Inventions and Deceptions – Total Solar Irradiance

The problem with Total Solar Irradiance [TSI] is two fold:

Firstly: Scientists aren’t Climatologists.

Secondly: Climatologists aren’t Scientists.

Let me explain.

Scientists have been happily using satellites since 1979 to measure Total Solar Irradiance. The current generation of measurements come from the state-of-the-art satellite mission called the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment [SORCE]:

The Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) is a NASA-sponsored satellite mission that provides state-of-the-art measurements of incoming X-ray, ultraviolet, visible, near-infrared, and total solar radiation.

SORCE measures the Sun’s output with the use of state-of-the-art radiometers, spectrometers, photodiodes, detectors, and bolometers engineered into instruments mounted on a satellite observatory.

The SORCE satellite orbits around the Earth accumulating solar data.

The SORCE mission web site also clearly states that the scientists think they are providing “precise measurements of total solar irradiance”:

The SORCE spacecraft was launched on January 25, 2003 on a Pegasus XL launch vehicle to provide NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) with precise measurements of solar radiation. It launched into a 645 km, 40 degree orbit and is operated by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder, Colorado, USA.

It will continue the precise measurements of total solar irradiance (TSI) that began with the ERB instrument in 1979 and has continued to the present with the ACRIM series of measurements.

SORCE will also provide the measurements of the solar spectral irradiance from 1nm to 2000nm, accounting for 95% of the spectral contribution to TSI.

Everything seems perfectly straightforward.

Everyone is agreed: SORCE provides precise state-of-the-art measurements of TSI.

What could possibly go wrong?

The SORCE scientists very helpfully provide graphs of their mission data online:

Daily Average Full SORCE Mission Plot

Everything looks good.

Even the Climatologists think the data is perfect.

Wikipedia thinks it’s so perfect they include the data in their Global Warming article.

Satellite observations of Total Solar Irradiance from 1979–2006

However, there is a problem.

It’s a problem for scientists.

It’s a mortal blow to climatologists.

The first clue is provided by Wikipedia in their Sun article.
Very helpfully Wikipedia included a graph of Extraterrestrial Total Solar Irradiance.

The effective temperature, or black body temperature, of the Sun (5777 K) is the temperature a black body of the same size must have to yield the same total emissive power.

Let me elaborate.

The Sun’s Photosphere has an effective temperature of 5,778 K.
Therefore, the Photosphere’s Irradiance Spectrum should [in theory] be similar to the Irradiance Spectrum of a Blackbody at 5,778 K.

Unfortunately, a funny thing happened to the TSI on its way to the SORCE satellite.

Between the Sun’s Photosphere and the SORCE satellite:

TSI lost high energy ultraviolet.
TSI gained mid-range visible light.
TSI gained low energy infrared.

Simply put:

Something absorbed ultraviolet and then emitted visible and infrared.

This means:

SORCE is not precisely measuring TSI.
SORCE is precisely measuring Transformed TSI.

This all seems very strange on first inspection.

Climatologists will immediately wave their hands and say this is pure nonsense.

Scientists will look for an explanation.

But there is a very embarrassing explanation.

The explanation is very clearly stated.

The SORCE mission even appears to be proud of the fact:

The SORCE spacecraft was launched on January 25, 2003 on a Pegasus XL launch vehicle to provide NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise (ESE) with precise measurements of solar radiation. It launched into a 645 km, 40 degree orbit and is operated by the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado (CU) in Boulder, Colorado, USA.

So what’s wrong with a 645 kilometre orbit?

Everything if you are trying to precisely measure TSI.


Because the SORCE satellite isn’t above the Earth’s atmosphere!

SORCE is orbiting about 90,000 kilometres below the top of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Still not convinced there is a problem?

Still think we can just disregard the atmosphere above 645 kilometres?

Think again!

There is a lot happening above 645 kilometres.

Let’s start with Hydrogen doing something naughty in the geocorona.
Hydrogen emits X-Rays in the geocorona after colliding with Solar Wind ions:

The geocoronal X-rays are caused by collisions of heavy ions of carbon, oxygen and neon in the solar wind with hydrogen atoms located tens of thousands of miles above the surface of Earth.

During the collisions, the solar ions capture electrons from hydrogen atoms. The solar ions then kick out X-rays as the captured electrons drop to lower energy states.

Wikipedia tells us that Hydrogen emits ultraviolet light in the geocorona.

The geocorona is the luminous part of the outermost region of the Earth’s atmosphere, the exosphere. It is seen primarily via far-ultraviolet light (Lyman-alpha) from the Sun that is scattered from neutral hydrogen.

The full Hydrogen story actually includes visible light emissions:

Hydrogen emits visible light and ultraviolet light when it collides with an electron.

When an electron has an inelastic collision with Hydrogen the excess energy that has been transferred to the Hydrogen may be partially emitted as a visible sky-blue photon. The Hydrogen may then emit the remaining excess energy as a photon in the ultraviolet spectrum.

[Refer to:

How about Helium?
Helium+ is detected well above 645 km via its ultraviolet emissions at 30.4 nm.

IMAGE Extreme Ultraviolet Imager

Let’s add some Oxygen into the mix.

Hydrogen+, Helium+ and Oxygen+ are transported well above 645 kilometres.
These particles will emit ultraviolet and/or visible light when they have an inelastic collision with an electron or recombine with the electron to form a neutral particle. The neutral particle will then be ionised by solar radiation and restart the cycle.

Another important aspect of the ionosphere-magnetosphere interaction is the outflow of plasma from the ionosphere into the magnetosphere.

This outflow is so substantial –10**26 ions per second during magnetically disturbed periods near solar maximum– that the ionosphere could, in principle, fully populate the magnetosphere with plasma. (In fact, the magnetosphere contains a mixture of solar wind and ionospheric plasmas.)

The outflow of ions from the ionosphere takes a variety of forms:
the supersonic polar wind,
ion upwelling from the cleft ion fountain,
polar cap outflows, and
upward ion conics and beams from the auroral zone.

In addition to these high-latitude sources, strong O+ outflows from the mid-latitude ionosphere have been observed at times of intense geomagnetic activity. The strength and composition of the ionospheric plasma outflows vary with geomagnetic activity, season, solar cycle, local time, and altitude.

For example, the O+ component of the ionospheric outflow increases with increasing solar and geomagnetic activity, with a corresponding increase in the O+ density of the plasma sheet.

Alternatively, the neutral particles will absorb energy and emit infrared radiation.

IMAGE’s High Energy Neutral Atom (HENA)
instrument captured this false color image of neutral atoms glowing inside the hot plasma surrounding Earth.

Orange-white denotes the most dense plasma,
while red traces the least dense.

The hot plasma in this image is densest on Earth’s day side.

Energetic Neutral Atom image of a storm cloud of energetic particles from the High Energy Neutral Atom Imager instrument.

Red colors indicate the highest intensity of incoming particles, blue represents the lowest.

We are looking from the sun towards the Earth, viewing the cloud beyond the Earth on the night side.

The atmosphere above 645 kilometres is not densely populated.
But there is about 90,000 kilometres of it above the orbiting SORCE satellite.
Unfortunately we don’t know all the details.
But we can see the net effect:

The atmosphere above 645 km absorbs high energy ultraviolet.

The atmosphere above 645 km emits a lot of visible light.

The atmosphere above 645 km emits infrared.

Lurking beneath this whole TSI fiasco is a dirty little secret.

It’s a dirty little secret that climatologists definitely don’t want you to know.

Simply put [without wanting to write a physics textbook]:

The atmosphere transforms energy.

Atmospheric particles absorb energy from:

The solar wind
Insolation [or moonlight or cosmic microwave background radiation…]
Other atmospheric particles – including ions and electrons

Atmospheric particles then have a number of options:

Emit a photon [or two]
Collide with another particle and transfer some energy [or not]
Ionize by emitting an electron [which contains excess energy]
Dissociate its molecular bonds e.g. O2 + ultraviolet = 2O1
Recombine with another particle or electron

The atmospheric transformation of energy is clearly detectable at ground level.

Even climatologists could detect the transformations if they weren’t so busy fudging the data and playing with their computer models.

All they have to do is compare two ground based irradiance spectrums:

One measurement when the sky is clear.
Another measurement when the sky is cloudy.

