Author Topic: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.  (Read 3616 times)

Offline x4000

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Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« on: January 21, 2015, 01:39:11 PM »
Hey guys, I'm trying to get my science right and there are a lot of science-minded folks here.  So I thought I'd discuss some things with you regarding temperature manipulation on a planet (in a sci-fi sense).

First of all, I'm going to say that I'm taking some liberties to begin with, because for purposes of atmospheric competition I have to ignore the effect of greenhouses on global temperature.  That seems like a big oversight, but realistically it's something that could be compensated for via plant life fluctuation, ocean currents, volcanic activity, etc.  Even something a simple as the daisyworld idea.  So if we're talking about a sentient planet here, let's assume that it has ways of keeping its temperature within the range it wants regardless of greenhouse gasses.

Okay, oops, but now we have a problem.  The planet has some natural temperature fluctuations to begin with, and that's fine.  But now I need sources of cooling and heating that simply cannot be compensated for via the measures I've mentioned above.  That's fine, I've been thinking of those methods for a while anyway.

This planet is out on its own, and is quite large.  So the only two sources of heat for it (that I can think of) are its own core, and the heat from its sun.  It wouldn't have any Europa-style heat being generated by gravitational forces with a nearby planetary body or anything like that.

So, let's talk about the ways we could mess with the sun -- without putting anything into orbit, mind you, so no soletta arrays:
1. The main thing I can think of is volcanic activity that thrusts ash into the air.  That's something that physically blocks light, and thus causes a loss of temperature that can't be compensated for by the planet in any way that I can think of.  Or at least, given sufficient ash in the atmosphere, the planet would consistently lose ground temperature-wise.  So that's cooling.
2. How on earth would we cause more heat to either reach the planet from the sun, or remain in the atmosphere as energy that does not escape, though?  Greenhouse gasses would be the normal answer, but if we're saying that can be compensated for, I'm not sure there's a good answer here.  And if there's not, that's okay, I planned for that possibility.

So now let's talk about the planet's core.  How can we mess with THAT to adjust temperature?  This I'm a lot less sure about.  I have some really half-baked ideas, but the goal would be to have basically underground structures that we could use to drill way down and cause heating or cooling.

Thoughts?
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2015, 02:28:23 PM »
Good question.
I wish I had a good answer.

Only thing I can think of I'm stealing from Isaac Azimov.  In one of the Robot books there was a guy who figured out what made Earth unique and due to the waning interest in humanity for colonizing the stars, came up with a way to force people to leave Earth:  Set the natural (and unusually high) uranium in the crust on nuclear fire.

At low levels it would produce a gradual increase in the amount of harmful radiation and increase the surface temperature.  At high levels it would incinerate everyone quickly enough that they couldn't evacuate (still talking "years" worth of time, just fast enough that the exodus ships couldn't be constructed in time).

But under controlled circumstances I could see it as a regulation measure for the planet's inhabitants.  Crank it up if it's too cold.  Sure the planet's sentient, but we're talking about subverting its own "bio"logy against it to do what WE want.

Offline x4000

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2015, 02:29:59 PM »
Oh, I love that!  That's a super clever way to handle that, thanks. :D
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Offline steelwing

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2015, 02:53:56 PM »
Hey guys, I'm trying to get my science right and there are a lot of science-minded folks here.  So I thought I'd discuss some things with you regarding temperature manipulation on a planet (in a sci-fi sense).

First of all, I'm going to say that I'm taking some liberties to begin with, because for purposes of atmospheric competition I have to ignore the effect of greenhouses on global temperature.  That seems like a big oversight, but realistically it's something that could be compensated for via plant life fluctuation, ocean currents, volcanic activity, etc.  Even something a simple as the daisyworld idea.  So if we're talking about a sentient planet here, let's assume that it has ways of keeping its temperature within the range it wants regardless of greenhouse gasses.

