A misinterpreted claim about a NASA press release, CO2, solar flares, and the thermosphere is making the rounds

I loathe having to write this story because I truly dislike giving any attention to the people who are known as the “slayers” from the “Slaying the Sky Dragon” book. They now operate under the moniker of “Principia Scientific”.

But, somebody has to do it because some really bad mangling of the intent of a NASA press release by the “slayers” group is getting some traction. They have completely misread the NASA study and reinterpreted it for their purpose, claiming in a story titled “New Discovery: NASA Study Proves Carbon Dioxide Cools Atmosphere” :

NASA’s Langley Research Center has collated data proving that “greenhouse gases” actually block up to 95 percent of harmful solar rays from reaching our planet, thus reducing the heating impact of the sun. The data was collected by Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry, (or SABER). SABER monitors infrared emissions from Earth’s upper atmosphere, in particular from carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitric oxide (NO), two substances thought to be playing a key role in the energy balance of air above our planet’s surface.

Source:  http://pjmedia.com/instapundit/165971/

The NASA story is  about the thermosphere when it gets hit by solar flares. Here’s the Press release:

http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/22mar_saber/

Here’s the relevant part from the press release:

=============================================================

“Carbon dioxide and nitric oxide are natural thermostats,” explains James Russell of Hampton University, SABER’s principal investigator.  “When the upper atmosphere (or ‘thermosphere’) heats up, these molecules try as hard as they can to shed that heat back into space.”

That’s what happened on March 8th when a coronal mass ejection (CME) propelled in our direction by an X5-class solar flare hit Earth’s magnetic field.  (On the “Richter Scale of Solar Flares,” X-class flares are the most powerful kind.)  Energetic particles rained down on the upper atmosphere, depositing their energy where they hit.  The action produced spectacular auroras around the poles and significant1 upper atmospheric heating all around the globe.

“The thermosphere lit up like a Christmas tree,” says Russell.  “It began to glow intensely at infrared wavelengths as the thermostat effect kicked in.”

Solar Storms Dumps Gigawatts (Nitric Oxide Spike, 558px))

A surge of infrared radiation from nitric oxide molecules on March 8-10, 2012, signals the biggest upper-atmospheric heating event in seven years. Credit: SABER/TIMED. See also the CO2 data here: http://science.nasa.gov/media/medialibrary/2012/03/22/both_spikes.jpg

For the three day period, March 8th through 10th, the thermosphere absorbed 26 billion kWh of energy.  Infrared radiation from CO2 and NO, the two most efficient coolants in the thermosphere, re-radiated 95% of that total back into space.

In human terms, this is a lot of energy.  According to the New York City mayor’s office, an average NY household consumes just under 4700 kWh annually. This means the geomagnetic storm dumped enough energy into the atmosphere to power every home in the Big Apple for two years.

“Unfortunately, there’s no practical way to harness this kind of energy,” says Mlynczak.  “It’s so diffuse and out of reach high above Earth’s surface.  Plus, the majority of it has been sent back into space by the action of CO2 and NO.”

===========================================================

The two lines I bolded are what has the “slayers” in a tizzy.

Yes, of course the upper atmosphere is going to deflect and re-radiate the energy of solar storms, that’s why we don’t burn to a cinder when they happen. There’s nothing new here, this is what the upper atmosphere (thermosphere) does. CO2 (and other greenhouse gases – GHG’s) in the lower atmosphere also re-radiates long wave infra red energy (LWIR) as backradiation coming up from the surface of the Earth as it dumps the shortwave solar energy absorbed returns as LWIR (heat) and makes its way to the top of the atmosphere.

earths_energy_balance_589[1]

Source: http://serc.carleton.edu/earthlabs/weather_climate/lab_2.html

I’m writing this for the benefit of some who may have fallen into the trap of thinking the “slayers” interpretation was NASA’s position.

The claim by the “slayers” is the worst form of science misinterpretation I’ve seen in a long time. By itself I would have ignored it, but some of our friends in other blogs have picked up the story, and because of the NASA link, thought it was credible example as the “slayers” framed it.  It isn’t, it is a twisting of the facts in a press release about solar flares and the thermosphere to make it look like the lower atmosphere works the same way. To some extent it does, but the direction of the source of LWIR energy is reversed, and CO2 and other GHG’s impede the transfer of LWIR energy to the top of the atmosphere where it is finally re-radiated into space. Without GHG’s, the lower atmosphere would be very cold. (Updated: For those who doubt this, see  http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/12/what-if-there-was-no-greenhouse-effect/ – Anthony)

Because the “slayers” get as irrational in comments as some of the most strident AGW activists, and because it is late and I don’t want to deal with the angry dialog from some of their members who frequent here I know will happen, but would instead prefer a good night’s sleep, I’m not going to enable comments for this post. Maybe tomorrow.

