A year-old article in Idõjárás: Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service is suddenly getting attention in the meteorological community. And it deserves it. By Hungarian meteorologist Ferenc M. Miskolczi, the peer-reviewed article uses rigorous mathematical and physical analysis to re-estimate climate sensitivity–that is, the amount of warming to be expected from doubled atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. Miskolczi’s answer: not the 2 to 5 degrees C typically asserted by those who push fears of catastrophic manmade warming, runaway greenhouse effect, and tipping points, but 0.24 degree C.
Miskolczi’s original article, quite technical, is “Greenhouse effect in semi-transparent planetary atmospheres,” Idõjárás, Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service 111:1 (January-March 2007): 1-40.
Lubos Motl discussed it in “Hungarian conversion: runaway greenhouse warming impossible,” March 6, 2008, Motl wrote, in part:
In his modified model, the near-surface air temperature is higher, the surface temperature is lower, and the climate sensitivity is much lower than the IPCC numbers. Some of the predictions of his model are claimed to be successfully compared to data from both Earth and Mars.
Most importantly, the actual greenhouse warming is claimed to be strictly bounded from above: it cannot exceed a certain limit. This is what I used in a naive model of greenhouse warming and I am slightly skeptical that a corrected mistake could justify such an unusual outcome.
Nevertheless, it is at least found in a peer-reviewed paper. And indeed, it is a robust explanation of the absence of runaway climate changes in the geological past as well as the constant overestimates of warming trends by the popular greenhouse models.
Miskolczi wrote the paper a few years ago but his colleagues in NASA killed it until it was published in Hungary.
That last paragraph is important. Miskolczi’s work was completed several years ago, but censorship at NASA prevented its publication. How many similar papers exist, not published, because global warming orthodoxy silences its critics?
David Stockwell discussed Miskolczi’s work further, with helpful explanation for laymen, in “Greenhouse effect in semi-transparent planetary atmospheres by Miskolczi–a review,” Niche Modeling (the original article is no longer available at the original site, but can be found here). Stockwell wrote, in part:
Since this controversial peer-reviewed paper was mentioned by Lubos Motl I have noticed increasing side-talk about it. It warrants more attention and effort to understand in depth. While this is a mathematical paper, simple equations of radiative flux balance would present no challenge to people familiar with the field, although some of the concepts are new, such as the ‘virial theorem’. His previous paper, “The greenhouse effect and the spectral decomposition of the clear-sky terrestrial radiation (Miskolczi & Mlynczak 2004)“, provides a gentler introduction to the field of greenhouse spectral analysis, and is a better first read. As in this paper, he drops some real zingers. This paper redefines global warming. But not in a weird way. Of additional equations related to Kirchhoff’s law, constraining the atmosphere to be in thermal equilibrium with the surface, Miskolczi writes:
The physical interpretation of these two equations may fundamentally change the general concept of greenhouse theories.
The model suggests negligible sensitivity of 0.24C surface temperature increase to doubling CO2 increase.
For example, a hypothetical CO2 doubling will increase the optical depth (of the global average profile) by 0.0241, and the related increase in the surface temperature will be 0.24 K.
In understanding a theoretical model I like to look for the invariants, those quantities that remain stable despite perturbations of the system. In this model, optical depth emerges as the invariant. The optical depth, or opacity of the atmosphere to IR sits loosely in a kind of ’sweet spot’, making this another example of a niche model.
The system is locked to the optical depth because of the energy minimum principle prefers the radiative equilibrium configuration, but the energy conservation principle constrains the available thermal energy. The problem for example with the highly publicized simple ‘bucket analogy’ of greenhouse effect is the ignorance of the energy minimum principle (Committee on Radiative Forcing Effects on Climate Change, et al., 2005).
The climate system makes regulatory adjustment to compensate for changes in CO2 with changes in humidity and clouds, in order to most efficiently convert short wave incoming solar energy, into long wave outgoing energy. The problem with radiative models used until now is a discontinuity between the atmospheric and surface temperatures. This violates Kirchhoff’s law, that two bodies in thermal equilibrium must have equal temperatures, and is one of the reasons for mysterious unphysical behavior of climate models. Incorporating this simple constraint introduces an energy minimization principle that makes runaway greenhouse warming impossible. This corrects a major deficiency in the current theory, which doesn’t explain why “runaway” greenhouse warming hasn’t happened in the Earth’s past.
I find the argument compelling that problems of instability of global climate models stem from inadequate constraints. Miskolczi also presents considerable empirical data for both the Earth and Mars in support of the superiority of his new model of planetary atmospheres. The view of the atmospheric system as an equilibrated system occupying a kind of niche also appeals, although the challenge of this theory will be to explain temperature variability at longer scales adequately.
