Can I resist temptation?

Julian Sanchez speculates:

Given the choice between an ultimately misguided but thoughtful post, for which the aforementioned piss-taking might require some research or careful grappling with facially plausible arguments, and some hack’s latest howler, a lot of us are going to find it tempting to take the easy shot. I know there are definitely a few sites I visit almost exclusively to hunt for fodder — places I know I won’t just find ideas I disagree with intensely, but ideas I disagree with intensely backed by moronic arguments that are good for a bit of fun. I can’t say for sure how widespread that instinct is, but there are certain sites I have to suspect get a decent percentage of their traffic from links of the ritualistic “look what reprehensible nonsense the Other Side has cooked up today” variety.

Well, some of us can resist such temptations.

i-c1c9665d7dd68924c47beade3c7d1e09-pinata.jpg
Tim Blair is a piñata full of stupid. Every time you whack him with a clue stick some more stupid comes out.

Even Blair’s supporters were telling him that he got the science wrong. For example:

Um, what exactly is wrong with anything Lambert said?

If you like, it can be explained as “the Earth is radiating more heat away from it”. This would avoid reference to “the rest of the universe”, which seems to be causing you issues. But where else are you expecting the heat to go?

Stick to picking political fights, you usually win those.

Or this poster, who grudgingly concedes that Gore and I got the science correct. (Though out of partisan dislike claims that neither of us knew what we were talking about.)

So, after all this discussion, what does Blair add in an update? More stupid, in a comment from Tex, who doesn’t believe in the conservation of mass:

I just ate a pie. Please ask one of your American blogger friends to also eat a pie, or the earth’s gravitational field will be thrown out of balance, making the earth crash into the sun.

In other news, a computer scientist and ‘dynamite fact checker’ in NSW shows signs of Severe Derangement Syndrome.

Hey, Tex! Eating a pie doesn’t destroy its mass. Though I suppose we’ll being seeing a campaign by the Discovery Institute one of these days: “Liberals say that matter cannot be created or destroyed. But the Bible says that God created the world. Science classes should teach the controversy.”

Oh, yeah. The radiative forcing from increased CO2 of 1.5 W/m2 adds up to a lot of energy over the entire Earth — 400,000 times as much as the electricity production of the entire world.

Comments

  1. #1 tim
    June 10, 2006

    Well, someone sure is in a bad mood! What’s the matter, mate? Your pet panda drown? Some bad tacos (to continue the Mexican theme) causing radiative forcing issues? Lose another bet to those right-wing idiots who get everything wrong?

  2. #2 tim
    June 10, 2006

    “Well, some of us can resist such temptations.”

    I think you meant to write: “Well, some of us can’t resist such temptations.”

  3. #3 mark
    June 10, 2006

    “Piñata full of stupid”. That’s excellent! Heh, heh.

    Blair’s site certainly worked for me in the way Julian Sanchez describes. Then, of course, I was banned from it for challenging one of his sillier claims, which nicely shows the fundamental opposition to liberalism, rationality and free speech which lies at the centre of his politics.

  4. #4 john armour
    June 10, 2006

    Tex should worry more about the conservation of angrier momentum lest the planet chuck a wobbly.

  5. #5 Ian Gould
    June 10, 2006

    Tim B: Well, someone sure is in a bad mood!

    Yes, and soemone appears to be making a particularly graceless and indirect concession that he got the facts completely wrong.

    By the way Tim, since you’re such a stickler for the proper use of language, explain to us the difference between the statements “Some of us can’t resist…” and “Some of us can resist…”

    Because from my perspective it’s much the same as the “rest of the universe” statement. See if Earth emits radiation then by definition, that radiation goes to “the rest of the universe”. Similarly, if we divide “us” into those who can and those who can’t resist temptation, stating that either of these two groups exist implies the existence of the other.

    I, of course, fall into the “can’t resist” category.

