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 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


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.


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“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..


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.


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


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.


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.


joelobryan :
WOW !!! 31 to 33 C !!
Sounds pretty good to me ! Just remove the sharks and irukandji first though !


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!


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

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

Stephen Skinner

“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.


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

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

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.


“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

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


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.


“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.


“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?


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

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.


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.


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

Alan Tomalty

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

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.

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.


Just a couple of items to note —
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.]


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

Based on radon-222
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

UN-IPCC estimation __________<100 years!

ted getzel

Typo alert—a gigaton equals a billion tons not trillion

Alan Tomalty

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

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

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.

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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.

Wim Röst

About the stratosphere: using nasa data for 25 Mb and plotting the full years 2003, 2004 and 2016, 2017, the last years are cooler by more than a half degree C:

Tom Dayton

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

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.

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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.

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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

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.

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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?

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Roger Taguchi

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 . 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.


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.


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.



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

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.


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

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.



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.


Michael Hammer

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.


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


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

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


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.


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.


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

“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.


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

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.


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

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

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’.


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

CO2 retards

Everybody knows one.


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.

Walter Sobchak

“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.


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

Walter Sobchak

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.


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


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

Walter Sobchak

2*22.5°=45° COS 45°= 0.70710678118


‘“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.


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?

……. or simply look at what the Earth’s magnetic field is doing, only good for 9 years ahead (else tea leaves or chicken bones)

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

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.

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.


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


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


If you are a liberal….Yes !

Wiliam Haas

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.


They are very small chances of the formation of a hurricane in the Atlantic.
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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.


South Eastern Pacific is cool. Regards.
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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%.

Alan Tomalty

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.

“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

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.


“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.


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.


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?

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?

“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):

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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.


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

Tom Dayton

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

+42 for “biglify”.

Wim Röst

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?

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


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.“

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.

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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.

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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

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

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

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)

“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.

Michael Moon

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.



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.


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.


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

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

Tom Abbott

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

Because that’s not true.

Tim Groves

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?


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 .


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

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

Tom Abbott

“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.


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

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!!!


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.


Clough et al did this over 20 years ago.

Tom Dayton

Alastair Brickell: Science of Doom has a short explanation but it is technical. Tom Curtis wrote a less technical explanation. There are tons of other explanations, for example in basic climatology textbooks such as Schmittner’s free online textbook.

Harry Twinotter

“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.

Bill Treuren

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.


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.


A dry winter in Australia.
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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.


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.

Wim Röst

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

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

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.


I do not know of such data.

thanks . I wish there was some.


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


The reponse time of the surface layer of the ocean is about one year.
In this WFT plot the two peaks are from the 1973 and 1998 El Niños.


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

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


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.

glen martin

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

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.

Clay Sanborn

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.

Glenn Morton

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.


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.

R Hall

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


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.


“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.


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.


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.


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.


Yup. So it appears.

Harry Twinotter

“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!

The data show a strong relationship between atmosCO2 conc and surface temp and also between cumulative emissions and surface temp. (if you don’t object to spurious correlations)
Please see

Kristi Silber

(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. ( 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.


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.


Compare the pressure of carbon dioxide in the air and the human body.
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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.

Michael Moon

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.

Read a book.

Michael Moon

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

I got an A- in college physics.

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.

Crispin in Waterloo

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.


During the winter at high latitudes, stratospheric polar vortex acts to which man has no influence.
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In fact, the winter polar vortex develops between the mesosphere and the stratosphere.
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It seems that the temperature above the 80th parallel has reached its maximum this year.
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El Niño does not develop.
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I think that could be correct.


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.


“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.

Phil Salmon

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:

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.


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.


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.

Alan Tomalty

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.

“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.

Joz Jonlin

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

Ad Joz Jonlin:
Just modeling, but still interesting. Reminded me to the graph of Gymnosperm above:

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.


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

“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.

Harry Twinotter

“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.


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

Harry Twinotter

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

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.”

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.


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.


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

“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.


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.

Tom Dayton
Harry Twinotter

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


Good job, Andy. I enjoyed reading it.

Matty Oh

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

Johann Wundersamer
Colder is Colder

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.

Ben Wouters

@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.
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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)

Exactly Ben.

Ben Wouters

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

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