Comments on now.

Update: if anyone wonders why I don’t take this group seriously, and don’t cover their beliefs here,one look at the sidebar or the Principia website tells the story in one image:

Principia_bogus

If there are any people in the AGW debate that deserve the label “deniers” surely this advertised denial of the existence of the greenhouse effect must qualify.

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Mark Bofill

Some ‘science denier’ you are, Watts.
I mean, what’s this all about? Some sort of conspiracy to fool people into thinking you aren’t a ‘science denier’? Nefarious, highly nefarious. I’d better fire up my bots, tighten my tinfoil hat and get Cook and Lew on the horn.
/sarc

RHS

The only comment I have is to criticize:

When the upper atmosphere (or ‘thermosphere’) heats up, these molecules try as hard as they can to shed that heat back into space.

As if the molecules can make conscious efforts. Yoda said it best, do or do not, there is no try.

rgbatduke

Anthony, I share your slayer pain. And then some. Understanding the difference between the thermosphere and the troposphere, between high level SW albedo and low level LW absorptivity — it doesn’t seem as though it is that difficult, does it? But count on them to leave no counterhypothesis, no matter how absurd, unasserted…

rgbatduke

As if the molecules can make conscious efforts. Yoda said it best, do or do not, there is no try.
Ah, clearly you are not attuned to the Gaia hypothesis, young padawan. After all, molecules do make conscious efforts, at least collectively. Or at least, it seems to so to the pile of molecules typing this reply that they do.
It could be wrong, of course.
rgb 😉

Richard M

To some extent it does, but the direction of the source of LWIR energy is reversed, and CO2 and other GHG’s impede the transfer of LWIR energy to the top of the atmosphere where it is finally re-radiated into space. Without GHG’s, the lower atmosphere would be very cold.
This is not the situation being presented. It is not primarily the energy from the surface that is considered in the this discussion. It is what I have been saying for 3 years now and calling the cooling effect of GHGs. It is energy in the atmosphere. Look at your energy diagram. Ignore the radiation from the surface and look at the other items (absorbed by atmosphere, latent heat, sensible heat). This energy eventually gets radiated to space by GHGs. When you increase GHGs you increase the ability of the atmosphere it cools itself in exactly the same manner that GHGs radiate the CME energy.
This negates some or all of the GHE at current concentrations.

Kristian

Wise words from E.M. Smith come to mind:
“It [Clough & Iacono, JGR, 1995] goes on at some great length about how Green House Gases increase the radiative cooling of the Stratosphere. They are throughly convinced that stratospheric cooling is the Evil Twin of tropospheric warming, showing that GHGs are critical to both (so by implication, cooling in the stratosphere endorses warming troposphere). Completely missing the point that the troposphere is dominated by water and convection, so more heat in just means faster transport up.”
Relating to the following figure:
http://i1172.photobucket.com/albums/r565/Keyell/SpectralCoolingRates_zps27867ef4.png
Notice how CO2 has a cooling effect right from the lower stratosphere and up into the mesosphere, its peak cooling effect around the stratopause, while ozone has a clear warming effect in the lower stratosphere (and even into the troposphere) but a cooling effect like CO2 in the middle and upper stratosphere.
So depletion of stratospheric ozone would induce cooling (less warming) in the lower stratosphere (where most of the ozone is to be found). Cooling (enhanced) would also happen with an increase in stratospheric CO2, but here the effect would be stronger the further up the column you go.
Also worth noting from the diagram is how supremely important H2O is in cooling the troposphere (transporting absorbed heat from the sun up and away from the ground and back out towards space), and at the same time how insignificant CO2 is.
CO2 does its job in the stratosphere/mesosphere, H2O does its job in the troposphere.

john robertson

But confusion must happen, we are trying to explain the movements of a planetary system, with significant off planet inputs, in terms of human symbols.
Confusion must arise.
Seems we need a better language, or common agreement as to the symbols before we can converse.
Secondly, after years of the spin, habitual exaggeration via press release by NASA, its almost an instinctive urge to torque their message to the absurd.
And they have given us so much to work with.

michael hart

I don’t spend much time on the sky-dragons, but that doesn’t mean they get everything wrong.
A greenhouse-gas that is able to thermalize absorbed Infra-red radiation is, by definition, able to perform the reverse process, i.e. cool by radiation. No “ifs”, “buts”, or “maybes”, carbon dioxide can and does cool by radiating heat that is transported by convection and latent heat.
How the combined warming and cooling effects are distributed and integrated over time and distance in the real world is, of course, a far more complicated question.

