Unified Climate Theory May Confuse Cause and Effect

Guest Post by Ira Glickstein

The Unified Theory of Climate post is exciting and could shake the world of Climate Science to its roots. I would love it if the conventional understanding of the Atmospheric “Greenhouse” Effect (GHE) presented by the Official Climate Team could be overturned, and that would be the case if the theory of Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller, both PhDs, turns out to be scientifically correct.

Sadly, it seems to me they have made some basic mistakes that, among other faults, confuse cause and effect. I appreciate that WUWT is open to new ideas, and I support the decision to publish this theory, along with both positive and negative comments by readers.

Correlation does not prove causation. For example, the more policemen directing traffic, the worse the jam is. Yes, when the police and tow trucks first respond to an accident they may slow the traffic down a bit until the disabled automobiles are removed. However, there is no doubt the original cause of the jam was the accident, and the reason police presence is generally proportional to the severity of the jam level is that more or fewer are ordered to respond. Thus, Accident >>CAUSES>> Traffic Jam >>CAUSES>> Police is the correct interpretation.

Al Gore made a similar error when, in his infamous movie An Inconvenient Truth, he made a big deal about the undoubted corrrelation in the Ice Core record between CO2 levels and Temperature without mentioning the equally apparent fact that Temperatures increase and decrease hundreds of years before CO2 levels follow suit.

While it is true that rising CO2 levels do have a positive feedback that contributes to slightly increased Temperatures, the primary direction of causation is Temperature >>CAUSES>> CO2. The proof is in the fact that, in each Glacial cycle, Temperatures begin their rapid decline precisely when CO2 levels are at their highest, and rapid Temperature increase is initiated exactly when CO2 levels are their lowest. Thus, Something Else >>CAUSES>> Temperature>>CAUSES>> CO2. Further proof may be had by placing an open can of carbonated beverage in the refigerator and another on the table, and noting that the “fizz” (CO2) outgasses more rapidly from the can at room temperature.

Moving on to Nikolov, the claim appears to be that the pressure of the Atmosphere is the main cause of temperature changes on Earth. The basic claim is PRESSURE >>CAUSES>>TEMPERATURE.

PV = nRT

Given a gas in a container, the above formula allows us to calculate the effect of changes to the following variables: Pressure (P), Volume (V), Temperature (T, in Kelvins), and Number of molecules (n). (R is a constant.)

The figure shows two cases involving a sealed, non-insulated container, with a Volume, V, of air:

(A) Store that container of air in the ambient cool Temperature Tr of a refrigerator. Then, increase the Number n of molecules in the container by pumping in more air. the Pressure (P) within the container will increase. Due to the work done to compress the air in the fixed volume container, the Temperature within the container will also increase from (Tr) to some higher value. But, please note, when we stop increasing n, both P and T in the container will stabilize. Then, as the container, warmed by the work we did compressing the air, radiates, conducts, and convects that heat to the cool interior of the refrigerator, the Temperature slowly decreases back to the original Tr.

(B) We take a similar container from the cool refrigerator at Temperature Tr and place it on a kitchen chair, where the ambient Temperature Tk is higher. The container is warmed by radiation, conduction and convection and the Temperature rises asymptotically towards Tk. The Pressure P rises slowly and stabilizes at some higher level. Please note the pressure remains high forever so long as the temperature remains elevated.

In case (A) Pressure >>CAUSES A TEMPORARY>> increase in Temperature.

In case (B) Temperature >>CAUSES A PERMANENT>> increase in Pressure.

I do not believe any reader will disagree with this highly simplified thought experiment. Of course, the Nikolov theory is far more complex, but, I believe it amounts to confusing the cause, namely radiation from the Sun and Downwelling Long-Wave Infrared (LW DWIR) from the so-called “Greenhouse” gases (GHG) in the Atmosphere with the effect, Atmospheric pressure.

Some Red Flags in the Unified Theory

1) According to Nikolov, our Atmosphere

“… boosts Earth’s surface temperature not by 18K—33K as currently assumed, but by 133K!”

If, as Nikolov claims, the Atmosphere boosts the surface temperature by 133K, then, absent the Atmosphere the Earth would be 288K – 133K = 155K. This is contradicted by the fact that the Moon, which has no Atmosphere and is at the same distance from the Sun as our Earth, has an average temperature of about 250K. Yes, the albedo of the Moon is 0.12 and that of the Earth is 0.3, but that difference would make the Moon only about 8K cooler than an Atmosphere-free Earth, not 95K cooler! Impossible!

2) In the following quote from Nikolov, NTE is “Atmospheric Near-Surface Thermal Enhancement” and SPGB is a “Standard Planetary Gray Body”

NTE should not be confused with an actual energy, however, since it only defines the relative (fractional) increase of a planet’s surface temperature above that of a SPGB. Pressure by itself is not a source of energy! Instead, it enhances (amplifies) the energy supplied by an external source such as the Sun through density-dependent rates of molecular collision. This relative enhancement only manifests as an actual energy in the presence of external heating. [Emphasis added]

This, it seems to me, is an admission that the source of energy for their “Atmospheric Near-Surface Thermal Enhancement” process comes from the Sun, and, therefore, their “Enhancement” is as they admit, not “actual energy”. I would add the energy that would otherwise be lost to space (DW LWIR) to the energy from the Sun, eliminating any need for the “Thermal Enhancement” provided by Atmospheric pressure.

3) As we know when investigating financial misconduct, follow the money. Well, in Climate Science we follow the Energy. We know from actual measurements (see my Visualizing the “Greenhouse” Effect – Emission-Spectra) the radiative energy and spectra of Upwelling Long-Wave Infrared (UW LWIR), from the Surface to the so-called “greenhouse” gases (GHG) in the Atmosphere, and the Downwelling (DW LWIR) from those gases back to the Surface.

The only heed Nikolov seems to give to GHG and those measured radiative energies is that they are insufficient to raise the temperature of the Surface by 133K.

