## Basic Science For Dummies

At midsummer, the poles receive the most solar insolation of any place on Earth. This is because the sun is higher in the sky for most of the 24 hour day at the pole, than it is in the tropics.

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### 36 Responses to Basic Science For Dummies

1. The Land Of The Midnight Sun.
Also the inspiration for The Cremation of Sam McGee.

2. And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear you’ll let in the cold and storm —
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”

• Gail Combs says:

I love that poem. The first I heard it was while sitting around a campfire while the Big Dipper poured out the Devil’s Tower.

3. RobertInAz says:

Well midsummer in the north and midwinter in the south.

4. Mack says:

Wrong wording again, I think ,Steve….”This is because the the sun is higher in the sky for most of the 24 hr. day at the pole.”
Just leave out the word “higher”.

• The sun is higher in the sky for most of the day at the pole than at the tropics, exactly as I stated.

• stewart pid says:

I think Tony is high on something 😉 …. he has obviously never been up there to watch the sun scoot along the horizon. Although it doesn’t set the sun is anything but high during the “night time” hours.
Since the sun is directly overhead on the Tropic of Cancer at the summer solstice I would imagine the angle at the equator is similar to the angle at about 46 n latitude and then the angle is less than the equator as you go further north.

• I think you aren’t using your brain. The sun is below the horizon for 12 hours a day at the equator. Which is higher elevation – 23 degrees or zero degrees?

• stewart pid says:

I would love to see this “higher in the sky” issue from your perspective but I can’t get my head that far up my ass … just kidding Tony.
Come on … yes the sun sets at the equator and yes it is up for 24 hours a day at the pole but barely so through the “night” and even at noon it isn’t as high above the horizon as it is to the south … this is all fubar with the weasel words high in the sky vs the concept of actually not setting and just being in the sky for the entire 24 hour day. Somehow you are convinced a 24 hour day of being at low angles in the sky is “higher” than a ~12 hour day of actually being in the sky at a higher angle at noon.
I’m surprised no one has muddied the waters more on this with the extra atmosphere the sun passes through at the higher latitudes … anyway enough silliness for one day & goodnight all.

• Cut the crap.

• Kyle K says:

Tony is obviously using a daily average, and you are being stubbornly obtuse.

• Baa Humbug says:

Having said that, you’re all omitting intensity.

5. This is good.

The plot is of the total energy received each day at the top of the atmosphere in mid-summer. The highest daily amounts of incoming energy (pale pink) occur at high latitudes in summer, when days are long, rather than at the equator.

The fact that it is still cold, insures a low concentration of water vapor over the arctic, so it absorbs less of the solar insolation in the atmosphere than would occur commonly at lower latitudes. Yet, because of the ice and water at the surface, the reflectivity is fairly high there. What is more important, the latent heat of melting of the ice requires a huge transfer of heat to melt it. When in liquid form, the specific heat of water is still very high. So, even though the intensity of the solar insolation at the top of the atmosphere is very great, there is insufficient time for it to greatly warm the arctic.

Note that a high humidity at this time would only result if it were warm. It is not cold because the humidity is low. The low humidity actually favors more solar insolation reaching the surface and also favors the evaporation process.

• The atmosphere is thin at the poles. On a sunny day, I doubt there is much solar energy lost traveling through the atmosphere.

6. higley7 says:

I’m sorry. That makes no sense. The Arctic summer Sun is NOT very high in the sky, only at 17 degrees. The Sun gets much higher in the tropics at tropical noon. It is above the horizon all day but is never as high overhead as it is all year round in the tropics—if this was true, then there would be intense melting from the Arctic summer solar input and that is simply not the case. Warm air and water from the lower latitudes do most of the melting.

• stewart pid says:

Shh ….. Tony’s mind is made up on this one and you will only confuse him with facts 😉

• It makes perfect sense.

The sun at the North Pole is at 23 degrees elevation for 24 hours a day,
In the tropics, it is below 23 degrees for about 16 hours a day. So for most of the 24 hour day, the sun is higher in the sky at the pole.

• stewart pid says:

Going backwards no? 90 less 23 = 67 although I don’t know if you can play with the angles this way …. never had reason to make these calculations before but the sun is never at 23 degrees at noon at the equator except in those movies about the end of the world.

• The sun is at 90 degrees for one minute a day. Half of the day it is below the horizon. (Most people call that night.) 16 hours a day it is below 23 degrees. Use your brain.