  6. #6 Lee
    June 10, 2006

    While Tim Blair is here, let me thank him for 15 minutes of some of the most humorous reading I’ve done in recent memory. I read that thread on Blair’s site, and was rolling in flabbergasted snorting laughter through most of it. I haven’t seen such a dense assortment of examples of earnestly-offered and thoroughly wrong grand pronouncements on matters physical since… well… I cant remember when. Mr Blair, you must be *so* proud of your readers.

    Perhaps my favorite was the announcement that there can NOT be in imbalance between energy in and energy out, because (he said with grave authority) the earth is in thermal equilibrium. Well, I guess that settles the entire issue of global warming; it CANT happen (this gentleman tells us) the earth can NOT warm, because energy in apparently MUST equal energy out at all times. Got it. Now we know that all those scientists wasting time trying to **actualy measure** if there is an imbalance, and see if the earth is actually in thermal equilibrium or not, are simply idiots and should have just asked this guy. Why did no one think to do that before?

  7. #7 Lee
    June 10, 2006

    Oh, and I have to give an honorable mention to the guy who kept asking “W/m2 of what?”

    Hint – remember what Gore said about “earth” and “the rest of the universe?” Think that might imply a boundary with.. ummm… a surface area, perhaps?

    I would have posted this over there, but I didnt want to give Mr. Blair the column inches – and honestly, I would have been ashamed, at that point, to have my name associated with that thread.

  8. #8 frankis
    June 10, 2006

    tim, metaphorically you really are bumbling around with a big “Kick me, stupid!” sign on you at the moment aren’t you? Read what Ian’s written above for pity’s sake, then see if you can find it in your heart to forgive Tim for the “Piñata full of stupid” crack (which is pretty damn funny don’t you think? :)

  9. #9 Malahatman
    June 11, 2006

    There seems to be a lot of confusion around here about radiative forcing. If Gore said that the energy balance between the Earth and the rest of the Universe has changed because of greenhouse gases, then he is wrong. “[T]his poster, who grudgingly concedes that Gore and I got the science correct” is also terribly confused. Based on a short search on the web, I will try to explain.

    The incoming and outgoing radiation of the Earth has changed over time, but for the discussion of global warming, it may as well be constant. The main point is that energy is not accumulating or being depleted from the Earth as a whole. The incoming and outgoing radiation from the top of the atmosphere are equal.

    The outgoing energy is basically black body radiation, which depends on the fourth power of temperature measured in Kelvins. This must equal the net incoming radiation, or else the energy of the planet would increase or decrease indefinitely.

    Now greenhouse gases and other factors affect how energy is transferred from the lower atmosphere to the upper atmosphere. (See graph). If the surface temperature were to remain unchanged, then there would be a net flux imbalance at the top of the atmosphere of 1.5 W/m2 from CO2, which would mean the Earth would begin absorbing more than it emits. To counter this effect, the surface temperature must rise to increase the output at the top of the atmosphere to achieve equilibrium. This is called radiative forcing.

    This measure is misleading in that the atmosphere never actually suffered the imbalance at a particular instant in time. Rather, the surface temperature rose with radiative forcing to maintain equilibrium. The measurement suggests that if the surface temperature could magically be dropped to the unforced temperature, than the flux imbalance would be this value. But no one is suggesting that this is physically possible.

    So the main idea of global warming is that GHGs are reducing the flux of energy upwards for a given surface temperature, and thus the surface temperature must rise to achieve equilibrium between the incoming radiation from the Sun (and negligibly, other sources), and the outgoing black body radiation of the upper atmosphere.

    I’m not sure if this is consistent with Tim Lambert’s posts on the subject, but it definitely at odds with Gore’s assertion that we are changing the changing the rate of energy emission to “the rest of the Universe,” if that is what he said. (I’ll see the movie when it comes out on DVD.)

