This post and the posts linked to it through section headers together form a primer on infrared spectroscopy and how it relates to global warming. The purpose of the primer is not be to convince skeptics that global warming is real, but rather to explain some of the terms and issues being discussed in climate science. My goal is not to write a super technical explanation of infrared spectroscopy. That's been done so many times that it is hardly worth doing again.
Rather, my intent is to write something that clearly describes infrared spectroscopy and relates it to global warming that tries to explain some fairly technical concepts in reasonably plain language. As such there is an inevitable loss of fidelity about some of the fine points of infrared spectroscopy. Anyone interested in such detail can follow some of the sources that I will provide. At some point one has to compromise between accessibility and technical accuracy. I hope that the choices made in this primer are helpful to some people trying to understand this topic. This post is an outline of the topics addressed in the linked entries.
What is Infrared Radiation (IR)?
This first post starts with the basics. It discusses the electromagnetic spectrum and where infrared radiation fits into it. It discusses waves and their measures. It introduces the idea of electric dipole radiation. It discusses the units of radiation wavelength, frequency. It ends by discussing photons and energy quantization.
Infrared Radiation, Black-bodies, and temperature
This post starts the process of looking at the interaction between infrared radiation and matter and discusses black-bodies and the relationship between temperature and infrared radiation. It discusses the relationship between temperature and wavelength for an ideal black-body. It discusses the fact that black-bodies both absorb and emit radiation and the relationship between what they absorb and what they emit. It also discusses the relationship between real bodies and ideal black-bodies.
Molecules and Radiation I: Molecular Structure
This post starts the discussion of why gas phase molecules absorb and emit infrared radiation. It introduces some of the considerations for molecules to interact with radiation and analyzes the degrees of freedom of a molecule. It introduces the Born-Oppenheimer approximation that allows for the separation of electronic and nuclear degrees of freedom.
Molecules and Radiation II: Molecular Vibration, Rotation, and Translation
This post looks at the nuclear degrees of freedom of a molecule and some of their implications for IR spectroscopy. It also looks at the number of vibrational modes in a molecule and starts to discuss the nature of those modes.
Molecules and Radiation III: Vibration, Dipoles, and Ro-Vibrational Spectra
This post looks at why certain molecules such as HCl and carbon dioxide absorb IR, whereas other molecules such as nitrogen do not. It discusses the quantum harmonic oscillator, zero-point energy, energy quantization, selection rules, and the breakdown of the harmonic approximation. It discusses HCl and its IR spectrum.
The Infrared Spectra of Molecules of Interest
This post shows how to use and access the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) database of infrared spectra. It examines the infrared spectra of CO2, N2O, H2O, O3, and CH4
This post examines the question of how much radiation is absorbed by gas phase molecules in a laboratory setting, how much radiation is transmitted through a gas cell in such a setting, and what it means to saturate the absorption in this context. It introduces the idea that the atmosphere is very different than a laboratory gas cell.
A Note On Saturation of the Carbon Dioxide 15-micron Band
This post looks more deeply at the single-layer model and the saturation of the 15-micron band of carbon dioxide.
A Two-Layer Model
The previous post discusses the issue of saturation in the 14-micron band of carbon dioxide in a single-layer model. The post before that discusses Beer's Law, and is a necessary prerequisite to understanding this post. This post looks at what happens when the source of infrared radiation is relatively close in temperature to the the molecules absorbing the radiation, introduces a two-layer model, the concept of brightness temperature, and starts the discussion of radiative transfer.
A Three-Layer Model
This post expands the notion of a two-layer model to a three-layer model. It continues the introduction to radiative transfer and discusses temperature and density effects on the transmittance.
Structure of the Atmosphere
From the previous post it should be apparent that one needs to include an understanding of the structure of the atmosphere to understand radiative transfer through the atmosphere. This post provide a summary of the structure of the atmosphere. It is intended to be a quick introduction, rather than a detailed treatise. Some of the sources listed go into more detail for the interested reader.This overview of the structure of the atmosphere is needed to understand radiative transfer.
A Multi-Layer Model of Carbon Dioxide
I have put together a simple multi-layer model of carbon dioxide in the troposphere. It is based upon the same principles as the two-layer model and the three-layer model. It accounts for the temperature and pressure profiles from previous post and it is part of a primer on infrared spectroscopy and global warming. Just like those other models there are still caveats; this model is intended to be illustrative of concepts and therefore it is conceptually simple.
This post introduces the reader to the concept of radiative transfer and radiative transfer models.
At this point, I hope, that the reader is in a position to understand some of the basics of global warming with respect to the absorption of infrared radiation by carbon dioxide and other gases. I will be able to refer back to these posts in future posts discussing the topic.