Oceanic Forcing Rules, Not Radiative Effects

Roy Clark explains how climate science built an house of cards obscuring the actual physical mechanisms driving observed climate fluctuations. Text of his recent post at WUWT in italics with my bolds.

The basic issue is that there is no such thing as a climate sensitivity to CO2 or any other so called ‘greenhouse gas’. Radiative forcing can politely be described as climate theology – how does a change in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 change the number of angels that may dance on the head of a climate pin? The climate equilibrium assumption was used by Arrhenius in his 1896 estimate of global warming. In this paper he traced the concept back to Pouillet in 1838. Speculation that changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration could somehow cause an Ice Age started with John Tyndall in 1863.

To get to the bottom of the radiative forcing nonsense it is necessary to go back to Fourier in 1827 and start over with the real physics of the surface energy transfer.

The essential part that almost everyone seems to have missed in this paper is the time delay or phase shift between the solar flux and the surface temperature response. The daily phase shift in MSAT can reach 2 hours and the seasonal phase shift can reach 6 to 8 weeks. This is clear evidence for non-equilibrium thermal storage. The same kind of non-equilibrium phase shift on different time and energy scales occurs with electrical energy storage in capacitors and inductors in AC circuits – low pass filters, tank circuits etc.

The equilibrium average climate assumption was used by Manabe and Wetherald (M&W) in their 1967 climate modeling paper. They abandoned physical reality and created global warming as a mathematical artifact of their input modeling assumptions. The rest of the climate modelers followed like lemmings jumping off a cliff. In the 1979 Charney report, no-one looked at the underlying assumptions. The radiative transfer results were reasonable –for the total long wave IR (LWIR) flux at the top and bottom atmosphere – and the mathematical derivation of the flux balance equations was correct. The increase in surface temperature was the a-priori expected result. Radiative forcing and the invalid equilibrium flux balance equations were discussed by Ramanathan and Coakley in 1978. The prescribed mathematical ritual of radiative forcing in climate models was described by Hansen et al in 1981. They also introduced a fraudulent ‘slab’ ocean model and did a bait and switch from surface to weather station temperatures.

The LWIR flux interacts with the surface, not the weather station thermometer at eye level above the ground.

Radiative forcing is still an integral part of IPCC climate models [IPCC, 2013]. Physical reality has been abandoned in favor of mathematical simplicity. Among other things, M&W threw out the Second Law of Thermodynamics along with at least 4 other Laws of Physics. The underlying requirement for climate stability is that the absorbed solar heat be dissipated by the surface. This requires a time dependent thermal and or humidity gradient at the surface.

The starting point for any realistic climate system is that the upward LWIR flux from the top of the atmosphere does not define an equilibrium average temperature of 255 K. Instead it is the cumulative cooling flux emitted from multiple levels down through the atmosphere. The upward emission from each level is then attenuated by the LWIR absorption/emission along the upward path to space [Feldman et al, 2008]. Another fundamental error in the radiative forcing argument is the failure to consider the molecular line width effects. Part of this was due to the band model simplifications that are still used in the climate models to speed up the calculations. The IR flux through the atmosphere consists of absorption and emission from many thousands of overlapping molecular lines, mainly from CO2 and water vapor [Rothman et al, 2005].

As the temperature and pressure decrease with altitude, these lines become narrower and transmission ‘gaps’ open up between the lines. This produces a gradual transition from absorption/emission to a free photon flux to space.

The radiative forcing argument has also obscured the fact that the heat lost to space is replaced by convection, not LWIR radiation. The troposphere is an open cycle heat engine that transports heat from the surface by moist convection. It is stored in the troposphere as gravitational potential energy. As a high altitude air parcel cools by LWIR emission, it contracts and sinks back down through the troposphere. The upward LWIR flux to space is decoupled from the surface by the linewidth effects. The downward LWR flux from the upper troposphere cannot reach the surface and cause any kind of change in the surface temperature. Almost all of the downward LWIR flux reaching the surface originated from within the first 2 km layer of the troposphere and about half of this comes from the first 100 m layer.

