Climate F-Words

March 22nd, 2018 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

President Trump explaining climate change terminology.

A recent article by Lord Christopher Monckton over at WUWT argues that there has been an “elementary error of physics” that has led to climate sensitivity being overestimated by about a factor of 2.

I agree with the conclusion but not the reason why. It is already known from the work of Otto et al. (2013), Lewis & Curry (2015) and others that the climate system (including the deep oceans) has warmed by an amount that suggests a climate sensitivity only about half of what the models produce (AR5 models warm by an average of 3.4 deg. C in response to a doubling of CO2).

But the potential reasons why are many, and as far as I can tell not dependent upon Christopher’s arguments. For those who don’t know, Lord Monckton is a pretty talented mathematician. However, like others I have encountered over the years, I believe he errs in his assumptions about how the climate research community uses — and does or does not depend upon — the concept of feedback in climate modeling.

You Don’t Have to Use F-Words

I’ve been told that the feedback concept used by climate researchers is a very poor analog for feedbacks in electrical circuit design. Fine. It doesn’t matter. How modern 3D coupled ocean-atmosphere climate models work does not depend upon the feedback concept.

What they DO depend upon is energy conservation: If the system is in energy equilibrium, its average temperature will not change (that’s not precisely true, because it makes little sense energetically to average the temperature of all ocean water with the atmosphere, and there can be energy exchanges between these two reservoirs which have vastly different heat capacities. Chris Essex has written on this). The point is that the total heat content of the system in Joules stays the same unless an energy imbalance occurs. (Temperature is focussed on so intensely because it determines the rate at which the Earth sheds energy to outer space. Temperature stabilizes the climate system.)

The amount of surface temperature change in response to that energy imbalance is, by definition, the climate sensitivity, which in turn depends upon feedback components. You can call the feedbacks anything… maybe “temperature sensitivity parameters” if you wish. Feedback is just a convenient term that quantifies the proportionality between an imposed energy imbalance and the resulting temperature change response, whether it’s for a pot of water on the stove, the climate system, or anything that is initially at a constant temperature but then is forced to change its temperature. Christopher’s claim that the Earth’s effective radiating temperature (ERT) to outer space (around 255 K) itself causes a “feedback” makes no sense to me, because it isn’t (nor does it represent) a “forcing”. Feedbacks, by the climate definition, are only in response to forced departures from energy equilibrium.

The proportionality factor between a forcing (another f-word) and temperature response in climate parlance is called the net feedback parameter, and has units of Watts per sq. meter per deg. C, usually referenced to a surface temperature change. You could come up with a sensitivity parameter for a pot of water on the stove, too. In the climate system the net feedback parameter has components from temperature-dependent changes in clouds, water vapor, etc., as well as the Sigma-T^^4 “Planck” effect that ultimately stabilizes the climate system from experiencing large temperature fluctuations.

Now, in the process of describing climate change in simple terms with such proportionalities between imposed energy imbalance and temperature response, various feedback equations have been published. But NONE of the IPCC models depend upon any formulation of any feedback equation you wish to devise. Neither do they depend upon whether the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect on surface temperature is estimated to be 33 deg. C, or 75 deg. C (Manabe & Strickler, 1964), or any other value. Nor do they depend upon how that 33 deg or 75 deg is apportioned from different components. These are all conceptual constructs which help us understand and discuss the climate system, but the climate models do not depend upon them.

Modern 3D climate models are basically weather forecast models (with an ocean model added) that are run for a hundred years or more of model run time (rather than 3-14 days, which is pretty common for weather forecast models). One of the biggest differences is that climate models have been tuned so that they keep a relatively constant temperature over a long integration, which also means their rates of energy gain (from the sun) and energy loss to outer space are, in the long term, equal. (I question whether they actually conserve energy, but that’s a different discussion).

Once you have a model whose temperature does not drift over time, then you can impose a forcing upon it. All that means is impose an energy imbalance. Once again, it doesn’t matter to the physics what you call it. To change the energy balance, you could increase the solar input. Or, you could reduce the rate of radiative cooling to outer space, e.g. from increasing atmospheric CO2. The point is that forcing is just an imposed energy imbalance, while feedback quantifies how much of a temperature response you will get for a given amount of forcing.

As the climate system warms from an energy imbalance, a wide variety of changes can take place (clouds, water vapor, etc.) which affect how much warming will occur before energy balance is once again restored, and the system stops warming. Those component changes, for better or worse, are called “feedbacks” (e.g. cloud feedback, water vapor feedback). Again, you don’t have to use the f-word. Call it anything you want. Its just a proportionality constant (or not a constant?) that quantitatively relates an energy imbalance to a temperature response.

Nowhere do the IPCC models invoke, use, assume, or otherwise depend upon any feedback equations. Those equations are just greatly simplified approximations that allow us to discuss how the climate system responds to an imposed energy imbalance. If somebody has published a paper that incorrectly explains the climate system with a feedback equation, that does not invalidate the models. There might be many errors in models that cause them to be too sensitive, but how someone misrepresents the model behavior with their favorite feedback equation is that person’s problem… not the model’s problem.

Feedbacks in the IPCC models are diagnosed after the model is run; they are not specified before it is run. Now, it IS true that how some uncertain model processes such as cloud parameterizations are specified will affect the feedbacks, and therefore affect the climate sensitivity of the model. So, I suppose you can say that feedbacks are indirectly imposed upon the models. But there isn’t a feedback factor or feedback equation input into the model.

The ultimate climate sensitivity of the models to an energy imbalance (say, increasing CO2) depends upon how clouds, water vapor, etc., all change with warming in the model in such a way to make the warming either large or small. The equations in the models governing this involve energy and mass conservation, moisture, thermodynamics, dynamics, radiation, etc., along with some crucial approximations for processes which the models cannot resolve (e.g. cloud parameterizations, which will affect cloud feedback) or which we do not even understand well enough to put in the models (e.g. temperature-dependent changes in precipitation efficiency, which will affect water vapor feedback).

But nowhere does the sensitivity of modern 3D climate models depend upon any feedback equations.

Now, if I have misrepresented Lord Monckton’s argument, I apologize. But I am having difficulty determining exactly what his argument is, and how it affects the processes specified in climate models. Maybe someone can help me. We can agree that the models are too sensitive, but we must make sure our arguments for their excessive sensitivity make sense, or we will continue to be dismissed out of hand by the mainstream climate community.

109 Responses to “Climate F-Words”

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  1. CO2isLife says:


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  2. Snape says:

    Dr. Spencer

    You have a talent for explaining things in a way that novices like me can understand. Thanks.

    • spalding craft says:

      Yes, nice plain English description. Thank you

      • Greg says:

        ” Now, it IS true that how some uncertain model processes such as cloud parameterizations are specified will affect the feedbacks, and therefore affect the climate sensitivity of the model. So, I suppose you can say that feedbacks are indirectly imposed upon the models.”

        That is the whole story in a nutshell. They have a basket full of parameters for processes they do not understand in mathematical terms or which model resolution cannot represent. These poorly constrained parameter values allow them to tweak the models to get just about any sensitivity the consider to be “right”.

        There is no “basic physics” in all this, it is all subjective guesswork susceptible to human bias or political pressure.

        Many thanks for Dr. Spencer for such a clear explanation.

  3. Scott Scarborough says:

    Can’t a climate modal have an input of the removal of all the greenhouse gasses and then see if the earths temperature reduces by 33 Deg. C? Or would that be too big of the change for the assumptions of the model?

  4. Bret says:

    Very nice explanation! Thanks!

  5. Frank says:

    Lord Monckton arrives at a very low feedback (f) ONLY by considering the warming of a planet without GHGs (at around 255 K) to a pre-industrial planet (287). The assuming that emission of radiation is linear over this wide a range of temperature is invalid. Feedback of the first kind (lambda_0) and feedback of the second kind (lambda_1) are not constants over this period, so the feedback factor f can not be constant either.

  6. Curious George says:

    Energy balance in the climate system is just a fiction – there are huge daily and yearly variations. I agree that for a simple estimate we can average these temperature changes, but I have not seen an analysis of errors caused by that approximation.

  7. Svante says:

    “Ive been told that the feedback concept used by climate researchers is a very poor analog for feedbacks in electrical circuit design.”


    • Gordon Robertson says:

      svante…”Ive been told that the feedback concept used by climate researchers is a very poor analog for feedbacks in electrical circuit design.

      Don’t lump yourself in with the mathematicians like Gavin Schmidt who cannot explain it.

      Feedbacks in electrical design use true feedback theory, otherwise they would not work. The feedbacks used in climate models are obviously wrong since the models do not work. If modelers understood real feedback theory, and applied it, their projections would align with UAH data.

      • Svante says:

        Gordon, Roy Spencer just said:

        “Nowhere do the IPCC models invoke, use, assume, or otherwise depend upon any feedback equations.”

    • It is misleading to reduce the functional design pattern of a feedback model to an electrical circuit. Even if the GCMs don’t start with a model based on the feedback pattern, the results are! Anything else doesn’t make sense and is just confusing. As it is generally accepted that the vanilla CO2-sensitivity is about 3.7 W/m2 any other calculation of TCR and ECS imply the feedback concept. This also don’t imply, that feedbacks are linear or a constant, bu a function. In general it is assumed to be a factor for the vanilla CO2 function – which may be disputed.

      I understand Christy as describing how GCMs are build, but he fails to address Moncktons approach. Monckton does not try to rebuild the modelling process, but to reproduce the results by other means as checking for plausibility.

  8. pochas94 says:

    My favorite reference on feedbacks is Lindzens paper

    On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data

    Once it is realized that the troposphere is a convective region in which the temperature profile, as well as the surface temperature, is fixed by the lapse rate profile with reference to the Planck temperature at the effective emissions height, the hot spot goes away, along with most of the sensitivity to CO2 since a trace of CO2 has little effect on the lapse rate.

    • Geoff Wood says:

      Hi Pochas94.
      I like the last paragraph you have written and believe this to be the case.
      I think I recall Lindzen using this argument in another paper and concluded that the tiny changes in emission height for a doubling of CO2 greatly reduced sensitivity given that any warming increased the surface area of the radiative shell and raised specific humidity which reduced the lapse rate to the surface,ie significant negative feedback.

  9. I think Lord Monckton argues that whatever feedbacks are produced from GHGs added to the atmosphere and slowing the loss of energy to space, also should apply to the solar energy inputs that produce the equilibrium global temperature in a hypothetical Earth with an atmosphere but no hypothetical greenhouse warming, so the 255K earth temperature without GHGs already incorporates those feedbacks. Of course, the main feedbacks relate to water vapor and liquid water aerosols, so they cannot be separated from other atmospheric effects. The climate system cannot distinguish different sources of energy change, so any source of delta E produces the same direct delta T as well as indirect feedback delta T. That seems to make sense to me.

    • That is one aspect taken for granted when talking about feedbacks. It depends in general on the temperature – regardless where it comes from. If the feedback factor would exceed 2 then it would be a running self amplifying loop – which is obviously not the case. That is true also for ECS because extended time periods don’t change the concept. For practical purposes the factor should be much less than this upper boundry.

  10. PpEntropic man says:

    Wayne Raymond

    At 255K there are no water vapour or liquid water aerosol feedbacks.

    Everything except cirrus cloud ice crystals will have precipitated out.

    • Richard M says:

      Except 255K is an global average. The value in the tropics is more than enough to support water vapor. In addition, without water vapor there are no clouds and hence the albedo goes way down to around .1. This means even more of the planet has an average temperature above freezing.

      Not as simple as you tried to claim.

      • Nate says:

        Albedo goes to .1? What about all that sea and land ice? Except for the tropics, Earth becomes an ice ball.

  11. Joe Born says:

    Dr. Spencer:

    Can I push back on your nomenclature? You said, Feedback is just a convenient term that quantifies the proportionality between an imposed energy imbalance and the resulting temperature change response. Isnt it instead an additional forcing added to the original forcing as a result of the temperature change the original forcing caused?

    Specifically, if you look at Fig. 1 here:, the feedback is the additional forcing that goes into the summing junction from the top, whereas the original forcing (caused, e.g., by a CO2 increase) goes into the summing junction from the left, right? So the feedback is forcing f * delta T caused by a temperature change delta T.

    As to the difference between what some engineers call feedback and what climate types call it, you can look at Fig. 3 of that post, which breaks Fig. 1s lower block into two blocks, a negative-feedback -1/lambda block ans an integrator block. Whereas climate types might employ the higher level of abstraction that Fig. 1 depicts, considering only f to be the feedback, a linear-systems guy might take a lower-level view, where the feedback is the parallel combination of f and -1/lambda.

    That said, I agree with your assessment of Lord Moncktons post; he went off the rails right where you said he lost you.

    • Frank says:

      Joe: The simplest way to distinguish between feedback and forcing is to look at the units. Forcing is an instantaneous change in radiation at the TOA measured in W/m2. Feedback is the change at the TOA IN RESPONSE TO A CHANGE IN Ts measured in W/m2/K. You can’t add forcing and feedback because they have different units. To a first approximation, the overall climate feedback parameter is an innate property of our planet near present-day temperature and is independent of the nature of the forcing.

      One does need to worry about time scale in your definition of feedback. Obviously emission of photons changes instantly with a change in temperature. However, it takes some time for changes in surface temperature to change the net flux across the TOA. (Net flux being OLR + reflected SWR.) Most responses are pretty fast. The average water molecule remains in the atmosphere for 9 days after leaving the surface. Trade winds circle the globe in a month, the jet stream much faster. Weather systems last a week or two. In winter, new fronts enter the West Coast from the Pacific about twice a week. Some feedback responses to a change in Ts are complete within a month. Roy has written that the upper troposphere lags a month or two behind SST during a strong El Nino. Surface albedo from season snow cover and sea ice can lag several months behind surface temperature. Roy has also written that SWR feedback shows the strongest correlation to Ts three months earlier. So most feedbacks follow monthly Ts and some lag a little behind. All feedbacks (except ice cap melting outgassing of CO2 from the deep ocean, which traditionally aren’t called feedbacks) reflect annual average Ts.

      • Joe Born says:


        Thanks; that’s what my diagram says. (When I talked about adding the feedback to the forcing, I didn’t mean adding the feedback *parameter* f to the forcing; I meant adding the feedback f * delta T to the forcing.)

        But that isn’t what Dr. Spencer seemed to say; for the feedback parameter, he said “proportionality between an imposed energy imbalance and the resulting temperature change response.” That’s not feedback; it’s open-loop gain. Feedback is instead the proportionality between the temperature change and the resultant imbalance. That is, feedback feeds from the output (temperature) to the input (radiation imbalance).

        • Greg Goodman says:

          Hi Joe, I seem to have missed that post you linked but this is one of the biggest problems with the “feedback” paradigm.

          What is being regarded as “open loop gain” is itself due to a feedback. Not just any feedback but the most important one. More importantly a non linear one , which is why it will always be the dominant f/b. Nailing this down as an a priori fixed open loop gain is either inappropriate error or slight of hand.

          If you want a simple electronic analogy, you start with an ideal op amp with very high gain ( often 10^5 or 10^ 6 ) then apply your planck f/b as a neg. f/b ( linearised if you must ) . This is CLOSED loop gain of the system which you can then tweak with the more minor f/b terms like GHG and volcanics.

          It is important to regard the dominant f/b of the system as just that. IPCC get to talk of “net feedbacks” being small or even +ve, and this leads to idea of instability. But this will never be the case. It is a word game because they are not recognising the dominant f/b as such.

          • Greg Goodman says:

            “That is, feedback feeds from the output (temperature) to the input (radiation imbalance).”

            .. and that is exactly how the Planck f/b operates.

          • Greg Goodman says:

            oops, I incorrectly referred to two forcings as feedbacks there. Other feedbacks would be things like cloud f/b and WV f/b but you must start by modelling Planck as a feedback.

          • Joe Born says:


            For years I’ve watched in morbid fascination as these pointless discussions took place about whether there’s feedback or not and what its sign is. A lot of them veered off into whether the climate models explicitly employ the feedback parameters we use when we discuss feedback. But that’s irrelevant. If there’s feedback (and there is), the effect is what the feedback equation says, independently of whether the feedback is explicitly coded or instead emerges from the various physical laws. That is, the output y in response to an input x is given by solving y = (1+fy)gx, where the feedback f and gain g are in general (potentially nonlinear) functions of the input and output histories.

            As you (and no doubt a small handful of other observers like Bernie Hutchins over at WUWT) recognize, the answer to whether there’s feedback and what its sign is really depends on what abstraction layer and time span you’re dealing with.

            My (greatly simplified) Fig. 1 is a high layer of abstraction that addresses only equilibrium. (Otherwise, the various blocks would be functions, not coefficients.) With its integrator my Fig. 3 adds a little transient behavior (but ignores transient behavior in the feedback path). And both of them are strictly small-signal diagrams, so they don’t address the source of Lord Monckton’s real problem: non-linearity.

            Incidentally, it appears that since his “irreducibly simple” paper Lord Monckton has finally learned something about the equilibrium hyperbola he used in that paper. He had taken the discontinuity at unity loop gain as demonstrating that climate scientists had “used the wrong equation,” that the feedback equation applies only to electrical circuits, not to climate systems.

            With my Figs. 12 and 13 I tried to explain to him that his hyperbola was just a locus of equilibrium points, not an indication of dynamic response to increasing loop gain, but he was too determined to debate to take time to learn something. Now, though, he appears to have abandoned the “wrong equation” argument. Someone must have actually gotten through to him.

            Like Dr. Spencer this time, I remained open last time to the possibility that the authors (Lord Monckton is joined by three PhDs) had actually discovered something but that I just didn’t understand it. What I found, though, was that Lord Monckton’s approach to dialog was just to throw around buzz words and never actually address the real issues. So I’ve concluded that the authors probably are just in over their depth. (Yes, I know I’m just a layman and there are three PhDs among the authors, but, hey, logic is logic.) And most of the WUWT crowd will again gush and make us skeptics look like kooks.

          • Joe Born says:


            That feedback equation should have been y = (x + fy)g.

          • Greg Goodman says:

            Thanks for the reply, Joe. I found that article very interesting.

            ” … but he was too determined to debate to take time to learn something.”

            There is none so blind as he who will not see.

            Like you, I no longer spend much time working out where he has gone wrong because he does not want to know and will not accept being corrected by a surf.

        • Frank says:

          Thanks for the reply, Joe. The amount of OLR the planet emits to space and SWR the planet reflects to space changes as a function of Ts, which is approximately linear for small changes in Ts:

          dW = lambda*dTs or lambda = dW/dTs or dTs = dW/lambda

          Roy is saying (to me) that all we need to worry about is lambda. Lambda is about -2.5 to -2.0 W/m2/K in EBMs and -1 W/m2/K in AOGCMs. All we need to do is resolve this discrepancy. There is no need to consider amplification. Lambda is a fundament property of our climate system independent of the nature of forcing. (That isn’t quite true, since Ts and dW are averages that can vary regionally. Milankovitch hypothesized that the planet is sensitive to cooling at high northern latitudes. But let’s ignore this, since other approaches do also.)

          In the amplification approach, Monckton and the IPCC break lambda up into two or more components – but Roy says why bother?

          lambda = lambda_0 + lambda_1

          where lambda_0 is the component of dW caused only by the increase in emission of radiation due to rising temperature assuming nothing else changes – “Planck feedback”. Lambda_1 is the sum of all of the other feedbacks. We can estimate lambda_0 from a black- or gray-body model or with an AOGCM. Lambda_0 is NOT a constant, it’s -1/4eoT^3 for a graybody. This is where Lord Monckton goes wrong. He assumes lambda_0 and lambda_1 are constants from 255K to 288K. They are not. They are approximately constant over only a few degK.

          What Roy is saying (to me) is, if you trust AOGCMs to tell you want lambda_0 is, why not accept their answer for lambda_1 or simply work with lambda itself. One answer is that breaking it up into Planck, WV, LR, cloud, and surface albedo components provides some understanding of cause. However, understanding doesn’t change lambda itself. Our planet does what it does and we haven’t fully characterized its behavior.

          We can calculate a no-feedbacks warming, dT0 = dW/lambda_0. Since the radiative response to surface warming is a feedback, this is really a “no-feedbacks except Planck feedback” value and gives the no-feedbacks climate sensitivity when dW = -3.5 W/m2.

          dT = dW/[lambda_0 + lambda_1]
          dT = [dW/lambda_0] * [1/(1 + lambda_1/lambda_0]
          define: f = -lambda_1/lambda_0
          dT = dT0 * [1/(1-f)]

          This is where the feedback factor f comes from, but Monckton considers only the math, not the underlying physics. Since it is derived from lambda_0 and lambda_1, which vary with temperature and are approximately constant only over a few degK, their ratio (f) also varies.

          This equation is also the sum of the infinite series dT0*(1+f+f^2+…) and makes a lot of sense if you picture Planck warming, followed by stepwise rounds of warming from feedback. Others encounter this equation working with electronic amplifiers and other control systems. This makes is appear as if warming from Planck feedback is amplified by other feedbacks. (Actually they add linearly to Planck feedback – they all have units of W/m2/K. But since lambda is in the denominator, the output is non-additive.)

          This mathematics doesn’t change anything about dT= dW/lambda. Climate sensitivity depends on lambda, no matter what is constituent parts may be. Expressed as dW/dT, it is trivial to see that lambda is not a constant, but like most systems can be treated as a constant for small changes.

          Since most skeptics are never shown this mathematics, they are suspicious of amplification and don’t realize the feedback factor isn’t a constant. Or, if they are familiar with amplifiers or control systems, they make mistakes applying their equations to climate.

          • Joe Born says:


            You may be right about the source of Lord Monckton’s error, namely, that he sees the parameters as nearly constant. I’m just a recovering lawyer, so perhaps I’m not entitled to an opinion, but it does seem that people develop an intuition based on linear systems, which is like basing on platypuses (platypodes?) one’s expectations of mammals in general.

            But that’s speculation. I’ve learned from experience that trying to corral Lord Monckton’s theories into something that makes sense is not worth the trouble.

          • Frank says:

            You appear to be pretty sharp for a recovering attorney. Try the math, its pretty simple.

            Lord Monckton is a mathematician. They start with postulates and logically deduce. Different branches of mathematics begin with different postulates: like Euclidean and Non-Euclidean geometry. It didn’t matter that the real world behaved as if Euclidean geometry were correct, though general relativity came along much later and showed that reality was non-Euclidean. Mathematicians created hypotheses/conjectures, but don’t test them experimentally. They logically provide that they are correct. Lord Monckton has excepted the postulate that our climate is determined by the Bose equation for amplifiers. Mathematicians don’t test postulates, they derive logical conclusions from them. (Perhaps I exaggerate.)

            I’m a recovering scientist. I’m reading Scott Adams book on the election, subtitled “Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter”. My recovery is proceeding very badly.

          • Joe Born says:

            “Lord Monckton is a mathematician”? That surprises me. In that paper of his a few years ago his math said a transient response could be obtained by multiplying the input by the step response (instead of convolving the input with the impulse response).

