Does the “fireplace-brick effect” contribute to global warming?

A lay-person wondering out loud….

By Jerry A. Boggs | April 18, 2009

Our destiny?

…[D]uring the 20th century the Earth’s global average surface temperature rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.

Most climatologists seem to agree that at least the bulk of that increase stems from the carbon dioxide generated by the world’s rapidly growing, CO2-spewing industrial complex.

Disagreements abound, including the one claiming that a peak in sun spots has warmed the oceans, which in turn have released more CO2.

But I wonder if one possible cause of global warming has been overlooked. Consider: Weather reports regularly state, “Today’s high 90 degrees. Cooler outside the city.”

“Cooler outside the city” — how many times have we heard that? If we drive from the city to the countryside, we immediately notice the cooler air. That’s because we left an area that not only is less treed but also is heated up by countless black-topped roads and parking lots (which retain about 90 percent of the sun’s infrared emissions), office buildings and homes, and myriad other brick-or-concrete structures covering more and more of the earth’s surface  – all of which store heat from the sun and, like fireplace bricks, re-radiate it out into the surrounding area.



No doubt much if not most of the “fireplace-brick” heat re-radiated by sun-warmed structures escapes into space. But I suspect a lot of it may be trapped in the troposphere by green-house gases and is helping warm the earth overall, or at least helping warm the more populated land masses where many and maybe the majority of the temperature measurements are taken.

Since 100 years ago, when the earth was cooler by 1.4 F degrees, humans have added perhaps billions of more structures that in addition to displacing an unfathomable number of CO2-absorbing, oxygen-producing trees (thereby upsetting the CO2-oxygen ratio), equate to possibly millions of square miles of heat-absorbing/re-radiating surfaces. Hence these questions:

How much of the man-made structures’ and roads’ re-radiated heat (coupled with the heat of billions of engines — never mind their emissions — that didn’t exist a century ago) has contributed to earth’s one-degree temperature rise?

How much of that re-radiated heat becomes trapped in our atmosphere by increased CO2?

Use in Brick Fireplace Effect

Could white paint cool the earth down? Homes of the future — painted white to prevent heat absorption and re-radiation?

President Barack Obama’s cap and trade program, aimed at curbing CO2 emissions, will be very expensive, as columnist Jeff Jacoby points out using Obama’s own words. Before we implement this program, shouldn’t these two questions and other similar ones be debated openly by climatologists? Unfortunately, the President, like global-warming activist Al Gore and the mainstream liberal media, believes the debate is over.


UPDATE April 7, 2010: The fireplace-brick effect is supported in the section “Urban Heat” of “A Superstorm for Global Warming Research.” The article should appeal to reasonable people on both sides of the issue.

See also this, published March 30, 2015: “Urbanization Can Heat a Place as Much as Climate Change” Instead of calling it the fireplace-brick effect, the writer dubs it the “urban heat island effect.” The piece supports my thesis written six years earlier.


About relevantmatters

I do research and writing about issues that are relevant to our lives -- such as politics, peace, health care, climate change, and advice to young people. For relief, I offer a few short fiction pieces.
This entry was posted in Climate Change and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s