Figure 2: Thermal reservoirs, surface energy transfer and thermal storage (schematic). The surface is heated by the sun and cooled by a combination of net LWIR emission, convection and evaporation. Heat is stored below the surface and released over a range of time scales. There is no ‘equilibrium average temperature’. Source: Roy Clark


Near the surface, the lines in the main bands for CO2 and water vapor are sufficiently broadened that they merge into a continuum. There is an atmospheric transmission window in the 8 to 12 micron spectral region that allows part of the surface LWIR flux to escape directly to space. The magnitude of this transmitted cooling flux varies with cloud cover and humidity. The downward LWIR flux to the surface from the broad molecular emission bands provides an LWIR exchange energy that ‘blocks’ the upward LWIR flux from the surface. Photons are exchanged without any net heat transfer.

In order for the surface to cool, it must heat up until the excess absorbed solar heat is removed by moist convection. This is the real cause of the so called ‘greenhouse effect’.

It requires the application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics to the surface exchange energy. There is no equilibrium average climate so there can be no average ‘greenhouse effect temperature’ of 33 K. Instead, the greenhouse effect is just the downward LWIR flux from the lower troposphere to the surface. It can be defined as the downward flux or as an ‘opacity factor’ [Rorsch, 2019]. This is the ratio of the downward flux to the total blackbody surface emission.

The surface temperature has to be calculated at the surface using the surface flux balance. The change in local surface temperature is determined by the change in heat content or enthalpy of the local surface thermal reservoir divided by the specific heat [Clark, 2013a, b]. The LWIR flux cannot be separated from the other flux terms and analyzed independently. The land and ocean surface behave differently and have to be considered separately.

Over land, the various flux terms interact with a thin surface layer. During the day, the surface heating produces a thermal gradient both with the cooler air layer above and the subsurface layers below. The surface-air gradient drives the convection or sensible heat flux. The subsurface thermal gradient conducts heat into the first 0.5 to 2 meter layer of the ground. Later in the day this thermal gradient reverses and the stored heat is released back into the troposphere. The thermal gradients are reduced by evaporation if the land surface is moist. An important consideration in setting the land surface temperature is the night time convection transition temperature at which the surface and surface air temperatures equalize. Convection then essentially stops and the surface continues to cool more slowly by net LWIR emission. This convection transition temperature is reset each day by the local weather conditions.

The ocean surface is almost transparent to the solar flux. Approximately 90% of the solar flux is absorbed within the first 10 m ocean layer. The surface-air temperature gradient is quite small, usually less than 2 K. The excess absorbed solar heat is removed through a combination of net LWIR emission and wind driven evaporation. The penetration depth of the LWIR flux into the ocean surface is 100 µm or less and the evaporation involves the removal of water molecules from a thin surface layer [Hale and Querry, 1972]. These two processes combine to produce cooler water at the surface that sinks and is replaced by warmer water from below. This is a Rayleigh-Benard convection process, not simple diffusion. There are distinct columns of water moving in opposite directions. The upwelling warmer water allows the wind driven ocean evaporation to continue at night. As the cooler water sinks, it carries with it the surface momentum or linear motion produced by the wind coupling at the surface. This establishes the subsurface ocean gyre currents. Outside of the tropics there is a seasonal phase shift that may reach 6 to 8 weeks.

This phase shift can only occur with ocean solar heating. The heat capacity of the land thermal reservoir is too small to produce this effect. In many parts of the world, the prevailing weather systems are formed over the ocean. The temperature changes related to the ocean surface are stored by the weather system as the bulk surface air temperature and this information can be transported over very long distances. Such ocean related phase shifts can be found in the daily climate data for weather stations in places like Sioux Falls SD.

Over the oceans, the wind driven evaporation can never exactly balance the solar heating. This produces the ocean oscillations such as the ENSO, PDO and AMO.

These surface temperature changes are incorporated into the various weather systems and can be seen in the long term climate data, particularly the minimum MSAT. The whole global warming scam is based on nothing more than the last AMO warming cycle coupled into the weather station data [Akasofu, 2010].

Figure 1: Change in wind speed (cm s-1) needed to restore the ocean surface cooling flux when the downward LWIR flux is increased by 2 W m-2 Both the fixed and the temperature dependent LWIR window flux cases are shown.

