Greenhouse Thought Experiment
Posted by Jeff Id on January 1, 2011
Derek has been in a war with ScienceofDoom over the what appears to be Planck radiation. I’m actually not sure of his position because it doesn’t make sense yet to me but he left a thought experiment on the thread which could make for some interesting discussion. Some will find it pretty easy, while I bet others will get all tied in knots over it. As a suggestion, taking a thought experiment to an extreme is often a good way to identify a preferred design path or to understand differences in similar situations. I will give the answers in the coming days, they are already written so I can’t back out but as you consider them I’ll warn that this post is not about the subtleties but rather about the bulk differences.
I’m going to paraphrase Derek’s experiment below and then add another of my own. If it’s not the exact same as his it doesn’t matter the idea is still interesting.
For our experiment assume we have a bolometric camera for measuring emitted thermal radiation as an image. IOW a cool toy which in this case happens to detect all EM wavelengths with perfect sensitivity. To be clear, the camera integrates to measure the radiative emission temperature of the object.
We have two plants, one is contained in a transparent box (greenhouse) the other in open air, both thermally stable (temperature isn’t changing). We take an image of the two plants in the early afternoon on our fancy camera, what do you find in the image?
Derek asserts that the greenhouse plant will be warmer and therefore brighter, but lets continue this experiment further.
For our second experiment we have two thermally stabilized earths, one which has today’s CO2 and one which has 2X today’s level. All other conditions are identical and for some quirk of Id-ian physics, they orbit one right behind the other around the sun such that we can observe them simultaneously on our fancy camera. Now the CO2 of the higher concentration planet will block some of the emitted radiation creating the AGW greenhouse effect so the planet has a 1C warmer surface temperature. (For this thought experiment basic physics are required, planets are stabilized and I’m going with a 1C estimate chosen at random). Since it’s my universe, I’m staying on the warm Earth with a functional economy (right side) and sending all the vegetable eating enviros over to the cold economically devastated one on the left. haha- too fun, I probably should stick to the science for this though.
Now from a distant point we observe our otherwise identical worlds using our amazingly fancy camera. What would our camera reveal?
I’ll give the answers to these with supporting explanations tomorrow or the next day depending on how much fun people are having.