The Sun Does Not Warm The Earth

Yes, the Sun does not warm the Earth.

Part of my world view involves “keeping a tidy mind” and that means sometimes clearing out old points of view that are just not accurate. The notion that the Sun warms the Earth is one of those.

Every child knows that when you stand in the sunshine, you get warmed by it. Every child knows that the sunny tropics are much warmer than the polar icy night. It is just Sooooo obvious that “the sun does it”. We don’t think much about the context.

So what is the context of the surface temperature?

The surface has the cold depths of space on one side. Then two working fluids between space and the surface ( air and water ) to conduct, convect, and radiate heat to that cold depth. On the other side, there are a few thousand miles of rock. And that is where the problem arrives. That rock is very very hot.

Earth’s internal engine is running about 1,000 degrees Celsius (about 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than previously measured, providing a better explanation for how the planet generates a magnetic field, a new study has found.

A team of scientists has measured the melting point of iron at high precision in a laboratory, and then drew from that result to calculate the temperature at the boundary of Earth’s inner and outer core — now estimated at 6,000 C (about 10,800 F). That’s as hot as the surface of the sun.

On top of that core is the mantle. It is significantly cooler:

The difference in temperature matters, because this explains how the Earth generates its magnetic field. The Earth has a solid inner core surrounded by a liquid outer core, which, in turn, has the solid, but flowing, mantle above it. There needs to be a 2,700-degree F (1,500 C) difference between the inner core and the mantle to spur “thermal movements” that — along with Earth’s spin — create the magnetic field.

1500 C or 2700 F cooler at a minimum.

The mantle runs out at about 3000 K to 1900 K (for all practical purposes using C or K is the same in this context. We don’t know the temperatures to 276 C of precision, so the difference between C and K is in the statistical noise).

Thermal Gradient of Earth

Original Image

The Earth’s internal heat comes from a combination of residual heat from planetary accretion, heat produced through radioactive decay, and possibly heat from other sources. The major heat-producing isotopes in the Earth are potassium-40, uranium-238, uranium-235, and thorium-232.
Much of the heat is created by decay of naturally radioactive elements. An estimated 45 to 90 percent of the heat escaping from the Earth originates from radioactive decay of elements mainly located in the mantle.

We’ve had over 4 Billion years to lose some of that heat of accretion. At this point, it is mostly radioactive decay keeping things hot. We live on the outside of the ‘containment shell’ of a giant nuclear reactor.

The Laws Of Thermodynamics say that heat can only flow from hot to cold. It is our own nuclear reactor heat that warms the Earth. The heat flow is from a 6000 K core to a 3 K dead of space.

At most, warming the surface to 300 K with sunshine can only slow down that process (and that only on the sunny half away from the poles).

The necessary conclusion is that the Sun does not warm the Earth, it only modulates the heat flow from the very hot core / mantle / crust out to the very cold depths of space. Yes, if it were gone we would be much closer to that ‘cold pole’ temperature, and if the Earth were completely unable to cool to space, we would be closer to 6000 K. But both are hypotheticals. The reality is a heat flux from 6000 K to 3 K and we sit near the cold pole. For 1/3 to 2/3 of a rotation (depending on place on the planet at any one time) that flux is briefly slowed by sunshine. But it MUST continue. (If it didn’t, we would rise to core temps over time). All of which says we are warmed by the core, and modulated by the Sun.

I don’t know that this matters much when thinking about practical things like the weather today or the extent of global cooling in an ice age glacial; but it does help to keep a tidy mind. You think differently about solar warming than about solar modulated cooling. “Back Radiation” can not “heat the Earth” (if back radiation does anything at all…) but can only extend the degree to which the Sun modulates heat flow out from the core.

