Earth Science

Atmospheric Processes

Heat Transfer in the Atmosphere

Study Tip
The three types of heat transfer (Radiation, Conduction, and Convention) are used in studying both thermodynamics and weather.

Heat Transfer

  • Heat is transferred in the atmosphere in the same way that heat is transferred between objects.
  • Radiation is the transfer of energy between two objects through electromagnetic waves. For instance, the sun uses radiation to give the Earth heat.
Study Tip
The three types of heat transfer (Radiation, Conduction, and Convention) are used in studying both thermodynamics and weather.
  • Conduction occurs through the contact between hot and cold substances. Warmer molecules that vibrate rapidly come into contact with cooler molecules, transferring their energy through reaching equilibrium. Likewise, heat energy from the lower atmosphere is transferred to a higher elevation.
  • Convection is the transfer of energy from heated materials. Heat radiated from the ground exchanges energy with convection cells in the atmosphere. Convection usually occurs due to the differences in density.

Atmospheric Circulation

  • Due to the Earth’s tilt, different latitudes receive different amounts of solar energy.
  • Because the equator receives the most energy, the energy from that region of the Earth circulates throughout the rest of the planet.
 heat is transferred by the changes in temperature
Through convection, heat is transferred
by the changes in temperature and density.
Concept Check
  • Describe the differences between radiation, conduction, and convection.
  • Why does atmospheric circulation occur?