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Radiation: Solar and Terrestrial

  • By: Peter J. Robinson
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Radiation is the only commonly occurring form of energy that can travel through the vacuum of outer space. Solar radiation arriving at the Earth from the sun provides the energy that creates our climates and, through photosynthesis, plays a major role in the activities of the biosphere. Terrestrial radiation, emitted by Earth's surface and atmosphere, returns that energy to space. The amount of energy in both forms varies with time and space: Short-term variations are responsible for producing weather, lengthier ones create seasons, and long-term fluctuations lead to climate changes. The major factors causing variations can be considered by tracing the solar radiation downward through the atmosphere to the surface and the terrestrial radiation up from the surface through the atmosphere and out to space. ...

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