Summary: “The physics of the Earth’s atmosphere” Papers 1-3

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For two of our papers, we analysed the temperatures at different heights in the atmosphere using measurements from weather balloons, similar to this one. Photograph by ESO/G. Gillet, available under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Click on image to enlarge.

In this essay, we will briefly summarise the analysis in our three “Physics of the Earth’s atmosphere” papers, which we have submitted for peer review at the Open Peer Review Journal.

In Paper 1, we developed new analytical techniques for studying weather balloon data. Using these techniques, we found that we were able to accurately describe the changes in temperature with height by just accounting for changes in water content and the existence of a previously unreported phase change. This shows that the temperatures at each height are completely independent of the greenhouse gas concentrations.

This disproves the greenhouse effect theory. It also disproves the man-made global warming theory, which is based on the greenhouse effect theory.

In Paper 2, we suggest that the phase change we identified in Paper 1 involves the “multimerization” of oxygen and/or nitrogen in the air above the “troposphere” (the lower part of the atmosphere). This has important implications for a number of important phenomena related to the atmosphere, e.g., ozone formation, the locations of the jet streams, and how tropical cyclones form.

In Paper 3, we identify a mechanism by which energy is transmitted throughout the atmosphere, which we call “pervection”. This mechanism is not considered in the greenhouse effect theory, or in the current climate models. We carried out laboratory experiments to measure the rates of pervection in air, and find that it is much faster than radiation, convection and conduction.

This explains why the greenhouse effect theory doesn’t work.

1. Introduction

We have written a series of three papers discussing the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere, and we have submitted these for peer review at the Open Peer Review Journal:

  1. The physics of the Earth’s atmosphere I. Phase change associated with the tropopause – Michael Connolly & Ronan Connolly, 2014a
  2. The physics of the Earth’s atmosphere II. Multimerization of atmospheric gases above the troposphere – Michael Connolly & Ronan Connolly, 2014b
  3. The physics of the Earth’s atmosphere III. Pervective power – Michael Connolly & Ronan Connolly, 2014c

In these papers, we show that carbon dioxide does not influence the atmospheric temperatures. This directly contradicts the greenhouse effect theory, which predicts that carbon dioxide should increase the temperature in the lower atmosphere (the “troposphere”), and decrease the temperature in the middle atmosphere (the “stratosphere”).

It also contradicts the man-made global warming theory, since the the basis for man-made global warming theory is that increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will cause global warming by increasing the greenhouse effect. If the greenhouse effect doesn’t exist, then man-made global warming theory doesn’t work.

Aside from this, the results in our papers also offer new insights into why the jet streams exist, why tropical cyclones form, weather prediction and a new theory for how ozone forms in the ozone layer, amongst many other things.

In this essay, we will try to summarise some of these findings and results. We will also try to summarise the greenhouse effect theory, and what is wrong with it.

However, unfortunately, atmospheric physics is quite a technical subject. So, before we can discuss our findings and their significance, there are some tricky concepts and terminology about the atmosphere, thermodynamics and energy transmission mechanisms that we will need to introduce.

As a result, this essay is a bit more technical than some of our other ones. We have tried to explain these concepts in a fairly clear, and straightforward manner, but if you haven’t studied physics before, it might take a couple of read-throughs to fully figure them out.

Anyway, in Section 2, we will describe the different regions of the atmosphere, and how temperatures vary throughout these regions. In Section 3, we will provide a basic overview of some of the key physics concepts you’ll need to understand our results. We will also summarise the greenhouse effect theory. Then, in Sections 4-6, we will outline the main results of each of the three papers. In Section 7, we will discuss what the scientific method tells us about the greenhouse effect. Finally, we will offer some concluding remarks in Section 8.

2. The atmospheric temperature profile

As you travel up in the atmosphere, the air temperature generally cools down, at a rate of roughly -6.5°C per kilometre (-3.5°F per 1,000 feet). This is why we get snow at the tops of mountains, even if it’s warm at sea level. The reason the air cools down with height is that the thermal energy (“heat”) of the air gets converted into “potential energy” to counteract the gravitational energy pulling the air back to ground. At first, it might seem hard to visualise this gravitational cooling, but it is actually quite a strong effect. After all, it takes a lot of energy to hold an object up in the air without letting it fall, doesn’t it?

This rate of change of temperature with height (or altitude) is called the “environmental lapse rate”.

Surprisingly, when you go up in the air high enough, you can find regions of the atmosphere where the temperature increases with altitude!

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Figure 1. Schematic illustration of the changes in temperature with increasing altitude. Temperatures are given in degrees Kelvin (100K = -175°C or -280°F, while 300K = 25°C or 80°F), and are determined from the 1976 version of the U.S. Standard Atmosphere. Click on image to enlarge.

For this reason, atmospheric scientists and meteorologists give the different parts of the Earth’s atmosphere different names. The average temperature profile for the first 120 kilometres and the names given to these regions are shown in Figure 1.

By the way, in this essay we will mostly be using the Kelvin scale to describe temperatures. This is a temperature scale that is commonly used by scientists, but is not as common in everyday use. If you’re unfamiliar with it, 200 K is roughly -75°C or -100°F, while 300 K is roughly +25°C or +80°F.

At any rate, the scientific name for the part of the atmosphere closest to the ground is the “troposphere”. In the troposphere, temperatures decrease with height at the environmental lapse rate we mentioned above, i.e., -6.5°C per kilometre (-3.5°F per 1,000 feet).

Above the troposphere, there is a region where the temperature stops decreasing (or “pauses”) with height, and this region is called the “tropopause”. Transatlantic airplanes sometimes fly just below the tropopause.

As we travel up higher, we reach a region where temperatures increase with height. If everything else is equal, hot air is lighter than cold air. So, when this region was first noticed, scientists suggested that the hotter air would be unable to sink below the colder air and the air in this region wouldn’t be able to mix properly. They suggested that the air would become “stratified” into different layers, and this led to the name for this region, the “stratosphere”. This also led to the name for the troposphere, which comes from the Greek word, tropos, which means “to turn, mix”, i.e., the troposphere was considered a region where mixing of the air takes place.

To get an idea of these altitudes, when Felix Baumgartner broke the world record for the highest skydive on October 14, 2012, he was jumping from 39 kilometres (24 miles). This is a few kilometres above where the current weather balloons reach, i.e., in the middle of the stratosphere:

At the moment, most weather balloons burst before reaching about 30-35 kilometres (18-22 miles). Much of our analysis is based on weather balloon data. So, for our analysis, we only consider the first three regions of the atmosphere, the troposphere, tropopause and stratosphere.

You can see from Figure 1 that there are also several other regions at higher altitudes. These other regions are beyond the scope of this essay, i.e., the “stratopause”, the “mesosphere” and the “mesopause”.

Still, you might be interested to know about the “Kármán line”. Although the atmosphere technically stretches out thousands of kilometres into space, the density of the atmosphere is so small in the upper parts of the atmosphere that most people choose an arbitrary value of 100 kilometres as the boundary between the atmosphere and space. This is called the Kármán line. If you ever have watched a meteor shower or seen a “shooting star”, then you probably were looking just below this line, at an altitude of about 75-100 kilometres, which is the “meteor zone”.

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Figure 2. Atmospheric temperature profiles at different latitudes. Temperatures were downloaded from the Public Domain Aeronautical Software website. Click to enlarge.

The temperature profile in Figure 1 is the average profile for a mid-latitude atmosphere. But, obviously, the climate is different in the tropics and at the poles. It also changes with the seasons. Just like ground temperatures are different at the equator than they are in the Arctic, the atmospheric temperature profiles also change with latitude. Typical temperature profiles for a tropical climate and a polar climate are compared to the “standard” mid-latitude climate in Figure 2, up to a height of 30 kilometres (19 miles).

One more term you may find important is the “boundary layer”. This is the first kilometre or two of the troposphere, starting at ground level. We all live in the boundary layer, so this is the part of the atmosphere we are most familiar with. Weather in the boundary layer is quite similar to the rest of the troposphere, but it’s generally windier (more “turbulent”) and the air tends to have more water content.

3. Crash course in thermodynamics & radiative physics: All you need to know

Understanding energy and energy equilibrium

All molecules contain energy, but the amount of energy the molecules have and the way in which it is stored can vary. In this essay, we will consider a few different types of energy. We already mentioned in the previous section the difference between two of these types, i.e., thermal energy and potential energy.

Broadly speaking, we can divide molecular energy into two categories:

  1. Internal energy – the energy that molecules possess by themselves
  2. External energy – the energy that molecules have relative to their surroundings. We refer to external energy as mechanical energy.

This distinction might seem a bit confusing, at first, but should become a bit clearer when we give some examples, in a moment.

These two categories can themselves be sub-divided into sub-categories.

We consider two types of internal energy:

  1. Thermal energy – the internal energy which causes molecules to randomly move about. The temperature of a substance refers to the average thermal energy of the molecules in the substance. “Hot” substances have a lot of thermal energy, while “cold” substances don’t have much
  2. Latent energy – the internal energy that molecules have due to their molecular structure, e.g., the energy stored in chemical bonds. It is called latent (meaning “hidden”), because when you increase or decrease the latent energy of a substance, its temperature doesn’t change.

    When latent energy was first discovered in the 18th century, it wasn’t known that molecules contained atoms and bonds. So, nobody knew what latent energy did, or why it existed, and the energy just seemed to be mysteriously “hidden” away somehow.

We also consider two types of mechanical energy:

  1. Potential energy – the energy that a substance has as a result of where it is. For instance, as we mentioned in the previous section, if a substance is lifted up into the air, its potential energy increases because it is higher in the Earth’s gravitational field.
  2. Kinetic energy – the energy that a substance has when it’s moving in a particular direction.

Energy can be converted between the different types.

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Figure 3. When you are cycling downhill you will speed up, even if you don't pedal ('freewheeling'), because potential energy is being converted into kinetic energy. Animated gif via from user 'adr82' on the BikeRadar.com cycling forum. Click on image to enlarge.

For instance, if a boulder is resting at the top of a hill, it has a lot of potential energy, but very little kinetic energy. If the boulder starts to roll down the hill, its potential energy will start decreasing, but its kinetic energy will start increasing, as it picks up speed.

As another example, in Section 2, we mentioned how the air in the troposphere cools as you travel up through the atmosphere, and that this was because thermal energy was being converted into potential energy.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, some scientists began trying to understand in detail when and how these energy conversions could take place. In particular, there was a lot of interest in figuring out how to improve the efficiency of the steam engine, which had just been invented.

JoulesApparatus

Figure 4. Experimental apparatus used by James Joule in 1845 to show how mechanical energy could be converted into thermal energy. Illustration taken from Wikimedia Commons. Click on image to enlarge.

Steam engines were able to convert thermal energy into mechanical energy, e.g., causing a train to move. Similarly, James Joule had shown that mechanical energy could be converted into thermal energy.

The study of these energy interconversions became known as “thermodynamics”, because it was looking at how thermal energy and “dynamical” (or mechanical” energy were related.

One of the main realisations in thermodynamics is the law of conservation of energy. This is sometimes referred to as the “First Law of Thermodynamics”:

The total energy of an isolated system cannot change. Energy can change from one type to another, but the total amount of energy in the system remains constant.

The total energy of a substance will include the thermal energy of the substance, its latent energy, its potential energy, and its kinetic energy:

Total energy = thermal energy + latent energy + potential energy + kinetic energy

So, in our example of the boulder rolling down a hill, when the potential energy decreases as it gets closer to the bottom, its kinetic energy increases, and the total energy remains constant.

Similarly, when the air in the troposphere rises up in the atmosphere, its thermal energy decreases (i.e., it gets colder!), but its potential energy increases, and the total energy remains constant!

This is a very important concept to remember for this essay. Normally, when one substance is colder than another we might think that it is lower in energy. However, this is not necessarily the case – if the colder substance has more latent, potential or kinetic energy then its total energy might actually be the same as that of the hotter substance. The colder substance might even have more total energy.

Another key concept for this essay is that of “energy equilibrium”:

We say that a system is in energy equilibrium if the average total energy of the molecules in the system is the same throughout the system.

The technical term for energy equilibrium is “thermodynamic equilibrium”.

For a system in energy equilibrium, if one part of the system loses energy and starts to become unusually low in energy, energy flows from another part of the system to keep the average constant. Similarly, if one part of the system gains energy, this extra energy is rapidly redistributed throughout the system.

Is the atmosphere in energy equilibrium? That is a good question.

According to the greenhouse effect theory, the answer is no.

The greenhouse effect theory explicitly assumes that the atmosphere is only in local energy equilibrium.

If a system is only in local energy equilibrium then different parts of the system can have different amounts of energy.

As we will see later, the greenhouse effect theory fundamentally requires that the atmosphere is only in local energy equilibrium. This is because the theory predicts that greenhouse gases will cause some parts of the atmosphere to become more energetic than other parts. For instance, the greenhouse effect is supposed to increase temperatures in the troposphere, causing global warming.

However, this assumption that the atmosphere is only in local energy equilibrium was never experimentally proven.

In our papers, we experimentally show that the atmosphere is actually in complete energy equilibrium – at least over the distances from the bottom of the troposphere to the top of the stratosphere, which the greenhouse effect theory is concerned with.

What is infrared light?

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Figure 5. Image of a small dog taken in mid-infrared light (false-color). Taken from Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge.

Before we can talk about the greenhouse effect theory, we need to understand a little bit about the different types of light.

While you might not realise it, all warm objects are constantly cooling down by emitting light, including us. The reason why we don’t seem to be constantly “glowing” is that the human eye cannot detect the types of light that are emitted at body temperature, i.e., the light is not “visible light”.

But, if we use infrared cameras or “thermal imaging” goggles, we can see that humans and other warm, living things do actually “glow” (Figure 5).

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Figure 6. The light spectrum showing that ultraviolet (UV) light has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than visible light, while infrared (IR) light has a lower frequency and longer wavelength than visible light. Taken from Wikimedia Commons. Click to enlarge.

Infrared (IR) light is light that is of a lower frequency than visible light, while ultraviolet (UV) light is of a higher frequency than visible light.

When we think of light, we usually think of “visible light”, which is the only types of light that the human eye can see, but this is actually only a very small range of frequencies that light can have (see Figure 6).

For instance, bees and other insects can also see some ultraviolet frequencies, and many flowers have evolved quite unusual colour patterns which can only be detected by creatures that can see ultraviolet light – e.g., see here, here, or here. On the other hand, some animals, e.g., snakes, can see some infrared frequencies, which allows them to use “heat-sensing vision” to hunt their prey, e.g., see here or here.

As a simple rule of thumb, the hotter the object, the higher the frequencies of the light it emits. At room temperature, objects mostly emit light in the infrared region. However, when a coal fire gets hot enough, it also starts emitting light at higher frequencies, i.e., in the visible region. The coals become “red hot”.

Because the temperature at the surface of the Sun is nearly 6000 K, the light that it emits is mostly in the form of ultraviolet and visible (“UV-Vis.” for short), with some infrared light. In contrast, the surface of the Earth is only about 300 K, and so the light that the Earth emits is mostly low frequency infrared light (called “long infrared” or long-IR).

As the Sun shines light onto the Earth, this heats up the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. However, as the Earth’s surface and atmosphere heat up, they also emit more light. The average energy of the light reaching the Earth from the Sun, roughly matches the average energy of the light leaving the Earth into space. This works out at about 240 Watts per square metre of the Earth’s surface.

This brings us to the greenhouse effect theory.

In the 19th century, an Irish scientist named John Tyndall discovered that some of the gases in the Earth’s atmosphere interact with infrared light, but others don’t. Tyndall, 1861 (DOI; .pdf available here) showed that nitrogen (N2) and oxygen (O2) are totally transparent to infrared light. This was important because nitrogen and oxygen make up almost all of the gas in the atmosphere. The third most abundant gas in the atmosphere, argon (Ar) wasn’t discovered until several decades later, but it also is transparent to infrared light.

However, he found that some of the gases which only occurred in trace amounts (“trace gases”) do interact with infrared light. The main “infrared-active” gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), ozone (O3) and methane (CH4).

Because the light leaving the Earth is mostly infrared light, some researchers suggested that these infrared-active gases might alter the rate at which the Earth cooled to space. This theory has become known as the “greenhouse effect” theory, and as a result, infrared-active gases such as water vapour and carbon dioxide are often referred to as “greenhouse gases”.

In this essay, we well stick to the more scientifically relevant term, infrared-active gases instead of the greenhouse gas term.

Greenhouse effect theory: “It’s simple physics” version

In crude terms, the greenhouse effect theory predicts that temperatures in the troposphere will be higher in the presence of infrared-active gases than they would be otherwise.

If the greenhouse effect theory were true then increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should increase the average temperature in the troposphere, because carbon dioxide is an infrared-active gas. That is, carbon dioxide should cause “global warming”.

This is the basis for the man-made global warming theory. The burning of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. So, according to the man-made global warming theory, our fossil fuel usage should be warming the planet by “enhancing the greenhouse effect”.

Therefore, in order to check if man-made global warming theory is valid, it is important to check whether or not the greenhouse effect theory is valid. When we first started studying the greenhouse effect theory in detail, one of the trickiest things to figure out was exactly what the theory was supposed to be. We found lots of people who would make definitive claims, such as “it’s simple physics”, “it’s well understood”, or “they teach it in school, everyone knows about it…”:

Simple physics says, if you increase the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the temperature of the earth should respond and warm. – Prof. Robert Watson (Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1997-2002) during a TV debate on global warming. 23rd November 2009

…That brings up the basic science of global warming, and I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, because you know it well… Al Gore in his popular presentation on man-made global warming – An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

However, when pressed to elaborate on this allegedly “simple” physics, people often reverted to hand-waving, vague and self-contradictory explanations. To us, that’s not “simple physics”. Simple physics should be clear, intuitive and easy to test and verify.

At any rate, one typical explanation that is offered is that when sunlight reaches the Earth, the Earth is heated up, and that infrared-active gases somehow “trap” some of this heat in the atmosphere, preventing the Earth from fully cooling down.

For instance, that is the explanation used by Al Gore in his An Inconvenient Truth (2006) presentation:

The “heat-trapping” version of the greenhouse effect theory is promoted by everyone from environmentalist groups, e.g., Greenpeace, and WWF; to government websites, e.g., Australia, Canada and USA; and educational forums, e.g., Livescience.com, About.com, and HowStuffWorks.com.

However, despite its popularity, it is just plain wrong!

The Earth is continuously being heated by the light from the Sun, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 in leap years). However, as we mentioned earlier, this incoming sunlight is balanced by the Earth cooling back into space – mainly by emitting infra-red light.

If infrared-active gases were genuinely “trapping” the heat from the sun, then every day the air would be continuously heating up. During the night, the air would continue to remain just as warm, since the heat was trapped. As a result, each day would be hotter than the day before it. Presumably, this would happen during the winter too. After all, because the sun also shines during the winter, the “trapped heat” surely would continue to accumulate the whole year round. Every season would be hotter than the one it followed. If this were true, then the air temperature would rapidly reach temperatures approaching that of the sun!

This is clearly nonsense – on average, winters tend to be colder than summers, and the night tends to be colder than the day.

It seems that the “simple physics” version of the greenhouse effect theory is actually just simplistic physics!

Having said that, this simplistic theory is not the greenhouse effect theory that is actually used by the current climate models. Instead, as we will discuss below, the “greenhouse effect” used in climate models is quite complex. It is also highly theoretical… and it has never been experimentally shown to exist.

In Sections 4-6, we will explain how our research shows that this more complicated greenhouse effect theory is also wrong. However, unlike the “simple physics” theory, it is at least plausible and worthy of investigation. So, let us now briefly summarise it…

Greenhouse effect theory: The version used by climate models

In the “simple physics” version of the greenhouse effect theory, infrared-active gases are supposed to “trap” heat in the atmosphere, because they can absorb infrared light.

As we discussed earlier, it is true that infrared-active gases such as water vapour and carbon dioxide can absorb infrared light. However, if a gas can absorb infrared light, it also can emit infrared light. So, once an infrared-active gas absorbs infrared light, it is only “trapped” for at most a few tenths of a second before it is re-emitted!

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Figure 7. If carbon dioxide was good at 'trapping' heat, then it would be a brilliant insulator, and we would use it for filling the gap in double-glazed windows. Photograph of double-glazed windows taken from South Lakes Windows.com.

The notion that carbon dioxide “traps” heat might have made some sense in the 19th century, when scientists were only beginning to investigate heat and infrared light, but it is now a very outdated idea.

Indeed, if carbon dioxide were genuinely able to “trap” heat, then it would be such a good insulator, that we would use it for filling the gap in double-glazed windows. Instead, we typically use ordinary air because of its good insulation properties, or even use pure argon (an infrared-inactive gas), e.g., see here or here.

So, if carbon dioxide doesn’t trap heat, why do the current climate models still predict that there is a greenhouse effect?

Well, while infrared-active gases can absorb and emit infrared light, there is a slight delay between absorption and emission. This delay can range from a few milliseconds to a few tenths of a second.

The length of time between absorption and emission depends on the Einstein coefficients of the gas, which are named after the well-known physicist, Albert Einstein, for his research into the topic in the early 20th century.

This might not seem like much, but for that brief moment between absorbing infrared light and emitting it again, the infrared-active gas is more energetic than its neighbouring molecules. We say that the molecule is “excited”. Because the molecules in a gas are constantly moving about and colliding with each other, it is very likely that some nearby nitrogen or oxygen molecule will collide with our excited infrared-active gas molecule before it has a chance to emit its light.

During a molecular collision, molecules can exchange energy and so some of the excited energy ends up being transferred in the process. Since the infrared-inactive gases don’t emit infrared light, if enough absorbed energy is transferred to the nitrogen and oxygen molecules through collisions, that could theoretically increase the average energy of the air molecules, i.e., it could “heat up” the air.

It is this theoretical “collision-induced” heating effect that is the basis for the greenhouse effect actually used by the climate models, e.g., see Pierrehumbert, 2011 (Abstract; Google Scholar access).

Now, astute readers might be wondering about our earlier discussion on energy equilibrium. If the atmosphere is in energy equilibrium, then as soon as one part of the atmosphere starts gaining more energy than another, the atmosphere should start rapidly redistributing that energy, and thereby restoring energy equilibrium.

This means that any “energetic pockets” of air which might start to form from this theoretical greenhouse effect would immediately begin dissipating again. In other words, if the atmosphere is in energy equilibrium then the greenhouse effect cannot exist!

So, again, we’re back to the question of why the current climate models predict that there is a greenhouse effect.

The answer is simple. They explicitly assume that the atmosphere is not in energy equilibrium, but only in local energy equilibrium.

Is this assumption valid? Well, the people who developed the current climate models believe it is, but nobody seems to have ever checked if it was. So, in our three papers, we decided to check. In Sections 4-6, we will describe the resuls of that check. It turns out that the atmosphere is actually in complete energy equilibrium – at least over the distances of the tens of kilometres from the bottom of the troposphere to the top of the stratosphere.

In other words, the local energy equilibrium assumption of the current climate models is wrong.

Nonetheless, since the greenhouse effect theory is still widely assumed to be valid, it is worth studying its implications a little further, before we move onto our new research…

When we hear that carbon dioxide is supposed to increase the greenhouse effect, probably most of us would assume that the whole atmosphere is supposed to uniformly heat up. However, the proposed greenhouse effect used by the models is actually quite complicated, and it varies dramatically throughout the atmosphere.

There are several reasons for this.

Although the rate of infrared absorption doesn’t depend on the temperature of the infrared-active gases, the rate of emission does. The hotter the molecules, the more infrared light it will emit. However, when a gas molecule emits infrared light, it doesn’t care what direction it is emitting in! According to the models, this means that when the air temperature increases, the rate at which infrared light is emitted into space increases, but so does the rate at which infrared light heads back to ground (“back radiation”).

Another factor is that, as you go up in the atmosphere, the air gets less dense. This means that the average length of time between collisions amongst the air molecules will increase. In other words, it is more likely that excited infrared-active gas molecules will be able to stay excited long enough to emit infrared light.

Finally, the infrared-active gases are not uniformly distributed throughout the atmosphere. For instance, the concentration of water vapour decreases rapidly above the boundary layer, and is higher in the tropics than at the poles. Ozone is another example in that it is mostly found in the mid-stratosphere in the so-called “ozone layer” (which we will discuss below).

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Figure 8. The calculated greenhouse effect throughout the atmosphere for a mid-latitude summer with a concentration of 0.03% carbon dioxide. Calculations taken from the 1990 InterCom-
parison of Radiation Codes in Climate Models
.

With all this in mind, we can see that it is actually quite a difficult job to calculate exactly what the “greenhouse effect” should be at each of the different spots in the atmosphere. According to the theory, the exact effect will vary with height, temperature, latitude and atmospheric composition.

Climate modellers refer to the various attempts at these calculations as “infrared cooling models”, and researchers have been proposing different ones since the 1960s, e.g., Stone & Manabe, 1968 (Open access).

Deciding which infrared cooling model to include in the climate models has been the subject of considerable debate over the years. It has been a particularly tricky debate, because nobody has ever managed to experimentally measure an actual infrared cooling profile for the atmosphere. Nonetheless, most of the ones used in the current climate models are broadly similar to the one in Figure 8.

We can see that these models predict that infrared-active gases should slow down the rate of infrared cooling in the troposphere. This would allow the troposphere to stay a bit warmer, i.e., cause global warming. However, as you go up in the atmosphere, two things happen:

  1. The density of the air decreases. This means that when an infrared-active gas emits infrared light, it is more likely to “escape” to space.
  2. The average temperature of the air increases in the stratosphere. This means the rate of infrared emission should increase.

For these two reasons, the current climate models predict that increasing infrared-active gases should actually speed up the rate at which the tropopause and stratosphere cool. So, the calculated “global warming” in the troposphere is at the expense of “global cooling” in the stratosphere, e.g., Hu & Tung, 2002 (Open access) or Santer et al., 2003 (Abstract; Google Scholar access).

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Figure 9. The calculated ozone heating rates for a mid-latitude summer, adapted from Figure 4 of Chou, 1992 (Open access).

Why do temperatures (a) stop decreasing with height in the tropopause, and (b) start increasing with height in the stratosphere?

According to the current climate models, it is pretty much all due to the ozone layer.

When sunlight reaches the planet, the light includes a wide range of frequencies – from infrared light through visible light to ultraviolet light. However, when the sunlight reaches us at the ground, most of the high frequency ultraviolet light has been absorbed. This is because the ozone in the ozone layer absorbs it.

The fact that the ozone layer absorbs ultraviolet light is great for us, because high frequency ultraviolet light is very harmful to most organisms. Life as we know it probably couldn’t exist in the daylight, if all of the sun’s ultraviolet light reached us.

Anyway, because the models assume the atmosphere is only in local energy equilibrium, they conclude that when the ozone absorbs the ultraviolet light, it heats up the air in the ozone layer.

As the light passes through the atmosphere, there is less and less ultraviolet light to absorb, and so the amount of “ozone heating” decreases (Figure 9). The concentration of ozone also decreases once you leave the ozone layer.

So, according to the climate models, the reason why temperatures increase with height in the stratosphere is because of ozone heating. In the tropopause, there is less ozone heating, but they reckon there is still enough to counteract the normal “gravitational cooling”, and that’s why the temperature “pauses”, i.e., remains constant with height.

As we discuss in Paper I, there are major problems with this theory.

First, it relies on the assumption that the atmosphere is only in local energy equilibrium, which has never been proven.

Second, it implies that the tropopause and stratosphere wouldn’t occur without sunlight. During the winter at the poles, it is almost pitch black for several months, yet the tropopause doesn’t disappear. In other words, the tropopause does not need sunlight to occur. Indeed, if we look back at Figure 2, we can see that the tropopause is actually more pronounced for the poles, in that it starts at a much lower height than it does at lower latitudes.

In Section 5, we will put forward a more satisfactory explanation.

Has anyone ever measured the greenhouse effect?

Surprisingly, nobody seems to have actually observed this alleged greenhouse effect … or the ozone heating effect, either!

The theory is based on a few experimental observations:

  1. As we discussed earlier, all objects, including the Earth, can cool by emitting light. Because the Earth only has a temperature of about 300K, this “cooling” light is mostly in the form of infrared light.
  2. The main gases in the atmosphere (i.e., nitrogen, oxygen and argon) can’t directly absorb or emit infrared light, but the infrared-active gases (e.g., water vapour, carbon dioxide, ozone and methane) can.
  3. Fossil fuel usage releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has been steadily increasing since at least the 1950s (from 0.031% in 1959 to 0.040% in 2013).

We don’t disagree with these observations. But, they do not prove that there is a greenhouse effect.

The greenhouse effect theory explicitly relies on the assumption that the atmosphere is in local energy equilibrium, yet until we carried out our research, nobody seems to have actually experimentally tested if that assumption was valid. If the assumption is invalid (as our results imply), then the theory is also invalid.

Even aside from that, the greenhouse effect theory makes fairly specific theoretical predictions about how the rates of “infrared cooling” and “ozone heating” are supposed to vary with height, latitude, and season, e.g., Figures 8 and 9. Yet, nobody seems to have attempted to experimentally test these theoretical infrared cooling models, either.

Of course, just because a theory hasn’t been experimentally tested, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s wrong. However, it doesn’t mean it’s right, either!

With that in mind, we felt it was important to physically check what the data itself was saying, rather than presuming the greenhouse effect theory was right or presuming it was wrong… After all, “Nature” doesn’t care what theories we happen to believe in – it just does its own thing!

Some researchers have claimed that they have “observed” the greenhouse effect, because when they look at the infrared spectrum of the Earth’s atmosphere from space they find peaks due to carbon dioxide, e.g., Harries et al., 2001 (Abstract; Google Scholar access). However, as we discuss in Section 3.2 of Paper II, that does not prove that the greenhouse effect exists. Instead, it just shows that it is possible to use infrared spectroscopy to tell us something about the atmospheric composition of planets.

4. Paper 1: Phase change associated with tropopause

Summary of Paper 1

In this paper, we analysed publically archived weather measurements taken by a large sample of weather balloons launched across North America. We realised that by analysing these measurements in terms of a property known as the “molar density” of the air, we would be able to gain new insight into how the temperature of the air changes with height.

When we took this approach, we found we were able to accurately describe the changes in temperature with height all the way up to where the balloons burst, i.e., about 35 kilometres (20 miles) high.

We were able to describe these temperature profiles by just accounting for changes in water content and the existence of a previously overlooked phase change. This shows that the temperatures at each height are completely independent of the infrared-active gas concentrations, which directly contradicts the predictions of the greenhouse effect theory.

We suspected that the change in temperature behaviour at the tropopause was actually related to a change in the molecular properties of the air. So, we decided to analyse weather balloon data in terms of a molecular property known as the “molar density”. The molar density of a gas tells you the average number of molecules per cubic metre of the gas. Since there are a LOT of molecules in a cubic metre of gas, it is expressed in terms of the number of “moles” of gas per cubic metre. One mole of a substance corresponds to about 600,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules, which is quite a large number!

