Earth Science

Atmospheric Processes

Solar Energy on Earth

Study Tip
Infrared waves have long wavelengths, just like how red light has the longest waves. Ultraviolet waves have high energy, just like how violet light have more energy (and shorter wavelengths).

Energy from the Sun

  • The sun gives energy to the Earth in the form of radiation. Infrared and ultraviolet waves are amongst the most common forms of energy that we receive from the Sun.
  • Only 44% of the sun’s energy is visible; the sun also emits infrared, ultraviolet, and many other kinds of waves. Ultraviolet Radiation
Study Tip
Infrared waves have long wavelengths, just like how red light has the longest waves. Ultraviolet waves have high energy, just like how violet light have more energy (and shorter wavelengths).

Ultraviolet Radiation

  • Ultraviolet (UV) waves only make up about 7% of solar radiation, but it’s often the most powerful.
  • There are three kinds of UV light that come down onto the Earth: UVC (highest energy), UVB (second highest), and UVA (lowest).
  • Only UVA waves travel to the ground. UVB waves are stopped in the atmosphere, and UVC waves don’t even reach our planet at all.
Ultraviolet Radiation
The Sun’s most powerful waves come in the form of Ultraviolet Radiation.

Infrared Waves

  • Infrared waves have the longest wavelengths. Objects radiate infrared waves, which we feel as heat.
  • Gases in the atmosphere and the ozone layer absorb some of the sun’s infrared energy.
Infrared Waves
Infrared waves often come in the form of energy. A satellite from NASA was able to detect the hottest regions on Earth by studying these waves.
Concept Check
  • What are the most common forms of energy that we receive from the sun?
  • What are three kinds of UV light?
  • What are infrared waves?