The greenhouse definition of the IPCC violates physical laws


The greenhouse (GH) effect is the IPCC’s basic concept in global warming. The anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory is based on the enhanced GH effect caused by GH gases. There have been many comments on net pages that how carbon dioxide having only 400 ppm concentration can warm-up the climate so much as proposed by the IPCC. This story is a piece of simple evidence that it cannot.


I think that only a few readers have ever read the greenhouse (GH) definition of the IPCC.  This time the IPCC does not refer to any published scientific sources, but it has formulated the definition by itself since the First Assessment Report (FAR) 1990. It is easy to think that it is an old definition and it must be correct without any doubts. I show that you should check it because there is a serious flaw.


The definition of the GH effect, according to AR5, (Ref. 1, p. 126) is: The longwave radiation (LWR, also referred to as infrared radiation) emitted from the Earth’s surface is largely absorbed by certain atmospheric constituents - (greenhouse gases and clouds) - which themselves emit LWR into all directions. The downward directed component of this LWR adds heat to the lower layers of the atmosphere and to the Earth’s surface (greenhouse effect).”


Hartmann (Ref. 2) summarizes the final details of the GH effect almost in the same way but there is one essential difference: “Most of this emitted infrared radiation is absorbed by trace gases and clouds in the overlying atmosphere. The atmosphere also emits radiation, primarily at infrared wavelengths, in all directions. Radiation emitted downward from the atmosphere adds to the warming of Earth’s surface by sunlight. This enhanced warming is termed the greenhouse effect.” A simple fact is that the atmosphere emits radiation. According to Hartmann, the atmosphere emits radiation and not only GH gases and clouds, which is an essential difference to the IPCC’s definition. I think that Hartmann is right because Planck’s law dictates that every object or matter warmer than absolute zero emits radiation always and at all wavelengths.


The basic information about the energy fluxes affecting the GH effect can be found in Fig. 1. The fluxes are the same as used in the energy balance presentation of the IPCC (Ref. 1, p.181). The numerical values are from my study (Ref. 3, 4) and except one flux they are inside the uncertainty limits of the IPCC’s values. A typical uncertainty is ± 5 W/m2 but I have used exact values because they are in balance at the surface, in the atmosphere, and at the TOA.























Figure 1. Energy fluxes contributing to the greenhouse effect in all-sky conditions (W/m2).


The Earth receives a net energy 240 W/m2 based on the incoming insolation and the reflected shortwave (SW) flux at the TOA (Top of the Atmosphere). Based on the observations the Earth’s surface absorbs 165 W/m2, and therefore the atmosphere absorbs 240 – 165 = 75 W/m2. The satellite observations confirm that the Earth radiates 240 W/m2 longwave (LW) radiation into space. Because this 240 W/m2 corresponds to about -18°C black surface temperature and the average surface temperature is +15°C, there is a warming/isolation mechanism making this difference possible, which is called the GH effect (33°C).

The obvious reason for the GH effect seems to be the downward LW radiation from the atmosphere to the surface and its magnitude is 345.6 W/m2 (LWdn). This flux includes the SW absorption flux by the atmosphere, and it is part of the net energy received from the Sun. Therefore, it must be excluded from the GH effect. When the SW flux is decreased from LWdn, the rest of this flux is 345.6 – 75.0 = 270.6 W/m2 = GHdn. This flux is the only available extra energy warming the Earth’s surface. It should be noticed that any energy source affecting the surface temperature must find its way to the surface.

Here is the point: the IPCC’s definition means that the LW absorption of 155.6 could create the GHdn flux 270.6 W/m2. According to the energy conversation law, it is impossible. As easily noticed in Fig.1, the GHdn flux is the sum of three different energy source, which is LW absorption by the GH gases and clouds 155.6 W/m2, latent heating 90.8 W/m2, and sensible heating 24.2 W/m2 – the sum being exactly 270,6 W/m2. Coincidence? Not so. This is a trick about how the warming effects of GH gases can be practically duplicated.

Somebody may suggest another explanation: the IPCC’s definition means that only the portion of the downward radiation from the atmosphere has the same magnitude as the LW absorption flux of 155.6
W/m2 which actually causes the GH effect. In this case, they must find answers to two questions: How can the rest of the downward LW flux of 270.6 – 155.6 = 114 W/m2 disappear into thin air having no warming effect on the surface temperature – or is there a special perpetual motion machine adding energy to LW absorption flux. This explanation means that latent and sensible heating effects disappear, or they can be added into the LW absorption flux effect and call it the GH effect caused the GH gases and clouds only.