If you have some knowledge of chemistry or physics, then the molar density (D) is defined as the number of moles (n) of gas per unit volume (V). The units are moles per cubic metre (mol/m3). It can be calculated from the pressure (P) and temperature (T) of a gas by using the ideal gas law.

To calculate the molar densities from the weather balloon measurements, we converted all of the pressures and temperatures into units of Pa and K, and then determined the values at each pressure using D=n/V=P/RT, where R is the ideal gas constant (8.314 J/K/mol)

We downloaded weather balloon data for the entire North America continent from the University of Wyoming archive. We then used this data to calculate the change in molar density with pressure.

Atmospheric pressure decreases with height (altitude), and in space, the atmospheric pressure is almost zero. Similarly, molar density decreases with height, and in space, is almost zero. So, in general, we would expect molar density to decrease as the pressure decreases. This is what we found. However, there were several surprising results.

Albany

Figure 10. Plots of the changes in molar density with pressure calculated from seven different weather balloons launched from Albany, New York (USA) in May 2011. Click on image to enlarge.

Figure 10 shows the molar density plots calculated from the measurements of seven different weather balloons launched over a period of 4 days from Albany, New York (USA) in May 2011.

Since atmospheric pressure decreases as we go up in the atmosphere, in these plots, the balloon height increases as we go from right to left. That is, the ground level corresponds to the right hand side of the plot and the left hand side corresponds to the upper atmosphere. The three different regions are discussed in the text below.

There are several important things to note about these plots:

  • The measurements from all seven of the weather balloons show the same three atmospheric regions (labelled Regions 1-3 in the figure).
  • For Regions 1 and 2, the molar density plots calculated from all of the balloons are almost identical, i.e., the dots from all seven balloons fall on top of each other.
  • In contrast, the behaviour of Region 3 does change a bit from balloon to balloon, i.e., the dots from the different balloons don’t always overlap.
  • The transition between Regions 1 and 2 corresponds to the transition between the troposphere and the tropopause. This suggests that something unusual is happening to the air at the start of the tropopause.
  • There is no change in behaviour between the tropopause and the stratosphere, i.e., when you look at Region 1, you can’t easily tell when the tropopause “ends” and when the stratosphere “begins”. This suggests that the tropopause and stratosphere regions are not two separate “regions”, but are actually both part of the same region.

When we analysed the atmospheric water concentration measurements for the balloons, we found that the different slopes in Region 3 depended on how humid the air in the region was, and whether or not the balloon was travelling through any clouds or rain.

On this basis, we suggest that the Region 3 variations are mostly water-related. Indeed, Region 3 corresponds to the boundary layer part of the troposphere, which is generally the wettest part of the atmosphere.

What about Regions 1 and 2? The change in behaviour of the plots between Regions 1 and 2 is so pronounced that it suggests that some major change in the atmosphere occurs at this point.

In Paper 2, we propose that this change is due to some of the oxygen and/or nitrogen in the air joining together to form molecular “clusters” or “multimers”. We will discuss this theory in Section 5.

For now, it is sufficient to note that the troposphere-tropopause transition corresponds to some sort of “phase change”. In Paper 1, we refer to the air in the troposphere as being in the “light phase”, and the air in the tropopause/stratosphere regions being in the “heavy phase”

D_schematic

Figure 11. Schematic illustration of how the molar density graphs vary with season and latitude. Click on image to enlarge.

When we analyse weather balloon measurements from other locations (and seasons), the same general features occur.

However, there are some differences, which we illustrate schematically in Figure 11. In tropical locations, the heavy phase/light phase transition occurs much higher in the atmosphere (i.e., at a lower pressure). In contrast, in the Arctic, the heavy phase/light phase change occurs much lower in the atmosphere (i.e., at a higher pressure). This is in keeping with the fact that the height of the tropopause is much higher in the tropics than at the poles (as we saw in Figure 2).

One thing that is remarkably consistent for all of the weather balloon measurements we analysed is that in each of the regions, the change of molar density with pressure is very linear. Another thing is that the change in slope of the lines between Regions 1 and 2 is very sharp and distinct.

Interestingly, on very cold days in the Arctic winter, we often find the slopes of the molar density plots near ground level (i.e., Region 3) are similar to the slope of the “heavy phase” (schematically illustrated in Figure 11).

The air at ground level is very dry under these conditions, because it is so cold. So, this is unlikely to be a water-related phenomenon. Instead, we suggest that it is because the temperatures at ground level in the Arctic winter are cold enough to cause something similar to the phase change which occurs at the tropopause.

At this stage you might be thinking: “Well, that’s interesting what you discovered… But, what does this have to do with the temperature profiles?”

Well, since we calculated the molar densities from the temperature and pressure measurements of the balloons, we can also convert molar densities back into temperature values. Since we found that the relationship between molar density and pressure was almost linear in each region, we decided to calculate what the temperatures would be if the relationship was exactly linear. For the measurements of each weather balloon, we calculated the best linear fit for each of the regions (using a statistical technique known as “ordinary least squares linear regression”). We then converted these linear fits back into temperature estimates for each of the pressures measured by the balloons.

Albany_fitted

Figure 12. Comparison of the experimental weather balloon measurements to our two-phase regime for the 23rd May, 2011 (12:00 UTC), Albany, New York (USA) weather balloon. Click on image to enlarge.

In Figure 12, we compare the original balloon measurements for one of the Albany, New York balloons to our linear fitted estimates.

Because pressure decreases with height, we have arranged the graphs in this essay so that the lowest pressures (i.e., the stratosphere) are at the top and the highest pressures (i.e., ground level) are at the bottom.

The black dots correspond to the actual balloon measurements, while the two dashed lines correspond to the two temperature fits.

We find the fits to be remarkable. Aside from some deviations in the boundary layer (at around 90kPa) which are associated with a rain event, the measurements fall almost exactly onto the blue “light phase” curve all the way up to the tropopause, i.e., 20kPa. In the tropopause and stratosphere, the measurements fall almost exactly onto the red “heavy phase” curve.

We found similar strong fits to all of the balloons we applied this approach to. The exact values we used for the fits varied from balloon to balloon, but in all cases the balloon measurements could be fit using just two (or sometimes three) phases.

Norman_Wells_fitted

Figure 13. Comparison of the experimental weather balloon measurements to our two-phase regime for the 21st December, 2010 (00:00 UTC), Norman Wells, Northwest Territories (Canada) weather balloon. Click on image to enlarge.

Examples of the balloons which needed to be fitted with three phases were those launched during the winter in the Arctic region. For instance, Figure 13 shows the balloon measurements and fits for a balloon launched from Norman Wells, Northwest Territories (Canada) in December 2010.

Again, the matches between the experimental data and our linear fits are very good.

For these balloons, the slope of the molar density plots for the region near the ground level (Region 3) is very similar to the slope of the heavy phase in Region 1. This is in keeping with our earlier suggestion that the air near ground level for these cold Arctic winter conditions is indeed in the heavy phase.

For us, one of the most fascinating findings of this analysis is that the atmospheric temperature profiles from the boundary layer to the middle of the stratosphere can be so well described in terms of just two or three distinct regions, each of which has an almost linear relationship between molar density and pressure.

The temperature fits did not require any consideration of the concentration of carbon dioxide, ozone or any of the other infrared-active gases. This directly contradicts the greenhouse effect theory, which claims that the various infrared-active gases dramatically alter the atmospheric temperature profile.

As we saw in Section 3, the greenhouse effect theory predicts that infrared-active gases lead to complicated infrared cooling rates which should be different at each height (e.g., the one in Figure 9). According to the theory, infrared-active gases partition the energy in the atmosphere in such a way that the atmospheric energy at each height is different.

This means that we should be finding a very complex temperature profile, which is strongly dependent on the infrared-active gases. Instead, we found the temperature profile was completely independent of the infrared-active gases.

This is quite a shocking result. The man-made global warming theory assumes that increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations will cause global warming by increasing the greenhouse effect. So, if there is no greenhouse effect, this also disproves the man-made global warming theory.

5. Paper 2: Multimerization of atmospheric gases above the troposphere

Summary of Paper 2

In this paper, we investigated what could be responsible for the phase change we identified in Paper 1. We suggest that it is due to the partial “multimerization” of oxygen and/or nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere above the troposphere.

This explanation has several important implications for our current understanding of the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere, and for weather prediction:

  • It provides a more satisfactory explanation for why temperatures stop decreasing with height in the tropopause, and why they start increasing with height in the stratosphere
  • It reveals a new mechanism to explain why ozone forms in the ozone layer. This new mechanism suggests that the ozone layer can expand or contract much quicker than had previously been thought
  • It offers a new explanation for how and why the jet streams form
  • It also explains why tropical cyclones form, and provides new insights into why high and low pressure weather systems occur

In Paper 2, we decided to investigate what could be responsible for the phase change we identified in Paper 1. We suggest that it is due to the partial “multimerization” of oxygen and/or nitrogen molecules in the atmosphere above the troposphere. We will explain what we mean by this later, but first, we felt it was important to find out more information about how the conditions for this phase change vary with latitude and season.

Variation of phase change conditions

map_stations_used

Figure 14. Location of all the weather stations we used for our analysis in Paper 2. Different coloured circles correspond to each of the 12 latitudinal bands we studied. Click on image to enlarge.

We downloaded weather balloon data from the Integrated Global Radiosonde Archive (IGRA) which is maintained by the NOAA National Climatic Data Center. The IGRA dataset contains weather balloon records from 1,109 weather stations located on all the continents – see Figure 14.

As each of the weather stations launches between 1 and 4 balloons per day, and has an average of about 36 years worth of data, this makes for a lot of data. To analyse all this data, we wrote a number of computer scripts, using the Python programming language.

Our scripts systematically analysed all of the available weather balloon records to identify the pressure and temperature at which the phase change occurred, i.e., the transition between Region 1 and Region 2.

If there wasn’t enough data for our script to calculate the change point, we skipped that balloon, e.g., some of the balloons burst before reaching the stratosphere. However, we were able to identify the transition for most of the balloons.

Below are the plots for all of the weather balloons launched in 2012 from one of the stations – Valentia Observatory, Ireland. The black dashed lines correspond to the phase change for that balloon.

In all, our scripts identified the phase change conditions for more than 13 million weather balloons.

climatologies

Figure 15. Seasonal variation in the temperature and pressure at which the phase change occurred for three different latitudinal bands. Click on image to enlarge.

We decided to group the stations into twelve different latitudinal bands (see Figure 14). Then, for each of the bands, we calculated the average phase conditions for each month. Figure 15 shows the seasonal variations for three of the twelve latitudinal bands.

In Paper 2, we present the data for all twelve bands, and discuss the main features of the seasonal changes in some detail. However, for the purpose of this essay, it is sufficient to note the following features:

  • Each latitudinal band has different patterns.
  • All bands have very well defined annual cycles, i.e., every year the phase change conditions for each band goes through clear seasonal cycles.
  • For some areas, and at some times of the year, the temperature and pressure conditions change in sync with each other, i.e., they both increase and decrease at the same time. At other times and places, the temperature and pressure changes are out of sync with each other.

In Section 4, we saw that the phase change conditions are directly related to the atmospheric temperature profiles.

This means that if we can figure out the exact reasons why the phase change conditions vary as they do with season and latitude, this should also provide us with insight into entire temperature profiles.

If we could do this, this could help meteorologists to make dramatically better weather predictions. So, in our paper, we discuss several interesting ideas for future research into understanding how and why the phase change conditions vary.

Multimerization of the air

At any rate, it seems likely to us that some major and abrupt change in the atmospheric composition and/or molecular structure is occurring at the tropopause.

However, measurements of the atmospheric composition don’t show any major change associated with the troposphere/tropopause transition. Both above and below the phase change, the atmosphere is 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and 1% argon.

oxygen

Figure 16. Oxygen and nitrogen molecules are diatomic molecules. This means that each oxygen molecule contains two oxygen atoms, and each nitrogen molecule contains two nitrogen atoms.

Instead, we suggest that the phase change involves a change in the molecular structure of at least some of the air molecules. Although argon might be involved, it only comprises 1% of the atmosphere, so we will focus here on the oxygen and nitrogen molecules, which make up 99% of the atmosphere near the phase change.

As can be seen in Figure 16, oxygen and nitrogen molecules are both “diatomic”, i.e., each molecule contains two atoms.

multimerization

Figure 17. Schematic diagram showing that some of the air above the tropopause forms multimers, while below the tropopause the air is in the normal monomer form.

We suggest that, once the phase change conditions occur, some of these diatomic molecules begin clustering together to form “molecular clusters” or “multimers”. We illustrate this schematically in Figure 17.

Below the tropopause, all of the oxygen is the conventional diatomic oxygen that people are familiar with. Similarly, all of the nitrogen is diatomic. However, above the tropopause, some of these air molecules coalesce into large multimers.

Multimers take up less space per molecule than monomers. This reduces the molar density of the air. This explains why the molar density decreases more rapidly in Region 1 than in Region 2 (e.g., Figure 10).

It also has several other interesting implications…

Why temperature increases with height in the stratosphere

The current explanation for why temperatures stay constant with height in the tropopause and increase with height in the stratosphere is that ozone heats up the air in the ozone layer by absorbing ultraviolet light. However, as we discussed in Section 3, there are major problems with this explanation.

Fortunately, multimerization offers an explanation which better fits the data. We saw in Section 4 that the temperature behaviour in both the tropopause and stratosphere is very well described by our linear molar density fit for the “heavy phase” (have a look back at Figures 12 and 13, in case you’ve forgotten).

This suggests that the changes in temperature behaviour above the troposphere are a direct result of the phase change. So, if the phase change is due to multimerization, as we suggest, then the change in temperature behaviour is a consequence of multimerization.

Why would multimerization cause the temperature to increase with height?

Do you remember from Section 3 how we were saying there are four different types of energy that the air molecules have, i.e., thermal, latent, potential and kinetic?

Well, in general, the amount of energy that a molecule can store as latent energy decreases as the molecule gets bigger.

This means that when oxygen and/or nitrogen molecules join together to form larger multimer molecules, the average amount of latent energy they can store will decrease.

However, due to the law of conservation of energy, the total energy of the molecules has to remain constant. So, as we discussed in Section 3, if the latent energy of the molecules has to decrease, one of the other types of energy must increase to compensate.

In this case, the average thermal energy of the molecules increases, i.e., the temperature increases!

Changes in the ozone layer

Chapman

Figure 18. The Chapman mechanism for how ozone is formed in the ozone layer. This is the conventional explanation.

The conventional explanation for how ozone is formed in the ozone layer is the Chapman mechanism, named after Sydney Chapman who proposed it in 1930.

Ozone is an oxygen compound just like the oxygen molecules. Except, unlike regular diatomic oxygen, ozone is triatomic (O3). This is quite an unusual structure to form, and when the ozone layer was discovered, scientists couldn’t figure out how and why it formed there.

Chapman suggested that ultraviolet light would occasionally be powerful enough to overcome the chemical bond in an oxygen molecule, and split the diatomic molecule into two oxygen atoms.

Oxygen atoms are very unstable. So, Chapman proposed that as soon as one of these oxygen atoms (“free radicals”) collided with an ordinary diatomic oxygen molecule, they would react together to form a single triatomic ozone molecule (Figure 18).

This Chapman mechanism would require a lot of energy to take place, and so it was assumed that it would take several months for the ozone layer to form. But, nobody was able to come up with an alternative mechanism that could explain the ozone layer.

our_ozone

Figure 19. Our proposed mechanism for how ozone is formed in the ozone layer.

However, if multimerization is occurring in the tropopause/stratosphere, then this opens up an alternative mechanism.

We suggest that most of the ozone in the ozone layer is actually formed by the splitting up of oxygen multimers! We illustrate this mechanism in the schematic in Figure 19.