Okay, oops, but now we have a problem.  The planet has some natural temperature fluctuations to begin with, and that's fine.  But now I need sources of cooling and heating that simply cannot be compensated for via the measures I've mentioned above.  That's fine, I've been thinking of those methods for a while anyway.

This planet is out on its own, and is quite large.  So the only two sources of heat for it (that I can think of) are its own core, and the heat from its sun.  It wouldn't have any Europa-style heat being generated by gravitational forces with a nearby planetary body or anything like that.

So, let's talk about the ways we could mess with the sun -- without putting anything into orbit, mind you, so no soletta arrays:
1. The main thing I can think of is volcanic activity that thrusts ash into the air.  That's something that physically blocks light, and thus causes a loss of temperature that can't be compensated for by the planet in any way that I can think of.  Or at least, given sufficient ash in the atmosphere, the planet would consistently lose ground temperature-wise.  So that's cooling.
2. How on earth would we cause more heat to either reach the planet from the sun, or remain in the atmosphere as energy that does not escape, though?  Greenhouse gasses would be the normal answer, but if we're saying that can be compensated for, I'm not sure there's a good answer here.  And if there's not, that's okay, I planned for that possibility.

So now let's talk about the planet's core.  How can we mess with THAT to adjust temperature?  This I'm a lot less sure about.  I have some really half-baked ideas, but the goal would be to have basically underground structures that we could use to drill way down and cause heating or cooling.

Thoughts?
Re:  Greenhouse gases - Those can be compensated for, but what if the level of such gases being generated outpaced what could be compensated for?  Or is that making things to complex for implementation?
Re:  The planet's core - The "simplest" solution is seismic activity.  To really mess with that, you need gravitational sources strong enough to do something to the planet.  We're talking moons and other planets.  Gravitational theory also posits that you could use a coherent beam of gravitons (commonly called a "graser"), but that would be something "man"-made and would take highly-advanced technology.

Offline topper

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2015, 03:21:35 PM »
So now let's talk about the planet's core.  How can we mess with THAT to adjust temperature?  This I'm a lot less sure about.  I have some really half-baked ideas, but the goal would be to have basically underground structures that we could use to drill way down and cause heating or cooling.

Changing the strength of the planet's magnetic field will allow more/less solar radiation to reach the surface. Another effect of a reduced magnetic field could be the solar wind stripping off of the ozone layer which protects the planet from harmful quantities of ultraviolet radiation.

This could possibly be accomplished by generating geomagnetic storms from the surface, or by slowing the rotation of the molten core of the planet and reducing the geodynamo effect.

The second option could trigger a counter mission to send a drilling team to the core of the planet to detonate nuclear devices to restart the core's rotation.  :P

Offline x4000

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2015, 04:38:39 PM »
Ah, very cool ideas!  I had not thought about the magnetic field for whatever reason.  If that were stripped away, would the atmosphere start to gradually leak out into space as well as more radiation coming in?  You mentioned the ozone layer, but I thought that part of the reason Mars is unable to have much atmosphere is because it also has no magnetic field.  I am fuzzy on the specifics, it's been a while since I've read about that.  Despite just having read (and loved) The Martian.

Setting the natural uranium on fire is a really intriguing concept, too.  I also need a really good way of letting the player race decide to irreversibly destroy the planet, and going with more creatively plausible options than just "lots of bombs" would be really fun.  It's not something I have started researching yet at all, actually, but ideas along those lines are very interesting.

The graser is also really fascinating -- and the fact that it would be man-made is ideal, because for purposes of the player race and the computer races, they would be using man-made machines to bring about these various effects.  How exactly the planet compensates for what they are doing is something that... I don't know.  Maybe I should make that explicit in the game, too, I'm not sure.

The greenhouse gases are something that aren't too complicated to do the math for -- usually the math for something like that is fairly straightforward when we're talking a simulated approximation.  The problem is that ideally I'd like for these systems to be decoupled for gameplay purposes.  BUT.  Based on what is being noted here, it's actually striking me that making these all loosely coupled would be far more interesting.

