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

radiosonde_img_4773-potw

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!

US_standard

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”.

non-standard

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.

freewheeling

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?

Infrared_dog

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).

640px-EM_spectrumrevised

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!

double-glazing-bay2

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).

GHE

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).

ozone_heating

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.

Return to top

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

  1. Willis is adamant that GHG’s are responsible for warming. However, a way to consider the issue might be an Earth covered by a layer of glass. Emissivity for an Earth surface is around .97, similar to glass at .93. Heat is transfered through the glass by conduction and radiation. The surface of the glass would attain a temperature lower than the surface of the Earth. The temperature of the glass surface would be close to the temperature of a bare Earth. The glass would act as an insulator for the surface, raising it’s temperature. The atmosphere would seem to do the same, that is it would seem to warm the Earth, without GHGs.
    I’m not entirely convinced of this and welcome comments.

    1. Dr Burns March 14, 2014 at 6:47 am
      “Willis is adamant that GHG’s are responsible for warming. However, a way to consider the issue might be an Earth covered by a layer of glass. Emissivity for an Earth surface is around .97, similar to glass at .93. Heat is transfered through the glass by conduction and radiation. The surface of the glass would attain a temperature lower than the surface of the Earth. The temperature of the glass surface would be close to the temperature of a bare Earth. The glass would act as an insulator for the surface, raising it’s temperature. The atmosphere would seem to do the same, that is it would seem to warm the Earth, without GHGs.
      I’m not entirely convinced of this and welcome comments.”

      That is the Willis “Steel greenhouse effect” fantasy. This happens only in a “only” thermal radiant energy transfer condition. if an un-powered very emissive surface impedes the the flux between two surfaces emissive ==> absorptive, the un-powered surface must reach an equilibrium temperature between the two that must radiate ==> absorptive, as it receives <== emissive. Kerchoff's law of radiation.
      The effect is the same as reducing the emissivity of the emitter to 1/2 its original value. Four surfaces instead of two. If the emitter is powered, that power must increase the temperature of the emitter to compensate for the apparent decrease in emissivity. This is geometry, not any "Green house effect".

      Because of water vapour, the atmosphere must be both an absorber and a emitter. What makes you think that this atmosphere cannot be a better radiator than any surface. That same water vapour near the surface and near the temperature of the surface halts all radiation from the surface except for 20W/m^2 measured.
      The atmospheric temperature profile is completly set by conduction, convection, latent heat of evaporation and gravity. Every water molecule radiates “some” outward through an atmosphere that is “near or at” thermodynamic equilibrium. This means that the outward radiative flux continuously accumulates outward to 200 kM. At that altitude outgoing radiative energy always equals solar energy absorbed by the surface and atmosphere.
      All is continuously adjusted by atmospheric water vapour. that is what these three papers are all about. Please find some error within these three papers!

      All temperatures and emissivities will adjust to be whatever is needed at all altitudes to radiate the same amount of energy as absorbed from the Sun. This is called thermodynamic equilibrium. It is not some arrogantly claimed temperature value based on nonsense! There is not one black-body anywhere in this universe! What a wonderful planet. 🙂

  2. Windchaser,

    So you seriously think that if an object that absorbs say 2 parts of radiative energy and sheds 1 of these parts as heat loss through conduction/convection to the air surrounding it, the object will STILL have 2 parts of energy left to radiate away?!

    That’s what you’re saying, right? Because that’s what an ideal black body does – it absorbs ALL the radiation coming in AND emits it ALL back out also.

    That’s what you think. That’s how you see this. Problem is, you don’t have enough energy available to accomplish this. You have to invent extra energy to make it work – 2 coming IN, but 1+2= 3 going out (!!!!).

    The real world works differently, Windchaser.

  3. So you seriously think that if an object that absorbs say 2 parts of radiative energy and sheds 1 of these parts as heat loss through conduction/convection to the air surrounding it, the object will STILL have 2 parts of energy left to radiate away?!

    I think you misunderstand. Rather, my position is that it is impossible for the gas to shed its energy (which is true, if it lacks GHG), so the gas will at some point stop gaining energy from the surface.

    Or EXPAND, Windchaser. There is nothing stopping it from expanding upon getting warmer (filled with energy it can’t get rid of). Why is this so hard to grasp?

    Actually, gravity restrains the ability of the gas to expand.
    If you add heat to a gas, you raise its temperature. The gas can do work on the surroundings to expand, pushing against the rest of the atmosphere. However, it can’t turn all of the energy it gained into work; some is retained as heat, so the temperature will still be higher than it was originally.

    When considering the atmosphere as a whole, the same principle holds. If you heat the entire atmosphere, it can expand, but it has to do work against the Earth’s gravitational field. Some of the energy that you added will be retained as, well, heat. IOW, the temperature is increased during this process despite the expansion.

    This means that you can’t have a long-term, net positive heat flux to an atmosphere (without greenhouse gases). Assuming the planet’s gravity is strong enough to hold the atmosphere – and ours is – the atmosphere will heat up and expand so long as it is cooler than the surface. Once it is as hot as the surface, it will stop absorbing energy from the surface, so it’ll also stop expanding.

    Past this point, the atmosphere is no longer useful as a heat sink for the surface, which means it can no longer cool the surface. This is *why* the atmosphere cannot act as a long-term, net cooler of the surface.

    Alright, next post I pull Gaskell or one of my other 3 thermo textbooks off the shelf and start hitting you with the math, if that’s what it takes. This really is just Thermo 101; we’re just talking about simple adiabatic processes.

    1. Actually, gravity restrains the ability of the gas to expand.

      Which I also discussed. You didn’t read that passage?

    2. I think you misunderstand. Rather, my position is that it is impossible for the gas to shed its energy (which is true, if it lacks GHG), so the gas will at some point stop gaining energy from the surface.

      Haha, always trying to worm your away out of tricky situations. Well, we can all see what you’re up to, Windchaser. You do nothing but redirecting. That’s your game, isn’t it? Forever temporising. Spread the field as far as possible. So that the real issue can be forgotten in the end.

      Answer me this: If you block conductive/convective/evaporative heat loss from a surface in air, will it warm? Why will it warm? And at what point will it all of a sudden STOP warming?

      1. Oh, I fear I should specify (lest our dear Windchaser here decides to capitalise on the omission and provide us with yet another non-answer) that the object in air in the last post is being continuously actively heated. Block (only) convective heat losses (conduction, convection, evaporation). Will it warm? Why? And at what point will it suddenly STOP warming? And why?

