R.W. Wood Had it Right: Sun Heats Earth!

The Sun Heats the Earth

I saw this quote within a recent email exchange among the Slayers, and although I don’t know the exact paper source, R.W. Wood is well-enough known to just quote him directly:

R.W. Wood:

“The solar rays penetrate the atmosphere, warm the ground which in turn warms the atmosphere by contact and by convection currents.”

Did you know that climate scientists think that the Sun can’t heat the Earth, and that they vehemently disagree with Wood’s conclusion?  Climate science and climate alarmism believes that sunshine is freezing cold, unable to heat the Earth’s surface above -18 °C (-0.4 °F), and by some other climate alarmist accounts, not even above -40 °C (-40 °F)!

How could they make such a grotesque mistake?  How could they not be cognizant of the difference between standing in full sunshine and feeling its significant heat, and standing in the shade?  Are they vampires that only come out at night?  You would almost have to conclude that the core climate alarmists must be vampires who have never stepped into the light of the Sun.  Even if they do faulty mathematics and science, you would think that the empirical sensation of standing in full sunlight would have helped them discover the error in their maths.  Why doesn’t it?

Well, the vampire thing is all well and funny, but the problem truly is one of extremely bad science, terribly bad physics, and sophistical abuse of mathematics.  Do you want to know the mistake they make?  It’s actually really kind of ridiculous…funny, but then immediately not funny when it becomes clear just how stupid it is:

They spread incoming sunlight over the entire surface of the Earth at once…

Think about that for a minute.  Think about what it means.  Think about shade.  Think about where sunlight makes shade on the entire planet Earth.  …Half of the planet Earth is in shade, right?

So if you take the actual incoming sunshine, but then in your maths you spread it out over the entire Earth at once, i.e. twice as much area, what does that do to the power of the sunshine in your maths?  Look at it this way: If you have one scoop of peanut butter meant for one slice of toast, what happens to that scoop of peanut butter when you spread it over two slices of toast?  You better like dry toast!  That’s what happens.  The same is true for sunshine being spread over and into area it does not actually physically go in reality, except instead of “dry” the effect of the maths on paper is to make sunshine cold.  I mean come on – it’s day and night people!

In the graphic below is how they dilute sunshine over the entire surface of the Earth at once.  The accompanying mathematics is taught to students in physics classes throughout the world, and I myself was taught this exact thing in my own first-year of undergraduate university physics education for my B.Sc. degree.


They treat the surface of the Earth – get this – as a flat plane, with the sunshine that the spherical Earth actually physically gets spread over the entire flat surface, twice the area it should be, at once.  Look at their diagram: the Earth is a flat line…WTF?!

This reduces the power of sunshine by a factor of 4!  You see that divisor of 4 in the equation on the top left of the diagram.

Umm…the Earth isn’t a flat line or a flat plane, it is a sphere.  Umm…the Earth gets the actual sunshine it actually gets, not sunshine reduced in power to 25% of it actual value on paper.

SMH!  Can you believe that they teach this to students?  In university.  In astrophysics!  Astronomers of all people should know that the Earth is a sphere, that only half of the Earth is lit by sunshine at a time, the other half in shade, etc.  Yet they are able teach these people, and teach themselves(!), that the Earth is a flat plane, like a flat line in space, that gets 25% of the power of sunshine that it actually gets.  …WTF!?  What are you doing!?

Reducing the actual power of sunshine by 75% equates to making sunshine unable to heat anything above -18 °C (-0.4 °F).  Far from able to melt ice.  Climate science can’t explain why ice tends to melt under sunshine!  That’s what they’ve done with their maths on paper, and that’s what they believe.  In even fancier diagrams, that undoubtedly cost much much more money to produce and created much much more prestige for the academics who produced it (and they make a very good living “producing” this stuff), they reduce the power of sunshine to a heating ability of now only-40 °C (-40 °F)!  It’s all in the numbers in the diagram below, where only 168 W/m² are absorbed by the Earth’s surface.

IPCC Budget

They nicely draw the Earth’s surface here with a curve, but the numbers are still all for a flat-plane Earth with Sunshine diluted over the entire surface at once.  Are they aware of this graphical contradiction to their maths?  Or are they just that deceptive?  Drawing the Earth as a curve doesn’t hide the fact of the meaning of the numbers being for a flat plane!

What madness drove them in there, into this state of affairs, to produce such terrible science at best, to lie and sophize like this at worst, is unknown.  Whatever madness it is, it seems to be an archetypal force of nature given that so many people and so much money has been spent promoting it.  It’s just disgusting idiocy, in the end. Really, really sad stupidity.  Well, stupidity is certainly a force of human nature, and evil has long been said to be as well.

