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. Victor said,

    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.

    Actually, I think there is quite a lot of common ground between our explanation of the atmospheric temperature profile, Hockey Schtick’s, yours, ATTP’s and that used in the GCMs.
    There are some key differences, but it might be helpful to clarify the aspects we agree with, so that the disagreements can be clearly identified.
    I think that you, me, AndThenTheres and Hockey Schtick are in agreement that:

    1. An average of about 240 W/m2 longwave IR leaves the Top-Of-Atmosphere (TOA).

    2. A “blackbody” with no atmosphere radiating 240 W/m2 IR would have a mean temperature of about 255K.

    3. The greenhouse gases are infrared active, but the bulk gases are not.

    4. The average surface temperature of the Earth is about 288K because it has “an atmosphere” (notice I haven’t said why – we’re focusing on the bits we agree with, first!!!).

    5. I’m not definite about Hockey Schtick, but I would also agree with you that much of the outgoing IR comes from the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
    There are also contributions from (a) the surface (“the window”), (b) clouds and (c) the tropopause phase change. But, a lot of the outgoing IR is emitted by greenhouse gases. We know this for two reasons – (a) the bulk gases are infrared inactive and (b) when you look at the shape (“colour”) of the outgoing IR spectrum from the Top Of Atmosphere, it contains the characteristic peaks of the various greenhouse gases.

    6. As we travel up in the atmosphere, the air gets less dense. This means that IR photons are more likely to escape into space without being reabsorbed by greenhouse gases. Therefore there is some mean height, which we can approximate as the “mean emission height”.

  2. Now, for the differences.
    First, my interpretation of the greenhouse effect theory…
    1. According to the greenhouse effect theory, along the way from the surface to space, the greenhouse gases “slow down” the rate at which the IR escapes (“infrared cooling”).
    i) At a given altitude (“layer” in the climate models), some of the upward IR flux gets absorbed, increasing the average energy content of the air in that layer. This apparently leads to the following:
    (a) It increases the temperature of that layer
    (b) This increases the amount of “back radiation” that the greenhouse gases in that layer emit back down to the surface
    (c) This increases the energy content of the layers below
    (d) This increases the temperature of the layers below
    Therefore, the greenhouse effect is supposed to increase the average temperature of the troposphere. For that reason, increasing the concentration of greenhouse gases is supposed to cause “global warming”
    ii) Above the troposphere, the air is less optically dense and emitted photons are more likely to escape into space. Therefore the greenhouse gases allegedly have the opposite effect. The more greenhouse gases there are, the more IR leaves the layers.
    (a) This apparently decreases the average energy of the layer
    (b) This reduces the average temperature of the layer
    In other words, increasing greenhouse gas concentrations is supposed to cause “stratospheric cooling”.

    In a nutshell, according to the greenhouse effect theory, greenhouse gases alter the altitudinal temperature profile by making the troposphere (and surface) warmer, and the stratosphere cooler. They do this without changing the Top Of Atmosphere emission of 240 W/m2.

    This theory critically assumes that the atmosphere is only in Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium (LTE). That is, the average energy content of one layer can be different from the layers above and below it.
    If the atmosphere maintains Thermodynamic Equilibrium (TE), then this means that as soon as any IR energy is absorbed by a particular layer, the extra energy is redistributed throughout the atmosphere, until all the layers are back in Thermodynamic Equilibrium.

  3. 2. Our results imply that the atmosphere is in Thermodynamic Equilibrium (at least over the distances from the surface to mid-stratosphere). This means that the Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium assumption does not hold.

    So why is there an altitudinal temperature profile? Or to put it another way, why is the surface temperature not just 255K?
    What we found is that the altitudinal temperature profile is just a property of the gas laws. If you look at Figures 12 & 13, you can see that the temperatures recorded by the weather balloons (black circles) almost exactly fall onto the temperature curves we would expect for the bulk gases (nitrogen and oxygen)!

    In a nutshell, we don’t need to invoke the greenhouse effect theory to explain the altitudinal temperature profile. It is what you should get for a nitrogen/oxygen gaseous fluid.

    But, what about the 240 W/m2 outgoing IR radiation? Didn’t we agree that much of this was being emitted by the greenhouse gases? Yes.
    Does that mean that increasing/decreasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases will alter the amount that’s emitted? No. The 240 W/m2 arises because that’s how much sunlight is absorbed.
    So, what effect would changing the greenhouse gas concentrations have on the outgoing IR? It should alter the shape (“colour”) of the IR spectrum, i.e., the “peaks” of the spectrum will alter in intensity.
    However, the total energy lost to space will remain at about 240 W/m2

    —-

    Does all that explain things better? I’ve to head off now, but I’ll be back in a few days…

    1. Yes thanks Ronan, and I believe you and I are in complete agreement.

      I completely concur: “What we found is that the altitudinal temperature profile is just a property of the gas laws…In a nutshell, we don’t need to invoke the greenhouse effect theory to explain the altitudinal temperature profile. It is what you should get for a nitrogen/oxygen gaseous fluid.”

      Do you also agree with me that if Earth’s atmosphere was the same mass but had no water vapor, just nitrogen & oxygen, that the surface temperature would increase due to a steepening of the lapse rate from a decrease of heat capacity?

    2. But, what about the 240 W/m2 outgoing IR radiation? Didn’t we agree that much of this was being emitted by the greenhouse gases? Yes.

      Yes, this is the greenhouse effect in a nutshell.

      Does that mean that increasing/decreasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases will alter the amount that’s emitted? No. The 240 W/m2 arises because that’s how much sunlight is absorbed.

      Sure, the system will always return to equilibrium.

      So, what effect would changing the greenhouse gas concentrations have on the outgoing IR? It should alter the shape (“colour”) of the IR spectrum, i.e., the “peaks” of the spectrum will alter in intensity.
      However, the total energy lost to space will remain at about 240 W/m2

      Sure, but ask yourself this. What happens to the height at which the emission is coming from. Does it stay the same? If it doesn’t what happens to the surface temperature?

  4. Victor the ostrich & ideal gas law denier AGAIN misquotes me to fabricate a strawman argument which he then attacks! The same thing he does to the Connolly family!

