Plan 8 from outer space

The Mystery of Equation 8 refers, and offers me my title.

For a while now, there has been some weird septic stuff floating around about how the planet is warmer-than-it-would-be-without-an-atmosphere not because of the greenhouse effect or anything like that, but because of gravity. Nikolov and Zeller I think, though for all I know others are thinking the same. There are several threads, and vast piles of comments, at WUWT - for example, this one; or the original.

Since it was all obviously septic nonsense wrapped up in equations, I didn't even bother to think about it, in much the same way that you really don't bother with people who claim to disprove relativity over the intertubes. But then Willis Eschenbach was kind enough to put up a post explaining just why it was all rubbish, which is very good, because it can be understood without much thought, and also explains their killer result, viz fitting misc planetary temperatures.

[My own thinking about N&Z in arrears: if you have a planet with a radiatively non-active atmosphere, and make the usual assumption that you can consider it a point and forget about rotation and geometry; then the surface temperature without an atmosphere is such-and-such; and the energy balance at the surface is between incoming SW and outgoing (SW + LW); and if you add a radiatively inactive atmosphere that balance doesn't change at all, in equilibrium; all that happens is that the atmosphere itself acquires some temperature via conduction (which it can't shed radiatively, because its inactive). So the idea that something other than the radiatively active bit determines the surface temperature is twaddle.]

Anyway, it turns out that if you actually bother to read the tripe (as Willis Eschenbach has done) then it all boils down to:

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

and the equation is:

Or, put another way, there is no physics at all behind their "model", just an equation with 4 free parameters which they have then fitted via regression. Which, as WE correctly points out, is a waste of time.

[Oh, and I may not have been paying attention to what other people have been saying about this, either, so if you've already taken this or similar apart, do let me know.]

Update: there have been Q's in the comments here along the lines of "how can these guys be quite so wacko, do they really mean it? Someone claiming to be the Z in N&Z wrote the following at WUWT, which if genuine removes all doubt: they are utterly off their trolleys.

kzeller says:
January 25, 2012 at 9:51 am
Willis says .... "they claim to be able to calculate the surface temperature Ts of eight different planets and moons from knowing nothing more than the solar irradiation So and the surface pressure Ps for each heavenly body. Dr. Zeller refers to this as their MIRACLE equation..." ....."My simplified version of their equation looks like this: Ts = 25.394 * Solar^0.25 * e^(0.092 * Pressure ^ 0.17)" = A SIMPLER MIRACLE

You folks just don't get it do you, you're not seeing the forest for the trees: Willis' rendition of our MIRACLE is also a MIRACLE!!!!!!! What is the Miracle you don't see? We calculate the average global equilibrium surface temperature on any planet/moon using only Solar input and surface pressure! Why is this a miracle? Because it implys that the AGW theory is bogus. Why does it do that? Since the average global surface temperature of any planet/moon IS the basic bottomline determinator of that planet/moon's climate and our Eq 8 accurately calculates this temperature without using greenhouse gas information.
Dr. Nikolov & I have been working on this for over 2 years, our first attempts looked like Willis' simpler miracle, and we've played with density also, but we are trying to get it exact, currently Eq 8. You CAN NOT fit an elephant with an exponential equation, you can with a polynominal. The argument about the number of constants in our equation 8 would be valid it it were a polynominal - it's not.
We are handing WUWT 'THE NAIL' to the AGW coffin and you guys have forgotten about the coffin and are fixated on the details of the nail! Is it galvinized? Why isn't it a wooden spike? They need 2 more nails. Wonder what kind of hammer they plan to use?

I'm not quite sure that they understand the meaning of the word "Miracle" though when they say "Why is this a miracle? Because it implys that the AGW theory is bogus". Presumably they don't mean that only supernatural intervention could render AGW theory wrong. I can't resist, I'm going to troll them with that.


* Plan 9 from Outer Space
* Step 3

More like this

Without gravity any carbon dioxide emitted by fossil fuel burning would not be bound to this planet. Ergo it is gravity which is causing global warming, not humans. If it causes some problems in the future that's gravity's lookout. What are us little people supposed to do? Dig up Newton and drive a stake through his heart?

I came across some berk on one of the contrarian blogs explaining how convection works in this model. Apparently, falling air gets compressed and thus becomes hotter. This then heats the lower atmosphere. This hot air then expands and rises back upwards through its buoyancy.

In other words, it's a perpetual motion machine exactly analogous to a waterwheel driving itself by pouring water from one bucket into another.

[That does seem to be their idea. I saw somewhere one of them being very confused about the lapse rate, because they had read explanations which talked about lifting a test parcel, to see if it was stable, so they didn't understand how the equilibrium could be stable in the absence of motion -W]

By Peter Ellis (not verified) on 24 Jan 2012 #permalink

How does Watts protect his barometer?

