The Next Great Famine…or Age of Abundance?

March 18th, 2014 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

One of the most annoying things about climate forecasts is the apparent need to predict catastrophe.

Of course, it makes good press, like the latest from Bryan Walsh at Time, Climate Change Could Cause the Next Great Famine.

While such theories can always find a home with some learned academics, for those who ‘do’ rather than ‘teach’, the world is a very different place.

For the last 4 years, I have spoken at a Kansas City conference of grain growing and investment interests organized by The ProExporter Network, a company which tracks and predicts both U.S. and international grain markets and growing conditions, especially for corn, soybeans, and wheat.

I was with these folks again last week, and from what I hear, there have been no negative climate-related changes which have been identified. If they do exist, they are swamped by technological improvements…and maybe even the positive effects of CO2 fertilization (which has somewhat conflicting research results for maize).

Here in the U.S, as well as globally, grain production as well as yields (in bushels per acre) have been on an upward linear trend for at least 50 years, primarily due to improvements in varieties (e.g. with greater drought tolerance) and growing practices:

Most year-to-year interruptions in normal growing weather are due to heat waves and droughts, or less frequently, floods. High corn yields are favored by a warm spring with dry planting weather, a not-too-hot summer with sufficient rain (the most important growing period), and a warm, dry fall.

If we examine observed summer (June/July/August) temperatures over the corn belt, we see no obvious warming in the USHCN data. This is in stark
contrast to the average of 42 climate models available through the KNMI Climate Explorer for approximately the same region as the corn belt:


Needless to say, the average model expectation of warming has not materialized in the corn belt. The corresponding average precipitation change in the models (not shown) has a near-zero trend for the corn belt, while there has been maybe a 10% increase in observed precipitation over the last 100 years, largely due to the Dust Bowl days early in the record.

The IPCC claims there is a negative impact of global warming on corn, but the experts I have talked to say there is no way to get that out of the data. You would have to have accurate quantitative knowledge of the technological trend, which you don’t.

In other words, without an accurate removal of the factors leading to the huge increase in corn yield (which is not possible), you can’t back out of the data any kind of climate-related signal. (If anything, the face-value evidence is that warming leads to higher yields, not lower.)

And without that accurate quantitative knowledge (and no evidence of observed corn belt climate change anyway), they tell me there is little reason to depart from a forecast of slowly increasing corn yields in the coming years.

So, unless you are an academic who is trying to remain relevant to the real world by forecasting doom and asking for government grants to support your Malthusian view of the world (wherein population increases exponentially and food production remains more constant), the real world scenario is that population will level off in the next 50 years, while grain production and yields will likely continue to grow, at least for the foreseeable future.

110 Responses to “The Next Great Famine…or Age of Abundance?”

Toggle Trackbacks

  1. George Tobin says:

    This whole discussion is moot because we all died in the late 1970s as Paul Ehlich and John Holdren predicted.

    • As I recall, that’s how the TV series “Lost” ended, at least according to my interpretation. Everyone was dead all along…they just didn’t realize it.

      • Hence The Walking Dead (no, I don’t watch this stupid show) and all the Zombie meme. For dead people, we sure eat a hell of a lot.

      • RW says:

        “As I recall, that’s how the TV series “Lost” ended, at least according to my interpretation. Everyone was dead all along…they just didn’t realize it.”

        Yeah, what a bummer that was. I even surmised that early on the series, but assumed that couldn’t possibly be it since it just seemed too obvious and that they would just never do that, yet that’s exactly what they did. A fun ride the series was, but ultimately destroyed by that last season.

        • Lynn Clark says:

          HAHA that’s pretty funny. I never watched Lost. Now I’m glad I didn’t. A year or so ago I binged on Battlestar Galactica (the 2000′s TV series). Watched the whole thing on Netflix over about 3 weeks. The final episode was similarly disappointing and almost had me throwing loose objects at my computer screen. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t watched it, but will just say that it took a big nod to enviro-whacko sustainability nonsense.

  2. Jim Cripwell says:

    We have an interesting situation on the Canadian Prairies. Last year there was a bumper crop, 60% more than average. This winter has been exceptionally cold, meaning that freight trains cannot carry as many cars, and it is difficult to export the crop from the farms. So the elevators are full, and last year’s crop is being stored on farms, under less than ideal conditions.

    Sometimes a bumper crop can be a liability.

    • One of the transportation gurus at our meeting says a major problem shaping up now is the Bakken crude is taking all of the tanker cars, and so ethanol transport will be delayed. Retrofitting cars to carry both is now estimated to cost $40k or more, and there aren’t enough retrofitters in business to do the job very quickly.

      • Lynn Clark says:

        Some of us view delayed ethanol transport as a good thing. ;-)

        • Lewis Guignard says:

          Even if the ethanol can’t be transported, our friendly neighborhood government will still require it to be purchased and put in your gasoline and will fine companies for not doing so. Even though it is not available.

        • Ron Groskreutz says:

          As long as the don’t go back to paying the blenders, (ie… the big oil companies) to put the already mandated 10% ethanol in the gas, I am fine with the product. All of the protein is still fed to animals in the form of DDG’s, and typically at a lower cost than corn. We get to use the ethanol in our cars. The refiners save money by refining their fuel to about 78 octane, and then blend the 115 octane ethanol in to get the finished gasoline product up to the desired 87 minimum octane level. Auto maufacturers can make high compression motors that will get better gas efficiencies using a 30% ethanol blend than today’s motors get on the current 10% blend. The problem would be the ability to monitor which vehicles use which fuel.

  3. Darren says:

    I’ll believe we are somewhere close to worrying about food production when we stop diverting large portions of corn and other crops to ethanol.

    According to this study:

    Ethanol has no benefit to global warming after all factors are considered anyway.

    • The people at this meeting are heavily into ethanol, since the government mandate has so distorted the corn market. Most of them are big fans, for financial reasons. But one advantage of ethanol you don’t hear about is it is a safe way to increase octane rating, which improves engine operating efficiency. I’m told that if there was a mandate to increase the ethanol content of gasoline to, say, 30%, the automakers could manufacture higher compression engines, which would then have higher efficiency. But the consensus of opinion is that this will probably never happen.

      • Lynn Clark says:

        My personal experience argues against that. Before the EPA mandated year-round addition of ethanol to gasoline here in the Denver metropolitan area, I could tell when it was added to the gasoline and when it was removed just by monitoring the gas mileage (which I always do just because I’m such a nerd) in my high-compression-engine Z06 Corvette. When it was added, my gas mileage dropped by about 10-15 percent and went back up by the same amount when it was removed.

        • Ron Groskreutz says:

          The motors would be much higher compression than your Corvette. Non-ethanol fuel typically costs about 10 – 20% more, thus offsetting the fuel loss.

          • PeterinMD says:

            Except it’s just been reported that the current rise in gasoline prices is because ethanol has risen about $1.50 a gallon in the last few months…..So much for savings!

      • yonason says:

        “one advantage of ethanol you don’t hear about is it is a safe way to increase octane rating, which improves engine operating efficiency.”

        Right, octane rating has to do with “knocking,” and hence efficiency, but not energy content. An increase in efficiency will help you get the most of the energy content. But since the energy content of EtOH is 2/3 that of gasoline [i.e., if you can go 360 miles with a tank full of 100% gas, you could theoretically only go 240 miles on the equivalent amount of pure ethanol - so for every 10% ethanol you lose 12 miles per tank full] you’ll never increase efficiency enough to make up the loss.

        What then is the point of adding 10% EtOH, if your mileage is so drastically reduced?

