Water, Weather, and Climates - Research Article from UXL Encyclopedia of Water Science

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Regulating Sunlight: the Ozone and Greenhouse Layers

Energy from the Sun drives Earth's climate and biology. Sunlight heats the surface and nourishes plants that, in turn, feed animals. Heat drives ocean currents, winds, and the hydrologic cycle (the circulation of water between the land, oceans, and the layer of air surrounding Earth, called the atmosphere). Layers of gas in the atmosphere regulate incoming solar energy and maintain the planet's average temperature at about 60°F (16°C). The gaseous layers keep Earth within the temperature range where life-sustaining oceans are liquid and life flourishes.

Unfiltered sunlight is too strong for organisms; it damages plants and burns animal tissues. A layer of ozone gas in the outer atmosphere acts as a shield that protects Earth from the Sun's most dangerous rays—ultraviolet radiation. Ozone absorbs most of the Sun's ultraviolet rays. The filtered sunlight that reaches the surface has...

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This section contains 1,634 words
(approx. 6 pages at 300 words per page)
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UXL Encyclopedia of Water Science
Water, Weather, and Climates from UXL Encyclopedia of Water Science. ©2005-2006 by U•X•L. U•X•L is an imprint of Thomson Gale, a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. All rights reserved.