So Close – Missing Convection & Homeostasis

It is Soooo easy to get things just a little bit off and miss reality. Especially in complex systems and even more so when folks raking in $Millions are interested in misleading for profit. Sigh.

Sabine Hosenfelder does a wonderful series of videos ‘explaining’ all sorts of interesting things in and about actual science and how the universe works. She is quite smart and generally “knows her stuff”. But… It looks like she has gotten trapped into the Radiative Model of Globull Warming.

The whole mythology of Global Warming depends on having you NOT think about anything but radiative processes and physics. To trap you into the Radiative Model. But the Earth is more complex than that. Much more complex. Then there’s the fact that you DO have some essential Radiative Physics to deal with, so the bait is there.


It is absolutely essential to pay attention to convection in the lower atmosphere and to the “feedback loops” or homeostasis in the system. The system acts to restore its original state. There is NO “runaway greenhouse” or we would have never evolved into being since the early earth had astoundingly high levels of CO2 and we would have baked to death before getting out of our slime beds as microbes.

OK, I’ll show you her video. It is quite good even with the “swing and a miss” at the end. She does 3 levels of The Greenhouse Gas Mythology so you can see the process evolving from grammar school to high school to college level of mythology. But then she doesn’t quite make it to Post-Doc Reality.

Where’s she wrong? (Well, not really wrong, but lacking…)

I see 2 major issues. First off, she talks about the “lower atmosphere warming”. Well, yes and no. It doesn’t “warm” in the sense of getting hotter, but it does speed up convection to move the added heat flow.

In English “heating” has 2 different meanings. Increasing temperature. Increasing heat flow at a temperature. We see this in “warm up the TV dinner in the microwave” meaning to heat it up from frozen to edible; and in the part where the frozen dinner is defrosting at a constant temperature as it absorbs heat but turns it into the heat of fusion of water. So you can “warm it up” by melting at a constant temperature of frozen water (but adding a LOT of thermal energy – “heat”) then later as increasing temperature once the ice is melted. It is very important to keep in mind that there are 2 kinds of “heating”. NOT just “increasing temperature”.

In the lower atmosphere, the CO2 window / Infrared Window is already firmly slammed shut. Sabine “gets that”. Yay! One BIG point for her! No amount of “greenhouse gas” is going to shut that IR window any more. As she points out, you get about 20 meters of transmission and then it is back to molecular vibrations (aka “heat”).

So what’s an atmosphere to do? It has heat to move! Well, it convects. It evaporates water. Those 2 things dominate by orders of magnitude any sort of Radiative Model Physics. Yes, you have radiation of light bringing energy in, but then it goes into the ocean and into the dirt and the plants and even warms your skin on a sunny day. And it sits there. It does NOT re-radiate to any significant degree. Once “warmed” by absorption, heat trying to leave as IR hits a slammed shut window.

So what does happen? Look around, what do you see? Clouds. Rain. Snow. (sleet hail fog etc. etc.)

Our planet is a Water Planet. It moves that energy (vibrations of atoms, NOT radiation) by having water evaporate into the atmosphere. (Yes, there are a few very dry deserts where you get some radiative effects and can get quite cold at night via radiation through very dry air, but our planet is 70% or so oceans, so those areas are minor side bars on the dominant processes). This water vapor makes the IR window even more closed (less distance to absorption). It isn’t CO2 that matters, it is the global water vapor.

What happens next?

Well, water holds a LOT of heat (vibration of atoms and NOT “temperature”) as the heat of vaporization. About 540 calories per gram (compared to 80 for melting “heat of fusion” and 1 for specific heat of a gram of water). Compare those numbers again. 1 for a gram of water. 80 for melting a gram of ice. 540 for evaporating a gram of water. It’s dramatically the case that evaporation of water matters a lot more than melting ice, and both of them make “warming water” look like an irrelevant thing. Warming water is 1/80 as important as melting ice, and it is 1/540 th as important as evaporation of the surface of the water. Warming air is another order of magnitude less important to heat content.

So to have clue, one MUST look at the evaporation of water from the oceans as everything else is in the small change.

