According to a newly published paper in the journal “Remote Sensing” the Earth’s atmosphere releases into space more heat than climate scientists had previously estimated in a way that effectively removes concern about fossil CO2 being released into the atmosphere.
The reason scientists have this wrong, according to the article’s authors, Roy Spencer and William Braswell, is that climate scientists use a fundamentally flawed model of atmospheric heat dynamics and radiation of heat from the surface of the climate system into space. The senior author, Spencer, has previously argued that variations in the earth’s climate system, with respect to heat and water vapor, do not follow traditional models where certain things can “force” changes in key values (heat, moisture), but rather, changes occur around an equilibrium in a mathematically chaotic fashion.
Most climate scientists agree that a chaos model for atmospheric heat and humidity could work over short time scales, but no serious climate scientist things that key forcing factors such as greenhouse gasses, solar radiation, or dust and other albedo related factors are unimportant. In fact, Spencer’s earlier writings on this topic were soundly debunked when they were first published (see this and links therein for a full accounting of that debunking).
Here’s the difference between Spencer’s model and what climate scientists think in the form of an analogy. Suppose you want to understand the process by which Great Aunt Tillie and her husband Roy get from their place in Hicksville New York to your Ma’s house in Terrytown for Thanksgiving. The analogous approach used by climate scientists might be this: Observe the direction in which Great Aunt Tillie turns at each intersection, and also note that Uncle Roy is giving her instructions based on a map he’s looking at. That may not be a perfect model … construction related detours, misunderstandings between navigator and driver (Roy and Tillie have a thing going about driving and directions and have for years!) and the need to stop at Carvelle’s for an ice cream cake all make the trip seem somewhat chaotic, but really, it isn’t. Various factors directly or nearly directly determine the path from Hicksville to Terrytown. Spencer, in contrast, would look at the seemingly random variations in the path the car takes as it mostly stays in a particular lane but occasionally wanders to one side of the road or another, or slows and speeds up in accordance with squirrels running across the road or Tillie’s state of mind or other factors. Spencer’s model claims to explain how Tillie and Roy manage to get from Hicksville to Terrytown on the basis of the accumulation of short term, random, and largely averaged out movements of the car on the roads.
Spencer and Braswell’s paper is actually a pretty good example of academic fraud. The authors clearly understand enough climate science to know that what they are suggesting is impossible, absurd, and simply wrong. The editors of Remote Sensing must have been very clever with their choice of peer reviewers to let this one past, and one wonders what their intentions are.
“On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance” is a big ol’ bunch of hooey. I eagerly await an explanation from the journal’s editors, Dr. Wolfgang Wagner and Mr. Elvis Wang and the editorial board as to what they are up to with this paper. Of those on the board, Prof. Dr. Ralph Dubayah, Dr. Mekonnen Gebremichael, Prof. Dr. Alfredo R. Huete, Dr. Richard Müller, Dr. Dale A. Quattrochi, and Dr. Prasad S. Thenkabail seem to have the clearest connections with atmospheric sciences. Perhaps they should be queried!
Spencer, R., & Braswell, W. (2011). On the Misdiagnosis of Surface Temperature Feedbacks from Variations in Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance Remote Sensing, 3 (8), 1603-1613 DOI: 10.3390/rs3081603