Can you keep an open mind on the cause of winds? Climate science needs your help!
by Anastassia Makarieva
Many of us who have become researchers have been attracted by the dynamic and constructive debate that lies at the heart of scientific progress. Every theory is provisional waiting to be improved or replaced by a more thorough understanding. In this perspective new ideas are the life-blood of progress and are welcomed and examined eagerly by all concerned. That’s what we believed and were inspired by. Is climate science a dynamic field of research that welcomes new ideas? We hope so – though our faith is currently being tested.
Five months have not been enough to find two representatives of the climate science community who would be willing to act as referees and publicly evaluate a new theory of winds. Of the ten experts requested to act as referees only one accepted. This slow and uncertain progress has caused the Editors to become concerned: recently they “indefinitely extended” the public discussion of the submitted manuscript. The review process is perhaps becoming the story.
Here the authors share their views and request help.
On August 06 2010 our paper “Where do winds come from? A new theory on how water vapor condensation influences atmospheric pressure and dynamics” was submitted to the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions (ACPD) journal of the European Geosciences Union. There we proposed a new mechanism for wind generation based on pressure gradients produced by the condensation of water vapor. ACPD ensures transparency during the review procedure: the submitted manuscripts and subsequent reviews are published online and available for public discussion. Authors can follow their submission through the process: they see when the Editor invites referees and whether they accept or decline.
Here are the standings as of 20 January 2011:
The Editor handling our paper has invited ten referees so far. Only one, Dr. Judith Curry, accepted. After 10 November 2010, in the record there have been no further attempts to find referees.
Normally ACPD’s discussion should take eight weeks. But in early January 2011, after twelve weeks in process, the status of the discussion of our manuscript was changed to “indefinitely extended”. In a recent letter to the authors, the Editor-in-Chief admitted that handling ‘a controversial paper’ is not easy, but assured us that the Journal is doing their best.
Discussion of our propositions secured over a thousand comments in the blogosphere within four weeks of publication indicating wide interest. Among the ACPD discussion participants two are active bloggers. Does blog culture outcompete formal peer review in evaluating novel concepts? It’s an open question. But let’s take a moment to focus on science.
Why condensation-induced dynamics is important
It would be generally useful to understand why the winds blow. It is sufficient to note that understanding the physical bases of atmospheric circulation is key for determining the climate sensitivity to changes in the amounts of atmospheric greenhouse substances, which is currently a highly controversial topic. The lack of current understanding may not be widely recognized outside the climate and meteorological community. But within the community moist processes in the atmosphere are admitted to be among the least understood and associated with greatest challenges. Not only theorists, but also modelers recognize their existence. For example, in a paper titled “The real holes in climate science” Schiermeier (2010) identified the inability to adequately explain precipitation patterns as one of such holes. In particular,
“a main weakness of the[ir] models is their limited ability to simulate vertical air movement, such as convection in the tropics that lifts humid air into the atmosphere.”
Any meteorological textbook will provide a discussion of buoyancy-based convection: how a warm air parcel ascends being lighter than the surrounding air. The convective instability of moist saturated air, so far neglected by the meteorological theory, is different. Any upward displacement of a saturated air volume, even a random fluctuation, leads to cooling. This causes the water vapour to condense. Condensation diminishes the total amount of gas and thus disrupts the hydrostatic distribution of moist air (if a hydrostatic equilibrium exists it is unstable to any such minor movements). The conclusion: moist saturated atmosphere in the gravitational field cannot be static.
Our analyses show that the current understanding of air movements being dominated by temperature and buoyancy is incomplete and flawed. Rather we find that the phase changes of water (condensation and evaporation) can play a much larger role than has previously been recognized. You can find out more if you see our paper. We would hope that a dynamic and advancing science would welcome new ideas.
Can the blogosphere help?
Perhaps we can help the Journal review our paper with your help. Are you an open minded climate scientist who would be ready and competent to discuss our ideas?
The ACP Chief-Executive Editor Dr. Ulrich Pöschl is aware that we are inviting your helps and asked that the following issues be noted (we quote):
1) ACPD is not a blog but a scientific discussion forum for the exchange of substantial scientific comments by scientific experts.
2) The open call for scientific experts who would be ready to act as potential referees would be a private initiative of the manuscript authors.
3) The list of potential referees compiled by the authors will be treated like the suggestions for potential referees regularly requested. The responsibility and authority for selecting and appointing referees rests exclusively with the editor.
If you have no conflict of interests and are willing to review our paper please contact the corresponding author (A. Makarieva) and we will forward your details to the Editor as a potential referee. For those who would like to remain anonymous please approach the ACP Chief-Executive Editor directly. We would be very grateful for your help – we have faith in you.
on behalf of the authors:
A.M. Makarieva, V.G. Gorshkov, D. Sheil, A.D. Nobre, B.-L. Li
P.S. Thanks to Jeff for hosting our appeal on this blog. For a list of publications relevant to condensation-induced dynamics, please, see here.