Unified Theory of Climate

Note: This was a poster, and adopted into a blog post by the author, Ned Nikolov, specifically for WUWT. My thanks to him for the extra effort in converting the poster to a more blog friendly format. – Anthony

Expanding the Concept of Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect Using Thermodynamic Principles: Implications for Predicting Future Climate Change

Ned Nikolov, Ph.D. & Karl Zeller, Ph.D.

USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fort Collins CO, USA

Emails: ntconsulting@comcast.net kzeller@colostate.edu

Poster presented at the Open Science Conference of the World Climate Research Program,

24 October 2011, Denver CO, USA



We present results from a new critical review of the atmospheric Greenhouse (GH) concept. Three main problems are identified with the current GH theory. It is demonstrated that thermodynamic principles based on the Gas Law need be invoked to fully explain the Natural Greenhouse Effect. We show via a novel analysis of planetary climates in the solar system that the physical nature of the so-called GH effect is a Pressure-induced Thermal Enhancement (PTE), which is independent of the atmospheric chemical composition. This finding leads to a new and very different paradigm of climate controls. Results from our research are combined with those from other studies to propose a new Unified Theory of Climate, which explains a number of phenomena that the current theory fails to explain. Implications of the new paradigm for predicting future climate trends are briefly discussed.

1. Introduction

Recent studies revealed that Global Climate Models (GCMs) have significantly overestimated the Planet’s warming since 1979 failing to predict the observed halt of global temperature rise over the past 13 years. (e.g. McKitrick et al. 2010). No consensus currently exists as to why the warming trend ceased in 1998 despite a continued increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration. Moreover, the CO2-temperature relationship shows large inconsistencies across time scales. In addition, GCM projections heavily depend on positive feedbacks, while satellite observations indicate that the climate system is likely governed by strong negative feedbacks (Lindzen & Choi 2009; Spencer & Braswell 2010). At the same time, there is a mounting political pressure for Cap-and-Trade legislation and a global carbon tax, while scientists and entrepreneurs propose geo-engineering solutions to cool the Planet that involve large-scale physical manipulation of the upper atmosphere. This unsettling situation calls for a thorough reexamination of the present climate-change paradigm; hence the reason for this study.

2.  The Greenhouse Effect: Reexamining the Basics


Figure 1. The Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect as taught at universities around the World (diagram from the website of the Penn State University Department of Meteorology).

According to the current theory, the Greenhouse Effect (GHE) is a radiative phenomenon caused by heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere such as CO2 and water vapor that are assumed to reduce the rate of surface infrared cooling to Space by absorbing the outgoing long-wave (LW) emission and re-radiating part of it back, thus increasing the total energy flux toward the surface. This is thought to boost the Earth’s temperature by 18K – 33K compared to a gray body with no absorbent atmosphere such as the Moon; hence making our Planet habitable. Figure 1 illustrates this concept using a simple two-layer system known as the Idealized Greenhouse Model (IGM). In this popular example, S is the top-of-the atmosphere (TOA) solar irradiance (W m-2), A is the Earth shortwave albedo, Ts is the surface temperature (K), Te is the Earth’s effective emission temperature (K) often equated with the mean temperature of middle troposphere, ϵ is emissivity, and σ is the Stefan-Boltzmann (S-B) constant.

2.1. Main Issues with the Current GHE Concept:

A) Magnitude of the Natural Greenhouse Effect. GHE is often quantified as a difference between the actual mean global surface temperature (Ts = 287.6K) and the planet’s average gray-body (no-atmosphere) temperature (Tgb), i.e. GHE = Ts Tgb. In the current theory, Tgb is equated with the effective emission temperature (Te) calculated straight from the S-B Law using Eq. (1):


where αp is the planetary albedo of Earth (≈0.3). However, this is conceptually incorrect! Due to Hölder’s inequality between non-linear integrals (Kuptsov 2001), Te is not physically compatible with a measurable true mean temperature of an airless planet. To be correct, Tgb must be computed via proper spherical integration of the planetary temperature field. This means calculating the temperature at every point on the Earth sphere first by taking the 4th root from the S-B relationship and then averaging the resulting temperature field across the planet surface, i.e.


where αgb is the Earth’s albedo without atmosphere (≈0.125), μ is the cosine of incident solar angle at any point, and cs= 13.25e-5 is a small constant ensuring that Tgb = 2.72K (the temperature of deep Space) when So = 0. Equation (2) assumes a spatially constant albedo (αgb), which is a reasonable approximation when trying to estimate an average planetary temperature.

Since in accordance with Hölder’s inequality TgbTe (Tgb =154.3K ), GHE becomes much larger than presently estimated.