Look at any photo of the Earth from space. The Blue Marble covered in clouds. Water and clouds. The product of evaporation, convection, and condensation. Physical flows carrying all that heat (“vibration of atoms” and NOT temperature, remember). IF you add more heat energy, you can speed up the flows, but it will not cause a huge increase in temperature (and mostly none at all). It is mass flow that changes. The number of vibrating molecules at a temperature, not the temperature of each.

Radiation of light delivers the energy to the oceans (rivers, lakes, puddles, trees that evaporate water in the forests, etc.). This causes evaporation at the surface. MORE Infrared causes more “prompt evaporation” at the surface as it does not penetrate. (When the sun is in a hotter phase, as in the Great Pacific Climate Shift, it makes more UV and less IR and then slowly warms the deeper ocean; along with making the high upper atmosphere hotter and higher, but that’s for another day when talking about natural cycles of change, just remember that in about 2000 the sun went back to cooler with more IR and less UV – and I stopped needing sunscreen…)

That evaporated water makes the air less dense. water is molecular weight 18 ( Oxygen 16 + 2 Hydrogens at 1 each), while Nitrogen is molecular weight 28 ( 2 x 14 ) and the oxygen molecule is 32. So adding water vapor makes for lighter weight air, which rises (as heavier air from dry places flows in to displace it upward). This gives us wind, and wind increases evaporation too.

In the end, a lot of mass flow happens, lofting all that water vapor with all that heat of vaporization way up toward the Stratosphere. This is why we have a troposphere, a tropopause (where it runs out of steam… literally…) and a stratosphere.

What happens when it gets to the stratosphere boundary? Well, along the way that water vapor turns into water liquid very tiny drops (clouds) and eventually condenses to big drops of water (rain) and some of it even freezes (hail, snow, etc.). Now think about that for a minute. That’s 540 calories per gram of heat (molecular vibration NOT temperature, remember) being “dumped” way up high in the top of the troposphere as it condenses, and another 80 / gram if if freezes. 620 total. That’s just huge.

This is WHY we have a globe covered with rain, snow, hail, etc. etc. THAT is all that heat moving. NOT any IR Radiation from the surface. Let that sink in a minute. Fix it in your mind. WATER and ICE and Water Vapor are what moves the heat, not radiation. We ski on it, swim in it, have it water our crops and flood the land. That’s huge and it is ALL evidence of heat flows via heat of vaporization and fusion of water.

So what happens to that heat at the top of the troposphere next?

NOW it can mix into the stratosphere and enter the realm of radiative processes.

There’s a Category 2 Hurricane strength wind that starts at the top of the troposphere and heads toward the planet poles. Why? Because that’s where the air can sink back to the surface again. The “Polar Vortex”. This wind puts some of the heat into the stratosphere as it moves toward the poles. In the Stratosphere, the CO2 can now radiate to space. It will do that until it is back in balance. More heat will just cause more radiation to space, NOT more “temperature”. Number of atoms that radiate, not the temperature at which they do it. More CO2 cools more (removes molecule vibrations via IR) in the stratosphere, but it does not heat more (increase molecule vibrations) in the troposphere, it just moves more mass to the tropopause.

At the poles, the Stratosphere can reach all the way down to the surface. That “warm moist air” of the tropopause has had the water mostly wrung out of it as it dumped heat. This gives us all sorts of “cyclonic storms” (both rising as hurricanes in the sub-tropics and descending as cyclones in places like the gulf of Alaska where the California winter storms originate). THAT is the “heat flow” being very visible. Weather, not glowing in the dark in the IR.

It is all those giga-tons of water cycling to snow, ice and rain, then falling back to be lofted again as evaporation in the next cycle. That’s what moves the heat to the stratosphere where CO2 then radiates it to space (after all, radiation toward the surface hits that closed IR window and stops.) At most, more CO2 can let the Stratosphere radiate (and “cool”) better. It can not make the Troposphere any less convective and non-radiative.

Then any more energy “trapped” at the surface would just run the mass transport water cycle faster. It would not increase the temperature. More molecules would move, but at a limit on temperature. Homeostasis wins. We can see this already in the Sub-Tropics. As the seasons move to fall and winter, water flows slow dramatically. I have to water my Florida lawn and garden. As the seasons move to spring and summer, the mass flow picks up dramatically. Eventually reaching hurricane size. Dumping up to FEET of condensed water (that all started as warm water vapor evaporating from the ocean). It is presently headed for about 72 F today (and no rain). At the peak of hurricane season, we get to about 84 or 85 F ocean surface temperature as the water vapor cycle is running full blast and we get “frog strangler” levels of rain. That’s the difference. Slow water cycle or fast.

IF (and it is only an “if”, not a when) you could manage to increase the heat at the surface of the planet in, say, Alaska: At most you would get a bit more rain in summer, a bit more snow in winter, and MAYBE only a slight possible, of one or two days that are rain which could have been snow or sleet.

Essentially, a “runaway greenhouse” does not make Florida hotter, we are already at the limit as evidenced by the massive water flow in hurricanes; it can make frozen places less frozen and with more rain, less snow. It could (IF It actually could happen) warm the Frozen North a little bit and move water faster there via more evaporation from the ocean. But there’s a problem… Winter.

You see, the further north you get (or south, but very little land is in the southern temperate zone) the less sunshine you get in winter. There just isn’t the needed energy arriving to have the land stay warm. That’s why we get polar ice caps while the topics are hot and the deserts are burning hot. So any “warming” would at most consist of one day a little nicer than otherwise as the Big Freeze of winter approaches; or one day of an earlier spring as the frozen melts. The change of solar incoming energy with seasons just dwarfs anything else.

So with the Tropics already running full tilt (and limiting ocean temperature to about 85 F with normal stochasic wobble about that) and with the Poles winter darkness limited to frozen, there isn’t much room for change. That’s the homeostatic effect made visible. Perhaps, maybe, just a little bit, you could get the temperate zone moving a day or two at the shoulder seasons, but even that must fight with the potential for a massive water flow of vapor to rain and back fighting to prevent it.

Then there’s the fact that natural cycles swamp all of that CO2 fantasy anyway. The Sun, as just one example, had a large change of IR / UV levels with both the Great Pacific Climate Shift (about 1975) and then back again in about 2000. Planetary tilt, wobble, eccentricity of the orbit and more put us in ice ages (as we ARE right now, but in an “interglacial” in this ice age… a nice period of warmth that WILL end) and pulls us out of them. Glacials and interglacials come and go on various cycles (100,000 years, 40,000 years, and 12,000 year interglacials – ours ending now, but slowly). The simple fact is that Nature Dominates, and we are just not relevant. To think we are is hubris of the highest order.

So here’s the video:

Note that I’ve covered this topic before but in more technical detail. Here’s the links:

At any rate, this posting has two ‘themes’, if you will. First, the Tropopause dominates what happens (i.e. it “rules” while the rest of the atmosphere is along for the ride). Second, that there are things that drive the tropopause, just like there are “rules of the road”, there are physics rules that tell us how the tropopause will behave. Two sides of one coin. What are the rules that drive the tropopause, and why does that dominate the meaning of the air?

Atmosphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Troposphere
My kingdom for a sphere…

A Heat Pipe is an interesting gadget. It moves heat by evaporating a working fluid at the hot end and condensing it at the cold end. In between, you can transport the liquid back to the hot end with capillary action or with gravity and precipitation.
But look at the rest of the description. Liquid is evaporated, absorbing heat. It moves to the cold interface where it condenses and liberates heat. Just as water at the surface evaporates at temperatures such as 10 – 40 C and rises to altitude (where, on the flight to Florida, the indicated temperature was -40 C ) where it condenses and even freezes. The definition goes on to “capillary action or gravity” returns the working fluid to the hot surface to repeat the process.

That is EXACTLY what happens in the daily storms here in Florida. It gets hot (about 90 F ) water evaporates, rises to altitude. Each afternoon, a thunder-storm forms. Cool rain falls (the rain that hit me in the pool today was about 70 F per my skin) and we are left with significantly cooler air and surface temperatures. This repeats each day taking massive quantities of heat to altitude. IR has no noticeable role in the process…

It is a great error to get caught in the Radiative Model Trap. We live in a water world where mass flow and phase change dominates. Temperature not so much.