        1. Also, how does it COOL again from this situation? Meaning, how will its temperature DROP back to the original level?

        2. Oh, I fear I should specify (lest our dear Windchaser here decides to capitalise on the omission and provide us with yet another non-answer) that the object in air in the last post is being continuously actively heated. Block (only) convective heat losses (conduction, convection, evaporation). Will it warm? Why? And at what point will it suddenly STOP warming? And why??

          Yeah, thanks for adding that. It was a bit unclear what you were asking, before you did.

          The object will warm until it is able to radiate away or conduct away as much energy as it is receiving. The amount of heat lost by conduction depends on the conductivity of the material (for air, this is quite low) and the gradient of the temperature difference. For radiation, OTOH, the amount of heat lost is determined by the emissivity, surface area, and the fourth power of the temperature.

          *For the purpose of this question, I’m assuming that the heat sink for conduction is infinitely large. If that’s not what you’re thinking.. well, obviously as heat is lost, the temperature gradient will decrease, so the heat loss by conduction would slow, and eventually fall to zero in the steady-state solution.

        3. The object will warm until it is able to radiate away or conduct away as much energy as it is receiving.

          But dear Windchaser, you have blocked for conductive transfer. Relating it directly to your claim about the Earth, the covering is at the exact same temperature as the surface of the object, so the object cannot conduct away energy. And according to you, once we get there, this situation will persist in perpetuity. However, the object continues to receive energy from its heat source at a constant rate.

          What will happen to the temperature of the surface in this situation?

          What I’m specifically getting at is that once you block one heat transfer mechanism, the surface will HAVE TO warm no matter what. The remaining mechanism can’t just scoot over and take over the blocked transfer’s part of the ‘job’. Not without a substantial temperature rise first. And as soon as the surface starts warming, then its temperature will once again be higher than the covering -> a temperature gradient reappears.

          You ignore all these basic everyday physical relationships for Earth’s surface with a non-GHG atmo on top. You just brazenly remove conduction/convection/evaporation from the equation, then stating that radiation will cover for it completely right away, with NO temperature rise in between: 239 W/m^2 coming in -> 255K, then block for convective losses, let radiation grow to include their share, STILL 255K.

        4. What I’m specifically getting at is that once you block one heat transfer mechanism, the surface will HAVE TO warm no matter what.

          Yes, we agree on that.

          The remaining mechanism can’t just scoot over and take over the blocked transfer’s part of the ‘job’. Not without a substantial temperature rise first.

          Eh, this isn’t really right. Since the radiation flux from the surface increases with the *fourth* power of temperature, it only takes a small increase in temperature to yield a substantial increase in outgoing flux.

          IOW, it’s pretty easy for radiation to take over the conductive/convective flux that you lose to the atmo as the atmo warms up. A), because the cond/conv flux isn’t that large to begin with – air having a rather low heat capacity – and B), because radiative flux is rather sensitive to temperature.

          And as soon as the surface starts warming, then its temperature will once again be higher than the covering -> a temperature gradient reappears.

          Yes, on this we agree, again. Assuming the surface and atmo are both too cold to start, they’ll both warm until the surface is in radiative equilibrium, and the atmosphere is also in equilibrium with the surface.

          Why don’t we work at this the other way – how would you determine what the equilibrium surface temperature would be, for a planet/atmo without GHG?
          (Do you believe that there will be an equilibrium surface temperature? How would you determine what that would be?)

      2. Haha, always trying to worm your away out of tricky situations. Well, we can all see what you’re up to, Windchaser. You do nothing but redirecting. That’s your game, isn’t it?

        I’m honestly answering your questions as straightforwardly as I can. If this is unsatisfactory, then maybe someone else will step up to the plate. You can ask also for clarification about what doesn’t make sense to you, but if you’re going to assume that I’m answering you in bad faith, I’m not sure why either of us would see a point to continuing this conversation.

        The overall picture for me is pretty simple. For this example of a planetoid with an atmosphere lacking greenhouse gases,
        1) The Sun heats the Earth.
        2) If the atmosphere at the surface is cooler than the Earth surface, the atmosphere warms.
        3) As long as #2 holds, the atmosphere “turns” some of the energy the Earth gives it into potential energy, and the atmosphere expands. The rest of this energy goes into raising the temperature of the atmosphere. This combination is dictated by the physics of an adiabatic expansion.
        4) Eventually, then, the atmosphere at the Earth surface is the same as the Earth surface. At this point, the atmo stop warming, since the Earth surface and atmosphere there are the same temperature.

        5) During this whole process, the Earth surface is also losing heat by radiation to space.

        6) Once #4 happens, the atmosphere can no longer absorb net energy from the Earth, so: it doesn’t.
        7) Any more energy that the Earth gains is lost just by radiation.

        In reality, these are all going on at the same time: the Earth surface would warm for a while, and at the same time, the atmo would warm and expand for a while, until they’re at the same temperature *and* the Earth surface is so warm that it can emit enough radiation for the whole system to balance, energy flux in = energy flux out. (Remember that radiation emitted by a body increases as the fourth power of the temperature, so the Earth surface will certainly eventually get hot enough that it can ditch all the energy it gains).

        That’s basic radiative physics of the a planet with an atmo without GHG, in a nutshell.

        1. I have to ask you again, then: An atmosphere with GHGs is able to both warm and cool. An atmosphere without GHGs is able to warm but not cool. Which one will be the warmest in the end?

          It’s that simple, Windchaser. Putting GHGs into an atmosphere does not enable it to warm. It enables it to cool.

        2. I see them and I sort of agree with point 1). I say ‘sort of’, because Windchaser here has clearly proven with his debate ‘technique’ that he’s only here to ‘misunderstand’ and redirect any points made, that is, to obfuscate any reasonable counter-argument so that his religious faith in the ‘CO2 hypothesis’ is not touched. He is unable to look with critical eyes on his own model and therefor acts like a true pseudo-scientist, always working 100% to defend his hypothesis, attack the opposition, rather than trying to find faults in his own reasoning. This seems unthinkable to him. That is why, when he’s confronted with a point he has no good answer for, that he can’t defend, he immediately employs his ‘misunderstanding’ and redirectional tactics. They’re all the same …

          This is what annoys me, and amuses me, about people like Windchaser (and ATTP).

          But, OK, I will lay off now …

        3. There is no point arguing with some people, though. No matter how irritating it undoubtedly is, if someone doesn’t want to open their mind, they won’t, and you could argue literally for the rest of your lives, and it would get nowhere. You may change a lot of other minds along the way, though, so it is not a total waste, but ultimately some people will not budge, ever. Even if eventually the vast majority of the scientific community began to come around to a different way of thinking about the GHE; you would still have, until the day they die, a group of people on some forum somewhere constantly repeating the same arguments they’ve always made, to each other, saying that of course “the old way” is right.