… our atmosphere boosts Earth’s surface temperature not by 18K—33K as currently assumed, but by 133K! This raises the question: Can a handful of trace gases which amount to less than 0.5% of atmospheric mass trap enough radiant heat to cause such a huge thermal enhancement at the surface? Thermodynamics tells us that this not possible.

Of course not! Which is why the conventional explanation of the GHE is that the GHE raises the temperature by only about 33K (or perhaps a bit less -or more- but only a bit and definitely not 100K!).

4) Nikolov notes that, based on “interplanetary data in Table 1” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Moon, Mars, Europe, Titan, Triton):

… we discovered that NTE was strongly related to total surface pressure through a nearly perfect regression fit…

Of course, one would expect planets and moons in our Solar system to have some similarities.

“… the atmosphere does not act as a ‘blanket’ reducing the surface infrared cooling to space as maintained by the current GH theory, but is in and of itself a source of extra energy through pressure. This makes the GH effect a thermodynamic phenomenon, not a radiative one as presently assumed!

I just cannot square this assertion with the clear measurements of UW and DW LWIR, and the fact that the wavelengths involved are exactly those of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other GHGs.

Equation (7) allows us to derive a simple yet robust formula for predicting a planet’s mean surface temperature as a function of only two variables – TOA solar irradiance and mean atmospheric surface pressure,…”

Yes, TOA solar irradiance would be expected to be important in predicting mean surface temperature, but mean atmospheric surface pressure, it seems to me, would more likely be a result than a cause of temperature. But, I could be wrong.

Conclusion

I, as much as anyone else here at WUWT, would love to see the Official Climate Team put in its proper place. I think climate (CO2) sensitivity is less than the IPCC 2ºC to 4.5ºC, and most likely below 1ºC. The Nikolov Unified Climate Theory goes in the direction of reducing climate sensitivity, apparently even making it negative, but, much as I would like to accept it, I remain unconvinced. Nevertheless, I congratulate Nikolov and Zeller for having the courage and tenacity to put this theory forward. Perhaps it will trigger some other alternative theory that will be more successful.

=============================================================

UPDATE: This thread is closed – see the newest one “A matter of some Gravity” where the discussion continues.

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Ira says
The figure shows two cases involving a sealed, non-insulated container, with a Volume, V, of air:
(A) Store that container of air in the ambient cool Temperature Tr of a refrigerator. Then, increase the Number n of molecules in the container by pumping in more air. the Pressure (P) within the container will increase. Due to the work done to compress the air in the fixed volume container, the Temperature within the container will also increase from (Tr) to some higher value. But, please note, when we stop increasing n, both P and T in the container will stabilize. Then, as the container, warmed by the work we did compressing the air, radiates, conducts, and convects that heat to the cool interior of the refrigerator, the Temperature slowly decreases back to the original Tr.

Ira, the flaw of your analogy is that the atmosphere is not a sealed, closed system. “Packets” of air warmed at the surface rise, expand, and cool and then the process repeats as the “packets” descend, compress, and heat. This is a continuous, infinite process which can entirely account for the so-called ‘greenhouse effect’ on the basis of the adiabatic lapse rate alone.

OzWizard

I’m glad Ira included “may” in his title. As it is, I believe Ira may be the one who is mistaken in his reading of this intriguing paper.
I read the paper to say that PRESSURE >> “Near-surface Atmospheric Thermal Enhancement (ATE) defined as a non-dimensional ratio (NTE)”.
This non-dimensional ratio is NOT Temperature, NOR is it Energy. It seems to be a ‘state variable’ or a ‘condition’ which allows calculation of the effect of incoming radiance in heating whatever atmosphere is present.
The authors state this ratio is:

“the non-dimensional ratio of planet actual mean surface air temperature (Ts, K) to the average temperature of a Standard Planetary Gray Body (SPGB) with no atmosphere (Tgb, K) receiving the same solar irradiance, i.e. NTE = Ts /Tgb”

. [My bold added.]
This is a theoretical constant for a given body, under given conditions. It allows them to calculate what the “actual mean surface air temperature” will be based on its Grey Body property and the incoming radiance.
I can’t wait for the 4 papers behind this ‘poster’ edition of the new UTC.

I strongly suspect your are both correct and both miss the mark at the same time. Both are dealing with or using, admittedly, highly oversimplified models. Models that were developed and designed for static or tending toward equilibrium conditions. Make no mistake the gas laws and everything else are just models. The atmospheric density and therefore pressure plus kinetic energy is real, the IR movement in and out is real. The atmosphere is a huge fluid system. Our understanding of fluid dynamics is another one of those closed system models that work very well, only when in that constraint. I think this discussion is valuable and important if for no other reasons then it illustrates or reminds us that we know far less then any of of think we do.

FergalR

I’ve thought a lot about this and it still makes my brain hurt: Jupiter gives out more energy than it receives from the Sun – surely gravity is the source of this energy?
A couple of things:
Almost 100W/m^2 is removed from earth’s surface by convection and evaporation – which obviously don’t happen on the moon. Could that explain much of the difference?
Denis Rancourt calculates from first principles that the GHE is 60K – not 33K. He lays it out here:
http://climateguy.blogspot.com/2011/12/most-downloaded-free-access-scientific.html

The core assertion is that the mass of the atmosphere varies, and this results in temperature change. Add 1 bar of CO2 to the atmosphere, or 1 bar of N2, and the results therefore should be the same. According to C. Jinan’s theory, however, the CO2-rich version would be cooler, as it radiates into space more readily. What say you?