    Victor says, “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.”

    In fact I did say above for Earth with an atmosphere but no GHGs the emission height is zero, at the surface: Here is the exact quote above:

    “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.”

    Victor, what part of all the emission comes from the surface do you not understand? When am I going to get an apology from you about this misquote, misunderstanding, misrepresentation, strawman argument from you about what I clearly said above?

    Victor also says, “This height is determined by radiative transfer through the atmosphere.”

    Wrong again!

    The emission height for an Earth with an atmosphere without GHGs is zero, at the surface as I clearly stated above. However, the surface temperature would be higher due to a decrease in atmospheric heat capacity Cp in the absence of water vapor and thus steepening of the adiabatic lapse rate. The wet adiabatic lapse rate is only one-half as steep as the dry, which proves water vapor has a negative-feedback cooling effect on the planet.

    The MEAN emission height for current Earth with atmosphere WITH GHGs = h = 5km AVERAGE = 255K/[-g/Cp], which has no term whatsoever for RF from GHGs

    I said above “the mean of the temperatures throughout the atmospheric profile set by the LR would still be = to the equilibrium temperature with the Sun.”

    The “mean of the temperatures throughout the atmospheric profile” is completely different from and unrelated to the mean emission height of zero on an Earth with an atmosphere without GHGs.

    So Victor, do you honestly believe that on an Earth with an atmosphere without GHGs that Nitrogen & Oxygen have no mass, are not affected by a gravity field, and have no temperature just because they’re not GHGs?

    When will I be getting an apology from you for this misquote of what I said?

    1. So Victor, do you honestly believe that on an Earth with an atmosphere without GHGs that Nitrogen & Oxygen have no mass, are not affected by a gravity field, and have no temperature just because they’re not GHGs?

      Without greenhouse gases, the atmosphere absorbs no incoming or outgoing radiation. The only way it can gain energy is through conduction with the surface. Conduction in air is, however, extremely inefficient and so this energy will not be transferred vertically via conduction. There could still be convection which could transfer energy vertically, but the temperature of the atmosphere will be set by the temperature of the base of the atmosphere, which will be the temperature of the surface – 255 K.

      1. I don’t know why -255K is being discussed. Temperature is an intensive property. The earth’s surface does not behave as if there is a single temperature everywhere.

        1. The 255 K temperature comes from the requirement that the Earth radiate as much energy back into space as it receives from the Sun. This means it has to radiate as if it is a body with an average temperature of 255K. As you say, the actual temperature is more complicated than that, but it’s a reasonable approximation in these kinds of discussions.

        2. In one second the Earth receives ~1.22×10^17 Joules from the Sun spread across roughly 2.55×10^14 square meters.

          In one second the Earth has to emit ~1.22×10^17 Joules to space to approach a stable state.

          The Earth can emit this energy from roughly 5.1×10^14 square meters.

          You’re treating it as though the planet constantly absorbs and emits from the entire surface when you equate the strength of the input (i.e. sunlight) to the strength of the output (i.e. radiation to space).

          Doing so can lead you to wrongly conclude that sunlight would only raise the temperature to ~255 K.

          The planet does not have a single average, and there are NUMEROUS ways to distribute temperatures across a sphere that could still be calculated as averaging to ~255 K.

          The whole surface being 255 K.
          Half the surface being ~300 K, and half the surface being ~210 K.
          A quarter of the surface being ~300 K, a quarter being ~280 K, a quarter being ~230 K, and a quarter being ~210 K.

          Hopefully you get the idea.

          By the way, Mercury has equatorial temperatures that reach 700 K, drop to ~100 K overnight, and can be “averaged” to ~340 K.

          The Moon has equatorial temperatures that reach 390 K, drop to ~100 K overnight, and can be “averaged” to ~220 K.

          Note that there is a difference between the actual temperatures measured at a location, like the equator of the moon during the day, and the imaginary values calculated and called averages.

          Imaginary averages don’t have any effect on the real world, they only exist in your head.

          The real world has effects which are driven by things like differences between the actual temperature at one location and the actual temperature at another location.

          Whatever you might average those temperatures to be, or even if you decide to average other locations along with the first two in such a way that the average is too low for said process to occur, the process will still occur, because average temperatures don’t have any physical meaning.

    2. THS says:

      I said above “the mean of the temperatures throughout the atmospheric profile set by the LR would still be = to the equilibrium temperature with the Sun.”

      This isn’t right. In an atmosphere with no GHGs, the temperature at the effective radiating height has to be at the equilibrium temperature, not the mean temperature. So if the effective emission height is zero (i.e., at the surface), then the surface is 255K. If you change Cp or g, you can change the lapse rate, but the surface will still remain 255K.

    3. If you can show me where I quoted you wrong, I certainly would be happy to apologize. I do not want to end like a misquoting climate ostrich.

      The traditional definition of a misquotation is that a quotation was wrong.

      What I like a lot about your “theory” that greenhouse gases cool the surface, is that it would have been great for climatology. People fear nothing more than the next ice ice, when it comes too warming they think of holiday at the beach and having fun. It needs a lot of additional information to make sure people understand that there are not just advantages to a higher temperature. If CO2 would cause the next ice age, that would be much better for funding as global warming and according to your tribe scientists always claim that, which is best for funding, right?

      Thus with your “theory”, you cannot assume that there is a conspiracy. On the contrary. You actually have to assume that thousandths of scientists, climatologists, physicists, astronomers, are utterly stupid to the bone and only one anonymous blogger, who has difficultly expressing itself clearly, is such a genius to have found the problem.

      I will leave it as an exercise to the reader what is more likely.

  5. Hmmm, I was looking at these arguments and I see one of the things I pick at regularly pop up a few times.

    If the surface of the planet was ~255 K and radiating directly to space because the rest of the atmosphere was just nitrogen/oxygen/argon, the lapse rate of the atmosphere would of course still exist, so said “non-GHG” atmosphere would be cooler than it is now, right?