  10. #10 frankis
    June 11, 2006

    “The outgoing energy … must equal the net incoming radiation, or else the energy of the planet would increase or decrease …” is correct as you (almost have it) Malahatman. Today we do observe that the planet is warming. Tim Blair quotes Al Gore explaining this as “We are … altering the balance of energy between our planet and the rest of the universe” and there is nothing to be quibbled over is there, you’ve just said the same thing yourself?

    Your state of confusion is not surprising though given the amount of loud ignorance radiating from the void at Tim Blair’s website :)

  11. #11 Paul Crowley
    June 11, 2006

    I think that’s the joke. “Some people can resist such temptation… but not me!”

  12. #12 Malahatman
    June 11, 2006

    Hi frankis,

    I’m sorry, frankis. You still don’t get it. And no, I haven’t looked at Tim Blair’s site.

    Yes, I agree the planet is warming slightly. But the energy being retained is negligible compared to the amount going in and coming out all the time. But to talk about “energy balance” in this context is missing the whole point of global warming. Even Dr. Lambert talks of the 1.5 W/m2 energy flux imbalance, which is the real issue here.

    So, it sounds like Gore’s statement is true, but unrelated to the rest of his movie.

    Let’s agree that the Earth does not have energy flux balance with the rest of the Universe. A spot on the planet absorbs energy during the day, and radiates at night. Even during the seasons, energy the balance changes. The surface retains the heat from the height of Summer and slowly cools as Winter comes. That is why the Summer is warmer than the Spring, and the Fall warmer thn the Winter, even thought they have the same amount of energy coming from the Sun during the seasons.

    There is also some effect from the tilt of the Earth. When a pole is facing the Sun, more light is reflected. And the Earth gets slightly closer and further away during the year.

    As well, the Earth generates some of its own energy from internal radioactivity. and the Sun’s output changes over time.

    But on average, over time and over the entire surface, the Earth has a mean temperature that is smoothed out to the figure we quote. And the energy in is basically equal to the energy out, when averaged over time. This is the “equilibrium” of which we speak. (And the energy out and in every year is far greater than the overall increase due to global warming.)

    Now, let us discuss green house gases.

    The radiation coming from the Sun has short wavelengths, as the Sun is hot. Some of these rays are absorbed by ozone, but for the most part they pass through the atmosphere, as GHGs are not good absorbers at this wavelength. What is not reflected, is absorbed by the surface, raising its temperature.

    The temperature of the Earth’s surface causes it to radiate energy at a longer wavelengths, as it is cooler than the Sun. These wavelengths are readily absorbed by GHGs. As a result, some of the outgoing radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere. Of course, it is re-emitted, but half of it upwards and half of it downwards, in contrast to the absorbed energy which was all going upwards. Thus, the outgoing radiation is diminished.

    This is the origin of the flux imbalance. In order to maintain the flux balance, the surface temperature must rise to increase the amount of outgoing radiation (and slightly shorten its wavelength). Overall, the GHGs in the atmosphere (H20, CO2, CH4, etc.) warm the surface by about 18 C, over what the temperature would be without an atmosphere.

    The point of manmade global warming is that we are increasing the flux imbalance component due to CO2 (currently 1.5 W/m2), forcing the surface temperature to rise even more than the 18C required to maintain energy balance. Of course, the model is not quite so simple. All the radiative forcing factors interact, so it is not a simple direct correlation.

    A more accurate description of global warming is that “we are forcing the temperature to rise in order to maintain energy balance with the rest of the Universe.” It is a shame to get it right throughout the movie, and then end on a misdirection.

  13. #13 Tim Lambert
    June 11, 2006

    Sorry, but the Earth is absorbing more energy that it emits, and this imbalance is warming the Earth. There is nothing wrong with Gore’s statement.

  14. #14 Lee
    June 11, 2006

    Malahatman, this is simple.

    Assuming for the sake of argument that the earth’s ‘temperature’ (stored heat content, if you will) is increasing (and it almost certainly is), then there is more energy coming in than going out. If not, the temperature could not be rising. This is the ‘imbalance’ that Gore describes.

