Solar Energy

Solar Energy

Solar radiation is made up of different types of radiation, including infrared, visible light, and ultraviolet.

Solar energy comes from the sun and can be captured with various technologies, including solar panels (solar energy is a renewable energy source)

Earth's Energy Budget

  • The Earth receives only a very small portion of the sun’s energy

  • Solar energy is responsible for powering the motion of the atmosphere, the oceans, and many other processes on Earth

  • About 1/3 of the sun’s incoming energy is reflected back out to space

  • About 1/2 of the energy striking the Earth is absorbed by the Earth’s surface

Greenhouse Effect

  • Incoming solar radiation is in close balance with the energy that leaves the atmosphere

  • Greenhouse Effect: a process that occurs when gases in Earth's atmosphere trap the Sun's heat

    • makes Earth much warmer than it would be without an atmosphere

    • one of the things that makes Earth a comfortable place to live

    • gases in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, trap heat just like the glass roof of a greenhouse (heat-trapping gases are called greenhouse gases)

    • excess (too many) gases may disrupt this balance, causing Earth's atmosphere to trap more and more heat, which leads to global warming


  • Earth’s surface is heated unequally

  • When air or water is heated, the molecules move faster and farther apart, reducing their density and causing them to rise

  • Cooler air or water molecules move more slowly and are denser than warm air or water

  • Radiation is the transfer of heat energy through space by electromagnetic radiation

  • Warm air or water rising coupled with cooler air or water descending forms a cyclic rising/falling pattern called convection

  • Radiation and convection from the surface transfer heat energy

  • This energy powers the global circulation of the atmosphere and the oceans on our planet

  • Convection currents distribute heat energy in the atmosphere and oceans

Cloud Formation and Thermal Energy in Thunderstorms and Hurricanes

Clouds: As bodies of water (oceans, lakes, rivers, etc.) absorb thermal energy, the water evaporates causing the air to be warm and moist

  • Warm, moist air is less dense than cold, dry air, so it rises relative to colder, drier air

  • As warm, moist air rises, it gives off some thermal energy as the moisture condenses, forming clouds

  • Clouds are small, condensed water particles

Cloud Formation

Types of Clouds

  • Thunderstorms are formed where the land is strongly heated

  • Hurricanes are formed over warm, tropical water and are fed by the energy of that water


Check your answers below!

  1. False

  2. C

  3. A

  4. A

  5. D

  6. C

  7. B, D

  8. A