"greenhouse gases"

Discuss word origins and meanings.

"greenhouse gases"

Post by incarnatus est » Tue Dec 15, 2009 6:38 pm

I've known for years about the so-called "greenhouse effect."

I know that the phenomenon produces gases that warm the atmosphere, etc and cause "global warning."

For years the bad gases coming from the factories, I thought, were variously referred to as "Industrial pollution" etc.

Suddenly -so it seemed to me- President Obama and others are warning of the need to control "greenhouse gases."

When did the term "greenhouse gases" arise to the point that last week it was used in newspaper headlines, with the tacit assumption that everyone understood what they meant.

After a little research I think I understand that industry emits many kinds of gases. The types that raise the atmospheric temperature are called "Greenhouse" gases. But they are not a general synonym for Industrial pollution emitted in the form of gas particles. Am I understanding this correctly now?

And when did this term, as such, permeate the media?
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Dec 15, 2009 10:01 pm

Industrial pollution can take all physical forms -- liquid, solid, gaseous -- and thus the term does not refer solely to gases.

Of those gases that are emitted by industry, only some are greenhouse gases. Equally, some gases that are emitted by natural processes are greenhouse gases, while others are not.

What has made greenhouse gases into an issue of concern is the fact that human activities have (directly or indirectly) generated such large quantities of them that the capacity of natural processes to remove them from the world's ecosystems and hence mitigate their impact on climate systems has been overwhelmed.

I hope this at least partially answers your question.
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by russcable » Tue Dec 15, 2009 11:11 pm

In Google News Archive, the term starts popping up in the mid-1980's though sometimes with "quotes", but the quotes seem to pretty much disappear by the mid-1990's.
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by Ken Greenwald » Wed Dec 16, 2009 3:12 am

I. E. et al, In researching GREENHOUSE GASES, I couldn’t help but notice the related expressions that preceded it, CLIMATE CHANGE, GREENHOUSE EFFECT and GLOBAL WARMING, which, for completeness, I'm including in this discussion:

The oldest of these expressions is CLIMATE CHANGE (which, like the others, didn’t take off in the media in a big way until the 1980s), appears in a 2009 update added a few months ago to the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY:

CLIMATE CHANGE noun: An alteration in the regional or global climate; especially the change in global climate patterns increasingly apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels; cf. global warming.
<1854 “Some have ascribed these climate changes to agriculture—the cutting down the dense forests—the exposure of the upturned soil to the summer sun, and the draining of the great marshes.”—U.S. Magazine of Science, Arts, & Manfactures, 15 December, page 234/3>

<1873 “There are no thermometric records sufficiently comprehensive to afford inferential conclusions as to climate change in the West.”—Ohio Democrat, 25 April, page 1/6>

<1957 “This continued pouring forth of waste gases may upset the rather delicate carbon dioxide balance in the earth's general atmosphere and . .. a large scale global warming, with radical climate changes may result.”—Hammond Times (Indiana), 6 November, page B2/1>

<1983 “Palaeoclimatological data will be perused for the information they provide about climate change during the Pliocene and Lower Pleistocene.”—Current Anthropology, Vol. 24, page 589/1>

<1989 “Was the ‘Summer of '88’ a real example of climate change in the making or simply a media event?”—Global Warming (1990), vii. page 191>

<2004 “It is undeniable that global climate changes over the past few decades have caused a number of anomalies in animal migration.”—Tropical Fish, January, page 66/3>
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The Oxford English Dictionary does not yet include a listing for GREENHOUSE EFFECT. However, under GREENHOUSE its earliest quote is from 1937 (see quote below). And the sheep, such as Brewer’s Dictionary of Modern Phrase & Fable (2006) and Merriam-Webster Online (2009), who didn’t bother to do any independent research, here played followed-the-leader repeating the OED’s 1937 date. However, ten years ago John Ayto in his 20th Century Words (1999) did do some homework and provided a date of 1929, which some sources such as Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins (2008) apparently noticed and copied.

However, with the magical power of a current internet search of archived sources, which M-W Online and Facts on File neglected to do – probably because of their very limited resources (<;) – I was able to come up with 3 examples predating Ayto's 1929 example, with the earliest being from 1905. But, although the term was frequently used in scientific circles for many years, it did not appear widely in the news media and become a major public concern until the 1980s.

AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY

GREENHOUSE EFFECT noun: The phenomenon whereby the earth's atmosphere traps solar radiation, caused by the presence in the atmosphere of gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, and methane that allow incoming sunlight to pass through but absorb heat radiated back from the earth's surface.
_____________________
<1905 “ the effect comes on so quickly that it must chiefly be due to ‘the greenhouse effect,’ the imprisonment of the reflected dark-heat rays . . .”—Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B, Vol. 76, No. 511, 2 September, page 409>

<1925 “That portion of volcanic dust that floats for months or years . . . is coarse enough to shut out much of the incoming radiation and yet fine enough to keep in much of the outgoing earth radiation. It, therefore, produces an inverse greenhouse effect . . .”—The Scientific Monthly, Vol. 20, No. 5, May, page 458>

<1928 “Arrhenius calculated that from this greenhouse effect the temperature in the artic regions might rise 8° C.”—Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series A, Vol. 119, No. 783, 2 July, page xvi>

<1929 “It is also obvious that, although each of these substances [[carbon dioxide, ozone, and water vapor]] is an effective absorber in the region of appreciable to strong solar radiation, their joint effect on earth radiation is far greater, so much so, indeed, that they produce a very marked greenhouse effect.”—Physics of the Air (2nd edition) by W. J. Humphreys, page 91> [[John Ayto's find in his 1999 20th Century Words]]

<1937 “The so-called greenhouse effect of the atmosphere.”—Introduction to Weather & Climate by G. T. Trewartha, i. page 25> [[OED’s earliest quote]]

<1950 “It's the greenhouse effect—the heat traps.”—Farmer in the Sky (1975) by R. Heinlein, ix. page 91>

<1962 “On Mars the greenhouse effect is not expected to be very significant.”—Basic Astronautics by F. I. Ordway, iii. page 78>

<1968 “Carbon dioxide . . . is responsible for a ‘greenhouse’ effect which allows in heat from the sun but prevents it escaping back into space.”—The Observer (London), 17 November, page 9/5>

<1981 “Quick Action on Greenhouse Effect Urged: World Effort Needed to Avoid Overheated Climate, Council Warns. Continused burning of fossil fuels such as oil and coal threatens to bring about a global greenhouse effect that could dramatically alter the world's climate as early as the mid-21st Century.”—Los Angeles Times,14 January, page B11 >
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In its 2009 update the OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY, which does have a few resources, added GLOBAL WARMING as a listing and provided a first-in-print date of 1952. And, again, although I found plenty of early examples from the 1960s and 1970s, it was not until the 1980s that GLOBAL WARMING showed up in a very big way on the news media’s radar:

GLOBAL WARMING noun: A long-term gradual increase in the temperature of the earth's atmosphere and oceans, specifically one generally thought to be occurring at the present time, and to be associated especially with side effects of recent human activity such as the increased production of greenhouse gases.
_____________________
<1952 “Scientists who are studying global warming trends point out that not a single iceberg was sighted last year south of Parallel 46.”—San Antonio Express (Texas), 28 April, page 2/5>

<1957 “This continued pouring forth of waste gases may upset the rather delicate carbon dioxide balance in the earth's general atmosphere and . .. a large scale global warming, with radical climate changes may result.”—Hammond Times (Indiana), 6 November, page B2/1>

<1970 “Because of this ‘greenhouse effect,’ the more carbon dioxide there is in the air, the warmer the earth should be.”—Los Angeles Times,15 January, page C7>

