The Week That Was: February 23, 2019, Brought to You by www.SEPP.org
By Ken Haapala, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project
The Greenhouse Effect: this is the first in a series on the greenhouse effect as it is being measured in the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases are nearly transparent to sunlight but partially opaque to thermal radiation from Earth’s surface and atmosphere. The greenhouse effect is a predicted warming of the surface and lower atmosphere and a cooling of the stratosphere and upper atmosphere as the concentration of greenhouse gases increases. The most important greenhouse gas is water vapor, H2O. Carbon dioxide, CO2, is of lesser importance. Nitrous oxide, N2O, and methane, CH4, make only minor contributions to greenhouse warming. The most abundant gases in the atmosphere, nitrogen, N2, and oxygen, O2, are not greenhouse gases since they are nearly transparent to both sunlight and thermal radiation. There is no doubt that the greenhouse effect exists, but there is considerable uncertainty about how large it is.
Many economic models show that small warming of any kind will benefit the Earth, for example, by lengthening growing seasons and by lessening human mortality due to extreme cold. Separately, increasing concentrations of CO2 have enormously positive effects on the growth of crops and forests. Greening of the Earth from more CO2 is already being observed from satellites. It is important to resolve whether the greenhouse effect from credible increases in CO2 concentrations will be modest and beneficial or large and harmful. Theoretical uncertainties in science have traditionally been resolved by comparing theoretical predictions with observations. Comparing predicted and observed temperature changes of the surface and lower atmosphere is an incisive way to resolve theoretical uncertainties about the magnitude of the greenhouse effect.
Surface and lower-atmospheric temperatures are expected to warm in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. But surface temperatures, and their global averages, are influenced by other factors, like land-use changes, suburban and urban development. Surface temperatures are measured by thermometers here and there—sometimes in very bad locations—, and effort is made to interpolate between sites, often poorly. In contrast, satellites can measure atmospheric temperatures with nearly full sampling of the globe and with few of the systematic errors that plague surface measurements.
Instruments on satellites measure the intensity of microwave radiation emitted by the atmosphere. Temperatures are deduced from these intensities by methods analogous to those used in scanning temporal thermometers, available in most pharmacies. Atmospheric temperatures determined from satellite observations have been confirmed by direct measurements of temperature from weather balloons, many hundreds of which are launched every day.
Another reason to use atmospheric rather than surface temperatures as the touchstone for testing climate models is that climate models predict maximum warming at altitudes of 5 to 10 km in the tropical atmosphere. Lesser warmings are predicted for the surface, where it is harder to make reliable measurements.
Using atmospheric temperature data, John Christy et al. have repeatedly shown that the global climate models, in general, greatly overestimate the warming of the bulk atmosphere. Using 60 years of weather balloon data, Ross McKitrick and Christy have shown that an assumed pronounced warming centered over the tropics at about 30,000 to 35,000 feet (9 to 11 km, 300 to 200 millibars) is not found. The McKitrick and Christy study reinforces a 2007 study by Douglas, Christy, Pearson and Singer. This “hot spot” may be logically derived from a warming of the surface, whatever the cause. Its failure to appear after 60 years of observations is significant. There is something wrong with the theory. methodology, and/or procedure used by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its followers such as the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and the models on which they rely.
TWTW addressed this lack of a pronounced warming in the context of the widely accepted Global Annual Energy Budget by Kiehl and Trenberth on January 26 and February 2. The vicinity of center of the graphic depicts the concepts at issue “Thermals and Evapotranspiration” at the surface absorbing heat then rising in the atmosphere then releasing latent heat in the atmosphere. Based on the evidence presented by McKitrick and Christy, these processes are not intensifying. Thus, assumptions that storms, floods, droughts, etc. are intensifying are not justified by observational evidence.
Using observed evidence, Christy et al. have shown that the divergence between climate models and actual nature is increasing. The divergence is likely to continue unless the theory and methodology used by the IPCC, et al., are changed substantially. This is the first of several TWTWs that will address our understanding of the actual greenhouse gas effect and why the efforts of the IPCC, et al. are faulty.
Although not comprehensive and not embodied in a coherent theory, significant observational data of the atmosphere are being collected. These data suggest the IPCC has significantly overestimated the total greenhouse gas effect, especially that of carbon dioxide. These data bring into question the right side of what is depicted in the Kiehl and Trenberth diagram, the outgoing surface radiation resulting in far less outgoing longwave radiation. Unfortunately, outgoing longwave radiation, which is in the infrared range, cannot be observed from the surface.
The 1979 Charney report assumed that the greenhouse gas effect of carbon dioxide, which had been measured by laboratory experiments, would be greatly amplified by increased water vapor. Since there were no comprehensive measurements of outgoing longwave radiation, there was no hard evidence supporting or refuting this concept. Thus, the 1979 Charney report embodied speculation concerning the impact of greenhouse gases that may have been appropriate at that time; but, as with atmospheric temperature trends, this speculation has been superseded by observational data.
To better express the effects of greenhouse gases on outgoing infrared radiation, it is useful to think of placing thin layers of slightly smoky glass over a bright light shining through a window with each layer of glass being less smoky, clearer. As more layers are placed on, the total effect increases, but effect of the last layer is less noticeable than the previous one. In terminology that will follow in future TWTWs, if there is no interference with the light (electromagnetic energy) passing through the atmosphere (the window), it is said to be transparent. If there is considerable interference with the light (electromagnetic energy) passing through the atmosphere, it is said to be opaque. Different greenhouse gases interfere with different wavelengths of outbound infrared energy. At a particular wavelength, carbon dioxide may be transparent to infrared energy, yet at a different wavelength, opaque to infrared energy. The ability of greenhouse gases to absorb, then re-emit energy varies with the wavelength of the energy.
Since the advent of the satellite era, several countries have been compiling data on the atmosphere. For example, with what is called the A-Train of multiple satellites, and a similar, lower orbiting, C-Train, satellites from the US, France, and Japan collect a wide variety of data, including visible, infrared and microwave energy, phases of water, studies of vegetation, atmospheric pollutants, greenhouse gases, aerosols, clouds, water levels on land areas, snow depths, etc. The information is shared among international partners.
Future installments in TWTW will discussed how these data, and other data, are compiled and developed into databases that are available to the public and can be downloaded onto personal computers. Further discussions will include how these calculations based on observations contradict the findings of the IPCC, etc., and their models. See links under Defending the Orthodoxy and Measurement Issues – Atmosphere.
It’s Not Real; It’s Puccini: People often suspend realism. In the movie “Spiderman” the hero swings through the canyons of Manhattan using threads of “spider silk” he attaches from building to building as he travels down the street. In Puccini’s La Boheme, the leading lady sings a beautiful aria on her death bed, in the last stages of consumption, tuberculous filling her lungs will bodily fluids. The realist may say that is not possible. The opera buff may respond it’s not real; it’s Puccini.
Human imagination is boundless.
Unfortunately, many scientists, commentators and politicians expect other physicists and commentators to suspend realism when examining climate science produced by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and other reports from similar organizations. Critical thinking is not welcome.
For example, 40 years of calculations from comprehensive satellite data show that the atmosphere is warming modestly, but not over the Antarctic. The calculations are verified using temperature measurements by different instruments in weather balloons, taken over a part of the atmosphere. The greenhouse effect occurs in the atmosphere. The temperature trends in the atmosphere include effects of all greenhouse gases, such as changes in carbon dioxide (CO2) and water vapor occurring from natural El Niño events.
The IPCC, etc. use surface temperatures, which are not comprehensive and include many other influences such as urbanization and change in land use. Surface temperature trends show a far greater warming rate than atmospheric trends. The IPCC, etc. claim that the primary cause of surface warming is carbon dioxide and that it is dangerous for humans. The advocates of dangerous warming have not produced a substantiated foundation, a tested hypothesis that demonstrates how a minor warming of the atmosphere causes a far greater warming of the surface. Further, the models they use predict a pronounced warming of the upper troposphere above the tropics, a “tropical hot spot.” Observations by balloons, and satellites show that it’s simply not there. It is as if the Climate Establishment is saying about their work: it’s not physics, it’s climate science!
Will Happer – Realist: President Trump did the unthinkable for many. He appointed a distinguished physicist, William Happer, to a committee being formed to review the security risks to the nation from climate change. Readers may recall that TWTW has suggested that the threat assessments are dubious at best. They lack critical thinking. Fort Eustis, VA, on the James River, is listed as one of the military facilities most at risk from sea level rise caused by global warming. The tidal gages in the area show that sea levels are not rising by an unusual extent.
But, the entire area of Norfolk / Newport News, which is on the low coastal plane, is sinking. Land subsidence is occurring, primarily from ground water extraction from two major wells which are forming clear funnels that show subsiding land centered on these wells. One well is at West Point on the York River about 30 miles northeast of Fort Eustis. The other well is in Franklin, Virginia, about 50 miles southwest of Fort Eustis. A cost-effective alternative for water may be to replace these wells with one or two desalination plants similar to that employed in Carlsbad, CA, using prefiltration technology developed in Israel.
When the appointment of Happer was announced, the global warming chorus roared – how dare the president appoint a physicist who may question the threat assessments by experts. The noise may be reminiscent of the uproar the occurred when President Reagan dared question the assessments of the experts who considered that the Soviet economy was comparable to that of the US, including the first US Nobel laureate in economics. After the Soviet economy collapsed, the critics of Reagan forgot their previous economic assessments.
A sample of the response to Happer can be found in an editorial in Science Magazine written by a journalist for an environmental news service, E & E News.
“Happer, who is not a climate scientist, has rejected mainstream climate science for years. He routinely says that carbon dioxide is not a pollutant and that the world could burn more fossil fuels without harm. Happer heads a group called the CO2 Coalition, which advocates for a rejection of climate science, and he has said the world is in a ‘CO2 drought.’”
