Greenhouse gases regulate our climate by trapping heat from the sun and holding it in a kind of
warm air blanket that surrounds the earth. Without it out planet would be colder by 54F, way too
cold to sustain our ecosystem.
Greenhouse gases trap some of the infrared radiation that escapes from the Earth,
making the Earth warmer that it would otherwise be. Greenhouse gases act as a "blanket" for
infrared radiation; it keeps the lower layers of the atmosphere warmer and the
upper layers colder than if the greenhouse gases were not there.
The "natural" greenhouse effect keeps the Earth's climate warm and habitable. About 80-90% of
the Earth's natural greenhouse effect is due to water vapor, a strong greenhouse gas. The
remainder is due to carbon dioxide, methane, and a few other minor gases.
There is also the "man-made" greenhouse effect, which is the enhancement of Earth's natural greenhouse effect by the addition of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels (mainly
petroleum, coal, and natural gas).
An increase in the concentration of greenhouse gases leads to an increase in the magnitude of
the greenhouse effect. This is referred to as the enhanced greenhouse effect. The problem with
the greenhouse effect is when human activities distort and accelerate the natural process by
creating more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
It is the carbon dioxide concentration that is increasing, due to the burning of fossil fuels
(as well as from some rainforest burning). This is the man-made portion of the greenhouse
effect, and it is believed by many scientists to be responsible for the global warming of the last
Also, the concentration of methane, although small, has also increased in recent decades. The
reasons for this increase, though, are uncertain.
Based on the following article, http://www.weatherquestions.com/. Photos care of http://www.bigskyco2.org/, http://www.realscience.org.uk/ and http://www.chemhume.co.uk/
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