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Did you know that the sun blasts more than a billion tons of matter out into space at millions of kilometers per hour? The transfer of energy from the sun across nearly empty space (remember that space is a vacuum) is accomplished primarily by radiation. Every surface on earth absorbs and reflects energy at varying degrees, based on its color and texture. Scientists use the term albedo to describe the percentage of solar radiation reflected back into space by an object or surface. Different features of earth (such as snow, ice, tundra, ocean, and clouds) have different albedos. Earth’s radiation budget is a concept that helps us understand how much energy Earth receives from the Sun, and how much energy Earth radiates back to outer space.
Ice also reflects sunlight, thus preventing additional heat from being absorbed by water or land. As earth’s climate warms, ice in the form of glaciers and sea ice has decreased dramatically. The decreasing extent of ice in the polar regions (in particular, the sea ice of the Arctic) is part of a positive feedback loop that can accelerate climate change.
This four-minute video segment adapted from NASA uses satellite imagery to provide an overview of the cryosphere (the frozen parts of the earth’s surface) in the Northern Hemisphere, including the Arctic.
This video segment adapted from NASA uses satellite imagery to provide an overview of the cryosphere in the Antarctic.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) provides the latest news, research, and analysis of Arctic sea ice. This resource provides a simulation of icebergs and glaciers melting and the impact melting has on sea level. The entire National Science Education Standards document can be read online or downloaded for free from the National Academies Press web site. As a result of their activities in grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of properties of objects and materials including light, heat, electricity, and magnetism. Objects have many observable properties, including size, weight, shape, color, temperature, and the ability to react with other substances. Heat can be produced in many ways, such as burning, rubbing, or mixing one substance with another.
As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of earth in the solar system. The sun is the major source of energy for phenomena on the earth’s surface, such as growth of plants, winds, ocean currents, and the water cycle.
As a result of their activities in grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of changes in environments.
As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of natural hazards. Human activities can induce hazards through resource acquisition, urban growth, land-use decisions, and waste disposal. Today, we're bringing you some of our favorite content you can use to encourage your tenants to save energy and water. For some more tips on encouraging your tenants to be more water and energy efficient, check out three ways to get started. In addition to educating your tenants once they have established themselves in the building, it can also be beneficial to all parties if you introduce the idea of green living into the first stages of your tenant's experience through a green lease. What is a green lease, you might ask?
We found this green leasing toolkit to be a great visual guide for the steps to think about while integrating it into your sustainability plan.


Energy consumption, usage, and awareness are continuing to become the topics of business meetings, university programs, and even children’s shows.
The prevalence of costly and wasteful energy consumption is a national and international problem for almost all organizations. The OpenEnergy project provides a solution to these historic gaps between energy consumption and information technology. ASHRAE – (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers) is a society that focuses on technology for the building industry and subsequent energy efficiency.
Function1 sponsored the development of the Drupal module that populates this open source and free energy dashboard.
International organizations, universities, and governments are implementing Drupal to modernize their websites, as well as energy saving tools and technologies to reduce consumption, usage, and ultimately increase awareness throughout their own communities. Puget Sound Energy has created a number of programs and projects to help residential and commercial customers save energy. The Chamber and PSE are partnering with RePower Bainbridge to help provide residential and commercial customers with energy efficient alternatives. PSE is encouraging business customers who are still using inefficient T12 fluorescent lighting to take advantage of 2011 rebates to upgrade to higher efficiency T8 lighting.
Small businesses (PSE's Schedule 24 and Schedule 8 electric customers) can receive funding for T12 to T8 conversions through PSE's small-business lighting program.
SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) is a project of international cooperation between the European Space Agency and NASA. Ultimately, energy from the sun is the driving force behind weather and climate, and life on earth. As shown in the diagram (opposite), about 43 percent of the total radiant energy emitted from the sun is in the visible parts of the spectrum. A small part of the sun’s energy is directly absorbed, particularly by certain gases such as ozone and water vapor. When the radiation is absorbed by a substance, the atoms in the substance move faster and the substance becomes warm to the touch. Dark-colored objects absorb more visible radiation; light-colored objects reflect more visible radiation.
In other words, about 30 percent of incoming solar radiation is reflected back into space and 70 percent is absorbed.
By quantifying precisely our planet’s albedo, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) is helping scientists understand and predict how various surface features influence both short-term weather patterns as well as longer-term climate trends. For example, earth’s average albedo was much higher during the last ice age than it is today.
In the ocean and at the land-sea boundary, ice prevents relatively warm ocean water from evaporating, transferring heat to the colder atmosphere and thereby increasing global air temperature. The ice-covered polar regions are colder than other places on earth, due in part to the high albedo of the snow and ice cover.
Data generated from satellites that monitor the formation of polar sea ice indicate that both coverage and thickness have decreased over the past three decades. Warmer temperatures melt snow and ice, which decreases earth’s albedo, causing further warming and more melting.
For example, when we burn coal, oil, wood, and other fuels, the carbon byproduct, soot, is released into the atmosphere and eventually deposited back on earth. But as the earth warms and polar ice declines, the balance of absorbed and reflected energy shifts – leading to further change.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No.


