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Explaining Venus; Making the role of greenhouse effect clear
Topic Started: May 8 2010, 11:01 PM (524 Views)
apsmith

WattsUpWithThat (to which I'm not linking just now) recently had a very confused pseudo-scientific article on the temperature of Venus. The basic wrong claim there was that the high temperature is a simple consequence of the high pressures at the surface. It can't be, as several more-than-normally awake commenters noted in the thread. There was further confused mumbling about volcanism and Venus having a "young" surface, people favoring Velikovsky over Sagan, and various other meanderings into nonsense.

Venus is, of course, an amazing example of the power of the greenhouse effect in blocking surface heat from escaping into space. Theories of how it got its present atmosphere are also rather interesting as an example of "runaway" in a climate system. Both are topics we probably should have clear expository articles on here, as people seem so easily confused about these things, and they at least have some basic acceptance of Venus present state. Any thoughts on the best approach to presenting the science in a clear and accurate manner for Venus, both as to present state and past evolution?
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sylas
Board owner
apsmith
May 8 2010, 11:01 PM
Venus is, of course, an amazing example of the power of the greenhouse effect in blocking surface heat from escaping into space. Theories of how it got its present atmosphere are also rather interesting as an example of "runaway" in a climate system. Both are topics we probably should have clear expository articles on here, as people seem so easily confused about these things, and they at least have some basic acceptance of Venus present state. Any thoughts on the best approach to presenting the science in a clear and accurate manner for Venus, both as to present state and past evolution?
That would be a useful guide to put together, especially if it could be done in a general "background information" style. There are a number of published articles to use, but what is needed is something a bit simpler and more basic.

For example, I think it is a very useful think to emphasize that the temperatures up at the top of the clouds decks on Venus are pretty similar to Earth-like temperatures (or less) because this is where you get the temperatures that correspond to what it needed to radiate away what is absorbed from the Sun. From there, you get the lapse rate down to the superhot surface.

It would be worth underlining some of the similarities and the differences with Earth. We don't want, IMO, to write something which looks as if there is an expectation Earth could end up like Venus as a result of current anthropogenic impacts; this is not on the cards.

But it would be a great example to work out some of the relevant physics. Physics is the same everywhere, and seeing how it works out under different conditions is a very useful educational exercise.

IMO this is best done as a general resource, and not a particular response to just one set of misapprehensions. A positive focus on explaining what the physics indicates, rather than on refuting, would be my suggestions. It would also be a fitting tribute to a scientist with a very positive attitude and who pioneered work on Venus and physical understanding of its climate -- Carl Sagan.

Cheers -- sylas
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Count Iblis

There have been one or two recent NGC documentaries that went into quite some detail on this issue to which one could link to. I also saw another NGC documentary about the long term future of the Earth (the next hundreds of millions of years during which the Sun will become a lot brighter) in which a similar mechanism was explained in detail.

I agree with Sylas that one should not focus on refuting things directly. One has to focus on those people who really want to learn something and not be distracted by people who just use a particular misrepresented issue like Venus to score points in debates. That will ony attract a big cabal of people who will use this forum as a battleground.
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Trakar

sylas
May 9 2010, 12:11 AM
..., I think it is a very useful think to emphasize that the temperatures up at the top of the clouds decks on Venus are pretty similar to Earth-like temperatures (or less) because this is where you get the temperatures that correspond to what it needed to radiate away what is absorbed from the Sun. From there, you get the lapse rate down to the superhot surface.

It would be worth underlining some of the similarities and the differences with Earth. We don't want, IMO, to write something which looks as if there is an expectation Earth could end up like Venus as a result of current anthropogenic impacts; this is not on the cards.

But it would be a great example to work out some of the relevant physics. Physics is the same everywhere, and seeing how it works out under different conditions is a very useful educational exercise.

IMO this is best done as a general resource, and not a particular response to just one set of misapprehensions...

I have argued, with this perspective in mind, on this topic, several times over the last few years. It can be a very productive process if tackled methodically, clearly and concisely. Needs to start out with a basic GHG physics exposition and then a progression to the differences between Venus and Earth (and even a little on Mars, afterall, what passes for an atmosphere on Mars is mostly CO2 - pointing out that Mars is actually warmer than it should be due to the same basic physics has helped many fence-sitters to transition into a support for what the best available science seems to support with regards to climate.

I would be interested in reading and participating in that discussion.

TS
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sylas
Board owner
Trakar
May 10 2010, 09:42 PM
I would be interested in reading and participating in that discussion.
You just have! :P

This thread would be perfectly suitable to add some more posts explaining parts of the issue. Feel free to reuse stuff you have written elsewhere, or suggest some useful links.
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ScienceofDoom

There's a new article about this at Venusian Mysteries.
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