Thanks To IPCC Public Doesn’t Know Water Vapor Is Most Important Greenhouse Gas

by Dr. Tim Ball on February 11, 2015

in Atmosphere,Government,Political,Theory,Water

It is not surprising that Roe and Baker explained in a 2007 Science paper that, “The envelope of uncertainty in climate projections has not narrowed appreciably over the past 30 years, despite tremendous increases in computing power, in observations, and in the number of scientists studying the problem.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) wasn’t designed to improve the uncertainty. Rather, it was mandated, designed and operated to isolate human effects.

The IPCC let the public believe they are examining the entire climate system. From a climate mechanism perspective, they only look at one or two very minor components. It is like describing a car and how it operates by ignoring the engine, transmission, and wheels while focusing on one nut on the right rear wheel. They are only looking at one thread on the nut, human CO2.

Figure 1, from IPCC Assessment Report 5 (AR5), shows the few forcing variables they examine.

Figure 1

Their mandate is limited to determining only “human causes of climate change”. Why are “Changes in solar irradiance” included? How do humans influence it? Why not include all changes in solar activity? The top panel labeled “Well-mixed greenhouse gases” is apparently done to eliminate water vapor, which is not well mixed? It can’t be anything else, because CO2 is not “well-mixed” either as the recent satellite images show.

There are other deceptions in the chart, including the claim that the “Level of Confidence” for CO2 is very high. This claim is false because CO2 levels have risen for 18+ years while temperature hasn’t increased, in contradiction to their major assumption that a CO2 increase causes a temperature increase. It is not surprising because it doesn’t occur in any record. The “High” rating for “Total Anthropogenic RF relative to 1750” is a self-serving IPCC assessment. It must be high because we created it.

Why Sins of Commission and Omission Work

Another deception was creating the illusion that CO2 is the most important greenhouse gas. The IPCC acknowledges H2O is the most important, but that is not what the public understands. Figure 2 shows a diagram taken from the ABC news website a few years ago.


Figure 2

The IPCC was designed and managed to perpetuate this deception and cynically do it openly. Deception is possible because most know very little about climate, as the Yale Education study showed (Figure 3).


Figure 3

Graded like a school exam, they found over half failed (52%) and 77 percent received D or F.

Too many scientists don’t know because they accept without checking. They assume, or don’t want to believe, that funding or a political agenda can corrupt other scientists. Klaus-Eckert Puls’ comment explains.

“Ten years ago I simply parroted what the IPCC told us. One day I started checking the facts and data – first I started with a sense of doubt but then I became outraged when I discovered that much of what the IPCC and the media were telling us was sheer nonsense and was not even supported by any scientific facts and measurements.”

I described this as daylight robbery”em> three years ago because they don’t hide what they are doing. Explaining how it is done is central to persuading the public of the falsity of IPCC proclamations, without requiring people to understand the science. Sins of omission are as damaging as those of commission.
The whole wheel comprises the so-called greenhouse gasses, of which water vapor is 95 percent by volume. The nut on the rear wheel is total CO2, but the IPCC narrow their focus to a portion of one thread, the human fraction. The IPCC ignore water vapor by assuming humans don’t change it measurably. In the 2007 Report they wrote,

“Water vapour is the most abundant and important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. However, human activities have only a small direct influence on the amount of atmospheric water vapour.”

It is essentially impossible to determine the impact of 4 percent if you have very limited knowledge about 95 percent.

The IPCC tried to downplay the role of water vapor in affecting global temperatures by amplifying the role of CO2 and CH4. The range of numbers used to determine greenhouse effectiveness or Global Warming Potential (GWP) suggested people were just creating numbers – it was not scientific. The IPCC note,

The Global Warming Potential (GWP) is defined as the time-integrated RF due to a pulse emission of a given component, relative to a pulse emission of an equal mass of CO2 (Figure 8.28a and formula). The GWP was presented in the First IPCC Assessment (Houghton et al., 1990), stating ‘It must be stressed that there is no universally accepted methodology for combining all the relevant factors into a single global warming potential for greenhouse gas emissions.

Appropriately, questions about the GWP assessments persist. It prompted Gavin Schmidt, graduate of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU), part creator of the website Real Climate, and now director of NASA GISS to offer clarification.

The relative contributions of atmospheric long‐wave absorbers to the present‐day global greenhouse effect are among the most misquoted statistics in public discussions of climate change.

The source of his clarification appears to disabuse his claim.

Motivated by the need for a clear reference for this issue, we review the existing literature and use the Goddard Institute for Space Studies ModelE radiation module to provide an overview of the role of each absorber at the present‐day and under doubled CO2.

This form of affirmation is the standard circular argument of the IPCC. What I say is correct because my models say so. Schmidt further confuses the issue by saying,

With a straightforward scheme for allocating overlaps, we find that water vapor is the dominant contributor (∼50% of the effect), followed by clouds (∼25%) and then CO2 with ∼20%.

