Greenhouse Effect Is Basic Physics – Deal With Reality

The greenhouse effect is fundamental physics. People who can’t accept that fact, make it more difficult for skeptics to get their message out.

Don’t do that.

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106 Responses to Greenhouse Effect Is Basic Physics – Deal With Reality

  1. Dmh says:

    I agree, even if it’s not the most important for climate or even surface temperatures, or if it depends on atmospheric composition, humidity, etc., the effect is real.

    • rah says:

      Seems pretty important to me. Without it many of our nights would be cold like in the desert I think. And our summer days warmer and dryer.

      • Dmh says:

        I totally agree in the case of H2O, but in the case of O3, for example, I’ve never seen a definitive account of it’s influence on climate and it seems to be one of the most important GHGs. (I believe CO2 has no importance for climate at present)

  2. daveandrews723 says:

    As a non-scientist, it seems to me that the debate centers on the greenhouse effect of CO2.(yeah, that’s brilliant, I know. haha.) It also seems to me that its effect is being overstated by the warmists with no proof or clear evidence of its precise effect. How are they so certain of their beliefs?

    • Mike Haseler says:

      People have been told a huge great big lie and it is this: that there is this thing called “science” which is omnipotent and omniscient. The reality is quite the opposite. “Science” is really just some public sector academic who’s never dealt with a real problem in their life who’s never had a prediction that works, who gets paid so long as they are self assured enough to believe they are right … telling the rest of the world they are wrong to look at the evidence and disbelieve them.

  3. Brian D says:

    Forgive the OT here, but it’s Veterans Day. Thank you for all of those who served, and to all the family’s that lost loved ones.

    This is also a day to remember one of the most powerful non-tropical storms to hit the US. Back in 1940, the Armistice Day Blizzard struck the C. US. Literally, a polar vortex formed right over the C. US, and created widespread havoc. Killed a few people as well.

    Back when CO2 was what? Come on people, REALLY!

  4. Goodmongo says:

    It’s a little broad to say GH effects exist. Of course they do. But it’s also like saying climate changes. Of course it does. But how much is human caused?

    Real science defines precisely the cause and effect in measurable and repeatable experiments or observations. And this is where the whole argument falls flat. On one side you have the IPCC that twists this to mean 97% of all climate change is caused by man. That is where the problem rests.

    • Mike Mellor says:

      The total greenhouse effect is about 32 deg C. Of that, CO2 contributes about 3.5 C. Of that, anthropogenic causes contribute (let’s be generous) about 0.5 C.
      And about half of the GH effect of CO2 happens with the first 20 ppm (source Dr David Archer, warmist climate scientist at Uni of Chicago, who conducts free online courses in climate change if you’re interested.)

    • tom0mason says:

      An effect of human causation on the climate is the reduction in catastrophically foggy and misty days in the Northern Hemisphere. This is a direct consequence of the clean air mandates by Western governments.

  5. james windham says:

    Yes. CO2 has Greenhouse affects in a closed system. So who closed the atmosphere? And why is the warming not found in the the atmosphere by weather balloon measurements. Obviously The atmosphere is not functioning as a greenhouse . To date atmospheric parts per million of CO2 can only be proved to function as a greenhouse gas in the closed system of computers programmed to find that effect..

  6. Steve Case says:

    My comment from yesterday’s “One more time” post :

    The flow of energy through the system is simple:
    Sun ==> Surface ==> Atmosphere ==> Back out to Space

    There isn’t some sort of magic loop between the surface and the atmosphere.

    Green House gas in the atmosphere slows the cooling of the surface, but doesn’t warm it. The sun at 5000 K does the warming. Your metabolism not the blanket does the warming. Heat always flows from the warmer body to the cooler body. The surface, mostly ocean, is warmer than the atmosphere by several degrees. The atmosphere doesn’t warm the ocean. The sun does.

    “Longwave radiation coming down from greenhouse gas molecules warms the surface.”
    is wrong,

    It might seem to work that way, but it doesn’t.

    Please don’t get yourself discredited on this one.

    Other than that, keep it up, I “loves” what you do (-:

    • Goodmongo says:

      “Longwave radiation coming down from greenhouse gas molecules warms the surface.”
      is wrong”

      The problem is in the semantics. It does indeed ‘warm’ the surface. AFTER the surface cooled from releasing energy into the atmosphere. And the warming can not exceed the amount of cooling for the system. At best it is breakeven in energy.

    • Scott Scarborough says:

      Just like a blanket slows the cooling of you skim but doesn’t warm you?

      • Scott Scarborough says:

        Skin ,not skim.

      • rah says:

        That reminds me. Snow shelters are darn good insulators even in calm weather. Even without an outside heat source they retain body heat very well. Slept and hung out pretty comfortably in snow caves when the temp outside was subzero.