As in the Chapman mechanism, ultraviolet light can sometimes provide enough energy to break chemical bonds. However, because there are a lot more oxygen atoms in an oxygen multimer than in a regular diatomic oxygen molecule, the ultraviolet light doesn’t have to split the oxygen into individual atoms. Instead, it can split the multimer directly into ozone and oxygen molecules. This doesn’t require as much energy.

To test this theory, we decided to see if there was any relationship between the concentration of ozone in the ozone layer, and the phase change conditions.

We downloaded from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s website all of the available monthly averaged ozone measurements from the NASA Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) satellite (August 1996-November 2005). We then averaged together the monthly values for the same twelve latitudinal band we used for our weather balloons.

ozone_45-60N

Figure 20. Comparison between the monthly averaged pressure of the phase change and the corresponding concentration of ozone in the ozone layer, for 45-60°N. Ozone concentrations (in Dobson Units) were calculated from NASA's Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS) satellite measurements.

When we compared the seasonal variations in ozone concentrations for each band to the seasonal variations in the phase change conditions, we found they were both highly correlated! For instance, Figure 20 compares the average monthly pressure of the phase change to the average monthly ozone concentrations for the 45-60°N band.

If ozone was been mainly formed by the conventional Chapman mechanism, then there is no reason why the ozone concentrations should be correlated to the phase change conditions. However, if the ozone is being formed by our proposed mechanism, then it makes sense.

To us this indicates that most of the ozone in the ozone layer is formed from oxygen multimers, and not by the Chapman mechanism, as has been assumed until now.

It also suggests that we have seriously underestimated the rates at which the ozone layer expands and contracts. Figure 20 shows how the thickness of the ozone layer is strongly correlated to the phase change conditions.

But, these phase change conditions change dramatically from month to month. This means that ozone is formed and destroyed in less than a month. This is much quicker than had been previously believed.

New explanation for the jet streams

When we wrote our scripts to analyse the temperatures and pressures of the phase change conditions, we also looked at the average wind speeds measured by the weather balloons. You might have noticed in the video we showed earlier of the Valentia Observatory phase changes for 2012 that the bottom panels showed the average wind speeds recorded by each balloon.

We noticed an interesting phenomenon. At a lot of weather stations, very high wind speeds often occurred near the phase change. When the pressure at which the phase change occurred increased or decreased, the location of these high wind speeds would also rise or fall in parallel.

Jetstreamconfig

Figure 21. Schematic representation of the jet streams, generated by Lyndon State College Meteorology. Image downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

This suggested to us that the two phenomena were related. So, we decided to investigate. On closer inspection, we noticed that the weather stations we were detecting high wind speeds for were located in parts of the world where the jet streams occur.

The jet streams are narrow bands of the atmosphere near the tropopause in which winds blow rapidly in a roughly west to east direction (Figure 21). It turns out that the high wind speeds we were detecting were the jet streams!

But, these high winds seemed to be strongly correlated to the phase change conditions. This suggested to us that multimerization might be involved in the formation of the jet streams.

Why should multimerization cause high wind speeds?

Well, as we mentioned earlier, when multimers form they take up less space than regular air molecules, i.e., the molar density decreases.

So, if multimers rapidly form in one part of the atmosphere, the average molar density will rapidly decrease. This would reduce the air pressure. In effect, it would form a partial “vacuum”. This would cause the surrounding air to rush in to bring the air pressure back to normal. In other words, it would generate an inward wind.

Similarly, if multimers rapidly break down, the average molar density will rapidly increase, causing the air to rush out to the sides. That is, it would generate an outward wind.

We suggest that the jet streams form in regions where the amount of multimerization is rapidly increasing or decreasing.

New explanation for tropical cyclones

named-hurricane-fran

Figure 22. Satellite image by NASA of Hurricane Fran - a powerful, destructive hurricane that made landfall in North Carolina (USA) on 5th September 1996. Image downloaded from Geology.com. Click on image to enlarge.

Our analysis also offers a new explanation for why tropical cyclones (hurricanes, typhoons, etc.) form. Tropical cyclones form and exist in regions where there is no jet stream.

We suggest cyclones occur when the “vacuum” formed by multimerization is filled by “sucking” air up from below, rather than sucking from the sides as happens with the jet streams. This reduces the atmospheric pressure at sea level, leading to what is known as “cyclonic behaviour”.

Similarly, if the amount of multimers rapidly decreases, this can “push” the air downwards leading to an increase in the atmospheric pressure at sea level, causing “anti-cyclonic behaviour”.

Meteorologists use the term “cyclone” to refer to any low-pressure system, not just the more dangerous tropical cyclones. But, if an ordinary cyclone forms over a warm ocean, then the cyclone can suck up some of the warm water high into the atmosphere. This water freezes when it gets up high, releasing energy, and making the cyclone even stronger.

It is this extra energy released from the warm water freezing which turns an ordinary cyclone into a powerful tropical cyclone. This was already known for the standard explanation for how tropical cyclones are formed, e.g., see here.

However, until now, it had been assumed that tropical cyclones were formed at sea level. We suggest that the initial cyclone which leads to the more powerful tropical cyclone is actually formed much higher, i.e., at the tropopause, and that it is a result of multimerization.

By the way, when water is drained down a sink hole, it often leaves in a whirlpool pattern. In the same way, if multimerization causes air to be sucked up to the tropopause from the surface, it might be sucked up in a whirlpool manner. This explains why if you look at satellite photographs for the cloud structures of tropical cyclones, they usually have a whirlpool-like structure, as in Figure 22.

sfcslp_N

Figure 23. The high and low pressure weather systems for North America at 21:00 GMT on 12th December 2013. Downloaded from the University of Illinois WW2010 Project. Click on image to enlarge.

We hope that this new way of looking at tropical cyclones will allow meteorologists to make better and more accurate predictions of hurricanes, typhoons and other tropical cyclones.

It might also help us to better understand why high pressure and low pressure weather systems (Figure 23) develop and dissipate. Much of the day-to-day job of meteorologists involves interpreting and predicting how these weather systems vary from day to day, and hour to hour. So, if rapid changes in the phase change conditions play a role in forming high and low pressure areas, then studying this could provide us with more accurate weather predictions.

6. Paper 3: Pervective power

Summary of Paper 3

In this paper, we identified an energy transmission mechanism that occurs in the atmosphere, but which up until now seems to have been overlooked. We call this mechanism “pervection”.

Pervection involves the transmission of energy through the atmosphere, without the atmosphere itself moving. In this sense it is a bit like conduction, except conduction transmits thermal energy (“heat”), while pervection transmits mechanical energy (“work”).

We carried out laboratory experiments to measure the rates of energy transmission by pervection in the atmosphere. We found that pervective transmission can be much faster than the previously known mechanisms, i.e., conduction, convection and radiation.

This explains why we found in Papers 1 and 2 that the atmosphere is in complete energy equilibrium over distances of hundreds of kilometres, and not just in local energy equilibrium, as is assumed by the greenhouse effect theory.

In Section 3, we explained that a fundamental assumption of the greenhouse effect theory is that the atmosphere is only in local energy equilibrium. But, our results in Papers 1 and 2 suggested that the atmosphere were effectively in complete energy equilibrium – at least over the distances from the bottom of the troposphere to the top of the stratosphere. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to fit the temperature profiles with just two or three parameters.

If the atmosphere is in energy equilibrium, then this would explain why the greenhouse effect theory doesn’t work.

However, when we consider the conventional energy transmission mechanisms usually assumed to be possible, they are just not fast enough to keep the atmosphere in complete energy equilibrium.

So, in Paper 3, we decided to see if there might be some other energy transmission mechanism which had been overlooked. Indeed, it turns out that there is such a mechanism. As we will see below, it seems to be rapid enough to keep the atmosphere in complete energy equilibrium over distances of hundreds of kilometres. In other words, it can explain why the greenhouse effect theory is wrong!

We call this previously unidentified energy transmission mechanism “pervection”, to contrast it with convection.

There are three conventional energy transmission mechanisms that are usually considered in atmospheric physics:

  1. Radiation
  2. Convection
  3. Conduction

Radiation is the name used to describe energy transmission via light. Light can travel through a vacuum, and doesn’t need a mass to travel, e.g., the sunlight reaching the Earth travels through space from the Sun.

However, the other two mechanisms need a mass in order to work.

In convection, energy is transported by mass transfer. When energetic particles are transported from one place to another, the particles bring their extra energy with them, i.e., the energy is transported with the travelling particles. This is convection.

There are different types of convection, depending on the types of energy the moving particles have. If the moving particles have a lot of thermal energy, then this is called thermal convection. If you turn on an electric heater in a cold room, most of the heat will move around the room by thermal convection.

Similarly, if the moving particles have a lot of kinetic energy, this is called kinetic convection. When a strong wind blows, this transfers a lot of energy, even if the wind is at the same temperature as the rest of the air.

You can also have latent convection, e.g., when water evaporates or condenses to form clouds and/or precipitation, this can transfer latent energy from one part of the atmosphere to another.

Conduction is a different mechanism in that energy can be transmitted through a mass without the mass itself moving. If a substance is a good conductor, then it can rapidly transfer thermal energy from one side of the substance to another.

If one side of a substance is hotter than the other, then conduction can redistribute the thermal energy, so that all of the substance reaches the same temperature. However, conduction is only able to transfer thermal energy.

You can also have electrical conduction, in which electricity is transmitted through a mass.

Since air is quite a poor conductor, conduction is not a particularly important energy transmission mechanism for the atmosphere.

For this reason, the current climate models only consider convection and radiation for describing energy transport in the atmosphere. But, could there be another energy transmission mechanism the models are leaving out?

newtons_cradle

Figure 24. Snapshots from a video of the Newton's cradle executive toy, immediately after the ball on the left is lifted and released.

We realised there was. Consider the Newton’s cradle shown in Figure 24.

When you lift the ball on the left into the air and release it, you are providing it with mechanical energy, which causes it to rapidly swing back to the other balls.

When it hits the other balls, it transfers that energy on. But, then it stops. After a very brief moment, the ball on the other side of the cradle gets that energy, and it flies up out of the cradle.

Clearly, energy has been transmitted from one side of the cradle to the other. However, it wasn’t transmitted by convection, because the ball which originally had the extra energy stopped once it hit the other balls.

It wasn’t conduction, either, because the energy that was being transmitted was mechanical energy, not thermal energy.

In other words, mechanical energy can be transmitted through a mass. This mechanism for energy transmission is not considered in the current climate models. This is the mechanism that we call pervection.

air_exp_setup

Figure 25. Labelled photograph of our experimental setup.

Since nobody seems to have considered this mechanism before, we decided to carry out laboratory experiments to try and measure how quickly energy could be transmitted through air by pervection.

Figure 25 shows the experimental setup we used for these experiments.

In our experiment we connected two graduated cylinders with a narrow air tube that was roughly 100m long. We then placed the two cylinders upside down in water (which we had coloured green to make it easier to see). We also put a second air tube into the graduated cylinder on the left, and we used this tube to suck some of the air out of the cylinders. This raised the water levels to the heights shown in Figure 25. Then we connected the second tube to a syringe.

pervection_exp

Figure 26. Snapshots from our experiment demonstrating the changes in water level in the two cylinders which occur after the syringe handle is plunged.

Figure 26 shows the basic idea behind the experiment. We used the syringe to push a volume of air into the air gap at the top of the cylinder on the left.

This caused the air gap in the left cylinder to expand, pushing the water level down, i.e., it increased the mechanical energy of the air in the air gap. However, over the next 10-20 seconds, two things happened. The water level in the left cylinder started rising again and the water level in the cylinder on the right started to fall.

19 seconds after the initial injection, the water levels in both sides had stopped moving, and had reached a new equilibrium.

There are several interesting points to note about this:

  • Some of the mechanical energy transferred to the cylinder on the left was transmitted to the cylinder on the right
  • This energy transmission was not instantaneous
  • But, it was quite fast, i.e., it had finished after 19 seconds

What does this mean? Well, mechanical energy was somehow transmitted from the cylinder on the left to the one on the right.

This energy was transmitted through the air in the 100m tube that connects the two cylinders.

Since we are looking at energy transmission through air, we are considering the same energy transmission mechanisms that apply to the atmosphere.

Could the energy have been transmitted by conduction? No. First, it was mechanical energy which was transmitted, not thermal energy. And second, air is too poor a conductor.

Could the energy have been transmitted by radiation? No. Again, radiation is a mechanism for transmitting thermal energy, not mechanical energy. But in addition, radiation travels in straight lines. If you look at the setup in Figure 25, you can see that we had wrapped the 100m air tube in multiple loops in order to fit it into a storage box. So, the energy wouldn’t be able to travel all the way down the tube by radiation.

The only remaining conventional energy transmission mechanism is convection. However, the air was moving far too slowly for the energy to reach the cylinder on the right by the air being physically moved from one cylinder to the other.

When we calculated the maximum speed the air could have been moving through the 100m tube, it turned out that it would take more than an hour for the energy to be transmitted by convection. Since the energy transmission took less than 19 seconds, it wasn’t by convection!

That leaves pervection.

In the experiment shown, the left and right cylinders were physically close to each other, so maybe you might suggest that the energy was transmitted directly from one cylinder to the other by radiation, due to their close proximity. However, we obtained the same results when we carried out similar experiments where the two cylinders were placed far apart.

You can watch the video of our experiment below. The experiment is 5 minutes long, and consists of five cycles. We alternated between pushing and pulling the syringe every 30 seconds.

In the paper, we estimate that pervection might be able to transmit energy at speeds close to 40 metres per second.

Since the distance from the bottom of the troposphere to the top of the stratosphere is only about 50 km, that means it should only take about 20 minutes for energy to be transmitted between the troposphere and stratosphere. This should be fast enough to keep the troposphere, tropopause and stratosphere in complete energy equilibrium, i.e., it explains why the greenhouse effect theory doesn’t work.

7. Applying the scientific method to the greenhouse effect theory

If a physical theory is to be of any practical use, then it should be able to make physical predictions that can be experimentally tested. After all, if none of the theory’s predictions can actually be tested, then what is the point? The late science philosopher, Dr. Karl Popper described this as the concept of “falsifiability”. He reckoned that, for a theory to be scientific, it must be possible to construct an experiment which could potentially disprove the theory.

There seems to be a popular perception that the greenhouse effect and man-made global warming theories cannot be tested because “we only have one Earth”, and so, unless we use computer models, we cannot test what the Earth would be like if it had a different history of infrared-active gas concentrations. For instance, the 2007 IPCC reports argue that:

“A characteristic of Earth sciences is that Earth scientists are unable to perform controlled experiments on the planet as a whole and then observe the results.” – IPCC, Working Group 1, 4th Assessment Report, Section 1.2

To us, this seems a defeatist approach – it means saying that those theories are non-falsifiable, and can’t be tested. This is simply not true. As we said above, if a physical theory is to be of any use, then it should be able to make testable physical predictions. And by predictions, we mean “predictions” on what is happening now. If a scientist can’t test their predictions for decades or even centuries, then that’s a long time to be sitting around with nothing to do!

Instead, a scientist should use their theories to make predictions about what the results of experiments will be, and then carry out those experiments. So, we wondered what physical predictions the greenhouse effect theory implied, which could be tested… now! It turns out that there are fundamental predictions and assumptions of the theory which can be tested.

For instance, we saw in Section 3 that the theory predicts that the temperatures of the atmosphere at each altitude are related to the amount of infrared-active gases at that altitude. It also predicts that the greenhouse effect partitions the energy in the atmosphere in such a way that temperatures in the troposphere are warmer than they would be otherwise, and temperatures above the troposphere are colder than they would be otherwise.

