Monday, December 26, 2011

Continuing Vain Climate Debates

The blogosphere continues to waste time on vain, incompetent climate debate on the part of non-experts, due to the failure of "expert" climate science, most recently on the WUWT site. The three most pernicious and most basic misunderstandings that plague such debates, especially among the consensus "experts", as brought to light by my Venus/Earth comparison, are:

1) Equating the "greenhouse effect" with the atmospheric absorption of infrared radiation. The latter is a physical reality, but the former is an hypothesis. When believers (and that is the only proper term for them, "believers") in the greenhouse effect go through their calculation that purports to prove that the "greenhouse effect" is responsible for warming the surface by 33°C, above what it would otherwise be, they are really (and rather obviously) arguing that the PRESENCE OF AN ATMOSPHERE is responsible for that added surface warming. But the real question is, and always has been, how is the atmosphere warmed, not how is the surface warmed by the Sun and THEN how does the surface warm the atmosphere? The unquestioned assumption of the latter question is what drives the nearly universal belief that planetary albedo affects the atmospheric temperature, which greenhouse believers use to incompetently dismiss my definitive factual findings.

2) Believing (again that word) that the atmosphere is warmed by heat from a warmed planetary surface, rather than by direct absorption of radiation from the Sun. This, in spite of the fact that even among consensus climate scientists, it is generally understood that at least 15% of the incident solar radiation is directly absorbed by the atmosphere. So, when pressed, they will admit that the atmosphere is partly warmed by direct absorption of solar radiation, and partly by heat from the surface (by both surface-emitted radiation and by convection and conduction). And so the complications begin to multiply for them, and for anyone trying to follow their explanations. The only reason they believe that the surface warms the atmosphere is because it is warmer than the atmosphere, so heat must flow upward from the surface and they cannot imagine that upward heat flow does not further warm the atmosphere. And they are right, in a limited sense: Heat from the surface can and does warm a part of the atmosphere -- but only transiently and locally (as within a temporary, rising column of warm air, or within a few meters of a "hot spot" surface, such as a fire or urban pavement). They fail to keep in mind that the general atmospheric temperature gradient, from surface to top of troposphere, is well explained by the vertical pressure distribution due to the weight of the atmosphere itself (in the governing hydrostatic condition of the atmosphere, the pressure at a given altitude is due to the weight of the atmosphere above that altitude, and the temperature necessarily increases with the pressure). There is no need to hypothesize a general atmospheric warming by surface heating, but it is an ingrained, unquestioned belief today among most scientists, and thus among their followers. And of course, my Venus/Earth comparison now makes it obvious that the atmosphere is fundamentally warmed ONLY by DIRECT absorption of incident solar radiation, specifically a portion of the infrared solar radiation (and the same portion, for both Earth and Venus). Since the visible portion of the Sun's radiation is not responsible for warming the atmosphere, the fact that Venus reflects 70% of the visible light from the Sun while Earth reflects only 30%, makes no difference in the warming of their atmospheres, and thus there is no albedo effect in the observed Venus/Earth temperature ratio, in my simple comparison.

3) Believing that the surface of the Earth is a blackbody. In the words of (for example) Raymond Pierrrehumbert, "The ground below the atmosphere emits as an ideal blackbody, characterized by the Planck function B." This belief underpins the radiative transfer theory and those who interpret the spectra of radiation emitted upwards from the top of the tropopause as "proof" of the greenhouse effect. The fact is, those spectra merely show the PRESENCE of water vapor, carbon dioxide and the other infrared-active gases in the atmosphere, and measured variations of those spectra over time can show the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere -- but they do NOT show increased atmospheric warming due to the increase in carbon dioxide, that is merely an unsupported assumption (particularly during the periods, such as 1940-1970 and the last decade or so, when the carbon dioxide has increased substantially, but the global average surface temperature has not increased at all, or even gone down, so that the assumption is not just unsupported, but positively invalidated). The question everyone should ask themselves is, is there any reason to believe that upward heat transport (including by absorption and emission of "upwelling" infrared radiation), along a temperature gradient governed solely by the hydrostatic distribution of pressure, will actually further heat the atmosphere; currently, in the present childish "scientific" debates, almost everyone laughs and says, "of course", but the real, factual answer, again provided by my Venus/Earth comparison, is "NO". In the absence of a change in the intensity of incident solar radiation, the temperatures at the top and bottom of the troposphere are held constant (as indicated by the empirically-determined Standard Atmosphere, which is confirmed by my Venus/Earth analysis), and increasing carbon dioxide or water vapor can only increase the efficiency, or speed, with which local temperature variations are dissipated by heat transfer, both vertically and around the planet (the temperature on Venus's dark side is just as hot as on the sunlit side, due, I claim, to the nearly pure carbon dioxide atmosphere there).


