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The Greenhouse Effect

Help your children learn more about the fascinating planet we live on, and increase their awareness of the greatest environmental concern of our time.

The Earth, the third planet from the sun, is the only planet whose name is not derived from Roman or Greek mythology. When the Earth is seen from space, it is seen as a beautiful blue and white ball. Out of all planetary images, the Earth's image is truly the most beautiful. However, life on our beautiful planet is threatened by the greatest environmental threat of our time: global warming.

The Greenhouse Effect

A thick layer of atmosphere, which grows thinner further out into space, surrounds the Earth. The atmosphere is composed primarily of Nitrogen. 21% of the atmosphere is Oxygen while just around 1% of the atmosphere consists of other gases like Carbon Dioxide.

When sunlight strikes the Earth, some of it escapes back into the atmosphere, but the presence of 'greenhouse gases' like carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane, prevents all the radiation from escaping out into space. These gasses trap the sun's radiation, heat and energy, and therefore, the Earth's temperature remains warm. If theses gasses were not present at all, the Earth would be cold like Mars. (Mars has a very thin atmosphere, and the average temperature on this planet is - 63 degrees C!) This is called the Greenhouse Effect, because it keeps the Earth insulated and warm, in the same manner as a greenhouse keeps plants warm.

If you have ever seen a greenhouse, you will know that it is made of glass and is used to keep plants warm so they survive through the winter. The glass panes of a greenhouse let the sun's rays inside, but they prevent heat from escaping. This is why a car also gets so hot from the inside when parked in the sun.

However, the problem arises when the balance of gasses in the atmosphere gets skewed. So, more and more of the Earth's radiation gets trapped by the atmosphere and the Earth gradually gets warmer and warmer. It is believed that over the past century the Earth has grown warmer by around 1 degree F. This is called global warming, which occurs due to the greenhouse effect. Although 1 degree F does not seem like much, it in fact has a profound effect on various other ecological systems. As the temperature goes up, glaciers start melting, adding more water to the oceans. In addition, warm temperatures cause water molecules to expand. As a result of these phenomena, the sea level starts rising. This could lead to coastal flooding. The salt water and coastal flooding may wipe out certain kinds of plant life along the coasts. Increase in temperature can also bring droughts in other hot climates. Certain foods grow in certain temperature, and if the temperature increases, crops may be destroyed.

You can help!

Car exhaust fumes contribute to global warming. So make it a point to turn off your car ignition when you have stopped at a signal. Carpool whenever possible, and encourage your children to carpool. Electricity usage puts greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Don't waste electricity. Switch of appliances when not in use. If you are going somewhere nearby, walk. It's good for the environment, and is good exercise.

More ways in which you can do your own bit for the environment.

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