Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Unified Climate Theory" III

The tallbloke climate site appears to have warmly (and all too quickly) embraced the "Unified Climate Theory" of Nikolov and Zeller. Here I offer my physical understanding, and my reasons for rejecting that theory, even though it supports my Venus/Earth analysis, and appears, to many commenters, to extend my findings to other planetary bodies in the solar system.

Among the many comments at the tallbloke site, are the following:

Stephen Wilde wrote: "If temperature is set by pressure and solar input then in the end the effects of both volcanoes and GHGs [greenhouse gases, esp. carbon dioxide] must be neutral unless they affect total atmospheric mass."

and tallbloke wrote: "quite a lot of the Sun’s energy is directly absorbed in the atmosphere"

These observations basically follow from my Venus/Earth temperature comparison, and I have emphasized for more than a year, not only that the Venus/Earth temperature ratio, at points of equal pressure over the range of Earth tropospheric pressures, depends only upon the planets' distances from the Sun, but also (and Nikolov & Zeller have not said this) that the atmosphere is fundamentally warmed by direct absorption of incident solar infrared radiation, as tallbloke seems to understand (although his statement is evasive about making my point, contenting himself with saying only "quite a lot" of the Sun's energy is directly absorbed).

Stephen Wilde is right about the effect of increased GHGs being neutral, that is neither warming nor cooling, because from my Venus/Earth analysis, the temperature at any given pressure in the troposphere depends only on its position within the lapse rate structure (physically, due to the weight of the atmosphere above, pressing down on that level) and the solar input. It does not depend upon the composition of the atmosphere (how much of GHGs there are), nor even upon the planetary albedo. It should be noted that every pressure level is receiving energy (during the daylight hours) by direct absorption of solar radiation (so we are not talking about a temperature lapse rate appearing spontaneously, out of nowhere, or from pressure differences alone, without energy input from the Sun--OR EVEN FROM VERTICAL CONVECTION, as defenders of the carbon dioxide greenhouse effect claim; but, no matter how it is formed, it dominates over all other processes to govern the temperatures, because my Venus/Earth temperature comparison confirms the Standard Atmosphere, with its lapse rate, as the stable thermodynamic state of the atmosphere). Even before performing my simple analysis of Venus and Earth, I deduced from the most basic understanding of heat transfer, that GHGs cannot either trap heat or slow down its transport within the atmosphere; increasing their concentration in the atmosphere can only speed up heat transport, by providing a greater radiation path for it (in addition to whatever convection and conduction is going on). One of my blog readers insightfully likened the effect as that of a "lubricant" for heat transport, rather than a "furnace" producing more heat (or a refrigerator producing more cooling, for that matter). So increasing the amount of carbon dioxide neither warms nor cools, it only quickens the re-attainment of the physically dominant lapse rate structure, which the atmosphere is always trying to do.

But Wilde is not necessarily right about volcanoes having no effect, as my Venus/Earth comparison shows there is a further effect, within the clouds of Venus, and presumably in the clouds on other planets, amounting to about 5K cooling below the temperature predicted by the lapse rate structure itself. I found the same modest temperature effect (7K) for Titan (which has a particulate haze, rather than water-based clouds, throughout its troposphere), and pointed it out in my observations on the "Unified Climate Theory", here and here.

So there is good reason to think that Nikolov and Zeller's "Theory", which is really only an arbitrary fitting of planetary data to a (rather extreme) mathematical form of their own devising, is hiding a real, although modest (5-7K), physical effect--a cooling effect--upon the temperature inside clouds and haze alike.

