# Should the increasing energy retained in the atmosphere be considered in relation to global warming?

Atmosphere Energy

Heat energy is continuously being added into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.
It is in the form sometimes called “sensible energy”, and is just the kinetic energy of motion of all of the nitrogen, oxygen and other molecules in the atmosphere. This is not electromagnetic energy, and so it cannot be radiated away. Therefore, it builds up year by year during the many years of the anthropogenic activities, forming an aggregate of energy in the atmosphere, and a corresponding rise in temperature.

The nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere are diatomic molecules, and so the relationship between the energy of the atmosphere and its temperature on the Absolute Scale is given by the Kinetic Theory of Gases as follows.

E = (5/2)nkT where E is the energy in Joules n is the number of molecules k is the Boltzmann Constant, 1.381(10^-23) T is the Absolute Temperature, in Kelvin

So for changes, dE and dT, dE = (5/2)nk*dT

The BP Statistical Review of Energy provides data for the global annual energy consumption needs each year from all anthropogenic sources. I have summed this annual data numerically from 1980 to 2019 to calculate the total global sum, the aggregate, of the energy put into the atmosphere in this period. It is 1.783*(10^22) Joules.

However, both NASA and the IPCC maintain that 90.5% of this goes into the oceans, so from 1980 to 2019 the aggregate retained in the atmosphere by 2019 was 1.694(10^21) Joules.*

Now, the number of molecules in the global atmosphere is 1.04*(10^44), and so the equation from the Kinetic Theory becomes dT = dE / ( (5/2)nk ).

Therefore, dT = 1.694(10^21) / ( (5/2)1.04(10^44)1.381(10^-23) )

dT = 1.694(10^21) / 3.5906(10^21)

dT = 0.47 K (or degrees C) as at 2019, relative to 1980

This is in good agreement with measured temperature anomalies. It is not entirely clear whether or not the full number of molecules in the atmosphere should be used, because the effective distribution has not been considered. However, if only a smaller number are effective, then the resulting increase in temperature would be greater.

The explanation for atmosphere energy and temperature given above is simply basic Physics, and so the energy put into the atmosphere must be taken into account. It is often called the “primary energy”.

• You might want to learn about thermal radiation - all matter with temperature will emit electromagnetic radiation. So your starting statement is false. There even is an atmospheric window which allows exactly that band of radiation to get to space. Commented Jun 10 at 8:48
• -1 because the question is based on a false premise as @Arsenal pointed out. "This is not electromagnetic energy so it cannot be radiated away. Therefore it builds up year by year..." is not true. Energy is radiated from things that have temperature, regardless of how the heat was produced or transmitted.
– Mark
Commented Jun 10 at 12:42
• @EddieBanner Sun > Earth: 170,000 TW; geothermal energy "flow" through Earth's surface: 45 TW; primary energy "flow": 18 TW (which is 0.034 W/m², if I've done the math right). In other words: your calculations are probably right, but only valid for a closed (or isolated) system (i.e. no energy flow through the boundaries of this system). Planet Earth is no isolated system, "Law of Conservation of Energy" - mentioned in another of your comments – is not affected. Commented Jun 11 at 1:14
• @klanomath true, but you still have around 80 to 100 W/m² leaving the earth through infrared radiation. Commented Jun 11 at 8:16
• I'm very curious about what you are looking for here. You've proposed a new hypothesis about the cause of global warming. Numerous people have pointed out that your hypothesis is incorrect, and you respond by arguing that it's right - without even addressing the flaws that were pointed out. You say you've written a paper, so why don't you submit it to Nature and get it peer reviewed and published? What purpose is there in posting about it here if you're not going to accept feedback?
– Mark
Commented Jun 15 at 15:59

Your premise that heat doesn't radiate away is false. Furthermore, primary energy released from the surface of Earth is included in any basic Earth System Model.

