Measuring the efficiency of greenhouse gases to absorb heat

(1) Bret Harte Middle School, (2) University of California, Berkeley

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Greenhouse gases are a very important part of the Earth’s atmosphere that cause the Earth to warm enough to support life, but when they are too abundant can also cause global warming. To find out which greenhouse gas has the greatest effect on temperature, we measured the percent temperature change over time in three of the four major greenhouse gases (water vapor, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide) compared to regular air when exposed to the sun. We measured this by putting a thermometer in bottles containing each of the gases. We hypothesized that carbon dioxide would have the greatest percent temperature change. Indeed, we found the temperature of the bottle containing carbon dioxide went up by 41.64%, which was higher than the other gases. We also observed that nitrous oxide had the lowest percentage change, which was 32.19%. Our results suggested that carbon dioxide has the greatest effect on temperature, which could have many ramifications. Carbon dioxide is present everywhere in the atmosphere. This means that the warming effect of carbon dioxide applies globally. Given that there is a large amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and that carbon dioxide emissions are increasing, global warming will increase more leading to ice caps melting, resulting in harm to the environment and all life on Earth.

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