Greening your tenant activity can often be a challenge, especially if they're not paying for their own utility consumption. A green lease aligns a manager or owner's financial goals with environmental goals to establish a sustainability mindset from the beginning of a tenant's residency. In addition to saving paper and ink costs, you'll be able to encourage your tenants to make sustainable choices from the begining when you lead by example.
With the advent of information technology tools that allow for energy awareness within an organization, only the richest could previously afford ‘energy-dashboards.’ These dashboards allow for static or real-time visibility into a company’s energy data through greater insight into key performance indicators, outages, energy usage, and consumption. OpenEnergy provides a free alternative to proprietary energy dashboards via open source technologies.
With the implementation of the OpenEnergy Project, through Drupal and the BACnet module, organizations will have an entirely modernized system that will communicate energy consumption, allowing for better business and energy decisions for the future. Changes in federal regulations expected during 2012 mean that rebates and grants to upgrade from T12 lighting will most likely be eliminated after this year. Larger businesses and other nonresidential customers can receive funding through the utility's custom grant program.
White indicates where no data were available, and no albedo data are provided over the oceans. Human impacts such as deforestation, air pollution, and the decrease in Arctic sea ice have also affected albedo values. Recent studies show that the world’s highest glaciers (in the Himalayas) are receding at an average rate of 10 to 15 meters (33 to 49 feet) per year. Apartments and dormitories across the country have begun taking initiatives to fill their common spaces with fun to read and easy to understand content that will educate and encourage residents to consciously make efforts to reduce consumption.
By clarifying these goals at the start, the property manager lays a foundation for energy, waste, and water efficiency. Read more on how to integrate green leases into your sustaianbility goals here.
Students and professionals are using the growing knowledge base of energy awareness technologies to research and create new ways to reduce wastage and save costs. These traditional options for energy dashboards were not only expensive but also lacked agility. Ultimately, companies that take advantage of the OpenEnergy Project can determine specific actions to identify operational and service gaps, see performance metrics across each enterprise, and change business processes to better operate with a changed energy understanding, all from a free, open source technology and community. This module can be further embedded into a Drupal site to allow all users to access energy information, as said before, that was too costly to retrieve, and thus restricted to a specific community. This heat energy plays an important role in regulating the temperature of the earth’s crust, surface waters, and lower atmosphere. A study released in June 2008 indicates that Arctic sea ice extent shrank to a record low in the summer of 2007. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
It was costly to integrate into various building automation systems, to license the dashboard software, or gain continued assistance from developers due to the proprietary nature of the dashboards. Users can have a live view of energy consumption data, ready to share with consumers and staff within minutes after the implementation of these technologies. In addition, as the snow and ice melt, the soot embedded in the snow is left behind and becomes more concentrated on the surface, further accelerating warming.
This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.




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