Updating Our Position on CO2 and Global Warming

Discussion is making the rounds about a paper published by SABER, an entity within NASA that collects and analyses data on the upper atmosphere (the mesosphere and the troposphere). SABER recorded a solar storm in March 2012 and reported it in a news item: Solar Storm Dumps Gigawatts into Earth’s Upper Atmosphere. Unlike the bulk of SABER’s publications (freely available online) which are highly complex science and unreadable by the layman, the news report offers valuable insight into the role of greenhouse gases in cooling the upper atmosphere.

The report notes:

“Carbon dioxide and nitric oxide are natural thermostats,” explains James Russell of Hampton University, SABER’s principal investigator.  “When the upper atmosphere (or ‘thermosphere’) heats up, these molecules try as hard as they can to shed that heat back into space.”

For the three day period, March 8th through 10th, the thermosphere absorbed 26 billion kWh of energy.  Infrared radiation from CO2 and NO, the two most efficient coolants in the thermosphere, re-radiated 95% of that total back into space.

We see that CO2 plays an essential role in protecting the planet from overheating caused by solar radiation. The data cannot be used to infer global surface temperature cooling caused by CO2 because the total dynamics of the entire atmosphere are complex and SABER only deals with part of the picture.

That being said, global (surface) temperatures have been static for about the last 15 years. The site C3 Headlines has a collection of temperature graphs from a wide array of sources that demonstrates this fact. Even James Hanson, one of the most prominent anthropogenic global warming (AGW) proponents admits this in a paper titled Global Temperature Update Through 2012 (we hope to discuss Hanson’s paper in another post). The importance of this observation is that global CO2 emissions have continued to rise during this period (see: Global Temperature and CO2 Update – December 2012). One must consider the question if the CO2 in the atmosphere is forcing up the temperature, why has the rise stopped?


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