            That’s a pretty big error for a mathematician.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            frank…”It didnt matter that the real world behaved as if Euclidean geometry were correct, though general relativity came along much later and showed that reality was non-Euclidean”.

            They think they did, I am not convinced. Relativity theory is based largely on the incorrect notion that time influences real physical processes. As explained by Gendlin in a paper, the observer measuring real processes using a clock is imposing himself on processes of which he is not a part. Mentally, he often thinks he is, and arrives at incorrect conclusions such as time dilating and measuring rods changing length.


        • Gordon Robertson says:

          greg…”What is being regarded as open loop gain is itself due to a feedback”.

          In electrical engineering, where feedback theory is most applicable and realizable, an open-loop amplifier is defined as one with no feedback.

          An op-amp’s gain is defined via open-loop considerations and is theoretically infinite. Feedback is added (negative) to limit the gain to a desired level. That’s what negative feedback is about.

          Roy recently conferred with someone who advised him that feedbacks as applied in climate science cannot be equated to electrical circuit theory. In that case, I claim climate science has no idea what it is talking about vis-a-vis feedback theory.

          Climate modeling theory is full of differential equation jargon, like forcings. A forcing is a function input to a differential equation to force it to respond in a certain manner. Forcings have no application in the real atmosphere and when you hear the word you can presume it came from unvalidated model theory.

          I fear that climate modelers are full of bs.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      joe…”Specifically, if you look at Fig. 1 here:, the feedback is the additional forcing that goes into the summing junction from the top, whereas the original forcing (caused, e.g., by a CO2 increase) goes into the summing junction from the left, right? So the feedback is forcing f * delta T caused by a temperature change delta T”.


      Your equation is of the form G = A/(1 – AB), which is the classical physics definition of feedback. G = overall gain, A = amplified gain, and B = feedback,

      There is no apparent amplifier gain in your equation. Therefore there is no gain possible beyond unity.

      Please explain in words how your setup operates. Where’s the amplifier? How can EM be recycled as IR to the source that generated it so as to increase it’s temperature?

      • Joe Born says:

        Gordon Robertson:

        Sorry, I don’t know what you mean by “EM.” So I can’t answer your question recycling. Ill therefore make only a few random observations.

        If you’re talking about closed-loop gain G when you refer to unity gain, you’re employing a meaningless phrase, because G is dimensioned. The same is true of the open-loop gain A. But if you’re implying that the power available from the output port of the diagram block applying the open-loop gain A (labeled lambda_0 in my diagram) isn’t greater than the power received at its input port, youre right, although I’m not sure what conclusion you draw from that.

        If you’re talking about (dimensionless) loop gain AB’s exceeding unity, I’m agnostic about whether there may be some temperature regime in which it may exceed unity. But we know from the system’s physics that the open-loop gain A will decrease with absolute temperature faster than the feedback coefficient B could increase, so AB must ultimately become less than unity even if it’s greater at lower temperatures.

        To explain how my setup operates:

        In your notation the equilibrium equation is dT = GdF = AdF/(1-AB). If a slug of carbon dioxide suddenly appears in an erstwhile-equilibrium system, a radiation imbalance dF suddenly appears. If there were no knock-on effects, that imbalance would cause the temperature to rise gradually by AdF, which is the temperature increase needed to remove the imbalance without the knock-on effects.

        With knock-on effects, though, the new equilibrium temperature may end up differing from the previous one by something other than AdF. Suppose, for example, that the temperature change causes more water vapor to enter the atmosphere and thereby further hinder outgoing radiation. A positive value of the feedback coefficient B represents that effect. It says an imbalance persists at Adf; the imbalance doesn’t disappear until the temperature has risen by AdF/(1-AB). Of course, other effects could result in B’s being negative instead.

        • Gordon Robertson says:

          Joe…”Sorry, I dont know what you mean by EM.”

          Sorry, it means electromagnetic energy. It’s often notated as EMR.

          The question I am asking is where do you get any amplification in the system?

          There is a presumption by AGW types that back-radiation from the atmosphere can raise the temperature of the surface. Being a 2nd law of thermodynamics adherent, I have asked how radiation from a cooler atmosphere can warm a warmer surface that allegedly provided the back-radiated energy in the first place.

          In your article at WUWT and in this article by Roy, there is a reference to a Planck feedback. As I understand it, the feedback refers to an increase in surface radiation, presumably due to feedbacks from the atmosphere.

          I don’t regard that as a feedback in the classical meaning of feedback to which you have applied your equation. In fact, I think it’s a fictitious notion created by climate alarmists.

          My background is in electronics and electrical engineering. Roy has claimed the feedbacks in climate science do not coordinate with the feedbacks used in electrical engineering. I am wondering why. One or the other is wrong, and if it’s EE, then we had better stop designing amplifiers using the current gain-based feedback theory.


          “If a slug of carbon dioxide suddenly appears in an erstwhile-equilibrium system, a radiation imbalance dF suddenly appears”.


          The presumption is that radiation from CO2 (or clouds) is absorbed by the surface, even if the radiating CO2/clouds are cooler than the surface.

          That breaks the 2nd law. Where did this Planck feedback originate? I mean, what is the basis of the theory? I have Googled it but the explanations are extremely hazy.

          There is a notion, particularly among climate alarmists, that any and all radiation must be absorbed by a surface. Not true, according to Bohr. In fact, we see colour because EM frequencies are not absorbed by many surfaces. If all EM was absorbed by all surfaces, the world would lack colour.

          Bohr implied that electrons that absorb EM in a body will not absorb EM that does not have the required frequency and intensity to raise the electron at least one energy level.

          I personally think that’s why radiation from a cooler body cannot raise the temperature of a warmer body, thus satisfying the 2nd law.

        • Gordon Robertson says:

          Joe…just so we’re on the same page, I regard an open-loop amplifier as one lacking feedback and a closed-loop amplifier as one with feedback.

          If you take a standard op-amp with only power applied and no feedback, the gain is very high. If you apply D-C feedback in the proper ratio, you can control the gain to whatever is required. You can apply AC feedback in conjunction with the D-C to control bandwidth.

          To me, your diagram at WUWT has to be closed loop. In fact, there’s little point talking about open-loop.

          The equation I supplied, G = A/(1 – AB) is static. It does not explain positive feedback building up each cycle. You’d need some kind of series with provisions for an increase in output with time.

          Take a look at the following article, about half way down the page under ‘Gavin Schmidt On Positive feedback’. It explains quite well what the problem is with the climate science version of positive feedback.

          “This explanation [of positive feedback] and Schmidt’s understanding of positive feedback, or even feedback, are fatally flawed”.

          The author, an engineer, is talking about the head of NASA GISS, who specialize in climate modeling.

  12. m d mill says:

    Monckton has desperately tried to prove low sensitivity
    using some simple, undeniable mathematical proof or data analysis…at least 3 different approaches in the last couple of years. They all suffer from some gross error or assumption and come to nothing. Monckton is not trying to find the truth, but prove what he sincerely believes to be true, one way or another. That is not a good scientific attitude, and leads to bias and error. I hate the term “denier”, but in this case it probably applies to him.

    • Frank says:

      m d mill: Or call it confirmation bias, a common human cognitive weakness. As Feynman points out in Cargo Cult Science, it is our job as scientists to struggle against this weakness. Politicians (which is what Monckton is) have no such obligation. BOTH sides in the climate debate have surrendered all or much of their objectivity, refusing to confront facts or possibilities that might challenge their deeply held beliefs.

      And propaganda, politicians, biased media, and social media are getting better and better at implanting biases we can’t overcome. When you think of Ted Cruz, is that “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” who comes to mind? Do you think about his words, or subconsciously reject them? (I’m reading a book about the election subtitled, “Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter”, which praises the effectiveness of such tactics.)

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      md mill…”Monckton has desperately tried to prove low sensitivity….”

      He doesn’t have to, UAH data shows 20 years with little or no warming, most of it a flat trend. Monckton is only trying to explain why, while alarmist scientists at NOAA, Had-crut and GISS are busy re-writing the historical temperature record trying to erase the evidence.

  13. Dioex says:

    Number of basic errors have been made in the forcing world of climatology.CMIP6 model will adjust with new forcing like EPP forcing, galactic cosmic ray forcing,proton’s forcing.Minor contribution of the sun will become a major contribution.Salvatore will be happy if he reads this paper.

    Sorry for AGW one minded people, your master change their mind, they makes basic errors , and make a great discovery, the earth is heating in grand solar maximum,astonishing…..

    • Frank says:

      Dioex: And when in the Holocene temperature record have we experienced climate change due to changes in solar activity that COMPETES WITH FUTURE GHG FORCING if ECS is high? Never. So don’t say solar salvation is just around the corner in the 21st century, when there is no evidence for it in the last 100 centuries!

      The LIA? Too small! Another Maunder minimum would mitigate SOME of the damage for SOME decades, IF one were to arrive just when we need it most.

  14. Greg Goodman says:

    Firstly, great image for the article !

    (that’s not precisely true, because it makes little sense energetically to average the temperature of all ocean water with the atmosphere, and there can be energy exchanges between these two reservoirs which have vastly different heat capacities. Chris Essex has written on this).

    Greg Goodman has also written on this 😉 Glad it’s being realised what an inappropriate metric these temps are for physical analysis.

    Monckton is very bright, but sadly not an honest broker. He has an overriding opinion of his own superiority, typical of the British aristocracy, and a condescending contempt for the rest of humanity.

    He cynically affects American English terms like “gotten” because he thinks it will help people in US accept his ideas and is equally happy jerking them off about how much he loves the US for the same reason. I saw him addressing a US audience and it was nauseating. Neither did the public seem to be fooled by his antics. They could tell he was trying to jerk them off.

    He does not understand feedbacks since he refuses the regard the dominant feedback (Planck) in the system as a feedback at all. This is one of the fundamental con tricks of the IPCC since they can talk about net feedbacks being near to zero or even possibly positive and hence “unstable” by NOT calling the T^4 a feedback.

    True net f/b will NEVER be positive or anywhere near it.

    Monckton is a distraction.

    • Greg Goodman says:

      Our host is correct, that model tuning “parameters” does in fact provide a way to introduce a preferred level of overall f/b and hence sensitivity.

      Hansen et al 2005 clearly stated that by selection of various parameters it was possible to get a wide range of sensitivities at will. In effect they are programmed in, in a more of less arbitrary way.

      I discussed the how they chose to move away from physics based modelling of volcanic feedbacks in preference to arbitrary parameter tweaking here:

      By reducing the scaling of atmospheric optical density as a forcing they are implicitly increasing climate sensitivity to volcanoes ( same result from less ‘apparent’ forcing ). The leads them to tweak other parameters to exaggerate opposing forcings ( the warming ones ) to compensate and still reconcile with the record of the 1960-1990 tuning period.

    • Bart says:

      “True net f/b will NEVER be positive or anywhere near it. “

      T^4 radiation does not guarantee stability. Let me provide an example. Let

      Tdot = -a*T^4 + b*C
      Cdot = k*(T-T0)

      for positive constants a, b, and k, and temperature constant T0. Despite potentially massive T^4 negative feedback, this system is unstable.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      greg g …”He does not understand feedbacks since he refuses the regard the dominant feedback (Planck) in the system as a feedback at all”.

      It is not a feedback in the classical sense of feedback theory. It’s an imaginary concept based on bad science.

      How can a rise in surface temperature due to a fictitious positive feedback be regarded a feedback in itself? Positive feedback requires an amplifier and without gain it cannot operate.