Spectral shift in irradiance with sky conditions. Credit: Kipp & Zonen

When comparing the clear and cloudy spectrums it is evident:

Clouds absorb UVB and emit visible light and infrared radiation.

This is additional observational evidence that indicates:

The atmosphere transforms energy.

This was observed by Sir David Brewster back in 1836:

Sir David Brewster (1836) found that certain lines had strengths that varied with the sun’s elevation and with the seasons. He correctly ascribed these ‘atmospheric lines’ as originating in the terrestrial atmosphere.

Unfortunately, these variable atmospheric absorption lines [in the solar spectrum] seem to have been written out the official scientific script.

Let’s recap:

The atmosphere transforms energy.

Atmospheric transformations are not fully understood, identified or quantified.

SORCE is measuring Atmospherically Transformed TSI.

What does this mean?

Climatology’s “Energy Budget” science is wrong.

Climatology’s “Greenhouse Effect” science is wrong.

Climatology’s “Global Warming” science is wrong.

Science needs to rediscover the work of Sir David Brewster.

Perhaps, if SORCE measured Total Solar Irradiation and Total Terrestrial Radiation [at an altitude of 645 km] then we could start to understand the electromagnetic radiation “budget” for the atmosphere at 645 kilometres.

UPDATE November 2013
The early morning “charge-up” of the atmosphere [as the sun rises] energises Helium and Hydrogen so that they emit Red and Yellow [during sunrise] before switching to Blue emissions when the atmosphere is fully “charged”.

A reverse “run-down” process happens in the atmosphere when the sun sets and the Helium and Hydrogen drop to lower energy levels and emit Red and Yellow before “switching-off” for the night.


Handbook of Geophysics and the Space Environment, 1985

Solar spectral irradiance for different air mass values

Figure 2.10 Solar spectral irradiance for different air mass values assuming the U.S. Standard atmosphere, 20 millimeters of perceptible water vapor, 3.4 millimeters of ozone, and very clear air (Thekaekara, 1976).

The Sun’s Energy – William Stine and Michael Geyer

UPDATE November 2013
The phenomena of transformed irradiance is partially acknowledged in the study of Absorption Spectroscopy – see the image below.

However, astronomical absorption spectroscopy is more art than science.

In the Hubble Space Telescope diagram [below] the emission spectrum of the Quasar is observed only after the light has travelled through “numerous intervening gas clouds” each of which can both absorb and emit light.

Therefore, it is impossible to differentiate between:

1) Emission bands missing from the original source spectrum and absorption bands associated with the “numerous intervening gas clouds”.

2) Emission bands from the original source spectrum and emission bands from the “numerous intervening gas clouds”.

Unfortunately, in the Hubble Space Telescope diagram [below] they have:

a) Assumed all of the “numerous intervening gas clouds” are only made of hydrogen.

b) Ignored the spectral emissions from the “numerous intervening gas clouds” and the associated spectral transformations that occur during the processes of i) absorption and ionization, ii) absorption and photon emission, iii) recombination and photon emission, iv) free electron capture.

Astronomical spectroscopy is a particularly significant type of remote spectral sensing. In this case, the objects and samples of interest are so distant from earth that electromagnetic radiation is the only means available to measure them.

Astronomical spectra contain both absorption and emission spectral information.

Absorption spectroscopy has been particularly important for understanding interstellar clouds and determining that some of them contain molecules.

Absorption spectroscopy is also employed in the study of extrasolar planets.

Detection of extrasolar planets by the transit method also measures their absorption spectrum and allows for the determination of the planet’s atmospheric composition.

Absorption spectrum observed by the Hubble Space Telescope

Absorption spectrum observed by the Hubble Space Telescope

Thus, on the surface [of the Sun] one finds atomic H, H+, and molecular H2, together with free electrons.

All of these species are in motion and undergoing high-energy collisions at that high temperature.

Unlike electrons bound in atoms which can only exhibit particular quantum states, the free electrons can have any amount of kinetic energy and thus can release photons of any energy if captured by a hydrogen atom to produce a hydride ion.

If the atoms in the sun’s atmosphere are in thermal equilibrium, these collisions will lead to the emission of Blackbody Radiation.

The intensity of BBR plotted against wavelength is a continuous curve and thus this contribution to the sun’s spectrum is continuous.

