Chapter 3: The Atmosphere

Lesson 4: Caitlyn Simon, Elizabeth Chandler,and Autumn Davis

Key Questions


  • How Does Energy From The Sun Travel to Earth?
  • What Happens to the Sun’s Energy When It Reaches Earth?

How does Energy From the Sun Travel To Earth



  • Electromagnetic waves- a form of energy that can move through the vacuum of space


  • Radiation- the direct transfer of energy by electromagnetic waves


  • Infrared radiation- a form of electromagnetic energy has wavelengths that are longer than wavelengths for red light


  • Ultraviolet radiation- is an invisible form of energy with wavelengths that are shorter than wavelengths for violet light


Visible Light:

  • Different colors equals different wavelength
  • red and orange- longest wavelength
  • Blue and violet- Shortest wavelength


  • Key- Most of the energy from the sun travels to earth in the form of visible light and infrared radiation. A smaller amount arrives as ultraviolet radiation.
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What Happens to the Sun's Energy When It Reaches Earth?

Scattering - in this process dust-size particles and gases in the atmosphere disperse light in all directions.


Key: Some of the light from the sun is blocked and bounced back before it goes through the atmosphere then to the Earth’s surface. While most of it goes directly to the surface.


  • Different layers in the atmosphere like Thermosphere, Mesosphere, Stratosphere, and Troposphere absorb different wavelengths of radiation.

  • When sunlight reflects back into space the clouds are usually blocking it.

  • Light in the sky is scattered by gas molecules in the atmosphere.

  • 50% of the energy from the sun is changed into heat when it is absorbed by land and water.




Greenhouse Effect- the trapping of heat near a planet's surface by certain gases in the planet's atmosphere


Key- Earth's surface radiates some energy back into the atmosphere as infrared radiation

Earth's energy Budget


What happens to the energy that heats the land and water?

  • Infrared radiation doesn't suddenly travel to space

  • Infrared radiation is absorbed by water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and other gases

  • Greenhouse effect holds heat in the atmosphere

  • human activities is changing the process of the atmosphere absorbing energy

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The Earth's Energy Balance