“Supposing is good, but finding out is better” Mark Twain

 

 

 

CLIMATE TREK
by Mike Tidwell

A soon to be published report on Earth Systems

 

 

CLIMATE TREK
Synopsis

A technologically savvy, although environmentally illiterate, society faces eventual catastrophe when it burns enough fuel to change the climate of the entire planet. This startling realization prompts the author to explore how our planet works; Climate Trek delves into the mysteries of an orchestrated Earth system, heretofore unexplained.
The root of all Earth experience, including climate, lies in the secretive and absurd world of atoms and photons. Because the solar system is many times larger and older than human society, abundant room for argument has existed about how our—Sun, atmosphere, water, molten interior, hydrocarbons, emerging life, great extinctions, and climate—operate. One of the greatest scientific blunders of the twentieth century has been our failure to understand that hydrocarbons aren’t fossil fuels, but primordial materials, whose flow from the deep Earth to its surface has controlled life and climate on our planet for billions of years.
In Climate Trek, these conflicts are investigated using various elements of the periodic table, such as hydrogen, oxygen, sulfur, carbon, iron, calcium, boron, molybdenum, and beryllium, to tell Earth’s story.
Section I reviews matter: its origin, movement, and electrical nature. Important concepts, such as pressure, heat, temperature, and buffers, are covered. Telling “time” and “temperature” in the deep past are discussed. Windows to the past such as ice, leaves, pollen, sediments, and tiny molecules, are explored.
Section II looks at the sun: its output, its influence, and what happens when its photons smash into the upper atmosphere.
Section III looks at the Earth, at its rocks, moving plates, and volcanoes. Tidwell examines the influence of metals, life forms, and water molecules on climate. Sea levels and the amazing ice continent of Antarctica are explored. The powerful non-metals—hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and sulfur—are brought in. Hydrogen’s story ties together acidic oceans, weathering, coral reefs, diatoms, and the Tibetan Plateau. Oxygen’s story concerns its ancient battle with carbon, its importance to emerging life, and its long, slow rise into our atmosphere. Carbon’s story weaves together deep-earth methane, diamond, peat bogs, strange underground life forms, oxygen, extinction, and heating. Sulfur’s story is about its relationships with oxygen, carbon, aerosols, cloud formation, and cooling.
Section IV looks at the air sandwiched between the Sun and the Earth. Atmospheric carbon dioxide, its history, its ability to kill coral reefs, and its capacity to create polar swamps, are covered. Compelling evidence is presented that our activities are returning our climate to the polar swamps.
Section V visits disturbed land and ocean environments. The author looks at dramatic changes in hurricanes, permafrost, heat waves, forests, sea otters, Greenland, and Antarctica. Tidwell builds an earth-like climate on the moon, helping the reader visualize how planetary climate works. He reviews the history of aerosol studies, detailing how sulfur in hydrocarbons hid global warming from us throughout the twentieth century. And worse, that greenhouse warming was first estimated over one hundred years ago, a warning all but ignored in our rush for pleasure.
Weaving all of these Earth stories together reveals the ancient rhythms of our planet, highlighting the dim awareness our hydrocarbon society has of the dangerous game it’s playing with carbon. Climate Trek maintains that our climate is entering territory that no human has ever faced, and indeed, that Earth hasn’t experienced for 55 million years. Taking the message of our planet’s carbon cycle to heart is the key to changing the course of history here and now.

 

