The Cold Equations

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I’ve tried writing this piece several times already. I’ll give it another shot, I haven’t been happy with my previous efforts. It is an important subject that I want to get right. The title comes from a 1954 science fiction story that I read when I was maybe ten or eleven years old. The story goes something like this:

A girl stows away on an emergency space pod taking anti-plague medicine to some planetary colonists. She is discovered after the mother ship has left. Unfortunately, the cold equations show that the pod doesn’t have enough fuel to land with her weight on board, and if they dump the medicine to lighten the ship the whole colony will perish … so she has to be jettisoned through the air lock to die in space.

I was hugely impressed by the story. I liked math in any case, and this was the first time that I saw how equations can provide us with undeniable and unalterable results. And I saw that the equations about available fuel and weight weren’t affected by human emotions, they either were or weren’t true, regardless of how I or anyone might feel about it.

Lately I’ve been looking at the equations used by the AGW scientists and by their models. Figure 1 shows the most fundamental climate equation, which is almost tautologically true:

Figure 1. The most basic climate equation says that energy in equals energy out plus energy going into the ocean. Q is the sum of the energy entering the system over some time period. dH/dt is the change in ocean heat storage from the beginning to the end of the time period. E + dH/dt is the sum of the outgoing energy over the same time period. Units in all cases are zettajoules (ZJ, or 10^21 joules) / year.

This is the same relationship that we see in economics, where what I make in one year (Q in our example) equals what I spend in that year (E) plus the year-over-year change in my savings (dH/dt).

However, from there we set sail on uncharted waters …

I will take my text from HEAT CAPACITY, TIME CONSTANT, AND SENSITIVITY OF EARTH’S CLIMATE SYSTEM, Stephen E. Schwartz, June 2007 (hereinafter (S2007). The study is widely accepted, being cited 49 times in three short years. Here’s what the study says, inter alia (emphasis mine).

Earth’s climate system consists of a very close radiative balance between absorbed shortwave (solar) radiation Q and longwave (thermal infrared) radiation emitted at the top of the atmosphere E.

Q ≈ E                                                                       (1)

The global and annual mean absorbed shortwave irradiance Q  = γ J, where γ [gamma] is the mean planetary coalbedo (complement of albedo) and J is the mean solar irradiance at the top of the atmosphere (1/4 the Solar constant) ≈ 343 W m-2. Satellite measurements yield Q ≈ 237 W m-2 [Ramanathan 1987; Kiehl and Trenberth, 1997], corresponding to γ ≈ 0.69. The global and annual mean emitted longwave irradiance may be related to the global and annual mean surface temperature GMST Ts as E = ε σ Ts^4 where ε (epsilon) is the effective planetary longwave emissivity, defined as the ratio of global mean longwave flux emitted at the top of the atmosphere to that calculated by the Stefan-Boltzmann equation at the global mean surface temperature; σ (sigma) is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant.

Within this single-compartment energy balance model [e.g., North et al., 1981; Dickinson, 1982; Hansen et al., 1985; Harvey, 2000; Andreae et al., 2005, Boer et al., 2007] an energy imbalance Q − E arising from a secular perturbation in Q or E results in a rate of change of the global heat content given by

dH/dt = Q – E                                                               (2)

where dH/dt is the change in heat content of the climate system.

Hmmm … I always get nervous when someone tries to slip an un-numbered equation into a paper … but I digress. Their Equation (2) is the same as my Figure 1 above, which was encouraging since I’d drawn Figure 1 before reading S2007. S2007 goes on to say (emphasis mine):

The Ansatz of the energy balance model is that dH/dt may be related to the change in GMST [global mean surface temperature] as

dH/dt = C dTs/dt                          (3)

where C is the pertinent heat capacity. Here it must be stressed that C is an effective heat capacity that reflects only that portion of the global heat capacity that is coupled to the perturbation on the time scale of the perturbation. In the present context of global climate change induced by changes in atmospheric composition on the decade to century time scale the pertinent heat capacity is that which is subject to change in heat content on such time scales. Measurements of ocean heat content over the past 50 years indicate that this heat capacity is dominated by the heat capacity of the upper layers of the world ocean [Levitus et al., 2005].

In other words (neglecting the co-albedo for our current purposes), they are proposing two substitutions in the equation shown in Figure 1. They are saying that

E = ε σ Ts^4

and that

dH/dt = C dTs/dt

which gives them

Q = ε σ Ts^4 + C dTs/dt                     (4)

Figure 2 shows these two substitutions:

Figure 2. A graphic view of the two underlying substitutions done in the “single-compartment energy balance model” theoretical climate explanation. Original equation before substitution is shown in light brown at the lower left, with the equation after substitution below it.

Why are these substitutions important? Note that in Equation (4), as shown in Figure 2, there are only two variables — radiation and surface temperature. If their substitutions are valid, this means that a radiation imbalance can only be rectified by increasing temperature. Or as Dr. Andrew Lacis of NASA GISS recently put it (emphasis mine):

As I have stated earlier, global warming is a cause and effect problem in physics that is firmly based on accurate measurement and well established physical processes. In particular, the climate of Earth is the result of energy balance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation, which, measured at the top of the atmosphere, is strictly a radiative energy balance problem. Since radiative transfer is a well established and well understood physics process, we have accurate knowledge of what is happening to the global energy balance of Earth. And as I noted earlier, conservation of energy leaves no other choice for the global equilibrium temperature of the Earth but to increase in response to the increase in atmospheric CO2.

Dr. Lacis’ comments are an English language exposition of the S2007 Equation (4) above. His statements rest on Equation (4). If Equation (4) is not true, then his claim is not true. And Dr. Lacis’ claim, that increasing GHG forcing can only be balanced by a temperature rise, is central to mainstream AGW climate science.

In addition, there’s a second reason that their substitutions are important. In the original equation, there are three variables — Q, E, and H. But since there are only two variables (Ts and Q) in the S2007 version of the equation, you can solve for one in terms of the other. This allows them to calculate the evolution of the surface temperature, given estimates of the future forcing … or in other words, to model the future climate.

So, being a naturally suspicious fellow, I was very curious about these two substitutions. I was particularly curious because if either substitution is wrong, then their whole house of cards collapses. Their claim, that a radiation imbalance can only be rectified by increasing temperature, can’t stand unless both substitutions are valid.