          In any case, I was more interested in what you both thought of posts 2 and 3, rather than 1. Particularly 3. Cheers.

          The only way forward is to let the discussion be steered by the creators of this website, and to see if the evidence they present can change minds or open some to other possibilities.

        4. In any case, I was more interested in what you both thought of posts 2 and 3, rather than 1. Particularly 3. Cheers.

          The only way forward is to let the discussion be steered by the creators of this website, and to see if the evidence they present can change minds or open some to other possibilities.

          I agree, Graham. And I will get back to it.

        5. Graham W:

          Right, now, both of you…what are your thoughts on the posts Ronan Connolly has made, below?

          I appreciate that the Connollys are trying to take a fresh look at this, but AFAICT, they’re just “rediscovering” science that’s >100 years old and already well-understood and well-incorporated. I could be wrong, though, and I’m going to ask Ronan some questions to clarify.

          I also agree with ATTP; the conclusions in the paper do not follow from the data they’ve presented. They somewhat explain the lapse rate; they do not explain the absolute temperature at the surface, and without that, they cannot say they’ve refuted the GHG effect.

          PS – Ronan’s point 3D is true, but it’s sorta like talking about frictionless systems in physics. In real life, they don’t ever actually exist, but we can get extremely close to systems like these, and they’re good model systems for studying the basic underlying physics.

          Kristian:

          That is why, when he’s confronted with a point he has no good answer for, that he can’t defend, he immediately employs his ‘misunderstanding’ and redirectional tactics.

          Kristian, half the time, I don’t understand the point you’re making. I’m not ascribing blame for that – it could be your fault, or mine, or both our faults. But I would request that you do me the courtesy of being patient and maybe explaining your points a little more carefully, or in a different manner, rather than assume I’m intentionally misdirecting the conversation.

        6. I have to ask you again, then: An atmosphere with GHGs is able to both warm and cool. An atmosphere without GHGs is able to warm but not cool. Which one will be the warmest in the end?

          At the surface? Or at a given height? The atmosphere with GHG.
          But your question doesn’t make sense to me. Any material that can cool can also warm. You can’t have an atmosphere that “is able to warm but not cool”. That is a physical impossibility.

          Without GHG, you have is a atmosphere that can warm and cool via both conduction and expansion/compression (or locally, via convection). When you add GHG, you have an atmosphere that can also warm and cool via radiation.

          Saying it another way, when you add the cooling abilities of GHG, you also add the warming abilities of GHG. They go hand-in-hand, just like the properties of blackbody radiation. (The better of a blackbody radiator you are, the better you are at both absorbing and emitting radiation. Weird, huh?).

          We can also just turn your question around: You have a surface that can radiate straight to space, or you have a surface where some of that radiated energy return to it via backscattering/back-emission. Which surface will be cooler?

          There was indeed some interesting stuff in our conversation where I felt like you taught me something new; something I hadn’t thought of before. Yes, a surface can lose energy to the atmosphere via convection/conduction, and yes, it can then radiate that away via GHG.

          So the question you raised in my mind was this: Can the surface lose enough heat to the upper atmosphere via cond/convection + emission from there, to make up for all the energy that’s coming back down from GHG?

          And the answer turns out to be “no”. It’s nowhere even close, for a wide variety of reasons (half the emitted radiation always comes down, convection stops at the tropopause but the GHG effect keeps right on working, the heat capacity and conductivity of air is low, etc.). The GHG effect completely dominates, if you do the calculations. The energy coming down from back-radiation is more than an order of magnitude larger than the energy that’s lost by convection.

  4. Any thoughts on my analogy of replacing the atmosphere with a layer of transparent glass insulator ? The surface would be warmer than it would be without the glass. No need for GH effect.

  5. 1. Comments on the discussion so far

    First, can I ask you all again to try and tone down the insults and name-calling? We’re trying to keep this a forum which doesn’t have too much moderation, and I appreciate that this is a topic which can get quite heated, but some of the comments (on all sides of the debate) are getting quite offensive. 🙁

    Obviously, this is a subject that is highly emotive, and people have differing views on it, but so far (in my opinion), most of the people commenting seem to be (a) genuinely interested in the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere; (b) passionate about the science; and (c) have thought about these matters quite a bit.

    I appreciate it can be frustrating when you try to explain your views to somebody with a different view and they don’t seem to get it:

    That was excellently observed, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken. – Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)

    [… and Swift was Irish, so he must be right! 😉 ]

  6. 2. Reconciling the differences between both “sides” of the argument so far

    To many readers (and commenters), it might seem that there are two diametrically opposed groups in the comments so far.

    “Group 1” maintain that greenhouse gases (GHGs) keep the surface temperature of the Earth about 33°C warmer than it would be without an atmosphere through the “greenhouse effect”

    “Group 2” maintain that the atmosphere keeps the surface temperature warm, regardless of the greenhouse gases, and that there is no “greenhouse effect”.

    Both groups have been offering different arguments in support of their theory, and seem convinced that they are right, and that the other group is therefore “wrong”!

    So it might surprise some of you that we actually maintain that many of the arguments being made by both groups are valid!

    Group 1 essentially agrees with the conventional textbook explanations for the atmospheric temperature profiles, which are based on (a) several well-tested radiative physics principles and (b) a few initially reasonable-sounding assumptions.

    When we started the research which led to our three “The physics of the Earth’s atmosphere” papers, we thought that the arguments of Group 1 were plausible. First, we had read the textbooks and were very familiar with the conventional explanations. Second, we had used several of the radiative physics principles in our own research. Finally, the assumptions of the theories seemed reasonable.

    However, when we began looking at the data in detail, we found that some of the “reasonable-sounding assumptions”, while initially plausible, didn’t agree with the data! We maintain that if the theory doesn’t match the data, you have to re-evaluate your theory… no matter how plausible or reasonable the theory looks “on paper”.

    As a result, we were forced to critically revisit the conventional textbook explanations and check which bits work and which bits don’t work. In the end, our results have led us to the conclusion that the position of Group 2 with respect to greenhouse gas concentrations is more in keeping with the data.

    In the essay above, we summarised some of the main findings of these papers in a relatively non-technical manner – a kind of Cliff’s notes version of our papers. But, if you are interested in the technical details of what we found, and why we came to our conclusions, I would strongly recommend reading our papers.

    I believe we have already provided the answers to most of the questions in the comments in the papers, but I do appreciate that the papers are quite long and can be “a hard read”.