    You say:
    “But on average, over time and over the entire surface, the Earth has a mean temperature that is smoothed out to the figure we quote. And the energy in is basically equal to the energy out, when averaged over time. This is the “equilibrium” of which we speak.”

    Sure, over sufficient time. But warming is hapening right now, at this moment, because right now we are NOT at equilibrium. WE are NOT reradiating as much as we absorb, and the difference is being stored as heat, mostly in the oceans, as the earth warms. We are currently at DIS-equilbrium, not at equilibrium, and so there is RIGHT NOW an imbalance in the net energy in and net energy out, when regarded at the short (annual) time scale relevant to the current disequilibrium and the resultant warming.

    True, once we have warmed enough, net energy out will increase, and we will once again arive at equilibrium. To use your terminology, we have a ‘flux imbalance’ that will equalize at higher temperatures. But that ‘flux imbalance’ is CAUSING an energy imbalance – more energy in than out, difference stored as heat, which will drive the increasing temperatures which will restore the ‘flux balance.’. Which is what Gore described.

    And which is what the absurd posts over at Tim Blair’s site (includign Mr. Blair’s article) missed.

  15. #15 Malahatman
    June 11, 2006

    Oh Dr. Lambert,

    You are right most of the time, and I’m a big fan. But please, be prepared to modify your position on this.

    “[T]he Earth is absorbing more energy that it emits, and this imbalance is warming the Earth.”

    This is just wrong. The Earth actually emits slightly more than it absorbs (due to radioactivity). And the Earth’s surface is warmed by radiative forcing. I got it from a first year meteorology textbook. The mechanism is how I described above.

    I also admire Vice President Gore very much, but I don’t think his grand statement is helping matters. It is misleading.

    The incoming and outgoing radiation are in balance, and this is why the Earth is getting warmer.

    But technically, he is not wrong is one supposes that there is some sort of “balance” in the amount of heat at the surface, rather than balance in the rate of change of heat which is known to climate scientists as “energy balance.” But this choice to assume that there is some preferred amount of energy is merely a value judgement.

    The amount of heat at the Earth’s surface is definitely increasing, but there is no scientific reason to suppose that it is “in balance” at any particular level and “out of balance” at other levels. The only sensible balance described scientifically is that of the rate of incoming and outgoing radiation.

    I suspect that the scientists who vetted his presentation couldn’t say that his statement is wrong. But that is because it is not scientific; it is an appeal to some better time in the past.

  16. #16 Malahatman
    June 11, 2006

    Thank you Lee,

    You are correct. For the equilibrium to shift over the centuries, there must be more energy coming in than going out.

    But my point is that the amount of energy required to increase the temperature over the millenia is dwarfed to insignificance by the energy absorbed and radiated every year.

    Your other point that we are not in equilibrium was already addressed in my previous post. We are never in eqilibrium. But averaging over the whole Earth and over the years, the Earth is in a slowly shifting equilibrium. This is why we can speak of mean global temperature. But your “two finger-breadths” of disequlibrium does not discredit the theory of radiative forcing that I described above.

    You are under the same misapprehension that Dr. Lambert is. The minute “flux imbalance” associated with the rising temperature is the effect and not the cause of the rising temperature. The temperature is rising because of an increase in CO2, which increases radiative forcing.

    This is my problem with Gore’s statement. It induces well-meaning and clever people to defend it on grounds that are incorrect, and not in keeping with the meaning that Gore intended.

  17. #17 frankis
    June 11, 2006

    I think you mean well Malahatman but if you look at your own posts you’ll find running through them a bit of an attempt at that “slowly shifting equilibrium”, as you try to refine your own position. Perhaps you could pose the question by email to a randomly chosen climatologist or two, asking whether in their professional scientist’s opinion there is any infelicity in Gore’s statement? There’s also realclimate.org which for a fair while now has been addressing these very same sorts of questions as posed by the interested general public.
    Cheers.

