40-Year Meteorologist Says Recent Global Warming Due To Natural, Ocean-Cycle-Related Water Vapor, Not CO2

At Weatherbell’s most recent Saturday Summary, veteran meteorologist Joe Bastardi presents the main reason why he believes the globe has been warming over the past decades: more water vapor in the atmosphere due to natural ocean cycles.

Panic time for Arctic sea ice doomsayers?

The former Accuweather meteorologist explains why there’s a good chance Arctic sea ice will be rebounding over the coming years: because the North Atlantic appears to be headed into its cool phase, which means less warmth being supplied to the adjacent Arctic.

Bastardi says this is due to the natural ocean cycles, where surface temperatures oscillate on decadal scales.

Sometimes I believe that folks on the other side of the issue are getting a little panicky because they know when the Atlantic does switch into its colder phase, the Arctic sea ice going to go back to where it was 20, 30, 40 years ago when we were in a colder phase.”

Scientists and modelers neglect oceans

Bastardi also sharply criticizes climate scientists for not bothering to look at the obvious natural oceanic factors that drive seasonal weather patterns, and take the easy way out by blaming CO2 global warming.

The veteran meteorologist adds that “water vapor is by far the most important greenhouse gas because we can link it directly to temperature”, and explains how most of the global warming in fact happened at the Earth’s poles because of higher water vapor from the warmer ocean sea surface temperature phase which ends up in the atmosphere.

Figure 1: November 24, 2018, Weatherbell Saturday Summary.

The added water vapor at the poles substantially amplifies the warming there, much more than it does at the tropics.

Over the past 20 years most of the global warming has occurred over the Arctic and Antarctic, as Figure 1 shows. This is because over the same time period atmospheric water vapor has increased – due to the warm phases of the oceanic cycles we’ve seen over the past 2 – 3 decades, see Figure 2:

Figure 2: November 24, 2018, Weatherbell Saturday Summary

And because even a small amount of added vapor to the air has a profound effect on the air temperature where it’s very cold, as is the case at the poles, tremendous “warming” occurs. Meanwhile substantial amounts of added water vapor to the atmosphere in warm tropical areas have only modest effects on air temperature.

Table 1 shows what happens when water vapor gets added to air at different temperatures:

Table 1: Mixing ratios at various temperatures. Adding just 0.1 g of water vapor to 1 kg of air leads to a temperature increase of about 10°C. Source: November 24, 2018, Weatherbell Saturday Summary

When just 0.1 grams of water gets added to a kilogram of air, the temperature of that air rises by over 10°C! Of course this phenomenon has nothing to do with the greenhouse (radiation effects), but rather because of thermodynamic reasons.

When 0.1 gram of water vapor gets added to air that is +35°C, typical in the tropics, the temperature rises by only a tiny fraction of what is observed in the cold Arctic air. For that reason, Bastardi says: “We know water vapor is the big key.”

As the sea surface temperatures get warmer due the warm phase of the oceanic cycles, “they pump a little bit more water vapor in the air. Where’s it going to make the big difference? Temperature is not a linear measurement of energy,” Bastardi says.

The veteran meteorologist adds that if people really looked at water vapor’s effect on polar temperatures, they “would quickly understand that it’s not CO2.”

Bastardi also slams the recently released NCR government report, saying that it totally ignores all the huge benefits humanity has enjoyed because of fossil fuels:


Since the use of fossil fuels, global capita GDP and human life expectancy have exploded and are at record highs. Humans as a whole have never lived more comfortably.

20 responses to “40-Year Meteorologist Says Recent Global Warming Due To Natural, Ocean-Cycle-Related Water Vapor, Not CO2”

  1. RAH

    I’ve learned more from Joe Bastardi about weather and forecasting than from anyone or anything else. I read his blog posts and watch all the free videos at Weatherbell. And when it comes to forecasting hurricanes Joe and his guys are right in there with the best. Not afraid to go against the models or get out ahead of them.

  2. Greg

    There is also a negative feedback in the tropics – tropical thunderstorms get rid of that extra energy

  3. Skeptik

    There is, of course, a pretty good correlation between specific humidity and temperature in most places around the globe. But, which is chicken and which is egg? It has long been known that the amount of water vapour that the atmosphere can hold rises as temperature rises. This is quantitatively described by the Clausius-Clapeyron equation. However, does increasing water vapour cause a rise in temperatures?

