Researchers Question Validity Of A ‘Global Temperature’

Written by University of Copenhagen

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Discussions on global warming often refer to ‘global temperature.’ Yet the concept is thermodynamically as well as mathematically an impossibility, says Bjarne Andresen, a professor at The Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen.

Professor Andresen has analyzed this topic in collaboration with professors Christopher Essex from University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick from University of Guelph, Canada.

It is generally assumed that the atmosphere and the oceans have grown warmer during the recent 50 years. The reason for this point of view is an upward trend in the curve of measurements of the so-called ‘global temperature’. This is the temperature obtained by collecting measurements of air temperatures at a large number of measuring stations around the Globe, weighing them according to the area they represent, and then calculating the yearly average according to the usual method of adding all values and dividing by the number of points.

Average without meaning

“It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth”, Bjarne Andresen says, an an expert of thermodynamics. “A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate”.

He explains that while it is possible to treat temperature statistically locally, it is meaningless to talk about a a global temperature for Earth. The Globe consists of a huge number of components which one cannot just add up and average. That would correspond to calculating the average phone number in the phone book. That is meaningless. Or talking about economics, it does make sense to compare the currency exchange rate of two countries, whereas there is no point in talking about an average ‘global exchange rate’.

If temperature decreases at one point and it increases at another, the average will remain the same as before, but it will give rise to an entirely different thermodynamics and thus a different climate. If, for example,  it is 10 degrees at one point and 40 degrees at another, the average is 25 degrees. But if instead there is 25 degrees both places, the average is still 25 degrees. These two cases would give rise to two entirely different types of climate, because in the former case one would have pressure differences and strong winds, while in the latter there would be no wind.

Many averages

A further problem with the extensive use of ‘the global temperature’ is that there are many ways of calculating average temperatures.

Example 1: Take two equally large glasses of water. The water in one glass is 0 degrees, in the other it is 100 degrees. Adding these two numbers and dividing by two yields an average temperature of 50 degrees. That is called the arithmetic average.

Example 2: Take the same two glasses of water at 0 degrees and 100 degrees, respectively. Now multiply those two numbers and take the square root, and you will arrive at an average temperature of 46 degrees. This is called the geometric average. (The calculation is done in degrees Kelvin which are then converted back to degrees Celsius.)

The difference of 4 degrees is the energy which drives all the thermodynamic processes which create storms, thunder, sea currents, etc.

Claims of disaster?

These are but two examples of ways to calculate averages. They are all equally correct, but one needs a solid physical reason to choose one above another. Depending on the averaging method used, the same set of measured data can simultaneously show an upward trend and a downward trend in average temperature. Thus claims of disaster may be a consequence of which averaging method has been used, the researchers point out.

What Bjarne Andresen and his coworkers emphasize is that physical arguments are needed to decide whether one averaging method or another is needed to calculate an average which is relevant to describe the state of Earth.

Reference: C. Essex, R. McKitrick, B. Andresen: Does a Global Temperature Exist?; J. Non-Equil. Thermod. vol. 32, p. 1-27 (2007).

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Materials provided by University of CopenhagenNote: Content may be edited for style and length.

Article first appeared in sciencedaily.com March 18, 2007.

Comments (7)

  • Avatar

    Ronald Kessler

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    The last numbers I saw to add to the nonsense of measuring world wide temperatures was approx 85,000 weather stations. Which means each station is recording approximately 5,000 sq. Mi of the earth surface. Within the 5,000 sq miles temperature can vary tremendously. Temperature is not linear!
    Then trying to compare today’s temperature to 1880 temperatures when the only historical measurement are taken from major urban areas without having measurements from the Antarctic and the Indian Ocean two masses covering the earth is fiction.

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    ron cirotto

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    Really !!!
    No disrespect to these two professors, but It took a mathematics professor and an economics professor to publish a book in 2002 to explain that there is no such thing as an average global temperature. Chris Essex and Ross McKitrick obviously understood that TEMPERATURE is an intensive Thermodynamic property. The temperature does not matter on how much of something but its state. Page 108 of their book, TAKEN BY STORM!!!
    The total or the global average IQ of the so called scientists does not even come close to these two men because at least Chris and Ross did not sell their soul for research money and turn a blind eye to the DUMB media, Al Gore and his idiot followers and the so called scientists.