According to Eq. (2), 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.

B) Role of Convection. The conceptual model in Fig. 1 can be mathematically described by the following simultaneous Equations (3),


where νa is the atmospheric fraction of the total shortwave radiation absorption. Figure 2 depicts the solution to Eq. (3) for temperatures over a range of atmospheric emissivities (ϵ) assuming So = 1366 W m-2 and νa =0.326 (Trenberth et al. 2009). An increase in atmospheric emissivity does indeed cause a warming at the surface as stated by the current theory. However, Eq. (3) is physically incomplete, because it does not account for convection, which occurs simultaneously with radiative transfer. Adding a convective term to Eq. (3) (such as a sensible heat flux) yields the system:


where gbH is the aerodynamic conductance to turbulent heat exchange. Equation (4) dramatically alters the solution to Eq. (3) by collapsing the difference between Ts, Ta and Te and virtually erasing the GHE (Fig. 3). This is because convective cooling is many orders of magnitude more efficient that radiative cooling. These results do not change when using multi-layer models. In radiative transfer models, Ts increases with ϵ not as a result of heat trapping by greenhouse gases, but due to the lack of convective cooling, thus requiring a larger thermal gradient to export the necessary amount of heat. Modern GCMs do not solve simultaneously radiative transfer and convection. This decoupling of heat transports is the core reason for the projected surface warming by GCMs in response to rising atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations. Hence, the predicted CO2-driven global temperature change is a model artifact!


Figure 2. Solution to the two-layer model in Eq. (3) for Ts and Ta as a function of atmospheric emissivity assuming a non-convective atmosphere. Also shown is the predicted down-welling LW flux(Ld). Note that Ld ≤ 239 W m-2.


Figure 3. Solution to the two-layer model in Eq. (4) for Ts and Ta as a function of atmospheric emissivity assuming a convective atmosphere (gbH = 0.075 m/s). Also shown is the predicted down-welling LW flux (Ld). Note that Ld ≤ 239 W m-2.


Figure 4. According to observations, the Earth-Atmosphere System absorbs on average a net solar flux of 239 W m-2, while the lower troposphere alone emits 343 W m-2 thermal radiation toward the surface.

C) Extra Kinetic Energy in the Troposphere.

Observations show that the lower troposphere emits 44% more radiation toward the surface than the total solar flux absorbed by the entire Earth-Atmosphere System (Pavlakis et al. 2003) (Fig. 4). Radiative transfer alone cannot explain this effect (e.g. Figs. 2 & 3) given the negligible heat storage capacity of air, no matter how detailed the model is. Thus, empirical evidence indicates that the lower atmosphere contains more kinetic energy than provided by the Sun. Understanding the origin of this extra energy is a key to the GHE.

3. The Atmospheric Thermal Enhancement

Previous studies have noted that the term Greenhouse Effect is a misnomer when applied to the atmosphere, since real greenhouses retain heat through an entirely different mechanism compared to the free atmosphere, i.e. by physically trapping air mass and restricting convective heat exchange. Hence, we propose a new term instead, Near-surface Atmospheric Thermal Enhancement (ATE) defined as a non-dimensional ratio (NTE) of the 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. This new definition emphasizes the essence of GHE, which is the temperature boost at the surface due to the presence of an atmosphere. We employ Eq. (2) to estimate Tgb assuming an albedo αgb = 0.12 and a surface emissivity ϵ = 0.955 for the SPGB based on data for Moon, Mercury, and the Earth surface. Using So = 1362 W m-2 (Kopp & Lean 2011) in Eq. (2) yields Tgb = 154.3K and NTE = 287.6/154.3 = 1.863 for Earth. This prompts the question: What mechanism enables our atmosphere to boost the planet surface temperature some 86% above that of a SPGB? To answer it we turn on to the classical Thermodynamics.

3.1. Climate Implications of the Ideal Gas Law

The average thermodynamic state of a planet’s atmosphere can be accurately described by the Ideal Gas Law (IGL):

PV = nRT (5)

where P is pressure (Pa), V is the gas volume (m3), n is the gas amount (mole), R = 8.314 J K-1 mol-1is the universal gas constant, and T is the gas temperature (K). Equation (5) has three features that are chiefly important to our discussion: a) the product P×V defines the internal kinetic energy of a gas (measured in Jules) that produces its temperature; b) the linear relationship in Eq. (5) guarantees that a mean global temperature can be accurately estimated from planetary averages of surface pressure and air volume (or density). This is in stark contrast to the non-linear relationship between temperature and radiant fluxes (Eq. 1) governed by Hölder’s inequality of integrals; c) on a planetary scale, pressure in the lower troposphere is effectively independent of other variables in Eq. (5) and is only a function of gravity (g), total atmospheric mass (Mat), and the planet surface area (As), i.e. Ps = g Mat/As. Hence, the near-surface atmospheric dynamics can safely be assumed to be governed (over non-geological time scales) by nearly isobaric processes on average, i.e. operating under constant pressure. This isobaric nature of tropospheric thermodynamics implies that the average atmospheric volume varies in a fixed proportion to changes in the mean surface air temperature following the Charles/Gay-Lussac Law, i.e. Ts/V = const. This can be written in terms of the average air density ρ (kg m-3) as

