Radiative Forcing

Radiative Forcing, or RF, is specifically defined as the change in net irradiance at the tropopause after allowing for stratospheric temperatures to readjust to radiative equilibrium, but with surface and tropospheric temperatures and state held fixed at the unperturbed values. In layman's terms, RF refers to an imbalance between incoming solar radiation and outgoing infrared radiation that causes the Earth's radiative balance to stray away from its normal state. This straying causes changes in global temperatures. Furthermore, the units of Radiative Forcing are watts per square meter, and, if the value is positive, it has a warming effect on the climate, whereas if the value is negative, it has a cooling effect. If there is more radiation coming into the atmosphere than is escaping, that radiation becomes trapped as heat energy. This is exactly what we are seeing in our planet's ecosystem today, and these changes in temperature effect all earthlings, from real estate agents to ruby throated hummingbirds

As stated above, RF is an important tool used to determine the effects that greenhouse gases, aerosols, and clouds have on climate change. However, RF does not depict the climate response in its entirety. There are several parameters related to climate change that exist, but they are greatly variable and complex. In the same sense that a designer must make the right calculations to do his/her job right, RF must be calculated accurately. Since RF is easy to calculate, it provides a general, yet respectable, estimate of how the climate will respond to changes in greenhouse gas concentrations and various other agents.

So how is Radiative Forcing calculated? For the most part RF values are estimated using data from what is referred to as General Circulation Models (GCM's). These models use numerous methodologies, live leads and histories to get their numbers. Radiative forcing is intended as a useful way to compare different causes of perturbations in a climate system, and anyone can learn to perform these estimates, just as faux painting instruction may help you try something new, learning how to do RF calculations may enlighten you on the topic of climate change, and what you and your family or coworkers can do about it.

RF calculations are based on shorter-term changes in forcing due to natural and human-caused events, since so many of the Earth's changes occur over such a long time frame, they are assumed to be constant. This is similar to the effects of applying heat, without the variable of heat (the constant), the sleeve does not work. It is essential to have all of the elements and geological data in place to have accurate RF estimates.

In today's atmosphere, the effects caused by human activities are much more influential on climate change than the RF caused by natural phenomena, such as volcanic eruptions and solar changes. Thus, it appears as though humans may want to reconsider the amount of greenhouse gases that they pump into the Earth's atmosphere because it obviously has a measurable effect on climate change.

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The Enviroment

Tuesday, July 16, 2024