Tom J

‘ This means the geomagnetic storm dumped enough energy into the atmosphere to power every home in the Big Apple for two years.’
Is that before or after Bloomberg’s soda ban?

Ron Clutz

I had not seen that energy balance diagram before, though it is no doubt based on Trenberth et al.
In this diagram, the earth’s surface is heated by “back-radiation” twice as much as the heat from the sun. (98 vs. 47) How is this possible? Where do these numbers come from? What observational evidence is there to support this claim?

Richard M:
The more GHGs, the higher the thermal re-radiative effect: sure. But the more GHGs, the warmer the lower atmosphere.
The point is true but not pertinent. It is like saying the burner on your stove releases heat faster when it is glowing red. It does, but it is still red-hot. Our concern here is the stable temperature of the burner, not the rate that the burner loses heat in order to be stable at that temperature.

Gabriel van den Bergh (GabrielHBay)

Well, because of its mention here I visited Principia Scientific website for the first time and spent some time reading a few of the articles. I was greatly perplexed. I found nothing but pretty much sane and well reasoned material uncontaminated by abuse and ad homs. Sure, some views expressed differ from the standard uncritical fare offered as gospel here (like the radiation balance diagram above), but hey, that is what scientific debate is about? I totally fail to see the reason for all the snide and sarcasm levelled here at what seems to me to be valid contribution to the debate. I am disappointed.

Greg House

“The claim by the “slayers” is the worst form of science misinterpretation I’ve seen in a long time. By itself I would have ignored it, but some of our friends in other blogs have picked up the story, and because of the NASA link, thought it was credible example as the “slayers” framed it. It isn’t, it is a twisting of the facts in a press release about solar flares and the thermosphere to make it look like the lower atmosphere works the same way. To some extent it does, but the direction of the source of LWIR energy is reversed, and CO2 and other GHG’s impede the transfer of LWIR energy to the top of the atmosphere where it is finally re-radiated into space. Without GHG’s, the lower atmosphere would be very cold.”
==========================================================
Sorry, Anthony, but I can not find any trace of misinterpretation. Their reference to NASA press release was correct and they did not talk about the (alleged) back radiation effect at all. The probably did elsewhere, but that had nothing to do with this recent NASA press release.
The second point is, even if we assume that back radiation has an effect on temperature of the surface, the question is still valid, if the net effect of blocking some solar IR and holding back some IR the Earth surface radiates is warming and not cooling. The fact is, anyway, that in many descriptions of “greenhouse effect” you can find on the web, including the IPCC site, there is no mention of “greenhouse gases” contributing to cooling by blocking some solar IR. This looks like misinterpretation to me.

OldWeirdHarold

I saw that yesterday, too. My immediate reaction was: what on earth are they babbling about? Thanks for sussing this out.

jim2

I’m a Dragon Slayer Denier. They are probably being paid by Big Democrat.

GabrielHBay

So what happened to my post just now? Not even waiting for moderation but just missing? Was it something I said? Or because I gave my full name for the first time here??
Gabriel van den Bergh
[Reply: Relax, your comment ended up in the Spam folder. Rescued and posted now. — mod.]

Ron C. says March 29, 2013 at 8:43 am

What observational evidence is there to support this claim?

Meteorological observations will support the claim as to reduced temp decline (cooling) at night with a high humidity, but of course the operative gas here will be H2O and not so much the plant food gas …
.

