Eating their own

Header shamelessly stolen from Coby. But his post is so wonderful that I can’t help re-saying it.

So: Roy Spencer says that the basic greenhouse effect mechanism is sound; or perhaps, more weakly, that the basic mechanism is phyically possible. You might think that is not very strange, after all it isn’t really very dificult. But alas so many poor innocent young and not-so-young wannabe “skeptics” have been exposed to the denialist meme “cold things can’t make warm things warmer; the upper atmophere is colder than the surface; therefore the atmosphere doesn’t heat the surface; therefore the GHE is wrong” that even Spencer, long a poster boy for the sketpic “side”, gets savaged by some ignorant drivel in the Canada Free Press.

As Spencer says in his comments,

The reason I am addressing this issue is that there is an increasing number of people who are advancing the notion that there is no such thing as “back radiation” (or that “more CO2 is incapable of causing any warming because…”), and as a result I am deluged with e-mails from them and the public asking me for my opinion.

So, all credit to him, he has actually started doing some experiments, although (as he points out) it is all a bit odd, because you can just as easily point an infra-red thermometer upwards at night.

If you actually want some good facts and discussion on the “back radiation” stuff, then Science of Doom has a good post [Update: and even more excuciating detail on the key error in part III], and followups – people really are astonishingly reluctant to accept something very simple. If you can cope with a bit of maths, then [[Idealized greenhouse model]] will help. If you can’t cope with maths, then it really is very simple: the earth is warmer than it otherwise would be because it receives radiation from two sources: the sun and the atmosphere.

This is all yet another example of the “Dumb America fallacy” – people too ignorant to know how ignorant they are. Yes, I know, daarhling “skeptics”, if I was all out to convert you I’d omit that last bit.

[Update: see-also Our Deliberate Slide into Ignorance]


  1. #1 Martin Vermeer

    > because you can just as easily point an infra-red thermometer
    > upwards at night.

    Surely you mean an infra-red radiometer? Like

    [That one needed a log-in. But an IR thermometer is jsut a simplified radiometer – no? Though it might have a somewhat unspecified angle of influence -W]

  2. #2 JMurphy

    This is all yet another example of the “Dumb America fallacy” – people to ignorant to know how ignorant they are.

    That should be ‘too ignorant’, so I would change it (and delete this comment) before it is used against you.

    [Post updated – thanks – but I’ll leave this comment as a record -W]

  3. #3 Eli Rabett

    Tasty –


  4. #4 J

    Oho, you may have fixed the spelling of “too” … but I see you still have not addressed the thermodynamics problems I mentioned in my comment on the original “Dumb America” thread.

    [You talked about Entropy, which is a big [*] word that I don’t understand -W

    [*} OK, it is a fairly small word. But I still don’t understand it]

  5. #5 Thomas

    Here is a professor at KTH who joins the crowd in denouncing Spencer:
    Most of what is written on that blog is really, really strange.

  6. #6 pough

    I want to know what they imagine is happening to the radiation emitted from CO2 molecules in a downward direction. Does the radiation purposely avoid hitting anything that is warmer than its previous host? Are we talking smart infrared?

    [No, we’re talking very stupid people.

    Ha ha, couldn’t resist.

    Actually we’re talking people who have been brainwashed to repeat “second law of thermodynamics” despite not understanding it -W]

  7. #7 J

    Dumb America fallacy – people too ignorant to know how ignorant they are

    Actually it seems like it ought to be a paradox, not a fallacy. There’s nothing fallacious about the idea of American dumbness.

    In any case, you really ought to be grateful to us for monopolizing more than our share of global stupidity resources. Or would you prefer to have us collect the excess and redistribute it around the world? I doubt Cambridge or wherever you live would be a better place if all your neighbors had to accept a per-capita share of the dumbness glut that we have here in the USA.

    Now, if someone came up with a foolproof way to sequester all that stupid…

  8. #8 Thomas

    pough, if we’re talking prof Johnson he does imagine intelligent objects that somehow know the temperature of surrounding objects and adjust the amount of IR they emit in that direction accordingly.

  9. #9 Brian Schmidt

    My favorite part of the FP article:

    “For this example we will consider only the solar heat input which rises gradually from morning until mid afternoon. This heat energy reaches a maximum and continually drops over night. There is no constant input of energy in the Earth model.”

    Because when the sun sets over the horizon from my perspective, it is no longer heating any part of the globe. And when I close my eyes, no one can see me.

    I should note that FP is a Canadian rag. We have to put up with enough stupidity here without being blamed for Canada’s.

  10. #10 Hank Roberts

    Martin, is this a radiometer, as your source uses the word?

  11. #11 Chris S.

    Brian @ #9 Is that not a fine example of flat Earthism?

  12. #12 Cthulhu

    fantastic, Gord is posting over there with his special hyperphysics links and killer argument about solar ovens.

  13. #13 Tony Sidaway

    That Joseph A Olson chap, who wrote the Canada Free Press article, just seems to be a classic flat-earther. This is a reminder that there are people around who are even crazier than run-of-the-mill denialists and skeptics.

  14. #14 Martin Vermeer

    Hank #10, yes, though they call it a thermometer too.

    I guess the word I’m looking for is “infrared radiospectrometer”. I’m not sure that my reference was that. If it’s not a spectrometer, you get a muddle of all frequencies, coming from very different levels in the atmosphere.

  15. #15 Martin Vermeer

    …but of course that’s good enough to show that there is such a thing as atmospheric back radiation, and that you can actually convince the atmosphere to emit it in your direction in spite of you being at a higher temperature ;-)

  16. #16 Hank Roberts

    Thanks Martin; these little handheld IR thermometers, as shown in that NASA page, do give a muddle (average?) from all levels — the example there compares the actual temperature profile measured by a weather balloon. Mims writes there:

    “the ‘sky temperature’ … represents the infrared brightness of the sky…. an average of the temperature between the ground and the upper troposphere …. really not the temperature of the sky but a number that indicates that the sky is much warmer than space and cooler than cumulus clouds. For this project, let’s call the temperature of the sky indicated by an infrared thermometer the ‘apparent temperature.'”

    I wonder — if someone on the ISS (or a Skyhook balloon or high flying plane) pointed one of those instruments _down_ would they get the same number? (well, if they used something covering the same area of the atmosphere) for this ‘apparent temperature’?

  17. #17 Hank Roberts

    Ah, Martin’s followup slipped in, thanks.

    Back more or less on topic, for those wanting to track the “eating their own” notions, just ‘oogle for this:

    “Mannian paleo-phrenology”

    It’s as good as a tracking cookie.

  18. #18 Martin Vermeer

    Hank, no, not exactly, but they are related. Play with Dave Archer’s simulator:

    You can aim the sensor up or down, and set the height.

    Not the same as actual observations but close enough.

  19. #19 Michael Hauber

    I’m kind of heartened that there is some sign of intellectual integrity appearing in the saner side of the skeptic camp, with efforts such as this, and the efforts to perform temperature reconstructions that actualy agree quite well with the GISS/CRUT etc.

    I’d probably start paying more attention to Spencer if it wasn’t for the fact that at the current time he is also gloating about the fact that the current Nino 3.4 index is dropping much faster than normal compared to the global SSTs.

    How can anyone be as clever as Spencer appears to be, yet think that this is good news for the Skeptics?

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