This is a very short study of the thermal character of the atmosphere in the zone between the equator and 10°south latitude. Here, there is no evidence of a greenhouse effect although the upper troposphere is plainly subject to down-welling radiation from the lower stratosphere. It is apparent that ‘Greenhouse Theory’ is based on a selective reading of atmospheric dynamics that is clearly at odds with the behaviour of the atmosphere as we perceive it here on Earth.
Consider figure 1. The temperature curves reflect forces that change with the pressure level. The strong peak at the surface in March contrasts with an annual peak in August at 100hPa. Above 100hPa (the lower boundary of the stratosphere) the single peak gradually morphs to dual peaks, but these are only fully expressed at 1hPa, well above the 10hpa ceiling of this figure.
The August peak at 100hPa is due to the unequal distribution of land and sea between the hemispheres. In mid year the continents of the northern hemisphere heat the atmosphere. The resulting strong increase in air temperature causes cloud loss, particularly south of the equator where the waters are seasonally cool. Outgoing long wave radiation from the planet peaks in August (despite the fact that the Earth is furthest from the sun in July) and more of it is emitted just south of the equator than anywhere else. This radiation excites ozone that increases in concentration quite rapidly above 200hPa. Ozone requires a very dry atmosphere if it is to persist because it is very soluble in water. The troposphere holds most of its water vapor close to the surface. The stratosphere, by contrast is relatively free of water vapor and rich in ozone.
Ozone is a product of the interaction of ultraviolet light and oxygen. The atmosphere is opaque to very short wave lengths in solar radiation by virtue its oxygen content. The short wave lengths are almost completely absorbed at some level within the middle stratosphere. Ozone drifts down to the lower stratosphere/upper troposphere where the very dry and cold conditions (minus 80°C near the equator) favor its persistence. In the stratosphere the atmosphere is therefore ‘stratified’ according to ozone concentration and increasing temperature.
In the lower stratosphere the August temperature peak is clearly due to ozone absorption of outgoing radiation from the Earth. In the upper stratosphere the twin peaks in March and September alternate in strength between years perhaps reflecting a complex interaction between the Earth in its elliptical orbit about the sun, geomagnetic (solar wind) and atmospheric influences including the forces that drive the Quasi Biennial Oscillation of wind direction and atmospheric temperature near the equator.
The important thing is that the air at 100hPa is about five degrees warmer in August than it is in March by virtue of its ozone content and the seasonal peak in outgoing long wave radiation. This sets up an atmospheric test bench for greenhouse theory. There is local heating of a greenhouse gas (ozone) by outgoing long wave radiation. The air below this level should show evidence of radiative transfer of energy in a downwards direction.
Convection is the phenomenon whereby less dense air is rapidly displaced by dense air. Density is a function of temperature and pressure. Above the tropopause convection is weak. Below the tropopause convection is relatively strong but nowhere as strong as it is in the near surface layers of the atmosphere where latent heat is released as clouds form.
Figure 1 shows sea surface temperature peaks in March when the sun is vertically aligned with the equator and moving into the northern hemisphere. The March maximum, therefore reflects energy absorption by the vast body of the southern hemisphere oceans over summer. The seasonal minimum occurs in September when the sun is about to renew its warming of that vast body of southern ocean.
So, we have the paradox of a March maximum at the surface and an August maximum at 100hPa.
Te Reiterate: Greenhouse theory maintains that down-welling radiation will warm layers beneath the point of energy emission. So, if nature were to reflect the impact of down-welling radiation, and that radiation were to be actually effective in changing atmospheric temperature below the point of emission, we should see a gradual transition between an August maximum at 100hPa and March-May maximum at the surface. For instance at 150hPa, temperature should attain its maximum just short of the time when the 100hPa level reaches its maximum (see the pink dotted line in figure 1 as a suggestion). The 200hPa level would peak just prior to the 150hPa peak and so on. But, big surprise, this does not happen. The 150hPa maximum is in May. In fact all levels between 500hPa and 150hPa experience a maximum in May reflecting the March maximum in sea surface temperatures and the lag in latent heat release from a warm ocean gradually cooling after its seasonal maximum.
Why the failure to warm the troposphere when the stratosphere warms? The obvious answer is that there is no effective energy transfer from down welling radiation at all. Not at 150hPa or at any other level. There is no greenhouse effect. If there were the shift in the temperature maximum would reveal that fact. Its a simple case of stimulus and response. If there is no response you can infer that the stimulus is either absent or it is overwhelmed by a second force. That force is very likely convectional transport of air that loses density as it acquires energy.
From this simple morphological observation we can conclude that greenhouse theory is based on a misunderstanding of how the atmosphere works. The true nature of the troposphere is that the air is hopelessly unstable. ‘Tropos’ means ‘turning’. The atmosphere is truly a vehicle for cooling the Earth. But for the atmosphere, the surface would be warmer. This would be so even in the absence of water vapor because the air absorbs warmth via simple conduction, that is, energy transfer by contact. The existence of water at the surface provides a powerful additional vehicle for surface cooling via evaporation, the most important limiting factor on the rise in surface temperature. The myth of a ‘greenhouse effect’ dissolves in the cold light of careful observation. The atmosphere is no more effective in warming the surface than a greenhouse structure without a roof. An insulator (preserver of warmth) actually requires a vacuum, or, less efficiently, trapped air that can not be displaced by cold air from nearby. Unless you can properly trap and hold the air you will not conserve the warmth.
We know these things. How is it that we have been sucked into this vortex of misinformation by so called ‘experts’. We are assured that there is a scientific consensus on this matter. If this is indeed the case, the reputation of science must suffer. To label a person as an ‘expert’ will invite derision. The notion that we should trust in the opinion of ‘scientists’ will be taken as a joke.
Observation reveals performance at odds with theoretical prediction. One instance is enough. Scrap the theory.
In this work I use data from Kalnay, E. and Coauthors, 1996: The NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis 40-year Project. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 77, 437-471.
This dataset is available via the web at: http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/Timeseries/timeseries1.pl
This post was revised in February 2010 to eliminate errors (some reflected in the comments) and tighten the argument.