Table of Contents

INTRODUCTION.. 9

Some Stuff Before the Nature Stuff 9

SECTION I: FIRST, BACK TO SCHOOL.. 12

CHAPTER 1: ATOMS and PHOTONS. 15

Electrons and Photons. 15

Electrons and Bonding Atoms. 16

Atoms and Chemical Reactions. 17

Energy. 18

Electrical Forces Are Bigger Than We Think. 19

Cooking Up the Matter 20

The Magic of Matter 21

Nuclei and the Wizard of Oz. 22

Radioactivity. 22

Isotopes and Isotope Ratios. 23

Ions. 24

CHAPTER 2: MOVING ATOMS. 24

Photons and Moving Atoms. 25

Electrical Forces and Moving Atoms. 25

Magnetic Fields and Moving Atoms. 25

Gravitational Sorting and Moving Atoms. 26

Radioactive Heating and Moving Atoms. 27

CHAPTER 3: IMPORTANT CONCEPTS. 27

Linear and Nonlinear 27

Ratios. 28

Chemical Index of Alteration, or CIA.. 28

Pressure and Temperature. 28

Pressure, Gases, Liquids, and Henry’s Law.. 29

Equilibrium.. 29

Supersaturated Solutions. 30

Average Daily Temperature Calculations. 30

Heat Capacity. 31

Cold Reservoirs. 31

Buffers. 31

The Albedo Effect 31

CHAPTER 4: TELLING TIME. 32

Radioactive Clocks. 33

Carbon-14 Dating. 33

Uranium-2. 33

Potassium-Argon Dating. 33

Rubidium-Stro. 33

Strontium Isotopes. 33

Lead Isotope. 33

Fission Tracking. 33

Genetic Clocks. 34

Magnetic Clocks. 35

CHAPTER 5: TELLING TEMPERATURE. 36

Alkenone Paleothermometers. 36

Magnesium Calcium Thermometers. 36

Oxygen Isotope Ratios. 37

Oxygen Isotope Ratios, Ocean Water, and Temperature. 37

Oxygen Isotope Ratios, Ice, and Temperature. 39

CHAPTER 6: IMPORTANT CLUMPS OF ATOMS. 41

Stratigraphy, or Looking at Sedimentary Rocks. 41

Ocean Sediment Cores. 41

Palynomorphs. 42

Biomarkers or Molecular Fossils. 42

Cave Stalactites. 43

Pollen. 45

Leaf Surfaces and Stomatal Indexes. 45

Ice Cores. 45

Dust and Ice. 46

Seawater and Ice. 47

Tiny Bubbles and Ice. 47

Temperature and Ice Core Data. 48

CHAPTER 7: WHO ARE THE CLIMATE PLAYERS?. 49

The Proper Proportions. 49

SECTION II: THE SUN SIDE OF THE SANDWICH.. 51

CHAPTER 8: THE SUN AND SOLAR PHOTONS. 51

Photons from the Sun. 51

Variations in Solar Intensity. 52

Sunspots. 53

The Solar Cycles or Milankovitch Theory. 55

SECTION III: THE EARTH SIDE OF THE SANDWICH.. 57

CHAPTER 9: THE EARTH AND MOVING ATOMS. 58

Journey to the Center of the Earth. 58

The Oldest Rocks. 59

Convective Cooling. 60

Plate Tectonics. 60

Mid-Oceanic Ridges. 61

Oceanic Crust 61

Subduction Zones. 62

Continental Crust 63

Continental Accretion. 64

The Wilson Cycle. 64

Moving Atoms and Arc Volcanoes. 65

Arc Volcanic Eruptions. 65

Volcanic Eruptions, Climate Cooling, and El Nino. 66

Large Igneous Provinces or Superplumes. 66

CHAPTER 10: LIFE. 68

The Archaea. 68

The Cyanobacteria. 70

Stromatolites. 71

Cellular Evolution. 72

A Thirty-Second Tour of Plant Evolution. 72

One Problem, Two Solutions. 73

The Elastic Nature of Genetic Solutions. 74

Stress and Mutation. 74

A Natural Bias. 75

CHAPTER 11: METALS. 76

Chelates. 77

Metals and Carbon in Soils. 77

Iron. 78

Iron and Oxygen. 79

Iron and Sulfur 80

Pyrite Formation. 80

Iron Carbonate. 81

Zinc. 82

Copper 82

Magnesium.. 82

Cobalt 82

Nickel 83

Strontium.. 83

Strontium Isotope Excursions. 83

CHAPTER 12: WATER.. 85

Water as a Liquid. 85

The Mysterious Water Cycle. 85

Water as a Vapor 86

Some Problems with Knowing Something about the Ocean. 87

Thermohaline Ocean Currents or Salt Transport System.. 87

Water as a Solid. 89

Glaciation. 89

The Reinforcing Nature of Ice Sheets. 90

Antarctica. 91

The Level of the Sea. 92

