Lecture 3: Greenhouse gasses:

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1 The Atmosphere Lecture 3: Greenhouse gasses: Absorption and emission of radiation by greenhouse gasses The atmospheric energy balance and the greenhouse effect The vertical structure of the atmosphere The effect of clouds Greenhouse Gases What is the greenhouse cocktail? Carbon dioxide Methane Nitrous Oxide Ozone Halocarbons Others - CFCs GHG Feedback: The role of water vapor GHGs - Climate Influence current climate: - Carbon Cycle, Sources and Sinks paleoclimate: - GHGs and the ice core record 1

2 The Atmosphere Absorption and emission of radiation by greenhouse gasses What is radiation? important concepts: energy (either Joules or calories) power (Watts or horsepower) flux (Watts/area) What is temperature? (Centigrade or Kelvin) What is heat? (Joules/kg) Key radiation concepts: All solids, liquids and gasses absorb, emit, and reflect radiation The emitted radiation (photons) have a wide range of wavelengths, distributed according to Planck s Law. The higher the temperature, the shorter the wavelength emitted (Wien s Law). The higher the temperature the greater the flux (Stefan-Boltzman law) Only molecules that vibrate or spin at specific frequencies/wavelengths are able to absorb photons. They must possess a dipole moment. We are really talking about a greenhouse gas 2

3 cocktail consisting of Carbon dioxide Methane Nitrous Oxide Ozone Halocarbons CFCs New topic: The atmospheric energy balance and the greenhouse effect Some terminology Solar Luminosity (Watts) is a measure of the total power of the sun. * Current value: about Watts * Depends on: sunspots, solar age * Varies by: a few tenths of a percent Solar constant is a measure of the flux hitting the top of the atmosphere when the sun is directly overhead * Current value: about 1370 W m 2. * Depends on: earth s orbit, solar luminosity * Varies by: as much as 4% at the poles, over hundreds of thousands of years Annual averaged absorbed radiation, S avg * Current value: about 240 W m 2 (assuming a reflectivity of 30%) 3

4 * Depends on: Solar constant, planetary reflectivity (albedo) * Varies by: as much as 15% between ice ages Energy Balance (continued). Given S avg and the Stefan-Boltzman law, we can calculate the surface temperature of the earth without an atmosphere. F sfc = 240 W/m 2 F sfc = 240 W/m 2 T sfc =255 K= -18 C Surface Figure 1: Energy balance: planet with no atmosphere 4

5 Top of Atmosphere F atm = 240 W/m W/m 2 Bottom of Atmosph S avg F sfc F atm = 240 W/m W/m K =30C Surface Figure 2: Energy balance: planet with an black atmosphere 5

6 Top of Atmosphere (1 0.8)F sfc =80W/m 2 F atm = 160 W/m 2 T atm = 244 K =-29C Bottom of Atmosph F sfc = 400 W/m 2 F atm = 160 W/m 2 Surface T sfc = 290 K=17 C Figure 3: Energy balance: planet with an 80% absorbing atmosphere 6

7 Top of Atmosphere (1 0.82)F sfc =73.1 W/m 2 F atm = W/m 2 T atm = K = C Bottom of Atmosph F atm = W/m 2 F sfc = W/m 2 Surface T sfc = 291 K=18 C Figure 4: Energy balance: planet with an 82% absorbing atmosphere Bottom line: by closing the window slightly, we trap more of the surface flux in the atmosphere, heating the surface Here is the cumulative effect of the greenhouse gas cocktail. But note that our model predicts only about a 1 degree temperature change when we trap 4 W m 2.Thisis about a factor of 4 less than more complicated models. What is missing? Feedback 7

8 The crucial greenhouse gas feedback is water vapor (positive). Hotter the water, the greater the humidity Higher the humidity, the more absorption of radiation More absorption of radiation, the hotter the water. What stops this from spinning out of control? The atmosphere/surface is able to cool by emitting more radiation. Clouds also a major complicating factor (effect largely unknown). New topic: The vertical structure of the atmosphere 99% of the mass of the atmosphere is in two layers: the stratosphere and the troposphere In the stratosphere the temperature increases with height due to ozone absorption of ultraviolet radiation In the troposphere the temperature decreases with height The effect of clouds: High clouds are cold but thin, they heat the atmosphere/surface by absorbing radiation from below and emitting little longwave radiation Low clouds are warm but bright/thick, they reflect sunlight that would otherwise be absorbed. The net effect is to cool the planet: 8

9 longwave heating = 31 W m 2 shortwave cooling = 48 W m 2 net cooling = 17 W m 2 9

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