Climate “Science” on Trial; CO2 is a Weak GHG, it has no Permanent Dipole


The best way to argue for the science, and against the climate alarmists is to simply go back to the basic physics of the greenhouse gas effect (GHG) and how CO2 contributes to it. Stated simply, the GHG effect is the trapping/absorbing of outgoing infrared (IR) radiation by various greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. These molecules then either thermalize the energy by turning it into kinetic energy or re-radiating the energy in all directions to be absorbed by other molecules.

The key steps are:

  1. High energy visible radiation warms the earth and oceans
  2. The warmed earth radiate IR radiation
  3. GHGs absorb the outgoing IR and either thermalize or re-radiate the energy
  4. This process acts to slow the cooling of the radiating body, much like insulation slows the cooling of a home
  5. At no time does the GHG effect warm the atmosphere above the temperature of the radiating body. The GHG effect does not ever add energy to the system, it only helps contain some of the existing energy

The introductory graphic above identifies the contributions each GHG contributes to the entire GHG effect. The bottom part of the graph demonstrates the IR radiation absorbed by the entire atmosphere, which is a summation of all the GHGs listed above it. The IR absorption spectrum of H2O is almost indistinguishable from the total absorption of atmosphere and is why H2O is by far the most significant GHG.  The entire contribution of CO2 is to absorb 3 very narrow bands of IR at 2.7, 4.3 and 15 microns. In reality, the only wavelength applicable to the GHG effect is the peak out at 15 microns. 15 microns, by the way, is very low energy and consistent with a blackbody of temperature -80º C.

What makes a GHG is it’s molecular structure. Molecules with a “bipole” are strong GHGs, molecules that don’t have a bipole are considered weak GHGs. Here is a link to help understand the concept; Understanding the DiPole.

DiPole Key Points:

  1. Bent molecules have a permanent bipole, H20 is bent
  2. Linear molecules have no permanent bipole, CO2 is linear
  3. “Bending” of a molecule is easy, and low energy
  4. Compressing and stretching a molecule is hard, and higher energy

This graphic explains how CO2’s IR spectrum is created. The bending of CO2 at 15 microns is it’s only defined contribution to the GHG effect. That comment is worth repeating; The bending of CO2 at 15 microns is it’s only defined contribution to the GHG effect. Any claim of CO2 caused climate change must be explained through that mechanism.co2-dipole-spikes

This graphic provides an understanding of the molecule motions that cause the IR peaks. The center bending is what causes the IR absorption spike at 15 microns/wavenumber 667. That simple weak-energy bending is all CO2 contributes to the GHG effect, that is it. Every claim that identifies CO2 as the cause, must explain how weak-energy bending and the resulting IR absorption/radiation of 15 microns resulted in the observed climate change/global warming/extreme weather. Once again, that weak-energy bending is the only defined mechanism by which CO2 can affect climate change, the only one. co2-ir-bipole

Taking a closer look at CO2, this chart is a linear CO2 absorption chart. It highlights the weak-energy of the 15 micron IR band. The absorption band at 4.7 microns is of much higher energy, but is outside the IR spectrum emitted by the earth, and does not play a part in the GHG effect.


This is a logarithmic chart of CO2’s IR spectrum.


It is worth reviewing that the earth emits radiation at a peak 9.8 to 10 microns, which is consistent with 18º C, or basically room temperature.ghgabsoprtionspectrum

Taking a closer look at H2O’s IR spectrum reveals a much more potent GHG, absorbing the much higher-energy/shorter-wavelengths. This is the linear H2O spectrum.spectral-calc-h2o-lin

This is H2O logarithmic IR Spectrum. H2O simply absorbs across the entire IR spectrum, with its main and densest peaks in the high-energy end. This is the IR signature of a very potent GHG.spectral-calc-h2o-log

This is a linear chart of H2O and CO2’s IR spectrum. The relevant peaks of CO2 are located at the low-energy end of the spectrum, and H2O is focused on the high-energy end of the IR spectrum.spectral-calc-h2o-co2-lin

This is a logarithmic chart of the H2O and CO2’s IR spectrum. The key point is that H2O largely overlaps all of CO2’s spectrum, so in the troposphere, if H2O is present, CO2’s contribution becomes irrelevant. With or without CO2, H2O will absorb the outgoing IR. CO2, however, does not overlap all of H2O’s spectrum, so the absorption at the high-energy end between 5 and 10 microns is dominated by H2O.spectral-calc-co2-h20-log

The consequence of H2O being the dominant GHG in the warmer IR range is that tropospheric atmospheric temperature is basically controlled by H2O. CO2 is basically irrelevant. That is why using ground based temperatures to measure the impact of CO2 is pure nonsense. Even doubling CO2 has no impact on the lower troposphere at all as these two MODTRAN charts demonstrate.  400


The other important physical property of CO2 is that it’s IR absorption isn’t linearly related to absorbed energy, it is logarithmically related. That is partially why doubling CO2 in the above graphics had no impact on the energy balance in the troposphere.co2_modtrans_img1

The result is that tropospheric atmospheric temperatures and tropospheric water vapor are almost indistinguishable. The same can not be said about CO2, which is a constant 400 ppm all the way up to 80 km.h2o-and-temperature-cross

