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Earth Space Science

Global Warming Felt By Space Junk and Satellites 224

An anonymous reader writes in with a story about another side effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. "Rising carbon dioxide levels at the edge of space are apparently reducing the pull that Earth's atmosphere has on satellites and space junk, researchers say. The findings suggest that man made increases in carbon dioxide might be having effects on the Earth that are larger than expected, scientists added... in the highest reaches of the atmosphere, carbon dioxide can actually have a cooling effect. The main effects of carbon dioxide up there come from its collisions with oxygen atoms. These impacts excite carbon dioxide molecules, making them radiate heat. The density of carbon dioxide is too thin above altitudes of about 30 miles (50 kilometers) for the molecules to recapture this heat. Cooling the upper atmosphere causes it to contract, exerting less drag on satellites."
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Global Warming Felt By Space Junk and Satellites

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  • by gagol ( 583737 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @06:23AM (#41955075)
    The process cool the upmost strata, but keep heat inside. RTFA
  • by aug24 ( 38229 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @07:19AM (#41955237) Homepage
    Even if it is heavier stochastic processes will push a proportion of it up. Increase the total proportion and the proportion at high altitudes will increase.
  • by mangu ( 126918 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @08:05AM (#41955351)

    So global warming has nothing to do with it? It's all about the carbon dioxide buildup?

    Why are you still trolling this bullshit?

    It's all about burning fossil fuels. This has many effects, of which global warming is the most dangerous to humans right now, but raising the dangers of space junk is another bad effect.

    What you are trying to imply is like saying cigarettes have nothing to do with lung cancer, because there are people who die of emphysema as well.

    Go away, oil industry shill!

  • Re:Enough said... (Score:4, Informative)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Monday November 12, 2012 @09:24AM (#41955593) Journal

    I read that article before so I know you've done an excellent job of misunderstanding it. But then The Register presented an inflammatory headline for a reason...

  • by cnaumann ( 466328 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @09:36AM (#41955665)

    We add an additional 4% each year and there is nothing to balance that. We can also look at isotope ratios (fossil fuels are ancient carbon). It is our CO2.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/human-co2-smaller-than-natural-emissions-intermediate.htm [skepticalscience.com]

  • by hamburger lady ( 218108 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @10:07AM (#41955837)

    isotope analysis shows increases over time of fossil carbon as a percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    add to that the fact that we pump gobs of fossil carbon into the atmosphere every year, and can find no other natural phenomena doing such on that sort of scale.

  • Re:less drag? (Score:5, Informative)

    by silentcoder ( 1241496 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @10:31AM (#41956027)

    There is no contradiction.

    Go put your hand behind your fridge - notice that the iron grid there is quite a bit warmer than room temperature ?
    But the inside of the fridge is cold...

    See to make the fridge cold, we have to MOVE the heat inside it somewhere, that grid is where it ends up being radiated away from.

    The grid gets warmer, so the fridge can get colder.

    Is that a contradiction too ?

  • by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @10:37AM (#41956073)
    When you take energy from the oxygen molecules and the radiate it, you don't get to pick a direction. Some will come down, some will go out to space. The net effect (of this phenomena) is cooling.
  • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnup . n et> on Monday November 12, 2012 @10:40AM (#41956093) Homepage

    Even after a major eruption event? I know these don't happen very often, but I have a hard time believing that we output more CO2 than a volcano can potentially output.

    Yes, even after a major eruption event. For example when Pinatubo blew in 1991, it released about as much CO2 as 10 days of human activity.

    Here: [usgs.gov]

    The published estimates of the global CO2 emission rate for all degassing subaerial (on land) and submarine volcanoes lie in a range from 0.13 gigaton to 0.44 gigaton per year (Gerlach, 1991; Varekamp et al., 1992; Allard, 1992; Sano and Williams, 1996; Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998). The preferred global estimates of the authors of these studies range from about 0.15 to 0.26 gigaton per year. The 35-gigaton projected anthropogenic CO2 emission for 2010 is about 80 to 270 times larger than the respective maximum and minimum annual global volcanic CO2 emission estimates. It is 135 times larger than the highest preferred global volcanic CO2 estimate of 0.26 gigaton per year (Marty and Tolstikhin, 1998).

    Is that really surprising? Think about how many billions of cars, homes, offices and factories there are, spread across the whole world, all directly or indirectly burning fossil fuel and releasing CO2.

  • by slim ( 1652 ) <john@hartnup . n et> on Monday November 12, 2012 @10:54AM (#41956169) Homepage

    Or alternatively, the People know that the global warming story is white middle-class hysteria and refuse to fund fantasies any more.

    The people I've most recently encountered who were dead worried about climate change as an issue that was affecting them RIGHT NOW, were Eskimo in Northern Alaska. They're far from middle class. They see the ice fields they rely on for hunting forming later, and melting earlier, each year.

  • by You're All Wrong ( 573825 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @11:04AM (#41956239)
    Nice, but simplifying matters, and perhaps misleading. Gasses of different densities are *perfectly* happy to settle out. It's only the continual stirring of things like what we locally call weather that makes them mostly homogeneous in the layer above the earth's surface most of us experience. The words "homosphere" and "heterosphere" thus got their names. I can't do better than wackypedia, so I'll just lift the pertinent section:
    Above the turbopause at about 100 km (62 mi; 330,000 ft) (essentially corresponding to the mesopause), the composition varies with altitude. This is because the distance that particles can move without colliding with one another is large compared with the size of motions that cause mixing. This allows the gases to stratify by molecular weight, with the heavier ones such as oxygen and nitrogen present only near the bottom of the heterosphere. The upper part of the heterosphere is composed almost completely of hydrogen, the lightest element.

    The reason we do not suffocate is not because gases do not separate out, it is because we have not just a source of O2 and a sink of CO2, but also constant stirring.
  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @11:44AM (#41956655)
    And come to think of it, another effect is that they have a shorter half-life in atmosphere and hence less of a greenhouse effect than CFCs would have in the same situation.
  • by riverat1 ( 1048260 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @12:55PM (#41957551)

    I recently tracked it down and the major eruption of Pinatubo in 1991 released around 40 million tonnes of CO2 over several days compared to around 23 billion tonnes of CO2 released by humans that year. Current human emissions in 2012 are around 30 billion tonnes of CO2.

  • by mcpheat ( 597661 ) on Monday November 12, 2012 @01:40PM (#41958107)

    HCFCs generally have a shorter atmospheric lifetime than the CFCs they replace as the hydrogen carbon bonds are weaker than halogen-carbon ones. The problem is PFCs which are composed of hydrogen and fluorine atoms only. The bonds are so stable the most likely way they will be destroyed is by diffusing to the mesosphere & being hit by cosmic rays.

God doesn't play dice. -- Albert Einstein