clouds earth from space

Earth’s Clouds Keep Us Cool But Our Clouds Are In Danger

A new paper from the UK Met Office reports on the critical role of aerosols in controlling climate by producing clouds

The paper explains the recent global warming slow down in terms of human aerosol emissions that have been high but are set for dramatic reduction.

In the early 2000’s, the rate of warming at the Earth’s surface was slower than scientists expected, despite the high and rising CO2 in the atmosphere.

While this paper has some doom and gloom as always I provide the very real good news at the end as we can restore the most powerful force of nature Plankton Cooling Clouds.

A new paper, just published in Nature Climate Change, suggests the recent slow down of ‘global warming’ was tied to variations in the Pacific Ocean which were triggered by changing #aerosol levels including emissions from human activity, in particular from increases in emissions from China’s burning of fossil fuels and the clouds that are formed by those technological aerosols.


Global Surface Temperature since 1860, note the slow down around 2007 – click to enlarge

They report on failure of the natural oscillation of temperature in the North Pacific called the ‘decadal oscillation’ (PDO) which has held the title, now dethroned, as the most likely suspect in explaining the past decade of cooler ocean waters there. It is very well established that as the Pacific is the largest ocean on Earth as its temperature goes so does that of our entire blue planet.

However the new paper’s lead author Dr Doug Smith, who heads up the decadal climate prediction research and development team at the British Met Office Hadley Centre, says he his data shows otherwise.

“Although the PDO can vary naturally, our results show that changes in anthropogenic aerosol emissions could be largely responsible for the (recent) negative phase.”

Ocean surface temperature is controlled by clouds and cloudiness is controlled by tiny airborne particles called aerosols, by far the majority of those aerosols are produced by ocean phytoplankton.

The largest source, 3/4ths, of aerosols on this blue planet are natural aerosols produced by ocean plant life, the phytoplankton that are the grass of ocean pastures. Other natural sources include, plants on land, dust that blows in the wind off the land, and dust and gases from volcanic eruptions. We humans are another source from the emissions of all of our fossil fuel and wood burning activities, including our forest fires.


1991 Volcano Pinatubo cools the ocean and the planet for several years – click to enlarge

Aerosols have a powerful cooling effect on this Blue Planet, by stimulating clouds to form and scattering incoming sunlight they prevent about 29% of the Sun’s energy from reaching the Earth and Ocean.

Evidence of the potency of aerosols to produce ocean cooling has been seen in the effect of the 1991 eruption of the Philippine volcano Mt. Pinatubo. It spewed a large amount of ash and aerosols into the global atmosphere. The mineral laden dust stimulated ocean plankton growth which added plankton aerosols  and the clouds they formed to the sun dimming effect of the volcanos ash. The result was several years of dramatic ocean and ‘global’ cooling as seen in both ocean sea levels dropping and a global temperature drop of


Note the blue data set which is low level, plankton clouds, these have been in dramatic decline over the past 30 years. – click to enlarge

A mere 5% increase in clouds could more than compensate for all of global warming due to increase in greenhouse gases from the modern industrial era.

That also means a 5% loss of ‘plankton cooling’ clouds provides ocean and global warming feedback equal to the entire impact of mankind!

The data in the chart on the left shows a ~3% drop of plankton cooling clouds since 1983!

Of special note the IPCC (2007) cites that a mere 1%-2% change in surface convective heating/cooling, aka ‘plankton cooling’ , is sufficient to ‘rival the total forcing of anthropogenic global warming’. 

To place ‘plankton cooling’ into the context of the ‘greenhouse gas blanket effect’ that produces ‘global warming’ here’s the numbers. The greenhouse gas blanket effect from both natural levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and human delivered anthropogenic gases contributes 5% of global warmth. Surely any small steady increase in warmth is going to eventually cook our “Goldilocks planet.’

The percentage of natural greenhouse gases is very tiny compared to the natural levels and thus its potential to create global warming is also small. The bottom line here is that the cooling potential of clouds is at least an order of magnitude larger than the warming potential of CO2. So as we lose the plankton that make our cooling clouds we see that is the major source of ‘global warming.’

