Sunday, May 27, 2007

How Earth’s Natural Air Conditioner Works

Finding Earth's Cooling System

I majored in Horticulture. I n school I learned that earth has had many climate changes throughout the ages, but that gave me the impression that earth's climate is unstable.

If earth has had 100 major climate changes over the last 50 million years that is remarkably stable considering it has supported some species for more then 65 million years.

To realize this is to also realize that earth must have a natural method to cool itself when something unusual overheats it. I don’t think nature ever intended Woolly Mammoths to launch space shade umbrellas.

If earth did not have a perfectly engineered climate control system to counterbalance strong temporary heat sources, how could it have remained the constant home of life for 3 billion or more years?

Satellite photos over the last twenty years prove that earth’s icecaps have recently began melting about as fast as ice cubes in a glass of tea sitting in the hot sun, it is obvious earth is now rapidly warming up, as if it did not even have a climate control system.

So after I go and comment on how excellently engineered earth’s natural air condition system must be, why are the Polar Bears suddenly droning?

Before we can answer that question we would have to understand how earth must cool itself. I know how an air conditioner works, so let’s first see if we can find comparable natural components.

What do we look for?

Well just the obvious for starters. To cool a whole planet, earth’s A/C units would need massive capacity, so they are likely to be very large. So what large thing (s) should we look for?

Almost all of the air conditioners in buildings and cars use fans to force warm air through cooler coils. So let’s look at how and what large things earth has that could do these things.

The fan was easy to find, earth’s rotation steadily forces air from the west to the east. But what could filter the atmosphere with similar resistance as the coils on an A/C unit?

Well, it would not be mountains because the air moves around them. The only large natural thing on earth that would put up stiff wind resistance while still allowing the air to move through are forests.

But trees look rather puny when you look in the sky above them, so how could they also be earth's cooling coils?

Because we can see straight into outer space we don’t see anything that indicates we would suffocate (without pressurization) from the lack of air at less then the average altitude that jet liners cruise. So something must be pulling earth’s air tightly down to its surface?

I did not even need to say ‘gravity’, because you learned that in first grade. Even though the Ozone layer averages about twenty miles in height most of earth’s air is much closer to the surface.

To see this another way, if earth was the size of a basketball, it's atmosphere (including the ozone layer) would be about as thick as a coat of paint. So the air around you is not nearly as plentiful as our eyes lead us to assume.

But even an 80’ tall forest compared to a few miles is still small. I could just say that the amount of ductwork in a home is also small compared to the volume of air in it, but that is a wimpy answer, that does not explain anything. Instead let’s see if something naturally forces the atmosphere through this green living ductwork.

As an air mass would move over a forest, its bottom would fight stiff aerodynamic resistance (drag), that the rest of it would not experience, thus slowing down its bottom, but not its top.

So its top would move faster which would cause its upper front ridge to fall into the lower pressure created from its bottom dragging behind. This could be a continuous downward roll from the top front of the air mass, so if the forest is large enough it could filter all of the air above it.

The coils of an air conditioner must also make plenty of contact to efficiently allow their coolness to rub off. Have you even seen how well a the leaves of a large tree contact wind?
We should soon see improvements on the coils and filters of our AC units based on figuring out which trees have the most efficient filtering leaves.

Well, we just found what could be earth's fan and cooling coils but what about the stuff that makes them cool?

I could not find a cold maker in forests, but my dumb questions found four powerful natural cooling factors and methods, and there may be another huge one that I could not verify yet.

First it is important to realize that the solar energy that gets through the ozone layer, (only about 3% NASA) does one of three things when it reaches the earth’s surface, it gets reflected, absorbed or consumed.

It is easy to assume that the solar heat that reflects off of snow or white concrete is not a problem for Global Warming, however just as the ozone layer only allows a tiny percentage of solar heat into the atmosphere, it only allows a tiny percentage to leave.

A constant natural factor that is helpful to realize is that heat, always comes from a heat source, and cold is always the lack of heat. Even though we say a home air conditioner makes cold air, it actually does not, they remove some of the heat from warmer air, thus making it colder.

