Heresy and orthodoxy

Overnight, I have a comment on my Chapter 3 from none other than Anthony Watts. ‘What an atrocious article’. Anthony has certainly nailed his colours to the wall with that comment. What is he on about? I reply below:

This post is an impromptu based upon some interesting material that turned up in a search on the words: ‘ozone surface pressure’ the day before yesterday.

In 1968 Gordon Dobson, the man measured the quantity of ozone in the stratosphere and revolutionized our understanding of the middle atmosphere  reviewed his life’s work (see here: and wrote the passage italicised below that gives a good indication of the methodical approach that the man had to his work. The wartime government in the UK was concerned that aircraft contrails were giving information to the enemy about aircraft movements and his task was to measure the amount of water vapour in the air where these aircraft flew. But his enduring interest was to discover the nature of the atmosphere and the drivers of surface weather because he was a meteorologist :

The wartime measurements of the humidity of the upper atmosphere, showing that the stratosphere is very dry, were of interest in relation to the question of the equilibrium temperature of the stratosphere. The temperature of the stratosphere was generally regarded as being controlled by the absorption and emission of longwave radiation, the chief absorbing gases being water vapor, carbon dioxide, and ozone. If the air in the stratosphere were nearly saturated with water vapor, then water vapor would far outweigh the others in importance. When it was found that the stratosphere only contained a few percent of the water vapor required to saturate it, the picture appeared quite different and the three gases appeared to be of equal importance in determining the temperature of the stratosphere. Another interesting result to come out of the measurements with the frost point hygrometer was that there were often layers of very dry air quite low down in the troposphere, which must have descended from high in the troposphere if not from the stratosphere. The results of this wartime work were presented in the Bakerian Lecture of the Royal Society for 1945.

Dobson lectured in meteorology at Oxford. A biography of Dobson is provided by University of Oxford Department of Physics at:

There,  you will find this statement:

Dobson inferred correctly that the cause of the warm stratosphere was heating by the absorption of ultraviolet solar radiation by ozone,

Longwave radiation is not ultraviolet radiation.

Apart from being a direct contradiction of what Dobson had written in 1968 the notion that the stratosphere owes its temperature to interception of short wave ultraviolet light is nonsense and you must ask yourself why the person writing Dobson’s biography should take that diametrically opposed position. Anyone who thinks about it for a moment will decide that Dobson is right and his biographer wrong. If short wave radiation were responsible for the heating of the stratosphere it would be warmest over the equator. The stratosphere is a markedly heterogeneous medium in terms of its ozone content and in high latitudes during winter there are relatively warm parcels of air that are well out of the reach of short wave solar radiation. The only form of energy available to these parcels is outgoing long wave. Ozone rich air gets warmer. If short wave energy were the only form available to heat ozone there would be very little differentiation in the temperature of the stratosphere in winter and meteorologists would not be setting up this website to study the variations in ozone content, atmospheric temperature and geopotential height in high latitudes :

Between 200 hPa and 10 hPa we have 20% of the atmosphere. Above 10 hPa we have just 1% of the atmosphere of which the stratosphere takes up the interval to 0.1 hPa. Above o.1 hPa we have just 0.01% of the atmosphere and none of it is classified as stratosphere. Short wave solar radiation contributes strongly to the heating of the stratosphere above 10 hPa. Long wave radiation from the Earth contributes to the heating of the stratosphere throughout, and into the mesosphere as well. If you must choose one of these sources of radiation as being dominant it is the latter.

Dobson spent most of his life in the field of optics (generation, propagation, and detection of electromagnetic radiation) and in manufacturing instruments to measure the energy in short wave spectra. His spectrophotometer selected out the wave length that is absorbed by ozone in the the process of its destruction in the stratosphere and compared that to wave lengths unaffected by their passage through the atmosphere and the ratio between the two enabled him to infer the quantity of ozone in the atmospheric column. The use of his instrument  resulted in major advances in our understanding of the atmosphere. He manufactured these instruments in a garden shed at his home. Later when the instruments were manufactured by others every one of them was brought to his garden shed for calibration against his original Dobson Meter Number 1.

