Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Why greenhouse gas radiative forcing doesn't explain Earth's energy budget

We have previously demonstrated that the atmospheric mass/gravity/pressure theory of the 33C greenhouse effect explains Earth's surface temperature and the temperatures throughout the troposphere, rather than radiative forcing from greenhouse gases.

We have also demonstrated why the atmospheric mass/gravity/pressure theory of the greenhouse effect also perfectly explains the observed greenhouse effect on Titan, the closest Earth analog in our solar system, and the only planet other than Earth with an atmosphere comprised of mostly non-greenhouse gases (Titan: 98.4% Nitrogen, 0.1% hydrogen, and only 1.5% greenhouse gas methane compared to Earth's 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide).

We now address three additional reasons why the conventional anthropogenic CO2 warming theory is flawed due to incorrect assumptions regarding the energy budget. In contrast, the mass/gravity/pressure alternative greenhouse theory is entirely 
compatible with Earth's energy budget, physical laws, and observations. 

The radiative greenhouse theory is commonly represented by the Earth energy budget devised by Kiehl and Trenberth as shown in this diagram from their 2008 publication:

Trenberth, Fasullo, Kiehl 2008 Earth energy budget shows "atmospheric window" transmitting only 40 W/m2 from the surface directly to space
which shows an "atmospheric window" where the greenhouse gases don't significantly absorb/emit infrared radiation, and thus most of this radiation travels directly from the surface to space unimpeded by greenhouse gases, or any radiative forcing as a result. 

The "atmospheric window" of radiation direct to space falls between 8-12 micron wavelengths, as shown in the figures above and below, which includes the peak emission wavelengths (~8-11 microns) from Earth, thus ~80% of these peak emissions from Earth pass directly to space without being absorbed or emitted by greenhouse gases, thus don't contribute to radiative forcing. 

Blue curve shows the Planck curve assuming Earth radiated as a true blackbody, with peak emissions located at ~10 microns, which is at the middle of the 8-12 micron "atmospheric window" that is not absorbed/emitted by greenhouse gases.
However, according to the Trenberth et al Earth energy budget above, only 40 W/m2 passes through the "atmospheric window," i.e. only 10% of the 396 W/m2 radiative surface emissions in his energy budget.

The Planck–Einstein relation is a formula integral to quantum mechanics, and states that the energy of a photon (E) is proportional to its frequency (ν). The constant of proportionality, h, is known as the Planck constant:

and since frequency v is inversely related to wavelength λ by

v = c/
λ where c = speed of light


E = hc/λ

thus, the shorter the wavelength/higher the frequency of a photon, the higher the energy it contains.

Therefore, the highest energy photons at the short 8-12 micron wavelengths emitted from Earth's surface fall within the direct atmospheric window to space without any interaction with greenhouse gases.

We can get a sense for the huge effect just a few microns change in wavelength has on the corresponding blackbody emission temperature by plotting the peak blackbody emission wavelength in microns vs. the peak emission temperature of a blackbody determined by Wien's Displacement Law, which shows the emission temperature at the beginning of the atmospheric window at 8 microns is 89C, dropping all the way down to -31.7C at the end of the atmospheric window at 12 microns, a temperature change of 120.7C.

The catastrophic greenhouse gas CO2, however, absorbs and emits line spectra centered around 15 microns, so what does Wien's displacement law calculate for a blackbody (which CO2 is not) emitting at 15 microns? Whoa, a toasty peak emission temperature of minus 80C:

Thus, the radiative greenhouse theory makes the absurd assumption that CO2 radiating at a blackbody temperature of -80C contributes 20% of the radiative greenhouse effect and heats the Earth by 6.6C from the equilibrium temperature with the Sun of -18C to -11.4C. How can a cold body radiating at -80C cause a hotter body at -18C to warm by 6.6C or at all? Pictet's experiment 214 years ago, the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics, the principle of maximum entropy production, Planck's law, the Pauli exclusion principle, and quantum mechanics all prove it cannot. CO2 radiating at an equivalent blackbody temperature of  -80C cannot possibly account for 20% of the ~33C greenhouse effect to cause 20% of the warming from -18C to 15C.

Further, even within the CO2 equivalent -80C blackbody emission peak at 15 microns [line spectra range ~13.5 - 17 microns], the CO2 and water vapor absorption/emission spectra significantly overlap such that almost 70% is independently due to water vapor and thus would be completely unaffected by increased CO2. Thus, despite overwhelming evidence that CO2 cannot significantly warm the planet, if you still believe the radiative greenhouse theory and reject the alternate mass/pressure greenhouse theory, the overlapping spectra of CO2 with water vapor prove CO2 is a bit player at most:

Shaded area shows difference between CO2 and water vapor absorption/emission spectra

Blowup of above figure. Area with asterisk is absorbed by CO2 only, remainder below overlaps with absorption spectra of water vapor.

Another huge flaw in Trenberth's energy budget is the false assumption that infrared radiation from greenhouse gases can heat the oceans, and just as effectively as the land surface. This is disproven by both theory and observations, since IR can only penetrate the ocean surface a few microns to cause evaporative cooling of the ocean skin surface, not warming. Since the oceans cover 70% of the Earth's surface, this problem alone suggests the radiative greenhouse theory is exaggerated by at least 70% (not even considering the cooling effect of evaporation and that evaporation results in clouds and further cooling).

