2011-06-14 11:43:11New skeptic argument: the Hot Water Bottle Effect
John Cook


Haven't read this one in detail yet - someone has emailed this new argument:


The real arbiter of the Earth’s equilibrium temperature is instead what I have termed The Hot Water Bottle Effect.

Have added it to the database of climate myths. I'm told the argument is spreading around the denialosphere although I imagine something this complicated will not gain the traction of more visceral arguments like "it's the sun" or "climate scientists are on the take".

2011-06-14 15:05:48Quote:
Alex C


"It cannot be determined by the energy content of the air because under an open sky warm air above cool water just increases evaporation for a net cooling effect which cancels out the extra warmth in the air.

It cannot be determined by the amount of energy bouncing about in the air as a result of greenhouse gases because when such energy (invariably longwave IR) hits a water molecule it just brings forward the timing of evaporation of that molecule sufficient to cancel out the extra IR and convert it to latent heat which is then whisked away upward by wind and convection.

Indeed ANYTHING that adds energy to or takes energy from the air just above the ocean surface merely adds to or subtracts from the rate of evaporation (not affecting the background energy flow from water to air at all) and is converted to or from latent heat in the air in the process."

While having little professional experience in the matter, I would have to call BS on his assertion that any sort of non-shortwave radiative transfer fails to penetrate past the utmost outer layer of water molecules (the evaporative layer).  Is he not ignoring the downward transfer of kinetic energy that could take place?  It appears he is assuming only one heat sink, the atmosphere, and a very temporary one, the evaporative layer.

2011-06-14 15:47:38
Alex C


In a simple model with only water and air, there will be evaporation of the water until the air is saturated at its temperature and pressure.  If you add IR to the system, to the air, what should happen is that the air temperature increases, which eventually leads to a downward transfer of energy through the water until the temperature of the water equals the temperature of the air.  This will result in an increase in evaporative transfer and an increase in the amount of water vapor in the air, due to both the increased water temperature and the increased saturation vapor pressure.  Assuming you don't increase the temperature of the system too much (add too much energy), there will still be liquid water left sufficiently so that there's some depth below the evaporative layer.

What he's arguing is that if the temperature of the air increases, it can only increase the temperature of the evaporative layer.  Regardless of how much evaporation occurs within the evaporative layer to transfer energy from that layer to the air, the temperature they reach will ALWAYS be higher than the temperature of the water below.  If you don't allow kinetic transfer to the layer below, then you must either accept that the air and evaporative layer will be eternally out of thermal equilibrium (impossible) or the bottom layer and evaporative layer will be out of thermal equilibrium (impossible).

2011-06-14 16:43:22


If the air is warmer most will come from the air. However over the Earth as a whole the water is nearly always warmer than the air (due to solar input) so inevitably the average global energy flow is from oceans to air via that latent heat of evaporation into the air and the energy needed is taken from the water. This leads to a thin (1mm deep) layer of cooler water over the oceans worldwide and below the evaporative region that is some 0.3C cooler than the ocean bulk below. The evaporative process extracts energy faster from the oceans than it can be drawn up from below and added from above otherwise that cool layer could not be present.


Sounds rather strange this rong i thiargument. Of course this latent heat is needed but i wonder if this number of 0.3°C is correct. Anyway his basic idea is wnk.

In the face of that energy imbalance the extra longwave IR radiation in the air from more greenhouse gases has no opportunity to heat up anything other than the specific water molecules that then evaporate earlier than they otherwise would have done. Nothing is left to add energy to the oceans, it all disappears as latent heat and the background energy flow from oceans to air continues undisturbed.

If a water molecule absorbs exta energy it will disperse its energy to other molecules via collissions with other water molecules. It is not like we will have a 'superhot' molecule surrounded by cold water molecules.

2011-06-14 18:11:59New category of argument
Glenn Tamblyn


Perhaps we need a new category of skeptic argument - 'AGW is false because I flunked Thermodymamics 101 but didn't realise it' Maybe the rebuttal is simply a link to the Wiki article on the Dunning-Kruger effect.


2011-06-14 18:27:40


Extra energy in the air from whatever source other than solar shortwave cannot enter the oceans to affect the equilibrium temperature of the oceans so instead it affects the surface air pressure distribution which then shifts to prevent a divergence between sea surface and surface air temperatures.

The argument that more greenhouse gasses cannot heat the oceans is an old one.

Oceans heat up as they loose less heat as greenhouse gasses increase in the atmosphere, and not directly by hotter air.

- Why greenhouse gases heat the ocean (RC)

- Can downwelling infrared warm the ocean? (Nick Stokes)

- Does Back-Radiation “Heat” the Ocean? (SoD)

2011-06-14 20:02:06
Rob Painting

Why is that guy practicising law, and not helping those dummies over at the Large Hadron Collider?

2011-06-15 04:13:59


>Why is that guy practicising law, and not helping those dummies over at the Large Hadron Collider?

Are you arguing he should be ignored? I tend to agree, but it depends on how much "heat" he generates, which I havn't checked.

2011-06-15 07:44:37
Rob Painting

Oslo - nope, just commenting on the guys Dunning-Kruger-itis. 

2011-06-15 08:10:36


>Oslo - nope, just commenting on the guys Dunning-Kruger-itis.

Well, if he has huge Dunning-Kruger-itis, I would say he is not important, but if anyone argues that his Dunning-Kruger-itis is important it should be a big tit, sorry post.

I'm not impressed by his Dunning-Kruger-itis so far, but they might look better in ´╗┐ireland.