Venus surface temp correctly predicted from lapse rate in 1967 – but is it the whole story?

Posted: June 28, 2014 by tallbloke in Astrophysics, atmosphere, climate, Clouds, geothermal, Gravity, Ocean dynamics, solar system dynamics
Tags: , ,

I came across this paper today while searching for the heat capacity of Venus near surface atmosphere, which is actually an ocean-like (in thermodynamic terms) supercritical fluid. It presages Harry Dale Huffman’s ‘rediscovery’ of the lapse rate calculation by four decades. Another paper, much more recent, (Bolmatov et al 2013) contains some theory which raises yet more questions about the reasons for Venus’ high surface temperature. So, greenhouse due to radiative proerties of co2 as Sagan claimed, lapse rate due to gravity and pressure as Nikolov and Zeller maintain, or the thermal properties of supercritical fluids and geothermal energy having a hard time escaping the lower atmosphere? Let the debate recommence!



  1. Doug Proctor says:

    Does the Earth CAGW story rely on Venus’ surface temperatures being CO2 related?

  2. The lapse rate (or, linear vertical temperature gradient with altitude) has been known for over a century, in the Standard Atmosphere model(s) put forward in that time, so it is not surprising that you can find mention of it in 1967, as well as by myself and by Nikolov and Zeller (N&Z). However, the very substantial differences between these 3 instances should be emphasized: 1) The 1967 paper and N&Z focus upon the (global mean) surface temperature, while my Venus/Earth temperature comparison considers the temperatures over the full range of Earth tropospheric pressures (1,000 – 200 mb), at points of equal pressures in the two atmospheres. 2) Venus’s mean surface temperature was NOT “correctly predicted” in the 1967 paper above; rather it found a range of temperatures–using a range of assumptions in its model–from 460 to 800K, then noted that the measured temperature at that time was 700K, and concluded that that broad range was “a completely independent demonstration…that the mean surface temperature is VERY ROUGHLY [my emphasis] in the vicinity” of 700K. Compare that with the few tenths of a degree difference in the temperature-pressure curves of Venus and Earth I presented, when the Venus data is corrected simply for its closer distance than Earth is from the Sun. 3) The N&Z model is not even a physical one, and in fact only hid the lapse rate in a hypothesized “atmospheric temperature enhancement”, and it predicted nothing, only fitted the data from 8 planetary bodies in the solar system to an arbitrary–not physically motivated–ad hoc formula (whose left and right-hand sides don’t even have the same physical dimensions). In summary, my little effort–which I called, and still call, student level, and separating of the competent from the incompetent in climate science–is the definitive correction to climate science, on a whole handful of points of the basic physics of tropospheric warming, to the stable state represented by the Standard Atmosphere (with no possibility of runaway warming OR cooling–so no naturally occurring “ice ages” in the past, either).

  3. PS, to Doug Proctor (while I’m still here, I might as well make the most of it):

    It doesn’t matter. The point is that the Venus/Earth temperature comparison I performed shows definitively (i.e., precisely, above and below the Venus cloud layer) that there IS NO greenhouse effect, on Earth OR Venus, from 0.04% concentration of CO2 (Earth) all the way up to 96.5% (Venus).

  4. Konrad says:

    I would agree that
    A. There were flaws in the N&Z hypothesis
    B. There is no radiative GHE on Earth or Venus,, however, I would phrase this “no Net radiative GHE”

    What N&Z got wrong was that they thought that radiative gases have no effect, whereas they do. On Earth and Venus they are needed for radiative subsidence from altitude. A lapse rate cannot be maintained without vertical circulation. This is clearly defined in our atmosphere either side of the tropopause. Strong vertical circulation ends, and the lapse rate stagnates and reverses.

    It is not necessary to invoke a radiative GHE to explain surface temperatures on Venus. It’s simply a thermodynamics issue. While closer to the sun, Venus absorbs less radiation due to higher albedo. Most of this is absorbed mid atmosphere. However vertical circulation is occurring. Gases warmed mid atmosphere are heated by adiabatic compression as they descend to the surface. The huge pressure gradient in the Venusian atmosphere creates the high surface temperatures.

  5. gallopingcamel says:

    At the time that Pollack & Sagan published their papers, the atmospheric composition of Venus was not known; nor was the height of the cloud tops relative to the surface. This accounts for the wide range of their “Predictions” noted by Harry Dale Huffman above.

    The 1967 Pollack and Sagan paper quoted above used the generally accepted value of Cp for CO2 and nitrogen (1.10 and 1.13 respectively) so Sagan published a correction in 1968 that recognized that the high surface pressure on Venus raises the Cp of CO2:

    To quote Sagan (1968):
    “…..; the adibatic lapse rate in the lower atmosphere will then be close to 7.9 K/km.”