Allan MacRae

Good stuff Ira. You do realize, however, that you views are climate heresy and you will be condemned. I keep saying that CO2 lags temperature at all measured time scales, and I keep finding burning crosses on my front lawn.
In 2002 I co-authored this article at the request of my professional association, with Sallie Baliunas and Tim Patterson:
http://www.apegga.com/members/Publications/peggs/Web11_02/kyoto_pt.htm
Our article takes a strong position on one side of the current mainstream debate on the impact of humanmade global warming.
This rancorous global warming debate has now lasted more than a decade.
During this time, our society has squandered a trillion dollars on wasteful “energy nonsense” such as wind power and corn ethanol.
I expect that we’ll experience some global cooling in the near future that will help focus the scientific debate, but some parties are already saying that increasing humanmade CO2 is causing global cooling – apparently as well as global warming – quelle surprise!
I further expect that when natural global cooling does arrive, we’ll see a flattening or even a decline in year-to-year atmospheric CO2. I believe that atmospheric CO2 lags temperature rather than leads it, although there could be a significant human component (or not). The only relationship I could find in the (average) temperature-CO2 data was that dCO2/dt varied with atmospheric temperature, and the integral CO2 lagged temperature by about 9 months. I wrote, perhaps too conclusively, about this observation in early 2008:
http://icecap.us/images/uploads/CO2vsTMacRae.pdf
My observation may be entirely true, but is high-risk, as it is outside the mainstream of the current climate debate, which focuses on the sensitivity of the climate system (aka global temperature) to increasing (humanmade) atmospheric CO2. In my opinion, this mainstream argument would require that CO2 LEADS temperature rather than LAGS it in time. The mainstream says that my observation is correct, but is really a “feedback mechanism” – I think this is essentially a religious argument that is also contrary to Occam’s Razor.
Fun science, but the odious politics is no fun at all.
Happy New Year to all!
Regards, Allan

Paul Westhaver

Terrific Article.
Well well well It seems that the pseudo scientists at the IPCC are being schooled in the concept of cause and effect. At Last.
To demonstrate this I suggest a beer study.
Take 2 bottles of beer. Place one in a cold fridge and leave the other on the counter for an hour or 2.
Open the cold one. Notice it fizzes just a little bit. Only a little of the 2.75 vol/vol of CO2 comes off.
Open the warm one. Notice that it boils over onto your counter evolving much of the CO2 that used to be in solution.
(now drink both beers, waste is a tragedy)
As ocean temperatures increase, the solubility of CO2 decreases increasing the atmospheric concentration because the CO2 is coming out of the ocean. Warming causes CO2 rise. Not the other way around.
Because the so-called AGW scientists are busy out there perverting the discipline of science, we need more Ira Glicksteins to re-teach the ideal gas law (Boyle’s law), and the laws of partial pressures Dalton’s Law and Henry’s Law.
Don’t assume the advocates of AGW understand any of what Ira wrote. They are anti-science and militant social activists.

Bill H

its the assumptions that make or break the issue..
if constant heat is applied to a pressurized gas the temp will remain constant… The earth however has convection… thus the heat from the sun never remains constant. the pressures are what drive the climate and the sun is what drives the pressure to change through convection.
i would agree that the trace gasses are a moot issue. they simply do not have the mass to drive that change. but the sun and water do…
Physics.. is a double edged sword…

PaulR

I endorse this post and deprecate the referenced post.

stumpy

I suspect the correct answer is somewhere in between, the mass of the atmosphere in itself set atmospheric pressure which adds some level of warming over planet with no atmosphere, but the GHG’s work within this framework to further raise the temperature. Also often neglected is the changing thermal emissitivty of the earth and oceans across the sun lit area of the earth, one part of the the circle is always cool from the night and absorbing energy until it reaches equilibrium (if it ever can) so it is not emitting the same amount of energy over all areas at the same rate and the calculated average is wrong as it assumes everything is in equilibrium – this is often overlooked and acts to attenuate the warmth reducing the actual peak versus that calculated which ignores this effect and leads to wrong conclusions as observed and theoretical “fit”. Its the reason is normally coolest at 5am and not around midnight and why the latter part of summer is normally warmer than the summer equinox.

R. Gates

Some excellent points, and I think that this “Unified Climate Theory”, will be fairly quickly placed into the “hmmm…interesting” dustbin of quirky science sidebars. Your desire to see the so-called “Official Climate Team” put into its proper place belies the undercurrcent of thought shared of course by many skeptics, but I fear such desires shall go unfulfilled. Greenhouse gases warm the planet above a level it would otherwise be without them. The only issue is how much warming we can exspect from a doubling of CO2 from preindustrial levels, and the key area of uncertainty here is the full nature of feedbacks, slow and fast, and more specifically the role of clouds.

RoHa

eeerr….we’re doomed?

BargHumer

Yes, some good thoughts y Ira. I guess many readers mul over the basic ideas and have questions that need answers, and also comments that can be good or just red herrings. I n the “temporary” heat increase due to pressure, I wonder why Venus doesn’t seem to demonstrate the point and it’s high temperature never seems to dissipate.

gbaikie

With gas, temperature is pressure.
The KE of the gas is pressure.
A molecule of gas traveling at 1/2 the speed of light has
no temperature or pressure.
Molecules of gas remaining in an area or molecules
of gas interacting and traveling relative to each other
at 1/2 the speed of light do have temperature and
pressure.
A gravity body has potential of keeping molecules
of gas in the same area and having them travel
at maximum speed related to the amount gravity
of that body.
If Earth had half the gravity that is has then earth’s
average surface temperature would lower.
And/or if Earth had 1/2 it’s atmospheric mass
it would be cooler.
Earth with it’s existing gravity could have more atmosphere
than it does [if it did it would be warmer]. Earth could also
have less atmosphere [if it did it would be cooler {it being
the air temperature at the surface measured in little white boxes].
So if Earth had 1/2 it’s atmosphere, the average air temperature
at it’s surface would cooler. But the ground would get more energy
per square meter than it currently does.
On the Moon and if you direct your solar panel at the sun, you
would receive solar constant flux for however long you pointed
the panel at the sun.
Compare to a 12 hour period on earth with solar panel pointing
at the sun. So with earth it’s clear day, and one has summer sun-
Sun directly over head at noon. On the earth you will receive
less half the solar energy as compare 12 hours of daylight every
where on the Moon. Moon receives 12 hours times 1361 watt,
whereas earth receives average of about 1000 watts times 6 hours
and maybe 500 watts for morning and evening hours- giving a total
of about 9 kW per square. Moon 12 hours: 16 kW per square meter.
So if Earth had 1/2 it’s current atmospheric mass it would get closer
to what the moon receives per square meter of solar flux. Earth would
closer to 1361 watts per meter and more the sunlight would be closer
to noon time intensity.
But despite this the air temperature on average would be cooler, because
the air pressure would be lower. There is half the number of molecules
per cubic meter. You could have slighter higher molecule velocity but the
total energy per cubic meter would be lower. Higher daytime sidewalk
temperature and lower air temperature.

johnpb

Whatever the eventual merits of the Unified Theory proposed are shown to be, the figures A and B above are less than convincing criticism. Contrasting an uninsulated but leak proof container in the two senarios is bogus. it is obvious that had both been perfectly insulated as well as leak proof, the results would have been identical.