<1977 “Even a doubling of carbon dioxide could be serious: a global warming of nearly three degrees centigrade, and possibly over eleven degrees in parts of the Arctic.”—The Economist, 4 June, page 89/1>

<1981 “Scientists fear rising seas if huge ice sheet collapses. . . . As carbon dioxide increases, it causes a greenhouse effect, some scientists say.”—Chicago Tribune, 20 October, page 10>
____________________________________________________________________

As with greenhouse effect, the Oxford English Dictionary has not yet provided a listing for GREENHOUSE GAS(ES) and their earliest quote is from 1989. The earliest quote I was able to find in my archive search was from 1975:

RANDOM HOUSE WEBSTER’S UNABRIDGED DICTIONARY

GREENHOUSE GAS noun: Any of the gases whose absorption of solar radiation is responsible for the greenhouse effect, including carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and the fluorocarbons. [1980-85]
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<1975 “The ‘greenhouse gases’ which might be present in the neutral environment would be NH3, H2S and perhaps also dimethyl sulphide.”—Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 189, No. 1095, 6 May, page 178> [[A discussion on the recognition of alien Life]]

<1980 “H. Flohn, a German climatologist, has estimated that the average rise in global temperature resulting from the injection of this CO2 into the atmosphere . . . to be about 1.2° C. [[which is somewhat higher than other estimates because he]] takes into account the additive effects of other ‘greenhousegases.”—Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 124, No. 6, 17 December, page 401> [[in article titled ‘Is Nuclear Energy Necessary?’]]

<1981 “In fact, the likely primordial greenhouse gas candidate is carbon dioxide (CO2).”—Science News, Vol. 119, No. 24, 13 June, page 376>

<1982 “Methane, a long-lived trace gas, is one of the so-called greenhouse gases that can affect atmospheric chemistry and possibly warm the atmosphere by reducing the amount of heat the earth radiates back into space.”—Science News, Vol. 122, No. 19, 6 November, page 295> [[in article titled ‘Termite Gas and Global Methane’]]

<1984 “They’re bad: Watch out for carbon dioxide, acid rain, toxic chemicals, professor says. . . . A large increase in the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere could cause increases in global temperatures, Holland added. . . .Other ‘greenhouse gases’ which may act as atmospheric insulators are nitrous oxide and methane, Holland said.”—The Daily Collegian (Penn State University), 23 October> [[H. D. Holland, professor of geochemistry at Harvard, at Global Cycles lecture series]]

<1989 “The more rapidly the climate warms up, the more likely it is that major feedback processes in the carbon cycle will significantly change current projections of greenhouse gas buildup.”—Global Warming by S. H. Schneider, v. page 103>

<1993 “Environmentalists want Clinton . . . to go further by encouraging the immediate negotiation of a protocol that would commit industrialized nations to a 25 percent reduction of greenhouse gases . . . by 2005.”—Mother Jones (San Francisco), January-February, page 73/2>

<1997 “Anthropogenic increases in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are predicted to cause a warming of the global climate by modifying radiative forcing.”—Nature, 19 June, page 796/2>

<2007 “Did you know that almost one-fifth of climate-changing greenhouse gases come from livestock production?”—BBC Good Food: Vegetarian Summer, page 5/1>
(quotes in this posting are from the Oxford English Dictionary and archived sources except as noted)
______________________

Ken – December 15, 2009
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by hsargent » Wed Dec 16, 2009 4:07 pm

The original use of
greenhouse gases
was referring to freon. This was coming from our air conditioning/refrigeration systems and the carriers in spray applicators such as paint and insecticides. These were for our convenience and could not be associated with industrial waste.

Within the last decade or two after restrictions on these accelerates, carbon dioxide was include in
greenhouse gases
.

I have never seen the chemical equations which relates carbon dioxide to an opaque compound in the upper atmosphere. I assume there is a basis for conclusion.

As an aside, the global temperature equations have always estimated 1-2 degrees above actual measurements. Then on the days a 911, all the commercial airliners in the US were grounded. With the lack of their contrails, the temperature went up about 1 1/2 degrees.

