AMSU Surface Air Temperature Retrievals of the Coldest Place on Earth

December 13th, 2013 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

Slight warming over Dome A for the last 15 years. (updated)

The recent announcement of a new low temperature “record” for Earth on Dome A (Argus) in Antarctica of -93 deg. C (on August 10, 2010) was based upon satellite infrared measurements from the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

The temperature record is unofficial since it was made by satellite, not ground-based thermometers, and it represents the skin temperature of the ice sheet surface, not the air temperature. Assuming it was made under relatively calm wind conditions, the surface skin temperature could easily be several degrees C colder than the air temperature at traditional shelter height (2 meters).

Since we are always interested in new ways of analyzing the satellite AMSU microwave temperature sounder data, I thought I would take a look at how well this instrument might retrieve air temperature over the higher elevations of the Antarctic ice sheet.

The highest elevation reported for Dome A is 4,091 m, located near 80 deg. S, 77 deg. E. Here’s an elevation image of Antarctica produced by the University of New South Wales, which has investigated Dome A as an ideal astronomical observing location from the standpoint of having extremely clear skies:

AMSU (now flying on at least 5 satellites) carries several channels which are sensitive to thermal emission by the surface and atmospheric oxygen near the surface: Channels 1 (23.8 GHz), 2 (31.4 GHz), 3 (50.3 GHz), 4 (52.8 GHz) and 15 (89 GHz). Using these channels to retrieve near-surface air temperature is generally difficult due to the wide variations in surface microwave emissivity over land and ocean, which is why infrared methods are better since variations in the IR emissivity of those surfaces are so much less.

The wide variation in microwave emissivity as a function of frequency and polarization is why we use instruments (like AMSR-E, AMSR2, SSM/I, SSMIS) to measure surface characteristics such as snow depth, vegetation, sea ice. But if we just focus on the upper reaches of the Antarctic ice sheet, it could be that the microwave emissivity of the ice surface remains fairly constant, which would allow more accurate temperature retrievals. The temperature there is well below freezing year-round, and there is very little fresh snow that falls. This should limit variations in ice sheet microphysical characteristics which affect microwave emissivity.

I used linear regression between the 5 AMSU channels mentioned above versus one year of daily air average temperature measurements at Dome C, which has an elevation of 3250 m. Even though the retrieval method is trained with observed air temperatures, it must be kept in mind that most of what these channels measure is thermal emission by the surface and sub-surface, with somewhat less contribution by oxygen emission from the air in the lowest km or so of the atmosphere.

The following plot shows the resulting match between the AMSU retrievals and surface air temperature at Dome C:
Fig. 1. Daily average surface air temperature at Dome C during 1999, as observed versus as retrieved from AMSU channels 1,2,3,4, & 15.

I then applied this algorithm to the NOAA-15 AMSU data within 50 km of the center of Dome A, the highest (and coldest) location on the Antarctic ice sheet. I restricted the analysis to just NOAA-15 since it carries the AMSU with the longest period of record (since 1998).

The resulting daily surface air temperature retrievals since August 1998 are shown in the following plot:

As can be seen, every year experiences temperatures below -80 deg. C, consistent with the claims from the Wikipedia entry on Dome A.

The corresponding temperature anomalies are shown next (the linear trend is +0.05 deg C/yr.):

The reported record low temperature dates from MODIS in 2010, and Landsat 8 in 2013, are not obviously reflected in the AMSU retrievals (the lowest AMSU temperatures in 2010 are about a month before MODIS made its record low temperature measurement). But I wouldn’t read too much into disagreements between AMSU and the infrared measurements, for at least a couple of reasons:

1) The AMSU measurements are averaged over an area of about 100 x 100 km, whereas the infrared reports for “record” lowest temperatures are very localized (MODIS has a horizontal resolution of about 0.25 km, AMSU of 50 km).

2) IR measurements under clear conditions should provide a somewhat closer measurement to the air temperature than a microwave method can provide, due to the more variable microwave surface emissivity.

One thing I discovered is that AMSU channel 15 (89 GHz) data for this location has a signature of snowfall events, which I adjusted for in the above retrievals. That snowfall signature looks like this:
This plot was obtained by taking the 89 GHz brightness temperatures and subtracting off a regression estimate of those 89 GHz Tb based upon the other 4 AMSU channels. The characteristics of these “regression residuals” are consistent with our AMSR-E Team’s measurements of snow depth, which show sudden Tb depressions after a snow event, then gradual recovery as the snow pack particles change over time.

This was more of an experiment to get some idea of how well several AMSU channels can retrieve near-surface temperatures over the Antarctic ice sheet. I would say the data appear to be usable, especially considering the fact that there are very few actual thermometer measurements in this remote location.

Also, a comparison with climate model predictions for warming over the ice sheet would probably be an interesting comparison to make. At least over the last 15 years, the linear warming trend averages 0.05 deg. C/year (+/-0.015 deg. C/year). Given the huge variability that occurs at this location, it is difficult to know how physically significant this is.

