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LJWorld.com weblogs Global Warming from a Conceptual Standpoint

Global Warming First Concepts

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Very often when the subject of global warming comes up, there are arguments that start with...

  • But convection...
  • But saturation...
  • But volcanoes...
  • But clouds...
  • But Mars...
  • But Uranus...

...et cetera.

Perhaps it might be useful to think in terms of just energy rather than radiation, thermal heat, chemical, phase state, and other forms. Energy can be transformed between various forms readily enough in the presence of matter. The total amount of energy in the earth system, or what the equilibrium will be, is determined very much by the rate of radiative energy in versus the rate of radiative energy out. There are other energy gains and losses, but they are orders of magnitude smaller, and they haven't been changing much in the last century.

I'm comfortable with probabilities; so, I'd like to propose something at the conceptual level along those lines.

Let's consider photons in and photons out. Actually, let's just acknowledge that there is a stream of inbound photons (mostly from the sun, of course), and focus on outbound photons. Photons are packets (quanta) of energy. How much energy is within the system, or what the equilibrium level will be, depends on how long energy stays within the system before exiting. Since the vast majority of energy leaving the earth leaves in the form of photons, how much energy is within the system depends on how likely it is that any given photon will encounter an obstruction on the way out. The likelihood of any given outbound photon encountering an obstruction is dependent on how many obstructions there are. A CO2 molecule is an obstruction within the wavelengths of photons that the earth emits. Therefore, more CO2 molecules results in more packets of energy being intercepted (absorbed) along their exit path.

Any photon intercepted will go through some transformation and become energy of another nature. It does not really matter at this level whether that is a higher state of excitement within the electron shells, between the bonds that hold atoms in a molecule together, or if it immediately gets re-radiated or if it gets converted to molecular kinetic energy (heat) and stays around a little longer. The energy stays within the earth system, and it does not have another chance to leave the system, until it becomes a photon again. The more transitions there are between photon and another form of energy, the longer the energy will stay within the system, and the more energy will be contained within it.

More energy in the earth system leads to higher temperatures of air, land, and sea, more humidity, more convection, changes in Hadley Cell circulation, changes in the thermohaline cycle, etc. There is little point to debate how much change to expect in each of these, and what their feedback effects will be, until there is an understanding that the overall amount of energy will go up when there is more restriction in the outbound flow.

Comments

Ken Lassman 3 years, 5 months ago

Your worst, The ocean is also acting as a carbon sink by absorbing some of the carbon we are putting into the atmosphere, which is leading to increased acidity in the water. This is actually perhaps more threatening to the entire biosphere than the increased global atmospheric temperatures, since life in the ocean is greatly affected by a change in the acidity of the water.

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yourworstnightmare 3 years, 5 months ago

Good description, cg.

Input minus output equals total energy.

As you said, C02 and other "greenhouse" gases block output of energy from the earth. Therefore, total energy increases.

Unless I am mistaken and somehow the sun is giving off less energy or some atmospheric substance (ozone) is also increasing in prevalence and is repelling wavelengths coming in from the sun.

In the absence of this, the earth's energy content is increasing. There are buffering systems that can prevent large changes in climate (e.g. oceans as heat sinks), but these buffering systems also have their limits.

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Liberty275 3 years, 5 months ago

Global warming first concepts of common sense:

1: Why did the glaciers that once stood over lawrence recede? Was it because of a 1971 Chevelle SS 396? A red one, with black stripes?

2: Were you lying when you promised us more hurricanes to wash the scum off the streets. All the animals come out at night whether you know it or not.

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Chris Golledge 3 years, 5 months ago

What you fail to realize is that I'm not talking about models. At least, not yet.

I've yet to see a physics equation where the result was in any way affected by the current state of American culture, or culture from a broader perspective for that matter.