However, our new approach shows that this is not happening! In Paper 1, we showed that the actual temperature profiles can be simply described in terms of just two or three linear regimes (in terms of molar density). In Paper 2, we proposed a mechanism to explain why there is more than one linear regimes.

The greenhouse effect theory explicitly relies on the assumption that the air is only in local energy equilibrium. Otherwise, the predicted partitioning of the energy into different atmospheric layers couldn’t happen. But, our analysis shows that the atmosphere is actually in complete energy equilibrium, at least over distances of the tens of kilometres covered by the weather balloons. In Paper 3, we identified a previously-overlooked energy transmission mechanism that could explain why this is the case.

In other words, the experimental data shows that one of the key assumptions of the greenhouse effect theory is wrong, and two of its predictions are false. To us, that indicates that the theory is wrong, using a similar logic to that used by the late American physicist and Nobel laureate, Dr. Richard Feynman, in this excellent 1 minute summary of the scientific method:

Man-made global warming theory predicts that increasing the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) will cause global warming (in the troposphere) and stratospheric cooling, by increasing the strength of the greenhouse effect. But, our analysis shows that there is no greenhouse effect! This means that man-made global warming theory is also wrong.

8. Conclusions

It is often said that the greenhouse effect and man-made global warming theories are “simple physics”, and that increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere must cause global warming.

It can be intimidating to question something that is claimed so definitively to be “simple”. Like the story about the “Emperor’s New Clothes”, most of us don’t want to acknowledge that we have problems with something that everyone is telling us is “simple”, for fear that we will look stupid.

Nonetheless, we found some of the assumptions and predictions of the theory to be questionable, and we have no difficulty in asking questions about things we are unsure on:

He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever. – old Chinese proverb

So, we decided to look carefully at the theory to test its reliability. When we looked in detail at the so-called “simple physics”, we found that it was actually “simplistic physics”.

Our experimental results show that the theory was just plain wrong!

Remarkably, nobody seems to have actually checked experimentally to see if the greenhouse effect theory was correct. It is true that the greenhouse effect theory is based on experimental observations, e.g., a) the different infra-red properties of the atmospheric gases; b) the infra-red nature of the Earth’s outgoing radiation and c) the observation that fossil fuel usage is increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

However, being based on experimentally-verified results is not the same thing as being actually experimentally verified.

At any rate, it turns out that the concentration of infrared-active gases in the atmosphere has no effect on the temperature profile of the atmosphere. So, doubling, trebling or quadrupling the concentration of infrared-active gases, e.g., carbon dioxide, will make no difference to global temperatures – after all, if you “double” nothing, you still end up with nothing!

The current climate models predict that if we continue increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere it will cause dramatic man-made global warming. On this basis, huge policy changes are being proposed/implemented in desperate attempts to urgently reduce our fossil fuel usage, in the hope that this will help us “avoid dangerous climate change”. For example, see the Stern Review (2006) or the Garnaut Climate Change Reviews (2008).

The different policies being introduced specifically to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions vary from international treaties, e.g., the Kyoto Protocol (2005), to national laws, e.g., the UK’s Climate Change Act, 2008, and even regional legislation e.g., California (USA)’s Global Warming Solutions Act, 2006.

Clearly, if the greenhouse effect theory is wrong, then man-made global warming theory is also wrong. The results of the current climate models which are based on the greenhouse effect theory are therefore invalid, and are inappropriate for basing policy on. So, the various policies to reduce our fossil fuel usage, specifically to “stop global warming”, which have been introduced (or are being planned) are no longer justified.

There has been so much confidence placed in the greenhouse effect theory, that most people seem to have thought that “the scientific debate is over”. We believe that our results show that the debate over the man-made global warming theory is indeed now “over”. The theory was just plain wrong.

There may be other reasons why we might want to reduce our fossil fuel usage, but global warming is not one.

Four_seasons

Figure 27. Any improvements that meteorologists can make in their weather predictions are of a huge benefit to society, because it means that we can better plan for whatever weather occurs. Collage of the four seasons downloaded from Wikimedia Commons.

The implications of our research for global warming are significant. However, for us, a more important result of our research is that we have identified several important insights into the physics of the atmosphere, which do not seem to have been noticed until now. These insights open up several new exciting avenues for future research, and in each of our papers we describe some possible research projects that we think could be informative.

These insights also have great significance for understanding the weather, and we suspect that they will lead to major improvements in weather prediction. We believe that more accurate and reliable weather predictions will be of tremendous benefit to society, in everything from people being able to make better day-to-day plans to improved agricultural planning to being better able to predict and cope with extreme weather disasters. So, we hope that our findings will be of use to meteorologists.

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355 comments on “Summary: “The physics of the Earth’s atmosphere” Papers 1-3

  1. I’ve already explained this – the TOA is the effective radiating surface because that’s where the atmosphere stops and interfaces with the void of space. Obviously within the atmosphere all of the thermodynamics of molecular collisions, convection, phase change, etc. create the lapse rate and temperature profile of the atmosphere, and increase the surface temperature by ~33K above the equilibrium temperature with the Sun.

    1. But that doesn’t explain why it’s at 5km. If the surface is 288 K, then it is hotter than the radiative equilibrium temperature of 255 K and so, by basic physics, should radiate more energy permunit time, than the planet is receiving from the Sun. If there’s no greenhouse effect, then this energy should simply pass through the atmosphere and the surface should cool.

      So, what stops the surface (which is at 288 K – on average) from cooling and what sets the TOA to be at 5km and not on the surface of the planet?

      1. Look at the temperature profile in fig 2 above. Even though the surface is 288K, other parts of the atmosphere are as cold as <200K. If you determine the "average" temperature throughout the entire atmosphere it averages out to about 255K, i.e. the equilibrium temperature with the Sun. There is no violation of the 1st or 2nd laws [unlike AGW theory].

        1. Physics asks, “Maybe you could also explain why Venus’s effective radiative surface is at about 75 km, while the Earth’s is at about 5km. The planets are a similar mass. Why so different?”

          Venus atmospheric mass is 2 orders of magnitude higher than Earth:

          Venus atmospheric mass: 4.8 x 10^20, surface pressure: 92 bars
          Earth atmospheric mass: 5.2 x 10^18, surface pressure: 1 bar

          The dry adiabatic lapse rate on Venus is 10.47K/km, almost the same as the dry adiabatic lapse rate on Earth 9.8K/km, despite very different atmospheric composition.

          10.47K/km * 75 km = 785K
          10.47K/km * 71 km = 740K observed surface temp

          Venus atmosphere is essentially opaque and little sunlight reaches the surface, Venus surface temp does not cool at all during its 2000 hour long night, and T/P curves are essentially identical on the overlapping sections of Earth/Venus atmospheric temperature profiles, all of which prove gravity/atm mass/pressure control surface temperature of both planets, not GHGs.

          ThenPhysics: I see you never answered my Q to you why the base of the troposphere on Uranus is 33K higher than on Earth, despite being 30X further from the Sun. Hint: read the prior paragraph.

          You can’t truly average temperature, even though everyone does as a generalization e.g. the average surface temp is 288K, and that’s why I put “average” in quotes. The point I was trying to make is that energy must be conserved so that the Earth & atmosphere are in thermodynamic equilibrium with the Sun.

          The surface is constantly being cooled by thermodynamics. For example, a hot air packet rises from the surface until reaching thermodynamic equilibrium releasing latent heat, then cools & falls and is compressed by gravity and the process recycles. The re-compression of the air packet by gravity increases the temperature per the ideal gas law and warms the lower atmosphere. This is the continual behavior of adiabatic gases in a gravity field.

          The lapse rate is not affected by radiative forcing from IR active gases and that’s why radiative forcing from greenhouse gases has a trivial effect on climate.

        2. I see you never answered my Q to you why the base of the troposphere on Uranus is 33K higher than on Earth, despite being 30X further from the Sun. Hint: read the prior paragraph.

          I do know the answer to this and I tried to explain it to you. I’ll try again. What I think you’re misunderstanding is that one needs to work from the effective emission height (in the atmosphere) downwards along the lapse. This applies to all the planets we’ve considered. The greenhouse effect sets the altitude in the atmosphere at which the atmospheric temperature matches the non-GH temperature of the planet. So, that’s a fixed starting point.

          One then works down from this point along the lapse. In the case of the Earth, the effective emission height is at 5km and has a temperature of 255 K. Working down along the lapse (at around 7 K per km) gives a surface temperature about 35 K higher than this (i.e., 288 K).

          On Venus, because of the high CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, the effective emission height in the atmosphere is at about 75 km. Working back along the lapse (at around 10K/km) one gets a surface temperature that is hundreds of degrees higher than the equilibrium non-GH temperature (about 236 K for Venus because of its high albedo).

          For Uranus, we can apply the same logic. Start at the effective emission height in the atmosphere and work back towards the surface along the lapse. But Uranus is an ice/gas giant planet and so the atmosphere essentially extends much deeper into the planet than on Earth or Venus. Hence the temperature in lowest parts of the troposphere is much higher than on Earth despite the lower equilibrium non-GH temperature.

          That’s my explanation and I believe that is the standard explanation. However, if you don’t agree that greenhouse gases set the altitude of the effective emission surface, then I suspect you won’t agree with me. If you don’t, then I’d like to know – from you – what physical process sets the effective emission height in each planet’s atmosphere.

        3. “what physical process sets the effective emission height in each planet’s atmosphere”

          Refer to this diagram:

          http://meteolcd.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/co2_emission_height.jpg

          1. Determine the equilibrium temperature of the planet with the Sun
          2. Draw a vertical line at that equilibrium temperature to the lapse rate temperature profile as shown for Earth 255K
          3. The height at which they intersect is the mean radiating height, as shown for Earth ~5km
          4. Ignore on that graph the claim increased CO2 shifts the lapse rate profile to the right – that is incorrect. RF from GHGs has no effect on the LR.

          Actually, increase of the primary GHG water vapor increases Cp, which decreases LR, which causes cooling, a shift & left tilt of the lapse rate temperature profile to the left in the above graph, thus decreasing the effective emission height. It’s called *negative* lapse rate feedback from the moist adiabatic lapse rate.

        4. Yes, but you’re working from the ground up. You’ve already assumed a surface temperature of 288 K. Why? If there’s no greenhouse effect, the surface should cool, the atmosphere should cool, and the effective emission height should drop to the surface. The reason it doesn’t is that the effective emission height is set by the GHGs in the atmosphere. The surface temperature is then determined by working from that height (which will be at the non-GH temperature) back down to the ground.

          Your scenario has an unphysical assumption. That the surface temperature can remain at 288 K in the absence of a greenhouse effect. It can’t.

        5. No -I’m not working from the ground up and I’m not assuming the surface temperature is fixed at 288K -just the opposite. Did you read above the paragraph about the addition of WV shifting\tilting the LR profile to the left which then, secondarily, COOLs the surface?

          Lemme go through it again, working from the TOA down:

          Refer to this diagram:

          http://meteolcd.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/co2_emission_height.jpg

          1. Determine the equilibrium temperature of the planet with the Sun
          2. Determine the tropospheric LR profile based upon gravity and heat capacity of the atmosphere = -g/Cp
          2. Draw a vertical line from the top of the graph at the equilibrium temperature down to the tropospheric lapse rate temperature profile
          3. The height at which they intersect is the mean radiating height

          There, we have just determined the mean radiating height from TOP DOWN, independent of the surface temperature.

          4. Ignore on that graph the claim increased CO2 shifts the lapse rate profile to the right – that is incorrect. RF from GHGs has no effect on the LR.

          Increase of the primary GHG water vapor increases Cp, which decreases LR, which causes cooling, a shift & left tilt of the lapse rate temperature profile to the left in the above graph, thus decreasing the effective emission height. It’s called *negative* lapse rate feedback from the moist adiabatic lapse rate. Increase of other GHGs like CO2, CH4, etc. also increase Cp, decrease LR, and cause cooling.

        6. 1.Determine the equilibrium temperature of the planet with the Sun

          Okay, fine that’s about 255 K. I’m with you so far.

          2. Determine the tropospheric LR profile based upon gravity and heat capacity of the atmosphere = -g/Cp

          Okay, so this is the temperature gradient. I’m still with you.

          2. Draw a vertical line from the top of the graph at the equilibrium temperature down to the tropospheric lapse rate temperature profile

          Okay, now you’re starting to lose me. All you’ve determine so far is the equilibrium temperature and a gradient. I can use this information to draw any line I like. I could put 255 K at 25 km, and work from there. I could put 255 K at 2km and work from there. You haven’t explained why the line in your graph passes through the points that it does. You’ve essentially assumed something about your temperature profile without justifying it.

          3. The height at which they intersect is the mean radiating height

          Yes, but as I explain above, you haven’t explained why it’s where it is because all you explained is what the equilibrium non-GH temperature is and what the temperature gradient is. That isn’t enough to define the actual temperature profile. You also need one more bit of information. A temperature at a specific height. How do you get this?

        7. “That isn’t enough to define the actual temperature profile. You also need one more bit of information. A temperature at a specific height. How do you get this?”

          From the lapse rate temperature profile:

          dT=h*[-g/Cp]

          ThenPhysics says, “I can use this information to draw any line I like. I could put 255 K at 25 km, and work from there. I could put 255 K at 2km and work from there. You haven’t explained why the line in your graph passes through the points that it does. ”

          No, this is just ridiculous nonsense. To conserve energy, the line has to be drawn vertically from the equilibrium temperature at the TOA. To determine the “mean radiating height” we look at the LR temp profile and see at what height the LR temp profile = equilibrium temperature. That, by definition, is the “mean radiating height”

        8. No, this is just ridiculous nonsense. To conserve energy, the line has to be drawn vertically from the equilibrium temperature at the TOA. To determine the “mean radiating height” we look at the LR temp profile and see at what height the LR temp profile = equilibrium temperature. That, by definition, is the “mean radiating height”

          No, I don’t think I’m the one who’s talking ridiculous nonsense. You’ve described how one gets an equilibrium temperature and how one determines the temperature gradient. What you’ve yet to do is explain why the LR temp profile has the equilibrium temperature at an altitude of 5km. This really is rather crucial. You’ve yet to explain the physicsal process that determines the height in the atmosphere at which the atmospheric temperature equals the equilibrium temperature.

        9. ThenPhysics says, “What you’ve yet to do is explain why the LR temp profile has the equilibrium temperature at an altitude of 5km. This really is rather crucial. You’ve yet to explain the physicsal process that determines the height in the atmosphere at which the atmospheric temperature equals the equilibrium temperature.”

          Sorry you don’t get it as I have been over this many times. The diagram I linked to is from a conventional explanation of the GHE, and there are many more on the internet/IPCC/etc showing the same thing: the mean radiating height is where T determined by the LR = equilibrium temp at TOA. So, perhaps those other sites can explain this part to you as well.

          The only problem with that graph is that it claims addition of CO2 will shift the LR profile to the right, which is incorrect. Even you have already admitted RF from additional GHGs does not affect the LR. There is no term in the lapse rate formula for radiative forcing.

          There would in fact be no change or a shift & tilt to the left of the LR profile if additional CO2 increases Cp, thus decreasing the mean radiating height, opposite of conventional GHE theory.

          Another Q for you: If you put a larger heat sink on your microprocessor, what happens to the temperature of your microprocessor?

        10. Sorry, you’re mistaken. I do get it. The reason why the emission height in our atmosphere is at 5km is because this is, roughly, the height at which it becomes optically thin to infrared radiation. Hence we emit our energy from this height into space. If we had higher GHG concentrations, it would be at a higher altitude and if we had lower GHG concentrations, it would be at a lower altitude.

          Oh, and the shift to the right in the figure you presented is, roughly speaking, correct. Water vapour feedback will produce a negative lapse rate feedback, but the figure is still essentially correct because more water vapour would also increase altitude of the emission surface, shifting the line to the right.

