Apr 19, · The greenhouse effect is a process that occurs when gases in Earth's atmosphere trap the Sun's heat. This process makes Earth much warmer than it would be without an atmosphere. The greenhouse effect is one of the things that makes Earth a comfortable place to live. As you might expect from the name. How do greenhouse gases affect the climate? Explore the atmosphere during the ice age and today. What happens when you add clouds? Change the greenhouse gas concentration and see how the temperature changes. Then compare to the effect of glass panes. Zoom in and see how light interacts with molecules. Do all atmospheric gases contribute to the greenhouse effect?
Larry West is an award-winning environmental journalist and writer. He won the Edward J. Meeman Award for Environmental Reporting. The greenhouse effect often gets a bad rap because of its association with global warmingbut the truth is we couldn't live without it.
Life on earth depends on energy iss the sun. About 30 percent of the sunlight that beams toward Earth is deflected by the outer atmosphere and scattered back into space. The rest reaches how to cook chinese tofu planet's surface and is reflected upward again as a type of slow-moving energy called infrared radiation. The heat caused by infrared radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, ozone, and methane, which slows its escape from the atmosphere.
Although greenhouse gases make up only about 1 percent of the Earth's atmosphere, they regulate our wbat by trapping heat and holding it in a kind of warm-air blanket that surrounds the planet. This phenomenon is what scientists call the greenhouse effect. Without greenhowe, scientists estimate that the average temperature on Earth would be colder by approximately 30 degrees Celsius 54 degrees Fahrenheitfar too cold to sustain most of our current ecosystems.
While the greenhouse effect is an essential environmental prerequisite for life on Earth, there really can be too much of a good thing.
The problems begin when human activities distort and accelerate the natural process by creating more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than are necessary to warm the planet to an ideal temperature. Ultimately, more efcect gases mean more infrared radiation trapped and held, which gradually increases the temperature of the Earth's surfacethe air in the lower carpet wool or nylon what is best, and ocean waters.
Today, the increase in the Earth's temperature is increasing with unprecedented speed. To understand just how quickly global warming is accelerating, consider this:. Scientists agree that even small increases in the global temperature lead to significant climate and weather changes, affecting cloud cover, precipitation, wind patterns, the f requency and severity of stormsand teh timing of seasons.
Currently, carbon dioxide accounts for more than 60 percent of the enhanced greenhouse effect caused by the increase of greenhosw gases, and the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing by more than 10 percent every 20 years.
If emissions of carbon dioxide continue to grow at current rates, then the level of the gas in the atmosphere will likely double, or possibly even triple, from pre-industrial levels during the 21st century. According to the Erfect Nations, some climate change is already inevitable because of emissions that have occurred since the dawn of the Industrial Age. As a result, etfect warming will continue to affect life on Earth for hundreds of years, even if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced and the us in atmospheric levels halted.
To lessen those long-term effects, many nations, communities, and individuals are taking action now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming by reducing dependence on fossil fuels, increasing the use of renewable energyexpanding forests, and making lifestyle choices that help to sustain whqt environment.
Whether they will be able to recruit enough people to join them, and whether their combined efforts will be enough to head off the most serious effects of global warming, are open questions that can whaf be answered by geeenhose developments. Edited by Frederic Beaudry. Actively scan device characteristics for identification. Use precise geolocation data. Select personalised content. Create a personalised content profile. Measure ad performance.
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Energy in, energy out
The greenhouse effect causes some of this energy to be waylaid in the atmosphere, absorbed and released by greenhouse gases. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth’s temperature would be below freezing. It is, in part, a natural process. However, Earth’s greenhouse effect is getting stronger as we add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Greenhouse effect, a warming of Earth’s surface and troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere) caused by the presence of water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and certain other gases in the air. Of those gases, known as greenhouse gases, water vapor has the largest effect. Greenhouse effect definition, an atmospheric heating phenomenon, caused by short-wave solar radiation being readily transmitted inward through the earth's atmosphere but longer-wavelength heat radiation less readily transmitted outward, owing to its absorption by atmospheric carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and other gases; thus, the rising level of carbon dioxide is viewed with concern.
