Greenhouse effect


The greenhouse effect is a natural process that causes warming on the surface of the earth . When the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, some of it is reflected back into space and the rest is absorbed and re-irradiated by greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases include water vapor , carbon dioxide , methane , nitros or oxide , ozone, and some man-made chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons.. The energy that is absorbed heats the atmosphere and the Earth’s surface. This process keeps the Earth’s temperature around 33 degrees Celsius warmer than it would be otherwise, allowing life to exist on Earth.


What is the greenhouse effect?

It is a phenomenon by which the gases in the atmosphere retain a part of the energy released by the soil when it is heated by solar radiation , affecting all bodies on the planet .

  • What does it consist of
  • How the greenhouse effect occurs
  • features
  • History
  • Factors
  • Causes of the greenhouse effect
  • Effects edit
  • Consequences
  • Prevention
  • What gases produce the greenhouse effect
  • Greenhouse effect and climate change
  • Importance

What does it consist of

The greenhouse effect consists of a phenomenon of a natural nature by means of which some gases in the atmosphere manage to retain part of the energy that is released into the soil after it has been heated by the sun’s rays , causing warming and that it also allows life to develop on earth. All the elements that participate in the greenhouse effect are natural, however, many industries and man have increased this natural effect in a worrying way.


How the greenhouse effect occurs

If the atmosphere did not exist, the Earth’s surface temperature would be -18 ° C. Different components of the atmosphere as water vapor and carbon dioxide have frequencies molecular vibrational and these gases greenhouse absorb and re – emit the radiation at long wave, causing it to return to the earth ‘s surface and causing an increase in temperature , phenomenon named Greenhouse Effect.


The main characteristics of the greenhouse effect are the following:

  • It allows the sun’s rays to reach the earth and retains its energy through gases.
  • The atmosphere works like a greenhouse.
  • The main gas that maintains the greenhouse effect is water vapor , followed by carbon dioxide.
  • It occurs in the first 12 kilometers of our atmosphere.
  • The greenhouse effect is increased by the increase in gases that are produced by human action.


The first references date back to the year 1827 when the French mathematician Jean Baptista Fourier observed, for the first time, that some gases, mainly carbon dioxide , were capable of retaining atmospheric heat . From his point of view the phenomenon is similar to that which he had observed in greenhouses and for this reason he came up with the term “effet de serre” or greenhouse effect in Spanish.

In the year 1860, the Irish physicist J. Tyndall , dedicated himself to studying the climate and deduced that the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere can affect climate changes .

Svante August Arrhenius published in 1903 the Treatise on the physics of the cosmos , which showed the possibility that the burning of fossil fuels increased the average temperature of the Earth and thought that it would take 3000 years of fuel combustion to alter the climate. of the planet.

Arrhenius valued the increase in the temperature of the planet when the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubles, eventually calculating this value at 1.6 centigrade without water vapor in the atmosphere and 2.1 ° C with vapor present. These results are within the currently generally accepted parameters .

The first model based on statistics on the evolution of the climate was developed in 1972 by Klauss Hasselmannn of the Max Planck Institute, and in France Jancovici and Hervé Le Treut made a prediction of the greenhouse effect for future years.


The factors that influence the greenhouse effect are the following:

  • Changes that occur in the orbit of the earth.
  • The temperature of the Sun.
  • The effects of volcanoes .
  • The deforestation .
  • The ozone .
  • Pollution from aerosols and other pollutants .
  • The gases greenhouse (CO₂).

Causes of the greenhouse effect

The greenhouse effect occurs mainly due to two different causes, one of natural origin and the other due to the effects of human actions .

Natural causes

Gases such as nitrous oxide , carbon dioxide , methane , ozone, and water vapor are produced by gases in the atmosphere . An example of natural causes is volcanic activity, solar activity, and ocean currents , among other things.

Artificial causes

They are causes that have human origin , such as deforestation , which has the ability to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases can be released as a result of burning gasoline , oil, and coal .

Certain processes of cultivation and land use cause the greenhouse effect. The factories that produce large amounts of gases and long lasting in the atmosphere. The apparatus electrical contribute gases such as chlorofluorocarbons , which, aerosols, are used in refrigerators some blowing agents in the industry of packaging products chemicals and cleaning .

Garbage dumps , the decomposition of organic waste , animal excrement , livestock and the oil industry are major causes of methane production .

Some examples are: the burning of fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas , deforestation, agriculture or forest fires that generate carbon dioxide. The combustion of automobiles , fertilizers , and wastes generated by industries and agriculture that produce nitrous oxide.

Effects edit

The main effects that arise as secondary effects of the greenhouse effect are:

  • There is an increase in the average temperature of the Earth of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade.
  • The surface of the glaciers is reduced causing the elevation of the water level of the seas and oceans.
  • Possible flooding of areas near the sea or islands.
  • The ecosystems are affected due to the change in climate and plant and wildlife must adapt to a new situation.
  • Water resources are reduced by droughts and evaporation of water.
  • Areas that are fertile can become deserts .
  • There is a negative impact on agriculture and livestock due to changes in rainfall.


The main consequence of the greenhouse effect is global warming, which brings with it major climatic changes on Earth. The rise in temperature on the planet has consequences that are impossible to ignore. The naturally cold oceans have become warmer and for this reason they do not offer the nutrients that animals require from those they have diminished.

The desertification is a side effect of the greenhouse effect and the high temperatures and low rainfall affecting agriculture and crops . This affects economic activity and food production .

It also notably modifies the behavior of the seasons of the year, producing abrupt changes in the migrations of birds or in their reproduction .


Some preventive measures against the greenhouse effect are the following:

  • Internalize ecological awareness , education and outreach in each one of us.
  • Save electricity , water , gas , natural and non-renewable resources .
  • Separate solid waste according to its to facilitate its collection and recycling.
  • Use of ecological materials , artifacts , and resources : recycled paper, vehicles that run on non-polluting energy, use of solar energy , energy-saving light bulbs (white light), etc.
  • Do not use aerosol products containing CFCs, detergents, etc.
  • Reduce gas emissions and avoid deforestation .

What gases produce the greenhouse effect

The gases that give rise to the greenhouse effect are:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO2): this is the main responsible for heating and its emission occurs in all combustion processes.
  • Methane (CH4): originates from fermentations by anaerobic bacteria in swampy areas, rice crops and in emissions from the intestinal tract of livestock. It can also be produced by the leaks of natural deposits and industrial pipes.
  • Nitrous oxide (N2O): produced by the use of fertilizers in intensive agriculture in addition to thermal power plants, automobile exhaust and aircraft engines, biomass burning, and the manufacture of nylon and nitric acid.
  • Fluorinated gases : they are artificial chemical compounds , few in the atmosphere, but they are extremely potent in their greenhouse effect. They have multiple industrial uses in refrigeration systems , such as aerosol components , aluminum production and electrical insulators, among others.

Greenhouse effect and climate change

The greenhouse effect normally allows the life of the planet and is the effect by which the heat from the sun that reaches the earth does not return to space completely, giving rise to an ideal temperature for life on earth, so the effect is beneficial for life.

The problem arises when, due to human activity and industrial and social growth , the amount of gases in the atmosphere with properties to cause this greenhouse effect increases disproportionately and in a short period of time, so the greenhouse effect increases, giving rise to a phenomenon harmful .

This increase in gases can have diverse and debatable consequences , but mainly it can lead to an increase in the global terrestrial temperature producing harmful effects and when it becomes a phenomenon with negative consequences for planetary life, we speak of climate change .


It is important because it is a necessary process for the atmosphere to maintain the balance between the reception of solar radiation and the emission of infrared radiation that returns to space, forming an energy balance of the Earth. It also allows to maintain the adequate temperature for survival.

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