Sunday, September 2, 2007

Carbon and Water Cycles II - boring!

Well, I just took my middle guy to Queens. What a zoo moving day is! I didn't like the low-life Queens engineers insulting the parents, they can insult the frosh all they want. Well, they have to compensate for being inferior to UofT Engineering!! :)

Summer is practically over, and it's time for me to look for some tiny bit of work. I sure hope they take their thumbs out and actually start building a nuclear plant! OPG's top guy already bailed, perhaps because he saw all the political (and union!) interference. I like to think that he presented my ideas for a nuclear plant in my lifetime, to the Big Board, and they tossed him out on his ear! :)

Back to our little thought experiment. Like I said, we have two dials on the world, one for water and one for carbon. More water is injected water vapour, and less water means it has been sucked away down deep. More carbon is injected carbon dioxide, and less carbon means that it, too, has been sucked down deep.

The most fun is with the water dial. We can turn it way down and watch what happens. The oceans shrink. There is much less rain in the world. Large mountain ranges continue to rise, but are never eroded, like some ranges in South America. The ice sheets evaporate, but the world gets colder, like when you are camping and it's a clear night, and you know you are going to freeze! Lots of plants die. We have a cold, dry earth, suitable for tiny mammals that live in the desert.

Enough of that, now let's turn it up! We have lots of water, and oceans rise. There is lots of rain everywhere. The mountain ranges rapidly erode, causing carbon-poor sediments. The plants start growing, but become limited by the lack of carbon dioxide, just like my aquarium plants. The earth becomes very warm, because water vapour is the most effective greenhouse gas of all. We have a very wet, warm world, with limited vegetation.

Set the old water back at neutral, and play with the carbon dial! We turn it right down to almost no carbon. The atmospheric carbon dioxide gets quickly used up by plants and erosion, and little sea creatures. The world most likely gets a lot colder (if you believe all those carbon-people!). We have ice sheets, and maybe an ice-age, if the Sun turns down a little, as well. The plants aren't too happy and mostly refuse to grow.

Let's turn it up now. Remember, this dial is infinitely more powerful than the smokestacks of pitiful humans! We flood the place with carbon dioxide, and the oceans go acidic, we dissolve mountains faster, and most likely the world warms up. The plants are limited by the available water.

I think that's generally boring. The big fun comes from twiddling the dials to their extremes. First, we knock down the water, and the carbon. Nothing much happens from the water alone, except the plants are even more dead, and the world is much colder (Iceball Earth!).

Keeping down the water and jacking up the carbon, probably just results in a big mess!

The one I'm more interested in is jacking up the water and the carbon. Then we have a totally different Earth! The mountains are eroded faster, massive carbonate sediments are laid. The earth is very warm, and all the land is filled with swamps, which have tremendous plant growth. The growth of the plants fill the air with oxygen, and the air is thick. All the mammals get fur-rot, and the place fills with dinosaurs. The carbon is so thick, it gets laid down in beds of pure carbon (coal).

These things have actually happened, and we'll look at the geology in the next episode, after I recover from paying the tuition!

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