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Greenhouse Effect

Atmospheric scientists first used the term 'greenhouse effect' in the early 1800s. At that time, it was used to describe the naturally occurring functions of trace gases in the atmosphere and did not have any negative connotations. It was not until the mid-1950s that the term greenhouse effect was coupled with concern over climate change. And in recent decades, we often hear about the greenhouse effect in somewhat negative terms. The negative concerns are related to the possible impacts of an enhanced greenhouse effect.

While the earth's temperature is dependent upon the greenhouse-like action of the atmosphere, the amount of heating and cooling are strongly influenced by several factors just as greenhouses are affected by various factors.

In the atmospheric greenhouse effect, the type of surface that sunlight first encounters is the most important factor. Forests, grasslands, ocean surfaces, ice caps, deserts, and cities all absorb, reflect, and radiate radiation differently. Sunlight falling on a white glacier surface strongly reflects back into space, resulting in minimal heating of the surface and lower atmosphere. Sunlight falling on a dark desert soil is strongly absorbed, on the other hand, and contributes to significant heating of the surface and lower atmosphere. Cloud cover also affects greenhouse warming by both reducing the amount of solar radiation reaching the earth's surface and by reducing the amount of radiation energy emitted into space.

In summary: certain Greenhouse Gases form an insulating blanket around the Earth. This blanket allows the Suns rays through but prevents some of the heat radiated back from the Earth from escaping. The heat retention caused by these gases can be likened to the role of glass in a greenhouse, hence the term greenhouse effect.

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