Climate scientists are having a tough time seeing the forest for a tree that sort of supports their hypothesis that CO2 is causing global warming. While the Greenhouse Effect GHE (the tree) seems to be well understood, it means little when taking into account just two other properties of nature (the forest), Convection and Latent Heat of Vaporization.
Convection is a very efficient means of heat transfer over relatively short distances and is the cause of all the Earth’s weather. A convection rate of just 1 m/s (2.2 mph) requires 81,000 Watts (joule per second) per square meter while the Earth’s average radiation rate is 240 W/m^2 (Watt per square meter). Imagine how much energy is behind a strong wind!
The huge disparity between the two is a result of entropy or nature’s tendency to ‘follow the path of least resistance’. Convection is that much more efficient than radiation at transferring energy, at least within the troposphere. Once convection is no longer a means of energy transfer at about 10,000 meters altitude, radiation takes over as the only means of energy transfer to cool the Earth.
Imagine for a moment that the Earth is 100 meters in diameter instead of 12 million meters. The Troposphere, or atmosphere where convection takes place, would only be 8 millimeters thick instead of 10,000 meters. The temperature would go from 14 degrees C at the surface to -56 C at 8 mm mostly due to convection and the rest of the cooling from -56 onwards is radiative cooling.
Latent Heat of Vaporization (LHV) is the amount of energy it requires to turn water into water vapor. It takes ~2300 joules to vaporize 1 gram of water. There are approximately 13 Trillion tons of water in the atmosphere at any given moment and it is recycled about every 10 days, so it takes about 30 Sextillion joules to vaporize that much water every cycle. In effect, the evaporation and precipitation cycle is actually a massive heat scrub.
So what does all this mean? It means the GHE, which traps about 2 W/m^2 at the surface without the presence of water vapor, is trapping so little energy that it can barely be measured and wherever evaporation is taking place, it becomes of no use to measure.
In conclusion, the Earth’s thermodynamic system is the sum of all the energy transfers into and out of the system and most of the energy that moves from the surface to the Stratosphere is moved via convection. If one were to only look at the changes in the GHE, one might become alarmed, however, when looking at just two more properties of nature we see that the GHE actually has little to do with temperature.