With a little common sense and a few numbers, we can clearly see the truth about our climate. We must ask the question, is there a basis in science for the dire predictions? The short answer is that there is not. If we are to predict the future of our climate, we need to have precise data over a very long period – thousands of years. that data simply does not exist. People look at tree rings and glacial ice, but the reality is, they are far, far from doing useful science. They do, however, want to get supported to dabble in their chosen field. Scaring people is an easy way to get funding.
Over millions of years the Earth’s temperature has apparently been both much hotter and much colder than today – and no one really knows why. Modest changes in CO2 almost certainly have nothing to do with today’s climate. From what data that does exist, there is no leading correlation between the concentration of CO2 and global temperatures over the past millennia, only a following correlation. The truly remarkable thing to me, as a scientist, is that plants and algae can actually eke out an existence at the current CO2 level of only about 400 parts per million.
We must consider, what is the “normal” state of our climate? For 2 1/2 million years, the Earth has been oscillating back and forth between long glacial and brief interglacial periods. We are currently in one of those geologically brief, warm interglacial periods. Glaciation has actually been the norm for our climate for the last 2 1/2 million years. So, in a sense, we are thankfully in an abnormally warm period – but what does that mean?
The Ice Age we are currently in is called the Quaternary Ice Age. You have to go back 450 million years to find an ice age equally as cold as the Quaternary Ice Age of today. The Last Glacial Maximum was about 13,500 years ago. Since then there has been a typical, gradual warming trend that continues today. During the Last Glacial Maximum, the Earth was a dry, dusty, dreary planet. There was a sheet of ice a mile thick extending from Labrador, Canada to New York City. Survival on Earth was very difficult everywhere. There was no Amazon Rain Forest and agriculture as we know it would not have been feasible.
If you look at the bedrock in Central Park, NY you can see grooves pointing NNE towards Labrador that were cut by rocks pushed by the glacier. The glacier deposited sand where Long Island is located and it dug the Great Lakes.
Sea level was 400′ lower than today and the Continental Shelf was above water. You could walk from Florida to the Bahamas. The Gulf of Mexico was mostly dry land.
Since the Earth radiates and reflects almost precisely as much energy back into Space as the Sun shines upon it, the issue of “global warming” is really about how much energy reaches the surface of the Earth and how it’s distributed vertically. If the upper atmosphere reradiates more heat via CO2 in the upper atmosphere, the surface will get a little cooler. We actually have little to worry about except the natural variation of the Sun and our climate – and the likely return of glaciation.
In 1999 a professor at the University of Virginia, Michael Mann, published a paper claiming to be the definitive evidence of “global warming”. It became known as the “hockey stick”, as it showed a sudden upswing in temperatures during the 20th century. The graph literally looked like a hockey stick held horizontally. It was touted as the ultimate truth of “global warming”.
The problem was, he was using what’s called “Principal Component Analysis” to combine 80 different, flawed historical temperature records into one. Not only was the use of Principal Component Analysis an attempt to produce meaningful results from multiple bad data sets, the computer program written by his team to do the calculations was defective. Two Canadians, Ross McKitrick and Steven McIntyre actually tested the computer program and found that even completely random data fed into the program produced the dreaded “hockey stick”!!!
When climatologists try to calculate temperatures on a global scale, they inevitably fail. Global temperatures are very poorly recorded for a number of reasons. There are no useful, long term records with which to compare current temperatures with the past. There aren’t even good records of recent weather. My grandfather was born 25 years before the National Weather Service began to record weather records in 1890. In addition, each year the NWS drops off the last year and adds on a new year. This produces new “Record Temperatures” regularly to thrill the public. Those records are interesting, but of no practical use to analyze climate.
The best global records come from satellites. Even they are very flawed and poorly suited to study the climate of the earth. By the time climatologists compensate for differences in the instruments from one satellite to another, the orbital differences, and data from balloons, they can come up with practically any result they wish. None of them agree. The balloon data is said to be flawed as a result of a change in design that affected the temperature readings.
Ocean and air temperatures have been recorded by ships for centuries, but as ships grew taller, the air temperatures were recorded at greater heights above the water, skewing the data in the warmer direction. The variation in accuracy of all those thermometers was of course considerable.
It isn’t really that easy to accurately measure the temperature of a gas like air. As a gas, air doesn’t transfer heat very well to a thermometer so the response is slow when the wind isn’t blowing. They are also influenced by heat directly from the Sun and reradiated heat from their surroundings. Most people who have more than one thermometer find the thermometers rarely agree. One will be in the Sun while another is in the shade. Meteorological enclosures don’t really shade thermometers very well from the Sun.
Temperatures have been recorded for well over a century in Central Park, NY. When temperatures were first recorded, Central Park was in the countryside. There were trees to give shade and cooling by transpiration (evaporation of water from leaves). Today Central Park is surrounded by asphalt and black tarred roofs that warm in the Sun and heat the air. This is called the “heat island” effect. Naturally the temperatures recorded are higher today in Central Park than in the past.
Granted New York City is warmer than in the time of the Manhattan Indians, but in the greater scheme of things, just how important are the temperatures of cities? I have a friend in New York who has the idea that New York is the whole world. A very rough calculation of scale can help clarify that question.
First we need to estimate very roughly how much New York is warmer today than when the white man arrived. Since we don’t really know how much warmer New York City is today, we need to make an educated guess. When you average day and night for the year, the temperature increase is likely to lie between 1 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit (0.4 and 5 1/2 degrees Celsius). For our purposes, the exact number doesn’t matter much. It’s probably closest to 1 degree F., but let’s be generous and say it has increased 5 degrees F. Manhattan consists of about 20 square miles and 2 million people. We will ignore the number of office buildings into which millions of people stream from outside NY. That means that there are roughly 100,000 people per square mile living in Manhattan. It also means that if there were 20,000 people per square mile, you might expect a temperature increase of 1 degree Fahrenheit. This is likely to be very high, but let’s use it.
On the other hand, I live in rural, Londonderry, Vermont. It seems very crowded around here, we have a population a bit over 1,200 and a land area of 36 square miles, that makes our density roughly 33 people per square mile. Using 20,000 people per square mile to be equal to an increase in temperature of roughly 1 degree F, this means we should expect that man’s presence in Londonderry might cause an increase in temperature of roughly 33/20,000 of a degree Fahrenheit or about 1/600th of a degree F. Personally I don’t find that number terribly worrisome, but some might say that Londonderry is not representative of the Earth as a whole.
So… let’s roughly calculate the population density of the Earth’s surface. the population of the Earth is about 6 1/2 billion. The square area of the Earth is roughly 200,000,000 square miles. this means the population density of the earth’s surface is roughly 33 people per square mile – about the same as rural Londonderry, VT!!! Naturally this means that the direct results of man’s habitation of Earth are likely to be an increase of about 1/600th of a degree F. – except for one thing – farming.
The effects of farming are far and away the most significant and least predictable of man’s impacts on our climate, but still not worth worrying about. In the Spring, farmers expose millions of square miles of dark Earth to the Sun, warming the air. When you fly over a freshly plowed field in a light aircraft, the rising air can give you a hard jolt. The rising air is called a thermal. Note that “thermal” is transferring heat upward very effectively. If one is truly worried about our climate, the only choice is to stop eating or increase the use of herbicides to minimize the tilling of land. I will continue to eat real food as long as the “global warming” proponents are kept at bay.
During the months of June, July, and August 1930, Washington, DC had over 21 days above 100 degrees F. (38 C.). This record has never been approached since. It was caused by drought. In dry weather the Earth warms up more than in wet weather as there is less evaporative cooling and fewer cumulus clouds. It was the beginning of the “Dust Bowl” period.
“Global Warming” – The “Greenhouse Effect”
The idea that man has modified the Earth’s environment by increasing the level of CO2 to only 400 parts per million is so misguided, it’s hard to know where to begin. If anything, we can expect a very, very slight cooling effect from CO2 – not warming! It is the Sun, water vapor, and droplets that dominate our climate.
This is clear simply by looking at the climate of Mars. You can easily predict the weather on Mars a year ahead. The wind velocity, direction, etc. are totally predictable for one simple reason. There is no water on Mars. On the other hand, the weather and climate on Earth is very unpredictable because we have prodigious amounts of water in oceans, lakes, and in the air. Water is continually evaporating, condensing, freezing, and melting. We have clouds that radiate heat back down to the Earth and block incoming radiation. It is a system that is classified as “chaotic”, thus fundamentally intractable mathematically.
