Response to R. I. Holmes on the Ideal Gas Law, Thermal Enhancement, and the Greenhouse Effect


This work responds to Holmes (2017, 2018; DOI: 10.11648/, DOI: 10.11648/, which assert that the Ideal Gas Law (IGL) predicts planetary surface temperatures and shows that increases in atmospheric CO2 can have only minimal impact on temperatures; also asserting that the greenhouse effect does not produce significant warming, and that surface temperatures are enhanced by convection and “auto-compression.” I

t was argued that Holmes’s use of the IGL to calculate planetary temperatures is more accurate characterized as a process for indirectly measuring temperature, with little in the way of predictive power.

The claimed calculation of a small climate sensitivity to doubling of CO2 was shown to rely on an unjustified assumption, amounting to circular reasoning.

Holmes’s observation that the thermal gradient in the troposphere is largely due to convection is well-known and uncontroversial. It was clarified that the existence of a thermal gradient due to convection in no way explains the “residual” temperature difference between the surface temperature and the planetary effective temperature. A given lapse rate can correspond to any surface temperature, and any “residual”; the lapse rate offers no information about the surface temperature or the residual temperature difference. Holmes offers no testable hypothesis, no evidence, and no logical argument, to support his premise regarding the cause of the “residual”; his suggestions that the residual is due to “gravitationally-induced adiabatic auto-compression, powered by convection” were determined to be vague unsupported speculation.

Each of Holmes’s arguments against the greenhouse effect was found to be based in a misunderstanding of the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect was defined and quantified.

It was found that these papers by Holmes failed to justify any of their major claims.

Full Paper

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Publication history: Released January 2, 2024. Any revisions will be posted to this page.

Figure 3: A given lapse rate can be associated with any value of the residual \Delta T_\mathrm{res} = T_{sa} - T_e. Sample thermal gradients are shown for 3 different residual values (each with the same lapse rate and for T_e = 255 K).