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Satellite microwave energy million times too small to cause global warming

What the science says...

A generous estimate of the energy generated by satellites is around 1 million times too small to cause global warming.

Climate Myth...

It's satellite microwave transmissions

Global Warming history completely coincides with the history of artificial satellites and the use of microwave frequencies from outer space. Satellite antennas transmit UHF and higher microwaves frequencies all over the planet. Sending oscillating microwaves from an antenna inside a vacuum through an electromagnetic field through a dielectric material, such as water, creates radio frequency heating at the molecular level (source: Global Warming and Microwaves).

According to UCS Active Satellite database, they know of 873 active satellites, for which those whose total power is known average around 3,200 Watts. The biggest was 18,000 Watts. To be generous, let us assume there are 1,000 satellites averaging 5,000 Watts. That yields 5 MegaWatts total. This is equivalent to about 5 big (but not biggest) windmills.

Suppose they were all orbiting about 6500km from the center of the Earth (i.e., Very Low Earth Orbits) and all the power was being radiated towards the Earth (it isn’t). The surface of a 6500km sphere is about 530 million square kilometres which means the incoming energy would be 5 Mega Watts / 530M km2 which is equivalent to ~ 1 Watts/km or 0.000001 Watts/m2.

In other words, the sum amount of energy being emitted towards the Earth from orbiting satellites is no more than 0.000001 Watt/m2. The IPCC AR4 (Figure SPM.2) gives total net anthropogenic forcing as 1.6 Watts/m2.

So, the energy required for satellites to cause global warming is off by a factor of around one million.

Last updated on 20 July 2010 by John Cook.

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Many thanks to John Mashey who originally wrote this response and gave permissionto reproduce it here.


Comments 1 to 36:

  1. Dear sir, I worked as an electronic technician for goverment high-tech radar jamming systems back in the 80'. We tested these RF radar jamming sytems with typical RF generators at minimul power between .25 and 2 watts ranging from 2GHZ to 250 GHZ or so. If you left the generator on and pointing at you for a few days you's feel the effect on your heart and skin. It was reminded to us not to due that unless you want to have cancer. Since satelites have been put into space, the worlds cancer rate continues to climb. Do not try to deny people from real fact. Ever since we went into outer space, using the discovery, and sending rocketts and satelites remote areas in desserts and in the poles, polar caps have been effected, changes in our seasons, weather patterns and disease. So don't tell me that a dam aerisol can or a crushed styrophome cup is destroying the world. Wake up!..oh ..and find out a better calculation. To penetrate a 4 mile thick ozone layer takes more than 1.6 watts /m2...not to forget the refraction values as well to re-enter into the earth.
  2. @dchristie64 You are forgetting two things: first, and most important, the inverse square law, as well as the difference between correlation and causation. The first problem, the inverse square law, says that the power of a electromagnetic transmission goes as you double your distance to the transmitter down by the square of it's value. This means that the results you had in the 80's were caused by radio waves orders of magnitude higher that the amount that a person gets from a satellite, due to the massive distance from the satellite. The second omission, the difference between correlation and causation, means that other factors than satellites can cause the mentioned problems, such as global warming and cancer, despite similar timing. The space age was also linked with massive technological advances, which most likely caused the mentioned problems. Sure, the first satellites showed up at around the same time, but that only means that the events are correlated, not that that satellites caused the problems.
  3. I think your data is wrong. there are now 928 active satellites, and using your mean of 3200 watts of overall power that I assume you got from the spreadsheet you linked, plus space station alpha the total okay roughly 3 megawatts. dividing 3 million by 530 million is about .005 Mw per km^2 or if I multiply the decimal by one million to convert it to watts 5,660 watts per km^2 or 5.6 watts per m^2 Although, if that were true I should be able to boil 2 cups of water in a square meter in a little over an hour. Assuming the water could not cool due to atmospheric influence or evaporate due to solar radiation. (based on 1100 watts taking 3 minutes to boil water for tea) anyhow, I think this article needs to be reworked as microwaves really have to be focused deliberately (see comment above). It would be nice if someone did this so that it could be taken seriously. Well because, the issue of non-ionizing radiation is very serious and until someone treats the research with any amount of reverence, the public will never know and corporations will continue to break fcc rules concerning non-ionizing radiation.
  4. Actually both of you have the numbers wrong, it's neither 1 W/km2 nor 0.01 MW/km2 (had model299 used the same numbers): 5 MW/ 530 M Km2 ~ 10-2 W/km2 = 10^-8 W/m2 = 10 nW/m2 the conclusions of the post stand a fortiori.
  5. For what it's worth, I was shocked to hear such a ridiculous argument for global warming! In my not so humble opinion, this smacks of desperation on the part of the skeptics. Rather than explaining the science to a contrarian who came up with this argument, I would be more tempted to laugh. Bob Guercio
  6. Here are some other things that belong in this thread 1 1.5 kW – tech: legal limit of power output of an amateur radio station in the United States 2 50 kW to 100 kW – tech: highest allowed ERP for an FM band radio station in the United States 3 10 MW – tech: highest ERP allowed for an UHF television station I did some maths and found this as reference LINK One thing I didn't do was add all the repeater stations and satalite links I just used the main stations which came to 27,190 x 10MW= 271GW of accumulative ERP (Effective radiated power) 4 Radars are also on my list to search ERP levels (weather,shiping and aircraft radars) and lets not forget space research 5 The mobile phone network is also a problem and needs to be callculated 6 The military will be the hardest to callculate no power restrictions when it comes to war, the one with the most power wins