But the heat still exists because we have not yet designed air conditioners that consume the heat instead of separating it. Remember this fact because nature is still a far better machine maker and designer then people, so it is far more efficient.

Earth is also a terrarium much like the ones sealed up in big bottles. And just as a bottle sitting in the sun gets very hot, (the same effect in greenhouses and closed cars), earth gets warmed up by the reflected solar energy that is trapped inside its ozone layer. This means that your white concrete may feel cool on your toes, but it does not help cool down the planet.

Next you have certainly noticed how hot dark things can get sitting in direct sun. But heat raises, so if those things do not consume the heat, it radiates upward into our atmosphere. Therefore both reflected and absorbed heat, do add to our global warming.

But ‘consumed’, is hungry to gobble up sunshine, to make other things from it, so its warmth is converted into food. Now is that cooling?

Earth only has one major solar heat eater, “photosynthesis”, and guess where it just happens to most efficiently cool down the atmosphere? You got it “tree leaves”, and because cold falls, trees are naturally engineered as far more efficient air coolers then bushes, meadows or grasses.

Now the four obvious ways forests cool the atmosphere. The first one covers two:

Because leaves are dark super solar absorbing machines, dense forest lands will not reflect much solar heat into the atmosphere. Many helicopter pilots and crop dusters know that the air over forests is often cooler, as farmers notice how much cooler walking in a forest can be, then their nearby farm.

Now this part is real cool, you will soon be checking it out. Healthy growing tree leaves (with a fine steady source of water) won’t get hot in the sun, even though they are dark. You can verify this by just grabbing growing tree leaves, even though most of the cold oxygen would have sprayed out. So it is obvious that they would cool the warmer air that comes in contact with them.

If much Photosynthesis is cooking they will feel from cold to cool, (if not too breezy), but as long as they are healthy and not dried out they will never feel as warm as artificial leaves, the same color, in the same sunny spot.

So it is obvious that forests help keep the air cool by preventing their lands from reflecting and or radiating solar energy into the atmosphere, which takes care of two of those four cooling methods.

Now for some cold science dot connecting, for some cool new understanding of Photosynthesis.

As just about every student is taught that photosynthesis is the process that plants make their food from solar heat energy. That is true, but more specifically it cooks molecules of ground water so the leaves can trap hydrogen to use as the main ingredient for their plant food, (carbohydrate).

The other main ingredient is carbon, which the leaves get from breathing in the air pollutant Carbon Dioxide, which is a gas waste product of all animals.

Science has connected the high levels of CO2 to deforestation and they do theorize that it ads to global warming by holding more heat in the atmosphere. However the plants have little use for the oxygen that is left over from the water, so they release it into the atmosphere.

Right here is the super cold fact that science has not yet noticed: That every atom of this new oxygen gas sprays into our world, bone cracking cold.

Nature only has one single step rapid cooling process: ‘Expansion’.

We don’t relate expansion to cold temperatures, because almost all expansions we notice are from explosions started with massive heat. In the first ten thousandth of a second after a firecracker ignites it may be 3500 degrees, but before that second ends it may be down to 300 degrees. Because it is still hot enough to burn we would not realize that just cooled down so many, many times in a second.

To feel expansion another way those cans of compressed gas that we use to clean keyboards can expand a spray that can frost bite your hand, after expanding several hundred times. Our air is about 800 times lighter then water, so the oxygen expanded by photosynthesis sprays out of the bottoms of leaves at a similar scale, which would be amazingly cold.

But these sprays are one molecule at a time so they will never frost bite your tree monkey’s tiny fingers. Science already knows that earth's fresh new oxygen gas comes from its water on photosynthesis. I recently reread all of the internet's major explanations, so they all know it expands from water, but they never connect the temperature dots.

There is a more common form of expansion that occurs over nearly every square inch of earth’s surface, evaporation, (they call it transpiration when water evaporates through plants). These actions are also highly cooling, as sweat cools down your skin as it expands from evaporation.

However the reason that Photosynthesis is far more important as a thermostat adjusting earth’s overall temperatures because the water vapor that expands during evaporation, eventually condenses back to water, which concentrates its heat, thus canceling out much of the coolness it originally added.