It raises questions, too. Like “Has our million year scale slide into colder been due to cosmic changes, or just the long slow drop of nuclear decay heat flux?” We know the heat flux is dropping over millions year time scales. We know the Sun is not warming the Earth, only modulating that heat flux out. At that point, do we really need to invoke orbital shifts, solar changes, galactic location effects? Similarly, how important is “the faint Sun paradox” if early Earth history had much more warmth from the planet itself? If the Sun is not setting the heat flux at the planet surface, but only providing some photons for plants, it can be much more faint than now and life is still happy. Assuming Venus is similarly heated, do we really need a Greenhouse Venus explanation for the high temperatures, or just a higher initial isotope load so the gasses in the atmosphere have not condensed into oceans and formed oxide and sulfide rocks (yet…)?

How you think about things matters. Even small things. It really does help to keep a tidy mind. The perspective of a hot Earth cooling to space, solar modulated, is closer to reality, and gives a more real understanding. It also leads to asking different questions…

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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...
This entry was posted in AGW Climate Perspective, Science Bits. Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to The Sun Does Not Warm The Earth

  1. omanuel says:

    Thanks for another interesting perspective. There are many indications truth is breaking out today!

  2. Larry Ledwick says:

    What! you mean there is no green house effect !! Gasp
    Looking at investigations done for heat pumps and earth sheltered homes etc. Where they have looked closely at soil and deeper earth temperatures, looks like the true “average temperature” of the earth should be very close to the temperature at about 28-30 ft depth where daily and seasonal surface temp fluctuations flatten out and disappear. Below that point the temperature rises, and above that point the temperature fluctuates due to external factors like seasons and solar heating during the day/summer.

    Maybe we should be looking at earth temperature as an internally heated body, insulated by a “dead air” insulator (well recognized in building trades as a good insulator if convection is suppressed). Interesting plots of ground temperatures in the U.S.

  3. M Simon says:

    We “know” how much U and Th etc are in sea water. How much do they heat the ocean?

  4. skylimey says:

    Ok, so how do we measure the temperature of the core of the earth? AFAIK the deepest we’ve drilled is 40K feet. So perhaps the earth as a nuclear reactor is umm, models? It’s a nice theory and makes some sense, but it’s no more measured fact than other theories.

  5. M Simon says:

    And just so I get notified of responses.

  6. M Simon says:

    skylimey says:
    6 September 2015 at 3:55 pm

    Earthquakes and seismographs help.

  7. E.M.Smith says:


    Making melt down proof nukes isn’t hard. Just don’t make them the way the government tells you to do it…

    (They were affraid of nuclear proliferation so wanted a hard to use design… )


    Interesting point. Since we can figure the insulation value of 30 foot of rock and soil, we can find the total heat production. Hmmm….

    @M. Simon:

    Not much. It is in ppm and far less than in the source rocks like Granite, which provide a lot more of the heat. The miles of it in rocks under the ocean floors mater more.


    The laste “bump” up in core estimate is based on a model of electromagnetic generation, but prior estimates are not.

    We known the mantel is far hotter as it keeps burping up 1000s of degree hot lava.

    We use sound waves to look at the core and mantel, so know the phase and have a decent idea of the materials. At that point, we also know the mass (from gravity size) and pressure (from mass) and can say quite a bit about what it must be like and what it can not be like.

    Plate Tectonics shows the hardened continents sit on more fluid beds of mantle, and mid ocean ridges and spreading centers show the heat from below and the constant ‘flow’ of ocean floor outward. We see the composition of that rock in the mid-ocean ridges where it rises as lava and we can measure the melting point. Basalt melts at very high temperatures…

    Again, not so much models as observations of facts and fitting them together.

    So even if you don’t like the core temp estimates, the lava and mantle temps are way high and the thesis of ‘Earth warms from below’ shown based on measured temperatures and phases.

    We also know the present isotopic concentrations in rocks and lava and we know the rate at which atoms decay. So can calculate the isotope load earlier in history. All that energy produced is also calculated. It is huge, and bigger than the ‘accretion heating’ that has had 4.5 Billion years to leak away anyway.