By the way, did I not mention that the energy in our biosphere comes, "mostly from the sun, of course"? So, I'm not sure what your basis is for claiming that "alarmists" aren't aware that the sun plays a big part in the earth's energy balance. I'll leave a discussion of changes in the sun for another day. If you want a head start on that, here is an easy read:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/solar-activity-sunspots-global-warming.htm

You claim that they claim...blah, blah, blah.
Personally, I'm not worried about cow flatulence, but if you'd like to have a discussion of methane as a GHG, here are some starting points:

http://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=74-82-8 http://webbook.nist.gov/cgi/cbook.cgi?ID=C74828&Type=IR-SPEC&Index=1#IR-SPEC

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TrekkerKen 3 years, 5 months ago

What you fail to realize is these are mere MODELS. Models are calculations. Even the British High Court found inaccuracies and errors as well as politicization of Al Gore's movie, which global warmers think is akin to a Christian's bible. Researchers need funds. This is a problem in today's world: Mass media is as a whole LEFT and FAR LEFT leaning. Global warming/climate change as being soley caused by man is from the LEFT. The old saying goes something like this: "He who blares the loudest trumpet gets heard" and it's true today. Media doesn't give equal time to opposing views on this issue and media is a part of trying to show any opposers of this issue as "kooks".

What these alarmists should be looking seriously at is the way the sun affects the planet. It is the sun that has been causing the globe to warm up. It's a cycle. Oh, by the way, the United Nations even goes so far as to claim cattle cause more global warming than all the automobiles because they constantly fart....or for those of you unable to look down past your doctoral degrees - that means the cows release methane gases into the atmosphere by flatulation.

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Ken Lassman 3 years, 5 months ago

Cg,
My understanding of what you just talked about is that yes, you DO understand that the earth's atmospheric composition and behavior is dynamic, and furthermore, you do not believe that the system is a just a fixed one where you change the percentage of CO2 and the entire system then holds more heat. You described it as such as a heuristic device so that there is a conceptual understanding of how we humans, by emitting gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, can indeed effect an extremely complex and dynamic atmosphere that has a multitude of influences shaping it, and I appreciate that.

As far as climatologists predicting the winners of the World Series, that's the classic fallacy of mixing up meteorology with climatology. In other words, climatologists do not address the topic of who will win a World Series, they predict who is most likely to be able to GO to the world series after playing a 162 game season.

As such, climatologists can make predictions with a much higher degree of confidence than a meteorologist, because the atmospheric dynamics models are akin to steering a giant ocean liner on the ocean, compared to the meteorologist's task of predicting the position of a kayak on a whitewater river. Predicting where a storm will pop up is much more difficult than predicting whether a drought will develop or whether global temperatures will go up or down. Hence the real concern about what the trends are showing.

As far as data points, climatologists are constantly running and re-running their models using lots of different assumptions, entering brand new data fresh from the field, and as a result, coming up with projections based on a composite of these multiple factors. 3 data points in a lifetime? Hardly.

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devobrun 3 years, 5 months ago

"There is little point to debate how much change to expect in each of these, and what their feedback effects will be, until there is an understanding that the overall amount of energy will go up when there is more restriction in the outbound flow."

There is an implicit stability in your analysis. That is, without CO2 increase, you assume that the earth is in balance. Evidence suggests differently. Whether it is decadal, or millennial or more, the earth's temperature is dynamic.

Feedback is quite important to all stable systems. If the clouds are higher and more numerous because of increased ocean temperatures, the radiation from the hot thunderheads and the blocking of incoming radiation due to increased albedo can mitigate the inflow of energy from the sun.

What is the average albedo of a thundercloud? Have they become more numerous or higher or just why does the tropical atmosphere appear to be not behaving according to model predictions.


The Yankees won the World Series this year. Didn't you know? All the evidence suggests that the Yankees have the best team in baseball. Highest player salary. Best pitching, hitting, fielding and experience. The model run in March predicted it. Even if they didn't win this year, they are predicted to win next year by the models.

Note to those not schooled in post-modern science: A model is an experiment in today's logic. Since experiment is required to use the term "science", and long term weather experiments cannot be done, computer model runs that predict the past are termed experiments. Treatises like the above are used to sway the public into thinking that "experts" know what the climate will do in 30 years. Climate experts are not. They don't know. But they have computer and will pontificate. And they have mortgage and need funding.


Oh, at least the baseball models are tested on a yearly basis. Last I looked the climate models didn't predict the recent stable atmospheric temperatures. Takes 30 years for a data point, doncha know. That's maybe 3 data points per lifetime. Not science. Mathematical flim flam. P.T. Barnum stuff. And there are suckers born every minute.

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