NASA Data Show Clouds Are Losing Altitude – “May Represent A Negative Feedback Mechanism” – Confirms Lindzen

NASA has recently issued a press release, here. A recent study by Davies & Molloy (2012) appearing in the Geophysical Research Letters shows that clouds have gotten lower over the first decade of this century. Hat tip: Die kalte Sonne.

Data from NASA's MISR instrument show that global average cloud height declined by about 1 percent over the decade from 2000 to 2010, (Source: NASA)

Here’s the NASA press release (emphasis added):

February 21, 2012

Earth’s clouds got a little lower — about one percent on average — during the first decade of this century, finds a new NASA-funded university study based on NASA satellite data. The results have potential implications for future global climate.

Scientists at the University of Auckland in New Zealand analyzed the first 10 years of global cloud-top height measurements (from March 2000 to February 2010) from the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument on NASA’s Terra spacecraft. The study, published recently in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, revealed an overall trend of decreasing cloud height. Global average cloud height declined by around one percent over the decade, or by around 100 to 130 feet (30 to 40 meters). Most of the reduction was due to fewer clouds occurring at very high altitudes.

Lead researcher Roger Davies said that while the record is too short to be definitive, it provides a hint that something quite important might be going on. Longer-term monitoring will be required to determine the significance of the observation for global temperatures.

A consistent reduction in cloud height would allow Earth to cool to space more efficiently, reducing the surface temperature of the planet and potentially slowing the effects of global warming. This may represent a negative feedback mechanism a change caused by global warming that works to counteract it. “We don’t know exactly what causes the cloud heights to lower,” says Davies. “But it must be due to a change in the circulation patterns that give rise to cloud formation at high altitude.”

NASA’s Terra spacecraft is scheduled to continue gathering data through the remainder of this decade. Scientists will continue to monitor the MISR data closely to see if this trend continues.

For more information, visit:

MISR, built and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is one of five instruments on NASA’s Terra spacecraft, launched in December 1999. The instrument uses nine cameras at different angles to produce a stereo image of clouds around the globe, allowing measurement of their altitude and movement. For more on MISR, visit: . For more on Terra, visit: .

Another NASA mission that studies clouds is NASA’s CloudSat, also built by JPL and launched in 2006. CloudSat is the first satellite that uses an advanced radar to “slice” through clouds to see their vertical structure, providing a completely new observational capability from space. CloudSat’s primary goal is to furnish data needed to evaluate and improve the way clouds are represented in global models, thereby contributing to better predictions of clouds and thus to their poorly understood role in climate change and the cloud-climate feedback. For information on NASA’s CloudSat mission, visit: and”

Cooling is the result of warming? How much more tangled up in a web of fantasies can one possibly get? And when they say “we don’t exactly know”, it really means they don’t have a clue, or they know but it’s a reason they are not supposed to mention.  Wasn’t CO2 supposed to cause positive feedbacks, and not negative feedbacks? Time to rework the models.

Fritz Vahrenholt and Sebastian Lüning at Die kalte Sonne site provide their remarks:

The decrease in high clouds means an additional cooling effect has been in place over the first decade, one that has not been taken into account up to now. It is known that global temperatures have not risen since the year 2000. The exact cause of the newly described cloud effect is still not known.

Larger deviations of the falling effective cloud height appear to be controlled by the Southern Oscillation, which is an internal oceanic cycle (see p. 313-314 in ‘Die kalte Sonne’). Could there be another longer period Pacific Ocean Cyclic, the PDO, behind the cloud trend? This remains speculation. But it is interesting to observe that the PDO also began its downward trend in the year 2000.

Die publication from Davies & Molloy (2012) appeared in the Geophysical Research Letters of the AGU.

At MeteoKlima Christian Heuer discusses whether this could be Richard Lindzen’s Iris Effect (see p. 168-170 in “Die kalte Sonne”), that is a negative, dampening feedback that counteracts global warming.”

Amazing how everything that Vahrenholt and Lüning wrote in their book, which a number of German scientists have just recently dismissed offhand without reading, is turning out to be spot on.

