A Graph on CO2 Absorption

The Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) cult is dead wrong about CO2 driving our climate and the graph below reveals their mistake.

 

The top portion of the graph shows the electromagnetic radiation that is both downgoing (from the Sun shown in red) and upgoing (radiated from the Earth to space shown in blue).  All objects that have a temperature above absolute zero (0° K) will radiate electromagnetic radiation at various wavelengths and intensity according to Planck’s law and the center of that distribution will be at a wavelength characterized by the Wein’s displacement law.  So our Sun, which has a much higher temperature than Earth will radiate energy at a peak frequency of about 0.5 µm and the Earth will radiate its energy at a peak of about 14 µm. 

Much of the downgoing and upgoing radiation is absorbed in our atmosphere and the portion of the graph just below the spectral intensity shows where these wavelengths are absorbed.  Fortunately for Humans, much of the UV, X-Rays and Gamma Rays of the downgoing radiation are absorbed in our atmosphere (those wavelengths that are small and are not even shown on the left hand of the chart) and for that reason we exist today.  Since light in the visible range of the Sun’s spectrum are allowed to pass through the atmosphere, we have eyes that have evolved to absorb these wavelengths.  Organisms that had eyes that see only in X-Rays would be ‘blind’ on Earth and would not have had much success catching food. 

Now let’s focus on the upgoing radiation because it is from this radiation that our Earth’s greenhouse effect happens.  The Earth would be a much colder place if we didn’t have an atmosphere to trap a portion of the radiating heat from going to space. From an article at American Thinker that explains the Greenhouse effect:

“The Greenhouse Effect is real and necessary for life on Earth. Without it, our world would be a frozen ball that would not be hospitable for life as we know it. The harmful stuff (x-rays and gamma rays) is filtered out, but the light in the visible spectrum enters, and that light energy warms our Earth. The land and sea then respond to that warming energy by emitting light in the spectrum of the infrared (IR), and that energy takes the form of small packets of energy called photons. When those IR photons reach the atmosphere, some of them get absorbed by certain molecules, and that absorbed energy is transferred into the elements of the molecules. That energy causes the molecules to vibrate and heat the atmosphere, and finally, the atmosphere transfers some of that energy back to the Earth’s surface. Again, this is necessary, because if we didn’t have this blocking of IR wavelengths, our average temperatures on Earth would be about 32 degrees Celsius cooler (-18° C instead of the current 14° C). One of the greenhouse gases (GHG) that reflects these IR wavelengths is CO2, but there are others, such as water vapor, ozone (O3), methane (CH4), and CFCs.”

Now here is the portion of the graph that causes so much heartburn with the AGW cult.  Looking at the bottom portion of the graph and focusing on the line labeled “Carbon Dioxide”, you can see that the wavelengths of upgoing radiation that CO2 absorbs (which is centered around 14 µm) are positioned of the right hand side of the upgoing radiation curve (which is centered around 11 µm) so CO2 isn’t seeing the higher intensity radiation that gets passed to space.  The graph shows that CO2 does a very thorough job of absorbing some of this upgoing radiation (CO2 absorption is pegged at 100% at these wavelengths) and what radiation CO2 doesn’t absorb, Water Vapor takes care of the rest.  Adding more CO2 to the atmosphere will not change its absorption spectrum and as this graph shows, there is no more upgoing radiation that it can absorb.  In other words, CO2’s radiation absorbing duties are already performing at their maximum level so CO2 is at a saturated state right now with regard to upgoing radiation absorption.   

And here is another subtle fact that further shoots holes in the AGW meme.  If the Earth were to get warmer then the upgoing radiation distribution would shift to the LEFT (per Wein’s displacement law).  That would mean the intensity of the upgoing radiation wavelengths that CO2 thoroughly absorbs would be LESS so the greenhouse warming contribution of CO2 for a warmer Earth would be less than a cooler Earth.  Conversely if the Earth were to get cooler (i.e. a little ice age) then CO2 would be a stabilizing factor since the upgoing radiation curve would shift RIGHT and there would be more photons for this molecule to absorb and help bring Earth back into a warmer climate.

CO2’s contributing factor to the greenhouse effect is saturated and even if the Earth warms, CO2’s role in the greenhouse effect will only diminish.  That is a hard pill for the AGW cult to swallow.   

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41 Responses to A Graph on CO2 Absorption

  1. Pingback: Calm Down Conservatives | cosmoscon

  2. David Appell says:

    Unfortunately you are wrong.

    First of all, absorption by CO2 has not saturated. In fact, an increase in the greenhouse effect has been measured:

    “Increases in greenhouse forcing inferred from the outgoing longwave radiation spectra of the Earth in 1970 and 1997,” J.E. Harries et al, Nature 410, 355-357 (15 March 2001).

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v410/n6826/abs/410355a0.html

    These findings have been confirmed:

    “Comparison of spectrally resolved outgoing longwave data between 1970 and present,” J.A. Griggs et al, Proc SPIE 164, 5543 (2004). http://spiedigitallibrary.org/proceedings/resource/2/psisdg/5543/1/164_1

    “Spectral signatures of climate change in the Earth’s infrared spectrum between 1970 and 2006,” Chen et al, (2007) http://www.eumetsat.int/Home/Main/Publications/Conference_and_Workshop_Proceedings/groups/cps/documents/document/pdf_conf_p50_s9_01_harries_v.pdf

    More papers on this subject are listed here:

    http://agwobserver.wordpress.com/2009/08/02/papers-on-changes-in-olr-due-to-ghgs/

    Secondly, the shift in an object’s spectrum as it becomes warmer is slight for small changes in temperature. From Wien’s Displacement Law, the shift in lambda_max, the peak of the spectrum, is -b*delta(T)/T^2. Plug in the numbers for Earth: T=14 C=287 K, delta(T)=1 C=1 K and you find delta(lambda_max)=-0.04 microns. That’s too small to make the difference you claim.

    Thirdly, only part of the Earth is getting warmer — the stratosphere is getting *cooler*. This is a prediction of greenhouse theory and an indication it’s working as expected, though the result is complicated by ozone loss. The greenhouse effect occurs at each and every infinitesimally thick layer of the atmosphere, and you have to add up all those contributions, which makes the problem nontrivial. Climate scientists have spent decades getting this right, and these objections were considered long ago.

    • cosmoscon says:

      Thanks David for stopping by and taking the time to comment in such detail.

      See, the problem with the Harries and Griggs papers is they used models to draw their conclusions. The raw data of OLR comparisons showed no decrease over time but the authors had to feed the data into models to cancel out effects of water vapor and temperatures and wouldn’t you know it? There was a decrease in OLR from the model results.

      According to a paper by Ramanathan:

      http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/files/pr72.pdf

      on page 189 – “Since the emission increases with temperature, the absorbed energy is much larger than the emitted energy, leading to a net trapping of longwave photons in teh atmosphere.” There should be no reason to alter the raw data through models to prove a decrease in OLR. Let the raw data speak and I don’t see that data proving a decrease in OLR over decades of CO2 getting pumped into the atmosphere.

      Seeing graphs, like this:

      leads me to believe that CO2 is saturated.

      And when I see flat temperatures even though CO2 is increasing, that tells me the CO2 effect isn’t as large as was once thought.

      http://cosmoscon.com/2011/12/11/solutions-in-search-of-a-problem/

  3. Pingback: Global Temperature and CO2 Update – September 2012 | cosmoscon

  4. docrichard says:

    When I say “this page” I forgot to add the link. The graph is here: http://greenerblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/why-does-co2-not-match-temperature-line.html

  5. sthelensoregon says:

    The saturation fallacy has been written about for years. Please read some of the rebuttals before repeating the same old mistakes.

  6. sthelensoregon says:

    There is much written on this subject; see the sidebar “Saturation fallacies” in Raymond T. Pierrehumbert’s “Infrared Radiation and Planetary Temperature,” Physics Today, Jan 2011 pp 33-38.

  7. cosmoscon says:

    In reply to Sthelensoregon at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v410/n6826/abs/410355a0.html – You notice the authors make those claims using the data that have been modified (or simulated) from Climate models. You can see there is no difference in OLR in figure (a) on this link – http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v410/n6826/fig_tab/410355a0_F1.html#figure-title but magically things change once the data has been run through the all knowing climate models.