        11. ThenPhysics says, “The reason why the emission height in our atmosphere is at 5km is because this is, roughly, the height at which it becomes optically thin to infrared radiation. Hence we emit our energy from this height into space. If we had higher GHG concentrations, it would be at a higher altitude and if we had lower GHG concentrations, it would be at a lower altitude.”

          Wrong, the “mean emission height” is a MEAN, not the only height at which radiation is emitted to space. Radiation is also emitted to space from points above and below the MEAN emission height.

          ThenPhysics says, “Oh, and the shift to the right in the figure you presented is, roughly speaking, correct. Water vapour feedback will produce a negative lapse rate feedback, but the figure is still essentially correct because more water vapour would also increase altitude of the emission surface, shifting the line to the right.”

          Wrong again, the wet adiabatic lapse rate is only about half the dry lapse rate [5C/km vs. 9.8C/km]. A decrease in the lapse rate causes surface cooling and shifts and tilts the LR profile to the left, not the right. That’s why it is called ***negative*** LR feedback.

          Now, per that same diagram, the addition of WV increases Cp, decreases the LR to about 1/2 of the dry, shifts & tilts the LR profile to the left, thereby decreasing the MEAN height at which LR profile [dT/h = [-g/Cp]] = equilibrium temperature -> MEAN emission height decrease.

          So, what’s the answer to the question, what happens to the temperature of your microprocessor if you put a larger heat sink on it?

        12. Wrong, the “mean emission height” is a MEAN, not the only height at which radiation is emitted to space. Radiation is also emitted to space from points above and below the MEAN emission height.

          I agree, but it’s still set by the GHGs.

          Wrong again, the wet adiabatic lapse rate is only about half the dry lapse rate [5C/km vs. 9.8C/km]. A decrease in the lapse rate causes surface cooling and shifts and tilts the LR profile to the left, not the right. That’s why it is called ***negative*** LR feedback.

          Again, I agree that a negative lapse rate feedback reduces the LR. What you’re ignoring is that an increased radiative forcing, would increase the mean emission height, with the net effect that even though the LR has decreased, the line still shifts to the right.

          Now, per that same diagram, the addition of WV increases Cp, decreases the LR to about 1/2 of the dry, shifts & tilts the LR profile to the left, thereby decreasing the MEAN height at which LR profile [dT/h = [-g/Cp]] = equilibrium temperature -> MEAN emission height decrease.

          See above.

          So, what’s the answer to the question, what happens to the temperature of your microprocessor if you put a larger heat sink on it?

          I know the answer to this, but fail to see how it is relevant. In fact, I think what you may be trying to illustrate here is the wrong way around.

          I have a feeling that we’re starting to go around in circles, so I may withdraw at this point.

        13. Having read the above discussion between HockeySchtick and AndThenTheresPhysics, I have little hope that HS will admit that his ideas are wrong. AndThenTheresPhysics clearly showed the logical errors.

          Assuming that the temperature of the Earth without an atmosphere (but with the same albedo) and with an atmosphere (but without greenhouse gasses) can be different completely ignores the radiative balance. Given that an atmosphere without greenhouse gasses is irrelevant for radiative transfer, both situation should have the same surface temperature.

          I have no hope that HockeySchtick will admit this, but I am very curious what our local host and writer of 3 manuscripts on the greenhouse effect, Ronan Connolly, thinks of this adventurous Hockey idea.

        14. ThenPhysics says, “Again, I agree that a negative lapse rate feedback reduces the LR. What you’re ignoring is that an increased radiative forcing, would increase the mean emission height, with the net effect that even though the LR has decreased, the line still shifts to the right.”

          1. You previously admitted RF from GHGs has no effect on LR
          2. You now agree increased GHG WV decreases the LR, and decreased LR = negative feedback = cooling = shift & tilt to the left in the diagram
          3. I’ve shown you several times now in diagrams the mean emission height is where h=[-g/Cp]/dT = equilibrium temperature with the Sun. This height is set by the LR equation, which has no term for RF from GHGs
          4. Now you claim RF from GHGs somehow overcomes all this and shifts the LR temp profile from the left to the right to raise the em height! Even though you have admitted several times GHGs do NOT shift the LR profile.

          Astonishing, well I’d also like to hear from Ronan his comments on all of this, thanks.

          Here’s a summary of how thermodynamics, not radiative forcing from GHGs, controls the climate:

          http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2014/02/why-earths-climate-is-self-regulating.html

        15. ATTP,

          You forgot about Mars. It’s ‘effective radiating level’ is at the surface (or more likely below it!). So the 95% content of CO2 in its atmosphere does nothing (or more likely does negative work) to lift the ERL.

          Mars’ S-B calculated BB temperature to space is 210K. Mars’ average global surface temperature is at the max the same. Going by all the actual temperature measurements conducted on its surface over the years, it is most likely significantly colder, somewhere around 200-205K.

        16. Let’s not play strawman here.

          You previously admitted RF from GHGs has no effect on LR

          To a first approximation, the RF from GHGs doesn’t affect the LR.

          2. You now agree increased GHG WV decreases the LR, and decreased LR = negative feedback = cooling = shift & tilt to the left in the diagram

          The feedback from WV can produce a negative lapse rate feedback. This changes the temperature gradient. If one includes that the feedback is a response to an increased GHG forcing, the net effect is that the line shifts to the right despite there being a negative lapse rate feedback.

          3. I’ve shown you several times now in diagrams the mean emission height is where h=[-g/Cp]/dT = equilibrium temperature with the Sun. This height is set by the LR equation, which has no term for RF from GHGs

          No, it’s not set by the LR equation. The LR equation only determines the temperature gradient. One still needs to determine the value of the temperature at a particular height to complete the puzzle. The LR equation does not allow you to do this.

          4. Now you claim RF from GHGs somehow overcomes all this and shifts the LR temp profile from the left to the right to raise the em height! Even though you have admitted several times GHGs do NOT shift the LR profile.

          No, I don’t. Try and keep up, will you 🙂

        17. Only in ThatsPhysics fantasy CAGW world can someone say:

          1. “To a first approximation, the RF from GHGs doesn’t affect the LR” [Not just to a weasel “first approximation,” there is no term whatsoever in the LR equation for radiative forcing, so RF doesn’t affect LR to any approximation].

          2. Comment from you at your blog: “As CO2 concentrations increase in the atmosphere it warms the atmosphere. This produces an increase in water vapour that can then change the lapse rate,” while conveniently failing to mention that the way an increase in water vapor changes the lapse rate is a decrease due to increased Cp, and a negative-feedback LR feedback cooling effect. Do you deny that the wet adiabatic lapse rate is only one-half as steep as the dry? Or deny a decrease in the LR causes cooling?

          3. Then claim even though RF from WV doesn’t change LR “as a first approximation,” and even though the wet LR is much less than the dry, that somehow magical RF from WV/CO2 overcomes both of these impossible “first approximation” obstacles to shift the LR profile from cooler to warmer.

          BTW, why do you keep refusing to answer 3 times now my question “what happens to the temperature of your microprocessor if you put a larger heat sink on it?”

          Reading the comments on your blog reveal astonishing disagreements about the most fundamental, basic physical aspects of the GHE between “The settled science” so-called experts. Hmmm, wonder why that is?

          Ronan, do you have any comments on this discussion please?

        18. Actually I was thinking a little about your analogy. What I think you want me to say is that adding bigger heat sink will make it cooler. I’m assuming that you’re suggesting that this is analogous to the atmosphere in that more GHGs make it cooler.

          What you’re forgetting is that our atmosphere has to have a location at which the temperature matches the equilibrium temperature. The correct analogy would be one in which the temperature of the heat sink is forced to be constant. In that case, if you add a bigger heat sink, to keep its temperature constant the heat generated (or the temperature) of the processor has to go up.

          So, in our atmosphere, if you add more greenhouse gases, the surface temperature rises, it doesn’t drop.

        19. Kristian,
          Actually, I think Mars has about 6 degrees of greenhouse warming. It also has virtually no water vapour and the actual pressure is much lower than the Earth’s.

          Anyway, it seems that you’ve decided to come and “attack” me here because you’re clearly unhappy about how your comments were moderated on my blog. Do you think doing that is going to make me go “oh no, I’ve clearly made a mistake and am missing out of having someone make insightful and reasonable comments”? I’m always willing to be convinced that I may have misjudged someone. Behaving as I expected, however, is really unlikely to do that.

        20. You ‘think’ Mars has a 6 degree GH warming. How convenient for you.

          The data show otherwise, ATTP. It has NO GH warming. Rather negative warming. What temperature data do you base your 6 degree ‘GH warming’ on?

          And ATTP, do you really think I will ever return to a site of an owner that censor well-reasoned arguments he just doesn’t like? Why do you think I came here to address you?

          If you want to have an actual discussion ON THE POSTULATED GHE here, then fine. I’m game. Here I can be sure that my comments will not be deleted off hand. And I’m pretty certain that you can be sure of the same … Doesn’t that feel good?

        21. Kristian,
          What data? Everything I’ve found suggest a small amount of greenhouse warming. Less than 10 degrees.

          If you want to have an actual discussion ON THE POSTULATED GHE here, then fine. I’m game.

          Not really. If you want to continue believing that the greenhouse effect doesn’t exist, carry on.

          Here I can be sure that my comments will not be deleted off hand. And I’m pretty certain that you can be sure of the same … Doesn’t that feel good?

          You should try moderating a blog one day. Maybe you’d learn something.

        22. That’s the point, ATTP, you’re not looking at actual produced data, you’re listening to what (some) people are telling you. People who also believe in the fairy tale story of the ‘atmospheric radiative GHE’.

          In the ‘old’ days, yes, one had a tendency to state a ‘global surface temp’ of Mars of around -54C, but this number was clearly not based on any real averaging across the globe and the Martian year.

          We know from the temperature readings of the different Mars landers/rovers that temperatures like that (-50 > -55) you only get during summer in the tropical/subtropical zones (most of the ground data available are from the summer seasons and from these fairly central zones).

          More recent values for the mean global surface temperature of Mars (from NASA) suggest just what I’m saying, that the imagined ‘GH warming’ is NIL. See this one for instance:
          http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/marsfact.html

          Mars calculated BB temp: 210K; Mars average surface temp: 210K.

          Most likely it is even lower. Like I said, most of the temperature readings from the different landers and rovers on the actual surface of Mars are from the summer season and from fairly low latitutes. They STILL report means around -50 > -55.

          The Phoenix at 68N measured only during the height of summer and recorded a mean around -56C!

          The Viking 2 lander at 48N (pretty much halfway between the pole and the equator) measured an annual mean of -78C!
          http://i1172.photobucket.com/albums/r565/Keyell/VL2aringrstempdataMars_zps18258686.png

        23. And Then There’s Physics March 6, 2014 at 6:57 am:

          You should try moderating a blog one day. Maybe you’d learn something.

          The point is, ATTP, there’s a difference between moderating (and sometimes deleting, when it gets too much) comments that are obviously meant as ‘trolling’ with no real content other than abuse or quotes taken out of context to misdirect, and comments that build arguments in a well-reasoned manner, that address another post in a point-by-point fashion.

          You simply deleted my comment because you didn’t like the argument.

          I have no respect for that kind of dogmatic moderating.

  2. I have problems with two of your “arguments by analogy”.

    First, using CO2 to insulate houses. Experiments have been done to test this but they were irrelevant because the experiments do not simulate the optical depth of the column of air from the bottom to the top of the atmosphere, roughly 10 metric tons per square meter.

    However, balloon data is interesting and appropriate because the balloons rise above something like 99% of the atmosphere. It is because you are reanalyzing this data that you caught my interest.

    Second, the point about the Earth’s temperature and energy entering and leaving the atmosphere. You misinterpreted the GHG theory.

    The GHG theory states that black body radiation theory applies to the Earth, at least to the extent that the Earth is a grey body. So the Earth aborbs energy and then heats up to temperature T1. At this temperature the Earth will radiate energy E1. If the sun adds more energy or more energy is trapped, the temperature will rise to T2 and amount of energy radiated will rise to E2.

    In the above examples T1 / E1 and T2 / E2 are steady states in equilibrium.

    Add more energy or convert more of the reflected light into IR and temperature will rise again to T3 with higher radiant energy E3. The incoming and outgoing are balanced but at a higher potential energy level indicated by T3 greater than T2.

    Quite simple really. Whether or not T1 rises to T2 and does not return to T1 or rise to T3 depends on whether or not the Earth’s albedo changes to reflect more or less sunlight and whether or not the radiation components of sunlight vary over time.

    I do not make these comments to discourage you, but rather to ensure that you correctly define the theory you aim to falsify.

    I myself am a skeptic about climate alarmism but not about the physics, and you put me off by presenting your theories before you convinced me that you have discovered something new by empirical means.

    So let us know what you found and then suggest what the implications might be for current theories.

    You need to present your reanalysis of the balloon data before you start theorizing about what it means. Fitting a few simple parameters is a promising start.

    1. Frederick,
      Thank you for your comment, and don’t worry I appreciate critical comments!

      It was challenging writing this particular essay because, while the GHE theory is often promoted as being “simple physics”, it is actually quite technical and nuanced. Furthermore, our analysis on this subject is also quite technical and nuanced. However, we felt that it was important to give people an overall summary of our findings. Unfortunately, this involved making some simplifications/crude analogies which we don’t make in the more technical papers.

      We discuss our results in more detail in the papers we have submitted for open peer review. If you get a chance, you might find Paper 1 and Paper 2 interesting.

      I don’t think what we are actually saying disagrees with what you are saying. We agree that T1 is a function of E1, and that if E1 increases/decreases, then T1 will respond accordingly. I guess one of the main differences between our explanation and the GHE theory is in (a) what our definition of T1 is, and (b) what the function is.

      We found that if you treat the entire atmosphere as a gray body, and take into account some other factors (water vapour distribution and the troposphere/tropopause phase change), then the temperature profiles are remarkably well described purely in terms of the thermodynamic properties of the bulk gases.

  3. Hi Hockey Schtick, Victor and ATTP,
    Sorry about the long delays between replies. Unfortunately, I’m not getting much time to check the comments (I haven’t checked back on ATTP’s blog since Sunday either! 🙁 ) and so I haven’t had a chance to properly read your discussion. But, I’ll have a look in the morning and try to answer your questions then!

  4. Hi Hockey Schtick,
    Again, apologies about the delays between replies. Unfortunately, because all of our climate research is unfunded, we’re only able to do this in our spare time, which means I don’t have a lot of time in the day for checking the blog. 🙁 Also, I’ve been quite busy in the last few days trying to compile, format and document the Supplementary Information files for our papers, so that we can upload them to OPRJ.

    Anyway, in your initial framing of your theory (e.g., Feb 25, 5.05pm), I would only agree with some of your tenets.

    For instance, in your second tenet, you suggest that “the addition of greenhouse gases increases Cp”. Aside from water vapour, all of the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere are trace gases, e.g., CO2 only comprises about 0.04% of the atmosphere. So, doubling or quadrupling the concentration of a trace gas should only have a negligible effect on the average heat capacity of the air. The main potential role of the trace gases (excluding water vapour) on the temperature profile is in their radiative properties, not their heat capacity.

    However, in your recent blogpost, you present your arguments in a clearer and more plausible manner. I think much of what you say in your blogpost summary is compatible with our findings, and so I’ll comment on this version, instead of replying to your original questions – is that ok with you?

    I think a lot of your arguments are broadly in agreement with ours, however there are several questions which your theory doesn’t answer (as currently outlined!). AndThenTheresPhysics, Victor and others have correctly identified some of them.