• Mack says:

“It makes perfect sense”…..”.23 degrees…24hrs…..16hrs……So….the sun is higher in the sky at the pole.” Well, all I know is that the sun beats down from above, hot enough to fry eggs on metal surfaces at the tropics. This is not the case at the poles….but I look at your figures, and I guess,…. computer says no.

• Comments like these make wonder why bother, Skeptics are just as dumb as alarmists.

The sun is only high in the sky in the tropics for a few hours a day.

7. David A says:

Tony, thanks, and good chart. I se the chart but am a bit confused. It appears to show what you say, “At midsummer, the poles receive the most solar insolation of any place on Earth”
Is this surface or top of atmosphere? The other chart above it… http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/EnergyBalance/images/solar_insolation_date.png

shows 60 degrees North as always below the equator. Also this illustrates the law of averages, and the weakness of using them. Clearly the point where the sun is directly overhead in June receives the most intense radiation no? The average insolation may indeed be higher, but average insolation can only heat so much, and not as hot as the afternoon T directly below the Sun, what, about 23 degrees North of the equator?

I asked this earlier, and it may apply here.
? Would a large rock (say 150 sq’ of surface space) at say 100 F be emitting a certain amount of energy, Watts per square meter? Now how hot would a tiny 1 /2 sq inch rock have to be to emit the same Watts per square meter. Would it need to be a blow torch tip?
Is this a difference between heat and energy? The rock could never heat a colder object above its emitting T. The torch tip, though of equal watts per sq meter energy, can heat any object of most ANY size to a T far higher then the rock, depending on the insolating capacity of the material being heated. (depending on the residence time of the energy within the material being heated)
Is it possible that likewise SW energy of equal watts per sq meter to LWIR energy, can, over time, add far more energy to the oceans, which have a very long residence time to the energy entering them?

8. David A says:

Clarification, “The other chart above it… http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/EnergyBalance/images/solar_insolation_date.png

shows 60 degrees North as always below the equator in the amount of insolation. Curious, that as the Sun gets lower, but arcs more, the net mean insolation is higher. Because there is so much atmosphere to penetrate at a low angle at the pole, I would be curious to see the surface insolation values.

9. David A says:

Looking things up myself
“Temperature � Intensive property

Heat � Extensive property

Recall that extensive properties (i.e. mass) are dependent upon the amount of a substance, while intensive properties (i.e. density) are independent of quantity.

As an example consider the difference between boiling a cup of water in one beaker and 10 gallons of water in another beaker. Both samples of water will boil at the same temperature (100� C), but we will have to heat the 10 gallon sample for a much longer time, because you have to put more heat (energy) into the big sample to get the same change in temperature (room temperature to 100� C).

Ultimately the heat energy present in a sample can be derived from the motion of atoms in the object. As the velocity of the atoms increases the temperature goes up. The heat of an object goes up not only as the atomic velocity increases, but as the number of atoms increases. Therefore we can say that:

Temperature � Proportional to the average energy per atom/molecule.

Heat � Proportional to the total energy of all atoms in an object.
===============================================+

So watts per sq. meter is heat, not temperature.
Also, the temperature of a molecule determines it potential affect to heat any system, The residence time of the energy within the system determines how close the system can come to that same maximum temperature.

Does different W/L photons from isolation vibrate at different temperature?

Not certain it is a real question, but will look myself, but welcome input.

10. David A says:

Sows the emission curve of the Sun as Heat, but not temperature?
http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/slides/climate/blackbody.gif (Figure 1 from below.)

and this…Solar radiation occurs over a wide range of wavelengths. However, the energy of solar radiation is not divided evenly over all wavelengths but, as Figure 1 shows, is rather sharply centered on the wavelength band of 0.2-2 micrometers (μm=one millionth of a meter). As can be seen from Figure 2, the main range of solar radiation includes ultraviolet radiation (UV, 0.001-0.4 μm), visible radiation (light, 0.4-0.7 μm), and infrared radiation (IR, 0.7-100 μm).

But I still do not know the temperature of each photon in its disparate W/L.

• David A says:

Thus, when the radiation reaches the outer limit of the Earth’s atmosphere, several hundred kilometers over the Earth’s surface, the radiative flux is approximately 1360 W/m2″
=================================
again, heat, not temperature.