  1. If I understand your explanations, the atmosphere is largely opaque to electromagnetic radiation at the frequency range characteristic of the 255 K blackbody temperature, with CO2 especially making only minor changes to absorption or lack of absorption in a narrow frequency window. The atmosphere only becomes thin enough to let the radiation out at altitude, and the compression heating between that altitude and ground level, also known as the lapse rate, is the 30K that the ground is on average warmer than 255K?

    That should mean that whether the atmosphere is warmed directly by absorbed incoming solar radiation or by conduction from the oceans or from the ground is largely immaterial, as are the effects of clouds on outgoing radiation immaterial. The effective blackbody radiation layer is somewhere in the mid to upper troposphere where the temperature is 255 K on average, and the temperature profile from that level down to the ground is controlled by the lapse rate on account of the convective mobility and mising of the air, where the lapse rate is the consequence of compression heating, modified somewhat by the latent heat of moist air (difference between "wet" and "dry" lapse rate).

    Do I have that right?

  2. Good Morning, Paul,

    I have approached the problems in climate science, and a proper understanding of the thermodynamics of the atmosphere, differently than most. Instead of trying to concoct and put before the world a detailed theory, a complete physical picture, in one swell foop as they say (because I have assured myself that the "foop" we have received, and continue to receive, from climate scientists is not "swell" at all) I focus upon the definitive facts as I find them, so metaphorically speaking, I am always assured I am on solid scientific ground, even if it is seemingly small patches of solid ground, in the middle of an otherwise deep swamp of physical uncertainties. I try to assemble a correct, coherent picture, piece by piece (and it is not my life's work, so I am slow, and intentionally so). I deliberately avoid theoretical extrapolations, otherwise known as speculations, as far as I am able, and I also avoid falling into the habit of using the past speculations, or theories, or even rote phrasing, of others, since they have failed so miserably to this point, in the light of what I so simply uncovered with my Venus/Earth comparison.

    So in answering you, I will content myself with a few basic facts I have gleaned, that contradict some of what you say, without judging your picture overall.

    First, I would not say that CO2 makes only minor changes to absorption, in the context of those top-of-tropopause LW radiation spectra. Instead, I would only say that any absorption of upwelling LW radiation does NOT heat the atmosphere, it only provides a radiational path for that upwelling, which I call heat transfer (rather than heating) over the hydrostatically-established vertical temperature gradient. I would not say the atmosphere is "largely opaque" to 255K (or any other K) blackbody radiation, but only because I reject the Earth's surface, or any level in the Earth's atmosphere, as the surface of a blackbody. The effective blackbody temperature of the Earth-plus-atmosphere system is 279K, not 255K. I would agree, in the context of the governing temperature lapse rate, that "whether the atmosphere is warmed directly by absorbed incoming solar radiation or by ...(whatever)... is largely immaterial, as are the effects of clouds", except that, for the Earth and Venus, the atmosphere IS fundamentally warmed ONLY by direct absorption of solar radiation. Basically, I would replace all of what you have said by, "The Standard Atmosphere, with its hydrostatic vertical temperature gradient, is confirmed by my Venus/Earth temperature comparison as the equilibrium state of the atmosphere, and deviations from that state constitute the weather as we know it." And I will continue to face the facts in order to learn the truth, because I don't know it all.

  3. "increasing carbon dioxide or water vapor can only increase the efficiency, or speed, with which local temperature variations are dissipated by heat transfer, both vertically and around the planet (the temperature on Venus's dark side is just as hot as on the sunlit side, due, I claim, to the nearly pure carbon dioxide atmosphere there)."

    I agree.

    I have been saying for several years that changes in the air circulation and changes in the speed or volume of the water cycle prevent any increase in system energy content from any cause other than increased mass or increased solar input.

    The observation that drove me in that direction was that during the late 20th century warming period I noted the poleward drift of the climate zones but around 2000 that poleward drift stopped and since then I have formed the view that they are drifting equatorward once more.

    It seemed to me that the most likely reason was that those shifts in the climate zones were actually regulating the speed of energy flow from surface to space so as to maintain system stability in the face of variability both from solar and oceanic sources.

    So it isn't 'vertical' or 'around the planet' movement that matters. Instead it is latitudinal shifting of the climate zones and variations in the size, position and intensity of all the components of the atmospheric circulation.