    Here are the links to Paper 1, Paper 2 and Paper 3

    In our earlier comments (and in the essay… and in the papers!), we have tried a few times already to explain exactly which aspects of Group 1’s theories are in conflict with the data and why. But, I’ll give it another go…

  7. 3. Why the greenhouse effect theory doesn’t agree with the data

    The main assumption of the greenhouse effect theory which we disagree with is the “Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium” (LTE) assumption. This is a key assumption of all versions of the greenhouse effect theory. It simply is not possible for the “greenhouse effect” to exist if the atmosphere is in Thermodynamic Equilibrium. However, while the assumption is explicit in some versions of the greenhouse effect theory, e.g., the infrared cooling models used by climate models, I agree that the assumption is only implicit in other versions of the theory. So, I can appreciate that it is a concept that isn’t widely discussed.

    With that in mind, I’ll try to briefly summarise its significance:

    3a. The LTE assumption

    Until now, the main mechanisms of energy transmission within the atmosphere which have been considered are radiation, convection and conduction. [Note: convection can involve the transport of thermal energy, latent energy or kinetic energy]

    The conduction, convection and radiation mechanisms are only sufficient to maintain Thermodynamic Equilibrium over fairly short distances (i.e., much shorter than the 30-35km from ground to mid-stratosphere). So, it was assumed that, in the atmosphere, Thermodynamic Equilibrium is only maintained over local (or short) distances, and not over distances of 10-20km. That is, the atmosphere is assumed to be only in “Local Thermodynamic Equilibrium”.

    For this reason, in the climate models, the atmosphere is divided vertically into a number of “layers”. These layers are in LTE, i.e., the average energy content of each layer can change relative to the other layers. In the early models, there were usually about 9 or 10 layers considered, however most of the latest Global Climate Models have at least 20-30 layers.

    The significance of this is that, if the atmosphere is only in LTE then radiative processes can alter the energy content of one layer relative to the other layers. Hence, radiative processes can alter the energy profile of the atmosphere. The temperature profile of the atmosphere is a function of its energy profile. Therefore, if the atmosphere is only in LTE, then radiative processes can alter the atmospheric temperature profile.

    Since the greenhouse gases contain infrared active absorption/emission bands, the textbook description of the atmospheric temperature profile assumes that the concentrations of the different greenhouse gases in the different layers play a strong role in these radiative processes.

    Essentially, this is the basis for the greenhouse effect theory, although it is not always described in this manner. I think when I outline what would happen if the atmosphere were in TE, it should become apparent why the above description is equivalent to the versions of the greenhouse effect described by AndThenThere’sPhysics, in the Willis Eschenbach WUWT post linked to above by Dr Burns, and the many other descriptions discussed in this thread…

    3b. Our finding that the atmosphere is in TE

    The results which we describe in Paper 1 revealed to us that, at least over the distances from the ground to mid-stratosphere (30-35 km), the atmosphere seems to be effectively in Thermodynamic Equilibrium (TE). This was quite a surprise to us, as it directly contradicted the LTE assumption I described above, which seemed reasonable since convection and conduction didn’t seem to be rapid enough to maintain TE. But, that’s what the data was telling us.

    In Paper 3, we point out that conduction, convection and radiation are not the only mechanisms by which energy can be transmitted throughout the atmosphere.

    For instance, mechanical energy can be transmitted within the atmosphere without mass transport by a mechanism we call “pervection”. When we carried out laboratory experiments to measure the rates of energy transport by pervection, we found that it was several orders of magnitude faster than conduction, convection or radiation. Our experiments were carried out under fairly specific laboratory conditions, and we don’t yet know how these ratios compare throughout the atmosphere, although we suggest future experiments which could help resolve this.
    Nonetheless, the fact that pervection can rapidly transmit energy through air, and that this wasn’t included in the conventional conduction/convection/radiation mechanisms explains why the LTE assumption was invalid.

    [Note that we’re not saying the entire atmosphere is in TE, e.g., the Arctic doesn’t seem to be in Thermodynamic Equilibrium with the Equator. However, the pole-to-equator distance is 10,000 km, while the distance from the ground to mid-stratosphere is only about 35km. We are merely suggesting that pervection is sufficiently fast to maintain TE over these relatively short distances.]

    3c. The TE description of the atmosphere

    If the atmosphere is in TE over the distances from the ground to mid-stratosphere, then the average energy content of all the “air parcels” is constant. This means that if radiative processes increase the energy content of an individual air parcel, the excess energy is rapidly redistributed throughout the atmosphere, and the parcel quickly returns to TE. Similarly, if radiative processes cause the energy content of a parcel to decrease, the lost energy is replaced from elsewhere in the atmosphere.

    This means that internal radiative processes cannot alter the energy profile of the atmosphere (by “internal”, I mean radiative absorption/emission within the atmosphere/surface system). That means that the trace greenhouse gases don’t influence the atmospheric energy profile. Instead, the atmospheric energy profile is determined by the thermodynamic properties of the atmosphere and the amount of incoming solar radiation absorbed by the atmosphere/surface.

    Greenhouse gases do play a role in the emission of infrared radiation from the atmosphere to space. To maintain energy balance, the Earth system has to be continually losing about 240 W/m2 infrared radiation to space.

    If the atmosphere is only in LTE then the locations and rates at which this infrared radiation is emitted to space is very important. This is what the commenters in Group 1 have been emphasising. The reason is that, if most of the emission comes from the layers in the upper atmosphere, then this would substantially reduce the average energy content of the upper layers. Then, because (a) the temperature of the troposphere on average decreases with height in the troposphere and (b) the average temperature of a given layer is a function of its average energy content, the average temperature at the surface has to increase to ensure that the loss to space is still about 240 W/m2.

    By this logic, if the greenhouse gases were removed and the IR emission to space came directly from the surface, the average surface temperature would be much less – about 33K colder, according to the greenhouse effect theory.

    But, what if the atmosphere is in TE? Then, the locations from which the infrared radiation is emitted becomes much less important. If 20 W/m2 escapes to space from 2km, it would have the same effect on the atmospheric energy profile as if it escaped from 10km. That is because the atmosphere is in TE and the lost energy is replaced from the surrounding air regardless of whether the loss comes from the top or bottom of the atmosphere.

    The location and types of the IR emitters does play an important role in determining the shape of the outgoing IR spectrum. For instance, if the average CO2 concentration increases, then the contributions of the CO2 IR-active bands (e.g., 15µ) will become more distinct. However, (a) the total energy loss will remain roughly the same (about 240 W/m2), and (b) the average atmospheric energy profile will also remain the same.

