How greenhouse gases are actually cooling Earth's upper atmosphere

Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive

Carbon dioxide in the lower atmosphere helps trap heat from the sun’s solar energy reflected off the Earth’s surface and so, like a greenhouse, the lower atmosphere grows warmer. But at high altitudes it is a different story, because the upper atmosphere is so thin that the carbon dioxide releases its energy into space and so the upper atmosphere cools. And that cooling is also making the upper atmosphere contract.

Past studies have shown that the cooling trend is driven by greenhouse gases, as well as shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field and the roughly 11-year cycle in the sun’s solar activity. A recent study disentangled these different factors by simulating the upper atmosphere at 100-500km altitude from 1950 to 2015. The results confirmed that rising carbon dioxide levels were the main driving force cooling the upper atmosphere. Shifts in the Earth’s magnetic field and variations in the solar cycle played much smaller roles.

Fueled by man-made greenhouse gas emissions, global warming is altering the earth's climate systems in many ways. It is: Causing more frequent and/or intense extreme weather events, including heat waves, hurricanes, droughts, and floods.

READ MORE  Use of robots in greenhouse horticulture increasing

Overview of Greenhouse Gases
  • Overview.
  • Carbon Dioxide.
  • Methane.
  • Nitrous Oxide.
  • Fluorinated Gases.
  • The 'greenhouse effect' is the warming of climate that results when the atmosphere traps heat radiating from Earth toward space. Certain gases in the atmosphere resemble glass in a greenhouse, allowing sunlight to pass into the 'greenhouse,' but blocking Earth's heat from escaping into space.