layer of gasses that surround the earth
is known as the atmosphere. Some
of the gasses in the atmosphere trap the
heat energy as it exits back into space
and re-reflects it back to the earth's
surface. Over time, this rate of
reflection remains constant, so our
overall weather and climate patterns do
not change. The three gasses in the
atmosphere that trap this energy from
the sun are water vapor, carbon
dioxide, and methane.
When fossil fuels are burned, such as at power plants or
when you drive your car, the result of
the chemical reaction used to create
power is carbon dioxide. This carbon
dioxide is released into the air,
causing smog, which accounts for
the haziness you see around larger
cities at night. All of the extra carbon
dioxide in the air is not only dangerous
to breath, but it also means that more
of the sun's heat is being captured by
the atmosphere and is being once again
reflected to the earth.
Therefore, the average temperature of the earth is slowly rising,
since more and more heat is being
trapped in the atmosphere every day.
Over time, this is melting the ice caps
slowly and raising the ocean level. This
will cause climate shifts and different
weather patterns over time.
Unfortunately, without stopping the use of fossil fuels, we cannot
stop the greenhouse effect. By
researching alternative forms of
energy, such as nuclear, wind,
water, and solar power, scientists can
find a renewable form of energy that
does not cause the greenhouse effect,
and perhaps the process can be slowed,
help in to create a healthier earth.