Global Warming
Atmospheric Sciences
Air Pollution

How does carbon dioxide keep the atmosphere warm?

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Answered 2017-03-30 01:07:16

Carbon Dioxide keeps the atmosphere warm by absorbing infra-red heat (from the sun) rising from the warm earth's surface. This heat remains in the atmosphere heating other greenhouse gases and even heating the earth's surface again. This is called the greenhouse effect.

MoreShortwave energy (that emitted by the sun) passes through the atmosphere pretty much unimpeded, to ultimately be intercepted by the ground. The warm ground emits longwave radiation in proportion to the fourth power of its temperature. In a completely dry, CO2-less and ozone-less atmosphere, this upwelling longwave radiation would all be lost to space. Carbon dioxide absorbs upwelling long wave radiation and re-emits it back to the ground, thereby reducing the amount of heat that escapes to space, warming the planet. The warmer planet evaporates more water, and the water vapor absorbs even more longwave radiation than the carbon dioxide, warming the planet even more. AnswerIncoming solar radiation is widely distributed across the electromagnetic spectrum. Some wavelengths (mostly visible light) gets through the atmosphere to the surface, some doesn't. Of the radiation that gets through, some is reflected and some is absorbed by the surface. The reflected radiation is not an issue, because it goes right back into space at the same wavelengths that it came in at, unimpeded, just like on the way in. It is only the absorbed radiation that is (supposedly) a problem. This radiation is later re-emitted, but in the form of Infrared Radiation (IR).

Certain atmospheric gasses, known as "greenhouse gases", absorb IR, then re-emit it back into the atmosphere. Some percentage of this re-emitted IR (after a long sequence of re-absorptions and re-emissions by other greenhouse gas molecules) eventually works its way back down to the lower atmosphere and is said to "warm" the surface. This is the "greenhouse effect". The "greenhouse effect", in and of itself, is a completely natural thing, and also a very good thing. Without it, the surface would be far too cold for life as we know it to exist.

At this point, it must be empasized that carbon dioxide (CO2) is just one of many so-called "greenhouse gases". It is not the most important, nor the most abundant. That distinction belongs to water vapor. Even without carbon dioxide, water vapor alone would cause enough of a greenhouse effect to keep us very near the warm temperatures that we enjoy. Also worth emphasizing is the fact that greenhouse gasses do not "trap" IR. They absorb, then re-emit the IR, in a completely random direction. It could go up, down, sideways, or any direction in between. Re-absorption by other greenhouse gas molecules complicates the path and destination of an individual unit of IR, but what it all boils down to is that something less than half of the IR absorbed by greenhouse gasses eventually finds its way back to the surface, with the remainder escaping into space.

Though the greenhouse effect itself is completely natural, and very beneficial, global warming scientists believe that anthropogenic (man-made) emissions of carbon dioxide (mostly from burning fossil fuels) have increased CO2 in the atmosphere to a point where we are now experiencing an "enhanced greenhouse effect". This artificial enhancement of the greenhouse effect is causing significant warming of the atmosphere and the surface, over and above what the natural greenhouse effect causes.

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Answered 2014-10-08 21:34:52

No, in fact, recent evidence shows the two are almost certainly not related.

In the past, there have been rises in temps when co2 levels were low, and vice versa.

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Related Questions

What atmosphere gas helps to keep earth warm?

Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that helps to keep earth warm.

What happens to greenhouse gases at natural levels in the atmosphere?

At natural levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (before the Industrial Revolution), the carbon cycle moved carbon dioxide in and out of land, sea and air. Enough carbon dioxide remained in the atmosphere to keep the earth comfortably warm, warm enough for life.

What happens when the atmosphere has a higher percentage of carbon dioxide and lower oxygen?

The Earth will become hotter as carbon dioxide traps heat to keep the Earth warm. But too much carbon dioxide will cause the Earth to be more warm and that lead to global warming.

What are two main greenhouse gases that keep the planets atmosphere warm and livable?

Water vapor and carbon dioxide.

What would happen if carbon dioxide was in the atmosphere?

There is carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It keeps the earth warm. But too much of it is causing global warming.

Does warm carbon dioxide rise faster than cold carbon dioxide?