The map below illustrates aerosols in the atmosphere and how they have changed over the period of the slowdown. The red and orange areas show the upturn in aerosols, predominantly over China. In contrast, the blue shading show the reduction over Europe and eastern US.

clouds and aerosol map

Click to enlarge

The findings of the MET Office Model make it clear that changing emissions of human-caused aerosols will continue to have an impact on surface warming over the coming years, but in this comes a twist of fate that most would not expect.

“Future reductions in aerosol emissions from China – to improve air quality – could promote a positive phase of the PDO and a period of increased trends in global surface temperatures. There are some signs that this could be happening.” – said Smith.

As success is achieved in reducing emissions including aerosols cloud cover will decrease which will lead to an increased rate of warming.

Other Models

As with all mathematical models of Nature there are always competing models and ideas. One such competitor is Prof Jerry Meehl, from the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAR) in Colorado, who wasn’t involved in the MET Office modelling effort.

Meehl opines that, “aerosol emissions strengthened a naturally occurring cooling phase of the PDO, rather than causing it”. His models suggests that global surface warming may accelerate over the next few years.

Cooling and cloudiness in lock step

Cloudiness and cooling (above and below) in lock step – click to enlarge

However there is something beautiful in the NASA cloud data that reveals the power of natural increasing cloudiness, in 2007-2008 there was a blip in cloudiness and sure enough global warming briefly hit the brakes. Clouds are the answer.

Here’s Where Goldilocks Comes In

What’s missing from this paper and the model(s) behind it is the all important and greatest source of global aerosols, the ocean pasture plant life.

There can be no question that the most abundant source of cloud forming aerosols on this blue planet come from the ocean in the form of phytoplankton gases such as DMS and particulates. It has been reported that at the heart of nearly every raindrop over the oceans lies a fragment of phytoplankton.

Below is the far more important global image you should know about. It is an image that reveals that ours is a cloudy world and those clouds are what keep us in our Goldilocks Zone. Those clouds don’t just appear the way you might think, they are mostly made by plankton!

Global cloud cover 2011-2015

This Global cloud cover map from 2011-2015 shows that our world is a cloudy one, in spite of all those beautiful blue skies pictures we all love. It is no coincidence to see so much cloudiness over the ocean as that is where ocean plant life do their best to make the vast majority of planet cooling clouds.

Earth is a bit on the hot side of our Solar System Goldilocks Zone so we need our plankton cooling or else - click to enlarge

Earth is a bit on the hot side of our Solar System Goldilocks Zone so we need our plankton cooling or else – click to enlarge

Ocean plants, the green plants called phytoplankton, are quite partial to living in what we all like to call a Goldilocks Zone. To keep their blue ocean world from being not too hot, and not too cold, but ahhhhh just right the ocean plants manage the vast majority of this world’s carbon.

They also suffer from sunburn just like you and I so eons ago they evolved the ability to make clouds to keep the suns influence on their blue planet under control. They make clouds by making and emitting into the air various chemicals and aerosols that keep the majority of their blue planet in the shade most of the time.


Chart of collapse of ocean plankton around the world. All but the dustiest ocean basins are being decimated. Click to enlarge

A recent report in the science journal PNAS details the disappearing plankton cooling fog and low clouds along the west coast of N. America which has suffered a 33% loss over the course of the past century! That decline is in lock step with decline of ocean phytoplankton in the Pacific, which has suffered a 26% loss of ocean phytoplankton in recent decades.

Plant life in the oceans, the phyto-plankton, has been in cataclysmic decline for at least 50 years based on real observations not fuzzy climate models. The rate of phytoplankton/chlorophyll decline is ‘conservatively’ reported at being 1% per year. Ocean plankton produce molecules (aerosols) that make clouds which shade the ocean and reflect sunlight back into space (albedo).

albedo declines

Earth’s Albedo is changing, especially over the ocean pastures, 2000-2011 change, red=losses

Disappearing plankton means fewer clouds and greater ocean warming. This observation is a perfect fit to explain global ocean warming. (Note: Ocean temperature is the most powerful factor in global warming models.)

