The Greenhouse Effect

TheGreenhouse Effect

TheGreenhouse Effect

Summary

Thegreenhouse effect is adequately described by the processes that takeplace in a building or structure used in the cultivation of plants ina controlled environment. Energy emitted from the sun passes throughthe glass in the form of sunlight, and the plants utilize it. Thesoil and other materials within the greenhouse also absorb thisenergy which is converted to heat. Due to this process, the heatleads to the increase in temperature within this environment. Theglass or any other covering material prevents the heat from beingreleased.

Theearth and the atmosphere can be likened to the greenhouse. As such,radiation from the sun is absorbed by the material on the land’ssurface and reflected directly back into space. A significantpercentage is absorbed by the atmosphere while the other radiation isabsorbed by the sea, oceans, and land. Apparently, the fumes presentin the atmosphere work similar to the greenhouse glass or cover bypreventing heat from escaping to space (Lallanila, 2016). Theseevents facilitate the warming of the earth, hence life issufficiently supported. For this reason, the emissions that promotethe warming of the earth are termed greenhouse gases, and theyinclude water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Theseatmospheric components absorb heat and radiate it back to the earthleading to increasing in temperature to abnormal levels.

However,the absence of the greenhouse effect would mean that the earth willbe colder, and life would not be supported well. Likewise, thenatural water cycle would be cut off leading to climate and weatherstagnation in a frozen state. Despite the importance of this uniqueeffect, human activities such as the combustion of fossil fuels,agriculture, land encroachment and an enormous increase in greenhousegases have led to the advancement of the greenhouse effect leading towhat is now called Global Warming (Government of Canada, 2015).

TheGreenhouse Effect

Discovery

Thiseffect is caused by a process in which radiation present in theearth’s atmosphere is responsible for the warming of the surface toan absolute temperature. These airs are said to be radiatively activesince they can direct radiation towards the earth and in otherdirections. In most cases, the strength of the greenhouse effectdepends mostly on the atmospheric temperature as well as the totalamount of greenhouse gases available. Within the earth’senvironment, the atmosphere is warmed in three ways.

Thefirst is through absorption of infrared rays from the surface thesecond is from absorption of energy from the sun, and the thirdsource is convective heat flux emitted from the surface. Thismechanism is a natural event that is essential in supporting life.Due to human activities, the greenhouse effect has now becomeintensified, and the result is global warming. In the previous year,the theory of greenhouse effect was brought forward by JosephFourier. This was way back in 124 and supported in 1827 by ClaudePouillet. In 1859, another scholar by the name Svante Arrheniussignificantly quantified the effects of this process. Thesescientists alluded that the unchecked accumulation of fossil fuel usewould lead to the earth becoming hot, and they thus advocated for theuse of alternative energy sources, for example, solar and the wind [ CITATION Dav13 l 1033 ].

Mechanismof the Greenhouse Effect

Thesun produces its own energy in the form of ultraviolet rays thatreaches the earth. This kind of power is visible and near-infrared.Out of the total amount of solar energy present in the atmosphere,almost 26% is reflected back to space while 19% is taken in by theair and clouds. A greater fraction of the remaining energy iscaptured by the surface of the earth and the materials presenttherein [ CITATION Kur14 l 1033 ].The surface of the earth is colder compared to the photosphere of thesolar system. As such it is capable of radiating at longerwavelengths compared to those that were absorbed.

Thiswarm air radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere thus warming it.Apart from this occurrence, the other source of warming is gainedfrom latent heat fluxes from the surface. The atmosphere typicallyradiates this gained heat both upwards and downwards. While thedownward radiation is absorbed by the earth, the upward radiation islost to space. This mechanism leads to the creation of a highertemperature balance than if the atmosphere was non-existent. The airnear the surface is extensively opaque to thermal radiation.Therefore, a bigger percentage of heat loss is through sensible heatand heat transport through latency. Since water vapor is decreasingconsiderably in the air, loss of radiative energy has become moreimportant especially higher in the atmosphere [ CITATION Kat16 l 1033 ].

Thegreenhouse effect can be better illustrated by the presence of asurface in the mid-troposphere. This surface experiences variationsthat are influenced by diurnal and seasonal cycles as well as theprevailing weather disturbances. Heat from the sun is gained onlywhen the sun is present during the day but at night, the air cools tosome extent. This phenomenon translates to the changes in diurnaltemperature alterations which decrease based on the atmosphereelevation.

Essentially,the earth is warmed to temperatures reaching 255K and in turn, itradiates long wavelength infrared energy. Greenhouse gases that wereotherwise transparent to solar radiation have an affinity ofabsorbing the infrared heat from the earth. The atmosphere composedof the GHGs reradiates in every direction in a balanced manner. Assuch, the resulting situation is more warmth below (i.e. on theearth).

Ahigher amount of gases leads to more radiation absorption andreradiation that enhances the heat of the region below. Most of thecompounds responsible for the greenhouse effect are composed of two,three or more atoms and can take in or emit radiation. Water vaportops the list as the strongest greenhouse gas followed by carbondioxide, methane, and ozone respectively [ CITATION Int14 l 1033 ].The absorption and emission levelsare different for each of these composites and at times they overlap.Non-gas components of the greenhouse effect are the clouds.