    Finally, we can look over at our neighbors and SEE more heat out than in. Saturn, for example. While it is a bit of a leap, it isn’t a big one, to say all the planets accreted from similar stuff and if a couple of them have “more heat out than in” and that can only be explained by a nuclear core, the same thing likely applies to us. And then Mars, smaller than us, used to be like us. But a smaller isotope load runs out earlier and it stopped being volcanic, and become solid, cold, and dead. So we can see the whole life cycle.

    I can’t accept blowing all that off with a wave of the “just models” wand…

  8. Heat flow from the interior of the earth to the surface is about 47 Terawatts.
    Heat flow from the sun’s radiation to the surface of the earth is about 173,000 Terawatts, much of which is reflected back into space.

    and there’s not a nuclear reactor in the center of the earth. Internal heat comes from partly from radioactive decay but not from fission or fusion.

  9. omanuel says:

    @E.M. Smith

    1. Analysis of meteorites and Jupiter both confirm that the r-process (rapid neutron capture) occurred in the region with light elements (H, He, C) just before the solar system formed.

    Those elements (Th, U, Pu, H, He & C) formed the diamond and graphite inclusions in meteorites, the giant, gaseous outer planets, and were added late to the outer layer of the inner planets.

    2. Please invest, preferably with a good physicist, ~1.5 hours watching the video Galen Winsor made on Radiation Safety Before & After WWII

  10. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    A funny claim, but in a way right. It is right that the Sun does not heat the Earth, because we have a stable temperature. It is the same logic with the back radiation.
    That said, it is the Sun and back radiation that keeps the surface at a nice temperature.
    The heat flow from the core is around 0.05 to 0.1 W/m2, so it wont be able to make the surface a nice place to live.

  11. Ron Clutz says:

    Your thesis strikes a chord. On our August visit to Iceland we were impressed by their extensive geothermal facilities, presently generating 25% of the nation’s electricity as well as directly heating buildings. But I wonder about some numbers and proportions

    Despite massive effects of energy from internal sources (e.g. creating the Alps), they are much less than external energy:

    Sun ->1.7 x 10^17 W to Earth, of which 60% reaches the surface.

    Earth heat-> 4 x 10^13 W to surface.

    i.e. ~4500 times more energy from Sun than from Earth’s interior!

    Of course, beneath the surface it is different.

    No seasonal variation of T is felt below 20 m:
    Therefore Sun’s effect not felt at depth – here all processes result from internal sources (20 m maximum depth because silicates are poor thermal conductors).

    On this latter point, the underground villages in Cappadocia are inspiring.

  12. E.M.Smith says:


    I’m also using “The Earth” to mean, well, The Earth and not just the air and a couple of meters of dirt on the outer shell…

    Essentially we have an insulation problem to solve, not a ‘earth as heat sink’ problem. The Earth isn’t a heat sink… so any ‘model’ would be best done as (as pointed out above by Larry) a thermal mass equal to the depth where stability happens, plus a heat pipe of water, with a transparent window of air for SW in and an IR Radiator in the Stratosphere via CO2 (and related IR active gasses) and water vapor. Water vapor being dominant in the troposphere causing CO2 to do NOTHING down here (mean path too short – thus our convective troposphere full of water phase change).

    And that is sort of the whole point of the POV shift. To get out of the mode of thinking “it all depends on CO2 and the air” and get into the mode of thinking about mass, insulative and storatge capacity of 30 feet of rock, heat flow OUT of the planet net so net COOLING (or we would be burned up already) and then asking “how does that heat move”. It moves to the surface via very slow conduction (and a small amount of ground water flow) along with a lot of lava and volcanic vents (especially those deep ocean trenches of several tens of thousands of miles at several hundred C high mass water flow…). Then it moves through the troposphere (not as radiation, but as mass flow and phase change of water) to be deposited in the tropopause region (that varies as needed) where it mixes up into the stratosphere at hurricane force 2 wind speeds and can, finally, be radiated away to space in the stratosphere via IR active molecules like H2O, O3, CO2 in about that order I’d guess ( CO2 behind water vapor, just don’t know about O3).

