Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What If You Removed All Greenhouse Gases*

This animation by Chris Colose of NASA GISS shows what would happen to the Earth if all noncondensing greenhouse gases* (CO2, CH4, N2O...but not water vapor) were removed from the atmosphere: most of the planet would freeze over:

Raymond Pierrehumbert has a nice paragraph in his textbook that explains more:
"One sometimes hears it remarked cavalierly that water vapor is the 'most important' greenhouse gas in the Earth's atmosphere. The misleading nature of such statements can be inferred directly from Fig 4.31.... If water vapor were the only greenhouse gas in the Earth's atmosphere, the temperature would be a chilly 268 K [< 0°C], and that's even before taking ice-albedo feedback into account, which would most likely cause the Earth to fall into a frigid Snowball state.... With regard to Earth's habitability, it takes two [water vapor and CO2] to tango."

- Raymond Pierrehumbert, Principles of Planetary Climate, (2011) p. 271

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