        These guys, confirm my calculations… “Vehicles will typically go 3% to 4% fewer miles per gallon on E10 and 4% to 5% fewer on E15 than on 100% gasoline.”

        Also, remind me again why we need to worry about petroleum imports? I.e., why are my gas prices still so high?!

    • Jim Cripwell says:

      I do wish people would distinguish between food ethanol, and ethanol produced from non-food; e.g. cellulose. The two ethanols may be identical chemically, but they are radically different in other, important, ways.

      • as I recall from the presentations I saw, cellulosic ethanol production is almost non-existent, and expected to stay that way. I might be misremembering that, though.

        • Jim Cripwell says:

          True, cellulose ethanol production is currently almost nonexistent. But this MAY change in the very near future. There are at least two commercial facilities which are on the verge of going into production. Poet/DSM with a capacity of 20 million gallons per year, due to start up in Q2 2014. The other, Dupont, with 30 million gallons per year, due to start some time in 2014. IF, and it is a mighty big if, but if these plants are successful both technically and financially, then it is estimated that by 2020, production could be 16 billion gallons per year.

          But no-one knows how successful the plants will be. We must wait until later on this year.

          • Mac says:

            The plants will be successful if an only if they get huge subsidies of tax money. That is the “if”.

      • Darren says:

        They are different in one very important way: one is in production and the other is a research project — with lots of funding behind it to hopefully make it work.

        IF Cellulosic Ethanol ever becomes viable it will be useful to distinguish between the two. Essentially all US ethanol is Corn Feed ethanol and a drain on Food production.

        As I recall, Brazil is nearly energy independent because they are burning so much Sugar Cane — more prime crop land being burned in tail pipes not feeding people.


        • Bob Willburn says:

          The increased crop yields prompts a speculation. Photosynthesis is an endothermic process, has anybody ever run numbers on how much additional energy is being sequestered as vegetation due to increased crop yields/vegetation.
          On a larger scale the same question could be asked regarding how much of that is also happening in the oceans? 3/4ths of the planet is water, mostly warm tropical, and the amount of photosynthesis occurring in micro-organisms there must be immense.

  4. Bart says:

    Dr. Spencer: I was musing about an analogy to the GHE recently relating to automobile radiators. If you ignore the pumping of heated coolant fluid from the engine to the radiator, you would think that it would actually cause the engine to heat up more, due to its blockage of radiated heat from the engine. That, obviously, ignores the much larger heat transfer from the coolant flow, which cools the engine by transferring the heat directly to the radiator, and hence to the surrounding air.

    Isn’t there a similar situation with convection of heat from the surface of the Earth to the radiating GHGs in the troposphere?

    I wrote up my thoughts here. Would appreciate any comments.

    • Of course, there are many analogies you can make between the climate system and a car engine. The radiator is probably best compared (as you suggest) to convective heat transport. But it doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know. The question is whether there is a thermostat in the climate system that increases the flow through the radiator if (for example) you lay some insulation on the engine (an analog for adding CO2 to the atmosphere).

      • Bart says:

        Thanks. I don’t mean to be a troublemaker, or be one of those guys who would hound you until you accept his one and only TRUE view of reality. But, wouldn’t adding more CO2 be more like adding more fins to the radiator?

        The fins block more direct radiation from the engine, sure. But, they also make it easier for the convective coolant flow to channel the heat away. For an automobile engine, the effect is overwhelmingly toward cooler running temperature.

        • Bart says:

          I’ll just go ahead and tie this off so you won’t be skittish about replying again, lest you get sucked into a troll vortex. If you disagree, well then, you disagree, but I will let it go after this.

          For the atmosphere, the coolant “pump” is also a function of temperature. I make a mathematical argument in my write-up at the link I gave that, that mechanism should act to regulate surface temperatures and limit the overall sensitivity to added CO2 to insignificance.

        • Chad Jessup says:

          Additional fins in the radiator allow more surface area of the radiator to come into contact with air flow, consequently increasing the cooling ability of the radiator.

          Bear in mind that air flow needs to reach the engine to aid the cooling effort there also, so there is a fine line between too many fins and the requirement for engine compartment air circulation.

          • Lewis Guignard says:

            Interesting analogy but there are problems. Engines are cooled to keep them from melting, but the motor runs better at a higher temperature than normal ambient. Which is the reason for the thermostat – a constant high temperature, but not too high. So the radiator should only be as efficient as necessary to keep the temperature level under whatever load the motor is placed. You wouldn’t want it larger, to have more capacity, because the point is not to cool the motor to ambient, but only to keep it stable at close to the boiling point of water.

      •  Doug  Cotton   says:

        Dear me, Roy.

        Whenever you start talking anything to do with physics you get it around the wrong way.

        Water vapour and carbon dioxide reduce the insulating effect of the space between double glazed windows, because they radiate energy across the gap and also between similar radiating molecules, always transferring thermal energy only from warmer to cooler regions, but doing so faster than diffusion.

        Inter-molecular radiation works the same in the troposphere, and that’s why my study shows moist regions are cooler than dry ones.

        When is everyone going to get this absurd idea that radiating gases act like a blanket out of their heads? They are holes in the blanket and they are the main molecules that send energy acquired by diffusion from nitrogen and oxygen off into space. Carbon dioxide cools by 0.1 degree and water vapour cools by a few whole degrees.

        The other thing you get wrong, Roy, is of course your assumption of isothermal conditions in a gravitational field, which the Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us would not happen because entropy cannot decrease. Gravity forms a temperature gradient, and we have solid evidence that is does if you just consider a Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube. When the tube spins rapidly there are strong g-forces acting on the gas and it develops a very noticeable temperature gradient being far hotter in the outside cylinder.

        • yonason says:

          HMMM, what does this button do? ;-)

          Thanx! I had never heard of the Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube before.

          As to why it works, the jury is apparently still out on that.

          But the following seems certain, it has nothing to do with either gravitation or spinning tubes [(a)the driving force being the pressure differential between atmospheric and that in the tank, and (b) the vortex tube has no moving parts], but it’s still pretty cool – (on one end, anyway.)

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            Read about the Ranque-Hilsch Vortex tube and note that “the most probable explanation is the gravito-thermal effect which yields a temperature gradient of -g/Cp (where Cp is specific heat) and such calculations give results of the same order of magnitude as the observations.”

            It generates a huge force of about 10^7g which, in the 1cm radius (10^-5Km), using Cp=1 gives a temperature difference of 10^7/10^5 = 100 degrees. The observed results are of this order of magnitude, which means the Loschmidt gravito-thermal effect seems the most probable explanation.

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            So yes, maybe I’m the first in the world to explain the Vortex tube also, among my other firsts.

            The very fact that the vortex tube is cooler on the inside is evidence of the gravito-thermal effect which re-distributes kinetic energy in order to reach Thermodynamic equilibrium which must have the greatest possible entropy. So the Loschmidt effect always cools the top (inside tube) and warms the bottom (outside tube).

            Now my friend, you come back when you can explain how on Venus the necessary energy (obviously absorbed in the upper troposphere) gets down into the hotter surface and actually increases its temperature by 5 degrees while the Sun shines.

            When you’ve done that explain why you think the Second Law would not be violated if there were a propensity to evolve towards isothermal conditions in a gravitational field, when any such propensity would be decreasing entropy because it would be creating unbalanced energy potentials with more gravitational potential energy per molecule at the top and yet the same kinetic energy.

          • yonason says:

            “…come back when you can explain…Venus”

            I’m not up to bothering with it myself when there are physicists I trust who are more than up to the task, like this one.

            “When you’ve done that explain why you think the Second Law would not be violated…”

            My “explanation” is that it’s not violated. Period.

