The Sky Above - What Is Going On up There?...
In this blog I am going to look at the "greenhouse effect" - a thermodynamic phenomenon that is apparently choking our Earth under a blanket of heat trapping gases in our atmosphere. I start by looking at our "sky above" and then attempt to discuss the heating and cooling dynamics that play themselves out within our atmosphere. I warn you, it's quite confusing and the mass of conflicting literature regarding this subject reflects this.
Let's start with some statistics that put perspective to the discussion in order to demonstrate just how massive the Sun is and how insignificant our little Earth is in comparison. Distances and sizes: estimated and may be rounded for simplicity (google them).
mass of the sun 333,000 earths
diameter of sun 1.4 million km (100 times earth)
Sun core temp 15,000,000 C
Sun surface temp 5600 C solar cycles 11 years - surface temperature variations.
distance to earth 150 million km
earth diameter 13000 km
distance to moon 3600 km
One of the best analogies I've ever seen was as follows: " Take a basketball and a felt marker pen. Make a dot on the basketball with the marker. The ball is the Sun and the dot is the Earth". Rather humbling, isn't it?
Below you can see our Earth's atmosphere presented as an image. We all need to make sense of these layers in terms of how they protect our Earth from either overheating or freezing into a solid block of ice. Once we understand this, we can link this to the rather vague theory of global warming (remember, I'm a denier) originally poorly titled as "the greenhouse effect".
1. ) troposphere 10 to 20 km
2.) tropopause 20 km
3.) stratosphere 21 to 50 km
3.) ozone 20km
4.) mesosphere 50 to 80 km
5.) thermosphere 80 to 320 km
6.) exosphere 320 to 660 km
WHERE IS OUR WEATHER / CLIMATE DETERMINED?
The Troposphere is probably the most important atmospheric layer as far as human beings are concerned because this is the layer we live in and where we experience the many weather conditions we humans experience. Ranging from a height of around 33000 to 65000 ft. (poles/equator) the Troposphere is known for:
- containing 75% of all the "air molecules" (ie. blends of gases) of the total atmosphere.
- containing 99% of the water molecules either as vapour and as clouds.
- containing the majority of greenhouse gases C02, NO, Ch3, CFC'S etc.
- being hugely turbulent mixing all contents together so that they don't "layer out".
- becoming colder with height. Earth mean is 15C. Top of troposphere is around -51C.
- separated from Stratosphere by Tropopause, where temperature is static.
The Stratosphere is the next major important layer primarily for containing the "ozone layer" that protects us from excessive exposure to incoming UV radiation. Other features include:
- contains the rest of "air molecules" of the total atmosphere.
- contains the well publicized "ozone layer".
- CHC's that reach this level react with ozone to create the "ozone hole".
- increases in temperature to around -51C due to ozone activity.
- relatively static air movement unlike the turbulent Troposphere below.
WHAT IF WE HAD NO ATMOSPHERE AT ALL?
During the day the Sun literally assaults the Earth with the full power of its radiance (all wavelengths). With no atmospheric protection the surface of the earth would become extremely hot only being cooled by evaporation of any water that might still be there. As the earth spun away from the Sun and into night time its hot surface, facing an absolutely "cold" void would irradiate (through long wave IR) strongly into this cold "receiver". With no insulating atmosphere the surface would simply keep getting colder until there was no heat energy left and the temperature would be as cold as outer space, at least until the next day when severe heating would begin again as the Earth turned back into the Sun's rays. Nothing would interfere with the process. No life could exist.
IS CARBON DIOXIDE UP THERE AS A LAYER SIMILAR TO A GREENHOUSE GLASS CEILING?
Practically speaking it can be assumed that all gases we call "air" are evenly distributed from ground level to the top of the troposphere. No layering. No "glass ceiling".
Carbon dioxide (and other GHG's) are NOT present as a concentrated layer at the top of the troposphere acting like a greenhouse ceiling trapping infrared heat moving upwards and reflecting it back to Earth as it often seems to be presented in the confusing literature. Carbon dioxide is actually heavier than air and under very static conditions it would sink to the bottom of the atmosphere and lie "against the ground". It is the violent air movement of the troposphere that "stirs the pot" and moves carbon dioxide and all other gases upwards and around to mix them relatively evenly to quite high altitudes. The images below indicate that a concentration of around 380ppm C02 is diluted to only around 370 ppm at 22 km indicating that mixing is quite thorough throughout the Troposphere.
Since greenhouse gases don't form a classical type greenhouse at all a better analogy would be to consider them as the ingredients of an insulating "blanket" that traps long wave infrared heat released from the Earth and doesn't let it escape to space. The net effect is to warm the air around the Earth, hold that heat in and then do incidental damage by affecting climate in a crowded world that can't tolerate any variations from the so called self imposed "norm".
SO THEN, HOW DO GREENHOUSE GASES ACTUALLY AFFECT EARTH'S TEMPERATURE AND CLIMATE?