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 Science and Background, Earth Sciences, Global Cooling, Global Warming General, Science Bits. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to So Close – Missing Convection & Homeostasis

  1. Keith Macdonald says:


    See also

    The science is settled except we only just realized that the benzene and toluene gas over the vast Southern Ocean were not man-made pollutants after all, but were made by industrious phytoplankton. For the first time someone went and measured the benzene and toluene in the water and discovered that instead of being a sink for human pollutants in the air above, the ocean was the source.

    This matters because these two gases increased the amount of organic aerosols by, wait for it, between 8% and up to 80% in bursts. And all that extra aerosol matters, of course, because aerosols seed clouds, which change the weather.

    And the expert climate models, upon which a $1.5 Trillion dollar industry depends on for its’ very existence, did not know this. If hypothetically there has been less phytoplankton in the worlds oceans in the last few decades, there may also have been less cloud cover, and thus more warming. But who knows?

    All that nasty benzene and toluene wasn’t made by nasty humans burning nasty fossil-fuels. It was made by teeny-weeny cute little organic life forms that feed the fish dolphins and whales.

  2. cdquarles says:

    “Nature” makes soot, too; from said hydrocarbons like benzene, the various terpenes, dimethyl sulfoxide, and lots more; via photochemistry. Ultraviolet is a thing. We haven’t said a word yet about soot from volcanoes nor from natural lightning started forest fires; so add those, too.

  3. Pingback: Curing Radiation Climate Myopia | Science Matters

  4. JPMSF says:

    Brilliant recap of the effects of hydrodynamics in the atmosphere and how it interacts with radiation physics. I’d strongly encourage you to send this to Ms. Hossenfelder. She strikes me as someone who would welcome this kind of input. And she might even do a video building on the one she’s done extending her analysis of global temps/ heat movement to the hydrosphere … after all, it’s still physics!

  5. Pingback: Curing Radiation Myopia Regarding Climate | Science Matters

  6. Graeme No.3 says:

    Marvellous. I have saved this for future use.
    I recently sent a letter to the local paper which gives regular space to a green fool. I doubt it will be published.
    “Australia has been cooler (and wetter) these last 2 years owing to the triple La Niña since 2020 with wide spread floods. Some blame the Jan. 2022 eruption of the underwater volcano Hunga Tonga although the triple La Niña event started before that, and these triple events also happened in 1998-2001, 1973-76 and 1954-56 (also with flooding in Australia).
    It seems that natural events can overcome any man made global warming, so why the hysteria about what might happen in 30 years?”

  7. The True Nolan says:

    Minor misunderstanding by Sabine Hossenfelder starting about 6:45. The lapse rate of the atmosphere (even for an ideal dry gas) is not because of gravity’s inverse square proportionality. In fact, the difference between the gravitational acceleration at the surface, and that at an altitude of 50,000 feet is only about 1/2 of 1%.
    (50,000 feet is about 10 miles The radius of Earth is about 4,000 miles. (4000/4010)^2 is about 0.995)

    The lapse rate would be essentially the same even if the gravitational field of the earth extended unweakened to infinity. Imagine an upward accelerating (at one G) elevator with an infinitely tall cylinder containing some air. How much air? Enough air to equal not quite 15 pounds per square inch of floor space. Start accelerating, and after things settle down you will find a floor pressure of 15 PSI, tapering off toward zero as you go higher. And you would find the temperature tapering off as well. What is the relationship between temperature and height? The kinetic energy of each molecule PLUS its potential energy (height times acceleration) is constant. The low molecules have higher temperature but less potential energy, the higher molecules have a lower temperature but higher potential energy.

    If only we lived in an elevator filled with an ideal gas! But we don’t. As EM has so brilliantly pointed out, we live in a spherical heat pipe, and it has a VERY efficient fluid in it for shuffling heat upward to the tropopause.

