Episode #125 of the Stack Overflow podcast is here. We talk Tilde Club and mechanical keyboards. Listen now
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In a nutshell: The radiation that enters is shortwave radiation from the sun. Solar radiation is dominated by visible (as well as UV and near infrared) radiation with a wavelength mostly between 0.2 µm and 2 µm. This wavelength is determined by the temperature of the Sun, in the order of 6000 K. For visible radiation (roughly between 0.4 µm and 0.7 µm), ...


38

Your question about water vapour is quite a common one among people learning about the greenhouse effect. Once you discover the relevant proportions of water vapour and CO2 in the atmosphere, it's perhaps natural to assume that the CO2 can't be playing a major role. In reality it doesn't work like this, for at least a couple of reasons. First, let's look at ...


22

Gerrit's got the technical answer; I'm going to answer for a layperson. There are two ways objects lose heat. The first, and the way people are most familiar with, is conduction. Something touches something else, and the hotter material transfers some of its heat to the colder material. It's why you rapidly lose heat if you wade into cold waters: your ...


21

To add to Gerrit's excellent answer, I'd like to add a couple more Images. Images always help clarify things for me. Firstly, this one shows the spectrum light coming from the sun in red. The peak is in the visible range*. It also shows the thermal radiation from the earth in blue. This is in the infrared range. Below, it shows how different gases allow ...


13

CO$_2$ doesn't significantly interact with solar radiation or UV, and doesn't store any significant amount of heat. What CO$_2$ effectively does is scattering infrared radiation emitted by the Earth, and such radiation is emitted day and night. Let me explain this: All objects emit a type of radiation called black body radiation. And the color (wavelength) ...


11

Experiments don't necessarily prove things, per se; and in particular, a single experiment tends not to prove anything - at the very least, replication of the experiment is required. Experiments provide contributory evidence. Confidence in a hypothesis can come about from a combination of theory, lab experiments and natural experiments. Our knowledge about ...


7

The short answer is that greenhouse gases occur at all levels in the atmosphere. However, the concentrations can vary with altitude. In the case of greenhouse gases that are always in a gaseous state like CO2, Methane and Nitrous oxide, they are evenly distributed throughout the lower atmosphere (i.e. troposphere and stratosphere below ~20km), (this question ...


7

The short answer to your question really is just this: Yes, CO2 causes global warming. There are many resources out there on the internet that explain this in about as much detail as you can tolerate, and whatever we could answer here does not come close to what others have already collected. I would suggest you start at the wikipedia page on global warming ...


7

Let's just talk about cattle here and ignore other factors related to cattle production for now. The current cattle number (93 million) you found is probably the total number of dairy cow and beef cattle. In your argument, it is possible that bison has much more emission than cattle on pasture. But the emission from cattle in feedlot and dairy farm is much ...


7

There is no doubt that the sooner the mitigation effort happens, the greater will be its impact. In other words, the impact on year 2100 climate of the sequestration of 20 billion tons $\ce{CO2}$-eq right now, is much bigger than the impact that the same action will have in 30 years from now. Therefore, a mitigation action today is much cheaper than one ...


6

An easy calculation is to start with the solar constant, the power (energy per unit time) produced by solar radiation at a distance of one astronomical unit. This is 1.361 kilowatts per square meter. The surface area of the Earth is $4\pi R^2$, where $R$ is the radius of the Earth, while the cross section of the Earth to solar radiation is $\pi R^2$. Thus ...


6

To see why we can't perform an experiment in lab conditions to verify the greenhouse effect, we need to start by considering how the [rather badly named] greenhouse effect operates: The Earth is in (to all intents and purposes) a vacuum, so it can only gain or lose heat via radiation. The sun emits most of its radiation at visible and UV wavelengths. The ...


6

The Faint Young Sun Paradox - how greenhouse gases can keep a planet warm: When the Earth formed 4.5 billion years ago the Sun was around 30% less luminous than it is today and it has increased steadily since, based on well established models of solar evolution. Simple energy balance models of the Earth show that, with a similar atmosphere to today, the ...


5

CO2 and methane both have natural feedback loops that can cause increasing temprature to release more of both, which in turn causes more warming which causes more release and so on and so forth. This is one of the big worries about human caused greenhouse gasses, that they will trigger these feedback loops causing far more drastic warming. Negative feedback ...


5

There is no simple relationship since it all depends on the frequency (IR spectral lines for most species of molecules are a mess). The most direct and precise way of calculation is through line-by-line calculation from a large spectrum database. The atmospheric column will be very different based on angle off normal, weather, and even time of day (water ...