Mark Bofill

Gabriel van den Bergh (GabrielHBay) says:
March 29, 2013 at 8:46 am
————
Gabriel,
I’m not sure who else you might be referring to as I don’t see any other /sarc tags besides mine, so I’ll assume you were talking to me.
My sarcasm was not intended to mock the slayers, but rather certain bloggers who hold that Watts is a ‘science denier’. This said, the slayers irritate me because I’ve suffered through discussions with warmists where they assumed I didn’t understand how radiative physics and back radiation works, and unfortunately thanks to the slayers, it wasn’t an unreasonable thing for them to come to the table thinking. I find this personally quite frustrating. But for the record, I’ve got no issue with people taking positions in debates even if they are categorically wrong. That’s fine. It’s just that I wish it were clearer sometimes that there are skeptics who are not slayers; I.E., that I’ve got nothing to do with them. Just my personal perspective.

the “greenhouse phenomena” has been grossly mis explained for years. ‘back radiation’ does not warm the surface.
Take the time to go through the slide deck and understand how GHGs work
forget about back radiation its an effect not a cause.
http://www.aos.wisc.edu/~aos121br/radn/radn/sld001.htm

Phillip Bratby

Showing that schematic with back radiation is just so wrong. It’s just pure nonsense

George Steiner

Mr. Watts, how much of that 26 billion watts of energy was back radiated?

Greg House

I suggest those believing in back radiation warming just stand in front of a mirror and enjoy the back radiated heat.

(I’ve posted this before, awhile back; it’s kind of a simple outline splaining the GHG effect and indicating the various aspects of ‘physics’ we may use every day that correlate or demonstrate the various aspects of GHG ‘action’ cited.)
.
The 12 easy steps to understanding the physics of the minor, but important, GHG effect.
1. The ‘motion’ of Electrons and Protons can be affected by externally applied electric and magnetic fields. Computer CRTs are an example with the electron beam forced towards the phosphor-coated screen by a more or less ‘static’ electric field all the while under the back and forth influence of a dynamic magnetic field from the deflection coils (called ‘the yoke’ in the trade).
2. Conversely, when Electrons or Protons move, they create ‘fields’ and then perhaps (propagated) ‘waves’ as well. Electromagnets and antennas are examples.
3. Molecules, such as CO2 and H20 are comprised of atoms the components of which are Protons and Electrons (we ignore the Neutron). This is elementary; consult any HS text for a refresh.
4. Many molecules such as O2 (and even CO2 and H2O) have specific mechanical resonances, at specific frequencies (or wavelengths if one prefers).
5. These mechanical resonances are like miniature tuning forks. The vibrational modes get a little intricate and differ from molecule to molecule on account of the ‘atomic relationship’ of the member atoms.
6. During these vibrational modes, certain ‘member’ atoms can move more than others, and some ‘parts’ are electrically charged … referring to 2. above this will create a ‘field’.
7. Should a particular frequency EM field pass by a resonant molecule, the molecule, like a resonant dipole antenna will ‘pick up’ (the field will induce into the molecule) energy from the passing field .. refer to 1. above.
8. The actual resonant frequencies of resonant molecules is affected by pressure; this means more collisions between atoms, and sometimes vibrational energy can be absorbed in a collision while sometimes energy is given off. ‘Broadening of spectral lines’ is the basic effect.
9. Any vibrational modes amount to ‘stored energy’,
10. Said ‘stored’ energy is also continually being re-radiated (refer to 2. above) in basically all directions (any given molecule will have a given radiation pattern, but in the aggregate among all randomly oriented molecules this yields an ‘omni’ directional pattern).
11. An increased amplitude ‘Vibrational mode’ (no matter how arrived at) amounts to a ‘higher temperature’ locally.
12. From insolation (incoming sunlight), to heating of the earth’s surface, some convective heating of the air near the surface (consult a meteorology text; the MAJORITY of the heating of the air is in the boundary layer), to radiation of LWIR from the earth’s surface, some LWIR is captured’ (excites or is EM induced into) various GHG molecules e.g. CO2 and H2O … and that ‘captured’ EM energy is re-radiated in all directions, *including, and this is very important: BACK to earth … some term this ‘back radiation’, perhaps after the close radio term, ‘back-scatter’ (as used in RADAR to identify energy ‘reflected’ or scattered back from a target).
And so there you have it.
The 12 easy steps to understanding the minor but important (as to moderating the surface temperature of the earth) GHG effect.
.

Phil.

michael hart says:
March 29, 2013 at 8:35 am
I don’t spend much time on the sky-dragons, but that doesn’t mean they get everything wrong.
A greenhouse-gas that is able to thermalize absorbed Infra-red radiation is, by definition, able to perform the reverse process, i.e. cool by radiation. No “ifs”, “buts”, or “maybes”, carbon dioxide can and does cool by radiating heat that is transported by convection and latent heat.