ρTs = const. = Ps M / R (6)

where Ps is the mean surface air pressure (Pa) and M is the molecular mass of air (kg mol-1). Eq. (6) reveals an important characteristic of the average thermodynamic process at the surface, namely that a variation of global pressure due to either increase or decrease of total atmospheric mass will alter both temperature and atmospheric density. What is presently unknown is the differential effect of a global pressure change on each variable. We offer a solution to this in & 3.3. Equations (5) and (6) imply that pressure directly controls the kinetic energy and temperature of the atmosphere. Under equal solar insolation, a higher surface pressure (due to a larger atmospheric mass) would produce a warmer troposphere, while a lower pressure would result in a cooler troposphere. At the limit, a zero pressure (due to the complete absence of an atmosphere) would yield the planet’s gray-body temperature.

The thermal effect of pressure is vividly demonstrated on a cosmic scale by the process of star formation, where gravity-induced rise of gas pressure boosts the temperature of an interstellar cloud to the threshold of nuclear fusion. At a planetary level, the effect is manifest in Chinook winds, where adiabatically heated downslope airflow raises the local temperature by 20C-30C in a matter of hours. This leads to a logical question: Could air pressure be responsible for the observed thermal enhancement at the Earth surface presently known as a ‘Natural Greenhouse Effect’? To answer this we must analyze the relationship between NTEfactor and key atmospheric variables including pressure over a wide range of planetary climates. Fortunately, our solar system offers a suitable spectrum of celestial bodies for such analysis.

3.2. Interplanetary Data Set

We based our selection of celestial bodies for the ATE analysis on three criteria: 1) presence of a solid planetary surface with at least traces of atmosphere; 2) availability of reliable data on surface temperature, total pressure, atmospheric composition etc. preferably from direct measurements; and 3) representation of a wide range of atmospheric masses and compositions. This approach resulted in choosing of four planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars, and four natural satellites – Moon of Earth, Europa of Jupiter, Titan of Saturn, and Triton of Neptune. Each celestial body was described by 14 parameters listed in Table 1.

For planets with tangible atmospheres, i.e. Venus, Earth and Mars, the temperatures calculated from IGL agreed rather well with observations. Note that, for extremely low pressures such as on Mercury and Moon, the Gas Law produces Ts ≈ 0.0. The SPGB temperatures for each celestial body were estimated from Eq. (2) using published data on solar irradiance and assuming αgb = 0.12 and ϵ = 0.955. For Mars, global means of surface temperature and air pressure were calculated from remote sensing data retrieved via the method of radio occultation by the Radio Science Team (RST) at Stanford University using observations by the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft from 1999 to 2005. Since the MGS RST analysis has a wide spatial coverage, the new means represent current average conditions on the Red Planet much more accurately than older data based on Viking’s spot observations from 1970s.

Table 1. Planetary data used to analyze the physical nature of the Atmospheric Near-Surface Thermal Enhancement (NTE). Information was gathered from multiple sources using cross-referencing. The bottom three rows of data were estimated in this study using equations discussed in the text.

3.3. Physical Nature of ATE / GHE

Our analysis of interplanetary data in Table 1 found no meaningful relationships between ATE (NTE) and variables such as total absorbed solar radiation by planets or the amount of greenhouse gases in their atmospheres. However, we discovered that NTE was strongly related to total surface pressure through a nearly perfect regression fit via the following nonlinear function:


where Ps is in Pa. Figure 5 displays Eq. (7) graphically. The tight relationship signals a causal effect of pressure on NTE, which is theoretically supported by the IGL (see & 3.1). Also, the PsNTE curve in Fig. 5 strikingly resembles the response of the temperature/potential temp. (T/θ) ratio to altitudinal changes of pressure described by the well-known Poisson formula derived from IGL (Fig. 6). Such a similarity in responses suggests that both NTE and θ embody the effect of pressure-controlled adiabatic heating on air, even though the two mechanisms are not identical. This leads to a fundamental conclusion that the ‘Natural Greenhouse Effect’ is in fact a Pressure-induced Thermal Enhancement (PTE) in nature.

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. Thus, Earth and Titan have similar NTE values, yet their absolute surface temperatures are very different due to vastly dissimilar solar insolation. While pressure (P) controls the magnitude of the enhancement factor, solar heating determines the average atmospheric volume (V), and the product P×V defines the total kinetic energy and temperature of the atmosphere. Therefore, for particular solar insolation, the NTE factor gives rise to extra kinetic energy in the lower atmosphere beyond the amount supplied by the Sun. This additional energy is responsible for keeping the Earth surface 133K warmer than it would be in the absence of atmosphere, and is the source for the observed 44% extra down-welling LW flux in the lower troposphere (see &2.1 C). Hence, 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!

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, i.e.



Figure 5. Atmospheric near-surface Thermal Enhancement (NTE) as a function of mean total surface pressure (Ps) for 8 celestial bodies listed in Table 1. See Eq. (7) for the exact mathematical formula.


Figure 6. Temperature/potential temperature ratio as a function of atmospheric pressure according to the Poisson formula based on the Gas Law (Po = 100 kPa.). Note the striking similarity in shape with the curve in Fig. 5.

where NTE(Ps) is defined by Eq. (7). Equation (8) almost completely explains the variation of Ts among analyzed celestial bodies, thus providing a needed function to parse the effect of a global pressure change on the dependent variables ρ and Tsin Eq. (6). Together Equations (6) and (8) imply that the chemical composition of an atmosphere affects average air density through the molecular mass of air, but has no impact on the mean surface temperature.

4. Implications of the new ATE Concept

The implications of the above findings are numerous and paradigm-altering. These are but a few examples:


Figure 7. Dynamics of global temperature and 12-month forward shifted cloud cover types from satellite observations. Cloud changes precede temperature variations by 6 to 24 months and appear to have been controlling the latter during the past 30 years (Nikolov & Zeller, manuscript).

A) Global surface temperature is independent of the down-welling LW flux known as greenhouse or back radiation, because both quantities derive from the same pool of atmospheric kinetic energy maintained by solar heating and air pressure. Variations in the downward LW flux (caused by an increase of tropospheric emissivity, for example) are completely counterbalanced (offset) by changes in the rate of surface convective cooling, for this is how the system conserves its internal energy.

B) Modifying chemical composition of the atmosphere cannot alter the system’s total kinetic energy, hence the size of ATE (GHE). This is supported by IGL and the fact that planets of vastly different atmospheric composition follow the same PsNTE relationship in Fig. 5. The lack of impact by the atmospheric composition on surface temperature is explained via the compensating effect of convective cooling on back-radiation discussed above.

C) Equation (8) suggests that the planet’s albedo is largely a product of climate rather than a driver of it. This is because the bulk of the albedo is a function of the kinetic energy supplied by the Sun and the atmospheric pressure. However, independent small changes in albedo are possible and do occur owning to 1%-3% secular variations in cloud cover, which are most likely driven by solar magnetic activity. These cloud-cover changes cause ±0.7C semi-periodic fluctuations in global temperature on a decadal to centennial time scale as indicated by recent satellite observations (see Fig. 7) and climate reconstructions for the past 10,000 years.


Figure 8. Dynamics of global surface temperature during the Cenozoic Era reconstructed from 18O proxies in marine sediments (Hansen et al. 2008).


Figure 9. Dynamics of mean surface atmospheric pressure during the Cenozoic Era reconstructed from the temperature record in Fig. 8 by inverting Eq. (8).

D) Large climatic shifts evident in the paleo-record such as the 16C directional cooling of the Globe during the past 51 million years (Fig. 8) can now be explained via changes in atmospheric mass and surface pressure caused by geologic variations in Earth’s tectonic activity. Thus, we hypothesize that the observed mega-cooling of Earth since the early Eocene was due to a 53% net loss of atmosphere to Space brought about by a reduction in mantle degasing as a result of a slowdown in continental drifts and ocean floor spreading. Figure 9 depicts reconstructed dynamics of the mean surface pressure for the past 65.5M years based on Eq. (8) and the temperature record in Fig. 8.

5. Unified Theory of Climate

The above findings can help rectify physical inconsistencies in the current GH concept and assist in the development of a Unified Theory of Climate (UTC) based on a deeper and more robust understanding of various climate forcings and the time scales of their operation. Figure 10 outlines a hierarchy of climate forcings as part of a proposed UTC that is consistent with results from our research as well as other studies published over the past 15 years. A proposed key new driver of climate is the variation of total atmospheric mass and surface pressure over geological time scales (i.e. tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of years). According to our new theory, the climate change over the past 100-300 years is due to variations of global cloud albedo that are not related to GHE/ATE. This is principally different from the present GH concept, which attempts to explain climate changes over a broad range of time scales (i.e. from decades to tens of millions of years) with the same forcing attributed to variations in atmospheric CO2 and other heat-absorbing trace gases (e.g. Lacis et al. 2010).