      I have seen definitions of PF from the likes of Gavin Schmidt of GISS, who seems to think feedback itself is the amplifier. In real positive feedback systems, PF is only an enabler and the amplification takes place in a separate amplifier.

      Where is that amplifier in the atmosphere? One that does not contravene the 2nd law of thermodynamics?

  15. g*e*r*a*n says:

    Including “forcing” in the models is a violation of 1LoT. (Creating energy out of thin air.) But, it’s “okay” if they just counter that by stating adding forcing does not violate 1LoT.

    It fun to watch.

    There indeed appears to be a plethora of “f” words, in climate “science”–forcing, feedback, fun, foible, farce, funny, fraud, frivolous, fatuous, fantasy, and of course the big one, funding.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      g*r…”There indeed appears to be a plethora of f words, in climate scienceforcing, feedback, fun, foible, farce, funny, fraud, frivolous, fatuous, fantasy, and of course the big one, funding”.

      But no fiziks.

  16. Ian says:

    Roy Spencer believes that Lord Christopher Monckton “errs in his assumptions”. So do I, but from a slightly different starting point.

    Monckton’s claim seems to me to rest on a faulty initial assertion but it’s hard to pick out precisely what that is. Hence the big argument at WUWT and elsewhere. Essentially, he seems to be saying that the 255k temperature that is associated with a black-body receiving the amount of heat generated by our sun, that that temperature in-and-of-itself creates a feedback, prior to any Greenhouse Effect.

    But how?

    An equilibrated system, prior to a Greenhouse gas feedback, would surely by definition have no Greenhouse gases. That’s the starting point; the a-priori equilibrium. So what’s that look like? Surely it’s an isothermal atmosphere at 255K. No lapse rate, no convection.

    I seem to remember an article at WUWT some years ago that discussed this at some length – Dr Spencer may have contributed as I recall. This isn’t it but Dr Brown says the same thing:

    The increase in temperature from adding water vapour, CO2 etc gives the lapse rate, the convection and the subsequent greenhouse effect – nothing else.

    Am I missing something? Wouldn’t be the first time.

    • Joe Born says:

      I wouldn’t spend too much time trying to make sense of what Lord Monckton wrote. Is there anything to what he says? We can’t say, because he doesn’t give enough detail. He writes impressionistically: you form an impression, but when you try to pin him down he says you misunderstood what he meant, and then he says something equally impressionistic. If my experience is any guide, he’s just in over his depth. Still, it all sounds good to people who don’t take the time to think it through, and it’s garnered him a lot of fanboys.

      As to Dr. Brown’s post, I don’t think there’s much relevance. It made the point that the lapse rate we observe results from uneven heating of the surface and the resultant nearly adiabatic rise of air thus warmed. If the air were instead in equilibrium, it would be essentially isothermal: the lapse rate would essentially be zero. (I say “essentially” because my own view is that his proof was incomplete; theoretically gravity actually does impose a minuscule statistical non-zero lapse rate.)

      • pochas94 says:

        Joe Born says:

        “I say essentially because my own view is that his proof was incomplete; theoretically gravity actually does impose a minuscule statistical non-zero lapse rate.”

        The gravitational lapse rate is anything but minuscule. Please read

        • Joe Born says:

          You’re correct as to the actual lapse rate we observe. What Dr. Brown was talking about, though, is what the lapse rate would be if the atmosphere were ever to reach thermal and static equilibrium. He says zero; I say merely incomprehensibly small, since exactly zero would violate conservation of energy. (As a practical matter, though, our conclusions aren’t different; I think it would be only on the order of 10^(-43) K/m, which is far too small to detect.)

      • Ian says:

        Thanks for the thoughts, Joe.
        On Monckton, I’m trying to make sense of what he wrote because I’m interested in the subject. I always find it a useful exercise to understand another point of view.

        On his style; I’m not particularly bothered by style – everyone has their own – I’m more interested in substance.

        On Dr Brown’s article, I’m not sure I agree with your comments on relevance. He explicitly states that “The purpose of this short paper is to demonstrate that such a system is not, in fact, in thermal equilibrium and that the correct static equilibrium distribution of gas in the system is the usual isothermal distribution”. It’s a long time since I graduated in Physics, and I’ve forgotten most of what I learnt, but along with Roy Spencer, Dr Brown must be one of the most accessible, knowledgeable and best communicators on the subject, anywhere.

        My impression in Climate Science is that the zeroth order assertions and assumptions are far more important than the details in the weeds. I’m not sure if many agree, but I see too little justification of assumptions. Just my four-penneth worth.

        • Joe Born says:

          Not to discourage you from trying, but my problem with Lord Monckton is indeed substance. I haven’t spent much time on his latest, but I did look into his “irreducibly simple” paper, and it had more than one fundamental error. When I brought them to his attention, moreover, his responses were just bluster. I’ve seen the same in his answers to others.

          But you don’t know me, so do dig into what he says. If you do so deeply enough, you’ll probably find, as I did in his previous work, that all reasonable interpretations are erroneous. And, if you raise those objections you’ll find what I did: once you understand the subject his answers make no sense.

          I share your general opinion of Dr. Brown, and, as I say, I have no serious disagreement with his conclusions. But he did make a qualitative argument where a qualitative one was needed. When I pointed that out, moreover, he responded by rejecting the (minuscule) molecular-kinetic-energy gradient that statistical mechanics dictates: he extended thermodynamics into a resolution regime where its writ doesn’t run.

          In short, go with his conclusion, but question his logic.

    • Richard M says:

      Ian, you are missing what Monckton is trying to say. Basically, he is saying that without that first 255K of warming you wouldn’t get the same response to adding in GHGs.

      Think about it. If the temperature was 0K you would have no atmosphere at all. Adding in the equivalent amount of CO2/CH4 that exists in our atmosphere would do nothing at all to raise the temperature. It would just fall to the surface and freeze.

      So, some of the feedback that we see after that first 255K is added is inherent in that baseline 255K temperature since it wouldn’t exist without it.

      If this is true then the feedback to the warming above 255K is overstated. I’m not saying I agree but it is a valid possibility.

      I think the big problem for Monckton is that water vapor feedback doesn’t kick in at a linear rate.

      • Ian says:

        Thanks, Richard.

        “Ian, you are missing what Monckton is trying to say”.

        “Basically, he is saying that without that first 255K of warming you wouldnt get the same response to adding in GHGs”.

        I understand that’s what he’s saying, but it doesn’t make it correct simply because he asserts it. A 255K (if indeed that would be the temperature of my non-greenhouse gas world) equilibrium is still an equilibrium. In that frame of reference, is not a deviation from that state a deviation from zero. Unless you want to redefine what equilibrium means? Consistency of definition is key isn’t it?

    • Geoff Wood says:

      Ian, 255K is av average temperature for an unevenly heated rotating sphere.
      If you wish to go with the isothermal column, then there are consequences to a non-radiative atmosphere in that it is heated by Tmax not Tavg. Tmax on the Moon is around 400K and because of conduction nothing would stop the atmosphere from conducting and convecting if the immediate surface atmospheric layer was less than Tmax. As the surface cools during the night the atmosphere readily inverts the near surface layer and retains the bulk of this very high temperature because its density profile remains stable and it cannot radiate to cool.

      Irrespective of Dr Browns analysis, the fact remains that if diffusion homogenises temperature and convection mixes entropy and opacity creates the lapse by driving convection whilst radiative heat transfer acts to reduce this you are left with the irritating fact that on Earth and on Venus the observed vertical thermal profile is exactly the same. Exactly the same in that the change in gravitational potential energy can be found as a change in temperature in the immediate layer above and below reflected through the available compatible energy storage mechanisms that constitute the specific heat capacity.

      What a massive coincidence that two atmospheres, one heated from the top and one heated from the bottom (which Dr Brown states is what produces the lapse on Earth) both end up working exactly the as if diffusion did not homogenise and normalise gravity.
      I find it strange that given that the atmosphere is a collection of molecules in a gravity field that people so easily forget this whilst accepting without question that convection maintains -g/Cp but diffusion homogenises T. But convection is initiated by information transferred by molecular collision as an accepted fact and hence is the macroscopic development seemlessly from the microscopic reality.
      Also please be aware of the Harvard Tower experiment which showed that photons travelling vertically 27m in Earths gravity are frequency changed; redshifted going upwards and blueshifted downwards illustrating that all of matter and energy respond to the potential field to some degree and therefore maintain the gravitationally driven lapse rate.

      Perhaps Dr. Brown would like to run a silver wire from the bottom of Everest to the top to illustrate that the temperature difference cannot occur because heat would be continuously conducted through the wire or through the rock itself that makes Everest what it is!

      • Ian says:

        People can disagree on the magnitude of the greenhouse gas effect, and frequently do.

        On the other hand, going up against Doc Brown on fundamental Physics is a big push uphill, in my view. I realise that’s an argument from authority and not as good as addressing each of your points on their merits, but my brain doesn’t work as well as his.

        • Geoff Wood says:

          Thanks for the reply Ian.
          Further evidence to dismiss the isothermal column is discussed in Atmospheric Thermodynamics 1998 by Albrecht and Bohren, who discuss the evolution of any other profile to,
          T1/T2=(P1/P2) to the power of (R/Cp)
          This yields exactly the same results for a dry atmosphere as dT/dh=-g/Cp

          This profile is maximum entropy profile or reversible adiabatic and closely represents what we find on Earth and in other planetary atmospheres of sufficient substance.

          They arrive at this from a logical approach that local thermodynamic equilibrium is achieved at all points in the atmosphere and every higher point has greater potential energy which freely exchanges with kinetic states that constitute temperature.

          I repeat for emphasis that the measured profile strongly represents the above in that all mechanisms appear to work together to achieve the gradient set by gravity. The current acceptance, and the inevitable consequence of Dr. Browns analysis is that multiple competing processes accidentally add up to the same thing given that different atmospheres have massively differing optical qualities and radiative transfer is the mechanism forcing a gradient in this model.
          The evidence suggests that Albrecht and Bohren are correct as it forms a much more simple solution.

    • bill hunter says:

      I think the only point that Monckton is making is that its ridiculous to start feedbacks at the equilibrium temperature when in fact due to Henry’s law they would start at 3k

      • Ian says:

        For what it’s worth, I agree with your understanding of his position.

        However, the 3k equilibrium is for an Earth with no atmosphere at all, isn’t it? Of course we can choose to add everything from that baseline all at once i.e. both non-greenhouse and greenhouse gases, but how helpful is that?

        Surely we start conflating the effects of the two elements before having the opportunity to isolate each individual effect?

        Is it not better to firstly to add non-greenhouse gases – I believe we arrive at an isothermal 255K equilibrium or thereabouts, throughout the whole atmosphere assuming you leave it standing for some time and don’t rotate the Earth (and about a million other things).

        Our addition of greenhouse gases to this state creates a deviation from that equilibrium – the greenhouse gas effect.

        When we make this addition, to match Monckton’s experiment, I believe we should be doing it in at least two parts. Firstly, add 280ppm (or 300ppm depending on who’s data you believe) to pre-industrial levels. What’s the temperature?

        Then add the further 125ppm (105ppm), stir and serve slightly warmed? What’s the difference?

        Monckton seems to be taking all stages at once and then trying to separate-out individual feedbacks from the muddle. He also assumes a pre-industrial equilibrium. Really? Little Ice Age, Maunder Minimum, Stadium Wave, Biosphere, Cryosphere, Deep Ocean circulation, Antarctic fluctuations, Volcanoes…

        Sorry, rant over.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      Ian…”But how?

