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Earth's Energy Balance

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by

Jeremy Diem

on 10 March 2014

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Transcript of Earth's Energy Balance

The incoming solar radiation is approximately 1.74 x 10 W and the area of the Earth is 5.10 x 10 m ; therefore, the average incoming solar radiation for the earth as a whole is approximately 341 W m . This value is also the solar constant divided by four.
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78 W m of the 341 W m are absorbed by the atmosphere. This is about 23%.
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79 W m of the 341 W m are reflected by clouds and atmospheric particulates. This also is about 23%.
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183 W m reaches Earth's surface. This value is 341 W m minus the amount of radiation that was absorbed (78 W m ) and reflected (79 W m ) by the atmosphere. Therefore, about 54% of the solar radiation at the top of the atmosphere eventually reaches Earth's surface.
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Approximately 87.5% of the solar radiation that reaches Earth's surface is absorbed by Earth's surface. Most of the absorption is by the oceans.
Approximately 12.5% of the solar radiation that reaches Earth's surface is reflected by Earth's surface.
102 W m of the original 341 W m of incoming solar radiation is reflected by the Earth's atmosphere and surface.
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Therefore, Earth's albedo is 0.30
(i.e., 102/341)
You just learned that the Earth's atmosphere and surface absorb and reflect solar radiation.
70 W m of longwave radiation emitted by the surface and atmosphere does not get absorbed by the atmosphere and thus gets transferred directly to outer space; this is known as the atmospheric window.
The radiation emitted by the atmosphere away from the surface plus the radiation that went through the atmospheric windows equals 239 W m .
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As you just saw, there is a balance because the incoming solar radiation (341 W m ) equals the reflected solar solar radiation (102 W m ) plus the outgoing longwave radiation (239 W m ).
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You will now see that the Earth's surface and atmosphere absorb and emit longwave radiation (i.e., infrared radiation). And the surface also transfers sensible heat and latent heat to the atmosphere.
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An increase in greenhouse gases causes more "back radiation" that then results in an increase in sensible heat (i.e., thermals) and latent heat.
This video should help you understand the greenhouse effect and longwave radiation
Full transcript