Earth’s climate is currently in one of the warmest periods of the Holocene (past 10K years). It is unlikely that the Planet will become any warmer over the next 100 years, because the cloud cover appears to have reached a minimum for the present levels of solar irradiance and atmospheric pressure, and the solar magnetic activity began declining, which may lead to more clouds and a higher planetary albedo. At this point, only a sizable increase of the total atmospheric mass can bring about a significant and sustained warming. However, human-induced gaseous emissions are extremely unlikely to produce such a mass increase.


Figure 10. Global climate forcings and their time scales of operation according to the hereto proposed Unified Theory of Climate (UTC). Arrows indicate process interactions.

6. References

Kopp, G. and J. L. Lean (2011). A new, lower value of total solar irradiance: Evidence and climate significance, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L01706, doi:10.1029/2010GL045777.

Kuptsov, L. P. (2001) Hölder inequality, in Hazewinkel, Michiel, Encyclopedia of Mathematics, Springer, ISBN 978-1556080104.

Lacis, A. A., G. A. Schmidt, D. Rind, and R. A. Ruedy (2010). Atmospheric CO2: Principal control knob governing earth’s temperature. Science 330:356-359.

Lindzen, R. S. and Y.-S. Choi (2009). On the determination of climate feedbacks from ERBE data. Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L16705, doi:10.1029/2009GL039628.

McKitrick, R. R. et al. (2010). Panel and Multivariate Methods for Tests of Trend Equivalence in Climate Data Series. Atmospheric Science Letters, Vol. 11, Issue 4, pages 270–277.

Nikolov, N and K. F. Zeller (manuscript). Observational evidence for the role of planetary cloud-cover dynamics as the dominant forcing of global temperature changes since 1982.

Pavlakis, K. G., D. Hatzidimitriou, C. Matsoukas, E. Drakakis, N. Hatzianastassiou, and I. Vardavas (2003). Ten-year global distribution of down-welling long-wave radiation. Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 3, 5099-5137.

Spencer, R. W. and W. D. Braswell (2010). On the diagnosis of radiative feedback in the presence of unknown radiative forcing, J. Geophys. Res., 115, D16109, doi:10.1029/2009JD013371

Trenberth, K.E., J.T. Fasullo, and J. Kiehl (2009). Earth’s global energy budget. BAMS, March:311-323


This post is also available as a PDF document here:


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


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An excellent submission for peer 2 peer review….. i’ll be digesting this one for a while…

“only a sizable increase of total atmospheric mass can bring about a significant and sustained warming. However, human-induced gaseous emissions are extremely unlikely to produce such a mass increase. Hence, there is no anthropogenic forcing to global climate.”
Into the dumpster with Warmism and Luke-Warmism!

Absolutely fabulous. I take my hat off to you Sir.

David Jones

I like the touch of including the graph from Pen State University Department of Meteorology as Figure 1.
Shows chutzpah!


I think I’ve never heard so loud
The quiet message in a cloud.


[snip .. OT . . kbmod]

John Marshall

At Last!
I think that I have said all this several times, without all the complicated double integral math.
Its the pressure wot does it.

Petter Tuvnes

Very convincing, and in agreement with recent observations by Dr. R. W. Spencer (global temperatures and clouds relationship) and Dr. Svensgard (cosmic rays, the sun and clouds relationship).

They write,”Equation (8) suggests that the planet’s albedo is largely a product of climate rather than a driver of it.”
Could this be the key feature of the stablity of Earth’s climate? The warmists claim that climate is subject to unstable equilibrium, with a “tipping point” just around the corner. This UTC asserts that we are instead subject to stable equilibrium; negative feedback.
The warmists’ case can be demolished if their twin fallacies – positive feedback and high CO2 sensitivity – are shown to be hogwash. Nikolov and Mockton seem to have ’em in a pincer movement!

Uh-oh.. physics at last. Congratulations.

