The Congo vs. Sahara-Sahel once more

OK, so commenter “Norman” asked me at Roy Spencer’s blog to clarify my position on whether a “more IR active atmosphere” would necessarily produce a higher average annual surface temperature at the bottom of that atmosphere. His inquiry in full:


Then you would also agree that increasing GHG in the atmopshere (the quantity makes a difference since it decreases the heat out) will lead to the end result of a warmer surface?

Good. That is what the basic point is all about.

Does the amount of GHG in the atmosphere change the equilibrium temperature of the Earth’s surface?

In your other writings you have states some GHG is necessary but the quantity does not matter. what is your current understanding?

More GHG warmer surface?
Less GHG cooler surface?
Or No change once a certain amount is present?
If in both cases the solar flux to surface remains the same.

So what do we mean by a “more IR active atmosphere”? Well, a proponent of the AGW idea (that of the anthropogenically “enhanced GHE”), like Norman here, would simply say: more “GHGs”. But what does this actually entail? It would lead to an atmospheric column that is more opaque (that is, less transparent) to outgoing surface IR. The idea is that the so-called “GHGs”, the IR active gases (and clouds, mind you), would absorb it more strongly, sort of “capture it” on its way out, and reradiate it in ALL directions, not just the upward one, thus diminishing the net flux of IR moving away from the surface and in the direction of space. And what is this net flux of outgoing IR from the surface? It’s the surface radiant HEAT loss, its Qout(LW).

So Norman’s central claim is this one: “(…) increasing GHG in the atmopshere (the quantity makes a difference since it decreases the heat out) will lead to the end result of a warmer surface (…)”

Well, will it? What does empirically based data from the real Earth system have to say about it?

We return to Africa. Continue reading

The “Climate Sensitivity” folly

The Lewis & Curry paper of 2014, where they set out to estimate Earth’s climate sensitivity to “GHGs” apparently ‘based on observations’, neatly identifies the fundamental problem with the whole “climate sensitivity” issue:

It is not a scientific proposition. It starts out as a speculation, a mere conjecture, and ends with a circular argument based on that very conjecture.

The conjecture of course being:

“More CO2 in the atmosphere can, will and does cause a net warming of the global surface of the Earth.”

This is the basic premise behind the entire AGW industry. The one thing that HAS TO be correct in order for all the other claims made to even stand a chance of being taken seriously in a proper scientific context.

But has this basic premise ever, anywhere, by anyone, been verified empirically through consistent observations from the real Earth system?

Of course not! Not even remotely so!

It is still nothing but a loose conjecture …

And yet NO ONE seems to acknowledge even in the slightest how this might pose a problem. All you get if you bring it up are shrugs of indifference and/or tuts of disapproval. ‘Go away, we’re discussing real, important issues here!’

The irony … Continue reading

How AGW isn’t happening in the real Earth system …

Specifically how is the AGW mechanism for global surface warming supposed to work? How is the global “ocean heat content (OHC)” supposed to be increasing under a strengthening “radiative greenhouse effect (rGHE)”?

By reducing the surface’s ability to cool via thermal radiation (IR).

Here’s the basic idea:

Assuming the mean solar input [Qin] stays the same and assuming changes in evaporative-convective losses [Qout ev] only ever come in the form of responses to preceding “greenhouse”-induced warming, that is, these losses stay constant until such warming occurs, then the only mechanism for warming (of surface and/or ocean bulk) is a reduction in surface radiative losses [Qout rad], i.e. in the ‘radiant heat loss’ or – same thing – the ‘net LWIR flux’ coming off the surface:

Balance: ΔQin = ΔQout ev + ΔQout rad → 0 = 0 + 0

Imbalance: ΔQin = ΔQout ev + ΔQout rad → 0 = 0 + (-1) = -1

When less heat goes out than what comes in, warming ensues. It’s that simple …

This is the theory.

Now, do we see this AGW warming mechanism at work in the Earth system today? Can we observe it empirically? Can we follow in the available data the ongoing strengthening of the rGHE resulting from our continued fossil fuel emissions?

Not really.

In fact, we observe the exact opposite of what the theory above says should happen! Continue reading

Why atmospheric MASS, not radiation? Part 2

Be sure to read Part 1 first, now …


How is the rGHE defined in the most basic way? If you have a planet with a massive atmosphere, the strength of its “greenhouse effect” is defined as the difference between its apparent planetary temperature in space and the physical mean global temperature of its actual, solid surface. The planet’s apparent temperature in space is derived simply from its average radiant flux to space, not from any real measured temperature. It is assumed that the planet is in relative radiative equilibrium with its sun, so is – over a certain cycle – radiating out the same total amount of energy as it absorbs.

If we apply this definition to Venus, we find that the strength of its rGHE is [737-232=] 505 K. Earth’s is [288-255=] 33 K.

The averaged planetary flux to space is conceptually seen as originating from a hypothetical blackbody “surface” or ‘radiating level’ somewhere inside the planetary system, tied specifically to a calculated emission temperature. This level can be viewed as the ‘average depth of upward radiation’ or the ‘apparent emitting surface’ of the planet as seen from space. Normally it is termed the ERL (‘effective radiating level’) or EEH (‘effective emission height’).

