atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#1451: Baby, it's cold outside. Everywhere.

A bullet list of global cooling facts.

#1: "Nearly four inches of snow blanketed the United Arab Emirates' Jebel Jais region for just the second time in recorded history on January 24. Citizens were speechless. The local dialect has no word for snowfall."

Do you know how far back "recorded history" goes in that part of the world?

#3: ".... A Frazee, Minnesota dog-sled race was cancelled, due to excessive snow. ..."

How much snow do you have to get for them to cancel a race that depends on there being snow on the ground?

Heh.

* * *

James "OMG the sky is falling" Hansen gets an award for being Al Gore's pit bull.

* * *

What if he's wrong? Indeed, what if Al Gore is wrong about global warming?

* * *

Al Gore is worried about Earth becoming "Venus-ized", which is flatly impossible.

The atmosphere of Venus is 97% carbon dioxide. Earth's is 0.038%. The annual increase we've recorded is 0.0002% per year. Don't hold your breath waiting for that to be a problem.

The other problem with using Venus as an example of "runaway global warming" is bifurcate:

1) Venus receives more energy from the sun per unit area than Earth does. (Gore says this doesn't matter, but he's full of it. The inverse square law--it works, bitch.)

2) Venus has more atmosphere than Earth does. The pressure at the surface of Venus is a whopping 1,350 PSI--90 atmospheres. It's dense, a lot denser than Earth's atmosphere is. To put that in perspective, if you wanted to experience that kind of pressure here on Earth you'd have to dive 0.62 miles under the surface of the ocean.

The extreme pressure alone is enough to account for the extreme heat at Venus' surface. The clouds in Venus' atmosphere are composed of sulfur compounds, which reflect heat, thus acting as a layer of insulation--so whatever heat manages to get in (about 40% of solar insolation IIRC) will tend to stay in. And the dense atmosphere will tend to retain a lot of heat even without that.

Al Gore. WTF.

* * *

The first step to terraforming Venus is getting rid of about 90% of its atmosphere. Somehow.

Recently I've been giving some thought to it, and I think I came up with a decent plan. It assumes access to technology we don't have, of course, but most of these kinds of ideas do, anyway.

1) Get rid of excess atmosphere.

Build a "smokestack" out of unobtanium that reaches to space from the surface. Place, at the bottom, a gravity-nullifying device. When you turn it on, open slats around the perimeter of the base which allow atmosphere in. End result: atmosphere spews into space, pretty quickly. Done correctly, the excess atmosphere will form a ring around the planet, enabling you to harvest it later, or just let the solar wind blow it away.

2) Move the planet to a friendlier orbit.

Using your handy inertial damping technology, you can stop the rotation of the planet. Then you can use your handy inertial induction drive to place the planet into whatever orbit you want. (It will take a lot of power to do this, of course.) I like Earth's orbit, on the opposite side of the sun from Earth. It's an orbit we know works well for earth-like worlds, after all.

3) Restore spin to the planet.

We'll want a day/night cycle, so we just reorient the fields of our inertial induction drive and spin the planet up to a reasonable angular velocity. (24 hour day suit everyone?)

Mind you, the planet is still very hot. The surface has been baking at 500 degrees for, well, ever. Losing 90% of the atmosphere will help--due to semi adiabatic expansion if nothing else--but it won't do all of it.

4) Sunshield.

Place an opaque barrier between Venus and the sun. It need not block all the light from the sun; just most of it. The idea is to cool off Venus' atmosphere--what's left of it--as quickly as we can.

5) Sulfuric acid rain.

...and it'll rain on Venus for the first time in, well, a damn long time. The rain will be sulfuric acid--H2SO4--and it'll react with stuff on the surface to produce all sorts of things, including water. Expect the rain to go on for centuries, because as soon as the liquid hits the ground it'll evaporate and recycle, until the entire works reaches equilibrium.

This is why you may want to keep the atmosphere you've vented to space, rather than let it blow away: you might need it. Once the rain is finished, you may not have enough atmosphere left for the next step.

6) Algae.

Take away your sunshield now. Seed the planet with algae--you'll want stuff that isn't bothered by acidity or alkalinity or extremes of temperature--extremeophile stuff--but you want to seed the planet with it in order to start converting CO2 into oxygen. There will be liquid water on the surface of the planet, and the cloud cover will be a lot less dense (or even gone) but the atmosphere will still be mostly CO2. You should be able to put habitats on the surface now without making them acid-proof, but the inhabitants will need respirators whenever they go outside.

This is also when you start working on adding nitrogen to the atmosphere. Snag a comet or two; there's a lot of cyanide in comets, and you can use solar energy to liberate the nitrogen. Then drop chunks of ice on the planet--big balls of water ice filled with liquid nitrogen. (You'll want to avoid dropping them on settled areas.)

In the late stages of this phase you can add other plants, of course, and even some animals. Particularly fish.

7) Cleanup.

Once you've got a breathable atmosphere, then you can finish building the ecosystem by populating the world with animals and the rest of the plants you want there. Insects, worms, etc, etc.

Time? Give it a thousand years. It might be doable in less time but if you can throw around this kind of energy (not to mention moving a freaking planet without breaking anything) you've probably already licked the pesky shortness of the human lifetime.

You might want to give Venus a moon, too--leftover solids from comets might do. Just for the view, of course.
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