Fraizer

One small quibble:
Your scenarios A and B are not really comparable.
Scenario A is really delta n >> Causes Pressure >> Causes Temperature. The temperature would indeed remain elevated if the system were adiabatic. The overall energy of the system is increased by adding molecules.
Scenario B is just a demonstration of the ideal gas law.
Regards,
F

David

Humm?, you folk are way above my pay grade. Some questions and assertions. Our atmosphere has no container, like in the “B” experiment. It is the volume of matter compressed by gravity that appears to create the medium which responds to insolation. Therefore the more masss in the atmosphere, the denser the reactive volume of matter is. (Like fuel and oyegen in a car cylinder, but contained only by gravity)
A car that revs it engine increases its heat, true that, however it also increases its water and air cooling flow. Can the earth’s heat engine do the same thing? Sure some of the energy goes to heat, but some goes to a more rapid cooling through convection and evaporation, an acceleration of the hydrologic cycle. (A negative feedback if you will)

Frank White

The point of your post is well made. I too found places where I felt the “unified theory” has holes, but skipped over them because the holes do not seem to be fatal and might be resolved by improved presentation.This was after all a poster presentation rather than a fully-developed exposition. One example, the statement of the theory mentions that the atmosphere has little heat capacity, which is true of dry air. However water vapor is one gas in the atmosphere that stores considerable energy as latent heat that is released on condensation. This be a presentation problem because the authors do consider clouds, which are condensed water vapor.
Your comments have two problematic aspects:
1) They do not address cooling since the Eocene, which the model does account for.
2) Your models A and B are completely open systems that are not reasonable analogies for planetary systems, in the sense that planetary atmospheres are subject to gravity which tends to enclose the systems with some degassing into space.
A model like this might consider drawing inspiration from a different analogy: planetary atmospheres as heat engines that vary in efficiency depending on the pressure gradients within the systems and the temperature differentials at the front and back ends of the engines. Such engines radiate heat from engine bodies and also move heat between front end and back ends. Power input to run the systems tends to heat the systems but heat losses to the environment tend to maintain temperatures constant.

Cherry Pick

Climate is a system which has multiple positive and negative feedbacks with time lags. It is quite hard to separate causes and effects because causation might go to both directions like warming > moisture > clouds > cooling. Instead of simplified cause and effects we should have systems thinking. There are multiple simultaneous equations that work seamlessly together.
In physics we love simplicity and ignore minors factors and still get great theories to describe Nature. It would be great if we can explain the observations of the climate in our solar system by thermodynamics alone.

Ira,
You say: ‘The figure shows two cases involving a sealed, non-insulated container’.
The atmosphere is not constrained in the manner that you suggest. The suggestion that density will increase in response to an increase in temperature is erroneous. In the case of a planetary body with an atmosphere that acquires more kinetic energy the density close to the surface will fall while the surface pressure remains unchanged.
If you double the number of molecules in the atmospheric column (by adding atmosphere) the surface pressure doubles, the energy from the sun that arrives on a daily basis will produce an increase in the temperature of the atmospheric medium close to the planetary surface in direct proportion to its density (via conduction and radiation). Reduce its density to non significant values and the medium can not conduct or accept radiation.So, its temperature will fall.
From the point of view of an object located within the atmospheric medium the chance of acquiring energy from the atmospheric medium is related quite simply to the density of the gaseous medium and its ability to conduct energy.

Theo Goodwin

The word ‘energy’ is ambiguous. Your analysis turns on such an ambiguity. You quote Nikolov:
“NTE should not be confused with an actual energy, however, since it only defines the relative (fractional) increase of a planet’s surface temperature above that of a SPGB. Pressure by itself is not a source of energy! Instead, it enhances (amplifies) the energy supplied by an external source such as the Sun through density-dependent rates of molecular collision. This relative enhancement only manifests as an actual energy in the presence of external heating. [Emphasis added]”
Nikolov is trying to take account of the ambiguity but he does so clumsily. In comparing NTE with the energy from the Sun, he is careful to say that the former is not an actual energy while the latter is actual energy. This is correct, as I will explain.
In the Earth-Sun system of radiation balance, no energy is created on Earth. All energy comes from the Sun. This presents a problem. What is one to say when talking about energy that is created on Earth? But we do that all the time. We say that windmills create electrical energy and we know perfectly well what we mean. And we know that we are not talking about the Earth-Sun system of radiation balance. If we want to be technical we can present the equations (physical hypotheses) that explain how windmills create energy. Now our problem of ambiguity is solved. We can subscript our words and explain that ‘energy1’ takes its meaning from the physical hypotheses that explain the Earth-Sun system of radiative energy and that ‘energy2’ takes its meaning from the physical hypotheses which explain generation of electricity. Nikolov needs to do the same.
Nikolov should specify the physical hypotheses, in this case simple equations based on the Ideal Gas Law, and explain that when he claims that energy is created from atmospheric pressure he is referring to these physical hypotheses. Unfortunately, Nikolov’s set of physical hypotheses might not pan out as he had hoped, as Dr. Glickstein explained above. But someday someone just might come up with a set of physical hypotheses which explain how energy is created within Earth’s atmosphere and apart from any consideration having to do with the Earth-Sun system of radiative balance. When that happens, we must not make the error of citing the Earth-Sun system and criticizing them for misunderstanding the concept of energy.
Warmists insist that energy cannot be created on Earth. Anyone who says otherwise is criticized as misunderstanding physics. This authoritarian insistence on definitions, if taken seriously, rules out the possibility of any system of physical hypotheses which explain creation of energy in Earth’s atmosphere. Of course it also rules out creation of electrical energy on Earth, but they would be unwilling to discuss that matter.
The lesson here is that when someone asserts that energy is created in Earth’s atmosphere, and apologizes by calling it ‘energy2’, we should not be like the Warmists and jump down his throat. Instead, we should encourage him to explicate his set of physical hypotheses and ask if we find the meaning of “create energy” in those physical hypotheses. The physical hypotheses that make up a science are always the ultimate source of the meaning of terms in that science. The terms are never the source of meaning because terms are subject to ambiguity.

