Response to Roy Spencer Regarding His Support of Flat Earth

Posted: June 6, 2019 by oldbrew in climate, opinion, physics
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Readers can comment on this disagreement/misunderstanding/debate here at The Talkshop and/or at Joe Postma’s own website (link below).

Roy Spencer’s post that kicked it off is here.

[UPDATE: follow-up video to the one shown below – here.]

Roy Spencer published an article today stating that I am incorrectly ranting about the fraud of flat Earth theory making its way into modern physics via climate science.  I analyze his statement and expose that climate science truly is indeed flat Earth theory: it is baked into the mathematics!

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1. oldbrew says:

The 342 watts figure is shown here:

This site says:
On average, each square metre of the upper regions of the atmosphere receives 342 watts of solar radiation (W/m²).
. . .
The accessible solar radiation (Watt/m²) may significantly vary depending on local weather conditions and season. Insolation on a clear summer day can be up to 20 times higher than on a cloudy winter day.

Average solar radiation for a location on the northern hemisphere with a latitude angle of 47° – 55°.

sunny, clear sky
summer: 600 – 1000 W/m²
winter: 300 – 500 W/m²
sunny, scattered clouds or partly cloudy
summer: 300 – 600 W/m²
winter: 150 – 300 W/m²
cloudy, fog
summer: 100 – 300 W/m²
winter: 50 – 150 W/m²

http://www.renewable-energy-concepts.com/solarenergy/solar-basics/insolation-weather.html

Given things like day/night and pole/equator differences, does it work? It represents a quarter of the solar constant.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_constant

2. ivan says:

When you have a guy that rabbits on in a video often repeating himself rather than actually putting what he has to say into words one has to ask, what is he afraid of. Is he afraid that people will see what he has written and maybe see his mistakes and comment on them or actually question the validity of what he writes – maybe he is only capable of talking like a snake oil salesman.

I learned many years ago to ignore the waffle, talk is cheap and can be denied, and relyon the written word until it is proved wrong.

3. oldbrew says:

Postma doesn’t rely on videos, to be fair.

Book Release Live! “In the Cold Light of Day” with foreword by Dr. Tim Ball
Posted on 2018/12/03
https://climateofsophistry.com/2018/12/03/book-release-live-in-the-cold-light-of-day-with-foreword-by-dr-tim-ball/
– – –
Flat Earth in Modern Physics
Posted on 2019/01/14 by Joseph E Postma

In my recent book, I made a big point about flat Earth theory being the jewel of modern physics, and how flat Earth theory has been presented as the most important political contribution which science has ever made for modern man via climate alarmism.
https://climateofsophistry.com/2019/01/14/flat-earth-in-modern-physics/
– – –
Joe Postma has put out a second video:

4. [“When you have a guy that rabbits on in a video often repeating himself rather than actually putting what he has to say into words one has to ask, what is he afraid of.”]

Ivan, when you have a guy who tries to use a teaching method suitable for the less intellectually efficient, ACTUALLY using the spoken word, in a conversational style, with the intent of teaching people who might have slivers of open brain space remaining untouched by climate hysteria, then you have to ask, “What sort of patience and determination does this take.”

5. squid2112 says:

@Ivan

Really? .. you just said that? .. OMG! .. apparently you haven’t read any of Postma’s volumes of writing. Not sure I have seen such a daft statement, at least not yet today. Just wow!

6. oldbrew says:

There was maybe too much repetition in the first video but less so in the second one. OTOH he clearly wants to reach as wide an audience as possible.

7. dai davies says:

Postma has a valid point buried in his rambling, but talking about flat Earth is amusing but distracting bear-baiting. The real issue is that you can’t just take a mean temperature over the daily cycle.
In the simple example of the moon where we have good data, heat is stored in the surface rock during the day and returned to the surface at night. Because radiated heat varies as E=aT^4 (fourth power), the mean surface temperature is raised – the Diurnal Smoothing Effect (DSE).

Some, including D. Roy Spencer, have modelled the diurnal cycle using a single thin slab to simulate the surface. This can give a good fit to lunar temps but using the surface parameters adjusted to fit the moon gives incorrect (low) results for Earth with it’s faster rotation. When the surface is simulated in detail (I use up to 50 layers) the DSE becomes large enough (about 55C) to replace the GHE’s assumed 33C impact completely. Our atmosphere adds to the rock surface smoothing.

Kramm et.al. go into great detail in their analysis and get comparable results.

Using Earth’s Moon as a Testbed for Quantifying the Effect of the Terrestrial Atmosphere
Gerhard Kramm, Ralph Dlugi, Nicole Mölders
Natural Science, 2017, Vol. 9, (No. 8), pp: 251-288

“These values demonstrate that the power law of Stefan and Boltzmann provides inappropriate results when applied to globally aver- aged skin temperatures.”

The model of the atmosphere given in the above diagram is also seriously wrong, but that’s another story.

8. oldbrew says:

Another factor: 70%+ of the Earth’s surface is water. Sunlight reflectivity is not a smooth curve – flat to 60 degrees then takes off, increasing sharply to the peak at 90 degrees.

Caption: Reflectance of smooth water at 20°C (refractive index 1.333).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflectance#Water_reflectance
– – –
Of course sea water is not all ‘smooth at 20°C’.

9. Alwin Bruno says:

@oldbrew, Wiki-Pravda is typical for misleading by omission — water reflectance.