So, let's think about this in terms of what the races can do:
1. They can create artificial surface volcanos or volcanic vents to increase ash in the atmosphere, blocking out the sun.
2. They are already competing on atmospheric mix, and some of the mixes are more greenhouse-based than others.
3. They could mess with the magnetic field in a couple of ways mentioned.
4. They could start massive underground uranium fires.
5. They could use a graser to trigger deep seismic activity that would... do what exactly?  Affect the core's rotation, thus leading to those geomagnetic storms?
6. ??

In terms of what the sentient planet is doing during all of this in order to try to maintain its own equilibrium temperature range (it doesn't care about atmospheric mix):
1. Presumably it needs to be able to adjust its own core's spin, albeit slowly, in order to mess with magnetism?
2. Presumably it can also modify the amount of ash in the air by either venting or not-venting ash into the atmosphere?
3. Any clever ideas on things it could do with the grasslands and/or deserts and/or snowy areas that would change heat loss or retention to compensate for atmospheric mix?  That could be represented visually and would be really cool to show, actually.  I'm thinking like popping out increasing numbers of light flowers or similar.  Daisyworld is pretty simple, though...
4. Presumably it can do some sort of seismic activity intentionally, deep or otherwise.
5. I suppose it could do tricks similar to the uranium burning as well, but how it would stop that process I have no idea.
6. ??


I always love talking with you guys -- you come up with such crazy clever stuff!  The atmospheric mix is already implemented, and the effects of the temperature fluctuations are, as well.  But now I'm envisioning adding in not just ways to manage the temperature, but also a view where you can see what the planet itself is doing in order to mess with that.

Very very fun. :)  Though I will say that I'm still lost on some of the specifics here in terms of what I can plausibly get away with in some of these areas.  Further thoughts very welcome, heh.
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Offline topper

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2015, 06:00:57 PM »
Ah, very cool ideas!  I had not thought about the magnetic field for whatever reason.  If that were stripped away, would the atmosphere start to gradually leak out into space as well as more radiation coming in?  You mentioned the ozone layer, but I thought that part of the reason Mars is unable to have much atmosphere is because it also has no magnetic field.  I am fuzzy on the specifics, it's been a while since I've read about that.  Despite just having read (and loved) The Martian.

-snip-

5. They could use a graser to trigger deep seismic activity that would... do what exactly?  Affect the core's rotation, thus leading to those geomagnetic storms?
6. ??

Let me preface that I am no expert on this subject, but here is my understanding:
The magnetic field is responsible for deflecting charged particles in the solar wind. These same particle in the solar wind would be otherwise interact with other charged atmospheric particles and carry them away from earth (picture spraying a dirty object with a hose).

One of these important charged particles in the atmosphere is ozone O3. The Ozone layer is a very important since:
Quote
The ozone layer absorbs 97–99% of the Sun's medium-frequency ultraviolet light (from about 200 nm to 315 nm wavelength), which otherwise would potentially damage exposed life forms near the surface
from wikipedia.

Less magnetic shielding would possibly lead to:
a) more uv radiation hitting the surface (and possible surface heating)
b) eventual loss of atmosphere density

Offline mrhanman

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2015, 12:25:02 AM »
Ah, very cool ideas!  I had not thought about the magnetic field for whatever reason.  If that were stripped away, would the atmosphere start to gradually leak out into space as well as more radiation coming in?  You mentioned the ozone layer, but I thought that part of the reason Mars is unable to have much atmosphere is because it also has no magnetic field.  I am fuzzy on the specifics, it's been a while since I've read about that.

Yep, that's pretty close.  Mars' core cooled over time, stopping its magnetic field.  Over more time, the solar wind stripped away the atmosphere leaving us with the freezing, hellish desert planet we all know and love.

To heat the world in-game, maybe the planet could cause black or dark colored plant-life to grow densely the world over, causing it to absorb more solar energy.  Conversely, white plant-life would reflect solar energy back out to space, kind of like the Snowball Earth Theory.  I think it would take a lot to make an appreciable difference, though.

