The global mean radiation balance represents the fundamental state of the Earth's climate system. The inflow of solar energy that is absorbed by the Earth's surface-atmosphere system must be balanced by the radiant energy emitted by this system to the space over the long time periods and over the entire globe. The atmospheric gases, aerosols, clouds, and the Earth's surface are the key factors that control the fate of solar and terrestrial radiation. Clouds have a profound influence on both solar and terrestrial radiation. Aerosol particles are more important in the solar band than in the IR. Atmospheric gases that absorb in the thermal IR region play a key role in reducing the thermal emission to space, called greenhouse effect. The surface absorbs a large fraction of incident solar radiation, emits/absorbs thermal radiation, and controls the latent and sensible heat fluxes.

See also: Climate Change 3: History and Current State; Coevolution of the Biosphere and Climate; Energy Balance; Energy Flows in the Biosphere.

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