The shape of Earth's orbit becomes more or less oval, Earth wobbles as it spins, and Earth's axis changes too. All these changes, over thousands of years, causes Earth's climate to change.
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Windows to the Universe
How the Sun Affects Climate: Solar and Milankovitch Cycles
Energy from the Sun
nice and warm. Sometimes Earth doesn't get
as much energy from the Sun. This happens either when the Sun is not as warm or
when the Earth's
Sometimes the Sun Changes!
When the Sun has fewer sunspots, it gives off less energy. That means that less
energy makes its way to Earth, and our planet cools down. Over time, scientists
have noticed a pattern in the number of sunspots. About every 11 years the number
of sunspots reaches a high and then decreases again.
Sometimes the Earth's Orbit Changes!
Over thousands of years, changes in Earth's orbit cause changes in the
amount of the Sun's energy that can get to the planet. These changes cause
global warming and cooling.
There are three ways that Earth's orbit changes over time.
- The shape of Earth's orbit around the Sun can become slightly more
and then less oval.
- Earth wobbles as it spins.
- The angle of the Earth's axis, its tilt, changes.
Once the Sun's energy reaches the Earth, several things can happen. The
energy can be absorbed by the planet, reflected back into space, or become trapped
in the atmosphere.
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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist
, available in our online store
, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.
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