So global warming is very complicated. Then there are relationships with solar flares and global temperature cycles which have been documented by various means. What happened to the ice age? There was no industry then!
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by JANE DOErell » Wed Dec 16, 2009 6:39 pm

I took a serious agriculture department course in greenhouse horticulture back about '66 or so. We studied gases. Water vapor and carbon dioxide were studied and demonstrated in the our greenhouse laboratory. As someone noted upthread "greenhouse effect" appeared in the literature before "greenhouse gasses" in climate discussions.
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by russcable » Thu Dec 17, 2009 10:22 am

hsargent wrote:The original use of "greenhouse gases" was referring to freon. ... Within the last decade or two after restrictions on these accelerates, carbon dioxide was include in "greenhouse gases."
I think something needs to be clarified here so that the most recent name of a thing is not confused with the thing itself.
While "greenhouse gases" as a popular term is fairly recent (25 years) and "greenhouse effect" is somewhat recent (100 years), the scientific principles had been known for quite a while previous to their coining. Joseph Fourier is usually credited with discovering what we now call the greenhouse effect in 1824. Joseph Tynsdale provided experimental proof in 1858 showing that water vapor, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and methane could contribute to this effect and therefore that those gases were known at that time to be what we now call "greenhouse gases" even though the term itself had not been coined.
Freon and other CFC's were certainly the hot topic of popular discussion in the 1970's through the early '90's so many people many have thought that they were the only greenhouse gases, but someone with moderate scientific knowledge would likely have already known about the others.
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by hsargent » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:50 pm

Russcable,

I noticed you mentioned water vapor. That is interesting.

All combustion which produces carbon dioxide, also produces even more water on a stoichiometry basis.

I have never heard a discussion of where all that water goes!

I have not heard of the hole in the ozone layer recently. I assume this is also tied to that phenomenon.

Another aside, my dad worked with people with green house tomato production in central Texas. There was some disease which they could not identify that affected these plants that did not occur in the open air!
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Dec 19, 2009 6:57 am

Jane said:

As someone noted upthread "greenhouse effect" appeared in the literature before "greenhouse gasses" in climate discussions.
.. upthread what a curious americanism >>

As someone noted above .....
As noted previously ......

.. why invent crude rude words when the english is already available ??? .. I often wonder that .. no doubt I will get the usual lecture about trying to put my little digit in the dam holding back the tide of linguistic progress .. progress ??? .. they thought that when they chopped down the trees to make way for the open cut mine to fuel the new coal fired power station .. always a cost .. always somebody championing the new against old dinosaur traditionalists like me .. anybody seen any dinosaurs lately ??? ..

WoZ a GW skeptic
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:05 am

But you've invented your own style of punctuation without worrying about what other people think, so why shouldn't other people invent 'open-cut' and 'upthread' without reference to you if they feel the need? :-)
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Tue Dec 22, 2009 12:56 am

Doing away with the full stop ls pretty pointless.
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Dec 22, 2009 1:29 am

But there is learned commatary that backs up the counter point.
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Wed Dec 23, 2009 12:07 am

Not in any respected periodicals.
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Dec 23, 2009 2:10 am

Be that as it may, I question the need for harsh colonic interrogation.
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Re: "greenhouse gases"

Post by Jennyim » Sat Jul 03, 2010 2:30 pm

The main greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere are Water Vapor, Carbon dioxide, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide.

Water vapor - Earth's most important greenhouse gas, giving us over 90% of the Earth's natural greenhouse effect, which helps keep the Earth warm enough to support life (Natural)

Carbon Dioxide - Gases, Fuels and Deforestation (Enhanced)

Methane - Mainly produced by Human and Animal wastes (Natural)

Nitrous Oxide - Give off by mainly Car/Factories. Damages O-zone (Enhanced).
Global Warming Survival Center
Last edited by Jennyim on Mon Jul 05, 2010 7:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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