Towards a rational climate change model – part 1
Written by Rosie Langridge
or – ‘Rip it up and start again’ -We might scoff at the attempts of our forebears to convert base metals into gold – but at least the Medieval alchemists established the science of chemistry, learned a great deal, discovered useful new elements, and even found ways to make glorious colours and pigments for Michelangelo to use to paint the Sistine Chapel.
We might laugh out loud at pre-Enlightenment attempts to calculate how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – (if they actually did) – but at least the activity was harmless and one assumes led to much hilarity among the contestants!
And earnest scholars used to calculate how many prayers were needed to release a soul from Purgatory and attain Heaven. Again, we mock.
But all of these activities – trying to turn iron into gold, counting angels, balancing off prayers against sins – all of them are sensible and rational by comparison to the current obsession with ‘radiative forcing’ in the atmosphere. There is no such thing. You cannot generate energy out of nothing. Unless carbon dioxide can somehow permanently shift into a lower energy state (by the way, it can’t) it cannot emit energy. This is well established, well known and fully understood science that genuinely is ‘settled’.
In a recent paper entitled ‘An Alternative Global Mean Energy Budget Model Which is Incompatible with Existing Ones’ (January 2020) Joseph E Postma (pictured, above asks whether or not global energy budget models should be “consistent with the Laws of Thermodynamics and Physics and empirical reality”. It’s a bit of a surprise that anyone should need to query this point!
[PSI Editor’s note: ‘Postma’s Climate Model Paper-Discussion’ has already generated over 225 reader comments]
Postma goes on to describe the ‘global energy budget’ as found in “Earth’s Annual Global Mean Energy Budget” (Kiehl & Trenberth 1997) and kindly reproduces the diagram, which has some startling numbers in it. For example, it shows 67 W/m2 of incoming solar radiation being absorbed by the atmosphere, which then transforms itself into a whopping 324 W/m2 of “back radiation” magically created out of thin air, and all of which is absorbed by the surface of the earth. Wow!
And as Postma points out, the diagram doesn’t specify where on the earth’s surface this is supposed to be happening, day or night, winter or summer. It’s all been vaguely averaged out; that’s why he calls it a ‘flat earth theory’ (as indicated by the standard one-dimensional model, illustration below)
Enjoyable as it is to read a paper that does not breach the fundamental laws of physics that I was taught as a mere nipper of twelve years old, I still don’t agree with Postma’s new model.
I do hope that Mr Postma, as a genuine bona fide and serious scientist, will not be unhappy to be challenged by a sit-at-home nobody like me; but – scientific ideas are put out into the world in order to be questioned and in order for people to have a go at disproving them.
It was only thanks to reading Mr Postma’s paper and thinking, “No, I don’t agree” that I got to consider the question “Ok, how does this work?” If this paper is still ‘wrong’, what does ‘right’ look like? Maybe some random nobody like me can make a contribution to this debate. And in my opinion, rather than trying to correct existing models, we need to, in the words of the well known song by ‘Orange Juice’, Rip it up and Start Again.
We need to start right back at the very beginning by asking ‘What are we trying to achieve, why, and how?’ and then re-think it from scratch.
So, that’s what I have started to do and that is why this paper is entitled Towards a rational climate change model – part 1. And if anyone likes ‘part 1′ then I’ve got parts 2 to 4 ready to send!
So, in case anyone is asking, I do have a thorough grounding in maths and science and had excellent teachers long before the days of the politicisation of science and of education in general. I have a degree in geography which is relevant to the question of considering climate, the weather and multifactorial systems with complex feedback mechanisms.
Best of all, I have a sceptical friend who may not have the grounding in science that I have, but who questions everything, and, when it comes to ‘man-made climate change’, can smell a rat. Make that lots of rats and throw in a few skunks as well.
No, I still don’t think that carbon dioxide levels have any effect upon the climate, but I do think that a ‘flat earth’ will do just fine for the purpose of looking at the ‘global annual energy budget’. However, as a one-time accountant, I don’t like the word ‘budget’. Neither budgets nor sources of funding should come into it. This is supposed to be science.
Why a ‘flat earth’ is good enough, at least to begin with
That’s because we need first to distinguish between weather and climate – at least, the definition of ‘climate’ which is used in the ‘global warming’ agenda, and the idea that unless we trash our lifestyles, countryside and economy (and half the world’s birds and bats into the bargain) the earth will heat up in an extreme and catastrophic manner in the next five years.
‘Climate models’ are concerned with the global annual average surface temperature. Therefore we only need to consider gross energy transfers into and out of the surface of the planet. We neither need nor want any of the detail. Instead we need to focus on getting the absolute basics correct first. We just need the totals and the shape of the earth is irrelevant (s0 far….wait and see later!