    That is why we say that the concentrations of the trace greenhouse gases don’t alter the temperatures of the atmosphere. The concentrations alter the shape and distribution of the IR spectrum of the atmosphere when viewed from space, but because the atmosphere is in TE, they don’t actually alter the atmospheric energy profile, and hence the atmospheric temperatures are unaffected by the trace gases.

    3d. What if all the greenhouse gases were removed from the atmosphere?

    This is an interesting question. Nitrogen, oxygen and argon do not have infrared active bands, and so theoretically we would initially expect that they should be totally transparent to infrared radiation.

    This might lead you to assume that (a) the energy that is transferred to the atmosphere by the non-radiative energy transmission mechanisms will become “trapped” and/or (b) all of the infrared emission could only come from the surface.

    However, we have reason to believe this wouldn’t happen.

    If you look at the IR active bands of the various greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere, there are some IR regions which have no active bands. These are the so-called “transparent window” bands. But, while the infrared absorption in these windows is very low compared to the IR active bands, it is not zero.

    For instance, in the Gebbie et al., 1951 study I mentioned in an earlier comment, the atmospheric transmission in all of the windows was only 80-90%/sea mile. Most laboratories are a lot shorter than a sea mile in length. 😉 So, under laboratory conditions, the windows would seem almost entirely transparent – in agreement with the theoretical models. But, when we consider the atmosphere as a whole, there seems to be a certain opacity to the atmosphere even in the windows.

    The windows are regions without any IR active bands from the greenhouse gases, yet the transmission through these windows is not 100%. This suggests that there is some atmospheric IR opacity even without greenhouse gases.

    With that in mind, it is interesting that while nitrogen and oxygen are not directly infrared active gases, through collision processes they do have weak infrared activity. Höpfner et al., 2012 (Abstract; Google Scholar) estimate that the outgoing longwave radiation from O2 and N2 is about 15% of that from CH4 (for the current atmospheric composition). Over Antarctica, the relative contribution is more than twice that.

    Obviously, the infrared activity of the greenhouse gases is much stronger than that of nitrogen or oxygen, but we think it is misleading to treat the non-IR active gases as completely transparent to IR. They’re just “mostly transparent”.
    [A bit like the scene in the Princess Bride film where the hero is “mostly dead”:

    😉 ]

    1. Ronan, a very, very basic question on your paper, but nonetheless rather important: how is “pervection” different from just adiabatic expansion/compression?

      Re: pervection and incompressibility,
      I don’t think you can treat air as incompressible, or even approximately incompressible, for the sake of this argument. Air is pretty much the most compressible material we have (I work with normal, everyday solid materials that are orders of magnitude less compressible, but I wouldn’t dream of calling these “incompressible”). It also seems to be contradicted by your statement (section 2.3. of Paper 2, line 370-373):

      If a fluid is incompressible, any energy that is added or subtracted to the fluid has to be in the form of mechanical energy (i.e., the internal energy of the 372 system does not change).

      And yet, by the extremely well-established Ideal Gas Law, we know that in a normal gaseous system, energy is readily converted between pressure*volume (representing work) and temperature (representing internal energy). In fact, the internal combustion engine relies on our ability to convert between thermal energy into work for a gas, and since we can add energy to these fluids and it not just take the form of mechanical energy, by your above statement, it implies that the gas is not incompressible.

      I’m not sure if you intend to submit your papers to any other journals. If your work is important and repeatable, you should consider doing so, or otherwise it will have substantial difficulty gaining any traction. If you do intend to submit elsewhere, I have some suggestions.

      1. I seem to recall the compressibility assumption relates to a calculation they did involving mach numbers and the observed velocity of the energy transfer in their experiment.

        There was a bit more about the specific ratios at which different fluids can be considered compressible or incompressible and the speeds they were discussing for this effect fell within that range.

        Remember the syringe and one tube were separated by 100 m from the other tube.

        1. There was a bit more about the specific ratios at which different fluids can be considered compressible or incompressible and the speeds they were discussing for this effect fell within that range.

          Remember the syringe and one tube were separated by 100 m from the other tube.

          I certainly have no problem with the idea that energy can be transferred via an equalization of pressure, even over long distances. The disputed claim, though, is that this mechanism can transfer all of the energy difference, and it seems to depend on the idea that the material is incompressible / that all energy to the system will be added as mechanical energy.

          That really doesn’t make sense to me — we know that if we add energy to any gravity-bound atmosphere, some of that energy will be retained in the form of heat. For it to become all mechanical energy, you’d basically be talking about a perfect Carnot engine.

          This is particularly important when you have regions of the atmosphere with varying heat capacities. In that case, you could use “pervection” to equalize pressure, but there will still be a temperature difference that has to be resolved via conduction/convection.

          This can be verified by repeating the experiment in the paper, but on one side, you have dry air, and on the other, moist. If you properly insulate both sides, you’ll find that after adding or subtracting energy to one side and letting the pressure equalize, the two sides have different temperatures.

          This is one of the reasons that atmospheric models do not assume that the system is in complete equilibrium. (There’s also local variations in topography and albedo, and long-distance variations in solar input).

          I might also add that we can go out and actively measure convection in the atmosphere, so obviously it’s needed as a method of transporting energy. If pervection was a sufficient, faster mechanism for transporting energy, then we wouldn’t observe convection in real life.

        2. I think you’re misinterpreting the mechanism being discussed here.

          Go back to the desk toy/click-clack/newton’s cradle.

          Raising pressure would be taking the balls from a spread out state to a more tightly packed state:

          from:
          `\/`\/`\/`\/
          O O O O

          to:
          `\/\/\/\/
          OOOO

          Conduction would be vibrations passed through the chain:

          `\/\/\/\/
          OOOO

          `\/\/\/\/
          OOOO

          `\/\/\/\/
          OOOO

          `\/\/\/\/
          OOOO

          Pervection is nudging one ball:

          `\/\/\/\/
          .OOOO

          `\/\/\/\/
          O.OOO

          `\/\/\/\/
          OO.OO

          `\/\/\/\/
          OOO.O

          `\/\/\/\/
          OOO..O

          `\/\/\/\/
          OOO…O

          Hopefully the crap text diagrams will get my point across, the balls in a newton’s cradle transfer mechanical energy between the inner balls until it reaches the last one which can swing freely.

          The pervection mechanism would be an injection of mechanical energy into the lower layers of the atmosphere, “nudging” or “jostling” it if you wish, which transfers that impetus to adjacent molecules until more rarefied air is reached and the molecules can “swing freely”, if you will.