  18. #18 Malahatman
    June 11, 2006

    Thank you for your concern, frankis,

    I wasn’t aware I was refining my own position. I thought I was responding to challenges that weren’t addressed in earlier posts.

    I did have some time to look into matter more, and discovered I was mistaken. It is unfortunate no one here could have pointed me in the right direction.

    I was misled by Dr. Lambert’s quoting of 1.5 W/m2 for the increase in radiative forcing due to CO2. It turns out that this is the increase in radiative forcing due to CO2 since 1750, which is a rather arbitrary figure.

    Gore was actually referring to Hansen’s work, which measured an average flux imbalance of 0.85 W/m2 over a six year period. That is the Earth is currently aborbing more energy than it radiates on average. Note that this does not mean that the Earth is constantly receiving more. The flux goes positive and negative throughout the day and the seasons. Overall the trend is upwards.

    But if your quote is accurate,
    “We are … altering the balance of energy between our planet and the rest of the universe,” then Gore is not quite saying the same thing as Hansen. We are altering the balance of the flow of energy, not the energy itself. That through me off as well, but then the movie is intended for a lay audience that wouldn’t notice the distinction. I stand by my assertion that there is no preferred “balance” of energy, which sounds pretty new agey, and is how I assume a lot of people will take Gore’s statement. And no, frankis, I don’t think I said there was such a balance. There is no need to put words in my mouth.

    What I neglected to consider is the speed at which the ocean absorbs heat. I was considering the surface of the Earth to be a simple object that absorbs heat as it is applied.

    If the Earth was as simple as I assumed, then the equilibrium would always be maintained. The increase in temperature would still be explained by the increase radiative forcing due to the increase in CO2.

    But the ocean takes time to transmit the energy from the surface to the lower depths. This induces a lag in the absorption of heat necessary to achieve equilibrium. In fact, this means that equilibrium is never achieved despite what Lee says above; the system will always chase the equilibrium point because of this lagging effect. In fact, much of the flux imbalance observed today is due to the CO2 injected into the atmosphere long ago. That is, the rate of increase in the surface temperature is higher now than it would be from radiative forcing alone, just as in past years the increase in temperature was supressed.

    My point about how small this net flux is still stands. The amount of energy absorbed and radiated away over the course of the day is many times larger than this quantity. I just made the mistake of assuming it was zero, because I didn’t consider the lag effect of the ocean.

    Perhaps you are right, frankis. Maybe this forum is not the right place to discuss these questions. Rather than having the subtleties of my questions addressed, I am met with condescension and suggestions that my “ignorance” is caused by some nutjob websites I’ve never even read, and some simple yet unrelated and incorrect objections.

    I still maintain that the increase in CO2 is raising the average temperature of the Earth. To insist that this is wrong, and that the Earth’s warming is being caused by its own warming, is just too much of a shock to my system. I won’t be back.

  19. #19 frankis
    June 11, 2006

    My apologies Malahatman I wasn’t intending to sound condescending, just trying in my own poor way to be helpful. The comment about confusion due to Tim Blair’s website actually referred to a bunch of escapees from there who’d been posting so much fun stuff here. Listening too long to them had been driving me nuts anyway.

  20. #20 z
    June 12, 2006

    “The incoming and outgoing radiation are in balance, and this is why the Earth is getting warmer.”

    You were doing reasonably well until this came out.

    Nobody disagrees that in some long-term metastable meta-equilibrium the mean in minus out = 0. And since you bring up the effects of short term variations due to seasons, you clearly understand how that plays out within the long-term context. So basically, your only difference of opinion with Gore is that he did not say that we have lowered the balance of energy flux vis a vis the rest of the universe temporarily which will right itself by increasing temperature; instead he oversimplified it by saying we have changed the energy balance wrt the rest of the universe. Right?

