The one thing which has become very clear, is that the GHE doesn’t actually have a consistent explanation or description. We have seen it as the backradiation “active heating” mechanism, where radiation from a cold source adds serially with the radiation from the Sun in order to amplify the temperature generation; we have seen it as the “delayed cooling” mechanism, where GHE advocates wish to be in compliance with the Laws of Thermodynamics, and so backradiation does not cause “active heating”, but merely serves to reduce the rate at which energy is lost, particularly during the nighttime. In my last paper, we proved that neither of these things actually occur because, by definition, these things should be quantifiable and observable in their effect on the temperature, and they were not.
In the “active heating” explanation the effect is never actually quantified in a real-time heat-flow equation, but reference is usually made to the “33 Kelvin Greenhouse Effect”. In the “delayed cooling” explanation the effect is never quantified at all with any math, and adherents typically merely state a word description without ever putting it into quantifiable physics or math. Presumably this explanation also refers to the “33 Kelvin Greenhouse Effect”. Once again, these things were quantified in my paper, using standard physics, math, and thermodynamics, and neither of these explanation were actually found to occur.
Recently we have had a GHE “faither” come up with yet another version of the GHE, with the ostensible purpose of trying to “write-off” the observational data from the paper. In this new explanation, the GHE is said to be responsible for heat conduction into the subsurface while the Sun is heating the ground. Essentially, this new conjecture states that without backradiation, solar heating would not be able to conduct into the subsurface!
Look at this video below of data from temperature sensors extending into the subsurface soil, with another sensor at the very surface and one at 1.5m altitude off the ground; the data covers about 100 days during the summer time at Chino Valley, Arizona, with measurements automatically recorded by computer very 30-minutes during that period:
When the top-surface temperature (at 0 meters soil depth) spikes, that is when the Sun comes up,and you can see the rest of the system then respond to that “forcing”. The Sun generates as high as almost 800C in the middle of the day! The soil temperature at depth = 12.7 cm is typically about 500C cooler than the surface when the surface is at its maximum, and so GHE adherents are now desperately trying to claim that heat won’t flow from 800C to 300C unless there is backradiation from the colder atmosphere!
So we see in this conjecture yet another example of how GHE adherents and the various descriptions of the GHE throw basic physics and thermodynamics out the window, so that they can pretend a colder atmosphere heats up a warmer surface (and subsurface). Heat will flow automatically from hot to cold and it doesn’t require “cold” backradiation in order to make this happen. According to this description and those who support it, with the surface of the moon only getting heated on the very surface, and because there is no atmosphere with colder backradiation, the subsurface soil on the moon will be at absolute zero since heat can not conduct to any depth at all! Only the top-most shell of lunar surface, 3 or 4 millimeters thick, has a temperature, and below that the temperature is absolute zero, because there is no backradiation.
Aside from this new GHE conjecture being ridiculous, once again there is no actual quantification for how much conduction backradiation is actually responsible for. They just state it with sophistic explanations, and never actually state what the physics is. The reason why they don’t state the physical quantification is because they can’t, because heat never conducts from cold to hot and it is literally impossible to quantify such a thing in an equation!
So, what actually is the greenhouse effect? The greenhouse is ultimately this “33 Kelvin” value, but how meaningful is this number?
The 33 Kelvin Greenhouse Effect is a numerical comparison between the average terrestrial radiative output energy (240 W/m2) converted to a temperature (-180C) using the Stefan-Boltzmann Law and assuming that emissivity is equal to one, to the average kinetic air temperature (+150C) measured at a specific location of 1.5 meters above the ground-surface.
So in terms of a “number”, the difference is 33 degrees Celsius (33 Kelvin). But in terms of physics, the respective numbers don’t actually represent the same thing at all – they don’t belong to the same “class” of measurements and one of them isn’t actually even a measurement, even though they use the same unit. For example, if you have the temperature of the liquid inside a cup of hot chocolate, and the temperature of an ice cube, and these are both measured with a thermometer (kinetic temperature), then the difference in temperature is meaningful.
But in the setup of the GHE, we’re not actually even referencing a real, measured, or even measurable kinetic temperature when we reference the -180C. This is not an actual temperature, but it is a value converted into an “equivalent radiation temperature” if we assume the terrestrial radiation (240 W/m2) satisfies certain conditions, which it actually does not. The only thing about this which is physically meaningful is the average output radiation of 240 W/m2; the equivalent temperature of -180C does not actually correspond to any specific location on the Earth and nor does it correspond to an actual kinetic temperature, something that you could measure with a thermometer.
And then, the average kinetic air temperature, measured with a thermometer, at 1.5 meters off the ground surface, is actually completely arbitrary. There is nothing about the specific location of 1.5 meters off of the ground which makes this location in any way representative of the entire system or planet. It is completely arbitrary! If radiative energy balance is what people are interested in, the air temperature at 1.5 meters has nothing to do with how much radiation is being produced or where it is coming from. The only way to do a test of radiative energy balance is to measure radiation from space, and in this case the input and output are observed to match each other. If anything, climate scientists (most of whom are pseudoscientists in fact, which explains a lot) should be interested in the actual ground-surface temperature, since that is where solar energy is mainly absorbed. Given that the surface temperature is typically warmer than the air, then there would be an even bigger difference than 33 Kelvin, but, there would still be the problem of the ambiguous comparison between a “kinetic temperature” and an “equivalent radiative temperature assuming certain ideal conditions which are not actually true”. The comparison of these two numbers would still be ambiguous and physically meaningless.
