Another New Paper Dismantles The CO2 Greenhouse Effect ‘Thought Experiment’

3 Atmospheric Scientists: Greenhouse Effect Based On ‘Physically Irrelevant Assumptions’

Yet another new scientific paper has been published that questions the current understanding of the Earth’s globally averaged surface temperature and its relation to the theoretical greenhouse effect.

Perhaps the most fundamental equation in climate science is the “thought experiment” that envisions what the temperature of the Earth would be if it had no atmosphere (or greenhouse gases).

Simplistically, the globally averaged surface temperature is assumed to be 288 K.   In the “thought experiment”, an imaginary Earth that has no atmosphere (or greenhouse gases to absorb and re-emit the surface heat) would have a temperature of 255 K.  The difference between the real and imagined Earth with no atmosphere is 33 K, meaning that the Earth would be much colder (and uninhabitable) without the presence of greenhouse gases.  Of that 33 K, it is assumed that CO2 concentrations in range of 200 – 280 ppm (the pre-industrial ranges for the last 800,000 years) contribute 7.2 K (~20%), while water vapor concentrations (ranging between about 1,000 to 40,000 ppm for the globe) contribute 20.6 K to the 33 K greenhouse effect.

Dr. Gavin Schmidt, NASA

“The size of the greenhouse effect is often estimated as being the difference between the actual global surface temperature and the temperature the planet would be without any atmospheric absorption, but with exactly the same planetary albedo, around 33°C. This is more of a “thought experiment” than an observable state, but it is a useful baseline.”

Atmospheric scientists Dr. Gerhard Kramm, Dr. Ralph Dlugi, and Dr. Nicole Mölders have just published a paper in the journal Natural Science that exposes the physical and observational shortcomings of the widely-accepted 288 K – 255 K = 33 K greenhouse effect equation.   They conclude that this “thought experiment” is “based on physically irrelevant assumptions and its results considerably disagree with observations.”

The scientists offer a new approach to gauging the Earth’s surface temperature(s), and their results are significantly at variance with the 288 K – 255 K = 33 K  “thought experiment”.  For their calculations, they use observational measurements for the moon — which actually does not have an atmosphere — as their “testbed”.   Using moon data would appear to yield more reliable results than an imaginary-world Earth with no atmosphere.

The following is a very abbreviated summary of these scientists’ conclusions about calculating Earth’s mean temperatures.

Kramm et al., 2017

The planetary radiation balance plays a prominent role in quantifying the effect of the terrestrial atmosphere (spuriously called the atmospheric greenhouse effect). Based on this planetary radiation balance, the effective radiation temperature of the Earth in the absence of its atmosphere of Te ≅ 255 K is estimated. This temperature value is subtracted from the globally averaged near-surface temperature of about ⟨Tns⟩ ≅ 288 K resulting in ⟨Tns⟩ − Te ≅ 33 K. This temperature difference commonly serves to quantify the atmospheric effect. The temperature difference is said to be bridged by optically active gaseous gases, namely H2O (20.6 K); CO2 (7.2 K); N2O (1.4 K);CH4 (0.8 K); O3 (2.4 K); NH3+freons+NO2+CCl4+O2+N2NH3+freons+NO2+CCl4+O2+N2 (0.8 K) (e.g. Kondratyev and Moskalenko, 1984).

Since the “thought experiment” of an Earth in the absence of its atmosphere does not allow any rigorous assessment of such results, we considered the Moon as a testbed for the Earth in the absence of its atmosphere.  […] Based on our findings, we may conclude that the effective radiation temperature yields flawed results when used for quantifying the so-called atmospheric greenhouse effect.  The results of our prediction of the slab (or skin) temperature of the Moon exhibit that drastically different temperature distributions are possible even if the global energy budget is identical. These different temperature distributions yield different globally averaged slab temperatures. […] These [“drastically different temperature distributions” using the same global energy budget parameters, described in detail in the paper] values demonstrate that the power law of Stefan and Boltzmann provides inappropriate results when applied to globally averaged skin temperatures.

It is well known from physics that the mean temperature of a system is the mean of the size-weighted temperatures of its sub-systems. Temperature is an intensive quantity. It is not conserved. On the contrary, energy is an extensive quantity. Energies are additive and governed by a conservation law. Thus, one has to conclude that concept of the effective radiation temperature oversimplifies the physical processes as it ignores the impact of local temperatures on the fluxes in the planetary radiative balance.

Instead of focusing on the technicalities of these authors’ Earth-temperature calculations using moon data, it’s important to call attention to the 5-point critique of the 288 K – 255 K = 33 K greenhouse effect equation outlined in the introduction to the Kramm et al. (2017) paper.   The very first criticism listed is, by itself, worth expounding upon in detail. Here it is:

(1) “Only a planetary radiation budget of the Earth in the absence of an atmosphere is considered, i.e., any heat storage in the oceans (if at all existing in such a case) and land masses are neglected.”

This is crucial.  Not only is the heating contribution of the water vapor-and-CO2 greenhouse effect viewed as a “thought experiment” because it uses an imaginary world without an atmosphere as its premise,  the 288 K – 255 K = 33 K greenhouse effect equation only considers a radiation budget analysis that pertains to atmospheric heating, not ocean heating.  This is theoretical negligence, as it is tantamount to claiming that we should measure the temperature of a person’s spit to accurately determine his overall body temperature.

