Scientific Urban Legends

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

I have a category that I call “scientific urban legends”. These include things like the idea that rising seas will drown atolls, when Darwin showed 150 years ago that rising seas create atolls. Another scientific urban legend is the claim that we’re in the middle of the “Sixth Wave of Extinctions”, when there is no evidence to support that claim.  Despite flying in the face of scientific observations, these urban legends show amazing persistence. From my observations in fighting them, each legend will require the equivalent of an oak stake through its heart at a lonely midnight crossroads in order to eventually kill it.

I got to thinking about methane today. It’s supposed to be the doomsday gas of all the greenhouse gases, many times more powerful than CO2. People discuss things like the “methane time bomb”, which is supposed to be ticking somewhere or other, and ready to blow us all to Thermageddon, or at least to the Climatory … the proposed location of said explosive device has changed over time …

So I googled “methane times more powerful co2”, and I got the following top six results, from number one on down:

EPA: 20 times more powerful

EDF: 84 times more powerful

thinkprogress: 34 times more powerful

onegreenplanet: 100 times more powerful

psehealthyenergy: 20 times more powerful

global-warming-forecasts: 72  times more powerful

In those numbers you see an initial confirmation that the methane alarmism actually is a scientific urban legend … one of the red flags for such legends is, nobody knows what the exact number is, but by gosh, everyone is very sure that it is really, really big and really, really bad for us.

So I wondered … the IPCC says that the change in atmospheric absorption from a doubling of CO2 is a 3.7 watt per square metre increase. How much change would there be from a doubling of the methane levels?

To answer this question, I went to the wondrous MODTRAN site. Using todays values for CO2 (~ 400 ppmv) and methane (~1.81 ppmv) gives me upwelling radiation of 287.5 watts per square metre (W/m2).

Then I doubled the methane to 3.62 ppmv, re-ran the calculations, and got 286.7 W/m2 emitted from the TOA …

… which means that if by some chance the methane levels were to double in the next hundred years, the total effect would be an increase in the atmospheric absorption of 0.8 W/m2. Less than a quarter of the effect of a doubling of CO2 … say what? This is supposed to be the dread methane, eleventy times more powerful than CO2? Less than one watt per doubling?

So of course, I wanted to check my figures. To do that, I used the formulas from the IPCC for calculating the change in forcing resulting from a given change in methane. They are available here, see Table 6.2. I won’t bore you with the calculations, but they say if the atmospheric methane level doubles from the current level of 1.81 ppmv to 3.62 ppmv, the forcing will increase change by 0.54 W/m2. Somewhat smaller than the 0.8 W/m2 from MODTRAN but the same order of magnitude, well under one watt per square metre …

Let me slow that down for you to make sure you understand what I’m saying. IF methane concentrations double over the next century we would expect and increase in forcing of

One half

Of one watt per square metre

Per century.

So … how likely is it that the methane levels will double within a hundred years? To answer that, we can look at the recent changes in the methane levels. Here is the recent observational data:

co2 n2o ch4 cfcsFigure 1. Source: NOAA/ESRL 

To double from today (1810 ppbv or 1.81 ppmv) would be another 1810 parts per billion. As you can see, the methane levels rose more rapidly until about 1992, and rose roughly linearly at a slower rate after that. The period of record is about a third of a century (36 years). Over that time, it rose by about 250 ppbv. This means that over the next century, with a “business-as-usual” scenario we’d expect something on the order of three times that, or 750 parts per billion. This is a long ways from a doubling, which would be 1,810 parts per billion

And the increased forcing from that 750 ppbv? Well … it’s a measly quarter of one watt per square metre. Again, let me slow that down. With a “business-as-usual” scenario, we would expect an increase in forcing from methane of

One quarter

Of one watt per square metre

Per century

How about if the rate goes wild, and the methane starts rising at say three times the current rate? That would be an additional 2,250 ppbv per century, which in turn will result in an additional forcing of, wait for it … two-thirds of one poor lonely watt per square metre. MODTRAN puts it slightly higher, but still under one W/m2. Pathetic.

And what are the odds of the rate being that high, 2,250 ppbv per century, three times the recent rate of 750 ppbv per century? Very slim. We can see that by looking at the last thousand years of methane levels. Note that these are not global values as in Figure 1. Since there is a methane gradient from the north to the south pole, the Antarctic values are somewhat less than in Figure 1. However, we’re interested in the trend, which will be about the same globally:

methane laws dome deo-8 firn cape grimmFigure 2: Source: NASA GISS

From 1900 to 2000, which was the fastest-rising century in the last millennium regarding atmospheric methane, the concentration went up by about 800 ppbv, a bit larger than the recent increase shown above in Figure 1 of 750 ppbv per century. So there is no acceleration in the rate of methane level increase. To the contrary, there is deceleration, since the recent two decades of the record show an increase of only around 400 ppbv. And indeed, my “business-as-usual” estimate is about as fast as the record rise over the last thousand years.

As a result, I’d say there is very little chance that the rate of methane increase will be doubled, much less tripled, over the coming hundred years … and even in the very unlikely chance that it did triple, the increase in forcing would still be under one watt per square metre per century. Not per decade. Per century.

I gotta say, that’s not some fearsome gas. That’s a downright wimpy example of a Chicken Little gas, a laughing gas if you will. Anyone who is worried about methane, good news. You can stop worrying. Even an extreme methane increase sustained for a hundred years will only make a trivial difference in downwelling forcing. The idea that methane is a major player in the temperature game is a scientific urban legend.

w.

AS USUAL, I request that if you disagree with someone, please quote the exact words that you disagree with. That way, we can all understand just what you object to.

PS—Yes, I know that people claim that methane has some strong feedbacks. And yes, I took a look at them. One is that increasing temperature causes increasing methane, because methane is a byproduct of life, and life likes warmth. More warmth = more life = more decay = more methane.You can see the relationship here.

The problem with that feedback is that whatever increased methane emissions the recent global temperature increase might have caused are already included in both graphs above, Figures 1 and 2. So that feedback is already accounted for in the 750 ppmv/century predicted increase.

The second feedback is due to the fact that methane only lasts about ten years in the atmosphere, at which time it breaks down as follows (simplified):

CH4 ==> CO2 + 2 H20

So when the CH4 is gone, you still have two different greenhouse gases remaining, carbon dioxide and water vapor. Oooh, frightening!

But the problem with that feedback is that the methane numbers are so tiny. The atmospheric levels of the three gases are approximately as follows:

Methane: 1.8 ppmv

CO2: 400 ppmv

Water Vapor: 6,400 ppmv

Now, turnover time in the atmosphere for methane is on the order of ten years. This means that every year a tenth of the methane turns over, or 0.2 ppmv per year.

This means that the amount of methane that decays into CO2 and H20 each year increases the CO2 levels by about 0.2 ppmv per year (or 20 ppmv per century), and the water vapor levels go up by twice that or about 0.4 ppmv per year … meaninglessly small.

299 thoughts on “Scientific Urban Legends

    • And for the UN’s 5 trillion grab for Paris With the state of the world’s economy

      Wouldn’t a bigger slice of a vanishing amount be a vanishing amount?

    • Even three times nothing wouldn’t make any difference because methane (yellow) is under water (green) just about everywhere.
      CO2 (red) at least pops out in two places, although there isn’t much upwelling IR energy at the 4 µm spike.

      • So Mke, just what exactly is plotted here ? It looks like a scatter plot, but I wonder if the individual dots actually represent discrete lines within the various absorption bands.

        Some people assume that just because the H2O bands overlay some others like CO2 O3, and CH4, that the water already ” saturates ” those frequencies.

        f course tat can only happen if any of the much narrower lines in the spectrum band actually share the same frequency, which is far less likely.

        In any case, this graphic is a magnificent depiction of the whole thing.

        But I just see log(intens) on the Y axis and wonder just what that refers to.

        G

      • It’s basically a line list and at too low a resolution to be useful, the increments on the intensity axis are powers of ten. Here’s an expansion of the region of the CH4 line list where absorption takes place and it clearly shows that in that region CH4 dominates H2O by at least two orders of magnitude. 3000 lines for H2O, intensity mostly between 10^22 and 10^24 (cm^-1 mol^-1 cm^2), 30000 lines for CH4, intensity mostly between 10^-20 and 10^-24.

        http://www.spectralcalc.com/spectral_browser/plots/guest2031046931.pdf

  1. I think the numbers are reversed:

    To answer this question, I went to the wondrous MODTRAN site. Using todays values for CO2 (~ 400 ppmv) and methane (~1.81 ppmv) gives me upwelling radiation of 287.5 watts per square metre (W/m2).

    Then I doubled the methane to 3.62 ppmv, re-ran the calculations, and got 286.7 W/m2 emitted from the TOA …

    • Jimmyjoe, your numbers are the same as mine. What that shows is that as the concentration of methane increases, the amount of radiation absorbed by the atmosphere increases, so the upwelling radiation at TOA decreases …

      Thanks,

      w.

      • Willis

        I have been up all night so may be I am not thinking straight, but isn’t Jimmy suggesting that the figure of 286.7 W/m2 for a doubling of Methane (~3.62 ppmv) is wrong since this is less than the figure of 287.5 W/m2 which the figure for current levels of methane (~1.81 ppmv).

      • richard verney October 11, 2015 at 9:46 pm

        Willis

        I have been up all night so may be I am not thinking straight, but isn’t Jimmy suggesting that the figure of 286.7 W/m2 for a doubling of Methane (~3.62 ppmv) is wrong since this is less than the figure of 287.5 W/m2 which the figure for current levels of methane (~1.81 ppmv).

        Thanks, Richard. The number should be less. The number is the upwelling radiation. When methane increases, upwelling radiation decreases.

        w.

      • “What that shows is that as the concentration of methane increases, the amount of radiation absorbed by the atmosphere increases, so the upwelling radiation at TOA decreases …”

        I don’t understand this. Where does the missing IR radiation go?

      • Paul,
        Goes into heating the air, thereby igniting cow farts, roasting the Earth, and cooking is all alive in our own juices.
        That is what the GHG CAGW meme is based on.

      • Paul Berberich: “I don’t understand this. Where does the missing IR radiation go?”

        It’s not missing; that reduction in the rate of radiation escape from the top of the atmosphere is only transient.

        More specifically, if the methane concentration were to exhibit an instantaneous increase to a new, higher level, at which it remains indefinitely, the rate of radiation escape would initially drop, but that would cause the surface (and the atmosphere) ultimately to warm–by enough to return the average top-of-the-atmosphere rate of loss back to where it started.

        So the “missing” IR radiation went into warming the earth. This confusion of transient quantities with equilibrium quantities afflicts many forcing discussions.

      • But, but but. As you increase opacity, less heat is transferred from the surface as netted flux as the downwhelling potential component in the transfer increases and becomes more similar to the upward radiation potential. Given total spectrum opacity the heat transferred it totally the function of the thermal gradient over the mean optical depth. For very high opacity this tends towards the isothermal state as radiative heat transfer cannot itself produce a thermal gradient and over short distances there is no mechanism to maintain a thermal gradient.

        How can this heat the atmosphere more, if the net heat transfer is less?

        The tropospheric thermal gradient is extremely adiabatic once latent heat transfer is included and this dominates the radiative heat transferred from the surface to the atmosphere. If significant heat is transferred then the gradient will evolve. As the whole of the proposed radiative heat transfer has not pulled the troposphere away from the gravitationally driven lapse then the radiative component is reduced to a product.

        At line by line evaluation with each spectral line tied to a discrete physical process then Kirchoff’s law can be and is applied in obtaining the radiative transfer code. At equilibrium the rate of absorption is the rate of emission or the heat transfer will attempt to drive the system to make that true. So no spectral line ‘forces’ anything it comes into equilibrium with the matter and it’s associated radiation field.

    • On the issue of methane doubling in the next 100 years (minus Arctic methane ‘time bomb’) there are other things to think about. Population stabilisation.

      The UN says the world’s population is likely to stabilise around 2100 using the so-called “medium-variant”. Others argue that the world’s population is likely to stabilise around 2050.

      • The faster the third world gets to develop affluence, the faster population will begin to shrink. ‘Fighting climate change’ with the current thinking will delay the stabilization of world population and possibly result in another upward surge, as future generations in the west risk poverty and ignorance.

      • Jimbo,
        The rate of growth in the world’s population is decelerating faster than the various UN models want us to believe. A group of specialist demographers working outside the UN system has persuasively shown that current world population numbers are closer to 6 billion than the official UN figure of 7 billion plus.

        This has far reaching implications by itself, but even more so because growth rates are slowing down significantly as a result of more and more people moving above the poverty threshold where the number of children per family drops dramatically. With the exception of Sub Saharan Africa and some Muslim countries, population growth in most developed economies has fallen to well below the 2.1 replacement value -so these populations are ageing and shrinking- and in a growing number of developing economies growth numbers are steadily falling as well.

        If these numbers hold, global population numbers will stabilize and start falling far sooner than 2050, further contributing to a reduction in man-made methane and adding to W.E.’s conclusions about the far fetched runaway methane nonsense.

  2. That’s a downright wimpy example of a Chicken Little gas, a laughing gas if you will.

    I eagerly look forward to the N2O numbers going exponential in Figure 1.

    Peter

    • Kirchoff’s Law regarding emission and absorption, ONLY applies to systems in thermal equilibrium,
      And the earth is never in thermal equilibrium. The very fact that earth rotates under a more or less constant TSI irradiance precludes the earth’s atmosphere, or the earth itself ever being in thermal equilibrium.

      Therefore Kirchoff’s law is not applicable to earth’s radiation properties.

      Other than that nuwurld’s post contains a lot of buzz words that are not at all familiar to me. So either I am totally out of the loop of the cognoscenti, or nuwurld is in a special group of the enlightened.

      g

      • Wrong. Kirchoff’s law allows a system irrespective of its physical properties to achieve equilibrium. Thousands of materials exist in every room and no one material exists at a different temperature unless the absorptivity to emissivity ratio is different. Once band locked (line by line) emission is a ‘time reversal’ of absorption. It’s the same physical process. Kirchoff’s law applies.

      • George E. Smith October 12, 2015 at 2:01 pm

        Kirchoff’s Law regarding emission and absorption, ONLY applies to systems in thermal equilibrium,
        And the earth is never in thermal equilibrium. The very fact that earth rotates under a more or less constant TSI irradiance precludes the earth’s atmosphere, or the earth itself ever being in thermal equilibrium.

        Therefore Kirchoff’s law is not applicable to earth’s radiation properties.

        Thanks, George. While this is widely believed, it’s not true. The best explanation that I know of showing just why it is not true is given by the always-valuable ScienceOfDoom here.

        Best regards,

        w.

  3. Hmmm.
    280 ppm increase in CO2 gives 3.7 W/m^2.
    Then, 3.7/280 = 0.0132 W/(m^2 ppm)

    1.8 ppm increase in CH4 gives 0.8 W/m^2.
    Then, 0.8/1.8 = 0.444 W/(m^2 ppm)

    So 0.444 / 0.0132 = 33.6 times

    Is this where the ratio of warming potentials comes from?

    • Thanks, Chris. I suspect that is true … what I hadn’t realized is that that ratio is meaningless in the real world because the concentration of methane is so low.

      w.

      • Hahahahaha
        It would be easier for you to explain it like your talking to a 5th grader.
        People are busy.
        Lots to do.
        Make your points simple.
        Pictures are preferred.

        Don’t beat up on them.
        Help them.

      • Dinostratus October 11, 2015 at 10:12 pm

        Could you just please learn some physics and math and spare us the agony?

        Thanks.

        Once again, Dino, you’re all mouth and not a single fact, citation, reference, or quotation. You sling meaningless mud because you are out of real ammunition.

        My question is, are you too stupid, or simply too arrogant, to follow a simple request, viz:

        AS USUAL, I request that if you disagree with someone, please quote the exact words that you disagree with. That way, we can all understand just what you object to.

        I put the important part in bold just for fools like you, so you’d know what is the important part. Waving your hands and claiming I’m wrong goes nowhere. If you think I’m wrong, show us exactly where and how I’m wrong

        And for heaven’s sake, stop whining about your supposed “agony” that came from doing something by your own free will and free choice. If it’s agonizing to you, STOP READING MY WORK, duh!

        You came here, you chose to read my work, and now you are complaining like a spoiled child who thinks everything should be arranged for his pleasure. It’s unbecoming in a grown man …

        As to sparing you your claimed agony … why would I want to do that? You’re an unpleasant, useless random anonymous internet troll who almost never adds to the discussion.

        I write posts containing the best science I know how, for the simple joy of writing them. If my posts actually cause you “agony”, well, that’s just a side benefit …

        w.

      • I disagree with the part where you don’t learn what a mean beam length is before telling us your opinion on methane as a greenhouse gas. It’s not that hard. Just do it.

        Seriously Willis the standard you set is not high enough for this site. I simply do not know why Anthony give you free reign to post whatever drops out of your mind. Maybe he likes the energy and persistence. idk.

        [Reply: Feel free to submit your own article. ~mod.]

      • Dinostratus

        You’re making an ass of yourself. Also, you don’t seem to know the difference between “reign” and “rein”.

      • I realize this adds nothing to the discussion but I can’t resist injecting this thought:

        I suspect Dinostratus thinks he has his mean beam length figure correct. I guarantee you, Dino, it’s a lot shorter than you think.

      • So I saw the mention of ” Mean Beam Length ” in a Dinostratus post here, and a link toa paper from ferd berple which I looked up and read.

        For the record, I have absolutely no idea what that paper is talking about; or what Mean Beam Length is.

        To me, the word ” beam ” either conjures up some structural I-bar or T-bar component, or it signifies a somewhat directed ” beam ” of EM radiant energy; most prominently the highly directed optical beams of say a laser radiation. And it is in that latter context that I would expect ” Mean Beam Length (MBL) ” to apply. Sorry, I couldn’t grasp the concept, but noted that Dinostratus cited verbatim, an extract from that very paper ferd mentions; but without crediting te source of those words.