While other planets in Earth's solar system are either scorching hot or bitterly cold, Earth's surface has relatively mild, stable temperatures. Earth enjoys these temperatures because of its atmosphere, which is the thin layer of gases that cloak and protect the planet.
However, 97 percent of climate scientists agree that humans have changed Earth's atmosphere in dramatic ways over the past two centuries, resulting in global warming. To understand global warming, it's first necessary to become familiar with the greenhouse effect, though. There's a delicate balancing act occurring every day all across the Earth, involving the radiation the planet receives from space and the radiation that's reflected back out to space.
Earth is constantly bombarded with enormous amounts of radiation, primarily from the sun. This solar radiation strikes the Earth's atmosphere in the form of visible light, plus ultraviolet UV , infrared IR and other types of radiation that are invisible to the human eye. UV radiation has a shorter wavelength and a higher energy level than visible light, while IR radiation has a longer wavelength and a weaker energy level.
About 30 percent of the radiation striking Earth's atmosphere is immediately reflected back out to space by clouds, ice, snow, sand and other reflective surfaces, according to NASA. The remaining 70 percent of incoming solar radiation is absorbed by the oceans, the land and the atmosphere. As they heat up, the oceans, land and atmosphere release heat in the form of IR thermal radiation, which passes out of the atmosphere and into space.
It's this equilibrium of incoming and outgoing radiation that makes the Earth habitable, with an average temperature of about 59 degrees Fahrenheit 15 degrees Celsius , according to NASA. Without this atmospheric equilibrium, Earth would be as cold and lifeless as its moon, or as blazing hot as Venus.
The moon , which has almost no atmosphere, is about minus F minus C on its dark side. Venus, on the other hand, has a very dense atmosphere that traps solar radiation; the average temperature on Venus is about F C. The exchange of incoming and outgoing radiation that warms the Earth is often referred to as the greenhouse effect because a greenhouse works in much the same way.
Incoming UV radiation easily passes through the glass walls of a greenhouse and is absorbed by the plants and hard surfaces inside. Weaker IR radiation, however, has difficulty passing through the glass walls and is trapped inside, thus warming the greenhouse. This effect lets tropical plants thrive inside a greenhouse, even during a cold winter. A similar phenomenon takes place in a car parked outside on a cold, sunny day. Incoming solar radiation warms the car's interior, but outgoing thermal radiation is trapped inside the car's closed windows.
These type of gas molecules are called greenhouse gases," Michael Daley, an associate professor of Environmental Science at Lasell College told Live Science. Carbon dioxide CO 2 and other greenhouse gases act like a blanket, absorbing IR radiation and preventing it from escaping into outer space. The net effect is the gradual heating of Earth's atmosphere and surface, a process known as global warming. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the early s, the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gasoline have greatly increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, especially CO 2 , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA.
Atmospheric CO 2 levels have increased by more than 40 percent since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, from about parts per million ppm in the s to ppm today. The last time Earth's atmospheric levels of CO 2 reached ppm was during the Pliocene Epoch, between 5 million and 3 million years ago, according to the University of California, San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The greenhouse effect, combined with increasing levels of greenhouse gases and the resulting global warming, is expected to have profound implications, according to the near-universal consensus of scientists.
If global warming continues unchecked, it will cause significant climate change, a rise in sea levels, increasing ocean acidification, extreme weather events and other severe natural and societal impacts, according to NASA, the EPA and other scientific and governmental bodies. There are those that say that gases are not the cause of global warming, though that goes against the opinion of the global scientific community.
Many scientists agree that the damage to the Earth's atmosphere and climate is past the point of no return or that the damage is near the point of no return. In Werne's opinion, there are three options from this point forward:. Keith Peterman, a professor of chemistry at York College of Pennsylvania, and Gregory Foy, an associate professor of chemistry at York College of Pennsylvania, think that the damage isn't to that point yet, and that international agreements and action can save the planet's atmosphere.
Currently, some scientists are investigating how to re-engineer the atmosphere to reverse global warming. Geoengineering Is Easier Said Than Done ] "You remove the water vapor, you remove the humidity and you prevent the normal cirrus cloud formation," Lohmann said.
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