“’Frankly, it’s insulting to those in the intelligence community and those who are in our science agencies,’ [Francesco] Femia [co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security] said. ‘Within the Pentagon and within the intelligence community, there are a lot of people who are evidence-driven, fact-driven, science-driven patriots, and they see a risk and they begin to put that into their analysis because they know if you don’t do so, you’re going to have a blind spot on security. And that’s never a good thing.’”
Such comments prompt a response such as, “Why do these evidence-driven, fact-driven, science-driven patriots ignore atmospheric temperature trends, where the greenhouse gas effect occurs?” And “What is fact-based about claims of exponential sea level rise, increasing sea levels by an ever-increasing rate?”
But, perhaps the most pointed response came from physicist Luboš Motl in his blog, The Reference Frame, when addressing political comments by former mayor Michael Bloomberg and Senator Chuck Schumer:
“Can’t they see that Happer clearly knows more about these matters – especially the absorption of electromagnetic radiation (the greenhouse effect is an example) and the relative CO2 famine in the present – than they and their Senate clubs and aides combined? Bullying of a scientist by a politician is the right word here.”
This goes to the core. The enormous benefits of carbon dioxide fertilization are well-documented, substantiated by experiments and real-world observations, but ignored by the IPCC and the climate chorus. Worse, the IPCC, etc. have produced a distorted version of the absorption and reemission of electromagnetic radiation (the greenhouse effect). See links under Challenging the Orthodoxy, Defending the Orthodoxy, Changing Seas, and Other Scientific News.
Hurricanes and Climate Change: On her web site, Climate Etc., Judith Curry has posted two installments on a series about Hurricanes & Climate Change. The first is on detection, going back about 5,000 years. The second is on attribution which she states must be based on observations, not models. See links under Models v. Observations.
Additions and Corrections: A reader on WUWT wrote that TWTW linked to the headline of comments on a paper changing ocean pH with changing wind patterns. The link created the impression that the paper contradicted recent lowering of pH claimed by many. Actually, the paper showed 159-year reconstruction of pH based on a set of coral collected in the northern South China Sea. TWTW should have made such a comment under the link.
Number of the Week: Not €1.57 billion, but closer to €7 billion. An EU energy study claimed that annual levies on UK consumers in 2016 for subsidies to renewable electricity were €1.57 billion, whereas the correct figure is closer to €7 billion. It seems that subsidies for green energy are experiencing more exponential growth than increases in sea level. See link under Problems in the Orthodoxy.
1. The Green New Deal’s Impossible Electric Grid
Renewable energy can’t consistently balance power supply with demand.
By Robert Blohm, WSJ, Feb 20, 2019
“Mr. Blohm is an elected member of the Operating Committee and the Standards Committee of the North American Electric Reliability Corp., the continental bulk electric system’s reliability regulator designated by the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005 and by all the Canadian provinces’ energy regulators.”
In expressing a critical concern Mr Blohm writes:
“The Democrats’ Green New Deal calls for a fully renewable electric power grid. Regardless of the economic or political challenges of bringing this about, it is likely technologically impossible.
“An electric power grid involves second-by-second balancing between generated supply and consumer demand. In the case of a sudden imbalance—such as from the loss of a generator’s output—all the remaining generators on the grid instantaneously pool together. Each one pitches in a small part of the required power to make up for the lost generator fast enough to keep supply and demand balanced.
“This doesn’t work for wind and solar because you can’t spontaneously increase wind or sunshine. Hydro power is limited and unevenly distributed around the country. And for safety reasons, nuclear power—even if the Green New Dealers accepted it—can’t be cranked up to neutralize imbalances. Nor can consumer demand be suddenly reduced enough.
“Fossil-fuel turbines, by contrast, very naturally compensate for sudden supply outages. The inertia of the spinning mass of rotors provides the extra energy needed to compensate for the loss for the first few seconds. (Wind-rotor inertia is too short-lived.) Meanwhile the generators’ on-line reserve capacity kicks in, giving a rapid boost in power output to prevent the turbines from slowing down. That substitute power, called “governor response,” lasts as long as 15 minutes. During that time a single replacement generator ramps up to compensate entirely for the loss. All the turbines on the grid are thereby restored to their original speed, and the governor response is rearmed for the next disturbance.
An all-renewables grid would require prohibitively expensive battery storage to compensate for sudden power losses. Even with batteries, the lost power would have to be fed through “inverters”—a technology that converts variable-wind-speed alternating current, solar-power direct current, and battery-power direct-current into alternating current—to allow for synthetic inertia and governor response in the case of a disruption.
“But according to a 2017 report from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, if a large enough share of the power grid flows through inverters, the grid itself may collapse. Existing inverter technologies have faced serious software problems and prompted outages where they have been deployed. The IEEE is trying to create a global standard for inverter design—though heavy input by Chinese suppliers bent on commandeering the technology may pose a national-security risk if the U.S. were to incorporate the standard.
“How could the market price in the cost of providing rapid replacement energy that renewable sources can’t provide reliably? The entity that caused the outage should need to pay. Yet the power industry—to say nothing of the Green New Dealers—hasn’t given this much thought. An all-renewables power grid is destined to collapse.”