Update May 18 below
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button relates the story of a fictional character who is estranged from the rest of humanity because of a unique personal quality. He alone was born an old man, grew younger as he aged, before dying as an infant. Living in contradiction to all others, he existed as an alien whose relations were always temporary and strained.
Recently I had an interchange with a climatist obsessed with radiation and CO2 as the drivers of climate change. For me it occasioned a look back in time to rediscover how I came to some conclusions about how the atmosphere warms the planet. That process brought up an influencial scientist whose name comes up rarely these days in discussions of global warming/climate change. So I thought a tribute post to be timely.
Dr. Ferenc Mark Miskolczi (feh-rent mish-kol-tsi) was not born estranged, but alienation was forced upon him at the peak of his career as a brilliant astrophysicist. Part of his NASA job was to analyze radiosonde data, and his curiosity led him to find a surprising empirical observation. He published it and continues to hold to it, but his findings happen to cause indigestion among the climate establishment, and also to many skeptics. His writings are dense and filled with math, another reason for some to set him aside.
“I was warned that for every equation in the book, the readership would be halved,
hence it includes only a single equation: E = mc2.”
–Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
The Back Story
In 2004 Dr Ferenc Miskolczi published a paper ’The greenhouse effect and the spectral decomposition of the clear-sky terrestrial radiation’, in the Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service (Vol. 108, No. 4, October–December 2004, pp. 209–251.).
The co-author of the article was his boss at NASA Langley Research Center (Martin Mlynczak). Mlynczak put his name to the paper but did no work on it. He thought that it was an important paper, but only in a technical way.
When Miskolczi later informed the group at NASA there that he had more important results, they finally understood the whole story, and tried to withhold Miskolczi’s further material from publication. His boss for example, sat at Ferenc’s computer, logged in with Ferenc`s password, and canceled a recently submitted paper from a high-reputation journal as if Ferenc had withdrawn it himself. That was the reason that Ferenc finally resigned from his ($US 90,000 /year) job.
At the bottom of this post will be links to Miskolczi’s papers, including the latest one in 2014. Perhaps the most accessible introduction to his understanding comes from his interview with Kirk Myers published at Climate Truth.
Climate Truth: Has there been global warming?
Dr. Miskolczi: No one is denying that global warming has taken place, but it has nothing to do with the greenhouse effect or the burning of fossil fuels.
Climate Truth: According to the conventional anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory, as human-induced CO2 emissions increase, more surface radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere, with part of it re-radiated to the earth’s surface, resulting in global warming. Is that an accurate description of the prevailing theory?
Dr. Miskolczi: Yes, this is the classic concept of the greenhouse effect.
ClimateTruth: Are man-made CO2 emissions the cause of global warming?
Dr. Miskolczi: Apparently not. According to my research, increases in CO2 levels have not increased the global-average absorbing power of the atmosphere.
ClimateTruth: Where does the traditional greenhouse theory make its fundamental mistake?
Dr. Miskolczi: The conventional greenhouse theory does not consider the newly discovered physical relationships involving infrared radiative fluxes. These relationships pose strong energetic constraints on an equilibrium system.
ClimateTruth: Why has this error escaped notice until now?
Dr. Miskolczi: Nobody thought that a 100-year-old theory could be wrong. The original greenhouse formula, developed by an astrophysicist, applies only to the stars, not to finite, semi-transparent planetary atmospheres. New equations had to be formulated.
ClimateTruth: According your theory, the greenhouse effect is self-regulating and stabilizes itself in response to rising CO2 levels. You identified (perhaps discovered) a “greenhouse constant” that keeps the greenhouse effect in equilibrium. Is that a fair assessment of your theory?
Dr. Miskolczi: Yes. Our atmosphere, with its infinite degree of freedom, is able to maintain its global average infrared absorption at an optimal level. In technical terms, this “greenhouse constant” is the total infrared optical thickness of the atmosphere, and its theoretical value is 1.87. Despite the 30 per cent increase of CO2 in the last 61 years, this value has not changed. The atmosphere is not increasing its absorption power as was predicted by the IPCC.
ClimateTruth: You used empirical data, rather than models, to arrive at your conclusion. How was that done?
Dr. Miskolczi: The computations are relatively simple. I collected a large number of radiosonde observations from around the globe and computed the global average infrared absorption. I performed these computations using observations from two large, publicly available datasets known as the TIGR2 and NOAA. The computations involved the processing of 300 radiosonde observations, using a state-of-the-art, line-by-line radiative transfer code. In both datasets, the global average infrared optical thickness turned out to be 1.87, agreeing with theoretical expectations.