    The main problems I see are:

    1. You provide no explanation for why the lapse rate changes sign in the stratosphere.
    I think our observation that there is a phase change here answers that problem, e.g., as we discuss in Section 3.1 of Paper 2, if the phase change involves multimerization this should decrease the average heat capacity of the atmosphere and could cause a positive lapse rate.

    However, until now, the conventional textbook explanation for the positive lapse rate in the stratosphere has been the “ozone heating” theory, e.g., Chou, 1992 (Open access). We think the ozone heating explanation is wholly inadequate (e.g., why is there a tropopause in the polar winter?). But, it is the conventional explanation, and it relies on pretty much the same principles as the greenhouse effect theory (the version used by climate models, that is!). So, if you accept the ozone heating explanation for the stratosphere, then it’s difficult to see how you could dismiss the greenhouse effect theory.

    For that reason, I think if your theory is to be useful, you should offer some credible explanation for the stratospheric behavious.

    2. As I mentioned above, aside from water vapour, all of the Earth’s greenhouse gases (GHG) are trace gases. So, when you say “Addition of GHGs increase the heat capacity Cp”, this seems unlikely, and creates confusion.

    I think what you mean is that the addition of water vapour increases the heat capacity, and since water vapour is a GHG, you say “addition of GHGs”. Is this what you mean? If so, I would rephrase it, because as it is, it implies that you’re claiming the “greenhouse gas” properties (i.e., it’s radiative properties) that are altering the heat capacity.

    3. There is a lot of handwaving when you are describing the radiative behaviour of the atmosphere.

    You seem to agree with the conventional greenhouse effect theory that:
    (a) greenhouse gases emit infrared radiation to space, and
    (b) there is a mean radiating height in the atmosphere

    But, then you suddenly jump to saying, “there is no term for radiative forcing from greenhouse gases in the lapse rate formula and radiative forcing from greenhouse gases does not affect the lapse rate. Therefore, man-made CO2 has a trivial influence on climate.”

    That’s a big leap, and I don’t think you’ve adequately explained how you got from one part to the next! I can see why AndThenTheresPhysics (and others) are frustrated with you for this.

    I think what you are saying is actually quite similar to our explanation, however. You just need to elaborate on the missing logical steps in your theory (as you have currently presented it!)

    This reply is already quite long, and we discuss our description of the radiative behaviour of the atmosphere in considerable detail in Section 3.2 of Paper 2.
    But for the benefit of those who haven’t read Section 3.2 yet, I’ll try to summarise our theory to explain the outgoing radiation:

    1. The Earth system (surface + atmosphere) absorbs about 240 W/m2 of incoming solar radiation (mostly UV/vis and shortwave IR), and reflects about 100 W/m2 (“albedo”, etc).

    2. The Earth system (surface + atmosphere) emits roughly the same amount back to space (about 240 W/m2), mostly in the form of longwave IR.

    3. The main non IR-active gases (N2, O2 & Ar) cannot directly emit IR, but IR can be emitted by the surface, clouds (or other phase changes!) and the “greenhouse gases” (H2O, CO2, etc). Therefore, these are probably the main sources of the outgoing longwave IR.

    4. When you analyse the IR spectrum at the “TOA” (typically defined as being somewhere in the tropopause/stratosphere) , there are characteristic peaks from the main greenhouse gases (CO2, O3, H2O, etc.). This confirms that a considerable chunk of the IR emission at the mean radiating height occurs via the greenhouse gases.

    I think, up to here, we are mostly in agreement with the standard GHE theory, although if ATTP or any of the others want to contradict me, please do so! 🙂
    Now we get to the parts where our explanation differs from the conventional explanation.

    5. According to the standard textbook version of the GHE, the atmosphere is only in “local thermodynamic equilibrium”. That is, a given parcel of air is thermodynamically isolated from its surroundings, except by radiative processes. This means that if the GHGs in an arbitrary parcel of air absorb more radiation than they emit, then that parcel can heat up relative to its surrounding. Similarly, if the GHGs emit more radiation than they absorb, the parcel will cool down.

    This means that (according to GHE theory!), because of the GHGs, the air in a given “layer” can have a different total energy content than the air above/below it. That is, the GHGs lead to “energy imbalances” throughout the atmosphere, which would not exist if the atmosphere were in complete thermodynamic equilibrium

    Does that make sense??? Pierrehumbert, 2011 (Abstract; Google Scholar access) gives a succint summary.

    Arrhennius, 1896 was one of the first attempts to theoretically calculate how GHGs would alter the energy profile of the atmosphere, but his calculations were done without a computer and as a result were quite crude & simplistic. Since the mid-20th century, a number of groups have started theoretically calculating the expected energy imbalances at different altitudes. These are generally referred to as “infrared cooling models”, and these models form one of the main aspects of the radiative physics components of the current Global Climate Models.

    If you’re unfamiliar with these models, Stone & Manabe, 1968 (Open access) review some of the earliest infrared cooling models. The current models have higher resolution and use more precise spectra, but have the same basic idea.

    Broadly speaking, the models predict that GHGs should decrease the rate of infrared cooling of the troposphere (“too optically thick”), but increase the rate of infrared cooling of the tropopause/stratosphere.

    As a result, according to the GHE theory, increasing the concentration of GHGs should increase the average energy content (and thereby temperature) of the troposphere, leading to “global warming”. Simultaneously, it should decrease the average energy content of the stratosphere, leading to “stratospheric cooling”.

    The GHGs should not alter the total outgoing longwave IR radiation, i.e., 240 W/m2. But, according to the theory, they should alter the energy profile distribution throughout the atmosphere.

    We believe our results show that the atmosphere is not just in local thermodynamic equilibrium, but that the atmosphere is in complete thermodynamic equilibrium (at least over the distances from the bottom of the troposphere to about 30/35km, where the weather balloons burst and our analysis stops…).
    This means that, even though the theoretical calculations sounded plausible, the data is showing us that a key assumption of the GHE theory is invalid… and that the IR cooling models used by the current climate models don’t work.

    But, in that case, how do we explain why the temperature at the surface is warmer than 255K?

    6. When we analysed the temperature profiles of all the available weather balloon radiosondes in the IGRA dataset that had enough data (>13 million in total), we found that the temperature profile from ground to mid-stratosphere is actually remarkably well-described purely in terms of the thermodynamic properties of the bulk gases (i.e., nitrogen and oxygen), once we also account for the phase change and changes in water vapour concentration.

    For example, if you look at Figures 12 & 13 above, the blue and red curves are the temperature profiles we would expect based on the gas laws for the bulk gases. The black circles represent the experimental measurements. If you are interested in more details of how we calculated this, refer to our Paper 1.

    This complements your argument that the tropospheric temperature profile is unaffected by GHGs.

    ———-

    I know this is a rather long & technical reply for a blog comment, but does it clarify matters?

    1. Ronan, I really think you’ve essentially described the greenhouse theory and you just don’t realise it.

      Here’s a very simple point. In the absence of a greenhouse effect (or in the absence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) the surface of the planet has to be at the non-greenhouse equilibrium temperature. Why? Because if it’s higher than this it will emit more energy than it receives and it will cool. If it’s lower than this it will emit less energy than it receives and it will warm. That’s basically it.

      The fact that we effectively emit our energy back into space from some altitude in the atmosphere and not from the surface of the planet is a consequence of the greenhouse effect. That’s really all it is. All your discussion about thermodynamic equilibrium and the rest is just details. Interesting and worth studying but in no way implies that the greenhouse effect is small. The reason the surface of the planet is 33K warmer than the non-greenhouse equilibrium temperature is because of the greenhouse effect. There really is no other explanation. All you’ve seemed to do is describe the greenhouse effect and then, somehow, conclude that it is small or doesn’t exist.

      1. No, In the absence of a greenhouse effect (or in the absence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) the surface of the planet (Ts) has to be at a temperature that is higher than the “non-greenhouse equilibrium temperature [of a hypothetical black body] (Tr)”; because the planet is not a black body, so therefore it’s emissivity (e) is less than one. Ts = Tr/(e^0.25) The atmosphere will be heated to Ts at the surface, by the surface, even though the surface only radiates at Tr.

    2. 5. According to the standard textbook version of the GHE, the atmosphere is only in “local thermodynamic equilibrium”. That is, a given parcel of air is thermodynamically isolated from its surroundings, except by radiative processes. This means that if the GHGs in an arbitrary parcel of air absorb more radiation than they emit, then that parcel can heat up relative to its surrounding. Similarly, if the GHGs emit more radiation than they absorb, the parcel will cool down.

      This means that (according to GHE theory!), because of the GHGs, the air in a given “layer” can have a different total energy content than the air above/below it. That is, the GHGs lead to “energy imbalances” throughout the atmosphere, which would not exist if the atmosphere were in complete thermodynamic equilibrium

      Okay, I don’t believe this is correct. Energy can be transported from the surface to the effective emission height through convection and radiation. The GH theory doesn’t really specify how. It simply says that the lower troposphere is opaque to outgoing longwavelength radiation.

      So if the actual profile is steeper than the lapse rate then its convectively unstable and convection acts to drive the temperature profile back to the adiabatic lapse rate. If it’s shallower than the lapse rate, then its convectively stable, but heating from the surface (through absorption of infrared radiation) will also drive the temperature profile back towards the adiabatic lapse rate. So, even in the GH theory, the troposphere’s temperature profile will tend towards the adiabatic lapse rate. You could try reading this this for a more detailed explanation.

      So, again, what you’ve observed is consistent with the standard theory. Also, you mentioned the stratosphere. I don’t see why that’s relevant to the GH theory. The profile there is largely a consequence of ozone absorbing incoming UV photons.

    3. Ronan Connolly, thanks for this explanation. That makes it somewhat clearer to me. If I understand it correctly you do not refute the radiative part of the greenhouse effect and you thus understand that the idea of the Hockey Schticks are wrong.

      I do not understand the part about thermodynamic equilibria, but I guess I would have to read the papers do do so.

      Your results suggest that not CO2 is an important greenhouse gas, but rather some new substance, if I understand it correctly. For that idea to gain more traction, you would have to study the laboratory measurements of the infra red spectrum of CO2 because your theory would suggest that they are wrong. Thus it would be important to reconcile these two conflicting ideas. Also laboratory measurements of the absorption spectrum of your new substance would be necessary and some explanation why this has not been observed in the lab before.

      I did some work on radiative transfer in the past, not related to gases, but to clouds. Still I have never heard of your “infrared cooling models”, I guess they are a thing of the past as your old reference suggests.

      All the global circulation models, global climate models I know of solve the radiative transfer equations itself with a number of approximations for numerical efficiency. This type of approximation is called the delta-two-stream approximation.

      Main assumptions: only fluxes upward and downward are considered (not sidewards), the equation is solved for radiation bands (whereas the RT equation is strictly only valid for on frequency) and clouds are modeled with only a cloud fraction (but no variability inside the cloud).

      Some newer models make less assumptions (do include variability inside the cloud or have more streams), but the above is the standard.

    4. Ronan says, “I think what you are saying is actually quite similar to our explanation, however. You just need to elaborate on the missing logical steps in your theory (as you have currently presented it!)”

      Thanks for your constructive comments! I will address your 3 concerns:

      “1. You provide no explanation for why the lapse rate changes sign in the stratosphere.”

      I don’t think the conventional stratospheric ozone heating explanation is incompatible with the rest of my summary of the troposphere thermodynamics here:

      http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2014/02/why-earths-climate-is-self-regulating.html

      Do you think that it is? If so, why?

      I also believe your new proposed solution as outlined in your papers may represent an even better explanation due to the inconsistencies you mention regarding ozone heating.

      “2. As I mentioned above, aside from water vapour, all of the Earth’s greenhouse gases (GHG) are trace gases. So, when you say “Addition of GHGs increase the heat capacity Cp”, this seems unlikely, and creates confusion. I think what you mean is that the addition of water vapour increases the heat capacity, and since water vapour is a GHG, you say “addition of GHGs”. Is this what you mean?”

      Yes

      If so, I would rephrase it, because as it is, it implies that you’re claiming the “greenhouse gas” properties (i.e., it’s radiative properties) that are altering the heat capacity.

      I agree, I’ll update the post referring to Cp only with respect to water vapor. The change in Cp from trace gases would be essentially zero, and radiative properties do not change the lapse rate at all, as I say elsewhere in the post.

      “3. There is a lot of handwaving when you are describing the radiative behaviour of the atmosphere.
      You seem to agree with the conventional greenhouse effect theory that:
      (a) greenhouse gases emit infrared radiation to space, and
      (b) there is a mean radiating height in the atmosphere
      But, then you suddenly jump to saying, “there is no term for radiative forcing from greenhouse gases in the lapse rate formula and radiative forcing from greenhouse gases does not affect the lapse rate. Therefore, man-made CO2 has a trivial influence on climate.”
      That’s a big leap, and I don’t think you’ve adequately explained how you got from one part to the next! I can see why AndThenTheresPhysics (and others) are frustrated with you for this.
      I think what you are saying is actually quite similar to our explanation, however. You just need to elaborate on the missing logical steps in your theory (as you have currently presented it!)”

      In a nutshell what I am saying is that planetary surface and tropospheric temperature profiles are determined by:

      1. Equilibrium temperature with the Sun
      2. Gravity
      3. Atmospheric mass
      4. Heat capacity of the atmosphere

      2-4 establish the average lapse rate and determine the temperature profile of the troposphere. The effect of a gravity field on adiabatic gases entirely explains the 33K “greenhouse effect” on Earth, and the “greenhouse effect” on other planets as well.

      Equilibrium temperature with the Sun = 255K for Earth
      mean emission height = 5km = 255K/[-g/Cp]
      average LR on Earth observed = 6.5K/km * 5km = 33K
      Earth surface temp = 255K + 33K = 288K

      Therefore, surface temperature is entirely explainable by the thermodynamics of those 4 factors, no need for any “radiative forcing from greenhouse gases,” which has no effect on the lapse rate and is completely unnecessary to explain the 33K “greenhouse effect.”

      That is why I said “Therefore, man-made CO2 has a trivial influence on climate.”

      How else does one explain the base of the troposphere on Uranus is 33K hotter than the base of the troposphere on Earth, despite being 30X further from the Sun and receiving only 3.71 W/m2 from the Sun? The only possible explanation is gravity/atm mass/Cp/Lapse rate as outlined above, not “radiative forcing from greenhouse gases.” Same is true for Venus [as I already showed in an earlier comment] and all of the other planets with atmospheres. Conversely, the conventional GHE absolutely fails at attempting to estimate temperatures of other planets:

      http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2011/08/professor-inadvertently-explains-why.html

      Ronan,

      Would you agree that Earth’s surface temperature would be about:

      255K without an atmosphere

      288K with the current atmosphere

      304K with an atmosphere of the same mass, without any greenhouse gases [approximated using the observed dry adiabatic lapse rate of 9.8K/km * 5 km = 49K + 255K = 304K]

      1. The effect of a gravity field on adiabatic gases entirely explains the 33K “greenhouse effect” on Earth, and the “greenhouse effect” on other planets as well.

        Equilibrium temperature with the Sun = 255K for Earth

        Okay, this is standard.

        mean emission height = 5km = 255K/[-g/Cp]

        What sets the emission height? Gravity? How does this work?

        average LR on Earth observed = 6.5K/km * 5km = 33K

        Okay, if the emission height is at 5km, then this is roughly correct.

        Earth surface temp = 255K + 33K = 288K

        Again, if the emission height is at 5km, then this is roughly correct.

        Here’s the issue. In the absence of a greenhouse effect the atmosphere is transparent at infrared wavelengths. The surface is 288K, 33K warmer than the equilibrium temperature of 255K. This means that the surface should lose more energy than it gains and it should cool. This will also cool the lower troposphere and the emission height will drop until it reaches the surface of the planet when it has cooled to 255K.

