Given that my tagline is “Trying to keep the discussion civil”, I thought I should at least give Anthony Watts and Roy Spencer credit when it is due. Anthony Watt’s most recent post, called Spencer slays with sarcasm, links to what is meant to be a sarcastic article by Roy Spencer called how can home insulation keep your house warmer when it cools you house?. I struggled at first to understand what Roy Spencer was getting at here. Did he really think insulation didn’t work? Was he implying that home insulation wasn’t a good analogy for the greenhouse effect? It all seemed rather odd.
Having read a little more, I now realise that it refers to a NASA press release about solar flares that Anthony Watts covered in an earlier post called a misinterpreted claim about a NASA press release, CO2, solar flares, and the thermosphere is making the rounds. The basic story is that when a solar storm hits the Earth’s magnetosphere, it can eject a lot of energy into a region of the atmosphere called the thermosphere. This is the region above about 85km. It’s very tenuous but contains CO2 and NO and these molecules absorb this energy and then radiate most (about 95%) back into space, protecting the Earth from the energy of these solar storms.
What has happened is that some have taken this to imply that molecules like CO2 and NO actually cool the Earth and so can therefore not also be acting to heat the Earth. Of course, they’re confusing the impact of these molecules in the very upper tenuous parts of the atmosphere, and their impact in the much denser, lower parts of the atmosphere. Essentially, this is a ridiculous interpretation of this result and Anthony Watts and Roy Spencer are, rightly, trying to distance themselves from those who believe this to be true. Of course, some might argue that they’re simply distancing themselves from those who are making truly ridiculous claims and that they still believe other claims that are still ridiculous, but not quite as obviously so. Personally, I’m happy to give them the benefit of the doubt here. At least these posts make sense and correctly – in my opinion – interpret the results and conclusions of this work. Of course, the scientists involved aren’t really climate scientists, so maybe that makes them more credible in the eyes of Anthony Watts and Roy Spencer.