92 Responses to “AMSU Surface Air Temperature Retrievals of the Coldest Place on Earth”

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  1. Andrew says:

    Roy, I am looking at that series there and I am kinda baffled your trend uncertainty is only +-.015 per year. How did you calculate that, exactly?

    • Roy Spencer says:

      It’s what comes out of Excel’s LINEST function for the 1-sigma error bounds on the trend estimate. I can only guess that it is because there are 15+ years of daily data, so that’s ~5,600 data points. I was surprised at it, too.

      • torontoann says:

        It has little to do with the amount of data points, since they are massively autocorrelated as a result of the progression of the seasons. It has to do with the fact that any regression line is entirely dominated by the annual extremes – and these are forced by the constant orbit and tilt of the earth and the constant sun.

        The annual summer highs and the following winter lows, and their averages, are:

        -30 -90 -60

        -39 -87 -63

        -33 -90 -61.5

        -30 -90 -60

        -35 -90 -62.5

        -37 -97 -67

        -37 -96 -66.5

        -29 -97 -63

        -37 -92 -64.5

        -39 -92 -64.5

        -29 -93 -61

        -28 -93 -60.5

        -29 -87 -58

        -32 -92 -62

        The variability of the numbers from season to season is “a few degrees.”There seems still to be some auto-correlation; at lag 1 it is positive, and some at lag 6 it is negative. Therefore, a calculation of trend is dangerous. If you had 5,600 annual figures, of course, any trend would be statistically significant.

        Eyeballing the data – it is sideways. Or, to put it in stat-speak, there is no evidence against a null hypothesis of no-trend.

        • Roy Spencer says:

          yes, there is significant autocorrelation at a daily time scale. Even 90 day averages are autocorrelated. Probably need to do annual averages, which will greatly increase the uncertainty bounds, but the trend estimate will remain about the same.

          • Roy Spencer says:

            …oh, and I’m not sure what your point is about the annual extremes…the trend is computed after the average annual cycle is removed from the data.

        • torontoann says:

          “…point about annual extremes…(?)”

          I wrote too loosely. I meant that the annual extremes tell
          one most of what one needs to know – especially in a polar locale, where “weather” as opposed to “climate” has little influence.

          It is a “nice” methodological point whether a trend in “the anomalies” is sufficient evidence of a trend in the original data. Some resampling-style investigation might be interesting.

          A regression analysis on the extremes gives the following results.

          For summer highs (brr)

          Trend of -0.27 C/year with a standard deviation of the estimate of 0.27

          For winter lows

          Trend of +0.15 C/year with a standard deviation of the estimate of 0.22

          For annual averages

          Trend of -0.07 C/year with a standard deviation of the estimate of 0.17.

          Since the annual range is 60 to 70 degrees C this is a remarkable stability – but one easily explained, of course
          by astronomy.

      • Noblesse Oblige says:

        I suspect that Andrew is right. The uncertainty in the slope is more than 0.015 because the number of actual degrees of freedom is almost certainly less than the 5,600 daily data points. Day to day correlations will reduce the number of real degrees of freedom. For example, if it takes a month for the daily temperature points to decorrelate (as revealed by the autocorrelation function of the residuals), the real number of degrees of freedom will be about 5,600/30 ~ 190, and the actual uncertainty in the trend will be increased by sqrt(30) to about 0.08 deg.yr, making the observed slope indistinguishable from zero.

  2. Roy Spencer says:

    …and, of course, the uncertainty would not include any potential sensor calibration drift, which the regression would not know anything about. It also says nothing about what happened before 1998 or what happens after 2013.

    • Andrew says:

      Well, the uncertainty estimate will also be underestimated for a series with significant autocorrelation. What’s the lag one autocorrelation? It looks like it would be low, but I can’t be sure.

  3. Nabil Swedan says:

    Dr. Spencer,

    It is unclear to me how surface temperature is measured. Is it measured by sending microwave or infrared waves from the satellite to the surface, or is it measured by intercepting surface thermal radiations in space? I appreciate your clarification.

    • Roy Spencer says:

      It is “passive”, not “active”. The natural thermal microwave emissions from the Earth are measured.

      • Nabil Swedan says:

        Thank you for the reply. Is surface water temperature measured in the same way as land or snow?

        How representative is intercepting natural thermal microwaves to measure temperature? We now that land and surface emit predominately in the long-wave range.

  4. Nabil Swedan says:

    “The corresponding temperature anomalies are shown next (the linear trend is +0.05 deg C/yr.)”

    Is the temperature trend that high, or is it per decade instead of a year?

  5. torontoann says:

    “Is the temperature trend that high…”?

    One penguin to another, as winter closes in:

    -90 C last year, lads! But we have been promised by something called “a computer-powered human being” that, this year, it is only going down to -89.95 C.

