Although it is usually simplified by saying “carbon” or “carbon dioxide”, the fact is that the greenhouse gases that cause climate change and global warming are many and very different. There are them more harmful than carbon dioxide or, for short, CO2. And there are those that remain more or less time in the atmosphere. CO2 is the paradigm because it is the most abundant. In this AgroCorrn article, we answer the question of how long greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere.
- The greenhouse effect
- Chemical weathering
- Compounds containing chlorine or fluorine
The greenhouse effect
The four main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH, nitrous oxide (N2O) and halocarbons or CFCs (gases containing fluorine, chlorine and bromine). These gases remain in the atmosphere for a long time. A certain period of time that can range from a few months to thousands of years, but it should be noted that, as long as they remain in the atmosphere, they will be affecting the climate.
The reduction of carbon dioxide (CO is essential in the fight against climate change because it is the one that humans produce the most with their activities. It is, in addition, probably the most difficult to determine, since there are some processes that eliminate carbon dioxide carbon from the atmosphere (the best known, the absorption of plants to carry out photosynthesis).
Between 65% and 80% of CO2 released into the atmosphere dissolves in the ocean and remains there for a period of twenty to two hundred years. The rest is slowly removed, thanks to processes that can last hundreds of thousands of years, processes such as chemical weathering or rock formation. Ultimately, once in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide can continue to affect the climate for thousands of years.
The methane, however, disappears from the atmosphere by chemical reaction, but persists for about twelve years. Thus, although methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas, its effect is relatively short-lived.
The nitrous oxide accumulate in the stratosphere and the atmosphere disappears more slowly than methane, it persists for over a hundred years.
Compounds containing chlorine or fluorine
Finally, compounds that contain chlorine or fluorine (CFC, HCFC, HFC, PFC) have different behaviors: they can be in the atmosphere from less than a year to thousands of years. The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel to Combat Climate Change) has published an extensive list indicating how long CFCs and other greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere.
Water vapor also affects climate, but it is seen as part of a kind of feedback loop and not a direct cause of climate change. It is released thanks to the rain and snow.
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