            It’s been about 40 years since I aced my PChem courses and I’m not in the mood to get back up to speed on it at the moment, but I do remember enough to confidently assert that Maxwell’s Demon is dead, and perpetual motion along with him.

            I have NEVER seen any examples of a violation. I’ve you’ve got one, you need to present actual data, and it needs to be independently repeated for me to even consider it. Just making the claim and invoking Wikipedia as a “proof” doesn’t cut it.

            As the old school NASA guys used to say, “In G-d we trust, all others bring data.”

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            Firstly, that article about Venus is way off. The carbon dioxide on Venus actually lowers the thermal gradient in the same way that water vapour does on Earth, and so that measured gradient is about 20% to 30% less than the gravito-thermal effect would produce. This means the supported temperature on Venus is lower because of the carbon dioxide.

            My whole hypothesis is so closely based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics that it is virtually a corollary thereof. The Second Law controls all spontaneous energy flows in planetary tropospheres.

            Of course there are no energy flows, however, in a state of thermodynamic equilibrium (which is of course isentropic and thus not isothermal) so your conjecture of perpetual motion is easily debunked. You should know it is impossible so I don’t know why you even talked about it, except that it’s a bit of a buzz word in climatology circles I understand, so I assume you have a vested interest in maintaining the carbon dioxide hoax, do you?

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            yonason Please see this comment about the Second Law.

        • yonason says:

          OOPS, that should have been “…pretty cool

        • Robert JM says:

          HI Doug,
          I think you will find that greenhouse gasses can both insulate and cool depending on circumstance.
          If you put a layer of GHG between a radiation source and is sink then it will act as an insulator.
          If however the GHG is part of the thing that is doing the radiating then it will increase the rate at which that atmosphere cools.

          I also think that GHG warming and gravity dependent temp gradients are not mutually exclusive, they could both play their part.

          If the GHG insulation doesn’t exist then why does desert air cool so much quicker than tropical air under clear sky conditions (ie no latent heat release for condensation)

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            Radiative Greenhouse warming was debunked in my peer-reviewed paper “Radiated Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics” publish on several websites in March 2012 and easily found on Google. GHG never help the Sun to raise surface temperatures because back radiation is pseudo scattered and the Second Law of Thermodynamics cannot be violated.

  5. mpcraig says:

    Sorry Roy, if you get annoyed by predictions of catastrophe, then don’t open the latest AAAS report here:

    • yeah, so far I’ve avoided clicking on the link. I’ll let others tell me what’s in it. ;-)

      • mpcraig says:

        Yeah, don’t bother. Here’s what you are missing: “Greenhouse gases have supercharged the climate just as steroids supercharged hitting in Major League Baseball.”

        I’d be embarrassed to be an AAAS member.

      • KR says:

        You should read it, Dr. Spencer. Like it or not (and from your writing I would expect not) what they present is the product of the data.

        Skepticism starts with ones own views – your papers arguing for a low climate sensitivity have been strongly rebutted, your economic writing decries investing in renewable energy while contradictorily ignoring the rather massive fossil fuel subsidies (around $600B/year), and the majority of corrections to your UAH dataset have resulted in increasing trends as errors are removed.

        Where is your skepticism?

        • willywolfe says:

          KR, reducing over inflated taxes is not a subsidy, except in a twisted Orwellian viewpoint.

      • Lewis Guignard says:

        I stopped the second reference to 97% of scientists agree.

  6.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    Roy no “average model prediction” will ever be anywhere near correct because models are based on an incorrect assumption of isothermal conditions in the absence of greenhouse “pollutants” like water vapour and carbon dioxide.

    When my book is available late April there will be advertised in Australian media and on websites a $5,000 reward for anyone in the world who can use valid physics to debunk the Loschmidt gravito-thermal effect (on which my hypothesis is based) and produce a similar study to mine which does not show a negative correlation between temperature and precipitation records, but rather one which is in keeping with the implied greenhouse sensitivity of about 10 degrees of warming for every 1% of water vapour in the atmosphere, this calculation being based on a mean of 2.5% water vapour causing 25 degrees of the claimed 33 degrees of warming.

    The WUWT article about the Loschmidt effect was flawed in that it overlooked the thermal gradient in solids. When you connect a conductor to the top and bottom of a cylinder of gas you create a new combined system. Then a new state of thermodynamic equilibrium (with a thermal gradient based on the weighted mean specific heat of the gas and metal) evolves and perpetual circulation of energy is of course impossible.

    My four molecule thought experiment clearly demonstrates why the gravito-thermal effect is valid and has set up thermal gradients in tropospheres over the life of planets throughout our Solar System. This occurs by convection, where I use the term as physicists do to embrace both diffusion and advection. Such convection is restoring thermodynamic equilibrium (with maximum entropy) in accord with the Second Law of Thermodynamics. An isothermal troposphere would not be what the Second Law indicates would evolve.

    All this is a matter of thermodynamics at a level requiring at least a major in physics. Only five out of 29 on the SkS team have such qualifications, as I do also, and Neil King is one of them. You can see how he fumbled and his final post has possibly bluffed you, but it depends on a totally false claim that some molecules accelerate downwards under gravity, whilst he incorrectly claims an equal number decelerate – yes, slow down, when “falling” towards the surface.

    You are incorrect in assuming isothermal conditions in tropospheres and even in sealed cylinders. Graeff did at least find some gradient in virtually all his 850 experiments. He got his physics theory wrong, but not his measurements. Advection is measurable net molecular movement which appears to amount to gas flowing over the sloping thermal plane, always in all accessible directions away from any new source of thermal energy which disturbed the previous state of thermodynamic equilibrium.

    It is not a waste of time to consider the validity of the gravito-thermal effect, because it does away with any need to explain the observed thermal gradients in tropospheres using radiation calculations relating to heated surfaces. Of course you can’t do that for Uranus, because there is no direct Solar radiation or any surface at the base of its nominal troposphere. You need to think outside the sphere that is Earth.

    • RW says:

      Only $5000?

    •  Doug  Cotton   says:

      In that a study can be done in less than two days, that would be a good rate of pay for the likes of your anonymous self I suspect. So be the first, because it would only be paid to the first.

      • Alick says:

        Perhaps there is a thermal gradient in the atmosphere because the surface area of a sphere increases from Earth’s surface to space, and the heat that comes from the surface is just being distributed across an increasing surface area.

        Can I have $5,000 now?

        I suppose relatively speaking, the Earth is a sphere because of gravity, so I suppose you can keep the $5,000.

        •  Doug  Cotton   says:

          Where’s the heat coming from at the base of the Uranus troposphere where there is no direct solar radiation, no evidence of internal energy generation and no surface?

          • Alick says:

            Was that a trick question? Where is the base of Uranus’ troposphere if there is no surface?

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            No Alick – I don’t play games. The base of the nominal Uranus troposphere is at altitude -300Km where it’s hotter tan earth’s surface. (That’s a link – use it and learn)

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            typo – “hotter than Earth’s surface”

            In fact it’s about 320K and the thermal gradient over the 350Km high nominal troposphere is very close to the calculated quotient of the acceleration due to gravity and the weighted mean specific heat of the gases. Is this just a coincidence? I suggest not, because there is no source of significant new energy at the nase. Instead the thermal plane is anchored at the radiating altitude near the top where it’s colder than 60K, and then the temperature builds up from there following the calculated gradient. That’s what we can deduce from a correct understanding of the Second Law of Thermodynamics – as will be explained in my book due out late April.

