Some thoughts on greenhouse warming

Conclusion: Penn are global warming deniers! And the temperature of the earth is primarily a result of cooling through the adiabatic blanket together with a smaller component of direct cooling. The effect of IR interactive gases like H20 & CO2 is to change the ratio of these two.


After my last article: A scientist’s guide to greenhouse warming
I was reading a few articles:

When I finally came to this diagram on the Penn. After looking at it I decided to write down some thoughts as they occurred (so they haven’t been checked and may well be wrong).


Fig 1: Diagram shown on Penn state source

Looking at the above, it contained very similar flows for the atmosphere as a whole compared to those I had shown for a single molecule atmosphere in A scientist’s guide to greenhouse warming however the the final value was different.
They have:

εσTE4 – σTS4
– [σTS4 – εσTE4 ]

Where I had (using their terminology):

εSσTS4 – εS εEσTE4

The first obvious difference is that they have no emissivity constant for the earth and must assume it to be equal to 1. This gives:

εSσTS4 – εS σTE4

But this still doesn’t match. Searching their diagram to find the cause, I first rearranged the energy flows so that rather than comparing rather vague flows which seemed e.g. to just go into the spaces between the earth and and their atmosphere I measured the flows at all the key points going into the earth and atmosphere, and there it was the missing flow of IR through the atmosphere:

The missing heat flow

Fig 2: The missing heat flow through the atmosphere

No I see this missing term representing radiation that flows from the earth through the atmosphere it is clear that they are using a model that means all radiation from the earth is absorbed by the atmosphere. Their atmosphere is a perfect blackbody in the IR spectrum. In other words it is being modelled as:

  1. 100% transparent to incoming radiation
  2. 100% opaque to IR from the earth

But hang on! If the atmosphere is 100% opaque to incoming radiation, then there is no need for the lower half of this model. Because it is opaque to radiation from below, we only need the heat flows from the “one layer atmosphere” into and out of space giving the equation:

(1-A) S/4 = εEσTE4

Now, the warming effect is purely a consequence of the emissivity of the atmosphere and it’s temperature.

Is temperature an input or output

Perhaps the biggest difference between this model and my own is conceptual. This model implies the atmosphere is a perfect insulator and that no heat flows into or out of it except through radiation. As such the temperature of the atmosphere is solely determined by the radiative balance. In contrast, my “atmosphere” was a single molecule of CO2 whose temperature was determined by the ambient temperature of the non-radiative interactive gases around it. As such my model assumed that heat flow into or out of the atmosphere maintained the IR interactive molecules at the normal temperature of that portion of the atmosphere. I suppose that means I was assuming perfect heat conduction.

But where is the CO2?


Fig 3: Emissivity in gas is the amount absorbed to that continuing on.

Based on this model, there is only one place where the CO2 can affect the equation: that the emissivity changes as gases are added. But how can this be? Emissivity is effectively the split between absorbed and non-absorbed radiation. A gas doesn’t reflect radiation, it can’t stop radiation except by absorbing it and the higher the absorption, the higher the emissivity. So, saying that no radiation from the earth gets through the gaseous atmosphere means the emissivity must be 1. A real atmosphere can only selectively absorb some parts of the spectrum and allow the rest of the radiation to continue past.

Adiabatic heating

But if we follow their logic ε=1, the radiation exiting the earth is purely a function of the temperature at the top of the atmosphere. This in effect means that the temperature at the surface is purely and simply a function of the physical characteristics of the atmosphere of which adiabatic heating of the atmosphere caused by its compression is the most significant feature. So, CO2 has no effect on this Penn model.

Removing all the irrelevant components from the Penn State "opaque atmosphere" model, we are left with the above.

Fig 4: Removing all the irrelevant components from the Penn State “opaque atmosphere” model, we are left with the above.

The Penn model of the atmosphere as being 100% opaque cannot support the idea of CO2 warming!

Conclusion: Penn are global warming deniers!!!!

But is this model actually used in the atmospheric models? If it is, then none (or very little) of the radiation from the earth will reach space. Below is a typical model from a climate alarmist website:

Typical climate model as shown on many alarmist websites.

Fig 5: Typical climate model as shown on many alarmist websites.

