Sunlight absorbed in space?

This quote is from a grade 8 science textbook*:

“Only 47% of the solar energy directed at the Earth reaches the surface of the Earth. The remaining 53% of the energy is absorbed in space.”

—This doesn’t sound right. Surely there isn’t THAT much dust and gas between us and the sun? I couldn’t find any information about this anywhere. Perhaps they meant to say 53% is absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere? Would that be true? Does anyone know anything about this issue? How much IS in fact absorbed in space?

*Oxford Successful Natural Sciences, Learner’s book. Grade 8.
Authors: Fiona Clitheroe and Liz Dilley

I’ve read that a large amount of sunlight is reflected back out into space (barring the greenhouse effect). Such that having snow, which reflects the most wavelengths of light, helps cool the planet down (other than, of course, being cold) by making a good proportion of the rays head right back out.

I also very much doubt there’s that much stuff between us and the sun. Moreover the statement seems misleading because the earth would only receive a very tiny fraction of “the solar energy”. Most of the sun’s energy goes in directions not intersecting with the earth.

Eish, yeah, ok, obviously having a reading malfunction.

So yes, it’s predominantly the Earth’s atmosphere that reduces the amount of the sun’s incident radiation reaching the surface of our planet.


Mefiante: Thanks, that makes more sense. I have noted that the school textbooks often contain all manner of glaring errors of that sort, and I wonder how many teachers mindlessly teach that crap.

Yesterday the principal at the school where I work had all the assistant teachers write a grade 4 math exam. They all failed. They all have at least matric, and one actually has a B. Ed. degree.

Presumably, in another few years, a poll will find that 50% of South Africans believe that half of the sun’s radiation is absorbed in space before it reaches Earth… :slight_smile: