Earth Science

Atmospheric Processes

Electromagnetic Energy in the Atmosphere

Study Tip
To remember the order of the visible spectrum, think of the imaginary name Roy G. Biv, which is an abbreviation for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. The red light has the longest wavelengths and the violet light has the shortest wavelength.

Electromagnetic Waves

Energy travels in the form of electromagnetic waves which are waves with both electrical and magnetic properties. The Law of Conservation of Energy, which states that energy is neither created or destroyed, can be applied to the concept of electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic energy can transfer heat from warmer objects to cooler ones, but the quantity never changes. The transfer of energy through these waves is called radiation.

Study Tip
To remember the order of the visible spectrum, think of the imaginary name Roy G. Biv, which is an abbreviation for Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet. The red light has the longest wavelengths and the violet light has the shortest wavelength.

Classification of Electromagnetic Waves

The electromagnetic waves that humans can see fall under the classification of visible light. When all visible light overlaps, it appears as white. The longest visible light is red and the shortest visible light is violet. Ultraviolet light is light that has a shorter wavelength than violet light and Infrared light is light that has a longer wavelength than red light.

light within the wavelengths
Visible light is light within the wavelengths 400 nanometers and 800 nanometers. The longest light within this range is red and the shortest is violet.

Reflection

Some objects appear to radiate light, but instead what you are seeing is reflection. Light bounces off these objects. Albedo is a measurement that describes how much light reflects off a surface. White objects have high albedo.

Concept Check
  • What are electromagnetic waves?
  • How are electromagnetic waves classified?
  • Through what medium do we measure the amount of light reflected off a surface?