Since 1997, more than 16,000 people have been killed worldwide
by all types of severe weather conditions and nearly $50 billion
in damage has occurred! (Life Magazine, 8/98). By most standards,
the recent violent weather has been quite extraordinary. Some
scientists believe that these weather events are just a natural
cycle, while others believe that humans are changing their environment
and contributing to the problem. One of the changes that is
occurring is the gradual warming of our atmosphere from a process
called "the Greenhouse Effect."
The climate of our planet is enormously affected by natural
greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. As an example, look
at Venus and Mars, our two nearest galactic neighbors. Venus,
with its thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide, has a "major" greenhouse
effect. This contributes to an average surface temperature of
900 degrees (F), hot enough to melt lead! Mars, however, has
an average surface temperature of only 80 degrees below zero!
It's atmosphere of carbon dioxide is so thin there is virtually
no greenhouse effect. (Sources: Environmental Defense Fund and
Aren't you glad Earth's atmosphere and greenhouse effect are
just right for supporting life? But we can have too much of
a good thing. Humans do many things humans that cause our planet
to get warmer. Let's learn more about "The Greenhouse Effect."
Below are a series of questions to guide your lightning explorations.
To find the answers to each of these questions, click on the