# Stephen, Why Global Warming is not a problem

By Andy May

The following is a quote from my book Climate Catastrophe! Science or Science Fiction?

“99.9 percent of the Earth’s surface heat capacity is in the oceans and less than 0.1 percent is in the atmosphere. Further, CO2 is only 0.04 percent of the atmosphere. It beggars belief that a trace gas (CO2), in an atmosphere that itself contains only a trace amount of the total thermal energy on the surface of the Earth, can control the climate of the Earth. This is not the tail wagging the dog, this is a flea on the tail of the dog wagging the dog.”

One would think that this is clear, but to some it clearly is not. A commenter on Amazon.com named “Stephen” thinks it is “Scientific gibberish” and explains as follows:

“Apparently, May believes that the way CO2 acts to heat the earth is by getting hot. Then, the CO2 transfers its heat to the rest of the earth. Since the heat capacity of the CO2 is negligible, the earth’s temperature cannot rise.

This represents a profound misunderstanding of how the greenhouse effect works. The amount of heat contained in the CO2 has nothing whatsoever to do with CO2‘s effect on temperature. CO2‘s effect is to prevent radiative heat transfer from the earth [sic] to space. That is, it keeps the heat in.

Here is a way to think about this. Imagine that you have a pot of hot water sitting on the counter. If the pot is open to the air, it will cool quickly. If the pot is covered, it will cool more slowly. It doesn’t matter if the cover is made out of Saran wrap, which has no heat capacity–it will still keep the water hot. This analogy isn’t perfect since the water may be losing heat mostly by convective heat transfer. But the point is that CO2 is acting by keeping the heat in; it doesn’t actually heat the earth.”

He obviously did not read the book and misses the significance of the large difference between the heat capacity of the oceans and the atmosphere. He also misses the significance of “… control the climate of the Earth.” OMG! I’ve been quoted out of context, that never happens! But, since Stephen does seem to understand a little of the science, I did respond. The version below is edited a bit for this post, the actual answer is on Amazon.com.

What does this quote mean?

As you will see when you read my book, the IPCC AR5 Physical Science Basis report (2013) states on page 667 that “CO2 is the main anthropogenic control knob on climate.” This is also in the title of a paper by Lacis, et al. (2010) cited in the IPCC report. Both works acknowledge that the infrared active CO2 alone does not have enough of an effect to cause problems. But, if the atmospheric CO2 concentration increases, due to burning fossil fuels, the IPCC authors claim the lower atmosphere will warm due to the resulting additional delay in the radiative transfer of thermal energy to space. This warming will cause the amount of water vapor to increase in the lower atmosphere. Water vapor is a much stronger “greenhouse gas” and this will cause the problem they espouse.

In addition, the same IPCC report states on page 7 that they present “clear and robust conclusions … that the science now shows with 95 percent certainty that human activity is the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.” Of course, the human effect on climate has never been measured, so the “95%” confidence is based solely upon computer models and “expert” opinion.

There are several problems with these ideas. Most heat transfer in the lower atmosphere, where there is a lot of water vapor, occurs via convection. Water vapor (and water) have a high heat capacity and carry a lot of latent heat, they transport most of the thermal energy near the surface in the so-called atmospheric “boundary layer.” CO2 has a low heat capacity. It is infrared active and absorbs and emits IR radiation, with a small delay, whereas latent heat can be carried by water vapor for weeks before it condenses as rain and emits it as radiant energy. At high altitudes, where there is little water vapor, it is responsible for emitting most of the IR to space as thermal radiation. But, near the surface water vapor does most of the cooling.

The oceans are very cool, with an average temperature of about 4 degrees C. As stated in the quote, they contain 1,000 times the heat capacity of the atmosphere and provide a huge buffer that limits the Earth’s surface temperature. Most of the solar thermal energy that reaches the surface is absorbed by the oceans. The warmest part of the ocean is the surface of the tropical Pacific. Here evaporation limits the temperature to a maximum of 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) according to many sources, but Newell and Dopplick (1978, J. of Applied Meteorology, Vol. 18, page 822) and Newell, Navato and Hsiung (1978 in Pure Applied Geophysics, Vol 116, page 351) are the original sources.  In isolated shallow seas, for example the Red Sea or the Caribbean, or close to land in unusual meteorological conditions, sea-surface temperatures may reach as much as 34 degrees. But, in the open ocean the limit is generally 30 degrees. This is the temperature where the thermal energy lost to evaporation is about the same as the energy received from the Sun.

This energy is transmitted all over the world, mostly by ocean currents, but also by wind. It is emitted to space, mostly by CO2, in net emitting areas like the poles and the Sahara, and from the upper atmosphere. Thunderstorms are a main mechanism for transporting thermal energy to the upper atmosphere where it is easily emitted to space. Thus, the point of the quote is that the atmosphere (and thus CO2, a trace gas in the atmosphere) cannot “control” the climate if oceans exist. The oceans are the main control. If they were to completely disappear somehow (unlikely) then CO2 may play a role in long-term climate. But, if they exist, the maximum ocean surface temperature is 30 degrees. Since the oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface, this limits the maximum surface temperature.

One last point, in the first quote I state that 99.9% of the heat capacity is in the oceans and 0.1% is in the atmosphere.  I ignored the heat capacity of the land because temperature measurements on land are made in the air above the land.  Normally at about 2 meters altitude.

## 329 thoughts on “Stephen, Why Global Warming is not a problem”

1. Joel O'Bryan says:

“Here evaporation limits the temperature to a maximum of 30 degrees C (86 degrees F)…”
Be careful with absolutes.

One does see tropical SST’s in the 31-33 C range, the Caribbean Sea (north of Venezuela), Gulf of Mexico (late August), Western Pacific around the Solomon Islands, east of Philippines. When this occurs a stable high pressure system usually exists to limit/suppress convective formation of clouds. These areas are usually ripe for tropical cyclone development/strengthening if they pass across these very warm waters..

• Chimp says:

Also the Red Sea, which in summer can reach 34 degrees C off Sudan and Eritrea, without damage to coral reefs there.

Ditto the shallow Persian Gulf, most of which is dry land during glacial phases.

• ThomasJK says:

…..And contains The Garden of Eden, now underwater, maybe?

• Chimp says:

The Garden is mythological, but presumably the author of the second creation story in Genesis imagined it to lie somewhere in Mesopotamia.

However, if Earth were indeed made only some 6022 years ago, as per Bishop Ussher’s chronology, then the Persian Gulf would already have been inundated to about its present level. Or possibly a bit higher, since that date is probably during the Egyptian Warm Period.

• Andy May says:

Perhaps, I could have worded it better. Something like the limit in the open ocean is 30 degrees C. I can see how isolated portions of the ocean like the Caribbean or the Red Sea could get above 30 degrees for short periods of time. Or in unusual meteorological conditions that suppress cloud formation, but outside of these temporary conditions 30 degrees should not be exceeded for any length of time.

• Chimp says:

The average annual SST in the southern Red Sea is 30 °C, and about 28 °C in winter. Thus in summer, it averages 32 °C, and is above 30 °C for some six months of the year.

At the moment, it’s 33 °C off the coast of Chiapas and in the Sea of Cortez, and over 31°C off SW Cuba and in the Florida Strait:

https://www.ospo.noaa.gov/data/sst/contour/equatpac.fc.gif

https://www.ospo.noaa.gov/data/sst/contour/gulfmex.fc.gif

And of course SSTs were often even hotter during the Mesozoic and early Cenozoic Eras.

• Latitude says:

“and over 31°C off SW Cuba and in the Florida Strait:”

No…that’s not in the Florida Strait…..that’s Florida Bay
…and the warm water at Cuba is the Gulf of Batabano

both of them shallow water bays

• Chimp says:

Wait until August.

• Latitude says:

“At the moment”….so what 88 is not hot

• Chimp says:

Sure it is. It’s a degree C hotter than the general limit for seawater.

And it’ll get hotter. More of the Gulf of Mexico will be over the limit next month, if it’s a normal August. Lat year, it was 34 degrees C in the Gulf Stream between FL and the Bahamas, as well as in the Gulf and Caribbean. The Florida Strait was over 30 and much of the Caribbean as well.

https://www.esl.lsu.edu/static/pics/viirs/gulf_of_mexico/sst/2017-08/170830.1900.sst.npp.png

• Latitude says:

Chimp, I live here…I’m looking at it right now out my window…..don’t tell me it’s 31 right now when it’s not…don’t tell me 88 is hot and then say it’s going to get hotter
of course it can get hotter…it does it all the time….I won’t even get in it until it’s at least 88

…it’s no big deal

• Chimp says:

How it feels to a human bather isn’t the point. The relevant climatic and meteorological issue is the SST relative to the rest of the ocean.

I don’t live in SW FL but I fish the Gulf and the Stream in your AO every year and used to live part time on Key West until it got taken over by the Homintern.

But coming from the Pacific NW, where surfers wear wet suits, 88 F is warm enough for me.

• Latitude says:

For people that live here…our season just started….if 88 wasn’t normal for here right now…and if it didn’t get warmer…no one here would ever get in it..we would have no season..of course we keep up with what the temp is, every year

88 is normal for right now….and warmer in the next two months is perfectly normal too

I don’t live in SW FL…I’m almost exactly Lat 25

• Chimp says:

• Latitude says:

..on the rock out in the ocean

• Chimp says:

Nice. Except for the odd hurricane.

• Latitude says:

LOL…they can get you in Canada

• Chimp says:

True. Or Mexico. Or Bermuda. Or even Britain.

Or Hawaii, Australia, the Philippines or Japan.

The Allies were lucky that Japan surrendered after two A-bombs and the Russian invasion of Manchuria. Otherwise the terrible typhoon of October 1945 would have wrecked much of our invasion fleet, in yet another Divine Wind event.

Hardly safe anywhere. Our precious atmosphere sometimes turns on us.

• JohnB says:

Funny how history can turn on blind luck, isn’t it? If the fleet had been destroyed it would have been a year before the next attempt.

• Pop Piasa says:

Chimp, my dad would have been in that invasion fleet (he later found out at age 88) having made it from Normandy to Paris. Circumstances probably saved his life.

• Pop Piasa says:

Chimp, what you wrote also makes one ponder how much radioactive dust from the nuclear bombs was washed into the watershed during the typhoon, lessening the local concentrations. Could it have been a ‘godsend’ to the innocent victims of their own leaders’ imperialism ?

• Trevor says:

Pop Piasa and Chimp :
Those ATOMIC BOMBS were a “God-send” and probably saved
millions of allied and enemies lives !
Conventional bombing and shelling would have strung the war
out for many more years !
Besides which……like North and South Korea…….there is still
only a TRUCE in the fighting between Japan and Russia as they
still have a territorial dispute over Kurile and Sakhalin Islands.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan–Russia_relations

• Alan Tomalty says:

So what you should have said is the maximum sustained temperature in the oceans is around 34C.

• Andy May says:

Maybe a more universal limit is 34 degrees, it avoids argument. But, I think Newell and Dopplick’s analysis is good and it suggests 303K (30C). But, obviously there are conditions where locally the SST can get higher for a brief period of time. I suspect these areas where SST’s get higher are all close to land, in shallow water and with unusual meteorological conditions. It’s hard to separate weather and climate. I need to think about wording this so it is both correct and accurate.

• Andy May says:

Chimp, If I’m reading the contours correctly, the maximum contour is 30 and close to land. Is that correct?

• Chimp says:

While lacking contour lines, IMO the dark splotches are 31-32 degrees C.

• Ozonebust says:

Andy
The only period that we have had reasonably accurate SST is the satellite era, and that coincided with a warm phase. We do not know the limit. What we know is limited to that period.

Ocean temperature or the cooling of it is limited at all times to the carrying capacity of the atmosphere above it. There have been a number of studies measuring energy in and energy out , these have significant accuracy limitations.

From my observations, during an extended warm period (a period of increased evaporation) the atmospheric carrying capacity chokes with a lot of the heat falling back into the oceans as warm rain. The current belief is that once the vapour is in the air all of the heat that it contains will be lost to space. No, that is an susumption.

There is no analysis of the annual heat removing efficiency. That is, water vapor that results in snow will dissipate more heat than warm tropical rain falling back into the oceans.

The current habit is to assign this heat removal delay or retained heat to CO2. Big mistake.
Regards

• Ozonebust says:

Andy
Nice post by the way, easy to read. I look forward to more .

• Alan Tomalty says:

You are correct. Not all the latent heat is lost upon condensation because if that were true, there wouldn’t be any latent heat left to lose upon the water freezing. And we definitely know that when water freezes there is latent heat lost.

• Andy May says:

Thanks for this. Obviously, the vapor pressure of water has to equal the saturated partial pressure at some point around 30 degrees, but at exactly what temperature is still unknown. Other factors like barometric pressure are important also. The discussion here seems to suggest that some areas can get to over 32 degrees, which is strange, but we don’t know everything, that’s for sure.

• Menicholas says:

I think the environmental lapse rate is what is the determining factor.
Where the air above the sea surface is unstable or conditionally instable, thunderstorms form. These limit and even reverse surface heating via several mechanisms.
Where currents can move surface water away relatively quickly, and a given parcel of water is not sitting in the same place for an extended period, this tends to even out the SST temperature regime and prevent hotspots.
Large areas of the Gulf of Mexico are extremely shallow, and the water flowing into the Gulf comes from a very long fetch over tropical regions, and the outflow from the Gulf is very restricted. As a result, even the parts of the Gulf that are not shallow can get very warm.
And the Gulf spans latitudes that are under semi-permanent high pressure, so it is common for long periods of time to be very sunny and to have descending air, thus inhibiting convective activity.
I do not think any of the examples given, of temps far in excess of 30 on a regular basis are contradicted by the observation that 30 degrees is something of a limit over the open oceans.
But it seems not to be a hard limit, and there should be a qualifier that this is what is observed under the current climate regime of the Earth.
It may or may not be true at other times.

• Alasdair says:

Andy:

My steam Tables tell me that at 30C , give or take a smidge or two, Water Vapour Pressure equals Saturated Partial Pressure. It explains why generally the oceans rarely go much above this 30C level. Obviously as with all natural events, other factors come into play such as wind speeds, barometric pressure, ph values and even local gravity anomaly. But there it is written in the Steam Tables and known for many years.

This is why, as an engineer privy to arts of steam I am confident that so long as the kettle in my kitchen never boils above 100C and there is plenty of water around ,
the planet will never overheat; for the physics of water provides a very efficient global thermostat.
It’s just good old honest science.

• ThomasJK says:

Perhaps some of you can help me with a question for which I have been trying to dig up an answer: “What percentage of the total solar irradiance that reaches the surface of this planet is absorbed into the oceans?”

• Andy May says:

joelobryan, alan tomalty and chimp,
I made a couple of changes to make the argument tighter. Take a look and let me know what you think. I allowed for higher temperatures in shallow isolated seas and changed the phrasing of solar energy absorbed by the oceans, so it is limited to the energy reaching the surface.

• Chimp says:

You might allow for over 30 degrees C in the open ocean during summer, too. The Indian Ocean can also get toasty, as shown by the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, the hottest oceanic waters of long duration of which I know.

http://polar.ncep.noaa.gov/sst/ophi/color_sst_IND_ophi0.png

Parts of the southern Red Sea, unlike the Gulf, are actually pretty deep, its being a sunken rift valley.

It’s probably safe to say that over most of the ocean, most of the time, around 30 degrees C is a limit.

• Joel O’Bryan says:

The Red Sea and Persian Gulf have very limited circulation with the Indian Ocean.
THe Arabian Gulf temps are a better scoring of how warm the open waters of the Indian ocean can get.

• Wim Röst says:

The fact that the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf are connected to the Indian Ocean does not say that they are comparable to the Indian Ocean nor that they form an integrated part of the Indian Ocean. That is why they are called ‘Sea’ and ‘Gulf’. Temperature and salinity are quite different from the Indian Ocean.

• Chimp says:

The Sea of Cortez or Gulf of California is an arm of the Pacific Ocean, same as the Red Sea and Persian Gulf are of the IO.

But beyond that, there are parts of the open IO which reach comparable temperatures.

• Chimp says:

Comment showed up as I was writing about its delay in moderation.

Patience, grasshopper.

• Andy May says:

Chimp, points well taken, thanks.

• prjindigo says:

Its egotistical to ignore the fact that Gravity controls climate.

Gravity determines the maximum pressure at sea level, increases in energy per cubic meter necessarily reduce density.

The “models” the warmists use don’t allow for changes in density per cubic meter. This produces a margin of error far in excess of any of their claims over time.

• Trevor says:

joelobryan :
WOW !!! 31 to 33 C !!
That’s a SEARING , SCALDING 4 C BELOW BODY TEMPERATURE !!!
Sounds pretty good to me ! Just remove the sharks and irukandji first though !

• getitright says:

What part of

“In isolated shallow seas, for example the Red Sea or the Caribbean, or close to land in unusual meteorological conditions, sea-surface temperatures may reach as much as 34 degrees. ”

did you miss?

Be careful with critiques of already illustrated exceptions!

2. commieBob says:

It’s way complicated. Although most of the heat is stored in the oceans, the vast majority of the heat moves to the arctic via the atmosphere. link All the planet’s heat arrives and leaves through or via the atmosphere (except for geothermal).

• Alan Tomalty says:

All the energy budget graphs I have seen give about 48% of the solar hitting the ocean and land surface.

• Andy May says:

Alan, that sounds about right. 341 Wm^2 in, 79 (23%) reflected by clouds and the atmosphere. 78 (23%) absorbed by the atmosphere. 23(6%) reflected by the surface. So 48% is absorbed by the surface. The Oceans are 70% of the surface, so they would absorb 70% of the remaining 48% or 113 W/m^2.

• Andy May says:

I agree that most of the thermal energy leaves and arrives through the atmosphere. And, on a yearly basis, probably most of the energy that is transported to the Arctic is transported via the atmosphere. The Arctic ice cap acts as a cap after all. But, the point I was making was that most of the incoming solar radiation is absorbed by the oceans and transmitted around the world via ocean currents. I still think that is correct. This makes sense due to the very high heat capacity of the oceans. Short term weather is controlled by atmospheric heat (thermal energy) transport, but longer term it is the oceans. I suspect most thermal energy makes its way to the Southern Ocean through ocean currents as well.

• R. Shearer says:

Do you have an estimates for the percentages of energy transfer from ocean currents?

• commieBob says:

You would think it would be lots. Consider the effect that the Gulf Stream is said to have on the climate of Europe.

It’s complicated, my brain hurts.

• John F. Hultquist says:

Maybe this will make it hurt more:
The Source of Europe’s Mild Climate
The notion that the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe anomalously warm turns out to be a myth

by Richard Seager

Or, take a pain killer and ignore it.

• Chimp says:

If not the North Atlantic Drift, what IYO accounts for the stark difference between the two seaside settlements of Barrow, AK and North Cape, Norway, which lie at practically the same Arctic latitude, ie ~71 N?

Average February low for Barrow is -22 degrees C, while at North Cape, it’s -2.

• Andy May says:

R. Shearer, I don’t know of any data. Perhaps someone has worked up an estimate using the Argo data, but that only goes down to 2000 meters and a large percentage of the ocean water is below that depth. It has to be huge though, it is also slow moving. The deeper water takes over a thousand years to go through the whole circuit.

3. Stephen Skinner says:

“Here is a way to think about this. Imagine that you have a pot of hot water sitting on the counter. If the pot is open to the air, it will cool quickly. If the pot is covered, it will cool more slowly. It doesn’t matter if the cover is made out of Saran wrap, which has no heat capacity–it will still keep the water hot. This analogy isn’t perfect since the water may be losing heat mostly by convective heat transfer. But the point is that CO2 is acting by keeping the heat in; it doesn’t actually heat the earth.”

I see, so when I get a coffee and instead of putting a solid impermeable lid on top that fits tight I’m given a sort of lid that has 0.04% the mass of a solid lid. I might look like a mime artist trying to put this impression of a lid on the coffee and I would imagine theoretically it would keep in 0.04% of the heat but more likely it would have a negligible effect. The example of a pot of water being covered cannot be compared in any way to CO2 acting as a ‘lid’. A solid barrier doesn’t have to have heat trapping properties, it just has to physically prevent the heat from mixing and dissipating with the wider atmosphere.

• rbabcock says:

The lid on your coffee cup is impermeable. CO2 in the atmosphere is not.

4. This represents a profound misunderstanding of how the greenhouse effect works.

No, it represents a profound commitment to dislodging erroneous thinking about a so called greenhouse effect.

The amount of heat contained in the CO2 has nothing whatsoever to do with CO2‘s effect on temperature. CO2‘s effect is to prevent radiative heat transfer from the earth [sic] to space. That is, it keeps the heat in.

So, 0.06% of the atmosphere (by mass), “keeps heat in” for the rest of the 99.94% of atmospheric mass. What is the other 99.94% of atmospheric mass doing, if not “keeping in heat”? And how can 0.06% of atmospheric mass “keep heat in”, without itself being heated, while 99.94% of atmospheric mass is heated by CO2 that itself is NOT heated ? CO2 heats the main mass of the atmosphere without heating itself, by just forcing the bulk of the atmosphere to hold heat that it otherwise would not “keep in” by itself ?

One molecule per 2400 other molecules forces another 100 molecules (water) of the 2300 to force those 2300 molecules to “keep heat in” ? Where is the heat being kept ? If the other 2300 are heated, then the heat must be within those, and so those are “keeping heat in” too, but somehow CO2 is NOT heating itself, yet causes another 100 molecules to really heat up, which causes the other 2300 somehow to heat up.

CO2 must be acting like some kind of solid stuff to do all that, but it is NOT solid — it’s gas. The conclusion that it “keeps heat in” is absurd.

Here is a way to think about this. Imagine that you have a pot of hot water sitting on the counter. If the pot is open to the air, it will cool quickly. If the pot is covered, it will cool more slowly. It doesn’t matter if the cover is made out of Saran wrap, which has no heat capacity–it will still keep the water hot. This analogy isn’t perfect since the water may be losing heat mostly by convective heat transfer. But the point is that CO2 is acting by keeping the heat in; it doesn’t actually heat the earth.

So, we replace one really bad analogy — a greenhouse — with another really bad analogy — a pot of hot water — in order to profoundly understand how the first really bad analogy can be perpetuated. If the absurdity of explaining any affect that CO2 might have by referencing a green house fails, then change the absurdity to a pot of hot water. Great !

I think I understand better now — NOT how the greenhouse effect works, but how people who explain the greenhouse effect have really f___ed up their minds.

• John Shotsky says:

I’d like to point out that the 95% of CO2 that is natural is not the problem. It is that 5% OF the .06% of the atmosphere that is CO2 that is blamed for global warming. Not CO2 itself, but the MAN MADE percentage which is responsible for ALL of those things attributed to global warming. My brain wants to explode any time people attribute man-made CO2 for ANYTHING.
By the way, the 99.9% of the atmosphere that is inert is heated by the earth every single day. Non radiative gases cannot emit radiation, yet those gases are cooled every day. Ever wonder how? Heat rises, it doesn’t sink. The surface cools the surface air at night, but not at altitude. How does it get cooled? Answer: Radiative gases radiate energy, cool, and then absorb energy from inert gases by conduction – collisions. Then that cycle repeats. If there were NO radiative gases in the atmosphere, the only way energy from convected sources could cool is via contact with the surface (and each other). Earth would thus be warmer with no gh gases, perhaps the most badly named scientific term in existence. It would be warmer because the RATE of radiation would have to increase to force the surface to return all sun’s energy to space. The only way to increase the rate of radiation is for earth to warm.

• Chris says:

“I’d like to point out that the 95% of CO2 that is natural is not the problem. It is that 5% OF the .06% of the atmosphere that is CO2 that is blamed for global warming. Not CO2 itself, but the MAN MADE percentage which is responsible for ALL of those things attributed to global warming.”

CO2 is CO2. Man made emissions of CO2 have altered the amount of CO2 in the carbon cycle, leading to more in the atmosphere and more in the oceans. The only CO2 humans can control is by adjusting the consumption of fossil fuels, or doing sequestration. There are CO2 removal systems, they act on any CO2, but those are only in the testing phases.

• R Hall says:

CO2 removal systems? You mean plants? And algae? The most efficient CO2 removal systems known to nature?

• Chimp says:

Cyanobacteria, the ancestors of chloroplasts in algae and green plants. CO2 is like mothers’ milk to them. To make sugar, just add water and sunlight.

Blooms of which photosynthetic bacteria in lakes however can be dangerous.

• JOHN S CHISM says:

“CO2 is CO2. Man made emissions of CO2 have altered the amount of CO2 in the carbon cycle, leading to more in the atmosphere and more in the oceans. The only CO2 humans can control is by adjusting the consumption of fossil fuels, or doing sequestration.”

I don’t know why I bother bringing this up again and again… Bio-Mass is everything living or has lived and died. Not just Living Flora that people think of when talking about sequestration as carbon sinks. We know that the Earth has become greener with all the added carbon dioxide attributed to our use of fossil fuels, but also from all the other flora that died and rotted or burned up, volcanic activities, soil respiration from decaying and animal waste. Studies and pictures from space proves it. All the lumber used as building materials are also sequestered carbon, that were carbon dioxide sinks when they were alive. You yourself are the results of Sequestered carbon that came from eating flora and the fauna you ate got its carbon from eating flora and/or fauna. When the “Last Ice Age” started warming some 11,500 years ago and CO2 was at the starvation point for most Flora a mass extinctions occurred – by whatever hypothesis you chose to go by. The point is that Earth was left with only a fraction of the flora and fauna that existed before the “Last Ice Age” and only some 800,000 humans existed by the high count of studied. Today humans are about to surpass 7.2 billion. Bovines were scaras and now they are around 1.4 billion and that doesn’t count that about 1/3rds are eaten daily. there are some 19 billion chickens or 3 per person, and that’s just about a third eaten daily and doesn’t count the millions of eggs eaten each day. Those are just examples Secondary Stage of Carbon Sequestration that get their carbon from mostly Flora that are First Stage Sequestration.

In other words…. Nearly all the Man Made Carbon Dioxide from Fossil Fuels is being Sequestrated along with nearly all the natural Carbon Dioxide in all the Exponentially Increasing Flora and Fauna from single cell organisms to massive redwoods and blue whales on land/air and in the water 24/7/365.

• JOHN S CHISM says:

“There are CO2 removal systems, they act on any CO2, but those are only in the testing phases.”

Why would anyone want to remove Carbon Dioxide from our atmosphere when all of the Bio-Mass on Earth is already sequestering it?

• Chris says:

johchi7, because atmospheric CO2 levels are rising, which means the there is not sufficient sequestration happening naturally to keep CO2 levels at pre industrial levels.

• Rich Davis says:

Yes, Chris, that seems to be a logical deduction but, it is much more complex than you have been led to believe.

The fundamental question is whether CO2 concentration in the atmosphere controls earth’s temperature or earth’s temperature controls CO2 concentration with a little boost from human activity.

There is vastly more CO2 in the oceans than in the atmosphere. The amount in the atmosphere is fundamentally driven by the solubility of CO2 in the ocean. The solubility of CO2 in water is temperature-dependent. (Think about a warm bottle of Coke). The temperature of the oceans varies from about -1C to +34C. The temperature of the ocean in any given place is dependent on currents driving warm surface waters toward the poles necessitating deep cold water flows from the poles back to the tropics. There is a massive dynamic system acting as a heat pump to expel heat from the poles. Heat from the sun drives that engine. Key word is dynamic. Nothing in this system is static or “at equilibrium”. Things change preventing it from ever reaching equilibrium. In general, the heat pump runs faster and expels more heat when there is more heat entering the system, and vice versa.

The fact that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is rising is not only due to burning fossil fuel. It is also due to warming ocean temperatures. CO2 was rising for millenia prior to the industrial age. Why? Because the oceans have been warming since the end of the last ice age. It would be illogical to argue that warming prior to human civilization was not a natural phenomenon.

The amount of carbon in the carbon cycle has been depleting naturally for eons. The trend over geological history is a steep decline. It has recently (last few millennia) made a slight rebound, but without our intervention in releasing sequestered carbon, life on earth was poised for mass extinctions.

There is nothing special about the CO2 level in 1850 or 1700. Why not be concerned about the rise since 8000 BC?

Reversing the natural sequestration of carbon through the burning of fossil fuels and production of cement, is just one perturbation of the dynamic system among many preventing the ocean-atmosphere system from reaching equilibrium. Apparently we are generating CO2 a bit faster than the oceans can absorb it, and faster than photosynthesizing life can expand to re-sequester it.

So the question that matters is this: does atmospheric CO2 control earth’s temperature or does the earth’s temperature control atmospheric CO2 (with a little recent boost from human activity)?

The skeptical position is the latter. It is not a denial that CO2 has the ability to hold in some heat. It is, in effect, a denial that this retention of heat is significant due to emergent phenomena that maintain homeostasis.

Climate politicians (some calling themselves scientists) are the science deniers who reject paleoclimatology. The proxy evidence shows that CO2 lags temperature. They have cause and effect backwards.

• JOHN S CHISM says:

Chris, let me give you an abbreviated history lesson. This is long, but important.

CO2 was increasing since the “Last Ice Age” warmed and melted the majority of the mountain and polar glaciers, and warmed the oceans and all other surface water that had sequestered the majority of the CO2, releasing it back into the atmosphere. Over this 11,000 years of a Stalled 15 degrees Celsius Mean. That was just around 240 ppm prior to the warming and after the hottest global temperatures of the first part of the Holocene Climate Optimum 8,000 to 6,000 years ago rose to 260 ppm by the Medieval Global Warming and in the middle(1645 – 1715) of the Little Ice Age (1300 to 1870) when it started warming slowly the CO2 rose to 280 ppm – this is still considered a starvation amount of free CO2 in the atmosphere for the majority of flora- at its end around 1870 AD when the human population was just 1.22 billion globally. The Industrial Revolution started around 1760 to 1820 or 1840 depending upon the person writing about it.

Fuels of Wood were the dominant source of heat during the Industrial Revolution and Coal/Coke was used for smelting ores for their metals and metalworking forges to shape it. (This is what people are wanting us to revert back to, that is just past being in the stone age.) Steam Power was invented in 1736 but it was 1781 that Thomas Newcomen invented the Watt Steam Engine, but it rarely saw any use, but really kicked off the Industrial Revolution when better designs started appearing. Both Bio-Fuel wood and Fossil Fuel Coal were the primary heat source for creating steam. The added CO2 had no effect on the warming of the Little Ice Age. And at that time the volcanic activities were pumping more CO2 along with aerosols into the environment than humans did.

It wasn’t just the CO2 that was being put into the air, as much as it was the water vapor when the steam cooled in the atmosphere as a primary GHG being pumped out. But both H2O and CO2 helped to support more Bio-Mass of Flora around those localized areas. And the more Flora there is to support more Fauna exponentially, the more CO2 being created exponentially increases Flora, and the cycle exponentially repeats. That by the end of the Little Ice Age and Oil being used as a heat source as Kerosene in 1846 for the first time. Although gasoline was discovered around that time it, wasn’t used it was burnt off as a byproduct of kerosene, until a patent for refining gasoline came in 1913.

During all this time, more people were surviving harsh cold weather because better housing and heating systems were created. The Population started growing in the Industrialized Countries. Better farming techniques were being discovered, by learning more about what not to do, as much as what to do. Animal Husbantry also increased all livestock. But none of that would have happened without there being more Carbon Dioxide and Monoxide in the environment as well as atmospheric water increasing to grow the Flora that Fauna needed to live and Fauna increasing the CO2 the Flora needed to live on, in a exponentially increasing Cycle of Life. The population of all Flora and Fauna Exponentially increased because of the Exponentially Increasing Carbon Dioxide in our environment from Fossil Fuels.

To slow that process or reduce Carbon Dioxide is a death sentence to life as we know it. If an equilibrium was met, it would cascade into a deficit of CO2 in the environment because all flora would return to a worse starvation than they are still in now at 400+ ppm. Because as more of our CO2 is sequestered in Flora, they will slowly start dying when CO2 is lowered from what they are accustomed to having. It is the same thing that happens naturally when the climate cools in winter. Carbon Dioxide increases in the atmosphere because flora becomes dormant in the Northern Hemisphere. When the Spring Warming comes that Carbon Dioxide starts to be used as the Flora awaken. If we reduce the CO2 those Flora will not have what they require to build new cellular materials in as abundance they had before. Which is why people study live and fossilized tree rings and can tell what the past was like. This is how we know what it was like in the Last Interglacial Period that was 6 degrees Celsius (72 degrees F) hotter than the Earth is now and the Carbon Dioxide was much higher (averaged about 1,500 ppm) but it never followed the Global Temperatures.

About a million years ago at 15 degrees Celsius the CO2 was around 1,000 ppm and the Global Temperature was an average of 22 degrees Celsius, for something around 800,000 years. Here we are today still living in the Ice Age that only started about 500,000 years ago after the Global Cooling plunged to an average of 12 degrees Celsius of Glacial Periods that warmed to an average of 15 degrees Celsius, in other words we hit a Global Stall over the last 11,000 years with an average Global Temperature of 15 degrees Celsius (56.7 degrees F) with an average of +/- 1.0 degrees Celsius (1.8 degrees F) variation and the Earth History Global Mean between Glacial and Interglacial Periods is 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees F). This is why I always put parentheses when writing the “End of the Last Ice Age” or the “Last Ice Age” because it has never gotten above that 17 degrees Celsius Mean. The Average Carbon Dioxide for the past 3.5 Billion years is around 1,200 ppm that started between the Devonian and the Carboniferous Period, when most of Earth’s life forms began.

• JOHN S CHISM says:

I forgot to click the notify bell for the last comment.

• Alan Tomalty says:

John That is an interesting explanation. Only 1 problem. The amount of radiative gases is too small in the polar regions( not much H2O especially in South Pole) to absorb any amount of significant heat from the N2 and O2.

On another note Lightbulbs went off in my mind as to why the vast difference in the amount of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere versus other planets. It has to be because of the oceans.

• Rich Davis says:

John S,
While we generally come to the same practical conclusions, how we arrive at those conclusions is different. I have one major disagreement and a couple of nitpicks.

Disagreement
I think that you have a misconception about greenhouse gases vs. non-greenhouse gases. CO2 and other so-called GHGs are able to absorb and emit infrared photons and capture energy from them. It’s true that nitrogen, oxygen, and argon in our atmosphere cannot do that. But all matter radiates energy in proportion to its temperature, whether it is solid, liquid, gas, or plasma, and all matter absorbs radiated energy coming from other matter. The relative temperatures determine the direction of the net heat transfer.

Nit #1
Arguing that human-generated CO2 is a small fraction of total CO2 misses the point. It’s like arguing that a drop of nerve agent can’t possibly harm you because it is such a small fraction of your body mass. Natural sources of CO2 exist in balance with natural sinks. These natural sources and sinks are cyclical, driven by seasonal temperature variation and effects on vegetation. CO2 concentration in water is temperature-dependent with warmer water less able to hold CO2 and colder water more able to do so. Plants absorb less CO2 in the winter than in the summer. The warmista argument is that human activity allows CO2 in the atmosphere to exceed the amount that would be there at equilibrium for a given ocean temperature (they call this forcing) and they believe (fallaciously) that any minor excursion above the equilibrium concentration will create runaway positive feedbacks due to the small increase in heat reflected back to the surface, which in turn is supposed to cause more evaporation to add more H2O vapor which is a much more powerful GHG than CO2. It’s best to address the error of their claims by pointing out that the H2O vapor increase is not empirically observed to any significant extent.

Nit #2
The common saying that “heat rises” is a practical rule of thumb in the limited case where you are talking about hot air convection on earth. I grant you it’s a nitpick because that’s the context you were talking about, but it is sloppy science and loses sight of the real mechanisms that are often important. Heat itself neither rises nor sinks. By conduction, heat moves from hot to cold–up, down, or sideways. By radiative transfer, heat radiates in all directions and the net amount radiated vs absorbed results in heat moving from hot to cold. The sun radiates heat down to the earth surface (and the earth radiates to the sun, but the net is much more toward the earth), a fireplace radiates heat sideways to you when you sit next to it. Convection driven by the buoyancy effect is a consequence of gravity. It causes denser cold fluid (gas or liquid) to sink and displace less dense warmer fluid which must go somewhere, so it floats up. The mass transfer carries the heat up. In the absence of gravity as in space, there is no convection because the denser cold fluid is not acted on by gravity to make it sink and displace the less dense fluid. Practically speaking, on earth we always have gravity, but another more relevant case where heat does not rise is when highly salty warm water sinks into less salty, less dense cold water (the surface water becomes more concentrated in salt due to evaporation). The cold water “wells up” in this case and the mass transfer carries the heat down. Another relevant case is when cold fresh meltwater floats on top of warmer but saltier, thus denser water. In reality, unless things are getting hotter or cooler, it has to be the case that heat sinks exactly as much as it rises (up and down heat flows must be in balance). Recently heat has been sinking just a little bit more than it has been rising, so we have “global warming”. Is all of that caused by humans? I doubt it. Considering that paleoclimatology shows us many examples of much more extreme natural variation when humans were not around, my bet is that we have very little to do with it.

• [Nitpicking the Nitpick]

Arguing that human-generated CO2 is a small fraction of total CO2 misses the point. It’s like arguing that a drop of nerve agent can’t possibly harm you because it is such a small fraction of your body mass.

Arguing thus does NOT miss the point — it makes a good point in the relevant CONTEXT. Comparing a drop of nerve agent to the mass of the human body is an implied simile (or “semi-LIE”, as I like to call it), namely, “CO2 within Earth’s atmospheric mass is like a nerve agent within the human body”. This just replaces a false greenhouse simile (i.e., “Earth’s atmosphere is like a greenhouse”) with a false human-body simile (i.e., “Earth’s atmosphere is like the human body), which ignores: (1) the contexts of the comparisons, (2) the differences in the systems in the comparisons, and (3) the vastly different mechanisms of causation in two DIFFERENT systems involving a small quantity .

More directly, the implied simile is this: “Carbon dioxide is like a nerve agent, simply because it is a small quantity in relation to a large quantity.” The logic is that the only thing that determines the validity of the argument is the relationship ALONE between quantities. It justifies negating the argument for no other reason than the SIMPLE relationship between a small quantity and a large quantity does not hold for ALL SYSTEMS.

Red apples taste good, and so red moth balls should taste good. Why, because they are both red and red determines taste. Same kind of logic. Small quantity of nerve agent has a great effect on the human body, and so small quantity of CO2 has a great effect on Earth’s atmosphere. This is the argument implied by the above bolded claim.

Further, a nerve agent does NOT coexist ordinarily with the mass in question, namely the human body. Rather, it is something totally foreign, introduced abnormally. CO2, on the other hand is something that coexists normally with all other atmospheric gases as PART of the ordinary mass. A more correct analogy would choose something already a part of the human body and claim that a small portion of it controls the larger part of it, say vitamin C. But now we are faced with the vast differences between the mechanisms of how the body treats vitamin C and how the atmosphere treats CO2.
The complexity of the chemistry is TOTALLY different, and so the analogy is wrong.

Atmospheric gas dynamics nowhere near compares to physio-chemistry dynamics of the human body. So, again, the analogy is false and arguing from this analogy is faulty.

CO2 is 0.06% of an atmospheric mass within which it normally coexists. The mechanism of CO2 is NOT like the mechanism of a nerve agent. The mechanism of CO2 is NOT like the mechanism of vitamin C. Given what the mechanism of CO2 … IS, a small fraction of CO2 cannot have the claimed effects on the larger mass within which it ordinarily coexists.

• tom0mason says:

Just a couple of items to note —
1….
Total atmosphere weighs approximately 5.3 million Gigatonnes.
Total CO2 at 0.04% by volume of the atmosphere weighs aproximately 0.003 million Gigatonnes.
Human produced CO2 is estimated (alleged) to by 4% of the total CO2 in the atmosphere and weighs 0.000012 million Gigatonnes.
[A gigatonne equals 1,000,000,000,000 tonnes.]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
2…

Atmospheric residence time (i.e. lifetime, turnover time, etc.) of CO2 , based mainly on the compilation by Sundquist (1985; for references in brackets).

Based on natural carbon-14

Craig [1957]________________ 7 +/- 3 years
Revelle & Suess [1957] ______7 years
Arnold & Anderson [1957] ____10 years

including living and dead biosphere
(Siegenthaler, 1989) ________4-9 years
Craig [1958] ________________7 +/- 5 years
Bolin & Eriksson [1959] _____5 years
Broecker [1963], recalc.
by Broecker & Peng [1974] ___8 years
Craig [1963] ________________5-15 years
Keeling [1973b] _____________7 years
Broecker [1974] _____________9.2 years
Oeschger et al. [1975] ______6-9 years
Keeling [1979] ______________7.53 years
Peng et al. [1979] __________7.6 (5.5-9.4) years
Siegenthaler et al. [1980] __7.5 years
Lal & Suess [1983] __________3-25 years
Siegenthaler [1983] _________7.9-10.6 years
Kratz et al. [1983] _________6.7 years

Based on Suess Effect
Ferguson [1958] _____________2 (1-8) years
Bacastow & Keeling [1973] ___6.3-7.0 years

Based on bomb carbon-14
Bien & Suess [1967] ________>10 years
Münnich & Roether [1967] ____5.4 years
Nydal [1968] ________________5-10 years
Young & Fairhall [1968] _____4-6 years
Rafter & O’Brian [1970] _____12 years
Machta (1972) _______________2 years
Broecker et al. [1980a] _____6.2-8.8 years
Stuiver [1980] ______________6.8 years
Quay & Stuiver [1980] _______7.5 years
Delibrias [1980] ____________6.0 years
Druffel & Suess [1983] ______12.5 years
Siegenthaler [1983] _________6.99-7.54 years

Broecker & Peng [1974] ______8 years
Peng et al. [1979] __________7.8-13.2 years
Peng et al. [1983] __________8.4 years

Based on solubility data
Murray (1992) _______________5.4 years

Based on carbon-13/carbon-12 mass balance
Segalstad (1992) ____________5.4 years

Modeled
UN-IPCC estimation __________<100 years!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

• ted getzel says:

Typo alert—a gigaton equals a billion tons not trillion

• Alan Tomalty says:

Believing in a religion makes them dumber

• Just look at the 15 micron window from the outside of the earth, increasing co2 will increase the emission beight, which is colder and a less effective IR radiator. That’s all it really is.

• Wim Röst says:

Double CO2 molecules at elevations from where there is a net emission to space are able to receive double (!) as much kinetic energy from the same number of non-emitting (O2, N2) molecules. Resulting in a potentially double net emission direction space.

The more CO2 there is, the more cooling above net-emission height there will be.

(CO2 is rather evenly dispersed over elevations up to 80 km, unlike H2O)

• But it doesn’t as it is lapse rate dependent. CO2 can only emit local temperature. You can try yourself with online modtran.

• Wim Röst says:

I am arguing that radiation is not only lapse rate dependent, but also dependent on the quantity of emitting molecules. No emitting molecules above ‘net emission height’, no emission. Double as much molecules above net emission height, double emission.

• The CERES data begs to differ from MODTRAN.

https://geosciencebigpicture.files.wordpress.com/2018/04/ceres-vs-modtran.png

CERES shows no decrease in LW to space, but rather a decrese in SW to space. Read increased SW absorption.

The lapse rate inverts at the tropopause ~17 km tropical clear sky according to MODTRAN, and radiation takes place at a higher rather than a lower temperature with increasing altitude. Energy of radiation increases to the fourth power of increasing temperature.

• Thanks for the graph, what you see here is the effect of Miskolczi in action, i.e. water vapour counter acting co2. Atmospheric circulation does not penetrate the tropopause, so this should be the layer of outgoing radiation, not an arbitrary 20 km level. Also check that the stratosphere is not cooling since pinatubo.

• Tom Dayton says:

Wim Rost: Yes, the stratosphere is cooling in accord with greenhouse effect explanation. Two main causes: (1) CO2 below the stratosphere is preventing energy from reaching the stratosphere, similar to the outside of an insulating blanket placed on your body being cooler than your skin was before the blanket was placed. (2) CO2 at that great height has few CO2 molecules above it to intercept the IR that is radiated by that high layer.

• Wim Röst says:

And what is your explanation for what you see happening, Gymnosperm?

• CERES planners made the practical but essentially arbitrary decision to call 20 km the top of the atmosphere. You can read about it in the EBAF apology at the CERES site. 20km is barely above the tropical tropopause on average and even below it when the stratospheric inversion is dented by strong convective activity.

https://geosciencebigpicture.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/giss-anomaly-by-altitude-and-lblrtm-cooling.png

This ugly graphic which I’m unable to fix is based on Clough but shows the relationship to the lapse rate. Basically the surface warms the most, the rate declines through the troposphere, the tropopause is flat, and the middle stratosphere is cooling sharply.

20km is in the zone of flat to slight cooling, thus the CERES result. CERES would show more LW to space if it were set to the middle stratosphere, and more yet if it were set to Nimbus altitude of 70km.

https://geosciencebigpicture.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/gordon-on-clough-1995.png

CO2 shows .4K/day/wavenumber cooling at 48km in the 667/15micron CO2 fundamental bend. Ozone also cools strongly, despite an overall warming lapse rate.

Perhaps stratospheric cooling to offset surface warming is the reason CO2 does not correlate to temperature at any paleo time scale. The stratosphere is part of the planet too.

• Wim Röst says:

Very interesting graphics. Indeed, by the chosen altitude of the satellite the large stratospheric cooling by CO2 and ozone normally stays out of sight. A huge cooling by CO2 and ozone at 48 km, typically at the altitude where stratospheric temperatures are highest. And spaceward emission will be highest.

The dark brown line in the upper graphic, representing the lower stratosphere, shows cooler 2000’s than 80’s and 90’s. This cooling down has to result in a stronger vertical temperature gradient for the 2000’s. Condensation level must go down / must have gone down, because of lower temperatures in the upper regions of the troposphere /lower stratosphere, enabling more spaceward radiation because the ‘water vapor blocking’ of outward radiation ended at lower altitudes.

The cooling mechanism of the Earth? CO2: (initially) warming at the surface, strongly cooling from the stratosphere?

• Roger Taguchi says:

Yes, CO2 comprises only 400 ppmv (0.04%) of dry air, but it absorbs 667 cm^-1 IR photons emitted from the solid and liquid surface of the Earth, forming vibrationally excited CO2 molecules. These excited molecules can then re-emit 667 cm^-1 radiation, but then there would be no net warming of the atmosphere. However, the literature mostly misses the quenching of excited molecules during non-radiative collisions, in which the energy of excitation ends up as increased translational and rotational energies of the departing molecules (most likely N2, O2 and Ar). N2, O2 and Ar cannot and do not re-emit any significant amount of IR because they are non-polar molecules (do not have permanent electric dipole moments). The increased average translational and rotational energy corresponds to a warming of the troposphere (the greenhouse effect). The heat capacity at constant pressure of linear molecules N2, O2, and CO2 is 7k/2 per molecule, where k is Boltzmann’s constant so the amount of heat stored in N2 and O2 is about 2500 times that stored in CO2; see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat_capacity . The heat capacity at constant pressure of monatomic Ar is only 5k/2 per molecule because there is no energy of rotation, but as Ar is only 1% of the troposphere, this difference is insignificant.

Yes, the heat capacity of the liquid water in the oceans is huge, but because of the temperature/density gradient, we are wrong in assuming the entire bulk of the oceans must heat up by the same temperature. The rocks/soil of the continents have low thermal conductivity, so desert animals can live quite comfortably in burrows a few cm or dm below the scorching surface. This means only a thin skin of the continents need be warmed up on average during global warming, so the main increase in enthalpy (heat content) in global warming is in the troposphere.

Having said this, when the 62% of the Earth’s surface that is covered by clouds is considered, the equilibrium climate sensitivity is about 0.6-0.7 K, a factor of 4 or 5 smaller than the literature value of 3 K. [The value of 3 K was based on 1 K for a cloudless troposphere plus 2 K from positive feedback from water vapor; however, clouds absorb and re-emit essentially all IR frequencies so doubling CO2 has no effect below the cloud tops. Then considering the lower temperature of the emitting cloud tops (compared to the 288 K surface), the smaller number of CO2 molecules in the path length to 10 km, and the smaller number of CO2 molecules in the v=1 first excited state that actually do the extra absorption, the climate sensitivity before feedbacks is about 0.6 K. Water vapor feedback is about 33%, which would raise this to 0.8 K, but a reasonable estimate for increased negative cloud feedback (which is not made in the literature) reduces this to 0.6-0.7 K. So crippling the economies of the First World to keep warming to 2 K is unnecessary, wasteful, and foolish.

• Chimp says:

Good discussion, but you give “climate science” too much credit. The central value of 3 K was based upon the two primitive model WAGs by Manabe (2 K) and Hansen (4 K) relied upon by Charney in 1979. He averaged them to derive the “canonical” 3 K, plus added an arbitrary MoE fudge factor of 0.5 K on each end.

Voila! The unchanged to this day ECS range of 1.5 to 4.5 K.

I agree with your estimate of ECS, because net feedback effects are likely to be negative, hence not 1.1-1.2 K, but 0.6-0.7. The GIGO models “parameterize” clouds and other water vapor feedbacks, ie make their effects up, since computer gamers can’t realistically model them.

• ripshin says:

Thanks Roger. Very clear elaboration of the concepts.

One question the keeps bugging me is why we don’t also consider the quenching of H2O by N2, O2, AR and etc? This is where it seems to me that the trace nature of CO2, combined with its narrow absorption band, is relevant. Given that the vast majority of LW is absorbed by the much more prevalent H2O, isn’t it reasonable to conclude that the non-GH gases are being thermalized primarily by H2O?

Just curious.

rip

5. surly says:

Although I don’t think the warmists have made or will ever make the case that CO2 is the “lid” that Stephen describes, such that more of it creates more “lidiness”, I’m afraid I have to agree with him that the passage he quotes from your book mischaracterizes the global warming argument as I have always understood it. Furthermore, arguing that a small component of some whole allows us to dismiss its importance isn’t very convincing: many elements make up even less of the human body, but their absence or over-abundance would be fatal. It might have been better to have written that the Greenhouse Effect postulates exactly what Stephen says it does, then to talk about oceans and atmosphere and whether more CO2 does what models claim it does, IMHO.

In short, I think he’s got you there.

• Alan Tomalty says:

No he doesnt A gas that makes up .04% by volume or .06% by mass cannot possibly heat up the other 99.96% by volume or 99.94% by mass to any significant degree. Since water vapour is 20 to 50 times more prevalent than CO2 in any locality except the poles, the change in water vapour in any locality in 1 day (as much or more than 500%) except the poles , vastly outnumbers the small overall change in CO2 of 0.5 % per year. And furthermore, N2 and O2 have 4000 times the heat capacity of CO2. Further to that almost all the IR that CO2 absorbs is lost to collisions with N2 and O2 within picoseconds of being absorbed. It is then carried to the upper atmosphere by convection. If convection wasnt important, the earth would have had runaway global warming 3.8- 4.2 billion years ago when the oceans first formed. The reason is that the latent heat in the H2O vapour from evaporation has to go somewhere when the H2O vapour condenses. Not all of the latent heat condenses out but most of it and this amount ; now sensible heat, has to go somewhere. Convection carries it to the upper atmosphere because it is actual heat (not IR). If it didnt go to the upper atmosphere and then to space, then the troposphere would have heated like a greenhouse 3.8- 4.2 billion years ago. Evaporation and convection are the control knobs of temperature; NOT CO2.

• surly says:

All great points, but this Stephen guy was saying that Andy was attacking a straw man. In the tiny quoted passage, I agree.

• Wim Röst says:

Alan Tomalty: “If convection wasnt important, the earth would have had runaway global warming 3.8- 4.2 billion years ago when the oceans first formed”

WR: And there would be a runaway global warming every time an El Nino is heating up the Earth’s atmosphere. But there isn’t: as soon as the atmosphere is heated up, extra cooling is activated. That is how it works. No matter the reason for the initial (!) heating.

• ripshin says:

Wim,

This is a great point, and provides us with the clearest counter example to the postulated water vapor feedback effect. I mean, alarmists point to models since we can’t run experiments on the global atmosphere. But events like el nino provide us with the necessary “experimental” data to test the hypothesis.

As you point out, the hypothesis fails.

rip

• Michael Hammer says:

I am extremely sceptical of CAGW but in this case I must agree with the criticism. Your argument is that the amount of CO2 is so small it cannot make a difference. Consider, 0.01% of potassium permanganate in water, it changes the water from clear to deep purple, so intense it is more or less opaque. Shine a strong light through a beaker of plain water and one with the 0.01% KMnO4, the latter will get warmer because it absorbs more of the energy from the light.

GHG’s work by blocking radiation to space form the surface (at the GHG wavelengths) and replacing it with radiation to space from the top of the GHG column – typically around the tropopause. If we increase CO2 concentration the absorption lines broaden (that’s why the response if logarithmic) so a slightly larger wavelength range of the surface energy becomes blocked and replaced with radiation from the top of the GHG column. It has absolutely nothing to do with the heat content of the CO2. Nor does it have anything to do with delaying the heat egress. You could also use the example of a poly house for growing plants. Such a structure is not warmer because of the heat content of the polythene film it is because the film prevents convection. The impact of GHG’s is real, the question is how significant is it?

Most environmental scares are based on a kernel of sound science which is then exaggerated massively to create a crisis where none exists. That is exactly the case here. The direct impact of doubling CO is likely to be less than 1C. Warmists claim massive positive feedback in the climate system raising the impact to 3C or more. This is despite the fact that virtually all natural systems display negative feedback. They claim positive feedback due to rising water vapour but they ignore cloud impacts. Clouds cause cooling by raising earth’s albedo. Since cloud cover is nowhere near saturation its impact is likely to be close to linear whereas the impact of water vapour (like all GHG’s) is logarthmic. Logarthimic warming, linear cooling is a formula for establishing a setpoint for Earth’s climate which is maintained by negative feedback. At VERY low concentration GHG warming dominates and the planet warms (+ve feedback) but as concentration rises the incremental impact of more GHG diminishes while the incremental impact of more clouds increases and becomes dominant causing the net incremental cooling. This is a classic example of how a linear plus non linear effect work together to create a stable setpoint. Its well known in engineering.

• GHG’s work by blocking radiation to space form the surface (at the GHG wavelengths) and replacing it with radiation to space from the top of the GHG column – typically around the tropopause.

I have serious doubts about that assessment. Can somebody explain why I might be right to have such doubts ? Thanks.

• M.W.Plia. says:

surly, re the “global warming argument”, it would be interesting to hear your explanation of how you “have always understood it”

• surly says:

I was simply saying that I’ve never heard any warmist argue that the thermal energy of the CO2 itself is regulating the earth’s temperature.

• R. Shearer says:

To me it appears that Andy May’s response to Stephen is basically what you suggest, in a point, counter-point manner.

• Chimp says:

I prefer Lindzen’s more apt analogy of putting another coat of white paint on an already white wall.

After the first 200 ppm of CO2, adding more has a negligible effect. ECS surely isn’t anywhere near Charney’s central guess of 3.0 degrees C per doubling, let alone his high end of 4.5 degrees C. It’s probably more like his low end of 1.5 degrees C, or even less, ie about the same as the zero net feedback figure of 1.1-1.2 degrees C.

• Edwin says:

Chimp, The Lindzen analogy seems far more appropriate compared to the human body, nerve agent or potassium permanganate in water analogies. The human body analogy would be adding 0.04% of something naturally in the body and then assuming it would have some catastrophic effect. The nerve agent analogy seems to start by assuming CO2 is a terribly evil gas. Adding a nerve agent to the body is adding some totally alien. It is similar to the potassium permanganate in water.

While one could say that our weather is driven by our climate continually seeking some level of equilibrium it has and will never reach equilibrium. The AGW crowd obviously believe that our climate was in equilibrium in the past and we should be strive to “force” it into some state of equilibrium now. They ignore reality.

• Joe Born says:

I’m not sure “he’s got you there,” but I must confess I’ve never found passages like the quoted one very compelling.

My own preference would be that skeptics (among whom I count myself) lose the CO2-heat-capacity argument, since that heat capacity is largely irrelevant to the mechanism by which CO2 retards outward radiation.

Nonetheless, Mr. May’s focus on convection is persuasive, particularly since it involves “tunneling” through part of CO2’s optical depth.

• Walter Sobchak says:

“heat capacity is largely irrelevant to the mechanism by which CO2 retards outward radiation.”

It can’t be. If CO2 is in thermal equilibrium with the rest of the atmosphere, it cannot warm it. Further, CO2 cannot hold energy without being warm. Anything that receives energy can only hold by undergoing a change of position or state. It CO2 absorbs energy it must move either in space or in vibration. Those movements are registered as heat.

• Joe Born says:

I see I was being obscure.

Of course the CO2 absorbs energy, so there is some heat capacity.

What I meant, though, was that the ratio of its heat capacity to that of the rest of the system isn’t what’s important to its supposed effect on equilibrium temperature; what’s important is the atmosphere’s resultant optical depth (for relevant wavelengths).

If for the sake of simplicity we could ignore convection and conduction and assume an effective total optical depth tau, then at equilibrium the ratio of surface radiation to the radiation emitted to space would, if my math is right, be (tau + 2) / 2: it wouldn’t depend on how how great the ratio is of the carbon dioxide’s (or the atmosphere’s) heat capacity to the land and ocean’s.

• Walter Sobchak says:

You can’t forget convection. Much of the heat is carried upward by convection of warm moist air. In case of concentrations large enough to produce thunder storms to altitudes of 14 Km. There it is released by condensation and radiated away above much of the rest of the atmosphere.

• Joe Born says:

Walter Sobchak:

Of course you can’t forget convection; that’s what principally drives the lapse rate and thus emission to space, and the lapse rate is much different from what it would be in an atmosphere at rest in which all energy transfer occurs only by radiation. More to the point, convection enables latent heat to “tunnel” through the optical resistance that the CO2 presents: it counteracts CO2’s retardant effect. And Mr. May was correct later to point that out.

But the effect that convection counteracts has little to do with the relative heat capacities of the carbon dioxide and the other terrestrial constituents. As I said, if there were no convection or conduction, the ratio of surface radiation to radiation in would be $\frac{\tau + 2}{2}$ if there were enough CO2 to make the atmosphere’s optical depth $\tau$. This effect depends only on optical depth, not on relative heat capacities.

That’s why I don’t think discussing relative heat capacities is very persuasive in this context.

• Alan Tomalty says:

Also jhborn forgets about the role of collisions between N2,O2 and CO2. These are happening in pico seconds. I would think that CO2 is so bothered by N2 and O2 that even when it does absorb IR it then collides with N2 or O2 to release energy.

• Wim Röst says:

A thermal effect in the atmosphere (99% O2 and N2) can only be measured if the (by H2O, CO2) absorbed energy has been transmitted to O2, N2, enhancing their kinetic energy.

Re-emission would need an uptake (!) of energy by the emitting molecule, taken from O2, N2 and diminishing their kinetic energy. And in doing so: cooling the atmosphere.

If ‘absorption = warming’, then ’emission = cooling’.

• Joe Born says:

I didn’t forget about collisions. But they’re largely irrelevant to equilibrium temperatures.

Sure, energy that a CO2 molecule acquires by radiation will most likely be lost by conduction to nitrogen or oxygen. But the CO2 molecule will in turn acquire that higher energy back from the nitrogen or oxygen by conduction before the energy ultimately acquired by solar radiation can be returned by radiation to space.

So for the purposes of retarding radiation loss you can forget the intermediate conduction.

• Tim Groves says:

CO2 retards

Everybody knows one.

• David Middleton says:

+42

• Andy May says:

surly, I have little to add to what the others have already said. But, I would like to point out that my main point was CO2 is not the “control knob” and cannot be the control knob. This is because all atmospheric changes, the “weather,” are at the mercy of the oceans and the power of evaporation in the tropical oceans and convection.

• Marcus says:

But, but, ..ummm….Don’t call me Shirley ? (or late for dinner) !

• surly says:

I”m ordering from Dominos tonight. They’re never late.

• surly says:

Sure, but they’re convinced that CO2 is the window that lets just the right amount of heat out. Too thick of a window will fry us all. And not just unsophisticated lay people believe this. So do scientists with fancy degrees and clever computer programs. It’s such a simple concept, but as you no doubt point out in your book at great length, deceptively simple and wrong.

Anyway, all I was saying was that in the quoted passage Stephen was able to do a jiu-jitsu move on you because what you said about CO2 isn’t the sainted greenhouse effect.

• Andy May says:

surly, I think the jiu-jitsu move may have been possible because Stephen (as well as you and Nick) assumed I was discussing the so-called greenhouse effect (GHE) as defined by the IPCC and only looked at the quote in that context. This may all have been a point-of-view problem.

What I tried to do in the quote, was step back from the GHE, and look at the larger picture of recent warming. I don’t care if the GHE contributed to it or not or even how much. I just wanted to show that any effect of CO2 is small in the context of the oceans. All of the retained thermal energy for the past 50 or 60 years, at most, has increased the Southern Ocean temperature less than 0.2 degrees! And this is the ocean where all oceans meet.

Some of recent warming is natural and some is probably due to the CO2 GHE, the warming is due to additional thermal energy being retained, obviously. I’m just saying it doesn’t matter. Were it all due to CO2 GHE and the effect lasted another 200 years, the Southern Ocean would warm a whopping 0.6 degrees, whoopee!

• Percy Jackson says:

Andy,
A question for you then? If all of the non-condensing greenhouse gases were removed from the atmosphere what would be the final temperature?

• Steven Fraser says:

Percy: Removed all at once, or never there to begin with?

• Ozonebust says:

Andy.
Further to my notes above. If you look at sea surface temperatures presented on tropical tidbits or similar. The west coast of Africa (the fat bit at the top) there are always blue anomalies some distance out to sea, due to the warm dry air coming from the continent. Ideal evaporation conditions but saturated a comparatively short distance from the shore.

During August to October when high NH latitude cooling progresses a greater percentage of atmosphere travels down across the Atlantic from western Europe, by the time it gets to the tropics it is well saturated. From there it crosses into the equatorial Pacific, if there is El nino it has limited vapor holding capacity.

Where the predominant portion of the wind comes from determines ocean heat release efficiency. The wind patterns during the current warmer phase are very similar.

Super El Nino occur due to regurgitated heat not removed first time around. Has there ever been a series of El Nino where the first one was a super El Nino. It takes a few years to catch up, and we should be thankful for that.
Regards

• I see an equally ineffective argument in equating all small-concentration effects. We have to look at the context, in order to realize when it is ridiculous to adhere to this sweeping view that a small quantity can have a great effect.

CO2, for example, does not change the color of the other 99.94% of Earth’s atmospheric mass, so comparing CO2 to the chemical (I forgot what it was) that changes water’s color in minute concentrations, to make it darker, to make it absorb more radiation, to heat up more, … is a faulty comparison. The mechanism of that chemical is not the proposed mechanism of CO2, and so CO2 is nothing like that chemical in the context of a gaseous component of a gaseous atmosphere that is colorless.

Neither is CO2 like poison. Poison’s mechanism is different too in its own CONTEXT.

Mercury is a liquid. The human body is mostly liquid. The liquidity of mercury is like the liquidity of the human body. No, it isn’t. Just because something is liquid does not mean it is like the human body. Just because something in a small quantity can have an large effect in its own context does not mean that something DIFFERENT in a small quantity in a DIFFERENT context can have a large effect too, just because we can site another instance of small-quantity/large-effect, as if this categorical relationship sets the rule for all situations — it does NOT.

In the context of a discussion about gases — intermingled gases that coexist in the same time and space flow — the assertion that a 0.06% portion of this intermingled gaseous mass controls the other 99.96% of the gaseous mass thermodynamically is absurd.

6. Walter Sobchak says:

“CO2 has a low heat capacity. It is infrared active and absorbs and emits IR radiation, with a small delay”

How much. Based on the temperature drops in Dessert areas, I suspect it is on the order of minutes.

Also, wouldn’t random collisions with other atmospheric components (N2, O2, Ar) drain away CO2 energy fairly quickly as well. Half of the atmosphere is in darkness every 11+ hrs. (less than 12 because of twilight).

The sun only warms the atmosphere for half of the day. More than 70% of its energy warms the atmosphere, water, and land within 22.5° of the ecliptic. The atmosphere is fairly transparent, so most of the energy that is absorbed goes into the oceans that cover 70% of the Earth’s surface. That is where the energy that powers the weather comes from.

• Marcus says:

Keep in mind that CO2 radiates in ALL directions, not just towards the Earth !

• Walter Sobchak says:

So a bit more than half of the CO2 radiation leaves the atmosphere. The question is the half life. My guess is that it is in on the order of minutes. By midnight, the CO2 is the same temperature as the rest of the atmosphere. and it is not holding any heat above equilibrium, which is to say that it cannot heat anything.

• Marcus says:

I agree 100%, but the Leftist “EcoNuts” seem to think it all radiates DOWN to Earth, which is illogical !

• Andy May says:

Walter Sobchak, All good points. I’m not sure anyone knows how quickly a CO2 molecule re-emits absorbed thermal energy. But, the delay is certainly long enough to allow for the energy to be lost in a collision.

• teerhuis says:

Andy,
Average time between two collisions of a molecule in the air is ~140 picoseconds, time between absorption and emission of a photon is in microseconds. The free path of a 15 micrometer photon is ~1 meter. The surface of the Earth emits IR photons. The CO2 in the atmosphere acts as a reflector for the photons in the 15 micrometer band (same way how a mirror reflects visible light, free path in the mirror’s metal of ~1 micrometer). Increasing CO2 levels broadens the CO2 15 micrometer band.

• Teerhuis thanks for the information.

Could you please explain in simple terms how increased CO2 broadens the 15 micron band…is it through increased pressure thus some sort of pressure broadening? So more CO2 increases the overall reflectivity of heat being directed back to the Earth? Is this how more CO2 causes more global heating even though it is only a trace gas? Also how does CO2’s effect at 15 microns compare with the H2O scattering at the same wavelength, especially given that there’s so much H2O?

• Phil. says:

The 15 µm band is made up of a very dense series of lines, at low pressure these lines are very narrow whereas at increased pressure the lines are broadened and become more effective at absorbing IR. That is why CO2 on Earth is more effective a GHG compared to Mars. At current conditions in the lower atmosphere this broadening leads to a logarithmic dependence on pCO2. Basically the center of the band becomes saturated and it is the outerparts of the band that contribute to the increase. As far as CO2 being a trace gas it is the dominant permanent gas as far as absorbing IR is concerned, the major gases N2, O2 and Argon don’t do so. In the absorption band CO2 has many lines which dominate over the far fewer H2O lines, 76,000 vs 1900.
In the lower atmosphere collisional transfer of energy to neighboring molecules dominates over emission by CO2.

• teerhuis says:

Alastair,
At low atmospheric pressure the 15 µm band dissolves in its distinct spectral lines, this occurs at ~15 km height, there CO₂ can radiate to space. Enhancing CO₂ has the effect (at the surface) that due to pressure broadening more lines are included in the 15µm band. Also the emission height increases.
The green house effect of the 15µm band is proportional to its width and to the difference of the temperature at the surface and at the emission height. The amount of water vapor determines how much radiation is available as it absorbs in this region. Generally water vapor on its own accounts for ~90% absorption, CO₂ on its own for ~25%, there is overlap.
Enhancing CO₂ results predominantly in broadening the 15 µm band. A larger emission height has less effect because it resides close to the tropopause.
With MODTRAN you can vary CO₂ levels and compare its effects.
http://climatemodels.uchicago.edu/modtran/
P.S. At Antarctica the mentioned temperature difference is negative, there CO₂ enhances radiation to space.

• rocketscientist says:

23.5 ° if my memory serves (unless there is some radiative obliquity factor which reduces the tropics by a degree)

• Walter Sobchak says:

2*22.5°=45° COS 45°= 0.70710678118

7. Gamecock says:

‘“99.9 percent of the Earth’s surface heat capacity is in the oceans and less than 0.1 percent is in the atmosphere.’

This cannot possibly be true. 30% of the Earth’s surface is . . . dirt. It has to be involved. See: sea breeze.

• bwegher says:

The heat capacity of the global ocean is calculated at about 1000 times the heat capacity of the global atmosphere. That’s just a starting point for energy transfers between ocean and atmosphere. This might be appropriate in developing a simple model.
If you want to be more accurate, add the land/atmosphere interaction. Most of the land is covered with plant biology, trees, tropical rain forest, boreal forest, grasslands, etc.
Then include the boundry layer effect due to the vegetation, it gets complicated to try to describe the boundry layer interaction quantitatively, say if you wanted to add to your model.
Sure, the Saharan desert is mostly sand, add that into the mix. Note that the measured highest temperature differentials are in dry desert regions. How deep does the heat exchange in the desert sand on a daily basis? A centimeter, a meter? What about over a season? How much of the solar energy is stored in the surface layer of a sand desert?

• Do you agree vuk that when the solar and geo magnetic field are in sync (like they are now both weakening) that they compliment one another. Such as causing galactic cosmic rays to increase which in turn could cause more cloud coverage(lower sea surface temperature) and more major explosive volcanic activity.

• Walter Sobchak says:

Land neither moves nor evaporates. It does not hold very much heat. Its specific heat is less than one (water is 4.2, air is 1, sand is 0.28). The only way land can heat air is by contact or radiation. Water evaporates, and that is the major method of heating the atmosphere and is what drives the weather.

• Andy May says:

Gamecock, Good point, I ignored the land surface in the calculation. The idea being that surface temperature measurements on land are taken about 2 meters above the surface in the atmosphere. In the oceans the measurement is taken just below the ocean surface. I should have stated that. I’ll make the change.

8. I’d like to see how Stephen explains 126 ppm/v co2 increase from pre industrial rimes and less than a 1 C rise today ? The world temp is a staggering 0.2 C warmer over 165 years of co2 input? Some lid on the pot… non existent.

9. Marcus says:

Maybe someone should explain to little Stevie that a lid covers 100% of the pot, while CO2 covers 0.04% of the atmospheric “pot” !!

10. ThomasJK says:

Can a conclusion be about half-assed correct while the rationale that is applied to reach the conclusion is just half-assed?

• Marcus says:

If you are a liberal….Yes !

11. Wiliam Haas says:

If CO2 really affected climate by enhancing the thermal insulation characteristics of the atmosphere then one would expect that the increase in CO2 over the past 30 years would have caused at least a measurable increase in the dry lapse rate in the troposphere but that has not happened. The AGW conjecture depends upon the existence of a radiant greenhouse effect caused by trace gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. Such a radiant greenhouse effect has not been observed in a real greenhouse, in the Earth’s atmosphere, or anywhere else in the solar system for that matter. The radiant greenhouse effect is science fiction so hence the AGW conjecture is science fiction as well.

• Ozonebust says:

Ren
Pressure balance between the hemispheres is balanced, and just below mean. I am favouring an East Pacific bias to ACE over Atlantic.

Also weak Antarctic Blozone hole if the status remains. 2012 to 2017 range. Low atmosphere volume via water vapor.
Regards

12. Andy, Stephen is right. Your quote is gibberish. In quantitative terms, it is an argument from incredulity, which gets you nowhere, even if you keep upping the amount of incredulity that you can express.

Heat capacity is irrelevant here. It just determines the time it takes to heat things, not how hot they get. A blanket has far less heat capacity than your body, but that is irrelevant to its function. The best insulator, as in a Dewar flask, is a vacuum, which has no heat capacity at all.

And the old thing of, it’s just 0.04%, is just tiresome. Outgoing radiation has to pass through ten tons of material per sq m. It is a miracle that the main gases are so transparent that that is possible. The CO2 part of that is about 6kg. As a solid, which is easier to visualise, 6 kg/sq m is a feww mm thick. It is very easy to envisage such a layer being totally opaque. And it is equally so if the molecules are spread through the air, rather than concentrated.

If you put a few grams of permanganate in your pool, you won’t be able to see the bottom. That will be a lot less than 0.04%.

• Andy May says:

Nick, I think your argument is refuted in the responses to “surely’s” comment above. Heat capacity is very relevant to the “dangers of man-made climate change.” Atmospheric heat flow is only relevant to short term (a few weeks or so) weather events. The key, mentioned in the quote from my book, is “control.” Is man-made or total CO2 the “control knob” for climate? Clearly not, because the atmosphere itself contains so little thermal energy and because evaporation from the oceans limits SST, whether it limits it to 30 or 34 degrees, it still limits it. Thus, between convection and the huge heat capacity of the oceans, CO2 is irrelevant (at least below 1500 ppm or so). The atmosphere is a tool used by the oceans to make weather. Now if the oceans were gone, it would be another story. I think you and Stephen are incorrect.

• Alan Tomalty says:

Nick No one is saying that CO2 isnt absorbing IR. However any CO2 that is in the troposphere for any short period of time will have absorbed its maximum amount IR in the 13-18 micron band. Since there is only a net increase of 0.5% of CO2 every year, where is the CO2 available (or coming from) to absorb all this new IR 163 J/M^2 per second that hits the surface(ocean and land)? If you say that the oceans and atmosphere continously recycle the CO2; you are correct, but the CO2 that then leaves the troposphere cant heat it anymore cause its gone. So the mathematics just arent there. The only possible way is that before the CO2 leaves the troposphere to go back to the oceans, it collides with the N2 or O2 and thus transfers its energy that way. However we skeptics are saying that exact thing. After it collides with them ; convection carries the heat energy to the upper atmosphere and then to space. After the collision, if instead the O2 and N2 increased energy radiated back down, we would have had runaway global warming a long time ago.

• Alan,
“However any CO2 that is in the troposphere for any short period of time will have absorbed its maximum amount IR in the 13-18 micron band. “
No, the CO2 molecules don’t just absorb the energy and keep it. They absorb energy from a photon, and almost immediately pass it on to other molecules through collision interactions. A point is that that transfer is faster than the alternative process of re-emission. The molecules do emit, but mostly in response to acquiring surplus energy by collision, not earlier photon absorption.

• Alan Tomalty says:

Nick you quoted me out of context. Of course the IR gets transferred to the N2 and O2 via collisions. My quoted statement had nothing to do about keeping the energy.

However I will eat humble pie on the math. Based on the math, I have concluded that there is lots of molecules of CO2 to eat the photons coming from the earth.

One source gave me ~10^44 number of molecules in the atmosphere. That means there ~10^40 CO2 molecules.

Since 163 J/sec/m^2 hits the earth surface there will be ~10^9 joules hitting in a year

However 1 photon at 15nm = 1.3243 X 10^-17 joules (taking the 15nm length to represent the average energy level of each photon)

therefore 10^26 photons are being absorbed /reemitted by surface in a year. Even though CO2 only increases net of 0.5% per year and if assume that only 10% of the reemitted photons of the surface actually get trapped by CO2 that would mean ~ 10^25 photons in a year are getting trapped by 10^40 CO2 molecules. So Nick I apologize for my assumption that the math wasnt there. So it seems there is indeed enough CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb all of those IR photons.

However that is only 1/2 the story. The rest of it is; the energy gets carried away by collisions with the N2 and O2 which because they are now hotter ; then rise to the top of the atmosphere . After these collisions the energy isn’t going back to the surface because any hot air effectively rises. So even though I was wrong about the math I cant see how the IR energy that is transferred to the N2 and O2 will make its way back to the surface. If it did there would be runaway global warming already and there couldnt be equilibrium.

• PJF says:

“As a solid, which is easier to visualise, 6 kg/sq m is a feww mm thick. It is very easy to envisage such a layer being totally opaque.”

6 kg/sq m of solid CO2 would be a few millimetres thick and might be totally opaque (to IR). However it would have to be below -78.5C on the surface to remain in that state, at which point these arguments about global warming would be largely academic.

I’m sorry, was someone talking about a snipped quote being gibberish?

Yes, Andy May’s quote – taken in isolation – does not demonstrate a full understanding of the effects of CO2 on climate. But then Stephen’s counter doesn’t either (CO2 does not prevent radiative heat transfer from Earth to space).

• “However it would have to be below -78.5C on the surface to remain in that state”
Note that I said
“It is very easy to envisage such a layer being totally opaque. And it is equally so if the molecules are spread through the air, rather than concentrated.”
The point is that, as a matter of geometry, the molecules stand equally between ground and space, whether as a solid layer or dispersed in the air.

• PJF says:

Yes Nick, but I didn’t quote that bit. I isolated a part of what you said to show, via a joke, that isolated quotes aren’t necessarily the best way to highlight someone’s view.

You didn’t see the forest for the molecules.

• OK, But it was Andy who isolated the quote, not I.

• PJF says:

It was “Stephen” who focussed on that quote (which is one paragraph from Andy’s link). Andy is saying (above) that he is quoted out of context.

• It was Andy who highlighted and validated the quote:
“One would think that this is clear, but to some it clearly is not”

• Nick…I’m interested in your “few mm thick” layer. If this is totally opaque (or near to it) what is the effect of a doubling of CO2? Would that be like adding the famous second coat of white paint that is often referred to? Or is 12kg of CO2 much more reflective that 6kg and if so how does that work, ie. what is the mechanism?

• Alastair
No, it isn’t totally opaque. Partly, there is flexibility of pressure broadening, leaving fringes of the absorption lines. But there is also this effect. Although the spread out modecules are just as opaque, they are at different temperatures, and this is important for emission. Upwards, at TOA, that means that more GHG means emission from higher and colder layers. That means less amplitude, which then has to be made up by more emission in wavelengths that can bring IR from further below, and that requires warming. Or a related effect – near the surface, the down IR depends on the emission temperature also – ie how near surface did it originate. More GHG means closer to surface. Both of these effects would operate even if the atmosphere as a whole were totally opaque.

• Nick, thanks, but I’m still unsure of how this all works. Can you explain in simple terms as I’m probably thicker than the CO2.

“Upwards, at TOA, that means that more GHG means emission from higher and colder layers”….(OK, I get that as I guess more CO2 means this applies at all altitudes including TOA)….”That means less amplitude, (What does this mean…amplitude of what?) which then has to be made up by more emission in wavelengths that can bring IR from further below (Why? & What wavelengths and what is their source?), and that requires warming. ”

Also, what role does the much more abundant H2O play?

• Alastair
“amplitude of what?”
Amplitude (magnitude) of upward IR.
You can see this best with a real spectrum from Grant Petty’s textbook (click to biglify):

https://s3-us-west-1.amazonaws.com/www.moyhu.org/2010/05/PettyFig8-2.jpg

Barrow Alaska over a thawing icefield. Looking down, you see, above about 770 cm^-1, high radiance, as if from 268K. And from 600 to 700, a dip, as if from about 225 K. The dip is where GHG radiation is obscured from surface, and emitted from TOA. Now the total radiation globally that has to exit is fixed. So if the CO2 region expands and deepens, less IR gets out there, and the other part has to grow to keep the total (area under) constant. That means the surface has to warm.

At the surface, it’s the opposite. 600_700 radiation is coming from near surface, near 268 K. And with more GHG, that block will get wider and warmer.

Water vapor is in various ranges, a lot below 600 cm^-1, that they find hard to measure in these circumstances.

• Ozonebust says:

Nick
So this is process that causes a change from glacial to interglacial?
Regards

• Tom Dayton says:

Ozonebust: The change from glacial to interglacial is the reverse of the change from interglacial to glacial. Small and gradual increase in solar energy hitting the Northern Hemisphere causes gradual speed of reduction of snow and ice cover, which reduces reflection of solar radiation by ice and snow, which in turn increases warming, which further reduces snow and ice cover, and so on. Simultaneously, that warming causes the oceans to sequester less CO2, which increases greenhouse effect. One of many explanations is a short one by NOAA.

• The water bands below 600 are hard to measure at 20km because they aren’t there. At Barrow all the vapor is at the surface (under an inversion shown by the higher intensity 15 micron CO2 spike looking up). The window bands from 750 to 1250 (except for the ozone bite) radiate at the surface Planck curve looking down and at the tropopause Planck curve looking up. Notice that the ozone bands show mirror opposite intensities looking up and down and do not follow the Planck curves, unlike CO2

• David Middleton says:

+42 for “biglify”.

• Wim Röst says:

Nick: “Upwards, at TOA, that means that more GHG means emission from higher and colder layers.” You conclude: “(….) that requires warming”

WR: am I right that is assumed (!) that more CO2 means a less effective activity of CO2 in the upper air? If so, are the following processes taken into account?

1. In the upper air there is less de-activation of excited CO2 molecules because there are less collisions with de-activating O2/N2 molecules. High in the atmosphere the density of the air is magnitudes lower, which means less molecules are able to collide with the excited molecules. They also move slower because of their lower kinetic energy because of the low temperatures at higher elevations: resulting in even less collisions. All together resulting in less uptake of energy from excited CO2 molecules. More direct re-emission by still excite CO2 molecules is the consequence = a more effective radiation (at that height: net space ward)
2. A doubling of CO2 doubles CO2 collisions with non-emitting O2/N2 molecules. The possibility of energy uptake (of kinetic energy) by CO2 from O2/N2 doubles (!), normally resulting in a doubling of CO2 emissions.

Because of 1 and 2, I suppose that the assumption that more CO2 results in less emission at the higher altitudes space ward is not correct. I suppose there will be more emissions (net: space ward) which will result in cooling, not warming.

A cooling higher atmosphere enhances the temperature gradient with the surface, resulting in more effective cooling processes that start at the surface and that are cooling the lower atmosphere. In that case, more CO2 might even result in more cooling at the surface.

Is there evidence that I am wrong?

• Wim,
What you are talking about is the departure from local thermodynamic equilibrium in rarefied air. Collisional transfer is slower, but the question is how slow does it have to be to make a real difference. CO2 is a real test; here is a reference that discusses upper air LTE. It seems you have to go to about 50 km before it really matters. The effective radiation level is generally reckoned to be below tropopause.

Your point 2 is right, to a point, although I’m not sure of the final doubling of emissions. But the main thing is the level at which the effective emission occurs just moves up, so the density of CO2 at that higher point is the same as before.

You say there will be more emission at the same altitude. But there is also more CO2 above to block. Basically the same emission arrangements at all high levels are just moved up, but otherwise occur as before.

• Wim Röst says:

Nick,

Do I understand well that only from 50 km there is direct re-emission by CO2? Without any (!) intervention from colliding O2/N2? I would expect a sliding scale that starts from the effective emission height.

Prof. Robert G. Brown talks about net emission already from 8-9 km altitude: “The atmosphere is basically totally opaque in the CO_2 absorptive bands from sea level up to maybe 8 or 9 km. Somewhere up there, where the air is much colder, the molecules get far enough apart that LWIR emitted from the colder air have a good chance of escaping without being reabsorbed.“
Source: https://sealevel.info/Happer_UNC_2014-09-08/Another_question.html

Net emission has to do with ‘a lack of absorbing molecules up ward’: an unhindered emission spaceward will be possible. Again: following a sliding scale.

CO2 should be equally dispersed in the atmosphere till around 80 km altitude. If density of CO2 doubles down at the surface, it will double up to 80 km.

https://scienceofdoom.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/co2-h2o-atmospheric-concentration.png

I suppose, most energy leading to emission at effective emission height comes from kinetic energy. Absorption near the surface is transmitted into kinetic energy. Resulting in a warmer atmosphere, causing enhanced cooling.

Convection and latent heat transport result in a higher energy level of molecules at higher altitudes. We don’t need any radiation for that (although radiation will play some role). The kinetic energy is brought to levels above emission height. That kinetic energy is radiated to space, after collisions with radiating molecules like CO2. That means that more radiation by more CO2 is not (!) [fully] blocked by more CO2, simply because emission happens above the effective emission level where there is a net emission.

As professor Brown also says, absorption of surface radiation takes place very near to the surface: “Either way, CO_2 doesn’t “scatter” LWIR radiation, it absorbs it (typically within a few meters, the mean free path at atmospheric concentrations) and the energy is almost instantly transferred to the surrounding air.”

After that, the energy is transmitted to O2/N2. After warming, cooling processes like convection and transport of latent heat are activated: the kinetic energy is transported upwards. Kinetic energy might / must be the main source of the above effective emission height emitted energy .

Above in the atmosphere there might be more CO2 to block, but not enough to block all [nearly] double emitted energy. Simply because emission takes place above effective emission height. And that effect of extra emission by extra CO2 could be much more important than a partial moving up of emission height. (Besides that: a low temperature is not a problem for an effective emission, as the poles show. Water vapor is the real blocker).

Any warming effect in the lower atmosphere results in stronger cooling processes. Stronger cooling processes bring up the kinetic energy higher than before: visible in the tropics where we find the tropopause at a much higher level than at the poles. Not only the effective emission height is rising, kinetic energy is rising higher as well. The warmer, the higher the kinetic energy is brought by turbulent (cooling) processes.

So my question about the net effect of all processes remains. My guess is that the extra upward rise of kinetic energy and the effect of a higher emission above effective emission height by the extra CO2 will result in a net cooling effect. CO2 might be a cooler.

• “Do I understand well that only from 50 km there is direct re-emission by CO2?”
It would be a gradual change with height. And there is some direct re-emission at any level. I remember seeing once (this is unreliable) that overall, about 5% of absorptions result in direct re-emission, which must happen before the next collision. That fraction would increase with rarefaction.

RGB’s comment does not relate to direct re-emission, but just to the chance of a photon emitted from whatever cause escaping to space without further absorption.

“CO2 might be a cooler.”
No, it can’t be. Any absorption of energy, balanced locally by emission, is a hindrance. In terms of that spectrum above, it takes radiation that was emitted as if from a warm place (eg ground) and replaces it with emission as if from a colder place, with loss of radiance.

With all this, I find it useful to think of seeing the Earth from above, with IR-sensitive eyes. It glows. If you filter frequencies, it looks like the glow is strong in >700 cm^-1 frequencies, duller in 600-700. That duller color would seem to be coming from TOA as you move around above the atmosphere. With more GHG, you still see the same thing, but the 600-700 range is just a bit higher (and cooler). You can no longer see so well (in that color) the previously emitting level; that radiation is being absorbed by the increased GHG and replaced in your view by radiation from that increase.

• Wim Röst says:

Hmm, overall 5% direct re-emissions seems to be a lot when energy absorbing collisions happen in picoseconds.

I agree with you Nick that any absorption causes warming. There is a delay in heat loss and warming is the result. And if all energy transport through the atmosphere would be by radiation I could fully agree with you.

But when most energy transport is by latent heat, conduction, convection, then the spaceward transport of energy needs a final station that emits kinetic energy to space. That must be somewhere above effective emission height where there is a net emission direction space.

Two CO2 molecules above effective emission height can emit more kinetic energy to space than one, simply because two molecules receive more kinetic energy (by more collisions) than one molecule. So in regard to the uptake of kinetic energy (!) double CO2 has to cool more high in the atmosphere than single CO2. As far as the uptake of kinetic energy is concerned.

If not so, please explain me where I am going wrong.

• Tom Dayton says:

Wim Rost: Why “above effective emission height”? The definition of effective emission height is the average location from which IR escapes to space.

You are correct that more CO2 molecules at the same given height can radiate more than just one molecule. That is part of the reason that the stratosphere is cooling: The extra CO2 way up there radiates more by dint of the extra molecules, and at that great height a large portion of that radiation escapes to space. But those extra molecules, like the ones originally there at that great height, radiate less than do CO2 molecules at lower heights. Those CO2 molecules at lower heights have most of their additional radiation toward space intercepted by other CO2 molecules above them, which transfer most of that energy to molecules of all types by collision to molecules 360 degrees around them, and when they do radiate only a portion even goes in the direction of space, and most of that is intercepted by even higher CO2 molecules.

• Wim Röst says:

Tom and Nick, thanks for the comments, below my reaction.

Tom, you ask me: “Why “above effective emission height”? The reason is that I wanted to be sure that radiation is effective in the way that at least ‘some’ is reaching space. Only then CO2 has a cooling effect on the atmosphere. As absorption warms the atmosphere, radiation is effectively cooling the atmosphere (it takes kinetic energy from other molecules when it uses kinetic energy and is not directly re-radiating a photon).

As Nick writes: “2xCO2 emits more, but also obstructs more“. Above emission height I was sure that (when kinetic energy of other non-emitting molecules is used to come to radiation), there is a net cooling effect.

You pointed at the fact that always (!) some of the radiation escapes to space. The atmospheric window. You are correct, I had forgotten that for a while.

You write, Tom, “That is part of the reason that the stratosphere is cooling: The extra CO2 way up there radiates more by dint of the extra molecules, and at that great height a large portion of that radiation escapes to space.”.
Indeed. If radiation from the stratosphere would only be a matter of re-radiation (!) there would be no net cooling effect: photon absorbed = warming, photon re-emitted = cooling: net temperature effect: zero. A net cooling effect is only visible when kinetic energy from not emitting molecules is used to emit.

That brings me to the main point: isn’t most of the energy up in the atmosphere brought by non-radiative processes? By latent heat, at height by condensation transmitted to kinetic energy? And by conduction, convection?

We are that focused on radiative energy that we forget the importance of all natural (standard) atmospheric processes. Processes ending up in kinetic energy, somewhere upwards. And that kinetic energy is used by CO2 (and extra CO2 molecules) to be able to emit to space. Having a cooling effect.

It is that cooling that brings down the condensation level. And that bringing down of the condensation level removes the blocking water vapor from the higher layers in the atmosphere. By doing so, the level that is cooled / becomes deprived of water vapor. Deprived of water vapor, radiation from this level will be more effective in reaching space. And so this process may compensate or even over-compensate for the rise in effective emission height / emission level by extra CO2.

Nick writes: “Even if there is more emission by some layer, it cannot much increase the amount of heat that is brought to it by latent heat, conduction and convection. So all that could happen is that the emitting region would cool until the amount radiated would match the flux available.”
My take: any warming enhances non-radiative cooling processes at the surface. Evaporation, conduction, convection. And when 2xCO2 emits more at the higher levels, there will be more cooling as well, resulting in a loss of water vapor, resulting in a more effective spaceward radiation. Bringing down emission level.

So far, I never read about this cooling / water vapor removing effect which could (over-)compensate the rise in effective emission height. No one seems to think about the effects of cooling by taking extra kinetic energy by 2xCO2 from non-radiating O2/N2 molecules, 99% of the atmosphere.

(Professor Bill Gray pointed at the fact that in case of warming an enhanced cooling by stronger convection would dry more air at high altitudes. As we see in deserts, dry air enables more surface radiation to escape, cooling the earth. A warming compensating cooling mechanism)

• Wim,
“double CO2 has to cool more high in the atmosphere than single CO2”
Two things:
1. 2xCO2 emits more, but also obstructs more. That is why the emission level simply rises, so something like the former emitting configuration (with approx 1x former emitting CO2) still exists, but at a higher level. Self-similarity.
2. Even if there is more emission by some layer, it cannot much increase the amount of heat that is brought to it by latent heat, conduction and convection. So all that could happen is that the emitting region would cool until the amount radiated would match the flux available.

The second point illustrates something that is important here. There is a whole pathway from ground to space, and the total impedance is what matters. What happens at the top is a symptom. There is a dual way of reasoning about the bottom layer. More GHG causes the down IR to be emitted from lower, warmer levels. So there is more of it at the surface, and that is the direct cause of surface warming. These are linked effects, not independent arguments, and reflect the higher total impedance of the GHGs.

• If the impedance is increasing, why does CERES show increasing LW intensity to space?

• “why does CERES show increasing LW intensity to space”
It doesn’t. What your graph shows is (slightly, maybe)increasing clear sky LW. And if you look carefully at the green plot, it fairly closely mimics the surface temperature. Check peaks at 2010 and 2016, though they don’t seem to be calendar years. That is what you would expect, through the atmospheric window, strongly reflecting the surface. But with clouds, the AW doesn’t work, so we don’t know about total LW. Your source seems to have data for cloudt ending about 2009, and hard to interpret at that.

• The atmosphere is totally opaque at 667.4/15micron. Nary a photon in this band has escaped from the surface directly to space since before 280ppm. Pressure broadening and remaining unsaturated bands give a couple watts according to radiative transfer programs, but CERES (20km) data shows flat or increasing LW radiation to space.

13. Michael Moon says:

An awful lot of misunderstood physics here. First, the entire atmosphere radiates to space, not just CO2. Second, the effect of increased CO2 is to raise the altitude at which the entire atmosphere radiates freely to space. CO2 at some concentration is opaque to outgoing 15-micron IR, corresponding to -80 C, about the temp at the Top of Atmosphere.

So, CO2 is a significant factor to the overall amount of heat in the atmosphere. The only problem is, there is no way to calculate the effect of increased CO2 at the TOA. All the handwaving about ECS and TCS involves very unscientific assumptions that all the temperature change since 1880, or some year, is caused by increased CO2. Quite an assumption, when used as an attempt to justify the destruction of prosperity for us all.

• Alley says:

OK, so why is the earth warming? Certainly not the sun, as we all know. Certainly not the oceans, which move heat around.

Successive decades are warmer, and it’s not the sun. It’s not that oceans suddenly absorb more heat. Besides, the fingerprints of CO2 are many.

• Sunsettommy says:

Again and again you ignore the well proven fact that the warming trend is ALWAYS BELOW the IPPC’s per decade warming rate, and in every decade since 1990 too.

The “fingerprint” of CO2 is very small and you know it since you keep ignoring the evidence.

• Alley says:

Warming trend was above center-line for a few years. Why do you continue to ignore that simple fact?

And you admit the earth is warming, and offer no explanation.

Fingerprint, according to scientists, is very strong. Not sure why you’re simply saying things and hoping they are true. Certainly not the sun because of how the atmosphere is warming/cooling.

• Chimp says:

If there be a discernible human fingerprint, it’s from cleaning the air over the old industrial heartlands of the world. However India and China are muddying those waters now, so to speak, to mix phase metaphors.

• Alan Tomalty says:

Let us wait for the new July figure from the only temperature data that both sides trust, the UAH satellite temp of the troposphere. The figure will be out in 2 weeks.

• Chimp says:

Alan,

Yes, that should be important, since there is such a stark divergence of opinion on the immediate future. Some see a new, although not super, El Nino in the offing, while others expect the cooling since the end of the 2016 Super El Nino to continue.

• Alley says:

Why not be more like a scientist, and observe that each decade is warmer than the previous? Why not note that several warm records have been set in the past few years? Looking at one month is a bit silly. Looking back at decades shows us that it’s CO2.

• Chimp says:

I note that the 1930s were warmer than now. I note that, despite rising CO2, the 1950s were cooler than the 1940s, the 1960s colder still and 1970s coldest of all, before the PDO flip of 1977.

I note that Arctic sea ice has been higher every year since 2012, and that the average of 2007-12 was lower than for 2013-17. I note that last year was the first time since dedicated satellite observations began in 1979 that a new, lower low was not made within five years.

The worm has turned, as skeptics who understood that climate deals with multiple decades, centuries, millennia and longer intervals, have always known.

• Not Chicken Little says:

So what does looking back thousands of years to the beginning of the end of the last Ice Age tell us?

• Tom Abbott says:

“Why not be more like a scientist, and observe that each decade is warmer than the previous?”

Because that’s not true.

• Tim Groves says:

Why not be more like a scientist, and observe that each decade is warmer than the previous?

Why not be even more like a scientist, and observe that each millennium has been cooler than the previous one ever since the end of the Holocene optimum?

• Chimp says:

Of course it’s the sun.

The Current Warm Period has enjoyed record high solar activity. That’s now declining, but it will take decades, at least, to blow off the heat built up in the oceans by the solar maxima of the late 19th and most of the 20th centuries.

The LIA, by contrast, suffered repeated solar minima, most famously the Maunder Minimum in the depths of the cool period, ie middle 17th to earliest 18th centuries. That’s when alpine villages were threatened by glacial advances.

The preceding Medieval WP was also blessed with high solar activity and a dearth of minima. The Dark Ages CP before it, like the LIA, was hit with low solar activity. The Roman WP, high. Greek Dark Ages CP, low. Minoan WP, high. Etc, back to the sunny Holocene Climatic Optimum.

• Chimp but overall sea surface temperatures are already in a significant decline now only around +.15 c above 1981-2010 means in contrast to around +.34c a year ago.

I expect the decline to continue as we move forward from here.

I am thinking enough time is in now and we are starting to see a down turn in the climate .

• Chimp says:

I too expect cooling to continue until the next series of solar maxima, but can’t predict how long it’ll take for ocean cooling to bottom out.

• Michael Moon says:

You clearly know nothing of physics, read a book, why are you here?

• Tom Abbott says:

“Successive decades are warmer,”

Only according to the Hockey Stick charts. Unbastardized temperature charts from around the world show it was as hot or hotter in the 1930’s as it is today. Nothing unprecedented to see here.

• MIchael,

Could you please elaborate on how increased CO2 raises the altitude of the radiation? Also, at what concentration of CO2 do you think the atmosphere would be opaque to outgoing 15u IR? Would increased water content have the same effect?

• Michael Moon says:

CO2 absorbs 15 micron radiation. If there is enough CO2, it absorbs all of this radiation, re-radiates half of it downward, preventing this heat from escaping to space.

No one can calculate the concentration of CO2 which is opaque at altitudes higher and higher. My engineering professors taught me, at length, never to write down a number which could not be calculated from first principles.

Seriously, no one knows, despite GCM models and super-computers. Ask Stokes. He claims to know much, but he does not know this. If anyone could calculate this, would have been done a long time ago, this argument would be over long since.

The Science Is Not Settled!!!

• Chimp says:

That the science isn’t settled is to say the least.

Climatology is still in its infancy, in large part because of three decades wasted on CACA. And the billions squandered on worse than worthless GIGO computer games, trillions thrown away on “renewables” and untold millions of excess human fatalities from energy starvation and billions of birds and bats clubbed to death.

• Phil. says:

Clough et al did this over 20 years ago.

• Harry Twinotter says:

“All the handwaving about ECS and TCS involves very unscientific assumptions that all the temperature change since 1880, or some year, is caused by increased CO2”

Handwaving? You are categorizing all that climate science research as handwaving?

It’s not an “assumption”. Attribution analysis gives estimates of the warming and cooling that has happened since preindustrial.

“Quite an assumption, when used as an attempt to justify the destruction of prosperity for us all.”

Now THAT is a good example of an unscientific assumption.

14. Bill Treuren says:

I think the analogy is rather poor and should just be left to die.
Analogies are tricky because they need to be different and socially understood to work and that limits their capability.
Ultimately the sea does get a little warmer than the 30C barrier however the partial pressure of water starts to take off about there and the next thing you know you have an iris effect, thunderstorms, TC’s, convection etc.

15. Alasdair says:

The science tells us that at sea level the temperature at which the vapour pressure of water equals the saturated partial pressure is around 30C. I say around as it can vary with barometric pressure, wind conditions , leads and lags and other factors.

At that temperature incoming radiation then tends to result in lifting the water up through the atmosphere rather than increasing the temperature, thus transferring large energies up through the atmosphere to dissipate on the way and into space.
The water then all comes back again for recycling. A brilliant and efficient global Thermostat. Engineers call it the Rankine Cycle.
All done irrespective of CO2 levels.

16. What controls the energy input the oceans receive ? The answer is the sun especially in the UV light range and Near UV light ranges.

UV light in this current solar minimum period of time is off over 6% while overall TSI is off .1% from the 2012-2014 maximum. This means less energy from the sun is being imparted to the oceans which is why overall surface oceanic temperatures are now in a cooling trend which should continue.

It is the surface oceanic temperatures that matter when it comes to the climate.

As far as OLR , it seems most data shows very little change overall which puts a dent in their premise that as CO2 increases the amounts of OLR radiation escaping to space will decrease there by warming the planet.

I say very weak solar will lead to global cooling due to the albedo increasing slightly and overall sea surface temperatures falling.

Moderated by the geo magnetic field.

• ren says:

Comparison of UV solar activity in the three most recent solar cycles (SC) 22-24. The thick curves show the Mg II index timeseries twice smoothed with a 55-day boxcar. Dates of minima of solar cycles (YYYYMMDD) were determined from the smoothed Mg II index.
http://www.iup.uni-bremen.de/gome/solar/mgii_composite_2.png

• Wim Röst says:

Salvatore, is there any number available about how much less energy will be absorbed by the oceans when UV is 6% off? How much cooling of the ocean surface (let’s say: upper 100 meter) will be the result, all other things remaining the same?

• That is such a good question. I do not have the answer but would love to know.

Ren do you know the answer?

• Glenn Morton says:

I think people are missing one very important thing in the warming debate. When we have an energy intensive lifestyle, we produce a lot of waste heat. That heat heats everything. and most of our thermometers are in the cities where the energy consumption density is the highest. The earth is not going to cool during this solar low period in my opinion because our energy consumption continues to rise. This is not an argument for getting off fossil fuels because I don’t want to spend my days holding a plow looking at the south end of a north bound mule.

• Michael Moon says:

The surface of the Sun is over 11,000 degrees F. The Sun overwhelms any possible effects of our energy consumption. Most combustion is around 4,000 degrees, in utility boilers and engines, and, since it costs money, is done with the greatest possible efficiency. Cooking is usually around 400 degrees F or less.

Suffice it to say, trivial effects.

• ren says:

I do not know of such data.

• Sylvia says:

If the oceans cool, is there a possibility that the CO2 will drop due to absorption, or does that process take hundreds of years?

• Phil. says:

Since the UV referred to is E-UV which has a wavelength of ~30nm, when it’s reduced by 6% I’d expect no change in the UV absorbed by the ocean since those wavelengths are absorbed way up in the atmosphere and don’t make it to the ocean.

• Michael Moon says:

UV is largely absorbed by the ozone layer as you know. What are you up to here?

• Chimp says:

The highest energy UV is absorbed in making and breaking ozone. But the lower energy UV light survives to penetrate the lower atmosphere and enter the seas, where its photons dive deep.

17. glen martin says:

After the CO2 absorbs radiation it can transfer the energy to another molecule (N2 or O2) in a collision. This makes the small heat capacity implied by its low percent of the atmosphere less relevant.

• Harry Twinotter says:

Yes, it is heat conduction. Some of the warming caused by CO2 is transfered to the atmosphere. Some of the warming is also transferred to the land surface and ocean by heat radiation.

The temperature of the atmosphere is what is measured by surface thermometers.

18. Clay Sanborn says:

Very good Andy!
Restating something obvious that readers of this great site well know, CAGW is not about Climate and it is not about science (as horrible as Climate Science pretty much brings all science into question; I’ve taken to cringing when someone starts a conversation with, “A new study shows…”. Screw studies…). CAGW is some kind of political tool to accomplish something else, something evil. Mankind cannot warm Earth if we wanted to, we don’t have the capacity.
As to all the CO2 from coal, crude oil, natural gas, and plant bio, it came from Earth (God put it there for our benefit). Mankind didn’t make it! It is all naturally occurring, and it a natural progression for mankind to utilize it. To the folks that are hell bent on beating up on mankind, I say, take a chill pill, everything is going to be fine. Come on!

• Yes very good point. It’s time we stopped worrying about this nonsense and concentrated on real problems. Like famine, lack of water wells in Africa, malaria control, etc. That’s where the research and funding should be directed…not a beneficial trace gas.

19. Glenn Morton says:

Im not going to get into the what is the sst debate, but I worked with Andy for several years and I have read over the criticisms posted here of what he said. Andy and I had our differences, but he was one of the finest physicists I ever had the chance to work with. One of the comments about how heat spreads through the atmosphere show that that author does not to understand physics at all. It is also true that almost none of the people understand the extreme natural variability both for air and water temperature throughout geologic time. We are as a society who is panicked over what is normal.

• Andy May says:

Thanks Glenn, I hope all is well. Atmospheric physics is a tough one and defies all elegant simple solutions. The politics doesn’t help, for sure. But, it is fun, none-the-less.

• Glenn Morton says:

Thanks Andy. I got a lot of serious health problems that are not going to go away. We absolutely agree on the nuttery of climate change. Good luck with your book. I spent my time in the trenches trying to convince those who will not be convinced. I now have better things to do with the time left.

If Anthony wants to give you, and you alone, my email address, I am ok with that

• markx says:

There you have it. We may well be in a bit of a warm uptick right now, but mathematically and naturally smoothed proxy thermometers looking back thousands of years give a false impression of a significant uptick.

I’d love to understand the stats behind error bars spanning only +/- 0.3 degrees with the multiple proxies cobbled together in those datasets. You couldn’t even claim that if we had mercury thermometer records all the way back.

20. R Hall says:

I doubt that the critic will either understand or appreciate your comment to him on Amazon.

21. Sylvia says:

I warned there would be dumb questions…

If CO2 acts like a ‘lid’ trapping heat in, how would record cold temperatures be possible at all? Wouldn’t the heat go up fairly evenly and lessen the differences between highs and lows, including at night? Basically I don’t understand how heat retention can cause extremes of cold as well as extremes of heat.

• Alley says:

“Wouldn’t the heat go up fairly evenly and lessen the differences between highs and lows”

Yes. That is why warm records outpace cold one by more than a 2:1 ratio. Cold records will always be possible of course. We all know this.

• Sylvia says:

I still don’t understand. You’ve pointed to the global ratio between hot and cold; I’m talking about the difference in temperatures in the same locations. How are cold records possible at all if the earth is warming overall? If the oceans have warmed, that should moderate the heat differences globally, surely? How do you explain the current state of affairs, where record cold temperatures are exceeding the number of record high temperatures? Even if warm temperatures do outpace cold, there is no reason to assume that CO2 is causing that, if CO2 is a ‘blanket’ trapping in the heat, which is how it is described to most people at school.

• Chimp says:

During last warm cycle of the Current Warm Period, the ratio of highs to lows was far more pronounced, without benefit of more vital plant food in the air.

As you know, that cycle was indistinguishable from the late 20th century warm cycle, separated from the previous one by the dramatic cooling cycle from the 1940s until 1977, when the PDO flipped. And during those over 30 years, CO2 increased.

• Sylvia says:

So basically the CO2 theory of AGW is bollocks and other factors are the primary drivers of warming/cooling. Seems fairly obvious and elementary to me.

• Chimp says:

Yup. So it appears.

• Harry Twinotter says:

“Wouldn’t the heat go up fairly evenly and lessen the differences between highs and lows, including at night?”

That is exactly what happens. The highs become a little warmer and the lows become a little warmer so the average temperature rises – this is what Global Warming is. The problem is the estimate show the average global temperature may increase by around 3C by midcentury – no longer “little” but huge!

22. Kristi Silber says:

(Note – this comment addresses AGW theory, not its consequences. Although the title of the article is about whether GW is a “problem,” it seems that Andy is debating the point that CO2 is a significant driver of the Earth’s energy budget)

If greenhouse gases play no role in keeping heat within the Earth’s atmosphere, what is doing so? Water vapor plays a role, but it doesn’t absorb radiation at all wavelengths, leaving a “window” open through which radiation can escape to space.

“The most important of these ‘water vapor windows’ is for thermal infrared with wavelengths centered around 10 micrometers. (The maximum transparency occurs at 10 micrometers, but partial transparency occurs for wavelengths between about 8 and about 14 micrometers.)

“Carbon dioxide is a very strong absorber of thermal infrared energy with wavelengths longer than 12-13 micrometers, which means that increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide partially ‘close’ the atmospheric window. In other words, wavelengths of outgoing thermal infrared energy that our atmosphere’s most abundant greenhouse gas—water vapor—would have let escape to space are instead absorbed by carbon dioxide.” Peak radiation from the Earth’s surface is around 12.5 micrometers. (https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/EnergyBalance/page5.php and …page7.php).

IPCC AR5 Physical Science Basis report (2013) states on page 667 that
“Currently, water vapour has the largest greenhouse effect in the Earth’s atmosphere. However, other greenhouse gases, primarily CO2, are necessary to sustain the presence of water vapour in the atmosphere.” I don’t understand how Andy can draw from this that “the infrared active CO2 alone does not have enough of an effect to cause problems.” No one argues that CO2 alone is heating the Earth – it is the sun’s energy that is doing so. Any increase in water vapor is a product of increased temperature, not ultimate the cause of it. Andy’s arguments about evaporation, convection and the oceans are largely irrelevant to the general picture of the Earth’s energy budget, and therefore to the theory of AGW; they only address the outcome.

Perhaps the most important argument is one that he did not discuss: that increased evaporation might lead to increased cloud cover, reflecting more sunlight back to space. As many here know, the relative strength of the positive and negative effects of water vapor is one of the main sources of debate and uncertainty in climate model projections, partly because clouds are so variable and hard to model at current resolutions. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that increased CO2 is the ultimate driver of these effects, and (this is strictly speculation on my part) it seems unlikely that clouds would tend to *stay* in the atmosphere longer or become qualitatively different, reflecting energy enough to compensate for increased GHG effects (unless perhaps if there is for some reason a long-term increase in aerosols).

On page 4 in the above link, there is this preface:
“Determining exact values for energy flows in the Earth system is an area of ongoing climate research. Different estimates exist, and all estimates have some uncertainty. Estimates come from satellite observations, ground-based observations, and numerical weather models. The numbers in this article rely most heavily on direct satellite observations of reflected sunlight and thermal infrared energy radiated by the atmosphere and the surface.”

In other words, the energy balance is not just theoretical or the product of models, it has been measured. True, there is uncertainty to these measurements, and one could argue that “the human effect on climate has never been measured” DIRECTLY, but there are many observations in science that can only be measured indirectly. Who would argue that the distance of stars from Earth cannot be known because we can only measure it indirectly? (For that matter, even temperature is measured [or, in reality, estimated] indirectly, through the use of instruments.) Given a measured imbalance in the energy budget and the fact that it can be accounted for by an increase in the CO2 in the atmosphere that has come from the burning of fossil fuels (and that can be established by isotope ratios), I don’t quite understand how that can be dismissed.

Even if ALL the extra heat were being soaked up by the oceans, that is no argument against AGW, nor does that mean that it’s not a concern.

There are those who accept that the Earth is warming, but attribute it to different causes, such as solar variability or El Nino events. Why is there not a single hypothesis that skeptics can all agree on after all this time unless none of them is good enough to explain the observations? It weakens the argument that mainstream climate scientists should have by now come up with all the answers, and models should be both accurate and precise. Climate is complex and the understanding of it takes time.

It seems to me that in order to reject AGW once and for all, the basic physics of role of atmospheric CO2 in the system would have to be refuted, and no one has done that – if they had, it would be huge news, of the kind that no journal editor in his right mind would try to suppress. Merely asserting that a small increase in atmospheric CO2 would make no difference is not enough. This is why most reputable contrarian climate scientists now focus their skepticism on the long-term effects of global warming rather than its cause.

• Chimp says:

Most skeptics point out that the effect on temperature of more CO2 is trivial, not that it has no effect. OTOH, the effect of more plant food in the air has demonstrably, significantly benefited terrestrial life.

• ren says:

Compare the pressure of carbon dioxide in the air and the human body.
https://pics.tinypic.pl/i/00968/44j8ufyowq87.png
The alveolar oxygen partial pressure is lower than the atmospheric O2 partial pressure for two reasons.

Firstly, as the air enters the lungs, it is humidified by the upper airway and thus the partial pressure of water vapour (47 mmHg) reduces the oxygen partial pressure to about 150 mmHg.
The rest of the difference is due to the continual uptake of oxygen by the pulmonary capillaries, and the continual diffusion of CO2 out of the capillaries into the alveoli.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulmonary_gas_pressures

• Michael Moon says:

An awful lot of misunderstood physics here. First, the entire atmosphere radiates to space, not just CO2. Second, the effect of increased CO2 is to raise the altitude at which the entire atmosphere radiates freely to space. CO2 at some concentration is opaque to outgoing 15-micron IR, corresponding to -80 C, about the temp at the Top of Atmosphere.
So, CO2 is a significant factor to the overall amount of heat in the atmosphere. The only problem is, there is no way to calculate the effect of increased CO2 at the TOA. All the handwaving about ECS and TCS involves very unscientific assumptions that all the temperature change since 1880, or some year, is caused by increased CO2. Quite an assumption, when used as an attempt to justify the destruction of prosperity for us all.

• Michael Moon says:

Apparently you Kristi Silber have no fundamental understanding of the physics of these questions. I used to work with people who hoped to learn the physics of carbon fiber by reading magazines about bicycles. If you have not passed University exams concerning the fundamental properties of energy, radiation, heat transfer, thermodynamics, and in particular if you cannot identify the difference between a dipole moment and an induced dipole moment, you should read several books. Huge in the physics here, check it out…

• Kristi Silber says:

I got an A- in college physics.

