Because of their particular molecular structure, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are good at absorbing infrared radiation that is heading from the earth towards space. When they absorb energy the molecules heat up, rotating and vibrating more. They also bang into one another, releasing energy. This animated diagram illustrates the different ways in which carbon dioxide molecules vibrate and rotate when they absorb energy. This process heats up the atmosphere.
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Animation by Marty Schultz
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