It was disputed in the 1940s-50s whether Venus
- had a hot surface and cool cloud layer or
- a cool surface and hot cloud layer.
As I recall, both were considered at the limits of plausibility at the time. We know that Venus turned out to be case 1.
But is case 2 still a plausible type of planet, with some other atmospheric conditions?
Bonus: Can you make this inversion such that the surface isn't just cooler than the atmosphere, but cooler than a vacuum world would be?
Edit: Not a complete answer, but I just came across https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-greenhouse_effect That said, I already knew that some phenomena (IE, atmospheric particulates) could raise albedo and thus cool the planet. What that page does not explicitly answer is...
A. Can / does a high-albedo atmospheric layer (one that would be noticeable from space as a 'surface', unlike Earth's ozone layer) have a higher temperature than the surface?
B. Is it plausible to have a natural atmosphere where the anti-greenhouse effect dominates over any greenhouse effect that's likely also present? Wiki article says this is not the case for Titan.