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The Greenhouse Effect

By: Ryan Ruder


The Greenhouse Effect is a process in which gases such as Carbon Dioxide and Methane warm the Earth by remaining in the planet's atmosphere and absorbing the heat of the sun's -rays. The Greenhouse Effect is a product of the Carbon Cycle, which is a natural process in which Carbon is circulated between the Earth's soil, atmosphere, and oceans. 

Various Greenhouse Gases: Carbon Dioxide, Methane, CFCs, and Nitrous Oxide

*Although the largest amount of any of the Greenhouse Gases is CO2.



What is the greenhouse Effect?


How does this relate to the Greenhouse Effect?

The burning of fossil fuels, animal respiration, and decaying organic material are all a part of the Carbon Cycle's natural process, but also contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere's chemical makeup. 

What does the Greenhouse Effect do?

The Greenhouse Effect is a natural occurrence. Without it, the Earth's atmosphere would hardly exist, and temperatures on the planet would swing from extreme lows to extreme highs. Life could not exist without the effect.

What is the Carbon Cycle?


The definition of the Carbon Cycle is: "the cycle of carbon in the earth's ecosystems in which carbon dioxide is fixed by photosynthetic organisms to form organic nutrients and is ultimately restored to the inorganic state (as by respiration, protoplasmic decay, or combustion)"


The "runaway" Greenhouse Effect

In modern times, the level of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere has risen drastically. This has led to a consistent rise in average temperatures throughout the globe. Many scientists attribute this to carbon-producing factories, cars, and other human-made resources of greenhouse gases. 

This global temperature chart is updated at Columbia University by Dr. Makiko Sato.
Data is based on GISTEMP analysis (mostly NOAA data sources) as described by Hansen, Ruedy, Sato & Lo (2010).
The 1880-1920 average is used as best available base for pre-industrial global average temperatures.
See "A better graph" by Hansen and Sato (2016) for background info.

Coral bleaching is a consequence of warming oceans, as the micro-organisms inhabiting the coral no longer find it habitable because of the ecosystems increasing heat, and migrate to colder water or die. Without the micro-organisms, the coral lose their color and the entire ecosystem is in danger of collapse. 

Earth's Oceans:

The oceans play a major role in the Carbon Cycle and are majorly impacted by the Greenhouse Effect. In the Carbon Cycle, the oceans are known as a "Carbon Sink" because much of the carbon in the atmosphere ends up in the ocean, becoming bicarbonate. However, the oceans can only convert so much Carbon Dioxide. When the oceans slow its conversion rate, due to lack of carbonate ions available, the oceans get warmer and ecosystems are threatened. 

How Does this Effect Earth's Environments?

The Arctic Circle 

Arctic areas risk the mass melting of large ice formations, enangering the wildlife populations there. The arctic ice also prevents more heat being absorbed from the sun. Losing this protective ice would cause the Earth to heat even faster.

Why Should We Care about the Greenhouse Effect?

We, as the human race, should care about the warming of Earth's atmosphere. Man-made CO2 production is causing significant issues among wildlife habitats. Additionally, human agriculture and infrastructure could be destroyed if crops fail regularly due to drought and rising seal levels. 

What Can We do to Limit the Greenhouse Effect

By being mindful consumers, and choosing to buy what is environmentally-friendly is a good way to reduce our individual carbon footprint. By taking little steps in our personal habits, we have the ability to change the big picture outlook. 

Society as a whole also has the ability to limit the Greenhouse Effect by reducing the amount of fossil fuels burned and using cleaner forms of power and industry.



Definition of the Carbon Cycle." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017. <>.


Sato, Makiko. "Global Surface Temperature." C02 Earth. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017. <>.


U.S. EPA. 2016. Inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks: 1990–2014. EPA 430–R–16–002.