Dobson was an expert when it came to the difference between short wave ionising radiation coming from the sun and long wave coming in the main from the Earth itself.

If you take the position that the stratosphere is heated by short wave incoming radiation alone, you deny that ozone is a greenhouse gas. You deny that it absorbs at 9-10 micrometres, a wave length that lies in the peak of the earth’s spectrum of infra-red emission and you deny that it can be responsible, via its effect on the density of the upper atmosphere for variations in surface pressure. AND THAT IS THE ENTIRE POINT.

Dobson who had worked briefly at the Eskdalemuir Geomagnetic Observatory in Scotland  wrote as follows in the same report:

Chree,’ using the first year’s results at Oxford had shown that there appeared to be a connection between magnetic activity and the amount of ozone, the amount of ozone being greater on magnetically disturbed days. Lawrence used the Oxford ozone values for 1926 and 1927 and in each year found the same relation as Chree had done. However, when he used the average ozone values for Northwest Europe-which should be less affected by local meteorological conditions-he found no relation at all, so it was concluded that both Chree’s results and his earlier ones had been accidental. This investigation has never been repeated.

And the decision to close off that particular line of investigation was designed to effectively shut the door on inquiries designed to ascertain if there existed a link between the solar wind and the flux in surface pressure at the surface of the Earth via the impact of the solar wind on the electromagnetic medium that is the upper atmosphere. There are false trails in science but people like Dobson don’t go to the trouble of mentioning them. There is an air of regret in the last sentence of that paragraph: This investigation has never been repeated.

This sort of obfuscation and denial is rife in the world of climate science as it is carried on in academic institutions and the IPCC where Dobsons successor in atmsopheric science at Oxford was the lead author of the first three IPCC reports . Though it may have been possible to shut down this type of inquiry at Oxford it continues elsewhere and the evidence of the link between atmospheric pressure and geomagnetic activity continues to accrue.

In his 1968 summary of his life’s work Dobson wrote this about his very early observation that Total Column Ozone mapped surface pressure:

At this time it was well known from the work of Dines and others that the stratosphere was warmer in cyclonic conditions and colder in anticyclonic conditions, and Lindemann also suggested that these differences of temperature might be due to different amounts of ozone in the stratosphere-cyclonic conditions having much ozone and anticyclonic conditions little ozone. It also seemed just possible that cyclones and anticyclones might be actually caused by different amounts of ozone in the upper atmosphere. We know now that there is, indeed, more ozone in cyclonic conditions than in anticyclonic conditions but that this is not the cause of the different pressure systems.

When I read this paragraph I see arm twisting going on and Dobson resisting. He takes every opportunity to suggest that ozone drives surface pressure, repeatedly states the connection, reminds people that Lindemann thought that ozone drove temperature (and therefore density) and then, surprisingly, in the last dozen words he capitulates.

Dobson had a position at Oxford University that was no doubt important to him. My guess is that he was being leaned on  by  people who were dead set on pushing a different narrative. These people were well aware that if surface pressure were to be seen to be dependent upon the ozone content of the upper half of the atmospheric column it would spoil their narrative and they prevailed upon him to alter his words accordingly.

Tell me this: if the presence of ozone in the upper half of a column of ascending air is not the cause of low surface pressure then, by what process can ozone enter a column of ascending air that draws its air from the lower atmosphere that is ozone deficient?

The narrative that denies ozone a role in determining surface pressure requires strict separation of a ‘troposphere’ from a ‘stratosphere’ so that convection in low pressure cells is limited to the troposphere. In point of fact cyclogenisis (indicated by the wind strength and enhanced density differential) increases from the surface into the stratosphere in a polar cyclone. The geopotential height anomaly associated with the Annular Modes that represent the shift in surface pressure between high latitudes and the rest of the globe is greatest in the stratosphere.

