Originally Posted by me to Watts Up With That, the world's most popular climate website, where it attracted over 18,000 page views and 743 comments. (Click here to view my original posting and read the Comments.)DESCRIPTION OF THE GRAPHIC The animated graphic has eight frames, as indicated by the counter in the lower right corner. Molecules are symbolized by letter pairs or triplets and Photons by ovals and arrows. The view is of a small portion of the cloud-free Atmosphere. (Thanks to WUWT commenter davidmhoffer for some of the ideas incorporated in this graphic.)
- During the daytime, Solar energy enters the Atmosphere in the form of Photons at wavelengths from about 0.1μ (micron - millionth of a meter) to 4μ, which is called "shortwave" radiation and is represented as ~1/2μ and symbolized as orange ovals. Most of this energy gets a free pass through the cloud-free Atmosphere. It continues down to the Surface of the Earth where some is reflected back by light areas (not shown in the animation) and where most is absorbed and warms the Surface.
- Since Earth's temperature is well above absolute zero, both day and night, the Surface radiates Photons in all directions with the energy distributed approximately according to a "blackbody" at a given temperature. This energy is in the form of Photons at wavelengths from about 4μ to 50μ, which is called "longwave" radiation and is represented as ~7μ, ~10μ, and ~15μ and symbolized as violet, light blue, and purple ovals, respectively. The primary "greenhouse" gases (GHG) are Water Vapor (H2O) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2). The ~7μ Photon is absorbed by an H2O molecule because Water Vapor has an absorption peak in that region, the ~10μ Photon gets a free pass because neither H2O nor CO2 absorb strongly in that region, and one of the 15μ Photons gets absorbed by an H2O molecule while the other gets absorbed by a CO2 molecule because these gases have absorption peaks in that region.
- The absorbed Photons raise the energy level of their respective molecules (symbolized by red outlines).
- The energized molecules re-emit the Photons in random directions, some upwards, some downwards, and some sideways. Some of the re-emitted Photons make their way out to Space and their energy is lost there, others back down to the Surface where their energy is absorbed, further heating the Earth, and others travel through the Atmosphere for a random distance until they encounter another GHG molecule.
- This frame and the next two illustrate another way Photons are emitted, namely due to collisions between energized GHG molecules and other air molecules. As in frame (2) the Surface radiates Photons in all directions and various wavelengths.
- The Photons cause the GHG molecules to become energized and they speed up and collide with other gas molecules, energizing them. NOTE: In a gas, the molecules are in constant motion, moving in random directions at different speeds, colliding and bouncing off one another, etc. Indeed the "temperature" of a gas is something like the average speed of the molecules. In this animation, the gas molecules are fixed in position because it would be too confusing if they were all shown moving and because the speed of the Photons is so much greater than the speed of the molecules that they hardly move in the time indicated.
- The energized air molecules emit radiation at various wavelengths and in random directions, some upwards, some downwards, and some sideways. Some of the re-emitted Photons make their way out to Space and their energy is lost there, others back down to the Surface where their energy is absorbed, further heating the Earth, and others travel through the Atmosphere for a random distance until they encounter another GHG molecule.
- Having emitted the energy, the molecules cool down.