Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Small CO2 with Large Effect
Name: Jim 
Status: Student
Grade: 9-12
Location: NY
Country: United States
Date: Summer 2009


Question:
With CO2 only able to absorb infrared radiation in only three narrow bands of frequencies totaling to, at most, an 8% absorption of the entire infra red spectrum, how can it be in any way responsible for global warming given it is a trace gas at 380 ppm?



Replies:
Jim,

While you are correct that CO2 absorbs in a few, narrow bands of infrared, the issue is not so much what CO2 absorbs (and re-radiates as heat via collisions with other gaseous molecules or as IR emission), but rather the increase of CO2 gas since the industrial era began that is being considered as a contributor to global warming. Water is also a greenhouse gas and absorbs at a higher range of IR spectra. But we have no data stating that the amount of atmospheric water has increased since we started measuring. CO2, however, has.

Greg (Roberto Gregorius)
Canisius College



Click here to return to the Environmental and Earth Science Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory