D. What is Residence Time.

D.  Residence Time and Radiation Laws.

There is no relationship between resident times and existing or current heat transfer, energy flux, radiation or radiation laws.  All current natural laws have no residence time element or component in the analysis or equations.  This raises the question as to why it is being discussed.  To understand the “why” it is important to understand definition of residence time.

What is Residence time?  Residence time is often use in hydrology to plan for floods and how long pollutants will stay in a lake or reservoir.  It is based on steady state conditions, i.e. inflow or outflow must be equal.  The equation is very simple:

Residence time = Volume of Reservoir / the Input or Output at steady state

Residence times are used to estimate the half-life of pollutants.    

 Half-life = .0693 (Residence Time)

This means if a pollutant is added to a reservoir then the time it takes to reduce the pollutant to 50% is determined by the above formula.  This is useful information in controlling and dispersing pollutants that may occur in the future.  Residence times and half-life estimations are functions of statistical analysis, i.e. probabilities.  It uses the same “Gaussian Distribution” (bell shaped curve) that is used in statistics and integrated from 0 to infinity.  This is a probability calculation and not quantitative calculation like determining the area of a rectangular.  As with all probability projections it is only as good as the information and assumptions that go into the analysis.  For example, presidential approval ratings are statistical probability projections, and vary dramatically depending upon who does the analysis and the assumptions made.

The Residence Times for various Greenhouse Gases have been reported by the IPCC as:

  •  Water Vapor                                       10 days
  •  CO2                                                     4.7 years
  • Methane                                              12 years
  •  Nitrous Oxides                                    114 years
  • Fluoro carbons                                    45 to 50,000 years.

The CO2 residence time based on mass was calculated at 5.7 years. The IPCC also used a flash or pulse method to calculate a much longer 500-1000 years residence time for CO2

The residence time for water vapor is reported to be between 8-10 days.  [Van der Ent (2017) The Residence time of Water in the Atmosphere, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci Vol 21 779-790].  The water vapor (H20) residence time was based on the water vapor portion and excluded liquid & ice in the clouds portion in the atmosphere.  The flash or pulse method was not applied to H20, even though the residence time in the upper atmospheres would be expected to be as high or higher than CO2.   A large portion of the H20 vapor in the Stratosphere and higher zones is produced by reactions of CH4 (methane) with ozone and oxygen ions in those zones.

 Residence Time and Half-Life Numbers are Future Projections. Residence Times and Half-Life Numbers are future projections based on certain assumptions. They do not apply to current temperatures, heat flux or radiation.  The closer in time to the present the less influence the projections have.  That is, at the current time period the residence time issue would have zero effect since it is based on a future projection.  At 10 year these projections would have small effects.  The longer the time from current, such as “infinity” as used in the equations or a thousand years, the more affect the projections based on Residence Time would have. 

There are certain assumptions that are being made.  Firstly, everything must be at steady state.  That is, the water vapor, carbon dioxide, etc. must not change, i.e. what goes into the atmosphere is the same as what leaves the atmosphere.  We know that such assumption is not met.  Both carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere go up with temperature and both go down with temperature. 

As discussed in Question 1, Item D, CO2 goes up and down dramatically over the last 600 million years.  See the above diagram based on data from NOAA.   The average deviation or fluctuation is 2,057 ppmv.  That means it is NOT constant or at steady state.  If it were at steady state, the graph would be a horizontal line.  It varies wildly between 8,000 ppmv to 300 ppmv.  

The same fluctuation occurs with water vapor.  The figure showing temperature fluctuations over the last 550 million years is shown in the Glen Fergus diagramThese two figures show that the CO2 and H2O fluctuations are considerable and far from steady state.  The large fluctuations within the standard deviation make future projections based on Residence Times highly suspect and in violation of the stead state requirements.   

 If one assumed a steady state condition, there may be a relationship between long term concentration projections and residence times.  Concentration is a component of the amount of radiation absorption and emission by the Greenhouse Gases.  Hence, residence time may have relevance in making future projections of warming/cooling via Kirchhoff’s Radiation laws.

The IPCC has taken the position that water vapor can be ignored under the Greenhouse Effect because it has a short residence time.  The IPPC 2013, pg 666, stated:

“The typical residence time of water vapour in the atmosphere is ten days. The flux of water vapour into the atmosphere from anthropogenic sources is considerably less than from ‘natural’ evaporation. Therefore, it has a negligible impact on overall concentrations, and does not contribute significantly to the long-term greenhouse effect. This is the main reason why tropospheric water vapour (typically below 10 km altitude) is not considered to be an anthropogenic gas contributing to radiative forcing.”  Emphasis Added.

