Le Chatelier and his Principle vs The Trouble with Trenberth

There is a marvelous and generalized Principle that if you push things, they push back. (As a rough paraphrase). It is Le Chatelier’s Principle.


Not always, and not as uniform as a Law, but still very widely applicable. I first ran into it in Chemistry, but the wiki says it has found much broader uses:

In chemistry, Le Chatelier’s principle, also called Chatelier’s principle or “The Equilibrium Law”, can be used to predict the effect of a change in conditions on a chemical equilibrium. The principle is named after Henry Louis Le Chatelier and sometimes Karl Ferdinand Braun who discovered it independently. It can be stated as:

If a chemical system at equilibrium experiences a change in concentration, temperature, volume, or pressure, then the equilibrium shifts to counteract the imposed change and a new equilibrium is established.

This principle has a variety of names, depending upon the discipline using it (see homeostasis, a term commonly used in biology). It is common to take Le Chatelier’s principle to be a more general observation, roughly stated:

Any change in status quo prompts an opposing reaction in the responding system.

In chemistry, the principle is used to manipulate the outcomes of reversible reactions, often to increase the yield of reactions. In pharmacology, the binding of ligands to the receptor may shift the equilibrium according to Le Chatelier’s principle, thereby explaining the diverse phenomena of receptor activation and desensitization. In economics, the principle has been generalized to help explain the price equilibrium of efficient economic systems. In simultaneous equilibrium systems, phenomena that are in apparent contradiction to Le Chatelier’s principle can occur; these can be resolved by the theory of response reactions.

Once again, this is not a Law. There can be cases in multiple variables or cases with known positive feedback where that new equilibrium is a long ways away. Think of nudging a stone over the edge of a small bump on a tall mountain. It WILL come to rest again, but a long ways down…

Still, as a general rule, one ought to look for such things. It is important to expect some manifestation of Le Chatelier’s Principle and look for it as a first behavior. To assume it isn’t active in a physical system is to start off expecting the unlikely.

So why mention this?

Because, at the core of it, the atmosphere is a physical / chemical system and this principle has wide application in such systems. Because a (nearly trivial) increase in the trace gas of CO2 is a nudge to the equilibrium. Now the air is a dynamic disequilibrium system in most places at most times, but it is seeking equilibrium. So any “nudge” ought to expect a “counter nudge”. Where I would speculate that “counter nudge” to come is from water. Why? Because it is THE dominate feature of the IR bands of interest and of the heat moving properties of the troposphere in general. Heck, even above that it has some role.

So a tiny increase of CO2 could be expected to be offset by a similar tiny change in the water cycle as the system seeks to return to the prior conditions. Right out the gate, to PRESUME a positive feedback runaway system, as the Global Warmers do, is a mistake. The first presumption ought to be a negative feedback and Le Chatelier taking his due. Only when that can NOT be shown, ought suspicion move on to a positive feedback somewhere.

So “what is the size of water”? Can we see what it does in the IR bands in the atmosphere in any informative way?

In a prior posting I showed the graph before. It is well worth repeating:


Stratosphere radiation by species

Stratosphere radiation by species

That dashed line across the middle is the idealized Tropopause. (In reality it varies from about 17 km over the equator down to near ground level at the poles (or “indistinct” as they said in the wiki…)).

Below the Tropopause convection rules. Above it, radiative heat transport rules. Right off the bat, we have a big clue about why AGW (human caused ‘Global Warming’) is based on errors. The belief that radiative forcing at ground level ‘matters’ is simply shown a fantasy by the existence of the Troposphere. BY DEFINITION, it is convection, evaporation, condensation, clouds and rain that matter in the Troposphere. But lets look at that graph some more and pick up some interesting bits.

It comes from:


Which is paywalled, but the abstract says:

A line-by-line model (LBLRTM) has been applied to the calculation of clear-sky longwave fluxes and cooling rates for atmospheres including CO2, O3, CH4, N2O, CCl4, CFC-11, CFC-12, and CFC-22 in addition to water vapor. The present paper continues the approach developed in an earlier article in which the radiative properties of atmospheres with water vapor alone were reported. Tropospheric water vapor continues to be of principal importance for the longwave region due to the spectral extent of its absorbing properties, while the absorption bands of other trace species have influence over limited spectral domains. The principal effects of adding carbon dioxide are to reduce the role of the water vapor in the lower troposphere and to provide 72% of the 13.0 K d−1 cooling rate at the stratopause. In general, the introduction of uniformly mixed trace species into atmospheres with significant amounts of water vapor has the effect of reducing the cooling associated with water vapor, providing an apparent net atmospheric heating. The radiative consequences of doubling carbon dioxide from the present level are consistent with these results. For the midlatitude summer atmosphere the heating associated with ozone that occurs from 500 to 20 mbar reaches a maximum of 0.25 K d−1 at 50 mbar and partially offsets the cooling of 1.0 K d−1 contributed by H2O and CO2 at this level. In the stratosphere the 704 cm−1 band of ozone, not included in many radiation models, contributes 25% of the ozone cooling rate. Radiative effects associated with anticipated 10-year constituent profile changes, 1990–2000, are presented from both a spectral and spectrally integrated perspective. The effect of the trace gases has been studied for three atmospheres: tropical, midlatitude summer, and midlatitude winter. Using these results and making a reasonable approximation for the polar regions, we obtain a value for the longwave flux at the top of the atmosphere of 265.5 W m−2, in close agreement with the clear-sky Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) observations. This agreement provides strong support for the present approach as a reference method for the study of radiative effects resulting from changes in the distributions of trace species on global radiative forcing. Many of the results from the spectral calculations reported here are archived at the Carbon Dioxide Information and Analysis Center for use by the community.

Yes, it’s another model… Measured would be better, but “going with it”, it’s a very detailed “line by line” model. They are specifically modeling the cooling of IR sensitive gasses (water vapor, CO2, Ozone). That’s what we want to know. (They also run off into Panic Global Warming Land, but hey, even Chicken Little might have some useful information…)

I got the actual image from another source (reference in the Troposphere Rules posting) that captioned it:

3. Stratospheric cooling rates: The picture shows how water, cabon dioxide and ozone contribute to longwave cooling in the stratosphere. Colours from blue through red, yellow and to green show increasing cooling, grey areas show warming of the stratosphere. The tropopause is shown as dotted line (the troposphere below and the stratosphere above). For CO2 it is obvious that there is no cooling in the troposphere, but a strong cooling effect in the stratosphere. Ozone, on the other hand, cools the upper stratosphere but warms the lower stratosphere. Figure from: Clough and Iacono, JGR, 1995; adapted from the SPARC Website. Please click to enlarge! (60 K)

I’ve added the bold bit.

Now notice that there is a nice bright diamond of CO2 radiating away heat in the stratosphere, but just below it and below the dashed line, in the troposphere, the CO2 band is doing nothing. That’s what they are talking about. The CO2 band is already closed in the troposphere. It is NOT going to be any more closed with more CO2. Furthermore, “downwelling” IR from the CO2 above it will NOT open it. (Nor reach the ground). A shut door is shut. All the noise and smoke about CO2 and downwelling IR is just stuff and nonsense. That door is shut. CO2 as a radiative agent is limited to action in the stratosphere, where it is a net cooling agent.

Add more CO2, it will not make the ground warmer.

Now enter Le Chatelier. At most, CO2 could cause some other species to have a reduced effect. It could cause some change in the percent of IR radiated in the stratosphere via O3 or via the small water vapor present. It might couple to the water in the troposphere and conductively put some energy in the tropospheric water vapor engine (that then conducts it to the stratosphere). Le Chatelier says to expect an adaptation toward restoration of equilibrium, and there is a lot of water available to act in just that way. So that’s the first and most likely place to look.

I’d look for “downwelling” IR from the stratospheric CO2 to be absorbed into water vapor or CO2 at the tropopause, and cause that layer to very slightly rise in height, or to put a bit more energetic water in the tropopause / stratosphere mixing band; or perhaps to just be radiated back to space from those water vapor cloud tops. (Notice all that red from radiative water near the top of the troposphere…) In short, to attribute any effect in the troposphere to CO2 IR radiation is an error. It is water that dominates the Troposphere. CO2 IR effects matter in the stratosphere, and there they are cooling.

So what about Trenberth?

From his paper here: http://www.aps.org/units/fps/newsletters/200904/trenberth.cfm?renderforprint=1 we get this graph.

Trenberth 04 / 2009 Energy Balance

Trenberth 04 / 2009 Energy Balance

Now the Trouble With Trenberth begins…

First off, notice that “back radiation” from “greenhouse gasses” at 333 Watts. It is shown as coming from the Tropopause. Right at the cloud tops next to it for precipitation. Exactly HOW do we get “down welling” and “back radiation” from CO2 in exactly the place where the prior graph shows “nothing happening” from CO2? Just not going to happen. But notice he does not say “CO2”, he says “greenhouse gasses”. Wait a minute… what the??… What he is showing, per the first graph, is the back radiation from the water vapor and clouds NOT CO2!

Now what would Le Chatelier be looking for….

Notice that Evapotranspiration and thermals are shown as constants? IFF there were more “backradiation” hitting the surface, don’t you think a bit of added evaporation would happen? That thermals might pick up a couple of more Watts and raise it a hair higher? That added water and clouds would cause more precipitation and cooling? As that added water rises, it would make a bit more clouds and those 79 Watts reflected from clouds would increase.

The added CO2 in the stratosphere would be radiating more to space, making a colder stratosphere. Now it tends to descend to the surface in polar vortex flows, so I’d expect a cooler night pole with more cold air (and polar water) flowing in toward the equator.

All of these things in conformance with Le Chatelier and his principle.

Trenberth shows them all as holding constant (or in the case of downflow of the stratosphere at the poles, missing entirely).

Trenberth assumes that CO2 will cause more IR to pass through a closed radiative window, in a convective non-radiative atmospheric zone, not being absorbed into the already saturated CO2 band, heat the surface, but NOT cause more convection nor more evaporation, and cause a rise of surface temperatures without a compensating mass flow or phase change. And that, IMHO, is The Trouble With Trenberth. It is non-physical and violates Le Chatelier’s Principle.

Given a choice of embracing Trenberth or Le Chatelier, I’ll take Le Chatelier… The system adapts, and doesn’t change much. Most likely a trivial change of water distribution and no temperature change at all.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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90 Responses to Le Chatelier and his Principle vs The Trouble with Trenberth

  1. Ron C. says:

    Nice catch on the Trenberth cartoon. Everyone assumes CO2 is radiating in the lower troposphere,but as you show it is water. Don’t we already tax water?

