Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Second Response to the "Unified Climate Theory"

The tallbloke climate website continues to resound with excited discussion of the "Unified Climate Theory" of Nikolov and Zeller, which I initially made a few basic observations on here.

One of the readers of my site, who uses the name "David Socrates" in blog comments, tried to alert the above tallbloke thread to my initial observations, with the intent of assuring a happy consensus for all concerned, as he thought the "Unified Climate Theory" was an important confirmation of my Venus/Earth findings, supposedly by extending them to a total of eight planetary bodies in the solar system. My seemingly reticent initial response to the new "theory" has apparently caused concern for those who see the possibility of a new skeptical consensus on the greenhouse effect.

David initially posted the following comment:

Before we get too carried away, I suggest that we should pause for a moment to read and carefully absorb today’s reponse from Harry Huffman to your N&Z paper. He has posted this on his own website at:


"First of all he shows, very eloquently in my opinion, that the grey body calculation that is at the heart of your ‘Nte’ ratio calculations for each planet (which generate the last line of data in your Table 4) is actually mathematically equivalent to his method of comparing the planetary temperatures directly without recourse to the concept of a ‘grey body’. He shows mathematically that both methods end up doing the same two things:
(1) They adjust for the relative amounts of the Sun’s energy that the planets receive (using the relative distances of the planets from the Sun and applying the inverse square law of electromagnetic radiation).
(2) They convert the adjusted energy values to their corresponding temperatures (using the standard Stefan-Boltzmann black body relationship).
So people will ask: what’s the difference? Well what Harry shows is that the additional parameters that you use, emissivity and albedo for your presumed grey body version of each planet are unnecessary. I suspected this when I first read your paper and now I have seen his exposition I am sure he is right.

"I would be interested to know whether you agree. If you do, I think this is good news, not bad. It simplifies your proposition considerably and avoids diversion into endless theoretical discussions about the significance of grey body (“atmosphere-less”) versions of each planet – evidently a fruitful source of confusion and disagreement.

"At the same time, I do not think that, if you were to adopt Harry’s simpler method of calculation for your planetary comparisons, this would negate your separate and, in my opinion, incredibly important finding that, hitherto, climate scientists have been using the wrong math when calculating the temperature difference between an atmosphere-less Earth (which is arguably a grey body) and its actual measured temperature, leading to a discrepancy between the two methods of calculation of no less than 100K! I think this is a very important result in its own right because it knocks the GHG warming theory on the head anyway, it being very difficult to see how the warmists can put such a huge additional difference down to the effect of GHGs.
So my positive thought is that there are now two separate arrows to our bow: Firstly an impossible temperature gap for the GHG theorists to bridge. Secondly, even if they try (and they will), some cast iron empirical planetary data and an empirical formula that provides no room for a GHG effect anyway."

After a follow-up comment by David, Ned Nikolov responded:

"David Socrates:

There is nothing to align between Hoffman’s ‘work’ and ours. He simply tried to express (cast) our gray-body temperature equation in terms of the conventional black-body model. This does not alter in any way the theoretical implications of our work regarding the effect of pressure on the surface thermal enhancement (ATE). Hoffman appears to have not even understood these theoretical implications, because he says he is surprised that pressure can alter the black-body temperature of a planet. Also, his mathematical simplification of our Eq. 6 only confuses the main point we tried to make in our reply paper, which is that one SHOULD NOT use the average absorbed radiation by a sphere to calculate the actual mean temperature of that sphere. The confusion arises from the fact that Hoffman’s modified black-body equation contains the therm (So/4), which is the AVERAGE radiation absorbed by a sphere … In summary, his ‘simplification’ only worsens the accuracy of our Eq. 8 in predicting planetary temperatures without providing any additional insight …"

David Socrates wrote me about this, asking for my response. I was of two minds about doing so, since, as tallbloke commented on my initial "Unified Climate Theory" article, there has been "more smoke and heat than clarity and light", in the past two weeks, on this subject, and my site is not about theoretical discussions, but about the simplest, most definitive facts, offering new knowledge, not ever more vain theorizing. With that last thought in mind, the following response to Nikolov is all fact.

First, my name is Harry Dale Huffman, not Hoffman.

