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New tool clears the air on cloud simulations

Posted on 14 November 2011 by John Hartz

The following is a reprint of a news release posted by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on Oct 26, 2011.

Climate models have a hard time representing clouds accurately because they lack the spatial resolution necessary to accurately simulate the billowy air masses.

But Livermore scientists and international collaborators have developed a new tool that will help scientists better represent the clouds observed in the sky in climate models.

Traditionally, observations from satellites infer the properties of clouds from the radiation field (reflection of sunlight back into space, or thermal emission of the planet). However, to accurately utilize satellite data in climate model assessment, a tool is required that allows an apples-to-apples comparison between the clouds simulated in a climate model and the cloud properties retrieved from satellites.

"The models are becoming more interactive and are taking into account the radiation data from the satellite observations and is an important part of the process of making better climate models," said the Lab's Stephen Klein, who along with LLNL's Yuying Zhang and other collaborators have developed the Cloud-Feedback-Model Intercomparison Project Observation Simulator Package (COSP).

"The models have been improving and refining their representations of clouds and COSP will play an important role in furthering this improvement," Klein said.

Climate models struggle to represent clouds accurately because the models lack the spatial resolution to fully represent clouds. Global climate models typically have a 100-kilometer resolution while meteorological models have a 20-kilometer range. However, to accurately represent clouds as seen in satellite measurements, the scale would need to be from the 500-meter resolution to 1-kilometer range.

"But those small scales are not practical for weather or global climate models," Klein said. "Our tool will better connect with what the satellites observe - how many clouds, their levels and their reflectivity."

The COSP is now used worldwide by most of the major models for climate and weather prediction, and it will play an important role in the evaluation of models that will be reviewed by the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Klein said.

The COSP allows for a meaningful comparison between model-simulated clouds and corresponding satellite observations. In other words, what would a satellite see if the atmosphere had the clouds of a climate model?

"COSP is an important and necessary development because modeled clouds cannot be directly compared with observational data; the model representation of clouds is not directly equivalent to what satellites are able to see," Klein explained. "The COSP eliminates significant ambiguities in the direct comparison of model simulations with satellite retrievals."

COSP includes a down-scaler that allows for large-scale climate models to estimate the clouds at the satellite-scale. The tool also allows modelers to diagnose how well models are able to simulate clouds as well as how climate change alters clouds. The tool already has revealed climate model limitations such as too many optically thick clouds, too few mid-level clouds and an overestimate of the frequency of precipitation. Additionally, COSP has shown that climate change leads to an increase in optical thickness and increases the altitude of high clouds and decreases the amount of low and mid-level clouds.

Other collaborators include: the UK's Hadley Centre, Université Pierre et Marie Curie; University of Washington; Monash University, University of Colorado; and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Earth System Research Laboratory.

More information about the COSP appears in the August issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

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Comments 1 to 36:

  1. "Additionally, COSP has shown that climate change leads to an increase in optical thickness and increases the altitude of high clouds and decreases the amount of low and mid-level clouds."
    This is very interesting. Cloud albedo is a function of optical thickness, but the greenhouse effect is a function of cloud altitude. Specifically, the higher the altitude of the top of the cloud, the greater the greenhouse effect from that cloud. That means that an increase in the altitude of high clouds, and a decrease in the amount of low and mid-level clouds translates out as a positive cloud feedback, ie, that the effects of increased warmth on clouds tend to further increase the warmth, rather than reduce it.
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  2. Alright! More realistic physics and better resolution for cloud modelling! This should make Dr. Spencer happy, right? ... right? Hmmm, this news has been out for almost three weeks and he's been pretty quiet about it. Wasn't his major beef with climate models the idea that they had unrealistic and backwards cloud simulations?
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  3. WheelsOC, This isn't about better resolution cloud modelling. COSP simulates, within a GCM, the mechanisms by which real satellite observational data is collected. The challenge is in obtaining meaningful comparisons between satellite retrieval data and outputs from GCMs in order to produce realistic parameterisations of cloud processes. This approach allows genuine apples to apples comparisons between models and satellite data. Thanks for posting this, John, very interesting. Just yesterday I was pondering the possibility of exactly this approach for assessing UAH & RSS TLT data against models. Maybe it's already been done?
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  4. One thing I don't see disgust much is th conection between sporadic E clouds and weather events Why? This link gives some insight to what I mean I have other links I would like to share if you are interested
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  5. 4, jmorpuss, Your provided link says nothing whatsoever about weather or climate. How is it of any interest on this site, or in any discussion of climate?
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  6. 5, Sphaerica All you have to do is rap this type of info around cosmic ray theory But see that cosmic rays are only radio waves that carry nano particals And then apply this info on radio propagation from our com's and detecting Link provided
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  7. 6, jmorpuss, Um, no. Cosmic rays are in no way "radio waves that carry nano particals [sic]." That falls under the category of "making stuff up." Beyond this -- cosmic ray theory itself is an unproven theory with no support at the moment whatsoever. Taking this a step further to discuss radio waves is insanity. Beyond this -- the fact the you can use the word "cloud" in your topic as well as the original post does not make your comment on-topic on this thread. Your comment is off topic and as such should be deleted. You've attempted to post these links before, but without context. Now you're conjuring context out of thin air. And honestly, I have a very, very hard time seeing the point. Please stop. This site is about science, not Dog Astrology or whatever your own personal interest may be. [Mods -- feel free to delete the original comment and all subsequent comments.]
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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Actually, since jmorpuss has persistently been pushing this agenda regardless of thread, it's a good teaching moment to nail this one down so subsequently we can point back to this as needed (lest it amount to PRATT, of course).

