Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Not a Quack

Earlier I wrote a post about the Solar Global Warming Theory (which I'll call SGW as opposed to AGW -- Anthropogenic or Human-Caused....)

I said that I was holding a small bit of reservation on his theory due to the fact that National Geographic had this to say about it in it's article:

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in Abdussamatov's theory is his dismissal of the greenhouse effect, in which atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide help keep heat trapped near the planet's surface.
He claims that carbon dioxide has only a small influence on Earth's climate and virtually no influence on Mars.
This is the bit that "The Concensus™ " uses to dismiss him. If, indeed, he was denying the existence of "the greenhouse effect" -- that is, that certain gasses in the atmosphere are very transparent in the visible spectrum but very absorbant/radiant in the infared spectrum and act as a sort of a blanket on the earth keeping it warmer than it would be without them, I'd say he's a bit suspect.

But here are the man's credentials. You couldn't be that unknowledgable about physics and especially black body radiation theory and get where he's gotten.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, born in Samarkand in Uzbekistan in 1940, graduated from Samarkand University in 1962 as a physicist and a mathematician. He earned his doctorate at Pulkovo Observatory and the University of Leningrad.

He is the head of the space research laboratory of the Russian Academies of Sciences' Pulkovo Observatory and of the International Space Station's Astrometry project, a long-term joint scientific research project of the Russian and Ukranian space agencies.

He has several published articles in the academic journal Solar Physics. I suspect he has the data to back his theory up.
So there must be some other explanation for the claim that he "dismisses" the greenhouse effect. Further into the interview, we get this:
"Mars has global warming, but without a greenhouse and without the participation of Martians," he told me. "These parallel global warmings -- observed simultaneously on Mars and on Earth -- can only be a straightline consequence of the effect of the one same factor: a long-time change in solar irradiance."

The sun's increased irradiance over the last century, not C02 emissions, is responsible for the global warming we're seeing, says the celebrated scientist, and this solar irradiance also explains the great volume of C02 emissions.

"It is no secret that increased solar irradiance warms Earth's oceans, which then triggers the emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So the common view that man's industrial activity is a deciding factor in global warming has emerged from a misinterpretation of cause and effect relations."

Dr. Abdussamatov goes further, debunking the very notion of a greenhouse effect. "Ascribing 'greenhouse' effect properties to the Earth's atmosphere is not scientifically substantiated," he maintains. "Heated greenhouse gases, which become lighter as a result of expansion, ascend to the atmosphere only to give the absorbed heat away."

In the first paragraph he talks about simultaneous global warming on two neighboring planets. He believes that variations in solar radiation output is a better explanation here than random chance. I tend to agree.
In the next two paragraphs, he discusses the effect of a warmer globe on the solubility of CO2 in the earth's oceans, and its subsequent release into Earth's atmosphere. He suggests that this may be the major underlying factor behind the C02 increase we've seen in the atmosphere over the last 100 years rather than industrial/energy generation output. This is backed up by historical climatological studies that show that CO2 increases in the atmosphere actually lag behind global temperature increases.
The final paragraph must be where they say he dismisses the greenhouse effect. A close look at his actual words as opposed to the article's author using the word "debunking" it is clear that he is saying that it has less of an effect than the current scientific wisdom thinks it does. He is describing convection that is really pretty much glossed over in the basic "prove that the earth's temperature is as warm as it is because of C02 in the atmosphere" meteorology school problem.
He's right. There are all kinds of assumptions in the solution to that problem. And he may be right that it is not scientifically substantiated in that there's a possibility that non-theoretical (that is, observation-based) studies have shown that what we model in theory is, in fact, what is actually happening.
So just to verify, I contacted the man directy, and he graciously responded.
He does not "dismiss" the greenhouse effect as it is properly defined (see most of these definitions) -- one of which is this:
The effect produced as greenhouse gases allow incoming solar radiation to pass through the Earth's atmosphere, but prevent part of the outgoing infrared adiation from the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally and has kept the Earth's temperature about 59 degrees F warmer than it would otherwise be. Current life on Earth could not be sustained without the natural greenhouse effect.
He is not denying the existence of this natural greenhouse effect. I believe it is an artifact of translation -- English is not his first language -- that he substitutes this term for the theory of CO2-induced global warming. That is clearly what he means when you read the rest of what he has to say.

What he is doing is minimizing the role of CO2, especially additional CO2, in the process. Contrary to popular belief, he has a lot of company.

I will paraphrase what he had to say because I did not ask permission to quote him directly ( I don't think he'd mind, but I didn't ask)
He says that talking about CO2 as a major factor in the small warming we have seen isn't justified. In theory, CO2 could only be responsible for about 12% of any warming effect. Convection and mixing move heat away from the lower troposphere further reducing its potential effect. And finally, he says (and you're welcomed to look this up -- he's right) that there has been no observed correlation between increased CO2 in the atmosphere and average global temperature in the 20th Century.
Most estimates show a warming of 0.5C or 0.6C degrees over the past 100 years. This would mean that increased CO2 if the model is correct, could only be responsible for 0.0072C degrees.

Observation says that the model is waaaaaay to simple to show what effect additional CO2 has in the atmosphere, and any tweaks we make to the model are guesses. The model is not reality. Physics is not physical reality. A model is basically an essay in the language of Physics, which is a language we use to try to describe physical reality to the best of our ability.

Sometimes that ability isn't very good. Observation also shows that we haven't produced a model anywhere near capable of predicting earth's response to additional CO2.

Observation DOES, however, show that the earth has at times been much cooler with more CO2 than we have today, and also that the warmer it gets, the more CO2 we find in the atmosphere -- and get this: the increase in CO2 comes after the warming. This is observation, not speculation. This is not a model. This is what we observe.

I am quite happy to give my endorsement to Dr. Abdussamatov as a rational, qualified professional physicist who we have at least as much reason to believe as any other rational, qualified professional physicist. The qualifications I put on my endorsement of his ideas & research are hereby dropped.

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