    With that in mind, it becomes pretty obvious that adding more CO2 does nearly nothing, but what is done is to cool the stratosphere a tiny bit.

    Once one starts looking at how heat gets off the planet (and that it has been doing so for billions of years with all sorts of CO2 levels), it is a much more clear process than looking at SW coming in and having a Chicken Little Fit over some hypothetical ‘imbalance’ in some hypothetical fragile natural balance.

    Which, IMHO, is why POV matters.

  13. p.g.sharrow says:

    The true Green House Gasses, Oxygen, Nitrogen and Argon Insulate the earth’s surface and reduce heat energy losses into space.
    Geothermal energy leaking into the Oceans may well be the key to glacial / inter-glacial conditions…pg

  14. Wayne Job says:

    Thanks EM might I add that is has been demonstrated that the moods of the sun vary the rate of radioactive decay. In the past I have been involved in experiments that destroyed half of a half life of an isotope in two weeks. Maybe the sun controls the heat output of our core to a degree.?

  15. skylimey says:

    @E.M. Smith I have no problem at all with the thesis that the Earth warms from below, it makes perfect sense. I have not seen enough evidence that “proves” anything about the inner workings of the earth deeper than a few tens or hundreds or miles down though. The observations obviously support the crust and one or two layers down being hot and expanding, but bouncing sound waves around the inside of the earth (including earthquakes) and measuring refraction etc. and using that to postulate an interior mechanism might give an accurate representation of the inner workings, but it’s a theory, not a fact. It may not be a computer model, but it’s a model nevertheless.

  16. david hurburgh says:

    This article says the Earth contains a giant Nuclear Reactor which is generating heat.

    There is no evidence that there is a uranium fission reactor within the earth as this would require a “critical mass ” of U235 in close proximity for a chain reaction to comnence.

    The author must be referring to normal, random, sporadic decay of individual unstable radioactive isotopes – this does not make this radioactivity a nuclear “reactor” which is the technology that drives Nuclear Power Stations. The only knwo natural nuclear reactor is a “fossil” one in West Africa which I have visited

  17. tom0mason says:

    Cold rocks found in the cold, cold earth!
    Not sure if I got this into your tips page so I’ll dump it here if that’s OK —


    Knowing that you’re interested in such a thing more standing stones have been found at Stonehenge.
    More at .

  18. tom0mason says:

    Over at Jo Nova there is a piece on “Mapping hot deep columns of molten rock in the top 3000km thick layer” .
    Essentially a computed tomography, or CT scan, of Earth’s interior, the picture emerged from a supercomputer simulation at the Department of Energy’s National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
    It’s her report on research done by University of California, Berkeley.

    While medical CTs employ X-rays to probe the body, the scientists mapped mantle plumes by analyzing the paths of seismic waves bouncing around Earth’s interior after 273 strong earthquakes that shook the globe over the past 20 years…

    The new, high-resolution map of the mantle — the hot rock below Earth’s crust but above the planet’s iron core — not only shows these connections for many hotspots on the planet, but reveals that below about 1,000 kilometers the plumes are between 600 and 1,000 kilometers across, up to five times wider than geophysicists thought. The plumes are likely at least 400 degrees Celsius hotter than surrounding rock.

    “No one has seen before these stark columnar objects that are contiguous all the way from the bottom of the mantle to the upper part of the mantle,” said first author Scott French, a computational scientist at NERSC who recently received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

    So the interior heat is leaking out and mostly (by the map) under the oceans.
    Umm, maybe that El NIno is volcanic after all!?

  19. E.M.Smith says:

    @Those saying there is no ‘reactor’: That isn’t my theory. It comes from others far more qualified…

    Published online 15 May 2008 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2008.822

    Are there nuclear reactors at Earth’s core?

    Fission reactors may have been burning for billions of years.

    Philip Ball

    Nuclear reactors could be burning deep beneath the ground, two scientists have claimed. They say that uranium could become sufficiently concentrated at the base of Earth’s mantle to ignite self-sustained nuclear fission, as in a human-made reactor.

    This is not the first time that natural ‘georeactors’ deep inside Earth have been proposed, and the idea has previously been greeted with scepticism by geoscientists. But physicist Rob de Meijer of the University of the Western Cape in Cape Town, South Africa, and geochemist Wim van Westrenen of the Free University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, believe that their new proposal is more plausible.
    Bill McDonough, a geochemist at the University of Maryland in College Park, thinks that the idea of concentrating radioactive elements in a calcium perovskite reservoir at the base of the mantle is “eminently more credible” than previous proposals for how georeactors might form. “The authors have thought hard about this,” he says, but cautions that “the hypothesis requires that all conditions be just right for it to work”.

    Such a reactor would probably function as a ‘breeder’ reactor, generating plutonium fuel as it burns the original uranium. This means that such reactors could still be running today. What’s more, because the other decay products include helium and xenon, this could help to explain the confusing ratios of these elements in volcanic magma, van Westrenen suggests.

    So an “it isn’t” or an “it is just something else” isn’t sufficient to hand wave it away.

    And, per the relative TW of power: Please remember what ‘to warm’ means. It means to have heat flux into something. Putting a sweater onto an ice cube does not ‘warm’ it. (insulation or modulation of cooling is not warming). Since the heat flux MUST be out of the Earth (or we would be at a few 1000 C ) the direction of net heat flow is outward, not inward. You might think this merely semantics, but it matters to how you view the problem.

    Heat flows OUT from the planet. Only a very thin layer of the crust is cool enough for us to live on or in. The place is mostly a big ball of molten and / or gooey rock. There MUST be active cooling or we’d be fried. Yes, the Sun dumps a load of energy on us, that promptly leaves. Most of it same day, the rest seasonally, leaving a net deficit or we would be burned up. So the “problem” of heat flow must be looked at in terms of a heat storage thermal mass ( about the top 30 feet of the crust) a dynamic thermal mass (the oceans), and a working fluid (the air / water vapor / precipitation) taking heat net off the planet and doing it very fast (in geologic terms at a minimum but even in times no longer than a year for large eras). There likely also is far more heat being dumped into the oceans from hydrothermal vents than has been properly accounted, so one might need to include a second working fluid in magma movements at ‘hot spots’ and vents.

    The air is a cooling working fluid, not an insulating blanket greenhouse roof.

  20. omanuel says:

    @ Wayne Job: Measurements at Purdue show the Sun influences rates of radioactive decay.

    @David Sanger: Spontaneous fission is a form of radioactive decay. There is stronger evidence for a nuclear reactor in Jupiter than in the Earth, but both are possible. See: J. Marvin Herndon

    @tom0mason: “Hot spots” had been recognized earlier as the source of Pacific islands, but not the stark columnar plumes that are between 600 and 1,000 kilometers across and contiguous all the way from the bottom of the mantle to the upper part of the mantle. Congratulations to Scott French and Jo Nova!
    – – – – – – – – –

    May Labor Day 2015 end seventy years of official deceit (1945-2015) about:

    THE SUN: “Creator, Destroyer & Sustainer” of every atom, life and planet in the solar system.'S_SCIENCE

    ResearchGate offers editors of mainstream research journals, the news media, leaders of federal research agencies and the scientific community an opportunity to download, read and respond in public, affirming or denying precise experimental data and observations that indicate the pulsar-centered Sun exerts primary control of the solar system and cannot be ignored in any realistic studies on the causes of climate change.

  21. Larry Ledwick says:

    It does not need to be a full on nuclear reactor as we commonly think of it only a very low level slight surplus of energy above equilibrium. Radioactivity even without fission is energy and ultimately gets converted to heat. You not only have the direct heat of random fission events but nearly 100% efficient conversion of all the energy released over time by the decay products.

