finding out about… greenhouse the effect
Heat from the sun shines onto the Earth.
Short-wave solar radiation passes through the greenhouse gases, heats the earth and is re-radiated back into space as long-wave infra red – some of this is absorbed by the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. It passes through a blanket of gases in our atmosphere.
Some of the heat energy is reflected back into space.
Some of the heat energy gets absorbed by the blanket of gases.
The ‘greenhouse’ gases are essential to life on Earth
The ‘greenhouse’ gases are essential to life on Earth. Without them heat energy would escape back into space. Earth would be a very chilly place with an average temperature of -18°C ! Greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour and carbon dioxide.
The gases work a bit like glass in a greenhouse to trap in warmth.
The greenhouse gases help to keep the temperature of the earth in balance. This process is called the GREENHOUSE EFFECT. The gases work a bit like glass in a greenhouse to trap in warmth. But the earth is getting warmer and warmer. WHY? The greenhouse effect works a bit like the glass in a greenhouse to trap in warmth. The key difference, however, is that the glass ‘traps’ in the heated air, while the greenhouse gases ‘absorb’ radiation.
Human activities are creating more greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, CO2.
As we burn more fossil fuels, for example, the blanket of greenhouse gases becomes thicker. Examples of fossil fuels – oil, coal, gas. Human activities, such as burning more fossil fuels or cutting down forests, increase the ‘concentration’ of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.
More greenhouse gases in the atmosphere mean that more heat energy is absorbed.
We call this increase in the temperature of the earth ‘global warming’.
Think about ways that you could reduce your carbon footprint and be part of the climate-change solution! Eleven of the last twelve years have been the hottest since records started in 1858. Eleven of the last twelve years have been the hottest since records started in 1858. (The Royal Society, Climate Change controversies: a simple guide available at (accessed June 2007))
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