Start your camera drone at the shore of a calm pond, during daylight & clear sky. You will always find a position relative to the Sun’s position where the Sun is reflecting as a circle on the water surface.

10. oldbrew says:

The reflectance graph shape above looks very similar to this inverse square law graph. Light does follow such a law.
http://ummalqura-phy.com/HYPER1/isq.html#isqe

NB this graph is for sound.

11. ivan says:

Those that criticised me must have missed the last paragraph talk is cheap and can be denied, it is the usual way for those that are not sure have a way out (but I didn’t mean that when I said…).

As to buying and reading a 253 page self published work. I think what he has to say could have been said in half that number of pages, including full page diagrams, I tend to think his writing is like his videos.

I notice that after the indignation is over, dai davies and oldbrew have started to apply rational thought to the subject, well done them. Since I am a retired engineer and have forgotten some of what I learned 60 years ago I will leave the mathematical arguments to those still working in that field.

It is a very interesting subject, how do you actually measure the amount of solar energy impinging on the very uneven surface of an oblate spheroid from what is, in relation to the oblate spheroid, essentially a point source at an extreme distance, especially when that surface is made of very different materials and also has variable shading.

12. oldbrew says:

Nikolov & Zeller’s theory says solar input and atmospheric mass are the fundamentals of the spherical bodies of the solar system, all other climate factors depending on those.

The comment I posted on Dr. Spencer’s site:

The bottom line here is that Joe Postma is right and Dr. Spencer is wrong. After all, anyone using the figure 255 K (-18C) for surface Tav in absence of radiative atmosphere is wrong.

Joe’s argument “flat earth physics” may be poorly worded. He is not debating whether dividing solar flux by 4 gives an average value for solar illumination of a rotating sphere. It is unfortunate that his online exchanges degenerated into bad language, but that is likely the product of people not just misinterpreting, but willfully misinterpreting his argument.

Joe’s argument as I see it is that using average solar insolation in conjunction with instantaneous radiative balance calculations like the Steran-Boltzmann equation cannot possibly yield an accurate figure for “surface Tav without radiative atmosphere” for this ocean planet. In this, all the empirical evidence supports Joe’s position, not that of the believer + lukewarmer 255 K crowd.

Undeniable proof of this is given by comparing the S-B estimate for lunar average temperature to the empirical results returned by the DIVINER radiometer flown on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Using an albedo of 0.15 and solar irradiance of 1370 w/m2, the S-B calculation (flat moon physics) returns 268 K for surface Tav. Compared to the empirical radiometer data, this is around 80 K too high.

If the S-B calculation won’t work for the simple surface of the Moon, there is zero chance it will work for the far more complex surface of the Earth. It is worth researching the subsequent papers on modelling Lunar temperatures that followed the DIVINER results. The Moon had to be treated as a rotating sphere, surface texture taken into account, actual radiative properties modelled and critically, surface conduction. Modelling the Moon as a simple grey-body and ignoring the critical variable time simply didn’t work.

How far out is the 255 K figure for “Surface Tav in absence of radiative atmosphere” for our planet? It’s out by around 57 K. It’s 57 degrees too low. And that means our radiatively cooled atmosphere acts to cool the surface of our planet not warm it. And they wonder why the climate models that include CO2 as a positive forcing don’t work …

I strongly advise readers not to waste time on Joe’s videos. He is painfully repetitive, rambling and is highly emotionally invested in a single modelling flaw.

His is correct that modelling a ¼ power sun over flat surface in attempt to model average surface temperature at radiative equilibrium is a flawed approach that can never work. But this is old news. The empirical data from the DIVINER Lunar mission showed an average surface temperature around 80C lower than the “flat earth physics” Stefan-Boltzmann estimate.

Following the return of data from DIVINER, scientists worked to produce a mathematical model that would match the empirical data where the S-B approach failed. To succeed, they had to model the Moon as a rotating sphere, illuminated by a full power sun on one hemisphere only. The model had to be broken into latitude bands with subdivisions for smooth rough textures and with basic surface materials (rock/regolith) properly modelled including their conductivity, specific heat capacity and radiative properties. Most critically they had to run an iterative model to introduce the variable Time.

Earth is a giant spacecraft. In engineering for spacecraft thermal control, three modelling factors are critical:
1. The solar illumination cycle of all surfaces of the space craft.
2. The surface materials of the spacecraft – SW / SWIR absorptivity, LWIR emissivity, conductivity and specific heat capacity.
3. Internal sources of heat and sensible heat transfer between the materials of the spacecraft.

In deriving the figure 255K for “average surface temperature without radiative atmosphere” for Earth, huge errors were made in modelling each of the three factors listed above. Joe appears to have found the massive errors made for the first, but ignores the huge errors made in modelling the second and third factors.

Joe may think the error he is highlighting with modelling factor 1 invalidates the AGW conjecture. It doesn’t. However the errors made in modelling factor 2 (surface properties) does invalidate the entirety of the AGW conjecture.

15. dai davies says:

My previous comment needs elaboration, since this is an important issue. To dismiss the greenhouse effect as insignificant, as follows from my calculations (a), there has to be an alternative mechanism raising the Earth’s temperature to its present average levels. The Diurnal smoothing Effect (DSE) we are discussing here provides a mechanism that is clearly demonstrated in the DIVINER lunar data.
I want to try to demonstrate the significance of fully modelling the surface heat transfer and storage, and why modelling it with a single layer is insufficient. Simply put, a single layer responds too rapidly to changing surface temperatures, so the heat transfer dynamics over the daily cycle are underestimated.
I have modelled the DSE in my Open Climate Modeller (OCM) package (b). Full details of the calculations can be followed through the javascript code using a browser console, but I’ll summarise using the diagrams in (c). At the top is a screen grab from a run with no atmosphere. The daily temperature cycles are less pronounced with atmospheric dampening added. The lower diagram provides a detailed view of the surface heat flows.
The model needs to run for a few days, at least, before the dynamics stabilise, so modelling just a single day gives misleading results. The depth needs to be at least 30cm with enough layers (~50) to capture the spatial detail and full dynamics.
The movie covering a daily cycle demonstrates this best. I’ve left out the ‘http://’ to make sure WP doesn’t try to load it. Your browser will assume it.

(a) http://brindabella.id.au?c=RDC
(b) http://brindabella.id.au?c=OCM
(c) http://brindabella.id.au/ftp/ground-T-no-atm.png
(d) brindabella.id.au/ftp/OCM-NoAtm-2.mov

16. dai davies says:

Wrong graphic.

17. Konrad, I have not read any of Joe Postma’s articles or videos but when you say that Roy Spencer is wrong I agree. The S-B equation in its original form applies to black body surfaces in a vacuum. Further, the Boltzmann constant (which came before Planck’s work who used Boltzmann’s data) also implies blackbodies in a vacuum as it includes the speed of light in a vacuum. (note water absorbs light and after a passage of about 100m through water the speed of light has reduced to zero. Clouds also absorb light and if they contain much water droplets the clouds will appear black.)
In this https://cementafriend.wordpress.com/2014/04/ I was already hinting that Dr Roy Spencer did not understand thermodynamics or heat transfer. Something non-engineers do not understand is the role of absorptivity and emissivity which differs depending on the nature of surfaces (eg polished or rough) and the temperature range. Gas do not have a surface and need to be treated on a volume basis. Path length is a factor in absorptivity of radiation.
It appears also that Spencer does not understand Fluid Dynamics. The atmosphere is a gas mixture which is in differing turbulent states in various locations. Those locations can be small such as a whirlwind might 100 m in diameter or can 1000’s km diameter as in severe cyclones. The atmosphere in different places contains liquid and solid particles. Over much of the ocean there are particle of salt.
One can not treat the atmosphere as layers. That is a fundamental error on the part of Spencer which he should know from his satellite data. The atmosphere will be a combination of volumes which are as one moves outwards away from the surface will be at lower temperature and pressure. Measurements have shown that various volumes can have differing amounts of trace gases (water vapor, CO2 etc) and particles (liquid water, ice, dust ash etc)
As you note CO2 plays not part in determining the temperature of the atmosphere just over the Earths surface.

18. oldbrew says:

Then there’s the lapse rate, but again there are day/night and pole/equator variables plus other factors.

19. E.M.Smith says:

Using SB and ignoring water are both horrid mistakes. The Earth does not present “layers of rock” to the sun. As others noted, we are not a vacuum over a radiator either.

70% of arriving radiation is over a water surface (more when you add in clouds). The absorption must specify water. Not rocks. The SB doesn’t apply in the troposphere (by definition… the troposphere only exists because radiation in incapable of removing the heat.)

One simply MUST use a convective mass flow model to move ocean heat, then evaporation at the surface, then even more convection mass flow in the troposphere raising water vapor to the tops of clouds. Only then, with condensation dumping the heat near the tropopause, can a radiative heat model be important. Yes, in very dry areas some surface radiation can happen, so the areas of land, not under clouds, that are dead dry, need some radiation modeling. All the cloudy places and those covered in water or forests, not so much…. so deserts and frozen places. Maybe 20% of Earth max mid winter in the north as land gets snow cover.

But SB in a vacuum and layers of rock, we are not.

Recently the sun cooled and solar spectrum shifter toward red. The atmospheric height shortened. UV and blue that heat the upper atmosphere reduced. UV and blue penetrate the oceans to depth and tack decades to get the heat back out.

The increased red and IR cause rapid surface evaporation. Not heat storage. So we have a cooling ocean with more evaporation and floods globally from the added rains. After a few decads more of that will be snow.

SB in a vacuum on rocks is useless for modeling differential absorption of changed spectrum in water or prompt evaporation. The entire SB Raditive model approach is bogus for our water world with a spectrum shifting sun.

20. oldbrew says:

Seconds out…next round…

A Simple “No Greenhouse Effect” Model of Day/Night Temperatures at Different Latitudes
June 7th, 2019 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Abstract: A simple time-dependent model of Earth surface temperatures over the 24 hr day/night cycle at different latitudes is presented. The model reaches energy equilibrium after 1.5 months no matter what temperature it is initialized at. It is shown that even with 1,370 W/m2 of solar flux (reduced by an assumed albedo of 0.3), temperatures at all latitudes remain very cold, even in the afternoon and in the deep tropics. Variation of the model input parameters over reasonable ranges do not change this fact. This demonstrates the importance of the atmospheric “greenhouse” effect, which increases surface temperatures well above what can be achieved with only solar heating and surface infrared loss to outer space.

http://www.drroyspencer.com/2019/06/a-simple-no-greenhouse-effect-model-of-day-night-temperatures-at-different-latitudes/
– – –
Doesn’t the lapse rate come into this? Warmest at the surface, coolest at the tropopause.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lapse_rate

PV = nRT and all that – pressure and therefore density decrease with height, reducing the temperature (on average).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ideal_gas_law

21. dai davies says:

In my last comment here I outlined my approach to calculating the Diurnal Smoothing Effect (DSE) using multiple layers of surface rock rather than, as some have done, using just one single slab. This approach isn’t something I made up out of the blue. It’s finite element analysis used as standard practice in countless calculations in physics and engineering. The idea is to simulate smoothly varying parameters (here heat flow and temperature) by using multiple layers and increasing the number of layers (decreasing their thickness) until further increase makes negligible difference.
What I omitted was an explanation of why this approach gives a different result to that found by just using a single slab. The short answer is in the timing. With a single slab it is assumed that heat flow through the slab is instantaneous and thermal inertia that carries heat from daytime through to night is just from the heat capacity of the slab. Make it thick enough and you get enough inertia to achieve a DSE, but the timing is wrong and the DSE calculated is too small. The slab temperature follows the surface heating too rapidly.
Returning to the diagram:

The arrows between the slices represent the non-instantaneous flow of heat, so the rate of heat transfer, or diffusion, can be calculated. The delay this creates means that more heat is carried through from day to night and the diurnal temperature variation of the surface is smoothed more.
Intuitively this smoothing may seem unlikely to change the mean temperature. It does because of the nonlinear nature of radiative emission given by the Stefan-Boltzmann equation for black (or grey) body radiation, E=aT^4. A decrease in surface temperature in the day of, say, 1C reduces radiation far more than the same increase in T increases radiation at night. The mean temperature increases to restore a balance in incoming and outgoing radiation.
I illustrate a simple example in this diagram:

Adding an atmosphere and oceans complicates the problem enormously and my attempt at this was quite simplistic, but the atmosphere does add further thermal smoothing and enhance the affect. Overall, as far as I can see, the DSE is large enough to completely replace the GHE.

I questioned Gavin Schmidt in a brief Twitter exchange, and he suggested that the consensus models include surface transfers over the daily cycle, but I can find no evidence that they model deep thermal dynamics. If not, then this is another serious flaw in their modelling. Another major shortcoming is not modelling the temporal factor in radiative transfer in our thermoluminescent atmosphere. Considering that decreases the GHE to insignificance – but I digress.

22. dai davies says:

OB, “PV = nRT and all that – pressure and therefore density decrease with height, reducing the temperature (on average).
The fundamental cause of the lapse rate is gravity. In between collisions, molecules fall under gravitational force following a hyperbolic path. Those with upward momentum lose some – ie get cooler. Those going down increase it – ie get hotter. It is a messy problem that’s caused much debate if you look at it, as you validly can, from other perspectives.

I’ve show that the gravitational approach is theoretically identical to the standard meteorological explanation, but I think it’s conceptually far simpler.

See: http://brindabella.id.au?c=LR for details.

23. oldbrew says:

The fundamental cause of the lapse rate is gravity.

Yes, and its effect depends on how much compression the mass of the atmosphere is causing, which in turn depends on how much mass there is.

oldbrew says: June 8, 2019 at 6:21 pm

Oldbrew, on your advise I went over to Dr. Spencer’s site to look at his new model. I instantly realised it was complete garbage, and responded:

Well, Dr. Spencer starts on the right foot. But then it all goes hideously wrong.

Modelling without radiative atmosphere? Perfect! A time dependant model with multiple latitude bands run over multiple diurnal cycles in 15 minute intervals? Great. Solar constant of 1370 w/m2 and planetary albedo of 0.3? Fine. Surface layer using specific heat capacity of water? Perfect, 71% of the surface is water!

But then…

Surface layer responding to heating is 0.1 m deep?! Nooooo ….. solar heating of the oceans occurs down to 200m.

Broadband IR emissivity of 0.98? For water that is only the emissivity at zenith. Hemispherical emissivity for water is below 0.7!

This modelling fails for exactly the same reason the models that give 255 K for surface Tav without radiative atmosphere fail. That is a complete failure to correctly model solar thermal gain in the oceans.

Let’s do a quick sanity check on the model. Only 3 out of 9 latitude bands get above freezing for just a few hours a day. That’s the oceans frozen solid. Now, where is the snowline in this solar system? That would be beyond 3AU in the outer reaches of the asteroid belt. Only after that point can worlds like Ceres and Europa exist with frozen oceans. This model fails the simplest sanity check. This is what happens when you treat the oceans as opaque to sunlight.

(I had to screen shot David Appell’s response. That was a keeper 😉

But after I took more time to think, I am actually appalled at Dr. Spencer’s behaviour. He didn’t make a mistake. He intentionally tried to deceive.

I have always given Dr. Spencer the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t excuse this behaviour. What he did was wrong, and I’m sure he knows it. Why would he do such a thing?

He was out to prove that Joe was wrong. So he modelled a rotating sphere over multiple diurnal cycles in 15 minute time steps with multiple latitude bands. He set surface specific heat capacity to match liquid water. But then he modelled solar absorption at the surface and only modelled conduction down to 100mm. Dr. Spencer knew what he was doing was wrong.

What did Dr. Spencer do? He tried to show through deception that Joe was wrong. He introduced the diurnal cycle and latitude bands that Joe insisted on, but then set his surface properties to “near blackbody”. He limited solar thermal response to 100mm when the sun heats our oceans down to 200m.

