Foggy Notions of Climate Change
- October 28, 2013
- 183 views
Fog has blanketed the British Columbia coastline this past week as summer turns to fall and the ocean gives back part of the heat it accumulated over the past six months to the atmosphere.
Anyone swimming in the ocean, or a lake for that matter, is aware that your toes are in water as much as 2.5 degrees Celsius cooler than your upper body.
Fairall et al. demonstrates this phenomenon in a paper Cool-skin and warm-layer effects on sea surface temperature published in the Journal of Geophysical Research (1996) with the following diagram.
It also demonstrates that the skin of the ocean, an ultra-thin region of less than 1 mm thickness, typically is between 0.1° and 0.6°C cooler than the temperature just below the surface because the surface is where (almost) all of the absorbed ocean energy is transferred to the atmosphere by way of radiation, evaporation and conduction.
Of these, evaporation, which is the derivation of the sea smoke we are witnessing locally, is the most efficient means of heat transport because the latent heat of vaporization of water is 540 calories per gram, while the sensible heat, which is removed by conduction or radiation from the surface is only 1 calorie per gram.
The oceans cover approximately 72% of our planet or about 3.6×108 km2.
Since a calorie is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1°C at 1 atmosphere pressure, 1 c.c. of water weighs one gram, 1 calorie = 4.1868 watt seconds and evaporation occurs mostly during the day, (if I have done the math correctly) each square meter of the ocean’s surface transfers to the atmosphere between 209 and 1256 watts of power every second, which is enough to evaporate between .1 and .6 cubic centimeters of water.
Since sea level rise and the accumulation of heat in the oceans are the main consequence and manifestation of climate change, it would seem that fog and/or the evaporation of ocean water you can’t see might be a good analogy for how to address the climate problem.
Wikipedia identifies 13 different kinds of fog and then there is the fog of climate change, similar to the fog of war, wherein our capability to address the problem is constantly called into question by those profiting from the status quo.
But what I don’t have the foggiest notion about is, why the world’s financial capitals, most of which exist at sea level, are so sanguine about financing the extraction and refinement of the instruments of their demise and that of dozens of other coastal communities while at the same time beggaring the only approaches that have demonstrated potential to safeguard them; the movement of ocean volume to land and the movement of ocean surface heat to deeper water.
This is particularly mind blowing when the latter approach, when accomplished by way of movement of surface ocean heat, by the evaporation of a working fluid, through a turbine, down a heat pipe, to deep water, can produce as much, or more, energy than we currently derive from fossil fuels.