The Greenhouse Effect

By Mary Agnes Rothenberger and Hannah Scott

Visual Representation of the Greenhouse Effect

This picture shows the greenhouse effect in all of it's glory. As you can see, the greenhouse gasses control what enters and leaves the atmosphere, much like the membrane of your cells. Without this important blanket, human life as we know it would not exist.

The red arrows represent heat, the yellow arrows represent the sun's rays, and the ring around the earth represents the greenhouse gasses.

Greenhouse Gasses

Greenhouse gasses are in our atmosphere for several reasons. They are used to monitor the heat that enters and leaves the atmosphere, through reflection and other methods. They are also used to trap heat radiation that warms our atmosphere. Without these gasses, we would not be able to exist. One major greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide. It comes from fossil fuels and land use on the ground. Another greenhouse gas is ozone. Ozone comes from a reaction of gasses that are naturally occurring in the atmosphere. Methane, a final greenhouse gas, comes from emissions of landfills and coal mines.

Positives and Negatives

Positives
  • The ozone in the stratosphere blocks the harmful UV rays that act as carcinogens when they come in contact with humans.
  • The blanket of greenhouse gasses that cover the Earth traps heat and allows Earth's temperatures to stay at a perfect level.

Negatives

  • Overactive pollution from humans can easily burn a hole in the ozone, which will in turn allow harmful rays to enter the atmosphere
  • When rays from the sun enter our atmosphere, they melt the icebergs in the Arctic and cause sea levels to rise.

Changes in Gas

What would happen if the levels of gasses in the atmosphere were to increase or decrease?

Carbon Dioxide: Carbon dioxide plays an important part in our atmosphere. If there was a drastic increase in carbon dioxide, our Earth would get very hot because the gas would be trapping to much heat. A decrease in carbon dioxide would cause a decrease in global temperatures

Ozone: Ozone is critical in making up the "blanket" that keeps us warm. If we were to increase the ozone, we would have weak and brittle bones. The more ozone, the less UV rays. We need exposure to the sun to produce vitamin D so our bones can strengthen correctly. A drastic decrease in ozone would cause all of the cells in plants, as well as animals to be destroyed.

Oxygen: Oxygen is necessary for us to survive, for it makes up a substantial amount of the air that we breathe. If the levels of oxygen were to increase, everything would spontaneously combust. If the levels were to decrease, the populations of mammals, this includes humans, would not survive, for they live off of oxygen.

Global Warming

Definition: A gradual increase in the overall temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere

Causes: Global Warming is caused by human activity that interrupts the natural course of the greenhouse effect. An excess of carbon dioxide can cause more heat to be trapped, warming the Earth. Carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels. Also, the increase in fossil fuels and pollutants can burn a hole in the ozone, which will allow for more of the Sun's harmful ultraviolet rays to come in and warm the earth.

Opinion: I think that global warming is happening and is an issue. The ice is melting, sea levels are increasing, and global average temperatures are increasing. These are obvious clues to prove that the Earth is getting warmer. But the problem is that no one really knows why. Most people thinks it is the increase of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere from pollution and fossil fuels. I do agree that this can be a factor, but the Earth has been warming before there were many cars, factories, and large amounts of pollution. There may be other unrecognized reasons to why the Earth is warming.


The American Pika

The American Pika generally live on the peaks of the western United States mountains. Global warming is a large effect on them because they are intolerant of high temperatures and can die of overheating after being exposed for more than a few hours. Unlike other animals that can move higher up a mountain to cooler altitudes, they are already so high up they can’t go anywhere. They have already disappeared from one-third of their known habitats.