Effect Measure

The science of “greenhouse gases”

Here’s some scientific background to the climate change discussion (we refuse to call it a controversy). Basic science literacy, explaining what a greenhouse gas is:

“Primer on greenhouse gases”:


Nothing controversial. Just basic science literacy.


  1. #1 Phila
    August 26, 2009

    Nothing controversial. Just basic science literacy.

    Unfortunately, basic science literacy is controversial, at least in this case.

    I remember when certain people were very, very upset about “Ebonics,” and the lowering of academic standards that this supposedly represented. But it’s apparently OK to insist on a multicultural, relativist approach to peer-reviewed climate science and evolutionary biology. You’ve gotta counterbalance the hegemonic discourse of the ruling elite, after all….

  2. #2 pft
    August 27, 2009

    Just putting in my 2 cents worth, although I hesitate to do so knowing that any skepticism of beliefs founded in the sociology of science get attacked by the faithful.

    In many fields, the consensus is seldom in pursuit of truth, since they believe they already have it, or they have a political motive to present that which they may believe is for the greater good, despite it’s poor science. The former has always been an issue, as has the latter (replace politics with religion), but the latter is simply pseudo science.

    Nobody really contests the science in your posts, or what a greenhouse gas is, and everyone seems to agree that we do not live in a greenhouse.

    Never did see your follow up post tieing in how doubling CO2 can cause significant and alarming global warming, maybe because you realize that climate science is a bit primitive, despite the efforts of models created by mathematical physicists.

    What is contested is the effect of increased greenhouse gases on climate. In other words, climate sensitivity.
    The models make assumptions that minimize negative feedbacks and predict higher temperatures, and there is little consensus because most of them do not want to reveal the nuts and bolts underlying their models. Of course, nature dictates when you have a small group of modelists, nobody wants to be an outlier, so they will tend to converge over time. Those getting the right results (not too low) attract the most funding.

    One famous mathematical physicist was quoted as saying given enough free parameters (assumptions) he can model an elephant that can fly, so it ain’t that hard, especially when your model can not be disporven for 50 years.

    In any event, these faulty assumptions are able to stand partly because the level of understanding of cloud formation, convection and precipitation efficiencies is low, as admitted by IPCC. Not enough consensus in these fields. These processes are the major drivers in the earths ability to cool itself. The heat content of the ocean is 100 times that of the atmosphere, much of it at a temperature of 3 deg C, so the ability to absorb increased heat in the atmosphere by the ocean is great, and also remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

    Convection plays a big role as heat is carried away from the surface via cumulonimbus towers of the tropics to the weather and planetary scale waves at the extratropics. They carry the heat upward and poleward, and at one optical depth into the atmosphere, thermal radiation can readily escape to space.

    Most folks don’t know the moons has a daylight temperature of 107 deg C since it has no atmosphere (so no wind) nor oceans, clouds or rain to cool it off.

    Without this cooling ability of our climate, mainly due to H20 (also the major greenhouse gas) and our atmosphere made up mostly of O2 and N2, the Earths temperature would be 63 deg C and not the so called 15 deg C. Thats hot.

    In the 70’s they said it was 18 deg C but nobody really knows for sure, since we do not have enough data that covers the entire globe, so like many figures in climate science it is a ballpark figure. Most measurements are made on land and in the northern hemisphere which contains 70% of the earths land, so their is a heating bias in global temperature anomalies.

    And how effective is CO2 in trapping heat on it’s own?. Ever been in a desert at night? CO2 certainly doesn’t trap much heat if you are out there w/o a jacket. How about in the winter in Boston when humidity drops below 20%, giving you cloudless evening skies. Radiational cooling drops the temperature significantly, less so in the city where CO2 levels reach 600 ppm. Of course, hot muggy nights are hot and uncomfortable since humidity traps heat (3% H20 vs CO2’s 0.04%). Then the rain comes and cools things off, sometimes anyways.

    There is little consensus for the alarmists predictions, although many agree that doubling CO2 may cause up to 1 deg C warming, hardly a bad thing. Climate is always changing, always has. That the climate is some kind of thermal equilibrium only being disturbed by man is a myth. Man like any other species and must adopt or perish. Darwin had something to say about that.

    Given that most of the last 600,000 years has been spent in ice age conditions, aside from brief interglacials lasting 12,000 years on average, such as the present period now in it’s 12th millenium; this suggests a resistance to the earth heating up excessively as a result of a few extra molecules of CO2.

    The warming that has occurred over the past 11,000, actually 20,000 years (it took a while to thaw out) has been beneficial. Having transformed from hunter gatherers to a dependence on agriculture, we best hope never to see another ice age.