    This situation means the surface is absorbing and emitting all the energy it receives from the Sun (simultaneously across the entire surface for some reason… but I digress) so that suggests the atmosphere is gaining no energy from the surface, as it apparently does not cool through conduction in this hypothetical “non-GHG” scenario, right?

    I mean, call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure that half the surface of the planet absorbs the same amount of energy per second as the entire surface emits per second (call it 1.22×10^17 Joules per second on the Sun-facing side, so necessarily about 5.11×10^16 Joules per second has to be lost to space from the day and night side to balance input and output) so that is a problem with the whole “it would be 255 K because for some reason we think halving the actual input by doubling the absorbing area is realistic” argument.

    Yes, in a vacuum whatever you decide to call the average temperature–which isn’t actually a temperature, remember–will be lower.

    The Moon isn’t 1 cold temperature across the surface, half of it gets really warm actually, peaking around 390 K, while the other half cools into the background of space, dropping below 200 K regularly.

    With no atmosphere the Earth would be hot across the day side and cool pretty quickly across the night side, and if you chose to average that out for some reason you could pretend that the “temperature of the Earth” was ~255 K… but again, that isn’t actually a temperature.

    In this hypothetical scenario we dump a big bucket of oxygen/nitrogen/argon and let it settle into place, I’m going to think that the day side would still lose heat through conduction, and thus warm the atmosphere near the surface towards the theoretical peak temperature we get at this distance from the Sun with our 0.3 albedo, so I would think that the locations receiving direct sunlight in this scenario should get well over 300 K.

    I’d actually expect it to go over 330 K regularly, which is around 134 Fahrenheit, for those of you not used to converting C or K to F in your head yet.

    Why?

    Well, we’re looking at ~1000 W/m^2 for peak direct insolation right? Do you think that is only going to get the surface to 255 K?

    Why wouldn’t a 330 K surface cool through conduction to the oxygen/nitrogen/argon atmosphere above it while also radiating infrared?

    If you allow that it would warm the atmosphere as the surface cooled through conduction, then the next question is: how would the atmosphere lose that energy?

    Are oxygen/nitrogen/argon going to easily radiate tons of infrared to space?

    No?

    So you get a bunch of hot gas near the surface each day, the surface is able to cool by losing radiation overnight, but the only way the atmosphere is able to cool is by conduction back to the surface after it drops below the air temperature now, right?

    Yet it will supposedly do that so efficiently that the day side will never get warm enough to offset the losses from the night side, and the (purely hypothetical) “average temperature” will remain ~255 K.

    Impressive feat there, don’t you think?

    1. Thanks Max

      I estimated the mean surface temperature of an Earth with the same atmospheric mass, but without GHGs, to be 304K, estimated using the dry adiabatic lapse rate of 9.8K/km * 5 km = 49K + 255K = 304K

      Would you concur?

      1. I would expect it to be warmer than it is currently, yes, but my reasoning is simply that an atmosphere composed of oxygen/nitrogen/argon doesn’t radiate a lot of infrared, mostly near infrared with a few lines scattered across the far infrared range, so it would be less effective at cooling by radiating to space I would think.

        Adding CO2/H2O would allow a transfer of kinetic energy from O2/N2 to CO2/H2O which could then be radiated more effectively to space, thus cooling the atmosphere more efficiently than it could without CO2/H2O present.

        1. Yes exactly, completely agree.

          Wet adiabatic lapse rate is only one-half that of the dry, proving water vapor has a negative-feedback cooling effect. The reason why is adding water vapor increases atmospheric heat capacity Cp, which decreases the lapse rate = -g/Cp, therefore cooling.

          Adding greenhouse gases also increases heat capacity and radiative surface area, which increases IR emission, just like putting a larger heat sink on your microprocessor.

      2. I estimated the mean surface temperature of an Earth with the same atmospheric mass, but without GHGs, to be 304K, estimated using the dry adiabatic lapse rate of 9.8K/km * 5 km = 49K + 255K = 304K

        THS, where are you getting that number of 5km from?

        If the effective radiating height is at 0km for a effective radiation temperature of 255K, then that means the surface is 255K (obviously). Temperature then drops off from there at the lapse rate.

        1. It’s all explained here, for Earth and the other planets:

          http://hockeyschtick.blogspot.com/2014/02/why-earths-climate-is-self-regulating.html?showComment=1393701717603#c2092130372190907783

          A recent paper published in Nature Geoscience finds:

          Common 0.1 bar tropopause in thick atmospheres set by pressure-dependent infrared transparency

          A minimum atmospheric temperature, or tropopause, occurs at a pressure of around 0.1 bar in the atmospheres of Earth1, Titan2, Jupiter3, Saturn4, Uranus and Neptune4, despite great differences in atmospheric composition, gravity, internal heat and sunlight.

          In all of these bodies, the tropopause separates a stratosphere with a temperature profile that is controlled by the absorption of short-wave solar radiation, from a region below characterized by convection, weather and clouds5, 6. However, it is not obvious why the tropopause occurs at the specific pressure near 0.1 bar. Here we use a simple, physically based model7 to demonstrate that, at atmospheric pressures lower than 0.1 bar, transparency to thermal radiation allows short-wave heating to dominate, creating a stratosphere. At higher pressures, atmospheres become opaque to thermal radiation, causing temperatures to increase with depth and convection to ensue. A common dependence of infrared opacity on pressure, arising from the shared physics of molecular absorption, sets the 0.1 bar tropopause. We reason that a tropopause at a pressure of approximately 0.1 bar is characteristic of many thick atmospheres, including exoplanets and exomoons in our galaxy and beyond. Judicious use of this rule could help constrain the atmospheric structure, and thus the surface environments and habitability, of exoplanets.”

          http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v7/n1/full/ngeo2020.html
          http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v7/n1/carousel/ngeo2020-f1.jpg

          Therefore, to determine surface temperature of any planet, start from the height of the tropopause at 0.1 bar and using the lapse rate determine the temperature profile down to the surface.

          The surface temperature is thus solely a function of gravity, atmospheric mass, atmospheric heat capacity, solar insolation, and has no relationship to radiative forcing from greenhouse gases.