Oscar Bajner

I think I hear bells tolling, or death knelling,
or perhaps it’s the sound of Warmista colliding with reality,
or being slapped with a wet fish.
Anyway, The little Dog laughed to see such sport…

Stephen Wilde

“According to our new theory, the climate change over the past 100-300 years is due to variations of global cloud albedo that are not related to GHE/ATE”
Been there, done that:
as regards the title and some of the conclusions
“How The Sun Coul;d Control Earth’s Temperature”
as regards the effect of cloudiness changes.
“The fundamental point is that the total atmospheric warming arising as a result of the density of the atmosphere is a once and for all netting out of all the truly astronomic number of radiant energy/molecule encounters throughout the atmosphere. The only things that can change that resultant point of temperature equilibrium are changes in solar radiance coming in or changes in overall atmospheric density which affect the radiant energy going out. In the real world the most obvious and most common reason for a change in atmospheric density occurs naturally when the oceans are in warming mode and solar irradiation is high as during the period 1975 to 1998. The increased warmth allows the atmosphere to hold more water vapour so that total atmospheric density increases and the atmospheric greenhouse effect strengthens. This effect is far greater than any CO2 effect. When the atmosphere cools again water vapour content declines and the atmospheric greenhouse effect weakens. CO2 and other trace gases are far too small a proportion of the atmosphere to have any significant effect in comparison to the water vapour effect. Even the water vapour effect has never provoked any tipping point in the face of the primary solar/oceanic driver so CO2 could never do so.”
from here:
“Greenhouse Confusion Resoived”.
as regards the density issue.


So the total mass of the atmosphere is more important than its composition? Pressure controls climate and albedo? The current models don’t work and here’s why?
That’s a lot to chew on.

What a wonderful end-of-year present. Dr Nikolov has neatly and convincingly explained what others (e.g. ‘The Slayers’) have been broadly asserting for some time but without, in my opinion, providing an intelligible or convincing argument.
Unfortunately, too many climate skeptics have hitherto been uncomfortable with the idea that a body (a layer of the atmosphere in this case) that is forced by the laws of physics (gravity in this case) to have (on average, of course) a fixed volume and pressure must, according to the gas laws, attain a fixed temperature. All that is required is a flow of energy (radiant, convective or conductive) through that body that is at least sufficient to replace the energy loss from it. This rate of flow is amply provided by the solar energy flux irrespective of gas composition or planetary albedo.
Yes, it looks like game, set and match for strong climate skepticism.
What a wonderful way to begin the New Year.


This is gonna tic off some…:)
I applaud the efforts to help rectify physical inconsistencies in the current GH concept.

Mike McMillan

A number of years ago here at WUWT I used the adiabatic lapse rates of air and CO2 to back-of-the-envelope calculate that rising in the Venusian atmosphere to 1 bar (Earth surface) pressure, the temperature would be within 10 degrees of the Earth’s, despite Venus being so much closer to the Sun. I reasoned then only that there was no “runaway” greenhouse tipping point and Dr Hansen was full of baloney.
I didn’t make Nikolov’s connection that the pressure itself was responsible for the effect, tho that seems seems to be what I found. Missing the obvious.
As I recall, adiabatically increasing our air atmosphere to Venus’ 90 bar brought the Earth temperature slightly higher than Venus’, tho I’m not that certain I did the calculation right.

If this is right then indeed it is paradigm-altering. It needs to be reviewed — proper peer review that aims to break it — and then we can see whether it fits the observed facts more closely than other theories. For example, can it explain the temperature record of the last 50 years? Or is the proposition that recent change is random? Whatever, it’s good to see some real innovative thinking brought to the subject, with the prospect of radically changing our understanding. Thank you!

Philip Mulholland

Comparative Planetology at its best!
Well Done.


These people have independently invented lapse rate heating! When will modern scientists learn the basics before committing themselves to research and publication.
The good thing is that they show the IPCC climate models are bunkum. However, that is because ‘back radiation which they accept is really Prevost Exchange Energy so cannot do any thermodynamic work.
3/10 for effort.

Stephen Wilde

“Global surface temperature is independent of the down-welling LW flux known as greenhouse or back radiation, because both quantities derive from the same pool of atmospheric kinetic energy maintained by solar heating and air pressure. Variations in the downward LW flux (caused by an increase of tropospheric emissivity, for example) are completely counterbalanced (offset) by changes in the rate of surface convective cooling, for this is how the system conserves its internal energy.”
Quite so:
“The Setting And Maintaining of Earth’s Equilibrium Temperature”
“ANYTHING that adds energy to or takes energy from the air just above the ocean
surface merely adds to or subtracts from the rate of evaporation (not affecting the background
energy flow from water to air at all) and is converted to or from latent heat in the air in the
process. Of course conduction from water to air and upward radiation are also involved but
the energy taken up by them simply reduces the energy available for evaporation.
The equilibrium temperature of the oceans is in fact determined by the combination of
atmospheric pressure and the physical properties of the molecular bonds between liquid water
molecules and water vapour molecules. Critically it is dependent on the energy cost or gain of
the switch between liquid to vapour and back again. I need to explain that in some detail.”


