What Happens To The Energy From The Sun When It Reaches The Earth's Atmosphere?


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Samuel Chiltern Profile
Samuel Chiltern answered
The vast majority of energy released by the Sun never makes it to Earth. Only approximately one-billionth of its output of energy actually reaches our planet, so I'll go on to explain what happens to that in the rest of this answer.

What Happens to the Sun's Energy, Once it Reaches Earth?
Most of the energy in our ecosystem comes from the Sun, with the remainder coming from the Earth itself.

Luckily for us, the Earth is quite bad at capturing the Sun's energy - luckily because, if it didn't reflect the vast majority of it back into space, then our planet would rapidly become too hot.

Approximately 34% of the Sun's energy is reflected back by clouds, with another 66% being reflected back by the Earth itself.

Less than one percent of the tiny fraction of energy that even makes it to Earth is actually absorbed by our ecosystem.

How is Energy Used in an Ecosystem?
Plants use the energy that is captured to produce food, using a process called photosynthesis. They are referred to as producers, because they are capable of making their own food.

Herbivorous animals are labelled as primary consumers, because they can't produce their own food, and instead rely upon plants for sustenance.

Carnivorous animals are called secondary consumers, since they eat the animals that feed on plants.

Every time an energy transfer takes place, (from sunlight to plant, from plant to animal, or animal to animal), most of the energy is lost through heat, which is unproductive.

Our best scientific knowledge tells us that only four of five of these energy transformations can take place, before the amount of energy released becomes too small to support life.
Meena  Mano Profile
Meena Mano answered
The energy from the sun is either reflected or absorbed. Five percent of the energy is reflected by the Earth's surface, 25% is reflected by clouds and the atmosphere, and 50% is absorbed by Earth's surface.

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