    CO2 levels in the atmosphere lag temperature. They are higher today because we have been warming for over 11,000 years. While the Vostok data show questionable absolute CO2 levels due to the high pressures, the lag in the data with temperature is clear. When temperatures drop as we enter the next ice age, so too will CO2 levels.

  3. #3 Phila
    August 28, 2009

    For anyone who’s interested, various claims made by pft are debunked here and here.

    This is one of the benefits of having a worldwide conspiracy in place to falsify data and suppress dissent.

  4. #4 Dotto Egrasso
    August 28, 2009

    Revere, the pseudophysical oversimplifications you presented above is the foundation of the AGW-theory, which is an insult to real science. I provide some real substance below. Read and learn!

    International Journal of Modern Physics B, Vol. 23, No. 3 (30 January 2009), 275-364.


    Dotto Egrasso, PhD in Physics

  5. #5 revere
    August 28, 2009

    dotto: I saw nothing in the preprint that addresses the issues I discussed. It is instead a pseudophysical polemic against AGW, which I did not address. Nor did I (or anyone else I know of) liken the phenomenon discussed to an actual greenhouse. They have nothing to do with each other, as most scientists state (in other words, it was a straw man). Read and understand. The idea that a scientific disagreement is “an insult to real science” is laughable and suggests you haven’t had much experience with doing real science.

  6. #6 Dotto Egrasso
    August 28, 2009

    It is a published paper:
    International Journal of Modern Physics B, Vol. 23, No. 3 (30 January 2009), 275-364.

    Putting pieces of physics together ad hoc is not physics. It may at best be unproven modeling but more often gibberish. Either way I am sure your story will end in “proving” the the truth of AGW. This is the problem which Gerhard Gerlich and Ralf D. Tscheuschner adress.

  7. #7 revere
    August 28, 2009

    dotto: You seem to be sure of many things that aren’t exactly the case. The two posts you refer to were done over a year ago and I linked to them because we are all on vacation and not writing (many) original posts until we return to our respective home bases. So there is no “end” to the story you are so sure needs to be rebutted. But for the record, yes, I am convinced that the overwhelming consensus on AGW has it right, although that was not the subject of the posts. I don’t know what kind of physics you were trained in, but the history of physics doesn’t seem to be part of the curriculum you took. I assume you put no stock in the fact that it is a published paper (although you directed me to a preprint), since many published papers say quite different things. But, according to you, they are insults to physics. Why should we not think the paper you cite is not an insult to physics? (I don’t think so, but I am just citing your logic).

    Regarding my “oversimplifications,” of course they are simplifications. One cuts the cloth to fit the pattern and this blog is addressing non technical readers about physics (just as you are a lay person about epidemiology). You don’t take issue with anything in particular I have said but instead give me a cite to an article that does not address those things.

  8. #8 Dottoe Egrasso
    August 28, 2009

    The arxiv text and the reference are of course the same http://arxiv.org/abs/0707.1161

    The point is that AGW theory does not go beyond the cut & paste approach you introduce in Part I and II.
    Just one example out of many. You say in Part II “The Wien Displacement Law is the key to the greenhouse gas story.” This is gibberish. This “law” is not a fundamental law in physics. It is a theoretical construct that applies to perfect blackbodies, not to dilute gases with intricate absorption and emission characteristics. This is an inappropriate oversimplification, well explained in the reference I provided.

    You are on deep water but you are not alone. If you cling together in consensus and fill your chests with hot air you may float around for a little while.

  9. #9 revere
    August 28, 2009

    Dottoe: Wien’s “:Law” is called that by convention. When Planck was able to show that by quantizing energy he could explain what was happening both with Rayleigh’s formula at low frequencies and Wien’s at high frequencies (and in between!) we were on the road to quantum mechanics. Yes, Wien’s formula doesn’t work at all frequencies but it is quite accurate where it counts. Newton’s “Laws” (I know you don’t want to call them that because they are not laws of physics in your terms) also work perfectly well at the scale we need them to work. Of course you are special because you, unlike most scientists, know the secret that makes everyone else wrong. But the fact remains is that the point you are trying to make has nothing to do with the post. Wien’s formula is empirically correct for the gases in the atmosphere at low density. While there is always room for disagreement about technical matters (which you just refer to someone else’s paper), you do it in a way that makes you sound like a crank.

  10. #10 Dotto Egrasso
    August 28, 2009

    Yes go ahead make a fool of yourself. Use the lent feathers of physics to propagate purely political statements. The scene is yours. Just continue your intellectually sloppy chain of arguments towards the goal – AGW is true.

    Ainer iz a ligen, tsvai iz ligens, drei iz politik.

  11. #11 ghonadz
    November 25, 2009

    hey Phila

    The links in your post #3 don’t seem to be working. I would like to get them as I am always running into AGW denier cultists who want to deny the existence of greenhouse gases altogether.

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