WUWT Contest Runner Up, Professional: NASA Knew Better #NASA_Knew

Is there really a climate crisis? NASA Knew Better #NASA_Knew

David Dibbell

Looking toward space from the surface, the radiative warming effect of the atmosphere is a real thing in the static sense of absorption and emission of longwave energy by greenhouse gases (GHGs).  But the atmosphere is not static.  It is also the working fluid of its own dynamic heat engine operation, putting mass and stored energy into motion.

Consider that the attribution of warming on land and in the oceans to increasing concentrations of non-condensing GHGs could have arisen from too much emphasis on the static concept and too little on the observed dynamics.  Must we expect heat energy to accumulate down here to harmful effect by what non-condensing GHGs do?  That is how the problem statement is best framed. 

To address this question, I refer to “Climate and Earth’s Energy Budget,” an article published January 14, 2009 on NASA’s EarthObservatory website.  It is worth reading, to understand that both the static and dynamic aspects of the climate system are addressed.  It is still available here:  https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/EnergyBalance

NASA expressed the static sense in the final paragraphs of that article, concluding with this:  “However, as long as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, the amount of absorbed solar energy will continue to exceed the amount of thermal infrared energy that can escape to space. The energy imbalance will continue to grow, and surface temperatures will continue to rise.” 

But the dynamic nature of mass and energy flow had already been covered in earlier sections of the article about how the atmosphere and ocean work.  Key quotes:

“The net heating imbalance between the equator and poles drives an atmospheric and oceanic circulation that climate scientists describe as a ‘heat engine.’”

So NASA understood this strong heat engine response, aside from the question of rising GHG concentrations.  The global-scale circulation patterns in the atmosphere are the result.

“This coupled atmosphere and ocean circulation is known as Earth’s heat engine.

The climate’s heat engine must not only redistribute solar heat from the equator toward the poles, but also from the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere back to space.”

So NASA also knew that the localized motions of the atmosphere are responses to absorbed energy and the resulting temperature differences.  Heat engines run because there is a heat source, a heat sink, and a working fluid.  Consider convective weather in this context, with its powerful updrafts to high altitudes.

“Satellite measurements indicate that the atmosphere radiates thermal infrared energy equivalent to 59 percent of the incoming solar energy.”

The total thermal radiation had already been given as 71 percent of incoming solar energy. So NASA knew that, by far, most of the longwave energy emitted to space is from the atmosphere itself.  This means that analysis of rising GHG concentrations must consider what happens to the effectiveness of the working fluid as an emitter, and to the circulation rate.  What happens to the effectiveness of surface emission directly to space through the “atmospheric window” would be less of a factor.

“At an altitude of roughly 5-6 kilometers, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the overlying atmosphere is so small that heat can radiate freely to space.”

So NASA knew that the “greenhouse effect” diminishes with altitude to the point that “heat can radiate freely to space.”  This implies that circulation from the bottom half of the atmosphere to the top half matters greatly to the disposition of absorbed energy.  5-6 km is about at the 500 mb level, so about half the mass is below this altitude; global circulations reach much higher than that, and localized convective weather can top out at 15 km or more. The same non-condensing GHG molecules that absorb and emit looking down, also emit upward through the diminishing overlying mass of the atmosphere as altitude increases.

“The amount of heat a surface radiates is proportional to the fourth power of its temperature. If temperature doubles, radiated energy increases by a factor of 16 (2 to the 4th power). If the temperature of the Earth rises, the planet rapidly emits an increasing amount of heat to space. This large increase in heat loss in response to a relatively smaller increase in temperature—referred to as radiative cooling—is the primary mechanism that prevents runaway heating on Earth.”

So NASA knew better than to expect runaway climate conditions, based on the 4th power relationship of radiated energy to temperature.  It is worth noting that the Earth is obviously not actually a single emitter.  The figures in the article show a wide range of averaged radiative outputs over the surface of the planet.  Hold that thought.

What else did NASA know?  There are several references in the article to the CERES satellite measurements of outgoing longwave emission and shortwave reflection. (Note: this essay does not discuss the validity of using CERES data to estimate an overall planetary heat balance.  That is a separate issue.)

In Figure 1,  the observed TOA (top-of-atmosphere) outgoing longwave hourly values (in W/m^2) are plotted for all of 2008 for a mid-latitude 1 degree x 1 degree gridpoint near where I live.  In Figure 2, the shortwave reflection is plotted for the same gridpoint.  The shape of such plots varies from the tropics to the poles, but the point is the same: NASA knew that from space, each gridpoint is observed to perform as a highly active emitter/reflector.  The variable output is not what one would expect from a passive radiative insulating layer.  And if powered rather than passive, then it is the heat engine operation that must be driving this highly variable performance.  Cloud variation, no doubt, resulting from the motion of the atmosphere, promotes this effect in respect to both longwave emission and shortwave reflection. 

Figure 1.  CERES hourly Syn1deg TOA observed longwave emission, W/m^2, for 73.5W 42.5N for all of 2008. 

Figure 2.  CERES hourly Syn1deg TOA observed shortwave reflection, W/m^2, for 73.5W 42.5N for all of 2008. 

(The data plotted in figures 1 and 2 originates from this web portal, where the relevant citation statements are available: https://ceres.larc.nasa.gov/data/#synoptic-toa-and-surface-fluxes-and-clouds-syn )


These plots illustrate that NASA knew that the planet, as observed from space, appears as a huge array of powered, highly variable emitter/reflector elements.  They knew that the outgoing longwave energy from every location at every time interval originates from 4th-power radiative emission, mostly from the atmosphere itself.  This is consistent with the heat engine nature of the atmosphere’s motion and the importance of altitude described in the article. 

Still, NASA ended the article with emphasis on the static sense of what to expect: “The energy imbalance will continue to grow, and surface temperatures will continue to rise.”  Why?  Maybe this was to deflect potential objections, considering the obvious implications of the heat engine concept.  Even so, the article presented the dynamic sense of the atmosphere’s operation for future readers to consider, and avoided the language of crisis or danger.

