CO2 Climate Forcing In The Earth System Context: The Honey Bee Versus The Sun

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Over the course of a 12 hour period on a cloudless day, 500 Wm-2 of solar energy pummels past the ocean surface to depths of 20 or more meters, warming up the first 2 meters of the ocean by 2.0 K.

Image Source: Fairall et al., 1996

In contrast, the infrared radiation absorbed and re-emitted in all directions by CO2 molecules cannot penetrate past the ocean’s 0.1 to 1 mm “thick” skin layer.

Image Source: Skeptical Science blog

Clouds and Ocean Domination

How much solar radiation is absorbed by the Earth system’s heat reservoir – the oceans, where 93% of the globe’s heat energy resides – is significantly determined by changes in decadal-scale cloud cover.

Direct short wave and long wave (i.e., “greenhouse effect”) forcing from the reduction or increase in cloud cover dominates as the modulator of Earth’s energy budget changes.

CO2’s influence is minimal and easily overwhelmed in these processes, as “the greenhouse effect of clouds may be larger than that resulting from a hundredfold increase in the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere.”

Image Source: Ramanathan et al., 1989, Wielicki et al., 2002

Satellite observations of decadal-scale cloud cover changes indicate that between the 1980s and 2000s about 3 to 6-7 Wm-2 of direct short wave forcing was additionally absorbed by the Earth’s oceans.  This may account for the warming trend in recent decades.

Image Source(s): Ogurtsov et al., 2012 , Pinker et al., 2005, Goode and Palle, 2007

CO2’s Honey Bee-Sized Contribution

According to a widely cited analysis of the CO2 radiative contribution to the Earth’s greenhouse effect, there was a 0.2 Wm-2 per decade forcing associated with a CO2 change of 22 ppm during 2000 to 2010.

The seasonal mean range for DWLWR (downwelling long wave radiation) reaches amplitudes of ~30 Wm-2 over the course of months.  This range is more than a 100 times larger than the entire DWLWR CO2 forcing contribution over 11 years.

Image Source: Feldman et al., 2015, Okulaer, 2015

CO2 concentration changes are registered in parts per million (ppm, 0.000001).  This means that for the 100 ppm rise in CO2 from the last glacial period to the warm interglacial we enjoy now (from ~180 ppm to ~280 ppm), the gaseous representation of CO2 in the atmosphere rose from <2 parts in 10,000 parts to <3 parts in 10,000 parts.

Since it took about 5,000 years for CO2 to rise by 1 part in 10,000 parts, this is the forcing equivalent of 0.006 Wm-2 per decade using the calculations of Dr. James Hansen (and the IPCC).

A CO2 forcing of 0.006 Wm-2 per decade is “about a third of the energy required to power a honey bee in flight.”

Image Source: Hansen et al., 2012 and  Ellis and Palmer, 2016

Uncertainty, Errors 10-100 Times Larger Than CO2 Forcing

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), uncertainty in the factors influencing the ocean heat flux reach amplitudes of 20 Wm-2.  This uncertainty is more than 10 times larger than the entire forcing contribution from CO2 since 1900 (<2 Wm-2).

“Unfortunately, the total surface heat and water fluxes … are not well observed. The uncertainty in the observational estimate is large – of the order of tens of watts per square metre for the heat flux, even in the zonal mean.” IPCC AR4 (2007)

Image Source: IPCC AR5 (2013)

The IPCC also identifies error ranges for long wave (LW) forcing that range between 5-15 Wm-2.

Image Source: IPCC AR4 (2007)

The Earth’s energy budget is assumed to be imbalanced, as more energy is said to be absorbed by the system than leaving it.

During 2000-2010, Earth’s energy imbalance was believed to be 0.6 Wm-2. The uncertainty range for this value was ±17 Wm-2, meaning the energy imbalance could have ranged anywhere from -16.4 Wm-2 to +17.6 Wm-2, which is more than ten times larger than the changes to the net surface fluxes associated with increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Image Source: Stephens et al., 2012

The ARGO data measuring ocean heat content launched in the early 2000s, but the coverage still leaves much of the non-uniformly warming and cooling regions of the ocean unsampled.  Sampling errors can range anywhere from 10 to 200 Wm-2.