It’s important to point out what the real “greenhouse effect” actually is. In grade school, teachers like to draw pictures of a greenhouse. They show arrows for sunlight coming into the greenhouse and arrows for heat (infrared light) emitted by warm objects inside, bouncing off the inside of the greenhouse glass. This trapped heat is supposed to be the “Greenhouse Effect”. This idea is almost completely wrong.
In 1909 the physicist R. W. Wood performed a simple experiment to demonstrate that the idea of “radiation trapping” was not why a greenhouse “gets hot”. He compared the temperature rise under a pane of ordinary glass with that of a pane of Sodium Chloride. Sodium Chloride is ordinary table salt, but it can be crystallized and polished into a large pane like glass. It has the characteristic that it is almost completely transparent to visible and infrared light all the way from IR emitted by the Sun down to the IR emitted at typical temperatures outdoors. The temperature under both panes was virtually identical as Wood certainly would have expected. The real reason a greenhouse gets hot is exactly what most anyone would expect. A greenhouse simply prevents hot air from rising. The temperature inside a greenhouse is what the air temperature would be outdoors if there were no convective cooling.
This simple concept seems to be lost on global warming enthusiasts. Note that there is no factor for convection in the equation below. As a chemist, I enjoy surfing the web to examine the assumptions underlying such ideas. Whenever I do, I am amazed at the poorly considered ideas that are presented to support their conclusions.
For example, on a University of Iowa web site I found a truly misbegotten tome with the following bizarre misconceptions:
The site claims that the CO2 “forcing effect” is:
(delta)F = 6.3 ln (C/Co) in watts/m2
Note: if you don’t like math, don’t worry about it. Math is like a foreign language. If you learn the new words, it isn’t really that complicated. You can just ignore it and still understand the conclusions.
The above formula is utterly wrong. A first year physics student should erupt into gales of laughter at the very sight of it.
(delta)F is described as the “forcing effect” of CO2 (a really nutty concept)
Ln is the natural log (a simple function common in science)
Co is the initial concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere
C is the concentration of CO2 at some later time
The value that results is measured in watts per square meter (a square meter is about 10 square feet)
For example, this means that if the CO2 in the atmosphere were to increase by 10%, the fraction C/Co would equal 1.10. This means the equation becomes:
(delta)F = 6.3 ln(1.1) = 6.3 x 0.095 = 0.6 watts per square meter
Compare this to incoming energy from the Sun of 1366 watts per square meter or over 2000 times greater. even if you accept the above equation, that’s not a lot to worry about.
Note that the spectrum below for H2O is inaccurate as it was done with Potassium Bromide windows in the sample cell since Sodium Chloride is water soluble.
The following spectrum is a little better, but note that the scale is reversed from the one above. Keep in mind that the concentration of H20 in our atmosphere averages over 10x higher than CO2, so the red peak for CO2 is almost meaningless in comparison to the green peak for H2O – EXCEPT for the red peak at a little greater than 4 microns, but then 4 microns is INCOMING infrared from the Sun. In other words, on balance, CO2 is SHADING the surface of the Earth, not warming it.
In the 8-12 micron (terrestrial) infrared band (heat radiating up from Earth) the spectra shown should indicate an overlap between the absorptions of H2O and CO2. This means that the far higher concentration of H2O would dominate the CO2 absorption at terrestrial infrared wavelengths. A more accurate equation might be expected to look more like:
(delta)F = A * ln (C (H2O + CO2) / Co (H2O + CO2)
This of course greatly diminishes the influence of CO2 on terrestrial infrared. If you plug in 0.5% (5000 parts per million) for water vapor, for an increase of 10% in CO2, you get a * ln(5418/5380) and the far more likely answer, some small constant “A” times 0.007 watts per square meter, and we are still assuming the misbegotten “no convection” model. At this level, the idea of CO2 affecting our climate is beyond the absurd.
As everyone is aware, cloudy nights reduce radiational cooling. This is due to both water vapor condensing in the clouds and droplets scattering infrared heat back to Earth. This effect is so dominant that CO2 never has a chance to have a tangible effect.
Interestingly at 4 microns (incoming solar infrared radiation) there is an absorption that is not overlapped by the H2O spectrum. This of course means one would expect that this would cause a shading effect, retarding incoming infrared, thus cooling the lower atmosphere. Together the effects would be to cause a very, very slight “global cooling” – not warming.