    • bleakhouses says:

      I couldnt comment yesterday so here goes.
      Using your human heat source analogy, go for a hard run at 30 deg. F. without adequate insulation and your body will struggle to perform being unable to keep up with the heat loss to the atmosphere.
      If you do the same run and over-insulate you will quickly overheat; with your body core temperature increasing to a greater level than it would with no added insulation or even the ideal amount of insulation.

    • DEEBEE says:

      Heat always flows from warmer body to colder body, strictly speaking is too vague. If speaking of radiation only then it is both ways and the net net is towards the cooler body.

  7. thegriss says:

    Trouble with this is that water vapour is a capacitor, not a resistor, and we have a alternative voltage (frequency 24 hours)

  8. richard says:

    my greenhouse has windows, curtains and ceiling blinds which keeps it at a comfortable temp. much like the atmosphere has clouds and rain.

  9. Adrian_O says:

    The main point is the MODULATING effect of CO2, i.e. by how much a CHANGE in CO2 affects the greenhouse effect.

    See the satellites

    In fig 3 the effect of 36 years of CO2 growth is minimal

    negligible compared to neighboring bands.

    Half the CO2 band is up, half is down, by about the same amount.

    The water effect is huge by comparison. They had to remove it (by choosing only cloudless days in the sample) because it overwhelmed everything else.

    There are no measurements showing increased effects of CO2 in the actual Earth atmosphere – as opposed to the lab.


    The atmospheric data used by the US Air Force, MODTRAN, shows minuscule effects of CO2 in the atmosphere (as opposed to in the lab).

    Play around with data at

    LOOKING UP sensor altitude 0 humidity 50%
    CO2 0, 400, 800, 1200 ppm: result SAME 365.81 W/m^2

    Thus: No difference made by CO2 whatsoever


    LOOKING DOWN sensor altitude 70km Standard Cirrus Model
    1976 US standard atmosphere

    co2 400 rel hum 50%: result Iout W/m^2 = 162.589 W/m^2
    co2 1200 rel hum 49%: result Iout W/m^2 = 162.589 W/m^2

    Thus: Tripling CO2 has the same effect as 1% change in relative humidity.

  10. My ‘Green’ house neutralizes dangerous levels of heat produced by the burning of Carbon with a pressurized sprinkler system. It would be a wonderful world if there were only natural processes like my home’s sprinkler system to mimic that in our Earth’s climate.

    • richard says:

      my green house has automatic window opening , auto blinds and curtains that work at a set temp. wouldn’t it be wonderful if the atmosphere had a similar process.

  11. tom0mason says:

    I wonder what would happen if….

    Professor Woods famous experiment of 1909 invalidated the greenhouse effect as commonly understood. That is to say that greenhouses get warmer than the environment outside because of the unique properties of the gasses within the greenhouse.
    Professor Woods experiment has been successfully replecated and therefore should be viewed as real science.

    Greenhouses work only by restricting convection.
    In the free air of our atmosphere convection is freely allowed to happen therefore no greenhouse effect is evident.

  12. mkelly says:

    Steve Goddard says: ” …i.e. greenhouse gas driven global warming theory simply does not work in a convective atmosphere.”

    I fully support and concur with this. I have said it myself. What is it I am missing in your recent claims that the greenhouse effect is real.

  13. Rosco says:

    The Stefan-Boltzmann equation provides a simple relationship between temperature of an object and the total power emitted by that object summed over all wavelengths.

    That is ALL the information the SB equation provides.

    Only Planck’s equation fully describes the nature of the emission of radiation and the relationship to temperature.

    The Stefan-Boltzmann equation, although derived experimentally initially, is also the integral of the Planck equation over all wavelengths. As such the value of total power is the area under the curve in accordance with standard calculus.

    This relationship serves to confirm each equation as valid.

    The problem with the radiation emission from a cold object inducing a warmer temperature in an object that is already warmer is simply that a warmer temperature emits higher frequency radiation than a cooler temperature !

    There are no natural or manmade systems where the combination of 2 lower frequencies results in the emission of higher frequencies – except of course the “greenhouse effect” !

    The “cut-off” is always a lower frequency not a higher one – systems which defy this natural state of things create energy from nothing and cannot exist.

    It isn’t difficult to plot Planck curves in a spread sheet and produce graphs for various temperatures.

    The oft used climate science rule of adding x + x watts per square metre and solving sigma T^4 for that sum DOES NOT produce a valid Planck curve – it can’t as we all should know because of the other relationship Wien’s law which shifts the peak emission to higher frequencies at higher temperatures.

    However plot the calculated temperature and you get a valid Planck curve – it just is not the simple algebraic sum of the total flux emitted at lower temperatures as you can easily confirm with any spread sheet program and appropriate equations.

    “Greenhouse effect” advocates even try to add up quantities which are completely different to prove their convoluted hypothesis.

    An example of this is the so-called “proof” of the “Steel Greenhouse” effect using the Stefan-Boltzmann equation.

    The problem with this was they add two different quantities and don’t even realise what an absurdity they have presented.

