The Sun is the main driver of climate change. Not you. Not carbon dioxide.

Do you believe in the existence of the night?

Contributed by Philip Mulholland and Stephen P.R. Wilde

Do you believe in the existence of the night? Is it likely that a mathematical process that relies on the suspension of belief in the reality of one of our most fundamental natural experiences can be true? Put more simply, if you were asked to believe that the sun shines on to the ground at night, how would you respond?

By Anonymous – Camille Flammarion, L’Atmosphère: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), pp. 163.,
Public Domain,

When we approach the issue of the reality of night, we are acknowledging the existence of the earth’s shadow, for that is precisely what night is; it is the realm of the shadow, the place where the sun does not directly shine. The night is the environment of cold, the dark side of our world, the antithesis of the warmth of the sunlit day.

In the application of science to the study of the natural world we seek to identify the fundamental elements of the process we are analysing. In the case of climate, the study of the process of the heating of the surface of the earth by the warm light of the sun, the irreducible fundamental division on the surface of our world is the presence of the warm sunlit day and its equal and opposite partner, the cold dark of the night.

The process of reductio ad absurdam lies at the heart of the mechanism by which an assertion can be shown to be false. This simple and powerful technique, known and used by the Greeks of the ancient world, has been ignored by climate scientists who sing the siren song of absurdity; that the powerful sunlight of the day must be reduced in intensity, by averaging to a feeble twilight, because over the course of a year, the sunlight falls on every part of the surface of the earth.

So, in climate science there is no day or night, just a single uniform dimly lit surface environment, a twilight zone of the simmer dim as the Shetland Islanders would call it. How did this ludicrous nonsense of averaging the strength of sunlight into feeble insignificance arise, and what is the implication of its adoption as a false logical truth? Climate science takes as its fundamental cause the so-called vacuum planet equation. This calculation was devised by astronomers to determine the surface temperature of a planet with no atmosphere floating in the vacuum of space. With the algorithm, and assuming that rapid daily rotation of the solid surface occurs, it is possible to calculate the average surface temperature of a vacuum planet by measuring its heat rays, or more accurately its thermal radiant emission to space. While this astronomical equation is a noble contribution to science, its adoption by climate scientists as the fundamental metric of climate has not one, but at least two egregious errors.

First, and most obviously the earth is not a vacuum planet, it has a perceptible atmosphere of mobile gases as well as a significant surface covering of ocean water. In truth our home planet can be more accurately described as a world of liquid water, rather than one of solid earth.

The second error is more subtle but no less damaging. By adding an atmosphere to a vacuum planet, climate science assumes a fundamental hierarchy of cause as to the means of distributing heat around the globe. This hierarchy is planetary rotation first and planetary atmosphere second, with no account made for the ability of a mobile atmosphere to distribute heat around the globe. When we approach the question of how this basic thesis of the vacuum planet equation can be applied to a slowly rotating tidally locked planet that has an atmosphere, climate science has no answer. This is because no account is taken of the lateral energy distributing capability of a mobile atmosphere.

Even the great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov incorrectly assumed that on the dark side of his imagined tidally locked Ribbon World, where the sun never shone “the oxygen would run like water” (thereby completely ignoring the ability of a mobile atmosphere in transferring energy from one side to the other and back again).

Reality has a habit of disabusing our imaginings. There are two terrestrial worlds in our solar system that both have an atmosphere and are also slow rotators, the planet Venus and the Saturnian moon Titan. Both worlds possess uniform surface temperatures with a minimal diurnal range, and a heat transport atmospheric circulation system that extends from the equator to the poles of rotation. From this we can deduce two things:

  1. That on slowly rotating terrestrial planets and moons with an atmosphere, the lack of a diurnal temperature range shows that it is the mobile non condensing atmosphere of meteorology that distributes the intercepted solar energy from the sunlit side to the dark night side. It is not the daily rotation of the solid surface that distributes the energy as required by astronomy and climate science, because this mechanism is too slow.
  2. That it is the thermally driven atmospheric circulation cell which is the fundamental meteorological element of climate. This second point is critical to the argument as to the nature of climate.

The definition of climate as a simple average of weather is disingenuous. The original ancient Greek concept of climate referred to the slope of the face of the earth that is exposed to the rays of the sun. Aristotle identified just three climatic zones, and our modern meteorological understanding of the location of the earth’s three atmospheric circulation cells, leads naturally to a definition of climate as the presence and action of an atmospheric circulation cell over the surface of a planet. Aristotle would not have known of the earth’s three atmospheric circulation cells, but could perceive their three dissimilar effects on the surface across the then known world.

So, what about the issue of the strength of the sunlight? The meteorological process of climate is the consequence of the action of the weather machine, a gigantic heat engine made of air and powered by sunlight, the driving force, but restricted by planetary gravity and daily rotation rate, the restraining forces.

As with any heat engine the temperature of the exhaust is always lower than the temperature of the powering gases. This must be true, else the machine would not be capable of producing work. The weather machine of our planet clearly does produce work, the driving motion of the trade winds, the lifting of water to the tops of every mountain range on the planet is proof of this assertion. In fact, the weather machine would still be inevitable even with no radiative gases in the atmosphere at all, because the driving force emanates from temperature and density differentials in the horizontal plane.

The vacuum planet equation of astronomy only measures the thermal radiant exhaust temperature of a planet, so it does not measure the temperature of a surface beneath a mobile atmosphere. As its vacuum name implies this boundary is at the top of the atmosphere which is in contact with the vacuum of space. The meteorological process at the surface requires the undiluted power of the sunlight, plus an additional permanently retained quantity within the atmosphere to provide the total internal energy needed to perform its function. This retention of energy within the atmospheric reservoir results in a higher surface temperature. So, the idea that the sunlight strength of the lit hemisphere must be diluted by four prior to calculating the surface temperature, because that gives the relative size of the exhaust radiator is clearly false. The mobile atmospheric system obviously needs an additional component of retained energy at the surface for it to maintain that mobility.

Once we remove the false need to dilute sunlight intensity by four, then there is no need to restore power to the atmospheric heat engine by back-radiation as the established paradigm of greenhouse gases requires. The greenhouse gas conjecture of thermal radiant opacity as the mechanism to restore the unnecessary loss of power to the atmosphere is a phantom process more insubstantial than the gas it purports to heat.

The proof of this assertion is the existence of slowly rotating planets with an insignificant temperature differential between the lit and unlit sides. The slow rotation means that the cause of that difference cannot be back radiation because back radiation requires rapid daily rotation to transfer energy from one side to the other. No rapid rotation means it is atmospheric motion and not solar illumination that provides the indirect heating for half of the planet, and thus there is no back radiation on the unlit side.

This leaves the mobility of the atmosphere as the universal cause of the enhanced surface temperature at the basal boundary beneath all forms of atmosphere, and on all types of terrestrial bodies. In that respect, we refer readers to our various Research Gate papers at this link:

This work fully describes the relevant mass motion mechanism for a range of different terrestrial bodies and atmospheres in space, and also to our latest International Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences paper “Return to Earth: A New Mathematical Model of the Earth’s Climate” published here.

Philip Mulholland
Stephen P.R. Wilde

A piercingly bright curtain of stars is the backdrop for this beautiful image taken by astronomer Håkon Dahle. The silhouetted figure in the foreground is Håkon himself surrounded by just a couple of the great dark domes that litter the mountain of ESO’s La Silla Observatory. Many professional astronomers are also keen photographers — and who could blame them? ESO sites in the Atacama Desert are among the best places on Earth for observing the stars, and for the same reason, are amazing places for photographing the night sky. Håkon took these photos while on a week-long observing run at the MPG/ESO 2.2 -telescope. During this time, the telescope was occasionally handed over to a different observing team, giving Håkon the opportunity to admire the starry night — as well as to capture it for the rest of us to see. The Milky Way is brighter in the Southern Hemisphere than in the North, because of the way our planet’s southern regions point towards the dense galactic centre. But even in the South, the Milky Way in the night sky is quite faint in the sky. For most of us, light pollution from our cities and even the Moon can outshine the faint glow of the galaxy, hiding it from view. One of the best aspects of La Silla Observatory is that it is far away from bright city lights, giving it some of the darkest night skies on Earth. The atmosphere is also very clear, so there is no haze to further muddy your vision. The skies at La Silla are so dark that it is possible to see a shadow cast by the light of the Milky Way alone. Håkon submitted this photograph to the Your ESO Pictures Flickr group. The Flickr group is regularly reviewed and the best photos are selected to be featured in our popular Picture of the Week series, or in our gallery.

By ESO/H. Dahle –


  1. John Csutorka

    I am sure that there is a lot of truth in this article but I just wish that I could understand half of it. It was a bit over my head, as they say.

  2. Philip Mulholland

    Climate Science has at it core the idea that the sunlight of the day, that powers the weather must be spread over the whole surface of the Earth instantaneously (hence divide incoming sunlight strength by 4). This means that the sunlight is too weak to power our daytime weather and so in effect the sun shines on to the ground at night. Having created this logical error Climate Science then invents the fiction of the greenhouse gas that restores the warmth to the surface. They further suggest that greenhouse gases can dangerous overheat our planet if we have too much carbon dioxide in our air. All of this is false. There is no greenhouse gas climate crisis.

  3. Stephen Wilde

    Hi John,
    Don’t worry about the detail.
    The point is that the so called greenhouse effect is due to atmospheric mass moving up and down so that greenhouse gases are irrelevant except in so far as they alter atmospheric circulation to a minuscule extent which we would not even be able to measure.

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