Explainer: Global warming and the greenhouse effect

Greenhouse gases trap heat on Earth

By Agnieszka Biskup, 20:35 PM May 7, 2010

Earth’s atmosphere works something like a giant glass greenhouse. As the sun’s rays enter our atmosphere, most continue right down to the planet’s surface. As they hit the soil and surface waters, those rays release much of their energy as heat. Some of the heat then radiates back out into space.

However, certain gases in our atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor, work like a blanket to retain much of that heat. This helps to warm our atmosphere. The gases do this by abso...

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