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Notes on Energy in the Atmosphere


Almost all the Energy in our Atmosphere comes from the Sun

It travels to Earth at electromagnetic waves

     Electromagnetic waves are bands of energy that transfer electric and magnetic energy through space

     Energy can never be created or destroyed it just changes form!

     Radiation is the direct transfer of energy by electromagnetic waves

     Electromagnetic waves are classified by the wavelength: Wavelength is the distance between waves

        Most of the energy from the sun travels to Earth as visible light or infrared radiation, a small amount arrives as ultraviolet radiation:

        All the colors of the rainbow.

        The different colors are due to different wavelengths

        Blues are the shortest, Reds are the longest

        Infrared radiation

        Has long wave lengths

        Not visible

        Felt as heat

        Ultraviolet radiation

        Has short wave lengths

        Not visible

        Causes sunburns, cancer and eye damage












Sunlight is absorbed or reflected by the atmosphere before it reaches the surface, the rest passes through the atmosphere

Some energy is absorbed:

     The ozone layer absorbs most ultraviolet radiation

     water vapor and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere absorb some infrared radiation

     clouds, dust and other gases also absorb energy

Other energy is reflected

     Dust particles in the clouds reflect sunlight back to earth

     Scattering: the reflecting of energy, radiation in all directions

o       Energy of shorter wavelengths are scattered the most (blue light) (during daytime)

o       During sunrise and sunset the atmosphere is very thick and most of the blue wavelengths are removed, so we see red



When the earths surface is heated it radiates (sends) most of the energy back into the atmosphere as infrared radiation.

                                                     It doesnt travel all the way to space

                                                     It is absorbed by water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane and other gases in the air.

                                                     This absorbed energy heats our atmosphere

                                                     These gases form a blanket called the greenhouse effect


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