An Alternative View of the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere
Written by Michael Connolly & Ronan Connolly
Atmospheric profiles in North America during the period 2010-2011, obtained from archived weather balloon radiosonde measurements, were analysed in terms of changes of molar density (D) with pressure (P). This revealed a pronounced phase change at the tropopause. The air above the troposphere (i.e., in the tropopause/stratosphere) adopted a “heavy phase”, distinct from the conventional “light phase” found in the troposphere. This heavy phase was also found in the lower troposphere for cold, Arctic winter radiosondes. Reasonable fits for the complete barometric temperature profiles of all of the considered radiosondes could be obtained by just accounting for these phase changes and for changes in humidity. This suggests that the well-known changes in temperature lapse rates associated with the tropopause/stratosphere regions are related to the phase change, and not “ozone heating”, which had been the previous explanation. Possible correlations between solar ultraviolet variability and climate change have previously been explained in terms of changes in ozone heating influencing stratospheric weather. These explanations may have to be revisited, but the correlations might still be valid, e.g., if it transpires that solar variability influences the formation of the heavy phase, or if the changes in incoming ultraviolet radiation are redistributed throughout the atmosphere, after absorption in the stratosphere. The fits for the barometric temperature profiles did not require any consideration of the composition of atmospheric trace gases, such as carbon dioxide, ozone or methane. This contradicts the predictions of current atmospheric models, which assume the temperature profiles are strongly influenced by greenhouse gas concentrations. This suggests that the greenhouse effect plays a much smaller role in barometric temperature profiles than previously assumed.
In this paper (Paper I), together with two companion papers (henceforth, Paper II and Paper III), we develop a new approach for describing and explaining the temperature and energy profiles of the atmosphere. This approach highlights a number of flaws in the conventional approaches, and appears to yield simpler and more accurate predictions. In the current paper (Paper I), we will analyse weather balloon data taken from public archives, in terms of changes of molar density with pressure, and related variables. By doing so, we discover a phase change associated with the troposphere-tropopause transition, which also occurs in the lower troposphere under cold, polar winter conditions. We find that when this phase change is considered, the changes in temperature with atmospheric pressure (the barometric temperature profiles) can be described in relatively simple terms. These descriptions do not match the radiative physics-based infra-red cooling/radiative heating explanations used by current models. We present theoretical explanations of these simple descriptions from thermodynamic principles.
In Paper II, we will argue that this previously overlooked phase change is due to partial multimerization of the main atmospheric gases, and therefore is a phase change which has not been considered by the current climate models. If this theory is correct, then this offers new insight into the formation of jet streams, tropical cyclones, polar vortices, and more generally, cyclonic and anti-cyclonic conditions. It also offers a new mechanism for the formation of ozone in the ozone layer, and a mechanism for radiative loss from the atmosphere which has been neglected until now. In Paper III, we identify a mechanism for mechanical energy transmission that is not considered by current atmospheric models, which we call “pervection”. We carry out laboratory experiments which reveal that pervection can be several orders of magnitude faster than the three conventional heat transmission mechanisms of conduction, convection and radiation. This could be fast enough to keep the atmosphere in thermodynamic equilibrium over the distances from the troposphere to the stratosphere, thereby contradicting the conventional assumption that the lower atmosphere is only in local thermodynamic equilibrium. The format of the current paper is as follows. In Section 2 we will briefly review the conventional descriptions and explanations for the atmospheric temperature and energy profiles. In Section 3 we present our analysis of the atmospheric temperature profiles in terms of molar density. In Section 4, we will consider the implications of our findings. Finally, in Section 5, we offer some concluding remarks.
2 Conventional explanations for the atmospheric temperature and energy profiles
2.1 The atmospheric “layers”
Traditionally the atmosphere has been schematically divided into a number of layers or “spheres” surrounding the earth. The schematic divisions are allocated on the basis of the temperature profiles in each region. The three lowest spheres (the “troposphere”, “tropopause” and “stratosphere”) contain more than 99% of the atmosphere by mass. Since, the weather balloons which we analyse in this paper only reach the stratosphere before bursting, our discussion will be mostly confined to these three lower layers. The name troposphere is derived from the Greek word “tropos”, meaning to mix or stir. According to the US Standard Atmosphere (Figure 1), for every kilometre travelled upwards from the ground through the troposphere, the temperature drops by about 6.5K. This is due to thermal energy being converted into gravitational potential energy. The troposphere varies in thickness from about 15 km at the Equator to half that thickness at the Poles (see Figure 2). The lowest one or two kilometres of the troposphere (where most rain and clouds occur) is sometimes called the “boundary layer”. In the tropopause the temperature does not change with height, hence the suffix “–pause”. The thickness of the tropopause also changes from the Equator to the Poles, but in the opposite direction to that of the troposphere, i.e. it is thickest at the Poles and thinnest at the Equator (see Figure 2). In the stratosphere the temperature increases with height. It is often assumed that hot air is always less dense than cold air. This assumption leads to the incorrect conclusion that warm air has to float above cold air. For this reason, mixing of air between different layers is assumed to be rare, leading to the belief that the air in the region is essentially stratified (hence the prefix “strato–”). Some researchers have disputed this assumption, e.g., Brewer, 1949, but the name has stuck. As a consequence, there is a general perception that the stratosphere is mostly isolated from the troposphere, except for some complex circulation patterns confined to specific areas, e.g., the tropical tropopause layer or the Brewer-Dobson circulation in the Arctic.
5 Final remarks
By applying new approaches to analysing the atmospheric profile measurements of weather balloon radiosondes, we were able to identify a previously overlooked phase change which appears to be responsible for the change in temperature behaviour associated with the transition from the troposphere to the tropopause/stratosphere. This phase change also seems to occur in the lower troposphere during Arctic winters. We refer to the tropopause/stratosphere phase as the “heavy phase” and the conventional (non-Arctic winter) tropospheric phase as the “light phase”. Our analysis also highlighted serious problems with two of the radiative physics-based theories currently used by global climate models – the ozone heating explanation for the tropopause/stratosphere temperature behaviour and the greenhouse effect theory. In a series of companion papers, we investigate these issues further. In Paper II, we consider the identity of the heavy phase, and suggest that it involves the partial multimerization of the oxygen (and possibly nitrogen) in the air. In Paper III, we identify a mechanism for mechanical energy transmission in the atmosphere which does not appear to have been considered. We refer to this mechanism as “pervection” (in contrast to convection). Our laboratory measurements of pervection show that it can be considerably faster than radiation, convection or conduction. This could explain why the radiative-convective models which currently comprise the core physics of the global climate models are inadequate. Our findings seem to have a large number of significant implications, which we have attempted to summarise in Section 4. In terms of the current understanding of climate science, a considerable portion of the literature may now need to be revisited (see the 2007 reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for a detailed review of the current literature). In particular, the problems we have identified with the current global climate models appear serious enough to require re-development “from scratch” (see Edwards, 2011 for a good review of the development of the current climate models and Neelin, 2011 for a good introductory textbook on how they work). Nonetheless, we believe that our new approaches to understanding the physics of the Earth’s atmosphere provide more insight, and ultimately should improve attempts at weather prediction and our understanding of climate change.
Read the full paper at oprj.net