SUBSTITUTION 1

Let me start with the substitution described in Equation (3):

dH/dt = C dTs/dt                          (3)

The first thing that stood out for me was their description of Equation (3) as “the Ansatz of the energy balance model”.

“And what”, sez I, “is an ‘Ansatz’ when it’s at home?” I’m a self-educated reformed cowboy, it’s true, but a very well-read reformed cowboy, and I never heard of the Ansatz.

So I go to Wolfram’s Mathworld, the internet’s very best math resource, where I find:

Ansatz

An ansatz is an assumed form for a mathematical statement that is not based on any underlying theory or principle.

Now, that’s got to give you a warm, secure feeling. This critical equation, this substitution of the temperature change as a proxy for the ocean heat content change, upon which rests the entire multi-billion-dollar claim that increased GHGs will inevitably and inexorably increase the temperature, is described by an enthusiastic AGW adherent as “not based on any underlying theory or principle”. Remember that if either substitution goes down, the whole “if GHG forcings change, temperature must follow” claim goes down … and for this one they don’t even offer a justification or a citation, it’s merely an Ansatz.

That’s a good thing to know, and should likely receive wider publication …

It put me in mind of the old joke about “How many legs does a cow have if you call a tail a leg?”

“Four, because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

In the same way, saying that the change oceanic heat content (dH/dt) is some linear transformation of the change in surface temperature (C dTs/dt) doesn’t make it so.

In fact, on an annual level the correlation between annual dH/dt and dTs/dt is not statistically significant (r^2=0.04, p=0.13). In addition, the distributions of dH/dt and dTs/dt are quite different, both at a quarterly and an annual level. See Appendix 1 and 4 for details. So no, we don’t have any observational evidence that their substitution is valid. Quite the opposite, there is little correlation between dH/dt and dTs/dt.

There is a third and more subtle problem with comparing dH/dt and dTs/dt. This is that H (ocean heat content) is a different kind of animal from the other three variables Q (incoming radiation), E (outgoing radiation), and Ts (global mean surface air temperature). The difference is that H is a quantity and Q, E, and Ts are flows.

Since Ts is a flow, it can be converted from the units of Kelvins (or degrees C) to the units of watts/square metre (W/m2) using the blackbody relationship σ Ts^4.

And since the time derivative of the quantity H is a flow, dH/dt, we can (for example) compare E + dH/dt to Q, as shown in Figure 1. We can do this because we are comparing flows to flows. But they want to substitute a change in a flow (dT/dt) for a flow (dH/dt). While that is possible, it requires special circumstances.

Now, the change in heat content can be related to the change in temperature in one particular situation. This is where something is being warmed or cooled through a temperature difference between the object and the surrounding atmosphere. For example, when you put something in a refrigerator, it cools based on the difference between the temperature of the object and the temperature of the air in the refrigerator. Eventually, the object in the refrigerator takes up the temperature of the refrigerator air. And as a result, the change in temperature of the object is a function of the difference in temperature between the object and the surrounding air. So if the refrigerator air temperature were changing, you could make a case that dH/dt would be related to dT/dt.

But is that happening in this situation? Let’s have a show of hands of those who believe that as in a refrigerator, the temperature of the air over the ocean is what is driving the changes in ocean heat content … because I sure don’t believe that. I think that’s 100% backwards. However, Schwartz seems to believe that, as he says in discussing the time constant:

… where C’ is the heat capacity of the deep ocean, dH’/dt is the rate of increase of the heat content in this reservoir, and ∆T is the temperature increase driving that heat transfer.

In addition to the improbability of changes in air temperature driving the changes in ocean heat content, the size of the changes in ocean heat content also argues against it. From 1955 to 2005, the ocean heat content changed by about 90 zettajoules. It also changed by about 90 zettajoules from one quarter to the next in 1983 … so the idea that the temperature changes (dT/dt) could be driving (and thus limiting) the changes in ocean heat content seems very unlikely.

Summary of Issues with Substitution 1:   dH/dt = C dT/dt

1. The people who believe in the theory offer no theoretical or practical basis for the substitution.

2. The annual correlation of dH/dt and dT/dt is very small and not statistically significant.

3. Since H is a quantity and T is a flow, there is no a priori reason to assume a linear relationship between the two.

4. The difference in the distributions of the two datasets dH/dt and dT/dt (see Appendix 1 and 4) shows that neither ocean warming nor ocean cooling are related to dT/dt.

5. The substitution implies that air temperature is “driving that heat transfer”, in Schwartz’s words. It seems improbable that the wisp of atmospheric mass is driving the massive oceanic heat transfer changes.

6. The large size of the quarterly heat content changes indicates that the heat content changes are not limited by the corresponding temperature changes.

My conclusion from that summary? The substitution of C dT/dt for dH/dt is not justified by either observations or theory. While it is exceedingly tempting to use it because it allows the solution of the equation for the temperature, you can’t make a substitution just because you really need it in order to solve the equation.

SUBSTITUTION 2: E = ε σ Ts^4

This is the sub rosa substitution, the one without a number. Regarding this one, Schwartz says:

The global and annual mean emitted longwave irradiance may be related to the global and annual mean surface temperature GMST Ts as

E = ε σ Ts^4

where ε (epsilon) is the effective planetary longwave emissivity, defined as the ratio of global mean longwave flux emitted at the top of the atmosphere [TOA] to that calculated by the Stefan-Boltzmann equation at the global mean surface temperature; σ (sigma) is the Stefan-Boltzmann constant.

Let’s unpick this one a little and see what they have done here. It is an alluring idea, in part because it looks like the standard Stefan-Boltzmann equation … except that they have re-defined epsilon ε as “effective planetary emissivity”. Let’s follow their logic.

First, in their equation, E is the top of atmosphere longwave flux, which I will indicate as Etoa to distinguish it from surface flux Esurf. Next, they say that epsilon ε is the long-term average top-of-atmosphere (TOA) longwave flux [ which I’ll call Avg(Etoa) ] divided by the long-term average surface blackbody longwave flux [ Avg(Esurf) ]. In other words:

ε = Avg(Etoa) /Avg(Esurf)

Finally, the surface blackbody longwave flux Esurf is given by Stefan-Boltzmann as

Esurf = σ Ts^4.