    • sthelensoregon says:

      Figure 1a clearly shows a difference in OLR between 1970 (gray line) and 1996 (black line). The top graph in Figure 1b is a plot of that difference.

      How would you account for differences in atmospheric temperature, water vapor, and ozone levels? (Radiation codes, based on detailed spectroscopic measurements taken under precise laboratory conditions, are probably the most accurate component of climate calculations.)

  8. sthelensoregon says:

    Well? How would *you* account for differences in atmospheric temperature, water vapor, and ozone levels??

    • cosmoscon says:

      As I stated in a comment above, according to Ramanathan, we don’t need to correct for temperature.

      http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/files/pr72.pdf

      on page 189 – “Since the emission increases with temperature, the absorbed energy is much larger than the emitted energy, leading to a net trapping of longwave photons in the atmosphere.”

      If the temperatures were higher, then CO2 would be allowed to grab even more longwave photons. CO2 has increased as well from 1970 to 1997 so we have more CO2 to capture more photons so even if the temperatures were higher in 1997 that CO2 blanket should capture them. Was Ramanathan wrong?

    • sthelensoregon says:

      Have you examined how absorption and emission varies with temperature and pressure? This has been discussed at least since the work of Plass.

      You seem to have no idea of all the science that come before, but believe you can overturn it all with some simplistic notions published in a biased, nonscientific magazine. Science has far higher standards than this.

      • cosmoscon says:

        Wait, are you saying that Ramanathan (http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/) and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences are nonscientific?

      • sthelensoregon says:

        You have completely misunderstood what Ramanathan says, which is simply a statement about the physics of absorption and emission. Harries et al are correcting for the different temperatures that occurred during the two observation periods, in 1970 and in 1997. This difference exists irregardless of any difference in the greenhouse effect, simply because atmospheric temperature fluctuates naturally.

        So, again, how would you correct for that (and water vapor, and ozone) without a model?

  9. cosmoscon says:

    sthelensoregon,

    I don’t know Ramanathan and maybe you have better insight into this but I do understand English and my interpretation of his words still stands. But let’s assume you are right….

    Why do we have to ‘correct’ for water vapor? With increased amounts of CO2 and the dire predictions coming from the AGW team, you’d think CO2 wouldn’t be so easily muted by water vapor. Water vapor is in the atmosphere and although we can do our best to remove the effects of it by models, we can’t do it in the Earth’s atmosphere. If OLR didn’t decrease in wavelengths that CO2 absorbs then the conclusion a scientist should come to is maybe we overestimated the additional heat trapping that will come from added CO2 in the atmosphere.

    From 1970 to 1997 the raw data showed no decrease in OLR in the wavelengths that CO2 absorbs (granted they didn’t cover the entire spectrum here which is unfortunate) but yet the Earth warmed during this time (based on CRU and UAH data). If no more OLR was trapped, then what caused the warming?

    Mother nature isn’t concerned with models and she’ll follow the laws of physics no matter what. The whole premise of AGW is that the absorption of OLR by CO2 will cause heating in the atmosphere and the smoking gun of this warming is a decrease in OLR at those wavelengths. That didn’t happen in the raw data, only after we magically removed water vapor.

    As for temperature correction…. From Stephan-Boltzmann law, the Watts/m^2 will increase by the 4th power of temperature so as temperatures go up, the overall radiation increases. Planck’s law can be used to find out the intensities at a particular frequency. So, that is how I would correct for temperature and I assume that is how the models do it.

    But CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere increased from 315 ppm to 365 ppm from 1970 to 1997 which is almost 16%. Temperature anomalies increased by only 0.2 C during that time and if we say the average is around 14.0C then we are talking about an increase of around 1%. Surely the massive absorption increases from CO2 should’ve counteracted the modest temperature increases. Right? Unless CO2 is saturated….

    • David Appell says:

      Why must one correct for water vapor?

      Really???

      Because water vapor is a major greenhouse gas, and its atmospheric level has increased by about 4% in the last 30 years (due to global warming itself — warmer air holds more moisture).

      So this change affects OLR, and must be accounted for it you want to detect decadal differences in OLR. Understand?

      • cosmoscon says:

        Thanks for making my point for me David! Water vapor is much more important to atmospheric absorption of OLR than the saturated CO2.