ClimateTruth: Have your mathematical equations been challenged or disproved?
Dr. Miskolczi: No.
ClimateTruth: If your theory stands up to scientific scrutiny, it would collapse the CO2 global warming doctrine and render meaningless its predictions of climate catastrophe. Given its significance, why has your theory been met with silence and, in some instances, dismissal and derision?
Dr. Miskolczi: I can only guess. First of all, nobody likes to admit mistakes. Second, somebody has to explain to the taxpayers why millions of dollars were spent on AGW research. Third, some people are making a lot of money from the carbon trade and energy taxes.
ClimateTruth: A huge industry has arisen out of the study and prevention of man-made global warming. Has the world been fooled?
Dr. Miskolczi: Thanks to censored science and the complicity of the mainstream media, yes, totally.
Others have referred to Miskolczi’s work as finding a saturated greenhouse effect (not his terminology). Most people agree that gases have a logarithmic relation to IR absorption. Thus the effect of adding CO2, or H2O to the atmosphere has diminishing impact, like putting on another coat of paint.
Miskolczi’s analysis shows that at present CO2 concentrations, the radiative warming effect is saturated, because the atmospheric heat engine is always striving to maximize the dissipation of surface heat into space. In the present circumstance, any additional input of heat produces a reaction of additional evaporation or convection to restore the energy balance. Radiative equilibrium is not disturbed, as shown by the stability of the optical depth in the upper troposphere.
This graph shows that the relative humidity has been dropping, especially at higher elevations allowing more heat to escape to space. The curve labelled 300 mb is at about 9 km altitude, which is in the middle of the predicted (but missing) tropical troposphere hot-spot. This is the critical elevation as this is where radiation can start to escape without being recaptured. The average annual relative humidity at this altitude has declined by 21.5% from 1948 to 2007.
If Miskolczi is right, then presently the land-sea surface heats the atmosphere only by evaporation, conduction, and subsequent convection, not by radiation. The layer of air in contact with the surface is in radiative equilibrium, so that warming and cooling of the surface is matched by the immediate air. The land-sea surface does not cool by radiation to the atmosphere, nor is it warmed by “back-radiation.”
Above the surface-air boundary, heat exchanges between layers of air do include radiative activity, and at the TOA it is all radiation into space. 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. With warming and cooling periods, the proportions of H20 and CO2 at the TOA have fluctuated, but the combined optical depth has been stable over the last 60 years.
Credit: Image courtesy NASA’s ERBE (Earth Radiation Budget Experiment) program.
No wonder so much effort is going into a better understanding of cloud effects on climate. Note in the above estimated energy budget diagram that convection and latent heat combined are twice the estimated surface radiation absorbed in the air. Note also that the air absorbs more energy directly from the sun than it absorbs from the surface.
Bear in mind that water vapor does more than 90% of all IR activity by gases. And note that clouds are composed of water droplets (liquid state), and IR activity by clouds (likely underestimated here) is on top of water’s thermal effect as a gas.
Summary: Dr. Ferenc Miskolczi’s Strange Journey
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.
Miskolczi resigned in protest, stating in his October 28, 2005 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.”
“More than three years ago, I presented to NASA a new view of greenhouse theory and pointed out serious errors in the classical approach to assessing climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas perturbations. Since then my results were not released for publication. Since my new results have far reaching consequences in the general atmospheric radiative transfer, I wish to have no part in withholding the above scientific information from the wider community of scientists and policymakers.”
More at Cornwall Alliance Peer-Reviewed Research Suggests Very Little Warming from CO2
His theory was eventually published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal in his home country of Hungary.
The greenhouse effect and the spectral decomposition of the clear-sky terrestrial radiation
Miskolczi’s latest paper is The Greenhouse Effect and the Infrared Radiative Structure of the Earth’s Atmosphere 2014
Previously in 2010 he published in Energy & Environment The Stable Stationary Value of the Earth’s Global Average Atmospheric Planck-Weighted Greenhouse-Gas Optical Thickness
Update May 18
Robin Pittwood has done an analysis confirming that recent global warming has been matched by increasing outgoing longwave radiation, such that the equilibrium point has remained stable. His money graph is this one:
This finding is consistent with Miskolczi’s finding that the atmospheric heat engine adjusts to changes so that energy balance is maintained. There is more at KiwiThinker: An Empirical Look at Recent Trends in the Greenhouse Effect