Jumbo Content

Cloudy vs. Clear

Source: My NASA Data
[18-Oct-2019] The Sun's radiant energy is the fuel that drives Earth's climate engine. Energy received from the Sun is mostly in the visible (or shortwave) part of the electromagnetic spectrum, where Earth's atmosphere is transparent. The solar radiation absorbed by the Earth causes the planet to heat up until it is radiating (or emitting) as much energy back into space as it absorbs from the Sun. Not all incoming solar radiation is absorbed, however. About 30% of the solar energy that comes to Earth is reflected back to space by clouds and aerosols or bright surfaces. The ratio of reflected-to-incoming energy is called "albedo" from the Latin word meaning whiteness.

In this hands-on activity, students will analyze and interpret graphs to compare the flow of (shortwave) energy from the Sun toward China over the course of a year on cloudy versus clear days. Students will draw a conclusion and support it with evidence.
Cloudy vs. Clear
Cloudy sky
White cumulus clouds in a blue sky. Credit: pakhnyushchyy.