And so do you know what climate scientists and climate alarmism does to try to fix this mistake, to reconcile the fact that the Earth is much warmer than what they believe their paper-equations tell them?  This is what they do: they make the atmosphere an additional source of heat!  They make the atmosphere to have equal the heating power of sunlight as in their first diagram, and in the second it has almost twice the power of sunshine!  Can you believe that?  The atmosphere isn’t on fire…the atmosphere isn’t combusting, or fusioning…the atmosphere is not a source of power!  The Sun is a source of power because it is undergoing nuclear fusion in its core, releasing tons of energy.  The Earth’s atmosphere is not a source of power.  But this is what they call the greenhouse effect.

This is the entire reference frame of climate science and climate alarm.  It is within this preposterous reference frame of a flat Earth, cold sunshine, and atmosphere which produces more power than the Sunshine, that climate science is established and from which climate alarmism and the greenhouse effect comes forth.  If you begin with the wrong ontology and epistemology, everything you subsequently conclude from that position is false, full stop.

The fundamental mistake they make is that of a child, in elementary school, when they have a class about cooking:  You can’t cook a pie at lower temperature, but for longer time, and get the same pie.  Mathematically on paper it may be the same amount of energy spent, but the effect that energy has on matter is totally dependent on how fast and in what area that energy is used.  This is the difference between math on paper and physics in reality.  All scientists should know such a basic thing, so it is curious that climate scientists don’t know it and that so many scientist supporters of climate alarm seem to have conveniently forgotten it.  Talk about poor standards in science…in academia.

Guys, you can’t bake a pie at low temperature but for longer time and get the same pie!  Likewise, you can’t bake a pie at higher temperature for shorter time and get the same pie!  And finally, you can’t cook the pie at lower temperature, but for the same time, and expect the pie to help cook itself with its own (non-existent) power!

A more rational simplified-diagram showing the fundamental energy exchange with the Earth would be something like the following diagram:

zoomed in reality

Climate science can’t explain why ice tends to melt under sunshine, whereas the diagram above clearly explains why – sunshine is warm!  And this is a huge difference, because like the pie getting properly cooked, the Earth is “cooked” by sunshine in such a way that ice can be melted into water, and sustained as water and also as water vapour – this is reality, whereas the paper-fiction of a flat Earth clearly is not.

Isn’t that an amazing difference?  The climate science approach of a flat Earth experiencing 25% of solar power makes it so that, on paper, sunshine can’t heat the Earth and melt ice.  And then from that position they have to make the atmosphere an additional source of heat.  Whereas using the actual, spherical Earth, and the actual sunshine it actually experiences, then the sunshine can melt ice, can heat the Earth, and no other phantom sources of energy need to be postulated to explain things.  Two paper models, one ridiculous and which says ridiculous things and makes ridiculous assumptions, and one realistic making no assumptions and says nothing ridiculous.  Take your pick.

Not the Whole Story

Let it be clear that sunshine, and only sunshine, is what heats the surface of the Earth, sustains its temperature, and allows an atmosphere to exist at all.  Without sunshine, the atmosphere would freeze out entirely and just be ice on the ground.

With an atmosphere being sustained, however, it develops an important temperature gradient due to the local gravitational field.  In mechanical vertical equilibrium, meaning that there is no bulk movement of the atmosphere either up or down, then for any given horizontal infinitesimal slice of atmosphere there must be conservation of mass for any gas passing through that slice.  Why would any gas move through that slice?  Simply because of thermal movement on the molecular scale.  Some molecules will move up through the slice, and an equal number will move down through the slice when there is mechanical equilibrium.  The conservation of mass equation is:

ρV = ρV

where ρ is the density of the gas and V is its average velocity.  The upward and downward arrows indicate upward movement and downward movement through the infinitesimal horizontal slice.

But in an infinitesimal time period ‘dt’, and if the average velocities are initially identical at ‘V0‘, how does the velocity change for the upward and downward moving molecules given that gravity is acting upon them?  If the local gravitational field strength is ‘g’ (positive value), then the upward moving particles will have their velocity reduced by g*dt, and the downward moving particles increased by g*dt.  And so:

ρ(V0 – g*dt) = ρ(V0 + g*dt)

and as a ratio:

ρ = (V0 + g*dt)/(V0 – g*dt)

The right-hand-side is always larger than one, which then for the left-hand-side means that the density of the gas below the slice must be higher than the density above.  And so density must decrease with altitude.  At the same time, the particles crossing to below the slice will have a higher average velocity as compared to the ones crossing to above the slice, and so therefore temperature must decrease with altitude since this velocity corresponds to a component of the thermal molecular speed of the gas.  An equal number of particles pass either up or down, but the particles moving above are slowed, whereas the particles moving below are hastened.  Thus, lower density and lower temperature as altitude increases.