In an atmosphere of carbon dioxide, warm carbon dioxide would rise. Since carbon dioxide is better than twice as dense as air, it would need to be really hot before it would rise.

Which gases in earths atmosphere help keep surface temperatures warm enough for life?

carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapor.

What is the problem with a small increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere?

A small amount of carbon dioxide is all it takes to keep the earth comfortably warm for millions of years. A small increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is all it takes to cause global warming and threaten the future of the human race.

Why is the presence of carbon dioxide important in the atmosphere?

Carbon dioxide is an important greenhouse gas. This means it holds heat enough to keep the earth warm enough for life. Without it the earth would freeze.

Does earth have carbon dioxide in its atmosphere?

Yes it does. Carbon dioxide has been useful in keeping the planet warm. Now it is causing the Warming.

What is the importance of having carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

Carbon dioxide is important in the atmosphere as it is one of the greenhouse gases that has been helping to keep the earth warm for millions of years. Not too much, not too little, but just the right amount. Unfortunately we are now adding too much carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, causing global warming and climate change.

Does burning fossil fuels increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

Yes, it does. There is a natural amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that the carbon cycle moves around. This is enough, with the other greenhouse gases, to keep the earth warm.Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide that has been out of the picture, buried underground, for millions of years. So this release increases the levels of carbon dioxide.

Is there a causal link between carbon dioxide and global temperature?

Yes. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases. It absorbs infrared heat rising from the earth's surface to keep the atmosphere warm. Extra carbon dioxide holds more heat, raising global temperatures.

Why is carbon dioxide bad for the atmosphere?

It is vital for life! Without carbon dioxide we would have no plant life. It has an addiitional affect in that it helps warm the planet slightly. It is certainly not bad for the environment! Current levels of carbon dioxide are around 0.38% of the atmosphere.

How does carbon and the atmosphere interact?

The carbon cycle moves carbon in and out of the atmosphere, the land, plants and animals, and the oceans. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a greenhouse gas that keeps the planet warm. Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, from humans adding it by burning fossil fuels, is causing an accelerated greenhouse effect, global warming.

What is the purpose of carbon in the atmosphere?

The result of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to keep the earth warm enough for life. Its time in the atmosphere is part of the carbon cycle, but our burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) since the Industrial Revolution is increasing levels and this is causing global warming.

Does the greenhouse effect increase carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

No. The greenhouse effect keeps the earth warm. Extra carbon dioxide added to it is causing global warming.

Does burning fossil fuels affect the carbon cycle?

Yes, the carbon cycle is responsible for moving carbon in and out of the atmosphere. It normally works carefully so there is always the right balance, because carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a greenhouse that helps to keep the earth comfortably warm. Burning fossil fuels releases age-old carbon that has been hidden away for millions of years. Releasing it now imposes an extra burden on the carbon cycle which is unable to keep it balanced. This is why carbon dioxide levels and rising and the atmosphere is warming.

How many times can photons warm the earth with carbon dioxide present?

A single photon can only transfer its energy once. Carbon dioxide prevents heat photons leaving the atmosphere therefore the atmosphere warms.

What essential role does carbon dioxide play in the atmosphere?

Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases and plays an important part in the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. The greenhouse effect keeps the earth warm enough for life.

What effect does water vapour and carbon dioxide have on the atmosphere?

They are both greenhouse gases which trap the sun's heat causing the atmosphere to warm.

How would earth be different without carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?

Humans would die of cold. A little carbon dioxide keeps the earth warm, through the greenhouse effect.

Why is it important for the earth to have some carbon dioxide in its atmosphere?

The natural greenhouse effect (helped by carbon dioxide) keeps the earth warm.The enhanced (or accelerated) greenhouse effect (from too much carbon dioxide) is causing global warming.

How does the atmosphere keep Earth's temperature moderate?

The Earth's atmosphere works to keep the planet warm in the same way as a greenhouse. Warmth comes in the form of the sun's rays as it passes through the atmosphere. It is then kept from escaping back into space by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and even water vapour.

What gases trap heat and keep the earth surface warm?

Gases that contributes to global warming are mainly carbon dioxide, methane and other carbon rich gases. The carbon atoms in these compounds are what absorbs the heat from the sunlight and traps it in the earth's atmosphere.

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