‘Detail’ takes us into the realm of ‘weather’, which looks at the short-term and includes temperature, wind and humidity. Weather processes are set in train by the differential temperatures around the surface of the planet, which, together with movements of water, redistribute energy. Weather redistributes energy around the planet – it doesn’t affect the overall balance of energy coming in and energy going out.
Pausing to note that, as a geographer, this modern definition of ‘climate’ to mean only the global annual average temperature makes me feel very sad. ‘Climate’ used to incorporate a complex of variables including rainfall and annual patterns and typical vegetation. We used to talk about a ‘maritime’ climate, a ‘continental’ or ‘temperate’ climate and many more – a combination of factors that we humans observe and experience, things that, almost intuitively, we know are important. With our human brains we can understand such things, even if they are less susceptible to reducing to a few numbers and sticking into a computer.
Returning to my topic with a heavy heart: the subject of ‘climate’ defined as the average temperature across the whole planet for a complete year.
From the study of rocks, ice-cores, fossils and isotopes, scientists have reconstructed the history of the earth’s temperature and have proper estimates of the history of the earth’s surface temperature almost from its formation 4 ½ billion years ago.
Noting that the oldest documented ice age (Huronian) was 2 ½ billion years ago and there have been repeated episodes of widespread glaciation and also of ice-free periods when it was much hotter than today – any ‘climate change model’ worthy of the name needs to be able to ‘predict’ these major swings in temperature, at least as far back as the formation of a nitrogen-based, oxygen-rich atmosphere with water cycles very broadly similar to today’s – since we would be taking today’s temperature and conditions and back-projecting from where we are now.
The sources of energy to the surface of Planet Earth
What is not a source of energy?
The atmosphere is a bunch of water, gas and dust and, minute traces of radioactive nuclear decay aside, it is not a source of energy.
What are the sources of energy?
There are two massive sources of energy and several relatively minor ones. We all know about the sun. It’s big and it’s hot and it’s almost on our doorstep (or at least, just down the road). But nobody doing these climate models seems to have remembered that Planet Earth is not cold and dead but, in itself, is raging hot.
The latest estimates are that, deep inside, the earth is a full 6,000C; that’s as hot as the surface of the sun! At this point, the fact that the earth is a sphere is important. Planet Earth is an enormous lump of extremely hot rock. Relative to the size of the planet, man’s deepest mines merely scratch the surface, and yet the rocks are a scorching 60C. Wow.
Enthusiasts for catastrophic climate change cannot account for the earth’s surface temperature being higher than – 18 C, (or even -40C, depending upon how one looks at the figures) and that seems to be why they invented the concept of ‘radiative forcing’, to make up the difference. Well – I would like to offer them this get-out-of-jail-free card.
They can keep all the rest of their calculations but no longer need to break the laws of thermodynamics; instead they can drop the radiative forcing and replace it with geothermal energy and bring that surface temperature right back up to normal. I don’t know the actual figures – but, if one considers a temperature gradient from 6000C deep inside to 60C at two miles down and then up to the surface, it’s obvious that there is a lot of heat coming up.
From hot springs to volcanoes, from boiling mud to tsunamis – whole continents moving around! – we all know that Planet Earth has enormous energy stored within.
There are other sources of energy to the surface of our planet. These are: energy released by man’s activities (nuclear power stations/weapons plus burning of fossil fuels minus conversion of metal ores into metal); energy from background radiation (ie from outer space); the net effect of biological processes; energy from incoming meteors.
These are all very very small by comparison to the heat coming from the sun and from the earth itself. They are important for other reasons, but for calculating gross energy flows they are irrelevant.
Energy flows, the big issues: the earth itself – the sun – the atmosphere – energy out
The earth itself
Energy from the earth’s core provides a steady input of energy to the surface which could be likened to having home storage heaters permanently on. Meanwhile, hot areas at specific locations have potentially important local significance, especially if located beneath a glacier where they could cause the glacier to melt. Volcanic activity is extremely important for reasons other than total energy flows (see below) and the same is true of meteors.
The sun emits massive streams of highly energetic particles and radiation flowing out in all directions. For convenience, I’ll just refer to this as “radiation”. The amount of energy arriving at the earth’s surface from the sun varies because of variations in each one of these factors on a separate basis:
* the sun’s output
* the earth’s distance from the sun
* the deflecting properties of the magnetosphere
* the insulating effect of the atmosphere.
