I don’t get ‘the gravito-thermal effect’

Lately there’s been a bit of back-and-forth discussion going on on the so-called ‘Gravito-Thermal Effect’ (GTE) at a few notable climate blogs, like The Hockey Schtick, Tallbloke’s Talkshop, Clive Best and even Judith Curry’s Climate Etc. (in fact, this is where the lengthiest discussion thread on the subject is to be found).

To me the whole thing appears to arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of the adiabatic process (see the end of the post).

Something called the ‘Loschmidt Effect’, after a proposal in the 1870s by the Austrian scientist Josef Loschmidt, seems to lie at the heart of the GTE argument. Tallbloke brought it out from relative obscurity in a post in early 2012. A quote from a textbook describes the proposed effect as follows:

“Loschmidt claimed that the equilibrium temperature of a gas column subject to gravity should be lower at the top of the column and higher at its base. Presumably, one could drive a heat engine with this temperature gradient, thus violating the second law. (…)

Loschmidt’s rationale for a gravitational temperature gradient is straightforward. Consider a vertical column of gas in a uniform gravitational field (acceleration g) of height (z = h). Gas molecules (mass, m) at the top of the column possess mgh greater gravitational potential energy than molecules at the base. Thermal motion with (against) the direction of the field increases (decreases) molecular kinetic energy. This net kinetic energy can be transferred from the top to the bottom of the column via collisions. No net particle flow from top to bottom is required since energy transfer is mediated by collision; thus, this is heat conduction, not convection. If this gravitationally directed motion is eventually thermalized, one can write from the first law: mgz = CvmΔT, where Cv is the specific heat of the gas at constant volume (Trupp notes that Cv should be replaced by Cp). From this, a vertical temperature gradient can be intuited:

dT/dz = -∇zT = g/Cv

For a typical gas (e.g., N2) with Cv (N2) ≈ 1100J/kgK, in the Earth’s gravitational field, one estimatesz≈ 10-2K/m. This is nearly the well-known standard meteorological adiabatic gradient, where Cp replaces Cv.”

First of all, I don’t see how this would be a violation of the 2nd Law. Isn’t it simply a version of the ‘refrigerator effect’, where you apply an external force to the system, doing work on it so as to counter the natural tendency of heat to flow from hot to cold? The gravitational pull at one end skews the distribution of both mass and energy in this particular system, forcing even heat conduction to tend towards the denser and more energetic end. If you were to simply switch off gravity in this situation, the internal distribution of the system would immediately and spontaneously equalise, making the sample homogeneous, mass flow from more dense to less dense, heat flow from warmer to cooler. There’s no inherent violation of any thermodynamic laws here as far as I can see.

Secondly, for the life of me I cannot see this ‘Loschmidt effect’ as being of significance to real, observable atmospheric temperature gradients at all. It seems to be a mere ‘relativistic’ effect, where gravity indeed produces a drag on time, matter and light, but where, if this effect is to be of much consequence, you would need incredibly strong gravitational forces and/or – in the case of the gas sample in question – an incredibly high column over which the pull could work. Yes, in our atmosphere, gravity sees to it that the surface air is quite significantly denser than the air around the tropopause (about 4 times as dense). But this circumstance alone won’t make the temperature of the denser surface air any higher than that of the more tenuous tropopause air, because there is much more energy per volume down low, but also more mass, so in an equilibrated situation the two will tend to cancel and create an isothermal profile. That is, barring any heat inputs to (or outputs from) our system.

This is the whole clue: You need to ‘thermalise’ the system to make it run. Even Loschmidt seems to understand this. An adiabatic lapse rate can only be realised at the point where air masses actually start moving up and down. And they won’t do that in a hydrostatic equilibrium with no heat inputs or outputs whatsoever.

There absolutely will not be a temperature gradient similar to a potential adiabatic lapse rate in an atmospheric column with no radiative heat transfers to/from the system (IN down low and OUT up high) and no convective response. There is no way.

This is where I don’t get the GTE argument. What is it actually trying to say?

Is it saying that, even with no heat input from the Sun, no convection and no radiative cooling of air masses to space, a temperature gradient would naturally form in an atmospheric column, simply from gravity and its specific heat alone?

I don’t know. I hope not. Because that would just be … nuts!

The point is, we do have solar radiative heating down low, we do have radiative cooling to space up high, we do have convection in between. That’s how and why we have a tropospheric temperature gradient. The gravitational pressure and density gradients do not alone create a temperature gradient. You need heating/cooling and movement of air masses to accomplish that, I’m sorry. Yes, the (dry) adiabatic lapse rate is just g/Cp. But it applies specifically to vertically moving air. By definition. Without vertically moving air, it is but a potential gradient, not an actual gradient.

