Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The warmth that cools.


40 or 50 years ago the Gas Board (for that's what it was then) ran a series of educational advertisements explaining how 'The flame that cools" worked, to publicise gas-fired refrigerators. Their product was demonstrable, and worked.



A couple of days ago, an article in the New York Times attempted to explain why Global Warming creates more-frequent, colder-than-average winters.



"The sun’s energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools."


Having only 'O'-level physics, I struggle to understand how energy 'reflected' back to outer space 'cools' the earth. The earth getting 'less-warm' (because less radiant heat is absorbed) I can understand; but if that process worked, simply sticking mirrors around boxes is a trick every freezer-manufacturer must have missed.


[I can also understand how 'black-bodies' (that's a technical, not racist, description) radiate heat out to space. However, 'black-bodies' and white snow are metaphorically at opposite ends of the spectrum.]


The article's author also seems to have forgotten that the Eco-Loons are brainwashing us into reducing CO2 emissions. For those with short memories, that's the 'Greenhouse Gas' that was supposed to trap the heat, and so counteract the reduced radiant absorption caused by reflectivity of white snow. White snow being the stuff that covers the poles (and currently the Poles too) and is supposed to be shrinking. But if their area is shrinking, we're losing less heat, so it's a self-correcting phenomenon.


A guest post submitted by Joe Public at the behest of his Hungarian cousin Imas Keptic.

41 comments:

Richard said...

I can't put it better than a commenter on the BBC website, who I quoted over on mine: "Of course, when it's hotter than average, it's 'climate' - when it's colder than average, it's 'weather.'"

Highland Cooncil said...

next thing to go into the SILVERY TAY is the new £47m outpost of the Victoria & Albert museum in Dundee

EliRabett said...

It's pretty simple really. If the sunlight is absorbed the surface warms because it absorbs energy.

The energy in reflected light is not available to warm the surface, but bounces out into space.

After that it gets interesting. For example, the reflectivity of snow is very different in the visible (it is very high) and in the infrared (it is very low). Reflectivity depends on the age of the snow, etc. This all has interesting consequences and some scientists have spent their professional lives working on these issues.

cynicalHighlander said...

Meanwhile another life lost.

Joe Public said...

@ Richard

But the NYT article breaks with tradition, & hedges its bet by attempting to now link the colder-than-average with 'climate'.

Joe Public said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Public said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Public said...

Sorry readers. My impatience resulted in multiple repetition.

Joe Public said...

@ HC

1. Was your response aimed at SR's earlier posting (A Victorian Disaster)?

2. Considering the Kengo Kuma design appears very reflective, it may in fact help mitigate Global Warming.

Richard said...

I see. It's colder because it's getting warmer. Genius.

Joe Public said...

@ ER

"It's pretty simple really. .......

The energy in reflected light is not available to warm the surface, but bounces out into space."

So, this must be 'weather' and not 'climate' because it's an instantaneous action/reaction.

In addition, the multiple reflectivity through multi-layered, multi-faceted 'snow' is 3-dimensional, and some light/heat actually gets 'reflected' downwards. So adding to the earth's specific heat.

Joe Public said...

@ CH

That Telegraph article sadly reminds us "A total of 348 UK military personnel have died since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001".

And not one British Politician.

Joe Public said...

@ Richard 21:06

No, no, no.

It's getting warmer because (a) it's colder; and, (b) scientists tell us so.

Leg-iron said...

The snow is thawing here at the moment.

How long before that's down to 'global warming' too?

The bottom line seems to be that if we get weather, then it must be due to global warming.

Even when it passes -20C.

Joe Public said...

@ LI

If the snow is thawing, could it be because it was dirty snow rather than white snow? i.e. has your local authority inadvertently contributed to Global Warming by spreading grit/sand about?

Which reminds me of another potential 'hole' in the NYT hypothesis. Their article concentrates on the northern hemisphere. And in winter, there isn't much daylight, never mind sun, around the arctic circle, Siberia etc.

Rightwinggit said...

I remember having a gas fridge when I was a sprog...seemed to work OK.

Jim Baxter said...

Instead of arguing with newspaper articles why not try arguing with articles in science journals.

You know, show that you really understand the complexity of what is going on and can take it on at its own level.