Regionally, the temperature could be altered by modifying the wind patterns.  Either bringing in more tropical or arctic air, depending on the effect required.

Quote
Despite just having read (and loved) The Martian.

I just finished this, too.  It was such an enjoyable read I could hardly put it down and finished it in two days.  I'm not excited to see how Hollywood and Matt Damon ruin the movie later this year.

Offline steelwing

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2015, 08:29:14 AM »
So, let's think about this in terms of what the races can do:
1. They can create artificial surface volcanos or volcanic vents to increase ash in the atmosphere, blocking out the sun.
2. They are already competing on atmospheric mix, and some of the mixes are more greenhouse-based than others.
3. They could mess with the magnetic field in a couple of ways mentioned.
4. They could start massive underground uranium fires.
5. They could use a graser to trigger deep seismic activity that would... do what exactly?  Affect the core's rotation, thus leading to those geomagnetic storms?
6. ??
As others have said, I'm fuzzy about what exactly would happen at the geological level.  The main thing that would happen is to alter the tidal stresses on the planet the way our moon does for Earth.  That leads to tectonic shifts in the planet's plates.  Depending on the severity or violence of the shift, we're talking the following possibilities:
  • Earth/Seaquakes
  • Volcanoes
  • Tsunamis, if the seaquakes are strong enough
  • And of course, the geomagnetic disturbances you already mentioned
If there are multiple grasers in action (at least 4), the competing sources of tidal stress could make things really interesting.  Start with volcanic fissures, fresh lava flows, and let your imagination run wild. ;)

Quote
In terms of what the sentient planet is doing during all of this in order to try to maintain its own equilibrium temperature range (it doesn't care about atmospheric mix):
1. Presumably it needs to be able to adjust its own core's spin, albeit slowly, in order to mess with magnetism?
2. Presumably it can also modify the amount of ash in the air by either venting or not-venting ash into the atmosphere?
3. Any clever ideas on things it could do with the grasslands and/or deserts and/or snowy areas that would change heat loss or retention to compensate for atmospheric mix?  That could be represented visually and would be really cool to show, actually.  I'm thinking like popping out increasing numbers of light flowers or similar.  Daisyworld is pretty simple, though...
4. Presumably it can do some sort of seismic activity intentionally, deep or otherwise.
5. I suppose it could do tricks similar to the uranium burning as well, but how it would stop that process I have no idea.
6. ??
O.O Sentient planet?  Are we talking a planet-spanning intelligence borne by local plant/animal life (a la SMAC), or a planet that fully thinks for itself (a la REUS)?  Either way, there's a lot of cool possibilities.  :D
I'm not sure how it could make itself spin faster, but it can sure manage its own volcanoes and other seismic activity.  It can also control moisture levels in any given part itself, making one area dryer and another more wet.  Changes in moisture lead to changes in climate.  If it can control its own spin, that alters climatological patterns, also.

Quote
I always love talking with you guys -- you come up with such crazy clever stuff!  The atmospheric mix is already implemented, and the effects of the temperature fluctuations are, as well.  But now I'm envisioning adding in not just ways to manage the temperature, but also a view where you can see what the planet itself is doing in order to mess with that.

Very very fun. :)  Though I will say that I'm still lost on some of the specifics here in terms of what I can plausibly get away with in some of these areas.  Further thoughts very welcome, heh.
It's awesome having these kinds of conversations with fellow geeks. :D

Offline Ganimed

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2015, 05:41:23 PM »
Earth's temperature variations are primarily a consequence of its axial tilt and its distance from the Sun. However, they are compensated by huge amounts of water because it can absorb a lot of heat and store it for a long time. There are several ways the atmospheric temperature could be changed, but they are all either very energy expansive or time consuming. However, if we presume these obstacles could be surmounted there are a number of options. A race could build huge engines which could alter the planets path around the star or build big boilers which would heat up the oceans. Apart from that I'm not sure how much more a planet's inhabitant could do in a reasonable amount of time.

