- The hypothesized warming of the Earth’s atmosphere as a result of increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap infrared radiation emitted from the earth’s surface. While the increase in such gases is well documented, the effect on climate remains debatable. Estimates of the temperature effect range from zero to an increase of several degrees average global temperature by 2050; changes in temperature would affect rainfall patterns. Significant climate change would inevitably affect agricultural practices.
- The phenomenon in which outgoing infrared radiation that would normally exit from a planet's atmosphere but instead, is trapped or reflected because of the presence of the atmosphere and its components (see below) is called the greenhouse effect. It has been calculated that this effect is necessary to maintain the earth's climate and surface temperature and, more importantly, the liquid state of water in the majority of the earth's biosphere; however, the best scientific estimates to date suggest that increasing amounts of greenhouse gases are resulting in higher temperatures worldwide. This could result in melting of icecaps that would raise the sea level and cause devastating floods in coastal areas, more extremes in rainfall and intensity, and the distribution of species in the biosphere. [The Greenhouse Effect; Matthew Kreljic, ed.; 1992; HW Wilson Co.; New York.] [Climatic Change; v20: p. iii-vii: 1992.] Source: Atmospheric Chemistry Glossary