  21. #21 z
    June 12, 2006

    ” I am met with condescension and suggestions that my “ignorance” is caused by some nutjob websites I’ve never even read, and some simple yet unrelated and incorrect objections. ”

    Well, if you’re going to be that picky over the precision of Gore’s statements, then you got that wrong when interpreting this:

    “Your state of confusion is not surprising though given the amount of loud ignorance radiating from the void at Tim Blair’s website :)”

    even if you don’t count the smiley.

  22. #22 Malahatman
    June 12, 2006

    Hi z,

    Yes, I am finally saying that his statement was oversimplified. Taken literally, it is just saying we are warming the Earth, but saying it in some other terms that attempt to make it sound profound, but end up making it meaningless. How can the energy of the Universe be measured? What does that mean? What does it mean to be in balance?

    I initially gave him the benefit of the doubt that he meant to talk about flux, since that is the “energy imbalance” described in the literature. I attempted to work out the physics involved, and now have arrived at the accepted view.

    But I do find the posts in this forum mocking, unhelpful, and anti-scientific. It has become the other side tactically. This is not good.

    Dr. Lambert deals with wingnuts all the time, so it must affect his outlook on commenters. But the 1.5 W/m2 figure he quotes is a red herring. It doesn’t help explain the flux imbalance. You all must know it by now. The net incoming flux is a combination of the annual (or instantaneous) increase in GHGs, and the lag effect of the oceans. These add up to 0.85 W/m2, so the CO2 component is less. The 1.5 W/m2 figure is the total increase in radiative forcing due to CO2 since 1750. Apples and oranges.

    “[T]he Earth is absorbing more energy that it emits, and this imbalance is warming the Earth.” This is a tautology. The Earth is warming because it is warming.

    I paraphrase, “You should write someone and accept their yes or no answer on faith. (Smiley face)” This appeal to authority is anti-science. I prefer to understand the phenomenon myself.

    Again I paraphrase, “the Earth is not in equilibrium. The usual explanation of radiative forcing requires that. Therefore, it is completely wrong and radiative forcing cannot be explained.” This is the usual GW skeptic rationale: Theories can never encompass everything, so science is useless.

    Can you point to any post here, besides mine, that attempts to explain the mechanism of global warming, let alone actually achieves it? All I see are criticism and mockery, arguments from the authority of the majority, and false leads on the way to the truth.

    Of course, you can now claim you knew all along the explanation I have arrived at. But it is still suspicious that none of the posts state something close to it, and so many are off the mark. Why is it that I have to state it first, and yet be the mocked one?

  23. #23 Joel Shore
    June 12, 2006

    Malahatman: Well, I’d like to think that my posts on June 7th and 8th in this thread http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2006/06/correction.php explained it pretty well.

    The one point that I agree with you on is that there has been some confusion here on what the 1.5 W/m2 refers to. It is indeed not the out-of-balance number, which would have to be determined by considering all the radiative forcings, not just CO2, and also the amount that the earth has already adjusted to these forcings. As you noted, in practice the way to determine it “experimentally” is, as Hansen and other have done, to look at how much heat is being absorbed by the oceans, which is where most of the net heat influx due to this imbalance is going.

  24. #24 Malahatman
    June 12, 2006

    Thanks Joel,

    I will read those.

    But in order to preempt objections to my “apples and oranges” critique, I present some further explanation:

    The current flux imbalance is due to the continuing CO2 emission, and the lag effect of the oceans.

    As Hansen points out, suppose we were to cease CO2 emissions now. Then the Earth would continue to warm, because of the flux imbalance due to the oceans lag effect, but would eventually reach an equilibrium temperature. (Yes, this is a simple model.)

    Suppose on the other hand, all of the CO2 released since 1750 had actually been released before 1760 and then stopped at that time. Then, the Earth would already be at the same equilibrium temperature as in the first scenario, and the imbalance would be zero. In 1761, the flux would have been inward because of the lag effect, but that effect would be over by now, and we would have acheived equilibrium.

    So the total amount of CO2 since 1750 is not what drives the current imbalance.

