Day by Day

Thursday, February 14, 2008

This just in: Invisible Gas Acts Like Aluminum Foil

Is it Getting Too Warm for Penguins?
But if we fail to slow down the rate of warming, the polar regions as we know them will no longer exist — and possibly, neither will many of the species who live there now.
The sky is falling!! The sky is falling!!

Count up the number of "woulds," "coulds," "mays," and "mights," "predicts" and "possiblies" in this article. Clearly some rock hard science behind this one. Real hard-nosed reporting. I sounds like someone was using a Magic 8-Ball as a thesaurus. "The outlook is troubling." "My sources say no."

I need to get smarter on this whole global warming thing, because I simply don't understand how an invisible gas can reflect radiant heat rather than conduct it, and "trap" it in instead of allowing the heat to convect and radiate off into space. Don't thermal pane windows have a vacuum inside, because air would just conduct the heat through the intervening space?

And, if CO2 is so all-fired effective at locking in heat, would it not also be equally effective in blocking it out? If it reflects all this heat back to earth from the surface, wouldn't it also then reflect thermal energy from the sun back into space? So the greater the heat trap, the better the heat reflector, right? So, at some point, wouldn't it be reflecting more heat away than it allowed in, and we would head for an ice age?

Like, you know, exactly what they were predicting would happen in the 70s?

Now, I consider myself a worldly fellow. I've been around a bit, seen a lot of greenhouses in my day. Most have an opaque barrier, panes of glass or plastic, something to physically lock the heat and moisture in. As a matter of fact, that's WHY we have greenhouses, right? Because if I just leave the plants out in the open, I lose the comfy, humid environment. I've got to "trap" it in with something. You know, like maybe a bunch of carbon dioxide?

Yeah, I'm pretty confused by the whole thing. I don't know why we call them "greenhouse gases," but none of the greenhouses I've ever seen use them. Guess I need to brush up. I'll let you know how it goes.

UPDATE:

Well, I guess all I had to do is ask these guys.

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