Over the past several years, weather has seemed to be anything but normal. All sorts of extreme weather conditions seem to be occurring. Some areas of the country have faced severe drought, while others have had to face great amounts of rain leading to flooding and water damage. Summers have been extremely hot in some areas, while others experience unusually mild temperatures. Winters have become unusually cold in many areas, while areas that were one time very cold in winter now seem to have almost spring-like winters. What is causing these changes and extremes? Many experts are blaming global warming.
Scientists are accepting that the Earth's climate is changing because of the amount of greenhouse gases humans are pouring into the atmosphere. Human activities have altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere through the buildup of greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. Much of the scientific community believe that these gases are causing unnatural climate warming that could have unimaginable effects on life (Schnieder, 21). .
The greenhouse effect can be explained simply. Energy from the sun drives the earth's weather and climate, and heats the earth's surface. The earth radiates energy back into space. Atmospheric greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases) trap some of the outgoing energy, retaining heat somewhat like the glass panels of a greenhouse. Without this natural greenhouse effect, temperatures would be much lower than they are now. Problems arise when the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases increases.
Some greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities. Naturally occurring greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Certain human activities add to the levels of most of these naturally occurring gases.