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They Keep Saying . . . January 23, 2012

Posted by Michael in Politics, Pop Culture, Religion, Science.

. . . that the recent (and historically insignificant) uptick in global temperatures is a catastrophe caused by CO2, which is about to run out of control.  They breathlessly point towards computer models (as opposed to actual science) in support of their alarums.

I don’t think any responsible person denies the uptick.  We just question whether science really supports the alleged cause.  The Priesthood of AGW Believers continues, despite all evidence, to insist that it must be human energy consumption — plus eating meat from animals that fart a lot.  They sneer at other explanations, like solar activity.

Take a look.

Thanks to Liberalguy, where I found this graph.

I am not a scientist, nor do I play one on TV, but it seems kinda obvious that solar flux (the IR band in particular) emitted by cyclical sunspost activity just might somehow relate to planetary temperature fluctuations.

Of course, some real scientists are thinking about this in a reasonable way.  The issue is not just sunspots, any more than it is just CO2.  Clouds  and air pressure are big factors, which act sort of like global thermostats that moderate the earth’s energy budget.  The poorly named “greenhouse effect” is real, but affects climate in a variety of ways.  Mostly, it cools  the earth, but the effect varies by altitude.

Some interesting scientific mumbo jumbo is below the break.  Long story short, climate is way more complex and reactive than most liberals want to admit.  The myth about the CO2 menace continues to be exposed as a green fantasy that was manufactured to prop up an otherwise bankrupt socialist agenda.

Finally, I want to address 3 stumbling blocks which people encounter in all of this.

FIRST, if you are still confused about whether greenhouse gases warm or cool the climate system, let me make the following 2 points:

1) For the atmosphere as a whole, greenhouse gases COOL the atmosphere, through IR radiation to outer space, in the face of heating of the atmosphere by the solar-heated surface.

2) In the process, however, greenhouse gases drastically change the vertical temperature structure of the atmosphere, warming the lower layers, and cooling the upper layers. Think of greenhouse gases as a “radiative blanket”…when you add a blanket over a heat source, it warms the air between the blanket and the heat source, but it cools the air away from the heat source.

Greenhouse gases change the energy budget of all layers of the atmosphere, and it is the energy budget (balance between energy gain and energy loss) which determines what the average temperatures of those layers will be.

SECONDLY, some people claim that IR emission and absorption cannot affect the atmospheric temperature profile because the rate of IR emission and absorption by each layer must be the same.


The rate of absorption of IR by a layer is mostly independent of temperature; the rate of emission, though, increases rapidly with temperature. In general, the rates of IR absorption and emission by atmospheric layers are quite different. The difference is made up by convective heat transport and (especially in the stratosphere) solar absorption.

THIRDLY, if you are wondering, “If temperature change is an energy budget issue, then why does the temperature of an air parcel change when you change its altitude? Doesn’t the temperature change necessarily imply an energy budget change?

The answer is no.

When an air parcel is raised adiabatically, it’s loss of thermal energy is balanced by an equal gain in potential energy due to its altitude. The ‘dry static energy’ of the parcel thus remains the same, which equals cpT + gZ, where cp is the specific heat capacity, T is temperature in Kelvin, g is the gravitational acceleration, and Z is height in meters.

Of course, averaged over the whole Earth, there can be no net change in altitude; all air parcels rising (and cooling) at any given pressure altitude must be matched by an equivalent mass of air parcels sinking (and warming) at that same pressure altitude.

Roy Spencer, Ph.D.


1. kevlarchick - January 23, 2012

Isn’t there supposed to be a giant solar storm in the next few days? There was one a few months ago and I saw the Northern Lights at my house in Ohio. It was beautiful. And spooky.

2. daveintexas - January 23, 2012

CO2 is a following, not a leading, indicator of warmenin.

3. Retired Geezer - January 23, 2012

We saw the Northern Lights when we first moved to Camp Geezer.

It was awesome.

*makes plans to sit outside and shiver the next couple of nights*

*modifies plans to include fire, fire water and Mrs. Geezer*

4. Tushar - January 23, 2012

>>*modifies plans to include fire, fire water and Mrs. Geezer*

Hot, hotter and hottest.

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