Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Violating the laws of thermodynamics

A little while ago, I posted about how the "greenhouse effect" was a complete misnomer and the phrase "greenhouse gases", therefore, was also wrong.

Now a commenter points me to this article which highlights the revision and re-release of a paper that underlines this point rather more strongly.

The peer-reviewed Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics (Version 4.0) [PDF], published on January 6, 2009, appeared in the March 2009 edition of the International Journal of Modern Physics.
The central claims of Dr. Gerlich and his colleague, Dr. Ralf Tscheuschner, include, but are not limited to:
  1. The mechanism of warming in an actual greenhouse is different than the mechanism of warming in the atmosphere, therefore it is not a “greenhouse” effect and should be called something else.

  2. The climate models that predict catastrophic global warming also result in a net heat flow from atmospheric greenhouse gasses to the warmer ground, which is in violation of the second law of thermodynamics.

Essentially, any machine which transfers heat from a low temperature reservoir to a high temperature reservoir without external work applied cannot exist. If it did it would be a “perpetual motion machine”—the realm of pure sci-fi.

Gerlich’s and Tscheuschner’s independent theoretical study is detailed in a lengthy (115 pages), mathematically complex (144 equations, 13 data tables, and 32 figures or graphs), and well-sourced (205 references) paper. The German physicists prove that even if CO2 concentrations double (a prospect even global warming advocates admit is decades away), the thermal conductivity of air would not change more than 0.03%. They show that the classic concept of the glass greenhouse wholly fails to replicate the physics of Earth’s climate. They also prove that a greenhouse operates as a “closed” system while the planet works as an “open” system and the term “atmospheric greenhouse effect” does not occur in any fundamental work involving thermodynamics, physical kinetics, or radiation theory. All through their paper the German scientists show how the greenhouse gas theory relies on guesstimates about the scientific properties involved to “calculate” the chaotic interplay of such a myriad and unquantifiable array of factors that is beyond even the abilities of the most powerful of modern supercomputers.

Indeed. And the two scientists make the point quite forcefully in the abstract to the paper.
(a) there are no common physical laws between the warming phenomenon in glass houses and the fictitious atmospheric greenhouse effects, (b) there are no calculations to determine an average surface temperature of a planet, (c) the frequently mentioned difference of 33 degrees Celsius is a meaningless number calculated wrongly, (d) the formulas of cavity radiation are used inappropriately, (e) the assumption of a radiative balance is unphysical, (f) thermal conductivity and friction must not be set to zero, the atmospheric greenhouse conjecture is falsified.

Now, true believers may argue that this does not actually prove that mankind is not, in some way, causing warming. However, it does comprehensively demolish the method by which they claim it is happening.
This thorough debunking of the theory of man made warming disproves that there exists a mechanism whereby carbon dioxide in the cooler upper atmosphere exerts any thermal “forcing” effect on the warmer surface below. To do so would violate both the First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. As there is no glass roof on the earth to trap the excess heat, it escapes upward into space.Thus we may conclude that the common sense axioms are preserved so that the deeper the ocean, the colder the water and heat rises, it does not fall. QED.

This paper deserves wider dissemination as it strikes pretty hard at the roots of AGW theory. In my humble opinion, it does not entirely disprove the greenhouse theory, since the different properties of the differing layers of atmosphere might well provide some sort of mild, and purely temporary, "ceiling" effect—but then, I am no physicist.

It certainly does disprove the apocalyptic temperature rises that are predicted through CO2 rises alone. But then the IPCC and its hangers-on have long since moved on—they now rely on the theory of "positive feedbacks" to provide their catastrophic scenarios.

This "positive feedback" postulation has long been the dodgiest part of the entire AGW hysteria, however, and for the entire multibillion pound industry environmental concern to be based on such an unproven theory leaves it on very uncertain ground.

UPDATE: via John B on Twitter, here is an long refutation of the above paper. The blogger's article does make a number of unbacked assertions, although the length of the article may preclude amplification in that entry.


ScotsToryB said...

Should we not refer to it as Ahomeopathic Global Warming? An almost negligible percentage of CO2 when possibly doubled would have an irrational effect?