          The mean emission height on any planet will thus be the height at which T determined from the lapse rate is equal to the equilibrium T with the Sun [for conservation of energy].

          Ronan: Hi Hockey Schtick, if you include more than two hyperlinks in a comment it automatically goes into moderation. I’ve deleted the repeat of this comment you reposted without the links.

        2. THS, your link does not say that you can just set the effective radiating height at 0.1 bar (or 0.5 km), no matter what. It very clearly specifies that the height of the tropopause depends on the opacity; i.e., the presence of greenhouse gases. See this, with the important bit about dependence on greenhouse gases in bold:

          Here we use a simple, physically based model7 to demonstrate that, at atmospheric pressures lower than 0.1 bar, transparency to thermal radiation allows short-wave heating to dominate, creating a stratosphere. At higher pressures, atmospheres become opaque to thermal radiation, causing temperatures to increase with depth and convection to ensue. A common dependence of infrared opacity on pressure, arising from the shared physics of molecular absorption, sets the 0.1 bar tropopause.

          In the model case we’ve been discussing, though, there are no greenhouse gases, so you can’t say that in that system the tropopause would be at 5km (and certainly not that the effective radiating height would be at 5km, which is really what matters).

          We know that in a system with no greenhouse gases, the effective radiating height is 0km (since the atmosphere does not radiate). For the Earth, this means the surface must be 255K. And it gets colder from there as you increase in altitude.

  6. For the record, I’m still reading the pervection paper, and that is a heck of a thing.

    It seems obvious that if you push something which can push something else, that something else also moves, so warming the atmosphere at the surface means it can expand and push upwards and sideways, just because the warm parcel itself doesn’t move upwards rapidly we have gotten used to thinking it takes a long time for said energy to have any effect on the upper layers.

    I was discussing a similar sort of effect to explain Venus some time back on various comment threads and suggested that the air warmed beneath the subsolar point would lift up, be displaced by the warming air below it, and subside to the sides, effectively spreading the energy deposited at the subsolar point to other locations, in an attempt to get past the dogmatic insistence that “Venus is hot because CO2=hot!” you find running around everywhere.

    Keep at it guys, looks very impressive so far, though I fear you won’t get far with it, they don’t like experimentalists trying to poke around in climate science circles apparently.

    1. For the record, I’m still reading the pervection paper, and that is a heck of a thing.

      It seems obvious that if you push something which can push something else, that something else also moves, so warming the atmosphere at the surface means it can expand and push upwards and sideways, just because the warm parcel itself doesn’t move upwards rapidly we have gotten used to thinking it takes a long time for said energy to have any effect on the upper layers.

      That’s really just adiabatic expansion/compression. The speed of which is fundamentally limited by the speed of sound in the material, but is effectively a bit lower, due to the need for dissipation of that energy.

      I’m not really sure what the new revelations are supposed to be. Yes, in a dry, GHG-free atmosphere, the system can move towards equilibrium fairly quickly (well, more quickly) – a lot of that science is pretty old at this point, dating back to the fundamentals of thermodynamics, discovered in the 1800s. But these conditions *don’t* hold in the real-Earth system, though, where you have evaporation and condensation and (spatially-varying) GHGs, and which is often considerably farther from equilibrium. In this case, other mechanisms besides “pervection” are important, and it’s *very* much inappropriate to say that the entire system is near equilbrium.

      1. Did you read the paper?

        Adiabatic compression/expansion is convection, what they are describing is like an analogue of sound in a briefly incompressible material, not parcels of air moving up and down.

        They aren’t saying it is in equilibrium globally, just from the surface up to the stratosphere, and this mechanism is fast enough to allow this sort of equilibrium to develop. 20 minutes is enough time for mechanical energy to transfer from the surface to the stratosphere using this mechanism.

        In the experiment they injected air into one cylinder and a few seconds later it changed the pressure in the other cylinder through a 100 meter long tube. Working it out this puts an upper limit of around 39 m/s on the mechanism which provided this transfer.

        The injection of air into the left tube raised the temperature slightly, and the pervection through the long tube moved the system towards equilibrium rapidly, raising the temperature of the right tube while lowering the left tube until they approached the same pressure/temperature.

        This happened too fast for air to have moved through the tube itself, so the effect could be described as having a chain of newton’s cradles in the long tube, lifting the end at the left tube and letting it fall, which then clickclacked it’s way through to the right tube.

        1. Adiabatic compression/expansion is convection, what they are describing is like an analogue of sound in a briefly incompressible material, not parcels of air moving up and down.

          Yep, I did indeed read the paper. And no, that’s not quite right: while convection often occurs synchronously with adiabatic compression/expansion, adiabatic compression/expansion is just the process of a gas expanding or compressing without exchange of heat. So if a gas is heated, expands, and in so doing does work on the surrounding gas, that’s adiabatic expansion. When you’re talking about pressure equalizing in a tube, that’s exactly what’s happening.

          This is an important bit of understanding, and it underlies some important parts of thermodynamics. However, in the real world, if such a change of pressure is induced by, say, sunlight, you also get a density change. IOW, the warmer gas expands in response to the added heat. Some of that added energy is transferred to the surrounding atmosphere (relatively quickly, as the Connellys point out) via simple adiabatic expansion, but the expansion of the gas also sets up a pressure gradient, with lighter gas at the heated surface. This is unstable, and sets up convection, *particularly* when you’re evaporating water, since humid air is lighter than dry air, or when you some areas are being heated more than others (which happens anywhere there are shadows).

          For this reason, we *cannot* describe the Earth’s atmosphere as being in equilibrium under radiation, even when we include the mechanism of “pervection”.

        2. I am not sure why but it was clear to me they meant a given column of air rapidly approaches equilibrium due to the transfer of mechanical energy by pervection.

          Not that all points horizontally are all in equilibrium, just that the surface and stratosphere are more connected than the radiatively dominated model assumes.

  7. Ronan – if a system is as a whole in thermodynamic equilibrium, then every local subsystem must also be in local thermodynamic equilibrium. Full thermodynamic equilibrium is a tighter constraint. In particular, it implies constant and uniform temperature (see any textbook on thermodynamics or statistical mechanics – this is often referred to as the zeroth law – the existence of a well-defined temperature of a system is associated with it being in equilibrium). That constant-temperature constraint for equilibrium applies whatever structure the system takes, whatever the arrangement of the applied potential (gravitational, magnetic, electric, etc).