So do increased concentrations of non-condensing GHGs end up inhibiting the variable emission of longwave radiation to space?  The actively powered emitter that matters most is at altitude, not at the surface, and altitude is not fixed.  The heat engine motion of the working fluid supplies the energy from below.  Down lower, the working fluid experiences an incrementally stronger radiative coupling of the atmosphere to the surface.  This energy – the static GHG “forcing” – cannot be accumulated at the surface.  It is much too easily transferred to the working fluid of the heat engine, to circulate to whatever altitude is needed.  The mass flow rates will be whatever is required as the working fluid responds to the input of solar energy in real time and to its own stored energy.  Just enough heat energy ends up being emitted back to space as longwave radiation, and just enough cloud activity reflects incoming sunlight to manage the energy input.  Taken together, it is highly self-regulating as a dynamic response to surface temperatures.


Are we in a warming crisis due to non-condensing GHGs?  The evidence of how the atmosphere works does not support such a claim.  The minor incremental static warming effect from slowly increasing concentrations of GHGs is readily overwhelmed by the performance of the heat engine.  The highly variable longwave emitter output and the active shortwave reflector performance observed from space provide direct evidence.  At the time this article was written, NASA knew better than to use the language of crisis or catastrophe.  They also knew that the static concept of GHG forcing/imbalance/rising surface temperatures would be misleading without the further explanation of the atmosphere and ocean circulations as dynamic responses to temperature differences.

David Dibbell


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May 16, 2022 6:30 am

In short, in terms of surface warming, convection dominates radiation.
This is true in almost all heat transfer systems.

Reply to  Fraizer
May 16, 2022 8:16 am

One of these days sommeone will discover that conduction also plays a part (minor/major) in atmospheric energy transfers. Just not today,I guess.

Reply to  CoRev
May 16, 2022 8:46 am

It’s not very correct to say convection + conduction. “Conduction” is encompassed by convection. It’s generally best to think of processes of conduction; diffusion; and momentum as being described within the more encompassing term convection. I prefer ‘turbulent flux’ to provide a more meaningful description of the mechanisms, especially by eddy diffusion at various scales.

Reply to  JCM
May 16, 2022 9:29 am


In most physical systems convective heat transfer will dominate.

Ultimately the atmosphere radiates to space, but within the atmosphere (which is what matters for surface temperatures) convection dominates, especially when you consider the effects of latent heat being transferred from the surface (or lower troposphere) to much higher elevations where it gets converted to sensible heat.

Reply to  Fraizer
May 16, 2022 9:32 am

Yes I am in agreement.

May 16, 2022 7:05 am

5-6 km is about at the 500 mb level, so about half the mass is below this altitude;
Exactly. I’ve pointed out many times that the GHG effect is simply a result of the lapse rate and atmospheric circulation.

6.5 C/km x 5 km = 32.5 C = 33C GHG effect.

And the lapse rate formula does not contain CO2. It is due to gravity and condensation of water. The work required to overcome gravity remains almost constant with increasing CO2 because in absolute terms the change in CO2 is miniscule.

Reply to  ferdberple
May 16, 2022 1:40 pm

Since the specific energy of CO2 is slightly greater than the normal air mixture…

…the lapse rate would theoretically increase by a very tiny immeasurable amount as more CO2 is added.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  b.nice
May 18, 2022 5:00 am

All other things held equal, which they are not. Always neglected, forgotten or ‘conveniently’ ignored, depending on who is making a claim for a CO2 ” effect.”

Reply to  ferdberple
May 16, 2022 2:02 pm

Fred says:”And the lapse rate formula does not contain CO2.”

Not true strictly speaking. Lapse rate of dry air is – g / Cp. The Cp of air is calculated via the Shomate equation which does contain the Cp and % of CO2. That is why given the change in % of CO2 in the air it is really necessary to know the updated Cp of dry air.

The condensation of water is added to the Cp of dry air.

Also given the increased mass of air because of swapping oxygen for CO2 there must be an increase in the atmospheric pressure. It may be slight but it must exist.

I do however fully agree with your minuscule description. IR plays no role says the Cp of dry air and CO2.

May 16, 2022 7:15 am

Many have rejected atmospheric warming due to compression as a source of warming. This is quite different than lapse rate warming due to circulation.

In effect the rotating atmosphere in a gravitational well is similar in action to an air-conditioner or refrigerator.

The high pressure side of the system is warm and the low pressure side is cold in relative terms. Exactly as observed in our atmosphere.

May 16, 2022 7:33 am

Without circulation the atmosphere would be isothermal. Otherwise, the temperature difference would give rise to circulation.

Without circulation the temperature of the atmosphere everywhere would be the temperature currently observed at 500mb altitude, the half mass of the atmosphere. 33C cooler than currently observed at the surface.

This is because the energy of the 33C GHG surface warming would have to average out with the cooling above 500mb to provide isothermal temperature. The 33C GHG effect must dissapear without circulation.or energy is being created out of nothing.

May 16, 2022 7:46 am

The latest proof that NASA has lost its way is that the top article on 5/16/2022 on the NASA’s James Web Space Telescope page (https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/webb/main/index.html) is “NASA Goddard Astrophysicist Awarded 2022 LGBTQ+ Scientist of the Year”

Reply to  RicDre
May 16, 2022 9:17 am

NASA did not make this award. The winners were initiated by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Professionals (NOGLSTP), which officially transitioned to Out to Innovate in 2021. NASA only reported the award.

The question then becomes why scientists who identify as LGBTQ+ need to form and join groups that issue awards to its members based only on their sexual orientation. I do not remember any awards being issued to straight scientists of the year because of their sexual orientation..

Reply to  Doonman
May 16, 2022 9:33 am

The question then becomes why put this on the James Web Space Telescope page which should be devoted to the James Web Space Telescope science. If they must post the article, the Latest NASA News Releases would be more a more appropriate place.

Reply to  RicDre
May 17, 2022 12:30 pm

“why put this on the James Web Space Telescope page”

Because they’re jerks?