      • Everyone knows water vapor is a greenhouse gas. They also know it is a feedback, not a forcing.

        Stick to writing for the american ‘thinker’ — no one else would have you, since you’re obviously scientifically inept.

        • nycrunner says:

          David, you quoting stuff that everybody knows. be a real man and use your brain. THINK. be a scientist and just for one second say, what if the opposite were true? what if the claim other scientist have are correct? do the math, do some thinking, and well, if you find no other answer, you can go back and state what you know coz you did the math, did the science behind it. this is not supposed to be a religion, or a cult.
          from my standpoint, i say CO2 has some effect, but not to the levels described by alarmists. some VERY basic themodynamics can get you to that conclusion.

      • nycrunner says:

        you just proved the point that water vapour has a more significant effect on global warming.
        water vapour goes up, temperature goes up. have you ever gone to a desert? it gets really hot during the day, but at night the temperature plummets down to freezing. and do you know what’s scarce in the desert? *drum roll*…. water! hence nothing to trap the heat.
        go to the desert, release some CO2 and tell me if that traps any measurable amounts of heat.

    • > Temperature anomalies increased by only 0.2 C during that time…

      Temperature of what? The surface, the ocean surface, the ocean as a whole, its top half, the troposphere, the stratosphere…?

      And actually, you will find that the global surface temperature as measured by GISS increased by 0.4 C from 1970 to 1997.

    • Your assumptions about the SB Law are equally misguided — it applies to blackbodies, not atomic absorption and emission.

      It’s clear by now that your understanding of the science needs a lot of work. So stick to publishing in The American ‘Thinker,’ and leave the Real Thinking to others.

  10. nycrunner says:

    what astounds me the most out of this entire article is not the content, but the comments. it shocks me to see how close minded and self-righteous people online are.
    i guess it is a mixture of politics (the other side is always WRONG, no matter what they say), internet (i know it all coz i read it on a website) and just plain ignorance (i don’t think i need an example for this one).

    i have not yet met one scientist, or spoken with one person who has calculated or seen the calculation that shows that a 0.01% increase in CO2 has any measurable effect on earth. there are plenty of data and websites showing that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and others that show that the earth is warming up. NONE, the link them together (Scientifically of course), none that link them together other than just making a claim of “duh, what else could it be”.

    as cosmoscon points out, water has a much bigger influence on the earth’s temperature, and that can be shown by math/science and by effects on the planet.

  11. David Appell says:

    >> i have not yet met one scientist, or spoken with one person who has calculated or seen the calculation that shows that a 0.01% increase in CO2 has any measurable effect on earth. <<

    We are not talking about a 0.01% increase, but a 40% increase in atmospheric CO2 levels since the pre-industrial era.

  12. charles says:

    Well, Why the AGW crowd keeps messaging data. use charting tricks etc to promote their view. Why does the opposition whom wants to check their results fight tooth and nail to get access to the methods the AGW crowd uses?… In some cases still haven’t gotten access to what data they used.
    Anyway? this may add color to the above…link: http://homeclimateanalysis.blogspot.com/p/status-report.html

    next why did a malariea(sp) appointed by state dept.USA get turned away an told he didn’t submit? OOP’s he sent request by certified mail…Those IPCC guys were caught. let him review the malaria section , oh he had to rewrite what the so called scientist(the two of em, with one paper between them)(IPCC was going to use)…Well, that’s not science and these are the guys running the IPCC are allowing until conored….Hmmm.

    I can’t see leaglly blind, I make typo’s amd spelling errors which I will not correct….

    But let’s say the AGW guys are correct. reducing emmissions of co2 will do what?
    it will not stop the increase in co2…does it double in 100 years or 150 years, what’s the difference …we would experience the same effect just later by a few decades…common sense I use says reducing emissions is Folly period! fortunately, I am convince the AGW science is very flawed!