The fact is that these three energy sources bring energy to the atmosphere. Latent heating from the physical state change from gas to a liquid, sensible heating by convection and LW absorption by changing infrared radiation into heat. All these energy fluxes originate from the Earth’s surface, they warm up the atmospheric material which then radiates LW radiation according to its temperature back to the surface: the GH effect.

The total absorption value used by Kiehl and Trenberth (Ref. 6) is only 125 W/m2 because they have used the modified US Standard Atmosphere 76 containing only 50% water in comparison to the average global atmosphere. The absorption value of Schmidt et al. has been 155 W/m2, Fig.2. This means that the IPCC’s GH effect definition and practical calculations show that the only energy causing the GH effect is the LW radiation absorption by GH gases and clouds according to the IPCC’s science (this time this term is correct). The energy flux of 125 W/m2 or 155 W/m2 should be able to radiate 270.6 W/m2 to the surface.




























Figure 2. The absorption values used in the GH contribution calculations by Schmidt et al. (Ref. 5) by Kiehl & Trenberth (Ref. 6).

The contributing factors according to major researcher studies are summarized in Table 1. The contribution of carbon dioxide according to my study is 7.4% corresponding to 2.5 °C. The latest figure of Schmidt et al. (Ref. 5) is 19% corresponding to 6.3°C. The basic reason for the difference is that Schmidt et al. have used the LW absorption 155 W/m2 as the measure of the GH effect but I have used the value of 270.6 W/m2. The reason for this selection has been explained above. Because Schmidt et al. (Ref. 5) have used an ad-hoc method in calculating the warming impacts, the difference is even greater than the relationship 270.6/155. Water in its different forms dominates the GH effect: 33.6 + 33.6 + 13.3 = 80.5% totally.


Table 1. The single factor contributions of the GH effect.









The correct GH effect magnitude does not only mutilate the image of carbon dioxide as a GH gas, but it has further consequences in the climate models. I have analyzed in the earlier studies that simple climate models can be used for calculating the global temperature effect of increased CO2 concentration up to the concentration of 1370 ppm


dT = λ * k * ln(C/280)                          (1)


where dT is the global surface temperature change (K) starting from the year 1750, λ is the climate sensitivity parameter (K/(Wm-2) being 0.5 in the IPCC model assuming positive water feedback, and 0.27 in my model (called here the Ollila model) and k is a parameter being 5.35 in the IPCC model and 3.12 in the Ollila model. These IPCC model parameters give Transient Climate Sensitivity (TCS) values of 1.8°C and 0.6°C value for the Ollila model.


IPCC (Ref. 7, p. 631) has reported that the TCS value is 1.2°C if there are no feedbacks included (= CO2 warming effects only) and it means λ value of 0.324. These two curves have been depicted in Fig. 3. The CO2 warming impact curves have been adapted to give a total warming value of 2.5 ⁰C caused by the CO2 concentration of 400.9 ppm.



Figure 3. Warming effects of CO2 according to the new greenhouse effect of CO2 being 2.5 ⁰C in 2014 (400.9 ppm). CO2 warming effects from 280 ppm onward are per a green curve, TCS = 0.6 ⁰C, and per IPCC (2013), a red curve, TCS = 1.2 ⁰C.

The general feature of absorption is that the LW absorption rate change, i.e. the angle coefficient of the absorption curve, diminishes with increasing GH gas concentration. There is a simple physical explanation for this feature because the available energy for LW absorption is getting smaller and smaller with increasing absorption. The GH gases and clouds absorb about 88 % of the available radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface. Two days of three are cloudy and then absorption is 100 % which means total GH effect and the world is still spinning.

The absorption due to a GH gas follows also another general rule of absorption that the starting phase approximately follows the Beer-Lambert law, which states that absorbance depends linearly on the concentration and path length. When the concentration increases, this relationship is no longer valid. There is no rule when this linear relationship ends, and it is different in each case. In this case, it ends at about 20 ppm, and thereafter the relationship is very nonlinear to 100 ppm for CO2, and thereafter the relationship is slightly nonlinear after 280 ppm, which can be approximated by a logarithmic relationship very well.