          • Alick says:

            “NASA’s Voyager 2 interplanetary probe encountered Uranus. This flyby remains the only investigation of Uranus carried out from a short distance, and no other visits are currently planned.”

            Uranus has an internal energy caused by it’s own gravitational field. From your link it is theorized to have a pressure of 100 bars at the base of its troposphere. If there was no energy entering from the sun, would it condense to a solid?

            Query: If all energy from the outside was cut off, would Uranus solidify and reach a temperature of absolute zero?

    •  Doug  Cotton   says:

      Further experimental proof of the Loschmidt gravito-thermal effect can be easily seen in a Ranque-Hilsch vortex tube wherein a force far greater than gravity separates a gas into measurably hotter and colder streams as it redistributes kinetic energy, just as happens in a planet’s troposphere due to the force of gravity.

    •  Doug  Cotton   says:

      The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that a state of thermodynamic equilibrium evolves spontaneously, and that state is the one with maximum entropy among the states that can be accessed by the system.

      Thermodynamic equilibrium takes into account all forms of energy which must then display no unbalanced energy potentials in this total energy, which includes gravitational potential energy.

      Ignoring phase change and chemical reactions, the state without unbalanced energy potentials will have homogeneous amounts per molecule of the sum of kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy. As temperature depends only upon the mean kinetic energy per molecule, there will be a temperature gradient (based on PE=-KE) because there is more PE per molecule at the top.

  7. David L. Hagen says:

    CO2 is Plant Food
    Increasing CO2 is further causing measurable global greening.
    Deserts are Greening from Rising CO2
    See more at CO2 Science

  8. Geoff Brown says:

    A peer reviewed paper shows that Co2 Fertilization has contributed to a 40% increase in parts of Asia:

  9. OssQss says:

    Ethanol is a dirty word in my book.

    I do think much of the knowing world has grow tired of the alarmism all the way around the climate subject. “Cry Wolf” syndrone for certain.

    • Lynn Clark says:

      In my book too.

    • I’m a multi-generational farmer and a geographer (MA KU 01′)and have no problems seeing corn/milo go towards ethanol production. Folks forget that the last half of the 20th century where grain was produced solely for human consumption and meat production (and not energy) is the outlier. Historically, a huge percentage of global grain production served the energy sector as it was necessary to feed all of our draft animals which were the backbone of our global transportation and agricultural production needs.

      Especially in the U.S, farmers are so efficient that we routinely produce ourselves into the red so we are constantly seeking alternative industries to create demand for our product. Plastics, packaging, ink, ethanol, and wall board are just a few of these non-consumption industries that increase demand for our excessive grain supply.

      IMO, cellulosic ethanol is largely a pipe dream due to logistics problems and the potential degradation of our soils due to removing excess carbon from the system. We have 4000-8000 lbs of soil fauna that allow our soils to function, and cutting off supply to their primary food source (carbon) will reduce the productivity of the soils, as well as promotes enhanced soil erosion from wind/water.

      Don’t get me wrong in that I’m not an advocate of grain ethanol for any reason beyond economics and efficiency. If gas is cheaper from oil, great; if gas is cheaper from corn, great. My mission is to farm in an economical sustainable way so that the business can grow and extend across generations. I can grow corn/milo for ethanol that is sustainable both economically and for my soils; whereas that is not possible with cellulosic.

  10. KevinK says:

    Jim and Roy, there are two type of railroad cars; “covered hoppers” (a large tub with removable covers and chutes on the bottom), and “tank cars” (a long tank on wheels with filling and drain valves). They cannot be changed back and forth (retro-fitted). Grain (corn, wheat, sorghum, etc) is much less dense than oil or ethanol so the overall volume of the grain cars is larger. The car volume is determined by the material density and the maximum weight allowed on each wheel.

    Grain carrying cars are always prone to being in short supply during peak harvest season.

    Tank cars are currently (only in the last few years) in very short supply due to the boom in oil production. Tank cars are usually “dedicated” to a certain fluid load due to not wanting to clean it out fully after every load.

    Alternating loads between oil and ethanol would contaminate both loads. Some oil tank cars are being retrofitted with internal tubing coils that are charged with steam at the loading and unloading stations to soften up the diluted tar sands oil (actually more of a bitumen, or liquid asphalt), that is probably about $40k per car, perhaps more.

    And yes, freight trains are restricted in length during extreme cold weather, it is due to the ability of the air brakes to control the train. In very cold weather the speed at which the air propagates thru the hoses decreases and it becomes difficult to smoothly apply the brakes along the entire length of the train.

    Cheers, Kevin.

    • Lewis Guignard says:


      I was wondering why the trains had to be shorter during cold weather. Thank you.

  11. lateintheday says:

    I heard a report on BBC radio4 yesterday which raised some alarm about the worlds remaining phosphate resources. Apparently phosphate is crucial to crop yields (I wouldn’t know) and currently it is estimated that around 80% – 85% of world reserves are under the control of one country, Morocco.
    High quality reserves are expected to last only a further 30-50 years, while other known sources are highly contaminated with Uranium. (Above EU safety recommendation) The speaker/scientist made it clear that there is no known alternative to phosphate.
    This may have some effect on Dr Spencer’s calcs, then again, it was the BBC!

  12. lateintheday says:

    Thanks for the link Gary.

  13. Brad says:

    This is about food production as it relates to CO2. Cotton arrives swinging his baseball bat to bully the blog and take it over.

  14. Alick says:

    This will take some imagination but I am just looking for an equivalent. Just like, “somewhere in the world, it’s happy hour”…. “somewhere in the world it’s raining.” It got me thinking about how much water is continuously rising and falling. I was thinking of it like water flowing from my kitchen faucet instead of raindrops and water vapor.

    Excluding the intial amount of energy needed to raise X pounds of water to say 2500 ft, since that energy will be regained in the ensuing fall back to Earth’s surface, what diameter would the circular cross section of the falling water be, if the energy released in the heat of condensation of the water at 2500 ft is equal to all the energy the Earth receives from the sun during a 24 hr period?

    I’m thinking like the size of Texas.

    Wouldn’t the answer depend on how fast the faucet is flowing water? I was thinking about as fast as I see raindrops fall.

    The “energy” absorbed in the heat of evaporation, of how much water, at 212 degrees F, at atmospheric pressure, is the “equivalent” to the “energy” the Earth’s surface receives from the Sun as a blackbody (not sure if I’m using blackbody correctly)? What’s the “equivalent” if the blackbody outline is extended to the outer edge of the atmosphere?

    •  Doug  Cotton   says:

      “not sure if I’m using blackbody correctly)?”

      No you’re not actually, because 70% of Earth’s surface is a very thin layer of water. Maybe you’ve noticed a thin layer of water is transparent, but unfortunately a black body isn’t. So goodnight and thanks for coming on the show. Next contestant?

      • Alick says:

        Don’t be such a poor sport. Think of it as a “thought experiment”. Funny you didn’t mention that rain comes down in drops and not like a faucet. I do think you are intelligent enough to know why I used the term “blackbody”.

      •  Doug  Cotton   says:

        In regard to rain, by the time it gets back to the ocean the drops may be nearly as warm again as the ocean was when they first evaporated. There would have been an energy loss up in the clouds where it probably froze as hail, but it usually melts again and warms somewhat as it passes through the warmer air just before reaching the ocean again.

        You should never, ever refer to the Earth’s surface (like about 1mm to 10mm thin – take your pick) as a blackbody, because 70% of it is water which is about as transparent as a pane of clear glass. Black and grey bodies, by definition, are not transparent. So applying Stefan-Boltzmann calculations to the Earth’s surface is a matter of garbage in, garbage out.

