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Absorption: Consequences

The absorption coefficient, a.

The colors of things and how we perceive the world.

Atmospheric and tissue absorption and transmission.

Absorption Coefficient and Refractive Index

index Absorption
n1 coefficient

Ne2 Ne2 0
a N n 1
2 0c0 me (0 )2 2 4 0 me (0 ) 2 2
Different atoms have different resonance
frequencies, 0, and widths, .

spectra of cold
atomic gases in
front of a hot
(white) source.

Higher-Resolution Visible
Solar Absorption Spectrum
The dark regions below represent absorption
due to cooler elements on the surface of the

wavelength The suns spectrum measured using an echelle spectrograph

Molecules have a higher density of states
than atoms and so have much more
complex absorption spectra.
Due to the finite width of absorptions, these levels can overlap.

2nd excited
Actually, its not correct to
electronic state
broaden a single level;
its really each pair of

levels that broadens.

1st excited
electronic state

In any case, a batch of

identical molecules can
be highly absorbing
Ground over a large spectral
electronic state
What determines the color of an object?
The wavelengths that are not absorbed will be reflected, transmitted,
and/or scattered into our eyes and will be the colors that we see.

filters These
transmit filters
(that is, transmit
dont two color
absorb) regions
only one (a yellow
color filter
region transmits
(red, red and
green, green)
or blue)
Why are most plants
Chlorophyll absorbs in the
red and blue, and hence
reflects in the green.

Colocasia Esculenta Black Magic

It would seem that leaves

should be black in order to
more efficiently absorb all of
the suns light spectrum.
Materials that are transparent in the IR
can be opaque in the visible.

IR Lenses

And materials that are opaque in the visible are often transparent in
the IR. (You can try this at home with your IR remote control!)
By choosing a high-
power laser that is
absorbed by a
material, we can
laser-weld or cut.

Here, a CO2 laser, which lases

at 10.6 mm, cuts metal.

Laser surgery works on the

same principle.
Waters Absorption Distance vs. Wavelength
Penetration depth into water vs. wavelength
Penetration depth into water (1/a)

1 km
Water is clear in the

IR UV visible, but not
1m elsewhere.

1 mm
Notice that the
penetration depth varies
by over ten orders of
1 m magnitude!

1 km 1m 1 mm 1 m 1 nm
Measuring Lake Purity

Measure the absorption

vs. depth using reflection
off a white disk lowered
into the lake.

Illuminating a Water Droplet with Different
Water droplet

Visible Light passes through droplet;

no energy is absorbed.
Nothing happens to droplet.

Excited region Light is absorbed in

several microns.
Water is vaporized,
2.78-m light Vapor yielding massive
(ErCr:YSGG): droplet acceleration
in the forward

Laser-accelerated region
water vaporizes
Expansion accelerates
droplets rest used by dentists to
are now being
cut teeth! and expands rapidly.
of droplet forward rapidly.
Absorption Spectrum of Human Tissue


650nm 1.3mm
The Absorption of Glass
High-transmission (i.e., non-absorbing) ranges for various glasses:

UV Visible IR

Its difficult to find transparent materials below 100nm and above 70mm.
Telecom laser
Absorption in Optical Fibers wavelength ranges

OH absorption

UV absorption Mid-IR absorption wing

wing and

This is why optical telecommunications occur at ~1550nm.


Absorbance (a z )
Because hemoglobin (Hb) has
very different absorption spectra
with and without oxygen,
oximeters can use absorption
to measure the oxygen content
of blood. Wavelength

These devices use

the ratio of light
transmission at two
wavelengths (660 and

They also measure

pulse rates.
Sunlight Reaching Earths Surface
Absorption Spectrum of Air
Air consists of many molecules that are non-absorbing in the visible,
but which can absorb very strongly elsewhere.

I(z) = I(0) exp(a z) Attenuation = I(z)/I(0) = exp(a z)

log(Attenuation) = a z Absorbance Optical density

Note the large variation in attenuation, i.e., absorption!

Also, note that ozone (O3) is the dominant absorber in the UV.
Why the Sun is Much Brighter at Noon
and in the Summer Atmosphere
Because the intensity decays
exponentially with distance, the
longer the path through the
atmosphere, the weaker the
light when it reaches the
Suns rays
Suns ray q
L L/cos(q)
Atmosphere Isurface = Ispace exp(aLray)
Earth = Ispace exp[aL/cos(q)]

Atlantas latitude is ~ 33.5, and earths axis tilts by 23.5, so at noon

qsummer10 (0) and qwinter 57, a factor of ~ 2 difference in path length.
If 1/10th of, say, UVB reaches us at noon in summer, 1/100th does in winter.
The Greenhouse Effect
Visible IR
The greenhouse effect occurs because
windows are transparent in the visible,
but absorbing in the IR, where the
ground re-emits after absorbing a visible Energy levels of dirt
photon. and other stuff on the
earths surface

IR light is
absorbed by the
glass, so much
of its energy is
trapped by the
can remain
quite warm
even in
The Greenhouse Effect in The same is true of
the Earths Atmosphere the atmosphere.

