How Heat Flows and Why It Matters

Via Azimuth comes a very detailed and sourced post on basic physics of  climate change.  Well worth the time to view or review, especially before commenting.

by Jan Galkowski

1. How Heat Flows and Why It Matters

Is there something missing in the recent climate temperature record?

Heat is most often experienced as energy density, related to temperature. While technically temperature is only meaningful for a body in thermal equilibrium, temperature is the operational definition of heat content, both in daily life and as a scientific measurement, whether at a point or averaged. For the present discussion, it is taken as given that increasing atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide trap and re-radiate Earth blackbody radiation to its surface, resulting in a higher mean blackbody equilibration temperature for the planet, via radiative forcing [Ca2014a, Pi2012, Pi2011, Pe2006].

The question is, how does a given joule of energy travel? Once on Earth, does it remain in atmosphere? Warm the surface? Go into the oceans? And, especially,if it does go into the oceans, what is its residence time before released to atmosphere? These are important questions [Le2012a, Le2012b]. Because of the miscibility of energy, questions of residence time are very difficult to answer. A joule of energy can’t be tagged with a radioisotope like matter sometimes can. In practice, energy content is estimated as a constant plus the time integral of energy flux across a well-defined boundary using a baseline moment.

Variability is a key aspect of natural systems, whether biological or large scale geophysical systems such as Earth’s climate [Sm2009]. Variability is also a feature of statistical models used to describe behavior of natural systems, whether they be straightforward empirical models or models based upon ab initio physical calculations.

The entire article can be found at Azimuth.