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30

What's up with Anthony Watts' attempted rebuttal?

Written by Douglas Cotton on 30 Mar 2013

In this article on his “WattsUpWithThat” (WUWT) website, Anthony Watts alleges that Principia Scientific International (PSI) whom he “truly dislikes giving any attention to” has done some “really bad mangling” and “completely misread the NASA study.” Sadly, for Mr. Watts his readership doesn't agree with him. Comments on WUWT are currently running two to one in favour of PSI.

He points out patronisingly (as if we hadn't noticed) that the NASA article was only talking about the thermosphere. Yet what does the PSI article repeatedly refer to? “Earth's upper atmosphere” and “the thermosphere.”

And what does PSI deduce? “Greenhouse gases actually block up to 95 percent of harmful solar rays.” Clearly we are only talking about the very harmful high intensity rays, such as those in a “burst of solar activity” early in March which NASA said delivered “26 billion kilowatt hours of energy from the Sun.” Obviously members of PSI know that the total percentage of Solar radiation absorbed by the atmosphere and clouds is somewhere between 19% (as shown in the NASA diagram below) and the 33% calculated for moist cloudy regions in this paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Furthermore, when carbon dioxide absorbs such incident radiation, much of it is in the 2.7 micron band, for which each photon carries nearly four times the energy of typical 10 micron photons emitted from Earth's surface. Notice also that the NASA diagram shows only 15% being absorbed by the atmosphere from upwelling radiation, so more is absorbed from incident radiation. That alone would appear to imply a net cooling effect for radiating molecules.   

NASA Energy Budget Fig 2

So, clearly the atmosphere acts as an umbrella during sunlit hours, and yet Anthony Watts and many climatologists like to play down this cooling effect, if they even mention it. In his article Watts seems more concerned about throwing in slurring verbiage than debating the actual science. Most of the rest of his article is devoted to yet another outline of the radiative greenhouse conjecture of which we are all well aware.

Much of the absorption of incident Solar radiation is of course by water vapour and suspended water droplets, of which about 99% is in the troposphere, that being the lowest 10 to 17 Km of the atmosphere. This is discussed in Section 6 of my paper, Radiated Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics published in March 2012, and the graphic below (from Wikipedia) shows just how much is absorbed in various wavelengths.

Solar Spectral Irradiance

Members of PSI (now numbering over 200) have long been aware that there is no valid atmospheric physics which can possibly prove that carbon dioxide could have any warming effect whatsoever. Hence we consider that this NASA article brings to light additional new information that, up in the thermosphere where water vapour has no significant role, carbon dioxide (and nitric oxide) are playing a sterling role in protecting humanity from what would almost certainly be deadly heat waves caused by sudden outbursts of coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun, such as occurred in March 2012. These ejections include both matter and radiation. The matter can collide with non-radiating molecules in the upper atmosphere, but the energy has to be transferred to radiating molecules (such as carbon dioxide) before it can be sent back to space.

Anthony Watts' website, as well as others like the “Skeptical Science” and “Science of Doom” sites, clearly have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo - and the value of their domain names. All of them propagate what has now been shown to be blatantly incorrect physics, supposedly establishing that a radiative “greenhouse effect” somehow warmed the surface of the Earth by an average of 33 degrees, of which about 30 degrees is assumed to be due to water vapour and the rest mostly due to carbon dioxide.

But, as explained in my last article and in my February, 2013 paper “Planetary Core and Surface Temperatures” (currently subjected to worldwide open review) there never could have been sub-freezing uniform temperatures of about -18°C in the surface and throughout the atmosphere, just because of an absence of water vapour and carbon dioxide.

