Posted by: graemebird | May 9, 2007

The Serendipity Of Language: Runaway PLANETARY-HEAT-BUDGET effect.


When the concept of the “runaway-greenhouse-effect” was first introduced to the public we knew very little about Venus.

But consider what the scientists knew in the beginning. There they are. Astronomers and people who understand spectroscopy. Ask yourself these questions:

1. What do such people understand?

2. What did these people have to go on?


It was Light.

They had LIGHT.

They had LIGHT and not a whole lot else.

Why is Venus so hot? Thats the question the light specialists would have asked themselves in the early days. And the idea that it was because of the COLOUR-OF-CO2 would have lent itself as an answer, pretty much straight away, since they knew next to nothing about Venus.

Now I’m sure that there are people out there who now know a great deal about Venus. I don’t know much about Venus so will extrapolate. You know next-to-nothing about Venus…. but if you see your chance correct anything I CONJURE-from first principles…. that you think is untenable.

What I DO know………… is that the colour-of-CO2 (because thats all its greenhouse status really means) is only a small part of why that planet is so hot.


When it comes to contention what a nuisance these Greek Gods and Goddesses are?

We ought not judge our planet by another. That is so back-to-front.

Comparatively speaking we have massively more convergent information about our own planet then we have about Venus.

We have pretty good ideas about earths geological history. So we have the income statement as well as the balance sheet. We think we know how things have developed through time. We have the fossil record. We have very good information on the various strata of our own atmosphere………

…. It is simply ludicrous to judge our own planet on the basis of what the situation is on another.


There is nothing else for it.

Even though our information on Venus is pretty crappy (relatively speaking)…. or at least MY information on Venus is pretty weak……

…….So there is nothing for it but to try and derive some general principles of planetary-heat-budgets….. and then see if we can apply them to Venus.


Ask yourself about the serendipity of the development of the phraseology.

What if by some co-incidence of history, that instead of naming whatever had caused the shockingly-hot climate of Venus…..

….What if the alleged-CAUSE had NOT been named the RUNAWAY-GREENHOUSE-EFFECT?……

… What if instead we had been bequeathed the phrase:


Do you think those others (not YOU but the others)…. do you think that those people would be so damn scared of warmer winters for the Laplanders?

Would they be in a fear-and-trembling that “little Yukos might one day get to see his first butterfly?” (KiwiBird II)

I don’t THINKso!!!!

But I tell you the truth. The problem of a planet overheating is NOT about THE-COLOUR-OF-CO2.

What its really about is the heat budget of the planet oscillating upwards until it MUST overheat the atomosphere of the planet in question.

Now when we are talking the earth, we will usually be talking about the heat budget of the ocean only. But thats only because, in comparison to the Andes moutain range (just for one example) we humans are fairly short-lived.

But what I’ll be arguing is that we really must deal with the PLANETARY HEAT BUDGET and that in the case of Venus its the planetary heat budget that is likely the more immediate thing…..

…. Its likely, to my way of thinking, that the climate underneath Venus’ surface, is part-and-parcel of the Venusian atmosphere more generally. And perhaps not just in DEEP-geological time.

Thats what I’ll be arguing in any case.



Heat rises they say. But the key to a planet having an accumulation in its heat budget is the extent to which the heat goes the other way.


“Deep Water Feast: Upwellings Bring Nutrients to The Surface- Large phytoplankton blooms tend to coincide with natural phenomena that drive cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface. The process is called upwelling. Here’s what’s happening: winds coming off principal land masses push surface layers of water away from the shore.

Into the resulting wind-driven void deeper water underneath the surface layers rushes in toward the coast, bringing with it nutrients for life to bloom.

It’s different on the equator. There, water currents on either side of the hemispheric dividing line are generally moving in opposite directions — due to planetary rotation and the Coriolis effect. As those currents rush past each other they ‘peel back’ the surface of the ocean, creating a void for deeper water to rush into and take its place.”


When cold water upwells and warm water downwells we have the potential for an increase in the planetary heat budget.

As the warm waters of the Gulf-Stream move North they are subject to evaporation and become heavier and saltier. The very fact that this water is moving northward (away from the sun) is adding to the planetary heat budget. But the warmer saltier water gets to be heavier then its surrounding cold water and the Gulf-Stream downwells when it gets to the South Labrador sea.

Now I don’t know how much warmer the Gulf-Stream waters are when they head downwards and the deep water starts going back the other way. The Gulf-Stream Waters may have already cooled and may not now be all that much warmer then the less salty waters that engulf them.

But the fact is that this is a reversal of the rule that heat rises and it is this reversal of the general rule that leads to the possibility of an accumulating heat budget… Or of a planet that is warmer then one would think it ought to be.


How many Joules can you imbed into the water in your kettle. That is to say your kettle when you’ve broken the lid off.

When you switch the kettle on the joules come in through the mains and into the element. The resistance makes the element get hot and it heats the water.

The water starts to move upward. But for it to do so some water must begin to move downward.

Make your mind blank to the water and imagine the transfer of joules. At first that movement is upward. And if the disembodied joules kept moving upward then they would go all the way to space and the water in your kettle would barely get hot.

