Weather Word Wednesday: Radiational cooling

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 2:46 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2022 at 2:49 PM CST
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QUAD CITIES, Iowa/Ill. (KWQC) - Radiational cooling is a phenomenon that happens often at night here in the Quad Cities.

Opening the NOAA weather glossary, radiational cooling is defined as: The cooling of the earth’s surface. At night, the earth suffers a net heat loss to space due to terrestrial cooling. This is more pronounced when you have a clear sky.

But the conditions have to be just right.

Whether it’s clear or overcast during the day, the sun emits shortwave radiation that heats the ground during the day.

At night, the heat then escapes back toward space. If clouds are present, some of the heat is then trapped and can’t escape, being re-emitted back to the surface keeping temperatures warmer.

However, if the sky is clear the heat is able to escape back into space, allowing the air to cool more quickly and efficiently, leading to colder nights.

Previous Weather Word Wednesday segments on Quad Cities Today at 11:

Lake Effect Snow







Heat Burst

Storm Surge