This exchange is kind of funny. A serious calculational error of a well-known promoter of the global warming theory - an error described below - shows how weak intuition the climate folks have about the order-of-magnitude estimates of the basic processes in nature. They obviously never discuss technical things that require actual numbers.
In his new text meant to humiliate the latent heat
William Connolley decided to show how trivial it's to defeat the latent heat. It is becoming completely obvious that he actually believes that the latent heat can indeed be neglected. In the original version of his article, he wrote the following sentence:
- Long-wave-down (not net) at the sfc in January is about 135 w/m2 so it would melt about 30m of ice in a day. Of course that neglects the long-wave up.
Yes, this is what he thinks. Don't get confused by his pretentious terminology - his point is very simple. He thinks that the solar radiation above the Arctic is enough to melt 30 meters of ice a day! This is how the "mainstream" climate scientists visualize the heat budget. This is how they do calculations that are meant to justify investments of trillions of dollars. It can't be surprising that they conclude that a "catastrophe" is imminent if they expect ice to melt so quickly. Note that William Connolley is not a random person who has nothing to do with ice; he is paid as a "senior scientific officer" and "climate modeller" of the British Antarctic Survey. You may expect that such a person has some idea about ice; you would be completely wrong. You would be wrong by 3 orders of magnitude.
Of course that Connolley's statement is complete rubbish; the correct answer is not 30 meters but 30 millimeters. He's wrong by three orders of magnitude. Most healthy children would be able to figure out that the Arctic Sun can't melt 30 meters of ice a day. Do you think that a climate modeller focusing on Antarctica should have no idea how much heat one needs to melt ice? His error is like confusing the height of Mount Everest with your house. It's like predicting that the year 3005 will arrive next year. It's like a string theorist who believes that the critical dimension is 10,000. It's like a particle physicist who believes that the size of the nucleus is the inverse electroweak scale. It's just unforgivable ignorance. For pedagogical reasons, let me do this calculation properly.
Let's be very cavalier and multiply those 135 Watts per meter squared by the number of seconds per day, 86,400, which will certainly lead to a huge overestimate. We obtain 11,664,000 Joules per day and per squared meter. Let's call the units "meters times Joules per day and cubic meter". If we divide it by the density of water or ice, namely 1,000 kilograms per cubic meter, we obtain 11,664 meters times Joules per day and kilogram. If we divide this number by the latent heat of ice which is 355,000 Joules per kilogram, we obtain roughly 0.03 meters or 3 centimeters. Yes, indeed, he can only melt 1 inch a day instead of the 30 meters that he argued.
No doubt, the climate arguments and models are robust against such changes by 3 orders of magnitude. They're permanently safe because what they actually rely upon are not calculations but human bigotry and political fanatism. Folks like William never solve actual scientific questions that require rational reasoning or a calculation like this one. Whenever someone wants to help them to do some reasoning properly, they will attack him (the biggest insult being that the person is connected with the commercial sector) ;-) because they are, by definition, the only experts in the world.
The sea ice is important as a heat sink not only because of the latent heat whose relevance I have probably sufficiently demonstrated. It is also critical because the sea ice, whenever it exists, drives the circulation of the ocean. Normally, 90% of the ocean mass is below "thermocline" which is 100-400 meters below the surface. Within this region, the temperature is dropping very quickly. Below thermocline, the temperature only drops slowly, towards those 0-3 degrees Celsius of the very deep ocean. What's important is that the ocean below thermocline does not exchange heat efficiently. When we talk about the heat exchange and about the ocean as a heat sink, only the upper 100-400 meters of water are important.
Sea ice is important not only because the large latent heat of the 2 meters of ice is enough to compete with the specific heat of 100 meters of "active" water. Ice is also critical for ocean's being a heat sink because ice drives the circulation, and it actually decides about the height of the water column that is able to store the heat.
I just can't understand how someone may think that he is able to say anything about the future climate if he neglects things like that - that are much more important than some greenhouse effect involving not-the-most-important greenhouse gas. But everyone knows the reason: it's because they are allowed do it like that by the environment. There is almost no one - or at least almost no one in the scientific world - who would have the courage to tell them that what they're doing is completely silly.
Although it has always been the case that the weakest students of physics chose climate science, in our bizarre world such people are apparently gaining a divine status. But they are still the very same people; poor students who can't distinguish meters from millimeters. And these people indirectly suck one half of the GDP growth of our planet.