      An equilibrated system, prior to a Greenhouse gas feedback, would surely by definition have no Greenhouse gases. Thats the starting point; the a-priori equilibrium. So whats that look like? Surely its an isothermal atmosphere at 255K. No lapse rate, no convection”.


      PV = nRT with n and V relatively constant. That leaves P directly proportional to T.

      Lapse rate is often defined while omitting gravity. Some claim it is due solely to radiation and convection but that cannot explain why air thins with altitude. Only gravity can explain that.

      Think about it. At 30,000 feet, near the top of Mt. Everest, the atmosphere is 1/3 thinner than it is at sea level. Temperatures are equivalently lower as well. That is due to a slight lowering of gravitational force.

      Furthermore, Dalton’s law of partial pressures claims the total pressure is the sum of individual gas pressures. Since N2 and O2 account for 99% of the atmosphere, they should contribute nearly 99% of the heating. WV and CO2 are not really necessary as heating agents.

      • Gordon Robertson says:

        GR…good comment there GR, I agree completely.

      • Ian says:

        Thanks Gordon,

        From PV=nRT, Doc Brown gets here:

        “P(z) = P(0) exp-(Mg/RT)z

        where T is the temperature in degrees Kelvin, g is gravity, M is the molar mass of the gas in question and R is the ideal gas constant. P(0) is the pressure at z=0 (the bottom of the container).

        This describes a gas that is manifestly:

        In static force equilibrium. There is no bulk transport of the gas as buoyancy and gravity are in perfect balance throughout.
        In thermal equilibrium. There is no thermal gradient in the gas to drive the conduction of heat.
        If this system is perturbed away from equilibrium, it will quickly return to this combination of static and thermal equilibrium, as both are stable. Even in the case of a gas with an adiabatic lapse rate (e.g. the atmosphere) remarkably small deviations are observed from the predicted P(z) one gets treating the atmosphere as an ideal gas. An adiabatically isolated gas initially prepared in a state with an adiabatic lapse rate will thermally equilibrate due to the internal conduction of heat within the gas by all mechanisms and relax to precisely this state.”

        In other words, conduction trumps gravity.

        I realise you’ve used a real world example to explain your position (Mt Everest) but my initial non-greenhouse gas world isn’t real, so you can’t make a fair comparison as your world includes many factors which have an effect on lapse rate which you can’t separate out -certainly greenhouse gases. I’m not sure I’m even allowed to have mountains, certainly not streams as there’s no water. A Julie Andrews free-zone.

        The Doc’s good though, isn’t he?

        If you’re interested you can see the complete calc here:

        • Gordon Robertson says:

          Ian…”In other words, conduction trumps gravity”.

          Thanks for link, have not had a chance to view it yet.

          I have no expertise in atmospheric physics, or much else actually, but it doesn’t sit right with me that conduction trumps gravity. Neither am I comfortable with the notion that lapse rate is about radiation and convection and not about gravity.

          Nothing but gravity can explain the thinning of the atmosphere with altitude (1/3rd by 30,000 feet) or the subsequent reduction in temperature.

          As you know, as pressure drops in a relatively constant volume, the temperature has to drop. I am working on an evil theory to explain cooling of the atmosphere through expansion of the atmosphere, thus required less cooling by radiation.

          I have the impression that atmospheric physics claims the atmosphere’s temperature is not affected by gravity, rather by lapse rate. If that’s true, they need to explain why the pressure is 1/3rd of sea level at 30,000 feet with a reduction in temperature to match.

          I understand that thermals, as convection, cause independent heating from that of gravitational cooling but I still think the effect of gravity is controlling atmospheric temperatures in a steady state manner.

          • Ian says:

            That’s an unusual viewpoint. Can I break that down a little?

            “Nothing but gravity can explain the thinning of the atmosphere with altitude (1/3rd by 30,000 feet)”

            “or the subsequent reduction in temperature.”
            Not necessarily. At a certain point, the stratosphere warms the further from the surface but the density is still falling.

            Maybe we have to ask what we mean by temperature? The Physics definition is “the average kinetic energy of the molecules” which is 1/2 x m x (v squared). So temperature depends on both mass and molecular velocity. If the density of molecules decreases with altitude but the average velocity varies, the temperature can easily stay constant (or go up, or go down). In the Doc’s non-greenhouse gas world, he mathematically demonstrates that the atmosphere would equilibrate to an isothermal state throughout i.e. the average velocity of particles adjusts through thermal conduction to maintain a constant temperature. How good is that?

            Of course, the point is that’s not the real world but it’s the starting point for considering Monckton’s proposal. It’s also quite useful for yours as well, I think.

            Just a question Gordon. Why are you wanting to develop your own theory? There’s already a really good one in play, for which there’s a lot of supportive physical evidence?

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            Ian…”If the density of molecules decreases with altitude but the average velocity varies, the temperature can easily stay constant (or go up, or go down)”.

            I don’t have a problem with your argument up to a point. Nothing is static but I think gravity has to establish a steady state condition over which these variables operate.

            If pressure drops, the kinetic energy drops with it. If that was not true, PV = nRT could not hold. If you half a volume, pressure and temperature must adjust to that change. That implies the KE is related to volume and pressure. Also, to the number of molecules /mole of gas.

            I would love to know more about what goes on in atoms at the atomic level, and why they change levels of KE (why do they speed up….why are they moving in the first place?), or simply zip around for no apparent reason. We do know that in a solid, atomic nucleii are bound together by electrons or charges created by electrons. That basic theory seems to get forgotten when radiation is regarded as a magical processes that emanates from black boxes in molecules.

            KE is heat and it is represented in a gas by the average velocity of the molecules. I might add to your definition of temperature that we humans invented temperature to measure relative values of heat.

            Heat is also generated by molecules absorbing EM but the 2nd law seems to imply that molecules of air with a higher KE will not absorb EM from molecules with a lower KE. It has to come via collision in that respect.

            I am referring here to the Clausius version of the 2nd law. Modernists have tried to relate it to entropy but Clausius said nothing about that. He laid out the second law, in my words, to the effect that heat can NEVER by its own means be transferred from a cooler object to a warmer object. Then he introduced entropy.

            I get what you are talking about, that an infusion of warmer air from below can stimulate colder air but where exactly is that occurring in the atmosphere? At what altitude? It cannot occur independently of pressure. And is it happening in a state state? I get the impression the lapse rate has been hypothesized to be somehow independent of pressure.

            As you know warmer air rises because it is less dense than the surrounding air. However, it will reach an altitude where it is equal to the surrounding air and stop rising.

            Back to the real example, Mt. Everest. You won’t find much in the way of warm air from the South Col to the peak, between about 25,000 feet and 30,000 feet. No one walks up Everest to any height in shorts and a tee shirt, especially at night. People have frozen to death up there during early summer months at night. No one in his/her right mind goes up there in winter, although some have tried.

            People can warm high on Everest from direct solar radiation, which is quite intense up there. However, if the wind picks up, the temps can drop rapidly to as low as -100C with wind chill. I have read many accounts of Everest climbs and that of K2. They are all bundled up in thermal suits with special space-age boot. Most use supplemental oxygen.

            There is a significant drop in pressure and temperature between the South Col and the peak, a matter of 4000 to 5000 feet. I don’t think you can explain that with thermals.

            The air is so thin at 20,000 feet they cannot safely land a helicopter for rescue.

            The stratosphere is warmed from the outside in. It is UV from solar energy that heats oxygen molecules.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            typo…”And is it happening in a state state?”

            should be “And is it happening in a steady state?

          • Ian says:

            The thread seems to be broken below, so I’m replying here to your March 29, 2018 at 8:03 PM comment. I hope you still see it.

            Well, I’m not quite sure how to respond to your comment. You cover a lot of ground and widen the discussion significantly but I’m not sure that’s helpful. Maybe our minds just work differently.

            The thing about Science is that it’s founded on certain base principles. If the foundations are faulty, everything built on them will fail at some point, so it’s important to get those right, isn’t it?. One of the keys is definition of terms. If we don’t agree on those we can’t construct anything meaningful – you could be talking about apples, me about oranges and actually it’s all bananas.

            So I’m going to reply to you by talking about definitions, if that’s ok?

            Your definition: “KE is heat and it is represented in a gas by the average velocity of the molecules.” -Apples.

            Science definition: “Heat is the energy, measured in joules, transferred in the contact between systems of differing temperature” -Oranges

            How can we discuss something as complex as heat if we don’t agree on what it is?

            Your definition: “we humans invented temperature to measure relative values of heat.” – Apples

            Science definition: “Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of the molecules measured in degrees C (or Kelvin)” – Oranges

            Gordon, the Science definitions are not my definitions (I’m not nearly famous enough for that), they’re the Science community’s definitions. If you want to use different ones, that’s fine but it’s really hard to have a useful conversation.

            Do you agree with that? (not the famous bit)

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            Ian…”Your definition: KE is heat and it is represented in a gas by the average velocity of the molecules. -Apples.

            Science definition: Heat is the energy, measured in joules, transferred in the contact between systems of differing temperature -Oranges

            How can we discuss something as complex as heat if we dont agree on what it is?”


            Ian…I think we are in agreement about science being built on a good foundation. My definition of heat is the definition provided by Clausius when he founded the 2nd law of thermodynamics. That’s exactly how he defined heat with the exception that he used the term vis viva, which was the ways in which scientists referred to kinetic energy in those days.

            Your definition is one modern version and it is clearly incorrect. Heat is NOT energy transferred between systems, that is a reference to HEAT TRANSFER. You cannot claim heat flows through a body then define it as only the energy transferred between systems. Makes no sense.

            Heat and work are equivalent according to Clausius. When work is done, heat increases. When heat produces work, heat is consumed. You cannot separate heat from the internal and external kinetic energy involved in doing work since atoms are always doing work internally. Atomic vibrations in solids represent work, and also heat.

            Somewhere along the line, someone began to think of heat as the bulk transfer of energy between system, or within a system, but heat is the same as the temperature you defined as kinetic energy. Temperature was invented by humans to measure the relative levels of heat. Heat is the actuality and temperature is nothing more than a measuring device.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            Ian…”Your definition: we humans invented temperature to measure relative values of heat. Apples

            Science definition: Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of the molecules measured in degrees C (or Kelvin) Oranges


            I have no argument with that definition of temperature provided it is acknowledged that the kinetic ‘energy’ it is measuring is ‘thermal’ energy.

            What other energy could it be? It’s not electrical energy, mechanical energy, chemical energy, gravitational energy, nuclear energy, or any other kind of energy. We have defined that form of kinetic energy as thermal energy and that goes back to at least 1850.

            Please don’t obfuscate by claiming heat is not thermal energy.

            I fear that many modern scientists have ruined the foundation to which you refer by offering inane personal definitions that have stuck. Most definitions of the 2nd law are based on entropy yet Clausius did not define the 2nd law on entropy. He based it on the interaction of work and heat and defined the 2nd law basically as follows: heat can NEVER be transferred by its own means from a colder body to a warmer body.

            Clausius defined energy AFTER defining the 2nd law. It was Boltzmann and Planck who related the 2nd law to entropy in their statistical efforts to explain it. Boltzmann visualized photons as a gas to which he applied entropy based on a statistical definition of entropy. Planck took it further, applying probability to entropy.

            The 2nd law is about HEAT transfer but to hear many people talk about it today it can mean anything they want it to mean. Many are redefining heat transfer on the basis of electromagnetic radiation theory, claiming falsely that a positive net balance of energy satisfies the 2nd law.

            Clearly, the 2nd law implies that EM from a cooler body to a warmer body has no effect. That becomes clear when you go to the atomic level and examine the behavior of electrons as described by Bohr.

