Tuesday, May 25, 2010

CO2 as a radiation valve contravenes the laws of thermodynamics

Email from Alan Siddons, a former radiochemist, to Greenie Watch (h/t):
...it's not only the Second Law (heat always flows to a cooler zone) which invalidates trace gas heating theory but the First Law as well (energy can neither be created nor destroyed). 

"Heat-trapping gases," you hear, and "Radiation goes in but can’t get out." Well then, what is every explanation of the greenhouse effect pointing at but a radiation valve? Since heat rays are prevented from exiting to space, it is claimed, they have nowhere else to go but back to the earth which, by absorbing them, becomes warmer.

The notion of a radiation valve snaps these concepts into focus: Without such a valve, it is imagined, infrared rays from the earth's solar-heated surface will pass freely into space. For every unit of sunlight going in, therefore, one unit of infrared goes out. Ergo, 1 - 1 = 0, zero referring to the heat gain. But with a proper valve in place no infrared is lost and the trapped rays are absorbed by the emitting surface, so the process goes thusly:

As you see, if the tenets of this theory are valid there can be no outcome other than a doubling of surface energy (a doubling at minimum, that is, since there's no reason to suppose that radiation from the now-warmer surface would not continue to be back-radiated, absorbed, and amplified in a "runaway" heating cascade).

As a real world application, such a valve could be approximated by common window glass or a dichroic filter. The irradiated surface could be anything similar to a blackbody, an ideal absorber-emitter, and a radiative heat gain of something above 0 would be observed. A working model of the greenhouse effect couldn't be made any simpler.

Simple as it is, though, no scientist in the world is able to construct a model that exhibits any radiative gain because the theory's tenets (called "the basic science") are not valid. On a theoretical basis alone, conservation of energy (the First Law) forbids a model like this from working. You can't obtain more energy than you put in. On an empirical basis too, however, as demonstrated by laboratory blackbodies, confined radiation only induces temperatures close to a theoretical blackbody limit, not a degree hotter. (The premise of greenhouse theory, remember, is that radiative confinement raises the earth's temperature above a blackbody limit, yet a laboratory blackbody --which is little more than a light trap -- exemplifies radiative confinement! The premise is self-contradictory.)

I urge you to notice that the valve's efficiency doesn't actually matter, either, because physical laws are violated even in a modest case. In some sense, in fact, the crimes get worse. For instance, let's install a 20% valve, so that 80% of the infrared escapes and 20% back-radiates. 

In this case, 0.8 exits while 0.2 is "retained" by the surface. But 0.2 also radiates back to the surface, so it gains 0.4 in total (again, as a minimum: further back-radiation effects must arbitrarily be halted). In other words, even when the oft-mentioned "net flow" favors the outward movement of thermal energy (a modeling effort to satisfy the Second Law), the alleged heating effect still contradicts the First Law because you're getting more energy than you put in. Any furnace manufacturer would eagerly exploit such a loophole in the law if it existed. 

But the problems don't stop there. Since the valve allows 80 percent of the infrared to escape, the same applies to the 40 percent that's been gained. So sum up the amount of radiation getting past the valve: 1.12 units -- more energy than is going in!

The whole model is nonsense. Here are two corollaries I can think of.

• Just like temperature, radiant energy flows do not add. Lumping two 70° balls of clay together doesn't result in a single ball that's 140°, nor do 70 watts per square meter beaming back onto a body that's radiating 70 raise it to 140. Frankly, it is stupid to think otherwise.

• Back-radiation cannot be absorbed by the emitter or else the conservation of energy law is meaningless. As I've noted before, the output of a weak battery can't be used as an input to recharge it. 

Related: A greenhouse effect on the moon?


  1. Absolute nonsense!
    I don't believe a word of the global warming fiasco but this nonsensical psuedo science can only get the sceptics a bad name.

    No one is saying that you gain energy from nowhere. what they are saying is that if you warm the earth by 1 degree and it cannot lose that heat back to space then you gain 1 degree not two you idiot.
    I can't believe that you actually can't see you are twisting the facts here!

  2. Mike,

    The laws of physics do not allow disequilibrium of the earth & atmosphere with outer space. As noted in the post


    the IPCC claims GHGs back radiate 342 Wm-2 to the earth, but don't show in the budget that GHGs MUST radiate an equal 342 Wm-2 to outer space. Before you call us "idiots" you'll need to provide physical proof that GHGs are capable of re-radiating unidirectionally. Good luck.

    For 28 other analyses of the physics that show the problems with conventional GHG theory see the post:


  3. I am sunsettommy.

    I wish people like mike,would do better than a hit and run attack.He has not replies to MS at all.

    If there are any flaws in Alan's presentation.Then you should present them openly,without being snotty about it.

    mike as a claimed skeptic should not be like this.

  4. I'm Keith.

    Not totally sold on Antrhropogenic GW but it's the above post that totally misrepresents the situation, far worse than anything from "the other side". The physics, thermodynamics in this post are plain wrong. Stuff like this makes us laughing stock. This is what we have to answer/account for:

    Solar radiation passes through the clear atmosphere.