Leg-iron said...

JP - it's thawing because it's above freezing although not by much. The stuff with dirt from cars on it is going faster than the pure-white on the lawns but that always happens.

I'm lucky so far in that global warming hasn't brought down all my guttering, unlike next door.

It's not unusual for this time of year. Last year it partially thawed then froze into an impassable glacier across every street.

It looks to be heading for the same again.

lazaruszine said...

At the risk of being the one skeezy environmentalist in your eyes here, there are regional effects of a greater trend called global warming - a badly named trend. Melting artic ice disrupts oceanic flows, which in the case of Britain particularly disrupts the mid-Atlantic drift which helps to moderate the winter temperature. So the fact we're getting harsher weather IS a result of 'global warming,' it's just that you're taking it at face value.

I'm on an aiport computer right now so can't write much more, but I expect to be ripped to shreds by the time I check this back. I'll go drink my soy milk now.

Joe Public said...

@ JB

"Instead of arguing with newspaper articles why not try arguing with articles in science journals."

(a) That's what 'Peer Review' is for. [Unless of course you're the IPCC - that august body responsible for publishing the prediction of Himalayan Glacial Melt by 2035]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jan/20/ipcc-himalayan-glaciers-mistake

(b) It's much more fun.

Joe Public said...

@ lazaruszine

(a) "....a greater trend called global warming - a badly named trend."

The climate of our planet has always changed. It's been warmer than currently; and, cooler. The term was only realised to be badly named when data and measurements failed to fit the hypothesis (remember 'hide the decline'?)

(b) For 13 years the public been told by some scientists & politicians with vested interests that "The science is settled / solid / clear / compelling"; yet all scientists still fail to agree, PROVING it is not.

Surreptitious Evil said...

White snow being the stuff that covers the poles (and currently the Poles too) and is supposed to be shrinking. But if their area is shrinking, we're losing less heat, so it's a self-correcting phenomenon.

Err, nope. Sorry. You've got your maths the wrong way round: this bit of the model is definitely a positive feedback loop not a negative (i.e. self-correcting) one.

If, as things get warmer on average, you get less (or less reflective) ice (not an prima face unreasonable assumption), the amount of thermal radiation absorbed goes up so you get warmer (on average), so you get less ice ...

Works the other way around too (aka "Snowball Earth") - more ice, more reflection, still colder.

Mark Wadsworth said...

"it's a self-correcting phenomenon"

Nope. it's a catastrophic, run away self-correcting phenomenon cause by mankind's rape of Planet Gaia etc.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

For his next trick, Lazaruszine will explain why Arctic ice is melting in the middle of winter.

And also why, when it did actually melt to an unprecendented degree (in 2007), our winter was in fact rather mild.

The fact is, nothing - no fact, no occurence expected or otherwise, no new discovery, nothing whatsoever, will cause the warmists to admit any error. Anything at all simply proves they were right. If we descend, over the next thirty years, into a new Ice Age (as has happened before), even that will be claimed to prove that the warmists were right all along.

It's nothing to do with science, it has become a religion; you can't argue with them any more than you can argue with the Pope; they are just right, and that is that.

(Captcha - "unboozy" - kind of appropriate for this week, is it not?)

Joe Public said...

@ SE

You are correct. I got my logic wrong with the statement as published. So many negatives & negative-negatives.

In the context of the NYT article, I should have stated "But if their area is shrinking, we're losing less heat by the alleged reflected radiated losses , so it's a self-correcting phenomenon.

Joe Public said...

@ MW

Paleoclimatology shows warming & (therefore) cooling occured before mankind set foot on earth.

Joe Public said...

@ WY

"....nothing ... will cause the warmists to admit any error."

You're too harsh. Mr Pachauri has had to eat humble-pie on more than one occasion.

Jim Baxter said...

I follow you now JP. Any rubbish is good enough if it suits your prejudices.

Joe Public said...

@ JB

Mine, or, Phil Jones'?

http://assassinationscience.com/climategate/

Jim Baxter said...

JP,

Yours mate. Cherypicking the arguments that you want to argue with is what all conspiracy nuts do.