  8. jmorpuss @6, as Sphaerica has already pointed out, cosmic rays are not "radio waves that carry nano particles". Radio waves are the least energetic form of electromagnetic radiation. Cosmic rays are gamma rays, the most energetic form of electromagnetic radiation (even more energetic than X-rays) along with showers of high energy sub-atomic particles, and while the latter could be loosely described as "nano-particles) they are not "carried by radio-waves" in any meaningful sense. To clarrify Spaerica's further comment, by "cosmic ray theory" he means the theory that cosmic rays increase cloud cover by creating cloud nuclei, not the theory as to how cosmic rays are generated.
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  9. Tom @ 8 thanks for not deleting. Sphaerica @7 Radio wave is short for radiated electromagnetic waves and really covers the whole magnetic spectrem and includes gamma rays though people may not understand this it is still true (-Snip-)
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    [DB] Unless you can point to peer-reviewed science that can substantiate what you hypothesize, you are essentially engaging in "What if _______?" conjecture. 

    Of course, what you neglect is the need for subsequent explanations as to why what amounts to established fact only applies in certain situations...and not others.

    OT snipped.

  10. jmorpuss nowhere in the link you provide do they say that radio waves is short for "radiated electromagnetic waves", whatever that means. In any case, there's no way for them to carry nanoparticles.
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  11. The linked information refers to radio spectrum in the range 1 to 300 MHz (well within normal usage of word "radio"). Again, I fail to see the climatic significance.
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  12. "What I'm trying to point out here is how ground based and satalites data collecting can cause sporadic E clouds to form" Say what? What in the world in this mumbo-jumbo? Data collection causing cloud formation? How is this fantastic hypothesis supported in any way by your link? Sorry to be blunt but you seem to have no comprehension whatsoever of what you read. When one talk about radio waves, it is generally understood to include electromagnetic waves within the radio frequency spectrum. If it is infra-red, visible or ultra violet, this is normally specified. If it is higher energy like X rays or Gamma rays, it is never referred to as radio waves. Conventions may be just that but they do have their usefulness. Electromagnetic waves do not carry nano particals, whatever that may be. Cosmic rays do not do that either. If you know of any scientific work linking, even in the loosest fashion, radio waves and climate, please cite. At this point, you have demonstrated only thorough confusion.
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  13. Tom Curtis @ 8 Cosmic rays are currently described mostly as high energy particles. Mostly protons with a few alpha particles and some heavier nuclei. I do not think they refer to gamma rays as cosmic rays anymore but call them gamma rays directly to indicate the difference between the normal particle flux entering our solar system and the few extreme events that produce intense levels of gamma radiation. Current understanding of the term cosmic rays.
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  14. Riccardo @10 You need to research how a magnetron works and with carbon Nano tube tech's one can make a wave guide out of it and inject gasses into the wave guide The microwaves in your microwave oven is ionised by the metal wave guide
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  15. Philippe @12 this link may help you understand
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    [DB] Again, simply posting a link does not help you prosecute your agenda.  You must demonstrate that you both understand the science and mechanisms behind that which you propose AND you must also point to peer-reviewed literature which supports those.

    Your links, as have already been pointed out, do not support your position.

