Is it ice, water vapor or both? How would it change the weather? The answers vary.
The answer depends on whether the temperature is high or low, or a combination of these. Higher temperatures lead to evaporation, which helps water vapor take the place of the heat from the sun. Lower heat levels tend to lead to precipitation, which also helps the water vapor take the place of the heat from the sun.
But where does all the heat come from?
The greenhouse effect
Most scientists agree that the greenhouse effect is responsible for heating our globe. This is because the heat from our planet is trapped underneath the Earth. At most, the planet gets two-thirds of the sun’s energy, so more or less the whole world is “covered” in ice. The rest of the heat ends up as radiation from the sun.
On Earth, ice is made up mostly of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), the major greenhouse gas. But when CO 2 is mixed with water, the carbon dioxide can be used as a fuel. Water vapor is formed through condensation to form clouds. These clouds can reflect solar heat back into space, or they can trap some of it.
This mixing and trapping of heat creates an atmosphere that is about 4.5 degrees C warmer than the preindustrial level.
Why does CO 2 still exist?
The CO 2 in our atmosphere is about 90% carbon (the ‘bunch of letters ‘C’ and ‘O’) and 10% oxygen (the ‘bellyful of letters ‘O’). In theory the CO 2 could last for billions of years.
But not in the case of water vapor. According to a new study in Earth’s Future, a combination of CO 2 , solar input, and ocean circulation patterns caused about a half a billion years of CO 2 to stay in the atmosphere.
The oceans absorb CO 2 and return it to the atmosphere where it is absorbed by clouds in the upper atmosphere. As a result, the CO 2 concentration in the atmosphere is around 500 parts per million, and is about 10 times higher than any time since our planet was formed.
A simple solution
So what can we do?
Some scientists think we can use what we’ve learned about the greenhouse effect to design new energy conversion processes. But there are also practical issues about our current energy sources. These include:
How will we get the heat to the planets surface? If we try to use sunlight as
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