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Theoretical and Applied Climatology

, Volume 128, Issue 3–4, pp 679–688

A pedagogic explanationFirst Online: 21 January 2016Received: 28 January 2015Accepted: 05 January 2016DOI: 10.1007-s00704-016-1732-y

Cite this article as: Benestad, R.E. Theor Appl Climatol 2017 128: 679. doi:10.1007-s00704-016-1732-y


The popular picture of the greenhouse effect emphasises the radiation transfer but fails to explain the observed climate change. An old conceptual model for the greenhouse effect is revisited and presented as a useful resource in climate change communication. It is validated against state-of-the-art data, and nontraditional diagnostics show a physically consistent picture. The earth’s climate is constrained by well-known and elementary physical principles, such as energy balance, flow, and conservation. Greenhouse gases affect the atmospheric optical depth for infrared radiation, and increased opacity implies higher altitude from which earth’s equivalent bulk heat loss takes place. Such an increase is seen in the reanalyses, and the outgoing long-wave radiation has become more diffuse over time, consistent with an increased influence of greenhouse gases on the vertical energy flow from the surface to the top of the atmosphere. The reanalyses further imply increases in the overturning in the troposphere, consistent with a constant and continuous vertical energy flow. The increased overturning can explain a slowdown in the global warming, and the association between these aspects can be interpreted as an entanglement between the greenhouse effect and the hydrological cycle, where reduced energy transfer associated with increased opacity is compensated by tropospheric overturning activity.

KeywordsThe greenhouse effect Conceptual model Climate change Validation Hydrological cycle Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1007-s00704-016-1732-y contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Autor: Rasmus E. Benestad

Fuente: https://link.springer.com/

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