Reply to  RicDre
May 16, 2022 9:30 am

I anxiously await award of the Male, White, Catholic, Baptist, Short, Overweight, Black ….. scientist of the year awards. The variations in the descriptors of our population is so large that I expect everybody could get one. Just think of the equity!

Rod Evans
Reply to  RicDre
May 16, 2022 9:50 am

Well someone was bound to be awarded such a brilliant prize so why not NASA?
I am increasingly worried about the politicisation of all things globally.
WE hear now the UN ‘s WHO is to be given absolute power to determine the international actions that will be mandated in a pandemic that all nations globally must conform with..
Now that is very troubling given the hopeless nature of the WHO. To give them the authority to universally get things wrong is very troubling indeed.
Maybe they are up for the LGBTQ+ best performer next year….? Where do I vote?

michael hart
May 16, 2022 9:08 am

“The variable output is not what one would expect from a passive radiative insulating layer.”

The standout sentence, for me.

David Dibbell
Reply to  michael hart
May 16, 2022 11:38 am

Thank you for picking up on that.

H. D. Hoese
May 16, 2022 9:10 am

‘So NASA knew that the “greenhouse effect” diminishes with altitude to the point that “heat can radiate freely to space.”’ 

Good, short to the point article. I appreciate WUWT because of the diversity of articles, some which give it away with their language regardless of the physical irregularities. I read very similar approaches in the verbose ocean papers that I read many more of and understand better. These include ocean ecosystems, acidification, hypoxia/anoxia, overfishing, among a few others. There are still plenty of good papers, but even the better ones too often fall prey to the repetitious, almost ‘boilerplate’ fads in process. Despite (because of?) the increasing of many authors this may be another symptom of our current “information” system

David Dibbell
Reply to  H. D. Hoese
May 16, 2022 11:39 am

Thank you for the kind words. “Short” because WUWT said 1500 words max. 🙂

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  David Dibbell
May 16, 2022 4:08 pm

A very excellent essay. Sometimes the restrictions of circumstance force our most creative efforts. Long ago, I did lighting design at a small community theater. The equipment limitations forced me to find solutions I would never have considered with access to more sophisticated apparatus. When the theater upgraded its lighting grid and equipment, solutions were much more boiler plate, and paradoxically, less fun. Exterior limitations are not always a curse.

David Dibbell
Reply to  D. J. Hawkins
May 16, 2022 5:34 pm

Agreed. And thank you.

May 16, 2022 9:11 am

Excellent. A very clear way of making the point that we have two distinct things, one being the heating caused by increased CO2 ppm, the other being the way that the machine behaves in response to that heating.

Its like we put two gallons of gas in a car. How far will it go? There are two different things, the amount of energy we have fuelled it with, and the design and fuel efficiency of the vehicle itself.

The interesting question for humanity is how the system works, not how much heating is carried by the additional CO2.

David Dibbell
Reply to  michel
May 16, 2022 11:40 am

Thank you for your supportive reply.

May 16, 2022 9:22 am

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration knew all this stuff? Why is it not the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that knew all that stuff? NOAA is the outfit that is supposed to study the ocean, where most of the earth’s climate heat is picked up,stored and released, and study the atmosphere where transfer or reflection of heat to space is done. Why are we paying two outfits to do the work of one? Why is NASA involved at all? Should they not work on aeronautics and space, leaving the oceans and atmosphere to the other guy?

Reply to  DHR
May 16, 2022 10:24 am

NASA likes to view planetary systems with remote sensing instruments or telescopes that measure radiative fluxes and spectral properties. So, they define the problem definition by what they know using their astrophysicists and optical radiation physicists. For this reason, due to their bias from training, they have grossly mischaracterized the nature of minor changes to flux properties that are in the order of 1 W m-2, least of which is due to a LW radiative forcing. Radiation physicists exhibit a problem of ego, perhaps by viewing themselves as disciples of Einstein. They are completely fixated on their radiation viewpoint, unable to recognize enormous blind spots. It appears to be inconceivable to them that they have erred.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  DHR
May 16, 2022 10:49 am

The problem NASA has is called mission creep. They play in the sand boxes of their choosing instead of what their presidential charter says. They are bright scientists, so they are able to articulate their rationalizations. Space weather is in their domain, Earth weather is not. NASA needs to be reined in.

Reply to  DHR
May 16, 2022 11:34 am

Congress funds NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth.

May 16, 2022 9:27 am

When you boil it all down, and work out all the energy partitioning and dependencies, you arrive at the simple conclusion that there is only one degree of freedom in the system; solar input ↓ to turbulent flux ↑ (when holding pressure constant). There is a lot to unpack there, but it is becoming quite apparent that the exclusive focus on LW radiation factors has been an egregious error, and the least bit relevant.

Alexander Vissers
May 16, 2022 10:33 am

Stiil ocean heat content is growing steadily. Radiative imbalance averages 0.50 +/- 0.43 Watts per m2.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Alexander Vissers
May 16, 2022 10:53 am

In other words, the uncertainty is nearly equal to the estimate. That shouldn’t instill a lot of confidence in the claim. What if your bank said your monthly checking balance was $500 +/- $430? Would you consider that good accounting?

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
May 18, 2022 3:42 pm

I this case its more like 500 plus or minus a thousand.

Reply to  Alexander Vissers
May 16, 2022 11:29 am

Radiative imbalance averages 0.50 +/- 0.43 Watts per m2

It is more precise to label it an energy imbalance. This way, one does not introduce a bias into their conceptualization of energy flux from surface to TOA.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  JCM
May 16, 2022 11:30 pm

Can you believe those uncertainty bounds?

David Dibbell
Reply to  Alexander Vissers
May 16, 2022 11:46 am

Still ocean heat content is growing steadily.”

Assuming OHC is indeed rising, attribution to increasing concentration of GHGs is unsound, as I see it.

Alexander Vissers
Reply to  David Dibbell
May 16, 2022 1:33 pm

No it just tells us that the planet is retaining solar energy.

