How does CO2 trap heat? And why is it that methane traps even more heat?

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How does CO2 trap heat? And why is it that methane traps even more heat?

In: Chemistry

4 Answers

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Most of the heat from the sun comes to the earth in the form of visible light and near-infrared. These are the wavelengths that can easily get all the way from space to the surface of earth through the atmosphere.

However, the earth can’t emit those kinds of radiation through its own heat. It’s simply not hot enough for that. So instead, it emits far-infrared, that is a much weaker kind of radiation – which can’t penetrate through the atmosphere as easily. That is how the atmosphere traps heat on earth, without that we would have extremely cold temperatures each night.

What make greenhouse gases greenhouse gases is that they can absorb these far-infrared photons much more easily than oxygen and nitrogen while letting through the visible and near infrared light from the sun. So the more of these gases there is in the atmosphere, the more heat gets trapped down on the surface.

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