    One of the biggest problems with waste radioactive material storage is the slow self heating that occurs when you put a lot of it in a location where it cannot easily cool off. Put some waste fuel rods in a deep dark tunnel and a couple decades later you have a very hot deep tunnel. That is why waste fuel rod storage pools are actively cooled so they do not boil off all the water. Natural uranium U235 naturally undergoes fission all the time regardless of configuration, having a half life of 703.8 million years. All you need to do to cause heating is to limit heat loss for cooling with an insulator. You could also boost output by having enough of a moderator to speed up the natural decay rate just a few percent.

    You don’t need to have a full on reactor only a slight increase in natural fission by slowing natural fission neutrons down enough so that they are more efficient at triggering fission in other nearby atoms.

    The heat flow from the crust likewise does not have to be “large” compared to the sun’s energy input, to warm the earth to a higher stable temperature than it would have other wise. It only has to be nearly the same as the outflow from the top of the atmosphere to hold the earth at near constant average temperatures.

    A fraction of a watt per meter squared is plenty of heat energy if it cannot cool at that same rate. What counts is the surplus or deficit of energy over net loss to space at top of atmosphere over billions of years. Very low net surplus power over very long periods of time still results in lots of hot rock.

  22. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    Some belive they exist or have existed:

    E M: I see the point when you say the whole Earth. Claes Johnson must envie you to have found that.

  23. omanuel says:

    @Svend Ferdinandsen

    Several different groups have studied and confirmed the natural nuclear reactor that scientists from the French Atomic Energy Commission first reported in 1972, sixteen years after Paul Kazuo Kuroda predicted their existence in 1956.

    The problem with modern science is illustrated by the fact Kuroda’s very unpopular 1956 paper was limited to a single page.

  24. Power Grab says:

    @ omanuel and Wayne Job – Where can I read about the sun’s influence on the rate of radioactive decay?

  25. omanuel says:

    A very distinguished physicists at Purdue and an associate, Jere Jenkins (as I recall), published several papers on this. One or two are cited in my paper on “Solar energy.

  26. Power Grab says:

    Sweet! Thank you very much!

  27. tchannon says:

    Energy flow from the earth core is negligible by orders of magnitude. The surface gets rid of much much more all the time.

    Calculate the thermal resistance of say 10 miles of rock.

    Put your 5000K at one end and calculate the output flux in Watts sq/m

  28. omanuel says:

    New confirmation that nuclear physics became one of Stalin’s best weapons to generate fear after WWII:

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    @tchannon & others:

    What you all are missing is that the size of core heat in NOT THE ISSUE. It is the direction of heat flow over all of geologic time. High CO2 or low CO2, Ice Age Glacial or interglacial. Tropical carboniferous or ice ball earth: Heat must leave.

    That has meaning.

    If we did not always have the heat leaving, temperatures would rise to 6000K or more.

    So the question is not one of retained heat, solar or GHG, it is one of thermal mass vs flux OUTBOUND.

    This matters.

    Also, per 10km of rock, what is the heat flux from a few megatons of 600 C water in 50, 000 miles of sub ocean volcanic spreading ridges? Nobody really knows and at best you can make a guess.

    But we do know the heat all leaves.

  30. Pingback: The Sun Does Not Warm The Earth | Petrossa's Blog

  31. E.M.Smith says:

    @Svend Ferdinandsen:
    “E M: I see the point when you say the whole Earth. Claes Johnson must envie you to have found that.”

    Don’t know who Claes Johnson is and a web search is unenlightening (who would have thought there were so many)… But on the off chance this is some sort of “slam by reference”, please note that I’m not claiming some giant insight from this nor any great epiphany. Just pointing out an important POV to maintain. And whoeaver Claes is, someone needs to tell him envy is a sin…

    So instead of viewing the Earth as a passive object, radiated behind a transparent insulator: the point is to view it as a 10 to 20 meter thick shell of rock, with a constant heat flux out across it over a centuries scale from the very hot core, and covered by two cooling working fluids (air and water), but also perforated in places by a third working fluid: magma / lava. Add more radiation, the heat still leaves. Have more air or less, more CO2 or less (as has happened over geologic time) the heat still leaves. Heat flux is away from the Earth, net. And has been for 4 Billion years of change.