Nice update to the science debate. An additional (very small ~ 60 milliwatts per square meter Earth avg) correction to the Standard Planetary Grey Body surface temperature could be made taking into account the heat from internal radioactive decay of isotopes like K-40 and U and Th isotopes. I believe the general conclusions won’t be changed. I was pleased to see the comment comparing prior computer models and the core idea of the poster ” … Modern GCMs do not solve simultaneously radiative transfer and convection. This decoupling of heat transports is the core reason for the projected surface warming by GCMs in response to rising atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations. Hence, the predicted CO -driven global temperature change is a model artifact! “

Paul Maynard

Although I am not clever enough to agree or disagreee with the the maths/physics some observations.
1 This analysis shows that convection is the key which is the real reason behind the so called greenhouse effect – the stopping of convection.
2 Although I’ve not read Monckton’s second post yet, I’ve always assumed that his main goal was to use the IPCC’s theories and calculations to show that they were damned by their own work but were able to gloss over the essential weakenesses by bluster, assertion and the gullibility of the MSM and politicians needing to “save the planet”.
3 The famous Trenberth diagram seemed to be based upon the absence of the continued convection of heat away from the equator by the sea and by wind
Can’t wait for the WUWT audience response.
Cheers Paul


Very interesting. It reminds me of an engineer I used to work with that, from time to time, would say, “This is an N dimension problem with N being a very large number.”
It seems that climate is an N dimension problem and scientists not part of the IPCC are increasingly identifying and examining new dimensions.
Exciting times to live in and WUWT is in the lead in providing a sounding board for alternative ideas. Congratulations.

Mike McMillan

My recall was a few degrees off. Here’s the post.

Tony McGough

This will reward serious study. How refreshing to see basic Physics (Gas Laws, Black Body Radiation) along with common sense (greenhouses work by reducing convection) ; and then astronomical data brought in to study cases where there are no man-made effects.
I must try to follow this in detail, if my ageing brain can manage it. At least I am assured, from a first reading, that there are no “sunshine from cucumbers” fairy tales to swallow along the way. (But the integrations may be beyond my limited mathematics).
Did you, like me, not always feel that the effect of humans on the planet is puny? Feelings are not science, of course, but …


I look forward to the BBC’s Richard Black pushing this bigtime, after all when it comes to ‘climate change’ no story is too big or too small for it to escape him

Roger Clague

Increase of pressure causes increase of temperature of a gas, without increase in energy. Published over 200 years ago by Joseph Gay-Lussac. and descibed 100 years before that.
Thermodynamics of an ideal gas. The greenhouse effect is INDEPENDENT of the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

Martin Mason

Very good and understandable reasoning. How to get this where it will be seen though?

R. de Haan

This is what I call a “killer” publication.
As the “Unified Theory of Climate” provides us with a great explanation how atmosphhic pressure determines our climate the principal AGW doctrine is completely destroyed by these conclusions:
“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.”
“In radiative transfer models, Ts increases with ϵ not as a result of heat trapping by greenhouse gases, but due to the lack of convective cooling, thus requiring a larger thermal gradient to export the necessary amount of heat. Modern GCMs do not solve simultaneously radiative transfer and convection. This decoupling of heat transports is the core reason for the projected surface warming by GCMs in response to rising atmospheric greenhouse-gas concentrations. Hence, the predicted CO2-driven global temperature change is a model artifact!”
This is a really, really great publication.

“….However, human-induced gaseous emissions are extremely unlikely to produce such a mass increase……”
Heretics!!, burn them, burn them all!!

Looks both complete and elegant. I’ll be rereading this for a while, but it’s so well-written that it will reward repeated reads.
Of course you don’t really need satellite observations to know that negative feedback is in full control; the fact that life has flourished for a billion years, through huge fluctuations of all the ‘forcing’ elements, is sufficient. If positive feedback had been significant, the whole mess would have gone critical in one direction or the other a long time ago.
Possibly the model doesn’t give enough credit to the dynamics of living things as part of the biosphere?

R Barker

Very interesting. Are there geologic or paleo evidence that confirm the atmospheric mass variations shown in fighure 9?

Brian Johnson uk

A breath of pure, fresh scientific observation that cannot be swept under the Warmist carpet [now threadbare] and I expect the unbiased Richard Black [BBC] to give this Unified Theory of Climate the full exposure it deserves [and climate realists expect].


I’ve read it twice, It’s actually not bad.

Bill Illis

I’ve been waiting for someone to solve the gas law temperature equations – Perfect fit.
I think the paleo-climate temperatures used by the authors are over-stated. The Eocene Thermal Maximum temperatures should be reduced to about +6.0C rather than +16.0C (they might be using a version of Zachos 2005 which was built around polar temperatures rather than global temperatures and then someone else exaggerated it even further).