  7. jmorpuss @6, your 271 GW of ERP represents just 0.0005 W/m^2 even on the false assumption that all that energy is absorbed by the atmosphere or surface rather than being radiated away to space. What is more, it is impossible for the accumulated radiated power of all artificial radio sources to be a significant source of heat because total primary energy production is just 0.015 W/m^2. Necessarily, the energy radiated by artificial radio sources is less than total human energy production, and hence less than 0.015 W/m^2. In fact, it is not just less, it is much less. Anybody deluded enough to think otherwise should ask themselves which is the largest energy consumer in their city? The local TV station, or the local Steel Mill (or equivalent)?
  8. Tom thanks for taking the time to respond It's just a shame that you did not read what I wrote Because if you did you would have pointed out my maths was incorect 27,000 x 100,000 = 2.7 billion not 271 billion Your haste in pushing your propaganda will only show how brain washed you are or are you paid to brain wash others Is this the reason for the atmospheric tropical hot spot transequatoral communications LINK This man made pathway looks to me to be the cause of el and la nino It flips from one hemisphere to the other when they reverse the polarity
    Response: [RH] Embedded link that was breaking page format.
  9. I implore the other mods to leave jmorpuss' comment up. It is an absolute classic in every way (even formally -- no punctuation!). Head vise malfunction! Auuughhh!
  10. So revised figure would be 0.000005W/m2. Margin of error territory big time. If radio makes that much difference, with that power, then why so little response to the variation of 1W/m2 of solar radiation over the 11 year cycle? "pushing your propaganda" - which propoganda is that? That radio transmission must be less than primary energy production? That 0.000005 is a smaller no. than 1? You have repeatedly posted links to ips TEP but have just as repeatedly failed to show how this has any relevance to climate at all.
  11. DSL - I think we need a "So bad you have to read it to believe it" thread with content such as jmorpuss's latest.
  12. I first saw KR @11's comment, and as a moderator, was going to delete it as ad hominen. I then saw jmorpuss @8, and was torn because it should be deleted on the same grounds, but as the person subject to the ad hominen, I had a conflict of interest. I shall take DSL @9's excellent advise and compromise by leaving both up. In the meantime I shall enjoy the jest that my failure to notice jmorpus massive error which strengthened his case represents me pushing propaganda. ROFLMAO
  13. KR That would be a good idear It would be a relief from the parroting that goes round and round on this site As the debunking hand book says there's no such thing as bad publicity The more that read it the better Radio waves exite the oxygen molecule to propagate and when you shift into microwave frequencies this can happen
  14. I'm still lost. What has that link got to do with anything on climate? You do accept that conservation of energy applied in that experiment?
  15. jmorpuss, just to be clear. It seems to me, (and please correct me if I am wrong), that you are claiming that radio waves are capable of temperature effects out of all proportion to the energy input. To have the effect you claim would violate energy conservation. You put up links to perfectly well known science which I think you believe backs your claim, but I cannot see how this is so. I believe you have some serious misconceptions but since I cant even follow you line of argument.
  16. Scaddenp How many free electrons do you think would be released from the hot spots that are created by this process And if you overlay this info onto transequateral communications and the hot spots that are created there would be the same result Now these lower atmospheric electron clouds that form have a high negative charge and would through magnetic atraction collect dust particls and moisture to form clouds And to clear things up a bit about radio waves are capable of temperature effects out of all proportions to the energy input Two words amplification and magnification man puts them to great use Do you know that you can use water as a magnifier to create fire
  17. jmorpuss, you've a lot to learn about conservation of energy, among many other things. To take your last statement - yes, you can use a lens of water to concentrate energy (e.g. from the Sun) to incinerate objects, but this process concentrates the energy formerly spread over a larger area onto a very small spot, leading to intense heating at that point. Locations next to the spot of intense heating are heated less than they would otherwise be without the lens in place, as the lens diverts the incident rays towards the spot of intense heating - thus this is not the long-sought-after perpetual motion machine, and there is no creation of energy going on. Otherwise the humble lens could provide all the energy we ever needed! Similarly, 0.000005W/m2 cannot provide the same input of energy as the 1.6W/m2 anthropogenic forcing, however you concentrate it. Why would you want to invent some impossible physics in order to explain the effects of already well-understood physics?