    As HDH points out the N&K “Unified Theory of Climate” reproduces the temperatures only at the surface of rocky bodies. I am looking for equations that do a decent job of modeling temperature at any altitude in a planet’s atmosphere which is why I am studying the work of Robinson & Catling. Thus far I have only had time to look at Titan:

    Encouraged by the success R&C’s physical model I am hopeful that it will improve our understanding of the atmospheres of Venus and Earth.

  6. gallopingcamel says:

    Konrad says:
    “It is not necessary to invoke a radiative GHE to explain surface temperatures on Venus. It’s simply a thermodynamics issue.”

    Robinson & Catling apply radiative transfer equations throughout the atmosphere but once the pressure exceeds 0.1 bar their equations show that radiation absorbed by complex molecules is increasingly likely to be lost through collisions before rather than by radiation. For example the lower atmosphere of Earth and Venus is opaque at 15 microns. Thus the R&C model shows a lapse rate of -g/Cp in planetary tropospheres due to “Radiative/Convective processes”.

  7. Anything is possible says:

    With respect TB, I think you maybe coflating 2 different issues here :

    The first is why Venus’s surface is hot, which I think is adequately explained by the adiabatic theory espoused by HDH and (in a somewhat different form) by N & Z.

    The second issue, which may or may not be related, is why are surface temperatures on Venus the same everywhere on the planet, and never change despite the fact that the Venusian day is over 220 times longer than the days on Earth.

    I had always ascribed that to an “ultimate radiative greenhouse effect” which is incredibly efficient at horizontal heat transfer.

    The theory of the near-surface atmosphere on Venus being a super-critical fluid is entirely new to me, though. Throw it into the mix, I guess.

  8. tallbloke says:

    AiP: The issue of the constancy of temperature between day and night side, and the small equator-pole gradient is exactly what I have in mind, and is why I brought the ‘supercritical fluid’ question into play.

  9. Brian H says:

    CO2 radiation and reception essentially short-circuits the whole atmosphere. Heat cannot preferentially build up anywhere in it.

  10. tallbloke says:

    Harry: Venus’s mean surface temperature was NOT “correctly predicted” in the 1967 paper above; rather it found a range of temperatures–using a range of assumptions in its model–from 460 to 800K, then noted that the measured temperature at that time was 700K, and concluded that that broad range was “a completely independent demonstration…that the mean surface temperature is VERY ROUGHLY [my emphasis] in the vicinity” of 700K.

    Athough table 1 has a wide range of predictions, there are ‘best estimates’ sprinkled through the paper which narrow down the final figure.

    Nitrogen content – a few percent.
    Atmospheric height to cloudtops – 45-65km
    Cloudtop temperature 240K

    If we take the average of the four values for 0.05 Co2-N2 mixing ratio we get 685K

    Pretty good.

    The point is that the Venus/Earth temperature comparison I performed shows definitively (i.e., precisely, above and below the Venus cloud layer) that there IS NO greenhouse effect, on Earth OR Venus, from 0.04% concentration of CO2 (Earth) all the way up to 96.5% (Venus).

    As Konrad point’s out, subsidence generates convective circulation. Since very little sunlight reaches the surface of Venus, we might consider that it is the radiative effect of co2 losing energy to space which is setting up the circulation which carries energy from higher in the atmosphere down to the surface.

    I wonder also how much difficulty the geothermal heat that is being generated in Venus has escaping through the dense surface atmosphere.

  11. Roger Clague says:

    Konrad says:
    June 29, 2014 at 12:55 am

    A lapse rate cannot be maintained without vertical circulation.

    The lapse rate is maintained by radiation.Vertical circulation ( convection ) is not necessary for the maintenance ( or formation ) of a lapse rate.

    Energy transfer by repeated radiation between molecules, especially IR active, e.g. H20, C02,CH4, is much faster than by convection. Convection is the the slow movement of molecules, repeat radiation is the fast movement of photons.

    Gravity causes lapse rate
    Radiation maintains lapse rate
    Lapse rate causes convection.

  12. NikFromNYC says:

    For the record, Harry has a habit of claiming even the most fantastical correlations amount to proof in a way that extends into pure madness that invokes ancient gods playing sandbox with Earth in a way that also falsifies plate tectonics:

    Skeptical blogs have become flypaper for crackpots since even they can spot a scam, likely better than most, in fact, but this adds a lot of inertia to the task of bringing climate model skepticism into the mainstream.