The radiation pressure from this much weapons grade stupidity must add up to many pascal

By Russell Seitz (not verified) on 24 Jan 2012 #permalink

I have been spending way too much time over on WUWT and it is really amazing the sort of ridiculous garbage that people are posting to try to get around the fact that it is essentially impossible to explain how a planet could be continually emitting 390 W/m^2 at the surface when it is only receiving 240 W/m^2 from the sun without invoking the notion that the atmosphere absorbs some of the outgoing radiation from the surface! (E.g., read some of Stephen Wilde's posts for your amusement.)

Apparently, if you say some magical words about gravity and convection and how they interact, you get around having to satisfy conservation of energy. Patient explanations about how gravitational potential can only be a net source of thermal energy if the planet is undergoing continual gravitational collapse just fall on deaf ears. (Let alone all the empirical evidence that shows that the solution is not that the planet is really emitting 390 W/m^2 as seen from space but rather that it is only emitting ~240 W/m^2 with a spectrum that shows the "bites" in it at just the expected absorption wavelengths.)

Also worthy of note is how Nikolov and Zeller managed to show that convection negates the radiative greenhouse effect Section 2B of their original paper). They did this by putting convection into the canonical simplest blackbody-shell model of the radiative greenhouse effect in a way that (by their own description!!!) drives the temperature of the surface T_s and of the shell ("radiating layer in the atmosphere") T_a to be equal!

As I have pointed out to them (to no avail), it is already a well-known fact that the temperature at the radiating level has to be lower than the surface temperature to get a radiative greenhouse effect. Too bad that in the real world, convection can only drive the lapse rate down as far as the adiabatic lapse rate.

By Joel Shore (not verified) on 24 Jan 2012 #permalink

This can be classified into a wider family of stupid that has been floating around the WUWT comments for some time - people trying to say that the earth is as warm as it is because of the ideal gas law, or somehow because of the adiabatic lapse rate. Now and again, these types would come up with a story that didn't even allow for the sun to play a role.

A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing, when coupled with an absolute lack of self-awareness. People half-way remember some ideas from physics from their freshman year - and off they go into crankdom.

By carrot eater (not verified) on 24 Jan 2012 #permalink


By David B. Benson (not verified) on 24 Jan 2012 #permalink

More interesting is why Tony allowed Willis to tip over the carrot wagon

[I think if you read Watts intro to the N+Z piece, it is clear that he dare not endorse it. I'm sure he would like all GHE theory to be wrong, but he is also aware (I'd say) that he understands none of this stuff well enough to stick his neck out. So he isn't committed, and this way he "wins", in his terms, either way. If N+Z is right (ho ho) he was their publisher. If WE is right (obviously) then he is encouraging vigourous debate, and is therefore a true scientist. Errrm. The fact that the entire debate was an utter waste of time will be elided. The septics, of course, want desperately to avoid coming to any conclusions, so "debate" ie tail-chasing is good -W]

@ds: but WHOSE knowledge frontier? ;-)

I'm afraid that I don't have the fortitude to go through N+Z's piece (apart from anything else, I know almost nothing of that area of physics) but is there a suggestion anywhere in it as to why global temperatures are going up right now? I find it hard to believe that the mass of the atmosphere has increased enough to make any effective difference.

[Their original poster starts with Recent studies revealed that Global Climate Models (GCMs) have significantly overestimated the Planetâs 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. so I think they are trying to explain a lack of change. Err -W]

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 25 Jan 2012 #permalink

Eh, what's $T_{gb}$? The temperature of Great Britain?

By Martin Vermeer (not verified) on 25 Jan 2012 #permalink

@10 Richard Simons: they have several proposed mechanisms, with pressure just one of them. On the short time scales apparently "clouds" is the answer...

Yeah, it is interesting how some contrarians have sanity in some areas. Eg, Willis on the fact that the greenhouse effect does actually exist, Mosher on the fact that the globe actually is warming, and Engelbeen on anthropogenic CO2. And yet, however hard they try, they can't seem to educate the rest of the contrarian population - and this is contrarian talking to contrarian, not the elite mainstream climategate scientists trying to educate the unwashed masses. This is why Curry's e-salon and Watts' "open scientific dialogue" and such is useless: without some kind of "consensus" determination and dissemination, you just get the same stupid memes cycling through over and over again...


(I sometimes wonder how many stupid contrarian memes we'd have to eliminate before the contrarian community could actually become a useful addition to the scientific dialogue: they certainly have a lot of time and energy and even, for some of them, computer and math skills - see the work on Antarctic temperatures and the surfacestation projects - if only they'd use these skills for good instead of for stupidity)

Just checked out the WUWT comments. Those folks really-really don't care for you. I thought they reserved that level of vituperation for Mann and Jones. You must feel very special.

