Feedback on Dr. Ollila’s Claims that Greenhouse Impact Calculations Violate Power Conservation

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From Dr. Roy Spencer’s Weblog

March 12th, 2020 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

As soon as once more I’m being drawn into defending the frequent clarification of Earth’s so-called “greenhouse impact” as it’s portrayed by the IPCC, textbooks, and just about everybody who works in atmospheric radiation and thermodynamics.

To be clear, I’m not defending the IPCC’s predictions of future local weather change… simply the overall clarification of the Earth’s greenhouse impact, which has a profound affect on international temperatures in addition to on climate.

As we’ll see, a lot confusion arises concerning the greenhouse impact attributable to its complexity, and the issue in expressing that complexity precisely with phrases alone. In actual fact, the IPCC’s greenhouse impact “definition” quoted by Dr. Ollila is incomplete and deceptive, as anybody who understands the greenhouse impact ought to know.

As we’ll see, within the case of one thing as sophisticated because the greenhouse impact, a simplified worded definition ought to by no means be the premise for quantitative calculations; as a substitute, sophisticated calculations are typically solely poorly described with phrases.

What’s the “Greenhouse Impact”?

Descriptions of the Earth’s pure greenhouse impact are unavoidably incomplete attributable to its complexity, and even deceptive at instances attributable to ambiguous phrasing when attempting to precise that complexity.

The complexity arises as a result of the greenhouse impact includes each cubic meter of the ambiance being able to each take in and emit infrared (IR) vitality. (And nearly by no means are the charges of absorption and emission the identical, opposite to the claims of many skeptics – IR emission may be very temperature-dependent, whereas absorption will not be).

Whereas basically all of the vitality for this in the end comes from absorbed daylight, the infrared absorption and re-radiation by air (and by clouds within the ambiance) makes the web impression of the greenhouse impact on temperatures considerably non-intuitive. The emission of this invisible radiation by every thing round us is clearly tougher to explain than the single-source Solar.

The flexibility of air and clouds to soak up and emit IR radiation has profound impacts on vitality flows and temperatures all through the ambiance, resulting in the a number of infrared vitality move arrows (crimson) within the vitality finances diagram initially popularized by Kiehl & Trenberth (Fig. 1).


Fig. 1. International- and time-averaged (day+night time and thru the seasons) main vitality flows between the floor, ambiance, and house (NASA). If there was no ambiance, there could be a single yellow arrow reaching the floor, and a single crimson arrow extending from the floor to outer house, representing equal magnitudes of absorbed photo voltaic and emitted infrared vitality, respectively.

[As an aside, contrary to the claims of the 2010 book Slaying the Sky Dragon: Death of the Greenhouse Gas Theory, this simplified picture of the average energy flows between the Earth’s surface, atmosphere, and space is NOT what is assumed by climate models. Climate models use the relevant physical processes at every point on three-dimensional grid covering the Earth, with day-night and seasonal cycles of solar illumination. The simplified energy budget diagram is instead the best-estimate of the global average energy flows based upon a wide variety of observations, model diagnostics, and the assumption of no natural long-term climate change.]

If the Earth had no ambiance (just like the Moon), the floor temperature at any given location could be ruled by the stability between the speed of absorbed photo voltaic vitality and the lack of thermally-emitted infrared (IR) radiation. The solar would warmth the floor to a temperature the place the emitted IR radiation balanced the absorbed photo voltaic radiation, after which the temperature would cease growing. This common idea of vitality stability between vitality acquire and vitality loss is concerned in figuring out the temperature of just about something you possibly can consider.

However the Earth does have an environment, and the ambiance each absorbs and emits IR radiation in all instructions. “Greenhouse gases” (primarily water vapor, but additionally carbon dioxide) present most of this perform, and any acquire or lack of an IR photon by a GHG molecule is sort of instantly felt by the non-radiatively energetic gases (like nitrogen and oxygen) by means of molecular collisions.

If we have been to signify these infrared vitality flows in Fig. 1 extra utterly, there could be a virtually infinite variety of crimson arrows, each upward and downward, connecting each vanishingly-thin layer of ambiance with each different vanishingly skinny layer. These are the flows which are occurring repeatedly within the ambiance.

A very powerful internet impression of the greenhouse impact on terrestrial temperatures is that this:

The web impact of a greenhouse ambiance is that it retains the decrease atmospheric layers (and floor) hotter, and the higher ambiance colder, than if the greenhouse impact didn’t exist.

I’ve typically referred to as this a “radiative blanket” impact.

Apparently, with out the greenhouse impact, the higher layers of the troposphere wouldn’t be capable of cool to outer house, and climate as we all know it (which relies upon upon radiative destabilization of the vertical temperature profile) wouldn’t exist. This was demonstrated by Manabe & Strickler (1964) who calculated that, with out convective overturning, the pure radiative equilibrium temperature profile of the troposphere may be very sizzling on the floor, and really chilly within the higher troposphere. Convective overturning within the ambiance reduces this enormous temperature ‘lapse price’ by about two-thirds to three-quarters, leading to what we observe in the actual ambiance.

Dr. Ollila’s Claims

The most recent installment of what I take into account to be unhealthy skeptical science concerning the greenhouse impact comes from emeritus professor of environmental science, Dr. Antero Ollila, who claims that the vitality finances diagram someway violates the first Regulation of Thermodynamics, i.e., conservation of vitality, at the very least when it comes to how the greenhouse impact is quantified.

His article is entitled, How The IPCC’s Greenhouse Definition Violates the Bodily Regulation of Conservation of Mass & Power. He makes use of a modified model (Fig. 2) of the Kiehl-Trenberth diagram:

Fig. 2. Dr. Ollila’s model of the worldwide vitality finances diagram.

It ought to be famous that these international common vitality finances diagrams do certainly preserve vitality of their whole vitality fluxes on the top-of-atmosphere (the local weather system as an entire), in addition to for the floor and ambiance, individually. Should you add up these vitality acquire and loss phrases you will note they’re equal, which have to be the case for any system with a secure temperature over time.

However what Dr. Ollila appears to be confused about is what you possibly can bodily and quantitatively deduce concerning the greenhouse impact whenever you begin combining vitality fluxes in that diagram. A lot of the primary a part of Dr. Ollila’s article is simply superb. His objection to the diagram is launched with the next assertion, which those that maintain related views to his can be triggered by:

“The plain cause for the GH impact appears to be the downward infrared radiation from the ambiance to the floor and its magnitude is 345 W/m2. Subsequently, the floor absorbs completely 165 (photo voltaic) + 345 (downward infrared from the ambiance) = 510 W/m2.“

At this level a few of my readers ( who you might be) will object to that quote, and say one thing like, “However the one vitality enter on the floor is from the solar! How can the ambiance add extra vitality to the system, when the solar is the one supply of vitality?” My studying of Dr. Ollila’s article signifies that that’s the place he’s going as nicely.

However that is the place the issue with ambiguous wording is available in. The ambiance will not be, strictly talking, including extra vitality to the floor. It’s merely returning a portion of the atmosphere-absorbed photo voltaic, infrared, and convective transport vitality again to the floor within the type of infrared vitality.

As proven in Fig. 2, the floor continues to be emitting extra IR vitality than the ambiance is returning to the floor, leading to internet floor lack of [395 – 345 =] 50 W/m2 of infrared vitality. And, as beforehand talked about, all vitality fluxes on the floor stability.

And that is what our instinct tells us ought to be occurring: the floor is warmed by daylight, and cooled by the lack of IR vitality (plus moist and dry convective cooling of the floor of 91 and 24 W/m2, respectively.) However the ambiance’s radiative blanket reduces the speed of IR cooling from the hotter decrease layers of the ambiance to the higher cooler layers. This alteration of common vitality flows by greenhouse gases and clouds alters the atmospheric temperature profile.

A associated however frequent misunderstanding is the concept the speed of vitality enter determines a system’s temperature. That’s mistaken.

Given any price of vitality enter right into a system, the temperature will proceed to extend till temperature-dependent vitality loss mechanisms equal the speed of vitality enter. Should you don’t consider it, let’s have a look at an excessive instance.

Imagine it or not, the human physique generates vitality by means of metabolism at a price that’s eight,000 time higher than what the solar generates, per kg of mass. However the human physique has an inside temperature of solely 98.6 deg. F, whereas the solar’s inside temperature is estimated to be round 27,000,000 deg. F. It is a dramatic instance that the speed of vitality *enter* doesn’t decide temperature: it’s the stability between the charges of vitality acquire and vitality loss that determines temperature.

If vitality has no environment friendly option to escape, then even a weak price of vitality enter can result in exceedingly excessive temperatures, similar to happens within the solar. I’ve learn that it takes 1000’s of years for vitality created within the core of the solar from nuclear fusion to make its option to the solar’s floor.

Since that is meant to be a critique of Dr. Ollila’s particular arguments let’s return to them. I simply wished to first handle his central concern by explaining the greenhouse impact in the perfect phrases I can, earlier than I confuse you together with his arguments. Right here I checklist the details of his reasoning, during which I reproduce the primary quote from above for completeness:

[begin quote]

The plain cause for the GH impact appears to be the downward infrared radiation from the ambiance to the floor and its magnitude is 345 Wm-2. Subsequently, the floor absorbs completely 165 + 345 = 510 Wm-2….

The distinction between the radiation to the floor and the web photo voltaic radiation is 510 – 240 = 270 Wm-2…

The true GH warming impact is correct right here: it’s 270 Wm-2 as a result of it’s the additional vitality warming the Earth’s floor along with the web photo voltaic vitality.

The ultimate step is that we should discover out what’s the mechanism creating this infrared radiation from the ambiance. Based on the IPCC’s definition, the GH impact is attributable to the GH gases and clouds which take in infrared radiation of 155 Wm-2 emitted by the floor and which they additional radiate to the floor.