These are only three of many fatal flaws of conventional radiative greenhouse theory. There is one and only one explanation for the entire ~33C greenhouse effect that satisfies all physical laws and is in accordance with millions of weather balloon and satellite observations, the atmospheric mass/gravity/pressure greenhouse theory. 


  1. Kiehl and Trenberth omit kinetic energy returning to the near surface within air that has descended and warmed adiabatically.

    That omission throws the energy budget out which is why they then have to propose extra downward radiation from GHGs to make the energy budget balance.

    DWIR from GHGs cannot raise the surface temperature above the S-B expectation of 255K because convection works to negate the thermal effect of downward radiation from within the atmosphere.

    The entire 33K surface temperature enhancement is induced by the mass of the atmosphere exchanging energy with the surface via adiabatic ascent and descent within the gravitational field.

    The energy engaged in that conductive exchange cannot also be involved in the radiative exchange with space because the same package of energy cannot be involved in two processes at once.

    The amount of energy tied up in the conductive exchange is related to atmospheric density simply because the more mass available within a given volume to acquire energy from the surface by conduction the greater the proportion of solar energy that will be diverted from outward radiation to space.

  2. "Therefore, the highest energy photons at the short 8-12 micron wavelengths emitted from Earth's surface fall within the direct atmospheric window to space without any interaction with greenhouse gases."

    The 8-12 micron wavelengths are not short. Did you intend to write:

    Therefore, the highest energy photons at the shorter end of the long-wave 8-12 micron wavelengths emitted from Earth's surface fall within the direct atmospheric window to space without any interaction with greenhouse gases.

  3. As this site and others have pointed out, recent temperature observations have diverged a bit from GCM predictions

    “If you can’t explain the pause, you can’t explain the cause”

    However, unless I missed something, if this new theory is correct then CO2 released since the industrial revolution should have cooled the atmosphere. There would also be a cooling feedback due to reduced humidity.

    This theory needs to match real world data at least as well, and preferably better than the widely believed AGW theory.

    Between the two theories, which provides the closest match for the warming over the last century and the paleoclimate record?
    Do we need to find a whole new explanation for Climate Change as well?

    I’m a skeptic. I’m skeptical about economic predictions, based on crop predictions, based on climate predictions.

    I’m also skeptical about claims that decades of theory and research is fundamentally flawed and should be scrapped altogether.

    This needs supporting evidence and lots of it.

  4. Anonymous.

    Although GHGs have a nominal cooling effect by radiating directly to space that is offset by convective changes for a zero net effect on surface temperature for reasons I have explained elsewhere.

    You can call that a third theory if you wish.

    The changes in global temperature have other, natural causes involving solar effects on the stratosphere and mesosphere.

    1. Hi Stephen,

      I've only just stumbled on all this, so I've not been following any discussion, I'm afraid.

      Just to clarify, are you saying that the "atmospheric mass/gravity/pressure theory of the 33C greenhouse effect" * predicts a cooling by CO2 and water, but you have proposed an alternative (or at least a variation) that has a net neutral effect?

      If so is there a summary online you could link to? Or is it somewhere in the comments of other articles?

      Sounds like I didn't misunderstand too much though and this theory (and I guess to a lesser extent, yours) will rely on another factor to explain any warming? Is solar variation still considered the prime candidate if AGW isn't the cause? It's not mentioned as much as it used to be, so I wasn't sure if it had been ruled out?

      * Seriously, couldn't someone have thought of a snappier name for this And the acronym is utterly ridiculous- The AMGPT33CGE? That will never catch on.

    2. Hi Anonymous.

      What seems to happen is that radiative gases allow energy to leak out to space from the adiabatic convective cycle within the atmosphere.

      The result is that less kinetic energy is returned to the surface in adiabatic descent than is taken up by adiabatic ascent which should cool the surface.

      However that means that the atmosphere does not expand as much as it would have done without GHGs so the air at the surface remains denser than would otherwise have been the case.

      Denser air at the surface absorbs more of the solar throughput by conduction and convection which should warm the surface.

      I suggest that the two processes cancel each other out.

      As far as I know it is only I who have pointed trhis out so far.

  5. I dont catch your 80% of radiation from Earth in the atmospheric window. With 15C mean temperature it is 25% that falls inside 8 to 12 um, meaning close to 100W/m2. That temperature has a peak at 10um anyway.

    1. The ~80% figure is from ~80% transmittance within the atmospheric window from 8-12 microns, such as shown in this graph:

      What I am saying is that within the 8-12u window, ~80% of the IR from the surface passes directly to space. I suppose the other 20% is scattered by water vapor/clouds I presume. Using your assumption of 100W/m2 emission from surface, thus ~80% of 100W/m2 or 80W/m2 goes directly to space, double what Trenberth claims.

  6. I think you're discerning for yourself some of the common thinking errors around "climate science" - the aggregation of what should be distinct, and the dissection of entities.
    From your recent post, you offer a "GHE" for the air, and another for the surface, both distinct from HockeyStick's cloud model.
    I sugggest you carry these through to your present deconstruction of the TFK2008 diagram; ie
    > a deep-cloud/moist-adiabat sector (OLR, DLR, etc);
    > a "greenhouse-gas" sector (OLR, DLR);
    > a surface sector (OLR);
    the whole being linked only at the surface.

    Several of the flows shown should be combined as double-headed arrows, as they represent exchanges or transactions, where only the nett is important.
    I feel we need to get the "shape" exactly right before running the numbers.
    Peter Shaw