        The reason that the emission is at 5km, is because of the greenhouse effect.

        1. For the innocent bystanders.

          The Hockey Schtick thus assumes that the atmosphere does not emit infrared radiation (no greenhouse effect) and simultaneously that the height of this non-emission is at 5 km.

          His use of the dry adiabatic lapse rate is only valid for the absence greenhouse gas water vapour. However, the supposedly warmer surface is also used as proof for the cooling properties of other greenhouse gases such as CO2.

          If there are any honest climate ostriches reading this: do you really want to get your information on climate science from such people? And believe me, many posts on WUWT, the main climate ostrich blog, are just as wrong. Why not take a short break reading blogs and read a book explaining the fundamentals of our climate? That is what a true sceptic would do.

        2. ThenPhysics says, “mean emission height = 5km = 255K/[-g/Cp]
          What sets the emission height? Gravity? How does this work?”

          For the nth time, for conservation of energy, the mean emission height must be the height in the atmosphere at which the temperature is equal to the equilibrium temperature with the Sun = 255K

          Knowing this, we plug the equilibrium temperature into the lapse rate formula to determine the mean emission height = 5km = 255K/[-g/Cp].

          “What sets the emission height? Gravity? How does this work?”

          Gravity, atmospheric mass [which together determine pressure], and heat capacity of the atmosphere determine the lapse rate, which is then used to determine the height at which the T = equilibrium T with the Sun.

          RF from GHGs plays no role in setting this height and there is no term whatsoever in the lapse rate equation for RF from GHGs.

          ThenPhysics says, “Here’s the issue. In the absence of a greenhouse effect the atmosphere is transparent at infrared wavelengths. The surface is 288K, 33K warmer than the equilibrium temperature of 255K. This means that the surface should lose more energy than it gains and it should cool. This will also cool the lower troposphere and the emission height will drop until it reaches the surface of the planet when it has cooled to 255K.”

          For the nth time, the surface is 288K due to continual re-compression of air packets- as they descend they are increasingly compressed by gravity, an increase of PRESSURE, which by the ideal gas law raises temperature.

          The surface is also constantly being cooled by thermodynamics. For example that re-compressed hot air packet releases heat to the lower atmosphere, then rises again until reaching thermodynamic equilibrium releasing latent heat, then cools & falls and is compressed by gravity and the process recycles yet again. The re-compression of the air packet by gravity increases the temperature per the ideal gas law and warms the lower atmosphere. This is the continual behavior of adiabatic gases in a gravity field and is the entire basis of the 33K “greenhouse effect”. This process has absolutely NOTHING to due with radiative forcing from GHGs.

          Now a Q for you ThenPhysics & Victor the ostrich:

          Explain how your version of the “greenhouse effect” makes the base of the troposphere on Uranus 33K hotter than the base of the troposphere on Earth. I asked ThenPhysics 4 times to explain this, and I’m still waiting for an answer.

        3. For the nth time, the surface is 288K due to continual re-compression of air packets- as they descend they are increasingly compressed by gravity, an increase of PRESSURE, which by the ideal gas law raises temperature.

          Since the atmosphere does not absorb incoming radiation and doesn’t absorb outgoing radiation, what happens once all the air packets have descended to the surface?

        4. Explain how your version of the “greenhouse effect” makes the base of the troposphere on Uranus 33K hotter than the base of the troposphere on Earth. I asked ThenPhysics 4 times to explain this, and I’m still waiting for an answer.

          I’ve answered this a number of times. I’ll try again though 🙂

          The greenhouse effect sets an effective emission height. The lapse rate sets the temperature gradient in the troposphere. The temperature in the atmosphere at the effective emission height must match the non-greenhouse temperature. Now work from this height and this temperature down along the lapse until you reach the surface of the planet. Ahhh, but Uranus doesn’t really have a surface since it is a gas/ice giant. Therefore you can follow the lapse much deeper into the planet than you can on the earth and therefore temperatures you reach at the base of the troposphere are higher than they are on the Earth.

        5. ThenPhysics says, “Since the atmosphere does not absorb incoming radiation and doesn’t absorb outgoing radiation, what happens once all the air packets have descended to the surface?”

          Have you had too much to drink today? Seriously?
          Or are you now even worse than Victor the ostrich at misquoting me?

          Where oh where did I ever remotely suggest the ridiculous notion that “the atmosphere does not absorb incoming radiation and doesn’t absorb outgoing radiation”

          For the record, the atmosphere DOES absorb & emit radiation, BUT radiation has NOTHING to do with the ideal gas law, nor the lapse rate – which is based upon the ideal gas law. LR is responsible for the entire 33K “greenhouse effect,” not GHGs.

          Why do you folks continue to deny the ideal gas law?

          Why do you folks continue to deny packets of air at the surface [heated by solar energy] are continually rising from the surface to cool the surface, rise & expand until they reach equilibrium in the atmosphere to release latent heat, then cool & fall until once again re-compressed by gravity, raising the pressure and thus temperature of the air packet per the ideal gas law. The process then repeats ad-infinitum. This continual thermodynamic process plus solar insolation determines the surface temperature, independent of RF from GHGs.

          For the 5th time, what’s your explanation for Uranus?

        6. For the record, the atmosphere DOES absorb & emit radiation, BUT radiation has NOTHING to do with the ideal gas law, nor the lapse rate – which is based upon the ideal gas law. LR is responsible for the entire 33K “greenhouse effect,” not GHGs.

          Okay, maybe we’re getting somewhere. So, yes, to a first approximation the lapse rate is based on the ideal gas law and is not influenced by GHGs (ignoring negative lapse rate feedback for the moment). However, the absorption and emission of radiation is what sets the emission height. If the atmosphere did not absorb or emit radiation, the emission height would be on the surface of the planet. What most people call the effect of this absorption and emission of radiation is “the greenhouse effect”. Therefore the greenhouse effect sets the effective emission height in the atmosphere and, therefore, the greenhouse effect causes the surface to be warmer than it would be if the atmosphere did not absorb or emit radiation.

          Now that we have that cleared up, go back and read my explanation of Uranus again 🙂

        7. No you’re not getting anywhere fast because you continue to deny the ideal gas law and the fact that surface PRESSURE plus solar insolation set the surface temperature.

          How many times do I have to show you the basic physics of the ideal gas law?
          Why do you have a mental block that higher PRESSURE near the surface is what raises the temperature at the surface above the equilibrium temperature with the Sun. For Earth, the increase in surface temperature is 33K from PRESSURE alone. Doesn’t have anything to do with RF from GHGs.

          ThenPhysics says, “So, yes, to a first approximation the lapse rate is based on the ideal gas law and is not influenced by GHGs (ignoring negative lapse rate feedback for the moment). However, the absorption and emission of radiation is what sets the emission height. If the atmosphere did not absorb or emit radiation, the emission height would be on the surface of the planet.”

          Wrong again

          1. The LR to ANY approximation is NOT influenced whatsoever by radiative forcing from GHGs. There is no term whatsoever in the LR equation for radiative forcing.

          2. If the atmosphere was the same mass without GHGs, even though all the emission comes from the surface, the MEAN of the temperatures throughout the atmospheric profile set by the LR would still be = to the equilibrium temperature with the Sun.

          Why do you continue to deny the wet lapse rate is one-half the dry, and thus addition of water vapor COOLs the planet and DECREASES the MEAN emission height?

          Why do you continue to deny the Earth MEAN emission height = 5km = 255K/[-g/Cp], which has no term whatsoever for RF from GHGs?

          Therefore, RF from GHGs has nothing whatsoever, nada, no way, nein to do with setting the MEAN emission height?

        8. Sorry, but I really can’t continue arguing with someone who describes the greenhouse effect perfectly, and then denies its existence. I no longer know what we disagree about, apart from what to call it, that is.

        9. ThenTheresNotPhysics:

          Thanks for acknowledging that I’ve described perfectly and very simply the 33K so-called “greenhouse effect” on the basis of the ideal gas law, heat capacity, atmospheric mass, gravity, and pressure. And provided you with the basic physics equations that explain the entire 33K “greenhouse effect,” mean emission height, surface temperature, atmospheric temperature profile, etc.

          Your explanation of the “greenhouse effect” is self-contradictory, ignores PRESSURE completely and the effect of a gravity field on adiabatic gases, claims RF affects the lapse rate or emission height, and claims radiative forcing controls temperature rather than the basic physics of thermodynamics – all completely incorrect. That’s why the so-called experts commenting at your blog are unable to agree on even the most elementary physics of the GHE.

          Here is clear observational proof that radiative forcing absolutely does not control surface temperature:

          http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/02/24/volcanoes-erupt-again/

          My explanation of the “GHE” agrees perfectly with these observations. Your explanation of the “GHE” is a complete FAIL in the face of these observations and many others.

          Here’s a comment from a PhD physical chemist on my blog – maybe he can explain the basic physics of the REAL GHE to you:

          Consider a vertical gas column containing a finite and constant specific energy level (U, J/kg) that is isolated from its surroundings (no input/output of energy or mass) but which is in a gravitational field. The column will in time reach equilibrium with respect to internal specific energy but the temperature will not be uniform. At static equilibrium (adiabatic equilibrium where no macro motion exists), internal specific energy (U) is composed of both thermal energy (the energy due to molecular motion) and potential energy (the energy due to position). The latter has to exist in a gravitational field. Thus, according to the first and second law of thermodynamics, the specific internal energy (U) for any mass parcel in the air column has to be constant and can be expressed as a sum of the thermal and potential energies. This law (expressed as specific energies) can be written:

          U = CpT + gh or upon differentiation dU = CpdT + gdh (1)

          where “CpT” is the enthalpy (or thermal energy) per mass unit, “g” is the gravitational acceleration, “h” is the vertical height and “gh” is the potential energy per mass unit.

          At static equilibrium dU = 0 and equation (1) becomes;

          CpdT + gdh = 0 (2)

          Thus, according to the first and second laws of thermodynamics, for any given difference in altitude (height) the increase in specific potential energy (gdh) must be offset by a corresponding decrease in thermal energy (CpdT) and a corresponding decrease in temperature. Thus in a gravitational field an atmosphere in equilibrium must have a non- isothermal decreasing temperature distribution with altitude. This is true in an isolated air column and this basic physical phenomenon exists independent of any input/output of other energy sources such as ground temperature, convection, radiation, convection, etc. And of course equation (2) can be rewritten as:

          dT/dh = -g/CpT = -9.8 K/km

          which is a temperature profile often observed in our atmosphere on a daily basis. This static temperature lapse rate (in this model atmosphere) is identical to the dry adiabatic lapse rate theoretically derived in Meteorology for a convective adiabatic air parcel. In both situations it is solely a function of the magnitude of the gravitational field and the heat capacity of the atmospheric gas, and nothing else. And this relationship aptly describes the bulk of the 33ºC so-called “Greenhouse Effect” that is the bread and butter of the Climate Science Community.

          It is remarkable that this very simple derivation is totally ignored in the field of Climate Science simply because it refutes the radiation heat transfer model as the dominant cause of the GE. Hence, that community is relying on an inadequate model to blame CO2 and innocent citizens for global warming in order to generate funding and to gain attention. If this is what “science” has become today, I, as a scientist, am ashamed.

        10. I would argue that The Hockey Schtick does not understand the greenhouse effect. It is a muddled description of the current situation.

          That the theory of THS is wrong can be seen by considering what THS thinks what would happen in the situation without greenhouse gasses. The THS theory still assumes that without greenhouse gasses the effective emission height remains at about 5 km, as a magical natural constant, whereas in the situation without greenhouse gasses it would be at the surface because without greenhouse gasses, the atmosphere would not emit.

          This height is determined by radiative transfer through the atmosphere. If the atmosphere becomes more transparent in the infrared (less greenhouse gasses) the cold outer space can interact with lower air layers. In the extreme case considered here, no greenhouse gasses, the radiation from the surface can escape directly to outer space and the (effective) emission height will thus be at the surface.

  5. AndThenTheresPhysics, Victor and Hockey Schtick,
    I’ll be away from the computer for a few days. You’re more than welcome to continue this discussion in the meantime, but could you please stop the name-calling & insults?

    Aside from causing each other offence, I’d say it is quite upsetting for a lot of people reading this thread.

    I’ll try to answer some of your questions before I go, but as I said, I’ll be back in a few days.

  6. Hockey Schtick asked:

    Would you agree that Earth’s surface temperature would be about:
    255K without an atmosphere
    288K with the current atmosphere
    304K with an atmosphere of the same mass, without any greenhouse gases [approximated using the observed dry adiabatic lapse rate of 9.8K/km * 5 km = 49K + 255K = 304K]

    I understand what you’re getting at, but I don’t think it’s a particularly enlightening question.
    On the first two, I’d agree… but I suspect so would AndThenTheres and Victor. The problem is that our atmosphere contains greenhouse gases, so if you say “yes, it’s 288K with the current atmosphere”, it’s not clear what role (if any) you think the greenhouse gases are playing in that temperature difference. Do you know what I mean?
    On the third part, you again say “the observed dry adiabatic lapse rate of 9.8K/km”. The value of -9.8K/km is a theoretical calculation. The air above the boundary layer is actually very dry (in terms of absolute humidity), yet the observed lapse rate for this region is about -6.5K/km.

    1. Ronan says, “On the first two, I’d agree… but I suspect so would AndThenTheres and Victor. The problem is that our atmosphere contains greenhouse gases, so if you say “yes, it’s 288K with the current atmosphere”, it’s not clear what role (if any) you think the greenhouse gases are playing in that temperature difference. Do you know what I mean?”

      Yes I do – you [Ronan] and I are on the same page that the temperature difference between 255 & 288K is due to pressure, not GHGs

      Ok – dry adiabatic lapse rate on Earth is calculated, the physical derivation I gave in a blog comment from a physical chemist above. It is almost exactly the same as the observed and obviously dry adiabatic lapse rate on Venus [10.48 vs. 9.8 on Earth].

      This wasn’t the purpose of that comment, however. Ronan, based upon your work, what do you estimate the surface temperature would be on an Earth with the same atmospheric mass, but no GHGs?

  7. Victor said:

    Your results suggest that not CO2 is an important greenhouse gas, but rather some new substance, if I understand it correctly.

    I think I see how you got this impression, but no. I think you’re conflating several of the results and theories that we present in our 3 papers (summarised in the essay above):
    In Paper 1, we identify a phase change associated with the troposphere/tropopause transition. We find that this phase change plays an important role in the atmospheric temperature profile. In Paper 2, we propose that this phase change involves the multimerization of some of the oxygen and nitrogen molecules. We discuss our reasons why we think this is the case, and show that this explains a lot of meteorological phenoma. However, regardless of the validity of our proposal, there is still a phase change, which needs to be incorporated into the models.

  8. Victor said,

    Still I have never heard of your “infrared cooling models”, I guess they are a thing of the past as your old reference suggests.

    The term “infrared cooling model” was commonly used when the first climate models were being developed in the 1960s, and was still being used in the 1990s by GCM developers. I find a lot of the discussion of the radiative physics algorithms was more explicit and better described in these earlier papers, e.g., Ellingson et al., 1991 (Abstract; Google Scholar).

    The more modern GCMs use essentially the same algorithms, but the literature tends to focus on their more “glamourous” features (e.g., improved resolution, incorporation of “land chemistry”, sea ice modelling).
    From my computer programming days, I like to look at the nitty-gritty details of the actual algorithms used by models, before I interpret their results. So, this is probably why my GCM terminology is a bit old-fashioned.

    However, yes, as you supposed, the infrared cooling models are just implementations of the radiative transfer equations using up/down fluxes between a finite number of vertical layers.

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