The atmosphere, as already mentioned, is not a source of heat energy – but it does act as an insulating layer between earth and sun and therefore reduces the incoming energy from the sun. Having said that, it’s important to remember that most of the sun’s radiation directly penetrates the atmosphere and strikes the surface of the earth unimpeded.
The insulation acts via two mechanisms, reflection and re-radiation. For both of these mechanisms the most important atmospheric components are H2O (in liquid or solid form) and particulate matter.
Clouds and dust block out the sun – we all know that, and the formal scientific process that explains most of this routine observation is reflection.
Also, a portion of the sun’s incoming energy is absorbed by the various components of the atmosphere. The absorbed radiation is obviously re-radiated, but, rather than being directional like the sun’s incoming radiation, is re-radiated equally in all directions, and therefore a portion goes back out to space. Even though the incoming electromagnetic radiation might be re-radiated out at a different wavelength, the total energy is unchanged.
The amount of insulation provided by the atmosphere varies primarily because of varying amounts of cloud cover and of particulate matter. Fractional changes to the quantities and components of the gaseous portion of the atmosphere are irrelevant.
Current emphasis on carbon dioxide appears to be wholly irrational because the amounts are so small by comparison to other factors (clouds and dust) and because there is no such thing as radiative forcing and because plants grow faster in response to increases and thereby convert the gaseous carbon-based molecules back into solid compounds.
We’ve counted up the sources of energy coming into the surface of the planet. Now consider the energy leaving the planet. Because Planet Earth is at a temperature higher than Absolute Zero it emits radiation.
We have been talking about the surface layer of the planet. It absorbs heat energy and it re-radiates heat energy. The re-radiated energy travels equally in all directions and a portion of it travels out through the atmosphere and then back out into space.
Net energy flows
As far as the surface is concerned, there are two sources of energy coming in (from the inside of the earth and from the sun) and then the earth’s surface emits energy via the ordinary and fully understood physical processes of convection, conduction, and radiation, plus the various biological processes. Now – when the surface receives more energy that it emits, the temperature rises. When the reverse happens, the temperature falls. There we go – basic thermodynamics in a nutshell that Einstein himself would have approved of.
Towards a global climate change model
As far as the global average temperature is concerned, we need the grand total figures – the total energy received versus the total energy lost by the surface of the planet. That’s why I think that, when the system is simplified down to its absolute basics, a ‘flat earth’ is good enough. At the start of creating any such model, radical simplification is the only way to get it right.
So let’s do that. Let’s decide exactly what we are talking about, and whether we are trying to achieve the same goal, and using the same words with the same meaning. Let’s get the fundamental physics right and identify the most important physical processes going on. Let’s agree on the definitions. Let’s make sure that we are comparing like with like. Let’s get the basic model correct.
Only then would it be possible to get anything more complicated correct; and unless we get the fundamentals right, both correct and agreed upon, the opportunity is there for people to add more and more layers of complicated faux-reasoning until everyone is either completely confused, or completely taken in, or bored out of their brains.
Any of these outcomes will suffice for an agenda which seemingly operates to gain power and control over our lives rather than out of genuine concern for the state of the planet, its natural history, or its human inhabitants.
How much atmospheric insulation does life on earth need?
Too little atmospheric insulation exposes the planet’s surface to extreme temperature changes and also to damaging radiation wavelengths (though the earth’s magnetosphere is the critical protective mechanism from damaging high-energy radiation).
Too much atmospheric insulation does not allow enough of the sun’s energy to reach the surface for complex life to thrive. In past eras, high levels of particulate matter from volcanic activity or meteor strikes have caused episodes of extinction. Even modest increases in particulate matter have caused crop failure, disruption to human societies, and widespread famine.
The ‘climate change’ hysteria has reached such a pitch that ‘carbon capture’ is seriously proposed, perhaps even becoming a reality. Do these people know what they are doing? What are the politicians playing at? Carbon dioxide is essential, essential, to life, to the life that has existed on Planet Earth for the past three or more billion years. When there is more, plants grow faster. When there is too little, plants die. If the politicians actually succeed in their ideas then we really will be facing mass extinctions of plant and animal life here on earth.
What’s more, I hear there are proposals to deliberately release particulate matter into the upper atmosphere. This is what volcanoes do. This is what asteroids and mass meteorite strikes do. This is what has caused countless numbers of people to suffer hardship, cold, hunger, famine and death. Particulate matter in the upper atmosphere killed the dinosaurs. They cannot be serious about doing this, can they? Are they ignorant or are they stupid? Are they mad or are they bad?
Either way, this climate change emergency hysteria needs to stop or we really will be dead and we’ll be taking half the world’s wildlife with us.
© Rosie Langridge 14 February 2020 (Additional material from David McCobb)
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