    (Confession: I stole that “spherical heat pipe” conceptualization a few minutes after EM posted it some years ago, and I have used it at every opportunity. It is the best three word summary I have ever seen of just why Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming is simply wrong.)

  8. E.M.Smith says:


    You didn’t steal it… I gave it free to anyone who will read…

  9. The True Nolan says:

    @EM: Darn! I was rather enjoying the little “Walter-Mitty-style” excitement of thinking myself a dangerous, intellectual property thief! Oh, well… Back to my mundane life. :)

  10. erl happ says:

    Another wrinkle to think about: The planet is greening due to enhanced photosynthetic efficiency as CO2 becomes more available, stomata close a little and water use efficiency increases. Plant leaf area expands the evaporative surface area enhancing the volume of water entering the atmosphere, reducing air density, promoting convection and transporting energy to the tropopause that has a temperature of -80C over the tropics and an elevation of 15KM. The intensity of radiation leaving the planet is less in the tropics than in the mid latitudes. In the mid latitudes the intensity of outgoing infrared radiation peaks in winter. All this pales into insignificance when we consider that near surface air temperature is suboptimal for photosynthesis over the bulk of the planet most of the time. All life depends on plants.

    In the tropics the water cycle driven by evaporation from plants tends to produce rain every afternoon. The resulting convection lifts the tropopause to an elevation 50% greater than in the mid latitudes. Minus 8o°C is one hell of a cold trap.

    Current air temperature in Singapore 24°C, Hong Kong 21°C Relative humidity 96%. Its 7.22 in the morning.

    In Singapore the daily temperature range has a minimum usually not falling below 23-25ºC during the night and maximum not rising above 31-33ºC during the day.

    This is a great thermal regime for plant activity with the optimum for photosynthesis between 25 and 35°C

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    Just a minor note. I learned about M. Le Chatelier and his principle when about 16 years old in High School. It is a fundamental principle of the world and simply can not be ignored. Yes, you can violate it sometimes with very particular circumstances (it is “only” a principle, not a law…) but you are far better served by assuming it is valid until absolutely proven to not apply.

    Le Chatelier’s principle states that if a dynamic equilibrium is disturbed by changing the conditions, the position of equilibrium shifts to counteract the change to reestablish an equilibrium. If a chemical reaction is at equilibrium and experiences a change in pressure, temperature, or concentration of products or reactants, the equilibrium shifts in the opposite direction to offset the change. This page covers changes to the position of equilibrium due to such changes and discusses briefly why catalysts have no effect on the equilibrium position.

    Yes, mostly about chemistry (where you can’t get the right answers without it sometimes…); but also seen in many other real world circumstances. Spin on a turntable. Pull your arms in, you speed up, restoring dynamic equilibrium (conservation of momentum in this case). You made a change, the system shifts equilibrium to a higher rotation rate; yet retains equilibrium. It does not “run away” to ever faster speeds.

    This is the principle driving the Earth toward the wonderfully stable dynamic equilibrium that makes life here possible essentially anywhere on the planet, and has done so for a few BILLION years. You simply can not get that stability in an unstable system out of equilibrium. Yes, we’ve had a lot of events disturb the equilibrium (such as an asteroid that burned the dinosaurs to death and made life almost impossible on the surface); yet we returned to a very hospitable environment for life.

    That is a dynamic equilibrium system with negative feedback loops.

    That is why I know there can not be a “runaway greenhouse” effect.

    That is why you could perhaps and at most move the temperate zone a few miles north; but you can’t melt the poles (especially in pitch dark winter) nor can you boil the tropics (as storms will just suck the heat away and dump it to the stratosphere).

    It’s important to have principles ;-)

  12. E.M.Smith says:


    That “paper” is a fairly dense slog… it would be a LOT easier if the guy wrote in more normal English Prose instead of in Erudite NoseHigh Impress You Academic… but whatever. I can read it (and so far have not needed to resort to Dictionary nor my Formal Logic Notes…) But really, the guy spends a few pages to say “I’m pro-Global Warming theory and not a ‘Climate Denier’, so cut me some slack; it’s just a theory and it might explain some of the annoying anomalies we have to fight.”

