Monday, February 22

Carbon Dioxide is an atmospheric trace gas?

Following on from my post about the molecular composition of the greenhouse gases, I thought I would follow it up with a deconstruction of the 'myth' that Carbon Dioxide is an atmospheric trace gas, at least from the (anthropogenic) global warming perspective.

At first the statement looks quite convincing, because taken literally and without any consideration to the properties of compound gases like Carbon Dioxide, then one can fool many people into believing Carbon Dioxide is insignificant.

As one can see from a pie chart indicating the proportions of gases in the atmosphere, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Argon and Water Vapour constitute the greatest part of the Earth's atmosphere, with Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Neon and other gases failing to register at all on the chart because the amounts are apparently so tiny.

However, as discussed previously, this hides the issue of the response many compound gases (such as Carbon Dioxide) have to Infra Red radiation. So if you were an Infra Red electromagnetic wave, what components of the atmosphere would you be interested in?

Well it would look a lot different from the one that we humans are aware of. You would mainly see Carbon Dioxide and Water Vapour, with Methane and Nitrous Oxide still hardly registering. In fact Carbon Dioxide becomes 9% of the atmosphere that you would be sensitive to and Water Vapour would be about 90% at least in physical quantity terms.

However there are added complications in that Methane and Nitrous Oxide are more potent warming gases than Carbon Dioxide, so even though they physically represent a smaller proportion of the total, their effects are greater. One also has to remember that water changes state very easily on Earth and hence dynamically responds to the quantity of other warming gases in the atmosphere. Clearly we can see from the pie chart, that doubling Carbon Dioxide would increase the physical quantity from an Infra Red radiation perspective to around 20%, even though the actual amount would be far less.

Well that was a relatively simple analysis, which I hope dispels the idea that Carbon Dioxide is simply a trace gas.

More Climate Science

Monday, February 15

Work on the Woolworths building

It is clear from a peek in the window of the old Woolworths building that the small unit that was once used by Woolworths for selling CDs, DVDs and Games is now being prepared for a new use.

The back office and even the back wall have been completely removed, so it is clear the intention is to extend the retail area and possibly rent it as an individual unit. Apparently JD Wetherspoons are proposing a pub in Waterlooville, with speculation about the old Woolworths location being used. A large organisation like that, would probably have the 'clout' to have extensive work done on any property, including knocking down walls.

Wednesday, February 10

Facing up To Rising Sea Levels event

There will be a launch event for the 'Facing up To Rising Sea Levels' exhibition at Portsmouth Cathedral on Tues 16th Feb, at 2.30pm next week. Speakers include the Very Reverend David Brindley, Dean of Portsmouth Cathedral, Ewan Willars, Head of Policy, RIBA and John Slater, Head of Planning, Portsmouth City Council.

More info

Something stirring at Waterlooville Woolworths?

Could Allworths be opening up in Waterlooville? I was walking through Waterlooville centre and heard some drilling coming from the old Woolworths store. Admittedly it could have just been some maintenance work, but who knows?? Maybe the property has an interested tenant?

The site is almost split in two, with the unit on the side originally used by Woolworths to sale videos and CDs, so maybe this part is going to be rented separately?
Speculation, speculation..

Monday, February 8

The Duck

Came across this modern fable by Christopher Bailey called 'The Duck'. It describes two scientists, one is convinced a duck is a duck, the other tries to prove it is everything but a duck. Observing the discussion is a journalist that can't decide who is correct.

Any similarities to the current climate science media hype are deliberate and intentional!

Friday, February 5

Some basic facts about Carbon Dioxide

The recent poll about changing public opinion about climate change is somewhat alarming, but not surprising considering the continued attacks on scientists and the research they conduct, combined with the recent Northern hemisphere cold spell (the Southern hemisphere is piping hot, when we are in our Northern hemisphere winter)

The problem of course is that many people on the margins of being convinced one way or another are going to be switching views as the evidence changes, especially if their knowledge of science is limited.

Even the most basic truths in science are questioned by some. Typical views held are that the amount of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is tiny, it is food for plants, or it doesn't cause warming.

Well the comment about 'food for plants' is effectively a PR and marketing comment. The sort of thing used by companies to emphasise the positive aspects of a product that might have some more damaging aspects

The other two issues are of more interest as far as climate goes. Carbon Dioxide consists of a molecule containing 3 atoms and in this respect differs from Oxygen and Nitrogen, the two most abundant gases in the atmosphere. Oxygen consists of a pair of oxygen atoms, whilst Nitrogen consists of a pair of Nitrogen atoms.

What is the relevance of molecules having two or three atoms?
Combined with other qualities of the CO2 molecule, a lot as it happens. Carbon Dioxide has the ability to absorb infra red radiation emitted by the ground, whilst Oxygen is more likely to absorb energy at higher frequencies, outside the infra red bandwidth.

The details of what happens in a Carbon Dioxide atom when it is hit by a Photon are complicated. However, simply put, both Oxygen atoms are set into a vibration motion in relation to the Carbon atom. These 'bond' vibrations mainly occur when hit by radiation of a specific frequency bandwidth, namely the infra red band. Hence the vibrations represent an absorption of energy. Such behaviour can be observed using spectroscopy instruments.

This significantly changes the importance of the different atmospheric gases in the climate change issue, because although Oxygen and Nitrogen are very abundant in the atmosphere (78% and 21% respectively compared to Carbon Dioxide at 0.039%), they aren't going to directly absorb infra red radiation. This places Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gases, higher up in the importance table. So making a comment like 'carbon dioxide is a trace gas' would be rather foolish and ignorant.

So where does this leave Carbon Dioxide?
After water vapour, CO2 (Carbon Dioxide) is the next most abundant warming gas in our atmosphere and hence is very important in any analysis of climate. In fact without Carbon Dioxide or water vapour, the Earths climate would be significantly different and largely cooler.

Water vapour? I hear you say.
Yes, even someone like me recognises that water vapour is a greenhouse gas. However it's interaction in the atmosphere and the greater ecosystem are complex. Water is a dynamic molecule at Earth temperatures, changing between gas, liquid and solid easily, where as Carbon Dioxide does not change state that much in our atmosphere. Hence CO2 is likely to have an impact on the dynamics of water, rather than the other way around. Water will change it's affect on climate with inputs of warming from other greenhouse gases, including Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide. This is called a feedback mechanism, it so happens that water has both positive and negative feedback impacts on our climate because of this mechanism.

I think I'll stop before I ramble on any more about water vapour and other issues! I'll probably post some more about other climate science issues later.

More Climate Science

Monday, February 1

More energy saving tips

Here is a photo of a Christmas present, not all pressies are equal, this one is brilliant. Steamers are one of those inventions that can't be faulted, modern and eco-friendly.

Here's a list of reasons why you must have a steamer:

1. You can cook all the veg you want on one hob ring/burner, saving energy and money
2. The veg keep their taste
3. The veg retain their vitamins
4. You don't have to cover the veg in water, so you use less water
5. The lid has to be kept on for it to work properly, saving energy and reducing condensation.

So far I have used it to cook carrots, broccoli and white cabbage.

I have also ordered a portable solar shower, designed for camping, but I'm going to try it out in the summer as an alternative to my electric energy guzzling shower. It's basically a big strong black coloured plastic bag that holds up to 20 litres of water, you just hang it up for a few hours in the Sun. The idea is to bring it in once it is warmed up and use it in the bathroom shower tray. Might be a bit heavy if full though? will have to see.