But as the first lot of heated water moves upwards it pushes other water and then the force of gravity kicks in and creates a downward push of some of the water. The water at the top that is pushed downwards is warmer (at some part of this process) then the average of the water in the kettle in its entirety.

And it is for this reason that we can get a substantial kettletian heat budget.

Well we can get approximately as many joules in this kettle as is implied by all the water being 100 degrees Centigrade.

But what conditions would have allowed us to get more joules embedded than this?

Where we see that the water meets the air we have ourselves a seperation. We have two-TIERS seperated from eachother. We could call these two-tiers STRATA. And it is the existence of these strata that can lead to heat falling rather then rising and so can lead to a high heat budget.

So we might answer the question by asking what it is that can make the seperation between the two strata more substantial.

Try boiling a kettle of water in space? Surely under these conditions the joules and the water together will move away out of the kettle somewhat in unison.

So we can see that GRAVITY is one factor that allows for this stratification and the more gravity the stronger this stratification will be.

What about air pressure? If we have more gravity we can imbed more joules in your lidless kettle. But if we have more air pressure as well the boiling point of water is higher and so the stratification is stronger. Hence we can increase the kettletian heat budget more.

Supposing we have a different liquid? And this liquid has a greater specific heat capacity and yet with a higher boiling point? Then this liquid will absorb more joules for every degree increase in temperature. And therefore will wind up holding more joules before the liquid starts boiling off. This means a greater heat-budget. Since the heat-budget after all is imbedded joules.

Now what if your kettle is 5 metres wide and you have the element 3 inches below the surface and the water is a foot high.

Well for you to get the movement you need to go on imbedding joules in the water you want the liquid to be of low viscosity. We were talking about the maximum amount of joules that can be stuffed into a kettle of water. And now I’ve jumped a little to something else. But bear me out here since I wanted to mention viscosity.

Here we have a tension between high specific heat content and low viscosity. Really you want both for a very high heat budget. You want less resistance-to-circulation.

Back to air pressure. What produces high air pressure? Well I would say the amount of gravity and the mass of the constituent gases themselves. And possibly the speed of rotation of the planet.

If we are talking about Venus we are talking about a planet that rotates so slowly that a Venusian day is longer then a Venusian year.

And this slow rotation may assist it in having a more extensive atmosphere.

In the inner planets the lightest gaseous elements get lost from the atmosphere. The Hydrogen long ago got lost and wound up in the sun. We don’t have free-standing hydrogen in OUR atmosphere and the Venusian atmosphere would also have lost a lot of its lighter gases and it has a lot of CO2 which is a heavier-than-air-gas.

And one supposes that having an extensive atmosphere of heavier gases will add up to a greater air pressure at ground level.

How about the speed of the planets rotation and the effect that would have on stratification.

I suspect that a slower speed would assist stratification. Since there would be less disruption between the strata with the potential to disturb whatever it is seperating one strata from the next.

But this might not be the situation in all cases. One could imagine that the speed differential between the upper and lower strata could be something which enhances the seperation of one strata and another.

But I DO THINK that in comparing the earth to Venus, that if Venus with its slow rotation… developed a strongly seperated strata… that this slow rotation would assist in this. Leading to less “WAVES” as it were. And therefore a stronger demarcation…. And therefore more opportunity for the the law of heat rising to be reversed….

.. And therefore more opportunity for the heat budget to be increased.

I’m sure that right there… there is enough information such that if you found out more and more about Venus you would see that its not the colour-of-CO2 that is the important thing in this matter.


The overwhelming, amount of Venuses Joules will be stored in its core or in its magma. And since hot magma can rise as heat rises… and it can hit Venuses crust…. and then be forced downwards again that too can cause the planetary heat budget to rise to an extraordinary level.

And we can see how…… with a sophisticated inner make-up…. totally distinct from how we imagine the inner-crust of Mercury to be…. We can see how the Venusian heat budget can be truly awesomely high… And with no oceans in sight.

Now we are able to put up a pretty solid argument for why Venus might be so hot…… And we were able to make that argumet without once referencing the colour-of-CO2.

Not that this doesn’t have some effect I’m sure. It might be a strong effect and we’ll be dealing with that story too.



  1. Hey GMB,

    your blog looks a lot better in Bratislava, Slovakia on a Linux machine with a firefox, a nice safe distance from the Windows and Bush setting behind the gates of capitalist drivel..

    RE Global Warming and Vaclav Havel

    This comment by JC shows basic lack of context.. Of course the Czechs dont give a tinkers curse about global warming.. their country is cold, landlocked by thousands of kilometres, there cities are only just beginning to become clogged with traffic.. The danube does not flood at their level often.. They have not chopped down all their trees and the environment there is quite resistant to man.

    If your are in coastal Australia next to the river and driving a ferarri like JC then AGW will give it to you like a Franz Joseph Kaiser Bad Colonic Irrigation at the Frantziskovy Lazne mineral baths.. You can then move over here to Czech – Slovak land where the velvet divorce between the two countries has worked well and vego diets are pretty much unknown.

    Carry On..

  2. But we won’t get any significant AGW. And that which we get will be a good thing.

    If you look at the downward-step trend between the Holocene Maximum, other warm times after that through the medieval warm period, than the 20th century warming…

    What we see is a downward trend of the warmer times.

    Which means that we are in trouble from cooling.

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