    Thermodynamic equilibrium is the expected long-term condition for any isolated system, but it’s very unusual for a large system with flows of energy through it.

    Claiming Earth’s lower atmosphere is in full thermodynamic equilibrium seems quite extraordinary, contradicting the evidence of thermometers, weather, etc.

    1. The claim made is that the surface to stratosphere is able to move towards equilibrium within ~20 minutes of an energy injection in this way.

      By the way, in the presence of a gravity field, the equilibrium state is isentropic, not isothermal. Stop spreading that idea without checking that it is correct, perhaps?

  8. Excellent analysis, have not had time to review all comments, however i doubt this has been covered. While NO experiment has shown ‘back radiation’ exists, there is ONE experiment that proves is does NOT exist. Posted under Publications at Principia Scientific International is “New Concise Experiment on Back Radiation” by Dr Nasif Nahle. In his experiment he postulated ‘globules’ of convective energy rising after CO2 IR absorption and near immediate KE transfer to N2 and O2. As a student pilot i made the mistake of being trapped above a heavy cloud layer and flew a Cessna 150 through 5,000 ft of broke cumulus clouds, observing wind and rain patterns at various levels. This led me to the hypothesis that this rising convective energy might be dissipated with rising elevation, strictly by lack of other molecules to transfer KE to, a property i termed Convective Altitude Attenuation. It is compatible with the pervection hypothesis and is explained at my website in “Science Goes Over-Under, Inside-Out”. For additional physics in the upper atmosphere i recommend “Empirical Model of the Thermosphere” by E Doornbos at Springer. com, and thanks for the thought and debate stimulation analysis. May the Carbon climate forcing hypothesis die a sudden and well deserved death, and may science be purged from this overt government funded agenda hucksterism in the future.

    1. While NO experiment has shown ‘back radiation’ exists, there is ONE experiment that proves is does NOT exist.

      It’s actually quite easy to show that back-radiation exists. Put up a mirror. Do you see yourself in it? Even if the mirror is at a cooler temperature than you? Voila.

      There’s a lot of misunderstanding about what “back-radiation” is supposed to mean. Really, it just follows from the fact that each body will exhibit blackbody radiation at its effective temperature. So if you put a body at 100K next to one at 50K, they still both radiate. And while the net heat flow is from the 100K -> 50K body, the 100K body can still absorb from the 50K body without violating this (it will just absorb less than it emits).

      Or look at a practical example: The vacuum of space has a temperature of about 2K. We can detect the very small radiation that this gives off. The Earth, at a far higher temperature, emits far more radiation to the black of space than it absorbs, yet it does absorb some radiation – it has to, or otherwise we, standing on the surface of the Earth, wouldn’t be able to detect this radiation with our telescopes.

      1. Put up a mirror. Do you see yourself in it? Even if the mirror is at a cooler temperature than you? Voila.

        And can your reflection make you hotter? Can you heat yourself with your own “back radiation” ? .. Can an object heat itself? .. Can a cooler object make a warmer object warmer still?

        I will help you out … NO

        1. Can a cooler object make a warmer object warmer still?

          I will help you out … NO

          No one ever claimed otherwise. Does putting a liquid in a thermos make the liquid hotter? No.
          The other three questions you asked are a bit not-as-simple (yes, radiation from *any* source can add heat, though in this case, not as fast as you’re losing it elsewhere. And “can an object heat itself?” Obviously yes, the Sun does it all the time. Etc. But let’s ignore these for now, eh?)

          It’s also obvious that your body is absorbing the “back-radiation” that’s coming from the mirror (otherwise, you wouldn’t see yourself, right)? What happens to that radiation, if it doesn’t turn into heat?

          The “back-radiation” just means this: greenhouse gases can slow the loss of heat to space from radiation. Just like a blanket can slow the loss of heat via convection/radiation, or a thermos can slow the loss of heat via radiation/convection/conduction.

          If you have a heat source (inside the thermos, under the blanket, or under the atmosphere), then yes, this means that the thermos/blanket/Earth may become warmer. It does not violate the second law of thermodynamics, though, since the *net* flow of heat is still from hot to cold.

        2. A thermos and blanket operate by preventing convection by and large.

          What will keep you warmer:

          1. A completely IR transparent blanket which keeps warm air close to your body?

          or

          2. A completely IR opaque blanket which allows air to escape freely?

          What will be a more effective thermos:

          1. A completely IR transparent but properly sealed container with an intact vacuum chamber?

          or

          2. A completely IR opaque but leaky container with a compromised vacuum chamber?

          Yes, designing to block IR as well as convection is more effective than not doing so, but for the most part we don’t sleep under silvered blankets because a simple layer of quilted fabric or a decent thread count sheet will do a very good job blocking convection and keeping you warm at night.

          Not making you warmer, of course, just keeping you from getting colder.

        3. And can your reflection make you hotter?

          Yes, it can quite easily.

          Can you heat yourself with your own “back radiation” ?

          No, but you can limit the rate at which you radiate away energy. So if the input energy stays the same, then you will warm up.

          Can an object heat itself?

          No one claims it does.

          Can a cooler object make a warmer object warmer still?

          It can if it replaces an EVEN COLDER object.

          Take an electric heating pad outside on a cold winter day (say -20 C). The heating pad might only warm to 40 C. Now put the heating pad in a cool room (say 10 C). The heating pad might now warm to 50 C. The “cooler object” (the room air is cooler than the heating pad) made the “warmer object) even warmer still.

          That was easy. 🙂

        4. Oh lord, not this again.

          The heating pad is cooled more effectively while outside on a chilly winter day and thus the input power available can only raise it to 40 C or so before the heating element loses out to the awesome might of convective losses in a cold environment.

          In a warmer environment the convective losses would naturally be reduced (as convection is a straight forward T_hot – T_cold form of heat transfer, pushing T_hot – T_cold towards 0 means convective losses tend towards 0 as well, to the surprise of absolutely nobody anywhere ever) and the heating element would accordingly reach a higher temperature.

