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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Energy from the Sun

Energy from the Sun

About half the incoming solar energy reaches the Earth's surface.
The Earth receives 174 petawatts (PW) of incoming solar radiation (insolation) at the upper atmosphere.[1] Approximately 30% is reflected back to space while the rest is absorbed by clouds, oceans and land masses. The spectrum of solar light at the Earth's surface is mostly spread across the visible and near-infrared ranges with a small part in the near-ultraviolet.[2]
Earth's land surface, oceans and atmosphere absorb solar radiation, and this raises their temperature. Warm air containing evaporated water from the oceans rises, causing atmospheric circulation or convection. When the air reaches a high altitude, where the temperature is low, water vapor condenses into clouds, which rain onto the Earth's surface, completing the water cycle. The latent heat of water condensation amplifies convection, producing atmospheric phenomena such as wind, cyclones and anti-cyclones.[3] Sunlight absorbed by the oceans and land masses keeps the surface at an average temperature of 14 °C.[4] By photosynthesis green plants convert solar energy into chemical energy, which produces food, wood and the biomass from which fossil fuels are derived.[5]

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