global warming and thermodynamical quantities

There was recently an interesting article in the New York times with the attention provoking title:

To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees

The article was written by an assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry at Yale.

In the article the author warns of socalled V.O.C.'s, (something I haven't heard of before):

Worse, trees emit reactive volatile gases that contribute to air pollution and are hazardous to human health. These emissions are crucial to trees — to protect themselves from environmental stresses like sweltering heat and bug infestations. In summer, the eastern United States is the world’s major hot spot for volatile organic compounds (V.O.C.s) from trees.

and moreover they write:

Climate scientists have calculated the effect of increasing forest cover on surface temperature. Their conclusion is that planting trees in the tropics would lead to cooling, but in colder regions, it would cause warming.

if I understood the article right then more or less both facts taken together (the carbon cycle and its possible wrong understandings is also mentioned) leads to the recommendation: " Don’t Plant Trees." There are no references with respect to the claims though.

even if, as the author writes:

Planting trees and avoiding deforestation do offer unambiguous benefits to biodiversity and many forms of life. But relying on forestry to slow or reverse global warming is another matter entirely.

If you look at that pretty foto traumawald by Christian Miersch, who had recently commented here on Azimuth, then it seems indeed to be an important question wether science is able to determine the right measures to adress climate change.

For me this article brought however up some question, which I've been tossing around for quite a while, which is the question of the role of certain thermodynamic quantities like entropy and chemical energy in the question of global warming. That is a dark surface absorbs a lot of infrared (thats what I figure is behind the assertion: planting trees in the colder regions would lead to cooling etc. that is the net albedo change in reversing grasslands and other soils into forests seems to be different in differetn climates, where I am not sure wether I understood all the resonings behind this)) but one question is also: what's happening with the absorbed infrared. That is black body radiation is only a fist approximation and it might be worthwhile to think about effects like conversion into chemical energy etc. Like if I would look at this example of upconversion then the upconverted light of a dark looking leave would differently contribute to the overall radiation and in particular to the infrared balance, which plays an important role in the green house effect. In that context I am also asking myself how big are the cooling effects of human efforts in killing biodiversity and building rigid structures like streets and houses. That is exageratedly speaking: if earth would be covered with concrete then this could be seen as lowering the overall earth entropy, and if this would be the case some of the sun's energy would have needed to go into that entropy lowering and not into heat. I was hesitating to ask this question, because I always had some unease with certain thermodynamical laws (visible e.g. here.), but I am not sure how much of this under-understanding is due to missing out some literature or forgetting learned content.


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    Regarding the thermodynamic analysis WRT global warming.

    I had the same idea and wrote about it here in the context of the CSALT model that I am working on


    I guess that's what happens if one reads John's forum and you get ideas. I provided a link to John's post where he discusses variational principles.

    A more thorough evaluation is here:


    I don't know if this is a correct evaluation because it is of course impossible to do a controlled experiment on the Earth's atmosphere and ocean. The fact that the ocean immediately takes up likely 90% of the energy imbalance says that this may in fact be second-order. Yet, one can still do some impressive projections based on training the climate on thermodynamic factors that can absorb the excessive heat coming into the system, with CO2 being the ringleader:


    This model also has relevance to the El Nino project, since one thermodynamic factor is variations in pressure, which are taken from the ENSO SOI index. The reason that I got started on the El Nino project was because I wanted to see if I could predict the SOI, and therefore make CSALT into a predictive model.

    BTW, I didn't include nad's suggestions for the electrochemical potential implicit in photosynthesis, only because there are no known numbers for this dating back far enough. In my opinion, that is pretty much guesswork. But it certainly would have some effect.

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    To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees

    That is why we should avoid LENGTHY VERBOSE INFERENCS made by people and instead focus to derive the needed conclusions, as much as possible, from algorithms which are non-dogmatic and data driven.

    IDEA: Petr Nets could be used as inference nets or Causal Nets of some kind, and the algorithms could scan data continuously and create new places and transitions for a large petri net which aids in making inferences for such huge dynamical systems as our planet is.


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    As far as "boreal forests warm the climate" is concerned, a few references are: Betts (2000), Bala et al. (2007), and Bonan (2008).

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    I wrote a post here which followed up on another post on entropy transport. The big generator of entropy is just the thermalization of sunlight. Plants are able to in effect divert some of this, creating photosynthesis products which have free energy. That's what we all live on. Of course, when we've done all that, we've released the entropy, or lost the free energy, that the plants saved. So it's only a postponement.

    The export of entropy is interesting. It all does have to get exported, and the mechanism is that the flux of heat out, which balances in, leaves at a lower temperature than it came. If it can be persuaded to leave even cooler, that's more free energy available. That's not necessarily good - it would probably encourage atmospheric mischief.
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    The big generator of entropy is just the thermalization of sunlight

    How do you know that?

    There are volcanoes under the oceans spewing incredible amounts of hot gases into the floor of the oceans and much entropy generated from that, which in turn MIGHT be warming the atmosphere as well, over 100s of millions of years. Why this entropy is not considered or measure as negligible.

