Greenhouse Effect

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Greenhouse Effect

The heating effect exerted by the atmosphere upon the earth by virtue of the fact that the atmosphere (mainly, its water vapor) absorbs and remits infrared radiation. In detail: the shorter wavelengths of insolation are transmitted rather freely through the atmosphere to be absorbed at the earth's surface. The earth then reemits this as long-wave (infrared) terrestrial radiation, a portion of which is absorbed by the atmosphere and again emitted (see atmospheric radiation). Some of this is emitted downward back to the earth's surface ( counter-radiation). </dd>
The mean surface temperature for the entire world, 14 degrees C, is almost 40 degrees C higher than the mean temperature required for radiative equilibrium of a black body at the earth's mean distance from the sun. It is essential, in understanding the concept of the greenhouse effect, to note that the important additional warming is due to the counterradiation from the atmosphere. The glass panes of a greenhouse function in this manner, hence the name. </dd>


This article is based on NASA's Dictionary of Technical Terms for Aerospace Use