  2. Similar to some comments I made about the Trenberth cartoon here:


  3. Bernd Palmer says:

    Interesting observation and theory. I don’t have the knowledge to evaluate if it holds up, but it sounds well reasoned.

  4. adrianvance says:

    The Le Chatelier Principle is equally applicable in the physics of gases as it is in reactions in solutions. For air the expression is

    [N2] x [O2] x [H2Ogas] x [CO2]
    ————————————– = Kt (1.97X10^-14

    All quantities are in moles/liter and they are for N2 = 0.0367, O2 = 0.000746, H2O = 0.00222 and CO2 = 0.000018 Note: CO2 would normally not be included as it is a “trace gas” and has a quantity of substantially less than 1% H2O liquid in the denominator is 55.5 moles/liter

    The expression shows that a change in any gas would cause water to precipitate and reduce the heating effect from sunlight because water vapor absorbs 99.9% of all heat energy the air captures. CO2 cannot capture more than 0.1% as it is a poor absorber of IR by a factor of seven when compared to water vapor. (See the absorption charts at the American Meteorological Society website.)

    This law and mathematical model have been known since 1925 and every properly trained physical scientist knows it. Changes in CO2 on the orders of two, ten or 100 will have no effect on the heating or cooling of the atmosphere and in fact their increases cool the air by reducing IR absorption. The “global warming” got it upside down and they should be screaming about a coming ice age, but even that is nonsense as the CO2 effect is a fart in a windstorm.

    Adrian Vance

    Come see us at The Two Minute Conservative via Google or at adrianvance.blogspot.com and you too will be “real smart.”

  5. omanuel says:

    Thank you, E. M. Smith, for continuing to question the consensus dogma that fails to explain the real world.

    Consensus dogma was born in August 1945 from CHAOS and TERROR that the uncontrollable release of nuclear energy might ignite the atmosphere and change this planet into a star.

    Allied forces, Stalin’s USSR, and Japan knew how to make atomic bombs by the end of August 1945.

    To hide the source of energy (E) stored as mass (m) in cores of heavy atoms, post-WWII government gave research funds to support consensus scientific dogma, rather than factual knowledge of E = mc^2, the source of energy that sustains our lives and Earth’s life-supporting climate.

  6. Jack says:

    “Henry’s law is one of the gas laws formulated by William Henry in 1803. It states:

    “At a constant temperature, the amount of a given gas that dissolves in a given type and volume of liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of that gas in equilibrium with that liquid.”
    An equivalent way of stating the law is that the solubility of a gas in a liquid is directly proportional to the partial pressure of the gas above the liquid.”

  7. Ian W says:

    A throw away line here – and a quote on WUWT taken together could be quite worrying.
    “The onset of the LEAP occurred within less than two decades, demonstrating the existence of a sharp threshold, which must be near 416 Wm2, which is the 65oN July insolation for 118 kyr BP (ref. 9). This value is only slightly below today’s value of 428 Wm2. Insolation will remain at this level slightly above the [glacial] inception for the next 4,000 years before it then increases again.”


    and from this post
    “The added CO2 in the stratosphere would be radiating more to space, making a colder stratosphere. Now it tends to descend to the surface in polar vortex flows, so I’d expect a cooler night pole with more cold air (and polar water) flowing in toward the equator.”

    So contrary to the hysterical gullibles claiming that CO2 will be warming the atmosphere and preventing entry into a new glaciation. It may be doing just the opposite by increasing cooling at the poles.

    2013 was a cold year for the Arctic and so far 2014 seems to be following that pattern. The majority of Antarctica is also colder than normal. .

    I think following Harold Ambler’s advice an not selling my coat may be a good strategy.

  8. philjourdan says:

    I admit I never heard of Le Chatelier. But his principal has been nagging at me since I got into the whole AGW meme. Clearly, there are instances in the past where CO2 was higher – and we did not burn up. So it seems the climate seeks to return to an equilibrium. Plus the difference between the atmospheric layers is very telling. And shows why Trenberth is Algore’s mentor. He is a politician extraordinaire! He will not destroy his reputation as Mann has done, but he maintains the meme through lies of omission.

    He is a very sneaky b*stard. But he clearly is not stupid.

  9. vicgallus says:

    Its a bit like the question of why is the Moon exactly the right distance and moving at the right speed to orbit the Earth. The answer is that if it wasn’t it would have either crashed into the Earth or flown away a long time ago. Its the same with the atmosphere. It has been fairly constant for a long time (average temperatures on the surface at any particular place) despite the large changes over a day because its at a temperature where minor fluctuations make very little difference.

    Small differences could make a large difference at the beginning and end of interglacial periods (or ice ages) but then the changes are going to be so large due to nature that fossil fuel use is irrelevant.

  10. adrianvance says:

    In the beginning our atmosphere had 12% CO2 and it remained that way for one billion years until the green plants arose from the primordial seas. They have reduced it all the way down to 0.028% and green plants are desperate for it. It is our mission and destiny to burn everything in sight and try to restore green plants to the environment they enjoyed for three billion years. That is the logical conclusion of the Gaia Hypothesis.

  11. Thanks for this interesting post and agree with your conclusions.

    While doing a google search on the paper you referenced in this post I came across these lecture notes by Dr. Irina N. Sokolik, Professor in Judy Curry’s Dept. at Georgia Tech which shows in fig 12.1 that CO2 acts as a cooling agent throughout the entire troposphere and stratosphere, and as an alleged heating agent only at the tropopause near 15 km.

    and states,

    “NOTE: CO2 has very small radiative heating rates. Radiation emitted at one level is
    absorbed at nearby level having almost the same temperature. Only at the tropopause
    (near 15 km), where the temperature profile has a minimum, there is a small amount of
    heating. At higher altitudes, pressure broadening is much weaker allowing emitted
    radiation to escape to space with little compensating radiation downward from higher

    Fig 12.1 also shows H2O acts as a cooling agent throughout the troposphere, tropopause, and stratosphere.

  12. gallopingcamel says:

    Once again you have pounced on a great fallacy in Warmist Pseudoscience. You said: “First off, notice that “back radiation” from “greenhouse gasses” at 333 Watts. It is shown as coming from the Tropopause.”

    We can measure the “back radiation” and it is close to what the wonderful wizard (Trenberth) says. Roy Spencer affirms this when he states (#1 in the “Top Ten”):
    “….downwelling IR from the sky can be measured, and amounts to a level (~300 W/m2) that can be scarcely be ignored; the neglect of which would totally screw up weather forecast model runs if it was not included; and would lead to VERY cold nights if it didn’t exist; and can be easily measured directly with a handheld IR thermometer pointed at the sky eems to think that this show….”. If you want the full context, here it is:

    So far it is looking good for Trenberth with the revered Roy Spencer supporting him.

    Then Roy Spencer skewers the folks who recognize that the 300 W/m2 downward radiation flux exists while doubting that CO2 contributes significantly. Here is what Spencer said:
    “3. CO2 CANT CAUSE WARMING BECAUSE CO2 EMITS IR AS FAST AS IT ABSORBS. No. When a CO2 molecule absorbs an IR photon, the mean free path within the atmosphere is so short that the molecule gives up its energy to surrounding molecules before it can (on average) emit an IR photon in its temporarily excited state. See more here. Also important is the fact that the rate at which a CO2 molecule absorbs IR is mostly independent of temperature, but the rate at which it emits IR increases strongly with temperature. There is no requirement that a layer of air emits as much IR as it absorbs…in fact, in general, the the rates of IR emission and absorption are pretty far from equal.”

    I have great respect for Roy Spencer. He is clearly far more competent than folks like Michael Mann or Kevin Trenberth but he is not infallible. His “#3 out of 10” shown above makes no sense at all.

    The mean time between gas molecule collisions is inversely proportional to pressure. In stratospheres, excited molecules such as CO2 have time to radiate photons before they collide with other molecules. Consequently, in the stratosphere 50% of the outgoing thermal IR radiation captured by CO2 is returned to the surface exactly as the Kevin Trenberth and Michael Mann models claim.

    Down in the troposphere things are totally different. At sea level on Earth the global temperature averages 288 K and 1 Bar. Applying classical physics ( PIVNURT etc) to an atmosphere consisting mostly of diatomic molecules implies a mean time between collisions of roughly 200 pico-seconds. Because the relaxation times for the excited states of complex molecules are orders of magnitude larger (micro-seconds) most of the excited molecules will give up their energy via collisions before they have time to radiate a photon.

    Thus far my argements have been qualitative (hand waving). Fortunately, Robinson and Catling have taken the trouble to develop an improved atmospheric model based on physical parameters for all seven bodies in the solar system that have significant atmosopheres:

    Here is a statement in the abstract of the above “Letter”:
    “However, it is not obvious why the tropopause occurs at the specific pressure near 0.1 bar. Here we use a simple, physically based model to demonstrate that, at atmospheric pressures lower than 0.1 bar, transparency to thermal radiation allows short-wave heating to dominate, creating a stratosphere. At higher pressures, atmospheres become opaque to thermal radiation, causing temperatures to increase with depth and convection to ensue. A common dependence of infrared opacity on pressure, arising from the shared physics of molecular absorption, sets the 0.1 bar tropopause. ”

    At the risk of being accused of over simplifying the problem my understanding of the R&C statement quoted above is that the tropopause is opaque to outgoing thermal IR radiation. If that is true, energy absorbed by complex molecules in the troposphere is transferred via collisions rather than radiation. This implies that the energy absobed by complex molecules in the troposphere warms the troposphere rather than the surface,

  13. Graeme No.3 says:

    “In stratospheres, excited molecules such as CO2 have time to radiate photons before they collide with other molecules. Consequently, in the stratosphere 50% of the outgoing thermal IR radiation captured by CO2 is returned to the surface exactly as the Kevin Trenberth and Michael Mann models claim.”
    Geometry says otherwise. When well above the Earth less than 50% of the radiation will be ‘aimed’ at the Earth, therefore less than 50% will be returned to the surface.

    Whether the decreasing angle has something to do with the lapse rate I don’t know, but think not.
    I would point out that AGW “science” ignores other wave lengths e.g. near infrared.

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    Generally agree with what you said, but I think you were a bit imprecise with one statement. You correctly point out the IR opacity of the lower troposphere, but in a separate statement say “”in the stratosphere 50% of the outgoing thermal radiation captured by CO2 is returned to the surface” when in reality I think you meant “returned toward the surface” since it ought to get absorbed at the tropopause. IMHO, we see exactly that in the small grey spot below the CO2 diamond in the above picture where it shows just a bit of warming at just that spot.