True, the value of the DALR is not in any way dependent on convection. Only gravity and specific heat. ~10K/km. However, its realisation in the atmosphere (through the mean ‘environmental lapse rate’ (ELR)) is crucially dependent on convection. A pretty important distinction to make …

The ALR is just a theoretical (potential) gradient, a template for the actual gradient – the ELR – to stick to.

Be all this as it may, the atmosphere does indeed insulate the solar-heated surface of our Earth, forcing it to be warmer than if the atmosphere weren’t there. And it does so through its mass.

I’ve discussed the mechanisms with which it does so earlier.

A brief summary:

This is how the atmosphere makes the Earth’s surface warmer – much warmer – than the maximum pure solar radiative equilibrium temperature (because it sure does!):

  • It has a mass and therefore a ‘heat capacity’. This means it is able to warm. It does so by being directly convectively coupled with the solar-heated surface below it. Regardless of whether that atmosphere contains radiatively active gases (so-called ‘GHGs’) or not, it will warm – conductively > convectively; on our real Earth, like this: conductively/radiatively/evaporatively > convectively. The atmosphere is able to warm. Space isn’t. Therefore the atmosphere sets up a temperature gradient away from the solar-heated surface that has a finite (sub-max) steepness. Space doesn’t. The atmosphere thus INSULATES the surface. Energy is not able to escape the surface as fast as it’s coming in before it has warmed to a higher mean temperature than before the atmosphere was put in place.
  • It has a mass and therefore a weight (it’s in a gravity field, after all). Space doesn’t. This affects the surface energy escape rate in two ways: i) The expanding air lifting convectively from the surface air layer and into the atmosphere at large is heavy – it needs to be pushed upward against gravity. AT EQUAL TEMPERATURE, this circumstance makes it harder for energy to escape the surface convectively at the same rate with the atmosphere being denser (more mass per volume). ii) The atmosphere having a weight means it exerts a pressure on the solar-heated surface above 0. Unlike space. A higher atmospheric pressure/density makes it harder for energy to escape the surface than with a lower pressure AT EQUAL TEMPERATURE by suppressing the evaporation rate from the oceans. The weight of the atmosphere is not a rigid barrier. But it functions by the same principle – setting limits to convection/evaporation from a heated body.

If there is any ‘Gravito-Thermal Effect’ of the atmosphere on the surface temperature, this is it … The surface temperature needs to be set first, for this is the baseline from which the tropospheric temperature profile climbs up. The surface heats first and from it, the heat propagates upwards towards the tropopause via convection.

In other words, the surface temperature is simply determined by the balance point between the incoming and the outgoing heat fluxes. At the point where the outgoing flux finally matches the incoming flux, we have reached our steady state temperature.

If each average square metre of the global surface of the Earth absorbs 165 joules worth of energy (as heat) from the Sun every second, then, to balance this, each average square metre of the global surface of the Earth also needs to shed 165 joules worth of energy (as heat) every second. It cannot manage this just like that. Not with a massive atmosphere on top.

While the incoming heat from the Sun is purely radiative, the outgoing heat derives from several different source mechanisms – radiative, conductive and evaporative. For the surface heat loss to be effective, the energy transferred to the air layers directly above it through these three mechanisms, needs to be constantly removed at a certain pace, so that new energy can take its place. It can only ever hope to attain such a pace through the movement of the air itself – convection. So the efficiency of convective uplift in reality puts a limit to the transfer of energy as heat from the surface to the lowermost air layers of the atmosphere. If the air isn’t lifted up and away fast enough, bringing the surface energy with it, then when new energy comes along from below, it will all start piling up in the surface air layer, which in turn will reduce the transfer rate from the surface itself, due to a decreasing temperature gradient back down. Energy will thus start accumulating at/below the surface. And we get warming. Higher temps to promote faster uplift. The only goal for the surface in the end is to pass on its absorbed energy as fast as it comes in. As one can well gather from the above, it can only accomplish this upon equilibrating at a certain mean temperature level. This level is NOT -18°C.

Finally, how does the adiabatic process actually work? What is an adiabatic process?

It is NOT – as far too many people seem to believe – the process of uplift (or subsidence) of air in the atmospheric column. That’s convection.

When you lift an object, it doesn’t get any cooler from its mechanical KE (kinetic energy) being turned into gravitational PE (potential energy). You simply ‘charge’ the object with energy to be expended on its way back down, were you finally to let it drop.