        • Alick says:

          I don’t care who Stefan-Boltzmann are. I never heard of them until now. I suppose I could have put it another way. Earth’s shape stands in the way of solar radiation. I am simply looking for the maximum amount of solar energy, incident on that outline. I am then looking for an equivalent to that energy expressed in terms of the latent heat of water evaporating or condensing. Call it a “size up” of the situation.

          There are two outlines to consider. The outline up to Earth’s surface and the outline to the outer edge of Earth’s atmosphere.

  15.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    Just remember there’s going to be a genuine $5,000 reward for the first to come up with proof I’m wrong and proof IPCC are right about water vapour – see last paragraph..

    In a horizontal plane you can observe diffusion of kinetic energy in your home. Just run a heater on one side of a room, turn it off or even remove it quickly from the room, and you will temporarily have measureably warmer air on one side of the room. Molecules then keep on colliding and as they do, kinetic energy is shared. Statistical mechanics tells us that temperature (that is, mean kinetic energy per molecule) will even out across the room assuming it’s well insulated.

    Suppose now that the room has double glazed windows and it’s cooler outside. Which is more effective at insulating the room?

    (a) A window with dry air or even argon
    (b) A window with moist air – say 4% water vapour or water gas
    (c) A window full of carbon dioxide only, like the Venus atmosphere?

    The answer is the dry air or argon, as is well known in the construction industry. Why? Because radiating “pollutants” like water gas and carbon dioxide send the energy across the gap (and up through the troposphere) with inter-molecular radiation. Such radiation only ever transfers thermal energy from warmer to cooler regions. Otherwise what happens is as described in “Radiated Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics.”

    Why then does the thermal gradient reduce in magnitude because of the inter-molecular radiation between carbon dioxide molecules in the Venus atmosphere, or between a few methane molecules in the Uranus troposphere or between water vapour molecules in Earth’s troposphere and Earth’s outer 9Km of its crust?

    All these thermal gradients (aka lapse rates) are less steep than they would have been in dry air or (nearly) non-radiating gases. Gravity would have induced a steeper -g/Cp gradient.

    The thermal gradient in the Uranus troposphere does not level out (despite no solar radiation or any surface) because to do so would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics. It seems most of you don’t understand why, but the reason is that entropy would decrease. If somehow a state were to evolve with more gravitational potential energy per molecule at the top, but no compensating reduction in kinetic energy per molecule (ie temperature) then there would be unbalanced energy potentials at the top, so work could be done and thus entropy would not have been at a maximum. The four molecule experiment demonstrates this and how it happens at the molecular level.

    The vortex tube demonstrates it, and kinetic energy is re-distributed such that the inner tube gets far colder than the air that was pumped in. So you can’t blame friction for heating the outer tube. Nor does pressure alter temperature, because pressure is proportional to the product of temperature and density: temperature is an independent variable and only varies when mean kinetic energy per molecule varies.

    Finally, none of you can explain how the Venus surface actually rises in temperature from 732K to 737K during its four-month-long day, unless you start by understanding that the thermal gradient is the state of thermodynamic equilibrium. Then you need to understand the mechanism of “heat creep” explained in the second part of the four molecule experiment.

    There will be a $5,000 reward for the first to prove me wrong with conditions explained in public advertisements and on all of a dozen or so of my websites. To win the award you will also have to show empirical evidence of the IPCC postulate that the sensitivity to water vapour is of the order of 10 degrees of warming for every 1% increase in the Earth’s troposphere.

    • Alick says:

      Sure, change the rules. Who says proving you wrong means the IPCC is correct or that proving the IPCC is wrong means you are correct?

      •  Doug  Cotton   says:

        Any winner would have to prove me wrong and prove that water vapour warms significantly, as is claimed by all who advocate there is a greenhouse effect. There are only two possibilities …

        (a) The brilliant physicist, Josef Loschmidt (first in the world to estimate the size of air molecules – not bad back in the 19th century) was right in saying that gravity induces a thermal gradient, which we now know is what the Second Law of Thermodynamics implies will evolve with maximum entropy … or

        (n) Loschmidt was wrong and Roy Spencer and the IPCC are right in claiming that isothermal conditions should apply in the absence of radiating gases or planetary surfaces causing upward advection. Hence, if Loschmidt was wrong, the Uranus troposphere should be nearly isothermal and water vapour should be raising Earth’s surface temperature by about 10 degrees for each 1% of water vapour in the atmosphere above any particular region.

      •  Doug  Cotton   says:

        The Vortex tube experiments confirm the Loschmidt gravito-thermal effect, by the way, with calculations from the theory closely matching the observed temperatures.

  16. nigel cook says:

    The way in which global warming makes disasters like the immense January 2014 floods here in England is by lying manipulation and media propaganda. The floods in England in January 2014 which the BBC TV and Guardian newspaper attributed to a drier climate from CO2 were really caused provably by the European Union to bolster propaganda for global warming, as shown by Frederick Forsyth, “EU was reason for the Biblical Floods”, Daily Express, Friday 14 March 2014, page 13:

    “Officialdom still seeks to divert the blame away from the useless chieftaincy of the Environment Agency who years ago ordered that the centuries-old practice of dredging the channels should cease [the liars instead naturally lie and blame droughts due to global warming by CO2 for the floods, as expected]. But towering evidence proves it was indeed this insane order that was to blame and now there are more revelations. … the instruction actually came from the EU in Brussels in a directive of 2007, slavishly adopted by the Brown government in 2008. It was called “making space for water”, ie, flooding, and it was absolutely deliberate.”


    •  Doug  Cotton   says:

      Yes, there’s a similar thread on Lucia’s Blackboard where you’ll learn quite a lot if you start reading around here and note what weak arguments the others are putting up. Maybe you can do better?

    •  Doug  Cotton   says:

      And OssQss

      While you’re reading that thread at Lucia’s, enjoy the fun I’m having tying poor old Neal J. King (from the SkS team) in knots. Here’s my latest bit of help for him …

      Well get on with it Neal

      There’s $5,000 waiting for you if you can prove me wrong, back it up with different empirical evidence (presumably from non existent planets with isothermal tropospheres) and also do a study of real world temperature and precipitation data (following the methodology in my book) and getting totally different results showing water vapour sensitivity is as the IPCC claims, namely about 10 degrees for every 1% in the atmosphere. If you can find data to prove this, then perhaps the troposphere could have been isothermal and temperatures raised 33 degrees by radiative forcing, but if so, and you are the first, then the AU $5,000 (lodged in a trust account) will be yours for your efforts.

      But I suggest you read all my comments above, and also think before you write, because I have already exposed a number of mistakes in your writing and I should warn you that, in three years of arguing this with hundreds of climate bloggers, no one has pulled wool over Cotton’s eyes.

      Oh, and Neal …

      Don’t forget to include entropy in your calculations will you? See my comment #127017 to SteveF just above, because he doesn’t understand the entropy conditions of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

      You do understand, don’t you Neal, that the initial state has unbalanced energy potentials, in that the mean sum of kinetic energy and gravitational potential energy per molecule is greater at the top.

      You do understand, also, don’t you Neal, that your calculations then have to work with entropy, showing how entropy increases from the initial state (which had unbalanced energy potentials, so work could be done) and then your calculations have to show at what thermal gradient the entropy ceases to increase, and so thermodynamic equilibrium is achieved and the Second Law is at last happy when, in a non-radiating gas we have a thermal gradient equal to the quotient of the acceleration due to gravity and the weighted mean specific heat (not heat capacity, remember, Neal) of the gases.

