- The Earth is getting dimmer and reflecting less light due to the loss of its reflective powers.
- The disappearance of clouds due to high levels of carbon dioxide contributed by human activities is a major reason for the Earth becoming dim.
- Combined with the loss of reflection power, the Earth is also simultaneously becoming hotter hence resulting in global warming.
Recently people all around the globe have witnessed a drastic change in weather conditions. Ranging from uneven rainfall to the dramatic melting of ice caps due to global warming; humans have managed to harm their mother planet in countless ways. And now Earth is showing its reaction by showcasing the dark side of nature caused by our atrocities against it.
Climate change is one of the major issues on our planet right now and its detrimental effects contribute to form a very long list. The latest addition to that list is the fact that the Earth is reflecting less light as solar radiation to the clouds as the climate continues to change rapidly. Reports suggest that the warming of oceans is a major reason behind clouds reflecting less sunlight into space thus admitting even more heat to be trapped into the earth’s atmosphere. The amount of light reflected from our Earth has fallen by somewhere around 0.5%. This is causing the earth to appear dimmer and as a result, the future of our kind doesn’t appear to be too bright either.
The process and factors affecting net sunlight reaching the Earth
The cycle of reflection of sunlight occurs as such that the incoming Ultraviolet(UV) rays of the sun penetrate the earth’s atmosphere. From here these rays strike the surface of the Earth wherein a certain part of this radiation is absorbed as heat. A major amount of this sunlight is reflected by the Earth back into the atmosphere. However, the clouds absorb some of this reflected sunlight and hence ensure that the Earth does become too cold after dusk.
There are majorly two factors that decide the amount of sunlight that reaches our planet, namely – the Sun’s brightness and the planet’s reflectivity. Researchers observed that the changes which took place in Earth’s albedo did not correlate with the periodic changes in the Sun’s brightness. This means that the sun’s brightness or more accurately the intensity of the UV rays emitted by the sun appeared to remain constant. Thus the study made it crystal clear that the changes in the brightness of the Earth were a direct result of changes in the planet’s effectiveness, which in turn were being caused by certain phenomena present on our planet itself.
Clouds – The crucial factor in this event
Clouds are known to reflect almost half the amount of sunlight that hits them while trapping the rest to keep the Earth warm at night. Clouds are mighty hard to study for scientists but they comment with assurance about their relationship with the elements of our planet. But studies have shown that the decline in reflectance of Earth is majorly attributed to the clouds over the Pacific Ocean.
It has been specifically found by the researchers that there has been a very steep decline in the low-lying reflective clouds on the eastern Pacific Ocean. This occurs due to greater industrial and commercial activities on Earth which contribute to higher carbon dioxide levels. These gases absorb heat and are called greenhouse gases. They heat the Earth’s surface which evaporates and causes turbulence inside clouds causing them to dissipate. According to NASA’s Clouds and the Earth’s Radiating Energy System (CERES) project, the disappearance of clouds has led to less reflection of sunlight from our planet.
Global Warming: A major culprit
Once again global warming has managed to emerge as a phenomenon that has a very key role to play in the harm caused to our planet . Global warming is the reason behind the waters of our oceans being warmer than they usually should be resulting in the dimming of the Earth.
Now due to the unusually warm ocean waters, fewer bright clouds reflect the incoming sunlight into space and thus admit even more solar energy into the planet. This has a direct effect on the reflectivity of the clouds. The earth is now reflecting more than half a watt less per square meter as compared to what it was reflecting 20 years ago. This roughly estimates to be about 0.5% less sunlight reflected by the Earth nowadays. Studies show that the Earth reflects somewhere around 30-32% of the sunlight that shines on it. If humans don’t control their carbon footprint soon enough, future generations might not get suitable conditions for existence.