The Greenhouse Effect

The Greenhouse Effect

May 17, 2012 // 0 Comments

by DAN VOS Vos Energy Concepts Back in college (early ‘80s), one of my writing projects was to research and report on what was then called the “greenhouse effect.” This term changed to “global warming” and is now called “climate change.” They all refer to the same thing, yet I like the original term because it explains why we are warming. Weather (I know this is the wrong spelling, but I could not resist) this is caused by us or is a natural occurrence is not scientifically provable either way, so you will believe what you want no matter what I say. I only want to describe to you the process in basic terms so you can see how the Earth retains heat so life can live. OK, let’s say it is a hot summer day and you parked the car in the sun, left the windows up and were gone for an hour. It is hot in there, right? In fact, it is against the law to leave kids or pets in the car under those conditions. Well this is a perfect example of the greenhouse effect. The full spectrum energy from the sun hits the car interior through the windows and continually warms it up. This heat is released to the air in the car and tries to get back out those same windows. The key here is that a greater percentage of this interior heat is reflected back into the car. This raises the temperature of the car’s interior. The sun’s energy has a different wavelength ( much shorter and intense) than the heat reflected from the car’s interior (longer and more relaxed wave), and the glass lets more of the sun’s energy through while reflecting more of the heat from the interior. This same thing is happening to our Earth. The atmosphere acts as the car window and, if the make-up of the atmosphere changes, then the Earth’s average temperature changes.  This is why we are so concerned about carbon dioxide. It is a greenhouse gas; one which increases our average temperature. It is certainly not the worst greenhouse gas, but because we produce so much of it on an ever- increasing basis, it could very well be a major reason […]


April 28, 2011 // 0 Comments

The Greenhouse Effect In last week’s article I gave you the basic overview of what I think the science really says about human induced global warming. Let’s start this article by taking a look at the poorly named greenhouse effect. I think there are several things about our atmosphere most people are not aware of. The first is that the energy from the sun, short wave radiation, does not heat up the air. About half of the solar radiation is reflected back into space from clouds, water, ice, etc while the other half is absorbed by the ground. As the ground absorbs the short wave radiation, it heats up and emits what is called long wave radiation back into the atmosphere and this long wave radiation is what heats the air. Some of this long wave radiation passes through the atmosphere back out into space but most is absorbed by greenhouse gas molecules and clouds, then re-emitted in all directions. Much of the re-emitted radiation goes back to earth while other greenhouse gas molecules and clouds absorb some of this energy only to re-emit it again. The effect of all of this is to warm the air. Without our atmosphere, the earth would average about 50 degrees colder than it is now. However, at no time does the atmosphere act like a blanket or a greenhouse and trap heat. When someone says CO2 traps heat in the atmosphere they don’t understand what is actually occurring. Nothing is trapped. The energy courses through the system without being trapped within it and this process, poorly labeled the greenhouse effect, is absolutely necessary for life as we know it. If the amount of energy leaving the top of the atmosphere equals the amount of energy being added to the atmosphere from the sun and the greenhouse gases, the earth’s average temperature will remain unchanged. Many natural processes such as a change in the amount of cloud cover or volcanic eruptions disturb this balance and the earth is always cooling or warming slightly at any time. It seems to be rather intuitive then that if you add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, you will increase the temperature of the atmosphere. The question is, how much? There are currently […]