To put that ocean plankton peril of 1% collapse each year into context one is reminded that the oceans cover 72% of this blue planet. And that doesn’t mean the remaining 28% of the planet is covered with green plants, in reality less than 15% of the ‘earth’ supports and sustains grass and their taller but rarer cousins, trees. 99% of life on “Earth” lives in the oceans.

The world shares and shows great alarm at the loss of 20% of Amazon plant biomass while neglecting 50 times that amount of ocean plant life that we have eradicated. From a terrestrial point of view this loss of plant biomass in the oceans is equal to losing an entire Amazon Rainforest every 5 years, that’s 10 Amazon’s gone in the past 50 years in a world that shows great concern about the loss to date of 20% of the actual earth-bound Amazon.

If the MET Office is correct then this blue planet is about to be in big trouble as human aerosols which have been propping up the planets cloudiness are about to disappear multiplying the dire consequences of our unabated ocean plant apocalypse.

Here’s What We Must Do To Avoid Disaster

Restoring Ocean Plankton Pastures: It Just Works!

The simple fact is that the oceans have become and are becoming ever more desolate blue deserts. This is happening because the vital mineral micro-nutrients they require for their ocean pasture grass to grow, their phyto-plankton, is missing as dust in the wind has been drastically reduced due to global greening effects of our high and rising CO2. This high CO2 has produced dramatic global greening and as we all know green stuff covers the ground… so here’s something easy to remember…
More grass growing means less dust blowing (follow this link to read more).

We must return and replenish the mineral rich dust our fossil fuel age has denied the ocean pastures. As we do this they return immediately to historic health and abundance. Fortunately this takes just a fraction of the time it has taken our industrial age to create the global CO2 crisis.

By restoring ocean plankton cooling capacity to recent levels of health and abundance we will save our world at a cost of mere millions per year instead of the trillions of planned ‘carbon taxes’ to say nothing of the collapse of modern technological societies. Of course this regeneration of the largest part of Nature, the 72% that is oceans, at such low-cost is anathema to those seeking their share of the trillion-dollar per year terrestrial solutions that cannot cure the crisis. Ces’t la vie.

The ocean solution it turns out is perfectly safe, sustainable, fast, and incredibly low-cost – I like to say it is ‘dirt cheap’ as dirt is the single magic dust that the oceans are dying for lack of. Restoring the oceans will also bring back the fish.


Click to read more…

Regenerating ocean pastures in the World’s Seven Seas will mean billions of additional fish will every year fill fishermen’s nets to overflowing providing sufficient food to help end world hunger. When ocean pastures return to health and abundance it takes only a few years, 2-5, for these billions of additional fish to be providing nutritious food for all.

The cost will be a scant few millions of dollars per year, easily affordable by the just a very few of we common people. The ocean pastures will return to historic health and abundance when, with our help, they repurpose billions of tonnes of CO2 into fresh ocean life, that is the simple scientific fact of photosynthesis.


Here’s a photo (below) that speaks a thousand words. In 2012 with just 10 shipmates I took a modest fishing boat out to sea in the NE Pacific. We carefully spread 100 tonnes of mineral dust on a dying ocean pasture. The cost of that blessed dust is less than $50,000 (fifty thousand dollars). The ocean pasture turned from being a blue desert into a lush green pasture. The very next year the fish came back, hundreds of millions of additional salmon.

feed and save the world

Click to read more

My 2012 ocean pasture restoration project worked so well it brought back record salmon returns to Alaska the very next year where 50 million fish were expected to be caught instead 226 million were caught ( final tally). Scores of millions of meals of nutritious fish went from these nets onto the plates of American children via domestic food aid programs.


Here’s a link to learn how we can and must restore 10 Amazon Rainforests of ‘plankton cooling’ ocean plant life immediately.