Correlating Atmospheric Temperature With Pressure

On June 25th, 1981 I was working as a wilderness ranger near the top of 10,600 ft. Sandia Peak outside Albuquerque. There were thunderheads building, and we saw a couple of hang glider pilots preparing to take off.  A couple of the rangers I was with went over to talk to them, and told them they were doing something really stupid.

The pilots didn’t listen, and took off anyway.  One of them got carried up to 40,000 feet and was found frozen solid about 10 miles away. He turned into a giant hailstone.  The other escaped by doing a near free fall down the cliffs.

Police said Abbott was in a drift of ice when they found him

27 Jun 1981, Page 6 – Detroit Free Press at

It was the second hottest day of the summer, and one of the hottest days on record in that region.

Despite the high temperatures near the ground, it was very cold at altitude. Just like on Venus. temperature in Earth’s troposphere increases linearly with altitude. At an altitude of 50km in the Venusian atmosphere, the temperature and pressure is about the same as at Earth’s surface.

Tropospheric temperature correlates with pressure, not chemical composition.  Had Steven Hawking understood some of the most basic principles of science, he would have known this.

Stephen Hawking to Climate Deniers: Take a Trip to Venus

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41 Responses to Correlating Atmospheric Temperature With Pressure

  1. jb says:

    The article says that the hang glider was experienced….

    I guess not.

  2. Squidly says:

    You absolutely nail it with the Venus example. Venus demonstrates the lack of a so-called “greenhouse effect”, not the presence of it.

  3. Al Shelton says:

    Stephen was a mathematician who apparently had very little practical experience.
    He has had far too much media hype IMO.
    He would likely believe the math, that hummingbirds cannot fly based on the calculation of their wing structure.

    • Colorado Wellington says:

      I disagree. He was a worldly man. He had deep practical experience in the use of media politics and his understanding of it was unsurpassed.

    • spike55 says:

      Can anyone tell me one scientifically proven “brain-f**t” he came up with ?

      Lots of fantasy imaginings.

      • It reminded me always a bit of Einstein’s political commentary (he supported socialism) – proof that scientists would do better not to opine on things outside their field of expertise.
        Hawking is widely hailed as a genius, and I’m sure he was an extremely gifted mathematician. As a theoretical physicist one simply has to be highly proficient in mathematics. But looking at his most famous, major discovery, I actually have some doubts about its validity and importance. Hawking came up with what is nowadays called “Hawking radiation” – the theory that black holes evaporate over time after two Soviet scientists convinced him that rotating black holes should emit particles (black holes are theoretical objects themselves, but at least their existence can be reasonably inferred from gravitational effects observable in their vicinity). Hawking’s theory concerns quantum tunneling effects near a black hole’s event horizon, involving matter and antimatter particle pairs presumed to be created by the black hole’s vast gravitational energy. It is not necessary to go into all the details here, the main point I wanted to make about this is that these effects have never been observed. The entire “discovery” is purely theoretical, at this point there is still zero empirical evidence supporting it.

  4. Luke of the D says:

    PV=nRT… increase the pressure (P) in the system while maintaining the volume (V) and molecular make-up (n), then the temperature (T) has to increase. Basic science. Anyone who denies this is an idiot. Venus is hot because A) its atmospheric pressure is absurdly high and B) it is far closer to the sun.

    • Phil. says:

      How do you propose increasing the pressure in a constant volume containing a constant number of moles?

    • tonyheller says:

      The distance from the Sun has little or nothing to do with it. Venus has thick cloud cover, which reflects most sunlight back into space. That is why Venus is so bright. The surface of Venus receives about as much sunlight as the surface of very cold Mars.

      • Squidly says:

        Indeed Tony.

        Venus receives most of its heat energy from the planetary surface, not from the sun. Coupled with the incredibly dense atmosphere at surface creates a tremendous amount of pressure and thus very hot.

        You are spot on Tony !!

      • Ernest Bush says:

        This is testable without instrumentation. Just take a drive to the top of Pike’s Peak. At 14,000 feet you will experience one of the most incredible views around. It is very cool to cold there in the hottest summer weather. Then altitude sickness slowly starts to kick in and you will desire to get in your car and head down the mountain. The experience and view are incredible memories to have, tho.

    • Jeff Jones says:

      You bring up something that always confuses me in these arguments. As I recall from Jr. hi science, electromagnetic radiation intensity varies as the square of the distance from the emitter. Since Venus is a lot closer to the sun than the earth, my limited brain thinks that it should be receiving significantly more radiation thus be hotter than the earth, all else being equal. But then I don’t have a PhD in astrophysics so have no right to have a thought.

