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Discussion > GHG Theory step by step

Schrodinger's cat

I was thinking about your thermalization.

Firstly, there is continuous kinetic energy transfer between all molecules in the atmosphere. The average kinetic energy determines the temperature. This applies to nitrogen, oxygen, CO2, water. vapour and anything else present.

A collision of the right energy with a water or CO2 molecule will excite it. Some of those molecules will emit an IR photon.
At the tropopause that will produce OLR.

Water and CO2 molecules may exchange kinetic energy or excite each other. I don't see why it should be only one way.

For molecules like nitrogen collision with other molecules is the only way they can lose energy. Collision with GHG molecules is how energy from non-radiative molecules can escape to space.

I think the key is not to get hung up on fine details of which molecules bounce off or excite each other, but to note that the sum of all interactions produces the observed OLR.


Don't think of 288K and 255K as air temperatures.alone. They reflect the energy content of the whole system; air, water, ice and rock.

What you get with or without GHGs is a difference in energy content of the whole system. Both systems are in thermal equilibrium, but without the GHGs to slow outward radiation the equilibrium is at a lower energy content.

This is why I agree with Richard Linzden's suggestion that ocean heat content, which is the vast majority of the heat content of the whole system, should be the measure of global warming rather than temperature. From a scientific viewpoint it gives a better grasp of how the system behaves.

Sep 26, 2017 at 12:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

"Don't think of 288K and 255K as air temperatures.alone. They reflect the energy content of the whole system; air, water, ice and rock."

This is nonsense. They are not real temperatures at all but the result of imperfect calculations by dubious methods. Neither is useful, but to subtract one from the other and use the result is deception.

Sep 26, 2017 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

EM – Regarding the first part, your thinking is logical and reasonable but the problems lie with the models. As I understand it, the GCMs are hugely complex and calculate the consequences of the known physical relationships within and between grid cells. The radiative forcing of carbon dioxide is the part that is of interest to the researchers and this is based on the principles that were proposed over a hundred years ago – but remain unproven.

As you would expect, the radiative part of the model is geared up to calculating the consequence of CO2 concentration changes, but I am informed that it does not contemplate the predicted warming of the troposphere being partly leaked to space via water vapour.

If my information is correct, it could explain the missing hot spot and the models running too hot.

Sep 26, 2017 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

Concerning the second part of your reply and the subsequent comment by rhoda, there is indeed much wrong with the equation that embodies the greenhouse effect.

It is currently being discussed over at No Tricks Zone so I won’t repeat the arguments here. As I have been pointing out in recent posts, the oceans warm the atmosphere and not the other way round so it is not logical to consider atmospheric temperatures in isolation.

I am tempted agree with Rhoda that the concept of an average atmospheric temperature is meaningless. As shown by Nikolov and Zeller, even the calculation of the solar warming of the earth’s hemisphere is completely wrong.

I have to concede that sea temperatures are more stable and probably more relevant, but the amount of data available is negligible.

All of that before we start discussing the whole can of worms which is temperature measurement and adjustment.

But we are where we are. However, it does mean that some of the important aspects of the GHG faith should be taken with a pinch of salt, such as the famous 33 degrees and attribution of warming that flow from that.

Sep 26, 2017 at 10:10 AM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat


Exactly. It is why I regard the ocean heat content as the most scientifically useful measure of global warming.

One of the best things about OHC is that you can derive it's changes independently from temperature and from sea level change and they agree that the Earth is accumulating 3*10^Joules/year.

Use the satellite measures of insolation, albedo and OLR and you get insolation -albedo-OLR = 3*10^22Joules/year.

Given three independant lines of evidence that Earth's energy content is increasing, all agreeing on the amount of energy coming in, you need real cognitive dissonance to reject that warming is occuring.

Sep 26, 2017 at 10:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Schrodinger's cat, radical rodent, Rhoda

You complain about temperatures, work with energy.

If your ideas work they should be capable of expression as an energy budget.

