The greenhouse effect is a natural phenomenon that occurs due to solar radiation entering our atmosphere and interacting with specific atmospheric gases. When solar radiation reaches the upper layers of the atmosphere, short wavelength radiation passes through to the surface, while longer wavelength radiation is reflected back into space.

At night, the air above the surface cools and energy is transferred from the land to the air. Gases in the atmosphere keep the heat from radiating back into space, causing the air to be warmer than it otherwise would be if there were no atmosphere as shown in Figure 1. The gases most responsible for this effect are water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, also known as greenhouse gases.

Figure 1


  • Use temperature sensors to measure temperatures in a model greenhouse and a control.
  • Use the results to make conclusions about the greenhouse effect.