GOT A QUESTION FOR TOM? Ask him here!

Dear Tom,
Where did the term “Greenhouse Effect” come from?
Greg Stille

Dear Greg,

In 1827, French scientist Jean-Baptiste Fourier noticed the similarity between the effect of glass in a greenhouse retaining heat from sunlight in the greenhouse and the similar effect that the Earth’s atmosphere has on the lower level of the atmosphere.
The atmosphere’s greenhouse effect  is the approximate balance between the heat contained in incoming solar radiation (sunlight) and the heat emitted by outgoing terrestrial radiation (from the Earth) back into space.
As greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) increase in the atmosphere, the atmosphere’s temperature must rise in order to maintain the ability to transmit the same amount of heat back into space.