Hoser

Sorry Ira, you are still confusing people. How is a pressure change temporary, but a temperature change permanent? Doesn’t it depend on how you define the system? In other words, is the system insulated against temperature flow or not? Or, can the volume increase and allow the pressure to fall after a temperature rise? There are three variables, assuming the mass is constant, in PV=nRT. Consequently, two variables can respond to a change in one.
The part I find intriguing is the apparent correlation of temperature, pressure, insolation and so on, of different solar system bodies with and without atmosphere. The post above doesn’t address these observations in any detail. In the UCT, convection was named as the prime driver of heat flow, not radiation. We know weather is a dynamic interplay of P, V and T. There is a lot of heat capacity in the ocean, and lucky we are for that. Given how quickly the surface cools on a clear night, I’m not convinced a change in IR absorption due to a rise in atmospheric CO2 has made any difference at all. My cars still get just as frosty radiating to clear fall and winter night skies as they did 30+ years ago.
Let’s not forget the dynamics of our system. Rising moist air cools and produces clouds. Rain falls and cools the surface. Wind blows and drives masses of air of different temperatures around the planet. The sunlit side of Earth warms and the night side cools. Too many of us believe we live in a static world. It is easier to think that way. It just isn’t how living systems work, or more generally, how systems work where energy flows.
I hate to say it, but modeling might help. A first approximation is the rate of heating in the day versus the rate of cooling at night. Or, with somewhat more complexity, energy is absorbed at the surface, and its temperature rises. Subsequently, the atmosphere heats either by contact with the surface or by water vapor leaving the surface (cooling the surface, but heating the air). The dynamically balanced rates of heating and cooling between day and night lead us to think of an average temperature, but the temperature is constantly changing, as are P and V, locally. Day and night, energy from the Earth radiates to space. NZ suggest changes in IR absorption and reradiation may be a virtually insignificant component in the energy flow of our system.
The part not discussed is gravity. That force sets up the pressure gradient. Until the temperature falls sufficiently to liquefy N2 and O2, insolation, surface area, atmospheric mass, and gravity may very well establish a sort of equilibrium described by the observed curve. Other changes perturb the system like moving weights connected by springs. A centroid of motion would exist, considered the average. Changes in P, V and T deviating from the average could be called weather. If the weight masses change or the spring constants change, or the driving force changes, perhaps call that climate change. The UCT addressed the latter by suggesting atmospheric mass changes over millions of years led to sea level pressure and temperature changes.
Yes, we all need to think about these ideas further, but it seems NZ are on the right track.

jorgekafkazar

FergalR says: “I’ve thought a lot about this and it still makes my brain hurt: Jupiter gives out more energy than it receives from the Sun – surely gravity is the source of this energy?”
My astronomy professor said it was likely radioactivity, Fergal. There was a school of thought that Jupiter was approaching the limit of planetary mass. It hasn’t gone stellar on us yet, 2001 A Space Odyssey, notwithstanding.

Theo Goodwin says:
December 29, 2011 at 11:59 pm

Theo, your intent is laudable, but I think you get hoist on your own petard. The ‘energy2’ of which you speak is transformation from one form to another, not creation. So would be any possible future on-Earth energy source, even nuclear or fission, etc.
As for atmospheric temperature changes, I think a fair simplification per N&Z’s POV would be that whatever energy is present in a given mass of air can be concentrated (pressure and density) or diluted (expansion, rarification), resulting in temperature variations locally or globally. But the ‘master forcing variable’ is atmosphere mass.

typo: “nuclear (fission) or fusion”

other typo: rarefication (rarefaction)

gbaikie

“Nevertheless, I congratulate Nikolov and Zeller for having the courage and tenacity to put this theory forward. Perhaps it will trigger some other alternative theory that will be more successful.”
What theory is needed and for what?
I believe it would nice and useful if we had a theory allowing us to predict habitable zones
for any star system. I think if Nikolov, Zeller, or anyone else wants to apply their theory, I would like their input on modeling at atmosphere of dwarf planet starship:
http://w11.zetaboards.com/Sky_dragon/index/
For purpose of climate policy it seems to me we enough knowledge.
We currently in a warm period. This warm period wasn’t caused by
human activity. The amount of warming caused by humans is insignificant
globally. Human activity does cause a significant amount warming
on local or regional basis. This is loosely called Urban Heat Island affect.
Human could not cause significant global warming or cooling, if they
were trying to do this. We lack the technology and wealth to cause
global warming or cooling by say 10 C. And probably unable to change
global temperature by a mere 1 C.
Due to our apparent incompetence we see ourselves in an automobile
as passenger traveling down a road-having no able to control the car,
and this causes backseat driverism.
If we can drive this car, we would not be panicking.
Fortunately, we don’t actually need to control global temperatures, but
if we did need to do this, we wouldn’t hire the current crop clowns attempting
to do this by amateur hour soapboxing.
To summarize the human species has been existing in ice age period lasting
million of years. Some theories suggest that this cold period “explains” how we
evolved as humans. But few deny we have been in this colder period for
millions of years, or that during this period there been shorter periods of
warming and cooling, which called glacial and interglacial periods.
A significant aspect involved with this cold period and it’s cyclical cooling
and warming is explainable due to the location of land masses. The slow
movement of plate tectonic relates to the millions of years of colder climate.
The short cycles are related to orbital variation- specifically earth’s axis
procession. Those affects due to plate tectonic and procession are not
wild ideas, rather they are accepted. The amount or scale of these affects
can be quibbled about, but there general dominates is undeniable scientific
facts. And one has to start with these as one’s starting point.
A very relevant fact in regard to 20th and 21st century climate is we recovering
from cool period which was probably caused by the Sun’s activity, period
is called the Little Ice Age. The LIA is clearly marked by advancement and retreat
of glaciers around the world. And generally the present global temperatures
indicate we have or nearly have recovered globally from this period of cooler
temperatures.