  32. cdquarles says:

    Bravo EM! This is a form of calorimetry and EM has restated, for those who have not had classical exposure to chemistry, what the old school chemists and related engineers had drilled into their heads.

    Temperature field? What in the name of all that is holy are you folk talking about. Radiation field, sure, no problem, Man.Temperatures attach to defined samples of matter contained in a sampling system that has defined masses of defined materials and calibrated measuring systems yet still has unknowable, unknown, and known sources of biases and other errors that have to be shown and propagated if the result will be used in further analysis.

  33. Svend Ferdinandsen says:

    Claes Johnson is a well respected professor, that has some remarkable/different opinions on back radiation.
    He argues well for his case, and i have challenged him occasionally, but in vane.
    He is right in the same way as you about the Sun not heating the Earth.
    You did it just more down to the Earth, so to speak.
    Hope you find his homepage with the link.
    Regards Svend

  34. E.M.Smith says:

    putting this link here so easy to find. Geologist thinks el niños are geologic heat.

  35. usurbrain says:

    As for the possibility of a nuclear reactor in the core of the earth one must keep in mind that this is not going to follow the design of a commercial Nuclear Power Plant with poison rods, control rods, void areas, cooling (steam/water) pipes for extracting the heat generated from the reactor etc. All of that “junk” makes it much harder to achieve a critical mass.
    The reactor at the core of the Earth will be closer to the design of the typical research “reactor” at a university. Most of the research reactors achieve their critical mass because of (and in many cases ONLY because of) the radioactive source in the reactor or in a position near the core. Remove the “source” and it will not go critical – it will not be a reactor. Remove the source in some and they shut down. Some commercial NPPs have a “source” that can be positioned to help start the reactor, however, since it is rarely needed for subsequent startups, many do not have a startup source and rely upon natural background radiation for the first, initial, criticality.
    Since Uranium at the center of the earth is a very heavy metal and will sink the deepest, it will be self concentrating. [Think the China Syndrome] Fission products will be lighter and migrate to higher elevations. [Remember fission is a process of splitting atoms AND that means you will create two lighter elements.] The elements that act as a poison to the reactor are also lighter and will also migrate toward the surface and away from the core. Thus the process is self maintaining. With the large amount of unstable fission products helping supply neutrons to maintain the nuclear reaction the possibility of a reactor in the core of the Earth is much (extremely} higher. Even the sun and other cosmic radiation can help maintain the reaction – like the “source” used in the research reactors. The “natural” reactor in Africa is in an area very near where there are many other inactive/extent volcanoes, and who knows, but the possibility exists that that natural reactor could have been a “burp” from the core. I also have heard of several other “Natural Reactors” beyond the one referenced above.
    Also. I would not call the Oklo reactor a “fossil” it is not a fossilized tree, animal, whatever, wherein an object has had its live matter replaced with minerals. Or because there is no longer any fissionable material there – it was discovered because they were mining fissionable material! Ancient, yes – Fossil – NO. It is a reactor that has burnt up enough of the fissionable material that there is no longer enough mass close enough together to maintain criticality, or has boiled away the moderating agent. and could not maintain criticality. What would happen if that area was flooded with water???

  36. Larry Ledwick says:

    Geologist thinks el niños are geologic heat.

    Can you say Duh!
    West Antarctic warming is probably the same thing and recent observations that there is ocean floor activity in the arctic basin as well leads me to suspect there is enormous heat flow into the oceans from geothermal sources which are totally ignored by the AGW crew.

    Click to access black_smokers_incubators.pdf

    I have always thought it strange that they always dismiss geothermal heating in the oceans as trivial when they have thousands of smokers producing 700 deg water already documented, clear evidence of ocean heating from eruptions like Kilauea in Hawaii and Iceland ocean ridge activity and know full well that they have barely scratched the surface of investigating what goes on on the ocean floor.
    For example the worlds largest hot spring in Thermopolis Wyo produces 18,000 gallons of hot water every 24 hours at a constant temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit, year around and has been doing so for centuries. The springs were used by the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes and probably others. Given that 71% of the earth is covered by ocean there are probably at least 3 or 4 other similar hot out flows under the oceans. Certainly the mid ocean ridge heat output dwarfs these localized hot springs.