          The transfer through the tubes in the experiment was at 40+ meters per second, pressure equalization generally doesn’t occur that rapidly, while the compression waves associated with sound have their own propagation factors which in this case were inhibited by the multiple coils of the tube and the simple observation that the effect did not cause a loud noise nor did the lapse between pushing the plunger and observing the effect in the other tube line up with what would be expected there.

          They did go over this in much greater detail in the papers, I’m a big fan of experimental rigor myself, and the only thing I can think of as possibly invalidating the results is to test what if anything changes from covering the container with the fluid that the two glass tubes were immersed in.

          I can’t say for sure or even why that may be the case, but it is the only unaccounted for variable which can be easily modified in the apparatus I saw them use.

          Perhaps applying an airtight lid over the liquid holding container would muffle or counteract the observed effect entirely, I don’t actually think it would, as there is already air pressure pushing down on the liquid as is… but again, that’s the limit of my quibbles here.

          Perhaps you can think of something which invalidates their findings which they overlooked, as well as everyone else who has looked at this.

          Myself I would love to see the pervection mechanism submitted without any discussion of climate or the greenhouse effect included, to provide a neutral platform for their findings to be considered and discussed…

          …and then point out what it implies for the climate afterwards.

        3. Max, thanks for the response.

          I… don’t quite agree with your description of pressure/conduction/pervection.

          In a gas, heat conduction is transferring the kinetic energy of one pair of vibrating gas atoms to another pair of vibrating gas molecules. The temperature is defined in terms of how a gas molecules is vibrating (stretching, twisting, etc.), rather than how its moving through space. However, energy is often transferred between the pressure and the temperature, through inelastic collisions of gas molecules. This is why we can define the Ideal Gas Law.

          Raising pressure uniformly or slowly is what you said. All the gas atoms get packed in more tightly, or spread out more.

          But if we raised pressure on just one side of a container of gas, it sets up a wave of motion, in which a wave of high pressure quickly spreads across the container. This also happens on a microscopic level with the steel balls – there are waves of the material compressing and expanding, but smaller than we can see. IIUC, this is what the Connellys are calling “pervection”.

          Sound waves are basically a shock-like transfer of mechanical energy through a system. Over time, though, the high-pressure waves dissipate, being absorbed or scattered throughout the system, and you end up with a uniform pressure again. Here, the sound waves would be both small and diffuse, but there for the detecting nonetheless, if you looked very carefully – you’d see pressure differences propagating through the tubes at a bit less than the speed of sound (b/c of the scattering by the tube walls). So, this is limited by the speed of sound, and is a wave of pressure like sound is, but is more diffuse.

          So… my apologies, but I’m really not seeing how pervection is anything different than standard, pressure-equilibration in a gaseous system. They set up a pressure gradient, and the air moves to compensate. Of course, it is mostly a “through-mass” mechanism, but that’s how many conductive mechanisms work.

        4. Depressing a plunger slowly isn’t really what I’d think of as generating sound waves capable of noticeably changing the fluid levels as observed in the experiment. The timescales are all wrong.

    2. Dr. Connolly,
      Could you please give a complete definition to your Thermodynamic equilibrium, or a reference to precisely what you mean. I can understand, and agree, that the whole atmosphere and every part of it tries to be in (rapidly tends toward) a state of non changing intrinsic properties even “with” steady state processes (flux). Flux from the Sun, flux to space, and flux between surface and atmosphere, by whatever means .
      Every reference I can find clearly states that there can be no flux when a isolated or open system is “in thermodynamic equilibrium”. That ain’t the earth. As an engineer I have always considered equilibrium to be “nothing changes”, (the number of juggling balls in the air is “constant”).
      Perhaps a different phrase is needed to indicate that this (rapidly tends toward) is all that is necessary for this planet to achieve the thermodynamic stability that it exhibits. Thank you.

      1. Hi Will,
        When we talk about thermodynamic equilibrium we are referring to thermodynamic equilibrium with respect to energy, or more specifically, the total energy of the system. You can partition the total energy of a system into a number of independent forms; translational energy, rotational energy, potential energy, etc.

        In many systems one or more of these forms may stay constant and so when analysing the behaviour of the system, this form is ignored. The remaining energy which can change is called free energy and there are many forms of free energy. For example, Helmholtz free energy is used for measuring the useful work obtainable from a closed system at constant temperature. Gibbs free energy is used for determining the amount of useful work that can be obtained from a system at constant temperature and pressure. Both of these energies are usually defined under conditions of constant field energy. In equation 18 in Paper 2 on multimers we define a more general free energy which includes different types of field energy for an open system.

        You say,

        As an engineer I have always considered equilibrium to be “nothing changes”, (the number of juggling balls in the air is “constant”)

        As a fellow engineer, I can understand that when dealing with balancing forces and energy this is a useful approach. However as a chemist, dealing with reversible reactions I find this a limiting approach. For example, if liquid water is in thermodynamic equilibrium in a closed system with constant volume, constant pressure and constant temperature, nothing changes and the total energy stays constant. However, keeping the total energy of the system constant and keeping the temperature and pressure constant it is possible for the system to change in volume due to phase changes, if the thermodynamic potential of both phases are equal.

        For an open system where temperature, pressure, potential energy, density, phase, etc are allowed to change within different regions of the system, then such a system can still be in thermodynamic equilibrium provided that mechanisms exist which allow energy to be transferred between different regions and different energy modes on a timescale shorter that the time interval under consideration.

        Is this explanation a help or a hindrance?

        1. Dr. Connolly,
          “Is this explanation a help or a hindrance?”

          Thank you and most definitely a help, again thank you!
          I agree with your “thermodynamic equilibrium”
          rather than that of Wikipedia or many current Physics texts! peruse my note here : Will Janoschka March 20, 2014 at 1:51 am

          Being a sparky, I am appalled by the the discard of AC energy, with zero average potential (volts) and zero charge flux (current) over one cycle.
          The cyclic energy transfer,must demonstrate to both Earthlings and Humans of how little they “know” of what is.

  8. Graham W March 16, 2014 at 11:54 am

    “Right, now, both of you…what are your thoughts on the posts Ronan Connolly has made, below?”

    Kristian: Can think,but refuses to consider anything that has to do with GHE! Me too!
    Windchaser: Cannot think! Ref: “Re: pervection and incompressibility,
    I don’t think you can treat air as incompressible, or even approximately incompressible, for the sake of this argument.”