My long post Chapter 4  makes the exact same point as the last paragraph by examining the temperature profile of each latitude band between the inter-tropical convergence and 90° south.

“It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.”
Joseph Goebbels

“That propaganda is good which leads to success, and that is bad which fails to achieve the desired result. It is not propaganda’s task to be intelligent, its task is to lead to success.”
Joseph Goebbels

If ordinary people can not be a little more intelligent the forces of darkness will prevail. For humanity’s sake, get angry. Do not let people who follow in Goebbel’s footsteps push you around.

9 thoughts on “Heresy and orthodoxy

  1. ERl, a thought on this point:

    “If short wave radiation were responsible for the heating of the stratosphere it would be warmest over the equator. The stratosphere is a markedly heterogeneous medium in terms of its ozone content and in high latitudes during winter there are relatively warm parcels of air that are well out of the reach of short wave solar radiation. The only form of energy available to these parcels is outgoing long wave. ”

    I agree that most absorption of energy by ozone would be above the equator if solar shortwave were the source.

    You question that it is indeed solar shortwave absorption because of the warmth of the stratosphere above the poles where there is much less solar shortwave available. You suggest that it is mainly longwave absorption from the surface despite the surface being very cold at the poles.

    My suggestion is that a portion of the warmth absorbed over the equator gets converted to potential energy during the upward leg of the Brewer Dobson circulation which is over the equator, it then gets transported poleward and enters the downward leg above the poles.

    During the descent that potential energy converts back to kinetic energy which warms the lower stratosphere above the poles.

    On that basis the concept of ozone absorbing primarily from solar shortwave becomes plausible once more.

    Additionally, in the stratosphere, ozone acts to heat the local atmosphere through both
    absorption of solar radiation (of order 2 K/day) and through absorption of terrestrial
    radiation (of order 0.2 K/day, Petty 2006).


  2. Dear Steven,
    The concept of the Brewer Dobson circulation was proposed a long time ago to try and explain why there is more ozone in the atmosphere in the air in high altitudes than low, especially in the winter atmosphere. Those guys were grasping for an explanation. We are now in an age where we can observe the atmosphere from above and map its characteristics on a daily basis.

    There is no better tool to observe the motions of the atmosphere than here:
    There is no better way to see the monthly changes in the distribution of ozone than here:
    Have you used these sites?

    Remember that the primary determinant of the chemical composition of the atmosphere above 100 hPa and in particular above 10hPa where the photolysis of oxygen mainly occurs is photolyzing short wave radiation from the sun. Each molecule of ozone exists only momentarily if it is under the pressure of UV radiation. It can exist for a longer time interval in the atmosphere below 10 hPa according to the relative paucity of the wave length that destroys it via photolysis. Hence the life of a molecule is enhanced in the lower stratosphere by comparison with the upper stratosphere. The longer the path through the atmosphere the less there is of that particular wave length that splits the ozone molecule. The wave lengths that do the job are exhaustible. Near the poles the life of ozone is longest as is the life of NOx that, when it enters the stratosphere, is completely free of the pressure of the wave lengths that destroy it. It follows that in the polar atmosphere the composition of the atmosphere depends very little on the impact of short wave radiation and one hell of a lot on mixing processes that bring NOx in contact with oxygen and ozone.

    So, I am not buying the proposition that you put forward.

    The temperature of the stratosphere over the day/ night cycles varies much less than the surface of the earth. The daily range gets smaller with increasing altitude. What does that tell you about the source of energy that heats it? In other words you can switch on the short wave in the day time and turn it off at night and the temperature of the stratosphere hardly changes at all. No, the source of energy that heats it varies very little between day and night. So, I don’t know how Petty got his figures but they are not believable.