All the best. (The planet is only 100,000 years old you know - you might as well believe that while you're at it - the arguments are out there to 'support' that tripe too). Climate change scepticism is a religion. You can always tell. The religious never let the facts get in the way of their beliefs.

lazaruszine said...

Weekend Yachtsman; I don't understand, are you under the assumption that the Artic is a part of Britain? The Artic ice melts, and slows the north Atlantic drift - warming in the poles causing cooling in areas previously warmed by disrupted currents. The world is not a monoclimate, it is a complex thing and there is, to use a rather trite term, a sort of butterfly effect from climate change in one area to the next. I mean, I thought that was evident in what my post said, hardly a magic trick as you snidely inferred.
I mean, seriously, that's as old an argument as 'but cows cause more CO2 release than people,' which may be true, but yano, with farming, livestock breeding and consumer markets, there are unnatural amounts of cows... so still people :/
If I ever see a good argument against global warming, I'll go with it, but tbh 'global warming' is to me just a stupid term made up by traitor environmentalist who donned suits, started thinking like businessmen and sold out the movement to government intervention. Emissions need cut, pollution needs killed, but foolish government intervention and Big Brother 'green thinking' will never work.

Gordon the Fence Post Tortoise said...

As somebody fairly numerate with a scientific / engineering background I am disgusted with the way that the whole issue has been hyped by the ignorant, innumerate, hairless chimps in politics and the media assisted by a claque of dishonest charlatans who have the utter cheek to call themselves scientists who are deluded enough to offer certainty where demonstrably none exists and are way too conceited to say "I don't know"

This whole IPCC global warming fiasco is going to cause real damage to honest science and divert valuable engineering talent into worse then worthless endeavors - fuelled by eyewatering quantities of public money that we can ill afford at the present time.

When the reckoning is done many honest and diligent scientists will suffer and so will our society. Unfortunately, the perpetrators seem unlikely to get their desserts and some of the usual suspects are already moving on to fresh fields of mumbo jumbo and half truth dressed up as science.

lazaruszine "If I ever see a good argument against global warming" - uh... oh dear, you haven't looked very far have you? The proffered evidence isn't exactly convincing mate - George Monbiot's early spuds don't count.

I find Andrew Montfort's restraint over at the Bishop Hill blog admirable when dealing with the issues. Anybody professing some opinion (either pro or anti)on the topic should spend time there and at WUWT - you will learn some things >>> something that the warmist faction seems extremely resistant to, preferring dogma by the cartload - and I have looked believe me.

fwiw there's some interesting stuff over at Bishop Hill's place about scientific peer review as it actually is presently practiced (it's rather broken at the moment). If one takes a look at the comments you'll see a few folk complaining about the woeful abuse of numerical analysis that many "professionals" indulge in to justify their projects - the article referenced concerns medical research which has formal standards and even then people are breaking the rules...

Joe Public said...

@ GtFPT (and @ JB 19:29)

An excellent commentary.

"This whole IPCC global warming fiasco is going to cause real damage to honest science ...."

That, and, the Climategate e-mails have damaged public confidence in scientific research in exactly the same way that publication of MPs' expenses destroyed our trust in those governing us.

An apt quotation is:- You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time.

For those whose confidence in the integrity of so-called Climate-Scientists has not yet completely melted away, I urge them to read

"Climategate analysis" by John P. Costella.

http://assassinationscience.com/climategate/

It is NOT pro- OR anti-AGW; it is an insight into some of the scientific community's actions in suppressing or manipulating raw data to fit their pre-conceived (or funding-dependent) ideas.

Joe Public said...

@ lazaruszine 20:28

Thank you for your second response.

"The Artic ice melts, and slows the north Atlantic drift - warming in the poles causing cooling in areas previously warmed by disrupted currents. The world is not a monoclimate"

Precisely.

Have you examined or considered just how-much energy is being lost in the tropical Pacific by the cooling there?

lazaruszine said...

If I'm honest, I've not read much research on the Pacific, partly due to having never come across it and probably because I tend to centre on the North Atlantic, it being what has generally affected areas I live in. As far as I know, the Thermohaline circulation cycle in the Pacific is less complex than that of the Atlantic due to its width, though, so I wouldn't even presume on the various effects... I shall ask my Hawaiian friend though, he's bound to provide me some answers :D

Timothy Chase said...

