What caused the current ToA radiative imbalance?

First the SW (that’s measured reflected SW at the top of the atmosphere (ToA), basically an expression of Earth’s albedo). TSI (incoming sunlight) at the ToA minus reflected SW (albedo) at the ToA equals the ASR (“absorbed solar radiation”) at the ToA, the actual radiant HEAT (net SW) transferred from the Sun to the Earth system as a whole:

(ERBS Ed3 + CERES EBAF Ed2.8 vs. ISCCP FD; tropics, 1985-2004 (20 years).)

(ERBS Ed3_Rev1 + CERES EBAF Ed2.8 vs. ISCCP (cloud fraction); tropics, 1985-2009 (25 years).)

(ERBS Ed3_Rev1 (red) and ISCCP FD (black) vs. models (multicoloured); near global, 1985-1999 (15 years).)

(Same as above, only inverted and with scaled TSI added at the top, to show Earth system solar gain, the increase starting around 1988-89 and stabilising at a significantly higher level through the 90s.)

Now, how did this increase in solar input to the Earth system affect the ToA radiative balance? The ToA radiative balance (“NET”, lower graph, green curve in the figure below) equals the incoming heat (net SW) from the Sun (the ASR, TSI minus refl SW) minus the outgoing heat (net LW) from the Earth (OLR):

As you can easily read from this, the increase in the NET (the opening up of the substantially positive radiative imbalance at the ToA, the gap of which the Earth system to this day is still struggling to close in order to stop accumulating net energy) is ALL due to the reduction in reflected SW (blue middle curve) (-> +ASR) and rather counteracted somewhat by an increase in Earth’s heat to space (+OLR, red top curve).

This is the complete OPPOSITE of what is claimed by the “Climate Establishment” as the cause of the estimated current ToA radiative imbalance: “enhanced GHE” (–OLR), slightly counteracted by a reduction in solar input (–ASR).

So what is the cause of the rise in OLR? What is the causal chain here? Clearly what the data shows us is this:

+ASR (heat IN) -> +T (system temp) -> +OLR (heat OUT)

OLR at the ToA appears simply to track tropospheric temps over time:

We know the physical relationship between tropospheric temperatures and OLR at the ToA: the latter is (principally) a direct radiative effect of the former. And so this tight fit is to be expected. Only NOT by the “AGW hypothesis”. There, OLR is rather considered a driver of tropospheric (and surface) temps over time, because of a steady increase in the so-called “radiative forcing”.

However, we do not see any trace of this AGW mechanism operating in the real Earth system. We see the short-term cloud/humidity perturbations to the tropospheric temp-OLR relationship during strong ENSO events, but beside these, the two parameters follow each other basically in lockstep over time. We see the same thing pre 2000 as we do post 2000, only now between UAH (and RSS) and ERBS Ed3_Rev1:


This is what the available data is telling us.

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