  6. torontoann says:

    “…Roman warm period…”

    Scotland (technically Pictland) stayed free because the Romans collapsed with heat stroke when they tried going up-hill. It was either that or the sight of massed podgy, blue, bottoms.

  7. david says:

    Opinion is divided. It could have been the trillions of midges.

  8. torontoann says:

    Not even a Scotsman would dare to show his plumbers’ crack to a Northern Ontario blackfly.

  9. Jim Steele says:

    Because Antarctica virtually experiences a persistent temperature inversion, warming of the surface is often due to bouts of wind turbulence that brings down warmer air from above the inversion layer. Can your satellite data determine temperature change due to such dynamics? Can your methods assess and separate trends due radiative warming from dynamical warming or adiabatic warming from foehn storms?

  10. Brian H says:

    How would those bouts acquire a trend?

    • Jim Steele says:

      One example is a change in the strength and location of the Amundsen Low, and the SAM. That can change the strength of the winds at a given location. The Pacific sector is especially sensitive to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and El Nino/La Nina events that alter the Amundsen Low. The PDO switched to its positive phase in 1976 just before the satellite era began and any trend would be dominated by effects from PDO.

  11. Greg Goodman says:

    Hi Roy,

    there appears to be at least two discontinuities in final “snow scatter effect” graph. Could you comment on that? Change of platform?

    “Itís what comes out of Excelís LINEST function”

    Do you do much analysis in Excel, or is that just for display purposes?

    “This plot was obtained by taking the 89 GHz brightness temperatures and subtracting off a regression estimate of those 89 GHz Tb based upon the other 4 AMSU channels. ”

    At a guess I’d say that this is OLS regression of one series of experimental data on another, ie. ignoring the requirement of negligible error in the independent variable. The old regression dilution problem comes up again. What happens when the regression is done with axes inverted? Does the result look notably different?


  12. Andrew says:

    Roy, unrelated question, but for some reason I can access the daily files for the LT data on the UAH website, only for version 5.5, not 5.6. What exactly is going on with that?

  13. steveta_uk says:

    Dome A is pertty close to the south pole.

    What exactly defines a “day” down there?

  14. Bruce Murrat says:

    Hi Roy,
    The Australian BOM has an automatic weather station at dome A which should provide a good reference for calibration purposes.


  15. Mike Flynn says:

    What happens to the atmospheric CO2 at temperatures well below its freezing point?

    Does the “back radiation” stop, and the temperature plummet another 33C (the supposed amount due to the greenhouse effect?).

    The physical properties of solid CO2 are markedly different from those of the gas.

    What mechanism is responsible for the low temperatures? Isn’t CO2 supposed to create 33C of warming? Would the temperature drop another 33C in the absence of CO2 gas in the atmosphere?

    It doesn’t seem to accord with the Greenhouse Effect as I understand it. Maybe someone can explain in terms of AGW theory.

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

    • bernie says:

      Mike Flynn asks:

      “What happens to the atmospheric CO2 at temperatures well below its freezing point?”

      It undergoes deposition and sublimation; i.e. the molecules in the air go back and forth with solid CO2 on the ground. However, almost all of it is in the air at any time, because its partial pressure is so low.

      “What mechanism is responsible for the low temperatures?”

      Back radiation continues to exist*; but, in winter, since there is no input of radiation from the sun and little transfer of heat from the rest of the globe, the net result is a gradual loss of heat, through radiation to space from the atmosphere and the ice-sheet, and the ultimate result is a severe cooling to -90 C**.

      * By symmetry (confirmed by sensors)a joule is sent to space through the upper surface of the atmosphere for every joule radiated back to earth through the lower surface of the atmosphere. The atmosphere is a net cooler of the globe as a whole. The “top” of the atmosphere emits energy to space at a rate of 102 peta-watts and the “solid surface” of the earth (including the sea-surface) direct to space at a rate of only 10 peta-watts. None of this is UNIFORM of course through time and place; hence, the gross over-simplifications of “global average temperatures”

      ** At -90 C the rate of radiation from a body is 1/6th
      of that from the same body at 0 C, and the RATE of heat loss is lessened therefore.

      “Isn’t CO2 supposed to create 33 C of warming?”


      Water is the main greenhouse gas. CO2 is a bit player: whatever it may or may not do, it can only shift “average temperatures” (whatever they may be) a C degree or two on its own.

      “Would the temperature drop another 33 C in the absence of CO2…?”


      AGW is a crock – but not for the reasons you are mulling over.

      • Mike Flynn says:


        Thanks for the response. There are a couple of points you may wish to comment on further.

        The first is that it is summer in the Antarctic at the moment. Can we expect temperatures to drop after winter comes?

        You are no doubt aware that there is almost no water in gaseous form over the Antarctic continent. Its greenhouse effect is low, if any.

        I mean no offence, but talk of radiation from the “upper atmosphere” or the “top of the atmosphere” is nonsensical, in terms of total energy transfer to space.