I admit I’m shocked. Dr. Spencer is the guy credited for finding a way to use microwave soundings of oxygen molecules to do multi layer satellite temperature readings of the atmosphere. I cannot understand why he would stoop to such foul behaviour.

25. arfurbryant says:

Postma is right and Spencer is wrong…

Solar flux = 1370 W/m2
Divide by 4 = 342.5 W/m2

Simple, right?

But reality is not that simple.

In terms of solar radiation and warming the surface of the Earth, 1370 W/m2 is both effective and relevant, whereas 342.5 W/m2 is neither.

The difference is not just numerical. The difference is understandable when one considers the concept of intensity.

The average wavelength of photons emitted from a hotter source is shorter than the average wavelength of a photons emitted from a cooler source. This means the shorter wavelength photons (higher energy) can impart energy to the absorber and raise its internal energy. This is why the Sun’s radiation can warm the Earth and so-called backradiation cannot. The radiation from the Earth’s atmosphere is, on average, thermally irrelevant to the already warmer surface.

The two graphs published by Spencer actually make Postma’s point for him!

Spencer no atm surface.jpg

Spencer flux model.jpg

Graph 1 and Graph 2 show that the incoming radiation at 75 deg Latitude (appx 342.5 W/m2) equates to minus 110F (minus 79C) with no atmosphere. Spencer then states the GE makes up the difference to what we actually get with an atmosphere. Dome C is Latitude 75 deg S and averages minus 55C, making the local GE around 25C, whereas Thule (Lat 76 deg N) averages minus 11C, making the local GE 68C! Neither locations have a temperature close to the so-called average global temperature, so why use their insolation value as representative of the entire Earth?

The point that Postma makes, and Spencer doesn’t get, is that if one arithmetically averages the 1370 to 342.5 one does NOT give a proper representation of the insolation. This is because (again) the intensity of the radiation at 1370 W/m2 is much greater than 342.5 W/m2 and is capable of raising the internal energy of the absorbing molecules of the surface, whereas the lower intensity of backradiation is not.

Radiation at 342.5 has no warming effect, so just averaging the figure 1370 gives no real-world relevance. It’s like taking two shots at a target with one shot hitting two feet to the left and the other hitting two feet to the right and claiming that the average is perfectly on the bullseye! It has no meaning in the real world.

The real world works with the higher intensity insolation causing (some of) the surface to warm during the day and then the atmosphere helping to prevent heat loss at night, until the process recommences the next day. If the Earth just had 342.5 everywhere we would end up with a cold Earth and the ridiculous K&T energy balance stating the atmosphere provides as much ‘heat flux’ as the Sun!

Postma is trying to use his videos to put his point across in a much more palatable style than his historically rather venomous responses. For that I applaud him. Spencer has always been a lukewarmer and cannot accept that heat only flows one way. Spencer is in a hole and should stop digging.

26. oldbrew says:

In a third video JP uses a turkey cooking analogy: cooking it for x hours at temperature y (as per the instructions) doesn’t give the same result as cooking for 2x hours at y/2. The argument really is that climate theory is distorting reality by misunderstanding – or not understanding – the thermal issues.

27. Steve Titcombe says:

Re: arfurbryant June 9, 2019 at 11:39 am
“Spencer has always been a lukewarmer and cannot accept that heat only flows one way”.

It is true, radiant Heat only flows one way, but radiant energy flows in BOTH directions i.e. radiant energy is emitted from a hot surface towards a cold surface and radiant energy is emitted from a cold surface towards a hot surface. The difference between the two radiant energy flows is radiant heat.

But, in that ‘other’ (lesser) radiant energy flow, the radiant energy emitted from the ‘colder’ surface toward the ‘hotter’ blackbody surface is still absorbed and is thermalised into kinetic energy on the surface of that hotter object, making it warmer than would have been the case had that radiant energy (from the colder surface) not been received.

This brings us back to “Eschenbach” and his “Steel Greenhouse”.

Like many, I have thought long and hard about his ‘thought experiment’ and have, until now, held back from admitting that I now understand how, IN A VACUUM, the passive shell DOES increase the temperature of the active Sphere. Prior to reaching this conclusion I had tried to argue (with myself) that the photons emitted from the inside surface of the shell had a lower frequency and could not further increase the kinetic energy of the surface of the sphere – but such an argument could not account for the energy being conveyed in those photons. I then tried to argue that the photons emitted from the inside surface of the shell were prevented from doing so because the greater energy density being emitted from the sphere – but such an argument could not account for the fact that the S-B law made no such provision for this – the shell is compelled to emit at it’s S-B temperature. It’s not negotiable.

So how can a colder object, with no internal power of it’s own, cause a power-emitting object to become even warmer? Where does this extra energy come from to further heat the warmer object? Well, it’s all to do with financial accounting of the energy released by the sphere – every Joule counts on the bottom line of the balance sheet, and each month, the balance sheet changes.
Many dislike analogies, but this one is good, so please bear with me and let the (necessarily long) story unfold….

A person has been raised to believe that they should give away 10% of their wealth (which is represented by the funds held in their checking account) to an external charity each month.
On the first day of the first month, when this person starts their first paid job (say at a monthly rate of \$1000), they have zero dollars in their checking account, so they give away nothing to charity – so their checking account stays at zero dollars. At the end of “month one”, they receive their \$1000 salary paid into their checking account.

At the commencement of “month two”, they now have \$1000 in their checking account and so give away a \$100 check to charity. At the end of “month two”, they again receive their \$1000 salary paid into their checking account.

At the commencement of “month three” they now have \$1900 in their checking account and so give away a \$190 check to charity. At the end of “month three”, they again receive their \$1000 salary paid into their checking account.

At the commencement of “month four” they now have \$2710 in their checking account and so give away a \$271 check to charity. At the end of “month four”, they again receive their \$1000 salary paid into their checking account.

You will see that eventually, their checking account will reach \$10,000 and they will give away \$1,000 each month to charity, and they will earn \$1,000 for the next month – the state of financial equilibrium has been reached.

Many years pass and this hardworking and generous person rears a child and this child is also raised with a very charitable nature. However, unlike their hardworking parent, this child (now entering adulthood) does not become an independent worker in their own right but instead, remains wholly dependent upon their generous parent for their entire income. The parent, believing that “charity begins at home”, continues to give 10% of their wealth away but now, all of their charitable giving goes to their dependent child, rather than the external charity.

On the first day of the first month when the dependent child leaves home, the dependent child has no wealth in their own checking account and so gives no charitable donation to any external recipient and similarly gives no charitable donation to their hard-working parent either. However, the parent has \$10,000 in their checking account, so the parent now gives away 10% of their wealth (as a \$1,000 check) to their dependent child – and this is paid into the dependant child’s own checking account, so the dependant child’s checking account jumps to \$1,000 dollars when the check clears, whilst the parent’s checking account drops to \$9,000. However, by the end of the month, the parent is paid their \$1,000 salary so the parent’s own wealth is again restored to \$10,000.

At the commencement of “month two” the dependent child (now having \$1000) gives 10% of it’s own wealth to an external charity and also gives 10% of it’s own wealth back to their parent (the child, like the shell, has two directions for giving). So the child gives \$100 to an external charity and gives a \$100 check back to their parent (leaving them \$800). The Parent will have \$10,000 and so gives away a \$1,000 check to their dependent child. At the end of “month two”, the parent receives their \$1000 salary paid into their checking account from their employer, and the \$100 check (paid from their child) clears into the parent’s account. Now the parent has \$10,100 and the dependent child has \$1,800.

At the commencement of “month three” the dependent child gives 10% of it’s own wealth (now standing at \$1,800) to an external charity and also gives 10% of it’s own wealth back to their parent. So the child gives \$180 to external charity and gives a \$180 check back to their parent (leaving them \$1440). The Parent will have \$10,100 and so gives away a \$1,010 check to their dependent child. At the end of “month three”, the parent receives their salary of \$1000 paid into their checking account, and the \$180 check paid from their child clears into the parent’s account. Now the parent has \$10,270 in their checking account and the dependent child has \$2440.

You will find that, eventually, the parent’s checking account will grow to reach \$20,000 and that the parent (whilst still earning a salary of only \$1,000 per month) will be required give away \$2,000 each month to the dependent child. The dependant child’s checking account will grow to reach \$10,000 and the dependent child will give a \$1,000 check to ‘external’ charity and will give a \$1,000 check to their parent – the new state of financial equilibrium has again been reached. All the ‘additional’ money in the system is accounted for (it only ever came from the gainful employment of the working parent and yet, by the introduction of a wholly dependent child, the parent has, over time, become wealthier – twice as wealthy in fact – whilst still only earning the same \$1,000 salary each month. Neither the parent or their dependent child has fraudulently created any fake money. The wealth held in the two checking accounts is entirely genuine – but the (wholly dependent) yet generous child’s “back-giving” has allowed the parent’s own wealth to increase.

A dollar, when given by a poor person to a rich person, must inevitably make the rich person one dollar richer. However, the richer person will always ‘outgive’ to the poorer person – the net flow of dollars is always from the wealthier parent to the poorer child.

The same is true with the energy conveyed by the photons from a colder object to a warmer object – the radiant energy from these photons will be thermalized by the warmer object (like the dollar from a poor person, each Joule has to be accounted for). However, the warmer object will always ‘outgive’ the amount of energy it gives to colder object. The net flow of energy is always from the hotter surface to the colder surface.

The colder object does not prevent the hotter object from emitting all of it’s radiant exitance at the level prescribed by the S-B law. Similarly, the hotter object does not prevent the colder object from emitting all of it’s radiant exitance (on both it’s surfaces) at the level prescribed by the S-B law.

Finally, the steel greenhouse thought-experiment is based upon a shell having a radius that is only just larger than the radius of the sphere – that requirement in the thought experiment is necessary to ensure that all of the back-radiation from the inside surface of the shell falls upon the surface of the sphere – none is ever allowed to reach another area upon the inside surface of the shell. By this stipulation, the energy held in the sphere is now double that which would have been held if the nearby shell was absent and hence the temperature is now greater by a factor of 2^0.25 i.e. 1.189 times greater than if the nearby shell was absent. If the radius of the shell is not just slightly larger than that of the sphere but significantly larger, then the effect of back-radiation is significantly diminished.

A larger radius for the shell can again be explained in the “charitable parent and dependent child” analogy: if the Charitable Parent had three dependent children (instead of one) then the parent would continue to give 10% of their wealth away each month which would be shared equally between the three dependent children. Each of the three dependent children would again give 10% of their wealth to external charities and would also give 10% of their wealth as generous giving back to their internal family but this time, the parent would only receive one third of that which it would have got back had with one child because each of the three children distribute that internal giving as one third to the parent and then one third to the other sibling#1 and also one third to other sibling#2 (and as the two other siblings do exactly the same thing then the inter-sibling transfers count as zero net effect). In summary, the parent does get more wealth because of the existence of three dependent children but not as much as would be the case with just one dependent child i.e. as the radius of the shell increases in proportion to the radius of the sphere, the temperature-increasing (wealth) effect of the back-radiation from the inside surface of the shell upon the external surface of the sphere becomes less.

