Introduction | The Sun | Energy | The Greenhouse Effect | What Affects Climate? | Climate Change?

The Sun makes it Possible!

The thin outer edge of Earth’s atmosphere is closely linked to the Sun and its behavior. When the Sun is active, the effects can reach our outer atmosphere in a matter of minutes. This produces what we call “space weather.”

Every so often, the Sun ejects a huge amount of magnetized particles. If the particles reach Earth’s outer atmosphere, they can disrupt power grids, satellites, and communication signals. The particles cause the Northern Lights (also known as the aurora borealis) in the Northern Hemisphere and the aurora australis in the Southern Hemisphere.

One clue to solar activity is sunspots. A sunspot is a dark area on the Sun where the surface is a little cooler. When the Sun has fewer sunspots, it also gives off less energy. This causes Earth to cool down. In the late 1600s, when the climate was cooler for a time called the “Little Ice Age”, people noticed there were no sunspots for several decades.

Sun facts:
The Sun in a star! It is the closest star to Earth.
The Sun is about 4.5 billion years old.
If the Sun were a hollow ball, you could fit one million Earths inside.
The Sun is mostly helium and hydrogen gas, held together by gravity.
Each second, the Sun releases as much energy as an explosion of 100 billion tons of TNT.
Earth receives only a tiny fraction, one-billionth, of the Sun’s energy.
It takes hundreds of thousands of years for energy to flow from the center of the Sun (its core) to its surface.
We still do not know exactly why there are changes in the Sun’s energy or how energy travels from the surface of the Sun (30,000 degrees) to the much hotter area above its surface (over 1,000,000 degrees!).