        As for the paper itself, which I see is in some Engineering journal; I have to admit that It got my dander up immediately by talking about ” radiative heat transfer “.

        In my view, you can have ” radiative energy transfer ” with or without any real physical material made of atoms and molecules being present. EM radiant energy can propagate in some physical material, which we commonly refer to as ” transparent ” : or you can have ” heat ” transfer, BUT only with real physical material made of atoms and molecules present. That ” heat ” propagates from molecule to molecule in collisions, (conduction) or by actual transport of the mass of the ” heat ” containing material (convection).

        ” Heat ” is a macro thermo-dynamic property of large assemblages of discrete particles undergoing random collision, governed by a Maxwell Boltzmann energy distribution; that is a function of Temperature, which is also a macro thermodynamic concept.

        EM radiant energy on the other hand is emitted by individual atoms or molecules, as a direct result of electric charges undergoing accelerations, in the case of ” thermal radiation”, which has a continuum spectrum of energies, or line spectra, which are a result of electron energy level transitions in atoms or molecules and have discrete frequencies.

        If Engineers want to talk about ” heat ” transport by EM radiation; they should also talk about heat transport by grocery shopping cart, where presto logs are transported, instead of photons.

        g

      • Mean beam length is an old timey idea that really isn’t needed in today’s day and age. I mentioned it because it is one of the first things one learns in radiative heat transfer. I talked to a buddy of mine today to ask if Sarofim still teaches it and he does.

        As far as articles, I find Tennekes has the best ones on modeling and modeling errors which is what I would be most interested in. I can’t do as well as him so I don’t try. It’s the same reason I don’t start a alternative rock band. I’m just not as good as what’s already out there and would take no satisfaction in promoting myself for the sake of promoting myself.

        I’d also like to do a deep dive on errors in surface temperature measurements. I have a suspicion (skeptic much?) that misunderstandings in thermal cycling and paint degradation causes a systematic increase in measured temperature. I know Anthony has looked into this but, again, the skeptic in me would feel better if I laid hands on the problem.

    • Willis, could you stop responding to people slinging mud by slinging mud………there is something in your posts and replies which makes me think your prime driving force is to show people how smart you are, there’
      s no need its obvious you are highly intelligent.

      Yes this is also a little sling of mud but I just hope you take your foot of the gas a bit and let us all benefit from your analysis of stuff without the attitude getting in the way.

      All the best, Michael.

      • Dear Michael:

        In a perfect world, your advice would make sense. But sadly we don’t live in one.

        If people don’t deal with anonymous trolls like Dinostratus, it encourages them to do more of the same. Unfortunately they are oblivious to facts, so it’s a waste of time to try to respond to them in that mode. Since their own stock in trade is mindless slurs, intelligent ridicule seems to be the most effective way to discourage them.

        If you can document ways of dealing with people like that which are demonstrably more effective, please share them with us.

      • Catching up on reading today and read the blow by blow w Willis and Dino. Entertaining and endorphin rush tintillating.

        Unless you are willing to crush your opponent to the point that they can never retaliate, it’s always risky to beat em up. If you bloody then to live another day, you just make them stronger. Granted, it’s a good strategy in the appropriate moment, but one not to be trifled with esp if you don’t have the stomach to take it to the end.

        Im sure I can dig up a helpful book or two on the subject but perhaps a classic convo for Doris and Frank is simpler.

        Frank

        Why did you throttle the poor fella ?

        Doris

        He’s stupid, disingenuous and a waste of time. I couldn’t take it anymore and he needed to be taught a lesson.

        Frank

        That’s all okay Doris because I love you and it’s kind of sexy, but now many people see you as a raging ass____ who beat up on a less intelligent man.

        Doris

        Well, I cant deal with these type people anymore so I gave him what he deserved.

        Frank

        Fine, but you scared OTHER people with doubts on the issue and the last thing they’ll do right now is want to talk to you about those doubts. That’s sad considering you have the right answers.

        Doris

        ::::: ponders the moment :::::

      • No Michael, he couldn’t and shouldn’t. I like Willis’ rants. They are almost as good as his posts

      • A lot of trolls thrive on attention.
        Responding to them just encourages them to write more.
        Knowing which is which can be tricky.

      • Maybe the secret is to insult them in a way that makes then feel as stupid as they really are? Just a guess.

      • >>Willis, could you stop responding to people
        >>slinging mud by slinging mud…

        I would agree. I agreed with Willis a few weeks back and got the following response for my troubles (he mis-read my post and thought I was disagreeing):

        Quote: QUOTE MY WORDS, YOU HOCKEY PUCK!

        The trouble with such responses are that they diminish the stature of the person making them. And I think this is the underlying strategy of Dinostratus. If he can turn Willis into a figure of raging fun, then he will detract from his analysis of climate data, and thereby diminish the skeptic arguments against AGW. A simple strategy, but an effective one.

        Its is a bit like Malcolm Rifkind, the UK defense minister, getting in a rage and walking out of the Newsnight interview with Paxman. Rifkind may well have been a competent minister, but his downfall was certain from that time onwards.

        R

      • Willis has been responding to drive-by remarks like that forever. That’s his style. Personally, I like it as it is almost always well-deserved.

        Science is a verbal blood-sport — get a thicker skin.

      • ralfellis October 12, 2015 at 6:51 am

        >>Willis, could you stop responding to people
        >>slinging mud by slinging mud…

        I would agree. I agreed with Willis a few weeks back and got the following response for my troubles (he mis-read my post and thought I was disagreeing):

        Quote: QUOTE MY WORDS, YOU HOCKEY PUCK!

        The trouble with such responses are that they diminish the stature of the person making them.

        ralfellis, I said that then and I’d say it again. Here’s more context for the comment:

        And since that is my main claim in the paper, and I still find nothing wrong with it, then I’m left with the question … just what on earth was ralfellis raving about and trying to attack Leif with?

        QUOTE MY WORDS, YOU HOCKEY PUCK! You are accusing me of errors in my work, without having the stones to say what it is you think is wrong. And more underhanded than that, you are using vague handwaving accusations about my work to attack a third person. You have a beef with my work? How about you work up the courage to talk to me about it, since I wrote it? …

        The reason that I didn’t understand your post is that you didn’t quote what you disagreed with.

        When you make a comment without quoting what you are talking about, after being specifically asked over and over to do so, yes, ralfellis, I will indeed slap your face for it. I’m tired of people waving their hands and making grand pronouncements regarding what they THINK I SAID, without quoting what I ACTUALLY SAID. I can defend my own words. I cannot defend people’s twisted interpretation of my words.

        As to diminishing my stature, fighting to get folks such as yourself to quote what you disagree with can only increase my stature … and you whining when I do that very thing can only decrease yours. In any case, I don’t see this as a popularity contest or a fight to gain “stature”, although it seems you do. For me it is and always has been about the science, not my own flawed self.

        w.

      • beng135,

        “Science is a verbal blood-sport — get a thicker skin.”

        Your use of the term “Science” there, is to me (nobody special) a peculiar distortion of the term as it is defined in something like a dictionary. The guys and gals (etc ; ) who work/worked in science related fields are not science to me, they are just some guys and gals earning a living . . and this “blood sport” you speak of is (to me) just some guys and gals in this realm of employment behaving badly.

        And, I see what has happened in the realm of climate science pertaining to the CAWG hypothesis, as some in that realm of employment winning in the “bloodsport” you evoke here . . and I (nobody special) suggest folks snap out of it, so to speak, and stop justifying/normalizing their bad behavior by speaking and acting like the “sideshow” inter-personal battles for prestige and riches and whatever, is the main event.

        I read the article, and was impressed by the author’s reasoning and evidence, and command of language . . but I’m not at all impressed by his subsequent (to my mind) chest beating type behavior. I saw the original comment by Dinostratus as silly (obviously the author has learned some physics and math) and as some sort of “personal issue” manifesting in an outburst of disrespect. I would have been more impressed if the author made no response at all to it, It did nothing to blemish his reputation in my eyes His response did though, specifically in the thickness of skin department.

        It seems to me he wrote the article for “public consumption”, and I think he may have undone some of the good I feel he did there, by not maintaining a similar level of impersonal concern for sound science winning the real battle many here seem to me to be fighting (Including Mr. Eschenbach, whose entire article I am using as the quote for my comments on it ; )

    • “what I hadn’t realized is that that ratio is meaningless in the real world because the concentration of methane is so low.”

      Strange, it has been written about.

      • Everything has been written about somewhere, ulric. Do you know everything there is to know about sub-atomic energy interactions? And if not, why not? I mean, it has been written about …

        I love how whenever I say that I hadn’t realized something, no matter what it is I hadn’t realized, some jerkwagon will call me a fool for not knowing it already, like I’m supposed to have read everything on the planet.

        I know I’m not the only one whose knowledge is not all encompassing and all inclusive … but I seem to be one of the few in the crowd that has the albondigas to admit it.

        So go away, ulric, and come back when you have something scientific to contribute.

        w.

      • “I know I’m not the only one whose knowledge is not all encompassing and all inclusive … but I seem to be one of the few in the crowd that has the albondigas to admit it.”
        /////

        This is a very important point in climate science. The field is waaaaaaay to big to know even a fraction of it. Despite advanced degrees and decades of experience, I can only scratch the surface of 1% of it. So, this idea that we are constantly lectured to defer to the “experts” and that “all scientists agree” is absurd.

        My “climate change” studies are part time and not part of work. So, clearly, there is a lot I don’t know. But I am an expert at a couple of things like forecasting and observations and statistical modelling. It is easy for me to tell that the “experts” with their climate models are not so good at this. Because of this, I can help with my expertise but I’m worthless at discussing the physics or chemistry of methane…LOL

        That is one of the nice things about sites like this which I consider “modern peer review”. Different people can bring their areas of expertise and contribute…and be challenged… in real time.

        And you can learn a lot. Until today, I had no idea what albondigas are.

      • “So go away, ulric, and come back when you have something scientific to contribute.”

        No you don’t have the right to tell me where to go, and you generally ignore what I contribute. Why do you have to get so emotionally involved in the debate that you bandy words around such as jerkwagon? It’s you that looks like that for loosing your cool.

      • “Everything has been written about somewhere..”

        That’s not true, especially in climate science.

      • ulriclyons October 14, 2015 at 9:40 am Edit

        No you don’t have the right to tell me where to go, and you generally ignore what I contribute.

        It was not an order, it was a fervent hope. And I often ignore what you contribute because sadly, as in this case, it’s often just non-scientific negativity.

        Why do you have to get so emotionally involved in the debate that you bandy words around such as jerkwagon?

        Let me review the bidding. I’d said there was something about climate I didn’t know:

        “what I hadn’t realized is that that ratio is meaningless in the real world because the concentration of methane is so low.”

        You replied:

        Strange, it has been written about.

        Now that a) contains absolutely nothing scientific, and b) is an unpleasant slur implying that I am negligent in not knowing some particular fact … in a field where nobody knows everything.

        That comment is the comment of a jerkwagon, someone with nothing scientific to add who merely wishes to tear me down and denigrate my reputation through baseless attacks.

        You don’t want me to call you a jerkwagon?

        Then stop acting like one and stick to the science, and we’ll get along fine.

        It’s you that looks like that for loosing your cool.

        Passion in the defense of my reputation is no crime in my world. I make no apologies for calling out people like you who make ad hominem attacks on me.

        In any case, I’m all ears. Bust out your scientific comments on this issue, and we’ll have a discussion.

        w.

      • Mr. Eschenbach,

        “It was not an order ….”

        Yes it was, based on WHAT YOU WROTE, as you emphasized.

        “So go away, ulric, and come back when you have something scientific to contribute.”

        So, everyone else is to only speak in terms of what you actually write, but you get to supplement and infuse “convenient” edits after the fact, because you’re ever so tired of people not sticking strictly to what you write?

        ” For me it is and always has been about the science, not my own flawed self.”

        You wrote those words alright, but no one is under no obligation to treat them as scientific anything. What do figure a total narcissist would say? ~ For me it is and always has been about the science, not my own perfect self ~? Me no think so.

        It’s up to the reader to decide for themselves whether what you wrote is or is not about you, I feel, just as is up to the reader to decide such things for themselves about what I, or anyone else writes/says. It’s what you might cal the flip-side of freedom of speech; Freedom of the mind of the hearer.

        And one would think that on a site largely dedicated to fighting for that flip-side, as I see it, this sort of demanding “request” to stick to the authors “script” only, when discussing what he’s written/said, would be recognized as an infringement on that right, if enforced with quick verbal abuse.

        Not to say I feel that you ought not be free to speak as you wish, but rather to say; you look weak and frighted to me when you treat your “request” as anything other than asking a favor.

      • “and b) is an unpleasant slur implying that I am negligent in not knowing some particular fact …”

        Leave it out Willis, this matter has been addressed more than once on this blog. It is your responsibility to pay attention to what has been noted, the same way as it is for you to check the scientific literature to see what has already been established in any other topic you are writing about. Failing to that is just asking for egg on your face. Science is brutal, get used to it.

        “I make no apologies for calling out people like you who make ad hominem attacks on me.”

        You made the ad hominem attack when you called me the jerkwagon, don’t twist around on me thanks.

        “Bust out your scientific comments on this issue, and we’ll have a discussion.”

        Look at your slur when I attempted that:

        “Gary, if we don’t puncture his balloon, there’s heaps of folks out there who will believe his bullshit. I’m not willing to let WUWT be a site where he can spread his nonsense unopposed. If that takes a while, so be it. I’m on holiday, what do I care?”
        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/09/13/like-the-pause-in-surface-temperatures-the-slump-in-solar-activity-continues/#comment-1417383

        The ex head, and recently the current head of the Indian Meteorological Department are paying close attention to this drought forecast for 2016-2017.

      • JohnKnight October 14, 2015 at 11:36 pm

        Mr. Eschenbach,

        “It was not an order ….”

        Yes it was, based on WHAT YOU WROTE, as you emphasized.

        “So go away, ulric, and come back when you have something scientific to contribute.”

        Thanks for that, John. Hilariously, Ulric’s next reply is:

        ulriclyons October 15, 2015 at 3:20 am

        Leave it out Willis, this matter has been addressed more than once on this blog.

        John, when you start ragging on ulric for “ordering” me to “leave it out”, I’ll believe you are serious.

        On my planet, neither my “go away” nor ulric’s “leave it out” are orders. Orders need to have some kind of force behind them. Orders don’t work like that, they have to be followed or bad things happen, there’s an element of force in an order, you have to obey … but neither ulric nor I can force each other to do anything.

        So claiming that we are “ordering” each other to do things is merely your and ulric’s misunderstanding.

        w.

      • On the contrary, it was an order for you to cease casting aspersions. If you think that pointing out that you haven’t done your homework is a slur against you, then must have a vanity problem.

      • Mr. Eschenbach,

        “John, when you start ragging on ulric for “ordering” me to “leave it out”, I’ll believe you are serious.”

        I wasn’t ragging on you for ordering anyone about, but for bald faced lying, hypocrisy and using a “request” as if a license to abuse those who don’t comply . . . I mean, if “ragging” is how you say expressing one’s impressions.

        “On my planet, neither my “go away” nor ulric’s “leave it out” are orders. Orders need to have some kind of force behind them.”

        Perhaps so . . what is your planet? On mine (earth), orders need no such force, just a mouth (or fingers ; ) to issue them. Force is real handy for making people comply with orders, but anyone can make an order . . even a guy posing as a bombastic climate science expert, to disrupt rational discourse, fan the flames of the “blood sport” of discussing scientific matters on-line, and make CAWG skeptics look silly and small-minded to any fresh eyes that happened to take a look at a site like this one . . just for instance.

      • JohnKnight October 16, 2015 at 1:32 pm

        “On my planet, neither my “go away” nor ulric’s “leave it out” are orders. Orders need to have some kind of force behind them.”

        Perhaps so . . what is your planet? On mine (earth), orders need no such force, just a mouth (or fingers ; ) to issue them. Force is real handy for making people comply with orders, but anyone can make an order . . even a guy posing as a bombastic climate science expert, to disrupt rational discourse, fan the flames of the “blood sport” of discussing scientific matters on-line, and make CAWG skeptics look silly and small-minded to any fresh eyes that happened to take a look at a site like this one . . just for instance.

        Ummm … Earth?

        Sure, I can order President Obama to take some action … but since he doesn’t have to obey me, that’s not really an order, is it? From the definition, I find:

        order: an authoritative command, direction, or instruction.

        See the word “authoritative” in there? Since I have no authority, I can’t issue orders to Obama, to Ulric, or to yourself. Orders are given by superiors to subordinates. You’ve heard of the military, yes? Long on orders, short on requests. Why? Because people have authority over each other. And that’s why you can get fired in civilian life or court-martialled in military life if you disobey orders, because you are required to obey them.

        So Obama is not “disobeying orders” when he does things I’ve told him not to do … because he was under no compulsion to obey me, my wishes are not orders in any sense.

        Shakespeare, as usual, said it best. Glendower claims to be able to order the spirits around:

        GLENDOWER. I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

        HOTSPUR. Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?

        As to damaging the reputations, having skeptical authors that refuse to answer scientific questions does far more damage to the skeptic cause than anything I might do by my tone in asking those scientific questions … but then, you’ve refused to answer them, you’re running from them as fast as Ulric is, so I doubt you’ll agree.

        I say again, those are simple questions, and the refusal of you two guys to answer them is mystifying to me. If you truly want to get me to stop asking them, and to stop pointing out that you’re refusing to answer simple scientific questions, well, the easy way out is obvious … let us all know which of my 8 examples are real numbers and which are “imaginary numbers”. You know, do what you recommended above, that we develop a dialog … which is hard to do when the other guy refuses to answer questions.

        w.

      • “you’re running from them as fast as Ulric is”

        Hello? you’re the one that keeps running away when I find a fault in your posts. Apart from the WMO heatwave definition, the only numbers that I remember you asking for, was for things that required grades and not absolute numbers. You can’t go making up your own standards of something that you don’t yet understand.

      • Mr. Eschenbach,

        “See the word “authoritative” in there?”

        Sure do, powder puff . . Do you see the word ‘force’?

        I command you to confess you are fifth columnist, slick ; )

    • Yes, that’s the source of the ratio. The “X times worse” has always been used to mean on a lb for lb basis. As methane is such a low concentration, it gives higher results per pound than CO2 despite the overall doubling being roughly similar because there are a lot fewer pounds needed to double it.

    • The forcing effect is logarithmic with varying concentrations. So the effect of an absolute increase in Methane is much greater than the effect of an absolute increase in CO2 because CO2 is starting from a much higher concentration level. If the concentration levels were reversed, then CO2 would appear to be the more potent greenhouse gas on this basis,

      In order to meaningfully compare their relative effects, it therefore makes sense to look at ratio increases like doubling concentrations as Will Eschenbach has done here.

      • Well Pete, Semi-conductor device Physics text books, such as that by Andy Grove;
        ” Physics and Technology of Semi-conductor Devices ” describe the I-V characteristic of semi-conductor diodes as being ” logarithmic ” or more often as the exponential form:
        I = I(o) exp(q|Vf|/kT) or I = I(o) exp(q|Vf|2kT) for respectively, the pure diffusion current, and the pure recombination current.

        So the voltage equation would be a logarithm function of the current.

        Actual practical diodes (silicon) follow a combination of these two slopes over six orders of magnitude.

        Gallium Arsenide diodes on the other hand, follow the pure recombination form of these expressions over a full eight orders of magnitude, from say 0.1 picoamp to 10 microamp, for a given diode junction area at a fixed Temperature.

        Now that is what I would call a real logarithmic (or exponential relationship)

        So Pete, just what data do you know of with relation to the atmosphere and forcings, that follows a true logarithmic relationship, over even one order of magnitude.

        With regard to earth surface or lower troposphere temperature and say atmospheric CO2 abundance, we maybe have reliable measured data (say from ML) that covers maybe 30% of one octave (doubling of CO2); whereas one order of magnitude would be about 3.33 octaves (doublings).

        I’ll accept the ML CO2 data as somewhat robust, but the associated temperature I far less defined; and I have seen NO experimental data that would fit a logarithmic function any better than a perfectly linear fit.

        Theory is no help in establishing logarithmicity over one order of magnitude (of either variable ( T or CO2)).

      • Pete,

        How does that relationship hold if an atmosphere has one molecule of CO2, and someone adds a second CO2 molecule? They have just doubled the concentration. Is it a logarithmic relationship?

  4. Nice image. That flame thrower farm animal reminds me of Anita Morris in The Rolling Stones video, “she was hot” …the very end. I’m not a huge stones fan. More of a Yes, ELP, APP & Styx kind of guy.

  5. Willis I’ll take your word for the numbers above for now and I’ll be sure to read the replies from some of the big hitters. Over the years I’ve watched many a so called scientist and pollies warn us about Co2/METHANE levels spiralling out of control unless we throw 100s billions $ their way.
    But now you’ve ruined it for them by your wet blanket attempt to use facts and sums instead of BS. But I’d like to ask you a question….. how much global warming has there been since 1850? And can you tell us how much is caused by humans and how much is just natural variation and recovery from the LIA. And then please tell us how you derive the answer? Just asking.

    • Neville October 11, 2015 at 9:32 pm

      … But I’d like to ask you a question….. how much global warming has there been since 1850?

      Best guess is on the order of 0.5 – 1°C, but with much wider error bars than are usually claimed.

      And can you tell us how much is caused by humans and how much is just natural variation and recovery from the LIA.

      Nobody knows, and if they tell you they do, they’re blowing smoke.

      All the best,

      w.

      • Thanks Willis. But can I also ask if you think that warming over the last 165 years is unprecedented or unusual? And when you answer yes or no or don’t know can you also tell us why?

      • Someone told me that the carbon in CO2 emitted by man’s burning of fossil fuels into the atmosphere was of a different isotope than what is naturally put in the atmosphere; so that is how “they” can know the amount of man-caused CO2. I’m sure this is another urban myth, but do we know the ratios of the various carbon isotopes in fossil fuels?

      • Neville October 11, 2015 at 9:47 pm

        Thanks Willis. But can I also ask if you think that warming over the last 165 years is unprecedented or unusual? And when you answer yes or no or don’t know can you also tell us why?

        Nobody knows.

        Why? Because we still have very little understanding of the climate. We don’t know why it was warmer in the Medieval and Roman times. We don’t know why it cooled from the Medieval times to the Little Ice Age, and we don’t know why it stopped cooling and started warming since the Little Ice Age.

        Given that, the idea that we can say what is unusual and what is not is is hubris of the highest order …

        w.

      • Best guess is on the order of 0.5 – 1°C,
        ===================
        Willis, you didn’t specify how much of that is due to natural causes such as recovery from the LIA, 1000+ year warming cooling cycle seen in the paleo records, natural variability.

      • Neville, it’s not unusual. Because the Medieval, Roman and Minoan warm periods were all warmer than today.

      • what experts are doing wrong in their quantification of climate forcings
        ===============
        Fundamentally, the experts have failed to apply double blind experimental controls to their handling of the temperature data, which has been shown repeatedly in other scientific fields of inquiry to lead to incorrect results, time and time again.

        Quite simply, no scientist can trust their calculations of climate forcings, because the underlying data on which the calculations are based has not been subject to the necessary experimental controls to avoid introduced bias.

        No one in their right mind would consider using a medicine that was prescribed on the basis of adjusted data. Yet the “cure” for “climate change” is based squarely and fundamentally on adjusted data.

        The most recent set of adjustments, to remove the “Pause”, is clear and unequivocal evidence that no experimental controls have been applied. Rather they are politically driven in support of the upcoming Paris conference. A legacy building adjustment. A testimony to ego.

      • Willis,

        I think this was the most important part of Neville’s question:

        …can I also ask if you think that warming over the last 165 years is unprecedented or unusual?

        The answer is in all the records: there is nothing unusual or unprecedented happening. I agree that we have very limited knowledge of the global climate. But the climate alarmists are trying to make this scare the public:

        If there is anything unprecedented or unusual happening, it is the fact that we’ve been in a “Goldilocks” temperature range for more than a century.

      • NOAA, the stable isotope ratios in “fossil fuels” are dependent on plant physiology. Tropical grasses and other tropical plants often have C4 or CAMS cycle metabolisms which bias uptake of the various C isotopes in systematic ways. This is apparently an evolutionary adaptation to water availability. In the US the stable carbon isotope profile of your typical citizen looks comparable to that of a Maize plant. We eat a lot of corn based products. Other important grains such as wheat have similar effects.

        The majority of “fossil fuels” however predate the appearance of C4 and CAMS cycle plants. As such the isotope ratios are different. Burning fossil fuels pushes atmospheric carbon ratios back toward a Mesozoic or even Paleozoic isotope profile.

      • Willis
        Thanks for what you do.
        Gently: Your reply to Neville is very good.
        Share your knowledge with those of us who want it. We, and the world, will benefit.
        The snipers excepted.

      • John

        Part of the intent of a sniper (heckler) is to draw attention to himself AND get you to take bait that weakens you.

        If you beat him to a pulp (intellectually) without offering compassion (save face) it more often than not quashes the gentle curiousity of others who witness it.

        Willis can continue the tactic of aggressively crushing weak opponents, but it potentially limits his appeal to gentler doubters.

        Carry on though. I’m just offering it as an observation.

      • Knute October 12, 2015 at 3:11 pm

        John

        Part of the intent of a sniper (heckler) is to draw attention to himself AND get you to take bait that weakens you.

        If you beat him to a pulp (intellectually) without offering compassion (save face) it more often than not quashes the gentle curiousity of others who witness it.

        Willis can continue the tactic of aggressively crushing weak opponents, but it potentially limits his appeal to gentler doubters.

        Thanks, Knute. I do my best to “aggressively crush” people who attack me. But I also do my best to never do so to “gentler doubters” or “weak opponents”. Re-read as many posts of mine as you like. You’ll see that if a person comes to me with an honest question or a scientific objection, they get the same tone in return.

        But if someone comes in like Dino with all guns blazing, no science, just aggression and attack, they’ll get the same in return. I think of it as internet karma—whatever tone folks wish to take with me, I’m happy to take the same tone with them.

        I once heard karma described as “hitting a golf ball in a tiled bathroom”. So when someone like Dino comes in spewing nasty, scientific-content-free ugliness, I just provide the tiled bathroom …

        Regards,

        w.

      • W

        I don’t know you so won’t propose that I do.
        I have read many of your writings and agree that you attack with throat blows when attacked and are patient enough with the curious.

        My opinion is that I want you to continue to succeed with as broad an audience as possible. I see your side that fools should not be given safe haven, I also see the effects it can have on the fencesitters.

        Indeed, the BS artist wants to be appreciated so he spins yarns that are half cocked, but they are rooted in a passion. A passion that attracts others. Acknowledging his passion, his half truth and then pointing out his omissions (commissions) saves his face, corrects his bluster and allows fencesitters who are leaning his way to reconsider the nobler man.

        I have experienced and witnessed that the above is more effective, but I am also human and drawn to the throat kill from time to time.
        It’s cost is not worth the moment.

        Food for thought, no more, no less.
        I’ll continue to enjoy reading your stuff.

      • Knute October 12, 2015 at 5:07 pm

        W

        I don’t know you so won’t propose that I do.
        I have read many of your writings and agree that you attack with throat blows when attacked and are patient enough with the curious.

        My opinion is that I want you to continue to succeed with as broad an audience as possible. I see your side that fools should not be given safe haven, I also see the effects it can have on the fencesitters.

        Indeed, the BS artist wants to be appreciated so he spins yarns that are half cocked, but they are rooted in a passion. A passion that attracts others. Acknowledging his passion, his half truth and then pointing out his omissions (commissions) saves his face, corrects his bluster and allows fencesitters who are leaning his way to reconsider the nobler man.

        I have experienced and witnessed that the above is more effective, but I am also human and drawn to the throat kill from time to time.
        It’s cost is not worth the moment.

        Food for thought, no more, no less.
        I’ll continue to enjoy reading your stuff.

        Thanks for that, Knute. Here’s what I’ve seen happening, far too often. Someone pops in to attack me. Not my science. Me. I try reason. He is immune to reason. I try gentle words. Also immune.

        Meanwhile, a raft of folks see that I’m being Mr. Nice Guy, and knowing full well that nice guys finish last, they see it as open season on Willis. And from there it just goes downhill.

        I think that your main misimpression is that somehow vultures and hyenas care about saving face. They are here to savage me in whatever way they can.

        I recognize them because they don’t even attempt to attack my science. Instead, they attack me. For example, here is Dinostratus’s opening salvo:

        Could you just please learn some physics and math and spare us the agony?

        Now, if you think that a man who OPENS A DISCUSSION in that manner cares about saving face, forget it. To start with, he is anonymous, as are most of the cowards who launch such an underhanded, fact-free attack, so his face is hidden and there is never a need to save face.

        Next, if he cared about his alias even a little bit, he would never have opened with that kind of an attack. When he opens like that, it’s clear that he’s not here to discuss the science. He’s not here to learn about the science. He’s not here to teach us about the science.

        He’s here to brag about how smart he is, and declaim about how stupid I am. He has been banging that same drum on every thread that I’ve noticed him on.

        Note that he never quite gets around to actually demonstrating that I’m wrong. And he never gets around to demonstrating that he’s right.

        So while I agree with you regarding the best way to deal with folks who are misguided, which is to point out their errors as best I can, I can’t even begin to do that with Dinostratus, because there’s nothing to grab hold of. Look at his statement above. He doesn’t provide examples of either where I’m wrong or where he’s right, so there’s no way to catch him in an error.

        As a result, while with misguided folks I often do (or at least attempt to do) what you advise, and treat them in a congenial manner, I use very different methods when I’m dealing with venomous snakes like Dinostratus …

        Finally, I do try to keep it light. People think I get angry, but that is very rarely the case. Usually, I’m more amused by the people who try to bite my ankles, although it may not come through in my writing.

        w.

      • W

        That was a thoughtful reply and what I would expect from a man with genuine intent. I cut and pasted it below so i could read it as a wrote back. I got out the big computer for this one.

        “Thanks for that, Knute. Here’s what I’ve seen happening, far too often. Someone pops in to attack me. Not my science. Me. I try reason. He is immune to reason. I try gentle words. Also immune.
        Meanwhile, a raft of folks see that I’m being Mr. Nice Guy, and knowing full well that nice guys finish last, they see it as open season on Willis. And from there it just goes downhill.
        I think that your main misimpression is that somehow vultures and hyenas care about saving face. They are here to savage me in whatever way they can.
        I recognize them because they don’t even attempt to attack my science. Instead, they attack me. For example, here is Dinostratus’s opening salvo:

        Could you just please learn some physics and math and spare us the agony?
        Now, if you think that a man who OPENS A DISCUSSION in that manner cares about saving face, forget it. To start with, he is anonymous, as are most of the cowards who launch such an underhanded, fact-free attack, so his face is hidden and there is never a need to save face.
        Next, if he cared about his alias even a little bit, he would never have opened with that kind of an attack. When he opens like that, it’s clear that he’s not here to discuss the science. He’s not here to learn about the science. He’s not here to teach us about the science.
        He’s here to brag about how smart he is, and declaim about how stupid I am. He has been banging that same drum on every thread that I’ve noticed him on.
        Note that he never quite gets around to actually demonstrating that I’m wrong. And he never gets around to demonstrating that he’s right.
        So while I agree with you regarding the best way to deal with folks who are misguided, which is to point out their errors as best I can, I can’t even begin to do that with Dinostratus, because there’s nothing to grab hold of. Look at his statement above. He doesn’t provide examples of either where I’m wrong or where he’s right, so there’s no way to catch him in an error.
        As a result, while with misguided folks I often do (or at least attempt to do) what you advise, and treat them in a congenial manner, I use very different methods when I’m dealing with venomous snakes like Dinostratus …
        Finally, I do try to keep it light. People think I get angry, but that is very rarely the case. Usually, I’m more amused by the people who try to bite my ankles, although it may not come through in my writing.”

        Knute

        You are correct, he is not interested in saving face concerning YOU or the people who ascribe to the scientific method. He is interested in elevating his position in his tribe and that’s where his face matters.

        In his tribe, they view you as a ‘know it all science guy’. They view you as not appreciating their passion. The primary tools in their toolbox are meant to totally frustrate you and have you figuratively frothing at the mouth. They want to see that because it takes you down from the pedestal they see you on. Again, you are right that he wants to show he is smarter. Except, his audience is in his world. If you froth, well then he wins because in today’s social mores, overt expressions of frustration are bad. You are painted as the bully and discredited as the objective, above the emotional fray scientist.

        I also see the risk of the blog pile on occurring if you let them have their way with you. I really like your approach of telling folks to please identify the specific writings that you used. Stick to it. It’s the point of departure. If they don’t, then the warning bells go off. A reminder, minus the throat punch, to please quote otherwise you are at a loss to answer adequately is powerful. You need it more than he needs to be disciplined. The power is back with you. It is one advantage that the internet has to offer that verbal sparring does not. Its tough to quote someone during verbal sparring because people hear different things.

        If they chose to ignore the rules of interacting with “W” (reasonable ones I might add), then it’s they that will amp up the attack and then you’ve jujitsued them. They have to because resolution is not the end goal. Appreciation among their tribe or a takedown of you in yours is. They typically will end up being the frothy ad hom attacker or argument by extreme which by that time does the work for you. Its good that this website lays its foundations on not allowing fallacies to fester and I’m sure the moderator will put an end to that pretty quickly.

        Thanks for listening.
        And thanks for teaching me the value of the “quote me first rule”.
        I have a few other tactics for dealing with hecklers but your fundamental one should work wonders.

        I like to take it a bit further and gently shine a flashlight on the ridiculousness of the heckler. I do that because I want the fenceriders to stop, pause and think about the weak foundation of the tribal leader they are thinking about following. Its exhausting to do that and don’t recommend it here, but perhaps you can see its usefulness in your other endeavors in the real world.

        Btw, I choose to be anonymous and I am all the more honored that you took the time to explain your thoughts on the issue. I’m anonymous because it’s the only way I can freely exchange and educate myself without being subject to publicity that would shut down my abilities to do so. It is quite the pickle for me and I’m not too happy about it, but it’s better than not pursuing a higher understanding. I come here to learn what you folks talk about and to try and understand how the skeptics community can get better message penetration.

      • Knute,

        A man (with a pretty good reputation), once addressed this matter;

        ~ Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

        But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. ~

        In that culture, to say someone struck another on the right cheek, implied they used the back of their hand (right hand), a sign of strong disrespect, a dismissive insulting gesture (as apposed to striking someone with a fist, which would land on the left cheek, generally speaking).

        Consider please; If a man insults me, and I respond patiently and respectfully, without gratuitously insulting him in return . . and he continues to be insulting, hostile, etc: Which man’s reputation suffers in your eyes?

      • JK

        I’m not one for getting in the middle of something I don’t know enough about. I know a little which definitely skews my opinion even more. I read some of the back and forth but certainly not most. So, I think the wisest approach for me to add is what I do in real life during a persistent sore spot. I forgive the event, the moment.

        I move on with a sense that I don’t really know s__t about most things and it’s likely that I helped create the conflict. I regroup, focus on taking care of my own biased behavoir. When I reengage, I make sure to focus on listening to what the other person needs to hear me while I play close attention to my own state of being relaxed.

        Doesn’t work all the time, but seems to work the best.

        People have patterns of behavoir. We all have them. Gifts of our genes and experiences. I rarely throat punch anymore for the full take down. I’m not averse to a good rumble in the mud, I just see more success in learning about myself using the above approach.

        I also think this is why face to face matters. Among my peers we joke that there are two rules to doing stuff together … they are

        1. Don’t be a d__k.
        2. Don’t suck at what your doing.

        Again, take what I say with a grain of salt.

