# Small Mystery Explained

The official energy budget contains a small value that some may not understand.

What is does that “0.6 net absorbed” value mean?

The answer is that most energy budgets mix normal (“all”) sky and clear sky conditions.

To show this, I will use NOAA’s 20th Century Version 3 Reanalysis data. The code is short:

```# Zoe Phin, 2021/03/27
# File: point6.sh

require() { sudo apt-get install -y nco; }

wget -c ftp://ftp2.psl.noaa.gov/Datasets/20thC_ReanV3/Monthlies/sfcFlxSI-MO/ulwrf.sfc.mon.mean.nc
wget -c ftp://ftp2.psl.noaa.gov/Datasets/20thC_ReanV3/Monthlies/clrSkyFlxSI-MO/csulf.sfc.mon.mean.nc
}

avg() {
awk -F '[= ]' '{
a=6378.137; e=1-6356.752^2/a^2; r=atan2(0,-1)/180; l=\$4-0.5
S+=\$8*(a*r)^2*(1-e)*cos(r*l)/(1-e*sin(r*l)^2)^2/510.044e6
} END { printf "%8.4f\n", S }'
}

parse() {
rm -f .sfclw .clslw
cmd="ncks --trd -HC -d lat,1,179 -d time,"
for t in {0..2159}; do
echo \$t
\$cmd\$t,\$t -v ulwrf ulwrf.sfc.mon.mean.nc | avg >> .sfclw
\$cmd\$t,\$t -v csulf csulf.sfc.mon.mean.nc | avg >> .clslw
done
}

point6() {
paste .sfclw .clslw | awk '{printf "%4d %s\n", 1836+(NR-1)/12, \$1-\$2}' | awk '
{ A[\$1]+=\$2/12 } END { for (y in A) printf "%4d %8.4f\n", y, A[y] }' | column -c 64
}
```

The result is for years 1836 to 2015 is:

``````1836 0.693 1881 0.683 1926 0.677 1971 0.675
1837 0.694 1882 0.678 1927 0.674 1972 0.665
1838 0.692 1883 0.681 1928 0.676 1973 0.670
1839 0.694 1884 0.676 1929 0.674 1974 0.669
1840 0.696 1885 0.680 1930 0.673 1975 0.675
1841 0.694 1886 0.684 1931 0.680 1976 0.668
1842 0.694 1887 0.683 1932 0.671 1977 0.671
1843 0.692 1888 0.681 1933 0.669 1978 0.675
1844 0.693 1889 0.686 1934 0.668 1979 0.665
1845 0.691 1890 0.688 1935 0.671 1980 0.667
1846 0.690 1891 0.685 1936 0.673 1981 0.667
1847 0.692 1892 0.690 1937 0.662 1982 0.670
1848 0.694 1893 0.685 1938 0.670 1983 0.667
1849 0.692 1894 0.683 1939 0.666 1984 0.665
1850 0.689 1895 0.679 1940 0.670 1985 0.669
1851 0.688 1896 0.681 1941 0.673 1986 0.669
1852 0.689 1897 0.683 1942 0.677 1987 0.661
1853 0.684 1898 0.683 1943 0.675 1988 0.665
1854 0.685 1899 0.681 1944 0.676 1989 0.666
1855 0.682 1900 0.685 1945 0.670 1990 0.667
1856 0.687 1901 0.682 1946 0.677 1991 0.668
1857 0.688 1902 0.684 1947 0.683 1992 0.676
1858 0.688 1903 0.695 1948 0.678 1993 0.672
1859 0.686 1904 0.686 1949 0.673 1994 0.669
1860 0.691 1905 0.687 1950 0.668 1995 0.668
1861 0.693 1906 0.685 1951 0.672 1996 0.668
1862 0.686 1907 0.686 1952 0.668 1997 0.660
1863 0.692 1908 0.690 1953 0.672 1998 0.669
1864 0.694 1909 0.691 1954 0.684 1999 0.665
1865 0.688 1910 0.690 1955 0.683 2000 0.661
1866 0.695 1911 0.692 1956 0.675 2001 0.661
1867 0.689 1912 0.688 1957 0.674 2002 0.663
1868 0.688 1913 0.680 1958 0.675 2003 0.663
1869 0.693 1914 0.679 1959 0.676 2004 0.667
1870 0.691 1915 0.680 1960 0.674 2005 0.662
1871 0.687 1916 0.690 1961 0.673 2006 0.663
1872 0.690 1917 0.681 1962 0.673 2007 0.669
1873 0.686 1918 0.681 1963 0.670 2008 0.662
1874 0.691 1919 0.685 1964 0.679 2009 0.659
1875 0.681 1920 0.685 1965 0.674 2010 0.669
1876 0.687 1921 0.678 1966 0.676 2011 0.661
1877 0.682 1922 0.682 1967 0.676 2012 0.655
1878 0.684 1923 0.675 1968 0.673 2013 0.658
1879 0.682 1924 0.683 1969 0.670 2014 0.656
1880 0.679 1925 0.672 1970 0.673 2015 0.656
``````

