Greenhouse Effect

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•  The warmed Earth emits longer wavelength radiation (heat)

•  Longer wave radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases that retain the heat in the atmosphere

The greenhouse effect is a natural process whereby the atmosphere behaves like a greenhouse to trap and retain heat

  • This ensures the Earth maintains the moderate temperatures needed by organisms to maintain life processes (homeostasis)
  • Without a greenhouse effect, Earth’s temperatures would drop significantly at night in the absence of direct sunlight

How the Greenhouse Effect Works

The greenhouse effect functions to trap heat within the atmosphere and hence prevent rapid temperature fluctuations

  • Incoming radiation from the sun is shorter wave radiation (ultraviolet radiation and the visible spectrum)
  • The surface of the Earth absorbs short wave radiation and re-emits it at a longer wavelength (i.e. infra-red / heat)
  • Greenhouse gases absorb and re-radiate this longer wave radiation and hence retain the heat within the atmosphere

The Greenhouse Effect

greenhouse effect