AskDefine | Define insolation

Dictionary Definition



1 sudden prostration due to exposure to the sun or excessive heat [syn: sunstroke, thermic fever, siriasis]
2 incident solar radiation
3 therapeutic exposure to sunlight [syn: heliotherapy]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The incident radiant energy emitted by the sun which reaches a unit horizontal area of the Earth's surface; the rate of delivery of such radiation
  2. The act or process to exposing to the rays of the sun for the purpose of drying or maturing, as fruits, drugs, etc., or of rendering acid, as vinegar.
  3. sunstroke.
  4. Exposure of a patient to the sun's rays; a sun bath.

Extensive Definition

distinguish insulation
Insolation (Incident solar radiation) is a measure of solar radiation energy received on a given surface area in a given time. It is commonly expressed as average irradiance in watts per square meter (W/m²) or kilowatt-hours per square meter per day (kW·h/(m²·day)), or in the case of photovoltaics it is commonly measured as kWh/kWp•y (kilowatt hours per year per kilowatt peak rating). Sometimes, as in the text below, a long-term average intensity of incoming solar radiation will be given in units such as watts per square meter (W/m2 or W·m-2) and called insolation, with the duration (such as daily, annual, or historical) stated or only implied.
The given surface may be a planet, or a terrestrial object inside the atmosphere of a planet, or any object exposed to solar rays outside of an atmosphere, including spacecraft. Some of the solar radiation will be absorbed, causing radiant heating of the object, and the remainder will be reflected. The proportion of radiation reflected or absorbed depends on the object's reflectivity or albedo, respectively.

Projection effect

The insolation into a surface is largest when the surface directly faces the Sun. As the angle increases between the direction normal to the surface and the direction of the rays of sunlight, the insolation is reduced in proportion to the cosine of the angle. This is known in optics as Lambert's cosine law. This 'projection effect' is the main reason why the polar regions are much colder than equatorial regions on Earth. On an annual average the poles receive less insolation than does the equator, because at the poles the Earth's surface is angled away from the Sun.

Earth's insolation

Direct insolation is the solar radiation that is transmitted directly through the atmosphere to the earth's surface without interacting with atmospheric components. Diffuse insolation is the solar radiation that is scattered or reflected by atmospheric components.
Over the course of a year the average solar radiation arriving at the top of the Earth's atmosphere is roughly 1366 watts per square meter (see solar constant). The radiant power is distributed across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, although most of the power is in the visible light portion of the spectrum. The Sun's rays are attenuated as they pass though the atmosphere, thus reducing the insolation at the Earth's surface to approximately 1000 watts per square meter for a surface perpendicular to the Sun's rays at sea level on a clear day.
The actual figure varies with the Sun angle at different times of year, according to the distance the sunlight travels through the air, and depending on the extent of atmospheric haze and cloud cover. Ignoring clouds, the average insolation for the Earth is approximately 250 watts per square meter (6 (kW·h/m²)/day), taking into account the lower radiation intensity in early morning and evening, and its near-absence at night.
The insolation of the sun can also be expressed in Suns, where one Sun equals 1000 W/m² at the point of arrival. One Sun is a unit of power flux, not a standard value for actual insolation. Sometimes this unit is referred to as a Sol, not to be confused with a sol, meaning one solar day on, for example, a different planet, such as Mars.


In spacecraft design and planetology, it is the primary variable affecting equilibrium temperature and global climate.
In construction, insolation is an important consideration when designing a building for a particular climate. It is one of the most important climate variables for human comfort and building energy efficiency.
The projection effect can be used in architecture to design buildings that are cool in summer and warm in winter, by providing large vertical windows on the equator-facing side of the building (the south face, in the northern hemisphere): this maximizes insolation in the winter months when the Sun is low in the sky, and minimizes it in the summer when the noonday Sun is high in the sky. (The Sun's north/south path through the sky spans 47 degrees through the year).
Insolation figures are used as an input to worksheets to size solar power systems for the location where they will be installed. The figures can be obtained from an insolation map or by city or region from insolation tables that were generated with historical data over the last 30-50 years. Photovoltaic panels are rated under standard conditions to determine the Wp rating (watts peak), which can then be used with the insolation of a region to determine the expected output, along with other factors such as tilt, tracking and shading (which can be included to create the installed Wp rating). Insolation values range from 800 to 950 in Norway to 2200-2400 kWh/kWp•y in Thailand and Israel.
In the fields of civil engineering and hydrology, numerical models of snowmelt runoff use observations of insolation. This permits estimation of the rate at which water is released from a melting snowpack. Field measurement is accomplished using a pyranometer.
insolation in Catalan: Insolació (meteorologia)
insolation in Czech: Insolace
insolation in German: Insolation (Physik)
insolation in Spanish: Insolación
insolation in French: Ensoleillement
insolation in Croatian: Insolacija
insolation in Japanese: 日射量
insolation in Norwegian: Solinnstråling
insolation in Norwegian Nynorsk: Solinnstråling
insolation in Polish: Insolacja
insolation in Portuguese: Insolação atmosférica
insolation in Russian: Инсоляция
insolation in Simple English: Insolation
insolation in Slovenian: Insolacija
insolation in Serbo-Croatian: Insolacija
insolation in Swedish: Solinstrålning
insolation in Ukrainian: Інсоляція

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

air-drying, anhydration, calefaction, calenture, cooking, coup de soleil, dehumidification, dehydration, desiccation, dielectric heating, drainage, drying, drying up, electric heating, electronic heating, evaporation, furnace heating, gas heating, heat exchange, heat prostration, heating, hot-air heating, increase of temperature, induction heating, mummification, oil heating, panel heating, radiant heating, recalescence, steam heating, sunstroke, superheating, tepefaction, thermic fever, torrefaction, warming, withering
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