B. Are there any Laboratory Tests on Greenhouse Effect?

High school chemistry labs have attempted to prove the greenhouse effect with three glass jars one filled with CO2, one with air, and one with water vapor.  At the bottom of each jar is some soil or other solid material.  The jar is then exposed to a light source, sometimes to natural sunlight but usually a high intensity heating lamp.   The theory is that high energy visible light passes through the glass, heats the soil, the soil then emits infrared radiation which is captured by the CO2 and H20 molecules.  The temperature inside the container with CO2 and H2O becomes slightly higher over the one with only air after a few hours.   Why doesn’t this observation support the Greenhouse Theory?  

First, it is Kirchhoff’s Law that was Operative not the Greenhouse Effect.   The high energy heat lamps and the Sun emit a broad band of radiation. Below are the emission and absorption profile of sunlight and a typical halogen light.  The first graph shows the distribution of sunlight superimposed on the spectral distribution of the Tungsten-Halogen lamp.

This shows that the Tungsten-Halogen light is producing very high energy radiation. 

 The second figure shows the absorption spectral profile of various Greenhouse gases.

The units in Davidson figure above are in nanometers (nm) whereas the units in the Rohde figure are in microns (µm).  Multiply microns by 1000 to convert to nanometers.  Therefore a wavelength of 1000 nm is 1 µm.  The diagram on the left is a plot of the the watts per square meter, i.e. energy.  The plot on the right in the Davidson figure is a relative number narrowing-in on the visible light spectra 200 nm (.2µm) to 1000 mn (1µm. ). 

The Rohde figure shows that both water vapor and carbon dioxide have peaks in the short wave infrared spectra (called SWIR and exhibiting a 1.4 to 3µm wavelength and functions similar to visible light.).  The medium wavelength infrared spectra (called MWIR, with a 3-5µm wavelength) exhibits some absorption profiles for water vapor and CO2.   The long wave infrared (called LWIR exhibiting a wavelength above 5µm) are absorbed by most solid and liquid materials.  With respect to gases, water vapor has multiple peaks between 1 to 4 µm, carbon dioxide has peaks at 2, 2.8, and 4.5 µm, and methane has a small peak at 3.4 µm.  The energy from the sunlight and heat lamps (1 to 3.4 µm wave lengths) is up to ten times stronger (1=1.24eV, 2=.6 eV, 3.4= .36eV) than the energy from the long wave length infrared heat.  This is the infrared heat associated from the soil in the jars that has wavelengths around 9 to 10 µm (9= 0.13eV and 10= 0.12 eV).  As such, any heating of an enclosure using a heat lamp is associated from the high energy short wavelenghts.   The heat lamp puts out very little long wavelength infrared radiation.

Experiments with CO2 in a glass jar will be heated 10 times faster from the radiation from the light source as compared from the infrared radiation emitted by the soil.  It actually will be much higher than 10 times, since the long wave (low energy) radiation from the soil is quickly absorbed by the glass or plastic container as compared to the higher energy short wave infrared from the lamp.  

This means that tests performed by the greenhouse type laboratory experiments are nothing more than proving Kirchhoff’s Radiation Law, i.e. CO2 and H2O will absorb radiation at various high energy wave lengths.  This means it is the light source that is heating the contents of the jar as opposed to the long wave lower energy infrared being emitted from the soil.   This is probably why there are no tests where high energy light sources are not used.   

The Mythbusters test fails primarily for the same reason discussed above.  They measured the absorption of high energy infrared and not low energy long wave infrared as discussed above.  However, Mythbusters test fails in a second way.  They placed a large ice sculpture inside each of the four test chambers, two with air, one with CO2 added and one with Methane added.  Ice is highly reflective.  The giant ice sculpture reflects a large portion of the high energy light into all directions.   It is like placing a deformed giant mirror taking up about a third of the back surface area inside each chamber.  There is no control over how much light is reflected and there was no attempt to measure the amount of reflected light.   Reflection is a significant issue.  Most people know that a skier gets sunburn because of reflection from the snow.  

There is a third problem.  The two control chambers appeared to be on each end with chambers containing the CO2 and Methane sandwiched between.  Because of this placement, the reflected light from each of the controls will naturally direct more radiation to the chambers placed between them. 

But, there are more problems.  As can be seen from the absorption profiles above, water vapor completely dominates the absorption of infrared radiation, both high energy and low energy.  The early temperature rise (CO2 and Methane absorbing the high energy radiation from the light source) and then leveling off indicates that water vapor from the melting ice sculptures began to overcome the observations.  This is what the Kirchhoff’s Laws would predict.  If the test was continued for many more hours, it is likely that the water vapor in all of the chambers would equalize the temperature in all four chambers eventual reaching steady state.   

In a greenhouse gas demo presented on Youtube by Erik Christensen, two bottles were half filled with water.  He dropped an Alka-Selzer™ tablet into one bottle as a supply for CO2.  Both bottles were promptly sealed and a high energy heat lamp turned on.  After an hour the temperature in the bottle containing the Alka-Selzer™ was 9 degrees warmer than the bottle containing air.  Again, the test fails because the CO2 is absorbing the high energy (short wavelength) infrared from the heat lamp as discussed earlier.  There was no attempt to generate any low energy long-wave infrared which is the foundation of the Greenhouse Effect Hypothesis.  This test is being discussed because it illustrates another serious problem.  Quickly sealing the jar containing a fizzing Alka-Selzer tablet causes the pressure to rise.  This is a classic illustration of the relationship between pressure and temperature.  For the same volume, any increase in pressure results in a directly proportional increase in temperature.  It’s called the combined Gas Laws (Boyles, Charles & Gay-Lussac).  It is taught in every thermodynamic course.  When Mr. Christensen plugged the top, the bubbling Alka-Selzer released more and more carbon dioxide into the bottle causing the pressure to increase.  How much of the 9 degrees was attributed to the pressure rise and how much attributed to the CO2 absorbing high energy infrared from the lamp is not known nor was it measured.

The Christensen test may have been suggested by NOAA to prove the greenhouse effect as indicated with NOAA’s website address presented at the first page of the video.  The website link was not active.  But if it were true, promoting a defective test by people who should know about the basic Gas Laws and the basic Kirchhoff’s Radiation Laws is unfortunate. 

None of the greenhouse tests show heating by low energy long wave infrared and none show that a cooler gas can heat a warmer gas via radiation. 

The IPCC failed to identify any laboratory test supporting the Greenhouse Effect Hypothesis.   Moreover, none of the thousands of pages of IPCC assessment reports mention, discuss or endorse any greenhouse type test such as discussed in this section.  Certainly if there were such a greenhouse test, IPCC would have acknowledged it.