A Discussion of Heat

Heat is a measure of the amount of energy an object has.

Heat is not temperature - it is possible for hot objects to have a small amount of heat and vice versa. It just depends on what the object is made of.

Heat and Temperature | How Heat Moves | Heat Pipes | Atmospheric Heat Pipes | The Point | The IPCC position | Venus

Heat and Temperature

In general, a piece of wood and a piece of metal - both having the same temperature and the same weight - will not have the same amount of heat.

Heat is measured in calories (joules in the SI system), temperature in degrees Kelvin.

For each type of material, there is a constant - called Specific Heat - that relates the amount of heat to the temperature.

When a substance changes phase (solid to liquid, liquid to gas, and the reverse of each), heat is absorbed (or released) with very little change in temperature. This is termed "Latent heat of ..." and is sometimes referred to as enthalpy.

As a result, a substance like water has 6 different "Specific Heat" and "Latent Heat" values

In exact science, both the specific heats and the latent heats vary based on the actual temperature, pressure, and other environmental factors. Thus, the constants are used only for explaining the concepts. On the other hand, the percent error is normally small ... except when working with steam - then special tables are always required.

How Heat Moves

Physics books generally cover 3 ways that heat moves

Thermos bottles keep coffee hot by reducing the conduction (by using glass) and convection (the vacuum removes the air) paths so that only radiation remains. A mirror surface is added to reduce heat loss by radiation. Thermos bottles work because radiation is the slowest way to remove heat.

In the real world, these methods are also important

Heat Pipes

Heat pipes are devices that move heat very quickly using a liquid-vapor phase change. As a result, heat pipes are able to move heat faster than heat conduction in the best metals.

Consider a hollow metal tube with both ends sealed. Inside the tube are a few drops of some liquid. As heat is applied to one end of the tube, the liquid vaporizes. At the other (cool) end, heat is loss and the vapor condenses back into the liquid phase. In the simplest configuration, the hot end is placed below the cold end so that gravity will pull the liquid back down. Other configurations exist.

Depending on the working temperatures, water, alcohol, freon, sodium, and many other materials can be used as working fluids. The only requirement is that the fluid must be liquid at the cool end and vapor at the other.

Most laptop computers contain heat pipes because there is not enough space for air to blow over the components. (My laptop has 2 - one for the processor and another for the video chip.)

Atmospheric Heat Pipes

At the bottom of the atmosphere there is liquid water. Without changing its temperature, heat is used to convert this to vapor. On land, plants help to perform this task. Because humid air is actually lighter than dry air (simply because water molecules weigh less than nitrogen and oxygen molecules), the humid air rises. As the air rises, it tends to expand and rise faster the higher it rises.

The fact that air at the surface is usually warmer than the air above it helps - but it is not always necessary.

At some point, the expansion cools the rising air mass to the point where water begins to condense (forming clouds). Since the energy released is equal to the heat of vaporization, heat has been moved from the surface of the planet to the top of the clouds. At this point, the clouds act like mirrors reflecting the heat out into space.

Note - if the heat was released inside the cloud, it would simply be reabsorbed by the surrounding water droplets causing them to return to the vapor state. Therefore, the vapor *effectively* condenses only at the top of the cloud.

To complete the cycle, the condensed water returns as rain (or snow).

Even though there is no confining tube, I have described this cycle as an Atmospheric Heat Pipe because of the obvious similarities. These heat pipes are not the only way that the Earth cools itself - but they are the most efficient.

The Point

All Global Warming arguments I've seen assume that the only way for the Earth to loose heat is by radiation directly from the surface and that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will block that radiation.

The model described here provides one mechanism for heat to move around the additional CO2.

Think of it this way

It has not been proven yet that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will have any effect on the atmosphere's ability to hold heat ... but, for the sake of argument, let's assume that there is a significant measurable effect. In this case, adding CO2 simply makes the insulating atmospheric blanket a little better at holding heat - specifically, it makes it harder for heat energy to *radiate* into space.

The Atmospheric Heat Pipe model presented in this page provides a very efficient mechanism to bypass this problem.

Of course, wind, weather fronts, and storms greatly complicate this model. My point was simply to show that simple evaporation followed, by cloud formation, effectively pokes a hole in the insulating atmospheric blanket so that heat can escape. As a result, if additional CO2 makes this blanket more efficient at holding heat, that will have almost no effect because the water driven heat pipe (phase change assisted heat transfer) will provide the necessary negative feedback.

One prediction of this model is that adding CO2 to the atmosphere will actually increase the amount of rainfall.

Note - Many Global Warming predictions include more storms AND expanding deserts - talk about covering ALL the bases.

The IPCC position

These quotes are from the Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis by the IPCC - basically, these experts admit that the entire theory of Human Produced Global Warming is based on models that don't work.

Please, don't just read the few quotes I've included below - read the entire section. It is painfully obvious that none of the models are very good ... and clouds are almost ignored. Cloud-radiative feedback processes Representation of cloud processes in models

This section admits that the rain fall models are wrong - to get a fair treatment, read the actual text.

7.2.3 Precipitation

The Atmospheric Heat Pipe I've presented above provides a major negative feedback mechanism that works to reverse any possible effects from increased CO2 - however, some climate models actually consider the feedback to be positive.

Note - Positive feedbacks will make a little heating get even hotter and negative feedbacks tend to make temperature changes very difficult.


I don't believe that there is enough evidence to believe that Venus is hot because its atmosphere is mostly CO2 - but those arguments will be discussed elsewhere. In the meantime, consider this

Author: Robert Clemenzi
URL: http:// questionable-science.com / Global_Warming / Heat.html