It need not be a graphic. Give me lists showing how much energy is entering Earth's atmosphere from space and where it goes. Tell me how much is moving between the rocks, the atmosphere and the oceans. Tell me how much is leaving from the surface and atmosphere to space, and by what mechanisms.

The inability of the sceptics to produce a workable substitute for the Trenberth energy budget is the main reason why the rest of us regard you as a bunch of hand wavers on fringe websites.

There is £100,000 waiting for the first person to demonstrate that the Earth's energy budget can work without the greenhouse effect. Go for it.

Sep 26, 2017 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Sep 26, 2017 at 10:40 PM | Entropic man

If Trenberth's Energy Budget is so perfect, why was he looking for "missing heat"?

It is for Climate Science's experts to resolve, on amateur research budgets.

Sep 26, 2017 at 11:29 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

EM, from Dana Nuccitelli writing in The Guardian.

"Myles Allen and study lead author Richard Millar took to The Guardian to criticize the conservative media outlets that had misrepresented their research. I spoke to Allen, who clarified that he was trying to explain that temperatures didn’t seem to be responding to carbon emissions as fast as the models used in the last IPCC report anticipated. Except the reasons for that have already been identified - the actual global energy imbalance hasn’t been as large as in the scenarios input into the climate models, and we have to compare apples-to-apples temperatures."

Was Trenberth's "Energy Budget" used to benchmark or calibrate data for the models?
"....the actual global energy imbalance hasn’t been as large as in the scenarios input into the climate models..."

Neither the Authors nor Dana want to discuss what they got wrong.

This thread has highlighted various areas for further study, but consensus Climate Scientists are not interested.

Sep 27, 2017 at 12:58 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I 'complain' about temperature not because it isn't relevant, but because the invalid inappropriate use of temperature and the methodology of the people who use it betrays that they either have no idea of the error of their ways or that they are aware but don't care so long as the result suits them.

EM, pick an argument and stick with it. I for one don't believe in the independence of your different derivations. They look to me to be all seeking to find a pre-determined result.

Sep 27, 2017 at 2:14 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda


There is a physical link between ocean heat content, temperature and volume, but you can work back from temperature change to ocean heat content and from sea level rise to ocean heat content independantly.

I've done the sea level and sea temperature calculations myself and can confirm that they agree.

It would take you 20 minutes to confirm it yourself.

I am dependant on the satellite operators for the 0.7W/metre^2 imbalance figure, but have done the rest of that calculation myself. Convert from Watts to Joules/year and multiply that by the surface area of the Earth. You get the same figure as the two sea data methods.

Perhaps there is an enormous conspiracy, of which I am a part, and the results are being fiddled by tens of thousands of scientists. In which case golf charlie is right and I am lying to you under orders from our Supreme Panjandrum.

More likely the oceanographers, satellite operators, physicists and this retired schoolteacher are making measurements and calculations in good faith and Earth is gaining 3*10^22 Joules/year.

Sep 27, 2017 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

So for every 167 joules which arrive, 1 joule is left over. And you have faith in a methodology which subtracts big numbers from big numbers using a figure for albedo which is by no means precise or accurate enough. Fantasy.

Sep 27, 2017 at 4:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterrhoda

Sep 27, 2017 at 3:39 PM | Entropic man

I have asked before about the scientific process used to eliminate all causes of global warming, apart from manmade CO2.

Manmade CO2 cannot be a factor in the LIA or MWP.

You appear to sanction the denial of scientific principles to Climate Science, and Climate Science keeps trying to prove Mann's Hockey Stick with papers such as Gergis supported by so many Climate Scientists, including PAGES2K, see:

Steve McIntyre details some of the "less than honest" methodology, yet Climate Science has not seen fit to formally retract the paper.

You mentioned Trenberth's Energy Budget, whilst Dana Nuccitelli raises issues about Energy Budgets used by Climate Models, being part of their problem. You could raise it with The Guardian, but they are not taking comments.

