Fuels and Earth Science: The Greenhouse Effect

Fuels and Earth Science: The Greenhouse Effect

  • The Greenhouse Effect is a natural process where certain gases in the Earth’s atmosphere trap heat, preventing it from escaping out into space, thus maintaining the Earth’s overall temperature.

  • This process is vital for life on Earth because it maintains the planet’s temperature at a level suitable for human, animal, and plant life.

  • The main gases responsible for the Greenhouse Effect are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and water vapour (H2O).

  • Energy from the Sun arrives as short-wave radiation. Much of this energy is absorbed by the Earth’s surface and warms it.

  • Some of the energy is absorbed by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere while some is reflected back out into space.

  • The absorbed energy is then emitted from the Earth as long-wave radiation. But long-wave radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases, which then re-emit the energy in all directions, including back towards Earth.

  • This absorption, re-emission, and scattering warms up the Earth’s surface and lower atmosphere.

  • Human activities have been adding to the concentration of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These activities include burning fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas.

  • This addition of greenhouse gases exacerbates the greenhouse effect, leading to an overall increase in the Earth’s temperature, a phenomenon known as global warming.

  • The increased temperature disrupts weather patterns and causes changes in climatic conditions worldwide, resulting in more extreme weather events.

  • Ways to reduce the contribution to the Greenhouse Effect by humans include using renewable sources of energy instead of burning fossil fuels. These include solar, wind, geothermal or nuclear energy.

  • Another strategy is improving energy efficiency, so less energy is wasted and needs to be produced. This includes things like insulating homes and using energy-saving light bulbs.

  • Planting trees can help to remove some of the excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, since trees absorb carbon dioxide for photosynthesis.