Chapter 1 Historical Background To The Study Of Climate Change

Topics: Carbon dioxide, Greenhouse gas, Greenhouse effect Pages: 45 (2002 words) Published: March 28, 2015
GE
Chapter 1. Historical Background

Historical Background to the
Study of Climate Change
In the 19th century, scientists realized that gases in the
atmosphere caused a "greenhouse effect" which
affected the planet's temperature. These scientists
were interested in the possibility that a lower level of
carbon dioxide gas might explain the ice ages of the
distant past.

At the turn of the century, Svante Arrhenius calculated
that the emissions from human industry might
someday bring a global warming. Other scientists
dismissed his idea as faulty.

The History of Atmospheric
Science
1750s:
• Joseph Black identified
carbon dioxide in the air.
• A Scottish scientist
known for his work on
latent heat, specific heat
and CO2.

The History of Atmospheric
Science

• Nitrogen was
discovered by the
Scottish scientist
Daniel Rutherford in
1772.

The History of Atmospheric
Science
1781:
• Henry Cavendish
measures the
percentage
composition of
nitrogen and oxygen
in the air.
Henry Cavendish was a
British scientist noted for his
discovery of hydrogen.

The History of Atmospheric
Science
• English chemist
Joseph Priestley
discovered
oxygen in 1774.

Historical Background
1820s:
Joseph
Fourier
postulated
that
some
of
the
gases
in
the
atmosphere must
trap heat.

Historical Background
John Tyndall was a
prominent
Irish
physicist in the 19th
century.
Beginning in the late
1850s,
Tyndall
studied the action of
radiant energy on
the constituents of
air.

Historical Background
• John Tyndall found out that gases like
water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide CO2
and CH4 could trap heat rays in the Earth’s
atmosphere.

Historical Background
• Svante
August
Arrhenius was a
Swedish scientist
from
Stockholm,
who won a Nobel
Prize in chemistry
in 1903.

Historical Background
1890s:
Svante Arrhenius completed a numerical
experiment, which suggested that cutting
the amount of carbon dioxide-CO2 in the
Earth’s atmosphere by half could lower the
temperature in Europe by some 4-5oC.
This lowering was sufficient for an ice age.

Historical Background
Arvid Gustaf Högbom
was also a Swedish
scientist.
Arrhenius discussed his
findings
with
Högbom, who was
working on carbon
cycles
through
natural geochemical
processes.

Historical Background
Arvid Högbom calculated the amounts of CO2
emitted by factories and other industrial
sources.
He found out that the added gas through
human activities was not much compared
with the amount of CO2 already present in
the Earth’s atmosphere.

Historical Background
1890s:
Svante Arrhenius made another calculation for
doubling the CO2 in the atmosphere, and
estimated that this increase would raise the
Earth’s temperature some 5-6oC.
Svante Arrhenius further estimated that if
industry continued to burn fuel at the 1890s
rate (1896 to be exact), it would take perhaps
about 3000 years for the CO2 level to double.

Historical Background
Högbom doubted it would ever rise that much.
Another highly respected scientist, Walter
Nernst, even fantasized about setting fire to
useless coal seams in order to release
enough CO2 to deliberately warm the Earth's
climate.
Walther Hermann Nernst was a German
physical chemist and physicist, who won the
1920 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

Historical Background
Knut Johan Ångström
was
a
Swedish
physicist and he was
the son of physicist
Andres
Jonas
Angström.
He devoted himself to
investigations of the
radiation of heat from
the
sun
and
its
absorption
by
the
Earth's atmosphere.

Historical Background
Another blow came from Knut Angström, who
conducted experiments in order to show that
CO2 absorbed radiation only in specific
bands of the spectrum so that more gas
would make little difference.

Historical Background
Water vapour, which is more abundant in the
atmosphere than CO2, intercepts infrared
radiation....
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