The key figures are toward the right where “surface radiation” heads upward. 350/m2 heads into what looks like cloud – which I assume means “into the atmosphere” where it is stopped dead as if it hit a brick wall. In contrast 40w/m2 travels through the atmosphere without stopping. This means the diagram suggests an emissivity of the atmosphere of 350/(40+350) = 0.89. And it is this 40w/m2 which is all that can change as a result of adding CO2, because radiation that has already been stopped cannot be stopped again and it will behave as per the opaque atmosphere in Fig 4 and obey the equation:

(1-A) S/4 = εσTE4 + (1-ε)σTS4
[ε ~= 0.9]

And from various sites the suggested figure for adiabatic warming from the surface tot he top of the atmosphere is:

TS = TE + 33C

So this appears to be the general equation that would govern the earth’s temperature:

(1-A) S/4 = εσ(TS-33)4 + (1-ε)σTS4

Which seems to give the surface temperature as mainly the result of adiabatic warming (90%?) and then an additional 10% of direct cooling. And if this is right the effect of “greenhouse gases” is to change the relative quantity of cooling through the adiabatic “blanket” and direct cooling via IR.

I will mull over this but please add any thoughts?


A more realistic atmosphere is a semi-transparent one which I used in reconciling skydragons and mainstream skeptics . Here I suggested that the temperature of the IR gases was set by the adiabatic lapse rate and that IR emissions and absorption happened through the atmosphere. However, that is not to say that certain parts may be more important or perhaps (like cloud?) dominant.

But with the importance of water vapour I am tending to favour a slightly different idea as I hope is shown in the following diagram:

Updated model

Updated model

Here I’m now focussing on the troposphere (the lowest level of atmosphere encompassing most of the main movement of air and most of the cloud layer). This layer has several important features:

  1. High pressure, so a dense atmosphere which contains 80% of all the mass of the atmosphere
  2. High levels of water vapour and condensed water (aka clouds) which means it contains 99% of all water vapour which is the dominant IR interactive gas (aka greenhouse gas)
  3. A convective cycle actively moving heat around which will maintain the temperature profile and means this layer is not a “perfect insulator” as the Penn model required.
  4. A layer of clouds which are strongly IR interactive and so act as an effective IR radiator sitting near the top of this region.

So this should mean LARGELY:

  1. Heat is delivered to the top of this region by convection (?is it enough?)
  2. The temperature profile is determined by adiabatic lapse
  3. The Temperature flow is determined by the top of this region

Where it is completely different from standard models:

  1. The atmosphere moves.
  2. It includes adiabatic lapse
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22 Responses to Some thoughts on greenhouse warming