Keith Gordon

Could this be Game Set and Match?.
This is the most sensible theory I have heard to explain how the total atmosphere works. The laws of nature work the same throughout the Solar System only subject to different parameters, If it works for Mars Venus etc. why not the Earth. I shall look forward to reading further comments from our illustrious contributors.
Happy New Year to Anthony and all, keep up the enquiring process, the truth will out.
Keith Gordon


If this pans out then Nobel Prizes (at least) are in order.

Peter Miller

Yet another inconvenient paper which will not be considered for inclusion in the next IPCC fantasy report.

Chuck L

Although much of the math is beyond me, this looks to me like an entirely new climate paradigm and is a major game-changer!

Stephen Richards

Ok, it’s been many years since I did 3 dimensional intergration ( Debye’s theorem of specific heat) and differential calculus so I haven’t checked the maths but the premise is something that has been proposed for many years the changes on mars for example) and on which futher research may have been blocked by the team and NGO sources. I like immensely the thought processes behind the work and the way in which they have used ‘publicy available data’. From the basics the maths look ok and the equations fit the words. So, overall, a good piece of work and, indeed, groundbreaking. Now let’s see if any other ‘scientists’ come out from under their ‘comfort blanquets’ to confirm / deny this work through a correctly managed scientific process.
Well done the authors and by the way, it’s worth noting, that if not for WUWT this work may never have been made available to the general public. So well to Anthony and the crew.

Rob L

Interesting. How does this explain ice ages then?
Ice ages have global temps about 6°C below current which by this theory would require something like the bottom 600m of atmosphere to disappear (about 70-80kg/m²) and then reappear at the end of the ice age. Is air sufficiently soluble in cold water or in ice caps for that to happen? Seems very unlikely. Also what then is the mechanism for falling into or coming out of an Ice Age?
I think that planetary albedo must be the primary effect and this is driven principally by clouds, and snow/ice cover though I do like your theory of atmospheric mass loss to describe the gradual drop in temp over hundreds of millions of years.

Bloke down the pub

If only James Hansen had studied the atmosphere of the other planets. Oh, er…
I know that if I knew what I didn’t know back then, what I now know that I don’t know now, I would have tried to understand maths a bit more when I was at school.

Many things wrong with this paper. I’ll pick out just one – Fig 8 on surface temperature history, for which the source is given as Hansen 2008. But that’s not in the list of references. So I did some searching, and the only paper that seems to qualify is this one.
Well, it has two graphs which indeed seem to wiggle match. The problem is what they mean, and scaling. Fig 3 is indeed a temperature, but it is global deep ocean temperature. And the scale is different – less total range. The other is Fig 4, where both the number scale and wiggles match reasonably. However, the quantity plotted is total forcing, and the units are W/m2. It matches Fig 3 because it was inferred from the deep ocean temperature.
I cannot see how such an extraordinary surface temperature history could be derived from that paper.


First principles and experimental evidence (solar system planetary body comparisons) lead to some very interesting conclusions. Ha! They say, “the science is settled.” Not exactly. Let the squealing begin.


It’s a very pretty poster. Visually balanced between the left and right sides, and colors are well thought out.


It’s all in the per-point absorption of the incoming radiation on a sphere as so eloquently put in this paper. Everyone here has looked at agw climate ‘science’ and particularly Trenberth-Kiehl diagrams of a flat disk type of absorption of averaged radiation and have all come to the same conclusion… this all seems so physically wrong!! Wrong, wrong, wrong!!
There being a world of difference between the energy found 1 cm below the surface and 1 cm above the surface at every various time and location on this globe and finally someone has tackled this fourth power non-linear aspect across a sphere in respect to Earth’s state temperatures. I’m elated (and finally relieved)!!
Thank you Drs Nikolov & Zeller for this real science. Well done.


At first read, this is what I have been looking for.
I’ll read it again and again until I completely understand it.
I will be particuarly interested in the reactions of serious minded luke warmers.
Jeff Id, Steve Mosher and Professor Judith Curry for starters.
This may well be the game changer.

I’d like to see more about the effect of ocean temperature on atmospheric volume.

atmospheric mass, not atmospheric mix ? who’d have thunk it


Very intriguing paper. If this is correct, it could be really paradigm-changing.
I’m way too much of a layman to judge the quality of this paper, but one thing which immediately occurred to me as a “test question” is if mantle degassing during mega volcanic events like the deccan or siberian traps eruptions really was substantial enough to generate a significant change in atmospheric pressure? “AGW-friendly” geological theories suggest that the (obviously huge) CO2 emissions during these events caused the rise in temperatures.