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Global Warming And The Greenhouse Effect

1803 words - 7 pages

Global Warming is due to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring process that aids in
heating the Earth's surface and atmosphere. It results from the fact
that certain atmospheric gases, such as carbon dioxide, water vapor,
and methane, are able to change the energy balance of the planet by
being able to absorb longwave radiation from the Earth's surface.
Without the greenhouse effect, life on this planet would probably not
exist as the average temperature of the Earth would be a chilly -18
degrees Celsius, rather than the present 15 degrees Celsius.

As energy from the sun passes through the atmosphere a number of
things take place. A portion of the energy (26 % globally) is
reflected back to space by clouds and particles. About 19 % of the
energy available is absorbed by clouds, gases (like ozone), and
particles in the atmosphere. Of the remaining 55 % of the solar energy
passing through the Earth's atmosphere, 4 % is reflected from the
surface back to space. On average about 51 % of the sun's radiation
reaches the surface. This energy is then used in number of processes
including: the heating of the ground surface; the melting of ice and
snow and the evaporation of water; and plant photosynthesis.

The heating of the ground by sunlight causes the Earth's surface to
become a radiator of energy in the longwave band (sometimes called
infrared radiation). This emission of energy is generally directed to
space. However, only a small portion of this energy actually makes it
back to space. A few naturally occurring atmospheric gases known as
the greenhouse gases absorb the majority of the outgoing infrared
radiation. Absorption of this energy causes additional heat energy to
be added to the Earth's atmospheric system. The now warmer atmospheric
greenhouse gas molecules begin radiating longwave energy in all
directions. Over 90 % of this emission of longwave energy is directed
back to the Earth's surface where it once again is absorbed by the
surface. The heating of the ground by the longwave radiation causes
the ground surface to once again radiate repeating the cycle described
above, again and again, until no more longwave is available for

The amount of heat energy added to the atmosphere by the greenhouse
effect is controlled by the concentration of greenhouse gases in the
Earth's atmosphere. All of the major greenhouse gases have increased
in concentration since the beginning of the industrial revolution
(about 1700 A.D.). As a result of these higher concentrations,
scientists predict that the greenhouse effect will be enhanced and the
Earth's climate will become warmer. Predicting the amount of warming
is accomplished by computer modeling. Computer models suggest that a
doubling of the concentration of the main greenhouse gas, carbon

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