Climate system as heat engine

Here’s an interesting reflection on the climate system which at a stroke highlights the complexity of climate and puts to one side (at least for a moment) the belief that it must have a single controller, such as a minor atmospheric gas.

Dr Vincent Gray explained today:

The idea that the Earth has a “radiation budget” is inherently wrong.

The climate is a heat engine. The energy comes in from the sun. The exhaust goes out to space.

The exhaust must be less than the input because in between some work must be done. This would include maintenance of all living creatures plus erosion and other changes in the surface.

A scientist comments that the concept of a budget is both sound and useful, even if not strictly applicable all of the time. The energy budget approach is at the heart of modern climatology and is not controversial.

I wonder if any papers have addressed the total work done by the climate system? Continue Reading →