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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 17:35 EDT

Dynamic Earth’s Shield

September 20, 2013

A giant explosion of magnetic energy from the Sun, called a coronal mass ejection, slams into and is deflected completely by the Earth’s powerful magnetic field. The Sun also continually sends out streams of light and radiation energy. Earth’s atmosphere acts like a radiation shield, blocking quite a bit of this energy.

Much of the radiation energy that makes it through is reflected back into space by clouds, ice and snow and the energy that remains helps to drive the Earth system, powering a remarkable planetary engine — the climate. It becomes the energy that feeds swirling wind and ocean currents as cold air and surface waters move toward the equator and warm air and water moves toward the poles — all in an attempt to equalize temperatures around the world.

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center