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The need for policy makers to have detailed understanding and knowledge of issues on the physics of climate and for that matter climate change is very important. Without any doubt, the call for measures to control the recent appalling trends with climate is very popular in the…
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Mechanisms determining Temperature of the climate
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Andrew Merinoff ASEM: Environmental Change & Policy Mechanisms determining temperature of the climate The need for policy makers to have detailed understanding and knowledge of issues on the physics of climate and for that matter climate change is very important. Without any doubt, the call for measures to control the recent appalling trends with climate is very popular in the media and in academic studies. Policy makers hear of the campaigns that go on and we all admit that there is the need for change in climate change trends but the question is whether or not policy makers have the will power to effect any changes. Even though a lot of policy makers have expressed high sense of will power towards the combating of climate change, their major problem has been on the specific steps to take in implementing the various policies that are suggested among climate change advocates. As a step towards solving this problem, this report is targeted towards drafting a policy that will be well defined in the strategies and principles. This is to say that the major component of the policy report will be to spell out the policies and ways of implementing them in a language that will be eaily understood by all users of the policy. Again, the policy in itself will aim at curbing the dangers associated with climate change. Further on, the various mechanisms that determine temperature in climate change will be highlighted so that needed solutions can easily be identified and worked towards. The report has been done in such a way that all terminologies that relate to climate system are defined in detail to make understanding of the report easier.
Overview of Global Climate System
In the subject of physics, we see natural and artificial mechanisms of work, involving the flow of particles and other objects. Because in the climate change, there is the flow of energy, we can generally describe the climate system as also being physics. Box (n.d) notes that “The Earth’s climate, at both global and regional scales, is the result of dynamic balances in the flows of energy, when averaged over sufficiently large time and space scales. Here, the major energy being referred to is heat energy. Most commonly, the time frame for measuring this equilibrium is twenty-five (25) years. On a global perspective, the climate system is determined on regional basis such as for countries. The mechanism that goes to play in labeling a particular region with a particular climate is a measure of the whether that has existed there for a number of years. In this direction, the Met Office (2010) explains that “climate is the average weather we expect over a long period of time.” It must be explained also that whether as an independent component of climate deals with “the temperature, precipitation (rain, hail, sleet and snow) and wind, which change hour by hour and day by day” (Met Office, 2010). There is therefore a global climate system where portions of the world are divided and in some cases sub divided into regions and the particular system of whether that exists there is calculated over a long period of time to give a generalized whether system for that particular region.
The Source of Energy to the Climate System
From the overview above, it would be seen that energy, and for that matter, temperature plays a crucial role in the climate of a given area because it is part of the mechanisms that are balanced with other space scales to get an equilibrium to determine the final climate of an area. Box (n.d) notes that the Earth’s climate is governed by the balance between incoming solar radiation minus the fraction, which is reflected and the emission of ‘terrestrial’ radiation. The two major forms of energy talked about here are therefore solar radiation and terrestrial radiation. By the mention of the word solar, it can be deduced that the major source of temperature (energy) with reference to climate is the solar. Regarding the amount of energy needed from the source, it must be emphasized that nature in its own mechanisms has instituted a way of regulating the amount of energy that should be supplied to the earth to ensure equilibrium for the determination of the climate. Energy is therefore not needed beyond certain quantities. Sadly though, there are practices, most of which are man made or caused by humans that deprive the natural functioning of the mechanisms that regulate the amount of energy that the earth should receive. This brings to discussion the problem of climate change. This is because once the natural processes are breached the climate of the earth records certain changes that are undesirable
Climate Change and Radiation Imbalance
There is a very disturbing trend of change in the temperature of the earth due to the changes in the natural regulation of the solar energy. Writing on this, the Environmental Protection Agency (2012) notes that “temperatures are changing in the lower atmosphere - from the Earth’s surface all the way through the stratosphere (9-14 miles above the Earth’s surface).” The source gives a pictorial representation of this situation in the diagram below. Generally, there must exist a balance in the major energies that are radiated and whose presence forms the climate situation. However, there are high levels of imbalances resulting from the excesses that the temperature of the world alone takes. This means that the solar radiation is way ahead and exceeds other forms of radiation. Writing on the Physics of Climate, Peixoto and Oor (2005) note that “solar radiation covers the entire electromagnetic spectrum from gamma and x ray, through ultra violet, visible and infrared radiation to microwaves and radio waves. This is contrary to the terrestrial radiation and thus the source of radiation imbalance. Again, because there are several spectrums of solar radiation, once the imbalance results in excesses for the solar energy, there are several radiation phenomena that are affected. This is perhaps the singular reason why climate change should be a problem for all to address.
