The Lungs of Gaia | Watts Up With That?

The Lungs of Gaia | Watts Up With That?

By Philip Mulholland and Stephen Wilde

A fundamental concept at the heart of climate science is the claim that the solar energy that the earth's disk intercepts from solar radiation must be diluted by a factor of four. This is because the surface area of ​​a globe is four times the intercept area of ​​the disk silhouette (Wilde and Mulholland, 2020a).

This division by 4 geometric relationship for solar radiation energy creates the absurd paradox that the sun shines directly on the earth's surface at night. The correct claim is that the intensity of solar energy is collected over the entire surface of an illuminated hemisphere (divided by 2) and that it is the radiant thermal exhaust gas flow emerging from the entire surface of the globe (divided by 4). .

Between these two geometrical relationships between energy collection and return to space lies the atmospheric reservoir, the gaseous coating of the earth, in which all climate processes take place. The following table and figure, taken from the canonical model by Kiehl and Trenberth (1997), is used to illustrate a model in which the basic realities of an illuminated (day) and an unlit (night) hemisphere are considered irreducible logical minimal geometric relationship to be maintained for the energy budget of the earth's climate.

Table 1: The atmospheric reservoir energy recovery process for a single lit hemisphere model.

In the following figure, the parameters were adjusted using hemispherical thermal exhaust gas flow values ​​of 200 W / m2 (day) and 270 W / m2 (night) based on an energy transport model for the dynamic atmosphere of the earth's climate (Wilde and Mulholland,). 2020b).

Figure 1: The energy recycling process of the atmospheric reservoir.

Main features of the diagram

  1. It shows that the concept of the atmospheric reservoir can be used for solar radiation with the hemisphere illuminated (divided by 2).
  2. It shows how the atmospheric reservoir behaves both as a store and as an energy transporter.
  3. All the captured flows are doubled through the process of infinite geometric recycling (half is lost; half is preserved, adding an infinite series of halves of halves to one).
  4. During the day, the troposphere expands as it stores potential energy when working against gravity.
  5. Potential energy cannot be radiated away, so the daily loss at the top of the atmosphere (TOA) is reduced as the atmosphere expands.
  6. During the night, the troposphere contracts as it cools. This converts potential energy back into kinetic energy, which is responsible for the increased nocturnal energy loss in space.
  7. The gross value of the atmospheric reservoir of 780 W / m2 is halved to the canonical value of 390 W / m2, since the surface of the emitting globe is twice as large as that of the solar-collecting hemisphere.
  8. The daily processes of thermal and evapo-transpiration are mainly driven by direct solar energy and therefore do not occur at night (many restrictions here: If the surface is moist, the evaporation process can also occur at night, e.g. land against sea, moist tropical forest against dry desert, weather forecast, etc.).
  9. The earth's surface is a huge slow-release storage cooler that releases its trapped solar energy at night and in winter.
  10. The bypass radiation occurs both during the day and at night at the same rate (40 W / m2) as in the canonical model, since in point 7 the same surface problem occurs between collection and emission.

The lungs of Gaia

One could compare the process of capturing solar energy during the day, with the atmosphere expanding, followed by the night-time contraction of the atmosphere as it cools down – with the "breathing" of the earth. The atmosphere is our planet's lungs, expanding and contracting over a 24-hour cycle, varying the supply of potential energy to the surface. This rhythmic process serves to maintain the hydrostatic equilibrium for the entire atmosphere by adapting the thermal radiation energy to space with the high frequency radiation energy incident from the sun.


Kiehl, J.T. and K.E. Trenberth, 1997. Earth's annual global median energy budget. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 78 (2), 197-13. 208

Wilde, S.P.R. and Mulholland, P., 2020a. An analysis of the earth's energy budget. International journal for atmospheric and ocean sciences. Vol. 2, 2020, pp. 54-64. doi: 10.11648 / j.ijaos.20200402.12’s_Energy_Budget

Wilde, S.P.R. and Mulholland, P., 2020b. Return to Earth: A New Mathematical Model of Earth's Climate. International journal for atmospheric and ocean sciences. Vol. 4, No. 2, 2020, pp. 36-53. doi: 10.11648 / j.ijaos.20200402.11’s_Climate

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