  16. jmorpuss @11: >b>1) I, and I am sure all other comentators on this site have never come across your unusual definition of radio waves as "radiated electromagnetic waves". What we have come across in both physics courses and popular reading on the topic is the definition of "radio waves" as:
    " Wave from the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum at lower frequencies than microwaves. The wavelengths of radio waves range from thousands of metres to around 30 cm. These correspond to frequencies as low as 3 Hz and as high as 1 gigahertz (109 Hz)."
    (Source) Consequently, unless you can provide a clear definition of "radio waves" as "radiated electromagnetic waves of all frequencies" from a reputable source of information on physics, I will conclude that my usage is incorrect, and that your usage is aberrant, and marks you as an ill informed crank. 2) Like Scaddenp, I failed to find any relevant information in your linked source. First, it refers to only a restricted part of the radio frequencies, and hence not to gamma rays. Second, it specifically discusses the effects of the ionosphere on the propogation of High Frequency Radio waves, ie, those between 3 and 300 MHz. The ionosphere is a portion of the atmosphere including the thermosphere and exosphere (50 km to over 500 km altitude according to your source) in which electrons are stripped from atoms in the atmosphere, thus ionizing them. Because of the high altitude and the ionization, no water is found at those levels of the atmosphere, so no meteorological clouds can be found at that level of the atmosphere. Third, the only "sporadic E" things described by your source are "sporadic E layers", which are:
    "Sporadic E refers to the largely unpredictable formation of regions of very high electron density in the E region. Sporadic E may form at any time during the day or night occurring at altitudes of 90 to 140 km (the E region)."
    (My emphasis) It is true that the wikipedia article on the Ionosphere refers to these layers as "sporadic E clouds", but they are clouds of high electron density, not of water vapour and therefore are not meteorological events. Equating clouds of high electron density with meteorological events is further evidence of crankery. As the wikipedia article on cranks says,
    "Cranks characteristically dismiss all evidence or arguments which contradict their own unconventional beliefs, making rational debate an often futile task."
    Therefore, absent the immediate explicit explanation of your theory, supported by links to reputable sites explicitly advocating and providing evidence for that theory, I will draw the obvious conclusion that you are in fact a crank and that further discussion with you is a waste of my time.
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  17. Norman @13, I accept your point. Accepting it, however, only shows jmorpuss claim @6 even more absurd.
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  18. DB: Suggest that all jmporuss's comments be deleted and that he/she be banned from posting on SkS.
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  19. Additional to my 16: IN facing theories that are utterly absurd it is easy to miss particular absurdities in the crowd. In particular, jmorpuss claim that: "What I'm trying to point out here is how ground based and satalites data collecting can cause sporadic E clouds to form" is beyond absurd. Like all other ionized layers, Sporadic E layers are formed by ionizing radiation from the sun. While they effect radio communication, they are not caused by it. This claim by jmorpuss is further evidence of crankery, and needs to be defended along the same lines as those in my conclusion of my 16 (12:00 PM 14 Nov, 2011). Note to moderator: I know that my 16 and this post are now responses to a deleted post. Could you please allow them to stand based on the principle outlined inline @7. If you could restore his deleted post on the same basis, that would also be appreciated.
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  20. The moderator is quick of the mark today. For the record, jmorpuss posted another of topic response which has been deleted. I presume it was deleted because: 1) It contained moderation complaints, in contradiction of the comments policy; 2) It was extremely of topic, in contradiction of the comments policy; and 3) It contained a link with no discussion of the link's comments, in contradiction of the comments policy. All three aspects of the comments policy are justified, and indeed, valuable in keeping discussions focused, relevant, and understandable. Yet deniers persistently violate all three and then complain that their posts are deleted in order to suppress their opinions, which is laughable. In this case I wish to point out that not only was jmorpus link of topic with regard to the OP, but it was also of topic with regard the particular discussion of his theories above. It contained no mention of clouds, sporadic E, or the ionosphere, and therefore was entirely irrelevant. It was certainly not a defense of jmorpus' theory. Also, for the record, I do not delete anything on SkS, as I am not a moderator.
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  21. Tom @16 The first line here states that radio waves are a form of electromagnetic radiation Sometimes you have to put the peaces together
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  22. jmorpuss - noone disputes radio waves are EM. Just that this has nothing to do with climate or weather. If you want to connect radio (kHz to 1GHz range EM) to climate, then you need papers that show a climatic/meteorological response in that range. Sporadic-E clouds are not meteorological clouds. GHG are transparent to EM in that frequency.
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  23. scaddenp @ 22 As you move into the microwave frequencies used by satalite and long distent coms as well as some radars you can create hot spots and as you know heat differences drive the weather Here is a link to Sporadic E and charged particals
