Physics Proves Climate Concerns Overblown, Book Shows

Published April 27, 2018

Review of Global Warming Temperatures and Projections, by William T. Lynch ( publishing, September 2017), 236 pp.; $73.80 on ISBN-10: 1365927466, ISBN-13: 978-1365927461

With Global Warming Temperatures and Projections, MIT- and Princeton-educated physicist William Lynch, who ended his career as director of prestigious Bell Labs, provides a thorough analysis of the roles of carbon dioxide and water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Lynch rigorously applies physics and mathematical modeling to understand the greenhouse effect, with the intention of calming peoples’ fears increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels will create runaway climate change.

Reader-Friendly Climate Physics

The first part of the book explains the fundamental physics and mathematics of the atmosphere.

Lynch divides the atmosphere into 50 spherical slices, with each portion having a specified fraction of molecules, and he documents the precise amount of absorption and reflection of solar radiation that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contribute to temperatures in the upper atmosphere and at the earth’s surface.

This analysis is suitable for a college-level text. Fortunately, Lynch provides sufficient reader-friendly explanations to allow nonscientists to skip over the formal explanations and mathematical calculations. These discussions include the thermodynamic processes of adiabatic effects—systems where heat is neither added nor lost in energy transfer—which are surprisingly important for understanding the atmospheric absorption of solar radiation.

Lynch calibrates and plots surface temperature versus heat absorption, incorporating the simultaneous adiabatic effects and absorption occurring at various altitudes. In addition to carbon dioxide, Lynch calculates the relative contributions of water vapor—by far the dominant greenhouse gas—and other “background” greenhouse gases such as methane, which, though small as a percentage of the atmosphere, have powerful heat-trapping properties which must be accounted for.

Energy Inputs and Temperatures

Lynch points out the Earth’s temperature necessarily rises as the atmosphere receives additional inputs of energy (power). Unlike changes in the reflectivity of the earth’s upper atmosphere and at the surface to solar radiation, or additions of heat from volcanic eruptions and the earth’s molten core as the Ice Age fades, carbon dioxide does not directly add any new power to the atmosphere, Lynch notes.

The increase in carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning by humans contributes less than 1 percent of the increase of 670 billion kilowatt-hours per day of power necessary to produce a 0.01 degree Celsius temperature rise per year. Lynch’s calculation is unique. Because of that, he offers all the data he used to arrive at it, allowing outside researchers to check his assumptions and math. This is rare among books of this type these days, when many researchers go to great lengths to hide their underlying data and assumptions.

In addition to the minimal direct temperature effect from increases in carbon dioxide, Lynch notes increases in carbon dioxide also produce small indirect effects on temperature, but these effects are also limited by physics and as a result do not create significant increases in temperatures. 

Water Vapor and Temperature

The second half of Lynch’s book focuses on atmospheric temperature effects of water evaporation into the lower atmosphere and vapor condensation in the upper atmosphere.

Lynch maintains evaporation and subsequent condensation would have little effect on temperatures if the water vapor that condensation creates in the atmosphere simply fell back to the earth as warm rain, but this is not the case. It requires 50,000 percent more energy to raise the temperature of water 1 degree Celsius at the earth’s surface than it takes to make an equivalent temperature change through the processes of evaporation and water vapor condensation in the upper atmosphere.

Evaporation in the tropics is extensive and produces about half of the rainfall in the world. Lynch argues a large fraction of the heat from condensation released high in the tropics moves toward the Earth’s poles through convection, rather than falling back as rain. Convection is the transfer of heat through circulation, which in this case affects temperatures in the Arctic and Antarctica.

Lynch makes a strong case against the belief that turning surface water to water vapor to rainfall through evaporation and condensation is a closed system. The tropics contribute to heat at all the higher latitudes through convection, Lynch notes. If convection plays a role in atmospheric temperatures, Lynch calculates the effect of doubling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should raise the earth’s temperature by 1.0 to 1.2 degrees Celsius at most. This is much lower than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projections of a 2.0 to 4.5 degree rise in temperatures for a doubling of carbon dioxide from preindustrial levels.

Negative Feedbacks, Natural Limits

Lynch shows the climate system appears always to respond to disruptions with negative feedbacks that dampen or limit uncontrolled or unanticipated substantial climate shifts. This contradicts the assertions of climate doomsayers who proclaim human greenhouse gas emissions are bringing about the end of the world as we know it. As Lynch writes, “the day after any storm is a beautiful day.”

The book includes 70 detailed figures, many tables, five appendices, six special go-to reference tables, a long list of definitions, separate summaries for each section, and an extended abstract, all of which enhance the learning experience.

This is an excellent book for those who want a better understanding of the role of greenhouse gases in the earth’s climate and why a climate Armageddon is not in the offing.

Jay Lehr, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is science director at The Heartland Institute.