Global warming is the gradual increase in global temperatures caused by the emission of gases that
trap the sun's heat in the Earth's atmosphere (refered to as the "greenhouse effect"). Gases, both natural and
man-made, that contribute to global warming include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides,
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and halocarbons (the replacements for CFCs). The carbon dioxide
emissions are primarily caused by the use of fossil fuels for energy.
What is the "Greenhouse Effect"?
The greenhouse effect is a natural Earth process that helps to regulate the temperature of our planet and
essential for life on Earth. It is the result of heat absorption by certain gases in the atmosphere
(called greenhouse gases because they effectively 'trap' heat in the lower atmosphere) and re-radiation
downward of some of that heat. Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas, followed by carbon dioxide and
other trace gases. Without a natural greenhouse effect, the temperature of the Earth would be about zero
degrees F (-18 C) instead of its present 57 F (14 C).
*Paleoclimatology is the study of climate prior to the widespread availability of records of temperature,
precipitation and other instrumental data.
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