• David A says:

a little progress…”The dependence of the intensity and wavelength (color!) of radiation on temperature can be demonstrated by a simple experiment: Consider an iron bar placed in a hot fire. At first its color does not change, but if taken out from the fire, it will warm its surroundings because it radiates in the infrared range (invisible radiation in the wavelength range of 0.7-100 μm). When we continue to heat the iron bar it will begin glowing read and then, as it continues to warm, turn brighter to orange, yellow, white, and finally blue-white in color (the wavelength becoming shorter and shorter within the visible light range, 0.4-0.7 μm).”
==================================================
still no temperature give for disparate solar insolation, but getting closer.

closing in on a IPCC problem here I think? SWR, according to above, has a higher absolute temperature. Thus its potential temperature transference capacity is far greater, regardless of watts her square meter, then a lower temperature LWIR source.

The potential temperature a substance can reach (how close it comes to the absolute temperature of what is heating it) is determined by its insulating potential, or the residence time of the energy entering the system. The IPCC appears to be making an error in only considering heat; watts per sq meter, and not temperature potential of disparate solar insolation.

Now when we consider a small change in insolation entering the oceans, a black body is not applicable to a three dimensional absorption surface like the oceans, receiving insolation, that can accumulate daily for months, and even years, as the residence time of the insolation can indeed be many years, thus an increase in flux can accumulate daily for years. LWIR on the other hand apparently has a lower absolute temperature, and cannot enter below the ocean surface, and in getting absorbed at the surface, a great deal of its energy is transferred into the work of evaporation and convection. Staying in the atmosphere, LWIR cannot have the same increase in residence time and accumulation of an equivalent watt per sq meter flux into the oceans. In affect, the oceans are a much greater GHL (green house liquid) then CO2 is a GHG. So not all watts are equal.

• Robertv says:

The ocean is the greenhouse , the atmosphere is just the glass.

• Robertv says:

Life started in the oceans.

11. Robertv says:

Fish don’t use blankets.

• davidswuk says:

They don`t like nets either……

• Edmonton Al says:

And seagulls cannot fly in glass ;^D

12. David A says:

I think I am ok here…” In affect, the oceans are a much greater GHL (green house liquid) then CO2 is a GHG. So not all watts are equal.” (Additionally the earth is a GHL world)
.
The ocean is a selective GHL to SW radiation. SWR can penetrate up to 800′ deep.
A GHL is a more effective GHS, (green house substance) then an atmospheric gas, due to the residence time of the energy entering it, and to the ABSOLUTE temperature of the photons which it is selective to, and it’s absorption band is broader and absorbs more heat then CO2, which has to compete in the atmosphere with W/V for the same GHE. http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/slides/climate/blackbody.gif

Additionally, the oceans, if they did not self regulate through surface atmospheric cooling (accelerated convection, conduction, evaporation and the cooling affect of clouds) particularly the ladder, would heat to a much higher temperature then they do. Scientist have demonstrated the limitation on ocean heat, and tropical heat due to the above factors.

One of many apparent flaws with the Trenbeth diagram of earth’s heat flow is that it appears to assume a linear relationship between insolation, LWIR emission, conductive loss, evaporative loss, and convective loss, and only considers the change in radiative loss due to additional CO2 molecule.

The tropical ocean well demonstrates that the relationship is not linear. As input increases, convection, conduction, evaporation, and condensation (clouds) all change ratio (increase on a non linear scale) to how much energy they use and do not allow to become heat. Also some of this energy is used in bio-life blooms.

The LWIR energy CO2 redirects towards the earth’s surface and lower atmosphere, also self limits to some degree. Some of that energy is absorbed in an accelerated hydrologic cycle, which takes tremendous energy to change. I have yet to see a study of how affective an increase of LWIR energy is at accelerating evaporation. Virtually 100 percent of its energy is absorbed in the surface layer where evaporation occurs. I suspect that the amount of energy absorbed into the energy used in the accelerated hydrologic cycle is not linear as said heat energy increases, an ever larger percentage of that heat is absorbed in accelerating flow, which limits the heat increase.

All of my assertions are, in reality questions, and I welcome input to increase understanding and correct flaws in my thinking. Constructal law may apply here? “The constructal law (really a theory I think) states that every flow system is destined to remain imperfect. The direction of design evolution is toward distributing the imperfections of the system, such that the “whole” flows easier.”

13. DedaEda says:

I spent a few years in the high arctic, so I know what I am talking about. If there is a significant number of cloudless days (weeks), the ambient temperature may reach up to 90F. But if the clouds roll in, the temperature plumets and it may snow within a couple of hours. And by the way, sun is LOWER for most of the 24 hour then down south, unless your North pole points directly to the Sun. Earth’s pole does not do that!