Initial Publication Date: December 12, 2005

Name of Resource: Bad Greenhouse
Climate Change Theme: Greenhouse Effect- Misconceptions
Sponsoring Organization: Prof. Alistair Fraser- Penn State
Intended use: Background Material, Learning Activity
Intended audience: Educator and developer
Average Review Ratings (Poor to Excellent, 1-5 scale): 3.5 stars

Description: Some readers have taken issue with Prof. Fraser's assertion that the Earth receives energy from two sources: the atmosphere and the sun (see FAQ). In particular, they would like him to additionally point out that the atmosphere's energy originally came from the sun. In my opinion, both sides make good points: Prof. Fraser's assertion is a useful and accurate way of understanding the greenhouse effect, but it is also necessary to understand how the atmosphere gains energy. (CM)

Summary of Reviews

Reviewer: Carrie Morrill 4 stars
Comments: Retired professor of meteorology addresses some misconceptions about the greenhouse effect. Explains why the greenhouse effect and global warming are not the same thing and why it is incorrect to say that the atmosphere traps radiation, reradiates, or behaves like a greenhouse. If you can get past the somewhat condescending tone, this webpage will challenge the way you think about the greenhouse effect.
Read entire review: link text (Acrobat (PDF) 60kB Jun21 05)

Reviewer: Jack Ganse 4 stars

Reviewer: Kirsten Butcher 3.5 stars
Comments: What I love about this site is that the text is no-nonsense, even sarcastic, in presenting some contradictions to common misconceptions about the greenhouse effect. This helps grab the reader's attention for what is, to many, a dry topic. What I don't like is that the author has a tendency to assume a very high level of knowledge in his reader, so that many explanations seem incomplete to less advanced readers. For example, in response to the question: "Does the atmosphere (or any greenhouse gas) act as a blanket?" the response is:
"At best, the reference to a blanket is a bad metaphor. Blankets act primarily to suppress convection; the atmosphere acts to enable convection. To claim that the atmosphere acts a blanket, is to admit that you don't know how either one of them operates."
...It would be nice to have a clear explanation. But, this is clearly aimed at advanced learners and/or experts and I think it is a clever and interesting resource. It could be a good exercise for advanced students at the end of a lesson, to use in conjunction with other materials.
Read entire review: link text (Acrobat (PDF) 69kB Jun21 05)