    Below that point, we see a clear CO2 band with no net heating or cooling from CO2. A big nothing. Just as your link text described. That 0.1 Bar ‘why the tropopause is here’ is a very interesting catch. As the moist air packets rise, they hit a point of clear radiative cooling and condense a load of rain. I’d been pondering “why there” since the red spot it clearly at a fairly narrow range. Now I know. It’s where the 0.1 Bar window starts to open and the IR can leave, but only upward, as the air below continues to be IR absorbing…. I’ll have to explore that link…

  15. R. de Haan says:

    Thanks for the post E. M., another diamond.

  16. R. de Haan says:

    Now inform Obama, he’s loosing it.

  17. gallopingcamel says:

    I like your wording.

    Roughly 50% of the energy radiated by CO2 in the stratosphere is directed “toward the surface”. Very little will get to the surface because clouds and an opaque troposphere get in the way.

    If Trenberth’s forcing theory was correct the surface temperature would correlate with the [CO2] “Hockey Stick”. Trenberth’s idea that the “Missing Heat” hid in the oceans is pretty lame. Much more likely the missing heat warmed the clouds and the troposphere. His single layer radiative transfer model only works in the stratosphere.

  18. adrianvance says:

    The idea that upper atmospheric CO2 reflects IR earthward is silly for two reasons: (1) There is very little of it. With a molecular weight of 44 compared the prototype “air molecule” with less that 30 the diffusion rate, per Grahams Law of the squares, would be 46% that of nitrogen and oxygen. (Actually less as they are 28 and 32 respectively.) Thus, the amount of CO2 in the upper atmosphere would be about 180 ppm and molecules must be in contact to form a reflective surface. Furthermore:

    We locate objects in space in three dimensions on the three planes of the “Cartesian axes,” x, y and z. To the classic “x,y” axes of Algebra we add a “z” axis projecting the third dimension.

    We divide circles inscribed on each plane in degrees for simplicity as we cannot illustrate or perform operations with infinity which is the real number of directions on a circle, but such operations are undefined in our math.

    For convenience, and convention, we have (360)^3 or 46,656,000 directions in three dimensional space for any molecule in terms of degrees. If we assume a molecule is going to emit an IR quanta it could be re-emitted in and of 46,656,000 directions, in terms of degrees.

    If we assume the molecule is at an altitude of 20 miles it will have a window that will be no more than 120 degrees wide in each of three planes and 120^3 or 1,728,000 paths and the probability of any one path is:

    1,728,000/46,656,000 = 0,037 or 3.7%

    This is one chance in 27 and not very supportive of yet another Hansen hypothesis. We have to say the academic Senate of the University of Iowa should rescind his Ph.D. “For crimes against science and education.” This man has done monumental, perhaps irreparable, damage to America.

    Another concomitant insanity was the claim that heat was allowed to escape at night. These “scientists” have to be reminded molecules don’t sleep, but take IR with the lights on or off. They had previously insisted high energy light wave capture and re-admission as IR caused the heating, but experiments show 99% of the absorption and heating is happening in the bottom 30 feet of the atmosphere, a fact that is widely unreported.

  19. gallopingcamel says:

    Graeme No.3,
    Fifty percent of the stratospheric CO2 radiation would be directed toward the Earth if the surface was flat. Here is what I got by recalculating for a spherical Earth with a radius of 6,371 km:

    Altitude = 11 km, 44.4% heading toward the surface.
    Altitude = 50 km, 38.9% heading toward the surface.

    It seems you were right. Then you said:
    “Whether the decreasing angle has something to do with the lapse rate I don’t know, but think not.”

    Again I would agree. One of the great things about Robinson & Catling’s atmospheric model is that it is “One Dimensional” so geometry and trigonometry are not needed.

  20. adrianvance says:

    Why are my comments withheld?

    Adrian Vance

  21. Jason Calley says:

    Hey gallopingcamel! You are probably correct about 44.4% heading toward the surface of the Earth at a height of 11 km (the height of the tropopause). Is that relevant though? If the radiation is being absorbed by the tropopause itself (and not the surface) then 50% of the radiation heads toward space and 50% of the radiation is reabsorbed at the tropopause. In other words, the radius of the Earth — at least as far as IR absorption goes — is 6,371 + 11 km. Certainly, once we get up into the stratosphere the percentage that goes into space passes 50%.

  22. Jason Calley says:

    By the way… can someone educate me a bit on something? When CO2 absorbs a photon, where does the energy go? Certainly in a monoatomic molecule, the energy would go to pump up an electron to a higher orbital. But CO2 is not monoatomic. It has three parts. Does the energy raise an electron? Where? If so, how does that same energy get transferred to another molecule during a collision? Or does that energy go to a spring-like, back and forth wiggling of atomic bonds within the molecule? Or maybe a torsional motion, an oscillating twist? Or bending of bonds? If the energy goes to any of those things, how does it get passed on?

    The only simple way I can see for an excited CO2 to pass off energy by collision, is if it is actually moving faster, the whole molecule, after it absorbs than it was before. A simple “billiard ball” collision and energy transfer makes sense, but those other options seem to complicate it tremendously. What actually happens in the real world?

  23. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Jason Calley; you might look at :
    For a pictorial representation of energy transfer in contact and radiation. Different people have different theories on atomic or molecular energy storage and transfer. I would say that it is a “static”charge that pushes against the universe and at some point will jump off at the point of least resistance, just like a spark of electricity will jump off your finger after walking across a carpet in a dry room and you get your finger near the door knob. Your billiard ball is a good example or an executive desk toy of suspended bearings that 1 dropped on the end will cause the bearing at the other end to jump off the column. These demonstrate contact transfer. In radiation transfer, the energy jumps off as a quanta or unit of energy that behaves as if it were a thing or particle. From the outside, looking, in the atom appears to ring or vibrate at a defined frequency for that molecule so on escape, the energy has that defined frequency, and is adsorbed easiest by a molecule of the same frequency and lower energy level. I would suspect that the energy is stored as spinning angular momentum in the units of the nucleus. Protons behave as if they are bipolar magnets that spin as well as wobble or precess about a second axis. Neutrons are just protons with a surface charge mask that makes them “appear” to be charge neutral or slightly negative. pg

  24. gallopingcamel says:

    Jason Calley,

    The ability of CO2 to absorb energy in the thermal IR depends on its absorption bands at 4 and 15 microns. The 4 micron band is not worth bothering about as Earth does not radiate much energy there. In contrast the 15 micron band (wave number 667) is near the peak for outgoing radiation from the Earth’s surface.

    It is easy to measure Earth’s emission spectrum from space and then compare it to what a “Black Body” at 288 K (or 255 K) would radiate. As one would expect the spectrum has a big bite taken out of it centered on 15 microns. Thanks to collision broadening in the lower atmosphere the “bite” is quite wide.

    Then you need to look at the “Downwelling Radiation”. Here is a statement from a doctoral thesis that sums the situation up quite well:
    “Spectroscopic evidence indicates that the CO2 molecule has a linear symmetrical configuration. Due to this linear symmetry, the CO2 molecule has no permanent electric dipole moment and, hence, no pure rotational transitions. CO2 possesses two very strong rotation-vibration bands in the infrared, one centered on 4.3 μm, and the other at 15 μm. The first band at 4.3 μm is actually the stronger of the two, but since it is located out of the edge of both the solar and longwave bands, it is not really important for broadband radiative fluxes in either band. The other band, located at 15 μm, is very important for longwave radiative transfer in the atmosphere, because it is positioned near the peak of the Planck emission function for terrestrial temperatures and renders the atmosphere completely opaque between 14 and 16 μm. Moreover, the atmosphere is at least partly absorbing for several micrometers more to either side of the above wavelengths.”

    You might try googling “Bill Satzer”, “3M Company”.

    Note the “completely opaque”. This means that radiation in the lower atmosphere is indistinguishable from conduction or convection. All three processes work together to establish a negative lapse rate as predicted by thermodynamics (-g/Cp).

    The “Downwelling Radiation” at 15 microns detected at Earth’s surface is not coming from the stratosphere. It is coming from the lowest part of the troposphere!

  25. p.g.sharrow says:

    gallopingcamel says:”The “Downwelling Radiation” at 15 microns detected at Earth’s surface is not coming from the stratosphere. It is coming from the lowest part of the troposphere!”

    As in just above the detector? ;-) pg

  26. gallopingcamel says:

    Jason Calley,

    Excited states of electrons bound to atoms have relatively short lifetimes that are measured in nanoseconds.

    In contrast, molecules such as CO2 have excited vibration states that have lifetimes measured in micro-seconds or milli-seconds.

    Even though most of the collisions that CO2 molecules make with other molecules in the troposphere are elastic (no energy exchanged) it is much more likely that a CO2 molecule will lose its excess energy by collisions rather than radiation. That is why the [CO2] has no significant effect on global temperature.

  27. adrianvance says:

    Why have you repressed the comments of Adrian Vance? He was a Chem major undergrad, taught it for eight years and has been much published in educational film by such companies as Encyclopaedia Britannica Films, Inc., The Society For Visual Education and other smaller companies. Can you not have someone explain this phenomenon in empirical terms? What is your problem?

    Reply: Keep your pants on Adrian and have a cool one. If you had been following along here, you’d know I’ve been way underwater on time for a variety of reasons. Comments can sit for a while, sometime days, until I get time to ‘service the queue’. I’ve set most things to “whitelist”, but the WordPress service has a limited skill. So I can Whitelist you by approving a comment, then they “go right now”. Except… WordPress has a load of things (NOT visible to me) that cause a comment to go to moderation. Words, phrases, people. Who knows. What’s more, I suspect that it’s also got an IP filter. So IF I approve a person, and they move to another location, reboot their router, or maybe even just boot their tablet again, the IP can change and they are off the whitelist. Until I get another day at the keyboard. That can be a couple of days. Leaping to the conclusion that it’s something about me, my ‘attitudes’, what I want, what you did or said, some act of censorship; well, all that is just a mild bit of paranoia. (BTW, I’d also suggest not talking about yourself in the 3rd person. Looks a bit, um, odd…) So “in empirical terms” I have no problem. You have an impatience problem. Can’t wait even a day to talk to the whole world. Remember the days of a ‘letter to the Editor’ taking a week IF it ever saw the light of day? Get a grip on perspective, please. Hopefully once the WordPress whitelist process kicks in, your impatience can be slaked… -E.M.Smith ]

  28. adrianvance says:

    Uh, huh… When days go by and other comment after comment appears I think that I have a right to believe something is wrong. After all, this is a very controversial area and it would not be the first time someone repressed an opinion in this area.

  29. vicgallus says:

    from hockey schtick’s comment “CO2 acts as a cooling agent throughout the entire troposphere and stratosphere, and as an alleged heating agent only at the tropopause near 15 km.”

    I wrote somewhere else that we have a description of the atmosphere where the atmosphere as a whole emits more LWIR if there is a higher concentration of greenhouse gasses (and Adrian has a good point about that not being the case if its CO2) and more CO2 insulates the surface from losing energy to the upper atmosphere, then surely the upper troposphere becomes cooler and calculating this insulating effect by adding down welling from a hotter upper troposphere to the surface is more like an Escher sketch than a model.

  30. Gail Combs says:

    Ian W says: @ 2 June 2014 at 12:34 am

    A throw away line….
    William McClenney, a geologist, has done “vast research… ferre[ting] out whatever is available on the last several ice ages and interglacials, especially the transitions” He has posted comments and articles at WUWT and else where.

    A very short condensed version of what he is saying is this:
    There had been an intense debate going regarding which of the most recent interglacials is the best analogue for the present Holocene. Lisiecki and Raymo, (2005) essentially quashed the Berger and Loutre’s 2002 modeling and no one has come forward with anything supporting an extended Holocene since then.

    Lisiecki and Raymo (Paleooceanography, 2005) produced an exhaustive analysis of 57 globally distributed deep ocean cores reaching back about 5 million years.

    Lisiecki and Raymo’s conclusion?

    …the June 21 insolation minimum at 65N during MIS 11 is only 489 W/m2, much less pronounced than the present minimum of 474 W/m2. In addition, current insolation values are not predicted to return to the high values of late MIS 11 for another 65 kyr. We propose that this effectively precludes a ‘double precession-cycle’ interglacial [e.g., Raymo, 1997] in the Holocene without human influence….

    Click to access Lisiecki_Raymo_2005_Pal.pdf

    We had better hope and pray CO2 can delay the next glacial inception because Richard B. Alley of the U.Penn., who chaired the National Research Council on Abrupt Climate Change, has shown the climate transitions abruptly within years to decades. For example the Wisconsin Glaciation to Holocene transition was less than three years. At one point William said one year.

    Onset of the Little Ice Age was right about when the Holocene reached half precession cycle old and it was bad enough. The Modern Warm Period, less warm then the the Medieval Warm Period, marks the second thermal pulse. There were two thermal pulses in the closest Holocene analog, MIS-11 just before glaciation.

    If Ruddiman’s “Early Anthropogenic Hypothesis” is correct, the ONLY thing keeping us out of the next ice age is Carbon Dioxide. The Industrial Age along with the the recent grand solar maximum, (“A History of Solar Activity over Millennia” by Ilya G. Usoskin of the Geophysical Observatory (Oulu unit)) may very well have occurred at exactly the most opportune time for H. sapiens, at the end of the present interglacial.

    Also we are not out of the woods by a long shot. The Milankovitch Cycle low point will continue for 65 thousand years according to Lisiecki and Raymo. Yet those idiots in DC and the UN want to strip the earth of the CO2 security blanket that might be keeping us out of the next ice age. And to add insult to injury you can add the other papers showing C3 plants (99% of the plant species) were undergoing CO2 starvation when the earth was in the last glaciation.

  31. Gail Combs says:

    To put this another way. For glacial inception, the summer solstice insulation minimum during MIS-11 at 65N was 489 Watt/m2 and in 2005 it was 474 Watt/m2 (Lisiecki and Raymo, 2005).

    This means the earth need an ADDITIONAL 15 Watt/m2 to get to the insolation minimum in MIS-11. I am not familiar with any CO2 estimates which correlate with a 15 Watt/m2 rise in atmospheric forcing.

    For example:
    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Schimel, 1996] estimated that the change solar forcing between 1850 and 1990 was only 0.3 W/m 2 at the top of the atmosphere vs. 1.5 W/m 2 for forcing anthropogenic CO2 forcing [cf., Reid, 1997]. Therefore to prevent glacial inception using anthropogenic CO2 forcing, we are still off by a factor of ten.

    A more recent fall 2012 paper “Can we predict the duration of an interglacial? “ says…

    …although it has been unclear whether the subdued current summer insolation minimum (479 W m−2 ), the lowest of the last 800 kyr, would be sufficient to lead to glaciation (e.g. Crucifix, 2011). Comparison with MIS 19c, a close astronomical analogue characterized by an equally weak summer insolation minimum (474 W m−2 ) and a smaller overall decrease from maximum summer solstice insolation values, suggests that glacial inception is possible despite the subdued insolation forcing, if CO2 concentrations were 240 ± 5 ppmv (Tzedakis et al., 2012). ….

    Looking at this point from the paper, solar insolation @ 21 June insolation 65◦ N and CO2 for termination, this paper, gives:

    MIS 7e – insolation = 463 W m−2, CO2 = 256 ppmv
    MIS 11c – insolation = 466 W m−2, CO2 = 259-265 ppmv
    MIS 13a – insolation = 500 W m−2, CO2 = 225 ppmv
    MIS 15a – insolation = 480 W m−2, CO2 = 240 ppmv
    MIS 17 – insolation = 477 W m−2, CO2 = 240 ppmv

    Current values are insolation = 479 and CO2 = 400 ppmv

    To give you a feel for how close to glaciation we are, you can look at the calculations from NOAA:
    depth of the last ice age – around 463 W m−2
    NOW (modern Warm Period) 476Wm-2

  32. Gail Combs says:

    The paper Can we predict the duration of an interglacial?goes on to say

    …thus, the first major reactivation of the bipolar seesaw would probably constitute an indication that the transition to a glacial state had already taken place….

    At first I thought the bipolar seesaw mentioned was the melting of the Arctic and the ice building in the Antarctica that we have been seeing for the last couple of decades however the paper is actually referring to Dansgaard-Oeschger events. (Remember that Bond events seem to be the interglacial manifestation of Dansgaard-Oeschger events.)

    So the second point the paper makes, if I am reading the paper correctly, is a strong Bond event aka a Dansgaard-Oeschger event, will occur 3000 yrs AFTER glaciation has already started. Or though they do not say this, you get a “transition” event that is too strong to be a Bond event and too weak to be called a Dansgaard-Oeschger event since the manifestation of the phenomenon occurs every ~1200 to 1500 years. What does that say about the Little Ice Age?

    Page 2
    We propose that the interval between the “terminal” oscillation of the bipolar seesaw, [Dansgaard-Oeschger events?] preceding an interglacial, and its first major reactivation represents a period of minimum extension of ice sheets away from coastlines. Given that the response of the MOC and the strength of the bipolar seesaw may be modulated by different boundary conditions (e.g. Green et al., 2010; Margari et al., 2010), it is conceivable that a non-active bipolar seesaw might not necessarily indicate interglacial conditions (false-negative) or that an active bipolar seesaw might not indicate glacial conditions (false-positive). With respect to the former, however, a terminal oscillation of the bipolar seesaw appears to be a characteristic feature of deglaciation (e.g. Cheng et al., 2009; Ganopolski and Roche, 2009; Barker et al., 2011). With respect to the latter, freshwater fluxes can occur within an interglacial, but are unlikely to lead to a major disruption of the MOC when the system is in a “warm circulation mode” (Ganopolski and Rahmstorf, 2001); thus, the first major reactivation of the bipolar seesaw would probably constitute an indication that the transition to a glacial state had already taken place. [Think Little Ice Age.]

    page 3
    The reactivation of the bipolar seesaw provides a minimum age or a “terminus ante quem” for glacial inception, which clearly had occurred sometime before. Based on the MIS 5e–5d transition, we propose to apply the same response phasing of 3 kyr to infer the onset of glacial inception at previous interglacial-to-glacial transitions….

    page 4
    Given the large decrease in summer insolation over the Last Interglacial as a result of the strong eccentricity-precession forcing, we suggest that the value of 3 kyr may be treated as a minimum. We thus estimate interglacial duration as the interval between the terminal occurrence of bipolar-seesaw variability and 3 kyr before its first major reactivation….

    Despite all the screaming by the warmists, glaciers are advancing in fits and starts.

  33. Gail Combs says:

    A couple paper showing that if you consider longer time periods glaciers are advancing:

    Temperature and precipitation history of the Arctic 2010
    Miller et al
    Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, USA et al

    …. Solar energy reached a summer maximum (9% higher than at present) ~11 ka ago and has been decreasing since then, primarily in response to the precession of the equinoxes. The extra energy elevated early Holocene summer temperatures throughout the Arctic 1-3°C above 20th century averages, enough to completely melt many small glaciers throughout the Arctic, although the Greenland Ice Sheet was only slightly smaller than at present. Early Holocene summer sea ice limits were substantially smaller than their 20th century average, and the flow of Atlantic water into the Arctic Ocean was substantially greater. As summer solar energy decreased in the second half of the Holocene, glaciers re-established or advanced, sea ice expanded

    A more recent paper looking at glaciers in Norway.

    A new approach for reconstructing glacier variability based on lake sediments recording input from more than one glacier January 2012
    Kristian Vasskoga Øyvind Paaschec, Atle Nesjea, John F. Boyled, H.J.B. Birks

    …. A multi-proxy numerical analysis demonstrates that it is possible to distinguish a glacier component in the ~ 8000-yr-long record, based on distinct changes in grain size, geochemistry, and magnetic composition…. This signal is …independently tested through a mineral magnetic provenance analysis of catchment samples. Minimum glacier input is indicated between 6700–5700 cal yr BP, probably reflecting a situation when most glaciers in the catchment had melted away, whereas the highest glacier activity is observed around 600 and 200 cal yr BP. During the local Neoglacial interval (~ 4200 cal yr BP until present), five individual periods of significantly reduced glacier extent are identified at ~ 3400, 3000–2700, 2100–2000, 1700–1500, and ~ 900 cal yr BP….

    The authors of BOTH papers simply state that most glaciers likely didn’t exist 6,000 years ago, but the highest period of the glacial activity has been in the past 600 years. This is hardly surprising with ~9% less solar energy.

  34. Gail Combs says:

    Finally the last piece of evidence, again one the warmists are screaming about. Since the Holocene Optimum the sea levels have been falling not rising as would be expected since glaciers are advancing and not retreating.

