Sunday, 6 March 2016


The solar output received at the top of the atmosphere varies slightly in a year due to the variations in the distance between the earth and the sun. During its revolution around the sun, the earth is farthest from the sun (152 million km on 4th July). This position of the earth is called aphelion. On 3rd January, the earth is the nearest to the sun (147 million km). This position is called perihelion. Therefore, the annual insolation received by the earth on 3rd January is slightly more than the amount received on 4th July. However, the effect of this variation in the solar output is masked by other factors like the distribution of land and sea and the atmospheric circulation. Hence, this variation in the solar output does not have great effect on daily weather changes on the surface of the earth.
SOLAR  RADIATION: The earth’s surface receives most of its energy in short wavelengths. The energy received by the earth is known as incoming solar radiation which in short is termed as insolation.
As the earth is a geoid resembling a sphere, the sun’s rays fall obliquely at the top of the atmosphere and the earth intercepts a very small portion of the sun’s energy. On an average the earth receives 1.94 calories per sq. cm per minute at the top of its atmosphere.
Variability of Insolation at the Surface of the Earth
The amount and the intensity of insolation vary during a day, in a season and in a year. The factors that cause these variations in insolation are : (i) the rotation of earth on its axis; (ii) the angle of inclination of the sun’s rays; (iii) the length of the day; (iv) the transparency of the atmosphere; (v) the configuration of land in terms of its aspect. The last two however, have less influence.
The fact that the earth’s axis makes an angle
of 66½ with the plane of its orbit round the sun has a greater influence on the amount of insolation received at different latitudes.
The second factor that determines the colour of the sky are the result of scattering of amount of insolation received is the angle of inclination of the rays. This depends on the latitude of a place. The higher the latitude the less is the angle they make with the surface of the earth resulting in slant sun rays. The area covered by vertical rays is always less than the slant rays. If more area is covered, the energy gets distributed and the net energy received per unit area decreases. Moreover, the slant rays are required to pass through greater depth of the atmosphere resulting in more absorption, scattering and diffusion.
The Passage of Solar Radiation through the Atmosphere

The atmosphere is largely transparent to short wave solar radiation. The incoming solar radiation passes through the atmosphere before striking the earth’s surface. Within the troposphere water vapour, ozone and other gases absorb much of the near infrared radiation.
Very small-suspended particles in the troposphere scatter visible spectrum both to the space and towards the earth surface. This process adds colour to the sky. The red colour of the rising and the setting sun and the blue sky.

There are different ways of heating and cooling of the atmosphere.
The earth after being heated by insolation transmits the heat to the atmospheric layers near to the earth in long wave form. The air in contact with the land gets heated slowly and the upper layers in contact with the lower layers also get heated. This process is called conduction. Conduction takes place when two bodies of unequal temperature are in contact with one another, there is a flow of energy from the warmer to cooler body. The transfer of heat continues until both the bodies attain the same temperature or the contact is broken. Conduction is important in heating the lower layers of the atmosphere.
The air in contact with the earth rises vertically on heating in the form of currents and further transmits the heat of the atmsphere. This process of vertical heating of the atmosphere is known as convection. The convective transfer of energy is confined only to the troposphere.
The transfer of heat through horizontal movement of air is called advection. Horizontal movement of the air is relatively more important than the vertical movement. In middle latitudes, most of dirunal (day and night) variation in daily weather are caused by advection alone. In tropical regions particularly in northern India during summer season local winds called ‘loo is the outcome of advection process.
Terrestrial Radiation: The insolation received by the earth is in short waves forms and heats up its surface. The earth after being heated itself becomes a radiating body and it radiates energy to the atmosphere in long wave form. This energy heats up the atmosphere from below. This process is known as terrestrial radiation.
The long wave radiation is absorbed by the atmospheric gases particularly by carbon dioxide and the other green house gases. Thus, the atmosphere is indirectly heated by the earth’s radiation.
The atmosphere in turn radiates and transmits heat to the space. Finally the amount of heat received from the sun is returned to space, thereby maintaining constant temperature at the earth’s surface and in the atmosphere.
Heat Budget of the Planet Earth: The earth as a whole does not accumulate or loose heat. It maintains its temperature. This can happen only if the amount of heat received in the form of insolation equals the amount lost by the earth through terrestrial radiation.The reflected  amount  of  radiation  is called the albedo of the earth. This explains, why the earth neither warms up nor cools down despite the huge transfer of heat that takes place. 
Factors Controlling Temperature Distribution: The temperature of air at any place is influenced by (i) the latitude of the place; (ii) the altitude of the place; (iii) distance from the sea, the air- mass circulation; (iv) the presence of warm and cold ocean currents; (v) local aspects.
The latitude : The temperature of a place depends on the insolation received. It has been explained earlier that the insolation varies according to the latitude hence the temperature also varies accordingly.
Air-mass and Ocean currents : Like the land and sea breezes, the passage of air masses also affects the temperature. The places, which come under the influence of warm air-masses experience higher temperature and the places that come under the influence of cold air - masses experience low temperature. Similarly, the places located on the coast where the warm  ocean currents flow record higher temperature than the places located on the coast where the cold currents flow.

Distribution of Temperature: The Isotherms are lines joining places having equal temperature. 

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