  1. Derek Alker says:

    Hello Mike, your getting “there”..
    “Heat is delivered to the top of this region by convection (?is it enough?)”
    Convection of what? may I ask, and how?
    Convection of sensible heat only, no. I know you know there is latent heat too, BUT, water vapour itself is also a large and often ignored, cause of convection. Water vapour is lighter than air, so, when air becomes moister it convects, because it is moister and hence lighter than the surrounding air. Sensible and latent heat losses from earth’s surface are increased by convection, remembering convection itself has two causes. Increased temperature makes air lighter (less dense), and it rises, and increased moisture content makes air lighter, and so it rises.
    Condensation of water vapour makes air denser, and so drier air sinks. Frosty nights are usually “still” nights for this reason. AND, the formation of dew and frost is the net result of the atmosphere in contact with the surface trying to reduce the rate of surface cooling, by the release of latent heat when the gas (water vapour ie, moisture) condenses to water (dew), and or the gas changes to a solid (frost, or ice).
    The environmental lapse rate is a complex mix of temperature gradient, and moisture content in a declining gravity field with gained altitude. Hence, there is virtually always layers of cloud, with layers of clear air inbetween…
    At any temperature / pressure there is a (idealised) maximum temperature, and moisture content, and the difference between this and the atmosphere at that point determines whether convection, stability, or sinking of air and the moisture it contains happens. Unfortunately there is the wild card of condensation, sometimes water vapour does and does not seem to condense when it should. There is often also the momentum of the air mass involved which has an effect too. Wind complicates matters so much, ie, it is never the same air at any one point, that it is almost, impossible to comprehend. AND, of course there is the release and / or “trapping” of energy in the phases changes of water, from vapour, to liquid, to solid (ice crystals), which is constantly happening throughout the depth of the atmosphere. At any location, vertically thinking, a net figure does not describe the processes and their differing directions with altitude, and different air masses mixing, etc, etc, etc….
    Natural, complex, dynamic, robust, negative feedback dominated systems are so difficult to understand….
    Although the idealised ideas of a dry and a wet lapse rate are easier to understand, reality, the environmental lapse rate is far, far, more complex than the simplified dry and wet rates can possibly explain. Svenson, and wind, for examples..
    btw – Over areas of deep convection the tropopause lowers… This can be seen at a regional scale in the tropics, and along fronts in the mid latitudes. So, yes, the tops of clouds are very effective radiators of IR to space, AND, condensation causes the air to shrink, the tropopause to lower, and makes the escapes of IR to space a lot easier… BUT, the energy radiated to space probably got high up in the troposphere as the latent heat of water vapourisation. Clouds are a part of a very, very effective heat pipe within earth’s atmosphere that we usually refer to as the water cycle. An incredibly powerful and almost infinitely variable negative feedback, just what is required for a natural, complex, dynamic, robust, negative feedback dominated system, that we call earth’s climate system.
    Yes, geothermal sensible heat and solar SW inputs, and yes, OLR outputs to space, but inbetween IS NOT dominated by IR, it is dominated by the energies of the phase changes of water, as we can see happening around us almost every day, almost everywhere.
    Derek Alker.

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      Thanks Derek, I have always considered thermodynamics to be just one step up from voodoo witchdoctoring!
      But seriously, a very valuable addition (correction?) to what I said.
      Don’t let the “there’s no backradiation” guys read this … but my interpretation is that heat (or more accurately energy) is being transported from the warm surface to the colder region at the top (although more accurate throughout the top) of the troposphere and there it would cause an increase in temperature except that this energy is then (largely) radiated to space.
      In Trenberth’s diagram, the heat thus transported is minuscule. Either this is grossly wrong, or there’s a problem with this idea I’ve presented.
      And the other thing I cannot work out is rain. Rain (or as it often starts: snow) is I suppose “negative heat” descending.

  2. Derek Alker says:

    “Don’t let the “there’s no backradiation” guys read this …”
    LOL. Agreed..
    The point should be not there is no atmospheric back radiation, although most is probably absorbed by water vapour enroute…. BUT THAT, there is no proven warming effect of earth’s surface BY atmospheric back radiation. Which would violate the 2nd Law of thermodynamics, and necessitate a virtual complete rewriting of the currently known laws of physics….
    “In Trenberth’s diagram, the heat thus transported is minuscule. Either this is grossly wrong,”
    Yes, the global energy budgets ARE grossly wrong in this, most important, respect. THAT was the point of this GWS thread.
    Almost everyone has access to a couple of mugs, a little cooking oil, some water and a kettle and can thus easily prove it to themselves… It works even better with a fan…
    Rain, yup, I have had the same problem too, but it warms by friction as it descends. I agree though it is “negative heat”, that probably confuses even more the environmental lapse rate… Something I tried to convey in the diagrams on pages 25 to 28 of the following pdf.
    btw – Are you aware of some of the discussions re black body that have recently been happening?
    It seems very few are aware of what black body is, and the complications it then causes when “we” try to explain actual thermodynamic reality (ATR) with, knowingly or unknowingly, imaginary black body partly or wholly based explanations, that can not possibly be true, because a black body IS imaginary…
    Stefan Boltzman equation is only for a black body.
    Wien’s law is only for a black body.
    Peak frequency of emission = power of emission = amount emitted is only for a black body.

