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The Merits Of Syukuro Manabe Winning A Nobel Prize Are Confusing

manabe hasselman

The Nobel Committee has given the following reason for their choice of awarding the prize for Physics to researchers Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselman:

“For the physical modeling of the Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming.”

The Committee also presented a brief description of Manabe’s climate model:

“Syukuro Manabe was the first researcher to explore the interactions between radiation balance and the vertical transport of air masses due to convection, also taking account of the heat contributed by the water cycle.”

Normally the Nobel Prize for Physics has been given to a researcher who was the first to introduce a new theory that turned out later to be a decisive step in understanding an important scientific phenomenon.

In the case of Manabe, it is very probably the proposal for humidity behavior as referred by the Committee when for example greenhouse gases increase the atmospheric temperature.

Manabe & Wetherald published an article about this problem entitled “Thermal Equilibrium of the Atmosphere with the given distribution of relative humidity” in 1967.

The name already reveals that the scientists used a constant (RH) profile in the atmosphere. This means that when the atmospheric temperature rises, for example, due to carbon dioxide concentration increase or for solar radiation increase, it is assumed that RH remains constant.

This means that the absolute amount of water vapor in the atmosphere will then increase. This means that since water vapor is about 12 times stronger greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, the result is that the atmospheric temperature will increase.

The term ‘water feedback’ has subsequently been used for this mechanism and, more clearly, ‘positive water feedback’.

The conclusion of Manabe & Wetherald was in their paper that constant RH assumption increases the temperature by a factor of two (ECS values 2.36°C/1.33°C) to the case without water feedback (keeping constant absolute humidity).

The importance of this result is that the water feedback mechanism has been used as a standard solution in simple and complex climate models. The IPCC has approved this result in all the assessment reports up to AR4 (2007).

Thereafter, the IPCC somehow lost its know-how in which way this water feedback works since according to the AR5, water feedback can double or triple the warming effect of greenhouse gases. This does not sound like solid science.

In the latest report published in August, AR6 is exceptionally clear about the water feedback effects and it is now a mathematically little bit smaller namely water feedback increases the original warming by a factor of about 1.8. The positive water feedback is still the most important feature in modern climate models.

This feature is very essential for the IPCC, and it was first introduced by Manabe, and the magnitude of this feature has not changed substantially over the years in the IPCC-approved models. I think that this is the main basis for rewarding.

This straightforward story is not so simple after all. Namely, 33 years later Hall & Manabe published an article by the name “The Role of Water Vapor Feedback in Unperturbed Climate Variability and Global Warming” in 1999.

The main result of this study was that the water feedback increases the original warming by a factor of 3.2 (3.38°C/1.05°C). Normally the latest version of a research subject has been considered as a final version.

Now it is very confusing that there are at least two research results. Which result does the Nobel Prize Committee regard as the correct one and as a rewarding basis?

What is the proof about the positive water feedback?

Someone may have noted in that crucial study by Manabe & Wetherald, the researchers used the phrase “Given Distribution of Relative Humidity”, that is, the very old-fashioned expression that the distribution of RH has been given.

This, of course, results in the rhetorical question of who has given such a distribution. The expression simply means that scientists assumed that RH would remain constant when the atmospheric temperature changes.

Another option is that the absolute humidity remains constant. I couldn’t find any reflections or justifications in the article as to why RH stays constant rather than that absolute humidity remains constant.

The article leaves the impression that the researchers calculated and analyzed the consequences of such a default in the behaviors of different climate variables. They do not present a theoretical hypothesis or justification as to why RH would remain constant at all.

It was 21 years later when the IPCC was established in 1988 and climate researchers started to invest in the development of climate models. My opinion is that a theoretical justification for the positive water feedback was now needed.

The answer was the equation of Clausius-Clapeyron, which presents a mathematical formula for how the partial pressure of water depends on the temperature of the gas phase if there is 100% relative humidity.

There is only such a striking problem with this post-kiln yeast that the average RH in the atmosphere is about 75% globally, and only locally and momentarily 100%.

To date, the climate establishment has failed to present a “waterproof” theoretical basis, why climate works in such a way that the RH of the atmosphere remains constant. An obvious reason is that climate does not work in that way as we see later.

I could show direct RH measurements from 1948 onward that the RH of the atmosphere is not constant. I have also published a theoretical analysis based on the energy balance of the Earth that there is no positive water feedback.

But I decided to show only one proof, which will take the IPCC into this game.

Mother Nature has organized a validation test for the water feedback because the amount of shortwave radiation absorbed by the Earth has increased significantly since 2001, according to CERES satellite measurements.

The increase of radiative forcing (RF) has been 1.61 W/m2 from 2001 to 2019 (comparison year in AR6!). That’s a lot of it since the corresponding increase in carbon dioxide RF from 1750 to 2011 was 1.68 W/m2, according to the IPCC.

The RF value of shortwave radiation is the simplest and the most reliable climate driver since other climate drivers must be transferred with complicated calculations into unit W/m2, but shortwave radiation change can be measured directly.

I have calculated the temperature trends according to the positive water feedback (the IPCC model) and without positive water feedback (Ollila model) from 2001 to 2020, Figure 1.

Figure 1. Temperature trends according to Ollila and IPCC climate models due to a change in the shortwave radiative forcing changes. The IPCC model has positive water feedback and Ollila’s model does not.

The result is that the IPCC temperature model shoots well above the measured temperature change.

If the IPCC had included this change in the AR6 temperature calculations, the temperature calculated by the models would have been about 2.0 degrees, when the measured temperature increase was about 1.3 degrees from 1750 to 2019.

Shortwave anomaly has caused 54% of the error, according to the positive water feedback, but the IPCC omitted this SW radiation change. As the result, the measured and calculated temperature was about the same as observed namely 1.3°C in 2019.

Finally, many climate establishment scientists sigh in relief since this is the first time it has happened in the history of the IPCC reports.

The IPCC had no choice but to go cheating because of this great error and because the Paris agreement limit of 2°C would have been exceeded. And so far, this cheating has been working very well.

Now that Manabe has won the Nobel Prize for Physics, peer reviews will conclude that positive water feedback is a real phenomenon because it was rewarded with the Nobel Prize.

However, in the original research study of 1967, there is no evidence that it exists, but only the assumption that relative humidity is constant.

The theoretical basis is still missing, and the validation test run with the real climate changes is looking very bad.

Thors Hans Hansson of the Nobel Prize Committee for Physics has declared that if there is someone among world leaders who have not understood that the climate models and the know-how about climate warming are based on solid physics, then he/she will not understand it anyway.

Yes, it is very probable that political and business leaders are very convinced now about these issues but that is not the case with contrarian climate researchers. These researchers are looking for scientific proof for climate models and the IPCC’s calculations.

As I have shown in my story, there is no solid scientific theory for water feedback, the IPCC models with water feedback run very hot indeed, the rewarding basis of the Nobel Prize Committee is a question mark, and what is the worst of all, the lack of moral integrity of the IPCC.


Antero Ollila has been an active researcher since 2011 and published 20 articles on climate change. A major method has been spectral analysis and the main subjects have been the greenhouse effect, warming impacts of greenhouse gases, carbon cycle, the energy balance of the earth, and dynamical simulations of climate.

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