Two’s company, three’s a crowd: a nitrogen threesome joins the IR party

The simplistic story of CO2 from fossil fuel emissions causing global warming is based on the ability of the CO2 molecule to interact with infrared (IR) light and thus “trap” heat in the atmosphere.

The reason for this we are told is that gas molecules with three or more atoms such as CO2 and H2O have the degree of freedom to allow them to absorb and re-radiate IR, due to having more than one inter-atomic bond. But dimer molecules with 2 only like N2 and O2 cannot, having a single bond only.

3-atom photon interactions

However research published by Joel Stebbins, AE Whitford and P Swings working at the Mount Wilson Observatory in the USA during WW2 in 1944 showed that nitrogen can temporaily become a three-atom entity with the multi-bond freedom to interact strongly with IR when one N2 molecule dissociates into two nitrogen atoms, and these two atoms then interact with another intact N2 molecule to form a threesome. Then this N2 + 2xN entity is able to interact with IR similarly to CO2. Furthermore, these authors identified a “night sky shine” of IR whose wavelength identified it as arising from this nitrogen threesome interaction.

Click to access SWINGS_1945_a-strong-infrared-radiation-from.pdf

There are multiple postings of this paper on the net but it seems to be completely ignored in the CO2 warming narrative.

This IR “night-shine” is very weak, only a tiny fraction of a watt per m2. However since we are continually told that CO2 back-radiates IR to the surface, the obvious question that arises is – where is this back-radiated IR from CO2? Stebbins et al noticed nothing from CO2 – only from nitrogen, oxygen, hydroxide (OH) and a few other small molecules – but not from CO2. So where is it? Why, instead of CO2, is night sky radiation of IR dominated by the dissociative-threesome behaviour of nitrogen?

The reason is that the whole “CO2 IR backradiation” argument is completely false. It is used in a popular, pseudo-scientific description of the “greenhouse effect”. Actual scientists realise this is false and justify CO2 warming with a completely different argument, about the increase in altitude of the effective emission height due to increasing CO2 concentration in air increasing opacity to IR. The elevated emission height is colder, thus less energy radiated out to space as IR, thus the whole earth gets hotter to compensate. (This is also false, since the atmosphere’s thermodynamics are not linear equilibrium but are far from equilibrium and dominated by dissipative structures – this will be covered in a future post involving the nonlinear thermodynamics and theory of dissipative structures by Ilya Prigogine.)

A good description of the popular but false greenhouse explanation of “CO2 backradiation” and the actual emission height argument used by scientists which is tortuously complicated, is given a few posts back on this site in a repost from Clive Best:

https://ptolemy2.wordpress.com/2020/07/05/clive-best-its-a-circular-argument-if-we-assume-co2-warms-the-earth-we-find-that-co2-warms-the-earth/

 

The global warming narrative is based on the foundational dogma that nitrogen and oxygen (N2 and O2) which comprise 99% of air, are transparent and inert with regard to IR radiation. The 1944 spectrosopy work by Stebbins and others shows this is not true. If you look at the IR coming down from the night sky, it does not originate with CO2 but with nitrogen (with smaller contributions from oxygen and hydroxide. The “CO2 back-radiation” idea is thus proved to be false.

 

Here is the journal citation:

Stebbins J, Whitford AE, Swings P. A strong infrared radiation from molecular nitrogen in the night sky. Astrophysical Journal. 1945;101:39-46.

Here is the energy level diagram of nitrogen – knowledge that modern politicized science appears to have lost:

energy diagram of nitrogen

4 thoughts on “Two’s company, three’s a crowd: a nitrogen threesome joins the IR party

  1. It is less absurd than iliterate to adduce this paper as being of relevance to thermal infrared radiative forcing by CO2, , because the maximum wavelegth at which these measurements were conducted was barely one micron– 10,300 angstroms = 1.03 microns, which corresponds to thermal radiation from a 1,000 degree K surface , as opposed to the ten micron warmth radiated at room temperature.

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