      • Knute,

        I didn’t mean to be critical, just mentioning something that came to mind as I read your . . advisements along these lines. Something to consider, from a well established advisor of good reputation ; )

    • Neville – we do not have a good understanding of how CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels affect total atmospheric CO2, let alone how burning fossil fuels affect temperature.
      Change in CO2 = CO2 from Human sources + CO2 from “natural” sources – absorbed CO2.
      We know :
      1) Change in CO2
      2) CO2 from Human sources.
      We do not know
      1) CO2 from “natural” sources
      2) absorbed CO2
      However we do know that the Change in CO2 is not equal to CO2 from Human sources.

  6. And this all assumes that Arrhenius was correct in the first place, which he wasn’t. Without even looking for the 1909 Woods experiment, you can disprove the whole thing simply by taking the CO2 doubling figures of watts per square metre and apply them to Venus with the added multiplier of the distance ratio from the sun. Simple arithmetic and simple common sense.

    • wickedwenchfan, I did this about a decade ago, and found the same thing as you. Venus falsifies the Arrhenius hypotheses. I asked the AGW proponents of the time “what kind of science is earth specific?”.

  7. What about the methane clathrate, or methane hydrate catastrophe? Isn’t that the actual CAGW methane boogyman?

    • That methane hydrate is a terrible threat to the world. Millions of tons of the stuff is hiding in the dark, very cold and extremely high-pressure bottom of the oceans. It has been there since before the dinosaurs and is obviously very stable, since it has gone through periods where the atmosphere is much hotter than it is now.

      And yet if the atmosphere warms by just 2 degrees, the heat will magically find it’s way to the bottom of the ocean and make it all spontaneously evaporate. If this sounds a lot like magic to you, well it does to me too.

      • Hive, the ocean floors are considerably younger than you might think. The Atlantic for instance is younger than many dinosaurs, and while the Pacific is older in some regions much of the ocean floor is young. The Arctic likewise. There are definite indications that clathrate “eruptions” have occurred – in for instance the North Sea. There is little if any evidence that they have had any serious global effects.

    • Paul Westhaver
      October 11, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      What about the methane clathrate, or methane hydrate catastrophe? Isn’t that the actual CAGW methane boogyman?

      The problem there is this:

      During the holocene hypsithermal warm period, 9,000 to 5,000 years BP., there is evidence of an ‘ice-free’ Arctic ocean. References here. During the Eemian interglacial, which began about 130,000 years ago, hippos swam in England’s Thames River and the European Rhine. PDF reference here/b>

      Now, before people call me the ‘D’ WORD in their minds, here is Dr. Gavin Schmidt on the Arctic methane hydrates bomb ticking away on the sea floor et al.

      Live Science – July 26, 2013
      Arctic Methane Claims Questioned
      …..In a commentary published in the journal Nature on Wednesday (July 24), researchers predicted that the rapid shrinking of Arctic sea ice would warm the Arctic Ocean, thawing permafrost beneath the East Siberian Sea and releasing methane gas trapped in the sediments. …..

      “The paper says that their scenario is ‘likely.’ I strongly disagree,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

      An unlikely scenario

      One line of evidence Schmidt cites comes from ice core records, which include two warm Arctic periods that occurred 8,000 and 125,000 years ago, he said. There is strong evidence that summer sea ice was reduced during these periods, and so the methane-release mechanism (reduced sea ice causes sea floor warming and hydrate melting) could have happened then, too. But there’s no methane pulse in ice cores from either warm period, Schmidt said. “It might be a small thing that we can’t detect, but if it was large enough to have a big climate impact, we would see it,” Schmidt told LiveScience.
      http://www.livescience.com/38473-arctic-methane-warming-debate.html

      • See also the past Arctic tree-lines during the Holocene where today it is tundra.

        See 1,000 years ago.

        Ancient Forest Thaws From Melting Glacial Tomb
        By Laura Poppick, Staff Writer | September 20, 2013
        An ancient forest has thawed from under a melting glacier in Alaska and is now exposed to the world for the first time in more than 1,000 years.

        Stumps and logs have been popping out from under southern Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier — a 36.8-square-mile (95.3 square kilometers) river of ice flowing into a lake near Juneau — for nearly the past 50 years. However, just within the past year or so, researchers based at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau have noticed considerably more trees popping up, many in their original upright position and some still bearing roots and even a bit of bark,….
        http://www.livescience.com/39819-ancient-forest-thaws.html

        There is a crazy plan to harvest methane from the sea floor and tundra before it escapes. Someone call 911 over this non-problem. Money and global warming go together like strawberries and cream. Yummy!

        Operation Methane Harvest
        ….The first step is to harvest or store methane before much more of it escapes into the atmosphere; before it causes the red graph to spike upwards like the blue ones…..

        ….How much is the prize money?

        We need an incentive prize that is big enough to spark the interest of inventors from all around the world, the global media as well as all current players in the fuel and energy industry……
        https://herox.com/MethaneHarvest

      • Prior to the big drop in natural gas prices due to fracking, there were people looking into mining the hydrates for the energy, not because of the mythical global warming. Of course they would have taken the fools money, who wouldn’t accept money for something you were planning to do anyway?

    • First off, if the methane hydrates do start to break down, it will be a slow process.
      Rising oceans will counteract the slightly warmer oceans, so the rate of breakdown, even in a worst case scenario would be slow.
      The odds are that life in the oceans would metabolize all of the methane long before it can reach the surface anyway.

    • No and t’s old news,

      But the methane worst case does not suddenly spell the extinction of human life on Earth. It does not lead to a runaway greenhouse. The worst-case methane scenario stands comparable to what CO2 can do. What CO2 will do, under business-as-usual, not in a wild blow-the-doors-off unpleasant surprise, but just in the absence of any pleasant surprises (like emission controls). At worst comparable to CO2 except that CO2 lasts essentially forever. An Arctic methane worst-case scenario

      when Realclimate says methane isn’t some kind of scary all-powerful GHG, I have to believe them, the article is dated 7 January 2012! Willis’s point is intact, the scare mongers didn’t get the memo and methane apocalypse is a pseudo-scientific urban legend; it sounds plausible enough to be a scary campfire tale until you really look into it and it all falls apart; noe lets all go park on the side of the road, blinker our lights three times at the abandoned railway crossing and wait for the ghost-train to roar by.

      • Well, I figured WE may have dealt with a big burp of CH4, of the level that one would get from a hydrate melt-off. Not that I buy the methane hydrate scare. In his analysis he didn’t account for the CH4 f@rt from the ocean and it would have been an easy addendum to deal with the predominant issue related to methane hydrate. I don’t think may people took the cow f@rt methane issue too seriously.

  8. Aha! It seems you have omitted the dreaded effects of “PERMAFROST” and the even more horrifying “METHANE HYDRATE”. (Capitals intended to be SCARY).

    The story is that as vegetation has been rotting away very gently for the last million years in the Arctic, methane has been accumulated dissolved in (one presumes) the ice in the permafrost. So as the earth warms, the ice will melt, the methane will come out of solution, and suddenly the atmosphere will be flooded, not with a doubling or even a tripling of methane, but a quadzillioning of methane, which will heat up the atmosphere! And the atmosphere will heat up the bottom of the oceans, where the sea floor is covered with methane hydrate, this, as the water warms, will come out of solution (as gases dissolved in water do when warmed) and the atmosphere will be flooded with teramegatonnes of noxious CH4, thus adding more to the Global Warming which will kill off all life unless we do something about it.

    Of course, as the methane reaches the surface of the oceans, it will reduce the density of sea water, and all shipping will sink. This means that all crude oil tankers will sink and release their cargoes of crude oil, covering the world’s oceans with oil to the depth of a millimetre (or centimeter, or metre, depending on how much horror you wish to impart, killing all sea birds but also ending all fish life and killing all whales (from Australia it doen’t matter if sharks or blue bottle jelly fish are killed).

    Now, Willis, you will appreciate it that it is essential that the permafrost be not warmed. The United States must therefore, together with the European Union, develop the necessary refrigeration machinery to KEEP THE PERMAFROST COOL! Pipes will be laid in strategic grids everywhere permafrost exists, with refrigeration machinery to ensure that the land is cooled. The machinery will use Carbon Dioxide, which will be able to absorb all the remaining CO2 from the few coal fired power plants left after the land has been covered with solar power plants. Solar power plants will be particularly efficient in the Arctic, where the warming will occur during the long winter days, but will not be needed during the long winter night with no warming from the sun. In this way, power supply from solar plants will be available at the time of electricity demand.

    To paraphrase Annie
    Oakley, “Any greenhouse horror you can think up, I can think up better.”

    • “as vegetation has been rotting away very gently for the last million years in the Arctic, methane has been accumulated dissolved in (one presumes) the ice in the permafrost.”
      So all this methane was once in the atmosphere before it was frozen in permafrost. How come that with that much methane in the atmosphere (and the corresponding forcing on temperature) permafrost was able to build?

      • Because, when the methane was in the atmosphere instead of being in the permafrost, the temperature was pretty much the same as now. The Arctic was COLD! The effect of methane is, as Willis showed, negligible.

        BTW, remember that when you burn coal, oil and gas, you burn the compressed and distilled remains of vegetation that thrived long, long, ago. The vegetation took the carbon dioxide for its structure (basically carbohydrates) out of the air. So all you are doing is putting back into the atmosphere the carbon dioxide that used to be there, before the coal beds, and deep oil and gas deposits, were laid down.

        Hence burning coal, oil and gas is good for you.

    • I’ve read that recently it was discovered that most of the methane emerging from the permafrost gets transformed at or near the surface by bacteria.

      • rogerknights
        October 12, 2015 at 1:10 am

        I’ve read that recently it was discovered that most of the methane emerging from the permafrost gets transformed at or near the surface by bacteria.

        Thanks for raising this as I was just about to! Maybe this is why there is no spike in the ice-core record.

        Science Daily – August 17, 2015
        On warmer Earth, most of Arctic may remove, not add, methane

        …..However, new research led by Princeton University researchers and published in The ISME Journal in August suggests that, thanks to methane-hungry bacteria, the majority of Arctic soil might actually be able to absorb methane from the atmosphere rather than release it. Furthermore, that ability seems to become greater as temperatures rise….

        The researchers found that Arctic soils containing low carbon content — which make up 87 percent of the soil in permafrost regions globally — not only remove methane from the atmosphere, but also become more efficient as temperatures increase.
        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/08/150817110836.htm
        ============
        An active atmospheric methane sink in high Arctic mineral cryosols. The ISME Journal, 2015; 9 (8): 1880
        http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ismej.2015.13
        DOI: 10.1038/ismej.2015.13

        The methane time bomb this century if we don’t change our ways is an urban legend. Bulllshit!

  9. I think a lot of people get confused with the claim that methane (CH4) is X times “more powerful/potent” a GHG than CO2 etc because they forget CH4 absorbs IR at frequencies outside those absorbed by CO2 and H2O.

    I was once talking with someone about CH4, and they said and I quote “CH4 has 4 carbons”.

    • I was once talking about (lack of ) Global warming to someone and she said ‘Don’t be silly, I’ve seen the Ice Melting’.

      • Probably took a summer tour to some glacier somewhere, and by God, it was melting. The horror of it all.

      • Last week I got home from work, turned the air conditioner down, and then got some ice out of the freezer to pour myself a cold soda.
        I was in a hurry to wet my whistle, and dropped a few cubes on the floor. But being the analytical person that I am, I observed the ice cubes melting, and I also watched the temperature fall in my house.
        Now, when those ice cubes fell on the floor, they did not start melting right away even though the house was as hot as it would be for the rest of the day.
        This is because they started out at 0 degrees… the temperature of my freezer.
        But as the house cooled down, and the ice cubes warmed up, eventually they did start to melt, and kept melting faster and faster even as the temperature fell in the house.
        Why…you (or she) might ask?
        Ice does not melt when the temperature is rising or falling… ice melts whenever the temperature of the ice is at the melting point and the air around it is above the melting point temperature.
        Of course I’m sure all that would have confused the poor girl terribly.

        Thermal mass, delayed reaction times, two thoughts at once, numbers bigger than ten, summer then winter..the weak minded are mentally crippled by weighty concepts such as these.

      • A couple years back I met this earnest young man who claimed that the reduction in snow depth where he grew up proved that AGW was occuring. He remembered the snow depth from when he was a young child and how much less deep it was now that he was a grown man.

        Funny, I remember how much taller the stairs that I encountered were back when I was a young child. And, now they’re so much shorter. I wonder what force shrank all those stairs and buildings?

  10. A good read. If you are a scientist or inclined to think like one.

    I once tried to use pourbaix to explain metals species. Didn’t work well. Too much science.

    I then got introduced to this stuff
    http://m.cmo.com/articles/2014/9/3/whiteboard_beats_pow.html

    Better impact on the brain.

    If I knew then what I know now, i’d remember that it’s my job to explain something as simply as possible if I want to consider myself an expert.

    Simple pictures that make your point stick in the brain.

      • Artistry not required when you hire a pro.
        I’ve seen their work and some public reaction.
        It works. I’m not hawking these guys, but the genre of pros seem to really know what they are doing.

        http://m.imagethink.net/?dm_redirected=true#2795

        I’ve also noticed the same when putting names of bad argument. .. name and an image think approach help people to go ahhhhhhhhh, I get it now.

        Typically once you ahhhhhhhhh it’s hard to go back.

  11. Willis,
    Not sure what your point is. When I googled as you said, the first EPA link said this:
    “Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.”
    Well, from your calc, 1.81 ppmv on doubling gives 0.8 W/m2. And 400 W/m2 gives 3.7 W/m2. Litre for litre, that is 47.7 times, if it happens instantly. Pound for pound, multiply by 44/16, gives 131. Looks like they are understating.

    But that is instant. Over 100 years, methane has a lifetime in the air of 12 years, says EPA. So maybe divide by 8. But then, a bit more for the residual CO2. And then CO2 fades a bit over a century too. All told, the EPA statement is looking good.

    And then, on the CO2 page, EPA says CO2 is 82% of all GHG emissions. That seems to put methane in proportion.

    When tracking urban legends, I think your advice above is good:
    “please quote the exact words that you disagree with

    • Nick, I suspect you know exactly what my point is, but you don’t like it.

      My point is that despite methane being 33 TIMES MORE POWERFUL!!! etcetera alarmist etcetera, in the real world the maximum expected effect is less than one W/m2 over the next century even if the emission rate goes up to three times the historical maximum.

      You’re free to be worried about that if you wish … me, not so much.

      w.

      • Willis,
        What exactly is the urban legend? You’ve made much of statements that CH4 is a potent greenhouse gas. But, molecule for molecule, it is. Fortunately, it is in quite low concentration. Although the contribution per doubling is fairly small, it has actually doubled.

        That’s why I think you should quote just what is being said, and by who. The EPA link that I googled says,

        Methane (CH4) is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the United States from human activities. In 2013, CH4 accounted for about 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.

        Yes, 0.8 W/m2, 10%, both a smallish part of the whole scene.

      • Nick, It is only telling part of the story. The scary part. Just like saying that dihydrogen monoxide is the most dangerous chemical in the world. It can kill you if you have too much and if you have too little. It makes electrocution happen more easily (with a few ions in it). It is deadly if you breathe it above a certain concentration, etc.

      • Nick, the Urban Legend is the “lying with numbers” element. One of the biggest issues between sceptics and believers in AGW is not whether such can happen, but if it will be important. Compared for instance to regional potable water issues AGW is a nonevent, even if we actually saw the effects of a doubling. AGW is a monumental and pointless distraction from real problems (environmental and social) we probably could do something to ameliorate.

      • To place this in perspective let us look from whence these watts have come: TSI and it’s natural variability.

        From NASA’s GLORY page
        http://glory.gsfc.nasa.gov/overview-tsi.html
        “… the TSI is observed to vary in time on a variety of timescales, including a prominent variation in phase with the solar magnetic activity cycle, with yearly averages going from 1365.5 Watt per square meter at solar minimum, up to of 1366.6 at maximum. Superposed on this slow trend are fluctuations about the means of about +/- 1 Watt per square meter on timescales of a few days.”

    • Nick,

      A doubling is a doubling. The initial concentration is not supposed to matter, is it? Are you saying that if we went from 1.8 to 3.6 ppm of CO2 rather than from 280 to 560 ppm, then the increase in forcing would be a meager 0.8/25 = 0.032 W/m^2 rather than 3.7 W/m^2? So that the increase in forcing inflates from doubling to doubling …?

  12. According to the EPA the NO2 levels have declined by 45% in the US since 1980, from just over 100 parts per billion to just over 50 parts per billion.

    NO2 is effectively a non-event as far as a health concern unless you are standing in an extreme location for an extended period. There are no decent epidemiological studies on the danger to humans of different levels and exposure time.

    Volkswagen fudged their emissions by an amount that is meaningless yet the EPA who created the completely artificial standards thinks some incredible human health effect will result. Some fools have actually tried to calculate the number of deaths from Volkswagen’s excess NO2 emissions.

    • “Some fools have actually tried to calculate the number of deaths from Volkswagen’s excess NO2 emissions.” If you want to win in politics, you have to count the death and sound all alarms.

    • NO2 (I’ve usually seen it referred to as NOX – nitrogen oxides) is one of the three pollutants that emerged from automotive tailpipes and caused photochemical smog in Southern California (primarily the LA basin). The other two are carbon monoxide and unburned hydrocarbons. But, this is for gasoline engines. Diesels originally escaped exhaust controls because their emissions weren’t directly responsible for smog. The soot emitted by diesels, however, is a different story. I’m not familiar with it but I suspect the NO2 issue with VW may be a bit overblown.

  13. Thanks for the very nice article Willis. For lunch today I am going to have chili and pass gas in your honor

    • The real methane ticking time bomb will come when eco freaks get their way, and get rid of all cattle, and turn us all into vegans where the only protein substitute we can affordably eat are beans. The Anthropocene followed by the Methainocene.