  17. An Inquirer says:

    I am surprised to read that Dr. Spencer reports uncertainty on the impact of increased CO2 on maize production. I have not researched the subject for three years, but I was under the impression that there it quite clear that increased CO2 has promoted increased maize production. To be sure, there were “studies” by alarmists that maize production would not be helped because “other factor imposed limits on the benefits of enhanced CO2 uptake;” but I read those studies, and the assumptions were so contorted that it gave a black eye to the credibility of peer review.

    In fact, I remember John Christy reporting a decade ago that increased CO2 levels from pre-industrial levels were responsible for at least 17% of current crop production. That is consistent with my personal experience of raising crops and the studies that I have read.

  18. David.App says:

    Dr Spencer,

    Are you guys going to update UAH LS?

    The other regions have been updated for February, but not the LS. Thanks.

    PS: Why are my comments here blocked unless I use a Web proxy?

  19. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Today’s famine is caused by poverty, not lack of food supply. World food production is about 3,000 kcal/day/capita. That’s enough to make everyone on earth obese. Besides we waste 30% of food production. Too much food supply. If we use all the arable land in the world, it can feed 50 billion people.

    Corn ethanol consumes more energy to produce than what you get out of it. USDA support for corn ethanol is a subsidy to farmers. Brazil sugarcane ethanol is more energy efficient since they use sugarcane wastes as biofuel for ethanol production. Put sugar in the gas tank not in your belly. It might reduce obesity.

  20. Dr. Strangelove says:

    Lyn Clark
    Your mileage dropped 10-15% because ethanol energy content is 30 MJ/kg while gasoline is 47 MJ/kg. You need more ethanol to move your car the same distance.

  21. nigel cook says:

    For the best disproof of Malthus’s claim of population growth outstripping food supply, please see Figure 8 of Kahn and Simon’s 1982 book “The Resourceful Earth”, which I reprint at Figure 12 on page 24 in my paper “Watermelons”:

    This link goes straight to the correct page. The paper is alao available in PDF format:

  22.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    Skeptical Science team member Neal J. King is still floundering and tied in knots.

    He still can’t get his calculations right or in any way prove me wrong, so my next comment (still in moderation for at least 24 hours I suspect) reads …

    Neal: Don’t forget you are still trying to calculate the thermal gradient at the state of maximum entropy which the Second Law of Thermodynamics says evolves spontaneously. Remember? I did it quite easily with mathematical induction from the four molecule experiment. You’re wandering off track and now getting side-tracked about the vortex – just read Wikipedia about that.

    And please don’t misquote me, Neal, as when you wrote “His claim is that the isothermal assumption is self-contradictory … “ because you know that gets my back up. What I did say was that an isothermal state would not be a state of maximum entropy because it still has unbalanced energy potentials. You can see from the four molecule experiment that there is still a potential transfer of kinetic energy across the boundary between the two layers 68 nanometres apart.

    Now you know that we can’t have kinetic energy transfers across a boundary if there were thermal equilibrium, don’t you, Neal? And to have thermodynamic equilibrium we must have thermal equilibrium, mechanical equilibrium, radiative equilibrium and chemical equilibrium. The inter-molecular radiation reduces the -g/Cp gradient by about a third on Earth when we have the radiative equilibrium as well as the thermal, mechanical and chemical equilibrium.

    I know it’s a little involved, but that’s why we really shouldn’t try to teach it a young school kids or politicians, now should we, or get it all mixed up at SkS?

    When you realise you are off the track with all those radiation calculations about insolation that passes straight through the ocean surface, and back radiation that just raises electrons through energy states, rather than adding kinetic energy, then I assume you will tell them all on the SkS team just how wrong has been the carbon dioxide hoax, now won’t you?

  23. gallopingcamel says:

    The dismal Malthusians have been wrong over and over again.

    Bless you, Roy Spencer, for exalting the Cornucopian view that has raised us from grubbing about in the bushes to reaching for the stars.

    Will we make it? I have no idea but the Malthusian approach demands that we plan for failure and I am not going down that road.

  24. yonason says:

    The battle for shoving “renewables” down our throats continues.

    Given many scientists who are invested in this, despite the science, the battle will only be won politically, if at all – unless we want to become like Spain.

  25.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    Today’s comment in the argument with Neal J. King (a member of the Skeptical Science team) reads …

    In my 10 minute video I talk about the need for greater understanding of physics – not just memorising of equations and laws. This emphasis has helped my university students ever since the 1960′s, and of course I have engaged in additional post graduate level study, especially in thermodynamics and the physics of radiative heat transfer, which is also seriously misunderstood, but explained in my paper “Radiated Energy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics.”

    The Second Law “holds everything together” in that it applies to all forms of energy transfer, not just heat transfer. There can be only one state of thermodynamic equilibrium. There are not other processes that then determine density and pressure gradients, because these also have to be involved in the mechanical equilibrium which is an integral part of thermodynamic equilibrium. (Thermal equilibrium is far less all embracing. There are separate pages on Wikipedia which you could read to understand the differences.)

    Now, what is happening in all planetary tropospheres is that they evolve spontaneously towards thermodynamic equilibrium. Of course they never quite get there due to weather conditions, but the important issue is that they evolve towards it with entropy increasing, never decreasing.

    As tropospheres evolve towards thermodynamic equilibrium, gravity is setting up not only a density gradient, but also a thermal gradient. After all, there are just molecules up there and all they “know” is that gravity is pulling them downwards. But they have sufficient kinetic energy to “bounce” back upwards, even continuing to transfer kinetic energy when they are near the top of the troposphere. While ever they have any temperature (above 0K) they have kinetic energy.

    As gravity is forming the density and temperature gradients, pressure gradients follow as a corollary, because pressure is proportional to the product of density and temperature, where temperature is proportional to the mean kinetic energy per molecule.

    Pressure is caused by molecules striking a boundary (or surface) and so it doubles when density doubles and it also doubles when absolute (K) temperature doubles. But the important thing to remember is that pressure is the result of changes in density and temperature – it is not the cause of temperature changes, because it does not supply energy. High pressure at the base of a troposphere is not what is maintaining the high temperature – it’s the other way around. Nor does extra density necessarily increase the mean kinetic energy per molecule upon which temperature depends.

  26.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    The Second Law of Thermodynamics is not a simplistic rule that heat always transfers from warmer to cooler regions if there is a temperature difference.

    In the early pre-dawn hours the lower troposphere still exhibits the expected thermal gradient, but meteorologists know that convection stops. Yes energy flow stops even though there is warmer air at lower altitudes. That is because there is thermodynamic equilibrium, and when we have thermodynamic equilibrium – well, you can look up in Wikipedia all the conditions and things that happen.

    The real Second Law of Thermodynamics takes quite a bit of understanding and many hours, maybe years of study. You guys have absolutely no understanding of it, as I can detect from my decades of helping students understand physics.

    To understand it you have to really understand entropy for starters. Then you have to really understand thermodynamic equilibrium and all the other states, such as mechanical equilibrium, thermal equilibrium etc which the Second Law embraces. That is why, for example, you cannot disregard gravity and gravitational potential energy when determining the state of maximum entropy attainable by an isolated system.

    If you want to stay in the mid-19th century when much of this physics was not widely understood, and if you want to imagine, for example, that radiative heat transfer does not obey the Second Law, then all I can say is that you must live in a strange and isolated planet, because you sure can’t answer my questions about other planets with your climatology paradigm.

    When you truly understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics then, and only then, will you start to understand how it explains the so-called lapse rate and how the pre-determined thermal profile supports surface temperatures everywhere, not back radiation from a cooler atmosphere. Thus you will understand why it’s not carbon dioxide after all.