• Andy May says:

Kristy Silber,
You write

“Still, this doesn’t change the fact that increased CO2 is the ultimate driver of these effects”

How do you know this? This is an assumption, from computer models, there are no observations that support it.

Very few people believe that adding additional CO2 to the atmosphere will have no effect at all. I think it probably has some warming effect, by itself. But, we have no idea of the net effect of all of the possible feedbacks, nor do we know how much effect the additional CO2 (by itself) has. Most will accept, that all things equal (which they never are) the impact of doubling CO2 would result in ~1C of warming. This is not dangerous.

I am of the opinion that energy flow diagrams are interesting, but not very helpful. The error in measuring the energy flows on and above the Earth is larger than any CO2 effect. CO2 is about 2 W/m^2, the error in measuring the energy flows is of the order of several W/m^2. They have been used to “detect” changes in incoming energy and outgoing energy, but the errors in the measurements are so large and the time periods so short that the measurements become meaningless.

Most skeptics, including myself, think the climate varies naturally and that we are observing natural changes, with, perhaps, a small overprint of fossil fuel CO2. We do not believe CO2 “controls” the climate. There is simply no proof of that, certainly no measurements of the effect. Over the last 20 years CO2 has gone up significantly, but average temperature has hardly risen at all. Certainly, the observed rise is much less than predicted. Natural change is the default position, the CO2 hypothesis is what requires proof.

• Kristi Silber says:

“Natural change is the default position, the CO2 hypothesis is what requires proof”

I disagree. Natural change doesn’t just happen without a physical explanation, and for the position that the changes are mostly natural to be credible it must explain the changes we are seeing. Scientists don’t argue that that natural change isn’t part of it, but rather that increased anthropogenic CO2 overlays natural phenomena like volcanic eruptions and ENSO events, as well as other human effects like increased aerosols and land use changes.

You talk a lot about oceans and water vapor, but for a change in the water cycle to occur there has to be something accounting for it. What are the natural triggers for change in climate trends? One of them is the strength of solar radiation. Others are those agents that control the amount of solar radiation penetrating and remaining within the Earth’s atmosphere. Natural agents would be meteorites striking earth, resulting in a large increase in atmospheric aerosols, another is volcanic eruptions, increasing aerosols and gases. Then there is ice cover increasing albedo to such an extent that reflection of solar radiation off the Earth’s surface overwhelms the greenhouse effect until the solar cycle reaches a point where its radiation becomes strong enough to reverse the effect of albedo.

But what natural variation accounts for the trend we have seen in the last 100 years, one that has raised not only surface temps, but oceanic ones? Since CO2 levels make sense theoretically and empirically, it is up to those who argue that it’s mainly natural to come up with an explanation strong enough to garner the support of the scientific community. “Natural variation” is an answer, but not an explanation.

“Most will accept, that all things equal (which they never are) the impact of doubling CO2 would result in ~1C of warming.”

And how do you know this? Why do you accept this figure and not a higher one? A 70% increase in CO2 has led to about 0.8-0.9 C rise in surface temperature, and that does not count the rise in temps of the oceans, which, as you point out, have a far greater capacity as a heat sink than the atmosphere.

“Of course, the human effect on climate has never been measured, so the ‘95%’ confidence is based solely upon computer models and ‘expert’ opinion”

In this case it is not a matter of using models to project future changes, but to examine the past contributions to observed climate change. The fact that they are performed by computers is not relevant – all statistical models these days use computers apart from the ones done by hand as part of courses in statistics. The models incorporating solar effects are not able to account for observed changes without taking CO2 into consideration, and in this way the effect can be estimated. How do you explain the fact that the great majority of models come up with a higher ECS than 1 C? What is wrong with them, but right with the model showing an ECS of 1 degree? Is that estimate independent of computer modeling and expert opinion? What is it based on, a graph?

Even if it is only one degree, why is that not a concern? Do you suppose that once the atmospheric CO2 reaches 560 ppm, it will simply stop rising? What if it turns out that the water cycle will become the positive feedback that some predict?

There is still a lot of uncertainty associated with outcomes. We are experiencing something never seen before in recorded history. We can do nothing and hope everything works out for coming generations. We can go ape about it and spend trillions based on worst-case scenarios. Or we can settle on a middle ground, doing what we are able to do without endangering people and economies.. This means things like increased energy efficiency and conservation, helping people in developing countries become more resilient to climate extremes (whether caused by AGW or not) and diversifying our energy sources, even if only to make the cheap energy we have last longer. There are likely to be costs whatever we do. Do we start to change now, or leave it to others to pay the price for our waste?

(PS There is no “proof” in science.)

• It has been shown through the historical climatic record that CO2 follows the temperature therefore it has no impact.

How much clearer can it be.

23. Crispin in Waterloo says:

There is an essential part of the explanation missing. The heat convected to the atmosphere at the surface is caused by the direct surface heating from solar insolation. The amount is given by Trenberth 2009 as 168 Wattts/m2. Another approximately 168 W that would reach and be absorbed by the surface is intercepted by clouds and GHG’s before it reaches the ground.

Without water vapour and non-condensing GHG’s the direct heating of the air by the surface, from solar insolation, would be at least double what it is now. The air temperature near the surface would be much higher because it would have no radiative cooling mechanism.

Thus the net effect of adding the first few ppm of GHG’s is strong cooling of the air. As the bands become saturated, the cooling effect drops away. For the same reason, and in the opposite direction, GHG’s warm the surface with back radiation.

Those holding that CO2 warms the surface are technically correct but ignore to mention the additional cooling also provided. There is a lot wrong with the usual analysis.

24. ferd berple says:

88 F is warm enough for me.
≠=========
Without technology human beings die of exposure at 86 F or lower. 88 F is almost fatal to any human being immersed in water for any significant length of time.

25. philsalmon says:

“Ocean warming dominates the total energy change inventory, accounting for roughly 93% on average from 1971 to 2010 (high confidence). The upper ocean (0-700 m) accounts for about 64% of the total energy change inventory. Melting ice (including Arctic sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers) accounts for 3% of the total, and warming of the continents 3%. Warming of the atmosphere makes up the remaining 1%.”
IPCC, 2013.

• Andy May says:

philsalmon, Thanks for posting this. It is on page 265 of the Physical Science Basis. The Earth has been warming, at least since 1970. They also say “The ocean dominates the change in [retained] energy because of its large mass and high heat capacity.” They also say the Southrn Ocean (where all the oceans meet) warmed at a rate of 0.03 degrees C per decade from 1992 to 2005.

How one can cite those statistics and be worried about “dangerous global warming” is beyond me.

• Phil Salmon says:

Andy, Indeed – I found the IPCC quote in a recent post at Pierre Gosselin’s “No Tricks Zone” which reports a new paper by Wunsch putting recent warming firmly in perspective:

http://notrickszone.com/2018/07/20/false-alarm-new-study-finds-global-ocean-warmed-by-0-02c-from-1994-2013-with-cooling-below-3600m/

An interesting observation is that recent total ocean warming – a barely detectable 0.02 degrees in 10 years – is slower than ocean warming earlier in the Holocene, seriously questioning whether it is unprecedented or alarming.

• Andy May says:

philsalmon, I posted this above, but it is relevant to your quote and might be seen by more people here:
surly, I think the comment from “Stephen” (as well as you and Nick) assumed I was discussing the so-called greenhouse effect (GHE) as defined by the IPCC and only looked at the quote in that context. This may all have been a point-of-view problem.

What I tried to do in the quote, was step back from the GHE, and look at the larger picture of recent warming. I don’t care if the GHE contributed to it or not or even how much. I just wanted to show that any effect of CO2 is small in the context of the oceans. All of the retained thermal energy for the past 50 or 60 years, at most, has increased the Southern Ocean temperature less than 0.2 degrees! And this is the ocean where all oceans meet.
Some of recent warming is natural and some is probably due to the CO2 GHE, the warming is obviously due to additional thermal energy being retained. I’m just saying it doesn’t matter. Were it all due to CO2 GHE and the effect lasted another 200 years, the Southern Ocean would warm a whopping 0.6 degrees, whoopee!

26. Bob says:

The mass of the atmosphere is one millionth of the total mass of the Earth. So the atmosphere plays no part in the climate of the Earth. The heat coming from the Earth volcanoes the Sun all play a bigger role in shaping the climate of Earth.

• Chimp says:

Without the atmosphere, there would be no weather, hence no climate. Without the atmosphere, the oceans would freeze or evaporate.

Of course the surface, both land and sea, play a role, as does internal heat of the planet. But the main influences on the atmosphere are tectonics, the oceans and the sun and Earth’s orientation towards it.

27. Alan Tomalty says:

Nic Lewis (in his devastating critique of Andrew Dessler’s critique of the latest Lewis and Curry study on climate sensitivity to doubling of CO2) points up a devastating admission by the climate scientists on their derivation of forcing.

“Indeed, the authors admit, in the second paper,(Dessler, A.E.,P.M. Forster, 2018. An estimate of equilibrium climate sensitivity from interannual variability.) that a key ratio they uses to convert 500-hPa tropical temperature interannual feedback strength into long term forced-response feedback strength “comes from climate model simulations; we have no way to observationally validate it, nor any theory to guide us”.

So what that statement means; is, the whole theory of forcing is built on climate models which we know is a House of cards just waiting for the correct wind to blow it down. To base a key linchpin (positive forcing of more H2O) of global warming on the conclusions of climate models which have always been wrong in projections and to then apply trillions of dollars in carbon trading and carbon taxes on those results is nothing short of MADNESS.

28. “That is, it keeps the heat in.”

This represents a profound misunderstanding of how the greenhouse effect works. CO2 does not trap heat preventing it from escaping, but simply slows down the rate of cooling. Heat is never trapped, except for a short time by the water in clouds. Take away the Sun and the Earth will cool to about 65K in a few months regardless of how much CO2 is in the atmosphere (65K is from the approximately 1 W/m^2 of internal heat reaching the surface). The energy of any photon absorbed by a GHG molecule will be returned to the surface or emitted into space in roughly equal proportions after no more than a few seconds, except water, which because of its condensing nature may take as long as days before the energy of an absorbed photon reaches its final destination.

29. Joz Jonlin says:

I posted this on Anthony’s last open thread, but it gained zero traction. It seems appropriate for this conversation, as well.

Four years ago, MIT released a news piece about findings from the Ceres Instrument on NASA’s Aqua Satellite. From the piece.

“In computer modeling of Earth’s climate under elevating CO2 concentrations, the greenhouse gas effect does indeed lead to global warming. Yet something puzzling happens: While one would expect the longwave radiation that escapes into space to decline with increasing CO2, the amount actually begins to rise. At the same time, the atmosphere absorbs more and more incoming solar radiation; it’s this enhanced shortwave absorption that ultimately sustains global warming.

“The finding was a curiosity, conflicting with the basic understanding of global warming,” says lead author Aaron Donohoe, a former MIT postdoc who is now a research associate at the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory. “It made us think that there must be something really weird going in the models in the years after CO2 was added. We wanted to resolve the paradox that climate models show warming via enhanced shortwave radiation, not decreased longwave radiation.””

This seems to run counter to everything we’ve been led to believe about the greenhouse effect. There was something here on WUWT about it a long time ago, but it didn’t address this particular aspect of MIT’s piece.

Anyone have any relevant thoughts on the science?

• Wim Röst says:

Just modeling, but still interesting. Reminded me to the graph of Gymnosperm above: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/07/21/stephen-why-global-warming-is-not-a-problem/#comment-2410783

From above: “While one would expect the longwave radiation that escapes into space to decline with increasing CO2, the amount actually begins to rise”.

WR: Warming will (finally) lead to an enhanced radiation, simply because warm objects radiate more. But the mentioned extra absorption of shortwave by enhanced water vapor (which also could result from temporary less ice cover) is interesting.

• Phil. says:

While one would expect the longwave radiation that escapes into space to decline with increasing CO2, the amount actually begins to rise.
I certainly wouldn’t expect that, I’d expect it to stay the same.
Note that they’re talking about their modeling results.

• ” At the same time, the atmosphere absorbs more and more incoming solar radiation; it’s this enhanced shortwave absorption that ultimately sustains global warming.”

This is the broken talking point claiming that massive positive feedback from water vapor nearly triples the sensitivity from about 0.3C per W/m^2 up to about 0.8C per W/m^2.

Increased absorption of solar energy by the atmosphere is not supported by the data as this would require increased clouds as only the water in clouds can absorb any significant amount of solar energy. The data actually shows a slight decrease in cloud cover which would lead to less solar energy absorbed by clouds and more surface emissions reaching space.

• Anthony Banton says:

“Increased absorption of solar energy by the atmosphere is not supported by the data as this would require increased clouds as only the water in clouds can absorb any significant amount of solar energy. ”

No , it is the decreased albedo from feedback that leads to increased SW absorption.
And there is no “data” on that yet – it’s what models come up with and what one would expect intuitively.

From the article…

“Meanwhile, like any physical body experiencing warming, Earth sheds longwave radiation more effectively, canceling out the longwave-trapping effects of CO2. However, a darker Earth now absorbs more sunlight, tipping the scales to net warming from shortwave radiation.”

• Decreased albedo increases absorption by the surface, not the atmosphere which is nearly completely transparent (except for clouds) to incoming solar energy. BTW, please look at the quote I was responding to which specifically stated an increase SW absorption by the atmosphere, not the surface.

The ISCCP cloud data shows a small decrease in average cloud coverage over the last 3 decades, but as I said, it could just be noise.

Also, a darker Earth is also more transparent to LWIR emissions by the surface as it’s clouds that make the planet brighter. There is about 40-50% more LWIR emitted into space above clear skies, then above clouds. This is why we can use satellites to measure far colder cloud top temperatures than on the surface below.

30. Harry Twinotter says:

“It beggars belief that a trace gas (CO2), in an atmosphere that itself contains only a trace amount of the total thermal energy on the surface of the Earth, can control the climate of the Earth.”

The fact that the author does not believe it does not make it untrue. CO2 being a trace gas is irrelevant to the warming effect of CO2, it is the amount of CO2 that is relevant.

• BigWaveDave says:

If it was the amount of CO2, Mars should be much warmer than it is.

• Harry Twinotter says:

I don’t know how you come to that conclusion. Anyway conditions on Mars is irrelevant, it is challenging enough to work out all the forcings on earth, let alone another planet.

• Mars has far more CO2 in its atmosphere than Earth. The atmospheric pressure is about 0.6% of Earths and consists of mostly CO2. If 0.6% of Earth’s atmosphere was CO2, it’s concentration would be about 6000 ppm.

• Anthony Banton says:

But it is the “0.6% of Earths” pressure that is relevant here.
Just not enough molecules in the way of exiting LWIR photons to give a sig GE.

“Mars has a very thin atmosphere composed mostly of the tiny amount of remaining carbon dioxide (95.3%) plus nitrogen (2.7%), argon (1.6%) and traces of oxygen (0.15%) and water (0.03%). The average pressure on the surface of Mars is only about 7 millibars (less than 1% of Earth’s), but it varies greatly with altitude from almost 9 millibars in the deepest basins to about 1 millibar at the top of Olympus Mons. But it is thick enough to support very strong winds and vast dust storms that on occasion engulf the entire planet for months. Mars’ thin atmosphere produces a greenhouse effect but it is only enough to raise the surface temperature by 5 degrees (K); much less than what we see on Venus and Earth.”
http://nineplanets.org/mars.html

• Except that O2, N2 and Ar are completely transparent to both incident solar energy and LWIR emissions by the surface and nearly all of the increase in Earth’s atmospheric pressure comes from these molecules. They are definitely not in the way of escaping LWIR from the surface. The lack of water on Mars is a factor, but based on 3C per doubling as claimed by the IPCC, the 4 doubling between 400 ppm and 6000 ppm should result in a temperature 12C warmer, which is a larger effect that the water on Earth has.

BTW, the point I was making in response to Harry’s comment:

“it is the amount of CO2 that is relevant”

On a molecular basis, there are at least 10 times as many CO2 molecules between the Mars surface and space, then between Earth’s surface and space.

• Phil. says:

Except that O2, N2 and Ar are completely transparent to both incident solar energy and LWIR emissions by the surface and nearly all of the increase in Earth’s atmospheric pressure comes from these molecules.

However they substantially contribute to the broadening of the CO2 spectral lines which increases the absorption by the CO2 on earth.

• Collisional broadening is a finite, but not very large, influence at atmospheric temperatures and pressures. However; what this actually does is increase the probability of absorption in the wings as it decreases the probability of absorption at the center.

• Phil. says:

The broadening of the spectrum is what is responsible for the log dependence of the CO2, at significantly higher concentration it would be a square root dependence.

• Harry Twinotter says:

“but based on 3C per doubling as claimed by the IPCC”

That’s for earth only, and the IPCC do not claim it.

I don’t usually bother replying to your comments because you make stuff up. But that statement was particularly bad.

• When anyone refers to the “climate science consensus”, they’re referring to climate science as summarized in IPCC reports. The authority alarmists appeal to, whether they know it or not, is the IPCC.

The IPCC claims that the nominal effect from doubling CO2 is 3C. They have more recently buried the wide uncertainty in the presumed sensitivity factor into the various RCP scenarios, centered around 3C per doubling. Look under the hood and the claim is 3C +/- 1.5C per 3.7 W/m^2 of EQUIVALENT forcing from doubling CO2 which translates into a presumed sensitivity factor of 0.8C +/- 0.4C per W/m^2 boosting the next W/m^2 of incident forcing into 4.3 +/- 2.2 W/m^2 of surface emissions.

The usual claim is that impossibly large positive feedback from water vapor ‘amplifies’ a tiny effect from CO2 into a massive climate catastrophe. The feedback fubar initiated by Hansen was crucial to the formation of the IPCC providing it with an absolutely wrong, yet plausible, theoretical foundation.

The fact is that the water related ‘amplification’ on Earth includes the widely ignored cooling by the reflection of ice and clouds which offsets most of it’s GHG warming effects. The amount of amplification needed to support even the bottom of the IPCC’s presumed range just isn’t available or even possible from water.

You also failed to point out that 3C is only for the first doubling, as even the IPCC recognizes that the effect is linear to the optical depth which is proportional to the log of the concentration.

• teerhuis says:

Co2isnotevil,
Atmospheric pressure on Mars’ surface is 636 Pa, surface gravity is 3.71 m/s², CO₂ content in the atmosphere (by weight) 97 %.
That results in 166 kg CO₂ per m².
On Earth there is 6 kg/m² for 400 ppm.
Using the mass per area (in stead of pressure) the amount of CO₂ on Mars would result on Earth to ~11000 ppm.

• Harry Twinotter says:

It’s good to see people are agreeing CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The article is incorrect.

31. JERRY HENSON says:

Good job, Andy. I enjoyed reading it.

32. Matty Oh says:

“Stephen”‘s argument disintegrates after the realization that this planet is warmed from without. The earth does not sit upon a stove top.

33. Johann Wundersamer says:

Andy, to make your picture. A picture.

34. Andy May says:

I think I may have figured out where the misunderstanding happened that led to Stephen’s comment. He assumed I was discussing the so-called and misnamed greenhouse effect (GHE) as defined by the IPCC and only looked at the quote through that lens. This may all have been largely a point-of-view problem.

A greenhouse warms by restricting circulation and convection, somewhat like your pot with a lid. Adding CO2 to the atmosphere can warm the Earth’s surface by some unknown amount by slowing the cooling of the surface of the Earth, since it absorbs IR emitted by the surface and before it re-emits the absorbed energy it is excited and collides with neighboring molecules “warming” them. The magnitude of this effect is unknown, and it has not been measured, only modeled.

What I tried to do in the quote, was step back from the GHE, and look at the larger picture of recent warming. GHE is not climate and climate is not GHE, it is much more complicated than that regardless of what the warmists want us to believe. In the quote, I don’t care if the GHE contributed to current warming or not or even by how much. I just wanted to show that any effect of CO2 is small in the context of the oceans. The Earth is warming; thus, it is retaining some thermal energy, and as the IPCC says in AR5 (The Physical Science Basis, page 265) the oceans have retained 64% of the energy. All the retained thermal energy for the past 50 or 60 years, at most, has increased the Southern Ocean temperature less than 0.2 degrees (see Wunsch, 2018, Dynamic Meteorology and Oceanography, vol. 70, issue 1)! And this is the ocean where all oceans meet, the deep oceans have cooled since 1990 (Wunsch and Heimbach, 2014, American Meteorological Society Journal, August 2014).

Some of recent warming is natural and some is probably due to the CO2 GHE, the warming is obviously due to additional thermal energy being retained. I’m just saying it doesn’t matter. Were it all due to CO2 GHE and the effect lasted another 200 years, the Southern Ocean would warm a whopping 0.6 degrees, at most, since the effect of CO2 diminishes as more is added. The warming, regardless of the cause is not important or a problem due to the high heat capacity of the oceans. That is the point of the quote.

• Wim Röst says:

Nice summary, Andy.

A suggestion. ‘Green House Effect’ and ‘Greenhouse Gas’ pollutes the mind. Wrong images about the climate pollute the minds of people. We should replace them consequently by other words, other images. Instead of ‘Green House Effect’ we could use ‘Absorption Effect’ because that is what happens. And instead of ‘Greenhouse Gas’ we could use ‘Absorbing Gas’. We would leave the idea of a ‘closed system’ a real greenhouse is, a system that we cannot escape.

(I worked in a greenhouse, I know the feeling when it gets hot and the windows are not yet opened. Fortunately the Earth has an ‘open weather and climate system’ that can adapt and mitigate. We should emphasize that open adaptable system, also by our own vocabulary. Like the Warmists did, we must create our own ‘climate world images’. Images that are conform reality: a mitigating system, not scaring)

Second, if the oceans can only warm a 0.6 degrees Celsius in a 200 years, surface temperatures could double, but not far from that maximum. Whether the trend should continue, I have got my doubts: possibly the oceans will correct themselves by creating more clouds, or more winds could develop turning and mixing the layers of the ocean which only can result in cooling, given the high cooling capacity of the ice cold deep oceans and the subsurface layers.

• Andy May says:

I don’t think it will warm 0.6 degrees in the next 200 years, that is just a linear extrapolation of the highest estimate I’ve seen of ocean warming over the past 60 years. More likely the ocean warming from 1994 to 2013 is a total of 0.02 degrees as estimated here:
http://notrickszone.com/2018/07/20/false-alarm-new-study-finds-global-ocean-warmed-by-0-02c-from-1994-2013-with-cooling-below-3600m/
Which would mean the warming over 200 years is less than 0.2 degrees by a dumb linear extrapolation, and probably much less than that. Point being, nothing to worry about.

As you say, warming oceans should increase cloudiness, resulting in cooling anyway. I agree with your comments on the greenhouse effect. I think we have allowed the warmists to equate climate with the GHE in the mind of the public, which is a shame.

