The greenhouse effect is not the effect that warms greenhouses

Every now and again, people get a little bit confused when they realise that the thing we all call the “greenhouse effect” is not the mechanism that warms greenhouses. This is nothing new; R. W. Wood: Note on the Theory of the Greenhouse pointed it out in 1909. The wikipedia [[Greenhouse effect]] page states this explicitly (because I added it. I had a very long edit war with some bozo who didn’t believe it). Sometimes septics – or simply the badly confused – get very excited, because they think it tells you something useful about the actual greenhouse effect – usually, they think it proves it doesn’t exist. Of course, it tells you nothing useful about the physics of the greenhouse effect – this is simply a nomenclature issue. To re-use some old text: this is like asserting that the US political party called the “Democrats” must be, um, democratic; and their opponents anti-demoncrats, smimply based on names.

The latest froth around this is BREAKING NEWS: Greenhouse Gas Theory Trashed in Groundbreaking Lab Experiment by John O’Sullivan, guest post at Climate Realists which claims that “Nahle Nails Shut Climate Scare Coffin”. The poor old climate-scare-coffin has had so many “last nails” put into it over the years (if you believe folks like these) that you’d think there was no Wood left.

The source of the froth appears to be Experiment on the Cause of Real Greenhouses’ Effect – Repeatability of Prof. Robert W. Wood’s experiment who confirms that – err, yes, exactly what we knew already. Wood’s experiment is repeatable. Nahle himself makes none of the frothy claims, as far as I can tell [I’m wrong: see below]: all he says is, I reproduced Wood’s exp, and it worked. His failure, I think, is in not doing his back ground reading; perhaps this post will help him.

I wonder if any of the usual-suspect septic folk will be dump enough to fall for this?

[Update: I gave Nahle too much credit. He doesn’t claim that the (atmospheric) GHE doesn’t exist in the initial page or abstract, but he does claim it in his “sixth experiment” in the detailed PDF. This is fairly wacky: if you’re going to discover something as exciting as this, you’d put it into your abstract (unless you were hoping to sneak your paper past inattentive reviewers, that is).

So, he says:

The Greenhouse Effect hypothesis is founded in the argument that the atmosphere inhibits the direct outcome of longwave infrared radiation from the surface to the outer space… The hypothesis says that a great part of the solar shortwave radiation incoming from the Sun penetrates the Earth’s atmosphere and strikes on the surface -land and oceans- heating it up. As the solar shortwave and longwave infrared radiation is absorbed by the surface, the latter starts radiating longwave infrared radiation that is effectively absorbed by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, stored by them and reradiated towards the surface heating it up more and more.

The principle adduced by the greenhouse effect promoters is based on the idea that, in a real greenhouse, the glass panels permit the solar shortwave irradiance to penetrate into the enclosure but does not permit the longwave emitted by the inner surfaces of the enclosed space to go out.

Note the total non-sequitur in the second paragraph. The (atmospheric) GHE does not depend in any way on what happens in a glass greenhouse. Nahle is just one of the many people confused by names. Hopefully he’ll read this post, and be enlightened (he has already commented on, but clearly not read, this post).