  18. skywatcher Do you see that the tropopause could be used as a parabola for reflection And also the way to increase the output of radio frequencies is as simple as building a bigger antenna aray and there's not much bigger then HAARP's ionispheric heater To create fire using water all you need is a clear plastic bag put in a cup of water manipulate the bag to form the water into a ball or freeze slowly so no bubbles form and you get the same effect magnification I see you didn't post anything about lower atmospheric electron discharge and cloud formation is it your belief that this is not taking place ?
  19. Fascinating, the way this thread has come to resemble the waste energy thread.
  20. All clear now, scaddenp? :) You see, if you concentrate that .000005 W/m2, then it turns into 1.5 W/m2 over the same area. That's just the way it is, and denying it will just make you a denialist, and clearly you don't want to be one of those. And the tropospheric hotspot and clouds are the result of the dust moving from one place in the atmosphere (where the particles did not create clouds) to another place in the atmosphere (where they did create clouds), attracted by the magnetic flux created by the criss-crossing satellite microwave power beams that get amplified by the . . . the . . . ionosphere or something. The resulting friction from this forced travel also creates global warming. And these clouds that form never formed before microwaves were invented (by Al Gore), and now there are lots of these clouds (all different shapes, too -- lions, dragons, etc.) that create both a warming and cooling effect. Meanwhile, the ionosphere, which is full of water, is forming a plastic bag which serves as a parabola which heats up the Earth's core (the focal point of the parabola) and creates even more global warming. By the way, the CO2-warming connection (boy, what a CRAZY theory that is!) and any science-based criticisms of my theories are hoaxes perpetrated by greedy scientists and the Masters of the Universe, who live in a cave in the Himalayas and stand on their heads all day, saying "doh!"
  21. jmorpuss#13: "Radio waves exite the oxygen molecule to propagate" Doesn't that mean molecular oxygen absorbs radio waves? So I guess microwave and radio are very poor means of long distance communication. Is that why ATT gave up on microwave telecomm links (4-8 Ghz) after a mere 40 years of commercial use? And is that why Iridium (~1620 Mhz) went bankrupt? And it's certainly ironic that all those long distance radars (1-4 Ghz) at airports and weather stations around the world are broadcasting energy that is absorbed by the atmosphere. Waste energy, indeed.
  22. @jmorpuss Regarding amateur radio you are picking at gnats. Amateur radio stations do not often operate at 1.5kw PEP and when they do it is at lower frequencies that would not likely cause response to the species in the atmosphere. The PEP requirement means that the actual power used is dependent on the modulation and represents any where from 41% to 100% of the PEP power. The higher amateur bands (VHF, UHF, microwave) where a measurable atmospheric response might happen near the antenna, the power levels are kept low simply because propagation is usually line of site except in rare instances (tropo ducting, Sporadic E, meteor scatter and EME). High gain antennas are usually used to get results. And of course in the amateur service, the rule is to use the least amount of power necessary to carry on communication. You simply can't use ERP additively since ERP is simply accounting for the gain in the antenna. Gain is simply the ability of the antenna to take the power presented to it and compress it into a smaller volume so that less transmitter power is needed. On UHF frequencies where the ERP might be 10MW for TV the antenna also might have 20Db gain which means that only 10kw is being radiated. The big difference between amateur service and broadcast is that broadcast is typically in operation 24/7 while amateur stations may be operated a few hours a night a few nights a month. And that fluctuates according to the sunspot cycle. The cell phone service operates at frequencies that will cause heating of water vapor in the atmosphere (3G, 4G, GSM), but they are supposedly low power and are not expected to cover an area much larger than 20 miles, usually much smaller. @21 muoncounter ATT still uses microwave transmission for local service within states. There is an ATT microwave tower in operation within site if this laptop. Longhaul may have been killed by fiber and satellite, but many of the towers are still active. In addtion to ATT there are now numerous microwave links privately operated in lieu of purchasing T1 and T3 connectivity over short hauls (20 miles or so). L band is in the 3.5 micron range which has a high transmittance in the atmosphere. For the most part the atmosphere is transparent to microwaves.
  23. TOP: "For the most part the atmosphere is transparent to microwaves." Indeed. That should make the concept of atmospheric heating by microwave emission vanish into the ether.
  24. This is my pet 'skeptic' argument. I resent the fact that it's so widely ignored. How come WUWT never bandied this out? Not that they would know it was rubbish...
  25. I only started looking at "Global Warmage" for science & math interest 3 months ago. I linked here from a 2013-05 post about revised AST processing. Oh boy. They have absolutely no concept whatsoever of the orders of magitude difference between the vast energy delivered non-stop to Earth by the sun & the trivial bits shoved around on Earth surface. Signs are that this inability to grasp simple quantity concepts is endemic among the public at large. 

