Goldilocks Principle

  • Venus is too hot, Mars is too cold but Earth is just right
  • Earth’s average temperature sits between the boiling and freezing temperatures of water.
  • This makes it ideal for life

Insulating gas blanket

  • Earth’s “perfect” surface temperature for life is often thought to be because of it’s orbit distance from the Sun. This is only part of the story.
  • All of the different components of Earth’s climate system (atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and living things) absorb energy from the sun.
  • None of them absorb 100% of the available energy.  A lot of the energy is reflected instead of being absorbed
  • Albedo is the term that we use to describe how much of the suns energy is reflected from any surface of the earth

If we were 100% dependent on the Sun to keep us warm half of our planet would freeze every night when it is facing away from the Sun

  • These 2 problems require us to have another way to keep Earth’s surface temperature from fluctuating
  • The solution is that Earth’s atmosphere acts as a warming blanket helping to regulate our surface temperature

Blanket makes up and function

  • The gasses that cause this blanket effect are called “greenhouse gases”
  • They are mainly water vapour (H2O) Carbon dioxide (CO2) Methane (CH4) and Nitrogen Dioxides (N2O)
  • These gasses have the ability to trap radiated energy from the Earth’s surface and then release it back
  • This prevents the Earth’s energy from being lost in space

How do these gasses do this?

  • All of the gasses are made up of 2 or more elements tightly bonded together
  • When they absorb energy from the Earth’s surface it causes each of the elements in the gas to vibrate
  • Once the element settles back down the energy is released to be absorbed by another gas molecule or surface

Greenhouse Effect

  • Scientists have been using the term “greenhouse effect” to describe the regulation of earth’s temperature since the 1800s
  • In the 1950s the term was used to describe the effects of climate change
  • Now we use the term anthropogenic greenhouse to describe the effects of climate change
  • It is important to remember that without the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect, life would not be possible

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