    • Derek Alker says:

      “Derek Alker says:
      November 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm
      Err, Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi (somewhat unwisely for his career prospects) studied how does the radiative transfer version of greenhouse effect “theory” work without James Hansen’s (his boss at the time..) assumed positive water vapour feedback assumption. Simple answer, it does not, the best Miskolczi could manage was a constant effect. Hence Hansen got him sacked…
      Yes, obviously due to the heat capacity of the oceans, and of water vapour in the air, and the energies of phase changes of water from solid, to liquid, to gas, in any direction, then water in all it’s states in the oceans and in the atmosphere has to be, and indeed is, a negative, and THE dominant feedback. One simple illustration, clouds, act as a parasol by day and as a blanket by night, they reduce the direction of temperature change at earth’s surface, by day, and by night, which equals a negative feedback, NOT a positive feedback as Hansen HAD TO assume. Also remembering that water vapour IS lighter than air, and so humidity (also) causes convection (not just sensible heat differences), hence we have clouds up there…
      Within Miskolczi’s paper in the assumptions it is stated, and remember this is standard GH “theory” in radiative transfer form (remembering he was taken to NASA for his work / calculations on GH “theory”, by Hansen, so we can be pretty sure this IS the “theory”), that, earth’s surface is treated as a black body. It has no heat capacity, to name just one.
      If I may, as so many seem to NOT understand what a black body is, nor what a grey body IS, it is worth refreshing ourselves of what the black body concept actually IS. Please also consider that all versions of GH “theory” are explained in “black body”, and so many currently talk about climate in “black body” terms (without realizing it I suspect) YET, I am pretty sure earth and it’s climate system is Actual Thermodynamic Reality (ATR).
      The black body concept is of an imaginary black body surface, of no mass, in a vacuum. The imaginary, and therefore unphysical black body surface absorbs and emits all incident electromagnetic (EM) radiation perfectly (without loss). The BB surface temperature for the total absorbed EM radiation is described by the Stefan Boltzman (S/B) equation. This equation is only for a black body surface. The BB surface absorbs EM radiation, instantly reaching the temperature described by the S/B equation. It then instantly emits all the energy as thermal radiation, returning instantly to absolute zero, and therefore ceasing to exist… Sorry, couldn’t resist a little joke, but that is the concept..
      It is often the basis of many peoples arguments at present that a black body has mass, this is not the case, that is not the concept, and if that is the basis of an argument then the emperor indeed has no clothes on, because a black body surface has no mass. THAT is the concept.
      Ok, to take things a little further, Wien’s law is also, like the S/B equation, ONLY for a black body. So, peak frequency of emission = power of emission = amount emitted are all black body assumptions, that ONLY apply to a black body.
      It should be apparent now that virtually all versions and explanations of how our planets climate system works are being explained, and I think quite often without it being realized that it is being explained in “black body”, but, earth’s climate system is most definitely actual thermodynamic reality. Quite a different thing….
      When one looks up what a grey body IS one finds it is merely a black body with the addition of albedo ONLY. A grey body then is NOT ATR, as many seem to think it is.
      If this is important what does the black body concept and a grey body as currently used in climatology omit that we know happens almost all the time, and from time to time in ATR?
      A black body, and a “grey body” both omit –
      i) Thermal mass of the solid / liquid / gas.
      ii) Conduction gains or losses of sensible heat.
      iii) Latent heat gains or losses.
      iv) Energy gains or losses due to change of state.
      v) The physical properties of the solid, liquid. or gas.
      vi) Changes in physical properties of the solid / liquid / gas with change of state.
      Another problem area of note when discussing climate. Divorced from the physics of reality averages, ie a GMT of 14.5C, and unphysical (black and grey body based) explanations. Neat trick, but a trick all the same….
      We might as well be discussing how to cure a sick unicorn, that is reportedly in a field nearby…..
      Derek Alker.”

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      I was hoping for some actual evidence or better still figures for convectional heat transfer – as for changing the theoretical basis of physics – like an old man with a favourite screwdriver – you’d have to demonstrate to me something much better for me to give up something I know works.

  3. Derek Alker says:

    Your joke “Thanks Derek, I have always considered thermodynamics to be just one step up from voodoo witchdoctoring!”, is far nearer the the truth than many will feel comfortable with.
    Derek Alker.

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      Heat always makes more sense from an engineering point of view …. a heat engine, does work. It always felt as if they were trying to intellectualise something that is actually very simple.

      • Derek Alker says:

        Yes, Mike a heat engine only works from cold to hot, unless more energy is put in (ie it takes electricity to run a fridge). THERE is the rub, the colder atmosphere CAN NOT heat the warmer surface.

