Baffled by black holes? Confused by quantum theory? Explaining the universe one small step at a time
Molecules like carbon dioxide absorb heat radiated by the Earth’s surface and trap it in the atmosphere Several kinds of molecules floating in the Earth’s atmosphere have the property of trapping heat given off from the surface.When she exposed the tubes to sunlight she discovered that, of all the gases, water vapour and carbon dioxide warmed the most.Tyndall determined that water vapour and carbon dioxide are not heated directly by visible light from the sun but by heat in the form of invisible infrared light, radiated by the surface of the Earth after it has been heated by the sun.Naively, you can think of the atoms inside a molecule such as water (H20) or carbon dioxide (CO2) as connected by springs that can alternately compress and expand.
Foote and Tyndall’s discovery was surprising because it showed that molecules with concentrations as tiny as carbon dioxide, which makes up a mere 0.Although both scientists suspected a link between carbon dioxide and climate, it was the Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius who in 1896 suggested that, at the end of ice ages, an increase in carbon dioxide had helped warm the Earth.