Peta of Newark
May 16, 2022 10:44 am

I give you: Eggborough Power Station (what’s left of it)

Lets visit the old place and mangle a few decimal places…

Electrical Power Output = 2GW
Assume 35% efficiency..
Thus 2GW is going up the flue pipe and another 2GW is going up the 8 cooling towers

BBC tells us how tall they are/were but we need to know the diameter at the top, we need the Energy Flux that creates those gentle little white clouds that always hang over tops of cooling towers. Similar to little white clouds that happen up in the sky.

I used the measuring tool at Gogole Maps and got 50 metres diameter
Thus an area of 1964 square metres dissipating one eighth of 2GW

I get that to be 127 kWatts per square metre of convecting heat flow.

Cooling towers generally operate at 30 Celsius, water has an emissivity of unity so we get that the water in those little white clouds is radiating 478 Watts per square metre

i.e. 127,000 vs 478
And who wants to tell me that ‘radiation’ and not convection controls weather?

Do we see NASA move the goalposts (lie) here? Twice.
Quote:“However, as long as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, the amount of absorbed solar energy will continue to exceed the amount of thermal infrared energy that can escape to space.

They, to my mind, give themselves away..

  • Continue to rise – does that mean if the GHGs stop rising, things will ‘return’ to normal – that only rising GHGs have the effect and level concentrations mean things return to normal?
  • Absorbed solar radiation – Erm, are they talking about the atmosphere here or the surface. Presumably in a statement about gas concentrations, they are alluding to solar radiation being trapped by the atmosphere.

And yes it is, it is The Working principle of their very own OCO Sputnik – that CO2 intercepts solar radiation at temps of 400 and 800 Celsius.
As it is The Atmosphere that is seen to be warming, does that not explain it?
i.e. The extra CO2 is directly warming the air by catching more solar energy, not via the contrived notion of trapped heat and re-radiated in all directions.

Wait a minute, does that not explain why the atmosphere is the temp it is without extra CO2,- in fact – why is it so damn near impossible to get beyond the statement that the ‘atmosphere is transparent to solar
What if it isn’t. All those Lo-res hedgehog graphics of ‘Absorption’ are hiding something aren’t they?

So what, how do you stop it being ‘all directions’?
What is important in this thing is where it is absorbed and has a heating effect and Lapse Rate says it can not be absorbed at lower altitude than where it was ‘re-emitted’
There is no ‘net flow’ – only upward and ever outward.

Old Man Winter
May 16, 2022 11:30 am

Excellent essay! In a couple of pages, you clearly explained why there is no warming crisis due to
non-condensing GHGs. You also exposed the fraud at NASA- they knew- & yet they continued with
the lies. I’d rather have someone like you running it than the jerks who are now. Thanks again for a
well written paper

David Dibbell
Reply to  Old Man Winter
May 16, 2022 11:41 am

I appreciate your kind words.

Schrodinger's Cat
May 16, 2022 11:40 am

Excellent post and one to add to the list of arguments against the alarmist case.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Schrodinger's Cat
May 16, 2022 11:58 am

Thank you for saying so.

May 16, 2022 11:54 am

That NASA article is an accumulation of sheer incompetence.

Because greenhouse gas molecules radiate heat in all directions, some of it spreads downward and ultimately comes back into contact with the Earth’s surface, where it is absorbed. The temperature of the surface becomes warmer than it would be if it were heated only by direct solar heating. This supplemental heating of the Earth’s surface by the atmosphere is the natural greenhouse effect.

This is called the “backradiation fallacy” and is very common among wannabe scientists. By now at least the IPCC has corrected this mistake..

AR4: Much of this thermal radiation emitted by the land and ocean is absorbed by the atmosphere, including clouds, and reradiated back to Earth. This is called the greenhouse effect

AR5: These substances emit infra-red radiation in all directions, but, everything else being equal, the net amount emitted to space is normally less than would have been emitted in the absence of these absorbers because of the decline of temperature with altitude in the troposphere and the consequent weakening of emission

They were a little late to learn though, given the “science is settled” 😉

Reply to  E. Schaffer
May 17, 2022 10:05 pm


There is no such “backradiation fallacy” … except in your head. Back radiation is real and measurable. And has been measured, routinely. Pretending that something that has actually been measured “doesn’t actually exist” is the height of pure nonsense.

Whoever sold you on this completely ridiculous “back radiation fallacy” fantasy flat out lied to you. Some lying WUWT nutter, perhaps?

Moreover, the AR5 IPCC statement you quote does not “correct” the prior AR4 statement. The AR5 statement simply emphasizes the “going out” portion of emitted radiation, while the AR4 statement emphasized the “coming in” portion.

Reply to  MGC
May 25, 2022 8:34 am

I do not “deny” the existence of “back radiation”. Everything radiates – back and forth. I object the ill-fated belief it would cause a GHE. And this question is settled by the way..

The Dark Lord
May 16, 2022 1:22 pm

so GIGO then …

Alexander Vissers
May 16, 2022 1:51 pm

The convective radiative “heat engine” over all sections of the atmosphere is exactly what climate models try to model. I am not saying they are very good at it, Simplified presentations as in the NASA article are exactly that, simplified, and therefore wrong. And yes, an increase in non condensiing GHG will increase average surface temperature. The question is by how much, the answer is we do not know for sure but probably not very much. Therefore the conclusion is right, no convincing evidence for a crisis or catastrophe, only uncertainty.

Rud Istvan
Reply to  Alexander Vissers
May 16, 2022 2:37 pm

Yes. But they cannot.
The small grid scales necessary to try to do so are about 6-7 orders of magnitude computationally intractable thanks to the CFL constraint on numerical solutions to partial differential equations. This forces parameterization to best hindcast, which drags in the attribution problem, which is why climate models run hot. See previous guest posts ‘The trouble with climate models’ and ‘Why models run hot’ for specifics.

May 16, 2022 2:10 pm

Very nice. Thanks for an interesting article.

David Dibbell
Reply to  BobM
May 16, 2022 2:18 pm

Thank you, and you’re welcome.

Reply to  David Dibbell
May 17, 2022 3:31 pm

I like the hook, the hashtag #NASA_Knew. That’s far more accurate than the bogus #EXXON_Knew. Be nice if it could get some legs.

