The Greenhouse Effect: Mythological Beast or Real Monster in Our Midst
The greenhouse effect results from dirt in the middle of the Earth's atmospheric infrared window. This dirt comes from many sources, such as atmospheric trace gases, naturally occurring particulate matter, microscopic space debris, evaporated water vapor, and our own contributions, Carbon Dioxide and CFC's! Carbon Dioxide occurs naturally, but we add several billion tons each year! It is a big sky, but even it is limited in it's holding capacity, especially in CFC's. CFC's, or Chlorofluorocarbons, as they are more commonly known, are all ours. We are mostly the only source. Actually there are some naturally occurring CFC's, some 3 parts in a trillion. That means that for every trillion (that's 1 million times 1 million), there are 3 parts that are naturally occurring CFC's. Our little human contribution each year brings us up to several parts in a million! That's only a million times more, so what's all the fuss about? Exactly what is this greenhouse effect anyway?
The greenhouse effect name itself conjures up horrible images of the Earth warming, up, cataclysmic destruction of the polar ice caps, overheating of the atmosphere, rising sea levels, etc., etc., etc. Well, we need the greenhouse effect! It isn't a bad thing! It is what keeps us alive! The sun's rays reach Earth and are mostly reflected, but the Earth absorbs some of them. The absorbed energy warms the Earth, and radiates a lot of that heat back to space as infrared energy. This heats some of the materials in the atmosphere, and stratosphere, and they reflect some more back to Earth. That balanced ratio of heat, sent and returned, keeps us within our livable temperature range. If we mess up this materials balance to the point where too much is reflected, we all start looking like potential walking ham roasts. Another related subject, that of depleted ozone layers, could cause the