BTW, Pa Annoyed wrote about the glasshouse misnomer over at Counting Cats a couple of weeks ago. Glad to see others picking it up too.


Anonymous said...

A greenhouse will still be cold in the winter - unless externally heated - even if it is triple-glazed. I suppose that's a more simple analogy for the second law of thermodynamics and one that sums up my position on 'AGW'.

The other point I like to make to believers is that virtually all life on the planet is carbon-based and is completely dependent in one way or another on CO2 - oh, and the big heater in the sky B)

Gareth said...

The link via John B - An article dismissing a scientific paper about physics for being published in a journal about physics. Ho hum...

The 'greenhouse effect' doesn't work like a greenhouse. Simple enough. Not contentious. Warmists should come up with a better term.

Pa Annoyed's blogpost explaining how you can get a changing surface temperature with a changing atmospheric volume seems like Occam's Razor to this uneducated person. If we're adding gases to the atmosphere quicker than they can be sequestered it doesn't matter what they are, the surface pressure will increase and the surface temperature will also. It did lead me to ponder whether sudden changes in temperature could be explained by a sudden loss or gain of atmosphere - gaining it through geological or bilogical means and losing it through space phenomenon like supernova or changes in the Earth's magnetic field.

As for talking about radiative budgets best not ask the CRU people because even they can't balance the energy in with the energy out either.

EliRabett said...


Actually, we worked out a formal reply (2.11 is the latest version) with references, data, illustrations and all that sciency stuff. You can find it here, but you might prefer this shorter explanation dealing with a single point to get the flavor."

Chuckles said...

Can't resist it - Why should we pay any attention to the 'refutation', it's not peer reviewed?

Seriously though, since the paper deals with one of the foundations of the whole AGW edifice, I'd imagine that the pro AGW group would want to refute it at almost any cost

Pa Annoyed said...

The problem with Gerlich/Tscheuschner is that it refutes some strange amalgam version of the greenhouse mechanism concocted from all the wrong explanations out there, not the one the scientists use. There are things wrong with the physics in the paper, but it's hard to tell how much of that is because of the bizarre concoction of Al Gorisms they've picked up from the media. The AGWers do have a difficulty with it because it would require explaining that their own "trapping" argument was also incorrect, but they have managed to dismiss it anyway.


The increasing CO2 does not change atmospheric pressure meaningfully. CO2 is a trace gas anyway, its pressure rise is a tiny fraction of a percent. (That doesn't mean it has no effect - smoke is a tiny fraction of air, but can still turn it opaque.)

What has changed is the average altitude of emission to space. Heat is radiated from higher up. But the effect is far too small to worry about without those mysterious feedbacks.

Snotrocket said...

Well, DK, I followed the link to Eli Rabett's blog and tried to follow the very esoteric arguments about emmisive averages and weightings, etc, as best I could. At times, the argument seemed to get quite personal and Dr Kramm was obviously taking a beating - even though he, and his protagonists, seemed to be talking a language easily understood by them. Almost as if it was coming down to an argument on semantics.

That said, I found it curious that one side (pro-AGW) defended their point of view with the allegory that only one person, Brooksley Born, had warned - to no avail - that ALL the top bankers in the US were wrong about unregulated derivatives. And she was eventually, as we now know, proved right.

Seems to me that Kramm/G&T are ploughing the self-same furrow.

For all that, I have added Rabbet to my bookmarks on AGW and will read that for balance. But for Eli to say that G&T's paper is wrong - inter alia - for being too long, when other pro-AGW papers are all the more accurate for being shorter, is sophistry. While I can admire subtleties of the argument, without following the maths, I sometimes think that there comes a point when there is an attempt at the age-old concept of: BS baffles brains.

Dave said...

Maybe the climate IS changing, but then it always has. The alarmists conveniently ignore factors such as deforestation (which will reduce the planet's ability to absorb CO2), the urban heat effect (when lots of people gather together the temperature goes up), the fact that they measure temperature next to airport runways (not the best place for an accurate reading), plus the effects of volcanic dust in the atmosphere, or even the lack of sunspots at the present time. All conveniently ignores as they put the blame on me, my car and my fridge.
Copenhagen was about money. It was about Carbon Trading. Those poor deluded people who thought it was about the world's poor were duped.

