Factors affecting the receipt of

solar radiation
At the top of the Earth’s Atmosphere
Factors
 1. Solar output
 2. Distance from the Sun
 3. Angle of solar incidence / Altitude of
the Sun

1. Solar output
 The energy emitted by the sun is 105.3 x 106 cal
/cm
2
/min.
 There are however a 11-year cyclic variation of
1% (+/-) in the output of solar energy because of
sunspots (dark areas visible on the sun’s surface)
change in numbers and position.
 More energy can be received at the top of the
atmosphere when sunspot activity is less active.
 The Earth revolves around the Sun in an elliptical
orbit.
 It is closest to the Sun on 3
rd
January (perihelion)
at a distance of 147.3 million km and farthest
away on 4
th
July (aphelion) at a distance of 152.1
million km.
(The difference in distance: 4.8 million km)


2. Distance from the Sun
2. Distance from the Sun (cont’)
 The amount of solar radiation received by any
body varies inversely with the square of its
distance from the Sun. Assuming an average
distance of 150 million km of the earth from the
Sun, and a solar output of 73.5 x 106 Wm/p
2
, the
amount of solar radiation received at the top of the
atmosphere is 1360 W/m
2
or 1.9 cal/cm
2
/min.
 As this value is unvarying at all times, it is also
called the solar constant.
2. Distance from the Sun (cont’)
 So, what can you conclude about the average
temperatures over the Earth as a whole in January
and in July? Which one is warmer?


 Which hemisphere is experiencing a warmer
winter?
2. Distance from the Sun (cont’)
 So, what can you conclude about the average
temperatures over the Earth as a whole in January
and in July? Which one is warmer?
Answer: January.

 Which hemisphere is experiencing a warmer
winter?
Answer: Northern Hemisphere (winter in Jan).

3. Angle of the Sun / Altitude of
the Sun
 At the top of the atmosphere, the greater the angle
of solar incidence, the more concentrated is the
radiation intensity per unit area and hence the
higher is the temperature.
 The solar radiation intensity is greater when the
angle of solar incidence is larger.
3. Angle of the Sun / Altitude of
the Sun (Factors)
 Latitudes
 The time of the day
 Seasons
 Length of day-time
Seasons on Earth!
 http://esminfo.prenhall.com/science/geoanimation
s/animations/01_EarthSun_E2.html

 http://www.classzone.com/books/earth_science/ter
c/content/visualizations/es0408/es0408page01.cfm
?chapter_no=04

 The Seasons and Axis Tilt
 http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/astron
omy/planets/earth/Seasons.shtml


 Adopted from Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seasons

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