        The fact is that measurements indicate the Earth is losing heat at a rate of around 44TW, depending on which research you accept. This is cooling, by my definition. Not warming, not heating – cooling.

        Since its creation, the surface has cooled some 4,500 K. I can’t think of any reason that Naturet will reverse this trend.

        I won’t challenge your figures. Any fool can see that the surface heats from sunrise until local noon, and commences to cool (ceteris paribus), from then on.

        The absorbed energy radiates away – it cannot be stopped, merely delayed for a short period of time. The atmosphere is a tolerably ineffective insulator. Even poorer over the Antarctic continent, where the atmosphere is thinner, drier, and colder.

        A moments consideration will lead to the conclusion that surrounding the white hot core of the Earth with rock, and any amount of atmosphere of any composition, will not prevent cooling.

        Local oxidation of carbon will create a local rise in temperature. Heat created in this fashion (or any other) cannot be “stored” or “accumulated” in any real sense. AGW? Tosh!

        I think we agree.

        Live well and prosper,

        Mike Flynn.

        • bernie says:

          “…44 TW…”

          That is indeed the estimated rate at which heat is flowing up and through the top surface of the rock layers, from the inside of the Earth* – mainly into the bottom of the Oceans, at the spreading ridge systems. This input power is several orders of magnitude less than the input from the Sun absorbed by the Earth. It is one three-thousandth (0.03%) of the latter, AND it does not vary much. So it seems a red herring so far as climate fluctuaion is concerned.

          *Enough to drop the temperature of the solid earth about one millionth Degree C per year, if not compensated by something else, such as radioactive decay.

          • bernie says:



            “…input from the Sun absorbed by the Earth…”

            I mean of course the gross input, not the net input which is always close to zero.

          • Mike Flynn says:


            Unfortunately for the Warmists, absorbed radiant energy from the Sun during the day (until local solar noon), is radiated away at night. It is not stored or accumulated.

            This can be easily demonstrated experimentally.

            Lord Kelvin calculated the age of the Earth at some 40,000 years. He revised this figure downwards in later life to about 20,000 years, based on heat loss calculations. He was unaware of mass conversion (radioactive decay) occurring within the Earth. His calculation now appears ludicrous, but was based on insufficient information.

            So yes, presently the Earth does appear to be cooling at around one millionth of a degree C per year. Cooling, not warming. At a somewhat variable depth within the crust, the effects of the Sun become indiscernible. From there down, the temperature rises. The effect of incident radiation from the Sun is merely to retard the rate of cooling somewhat.

            Global warming? Greenhouse effect? I think not.

            Live well and prosper,

            Mike Flynn.

  16. torontoann says:

    There is unnecessary confusion over back radiation and the warming it causes [in the careless sense] of the “solid” surface and therefore of the air a few meters above the ground.

    The truth is that the atmosphere IS like a big electric fire in the sky, blasting heat up (to space) and down (to earth), BUT its main* source of power is the solid earth (including liquid water) itself – which in turn got all its energy from the sun – and the back [down] -radiation.

    What the atmosphere ISN’T, is an electric fire with an occult power supply.

    The whole matter is trivial, simple, BOOK-KEEPING.

    *34 Peta-watts are absorbed directly from the Sun, 54 from convection and conduction from the surface of the solid earth, and 126 from interception of long-wave radiation from the surface of the solid earth.

  17. jim2 says:

    Dr. Spencer, can you do the same analysis for the Arctic?

  18. Dan Pangburn says:

    What happened to the NOAA websites that used to give numerical sunspot numbers since 1700?

    The time-integral of sunspot numbers explains average global temperature since before 1900 with 90% accuracy.

  19. Bill Marcel says:

    Not exactly on subject but not sure how else to bring to you.

    Can you comment on the Cleantechnica article:

    The Planetís Rate Of Warming Is 400,000 Hiroshima Bombs Per Day


    seems outrageous. Not considering normal loss of heat?

  20. bernie says:

    In the black game of propaganda, this is what psychologists call a manipulation by using “affect”. The emotional part of peoples’ brains (the main bit, in many cases)interprets this as “we are being pulverised in a nuclear war of huge dimensions”.

    The energy in 400,000 Hiroshima bombs is 3 x 10^19 joules – 1/300th part of the daily energy absorbed by the Earth from the Sun. As an estimate of net imbalance in the Earth’s present heat budget it is probably wrong by a factor of three – but the difference between “1000 in and 999 out” or “1000 in and 1001 out” is impossible to establish with certainty.

    Actually, this will probably NOT be effective propaganda. Most people will (wrongly) think this is a completely bogus number and scoff at it. It would actually be more effective to say “several A-bombs” as this is something people can understand. I doubt whether 10% of the population has enough mathematical intuition to understand 400,000 bombs as an energy unit!

