Greenhouse gas, any gas that has the property of absorbing infrared radiation (net heat energy) emitted from Earth’s surface and reradiating it back to Earth’s surface, thus contributing to the greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide, methane, and water vapour are the most important greenhouse gases. (To a lesser extent, surface-level ozone, nitrous oxides, and fluorinated gases also trap infrared radiation.) Greenhouse gases have a profound effect on the energy budget
of the Earth system despite making up only a fraction of all atmospheric gases. Concentrations of greenhouse gases have varied substantially during Earth’s history, and these variations have driven substantial climate
changes at a wide range of timescales. In general, greenhouse gas
concentrations have been particularly high during warm periods and low during cold periods.
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