Thanks to the smoking ban, I now live such an isolated life that, unless Britain gets blanketed under an aerosol coronavirus cloud, I doubt that I’ll ever catch it, because I don’t meet anybody. The people who should worry are the ones who are encountering lots of people all day every day.
So I’ve been thinking about climate science instead. Over the past two years I’ve gradually constructed a simple global climate model, in order to consider ice ages. I’ve got a polyhedral Earth with 80 triangular faces, 24 of which are continental land masses, and the rest oceans. Each of the faces has a geological column extending down to the centre of the Earth. and up through a simple atmosphere to outer space. The centre of the Earth has a temperature of 7000º K, and outer space has a temperature of 0º K, and so there’s a fairly steady heat flow from the Earth to outer space. And I have a Sun which intermittently shines shortwave radiation onto the surface of the Earth, warming it so that it it radiates longwave radiation to the atmosphere, warming the air.
This model is working quite well. If I give the Earth a thick reflective cloud cover, the air in the Earth’s atmosphere gets cold, and rain falls as snow, and I can blanket the continents of the Earth in snow (I don’t blanket the oceans in snow, because I assume snow dissloves in them) .
If I remove most of the cloud cover, more sunlight reaches the surface of the Earth, and the air warms up, and rain will fall as liquid water.
So I can create cold glaciated ice ages, and warm unglaciated interglacial periods.
And if I start an ice age, I can then let the model run, calculating heat flows over thousands of years, and watch the snow and ice sheets melt to produce a part-glaciated world, and perhaps even an unglaciated world.
The snow melts because the snow forms a layer of insulation, which acts to very slowly warm up the rock beneath it over thousands of years, ultimately causing the overlying snow to melt. The snow sheets at different latitudes melt at different rates, and this results in a patchwork quilt of glaciated and unglaciated regions. And when the snow has melted, and the layer of insulation is removed, the hot rocks that were beneath the snow rapidly cool down, and after a brief interglacial period become covered in snow again.
It’s a very simple glacial cycle, repeated over and over again: snow falls, underlying rock warms up, melts overlying snow, and then cools down again. It’s an almost thermostatic cycle. Adding greenhouse gases and Milankovitch cycles has an effect, but on their own they won’t drive the glacial cycle.
Now the strangest thing about this description of glacial cycles is that it seems to be completely unknown to climate scientists.
They know about Milankovitch cycles. And they know about greenhouse gases. And they know about volcanic dust deposition. And they know about ocean currents. But they don’t seem to know that the thermal insulation provided by snow and ice sheets acts to warm underlying rocks in the exact same way that woolen gloves warm up the hands inside them. They can’t see it even though the ice sheets on both Greenland and Antarctica are melting at their bases. They seem to think that they’re melting because greenhouse gases have raised global air temperatures. No wonder they don’t understand ice ages. And so now we have a world chock full of Greta Thunbergs who think the world is on fire.
I’ve been expecting for the past two years to come across graphs like the one at right showing the glacial cycle, with subglacial surface rock temperatures rising during periods of glaciation, while air temperatures plummet, with the situation reversing once the snow has melted. But I never find any.
Why? I’m beginning to think it’s because the climate scientists have different models than mine. My model is a dynamic non-equilibrium heat flow model, mostly of conductive heat flow through rocks and snow and ice. I don’t assume any equilibrium, such that the Earth is gaining heat at the same rate that it is losing heat. I just keep adding solar heat and geothermal heat, and calculating the resulting new temperatures of everything. In my model, all the temperatures are continually changing. I’m modelling a process.
But I’m beginning to think that the climate scientists may well be modelling equilibrium states, which allow them to write lots of equations in which something = something else. I was alerted to this idea yesterday when I cam across the following paragraph in a piece by Dr Roy Spencer:
If the Earth had no atmosphere (like the Moon), the surface temperature at any given location would be governed by the balance between the rate of absorbed solar energy and the loss of thermally-emitted infrared (IR) radiation. The sun would heat the surface to a temperature where the emitted IR radiation balanced the absorbed solar radiation, and then the temperature would stop increasing. This general concept of energy balance between energy gain and energy loss is involved in determining the temperature of virtually anything you can think of. (my added emphases)
Balance. Balance. Balance. Roy Spencer’s Earth is in energy balance. And most likely all the climate scientists’ models are in energy balance as well. They’re not modelling processes: they’re modelling balanced equilibrium states. And that’s probably why they can’t see the process by which insulating snow warms up underlying rocks over thousands of years, because they’re not modelling processes. And I’m modelling processes. I don’t assume any equilibrium conditions. And I don’t write any equations.
Equilibrium is a fiction. It’s a useful fiction that allows climate scientists (and others) to write equations. In the real world, there is never any equilibrium. The real world is like a bouncing ball, which is always either rising or falling. The equilibrium state where the ball is neither rising nor falling is either never reached, or reached after a very long time. And if your model of a ball is going to be of an equilibrium state, you will never see the ball bounce.
I’ve got a non-equilibrium dynamic heat flow model, and I can see the temperatures of rocks and snow going up and down in a cyclical process, just like a bouncing ball. But, given their assumptions of equilibrium conditions, climate scientists can’t see anything going up and down, because their assumption of equilibrium states precludes any change. And that’s why we’ve got Greta.
But You’re Not A Climate Scientist, Frank, I hear you say. You haven’t got a degree in climatology. Well, no, I don’t have a degree in climatology. And I’m not a climate scientist. In fact, I wouldn’t even call myself a scientist. I’m just a guy who’s been sufficiently interested in this stuff to build his own model.
Another old hit, this time from 1960: