Home > controversy, entropy, Modelling > Trenberth’s missing variable

Trenberth’s missing variable

Trenberth is widely alleged to have written things about missing heat, good headlines but not really what he wrote.

He was upset over being unable to explain a divergence between what he expected from models and actual data, complaining the data is inadequate, presumably something which was either not measured or inaccurate. The reader can find the precise words if they want.

I hold the opinion the data we have is poor, hence things such as US Standards body questions absolute accuracy of TSI instruments, we increasingly are unsure about what solar factors affect earth and other more technical issues.

I put it like this: the calculations involved do not cross check. Trenberth is admitting for all the vast amount of money spent, man lifetimes of effort, the data is still too poor to figure out what is wrong.

Since then hiding heat, the missing heat problem has been discussed widely, papers published and still no answer, at least that I have heard about.

The assumption is that AGW theory is correct but the earth as a grand calorimeter says no.



Altered slide from a PDF presentation “Tracing the upper ocean’s ‘missing heat’, Caroline Katsman, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh”

This draws on

“Tracing the upper ocean’s ‘missing heat’, C. A. Katsman 1 and G. J. van Oldenborgh 1”, KNMI

Note: I am not criticising these authors, who were presenting what they believed to be so.

The mystery

I see no chance I have dreamt this up without many others doing so first, it is far too obvious. That poses questions, if so, why is a variable widely omitted?

From FAO…


Experimental data indicates that between 8 and 12 photons are required for fixation of one molecule of CO2. Since the energy equivalent of one photon (700 nm) is approximately 170 kJ/E, and the change in free energy during the fixation of CO2 is approximately 450 U/mol, the energy efficiency of this process for monochromatic light of a wavelength of 700 nm is estimated to be approximately 21-33%. However, owing to the quantum nature of photosynthetic reactions, energy efficiency decreases if light of shorter wavelengths (i.e. higher quantum energy) is used. Additionally, energy losses, energy requirements for plant growth, and the distribution of solar energy wavelengths need to be considered.

Plant photosynthesis takes place only in the presence of visible light (400-700 nm). However, solar light contains both visible and infrared components. Since visible light accounts for about 45% of all solar energy, the maximum achievable energy efficiency for CO2 fixation using solar radiation is approximately 13%. [there are additional losses elsewhere] [update: note the  qualification to CO2 fixation only but there are other processes with other elements also requiring the energy flux but so far as I know there is no comprehensive nor certain actual figure on conversion efficiency]

A partial backgrounder by Food and Agriculture Organisation (of the United Nations), I suggest read with caution, is

“Title: Renewable biological systems for alternative sustainable energy production….”

Remember the oceans are involved too.

I expect the primary discussion will be about photosynthesis and breaking carbon dioxide bonds. This seems quantatively highly contentious, ie. many will claim the effect is too small. It is a very large number all the same, looks ballpark.

Not mentioned here either

Earlier blog discussions

Many on WUWT, best found via Google, use this search string
site:wattsupwiththat.com “missing heat”

Roy Spencer

Judith Curry

And hundreds more. Some might discuss what I raise.

Here is a Google search term for academic and government, primarily in US, is little mentioned elsewhere
“missing heat” ocean heat trenberth ( site:edu | site:ac.uk | site:gov | site:gov.uk)

Categories: controversy, entropy, Modelling
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  1. August 30, 2013 at 03:07

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