    If we rely on the so-called greenhouse effect to claim that water vapour is an important driver of temperature, then I can see no reason why we should exclude carbon dioxide from also playing its part. On the other hand, I can see a reason why water vapour might not. The following is a very much simplified version of this argument . . . . . .

    The warming we get at the earth’s surface is determined by how high up in the atmosphere a “typical” infrared photon transitions from having virtually no chance of escaping to outer space without being absorbed, re-emitted or thermalized by yet another greenhouse gas molecule to escaping virtually scot free. This is the region where the number of greenhouse gas molecules per unit volume lies within a fairly narrow critical range. This is high up in the atmosphere where temperatures are much lower than at the surface. At this point, most of the water vapour will have already condensed out, (the Clausius-Clapeyron equation again). So, the GHG molecule that our photon might expect to “see” is much more likely to be a CO2 one than one of H2O. This is probably why the so-called tropospheric hot spot has proved to be so elusive.

    If I am right about this, then the strong positive feedback from water vapour, which forms part of the AGW orthodoxy, is probably a myth. This would mean that less than half of the warming that we have actually seen can be down to increased atmospheric CO2. This, in turn, provides the wiggle room for a supplementary theory which might explain those observations that the standard theory cannot account for whilst, at the same time, allowing it to continue to explain those which it explains rather well.

    There is quite a lot of empirical evidence both that less than half the warming is down to CO2 and that any feedback is likely to be very small.

    1. Marc Saunders

      There is 2% of water in the atmosphere but only 0,04 % of CO2. The greenhouse effect taking place in greenhouses only appear when there is incoming radiation and the convection is cancelled, it has little to do with reducing exiting radiation.

    2. Marc Saunders

      Sorry, I meant 1% instead of 2%

  4. Dale Mullen

    Something bothers me in the above claims. Is the air (atmosphere) over the topics really dryer than the air (atmosphere) over the poles? Seemingly, it should be just the opposite.

    1. rah

      The relationship between humidity and temperature is not liner. If it were we could not survive a 100 deg F day with 80% humidity.

      1. tom0mason

        Exactly. The perfection of the ideal gas law is blown from it’s hinges by the addition of water!
        Damp gases are not ideal! The atmosphere is far more complex than the ideal gas law, filled as it is, with a mixture of gases, micro/macro-scopic particles, and water.
        If only the science community could look at the way water works in the atmosphere, then we may get a better understanding of how weather (and by extension climate) functions.
        We need to especially research clouds — what is the energy balance within and around clouds? We don’t know!

    2. Yonason

      Is this what you are referring to, Dale?

      “Meanwhile substantial amounts of added water vapor to the atmosphere in warm tropical areas have only modest effects on air temperature.”

      If so, I see what you mean. It’s not clear, though I just assumed it meant that any added moist air wouldn’t cause as much of a change as even a little at the poles. The reason being, if I understand it correctly, is that adding moisture to the hot air wouldn’t change the temperature because the moisture wouldn’t condense out and deposit it’s heat there.

      But if warm wet air is carried to the Arctic, the moisture can’t remain in the cold Arctic atmosphere. It will condense out and deposit it’s heat there, which will result in elevated air temperatures (remember specific heat of water is higher than that of air). It’s not because those areas are inherently hotter because of CO2. It’s just a weather effect. If it were a CO2 effect, you’d see it in summer as well (probably much more so), rather than what we do see which is that lately there have been lower than normal temps in summer.

      But that’s not in the article, so even if that’s what it means, it’s not so clear there, at least not as stated.

    3. tom0mason

      There is a link within the text (the link in the words ‘thermodynamic reasons.’ above) leading you to http://www.conservationphysics.org/teabag/ah_mr.php and the subject of Mixing Ratio and Absolute Humidity where it says —

      In meteorology the mixing ratio is useful for tracing the properties of vast air masses as they rise or fall in the atmosphere. The mixing ratio of a discrete blob of moist air does not change with varying atmospheric pressure and temperature as it moves in the atmosphere.

      1. Yonason

        Thanks for that information tom0.

        Here’s what I was referring to by Tony Heller.

        I also found this on the “mixing ratio” and “latent heat” relationship.

        It’s just enough to explain what’s going on, and easy enough for non-scientist to understand, I think.

  5. TedM

    I’m a great fan of Joe’s but I’m not sure when he says “When just 0.1 grams of water gets added to a kilogram of air, the temperature of that air rises by over 10°C!” that he isn’t putting the cart before the horse, and that the temperature increase is the cause of the increase in water vapour.

