Global Warming: Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is the rise in temperature that the Earth experiences because certain gases in the atmosphere (water vapor, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane, for example) trap energy from the sun. Without these gases, heat would escape back into space and Earth's average temperature would be about 60ºF colder. Because of how they warm our world, these gases are referred to as greenhouse gases.

Have you ever seen a greenhouse? Most greenhouses look like a small glass house. Greenhouses are used to grow plants, especially in the winter. Greenhouses work by trapping heat from the sun. The glass panels of the greenhouse let in light but keep heat from escaping. This causes the greenhouse to heat up, much like the inside of a car parked in sunlight, and keeps the plants warm enough to live in the winter.

The Earth's atmosphere is all around us. It is the air that we breathe. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere behave much like the glass panes in a greenhouse. Sunlight enters the Earth's atmosphere, passing through the blanket of greenhouse gases. As it reaches the Earth's surface, land, water, and biosphere absorb the sunlight's energy. Once absorbed, this energy is sent back into the atmosphere. Some of the energy passes back into space, but much of it remains trapped in the atmosphere by the greenhouse gases, causing our world to heat up.

The greenhouse effect is important. Without the greenhouse effect, the Earth would not be warm enough for humans to live. But if the greenhouse effect becomes stronger, it could make the Earth warmer than usual. Even a little extra warming may cause problems for humans, plants, and animals.

More on Global Warming & Environmental Science

Information provided by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Free 7-Day Trial for TeacherVision®

Sign up for a free trial and get access
to our huge library of teaching materials!

Start Trial


Free Gift with Newsletter Sign-Up
Do you receive our free newsletters? We send out seasonal content tie-ins, topical resources, and daily activities. And now when you sign up for any TeacherVision newsletter, we'll send you a packet of our most popular back-to-school essentials as a free gift!

October Calendar of Events
October is full of events that you can incorporate into your standard curriculum. Our Educators' Calendar outlines activities for each event, including: Fire Prevention Week (10/4-10), Metric Week (10/4-10), World Space Week (10/4-10), Earth Science Week (10/11-17), Chemistry Week (10/18-24), Teen Read Week (10/18-24), Make a Difference Day (10/24), and Halloween (10/31). Plus, celebrate Bullying Prevention Month, Diversity Awareness Month, Learning Disabilities Month, and School Safety Month all October long!

Bullying Prevention Month
October is Bullying Prevention Month, and it's a crucial topic for teachers and administrators to address. Bullying can cause both physical and emotional harm, and it can range from inflicting physical abuse to cyber-bullying (the use of cell phones, social networking sites, and other forms of technology to cause emotional distress). Learn how to recognize several forms of bullying and teasing, and discover effective techniques for dealing with and preventing bullying in your classroom.

Happy Halloween! Kids love this holiday and all the spooky decorations, games, and stories that go along with it. (Not to mention the candy, of course!) Take advantage of their enthusiasm with classroom connections and fun activities.