Image Source: Hadfield et al., 2007

Renowned Climate Scientists Ask A Never-Answered Question

In late 2013, five American Physical Sociey (APS) climate scientists published a framing document designed to re-examine the physical basis for the IPCC’s “consensus” position(s) on climate change.

Using the IPCC’s acknowledgement of ocean data uncertainty and low confidence that an anthropogenic signal can be detected amid the noise of natural variability, a cogent question was posed pertaining to the claims of certainty that humans exert fundamental control over the the climate of the Earth system.

The question has never been answered.

Image Source: American Physical Society
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23 responses to “CO2 Climate Forcing In The Earth System Context: The Honey Bee Versus The Sun”

  1. BobW in NC

    All of this, and yet our politicians decry lack of effort to become “carbon-free” to save our planet, never mind that anthropogenic CO2 constitutes only 0.1 % of all “greenhouse” gasses once the major such gas (water vapor = 95% of total) is factored in.

    Are such people nuts, or what?

  2. SebastianH

    Over the course of a 12 hour period on a cloudless day, 500 Wm-2 of solar energy pummels past the ocean surface to depths of 20 or more meters, warming up the first 2 meters of the ocean by 2.0 K.

    The average daylight is 12 hours per day Earth wide? The average amount in irradiation that gets absorbed over those 12 hours is 500 W/m² in all seasons for the whole planet? Has anyone confirmed these numbers? 😉

    BTW: this solar warming is not really a warming since it always happened. The system reached a balance state where it doesn’t further heat up due to the daily sunshine penetrating the surface. That’s why science talks about forcings, those are … well … forces that cause the balance state to change. The oceans aren’t accumulating heat to warm up 2 K every day.

    Forcings result in a heat buildup over time though (well, until a new balance state is reached). To stay with the fun hypothetical example of the paper you screenshot there: feel free to calculate what happens to a 2 m layer of water with the area of the global oceans when it accumulates 1 W/m² of surface area over 30 years without mixing 😉 I spare you the trouble … that would be around 946.1 MJ of energy per 2000 litres of water. Assuming a litre of ocean water weighs 1000 g, that’s a warming of 113 K. You are welcome. Don’t we are all glad that the ocean layers mix?

    In contrast, the infrared radiation absorbed and re-emitted in all directions by CO2 molecules cannot penetrate past the ocean’s 0.1 to 1 mm “thick” skin layer.

    Why would it need to penetrate deeper or at all? Do you still not understand how the CO2 warming, or really any warming that is based on radiative transfers changing, works? At least try to understand what the other side is saying before you concoct arguments like this one.

    The seasonal mean range for DWLWR (downwelling long wave radiation) reaches amplitudes of ~30 Wm-2 over the course of months. This range is more than a 100 times larger than the entire DWLWR CO2 forcing contribution over 11 years.

    Umm, do you know the difference between seasonal changes (or daily changes for that matter) and an ever increasing forcing due to more CO2, right? How do you even start to compare those two things in this way?

    In case this really is an enigma to you average both over long time periods and you might eventually find out what the difference is.

    Since it took about 5,000 years for CO2 to rise by 1 part in 10,000 parts, this is the forcing equivalent of 0.006 Wm-2 per decade using the calculations of Dr. James Hansen (and the IPCC).

    Why are you suddenly talking about CO2 forcing over 5000 years in times where CO2 concentration was largely determined by ocean outgassing and the biosphere and not human emissions?

    According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), uncertainty in the factors influencing the ocean heat flux reach amplitudes of 20 Wm-2. This uncertainty is more than 10 times larger than the entire forcing contribution from CO2 since 1900 (<2 Wm-2). […] During 2000-2010, Earth’s energy imbalance was believed to be 0.6 Wm-2. The uncertainty range for this value was ±17 Wm-2, meaning the energy imbalance could have ranged anywhere from -16.4 Wm-2 to +17.6 Wm-2, which is more than ten times larger than “the changes to the net surface fluxes associated with increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

    Are you sure you understand your own claim here? Imagine you have a mercury thermometer without any scale, e.g. very high uncertainty about the absolute value of the temperature. Can you use this thermometer to determine if it’s warmer today than yesterday?