  26. grindupBaker...  But it would be the change in the Earth's climate system that matters to us tiny beings living on the planet's surface.

  27. Rob Honeycutt #26 This is true but I have a single-tasking mind and like to keep the waters clear by considering physical realities as the indifferent entities that they are as much as I can. If I can ever manage to grasp them, might move on to spiritual & socio-political. I've scaled mentally by 5,000,000 because I can picture the Earth sphere knocking a small hole in the ceiling with the electromagnetic shining in, 1/8" 90% air, 1/20" oceans, gently warming until they lap the ice away, burping disasters across the land, and so on. It's a human scale.

  28. grindupBaker...  I'm really unclear on what you're attempting to say.

  29. Thank you for the math regarding satellites.  I would be curious what effect all microwave communications have on the climate.  Cell phones towers, WiFi, phones and other devices seem to be working in the water heating frequency range.  Has there been a study calculating the effect of all microwave communication on global heating?  What would it take to change the EM frequencies of communication to avoid the water-warming ones?

  30. tkaczevski:

    No one has provided an answer to you yet, so let me try. My guess is that this question has not been examined in the scientific literature, but there is likely a reason why.

    Let's first think about what your question means. Is the energy in cells phones, etc. a significant amount,, compared to other natural flows? The energy emitted by these sources of EM radiation has to come from somehwere - namely electricity. How much electricity is used to operate these devices?