Greenhouse gases are sustained for many years, and their lasting effect is what allows energy to get trapped near the surface and raise the temperature of the atmosphere. The primary input to heat energy of the Earth's atmosphere is solar radiation being absorbed by the Earth's surface, and then radiating back infrared. This greatly outweighs anything else like the Earth's own natural heat flux (e.g. volcanoes, thermal vents) and any primary heat generated by human activity. Yes, the primary energy released from combustion is part of the Earth's heat budget, but it is not usually part of the "global warming" conversation. "Global Warming" is more of a socially-acceptable term than a scientific term, but generally refers to the current warming trend caused by increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from fossil-fuel combustion and other human activity. The greenhouse effect is separate and distinct from the heat generation you are describing. The transfer of energy is quantified in typical Earth energy budget diagrams, showing that independent thermal energy from activity on Earth is 18 W/m2, while there is 398.2 W/m2 emitted from the surface due to absorbed sunlight.

Human-generated heat can increase the atmospheric temperature in the nearby area, and is often discussed in terms of the "urban heat-island effect".

• Dr Thorpe, I am focusing upon the effects of the primary energy emitted into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels, but you have dealt only with carbon dioxide effects instead. Please let me know your thoughts on this problem. Do you not accept the equation from the Kinetic Theory which relates the energy in a gas and its temperature? Do you reject the BP Statistical Review of Energy. Do you not accept the Law of Conservation of Energy Aubrey Banner, MInstP Commented Jun 10 at 15:47
• Fundamental equations are not ignored in Earth System Models or Climate Models. I think you might be underestimating the amount of heat generated by absorption of sunlight. Think of a desert: no one is there generating heat, but it is still the hottest place on Earth.
– f.thorpe
Commented Jun 11 at 0:01
• F.Thorpe. So how do you explain the threatened "heat domes" forecast to affect the western regions in America? Commented Jun 12 at 9:44
• F.Thorpe. Thank you for replying with your edited version of your answer to my initial post. Sadly, your problem seems to be shown in the first two lines. You have confused the term "heat" with "radiation", but the physics meaning of "heat" is the kinetic energy of motion of the molecules of a gas, which is sometimes known as "sensible energy". On the other hand, "radiation" refers to the "electromagnetic energy" of the photons emitted by hot bodies. The term "primary energy" means the sensible energy emitted (NOT radiated) Commented Jun 13 at 14:06
• @EddieBanner "Primary energy" is a technical (or economical) but no physical term! After some or many transformations it's some sensible heat, latent heat, radiation in the atmosphere (as well as a steel bridge somewhere in China and some potential energy bound in a new mountain station in the Swiss Alps). On the long run it's only radiation at the TOA: either visible light or radio waves but quite predominantly IR-radiation and a really tiny bit of sensible heat in the atmosphere. Commented Jun 13 at 22:19

Let's put your theory to the test by comparing it not just with two arbitrarily chosen points of time but with the development over the last decades.

Data sources: (source: https://ourworldindata.org/energy-production-consumption)

I used this with the formula you have given and came up with this chart:

I wouldn't call that a good fit. Now you could argue that you're also missing a lot of prime energy consumption by nature - wildfires, coal-seam fires, oil-well fires.

Where is the energy going on those parts where it dips?

The energy will not just accumulate in the atmosphere and sit there, the atmosphere is not a closed system, there are energy flows in all directions and all have to be taken into account for the complete picture.

I know you are trying to challenge mainstream research, but I just don't see how your arguments hold up. A flux of 0.034 W/m² is quite small. Is it negligible? I don't know, but if we manage to change the atmosphere composition in such a way, that it changes the flux by 0.3 W/m² in a decade alone it sure sounds puny.

• Hi Arsenal Thank you very much for your post. I’m really pleased for the chance to have a serious discussion on global warming. You have clearly been to some trouble to check what I have been trying to say, and it will take some time for me to give you a proper answer. Watch this space. Commented Jun 14 at 18:41