  3. “So, I am not buying the proposition that you put forward. ”

    I don’t think that follows logically from what you say about the behaviouir of ozone molecules.

    All that you say may be correct but still the air descending down through the polar vortices in the downward leg of the B-D Circulation would still warm up at the DALR with or without ozone being present.

    As you said previously:

    “The Brewer Dobson circulation is real. It represents ascent over the equator and slow descent near the poles.”

    So, equatorial warmth is being placed into the lower stratosphere above the poles with or without ozone present.

    Being independent of daily insolation variations that process would also produce a smaller daily temperature range with height.

    I would say that the B-D Circulation is a discrete phenomenon above the tropopause and it only affects the surface driven convective overturning of the troposphere by regionally changing the height to which tropospheric convection can rise.

    In effect the tropopause delineates the point at which the dominant process transitions from the convecting weather systems we see from the ground to the much slower flows of air within the much more stratified and stable stratosphere.


  4. Dear Steven, Here is the problem. You write: All that you say may be correct but still the air descending down through the polar vortices in the downward leg of the B-D Circulation……..

    The air descending through the vortices is not stratospheric air that contains relatively high levels of ozone. Its actually mesospheric air that contains very low levels of ozone and substantial levels of NOx responsible for the destruction of ozone. The mesosphere is not part of the Brewer Dobson circulation. That circulation, if it exists at all, and the data that we have indicates that there are much more influential forces at work, resides wholly in the stratosphere.

    The stratosphere is not stratified. Look at Look at the circulation of the air at 10 hPa across the year by toggling the date forward and backwards.

    You have a rich imagination but you must test it against reality.

    The circulation of the stratosphere and the upper troposphere is driven by heterogeneity in ozone content that has no relation at all to the Brewer Dobson idea put forward as a thesis in the 1950s when our knowledge of the stratosphere and the atmosphere in the southern hemisphere in particular was virtually non-existent.

    It suits theorists who see the Earth as a self contained system unaffected by external influences to hang on to concepts like the Brewer Dobson circulation but really, these guys are in la-la land.


  5. Yes, I accept that the air descending through the polar vortices is mesospheric air.

    My hypothesis is that solar variations cause changes above the stratopause in the chemical composition of the mesospheric air which then descends at the poles and affects ozone amounts in the stratosphere above the poles. That is referred to in my article.

    Additionally, whether that air is mesospheric or stratospheric it nonetheless warms at the DALR as it descends and that is why the air above the poles is warmer than that at the surface.

    I agree that the stratosphere is not completely stratified but it is a lot more stratified than the troposphere and any lack of stratification involves density differentials that will lead to circulation. It doesn’t matter whether that circulation is called the Brewer Dobson Circulation or something else. You seem to agree that there is a circulation of some sort within the stratosphere but,if I understand you correctly, you consider that it has a profound effect on the tropospheric high and low pressure cells whereas I consider that it only affects the height of the boundary between troposphere and stratosphere.

    Anyway, I’d better stop there unless you want me to continue because this is your site for promulgating your hypothesis and I don’t want to become unwelcome.

    I think I see enough differences to distinguish our respective hypotheses and we must now await the accumulation of more data to be able to choose between them.

    Good luck with the further development of your ideas and this site 🙂


  6. Dear Stephen,
    Thanks for your comment. It takes guts to speak your mind and I respect that. You are always welcome here. You have impeccable manners.

    Southern Hemisphere winter: There is a descent of very cold mesospheric air inside the polar vortex that reaches down to perhaps 300hPa. The air is very cold throughout its profile and it gently descends. However, if we look at the temperature at 1 hPa in June 2015 it was -32°C and at 70 hPa -73°C . So, it is warmer at the top of the column than below and with that profile we would expect that it would be ascending.

