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Dr Roy Spencer: MSM claim that ‘new study shows Earth has been trapping heat at an alarming rate’ has “No Scientific Basis”

A joint study between the two government agencies NASA and NOAA reveals that more energy in the form of heat has been entering and staying in the Earth’s atmosphere than leaving.

The claim is that “the magnitude of the increase is unprecedented.” 

Below is a questioning of the study by former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer, or, more specifically, of the mainstream media’s alarmist take on the study’s findings...

NASA’s Norman Loeb and co-authors examined the CERES satellite instruments’ measurements of how Earth’s radiative energy budget has changed. The period they study is rather limited though, 2005-2019.

The study includes some rather detailed partitioning of what sunlight-reflecting and infrared-emitting processes are responsible for the changes, which is very useful. The research also point out that the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) is responsible for a sizeable portion of what they see in the data, while anthropogenic forcings (and feedbacks from all natural and human-caused forcings) are presumed to account for the rest.

The main problem I have is with the media reporting of these results, writes Dr. Spencer.

The animated graph used in a recent Verge article shows a planetary energy imbalance of about 0.5 W/m2 in 2005 increasing to about 1.0 W/m2 in 2019:

A graph of the study’s results showing an insignificant trend upward from 2005-2019 [NASA/Tim Marvel].


First off, the 0.5 to 1.0 W/m2 energy imbalance is smaller than any of the natural energy flows in the climate system that we know about, points out Spencer. It is basically nothing, and can be compared to the estimated natural energy flows of 235-245 W/m2 in and out of the climate system on an annual basis, approximately 1 part in 300.

Secondly, since we don’t have global energy imbalance measurements before this period, there is absolutely no justification for the claim, “the magnitude of the increase is unprecedented.” 

To expect the natural energy flows in the climate system to stay stable to 1 part in 300 over thousands of years has no scientific basis, and is merely a statement of faith — we have no idea whether such changes have occurred in centuries past.

To conclude, there is no way the data can be called “unprecedented” as it’s the only data we have. And on top of that, it’s showing NOTHING–an increase of just half of a watt in 15 years.

But this is not to fault the CERES data, Dr. Spencer is keen to clarify: I think that NASA’s Bruce Wielicki and Norm Loeb have done a fantastic job with these satellite instruments and their detailed processing of those data.

What bothers me is the alarmist language attached to (1) such a tiny number, and (2) the likelihood that no one will bother to mention the authors attribute part of the change to a natural climate cycle, the PDO.


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5 Thoughts to “Dr Roy Spencer: MSM claim that ‘new study shows Earth has been trapping heat at an alarming rate’ has “No Scientific Basis””

  1. Rosco

    Surely the real question isn’t whether the trend is small BUT this:-

    Just how does a positive anomaly in Net TOA radiation indicate “heat trapping” – a warmer temperature possibly but NOT “heat trapping”.

    Heat is defined as :-

    “heat, energy that is transferred from one body to another as the result of a difference in temperature. If two bodies at different temperatures are brought together, energy is transferred—i.e., heat flows—from the hotter body to the colder. The effect of this transfer of energy usually, but not always, is an increase in the temperature of the colder body and a decrease in the temperature of the hotter body. A substance may absorb heat without an increase in temperature by changing from one physical state (or phase) to another, as from a solid to a liquid (melting), from a solid to a vapour (sublimation), from a liquid to a vapour (boiling), or from one solid form to another (usually called a crystalline transition). The important distinction between heat and temperature (heat being a form of energy and temperature a measure of the amount of that energy present in a body) was clarified during the 18th and 19th centuries.”

    As is evident from the many physical processes involving heat the claim of “heat trapping” inexorably resulting in increased temperature is absurd yet climate “scientists” make this ridiculous assertion all the time.

    AND if there was some atmospheric heat trapping there would be less radiation to space NOT more.

    More radiation may indicate a warmer temperature OR may indicate some other process which such a simple analysis cannot determine.

    The idea that some circular process of heat trapping causes atmospheric heating with the necessary increase in temperature resulting in more radiation to space is completely unprovable and logically flawed !

    And Spencer is wrong on the claim that there is no data analysed before 2005.