    I don't know, but scientists have looked at the total contribution of human heat production, and it is only 1% of the amount of energy added to the earth-atmosphere system by the effects of added CO2. SKeptical Science has a page on that subject:

    The fraction of total human-consumed energy that is used for cell phones, etc. is going to be very small. A very small proportion of 1% means that these devices cannot compare to the effects of CO2. I think it is safe to say that the EM radiation emitted by these devices is not a significant source of energy to warm the atmosphere.

  31. Soooo i guess tall can imagine what brought me here...

    How would i check to see if an area is being hit with some sort of radio or otherwise wavelengths to heat up water underground. I have a equalizer of sorts for a radio system i have a. Satellites dish and basically anything else a mechanic might have. If you could help narrow down the frequencies i need to check and way that i could check....may dielectric heating

  32. Chan-c  @31 ,

    Wikipedia can give you some information.  Also, read the article at the head of this page.  The flow of human-caused microwave/radio energy striking the Earth's surface is microscopically small compared the total radiational energy coming from the sun.  And most of the sun's energy reaching Earth is ultraviolet & visible light & shortwave infra-red (shorter than 5 micron wavelength).  In comparison, the sun's radio output is extremely tiny.

    Secondly, have a look at the microwave frequencies absorbed by water (for example, as found in the kitchen microwave oven).  Penetration into soil - which always has traces of water - is a matter of a few centimetres only.  This will not reach down to "underground water".  Perhaps you are thinking of traditional "hot springs" and other very hot underground water ~  but all such hot water is warmed by the heat conducted upwards from the molten interior of the planet.

  33. Would love to see someone crunch the numbers on the effects of nuclear energy and all of the excess h2o vapor and heat those towers are pumping out into the atmosphere...


    [TD] In addition to the links that One Planet posted for you, see the post Greenhouse Warming 100 Times Greater Than Waste Heat. Please put further comments on those topics in the threads of those posts rather than in this thread where it is off topic.

  34. Scrupples @33,

    Water vapour's role in global warming is well understood. Explanations include the SkS item "Explaining how the water vapor greenhouse effect works" and the NASA item "Water Vapor Confirmed as Major Player in Climate Change".

    The understanding is that water vapour levels in the atmosphere can increase as temperature increases. But some long lasting change of global average temperature, like the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere is required to produce a lasting global water vapor feedback change.

    There are many other reasons that nuclear is not a sustainable energy system, a system that can continue to be used by humans far into the future without running out of materials or without accumulating harmful consequences or increased risks of harm, but the water vapor aspect of nuclear power generation is not one of those reasons.

  35. Scrupple's @33,

    Global warming is the result of the way that increased levels of ghg in the atmosphere produce a higher surface temperature to balance the energy coming in to the surface from the Sun.

    So, added heat produced by human activity would not be expected to change the global average surface temperature required to balance the energy out of the planet system with the energy coming in.

  36. OPOF:

    Waste heat does add to AGW.  There is a waste heat thread that deals with this issue.  In the title of the waste heat thread it says greenhouse warming is 100 times waste heat.  The key issue is that greenhouse gasses accumulate every year while waste heat dissipates into space every year.  Since the waste heat does not accumulate, the amount of temperature increase from waste heat is negligable.  The heat accumulation from a single year of carbon emissions is not that much but since it accumulates over time after a while it becomes problematic.

    The energy released from burning fossil fuels adds to the energy coming in from the sun.  The sun provides so much energy that the waste heat is very small by comparison.

    If you have many nuclear reactors near each other the waste heat can cause problems in the heat sink (usually the ocean but also big lakes and rivers).  This is especially a problem in rivers during droughts.  Sometimes traditional power plants have to be shut down during heat waves in  summer because they cause too much heating in rivers.  (Wind and solar do not have this problem).

    Solar panels and wind generators also have small issues with local heat accumulation from changing albeido and wind patterns.  These are sometimes hyped by deniers.  They are not significant compared to the effects of carbon pollution.

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