    The initial value represents the area under a legitimate Planck curve but the second value used is not a valid Stefan-Boltzmann equation value at all – it is the difference between two legitimate Planck curve values not a discrete flux. You can’t even know this value unless you already know the final value so this so-called “proof” is a meaningless gibberish of circular argument using different quantities – you might as well say 2 apples plus 3 oranges = 5 buffoons !

    You can easily confirm that using real temperature values the SB equation calculated total power + the SB equation calculated total power DOES NOT EQUAL sigmaT^4 for the algebraic sum.

    The resulting curve from such a sum is not a Planck curve at all but if such an algebraic sum is really correct as all of the “experts” tell me it is the resultant curve MUST be a Planck curve – and it is not !

    The SB equation represents the integral of the appropriate Planck curve and using the rules of calculus the sum of these integrals can be plotted by adding every value for each frequency or wavelength of the real Planck curves BUT the result never equals a VALID Planck curve !

    You can also use the photon flux to further confirm this.

    Is this enough of a real Physics discussion of why I do not believe the “back radiative greenhouse effect” ?

    Why is it wrong to expect that if such a sum a x W/sqm + X W/sqm = sigma T^4 the plot of appropriate Planck curves should provide a valid result.

    Sure there are many ways to have a flux of X W/sqm other than the emission from an object at Y Kelvin but ALL of these – inverse square reduction, lower emissivity etc. – ALL of these involve the emission of radiation from an object at higher temperature – NOT LOWER !!

    If I am wrong I welcome a real explanation why the only equation which completely describes the characteristics of a radiation emission at any temperature does not describe the radiation emission of the simple algebraic sum of 2 or more of these emissions at any temperature – YET use the SB equation to calculate the temperature and plot THAT value and it works correctly – the simple algebraic sum of radiation power emitted is not valid.

    Plot some Planck curves yourself and see this indisputable truth.

    It isn’t difficult.

    You can even extract the temperature as a variable from Planck’s curve and use this to confirm that X W/sqm + X W/sqm DOES NOT produce a valid Planck curve.

    As the SB equation is the integral the rules of calculus say if the relationship is valid it must provide the right answer BUT it doesn’t proving the simple algebraic sum is invalid !

    It also clearly demonstrates the ridiculous supposed proof using the SB equation – the person who promoted this did not even realise how stupid it is to add a valid Planck curve to the difference between two valid Planck curves – you cannot even know this difference value without knowing the final value and to claim this as some sort of “proof” is really not proof of anything except stupidity !

    • Baa Humbug says:

      Someone has already done the calculations (the area under the planck curve etc). Search for Jinan Cao blog.
      I wish more people would state the fact that one cannot just add flux together and convert the total to temperature.

  14. PeterMG says:

    Tony don’t go down the road of WUWT. Stick to what you do and what you know. You are good at it.

    Now let me say it very simply because so many people use the words “greenhouse effect” without the slightest idea of what they mean. You should not use them period if we are to win the scientific argument.

    And the reason is because what you think is a greenhouse Tony is not what the IPCC has been telling us. For over 15 years I have been following the so called green house science and never in all that time has the greenhouse been never been about water (H2O) Its always been about CO2 and CH4, and any other of the famous greenhouse gases that they wish to demonise. It has always been about a gas at -40 at 35,000 sending it energy back to the surface which is, let’s say, an average of 12C and warming it. Nothing could be more fanciful.

    Science is not about obscure words and incompressible mathematics. Science is about observation and measurement. That we can’t measure this radiative forcing is one of the key strategies they use to confuse. Its why after 20 or 30 years grown men and women who have lots of letters after their name are still arguing and confusing not only themselves, but many in the public domain, especially other those with some scientific knowledge. But I’m an engineer, and in common with most good engineers solve problems, and it’s ingrained into me not to accept anything unless it makes sense, so it is easier for us engineers to see through what the IPCC means by “the greenhouse effect”.

    This subject is the very essence of the AGW meme. By all means let’s discuss it. But I suggest you listen and learn, because every day, every week, every month and every year more and more scientists and engineers are coming out and categorically stating the “greenhouse effect” based on the radiative forcing of gases such as CO2 is nothing but make believe. What we don’t have is an alternative description for what we as humans can so obviously feel is happening at different times in our atmosphere. It will come, once we have de-politicised (how’s that for a made up word?) climate science, but for now we must keep the foot on the throat, show no mercy, and not go weak and cherry pick the bits we like so as to be more acceptable to the establishment as has happened at WUWT.

    • DEEBEE says:

      You begin by talking about what should not be included in a scientific argument and proceed to pontificate about non scientific stuff.

      It is not difficult to see why the warm it’s worry about gases, because the removal force for the gases are quite slow, while water entry and exit can be quite balanced. This does not mean the warm it’s are right, but you can easily see the point.

    • squid2112 says:

      Well said Peter !!