CHAPTER 13: NON-METALS. 95

Hydrogen. 95

Hydrogen Bonding. 95

Acids and Bases. 96

Carbonic Acid. 97

Chemical Weathering. 97

Calcium Carbonate. 98

Silicon, Carbon, Diatoms, and Continental Weathering. 99

The Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau. 101

Nitrogen. 102

Phosphorus. 103

Sulfur 104

Acid Rain. 105

Sulfur, Marine Aerosols, and Cloud Formation. 105

Sulfur, Terrestrial Aerosols, and Cloud Formation. 107

Soil Aerosol 108

Organic Carbon Aerosol 108

Carb. 109

Sulfate aerosols. 110

Cloud Formation. 111

Carbon. 115

The Carbon Cycle, Old School Versus New School 116

Carbon Surface Reservoirs. 117

Unoxidized Carbon and the Deep Earth. 118

Methane. 119

Methane and Diamond. 119

Methane and Its Relationship to Oil and Coal: 121

Peat Bogs. 121

Anaerobic Methane Oxidation and Sulfur Molecules. 122

Methane Hydrates. 124

The Loaded Gun of Methane Hydrates. 125

Moving Carbon and Carbon Isotopes. 126

Carbon Isotope Surface Reservoir 127

Carbon Sinks, Carbon Isotopes. 128

Carbon Sources, Carbon Isotopes, and Calcium Carbonate: 128

The Broad Pattern of Carbon Isotope Excursions. 129

An Important Marine Rock Sequence. 129

Tillite. 129

Cap Carbonates, Methane, and Glaci 129

Oxygen. 130

Rising Oxygen and Banded Iron Formations. 133

Sulfur, Molybdenum Isotopes, and Anoxic Oceans. 134

Aerobic Oxidation of Methane. 136

The Strange Stability of O.. 137

The Black Sea. 139

Black Shale. 140

CHAPTER 14: EXTINCTION AND MOVING ATOMS. 142

Death and the Geologic Time Scale. 142

Paleozoic Era. 142

Mesozoic. 142

Cenozoic Era. 142

The 65 MYA Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) Boundary Extinction Event and Iridium.. 142

The Deccan Traps. 144

The 251.4 MYA Permian-Triassic Extinction Event and Lead. 144

The Si 146

The 55.5 MYA Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum Extinction Event 147

The Central Atlantic Magmatic Province (CAMP) 148

The 200 MYA Triassic-Jurassic Extinction Event 149

The 90.4 MYA Cenomanian-Turonian Boundary Extinction Event 149

The 364 MYA Devonian Mass Extinction. 150

The 440 MYA Ordovician Mass Extinction. 151

Extinction and Recovery. 151

SECTION IV: THE THIN-FILM INSIDE THE EARTH-SUN SANDWICH.. 154

CHAPTER 15: PHOTONS, ATOMS, AND TEMPERATURE. 155

Photons and Greenhouse Gases. 155

Carbon Dioxide and its Relationship to Water Vapor 156

Hydroxyl Radicals and Methane. 157

Chapter 16: DOME C, ANTARCTICA.. 159

CO2, Calcium Carbonate, and Acidic Oceans. 160

CO2, Climate Change, and Warm Water Corals. 161

The Reinforcing Nature of Atmospheric CO2 162

Boron, Acidic Oceans, and Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations. 162

CHAPTER 17: THE MAUNA LOA OBSERVATORY.. 164

Polar Swamps. 164

Dome C Carbon Data. 166

Present and Future Impacts. 167

SECTION V: PAYING THE PRICE.. 169

CHAPTER 18: CHANGES IN THE SEA.. 170

The Gulf of Mexico. 170

The Aleutian Islands. 171

The North Sea. 173

The Eastern Edge of the Ocean. 173

CHAPTER 19: CHANGES ON LAND.. 176

Temperature and Precipitation Trends in North America. 176

Northern Boreal Forest 177

Heat Waves. 178

CHAPTER 20: CHANGES IN ICE. 180

Permafrost 180

The Arctic Ocean. 181

Greenland and Glaciers. 184

Antarctica Ice Shelves. 186

The Antarctic Peninsula. 187

The West Antarctica Ice Sheet 189

CHAPTER 21: PREDICTING ATMOSPHERIC TEMPERATURES. 192

The Hydrocarbon Lifestyle and Georg Steller 196

An Elegant Bottleneck. 197

Closing Thoughts

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