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The energy that warms Earth’s lower atmosphere comes from the Sun, but the lower atmosphere will not warm directly. This area of the atmosphere heats from underneath. As the Earth warms, it emits some longwave radiation back outside, heating up the lower atmosphere above it. This energy radiates from the atmosphere back into space.

The Earth will not consume the electromagnetic energy that hits it all. This really is significant for the World’s energy balance, because just energy that is absorbed leads to the temperature of the Earth/atmosphere system. The percentage of the overall energy reflected by the Earth (or some item) is known as the Albedo.

A totally absorptive surface has an albedo of 0, an item using an albedo of 0.5 consumes as much energy as it reflects back, and a totally reflective surface has an albedo of 1. In case the World had an albedo of 1, no energy would be absorbed by it in the Sun as well as the planet will not be a lot hotter.

The Earth’s average albedo is determined by the composition and physical state of its own surface. Procedures and multiple variables can alter the albedo of a surface with time. For instance, as soot and grime settle on fresh ice or snow, and as water turns to ice the albedo increases, the albedo decreases. Likewise, vegetation cover affects the albedo of the landscape: deserts have albedos of 20- savannas, 35% are around 15%, and rainforests are around 5%.

Seasonally, winter snow and ice cover increases the albedo of Earth’s temperate and polar areas. Exactly the same occurs with all the coming and going of ice ages, on geological timescales. The Earth’s albedo is influenced by particles. Soot particles consume energy directly, and from combustion have low albedos, leading to heating. Aerosols including sulfates that are airborne powerfully reflect shortwave radiation, so the Earth’s overall albedo raises. Clouds, which are made from condensed water vapor, additionally raise the Earth’s albedo.

Human activity effects vegetation cover, land use, as well as the concentration of soot particles, aerosols and water vapor . This makes the result of human activity on the Earth’s albedo evaluate that is hard.

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Climategate and Anonymity in Science

In 2009 the environmental groups lobbying for action against climate change had a bit of a set back. It happened prior to a big convention in Copenhagen and eventually got dubbed with the title of ’Climategate’. You may not remember but it focused on the world renowned Climatic Research Unit in East Anglia. This little team of researchers were world renowned in creating the global impetus for people to do something positive about global warming.

What happened was the usual story of ‘hackers’ stealing and releasing online a huge amount of confidential data onto the internet. Most damaging have turned out to the many emails that were exchanged within the group. Lots of these expressed doubts about findings, casual comments about the death of an opposition scientist and generally all the sort of doubtful, confusing stuff that people generally engage in.


It’s still not clear about how much long term damage was caused by Climate Gate – but it could be crucial. There are so many vested interests in whether we should reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for example that any snippets of information can be spun to suit one these groups.

I think this is why researchers and scientists should take their privacy a little bit more seriously. If you are speaking in confidence with colleagues regularly online – make sure you get advice from experts like these on anonymity. You want your findings to be released properly not half truths to the press or gossip through the internet!

There are steps you can take and procedures to implement that can make most communication almost 100% secure. It’s essential that place like the Climatic Research Unit take these precautions seriously – what they say could have a huge effect on the future of this planet.