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Name: Tara
Status: Student
Grade: 9-12
Location: VA
Country: United States
Date: December 2007

What percentage of the sun's energy is scattered or reflected back into space? What causes this loss of solar energy?


About 30% of solar radiation is scattered or reflected back into space. About 22% is reflected by clouds, 3% is reflected by the ground and vegetation, and 5% is scattered back by the atmosphere.

David R. Cook
Climate Research Section
Environmental Science Division
Argonne National Laboratory

Different substances, or the same substance in different forms or environments reflect incident sun energy -- from radio waves to x-rays -- to different extents. The general term is called "albedo". It has a number of similar definitions depending upon the particular area of application.

See: en&rls=SUNA,SUNA:2006-48,SUNA:en&defl=en&q=define:Albedo&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title

It can be measured over small areas or large areas at different altitudes and other variables. This is not "a loss" of solar energy as much as how it is reflected. In climatology it usually refers to the energy of incoming radiation from the Sun that returns to outer space.

Vince Calder

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