The Norman Transcript

Letters

October 7, 2012

How CO2 Affects Global Temperature

NORMAN — In his Sept. 25 Letter to the Editor, “Global warming is happening,” John Baugher asked, “Does the CO2 layer influence the flow of heat only in one direction?”

In short, the earth radiates heat outward to space by emitting infrared (IR) light, and CO2 in the atmosphere reduces the Earth’s emissions, making the Earth warmer. Sunlight hitting Earth’s atmosphere has a wide spectrum of high energy, short wave radiation including UV, visible and IR light.

About 30 percent of this sunlight is reflected back into space, and the rest is absorbed by the earth, warming the planet. Earth re-emits this energy but only as low energy, long wave IR light. CO2 and other greenhouse gases mixed in our atmosphere absorb Earth’s IR energy, and re-emit it in all directions — some back to Earth — further warming the planet.

It’s a little like compound interest, or maybe more like a compounding mortgage rate. When IR light is emitted into space, it is from higher, colder altitudes where emission is less efficient, so excess IR is trapped closer to the surface, causing more heating. Satellites orbiting outside our atmosphere have measured emitted IR light, and have observed striking decreases in emissions precisely at wavelengths absorbed by greenhouse gases.

The balance between incoming light energy from the sun and outgoing IR light from the Earth regulates global temperature in a life-enabling balance.  Without this greenhouse effect[1], Earth would be a frigid ice-ball of a planet. But an overactive greenhouse effect causes an excess energy gain by the Earth, and the overheating climate we are now experiencing.

Our Earth has a finespun atmosphere less than 2 percent as thick as the Earth is deep – like the skin on an apple. We rely on it to sustain our lives, our cultures, and civilization as we know it, along with the other multitude of species sharing this planet.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Letters
  • Fallin should help residents

    Editor, The Transcript: I see this week that our empty skirt of a governor asked the federal government (small business administration) for much money. She is concerned about the suffering of the business owners in Lexington and Purcell ...

    April 17, 2014

  • League of Women Voters meeting

    Editor, The Transcript: On Saturday, May 10, the Norman League of Women Voters will hold its annual meeting at the Memorial Presbyterian Church, 601 24th Ave. SW, Norman, OK, from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm....

    April 12, 2014

  • Frackers should use gray water

    Editor, The Transcript: As reported by Joe Wertz in the March 31 issue of StateImpact Oklahoma, Finley Resources, a Texas-based oil drilling company, has arranged with the city of Norman to buy Norman’s drinking water from hydrants to use ...

    April 11, 2014

  • Columnists have it wrong

    Editor, The Transcript: I typically enjoy Class Act (the Q&A with school counselors published on Fridays) very much. I think they bring a rational and empathetic response to parents’ concerns when it comes to the challenges students and ...

    April 8, 2014

  • An unfortunate response

    Editor, The Transcript: On April 1, the citizens of Norman voted to approve the renewed PSST and to make it permanent by a narrow margin of 3,798 for versus 3,660 against. As a result of this vote, Mayor Rosenthal stated in The Norman ...

    April 6, 2014

  • Apathy and lack of understanding may doom universal health care

    Editor, The Transcript: Enrollments in the federal and state health exchanges were higher than expected and late enrollments are expected, yet people still contend the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not going to be successful....

    April 6, 2014

  • The Medieval Fair as a measure of human progress

    Editor, The Transcript: This upcoming weekend we are invited to “Step back in time for a day of revels at the Medieval Fair. Enjoy mirth and merriment with kings, queens, knights and fools as the kingdom comes alive.” It’s an opportunity ...

    April 6, 2014

  • Acts of kindness still alive

    Editor, The Transcript: Random acts of kindness may be an overused phrase, but when kindnesses happen to your family, it is great to know it is alive and well....

    April 4, 2014

  • Property tax increase needed

    Editor, The Transcript: Household and government budgets are necessary to keep spending on track. Voters’ choices can determine the direction of budget cuts and adjustments. Always vote smart....

    April 2, 2014

  • What a friendly city, community

    Editor, The Transcript: A couple of weeks ago while traveling through Norman, my two small children and I had to make an unexpected stop in Norman to have our van repaired. Although we were “stranded” in a sense, I can’t think of a ...

    April 2, 2014