    The ARGO data measuring ocean heat content launched in the early 2000s, but the coverage still leaves much of the non-uniformly warming and cooling regions of the ocean unsampled. Sampling errors can range anywhere from 10 to 200 Wm-2.

    Is that worse or better than say determining ocean heat content ocean wide from a reconstruction of temperatures at a certain depth at a single location in that ocean? Just asking for a friend who insists on mentioning a certain graph from a certain scientist … 😉

    tl;dr:

    CO2 Climate Forcing In The Earth System Context: The Honey Bee Versus The Sun

    You are seriously confused about this topic and you whole chain of arguments is based on that confusion. Fix this and others might take you seriously as a skeptic, don’t fix it and you’ll stay in this niche. I know you don’t care about what others (especially me) think about you, but that is how you guys and you particular get perceived outside your bubble. I am sure you constructed reality sounds plausible to you and there is no way how human made climate change could be even happeing in that reality, but you are still living in a bubble.

  3. Robert Kernodle

    Sebastion asked: “The average amount in irradiation that gets absorbed over those 12 hours is 500 W/m² in all seasons for the whole planet?”

    And now I ask Sebastian: Do you even know what you are asking, when you ask about “amount in irradiation”?

    500 W/m^2 is a flux-density measure, a rate-of-flow measure. What “amount” is it that you are looking for in a 12-hour period? Amount of what? Jouls, maybe? But then you’d be talking about energy, and not about irradiation.

    What amount exactly would you be interested in?

    Beyond this, your entire response seems confused.

    1. SebastianH

      Is irradiation not the proper term to refer to the result of solar irradiance? That’s at least what I meant and the screenshot refers to a theoretical warming of an unmixed 2m surface layer if that amount of energy (500 W in 12 hours) was applied to heating those 2000 litres of water in said 2x1x1m volume.

      Did that clear up your confusion?

  4. RickWill

    In contrast, the infrared radiation absorbed and re-emitted in all directions by CO2 molecules cannot penetrate past the ocean’s 0.1 to 1 mm “thick” skin layer.

    Radiation is EMR – Electro-Magnetic Radiation. It exists by virtue of the presence of the electric field and the magnetic field that exist in the universe. EMR is able to transfer energy from a high potential source to a low potential receiver. Energy CANNOT be transferred from low potential to higher potential in the electric field. That means a CO2 molecule at lower potential (temperature) than the surface below simply cannot transfer energy against the electric field to the serface below.

    1. SebastianH

      You are correct. That is not what is happening here at all and this is why I find it fascinating that skeptics nevertheless try to argue against this strawmen (or “bark at the wrong tree”).

      To repeat: no energy transfer from the atmospheric CO2 towards the surface is happening … that’s impossible.

      1. John Brown

        Great, now at least this is out of the way!

        This will making the explanation for the mechanics a great deal easier!

        Right you are!

  5. tom0mason

    Kenneth Richard you’ve excelled again. Well done for once again putting some rationality into the CO2 and climate question.
    Well done.

    Sun and seas, that’s what makes the climate go around, while the effects of CO2 are lost in the noise along the trip.

    So may the cAGW types continue to babble, as it shows that without constant reinforcement their suppositions/assumptions/mechanisms falls apart. If they were to just shut-up and think rationally maybe (just maybe) they could see how dumb their so called ‘CO2 theory’ truly is.
    It’s about time Svante Arrhenius’ CO2 ideas were put away just like those of luminiferous Aether, and the ‘vital caloric’ have been (those same ideas Arrhenius would have understood). See ‘2.2 Aethereal Misunderstanding versus Subatomic Heat Transfer’ at http://geologist-1011.net/net/greenhouse/ for a very reasonable, and well reasoned synopsis of this ‘greenhouse’ idea.