The "Consensus" does not appear to support Mann, and he was the one who got rid of the MWP (and LIA etc)

If Climate Science remains adamant about Trenberth, perhaps Climate Science should reconsider Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity (ECS) as suggested by Curry and Lewis as a reason why models overheat as the Earth doesn't?

Sep 27, 2017 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

I tire of your determination not to see the wood for the trees, EM. It is (was?) common knowledge that the global temperatures during the Holocene Optimum were up to 5K warmer than present. This means that the world has cooled since then, yet the sea-levels have risen, yet you assure us that this is a sign of a warming world. Now, you assure us that sea levels have risen – against what metric? Nils-Axel Morner was once regarded as THE world’s expert in sea levels and their changes, having studied them for most of his career; this was until he broke from the narrative, and stated that sea-levels are not rising any faster than they have over the past few millennia, and that there is strong evidence that the rate of rise may actually be falling – and even that the levels may actually be falling, in some areas of the world. This raises a few questions in my mind, the prime one being: against what are sea levels being measured – what is the datum point? No-one, least of all you, seems to know, yet they – as do you – assure us that the sea-levels are rising. Now, I’ve seen pictures of Blackpool sea front taken a hundred years ago, and I’ve seen Blackpool sea front more recently: you know what? There is no way that you could categorically state that there has been an observable rise of about a foot in the sea level, there, over the past century – indeed, there are many sites around these small islands, alone, where there is incontrovertible evidence that sea levels have fallen, yet these are actively ignored. How many other, similar, sites are being ignored, around the world? (I can provide a few examples, if you wish: Bangladesh is actually growing in area; it is comprised mainly of estuary, so there could be a good reason for such growth; many of the Pacific atolls are also growing in area; none are in danger of disappearing under the waves. As for the Maldives… they are happily destroying the reefs that protect them, as well as providing the material for further growth, so that they may build more airports to attract the tourists; there is no real evidence that they are soon to be submerged.)

Another question to be raised is: are there any other possible causes for sea level change? We have been assured that the melting glacier and polar ice caps are going to raise sea levels; however, that narrative has changed, once the fly in that ointment became evident as measurements by NASA show that Greenland and Antarctica do appear to be accumulating ice, not losing it. Yet, we are continually assured, the sea-levels continue to rise.

And yet another question to be raised: how are the changes being measured? I would moot that the changes being claimed, of up to 3mm per year, are not actually measurable for an entire ocean; I doubt you could get a valid measurement of a couple of inches change, let alone tenths of an inch.

Then, we get to another very important point: so what if the world is warming? Is there an optimum temperature which is somewhat cooler than that we have now? If so, what is it – and, perhaps more importantly, why is it considered optimum? A point that has particular relevance, when the Holocene Optimum previously mentioned was considerably warmer than now, and is still referred to as the optimum.

Sep 27, 2017 at 6:05 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Radical rodent

" It is (was?) common knowledge that the global temperatures during the Holocene Optimum were up to 5K warmer than present"

That turns out not to be the case.We are now warmer than the Holocene Optimum.

Most of the rest of your post is rhetorical questions which I will allow you to research for yourself.

One question did pique my interest. What is the optimum temperature?

Over the last 10,000 years we built a civilization. Global temperatures stayed between 13C and 14C. We are now at 14.9C and some areas are struggling. Perhaps we are already too warm?

Burke et al calculated that economically the optimum temperature for a country is 13C.

The question then becomes "If we could choose a global temperature, which country should we optimise temperature for?"

The tropics are too hot and would prefer cooling. The UK is too cold and would prefer warming. The US is in the Goldilocks zone, but is starting to overheat.

Sep 27, 2017 at 7:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

The planet has been warming since at least the LIA so that covers 150 years, starting long before CO2 became an issue in the Fifties. It also warmed at a fast rate around the 1930s, at the same rate as during the 1980s. Without any shame, climate scientists claimed that the latter rate was unprecedented and proof of global warming.

Then we had the pause. During this period at least 60 different papers claimed 60 different reasons as to why the pause was not a pause. None was convincing. Also during this time, every year was claimed to break a new record based variously on statistically insignificant temperature increases, data adjustments and cherry picking.

At no time have the climate scientists contemplated the influence of natural climate changes. It is though such changes do not exist, though it is true that they tried hard to remove evidence of the Medieval Warm Period.

Today, most of the alleged warming is in the output of models, with observation failing to keep up. Yet the models are deemed to be the reality and the observations are frequently corrected.

A problem usually neglected is how to reconcile the scientific integrity of climate science with the behaviour of climate scientists. ClimateGate was not the end of scientists behaving badly, it was just the beginning.

Sep 27, 2017 at 9:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

The oceans with their heat content inertia and self correcting water cycle maintain a fairly stable temperature range. As discussed earlier, perturbations cause the climate to change endlessly within this range. Many of the changes are cyclical with positive and negative phases which add together to produce a whole range of positive and negative amplitudes.

The last quarter of last century coincided with a warming phase and also with a sustained period of high activity solar cycles though no causal relationship has been proven. We are now in a fairly flat period. It is impossible to predict whether warming will resume or whether cooling will begin. All that is certain is that the climate does not remain constant for long.

There is no doubt that warmer temperatures aid life and a colder climate is a danger to life. Studies show that life thrived during periods of higher temperatures. Even today, the death toll during bitter winters far exceeds the effect of hot summers.

Carbon dioxide is essential for life and with a fast growing global population to feed, increasing carbon dioxide will help crop yields and the greening of desert areas.

Global warming is at best an unproven hypothesis. The data is very poor, the science immature and the methodology suspect. It has become more like a religion, relying on faith rather than evidence. I suspect that its promoters are not going to concede mistakes, after all, they have a multi-trillion dollar industry to support.

Mother Nature will eventually decide the outcome of this debate. In the meantime, the geological record shows that warm periods are infrequent and rare. We should be thankful for this one and hope it lasts.

Sep 27, 2017 at 9:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

An initial few years of cooling, can now be blamed on a volcano.

If the PDO swings into La Nina, faith in CO2 Climate Science, could cool a bit.

Sep 27, 2017 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Oh dear… So they are hard at work, altering the past so that the narrative of today remains true to the cause – now, the long-held knowledge that the MWP was warmer than now, and the RWP was warmer than the MWP, the Minoan WP even warmer, and the Holocene Optimum yet warmer, still. Suddenly… “Oooh, look – ‘new’ evidence shows that this was not the case!” “Yes,” they say, “it was warmer in the Holocene… but only in selected areas.” Presumably, Bognor was nice then – very sunny and warm – but Cannes wasn’t so hot. Quite remarkable how they can narrow such data down… and even more remarkable how those as intelligent as you claim to be just suck it up!

What about the forests that are being revealed in Alaska, as the glaciers retreat? Most would accept that this is pretty good evidence that it was considerably warmer to enable these trees to grow, and warm for sufficiently long to create a forest. Somehow, I suspect that you will come up with the idea along the lines of the trees being a special kind of tree that can grow under ice. Not everyone agrees with you. It is a TRILLION dollar industry, EM; is it any wonder that it works hard to protect itself?

Oh… and, it would appear, your definition of rhetorical is of a question that not only you cannot answer it yourself, but is one that you feel uncomfortable considering, in the first place.

I think that the Cat has summed it up pretty well.

Sep 28, 2017 at 12:42 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

As use of computer models has increased, so have the scare stories about Global Warming, even though actual observations reveal nothing exceptional is happening when compared with historical evidence.

It is not CO2 causing Global Warming, but Climate Scientists producing Computer Models intended to create Global Warming scenarios, requiring carefully selected data.

The "Pause" has simply proved the inability of Computer Models to sustain their own credibility for policy makers. The Allen paper has confirmed it, but the howls of protest from Climate Scientists do not include an admission that they need to re-examine the "Science" that they created/fabricated.

Sep 28, 2017 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

rhoda - You often criticise the idea of a surface temperature measurement and in particular the equation producing the famous 33 degrees GHE.

Of course, the average surface temperature as measured by thermometer is a scalar property and the spectrometric measurement of radiation as earth radiates to space is a vector quantity, so technically it is meaningless to subtract these values, regardless of whether the two values we are subtracting have in themselves got any real meaning.

Sep 28, 2017 at 7:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterSchrodinger's Cat

EM, Radical Rodent, Schrodinger's Cat & Rhoda
Thank you for your continued input. Real Climate had a post on CO2 back in 2007

Step 4: Radiative forcing is a useful diagnostic and can easily be calculated
Step 5: Climate sensitivity is around 3ºC for a doubling of CO2
Step 6: Radiative forcing x climate sensitivity is a significant number

This prompted a query
Comment 7. Steve Reynolds 6 Aug 2007 at 7:38 PM:

"I do not follow your logic. I think that you at least need to show that current weather extremes are outside what is expected from historical variation."

[Response: Actually no. To demonstrate attribution you don’t need to show that something is unprecedented, merely that it follows consistently. If you take your request to its logical conclusion, we would have to wait until we find ourselves with 10 deg C warming and 100 metres of sea level rise (each of which has happened before) before we could say anything about what was causing it. – gavin]

Gavin explains how to demonstrate "attribution", and confirms 10 deg warming and 100metre sea level rise in the past, without explaining cause.

Sep 28, 2017 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

Golf Charlie

Sound like the PETM 56 million years ago.

Probable cause.

Starting point was normal hothouse Earth condions, +5C and +50metre sea level. Some ice, mostly around the South Pole.

Sea floor spreading produced a burst of volcanic activity.

Increased inorganic CO2.

Increase in temperature.

Big increase in organic methane and CO2.

Big increase in forcing and ice melt.

Big increase in temperature and sea level.

+10C and +100metre sea level.

Lots of information available online.

Sep 29, 2017 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterEntropic man

Sep 29, 2017 at 10:08 AM | Entropic man

Thank you for listing natural events that could have caused warming, possibly 56 million years ago. Is it yet known what causes the end of PETM events, and is so, whether ice ages are similarly triggered, and subsequently reversed?

Sep 29, 2017 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie

EM. I suggest you read the Wikki entry for the PETM and count the number of times there are comments expressing doubt over "facts" you hold as sacrosanct. Perhaps you should think more carefully about some of those "facts", for instance how do we know sea-levels were 50 m higher and became 100 m higher? What is your yardstick? Such an increase would have caused a truly massive transgression (for which there is no evidence). Where did all the water come from - no ice, and thermal inertia would have curtailed much volume increase (the event only lasted 200,000 years after all). Magnetic striping on the ocean floors reveals nothing exceptional so seafloor spreading is a most unlikely cause.

The PETM event has been explained by CO2 driven warming because it fits in well with current climate dogma. No one is looking for alternative explanations.

Sep 29, 2017 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterSupertroll

PETM, Gavin had to have another go at it

presumably the Wikipedia entry reflects the level of understanding.

Can volcanic eruptions cause warming and cooling? Does it vary depending on emissions from Earth and/or Climate Science?
"Evidence suggests that the anomaly was predominantly a volcanic winter event caused by the massive 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies (the largest eruption in at least 1,300 years after the extreme weather events of 535–536), perhaps plus the 1814 eruption of Mayon in the Philippines. The Earth had already been in a centuries-long period of global cooling that started in the 14th century. Known today as the Little Ice Age, it had already caused considerable agricultural distress in Europe. The Little Ice Age's existing cooling was aggravated by the eruption of Tambora, which occurred during its concluding decades.[4]"

Yet as the LIA was concluding, Arctic Sea Ice was receding sufficiently for the doomed Franklin Expedition to search for the North West Passage.

Sep 29, 2017 at 6:24 PM | Unregistered Commentergolf charlie