That said, ‘back radiation’ between the sphere and the shell is only significant in a vacuum. As soon as a gas is present in the gap between the sphere and the shell, the standing temperature difference between the sphere and the shell is reduced (the gas molecules act like a ‘resistive’ short-circuit). As the density of gas molecules is increased, the ‘resistive’ short circuit will tend to become a true ‘short circuit’ where the sphere temperature and the shell temperature are exactly the same.

In summary, all Photons convey energy and even the small amount of energy that a photon in the LWIR spectrum conveys has to be accounted for. Photons don’t have a temperature (they only have energy which is directly proportional to their frequency) so all of the energy conveyed by all photons which strike the surface of a blackbody must be thermalized into the surface of that blackbody, and must count towards the total energy held within that blackbody object.

28. arfurbryant says:

Hi Steve,

Ok, that was a long and well-thought comment so I’ll try to pick the important bits out of it…

[“It is true, radiant Heat only flows one way, but radiant energy flows in BOTH directions i.e. radiant energy is emitted from a hot surface towards a cold surface and radiant energy is emitted from a cold surface towards a hot surface. The difference between the two radiant energy flows is radiant heat.”]
That is why I was careful to use the word Heat, not Radiation. You are correct, radiant energy flows both ways but heat only flows from hot to cold.

[“But, in that ‘other’ (lesser) radiant energy flow, the radiant energy emitted from the ‘colder’ surface toward the ‘hotter’ blackbody surface is still absorbed and is thermalised into kinetic energy on the surface of that hotter object, making it warmer than would have been the case had that radiant energy (from the colder surface) not been received.”]
No. The radiant energy is not absorbed for energy gain by the warm object. The radiation interacting with the warm object is either reflected (or, if you prefer, absorbed for no energy gain and then instantly re-emitted at the same frequency) or transmitted through. However, depending on the temperature of the cold object, the equilibrium temperature reached in the system may be higher than if no radiation was received, if the no radiation environment was colder than the cold body which has been added to the system. Lower energy (longer wavelength) radiation is simply NOT absorbed for energy gain (thermalisation as you put it). Only higher energy radiation can impart an increase in internal energy to the already warmer receiving object. Think of this: it does’t matter how many cold objects you place around a warm object – the warm object never gets any warmer, even though the warm object is receiving more incoming radiation (because there are more surrounding objects).

[“Many dislike analogies, but this one is good, so please bear with me and let the (necessarily long) story unfold…”]
Analogies have to be accurate to work. I understand what your analogy is trying to convey but, unfortunately, it fails because each \$ is worth the same amount irrespective of who gives it. This is NOT the same with radiation. The lower energy radiation is simply thermally irrelevant to the warm object’s surface until the warm object has cooled to the same temperature as the cold object and the environment – at which point the system is in equilibrium. No money has been returned to the warm object because the warm object has not gained any money. It has merely stopped donating.

[“Finally, the steel greenhouse thought-experiment is based upon a shell having a radius that is only just larger than the radius of the sphere – that requirement in the thought experiment is necessary to ensure that all of the back-radiation from the inside surface of the shell falls upon the surface of the sphere – none is ever allowed to reach another area upon the inside surface of the shell. By this stipulation, the energy held in the sphere is now double that which would have been held if the nearby shell was absent and hence the temperature is now greater by a factor of 2^0.25 i.e. 1.189 times greater than if the nearby shell was absent.”]
I’m not privy to the intricacies of the thought experiment but, from memory, the steel greenhouse won’t work as advertised because
a, The backradiation does not add to the temperature of the sphere, and
b, However thin the shell may be, the surface area on the outside will always be greater than the inside. Therefore, the energy absorbed by the shell will be mostly (greater than half) lost to space. If there is no external energy source, the sphere will eventually cool to equilibrium. Any hot object, if surrounded by insulation, will never increase temperature unless there exists another energy source to the object (sphere).

[“Photons don’t have a temperature (they only have energy which is directly proportional to their frequency) so all of the energy conveyed by all photons which strike the surface of a blackbody must be thermalized into the surface of that blackbody, and must count towards the total energy held within that blackbody object.”]
No. Although photons do not have a temperature, their (average) wavelength is based on the temperature of the emitting source. Again, these photons from a cooler body do not have to be thermalised (in fact, they can’t be) by the receiving surface. The photons don’t disappear, they are merely either transmitted or reflected. It’s about intensity.

Kind regards,

Arfur

Steve,
Willis’ “steel greenhouse” does conform to standard Maxwellian radiative physics. You can model it in a simple CFD/FEA program that includes radiation. Some years ago I showed you could even model it via physical experiment:

But as you correctly point out, it fails if the radiating layers are not separated by vacuum. (Note the vacuum line in the experiment).

There are other ways of showing that “steel greenhouse” cannot be superimposed over other atmospheric processes. The simplest is experiments showing that surface incident LWIR cannot heat nor slow the cooling rate of water free to evaporatively cool. This means that 71% of the inner shell of the “greenhouse” cannot have its temperature raised by LWIR from the outer shell.