    Re st. data on OLR…didn’t the MIT guy write a paper saying no decrease in OLR? I think so.
    The IPCC guys et al. can’t fire him or muzzle him…hmmm. I worry about the group that trys to muzzle an different point of view…ever consider that warmer Earth causes more co2 in atmosphere…That’s what historical data suggests….Why did the AGW guys graphs leave out the medieval warm period in their graph? why? why have they left out the warming between 1700 and 1735? why?
    re: “”Between 1700 and 1735, according to the world’s oldest instrumental temperature dataset, the temperature in central England rose by 2.2 degrees C, equivalent to 6.3 C/century, or about nine times the warming rate seen in the 20th century””” Why has the AGW guys not told us this?

    regards charles nelson

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  17. John Arve says:

    I just need to get something cleared out here: What does the tables/graphs for each of the “major components” above show?
    I.e. the line for CO2: Does it show how much radiation is absorbed if CO2 was the only gas in the atmosphere, or does it show how big percentage of radiation is absorbed by a single molecule of CO2, or what?
    One thing i do understand: it can not show how much of the radiation going out from earth which gets absorbed by CO2 in total, because it would be impossible for CO2 to absorb 100 % at the same time as watervapour absorbs 50%. Or am I totally asleep here?

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  19. I saw the comments here and get quite interested in the issues being pointed out. Not saying on the level of correctness of the claims above, here are the points that I think the writer may want to look deeper into,

    1. Climate modeling is not about data massaging but about “extrapolating” the data based on scientific knowledge that we know. So making a climate model is nothing more than back-calculation to verify a theory. The climate scientists hypothesize which factors might contribute more significantly than the others then they apply the known physics of such factors into the model. Subsequently, they run the model and compare it with historic data to verify the accuracy of such model. If it does not fit yet, they would add in/opt out factors that were/are considered to be insignificant and then run the model again until it match the historical data. Subsequently, the complete model is then extrapolated to give future data.

    2. There is a phenomenon called “peak boardening” just google it. Basically, when a GHG, CO2 for instance, reaches its saturated absorption capability, further addition of CO2 would not pull the peak out of 100% but would boarden the peak to the neighboring wavelengths. As you can see from the right most peak, the phenomenon has already happening at this wavelength for a long time and it would most likely still continue. And for worst, this boardening is eating into the region where Water vapor is least effective in stopping the IR radiation. Look for yourself and see what could that much amount of extra energy being trapped do to the global warming issue.

    3. Water vapor is obviously the most significant GHG. However, the rate of precipitation of water vapor is not a limiting factor (the atmospheric resident time is short). The increased release of water vapor into the atmosphere would only result in more precipitation (provided there is enough CCN – another interesting knowledge that you might want to look further into). Therefore, increased emission of water vapor (which is already impossible since 75% of the Earth area is water-air interface, look for yourself how enormous is the amount of vaporization you are expecting from this) would not raise the average water vapor content in the atmosphere.

    The only factor that potentially affects atmospheric water vapor content is the ocean/air interface temperature. This, however, is a debatable issue because without temperature being increased, the atmospheric water vapor content could not be effectively raised from the current average. So look for yourself, which could have potentially happened before the other? Increase in atmospheric water vapor content or global warming?

    4. Unlike atmospheric water vapor content, CO2 precipitation rate is a limiting factor. The major precipitation destination for CO2 was the ocean, whereby CO2 is converted into CO3(2-) and pulled out from the atmosphere. However, the rate of CO2 precipitation decreases as the temperature increases (for water vapor, increase in temperature would only result in more precipitation). Hence, increase in the rate of emission of CO2 would at one point in time increase the temperature to such extend that it inhibit the CO2 precipitation process, causing more CO2 to be remained in the atmosphere, which, in turn, increase the temperature. So is this issue worth a view? Look for yourself.

    5. Why is the effect of water vapor must be taken away for their analysis? Good question. Water vapor is having short atmospheric resident time, therefore, it is the most fluctuating factor. There might not be an overall increase in water vapor content but in short term, due to randomness, yes, there is. Hence, to really account for the different caused by CO2 alone, trying to eliminate the annoying randomness caused by water vapor is not an illogical assumption at all. A mass murderer is hiding from the crowd, yes, there is a lot of grade of people in the crowd (some might be mass murderer as well) would you rather imprison the whole crowd or find a way to isolate the required subject? Again, look for yourself.

  20. Rob says:

    You guys won’t ever change the author’s mind. He’s a true believer and they will stick to what they believe no matter the evidence. He probably believes two of every creature on earth once fit into a four hundred foot long boat.

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