      • The real methane ticking time bomb will come when eco freaks get their way, and get rid of all cattle, and turn us all into vegans where the only protein substitute we can affordably eat are beans.

        Except the Carniphobes are horribly wrong: Vegetarianism causes global warming. Grazing cattle reduces desertification and reduces global warming:

  14. Willis how dare you spoil their scary party with facts and figures.
    It rather reminds me of a group of children sitting in the dark getting frightened by every noise they hear or think they hear only for an adult to come in switch the light on and ask what they were doing.

    James Bull

    • If Willis wanted to maximize his message, he could pack this into a 2 minutes or less “you tube video” with a whiteboard storyline.

      Maybe even put WUWT on the “you tube” map.

  15. Frequently after I do my Power Point presentation that debunks the carbon dioxide greenhouse gas global warming crisis, some environmentalist in the audience rises to say, “Let’s say you are correct about CO2, which I double, you failed to bring up Methane which we all know is a far more powerful greenhouse gas and will result in a climate crisis regardless of the efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. What do you have to say about that?” I answer that “The Methane thing is little more than a internet myth. And, it seems to me environmentalist bring it up to keep the fear mongering rolling even when the CO2 scare is proven to be invalid.” Then they ask for my evidence. Up until today I didn’t have much of answer other than rolling out some numbers that caused peoples eyes to roll. Now, at last, I have an solid URL to give them https://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/10/11/scientific-urban-legends…the link to this item. Thanks.

  16. C02 alarmism needs a back up plan. If it’s not C02, or acid oceans, or CH4, it’s gonna have to be something else.

    The alarmist monster, once awakened, is always getting hungry.

    • “C02 alarmism needs a back up plan.”

      Got one, it’s population control. They seem to dance all around the topic but they’re stymied by their own PC rules. They can’t go the direct route of curtailing poor people from breeding and overpopulating their planet.

      • “Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding”

        Harvey Danger, circa 1997

        I find that offensive since I was breeding ’bout that time. Hard part is coming to agreement on who is “stupid”.

      • Paul, one they have a choke hold on our most basic necessities, all they have to do is impose taxation on offspring and offer free abortions. They could also conceivably use despotic controls to achieve their goals.

  17. I just checked. Longest wavelength absorption line is 1250 cm^-1, or about 8 um. But greenhouse theory dictates that greenhouse gasses intercept upwelling radiation from the surface in the 12 um-15 um-18 um range. So methane should not be greenhouse active at all, it’s absorption bands are at too high a wavelength.
    Although quantitative IR spectra are hard to come by, it strikes me that methane should not be a particularly strong absorber in any event.

    • Doesn’t water vapor absorb 8 um? BTW, If we all do our part, we could grow citrus in Atlanta, I’m, headed for some Bushe’s baked beans.

      • Water absorbs *everywhere*
        Here is the NIST reference spectrum:
        http://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=C7732185&Type=IR-SPEC&Index=1

        Around 8 um does not look like much, compared to those whopping big absorption bands on either side. But look down below, the path length is listed as “capillary”. That is just putting some water on the plate, and putting the second plate down on top of it, forming a thin film. I think the thickness is on the order of perhaps 1 um to 5 um, and maybe less.

        I do know that in infrared spectroscopy, moisture is the bane of your existence. Even traces of water will totally mess up the spectra of whatever you are looking at. As well as wrecking your salt plates.

        Note in this spectra, they used AgCl plates. Obviously, they could not use NaCl plates with water, as they would dissolve. So they used expensive Silver Chloride plates. But light from the overhead fluorescent lights turns AgCl permanently, opaque *BLACK*. So they were working in the dark too.

  18. I just double-checked, methane is a much weaker absorber than CO2. Combined with the fact that where it does absorb is the wrong wavelength, I wonder why anyone would consider it a greenhouse gas at all.

    • TonyL, to see what’s going on, go to MODTRAN, set everything to zero, run the calculation, and take a look at the absorption bands. Then put in 1.81 ppmv of methane, and do the same. You’ll see that the absorption is between 1200 and 1600 cm-1.

      w.

      • I see that. It is not much, and in an area where there is not much to begin with, there is not much change. So according to MODTRAN, methane is greenhouse active, but just barely by my account.

    • The atmosphere is optically thick w.r.t. CO2 (and was at about 10% of pre-industrial levels). That is why the response to more CO2 is logarithmic instead of linear, and would be the key discredit to the whole AGW hypothesis if so many people weren’t scientifically/mathematically illiterate. this isn’t debated or contested, and is well known to modelers, and is why people argue about the feedbacks and secondary effects rather than arguing about the actual CO2 absorption.

      I haven’t run the numbers on CH4, but if it is a much weaker absorber and is present in much smaller concentrations, it is possible that the atmosphere is not optically thick in the IR bands active for CH4. (Does anybody know the answer here?) If that is the case, then the response to added CH4 would be linear, and thus the incremental warming larger for small changes in CH4 concentration.

      I haven’t dug into this, and don’t know which way the numbers work, out, but saying that methane is a much weaker absorber does not necessarily make it less important as a GHG.

      (for those who don’t savvy the physics of optical density, i always offer a simple demo: throw a blanket over your head that blocks 99% of the light. great, you now have 1% of the light getting through, 99% blocked. now throw a second identical blanket over the first. did you block (in total) 198% of the light? of course not, since the absorption was saturated by the first blanket, i.e. you can’t block more than 100% of the light. in optical physics lingo, the blanket is optically thick to the wavelengths of interest. for gasses in atmosphere, the optical density is a line integral of the absorption/cc/% times the concentration% as a function of elevation, integrated over a line from surface to infinity (or top of atmosphere). )

      • Paint a window black.
        Observe light level in room.
        Apply a second coat to window.
        Observe change in light level.
        Conclusion:?

      • menicholas October 12, 2015 at 11:17 am

        Paint a window black.
        Observe light level in room.
        Apply a second coat to window.
        Observe change in light level.
        Conclusion:?

        My conclusion is that the atmosphere doesn’t act like a window plus paint. The difference is that the atmosphere both absorbs AND RADIATES longwave, but paint just absorbs light and doesn’t re-radiate it. The same is true of the blanket example above. All that you’ve proven is that GHGs don’t work like a blanket w.r.t. radiation.

        Since the atmosphere is continuously radiating, there is no way for it to become “saturated” and thus impervious to longwave radiation. As yourself this … suppose the atmosphere were replaced by a steel shell … this would assuredly stop all light from getting through.

        But would it stop all thermal radiation? By no means. It would absorb it and re-radiate it, half upwards and half downwards.

        Both the blanket and the paint analogies are false parallels, because they don’t emit light, while the atmosphere emits radiation.

        w.

      • Ah weekend parties. The air is fresh, the participants enjoy interacting. Such fun.

        Someone had their little iPad and between drinks and other goodies I google WUWTs CO2 distribution images. Passed them around.

        Reactions

        Oh wow, China is gonna have to pay big money.

        Do I have to pay if I live on the water ?

        Global warming BS, I’m not paying but ya know we own alot of farmland. .. I could use the check.

        There’s alot of waste in the world. I’m okay with trying to get a handle on that by taxing it.

        Great colors, they can really do a lot with computers. Have they broken this down to property tax rates yet ?

        If I retire in Boliva and made my money in England will I have to pay ?

        There’s more, but I won’t bore a science site with them. I just want readers to hear what some educated and above average income dwellers banter about.

        I’m neither. I suspect I get invited because I can do other things well.

      • Willis – I didn’t make up the concept of optical density – it is a well known concept in spectroscopy. You are correct that IR lines are absorbed and re-radiated, but as you also point out, they are initially vectoring upwards from the earth’s surface, and on each re-absorption, they radiate randomly over 4pi. Work the math from repetitive absorption/emission events, and you get the net effect I alluded to. I agree that the paint and blanket examples are overly-simple, but they were meant for someone who won’t get the math.

        Consider other real-world examples…..the sun is optically thick in visible wavelengths, which is why we can’t examine the interior of the sun with visible telescopes….we can only see the surface. That doesn’t mean that it is dark in the interior, but the optical density is such that all we see is the outer layer (last couple e-foldings) of emission.

        The term saturation is not identical to that used in filling all absorption bands, such as in laser physics, but refers to “filling” the line integral of absorption through the atmosphere along a line of sight. In that sense, the effect really is saturated. Your saying that “there is no way for it to become saturated” is incorrect.

      • “and would be the key discredit to the whole AGW hypothesis if so many people weren’t scientifically/mathematically illiterate”

        Ouch … translated to a commoners ear

        You people are stupid. I am smart.

        You’ll have to do a much better job reaching your audience. Short story. I struggled with calculus. Failed it twice. I was about ready to give up when my little hunny at the time told me to join her night class … he was a magical teacher. Got me over the hump, thru the block.

        Don’t remember how he did that, but I owe him more than the scant little stipend he got paid.

      • Knute – I was not intending to insult. If you claim the shoe fits you, that is your business. It is my observation that many (most?) people have a short attention span, particularly with respect to anything quantitative. They are swayed by an emotional argument consisting of a photo of a thin polar bear, yawn at a graph of satellite temperatures, and their eyes glaze completely over before you can explain a simplified model of absorption.

        The spectroscopy of the atmosphere is complex – there is no getting around that. I have not found a short sound bite that sums up why the popularly believed GHG model is inaccurate, and can be understood by my greenie-artist friends. I’d love to have such. Challenge for somebody here — come up with one!

        I will claim that my experience is that CAGW alarmists generally are not quantitative, scientifically trained, objective thinkers. Climate realists/skeptics/denialists tend to be among my scientific colleagues, and they have read the original papers (not the mainstream medeia summaries), they understand the physics, and they are open to debate, discussion, and new ideas. It is a world of difference in the two populations.

      • No harm done to me. Thanks for asking though. My interests lie in observing the writings here. They are a microcosm of the larger debate and so, I am also interested to see what works to create clarity for all types.

        I’m encouraged to know you are interested in making the science known with greater ease. It’s a noble pursuit. My recommendation is to try other media such as you tube presentations under 2 minutes. TED talks is a big hit because they use that type of media.

      • Wilis,
        “Both the blanket and the paint analogies are false parallels, because they don’t emit light, while the atmosphere emits radiation.”

        I agree, it is not an extremely apt analogy.
        But as mentioned by Jeff, I think it can help some people to visualize the concept of optical density, or of additional CO2 having incrementally less effect at this point.

        Many of my completely unscientific friends have a completely awful mental picture of what any of the science is about though…and I find this a simple way to just get them a little more familiar with the concepts of opacity vs translucence vs transparency. I think it is hard for some people to understand that clear air can look different if viewed at other wavelengths than visible light.

        I have to say that the whole subject makes me a little uneasy, on the level of discussions among physicists here, and on sites such as Dr. Spencer’s.
        I honestly do not know what to make of the disagreements over whether the temperature profile of the atmosphere can be modelled perfectly without regard to the composition.
        Both sides of the argument seem to have merit, and I am out of my wheelhouse at that level, so I just try to keep up with the conversation and hope for insight and a resolution.

        Thanks for responding.

        -Nick

    • Tony,

      Any gas which absorbs within the wavelength range 5 to 30 microns is a greenhouse gas. These are the wavelengths that the surface of the Earth emits. A gas absorbing in this region prevents radiation escaping whilst doing nothing to prevent solar radiation coming in.

      Methane is particularly effective as a greenhouse gas since it doesn’t overlap with the water vapour continuum.

      • Are the red sections and the blue sections scaled identically? It doesn’t match my understanding of the relevant planck curves of solar and terrestrial outputs Besides, the methane/ CO2/H2O would absorb the incoming radiation and therefore a bottom of atmosphere (looking up) would show absorption in the bands as well. If the radiation can’t escape then it also can’t hit the surface of the planet from the sun either

      • The thick atmosphere of Titan (approximately -179°C) is comprised of 5% methane.

        What would the temperature be, in theory, if you removed the all that methane?

      • Khwarizmi

        Titan is a very interesting planet in respect of the greenhouse effect, for two reasons. First, the dominant greenhouse gas on that planet is nitrogen, which produces no greenhouse effect on Earth. Second, it has an anti-greenhouse effect.

        The combined effect of all these greenhouse and anti-greenhouse gases is to raise its temperature from 82K to 94K

      • @ MikeB

        Any gas which absorbs within the wavelength range 5 to 30 microns is a greenhouse gas.

        For years I have been bombarded with the notion that CO2 is so important because it has a peak(665 cm^-1), which coincides with the Earth’s Black Body emissions at 12 -18 um. Now we have a lousy absorber in a weak part of the spectrum, and all of a sudden it is this powerful greenhouse agent. This would not be a case of someone trying to have it both ways, would it? The IR spectra just do not support the notion of methane having a significant effect.

      • And again:

        Methane is particularly effective as a greenhouse gas since it doesn’t overlap with the water vapour continuum.

        Demonstrably false, I have already posted links to the IR spectra of H2O and CH4. Check out at 1250 cm-1. Also note that the H2O spectra is a thin film (scroll down), imagine what it looks like with a vapor column many km thick.
        I am not buying it.

      • If there is a maximum amount of radiation from the sun and therefore a maximum amount of radiation to be converted to outgoing radiation, shouldn’t there be an amount of CO2 or CH4 that will absorb everything available? Therefore there would be an amount of either gas beyond which further increases would have no effect.

        Shouldn’t that limit be calculated rather than, or along with, the amount of warming produced by a doubling of the amount of the gas?

      • Absorption by greenhouse gases, pathlength surface to space

        Apsorption by the Water Vapour continuum – pathlength surface to space

      • 98% of BB spectrum energy lies between one half of the spectral peak wavelength, and eight times the spectral peak wavelength, with only 1% left over at each end.

        So for the solar spectrum the 98% range is about 250 nm to 4.0 microns, taking 500 nm as the peak.

        For the surface emitted LWIR for a temperature of about 300 K (1/20th of the sun Temperature), the peak would be 10.0 microns, and the 98% range would be 5.0 to 80 microns; not 5 to 30 microns.

        g

        But your graph shows the idea very well.

  19. “The second feedback is due to the fact that methane only lasts about ten years in the atmosphere, at which time it breaks down as follows (simplified):

    CH4 ==> CO2 + 2 H20”

    I seem to recall from undergrad days that the life of methane in the atmosphere in sunlight is quite short. It was called hydrolysis at the time but the more modern term could be Photolysis. There were some pretty heavy organic by products.

    Any comments anyone?

    • That’s exactly my thought too. I does not remain in air for 10, 20 or even 100 years. It oxidises out very quickly to CO2 and H2O.

      • Methane has a lifetime in the atmosphere of about 10 years, the rate of removal of CH4 is limited by availability of OH, which is also used up by other compounds in the atmosphere.

  20. EPA: 20 times more powerful

    EDF: 84 times more powerful

    85 is the pound for pound ipcc GWP. think of it as an instantaneous value
    the figures of 20-30 are long term values,

    zeke & Muller:

    ‘Methane is a potent greenhouse gas: pound for pound it traps about 85 times more
    heat radiation than does carbon dioxide.1 In the jargon of the field, we say
    methane’s global warming potential GWP is 85. This dramatic effect is offset,
    however, by the relatively short lifetime of methane in the atmosphere. Whereas
    carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for many decades, until finally dissolved
    into the oceans or absorbed into soil and rock, methane is destroyed by solar
    radiation, resulting in a lifetime of about 12 years.2 That means that only the
    recently released methane is important in global warming calculations. When this is
    taken into account the net effect is that methane is about 30 times more potent than
    is carbon dioxide in producing long-term greenhouse warming, that is, its long-term
    GWP is 30. This number is still not certain; the EPA3 recently used the value of 21.

    • In the jargon of the field, we say methane’s global warming potential GWP is 85.
      ===========
      saying it is so don’t make it so. The absorption bands for CH4 are extremely narrow, and already overlapped by N2O and H2O in the GHG range.

      • My point was to explain Willis misunderstanding.

        when people quote 85, they are looking at one thing
        when they quote numbers around 30… they are talking about of different thing.

        REGARDLESS of whether or not YOU buy the numbers, it is IMPORTANT to understand what exactly
        we are talking about

      • Steven Mosher October 11, 2015 at 11:45 pm

        EPA: 20 times more powerful

        EDF: 84 times more powerful

        85 is the pound for pound ipcc GWP. think of it as an instantaneous value
        the figures of 20-30 are long term values,

        Correct.

        Steven Mosher October 12, 2015 at 10:37 am

        My point was to explain Willis misunderstanding.

        Thank, Mosh. What I said was that there were six different figures given in the first six references that came up on Google: 20, 80, 34, 100, 20, and 72 times more powerful. I did not go into what those numbers mean, as they are usually used not as scientific estimates, but as clubs to bash people with regarding e.g. fracking. You are right that I should have split them into two groups, one going from 20 to 33 for the long term and one going from 72 to 105 for the short term … but that wouldn’t fix the problem

        Heck, even you disagree with the EDF’s number of 84, saying it is actually 85 times more powerful per the IPCC. And the IPCC has recently changed its mind about methane, saying (to no one’s surprise) that it’s Worse Than We Thought™:

        The IPCC reports that, over a 20-year time frame, methane has a global warming potential of 86 compared to CO2, up from its previous estimate of 72.

        And we have a statement from FactChecker.org:

        FACT: The best and most recent science indicates that methane is 33 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, when considered over an integrated time period of 100 years following emission, and 105 times more powerful on an integrated 20 year time period.

        I also find the following:

        Amazingly, the EPA has been using a GWP of 21 for its estimate of how methane compares to carbon dioxide — a figure that is nearly twenty years out of date. That means methane is a whopping 60% stronger than EPA calculates in its GHG inventory. Back in April, EPA finally said it was thinking about raising the GWP — to 25!

        So even the EPA doesn’t know what figure to use.

        In the meantime, people give numbers from 20 to 33 times for the 100-year horizon, and from 72 to 105 times more powerful at the 20 year horizon … and you think I’m the one with the misunderstanding?

        That about a 50% difference from the smallest to the largest estimates … sorry, not impressed at all.

