global warming potential

Synonyms

GWP, greenhouse warming potential

Definition

An index, based upon radiative properties of well mixed greenhouse gases, measuring the radiative forcing of a unit mass of a given well mixed greenhouse gas in today's atmosphere integrated over a chosen time horizon, relative to that of carbon dioxide. The GWP represents the combined effect of the differing times these gases remain in the atmosphere and their relative effectiveness in absorbing outgoing thermal infrared radiation. The Kyoto Protocol is based on GWPs from pulse emissions over a 100- year time frame. (IPCC)

Wikipedia definition:

Global warming potential (GWP) is a relative measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere. It compares the amount of heat trapped by a certain mass of the gas in question to the amount of heat trapped by a similar mass of carbon dioxide. A GWP is calculated over a specific time interval, commonly 20, 100 or 500 years. GWP is expressed as a factor of carbon dioxide (whose GWP is standardized to 1). In the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane has a lifetime of 12.4 years and with climate-carbon feedbacks a global warming potential of 86 over 20 years and 34 over 100 years in response to emissions. User related choices such as the time horizon can greatly affect the numerical values obtained for carbon dioxide equivalents. For a change in time horizon from 20 to 100 years, the GWP for methane decreases by a factor of approximately 3.The substances subject to restrictions under the Kyoto protocol either are rapidly increasing their concentrations in Earth's atmosphere or have a large GWP. The GWP depends on the following factors: * the absorption of infrared radiation by a given species * the spectral location of its absorbing wavelengths * the atmospheric lifetime of the species Thus, a high GWP correlates with a large infrared absorption and a long atmospheric lifetime. The dependence of GWP on the wavelength of absorption is more complicated. Even if a gas absorbs radiation efficiently at a certain wavelength, this may not affect its GWP much if the atmosphere already absorbs most radiation at that wavelength. A gas has the most effect if it absorbs in a "window" of wavelengths where the atmosphere is fairly transparent. The dependence of GWP as a function of wavelength has been found empirically and published as a graph. Because the GWP of a greenhouse gas depends directly on its infrared spectrum, the use of infrared spectroscopy to study greenhouse gases is centrally important in the effort to understand the impact of human activities on global climate change.

Source: Wikipedia - Global warming potential