      Same thing with spontaneous generation of life and Darwinian evolution. I do the math on the probability of just one simple molecular sized construct required for this hypothesis to be true using only natural causes and come up with a cube 10^20 light years on a side to hold the unsuccessful particles before the necessary formulation is achieved. And that is just one molecule, gets really unlikely when you start talking about a couple building blocks of a strand of DNA let alone any living organism.

  5. mkelly says:

    iMHO the CO2 experiment done by Anthony Watts demonstrates why CO2 is not a control knob nor have much effect on the temperature of the atmosphere. It demonstrates that the specific heat equation works and the forcing equation does not. With 100% CO2 there should have been 74 w more in the CO2 jar. The temperature of the air was higher than CO2 given the same Q input.

    • Squidly says:

      Actually, Anthony Watts’ demo demonstrated why CO2 is such a good coolant. CO2 has a very high emissivity which facilitates the transport of energy more efficiently than many gasses and materials. It is exactly the opposite of a “greenhouse effect”. This is why CO2 is the most widely used industrial coolant in the world. It is also why most every Skating Rink in Canada and the US uses CO2 to freeze their rinks as it saves more than 40% of energy costs in doing so.

  6. Bob Hoye says:

    A couple of months ago, I watched a documentary about when the Mediterranean Sea had dried up. Some 5 million years ago. What is now called the Straights of Gibraltor was upthrust.
    The basin, was some 5,000 feet deep and considering a lapse rate of some 5 F per 1,000 feet, the air temp down there would have extremely hot.
    No need to calculate the contribution from concentrations of atmospheric CO2.

  7. Phil. says:

    temperature in Earth’s troposphere increases linearly with altitude.
    Should be ‘decreases’.

  8. Phil. says:

    Tropospheric temperature correlates with pressure, not chemical composition.

    Temperature is a linear function of altitude, the slope of that relationship depends on the chemical composition of the atmosphere.

    • Squidly says:

      If that were true, which it is not, then we would see different temperature profiles between the Earth and Venus for the same barometric pressures. The temperature gradients are virtually identical for both planets, despite the vast differences in chemical composition.

      • Phil. says:

        It is true, the lapse rate = g/cp, where g is the acceleration due to gravity and cp is the specific heat at constant pressure,
        cp depends on the chemical composition of the gas.
        The temperature gradients are not virtually identical for both planets.
        While the pressure of the Venusian atmosphere is the same as Earth’s surface pressure at 49.5km as shown by Tony, the temperatures aren’t the same until an altitude of 55km (10% higher).

        • spike55 says:

          CO2 has a lesser specific energy than air.

          Enhanced atmospheric CO2 increases the lapse rate in Earth’s atmosphere by a tiny amount. Thus cooling.

        • spike55 says:

          Your graph should read, “without atmospheric gravity-thermal effect” .

          These guys really need to stop with their idiotic “greenhouse” wording.

          • Gator says:

            I prefer to call it the “Outhouse Effect”. It’s FOS, has to be repositioned regularly, and it stinks.

        • Squidly says:

          Bogus graph … no such thing as “Venus without a greenhouse effect” or “Earth without a greenhouse effect”

          No, show the actual lapse rate, as has been recorded by Russian probes. You will find that the actualrecorded … lapse rate data is almost identical to that of Earth from TOA to 1 bar pressure (Earth surface).

          There is no such thing as a “greenhouse effect” .. it is not possible in this universe. If it were possible, you would not exist.

          • Phil. says:

            No, show the actual lapse rate, as has been recorded by Russian probes. You will find that the actual … recorded … lapse rate data is almost identical to that of Earth from TOA to 1 bar pressure (Earth surface).

            Where do you think that graph came from?
            The actual lapse rates are not ‘almost identical’.

    • tonyheller says:

      The lapse rate on Venus is very similar to Earth. The difference being the higher molecular weight of CO2 (44) vs. N2 (28) and O2 (32)

      • Phil. says:

        The acceleration due to gravity is different which is a factor. The lapse rate on Venus is not very similar see the graph I posted above. Venus is different because its atmosphere is triatomic which means a potentially higher specific heat.
        At room temperature cp for CO2 is 0.844 compared with 1.01 for air, near the surface of Venus cp is higher due to the increased temperature (also there the atmosphere is not an ideal gas but is a supercritical fluid).

  9. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    I don’t blame Hawking. He would not have had the energy and dexterity to search through and digest the actual climate data. He needed all the time he had available just to work in his own field.

    And acceptance by the elites is what paid the bills, which would be enormous for a man in his circumstance.

    I blame the people around him who were using him for their agenda. Slime.

  10. Dave N says:

    The hang-glider and Hawking once again demonstrate that it doesn’t matter how much education or experience you may have, you can also have moments of extreme stupidity

    • RAH says:

      There is a fine line between being hardcore and stupid. I have stepped over that line a few times and still made it because it wasn’t my time.

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