  27.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    Roy and all readers: this is important.

    Skeptical Science team member Neal J King writes on Lucia’s Blackboard, referring to thermodynamic equilibrium: “a transfer of energy δE between two sub-components, j = 1 and j = 2, will change neither E_total nor, to 1st order, S_total”

    Yes, and that is exactly what happens when there is a thermal gradient such that the difference in mean kinetic energy per molecule (temperature) exactly matches the negative of the difference in mean gravitational potential energy per molecule.

    You can see this in the second stage of the four molecule experiment: when thermodynamic equilibrium is attained we have homogeneous entropy (which must take PE into account) and every collision involves molecules with equal KE, and so KE for the system does not change, but is different per molecule at different altitudes. Similar happens in diffusion in a horizontal plane – KE of all molecules approaches homogeneity. But in a vertical plane you have to remember that KE changes because PE changes whenever there is a non-zero vertical component in the free path vector between collisions.

    The gravito-thermal effect is blatantly obvious when convection stops in the early pre-dawn hours. It is then that the pre-determined thermal profile has a “supporting temperature” at the base of the troposphere on any planet. That is what explains all the observations on all planets with surfaces, and even planets without surfaces. Temperatures are set based on radiative balance and the gravito-thermal gradient.

    The probability of these thermal gradients being so close to the -g/Cp value on all planets with significant tropospheres just because of some assumed warming by the Sun (whose radiation barely reaches some planetary surfaces) is absolutely infinitesimal. The evidence for the gravito-thermal gradient is blatantly obvious everywhere, as is the theory behind it.

    And as for radiation from carbon dioxide supposedly helping the Sun to attain greater maximum temperatures each day (despite the Second Law) or even just slowing radiative cooling – so what? Oxygen and nitrogen slow non-radiative cooling and outnumber carbon dioxide 2,500:1. Radiation from carbon dioxide (with its limited frequencies) is like a picket fence (with most of its pickets missing) standing up against a torrent of full spectrum radiation from the surface. The mean temperature of carbon dioxide molecules in Earth’s troposphere is far colder than the mean temperature of oxygen and nitrogen molecules colliding at the boundary with surface molecules. Rates of cooling depend on temperature gaps, so think!

    But arguing with lukes and warmists is like playing chess with a pidgeon. No matter how good a player I am, the pigeon knocks over the pieces, craps on the board and struts around looking victorious.

  28.  Doug  Cotton   says:


    (1) The second law of thermodynamics states that “the entropy of an isolated system never decreases, because isolated systems always evolve toward thermodynamic equilibrium— a state depending on the maximum entropy.”

    (2) “In thermodynamics, a thermodynamic system is in thermodynamic equilibrium when it is in thermal equilibrium, mechanical equilibrium, radiative equilibrium, and chemical equilibrium. Equilibrium means a state of balance. In a state of thermodynamic equilibrium, there are no net flows of matter or of energy, no phase changes, and no unbalanced potentials (or driving forces), within the system. A system that is in thermodynamic equilibrium experiences no changes when it is isolated from its surroundings.”

    (3) When, in the absence of phase change, chemical reaction or inter-molecular radiation, a gas has reached thermodynamic equilibrium, then there will be no net change in the distribution of energy on a macro scale.

    (4) In such circumstances described in (3) for every molecular movement between collisions, any change in gravitational potential energy must be countered by an opposite change in kinetic energy.

    (5) If (2) applies and noting (4) it follows that when any given molecule is about to collide with another, its own kinetic energy must be equal to that of the target molecule so that no net change occurs in the collision.

    (6) Hence, for any pair of molecules at different heights (or altitudes) the difference in gravitational potential energy (PE) must be offset by an equal and opposite difference in kinetic energy (KE) – thus maintaining a homogeneous sum (KE+PE) for all molecules.

    (7) Thus, because temperature is a function only of the mean KE per molecule, and because PE varies so must KE vary, causing a thermal gradient throughout the whole system,

    • Alick says:

      You seem to be stuck on “tell” and ignoring the “show”.

      Give some initial velocities and final velocities of the molecules A,B,C,D in your four molecule thought experiment and “show” us.

      •  Doug  Cotton   says:

        Have you even read the four molecule experiment? It is sufficient to talk about energy with representative numbers to which could be added any appropriate constant. All we are doing is comparing differences, so we could have just used algebraic variables that cancel out if you prefer.

        What you say just indicates to me that you have no understanding of the explanation, or of kinetic theory, or of the second law of thermodynamics, or of thermodynamic equilibrium or of entropy.

        So come back and explain why the thermal gradient still exists in Earth’s lower troposphere when convection stops in the early pre-dawn hours. Why does the rate of surface cooling slow down so much then, when it cooled far faster in the late afternoon and early evening?

        Then explain the temperatures in the nominal Uranus troposphere which has a thermal gradient very close indeed to the negative quotient of the acceleration due to Uranus gravity and the weighted mean specific heat of the Uranus gases.

        • Alick says:

          Start with just two identical molecules A and B. They have a kinetic energy of 20 units each, seperated by a vertical distance (spacial relationship to each other) that is a function of 4 units of energy, that is a function of Earth’s gravitational force applied on the mass of the molecules; and A is initially above B.

          At least tell/show me how they come to collide with each other in the first place when their initial velocities (there speed along the vertical axis) is ZERO. First, A down into B, and then start over, with B UP into A.

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            Go and learn about the equipartition theorem and then tell me how any molecule with temperature above zero K could have zero kinetic energy in any of the three translational degrees of freedom. While you’re in Wikipedia, also look up kinetic theory and the assumptions therein. I can’t be bothered wasting more time looking up and adding links and helping you to understand basic first year university physics. I get paid for doing that.

          • Alick says:

            I am not asking about the internal kinetic energy of the molecules. I am asking about its kinetic energy in relationship to its speed through space. When the molecule is in free flight, meaning the gravitational force is the only thing acting upon it, they have a predicatable path and speeds along that path.

            The problem with your thought experiment is, “why would any of us think about a collision that physically cannot happen given how you set up the experiment?” Actually, I know how it could happen but you are the physics teacher here. Whatever is going on INSIDE the molecule cannot change it’s flight path, can it? This is why I asked how molecule D can go up and collide with B in the first place. Your response, .

            As far as I see it, there is the mechnical energy of the molecule travelling through space, and the thermal energy related to the movement of particles inside the molecules released upon a collision.

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            No Alick. All the translational (that is, “movement”) kinetic energy, as well as the kinetic energy in molecular vibration and rotational degrees of freedom add together to give the total kinetic energy, which is of course relative to a fixed frame, such as the Earth, as is gravitational potential energy relative to some altitude, even at infinity as is usually assumed in physics. You can look up all these things in Wikipedia (Kinetic Theory) for example.

            I did not mean to imply that the molecules had no kinetic energy in the initial state. That would only be the case if the temperature were zero Kelvin, which I clearly indicated was not the case.

            You can see a graphic of how molecules move and collide here. The graphic effectively shows the shadow of molecules projected onto a horizontal plane.

          •  Doug  Cotton   says:

            To be more precise, it doesn’t matter which direction a molecule takes after a collision. Roughly equal numbers will have a positive z-component in the vertical translational degree of freedom as will have a negative component.

            It is this degree of freedom which is affected by gravity of course. Then the equipartition theorem tells us that the variation in the vertical DoF will be split equally among the other degrees of freedom.

            Temperature is proportional to the mean total kinetic energy per molecule. This may not be in accord with Climatology fissics, but then neither is the Second Law of Thermodynamics in accord with the Second Law of Climatology. Please read the linked page in full before asking more questions, as they are probably answered there already.