The adiabatic process is only the expansion/compression of the air. Not the lifting or sinking. In the atmosphere it just so happens that you need to move the air up or down to change the external pressure on it. If you could change the external pressure in any other way, you wouldn’t need to move the air at all. The lifting itself will not change the temperature of the air, only its speed/work potential on the way back down. Lifting something is a mechanical (Newtonian) process, not a thermodynamic (adiabatic) one. Changing mechanical KE into gravitational PE and back when moving up and down a gravity well is real enough; it simply has no bearing whatsoever on temperatures. The exchange of energy across system boundaries in the form of ‘heat’ [Q] or ‘work’ [W] (like in thermodynamic processes) does.

Thus, the expansion and compression of lifting/sinking air is the only adiabatic process going on in the atmosphere. Expanding air cools adiabatically by doing work on its surroundings (thus losing internal energy [U]), against the external pressure. Air being compressed warms adiabatically from the surroundings doing work on it (it thus gains internal energy).

This is intimately linked to the 1st Law of Thermodynamics:

ΔU = Q – W

Where U is the internal energy of the system (air parcel), Q is the net transfer of energy as heat to/from the system, and W is the energy transferred to/from the system by work being done by/on the system.

For incremental steps in a so-called quasi-static (reversible) process:

dU = δQ – δW

dU = δQ – PdV

In an adiabatic process, the transfer of ‘heat’ [Q] across the system boundary is 0 by definition, so the entire change in system internal energy [dU], and thus temperature, T, is due to the pressure-volume work [PdV] being done by/on the system:

dU = – PdV

The adiabatic process in one simple formula.

Read about adiabatic processes, lapse rates, atmospheric stability/instability and convection:








23 comments on “I don’t get ‘the gravito-thermal effect’

  1. Example of adiabatic process in air: Westerly winds are forced to rise when they reach the Rocky Mountains or the Andes, which causes the air to expand and cool enough to reach the point where the water vapor condenses. So the western side of a mountain range is cloudy and rainy.

    Then as the winds continue across the divide the air is forced down compressing and heating it causing the relative humidity to fall. This causes a “rain shadow” in some places and near deserts in other places.

    From the eastern side of a mountain range you can watch the clouds disappear as they pass over the divide.

    So an adiabatic process is the opposite of the diabatic process, such as convection resulting from heating due to solar energy.


  2. Thought experiments occur to me.

    Experiment 1:

    My skin specialist has a tank of liquid nitrogen. When he allows the nitrogen to escape it is very cold and freezes skin cancers. At atmospheric pressure, liquid nitrogen boils at −195.79 °C (−320 °F)

    -A closed tank in an open shed at ambient temperature
    -Assume the tank is not a vacuum chamber and built to withstand 250 atmospheres (3600 pounds per square inch / about 100 times or so the pressure in a car tire)

    What is the temperature of the liquid nitrogen at 250 atmospheres pressure?

    The temperature must be the same as ambient temperature in the shed. As the temperature fluctuates from day to night the pressure on the tank must fluctuate. If the tank is heated enough it will explode.

    No work is done on the nitrogen in the tank and therefore the temperature adjusts to ambient temperature.

    The same thought experiment applies to a tank of air under pressure and to the Earth”s atmosphere within its gravity field.

    Experiment 2

    On Earth the height of a stable column of dry air must rise higher during the day when it is warm and decline during the night when it is cold. This happen because of the change in pressure as air expands and contracts. Solar energy does work on the column of air daily and seasonally.

    The Earth is rotating, which drags the air with it but there is friction at least between and within the air. See: Darcy friction factor for laminar flow. There is also the so-called the Coriolis Force. So in two ways at least the Earth works on the atmosphere simply by rotating. The amount of work and thus heat is greatest near the surface.

    The key to work on the atmosphere is movement. Example: A baseball pitcher does work on the ball when he applies force over the distance his arm swings. If instead he drops the ball the work done on the ball as it falls is equal to the weight of the ball (a mass within a gravity field exerting force) multiplied by the distance to the ground (a displacement).

    I conclude from these two thought experiments that the gravito-thermal effect is non-existent because gravity does no work done on the column of air. This result arises because one of the assumptions of the gravito-temperature effect is a STABLE column of air does not move because it is in equilibrium.

    However, there may be scope for showing that the rotation of the Earth affects air temperature by doing work on the atmosphere.

  3. Truthseeker says:

    Clarity has been achieved!