When these flaws are pointed out to the AGW believer or lukewarmer, this typically results in a performance of the “Goalpost Dance” (This is a traditional climastrologist dance, usually preformed to the accompaniment of the Mexican Hat Dance music and thought to have originated from Ray Pierrehumbert’s “choked radiator” claims of 1995).

In this dance, performers rapidly switch from “steel greenhouse” arguments to the ERL argument and back again. The ERL argument claims that adding radiative gases to the atmosphere increases its LWIR opacity, thereby increasing the altitude of LWIR emission to space and in turn the temperature of the new higher “Effective Radiating Level”. By using standard lapse rate down from the new ERL, it appears to show an increase in surface temperatures.

But this argument is also flawed. While absorption of LWIR at low altitude can cause atmospheric warming, increased radiative gases will more cause atmospheric cooling at altitude. This would cause an increase in the speed of vertical tropospheric convective circulation, increasing the speed of sensible heat transport away from the surface. Also the lapse rate is not constant and is dependant on the speed of vertical circulation across the vertical pressure gradient of the atmosphere. Thus the ERL argument collapses, and dancers must swing back to the Maxwellian goalpost to begin the dance cycle again.

The awful truth is this: there is no valid model for how radiative gases are supposed to create a radiative atmospheric GHE, and there never was. Joseph Fourier made a flawed calculation in 1824 that Earth’s surface temperatures were warmer than they should be for an object this far from the sun. He speculated that their may be an atmospheric greenhouse effect raising surface temperatures. (His calculation was flawed because he ignored solar thermal gain in the true surface materials of this planet).

Later Tyndall, experimenting to validate atomic theory, showed gas molecules with three or more atoms could warm by absorbing LWIR and cool by emitting LWIR. Tyndall never claimed this proved a radiative GHE existed, but other scientists looking for Fourier’s non-existent greenhouse effect sized on Tyndall’s work, thinking radiative exchange between the surface and atmosphere would give them the GHE they were searching for.

The radiative GHE conjecture is not based on correctly modelling atmospheric processes including conduction, convection, evaporation, release of latent heat or absorption and emission of LWIR. It is based on incorrectly calculating surface Tav without atmosphere, then trying to bash square pegs into round holes.

30. Dai Davis, I will not challenge your concept which I have not studied. It could be genuine but also could be wrong. However, I challenge your figure for emissivity of the surface. A flat clean water surface has not emissivity of about 0.95-0.96 in the temperature range about 4C to about 50C. However, the ocean surface for a start is not flat (mostly there are waves) and it is not clean. Usually the ocean has an appearance of white caps which contains, foam of organic matter, drops of water, salt etc which reflect light to some extent. and is likely to reflect radiant energy of longer wavelength. According to Kirchhoff’s Law absorptivity and emissivity are equal in the same surrounding conditions. I suggest that the absorptivity and emissivity of the ocean is a maximum of 0.9. The land surface also is not flat and has a lower emissivity than the ocean surface. Antarctica which covered by is has an emissivity of about 0.3. desert areas covered by sand have an emissivity of about 0.7. I would suggest an emissivity of around 0.75 for land surfaces. Although one should not be averaging emissivities or radiation from different surfaces I suggest in any such calculation weather right or wrong one should use an emissivity for the whole surface no greater than 0.85.
Someone above wrote a lot of words about a thought experiments which are just that thoughts not the result of measurement or actual physical outcomes. One can think that one goes back in time but time only moves in one direction and everyone will die some time. There is no evidence that radiant can move in all directions. Light can be focused and moves away from the source.. Light can be absorbed as when it passes through water. The is no evidence that a beam fo light passed into water is reflected back to change the properties of the source no matter what one thinks or pretends to do in a mathematical equation. I have read that the second of thermodynamics has been shown by measurement to apply on an atomic scale. ie a warmer atom transfering heat to a cooler atom and coming to equilibrium. My experience with flames indicates that the 2nd law of thermodynamics applies and there is no backradiation to affect the source (there can be a change to location of the the maximum heat transfer and a flame can be lengthened or shortened and in an insulated furnace nearly all the heat can be in the exhaust gases)

oldbrew says: June 10, 2019 at 10:58 am

Here JP is getting closer to the problem. The solar heating of the surface materials of the planet, and the resultant thermal gain, is dependant on how that solar energy is delivered.

If we tried to model solar heating of the oceans using only average solar power and average angle of incidence, we could not correctly model solar heating of deeper water.

32. oldbrew says:

OK, so heating half the planet (one hemisphere) at any given moment at a mean 1370W/2 per m² – which does happen, is not analogous to heating all of it (at all times) at a mean 1370W/4 per m² – which doesn’t happen, but appears in energy budget cartoons.

Picking one at random – a ‘revised’ NASA cartoon acc. to the file name (342*4 = 1368).
Note: the cartoon itself may or may not have merits. This is just to show the input figure used. If that’s not valid the whole cartoon fails, surely – along with all the other versions using the same solar input?

33. arfurbryant says:

Oldbrew,
Yep, these energy balance diagrams which use 342(ish) W/m2 as insolation are all inaccurate because they are all based on an inaccurate assumption. The one you showed states that only 174 W/m2 is absorbed by the surface. If this was the case the equivalent latitude would be 85 deg! Not much warming there…!😉

34. oldbrew says:

arfurbryant says:
June 11, 2019 at 4:30 pm

Oh dear. Climate ‘science’ has sold us a pup – who knew? 😆