One last chart defining the relevant physical properties of CO2, and it’s IR absorption spectrum. The oceans are warming. Ocean warming and atmospheric warming are often conflated, and the claim is that atmospheric CO2 is contributing to the warming of the oceans. In reality, visible light is warming the oceans, and the oceans are warming the atmosphere above it. IR between 13 and 18 microns simply doesn’t penetrate or warm water. Atmospheric CO2 can’t be the cause of the warming oceans.slide_4

The take home message is that CO2 is a weak GHG that has no permanent dipole, whose main absorption peak is in the cold/weak-energy end of the IR spectrum. If anything CO2 helps to act as a temperature floor for the globe, as it’s main contribution is to thermalize energy consistent with a blackbody temperature of -80º C (-50º C to -110º C). H2O, on the other hand, is a much more potent GHG that totally dominates the temperature of the troposphere. It all boils down to “can CO2, a weak non-dipolar GHG, affect catastrophic climate change through “bending” and the resulting absorption/radiation/thermalization of 15 micron IR (13 to 18 micron range). Once again, that is the only defined mechanism by which CO2 can execute the GHG effect, and affect climate change.hed-stop-it

64 thoughts on “Climate “Science” on Trial; CO2 is a Weak GHG, it has no Permanent Dipole”

  1. Funny that on a small blue-green planet, with an overlarge moon, out on an unassuming part of a spiral arm of the galaxy, the inhabitants of that planet paid so little attention to exactly why theirs was a small blue-green planet with an overlarge moon.
    What is it about being a small blue-green planet and not any other color? What is lost and what is gained?
    Why does life insist on converting the ephemeral red end of the spectrum to longer lived solid green structures?


  2. CO2islife

    Climate Science is built on a set of failed models of atmospheric physics that starts with a model of the illumination and radiative heating of a flat surface. The failure starts right there. The solid surface of a terrestrial planet forms a round orb and not a flat plane and so all planets orbiting a single star have a heated lit side and an unlit dark side that can cool by thermal radiation to space.

    A one-dimensional static model, such as the process of surface heating a column of nitrogen gas that cannot cool by gaseous thermal radiation to space, is also patently absurd as each planet with a gaseous atmosphere (of whatever composition) will always possess an unlit night side hemisphere that can thermally radiate to space from the solid ground surface. Consequently one-dimensional models used to prove that in the absence of greenhouse gases an atmosphere is isothermal are false because all such models ignore the existence of the fundamental and necessary second dark side column of air present on the night-time hemisphere. It is the absence of the second column of surface cooled air in the one-dimensional column model of a static atmospheric that fails to account for the 2-dimensional dynamic structure of atmospheric circulation cells, such as the Hadley Cell, which will exist on all terrestrial planets that undergo dominant surface heating on the lit day-side and also undergo the surface radiative cooling that predominates on the corresponding dark night-side hemisphere.

    Key step #5 states the following:-

    At no time does the GHG effect warm the atmosphere above the temperature of the radiating body. The GHG effect does not ever add energy to the system; it only helps contain some of the existing energy

    This is truly fundamental to the problem of the Greenhouse Gas Effect. It tells us how the surface temperature of the planet is maintained BUT it does not tell us how that temperature is achieved.
    And there is the problem in a trice. Global warming apologists hide behind sophistry and claim that the GHE effect is like a blanket that reduces heat loss, but the statement #5 tells us At no time does the GHG effect warm the atmosphere above the temperature of the radiating body. So the action of raising surface planetary temperature by a “blanket process” of reduction in surface thermal emission to achieve thermal values above the baseline surface temperature predicted by the fundamental flat surface radiatively balanced model of planetary surface heating can never ever have got started in the first place!
    Only one possible conclusion should be drawn from this, that the flat surface radiatively balanced model of planetary surface heating is false. A fundamentally different process of planetary atmospheric heat retention is required to explain the apparent surface temperature paradox of the failed model and that process is gravity induced atmospheric compression by air undergoing forced descent in planetary wide circulation cells.


  3. If NASA could measure the back radiation properly then this could get resolved. The problem is the only valid equation to use is the Voigt profile. Modest says there is no closed form solution for that equation. It is too complicated to reproduce here. The most important sentence with respect to CO2 in Modest’s textbook Radiative Heat Transfer page 315( the chapter on gases) is the following. I quote

    ” we note that ,at moderate temperatures , the rotational partition function causes the line strength to decrease with temperature as 1/T or 1/(T^1.5), while the influences of the vibrational partition function and of stimulated emission are very minor . ”

    What this means to me is that at the temperatures we see in our troposphere, the vibrational effect is small for gases and the rotational effect decreases with temperature increase.

    On page 309 Modest says and I quote “while symmetric molecules such as CO2 show a rotational spectrum only if accompanied by a vibrational transition.”

    So Modest seems to be saying that even though CO2 absorbs IR, the line strength of absorption/emission at moderate temperatures is too weak to worry about, especially since the rotational partition strength of the spectrum decreases with temperature increase. So not only CAGW is impossible, it seems that AGW is impossible to any significant degree (pun not intended).

    If only Michael Modest would clear this up, I sent a 2nd email to him but he didnt respond after his 1st response was asking what AGW and CAGW meant. I emailed him back but he went silent. Can I consider him a coward since he is already at retirement age? I suspect he is too afraid. Such is the strength of the CO2 inquisition.


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