  4. This all seems to be some large confusion between thermodynamics and thermostatics. There is no law that insists on a spontaneous transfer in the direction of a lower potential. All Clausius said is “stuff don spontaneously go uphill”, no mention of downhill!
    In this atmosphere there are three potential gradients, Gravity increasing upward, (work separating the masses), pressure increasing downward, (from the air mass above), and temperature increasing downward, (gas temperature increasing with compression). Are these potential differences to be taken individually or as a balance of potentials?
    The pressure one seems obvious, mass flow does “not” spontaneously occur in the direction of a lower pressure (upward) in this gravitational field. Why claim that heat transfer need spontaneously occur in the direction of a lower temperature (upward) in this gravitational field? Yes, everything changes in the dynamic with convection, latent heat conversion, lateral winds, etc. None of that changes the thermostatic equilibrium that everything spontaneity attempts to return thereto. Is this not the back-room agreement between Dr. Maxwell, and Dr. L? Thermodynamics is fine when there are some dynamics.

  5. Flash says:

    In the late 19th Century, Loschmidt (supported by scientific giants such as Laplace and Lagrange) put forward a gravito-thermal theory to explain lapse rate (adiabatic temperature gradient)
    Maxwell and Boltzmann (Loschmidt’s erstwhile student), rejected this as breaking the 2nd Law of thermodynamics.
    This argument has never been settled.
    Following from Maxwell and Boltzmann’s negation of Loschmidt, alternative radiative explanations for the adiabatic lapse rate were found.
    Mathematically the adiabatic lapse rate includes gravity in its application, for anyone who looks it up or already knows it.
    The real world would appear to agree with Loschmidt, Laplace and Lagrange!
    ” I cannot see this ‘Loschmidt effect’ as being of significance to real, observable atmospheric temperature gradients at all.”
    It isn’t significant, it is fundamental! The adiabatic lapse rate in the lower atmosphere observably obeys Loschmidt’s principle. Gravity is the primary driver of the lapse rate, it appears in all physics text-books on the subject.
    This post seems to defend the Loschmidt principle by denying that it break any fundamental law of Thermodynamics.
    If this defense is true, Loschmidt, Laplace and Lagrange were correct; and Maxwell and Boltzmann were wrong.
    The implications of that are very significant, if you extrapolate. All of current atmospheric science fundamentally turns on this 1870’s argument between master and pupil … the 97% consensus quoted in modern media is still following the path set by Maxwell and Boltzmann all those years ago.
    If Loschmidt was correct, the last 145 years of thermodynamics and atmospheric science have backed the wrong horse!

    • Lars says:

      Quote: “If Loschmidt was correct, the last 145 years of thermodynamics and atmospheric science have backed the wrong horse!”

      Or it could be a compromise.. maybe both problems exist, CO2 and the gravity effect, not just one alone is the cause of the problem… possibly…

      There has been science that was incorrect before. Xray science was considered to be quackery and crackpot. “xrays are a hoax”… look up the quote.

      I’m not saying the gravitothermal effect is right, as there isn’t enough evidence that I’ve looked over, I’m just saying that even if it is correct that doesn’t mean CO2 science is all wrong and not right in any way. There could be multiple contributing factors to global warming. It’s mostly a moot point anyway since getting rid of pollution would be great even if there wasn’t a such thing as global warming. Pollution would still exist and be harmful to our lungs, so why even care about climate science and instead focus on pollution science which goes in our lungs?

  6. Lars says:

    You said “First of all, I don’t see how this would be a violation of the 2nd Law. Isn’t it simply a version of the ‘refrigerator effect’, where you apply an external force to the system, doing work on it so as to counter the natural tendency of heat to flow from hot to cold”

    The problem is that gravity is force, not work. Gravity doesn’t perform work on things for free without you first providing energy or work to battle gravity. So if the gravitational thermal effect is real, it would have to be explained by the Sun doing the work, not gravity. Sun would have to somehow move things around. Same goes for water falls – the gravity didn’t actually provide the energy, the nuclear processes in the sun brought the water up to a higher point (rain and clouds) to battle gravity.

  7. GWN says:

    Einstein was inclined to treating gravitation as an illusion, and science has attempted to account for gravitational induced weight as non-existent, by claiming that the Earth pushes up against any massive object resting on its surface. There is a curious scientific amnesia regarding their equations concerning the increasing velocity of that we refer to as a falling object, and the impact effect of the sudden stop when a falling object hits the Earth’s surface. Would it not be more scientifically correct to believe that which is responsible for the acceleration of a falling object is also responsible for the objects weight at rest on the Earth’s surface. Referring to the gravitational effect instead of referring to gravitational pull would also be more scientifically correct.

