September 23, 2019
To be posted on

Although it is not my field of interest, I read the climate issue hoping to resolve a question that nags me, the answer presumably to be found in Throwing the Dice, Economist vol. 432 no, 9161 September 21, 2019 page 83.  Break a bottle of gasoline on the floor, and you will soon smell it across the room because of diffusion.  Toss a match and things get more vigorous.  Similarly, the transport of heat to the edge of space, where infra-red heat is more likely to escape into the cold than to be transferred to a neighboring molecule, is called convection.  This powers the wind and is far more important in dumping heat than is diffusion. 
A molecule of nitrogen carries heat as kinetic energy – translation, as rotation and as vibration like an accordion along the bond.  CO2 carries heat as translation, rotation in three planes, two bonds vibrating and a sort of wishbone effect.  It’s heavier but not twice as heavy and carries twice as much heat at a given temperature.  So adding CO2 to dry air should increase the effectiveness of convection.  It should cool the planet, not warm it.  Indeed, a greenhouse does not work by greenhouse effect; it blocks convection. 
Impressive work has clearly been done making computer simulations, but since the cells in the simulation are smaller than clouds it is difficult to say how they can model convection. 
The heating is greatest at the North Pole, where the heat from the rest of the surface seems to be concentrated; it’s called Arctic Amplification.  If this flagrant violation of the laws of thermodynamics could be harnessed, I’d by happy to have an Arctic Amplification heater, AC, stove, refrigerator, water heater and car.  Better yet, I’d like to have youth restored. 
There are a couple of ways to warm the planet that do no violence to high school physics.  For one, the melting Arctic ice cap lets more energy from the sun to be absorbed as water is uncovered.  For another, think of a jet plane in the stratosphere leaving a contrail of ice crystals.  These are brief, but adding water to the stratosphere – above the weather – means that the highest ice crystal clouds last longer.  To reduce it to absurdity, imagine dumping enough opaque stuff into the stratosphere to make it opaque.  It will then equilibrate between sunlight and the cold of space and reach a temperature of about seventy degrees Fahrenheit, as the surface is now.  If you move a sample of air upward it will expand and cool at a rate called the lapse rate.  Higher air that is warmer than dictated by a normal lapse rate is called a temperature inversion and prevents convection.  If stratospheric air is at thirty below and the surface is seventy, then raising the stratosphere to seventy should raise the surface to one hundred seventy.  You don’t need to be clever at converting one temperature scale to another to know that we would not survive. 
These thoughts trouble me, but it hardly seems possible that I am right and the rest of the world wrong on a matter so simple.  I hoped your article would make it clear where my reasoning is off, but all in vain.
M. Linton Herbert MD

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