Clouds are made up of water droplets so the total effect of water, according to Schmidt, is ~75 percent. The role of water in all its phases is critical to understanding weather and climate. For example, the upper portions of most clouds are predominantly ice crystals that change the albedo factor considerably. Roger Harrabin reported Roy Spencer’s view;

“He thinks clouds are impossible to model at present.”

IPCC claim greenhouse gasses raise global temperature by 33°C. Water vapor varies between slightly more than 0 and 4 percent of the atmosphere. According to Schmidt, this means water vapor accounts for approximately 25°C of the warming. Using an average of 2 percent, this means approximately 12.5°C per 1 percent. But, we don’t know how much water vapor there is or how much it varies. Does a minor fluctuation in water vapor at least equal or exceed the warming effect claimed for the human portion of CO2?

The IPCC is also unsure about the GWP as they explain in AR5. However, it is still not enough to recognize that it alone likely puts their entire computer model output in question.

The simulation of clouds in climate models remains challenging. There is very high confidence that uncertainties in cloud processes explain much of the spread in modelled climate sensitivity. However, the simulation of clouds in climate models has shown modest improvement relative to models available at the time of the AR4, and this has been aided by new evaluation techniques and new observations for clouds. Nevertheless, biases in cloud simulation lead to regional errors on cloud radiative effect of several tens of watts per square meter.

They conclude;

Many cloud processes are unrealistic in current GCMs, and as such their cloud response to climate change remains uncertain.

Importance of Water Vapor

Water, whether gaseous or liquid, serves to modify the temperature range. It increases minimums and decreases maximums and carries out other important processes.

As one website notes,

Over 99% of the atmospheric moisture is in the form of water vapor, and this vapor is the principal source of the atmospheric energy that drives the development of weather systems on short time scales and influences the climate on longer time scales.

Movement of water vapor, and its associated latent heat of vaporization, is also responsible for about 50% of the transport of heat from the tropics to the poles.  The movement of water vapor is also important for determining the amount of precipitation a region receives.

The effect of the increased volume of atmospheric water vapor is not knowable because until recently there were only very crude estimates of atmospheric water vapor levels. Here is a 1996 quote,

“It is very hard to quantify water vapor in the atmosphere.  Its concentration changes continually with time, location and altitude.” “A vertical profile is obtained with a weather balloon.  To get a global overview, only satellite measurements are suitable.  From a satellite, the absorption of the reflecting sunlight due to water vapor molecules is measured.  The results are pictures of global water vapor distributions and their changes.  The measurement error, however, is still about 30 to 40%.”

Four different measurements reflect the difficulties in determining the role of water in the atmosphere; Relative Humidity, Absolute Humidity, Specific Humidity, and Mixing Ratio. Relative Humidity is the only one the public knows, but it is also the most meaningless.

Recently satellite systems claim more accurate measures.

Total column water vapor is a measure of the total gaseous water contained in a vertical column of atmosphere. It is quite different from the more familiar relative humidity, which is the amount of water vapor in air relative to the amount of water vapor the air is capable of holding. Atmospheric water vapor is the absolute amount of water dissolved in air.

The IPCC lack of confidence about precipitation indicates they are not dealing with water vapor properly. Quotes from AR5 illustrate the problem.

Confidence in precipitation change averaged over global land areas since 1901 is low prior to 1951 and medium afterwards. Averaged over the mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere, precipitation has increased since 1901 (medium confidence before and high confidence after 1951). For other latitudes area-averaged long-term positive or negative trends have low confidence (Figure 4).


Figure 4 (Source IPCC)

The problem with this map is it assumes the number and accuracy of precipitation measures are the same in 1901 as in 2010. But the IPCC indicate that is not the case.

At regional scales, precipitation is not simulated as well, and the assessment remains difficult owing to observational uncertainties.
The simulation of precipitation is a more stringent test for models as it depends heavily on processes that must be parameterized. Challenges are compounded by the link to surface fields (topography, coastline, vegetation) that lead to much greater spatial heterogeneity at regional scales.

These comments apply to horizontal measures of precipitation, which are assumed to be a reflection of accuracy of knowledge about water vapor in the vertical column. Here is what the IPCC say about that.

Modelling the vertical structure of water vapour is subject to greater uncertainty since the humidity profile is governed by a variety of processes. The CMIP3 models exhibited a significant dry bias of up to 25% in the boundary layer and a significant moist bias in the free troposphere of up to 100% (John and Soden, 2007). Upper tropospheric water vapour varied by a factor of three across the multi-model ensemble (Su et al., 2006). Many models have large biases in lower stratospheric water vapour (Gettelman et al., 2010), which could have implications for surface temperature change (Solomon et al., 2010).
Most climate model simulations show a larger warming in the tropical troposphere than is found in observational data sets (e.g., McKitrick et al., 2010; Santer et al., 2013).
Because of large variability and relatively short data records, confidence in stratospheric H2O vapour trends is low.

Benjamin Franklin included the nursery rhyme, “For want of a nail, the shoe was lost” in his Poor Richards Almanack. It is appears the IPCC car is lost for the want of a water wheel.