        My point, however, was different. It was that a more reasonable way to determine the actual strength of a GHG is to consider what happens when we double it, or triple it. With methane, what happens is almost nothing.

        Which is why the numbers of ELEVENTY TIMES MORE POWERFUL THAN CO2 are nothing but a scientific scare tactic, because the actual effect of a continuing increase in methane is trivial.

        Thanks as always for your contributions, always welcome.

        w.

      • And if N2O emissions have been cut in half less is absorbed in it’s part of the spectrum. Since CH4 competes with N2O for energy it will have a different effect depending on the N2O level.
        I would like to know the N2O change and how much methane it makes “room” for. Or whatever their (warmists) point is.

    • Dennis Kuzara October 12, 2015 at 12:04 am

      Perhaps the answer has more to do with water vapor (cloud cover) than anything else:

      Water vapor has already absorbed the very same infrared radiation that Methane might have absorbed.

      Not true in general, or doubling methane in the MODTRAN calculations would have no effect at all.

      w.

  21. C’mon, guys, guessing at methane’s residence time, or depending on your recollection from undergraduate days, just makes you look foolish. Google is your friend.

    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1982 Feb;79(4):1366-70.
    Methane: Interhemispheric concentration gradient and atmospheric residence time.
    Mayer EW1, Blake DR, Tyler SC, Makide Y, Montague DC, Rowland FS.
    Author information

    Abstract
    The ground level concentrations of methane in the atmosphere have been measured to be in the range from 1.45 to 1.62 parts per million by volume (ppmv) of dry air in remote locations between 62 degrees N and 54 degrees S latitudes during the time period from November 1977 to July 1979. The average (+/-rms) concentration for the northern hemisphere was 1.57 +/- 0.02 ppmv in January 1978 and 1.59 +/- 0.02 in July 1979. The average concentration in the southern hemisphere was lower-1.47 +/- 0.02 in January 1978 and 1.51 +/- 0.01 in July 1979. The ratio of concentrations between the two hemispheres was 1.068 +/- 0.016 in January 1978 and 1.055 +/- 0.013 in July 1979, for an average of 1.06 +/- 0.01. The higher concentrations in the northern hemisphere require either that the sources of methane lie preferentially in the northern hemisphere or that the removal processes operate more rapidly in the southern hemisphere or both. The primary removal process for CH(4) is reaction with tropospheric OH radicals and its estimated atmospheric lifetime is 10.5 +/- 1.8 yr. The observed interhemispheric gradient is consistent with this lifetime and preferential release of methane in the northern hemisphere. Measurements taken in the Amazon basin region indicate the presence of a substantial source of methane in that area.

    I don’t just pull numbers out of the air …

    w.

      • Patrick October 12, 2015 at 12:53 am

        I did a google search too, and I got results anywhere from 10 to 100 to even 200 years. So who is right?

        Since you haven’t given us any citation or quotation for your claim of 200 years, no way to tell. But I’d say that 200 years is a joke or a misunderstanding.

        w.

      • It maybe my dyslexia, but residence times (Estimates) for CO2 are 5 – 200yrs, and CH4 compared to CO2 over 100yrs time spans (?). So that’s where I may have got the 100 and 200 year figures from. As for CH4 I have seen (Estimates) raging from 8 to 21 years. Although it is generally accepted that residence time for CH4 is ~10yrs. Either way, I don’t see it as an issue even factoring the “scary” claims that CH4 is ~25 times more potent than CO2.

  22. …. methane (CH4) has narrow absorption bands at 3.3 microns and 7.5 microns (the red lines). CH4 is 20 times more effective an absorber than CO2 – in those bands. However, CH4 is only 0.00017% (1.7 parts per million) of the atmosphere. Moreover, both of its bands occur at wavelengths where H2O is already absorbing substantially. Hence, any radiation that CH4 might absorb has already been absorbed by H2O. The ratio of the percentages of water to methane is such that the effects of CH4 are completely masked by H2O. The amount of CH4 must increase 100-fold to make it comparable to H2O.

    Because of that, methane is irrelevant as a greenhouse gas. The high per-molecule absorption cross section of CH4 makes no difference at all in our real atmosphere.

    IBID

  23. So, if you take (0.5 watts/century/CH4 doubling)*(0.31 Stefan Boltzmann Constant)*(.50 approximate negative cloud feedback)= a gross warming effect of 0.0775C/century/CH4 doubling, plus or minus whatever the sun decides to do between now and 2100.

    We’re doomed! Doomed! I tell you!

  24. “It is often remarked that methane is more powerful than CO2, but this is not due to some intrinsic property of the gas, but precisely because methane exists in lower concentrations and so has yet to fill its primary bands. If methane existed in higher concentrations than CO2, the reverse would be true: CO2 would be more powerful on a molecule-by-molecule basis”
    Physics of the Greenhouse Effect, https://chriscolose.wordpress.com/2008/03/10/physics-of-the-greenhouse-effect-pt-2/

    The effect of increasing greenhouse gases depends on their current concentrations. For example, the CO2 absorption bands are mostly saturated and increasing CO2 further has a logarithmic effect; i.e. Each molecule added has less effect than the previous one. In other words, the warming effect of CO2 is something we already have, increasing CO2 further will not make much difference.

    On the other hand, the methane absorption band is not saturated and is not overlapped by the water vapour continuum. Increasing methane levels have a square root effect rather than a logarithmic one. [But of course there isn’t much of it nor is there likely to be]

    • Thanks MikeB, that’s the best I’ve ever seen that described. Very helpful information to give an intelligent friend who is caught up in the religion of human emissions guilt trip.

  25. Apologies for intruding onto such an erudite scientific site …. but I will.
    To paraphrase the delightfully named RalfDaveWestfall above at 2-10am. “Intelligent ridicule” is a useful weapon in this war on science being waged by everyone from the White House to the Vatican.

    To this end I have penned the following piece of doggerel in response to Scottish “scientists” attempting to persuade our cows to stop farting.
    BTW Coos is Scottish for cows.

    An Ox – e- Moran

    The Global Warming numpties
    Just get more surreal each day,
    As ‘scientists’ here in Scotland
    Try to wean our cows off hay;
    They’ll stop them belching methane
    Flatulating Co2,
    Remove their carbon hoofprints
    Till we have the greenest coo.

    Our bovine friends contented
    As they lie to chew their cud,
    Not asked to ‘save the planet’
    Its a mooot point if they could;
    With farmers heavy burdens
    Of legislation on their backs,
    We all pay through our nostrils
    With this e-cow-logic tax.

    As I sit and ruminate
    About real scientists who demur,
    They say cow made Climate Change
    Is a load of old manure;
    No honest politician
    Will stand up and from the floor,
    Call Mann Made Global Warming
    A wet dream of Albert Gore.

    Patrick Healy

      • If there is, it should be called exhaustion haiku.
        Over 200 comments from WUWT coupled with a busy reality monring. I find I can’t resist flipping through WUWT comments. I’m looking for kernels for how skeptics can gain message penetration.

        I got excited
        The poetry was good
        I thought it could lead to
        More

        Bright fellas.
        Well versed.
        Best idea I’ve rattled around in my skull is WUWT needs a Sunny TV show.

      • I’ve heard it called “shining a flashlight”.

        Essentially, you point out the obvious in a non emotional geez whiz dead pan manner. You can see it in someone’s face because they make that incredulous look because you are using their logic.

        I’ve seen her other works for things like health care. She’s good. Has the style down.

  26. Can anyone explain how the concentrations of CO2 are derived? I’m curious to know how anyone can claim the atmosphere (approximately 4.2 billion cubic km). What is the sample rate? Are samples taken at the upper regions of the atmosphere? Are the measured CO2 concentrations extrapolated or are there enough samples to state the 4 ppm as consistent throughout the 4,200,000,000,000 meters of atmosphere?

    • “Well mixed” covers a multitude of sins.
      NASA did get one or two U2 aircraft after the USAF was done with them. High altitude air sampling is one of the plane’s capabilities.

    • raybbrm

      Most stations take measurements every 10 seconds and calculate the average and sigma every hour after several calibration gases were passed. See the procedures at:
      http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/about/co2_measurements.html

      You don’t need that much measurements at height, as CO2 levels are about the same between a few hundred meters over land (and near zero height over the oceans) and 30 km height. The difference between CO2 at ground level (Barrow) near the North Pole and 3,400 m height at Mauna Loa is about 1 ppmv for yearly averages and between the NH and SH at ground level 2 ppmv, mainly due to the fact that most emissions are at ground level and the increase needs time to reach height and pass the ITCZ… The maximum difference for yearly averages is 4 ppmv between Barrow at ground level and the South Pole at near 3000 m height or 1% of full scale.

      See the many stations over the world, and sporadic ship’s and in-flight measurements at the carbon tracker:
      http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/dv/iadv/

      The “official” global CO2 level is the average of several stations at ground level, thus not including Mauna Loa, but it makes little difference in absolute value, even less in trend, if you take one single station as base for any radiation calculation.

  27. CO2 is not a climate driver and CH4 even less so.

    However, cows do belch Methane and this was brought to the attention of the Dutch public many years ago by this event:

    A vet was attending a cow with really excessive gas production and the farmer was not convinced it was Methane. So the vet gave a demonstration that it was by lighting it on the next burp. Unfortunately the gas was really under pressure and the ensuing flame went straight into the hay supply. The whole complex burnt down. Next day there was a headline in the press: “Cow burns barn down”.

    In a similar vein the Dutch farmers learnt that you do not feed apples to cows however much they like them. One autumn there was such a surplus of the fruit that they thought it could be used as cattle fodder. As it happens the cow’s stomach is a very efficient fermenter, so the apples lead to serious scrumpy production inside the cows. The next morning many were found totally lame on their back with their legs pointing to all wind directions.

  28. Let me slow that down for you to make sure you understand what I’m saying. IF methane concentrations double over the next century we would expect and increase in forcing of

    One half

    Of one watt per square metre

    Per century.

    You have to get rid of “Per century.” What you are saying is that if CH4 doubles in the next century the forcing will change by one half of one watt per square metre (ok so far) then, even if the CH4 doesn’t increase in the next century, the forcing will increase by an additional half watt per square metre (no it won’t) and it will keep doing so forever (even though we add no more CH4). I’m pretty sure you didn’t intend to say that.

    • A comment that I was about to make. Amazingly (if I understand things correctly) Willis has seriously overstated the effect of methane! IOW, instead of

      One quarter

      Of one watt per square metre

      Per century

      it should be:

      One quarter

      Of one watt per square metre

      Once

  29. Thank you very much for this, Willis. This link goes directly to my small arsenal of favorite articles to show to CAGW believers.

  30. Two excellent posts on Methane one after the other, now we need a simple bullet point refutation of the Methane myth for non scientists like myself.

    Can I suggest WUWT start a fact sheet/bullet point library for journalists and non scientists to refer to when we are trying to refute junk science. Such simple to understand fact sheets could be reviewed every few months by a website librarian, this service would really help us in our fight to get the media to take more note of the wonderful work you do on this forum/blog.

    • Excellent idea. Instead of parroting the talking points of the climate mafia or the DNC, perhaps if given in concise, cogent form (“so simple a journalist can understand it!”), such WUWT talking points could begin to make their way into the mainstream press.

  31. Define “lifetime” of CH4. The half-life of methane in the atmosphere is about 7 years. Ordinarily, for example, a radioactive isotope is depleted when it undergoes 10 half-lives of decay. That would suggest the “lifetime” of methane is 70 years. The half-life is more informative, because it is unambiguous.
    http://phys.org/tags/methane/

    • I think that the decay time constant is far more useful than the half life.

      With an exponential decay as you show, the initial slope of the decay curve is 1/tau.

      That is, if the decay continued at the starting linear rate, it would reach zero in one time constant.

      But following the exponential decay, it only decays to 37% of the starting value in one time constant (1/e).

      Every EE knows that it takes three time constants to decay to 5% of initial value, and five time constants to decay to 1% of initial value.
      Of course one time constants is about 3.33 half lives. So 7.5 time constants would get you down to 0.1% of initial value.

      g

  32. The “Science is Settled”

    If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine. — Obi-Wan Kenobi

    • Yabut … The breakdown reaction is exothermic and this leads to faster breakdown … OMG we’re all going to die. LOL

  33. OK, that’s one global warming urban legend, there are a few more to go you know. In no particular order:

    Polar bears will starve if they don’t have pack ice on which to hunt.

    When a glacier disappears from the valley the river will run dry.

    The missing heat is at the bottom of the ocean.

    Warm water is eating the the bottom of the Antarctic ice cap.

    Global warming will cause more droughts.

    Global warming is causing more severe weather.

    Global warming causes forest and brush fires.

    Sea level is going up faster and faster.

  34. But … but … Willis, how are we going to tax cow farts in order to enforce vegetarianism?

    • Yes, to enforce vegetarianism.
      AND – to stop evil farmers from doing the evil stuff that they do.
      Like producing all the world’s food.
      Farmers, as we all know by now, are almost as evil as producers of energy and goods.
      Which pretty much leaves only governments and intergovernmental organizations as our only potential righteous saviours.
      All the world’s problems will be solved when governments finally agree to take control of all of the capital, and gift it to leftist nitwits.

      • All the world’s problems will be solved when governments finally agree to take control of all of the capital, and gift it to leftist nitwits.

        I’ve taken up flint knapping and I’m hoarding flint… just in case. Somebody will have to be King of the New Stone Age. Might as well be me ;o)

  35. Methane: 1.8 ppmv

    CO2: 400 ppmv

    Water Vapor: 6,400 ppmv

    Shouldn’t these concentrations be molar or mass based because of differences in densities? It’s the mass that carries the energy, not the cubic foots. It’s the number of molecules per sq m that do the RFing.

  36. Hi Willis,
    Out of the gate, thank for the Monday morning cow fart sight gag. Seriously…it is funny.
    Just wondering…you stated that the residence time for methane in the atmosphere is ten years, but then in the next to last paragraph, you said that a ten year turnover meant that one tenth of the methane is eliminated every ten years. Should that not be one tenth every 1 year?

  37. There were many millions of Bison before the settlers came to the western USA. They are gone but replaced by millions of cattle. Net result in methane production is probably close to being the same. Before Bison were millions of dinosaurs, too. I seriously doubt the methane argument – at least in terms of cattle.

  38. I keep reading that we need to eat less beef because raising beef creates more methane from the beef flatulence. They are now pushing to drink less milk , again because of the flatulence. However, Ask any person that is on a strict vegetarian diet about their flatulence. Now consider that the protein that was obtained from beef and milk will now need to be obtained from plants, e.g., beans and legumes. So, doesn’t this just transfer the source of the methane from cattle to man, and the net generation of methane remains about the same? Plus, it sure will make it unpleasant to work in the new, energy saving, environmentally sealed offices.
    And speaking of environmentally sealed offices, Last month bought a weather station that monitors temperature, humidity, sound and CO2 on the indoor sensor. With the windows closed now that fall has arrived, I find that the CO2 levels reach 1200 ppm on many nights, with the windows open during the day it quickly drops to 390 – 400. Years ago I occasionally smoked a pipe at home after dinner. The air infiltration was so high in that old house that rarely did anyone ever comment on the fact that the smelled tobacco smoke in my home – and I had a sister that hated tobacco. So, exactly what other contaminants are we filling our lungs and body with in the name of reducing CO2? Don’t know about you, but makes me want to leave a window open in my bedroom like I (everybody) did 40 years ago.

  39. Willis,
    Nick Stokes, October 11, 2015 at 10:07 pm, mentioned:
    “methane has a lifetime in the air of 12 years”

    I was wandering what the lifetime was for CO2. And I suppose that I can read “lifetime” as “a 100% disappearing rate”.

    Searching on http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/016.htm I found the following strange declaration:
    Working Group I: The Scientific Basis
    C.1
    Table 1: Examples of greenhouse gases that are affected by human activities. [Based upon Chapter 3 and Table 4.1]
    CO2:
    Atmospheric lifetime 5 to 200 yr c
    Note c: “No single lifetime can be defined for CO2 because of the different rates of uptake by different removal processes.”

    I think this is very strange. An IPCC that cannot count a “best estimation”? When you (think to) know how much CO2 is released every year, when you know how fast the number of PPM of CO2 in the atmosphere is growing and you know the quantity of the atmosphere of the earth, you must be able to count a number for a “disappearing rate” or “lifetime”?

    I think this could be a quite interesting number. Could this number say that “the CO2 problem” will soon be gone after (when necessary) cutting CO2 releases? 5 Years should be very soon.

    • Wim Röst,

      No matter what the IPCC says, if the decay rate of CO2 above the steady state level of seawater (Henry’s law) is linear (which it seems to be), then it is easy to calculate the e-fold decay rate:
      decay rate = net sink rate / extra pressure above steady state
      2.15 ppmv/year / 110 ppmv = ~51 years

      The 2.15 ppmv/year is the difference between human emissions and what is measured as increase in the atmosphere. The 110 ppmv is 400 ppmv (~ partial pressure) measured, while for the current (area weighted) average ocean surface temperature the atmosphere would be around 290 ppmv.
      Peter Dietze calculated that for the sink rate of near 2 decades ago:
      http://www.john-daly.com/carbon.htm and found an e-fold rate around 55 years.

      That means a half life time of about 40 years.

      The IPCC uses the Bern model, which includes restrictions in uptake due to saturation of the oceans, which until now is only true for the ocean surface. Not for the deep oceans neither for vegetation.
      Many skeptics on the other side are confused between the ~5 years residence time of any CO2 molecule (which doesn’t change the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, only swaps CO2 molecules between different reservoirs) and the e-fold decay time for any excess above steady state, whatever the origin.

    • “5 Years should be very soon.”
      There is an easy way to tell that the life of CO2 is much longer than 5 years. We emit about 10 Gtons C a year. Total extra C in the air is over 250 Gtons. With a life of 5 years, the total extra wouldn’t be much more than 50.

