Any of the atmospheric gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing infrared radiation produced by solar warming of the Earth's surface. They include carbon dioxide (CO2),
nitrous oxide (N2O),
and water vapor. Although greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, the elevated levels especially of carbon dioxide and methane that have been observed in recent decades are directly related, at least in part, to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and the deforestation of tropical forests.