Monday, August 7, 2017

Global water circulation - boring story

Such a miserable summer, you are going to have trouble putting the kids to sleep.  Boring stories knock them out right away.  Say it in a slow voice.  I've written many boring stories here.  It's all good science (following the Scientific Method).

This is one nobody believes and they won't remember it in the morning.  My kids never had anything to do with physics.  Okay.  -- In a world of science, the Earth is mostly ocean.  The ocean surrounds us and totally controls our climate.  Volume for volume, water carries 4000 times more heat energy than air, and wet air (precipitable) carries 10 times more energy than dry air.

Our Earth is warm, and thank goodness for that.  Higher life needs a very narrow temperature band, and organic chemistry (the type that keeps us alive) has a maximum reaction speed at our body temperature.  Isn't that amazing?  Not really, since any animal that strayed too far from that would be at a disadvantage.

For 3 billion years, our Earth has maintained a perfect temperature for life.  No giant heatwaves that killed everybody.  No total freeze-up.  Life toddled along.  During that time, we've had every possible 'disturbance' possible, factors of 10 times what we humans can do.  What saved us?  The oceans.

For through out that time Earth has had a major problem with getting rid of heat.  We've had the Sun baking us, and even worse, the earth itself had to cool from a molten mass.  Luckily we had water to act as a giant heat pipe, just like water cooling for your gaming machines.  The cooling had to be better than my son's gaming laptop.

What saved life (since humans weren't there at the time)?  Carbon dioxide, and the fact that the atmosphere wasn't a greenhouse.  This was despite the fact that we had methane instead of oxygen.  Can you imagine what would have happened if all that 'greenhouse gas philosophy' was true?  No life.

Lucky for us the atmosphere is a vigorous mass of convection, not a greenhouse in sight.  That brought heat energy (which is molecular vibration) to the upper atmosphere where carbon dioxide lit up like a lightbulb and radiated all that heat into space.  If you were on the Moon, with your infrared goggles, you would have seen that the Earth is a very dim star.  Also lots of microwave energy.

That's what saved us at the beginning, and the next boring story is how we have survived through billions of years of nasty plate tectonics.

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