Together with this can be seen spectral lines from the ions, atoms, and (a few) molecules present in the sun’s atmosphere.

The Sun’s Continuous Spectrum

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7 Responses to Inventions and Deceptions – Total Solar Irradiance

  1. malagabay says:

    Interesting comments [and curious wording] over at WUWT.

    lsvalgaard says: January 1, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Bob Weber says: January 1, 2014 at 8:38 am
    Two good reads:

    Not good at all. The very premise is wrong. We also measure TSI 1,500,000 km above the Earth [at the L1 point] and the variations measured there there agree with those at 645 km.

    Apparently, the “variations” in TSI at 1,500,000 km agree with those at 645 km.

    Unfortunately, this doesn’t address:
    1) Whether the measured TSI is the same at both locations.
    2) What exactly is included in their measures of TSI.
    3) Whether the EM spectrums are identical at both locations.
    4) What impact the “solar wind” has on TSI that is measured at L1, 645km and sea level.

    The basic premise of “energy transformation” is valid.

    The mainstream openly acknowledges energy “absorption”

    Absorption spectroscopy refers to spectroscopic techniques that measure the absorption of radiation, as a function of

    frequency or wavelength, due to its interaction with a sample. The sample absorbs energy, i.e., photons, from the radiating

    field. The intensity of the absorption varies as a function of frequency, and this variation is the absorption spectrum.

    Absorption spectroscopy is performed across the electromagnetic spectrum.

    However, the mainstream is clearly reluctant to acknowledge energy “emission” even when it has been clearly observed in the geocorona.

    Chandra’s observations have also solved a decade-long mystery about X-rays detected by ROSAT that were thought to be coming

    from the dark portion of the Moon. It turns out that these X-rays only appear to come from the Moon. Chandra shows that the

    X-rays from the dark moon can be explained by radiation from Earth’s geocorona (extended outer atmosphere) through which

    orbiting spacecraft move.

    The geocoronal X-rays are caused by collisions of heavy ions of carbon, oxygen and neon in the solar wind with hydrogen

    atoms located tens of thousands of miles above the surface of Earth. During the collisions, the solar ions capture electrons from hydrogen atoms. The solar ions then kick out X-rays as the captured electrons drop to lower energy states.


    Unsurprisingly, Tallbloke [back in 2012] reported that the SOHO L1 measurement of the solar spectra and solar wind are not so “readily available on the internet for either public or research use”.

    tallbloke says: November 22, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    Tim Cullen: SOHO was parked out in a halo orbit near L1, about 1.5m km from Earth.

    Didn’t that mission team do any spectrographic analysis of the Sun?

    tallbloke says: November 22, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Ohhh, interesting…

    Public availability of images
    “Observations from some of the instruments can be formatted as images, most of which are also readily available on the internet for either public or research use (see the official website).

    Others such as spectra and measurements of particles in the solar wind do not lend themselves so readily to this.”


  2. Bob Weber says:

    Great work Tim – there is definitely a problem with TSI. The “missing heat” in climatology WAS NEVER MEASURED in the first place, because of how TSI is determined. I’m working on rigorously revealing that mathematically and empirically.

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  4. omanuel says:

    There is independent evidence the Sun itself has evolved from

    1. The cosmic-ray emitting pulsar remnant of a supernova that birthed the solar system five billion years (5 Ga) ago into

    2. An ordinary looking star that gravitationally retained a blanket of waste products from the pulsar (H and He) and now emits mostly visible light that chlorophyll absorbs in producing plant growth.

    I will post a link to the evidence below.

  5. Solon says:

    Very interesting indeed. I have been looking for TSI measurements taken from the Lunar or Martian surface or orbit, or from any of the many space probes out there, to the comets for example. I can find nothing for the visible wavelengths though, all such data is from within Earths atmosphere, which as you correctly point out must affect the measurements.

  6. Solon says:

    A follow up: On SOHO, which is orbiting around the Lagrange L1 point, there is the DIfferential Absolute RADiometer (DIARAD), which has been producing a composite TSI index for over 20 years now. However, I can not find anything like the information available from the SOLSPEC instrument on the ISS. The composite is all you get from deep space, which doesn’t really help much.

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