Moreover, Miskolczi’s approach to explaining the climate system illustrates the difference between a layman and a physicist. The layman tends to need a simple analogy to understand systems, such as the ‘leaky bucket analogy‘ for explaining the greenhouse effect, due to limited numeracy. The physicist explains a system simply as the solution set of necessary conservation laws. But simple analogies can be misleading, and sometimes wrong.
The popular explanation of the greenhouse effect as the result of the LW atmospheric absorption of the surface radiation and the surface heating by the atmospheric downward radiation is incorrect, since the involved flux terms are always equal. The mechanism of the greenhouse effect may better be explained as the ability of a gravitationally bounded atmosphere to convert incoming to outgoing radiation in such a way that the equilibrium source function profile will assure the radiative balance, the validity of the Kirchhoff law, and the hydrostatic equilibrium.
If the model is correct, the real cause of recent warming is not related to the enhanced greenhouse effect, as the surface temperature can only change through changes in the energy input to the system. Perturbations of the system by gases, or volcanoes, should result in small, rapid temperature spikes, followed by a reversion to equilibrium conditions. This describes exactly the current lack of global warming (http://landshape.org/enm/example-of-simple-linear-regression/) despite increasing CO2. . . .
Michael Asher’s discussion (“Researcher: Basic Greenhouse Equations ‘Totally Wrong’“) at Daily Tech, March 6, 2008, reveals how scientific orthodoxy squelched dissent and delayed publication of Miskolczi’s work:
Miklós Zágoni isn’t just a physicist and environmental researcher. He is also a global warming activist and Hungary’s most outspoken supporter of the Kyoto Protocol. Or was.
That was until he learned the details of a new theory of the greenhouse effect, one that not only gave far more accurate climate predictions here on Earth, but Mars too. The theory was developed by another Hungarian scientist, Ferenc Miskolczi, an atmospheric physicist with 30 years of experience and a former researcher with NASA’s Langley Research Center.
After studying it, Zágoni stopped calling global warming a crisis, and has instead focused on presenting the new theory to other climatologists. The data fit extremely well. “I fell in love,” he stated at the International Climate Change Conference this week.
“Runaway greenhouse theories contradict energy balance equations,” Miskolczi states. Just as the theory of relativity sets an upper limit on velocity, his theory sets an upper limit on the greenhouse effect, a limit which prevents it from warming the Earth more than a certain amount.
How did modern researchers make such a mistake? They relied upon equations derived over 80 years ago, equations which left off one term from the final solution.
Miskolczi’s story reads like a book. Looking at a series of differential equations for the greenhouse effect, he noticed the solution — originally done in 1922 by Arthur Milne, but still used by climate researchers today — ignored boundary conditions by assuming an “infinitely thick” atmosphere. Similar assumptions are common when solving differential equations; they simplify the calculations and often result in a result that still very closely matches reality. But not always.
So Miskolczi re-derived the solution, this time using the proper boundary conditions for an atmosphere that is not infinite. His result included a new term, which acts as a negative feedback to counter the positive forcing. At low levels, the new term means a small difference … but as greenhouse gases rise, the negative feedback predominates, forcing values back down.
NASA refused to release the results. Miskolczi believes their motivation is simple. “Money”, he tells DailyTech. Research that contradicts the view of an impending crisis jeopardizes funding, not only for his own atmosphere-monitoring project, but all climate-change research. Currently, funding for climate research tops $5 billion per year.
Miskolczi resigned in protest, stating in his resignation letter, “Unfortunately my working relationship with my NASA supervisors eroded to a level that I am not able to tolerate. My idea of the freedom of science cannot coexist with the recent NASA practice of handling new climate change related scientific results.”
His theory was eventually published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in his home country of Hungary.
The conclusions are supported by research published in the Journal of Geophysical Research last year from Steven Schwartz of Brookhaven National Labs, who gave statistical evidence that the Earth’s response to carbon dioxide was grossly overstated. It also helps to explain why current global climate models continually predict more warming than actually measured.
The equations also answer thorny problems raised by current theory, which doesn’t explain why “runaway” greenhouse warming hasn’t happened in the Earth’s past. The new theory predicts that greenhouse gas increases should result in small, but very rapid temperature spikes, followed by much longer, slower periods of cooling — exactly what the paleoclimatic record demonstrates.
However, not everyone is convinced. Dr. Stephen Garner, with the NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), says such negative feedback effects are “not very plausible”. Reto Ruedy of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies says greenhouse theory is “200 year old science” and doubts the possibility of dramatic changes to the basic theory.
Miskowlczi has used his theory to model not only Earth, but the Martian atmosphere as well, showing what he claims is an extremely good fit with observational results. For now, the data for Venus is too limited for similar analysis, but Miskolczi hopes it will one day be possible.
Next time you hear someone claiming runaway greenhouse effect or large temperature increase from added CO2 in the atmosphere, send him to these articles.
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