            So, yes, I agree with you about basics, so let’s get back to basics. Throw out the modern definitions and let’s get back to definitions that make sound, scientific sense.

            The notion that heat is a mystical transfer of a generic energy makes no sense whatsoever. If it’s just a transfer of generic energy, how do you measure it in calories or joules?

            A calorie is defined as the amount of HEAT required to raise a cc of water by 1C. Your definition has heat confused with kinetic energy, but KE is only a generic description of energy that applies to any form of energy in motion. We need to be specific and describe the energy to which the KE applies and in the case of moving atoms the only energy that fits is heat.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            typo….”Clausius defined energy AFTER defining the 2nd law”.

            should read…”Clausius defined entropy AFTER defining the 2nd law”.

            Clausius explained that he coined the word entropy to mean energy but he did not want to confuse it with other forms of energy. Obviously he meant it to be related to heat since he defined entropy in words as the sum (integral) of the infinitesimal changes in heat at a temperature, T, at which the changes take place.

            He further explained that if a process is reversible, the entropy is zero, otherwise it is positive.

          • Ian says:

            Thanks, I find your comments completely fascinating.

            A couple of things first. You say “Please dont obfuscate” and “inane personal definitions that have stuck.”

            On first impressions, you strike me as a gentleman – maybe it’s just your passion for the subject coming through. Could we just stick to the friendly chat? Surely reasonable people should be allowed to politely disagree?

            OK, back to Science.

            I’ll try to sum up where we agree and where we disagree.
            We agree that definitions are important. Tick.
            We agree that without sound basics we can’t build a usable structure. Tick.

            Where we seem to disagree is on the definitions of heat (definitely), temperature (definitely) and work (possibly). Tick.

            So I wonder why that is, which is why I find your comments fascinating.

            The divergence seems to be based at least in part on differing interpretations of the theory of thermodynamics, particularly its evolution.

            Can I ask you to give me some links to the sources of your interpretations? I’d be interested to have a look.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            Ian…”On first impressions, you strike me as a gentleman maybe its just your passion for the subject coming through. Could we just stick to the friendly chat?”

            It’s passion, nothing personal intended toward you. Friendly is OK with me.

            Link to Clausius works:


            One of these can be downloaded, not sure which. If not, Google clausius mechanical theory of heat pdf and you will find downloadable links to both versions of his work circa 1850 and 1875 or so.

            Page 18 Mathematical Introduction…covers kinetic energy related to work. Note the term Vis Viva for KE. A few pages down under ‘Energy’ he refers to the Ergal, which is potential energy.

            End of chapter he gives you U = T + J where U is the same U in the 1st law and T + J = potential energy + kinetic energy as related to work.

            Chapter 1…first paragraph…”We will therefore start with the assumption that Heat consists of the motion of ultimate particles of bodies and of ether, and that the quantity of heat is a measure of the Vis Viva of the motion.

            Again Vis Viva = kinetic energy.

            My objection to the definition you put forward is that Clausius defined heat in this manner as the basis of the 2nd law. I say to those who want to redefine it, to make it clear they have changed the original definition to suit some POV that does not meet the original definition. There are many scientists today, including some at NASA, who stick to the Clausius definition of heat as described above.

            On page 23 he gives a very clear derivation of the 1st law. On page 27 he starts to develop the 1st law mathematically as dQ = dH + dL, where H = total heat existing in the body and dH an incremental small amount. dL becomes an incrementally small quantity of work done, and dQ = an incrementally quantity of heat imparted to the body.

            He defines the forces doing the work as the inter-molecular forces done and the external forces. He describes the work done by these forces as dL = dJ + dW

            Therfore dQ = dH = dJ + dW

            Later he arrives at dU = dH + dJ. This a term coined by Clausius, the U is his derivation for internal energy. I think modern scientists should respect that and should they disagree they should leave his work alone and find there own terms. Thus far I see no reason to doubt his derivation.

            Then he arrives at the familiar dQ = dU + dW, the first law.

            Later, he takes you through an explanation of latent and specific heat. Later still he develops the 1st law as dQ = dU + p.dv.

            In Chapter III on page 69, he begins a discussion on the 2nd law. If you follow through the cyclical processes of the heat engine he details it becomes apparent why heat can only flow from a hotter body to a cooler body. I think most people accept that definition, the problem arising with radiation.

            He goes on to describe his differences with Carnot on the heat engine then on page 78 he describes a ‘new’ fundamental principle concerning heat. He states in the first paragraph, “Heat cannot, of itself, pass from a colder to a hotter body”.

            He goes on to explain ‘of itself’, which he later calls compensation. You have to read what he says about that very carefully because some people pick him up as claiming heat can flow both ways between bodies of different temperatures. What he is actually saying is that heat transfer from a colder to a warmer body must be accompanied by a simultaneous transfer of heat (compensation) from the warmer body to the cooler body.

            In a later chapter he talks about heat flowing both ways via radiation but you need to cut him some slack. When he wrote that, no one knew about the conversion of heat to EM via electrons and he thought, as did Boltzmann and Planck, that heat could be radiated from a body as heat rays. Some people still think that today.

            Even though he talked about two way heat transfer via radiation he made it clear that heat could only be transferred from a hotter body to a colder body. He said nothing about a net balance of energy, a concept I think emanated from a misunderstanding of the Stefan-Boltzmann equation. If one is not careful, one begins associating EM with heat, and they have nothing in common.

            Note that he has said nothing about entropy yet. At the bottom of page 89, he finally introduces the familiar
            (integral) dQ/T = 0. on the next page he defines dS = dQ/T.

            If you read the development of his theory up to page 89, he makes it plain what entropy means and how it equates to the 2nd law.

            There is another earlier book on the net by Clausius I’ll try to dig up for you. In that book he actually defines entropy in words.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            typo…”Therfore dQ = dH = dJ + dW” is obviously
            “Therefore dQ = dH + dJ + dW”.

          • Ian says:

            Thanks for the link Gordon. I’ll have a look at that further when I have a little more time.

            In terms of your comment, I’ll make some general statements and then some specific.

            Generally Science has advanced century by century. As we learn more, so we adapt our existing theories based on new physical evidence. What would Clausius have made of infra-red cameras for example. For that matter, what do you make of them?

            Specifically, there seem to be things you accept about what he wrote and things you don’t. That just seems a little arbitrary to me. What’s the basis of your selection?

            I’m assuming you don’t believe that the “ether”, which was a very popular theory in his day, is a real thing? Science advances (mostly).

            You say “In a later chapter he talks about heat flowing both ways via radiation but you need to cut him some slack.”

            I haven’t read your link yet, but assuming you’ve understood him correctly, you clearly don’t accept that part of what he says. If you believe he’s the overriding authority on thermodynamics, why question what he says?

            You say “There are many scientists today, including some at NASA, who stick to the Clausius definition of heat as described above.”

            That would surprise me. Can you provide any evidence of that? In my experience there would not be a single Professor, PhD, Graduate or Under-Graduate who would not use the definitions I was taught (the ones I gave above), pretty much from school days.

            Would you accept the criticism that you might be picking and choosing a bit? (Not very constructive criticism I’m afraid)

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            Ian…re definition of heat:

            From a NASA scientist:


            “Heat is in fact the average kinetic energy (or the energy of motion) of the individual atoms (or molecules) in a gas. The faster the atoms are on average, the higher their kinetic energy, and the hotter the gas is”.

            Although this is reference to a gas, according to Clausius, it applies equally to the vibrations between atoms in a solid bonded together. That makes perfect sense to me. The vibrations are internal work and heat is the equivalent of work.

            This definition is common around the Net and it’s also intuitive. We always refer to objects as being hotter, not as a transfer of energy from one body to another. We actually refer to a body as being hot.

            I have seen your definition, even on this blog. I have argued that the description fits ‘heat transfer’ and that someone has inadvertently dropped the transfer bit and referenced it to heat.

            The notion that a body does not possess heat is plain wrong. We know from experience that bodies possess heat and they have a heat capacity.

            Here we have a wiki article contradicting itself.


            “Heat capacity or thermal capacity is a measurable physical quantity equal to the ratio of the heat added to (or removed from) an object to the resulting temperature change”.

            Later they apply your definition”

            “Temperature reflects the average randomized kinetic energy of constituent particles of matter (i.e., atoms or molecules) relative to the centre of mass of the system, while heat is the transfer of energy across a system boundary into the body other than by work or matter transfer”.

            The error here is glaring. They are referring to a generic ‘energy’ transfer in the second definition while claiming specifically in the first that heat can be added or removed.

            If you take the integrated form of the 1st law, Q = U + W, your version is claiming the Q does not exist. If it does not exist as a form of energy, called thermal energy, which is heat, the law of conservation of energy goes out the window.

            The 1st law is about HEAT. The heat,Q, is the sum of the internal energy, also heat, according to Clausius, plus the work done on the system and IN THE SYSTEM by vibrating atoms.

            What is the mysterious energy that is added? What’s the name for it? You cannot accurately call it kinetic energy because KE refers to energy in motion of all forms of energy. We want to know what this energy is called that enters or leaves the body.

            It’s called heat, or thermal energy. That’s a fact that cannot be disputed.

            Ian, I urge to stop following paradigms taught in universities and to examine it for yourself. When I studied electrical engineering they taught that electrical current flows from positive to negative. To realize that fairy tale, they invented a positive test charge.

            There is no such thing. Electric currents are the flow of valence electrons from atom to atom and more importantly, the flow of charge from electron to electron. An electron has mass and charge and the charge transfers at the speed of light whereas the mass of the electron moves through a conductor much slower.

            Positive test charges are believed to be the flow of the holes left behind in valence shells as an electron vacates the shell. As electrons jump from shell to shell, the holes move the other way. They were teaching at my university that the hole has mass, which is nonsense.

            That’s not to be confused with holes flow in semiconductors which is also fictitious. It’s for visualization only, although I got along fine thinking only in terms of electron flow. I had worked in electronics before uni and was trained in electron flow, negative to positive.

            In a semiconductor, the arrows point, by convention, in the direction of hole flow. All I did was think of electrons flowing against the arrow and I had no trouble whatsoever.

            Schockley, who developed the theory of current flow in semiconductors admitted that. He claimed holes are imaginary (an abstraction, in his words) and that no such phenomenon exists in a real semiconductor. However, holes ‘ACT’ like a real current flow, especially when the current carriers are in a majority. They do not carry real current, however, they simply act as if they do.

            There is some absolute drivel taught at universities. As a student, I was a bit overawed and accepted it all. It was not till years later I heard alternative views and began to investigate. I realize what I’d been taught, and so eagerly accepted, was a one-sided paradigm, and that other explanations existed.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            Ian…”Would you accept the criticism that you might be picking and choosing a bit?”


            Of course.

            I am wondering if you have heard the term ‘choiceless awareness’? There seems to be an inference that we humans choose everything but if we did, we’d be in sad shape. We’d have to choose the instantaneous requirements of the pH in our blood, the required advancement in heart rate as required, and a host of automated processes that keep us alive.

            I no longer believe in choice other than for mundane choices such as the flavour of ice cream. Even there, my body seems to have it’s own preferences. I either like certain flavours or I don’t, nothing to do with me at the conscious level.

            I have no interest in being right, winning, or forming conspiracy theories. I am very interested in how the universe works and I have outright dismissed silliness like Big Bangs, black holes, space-time theory, and even evolution theory. None of them stand up under close scrutiny but there are a whole lot of defenders of the theories who rely on emotion more than science.

            As far as picking and choosing a bit, I think we are all guilty of that to some extent. However, I have worked in the electronics/electrical field for decades and there are surprising parallels between heat flow through a conductor and charge flow. Heat is conducted from valence electron to valence electron in a conductor in the same manner as electric charge.

