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Climate 1.01


What is Climate. What is weather. The ingredients are: air (and all its constituents gasses); land in all its forms; the oceans (salt water); lakes and rivers (fresh water); ice and snow (solid forms of water). For now that is enough.

Then there is the sun. Without it, no weather, just frozen what ever will freeze and the rest cold. No life. Temperature,very low with only the heat from the Earth’s core. With virtually no energy around everything is quite and still and cold.

Bring in the sun. My goodness does this change things. At one level it is simple: the sun supplies energy in the form of light and a small amount plus some heat in the form of long wavelength infrared light. But light is not heat. The light however carrys considerable energy.

As light hits anything it warms it, how much depends on the color: black a lot, snow the least. Warming is a function of a fundamental law of physics: the “conservation” of energy. This means the total energy never changes so as darker objects fail to reflect light their molecules absorb the energy of the light and begin to move. That motion is heat. If you touch it, the molecular motion will make molecules in your skin move and it will feel warm.

This happens to everything: water, sand, rock, air oceans, lakes, plants, etc. But it happens differently to each of these depending on color and angle to the sun and surface texture. The heat warms the air ”differentially” which means not the same everywhere. Warm air is lighter than cold air. The molecules bouncing around take up more space. So warm air rises, and we have the beginnings of circulation.

Water that warms evaporates and makes the air humid, so now the air contains water. We how have the elements to make weather.


Over long periods of time the weather forms patterns and eventually settles into some regularity. There are all kinds of variations but if you look at the average over say a decade, you have climate.

Experts will cringe over my simplification, but this is the general idea.

Changes in the sun and earth will affect the weather and climate but after a few billion years it pretty much works itself our and settles into a fairly stable average, although the patterns may have cycles and we get ice ages. But those cycles are long and in between we have the climate and a very critical part of the climate is the atmosphere and a critical part of that is carbon dioxide.


Forget all the diagrams. Carbon dioxide is a transparent blanket. It lets light in, but the heating of the earth which heats the atmosphere is partly reflected back towards the earth. It’s its a fussy blanket. Light passes through, but heat not so much. So more carbon dioxide helps keep more heat on the earth. Presto, global warming and this is serious because that balance called climate that developed over a long period of time is no longer a balance. If we put out a batch of carbon dioxide, say from a volcano, the earth would warm but once the carbon dioxide stopped increasing, over some period of time we establish what is called a new “equilibrium,“ or a settled pattern. A little warmer than before, but usually no big deal.

Now the big deal. We starting pumping the carbon dioxide by burning coal and oil and keep adding more every year everything gets out of balance. There is more heat trapped and different amounts depending on what the light hits, but the crucial factor is the amount of (OK chemistry) CO2 going up and up which means there is no settled pattern, no equilibrium and we have chaos. That is what is happening now. Because the earth is so different in different places there is a great deal of motion of the air and of water. Jet streams and ocean currents are disturbed. And one of the most important is that warm ocean water adds to humidity which gives energy to storms, so they get larger. Almost everything gets warmer, but there is, for all intents and purposes NO climate. Everything is changing too rapidly so the climate keeps changing and we can’t pin it down. And the more CO2 the more heat and the more energy added and off we go. And right away you say well it is just one degree, but heating everything one degree takes an enormous amount of energy and it is the amount of energy added that is critical. We are in trouble. So on to CLIMATE TROUBLE.

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