  13. tallbloke says:

    Nik: Harry and the talkshop have got this covered. He doesn’t discuss his divine intervention theories here and we don’t take him to task about them when he restricts his comment to physics.

  14. Venus (actually proto-Venus) is a new planet, the heavy elements which comprise it rebounded from an enormously energetic on Jupiter, only 6,000 years ago. Jupiter comprises solid, frozen, incompressable, methane gas hydrate, a clathrate, (primarily water) but which incorporates essentially all the heavy elements in the nascent solar system. That is why its density is 1.33. Terrestrial planets each formed when impacts on Jupiter triggered enormous nuclear fusion explosions.
    Proto-Venus is a roiling molten sphere with a thin basaltc crust. The lower cloud layer, up to 48 km is the result of sulphur (S8 and longer chains) being jetted at high speeds from over 200,000 ‘small domes’ in the lowest terrain areas. This gaseous S8 (a staggered ring molecule) shoots at high speed directly to 48 km where the temperature is exactly that of the crystallization of S8. This, combined with radiation, are the ways that proto-planets cool. Lapse rate only applies to a well-mixed atmosphere on an ancient planet. The entire lower atmosphere comprises S8 gas topped off with the lower cloud layer, which is crystallized (stacked) S8. Pioneer Venus mass spec found no CO2 in the lower cloud layer, and scientists blamed a clogging of the inlet leak. The high pressure, 91 atmospheres, is due to the weight of the heavy S8 molecules and some CS, which scientists interpreted as CO2 below 31 km. The internal heat is so great that the temperature profile is exatly the same on the day and night side, even though a Venus day is 243 earth days. The atmosphere contains completely different molecules at different altitudes because this is a mass flow regime.
    See > The Atmosphere of Proto-Venus and other posts on Venus.
    A more detailed scientific paper, presented at the 2002 JGR meeting in Washington DC, is also available at

  15. NikFromNYC says:

    Roger is an angel.

  16. tallbloke says:

    Nik: You’re a bad man. 😉

  17. gallopingcamel says:

    Roger Clague, June 29, 2014 at 12:33 pm,

    As you point out, radiative transfer could account for the adiabatic lapse rate in planetary tropospheres without any help from conduction, convection or phase changes.

    A similar discussion has been taking place here:

  18. Roger Clague says:

    The lapse rate is caused by the action of gravity on matter. It is maintained by radiation

  19. J Martin says:

    Angiras. How does what you have described Venus to be, square with the data from the 17 or so probes that have been there ?

    Did I understand you to say that Jupiter gave birth to Venus 6000 years ago which then moved into an orbit between Earth and the sun. And this had no or very little effect on Earths orbit or climate ?

    Go back a few thousand more years and perhaps you could lay the blame for the Younger Dryas on the event.

  20. The entire global warming fiasco is based on the current hypothesis that Venus is ancient and all its oceans were evaporated by 30,000 times the amount of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. Do you really believe that a greenhouse effect could heat the planet to the point that lead and zinc would melt if laid on the surface? Moreover even on the night side? The jetting of S8 also explains the slowing of Venus’ rotation measured by Venus Express. You blokes are stuck in the same old standard model as academia. If you just look at the diagram of Venus’ atmosphere in my blog, from the Pioneer Venus report which includes the temperatures of the observed (not explained) layers, then look up the crystallization temperatures of S8 and CS, as I have done, the solution is obvious.

  21. suricat says:

    Angiras (John Ackerman) says: July 1, 2014 at 12:12 am

    Nice move, perhaps I’ll add my ‘sig’ to my ‘web name’ and post as ‘suricat (Ray Dart)’. Nah! I’ll keep it the way that it is. Readers that know me by either label will know who I am. I admire your honesty though. 🙂

    I concur with your assumptions. Venus resembles a planet that is in ‘recovery’ from an ‘event’ of some order. The fact that Venus is in ‘retrograde’ rotation implies a probable, ~recent, impact event of the order that proto-Earth was ‘theoretically’ accredited with for its collision with Thea. Thus, a ‘proto-planet’ in flux, ‘can’t be used’ in comparrison with a ‘stable’ planet. There are ‘no’ analogies to support this comparrison!

    However, physics maintains that a change of ‘phase’ between the states of matter requires energy, thus, ‘latent energy’ seems to be the ‘prime transport’ for energy below Venus’s clouds for the time being.

    Best regards, Ray Dart.

  22. tallbloke says:

    Ray: The fact that Venus is in ‘retrograde’ rotation implies a probable, ~recent, impact

    The research into the harmonic relations between planetary spin rates Oldbrew and I did shows this whole ‘it must have been an impact’ line of ‘thinking’ to be lazy brained nonsense.

    Venus shows the same face to Earth at every inferior conjunction. How likely is it that another body struck Venus at just the right speed and location to produce that result?

    The clincher is this:
    Venus is also with 10 degrees of showing the same face to Jupiter each time it is in inferior conjunction with that planet as well, and is within 2 degrees of showing Jupiter the same face after a number of inferior conjunctions which is close to the time period of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction period of 19.86 yrs. And it is within 1 degree of showing Jupiter the same face at inferior conjunction after a period of 44 yrs, which is the same time period at which several other inner planet returns match in whole numbers.

    Venus can only achieve this close relationship with both Earth and Jupiter by rotating slowly retrograde.

    If we consider that likely cause of this ‘nodding’, the best one I can think of is that Tom Van Flandern’s theory that Mercury is an escaped moon of Venus is likely correct, and that when Mercury was formed by being slewed off from Venus’ surface during an overspin phase, it left Venus with an uneven density distribution which makes one side of it more magnetically permeable than the other. It also implies that Venus solid core jiggles around in its molten core relative to its mantle in order to maintain Venus’ spin axis. That would create friction with two effects. Firstly it will slow the planet down. Secondly it will create a lot of heat.

    What we observe is a slowly rotating hot planet.

  23. Hi Tallbloke

    Is this thread done or would you like some more thougths on Venus?


    Click to access ChaosintheSolarSystem.pdf

    may explain more than one would think.

  24. Angiras says:

    Conventional lapse rate does not apply to proto-Venus. Undetected S8, the natural form of sulphur at temp. of Venus’ lower atmosphere, is jetting to 48 km from over 200,000 small domes, forming the lower cloud layer. Pioneer Venus did not sense CO2 from 50 km down to 31 km, explained away as a droplet of sul[huric acid clogging the input leak, It then sensed CS, with same molecular weight and ‘scientists’ assummed it was CO2. The high pressure at the surface is due to these heavy molecules comprising the entire lower atmosphere. The jetting of S8 also explains the slowing of Venus rotation in the last twenty years. There is a separate post on retrograge rotation. See:
    John Ackerman

  25. tallbloke says:

    Thanks, interesting looking document. I took a quick look at Venus section. I prefer my own hypothesis which is that since the gravitational effect on Venus of the Earth and Jupiter are the same order of magnitude, and Venus spins exactly thrice per conjunction with respect to earth, and within 10 degrees of once per conjunction with respect to Jupiter, this resonance can only be satisfied by slow retrograde spin, and so that’s why Venus spins slowly retrograde.

  26. Okay we go for it, but it’s late now.

    Here is another one to ponder about:

    Click to access venus1.2002.pdf

    Now think very basic physics, like conseravtion of momentum and conservation of energy.

    More tomorrow.

  27. Laskar’s calculations are all based on the uniformitarian paradigm – that the planets have been in essentially the same orbits for bilions of years. cycliccatastrophism, based on the Rg Veda, Egyptian texts and Greek myth, posits that Mars, Venus and Mercury were all close to the Earth between 3717 and 687 BC, and only entered their current orbits a few centuries. Up to that date Mercury was the solid iron core of Mars. The retrograde rotation of Venus and its synchroniciy with the orbit of the Earth, were both the result of its greater orbital eccentricity during the above period, as illustrated in
    As a result, none of the calculated secular variations of orbits and obliquiies have passed through a tiny fraction of the cycles imagined in Laskar. The discrepancies he finds are but tiny clues, all explained in great detail in cyclic catastrophism, based on ancient texts.

  28. tallbloke says:

    John A: all explained in great detail in cyclic catastrophism

    Where can we find the mathematical calculations that form this great detail? Thanks.

  29. oldbrew says:

    TB: ‘Where can we find the mathematical calculations’

    See link here – leftturnandre says: January 9, 2015 at 11:20 pm
    Also change ‘venus1’ to ‘venus2’ for part 2 of the pdf.

  30. tallbloke says:

    I’m not asking for Andre’s gradualist calcs, I’m asking for John’s catastrophist calcs.

  31. My work is based on observations of events close to the Earth. These give enormous detail that cannot be reproduced mathematically: the amount of distortion of Mars and the Earth at the time; the resistance of the asetheneosphere to the rotation of the lithosphere on both Mars and the Earth; the gravitational effect of alignments of the Moon with Mars when it was in geostationay orbit of the Earth. You have obviously not read much of my work. They contain perhaps a thousand pages in toto, with a what is a revolutionary idea to conventional thinking on every one. Just read a few of my 140-some blogs.
    If you want the current mathematics of the stability of the solar system I suggest you read:Laskar
    or watch
    John Ackerman