            I don’t put my theories on heat forward as an assertion I do it more as a means of enticing feedback. Thus far, I have received little in the way of positive, scientific feedback. Most feedback is in the form of ad homs, insults, and appeals to authority.

            I would like to get down to the atomic level and perhaps extend my understanding of heat flow at that level. I think heat transfer applies to all three modes of transfer and I have received no feedback that contravenes that notion.

            In particular, I’d like to confirm what I think Bohr claimed about EM wrt electrons. I have heard the argument that Bohr has been long superseded but that’s not exactly true. His model of the atom was taken up by Schrodinger who applied the wave equation to the electron as if it was a harmonic oscillator.

            When Bohr took quantum theory down the fuzzy path to the quantum theory of today, Schrodinger and Einstein opted out. They insisted that science should be about the direct observation of phenomena and not the world of consensus based on fuzzy math.

            I get it that the Bohr model is likely completely wrong but it serves as a good way to visualize the atomic level as long is that is understood. Bohr has not been superseded as much as extended. People have diddled with his orbitals and tweaked other parts of his theories but essentially Bohr’s basic theory of EM absorp-tion/emission by electrons still stands.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            ps. I realize my theories on heat are primitive, I don’t pretend to be an expert. However, I found the subjective explanations of Clausius to be compelling compared to the more mathematically-based insinuations of today.

            Having said that, thermodynamics is not as obvious as it looks. Many of the arguments I have seen about the 2nd law are based on thought experiments, themselves being based on logic that does not come from thermodynamics.

            I would rather stick with Clausius till someone can convince me he was wrong. I am not holding my breath.

          • Ian says:

            Hey, Gordon, you’re a rebel…and there’s nothing wrong with that!

            Although as we’re having a friendly chat, I feel I should point out that rebels have a habit of being caught in the crossfire as well as dying young. Assuming from your name that you have Celtic origins, be careful you don’t end up like that Scottish rebel William Wallace – hung, drawn and quartered.

            Talking of crossfire, you said “Thus far, I have received little in the way of positive, scientific feedback. Most feedback is in the form of ad homs, insults, and appeals to authority.”

            Yes, well unfortunately there’s a few on this site for whom that’s pretty much the standard Modus Operandi, but from what I’ve seen on other threads it doesn’t seem to slow you up. If it’s David Appell that bothers you, I wouldn’t worry overly, as I think he bothers most people. I’m always amazed that someone (David) who’s a professional science communicator is so appalling at communicating. I’ve never found shouting, or implying that other people are idiots, a particularly successful persuasion strategy. He and Mike Flynn absolutely deserve each other.

            Coming back to the Science, I was struck by a number of things you said above. One was this: “Ian, I urge to stop following paradigms taught in universities and to examine it for yourself.”

            Many years ago I was doing some work in Romania, developing various business contacts, and had the good fortune to meet the very first female, Romanian member of ASHRAE. An amazing lady, she had led her fellow factory workers out onto the streets during the Ceaușescu revolutions and showed me the plaque on the wall which marked the spot where one of ther lifelong friends, her deputy, had been shot dead right next to her.

            Clearly, our life experiences were very different but one thing we had in common was our Physics degrees, mine from the UK hers in Bucharest. We both agreed that the knowledge we acquired was far less important than our ability to reason, to question and to problem solve from first principles. I have found these lessons invaluable in my career which, if I do say so myself, has had some high points (I skipped the courses on modesty).

            So my experience of a University education seems very different to yours.


            I have to say, that most of my fellow undergraduates me included found Thermodynamics to be about the most boring course we ever took. Ironically, now that I’ve taken an interest in Climate Science I start to find it completely fascinating.

            I found this quote on line by 1950s German Physicist, Arnold Summerfield – Thermodynamics is a funny subject.The first time you go through it,you don’t understand it at all.The second time you go through it,you think you understand it,except for one or two points.The third time you go through it,you know you don’t understand it,but by that time you are so used to the subject,it doesn’t bother you anymore..

            This comment’s got a bit long so I’ll stop, but I will reply to you later with my understanding on the laws of thermodymanics to see in more detail where we differ. Mind you, I suspect we differ on pretty much most things – apart from polite conversation.

          • Gordon Robertson says:

            Ian…”Assuming from your name that you have Celtic origins, be careful you dont end up like that Scottish rebel William Wallace hung, drawn and quartered”.

            I am a Canadian legally and a Scot by DNA. I was born there, and I think most of my DNA is from the Picts, hence the rebelliousness.

            I don’t think WW’s dreadful demise was nearly as bad as having an Aussie runt and unorthodox Catholic like Mel Gibson play him in Braveheart. As you know, WW must have been about 6’6″ tall based on the length of his sword and I doubt if Gibson is 5’6″. Not satisfied with playing WW, Gibson has taken on Jesus Christ.

            The movie took license with the facts, WW’s mob did not paint their faces blue and white, it was the Picts who tattooed themselves blue….and ran off the Vikings. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall to keep them out.

            I have no problem with David Appell and his replies to me. He lives down the road from me here in Vancouver, Canada in Oregon. We do have testy exchanges from time to time but I don’t take it personally. I told him I’d likely have no problem having a beer and a laugh with him, I just refuse to sit idly by while he spreads dogmatic bs based on unproved science.

            With your degree in physics, you are well ahead of me on an in-depth level. I am under no delusion that I am the equal of anyone who has stuck it out to earn a Ph.D. However, a Ph.D is not a guarantee that a person is able to think clearly, or in an unbiased manner. I have encountered several Ph.Ds who get hung up on dogma and cannot literally see the forest for the trees.

            As I said, my interest and understanding of thermodynamics is based on decades of experience in the electronics, electrical, computer fields in which I have considerable expertise. In my field, you must respect heat and have a basic awareness of the damage it can cause. Even something as simple as selecting a resistor for a circuit requires an understanding of power and heat.

            As I said, the commonalities between electric charge flow and heat flow via electron interactions is of interest to me. A lot of the thermodynamics makes innate sense to me, having studied electron theory extensively.

            You’ll have to excuse my acerbic nature. I acknowledge my interaction with various posters here on Roy’s blog but that comes from years of experience on other blogs over the years. I have found that certain people have no interest in scientific debate, they are intent on pushing dogma, and if you counter their dogma they become rather testy.

            I am fully aware that I am wasting my breath trying to debate with some people and I tend to counter dogma with my views so third parties reading the interchange can arrive at their own conclusions. That’s what bothers me most about AGW is the one-sided presentation by so-called authority figures who are nothing more than legends in their own minds.

            Although I may speak from an authoritarian POV at times, I don’t really consider myself as ‘knowing’ a lot. I am more intent on challenging than asserting. After decades in the field of electronics I am still learning…and learning…and learning. It never ends, especially with the learning curves required by ever-changing technology.

            After reading an important book on awareness years ago I got the idea of emptying one’s consciousness. It’s rather easy, just say, “I don’t know”. Even if you think you do know, just saying those words brings to the forefront an awareness and mental expansion that carries the possibility of insight. Of course, you have to be serious when you say, “I don’t know”. That should not be a hard admission for a serious student of science.

            Saying “I don’t know”, seems to clear enough of the conditioned knowledge to leave room for expansion of the mind. Other processes come into play. Quite often, when encountering a problem, I will go over the basics and explain them to myself. In doing so, sometimes I get insight into something I thought I knew but which I had not learned exactly.

            For some reason, at my stage of life, things seem to be coming together technically. I have found over the years that learning is much moire than simply reading on a subject and trying to implement it. Through the years, the mind seems to conduct it’s own learning process and integrates things I have learned earlier and not put together completely.

            When I talk about time having no existence, I have never been so sure of anything in my life. When the insight comes as to what it really is…nothing…it is astounding. I am sure I am considered a complete raving idiot for making such an assertion but I ran it past a former physics prof and he was adamant in his agreement.

            I think it would be great if you took the time to go through the writings of Clausius on heat and try to digest it. I think it’s brilliant.

            I am deeply bothered by so-called authorities like NOAA, Had-crut, and NASA GISS, who are offering nothing more than politically-biased pseudo-science. I have offered proof, which is damning, yet alarmists go on believing in them.

  17. Alasdair Fairbairn says:

    I very much go along with this excellent article, namely that it is energy or what we engineers like to call it Enthalpy, that is the the important parameter in the workings of the climate. Not Radiation as such, although that is a prime source of the energy and its transfer.
    To me the one thing missing in the debate is the behaviour of water, with its high enthalpy values during phase change which occurs at constant temperature.
    It is this that enables very large energy transfers to be made from the surface to the tropopause due to its gaseous molecule being lighter than dry air.
    In some respects one might say that the process takes place at Zero climate sensitivity since the transfer takes place at this constant temperature.
    But, of course temperature is only one parameter of many which defines the enthalpy of a thermodynamic system; so our current general obsession with measuring it on its own is creating a gap in our understanding of the climate mechanisms. This point being ably made in the article.

    The hydro cycle is in fact a thermodynamic Rankine Cycle where work is done against gravity in raising billions of tonnes of water kilometres up into the atmosphere.*
    The calibration temperature at which this occurs is provided by gravity which determines the temperature at which the vapour pressure of water commences the evaporation process.
    For the Earth this vapour pressure is 0.1781 Lb/ at 14.7 Lb/ atmospheric pressure and at 10 DegC. which is the base temperature from which the lapse rate temperatures evolve as the water rises.
    Overall some (very roughly) 680 WattHrs/ Kg of water are dissipated into the atmosphere at various levels, with some of this winding up nudging the tropopause as ice in the cirrus clouds. The fact that these ice crystals grow is proof that there is net outward radiation to space occurring.

    I would like to see some debate about this; as a different perspective.

    PS: * This vast weight of water in the clouds possesses Potential Energy which has nothing to do with temperature; but is Enthalpy none the less.

    • Richard M says:

      Exactly! Water change is a non-linear process which many variables.

    • Geoff Wood says:

      No real disagreement with what you have said.
      I would add however that if you work in specific terms, specific heat capacity, specific humidity then it is apparent that all of the atmosphere above the surface has gravitational potential energy and that this potential gradient is opposed by the thermal gradient running opposite. Just like throwing an object aloft, gravity returns the kinetic energy to the lowest available level.
      Without water we have the dry adiabatic profile of dT/dh=-g/Cp = -9.7K/km and this is modified by the phase changing ability of water as a condensing gas to -6.7K/km as latent heat transfer is the major cooling mechanism for the surface and the major atmospheric heat source.
      The surface cooling from the mean surface potential temperature of 310K (dry lapse projection from altitude) can be traced to the tropopause height being significantly higher than a dry lapse projection from the surface to the tropopause temperature where the energy to vaporise the surface water to give average specific humidity becomes additional gravitational potential energy aloft, joule for joule.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      alasdair…”it is energy or what we engineers like to call it Enthalpy, that is the the important parameter in the workings of the climate. Not Radiation as such, although that is a prime source of the energy and its transfer”.


      Terms like enthalpy and entropy tend to mislead. Clausius coined the term entropy yet his subjective explanation is being abused mathematically to get past the 2nd law, which he created as well.

      The second law is not about entropy and I fail to see how anyone can define it as such. Clausius wrote out a statement of the 2nd law then he introduced entropy. His statement was to the effect that heat can NEVER be transferred, by its own means from a colder object to a warmer object.

      That’s the 2nd law and no other obfuscation satisfies it. On this blog, people have tried to bypass it using thought experiments and a mystical positive net balance of electromagnetic energy.