Source: Environmental Protection Agency (2012)
The Roles of Albedo, Thermal Radiation and Greenhouse Gases
Albedo generally has to do with a planet’s ability to reflect incident energies on it. With reference to the earth as a planet, scientists report that there has been a major drop in the albedo of the earth over the past decades (Cook, 2012).. Meanwhile, the albedo of the earth and changes to it has a lot of effect on climate and climate change. This is because “when the planets albedo or reflectivity increases, more sunlight is reflected back into space (Cook, 2012). This means that there will be a cooling effect on the earth and global temperatures will generally fall. Inversely, once there is a drop in the albedo, the earth will become warm. Cook (2012) observes that “a change of just 1% to the Earths albedo has a radiative effect of 3.4 Wm-2, comparable to the forcing from a doubling of carbon dioxide.” With a continual drop in the Earths albedo, it means that albedo is part of the major causes of climate change and global warming.
The major form of thermal radiation is the sunlight. Even though all objects that have temperature higher than) degrees Kelvin radiate thermal energy, sunlight is described as the major form of thermal radiation because it actually produces thermal radiation from the burning plasma of the sun. As far as the temperature of the earth is concerned, it is important to note that the earth itself produces a substantial amount of thermal radiation and that is it actually a combined process of the ability of the earth to absorb solar radiations and also produce its own thermal radiation, which is cooler that determines the general temperature of the earth. This means that all things being equal, the earth must be in a position to produce enough thermal radiation to match up with the solar radiation to ensure equilibrium temperature because the earth’s thermal radiation is cooler whereas the solar radiation is warmer. However the lowering of the albedo has created a situation whereby the solar radiation far outweighs the earth’s thermal radiation, making the earth’s temperature persistently warm instead of balanced. and so the temperature of the earth.
Greenhouse gases are basically made up of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and nitrous oxide. These gases are important for human existence on earth and account for some of the reasons why the earth can support life and not other planets because the greenhouse gases are responsible for absorbing excessive heat that reaches the earth. This process is known as greenhouse effect. However just as in the case of solar radiation, there can and is actually excesses with the supply of these greenhouse gases onto the earth. Particular suspect in this is carbon dioxide. Today, human activities, which include industrialization has led to so much excessive production of carbon dioxide that the earth is now struggling to handle the excesses. It is for this reason that greenhouse effect seems to have taken a negative dimension of late but in reality, the earth needs greenhouse effect (University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, 2012).
Summary of Introduction to Modern Climate Change by Andrew E. Dessler
All the ideas, points and concepts discussed above haven been presented in detail in Andrew E. Dessler’s book named Introduction to Modern Climate Change. The summary of the books can be given as follows. Dessler (2012) writes on very important issues on climate change. He first interrogates the question as to whether or not the climate is changing. The scrutiny of the interrogation is done with the help of concrete and empirical data on changing trend of various forms of whether such as temperature, wind, and precipitation. The data show that the consistencies that were associated with the whether conditions of various parts of the earth no longer exist. This clearly shows that there is change in climate indeed because the whether continues to change. The various factors that are accounting for this change are then diagnosed. Just as indicated in the report above, radiation and energy imbalance were pointed out as the major factors. With reference to the imbalance, it was realized that temperature of the earth that gets its source from solar radiation continues to out score other forms of radiation. Carbon dioxide emission is made the major suspect in changing trend of the temperature of the earth because as a greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide continues to be produced in excess quantity than the earth needs. Due to this, the author discusses the carbon cycle into detail. Finally, the author concludes with a number of recommendations and suggestions that are directed towards policy makers making rules and setting up regulations to control the production and emission of carbon. On this note, the report is concluded with the recommendation that existing regulations and laws on carbon production and emission must be enforced to serve as deterrent to other potential offenders.
REFERENCE LIST
Box, Michael (n.d). The Physics of Climate and Climate Change. Dr. Gail Box School of Physics, UNSW
Cook, John. The Albedo Effect and Global Warming. 2012. Web. February 1, 2012 Dessler, Andrew E. Introduction to Modern Climate Change. 2012. Print. New York: Cambridge University Press
Environmental Protection Agency. Recent Climate Change. 2012. Web. February 15, 2012 Met Office. What is Climate? 2010. Web. February 15, 2012 Peixoto, José P. and Oor Abraham H. Physics of Climate. 2005. Print. New York: Springer
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. The Greenhouse Effect. 2012. Web. February 1, 2012 Read More
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