    3 x 10^19 Joules a day is enough to warm the hydrosphere noticeably in, say, a thousand years. Of course an actual warming of the oceans of the world by a couple of degrees C would increase the output of radiation from the surface of the ocean by much MORE than 400,000 A-bombs. The Stefan-Boltzmann fourth power law is an automatic balancer – the “trump card” that Nature has up her sleeve.

  21. torontoann says:

    According to the satellite data, there are NO net heat-bombs
    at present.

    Meanwhile, up here it is b*** freezing!!!

  22. ren says:

    Dr. Spencer, what about the forecast?

  23. ren says:

    You need to compare the distribution of pressure in the lower stratosphere.

  24. Coldlynx says:

    Note that CO2 will form dry ice below – 78.5C at 1 atm.

  25. torontoann says:

    Coldlynx says:

    “Note that CO2 will form dry ice below -78.5 C at 1 atm.”

    Not really. This has already been discussed in this thread by “Bernie”.The partial pressure of the gaseous CO2 is too low for a significant amount of solid CO2 to co-exist. The total pressure of 1 atm is irrelevant (Dalton’s law of gases).

    • Mike Flynn says:

      At -90 C, how much water can the atmosphere hold? Given that water vapour has a much greater greenhouse effect than CO2, how much of it is present in the atmosphere?

      Does the ratio of gaseous CO2 to gaseous H20 increase?

      I was really wondering if the difference between the supposed calculated Earth temperature of 255 K, and the supposed observed temperature of 288 K, is due to the supposed Greenhouse Effect.

      The Greenhouse Effect doesn’t seem to apply at temperatures below -85 C or so, and it seems that the temperature is not the result of a diminution of greenhouse gases, but rather the other way round.

      I am obviously a non believer in supposed Global Warming, but maybe I am in error in my belief that temperatures below the freezing point of CO2 are easily explained without the need for anything but basic radiative physics.

      I am always willing to learn, but as I have pointed out before, it is high Summer in the Antarctic (the Summer Solstice was around the 21st December, so very low temperatures are not due to the long Antarctic Winter.

      So all I really want to know is what happens (a little physical detail, backed up some numbers at say -90 C would be appreciated). I can’t seem to find much on the Wide World of the Web apart from assumptions and “probablys”.

      Live well and prosper,

      Mike Flynn.

      • bernie says:

        Mike Flynn says

        “…so very low temperatures are not due to the long Antarctic Winter.”

        There are two questions here; why is it cold in Winter
        and why is it still cold in Summer (although not so cold as in Winter)?

        It is cold in Winter because there is no input from the Sun AND because the “convective cells” of the atmosphere largely isolate the area.

        It is cold in Summer because the Sun’s rays hit at a glancing angle* so that the input per square meter is less than say at the equator AND because the area is still isolated.

        It is difficult for anyone to gain a true knowledge in Science because it has to be multidisciplinary, and the great majority of scientists are specialists. While they are becoming specialists they FORGET** most of what they were once taught – and because this is a gradual process they usually have a misplaced confidence in their general pronouncments.

        What I am saying is that one can’t expect to be “briefed” (like an officer receiving an intelligence report in the army)by anyone in science. One has to go back to basics – and by that I really mean textbooks of the nineteenth century. And that means years of study.

        *”climate” comes from “klima” the Greek word for “slope” and originally simply meant that the weather depended on
        such things as whether you were on a hill or on the plain.

        * There was an example of this last night on a BBC program called Celebrity University Challenge (there used to be a similar show on USA TV called College Bowl). Simply, two teams (in this Christmas special) of alumni from particular Universities answered general knowledge questions which are supposed to test bright college level students. On one team were two rather smug science writers and TV presenters who had graduated in Astronomy and Physics thirty or forty years ago. They were asked a few simple ballistics questions which could be answered with Newton’s laws of motion, in one’s head, in about a second. From their blank expressions it was clear that they hadn’t the faintest idea of how to do it!

  26. torontoann says:

    “…what really happens…”

    It gets colder and colder, until the sun creeps back
    (i.e. until the earth reaches a different stage of its orbit).

    I think mike lynch has a basic idea that twenty-four hours is long enough that

    “heat in” =EXACTLY “heat out” everwhere and at all seasons.

    This isn’t true – ESPECIALLY untrue for the oceans, which have a heat capacity 1,600 times greater than the atmosphere.

  27. bernie says:

    Error is a hundred-headed Hydra.

  28. bernie says:

    “…the oceans [heat and cool gradually in middle latitudes]…”

    You won’t find me swimming in the North Sea before August 15th – or after it, for that matter.

  29. torontoann says:

    “…the North Sea…”

    Saggy, woollen, cossies, with wet sand inside chafing one’s tushie. I remember it well. Uggh!

  30. torontoann says:

    One must also be aware that litle of the sun’s warmth is absorbed in the Antactic, even in mid-summer, because the surface is ice which simply reflects the light back into space – i.e. the Albedo is high there.