Greenhouse gases
are transparent in the
visible, but absorbing
in the IR:
carbon dioxide
water vapor
nitrous oxide
methane (20CO2)

Methane, emitted by microbes called methanogens, kept the early

earth warm.
Why CO2 is a Serious Greenhouse Gas

Sun Earth

Note the rather large CO2 absorption at the peak of the earths
emitted radiation.
Out-of-Control Greenhouse Effect on Venus

Venus sees twice the sun intensity we

see, and its atmosphere is 97% CO2. Its
surface temperature is 460C. Its clouds
are made of water and sulfuric acid.
How are temperature and CO2
concentrations measured on earth?
Earths current blackbody emission indicates its current temperature.
And air can easily be sampled to measure the current CO2

For past temperatures, we

use tree-ring widths, coral growth,
isotope variations in ice cores,
ocean and lake sediments, cave
deposits, fossils, ice cores, and
glacier lengths.
And for past CO2 levels, air
bubbles in ice and amber can be 84-million-year-old air bubble
dated and sampled. in amber
Projected 2040 CO2 level, if no action is taken
Historical Temperature and CO2 Levels

Current CO2 level

Just as it takes a few hours for the greenhouse effect to warm your car
on a hot day, it takes ~100 years for it to warm the atmosphere.
Global Warming on Earth
Is the sun causing global warming?
Some global-warming skeptics claim that the sun is getting brighter,
and that is causing the observed warming.

Around 1700
the sun seems
to have dimmed
a bit, causing the
Little Ice Age.

But its variations

are currently
less than 0.1%.

The sun is not getting brighter. Even if it were, adding greenhouse

gases to the atmosphere would only make things worse.
Contributions to Earths Atmospheric
Greenhouse Effect

About 75% of the

annual increase
in atmospheric
carbon dioxide is
due to the
burning of fossil

The remaining
25% is attributed
to changes in
land use,
reducing the net
uptake of CO2.
Evidence for Global Warming: Its hotter.
All major global surface
temperature studies show
that Earth has warmed
~1C since 1880.

Most of this warming has

occurred since the 1970s, with
the 20 warmest years having
occurred since 1981.

All 10 of the warmest years

occurred in the past 12 years.

Even though the 2000s witnessed a solar output decline, resulting

in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, earths surface
temperatures continue to increase.
Evidence for Global Warming: Its

Evidence for Global Warming: Actually,
its much hotter.

And since
March 2016,
every month
has set a new
record for the
temperature in
for Global

Since 1950, the number of record high temperature events in the

United States has been increasing, while the number of record low
temperature events has been decreasing.
Evidence for Global Warming: Ocean

The oceans have

absorbed much of this
increased heat, with the
top 700 meters (about
2,300 feet) of ocean
showing warming (in
2012) of 0.302 degrees
Fahrenheit since 1969.
Evidence for Global Warming: More
Precipitation Warmer oceans mean more
evaporation and hence more rain.

The U.S. has also witnessed increasing numbers of intense rainfall

eventsdue to more evaporation from oceans.

Because, in
places, its not
yet warm
enough for
to exceed
freezing, this
means more
Evidence for Glaciers are retreating almost
Global everywhere around the world:
the Alps, Himalayas, Andes,
Warming: Rockies, Alaska, Antarctica,
Glacial Retreat and Africa.

Feb 1993 Feb 2000

The disappearing snowcap of Mount Kilimanjaro.
Evidence for Global Warming:
Declining Arctic and Antarctic Sea Ice
Both the extent and thickness Antarctica lost >152 cubic km
of Arctic sea ice has declined of ice between 2002 and 2005.
rapidly over the last several

Iceberg the size of Rhode Island breaking

The new Northwest Passage
off from Antarctica (seen from space).
Evidence for Global
Warming: Shrinking The Greenland ice
Greenland Ice sheets have also
decreased significantly
Sheets in mass.

Data from NASA's

Gravity Recovery and
Climate Experiment
show Greenland lost
150 to 250 cubic
kilometers of ice per
year between 2002 and
Evidence for Global
Warming: Ocean-Level
Global sea level rose about
17 centimeters (6.7) in the
20th century.
The Republic of Maldives

The annual rate from

2000 to 2010 is double
At the current rate, the
Republic of Maldives (in
the Indian Ocean, south
of India) will be under-
water in a few decades.
Mal, Capital of the Maldives
Global-Warming Conse- The rate of sea-
level rise is
quences: Sea-Level Rise increasing rapidly.