It is very easy to derive the temperature gradient from another first-principles approach, that of conservation of energy.  When there is no longer any gain or loss of energy in a column of gas, then the energy ‘U’ of an arbitrary parcel of gas is given by the sum of its thermal and gravitational potential energies.  The sum of thermal and gravitational potential energies is:

U = mCpT + mgh

However, this energy is constant since there is no other energy input (or loss), and so its differential is equal to zero:

dU = 0 = mCp*dT + mg*dh

which results in

dT/dh = -g/Cp

The actual numerical value of that equation is what is observed experimentally, and so first-principles really works.  Temperature must decrease with altitude and this is the energy equilibrium state of the atmosphere.

Given that the atmosphere is expected to revolve around some average temperature state, and given that the state of the atmosphere must decrease in temperature with altitude, then the average by definition must be found around the middle regions of the atmosphere, with the bottom of the atmosphere being where the warmest region, warmer than the average state, is found.  This doesn’t require that the atmosphere is a source of heat, sending heat from cold to hot and violating thermodynamics as the climate alarmists believe!  It’s just basic physics, with no climate alarmist radiative greenhouse effect sophistry required.

So not only does the Sunshine heat the surface of the Earth to high temperature all by itself, once this done then the bottom of the atmosphere is also where the warmest atmospheric gas is going to be found, and this warmest region will by definition be warmer than any required or expected average temperature state of the atmosphere.

This explains why the bottom of the atmosphere of planets like Venus can be so very hot (~470 °C), even though the effective blackbody temperature is quite low (~ -13 °C).  Venus has an extremely deep atmosphere and so the natural temperature gradient has lots of room to increase the atmospheric temperature at the bottom of the atmosphere above that of the average state of the atmosphere.  It also explains why the effective blackbody temperature of the Earth is -18 °C, but the bottom of Earth’s atmosphere is +15 °C.

And all of this is done in reality, and explained on paper, without the atmosphere being postulated as a source of heat twice as strong as the sunshine!

You just have to get your starting point, and your first principles, correct, and then the math and physics usually works out.  Clearly, starting with a flat Earth, cold sunshine, and the atmosphere as a source of heat, as climate science and climate alarm does, is not the correct starting point!  Hello?

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20 Responses to R.W. Wood Had it Right: Sun Heats Earth!

  1. Tom says:

    Game, set, match Postma. 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. New Chief Scientific Advisers the world over please.

  2. Derek Alker says:

    Woods was THE acknowledged radiation expert of the day….. He said we can not and do not observe “greenhouse” in any way, shape or form.

    However the in the second approach is the failing that allows so many to be misdirected.
    How about the unlit side of the planet what keeps that warmer than it would otherwise be?
    Surface heat capacity of course….

    Hot bath, hot bathroom, cold bath cold bathroom is therefore a better starting point from which to study / model earth’s climate system,
    in my humble opinion.

    ie, the Moon does not have a bath…..

  3. Pingback: The Sun Heats the Earth - Principia Scientific Intl

  4. geran says:

    You explain it so well. But, the Warmists and Junior-Warmists (Lukewarmers) still don’t get it.

    The S-B Law applies to the exact flux, NOT an average. But, all we see in pseudoscience is the divide-by-4, as related to Earth.

    It’s like they never studied physics….

    We live in interesting times.

  5. blouis79 says:

    I think there are more misunderstandings.

    Earth has a molten core – a molten body can only freeze on the surface in space (vacuum) if it is a net radiator (cooling) by net IR emission. IR active gases help this net emission by radiation of heat to space at 0degK. Ergo, it is extremely likely that all IR active GHGs cool the atmosphere by IR emission to space.

  6. Carl Allen says:

    “The Sun is a source of power because it is undergoing nuclear fusion in its core, releasing tons of energy.”

    How many megawatts are in a “ton” of energy? 🙂
    How fast is a 6 ml of water?
    How hot is 10 miles per hour?

    Even though I realize that using a large unit of weight to emphasis how much energy the sun puts out might be a legitimate literary device, it never the less sticks out like a sore thumb in an expose on the scientific/mathematical sloppiness of the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis.

  7. Actually it is a classic 1st year astrophysics problem: how much mass does the sun convert into energy, via fusion of H to He, per second?

    The answer works out to about 4 tons (metric) per second.