      As to why there is uncertainty about the exact number, it’s because half-life is only an exact concept with exponential decay. If several processes are involved, with different rates, it can’t be exponential.

      • Ferdinand Engelbeen and Nick Stokes thanks!

        Nick Stokes: “We emit about 10 Gtons C a year. Total extra C in the air is over 250 Gtons.”

        European Commission: http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=CO2ts1990-2013
        CO2 time series 1990-2013 per region/country. Total output CO2 exclusive deforestation: 35274106 Ktons = 35 Gtons
        Note that these timeseries report country-specific CO2 emission totals of fossil fuel use and industrial processes (cement production, carbonate use of limestone and dolomite, non-energy use of fuels and other combustion). Excluded are: short-cycle biomass burning (such as agricultural waste burning) and large-scale biomass burning (such as forest fires).

        If in “Total extra C in the air is over 250 Gtons” “C” means “CO2”, and when deforestation should count for another 10-20% making the total output 40 Gtons a year, then 250/40 gives 6,25 years.

        Then:
        1. all human CO2 would disappear very rapidly after cutting CO2 emissions
        2. the question arises how nature could maintain a relative stabel 280 ppm before industrialisation

        Or, something is not right in the calculation or data above.

      • No, you have to watch the units. I use tons C. Tons CO2 is 3.7x. You have divided Gtons C in air by emissions in Gtons CO2. The point is that if CO2 had a 5-year life, then excess in the air could never get to more than about 5x emissions. Actually less. But we have about 25x emissions.

      • Nick,

        If several processes are involved, with different rates, it can’t be exponential.

        Not that difficult:
        1/tau(observed) = 1/tau(1) + 1/tau(2) + 1/tau(3) + … + 1/tau(n)

        See e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exponential_decay#Decay_by_two_or_more_processes

        The Bern model takes into account the saturation of the different reservoirs, which only is the case for the ocean surface. There are no signs of saturation of the deep oceans or vegetation, the main sinks up to now…

  40. So I wondered … the IPCC says that the change in atmospheric absorption from a doubling of CO2 is a 3.7 watt per square metre increase. How much change would there be from a doubling of the methane levels?

    For scientists involved in this what is meant is that an increment in CH4 has more effect than the same increment in CO2, also some of the sources allow for the effect of decomposition of CH4 over time (often averaged over 20+ years).
    If you run MODTRAN with an increment in CO2 it takes about 72 ppm to give the same effect as 1.8 ppm of CH4, i.e. an instantaneous effectiveness ratio of about 40:1, CH4 has a lifetime of about 12 years so averaged over 20 years the ratio will be lower.

  41. Willis is a scrappy bird
    that’s plain for all to see
    delighting flocks
    of scrappy birds
    with feathers just like me

    • Willis is a scrappy bird
      That’s plain for all to see.
      For cows can now expel their turds
      With blithe impunity.

  42. In the interests of preventing the release of more terrifying methane, is it not essential that we ensure that the forests of planet earth are immediately burned to the ground and desertified.
    As a precaution, to prevent vegetable matter from falling and slowly rotting on the forest floor.
    It may seem like a high price to pay, but we need more forest clearance and desertification.
    Everybody knows that deserts don’t release much methane, except for the odd farting Bedouin.
    Alternatively, we could just load all vegetable and animal material, (including surplus people) into cages on vast barges and take the whole lot out to sea and dump the whole lot, weighted down of course, into a major geological subduction zone.
    We won’t see any of that material again, until it is blasted out of a neighboring volcano.
    That would leave just a small happy population of remaining humans living on a planet that resembled Mars.
    The eco-left wants radical solutions. Well they should ask me for help.
    I’m all for the precautionary principle – especially when it may allow us to subduct some eco-zealots, along with their stupid cats and organic granola.

    • Another advantage to destroying all the forests is that they will then be unable to emit the VOC’s (terpenes etc) which lead to ground level ozone. Double plus good!

  43. For those concerned about runaway methane emissions from methane hydrates, Richard
    Corfield wrote an interesting article in “Chemistry in Britain”, May 2002 issue “Close
    Encounters With Crystalline Gas”.

    This article cites research about a massive destabilization of CH4 hydrates at the P-E
    boundary

    According to readings from cores drilled Blake Plateau by leg 164, the age of the hydrates
    retrieved were “precisely 55m years old.

    My conclusions from the article are:

    Hydrates are very stable over time. The earth has been very much warmer than it
    is now and as well as very much colder and the hydrates did not move from their
    zone of stability, so minor warming at the end of this inter-glacial period will do
    nothing.

    It is further my opinion that the mass extension event at P-E was caused by a comet or
    large meteorite impact which caused a great amount of mechanical heat to be
    introduced to the inner earth and that heat or the shock and vibration or both
    caused the massive release of methane hydrates from its zone of stability.

    The hydrates appear to be a threat only after we are all already doomed.

    I have not been able to find the e form of the above cited article and my hard
    copy is a copy of a copy.

  44. Willis, is not your description of these myths as “urban myths” also now described as “factoids”? That is, a factually untrue statement that is repeated so often that it becomes generally accepted as factual. That is – Goebbels style??
    Brian J in UK

  45. Water absorbs in the same region of Earth’s outgoing infra red radiation as methane does. Most calculations of methanes effect ignore the presence of water.
    At average atmospheric water concentration of 2.5% 25000 ppm, then there are 14700 water molecules per methane molecule. So that infra red photon has one chance in 14700 of hitting the methane.
    A graph of total absorption by all green house gases in the 7 to 9 µm range shows that water absorbs virtually all of the infra red in that region.

    • Care to produce that graph Peter? There are very few water lines in that region of the spectra compared with methane:

      Most calculations using line spectra use the full spectra for each species.

      • Well Phil, I thought I saw one of those methane lines that falls exactly on one of the water lines but damned if I can find that again. Must have been seeing things.

        Now the striking difference in complexity between your two samples, begs the question.

        Why is the water one so sparse, and the CH4 one so dense ? I presume that QM explains all of that. If I had to hip shoot (totally dangerous), I would guess that the asymmetry of H2O limits the options (that 104 deg. thing), while CH4 I presume is quite symmetrical, with a lot of duplications. But as I said, just a WAG.

        G

      • Billy Liar October 12, 2015 at 4:03 pm
        Why have you picked such a tiny part of the spectrum?

        Because that’s the region where CH4 absorbs and where the original poster claimed that H2O dominated CH4.

        George E. Smith October 12, 2015 at 4:51 pm
        Well Phil, I thought I saw one of those methane lines that falls exactly on one of the water lines but damned if I can find that again. Must have been seeing things.

        I’m sure some do George, you’ve got 3000 H2O lines and 30,000 CH4 lines to choose from. :-)

        Now the striking difference in complexity between your two samples, begs the question.

        Why is the water one so sparse, and the CH4 one so dense ? I presume that QM explains all of that. If I had to hip shoot (totally dangerous), I would guess that the asymmetry of H2O limits the options (that 104 deg. thing), while CH4 I presume is quite symmetrical, with a lot of duplications. But as I said, just a WAG.

        Basically yes, there are many H2O lines but they are spread out over a large part of the spectrum.

      • Phil,

        Thanks for that web site. I can always use more sources of information. Being not a chemist, then the QM of these molecular line spectra, are all a mystery to me. I have forgotten most of the atomic spectra stuff I learned in school too long ago to even remember.

        I’m still mystified to some extent by BB radiation or “Thermal” radiation in general, because the molecular line spectra are a function of the electronic structure of specific molecules, whereas BB radiation, and thermal radiation are independent of any real material properties.

        So Planck, and Einstein (or was it Bose) said E = hf or h(nu), but they place no restrictions of any kind on the value of f or nu that is permissible, so in effect, the photon energy can be any value whatsoever; and to that extent, it isn’t quantized; and you have a continuum spectrum.

        Nobody seems to doubt the continuum spectrum from ionized atoms because the captured electron can have any value of initial energy. But I find (some) people continue to insist that Black Body radiation is also quantized (in energy), even though no real material with real electronic structure, is involved. But of course, ordinary gases are so low in molecular density, they aren’t even close to total absorbers of all EM radiation, so they certainly aren’t BB emitters.

        I have papers on continuum emission from gas atoms and molecules, without a dipole antenna to radiate, but during collisions, these papers argue that the electron distribution is distorted during collisions, so that they do have a radiating antenna while they are distorted. But the Planck BB radiation derivation assumed no material specific electronic structure to really quantize any energy levels.

        E = h.f allows for ANY value of f, not just discrete values dictated by structure; only accelerated electric charge (varying electric current) is needed.

        But thanks for that energy level diagram for CO2.

        G

  46. It is so easy to alarm peoble. The numbers 20 to100 for methane is when you compare the effect of 1kg of CO2 extra to 1kg of methane extra.
    One kg methane extra means a lot more relative increase than does 1 kg of CO2.
    In that way you can claime this dramatic effect, but Willis way is more realistic.

  47. Willis,

    Thanks for an interesting post. I applaud your conclusion that methane is nothing to worry about. However, I think even you have over-stated its impact.

    Honoring your request to state the exact words in your post that I have a problem with, here they are:

    “To answer this question, I went to the wondrous MODTRAN site. Using todays values for CO2 (~ 400 ppmv) and methane (~1.81 ppmv) gives me upwelling radiation of 287.5 watts per square metre (W/m2).

    Then I doubled the methane to 3.62 ppmv, re-ran the calculations, and got 286.7 W/m2 emitted from the TOA …

    … which means that if by some chance the methane levels were to double in the next hundred years, the total effect would be an increase in the atmospheric absorption of 0.8 W/m2.”

    I understand that CO2 and methane are both radiative gasses and that they emit LWIR radiation ‘isotropically’ i.e. in all directions equally – upwards as well as downwards. This means that at any point in time, 50% or so of their emissions are upwards into space, where they are lost forever. Consequently, if the amount of CO2 or methane in the atmosphere is increased by humans, the amount of LWIR emissions lost to space would also increase. If this happens, the planet as a whole must cool as a result – not warm! This logic to me seems pretty solid, though I may be missing something in which case please explain what that might be.

    In my humble opinion, I believe you are interpreting your MODTRAN results incorrectly. You state that the upwelling at TOA reduces by 0.8 W/m2 when methane is doubled, because of increased absorption by the atmosphere, implying that the temperature down below is higher as a result. I would interpret the MODTRAN result the opposite way. The TOA emissions are lower by 0.8 W/m2 because the temperature below is lower. The temperature below is lower because of the increased LWIR emissions into space! The lapse rate has changed and the atmosphere is at a new equilibrium at a lower average temperature. The lower temperature then causes the resulting TOA emissions to be lower.

    By the way, I have raised this issue several times before on WUWT and usually get a response of crickets. If I am right, the impact of increasing methane is not just small – it is negative!

    Please help me understand where I am going wrong.

    • Bernard Lodge October 12, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      I understand that CO2 and methane are both radiative gasses and that they emit LWIR radiation ‘isotropically’ i.e. in all directions equally – upwards as well as downwards. This means that at any point in time, 50% or so of their emissions are upwards into space, where they are lost forever. Consequently, if the amount of CO2 or methane in the atmosphere is increased by humans, the amount of LWIR emissions lost to space would also increase. If this happens, the planet as a whole must cool as a result – not warm! This logic to me seems pretty solid, though I may be missing something in which case please explain what that might be.

      One factor is that the excited state of the methane molecule is of the order of millisec whereas the collisions with other air molecules occur about 10 times/nanosec, therefore low in the atmosphere collisional deactivation is a major route for the absorbed energy. Even not allowing for this less of the energy leaving the surface makes it to the TOA if it is reradiated from the CH4 molecules. For every W leaving the surface absorbed by CH4 only 0.5W reaches the TOA, absorb more and the amount leaving the TOA goes down. However for an energy balance the same amount of energy must leave the TOA as leaves the atmosphere, using MODTRAN as Willis and I did in order to deal with this you have to increase the surface temperature to return the TOA flux to the former value. In order to balance the doubling of methane to 3.62 ppm the ground temperature increases by ~0.23ºC.

      • Thanks for the reply Phil which I found very helpful. However, I do not understand one aspect of you comment. I hope you will persevere with your explanation ….

        You wrote …

        “However for an energy balance the same amount of energy must leave the TOA as leaves the atmosphere, using MODTRAN as Willis and I did in order to deal with this you have to increase the surface temperature to return the TOA flux to the former value”.

        Why do you have to return the TOA flux to the former value? That was my main point, the TOA flux would be expected to reduce due to the lower average temperature of everything below TOA.

        Perhaps the answer to my confusion is in the first part of your sentence where you say “for an energy balance, the same amount of energy must leave the TOA as leaves the atmosphere”. I’m not sure what you mean by this. I assumed the total upwelling emissions at TOA were all leaving the atmosphere by definition – no matter what the flux level was. Do you mean something else?

        I understand that collisional deactivation is a major route for absorbing energy as well as photon absorbtion. In other words, all atmospheric molecules heat up as a result of collisions with other molecules or absorbtion of photons. Similarly, all atmospheric molecules (in fact all matter) emit electromagnetic radiation photons at varying wavelengths. Both mechanisms transfer heat generally upwards; kinetic energy through convection and radiative energy through direct emission. The photons may bounce up and down many times but they are moving at the speed of light so very quickly any that are not absorbed are lost to space. These photons don’t just come from CO2 and methane, every molecule of matter emits them, including the other atmospheric gasses.

        I feel that I must still be missing some logic on the energy balancing topic as it still seems to me that more CO2 and methane will lead to more emissions into space which must reduce temperatures below TOA! I appreciate any help you can give with this.

      • However for an energy balance the same amount of energy must leave the TOA as leaves the atmosphere

        Typo sorry, should be “enters the atmosphere from the sun”

      • “In order to balance the doubling of methane to 3.62 ppm the ground temperature increases by ~0.23ºC.”
        Thanks Phil. I repeated the MODTRAN calculation as you proposed and got the same result for the tropical atmosphere. I don’t know to what extent horizontal and vertical heat transport is included in the MODTRAN calculation. Therefore I compared the results of my gridded EBM model with MODTRAN. I found from MODTRAN that the absorbance of the atmosphere in the IR increases from 0.740 to 0.743 for doubling the CH4 concentration (1.8 to 3.6 ppm). In my calculation, the global surface temperature increases by 0.46 °C, if the other parameters (albedo, atmospheric absorption, convective heat transport etc.) are held constant. However, tiny changes of these other parameters can compensate this temperature increase.

      • Bernard Lodge October 12, 2015 at 5:57 pm
        Thanks for the reply Phil which I found very helpful. However, I do not understand one aspect of you comment. I hope you will persevere with your explanation ….

        I’m glad you found it helpful.

        You wrote …

        “However for an energy balance the same amount of energy must leave the TOA as leaves the atmosphere, using MODTRAN as Willis and I did in order to deal with this you have to increase the surface temperature to return the TOA flux to the former value”.

        Sorry about that typo which I’ve corrected. Basically in balance the same amount of energy incident from the sun must leave the TOA, if it does not then the earth system will either heat or cool depending on whether there’s a surplus or a deficit.

        I understand that collisional deactivation is a major route for absorbing energy as well as photon absorbtion. In other words, all atmospheric molecules heat up as a result of collisions with other molecules or absorbtion of photons. Similarly, all atmospheric molecules (in fact all matter) emit electromagnetic radiation photons at varying wavelengths. Both mechanisms transfer heat generally upwards; kinetic energy through convection and radiative energy through direct emission. The photons may bounce up and down many times but they are moving at the speed of light so very quickly any that are not absorbed are lost to space. These photons don’t just come from CO2 and methane, every molecule of matter emits them, including the other atmospheric gasses.

        Assume for simplicity that our atmosphere has just a nitrogen atmosphere, the surface will heat up until the amount of energy leaving to space balances that incoming. The energy leaving will be entirely black body from the surface since N2 doesn’t absorb at the relevant wavelengths. Run MODTRAN with all the GHGs zeroed out (CO2, CH4, O3, H2O).

        Now add a greenhouse gas which is transparent in the visible but absorbs in the IR and has a very short radiative lifetime, i.e. it emits IR within a nanosec of absorbing it. In this case virtually all the energy absorbed by the molecule is re-emitted, on average about one half goes up to space and one half towards the surface. This will cause less radiation to leave in the absorption range of that gas. (Repeat the MODTRAN expt with a GHG added (say CO2)). On the MODTRAN run you’ll see that less energy is leaving than formerly so offset the temperature until it’s the same energy loss as before, this will increase the surface temperature.
        In a real GHG like CO2 the radiative lifetime is much longer than the collision frequency so energy is transferred to the surrounding gases thereby warming the atmosphere, so in that case even less light would leave through that spectral window and the surface would get even hotter. Most of the collisionally excited gases are not able to emit significantly in the rotational and vibration bands. Even a CO2 molecule is extremely unlikely to emit when collisionally excited because there are very few molecules with enough kinetic energy to populate the necessary vibrational level for emission. Even when one does the high energy molecule would have to hit the vibrational ground state CO2 molecule in exactly the right orientation to induce the excited state vibration, again very unlikely.

        Hope that helps.

      • Morning Phil, Now I am seeing a model more in line with my undergrad days (and some later serious work on heat transfer in solids and vacuum). Thanks for the effort. It would be good (for me anyway) to look at a slightly different starting atmosphere. Say, 78% nitrogen + 22% oxygen. Would the modification make a significant difference?

      • grumpyoldman22 October 13, 2015 at 3:37 pm
        Morning Phil, Now I am seeing a model more in line with my undergrad days (and some later serious work on heat transfer in solids and vacuum). Thanks for the effort. It would be good (for me anyway) to look at a slightly different starting atmosphere. Say, 78% nitrogen + 22% oxygen. Would the modification make a significant difference?

        If it were just those two then no significant difference but because of the UV absorption by O2 ozone is formed so adding another GHG. The MODTRAN calculations of course are based on a N2/O2 atmosphere but you have the ability to switch off the O3.