More telling than the hiding of that clear physical effect by the "Unified Climate Theory", however, and indeed more outrageous, is the shape of their NTE function. They tried to give that function some physical support by comparing its shape to that of the Poisson formula for temperature as a function of pressure, but it should be noted (using their own Figure 5) that their NTE function WOULD APPEAR TO BE USELESS for calculating the surface temperature of 5 of the 8 planetary bodies they considered, as all of those 5 bodies (Mercury, Moon, Mars, Europa, and Triton) have practically zero surface pressure, while their surface temperatures vary greatly (in other words, the NTE function is a vertical straight line, at a surface pressure of zero, in their Figure 5). Yet they claim, in their Table 1, perfect prediction of the surface temperatures of 2 of those 5 bodies (Mars and Europa), and near perfect prediction of another (Triton). It is my understanding, in the case of Mars, that its surface temperature varies widely, one would presume precisely because its pressure is so low, thus unstable. Even if their data and calculations are correct in this, this unphysical result explains the extreme form of their NTE function; and the extreme accuracy of their predicted temperatures cannot possibly be true. And sure enough, if one checks their values for the OBSERVED surface temperatures, one finds they claim to know every one of those temperatures to within 0.1K! I do not hesitate to call this delusionary.

So I reject the "Unified Climate Theory", as it now stands, just as I reject the consensus greenhouse effect, as unphysical and incompetent. There is no physical insight in it, that is not already in my Venus/Earth analysis.

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.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Observation on a "Unified Climate Theory"

In the past week, a so-called "Unified Theory of Climate" has been excitedly debated on a number of climate blogs. The introductory paper can be found here. That theory has been compared by some to the procedure I used in my Venus/Earth temperatures comparison, which disproves the consensus "greenhouse effect". I want to make just a few simple observations here of the "Unified Theory of Climate", to distinguish my own, factual position, and my professional concern for physical cause and effect relationships, from that theory.

My blog is not about climate science per se, and my aim in my relatively few climate science posts has been to clearly point out the simplest, definitive evidence, which reveals an entrenched incompetence in the current, consensus theory, which is basically that of the supposed "greenhouse effect", claimed to cause an increase in the average global surface temperature with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide (supposedly due to mankind's ever-increasing burning of fossil fuels).

First, I do not claim to have a theory of climate, and I consider my Venus/Earth analysis to be a simple presentation of fact, not theory. While my mathematical procedure involved a usage of the Stefan-Boltzmann "blackbody" equation that seems to be widely derided by current climate scientists, it was a usage that was taught to me as fact in my earliest days as a university physics major (and which I physically understand as motivated by the traditional description of a blackbody as a cavity inside an object maintained at constant temperature, with only a small hole to allow radiation -- but neither convection nor conduction of heat -- to pass into and out of the cavity). And of course, the results of my Venus/Earth analysis, which are mathematically precise, confirm my usage as correct, and thus the fact I always thought it to be; in contrast to that clear confirmation, defenders of the "greenhouse effect" are not able to explain my amazingly simple finding -- that the Venus/Earth temperature ratio, outside of the Venus cloud layer, is due only to the ratio of the planets' distances from the Sun, nothing else -- within their own theory. They are all reduced to dismissing it as a "coincidence"; and they don't even stop to realize that it is a "coincidence" piled upon even more unlikely coincidence, that I just "happened" to learn (at a well-respected university, the University of Colorado at Boulder) just the wrong physical "fact" that allowed me to effortlessly uncover that "coincidence", of the Venus/Earth temperature ratio being precisely and solely explained by the planets' distances from the Sun -- in perfect mimickry of a coherent physical reasoning that (in my scientific judgment) corrects and simplifies our understanding of basic atmospheric warming by the Sun.

In looking to apply my procedure more widely, by comparing temperatures in Earth's troposphere with temperatures in other planetary atmospheres, I found detailed temperature and pressure data on only one other body having pressures in the range of Earth's troposphere: the Saturn moon, Titan. The stipulation of that range of pressures is due to the fact (!) that for atmospheres equal to or greater than Earth's, the atmospheric mass is enough to impose a quite general hydrostatic condition, exemplified by a negative temperature lapse rate throughout the range of Earth tropospheric pressures. Scientists over many years developed the Standard Atmosphere model of our atmosphere, based upon the hydrostatic condition, and my Venus/Earth comparison confirmed that model as the stable state which the atmosphere is constantly trying to attain and maintain. This of course is directly counter to the modern idea of "runaway climate", which has enmeshed climate scientists in ever-more complicated "explanations" for the observations that continually challenge, rather than confirm, their theories.

