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Molecular Vibration Modes and Greenhouse Effect


A reading that discusses how chemical bonds in molecules respond to incident IR light and absorb IR energy during certain modes of vibration. The reading includes discussions on the vibrational modes of water vapor and carbon dioxide (CO2) molecules and explains why these gases act as greenhouse gases.

Students will learn how the absorption of incident IR radiation by water vapor and carbon dioxide gas molecules in certain vibrational modes makes them behave as greenhouse gases.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. What are the vibrational modes of carbon dioxide molecules?
  2. What are the vibrational modes of carbon dioxide molecules?
About Tool
Tool Name Why some gases are greenhouse gases, but most aren’t, and some are stronger than others
Discipline Chemistry
Topic(s) in Discipline Carbon Chemistry, The Electromagnetic Spectrum, Absorption, Greenhouse Gases, Greenhouse Effect, Infrared (IR) Spectroscopy, Molecular Vibration, Molecular Structure of Compounds, Vibrational Modes, IR Active Molecule, IR, Stretching and Bending Modes of Vibration
Climate Topic Climate and the Atmosphere, Greenhouse Effect
Type of tool Reading
Grade Level Undergraduate
Location Global
Language English
Translation      –
Developed by Prof David Archer, University of Chicago
Hosted at University of Chicago
Access Online
Computer Skills Basic


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