      • Phil,

        Thanks for additional explanation and the typo correction – both helped further my understanding. It’s been a while since I ran the MODTRAN model and I won’t be able to get back to it for a week or so, so I will have to pause this discussion and come back to it in a future thread – I will look for your posts to do that.

        I would say though that I do have some questions about the way MODTRAN is used. For instance, a satellite in orbit looking down and measuring the full electromagnetic spectrum sees the familiar emittance curve that we know has dips in the various absorption wavelengths. The satellite does not know that below it is a planet with an atmosphere, there could be other reasons why there are dips in the spectrum. It just measures the EM energy it receives which represents the average temperature of the planet below – approximately 15 C. If the satellite turned its sensor to the sun, it would receive a totally different spectrum of EM radiation equivalent to approximately 5500 C. In other words, the TOA radiation is a function of the temperature below. If TOA energy comes out lower, it comes out lower because the temperature is lower! I never understood the need to assume the surface is warmer to make it ‘balance’ again.

        I will continue to ponder and research that seeming contradiction. Thanks for your comments and I do appreciate your willingness to take the time to teach on WUWT.

    • I understand that CO2 and methane are both radiative gasses and that they emit LWIR radiation ‘isotropically’ i.e. in all directions equally – upwards as well as downwards. This means that at any point in time, 50% or so of their emissions are upwards into space, where they are lost forever. Consequently, if the amount of CO2 or methane in the atmosphere is increased by humans, the amount of LWIR emissions lost to space would also increase. If this happens, the planet as a whole must cool as a result

      Using your logic, radiation from the ground is interrupted and half of it is re-radiated back. If it weren’t for CO2 and CH4, that radiation would go straight to space without being interrupted. In other words, the heat would escape faster without CO2 and CH4 so the planet would cool. So, yes, CO2 and CH4 should make the planet warmer (following your logic).

      The above description is way over-simplified. ONE of the issues is that CO2 and CH4 usually bump into other molecules and lose energy that way rather than radiating the energy. That means the energy moves from a quantum state to being merely kinetic energy. The atmosphere as a whole warms up and convection probably increases. … A naive application of the physics equations doesn’t cover the situation.

      There’s an outside chance that you could even be right about CO2 and CH4 cooling the atmosphere but for the wrong reason. (apologies to Charlie Chan)

      • Thanks for the reply commieBob.

        I do appreciate that there is a kinetic effect as well as a radiative effect. My point is that at any given concentration of CO2 and methane, both the kinetic and radiative effects will combine to result in a certain amount of emissions into space. If the concentrations of those (more radiative) gasses increases, the radiative emissions to space must logically also increase. If the energy inputs from the sun remain the same, the temperature of the planet must go down!

      • Bernard Lodge says:
        October 12, 2015 at 6:10 pm

        Since the atmosphere of Venus is largely CO2, your logic would predict that it would be quite frigid.

        Balloon and satellite measurements show that the main effect of CO2 is to remove energy at around 15 um. link There’s no evidence that CO2 increases the amount of energy radiated by the planet.

      • commieBob,

        No, Venus is hotter than the Earth because it’s atmospheric pressure is 100 times greater than on the Earth, not because its atmosphere is mostly CO2.

        I said that at any given concentration of CO2 and methane, both the kinetic and radiative effects will combine to result in a certain amount of emissions into space. If the concentrations of those (more radiative) gasses increases, the radiative emissions to space must logically also increase. Venus emits whatever it emits as a result of the kinetic and radiative effects of its own atmosphere. If a more radiative gas was added to its atmosphere, it too would emit more radiation to space and be cooler than it would otherwise be.

        You are right that CO2 absorbs at around 15 um. That is also the wavelength that it emits. Increasing CO2 will increase both absorption and emission – 50% of the latter will eventually be lost to space.

        If you want evidence that CO2 increases emissions into space, look at Willis’ MODTRAN results in his piece. Where do you think the emissions go?

    • Bernard; when you say “all atmospheric molecules heat up as a result of collisions with other molecules or absorption of photons.” you are skating on thin ice.

      ” All ” is a word of your choice. If they ALL heat up, by collisions, you have a never ending spiraling Temperature rise.

      If one molecule “heats up” assuming there is meaning to that statement, some other molecule must “cool down” also assuming there is meaning to that statement.

      Temperature is implicit in both of those statements, but Temperature is a macro-thermodynamic property of very large assemblages of “particles”, presumably atoms or molecules. Any single molecule has no defined Temperature.

      The equi-partition principle implies that the total energy of such an assemblage of molecules is on average spread equally among all of the available degrees of (mechanical) freedom. I believe it is kT/2 per degree of freedom, where k is Boltzmann’s constant.

      I have made an argument; for which I can claim no peer support whatsoever, that in any fixed sample quantity of a gas, which presumably is at a single uniform Temperature, the individual molecules are distributed in energy according to the Maxwell Boltzmann distribution, as a function of that Temperature. Over time (I have asserted) any single molecule, will occupy every possible energy level in that distribution, as a result of collisions with its neighbors.
      If that is true (I claim it is), then one can say that over time, the KE of any single molecule will exhibit the same Maxwell Boltzmann distribution, that applies to the sample of gas; and therefore we can say that an individual molecule has a time averaged “pseudo-Temperature” that is equal to that of the gas, and has over time the same MB energy distribution.

      But at any instant of time, in between collisions, any molecule in free flight has no definable Temperature.

      So any “heating” or “cooling” that is going on WRT any molecule, is only a consequence of net energy input from some other source; either from an EM field, or from the introduction of a sizeable assemblage of other molecules which are at a different Temperature.

      Individual molecules are NOT heated by collisions with other molecules. They exchange energies, in a process not unlike billiard balls in collisions.

      Well the QM afficianados, have a weird view of billiards, and molecular collisions as well.

      They might be right.

      g

      • It goes without saying, that at any instant of time, we have no idea what the “Temperature” of any single molecule is, we can only learn that as a time averaged value.

        Of course the Queen of all Maxwell’s demons; My “Mother Gaia” can read the serial numbers on each individual molecule, so she knows exactly what the (pseudo)Temperature of each one is .
        So she always gets the Global Temperature correct. But she won’t tell us what it is !!

      • George, thanks for your reply and for sharing your theory. When I say “all atmospheric molecules heat up as a result of collisions with other molecules or absorption of photons”, I mean that those are the two ways that a body heats up. I agree that they are both just transfers of heat from somewhere else. I like the analogy that heat is represented by the degree to which molecules vibrate. Vibration/heat is either caused by collisions with other molecules or by absorption of photons. Cooling happens when the amount of collisions reduces or more photons are emitted than absorbed, resulting in less vibration. By the way, all matter emits photons at all wavelengths, with the distribution curve changing according to its temperature. Since the amount of vibration of a molecule (its temperature?) is constantly changing due to collisions with other molecules plus photons being absorbed or emitted, it seems to fit with your theory!

      • Bernard Lodge October 14, 2015 at 3:19 pm
        By the way, all matter emits photons at all wavelengths, with the distribution curve changing according to its temperature.

        Not true in the gas phase.
        The energy of photons is quantized, there are three types of energy levels, electronic, vibrational and rotational. In our atmosphere gas molecules are in the ground electronic state, within that state there are multiple vibrational energy levels and within those levels multiple rotational levels. Usually most molecules are in the ground vibrational state. In order to be promoted from the electronic ground state a UV photon of exactly the correct energy is needed, IR excites vib-vib transitions, microwaves excite rot-rot transitions. When a CO2 molecule is excited by an IR photon to a particular higher vib/rot state then it will lose energy by either emitting a photon or have it chipped away by multiple collisions. The emission can only occur at discrete wavelengths corresponding to the energy difference between the upper level and a lower one, it does not occur at all wavelengths. Only molecules with a dipole such as CO2 can absorb/emit at such wavelengths, homonuclear diatomics such as O2 and N2 do not have a dipole and therefore do not emit in the IR range.
        The following diagram shows an example, in which v indicates a vibrational level and j indicates a rotational level and the resulting spectrum, note the gaps!

        Here’s an energy level diagram for CO2:

        Here’s the corresponding spectrum:

      • Phil,

        Thank again for your another very helpful post. Especially your statement that the gas phase is so different with regards to energy transfer. You keep raising new questions and it will take a while for me to catch up and understand those points but I will focus there next. My objective is to properly understand how CO2 can be a ‘more radiative’ gas than others in the atmosphere get somehow not result in more radiation to space. Intuitively, that doesn’t seem to make sense.

        Perhaps you might consider posting an in depth review and explanation of the MODTRAN model as a featured WUWT essay? It seems you, Willis and others routinely use it to prove your points when discussing the warming effect of CO2? I think many WUWT users would find that incredibly interesting.

  48. That black painted window: Does it get warmer than the unpainted one, when in sunlight? Can you feel warmth radiating from it from a few mm away? Would it, um, be re-radiating?

  49. Willis,
    I know I already asked about this, and am surprised that no one else seems to have mentioned it, so maybe I am not understanding the terminology. I had thought perhaps it was a typo.
    When you wrote:

    Now, turnover time in the atmosphere for methane is on the order of ten years. This means that every decade a tenth of the methane turns over, or .18 ppmv/decade, which is .02 ppmv per year.

    Did you mean to say that every year , rather than every decade, a tenth of the methane turns over?

    I was on my phone earlier, and for some reason I cannot make the clipboard work on the darn thing, so providing an exact quote as you request was difficult. Sorry about that.

    Thanks.

    • Menicholas, I’m sorry I missed your comment. You are 100% correct. I’ve fixed the calculations in the head post.

      Many thanks. I always encourage people to be skeptical about everyone’s work including mine. Thank you for doing so.

      All the best,

      w.

  50. “albondigas”. Geez I had to look that up in your last post, Willis. I laughed out loud. Now I know what it means, but I can’t use it in a sentence yet.

    You’re the best, thanks for a great article.

  51. As a curiosity, wouldn’t an increase in methane in the atmosphere lower the available oxygen as well? At what point does the level of oxygen in the atmosphere become a concern? Is it possible that the lowering of oxygen might, then, trigger an extinction process, at least for animals?

  52. Finally found the graph that tells the story. Even to my cataract eye, the blue area is greater than the red. The area in each colour represents energy in and out. Energy out >> Energy in appears a contradiction unless core energy loss is added in. Can’t ignore the energy thief Entropy either which takes energy out of the equation at each energy transformation.

    The effect is the Earth shows net cooling despite the best efforts of UN IPCC. Core heat is finite and will reduce over time, I suspect moving the bulge in the blue to the right (IR). Perhaps someone in UN will realise they have been promoting the wrong units (T°C) for their great scam. If the UN had chosen T°K, no one would have given a toss anyway.

    It will not be really felt until sometime in the future when we may not recover from an ice age as we have managed so far.

    Ah, Yes. Climate has been changing, is changing, and will continue to change. But not according to Prof Rosco Guano’s (famous Canberra economist and mining magnate) and fellow traveller Prof Tom Foolery’s settled science.

      • Beware, looks can deceive. The red curves look the about same if similar scales are used. By ‘off’ do you mean too large an eclosed area or too small? Similarly the blue inset curve has similar shape to the one in my post except it too has been scaled to omit the best bit.

        The data sources appear different too. I think my red curve relates to earth surface and yours top of atmosphere. Not sure of to where your blue curve applies but the high magnitude figures tend to support my claim that more energy leaves than arrives from the Sun.

        Are we comparing camels and cows?

    • The red curve (insolation) you posted peaks at 250 W/m^2/micron whereas the one I posted peaks at 2200 W/m^2/micron. The blue insert is just the fine detail of the peak. Albedo effects would only reduce this by about a third at the surface.

      • OK, your blue curve puzzled me.

        My observation was that solar energy reaching the Earth surface (peak 250 W/m^2/micron red curve) suggests that about 300 W/m^2 reaches our surface. The blue curve in my pair of graphs suggests about 600 W/m^2 leaves.

        To consider the same situation at the top of the atmosphere would require a second curve for energy leaving. Be interesting to compare the two estimates. The red curve you give for insolation at the top suggests about 2300000 W/m^2 arrives.

      • The red curve you give for insolation at the top suggests about 2300000 W/m^2 arrives.

        If you integrate the curve the area under the curve comes to ~1200 W/m^2, which is about what’s expected, albedo gives about 70% reaching the surface, 850 W/m^2.
        Looking at a typical emission spectrum from the TOA
        Absent any GHGs the earth’s surface at 280K emits ~130 W/m^2/sr.
        Include the GHGs you get about 120 W/m^2/sr with a surface Temp of 320K

        https://directory.eoportal.org/image/image_gallery?img_id=218018&t=1339757099635

  53. I’ve only just seen this posting and wonder if some kind soul with photoshop on their computer could add a Santa hat to the cow on the heading and perhaps a bit of snow in the background and post it, as I think it would make a great xmas card urging friends to warm their houses this winter by keeping a cow in the house and enjoy an eco-friendly Christmas. Or perhaps “What the cows think about AGW this Xmas” etc

  54. JohnKnight October 14, 2015 at 7:00 pm Edit

    beng135,

    “Science is a verbal blood-sport — get a thicker skin.”

    Your use of the term “Science” there, is to me (nobody special) a peculiar distortion of the term as it is defined in something like a dictionary. The guys and gals (etc ; ) who work/worked in science related fields are not science to me, they are just some guys and gals earning a living . . and this “blood sport” you speak of is (to me) just some guys and gals in this realm of employment behaving badly.

    And, I see what has happened in the realm of climate science pertaining to the CAWG hypothesis, as some in that realm of employment winning in the “bloodsport” you evoke here . . and I (nobody special) suggest folks snap out of it, so to speak, and stop justifying/normalizing their bad behavior by speaking and acting like the “sideshow” inter-personal battles for prestige and riches and whatever, is the main event.

    I read the article, and was impressed by the author’s reasoning and evidence, and command of language . . but I’m not at all impressed by his subsequent (to my mind) chest beating type behavior. I saw the original comment by Dinostratus as silly (obviously the author has learned some physics and math) and as some sort of “personal issue” manifesting in an outburst of disrespect. I would have been more impressed if the author made no response at all to it, It did nothing to blemish his reputation in my eyes His response did though, specifically in the thickness of skin department.

    It seems to me he wrote the article for “public consumption”, and I think he may have undone some of the good I feel he did there, by not maintaining a similar level of impersonal concern for sound science winning the real battle many here seem to me to be fighting (Including Mr. Eschenbach, whose entire article I am using as the quote for my comments on it ; )

    Thanks, John. Let me start by recommending that you read my responses to Knute here and here. They cover many of the points you raised.

    As to the idea that science is a blood sport, the reason it is a blood sport is that the essence of science is one person showing that another person’s scientific theories, which are often deeply held and have been passionately defended, are 100% wrong … and that is indeed a blood sport, because the man’s entire life’s work and occupation and perhaps even identity are often wrapped up in his theory. Which someone has proven wrong. So passions do indeed tend to run high.

    As to your incorrect idea that the comment by Dinostratus is “silly”, you’ve come in in the middle of the story. In fact his comment is one more in a long string of his ugly unprovoked ad hominem attacks on me.

    And my experience, based on writing literally hundreds of posts on this site and trying out various responses to the inevitable attacks, is that if I follow your advice and I do not oppose such attacks, they tend to fester and grow, with more and more people seeing that there is no cost to attacking me so they jump in to join the attack on my personal honesty, my abilities, and my scientific reputation.

    And I can ill afford damage to my scientific reputation, because I have little else. I have none of the usual scientific tokens. I have no job in science, nor have I ever had any. I have no colleagues to confer with. I have no university standing behind me, and no university library access. I have no scientific education except for introductory physics and chemistry. I have no graduate students to assist me. I have no PhD, no MS, no BS. And while I do have five journal articles, including a “Brief Communications Arising” in Nature magazine, that’s hardly an impressive amount. Well, it impresses me, because I know the price I’ve paid to be able to come up “through the hawsehole” and to do it entirely on my own … but that pales in comparison to folks like Dinostratus, who likely have some long string of papers and they have all the scientific tokens of jobs and education and the like.

    So I will not sit by and allow people to drag my reputation through the mud.

    Now, if you have tested out a better solution than mine to that problem, please point to the post(s) where you’ve tested that solution, so we can see just how well it works.

    And if you haven’t tested your solution … then why are you pushing an untested solution, particularly on a man like myself who has already tested your solution and found it wanting?

    So no, John, I won’t simply stand still and allow some anonymous viper to make unpleasant ad-hominem attacks designed to impugn my good name. That just encourages them, and it invites others to join in the hatefest. You are free to do that if you wish … me, I’ve tried it, and all I got was my reputation besmirched while I stood and watched and made no protest.

    Am I happy with my solution? By no means. It is merely the lesser of the two bad choices. Call me crazy, but I’d rather be busted for too vigorous a defense of my reputation than sit by idly while someone tears it down and stomps on it.

    My best to you, and thank you for your kind comments about the article.

    w.

    • Willis

      Did you get permission to double link me ?
      That was a joke. Stop.
      Put down the throat puncher.

      It’s good to hear you explain it’s not an ideal choice but the only one that works for you. I still like the “quote me if your going to challenge me” boundary. I think it works well in the written forum.

      In the wacky world of nonsense, it’s hard to be both the calm composed fallacy identifying machine and the effective throat puncher all at once. It think it exhausts the brain. Well, at least my brain. I find it’s good to have an objective observer by one’s side. I hope you have one from time to time.

      My heels have scars from the nipping and some days I think lopping off the heads of the useless wasn’t all that bad an idea.

  55. Reblogged this on Climatism and commented:
    Another great read on ‘Methane’ causes global warming, alarmist campaign.

    “Anyone who is worried about methane, good news. You can stop worrying.”

    • Thanks, Rob. The paper you cited quotes the scare numbers (“25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide (CO2)” … YIKES!), but they don’t mention that a) the chances of atmospheric methane doubling in the next century is quite small, and b) even in the unlikely event that methane doubles it will make only a very small difference in the forcing.

      I’m sorry if that is too simple for you.

      w.

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