The Greenhouse Effect: Everybody Talks About It But Few Know What It Is

by Dr. Tim Ball on February 23, 2011

in Atmosphere,Data,History,Philosophy,Solar,Theory

It is amazing how people have very strong opinions about ideas and terms they don’t understand. The greenhouse effect is one of these and lack of understanding about it is exploited to dictate global energy and economic policies at great and unnecessary expense.

They claim the Earth’s atmosphere is like a greenhouse. It isn’t. Most don’t know how “official” greenhouse science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claim it works. Some think it’s the same as global warming because they associate greenhouses, which some call hothouses, with high temperature.

According to estimates (and virtually all numbers are estimates), the earth’s temperature is approximately 15°C (59°F), known as the annual average global temperature. It varies as the earth warms or cools based on the amount of energy coming from the sun and leaving the earth to space. The temperature should be –18°C (-0.4°F) so the greenhouse effect is used to explain why it is 33°C (59.4°F) warmer. Over time the temperature varies mostly because of variations in the solar energy. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says it is change in CO2. They say they’re 90% certain CO2 from human sources explains temperature change since 1950. The problem is that in every record over any time period the temperature increases before CO2 increases. The entire exercise of the IPCC was to make unfounded assumptions about CO2 as a greenhouse gas and then manufacture mechanisms to try and maintain the charade when the evidence consistently contradicts.

Greenhouse Effect Theory

The “official” explanation says sunlight, called insolation (for incoming solar radiation), is Shortwave energy. Wavelength is determined by the distance from one peak to the next and is called Shortwave when less than 3 micrometers and Longwave if more.

Energy Wavelength Comparison - Sun and Earth Figure 1
Comparison of energy wavelengths
for the Sun (left) and Earth (right)

Figure 1 shows the sunlight (left) with the visible portion in the colours of the rainbow. Your eyes can only receive light with wavelengths between 0.4 and 0.7 micrometers. The wavelengths you can”t see to the left of the violet are called ultraviolet (UV). Wavelengths right of the red are called infrared. They all pass through the atmosphere, but UV can’t pass through the glass of the greenhouse; that is the first major difference. In the upper atmosphere (stratosphere) 95% of UV is ‘used’ to produce ozone, which causes a warming.

Absorption spectra of greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere Figure 2
Absorption Spectra

Once the remaining Shortwave hits a surface inside the greenhouse, it is absorbed by molecules and sets them in motion (Brownian Movement). People say they feel the sun but what they casino online feel is the sun making the molecules in their skin move more rapidly. The same effect is felt when you rub your hands together, and through friction, make the molecules move.

Surface molecules in the greenhouse strike the air molecules touching them, setting them in motion. This transfer of heat energy is now as Longwave energy on the right side of Figure 1. However, this cannot pass through the glass and thus is trapped, causing a steady temperature rise. The glass acts like a one-way valve letting in Shortwave and not letting Longwave out – the so-called greenhouse effect. Unless you put blinds on the window or open the door to let the heat escape, the temperature keeps rising.

Radiative forcing of climate between 1750-2005 Figure 3
Estimates of forcing effects
of various atmospheric components.
Source: IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR)

It’s claimed some gases in the atmosphere act like the glass in the greenhouse. Of the total greenhouse gases, water vapor (H2O) is 95% by volume, carbon dioxide (CO2) is 3.85%, and methane (CH4) 0.4%. Official IPCC theory claims they allow Shortwave in, but trap Longwave going to space. Figure 2 shows the amount of absorption of each greenhouse gas. A major problem glossed over is that H2O and CO2 overlap so you don’t know at the top of the atmosphere which gas is absorbing the Longwave.

But don’t worry – the IPCC only consider changes and reductions caused by CO2 and CH4 (Figure 3).

There so many problems with the science that it’s impossible to list them all beyond the very narrow focus of official science. Figure 3 has a column (LOSU) where they falsely claim a “High” level of scientific understanding. Notice the “Radiation Forcing” at the bottom says CO2 causes >2 watts per square meter.

TOA downward solar flux Figure 4
Various estimated insolation values
at the top of the atmosphere (TOA)
for 20 climate computer models

Figure 4 shows estimates used for different computer climate models of the amount of insolation entering the top of the atmosphere (TOA). It has a range of some 10 watts per square meter. In other words the error of the estimate of incoming insolation is five times greater than the effect of CO2.

Blinds on the greenhouse window create cooling. Clouds are nature’s blinds. Cosmic Rays (CR) reaching the lower atmosphere cause cloud formation. CR varies as solar magnetic strength varies and that correlates with cloud cover and global temperature change. Figure 5 shows the correlation between CR and low cloud cover. None of this information is included in the IPCC Reports that are the sole basis of all government actions.

Graph after Marsh and Svensmark, The Chilling Stars (2007) p.77 Figure 5
Low cloud cover and Cosmic Rays
Source: Graph after Marsh and Svensmark,
“The Chilling Stars” (2007) p.77

In the first IPCC Reports, they claimed CO2 remained in the atmosphere for 100 years, it turned out to be 5-6 years. In subsequent reports they faced the problem that even if CO2 doubles or triples there is a limit to the amount of temperature increase. Differences in the amount of maximum temperature increase ranges from 1.29°C to 2.92°C, but why? They don’t agree on the input data or the basic physics. IPCC got around the problem of an upper maximum increase by inventing a multiplier. They claimed a positive feedback occurred as follows: CO2 increases temperature, which increases evaporation and increased water vapor as a greenhouse gas causes more temperature increase. The problem is, temperature increases before CO2 and the positive feedback is actually negative, partly because of increased cloud cover.

When specialists examined how climate science applied individual components of the complex climate system, they realized how they were misused. Swedish mathematician Claes Johnson explains where the basic problem of radiation lies in the greenhouse effect:

The basic postulate of IPCC climate alarmism is the relation dQ = 4 dT connecting radiative forcing dQ to global warming dT, with dQ = 4 Watts/m^2 from doubling of CO2 giving a climate sensitivity or global warming of dT = 1 C, which is inflated to 1.5 – 4.5 C by feed back.

The relation dQ = 4 dT comes from Stefan-Boltzmann”s Radiation Law, which cannot be disputed as such.

The reason the Radiation Law does not determine the temperature of the surface of the Earth to its value of 15 C, is that the Earth is one part of the coupled Earth-atmosphere system with radiation exchange between the parts. The Radiation Law determines the temperature of the surface of the system, the stratopause, to 0º C, but not the Earth surface temperature.

Does that help? No? (You can read more in Slaying the Sky Dragon.) What it does is explain the gap between “official” science and failed predictions. It also explains how they were able to fool so many people for so long. As Will Rogers said,

It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble. It’s what we know that ain’t so.