Ah, but that’s not 0.6 you say! Well, it’s not always 0.6. This energy budget has it at 0.71:

And this classic 1997 budget has it at 0.9:

The “imbalance” is just a difference between normal (“all”) sky and clear sky. This “imbalance” is just the “greenhouse effect” of clouds. And what a small and pathetic “greenhouse effect” it is.

In my opinion, it’s not a greenhouse effect at all, but the extra amount of energy it takes to have clouds in the first place. I feel the standard interpretation confuses cause and effect. Maybe I’m wrong. If so, someone please explain how it doesn’t take energy to create clouds.

That’s all for now. Enjoy đź™‚ -Zoe

https://phzoe.com

## 27 thoughts on “Small Mystery Explained”

1. Tim C says:

Zoe,

Net absorbed is just the difference between incoming solar radiation and total outgoing radiation. It represents the rate at which earth is accumulating energy on average, heating it up.

As greenhouse gas concentrations grow, the earth radiates to space less effectively. Meanwhile solar input is the same. Thus there is a net absorption of energy (positive energy balance), which will continue until the temperature rises high enough to reach a new equilibrium.

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1. Do you have an experiment for that? Please don’t tell me Earth is the only experiment. Science is all about replication.

You’re talking about lw_net_toa, which is a different thing.

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2. Tim C says:

Try it yourself: subtract the outgoing energy flux from incoming energy flux to get the total net flux. Youâ€™ll find itâ€™s exactly equal to the â€śnet absorbedâ€ť number.

In fact this works for the net flux at TOA or at the surface. The former measures the net absorbed energy of the surface and atmosphere; the latter the net absorbed energy of just the surface. The two are basically equal because the surface has much higher thermal inertia, so accounts for the vast majority of absorbed energy.

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1. You’re not giving an explanation, just math.
Ask yourself how it’s possible for a budget to mention clear skies.

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2. Tim C says:

I think a mathematical explanation is always the best sort. But whatâ€™s going on here is just energy conservation: if energy is entering some region of space faster than it is leaving, that region must be accumulating energy.

These budgets represent an average over the whole globe and over time. So it is the average of clear sky and cloudy conditions.

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3. Tim C says:

The energy budgets you displayed in the main article only give the average energy flows across all conditions. Presumably to compute the values involving clouds, the authors used data from different cloud conditions.

In any case, the total energy absorbed doesn’t depend on the particulars of heat flows inside the system. It is determined by the total power in minus the total power out. At TOA, the power in comes entirely from the sun, and the power out entirely from outgoing longwave radiation.

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1. “the authors used data from different cloud conditions.”

And when I did that in my linked article, I got ~25 W/m^2 difference at TOA and 0.78 W/m^2 at the surface.

Same thing happens with these budgets with slightly different numbers. They all tell you what happens with clouds at TOA, but not at the surface. How can that be? It can’t. That’s my main point. That 0.6 or 0.71 or 0.9 or 0.78 (as in my article) is just clear sky minus all-sky.

What I think you’re talking about is changes to the greenhouse effect, which is surface_lw_up minus toa_lw_up. That value can be computed, and it has nothing to do with an aditional “net absorbed”.

The greenhouse effect is NOT surface_lw_up – toa_lw_up + net absorbed.

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4. Tim C says:

I think you might be conflating two different numbers. I haven’t analyzed enough to comment on your analysis of clear sky vs all sky flux right now, but I see you came up with a number near 0.5 – 1 W/m^2.

Still, it’s pretty clear to me the “net absorbed” in these diagrams has nothing to do with cloud conditions, though it might happen to be a similar value. It’s just the difference between total incoming and total outgoing radiation.

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1. You can’t really have an inequality in radiative transfers. If you do, your emissivity, albedo, etc parameters are wrong.

Things to keep in mind:
1) CERES has a 4 W/m^2 margin of error
2) Insolation is not measured by the same satellites that measures other parts of the energy budget.

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2. Tim C says:

There can be a nonzero energy flux balance. In fact, that must be the case if the planet is gaining energy / increasing in temperature.

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3. Look at my data since 1836. You think there has been a gain between 0.66 and 0.70 every year since 1836? That’s over 120 W/m^2! lol.

It was higher closer to 1836 (0.693) than 2015 (0.656) !

