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A representation of the exchanges of energy between the source (the Sun), the Earth's surface, the Earth's atmosphere, and the ultimate sink outer space. The ability of the atmosphere to capture and recycle energy emitted by the Earth surface is the defining characteristic of the greenhouse effect.
Another diagram of the greenhouse effect
The greenhouse effect is a process by which thermal radiation from a planetary surface is absorbed by atmospheric greenhouse gases, and is re-radiated in all directions. Since part of this re-radiation is back towards the surface and the lower atmosphere, it ...view middle of the document...
 The mechanism that produces this difference between the actual surface temperature and the effective temperature is due to the atmosphere and is known as the greenhouse effect.
Earth’s natural greenhouse effect makes life as we know it possible. However, human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels and clearing of forests, have intensified the natural greenhouse effect, causing global warming.
* 1 History
* 2 Mechanism
* 3 Greenhouse gases
* 4 Role in climate change
* 5 Real greenhouses
* 6 Bodies other than Earth
* 7 See also
* 8 References
* 9 Further reading
* 10 External links
The existence of the greenhouse effect was argued for by Joseph Fourier in 1824. The argument and the evidence was further strengthened by Claude Pouillet in 1827 and 1838, and reasoned from experimental observations by John Tyndall in 1859, and more fully quantified by Svante Arrhenius in 1896.
In 1917 Alexander Graham Bell wrote “[The unchecked burning of fossil fuels] would have a sort of greenhouse effect”, and “The net result is the greenhouse becomes a sort of hot-house.” Bell went on to also advocate for the use of alternate energy sources, such as solar energy.
The Earth receives energy from the Sun in the form UV, visible, and near IR radiation, most of which passes through the atmosphere without being absorbed. Of the total amount of energy available at the top of the atmosphere (TOA), about 50% is absorbed at the Earth's surface. Because it is warm, the surface radiates far IR thermal radiation that consists of wavelengths that are predominantly much longer than the wavelengths that were absorbed (the overlap between the incident solar spectrum and the terrestrial thermal spectrum is small enough to be neglected for most purposes). Most of this thermal radiation is absorbed by the atmosphere and re-radiated both upwards and downwards; that radiated downwards is absorbed by the Earth's surface. This trapping of long-wavelength thermal radiation leads to a higher equilibrium temperature than if the atmosphere were absent.
This highly simplified picture of the basic mechanism needs to be qualified in a number of ways, none of which affect the fundamental process.
The solar radiation spectrum for direct light at both the top of the Earth's atmosphere and at sea level
Synthetic stick absorption spectrum of a simple gas mixture corresponding to the Earth's atmosphere composition based on HITRAN data  created using Hitran on the Web system. Green color - water vapor, red - carbon dioxide, WN - wavenumber (caution: lower wavelengths on the right, higher on the left).
* The incoming radiation from the Sun is mostly in the form of visible light and nearby wavelengths, largely in the range 0.2–4 μm, corresponding to the Sun's radiative temperature of 6,000 K. Almost half the radiation is in the form of "visible" light, which our...