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
  • Nutritional article should be accurate

    I read with interest the July 13 article “Are low-carb diets really healthy?” by Cassidie Day. Unfortunately, a number of statements in this article were incorrect. The first problematic statement was, “Carbs are an essential nutrient ...

    July 29, 2014

  • Hospital story headline was too sensationalized

    Editor, The Transcript: On July 18, The Transcript ran a front page article with the headline “Lawsuit filed against Norman Regional — Civil suit alleges improper billing practices by NRH and contracted physicians groups.” As a first page ...

    July 29, 2014

  • Help better than commentary

    For the last seven years, I have helped run Hands Helping Paws, an animal welfare and rescue group that fosters Norman’s abandoned animals and advocates for spay and neuter initiatives to reduce our community’s problems with stray and ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Stick to the sports

    Editor, The Transcript: Why must we, especially us nice conservatives, be subjected to political commentary in a sports column? I hear/view Fox News routinely and find their coverage quite acceptable. I also hear/view CNN and MSNBC. I ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Corporation Commission should should evaluate quakes, fracturing

    Editor, The Transcript: Is your house at risk of being damaged in an earthquake because of fracking? Maybe. We’ve seen more earthquakes and tremors in Oklahoma seven months into 2014 than in the two previous years combined. At the same ...

    July 27, 2014

  • Norman can stop fracking before it escalates

    Editor, The Transcript: There are 163 fracked wells within Norman city limits. With growing attention to health and safety concerns, the city is considering changes to the existing oil and gas ordinance....

    July 27, 2014

  • We should be offended by things that matter

    Editor, The Transcript: I’m offended. Why you say? I live in the USA, in Norman — a great town. What could possibly offend me? I’ll tell you. It’s people that are offended by the most meaningless things (what to call an evergreen tree in ...

    July 27, 2014

  • James Garner will be missed

    Editor, The Transcript: Norman native son James Garner was a fine actor on stage, screen and television. I enjoyed the “Maverick” TV series and, in particular, the 1959 episode “The Strange Journey of Jenny Hill” in which the very popular ...

    July 25, 2014

  • Change some lines

    Editor, The Transcript: Looking at how our elected Republican friends are reacting to the refugee children crossing the border and now being housed in Lawton, I have a suggestion. Let’s edit the Christian Bible in several places to reflect ...

    July 21, 2014

  • New health care system demonized

    To the Editor: In October 2013, soon after we were asked to take over management responsibilities at our family business, we were visited by the company’s health insurance agent. She explained that a decision needed to be made regarding ...

    July 21, 2014