September 28, 2019

William Happer

I understand you are in the fray discussing the relationship between CO2 and climate.  I am a bystander with a question.  Those I query scrupulously avoid responding, but perhaps you will indulge me. 

As recently as this past week, an article remarked that dust in the atmosphere will shade and cool the earth.  (Joshua Sokol, Dust from asteroid breakup veiled and cooled earth Science vol. 365 no. 6459 September 20, 2019 page 1230.) 

I believe what I am told, but in the past, I have been told that the bulk of energy coming from sun to earth is in the form of visible light, which is why we were selected to see by it.  That dust, like anything else our distance from the sun will seek a balance between sunlight and the cold of space, which at the surface of the earth is a nice 70o Fahrenheit or so.  At that temperature, the stratosphere would stop convection until the surface reached the temperature dictated by the normal lapse rate, and we would cook. 

Ignoring that dust, the surface is heated and dumps heat by radiation, diffusion of warm air upward to radiate heat to space, and convection.  I do not hear of infra-red radiation knocking down houses nor diffusion causing the masts of tall ships to be ripped out like carrots (That’s from an Uncle Scrooge comic book, but you get the picture.), so I take it that the overwhelming upward movement of heat depends on convection, evidenced by rare storm winds and more tranquil jet streams, prevailing westerlies, trade winds and so forth. 

Convection is caused by warm air rising, which gives us all those winds.  Its effectiveness as a transporter depends on the heat a molecule carries at any one temperature.  Nitrogen carries heat by translation, rotation and vibration on the axis of its bond – three ways, all equally effective.  CO2 carries it by translation, rotation in three planes, vibration along two bonds and a sort of wishbone effect – seven ways.  These things I have known and believed since youth.  So CO2 should transport heat far better and thus cool the earth, unless my shriveled brain misfires.   

Yet paid experts say it warms the earth by a “greenhouse effect.”  Poppycock say I in my archaic mind.  Not even a greenhouse works by greenhouse effect.  It works by blocking convection. 

So we have a lot of experts saying one thing and physics saying another. 
We need a tie breaker, which would be a laboratory study to test it.  Shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred bucks.  If you like, I can grubstake you for that much.  The design of the experiment would be so simple I’ll not take your time with it unless you’d care to run it. 

So what are they thinking, and would you like to force some science down their bleating throats?  Or maybe you agree, in which case do make it clear to me so I can stop annoying people.


M. Linton Herbert MD

Dr. Happer was kind enough to reply and to give me permission to post his reply, which was: (Mark Herlong of CO2 Coalition forwarding it)
Dear Dr. Herbert,

I forwarded your note to Dr. Happer, and this is his reply:

Dear Mark,

Dr. Herbert is right that most heat transport in the troposphere, up to about 11 km over DC, is by convection, not radiation.  And he is right that few who purport to be experts on either side of the global-warming disputes know this, or any other real facts about the science of greenhouse gases.  

Some details in Dr. Herbert's e-mail are worth further discussion.  I don't know how he gets a dust temperature of 70 F.    I think that completely black dust in sunlight, with unobstructed radiative cooling to cold space, is about 44 F. 

Dr. Herbert is also right that convective heat flux in troposphere is carried by N2 and O2, but less than 0.04% is carried by CO2, since CO2 only about 0.04% percent by mole of the atmosphere.   The heat capacities at constant volume of all three gases under the conditions of Earth's atmosphere are almost the same, 5k/2 per molecule, where k is Boltzmann's constant and the number of degrees of freedom, 5, includes 3 for translation, and 2 for rotation of a linear molecule perpendicular to its axis of symmetry.  The Earth's atmosphere is not warm enough for vibrational energy to contribute much to the heat capacity of any of the molecules.  Since the molecular energies are quantized, the vibrational energies are "frozen out."

You are welcome to share these comments with Dr. Hebert.  We need thoughtful and well-informed people like him to combat the nonsense that is being used to promote the global-warming cult.

Best wishes,


I am thrilled beyond words that Dr. Happer took the time to set these matters straight.  

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