Chapter 2:
Heating Earth's Surface & Atmosphere

Learning Objectives

Each statement represents the primary learning objective for the corresponding section heading within this chapter.  After you complete this chapter, you should be able to:


From our everyday experiences, we know that the Sun’s rays feel warmer and paved roads become much hotter on clear, sunny days than on overcast days. Pictures of snowcapped mountains remind us that temperatures decrease with altitude. And we know that the fury of winter is always replaced by the newness of spring. What many don’t know is that these are manifestations of the same phenomena that causes the blue color of the sky and the red color of a brilliant sunset. All are results of the interaction of solar radiation with Earth’s atmosphere and its land–sea surface.

Chapter Outline

Earth-Sun Relationships

Energy, Temperature, and Heat

Mechanisms of Heat Transfer

What Happens to Incoming Solar Radiation?

The Role of Gases in the Atmosphere