The physics of Kinetic Theory, as used by Einstein, along with correct understanding and application of the entropy conditions of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, can be used to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the force of gravity will bring about an autonomous thermal gradient in any atmosphere. It does so by acting at the molecular level, even in still air, and redistributing molecular kinetic energy, so as to reach a state of thermodynamic equilibrium, in which (in calm conditions) there must be isentropic conditions (not isothermal) at all altitudes. There has been ample time in the life of the planet for this thermal gradient to evolve by diffusion of kinetic energy during molecular collisions. The kinetic energy interchanges with gravitational potential energy during molecular free flight between collisions, this being based on Kinetic Theory (from which the Ideal Gas Law can be derived) and also the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The greenhouse effect conjecture is based on pseudo physics which, firstly, runs contrary to the above mentioned well established physics and, secondly, appears to assume that the passage of electromagnetic energy in radiation is synonymous with the transfer of totally different thermal energy. In fact, electromagnetic energy is not thermalised in a target which is warmer than the source of spontaneous emission and, even when it strikes a cooler target, only that which corresponds to the area between the Planck curves is converted to thermal energy. All the rest is merely re-radiated immediately, as explained in my March 2012 paper. Diagrams such as Watts includes in the above article, are totally misleading in that they imply that all the radiation from the surface is transferring thermal energy whereas, in fact, the majority of it is merely re-radiating the back radiation.

When we do the calculations, we find that, in the absence of radiating molecules such as water vapour and carbon dioxide, the above-mentioned autonomous thermal gradient would have raised the mean surface temperature to a little above 20°C. The surface is then cooled (mostly by water vapour) back to the observed 14°C or 15°C. This cooling effect occurs because, when we add radiating molecules, there is a tendency for heat transfers between similar radiating molecules at different altitudes, and such heat transfers will always be from warmer regions to cooler ones, which are usually found at higher altitudes. Furthermore, these molecules also absorb more incident Solar radiation at higher altitudes, and so there are these two processes which each have a tendency to reduce the slope of the plot of temperature against altitude in the troposphere. This is well known, because the so-called “wet adiabatic lapse rate” is only about two thirds as steep as the theoretical totally dry adiabatic lapse rate.

But the complete Earth-plus-atmosphere system acts like a blackbody when observed from outer space. Consequently it will (and must) adjust the overall mean temperature in such a way as to establish radiative equilibrium, wherein it sends as much radiation back to space as it receives. This means that the whole plot of temperature against altitude adjusts by moving up or down in parallel positions until such radiative equilibrium is achieved. However, in moist regions, where the magnitude of the thermal gradient (AKA “lapse rate”) is less, the plot will intersect the surface at a lower temperature. Hence, we would expect regions (or cities) with higher rainfall and more moist atmospheres to be cooler than dry ones. Indeed this is what I found in a small study in which the mean daily maximum and minimum temperatures were those indicated in the graphic below. The full study is in the Appendix of my February 2013 paper.  

Mean Daily Maximum and Minimum Temps

But this intuitively obvious fact that moist, cloudy regions are cooler than dry regions (which are similar in other respects) runs completely contrary to what the IPCC, Anthony Watts and others are claiming what water vapour does, namely to warm the surface by about 30 degrees. You would think that, with all the research money involved, they would have carried out similar studies of actual data to see if there really was any empirical evidence for their greenhouse conjecture.

Finally, we see from the NASA net energy diagram, that, of all the energy transferred from the surface to the atmosphere, about two-thirds is not by radiation, but rather by non-radiative processes - conduction and evaporative cooling which creates latent heat that is subsequently released at higher altitudes. Most of this non-radiative energy ends up in ordinary air molecules which are mostly the non-radiating nitrogen, oxygen and argon gases. This energy can only get to space by first being transferred by physical molecular collisions into the radiating molecules. So here we see yet another cooling function for water vapour and the likes of carbon dioxide.

It is indeed quite true that both radiative and non-radiative cooling of the Earth's surface are slowed down by the presence of the atmosphere. The smaller the temperature gap becomes, the more they are slowed. Hence, when the process of “heat creep” (described in my February, 2013 paper) maintains warm temperatures (averaging about 13°C to 14°C) at the base of the atmosphere, then these stable base temperatures “support” the surface temperatures while the surface cools in the night and approaches the base temperature. The slowing of surface cooling is just a marginal effect and is in no way the cause of that 33 degrees of warming. In short, the greenhouse is demolished.

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