  31. torontoann says:

    …litle… little

    …Antactic… Antarctic

  32. torontoann says:

    …288 to 255 or 255 to 288…

    Once and for all time:

    On average over a year,

    the net,net,net,net effect of all greenhouse gases is to


    the effective blackbody equivalent temperature of the earth as measured from space by about 20 C.

    (Because the the main greenhouse gas -water- makes clouds which increase the Albedo so that the earth has less to radiate, pari passu with less absorbed energy)



    the equivalent blackbody temperature of the surface compared to the atmosphere, by happenstance also by
    about 20 C.

    (Because the surface is equilibrated to radiate 126 Petawatts to the atmosphere and 10 more to space while receiving 100 Petawatts downwelling from the atmosphere. The difference would be much greater if it were not for the fact that there is a “bridge” between them {evaporation/condensation,conduction) carrying 54 Petawatts upwards.

    That is the


    mathematically trivial, subject.

    I am signing off for


  33. bernie says:

    And if the conduction bridge from surface to air were perfect there could be no raising of surface temperatures at all from the introduction of carbon-dioxide gas into an atmosphere of pure oxygen and nitrogen. It is obvious. Conduction/Convection would trump Radiation considerations.

    Given that the conduction bridge is not perfect; still,the only way extra CO2 could affect the present surface temperatures of the earth is through changing clouds and the albedo – which are not directly connected in any way to CO2. One can imagine scenarios but they would be entirely hypothetical.

  34. torontoann says:

    Just came back to say that I referred to Mike Lynch instead of Mike Flynn by mistake.

  35. Mike Flynn says:

    Torontoann (and Bernie, I guess)

    Bernie exhorts me to look at the 19th century.

    I quote the following from one of Joseph Fourier’s treatises.

    “That which penetrates in the equatorial regions is exactly balanced by that which escapes at the parts around the poles. Thus the earth gives out to celestial space all the heat which it receives from the sun, and adds a part of what is peculiar to itself.”

    I commend the entire treatise to you.

    You will find that the nonsense attributed to Fourier vis-a-vis the Greenhouse Effect, is just that.

    But read it it yourself if you don’t want to take my word for it.

    If you would rather prefer the evidence of your own lying eyes, I invite to cast your gaze downwards. Molten rock? I think not. If you believe that the Earth has warmed since its creation, I salute you.

    The Earth loses energy at around 44TW or so. To heat the Earth, you must first prevent energy from leaving the system. Then you must increase the energy content. Unfortunately, heat received from the Sun provides a temporary heating only. Once again, read Fourier. If you still don’t believe, place your boiling beaker of water in the Sun. See it cool. Try to stop it cooling by modelling or years of study.

    Facts are facts. Even the most ardent Warmists are having difficulty explaining why heat has suddenly decided to hide itself where it can’t be found. Do you really believe such bizarre rubbish? Use your basic physics. If you don’t understand something, I hope you meet with more success than I. All I seem to receive are patronising admonitions to study hard (and maybe be kind to my Mother). It seems the Warmists churlishly hide the answers known only to them.

    Nature seems to be proceeding in spite of all the Warmist models. If 100 models give 100 different answers, does it not occur to you that at least 99 are wrong? Further, what would lead any rational person to believe that averaging the results of 99 demonstrably incorrect models will miraculously provide a correct answer.

    As usual, I ask a simple question. The experts have all either forgotten the answer, are too busy, or seek to jealously guard their Precious. Gollum might learn something!

    No answers to be found here.

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

  36. bernie says:

    Flynn says

    “I ask a simple question…”

    He got a simple answer

    “It gets gradually colder.”

    Then he said


    Ad hominem.

    Will be ignored from now on.

  37. dave says:

    Every school-kid knows that heat is transported from the equator towards the poles by the atmospheric and oceanic circulations. Or he should know it.

  38. Mike Flynn says:


    I expected nothing from you.

    You did not disappoint.

    Thank you for making my point so eloquently.

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

  39. dave says:

    “…44 TW…Fourier…”

    Don’t know why Flynn keeps banging on about this miserable trickle of heat. His authority, Fourier, entirely disregarded it when discussing climate:

    “We know with certainty that the primitive central heat has been for a long time imperceptible [‘insensible’] at the surface even though there are large amounts of it at only a moderate depth.”

    As for his question about why it is cold at the poles he has been told the answer several times over. It is basically the same answer as Fourier gave:

    “The poles of all the planets of the solar system tend to the same, terrible, cold of space because of the lessened effects of the solar rays there.”

    Heat from the equatorial regions is carried polewards but little actually reaches the ground there because of – as was also mentioned – the sundry effects of the Hadley cell circulation of the atmosphere

    The greenhouse effect IS very slight at the poles, but then there isn’t much outgoing radiation there anyway – because it is always pretty cold! So it is a “wash”.