As we will see there’s a downside – and a really huge downside – within the IPCC’s GH impact definition: the absorbed vitality of 155 Wm-2 can not radiate to the floor 345 Wm-2 and even 270 Wm-2. Based on the vitality dialog legislation, vitality can’t be created from the void. Based on the identical legislation, vitality doesn’t disappear, however it may change its kind.

From Determine (2) it’s straightforward to call the 2 different vitality sources that are wanted for inflicting the GH impact specifically latent heating 91 Wm-2 and smart heating 24 Wm-2, which make 270 Wm-2 with the longwave absorption of 155 Wm-2.

When the photo voltaic radiation absorption of 75 Wm-2 by the ambiance can be added to those three GH impact sources, the sum is 345 Wm2. All the things matches with out the violation of physics. No vitality disappears or seems from the void. Coincidence? Not so.

Right here is the purpose: the IPCC’s definition implies that the LW absorption of 155 Wm-2 may create radiation of 270 Wm-2 which is unattainable.“

[end quote]

Now, I’ve spent at the very least a few hours attempting to comply with his line of reasoning, and I can not. If Dr. Ollila wished to assert that the vitality finances numbers violate vitality conservation, he may have made all of this a lot easier by asking the query, How can 240 W/m2 of photo voltaic enter to the local weather system trigger 395 W/m2 of IR emission by the floor? Or 345 W/m2 of downward IR emission from the sky to the floor? ALL of those numbers are bigger than the obtainable photo voltaic flux being absorbed by the local weather system, are they not? However, as I’ve tried to clarify from the above, a 1-way move of IR vitality will not be very informative, and solely makes quantitative sense when it’s mixed with the IR move in the other way.

If we don’t do this, we will idiot ourselves into considering there may be some mysterious and magical “additional” supply of vitality, which isn’t the case in any respect. All vitality flows in these vitality finances diagram have photo voltaic enter because the vitality supply, and as vitality programs by means of the local weather system, all of them find yourself balancing. There isn’t any violation of the legal guidelines of thermodynamics.

Is There an Power Flux Measure of the Greenhouse Impact?

One of many issues with Dr. Ollila’s reasoning is that there actually isn’t any of those unidirectional vitality fluxes (or combos of vitality fluxes, similar to 155, or 270, or 345 W/m2) that may be referred to as a measure of the greenhouse impact. The common unidirectional vitality fluxes are what exist after the floor and ambiance have readjusted their temperature and humidity constructions (in addition to after the smart and latent convective warmth transports get established).

Even the oft-quoted 33 deg. C of warming isn’t a measure of the greenhouse impact… it’s the ensuing floor warming after convective warmth transports have cooled the floor. As I recall, the true, pure radiative equilibrium greenhouse impact on floor temperature (with out convective warmth transports) would double or triple that quantity.

If the atmospheric radiative vitality flows are too summary for you, let’s use the case of a home heated within the winter. On a mean chilly winter day, I compute from normal sources that the heating unit within the common home results in a lack of vitality by means of the partitions, ceiling, and flooring of about 10 W/m2 (simply take the heater enter in Watts [around 5,000 Joules/sec] and divide by the floor space of all home exterior surfaces [ around 500 sq. meters]).

However examine that 10 W/m2 of vitality move although the partitions, ceiling, and flooring to the inward IR emission by the outside partitions, which (it’s straightforward to point out) emit an IR flux towards the middle of the home that’s about 100 W/m2 higher than the outward emission by the surface of the partitions. That ~100 W/m2 distinction in outward versus inward IR flux continues to be energetically in step with the 10 W/m2 of warmth move outward by means of the partitions.

This seeming contradiction is resolved (simply as within the case of Earth’s floor vitality finances) once we understand that the NET (2-way) infrared flux on the inside floor of the outside partitions continues to be outward, as a result of that wall floor can be barely colder than the inside of the home, which can also be emitting IR vitality towards the surface partitions. Speaking concerning the IR flux in just one course will not be very quantitatively helpful by itself. There isn’t any magical and law-violating creation of additional vitality.

Concluding Feedback

When you’ve got managed to wade by means of the arguments above and perceive most of them, congratulations. You now see how sophisticated the greenhouse impact is in comparison with, say, simply daylight warming the Earth’s floor. That complexity results in imprecise, incomplete, and ambiguous descriptions of the greenhouse impact, even within the scientific literature (and the IPCC’s description).

Essentially the most correct illustration of the greenhouse impact is made by means of the related equations that describe the radiative (and convective) vitality flows between the floor and the ambiance. To specific all of that in phrases could be practically unattainable, and the extra correct the wording, the extra the reader’s eyes would glaze over.

So, we’re left with individuals like me attempting to tell the general public on points which I typically take into account to be a waste of time arguing about. I solely waste that point as a result of I would love for my fellow skeptics to be armed with good science, not unhealthy science.

[I still maintain that the simplest backyard demonstration of the greenhouse effect in action is with a handheld IR thermometer pointed at a clear sky at different angles, and seeing the warming of the thermometer’s detector as you scan from the zenith down to an oblique angle. That is the greenhouse effect in action.]

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