The Sun emits a range of energy to the Earth generally in the shorter wavelength categories (UV to NIR). This radiation hits the atmosphere before reaching earth and it is blocked, reflected back to space, or dispersed in all directions by ozone, water, aerosols, complex air molecules, particulates, etc. The net effect of this interference is that only about 51% incoming thermal radiant energy actually reaches the Earth's surface where it may be reflected right back or absorbed by the crust and held as warming heat.
At night the Earth is exposed to dark outer space and it emits this "excess" heat straight up in the form of long infrared waves. Some of these IR waves are caught by the greenhouse gases that hold it briefly in a high energy state before re-emitting it in all directions that sends new IR waves out to space - BUT ALSO BACK TO THE EARTH. The net effect is that all of the heat emitted by the Earth is not actually dissipated in space and THE EARTH OVERLY WARMS UP because the balance is tipped towards retaining more heat than the Earth is trying to get rid of.
HOW DOES SCIENCE RELATE THIS "GREENHOUSE EFFECT" TO CLIMATE CHANGE?
The core of the argument being made by climate scientists is that as long as carbon dioxide levels are maintained around 300 ppm, (and other greenhouse gases are minimized), the Earth's heat balance will be equal (heat in = heat out) and we will thereby maintain a mean global temperature of 15C. Left alone, continued burning of fossil fuels would increase C02 levels year after year and the effect of excess warming the Earth would continue, eventually creating an intolerable environment for life.
So the standard appears to be 300 ppm. Everybody is happy with 300 ppm as a target because this was the case in the "good old days" before we started burning everything in sight, and presumably had perfect weather at the same time.
At the moment carbon dioxide is at 415 ppm and climate scientists are saying that the 33% increase from levels measured in the "good old days" is causing the atmosphere to trap even more of the heat emitted by the earth at night and return too much of that heat back to the Earth before the next daylight appears. The Earth enters the day a little bit hotter, absorbs 51% (of the Solar Constant) sent to it on that day, and then repeats the pattern of not getting rid of enough of that heat the next night. And so on. The net long term effect is that eventually the Earth begins to warm up overall and the mean temperature climbs above the acceptable 15C, which then leads to things like climate anomalies and ice melts, etc. Their answer to this problem is to demand that we get levels back to 300 ppm. Not practical at all for a world with out of control population along with massive infrastructure expansion.
SOUNDS GOOD - BUT THERE IS A FUNDAMENTAL FLAW IN THEIR REASONING:
There have been times in the Earth's history where C02 was present in levels around 7000 ppm yet it did not overheat. Why would this be the case if we are worried about levels in the lowly 400 ppm range? The best argument to explain the lack of overheating seems to be that these extreme levels existed during a time when the Sun's energy (ie. output) was lower than it is today. Makes sense, yet the question today becomes whether the Sun is presently on another pattern of cooling and if so, why do we care how much C02 we put up in the atmosphere?
What happens to the theory if the Sun cools down? 51% of the sun's energy is just a number describing how successful our atmosphere is at screening out the maximum onslaught of the sun's energy coming at us each day. The science assumes that that maximum Sun energy is ALWAYS THE SAME and therefore the amount reaching the earth (51%) is also ALWAYS THE SAME. This simply isn't so. 11 year Sun Cycles are a well proven documented phenomena along with longer term variations in the Sun's energy output resulting in mini and maxi ice ages at their extremes. If LESS energy reaches the earth's surface (measured in watts, by the way) then it may actually be beneficial to have more carbon dioxide in the sky above to prevent earth from getting too cold.
Climate Science does not like to talk about the Sun. They discount its affect on Earth temperatures and put all emphasis on greenhouse gases. It's a huge mistake because there is much science that says we're headed for a long term solar cooling trend and the Earth is due to get colder, not hotter. Perhaps our fireplaces will reverse the trend when it reaches us.
Each 11 year cycle is decreasing in the Sun's heat (measured as sunspots). Long term charts also show much more dramatic decreases than the small snapshot in this graph. It's happened before, many times and there's no reason why it can't happen again. The only question is when.
James Murphy, writer for NASA in the New American, 2018 sums things up pretty well with his statement:
"The climate alarmists just can't catch a break. NASA is reporting that the sun is entering one of the deepest Solar Minima of the Space Age; and Earth's atmosphere is responding in kind.
So, start pumping out that CO2, everyone. We're going to need all the greenhouse gases we can get.
"We see a cooling trend," said Martin Mlynczak of NASA's Langley Research Center. "High above Earth's surface, near the edge of space, our atmosphere is losing heat energy. If current trends continue, it could soon set a Space Age record for cold."
Please note: these images and the discussions surrounding them are easily found on Google. I'm not even going to attempt to make a bibliography because this isn't a scientific paper, it's an opinion piece. If you doubt me go search them out. The exercise is quite revealing.