    Aircraft engineers, and those that do sound energy transfer, treat air as any fluid just like water, but with a bit more energy loss. What determines speed of sound? Not squishy!
    Is there any way to get these two to read the Connolly papers and then list “all” the ways energy may be transferred to the atmosphere then to cold space, that does indeed have a bit of mass and density, but have not been even considered, by those that they insist they “know”?
    “Trus’ me I hab PHD and consensus!

  9. Gave myself the giggles last night, the talk about whether or not pervection is the same as sound had me picture John Cleese holding one end of the tube up to his ear…

    ‘Ello?
    I say, who is this?
    I’m gonna report you to the rozzers if you keep prank calling me like this!
    Oh, so you don’t think I’d be able to tell ’em where to go do ye?
    I bloody well think I could.
    ‘Ow? I’d tell em to follow the bloody tube ye daft ol’ cow!

    1. So what is the transfer of momentum through Newtons cradle other than “sound”, perhaps “noise”, like heat? Clack clack clack! If the spheres are not touching, is that something quite different? Is that slower? Is that more lossy ?

      1. Sound involves compression waves, a Newton’s cradle is made out of incompressible materials, so that kinda presents a problem doesn’t it?

        1. “Sound involves compression waves, a Newton’s cradle is made out of incompressible materials, so that kinda presents a problem doesn’t it?”

          Did the momentum go through the steel balls faster than the speed of sound in steel? Longitudinal waves can certainly transfer considerable power with almost no real mass movement even in a gas! How much power does your 15″ woofer put out at 200 Hz? Power to what?

        2. Ah, see, you’re making my point for me.

          Sound is fast but doesn’t transfer a lot of energy except at very high intensities.

          I can put one hand near a Newton’s cradle and clap as hard as I can, I doubt the balls will budge any measurable amount.

          If I put the back of my hand against one of the balls though, I can rather clap very softly and cause the far ball to swing outwards.

        3. Sound involves compression waves, a Newton’s cradle is made out of incompressible materials, so that kinda presents a problem doesn’t it?

          Nah, steel is definitely not incompressible (or aluminum, or iron, or whatever you want to make your Newton’s Cradle out of). Heck, there’s no material in the universe that’s actually incompressible – that’s forbidden by the laws of thermodynamics. Although, there are cases where we can approximate a material as incompressible for some very, very specific purposes, but it just really means “incompressible enough that it doesn’t matter for this model”.

          If steel was actually incompressible, building skyscrapers would be a helluva lot easier. It would mean that a beam made of steel would never buckle or bend.

        4. This sketch is getting silly.

          Clearly the idea of pervection isn’t that air itself is actually incompressible! Like a parcel of air simply could not be compressed…”argh…this gas is just so tough and solid…it really won’t budge an inch”. Took two seconds to find this on Wikipedia:

          In fluid mechanics or more generally continuum mechanics, incompressible flow (isochoric flow) refers to a flow in which the material density is constant within a fluid parcel—an infinitesimal volume that moves with the velocity of the fluid. An equivalent statement that implies incompressibility is that the divergence of the fluid velocity is zero (see the derivation below, which illustrates why these conditions are equivalent).

          Incompressible flow does not imply that the fluid itself is incompressible. It is shown in the derivation below that (under the right conditions) even compressible fluids can – to good approximation – be modelled as an incompressible flow. Incompressible flow implies that the density remains constant within a parcel of fluid that moves with the fluid velocity.

        5. Clearly the idea of pervection isn’t that air itself is actually incompressible! Like a parcel of air simply could not be compressed…”argh…this gas is just so tough and solid…it really won’t budge an inch”. Took two seconds to find this on Wikipedia:

          If you look at the paper, they definitely talk quite a bit about air itself being incompressible.

          However, say we were indeed talking about incompressible fluid flows. Since we’re now talking about a flowing fluid, doesn’t that mean we’re talking about convection?
          I could be wrong (really, it wouldn’t be the first time) — I’m just not sure how you would have fluid flow without convection. Help me out?

  10. Hi Windchaser,
    I will address your question directly below but first let me draw your attention to the main point of the paper, which is not what causes pervection, but that it exists at all.

    You ask,

    “How is “pervection” different from just adiabatic expansion/compression?”

    Adiabatic expansion/compression is essentially the conversion of work energy to thermal energy and vice versa. This phenomenon has been known since the 19th century experiments of Joule, etc.

    Pervection is a measure of the rate of transport of energy through the atmosphere by mechanical means. It does not involve expansion or compression. It occurs within incompressible fluids (i.e., fixed air densities) – unlike sound which is an expansion/compression mechanism, involving variable air densities.

    As we explain in the paper, at low air speeds, if the air composition and temperature are constant, then the air is actually approximately incompressible (see Section 2.2 for a discussion of why).

    Obviously, the atmosphere doesn’t have a constant air composition or temperature. This is why we stress that our laboratory measurements only apply to the fairly specific conditions of the experiment. In our conclusions (lines 1156-1161), we mention:

    In the atmosphere, changes in temperature, or in the phase, chemistry and composition of different regions of the atmosphere might act to reduce the rates of pervective energy transport. An important avenue for future research will be investigating how these factors affect pervection.

    That is, we are not claiming that pervection is the only important energy transmission mechanism! Instead, we are pointing out that pervection is (a) rapid enough to potentially maintain Thermodynamic Equilibrium over the distances from the ground to mid-stratosphere and (b) a mechanism which is not considered in the current atmospheric models.

    On the first point, the current atmospheric models are unable to explain why the atmosphere would be in Thermodynamic Equilibrium over these distances – instead they assume the atmosphere is only in LTE. So, if it’s not pervection that is doing this, some additional mechanism will need to be identified. Either way, if the current atmospheric models are only able to predict LTE, then they must be incomplete/inadequate.

    On the second point, you correctly identify that the current models include compressible mechanical energy transmission (sound), convection (“with-mass” transport) and conduction (“through-mass” thermal transport). However, they don’t consider incompressible mechanical energy transmission. It is this latter mechanism which we refer to as pervection.

    1. Adiabatic expansion/compression is essentially the conversion of work energy to thermal energy and vice versa. This phenomenon has been known since the 19th century experiments of Joule, etc. Pervection is a measure of the rate of transport of energy through the atmosphere by mechanical means. It does not involve expansion or compression.

      Ah, thanks – that clears up the matter of the definition, at least. However, I would still strongly disagree with you that air is incompressible. If a material is actually incompressible:
      1) The speed of sound is infinite; a pressure applied on one side of the material is instantaneously transferred to the other side without loss.
      2) The volume of the material will not change upon application of pressure; the density of the material never changes.

