The Greenhouse Effect The greenhouse effect is an increase in the atmospheric temperature caused by increasing amounts of greenhouse gases. These gases act as a heat blanket insulating the Earth’s surface absorbing and trapping heat radiation which normally escapes from the earth. They include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, CFC’s, and other halocarbons. The earth’s atmosphere goes through two processes constantly. Global cooling is the first process. This process uses the clouds which cover 60% of the earth’s surface to reflect 30% of the solar radiation. It also uses a sulfate haze, which is formed by sulfur dioxide from industrial sources that enter the atmosphere and react with compounds to form a high-level aerosol. These cool the atmosphere by blocking us from direct contact with the sun. The reflection of the sunlight is referred to as planetary albedo and contributes to the overall cooling. The second is the warming process. This is when light energy comes through the atmosphere and is absorbed by Earth and transformed to heat energy at the planet’s surface. The infrared heat energy then radiates upward into space. There the greenhouse gases found naturally in the troposphere absorb some of the infrared radiation. The gases insulate the Earth, but do eventually allow the heat to escape. Without these greenhouse gases the earth would be would 33 C colder. Global temperature is a balance of the effects of the factors leading to global cooling, and warming. Unfortunately, increased emissions of greenhouse gases increase the warming process. For example, every kilogram of fossil fuels burned equals 3 kilograms of carbon dioxide ( the mass triples because each carbon atom in fuel bond to two oxygen atoms, in the course of burning, and forms C02. ) 6 billion tons of fossil fuel carbon are burned each year adding 18 billion tons of C02 to the atmosphere. This has increase the …
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