Annie Lennox was really upset. aaaawwww diddums.
She sang that she saved the world today but it turned out that she didn't

Anonymous said...

But Mr Prescott, who is now the Council of Europe climate change rapporteur

He also criticised United States President Barack Obama for saying
in his speech at the talks that there had been
“two decades of talking and no action” over climate change,
adding that while America may have done little,
China and Europe had signed the 1997 Kyoto protocol and “followed a lot” of its policies.

John Prescott, the former deputy prime minister,
has defended China against claims that it was responsible
for the failure to secure a legally binding deal at the Copenhagen climate change talks.

My wee analysis
What's FAT BOY up to ?
Is the EU worried the USA is getting cold feet ?
Feel free to analise.
It is only a hunch.
It stinks realy bad now and is getting scary.

EliRabett said...

If you think that was long, you should have read the thread from hell at, 1200 comments and some of them quite long, a number of which were about G&T

Even the comments at Rabett Run were useful

tomsmith said...

I've seen a similar comprehensive debunking performed by Rabett and others on the paper the counting cats author was paraphrasing when he did the adiabatic lapse rate post.

But to the author of this blog, why take a position on a subject you know nothing about? It looks like fairly blatant confirmation bias.

Pa Annoyed said...


Does everyone who takes a position in favour of the AGW hypothesis know about it?


I glanced at your "shorter explanation" linked above. You ask what G&T were trying to say in claiming it as a counterexample to the greenhouse effect. It's supposed to be a counter to the classic "shortwave in, longwave trapped" argument seen so often in the popular media. The point being that water is more opaque to IR than air is, so the classic explanation would predict heat loss would be blocked by the water and the bottom of the pan get hotter.

The flaw in the argument is the same as the flaw in the classic GHE explanation, that heat transfer and temperature in the troposphere are dominated and controlled by convection, not radiation.

The analogy should not be pushed too far, but it's not a silly thing to say, either.

tomsmith said...

Mr Annoyed, it isn't relevant to the question whether some of the people in favour of the AGW hypothesis make the same mistake as the author of this blog.

It is rational to trust expert opinion with certain caveats, but it is an example of confirmation bias to favour only particular expert opinion because it supports what you prefer or already believe.

If someone wants to argue the details as they currently stand then they need to understand them, that is all.

EliRabett said...

Annoyed, perhaps you missed the point, which is that in the tea pot, the reason the bottom does not glow cherry red is that all of the heat pouring in from the heating element is being carried away as steam.

A huge amount of energy is needed to convert water into steam.

As soon as the water is all evaporated, the bottom of the pot DOES glow cherry red because the rate at which the heat can be carried away from the pot is much slower than the rate at which it is coming in, so the bottom of the pot heats up a lot. Try it. Your wife will kill you though,

And yes, this is immediately obvious to any first year physics student who is going to pass the course.

Pa Annoyed said...


On what basis do you say the DK favours only particular expert opinion, or that he does so only because it supports what he prefers or believes?

I don't have a problem with people making arguments from authority except when they try to claim this is scientific. The test over authorities is not who you choose to trust, but how you react when a claim is challenged. Do you dig deeper to find the truth, or do you seek out and present only arguments against the challenger?

DK put up a link to a refutation of G&T in his update, when somebody provided it. That seems like a pretty good sign.


The situation is confused because G&T are arguing against an incorrect version of the GHE physics popularised in the media, but the whole point of their example was that the heat is carried away by convection/evaporation. They're saying that the pure radiative "IR trapping" argument makes exactly the same silly error - not taking convection into account. If trapped IR was to heat the surface more, it would simply trigger faster convection to carry it away again. They are using a familiar analogy to show that the popular version is also wrong.

Of course, you know as well as I that the GHE doesn't work by radiative trapping of IR, and that convection has a greater influence. But so long as the trapping argument stands unchallenged by the orthodox scientists in the media, this sort of counterargument will continue to have traction.

EliRabett said...