I will not try to give a complete critique of the "Unified Theory of Climate", since I have not paid particular attention to the recent debates over it, nor given it any sustained study in the few days it has been in the climate news. In the following, I will assume the reader has the above-linked article relating the theory at hand, and is familiar with its basic contents.

The following illustration shows the basic equations developed in the theory.

The theory puts forth a relationship between 1) the surface temperature (Ts) of a planet or moon with an atmosphere, 2) the temperature (Tgb) of a so-called "gray body" reference body, at the same distance from the Sun as the planet or moon, but having no atmosphere, and 3) the surface pressure of the planet or moon being considered. The first equation above gives the definition of Tgb, according to the authors of the Unified Climate Theory (Nikolov and Zeller).

My first observation is that the equation for Tgb can be immediately simplified. This simplification is shown in the second and third lines above. The equation contains two physical parameters (the "gray body" albedo αgb, and the emissivity ε) which are in fact the same for all of the planetary bodies considered by the authors. The factor containing these parameters, which is thus a constant, can be taken out from under the fourth-root expression containing the incident solar intensity S0. Also, the parameter added to S0 -- cs -- is a constant, which is so much smaller than S0 for all of the planetary bodies considered, that it can be removed entirely, as shown in the third line above.

This simplification allows us to see that the use of a "gray body" temperature, involving the albedo and emissivity of the planetary body, is irrelevant to the theory as presented, for the same value of albedo is used for all the bodies considered in the paper, and the same emissivity. The only variable parameter is the incident solar intensity, which depends upon the distance from the Sun. (σ, of course, is just the Stefan-Boltzmann constant, a fundamental physical constant.) The fourth line above shows the definition for the temperature of a "blackbody", and thus reveals that the "gray body" temperature is just a constant times that blackbody temperature. So all consideration of possible real variations in albedo and emissivity are in fact dropped out of the theory at this point.

The fifth line above shows the empirical, ad hoc relation found by the authors to hold across all the bodies they consider in their paper. The sixth line shows that this relationship can be obtained by using a blackbody temperature (with no albedo or emissivity correction) instead of the author's gray body temperature. The indicated ratio of temperatures, which they denote as NTE, is just multiplied by a constant (about 0.554, for the values of albedo and emissivity they use). In their theory as presented, the surface temperature can be recovered from the calculated value of NTE as Tgb times NTE; but we see we can equivalently use the blackbody temperature with an NTE that is the constant γ times their NTE function.

Either way, it should be emphasized that the functional form of NTE is not motivated by any physics, but simply by an arbitrary fitting of the planetary data to that functional form. To me, the theory stops being a physical theory at this point, and is just an arbitrary mathematical model.

Nevertheless, it appears to give good results -- which is itself a problem, because, by using the blackbody temperature, as just indicated above, I would expect them to get the same results as my procedure for comparing Venus and Earth, and they do not. When my procedure, which calls for comparing the Standard Atmosphere Earth temperature at a given pressure with the temperature in another atmosphere at the same pressure, is applied to the surface of Titan (using a slightly different surface pressure I found, 1,452 mb, rather than their indicated 1,467 mb), I obtained a predicted Titan surface temperature of 99.9K, or approximately 100K, whereas the true surface temperature was 93.2K, or nearly 7K lower than my procedure predicts. But Nikolov and Zeller, the authors of this theory, claim no error at all (93.7K predicted, versus 93.7K true surface temperature). I obtained the Titan data here.

The physical data they use differs from my (limited) data, by 1 or 2% in some cases. I have just mentioned the slightly different values they used for the surface pressure and surface temperature of Titan. Their value for the surface pressure of Earth is some 2.4% lower than that given in the Standard Atmosphere, which I used, and it doesn't seem to be due to their using a slightly different surface temperature in the Standard Atmosphere equations. (They write that the surface temperature of the Earth is 287.4K, while the Standard Atmosphere, for nearly a century, has consistently used 288.15K.) So I wonder if they have effectively calculated their own version of the Standard Atmosphere rather than the presently official 1976 American Standard Atmosphere, and if so, on what basis did they see fit to do that on their own. The thought arises -- and I can only bring it forth, not as a suspicion but only a logical possibility -- that they might have done so, inadvertently or otherwise, to make the data more exactly fit their theory. I would not bring up the possibility, except that, as I already noted, their theory is not entirely a physical one, as my Venus/Earth comparison is physically reasoned -- using only known facts (or once-known, when I was a student) -- but accomplished through arbitrary mathematical modelling of a "best fit" function. Again, this is just my dispassionate consideration, not an accusation or insinuation of dishonesty on their part.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"There are more things..."