The idea behind the ERL is pretty straightforward, but does it accord with reality? The apparent planetary temperature of Venus in space is 231-232K, based on its average radiant flux, 163 W/m2. Likewise, Earth’s apparent planetary temperature in space is 255K, from its mean flux of 239 W/m2. In both of these cases, the planetary output is assumed to match its input (from the Sun), so one ‘simple’ method one could use to derive the apparent temperature of a planet is by taking the TSI (“solar constant”) at the planet’s (or moon’s) particular distance from the Sun, and multiply it with 1 – α, its estimated global (Bond) albedo, a number that’s always <1, finally dividing by 4 to cover the whole spherical surface. Determining the average global albedo is clearly the main challenge when going by this method. The most common value provided for Venus is 0.75, for Earth 0.296.

But does the resulting value really say anything about the actual planetary temperature? If the planet absorbs a mean radiant flux (net SW) below its ToA, then how this flux affects the overall system temperature very much depends on the system’s total bulk heat capacity. If it is large, the flux will have little effect, if it’s small, the flux will have a bigger effect.

Continue reading

Why atmospheric MASS, not radiation? Part 1

And so finally we have reached the stage where we will explain why the atmospheric insulating effect is inherently a ‘massive’ one and not a ‘radiative’ one. The answer is quite intriguing, maybe even a bit surprising to some, the solution rather subtle in many respects. I have settled for two posts, but could probably have written several, considering the bewildering amount of different aspects in some way or other pertaining to this whole issue.

I hope you can bear with me on what might seem like a rather repetitive style of writing in this first post. I have only done so in a humble attempt to punch through the basic idea presented, which might at first come off as a novel or unfamiliar one to most people.

The second post is more lengthy, gradually winding its way towards the final resolution. When reading it, always bear this first one in mind.

I will most likely at some point publish a (strongly) condensed version of these posts. However, their content and interconnected nature might take time to digest.

OK. Let’s begin …


In his ‘Physics Today’ feature article of January 2011, “Infrared radiation and planetary temperature”, Raymond T. Pierrehumbert stated the following about the proposed rGHE surface warming mechanism:

An atmospheric greenhouse gas enables a planet to radiate at a temperature lower than the ground’s, if there is cold air aloft. It therefore causes the surface temperature in balance with a given amount of absorbed solar radiation to be higher than would be the case if the atmosphere were transparent to IR. Adding more greenhouse gas to the atmosphere makes higher, more tenuous, formerly transparent portions of the atmosphere opaque to IR and thus increases the difference between the ground temperature and the radiating temperature. The result, once the system comes into equilibrium, is surface warming.”

This is a most interesting quote, one that reveals a central misconception lying at the heart of the rGHE and AGW hypotheses. In order to get his message across, Pierrehumbert employs two quite specific terms – “enable” and “cause” – as if they were almost interchangeable. They are not. Read the two highlighted sentences once more. “An atmospheric ‘GHG’ enables a planet to radiate at a temperature lower than the ground’s, if there is cold air aloft. It therefore causes the surface temperature to be higher than would be the case if the atmosphere were transparent to IR.”

How did he get from “enables” to “therefore causes”?

He seems to forget that there’s crucially a third term that needs to be included before this chain is complete and one is able to see the whole picture, and that term is “necessitate”.

Something necessitates an effect, but cannot cause the effect before it is enabled to do so.

I will explain … Continue reading

‘To heat a planetary surface’ for dummies; Part 5b

If there were no atmosphere on top of our solar-heated terrestrial surface, then Earth’s mean global surface temperature would likely be about 80 degrees lower than what it actually is (209 rather than 289K). And this would be in spite of the fact that in this case the solar heat input to the global surface would be almost 80% larger on average (296 rather than 165 W/m2).

Much of this cooling of the mean would simply come as a result of greatly amplified temperature swings between day and night and between the seasons. The larger the planetary surface temperature amplitudes in space and time, the lower the mean global planetary surface temperature needs to be to maintain dynamic radiative equilibrium with the Sun. This is why the Moon is so cold.

So we need to get this straight: The Earth’s surface would be a much colder place without an atmosphere on top of it. Even with much more solar heat absorbed. There is no escaping this. The lunar surface is about 90K colder than ours, on average.


The short answer: It insulates the solar-heated surface.

Well, so how does it do this?

Mainly in four ways, three of which concern suppressing the effectiveness of convective cooling of the surface at a certain temperature.

Why is this important? Why convective cooling?

Consider a hypothetical single-room house. Continue reading

‘To heat a planetary surface’ for dummies; Part 5a

In 1938, English steam technologist Guy Stewart Callendar wrote what proved to be a seminal – one might even venture to call it the foundational – paper of the entire modern AGW pipe dream movement, with its rather determined effort at postulating what we today call the “Radiative (Atmospheric) Greenhouse Effect” (rGHE), or as some people would prefer it: the “Callendar Effect”.

In his paper – “The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and Its Influence on Temperature” – Callendar argued that the increase in global atmospheric CO2  concentration due to our industrial endeavours would (and did) warm the world because of the alleged augmenting influence of this IR-active molecule on the so-called “sky radiation” (what we today call “(atmospheric) downwelling longwave radiation” (DLR, DWLWIR), more commonly known simply as “back radiation”):

“Few of those familiar with the natural heat exchanges of the atmosphere, which go into the making of our climates and weather, would be prepared to admit that the activities of man could have any influence upon phenomena of so vast a scale.

In the following paper I hope to show that such influence is not only possible, but is actually occurring at the present time.”

Notice here how Callendar was well aware that with his hypothesis, he was challenging a generally accepted scientific paradigm of his time, one which held that our climate and weather are natural phenomena with purely natural drivers, which can not in any meaningful way be influenced (globally, at least) by human activity.

Callendar claimed that it can. And that it does. He even went so far as to claim he could show it …

Well, then; by all means bring it on! To quote Carl Sagan:

“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Continue reading