Why the NASA Planetary Atmospheres Website Doesn’t Mention Greenhouse Gases

Discussions with people holding a different view are obviously quite likely to help bring one’s reasoning forward (as long as there is no name-calling or other infantilism).

For an example of what can happen, look no further than this exchange with Ed Darrell at his Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub. The topic is, what is the relevance of the fact that the NASA Planetary Atmospheres website (PDS-A) doesn’t mention greenhouse gases.

To which my answer has been:

if the experts in the field don’t take it into consideration, I surely want to know why!!

Ed has replied with an interesting suggestion:

The site doesn’t pretend to be an exhaustive resource for all studies of all atmospheres everywhere. It’s a site to get a line into work NASA has actually done.

But if that’s true, it means that in all these years, NASA has seldom if ever looked at ways to investigate the same greenhouse effect that keeps Earth’s average temperature above freezing, and Venus with a surface temperature higher than an oven. And furthermore, there is a dearth of data in this most practical of planetary atmospheric fields!!

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Let’s try to figure out if Ed’s interpretation is right. In its About page, the PDS-A site says “As an additional service, the Atmospheres Node provides information on relevant planetary atmospheres topics for educational purposes”.

There are links for Educators, including to the NASA Planetary Data System College Student Investigators (CSI) webpage that states

The objective of this activity is to involve undergraduate students in research and development projects related to the holdings of NASA.s Planetary Data System (PDS). Through the PDS College Student Investigators activity, the PDS strives to prepare the next generation of PDS science investigators.

A recent proposal is about investigating the role of dust in the thermodynamics of the Martian atmosphere. Neither there nor elsewhere there is any mention of greenhouse gases, a topic that evidently and mysteriously does not interest “next generation of PDS science investigators”.

Going back to PDS-A, there are educational links also to “Broker Forums“. One of them is the web site for the “Sun-Earth Connection” at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center, curiously linking to another website “Space Weather” containing a few unorthodox remarks on the Sun and Earth’s climate.

Another link for the Broker Forums goes to NASA’s Solary System Educational website where (finally!) there is some serious content about the greenhouse effect (GH).

And what does that refer to? Step forward ESA’s Venus Express, that lists among its scientific objectives the investigation of

what is the role of the radiative balance and greenhouse effect in the past present and future evolution of the planet?

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Chapeau to Ed Darrel, then…for all intents and purposes, NASA has dedicated no mission to the study of the greenhouse effect. That’s why there is no mention of it in the PDS-A site, the Planetary Data System for Atmosphere: simply, there is no data to report. Because nobody ever looked for those.

Is the current state of Climatology on this planet and everywhere else sad or what? If Goddard’s Director and climate worrier James Hansen is unable to gather funds for a terrestrial or planetary mission on the greenhouse effect; or worse, if even he is not interested enough to put one together: then how solid will the science of the climate ever be?

ps Still, the PDS-A Encyclopedia could have had a page on the GH effect. Its equations albeit simplified, still are possible