  15. Rosco says:

    When I wrote – “The “cut-off” is always a lower frequency not a higher one – systems which defy this natural state of things create energy from nothing and cannot exist.” – I offer the support of wave theory and superposition where every combination of waves of varying frequency results in destructive interference except the combination of two frequencies of equal value.

    At best this results in increased amplitude but not higher frequency.

  16. tom0mason says:

    On a philisophcal note there is no “fundamental physics”, there are only those laws and properties which at this time are widely agreed to hold certain values. This does not invalidate them from being modified or entirely changed at any future date.
    That is the essential part of science. Everything is in question and we build on the rubble of fallen “fundamental physics”. Nothing but nothing is immutable and unchanging. Even the ‘speed of light as a constant’ is available for a rewrite if you can prove it otherwise.
    And therein is the catch, convince me with proof not just empty declaration of something is a part of “fundamental physics”, because for a lot of people here and elsewhere it patently is not. Point me to websites that have the proof.

    So I ask Tony live with it. We have differences but they are not great, and they can be overcome with knowledge. Your belief in this matter could be seen as clouding issues. On this matter historically Professor Woods and laterly the Robinson and Catling Modeled Atmosphere appear to point in one direction, Dr. Spencer and many others point in another. Truly the matter is not a “settled science”.
    Do I, or anyone else, have a right to disagree, to question, probe, joke even at this blogsite?. If the answer is ‘no’ then I have been mistaken in what this blogsite is, and what it mght stand for.
    Surely the open but logical mind is what is needed?


  17. Rosco says:

    I agree with TM when he says “there are only those laws and properties which at this time are widely agreed to hold certain values” and of course these may be improved – even disproven.

    But even the application of these current laws is totally distorted to produce the “greenhouse effect”.

    If an algebraic sum of two discrete fluxes is equal to sigmaT^4 for the sum then the “sum” of the various values of the Planck emission curves should sum to a valid Planck curve and they don’t.

    Wien’s law says they don’t as does a valid algebraic addition of the values at every wavelength or frequency or wavenumber but they should if the simple sum is really equal to sigma T^4 – the SB equation is the integral of Planck’s curve.

  18. Jimbo says:

    You should not use them period if we are to win the scientific argument.

    It stopped being about the science a long time ago and became the climate wars. Re-orientate yourself and play in the playing field. Look at their projections and point at the failures. This is what is giving them problems NOT arguments about whether or not co2 is a greenhouse gas. IT NO LONGER MATTERS for the climate wars. Your voice will not be listened to no matter what, even IF you are right. Please think about where I’m coming from. Tony is right as it makes it “more difficult for skeptics to get their message out.” That is a fact.

    • Jimbo says:

      PS even if I was convinced that co2 is NOT a greenhouse gas I would not use it as a rebuttal of Warmists’ claims. Why? IT DOES NOT WORK, no one will listen to you, even IF you are right.

    • Precisely my position. This is not a scientific controversy and the opponents prove it with just about every move. It’s a nasty political fight that was started by the other side bent on a progressive power grab. If and when we win this one, we can have a tidy argument about science. Hell, even a messy one, as real science goes.

      Except that by then some of us be busy fighting the Progressives in whatever next area they’ll pick to push their ideology …

    • Anyone who’s ever tried to argue with Marxists knows exactly what Jimbo is saying.

      • Jimbo says:

        Here is an analogy.
        I go into a boxing match with an opponent. I know my opponent is weak and I can beat him. Suddenly, I realize the floor is uneven. I know and am confident that I can still beat my opponent, but I then decide to leave the ring because of the uneven floor. As a result I can NEVER beat that opponent. He wins by default even though I know I am stronger. This is what is happening with those who go into this climate war insisting that co2 is not a greenhouse gas. It does not matter during the war. Most people who went to high school believe that co2 is a greenhouse gas. As a result NO ONE WILL LISTEN TO YOU EVEN IF YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. The time for the co2 greenhouse gas debate is in another arena. Don’t waste your energy or time.

        Let’s not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by insisting on something that cannot and will not be settled over the next 20 years, but the climate wars can be.

  19. markstoval says:

    As others have pointed out many times, the term Greenhouse Effect is used to obscure understanding by confusing and conflating the warmist’s scientific hypothesis with the well known physical greenhouse or hothouse. It is a play on the ignorance of the common man. Shame on everyone for using that term. A proper term would be “The Atmospheric Effect”.

    It is true that the presence of the atmosphere has certain effects and no one should deny that certain things are different because there is an atmosphere on planet earth. Ah, but how does the atmosphere accomplish this? That, my friends, is highly controversial and will not be answered until the scam artists are through playing politics and seeking more grant money.

    It has been pointed out that regardless of all other arguments, the CO2 molecule in the lower atmosphere will receive a photon of energy, and then most often bump into another (non-radiating) molecule (Nitrogen or Oxygen) losing that energy long before it has the time to radiate the energy received. Convection Rules in the lower atmosphere.

