Monday, September 30, 2013

Physicist explains why increased CO2 has a trivial effect upon climate

Climate science in a Styrofoam cup

by Mal Wedd  September 30, 2013  Quadrant Online

When I went to university to study physics, serious scientists observed patterns, developed hypotheses to explain them, developed experiments to test the hypotheses, and wrote papers on the experimental data to confirm or deny the hypotheses.

In this post-modern world of “science”, if you assert something loudly enough, often enough and with enough passion, you will gain a flock of supporters (aka consensus), your assertion will become fact, and all your dreams comes true. The IPCC's wish is that carbon dioxide is driving the planet’s climate, and no amount of historic temperature adjustment or uncooperative temperature trends is going to obscure its collective vision of the way things ought to be working.

The IPCC has one fundamental problem.

While at university, I had the thrilling experience of handling liquid nitrogen. There I was holding in my bare hands, a polystyrene cup filled with liquid nitrogen (quite rightly, not something that would be allowed these days). Despite being at −195.8°C, and only a few millimetres of polystyrene away from my 36°C fingers, I could feel barely a chill. A cold stubby of beer would have me swapping hands in minutes, but something nearly 200 degrees colder needed only millimetres of polystyrene to stop the rapid transfer of heat that is driven by large temperature differences. The cup was so effective, it would have made little difference if I had added another cup to double the thickness.

Global warming advocates usually forget that the Earth’s relationship with space is similar. Space is on average -270°C while the Earth is somewhere between 10 and 20°C. Just a thin layer of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere prevents the catastrophic loss of heat that would otherwise radiate out at night. Radiation from the sun, at some 5500°C, replaces the heat lost over night, and the whole system is in near balance. But CO2 absorbs only in a small proportion of the wavelengths at which this heat is trying to escape.

Only the green peak (CO2 absorption spectrum) on the right above actually does any work, and much of that overlaps with water vapour (blue line). Furthermore, most of its work is done when the concentration of CO2 is only 10% of what it is today. Thanks to Jo Nova for the chart.

Adding more CO2 now is like adding extra cups to insulate my hand from liquid nitrogen – it just makes little difference, no matter how hard IPCC wishes.

Actually the IPCC has two fundamental problems.

Water vapour is a far more powerful greenhouse gas. Even more importantly, it is extremely, nay colossally, difficult to model. The problem is the common misunderstanding of what water vapour is. If you can see it, it aint water vapour.

Steam and clouds are made up of tiny water droplets, formed when saturated water vapour condenses from gas to liquid form. Saturated water vapour is a powerful greenhouse gas, while clouds are an effective sun reflector that help to cool the Earth. Water vapour in the atmosphere is created mainly by evaporation of oceans, and is depleted by rainfall. Water vapour condenses into clouds when it experiences temperature drops or pressure increases (e.g. as it passes over mountains) or high concentrations of fine dust particles. It is so hard to model that the best weather forecasters in the world can’t reliably tell you “if you need an umbrella next Tuesday”. Yet the IPCC has the audacity to claim that it has 97% consensus of 95% confidence that we are causing more than 50% of dangerously climate warming, via CO2. Wishful thinking.

Of course the situation is much more complicated than this, as increased temperatures mean that the atmosphere can carry more water vapour, which can cause more greenhouse heat trapping. But water vapour content of the atmosphere is highly variable, and is driven by, among other things, cloudiness and solar intensity.

In fact, the IPCC has numerous fundamental problems.

The sun is about 4.5 billion years old and while we have been observing it for thousands of years, we have only in the last few years had the tools available to study it seriously. Now that we have the tools, every few months a new discovery is made and our superficial understanding of the sun takes one baby-step towards maturity. The IPCC may wish upon a star that our nearby star does not contribute significantly to our climate, but that is so fanciful that even Disney would not buy it.

Mal Wedd is a physicist who wishes upon a star that the IPCC’s latest report was full of science and devoid of post-modern assertion. Sigh.

Related: See also Dr. Roy Spencer's post today:

The Global Warming They Fear is NOT Based upon Physical First Principles


  1. H2O also acts as a coolant moving heat from the earth' s surface to where clouds form via the heat of vaporization. More heat energy is moved from the earth's surface in this way then by convection and LWIR absorption bands radiation combined. So more H2O entering the atmosphere means more heat gets transfered.

  2. If one looks at the thermodynamic properties of O2,N2 and CO2 specifically their heat transfer rate ,one finds that CO2 is a better transmitter of "heat' than either O2 or N2 or the Combination of O2 and N2. Thus if you were to replace the dry air in Thermopane windows(storm windows) with CO2 you increase there heat transfer rate a poorer storm window. This has been verified with several storm window manufacturers. Thus by increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere you allow heat to transfer faster to space thus lowering the earth's temperature.
    This has been verified by experiment by "More carbon dioxide cools, not warms, the earth"
    July 19, 2011 By Dr. Ed 2 Comments
    Determination of the Total Emissivity of a Mixture of Gases Containing 5% of Water Vapor and 0.039% of Carbon Dioxide at Overlapping Absorption Bands.
    While Dr. Nahle looked at a broader situation the fact that CO2 is a better transmitter of "heat ' contributes to the results found.

  3. If a substance is a good absorber of radiant energy it is also a good radiator of radient energy. A black body is an ideal absorber but it is also an ideal radiator.

    1. So lets just turn the metaphor inside out to prove it wrong.

      So we fill a sink with liquid nitrogen, fill the cup with cool water half way, now the water stays cool, it doesn't freeze, the cup is insulating it from the liquid nitrogen. So we have created "space" the liquid nitrogen in the sink, the atmosphere (still represented by the cup) and the earth, now represented by the cool water in the cup. If we "warm" the water (the earth), have hot water dripping into the cup (analogous to the sun shining onto the earth), it will continue to warm as the "atmosphere" the cup will continue to act as an insulator, allowing the water to warm and to continue to be protect it from "space" (cooling). The thing about insulators is they keep things warm and cool (like a thermos). So his analogy is crap because if it works for keeping things cool, it works for warming things - thus he is proving that continued warming will be trapped.

      My point is that is a bad metaphor as if he can use it to prove it keeps things from getting cold, it will also keep things hot, or allow them to heat is continued heat is applied.

    2. I think you could be a little kinder to our friend. No wonder you stay "Anonymous". If you read what he says you realize he is not saying the atmosphere IS an insulator despite his use of Styrofoam. He mentions that it is only a sufficient storer of heat to slow down its transference back into space.

      "Just a thin layer of greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere prevents the catastrophic loss of heat that would otherwise radiate out at night. "

    3. "Anonymous" should be a little kinder. He did NOT say the Earth's atmosphere is IDENTICAL to the Styrofoam cup but somewhat "similar".... he could have used a more heat transferring medium than Styrofoam to model the Earth's atmosphere. But I got his drift anyway. The whole idea is that thermodynamically the Earth's atmosphere only slows down the movement of the Sun's heat to and from space. The atmosphere is leaky heat blanket. It is not Styrofoam. AND it is definitely NOT LIKE a GREENHOUSE.

  4. They've fixated on CO2 because it's produced by industrial societies, therefore its production can be regulated and taxed. They can't make money off cow farts, decomposing matter on the floors of their precious rain forests, or from the evaporation of the oceans, so these things tend to be ignored.