Thermodynamics and Energy


A Natural Brake on Global Warming?

Authors: Colin Bruce Jack

It is possible that a negative feedback cycle is responsible for the recent global warming ‘pause’ and will delay further warming for centuries.
The only necessary assumption is that organisms with access to a free source of energy will take advantage of it. These are poikilothermic animals which migrate vertically across the ocean thermocline. The change in body temperature which results can be used to generate energy for the animal’s use, using internal chemical mechanisms whose efficiency is limited by the Carnot cycle.
Even a small rise in surface temperature greatly increases the energy available to such animals, and will tend to increase their numbers and activity. A thermodynamically inevitable consequence is that increasing quantities of heat energy will be pumped down into the mid-depths, as is already observed to be happening.[1]
Confirmation of the effect would support Jeremy England’s hypothesis[2] that life tends to dissipate energy available from the environment at the highest possible rate. At the ecosystem level, an event such as a jellyfish bloom could be described as the available biomass reorganising itself from forms which perform modest vertical transport of heat, fish which carry ~2 kg of water per kg dry weight as they migrate, to forms which perform far more: jellyfish which carry up to 20 kg of water per kg dry weight internally, and can drag even larger quantities externally.

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[v1] 2015-02-03 09:33:43

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