How Does the Sun Affect the Earth?

The sun heats Earth, and that energy in the atmosphere has an impact on the weather.
••• Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

Without the sun the planet would be a cold, lifeless chunk of rock. People can feel the warming effects of the sun, but many people do not know of the other ways the sun interacts with Earth. Learn about these effects, good and bad, in order to have a full understanding of the importance of the sun.

Solar Flares and Coronal Mass Ejections

Scientists think that changes in the sun's magnetic field cause solar flares and coronal mass ejections.
••• Ablestock.com/AbleStock.com/Getty Images

Powerful explosions in the sun's atmosphere accelerates subatomic particles to near the speed of light, which produces a broad range of electromagnetic radiation. Coronal mass ejections actually eject material from the sun's corona, sending billions of tons of electrified gas shooting away at incredible speeds. NASA solar astrophysicist C. Alex Young says, "These are the two types of space weather that have a direct impact on Earth."

Sunspots

An increase in sunspots leads to an increase in solar weather. Sunspots follow an 11-year cycle, enabling humans to anticipate these increases. Between the peak and minimum of the 11-year cycle, a change in solar radiation exists of 0.1 percent -- enough to change the global surface temperature by 0.1 degree Celsius.

Stratosphere

In Earth's atmosphere, the sun has the largest impact upon the stratosphere, which is where the ozone layer is. The troposphere is the layer below the stratosphere, which is where weather occurs. Heating up the lower stratosphere heats up the upper troposphere. If the surface of the planet is hot, and the troposphere is cold, then the temperature difference causes strong updrafts, which leads to stronger storms and hurricanes. When the 11-year sunspot cycle is at its peak, updrafts and hurricane strength are reduced.

Magnetosphere

The magnetosphere surrounds Earth and protects it from charged particles and plasma, like a shield. Sometimes when this material strikes the magnetosphere, it compresses it and rebounds off. This compression induces an electrical current in the atmosphere and on the ground. If the current is large enough, then it will travel through wiring or pipelines, and even knock out power transformers. A sun storm in 1989 knocked out Canada's Hydro-Quebec power grid for more then nine hours.

Accelerated Particles

As a coronal mass ejection travels through space, it pushes radiation particles in front of it. These particles travel at a high rate of speed, and will pass right through a human body or artificial satellite. This can damage the electronics aboard a satellite and cause genetic damage to humans as it passes through the cells. The atmosphere protects humans on Earth from these particles, but astronauts and satellites orbiting Earth are in danger. Knowing when such a storm is coming enables astronauts to take shelter behind the thick walls of their ship.

Related Articles

Does the Moon Have Solar Wind Storms?
How Do Solar Flares Affect the Earth?
The Climate on the Planet Mercury
What Effects Can Solar Flares Have Directly on the...
How Solar Flares Affect Communication
Does the Moon Have Solar Wind Storms?
Does the Earth's Magnetosphere Protect Us From the...
How Do Prominences Affect the Earth?
Importance of the Earth's Atmosphere
How Long Does it Take Solar Wind to Reach the Earth?
How Does the Sun Affect an Ecosystem?
How Does the Earth's Atmosphere Protect Living Organisms?
What Is the Difference Between Solar Flares and Solar...
How Do Solar Winds Affect the Earth?
Life Cycle of a Medium-Sized Star
Unique Facts About the Sun
The Moon & Its Effect on Our Weather
What Is the Wind Speed on Neptune?
The Similarities and Differences Between the Sun and...
Facts About the Sun for Kids