    Southern hemisphere summer: At this moment temperature at 1 hPa over the polar cap (65-90°C) is +6°C at 1 hPa, at 10 hPa it is -26°C , at 30 hPa it is -29°C, at 50 hPa it is -36°C and at 70 hPa it is -40°C. Directly over the pole, the air at 1 hPa is warmer than the average for the polar cap and warmer than the air over Australia or the Equator. The air is gently ascending with core ascent over the pole. Air from the mesosphere is excluded. It is in the state that some refer to as following a ‘final warming’ that happened in December. By March, this situation will revert to the winter pattern. Seventy years ago there was no final warming, no summer pattern.

    Whether the air ascends or descends in the stratosphere over the pole is not a function of its temperature profile. It is a function of the strength of the ascent above 500 hPa outside the vortex where the presence of ozone is much enhanced in winter, strongly heating the atmosphere. It drives the density of the air above 500 hPa so low as to result in surface pressures down to 980 hPa in the entire band of latitude 60-70° south. It is the rate of ascent in this latitude band that forces descent over the polar cap and in the mid latitude high pressure cells. Ascent aloft forces ascent below 500 hPa all the way to the surface. The result is the constant presence of 5 or 6 Polar Cyclones of an intensity that equates to a regular tropical cyclone.

    In winter the northern hemisphere heats very strongly driven by land masses that return heat to the atmosphere as fast as energy accrues at the surface. So, atmospheric mass shifts strongly to the southern hemisphere. As a result surface pressure over Antarctica reaches a resounding planetary maximum. Off the coast of Antarctica at 60-70° south ozone forces surface pressure to a resounding planetary minimum at exactly the same time. This shifts atmospheric mass from high southern latitudes to low southern latitudes dramatically increasing atmospheric pressure in zones that already experience high surface pressure.

    But there is a big difference in how this circulation affects the ozone profile. What goes up must come down. Ozone that ascends into the upper stratosphere via a Polar Cyclone must come down somewhere. It is precluded from descending over the pole. That parking space is occupied by low ozone content, high NOx air from the mesosphere. So, it descends in the very broad high pressure cells that circulate between the equator and 40° of latitude at this time of the year where the body of air involved is so large that it much dilutes the the descending ozone. Nevertheless, ozone warms the entire stratosphere in these latitudes so that it is warmer in winter than it is in summer. That ozone descends into the troposphere affecting cloud cover.

    So, just forget about ‘stratification’ in the stratosphere. The circulation throughout the entire atmosphere is driven by ozone that accumulates in the winter hemisphere. The base state of surface pressure is determined by the distribution of land and sea and the revolution of the Earth around the sun. The flux of ozone partial pressure driven by the highly variable interaction between mesospheric and stratospheric air at the winter pole works variations on that base state.

    The accumulation of ozone outside the vortex, strongest on the margins of Antarctica,but occupying the latitude band 50-90° south has driven a 15 hPa loss of surface pressure over Antarctica in the last 70 years, in the process further opening the natural clear sky window over the Southern Oceans.

    The good (or is it bad) news is that the process stalled about 1998 and is currently reversing. This is reflected in the gradual decline in the temperature of the stratosphere in high southern latitudes currently under way. Outgoing long wave radiation as measured at the top of the atmosphere peaked about 1998 and has been up and down since that time but nevertheless on a plateau. Tropical sea surface temperature is down over the last decade is down in eight of the 12 months of the year. These are the months where surface temperatures are most affects by the rate of entry of mesospheric air into the stratosphere in high latitudes.

    What worries me is that the people who advise governments on climate related matters are not driven by observation and deduction but by ideology. We fear the followers of Allah but there are people equally determined, equally ruthless, in their demeanour the latter day descendants of Joseph Goebbels but without his swagger, and they occupy the high ground. These people will not be swayed by reason. They are social engineers with an objective in mind. To these people, the end justifies the means. There is no subtlety to them. They are brutes.

    Stephen, thanks for the opportunity to make this comment. But for you I would have devoted the time to something else entirely and perhaps much less fun.


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