A fundamental failure of the radiative forcing argument is the lack of any error analysis. Over the last 200 years, the atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased by a little over 120 ppm. This has produced an increase in the downward LWIR flux at the surface of about 2 W m-2 [Harde, 2017]. Over the oceans this is coupled into the first 100 micron layer of the ocean surface. Here it is fully coupled to the wind driven evaporation. Using long term ocean evaporation data from Yu et al, 2008, an approximate estimate of the evaporation rate within the ±30 degree latitude region is 15 Watts per square meter for each change in wind speed of 1 meter per second.

This means that the radiative forcing from an increase of 120 ppm in the CO2 concentration amounts to a change in wind speed of about 13 CENTIMETERS per second.

This is at least two orders of magnitude below the normal variation in ocean wind speed. Similarly, a reasonable estimate of the bulk convection coefficient for dry land is 20 Watts per square meter per degree C difference between surface and air temperature. Here a 2 W m-2 change in convection requires a change of 0.1 C in the surface air thermal gradient.

Once the physics of the time dependent surface energy transfer is restored, global warming and radiative forcing disappear into the realm of computerized climate fiction.

The topic of radiative forcing was recently reviewed in detail by Ramaswamy et al [2019] as part of the American Meteorological Society monographs series. This review provides a good start for a scientific and criminal fraud investigation into the climate modeling fraud. To begin, the scientific community should demand that this particular monograph be retracted and all further work on equilibrium climate modeling be stopped. Any climate model that uses radiative forcing is by definition invalid. There is no need to try and validate the computer code of any equilibrium climate model. The use of radiative forcing alone is sufficient to render the results totally useless. These modelers are not scientists, they are mathematicians playing with a set of physically meaningless equations. They left physical reality behind when they made the climate equilibrium assumption. They are now members of a rather unpleasant quasi-religious cult. They believe that the divine spaghetti plots created by the computer climate models come from a higher authority that the Laws of Physics.

Figure 12: The ocean surface energy balance in the tropical warm pool. The evaporative surface cooling is strongly dependent on the wind speed. Source: Roy Clark

Any realistic climate model must correctly predict the changes in ocean temperature caused by the ocean oscillations. These must then be used to predict the changes in the weather station data.

This must include the minimum and maximum surface air temperatures, surface temperatures and the phase shifts. There are no forcings, feedbacks or climate sensitivities, just time dependent rates of heating and cooling. It is time to welcome the Second Law of Thermodynamics back to the climate models. It has always been part of the Earth’s climate system. [See linked post for references]

Roy Clark’s research studies are available at his website Ventura Photonics

See Also Bill Gray: H20 is Climate Control Knob, not CO2



  1. david russell · December 30, 2019

    Interesting. Now what kind of experimental proof could be constructed to confirm? That would be Nobel Prize material so that’s a big incentive.


    • Ron Clutz · December 30, 2019

      David, if you follow the link to the WUWT post, you will find numerous references, including two of his own published articles. At Ventura Photonics, he has updated 2019 versions of a set of papers setting forth his view of the climate system.

      For references to empirical studies see especially this paper:

      Click to access CoupledThermalReservoir_Part_V_Summary.pdf


      • James R Siverly · May 3, 2021

        Ron, thank you for posting and enhancing this WUWT comment by Roy Clark and providing the link to that pdf. Unfortunately the link to VenturaPhotonics.com is no longer good. Use venturaphotonics.com/index.html to get contact info.


      • Ron Clutz · May 3, 2021

        james, thanks for your comment and helpful suggestion. Strangely, in my browser the above link brings up the pdf no problem.


  2. Hifast · January 2, 2020

    Reblogged this on Climate Collections.


  3. cognog2 · January 5, 2020

    Can anyone tell me how to get access to the Ramaswamy et al paper 2019 or more importantly the one referred to in the IPCC. definition of Radiative Forcing? I have long suspected that these contain the basic logical bug which now plagues the whole climate debate. A bug now lost in the citation process.


  4. James R Siverly · May 4, 2021

    Yes, Ron, your link to Roy’s pdf works fine. There were other links at VenturaPhotonics.com that are no longer there.


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