• Surface overall oceanic temperatures are what matters when it comes to the climate and they are off .2c since last summer and the trend is going to continue to go lower as long as solar stays in the tank.

Overall surface oceanic sea surface temperatures around +.35c above 1981-2010 means last summer now +.14c above 1981-2010 means.

• “… collides with neighboring molecules “warming” them. The magnitude of this effect is unknown …”

The way this is claimed to happen is by transferring small portions of vibrational energy into much lower energy rotational states, which as a degree of freedom should be shared by collisions based on the equipartition of energy principle.

We can observe the transfer of energy into lower energy rotational states as the fine structure on either side of the primary vibrational resonances. Fine structure on either side means that while vibrational state energy can be converted into rotational state energy, rotational state energy can be converted into vibrational state energy and the net transfer from vibrational to rotational is close to, if not exactly, zero.

The only possible ‘thermalization’ occurs in clouds when an energized CO2 molecule is dissolved into a droplet of water or when energized H2O molecules condense within it. This is observed in the emitted spectrum of the planet where CO2 and H2O absorption is largest between about 13u and 16u. The energy measured in that band at TOA is somewhat less than the predicted half of what it would be based on the Planck distribution of energy emitted by the surface. The other half is returned to the surface as the GHG effect.

Note that the absorption of energized molecules by the water in clouds converts the absorbed narrow band GHG energy into broad band Planck emissions by that water in the cloud.

• Wim Röst says:

co2isnotevil: “The other half is returned to the surface as the GHG effect.”

WR: Whether any radiation is able to return to the surface depends on the free path of a photon downward. Is there any evidence that photons departing from clouds can reach the surface? In upward direction they are supposed to reach only some meters:

Prof. Robert G. Brown: “CO_2 doesn’t “scatter” LWIR radiation, it absorbs it
(typically within a few meters, the mean free path at atmospheric
concentrations) and the energy is almost instantly transferred to the
surrounding air.”
Source: https://sealevel.info/Happer_UNC_2014-09-08/Another_question.html

• “Is there any evidence that photons departing from clouds can reach the surface? “
They don’t have to. The key is Kirchhoff’s law, which says that in any frequency band, emissivity equals absorptivity. IOW, if these are wavelengths where CO2 is strongly absorbing, it is strongly emitting. So photons will be absorbed, emitted etc. Eventually, in highly absorptive frequencies, there will be strong emission coming from a few metres above ground.

This leads to a diffusion like propagation, called after Rosseland. The diffusivity decreases with increasing absorptivity.

• Wim Röst says:

Nick, I try to understand this very technical matter.
I understand, emissivity equals absorptivity under the same (!) circumstances. So when radiation is emitted at 25 C (surface) and is absorbed at 10 C (up in the atmosphere), how will that re-emission be: like at 25 C or at 10 C? My guess: like at 10 C, which will be a diminished emission because of the lower temperature. Going downward, emitted photons will be absorbed by ever denser concentrations of absorbing gases (H2O, CO2), suggesting that the downward path of a photon is shorter than the upward path. As a consequence, radiation will always be more successfully moving upward than downward, resulting in a net upward movement of radiation.

That net upward movement of radiative energy has to be so, because the surface of the Earth has to get rid of the energy it daily receives from the Sun. Which implies that in practice (!) consequent (‘second round’) radiation will be different from the original surface radiation and even from absorption. As earlier discussed, temporarily excited absorbing molecules are influenced by the rapid collisions with non emitting molecules that take energy away from the absorbing molecules. The uptake of energy by the non-emitting molecules must influence any consequent emission in a diminishing way. The uptake of energy by the colliding non-emitting molecules can only (later) be replenished by collissions of emitting molecules with lower energy non-emitting molecules.

As a consequence, on Earth any ‘second round emission’ can’t be seen as ‘a simple equal re-emission of ‘first round’ radiated/absorbed energy’ like in the laboratory. As I understand it.

• Wm,
Yes, photons in the saturated absorption bands of CO2 and H2O are absorbed by a GHG molecule within meters. That energy is subsequently re-emitted in a random direction within a tiny fraction of a second, often after either absorbing another photon or upon a collision and sometimes at either a slightly higher or lower energy. However; about 23% of the photon energy emitted by the surface pass straight through the atmosphere and into space at the speed of light.

As far as the fraction that doesn’t pass through and gets absorbed by GHG’s and clouds, this energy must either be emitted into space or returned to the surface. Otherwise, the air and clouds will heat without bound. This energy can only be sent into space as radiation and whether this is returned to the surface as radiation or collisions with air molecules is irrelevant, although since the temperature of non GHG molecules of air does not contribute to the radiative balance and arises from physical contact with the surface, those molecules are precluded from further heating the surface, although then can redistribute heat across short intervals of time moderating high and low peak temperatures between day and night.

Brown is irreconcilably wrong about absorbed energy being instantly transferred to the surrounding air unless he means by the re-emission of another photon. There are no relevant mechanisms in Quantum Mechanics that can wholly and directly convert vibrational state energy into the translational kinetic energy of molecules in motion, which is the primary manifestation of temperature by non GHG molecules.

Small amounts can be converted into rotational states of the GHG molecule, which by equipartition, will be ‘shared’. However; that conversion must be accompanied with the emission or absorption of a photon at either a higher or lower energy. The fine structure in the absorption/emission spectrum of GHG molecules tells us that this conversion goes both ways and that the net conversion from one to another is approximately, if not exactly, zero.

The evidence of this is in the HITRAN absorption/emission line data and the observed LWIR spectrum of the planet. If what Brown claims is true, the average energy seen in the absorption bands at TOA would be attenuated by factors of thousands to millions over the average intensity emitted by the surface. Instead, we see a net attenuation factor of only about 2. In the most saturated lines of CO2 and H2O, we see a slightly higher attenuation factor and this is the only evidence of ‘thermalization’ from GHG absorption. This occurs when an energized CO2 molecule is dissolved into cloud water or when energized H2O molecules condense within clouds. These are the only possible mechanisms in the atmosphere that can convert the narrow band energy of GHG absorption into another form.

• Wim Röst says:

WR: co2isnotevil, thanks for the reaction. Below my remarks (sorry, a bit lengthy).

co2isnotevil: “Yes, photons in the saturated absorption bands of CO2 and H2O are absorbed by a GHG molecule within meters. That energy is subsequently re-emitted in a random direction within a tiny fraction of a second, often after either absorbing another photon or upon a collision and sometimes at either a slightly higher or lower energy.”

WR: If I understand this discussion well, https://sealevel.info/Happer_UNC_2014-09-08/Another_question.html , no re-emission of absorbed energy will take place. To re-emit, the absorbing molecule must stay long enough in the excited state to be able to re-emit. But by tenths, hundreds or thousands of collisions before emission could take place the ‘absorbed energy’ is taken away by colliding molecules. Only the ‘temperature effect’ (measurable) in the air will stay and any emission will only happen according to the circumstances (temperature and density of emitting molecules) at that location.

If in all cases re-emission would have taken place, no temperature effect would have been measurable. Because emission takes energy away.

co2isnotevil: “As far as the fraction that doesn’t pass through and gets absorbed by GHG’s and clouds, this energy must either be emitted into space or returned to the surface”.

WR: Probably nearly no emission from clouds will return to the surface. The reasons:
1. Most radiation is not space ward or surface ward, but side ward.

2. After each sideward emission, consequent emissions will direct more emission up ward than downward.

3. The path length for a photon emitted from clouds is too short to reach the surface, because absorption takes place within meters, or, at higher elevations within 10-100 meter or so. Most radiation of every ‘next emission round’ will again go sideward.

4. Given the short path length many re-emissions will have to take place to reach space. On the average every re-emission in the atmosphere has a net upward effect.

5. Most absorption will take place in high moisture air. High moisture air (on the average) goes upward (because of her light weight). Transporting energy upward.

6. There is always a net energy transport upward, to get rid of the daily added sun energy. All cooling mechanisms show an upward transport. Radiation is one of those cooling mechanisms. In the end all energy has to be radiated to space. Upward transport of radiated energy must (!) outnumber downward radiated transport by far.

7. At lower levels in the atmosphere there is a higher number of absorbing molecules than up in the colder and thinner air: less molecules, less H2O. It is easier for any radiation to go ten meter upward than ten meter downward. Every next emission round is transporting energy upward.

8. Every emission from higher (colder) levels is less effective/intense than emission from the (warmer) surface. Again: up is easier than down.

9. The higher an altitude is reached, the higher percentages of emissions are reaching space. And the less is reaching the surface.

10. As stated in my first comment, it is not very probable that direct re-emission takes place. With lowering temperatures at higher altitudes every emission of radiated energy according to the temperature of that level will be less than the radiation originally sent from surface level.

I cannot conclude else, than that after first absorption most ‘cooling work’ in the atmosphere must be done by non-radiative means of cooling: by latent heat, conduction, convection. Until, somewhere up, the lack of the main absorbing gas H2O does not prohibit unhindered emission to space and spaceward emssion will take place in ever growing percentages. Probably CO2 will emit most energy to space.

co2isnotevil: “There are no relevant mechanisms in Quantum Mechanics that can wholly and directly convert vibrational state energy into the translational kinetic energy of molecules in motion, which is the primary manifestation of temperature by non GHG molecules.”

WR: Excited molecules don’t transmit energy to non-excited molecules? Their high energy state doesn’t enhance the kinetic energy of colliding molecules? How does air that absorbs photons (by the small quantity of absorbing gases present) and consists of more than 99% of O2/N2 molecules get a higher temperature as a whole? Transmittance of energy has to have happened to warm air as a whole.

• Wm,

“Their high energy state doesn’t enhance the kinetic energy of colliding molecules? ”

Not in any way that affects the averages. Quantum mechanics requires any transformation to be all or nothing state change and the entire bundle of state energy would need to be converted into the kinetic energy of translational motion, or other forms, in a single event. You can’t convert a little now, a little later and so on and so forth until there’s nothing left, moreover; the energy of a 15u photon is about the same as the translational kinetic energy of an atmospheric gas molecule at STP. Sure, there’s a finite, but tiny probability that such a transformation could happen upon a collision (Quantum Mechanics is funny like that …), but the probability doesn’t start to increase significantly until the kinetic energy of motion becomes much larger than the energy of a state change and those conditions just aren’t present in our atmosphere.

To the extent that any state energy can be converted into translational kinetic energy by a collision, the inverse must be true in equal and opposite amounts. Any net transfer will necessarily be zero, or at least close to zero. Symmetry is another important attribute of Quantum Mechanics.

You’re focused on only half of what’s can potentially happen and it’s shielding you from seeing the reverse conversion. You may claim that the reverse will not likely occur under current energy conditions. You would be right and for the same reason that your presumed transformation is also not very likely. Both are equally likely.

The N2/O2 and Ar in the atmosphere is heated by collisions with the surface as all of these molecules are transparent to the SW and LWIR involved with the transmission of energy through the atmosphere as photons. The average kinetic temperature decreases linearly with altitude based on a lapse rate dictated by gravity acting on the PVT profile of the atmosphere and then starts to increase significantly as the gases becomes rarefied and interact with high energy incident radiation only to decrease again towards TOA. The radiation temperature, that is the temperature equivalent to the average LWIR photon flux passing up decreases monotonically with altitude starting at about 390 W/m^2 (290K) at the surface and ending at about 239 W/m^2 (255K) at TOA. Your explanation would have this start at 390 W/m^2, drop to about 90 W/m^2 (200K) a few meters off the ground only to increase to 239 W/m^2 (255K) at TOA.

Your position that emissions higher up in the atmosphere have an easier time reaching space, which I agree with, is inconsistent with your conjecture that GHG absorption is quickly converted into the translational kinetic energy of air molecules. O2/N2 and Ar do not emit photons in the absorption bands of atmospheric GHG’s.

What’s the source of all of these emissions that are having an easier time getting through? The only possible place they can be coming from are the emissions bands of the GHG molecules themselves which means that either the reverse transformation converting translational kinetic energy into photons is a very high probability event, or the transformation converting photon energy into translational kinetic energy is a very low probability event. The energies involved precludes the former, thus the later must be true.

• Wim Röst says:

co2isnotevil (did I write your name well?), not only the surface but also the atmosphere is absorbing a lot of energy straight from the sun. Warming/activating all (!) molecules in the air: kinetic energy. If not to continue the heating up of all molecules in the air (by more sun energy), a transmission of ‘first day’ energy has to take place, just to get rid of that ‘first day energy’. Transmission of energy to radiating molecules has to take place. Or other cooling processes.

If processes are mutual: up in the air CO2 radiates to space, using kinetic energy from non-emitting molecules, cooling all of the air (bringing down the kinetic energy of all molecules). The reverse needs to happen as well. Absorbing molecules must be transmitting energy to non-radiating molecules and vice versa.

Wim

• Wim,

Atmospheric gases absorb little solar energy. Most of the solar energy absorbed by the atmosphere is absorbed by the liquid and solid water in clouds. This water may re-emit photons in the absorption bands, but like those originating from the surface, these are absorbed within a few meters of the cloud tops as there are still significant GHG’s between cloud tops and space.

My question is still unanswered.

What is the origin of the absorption band photons observed at TOA which even in the most saturated lines approaches half the flux there would be in the absence of any absorption at all? I contend that the only possible source of these photons are GHG molecules, as HITRAN data describes both the absorption and emission spectra, which are the same.

You are being too loosey-goosey about arbitrarily conflating different forms of energy without accounting for the very specific mechanisms for converting between them. It an over-generalization of equipartition. In fact, state energy is really not even one of the degrees of freedom generalized equipartition applies to, except as to equalize energized states among the population of GHG molecules.

• Phil,

A 15u photon has an energy given by E = hc/y = 6.626E-34 * 3E8 / 15E-6 = 1.33 E-20 Joules.

A CO2 molecule travels at approximately 500 m/sec and weigh 48AU or about 7.7E-26 kg. Energy = 1/2 mv^2 = .5 * 7.7E-26 * 500^2 = 9.6 E-21 Joules.

Yes, a 15u photon has slightly more energy than a moving CO2 molecule which only makes my case stronger about the lack of direct ‘thermalization’ as the required condition is that the kinetic energy of motion needs to be significantly larger than the energy of a state change.

• Phil. says:

A CO2 molecule travels at approximately 500 m/sec and weigh 48AU
A CO2 molecule has a mass of 44 AU and its Vrms is about 400m/s at 300K (most probable ~340 m/s). However the most likely collision partner is N2 which has a mass of 28 AU and has a Vrms of ~500 m/s. As I pointed out kT is 0.028eV or about one third of the energy of a 15µm photon so the average energy of the collision partner is ~3x less than the vibrational energy of an excited CO2 molecule. In a collision with a vibrationally excited CO2 molecule which reduced the CO2 to its ground state the velocity of the N2 molecule would increase by about 1.7x or three times its kinetic energy which it would quickly share with its neighbors (~10 collisions/nsec).

The reverse process is not so simple since only a few % of the N2 molecules have enough energy to excite a CO2 molecule to its vibrational excited state and the collision would have to occur at just the right orientation to transfer to the vibrational mode.

• teerhuis says:

The reverse process is not so simple…
I suppose the reverse proces must be equally likely at equilibrium (Boltzmann temperature equals Planck temperature).
Otherwise the Boltzmann temperature would be ~1.7 × 300 = 510 K and almost independent of the Planck temperature.

• Phil.

I certainly agree that few if any N2 molecules has enough energy to excite a vibrational state in a ground state CO2 molecule and that only the same few have enough energy to initiate the return of an energized CO2 molecule to the ground state. What makes you think either direction is easier than the other? If this was the case, the system would not be in a steady state equilibrium.

My point is that whatever possibilities of exchange might exist, there’s little to no NET exchange in either direction.

The critical question is still unanswered, which is what is the origin of the significant photon energy at TOA in the absorption bands of GHG’s. Emissions in those bands are absorbed within a meter or so of the surface and no more than dozens of meters from clouds. The only possible source of these photons are GHG molecules high up in the atmosphere whose emissions have an easier time exiting TOA without being intercepted by another GHG molecule. This requires energized states to propagate up the atmosphere in order to get high enough to emit another photon that isn’t intercepted. This also means that energy must be retained along the way so there’s enough to keep energizing other GHG molecules.

To the extent that any energy is lost to translational energy, this can only contribute to the half of the surface energy absorbed by GHG’s and that’s required to be returned to the surface. Theory requires half of the absorbed energy to be returned, but doesn’t specify whether the energy is returned as radiation, by contact with warmed air, warmed rain, wind or weather. Of course, theory also requires all of the latent heat and other non radiative energy entering the atmosphere to be returned to the surface, again without specifying in what form this energy is returned. This is because only radiant energy can leave the planet.

While not necessary, it’s exceedingly likely that non radiant energy absorbed by the atmosphere is returned to the surface by non radiant means and the radiant energy absorbed by the atmosphere and returned to the surface is by radiant means.

I’ll make another testable prediction of my hypothesis, although unlike the test of the spectrum at TOA, I don’t know where the appropriate data for this test might be. Directional measurements pointing up will show LWIR in absorption bands returning to the surface. In the clear sky, most of the returning LWIR will be in absorption bands. Under cloudy skies, there will be significant LWIR outside of the absorption bands and that originated from the water in clouds.

If you want to refute my argument that there’s little conversion of GHG absorbed energy into translational energy, you need to have a testable answer to the above critical question. My answer is testable and testing it has been done by examining the emitted spectrum of the planet at TOA and I’ve offered other tests.

• Phil. says:

I certainly agree that few if any N2 molecules has enough energy to excite a vibrational state in a ground state CO2 molecule and that only the same few have enough energy to initiate the return of an energized CO2 molecule to the ground state.

Why “the same few”? Any of the collision partners has the ability to increase its translational energy by colliding with the vibrating CO2 molecule. They don’t need ‘enough energy’ to remove the vibrational energy they just need to be accelerated by the appropriate amount. Near the surface an excited CO2 molecule will undergo ~10,000 collisions in its first microsecond of existence, plenty of opportunity to be deactivated.

What makes you think either direction is easier than the other? If this was the case, the system would not be in a steady state equilibrium.

My point is that whatever possibilities of exchange might exist, there’s little to no NET exchange in either direction.

While molecules with enough kinetic energy to excite the CO2 molecule to the first vibrational level exist, as stated above they represent a small fraction of the total. Also such a collision is more likely to transfer translational energy to the CO2, only collisions with a particular orientation would excite the vibrational mode.
Regarding equilibrium the primary means of vibrational excitation is by absorption of radiation, in the lower atmosphere the primary means of deactivation is collisional, the net collisional exchange is from the excited state to the surrounding molecules.

• Phil,

“Also such a collision is more likely to transfer translational energy to the CO2”

All collisions exchange translational energy. An energized CO2 molecule colliding with a ground state CO2 molecule may exchange state energy in additional to sharing translational energy. This can not happen when energized GHG’s collide with non GHG gases.

“in the lower atmosphere the primary means of deactivation is collisional”

Except that when the combined kinetic energy of 2 colliding particles is less than it takes to excite a vibrational state, the probability of converting this into translational energy is zero. Rotational modes are much lower energy and can be excited, but again, this is symmetric adding to and removing from translational kinetic energy and the net exchange is close to zero, if not exactly zero. Evidence of this symmetry is seen in the fine structure of the absorption spectra.

I certainly agree that collisions are a significant mode of deactivation, although a bigger one is absorption of a second photon which starts to dramatically increase the probability of spontaneous emissions. Moreover; deactivation means emitting a photon, not converting vibrational state energy into linear kinetic energy.

You still haven’t addresses the elephant in the room, which is if as you claim, all photons emitted by the surface and clouds in GHG absorption bands are captured and converted into translational energy within a meter or of emissions, WHAT’S THE ORIGIN OF THE SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF POWER SEEN IN ABSORPTION BANDS AT TOA?

When I say significant, I mean about 1/2 the power that would be seen at TOA in those bands without any absorption at all. The only substance between the surface and space under clear skies or between clouds and space that can emit photons in absorption bands are the GHG molecules themselves. N2, O2 and Ar do not emit photons in these bands.

• Phil. says:

“Also such a collision is more likely to transfer translational energy to the CO2”

All collisions exchange translational energy. An energized CO2 molecule colliding with a ground state CO2 molecule may exchange state energy in additional to sharing translational energy. This can not happen when energized GHG’s collide with non GHG gases.

Nonsense, if that were true CO2 lasers would not work as well as they do. In the laser the non-GHG, helium, is used to collisionally deactivate CO2 from exactly the same vibrational state (010) via V-T transfer.

Moreover; deactivation means emitting a photon, not converting vibrational state energy into linear kinetic energy.

Vibrational deactivation refers to the non-radiative transfer of energy to the medium via collisions, it does not involve emitting a photon.

• Phil,

If this is your definition of vibrational deactivation, then it’s not occurring in the atmosphere to any significant extent.

In a laser, the HE deactivates by causing energized CO2 to emit a photon and it’s these photons that comprise the output of the laser.

https://www.quora.com/Role-of-helium-in-CO2-laser

Once more you have failed to address the question whose answer falsifies your hypothesis. Science doesn’t work by ignoring falsification, it advances by acknowledging falsification. If the hypothesis doesn’t fit the data., you need to adjust your hypothesis.

I will restate the question.

What’s the origin of the photons in absorption bands that are observed at TOA? To be clear, the attenuation based on what the surface emits is only about 3 db (1/2), yet the surface is absorbing 100% of these photons. O2, N2 and Ar don’t emit photons in the relevant bands, so where are they coming from?

• Phil. says:

Phil,

If this is your definition of vibrational deactivation, then it’s not occurring in the atmosphere to any significant extent.

In a laser, the HE deactivates by causing energized CO2 to emit a photon and it’s these photons that comprise the output of the laser.

You continue to show your ignorance of the phys-chem involved in this process.
For a start the 010 level decays to the ground state so it can’t possibly emit a laser wavelength because it’s not possible to maintain an inversion.

The energy levels involved in the CO2 laser are shown below:
https://pe2bz.philpem.me.uk/Lights/-%20Laser/Info-902-LaserCourse/c03-08/FIG7.JPG
The excitation is by collision with electronically excited N2 which transfers vibrational energy to the 001 state of the CO2 which then lases to either the 100 or 020 levels with the emission of either a 10.6 or 9.6 photon. The 100 or 020 levels are collisionally deactivated to the 010 level which is then collisionally deactivated to the ground state. In order to improve performance of the laser the decay from these lower levels is enhanced by adding helium. The 010 level is the one involved in the atmospheric greenhouse effect.

• Phil,
Did you read the paper I pointed you to? It explicitly said that He collisions deactivate CO2 by causing a photon to be emitted. Where do you think the photons coming out of a CO2 laser are coming from? If He collisions turns this state energy into heat, then the efficiency of the laser would be reduced, not increased.

