhouse molecules greatly attenuates any additional greenhouse effect imparted by rising CO2  concentrations. At higher altitudes CO2 is not saturated, but because the stratosphere warms with increasing altitude, any increasing stratospheric CO2 will enhance the export of infrared to outer space and cool the earth. To attribute any global warming to rising CO2, the warming effect of the redistribution of heat around the world must be precisely measured and factored out. How the calculation of the global average is affected by heat redistribution must be accurately ascertained. Until then, climate dynamics appear to be the better climate control knob and offer the best  explanation for both a warming climate and episodes of extreme weather. And natural oscillations suggest a human caused climate crisis is highly unlikely!




Jim Steele is Director emeritus of San Francisco State University’s Sierra Nevada Field Campus, authored Landscapes and Cycles: An Environmentalist’s Journey to Climate Skepticism, and a member of the CO2 Coalition