    We have an imbalance because 1) we continue to emit CO2, increasing the the radiative forcing, and 2) we emitted CO2 in the recent past, causing the lag effect of the oceans.

    It is the rate of CO2 emission that counts, not the accumulated total.

  25. #25 jade
    June 12, 2006

    Taken literally, it is just saying we are warming the Earth, but saying it in some other terms that attempt to make it sound profound, but end up making it meaningless. How can the energy of the Universe be measured? What does that mean? What does it mean to be in balance?

    The “balance of energy” is referring to a general long-term (over the course of many years) equilibrium in the net flow of energy. We do not need to measure “the energy of the Universe”, but the net flow of energy at one particular place. See Radiation Balance.

    A temporary upset in the long-term net flow (because of a change in the proportions of gases in the atmosphere) results in an increase of temperature in the troposphere. This has unpleasant consequences for us, and therefore a loss of equilibrium is not desirable.

    He was not trying to “make it seem profound”, but to make it easy to grasp. If anything he makes it seem shallow by avoiding technical terms to the point that it acquires the New Agey ring which has invited scoffing.

    “[T]he Earth is absorbing more energy that it emits, and this imbalance is warming the Earth.” This is a tautology. The Earth is warming because it is warming.

    No, it is possible to absorb energy without heating up.

    I was misled by Dr. Lambert’s quoting of 1.5 W/m2 for the increase in radiative forcing due to CO2. It turns out that this is the increase in radiative forcing due to CO2 since 1750, which is a rather arbitrary figure.

    The year 1750 marks roughly the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It is an estimate of the artificial increase, so it is entirely relevant to the debate.

    All I see are criticism and mockery, arguments from the authority of the majority, and false leads on the way to the truth.

    Please don’t paraphrase other people’s words and then attack the paraphrases. The issue has been talked about on this blog for years and years; click on the “Global Warming” category on the side-bar. I’m pretty sure everything should be there.

    The net incoming flux is a combination of the annual (or instantaneous) increase in GHGs, and the lag effect of the oceans.

    Don’t you mean that the net rate of flow is the result of the combination? Also, the use of the word “incoming” is a bit misleading, because radiation of various wavelengths is bounced back and forth quite a bit in the atmosphere. It isn’t clear what you mean by “the top of the atmosphere” — the tropopause, which marks the top of most of the convection from directly next to the surface, or somewhere else?

    Again, “The term ‘radiative forcing’ has been employed in the IPCC Assessments with a specific technical meaning to denote an externally imposed perturbation in the radiative energy budget of the Earth’s climate system, which may lead to changes in climate parameters.”

    I think the “radiative energy budget” is the phrase we are looking for here.

  26. #26 mark
    June 12, 2006

    Back to temptation … when you lose hardheads like Alan Dupont to acceptance of global warming, then you know the argument is over. Give it up, Tim B. Or let’s see you ridicule a Lowy Institute report.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,19449296-7583,00.html

  27. #27 Malahatman
    June 12, 2006

    Hi Jade,

    “The ‘balance of energy’ is referring to … See Radiation Balance.”

    Yes, I agree with what you want Gore to have said. We are changing the radiation (energy flow) balance. Unfortunately, that is not what he said.

    “No, it is possible to absorb energy without heating up.”

    Oh, I forgot to include the miniscule effect of storing energy as potential energy. We can put this objection in the “there is always a more complex model” category.

    “The year 1750 … is entirely relevant to the debate.”

    Where is this coming from? Dr. Lambert misused a statistic. Accept it.

    “Don’t you mean that the net rate of flow is the result of the combination? Also, the use of the word ‘incoming’ is a bit misleading, because radiation of various wavelengths is bounced back and forth quite a bit in the atmosphere. It isn’t clear what you mean by “the top of the atmosphere” — the tropopause, which marks the top of most of the convection from directly next to the surface, or somewhere else?”