    There is no “greenhouse effect” but there does look to be an “atmospheric effect”.

    ~ Mark

    • tom0mason says:

      We appear to live in a similar world, but that is only a correlation.

    • nielszoo says:

      Absolutely. Gas Law and gravity decide what the temperature will be depending on solar input. Gases have extremely small emissivity values to begin with and CO2s is something like 0.002 which is, for all practical purposes zero. Of course the IPCC uses a value of 1.0 and treats CO2 like a perfect black body radiating into a 0°K body. Utter fiction.

    • bleakhouses says:

      Regardless, “greenhouse effect” is a memorable and descriptive word. The warmest have used the concept of propter nomen to great effect; it couldn’t have been a better campaign had it been dreamed up by Don Draper.

  20. First, let’s get a clear definition of “greenhouse effect”. I agree that saying there is none is not helpful for skeptics. Physics shows certain effects exist and to deny that is problematic, unless you can articulate why and be very convincing. However, without a clear definition of “greenhouse effect”, it’s hard to separate what is physics and what is not. So first, a definition.

    • tom0mason says:

      However, without a clear definition of “greenhouse effect”, it’s hard to separate what is physics and what is not. So first, a definition.

      Surely it is only about the heating effect within a greenhouse – what else could it possibly be? It is a descriptive phrase.
      And as Professor Woods showed the heating effect in a greenhouse is not a product of the gases within it, proving Svante Arrhenius hypothesis about greenhouse gases wrong. Simple as.

      If there is a different answer it needs to be spelled out and given a proper name.

    • gator69 says:

      Hey RC! You have touched upon one reason why I call it the “Outhouse Effect”. It’s FOS, has to be moved regularly, and stinks.

    • Truthseeker says:

      I think I would phrase it the question to be answered experimentally in the following way …

      If you had two planetary bodies of the same size, mass, composition, age and a solid mantle and core (to remove volcanism as a variable) orbiting the same star at the same distance (perhaps 180 degrees from each other) at the same speed with the same rotation and there was no vapour of any kind (a VAPOUR is different from a GAS – a point that is missed in the argument) and one planet had only unary and binary molecules in its atmosphere (N, O2, etc) and the other had trinary and larger molecules (CO2, CH4, etc) each with the same atmospheric pressure profile, would the planet with the larger molecules have a higher ambient temperature than the planet with only the smaller molecules?

      In short does the gaseous composition of an atmosphere affect the ambient temperature of that atmosphere?

      I think that the solar system observations highlighted by Huffman and Nikolas and Zeller show that the answer to this question is “NO”.

      • nielszoo says:

        The number of the molecules don’t matter, it’s the molecular weight of the component elements that determine the gas constant for any given gas. In your example (assuming fairly low pressures as gas law doesn’t work well at very low and very high pressures) if one planet had a pure Nitrogen atmosphere and the other had a pure Carbon Dioxide atmosphere the Nitrogen planet would be hotter as N2’s gas constant is 296.8 J/kg °K and CO2’s is 188.9 J/kg °K. If your planets had the same pressure as Earth sea level (1 bar) the CO2 one would have a temp of ~282°K and the N2 planet ~289.2°K. Plain “air” (without water vapor or particulates) comes in around 289.25°K. Methane comes in at 288.3°K, O2 at 289.8°K and finally Argon at 289.4°K.

        Note that of the atmospheric components CO2 is the coldest gas at equilibrium. Not only do the Climateers have the warming thing wrong, they picked the gas with the least real effect on atmospheric temperatures.

  21. tom0mason says:

    Tony has the self-inflicted privilage of try to keep everyone within reasonable bounds.
    A trick I understand to be akin to knitting smoke while awarding honors, or chastisements, to a dynamically changing and randomly formed, psuedo-meritocracy which holds various disparate views.


  22. Baa Humbug says:

    If one accepts the GHE as defined by the IPCC (but quibbles about the magnitude) one must accept that this planet should be -18degC if not for ghgs raising it to 15degC.
    I sell party ice. You’ll find this ice is kept at around that -18degC mark. I challenge anybody to buy a few bags of party ice, and demonstrate how that ice can be warmed to 15degC just by the introduction of ghgs.
    Put the ice in a portable ice box, squirt copious amounts of co2 into the box (buy a $20 fire extinguisher) raising the ghg level in the box to many thousands of ppm, then let us know how quickly that -18degC warms itself to 15degC via “back radiation”.

    • CO2 bands are already saturated. Adding more CO2 does very little.

      That is the whole point.

      • Baa Humbug says:

        Ok, but the question remains, is it possible to reflect the flux from ice at -18degC and warm it to 15degC?

        • I am not interested in discussing straw man arguments, thanks.

        • Baa Humbug says:

          It wasn’t meant to be a strawman argument. The physics of GHE states that this planet would be -18degC if not for the backradiation by ghgs FROM this -18degC.
          It may be possible, but I’ve yet to come across any experiment that raises an objects temperature from -18degC to 15degC purely by backradiating.
          Anyone accepting the “basic physics” of the greenhouse effect must accept that radiation from an object at -18degC can be backradiated to increase that objects temp to 15degC, so with due respect, IMHO not a strawman.

        • Curt says:

          baa: If you were trying to stay warm, would you rather be in a room where the walls were at 255K (-18C) — about the temperature of your freezer — or at 3K (-270C)? Remember that your body’s metabolism produces power, but has a limited capability for doing so.

        • Baa Humbug says:

          Curt: The greenhouse effect as detailed by the IPCC states that the temp of this 3rd rock would be -18degC if not for ghgs (note: not atmosphere, but ghgs).
          IF…..the ghg effect reduces the rate of cooling, it can only reduce FROM -18degC. But in fact it supposedly warms by 33degC to 15degC.
          I rather be in a room with walls at -18 instead of minus heaps more. But if ghgs SLOW DOWN THE COOLING RATE, HOW CAN IT EVER BE WARMER THAN -18degC?

        • the Griss says:

          Baa, the planet is at minus 18C.. somewhere close to half way between the surface and the tropopause.

        • Baa Humbug says:

          @the Griss.
          Yes at some altitude the atmosphere is at -18C. How did it get to that temperature according to the IPCC claimed GHE? Not by the sun apparently but by the radiation from a -18C surface. This -18C atmosphere then radiates back to the -18C surface thereby increasing its temp to 15C.
          In fact, according to the K&T radiation budget, backradiation from the atmosphere is higher than the radiation that reaches the surface directly from the sun (about double from 169Wm2 to 334Wm2).
          p.s. During mid afternoon on a sunny day, I’ve yet to feel warmer when a GREENHOUSE cloud comes over the top supposedly doubling the flux. I’ve felt cooler every single time. It’s also ALWAYS COOLER with the greenhouse effect of evaporation and evapotranspiration than without in dry scapes.
          My conclusion is that the GHE can cool as well as warm depending on the time of day. The net effect nobody seems able to demonstrate with current levels of knowledge. That’s why I believe it is incomplete and not entirely true to say that the GHE keeps the planet warmer. I’d venture to say that the GHE keeps extremes to a narrow band I.e. not as cold a nights and not as warm a days. The net effect is up for study and debate.

        • Curt says:

          Baa: You ask: “if ghgs SLOW DOWN THE COOLING RATE, HOW CAN IT EVER BE WARMER THAN -18degC?”

          You are getting trapped by your own imprecise use of the language. You really need to use the mathematical equations of energy balance to really get at the issue, but more accurate English will still help.

          It is better to say that GHGs reduce the rate of heat transfer from the earth’s surface to space. If there were no other power source for the earth, it would indeed just slow down the rate at which the earth cooled.

          But with the sun as a separate power source, the reduced heat transfer to space means a higher temperature is required for the earth to reject as much power as it receives. If you started with an earth in steady-state conditions with no GHGs, adding GHGs would reduce the heat transfer to space below the sun’s input, creating an imbalance that would increase the internal energy and therefore temperature of the earth. This would continue until the temperature reached a level where the transfer to space once again matched the input from the sun.

      • tom0mason says:

        On this blog gallopingcamel wrote a comment on the subject at
        And he says –

        While I am a physicist, I am not a climate scientist. My field is quantum electro-optics; I have been building lasers since 1970 for fun and profit, starting with dye lasers and finishing with the HIGS (High Intensity Gamma Source)….

        …. a molecule cannot emit a photon unless it has first been raised to an “excited state”. The lifetime of these excited states is typically measured in micro-seconds or milli-seconds.

        If left undisturbed, excited atoms or molecules will eventually give up their excess energy via radiative transitions to lower energy states or via collisions with other molecules. When total pressure is low, radiative transfer dominates so the outgoing radiation is absorbed by CO2 (or water vapor) is re-radiated isotropically. This means that half of the outgoing radiation is returned to the surface exactly as claimed by Trenberth & Co.

        In the troposphere the mean time between collisions is quite short (~200 pico-seconds) so most of the outgoing IR radiation absorbed by complex molecules will be lost in collisions before a photon can be radiated. This means that in the lower atmosphere it makes no difference whether the energy is transfered by radiation or by convection. In either case the energy is retained in the troposphere.

        Currently, I am a big fan of the Robinson & Catling atmosperic model:

        This implies that at ground level’s ‘thick’ atmosphere, CO2 in an excited state is far more likely to give up its energy as kenetic energy to oxygen, nitrogen, or water molecules (thus warming them – vibrating them) in the atmosphere, than radiate any IR.

        • Thus warming the atmosphere, as you just said.

        • tom0mason says:

          Please see my reply below.

        • tom0mason says:

          Absolutely, but here at ground level the re-radiation of frequency translated IR by CO2 appears to be a very rare event. Above the tropopause, in the thin atmosphere, it would be more common for this action by the very few CO2 molecules there.
          Down here air with water vapor and convection move the heat to the upper atmospheric levels where some can dissipate. Convection of this warmed air probably happens many times before all the ‘excess’ energy is dissipated.

          As I understand it, the greenhouse effect is the trapping of IR within a contained atmosphere in the greenhouse, as espoused by Svante Arrhenius. As Professor Woods experiment proves this is nonsense. IR is not trapped. Therefore no greenhouse effect by this means. It is the lack of convection that assists in retaining the incoming heat within a greenhouse.

        • Curt says:

          tom: You and many other people here believe that Woods’ experiment shows that there is no atmospheric “greenhouse effect”. What Woods showed is that the temperature of a real greenhouse is controlled overwhelmingly by how much convection to ambient is permitted.

          Do you believe that the earth’s temperature is controlled overwhelmingly by how much convection to space (earth’s “ambient”) is permitted?

        • tom0mason says:

          IMO the main problem is the interpretation of ‘greenhouse effect’. Original idea was that greenhouses ‘trapped’ IR. This is both nonsense and by definition confined to observing greenhouses not planet-wide thermal effect were ther are so many more confounding influences. ‘Greenhouse effect’ is for greenhouses – period.

          I consider greenhouses get hot because of the lack of freedom for air to convect adequately within them. That is all.

        • Curt says:

          It’s not a perfect metaphor — get over it!

          It’s not an awful metaphor, either. Solar power is largely let in to the greenhouse or the earth+atmosphere system, but thermal power is significantly impeded from leaving the system to ambient going the other way through the same path.

          In the case of the glass greenhouse, the impedance is overwhelmingly that inhibiting convection. In the case of the atmospheric “greenhouse”, the impedance is that inhibiting radiation. That is where the metaphor is not perfect. But no one serious has ever claimed otherwise.

        • tom0mason says:

          As an imperfect metaphor our global atmosphere is made up of moving cells and layers of vast air masses. Our atmosphere sits over land that may be many 1000ft high or very low. Our atmosphere is also over a lot of water. Our atmospere is free to expand and contract as events determine – and does. Our atmosphere is equally in the sun and in the night-time dark whilst encompassing a spinning globe. Our atmosphere in any one place can vary in pressure, humidity, temperature, and chemistry.

          So I should still consider a greenhouse as a fair model of this real global atmosphere. No I do not, as a model it is plain wrong. Reductionism on this scale fails to teach us anything worthwhile.

        • Curt says:

          With an atmosphere transparent to radiation, the earth’s surface could and would radiate directly to space, unimpeded by any intermediate substance. The real atmosphere does not let that happen.

        • tom0mason says:

          “…the earth’s surface could and would radiate directly to space, unimpeded by any intermediate substance. ”

          Over what time period?

        • Baa Humbug says:

          @Curt: The moon has no atmosphere so it radiates directly to space, yet as soon as the sun rises, the “directly radiating to space” surface gets boiling hot. Please note the length of day of the moon is not relevant. Surface temps rise near on instantly despite the direct radiation to space.
          To my mind, our atmosphere keeps us cool(er) during the day, and warm(er) during the night.
          As Steve G says, that’s why deserts are colder at night than moist tropics. But by the same token, deserts are warmer during the day than moist tropics. Which effect is greater if any is the question.

        • Curt says:

          “Over what time period?”

          Forever – or at least as long as the sun lasts…

        • tom0mason says:

          As our globe has mass it will accumilate heat and eventually reach a stable temperature. During that time, to come up to temperature, the ‘energy balance’ is negative and always will be.


        • Curt says:

          With a constant input power (e.g. from the sun) and a constant temperature of the ambient surroundings (e.g. that of deep space), if the body starts below the steady-state temperature, its losses will be less than its gains, so its internal energy will increase.

          (I would call this a positive imbalance, not negative, but that is semantics…)

          As its temperature increases, its losses to ambient will increase until it reaches a temperature where its losses to ambient match the gains from the power source. This is the steady state temperature.

        • tom0mason says:

          “…constant temperature of the ambient surroundings (e.g. that of deep space)”
          No, no, no! Space (as a vacuum) has no temperature. It has a mimimal energy level but without matter it has no temperature as heat.

          “As its temperature increases, its losses to ambient will increase until it reaches a temperature where its losses to ambient match the gains from the power source. ”

          Agreed, but overall this fictional globe has absorbed more than lost to reach its stable temperature. So overall I say the energy balance is in the negative until the sun dies, and the globe will radiate its energy alone.
          Also is our fictional globe is still spinning at a tilt then any one place still varies in daily temperature and seasonally?
          Excuse my wanting to drag the reality of my world into this but it is the only planet I really know.

        • Curt says:

          tom: At what low density does matter cease to have a temperature? (Serious question.) Space is not a total vacuum, and the average kinetic energy of the matter out there is indeed incredibly low.