    Where is the relevance with the above and the Loschmidt ‘Gravito-Thermal Effect’ (GTE).
    In answer, I would say that the present state of mainstream knowledge regarding the fundamental dynamic nature of gravity and gravitation is non-existent. Such knowledge being effectively made unnecessary due to the theory of GR. In that regard, Loschmidt and supporters had the advantage of not being influenced by GR and applied a dynamic concept to gravitation. Their belief that gravitational induced pressure such as any other pressure on a gas results in heating and therefore is correct. Even although correct, thermal changes in the atmosphere due to changes of pressure would have small influence on the over all thermal state if the atmosphere.

    An understanding of the GTE requires a knowledge of gravity and gravitation, and it is my hope that the ESA spacecraft Rosetta will eventually supply evidence that the GTE is a physical reality.

    • Larry Olson says:

      GWN, hydrostatic pressure in liquids creates more hydrostatic pressure at the bottom of the container, therefore if the gravito thermo effect is true, shouldn’t hydrostatic pressure at the bottom of a tall liquid container also contain a temperature difference, since pressure and temperature should be related? i.e. the pressure at the bottom of a liquid container and the temperature can easily be tested in a lab.

      Since the pressure is so much higher at the bottom of the container (which is why when you poke a hole in the bottom of container water starts spraying/flowing out fast), you would logically think that the temperature is also higher at the bottom of the container since pressure and temp are related. However this seems not to be the case… the temperature seems to be the same at the bottom as the top of the container. Why is this, if hydorstatic pressure at the bottom of a liquid container causes the molecules to be flowing much faster up, down, and sidways (in all directions)…? Is this not a temp increase if it is also a pressure increase?

      Physics is not always logical… things don’t make “common sense”

      This is an interesting subject, because if hydrostatic pressure in liquids caused a temperature increase at the bottom of the container, then one could create a heater for free without any energy… and possibly run a sterling engine off the temperature differential.. i.e. perpetual motion…

      Physics usually stops us from perpetual motion devices which is annoying. Also check out my website olsonb dot com for some other interesting second law of thermodynamics challenges, including a gravity/milk device which takes advantage of buoyancy and brownian motion to create never ending energy (could be falsified in the future for sure – but an interesting thought experiment).

  8. GWN says:

    I prefer to believe that Loschmidt and supporters were practical people and were referring to the time rate of change of thermal physical phenomena as opposed to the idea of a constant residual thermal difference. Under the circumstances of work being done that causes a temporary condition in the atmosphere so that a vertical column of atmospheric gasses is formed, the temperature difference between the top and bottom of the column that Loschmidt refers to, lasts for only a short period of time. Whether the thermal difference could be detected or not is of no consequence, simply because basic physics demands that a gas subjected to compression, irrespective of the compression precursor, must instantaneously undergo thermal change. Conversely, gas released from compression undergoes cooling, with helium being an exception.

    With regards to the Loschmidt effect due to compression, the constant swirling in the atmosphere caused by other circumstances, also results in up and down drafts subjected to the gravitational effect, as indicated by Loschmidt and supporters. In that regard, although there is reference to the GTE, Loschmidt and supporters had little or now idea of the full physical nature of the GTE phenomenon, that hopefully will be provided by the ESA spacecraft Rosettas investigation of comet 67P

    Thermal changes in the atmosphere due to compression would have very small influence on the Earth’s daily climate, The GTE – Gravitational Thermodynamic Effect – of the Great Planets on the Sun and consequently the cycles of Earth’s climate, would be the dominant cause of short and longer term changes to our climate.

    • Larry Olson says:

      GWN, an interesting take on the subject of the gravito thermal effect is Daniel Sheehan’s book called “Challenges to The Second Law of Thermodynamics”. The book is expensive on amazon, so you’ll probably want to find a PDF file somewhere (but I cannot recommend this as it may violate copyright, it is only up to you).

      Here are some quotes from the book:
      “Loschmidt’s argument skates over many crucial thermodynamic and statistical mechanical issues, including:

      A) Radiation and convective heat transport, which would counter the conductive
      energy transport and erase the temperature gradient, are ignored. Heat transport
      rate is not addressed since (6.4) is derived from equilibrium consideration.

      B) The argument ignores microscopic modifications to the gas velocity distribution
      as it ascends and descends in the field. Notably, it neglects the upwardly
      flowing, low-velocity particles which are turned back before they can ascend to
      collide with the molecules above. Sheehan, et al. argue that these are critical
      to kinetic energy transport in gravitational fields [13-16]; meanwhile, Wheeler argues
      there should be no net transport at all [27]. ”

      He then goes on to say:

      “Specifically, while Loschmidt and Sheehan agree that there should be spontaneous vertical energy transport in the gas column, they fundamentally disagree on its direction. Loschmidt argues that energy flows downward, while Sheehan claims the net energy flow is upward.

      Loschmidt applies energy conservation and assumes equilibrium everywhere, while Sheehan examines the full velocity distribution (f(vz)) both analytically and with numerical simulations.

      Maxwell’s opinion on the Loschmidt effect is the general scientific consensus:
      that the gas column’s temperature must be independent of height [34, 35]. Most
      proofs can be shown either to analyse the problem incompletely, such as to reach
      second law compliance before the true problem arises, or else the proof makes ad
      hoc assumptions that deliver the desired result.”

      There are some other interesting papers on the subject and I will post them on my website. One paper from an educational institution tries to make sure that the second law is never violated and comes to the conclusion using probably circular reasoning.. i.e. because of the second law, people write the papers in such a way that the maths conforms to the second law, rather than say doing actual experiments it is just a bunch of academic mental masturbation using complex calculus, which may or may not account for all the complexity happening.

      I still think it would be easier to study hydrostatic pressure of a liquid in a lab then to study the atmosphere itself… Liquids should increase in temperature with high pressure too, if gases do. However once again we can’t use common sense for everything.

      I will definitely be discussing more of this on my website soon and posting links to papers on the subject. Sheehan is one of the most interesting scientists today.

  9. GWN says:

    Hello again Larry, and thanks for the information provided in your last post.

    Except for universal motion, perpetual motion without the input of energy from an external source is forbidden by physics for good reasons. Even so, the present knowledge of the various forms of energy that we are aware of is far from being fully understood. The fact that thermal energy propagates throughout a body of matter by conduction is attributed to collision of molecules. The magnitude of heat energy being due to the rapidity of the molecular collisions. The enforced vibratory nature of the molecules forming matter is correct, and therefore is an indication of the thermal state of a body of matter. However, according to the GTE, the rate of enforced vibratory motion is the precursor of heat energy, and is not actually heat energy. In the circumstances referred to, the magnitude and wavelength of the internal radiation of heat energy results from the rate of and magnitude of interference to the Coulomb force as the electrons are compelled to approach and depart due to repulsion from each-other. Actual matter to matter collision of molecules would result in a relative violent explosion.

    Due to the present lack of knowledge of the fundamental dynamic nature of gravity, gravitation an of energy, the above reference to electrons radiating heat energy, would appear to require the electrons would be constantly decreasing in mass. The physics regarding the radiation of heat energy is logically explained and is required by the GTE. As stated in an earlier post,Loschmidt and supporters were of the belief that such a physical phenomenon as the GTE existed, but did not begin to understand the all embracing physics of the GTE. Even so, if their idea of the GTE referred to the time rate of change of thermal activity induced due to gravitational changes of compression in the atmosphere, then they were correctly quoting the GTE in that instance. However, if they were claiming that there would be a residual thermal difference between the top and bottom of a static vertical column of atmosphere, then they were being misguided by an incorrect concept of thermodynamics and of the GTE..

    • Larry Olson says:

      Why would electrons be constantly decreasing in mass if energy is conserved? When particles radiate heat the heat just ends up being conserved and transfers over to other particles nearby. If you consider a rubber bouncing ball falling down to earth, if it was a perfect ball it would continually bounce perpetually without losing mass. It would go up and down over and over again. Particles are perfect rubber bouncing balls. Do rubber balls lose mass every time they continually bounce due to gravity? Why would they have to lose mass? The energy in the rubber bouncing ball is conserved perfectly due to elasticity. As the bouncing ball travels upward it comes to a complete stop for a millisecond (or shorter) at the top of its path. Then it accelerates downward and gains more speed as it comes closer to earth.

      Similarly in a container of water (or atmosphere) a particle should gain energy as it comes down to the bottom. However since there are so many collisions occurring and not just one particle (rubber ball) the math and calculus required to determine the speed of particles is difficult. We do know for a fact that hydrostatic pressure exists at the bottom of a container – the question is whether pressure is really related to temperature like we think. Pressure, if related to temperature, should cause the bottom of a water glass to be hot since there is more pressure at the bottom of a container (and the water is slightly denser at the bottom of a container). Sheehan has run simulations and comes to an opposite conclusion that more energy is traveling upward than downward.. I am not sure exactly why he came to this conclusion and am researching it further.

      Please explain why electrons must lose mass – and why just electrons and not other particles? Please explain why a rubber bouncing ball does not lose mass if it was a perfect elastic rubber ball perpetually bouncing due to gravity on the earths surface traveling up into the air over and over again.

  10. GWN says:

    Thanks for your pertinent questions in answer to my post of August 23rd, and in answer I will be
    applying my version of gravity, gravitation and GTE.
    I am a life long lover of physics, aged 93 years, and have developed a concept of gravity and gravitation existing as two phenomenons dependent on each-other: gravity being the overall universal reality responsible for the continued existence of matter, and gravitation resulting from interference to the gravity requirements of interacting massive bodies. The magnitude of interference being dependent on the mass of each interacting body and on the inverse of the square of the distance between them.
    The GTE being a natural progression of the immediate above, due to me having spent in excess of 70 years working on the fundamental nature of matter and associated mysteries.
    Unfortunate for the advancement of the physics of gravity and gravitation, it is my experience that physicists are not interested in concepts essentially having a beginning in the realm referred to as philosophy, despite the relevance of explanations pertaining to macroscopic reality.

    With regards to your first and last couple of questions regarding the loss of electron mass etceteras – Then due to the conservation of energy and momentum laws, to radiate heat energy, an electron on approaching other electrons, and dependent on the inverse of the square of distance law, must surrender a small portion of its mass in proportion to the magnitude of heat energy emitted. Einstein has supplied the relevant equation. On departure due to Coulomb repulsion, the electrons regain the lost mass due to decreasing magnitude of gravitational effect; GTE. As previously stated in an earlier post, to understand the how and why of the GTE, a knowledge of gravity and gravitation is essentially required. Presently, physicists are mistakenly believing that gravity and gravitation is of little consequence at the micro level of reality.

    With regards to the immediate above statement, the discoveries of the ESA spacecraft Rosetta will prove or disprove the physical reality of the GTE.
    In that regard, the GTE requires that Rosetta and the comet 67P it accompanies, will increase in heat in excess of radiation received from the Sun, in proportion to the time rate of acceleration towards the Sun. On closest approach to the Sun, the comet and Rosetta will gradually cool, and only radiation from the Sun will influence their thermal state. On departure from the Sun, there should be a slight slowing of the comet in excess of Newtonian gravitation, and a slight cooling in excess of heat lost to space and radiation received from the Sun.

    Your statement regarding the molecule to molecule absorption of radiated heat energy is correct, hence the rapid equalisation of internal heat energy. However, radiation of heat energy from surfaces results in the cooling process to equal surrounding air temperature.

    If the rubber ball you made reference to was bouncing in a total vacuum, the energy lost in the form of heat as the rubber is deformed to form the return spring, would gradually result in a relative stationary state of the ball.

    With regards to Sheehan’s statement regarding energy travelling upwards, then he would be correct.
    If a long horizontal tube was filled with a liquid and suddenly brought to a vertical position, the full length thermal increase due to gravitation would vary from hottest at the base to coldest at top, and due to thermodynamic law, heat energy would travel upwards through the liquid. The slight increase in thermal activity would rapidly cool to ambient air temperature.

  11. Flash says:

    Been thinking about the liquid column ‘v’ air column issue posed by Larry.

    I think Loschmidt’s effect only applies in a gas because a gas is compressible.

    In a gas, gravity creates a density gradient as well as a pressure and temperature gradient. The molecules compress towards the bottom.

    When molecules in a column of air move up they gain gravitational potential energy and lose kinetic energy (i.e. they get colder). When molecules move down they lose gravitational potential energy and gain kinetic energy (i.e. they get hotter). Hopefully everyone would agree with that?

    This is going to happen regardless of anything else. Molecules moving up will get colder, and ones moving down will get warmer. Every time.

    If we started with an evenly distributed column of air and then applied gravity, under gravity, all of the molecules are trying to ‘fall’. The only thing keeping some up is pressure. So in an equilibrium state a pressure and density gradient forms. And the ones at the top will be colder than the ones at the bottom.

    But so far we haven’t considered the effect of radiation. Consider thin slices of this column of air. Each thin slice will be emitting radiation up and down, in equal measure. However the slice immediately below is more likely to receive/trap that radiation than the slice immediately above, since it has more molecules in it … the less dense slice above is more likely to allow the radiation straight through. Ignoring all the other slices for now, focus on the obvious fact that any slice of air is heating the slice below more than the slice above.

