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Thread: A Climate Question

  1. #1 A Climate Question 
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    Hi Everyone,

    My name is Adrian and I am a writer from Melbourne Australia. I am writing a post-apocalyptic novel set after the destruction of civilisation via energy based weapons fired from orbiting defence satellites.

    Now my question is, if such a thing was to occur, how would such an amount of heat (thing hundreds of satellites in a network) affect the planet's climate? Would the planet slip into a glacial age or would it recover quite quickly? Could human life survive? What are the general effects of such an occurance?

    I apologise if this thread is in the wrong section of the site. It seemed like the correct location.

    Thank you kindly,

    Adrian.


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    Just based on energy input it probably wouldn't do anything. There's more energy released in a single hurricane than our entire nuke arsenal.

    So ask yourself instead of heat, what secondary effects would foul up the natural processes. For example a nuke war would put lots of dust into the high atmosphere and that would act to block solar input for months if not longer.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Just based on energy input it probably wouldn't do anything. There's more energy released in a single hurricane than our entire nuke arsenal.

    So ask yourself instead of heat, what secondary effects would foul up the natural processes. For example a nuke war would put lots of dust into the high atmosphere and that would act to block solar input for months if not longer.
    Thank you for your reply Lynx_Fox. I am trying to avoid the whole nuclear holocaust thing and the satellite weapons are more in line with the themes I am writing about.

    So there are no climate changing affects with such a weapon. Is it possible for that kind of weapon to cut into the crust? Would it be deep?

    Thanks again,

    Andrew
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    The ground is a pretty good insulator so in order to vaporize a trench in the crust you would need a huge amount of energy, especially if you were doing it from space. You would need less energy to melt the ground however it would still be a considerable amount. If you are looking for a global change you might be able to get away with smoke, dust and debris from destroyed man made objects. Another thing that may be possible is water vapour or melting ice on a large scale.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkhorse
    The ground is a pretty good insulator so in order to vaporize a trench in the crust you would need a huge amount of energy, especially if you were doing it from space. You would need less energy to melt the ground however it would still be a considerable amount. If you are looking for a global change you might be able to get away with smoke, dust and debris from destroyed man made objects. Another thing that may be possible is water vapour or melting ice on a large scale.
    Thanks Darkhorse, that was very insightful.

    The way I imagine the satellite weapons is that they are solar powered, storing the energy and then can be fired, followed by a a cooldown period and a recharge period. If anyone has ever played Command and Conquer (this is getting real geeky now, but I love it ;P ), think of the particle cannon thingy that the Allies/GDI have. So there are a lot of these things in space and they are used as a doomsday device for Mutual Assured Destruction.

    So the aim is to wipeout 95% of the human race, but there is still a habitable planet left after for the remnants of the species to survive, thus my inquisition into how this kind of weapon could affect the planet.

    Dust and debris is obviously something that will happen. How long would it take for dust and debris to settle? Obviously it depends on many factors but plausable estimate for a science fiction novel would be 50 years? 100?

    If heat is an issue, albeit less significant than I originally thought, would the polar caps melt/water vaporise if only land was targeted? Would there be much landmass left if the polar caps melted?

    I am going to be a bit of a pain asking many questions of you guys, so I thank you in advance for all your comments.

    Adrian :)
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    Hey Adrian, sounds like an interesting context for a story you got there!

    Have you considered that such high-energy weapons might create poisonous amounts of ozone (O3) at the Earth's surface, causing severe, lethal, respiratory illness in most humans and animals?

    Sounds like a good way to destroy life to me...
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    Quote Originally Posted by tenderheart bear
    Hey Adrian, sounds like an interesting context for a story you got there!

    Have you considered that such high-energy weapons might create poisonous amounts of ozone (O3) at the Earth's surface, causing severe, lethal, respiratory illness in most humans and animals?

    Sounds like a good way to destroy life to me...
    Now that is just awesome! Well... maybe not in real life, but still... Thanks Bear.

    Is there any chance that life could survive on the planet or would it all be completely wiped out? No people, no story. Would plant life survive?