  • Avatar

    Robert Beatty

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    You can get 71% of the story by recognising that CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is a proxy for rising sea surface temperature. The other 29% must be cooling rapidly.

  • Avatar

    Case Smit

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    Surely satellite measurements come close to an overall picture of the “global temperature” as they, in effect, take an infinite number of measurements instead of the severely limited number of ground stations.
    In similar vein to this paper, I wonder how we could possibly believe in an average temperature for Australia, with very few ground stations supposedly providing readings of huge tracts of our country.

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    Carbon Bigfoot

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    One of the fallacies of point-of-use temperature measurements is there is no volumetric consideration. I’m not even sure that satellite measurements take this in to consideration. In other words one needs to use a 3D planimeter to incorporate the width, length and depth of the space being measured. Once that calculation is made the average volumetric measurements might be more appropriate.
    George Hadley ( cell ) was on the right track unfortunately topographical feature interferences to stable air temperature measurement is not a realty.
    IMHO the reality of the accuracy of the five foot surface elevation temperature is an oxymoron given the instantaneous change in this chaotic GC that we are at a loss in trying to measure.

  • Avatar

    jerry krause

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    Hi Whomever.

    What happened between ““It is impossible to talk about a single temperature for something as complicated as the climate of Earth”, Bjarne Andresen says, an an expert of thermodynamics. “A temperature can be defined only for a homogeneous system. Furthermore, the climate is not governed by a single temperature. Rather, differences of temperatures drive the processes and create the storms, sea currents, thunder, etc. which make up the climate”.” and “The difference of 4 degrees is the energy which drives all the thermodynamic processes which create storms, thunder, sea currents, etc.”??? This the question whose possible answer I would like to read.

    The following are natural events that would seem to defy any averaged explanation.

    https://principia-scientific.org/volcanic-eruption-spotted-from-space/; https://principia-scientific.org/earth-approaches-meteor-swarm-that-caused-tunguska-explosion-1908/; On May 18, 1980, Mount St. Helens became the largest and most destructive volcanic eruption in U.S. history.: Crater Lake partially fills a type of volcanic depression called a caldera that formed by the collapse of a 3,700 m (12,000 ft) volcano known as Mount Mazama during an enormous eruption approximately 7,700 years ago. The climactic (caldera-forming) eruption of Mount Mazama changed the landscape all around the volcano.; the morning viewed video of an unique (my term) tornado which split the roof of a house apart without causing any apparent damage to the two pieces torn apart, the cause of the split was described as downward blast of ‘atmosphere’ instead of the more the common rapid, horizontal whirling motion, of the atmosphere.

    Natural events of great magnitude like these occur very rapidly with explosive force. Not just some lava slowly bubbling out the top of a ‘dormant’ volcano which is also termed an eruption. The following maybe could not be describe as an ‘explosion: ; Boundary Waters guide Tom Hartman paddles on Moose Lake near Ely, Minn., after the July 4, 1999, windstorm that blew through northeastern Minnesota. (Forum News Service) Millions of trees bowed before the storm’s might but never recovered their posture as hurricane-force winds blew through northeastern Minnesota. (https://www.twincities.com/2019/07/03/20-years-later-effects-of-massive-boundary-waters-windstorm-still-felt/).

    My point these feats of great destruction are very intense natural events with a short-life time whose destructive force can equal or surpass that of a nuclear bomb explosion.

    Have a good day, Jerry

  • Avatar

    jerry krause

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    Hi PSI Readers,

    Joe Postma (https://principia-scientific.org/how-to-calculate-the-average-projection-factor-onto-a-hemisphere/) just wrote: “The problem in question is how one calculates the average projection factor of the incident solar radiation onto the hemisphere of the Earth which sunlight falls upon.”

    He evidently does not understand that average anything, except climatic factors, is nonsense.

    We know climate is based upon the average of the weather factors of temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, for the days of each month at a specific location over a minimum period of two decades, the longer the better. We know there are different climate classifications defined by certain standards so that nearby locations have been grouped together into a specific classification. We know that some of these defined areas are large and some are small.

    But I have never read there was a classification termed: Global (or Hemispheric) Climate.

    Have a good day, Jerry

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