    Mid to late Holocene sea-level reconstruction of Southeast Vietnam using beachrock and beach-ridge deposits

    Beachrocks, beach ridge, washover and backshore deposits along the tectonically stable south-eastern Vietnamese coast document Holocene sea level changes. In combination with data from the final marine flooding phase of the incised Mekong River valley, the sea-level history of South Vietnam could be reconstructed for the last 8000 years. Connecting saltmarsh, mangrove and beachrock deposits the record covers the last phase of deglacial sea-level rise from − 5 to + 1.4 m between 8.1 to 6.4 ka. The rates of sea-level rise decreased sharply after the rapid early Holocene rise and stabilized at a rate of 4.5 mm/year between 8.0 and 6.9 ka. Southeast Vietnam beachrocks reveal that the mid-Holocene sea-level highstand slightly above + 1.4 m was reached between 6.7 and 5.0 ka, with a peak value close to + 1.5 m around 6.0 ka. This highstand is further limited by a backshore and beachridge deposit that marks the maximum springtide sea-level just below the base of the overlying beach ridge. After 5.0 ka sea level dropped below + 1.4 m and fell almost linearly at a rate of 0.24 mm/year until 0.63 ka and + 0.2 m as evidenced by the youngest beachrocks….

    The second paper:

    Sea-level highstand recorded in Holocene shoreline deposits on Oahu, Hawaii

    Unconsolidated carbonate sands and cobbles on Kapapa Island, windward Oahu, are 1.4-2.8 (+ or – 0.25) m above present mean sea level (msl). Agreeing with Stearns (1935), we interpret the deposit to be a fossil beach or shoreline representing a highstand of relative sea level during middle to late Holocene time. Calibrated radiocarbon dates of coral and mollusc samples, and a consideration of the effect of wave energy setup, indicate that paleo-msl was at least 1.6 (+ or – 0.45) m above present msl prior to 3889-3665 cal. yr B.P, possibly as early as 5532-5294 cal. yr B.P., and lasted until at least 2239-1940 cal. yr B.P. Hence, the main phase of deposition on Kapapa Island lasted a minimum of c. 1400 yr and possibly as long as c. 3400 yr. No modern samples have been recovered from the fossil beach…Radiocarbon ages of coral and mollusc clasts from a breccia lining an emerged (1.4 + or – 0.25 m msl) intertidal notch, cut into emerged coralline-algal carbonate of presumed last interglacial age, on south Mokulua Island (15 km to the southeast of Kapapa Island) correlate to the history recorded on Kapapa Island. Calibrated ages range from 2755-2671 to 3757-3580 cal. yr B.P. (averaging c. 3100 cal. yr B.P.) suggesting that a higher than present sea level formed the notch prior to 3757-3580 cal. yr B.P….

    The Authors interpret this data to agree with subsidence based on models: ” This history is consistent with geophysical models of postglacial geoid subsidence over the equatorial ocean first predicted by Walcott (1972) and later refined by Clark et al. (1978) and Mitrovica and Peltier (1991).” However if the Southeast Vietnam was geologically stable and showing the same type of data, that interpretation based on models is open to question.

    The warmists sure will twist and turn and ignore the facts to support their believe the earth is warming, glaciers are melting and the sea levels are rising – OH MY!

  35. Gail Combs says:

    Another point in the SWAG category, that Ben Wouters @ Tallbloke’s brought up, was “the faint young sun paradox” could be explained by the heating of the oceans from the molten core of the earth and that heat from the interior of the earth ===> oceans. This idea is pretty much left out of the Climastrologists calculations.

    I have neither the math, physics or geology to get into the idea deeply. However I do know that as mines go deeper the mines warm up. The deepest gold mine is Mponeng, a 2.5-mile hole in South Africa. The rock faces in the mine get as hot as 140º F. in terms of geology 2.5-miles is nothing. And a lot more volcanoes than expected have been found in the oceans. Researchers have counted 201,055 underwater cones.

    It could help explain this graph.

  36. gallopingcamel says:

    Gail Combs,
    If CO2 provides the “Forcing” Trenberth & Co. claim we would be seeing clear evidence of it by now so don’t expect CO2 to do much to alleviate the next glaciation.

    You have to love the rabid Warmists such as David Archer. What a shame that it is just a fairy story:

    Click to access archer.2005.trigger.pdf

  37. Gail Combs says:

    That comment was originally written FOR warmists. It shows that even if CO2 causes the warming they think it does, at this stage in the Holocene, with solar insolation having declined by 9% and another 65ka before it climbs again, cutting back on CO2 is a VERY VERY bad idea.

    It is a Moncktonism. Give them their theory and then show that the policies derived from that theory make no sense.

    In my opinion there is zero chance of major warming and a major chance of civilization threatening cooling, possibly in the near future. Time will tell.

  38. Jason Calley says:

    @ p.g.sharrow and gallopingcamel

    Thanks so much for your responses to my question about energy transfer! Given a long lifetime I may actually get to where I have a more fundamental understanding of this subject. :)

    I admit — I am still confused about the difference between single atom and molecular mechanisms… Let me try an analogy and see whether I can do a better job explaining my confusion. Suppose that instead of single atoms and multi-atom molecules, our atmosphere were composed of tiny watches. Some of the watches are new style electronic watches and only have a solid chunk of circuitry (single atoms, all in one chunk) while other watches were old style and had reciprocating balance wheels inside (multi-atom molecules). All these infinitesimal watches are whizzing around in a bath of photons. Consider an electronic watch; every now and then it absorbs a photon. It looks like one of two things might happen; either the watch gains some momentum and whizzes around a bit faster (i.e., it gets hotter) or maybe the watch battery soaks up the photon, (analogous to an electron going up one shell.) If the watch has gotten faster (hotter), then one of two things can happen; it might bang into another watch and transfer some of its energy, spreading the original photon momentum around and effectively killing off that photon. Alternatively, the now fast moving watch might reradiate the photon, lose some momentum and cool down — at which point the watch is no faster than before (no warming) and the photon is simply on its own again. So we have two possible mechanisms for absorption of a photon and for its ultimate fate. In one, the momentum is spread around to the other atoms, but in the second, in the “catch and release” mode, the photon travels around but never makes the atom go any faster.

    Now consider the old style watch with a balance wheel. It has ways of absorbing a photon which are not available to the electronic watch. Maybe the photon kicks the balance wheel into a faster oscillation (analogous to a CO2 molecule getting a faster internal wiggle) or maybe it winds the spring a little (just as a CO2 molecule might pick up some spin on one of its components) — but neither of those things results in the watch actually traveling faster and colliding harder with another watch; i.e., neither of those things results in the watch getting warmer or its surrounding watches getting warmer. Of course, eventually, the watch may reradiate the photon (just as an electron drops down a shell), but if it does, then we just have a repeat of the catch and release scenario.

    So what happens at 15 microns? What is the actual mechanism by which the photon is absorbed? Is the photon turned into molecular wiggle? Or rotation? Or electron shell jumping? What is it in a CO2 molecule that has a resonance at 15 microns? If it is any of those, then I do not understand how that would affect gross temperature. All those things do is hold the photon for a moment, then turn it lose again without a temperature rise anywhere. I can only understand a temperature rise if the photon momentum is changed into linear translation.

    I suspect that I am wondering about something that may prove so simple I cannot grasp it. Please forgive me if so — and thanks again for the responses and comments!

  39. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    Only thing I see hanging you up is the notion that those behaviors are mutually isolated. In reality, there can be exchage of energy between “wiggle”, rotation of molecule, linear movement of molecule, rotation of atom on molecule, electron state, …

    I find it easier to think of the molecule as a little antenna. If it is the right length for a 15 micron photon to resonate, that photon gets absorbed. Then the absorbing part sets about finding other modes and other molecules to “share” with. Now that sharing takes time, and it might just cough up that photon again before it shares, or it might not. More pressure makes the sharing more effective ( “pressure broadening”) and more likely. More gets moved to other atoms and molecules as motion (thermal) but they might still kick out a photon. A molecule in low density with few neighbors is more likely to spit out the photon while it waits as collisions are much fewer, so it gets more time.

    Oh, and a molecule that has been “kicked around” by it’s neighbors may get enough energy to spit out a photon too. Once the amount matches a resonant mode of movement or electron state(quanta add up).

    It’s a giant game of billiards with some balls connected by short slinkys…

    IIRC, the modes of movement for any single chemical bond are:

    Rotation of the atom at the end (sit there and spin). Bending side to side (wiggle to any side). Stretch – shorten (end to end bobbing). And any combination of the above.

    Once a double bond is in place, rotation is blocked and wiggle has a preferred side direction.

    Monatomic gasses like Argon don’t do much of interest at all. Electron pumping is about it.. Diatomic like N2 has some ‘stretch”, but how do you measure “wiggle side to side” when it is symettrical to all sides and the bond can rotate about the atom at the end anyway? So electron pump, stretch. Only when you get to the three atom gas like CO2, H2O or NO2 do you get “bending to any side” as a significant addition. That also means you get “both sides bending at once” so it can oscillate the middle heavy atom back and forth between the two lighter H atoms for water. That’s the movement that lets them to do interesting things with IR.

    As per the thought experiment of “nothing happens”: as the absorbed is just re-emitted: Well, nature isn’t always so tidy. Energy moves to wherever it can get. Just takes some time. If the time is available, it radiates (like CO2 in the stratosphere). If not, it thermally shares via collisions. Oh, and it’s possible for an atom to absorbe more than one IR photon and then emit some other band entirely. Or soak up a “blue” and spit out a couple of “reds” if the energtics are right. Or one red and some thermal. Or…

    In short: It’s not tidy and it’s a bit of a mess when pressure is high enough.

    Read about laser pumping for some examples of interesting energy flows. They can be pumped with chemical energy, RF, other phtons, … and emit various different photons.

    @Gail Combs:

    All nice links and “stuff”. One “maybe this will sooth” point: The end of a glacial is more abrupt than the onset. The ice leaves very quickly after the ocean circulation reorganizes and rain patterns shift (dropping water on the ice to melt it). The ice accumulates more slowly over 100,000 years in a more linear way (with pulses, yes, but mostly a linear trend). So with glacial onset, we are likely to have a 1500 year rollercoaster of temps with ‘lower lows’ and ‘lower highs’ on a long linear downtrend. Kind of like we already have had. And advancing ice, but so slowly we don’t really notice. On average, about 800 feet of more surface coverage / year. Call it 1600 feet when advancing, then an 800 retreat, then 1600… Rather like the MWP/ LIA / Modern WP / New LIA/…

    Yes, it will “suddenly” get colder in 20 to 40 years, but not much permanent snow / glaciation during that cold cycle (about 1600 surface linear feet). Then the warm comes again in about 700 or 1500 years (though less warm). Repeat. At the END of 100,000 years, you get a mile of ice over NYC. But it takes the whole 100,000 years to get there and build up…

    (Though I’d rather be in Florida for the next 40 years than Wisconsin… as we enter the next cold turn… Think frozen Delaware river a bit more than when Washington crossed it…)

    IMHO, we are already in the entre into the next Ice Age Glacial. Just that the 1500 year cycle pulled us back up some from the LIA bottom. Now with a sleepy sun, the moon orbit right, and time for a cool bump, we start down again for a while. LIA started about 1300, ended about 2000 (or 700 years). More major full cycle started about 530 AD (major cold) with 1/2 cycle cold at that 1300 date. Now we have 530+1500 = 2030 AD the major “dip” coming. Lower than The Dark Ages, but not full on glaciation. (That takes the 100,000 years to build as it is a mass flow problem via precipitation from water to land…). So a “quick twitch” in temps, but a slow build in ice.

