GLOBAL WARMING: THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT
générales sur les Temperatures du globe terrestre et des espaces
FIRST EDITION of Fourier's
observation that the ground temperature of the Earth is increased
because of the existence of the atmosphere; a phenomenon that would
become known as "the greenhouse effect". Often considered the
foundation of climate change science. A scarce copy in original
“It was in the 1820s that Joseph
Fourier first explained that the Earth's atmosphere retains heat
radiation. He had asked himself a deceptively simple question, of a sort
that physics theory was just then beginning to learn how to attack: what
determines the average temperature of a planet like the Earth? When
light from the Sun strikes the Earth's surface and warms it up, why
doesn't the planet keep heating up until it is as hot as the Sun itself?
Fourier's answer was that the heated surface emits invisible infrared
radiation, which carries the heat energy away into space. But when he
calculated the effect with his new theoretical tools, he got a
temperature well below freezing, much colder than the actual Earth.
"The difference, Fourier recognized, was due to the Earth's atmosphere.
Somehow it kept part of the heat radiation in. He tried to explain this
by comparing the Earth with its covering of air to a box with a glass
cover. That was a well-known experiment — the box's interior warms up
when sunlight enters while the heat cannot escape. This was an over
simple explanation, for it is quite different physics that keeps heat
inside an actual glass box, or similarly in a greenhouse. (The main
effect of the glass is to keep the air, heated by contact with
sun-warmed surfaces, from wafting away, although the glass does also
keep heat radiation from escaping.) Nevertheless, trapping of heat by
the atmosphere eventually came to be called 'the greenhouse effect'" (American
Institute of Physics).
In: Annales de Chimie et de
Physique, pp. 136-167, Tome XXVII, Octobre 1824. Paris: Crochard, 1824.
Octavo, original printed wrappers, uncut. custom cloth box. Minor
edgewear and foxing to wrappers, early stamp of the Académie d’Aix on
first page of text (not affecting Fourier article); text exceptionally
clean. Extremely rare in original wrappers. $3300.