How Greenhouse Effect Works – Electrical Analog


Basically, the principle involved is the conservation of energy:

Energy In (Sunlight) = Energy Out (Infrared Radiation to Space) + Sunlight Reflected to Space

In the picture below, notice how there are various processes on earth involving the movement of solar energy, but all the energy enters and exits via space, and because of earth’s rotation about the sun there is an equilibrium that balances on an annual basis.


The Greenhouse Effect works as follows:

  • The rate of energy (as heat) emitted from the earth’s surface to space is governed by the earth’s surface temperature.
  • The greenhouse effect imposes a resistance between the earth’s surface and space.
  • As resistance to heat flow increases, the earth’s surface temperature must increase to maintain constant flow.

Consider this electrical analog:

Simple Circuit w Ground

The object is to maintain constant current (measured by amp meter A).  As the resistance increases, the voltage must increase accordingly.  For this analogy, the current is heat, the voltage is temperature, the resistance is greenhouse effect.  The temperature – heat flow relationship is not linear.

Remember, in nature a heated object will adapt to reject the heat at a rate equal to that put into it; that is, increase its temperature.

6 thoughts on “How Greenhouse Effect Works – Electrical Analog

  1. Bryce Johnson

    Actually, I made this comment before, but it seemed not to have been sent when I clicked on “Post Comment”

    I think it is a good and useful analogy. I agree with everything you said.

    1. Flora

      that each year need not be hotter than the last. The sceince has repeatedly said that normal climatic patterns can temporarily mask the effects of increased greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. It’s all about long-term trends. But the denialists place words into our mouths, claiming that we never say these things, and then get all holier than though when observed facts contradict their lies they shoved in our mouths.Why do I bother. These are the idiots who would proclaim a drought over after a light rain. Or that death is a myth because they survived a cold.

      1. Post author

        Denialists? Idiots? Such fascist talk is typical among close-minded global warming people.


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