    In about 2750 AD it ought to be warming again, though 8-)

    Just not as warm as now…

    So that’s my version of the thesis. It IS the glcial onset. We just live so short and fast that we don’t notice it embedded in the 1500 year oscillations…

  40. Steve C says:

    @Jason – I found this pdf called “Carbon Dioxide Absorption in the Near Infrared” by some folk at Wesleyan. Top of p3 they have an illustration of the vibrational modes and vibrational energy levels of CO2, “as depicted on Kverno’s website” (which I didn’t track down).

    The short answer appears to be that the 15um energy goes into the molecule’s bending mode – hold the CO2 atom in a straight line in front of you by its oxygens, then shake it up and down: as the oxygens go downwards the carbon goes up, & vice versa. The symmetric stretch mode sings at 7.8um, and the asymmetric stretch at 4.26um (the modes are illustrated in the pdf). Is this what you were looking for?

  41. Steve C says:

    Dammit, if I hadn’t stopped to make that coffee I’d have caught the Chief. Good to see they’re letting you out a bit more often, EM. ;-)

  42. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. Thanks so much for your input! OK — it is making more sense now. Mainly because I am starting to accept that yes, it is not so simple as I first thought. As you say, “In short: It’s not tidy and it’s a bit of a mess when pressure is high enough.” Yes, exactly! The next time some CAGW enthusiast tells me “it’s just simple high school physics!” I will grit my teeth. It is complicated. And messy with all the potential ways for energy to be absorbed — and stored — and transferred — and reemitted. Add to that the fact that convection in the troposphere completely overwhelms radiative transfer anyway and “the science is settled” brigade seem positively out of touch. Thank you again!

    @ Steve C Thanks also to you and to the pdf to which you linked. YES, that paper was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for! It deals mainly with the near infrared, but the principles of the matter were my main interest and they covered that well, including the nice diagrams of vibrational modes. I do think that they may have mislabelled diagram 8, but that is a small matter. Again, thanks so much, Steve C!

    I get a little smarter every day… well, most days… some days… OK, a bit here, a bit there.


  43. gallopingcamel says:

    Jason Calley said:
    “Add to that the fact that convection in the troposphere completely overwhelms radiative transfer anyway……..”

    In a troposphere that is opaque to radiation at 15 microns it does not matter whether radiation, convection or conduction dominates. Opaque means that the upwelling radiation from the Earth’s surface cannot escape into space, so the radiant energy absorbed stays in the troposphere.

  44. Gail Combs says:

    E.M.Smith says: @ 5 June 2014 at 6:43 pm

    That is about my take too. We should see more “Polar Express” (Polar Vortex) winters more meandering Jets and blocking highs. It is agriculture I worry about.

    June 3, 2014 Cold wave kills 60,000 cattle in Bolivia

    Heavy snowfall is expected in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa

    Meanwhile we have record breaking cold and snow in Canada and ice in the great lakes. The Kishtwar-Islamabad road in Kashmir is expected to remain closed til mid June and Turkey has snow.

  45. Steve C says:

    @Jason – Glad it helped. I think things like this are classic “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words” territory. Now, an animation … ;-)

  46. DocMartyn says:

    I have noted that the effective surface area of the oceans is larger for emission of IR, than for absorption of incoming SW, because of waves.
    The whole surface of a wave will emit more IR, than will flat, still water, and most will end up going into space, with very little absorbed by a nearby wave.

  47. suricat says:

    Hi Chiefio, you posted this on my birthday when I’d migrated to Scotland for the festive occasion and couldn’t reply. However, I’m back home now. :)

    These are good thoughts and I’m happy for your, eventual, conclusive outlook.

    To begin with Trenberth’s ‘missing ocean heat’, it ‘evaporated’! The problem with ‘any’ observation of exothermic ocean heat transfer is that it doesn’t register on the ‘near surface’ atmosphere’s temperature scale (it’s latent) and, because ocean surface temperature is ‘below’, or [on occasion] ‘at’, surface air temperature, any ‘radiative analysis’ discloses energy entering ocean surface without its escape (re; attractor change via the Clausius Clapyron relationship).

    To add scale to the conundrum, Trenberth’s ‘analysis’ for latency was a ‘best case precipitation’ for latent heat involvement. This only discloses a ‘best case assumption’ for the ‘lifetime expectancy of water vapour’ in Earth’s atmosphere! Ice, water and water vapour are ‘recycled’ in the atmosphere per se and don’t fully ‘precipitate’ until atmospheric conditions dictate so. Thus, the latent ‘phase change’ heat energy is under represented by Trenberth’s ‘assumption’ (google ‘virga’ rain for an example, or see the wiki link below).


    Needless to say that, ‘black/brown carbon’ aside, any ‘meaningful’ ‘back radiation’ is provided by the hydrological atmospheric process, which supplies thermal energy high in the troposphere that was detracted from thermal energy at Earth’s surface.

    Best regards, Ray.

  48. Gail Combs says:

    DocMartyn says: @ 7 June 2014 at 9:02 pm

    I have noted that the effective surface area of the oceans is larger for emission of IR….
    Do not forget that the oceans absorb incoming SW radiation down to 100 meters. You are thinking in one dimension – surface which only applies to the IR waveband that effects CO2.

    SEE: http://www.klimaatfraude.info/images/sverdrup.gif

  49. Gail Combs says:

    Speaking of Ice Ages and glaciers this is an interesting article:

    FROZEN PIPES are a “Climate- Change ISSUE” ?? No wonder they change the name from Gore Bull Worming to the all encompassing “climate -change” a few years back.

    My, My seems the magical gas, Unicorn farts CO2 can do just about anything as long as it is bad.

    June 1, 2014
    ….Matthew Lawrence and his family lost water almost two months ago when their home’s pipes froze. They were still unthawed late last week, even as the Manitoba capital was Canada’s hot spot at 32 C….

    Other cities in Canada and the United States grappled with frozen water pipes during an exceptionally cold winter, but Winnipeg’s problem has dragged on the longest.

    The city says there are still around 400 properties that have frozen pipes and many of them are relying on neighbours for water. That’s down from around 1,200 properties in March…

    Even with summer-like temperatures, Hull explained, the thaw hasn’t reached the frost which penetrated deep into the ground.

    “With the really cold winter, the frost was pushed down to record levels in the last 130 years. We’re talking eight to nine feet,” Hull said. “Frost doesn’t come out of the ground. The thaw has to go through the soil and thaw all the frost, all the way down to eight feet.”

    Once this crisis has finally passed, Havixbeck said the city has to look at how to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

    “We need to look at this as a climate-change issue,” she said. “One of the more urgent things is are we … telling developers to dig pipes deep enough to prevent them being frozen?”

    This comment on the article is great:
    James in Alberta
    “This is a global warming issue. With the earth heating up frost is driven deeper into the ground. The only way out of this situation is to raise taxes.”

  50. Ben Wouters says:

    Gail Combs says: 4 June 2014 at 2:30 pm

    “Another point in the SWAG category, that Ben Wouters @ Tallbloke’s brought up, was “the faint young sun paradox” could be explained by the heating of the oceans from the molten core of the earth and that heat from the interior of the earth ===> oceans. This idea is pretty much left out of the Climastrologists calculations”

    Hi Gail

    it doesn’t take much math or geology to follow my ideas imo.
    When going down through earths crust the temperature increases.
    This geothermal gradient is ~25K/km.
    The FLUX reaching the surface is very small, ~65 mW/m^2 for continents,
    ~100mW/m^2 for oceans. The flux on continents gets lost in the suns power.
    The oceans are a different story. The 100 mW/m^2 is enough to warm the average oceans water column 1K every ~5000 year. This heat can not reach the surface, except at very high latitudes.
    After the warming of the deep oceans in the Cretaceous by at least 136 million km^3 magma the oceans cooled down, loosing ~18K since then.
    During this cooling the geoflux alone “refreshed” the TOTAL OHC at least 60 times over.
    So my point is that the temperature of the deep oceans is caused by geothermal energy.
    The temperature of the shallow surface layer is caused by any warming from above.
    The difference between the deep oceans temp. and the average surface temperature of the oceans is ~13K.
    So the question is how much of this 13K is caused by the sun, and how much by any other cause, like the GHE.
    I’d say 13K by the sun, 0K by the rest ;-)

  51. Graeme says:


    I wonder if you could pull this together with a post Clive Best made about a year ago analysing the HITRAN data as it is beyond my limited knowledge of physics:

  52. gallopingcamel says:


    That Clive Best post you quote is a “Keeper”.

    While it is mostly good science, it supports the idea of an “Effective Emmission Height” which (IMHO) is a red herring. Even so, the concept of EEH triggered the greatest number of comments ever recorded at “Tallbloke”:

    Clive Best points out that the presence of even trace amounts of CO2 (e.g. 400 ppm) in the lower atmosphere renders it opaque to IR radiation in the 15 micron band. This means that “Upwelling Radiation” from the Earth’s surface (in this band) cannot escape into space. Instead it is trapped in the lower atmosphere where it works to establish a thermodynamic equilibrium in the troposphere along with convection and conduction.

    While we all know how misleading models can be (e.g the IPCC’s CMIP series), some models correspond closely with reality. For example Robinson & Catling:

  53. geran says:

    Be careful about recommending sites that parrot the IPCC “science”. Those sites confuse the confused.

  54. suricat says:

    gallopingcamel says: 9 June 2014 at 5:44 am

    “That Clive Best post you quote is a “Keeper”.”

    I concur, but I’m not so sure about this:-

    “While we all know how misleading models can be (e.g. the IPCC’s CMIP series), some models correspond closely with reality. For example Robinson & Catling:”

    How close? Can you explain where R&C model phase change? I’ve looked for it, but can’t find any sign of ‘phase change per se’, or an equivalent construct of the same. I’d appreciate a pointer if you can give an offering.

