Greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases

Would you like to learn more about how the greenhouse effect is produced and how it works?

The greenhouse effect online simulations on this page teach us in a practical way how the greenhouse effect works and which are the main gases that produce it.

The greenhouse effect is a well-established phenomenon supported by the scientific foundations of physics and chemistry. It is based on the interaction of solar radiation, atmospheric composition and heat transfer on Earth.

Solar radiation reaching the Earth consists mainly of short-wave radiation, such as visible light and ultraviolet (UV) rays. Some of this radiation is reflected back into space by the Earth’s surface and clouds, while some is absorbed by the atmosphere, the oceans and the Earth’s surface.

The Earth’s surface, once heated by solar radiation, emits long-wave radiation, also known as infrared (IR) radiation. Some gases present in the atmosphere, such as water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) or nitrous oxide (N2O) have the ability to absorb and re-emit part of this infrared radiation. These gases are known as greenhouse gases because of their ability to trap and retain heat in the atmosphere. When infrared radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases, the molecules become energized and subsequently emit radiation back in all directions, including towards the earth’s surface. This results in a net increase in thermal energy on Earth, leading to an increase in atmospheric and surface temperature.

The scientific basis for the greenhouse effect has been supported by multiple lines of evidence, including direct measurements of atmospheric gas concentrations, infrared radiation studies, and climate models that simulate the behavior of the Earth in response to changes in greenhouse gas levels.

Greenhouse Effect


Greenhouse Effect How do greenhouse gases affect the climate? Explore the atmosphere during the ice age and today. What happens when clouds are added? Change the concentration of greenhouse gases and see how the temperature changes. Then compare the effect of crystals. Zoom in and see how light interacts with molecules Do all gases in the atmosphere contribute to the greenhouse effect?

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Radiation balance on Earth


This animation summarizes the various factors involved in the Earth's radiation balance.
Click here to start the simulation

Water vapor


Water vapor is an important greenhouse gas. The water molecule is composed of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom bonded together by a covalent bond. That is, the two hydrogen atoms and the oxygen atom are bonded together by sharing electrons. Its formula is H2O.
Water
H2O
Water
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Carbon dioxide


Carbon dioxide, whose chemical formula is CO2, is a compound of carbon and oxygen that exists as a colorless gas at standard temperature and pressure conditions. Prior to the 2005 IUPAC standards, it was also known as carbonic anhydride.
Carbon dioxide
CO2
Carbon dioxide
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Methane


Methane is the simplest alkane hydrocarbon, whose chemical formula is CH4. Each of the hydrogen atoms is bonded to carbon by a covalent bond. It is a non-polar substance that occurs as a gas at ordinary temperatures and pressures. It is colorless, odorless and insoluble in water.
Methane
CH4
Metano
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Nitrous oxide


Nitrous oxide, whose chemical formula is N2O, also known as laughing gas, is a colorless gas with a sweet, slightly toxic odor and anesthetic effect. It is one of the most important greenhouse gases and is a contributor to stratospheric ozone depletion.
Nitrous oxide
N2O
Nitrous oxide
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