First, as so many have so many times said, the so called “Greenhouse effect” is completely different in physics to a real greenhouse. Instead as I outlined in my last post, the effect stems from the lapse rate: that the earth AS SEEN FROM SPACE must emit radiation equivalent to a black body at 255C (the temperature at which incoming and outgoing radiation balances at our distance from the sun).
The reason for the higher temperature at the surface, is because there is a drop in temperature with height due to the lapse rate, and this means the planet’s surface will be warmer. Yes, there is radiation trapping, yes greenhouse gases have a marginal effect on the average height (and therefore temperature) of the earth as seen from space (or to reverse, the temperature of the surface must change to bring the temperature as seen from space back to the stable blackbody temperature). However, the radiation trapping is important, only in that it drives the lapse rate. However, I jump the gun. So what are the key requirements for the Greenhouse effect:
An Atmosphere with Pressure
The first requirement is that the planet must have an atmosphere. The reason for this, is that there is no temperature profile through the atmosphere without an atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases OR IR emitters like Clouds
The next requirement is that the atmosphere, which will have a thermal gradient due to the lapse rate, must emit radiation from within the atmosphere from either IR interactive molecules like water vapour, CO2, etc. or from liquid droplets in clouds.
That there must be heating to drive convection
Whilst the lapse rate explain the thermal gradient, it is not possible for heat to be emitted from the atmosphere without simply cooling the atmosphere, unless unless there is a heat flow from lower down in the atmosphere. In other words, there must be an excess of heat in the lower atmosphere, that drives convective currents to take that heat to higher up where it will be emitted.
This is where the “Mickey mouse” explanation that we hear so often about global warming is partly right. The scale of the greenhouse effect is almost entirely due to the lapse rate. In that regard, the “heat trapping” concept is completely unhelpful. However, unless there were heat trapping: radiant energy is absorbed at the surface and cannot escape via IR, then there would be no energy source to drive the convective currents which stabilise the temperature gradient in the atmosphere DESPITE massive cooling as IR is emitted from out of the top of the atmosphere.