Yes but not in the same place!
Absorption of IR from the surface by CO2 causes excitation of specific vibrational energy levels which can either lose energy by radiation or by collisions with neighboring molecules (N2 & O2). In the lower atmosphere the latter dominates so CO2 heats the atmosphere, higher up collisions are less frequent and there is sufficient time for radiation to space, so in the stratosphere CO2 cools. Collisional heating of CO2 is as a result of many very low energy collisions, it does not necessarily follow that the vibrational energy levels are excited even if the same total energy is involved.
The Thermosphere referred to in the OP is entirely different, the gases are heated from above by UV light which causes very high energy levels to be populated, there are essentially no collisions so all heat loss is by radiation. In the case of the solar flares the absorption of high energy photons results in higher than usual radiation from the emitters CO2, NO etc, this is what NASA measured. This has been known for a long time, and they’re just presenting detailed measurements

squid2112

@Greg House says: March 29, 2013 at 8:52 am
I agree. I have read through all of it and find nothing of what Anthony is suggesting.
Sorry Anthony, not sure what you are getting at here.

My experience with many new alternative scientific websites is that many of them are modeled to be a sociocratic structure, which may start out with the best of intentions, but is going to be highly vulnerable later to the emergence of “thought leaders” who will use intimidation and social pressures to enforce their views. Principia Scientifica is a little overly enthusiastic about its structure.
If you want to invest your time, talent, and treasures in your theory, then be careful of joining groups that claim to be a “meritocracy.” Investment in a group that claims to give you the opportunity to share and discuss your theory is a good idea, but watch for structures, “minders,” and systems that encourage emerging leaders and authorities who appear to rise from within, but who may not.
The sociocratic structure claims to allow you to get credit and readership for your work, but you may regret the entanglement that requires when future leadership emerges with the power to reward and punish in front of your peers. It may be better to simply publish and give presentations on the web without being part of a structure at all.

Am I interpreting that image correctly? What exactly is the “back radiation” part? Are you telling me, with this depiction, that “back radiation” is heating the surface? Seriously?
If that were true, then I could heat my house by placing a candle in between two mirrors. Don’t try this yourself however, as you will likely cause a rift in the space-time continuum and destroy the universe by back radiation.
Wow, just wow…. do people not even think before drawing such stupidity?

squid,
Mosher is right, back radiation doesn’t warm the surface.

@_Jim says: March 29, 2013 at 10:21 am
So in your little thought experiment, can you tell us how a cooler molecule (atmosphere), through “back radiation” imparts heating upon the warmer ground (Earth) ?

@D.B. Stealey says: March 29, 2013 at 10:41 am
Agreed, that is exactly what I am saying. To think so, is sure stupidity.

Greg House

_Jim says, (March 29, 2013 at 10:21 am): “The 12 easy steps to understanding the physics of the minor, but important, GHG effect. …
12. From insolation (incoming sunlight), to heating of the earth’s surface, some convective heating of the air near the surface (consult a meteorology text; the MAJORITY of the heating of the air is in the boundary layer), to radiation of LWIR from the earth’s surface, some LWIR is captured’ (excites or is EM induced into) various GHG molecules e.g. CO2 and H2O … and that ‘captured’ EM energy is re-radiated in all directions, *including, and this is very important: BACK to earth … some term this ‘back radiation’, perhaps after the close radio term, ‘back-scatter’ (as used in RADAR to identify energy ‘reflected’ or scattered back from a target).
And so there you have it.”

==========================================================
No, we do not have it, because your “back radiation warming” has no basis in real science. Note the emphasis on the word warming. And by warming I also mean “slowing down cooling”, in case you are going to argue about linguistics.

GabrielHBay

Phew.. I am so glad I am not the only one to find the radiation diagram to be BS… Didn’t wanna rock the boat too much so I just alluded to it. I am SO timid.. LOL

mkelly

Zeke says:
March 29, 2013 at 10:26 am
What the heck are you talking about?

Richard M

Doug Proctor says:
March 29, 2013 at 8:46 am
Richard M:
The more GHGs, the higher the thermal re-radiative effect: sure. But the more GHGs, the warmer the lower atmosphere.
The point is true but not pertinent. It is like saying the burner on your stove releases heat faster when it is glowing red. It does, but it is still red-hot. Our concern here is the stable temperature of the burner, not the rate that the burner loses heat in order to be stable at that temperature.

