The Earth receives 174,000 terawatts (TW) of incoming solar radiation (insolation) at the upper atmosphere.  Approximately 30% is reflected back to space while the rest is absorbed by clouds, oceans and land masses. The spectrum of solar light at the Earth’s surface is mostly spread across the visible and near-infrared ranges with a small part in the near-ultraviolet.  Most people around the world live in areas with insolation levels of 150 to 300 watt per square meter or 3.5 to 7.0 kWh / m2 per day.
Earth’s land surface, oceans and atmosphere absorb solar radiation, and this raises their temperature. Warm air containing evaporated water from the oceans rises, causing atmospheric circulation or convection. When the air reaches a high altitude, where the temperature is low, water vapor condenses into clouds, which rain onto the Earth’s surface, completing the water cycle. The latent heat of water condensation amplifies convection, producing atmospheric phenomena such as wind, cyclones and anti-cyclones.
Sunlight absorbed by the oceans and land masses keeps the surface at an average temperature of 14 ° C. By photosynthesis green plants convert solar energy into chemical energy, which produces food, wood and the biomass from which fossil fuels are derived.