The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming
The temperature of the earth’s atmosphere depends on the balance between the amount of energy the planet absorbs from the sun (mainly as high-energy ultraviolet radiation) and the amount of energy radiated back into space as lower-energy infrared radiation. Key components of temperature regulation are carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and other greenhouse gases so named because, like the glass panes in a greenhouse, they let through visible light from the sun but trap some of the resulting infrared radiation and re-radiate it back to the earth’s surface. This reradiation causes a buildup of heat that raises the temperature of the lower atmosphere, a natural process known as the greenhouse effect. Without it, the atmosphere would be far cooler and much more hostile to life.
The Greenhouse Effect and Global Warming Photo Gallery
Smog tends to form over cities because of geographical features and because of the tremendous amount of motor vehicle exhaust in the air.
There is scientific consensus that human activity is causing global warming, or climate change. The concentration of greenhouse gases is increasing because of human activity, especially the combustion of fossil fuels (Table 15.1). Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased rapidly in recent decades. The use of fossil fuels pumps more than 20 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. Experts believe carbon dioxide may account for about 60% of the greenhouse effect. Analysis of ice core samples shows that carbon dioxide levels are now about 25% higher
Global warming An increase in the earths TERMS atmospheric temperature when averaged across seasons and geographical regions; also called climate change, ozone layer A layer of ozone molecules (O3) in the upper atmosphere that screens out UV rays from the sun, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) Chemicals used as spray-can propellants, refrigerants, and industrial solvents, implicated in the destruction of the ozone layer.
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