    Maybe I’ll make a translation of it to Human Speech in a few days…

    But to his points:

    So far I’m only into it a small part way (several pages, but it is very long). Near as I can tell the core of it is “Earth core makes a lot of heat, it oscillates the delivery of that heat to the mantle and oceans, and that needs better accounting”. It also seems to focus on melting permafrost for seasonality glitches. OK…

    Also so far the only real “oopsy” I’ve observed (that may be addressed later…) is that he is not paying any attention to the Southern Oceans and their ability to photosynthesize a heck of a lot of CO2 into biomass. So, OK, the sun stops shining on the permafrost, but maybe, just maybe, the dip in CO2 isn’t from it freezing up again; maybe it is from the giant southern Ocean getting more sunlight and sucking down CO2 as fast as it can. (Many times photosynthesis is CO2 limited, so yeah, literally, as fast as it can…)

    Take a globe. Look at it from the South Pole. You will see antarctica and then mostly nothing but water.

    I’m not saying that must be the cause, but ignoring it is “not good” and it needs to be addressed. (Hopefully he does that further down…)

    I’m going to enjoy reading the rest of it, and thanks for the pointer to it, but that will have to wait for tomorrow. Bed time approaches and I’m not going to have time for it tonight.

    Interesting ideas in it, anyway ;-)

  13. rms says:

    Very nice.

  14. another ian says:


    And there is that recent paper on production of benzene etc by oceanic phytoplankton and where that goes

  15. Simon Derricutt says:

    TTN – on lapse rate, it’s actually a bit odder than that. The lapse rate we actually see is because the air is moving up or down, and thus that the pressure is being varied almost adiabatically. If you want to look at the pure gravitational lapse rate, where the sum of kinetic energy (KE) and potential energy (PE) remains constant, you’d need to block any convection. Turns out that the total energy (KE+PE) in the air rises with height rather than remain constant, because it’s convecting up rather than diffusing.

    Moist air is less dense, so will rise in dry air, and as it rises it will cool adiabatically, and thus at some point water will condense out or freeze out, reducing the buoyancy of the moist air. At some point the water drops out as rain/ice/snow, leaving dryer air which will head down again, warming adiabatically as it does so. Thus we have moist air going upwards, dryer air coming downwards, and because the Earth is spinning those updraughts and downdraughts end up with a net spin relative to the ground.

    Since space is a vacuum, that means that Earth can only lose heat overall by radiation, and since Oxygen and Nitrogen hardly radiate at all at the normal atmospheric temperatures, most of the radiation is going to be from the “greenhouse gases” in the upper atmosphere. Thus the radiative balance is going to depend on the concentration of those radiative gases above the point where convection stops working (top of troposphere).

    To me, that makes Nikolov and Zeller’s theory that the air temperature at ground level depends on the pressure difference between the top of the troposphere and ground level (thus total mass of atmosphere) a bit more compelling. When I first heard of that, I thought “compression happens once, then there’s no more adiabatic heating”, but in fact there’s compression and expansion happening all the time in the troposphere as parts go up and parts go down. Thus we shift heat from ground level to the top of the troposphere by convection, and then it needs to radiate out into space from there. Thus the important thing to set temperature is the effective radius (thus surface area) of the radiative gases above the troposphere – what we’d see as a fuzzy ball if looking at those wavelengths and from a long distance. That then sets the temperature at the top of the troposphere, and then the temperature at ground level is increased from that by the dry lapse rate (since dry air will be coming down). The dry lapse rate will depend on the atmospheric mass. Thus maybe N+Z got some of the detail wrong, but the basic idea is right.

    Big thing about the climate though is how stable it is over time, even though the total energy received from the Sun varies as either the solar output itself varies or our distance from it varies. Looked at in absolute temperatures, better than 1% regulation for a variation of input by 6% or so. That itself tells us there’s a load of negative feedback in the system, and that the models with inbuilt positive feedback are obviously carp. No crisis, and no tipping points. No chance of becoming another Venus. A few degrees warmer is beneficial, but we can adapt if it gets colder providing we have cheap-enough energy.