Substituting these into their un-numbered Equation (?) gives us

Etoa = Avg(Etoa) / Avg(Esurf) * Esurf

But this leads us to

Etoa / Esurf = Avg(Etoa) / Avg(Esurf)

which clearly is not true in general for any given year, and which is only true for long-term averages. But for long-term averages, this reduces to the meaningless identity Avg(x) / Avg(anything) = Avg(x) / Avg(anything).

Summary of Substitution 2: E = ε σ Ts^4

This substitution is, quite demonstrably, either mathematically wrong or meaninglessly true as an identity. The cold equations don’t allow that kind of substitution, even to save the girl from being jettisoned. Top of atmosphere emissions are not related to surface temperatures in the manner they claim.

My conclusions, in no particular order:

• Obviously, I think I have shown that neither substitution can be justified, either by theory, by mathematics, or by observations.

• Falsifying either one of their two substitutions in the original equation has far-reaching implications.

• At a minimum, falsifying either substitution means that in addition to Q and Ts, there is at least one other variable in the equation. This means that the equation cannot be directly solved for Ts. And this, of course, means that the future evolution of the planetary temperature cannot be calculated using just the forcing.

• In response to my posting about the linearity of the GISS model, Paul_K pointed out the Schwartz S2007 paper. He also showed that the GISS climate model slavishly follows the simple equations in the S2007 paper. Falsifying the substitutions thus means that the GISS climate model (and the S2007 equations) are seen to be exercises in parameter fitting. Yes, they can can give an approximation of reality … but that is from the optimized fitting of parameters, not from a proper theoretical foundation.

• Falsifying either substitution means that restoring radiation balance is not a simple function of surface temperature Ts. This means that there are more ways to restore the radiation balance in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Dr. Lacis …

As always, I put this up here in front of Mordor’s unblinking Eye of the Internet to encourage people to point out my errors. That’s science. Please point them out with gentility and decorum towards myself and others, and avoid speculating on my or anyone’s motives or honesty. That’s science as well.

w.

Appendix 1: Distributions of dH/dt and dT/dt

There are several ways we can see if their substitution of C dT/dt for dH/dt makes sense and is valid. I usually start by comparing distributions. This is because a linear relationship, such as is proposed in their substitution, cannot change the shape of a distribution. (I use violinplots of this kind of data because they show the structure of the dataset. See Appendix 2 below for violinplots of common distributions.)

A linear transformation can make the violinplot of the distribution taller or shorter, and it can move the distribution vertically. (A negative relationship can also invert the distribution about a horizontal axis, but they are asserting a positive relationship).But there is no linear transformation (of the type y = m x + b) that can change the shape of the distribution. The “m x” term changes the height of the violinplot, and the “b” term moves it vertically. But a linear transformation can’t change one shape into a different shape.

First, a bit of simplification. The “” operator indicates “change since time X”. We only have data back to 1955 for ocean heat content. Since the choice of “X” is arbitrary, for this analysis we can say that e.g. ∆T is shorthand for T(t) – T(1955). But for the differentiation operation, this makes no difference, because the T(1955) figure is a constant that drops out of the differentiation. So we are actually comparing dH/dt(annual change in ocean heat content) with C dT/dt (annual change in temperature)

Figure 2 compares the distributions of dH/dt and dT/dt. Figure A1 shows the yearly change in the heat content H (dH/dt) and the yearly change in the temperature T (dT/dt).

Figure A1 Violinplot comparison of the annual changes in ocean heat content dH/dt and annual changes in global surface temperature dT/dt. Width of the violinplot is proportional to the number of observations at that value (density plot). The central black box is a boxplot, which covers the interquartile range (half of the data are within that range). The white dot shows the median value.

In addition to letting us compare the shapes, looking at the distribution lets us side-step all problems with the exact alignment of the data. Alignment can present difficulties, especially when we are comparing a quantity (heat content) and a flow (temperature or forcing). Comparing the distributions avoids all these alignment issues.

With that in mind, what we see in Figure A1 doesn’t look good at all. We are looking for a positive linear correlation between the two datasets, but the shapes are all wrong. For a linear correlation to work, the two distributions have to be of the same shape. But these are of very different shapes.

What do the shapes of these violinplots show?

For the ocean heat content changes, the peak density at ~ – 6 ZJ shows that overall the most common year-to-year change is a slight cooling. When warming occurs, however, it tends to be larger than the cooling. The broad top of the violinplot means that there are an excess of big upwards jumps in ocean heat content.

For the temperature changes, the reverse is true. The most common change is a slight warming of about 0.07°C. There are few examples of large warmings, whereas large coolings are more common. So there will be great difficulties equating a linear transform of the datasets.

The dimensions of the problem become more apparent when we look at the distributions of the increases (in heat content or temperature) versus the distributions of the decreases in the corresponding variables. Figure A2 compares those distributions:

 

Figure A2. Comparison of the distribution of the increases (upper two panels) and the decreases (lower two panels) in annual heat content and temperature. “Equal-area” violinplots are used.

Here the differences between the two datasets are seen to be even more pronounced. The most visible difference is between the increases. Many of the annual increases of the ocean heat content are large, with a quarter of them more than 20 ZJ/yr and a broad interquartile range (black box, which shows the range of the central half of the data). On the other hand, there are few large increases of the temperature, mostly outliers beyond the upper “whisker” of the boxplot.

The reverse is also true, with most of the heat content decreases being small compared to the corresponding temperature decreases. Remember that a linear transformation such as they propose, of the form (y = m x + b), has to work for both the increases and the decreases … which in this case is looking extremely doubtful.

My interpretation of Figure A2 is as follows. The warming and cooling of the atmosphere is governed by a number of processes that take place throughout the body of the atmosphere (e.g. longwave radiation absorption and emission, shortwave absorption, vertical convection, condensation, polewards advection). The average of these in the warming and cooling directions are not too dissimilar.

The ocean, on the other hand, can only cool by releasing heat from the upper surface. This is a process that has some kind of average value around -8 ZJ/year. The short box of the boxplot (encompassing the central half of data points) shows that the decreases in ocean heat content are clustered around that value.

Unlike the slow ocean cooling, the ocean can warm quickly through the deep penetration of sunlight into the mixed layer. This allows the ocean to warm much more rapidly than it is able to cool. This is why there are an excess of large increases in ocean heat content.

