Caring For The Earth And Its People
The Science of Everything
Physics is so obviously everything that I forgot it needs to be a topic all its own.
Physics is the science that encompassses all other sciences. When in physics, you get a problem set or an exam problem that begins "derive from fundamental printiples" it meant the rock bottom foundations of scientific knowledge. And although we don't have to specifically call on them in this website, they are the foundation of all climate science. So a brief introduction is a good idea.
All the knowedge of the so called "hard" sciences falls within physics. Psychology, for example, is not a hard science. You can't put it under a microscope or write hard and fast equations about it. Biology, however, is a hard science although equations may be few and far between.
The areas of science that are the foundations of physics are relativity, quantum physics, the Newtonian laws and the conservation laws.
The conservation laws are the most basic and they are:
1. Conservation of energy
2. Conservaation of momentum, both linear and rotational
Conservational means that it can neither be created or destroyed (I am sticking to so called classical physics because otherwise it gets complicated and we don't need those complications).
Conservation of energy comes into play in climate science and it has to do with the light from the sun and what happen to it when it reaches the earth. Light is not heat and it is not what warms the atmosphere. Light is photons with different amounts of energy which determines their color. Light usually is not seen until it hits something. Looking at the sun can burn your retinas, and that plays no part in climate. However, light is a form of energy and when it hits something that is not transparent, the conservation of energy means we can't just lose it, it must do something and what it does is heat whatever it hits. However, all matter reflects part of the light and that is what we see. The rest is absorbed by what the light hits and the energy of the light strikes the molecules of the stuff it hits and makes them move faster. This motion is a form of energy we call heat. And that's where climate change starts.
Some of the light is reflected in the form of heat or infraread light and goes back into space. But not all of it. There are several gasses in the atmosphere that reflect the infrahead light back to the earth and actually keep it from freezing. Carbon dioxide and methane are the two big ones. How much infrared light is reflected back depends on the amount of the gasses, and when we burn coal or oil we put carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, reflect more heat back to the earth and have a warmer earth. That's the physics of global warming.