It is believed this assumption incorrect.  First, the IPCC attempted to distinguish between natural sources and man-man sources (anthropogenic).  A Greenhouse Gas in the atmosphere absorbs and emits infrared radiation in accordance with its spectral absorption profile and its concentration.   There is no relationship with how the Greenhouse Gas enters the atmosphere.  It is believed that the reason the IPCC made this statement is because of its fundamental or foundational declarations in the formation of the IPCC.   That is, the IPCC was formed to fight man-made pollution, and that CO2 and other minor Greenhouse Gases are considered “pollutants” but not water vapor. 

Almost the entire amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is from natural sources such as the Ocean and Land with the amount from man-man causes being less than 1.5%.  There is no way to measure, determine, or detect which molecules of CO2 are from man-man causes or from natural courses.  They only can be estimated by rough calculations based on unproven assumptions.  There are no laboratory experiments that show which molecules are come from man-made sources (1.5%) and which come from natural sources (98.5%).   The vast amount (98.48%) of CO2 released into the atmosphere each year is returned to the earth via rain, surface absorption, bio-respiration, etc.  The portion of CO2 from natural sources and the amount returned to the earth by rain etc (94.5%) are different and independent issues. 

IPCC have reported that out of 197 GtC of CO2 released to the atmosphere/year from all sources, 194 GtC are returned for an absorption factor of 98.48%. [IPCC (1990) Fig. 1.1 pg.8] 

Quorvite has not seen any absorption factor applied to the man-made or fossil fuel portion.  It appears that it was assumed that 100 percent of the accumulation in the atmosphere is from man-made sources.  There is no verification for this assumption, and assuming that CO2 from fossil fuels is not absorbed or returned to the earth by rain, etc. is violative of many natural laws such as Boyles Law, etc.

It appears that the IPCC assert that because CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere, it must be from fossil fuel combustion because that is the only thing new.  Many reasons exist for the increased CO2 concentration.  The increased ocean temperature causes CO2 to bubble into the atmosphere.  Increased temperature increases biological life and increased biological life causes CO2 to rise.  CO2 concentration increases AFTER the temperature increases, supporting the ocean and biological connection. 

Secondly, the IPCC statement that long-term water-vapor “does not contribute significantly to the long-term greenhouse effect,” is without scientific validation.  The Kirchhoff’s Laws are not expected expire and the concentration of water vapor in the air is not scheduled to disappear.  

Atmospheric water vapor has been in existence for as long as life has existed and at no time has it ever disappeared.  The position that it will no long significantly contribute to the warming/cooling is not supported.   In the 1970’s the overwhelming scientific projections was that a cold spell was coming.  That projection gave way to a warming trend, both with catastrophic consequences.  Every single catastrophic projection has failed.  See Question 11. 

Water vapor will always have an effect on warming in accordance with the Kirchhoff’s laws unless it disappears.  If water disappears it will have far more consequences on life than any slight warming factor.

Thirdly, water vapor “(typically below 10 km altitude) is not considered to be an anthropogenic gas contributing to radiative forcing,” is a statement without meaning.   The fact that IPCC does not classify water vapor as a pollutant (anthropogenic gas contributing to radiative forcing) is appropriate, but it has no meaning in the content provided.  Distinguishing between man-man water vapor and natural water vapor is irrelevant.  What is relevant to the radiation laws is the total amount of water vapor. 

More water vapor is produced for every molecule of fossil fuels burned than CO2 molecules.  For example for each molecule of methane that is burned yields one molecule of CO2 and two molecules of H2O.  And water vapor has an infrared absorption profile almost ten times larger than CO2.   But the IPCC, classifies CO2 as a pollutant and not water vapor.   This is strong evidence indicating a goal oriented objective rather than a scientific law, condition or observation.

iii Residence Time as a Function of Infrared Radiation.  The time between absorption and re-emission is typically considered as instantaneous (Franck-Condon Principle) and is very short in the nano-second range (1/400,000,000 seconds) in the slower fluorescence cases. [Woods R (1921) The Time Interval between Absorption and Emission of Light in Fluorescence, Royal Society, Vol 99, Issue 700, pgs 362-371].   As such raising the residence time as a function of radiative absorption-emission is not considered measurable or a meaningful component.   

iv Residence Time and Meteorological Conditions.   With respect to atmospheric pollutants, residence time is highly dependent on meteorological conditions, such as wind currents. [Bolin B et al (1974) Residence time of atmospheric pollutants as dependent on source characteristics, atmospheric diffussion processes and sink mechanisms, Tellus, 26:1-2, 185-195.]   The IPCC does not appear to include meteorological conditions in the analysis when it comes to CO2 even though it classifies CO2 as a pollutant.  At the same time the IPCC does consider meteorological conditions when it relates to water vapor.  The IPCC classifies water vapor as a non-pollutant.  This apparent contradiction is not explained and complicates the justification for using residence time in relation to long-term or short-term temperature related heat transfer issues.