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Out of thin air... and back into it again

11 Nov 2020 | Science Notes

Even though alarmists are sure they can spot the effects of climate change everywhere they look, scientists know just how hard it is to actually measure the effect of greenhouse gases. A new review of developments in marine science, summarized by Kenneth Richard, goes over the numbers. When warming of the Earth's climate occurs, 93 percent of it goes into the oceans, some into the land surface and only one percent is taken up by the atmosphere. So we should be measuring the changes in heat energy in the oceans to understand how much the climate is changing. The problem is we have neither historical nor current data for half the volume of the oceans, namely the deepest parts, so we can't measure the biggest part of the changes. OK, then, can we instead measure it at the top of the atmosphere? Nope, not there either.

The uncertainty problem is enormous and starts at the top. That is, with the energy reaching our planet from the sun and the amount radiating back out, on which for all the talk of precision and air of certainty, when it comes to the science assumptions again dwarf observations.

It is broadly agreed that incoming solar energy amounts to roughly 342 Watts per square meter hitting the top of the atmosphere. But we emphasize that roughly because there’s a margin of error of plus or minus 4 watts per square meter in even the best satellites. Despite which, those alarmists who discount natural warming and cooling cycles and believe temperature would be, or indeed, was, stable until man-made CO2 began to appear in the atmosphere, claim in the absence of human influence the Earth's natural cooling mechanisms would necessarily radiate exactly whatever is coming in back out to space, resulting in stable temperature. Recently however, in this theory, anthropogenic greenhouse gas accumulation is expected to have thrown the balance off by a whopping 0.1 Watt per square meter, leading to a tiny amount of warming of the atmosphere and oceans. But as noted, our best satellites can't measure the energy flows more precisely than plus or minus 4 watts per square meter. So how do they know when the signal is lost in the noise?

Where does the certainty come from that we can detect anthropogenic effects on the climate and blame them squarely on humans? Or more to the point, where do we get the confidence to point to every passing storm and insist we can see a human fingerprint on it?

As noted, it’s not from measurements of the deep ocean, since they don't exist. And it’s also not from satellite measurements of the top of the atmosphere, since they aren't precise enough. That leaves thin, thin air.

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