      These both fail in gases. #1 would imply that your measurements for pervective speed should have been instantaneous, and #2.. well, we know that the density of the atmosphere changes with altitude, so this also doesn’t hold. It also doesn’t hold in hot air balloons, internal combustion engines, or air compressors.

      The compressibility of gas is in fact a very important part of understanding its thermodynamic properties. It may be fine to approximate air as incompressible for low-speed aeronautics; I’m sure it makes their models simpler. However, this approximation really will not hold for thermodynamics.

      That’s not to say that air cannot transfer mechanical energy, just that it cannot do so instantaneously. Instead, it transfers mechanical energy via changes in pressure, typically at or below the speed of sound. Given that your measured values for “pervection” are far below the speed of sound in air, I hadn’t previously grokked that you were saying pervection was supposed to be a perfectly-rigid transmission mechanism in air.

      That is, we are not claiming that pervection is the only important energy transmission mechanism! Instead, we are pointing out that pervection is (a) rapid enough to potentially maintain Thermodynamic Equilibrium over the distances from the ground to mid-stratosphere and (b) a mechanism which is not considered in the current atmospheric models.

      If perfection was sufficient to maintain thermodynamic equilibrium from the ground to mid-stratosphere, then we would not observe convection. Convection requires an energy difference to operate. That air ain’t just going to move on its own — which means that the system is not in equilibrium, even vertically.
      Since we do observe convection in real life, we can conclude that pervection is not sufficient to maintain thermodynamic equilibrium.

      …That could really just be rephrased as “since we do not observe thermodynamic equilibrium in real life, we know that ‘pervection’ is insufficient to maintain it”.

      1. …That could really just be rephrased as “since we do not observe thermodynamic equilibrium in real life, we know that ‘pervection’ is insufficient to maintain it”.

        The claim of their papers is that thermodynamic equilibrium is observed in real life. They claim to have provided evidence for this. They say in the essay:

        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.

        In an attempt to prevent this from just going round and round in circles again, firstly I would ask, “do you dispute the evidence presented in support of the idea that the atmosphere is in complete energy equilibrium? If so, why?”

        1. In an attempt to prevent this from just going round and round in circles again, firstly I would ask, “do you dispute the evidence presented in support of the idea that the atmosphere is in complete energy equilibrium? If so, why?”

          Yeah, pretty much. ATTP and I both say that he hasn’t actually provided any such evidence. One part of the problem is that the laboratory setup is overly simplified compared to the real world and misses key elements that keep the atmo out of total equilibrium.

          To me, pervection looks like pressure equilibration in a long tube, which, if the air on the different sides had different heat capacities, would be insufficient to equalize the energy in both sides (the side with higher heat capacity will end up with a lower temperature if you’re increasing the pressure, or higher temp, if you’re lowering the pressure. So then you’d have to wait for heat conduction to equalize the temps).

          The actual atmosphere also has varying heat capacities, even from the ground to the top of the stratosphere, so it suffers from the same problem.

        2. Graham W March 19, 2014 at 9:12 pm

          “The claim of their papers is that thermodynamic equilibrium is observed in real life. They claim to have provided evidence for this. They say in the essay:….”

          The term/phrase “thermodynamic equilibrium” has been messed up by the arrogant academics since 1960 and climatologists since 1985. Because of the arrogance there is no longer any distinction between thermal equilibrium, thermostatic equilibrium, and thermodynamic equilibrium.
          All are still writing of stable equilibrium, one that tends to that stable “state” even with minor disturbances. (A boat floats upright except when….). Let me try to differentiate:

          1) Thermal equilibrium: In a adiabatic system, many isolated temperatures, with no energy flux, otherwise one and only one temperature.

          2) Thermostatic equilibrium: In a system, with allowable energy flux, perhaps caused by a thermal potential difference,that “spontaneous” flux is cancelled by another opposing potential difference, (on earth gravitational potential difference).

          3) Thermodynamic equilibrium: a open system,
          with some energy sources and some energy sinks. Such a system “may” achieve thermodynamic equilibrium, but only when the external and internal input energy exactly equals the external output energy.

          This Earth and its atmosphere tries very hard to do #3) in spite of 7 billion earthlings.
          It is up to knowledgeable “humans” to discover, “how dey do dat”.
          Climate Clowns can never “discover” this as they are all arrogant academic ass hole earthlings. 🙂 😥

        3. Windchaser – it was my understanding, possibly (probably?) wrong, that the evidence for “thermodynamic equilibrium” was given in Paper 1…the analysis of the weather balloon data. In your response you are criticising Paper 3 (the pervection paper). Paper 3 is their apparent discovery of this mechanism they term “pervection” which they say explains the observations made in Paper 1. It is not the “evidence of thermodynamic equilibrium”. So when I say “the claim of their papers is that thermodynamic equilibrium is observed in real life. They claim to have provided evidence for this” I am talking about the evidence presented in Paper 1, not 3.

          Will – thanks for the help with definitions! Language seems to be a real barrier in these discussions.

      2. Convection requires an energy difference to operate. That air ain’t just going to move on its own — which means that the system is not in equilibrium, even vertically.

        They stated earlier that pervection would be sufficient to establish TE vertically but not horizontally.

        So if pervection is present, that would not prevent imbalances on a horizontal scale which would trigger convection to push the system towards equilibrium.

        So thus, the presence of convection does not disprove the presence of pervection nor the possibility of TE in the vertical axis.

        But a nice argument to try none the less.

        I guess the question is whether there is TE (or near TE) in the vertical domain. If that can be shown to be present then that would have a major implication for the current models that assume no TE on any axis and therefore use layers/cells to analyse the behaviour.

        1. So if pervection is present, that would not prevent imbalances on a horizontal scale which would trigger convection to push the system towards equilibrium.

          Eh, convection occurs vertically, as well as horizontally. However.. that requires some horizontal or rotational aspect – for instance, if one bit of air gets warm and starts to ascend, it may be replaced by colder air that flows in horizontally. Convection wouldn’t happen in an perfectly narrow, perfectly tall column of air.

          Still – it doesn’t make sense to me that you can say that pervection works to satisfy thermodynamic equilibrium on decently long distances – from the Earth to the stratosphere, 50 km – but ignore that by looking at a horizontal distance of a few hundred feet, from, say, a shore to out over the ocean, you end up back out of thermodynamic equilibrium (land and water heat at different rates, and that sets up breezes, i.e., convection).

          If your “total thermodynamic equilibrium” breaks over distances of a few kilometers, then eh, it’s not very “total”.
          The point is, this can’t really change the models assumptions very much. The atmosphere is not in total thermodynamic equilibrium, no way, no how, not even close, at no point in time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *