Does laboratory-scale physics obstruct the development of a theory for climate?


Corresponding author: C. Essex, Department of Applied Mathematics, The University of Western Ontario, London, Canada N6A 5B7. (


[1] Despite best efforts, there still is no physical theory for climate based on the physics of the laboratory regime (i.e., fluid mechanics, radiative transfer, classical thermodynamics, etc.). This paper builds from previous discussions on how laboratory-regime assumptions may lock our current theoretical efforts into the laboratory regime and how we might get around this problem. Using ultralong time photographic exposures (known as solargraphs) for inspiration, it draws into question classical thinking about intensive thermodynamic variables for theoretical climate purposes while using the fact that physical flows remain well defined even for climate regimes. These flows are characterized here as “generalized wind.” A simple example based on radiative energy and entropy transfer illustrates how these generalized wind fields can partially replace what is lost in moving away from laboratory-regime physics. These winds are shown to carry the dynamics in a modified form of radiation-like fluid dynamics that, together with radiation, might be possible to close in climate regimes.