    So although the sentence was a little colloquial, there was an underlying implication and connection I had in mind. Glad you spotted it!

  8. Pingback: Lapse Rate Refutes Radiative Greenhouse Effect | Climate of Sophistry

  9. Pingback: Lapse Rate Refutes Radiative Greenhouse Effect - Principia Scientific International

  10. Gary Ashe says:


    I have often read about the hole in the Ozone layer, think i was about 20yr old at the time it all started appearing in print, anyway back then it was about global cooling, so they legislate CFC’s out of use for a while, and then let their limited use again.

    So the 30yr period of cooling 40s to 70s was down to the ozone hole if you believe it.
    So therefore ”fixing” it over the next 40yrs should have put everything right, what i mean is average global temperature should be now where it would have been without interference with the ozone, now it should be as it never happened,,,,,,and be as a gradual net warming had carried on during those decades.

    So we fixed it, and in doing so we have raised the average global temperature to where it would be +0.3c after ”tampering” corrections are made, or UHI fully accounted for.

    Even if that is on a century scale a tenth of a degree above expected so what ?.

    What’s your thoughts, iv’e check ”big picture” view, and earth energy balance’s, satellite measurements have not revealed any problem in that area.
    And ive just been looking at satellite temp data and conclusions about the top of atmosphere,, no warming since the satellite records begin, nearly 50yrs worth.

    I understand the sun provides varying amounts of radiation in cycles, but im struggling with how fixing the hole, did not increase TOA temperatures over a near 50yr period, hence my skeptisim it really existed, however if it did, fixing it surely explains the upward temperature slope since the 50s, in surface temperatures.

    Be lucky.

  11. carl allen says:

    Here is a link to British Columbia’s air quality site that lists all of the presumed problems that ozone depletion was supposed to have. http://www.bcairquality.ca/101/ozone-depletion-impacts.html

    Global cooling is not one of them. Rather they were concerned about the predicted adverse health effects of more ultraviolet radiation on humans, animals and plants.

    Their hyperbolic fear-mongering was successful in getting passed into law the government regulation of CFC’s . Out of the same playbook they are now engaged in hyperbolic fear-mongering over carbon dioxide levels (you no longer hear anything about CFC’s as though the “ozone hole” disappeared) with the same end objective, which is to pass government regulations that would ostensibly control carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

  12. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    The solar power reaching the ground is 168W/sq m = -40°C. The back radiation is 324W/sq m = 2°C. So the total Watts is 492W/sq m = 32°C.

    So the two heat sources of -40°C and 2°C produce 32°C????????????????????.

  13. Yes, that’s their science.

  14. Kelvin Vaughan says:

    I just noticed they have the ground radiating at 390W/sq m (15°C) but that’s still above -40°C and 2°C. I would expect it to be radiating at 492/2 or -16°C with those powers.

  15. Nicholas Denman says:

    I am only a layman with an interest in physics so please excuse my lack of knowledge. However I have always intuitively picked up many non sensical aspects of “greenhouse theory”. I have never believed that a cooler object could make a warmer object even warmer simply because it would be a runaway effect just both objects getting warmer and warmer feeding off eachother. Great way to solve the worlds energy problems though. Also, given that the temperature is the average kinetic energy of the molecules in a system, not dependent on the number of molecules in a system, then more photons likewise may not necessarily mean higher temperature.
    My question is though, when the sun is not supplying energy, ie night, isn’t the difference between the temperature of the earth and the outside temperature of space very high and therefore mean a high level of heat transfer that is supposed to even out and give us that minus 18C average for the earth?

  16. Great points Nicholas.

    Yes, -18C is the average *effective temperature* for the system. That is what it is, but two things: 1) effective temperature is not a physical temperature 2) the surface temperature has to be warmer than any average atmospheric temperature in any case due to the lapse rate.

  17. Nicholas Denman says:

    Thankyou Joseph. I know you would be tired of explaining things so if you can maybe direct me to some your relevant articles. Excellent work that you do by the way. I would like to understand further why the average temperature is at the level it is. Is it a combination of gravity, atmospheric content (regardless of supposed greenhouse trace molecules) and a world of 70% water surface? Also one of your other articles speculated why so many scientists will not acknowledge the straightforwardness of your arguments. Could it partly be ego for some many educated people making a profession and living from the global warming, that they refuse to admit to getting the very elementary aspects of physics wrong.

  18. Those reasons are all very human. Naive faith in “science”, the inability to imagine being lied to, naive trust, relentless propaganda, etc. And to a significant degree that most people, including scientists, do not have the ability to think for themselves and in fact have never actually learned how to think or know what thinking actually is. Schooling and then more and more schooling has taught people and especially today’s scientists that “thinking” is memorizing and then repeating and agreeing with what you’ve memorized or what most people appear to say. That’s what they think that thinking is. Repeating what has been told to you by the higher ups or peer group. And ignoring whatever differs. They have no clue what actual thinking is.