    Again though, this is tempered by the effect of pressure pushing molecules (and therefore energy back up). Radiation will try to heat the layers below but as they heat up they will increase in pressure and push molecules and energy back up. Again an equilibrium state is formed with colder air at the top, and warmer air at the bottom.

    The equilibrium is formed by gravity (which not by co-incidence is a factor in the adiabatic lapse rate formula -dT/dz = g/cp).

    However, this doesn’t work in a liquid. A liquid is not compressible, so while individual move up and down all the time, mass does not move up or down. In a liquid, a pressure gradient forms but no density gradient is formed. The molecules do not, overall move down, therefore potential energy is not being converted systemically into kinetic energy. And because there is no density gradient, each slice in a column of liquid is equally likely to heat the slice above as the slice below. No temperature gradient forms.

    Hope this explanation helps.

    Still trying to work out why this effect, which is observable and obvious from above explanation does not break the 2nd Law of Thermo though. Which was the original challenge Loschmidt had from Maxwell/Boltzmann.


    • Larry Olson says:

      Hi you said “I think Loschmidt’s effect only applies in a gas because a gas is compressible.”

      Actually a column of water does compress the fluid at the bottom, just not as much as air or gas. It is a myth that liquids are incompressible, but they are not very compressible. Important distinction. Also I’m not certain that it requires compression in order to create a temp difference – if the hydrostatic pressure at the bottom of the tall column is extremely high, this means molecule speed must be high, hence why no temp increase? Why does one even have to consider compression in that case? Isnt it more important to measure speed of molecules hitting the container walls, and why does this not feel hot to touch? Ask Blaise Pascal, he’s probably stumped in his grave..

  12. Flash says:

    Hmmm. On that 2nd Law of Thermo thing.

    I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that if you try to use the 2nd Law to refute GTE then the issue is not that GTE is wrong, but that you are not formulating the 2nd Law correctly.

    As an example, I have heard that a Cold object cannot transfer heat to a Warm object. This works under a limited set of conditions. But is utterly falsified when you consider a comet. It is very cold. Colder than the
    Earth. But if it smashed into the Earth it would transfer a LOT of heat.

    The Loschmidt gravito-thermal effect does not break the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. You just don’t express the 2nd Law very well.

  13. Flash says:

    Can anyone refute the single-molecule in 1 dimension explanation?

    Imagine a single molecule released at rest from a height. It starts off with zero velocity (so has zero temperature). It accelerates towards the ground. At the ground it is moving quite fast (so has > zero temperature). It bounces off the ground and hurtles back upwards till it reaches a zenith with zero velocity (so zero temperature) and then repeats.

    If no energy is input or output this continues. It is in dynamic equilibrium; it is iso-energetic but no iso-thermal. There a temperature gradient induced by gravity.



  14. Flash says:

    Then add in another molecule.

    It will do the same thing. Until they collide. However, they should ‘bounce’ elastically off each other. One going back up, and the other back down.

    Add in more molecules.

    Then when you expand to 2 or 3 dimensions, those can be considered orthogonally, and so this model remains valid.

    Any dispute so far?


  15. Flash says:

    Oh dear. Blinkin’ conduction (collisions).The next step in this thought chain doesn’t work …

    After a bit more analysis, when we add in more molecules/dimensions this model breaks down. 😦

    A static gas would briefly exhibit a lapse rate under the influence of gravity, but as it establishes a pressure and density gradient, I think the chaotic collisions distribute kinetic energy (temperature) evenly through the gas. Gravity means the lower region has more “energy” but because that energy is spread among more molecules the temperature (average energy per molecule) remains the same.

    That’s really annoying.


  16. Peter McNeall says:

    I have to say I have only been studying this for a few weeks, but I have a physics degree, and I agree with Loschmidt. If you have two different gases extending 10 km upwards into space the temperature at the top will be different. Does this violate the 2nd Law? Not in my opinion. If a certain amount of heat transfers from one column of gas to the other (starting at the top) this heat will distribute itself evenly all the way to the bottom. The bottom of the other column will now be hotter so this heat will be transferred back into the first column. Net result – no heat transfer !

    • Peter McNeall says:

      I still think you are correct, Douglas. The equipartition theorem states that energy is shared equally. So the atmosphere should be “isoenergetic” not isothermal. If it was isothermal molecules at high altitudes would have excess energy due to their gravitational potential.

      This is in disagreement with the equipartition theorem.

      You have pointed this out very clearly, of course.

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