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Mechanism of Greenhouse Effect

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The basic mechanism can be qualified in a number of ways, none of which affect the fundamental process. The atmosphere near the surface is largely opaque to thermal radiation (with important exceptions for “window” bands), and most heat loss from the surface is by sensible heat and latent heat transport. Radiative energy losses become increasingly important higher in the atmosphere, largely because of the decreasing concentration of water vapor, an important greenhouse gas. It is more realistic to think of the greenhouse effect as applying to a “surface” in the mid-troposphere, which is effectively coupled to the surface by a lapse rate. The simple picture also assumes a steady state, but in the real world, there are variations due to the diurnal cycle as well as the seasonal cycle and weather disturbances. Solar heating only applies during daytime. During the night, the atmosphere cools somewhat, but not greatly, because its emissivity is low. Diurnal temperature changes decrease with height in the atmosphere.

Within the region where radiative effects are important, the description given by the idealized greenhouse model becomes realistic. Earth’s surface, warmed to a temperature around 255 K, radiates long-wavelength, infrared heat in the range of 4–100 μm. At these wavelengths, greenhouse gases that were largely transparent to incoming solar radiation are more absorbent. Each layer of atmosphere with greenhouses gases absorbs some of the heat being radiated upwards from lower layers. It reradiates in all directions, both upwards and downwards; in equilibrium (by definition) the same amount as it has absorbed. This results in more warmth below. Increasing the concentration of the gases increases the amount of absorption and reradiation, and thereby further warms the layers and ultimately the surface below.

Greenhouse gases—including most diatomic gases with two different atoms (such as carbon monoxide, CO) and all gases with three or more atoms—are able to absorb and emit infrared radiation. Though more than 99% of the dry atmosphere is IR transparent (because the main constituents—N2, O2, and Ar—are not able to directly absorb or emit infrared radiation), intermolecular collisions cause the energy absorbed and emitted by the greenhouse gases to be shared with the other, non-IR-active, gases.

The greenhouse effect is the process by which radiation from a planet’s atmosphere warms the planet’s surface to a temperature above what it would be without its atmosphere. Earth’s natural greenhouse effect is critical to supporting life. Human activities, mainly the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests, have strengthened the greenhouse effect and caused global warming.

The term “greenhouse effect” arose from a faulty analogy with the effect of sunlight passing through glass and warming a greenhouse. The way a greenhouse retains heat is fundamentally different, as a greenhouse works mostly by reducing airflow so that warm air is kept inside.

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Mechanism of Greenhouse Effect. (2019, January 28). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 1, 2023, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/mechanism-of-green-house-effect/
“Mechanism of Greenhouse Effect.” GradesFixer, 28 Jan. 2019, gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/mechanism-of-green-house-effect/
Mechanism of Greenhouse Effect. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/mechanism-of-green-house-effect/> [Accessed 1 Feb. 2023].
Mechanism of Greenhouse Effect [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2019 Jan 28 [cited 2023 Feb 1]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/mechanism-of-green-house-effect/
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