  40. dave says:

    I did once come across someone who had read a bad translation of Fourier, which appeared to have him saying that the solar heat entered the earth at the equator and travelled within the earth to come out at the poles. This would be impossible if only because the conductivity of rock is insufficient by many magnitudes to support that.

    He was relieved when I showed him the passage in French, although admittedly it WASN’T written in the usual precise manner of the savants. He did not like to think that the inventor of Fourier Series, which he had sweated over, was bonkers!

  41. numberer says:

    “44 TW”

    That should be enough to keep the surface of the earth at -230 C. Sounds like the background heating provided by my landlord.

  42. numberer says:

    I think it probable that Fourier would have regarded the sort of temperature fluctuations that are argued about nowadays as completely insignificant. He was definitely a man for the big picture and the steady state. Mind you, he had never heard of ice-ages!

    Fourier was one of the first words on heat, not the last word.

  43. dave says:

    On a lighter note, has anyone been following the story of the Australian research vessel which went out with a load of “scientists” and journalistic “hacks” to document the disappearing sea-ice – and got stuck in said ice ’cause they forgot to take a weatherman along with them. They got free eventually. All together – What do you call 74 fools on an ice-floe; a good beginning.

  44. numberer says:

    Of course, an exactly balanced daily heat budget for the earth is compatible with an infinite variety of temperatures both regional and global, and therefore with changes in those temperatures.

    For example, if the polewards flow of heat reduced for any reason, other things being equal, the equatorial regions of the earth would rise in temperature to shed the excess heat while the regions in higher latitudes would cool. But because of the fourth-power Law, the rise in tropical temperature would be less than the fall elsewhere. The “average” of the two numbers would go down. There would be “global cooling”, but the people in the tropics would not be amused to hear that.

  45. Mike Flynn says:

    /sarc on

    Thank you all for the education.

    I now see that the Earth has not cooled for four and a half billion years. The fact that the global average temperature has not risen in the last seventeen years is due to global warming.

    Antarctica experiences record low temperatures in the middle of summer because it’s winter in the Northern hemisphere.

    A body losing energy is actually increasing it’s temperature.

    Bodies can accumulate heat, and not cool to ambient temperature, by the action of Sunlight alone.

    A body must emit precisely as much heat as it receives. A glowing steel ingot receiving heat from a candle, can emit no more radiation than it receives from the candle. Kept in the dark, it will not lose any heat at all.

    /sarc off

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

  46. numbere says:

    “mike flynn says:

    sarc/ on

    A body must emit precisely as much heat as it receives.”

    which I take to mean that he thinks other people are arguing this ridiculous idea against him.

    But it is HE who made the statement.

    I quote:

    “…absorbed radiant energy from the Sun during the day (until locar Solar noon) is radiated away at night. It is not stored or accumulated.” Or, presumably, disaccumulated.

    The words “until local [sic] Solar noon” make this a bald statement about every individual patch of ground or sea, each new day, and not a statement about the earth as a whole.

    He is going off in several directions at once, but the statement about ambient temperature makes it clear perhaps what the bedrock of his argument is (pun intended). He seems to think the appropriate ambient temperature is given by the warm rocks which still lie a few hundred feet under us – which the “in and out” of the sun’s heat is unable to change by very much. This would be true of the surface if the conductivity of the rocks were not fantastically tiny. It would be like sitting in one of the volcanic pools in Iceland; the sun warms your head up a bit during the day but then it cools down at night.If you wish, you just duck it down and it goes back immediately to the ambient temoerature. But the heat from the interior of the earth you get sitting in a volcano is a very rare phenomenon*. 44 TW IS a miserable trickle for the whole surface. The figure of -230 C is the temperature the surface would adopt if the sun were removed. The quote from Fourier tells us that the appropriate ambient temperature for the ‘superfacies’is “the terrible cold of space” (-270 C), or perhaps -230 C.
    He specifically says that the heat of the interior is irrelevant (‘insensible’ is his French word for the effect).

    If this isn’t his theory, I fear what it might be.

    *even in a volcano it is rare. I once anchored in the Caldera of Santorini. That is the volcano which went bang about 1450 B.C. The volcano is rebuilding and there is now an island in the middle. I was told by the locals it was a lovely warm place to swim. Not a bit of it. I found one place to sit down on fresh rock in the shallows and my bum was about 2 C warmer than the rest of me, the rest of me being lapped in teeth-chattering sea water.

  47. numberer says:

    Too many unfixed pronouns at the end:

    “He specifically says…” “FOURIER…says…”

    “his theory…” “FLYNN’S theory” .

  48. numberer says:

    If , on the other hand, the point is that people should not say “global” when they mean only the outermost skin of the earth; then that is true but a mere pedantry.

