An Accounting Error by Climate Science.

An Accounting Error by Climate Science-1

The atmosphere warms the Earth by 33C (some arrive at different numbers but that doesn’t matter here) simply because a quantity of kinetic energy is constantly being recycled up and down within the atmosphere so as to supply additional energy to the surface in addition to incoming solar energy at any given moment.

The cycling process involves the conversion of that kinetic energy to gravitational potential energy and back again. During the up and down cycling process potential energy is not available to the exchange of radiation in and out of the Earth system but it does become available for radiating out to space when it is returned downwards and converted back from potential energy to kinetic energy again at the surface.

At any given time, taking the globe as a whole about half of the atmosphere is rising and half is falling.

That is mainly apparent in the troposphere with the high and low pressure cells but circulations also exist in the higher layers so the general principle holds for the entire atmosphere.


When kinetic energy is converted to potential energy by the interaction with gravity whilst air is rising that disappears from the planet’s radiative exchange with sun and space until it is returned to the surface again by descending air.

Here is a simplified account of the interchangeability of kinetic energy and potential energy:

So, potential energy should be deducted from the surface energy budget when air rises and, because it has disappeared from view, it must be deducted from the top of atmosphere energy budget too.

Then, when that potential energy descends it has to be added back to the surface energy budget as kinetic energy and then also added back to the top of atmosphere energy budget because it radiates straight out from the ground to top of atmosphere instantly at the speed of light.

Now if the entire process were instant there would be no problem but it all takes time for air to rise and then fall so the process is out of phase with the normal radiative flow of solar shortwave in and longwave out and has been since the very first atmospheric molecules floated above the surface.

Because it is out of phase with the background exchange of radiation in and out of the Earth system the surface to top of atmosphere energy exchange must be regarded as a separate energy loop quite independent of the pass through of solar energy.

What AGW proponents have done is to just take half the loop by taking the surface temperature BEFORE the conversion to potential energy and the top of atmosphere temperature AFTER the conversion to potential energy.

That leads to double counting at the surface because the surface temperature then represents both insolation AND returning kinetic energy from the separate loop.

The proper scenario is this:

i) Solar shortwave in 255 at top of atmosphere.

Longwave out 255 at top of atmosphere.

and in a separate loop:

ii) Kinetic energy removed from surface 33 (or whatever the actual amount might be) and NOT delivered to top of atmosphere.

Kinetic energy returned to surface 33.

What they have done instead is this:

i) At surface:

Solar shortwave in 255 plus kinetic energy returning 33 = 288

Longwave out 255 plus kinetic energy out 33 = 288.

ii) At top of atmosphere:

Solar shortwave in 255

Longwave out 255.

So obviously there is a discrepancy which they cover by proposing that there is a flow of downward infrared radiation from the sky to ground (DWIR) of 33 units.


There is also a kinetic/potential energy impact at top of atmosphere which they have ignored.


(i) Solar shortwave in 255 plus 33 from warmer surface due to returning kinetic energy = 288

(ii) Longwave out 255 less 33 retained by atmosphere as potential energy = 222

The two 33s cancel out so that leaves 255 as observed.

So, we then have the solar input passing straight through yet a further 33 being recycled up and down through the atmosphere which gives a warmer surface but no change in top of atmosphere energy balance.

And that then balances the energy budget without proposing a radiative solution involving DWIR.

The important point then is that the 33 units stored within the atmosphere as radiatively invisible potential energy are present as a function of mass and gravity in the presence of solar input and NOT atmospheric composition which is why other planets show similar lapse rate characteristics despite huge variations in composition.

What has been overlooked is the effect of the time delay in the process of converting kinetic to potential and back again and only taking account of one half of the loop.

The thicker the atmosphere, the longer the delay in the kinetic / potential exchange and back again, the more energy is locked away in that exchange, the more energy will return to the surface on the down cycle and the higher the surface temperature will become for a given level of solar input.

If one changes the composition of the atmosphere without changing the mass significantly then the speed of the throughput of energy changes and NOT the amount of potential energy stored in the atmosphere so one sees a circulation shift instead of a temperature rise.

Even if our CO2 emissions were to increase the temperature the effect would be indiscernible because the amount of change would be related to total atmospheric mass and not related to the proportionate increase in CO2

So either way AGW theory fails.

What matters is delay time during a mechanical process and NOT radiative physics.

Radiative physics completely overlooks, and fails to account for, the energy hidden away as potential energy within an atmosphere and which is being constantly recycled so as to affect surface temperature not top of atmosphere temperature.

Note what I said back in 2008:

“It is that interruption in the flow of radiant energy in and out which gives rise to a warming effect. The warming effect is a single persistent phenomenon linked to the density of the atmosphere and not the composition. Once the appropriate planetary temperature increase has been set by the delay in transmission through the atmosphere then equilibrium is restored between radiant energy in and radiant energy out.

The fundamental point is that the total atmospheric warming arising as a result of the density of the atmosphere is a once and for all netting out of all the truly astronomic number of radiant energy/molecule encounters throughout the atmosphere. The only things that can change that resultant point of temperature equilibrium are changes in solar radiance coming in or changes in overall atmospheric density which affect the radiant energy going out”

From here:

Greenhouse Confusion Resolved

Pinning it all down to the length of the KE/PE and PE/KE transition period tops and tails the whole thing very nicely because it firmly nails the culprit as mass rather than composition.

CO2 has no chance of changing total atmospheric mass on Earth significantly however much we produce so the only remaining question is as to how far our CO2 emissions could change the circulation pattern.

I would suggest barely at all and most likely indiscernible against the 1000 mile latitudinal shifts that occurred naturally from MWP to LIA and LIA to date.

Published by Stephen Wilde December 3, 2012

Return to Archive

Comments are closed.