Thursday, 7 October 2021

"Heat rises" and other Alarmist fairy tales...

Sorry to come back to this, but it has been bugging me for days.

Joseph Postma posted a video on YouTube. He is top man and a "climate denier" but he has sadly fallen into the Alarmist traps of:
a) ignoring clouds, and
b) assuming that the Sun warms land and oceans and that they in turn warm the troposphere from below.
So he fights the Physics deniers on their chosen territory, splitting hairs over radiation theory and thermodynamics and so on, all of which are actually largely irrelevant.

I pointed out in the comments how the Greenhouse Effect actually dictates surface temperatures (cloud temp is fixed by sunshine; add on lapse rate x altitude of clouds = surface temperature) and a self-appointed Guardian Of The Galaxy (a True Believer and regular commenter at Science of Doom) tied himself in knots trying to come up with killer arguments. Apart from the usual ad hominems and meaningless jargon/waffle, the best he could come up with was this:

"The Sun heats the Earth and the lower atmosphere is heated by the Earth's surface... No physics supports top down warming when heat naturally rises."

Let's do the last stupid statement first. In everyday life and on a small scale, sure, hot air (from a fire, for example) moves up vertically. That's only because hot air wants to expand, so becomes less dense than the surrounding air, so gravity pulls the denser air down in its place and this in turn pushes up the less dense air. It's the density that is key - you could put a helium balloon in the freezer for a bit, it will still float upwards in much warmer air.

'Heat' itself doesn't rise, and certainly not 'naturally'. 'Heat' doesn't really do anything, it just a measure of thermal energy that moves from a hot object to a cold object. Put some polystyrene between them, hey presto, much less 'heat'.

When hot or warm air rises and expands, its temperature falls. It has the same amount of energy as before, but it gains as much potential energy equal as it loses in thermal energy. That is key to this, the TOTAL energy.

People always forget potential energy (mass x altitude x gravity), because it's not much practical use. You have to convert it to kinetic energy first to be able to harness it, i.e. allow water from a high reservoir to fall through turbines to generate electrical energy.

Now the first stupid statement, "The Sun heats the Earth". The Sun warms up whatever it hits first, which is clouds for two-thirds of sunshine. And it warms them the same as anything else, you can calculate the likely end temperature (effective temperature) using the Stefan-Boltzmann equation and it's around 255K.

Let's say one-third of the sunshine actually directly hits Earth at ground or sea level, plus a bit more that gets through clouds, call it half in total, This is only sufficient to warm land and ocean surface to 234K. That can't warm something that must be at least 255K, can it?

[Question: if 'back radiation', which is emitted in all directions, can significantly increase the temperature of the land and ocean surface below it, why doesn't it increase the temperature of clouds above it by a similar amount? As a result of which they'd all evaporate?]

Third stupid statement: "The lower atmosphere is heated by the Earth's surface". They are to all intents and purposes the same temperature and are both warm for the same reason.

What actually happens is that clouds are a certain altitude and the Sun warms them to a certain temperature, which of course warms the surrounding air to the same temperature. Clouds are high up, so that air also has a lot of potential energy. Energy likes to spread out evenly, so the air lower down, which has less or no potential energy, has more thermal energy to balance it out.

That PE - TE trade-off is the whole basis for the dry lapse rate, which = gravity ÷ specific heat capacity, and is observed in real life. The Gas Laws just show that low and high temperatures will never equalise. Pressure falls faster than density as you go up, so temperatures have to fall as well as you go up. Temperature is proportional to pressure ÷ density all the way up.

To use a simple maths analogy, Dave is six inches taller than Jack; Jack is six inches shorter than Dave. That doesn't tell us how tall either is. If I tell you the height of one, then you know the height of the other.

The lapse rate also works in both directions; cloud temp is fixed and surface temp is simply cloud temp + their altitude x lapse rate. It would be one heck of a series of coincidences if it worked the other way round and the surface temperature magically adjusted itself to be whatever is required to give a cloud temperature that is exactly what you would expect if you calculated cloud temperature on the basis of the sunshine they receive.

The Guardian Of The Galaxy then played what he thought was another trump card, saying that clouds are below freezing (duh, I kept saying that) and so they can't warm the land or ocean surface. It's not as simple as "clouds warm the surface", it's to do with energy (in all its forms) trying to spread itself out as evenly as possible. I think the fancy term is 'entropy'.

And doesn't this nuke the Alarmist claim that radiation from cold things (CO2) makes a warm thing (the surface) even warmer? As any fule kno, CO2 absorbs/emits radiation mainly at 15 microns, if you plug that into Wien's Displacement Law, that's equivalent to radiation from a blackbody at about 200K (minus 73C).
Is this really so difficult to understand?

Is there a proper physicist who can see a flaw in this logic - the approach reconciles even better on Venus with 100% cloud cover so we don't need to make adjustments for that sunshine which directly hits the land or ocean surface like on Earth. If surface temperatures there were purely due to 'back radiation', its atmosphere would have to amplify upwelling surface radiation several hundred times over. Our Alarmist twat insisted, unprompted by me, that "Radiative fluxes do not add, they average" which is not only contradicts his whole thesis (that 'back radiation' multiplies itself) but is complete bollocks anyway, radiation is far more complicated than that.


ontheotherhand said...

I think that if people understood a fridge or air conditioning they would find this easier. Or for that matter ground source heat pumps. Would CD Marshall care to explain how energy can be extracted from ground at 14C and used by compression to hear the inside to 22?

Mark Wadsworth said...

OTOH, yes, that is a good start. Or the Vortex tube, that splits warm air into hot air and cold air.

Do you think my explanation is correct? Counter-intuitive but complies with observations and all basic laws of physics.

ontheotherhand said...

It is counterintuitive, but I follow the logic. I just think that most people can't see how a cold cloud level can make it warmer on the ground. Often in physics at school I could understand a concept of it was taken to the extreme or reduced to the absurd. Can we do that with clouds? What would happen, say, if all cloud layers were instantly heated by some alien ready to raise their temp by 15k? CD would say that hear rises and it couldn't possibly warm sea level air.

Mark Wadsworth said...

OTOH, I don't do aliens.

Clouds are especially tricky, if the air gets warmer then clouds evaporate and/or only form at higher altitudes.

No clouds = cooler surface.
Higher altitude clouds = warmer surface temps (altitude x lapse rate = a bigger number).
Could go either way.

CD is clearly talking complete rubbish.

ontheotherhand said...

I have a question though... If got air at the ground expands and becomes less dense, and for this reason is pushed up, how can it expand again? How high it rises is already a function of its (lower) density. If it keeps expanding as it rises, it will keep rising. What an I missing?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Otoh, it rises, expands and cools until it gets to an altitude where it is the same density and temp as all the air at that altitude. Then it stays there.

Robin Smith said...

Rather than attack his person and idea, why not just his idea.

Mark Wadsworth said...

RS, because he is a pompous twat who constantly contradicts himself. Scientific ideas might be right or wrong but the bare minimum is that they are internally consistent and match observations.

For example, 'Dark Matter' is a load of bollocks, but it is internally consistent and matches observations very well in most cases. So fair play to them.

Dinero said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dinero said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dinero said...

Your theory is wrong. If gravity was transferring thermal energy from the clouds to the surface the clouds would be correspondingly colder. And considering the thermal capacities, for every degree of the land and oceans being warmer the clouds would have to be 1000 degrees colder. And so that is impossible.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Din, as ever, you have missed the obvious. Allow me to recap.

1. The sun warms the clouds to a certain temperature, that is fixed. Same goes for Venus. Actual temp of clouds is, unsurprisingly, equal to effective temp of Venus. On Mars there are no clouds, so surface temp is equal to effective temp. Earth with 2/3 cloud cover is somewhere between the two.

2. (Quite independently) there is an inbuilt lapse rate, due to pressure and density. We see this lapse rate on all bodies with atmospheres (planets, moons, gas giants). Regardless of type of gas in atmosphere.

3. Cloud temp is fixed, add on altitude x lapse rate to get sea level temp.

4. No energy is being transferred, and certainly not by gravity. It is in balance. Higher altitudes have more PE and less TE, lower altitudes have less PE and more TE. Gravity creates the PE in the first place and then has little more to do.

Like most Warmenists, you pretend that PE doesn't exist and hugely downplay the role of clouds.