And this difference in the rates of ocean warming and cooling is the fatal flaw in their claim. The different distributions for ocean warming and ocean cooling indicate to me that they are driven by different mechanisms. The Equation (3) substitution seen in S2007 would mean that the ocean warming and cooling can be represented solely by the proxy of changes in surface temperature.

But the data indicates the ocean is warming and cooling without much regard to the change in temperature. The most likely source of this is from sunlight deeply heating the mixed layer. Notice the large number of ocean heat increases greater than 20 ZJ/year, as compared to the scarcity of similarly sized heat losses. The observations show that this (presumably) direct deep solar warming both a) is not a function of the surface temperature, and b) does not affect the surface temperature much. The distributions show that the heat is going into the ocean quickly in chunks, and coming out more slowly and regularly over time.

In summary, the large differences between the distributions of dH/dt and dT/dt, combined with the small statistical correlation between the two, argue strongly against the validity of the substitution.

Appendix 2: Violinplots

I use violinplots extensively because they reveal a lot about the distribution of a dataset. They are a combination of a density plot and a box plot. Figure A3 shows the violin plots and the corresponding simple boxplots for several common distributions.

Figure A3. Violin plots and boxplots. Each plot shows the distribution of 20,000 random numbers generated using the stated distribution. “Normal>0” is a set comprised all of the positive datapoints in the adjacent “Normal” dataset.

Because the violin plot is a density function it “rounds the corners” on the Uniform distribution, as well as the bottoms of the Normal>0 and the Zipf distributions. Note that the distinct shape of the Zipf distribution makes it easy to distinguish from the others.

Appendix 3: The Zipf Distribution

Figure A3. Violinplot of the Zipf distribution for N= 70, s = 0.3. Y-axis labels are nominal values.

The distinguishing characteristics of the Zipf distribution, from the top of Figure A3 down, are:

• An excess of extreme data points, shown in the widened upper tip of the violinplot.

• A “necked down” or at least parallel area below that, where there is little or no data.

• A widely flared low base which has maximum flare not far from the bottom.

• A short lower “whisker” on the boxplot (the black line extending below the blue interquartile box) that extends to the base of the violinplot

• An upper whisker on the boxplot which terminates below the necked down area.

Appendix 4: Quarterly Data

The issue is, can the change in temperature be used as a proxy for the change in ocean heat content? We can look at this question in greater detail, because we have quarterly data from Levitus. We can compare that quarterly heat content data to quarterly GISSTEMP data. Remember that the annual data shown in Figures A1 and A2 are merely annual averages of the quarterly data shown below in Figures A4 and A5. Figure A4 shows the distributions of those two quarterly datasets, and lets us investigate the effects of averaging on distributions:

Figure A4. Comparison of the distribution of the changes in the respective quarterly datasets.

The shape of the distribution of the heat content is interesting. I’m always glad to see that funny kind of shape, what I call a “manta ray” shape, it tells me I’m looking at real data. What you see there is what can be described as a “double Zipf distribution”.

The Zipf distribution is a very common distribution in nature. It is characterized by having a few really, really large excursions from the mean. It is the Zipf distribution that gives rise to the term “Noah Effect”, where the largest in a series of natural events (say floods) is often much, much larger than the rest, and much larger than a normal distribution would allow. Violinplots clearly display this difference in distribution shape, as can be seen in the bottom part of the heat content violinplot (blue) in Figure A4. Appendix 3 shows an example of an actual Zipf distribution with a discussion of the distinguishing features (also shown in Appendix 2):

The “double” nature of the Zipf distribution I commented on above can be seen when we examine the quarterly increases in heat and temperature versus the decreases in heat and temperature, as shown in Figure A5:

Figure A5. Comparison of the distribution of the increases (upper two panels) and the decreases (lower two panels) in quarterly heat content (blue) and quarterly temperature (green)

The heat content data (blue) for both the increases and decreases shows the typical characteristics of a Zipf distribution, including the widened peak, the “necking” below the peak, and the flared base. The lower left panel shows a classic Zipf distribution (in an inverted form).

What do the distributions of the upward and downward movements of the variables in Figure A5 show us? Here again we see the problem we saw in the annual distributions. The distributions for heat content changes are Zipf distributions, and are quite different in shape from the distributions of the temperature changes. Among other differences, the inter-quartile boxes of the boxplots show that the ocean heat content change data is much more centralized than the temperature change data.

In addition, the up- and down- distributions for the temperature changes are at least similar in shape, whereas the shapes of the up- and down- heat content change distributions are quite dissimilar. This difference in the upper and lower distributions is what creates the “manta-ray” shape shown in Figure A4. And the correlation is even worse than with the annual data, that is to say none.

So, as with the annual data, the underlying quarterly data leads us to the same conclusion: there’s no way that we can use dT/dt as a proxy for dH/dt.

Appendix 5: Units

We have a choice in discussing these matters. We can use watts per square metre (W m-2). The forcings (per IPCC) have a change since 1955 of around +1.75 W/m2.

We can also use megaJoules per square metre per year (MJ m-2 y-1). The conversion is:

1 watt per square metre (W m-2) = 1 joule/second per square metre (J sec-1 m-2) times 31.6E6 seconds / year = 31.6 MJ per square metre per year (MJ m-2 yr-1). Changes in forcing since 1955 are about +54 MJ per square metre per year.

Finally, we can use zettaJoules (ZJ, 10^21 joules) per year for the entire globe. The conversion there is

1 W/m2 = 1 joule/second per square metre (J sec-1 m-2) times 31.6E6 seconds / year times 5.11E14 square metres/globe = 16.13 ZJ per year (ZJ yr-1). Changes in forcing since 1955 are about +27 ZJ per year. I have used zettaJoules per year in this analysis, but any unit will do.

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Roger Carr

I am going to enjoy your autobiography (of a cowboy) more, when it is published, Willis, because I believe I will actually understand it… but I am trying, here.

kim

They seem to think that extra energy can only turn into heat. Anybody ask the energy about such slavery?
==============

Ceri Reid

This is interesting. You should submit it to a peer reviewed publication. If you’ve gone wrong somewhere, I’m sure a reviewer will point it out. If you haven’t made a mistake, then it should be made known in the conventional academic way.

cal

I have not finished reading all the post yet but I had to stop at this point to make a comment.
“Since Ts is a flow, it can be converted from the units of Kelvins (or degrees C) to the units of watts/square metre (W/m2) using the blackbody relationship σ Ts^4.”
I think this is a mistake. Temperature is not a flow. It is not “converted” to a power by multiplying by sigma. The output of the equation is a power density because sigma has the dimensions of Wm^2K^4.
Most of your arguments still stand but it is a pity that you make this sort of error since it is easy for others to dismiss some very good points because of it. I can imagine some other physicists just stopping at this point, which would be a shame.