Bruce Cunningham

As a few others have stated, your analogy with a planetary system is not valid for the ideal gas law. The atmospheres of Earth and Venus are not contained in a fixed volume container. They are open to space. If you raise the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, it merely expands upward into space. The pressure will not go up as it would in a container. This is borne out in the fact that the atmosphere is far taller at the equator than at the poles, due to the increased temperature there, even though the surface pressures are the same. Some mountain climbers know this as there is far less oxygen at 20,000 feet at the top of Mt. McKinley than at 20,000 feet in the Himalayas or Andes nearer the equator..McKinley is a tough climb. Much tougher than a climb to 20,320 feet in the Himalayas.

Stephen Wilde

I think that Ira has misunderstood. The cause of the heating at the surface is gravity constraining molecular kinetic energy most strongly at the bottom of the atmospheric column by creating pressure. Work is done and heat generated due to the kinetic energy fighting to overcome the gravitational and pressure constraint.
Pressure is a consequence of gravity acting on the mass of molecules and at a specific temperature the kinetic energy manages to defeat the pressure constraint and escape to space.
Adding GHGs inroduces more kinetic energy by virtue of their higher thermal capacity but if the pressure remains the same that extra kinetic energy just escapes to space faster and temperature (or rather the energy content of the mass of molecules) fails to increase.
To put that in a more general context:
i) AGW theory states that the greenhouse effect is caused by gases in the air with a high thermal capacity warming the surface by radiating energy downwards.
ii) The Nikolov paper describes the greenhouse effect in the way I have always understood it i.e. ALL the molecules near the surface (of whatever thermal capacity) jostle more tightly together under the influence of gravity (and the pressure that it induces) and share kinetic activity (provoked initially by solar irradiation but actually being a consequence of all energy transfer mechanisms combined) amongst one another until that kinetic energy can escape to space by radiative means albeit slightly delayed by all the jostling about.The delay results in a temperature rise because more energy is packed into a smaller space by the effects of gravity and the consequent pressure.
The beauty of ii) is that it decouples the greenhouse effect from the matter of composition leaving atmospheric density as the controlling factor at any given level of solar irradiation. It is the matter of composition that so distresses AGW proponents but in fact it is irrelevant. ALL molecules at or near the surface are involved whether they be GHGs or not.
There has been some confusion caused by Harry Huffman, Claes Johnson and others by virtue of their contention that there is no greenhouse effect when actually they mean that i) above is untrue whilst they accept ii) to be true (I think).
So there is a greenhouse effect but it is not significantly affected by GHGs. In so far as GHGs do have an effect it is negated by faster removal of energy to space by various means (especially evaporation on a water planet) because pressure places a limit on the amount of kinetic energy that can be retained by gases at the surface and as soon as that limit is reached the excess energy immediately leaves the system by whatever means is most readily available.
.

Roger Knights

However all this shakes out, we’re not dealing with “simple physics.” What an absurdity.

TBear

Sorry, but the suggested logic: Accident >>CAUSES>> Traffic Jam >>CAUSES>> Police is the correct interpretation, is manifestly inadequate.
Accident >> causes >> traffic Jam A, which traffic jam has theoretical life cycle of its own.
Accident >> causes >> taffic jam A, Plus Police >> causes >> traffic jam B, which traffic jam has a unique life cycle all of its own and which may be radically different (the police certainly hope so!) than traffic jam A.
Love the WUWT blog, but have to rush off for a cold beer, as it has finally warmed a little in Sydney!!
Oh, Happy New Year everyone,
The Bear

Mark.r

I thought warm air was lighter than cold so how dose wamer air have a higher pressure cold.
As air warms it get ligher or have i got it wrong?.

Philip Mulholland

Ira
You say:

In case (A) Pressure >>CAUSES A TEMPORARY>> increase in Temperature.
In case (B) Temperature >>CAUSES A PERMANENT>> increase in Pressure

I say:
In case (A) a PERMANENT increase in Pressure >>CAUSES A TEMPORARY>> increase in Temperature.
In case (B) a PERMANENT increase in Temperature >>CAUSES A PERMANENT>> increase in Pressure
Amounts to the same thing? Well of course, but what my statements emphasise is that in a gravitationally bound planetary atmosphere there is a balancing relationship between potential energy and kinetic energy. Note that potential energy (mgh) makes no mention of particle velocity (temperature) whereas kinetic energy (1/2mv^2) makes no mention of particle position.
Gravitationally bound planetary atmospheres store energy because the lower layers are compressed by the weight of the atmospheric mass bearing down on them from above.

Athelstan

Oh the gates are open, feedbacks, er no, clouds,water vapour – good, next you’ll be on about ‘hotspots’.

Mark.r

The Poles have higher airpressure than the equator.