According to the IPCC (citing Levitus et al., 2012), 93% of the Earth’s heat energy resides in the oceans.  The atmosphere hosts just 1% of the Earth’s heat energy “trapped” by greenhouse gases.  To be physically meaningful, then, the Earth’s energy budget and “mean global temperature” should be calculated by featuring measurements for the thousands-of-meters-deep oceans, and not the atmosphere vs. no-atmosphere conceptualization

Furthermore, it is essential to consider that the heat flux for the Earth’s climate system nearly always goes from ocean to atmosphere, and not the other way around.   The atmosphere does not warm the oceans; the oceans warm the atmosphere.

Ellsaesser, 1984:  “…the atmosphere cannot warm until the oceans do”

Murray et al., 2000“…net surface heat flux is almost always from ocean to atmosphere”

Minnett et al., 2011:   “…the heat flux is nearly always from the ocean to the atmosphere

And because the direction of the heat flux is from ocean to atmosphere, for greenhouse gases like water vapor and CO2 to warm the atmosphere by 33 K, they necessarily must heat the oceans by that equivalent first.   In other words, for the Earth’s theoretical greenhouse effect to “work”, downwelling longwave infrared radiation (LWIR) from water vapor and CO2 must be fundamental players in heating the Earth’s oceans to depths of thousands of meters.

An unheralded problem with this conceptualization arises:  We have no physical measurements from a real-world scientific experiment that identify how much, if at all, parts per million (0.000001) increases (or decreases) in atmospheric CO2 concentrations heat (or cool) water bodies.

Even the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) advocacy blogs and acknowledge that we have no real-world evidence identifying the extent to which heat changes occur in water bodies when CO2 concentrations are varied in volumes of +/-0.000001 above them.   We have to use proxy evidence from clouds instead.  “Clearly it is not possible to alter the concentration of greenhouse gases in a controlled experiment at sea to study the response of the skin-layer. Instead, we use the natural variations in clouds to modulate the incident infrared radiation at the sea surface.”  “Obviously, it’s not possible to manipulate the concentration of CO2 in the air to carry out real-world experiments, but natural changes in cloud cover provide an opportunity to test the principle [that CO2 heats water].”

And the problem with using clouds as a proxy for CO2 is that even very small (1%) cloud cover variations can quite easily overwhelm and supersede the greenhouse effect associated with changes in CO2 concentrations due to the magnitude and dominance of cloud LWIR forcing.

Ramanathan et al. (1989): “The greenhouse effect of clouds may be larger than that resulting from a hundredfold increase in the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere.” :    “Of course the range of net infrared forcing caused by changing cloud conditions (~100 W/m2) is much greater than that caused by increasing levels of greenhouse gases (e.g. doubling pre-industrial CO2 levels will increase the net forcing by ~4 W/m2)”

Using clouds as a proxy for CO2 in assessing how CO2 concentration changes affect water temperatures is therefore not comparing apples to apples in calculating their radiative significance, and thus any experimental results using clouds cannot be generalized or assumed to simulate the heating effects of CO2 when varied over water bodies.

So we are left with an equation (288 K – 255 K = 33 K) that (a) is based on a “thought experiment” using an imaginary world without an atmosphere; (b) claims to measure Earth’s temperatures, but doesn’t consider the temperatures of the Earth’s oceans as its primary parameter; and (c) assumes ppm changes in CO2 concentrations heat or cool water bodies to a measurable degree when raised or lowered even though no physical measurements from a real-world scientific experiment exists to support such a claim.

And this is just point (1) in the Kramm et al. (2017) critique of the 288 K – 255 K = 33 K greenhouse effect equation.   Four other criticisms of the “inadequate” equation are also listed below.

As these three atmospheric scientists conclude, the 288 K – 255 K = 33 K equation underlying the theoretical greenhouse effect “lacks adequate physical meaning as do any contributions from optically active gaseous components calculated thereby.”

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Comments (3)

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    Spurwing Plover


    Dont hold your breath waiting for this to make the front page of the New York Slimes this is the truth and the liberal leftists news media don’t print the truth


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    “Simplistically, the globally averaged surface temperature is assumed to be 288 K.”

    Aaaaaaannnnd – that’s not science. Science is what’s observed.
    (And an earth w/o an atmosphere would not have a single temperature any more than the earth we have now does; only half of it would be cold. The other side – the side exposed to the sun – would fry.


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    “The atmosphere does not warm the oceans; the oceans warm the atmosphere.
    Ellsaesser, 1984: ‘…the atmosphere cannot warm until the oceans do’
    Murray et al., 2000: ‘…net surface heat flux is almost always from ocean to atmosphere’
    Minnett et al., 2011: ‘…the heat flux is nearly always from the ocean to the atmosphere’“

    It seems to me what was common knowledge in years past has become rare knowledge now. They have focused so much on CO2 that the wisdom we have gained about how the planet functions that they have forgotten it all. Very thankful for those that do remember.


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