A small example of the largely vain public debates about "proper" science today is provided at, focusing upon one individual who rants about climate change, against the "deniers", in the media. The scientific skeptics of the climate "consensus" are outraged that they should be wrongly linked with "creationists" by that individual, and others. Here is my view on the matter:

It doesn't matter what subject you exclude from "proper scientific discussion", the mere fact that you do so means you need to first learn one thing above all else, if you even hope to become a true scientist, someday:

"There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio."

There are even objective and compelling reasons behind the ancient belief that the world was flat (no, it is not literally, physically true, but as a cogent metaphor, for an anciently-organized and literally overwhelming system, of physical facts (!), hidden for all of recorded history behind the misdirected concreteness of ancient myth and other earliest religious dogma, there is a world -- even a universe -- of understanding behind it).

Until you learn Shakespeare's immortal warning, above, once and for all, you are only a child, playing childish games in the nursery. As Isaac Newton famously said of himself:

"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."

I have learned enough to actually swim in that (literally) great ocean -- where no one, scientist or not, has ever swum before. And you can too, if you forsake petty squabbling about what is "proper" to investigate scientifically, and determinedly seek the truth -- physical, mental, or spiritual -- wherever it leads.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

An Inevitable, Unavoidable "Learning Moment"

I received a comment this morning on my "Venus: No Greenhouse Effect" page, the point of which was reaffirmed by a brouhaha at WUWT (wattsupwiththat). Instead of submitting a comment there, I offer the following here:

This is just another "learning moment" (an emotional clash of character and personality) due to the entrenched incompetence in climate science (and beyond), which has the proponents on either side of the "greenhouse" debate merely repeating themselves ad nauseam (i.e., to the point of mutual disgust). That incompetence is really just the following of (rickety, shaky, wrong-headed) theory over experimental fact.

The fact is, there is no greenhouse effect, of increasing atmospheric temperature with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide. The lapse rate rules over the radiation transfer theory, not because it is more "fundamental", but because it fits the facts of two planetary atmospheres. The radiative transfer theory, which allows the consensus greenhouse effect, is simply wrong in its application to the atmosphere, according to those facts; it misses the real thermodynamics of the atmosphere entirely. And those who look closely at it find that it violates the laws of thermodynamics, quite apparently because it misuses the blackbody concept. When Willis Eschenbach says (on the above-linked WUWT site), "As a result of absorbing that energy [so-called backradiation] from the atmosphere, the surface is warmer than it would be in the absence of the GHGs", he doesn't see (and believers in the greenhouse effect refuse to see) his words are nonsense. A commenter to my blog known as "truthseeker" just directed my attention this morning to an article containing this statement: "GHG theory postulates back-radiation from cold atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by the surface, heating it more. This violates Second Law of thermodynamics (energy can only be transferred from hot to cold bodies), leading to creation of energy, a violation of the First Law of thermodynamics (energy conservation), and the impossible perpetual motion machine AGW promoters need to cause eternal global warming." I replied to truthseeker, "He is saying that the energy imparted by the 'backradiation' is re-emitted by the surface at a higher temperature, the temperature of the surface. He is right, this is an obvious error in the consensus theory, which consensus scientists refuse to understand. To me, the most obvious and fundamental violation is that of the conservation of energy, which I pointed out in my blog post, 'Runaway Global Warming is Scientific Hysteria'."

There is no way out of this mess until each defender of the consensus greenhouse effect comes to realize that he/she is simply wrong about it. And there is the rub: the belief of the overriding majority of scientists is wrong, and MUST be overthrown, by scientists themselves and using a proper scientific understanding of the most basic physics.