Sorry, Ira, but you have constructed a straw man refutation of the Nikolov & Zeller paper by erroneously comparing a planetary atmosphere to a bounded container when it is patently not…
“…It (our atmosphere) is fully contained only at the bottom. At the top, it is partially contained by the ionosphere and then the magnetosphere. And to the sides it is partially contained by the nature of the shell.
The gas cannot escape to the side, that is, but it can more easily be deflected to the side, since only other gas is resisting it. There are no walls to the side. Unless the gas is very dense, sideways freedom is nearly infinite (as a gravitational curve). Since the atmosphere is not very dense, we may imagine that the gas is nearly unconstrained “to the side,” this “side” being a full 360 degrees no matter where in the gas you are. In this way, the atmosphere is freer to move to the side than up and down. One obvious side-effect of this is winds, which more often move laterally than up and down…”
If you want a better understanding of how atmosphere works, have a look here…
http://milesmathis.com/atmo.html

Phil

The most important point about the Unified Climate Theory is that it exposes an assumption in CAGW theory that may not be true: that the mass of the atmosphere is or has been constant over geologic time. The logical source of gases that would increase the mass of the atmosphere is volcanism. About 60 to 65 million years ago, there was apparently a great deal of volcanic activity, as evidenced by the Deccan Traps. If you refer to Figure 8 in the Unified Climate Theory post, the increased volcanism evidenced by the Deccan Traps appears to have happened in the period before global temperatures increased. Whether the volcanic emissions then were sufficiently large to materially increase Earth’s total atmospheric mass is a good question. Just food for thought. Also important is the loss of atmosphere in geologic time proposed in the UCT as influencing cooling in the recent geologic past. However, loss of atmosphere would probably not be relevant at century scales of time.

John Marshall

This ‘new’ theory, in reality a rewrite of old theories forgotten in the route to political correct policies by governments and the scientists in their pockets. It is good to see that courage to reveal what is actually happening has overcome the norm of following everyone else down the road of lies.
There is so many research papers available pointing the way for this excellent paper to be published. Let us hope that the correct people actually read and understand it to make a difference and change all the policies riding on the back of the GHG lies.

Willis Eschenbach

Man, this kind of nonsense makes my head ache. When I read things like …

Atmospheric Near-Surface Thermal Enhancement should not be confused with an actual energy, however, since it only defines the relative (fractional) increase of a planet’s surface temperature above that of a Standard Planetary Gray Body. Pressure by itself is not a source of energy! Instead, it enhances (amplifies) the energy supplied by an external source such as the Sun through density-dependent rates of molecular collision. This relative enhancement only manifests as an actual energy in the presence of external heating.

I defy anyone to tell me what that means. It’s not energy, just a “relative enhancement” but it “manifests itself as an actual energy in the presence of external heating”.
Say what? Do people just swallow that content-free doubletalk in one big gulp, or is it easier to keep from gagging if you down it a word at a time?
I was quite depressed to see the Nikolov claims published on WUWT, but I didn’t comment on that thread. Like I said, it makes my head hurt to read this kind of handwaving. Very bad science, no cookies.
Thanks, Ira,
w.

Mike McMillan

You’ve missed the point of the Nikolov and Zeller presentation.
The energy coming into a planetary atmospheric system is a combination of solar proximity and albedo, and is equal to the outgoing. What we and they are concerned with is not the transport of that energy, but the distribution of it within the atmosphere, as thermal energy at the surface, converting to potential energy as we go higher in the atmosphere. Thermometers measure the distribution, not the movement.
Nikolov and Zeller doesn’t have anything to do with “increased pressure” or “increased temperature” shown in your illustration and experiment. We aren’t increasing anything. Atmospheric temperatures and pressures are stable, arranged according to the lapse rate, or when upset, attempt to return to the lapse rate schedule.
Nikolov and Zeller have shown that an uncomplicated formula based on surface pressure and adiabatic lapse rates accurately predicts observed temperatures on four planets. Greenhouse gases aren’t needed.
To really raise temperatures, then, you would need not ghg’s, but either an increase in solar input, or a change in the lapse rate, which is determined by planetary gravity and atmospheric specific heat. Gravity isn’t changing on earth, and it would take much more CO2 than even Dr Hansen is contemplating to change the air’s specific heat to the point where it would make any difference in the lapse rate.
——————–
PV = nRT doesn’t work well with atmospheres because the gradual fade to vacuum at the top makes it impossible to define the volume, and the equation doesn’t take gravity into account. Even in a closed container, the gas pressure at the bottom of the container is higher that at the top due to the weight of the gas.

Ira Glickstein,
I read the “UCT” by Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller in terms of a scientific paper explaining long term climatic events not as an explanation of any sort of correlations. As temperature is of consequence incurred between the processes of pressure interactions not as cause or effect, remove the result from the process and the process will still be there, I’m not saying your interpretation is wrong, I understand what your explaining and I agree, just that any measurement (such as temperature) of an on going process does not explain the process, I’d like to see less use of “temperature” in scientific papers as a cause or effect or as part of a conclusion because it is after all just a temporary aperture from the start and end point of measurement, also temperature measurements could be then used as an indicator, but only once a process is understood, but I still believe temperature can not be used an indicator for trends in long term climatic changes as it would be like trying to count all the hairs on a persons head by plucking a random amount at a time, counting them and trending the amount of hairs.
I’m a bit rushed this morning, very interesting, lots of ideas and counter debate that I could read for hours.

Mydogsgotnonose

I wrote yesterday that this paper re-invents lapse rate heating.
3/10 for effort.

AusieDan

Dr. Glickstein – you state that the average temperature of the moon is 250 degrees absolute.
Dr. Nikolov and Dr. Zeller – you state that it is 150 degrees absolute.
Which is correct?

Edward Bancroft

Fraizer says:
“Your scenarios A and B are not really comparable.
Scenario A is really delta n >> Causes Pressure >> Causes Temperature. The temperature would indeed remain elevated if the system were adiabatic. The overall energy of the system is increased by adding molecules.
Scenario B is just a demonstration of the ideal gas law.”

There is also another issue with the scenario A, in the way that you increase the pressure of the container. The pressure source will be at a higher pressure than the container and if it is at the same temperature as the container gas, it will lose temperature on expansion into the container. The net result is a container with higher pressure, but lower temperature.
For the sake of your argument, it would be better if scenario A increases its pressure and temperature by reducing the volume, for example a piston in a cylinder. It would also have the advantage of also keeping ‘n’ the same for scenarios A and B.