          Has nothing to do with “the room warms the element though the element was hotter because we’re comparing it against an arbitrarily cold room in our heads for some reason”, Tim, though I’m sure you’re dying to trot that argument out for what you hope will be endless back and forth posting which results in nothing.

  9. Ah, I see you equate an idiosyncratic “energy equilibrium” with thermodynamic equilibrium. Those are very different things. Defining energy of a system is tricky – there are several distinct “total energy” terms that appear in standard thermodynamics, depending on whether you include things like pressure-volume or entropic effects (entropy change = heat transfer divided by temperature). You also seem to feel free to invent chemistry (multimerization) that has never been observed. If you hope to be taken at all seriously you need to propose specific experiments that would prove or disprove your theories. For example, would your “multimerizarion” be expected to appear in a laboratory low-pressure experiment? Why or why not? That sort of thing. Leaping to grand conclusions without confirming the details by a range of different analyses is not good science,

    1. Uh, did you see where they propose experiments? Seems like you didn’t read beyond a skim of the article and decided it was bunk, right?

  10. “The reason the air cools down with height is that the thermal energy (“heat”) of the air gets converted into “potential energy” … . After all, it takes a lot of energy to hold an object up in the air without letting it fall, doesn’t it?”

    If you are attempting to explain the physics of something, you really ought to start with correct physics.

    1) It takes no work and no energy to simply hold an object at a given elevation.

    2 ) The air does not cool because it is gaining gravitational potential energy per se. It cools because it expands. As it expands it does work. As it does work it loses internal energy. To emphasis this point consider two insulated containers of air.
    (A) expands but stays at the same altitude.
    (B) stays at the same volume but it carried to great elevations in an airplane.
    Only one of these will cool. (NOTE The change in gravitational PE is related to the change in pressure, which is what cool the gas, but the direct cause of the cooling is the pressure, not the GPE).

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

    No. Thermodynamic equilibrium requires thermal equilibrium = same temperature everywhere.
    You seem to be confusing “energy equilibrium” with “energy constancy”. There are LOTS of ways for two objects or two systems to have the same energy but not be in equilibrium with each other.

    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.

    Again, your interpretation of basic physics is amiss. First of all, you are only talking about a very simply version of the “greenhouse effect theory” — many versions try to take into account changes due to day/night or summer/winter.

    But more fundamentally, the simple models assume “steady-state” conditions, not “equilibrium” conditions. True equilibrium implies no net flows of energy. The atmosphere always has thermal energy flowing upward, ie the atmosphere is continuously heated at the bottom by the warm ground and continuously cooled at top by radiation to space.

    **************************************************

    Until you fix some of these fundamental misunderstandings, you will never gain traction with scientists who understand basic physics. (And unfortunately, once you do correct these misunderstandings, I suspect your entire argument will fall apart).

    1. And unfortunately, once you do correct these misunderstandings, I suspect your entire argument will fall apart

      Yes, I suspect that you are right and it will be interesting to see how Ronan – and the others involved in this – respond to that suggestion.

      1. When I first wrote, I hadn’t looked through the comments.

        Now that I have, I see that others have brought up some of the same issues. And I see that the authors have many of he same misconceptions that plague these sorts of critiques.

        If infrared-active gases were genuinely “trapping” the heat from the sun, then every day the air would be continuously heating up.

        “Trapping” was never an idea word, but it is not actually that bad, either. The “trapping” is much like the “trapping” of heat by the insulation around your house. The insulation does continuously help raise the temperature of a house during cold weather, but in neither case does this effect continue unabated. There will be an asymptotic limit to how much warming will occur (and that will be WAY less than the temperature of the sun).

        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!

        … before it is re-emitted or transferred to other molecules by collisions. But don’t forget about the lapse rate.

        The warm ground emits a relatively intense stream of IR photons from a relatively warm region. When the IR gets absorbed by a cooler gas molecule up in the atmosphere, that gas molecule can get rid of the excess energy by re-radiating it or by colliding with other nearby cool (thanks to the lapse rate) molecules. The net result is that, if or when the molecule does emit some radiation, it emits that radiation at a low rate characteristic of the local cool molecules, not at a high rate characteristic of the warmer ground.

        This will attenuate the IR as you go up. By the time the IR gets emitted by the frigid air up near the top of the atmosphere, that IR will be MUCH weaker than the IR emitted by the ground. Anyone who wants to truly understand the GHE must understand this image:
        http://clivebest.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/nimbus-satellite-emissions-infra-red-earth-petty-6-6.jpg
        If you don’t know why the curve has the shape it does, you don’t understand the GHE.

        The “trapped” IR is the difference between the observed satellite data and the ~ blackbody curve from the surface (somewhere near the 300 K curve on the plot above).

    2. 1) It takes no work and no energy to simply hold an object at a given elevation. ~Tim F.

      >.>

      Pick a brick up off the floor, raise it to shoulder height with your arm extended in front of you.

      Since it takes no work or energy to hold an object at a given elevation, I assume you can keep said brick held like that for hours, huh?

    3. Also note that you’re trying to apply a particular definition of thermodynamic equilibrium as a correction to a perceived error without checking to make sure that the definition of thermodynamic equilibrium being used by Ronan is the same as you assume it to be.

      In a system which is generally out of equilibrium over large distances like the atmosphere you can still define a transition towards thermodynamic equilibrium within a specified cell as long as the flows between cells occur at a rate some order of magnitude slower than those within the cell.

      The surface layer and upper atmosphere layer within a cell–that we could define as the column of air which a weather balloon rose through–exhibited behavior which appeared to reduce the rate of change of intensive variables, minimized flows within the cell, and tended towards an ultimately isentropic state.

      Calling that thermodynamic equilibrium may not fit your personal idea of what the term means, especially as you seem hooked on the idea that thermal equilibrium = thermodynamic equilibrium, but in the situation where it is contrasted with the type of local thermodynamic equilibrium wherein vertical layers of a given “weather balloon traversed cell” would not reach equilibrium with neighboring vertical layers on a timescale comparable to that of the internal evolution towards equilibrium, it is not an “obviously incorrect usage” as has been claimed several times in previous comments.

    4. Tim Folkerts,

      If you are attempting to explain the physics of something, you really ought to start with correct physics.

      Agreed.

      It takes no work and no energy to simply hold an object at a given elevation.

      In a static situation, where all the static forces acting on an object cancel, this is true. However, if all the static forces acting on the object don’t cancel, or if the net forces acting on the object vary, then you might need to expend energy to maintain the object in a fixed location.

      Thermodynamic equilibrium requires thermal equilibrium = same temperature everywhere.

      Here you are making a generalised statement about thermodynamic equilibrium, which only applies to a limited number of isothermal processes.

      There are LOTS of ways for two objects or two systems to have the same energy but not be in equilibrium with each other.

      Agreed.

      But, there are equally lots of ways for two systems to be in thermodynamic equilibrium, but not have the same temperature, especially when physical, chemical and potential energies are allowed to change.

      It is a fundamental tenet of reaction kinetics that when the difference in Gibbs free energy between two systems is zero, then the two systems are in thermodynamic equilibrium with each other, regardless of differences in temperature, pressure, chemical composition, phase, etc.

      True equilibrium implies no net flows of energy.

      Agreed.

      The atmosphere always has thermal energy flowing upward

      Thermal energy only flows along a temperature gradient, from hot to cold. Where there is a negative upwards lapse rate, then the potential for upward thermal energy flow exists. However, in the stratosphere, this is not the case, so your use of the word ”always”, is inappropriate.

      You seem to be equating thermal energy with total energy. The atmosphere is a dynamic system with respect to the balance between different types of energy, and energy flows.

      When we say that the atmosphere in the air column between the ground and the stratosphere is in thermodynamic equilibrium, we mean that the experimental measurements made in the air column during a radiosonde flight are consistent with the air column being in thermodynamic equilibrium, with respect to total energy (i.e., not just thermal energy). Furthermore, the measurements are inconsistent with the idea that the air column is only in thermodynamic equilibrium over short distances, relative to the ground-stratosphere distances (i.e., just local thermodynamic equilibrium).

      You state:

      The air does not cool because it is gaining gravitational potential energy per se. It cools because it expands. As it expands it does work.

      Saying the air cools down because it expands, could be interpreted as saying that it only cools down because it expands. I assume you mean that it may cool down as it expands.

      Whether or not a gas cools down, or heats up, on expansion depends on which side of the Joule-Thompson inversion curve the system lies. This can be inferred by studying the behaviour of the molar density as a function of pressure. This was one of the motivations for why we studied the behaviour of molar density with air pressure in Paper 1.

      I hope this goes some way towards clarifying matters for you.

      1. Michael,

        Whether or not a gas cools down, or heats up, on expansion depends on which side of the Joule-Thompson inversion curve the system lies. This can be inferred by studying the behaviour of the molar density as a function of pressure. This was one of the motivations for why we studied the behaviour of molar density with air pressure in Paper 1.

        Are you suggesting that the increase in temperature in the stratosphere is because of the Joule-Thomson effect? For N2 at atmospheric pressure, the Joule-Thomson coefficient becomes negative at 600K. Is it possible for this process to apply in the stratosphere? I would have assumed the temperatures were way too low. Also, I’m not sure the conditions are suitable for the Joule-Tomson effect – i.e., the expansion must do no work – but am no expert at that.

        1. And then there’s Physics,
          You say,

          “For N2 at atmospheric pressure, the Joule-Thomson coefficient becomes negative at 600K.”

          Agreed.

          But if you consider the complete Joule-Thomson coefficient curve besides the upper inversion temperature which you quote, there is also a lower inversion temperature at sub-normal atmospheric pressures and temperatures.

          You ask,

          “Is it possible for this process to apply in the stratosphere?”

          This is an interesting question which we also ask in a slightly different at line 552 on page 10 of Paper 2 where we say,

          “In summary, van der Waals interactions between oxygen and nitrogen molecules can become significant under certain conditions. The question is whether or not those conditions could include those at the phase transition. “

          There then follows a lengthy consideration of the questions which concludes that it is thermodynamically possible.

        2. Michael,
          Okay, so as far as I’m aware you don’t dispute that ozone absorbs UV in the stratosphere, and you don’t dispute that GHGs absorb and radiate infrared radiation in the troposphere. In your model, then, what role do ozone and GHGs play in setting the atmospheric temperature profile?

        1. HS,
          I don’t know if it’s compatible with the Connolly & Connolly papers, but it’s entirely consistent with the greenhouse effect, as should be obvious for a quick read of the abstract, which says

          Here we use a simple, physically based model to demonstrate that, at atmospheric pressures lower than 0.1 bar, transparency to thermal radiation allows short-wave heating to dominate, creating a stratosphere. At higher pressures, atmospheres become opaque to thermal radiation, causing temperatures to increase with depth and convection to ensue. A common dependence of infrared opacity on pressure, arising from the shared physics of molecular absorption, sets the 0.1 bar tropopause.

        2. Well, my take is that the paper supports thermodynamics of pressure & convection dominate the temperature profile of the thermosphere: “At higher pressures, atmospheres become opaque to thermal radiation, causing temperatures to increase with depth and convection to ensue. [i.e. the LR] A common dependence of infrared opacity on pressure…” due to the LR, not “radiative forcing” from GHGs. The paper shows the entire T profile of Earth can be determined by starting the LR at 0.1 bar and working down to the surface.

          The “dependence of infrared opacity on pressure” alone is observed on other planets with a combined nitrogen & GHG atmosphere such as Titan…

          Page from book on the evolution of Titan’s atmosphere states that an increase in the partial pressure of nitrogen caused an increase of infrared opacity. How could that be since nitrogen isn’t a greenhouse gas?

          http://bit.ly/1luZUg1

          It’s because non-GHGs also increase infrared opacity with pressure

          Perhaps an electrical circuit analogy is helpful, which I’ve added to my post under Note #4 and which shows both pressure and radiation act as resistors to IR opacity, but the pressure resistor shorts out the whole circuit due to convection overcoming both pressure AND radiation resistors to IR.

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

        3. Well, my take is that the paper supports thermodynamics of pressure & convection dominate the temperature profile of the thermosphere: “At higher pressures, atmospheres become opaque to thermal radiation, causing temperatures to increase with depth and convection to ensue. [i.e. the LR] A common dependence of infrared opacity on pressure…” due to the LR, not “radiative forcing” from GHGs. The paper shows the entire T profile of Earth can be determined by starting the LR at 0.1 bar and working down to the surface.

          Well, yes, it is thermodynamics and convection that sets the temperature profile (gradient) in the troposphere. It’s – as this paper makes clear – greenhouse gases that sets the height of the troposphere. Without greenhouse gases we won’t really have much of a troposphere, and if we did, the temperature at the base (on the surface of the planet) would be the non-greenhouse, equilibrium temperature.

        4. Hmmm, you seem to be saying that a sphere of hydrogen and helium “wouldn’t have much of a troposphere” and that “the temperature at the base would be the non-greenhouse, equilibrium temperature” above, ATTP.

          So Saturn and Jupiter don’t have tropospheres, and the appearance that they give off more heat than they receive from the Sun is due to an optical illusion, and has nothing to do with gravitational heating.

          I mean, they do have 0.1 to 1 bar regions which exhibit the temperature profile “kink” that one would usually call a troposphere… but it doesn’t count because we can’t find a way to blame it on CO2 or Methane.

        5. I did say “we”, by which I meant the Earth. Jupiter and Saturn are massive gas giant planets. Their interior structure is set by hydrostatic equilibrium. It’s true that they would still have hydrostatic atmospheres even if they didn’t orbit the Sun, largely because their interiors contain so much energy that they would simply slowly contract. In fact, Jupiter radiates slightly more energy back into space than it receives, which is thought to be because it is still releasing gravitational potential energy. That doesn’t mean, however, that the physics that sets the top of the troposphere (the boundary between being optically think and optically thick) is different to that on Earth. The main difference is that if the Earth were not orbiting the Sun, it would radiate the energy in its atmosphere and oceans into space in a matter of years.

        6. You say that the troposphere/pause is due to optical thickness, despite the obvious fact that it is a common property of any gravitationally compressed column of gas, if there is sufficient mass in a deep enough gravity well there will be a troposphere.

          Regardless of the composition or optical properties.

          Triton has an almost purely nitrogen atmosphere with surface temperatures low enough for solid nitrogen to persist, and a troposphere ending in a thermosphere.

          If someone said “radiatively active gases are involved in the temperature profile and behavior of a stratosphere”, I would not disagree.

          Triton has an atmosphere with almost nothing but nitrogen that exhibits a lapse rate and has even been warming up since the Voyager observations were made, placing it a few K above the 36~37 K equilibrium temperature that fits the albedo/distance from the Sun.

          Radiative gases are not required for it to have a troposphere and global warming… are they?

        7. You say that the troposphere/pause is due to optical thickness, despite the obvious fact that it is a common property of any gravitationally compressed column of gas, if there is sufficient mass in a deep enough gravity well there will be a troposphere.

          Okay, so if you have a completely radiatively inactive gas in a gravitational potential, then you would probably have a troposphere-like profile. However, in such a circumstance the temperature at the base of this atmosphere will be set by the non-greenhouse temperature of the planet.

          On the other hand, if there are radiatively active gases in that atmosphere, then they will trap some of the outgoing radiation causing the temperature to rise both at the surface and throughout this troposphere-like region. That’s the greenhouse effect.

          If someone said “radiatively active gases are involved in the temperature profile and behavior of a stratosphere”, I would not disagree.

          Okay, so that sounds like what I’ve been trying to say. The point, though, is that the influence of these gases will be to raise the temperature. This is what is commonly called the greenhouse effect.

          Triton has an atmosphere with almost nothing but nitrogen that exhibits a lapse rate and has even been warming up since the Voyager observations were made, placing it a few K above the 36~37 K equilibrium temperature that fits the albedo/distance from the Sun.

          Radiative gases are not required for it to have a troposphere and global warming… are they?

          It has some methane in the atmosphere, but I don’t actually know the answer to your final question.

        8. ATTP,

          First of all, you lack all credibility in this discussion, since you’ve proven on your own site that you would rather delete perfectly well-reasoned, but simply ‘unwanted’ arguments (that is, not toeing the party line) on this subject than actually engaging in real discussion, addressing directly what is being said. You have proven to adhere to dogmatism rather than science on this matter, stating ridiculous and arrogant things like: “Absolutely happy to discuss the explanation. Not really willing to consider that there is no greenhouse effect. It doesn’t make sense and typically means that one party doesn’t understand what we mean by the greenhouse effect.” Or this gem: “You can call it censorship if you wish, but being prevented from posting incorrect science on my blog is not actually censorship as it doesn’t prevent you from posting it elsewhere.” My extensive comment to Pekka Pirilä, where I replied to his post point by point in a reasoned manner, was deleted simply because it suggested your ‘atmospheric radiative GHE’ doesn’t exist (it doesn’t). Here is what your moderator ‘Rachel’ said: “Kristian,
          I’m not going to accept anymore comments on this thread that deny the greenhouse effect so think carefully before making another comment if you don’t want it deleted.”

          Haven’t you been able to spew your nonsense (‘incorrect science’) on this thread without your comments being deleted? This is how a scientific discussion should be conducted. Openness and tolerance (meaning, I think (in fact, know) that you’re completely confused and therefore fundamentally wrong on this issue, but I still think you have the right to state your nonsense, I will still debate you on what you’re actually saying).

          Secondly, you show such a lack of basic understanding of how an atmosphere operates and works on this thread that it’s painful to see. You seem so entrenched in your firm belief that the ‘atmospheric radiative GHE’ is an empirically established truth (it most certainly isn’t, it is still just an hypothesis, and a loose one at that, more like an assertion or conjecture), that you’re incapable of stepping outside your bubble for just one second to actually see the illogical and unphysical drivel you promote.

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