Offline topper

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #10 on: January 23, 2015, 10:29:22 PM »
Ooh, how about this one:

The planet could jettison mass out into space to change the orbital radius from the sun.  :o

Offline relmz32

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2015, 07:18:44 AM »
Ooh, how about this one:

The planet could jettison mass out into space to change the orbital radius from the sun.  :o

yeah, like the other enemy races.
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Offline DrFranknfurter

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2015, 10:40:00 AM »
I think wikipedia has some interesting and relevant pages. Since changing the planet temperature requires changing radiation the obvious answers are changing the albedo of the land and the sea. But on the Terraforming of Venus page:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraforming_of_Venus
There is discussion of the potential for floating cities to reflect solar radiation back into space (and for them to be built out of carbon), for hydrogen to be used to turn the thick clouds of carbon dioxide into nice water oceans and carbon ... and there's mention of just how much energy would be required to change planetary rotation speed (orders of magnitude greater than trying to blast away the atmosphere with 2000 700km long asteroids impacting at 20km/s... so not really practical if you want an intact planet sometime in the next million years.

There is also discussion on using ammonia, hydocarbons, carbon dioxide and fluorine containing CFCs as greenhouse gasses on Mars for increasing temperatures.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terraforming_of_Mars

To combine both ideas:
Reflective cities that focus a coherent, continuous beam of light on interstellar objects, gently changing their trajectories. Required trace elements would then be delivered via rapid (scheduled) disassembly over uncolonised land and sea. Or, if it's the planet that's doing it... rapid unscheduled disassembly of cities. 

Personally I quite like the idea of different interactions between life and the planet. So generating or withholding water would be interesting. If the planet really hates you then the water levels could mysteriously start to drop. Locked away in minerals, trapped in deep cavities, underground lakes and oceans. (if it's the core of the planet that is alive). Or the water could become tainted with pollutants making it difficult to use (poisoning catalysts or people) while simultaneously altering the albedo of the oceans.
e.g.
The rivers run red with blooms of Pyrrophyta, equipment begins to rust and degrade. As they die they turn black and release countless years of stored carbon biomass into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and an oily sludge settles on the surface of the sea. Simultaneously changing increasing greenhouse gasses, decreases albedo, availability of food and of safe drinking water. (increases CO2, decreases albedo, decreases food output globally)
 
The rivers run green with acidobacteria previously common in the soil but now, suddenly hyper-active and corrosive. More than just carbon dioxide dissolves into the water as they feed on inorganic minerals and draw energy from every available source. The soil begins to glitter with a billion tiny reflective crystals and glassy beads float on a sea the thickness and colour of pea soup. (lowers CO2, increases albedo, lowers mineral resource outputs)

A milky white fungal mat creeps over rivers and mountains, heralding the coming snowfall. I just like the idea of a milky river pouring out to sea, with a ground surface that looks a little like this:
But I'd say it's a single living fungal organism with a central source of energy. So the fungal terrain would spread outwards from a fungal tower, white to cool, black to heat - can be fought with biological weapons or attacked at the tower. Stop it before it releases spores.

Offline Cinth

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2015, 06:40:57 AM »
Altering the planet's axis of rotation can also have an interesting effect on the climate.  Just think about what would happen should the north pole be pointed directly at the sun (one hemisphere in constant daylight). 
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Offline Shrugging Khan

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Re: Science Discussion: Heating and Cooling A Planet.
« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2015, 05:50:06 AM »
North Pole directly at the sun?
I guess it comes down to the atmospheric conditions, the thickness of the ice, and the overall temperature of the planet.
Could result in either

a) All that white reflects the light, cooling global climate.
b) The ice cap melting, causing a negligible rise in sea level.

But really, if you have the power to just tilt the planet any way you like, then what are you even doing it for? That kind of power could easily solve any economic or military issues.
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