We show how the CO2 contribution to the Earth’s greenhouse effect can be estimated from relatively simple physical considerations and readily available spectroscopic data. In particular, we present a calculation of the “climate sensitivity” (that is, the increase in temperature caused by a doubling of the concentration of CO2) in the absence of feedbacks. Our treatment highlights the important role played by the frequency dependence of the CO2 absorption spectrum. For pedagogical purposes, we provide two simple models to visualize different ways in which the atmosphere might return infrared radiation back to the Earth. The more physically realistic model, based on the Schwarzschild radiative transfer equations, uses as input an approximate form of the atmosphere’s temperature profile, and thus includes implicitly the effect of heat transfer mechanisms other than radiation.
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PAPERS| April 01 2012
Simple model to estimate the contribution of atmospheric CO2 to the Earth’s greenhouse effect
Derrek J. Wilson;
Derrek J. Wilson, Julio Gea-Banacloche; Simple model to estimate the contribution of atmospheric CO2 to the Earth’s greenhouse effect. Am. J. Phys. 1 April 2012; 80 (4): 306–315. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.3681188
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