Gary Pearse
May 16, 2022 2:27 pm

David Dibbell, yours would be my choice of the best contest essay. It is the stake in the heart of Crisis Global Warming. I knew that #NASA knew, because if they didn’t then their lofty degrees should have been withdrawn. Your showing that they knew shows their subduing by wokism. Shame on them.

This interacting multiple component dampening effect restricting temperature rise is a perfect example of chemistry’s Le Châtelier Principle (LCP). LCP simply stated for its use in chemistry is

“When a system at equilibrium is subjected to a change in temperature, volume, concentration, or pressure, the system readjusts to partially counter the effect of the change, resulting in a new equilibrium.”

I thought I was the first to point out LCP’s direct applicability to Global Warming behavior (after all, Temperature, Volume, Concentration and Pressure are prime properties in an atmosphere and an ocean made of molecules!!). However, it was pointed out to me that I was beaten to the punch by Lubos Motl, a Czech physicist who had been a prof at Harvard for a number of years and is the operator of his own blog.

Woke critics argue that climate is not in “equilibrium” so LCP isn’t applicable! Logic dictates that a perturbation in the climate or any system will be reacted to anyway. It doesn’t have to wait until it’s in equilibrium. i.e. the equilibrium that climate is heading for at any time will be disrupted by a forcing change and it will head toward a different equilibrium, whether it reaches it or not.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Gary Pearse
May 16, 2022 2:44 pm

Thank you very much for your sentiments about my essay and the related concepts.

J Mac
May 16, 2022 3:09 pm

Well done, David Dibbell!

David Dibbell
Reply to  J Mac
May 16, 2022 3:18 pm

Thank you sir!

David Dibbell
May 16, 2022 3:25 pm

I would like to thank WUWT for posting this and for the idea of soliciting essays on this topic. I look forward very much to reading the essays of all the other entrants. I will also do my best to respond to any questions which are directed to me by using my name in your comment.

May 16, 2022 3:33 pm

I am so sick and tired of my government lying to me. It is past time for some major a$$ kicking. Lying and half truths are not acceptable, not when you are working for me, not on my dime.

A very fine report, thank you.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Bob
May 16, 2022 3:48 pm

Thank you and you’re welcome. Even as I write as courteously as possible and give the benefit of the doubt as to the core intentions of officials at the various agencies, it’s time to open the box and show what’s inside.

May 16, 2022 3:54 pm

An excellent article David Dibbell!
You articulate clearly and logically what many of us – certainly myself included – have tried less successfully to argue.

It’s a heat engine with moving parts. The warmist narrative by contrast never gets beyond photons. As if the universe was still in its light dominated epoch. Yes there was such an epoch, with photon energy so dense that matter could not condense. But that ended, and the universe became transparent to light, 3-500,000 years after the Big Bang. A long time ago. Now it’s matter that dominates.

Emergent thermal homeostasis. While you don’t use this phrase, your article sets the stage for it perfectly.

Calling out NASA’s dishonesty is creditable and overdue. This statement stands out as an impossible contradiction:

The energy imbalance will continue to grow, and surface temperatures will continue to rise.

Even in their own terms this is flat out contradictory. The whole point of the story is that global warming is what restores the energy balance. So they should have said “as energy imbalance starts to grow, the earth warms, restoring balance”. But no – that’s not scary enough – so instead they want to have their cake and eat it. So they invoke the nonsensical scenario of energy imbalance and earth warming both growing together.

They (NASA) seem to just make it up as they go along. And they do know it can’t be true.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Phil Salmon
May 16, 2022 4:05 pm

Thank you very much sir. I enjoyed looking at your posts recently, including the “sneak peek” in a comment on an open thread.

Barry James
Reply to  Phil Salmon
May 16, 2022 7:30 pm

It needs to be understood that the “NASA” that preaches climate catastrophe is not the government agency that put men on the Moon. It is the Goddard institute for Space Studies (GISS), a division of NASA whose control was given by President Carter to the world’s most notorious anti fossil fuel activist, James Hansen whose successor, Gavin Schmidt is even more radical. With the NASA name and massive budget behind him, Hansen canned its “Space Studies” function and repurposed it as a prolific propaganda machine based at Columbia University.

That’s where climate misinformation gets published in NASA’s name and taught in every educational institution in the world. That’s how the infamous but unsubstantiated “greenhouse effect”, and the demonization of CO2, for example, became “settled science”.

This is the key that has enabled Hansen’s Hoax to achieve complete domination of the minds of all those people, especially politicians, who do not understand science well enough to realise that they are being conned. Who is going to dispute the teaching of an iconic organisation like NASA? Don’t let them continue to get away with it. Wherever possible, refer to this mob as GISS, not NASA. Or even better, “The Climate Mafia”.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Barry James
May 17, 2022 4:08 am

I note the date of the article I referred to for this essay. It was a week before President Obama took office for his first term. I surmise that there were still some at NASA at that time who pushed to publicly describe the heat engine aspects of the climate system. Some may read the article and come away saying, “See, I told you so! Even with the heat engine concept, NASA concludes that temperatures must keep rising!” No. Like Phil Salmon above, I see this as a case where the content contradicts itself in concept, and perhaps those nuggets of accurate insight (i.e. those quoted statements about the heat engine, altitude, and fourth-power radiation) were placed there for us to eventually connect the dots. I would love to hear from retired NASA hands who might have something to say about this history.

Janice Moore
May 16, 2022 5:41 pm

Well done, Mr. Dibbell!

1) Powerfully persuasive using the testimony of (given their years of promoting the lie about human CO2 emissions) a “hostile witness” to refute their side’s assertions.

Condemned out of their own mouths. Ha!

2) What a lovely, gracious, author you are to so conscientiously respond (and so thoughtfully) to the comments and praise here. You are, so far, far and away the “winner” in that respect.

3) Given, the purpose of the essays was to persuade people that AGW is not a problem which needs addressing (at all), you have done magnificently.

SO glad to see your essay FINALLY (written 11/24/21…..) get published 😀

David Dibbell
Reply to  Janice Moore
May 16, 2022 5:49 pm

Thank you Janice Moore for your generous words. I did indeed see this more as a persuasion task than as a technical one. Definitely looking for a steady pulse of the remaining entries. 🙂

Pat Frank
May 16, 2022 6:18 pm

David your essay is clear and invaluable. You did an outstanding job of describing the dynamics of terrestrial heat transport. It really puts paid to CO2 alarm.

Can you provide a pdf of your essay?

If so, please include your name and your copyright.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Pat Frank
May 16, 2022 7:05 pm

Thank you Pat Frank for your kind words. It means a great deal to me. Here is a link to a pdf of this essay as submitted, with a statement added at the end. Free to distribute, copy, print the intact original pdf.


Pat Frank
Reply to  David Dibbell
May 16, 2022 9:10 pm

Thank-you David. You wrote an outstanding article. I’ve downloaded your pdf, as well as the two NASA pages. It will be a great reference.

I’d suggest sending it to Skeptic magazine. If Michael Shermer has any stomach for the controversy, he may publish it.

Geoff Sherrington
May 16, 2022 11:27 pm

From the beginning, I have blogged that far more has been written about the processes of thinks getting warmer than things getting colder, following the theme of global warming. Since the global system is at fairly constant temperature for as far back as we can measure, it is inescapable that heat in equals heat out, that the warming process is eventually overcome by a cooling process. Often I complained about too much emphasis on static and not enough on dynamic mechanisms. I have noted that it is fine to consider CO2 molecules getting hot by photon absorption, but what happens as they cool? Not knowing the answers in detail, I simply asked again and again for links to research, with little result.
David, Dibbell, I am therefore i agreement with the thrust of your essay. Thank you for it.
Here is another question., Convection requires energy to make molecules move. Question is, what is the magnitude of such energy, compared with the energy coming in from sunlight and reacting with CO2 molecules? In other words, can the heat obtained by CO2 photon capture be fully dissipated by the energy taken to circulate air and shift portions of it to altitudes where most emitted photons can go straight to space? Is the single factor of convection taking out enough energy to fully offset the heating by CO2 photon absorption?
Geoff S

David Dibbell
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
May 17, 2022 3:48 am

Goeff Sherrington, thank you very much for your comment.

Let me first jump to the conclusion about CO2 molecules and longwave emission in the band of wavelengths which gets so much attention about the “heat-trapping” effect. Please see this comment I entered on a recent post here at WUWT.


About the magnitude of energy transformations going on in the atmosphere, consider a one-inch-per-hour rate of rainfall in a thunderstorm. This represents a 17,600 W/m^2 conversion of the latent energy of water vapor to produce motion and to perform work on the atmosphere surrounding a convective cell. This is thousands of times more intense than the incremental static warming effect of, say, a doubling of CO2 concentration since preindustrial times.

One way to illustrate the power of energy transformations is to track the total energy state of the atmosphere over a location on the surface of the planet through time. The huge changes in short intervals are impressive. Please see this open thread comment from a few months ago.


I hope this helps. I still have a lot of research to do in this direction. Models can be good at something, and in this case the relatively fine-grid ERA5 reanalysis produces a very long list of values at hourly intervals for the bulk energy properties of the atmosphere.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
May 17, 2022 9:55 pm

Geoff says:

“I have noted that it is fine to consider CO2 molecules getting hot by photon absorption, but what happens as they cool? Not knowing the answers in detail, I simply asked again and again for links to research, with little result.”

Geoff, the mechanisms you are talking about here are very well known atmospheric physics. If you have supposedly had “little result” in finding answers to your questions, then I think you simply haven’t been trying.

What do you think happens when CO2 molecules “cool”?

Michael Hammer
May 17, 2022 4:51 am

Heat engines were first described and quantified by Carnot at the start of the 19th century. I would have thought by now the science would have become well known. The Hadley cell is a giant heat engine driving earths weather with the atmosphere as the circulating fluid. The hot junction is the equator- the hottest point in the cycle. The cold junction is the coldest point in the cycle at it is NOT 5-6 km altitude but rather the tropopause at 10-12 km altitude. The gas circulates between the hot junction and the cold junction. Note, the tropopause is the coldest point in the atmosphere completely surrounded by warmer regions. How does it stay cold? Clearly only by radiating energy to a still colder sink ie: space. If the cold junction was at 5-6 km the circulation would stop at that altitude. Only energy coupled into the working fluid contributes to the heat engine. Radiation directly from the surface to space is the equivalent of an uninsulated boiler. It plays no part in the heat engine . Further proof – the Nimbus plots show radiation to space with black body temperature overlays. Now a gas of sufficient optical thickness will always radiate as a black body and that is certainly the case for atmospheric GHG’s so the black body temperature is in effect the actual temperature of the emitting gas. For the CO2 wavelengths around 14.7 microns this is clearly the temperature of the tropopause. For H2O emission at longer wavelengths it may appear the emission temperature is higher (ie: lower altitude) but what must be considered is that at these wavelengths there are a huge number of very closely spaced lines like a picket fence. The IR spectrometer does not have the resolution to separate these so it gives a blurred result. With higher resolution one would see something closer to tropopause emission on the lines and surface emission between the lines.

Interesting point, without GHG’s there would be no cold junction and thus no heat engine and that means no weather at all. No rain, no wind, no clouds. The result would be a climate very close to that of the moon – over 100C every day during the day and far far below freezing at night. Also GHG’s do not raise Earths average temperature by 33C as claimed because without GHG’s there would be no clouds and thus greater insolation. In fact the net impact of GHG’s is to raise the average temperature (whatever that means) by about 9 C.

May 17, 2022 7:48 am

I have a question about your graphs. In both of your figures, you do not label the x axis. I am guessing it is data point number or something. Should this not be time of day or something that might vary regularly?

Other than that criticism, I really liked the logic.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Jim
May 17, 2022 10:25 am

Thank you. Each of the figures is simply an hourly time series plot along the x-axis. 2008 was a leap year, so there are 8784 hours in the series. The index number of the data point is what is shown. I was not making a point relating to the date or time of day, so there was no need to put anything more. I hope that helps.

Bill Everett
Reply to  David Dibbell
May 17, 2022 11:00 am

How does this relate to the Weather Service chart that shows the measured temperatures at altitude? That chart shows a standard 3.5 degree decrease in temperature for each thousand feet of altitude gained from the Earth’s surface. This is an indication that there is nothing noticeably effecting air temperature except distance from the Earth’s surface.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Bill Everett
May 17, 2022 11:33 am

It does not relate, so I have not made any point concerning temperature profiles in the atmosphere. The values in these two figures represent the energy being emitted to space as longwave radiation and the shortwave energy being reflected back to space. The point of these plots is to emphasize the rapid and large variations in both longwave emission and shortwave reflection. It is actively powered, not passive. This helps us see that the concept of the atmosphere as a static radiative insulating layer is incomplete and therefore misleading as to where to expect the absorbed solar energy to end up – will the incremental energy associated with static GHG “warming” be stored down here, or emitted back to space? The heat engine concept explains how it doesn’t make sense to expect this energy to accumulate down here to harmful effect, in the form of warming, from what GHGs do.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Bill Everett
May 17, 2022 12:36 pm

Replying again in case I misunderstood your question. In the sense of my whole essay, not just the plots, the heat engine motion of the atmosphere would indeed keep the standard temperature profile from differing much or any at all as GHG concentrations slowly rise.

Bill Everett
Reply to  David Dibbell
May 17, 2022 3:30 pm

I am in no position to question the validity of your paper. As a layman I am interested in having the public presented with information that gives them an easy-to-understand explanation why a CO2 level of one twenty-fourth of one percent of the atmosphere is not driving the Earth’s temperature or climate. Your paper seems to indicate that you would be capable of doing that.

David Dibbell
Reply to  Bill Everett
May 17, 2022 4:39 pm

I see. I appreciate that you think so. You can use this link to download a stand-alone pdf of my essay if you wish to share it with others.

I will think about your suggestion.

Reply to  Bill Everett
May 17, 2022 9:29 pm

Bill says:

“As a layman I am interested in having the public presented with information that gives them an easy-to-understand explanation why a CO2 level of one twenty-fourth of one percent of the atmosphere is not driving the Earth’s temperature or climate.”

Translation: I am interested in finding someone who can make up pseudo-scientific LIES, that sound like a convincing argument, that will fool a gullible, scientifically illiterate public.

Fact is, Bill, CO2 at these levels does drive changes in earth’s temperature and climate. Pretending otherwise is nothing but lying. Even your propaganda puppet master, Anthony Watts himself, admits this.

Bill Everett
Reply to  MGC
May 18, 2022 1:27 pm

The current CO2 level is microscopic. A six- foot- tall man reduced to the same fraction of size as the CO2 level would be slightly less than 1/32d of an inch tall. A microscope would be needed to determine what he was. If you think this level of CO2 is driving the Earth’s temperature and climate you need an overhaul of your sense of proportion. You, and others with similar views have constructed a tiny scientific World that fits the size of the tiny man I described.

Reply to  Bill Everett
May 18, 2022 2:21 pm

Here we go yet again with this tired old, long refuted “bu bu bu bu its too small to do anything” anti-science, anti-reality, lying denier canard.

Very small amounts of certain substances can have huge effects. For example: put .04% cyanide in your blood stream and then come back and report the results.

Oh never mind. You’d be dead.

“its too small to do anything” is nothing but ignorant and shameful stupidity.

And like I said before, Bill, even your propaganda puppet master, Anthony Watts himself, admits that the warming from the CO2 we’ve put into the air is real.

It’s time to stop living in a fairy tale world of denier delusions, Bill. It’s time to finally accept reality.

Bill Everett
Reply to  MGC
May 19, 2022 7:57 am

Nothing is more tired than these poison analogies. They are poor analogies since we are not talking about killing a human but rather warming a planet. Your failure to see this relates, once again, to your need for a sense of proportion overhaul. All the talk of forcings, flux and energy transfer regarding CO2 contain no apparent recognition of the minute size of the CO2 presence. No recognition that what they are saying is “a tempest in a teapot.” Face it, the CO2 presence in the atmosphere does not represent a heat blanket as much as it does a mosquito net.

Reply to  Bill Everett
May 19, 2022 11:16 am

re: “All the talk of forcings, flux and energy transfer regarding CO2 contain no apparent recognition of the minute size of the CO2 presence.”

Sorry, but still totally false. The energy transfer calculations fully recognize the size of the CO2 presence, and have done so from the very, very beginning, when these calculations were first done way back in the 19th century.

And again, as already stated multiple times now, even Anthony Watts himself admits that the warming effect of CO2 is real. Pretending otherwise remains every bit as silly as pretending that oxygen “doesn’t” support combustion.

May 17, 2022 11:30 pm

Sorry, but this is one of the more ridiculous spews of pseudo-scientific garbage I’ve seen on the topic of climate change. It is pure nonsense trying to masquerade as “science”.

Specifically, Dibbell claims that:

“The minor incremental static warming effect from slowly increasing concentrations of GHGs is readily overwhelmed by the performance of the heat engine”

Wrong. Totally, laughably wrong.

This claim has already been refuted by the very fact that we’ve already had a significant greenhouse warming trend. If Dibbell’s claim were really “true”, then this warming trend we’ve been in over the past many decades should never have happened in the first place! It should already have been “readily overwhelmed by the performance of the heat engine”.

But as we all know, it hasn’t. Dibbell’s entire “argument” therefore goes completely down in flames.

Specifically, Dibbell’s “argument” is wrong because he conflates dynamic convection processes, which move energy within the earth’s heat engine, with radiative processes, which are the only process by which energy is moved out of the earth’s heat engine and into space. Dynamic convection processes cannot move energy out of the earth’s heat engine and into space. Dibbell’s lack of understanding on this point seems to be his downfall.

One can’t also help but object to Dibbell’s writing style; using “what else did NASA know?” “what else did NASA know?” “what else did NASA know?” over and over and over again. It is just SO disingenuous.

Dibbell is trying to falsely imply to the reader (i.e. LIE) that NASA has been trying to “hide” things that they knew long ago, apparently in order to promote some kind of nefarious warming “agenda”. For example, Dibbell implies that NASA had been trying to “hide” the 4th power radiative emissions versus temperature law. Oh please. How could NASA ever be trying to “hide” what has been well known scientific fact for almost 150 years? Such ludicrous garbage.

But what is the most ridiculous thing here is WUWT actually publishing this ignorant clap trap and even giving it some kind of Runner Up “award”. And reader after ignorant WUWT reader blindly lapping up this nonsense hook, line, and sinker.

The only “award” this essay deserves is as a prime example of the shameful pseudo-scientific hand waving fairy tale nonsense that WUWT denier cultists are so blindly willing to believe.

David Dibbell
Reply to  MGC
May 18, 2022 3:03 am

MGC, Thank you for taking the time to read my essay and to compose a comment. We obviously disagree. I look forward to reading your own essay entry on the theme “Is there really a climate crisis?” as WUWT invited last year. Perhaps it will come around any day now. I also invite you to re-read my essay to comprehend that I credit NASA with maintaining the web access to the article from which I quoted. I have not leveled a charge of “lying” nor of hiding things. I simply “opened the box” and reasoned from what was understood at that time to what must obviously still be so now. Have a good day.

Reply to  David Dibbell
May 18, 2022 8:58 am

Dibbell says: “I have not leveled a charge of “lying” nor of hiding things”

Oh please. Who do you think you are kidding. The very title of your essay “NASA Knew Better” exposes this claim as a lie. Your essay even includes an opening Pinocchio nose graphic for pete’s sake.

Several readers also commented here on what they saw in “reading between the lines” of your essay: charges of supposed NASA “lying” and “fraud” … and you actually thanked them for those kinds of comments. You never once corrected a single one of them.

Your statement “I simply opened the box” is nothing but intentionally obfuscating jibber jabber in order to dishonestly deny (i.e. lie about) the fact that yes, you are most certainly accusing NASA of “lying” and “hiding things”.

But NASA has not “hidden” anything, nor are they “lying”. NASA’s positions are backed by decades of carefully considered evidence and are supported by every major scientific organization in the entire world. You childishly imagine otherwise because you have only a ridiculously incorrect, pseudo-scientific “understanding” of what is occurring.

All in all, just another sorry example of the tragic ignorance and shameful dishonesty of WUWT content.

May 18, 2022 5:42 am

“However, as long as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise, the amount of absorbed solar energy will continue to exceed the amount of thermal infrared energy that can escape to space. The energy imbalance will continue to grow, and surface temperatures will continue to rise.”

They got that upside down an THEY KNOW IT. The piece should have read

However, as long as the amount of absorbed solar energy will continue to exceed the amount of thermal infrared energy that can escape to space, as ocean temperatures continue to increase and CO2 solubility decrease, CO2’s partial pressures will find a balance ocean-atmosphere, and atmospheric CO2 concentrations will continue to rise.”


Reply to  Oddgeir
May 18, 2022 8:23 am

Another WUWT nutter blindly parroting the lying denier fairy tale that the increase of CO2 in the air is due to “CO2 solubility decrease” in the oceans.

What the lying denier propaganda puppet masters never mentioned to Oddgeir is that the amount of CO2 in the oceans has been measured and is actually increasing. This data totally refutes this lying denier propaganda notion that the CO2 increase in the air is “not” because of human emissions.

co2_time_series_air vs ocean 03-08-2017-1024x907.jpg
Jon R
May 18, 2022 1:03 pm

Never A Straight Answer

Scott Marlow
May 18, 2022 1:05 pm

“If temperature doubles, radiated energy increases by a factor of 16 (2 to the 4th power). If the temperature of the Earth rises, the planet rapidly emits an increasing amount of heat to space.”

This sounds a lot like Richard Lindzen’s “atmospheric iris effect” theory. If the atmosphere heats, more IR energy gets released to space.

Reply to  Scott Marlow
May 18, 2022 2:26 pm

This is not like Lindzen’s totally incorrect “Iris effect”.

Lindzen tried to pretend that his so-called “Iris effect” would somehow “prevent” temperatures from rising. The increase of heat emissions to space mentioned here, however, only occurs after warming has already taken place.

Scott Marlow
Reply to  MGC
May 18, 2022 3:22 pm

It’s apparent that you have not studied Lindzen’s work. I apologize to all for awakening the troll. I will no longer reply to this person.

Reply to  Scott Marlow
May 18, 2022 6:20 pm

Lindzen’s so-called “work” on his so-called “Iris Effect” cannot possibly be correct. If it were correct, then the much warmer temperatures during the dinosaur age could never have occurred. But they did. His “Iris Effect” was refuted before it was even published.

David Dibbell
May 18, 2022 6:39 pm

Folks will notice the head graphic for the post has been changed to show a NASA satellite for the CERES mission. I don’t want to give any more of those nasty trolls any reason to think that the point of my essay was to expose or imply lying. The more neutral factual point is that the NASA of past impressive technical accomplishment in space expressed its understanding of the climate system regarding the heat engine and related concepts, even while in some parts of the organization the static GHG warming alarm dominated the thinking.

Thanks to CtM for changing the graphic. It just doesn’t seem right to me to give the vocal detractors any unnecessary avenues of attack.

And to repeat myself: I greatly appreciate that my essay was posted here at WUWT.

Reply to  David Dibbell
May 19, 2022 11:24 am

I’ll also ask about this conclusion, that I’d commented on earlier:

“The minor incremental static warming effect from slowly increasing concentrations of GHGs is readily overwhelmed by the performance of the heat engine.”

If this claim were actually correct, then the warming trend we’ve observed to date should already have been “readily overwhelmed by the performance of the heat engine”, shouldn’t it?  But it hasn’t been “readily overwhelmed”. Why not?

And what about the large and historically rapid PETM warming episode of 55 million years ago, that was also driven by release of large amounts of greenhouse gases into the air? Shouldn’t it have been “readily overwhelmed by the performance of the heat engine” as well? Why wasn’t it?

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