          • Alick says:

            Your links didn’t work, but not to worry, I have my own physics textbook. I keep asking myself, “are we dealing with just 4 molecules in this thought experiment or not?”. The equipartition theorem: Each translational or rotational component of the random thermal motion of a molecule has an average kinetic energy of 1/2kT.

            You seem to be making use of a theorem that has no mention of vibrational, which I take as internal, kinetic energy. It seems to be based on the average speed of many molecules, not 4.

            The rotational and vibrational kinetic energies cannot (as far as I know) change the translational kinetic energy (speed or directon) of a molecule in free flight, meaning the only work being performed on the molecule is by gravity alone. This is why I keep asking how molecule D is able to convert a portion of its rotational and vibrational kinetic energy to change its velocity that is initially 0 (zero) along the axis of gravitational force, to cause D to collide with B in the first place.

  29. yonason says:

    A sad day in unicorn land.

    UN declares biofuels “bad”

    After all the trouble they’ve caused, one wishes there was some way to hold them accountable.

  30. david dohbro says:

    who needs real data? ugh, it’s not glamorous to sift through it, analyze it, deduct from it, and learn once hypotheses are wrong. noooo, let’s no confuse our selves by the facts. it’s much more fun to be a theoretical hypthesist so we can suck what ever we want out of our as#…uhhh thumb… and have our 15 minutes of fame, to only move on to the next doom and gloom scenario. Now that’s glamorous. That we’ve been waiting for 40 yrs now for any of these predictions to happen must be merely a coincides. Because it’s just like any peer-reviewed climate change article ends with these days… wait for it… “albeit the warming should resume shortly…”

  31.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    To Roy and his disciples:

    This is how absurd the old 20th century paradigm of greenhouse radiative forcing gets. They claim that you can work out Earth’s surface temperature by adding together the radiative flux from both the Sun and the colder atmosphere, and then bunging this total value into the Stefan-Boltzmann equation and out pops your answer 287K or 288K. Well it might well do if you fiddle the back radiation and then use the emissivity value instead of the absorptivity.

    But there’s absolutely no physics to support the calculations. When you consider that about 70% of the surface is a thin transparent water layer, it is obvious that the solar radiation which mostly (like over 99%) passes through this layer into the thermocline is not what is determining the temperature of that thin surface layer. In fact the mean temperature of the thermocline is obviously less, and the mean temperature of all the ocean water is less again.

    Oh, and the back radiation doesn’t even enter the surface layer – it just raises electrons between quantum energy states momentarily, and then those electrons immediately emit another photon which climatologists think is energy coming from the kinetic energy in the surface molecules, but it’s only electro-magnetic energy from the back radiation being thrown back in their red faces.

  32. ablevins says:

    Dr. Spenser, your graph for the first time in the last twenty years answers, from hard data, the often asked question; how much does CO 2 increase the World’s Planetary average temperature? If you assign 100% of the temperature increase over the last 100 years plus to Carbon dioxide; and notoolk to the one million other variables that can effect climate (Dr. Wally Broecker), the number is 0.1 degrees Celsius for an 100 ppm increase, verses an increase of 2.5 degrees average of the climate models! INTERESTING!
    — AB

  33.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    So, those “42 climate models” are wrong because all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a net cooling effect of less than 0.1 degree. There is absolutely no way in which valid physics can be used to prove it warms Earth’s surface.

    This cooling is for the same reason that water vapour also has a net cooling effect, as research into temperature-precipitation correlation confirms.

    Water gas in between double glazed windows reduces the insulating effect, just as it and carbon dioxide do in the troposphere. If you think I’m wrong, go and make a fortune selling double glazed windows filled with carbon dioxide that will supposedly trap heat. Funny that nobody seems to be doing this

  34.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    All planetary temperatures in tropospheres and even beneath any surface are determined by the gravito-thermal effect, and they have nothing to do with any greenhouse radiative forcing or sensitivity to carbon dioxide.

    When they drilled the KTB borehole down to 9Km depth in Germany they were surprised at how much water they found underground. This then helps confirm that the gravito-thermal effect is also apparent in solids and liquids. At 9Km depth it was 270C, far hotter than they expected, with a thermal gradient in the outer crust at least 20 times as steep as the mean gradient to the centre of the core. That’s because specific heat increases very significantly with the hotter temperatures in the mantle and core.

    If you plotted just the temperatures between, say, 9Km and 4Km you would find that the near linear plot extrapolates quite well to the actual mean minimum daily temperatures at the surface. Why is it so?

  35.  Doug  Cotton   says:


    In an adiabatic process in a sealed and perfectly insulated vertical cylinder of a solid, liquid or gas a thermal gradient evolves in accord with the process described in statements of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    This fact may be used to deduce that such will also occur in calm conditions in a planet’s troposphere if no new energy were being absorbed, such as is close to the case in calm conditions in the early pre-dawn hours, when surface cooling and upward advection almost stops. In such a situation we can observe that there is indeed a thermal gradient, but there is no heat transfer from the lower warmer regions to the cooler regions above, for the simple reason that there is already a state of thermodynamic equilibrium.

    Molecules move in random directions after each collision, and the direction is not significantly dependent upon the kinetic energy in the molecule. So the calculation of the thermal gradient has nothing to do with pressure or density or rising packets of air. There is no such thing as a moving packet of air in adiabatic conditions anyway, because the probability of trillions of molecules all moving in the same direction is absolutely infinitesimal in the absence of wind or forced advection caused by an external energy source like a fan.

    Temperature is the independent variable and only changes if mean molecular kinetic energy changes. Gravity sets up non-zero gradients in density and temperature. Pressure is merely the end result because pressure is proportional to the product of density and temperature.

  36.  Doug  Cotton   says:

    Roy – you’re in the wrong business. You could make cash for lies: the truth is that the Radiative Greenhouse is smashed by radiation itself, but don’t let that set you back! Here’s how …

    There is no two-way radiation involved when a black metal disc just under the surface of water is receiving solar radiation from the Sun. Its temperature is raised by the hotter Sun. Its temperature is not raised by back radiation from a colder atmosphere, because that would violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

    Back radiation does not melt frost in the shade of a tree, but the Sun would if you cut down the tree. But the IPCC and NASA claim that the intensity of back radiation is greater than that of solar radiation reaching the surface.

    Every one-way transition of radiation is a completed, independent process which must (on its own) obey the Second Law. To claim that there is some net reverse process (such as the black disc warming the water which then evaporates and, days later, releases energy when it rains, is absurd. How can the first process of one-way radiation “know” that will happen in the future? What does happen is that the back radiation is pseudo scattered with each photon resonating and only ever temporarily raising electron energy (between quantum energy states) in the first molecule it strikes. That electron energy is not thermal energy which takes the form of kinetic energy mostly in the far heavier neutrons and protons. In other words, the energy never gets from the electrons to the nucleus.

    So here’s how to get energy from back radiation:

    Build a model toy train. Place a black disc under water in the tender (coal car) and, at night, the back radiation will warm the black disc (being still as intense as solar radiation in the day) and the water will boil and thus be able to be used to drive a miniature steam engine that makes the train go around, and around, and around .. the track.

    You could make a fortune patenting this process scaled up to light up a city at night. /sarc

    But, until you do, I’ll rest my case.

  37. Sam says:

    Roy, can you confirm what lat/long you used to get your data from the climate explorer website? Have you used the extreme scenario? If not, then should the x axis not be up to 2100 and not 2030 as shown, when I search for data in the area the projected temp increase is only 1 degree.