It is freezing high in the air. Is the heat of the sun not present there?

Someone claimed that the heat on earth comes from the earth itself and not from the sun because the atmosphere is freezing. Why isn’t the heat from the sun there?

Asker: Jennie, 65 years old


Dear Jenny

Part of the solar radiation reaches the earth’s surface and heats it up. This warming surface then radiates heat back into space. However, that heat is partly retained due to the presence of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. As a result, the troposphere (the lower air layers – about 12 km – of the atmosphere) is heated from below and it is usually warmest on the earth’s surface when the sun is shining. Despite the fact that the earth is already 4.56 billion years old, it is still warm (about 6000 degrees in the center of the earth) and therefore also radiates heat, but the amount is negligibly small compared to the amount of solar energy energy that radiates into the earth during the day.

Answered by

prof. Robert Speyer

Geology – Paleontology – Paleoclimatology. You study geology in Leuven!

Catholic University of Leuven
Old Market 13 3000 Leuven


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