    Best regards, Ray.

  55. suricat,

    The R&C model is mostly based on “First Principles” using measured parameters you can look up. For example “gamma” (Cp/Cv).

    When it comes to “Phase Change” they use a fudge factor they call “alpha” which allows them to tweak their modeluntil it lines up with reality. This fudge factor is only needed on Titan with its oceans of methane and on Earth with its oceans of water.

    Here is how R&C explain their approach to phase change:
    “Tropospheric convection follows a dry adiabat adjusted by an empirical scaling factor typically around 0.6–0.9 to match an observed mean moist adiabat in each atmosphere. The ratio
    (γ ) of specific heats at constant pressure (cp ) and volume (cv ), respectively, (γ = cp /cv ) sets the dry adiabatic lapse rate, and is 1.4 for atmospheres dominated by diatomic gases, such as
    those considered here.”

  56. suricat says:

    gallopingcamel says: 10 June 2014 at 5:03 am

    Yes, this is what gets me scratching my head! Cp is fine, but when, apart from gravity, the gas is ‘unbounded’ and Cv has no place in any energy estimation.

    In any case, these specific heats are for gasses and can’t be employed when liquids are also under observation (as in ‘cloud’, or ‘mist’). However, a ‘density’ sample may permit a calculation for ‘liquid : saturated gas’ as a start point for further calculation of ‘change of phase’ activity IMHO.

    I can well understand that R&C have successfully employed a ‘work around’ to ‘fit’ their model, but I don’t believe this is a way forward for atmospheric physics to follow.

    Thanks for your response.

    Best regards, Ray.

  57. gallopingcamel says:

    It was my intention to gain a better understanding of the R&C model over the summer months as these folks have made their work accessible to the general public. However, my part-time (paid) employment has become almost full time so it may be a while………………

    If you don’t like their empirical “work around” why not look at bodies where this is not needed. For example Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune or Uranus?

    For example what does the R&C model predict for a Venus with an atmosphere consisting of 10% CO2 and 90% nitrogen? It would not surprise me if the R&C model supports Nikolov & Zeller’s hypothesis that the surface temperature of rocky planets is more dependent on total pressure than composition.

  58. gallopingcamel says:


    The dry adiabat we learned in high school was equal to -g/Cp. I guess R&C prefer to express that as:
    L = -g/(γ Cv).

  59. p.g.sharrow says:

    @ suricat & gallopingcamel;

    At times I use a “work around” or fudge factor in computer engineering spread sheets to make up for my ignorance of all the needed factors. BUT! GIGO is always a possibility, certainly not a mark of expertise in their field. pg

  60. p.g.

    R&C’s fudge factor is only needed for Earth and Titan with their oceans of liquids. Their model for five other bodies has no need to tweak the dry adiabatic lapse rate.

    Your earlier posts show that you know that Earth’s lower troposphere is opaque to 15 micron radiation so you must realize that Kevin Trenberth’s “Radiative Forcing” caused by CO2 is GIGO.

    Gail Combs found this on WUWT:

  61. p.g.sharrow says:

    @gallopingcamel; For 50 years I have maintained that Green House Gas is a flawed concept. CO2 at 400 parts per million is not significant in any case. Why waste time in argument as to the mechanics of CO2 verses any other gas in the atmosphere?
    The atmosphere below the tropopause works by limiting energy flow out, to conduction and convection. The stratosphere above transfers energy through radiation. A matter density of 0,1 bar or 1.5psi seems to the point where energy transfer through conduction becomes ineffective and radiation predominates.
    This seems to be the case on all planets, maybe also the sun.
    “Wet” planets have an additional feature of an air-conditioner that speeds up convection and energy flow through phase change of gas to liquid – liquid to gas.
    These guys are arguing whether Red apples are better then Green apples and neither can adequately describe an apple tree.
    CO2 is a fertilizer for plants! Not the cause of any change in surface atmospheric temperatures. pg

  62. suricat says:

    gallopingcamel says: 11 June 2014 at 12:19 am

    “It was my intention to gain a better understanding of the R&C model over the summer months as these folks have made their work accessible to the general public. However, my part-time (paid) employment has become almost full time so it may be a while………………”

    Yes, and I’m trying to help with this. I hope you will be able to, at least, follow this thread, even if you are unable to participate in the dialogue.

    “If you don’t like their empirical “work around” why not look at bodies where this is not needed. For example Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, Neptune or Uranus?”

    My “like”, or dislike, isn’t an issue. The ‘issue’ is the observation of natural behaviour per se. A ‘model’ should reflect ‘nature’ and not ‘fit’ nature into a model (for the sake of physics).

    “For example what does the R&C model predict for a Venus with an atmosphere consisting of 10% CO2 and 90% nitrogen? It would not surprise me if the R&C model supports Nikolov & Zeller’s hypothesis that the surface temperature of rocky planets is more dependent on total pressure than composition.”

    Venus is a planet in retrograde revolution and is in a transitional state. The planet can’t be compared to other planets in Sol’s system without the involvement of other factors. However, “total pressure” at the surface and tropopause is pertinent.

    Best regards, Ray.

  63. M Simon says:

    The ratio (equilibrium) of atmospheric CO2 to oceanic (all water on earth actually) CO2 is 1 to 15. One half the CO2 emitted by man winds up in the atmosphere. So where did the 7 parts of CO2 in the ocean come from? ( (1/2 * 15) – 1/2 ) – assuming that 1/2 the CO2 that does not go into the atmosphere winds up in the oceans – for the sake of argument.

    That is the simplest argument I know against – CO2 in the atmosphere is all man’s doing.

  64. adrianvance says:

    The literature says Earth produces 188 gigatons of CO2 every year with about 90 coming from the decomposition of limestone, 80 some, from the decay of dead plants and animals and six from man of which the US makes 20% or 3.2 gigatons. Contrary to James Hanson all molecules are the same and “man made” CO2 does not remain in the atmosphere longer than “natural” molecules. They are all the same per the Wohler synthesis of 1832. Hansen is a fraud and CO2 is a trace gas of no consequence in the atmosphere.

  65. gallopingcamel says:

    M Simon,
    It’s just Henry’s Law in action. Owing to the fact that it takes centuries to mix the CO2 absorbed at the surface into the bulk of the ocean the average concentration lags the surface concentration by 500 to 1,000 years which explains the correlation between [CO2] and temperature over the last seven glaciations:

    Although the people who worked on the EPICA teams (e.g. Thomas F. Stocker) understand this well enough they still persist in selling the opposite hypothesis ([CO2] drives temperature) even though their own measurements falsify it. Take a look at what happens to people who speak out:

  66. M Simon says:

    gallopingcamel says:
    16 June 2014 at 4:53 pm

    I should point out that unless the surface layer of the sea is saturated the 15 to 1 ratio holds.

  67. M Simon,
    Are you sure about that 15:1 ratio?

    This reference seems to suggest the ratio is ~50:1 if you include the entire volume of the oceans:

  68. M Simon,
    You got my attention with those polywell links. I am trying to get myself up to speed on that so some more links would be appreciated.

    Fusors can easily provide enough beam energy to overcome the Coulomb forces between two protons. At first I was concerned that protons would be lost in collisions with electrons to produce hydrogen atoms or neutrons but clearly proton-proton collisions are much more likely owing to the larger collision cross section.

    I spent 12 years trying to keep electrons away from the walls of a 1 GeV synchrotron and focusing 300 kV klystron beams (30 MW RF output). Even so, iIn spite of studying the exploits of Philo Farnsworth I have not given much thought to low energy e-beams!

  69. p.g.sharrow said, 11 June 2014 at 8:17 pm

    “Why waste time in argument as to the mechanics of CO2 verses any other gas in the atmosphere?”

    While you and I are in agreement we are up against the (alleged) 97% of “Climate Scientists” who proclaim with fervor that CO2 is a major climate driver. It may be waste of time to get such folks to understand physics but I plan to keep trying.

  70. p.g.sharrow says:

    @gallopingcamel; lol!
    As a farmer, I live and work out in the weather/climate. “Climate Scientists” live and work inside air conditioned offices in front of their computer screens. Maybe you could start by pointing out that yellow ball in the day sky as the main driver of all weather/climate! ;-)
    Only 97% of preselected, fellow travelers agreed that CO2 was the main driver of climate change. A poor showing I would say! “You can cure Ignorance. There is no cure for stupid”

    Good luck my friend. pg

  71. M Simon says:

    gallopingcamel says:
    17 June 2014 at 4:25 am

    I had seemed to recall reading 15 to 1 somewhere. And 50 to 1 may be more correct as you point out. But 15 to 1 is more than adequate to make my point. And make the AGW crowd sputter.

  72. M Simon says:

    gallopingcamel says:
    17 June 2014 at 4:44 am


    Since you are not a novice in the field you can just ask me questions. I’m a little rusty but I will do my best.

    Joining this board can also help:


  73. M Simon says:

    OK one link per post:

    Join this board

  74. M Simon says:

    OK no links per post.


    Look up “talk-polywell” and “IEC Fusion Technology” and ask me questions. I’m a little rusty but I will do my best.

  75. pg,
    It seems we have much in common. I used to be a fish farmer until my Sea Street Salmon located in Eastport, Maine went belly up!

  76. Graham W says:

    Galloping Camel, E M Smith: You’re in effect saying down-welling IR can’t reach the surface because mean free time between collisions is less than the time taken by CO2 to emit a photon. I can understand this but E M Smith says elsewhere what is measured at the surface is down-welling IR from H2O not CO2. There’s a contradiction here. Why is the mean free time between collisions less than the time taken by CO2 to emit a photon but not less than time taken by H2O to emit a photon? What’s the difference between the two molecules as regards the amount of time taken to emit a photon? How can we observe ANY down-welling IR if what has been inferred here from Robinson/Catling paper is correct?

  77. adrianvance says:

    Why must we suffer all this armchair chemistry unsupported by the math it sorely needs to be considered, much less believed. The facts are very simple:

    CO2 is a “trace gas” in air, insignificant by definition. It absorbs 1/7th as much IR, heat energy, from sunlight as water vapor which has 188 times as many molecules capturing 1200 times as much heat making 99.9% of all “global warming.” CO2 does only 0.1% of it. For this we should destroy our economy?

    The Medieval Warming from 800 AD to 1300 AD that Micheal Mann erased to make his “hockey stick” was several degrees warmer than anything “global warmers” fear. It was the longest recorded time, 500 years, of peace with great abundance for all.

    The Vostock Ice Core data analysis show CO2 increases follow temperature increases by 800 years 19 times in 450,000 years. That makes temperature change cause and CO2 change effect; not the other way around. This alone refutes the anthropogenic global warming concept.

