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greenhouse effect

The effect produced as greenhouse gases allow incoming solar radiation to pass through the earth's atmosphere, but prevent part of the outgoing infrared radiation from the earth's surface and lower atmosphere from escaping into outer space. This process occurs naturally and has kept the earth's temperature about 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius) warmer than it would otherwise be. Current life on earth could not be sustained without the natural greenhouse effect.

Synonyms: global warming