Monday, February 6, 2012

On the Fundamental Warming of the Atmosphere

I have posted the following comment on the tallbloke web site, in response to a discussion there which involves both my Venus/Earth atmospheric temperatures comparisonand the "Unified Theory of Climate" of Nikolov and Zeller:

(Nikolov wrote:) "However, Huffman needs to correct his terminology."

No, Nikolov is obviously incapable of following what I consider a simple train of thought--because he thinks he already knows better, and refuses to follow the logic. And Tallbloke, who wrote on my site that "I don't feel ready to tackle your logic", indeed doesn't get it either. I don't know if it will do any good to try once again to spell it out, but here is the real logic:

1) The OBSERVED Venus/Earth atmospheric temperature ratio (over the range of Earth tropospheric pressures) is very precisely 1.176 (except within the Venus cloud layer). THAT IS A FACT.

2) That temperature ratio corresponds to an ABSORBED POWER RATIO (watts/sq. meter) of 1.91. THAT IS ANOTHER FACT. (i.e.: Two bodies, isolated in space, are subject to two different incident radiation intensities, with one intensity 1.91 times that of the other. What is the ratio of the equilibrium temperatures of the two bodies? By the Stefan-Boltzmann formula, it is 1.176.)

3) The actual (ACTUAL) INCIDENT POWER RATIO, from the ratio of the two planets' average distances from the Sun (i.e., calculated beyond the atmosphere), is also 1.91. Yet another FACT.

4) Ergo (and that means no fooling, this is just the unavoidable truth): a) the actual power per unit area absorbed by Venus's atmosphere is 1.91 times that absorbed by Earth's atmosphere--this is just factual statement (2) above; and b) that is also equal to the INCIDENT POWER RATIO (calculated beyond the atmosphere, BEFORE ANY REFLECTION of solar radiation)--this is just factual statement (3) above.

Statement (4a) above is the empirical fact, DESPITE THE FACT that Venus's albedo is much larger than Earth's. So you see I don't argue about the value of the albedo, there is no need to; instead I continue, logically and very simply in my professional opinion:

Thus, the portion of the solar radiation that goes to warm either planet's atmosphere DOES NOT INCLUDE the portion that is REFLECTED, by either planet--if it did, and Nikolov knew what he was talking about, then the observed Venus/Earth temperature ratio would NOT, could not, indicate statement (4a) above (that is, it would not BE 1.176, indicating an absorbed power ratio of 1.91)--but that temperature ratio DOES indicate statement (4a), and the two planets' difference in albedo OBVIOUSLY makes no difference in the amount of power absorbed by either atmosphere. Simply stated, their temperature ratio is completely and precisely explained by the ratio of their distances from the Sun, nothing else.

I gave David Socrates some numbers to indicate what is going on. Given that 30% of the solar radiation incident upon the Earth-plus-atmosphere system is reflected, and about 50% absorbed by the surface, then 20% is directly absorbed by the atmosphere, warming it. For Venus, given 70% is reflected, and the same 20% that warms Earth's atmosphere also warms Venus's atmosphere (only Venus is closer to the Sun, so that 20% contains 1.91 times the power that is in the same 20% hitting the Earth's atmosphere), then Venus's surface must absorb the remaining 10% (or, if the reflection is 75%, the surface absorbs about 5%). The approximate 20% of the incident solar power that warms BOTH planets is in the infrared, practically none is in the visible or in the ultraviolet (the latter, they tell us, is absorbed in the stratosphere).

So forget "albedo is a function of pressure and solar proximity", or "a function of the internal energy of the system" as Nikolov wrote at the top of this page. I am astounded that any physical scientist would make such a statement. The reflected radiation is simply not that radiation which can and does warm the atmosphere. All the above facts, plus the fact that the surfaces of Earth and Venus differ greatly (Earth being 70% ocean, while Venus is all solid crust) and would absorb different fractions of any radiation reaching them, also mean that THE ATMOSPHERES OF VENUS AND EARTH ARE BOTH WARMED BY DIRECT ABSORPTION OF INCIDENT SOLAR RADIATION (the approximate 20% of the total solar power just discussed), and NOT FROM THE SURFACE. The corollary to this is that, ANY UPWARD HEAT TRANSPORT, INCLUDING BY WAY OF THE ABSORPTION AND EMISSION OF UPWELLING LONGWAVE RADIATION, DOES NOT FUNDAMENTALLY WARM THE ATMOSPHERE (that is, has nothing to do with the tropospheric temperatures as established in the Standard Atmosphere, by its lapse rate structure and the incident solar intensity, but only has to do with the "weather"). ONLY DIRECT ABSORPTION OF INCIDENT SOLAR RADIATION FUNDAMENTALLY WARMS THE ATMOSPHERE. The only other person I know who independently came to this conclusion is William R. Pratt, but mine is the only factual demonstration of this revolutionary finding that I know of, and it is as important as the factual finding that there is no increase in global average atmospheric temperature with increasing carbon dioxide--no "greenhouse effect" as promulgated by the IPCC.

Some of you also need to stop saying "most of the Sun's radiation is in the visible". That is not correct, the PEAK of the Sun's spectrum is in the visible, but about half of the solar power is in the infrared (beyond the visible in wavelength).


  1. ...Upward heat transport can be understood, in other words, as just heat energy "in free fall down" the tropospheric temperature gradient, on its way out of the atmosphere.

    And a correction: At the end of the next-to-last paragraph in the article, the phrase should read, "there is no increase in the atmospheric temperature, at any given pressure level in the troposphere (in particular, at sea level, in the global mean surface temperature), with increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide...".

  2. I'm in agreement with the general proposition that any feature of the Earth system that tries to alter the lapse rate simply results not in a change in the lapse rate but instead a change in the rate of energy flow through the system which change manifests itself in a redistribution of the surface air pressure pattern and thus the positions, sizes and intensities of the permanent climate zones.

    That does accommodate the proposition that albedo changes, like all other changes or variations fail to alter the basic system equilibrium energy content or the lapse rate.

    Nonetheless,changes in composition and albedo, if they are to be negated so as to leave the lapse rate and system energy content unchanged must result instead in a change of some other sort within the system.

    So they must affect weather and regional climate by affecting the climate zones and regional weather.

    However, it seems apparent to me that such changes from human emissions would be unmeasurably small as compared to natural variations from other causes such as solar and oceanic variability.

  3. Good Evening, Stephen,

    Your first paragraph is an interesting, and probably insightful, generalization of what I claim to be the case for the specific effect of increasing carbon dioxide, as speeding up heat transport in the atmosphere. Another commenter (beefy-k) speculated along the same or similar lines as you, in a comment on my "Venus: No Greenhouse Effect" page last September.

    Beyond that, however, and as interesting as I know well-educated speculation can be, I am not a meteorologist and I don't want to lose the focus here, on the clearest, simplest empirical and logical facts, emerging from my Venus/Earth comparison, that I have identified as definitive for the much-needed correction of climate science. Climate scientists need to reacquaint themselves--fundamentally re-educate themselves, really--with the Standard Atmosphere and the necessary consequences of my confirmation of it, in comparing it to Venus's atmosphere, before adding in weather. So I'll just wish you good luck with your theory, for now, and particularly with verifying its various aspects quantitatively, as beefy-k (and others no doubt) want to see done. As I responded to beefy-k's comment, I expect PhD's will be awarded for such verification work in the future.