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electromagnetic energy from the sun affects six of the earth's major systems:

1) the biosphere

2) the hydrosphere

3) the lithosphere

4) the atmosphere

5) the cryosphere

6) the anthrosphere

The Biosphere is made up of all of the biological components of earth. The sun is essentially the main source of energy that has fueled the development of the biosphere (this is not the case for ecosystems that thrive off of earth's geothermal energy in the deep sea). The first lifeforms were photosynthetic, they made carbohydrates (food) using CO2 and water and energy from the sun. These carbohydrates fueled other cellular activities including the synthesis of other biochemical molecules using minerals in the environment. Today plants and microorganisms are the primary producers in the ecosystems of the earth. They introduce carbohydrates ultimately made from the suns energy. This energy trickles down the food chain supplying life to plants and animals.

The Hydrosphere includes all of the liquid and gaseous water on the earth. The water cycle begins with heat ultimately produced from solar radiation that causes water to evaporate. Evaporation occurs more frequently over the ocean and condensation and raining occurs more frequently over the continents. Thus this rain is the primary weathering and erosive force that has shaped the geography of continents through out geologic history. So in affecting the hydrosphere the sun also plays a role in shaping the crustal portions of the lithosphere.

The atmosphere: The atmosphere is made up of a mixture of many gases, primarily nitrogen and oxygen with smaller amounts of water, carbon dioxide, methane, and particulate aerosols. Carbon dioxide, methane, and water are green house gases that absorb the solar radiation that is reflected off of the surface of the earth in the form of infrared heat. Thus the interplay of the sun with green house gases in the atmosphere causes the lower portions of the atmosphere to warm up.

The cryosphere: The sun has an indirect affect on the frozen water on our planet. Since the sun warms the lower atmosphere, the melting rate in land glaciers and polar ice caps increases. This in turn affects the hydrosphere as an increasing flux of water trickles down to the ocean, raising the sea level. A rising sea level would have the affect of raising the base level of rivers and thus decreasing their ability to erode the upper lithosphere (crust).

The Anthrosphere Includes the parts of the world that are made, used, and modified, by and due to human activity. All of our activities are scheduled by the presence or absence of sun light. We work during the day and sleep at night. But beyond this the sun has actually played an indirect role in our ability to affect global warming. The sun has given light energy to plants and microorganisms which have fixed carbon into carbohydrates which, over a geologic time scale, have been converted into petroleum and coal. The human combustion of petro-fuels and coal does two things:

1) It improves our economy and increases our capability to populate the world

2) it releases CO2 back into the atmosphere where it originally came from.

Hence, the sun is indirectly responsible for our economy, our size, and our ability to affect climate change.

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Q: What are the 2 ways the suns energy can affect the earth?
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