Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of World Climatology

Part of the series Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences Series pp 711-716

Temperature Distribution

  • L. M. Trapasso

Each day Earth receives energy in the form of incoming solar radiation from the sun. This shortwave solar radiation ranges mostly from ultraviolet (0.2 μm wavelength) to the near-infrared (2.0 μm wavelength), but reaches its maximum at around 0.5 μm wavelength (blue-green visible light). This insolation is absorbed by Earth’s surface and is converted to heat (longwave radiation). Earth’s (terrestrial) longwave radiation reaches its peak intensity at the 10 μm wavelength (thermal infrared) and is responsible for heating the lower atmosphere.

Temperature is represented by a human-invented quantitative measure of heat energy emitted by or contained within a surface or material. As such, these numerical temperature values can be used to differentiate one climatic region from another. Spatial variations in temperatures (i.e. temperature distributions) occur both vertically and horizontally within the Earth’s atmospheric envelope. These temperature distributions, their causes and variations, ...

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