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  24. scaddenp, You are being wayyyy too rational about this. The basis of the "Microwave" theory is that microwave radio frequency communications are directly linked to global climate change and can be historically traced to the use of radio waves at a global level.
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  25. Climastrology button required here.
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  26. "Sometimes you have to put the peaces together" Ahh, global warming is caused by microwaves and the fact that the cold war didn't turn into hot war, i.e. the peaces prevailed...
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  27. Sorry way OT but following on from 24 & 25 above Climastrology button required for this one as well....don't waste too much time there.
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  28. jmorpuss . . . what are you trying to say? That microwaves are causing global warming? Problem one: the stratosphere is cooling. Explain it. Btw, muon, that may be the silliest alt-theory website I've ever seen--not because the theory itself is not even wrong, and not because there's not a shred of evidence to support it, but because it's so well-crafted, so sincere, and so naive. It's like listening to a five-year old's patient, ten-minute explanation of how babies come into the world because women eat pebbles. The author should be placed in a steel cage match with Doug Cotton. I might pay to see that, if it was made available in a podcast. Sweet, oneiota. That one was featured in last month's trade pub New Trends in Snake Oil.
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  29. muon - splorf! What a website. Just as well as I wasnt handling cats or coffee. Truly stunning what stories you tell when unfettered by measurements or physics. I won't waste my time on this one.
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  30. DSL @28 To create globale warming might be a bit hard to prove but climate change why not a bit of heat from a ionispheric heater in the right place and away you go weather modification We have already seen that spiral in Norway and CERN has just past neutrinos through the earth and they traved faster then the speed of light Anyway here is a link that [inflamatory snipped] It's about electrons ions and plasma Also here is a link to a video that shows what microwaves can do to CO2 It mite be at the extream end but you can still cook a chook on low pulse rate You can denie this process is not taking place by voising your opinion and thats your right [more inflamatory snipped]
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Comments likely to irritate or annoy others participating in the discussion are not welcome, and are incontravention of the comments policy. Next time I will simply delete your post, rather than editing it.
  31. jmorpuss : "We have already seen that spiral in Norway and CERN has just past neutrinos through the earth and they traved faster then the speed of light." They may have travelled faster than the speed of light but, then again, they may not have. Do you accept something so easily, without any back-up evidence ? That would be irrational. But, anyway, what has that even got to do with Global Warming ?
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  32. I'd suggest to simply ignore jmorpuss comments. They are offtopic, add nothing to the discussion and above all he apparently takes tiny bit of physics at random and forces them into the climate discourse.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] This is good advice; if someone makes a post that has no relevance to the discussion, the best thing to do is to simply ignore it and not allow the discussion to be diverted. The moderators will deal with posts that contravene the comments policy, but please be patient and allow time for this to happen.
  33. JMurphy point taken on the may or may not part I agree that more info is reqired I was just trying to point out what science is playing with while most are distracted by global warming I provided a link @6 that may clear things up on climate change I'm a 1958 model and remember when man first went into space and one thing that stood out to me was the astronaughts saying how they kept seeing flashes of light and it seemed to be coming from inside their heads and when they investigated more they found micro burn holes in their visors that at the time they only put them down to some sort of partical that had travelled through the ship and through their brains you think they could have been neutrinos ?
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Please restrict the disucssion to issues that are on-topic and clearly related to climate.
  34. jmorpuss, I suggest you read what NASA has to say, instead of what you might have read on some conspiracy-type website about "micro burn holes" :

    what the astronauts are experiencing is space radiation zipping through their eyes like subatomic bullets. When a "bullet" strikes the retina, it triggers a false signal that the brain interprets as a flash of light.

    Now, do you have anything to say about the subject of this post ? Any further diversions are off-topic.
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    Moderator Response: [Dikran Marsupial] Indeed, please no more discussion of cosmic rays, unless it is clearly relevant to a discussion of clouds and climate.
  35. jmorpuss, you can say anything you like, but if you expect to be taken seriously on this forum, you're going to need to explain and defend your propositions. Here. Pointing to websites is not effective, because the authors of those websites are not available (oh, were it that they were!) to discuss the science of their alternative theories (or simulacra as the case may be). If you've been convinced by these websites, then you must understand them well enough to be able to defend them, yes? So do it. (on the appropriate thread, of course) This site is about discussing the science, not simply pointing to it and saying, "look!"
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  36. In order to complete the rebuttal of jmorpus, while not dragging this thread off topic, I have responded on an appropriate thread.
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