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Greenhouse gases

 

On earth, two elements, nitrogen () and oxygen (), make up almost 99% of the volume of clean, dry air. Most of the remaining 1% is accounted for by the inert gaseous element, argon (Ar). Argon and the tiny percentage of remaining gases are referred to as trace gases.

Certain trace atmospheric gases help to heat up our planet because they appear transparent to incoming visible (shortwave) light but act as a barrier to outgoing infrared (longwave) radiation. These special trace gases are often referred to as "greenhouse gases" because a scientist in the early 19th century suggested that they function much like the glass plates found on a greenhouse used for growing plants.

The earth's atmosphere is composed of gases (for example, and ) of just the right types and in just the right amounts to warm the earth to temperatures suitable for life. The effect of the atmosphere to trap heat is the true "greenhouse effect."

We can evaluate the effect of greenhouse gases by comparing Earth with its nearest planetary neighbors, Venus and Mars. These planets either have too much greenhouse effect or too little to be able to sustain life as we know it. The differences between the three planets have been termed the "Goldilocks Principle" (Venus is too hot, Mars is too cold, but Earth is just right). http://www.ucar.edu/learn/1_1_2_1t.htm

 

Teaching materials on atmospheric gases

  Vetted articles on atmospheric gases


 

Featured resources :

  • The Makeup of Earth's Atmosphere Featured Article The Makeup of Earth's Atmosphere The Makeup of Earth's Atmosphere

    Electromagnetic radiation is the dominant form of energy that is exchanged among the sun, Earth, and the void of space. The interaction between electromagnetic radiation and... More »

  • Module/Unit: Earth's Atmosphere Featured Teaching Unit Module/Unit: Earth's Atmosphere Module/Unit: Earth's Atmosphere

    SUMMARY In this lesson, students learn how atmospheric composition and circulation impact the generation of storms. Students examine the primary and variable gases that... More »

Recently Updated
Climate Last Updated on 2014-10-01 10:48:54 Climate is the typical pattern of conditions of the earth’s atmosphere over a given region, as defined by factors such as temperature, air pressure. humidity, precipitation, sunlight, cloudiness, and winds. The World Meteorological Organization defines climate as "the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time," where an appropriate period is typically at least thirty years. Climate can be assessed at different, overlapping geographic regions. For example, Earth is thought to have a climate that is distinct from that of other planets, while different regions of Earth are also thought to have distinct climate types. Climate is often described as the "average" conditions; however, since daily and seasonal variability (including extremes) are critical determinants, using the term... More »
Global Rise Reported in 2013 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Last Updated on 2014-09-22 11:38:01 Global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped 2.3 percent in 2013 to record levels, scientists reported Sunday, in the latest indication that the world remains far off track in its efforts to control global warming. Click to read more.  More »
Gallery of Greenhouse Gas Molecules - CLEAN Last Updated on 2014-08-15 13:22:28 Selected for the CLEAN Collection.  This static visualization from Global Warming Art depicts the chemical characteristics of eight greenhouse gas molecules - carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), water (H2O), ozone (O3), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), dichlorodifluoromethane (CFC-12), and trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11). About the Science Collection includes information about greenhouse gas molecules shapes, bond lengths and angles, and describes details of their role in global warming on linked web pages. While water vapor does trap outgoing infrared heat from Earth after it has been warmed by the sun, it is short-lived compared with these other gases, some of which remain in the atmosphere for centuries. Passed initial science review - expert science review pending. About the Pedagogy The images can be used to explore the chemistry and physics of... More »
Speed Science Fact Sheet: Greenhouse Gases and Agriculture - CSCAP Last Updated on 2014-07-08 16:33:09 The Greenhouse Gases and Agriculture and additional Speed Science Fact Sheets and presentation videos are approved for use in educational, research and extension settings. The fact sheets were developed and presented as "Speed Science" by the Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems CAP (CSCAP). The CSCAP is a transdisciplinary partnership among 11 institutions creating new science and educational opportunities. It seeks to increase resilience and adaptability of Midwest agriculture to more volatile weather patterns by identifying farmer practices and policies that increase sustainability while meeting crop demand. Printable flyer >> About CSCAP Project To promote the long-term sustainability and productivity of U.S. corn-based cropping systems against recent climate trends and future uncertainty. Project Objectives: Develop standardized methodologies and... More »
Speed Science Fact Sheets: Climate and Climate Change - CSCAP Last Updated on 2014-07-03 12:57:28 The Speed Science Fact Sheets and presentation videos are approved for use in educational, research and extension settings. The fact sheets were developed and presented as "Speed Science"  by the Climate and Corn-based Cropping Systems CAP (CSCAP). The CSCAP is a transdisciplinary partnership among 11 institutions creating new science and educational opportunities. It seeks to increase resilience and adaptability of Midwest agriculture to more volatile weather patterns by identifying farmer practices and policies that increase sustainability while meeting crop demand. Printable flyer >>  About CSCAP Project To promote the long-term sustainability and productivity of U.S. corn-based cropping systems against recent climate trends and future uncertainty. Project Objectives: Develop standardized methodologies and perform baseline monitoring of carbon,... More »