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My confusion and anger ended when our host showed me the real physics

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I did a bit of light trolling at Science of Doom and elicited this response:

You are confusing several topics.

No I’m not. They are confusing the issue, as he later confirms:

Elsewhere I have discussed why it is simplest to consider the steady-state balance or imbalance at the TOA [top of atmosphere]. An imbalance at the TOA is created by rising GHGs slowing down the rate of radiative cooling to space. DLR is an internal radiation flux that moves heat WITHIN our climate system and therefore isn’t important to the radiative imbalance at the TOA. A “rising effective emitting layer is important to the balance at the TOA.

Since AGW is a very complicated subject, it is often explained with a variety of models paradigms including: Increasing DLR “warms” the surface, CO2 “traps” heat, CO2 acts as a blanket or insulation, GHG’s act as shell or layer around the Earth (Willis promotes a “Steel Greenhouse” Model) and a “rising effective emitting layer” model (promoted here and by Linden among others). IMO – and others probably do disagree – all of these models are flawed.

Which was exactly my point, I have spent a year wading through this crap:

When I first came here (on the advice of Steve McIntyre), I was continuously frustrated and intemperate, because I KNEW that doubling CO2 would double the number of photons emitted by CO2 and usually halve the distance they traveled between emission and absorption. I couldn’t see why doubling CO2 would change anything – which turns out to be an excellent first approximation to the truth. The reduction in radiative cooling [to] space from 2XCO2 is barely more than a 1% change despite doubling the emission of photons by CO2. (As best I can tell, the rising effective emitting layer model doesn’t take into account the doubled emission of photons by doubled CO2.)

Luckily, Salvation is at hand for those Who Know And Want To Believe:

My confusion and anger ended when our host stopped talking about models and paradigms for AGW and showed me the real physics: Schwarzschild’s equation for radiation transfer. This is the equation that climate scientist use to predict that a doubling of CO2 will slow radiative cooling to space by about 3.5 W/m2. Unfortunately, this equation is a differential equation that must be numerically integrated over the path radiation takes, and therefore may or may not be meaningful to you…

I do not pretend to understand this equation numerically, but the gist of is what common sense would tell us: some gases are better ‘insulators’ against radiation than others, in the same way that some gases are better for thermal insulation than others, so less radiation (or thermal energy) comes out of one side than went in on the other. Wow, big deal.
Basic physics tells us that everything can radiate (we are told hat N2 and O2 can’t, let’s just accept that) and that the temperature of the atmosphere falls with increasing altitude (because of the gravity-induced lapse rate). Therefore, stuff which is higher up will be radiating less than the surface. Outgoing radiation is about one-third from the warmer surface and two-thirds from cooler clouds (which themselves have only about 75% emissivity) and if you average those out, you get the same answer as what is actually observed, which is what is needed to keep the atmosphere at a steady-state temperature.

PS, the figure of 3.5 W/m2 (which he himself dismisses as “barely more than a 1% change”) is a key part of the Alarmist belief system. This was originally derived by simply assuming that warming over an arbitrarily chosen time period was directly caused by changes in CO2 levels. They later reverse engineered the answer they wanted from an equation not necessarily designed for this purpose. Even if correct, that equates to a surface temperature which is about 0.7 degrees warmer for every doubling of CO2. Again, big deal. (This is of course wholly at odds with Al Gore’s claim that temperatures rise by about 1 degree for every 5% extra CO2, not that he ever retracted it or that the Alarmists even notice the discrepancy – if Al Gore’s chart had been a good predictor, then temperatures would be about 10 degrees warmer than they actually are.)


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