Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Blackbody: The Key Error in Climate Science

Update 10 March 2012: I have realized the error in my blackbody understanding, and why that error does not affect my Venus/Earth comparison or my physical conclusions about atmospheric warming. I have posted on this at "My Own Blackbody Error". The article below should no longer be taken to be my scientific position. [Note added 6 June 2013: I see a few visitors continuing to come here, obviously concerned about theory, while I want to remain focused upon the definitive facts. For my view of the proper use of the Stefan-Boltzmann formula, see here. The error in the original post below is that I neglected to say the power per unit area involved in the formula is not the INCIDENT, but the ABSORBED power.]

The climate consensus in science is founded upon the greenhouse effect as imagined by the IPCC-sponsored scientists, which my last post simply disproved. Their greenhouse effect is, in turn, founded upon one key scientific error, that competent students of my generation cannot make: Misusing the "blackbody" equation, otherwise known as the Stefan-Boltzmann equation.

A blackbody is defined as a body (or system of bodies in thermal contact) which absorbs all of the radiation incident upon it. A blackbody necessarily has an albedo (reflection coefficient) of zero. If you can define your body (or system) so that only radiation is passing into and out of it, then you can -- indeed you must -- define all the radiation passing into it as "incident", and you can replace the system with a blackbody, and use the Stefan-Boltzmann equation, with that incident radiation, to calculate a mean temperature for the body or system (it's "effective blackbody temperature" or "radiating temperature"). That's it, that's all there is to it.

So how do current "expert scientists" go wrong? Because they define their "effective blackbody" system as inside the solid Earth, bounded by the Earth's surface -- and it should be obvious there is more than just radiation passing through that surface (there is conduction through the surface, and convection away from it). To use the Stefan-Boltzmann equation properly, they must define the boundary of the Earth system as outside of its atmosphere -- beyond all conduction and convection -- and use the mean incident solar irradiation only, not the "incident minus reflected" as they do.

You cannot "correct for albedo" to use the Stefan-Boltzmann equation at the Earth's surface, because a blackbody by definition has no albedo to "correct" for. This of course was confirmed in my previous Venus/Earth analysis, which showed there is simply no room for an albedo effect upon the long-term mean temperatures in the atmospheres of Venus and Earth.

All of the billions of words wasted upon "explaining" the climate consensus are founded upon this elementary error of understanding, that a student in his/her first physics class could see is wrong (providing he/she were taught in that basic class the definition of a blackbody, and how it must be applied to solve appropriate problems -- and apparently they are not being so taught, for the last 20 years or more).

The climate consensus, and physicists who defend it, utterly fail to understand how to use the concept of the blackbody properly. I charge them all with scientific incompetence of the first order. No one who writes authoritatively in defense of the climate consensus is, in my professional scientific judgment, worthy of calling him/herself a scientist, although I usually just use the qualifier "competent" or "incompetent".