          Now, as far as conduction is concerned, the density of space is so low that no meaningful conductive heat transfer can occur, and it does not matter what the average kinetic energy, and therefore temperature, of what is out there is.

          But concerning radiation, given the vastness of space that can transfer energy to and from the earth, it does matter.

          However, even if you disagree with me on this issue, it does not matter. As far as radiative heat transfer is concerned, space acts like an incredibly cold body. Its “effective blackbody temperature” is about 3K. That’s why satellite makers do thermal testing of satellites in vacuum chambers with walls cooled by liquid nitrogen. These supercooled walls are (very close to) the radiative equivalent of deep space.

        • Curt says:

          Baa: The moon is an interesting comparison. Its average surface temperature (and therefore overall surface energy level) is substantially lower than that of earth, despite its much lower Bond albedo (reflectivity of sunlight).

          Its much slower days do indeed matter. Given its rotation relative to the sun is about 1/30 that of earth, what looks like instantaneous response can actually be lagging by an entire earth day.

  23. Baa Humbug says:

    Looking at it from a different point of view, if we accept that it is only ghgs that can radiate away to space at terrestrial atmospheric temperatures, then we must accept that this atmosphere is only cooled by ghgs.
    The solid surface might be warmed by ghgs (as far as I’m aware nobody measures the temp of soils/rocks etc, only sea surface), but the atmosphere is cooled by ghgs.
    A blanket statement that ghgs warm the planet is not a complete statement nor do I think an accurate one.

    • tom0mason says:

      Good point.

    • Yet another straw man argument. The discussion is about surface effects, not the net effect on the planetary system..

      • Baa Humbug says:

        I’ll leave this discussion until you create a “surface” with party ice at -18degC and increase its temp to 15degC with backradiation

        • Curt says:

          Take two cups of liquid, each on a hot plate that inputs the same amount of power to the cup. Surround one with walls of water ice taken from your freezer at 255K (-18C). Surround the other with walls of dry ice at 194K (-79C). Which cup of liquid will have a higher steady-state temperature?

        • Baa Humbug says:

          Curt: Yours is an example of ‘reduced rate of cooling’ which would be rrelevant if the IPCC GHE claimed the planet COOLS DOWN AT A REDUCED RATE from a temperature higher than the claimed 15degC.
          But in fact the claim is that the planet WARMS UP BY 33degC FROM AN INITIAL STARTING POINT OF -18degC.
          Therefore my example of a box of party ice at -18degC being warmed to 15degC VIA ITS OWN BACKRADIATION is more apt IMHO

        • Curt says:

          Baa: I asked about steady-state temperature, not rate of cooling! That is why I included the steady power input from the hot plates. You can reach a steady state temperature from higher or lower temperature. Have you ever taken a course in differential equations?

        • Baa Humbug says:

          @Curt: No I haven’t taken any courses, I’m a high school drop-out.
          My apologies if I misunderstood your question.

        • Curt says:

          Baa: Many people get confused when comparing the cases of a body with and without a separate power source. Without a separate power source, restricting heat transfer to ambient conditions will only slow the rate at which the body’s temperature converges to ambient.

          But with a separate power source — like the sun for the earth, or the hot plate in my example — restricting heat transfer to ambient conditions permits the body’s temperature to remain at a greater difference from ambient temperature. And if ambient is colder (like deep space) then this means that restricting heat transfer to ambient allows a higher steady state temperature.

          If you see commenters who cannot make this distinction, they simply do not begin to be able to analyze these systems.

      • tom0mason says:

        We see things differently, so be it.

  24. tom0mason says:

    The problem as I see it, and as Curt so ably demostrates, is that reductionist modeling can only get you so far. Push in a few real world confounding influences and bang the model falls apart. So we take a globe remove the atmosphere and surface features and probably the sea. OK now you can show how the energy balance works and that overall the energy in equals the energy out. But that is not where we live. Is it? No, on our planet we have an atmosphere, land, rivers and mountains, and seas . Great big swirling life filled oceans and seas.
    And on these oceans sometimes plankton cover the surface. Up to 70% in good years. This plankton uses sunlight and CO2 and the oceans’ warmth and nutrients to live for its short life. Then it dies, and these microscopic plankton cadavers are for the most part, consigned to the depths of the deep oceans, raining down through the dark abysmal depths like a misty snow. And there they stay. For thousands, if not millions of years.

    Tell me where in our planets ‘energy balance’ is our little plankton. It took energy for them to form and grow, for them to spread. They took elements from the natural system and with sunlight they proliforated, but now they have gone. Where has this energy gone?

    But that is only one example – see peat bogs, coal, oil, vegetable and animal life, etc for more examples.

    Nature sequesters energy constantly slowing the return of energy back to space. This slowing can be a few minutes or a few million years. It is a confounding element in the vast puzzle of our climate.

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