This graph shows how the amount of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas in the Earth’s atmosphere, has changed over time and how it is expected to change in the future.
Click on image for full size
IPCC 2001 Third Assessment Report
Our Atmosphere Is Changing!
The amounts of most gases in the atmosphere stay pretty much the same over time. However, the amount of greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere has gotten larger over the last 150 years. This is mostly because of human activities such as chopping down forest trees, burning oil and gas, and making concrete roads, buildings, and parking lots. These activities affect Earth’s cycles such as the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle and the water cycle, and affect the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Greenhouse gases trap heat through the greenhouse effect. There were greenhouse gases in the atmosphere long before humans affected them. Having some greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere is good for life on Earth because they keep temperatures mild. However, as the amount of greenhouse gases rises, so does Earth’s temperature. This is causing changes to environments and living things around the world.
Last modified August 13, 2004 by Lisa Gardiner.
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
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
Leaders from the countries of the world are heading to Copenhagen, Denmark in December 2009 to decide how the world will deal with climate change. They will make decisions about how to send less greenhouse...more
How do you know to pack your bathing suit and sunhat for a trip to a tropical island or pack warm sweaters and coats for a trip to Alaska? If you know a little about regional climates, then you know what...more
Some satellites study Earth from space. Some of them study our atmosphere and weather. Some take pictures of clouds. Others use special instruments to make measurements of temperature, humidity, or the...more
To figure out what the Earth might be like in the future, scientists need to know how Earth reacts to changes. Models help scientists to better understand how the Earth works and how it will react to climate...more
Have you ever taken your temperature to see if you are getting sick? Scientists have been taking the Earth's temperature and have found that it is getting warmer. During the past 100 years, the Earth's...more