To elaborate a bit on what Eli Rabett wrote...

Greenhouse gases are transparent to sunlight. So when sunlight strikes snow and is reflected back to space without absorption this is energy that doesn't even enter the climate system. It is only when the radiation is absorbed and converted into thermal energy -- such as when it strikes dark ocean -- that it enters the climate system as thermal energy, raising the heat content of the climate system.

Thermal energy is then emitted as infrared radiation that water vapor, carbon dioxide and methane are able to absorb -- with carbon dioxide absorbing radiation primarily around a wavelength of 15 microns -- due to a bending mode of vibration where the frequency of vibration is roughly equal to the frequency of radiation. And yes -- this has a basis that we understand in terms of the same physical principles of quantum mechanics that underlie lasers, infrared vision, photoelectric cells, your microwave oven -- and even chemistry. And in terms of carbon dioxide's ability to absorb infrared radiation this is something that we have understood to some extent at least as far back as the 1860s.

Increased absorption of radiation at the surface not only warms the ocean at the moment of absorption but over an entire season as it results in warmer water and more melt. It likewise thins the ice, making the Arctic more prone to melting in the next season. Furthermore it warms the sub-Arctic, promoting the melt of snow at the higher latitudes. We worry about an ice-free Arctic not because sea ice melt will raise the sea level (it has very little direct effect) but because it promotes the melt of Greenland's glaciers and the thawing of permafrost and methane hydrates along the shallow water continental margins resulting in the release of methane -- a greenhouse gas that per molecule is roughly 20X more powerful than carbon dioxide.

But getting back to the radiation...

When increased levels of greenhouse gases (e.g., emissions from fossil fuel combustion or methane escaping from tundra as permafrost melts and bacteria throw a part) absorb more infrared radiation they result in an imbalance between the rate at which thermal energy enters the system and the rate at which thermal energy escapes the system. Given the principle of conservation of energy things have to heat up -- and things will continue to heat up until increased thermal radiation compensates for the increased absorption of radiation due to higher levels of greenhouse gases and more exposed ocean surface.

Anyway, for more please see:

About my avatar...
http://climate-guardian.agilityhoster.com/avatar

It includes a movie actually showing the absorption of thermal radiation by increased levels of carbon dioxide, infrared images of the Earth showing higher levels of carbon dioxide, absorption spectra and so on...

subrosa said...

This has been a most interesting comment thread. Thanks again for the post Joe.

Joe Public said...

@ TC

The focus of my Posting was the statement in the NYT "The sun’s energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools."

We both agree then, that that statement is incorrect.

Timothy Chase said...

"@Joe Public

The full context of the NYT statement was, "As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased.

"The sun's energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools."

This is true -- although I am not sure that this is the dominant mechanism involved in Europe's December cold spell. But generally speaking, more snow over a wider area will tend to reflect more light into space resulting in less light being absorbed and cooler temperatures. People make use of the same principle to cool their homes when they paint the roof white to reflect the summer sunlight. And not only do you have more moisture in the air due to evaporation from more exposed Arctic Ocean but for every 1°C you increase the rate of evaporation by 8% -- equivalent to a doubling per 10°C.

In any case, you state in your essay at one point, "The article's author also seems to have forgotten that the Eco-Loons are brainwashing us into reducing CO2 emissions. For those with short memories, that's the 'Greenhouse Gas' that was supposed to trap the heat, and so counteract the reduced radiant absorption caused by reflectivity of white snow."

If the moisture falls as snow rather than rain a little more white will have a cooling effect in some parts of the world. But don't confuse England's cooler Decembers with the overall trend in annual global temperatures. People in the US tend to their country as quite "large," but the contiguous 48 states of the US constitute only about 1.5% of the Earth's surface. 80°latitude and above constitutes only 0.76% of the Earth's surface, 70°latitude and above -- the good majority of the Arctic Ocean -- constitutes only 3%.

A cold European December does not constitute evidence against the well-established fact that greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation, that they reduce the rate at which thermal radiation escapes to space, or that higher levels of greenhouse gases will raise the heat content of the climate system and thus the annual global average temperature over time. But given that you seemed to take a different view I thought a little review might help. Thus the bit on physics.