I’ve never said that excitation or deactivation can not be achieved by collisions, in fact I’ve said the exact opposite. All that I’ve said is that at the energy levels found in the atmosphere, this will not occur to any appreciable extent, if at all. Just because something can happen doesn’t mean the conditions for it to actually happen are present.

The energy levels found in a CO2 laser are many orders of magnitude larger than found in the atmosphere. Even photon emissions of atmospheric GHG’s arising from collisions with N2 or O2 (as He does in a CO2 laser) are rare and the primary cause of emitting a photon is the absorption of another absorption band photon which dramatically increases the probability of spontaneous emission.

In order to have enough energy to result in vibrational excitation upon a collision, the velocity of the colliding molecules will need to be reduced to near zero, or even less than zero, which is impossible. This is why the kinetic energy must be significantly larger than the excitation energy in order to excite or deactivate a GHG molecule upon collisions.

You still haven’t answered my question about the origin of photons seen at TOA in the absorption bands of atmospheric GHG’s. Please address the question. If you can’t explain the origin of the massive flux of photons in absorption bands seen at TOA, you have no choice but to accept my assertion that the predominate deactivation mode of energized GHG molecules is the emission of a photon.

• Phil. says:

Did you read the paper I pointed you to? It explicitly said that He collisions deactivate CO2 by causing a photon to be emitted. Where do you think the photons coming out of a CO2 laser are coming from? If He collisions turns this state energy into heat, then the efficiency of the laser would be reduced, not increased.

Yes I did, it’s not a paper it’s someone’s answer on a website and it’s wrong.
I showed you where the photons come from in the energy diagram I posted. A laser works via a 3 or 4 level system to promote a population inversion. The depopulation of the lower level by Helium collision maintains that inversion and improves the efficiency of the laser. The helium also improves the transfer of that heat to the coolant medium.
Since you clearly don’t understand the Phys-chem behind lasers here’s something for you to read.
https://www.rp-photonics.com/co2_lasers.html

Note what they say about Helium:
“Helium serves to depopulate the lower laser level and to remove the heat.”

I’ve never said that excitation or deactivation can not be achieved by collisions, in fact I’ve said the exact opposite. All that I’ve said is that at the energy levels found in the atmosphere, this will not occur to any appreciable extent, if at all. Just because something can happen doesn’t mean the conditions for it to actually happen are present.

Note that the lower level of CO2 that is being collisionally depopulated in the laser is the same energy level that is involved in the greenhouse effect in our atmosphere.

The energy levels found in a CO2 laser are many orders of magnitude larger than found in the atmosphere.

They certainly are not, the upper level from which the laser emissions occur is at 0.3eV, that’s in the IR range, a wavelength equivalent is ~4microns.

Even photon emissions of atmospheric GHG’s arising from collisions with N2 or O2 (as He does in a CO2 laser) are rare and the primary cause of emitting a photon is the absorption of another absorption band photon which dramatically increases the probability of spontaneous emission.

It’s clear you don’t understand the Phys-chem involved, I suggest you do some reading.

• Phil.

The second most significant range of wavelengths absorbed by CO2 is around 4.3u and is distinct from the 1band at 15u. CO2 lasers generally emit photons as the difference in energy between these two states, somewhere around 10u. Where do you think these photons originate from, if not the CO2 molecules?

In any event, how a CO2 laser operates is in no way an analogy for how the GHG effect works in the atmosphere. The required energies are far in excess of what exists. Quantum mechanics is more about probabilities, than possibilities and the probabilities just aren’t there.

Why do you keep deflecting the question at hand? Do you fear what the answer will tell you?

Your hypothesis that the predominate deactivation mode of an atmospheric GHG molecule is by ‘thermalization’ with N2/O2 within meters of being emitted predicts that the emission spectrum seen from space would have no energy whatsoever in absorption bands and extra energy in the other bands, since once absorption is accounted for,’ about 150 W/m^2 of emissions by the planet must come from the atmosphere, accounting for half of what was absorbed, which is even more than the 90 W/m^2 on average that initially passed through the transparent regions in the atmosphere’s absorption spectrum.

Trenberth assumes even more absorption, but when asked where his value comes from, he has no answer other than is was a guess. Mine comes from simulations based on HITRAN data combined with cloud data reported in the ISCCP data set and averaged over 3 decades. Interestingly enough, if the atmosphere absorbed as much as Trenberth claims, the fraction of absorbed energy returned to the surface would need to be less than half and more than half would be required to make up for the planets emissions above and beyond what was not absorbed.

The results of measuring the emitted spectrum falsifies your hypothesis. Even with clear skies between the surface and space, the energy measured in absorption bands at TOA is about half of what it would have been with no absorption at all, even as the atmosphere absorbs 100% of what was emitted in those bands. The only possible source for these photons are emissions from GHG molecules, which means that their can be no net ‘thermalization’ of absorbed energy as enough energy would not be available to be emitted as a photon high enough up in the atmosphere to avoid being absorbed by another GHG molecule on its way out. This is a repeatable test and I urge you to do it for yourself.

At one time, I thought what you do, as this is what is taught and it’s even codified in Perry’s book, although somewhat ambiguously. The guiding principle for any scientist should be that if you limit your understanding to what you are taught, you will never learn, which is where the scientific method comes in. When I applied this simple test, I was somewhat surprised (I was suspicious anyway, hence the test) that the answer wasn’t what it needed to be to conform to what I was taught. I tried to come up with a way for the O2/N2 to emit photons, but the required energies just weren’t there. Like any competent scientist, I modified the hypothesis.

• Wim Röst says:

WR: As far as I understand longwave radiation, the following must happen in the atmosphere.

There is full absorption of radiation very near the surface, mainly by H2O, even within some meters (except for the open window part that goes straight into space). Nearly all absorbed energy is transmitted to quickly colliding O2/N2 molecules.

‘Second round’ emission takes place (in the lowest atmosphere) after the uptake of collision energy (mainly from N2/O2) by an emitting molecule. But this ‘second round radiation is mainly ‘side radiation’ and will be absorbed in more or less the same ‘layer’ of the atmosphere. Again some radiation disappears into space using the ‘open window’.

‘Conventional processes’ as evaporation, conduction and convection will transport most of the energy of the by absorption warmed surface air upwards.

As soon as ‘net emission height’ is reached, Outgoing Longwave Radiation (other than ‘open window radiation’) starts to perform.

Just above the ‘net emission height’, only a very small percentage (let’s say 1%) of the emitted energy in the absorbing bands will reach the satellite’s measuring point, the other 99% will be absorbed. At higher elevations (near the satellite) 99% of the locally emitted radiation in the absorbing bands will reach the satellite, because at that altitude there are but a few absorbing molecules left in the thin and cold atmosphere above the emitting molecule (there is hardly no absorbing H2O left). The average non absorbed radiation as measured by satellites in the absorption bands will be: 1% + 99% divided by 2 = 50%.

Given the short attenuation path of photons near the surface, given the accepted existence of a ‘net emission layer’ somewhere halfway the troposphere and given the 50% of expected radiation in absorption bands as measured at TOA (as I read in the comment of co2isnotevil above) this seems to be what happens in the atmosphere.

If I am right, the consequence is that evaporation, conduction and convection do the main work in the spaceward transport of energy in the lowest part of the atmosphere. Above the net emission layer the Earth will effectively cool by radiation by mainly CO2 because H2O molecules (by reason of the very low temperatures at that elevation) mostly disappeared from the air. Up to 80 km altitude CO2 is nearly evenly distributed and well able to emit the by collisions with O2/N2 received energy.

Because of the overwhelming abundance of the other absorbing gas H2O in the lowest atmosphere, some extra CO2 will only slightly affect local temperatures in an upward direction. The high temporary variations in local H2O might easily outnumber any rise in CO2 near the surface.

More CO2 in the atmosphere (also above net emission height) would increase the number of CO2 collisions with non-emitting upper air molecules in the upper air, what will result in a higher net emission from that altitude into space. Cooling stronger the stratosphere and cooling the Earth stronger than would have been the case at lower CO2 levels.

• Phil. says:

The second most significant range of wavelengths absorbed by CO2 is around 4.3u and is distinct from the 1band at 15u. CO2 lasers generally emit photons as the difference in energy between these two states, somewhere around 10u. Where do you think these photons originate from, if not the CO2 molecules?

I’ve already shown you in the diagram I attached above.

In any event, how a CO2 laser operates is in no way an analogy for how the GHG effect works in the atmosphere. The required energies are far in excess of what exists.

No they are not! As I pointed out in a previous post the energy required to drive the laser is equivalent to a wavelength of about 4microns.

Why do you keep deflecting the question at hand? Do you fear what the answer will tell you?

I’m first trying to correct your misunderstandings about the processes involved, why do you keep making the same mistakes?

35. Colder is Colder says:

The story that the atmosphere heats the planet is the claim that a cold turbulent nitroxy bath, many degrees colder than the light warmed rock it’s chilling, is actually a heater.

And that the light blocking refrigerants in the heater stopping 22% of total energy from entering calculation of Atmospheric temperature are the heart of this fake ”cold nitrogen atmosphere that’s actually a heater,”

first taking 22% of total sunlight out of Earth temperature calculations when sunlight top of atmosphere vs at sea level is separated and only what makes it to the surface counts as warming it.

Then spontaneously generating that 22% of the sun’s energy – out of nothing,

then, spontaneously generating so much energy the entire cold nitroxy bath and planet are warmed 33 degrees.

This by people who can’t even calculate the temperature of the atmosphere and match the International Standard Atmosphere’s known-good temperature for the planet. We calibrate our aircraft, spacecraft, and heat/pressure instruments against that known-good calculated temperature.

The entire proposition of any bath of cold fluids warming something is as ludicrous as the peoples’ reasons for believing it might be possible. Cold nitrogen baths are never heaters, people who can’t calculate Earth temperature and match the known good global atmospheric temperature aren’t scientists.

36. Ben Wouters says:

@Andy May

The warmest part of the ocean is the surface of the tropical Pacific. Here evaporation limits the temperature to a maximum of 30 degrees C (86 degrees F) according to many sources

To me the reason for the current “maximum” SSTs is that the sun can only increase the temperature/heat content of the upper oceans a certain amount above the temperature of the deep oceans.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermocline#/media/File:ThermoclineSeasonDepth.png

Let’s assume solar energy is responsible for all heat content above the 2C line.
Solar input apparently balances against energy loss via the atmosphere to space.
Given much higher deep ocean ocean temperatures like eg in the Cretaceous (possibly 15-18K higher than today) the SSTs will be correspondingly higher.
So imo we have at least 3 variables regulating SSTs:
– temperature of the deep oceans
– amount of solar energy entering the oceans
– energy loss of the oceans to space (via the atmosphere)

• Ben Wouters says:

If we accept that solar only increases the heat content of the upper oceans a few degrees above the “base” temperature set by the deep ocean temperature, do you also agree that the heat content of the deep oceans must have come completely from geothermal energy?
This includes the early oceans sitting on almost “bare” magma, the small geothermal flux through the crust and all kinds of magma eruptions, including large ones like the Ontong Java event (~100 x 10^6 cubic kilometer magma).

If yes, we have an answer to the question why the temperature on Earth is so much higher than solar energy alone could explain, and at the same time the role of the atmosphere is reduced to slowing the energy loss to space, no additional heating required as eg. Lacis et all 2010 claim.

• Wim Röst says:

To add: ‘Wind’, as the big ‘mixer of the oceans’. A very variable factor.

• Andy May says:

Ben, the temperature of the deep water is important, of course. But, the reason the SST cannot get much above 30 degrees is that the heat of water vaporization (also called the enthalpy of vaporization, that is the latent heat taken away from the ocean), at that temperature, equals the thermal energy received by the ocean surface from the Sun. Near land, which can get much warmer than 30 degrees, warm wind can blow off of the land and get the ocean surface a little warmer than 30 before sufficient evaporation can take place to lower the temperature to 30, but this is a temporary phenomenon, evaporation soon catches up.

• Ben Wouters says:

A good day of sunshine delivers some 20 Mj / m^2 to the oceans. This only slightly increases the temperature of the upper 5-10 m.
After the night this energy is lost again to space (via the atmosphere).
Whether this energy loss is by evaporation, radiation or conduction is less important imo.
We have seen much higher SST’s than 30C in he distant past, like 36-42C in the Cretaceous.
Imo the reason simply being that the deep oceans were much warmer, perhaps 20C for the deepest oceans.
Young oceans were 40C or (much) warmer, obviously not caused by solar energy (Faint Young Sun)
https://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/november9/ancient-sea-temperature-111109.html

• Wim Röst says:

Ben Wouters: “We have seen much higher SST’s than 30C in he distant past, like 36-42C in the Cretaceous.
Imo the reason simply being that the deep oceans were much warmer, perhaps 20C for the deepest oceans.”

WR: the right deep ocean temperatures must have been close to the brown line in the Bill Illis graphic below.

And maximum surface temperatures in the past must have been close to present maxima, because of the cooling by evaporation. See Andy’s comment just above: https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/07/21/stephen-why-global-warming-is-not-a-problem/#comment-2412464

• Andy May says:

Ben Wouters,
Your reference refers to sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) in the PreCambrian. This was a very different world and Sun.
In the Phanerozoic, there is no evidence that I know of that SSTs have ever been over 30 degrees, except perhaps at the very beginning 500 million years ago. See Christopher Scotese’s Paleomap reconstruction in his monograph “Some thoughts on Global Climate Change” (pages 19 to 22). Look especially at figure 13. The highest equatorial temperature is about 32 degrees 500 million years ago. 30 degrees was reached 400 million years ago and 240 million years ago. But, generally, the temperatures are around 28. Today, the temperature is 25. Equatorial temperatures don’t change much over time, polar temperatures change a lot.
At the equator today, at 30 degrees, the average clear day solar radiation striking the ocean at mid-day is the same as the amount carried away by evaporation as latent heat in the newly created water vapor. The temperature at which deep convection starts (thunderstorms) is about 28-29 degrees. These storms carry huge amounts of thermal energy high into the atmosphere where the energy can be radiated away into space, then the cooler air dives down to the surface to cool it. At higher latitudes thunderstorms can occur at lower temperatures since there is less solar energy striking the surface.
As the power of the Sun changes, these temperatures change over time, but today the effective limit is about 30 degrees. Close to land this can be higher, since land can get warmer than that and drains it’s heat into the ocean and it can do this faster than evaporation can occur. The same applies in the local summer in seas (like the Caribbean and the Red Sea), but these are temporary local phenomena and we are talking climate here. Reference (Sud, Walker and Lau, Geophysical Research Letters, vol 26 #8, page 1019) and Newell and Dopplick, 1978 cited in the post.

• Ben Wouters says:

@Andy May July 24, 2018 12:39 pm

Your reference refers to sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) in the PreCambrian. This was a very different world and Sun.

The referenced article is about rock formation on the ocean floor, being an indication for the deep ocean temperatures. Given the Faint Young Sun (70% of current output?) imo the only explanation for those very high ocean temperatures can be geothermal energy. Since that time the temperature of the deep oceans must have been a balance between warming at the ocean floor (geothermal flux and magma erupting) and cooling at (very) high latitudes.
Realize that water warmed at the ocean floor can’t reach or conduct to the surface where the sun maintains a (much) warmer surface layer.

Cretaceous SST’s :

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Maria_Rose_Petrizzo/publication/263205991/figure/fig2/AS:300153429872658@1448573562468/Comparison-of-key-Late-Cretaceous-bottom-water-and-sea-surface-temperature-records.png

I’m trying to convey the idea that deep ocean heat content comes solely from geothermal energy.
Solar directly warms the upper 5-10 meters, and by conduction and mixing the upper 200-300m. All that energy leaves again at the surface during surface cooling in autumn and winter.

Once we accept that the deep oceans heat content is governed by geothermal, it is possible to explain how the sun can increase the temperature of the surface layer to the observed values. Atmosphere only reduces energy loss to space, NO surface warming as eg Lacis et al claim.

• Andy May says:

Thanks for the article Ben, I also found another Tex86 reconstruction with similar results. O’Brien, et al., 2017, Earth-Science Reviews. Generally the Cretaceous was warm, it was a hot-house period. There were no ice sheets on the poles then and the pole to equator gradient was low. If the Sun was hotter then, areas close to land in the low latitudes could have gotten up to 36 degrees. Today, in the summer, areas close to land get to 34, so with a hotter Sun I can see it. It is unlikely any areas in the open ocean got that hot. Also, remember that Tex86 is a new technique and not very accurate. Further, the values they are reporting are outside the Tex86 calibration dataset and extrapolated. In fact the authors in O’Brien, et al. (2017) admit that the Cretaceous SST highest values vary from 18.8 to 44.5 degrees depending upon which calibration method they choose because a significant portion of the data exceed the highest Tex86 value in the calibration datasets. All we can really say is the high values reported are possible.

• Ben Wouters says:

Andy May July 25, 2018 4:16 am
Andy, first thanks for the reference to the Scotese article. Very relevant to my ideas. Do you know whether the section II has been written or is available? Couldn’t find it.

Generally the Cretaceous was warm, it was a hot-house period. There were no ice sheets on the poles then and the pole to equator gradient was low. If the Sun was hotter then, areas close to land in the low latitudes could have gotten up to 36 degrees.

The sun is supposed to have an increasing output since it started up. I understand ~10% more output every 1 billion years. So in the Cretaceous the output would have been ~1% lower than today.
To me the reason for the hot climate then are some large under sea magma eruptions, totaling > 130 x 10^6 km^3 magma in the period before the peak temperature around 90 mya.
(1 x 10^6 km^3 magma carries enough energy to warm ALL ocean water 1K)
Benthic foraminiforal reconstructions show ocean floor temperatures ~10K-20K higher than today, to me the most plausible explanation for the high temperatures AND the low equator > pole gradient.
see https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2011JC007255
especially figure 9.

• Wim Röst says:

Tex86 is a very unreliable proxy. You can produce any wanted temperature (warming) using a proxy like Tex86 – which is not corresponding with a warm sea like the Red Sea.

• Ben Wouters says:

@Andy May July 24, 2018 12:39 pm

At the equator today, at 30 degrees, the average clear day solar radiation striking the ocean at mid-day is the same as the amount carried away by evaporation as latent heat in the newly created water vapor.

With some wind and wave action the SST’s are close to constant over a 24 hr period.
see eg https://www.terrapub.co.jp/journals/JO/pdf/6305/63050721.pdf
Most solar warming of the oceans is below the surface.

The temperature at which deep convection starts (thunderstorms) is about 28-29 degrees. These storms carry huge amounts of thermal energy high into the atmosphere where the energy can be radiated away into space, then the cooler air dives down to the surface to cool it. At higher latitudes thunderstorms can occur at lower temperatures since there is less solar energy striking the surface.

Thunderstorms can start at (almost) any temperature. The deciding factor is the temperature profile of the atmosphere (CAPE) and the amount of latent heat the air contains. With high surface temperatures the air above it CAN contain more water vapor, so if that air rises condensation can maintain the ascent to higher altitudes.
But in eg the high pressure areas in the subtropics convection has little chance of developing or reaching considerable altitudes.

• Andy May says:

Ben, Thanks for the article. But, it shows that diurnal SST variation is larger than previously thought and can reach 5 degrees. I think in excess of 2 degrees is common. More info on Tex86, it has an error of at least 2.5 degrees. Degradation of Tex86 with time can also cause errors of up to 6 degrees. I agree with most of what you say about thunderstorms, I see no contradiction with the quote you included from my previous comment. In high pressure areas, thunderstorms do not reach as high an altitude as in lower pressure areas for sure, but in low pressure areas thunderstorms in the sub-tropics and higher latitudes do reach very high altitudes (the tropopause) on occasion.

• Ben Wouters says:

Andy May July 25, 2018 4:45 am

it shows that diurnal SST variation is larger than previously thought and can reach 5 degrees. I think in excess of 2 degrees is common.

I read the article differently. The diurnal SST variations were considered negligible (0,1 -0,6K)
Satelite observations showed that in exceptional situations (little wind or waves) higher values are possible, when the thin skin layer warms without mixing to deeper waters. Then the 5k value can occur.

I reacted on your 28-29C number for deep convection to occur.
This is more like the temperature required for hurricanes to develop.

37. Stephen Harris says:

Your discussion about greenhouse gas effects is not valid.

There are only 3 ways that a body (the earth) can lose heat: conduction, convection, and radiation. Let’s consider each one. (Your discussion of evaporation, turbulence, etc. is not relevant here, since they do not remove heat from the earth.)

Conduction. Can the earth lose heat by conduction to outer space? No. Conduction would require molecules from the earth transferring energy via collision to the molecules in outer space. Since there are (practically) no molecules in outer space, there can be no conductive cooling of the earth.

Convection. Can the earth lose heat by convection? No. Convection would mean that warm earth molecules are “blown away,” just as heat is convected away from hot soup when you blow on it, by removing the hot air/soup molecules from the vicinity of your spoon. But there is no wind that blows earth molecules away into outer space, so there can be no convective cooling of the earth.

Radiation. Can the earth lose heat by radiation? Yes. The earth emits mainly between 8 and 30 microns in the IR. Water and some other molecules absorb practically all the emission above 14 microns. So the only way for the earth to lose heat is by radiating in the window from around 8-14 microns, which happens to be right where CO2 absorbs. (Ozone absorbs at 9 microns)

Now, at equilibrium, the earth is losing heat at the same rate as it is gaining heat, so we have a balance between heating by radiation from the sun and cooling by radiation, mainly between 8 and 14 microns.

In order to demonstrate that your analysis is not correct, consider the following hypothetical extreme example. Suppose that we put into the air a component (“greenhouse gas”) that absorbs all of the radiation from the earth. What will the temperature of the earth be at equilibrium? Well, if all radiation is absorbed, then the rate of heat loss is zero, and if the earth is receiving a kilowatt/m2 of solar energy, the earth never gets to equilibrium –it just keeps getting hotter and hotter. If our hypothetical greenhouse gas blocks only IR radiation, then the temperature of the earth will rise until visible light is emitted, so the earth would be able to cool that way. Unfortunately, in order for the earth to start emitting significant amounts of visible light it would have to be red hot, say, 700 degrees C.

• Wim Röst says:

Stephen Harris July 29, 2018 10:27 pm, it is not clear to whom you are referring to. And to which comment.

It is clear that the Earth loses its energy in the way it receives energy: by radiation. The key question is: where (where at the surface or where exactly in the atmosphere) does the Earth emit effectively to space?

And what are the exact circumstances needed for effective emission? Are there other ‘effective emission’ prohibiting factors than the density of absorbing molecules between the emitting molecule and space?