    Are you a member of the language police or something? Why don’t you contribute something positive?

  28. #28 jade
    June 12, 2006

    “A member of the language police… why don’t you contribute something positive”

    What? YOU are the one complaining that Gore said, in a public lecture, “energy balance” rather than “net long-term balance in flow of energy”. Given that the flow of energy (temporary loss of equilibrium) into X results in more energy in X, which may lead to a higher temperature, this is hardly a hugely important distinction in this context. One might even interpret the act of making it a big deal as consistent with being a “member of the language police”.

    You can surely see that I am trying my honest best to discuss this with you. There is no need for you to talk that way. The “top of the atmosphere” is NOT an unambiguous phrase and we need to be clear if it is referring to the tropopause or not. In fact, it would probably be better to avoid the use of the word “flux” because it has different definitions for heat and for radiation.

    Neither did Lambert misuse a statistic. The statistic is correct and relevant to the context. Nor did he make a tautological statement. Energy is stored all the time.

  29. #29 Malahatman
    June 12, 2006

    Hi Jade,

    I will take you at your word that you are giving your heonest best. I’m sorry to have lost my temper with you.

    Comparing what I said in a thread, to a summarizing statement in a controversial movie on a controversial topic by a controversial politician is a bit much, don’t you think.

    The fact is that the other side loves to focus in on stupid sounding statements as if they are the only thing that matters. Gore had two years to hone this speech, and the statement is stupid.

    I am not spending that much time polishing my posts. You can’t expect me to, do you?

    As for the “top of the atmosphere”, what possible difference could it make to what I am saying. I am simplifying the model to say that all the energy comes from the Sun. You can’t be suggesting that it is conducted here, can you.

    I spent a lot of effort to explain why Dr. Lambert’s statistic is misused. An “honest best” response involves more than, “No, he didn’t.” Try to understand my explanation all the way through.

    Are you suggesting that the amount of energy being stored all the time is comparable to the energy being received from the Sun? Come on, you’re nitpicking. “[T]he Earth is absorbing more energy that it emits, and this imbalance is warming the Earth.” Do you really think this is an adequate explanation of why the Earth is warming? Don’t you think that GHGs have something to do with both of these effects?

  30. #30 Dano
    June 12, 2006

    I hereby nominate jade for the ‘Patient like Dano award’…um…hmmm…well, that may not be the best award to give out, but hey – I’m trying to make a point here.

    Best,

    D

  31. #31 jade
    June 12, 2006

    So the total amount of CO2 since 1750 is not what drives the current imbalance.

    Okay. I see. I thought the “since 1750″ statistic was not connected with Gore’s “balance” quote but with the “pie-eating” quote from a commenter.

    The problem you have with Lambert’s statement is that it seems to imply that the ground is absorbing the energy, whereas I took it automatically to mean the Earth-including-atmosphere-including-GHGs.

    Generally speaking, “absorbing energy” and “warming up” are probably much the same for planets, but not for all physical objects in all situations — hence the distinction.

    I asked about the tropopause because when you referred to the “energy flux” I wasn’t sure whether you meant reradiation or some sort of convective process, or even something weird happening in the thermosphere!

    The moral of the story… it’s hard to discuss the entirety of something like this using piecemeal replies in a 10×60 comment box on a blog. Which is why talking to someone face-to-face is still a good suggestion (not just an appeal to authority!) seeing as I have done so myself on occasion. It tends to prevent the kind of confusion over particular terms by which I think this thread has been dominated.

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. Anyway, it depends whether you treat the Earth as separate from its atmosphere or together as a complete system, or “balance of energy” as “long-term equilibrium”. Fair enough.

  32. #32 frankis
    June 12, 2006

    As for me – I retract the kind words I used and the apology, Malahatman, they were a mistake.

  33. #33 Harold Pierce Jr
    July 8, 2007

    RE #13 This is due to the rubber, asphalt and brake dusts that are going everywhere and getting on just about everything.