Now Annoyed, some, not Eli, I hasten to add, would think that you are trying to dig in, but to show those others how unfair that would be perhaps Eli should quote what G&T actually wrote (taken from their paper):
"Disproof: The first statement is incorrect since the obviously nonneglible infrared part of the incoming solar radiation is being absorbed (cf. Sec. 2.2). The second statement is falsified by referring to a counterexample known to every housewife: The water pot on the stove.Without water filled in, the bottom of the pot will soon become glowing red. Water is an excellent absorber of infrared radiation. However, with water filled in, the bottom of the pot will be substantially colder. Another example would be the replacement of the vacuum or gas by glass in the space between two panes. Conventional glass absorbs infrared radiation pretty well, but its thermal conductivity shortcuts any thermal isolation.

Eli has searched this paragraph VERY thoroughly, and he does not see any reference to vaporization, steam, heat of vaporization, boiling, or any description whatsoever about the energy being carried away by turning the liquid water into steam. While it is true that water is a great absorber of IR, unless there is a very efficient mechanism to carry the heat away (such as vaporization), all that would happen is that it would take longer for the system to heat to red hot. They simply do not acknowledge the process which is keeping the heater cold.

If you want a counter example to this, fill the pot up with a low melting point metal, such as gallium, that melts in your hand, but boils way high, and also absorbs IR like crazy and see what happens.

Obviously Eli has not looked in the right places, so he would be very interested in your pointing out to him where G&T discuss the role of the boiling process (latent heat).

BTW, there is very little overlap between the solar spectrum in the near infrared and the thermal infrared emitted by the surface and the atmosphere, less than 0.4%, so the first sentence asserts something that is incorrect.

The last one too neglects the fact that in addition to being a great absorber of thermal (long wavelength) IR, glass is also a great emitter of thermal IR.

This sort of thing makes many folks, not Eli I hasten again to add, think that G&T are either Dunning Krugar poster kids or dealing seconds.

Pa Annoyed said...

Not so much "digging in" as entertaining myself with pointless argument. :-)

(I don't generally agree with G&T, and do find it annoying to see it cited by sceptics, but as a matter of stubborn principle I'd prefer it be discredited for the right reasons.)

You are correct that they don't explain why the pot remains cold, but they don't need to. All that matters is that every housewife knows it stays cool, when the classic greenhouse effect as commonly explained would predict that it would get hotter. The common GH argument is that a material that blocks IR escaping leads to higher surface temperatures. The counterexample is a case where adding a material that blocks IR leads to colder temperatures. Argument falsified - period.

Same goes for their second example, replacing an airgap by thicker glass has the effect of replacing an IR-transparent layer by an IR-opaque one, which the GH argument would predict was more insulating, but is in fact less insulating.

In both cases, the point is that the GH argument about IR being blocked ignores all the other heat transport mechanisms. You cannot conclude that the surface will get warmer simply because outgoing IR is blocked - the logic does not follow.

The details of those alternative mechanisms may be of general scientific interest, but not relevant to this forming a counterexample. I think they're pretty obvious in any case.

As for the first assertion; the statement being discussed is:
"The carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lets the radiation of the Sun, whose maximum
lies in the visible light, go through completely"

Is that true or false? Does the CO2 let the radiation of the sun pass through completely? Or is some incoming sunlight absorbed? (Granted, I thought it was mainly H2O that did that rather than CO2 - if that's your point, then OK.) The question is not whether the sun's IR spectrum overlaps with the emission spectrum, it's whether it overlaps with the GHG's (arguably CO2's alone) absorption spectrum. They have a gap in their logic, but I think that so do you.

EliRabett said...

Annoyed, how much spectroscopy can you stand?? That is a serious question.

To first order, sunlight passes right through CO2. The allowed IR absorptions for CO2 are at ~4 and ~14 microns, and sunlight except for a very low tail, cuts off at ~3 microns. The first electronic absorption of CO2 is well below 200 nm, and none of that gets to the ground, being absorbed first by oxygen in the upper stratosphere

To second order there are VERY WEAK overtone and combination bands of CO2 in the near IR which actually can be seen when looking at the sun from the ground, but these are lots of orders of magnitude weaker than the allowed IR and are not really significant.

The same is pretty much true of H20, strong IR absorptions and weak overtones and combination bands. Google those terms for more.

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