Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: April 25, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963893 | Print ISBN: 9781412958783 | Online ISBN: 9781412963893| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
WHILE MOST OF the feedbacks at play in the Earth's ecosystem are subject to the closed system of matter, radiative feedbacks are those that deal with the open system in which the sun's energy is transferred to the Earth and then absorbed or reflected back, to varying degrees. Because the amount of absorbed or reflected solar energy is the principal component in the planet's temperature (the other factors then determine what happens to that heat, but the solar energy provides the initial quantity), these feedbacks are key to understanding and modeling global climate. Feedbacks are relationships found in complex systems, in which the output (or result) of the system is returned to the input. For instance, as the summers get hotter, people run their air conditioners longer, releasing more chlorofluorocarbons, accelerating global warming, and causing hotter summers. That is a simple A ...