Ever wonder how a measly little temperature change of one degree can have such a catastrophic affect on our weather.

To start with, it has to be made clear that it is not temperature alone but heat energy that drives our weather.

Weathermen often talk about energy in weather systems. Weather scientists can calculate the heat energy by knowing the temperature change and the mass of the atmosphere. I can demonstrate with a couple simple examples.

Imagine one cubic inch of water in a very tiny metal pan. Now imagine heating this water up using a birthday cake candle until it changes temperature one degree.

Because this is a small amount of water and the temperature change is likewise very small I would suspect that one candle and one minute would be a reasonable estimate.

Let’s do that again using a 12 inch by 12 inch by 12 inch metal pan full of water. Using the first example as a measuring guide it would take 1,728 candles and 1,728 minutes to elevate the temperature one degree because there is 1,728 cubic inches of water in the second example. (1,728 times more mass)

Both of these two examples have one thing in common. Both were changed only one degree but the larger mass required a significantly larger amount of heat.

Clearly, the biggest factor in determining the amount of heat energy injected into our atmosphere when the sun changes the temperature by one degree is the mass of the atmosphere.

If you Google “mass of Earth’s atmosphere” you will discover the average “mean” mass is quite huge — 5,148,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms or 11,349,400,000,000,000,000 pounds.

Clearly the heat energy injected into our atmosphere must be very big.

The first law of thermodynamics says that energy cannot be created or destroyed. What enters our atmosphere stays in our atmosphere.

It is not good enough to stop the increase and expect the weather to go back to some well behaved “normal.”

The heating process would have to be reversed (lower the atmospheric temperature) to remove this heat energy.

Unfortunately, our polar white caps which normally reflect sunlight back into space are losing ground and the dark earth that remains absorbs the sun light and thus more heat energy.

Humans cannot sense one degree change in temperature but it looks like we are beginning to feel the disruption in weather activity that scientists predicted.

Denerd Harstad


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