Ken Hall

Outstanding work there Willis as usual. I am most grateful to you for transposing an almost meaningless gibberish of mathematical slights of hand and fraudulent equations into a clearly understandable format and by so doing, highlighting the weakness at the heart of the alarmist’s mathematics. Math itself does not lie, people sometimes use math to lie, and when they need an Ansantz to make their sums work, then you know that they are in trouble. This amounts to fraud on a massive global scale.

Thank you! I read that story about 50 years ago and it’s come to mind every since, but I could never recall the name of it. I remember fighting with the conclusion for days after, trying to come up with some alternative. I figured if they’d jettisoned all their clothes and all the packaging for their supplies, not to mention various personal items that they should have compensated for her weight. Still, it was a sober look at the inexorability of numbers.
Oh — and an excellent article. I think the Ansatz Club would be an excellent name for a global warming rock band.

The Cold Equations plot sounded familiar to me. There is an 1989 episode of The Twilight Zone, Season 3, Episode 16 that uses that story, and has that title.

David Baigent

I am impressed..
“Apples and oranges”
db..

Hector M.

Willis,
your comparison with income and savings at the beginning of your piece is somewhat imprecise. At the individual level, as you said, your income equals the sum of your expenditure and the the net amount saved during a period. But at the level of the economy, the amount saved by everybody should equal the total amount invested in new infrastructure or equipment; therefore in the end all goods and services produced are sold, and product equals income. To achieve that equality, prices may have to go up or down (it is an ex post identity). The whole Keynesian theory is based on the idea that planned investment may be lower than available savings, thus producing unintended unemployment, and a product that is lower than potentially could be.
As the analogy is not perfect, I suggest you drop it entirely.

LazyTeenager

The difference is that H is a quantity and Q, E, and Ts are flows
-/——-
You were doing OK until you got to this bit. T is not a flow. It has the wrong units to be a flow.
At a more fundamental level it is a form of energy and more particularly it is that portion of the energy in a substance that is due to random kinetic energy of the molecules that make it up,

Baa Humbug

Thanks once again Willis, I look forward to the “Joe Sixpack” summary.
I guess the AGW theory would work out fine if 70% of the surface of the Earth wasn’t covered with deep oceans.
Also, if the atmosphere could heat the oceans, then the mean T of oceans would be 14-15DegC, (same as the atmosphere, but alas the mean T of oceans is about 3DegC) especially since it’s been about 12,000yrs since the height of the last ice age. I guess atmosphere needs more time to keep heating the oceans.
By the way, Ansatz = Arrhenius

LazyTeenager

because I sure don’t believe that. I think that’s 100% backwards. However, Schwartz seems to believe that, as he says in discussing the time constant:
———-
It’s like coming across a kitten tangled in a ball of wool. How do I disentagle this mess. Do I try or just cut it apart with a pair if scissors?
Let’s be patient.
The assumption that the ocean heat content changes are driven by transfer of heat from the atmosphere is probably a misinterpretation of what Schwartz says. I suspect that it really means transfer of heat from surface water to deeper water.

cal

Further to my last post I think the your sentence “So if the refrigerator air temperature were changing, you could make a case that dH/dt would be related to dT/dt.” is also misleading.
dH/dt is always proportional to the temperature difference and not the rate of change of temperature. This is just not a good analogy. In a refrigerator the contents will cool asymptotically to the temperature of the chamber. If the chamber is itself cooling then the equation is much more complex but is very unlikely to be proportional to the rate of cooling of the refrigerator. The situation you describe is only close to proportional if the contents of the refrigerator were already at the same temperature as the refrigerator. Then fluctuations in the regrigerator temperature would cause proportional flows of heat into and out of the contents.
The same argument can be used against the equations used by Scharwtz. This could possibly be true if the temperature of the sea were always in dynamic equilibrium with the surrounding air. However we know from experience (a shallow pond for example) that the absorption of energy is mainly dependent on how sunny it is. You only have to see the speed that frost vanishes on a cold sunny day compared to how it hangs around on a slightly warmer but cloudier day to see that conduction cannot compete with direct radiation.
I am not trying to argue against the point you are making. I think you are saying that the sea heats the air and not the other way round and I think this has got to be 99% true. I just don’t think that it is particularly well argued.

Actually the substitutions are fine — eps sig Ts^4 is just the blackbody law, and C dTs/dt is definitional. The problem — the reason it’s ONLY an Ansatz — is that they assume (a) that epsilon, the coalbedo, is a constant (as opposed to being a function of temperature and/or something else), and (b) they assume they can average temperature and heat capacity into a point radiator and heatsink.
Since neither of these assumptions is true, it’s totally illegitimate to talk about an effect that’s 0.0027 of the main flow as if the physics demanded it. But there’s nothing wrong with the math, per se.

Baa Humbug

cal says:
January 28, 2011 at 3:38 am

I think this is a mistake. Temperature is not a flow. It is not “converted” to a power by multiplying by sigma.

I’m sure Willis will be along in a minute, but until then…
From http://www.chem1.com

Heat is the quantity of thermal energy that enters or leaves a body.
Temperature measures the average translational kinetic energy of the molecules in a body.
Energy is measured in joules, and temperature in degrees. This difference reflects the important distinction between energy and temperature:
* We can say that the 10 g of water we heated on the stove now contains 100 J more energy than it did before. And because energy is an extensive quantity, we know that a 5-g portion of this warmer water contains 50 J more energy than it did originally.
* Temperature, by contrast, is not a measure of quantity; being an intensive property, it is more of a “quality” that describes the “intensity” with which thermal energy manifests itself.


I hope physicists keep reading to the end and provide feedback.

“And what”, sez I, “is an ‘Ansatz’
Coincidently, on January 8, I came upon that word while reading a post by the physicist Luboš Motl at:
http://motls.blogspot.com/2011/01/climate-sensitivity-from-linear-fit.html
I even emailed the mathworld web page link I found after doing a search to myself so I could review it again, and again later (on my smartphone).