Once photosynthesis expands oxygen, (unlike water vapor that can condense at any temperature under boiling), it would have to get all the way down to -297.3 (F) degrees below zero to condense.

Because our planet never gets that cold, the coolness added to our environment by oxygen expanding from liquid never cancels itself back out, that takes a different heat source, which this coolness also reduces. So this is likely the most adjustable cooling effect earth has.

But there is still another cooling effect forests have that you have already considered, “shade”

Shade is what has been hiding the cold truth of photosynthesis because as we walk into that cool forest or under that cool shade tree, we just assume it is cool just because of the shade.

The shade helps by keeping the ground under and the air inside the forest from solar heating rays, thus helping to keep forests cool as the warm winds move through. Shade also keeps the moisture on the ground from evaporating rapidly so more water can be dedicated to photosynthesis.

Now you have four ways that forests cool the air that passes through them, you have identified their cooling coils and fan. So the next question is “What would happen to earth’s atmosphere if 70-90% of its forests (It's Natural Air Conditioners) were removed?”

Would not that be a comparable question to asking what would happen to the air in our buildings if 70-90% of their air conditioners suddenly vanished?

A fifth Super Cooling Effect from forests?

I'm leaving the a question mark on this one, even though it is likely the factor that scientists report on the most.

They seem to agree that today's very high levels of CO2 hold far more of the solar heat in our atmosphere. They attribute much of, if not most of this to the burning of fossil fuel.

I have no doubt that burning things raises CO2 levels, as our muscles also burn organic fuel and also release CO2.

However the two main ingredients in the food photosynthesis helps plants produce is the hydrogen they steal from water, and the carbon they take from the CO2 in the atmosphere.

So if earth had not just not lost most of its thickest vegetation, much of, if not most of the additional CO2 now present in our atmosphere would have become plant food instead of another heat source.

Since I have not found simple questions that would the typical third grade science class to verify CO2 as a massive heat source I will leave a question mark by it. But if what science says about CO2 holding enormous amounts of heat is true, then this is defiantly another supercooling effect of forests.

There is no doubt that increasing earth's photosynthesis production would decrease CO2, because we can clearly see where the stuff goes.

So now how does earth adjust it average surface temperatures, and why is this not working?

This is an easy one, as the planet gets warmer far more water would evaporate from the oceans thus casing more storms, thus feeding more photosynthesis to balance out the extra heat.

But this time it is not working because we humans keep cutting down most of the thick vegetation as nature tries to grow it back, so it is us, but not our fuels, that have caused Global Warming.

By cutting down earth’s breathing machines we are actually suffocating our planet, as well as ourselves.

Forests are not only earth’s air conditioners they are also earth’s air cleaners because they also remove air pollution in at least three very powerful ways.

As they (1) draw in air to remove the CO2 to make food, other pollutants (2) get stuck to the damp membranes inside the leaves and in the microscopic air valves under them called stomas. Most leaves fall off in less then a year thus permanently trapping these pollutants to the ground.

But there is yet another very cool scientific way that they filter the air.

Molecules are held partially together by the electrons of their atoms, so when Photosynthesis helps plants remove hydrogen from the H2O some of these electrons are knocked loose. Atoms with a normal number of electrons are neutral in charge, but if they are missing, their charge becomes negative making them magnetic thus attracting them to other matter in an attempt to get their lost electrons back. The scientific name for these atoms and molecules is “ions”.

These oxygen ions attach to the first material that they reach, which is typically the material that feels like air filters on the bottoms of leaves. Then just like an ion air cleaner in your home, they attract air pollution, to the bottoms of tree leaves.

This explains why many trees would turn their leaves over during storms. The rain washes the pollution off of their filters to the ground where it gets absorbed into the mud of time, just like you might wash a filter from a home air cleaner.

So not only did we find all of necessary components of earth’s natural air conditioners, we also found the pieces to its air cleaners. There may still be more, but we found two complete systems.

So just one obvious question in closing:

What happens to an iced tea, sitting in the hot sun, after its ice melts?

PS. I am posting many very cool ways to cool the planet at

© 2007 Steven Craig