    Also, how long would it take for the ozone to recede?

    Thanks again,

    Adrian :)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajax83

    Dust and debris is obviously something that will happen. How long would it take for dust and debris to settle? Obviously it depends on many factors but plausable estimate for a science fiction novel would be 50 years? 100?
    Most of the dust and ash will clear in months to a few years.

    A possibility for your storm are city firestorms from the lasers. Large city firestorms almost take a life of their own create their own weather conditions and can put ash into the stratosphere.

    Think about the secondary effects of a high suspended ash for months. It could potentially devastate the ecosystems with massive die off of forest, crops, and other plants, and of course the animals that depend on them--including humans.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Most of the dust and ash will clear in months to a few years.

    A possibility for your storm are city firestorms from the lasers. Large city firestorms almost take a life of their own create their own weather conditions and can put ash into the stratosphere.

    Think about the secondary effects of a high suspended ash for months. It could potentially devastate the ecosystems with massive die off of forest, crops, and other plants, and of course the animals that depend on them--including humans.
    So there really is no chance that enough life would survive so that I can write a believable post-apocalyptic story?

    My problem is that there has to be a plausable way that life would continue even after the end of the world. The only thing I can think of is people surviving in underground valuts, but then I would be breeching copyright, not to mention I would just be a hack that is ripping someone else off.
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    If your novel is about the people after the apocalypse you don't need to dwell on the technicalities of the apocalypse itself. Have you read The Road by Cormac McCarthy? Or The Chrysalids by John Wyndham? The cause of the devastation is never explained. You only need the lasers and firestorms if you plan on it being turned into a bad movie with Bruce Willis.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    If your novel is about the people after the apocalypse you don't need to dwell on the technicalities of the apocalypse itself. Have you read The Road by Cormac McCarthy? Or The Chrysalids by John Wyndham? The cause of the devastation is never explained. You only need the lasers and firestorms if you plan on it being turned into a bad movie with Bruce Willis.
    I have read both of those novels. Very good tales, love'em.

    I just want to make sure that I don't inadvertently wipe out the entire species. Also, the satellites are important later in the story. Call it doing my due diligence.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajax83
    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Most of the dust and ash will clear in months to a few years.

    A possibility for your storm are city firestorms from the lasers. Large city firestorms almost take a life of their own create their own weather conditions and can put ash into the stratosphere.

    Think about the secondary effects of a high suspended ash for months. It could potentially devastate the ecosystems with massive die off of forest, crops, and other plants, and of course the animals that depend on them--including humans.
    So there really is no chance that enough life would survive so that I can write a believable post-apocalyptic story?

    My problem is that there has to be a plausable way that life would continue even after the end of the world. The only thing I can think of is people surviving in underground valuts, but then I would be breeching copyright, not to mention I would just be a hack that is ripping someone else off.
    Ow I think we'd survive alright. Can goods for a couple years until the skies cleared than start over with seed etc. Those already food stressed before the war would perish, those in the cities would be killed in the war. You'd get a trashed planet without the radiation aspects--no real reason to shelter underground. You could get that "mad-max" rather than "fallout 3." You have a lot of options.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    Ow I think we'd survive alright. Can goods for a couple years until the skies cleared than start over with seed etc. Those already food stressed before the war would perish, those in the cities would be killed in the war. You'd get a trashed planet without the radiation aspects--no real reason to shelter underground. You could get that "mad-max" rather than "fallout 3." You have a lot of options.
    So from a science perspective it would be believable to say that 90% of the human race was annihilated during the war because of these weapons, but 500 years later humans are reclaiming the planet but it's still trashed as you say?
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    If (even hundreds) of sattelites were to bring down a C&C particle cannon like weapon to massive cities there would no doubt be heavy casualties, but by no means would I expect the human race to go extint.

