A very promising discussion

There is an intriguing ‘meeting of the minds’ going on over at Tallbloke’s blog right now. The topic that sparked it was an old controversy from the 19th century, about whether an air column confined to a container would be cooler at the top than at the bottom (because of gravitation).

The fellow who introduced the topic is William Gilbert. He is also the author of a paper which appeared in 2010 in the journal Energy & Environment, about lapse rates. Gilbert studied radiosonde data for hot, wet days in the tropics, and found that the latent heat introduced into the atmosphere on such days does not get used exclusively for heating the air. Instead, as the air gets wetter, an increasing proportion of the total energy goes to PdV work, that is, to making the air expand and rise.

His conclusion was twofold: 1) you cannot make the air at sea level hotter, and cause the lapse rate to fall, at the same time; 2) water vapor feedback overall is negative.

There are still some kinks to be ironed out, as I don’t fully understand William’s work yet, and he doesn’t fully understand mine. But we agree broadly on a number of things, among them the importance of Ferenc Miskolczi’s work on radiation. I think this might be a breakthrough.

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