    True this data below is from a different satellite series but it originates in 1979.

    https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/Nimbus/nimbus2.php

    Again a positive anomaly for most of the 26 year period analysed inconsistent with any “heat trapping”.

    And why, on the 40th anniversary of the satellite series, was the first 14 years of data which represents more than a third excluded ?

    And how do they justify their ridiculous precision ?

    And how do they justify their assertions and measurements using black body radiation laws when gases do not emit black body radiation ?

    And even if they did the assumption that the sum of P(t1) (= sigma.t(1)^4 ) plus P(t2) (=(sigma.t(2)^4) = – say – P(t3) where t3 is calculated by the SB law is not valid mathematically.

    From real black body maths P = sigma.(t)^4 using unit area emissions and this is also the area under the Planck curve for t.

    This area is the integral of Planck’s equation for t – let’s call it f(t).

    The rules of Calculus state unequivocally that the integral of f(t1) plus the integral of f(t2) equals the integral of the sum ( f(t1) + f(t2)) !

    The the integral of f(t1) is also equal to sigma.t(1)^4 – the Stefan-Boltzmann law.

    Thus sigma.t(1)^4 + sigma.t(2)^4 MUST ALSO equal the integral relationship – that is the integral of the sum ( f(t1) + f(t2)) !

    Plot some Planck curves using whatever domain you chose and note this assumption of sigma.t(1)^4 + sigma.t(2)^4 resulting in a value from which one can calculate temperature is always wrong !

    Here is a link explaining the maths

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/mko3w38vqouozpb/Simple%20Model%20of%20greenhouse%20mathematics.docx?dl=0

  2. James H. Shanley

    The earth is said to be about 3 billion yrs old maybe more, who cares; The sun has been warming the earth all that time and so have volcanoes.and the earth itself. A lot of the heat has been sequestered in coal, shale and limestone.. Some excaped into space. Now we are told that the earth is holding onto heat because man caused atmospheric CO2 it increase to 400 plus ppm. I think it’s logical to ask the so called experts to tell us what level of CO2 will induce the earth to do it’s thing and get rid of all that extra heat.

  3. James H. Shanley

    Rosco: Your comments on heat transfer are technically correct, but I think it’s time to point out that the global warming crowd use the term “radiative” to cover the suns energy and the science of heat transfer. I believe that they have conflated the meaning of the two ( on purpose, they know the difference” . The difference, which the average person can understand. The suns energy travels to earth by means of photons, which is not depleted in making the long trip to earth. When the photons encounter matter, they transfer heat to mater. The heated material cannot emit photons, it must rely on the science of heat transfer. I believe that some scientists presented a false narative with the intent to deceive. That sounds like fraud to me.

  4. Clyde

    And I suppose that 0.56 W m-2 dec-1 reduction in the contribution to TOA radiant flux from surface skin temperature had nothing to do with it? LOL

    For the record, that reduction in radiant flux from surface skin temperature means that from 2002-2020, the planet has cooled… the S-B law is all the mathematics you need to prove that.

    Now, I’m sure some warmist is going to claim that the surface skin temperature contribution to TOA radiant flux decreased because ‘greenhouse’ gases increasing in concentration blocked more of the surface radiant exitance… yeah, no.

    Surface radiant exitance is at a waveband centered at ~10.076 µm, which is within the ~8-14 µm Infrared Atmospheric Window. The overwhelming majority of that radiation has a nearly unfettered path out to space.

    Now, add that 1.75 decades of cooling you’ve calculated from their own admitted 0.56 W m-2 dec-1 decrease in surface radiant exitance, to the 0.76 C decrease in global temperature over the past 16 months (which has erased all warming experienced since 1950 and nearly half the warming seen since 1901), and you’ll see that the planet’s been cooling ever since the end of the Modern Grand Maximum (which occurred after the last peak in the solar cycle in 2001), the Modern Grand Maximum being a long series of stronger-than-normal solar cycles.

    IOW, it’s the stun, Stupid.

  5. Anonymous

    When the global warming crowd think they know the earths temp.by means of surface meas. and remote meas. They are both average readings. If they actually wanted to know how effective green house gases preform they would record temp. from sun down to sunup. They did not do that because it would expose the scam.

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