This animation shows how a carbon dioxide molecule vibrates when it absorbs heat.
Courtesy of UCAR (LEARN and COMET)
Earth's Greenhouse Gases
Only a tiny amount of the gases in Earth’s atmosphere
are greenhouse gases. But they
have a huge effect on climate.
There are several different types of greenhouse
gases, but they all have something in common. All of them have molecules
with three or more parts. The parts are stuck together pretty loosely. These
molecules can hold onto heat. This
makes the little parts wiggle back and forth. Eventually, the molecule will
release the heat. Another greenhouse gas molecule will probably grab onto the
heat that is released. This keeps heat near the Earth’s surface. It is called
the greenhouse effect.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
, available in our online store
, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.
You might also be interested in:
Only a tiny amount of the gases in Earth’s atmosphere are greenhouse gases. But they have a huge effect on climate. There are several different types of greenhouse gases, but they all have something in...more
Most things around us are made of groups of atoms connected together into packages called molecules. Molecules are made from atoms of one or more elements. Some molecules are made of only one type of...more
Not all of the energy from the Sun that arrives at Earth can leave easily. After being transformed into heat, it can become trapped by certain gases in the air. This is a natural process called the greenhouse...more
Methane is a kind of gas. There is a small amount of methane in the air you breathe. A methane molecule has carbon and hydrogen atoms in it. Methane is a greenhouse gas. That means it helps make Earth...more
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a kind of gas. There isn't that much carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere, but it is still very important. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. That means it helps trap heat coming...more
Light from the Sun shines on Earth. Some of that light reflects off clouds back into space. Some of the light makes it to the ground and warms our planet. The warm ground and oceans give off infrared (IR)...more
Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semiletov, scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, have studied a section of the sea floor of the Arctic Ocean called the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. The results of...more