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What You See Is Not What You Get: The Difference Between Sunlight and Ultraviolet Radiation

This article is from Issue Urban Forest - Vol. 6 No. 1.

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Scientists have known that there is a difference between the sun’s visible radiation and invisible ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Ultraviolet radiation is separated into 3 types: UVA, UVB, and UVC. The scientists in this study were interested in trees growing in urban areas. They wanted to know whether the shade that we can see under urban trees protects people from UVB radiation. 

Welcome to the Urban Forests edition

Note to Educators

Urban Forest Lesson Plan

Reflection Section Answer Guide

Education Standards Correlations


Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Earth Science
  • Life Science
  • People and Science
  • Technology and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Atmosphere (Educators)
  • Growing and Using Trees and Other Plants (Students)
  • Importance of Forest to People (Students)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Alaska
  • Forest Products Lab
  • Intermountain
  • International Institute of Tropical Forestry
  • Northern
  • Pacific Northwest
  • Pacific Southwest
  • Rocky Mountain
  • Southern
  • Southwestern

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Scientists use many ways to discover new knowledge. Sometimes collecting existing information from many sources and putting it together in one report is a valuable addition to science. This is similar to what you do when you write a paper using information from the library and the Internet. In this study, the scientists collected information from past research and added it to their own research findings. In this research, the scientists wanted to know how much is already known about ultraviolet radiation in urban areas.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Scientific Topics
  • The Scientific Process

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
All life on Earth needs the sun because it is the original source of all of our energy and food. Sometimes, however, we can get too much of a good thing. Take ultraviolet radiation, for example. Ultraviolet radiation, or UV radiation, comes from the sun and is invisible. UV radiation is a part of the electromagnetic (e lek tro mag net ik) spectrum (figure 1). What makes UV radiation good? UV radiation causes the skin to create Vitamin D, which helps people to absorb calcium. A little bit of sunlight can also protect people from some kinds of nonskin cancers. Too much UV radiation, however, can be hazardous to human health. If you are going to be in the sun for a long time, use sunscreen or cover your skin. Some of the negative impacts of too much UV radiation include sunburn, eye damage, and skin cancer. Because too much UV radiation may damage a person's immune system, other cancers and diseases may be related to having too much sun exposure.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Energy

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Personal health (F)
  • Populations and ecosystems (C)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Transfer of energy (B)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Common Themes: Systems
  • Habits of Mind: Communication Skils
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • The Human Organism: Physical Health
  • The Living Environment: Flow of Matter and Energy
  • The Nature of Science: Scientific Inquiry
  • The Nature of Science: The Scientific Enterprise
  • The Nature of Technology: Issues in Technology
  • The Nature of Technology: Technology and Science
  • The Physical Setting: Energy Transformations
  • The Physical Setting: Processes that Shape the Earth
  • The Physical Setting: The Earth