Infrared radiation at a wavelength of about 15 microns is absorbed by the carbon dioxide molecule by exciting the bending mode of vibration at the same frequency. Microwave radiation at a wavelength of approximately 122 millimeters is absorbed by the water molecule by exciting a rotational mode. The energy in both cases is thermalized, lost due to collisions with other molecules rather than immediately radiated. In the case of carbon dioxide this results in its greenhouse effect. In the case of the water vapor molecule and its rotational mode this results the warming of your burrito in the microwave oven.

Same physics though. In fact in no small part rotational modes strengthen the absorption of infrared radiation by the carbon dioxide molecule. But they become infrared active only as the result of its bending mode. Unlike the water molecule, the carbon dioxide molecule is linear in its ground state, and given the symmetry in the distribution of charge the carbon molecule can't interact with infrared radiation in its pure rotational modes. More about that here if you are interested.

Joe Public said...

@ TC 19:40

"People make use of the same principle to cool their homes when they paint the roof white to reflect the summer sunlight."

Wrong.

As is the NYT statement which I quoted.

Painting a roof white does not cool a house. It helps prevent it warming, by reducing the amount of radiated heat it absorbs.

I enjoyed watching the CO2 + candle demonstration. Are you aware of the antithetical plant-photosynthesis + human power consumption exposition?

The former is roughly six times greater than the latter.

Timothy Chase said...

Joe Public wrote, "Painting a roof white does not cool a house. It helps prevent it warming, by reducing the amount of radiated heat it absorbs."

From your essay:

"Having only 'O'-level physics, I struggle to understand how energy 'reflected' back to outer space 'cools' the earth. The earth getting 'less-warm' (because less radiant heat is absorbed) I can understand; but if that process worked, simply sticking mirrors around boxes is a trick every freezer-manufacturer must have missed."

Mirrors will reduce the temperature of a box on a warm day, particularly if the box is black and would otherwise absorb light. Of course there are limits to the ability of such a system to cool an object just as there are limits to an air conditioner or freezer. At room temperature only relatively expensive freezer units can achieve temperatures of less than -50°C. Yet they are able to achieve freezing temperatures. The same, however, is also true of mirrors -- if the object they are reducing the temperature of is already close to freezing.

Now you speak of something 'getting less warm' as if it were some sort of alternative to "cooling." I would argue that the two are synonymous and it would seem the Oxford English Dictionary agrees with me.

Here are two definitions of the word "cool" from the online November 2010 edition of the Oxford English Dictionary:

1. [intransitive verb] To become less hot or warm; to become cool. Freq. with down, off. [Usage traced back to Andreas 1256]

3. [transitive verb] c. To cause (something) to become less hot or warm; to cause to lose heat. Also with down. [Usage traced back to Ashm. 1396]

According to the first definition of the intransitive verb, to become less hot or warm is to become cool. Therefore it makes no sense to insist that something is becoming "less warm" but not "cooling."

According to the second definition it would certainly seem that white paint or mirrors can cool if they scatter light that would otherwise warm an object. But I suppose you could be trying to argue that it wasn't the white paint or mirrors that scattered the light that cooled the object but the warm sunlight that didn't warm the object.

Then again this would be like arguing that it wasn't the bullet-proof vest that saved the life of the wearer but rather that the bullet didn't kill the wearer because the bullet instead hit the vest. You could argue that way, trying to create arbitrary distinctions, insisting that something be called one thing but not a synonymous other. But at that point we would be playing wordgames. I would rather discuss physics and reality.

*

"I enjoyed watching the CO2 + candle demonstration."

It demonstrates the absorption of infrared radiation by carbon dioxide. Likewise with satellites we are able to see variations in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere because it reduces the rate at which radiation escapes to space in certain parts of the spectra. Essentially we are able to see the greenhouse effect in action.

"Are you aware of the antithetical plant-photosynthesis + human power consumption exposition?

"The former is roughly six times greater than the latter."

I realise that at this point you are getting remarkably close to word salad.

*

"Words are relative. They're only symbols. If we don't use ugly symbols, we won't have any ugliness. Why do you want me to say things one way, when I've already said them another?"

The Wet Nurse speaking to Hank Rearden, Atlas Shrugged (HC) 35th Anniversary Edition, pg. 363

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