    1. Yonason


      My impression of Joe is that his forecasts are among the best out there, if not often THE best. But he’s not the best communicator. Good thing he went into doing instead of teaching.

    2. tom0mason

      I believe he is referring to the table (and the graph) where there is a green mark on it.
      At that point it is as he says “When just 0.1 grams of water gets added to a kilogram of air, the temperature of that air rises by over 10°C!” but that is at the -40° point.

  6. Bruce

    1 gallon of gasoline produces 8.3 pounds of water.

    Most communities in the artic get their electricity from burning diesel and their cars burn gas/diesel.

    How much warming is caused by the water?

  7. The Indomitable Snowman, Ph.D.

    Let me try to take a hack at this.

    As Joe notes, temperature is not a direct measurement of energy. The concept that links the two is the heat capacity of a substance. Basically, the heat capacity is a measure of the amount of energy that must be put into (or taken out of) a substance in order to produce a particular change in temperature. If something has a low heat capacity, then a small amount of energy input will cause a relatively large rise in the temperature; conversely, if something has a large heat capacity, then it will take a comparatively much larger input of energy to cause the same temperature change (or, the same amount of energy input will lead to a comparatively smaller change in the temperature).

    The heat capacity of atmospheric air is basically determined by the amount of water vapor in a particular sample of air. Water is one of nature’s strangest substances – and in particular, water has a shockingly-large heat capacity. As a result, dry air has a low heat capacity, while moist air has a large heat capacity; basically, it’s more difficult (i.e., it takes more energy) to change the temperature of moist air than of dry air.

    The best metric for the amount of water in a sample of air is the dewpoint temperature; this is the temperature to which that sample of air must be cooled before water will condense out of that air as some form of “visible moisture.” Note that the dewpoint temperature is essentially independent of the air temperature; you can heat and cool a sample of air (above the dewpoint temperature) and the dewpoint will not change.

    If you cool a sample of air, the temperature will fall until it reaches the dewpoint temperature – whereupon the temperature fall will effectively stop (as moisture comes out of the air in some form). The only way to cool the air further is to have condensation (or some similar process) remove moisture from the air and lower the dewpoint temperature.

    Flipping this around, in order to get air to be very cold, it must be very dry; for example, you can’t get -40 air unless the dewpoint temperature of the air is already -40 (at least) to begin with – the dewpoint temperature puts a floor under the temperature to which you can cool that sample of air.

    The way I’ve long thought of this is that the very cold (and very dry) air at the poles has a very low heat capacity, while the warm, moist air of the tropics has a very high heat capacity. So if you uniformly introduced some additional thermal energy into the global air, the result would be a much larger increase in the temperature in the polar regions than that in the tropical regions (which is what is observed). Further, the coldest and driest polar region air is found there during the winter; this air is ridiculously cold and thus is ridiculously dry – and so has an extremely low heat capacity, and thus will increase in temperature for very small inputs of extra energy; again, this (the largest temperature departures during the polar cold seasons) is also what is observed.

    This probably arrives at the same place from a different starting point than Joe has used. Basically, Joe is coming at this (my interpretation) from the idea that if you have very cold polar air and inject a little water vapor into that air, the rise in the dewpoint temperature of the “treated” air sample will cause the temperature to rise to at least the “new” dewpoint temperature. It takes much less moisture to increase the dewpoint from -40C to -30C than to increase the dewpoint from 10C to 20C.

    The way I look at the same situation is that the ability to reduce the temperature of the sample of air depends on the heat capacity of that air. If the heat capacity of the air is increased, it will not cool as readily – all else being equal, it will not get as cold. That is, with a higher heat capacity, removal of the same amount of energy will not lead to as large a fall in temperature. This manifests itself as “warmer”/”warming” air – since it can’t be cooled down as readily. And as noted earlier, the heat capacity of air is determined by the amount of water vapor it contains.

    Just a rough hack. But hopefully that’s at least a little helpful.

  8. Robert Folkerts

    No Seb H these days?

    Is he away recharging his batteries?

    1. tom0mason

      Hopefully he’s off on a sabbatical after getting das boot by his parents for messing up his basement.
      Maybe he’s out with his recently imported friends collecting plastic drinking straw litter along the coast while residing within 300mtrs of a windfarm.
      Or maybe that’s just my blue Sky thinking. 😀

      1. Newminster

        He can’t handle serious science. He probably can’t work out what side he’s supposed to be on!

  9. “Weekly Climate and Energy News Roundup #337 | Watts Up With That?

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