Greenhouse gas

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A greenhouse gas is gas in the atmosphere that contributes to the greenhouse effect.

The most important greenhouse gas is water vapor. Also important are carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide.

The nature of a greenhouse gas is to pass visible light, i.e., incoming energy from the sun, but to be opaque to the infrared, i.e., heat energy being re-radiated outward from the earth's surface. This functions much like the glass on a man-made greenhouse, and serves to trap warmth at the surface and in the lower atmosphere.

See also