Monday, December 28, 2015

The Science behind why there is no such thing as a greenhouse gas

I have pet peeves.

One is 'fossil' fuels, where the word fossil is horribly abused.
Go to a museum and ask to see their fossil collection and you will find a huge assortment of... rocks that couldn't be set on fire with a nuclear bomb, let alone a match.

Look up fossil in the dictionary and you'll find nothing that will ever lead to flammability or the use as a fuel. What you will find is a process that turns flammable flesh and plants into rocks. What we have is a pairing of words that have less to do with each other than 'military' and 'intelligence.'

But worse and more scientifically offensive than pairing fossil with fuels is greenhouse gas.

First, a gas can never give you a greenhouse effect, just as a fossil can never be burned as a fuel.

Let me explain. When I say greenhouse, most picture a building made of glass, but few know how it works and why.

A greenhouse 'traps heat'... but not really. Not scientifically. In reality, a greenhouse simply reduces the surface area of the boundary between two fluids, the one inside and the one outside the 'house'.

Greenhouse effect and ice cubes:

An IceCube is the perfect example of a greenhouse. If you drop an ice cube into hot soup it takes longer to melt than if you drop the same amount of snow into the same soup, or pour ice cold water into it. This is because snow (and ice water) has a billion times the surface area that a cube does, so the outside of the cube has to melt before the inside can get warm.

Another example is fill a water balloon with hot coffee and drop it in a bath tub of cold water. The balloon will stay warmer longer (trap the heat) than if you pour the same amount of coffee directly into the tub.

The balloon and the cube are examples of limiting thermal conduction by reducing boundary layer surface area (greenhouse effect)

A gas can never reduce surface area, hence there is no such thing as a greenhouse gas, it is a contradiction in terms.

Now, water vapor can form a boundary layer between two bodies of gas when in the form of a cloud, but what a cloud is is a gas turning into a liquid and a liquid reduces its surface area like an IceCube does. In other words, liquids are not gasses, by definition, and only in liquid state are clouds 'greenhouses'.

CO2, methane, etc do not gel or liquefy air molecules and hence can not be a barrier or reduce surface area. There is no layer or pockets of CO2 gas, and thus none of these 'greenhouse' gasses are producing a greenhouse anything.

Now, what they can do is add mass to the air and that added mass can 'trap heat' in the same way as 20 pounds of salt water can 'trap' or store more heat than 5 pounds of pure water at the same temperature. But this is not adding heat, but adding a resistance to changes in heat. In other words the only effect of adding/dissolving a gas into another gas is that you can change its mass and thereby change how fast or slow it warms or cools, but you can NOT change its average temperature.

In other words, the most these 'greenhouse' gasses can do is make mornings and nights warmer and days cooler, instead of dropping 20 degrees f every night and warming 20 degrees every day, the most adding a 'trapping' gas can do is change the 20 to a 15.

Pet peeve, I know, but there is no such thing as a fossil fuel or a greenhouse gas, both terms are as silly as military intelligence. :)

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