This image is a montage of high resolutions photographs of the Earth taken in January 2012 by the Visible/Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. The image shows many stunning details of our home planet
- particularly at high resolution
. The beauty of our planet is obvious from space - our blue waters
, our white clouds
, and the green from life
abundant at the surface.
Image courtesy of NASA
Earth's Global Climate
Earth's climate is determined by the amount of energy received from the Sun and the amount of energy held in the Earth system - in short, Earth's radiation budget.
The Sun emits a huge amount of energy, in the form of electromagnetic radiation. If we could capture all of that energy, we would have more than enough energy to fuel all our needs on this planet, by many time! Most of the Sun's energy flows out of the solar system into space. Only a small amount of this energy collides with planets, including Earth. This tiny amount of energy from the Sun that reaches Earth warms our planet, drives our weather, and supports life.
There are two main ways that the Sun's energy can vary at Earth - either by changes in the Earth's distance from the Sun or by changes in the amount of energy emitted from the Sun itself. The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is also a key factor in our climate.
Finally, the amount of energy reflected away from Earth is also very important to our climate. This is called the Earth's albedo. Surfaces that are shiny reflect light - like fresh snow or clouds - and reduce the amount of energy that gets into the Earth. Because warming leads to melting of ice and snow, a cycle develops leading to even more reduction in ice and snow... and more warming.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
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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