    Carbon combustion generates 80% of our energy. Control and taxing of carbon would give the elected ruling class more power and money than anything since the Magna Carta of 1215 AD.

    Most scientists and science educators work for tax supported institutions eager to help government raise more money for them. And, they love being seen as “saving the planet.”

    Google “Two Minute Conservative,” http://adrianvance.blogspot.com and you will be applauded at your next dinner party, barbecue or church picnic.

  78. gallopingcamel says:

    Graham W, 21 June 2014 at 12:41 am:

    “Galloping Camel, E M Smith: You’re in effect saying down-welling IR can’t reach the surface because mean free time between collisions is less than the time taken by CO2 to emit a photon.”

    No. I did not say that!

    Anyone on the surface can measure the downwelling radiation around 15 microns as Roy Spencer has done. The 15 micron downwelling thermal Infra Red radiation comes from CO2 molecules close to the surface rather than the stratosphere because the troposphere is opaque at that wavelength.

    At low pressures CO2 aborbs energy in a bunch of fine lines around 15 microns which means that its ability to absorb outgoing radiation is limited but it has time to give up that energy by radiating isotropically (four pi-steradians). Thus Kevin Trenberth’s “Single Layer Model” makes perfect sense in the stratosphere. Almost 50% of the energy absorbed by CO2 in the upper atmospere is returned towards the surface and most of the rest exits to space.

    The “Trouble for Trenberth” is that his theory does not work because the “Downwelling Radiation” from CO2 in the upper atmosphere can’t get back to the surface owing to the opacity of the troposphere caused by……………..CO2 which aborbs over a broad band centered on 15 microns owing to “Pressure Broadening”.

    Thanks to pressure broadening in tropospheres, CO2 is more effective at absorbing radiation (compared to stratospheres) but less effective at re-radiating it owing to losing energy through collisions with other molecules. In the lower atmosphere radiative transfer operates over short distances as convection and conduction do. If you could magically eliminate conduction and convection, the -g/Cp tropospheric lapse rate predicted by thermodynamics would be maintained by radiation alone.

    Robinson & Catling talk about their “Radiative/Convective Model”. Their equations show a positive lapse rate in the upper atmosphere where radiation operates over great distances (except on Venus) and a negative one in the lower atmosphere where it operates over short distances (in conjunction with phase changes, convection and conduction).

    So why does Venus have a negative lapse rate in its stratosphere? According to R&C it results from the fact that the planet’s atmosphere is rich in CO2. It may be that Trenberth and Hansen are right after all; CO2 really is a “Magic Gas”!

    So how much CO2 would it take to create a negative lapse rate in Earth’s stratoshere? According to James Hansen’s slide 35 (see link below) it will take a CO2 concentration of 2.5%, roughly 64 times higher than today:

  79. Graham W says:

    Yeah sorry, to be clear, my understanding of physics is not great…I’m not asking questions to say “oh this is rubbish” I’m just asking because I’d genuinely like to understand. I’ve read the comments here and on Digging in the Clay and some of RGBs comments on WUWT that Gail Combs had also mentioned.

    It seems compelling to me, but then that might not say a lot given my opening sentence!

    Anyway, thanks for your answer. I was struggling with the idea of how the photons would get back to the ground given that energy is being increasingly passed on through collision rather than emission the lower you go. So you’re saying perhaps the pyrgeometers are measuring an increase in what’s coming down maybe just immediately above the instrument? What sort of distances are we talking?

    Also, from the article (so I realise it wasn’t you that said this but perhaps you can help):

    “What he is showing, per the first graph, is the back radiation from the water vapor and clouds NOT CO2!”

    How does this fit in with the effect you’re discussing (increased pressure meaning less photons emitted/more energy transfer through collision) or is it that you disagree with this point and assert that what’s being measured at the ground is not particularly backradiation from H2O rather than CO2, but radiation from both, just from lower in the atmosphere than previously assumed?

    Thank you!

  80. E.M.Smith says:

    @Graham W:

    It helps to keep in mind that any radiation moving depends on “what frequency” (or color or wavelength or … all the same thing), what pressure (as the pressure involved changes what energies are emitted / absorbed), and what gas (as they have different absorptions).

    Frankly, I think a single chart sums it up better than anything I could say. See this graph:

    https://chiefio.wordpress.com/2012/12/12/tropopause-rules/stratosphere-radiation-by-species-1460/ that is in the posting up above (big blue thing with colored diamond of CO2 radiating).

    From this posting:


    Notice that the original article that has it:

    says that they incorporated all the physics (such as pressure broadening et. al.) and if you want that much detail, I’d suggest reading it.

    The ‘net net’ is that bright green / yellow / orange colored diamond above the tropopause that is the CO2 infrared radiation. There the pressure is low enough and the temperatures low enough that there is little water. Water and CO2 share the same radiation bands in many cases. Up there, it is all CO2 doing the radiating that matters, with another diamond for Ozone.

    Below the tropopause, the CO2 column is just dead. Here, we see water tagged as doing the radiating. That is largely because there is SO much water in the troposphere that not much else matters. The CO2 molecule is surrounded by a lot of higher pressure other molecules and loses its energy via collision. The water vapor has more chance of hitting an other water. More importantly, it condenses into droplets (so the rosy red patch where clouds are forming as the heat is radiated away).

    For most molecules, any radiated energy in a water band doesn’t get far. And it does no good to close a closed door… So this graph:


    also in tropopause rules, shows that closed IR band clearly and the nearly nothing done by a doubling of CO2 as it tries to close the closed door further.

    And if that tiny shift from blue to green caused any added heat at ground level, what would happen? A tiny bit more water evaporates, rises up to the cloud tops, radiates the heat away above that closed window, and falls back to earth as a tiny bit more rain. Hardly enough to ever measure. That CO2 heat would be moved to water, and that water is what dominates the Troposphere.

    By Definition: We have a troposphere because there is a blockage of the IR path to space. (Yes, we see IR at the surface, but it is from near sources, not far). It is due to that failure of IR to carry heat away, that we get the convection that causes clouds, weather, and all the rest. The very existence of clouds and convection is due to radiation being irrelevant and the radiative door to space being closed. (In a full dry desert we can get the IR window open, and in the frozen deep Arctic; then nights can get quite cold… but as long as there is water in the air, the IR just isn’t important below the tropopause; and above it, more CO2 causes more radiative cooling…)

  81. Graham W says:

    “Why is the mean free time between collisions less than the time taken by CO2 to emit a photon but not less than time taken by H2O to emit a photon?”

    So the answer is, it isn’t a question of a difference in time taken by either molecule to emit a photon, simply it’s down to the fact that there is a far greater amount of water vapour in the atmosphere than CO2, hence even though at higher pressure chance of emission as opposed to transfer of energy is low, what photons are emitted in the direction of the surface are hundreds of times more likely to come from H2O molecules than CO2.

    And it’s not until you get up to the tropopause that the pressure is such that a) there’s likely to be no water vapour around and b) the mean free time between collisions becomes greater than the time taken by (now only CO2 or ozone present) to emit a photon.

    This would present a bias in the direction of radiation such that more overall would be transported away from the surface by radiation than towards it.

    For these reasons an increase in concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere could not greatly effect the surface temperature.

    Is that about right? Thanks for your reply.

    If this is correct and can be shown empirically then surely there’s no more case for AGW?

  82. Adrian Vance says:

    This discussion has become the equivalent of “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin.” Utter nonsense!

  83. p.g.sharrow says:

    It would appear that the tropopause is a condition of matter density and the physics of energy transfer. Above the tropopause radiation predominates, below, conduction and convection are the most important factors. The constituents of the atmosphere are not a determinant factor for the establishment of a tropopause. In my opinion even the Sun exhibits a tropopause as its’ apparent “surface” pg.

  84. M Simon says:

    Adrian Vance says:
    26 July 2014 at 3:10 am

    Utter nonsense!


    YOU are allowed to do that. Could you explain the reason for your position other than uttering nonsense?

  85. Adrian Vance says:

    You people are talking about molecules as if they had tiny pilots or Divine intervention were operating to give CO2 dominion over the other gases when it is an insignificant trace gas and a poor absorber of IR by a factor of seven if you study the absorption charts and analyze in the light of E = (h x c)/w where E is energy, h is Plancks Constant, c is the speed of light and w is wavelength. CO2 does 0.1% of all atmospheric heating, period.

    It appears you are trying to shore up a stupid, failed, totally incorrect idea that CO2 controls the atmosphere when it is a joke. Jim Hansen says “Man made CO2 stays in the atmosphere 400 years where “natural” is absorbed immediately by plants and the seas.” Oh really? This is the pre-1832 chemistry of Vitalism. Look up Wohler Synthesis and get straight with physical science.

    And finally, “You are allowed?” What is this? Gestapo controlled?

  86. M Simon says:

    Adrian Vance says:
    26 July 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Well it did get a response from you stating your actual position. Thank you.

  87. M Simon says:

    I’m having some trouble posting this:

    This is kinda old and may already have been discussed here:


    CO2 has no special effect. Only gas pressure matters.

  88. Pingback: Hockey Schtick: CO2 does what exactly? | Tallbloke's Talkshop

  89. gallopingcamel The ‘backradiation’ does not come from high in the Trop as per Trenberth. That is a ridiculous physical model of the the atmosphere. The CO2 and water vapor intercept the surface IR in the first few hundred meters and convert the radiant energy to heat adding to the concoction/convection modes of energy removal from the surface of the earth.
    An updated and realistic energy balance diagram is presented here:

    Our endless arguments about CO2 back radiation do not apply to the actual atmosphere. However the CO2 doubling which also takes place above the tropopause where there is little water vapor are relevant. It then becomes a question of the double CO2 and the temperature lapse (increase) rate above the troposphere and the effectiveness of 2x CO2 radiation efficiency in that regieme. At first blush it would seem that the temperature gradient is first near zero and then positive in the Stratosphere leading to an enhanced radiative cooling due to 2x CO2. In other words the CO2 ‘forcing’ would have a negative sign.

  90. adrianvance says:

    CO2 “back radiation” is a myth and there is far more water vapor above the tropopause than there is CO2 per Graham’s Law of gas diffusion and where ice has a vapor pressure of 4 mm Hg the H2O will be gaseous at any point where the pressure is less as in the stratosphere. “Forcing” is Hansen BS requiring either tiny pilots on gas molecules or Divine Intervention. Has Jim become the Pope?

    Google “Two Minute Conservative” for facts, ideas and more.

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