  6. Petit_Barde

    Apart from the great uncertainties of the mesured data showed in Figure 1B, in the Nature Geoscience’s article “An update on Earth’s energy balance in light of the latest global observations”:

    – the atmopshere downward radiative flux is 345.6 W/m²
    – the surface upward radiative flux is 398W/m²
    – the atmospheric window is 20W/m²

    So the net radiative flux between the surface and the atmopshere is upward :
    – the all-sky atmosphere absorbs 398-20-345.6 = 32.4 W/m² in the infrared spectrum from the upward radiative flux emitted by the surface.
    I assume that this absorption is entirely caused by the “greenhouse” gases even if some of this upward flux may be absorbed by clouds.

    On the other hand, the atmosphere emits by its own infrared radiation 239.7-26.7 = 213 W/m² into space.

    So, in the infrared spectrum the atmosphere loses 213-32.4= 180.6 W/m² by its own radiative absorption / emission properties.

    The question is :
    – apart from active gases in the infrared spectrum (H2O vapor, CO2, O3, …) are there any other atmospheric components that can radiate those 180.6 W/m² into space ?

  7. Yonason

    This post by an actual physicist totally debunks the magical thinking of warmists.
    https://objectivistindividualist.blogspot.com/2013/02/infrared-absorbing-gases-and-earths.html?m=1

    It’s a rather long post, but that’s because there are so MANY errors to be exposed.

    1. SebastianH

      He doesn’t. Stopped reading when it became clear this was another one of those backyard “scientists” who think gravity is causing the warmer surface and greenhouse gases actually cause cooling. You believe this nonsense though, right?

      1. P Gosselin

        You mean you stopped reading when it challenged your dogma.

        1. SebastianH

          I stopped reading when it challenged my intellect. You guys often accuse “warmists” of being believers and call climate science a religion. But when reading something like that and so called skeptical commentators cheer it up as “look what an actual physicist” (as compared to the non actual physicists?!?!) says, that’s got to be the truth because I like it very much … well then it becomes very clear that this is very close to being a religion with true believers. Have fun not challenging your dogma.

          1. John Brown

            “I stopped reading when it challenged my intellect.”

            Thanks Seb for being honest. It will pay in the long run!

        2. Yonason

          @Pierre

          The first mention of the gravitational effect on the atmosphere is this one.

          ”The substantial temperature gradient in the lower atmosphere due to gravity will be calculated and discussed.”

          How convenient for the troll that this sentence is in the 4th paragraph of the intro, thus sparing his defective neuron the pain of grappling with the rest of the article.

          Scrolling down to and reading the section ”The Temperature Gradient in the Troposphere Due to Gravity and that due to Convection”, we see that what the author intends in his treatment involving gravity is nothing other than what is accepted meteorological science. So how could SebH object? Simple. His arguments are never about the science.

    2. tom0mason

      Yonason,

      Good link, good read. Proper reasoned science from Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. a materials physicist. No mysterious unreal ‘mechanism’ lurking in the shadows to cloud-out (pun intended 🙂 ) the gross unscientific inconsistencies of the current prevailing CO2 dogma. I shall re-read and cogitate on it for a while.

      However I note that he’s up-dated the write-up and the new version is at https://objectivistindividualist.blogspot.com/2015/03/why-greenhouse-gas-theory-is-wrong.html
      Essentially the same but with the diagrams and tables made more readable.
      Also of note is that a printable .pdf version is available on request.

      1. Yonason

        Thanks for the update info, tomO.

    3. Petit_Barde

      Thanks Yonason (and tom0mason for the update link),

      excellent article based on actual science, observations and logic.

      The CO2 absorption (and thermalization) in the lower troposphere is only half of the story.

      The CO2 also radiates into space and according to observations, the so called “greenhouse” gases emits into space way more than they absorb in the lower troposphere (see the figure 1B, but also Kiehl & Trenberth 1997, NASA 2006 and NASA 2009 Earth’s energy budget and also in Kondratyev 1969 – Radiation in the atmosphere (a must have !)).

      The upward (and downward) convection completes the cooling process, by heat exchange between the lower troposphere and the radiatively cooled upper troposphere (and beyond since there are also turbulent exchanges between the upper troposphere and the tropopause).

      Another question to ask (in the same vein) :
      – what would be the mean temperatures of the atmosphere whithout active gases in the infrared spectrum ? Lower or higher than actual temperatures ?

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