        • Scottish-Sceptic says:

          Derek CANNOT!! That is just daft and easily countered.
          You say: “There’s the rub”!
          But will you admit that rubbing two sticks together can make fire?
          According to your statement it “CANNOT” happen.
          Also nuclear fusion is impossible – because one CANNOT make heat from cold Uranium.
          Also sex is impossible – because one cannot warm up the situation from cold.
          The simple fact is that back radiation exists, and it causes the warmer object to heat up. If you don’t like the science behind that – fine there’s plenty of room in the fiction section.
          If you don’t like the language – then explain to me how rubbing two cold sticks together makes fire.

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  5. Derek Alker says:

    “If you don’t like the language – then explain to me how rubbing two cold sticks together makes fire.”
    BECAUSE by rubbing the sticks together you input energy as friction, work is heat, and heat is work, first law of thermodynamics Mike.
    The second law of thermodynamics Mike is that colder CAN NOT heat warmer. If you want to assert that atmospheric back radiation warms earth’s surface, PLEASE show it. No one else ever has. This is BECAUSE of the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
    Put simply…
    Flanders & Swann – ‘First And Second Law’

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      That is trivially simple.
      Go out on a frosty night when a front is coming over and notice how much warmer it gets when the cloud arrives and increases back radiation.
      To test it is the cloud – use an IR thermometer – temperature goes from -40 to 6C
      There, I’ve proven back radiation warms and you are wrong in a couple of lines.

      • Derek Alker says:

        Mike, I think you will find that is a warmer air mass moving in. I have “discussed” with Ulric Lyons, and his Penn state, which should be state penn “meteorology” before…

  6. Derek Alker says:

    Mike Haseler writes –
    “Go out on a frosty night when a front is coming over and notice how much warmer it gets when the cloud arrives and increases back radiation.
    To test it is the cloud – use an IR thermometer – temperature goes from -40 to 6C
    There, I’ve proven back radiation warms and you are wrong in a couple of lines.”
    Classic Mike, thank you.
    Please write your proof up, send it to a journal, Nature for example for publication. Make a name for yourself as the man who proved “global warming”.
    Me, I will sit back, watch, and wait for you to also disprove the 2nd law of thermodynamics, as you will have to. I’m patient like that……….

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      2nd Law: “there is an increase in the sum of the entropies of the participating systems”
      Why on earth would I wish to disprove that. All it says is that if you have a lot of socks,. sooner or later you’ll end up without a pair.

  7. Derek Alker says:

    “2nd Law: “there is an increase in the sum of the entropies of the participating systems””
    Boy, your on form today…. Sounds clever, but is about as clever as a thick plank of wood, that is not too long…..
    Let me put it another way. If we place an object out in the mid day sun and we measure the maximum temperature it will reach. Would that be determined by the Stefan Boltzman equation? You have been arguing that it will. BUT, how come then that the power of IR received is not added to the ambient temperature of the object? To sum or suggest you can just sum, hide it behind clever sounding words like entropy is, well, words fail me Mike, but incorrect will suffice.
    So, you are still left HAVING TO disprove the 2nd LAW of thermodynamics before your “explanations” can hold any water whatsoever.

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      A calculation of the maximum temperature would require a consideration of radiation input, emissivity for absorption, emissivity for emission, assessment of shape on IR emissions, calculations of conduction, convection, air movement, any other heat flows such as evaporation. Changes in latent heat, heat flow.
      It also needs an assessment of solar potential – that depends on time of year on orientation, on local horizon obstructions. It also depends on local humidity local hills affecting cloud.
      Then you have weather affecting backradiation, insect activity, lichen growth, bird shit.
      And all in all …. the best way to asses it, is to put the thing out and measure it.
      And no … I have not been arguing that it will be “determined by the Stefan Boltzman equation” … what I have done is create a model an work through the maths associated with the model .
      And you haven’t discussed the model, instead all I can understand you saying is that I’m wrong because back radiation … indeed it sounds like any radiation …. is a physical impossibility.

