The Battle for Warm Air
By Steven J. Grisafi, PhD.
A friend of mine, who resides in California, asked me what I thought about the Climate Change models from 40 years ago that predicted California would have much more rainy weather. Here is a more polished version of the response I gave to him:
Back in the 1970s, the predictions for Climate Change were not for global warming, but a new ice age. In a previous blog post I explained that I suspect carbon dioxide is not the primary cause of Climate Change. I tend to believe that blaming carbon dioxide was a politically selected choice. After the Middle East conflicts in the 1970s the predictions for Climate Change shifted from a new ice age to global warming. The shift to a prediction for a global warming crisis selected carbon dioxide as the cause so as to discourage the use of fossil fuels. At that time we were heavily dependent upon OPEC for our energy needs.
I explained in the previous blog post that we need not guess which gases are contributing to the Greenhouse Effect. However, nowhere have I seen indication that the needed measurements have been made. It is only on the Deutsche Welle website that I have seen anything resembling a concession that methane is a more significant cause of our Greenhouse Effect than carbon dioxide. The Germans do not explicitly state this. But they do say that methane is responsible for about a third of the Greenhouse Effect. They do not explain the remainder. The remainder is most likely water vapor. Thus, when and if, as I have suggested, an absorption spectrum for the Earth’s atmosphere is measured, I expect to see the O-H bond of water vapor to be the largest peak and the C-H bond of methane to be the second largest peak. The peak of the C=O bond for the carbon dioxide molecule would be lost amongst a myriad of other tiny peaks.
We have altered the face of the Earth on all of the continents. By doing so we alter the hydrology cycle as well as the carbon cycle. Climate Change is an exceedingly difficult phenomenon to analyze. The “Populists” have grasped onto the simple, easy to accept, explanation that blames carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is not the problem. Particulate matter is a significant part of the problem along with methane. Dirty air causes premature precipitation. Premature precipitation changes the distribution of water resources. It is a serious problem. But it is one which engineering can mitigate. The solution is not to limit our consumption of energy. But to use more energy to correct the changing effects that human civilization causes to the hydrology and carbon cycles of Mother Earth.
China emits enormous quantities of particulate matter. They have also been dishonest in their claims of reducing Greenhouse gases. A few years ago Europeans noticed an unusual presence of refrigerant gases in the atmosphere. The source was Chinese industry’s continued use of chlorofluorocarbons, gases that were banned decades ago. News reports indicated that the chlorofluorocarbons were being used for the manufacture of foam mattresses. China’s particulate matter causes precipitation on the California coast. The changing precipitation patterns are caused by heterogeneous nucleation resulting from the particulate matter. In the absence of particulate matter, in which only homogeneous nucleation can occur, there must occur significant supersaturation before condensation precipitates. The supersaturation is necessary to over the repulsion the water molecules have for one another resulting from their electron clouds. The supersaturation has the effect of slamming the water molecules sufficiently hard against one another such that their electron clouds deform to exposure partial electric charges to one another. As a result there occurs the hydrogen bonding of water within a liquid droplet. We see this as rain.
Spain recently experienced a low temperature of -13 degrees Fahrenheit. They have just had a snowfall similar to what Pittsburgh, PA experiences every year. For reference, consider the differing climates of these four cities: Latitude of Madrid, Spain: 40.4168 degrees North; Latitude of Pittsburgh, PA: 40.4406 degrees North; Latitude of Stockholm, Sweden: 59.3293 degrees North; Latitude of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia: 47.8864 degrees North. If Sweden had the climate it should have for its latitude and location, Stockholm Sweden would endure temperatures similar to what Ulan Bator experiences. I suspect that it is not Global Warming that the Swedes fear. Rather, it is the fear that the Gulf Stream might shift course and Sweden would get the climate it deserves. No longer would Swedes worry about their glaciers melting. They would be plunged into the bitter cold of Ulan Bator and have even less sunshine than Ulan Bator during the wintertime.
I noticed that the cherry tree blossoms bloom at least two weeks earlier in Stockholm, Sweden than they do where I live in Pennsylvania. We are essentially at the same latitude as Pittsburgh. The cherry blossoms even bloom earlier in Berlin, Germany than they do where I live. Berlin does not enjoy the direct effect of the Gulf Stream, but all of Northern Europe is warmer because of it. If there were a way to divert permanently, or shutdown the Gulf Stream, the Europeans would sorely wish for warmer weather.
Each day I track the weather patterns across the USA. One can watch as the weather systems develop into what becomes the Gulf Stream. Warm air crosses Southern Mexico from the Pacific heading Northeast into the Gulf of Mexico. It is this weather pattern that eventually crosses the Atlantic to bathe the Northwest corner of Europe. Thus Ireland, England, Norway and Sweden enjoy much warmer temperatures than they normally would at such high latitudes. When this weather pattern turns to the Northeast sooner, such as over Texas, before reaching the East Coast of the USA, we in Pennsylvania enjoy warmer weather. It can also have the effect that its warm air never reaches Europe. Then Spain can suffer cold arctic air that would normally be deflected back across the coast of Northern Russia.
There can be numerous reasons why the warm air from the Pacific Ocean crossing Southern Mexico may divert to the Northeast before reaching the Atlantic coast of the United States. One reason is surely premature precipitation and the effect it has on the thermodynamics of the atmosphere. It is no coincidence that Spain, and also France, suffered their severe snow storms while Pennsylvania was relatively mild and calm during the same time period. It is true that the increased contribution to the Greenhouse Effect from increasing concentrations of methane and other Greenhouse gases raises the energy content of Earth’s atmosphere. However, Climate Change is more a redistribution of energy content resulting from changing convection currents within the two phase, water-air, fluid enveloping the rocky core of planet Earth. Heterogeneous nucleation significantly alters the thermodynamics of the atmosphere. Its effect likely dominates any thermodynamic consequences caused by the Greenhouse Effect.