  16. Keith Macdonald says:

    Worth recalling that one of the classic proponents of homeostasis was James Lovelock with his Gaia Hypothesis.

    Abstract. During the time, 3.2 x 10^9 years, that life has been present on Earth, the physical and chemical conditions of most of the planetary surface have never varied from those most favourable for life. The geological record reads that liquid water was always present and that the pH was never far from neutral. During this same period, however, the Earth’s radiation environment underwent large changes. As the sun moved along the course set by the main sequence of stars its output will have increased at least 30% and possibly 100%. It may also have fluctuated in brightness over periods of a few million years. At the same time hydrogen was escaping to space from the Earth and so causing progressive changes in the chemical environment. This in turn through atmospheric compositional changes could have affected the Earth’s radiation balance. It may have been that these physical and chemical changes always by blind chance followed the path whose bounds are the conditions favouring the continued existence of life. This paper offers an alternative explanation that, early after life began it acquired control of the planetary environment and that this homeostasis by and for the biosphere has persisted ever since. Historic and contemporary evidence and arguments for this hypothesis will be presented.

    He rather beautifully links life on Earth (increasing order) with a negation of classic rules of entropy (thermal disorder)

  17. Keith Macdonald says:

    A bit more…

    A starting point is a consideration of the profoundly anomalous composition of the Earth’s atmosphere when it is compared with that of the expected atmosphere of a planet interpolated between Mars and Venus. Thus on Earth the simultaneous presence of O2 and CH4 at the present concentrations is a violation of the rules of equilibrium chemistry of no less than 30 orders of magnitude. Indeed so great is the disequilibrium among the gases of the Earth’s atmosphere that it tends towards a combustible mixture, whereas the gases of Mars and Venus are close to chemical equilibrium and are more like combustion products.

    The anomalous nature of the atmosphere has been known since Lewis & Randall (1923) first commented that at the pE and pH of the Earth the stable compound of nitrogen is the N03- ion in the oceans; gaseous nitrogen should not be present. In spite of reminders by Hutchinson (1954) and Sillén (1966) this anomaly has remained unnoticed in the debate on atmospheric cycles.

    Lovelock was for many years a Holy Person in the eyes of Greenpeace et al. But then incurred their wrath by announcing we should be pro-nuclear power and fracking for gas. Overnight he went from being a Holy Person to a stupid old fool.

  18. cdquarles says:

    A bit of a quibble, Simon. In the real atmosphere, gases are moving near 1 kilometer per second near the surface and at typical conditions (it varies some with the molecular mass of the constituent in question; but since the bulk is nitrogen primarily and oxygen secondarily, we can use that as a crude first approximation). Wind, whether advection or convection, is a biased random walk within the bulk. So, diffusion is happening, just closer to sound speed than wind’s fraction of sound speed. For an arbitrary “parcel”, you can ignore it (diffusion), since it happens at a rate faster than wind.

    From another point of view, biological life here is chemically embodied and created from the “dust” of the Earth. Created by a being that Is Being with all necessary and sufficient properties built in from the start. The garden needs a tender (us) and given that chemistry isn’t sentient; would eventually deprive chemically embodied life of necessary compounds, left to its own devices. We shouldn’t be starving the plant life because of a misconception.

  19. The True Nolan says:

    @Simon Derricutt: Good explanation of the lapse rate issue, much more relevant to the real world than my basic “ideal gas” version. Yes, it gets rather complicated (worse than that, it gets CHAOTIC) once you start moving air masses, and evaporating and condensing water. Throw in a rotating planet and Coriolis force for good measure. And the lapse rate question is only ONE of the complexities of climate. No models as of yet do a good job of including heating due to induced electric currents from solar effects.

    Some of the more dismal conversations I ever had was with a friend who is VERY bright in mathematics, but a little, uh, naïve, with respect to physics. He was so deeply into CAGW that he literally could not sleep at night because of concern that the biosphere would be damaged beyond repair by about 2013 or so. No matter what I told him, he always came back with some variation on “Why don’t you understand?! It’s just simple high school science!!”