Second, I am sure I never wrote, anywhere, that I am surprised "that pressure can alter the black-body temperature of a planet". Of course I thoroughly disagree with such a statement; it is simply inane, as my Venus/Earth analysis shows: 1) I used the Stefan-Boltzmann "blackbody equation" only implicitly, in the statement, "the radiating temperature of an isolated body in space varies as the fourth-root of the power incident upon it". I didn't even have to bother with the explicit form of the formula in my analysis, as anyone can, and should, verify. 2) Implicit, of course, in my just-quoted statement is that the boundary of the "equivalent blackbody" must be drawn beyond the atmosphere, beyond all conduction and convection of heat (only radiation in and out, as through the little hole in the traditionally described "blackbody cavity"), so there is no possibility, no reason to even consider the idea, that "pressure can alter the blackbody temperature of a planet", in my Venus/Earth analysis. 3) My usage of the blackbody formula (which was not controversial, but taught as fact, when I was an undergraduate physics major, over 40 years ago) is confirmed by the results of my Venus/Earth analysis, which shows the OBSERVED Venus/Earth temperature ratio, at points of equal pressure in the two atmospheres over the range of Earth tropospheric pressures, is precisely explained by the ratio of the two planets' distances from the Sun, and by nothing else -- that is the amazing fact, not theory. 4) Of course, there is no pressure variable in the Stefan-Boltzmann formula (which is why I say it is inane to say, "pressure can alter the blackbody temperature" of a planet; 5) Finally, the Stefan-Boltzmann formula fundamentally deals with the INCIDENT radiation, NOT the ABSORBED radiation (and it is just a fact that So/4 is not the "average absorbed radiation", as Nikolov wrote, but is instead the mean value of the INCIDENT solar radiation (incident upon the atmosphere, from outside) normal to the surface, as determined by integrating So dA cos(angle of incidence) over the sunlit side of the planet, and dividing by the area of the sunlit hemisphere (thus the factor of "4" in the formula).

Third, whether Nikolov thinks it "confuses" his "main point" or not, it is a mathematical fact that the Tgb formula CAN be simplified as I showed, and the result of that simplification shows there is no need for a "gray body" temperature at all, when the same result is obtained using the simple blackbody temperature as I gave it. This is essentially (and I think obviously) due to the fact that Nikolov and Zeller used the same albedo and emissivity for the "gray body" temperature they associated with each planetary body. The ONLY variable from one body to the next, in their formula for Tgb, is the incident solar intensity, So. This means, as I explicitly showed, that one can use the simple blackbody formula I wrote in my post, instead of their Tgb, AND GET THE SAME ANSWER FOR THE SURFACE TEMPERATURE OF THE PLANET. So my simplification CANNOT WORSEN THE ANSWER TO BE OBTAINED BY THEIR FORMULAS, THEY SHOULD GET THE SAME ANSWER USING EITHER THE BLACKBODY TEMPERATURE AS I CALCULATED IT OR THEIR "UNIVERSAL GRAY BODY" TEMPERATURE -- which means (my final point, and see my initial "Unified Climate Theory" post) that, since I found a discrepancy of 7K in the predicted versus observed surface temperature on Titan, using my simple procedure, while Nikolov found perfect agreement between the predicted vs observed surface temperature for Titan, THEIR ANSWER IS UNACCOUNTABLY BETTER THAN IT SHOULD BE, as I duly noted in my previous post on the "Unified Climate Theory".

That Nikolov responded so inanely and dismissively to David Socrates's polite query, raises the strongest danger signals in my mind. I stand by what I wrote in my first post, that his work is not a physical theory, but only an ad hoc model which he has arbitrarily constructed to fit the planetary data -- but it fits too well, in my present view, so that important physical effects, providing a modest but real 5-7K discrepancy (not only for the surface temperature of Titan, but within the cloud layer of Venus, as shown in my Venus/Earth comparison post), may be hidden by his mathematical modelling efforts. He needs at the very least to show his calculations for the surface temperatures he predicted, using the Ideal Gas Law as he claimed.


  1. "...as tallbloke commented on my initial "Unified Climate Theory" article, there has been "more smoke and heat than clarity and light", in the past two weeks, on this subject, and my site is not about theoretical discussions, but about the simplest, most definitive facts, offering new knowledge, not ever more vain theorizing..."

    You are right not to get involved in this endless circular debate which is based on believe and incorrect assumptions.

    After some initial frustration that people couldn't see the obvious, I began to see the situation as vaguely amusing as people wriggled and squirmed to avoid the fact that the long-term mean temperature at the surface of any given planet depends only upon its insolation and the average weight of its atmosphere above a unit area.

    It would seem that most climate scientist are so blinded by their belief that they cannot accept a simple fact that falsifies the whole edifice of the IPCC sponsored cabal of cargo cult scientists.

    Yet I see the first signs that this cognitive denial is starting to have some impact amongst the less indoctrinated individuals and it is important that your indisputable fact about the standard atmosphere is put forward in all debates about climate. With persistence, the truth will out!

  2. Good Morning, Garlo,

    Thank you very much.