Pierre Latour wrote on this issue in early 2012 with his “Bogus Greenhouse Gas Whatchamacallit Effect“.
So what is the greenhouse effect? In truth, it is an enigma! That is how it is set up! I’ve covered how many different aspects of what is wrong with greenhouse physics and how much sophistry and incompetence is involved with its promotion and those who promote it, but in truth the source of all of the various sophistic explanations of how the GHE is pretended to work, all the various explanations, all the violations of the Laws of Physics and Thermodynamics, and all of the inability for adherents to actually quantify the physics with actual math…it is all due to the whole premise being based on an enigma, on the comparison between two numbers which, even though they have the same unit, do not actually mean the same thing at all, and one of which is completely arbitrary! In other words, apples and oranges. It is why the greenhouse effect can not actually be mathematically quantified with actual heat-flow physics, and why adherents use conflicting and contradictory descriptions to argue their pseudoscientific case.
The GHE has no basis in reality because its fundamental philosophical meta-paradigm is an enigma, a riddle, and it never did have any scientific basis from the beginning. By solving the riddle, as we did in this post and as Latour did last year, you don’t figure out what the GHE is, in-so-much as reject the entire concept altogether because you can see through it.
We’re eventually getting to it, but in the end we will learn how this also ties itself into forming the basis of a new religion.
Yeah, conflating radiative power with temperature is one of the most annoyingly persistent problems I encounter.
Was trying to go through the Trenberth 2009 budget on talkshop, the paper says “at the surface… black body calculated… 15 C”, ok, that means we’ve got 396 W/m^2 to work with, so I start subtracting non-radiative cooling and so forth, and the whole thing actually balances itself if you just ignore the little “333 back radiation” blurb.
Then I’m informed that the convective and evaporative cooling doesn’t come out of the 396… so that means we’ve got magical convection/evaporation producing energy, at which point someone needs to get me a robe and wizard hat… or the surface started with 508 W/m^2 available… I was told that was the right explanation, which means even though the authors of the paper said they started at 288 K, they really meant 309 K… and the nice neat balancing which you can get if you start with 396 is blown to heck because you’re left with an extra 148 floating around.
Never mind the issues you get if you work out how much energy it takes for the surface area of the planet to average have an average of 508 W/m^2 available… that’s well over twice the total energy received from the sun!
Eh, what the heck, totally plausible, the big ball of gas over there which is so massive it’s held up by thermonuclear fusion… that hasn’t got anything on the 11 or 12 km skin of mostly N2 and O2 with traces of H2O and CO2 which clings to the surface of a little rock orbiting said enormous ball of explodey goodness we call the sun.
[Reply: Exactly! And thanks for the analysis and info.]
Thank you for that!
David Hume pointed out long ago that the prevailing religions of the ‘civilised’ world depended on a belief in miracles. Destroy that core belief and the whole rotten edifice collapses. Think of the devastation that destroying belief in GHE would cause, not only psychologically but socially, economically and politically. But can that core belief ever be destroyed?
Hume and his successors failed dismally and the need to hold a belief in miracles has been buried out of the sight of clergy and congregations, so the religions persist held up by their own bootstraps – nothing else – yet survive they do and they still cause wars, distress and suffering.
So the GHE is a fraud – do you really think that demonstrating that will change anything? I believe that GHE is now so embedded in the languages of the West and is the founding belief of so many institutions and vested interests, that nothing short of civil disorder could shift it. Like Hume, I deplore that and, like him, I prefer to stand aside and wonder at the gullibility of humankind.
[Reply: This is an excellent analysis, thanks for that. Goes right to the heart of what I’ll be concluding on the “religion” series.]
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Good post Joe, and the animated graph is very good. Do you have it for the winter too?
For those who claim the GHGE merely slows the rate of cooling, they never acknowledge that if it were correct, it would slow the rate of rise too.
[Reply: Not yet for winter, and I think Carl’s data string broke. But I did put in a request for more data over a longer period (whole year) and more points extending deeper and higher. Indeed about the rate of rise too; this actually proves that water vapour is an extremely strong negative feedback, NOT positive.]
I think this was a pretty good summary back in 2008:
“Greenhouse Confusion Resolved”
“A warming effect in the atmosphere arises because between coming in and going out the radiant energy is ‘processed’ by the molecules in the atmosphere into heat energy and then back again, often many times for a single parcel of radiant energy, the number of times being directly proportionate to the density of the atmosphere. It is the density, not the composition which gives more or less opportunities for such collisions between radiant energy and molecules whilst the incoming and outgoing radiant energy is negotiating the atmosphere. When an atmospheric molecule absorbs radiant energy it vibrates faster thereby becoming warmer. It is momentarily warmer than the surrounding molecules so it releases the radiant energy again almost immediately. The speed of release is again dictated by overall atmospheric density because greater density renders it less likely that the neighbouring molecules are cool enough for a release of radiant energy to occur. However the time scales remain miniscule on the level of an individual molecule BUT on a planetary scale they become highly significant and build up to a measurable delay between arrival of solar radiant energy and it’s release to space.
It is that interruption in the flow of radiant energy in and out which gives rise to a warming effect. The warming effect is a single persistent phenomenon linked to the density of the atmosphere and not the composition. Once the appropriate planetary temperature increase has been set by the delay in transmission through the atmosphere then equilibrium is restored between radiant energy in and radiant energy out.”