      I cannot agree with you that water has much to do with heat transfer from the surface to the atmosphere for the simple reason that water vapour constitutes, on average, about 1% of the atmosphere (0.3% overall). CO2 is 0.04% and anthropogenic CO2 a fraction of that value.

      Furthermore, I cannot agree that radiation has much to do with heat transfer in the atmosphere. At terrestrial temperatures, radiation is a poor means of heat transfer. Furthermore, transferring heat back to the surface from cooler, rare gases contravenes the 2nd law.

      With an acetylene torch, transferring heat by direct contact is the only way it is effective for welding. The radiation from the flame, where parts are 3000C is absolutely useless for most applications.

  18. Dioex says:

    Read the paper your master write and shut up.ECS is low, wait 3 years and you will say nonsense and you dont know anithing about Dark ge .Can you survive without eating?and billions or people ?

  19. Gordon Robertson says:

    Roy…”Ive been told that the feedback concept used by climate researchers is a very poor analog for feedbacks in electrical circuit design”.

    You need to turn up your skeptical quotient in that case. They are clearly wrong about feedback in basic physics.

    This link applies to all systems, not just electrical circuit theory. However, the example from an electronic amplifier enhances clarity. it demonstrates that PF requires an amplifier (gain).

    Although this article infers feedback can be added to an input without an amplifier. Without amplification there can be no catastrophic warming and amplification cannot be produced by feedback on its own, as Gavin Schmidt seems to think.

    I’d like to see how that is done. It is necessary to isolate the feedback from the output to the input and the amplifier acts as a buffer as well as an amplifier. I cannot begin to imagine how a feedback signal could reach the input on its own.

    The amplifier also acts as a summing agent to combine the input signal with the feedback.

    I have seen Gavin Schmidt mangle the explanation of positive feedback and it scares me that he is head of GISS.

  20. Gordon Robertson says:

    Roy…”As the climate system warms from an energy imbalance, a wide variety of changes can take place (clouds, water vapor, etc.) which affect how much warming will occur before energy balance is once again restored, and the system stops warming. Those component changes, for better or worse, are called feedbacks …”

    I can live with that explanation, but ‘just’. AGW goes further and claims the warming exceeds equilibrium.

    As you say, you can use the word feedback any way you like but a warming (thermal energy) that exceeds equilibrium is due to positive feedback that does not exist in the atmosphere. That would require gain, specifically, a heat amplifier.

    You have claimed that reducing the rate of heat dissipation at the surface explains GHE/AGW. However, your fellow meteorologist, Craig Bohren, with a degree in physics as well, claims that the notion of GHGs as a heat trapping agents is at best a metaphor and at worst, plain silly.

    I wish you’d take that up with Craig, I am just the messenger. ☺

    I know we disagree on this but there’s no way to trap heat other than by trapping it as molecules of air with glass in a real greenhouse. I have been pushing the message of Joe Postma, that we build greenhouses to do what the atmosphere cannot do.

    We also disagree that the term ‘energy’ is sufficient to describe climate. Climate is a product of thermal energy, not generic energy. If you are going to reference energy in the oceans, I feel it is necessary to specify thermal energy and divorce that from electromagnetic energy.

    If you don’t, you get into conflict with other laws which I won’t mention.

  21. MikeN says:

    Dr Spencer, I worked with MIT’s EPPA2 model, and perhaps it was simplified for the course, but as input we gave a feedback parameter for ocean sensitivity, clouds, and aerosols.

  22. JohnKnight says:

    Mr. Spencer,

    “Christopher’s claim that the Earth’s effective radiating temperature (ERT) to outer space (around 255 K) itself causes a “feedback” makes no sense to me, because it isn’t (nor does it represent) a “forcing”. Feedbacks, by the climate definition, are only in response to forced departures from energy equilibrium.”

    It seems to me (nobody special) that the “energy equilibrium” of the Earth is potentially a somewhat deceptive concept, owing to the “forcing” that is (once again today) being inflicted upon it by the Sun. It’s never really at equilibrium, in a physical sense . .

    I believe that what Mr. Monckton is proposing can be (crudely) likened to the hypothetical construct of a “car system” being spoken of as at “energy equilibrium”, because it is moving at a certain speed down a (level, windless) road, shedding engine heat at about the same rate that it “enters” the “system” . .

    If, the car encounters a slight incline, downward for instance, and the relative air speed is hence increased, which in turn causes more system output (and hence decreased total system heat), then one can refer to that change in relative air speed as a “forcing” . . but what of the relative air speed up to that point? Clearly it was having an effect on the cooling of the system . . just less . .

  23. Ronald says:

    In the press I often hear “simply doubling CO2 will result in a 1 deg C warming of the earth, even the skeptics agree on that but …” and then there is a discussion of albedo, clouds, frozen sea bed methane etc.

    The alarmist pitch says that climate sensitivity to CO2 is composed of two parts. The “forcing” (as I understand the word) and the so called feedbacks. One model says a 4.7 deg C rise is possible, presumeably around 1 deg C from the forcing ( doubling CO2 ) and the rest gets added on due to changes in the physical systems (feedbacks) of the earth caused by the 1 deg C rise.

    Lord Moncktons point it seems to me is this;

    Nobody considers that the changes to the earths physical systems (feedbacks) have always been at work before man arrived on the scene. Modelers like to pick a starting point like 1850, the start of large scale fossil fuel consumption and call it an equilibrium state and work their changes upon that forward in time.

    In 1850 the earth had 280 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere and an average temperature of (whatever it was) deg K. I believe Lord Monckton says that the strict forcing portion of that temperature (whatever it was) can be arrived at via Stephan-Boltzman and that the remainder is due to the earths physical systems (feedbacks) of the type discussed when trying to anticipate the future temps due to rises in CO2 concentration. Imagine the industrial revolution started in 1600 with a CO2 concentration of 150 ppm and it was colder by x degrees in 1600. Do the math and arrive at your value for climate sensitivity. An earth with no GHG serves just as well as our hypothetical year 1600.

    Therefore the data needed to calculate a sensitivity factor per increase in CO2 is just lying there staring at us. He is saying the climate sensitivity can be calculated from observation not conjecture and alarmist models.

    I believe this is what LMoB is saying and it’s simple at it’s root.

    Dr Spencer says that alarmist modelers do not use or discuss feedback equations perse but since the models deliver warming trends larger than can be had strictly from forcings climate sensitivity assumptions are built into these models and a feedback factor of some value is implicit in the data sets the models generate. Those factors are much bigger than what is arrived at with Moncktons approach and less in line with observation than his as well.

    Definately LMoB doesn’t make clear enough that there is in fact an empirical link between his math and the climate. The way he talks about his work is odd but I think he’s got something.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      ronald…”The alarmist pitch says that climate sensitivity to CO2 is composed of two parts. The forcing (as I understand the word) and the so called feedbacks”.

      It’s total jargon as applied to climate science. The word ‘forcing’ comes from differential equation THEORY. When you have a differential equation representing something real like an electronic amplifier, you know the amplifier will respond in a certain unstable manner at certain frequencies, called poles.

      To test the equation mathematically, you apply to it a function called a ‘forcing function’. A square wave, or unit impulse function, will cause the modeled amplifier to oscillate at certain frequencies due to the sharp rise in its leading edge.

      The term feedback is applied incorrectly in climate model theory. I think it’s safe to say that the definition of feedback in climate science is ambiguous at best, and at worst, plain silly (stolen from Craig Bohren with reference to another AGW silliness).

      Amplifiers can also be modeled using feedback circuits to control their gain and frequency response. That’s all climate models are basically about, unvalidated mathematical modeling. Unfortunately, this jargon has been extended to the real atmosphere where it does not belong. Even more unfortunately, it is far easier to create models using differential equations related to radiation theory. That’s why this stupid theory is so prevalent.

      When alarmists talk about catastrophic climate change, they are referring to electromagnetic radiation related to gases. They become so involved in their belief system they forget the theories related to heat transfer must apply to heat transfer by conduction in solids and/or heat transfer through gases and liquids by convection.

      Furthermore, they bend the truth in their theories to bypass the 2nd law of thermodynamics governing heat transfer (generally hot to cold) using seriously lame distortions of the Stefan-Boltzmann equation governing electromagnetic energy intensity.

  24. DR says:

    Dr. Spencer, I would very much like you to comment on this:

    Modeling the Earths climate is one of the most daunting, complicated tasks out there. If only we were more like the Moon, things would be easy. The Moon has no atmosphere, no oceans, no icecaps, no seasons, and no complicated flora and fauna to get in the way of simple radiative physics. No wonder its so challenging to model! In fact, if you google climate models wrong, eight of the first ten results showcase failure. But headlines are never as reliable as going to the scientific source itself, and the ultimate source, in this case, is the first accurate climate model ever: by Syukuro Manabe and Richard T. Wetherald. 50 years after their groundbreaking 1967 paper, the science can be robustly evaluated, and they got almost everything exactly right.

    • Gordon Robertson says:

      DR…”The Moon has no atmosphere, no oceans, no icecaps, no seasons, and no complicated flora and fauna to get in the way of simple radiative physics”.

      And it is tidally-locked so it can’t rotate around a local axis.

      However, it would not be a straight-forward modeling job. Due to it’s orbit around the Earth, even with one face locked to the Earth, the Moon shows different faces to the Sun. Each time the Moon orbits the Earth, every 27+ days, it begins it’s next orbit at a different location wrt the Sun, due to the fact the Earth/Moon are also orbiting the Sun.

      The lunar day is roughly two weeks and the lunar night is the same, wrt the Sun. The turning motion of the Earth wrt the Sun requires around 29 days for the Sun to see the entire surface of the Moon.

      It would not be a simple matter of applying Stephan-Boltzmann as many might imagine. It’s the same with the calculation of an Earth with no atmosphere or oceans and an Earth with both. The 33C difference calculated based on that simple assumption is inaccurate.

      According to Gerlich and Tscheuschner, two experts in thermodynamics, one of whom is an expert in math, it would require a super-computer to do the proper calculations.

  25. E. Schaffer says:

    Monckton’s argument is actually sound, but I guess he failed to fully understand the implications, and he used bad analogies.

    “Christophers claim that the Earths effective radiating temperature (ERT) to outer space (around 255 K) itself causes a feedback makes no sense to me, because it isnt (nor does it represent) a forcing.”

    This judgement is wrong. It is not about outgoing radiation, or “ERT”, it is about the fact, that the sun would heat a black body at the position of Earth to a similar temperature. In fact this temperature is 279K (Note that the “ERT” is NOT the black body temperature, although it is often referred to as such).

    I perfectly see how people have problems understanding the issue, if electric circuits are used as an analogy. But there is a simple solution to overcome such mental challenges. What if we moved Earth closer to, or further from the sun? Would that be a forcing? Obviously yes. Alternatively we could change TSI, leading to the same result. But since we have different celestial bodies at respective distances from the sun, and we roughly know their temperatures, the first approach seems opportune. Anyhow, from such a thought experiment it becomes obvious how the given orbits, of Earth and others, go along with “forced” surface temperatures.

    With that obstable gone, from there on it is pretty easy to see the implications explained in the article.

    Apart from that, as it has been mentioned above, let me please point out that Manabe, Strickler 1964 is a complete failure. Not just is the concept of a “back radiation” driven GHE logically wrong, they also chose an arbitrary figure for the optical thickness of the atmosphere, with 3 or 4 “opaque layers”. It is easy to show, as I have done, that they hugely underestimated the amount of “back radiation” within the atmopshere. There are at least 50,000W/m2 of total “back radiation”, enough for well over 100 “opaque layers”. Thank god this “back radiation” does nothing, since otherwise we would be toast 😉

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