  49. bernie says:

    Tommy Gold had an interesting idea with which he bent the ear of everybody, given a chance. He theorized that life started, and still exists as bacteria, in the rocks, down for several miles. For them, life goes on in an equable environment that changes only slowly. The life that is us, and like us, is an escaper to the surface. He thought that the organic content of fossil fuels (including coal) came mainly through upward movement from those underground sources. That would be fantastic of course for lovers of cheap energy (but not for hair-shirt ecos), because it would mean a much larger supply could be had, by digging deeper. He pointed out that oil and gas fields seem to be replenished from below; old ones “come back to life” after a while. Nobody believes in this theory now, but nobody believed in continental drift either. Call it a rank outsider in the betting.

  50. bernie says:


    I get your point about a redistribution of heat causing a change in average temperature. I understand of course that you are making sly fun of the concept of average temperature.

    The earth has no temperature, because it is not in thermal equilibrium or in a steady thermal sweep. End of story – or end of simplistic story, at any rate.

  51. bernie says:

    “The earth has no temperature…”

    PARTS of the earth have a temperature of course. The conditions at the bottom of the oceans are so uniform that it would be unnecessarily “nice” to deny that these enormous masses of water are all “a couple of degrees above Zero Centigrade”. And all the blood in my heart is 38 Centigrade.
    But there is no meaning to “‘the temperature’ of ‘the oceans and Bernie’s blood'”. Not even when I cut my wrists and jump in tied to a stone.

  52. numberer says:

    “…jump in…”

    You should leave it as a ‘thought experiment’.

  53. numberer says:

    Of course, ‘space’ itself has no temperature so Fourier was technically incorrect about that. And radiation has no heat “in” it since it is electromagnetic and not vibrational. But the general idea that the earth steadily divests itself of heat, radiating away into a vasty void from which it receives nothing back…it is basically true.

    Fourier toyed with the idea that the distant stars were filling the void with palpable energy, but it was not right.
    That leads on to Olber’s paradox, naturally, which still poses a problem for any idea of a truly infinite, unchanging universe.

  54. numberer says:

    “…divests itself of heat…”

    Of which one joule in every four thousand comes fresh from the inside.

  55. numberer says:

    44 Tera-watts versus 122 Peta-watts.
    That is actually 1 in 3000.
    I make a mistake.

  56. Mike Flynn says:

    Unfortunately for the Warmist Warriors, and the bizarre assertion that increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere cause warming, Nature seems to disagree.

    I assert no new theory, and merely point out that observed fact and basic physics contradict the Global Warming nonsense. Believe as you wish. I do not challenge your faith – faith needs no facts.

    The wheels appear to be falling off the AGW Juggernaut. I applaud your zeal in refusing to waver in the face of observed fact. If you ever manage to increase the temperature of anything at all by wrapping it in any amount of CO2, do let me know.

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

  57. numberer says:

    Flynn says

    “Believe as you wish.”


    I have flicked back through the comments here, and all are obviously from confirmed sceptics, who are sick of hearing the words “global warming” – and mad as hell at being taxed because of the dogma.

    I look here every month LONGING to se a drop in the temperatures. For the present, though, they are merely sideways.

  58. bernie says:

    “…monthly temperatures…”

    Perhaps we are going the wrong way by making ever more measurements ever more frequently. Shouldn’t we bury a few boxes in the ground ten feet down (so they would ignore the annual cycle)in quiet geological locations with electrical thermometers in them with wires leading to readouts on the surface. Then if say the temperature today in the box is 22 C and the temperature in ten years’ time is 21.4 C, this is what we MEAN when we say temperatures have dropped by 0.6 C in ten years in that place. There would simply be nothing to argue about. And if another region shows something different, well so what?, that is just a fact about regional variation.

    And thousands of speculating scientists would have to find gainful employment, meanwhile.

  59. bernie says:

    “LONGING to see them go down.”

    And I do not even believe they have any meaning. I just want something that will make certain people quit their yammering.

  60. bernie says:

    “…certain people…”

    I was wondering who exactly I meant, and I realized that AGW has so many automatic supporters and preachers that I do not know! It’s a mob!

  61. Mike Flynn says:


    I really shouldn’t – but – 3 meters is not quite deep enough.

    Another problem is that we do not currently possess technology to measure to 0.000001 C, which is the least accuracy required if you are trying to determine a yearly variation beyond the Suns influence.

    The calculation of the current rate of Earth’s cooling is about a millionth of a degree per annum. I leave it to you to read the appropriate geophysical studies. The rate is disputed, with some saying more, none saying less.

    Even with supremely accurate measuring devices, the problem arises with movement within the mantle and core, not to mention extremely small variations due to things like isostatic rebound causing crustal thickness variations, plate movement, frictional effects and so on. All these are capable of causing local sub surface temperature variations sufficient to swamp the signal you are trying to decipher.

    Sometimes, the better the instrument, the more you realise you didn’t know.

    It really doesn’t matter. I just wish the Witless Warmists would spend their own money. I admire their religious passion and faith, but I don’t share it.

    I will leave you all alone. Hooray, they said!

    Live well and prosper,

    Mike Flynn.

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