  37. p.g.sharrow says:

    18,000 gallons of 135F hot water per 24 hours? please check your data. That is only 13 gallons a minute.

    There are hot springs in Surprise Valley, California that produce 10 times that at 185F, 300 gallons a minute for the complex of 4. Another set 7 miles away that produces 600 gpm @ 160F. At times in the winter, much of the 60 square mile valley is filled with the fog created by hot springs.. There are several such areas in Modoc County, the northeast corner of California…pg

  38. Larry Ledwick says:

    Good catch PG just goes to show you can’t trust PR folks – my error.
    Themopolis has always billed itself as the worlds largest hot springs, (perhaps they are referring to the surface area of the pool who knows) but you are right they are claiming 24 hour numbers even though normal usage in the U.S. is gallons per min or gallons per sec for flow rates.

    It is out flowed many times by other geothermal sources. Much as I hate to use wiki it has a quick list of high output hot springs.

    It lists the top flow as being from:
    The Excelsior Geyser Crater in Yellowstone National Park yields about 4,000 U.S. gal/min (0.25 m3/s).

  39. p.g.sharrow says:

    “you can’t trust PR folks”
    LOL! That is for sure, Always trying to slap lipstick on a pig.

    One would think a SPRING …………………..Ah,.. flows ———————–>
    Large surface area, paints a picture of a Lake ;-)

    Maybe a hotwater lake that has a small discharge.

    One small basin in Surprise Valley was called “The Squaw Baths” for obvious reasons. Had a hot spring on one side and a cold one on the other. You just found a comfortable place within the basin’s waters.
    Very nice soaking on a cold day. :-)

  40. Larry Ledwick says:

    Yeah, after hearing the claim repeated for over 50 years you tend to take it at face value. Even the US Parks service says it in some of their materials. My brain was inserting the missing units of gallons/min without a second thought. They have a large mineral terrace created by the spring and have now added all the tourista attractions, water slide hot springs pool etc.,-108.1966731,333m/data=!3m1!1e3

  41. Larry Ledwick says:

    Getting back to the original topic, you would think that with modern RPV technology they could map that hot plume coming off of their supposed hot spot back to its source by using both temperature and chemical signatures in the water.

    Sort of a special application of ARGO technology to sniff up stream in the plume and gradually locate the source. They have setups which can move like a glider using the buoyancy change in depth as its energy source. Set it up like a hound dog following a scent back to its source by following sulfate and similar signatures in the water.

    If the source is anything like the black smokers there must be a huge field of smokers emitting the hot water someplace near where they suspect the heat source is.

    At that depth where boiling is suppressed it could also be a naked lava flow on the ocean floor.

    Hmmmm check the seismic records for harmonic tremors in that region as well, that coincide with the onset of the el nino development.

  42. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Larry; IMHO #1 the Oceans are a very vast place, often with disagreeable weather conditions.
    #2 Actual investigation to gather data is expensive as well as time consuming.
    #3 Computer aided manipulation is none of the above.
    Computers allowed armchair, want to be, scientists the ability to create these wanted outcomes for their grant providers. After all Super computers have provided the answers so they MUST be a fact.
    Hundreds of Billions of dollars of science research funding have been wasted on computer aided investigations while actual field work has languished. A prime example of paper pushing bureaucrats substitution of make work to replace actual work. As long as they get the wanted outcome why waste resources to find answers they don’t want to hear…pg

  43. mcdodwell says:

    To what extent does the churning of viscous rock heat generate heat in the interior of the earth? Such movement could be caused in part by external influences much as the tides in the sea. It seems intuitively that this could produce a serious quantity of heat but I never hear it mentioned in these kind of discussions. Any thoughts?

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