Solar Energy

Global Warming and Tropical Storms

The Earth receives from the Sun about as much energy,(also known as radiation, or heat), in an hour as the energy consumed in a year by industry and domestic conveniences world wide.
Enthusiasts for solar "renewable energy" think that this is good news. They underestimate the huge quantities of it that provide food and water for every organism not living on chemical energy from the planet's radioactive interior.
People who deny, or have doubts about, anthropogenic global warming imagine that so trifling a heat contribution as industry makes cannot matter. In terms of heat, the latter are correct, that is not the problem.

But in an hour, the planet has to get rid of that same enormous amount of solar energy, or get hotter. A tiny percentage imbalance between incoming and outgoing radiation can mean a huge rate of energy retention. That is why the transparency of the atmosphere to infrared radiation from merely warm bodies has an enormous effect.
Gases that capture such low energy photons and retain the energy as heat are called greenhouse gases (GHG). The GHG byproducts of industrial burning (or indeed forest fires) are the problem. It is not immediately obvious, because the oceans are very large, and get most of it.

The atmosphere stores very little heat, compared with the oceans. The glaring proof of the imbalance is the fact that the Earth's glaciers and icecaps are steadily melting, from one summer to the next.
I do not have the statistics for it, but a large proportion of the heat stored in humid air is the energy of vaporization of water. That is why humid air feels hotter than dry air. At the same temperature, humid air contains more heat energy than dry air. The energy consumption of your dehumidifier, per quart or litre of water that it condenses, will give you a clue.

Water and its Vapour

90 cubic metres of liquid water has a mass of 90 tonnes, almost by definition. Its molecular weight is 18. Compare oxygen, at 32, and nitrogen, 28. In a gas, every molecule takes up the same space. Air is 4/5 nitrogen. So five molecules of water vapor will displace one of oxygen and four of nitrogen. If all 90 tonnes is converted to water vapor (a gas), it will occupy the same volume as 32 tonnes of oxygen mixed with 112 tonnes of nitrogen, in other words 144 tonnes of air. So 90 tonnes of water vapour will feel a lifting force of 54 tonnes with respect to dry air. Warm humid air rises, not just because it's warm, but because of the lifting force of 54 tonnes per 90 tonnes of its humidity. That, dear reader, is what drives the updraft of the eye of a hurricane. At the top, the vapor condenses back to water droplets, and some of this tremendous energy gets radiated off out to outer space. Within the hurricane, this enormous heat engine is converting heat energy into electrical and wind energy, in quantities which to human perception are as destructive as explosives. It also releases, on land, destructive hydraulic energy at ground level. Over the Pacific, this same phenomenon is called a typhoon.

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