    @Keith Macdonald: “Lovelock was for many years a Holy Person in the eyes of Greenpeace et al. But then incurred their wrath by announcing we should be pro-nuclear power and fracking for gas. Overnight he went from being a Holy Person to a stupid old fool.”

    I cannot help but be reminded how many scientists and doctors just suffered the same fate for daring to speak counter to the COVID cult teachings.

  20. Simon Derricutt says:

    CDQ – I should have been clearer that I was talking about diffusion of heat energy (conduction through air) rather than diffusion of the air molecules. As EM says, the vast majority of the heat energy is carried by convection/advection, and by phase-change energy of water.

    The source of the force (and thus energy) for the rise of the less-dense moister air from ground-level is actually the more-dense dry air at the top of the troposphere falling. A buoyancy force is produced by the denser air because there is a net loss of potential energy as that drier (and thus denser) air drops. Yep, the moist air rises, but it’s pushed upwards by the denser air dropping.

    TTN – yep, the whole system is extremely complex. Given the relatively short time we have precise-enough data, and the stuff we still don’t know enough about such as the effects of space weather on our weather (cosmic rays possibly producing cloud-seeding, for example) I think any predictions are pretty uncertain. On the other hand, looking at the overall stability of the system over millions of years, it’s a fair bet it will continue to give us a climate we can live with. A few degrees higher would be beneficial overall, but I also figure we have a high-enough technology base to work with a few degrees lower.

    Some things we may be getting wrong, such as effects from pesticides and herbicides that kill things that are beneficial. Unintended consequences…. Overall, though, I think we’ll recognise those and do something about them before it’s no longer fixable.

    Lovelock was important, though his idea of Gaia was misinterpreted as being a deity whereas he was looking at things from an interconnected systems point of view where life changes things in the direction of more congenial to life. If you can run a computer simulation of it (Daisyworld) then it’s not religious.

    The big thing Lovelock pointed out was that the more diversity you have in the system, the more resilient it becomes to external changes. Maybe some parts will fail, but most will adjust. That’s the best argument against a one-world government that I know – seeing how all the West sang from the same songsheet on Covid and all made the same mistakes, and that could end up causing enough deaths to destabilise our industry and distribution networks and thus have a snowball effect and crash our civilisation. You can tune systems to high efficiency (just-in-time manufacturing, with small reserves and deadlines for deliveries of new stuff to work with) or resilience to supply shortages and unexpected events, but not both. As in the “I, Pencil” story, supply lines are actually pretty complex things.

  21. Stephen Wilde says:

    See my comments and linked article beneath Sabine’s presentation.
    I have been pointing out the convection issue since at least 2010 and working with Philip Mulholland now have plenty of evidence that the surface temperature enhancement of surfaces beneath atmospheres is caused by convection and not back radiation.

  22. Phil Salmon says:

    Thanks! – a very compelling argument that atmospheric water trumps CO2.

    Sabine’s article does correctly refute popular, simple but false versions of the CO2 warming idea. The first is the simplistic cartoon of IR from the surface on its way to space getting intercepted by CO2. It’s intercepted after 20 meters so that effect is saturated. Sabine then shows a retreat to a second defensive line of CO2 warming argument #2: the emission height story. I was amazed I hadn’t realised its fatal flaw that Sabine pointed out at exactly 10 minutes into the video. The emission height CO2 warming mechanism depends on the atmosphere getting colder with height. But that only happens up to the stratosphere at about 12 km. Above that, the temperature trend reverses and the atmosphere gets warmer with increasing height! So now, more CO2 would do the opposite and cool the planet. “Preindustrial” CO2 levels already had the emission height at the base of the stratosphere – so further elevating it pushes it to levels with higher, not lower, temperature resulting conversely in cooling, not warming. So the whole emission height argument #2 is just as stillborn as the absurdly simply saturation-ignoring trapped-IR argument #1.

    FWIW here’s my own blog post about Sabine’s article. I think I’ll append to it a link to your post here.

  23. Pingback: Sabine’s own goal – Odyssey

Anything to say?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.