I think you just debunked GHGs.

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4. Tim C says:

Zoe,

No, I donâ€™t think that, because the data you posted isnâ€™t energy imbalance.

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5. But you still see a perpetual imbalance on all shown energy budgets, spanning two+ decades. The 1997 one being the largest. Have we not increased CO2 in two decades?

How do you interpret this imbalance, ontop of ~170 W/m^2 (surface_lw – toa_lw) ?

It makes NO sense.

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6. Tim C says:

The energy imbalance of ~0.7 W/m^2 is consistent with the measured increase in the oceanâ€™s energy content, about 10^22 Joules/year. https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/global-ocean-heat-content/

As for your ~170 W/m^2 (surface_lw â€“ toa_lw), you have to remember that there are other channels for energy to leave the surface, thermals and transpiration. So itâ€™s best to determine energy imbalance at TOA.

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7. Tim, the whole point of this post was to debunk this silly notion.

How about a little sanity check using rough figures?

Mean ocean temp is around 17C. Your data clearly shows an increase of 0.4C from 1977 to 2016, or 40 years.

17C => 401.86 W/m^2
17.4C => 404.08 W/m^2

That’s a difference of 2.22 W/m^2 over 40 years, or 0.055 W/m^2 per year.

How does ~0.7 W/m^2 fit into this? It doesn’t.
You can convert the 0.7 W/m^2 into an “additional heat content” but this has nothing to do with sea surface temperature differences.

All you did was convert 0.7 W/m^2 into Joules per year.

You get it?
It’s circular reasoning.

I think they are applying cloud differences and turning into ocean heat content, rather than using temperature differences OR 0.7 doesn’t match ocean heat content as you claim. Disagree? Show me. Show me the math, because I’m well aware of your argument … but I don’t see the math actually working.

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3. Sin says:

“The solar input is the same”. Please check your astro physics 101, there are multiple variables.

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4. Jarle says:

Tim C,

“As greenhouse gas concentrations grow, the earth radiates to space less effectively”

Can you prove this? Nature is inclined to negative feedback.

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2. semi-smokeless says:

Clouds are composed of very small droplets of liquid water. Most likely water vapor was condensed by giving up its latent heat. The latent heat was transferred (mostly probably) to the surrounding air causing the water vapor to condense into a liquid. Cloud formation doesn’t use energy it just transfers it. A pound of water vapor contains a larger quantity of heat than does a pound of liquid water at atmospheric pressure. The latent heat of vaporization of water being 970.4 btus/lb.

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3. Stray Trons says:

Zoe, I know just enough to be dumb on this stuff, several astronomy classes from university have me questioning some things. How is data like solar irradiance taken into consideration? I see there are different figures for each of the charts regarding incoming solar radiation. What about variance of the Sun, for example the Maunder Minimum; how does that impact the maths?

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1. This data is static, i.e. averaged over a period. There is no time component here. Solar variation is typically small, like 0.1% in the last 50 years. What isn’t small is how stored solar energy in the ocean manifests itself. In fact, I have to admit, I’m somewhat ignorant on this point and climate scientists are not all exactly sure either. It’s still kind of a mystery, though alarmists think they know it all.
Thanks for the comment. I hope my reply was good enough.

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1. Stray Trons says:

Zoe, thank you. I’m reading up on this now. It’s a nice distraction from my usual national security related tech reads. With a bit of luck (and some assistance from my structural materials engineer niece, I think I can learn enough to be dangerous rather than just dumb. As a good mate told me decades ago after a university band jam session, I am not Brian May. It appears the this applies in both fields.

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1. Good luck and enjoy the read đź™‚

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4. Zoe: Kudos to you that you are not just buying into the political narrative of the day. I’m an independent physicist and have a free periodic Newsletter (> 10k subscribers) that covers AGW, Energy, Education, Election, etc. Send me an email, as I guarantee you’ll like it.

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5. Duster says:

Zoe, one factor that has bothered me about AGW “science” for a long time is that storms are, in effect, dissipative systems that extract energy from water vapour, converting it to ice or water droplets depending on the altitude. You can often watch virga beneath a cloud system trailing out and vanishing before it reaches the ground, meaning that the water vapour that condensed to form the virga (and release the energy of condensation) has taken up the same amount of energy again from the air beneath the cloud layer. That means that the cloud system is essentially working as an evaporative cooler. I have yet to read a convincing explanation of where that energy went. Yet, if you looked down on the clouds from above, the emmissions would probably be labeled as albedo. Have you looked into this?

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1. Energy goes into evaporation, and is returned by condensation. There is also horizontal transfer of this evaporated mass by wind.

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