The absorption effects caused by three GH gases are depicted in Fig. 4. The absorption curve of carbon dioxide has been utilized in making the dashed green curves in Fig. 3. The absorption is the basic process causing the warming effects of GH gases. By the same token, it is easy to realize that the warming effects of methane and nitrogen oxide stay below the carbon dioxide curve. The Global Warming Potential (GWP) values are misleading and they cannot be used for calculating direct warming impacts.


Figure 4. The absorption curves of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen oxide in the troposphere.

The curve of the model (TCS = 0.6 ⁰C) according to Eq. (1) of this study shows a smooth feature of a warming rate without a transition point at the 280 ppm. The curve of the IPCC model (TCS = 1.2 °C) has a transition point at 280 ppm because the angle coefficient starts to increase after 280 ppm, when it should steadily diminish. This curve fitting shows that the IPCC model cannot be fitted into this new GH effect magnitude.

People think that the absorption/warming process produces a linear relationship between the CO2 concentration and the temperature. Therefore, they may think that there is no problem if 400 ppm causes a warming effect of 2.5°C and the concentration change from 280 ppm to 400 ppm produces 0.95°C. But there is a problem because the relationship is highly nonlinear as shown in Fig. 3. The CO2 concentration of 280 ppm in 1750 has caused the temperature increase of 2.2°C, today the total warming value is about 2.5°C and the concentration 560 ppm causes 2.8°C warming meaning the climate sensitivity value of 0.6°C according to the Ollila model.

The final outcome is that the climate model TCS=1.8°C or TCS=1.2°C cannot be fitted into the correct GH effect but the climate model TCS=0.6°C (Ollila model) fits very well.

Here is my proposal for the GH effect definition:

“The Earth’s surface emits LW radiation (infrared radiation) and it transfers heat energy in the form of latent and sensible heating into the atmosphere. Most of the emitted infrared radiation is absorbed by trace gases and clouds in the atmosphere. All three energy fluxes increase the temperature of the atmosphere. The part of the infrared radiation due to these three energy sources emitted downward from the atmosphere adds to the warming of Earth’s surface by sunlight and it is called the greenhouse effect.”

There is one thing more in this narrative. As everybody knows following climate change information war, normally Wikipedia follows quite exactly the climate science of the IPCC. But not in this case and there must a good reason. Figure 5 is a copy form simple Wikipedia with my additions. Link to Wikipedia

Figure 5. The Wikipedia presentation of the GH effect.

The GH effect description of Wikipedia is somehow better than the same of the IPCC, but its conclusion is clear: the greenhouse effect is caused by GH gases only. A positive feature of the Wikipedia description is that the downward radiation depends on the temperature of the atmosphere, which is not shown by the IPCC. Many other facts are hidden or not shown as they are in reality per the IPCC. The purpose seems to be that all contributors are not shown, but the only contributor is longwave radiation absorption by GH gases. Everything seems to be according to the physical laws even to professors of physics if they do not know that this presentation has been manipulated to hide basic facts of the GH effect per the IPCC. The LW absorption flux of 155 W/m2 has not been identified but the total absorption flux of 350 W/m2 has been shown because then the downward LW flux of 324 W/m2 is not in conflict with the physical laws.


1. IPCC. The Physical Science Basis, Chapter 8.1. Working Group I Contribution to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; 2011.


2. Hartmann DL. Global Physical Climatology, Elsevier Science, USA; 2015.


3. Ollila, Antero. Challenging the greenhouse effect specification and the climate sensitivity of the IPCC. Physical Science International Journal, 22(2): 1-19, 2019. Link to article

4. Ollila, Antero. The greenhouse effect definition. Physical Science International Journal, 23(2): 1-5, 2019.
Link to article

5. Schmidt GA, Ruedy RA, Miller RL, Lacis AA. Attribution of the present-day total greenhouse effect. J Geophys Res 115, D20106:1-6, 2010. Link to article

6. Kiehl JT, Trenberth KE. Earth’s annual global mean energy budget. Bull Amer Meteor Soc 90:311-323, 1997.

Link to article

7. IPCC. The Physical Science Basis, Chapter 8.6. Working Group I Contribution to
the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge; 2007.


  • w-tbird
  • w-facebook