Scoundrels argue
that its been
warm before.
True; ~100 million
years agolong
before humans.

But if it warms as
much again, all
the worlds
glaciers will melt,
yielding 70m of
sea-level rise.
Sea-Level Rise in the Southeastern USA

After just 4m of sea-level rise, Miami would become a prime scuba-diving site.
Eastern USA, Canada, Consequences of
and the Caribbean
70m of Sea-Level

New York City in the Worst-Case Scenario
Global-Warming Consequences: Many
parasitic species have moved north or
are no longer
each winter
by cold.
The mountain pine beetle
has destroyed billions of
trees in British Columbia
and the western USA.

Over 300 other destructive species are already known to be migrating

in this manner. They include: the deer tick, the fire ant, poison ivy,
cheat-grass (which causes wildfires), and the Asian tiger mosquito.
its not

No, it
is our
The scientific community is in complete
agreement on global warming.
And they still are.
Politicians, however, feel differently.
Most Democrats support the science of climate change.
But the majority of Republicans do not.

Republican senators and congressmen



January 2014
The Current Chairman of the US Senate
Environment & Public Works

James Inhofe, senator from Oklahoma

Inhofe's largest campaign donors Inhofes book that proves

have been the oil and gas and that global warming is a
electric utilities. hoax.
Rooftop Solar Panels in the USA

The state of Georgia is one of the worst states in the USA in

encouraging the installation of solar panels on roofs.
How Warming Data Are Misinterpreted
for Less Than Honorable Reasons
Why do many people deny the existence
of global warming when its science is
simple and well accepted by scientists?
Many people are involved in industries
that will be badly hurt by measures that
will need to be taken to avert global
warming (e.g., oil companies).

Many people ascribe to religions that

cannot accept that humankind could
do such damage to the earth.

While the science is simple, it is still

not simple enough for many people.

Unscrupulous politicians and radio and

TV personalities amplify these effects.
Albedo is another name for
the reflectivity of a substance.
Its the ratio of the reflected light reflected
and the incident light. Albedo
light incident

Note the huge

between water
and snow!
Snowball If most of the
earths surface is
Earth snow, the earth
will cool further.
Potentially a Snowball eras
believe that the
earth became a

Millions of years ago

giant snowball
about 650 million
years ago.
And on
occasions, too!

As more ice melts,

the earths albedo will
decrease, adding to
the warming rate.
This is also a
runaway process, but
in the other direction. Methane hydrate looks like snow.

Worse, as the earth warms, massive amounts of methane hydrate in

oceans and permafrost will sublimate from solid to gas phase (at 0-
15C at high pressure) and enter the atmosphere.
Methane is ~20 times worse a greenhouse gas than CO2. This is
happening now.
Consequences of Global Warming

Except for the nuclear

radiation and the
timescale of the events,
the long-term effects of
global warming are
comparable to an all-out
nuclear war.

Ironically, the aerosols released in an actual nuclear war would

reflect sunlight into space and hence cool the earth. It has been
argued that a small regional nuclear war could compensate for
the effects of global warming. However, additional consequences
of such a war are so dire that no sane person would propose this
as a solution to global warming.
Proposed Solutions to Global Warming
Alternative energy sources, like solar, wind, hydrothermal, and
nuclear power. While more expensive than oil, their cost is small
compared, for example, to the Iraq War (>$3 trillion).
Electric cars, recharged by alternative energy sources.
In all cases, the government must play a much greater role.

In a decade or two, it will be too late.

How to undo the damage already

CO2 scrubbers
White paint
Geo-engineering ideas (a bit crazy).
What You Can do to Prevent Disastrous
Global Warming on Earth
Vote for government officials who plan to do something about it.
Vote for government officials who support better education.
While government action is the only
solution, you can help a bit:
Dont have kids. Less people means less CO2.
Purchase a solar panel for your home.
Conserve energy in your daily life.
Purchase local stuff.
Plant trees.
Spread the word.

And dont fall for scams! There

is no such thing as clean coal.
The worst mass extinction in earths
history was likely due to global warming.

The Great Dying

250 million years ago, >90% of
earths species went extinct.
Why? Most likely, massive
volcanic eruptions occurring for
one million years at the Siberian
Traps spewed out huge amounts
of CO2, warming the earth by 5C.
This then caused methane
hydrates on the ocean floor to
sublimate into the atmosphere,
causing another 5C warming.
Thus began the age of the dinosaurs.
The danger of CO2
from fossil fuels
has been known
for a long time.

Note the date!

Exxon-Mobil has been aware

of the problem since the
Going Down With the Ship
The Last Word