    The effective temperature is determined solely by the solar input and absorptivity of the Earth. That’s it.
    Average physical temperature isn’t actually a meaningful concept in physics. But the temperature at the surface, yes, is influenced by gravity, thickness of atmosphere, latent heat from H2O, H2O content, etc.

  19. Carl says:

    The intensity of electromagnetic radiation (“number of photons emitted”) is not dependent upon temperature alone but is also relative to the “emissivity” of the matter doing the emitting.
    Heat is only transferred from the Earth/atmosphere ensemble to outer space via electromagnetic radiation, thus the rate of that transfer depends upon not only the temperature of the Earth/atmosphere ensemble but also the emissivity of the Earth/atmosphere ensemble.
    Here is the problem. The electromagnetic radiation that is cooling the Earth/atmosphere ensemble is being emitted from top soil, the surface of the oceans and from every layer of air within the atmosphere (mostly the lower 11 km or Troposphere.) Every emitting entity within that ensemble has a different temperature and a different emissivity and the amount of their respective emissions that makes it to outer space is dependent upon the “transmissivity” of whatever lies between it an outer space. The satellite measured outgoing longwave radiation of ~240 W/m2 is the sum of all of those many layers of emissions—it does not come from one emitting surface that has one discrete temperature and one discrete emissivity.
    The Stefan-Boltzmann formula that is used to calculate the Earth’s “effective radiating temperature” of -18 °C is based on how much radiation a discrete emitting surface that has a discrete temperature and a discrete emissivity would emit. Thus the Stefan-Boltzmann formula has no application in calculating the “temperature of a planet” that has a many kilometer-thick atmosphere.
    There is a layer of air about 5 km in altitude around the atmosphere’s center mass that averages about -18 °C in temperature. There is a layer of air at the top of the troposphere that average about -60 °C. There is a layer of air near the ground that averages about 15 °C. All partially contribute to the total out-going IR radiation of ~240 W/m2. So what? In order to use the Stefan-Boltzmann formula, the originators of the “greenhouse effect” hypothesis arbitrarily assigned the Earth/atmosphere ensemble an emissivity of 1.0 and then arbitrarily treated the Earth/atmosphere ensemble as a “radiating surface”, which yielded the number -18 °C, which they call the Earth’s “effective radiating temperature.”
    They then took the -18 °C number which is based on two arbitrary numbers and arbitrarily chose the hottest layer of air in the troposphere—the one about 1.5 meters off of the ground—to subtract the -18 °C number from. This yielded 33 °C.
    This 33 °C number is based on three arbitrarily chosen parameters–the Earth/atmosphere ensemble is a singular flat radiating surface, its emissivity is 1.0 and the output of the S-B formula is compared to the hottest layer of air in the troposphere. Change any one of those parameters and the 33 °C number changes to something else. Rather than acknowledging that this 33 °C number is completely meaningless because three arbitrary choices had to be made to create it, certain people began to imagine reasons for its existence. The one that caught hold is the fact that certain trace gases in the atmosphere are more opaque to infrared radiation than others, a.k.a. “greenhouse gases”. They therefore imagined that these gases must be “trapping heat” in the atmosphere thus making the Earth 33 °C warmer than it would be if these “greenhouse gases” didn’t exist. Keep in mind that this completely ignores the real cause of the maldistribution of thermal energy within the troposphere that makes surface level air 75 °C warmer than the air at the tropopause—11 km in altitude.
    No matter how many times, in how many ways this “greenhouse effect” hypothesis has been falsified, both through the application of the laws of physics and mathematics and through real-world atmospheric data collection, i.e., real-world data shows that the “most powerful greenhouse gas”, water vapor, has a cooling rather than a warming effect on surface level air temperatures, belief in the “greenhouse effect” is absolute in the minds of many people, even some of the most accomplished scientists. It is considered “settled science” and those who question it are ridiculed as “science deniers” and/or “conspiracy theorists”.
    In today’s world “science”, it would seem, is simply that which most people agree the truth to be, not necessarily what the evidence shows.

  20. AfroPhysics says:

    Carl, good stuff.

    I also found GHGs to be radiative coolants.

    Water vapor does lower surface temperature

    If your last name is Brehmer, I just want you to know that I’ve copy/pasted sections of your work all over youtube. You’ve got the best medicine to shut up climate idiots. Thank You!

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