While I generalized to all GHGs the important question is the effect of increases in CO2. When we limit the discussion to CO2 the warming effect at the surface is dominated by water vapor. Hence, an increase in CO2 has a very small effect. Higher up the water vapor condenses out of the atmosphere and CO2 becomes the dominant GHG. Hence, increases at this level are much more important.
Your example is not relevant. There is no burner and we know the changes to equilibrium we are working with are quite small at both ends. The overall effect could be cooling rather than warming. It all depends on the relative strength of the two processes.

squid2112 says March 29, 2013 at 10:42 am

So in your little thought experiment, can you tell us how a cooler molecule (atmosphere), through “back radiation” imparts heating upon the warmer ground (Earth) ?

Did I say warmer? Was that a thought experiment? Can you point point out any fallacious principles in gas molecule ‘action’ at LWIR frequencies involving EM waves or EM energy (The field of “IR Spectroscopy” can provide some much needed insights on the various vibrational modes that gas molecules exhibit, in particular the polar molecules H2O and C02; this makes them ‘act’ like tiny tuning forks or antennas resonant at several frequencies depending on the vibration mode)?
Can you answer me how a reflector (as in a “parabolic reflector”) behind a feedhorn works? (Hint: The reflector is ‘cold’, i.e., not excited in the classical sense as the feedhorn is; the feedhorn is said to “illuminate” the reflector however.)
PS. What part about “re-rad” after impingement by LWIR EM energy do you not understand?
PPS. I’m coming at this from the perspective of antenna engineering/RF engineering involving EM (Electromagnetic) energy; this may involve principles not commonly understood or accepted by most ppl.
.

Laurie Bowen

Ok, maybe a really “stupid” question but are there any thumbnails of how much energy gets released from the earth when we have all those lighting storms . . . .

it’s my ‘understanding’ that this feature is what helps make and maintain the “ozone” layer, as well as “lose” energy.
Technically, wouldn’t this “poke” holes in the greenhouse effect? (qualitatively as well as quantitatively)?

Greg House says March 29, 2013 at 10:45 am
No, we do not have it, because your “back radiation warming” has no basis in real science.

Really Greg; you don’t understand how a vibrating CO2 or H2O molecule interact with EM energy at various wavelengths?
This may be the cause of all your confusion and illiteracy on the subject..
.

George Steiner

My feeble understanding is that IR radiation, when absorbed by a molecule, causes molecular excitation in the vibrational mode. Thus the excited molecule has some more kinetic energy which it can give up by collision. Not by photonic emission.

Mkelly says: Q: What the heck are you talking about?
A: 1. Alternative scientific websites; 2. sociocratic structures; 3. meritocracies.
An example:
http://principia-scientific.org/14-editor-s-favorites/84-upstarts-lead-peer-to-peer-science-online-where-next.html
I think there are some fine scientists and good articles there, but find the meritocracy structure to be wide open to future problems. Alternative science is important as WUWT demonstrates, but I have seen several examples of alternative science (or just science groups) that have embraced this structure on the web. I have also found that the leadership does have an ideology that comes out only later in practice, although in theory it allows for a wide diversity of views.

Don’t anthropomorphize molecules. They hate when you do that.

Greg House

_Jim says:
March 29, 2013 at 11:02 am ” Greg House says March 29, 2013 at 10:45 am
No, we do not have it, because your “back radiation warming” has no basis in real science.

Really Greg; you don’t understand how a vibrating CO2 or H2O molecule interact with EM energy at various wavelengths?”

=======================================================
Let me tell you for the like 10th time: radiation is there, but your notion about back radiation warming the source (or slowing down it’s cooling) has no basis in real science. Please, do not obfuscate the matter by shifting to existence of radiation or to what causes it.

Anthony, you write: Without GHG’s, the lower atmosphere would be very cold.
This is not true because a hypothetical atmosphere of oxygen and nitrogen would warm up via conduction from the surface warmed by the Sun and transported to higher altitudes due to convection. In reality your statement should be obliterated, because Earth is a water planet and H2O is a very potent greenhouse gas.
REPLY: Water vapor is a GHG, as are other gases. My point stands. – Anthony

DD More

For the three day period, March 8th through 10th, the thermosphere absorbed26 billion kWh of energy. …. In human terms, this is a lot of energy. According to the New York City mayor’s office, an average NY household consumes just under 4700 kWh annually. This means the geomagnetic storm dumped enough energy into the atmosphere to power every home in the Big Apple for two years.
A quick 5 minute search finds – http://www.nyiso.com/public/webdocs/media_room/publications_presentations/Power_Trends/Power_Trends/power_trends_2012_final.pdf
Power Demands
Total Usage in 2011 ………………………………………………………………….. 163,330 GWh
Total Usage in 2010 ……………………………………………………………………163,505 GWh
I believe GWh is a little bigger than billion kWh, so NASA is a little off in their power comparison.

