Light is the source of all being on our planet. The fact that there is a climate on Earth in which humans, animals and plants can live is related to our Earth’s atmosphere.

Light is physically electromagnetic radiation with a very short wavelength. At the border between air and water or air and glass, it breaks, i.e. it changes its direction of propagation. Some of the light is visible, but the UV light and the longer-wave heat-raying infrared light at the edges of the spectrum are invisible. When light hits opaque bodies, it is absorbed or reflected. The short-wave visible radiation of the light is transformed into long-wave heat radiation when encountered with opaque matter.


On its way from the sun to Earth, the short-wave sunlight penetrates the Earth’s atmosphere. At the speed of light, it makes its way through the different layers of the atmosphere: first through the exosphere, the transition between atmosphere and space at an altitude between 1000 and 400 kilometers, then through the thermosphere, iono and mesosphere, through the little-moving stratosphere, in the middle of which the ozone layer is between 30 and 20 kilometers high, and finally through the closest atmospheric layer to the earth. , the troposphere. Here all weather events take place up to an altitude of 16 kilometers.

The short-wave radiation of the incoming sunlight is partly reflected by the atmosphere and the earth’s surface, the rest passes through the atmosphere, warms the earth’s surface and is radiated back as infrared heat radiation. Some of the re-radiated heat passes through the atmosphere and gets lost in space, the other part cannot penetrate the layer of water vapor, carbon dioxide and traces of other gases in the atmosphere and is held back in the atmosphere.


The atmosphere consists mostly of nitrogen, oxygen and argon. These gases are quite permeable for both visible light and the heat that the Earth radiates back into space. However, the atmosphere also includes water vapor, carbon dioxide and traces of other gases. They are permeable to visible light, but far less so to infrared light. These gases act as a shield for the earth. They are called greenhouse gases. The higher their concentration, the higher the temperature on Earth.

Without the protective atmosphere, life would not be possible on Earth. It stores some of the impacting radiation as heat energy, thus preventing bitterly cold temperatures. Scientists have calculated that without the natural greenhouse effect on Earth, the average temperature would be minus 18 degrees Celsius. The greenhouse gases are responsible for the fact that the average surface temperature is plus 15 degrees Celsius. Thus, the natural greenhouse effect is plus 33 degrees Celsius. Life as we know it would not exist without him.


So the greenhouse effect is nothing new, it is an ancient phenomenon that has enabled the emergence of life on our planet. But for about 250 years, a new phenomenon has been added: the influence of humans significantly increases the natural greenhouse effect. The so-called “anthropogenic greenhouse effect” superimposes natural influences and puts our climate system at risk. The current concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is higher than in the past 650,000 years. We must stop this development – so that the fragile climate system of our planet is preserved for future generations.


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