Impactsof the Greenhouse Effect

Asmentioned before, the greenhouse effect has been significantlyadvanced by anthropogenic causes. The radiation increase due to humanactivity has contributed a lot to the accumulation of carbon dioxideintensities. Reports from Climate Change organizations indicate thatcarbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide levels have risen todetectable levels, and they have been greatly attributed to thewitnessed warming since the 20th century.

Carbondioxide is formed when fuel burning takes place as well as otheractivities including deforestation [ CITATION Gra15 l 1033 ].The climate has changed worldwide as observed from ice core data.Specialists in climate consider the changes in atmospheric carbonvalue as the primaryfactor affecting climatic conditions over time. Since the industrialera, burning has been taking place and is increasing each day as thedemand for energy reaches higher levels.

Otherhuman activities such as deforestation lead to the destabilization ofthe natural carbon cycle [ CITATION Dym13 l 1033 ].The high concentration together with the other airreleases lead to a stronger greenhouse effect hence the developmentof global warming. Although the temperature changes seem negligible,the elapsed time indicates that there is a probability of reaching250Cif the carbon levels rise beyond the double mark of thepre-industrial period.

Consequencesof Global Warming

Thegreenhouse effects lead to global warming, an occurrence that has itseffects. A whole host of consequences will result. Some are probablyalready occurring. Measurement of temperature in the seas and oceansshow the warming phenomenon. This indicator is followed by the risingsea levels as the water expands. Glaciers have begun melting, and theexpected result is the rise in sea level by approximately 1 meter bythe next century. The high water levels are capable of causingextensive damage ranging from erosion to flooding, storms and loss oflife especially in regions that lie low.

Consequently,storms, hurricanes, and typhoons are likely to result in injury,death and damage to property. It is not easy to forecast the possiblealterations to weather and climate in all the regions. However, someareas are likely to experience more rainfall albeit with differentpatterns while other parts of the world would receive less rain.Elevated temperatures can also cause storms and high winds which havegrave consequences for agricultural practices. Flora and fauna arelikely to experience changes that would require their migration andadaptation. Severe changes can lead to death as well as the increasein the number of tropical diseases such as malaria.

Managementof the Greenhouse Effect

Thisdiscussion ascertains the benefits of the greenhouse effect as wellas the disadvantages of excess heat being retained in the earth andthe atmosphere. Various measures need to be put in place to inhibitthe harmful effects such as global warming. First and foremost, thecarbon neutrality regulation is a step that can be initiated bygovernments followed by a mandatory reporting of greenhouse gasemission policy.

Inthis way, monitoring can be performed on states and industriesproducing such fumes. Taxation of motor fuel and carbon tax forappliances that use combustible engines can be put into place [ CITATION Int13 l 1033 ].Clean energy plans need to be developed with the aim of eliminatingflaring during oil and gas production. Flaring and venting reductionprocesses require the guidance and adherence to the stipulatedguidelines. Some Nations have implemented the clean energy act whichencourages the use of renewable resources such as solar, biogas,geothermal, hydro, ocean and wind while at the same time reducing theemission of greenhouse gases[ CITATION Pau111 l 1033 ].Thereare other natural causes of global warming, but taking care of thehuman causes is vital for the establishment of the temperaturebalance.

Conclusion

Thegreenhouse effect is a paramount process because it facilitates thethriving of life on earth due to its warming effect on the surface.However, the intensification of the effect can lead to detrimentalimpacts ranging from climate change, storms, floods, diseases andagricultural impacts among others. Maintaining an equilibrium isimperative to ensure that everything remains in order. Governments,industries, communities and individuals have the responsibility ofreducing the emission of greenhouse gases and any other activity thatcan lead to the advanced greenhouse effect.

References

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). (2013). Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Interg. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Biello, D. (2013). Dangerous Global Warming Closer than You Think, Climate Scientists Say. Scientific American, 346.

Dymond, C. (2013). Deforestation Emissions for BC by region. Ministry of Forests, Land and Natural Resources Operations.

Government of Canada. (2015, November 27). The Greenhouse Effect. Retrieved from Climate Change – Government of Canada: http://climatechange.gc.ca/default.asp?lang=En&ampn=1A0305D5-1

Horton, P. (2011). Managing Carbon: Taking an Integrated Approach. Olympia: Paul Horton Consulting.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2014). Climate Change 2014 Synthesis Report Summary for Policy-Makers. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Kurpaska, S. (2014). ENERGY EFFECTS DURING USING THE GLASS WITH DIFFERENT PROPERTIES IN A HEATED GREENHOUSE. Technical Sciences , 351–360.

Lallanila, M. (2016, April 12). What Is the Greenhouse Effect? Retrieved from Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/37743-greenhouse-effect.html

Stephens, G. L. (2015). The Super Greenhouse Effect in a Changing Climate . American Meteorological Society, 233-304.

Volkart, K. (2016). Interdisciplinary assessment of renewable, nuclear and fossil power generation with and without carbon capture and storage in view of the new Swiss energy policy. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control, 1-14.