Despite all the talk about carbon capture, carbon footprints and carbon trading, carbon dioxide only causes nine to 26 percent of the greenhouse effect. That means that the majority of warming results from gases with a much lower media profile than the paparazzi-trailed starlet of global warming, CO2. In honor of last weeks' report in the Journal of Geophysical Research, which identified a brand new greenhouse gas, PopSci.com counts down the gases that bring us bikini weather in Antarctica and beachfront property in Montana.
Let's start by changing the title to:
"The Top Ten Greenhouse Gases
PopSci.com's guide to the gases that make Earth inhabitable!"
If you are serious about science as opposed to politics -- Then let's start with science and not opinion
So now let's ignore political ravings and begin with greenhouse effect Science 101: (subject to revisions as our knowledge of nature improves):
Greenhouse Science 101:
First: Without the greenhouse effect the planet would be only slightly warmer than Mars and just as bleak a place for life
Second: The basic local radiative equilibrium in a small isolated volume of the low atmosphere near the surface of the earth is determined by (what goes in and what comes out):
1 -- incoming solar radiation (depends on the brightness of the Sun and all the stuff above the relevant packet of air including clouds (more later)) -- note that conveniently the atmosphere is mostly transparent to incoming solar radiation (spectrum is predominantly composed of visible, near Infrared and some near Ultra Violet Photons)
2 -- supplemented by atmospheric radiation -- the essence of the Green House Effect -- Note that it is folly to try to explain the heating of the earth ignoring the radiation from the already warm atmosphere impinging on the earth – Note further that the atmosphere is warmed by the GH effect and then this warmer atmosphere can warm the surface of the earth (this hierarch can be tested by comparing low to mid tropospheric atmospheric temperature to surface temperature)
3 -- the earth (depending on its local terrain, geology, and any bio-surface layer with any additional layers of water in the form of liquid or ice
4 -- absorbs some radiation and reflects most of the radiation (no change occurs in the individual photon energy although the spectrum of photons can be modified-- e.g. typically plants reflect green preferentially)
5-- the earth also radiates some photons (based on the temperature, surface roughness and chemical composition of the surface) -- this typically occurs in the "thermal infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum -- corresponding to temperatures around 300K)
6 -- The outgoing mostly Thermal IR radiation is relatively strongly absorbed by the GHG in the atmosphere raising its temperature
7 – The local packet of atmosphere radiates (based on the specific characteristics associated with the particular gas, its density of that of other constituents, and the local temperature of the volume of atmosphere) in no preferred direction (a common misconception) – some is radiated toward space
8 -- some of it is radiated azimuthally (i.e. from a packet of air at a certain lat and long to another packet of air at another lat and long)
9 -- some is radiated back toward the earth
10 -- this last bit is the warming atmospheric radiation -- assuming of course that the atmosphere is warm enough and dense enough to radiate usefully -- and assuming that nothing (particles, cloud droplets, etc) impedes the path of the photons
Third: All greenhouse gases (GHG) represent only traces of the atmosphere that is essentially Nitrogen and Oxygen -- typically much less than 1% the exception is H2O locally
Fourth: there are two important greenhouse gases from the point of view of input to life:
1) H20 -- for obvious and not so obvious reasons
2) CO2 -- because it is the basic food for the planet
Fifth: There is no magic in GHG -- absorbing and radiating photons (electromagnetic waves) by low concentrations of isolated polyatomic gases (GHG) is governed by well understood physical principles and depends on well-known parameters (e.g. concentration of each molecular species, temperature, overall pressure, intensity of incoming radiation)
Sixth: Where it gets interesting -- how do we arrive at the numbers to plug into each of these isolated volumes -- this is especially challenging for H2O -- because it can and does condense into liquid water or freeze into ice and also does the reverse typically simultaneously in the same isolated volume
Seventh: Natural non-living sources and sinks typically close to the earth sinks exist for H2O in all its forms (solid liquid gas) and for CO2 as a gas – these include: volcanoes, breaking waves, natural forest fires, heating and cooling ocean waters) complicate the arithmetic
Eighth: Liquid and Frozen water in the sky can and does form clouds which depending on their altitude, thickness, and local convection can have dominating positive or negative feedback effects (i.e. reflecting incoming or outgoing radiation) on the overall
Ninth (A): Life helps to make it interesting as plants and some bacteria consume CO2 from the air while doing photosynthesis and making sugar.
Ninth (B): Life also helps make it interesting by exhaling CO2 and water vapor while burning sugar including decay of formerly living matter mediated by fungi and bacteria
Tenth: Humans burning things (e.g. trees, ag-waste, coal, gasoline, etc) further complicate the already complex picture
All of the rest of the GHG essentially provide tweaks to the system as does variations in the incoming radiation due to the Sun, high-altitude aerosols (solid particles and liquid droplets) due to volcanoes, possibly forest fires and possibly big winds blowing over deserts
Peace of Cake -- or "Filling in the details is left to the reader to complete"
PS: The Picture is bogus as well -- has nothing to do with CO2
What you are in fact seeing in the picture is fine water droplets (note not water vapor (vapour for th UK) as water in the form of vapor or steam is always invisible).
CO2 in the form of a gas -- is also always invisible and naturally on the earth and in the troposphere that is the only form in which CO2 ever occurs
Water vapor accounts for ~90% of the greenhouse effect with CO2 and methane splitting the rest. Only 3% of the CO2 emitted comes from man-made sources.
Wow, again popsi is "out scienced" by its readers. Bravo New_Ice_Man and Laughingboy. It is too bad that they are to politically motivated to care.
Agreed, New Ice Man should have his own PopSci website. I guess CO2 is one of those contradictory and controversial greenhouse gases. This is a really great top ten list, anyone can post their own to our site toptentopten.com/. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.
Beach front property in Antarctica? Don't believe the recent studies which stood statistics on their head to make that claim. Torture statistics enough and they will confess to anything, especially if the author of the study is free to make up numbers and plug them into empty data fields before he "re-averages" the whole to get the result he wanted. . .
The press is criminally negligent in providing balance and telling both sides of the story. We have been in a world-wide cooling cycle for the last 8 years. During that time we have set record low temps around the world. The hottest year on record this century is all the way back to 1934
These declines in temps invalidate the GLOBAL WARMING THEORY which is based upon flawed computer modeling. The theory posits that CO2 will stay in the atmosphere for 100 years and will be cumulative which would theoretically increase world-wide temps. What they don't tell you is that CO2 has a specific gravity of 1.52 which means that is 152% heavier than air. Because of this they use it in fire extinguishers precisely because it sinks to the ground and starves the fire for oxygen.
What they tell you but you don't understand is that we have 380PPM of CO2 in the atmosphere. In the last 100 years we have increased from 300 PPM to 380PPM. What this means in a fractional equivalent is that there is currently 38/100,000ths of 1% of CO2 in the atmosphere. We have increased by only 8/100,000ths of 1% in the last 100 years. Can we spell trace amount or miniscule?
Because of the world wide cooling, even Al Gore now no longer talks about Global warming but climate change.
I have written an extensive paper on all of the fraud being perpetrated upon us about global warming. In spite of being a widely published author and writer on other topics, the far left liberal press refuses to even look at my article much as less publish it for balance.
Believe me, the fraud is extensive and scientists from around the world have tried to expose the fraud. The IPCC won't publish any of their comments. Some scientists have had to sue the IPCC to have their names removed. A judge in England enjoined Gore's schlocumentary from being shown in public schools without labeling all of the scientific errors in it.
Why is it that in every other legal profession, there are mandatory codes of ethics, the violation of which gets you kicked out of that profession, but in journalistic ethics, they are all voluntary. As a result, editors routinely flout those ethics and there is no controlling authority requiring them to follow those ethics. Just thought that you should know this about the media.
They are the sleeziest legal profession in our country.
This is especially timely since Obama has stated widely that he is going to impose stiff carbon taxes and vows to bankrupt industries that he feels exceed those CO2 emissions limits. Those taxes will be a tax on all of us since an increase in taxes on an industry is simply passed along to the public in the form of higher taxes.
More studies are being pumped out recently about another huge chunk of ice about to break off from West Antarctica. Please keep in mind that actual tempterature readings on top of the ice itself do not indicate any actual warming. Such claims of Antarctic warming that you may be reading are based on interpolations which claim that 40 years ago the majority of Antarctica was a lot colder than was measured at the time, and this makes the temps today actually very slightly warmer.
Don't believe it. At any rate the temps actually being measured on solid ground or solid ice at surface level near the South Pole are as cold as they have ever been and ALL of the continent is still much too cold for surface melting.
So, the reason ice shelves break off is that they are being undercut by warmer ocean currents rubbing up against the shore. This is also probably the reason for the Arctic ice pack melt back in the summer. These Pacific Ocean currents were a product of the La Nina phenomenon. As this ends we will presently find out if much ice melting is going on in either the Arctic or the Antarctic.
There has always been confusion about C02 because GW proponents never mention the "denominator" of the equation.CO2 numbers have never added up. There are 3,000 billion tons of CO2 already in the atmosphere at any one time. We put out 27 billion tons a year...or 27/3000=0.009 X 100=0.9% of all CO2, or looking at it another way, C02 is 380ppm and we account for less than 1% of that. Also, water vapor and clouds account for as much as 90% of green house gas effects, and CO2 actually accounts only a tiny fraction of the 10%. Other "culprits" include methane (CH4), 03-ozone,CFCs,NOx, and sulfur hexafluorides. The $1-3 trillion cost of a carbon tax will stiffle our economy and its based on faulty science. Don't get me wrong, I'm a greenie and love windmills, geothermal, solar, OTEC, hydro, nuclear, and other sources of energy but I'm also a realist and want more domestic oil production.
Nice picture POPSCI.
A time lapsed, photoshopped picture of a nuclear powerplant releasing STEAM.
Nice try to make look like smoke belching out.
Lies only take away from your arguement.
Did you read the whole article? MAYBE, just maybe, it was a teaser for the #1 greenhouse gas, water vapor. Let's hope at least. http://community.elgg.org/pg/profile/johnmorgan
I am of the belief that greenhouse gases are good for the enviroment.Lets take a desert for instance,much of the solar radiation re-radiates back into spase(good???)due primarely to the lack of greenhouse gases,therefore there are very few convection currents and most that do occure are of the downward variety hense the big HIGHS over deserts most of the time.As opposed to the sinero of an abundance of greenhouse gases where there will be a warming of the atmosphere and the retention of that warmth sufficently to induce a massive LOW which means elevating air,convection currents and possibly precipitation and definately cooling.