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Learn more about the Controls of Climate on Geological Timescales

This animation illustrates how heat from the Sun, the albedo effect and the greenhouse effect control Earth's temperature on geological timescales.

This video shows an illustration of the 3 factors which control Earth’s climate on geological timescales.

Earth becomes warmer if it receives more heat from the Sun. The Sun is like a radiator in space. If we only consider heat from the Sun, Earth’s temperature would be 6 degrees Celsius.

Earth becomes cooler if more heat is reflected back into space. This is called the albedo effect. Bright surfaces (like a white cat) reflect more heat. Bright surfaces have higher albedo than dark surfaces. If we only consider heat from the Sun and the albedo effect, Earth’s temperature would be -18 degrees Celsius.

Earth becomes warmer if more heat is trapped by its atmosphere. This is called the greenhouse effect. It works like a blanket (the white cat has crept under a blanket to trap its own body heat). If we only consider heat from the Sun, the albedo effect and the greenhouse effect, Earth’s temperature should be 14 degrees Celsius.

Earth’s temperature is actually above 15 degrees Celsius. This is because of human-induced global warming.

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