RalphieGM

As to energy, why is sun/ earth gravity neglected in radiation balances?
I thought differential gravity was the mechanism that roils the core forcing huge temperatures a few miles below our feet ( not quite the million degrees Mr. Gore has spoken about ), but additional heat nevertheless.

BargHumer

I am an engineer, not a scientist, so I understand some of this but not all. The comment from Cal is interesting and seems to call in to question the statement “The difference is that H is a quantity and Q, E, and Ts are flows.” Perhaps this needs some clarification by the author.
I can measure the temperature of an air flow in degrees without defining the flow rate, and I can measure the temperature (degrees) of a heating element in order to control it without considering it to be a flow.
Anyway, this was a good read, and I wish I could understand it all.

P. Solar

Willis, there is something fundamentally wrong with the basic physics of this treatise:
dH/dt = Q – E (2)
where dH/dt is the change in heat content of the climate system.
There is a principal called dimensional analysis that states that both sides of an equation must be of the same dimensional nature. Dimension here does not mean “size” dimension but the nature of the quantities treated. ie if one side is energy the other side is energy. If one side a force the other side must be able to resolved to similar units. The base “dimensions” are mass length and time, but the principal can be applied in derived quantities as well, like energy.
So , the crux: you can’t equate a rate of change of energy dH/dt to and energy , Q-E.
>>
where dH/dt is the change in heat content of the climate system.
>>
This is clearly wrong. The d/dt nomenclature depicts a rate of change not a change.
Equation 2 could have a *change* in heat content and would make sense this would be dH or delta H NOT dH/dt. That could be just a carless error in nomenclature, but for the fact that it is used as a *rate of change* in what follows:
Equation 3 is correct dimensionally.
dH/dt = C dTs/dt (3)
but when this is substitued to give equation 4 you’re back in trouble.
Q = ε σ Ts^4 + C dTs/dt (4)
Now you’re back to adding incompatible quantities. The RHS is adding an energy to a rate of change of energy.
This is just nonsense. It’s like adding a distance to a speed.
eg.
distance to end position = starting postition + 30 mph !?
It’s gobbledy-gook.
I appreciate you seem to have cribbed this analysis from the quoted papers and I don’t have time to download them and check over the papers, so either you have misunderstood and misquoted what was in the papers or the authors that you cribbed don’t understand basic physics they are using either.
That latter possibility would not totally surprise me in climate science.
I also do not have time now to go through the rest of this lengthy post so I’ll just inform you of the error and let you dig through the implications. Since this is the very foundation it likely means the rest is false.
If you’ve had difficulty putting this together , maybe this is why…
Hope this info helps.

P. Solar

OK , I’ve seen that Q seems to change nature depending where you use it. You say it is in ZJ but summed over a year. It appears it is mean to be rate of change of energy elsewhere it’s and intensity:
The global and annual mean absorbed shortwave irradiance Q = γ J, where γ [gamma] is the mean planetary coalbedo (complement of albedo) and J is the mean solar irradiance at the top of the atmosphere (1/4 the Solar constant) ≈ 343 W m-2. Satellite measurements yield Q ≈ 237 W m-2
caption to figure 1 :
Q is the sum of the energy entering the system over some time period. dH/dt is the change in ocean heat storage from the beginning to the end of the time period. E + dH/dt is the sum of the outgoing energy over the same time period. Units in all cases are zettajoules (ZJ, or 10^21 joules) / year.
So is Q in ZJ/year or W/m2 ??
ZJ/year is demensionally equivalent to W not to W/m2
This may just be inconsistency rather the the error I first thought above.

Fernando

Insensate = Ansatz
makes sense in Portuguese.
Unlike the slow ocean cooling, the ocean can warm quickly through the deep penetration of sunlight into the mixed layer. This allows the ocean to warm much more rapidly than it is able to cool. This is why there are an excess of large increases in ocean heat content..
If this statement is true
Q= mc∆T
c= ci – co …[a positive number (to avoid further confusion)]
ci (input) = heating
co (ouput) = cooling
ci and co are not linear.
Maybe that’s how the planet warms or cools

David Falkner

Why doesn’t conservation of energy apply to the ocean?

Dave

“the meaningless identity Avg(x) / Avg(anything) = Avg(x) / Avg(anything).”
In computer programming, it’s not terribly unusual to see a line of code something like:
If [value A] = [value A] Then [do stuff]
It’s usually a relic left as the result of changes or some such, and is obviously completely pointless (although sometimes not worth digging out and redoing the code). It’s commonly known as an ‘alternate-reality check’.
[is there much more of this?]

P. Solar

E = ε σ Ts^4
again this is a power , not an energy so E is confusing . You need to be clearer when talking about a power term.
“Q is the sum of the energy entering the system over some time period.”
No, the way you are using it is not *energy” it is power. You are not using the sum of the energy over that period as you state, you are using the average rate of change of energy over that time. That is power or rate of change of energy not energy. Units in watts not joules.
Sorry , really have to drop this now, but you need to get a clearer idea of what all these terms are.
regards.

Brian H

Fatal. You politely say things like, “Issues”, “argue strongly against”.
But what this analysis does is explode a massive “petard” under the foundations. You have earned the “Sapper’s Medal of Honor”.
Another “issue” you might want to address at some point is the problem of averaging 4th power products, vs taking (assuming) 4th power products of averages.
Take the numbers 2,3,4. The average of 2 & 4 is 3.
But 2^4 is 16, 4^4 is 256, total 272, average 136.
3^4 is 81.
Any distribution of values with wider spread will have a significantly higher average of fourth power products than a centrally compressed one.

blcjr

w.
Could you clarify this:
5. The substitution implies that air temperature is “driving that heat transfer”, in Schwartz’s words. It seems improbable that the wisp of atmospheric mass is driving the massive oceanic heat transfer changes.
Isn’t it the case that most “heat transfer” — from the tropics, where it is mostly received, to the poles where it mostly escapes — is driven mostly by atmospheric currents (anywhere from 60 to 75%) than by ocean currents?

I read The Cold Equations, a long time ago, I think before I understood the some of the math involved, but at least understood the concepts.
Changed my life, it did. I decided right then and there to never stowaway on a spaceship, and never have. Sadly, I’ve never had the opportunity to test my resolve.

Vince Causey

I think a misunderstanding has been made of what C dTs actually means. My own reading of the Levitus paragraph is that he is really talking about some hybrid thing which consists mostly of ocean and a smidgen of atmosphere. Levitus actually says “this heat capacity is dominated by the heat capacity of the upper layers of the world ocean .” Now, if the heat capacity is dominated by the ocean, then which temperature do you use for dTs in that equation? Common sense would say the ocean, if that is the dominant heat sink. If you take an average of ocean and atmosphere then you get into all sorts of difficulties trying to weight each dT according to heat capacities.
So, in practical terms, equation 3 is saying that the heat stored in the worlds oceans in a year is equal to its heat capacity multplied by its temperature increase in a year. But as ocean temps haven’t increased much, if at all, in the last 7 years then doesn’t that make dH/dt practically zero?

jhborn

I agree with the comments to the effect that calling Ts a flow is a problem, at least from the standpoint of effective exposition. I understand what you mean, but calling average translational kinetic energy a flow places barriers in the road to understanding/acceptance. Lose that sentence, is my vote.
Commenter P. Solar is all wrong, of course, but I, too, was inclined to interpret Q and E as heat before I read the context. Maybe that choice of variable names confuses other readers, too.
On the other hand, I’m happy with your income = expenditure + savings analogy; it’s just that your use of the term economics enticed one commenter off onto a macroeconomics tangent. Maybe you could drop that term?
Finally, a drive-by suggestion from one who only rare grasps what you write completely: you may want to consider adding a nod to one of your previous themes, i.e., the “governor.” My understanding of that (alleged-by-you and plausible-to-me) phenomenon is that a small change in surface temperature results in a great change in transport of latent heat to the upper atmosphere, where it changes to sensible heat and greater radiation into space. Maybe this is very roughly like an emissivity that is much more temperature-dependent than the Schwartz equations assume? In the (admittedly unlikely) event that what I’ve just said makes any sense, referring to it may give the reader an addition handhold by which to grasp your concepts.

Tregonsee

Reminds me of the famous “Then a miracle occurs!” cartoon.

higley7

I have a quick, maybe simple, question. The discussion mentions a connection between the upper level temperature (emissivity) and the surface temperatures. However, since heat which goes into evaporation is temperature neutral (not being observed as a temperature change in the lower atmosphere) and water vapor transported upwards by convection condenses at altitude, releasing this heat, how can they be related without realizing or recognizing this effectively hidden transport of energy. The energy disappears into the water phase change and reappears at altitude.
How is this accounted for in these equations? I have not read the whole thing, but I have not detected it here.

Wow. I am actually learning something here.
A long-forgotten sensation.

Ian W

To pick up what cal says: January 28, 2011 at 3:38 am Temperature is not Heat content.
But where everyone has gone wrong so far is that in the atmosphere, unlike the oceans, the enthalpy can vary greatly dependent on the amount of water vapor.
Therefore, in the atmosphere Temperature is NOT EQUAL TO nor is it PROPORTIONAL TO (at a fixed rate) Heat Content.
Any simplistic formula that assumes a constant relationship between atmospheric temperature and heat content is FALSE due to the varying humidity (look at GOES water vapor imagery).
Then there is the misapplication of Stefan Boltzmann’s power law to radiation from the Earth’s atmosphere. Take the example of the winds blowing over the Himalayas the orographic uplift caused by the mountains (not convection) causes the air to rise and as the air cools water changes state from vapor to liquid and from liquid to ice at each stage releasing the latent heat of state change. Consider the floods in Pakistan all caused by this uplift in the monsoons: all that water was vapor but then released its latent heat to become ice/liquid then rain – a LOT of energy. This heat release is not governed by radiation laws based on surface temperatures. Similarly convective uplift can take humid air and liquid water to more than 30,000ft in the tropics and the ITCZ where the water at height rapidly changes state to ice; again releasing large amounts of latent heat in the upper atmosphere. The heat released is not governed by Stefan Boltzmann’s radiative laws either.
Simple back of the envelope models based on flawed assumptions seem to underly much of AGW theory.

P. Solar

E = ε σ Ts^4
I agree this equation , with the definition of ε is a meaningless identity , effectively saying 1=1.
What it really represents is more “watch the pea” tricks. Since ε in the S-B equation is a constant there is a subliminal messages that this epsilon is also constant. That is not said explicitly nor justified.
All the climate physics is contained in what this “effective” emissivity is , how it varies with time and temperature etc. How does it change from day to day with cloud cover …?
This one pseudo constant that quietly gets brushed under that carpet is in fact a multi-dimensional matrix quantity that represents most of what happens in climate from the ocean surface to the TOS !!
I think you have put your finger on something here.

Juice

Temperature isn’t a “flow.” In the simplest sense, it’s a function. It relates the heat content of an object to its heat capacity.
C = ΔQ/ΔT
ΔT = ΔQ/C
An object has some quantity of heat. It’s heat capacity is a ratio of the quantity of heat units to the number of temperature units (Kelvin”s” if you will). So you could call temperature a quantity too if you like.

In Burrito

Apologies in advance for sounding like a pretentious snob, but novel thermodynamic analysis is a dangerous game if you haven’t had it at the graduate level. This is far too lengthy for a detailed critique, but two points of confusion that stand out are the radiative dissipation and heat capacity equations.
First, the equation dH/dt = Cp dT/dt is absolutely valid, but you need to be very precise about your defined control volume. When folks talk about ocean heat content, they’re talking about the top 10s to 100s of feet of the ocean surface. The assumption (and a decent one) for using this control volume is that its thermal mass far exceeds that of the atmosphere, thereby rendering the atmosphere insignificant. Roy Spencer explains it in his global warming blunder book.
Ocean heat content is fairly simple to “average” over the surface of the earth since it’s linear with Ts.
The radiation term is missing the surface area of the Earth. Qualitatively speaking, it should be Qrad = Area(epsilon)(sigma)Ts^4. However, epsilon and Ts are going to vary over the surface of the earth. Therefore, to get total long wavelength radiative loss you really need the integral of (eps)(sigma)Ts^4 dAs. Because it goes as T^4, it’s much more dangerous to assume an “average” surface temperature. That’s because a 1 degree increase at the poles will yields a relatively greater change in long wavelength radiation that a 1 degree increase at the equator, keeping in mind that the loss from warmer areas of the earth is much much greater than colder areas. The point being, it’s complicated, non-intuitive, and needs to be approached quantitatively, not qualitatively.

stagioni

Willis Eschenbach has his mental GPS tracking nicely. Well done.
1) He has not been hoodwinked by the comment in the article about the conservation of energy;
2) He has pointed out one of the core weaknesses in the entire edifice of AGW
without having to drill one borehole anwhere or tax anyone! Cost = zero trillion dollars.
He should follow the scent.