OldWeirdHarold

_Jim says:
March 29, 2013 at 10:21 am

13. Most of the radiation that hits the earth hits the oceans, and heats the water first. There are all kinds of consequences of that. You have to actually heat the water surface appreciably before that starts to affect the heat balance of the atmosphere.
14. Heat on the surface can move horizontally quite a ways before it finally gets back out into space.
15. If you think it’s simple, you don’t understand it. If you think you understand it, you don’t.

Mkelly: “What on earth are you talking about?”
The name of the website in the top paragraph, in the last sentence, is an alternative scientific group. So I was addressing some structures adopted by alternative science groups, including “meritocracies” and sociocratic structures. My comment assumes the understanding that that website is an alternative science website, and perhaps this was really not common knowledge. I am sorry about that.

OldWeirdHarold

Anthony – for the record – one of the major blogs that linked the original piece was Instapundit. They just linked piece this and issued a retraction and a mea culpa.

Ron Clutz

So I followed the link above to the earthlabs website, apparently a tool for teaching climate science to high schoolers. The source behind the diagram is a NOAA teaching site:
http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/atmos/energy_balance.htm
The diagram is accompanied by a table with the math to show the incoming and outgoing energy balances at all levels, including this bit:
The atmosphere itself – Energy into the atmosphere is balanced with outgoing energy from atmosphere.
Incoming energy Outgoing energy
Units Source Units Source
+19 Absorbed short wave radiation by gasses in the atmosphere. -9 Long wave radiation emitted to space by clouds.
+4 Absorbed short wave radiation by clouds. -49 Long wave radiation emitted to space by gasses in atmosphere.
+104 Absorbed longwave radiation from earth’s surface. -98 Longwave radiation emitted to earth’s surface by gasses in atmosphere.
+5 From convective currents (rising air warms the atmosphere).
+24 Condensation/Deposition of water vapor(heat is released into the atmosphere by process).
+156 -156
Where is the evidence for these numbers?

Jim Hatem

Anyone notice that the NASA SOHO real time images of the sun site has been down for several days now?

Anthony, your reply misses the point. Without greenhouse gases (including water vapour, i.e. no water, no oceans) the temperature of the atmosphere could be much higher, because the oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere would warm by conduction (contact with the surface heated by the Sun in daytime). We would have winds because the surface temperature would vary due to different heat capacities making up the surface.
Since N2 and O2 are not greenhouse gases and thus not capable of radiative transfer of energy to space, the warm N2/O2 gas would rise to higher altitudes and remain there because of buoyancy. Howevre, what actually would happen is immaterial because we do HAVE OCEANS and hence talking about a hypothetical temperature without greenhouse gases is plain stupid.
REPLY: See http://www.drroyspencer.com/2009/12/what-if-there-was-no-greenhouse-effect/ – Anthony

Gary Hladik

DD More says (March 29, 2013 at 11:31 am): A quick 5 minute search finds – http://www.nyiso.com/public/webdocs/media_room/publications_presentations/Power_Trends/Power_Trends/power_trends_2012_final.pdf
Power Demands
Total Usage in 2011 ………………………………………………………………….. 163,330 GWh
Total Usage in 2010 ……………………………………………………………………163,505 GWh
I believe GWh is a little bigger than billion kWh, so NASA is a little off in their power comparison.”
Read the press release carefully: “According to the New York City mayor’s office, an average NY household consumes just under 4700 kWh annually. This means the geomagnetic storm dumped enough energy into the atmosphere to power every home in the Big Apple for two years.”
I interpret “home” as detached single family housing. According to this
http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/36000.html
New York has about 7.2 million “households” of which about 50.5% are in multi-unit housing, i.e. not “homes”. Assuming (dubiously) that the average “home” uses the same energy as the average “household”, then 7.2 million X 49.5% X 4700 kWh X 2 years = 33.5 billion kWh which is at least in the same ballpark as NASA’s figure of 26 billion, i.e. “good enough for government work”. 🙂