Greenhouse effect

Posted: 22 August 2000

The cause of global warming. Incoming solar radiation is transmitted by the atmosphere to the Earth's surface, which it warms. The energy is retransmitted as thermal radiation, but some of it is absorbed by molecules of greenhouse gases instead of being retransmitted out to space, causing the temperature of the atmosphere to rise. The name comes from the ability of greenhouse glass to transmit incoming solar radiation but retain some of the outgoing thermal radiation to warm the interior of the greenhouse. The 'natural' greenhouse effect is due to the greenhouse gases present for natural reasons, and is also observed for the neighbouring planets in the solar system. The 'enhanced' greenhouse effect is the added effect caused by the greenhouse gases present in the atmosphere due to human activities, such as burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.