Solar eclipse - teachable afternoon about the sun and climate

graphic of global circulation

global circ teaser.jpgThe University of Georgia will host a viewing party of the solar eclipse on August 21. Professor Marshall Shepherd uses his Forbes column to underscore a crucial point about the rare event:

Intuitively, I think most people understand that we have seasons because the Earth is tilted on its axis as it rotates around the sun. We are currently in northern (southern) hemisphere summer (winter) because that hemisphere is tilting toward the sun and receiving more direct energy. I often cringe during the winter when someone tweets, "it's snowing so what do they mean global warming."

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One of the most nagging climate literacy challenges is public understanding of the role of the sun within Earth's climate system. I cannot tell you how often people mischaracterize the role of the sun in the climate change discussion. We live comfortably on Earth because of the sun. We are, on average, about 92 to 93 million miles of the sun, but the distance is not necessarily the most important factor for our comfortable temperature range. The sun is the driver of Earth's weather-climate system, but this is where it gets a bit tricky to understand if you have not taken a few classes in atmospheric physics or radiative transfer.

The more we know, indeed. Thanks to Dr. Shepherd for using his media platform(s) to inform and educate. The Eclipse event at the stadium will also be an important opportunity to engage, if even only for a few minutes, with a phenomenon that is ever-present, easy to ignore yet plays such a crucial role for life on Earth.

Image: Graphic of the Earth's global circulation, courtesy of NOAA.