[Its wonderful, isn't it? I shall treasure it as an example for next time anyone says that WUWT is a polite place. To get the full set, though, I need them to censor some of my comments: I haven't managed that yet.

Looking at the other side, they are turning to cannibalism so the end can't be far off -W]

By Paul Middents (not verified) on 25 Jan 2012 #permalink


[It is fun tweaking them. Do you realise quite how evil I am? See for WE foaming at the mouth. Even his own side tell him to tone it down -W]

And in all that ranting he doesn't say squat about your entirely accurate point that GCMs aren't built by being tuned to historical data.

[Ah, to be fair, he did deny it, and ref Kiehl, even if the link is broken. But that isn't a good forum to go into the detail -W]

Just checked out the WUWT comments. Those folks really-really don't care for you. I thought they reserved that level of vituperation for Mann and Jones. You must feel very special.

By Paul Middents (not verified) on 26 Jan 2012 #permalink

William - thanks for the comment @10.

I had a look at WUWT - there are obviously some confused people there but my favorite comment was "Above my paid grade. In fact out of my orbit. But I love it." (Why, if you don't understand it?)

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 26 Jan 2012 #permalink

>In fact out of my orbit.
>But I love it."
>(Why, if you don't understand it?)

Perhaps chiefly because its not-the-IPCC.

[To be uncharitable, there is a lot of that over there.

But to be more charitable, there is a lot of them feeling that they are in the middle of "real science". Not just that they might be watching a paradigm shift, but just that some of this mysterious "science" stuff is being done while they watch, and they can sort-of understand what is going on, a bit, and maybe contribute. What they don't realise, of course, is that it is all bollocks and that it isn't science at all, just wearing the trappings thereof -W]

But to be more charitable, there is a lot of them feeling that they are in the middle of "real science".

I'm sure you're right, with the addition of the satisfaction they get from cocking a snoot at authoritarian climatologists who are all in on the massive, world-wide conspiracy to establish a global government. It's similar to the attitude there used to be on UncommonDescent towards evolution.

"We are handing WUWT âTHE NAILâ to the AGW coffin"

By now, the AGW coffin must have more nails than the True Cross!

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 27 Jan 2012 #permalink

I see you're having more fun over there. I dipped into the recent thread regarding the Daily Mail's slaughtering of the "news" about cycle 25. Somehow I can't find a single discussion of climate sensitivity, although I've been told several times that this is the "real" debate now.

Those stating this are quite vehement that it is dishonest to represent the "skeptics" as arguing about anything else.

[As they say, "the most basic premises of AGW are now being debated" but they don't realise they are clueless -W]

By blueshift (not verified) on 30 Jan 2012 #permalink

I love the comments of the type:
"I went to the pub ... chatting to a "normal" guy ... he mentions he can't trust Wikipedia anymore because William Connolley has ruined it."

Priceless! Should be a meme in there somewhere.


Yeah, I would say the fraction of threads at WUWT about climate sensitivity being low is pretty small. They do exist though, particularly if you look for the ones written by Monckton. In fact, Monckton's favorite argument (also used by Willis E.) seems to be one where he takes the 33 C temperature rise due to greenhouse gases and compares it to whatever value he can dig out of Kiehl and Trenberth for the "forcing" due to greenhouse gases (anywhere from 80-150 W/m^2, depending on what number you think is best) and uses it to arrive at a climate sensitivity of about 1 C per CO2 doubling. He is convinced (or at least claims to be convinced) that this argument includes all the feedbacks even with the most patient explanations and analogies for why it doesn't. It's pretty frustrating!

[WUWT is a funny old place. They rant and they rave, but then they say things like "this thread has been far more interesting because the greenies have turned up to talk". So I think they realise they are in an echo chamber; and I think they'd like to talk to "the other side". But at the same time, only if they're allowed to win; and the science base is abysmally low, so any discussion isn't very interesting -W]

By Joel Shore (not verified) on 03 Feb 2012 #permalink

blueshift: One more thing...If you want to see where the real crazies hang out, check out tallbloke's blog ( ). It's like WUWT minus most of the not-completely-insane people (e.g., the ones at WUWT who do at least believe that the greenhouse effect is real and explains the elevated surface temperature of the earth).

I'm banned from commenting there for spreading the malicious lie that Nikolov and Zeller's "theory" doesn't even satisfy conservation of energy!

[Ha, they didn't ban me, obviously I was insufficiently instructive. Yes, over there they are convinced that Willis E is a dangerous radical lefty -W]

By Joel Shore (not verified) on 03 Feb 2012 #permalink