    Some solar radiation is reflected by the atmosphere and Earth's surface.

     Solar energy is absorbed by the Earth's surface and warms it and is converted into heat, causing the emission of longwave (infrared) radiation back to the atmosphere.

    Some of the infrared radiation passes through the atmosphere and is lost in space.

    Some of the infrared radiation is absorbed and reemitted by the greenhouse gas molecules. The direct effect is the warming of the Earth's  surface and the troposphere. Increasing greenhouse gas levels increase THIS warming.

  5. Alan is quite right; but the thermondynamic flaw goes futher back in the IPCC logic, or lack thereof.
    The IPCC definition of RF [radiative forcing] does NOT comply with thermodynamic law; in that it defines an energy flux [Watts/sq.m] that crosses a boundary between two thermodynamic systems; but does NOT change the 'State' of the recipient system.
    This is a schoolboy Howler.
    Try boiling your kettle with this nonsense energy; but don't hold your breath.
    Also, on a more serious note, try putting this energy flux into the Stefan-Boltzmann equation.
    - Nowhere to put it - unless you believe that a CO2 increment on earth somehow brightens up the sun.
    This 'Stefan Anomaly' is very irksome to the warmists and they are very shy about discussing it.
    Putting it bluntly: Co2 has no energy per se and cannot create it out of thin air.
    After all how does it tell which is up and which is down?

  6. Even Anonymous's post is bogus.

    Plain and simple. X amount of energy, sunlight, falls on the earth. When it strikes the ground, it warms the ground up. The warmed ground radiates heat, long wave infra red light. Again the amount is X. Note, no net change in the amount of energy here. Without greenhouse gases all of that would pass through the atmosphere and go out to space with no net effect on the atmospheric temperature. With greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, a percentage of that long wave infrared light is absorbed by the atmosphere. The rest still radiates out to space. Radiated to space + absorbed by atmosphere = X. A higher concentration of greenhouse gases will absorb more of that long wave infrared light, ie. a higher percentage. This means less is radiated out to space. When more is absorbed, the temperature of the atmosphere rises, why, because more energy is being absorbed. And yes, the warmer atmosphere will also radiate more long wave infrared light. At a certain point a new temperature equilibrium is achieved, but it is higher than the temperature would be achieved with a lower concentration of greenhouse gases. While the temperature is increasing to the new higher greenhouse gas temperature equilibrium, there is less energy being radiated out into space because that energy is being absorbed into the atmosphere. The heat added to the atmosphere is retained energy, it isn't created. Once equilibrium is achieved again then the radiated energy will again equal the energy received from the sun. That would assume the amount of green house gases stops rising. If they don't stop rising in concentration, then equilibrium won't be achieved. By the way, all this can easily be verified by simple well designed experiments in a lab.

    The "Stefan Anomaly" is a failure on the part of the skeptics to understand basic thermal dynamics. In all likelihood it came about because somebody simplified the description of how the process by which increased greenhouse gas concentrations heat up the atmosphere to much.

  7. No anonymous,

    Suggest you read the comments on these threads



  8. It is all about the energy balance and whether adding CO2 has any appreciable affect on temperatures at the surface of the earth. So called green house gases act as a radiant resistor which rises the altitude where radiant energy leaves the earth. From that altitude to the surface there is roughly a 33 degree C difference in temperature that can be explained by the temperature lapse rate. The lapse rate is based on atmospheric properties such as the pressure gradient, conductivity, and heat capacity. Man's added CO2 has no significant effect on the lapse rate. We live in a water dominated world so green house gas physics is dominated by the physics of water vapor. Ferenc M. Miskokzi has shown that man's addition of CO2 to the atmosphere has no significant effect on the energy balance because in the upper atmosphere where the majority of earth's IR radiation to space tales place H2O is a negative feedback to added CO2. As more CO2 is added to the atmosphere the radiant resistance increases which causes the upper atmosphere to cool. As the upper atmosphere cools it looses H2O capacity so H2O decreases. As H2O decreases so does the radiative resistance so the the atmosphere heats up allowing H2O to increase again. What is happening in the upper atmosphere is that as CO2 is added H2O decreases to compensate for it. This shows that mans adding CO2 to the atmosphere has no effect on the earth's energy balance in terms of climate. Proponents of man caused global warming model H2O as a positive feedback to added CO2 in the lower atmosphere which has no real effect because H2O is near saturation in the lower atmosphere anyway and what matters most is what is happening in the upper atmosphere where energy is radiated to space. In the upper atmosphere H2O is a negative feedback to added CO2. Negative feedback systems such as this one are inherently stable.

  9. In this context green house gasses act as a radiant passive resistor. In other words it works as a radiant insulator or a neutral density filter. No energy is created. It is just attenuated. Insulators do not defy the laws of physics but they do not create energy. They are passive.