    Targetting huge natural buffers would probably have a more catastrophic effect on life in generel I think.
    Imagine that instead of half the western cities burning down, giant forrests would burn down changing the atmosphere for an immense period of time and taking away one of the few buffers against global warming we have left.
    Imagine that the polar icecaps were to be structurally impaired due to sattelites drilling holes in them. oceanic currents would most likely change in case of such a drastic event, disregulating ocean life with all it's consequences.
    Imagine targetting nuclear power plants with your weapons and having the consequent fallout do the actual damage to human life for ya.
    Hitting biochemical research facilities, nuclear arsenals, ammunition storages for armys. That kind of stuff

    I don't think the sattelites themselves could really hurt humanity to a point where we'd go extint (or nearly extint).
    The secondary effects like the fallout I mentioned could prove to be a different story.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajax83
    Also, the satellites are important later in the story.
    but 500 years later humans are reclaiming the planet
    How many satellites would remain in orbit after 500 years?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by Ajax83
    Also, the satellites are important later in the story.
    but 500 years later humans are reclaiming the planet
    How many satellites would remain in orbit after 500 years?
    Is that a rhetorical question?
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    It's' a valid question. Most military satellites are in relatively low earth orbit and would slow down from drag with the upper atmosphere and crash from orbit in only a few decades.

    Those in geosynchronous orbit stand a chance to last that long because they are above the atmosphere. Non would still be geosynchronous after that long, some would be orbiting faster and closer, while others would be further out.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox
    It's' a valid question. Most military satellites are in relatively low earth orbit and would slow down from drag with the upper atmosphere and crash from orbit in only a few decades.

    Those in geosynchronous orbit stand a chance to last that long because they are above the atmosphere. Non would still be geosynchronous after that long, some would be orbiting faster and closer, while others would be further out.
    To give you a time frame, the apocalypse happens around the year 2500 and the story is set around 500 years after that.

    There is only one satellite ithat is used in the story, so I guess it could be plausable to build a satellite that stay in orbit for that long. Maybe it has stablising engines that keep its orbit from decaying.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ajax83
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by Ajax83
    Also, the satellites are important later in the story.
    but 500 years later humans are reclaiming the planet
    How many satellites would remain in orbit after 500 years?
    Is that a rhetorical question?
    It was not rhetorical at all. You said you are doing due diligence. That is the kind of obvious question we ask when we do due diligence for engineering projects.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by Ajax83
    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    Quote Originally Posted by Ajax83
    Also, the satellites are important later in the story.
    but 500 years later humans are reclaiming the planet
    How many satellites would remain in orbit after 500 years?
    Is that a rhetorical question?
    It was not rhetorical at all. You said you are doing due diligence. That is the kind of obvious question we ask when we do due diligence for engineering projects.
    Yeah, sorry about that. I realised it only after Lynx mentioned that military satellites have a lower orbit that decays after a decade or so.

    The idea is one satellite that has a far more destructive capability than the others. It would probably be bigger, made of more sturdy materials and maybe higher in orbit so it would not plummet to the earth (is that possible?).

    I've come to realise that the satellites are probably not the main cause of planetary devastation, but was probably one of many contributing factors that would include nuclear arms.

    I have heard that you can destroy a nuclear missile with explosives and it would not detonate the plutonium core. Is this true?
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    500 years into the future who knows what the technology will be? Could Leonardo have imagined nuclear weapons? To my mind by thinking in terms of lasers and nuclear missiles as being the arsenal of 2500 AD you are creating an improbable scenario right from the start which will strain credibility and would turn me off as a reader, for one. This is one reason I suggested emphasizing the post-apocalyptic people rather than the technology.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunbury
    500 years into the future who knows what the technology will be? Could Leonardo have imagined nuclear weapons? To my mind by thinking in terms of lasers and nuclear missiles as being the arsenal of 2500 AD you are creating an improbable scenario right from the start which will strain credibility and would turn me off as a reader, for one. This is one reason I suggested emphasizing the post-apocalyptic people rather than the technology.
    The story is always about the people, it has to be otherwise it will never be published. However, some of the adventure elements require technology and I am trying to make it probable. 2500 AD is a little far off and I see your point.

    Thank you all. You have given me much to think about. Please feel free to add any comments you might think are helpful. I will be posting again after I have taken some time to work some of the details out.

    Adrian Jax :)
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