    Generally I need to question every statement as such and all the math and computations, my intuition tells me almost all of us are generally mistaken about the atmospherics dynamical systems


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    Somebody asked this question before on Azimuth somewhere.

    Wikipedia cites the earth as generating 47 tW.

    heat energy coming from Earth's interior is actually only 0.03% of Earth's total energy budget at the surface, which is dominated by 173,000 TW of incoming solar radiation.[4]

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    Thanx Jim

    I was talking about the entropy in waters of the ocean, not surface crust. Most of the planet is covered by water and it is mostly very warm, if I compare the entropy trapped in the waters of the ocean and the atmosphere, I SUSPECT that there is more entropy in the water and lesser in the atmosphere due to density (perhaps).

    Let's say I am correct, most entropy is in the water, then where is its source, sun or volcanic activities on sea floor.

    If you look at Moon and Mars, which has more entropy in comparison to earth? I would say earth has more entropy because of its vast waters.

    I could be entirely incorrect or dead right, but I need to do some calculations and verify.


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    "There are volcanoes under the oceans spewing incredible amounts of hot gases into the floor of the oceans and much entropy generated from that, which in turn MIGHT be warming the atmosphere as well, over 100s of millions of years."

    I think you might be mixing up entropy and enthalpy. The change of entropy is measured by the product of the heat flux and the change of reciprocal temperature. In the case of radiant energy, the starting "temperature" is basically the temperature that could be reached if the light were focussed. That's rather less than solar surface, but its reciprocal is still very low. So the rate of entropy creation is basically solar heat flux times 1/(about 300K).

    Solar flux dwarfs anything you can think of - volcanoes, human, whatever. And neither surface heat nor entropy stick around for even years, let alone millions.

    If you want to talk about "incredible amounts of hot gases", you really need to look up some numbers.
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    If you want to talk about "incredible amounts of hot gases", you really need to look up some numbers.

    Sure thing, you know where I could look this up?

    And neither surface heat nor entropy stick around for even years, let alone millions.

    Then there should be little (residual) entropy on the planet surface? That being said then there has to be other sources for entropy. In desert there is almost no moisture in the day and ice in the evening, that indicates a quick loss of entropy if all is due to sun.

    The latter indicates, not inference, that oceans are playing a huge role in maintaining the entropy or enthalpy or any other source of let's call it complexity.

    Most essential chemical transportation in our bodies are conducted via the Brownian Motion i.e. via entropic mechanism correct me if I am misunderstanding, if you remove the Brownian Motion of water molecules from our bodies, we cease. Without water's Brownian Motion none of the protein production or folding or transportation is possible.

    This gives me an indication, again not inference, that water is key to the planet's entropy maintenance, not the solids and lesser the atmosphere.

    And neither surface heat nor entropy stick around for even years, let alone millions.

    For deep waters I think this might not be true. And in particular the water properties are exceptional compared to all other liquids known to us, therefore I like to examine the statements we all made to make sure I do not infer prematurely about the Sun's role in entropy on this planet. Either way, I assume no assumptions.


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    The Earth gets 174 Petawatts of sunlight. That's enough to raise the temperature of the entire ocean about 1°C/year, if it stayed around. It doesn't.

    The total heat escaping from the earth's interior is about 0.03% of that solar flux. That includes those incredible amounts of hot gases.
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    Here is a recent paper:

    Carbon release by off-axis magmatism in a young sedimented spreading centre

    Continental rifting creates narrow ocean basins, where coastal ocean upwelling results in high biological productivity and organic-rich sedimentation. In addition, topographic gradients promote silicate weathering, which consumes atmospheric CO2 (ref. 1). The carbon flux associated with these processes has led to the suggestion that rifting may cool the atmosphere, leading in some cases to glaciation2 and even a snowball Earth scenario3

    I will dig up the data from Prof. Lizarralde and their findings and possible models for the warming or cooling, great activity for migrained insomnia. Again I do not see the role of sun in this.

    While I believe the sun has a lot to do with the entropy or complexity of our planet, I also believe that our water systems are also contributing, my intuition tells me even more that sun but this is not an inference.

    Moreover in other papers they are talking about the salinity of the water in relation to entropy :

    Climatological mean distribution of specific entropy in the oceans

    Entropy, as enthalpy, internal energy of seawater is scientifically interesting thermodynamic state function of seawater.

    It seems they use Entropy and Enthalpy as same definition for disorder.

    Salinity of the ocean waters play important role in the derivative equation for the entropy!


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    "It seems they use Entropy and Enthalpy as same definition for disorder."
    You need to read the fine print. Referee #1 said:
    "This manuscript is concerned with dispelling a non-issue, namely that isentropic surfaces are different to potential density surfaces. It makes basic thermodynamic errors and it should not be published."

    The editor said:
    "This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Ocean Science (OS). A final paper in OS is not foreseen."

    It's important not to make basic thermodynamic errors. Enthalpy and entropy have different units. Enthalpy is not a measure of disorder.

    Intuition is fine, but reading some textbooks would help.
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