Plan 8 from outer space

The Mystery of Equation 8 refers, and offers me my title.

For a while now, there has been some weird septic stuff floating around about how the planet is warmer-than-it-would-be-without-an-atmosphere not because of the greenhouse effect or anything like that, but because of gravity. Nikolov and Zeller I think, though for all I know others are thinking the same. There are several threads, and vast piles of comments, at WUWT – for example, this one; or the original.

Since it was all obviously septic nonsense wrapped up in equations, I didn’t even bother to think about it, in much the same way that you really don’t bother with people who claim to disprove relativity over the intertubes. But then Willis Eschenbach was kind enough to put up a post explaining just why it was all rubbish, which is very good, because it can be understood without much thought, and also explains their killer result, viz fitting misc planetary temperatures.

[My own thinking about N&Z in arrears: if you have a planet with a radiatively non-active atmosphere, and make the usual assumption that you can consider it a point and forget about rotation and geometry; then the surface temperature without an atmosphere is such-and-such; and the energy balance at the surface is between incoming SW and outgoing (SW + LW); and if you add a radiatively inactive atmosphere that balance doesn’t change at all, in equilibrium; all that happens is that the atmosphere itself acquires some temperature via conduction (which it can’t shed radiatively, because its inactive). So the idea that something other than the radiatively active bit determines the surface temperature is twaddle.]

Anyway, it turns out that if you actually bother to read the tripe (as Willis Eschenbach has done) then it all boils down to:

Our analysis of interplanetary data in Table 1 found no meaningful relationships between ATE (NTE) and variables such as total absorbed solar radiation by planets or the amount of greenhouse gases in their atmospheres. However, we discovered that NTE was strongly related to total surface pressure through a nearly perfect regression fit via the following nonlinear function

and the equation is:

Or, put another way, there is no physics at all behind their “model”, just an equation with 4 free parameters which they have then fitted via regression. Which, as WE correctly points out, is a waste of time.

[Oh, and I may not have been paying attention to what other people have been saying about this, either, so if you’ve already taken this or similar apart, do let me know.]

Update: there have been Q’s in the comments here along the lines of “how can these guys be quite so wacko, do they really mean it? Someone claiming to be the Z in N&Z wrote the following at WUWT, which if genuine removes all doubt: they are utterly off their trolleys.

kzeller says:
January 25, 2012 at 9:51 am
Willis says …. “they claim to be able to calculate the surface temperature Ts of eight different planets and moons from knowing nothing more than the solar irradiation So and the surface pressure Ps for each heavenly body. Dr. Zeller refers to this as their MIRACLE equation…” …..”My simplified version of their equation looks like this: Ts = 25.394 * Solar^0.25 * e^(0.092 * Pressure ^ 0.17)” = A SIMPLER MIRACLE

You folks just don’t get it do you, you’re not seeing the forest for the trees: Willis’ rendition of our MIRACLE is also a MIRACLE!!!!!!! What is the Miracle you don’t see? We calculate the average global equilibrium surface temperature on any planet/moon using only Solar input and surface pressure! Why is this a miracle? Because it implys that the AGW theory is bogus. Why does it do that? Since the average global surface temperature of any planet/moon IS the basic bottomline determinator of that planet/moon’s climate and our Eq 8 accurately calculates this temperature without using greenhouse gas information.
Dr. Nikolov & I have been working on this for over 2 years, our first attempts looked like Willis’ simpler miracle, and we’ve played with density also, but we are trying to get it exact, currently Eq 8. You CAN NOT fit an elephant with an exponential equation, you can with a polynominal. The argument about the number of constants in our equation 8 would be valid it it were a polynominal – it’s not.
We are handing WUWT ‘THE NAIL’ to the AGW coffin and you guys have forgotten about the coffin and are fixated on the details of the nail! Is it galvinized? Why isn’t it a wooden spike? They need 2 more nails. Wonder what kind of hammer they plan to use?

I’m not quite sure that they understand the meaning of the word “Miracle” though when they say “Why is this a miracle? Because it implys that the AGW theory is bogus”. Presumably they don’t mean that only supernatural intervention could render AGW theory wrong. I can’t resist, I’m going to troll them with that.