Factors that inflict climatic changes Part 4:
Part 3 here
The most common explanation for greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect is the “blanket around the Earth” example. Heat comes through the blanket to warm the surface, but the blanket keeps the heat from escaping thus warming a given surface. This is exactly what the atmosphere and greenhouse effect does to the Earth. The greenhouse effect, although not initially harmful, can have dire consequences on either side of the temperature spectrum. After examining Earth, we will look to our planetary neighbors for a better explanation for this.
Earth. Positioned in the so called “Goldilocks Zone” of the solar system, receives millions of joules of energy per day from the Sun. This energy makes its way through the Earth’s atmosphere to the surface. Once the energy reaches the surface, it warms the surface and continues to bounce back into space. There is one thing keeping the energy from simply entering space: greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases most notably comprise of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and water vapor. These gases will restrict infrared radiation from entering space. The atmosphere then warms because of the trapped radiation in the atmosphere. These gases act as the “blanket” around the Earth, letting sunlight in and intercepting some of the infrared light reflecting off the surface. This effect is a naturally occurring phenomenon in Earth’s atmosphere. Without this effect, Earth would have average global temperatures 60 degrees Fahrenheit lower than what they are today. The best way to explain this lack of greenhouse effect is to look at our planetary neighbor, the Red Planet.
Mars. The fourth planet from the sun and approximately 33.9 million miles away from Earth. Mars’ atmosphere is just 1/100th of Earth’s. The leading study, done by numerous Mars rover missions, and reasoning behind this is because of the Sun’s violent solar winds and charged particles. The particles and winds ripped Mars’ atmosphere away over the millennia which caused the red planet’s atmosphere to dwindle to almost nothing. With this thin atmosphere, the greenhouse effect is insignificant. Even though the atmosphere is 95% carbon dioxide (which has strong heat trapping capability), it is still too thin to have any impact. This causes rapid cooling between night and day causing temperatures to plummet over 180 degrees Fahrenheit once the Sun sets. Literally, a temperature difference that is night and day. The vast temperature gradients that occur causes violent wind storms to engulf the entire planet in red dust. Mars is a prime example of a planet with little to zero greenhouse effect. There is simply not enough gases or atmosphere to keep radiation and heat inside the atmospheric “blanket” to warm the planet. The impact that a thin atmosphere has on Mars presents data that makes it essential to have a healthy and decently thick atmosphere in order for life to flourish.
Venus. The planet that is closest in size to Earth and most commonly known as our sister planet. People commonly know Venus based on these characteristics, but few realize how dangerous and downright poisonous Venus really is. On a global scale, Venus’ climate is manipulated by the strongest greenhouse effect in the solar system. Although this effect is not experienced here on Earth, Mars experiences a similar effect. With a thick cloud layer encapsulating the entire planet, 80% of incoming solar radiation is reflected back out to space. Only about 10% of said radiation penetrates the clouds and reaches the surface; the rest is absorbed by the atmosphere. How does this cause a greenhouse effect if such little solar radiation make it to the surface? Thermal radiation emitted from the surface becomes trapped within the atmosphere because of the thick cloud layer. The atmosphere is made up entirely of carbon dioxide with sulfuric acid creating the thick cloud layer that covers the planet. Venus is a prime example of a runaway greenhouse effect. Where greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, become so prevalent in the atmosphere that it traps all heat trying to escape into space. The surface temperature of Venus is roughly 864 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt lead. But, if one were to travel to the upper atmosphere, above the sulfuric acid clouds, they would find the temperature to be around -45 degrees Fahrenheit. Like found on Mars, substantial differences in temperature causes massive wind storms and vortexes to occur on Venus’ surface and within the atmosphere. Venus itself conveys the heat trapping capabilities that greenhouse gases can possess and how dangerous they can become if not regulated and monitored.
The greenhouse effect along with greenhouse gases is a complex subject that of course requires much more research and data. Scientists do know of the heat trapping capabilities and climatic changes that could occur if these gases are not monitored. A rise in carbon dioxide can cause a rise in water vapor due to higher amounts of evaporation because of a rise in temperatures. A rise in temperatures can also cause a rise in methane due to the melting of permafrost which has the highest amounts of methane stored. A rise in three of these greenhouse gases can have detrimental effects to Earth’s climate. Now, the greenhouse effect is not a bad occurrence to have within an atmosphere. As we explored above, without a greenhouse effect Earth could be like its neighbor, Mars, and have frigid surface temperatures. But, too much of a greenhouse effect could cause Earth to become its sister planet, Venus, and have temperatures that melt lead. Inherently, the greenhouse effect is vital for an atmosphere and planet to survive. It is also vital to watch and supervise the effect to keep it in proper balance.
To learn more about other interesting stories related to global climate issues, be sure to click on the following link: www.globalweatherclimatecenter.com/climate
©2018 Weather Forecaster Alec Kownacki