12 responses to “NASA Data Show Clouds Are Losing Altitude – “May Represent A Negative Feedback Mechanism” – Confirms Lindzen”

  1. DirkH

    “Cooling is the result of warming? How much more tangled up in a web of fantasies can one possibly get? ”

    Pierre, that’s not exactly what they say. Don’t be unfair. They say this effect could be caused by Global Warming – and they don’t even say “antropogenic” – and works to counteract warming; which is a reasonable way to explain what a negative effect does.

    What I find remarkable in this press release is, it misses the obligatory fearmongering – it says “The results have potential implications for future global climate.” but that’s a neutral statement.

    It’s actually a very well written press release, considering the low standards we are used to.

  2. neill

    Or, warming associated with increasing atmospheric CO2 is mitigated by negative feedbacks. I’ll take it!

  3. mwhite

    Another headline

    “Global Warming may be Held back by Falling Cloud Levels”

    “If cloud heights come back up in the next 10 years we would conclude that they are not slowing climate change,”

    Climate change is happening but “things” have an effect. They also don’t know what’s causing this.

  4. DirkH

    Germany discovers new energy source: horse dung.
    Federal environment ministry funds 300,000 EUR project by Uni Hohenheim. Goal is the adaption of a “Querstromzerspaner” for preparing horse dung for use in biogas fermenters. The machine is similar to a large kitchen mixer; its purpose in this application is to cut the straw remainders contained in horse dung into tiny pieces and homogenize the dung so that microorganisms can digest the material better.

    1. Mindert Eiting

      Horses are also a good alternative to cars.

      1. Ulrich Elkmann

        Oh yes. “A beast that is dangerous at both ends, and uncomfortable in the middle”, according to Prince Philip. Stupid, mean, expensive, hard to train, hard to keep up, breaks down in winter (the ideal symbol for anything green). Between 1880-90, there were estimates, for New York alone, that if current trends continued, that by 1950 the streets would be buried 6 ft. high in horse manure. By 1910, there were 11.000 horses dying in the New York streets, per annum. If you run an economy on it, it will be dirt poor; but it provides a handy source for cheap meat – stringy & tasteless, of course, if the beasts have first been worked to death (cats & dogs do not mind, though). But it will not catch on. Such a transport system destroys any mushy sentimentality about Black Beauty and so undercuts the green business model effectively. (On the other hand: if they ALL ended up like Nietzsche in Turin, hmmm…)

      2. mwhite

        They have their own problems

        “The Great Horse-Manure Crisis of 1894”

  5. John F. Hultquist

    For a link to the horse info:

    One might suppose that if the atmosphere cools there will be less buoyancy or outward-push and cloud tops would lower. I think that ought to be the null hypothesis.

  6. DirkH

    If the average height of clouds drops because of a a smaller percentage of high-altitude clouds, this observation could be in line with the observed drop in relative humidity (0.5% per decade):
    “Over 1/4 billion hourly values of temperature and relative humidity observed at 309 stations located across North America during 1948-2010 were studied.”

    which, in turn, confirms the predictions of Ferenc Miskolczi’s theory – that an increase in CO2’s greenhouse effect should result in a decrease of water vapor greenhouse effect.

    This could indeed form a kind of “atmospheric buffer system”.

  7. DirkH

    I just read in my local newspaper, Braunschweiger Zeitung: The local Pirate Party prepares a workgroup (Arbeitskreis) to explore “the consequences of the use of toxic chemicals for the purpose of producing natural gas”, i.e. an anti-fracking-group.

    Their red-green profile sharpens. Fracking has been used in my state, Lower Saxony, for 30 years – it’s only the horicontal drilling part that is new. The Pirates and The Greens always pretend not to know that.

    1. Bernd Felsche

      Toxic chemicals like DHMO

      “The poison is in the dose” has been known for more than 1000 years, but quietly ignored by those pushing a political barrow. The media noise that results actually makes it more difficult to get messages through to the public about real dangers; not the non-dangers from which the absurd seek to protect.

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