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Water Vapor, NOT CO2 is the Most Effective Greenhouse Gas

In terms of mass, water vapour is much more prevalent (about 0.3% of atmospheric mass, compared to about 0.06% for CO2), and so is ~80% of all greenhouse gases by mass (~90% by volume). However, the radiative importance is less (since all molecules are not created equal).

. . . it's clear that water vapour is the single most important absorber (between 36% and 66% of the greenhouse effect), and together with clouds makes up between 66% and 85%. CO2 alone makes up between 9 and 26%,

. . . the maximum supportable number for the importance of water vapour alone is about 60-70% and for water plus clouds 80-90% of the present day greenhouse effect. (Of course, using the same approach, the maximum supportable number for CO2 is 20-30%,  and since that adds up to more than 100%, there is a slight problem with such estimates!).</i>     (realclimate.org/index.php?p=142)


Water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas in the atmosphere.” (IPCC AR4, p 632).  Local

The Heat Island Effect  

(This section lifted from WattsUpWithThat.com)

Finally - an honest quantification of urban warming by a major climate scientist


This is a small bombshell. I’ve been telling readers about UHI since this blog started. One notable example that I demonstrated by actual measurement is Reno, NV:

Click for larger image

The IPCC reports have minimized the effects of UHI on climate for quite some time.


From Warwick Hughes:


   The IPCC drew that conclusion from the Jones et al 1990 Letter to Nature which examined temperature data from regions in Eastern Australia, Western USSR and Eastern China, to conclude that “In none of the three regions studied is there any indication of significant urban influence..” That has led to the IPCC claim that for decades, urban warming is less than 0.05 per century.


A paper in JGR that slipped by last fall without much notice (but know now thanks to Warwick Hughes) is one from Phil Jones, the director of the Hadley Climate Center in the UK. The pager is titled:  Urbanization effects in large-scale temperature records, with an emphasis on China


In it, Jones identifies an urban warming signal in China of 0.1 degrees C per decade.  Or, if you prefer, 1 degree C per century. Not negligible by any means. Here is the abstract:


   Global surface temperature trends, based on land and marine data, show warming of about 0.8°C over the last 100 years. This rate of warming is sometimes questioned because of the existence of well-known Urban Heat Islands (UHIs). We show examples of the UHIs at London and Vienna, where city center sites are warmer than surrounding rural locations. Both of these UHIs however do not contribute to warming trends over the 20th century because the influences of the cities on surface temperatures have not changed over this time. In the main part of the paper, for China, we compare a new homogenized station data set with gridded temperature products and attempt to assess possible urban influences using sea surface temperature (SST) data sets for the area east of the Chinese mainland. We show that all the land-based data sets for China agree exceptionally well and that their residual warming compared to the SST series since 1951 is relatively small compared to the large-scale warming. Urban-related warming over China is shown to be about 0.1°C decade−1 over the period 1951–2004, with true climatic warming accounting for 0.81°C over this period.


Even though Jones tries to minimize the UHI effect elsewhere, saying the UHI trends don’t contribute to warming in London and Vienna, what is notable about the paper is that Jones has been minimizing the UHI issues for years and now does an about face on China. And even more notable is that Jones result are directly at odds with another researcher at Hadley, Dr. David Parker.


It seems that Parker is looking more and more foolish with his attempts to make UHI “disappear” To back that up, the National Weather Service includes the UHI factor in one of it’s training course ( NOAA Professional Competency Unit 6 ) using Reno, NV.


In the PUC6 they were also kind enough to provide a photo essay of their own as well as a graph. You can click the aerial photo to get a Google Earth interactive view of the area. The ASOS USHCN station is right between the runways.

This is NOAA’s graph showing the changes to the official climate record when they made station moves:

Source for 24a and 24b: NOAA Internal Training manual, 2004-2007


What is striking about this is that here we have NOAA documenting the effects of an “urban heat bubble” something that Parker 2003 et al say “doesn’t exist“, plus we have inclusion a site with known issues, held up as a bad example for training the operational folks, being used in a case study for the new USHCN2 system.

So if NOAA trains for UHI placement, and Hadley’s Dr. Jones admits it is real and quantifies it, I’m comfortable in saying that Parker’s claims of UHI being negligible are pure rubbish.


Its all about location, location, location. And climate monitoring stations that are poorly sited and that have been overrun by urban growth clearly don’t give a pure signal for assessment of long term climate trends. This puts a real kink in the validity of the surface temperature data in GISS and HadCRUT and could go a long way towards explaining the divergence between satellite and surface temperatures in recent years.


The above section lifted from WattsUpWithThat.com