5

I found a great paper named Remote Sensing of Particulate Pollution from Space: Have We Reached the Promised Land? and collected some remote sensing instruments doing CH4 measurement in the chart below. It contains the information about the satellite, orbit types, instrument and the data time-range. Satellite Orbit Instrument Years ...


5

The idea of a carbon sink is a bit misunderstood here. The idea of a carbon sink is a reduction of carbon that comes from the atmosphere. It must “fix” carbon that is already in the air. Trees are a carbon sink, for the most part, because their mass is made of of carbon obtained from The atmosphere. Unless the plastic formation process you are thinking of is ...


4

Tropospheric ozone is a significant greenhouse gas (see e.g. IPCC AR4) and has well established negative effects on crop yields. For example, Van Dingen et al (2009) evaluated yield losses of up to about 15% globally, depending on the crop.


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It depends on the wavelength. The figure shows the most absorbing species between 6 and 16 µm for a U.S. standard tropical atmosphere (Note: this figure does NOT include the Earth's surface!). Absorption data is taken from Anderson et. al (1986) and simulations are performed with the open-source Atmospheric Radiative Transfer Simulator (ARTS; Eriksson et ...


4

Ozone is indeed a greenhouse gas. But not due to its capacity to absorb/scatter UV radiation, but instead due to its capacity to absorb infrared radiation. In contrast with other greenhouse gases (Like $CO_2$ or Methane), the spectral absorption bands of Ozone are not confined to the infrared part of the spectrum, there are ozone absorption bands also the UV ...


3

Quick and simple answer: A greater greenhouse effect. There is an equilibrium in place. CO2 weathering rates depend on temperature, so at lower temperatures, we see CO2 levels rise, warming the planet. At higher temperatures, higher weathering rates mean more CO 2 drawdown, so the planet cools. This is a very long term process. But this CO2 thermometer ...


3

One can account for greenhouse gas effect for Earth's temperature in simple energy balance model in following manner. Assume that fraction $f$ of longwave radiation emitted by Earth's surface is captured by green house gases in the atmosphere. Suppose Earth's surface temperature is $T_e$ and temperature of the atmosphere is $T_a$. The energy received from ...


3

Tropospheric (near the surface) ozone is a powerful greenhouse gas, even in trace amounts. Strataspheric ozone or the ozone layer is opaque to UV rays coming in and it's opaque to IR rays going out so it has both warming and cooling effects. The net effect of a thickening of the ozone layer is a small warming (with some uncertainty), so the ozone layer is ...


3

Q: What radiates energy back into space? A: anything above absolute zero temperature. That is, absolutely everything, according to the Stephan-Boltzman's law: $$W = \sigma T^4$$ Where $\sigma$ is the Stephan-Boltzman constant and $T$ is the absolute temperature. So of course, volcanoes, steel foundries, forest fires, etc emit a disproportionate amount of ...


3

IF, and it's a very big IF, all the methane hydrate were to be released rapidly, then the planetary climate would be stuffed. But it won't happen. How much methane hydrate will be released due to global warming? Run 30 different atmospheric-ocean-coupled global climatic models, and you will get 30 different answers - all of them based upon arguable ...


3

What is most mysterious to me, what is the 'factor' of infra-red production by different surface materials. In asking about different surface materials, you are missing the big picture. If you want to understand global warming, simply look at the big picture you provided in the question. The Earth's surface receives more than twice as much energy in the ...


3

Quantitatively hydrogen fluoride is insignificant, except when it is emitted from volcanic sources, in which case it is extremely toxic to crops - far more than any other natural gas. Possibly the worst recorded case was from Iceland when the volcanic eruption of 1783-1794 killed most if not all the crops and livestock downwind. The combination of fluorine ...


3

I think you may be confusing two separate, but related, issues. Aircraft emissions at high altitudes are a concern for the ozone layer, because the NOx that is emitted by aircraft can catalytically destroy ozone. Supersonic aircraft fly higher up in the stratosphere than a typical jet, and thus can harm the ozone layer more effectively. The ozone layer is ...


2

To add to Trevor's answer, FACE experiments have shown that elevated CO2 can affect grain quality and the food product. For example bread made with wheat flour grown under elevated CO2 doesn't rise as much as flour from identical varieties grown under current conditions.


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Specifically looking at carbon dioxide, there's been a series of field experiments that involve artificially raising the local CO2 levels for different plant species and seeing how they reallocate this carbon and develop. Results from the Free Air Concentration Experiments (FACE) have been published for the past 25 years and can be found in some pretty major ...


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