Stephen Wilde

I am puzzled by the debate here about ‘creation’ of energy within the Earth system.
Surely it is obvious that when solar irradiation reacts with matter constrained within the Earth’s gravitational field there will be a conversion of some of that solar irradiation to kinetic energy (vibrational movement of the molecules) and some of that energy to heat.?
The proportions are pressure dependent.
In the absence of gravitationally induced pressure ALL the solar irradiance would get converted to kinetic energy instantly and the molecules would fly off into space.
The higher the gravitationally induced pressure the more kinetic energy is required to break the gravitational bond between the body of the Earth and the molecules of gas.Thus one observes more heat as evidenced by a higher temperature.
At Earth’s atmospheric pressure of 1 bar some goes to kinetic energy and some to heat and it is that atmospheric pressure which determines the proportions. That isn’t ‘creation’ of heat or of ‘new’ energy. It is simply an apportionment of the solar irradiation into different forms dependent on the prevailing level of gravitationally induced pressure.
That is the true greenhouse effect as I have always understood it and it is therefore pressure dependent and not composition dependent.
If the gas molecules have a higher thermal capacity then those specific molecules will accrue more kinetic energy than others and add disproportionately to the pool of kinetic energy that is available to defeat the gravitationally induced pressure which is restraining their exit to space.
However if pressure does not change then the only outcome will be more radiation to space and NOT a rise in system energy content.That increased radiation to space is achieved by energising ALL the available means of energy transfer namely conduction, convection, radiation and on a water planet the phase changes of water which greatly accelerates the efficiency of the other energy transfer mechanisms.
As Nikolov says, the effects of GHGs are thus cancelled out.
One does however observe that faster outflow of energy from the watery Earth due to GHGs in the form of a larger or faster water cycle which brings me to my broader work available elsewhere.
Nonetheless that faster outflow of energy from more GHGs is infinitesimal compared to the consequences of solar and oceanic variability as I have explained in detail previously.

thetempestspark

R. Gates says:
December 29, 2011 at 11:04 pm
“Greenhouse gases warm the planet above a level it would otherwise be without them. The only issue is how much warming we can exspect from a doubling of CO2 from preindustrial levels, and the key area of uncertainty here is the full nature of feedbacks, slow and fast, and more specifically the role of clouds.”
If you took two quantities of CO2 of equal volume, both quantities had a temperature of 1°C and mixed them both together what would the temperature be as a result of doubling one quantity of CO2 with the other?

AusieDan

Dr. Glickstein – when a gas is heated, it tends to rise.
Gravity exerts a counter force, trying to pull it down.
In so rising, work is done.
The temperature of the gas increases.
As the gas rises, it has more room, as each succeding layer of the atmosphere has a larger dimaeter.
An expanding gas gives up heat.
Half of this is radiated out to space, half reflected back down (to simplify).
The cooled air declines and is replaced by warmer air which in turn etc etc.
Is this not why the atmosphere is warmer nearer the surface than higher up.
The circulation is a perpetual motion maching, fuelled by the incoming radiation from the sun.
So in a laboratory, a gas that has been pressured and left, will cool down again, because the work done in compressing it is ended.
In the atmosphere the process never ends.
That is why it is hotter lower down in a real world atmosphere.

gbaikie

Frank White says: “One example, the statement of the theory mentions that the atmosphere has little heat capacity, which is true of dry air. However water vapor is one gas in the atmosphere that stores considerable energy as latent heat that is released on condensation. ”
The atmospheric mass of earth is 5.1 x 10^18 kg with air molecules traveling at around
500 meters per second [1000 mph- each molecule travels very short distance and time before hitting another molecule. http://www.ems.psu.edu/~bannon/moledyn.html ].
Or the heat or energy required to cause 5.1 x 10^18 kg mass traveling at 500 meters per second is 1/2 mass times velocity squared.
6.3 x 10^23 joules.
So this being roughly amount energy needed to raise that much quantity of oxygen or nitrogen gas from near absolute zero to 270 K. [from gas molecules moving slow, up to speeds they are currently moving at]
In comparison the Sun’s total energy is 174 petawatts [wiki]. Petawatt (10^15 watts) and
so 1.74 x 10^17 watts. So energy needed would be 3.6 x 10^6 seconds [1000 hrs- 41 days].
So if sun defying physic become a blackhole or simply disappears, the atmosphere without considering heat capacity of land, ocean, and water vapor, and so just the air capacity would remain somewhat warm for about week- average temperature would drop at most by 49 K. So basically you have at least week before things got really interesting- by interesting I mean winter polar region having the sky collapse and liquifying and possibility of snowfall in the tropics.

Please Do Not Make Stuff Up As You Go Along

erl happ says:
December 29, 2011 at 11:52 pm
“Reduce its density to non significant values and the medium can not conduct or accept radiation.So, its temperature will fall.”
The thermosphere has an insignificant density and it’s temperature is reaches into the thousands of degrees.
What’s up with that, Erl?
PLEASE do not make stuff up as you go along. THINK McFly!

Ah, the big guns of the lukewarmer camp are out in force today. 🙂
More work and more clarification of terms is definitely needed, but I sense value in the work of Nikolov and Zeller.
I wonder if we might find yet another mechanism amplifying solar variation lurking in this somewhere…
“Of course, one would expect planets and moons in our Solar system to have some similarities.”
Indeed, despite the large variation in their atmospheric compositions.
The observations of late C20th changes on Mars got the ‘we have to get rid of the medieval warm period’ treatment, but this shouldn’t be allowed to deter investigators. Neither should statements such as:
“Do people just swallow that content-free doubletalk in one big gulp, or is it easier to keep from gagging if you down it a word at a time?”
Content free condemnation has little value. I don’t have a problem understanding what Nikolov and Zeller are saying in the passage quoted by Willis. They are simply explaining why it is that in a gravity well supplied with external power, the more highly compressed gas near the surface will be warmer than expected by a gray body calc which doesn’t take atmospheric pressure gradients into account. Simples.