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An issue of major concern is the possible effect of the burning of fossil fuels and other contributers to the in the atmosphere. The action of carbon dioxide and other in trapping infrared radiation is called the . It may measurably increase the overall average temperature of the Earth, which could have disastrous consequences. Sometimes the effects of the greenhouse effect are stated in terms of the of the Earth, the overall average reflection coefficient.

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Greenhouse gases such as water vapour, methane and carbon dioxide stop heat escaping from the Earth into space. An increased greenhouse effect can lead to global warming and climate change.

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nitrogen, oxygen) also absorb and emit a small amount of infrared radiation, their radiative effect on temperature is so weak that they can be neglected.

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Also, the concentration of methane, although extremely small (measured in parts per billion), has also increased in recent decades contributing somewhat to the strengthening of the greenhouse effect.

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In the open atmosphere, warm air that builds up at the surface rises ("convects") and mixes with air from higher altitudes, limiting warming near the surface.

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The greenhouse effect refers to circumstances where the short wavelengths of light from the sun pass through a medium and are absorbed, but the longer wavelengths of the re-radiation from the are unable to pass through that medium. The trapping of the long wavelength radiation leads to more heating and a higher resultant temperature. Besides the heating of an automobile by sunlight through the windshield and the namesake example of heating the greenhouse by sunlight passing through sealed, transparent windows, the greenhouse effect has been widely used to describe the trapping of excess heat by the rising concentration of in the atmosphere. The carbon dioxidestrongly absorbs infrared and does not allow as much of it to escape into space.

This graphic of the  was posted by Phil Jones on behalf of the . The key reference used was

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FIGURE 4. Observed average temperatures from 1900 to 2000 (black line) along with modeled temperatures. Blue shading shows models run with only natural force sand historic greenhouse gases (i.e. where we should be) and the red shading show the projected temperature change with all human driven changes in land-cover and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The overlay of the observed temperature line and the red shaded area from the ensemble of global climate model runs serves as strong evidence humans have played a major role since 1960 in driving warming global temperatures. (Figure source: US Global Change Research Program).

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Since there is considerable misunderstanding and misconceptions regarding the greenhouse effect, it is useful to list a few of the things the greenhouse effect is not:

1) The greenhouse effect does not operate like a greenhouse that plants are grown in.