D. Patterson

Willis, I have the DVD in my collection. See:
The Cold Equations, Alliance Atlantis Presents, Bill Campbell, Poppy Montgomery, 93 min. Color, DVD, Echo Bridge Home Entertainment, c2003.

tmtisfree

The paper by Stephen E. Schwartz has been commented in 2008:
Knutti et al : http://www.iac.ethz.ch/people/knuttir/papers/knutti08jgr.pdf
Nicola Scafetta : http://www.fel.duke.edu/~scafetta/pdf/2007JD009586.pdf
and the reply by Stephen E. Schwartz is:
http://www.ecd.bnl.gov/pubs/BNL-80226-2008-JA.pdf

tmtisfree
cal

P. Solar says:
January 28, 2011 at 5:08 am
Willis, there is something fundamentally wrong with the basic physics of this treatise:
dH/dt = Q – E (2)
where dH/dt is the change in heat content of the climate system…..So , the crux: you can’t equate a rate of change of energy dH/dt to and energy , Q-
I think the explanation for this can be found in the next paragraph….
“The global and annual mean absorbed shortwave irradiance Q = γ J, where γ [gamma] is the mean planetary coalbedo (complement of albedo) and J is the mean solar irradiance at the top of the atmosphere (1/4 the Solar constant) ≈ 343 W m-2. Satellite measurements yield Q ≈ 237 W m-2 [Ramanathan 1987; Kiehl and Trenberth, 1997], corresponding to γ ≈ 0.69. ”
Thus it is clear that Q and E are power densities measured in watts per metre squared or joules per second per metre squared. Thus the dimensions are right as far as I am concerned as long as H is also per square metre.
I am not sure who is to blame for the rather sloppy way the equations are presented since I have also not read the original.

Vince Causey

P Solar,
“So , the crux: you can’t equate a rate of change of energy dH/dt to and energy , Q-E.
>>
where dH/dt is the change in heat content of the climate system.
>>”
I thought that as well, but then I realised it doesn’t mean that. dH/dt is not meant to be the rate of change of heat with respect to time, but the amount of heat that accumulates in 1 year. That is what the dt part is meant to be. This was done to make dH comparable with Q and E, which are both quantities of energy input and output in 1 year. So the equation is simply saying that the heat accumulated in 1 year is equal to the heat coming in in 1 year minus the heat going out.

kwik

Willis, I think you might be interested in reading this;
http://www.csc.kth.se/~cgjoh/blackbodyslayer.pdf

David L. Hagen

Great explorations Willis
Encourage you to explore relationships between the distributions in ocean heating with the distributions in insolation – primarily (1-cloudcover.)
There should be more marked differences by hemispherical winter vs summer. The differences N/S in land mass vs ocean should relate to differences in albedo – primarily from clouds, snow, and biomass.

oeman50

When I refreshed myself on Stefan-Boltzmann, my reference (Wikipedia – I know: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan%E2%80%93Boltzmann_law) indicated it is a description of the energy flux density. Cal says:
“I think this is a mistake. Temperature is not a flow. It is not “converted” to a power by multiplying by sigma. The output of the equation is a power density because sigma has the dimensions of Wm^2K^4.”
The equation does not attempt to make temperature a flow, it is simply a mathematical relationship describing how the energy flux density changes with temperature. And by definition, a “flux” decribes a flow, there is no flux without a flow of energy.

Vince Causey

“The global and annual mean absorbed shortwave irradiance Q = γ J, corresponding to γ ≈ 0.69. ”
From that they conclude “an energy imbalance Q − E arising from a secular perturbation in Q or E results in a rate of change of the global heat content given by
dH/dt = Q – E.”
The thing I noticed is that in they have treated γ as a constant. It follows in that case that a ‘forcing’ due to say co2 increasing, would perturb Q upwards so that it becomes greater than E and leading to the heat accumulation dH. But there is no rational basis for making γ constant. It has been argued by others, including Willis and Dr Spencer, that γ is not constant, due to changes in cloud cover. In that case, Q may not even be perturbed by co2, in which case the whole edifice is based on a flawed premise.

Roger Longstaff

I think that the article demonstrates that simple assumptions can not be used to model climate – I assume that this was the point of the author. Planetary rotation is a key, missing ingredient, and also………….
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall.
I really don’t know clouds at all.

D. Patterson

cal says:
January 28, 2011 at 7:21 am
P. Solar says:
January 28, 2011 at 5:08 am

How many joules of energy are transferred between Earth’s planetary environment and the interplanetary environment? What is the net balance of these energy transfers? What portion of these energy transfers measured in joules and by percentage of the whole occur by means other than radiation?
What are the proper elements to be considered in determining the energy state in joules of a planetary body at a given moment in time and space and a given time period in time and space?
Do the current modeling equations include all significant elements of a planetary body’s energy state or not?

Leonard Weinstein

Willis,
Much of what you say is reasonable, but two things stand out as a problem. 1) T is not a flux. 2) The air temperature does have an effect on ocean heat retention. It is a small effect, and not dominate (thus the low correlation), but don’t say there is no effect at all. The mechanism is that the ocean loses the absorbed solar radiation three ways. These are radiation, evaporation, and conduction to the air which is convected up. The radiation is partially directly to space (through the radiation “window”), but some is radiated to the atmosphere above and absorbed. The portion that is absorbed is partially back radiated and effective this acts like a radiation insulation. There is not a net heat transfer back, but this does slow the energy removal, and results in a slightly higher surface temperature than otherwise. Since evaporation and convective air movement are the dominate energy removal mechanisms, and adjust to balance the net energy removal, this radiation insulation effect is small. The average surface temperature is, in the end, determined only by the effective altitude of outgoing radiation and the adiabatic lapse rate (wet and dry), but the altitude is what changes due to greenhouse gases.

Nolo Contendere

Just a side note to say that I really do enjoy the intellectual give and take on this site and quite often learn something. Thanks everybody. Now back to digesting Willis’ article….