It is also worth noting that the above page showing greenhouse gas spectra includes a “total atmosphere spectrum” that is obviously just all the other spectra superimposed. Given the different concentrations of the different gases, such a spectrum makes no scientific sense and is incredibly irrelevant. The person who created it obviously had no clue what he was doing.
Another amazing page is one by Charles Keeling, the fellow who measured CO2 on the top of Mauna Loa Volcano for 50 years. His “long term” record of CO2 is what all the fuss is based upon. After looking at the history of how he measured CO2, I can have no confidence in his results. Presumably other people more competent at analytical methods have verified his results. If not, his data should not be taken seriously.
Aside from the natural concern for the idea of measuring CO2 on an active volcano that is emitting CO2, as one reads the article it becomes apparent he was ill equipped to perform the task of measuring such low concentrations of CO2. Measuring such low concentrations is not an easy task.
When originally discussing his plans with an engineer at the company that built the infrared instrument to measure CO2, the engineer said he couldn’t say that their equipment was capable of performing the task at such low levels of CO2. This is important, as it means Keeling would be without technical guidance.
I don’t know what Keeling’s background was, perhaps if Keeling were an analytical chemist or a physicist he might reasonably be expected to overcome the limitations of the device, but he sounds more like a biologist. Does he understand that all electronic instruments exhibit drift over time, etc.? Does he really know how to calibrate the instrument? Can we really compare his early results with his later results?
Given the lack of real data or theory, global warming proponents claim that the Earth’s climate is exquisitely unstable, about to fall over the edge of a precipice. Nothing could be further from the truth. The climate of the Earth is clearly what’s called a buffered system. It opposes change due to the vast amount of water in our atmosphere and oceans. There is only one thing that can significantly influence our climate – it is the Sun.
The forces that really drive our climate are utterly dominated by the Sun. In recent years, the Sun has been more active than at any other time in the last 300 years. Now the Sun is remarkably quiet. Global warming advocates choose to believe that variations in the Sun’s output are smaller than the effects of Man – this is phenomenally misguided. We know that the Earth’s climate is significantly modified by Sun spot activity on an 11 and 22 year cycle. There is a Danish theory that the gigantic plasma emissions during Sun spot activity cause changes in our cloud cover, modifying the Earth’s temperature. The theory makes very good sense. The Physics is precisely on point.
It was announced that researchers cannot determine the albedo of the Earth within 100% on the upside. The albedo of the Earth is the amount of light reflected back into space. The Earth’s albedo is fundamentally far easier to measure than the temperature of our atmosphere. The albedo is measured by observing the earthshine reflected by the Moon. If you don’t know the albedo of the Earth accurately, you cannot begin to predict our climate.
Since much of the reflectance of the earth’s atmosphere is due to clouds and other aerosol particles, an understanding of clouds is essential to any modeling of our climate. Clouds are so complex that climatologists cannot agree on how to model them. As Professor George E. P. Box of U. Wisconsin-Madison once said, “…all models are wrong, some are useful.” Without clouds in a climate model, any results are meaningless – which is exactly where we stand today.
Although there is no useful data on solar output, it is likely that the Sun’s output varies significantly over thousands of years. Consider that it takes 5,000 years for heat generated at the center of the Sun to reach the surface of the Sun. We can expect that this gives rise to a solar output variation measured in thousands of years. This may be the primary driving force behind the glacial cycle, but those of us alive today will probably never know.
As the tilt of the Earth towards the Sun wobbles slightly like a top, very slowly over thousands of years, this also will have a periodic affect on climate, but not likely enough to cause glaciation. Some people fret over melting of glaciers, but choose to ignore the glaciers that are growing. Glaciers are continually melting and moving. If there isn’t enough snow to sustain them, they recede and disappear. Some people worry about the circulation of the Gulf Stream, but the circulation of the Gulf Stream is influenced by the Sun, not Man.
We are currently nearing the likely end of the warm period between glacial periods (the interglacial period). Sometime in the next 5,000 years the Earth is likely to slip back into the grips of glaciation. We will be in it for 80-100,000 years, and man will likely be utterly incapable of doing anything about it. New York City will be pushed into the ocean by an advancing glacier from Labrador, Canada, but the skiing will be great!
Enjoy life TODAY!
Fergus S. Smith