  8. Derek Alker says:

    3rd attempt at a reply. Will it too be lost in cyberspace, as the first two were?
    IF SO, then I will copy and paste it to face book and tag Mike where I post it.
    Mike writes
    “And you haven’t discussed the model,”
    Mike your “model” such that it is, starts with P/4, which is unphysical. It also is dependent upon atmospheric back radiation having a warming effect at earth’s surface. As the atmosphere is colder than the surface then that is a violation of the 2nd Law of thermodynamics. I do not see the need to nit pick any other errors of your model when it is so grossly flawed.
    Mike writes
    “all I can understand you saying is that I’m wrong because back radiation … indeed it sounds like any radiation …. is a physical impossibility.”
    You are misrepresenting what I have repeatedly said to you. I have said that atmospheric back radiation does not have a warming effect at earth’s surface, AND, it is absolutely certainly not as powerful as the sun’s input again. I have asked for evidence, or proof of such a heating effect of earth’s surface by atmospheric back radiation and you, like everyone else to date, have not been able to provide ANY.
    Mike writes
    “And no … I have not been arguing that it will be “determined by the Stefan Boltzman equation” … what I have done is create a model an work through the maths associated with the model .”
    Mike you have repeatedly shown you do not understand what the black body concept IS, and you have also shown numerous times you do not know what a black body is. In point of fact you have invented your own pseudo black body (which has a surface with mass, an atmosphere and you try to tell us the surface with mass has no heat capacity) and then attempted to try to explain reality with it. You, in short, have been inventing physics.
    Mike, you have fallen into the trap so many currently have. You have not realised that the average climate figures, such as GMT, you are trying to explain are divorced from the physics of reality. These figures have to be calculated physically, although they themselves are divorced from those very same physics. What you, and so, so many others do at present is unphysically calculate the same figure, then say that explains physical reality. It is a neat trick, to explain a divorced from the physics figure by unphysical means, the error is not so obvious, BUT, it is an error, a trick, a false calculation, all the same…
    Derek Alker.

  9. Scottish-Sceptic says:

    Derek, do you accept that negative numbers exist and if so would you accept that:
    1+ -1 is the same as 1 – +1

    • Derek Alker says:

      Mike the divorced from the physics of reality average climate figures HAVE TO BE calculated physically. Currently they are not.
      How often do we hear about GMT going up or down a bit, and then constantly talk about the surface temperature… GMT is near surface air temperature, because it is measured between 1 and 2 meters above the ground. IT IS NOT SURFACE TEMPERATURE…
      Negative numbers are a useful mathematical tool, a description or a comparison tool usually, but to say something in reality does not exist by an amount that it does not exist by is playing with words, trying to sound clever, whilst being stupid.
      Maths is NOT the “hard science” most seem to think it is. For example what does an equals sign mean? Does it mean exactly the same as, or does it mean equivalent to?
      2 + 2 = 4.
      2 elephants plus 2 ants = four animals.
      But can that be written in weight? Yes, it is then a different sum.
      What about,
      3 + 1 = 4
      6 – 2 = 4
      8 / 2 = 4
      All different sums, all the same answer. Are the answers equivalent, or the same as each other???
      People use different, and change, definitions (knowingly and unknowingly) as they calculate and that is how maths can be a very, very “soft” science, as “climatology” with it’s pseudo black body calculations currently proves beyond any reasonable doubt.
      Hence I said many years back,
      “Maths does not determine the physics, maths can ONLY describe the physics
      when applied in the correct, and accurate physical manner to a given situation.”
      Nice try at trying to “trap” me Mike. Try harder…
      Derek Alker.

      • More than happy to use real physical numbers. But the biggest discrepancy between the IPCC model and reality is that they don’t have cloud level as something that changes as a result of climate changes.
        I’m now happy that even a small increase in temperature causes masses increase in water vapour transportation with a massive increase in clouds and a massive drop in radiation getting to surface.
        This is why IPCC refuse to model clouds – because as soon as you start suggesting they change – bank goes all their needed positive feedback.
        However, I now need a figure fro the change in back radiation caused by increasing cloud cover. For obvious reasons the IPCC models don’t separate out the effect of clouds – so I don’t have a physical value for this which gives positive feedbacks.
        But I’m confident it will be a fraction of the solar blocking effect leaving massive negative feedback OTHERWISE THE IPCC WOULD HAVE MODELLED CLOUDS

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