Earth is a very special goldilocks planet which somehow maintains a useful thermal range for life.

In order to do this, it must have some function of absorbing and releasing energy. If it absorbed too much, it would get too hot. If it released too much, it would get too cold.

From what I can research, some of the major factors in keeping Earth from getting "too hot" are:

  • the magnetic field diverting solar winds and charged particles (similar question, NASA's Cosmos): without these "the earth would fry"
    • seemingly, this is the most important one for stability (??)
  • our distance from the sun (which is also a "not too cold" factor")
  • infrared emissions: basically molecules launching off photons. any photon emission would work, but infrared is the most common on human inhabitable planets (??)

The "not too cold" factors are:

  • once again, our distance from the sun being amicable
  • atmospheric absorption of greenhouse gasses (greenhouse effect)
  • ?? that's it that I know of

Overall, it seems like things had to be just perfect to create a planet with a workable balance of magnetic fields, greenhouse gasses, and distance from the sun. But this is just my layman's understanding.

What other major vectors/inhibitors/regulators of energy transfer to/from Earth are there?

  • $\begingroup$ You forgot the main one, that it has an atmosphere. $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Jun 1, 2021 at 4:04
  • $\begingroup$ Seems like a question more suitable for Earth Science. $\endgroup$
    – StephenG
    Jun 1, 2021 at 4:46
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You are misunderstanding Ardie J's use of "fried" in the answer to which you linked. He did not mean that the the lack of a magnetic field would result Earth would get hot, temperature-wise. He was using "fried" in a colloquial sense regarding being hit with a boatload of highly energetic particles. Space vehicles sent outside the Earth's magnetosphere use special-purpose radiation-hardened electronic equipment to avoid being "fried". The computer in your cellphone or laptop would be fried rather quickly outside the magnetosphere, even if it was kept very cold. $\endgroup$ Jun 1, 2021 at 6:59
  • $\begingroup$ @StephenG Thanks for the link. I'm not sure if this question is any more suited to "geology, meteorology, oceanography, and environmental sciences." I know Earth is at the core of the question, but it's also a bit about goldilocks planets in general. $\endgroup$
    – Seph Reed
    Jun 1, 2021 at 17:23
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen I totally did misunderstand that. I'll need to do some research about high energy particles and whether or not they're fundamentally inhibitive to life. $\endgroup$
    – Seph Reed
    Jun 1, 2021 at 17:24

1 Answer 1


Depending on your definition of "major", here are a few things I could think of that affect our "Goldilocks" temperature that humans are so fond of.

Your list:

  • the magnetic field
  • distance from the sun
  • the greenhouse effect:
    • infrared radiation from atmosphere
    • infrared absorption by the atmosphere from Earth/atmosphere.

Other stuff:

  • geothermal energy (direct heat source, though small)
  • radioactive decay (direct heat source, though small)
  • intensity of the sun (this changes), which is coupled with distance to the sun
  • spin rate of Earth (if it was too slow, solar heating would be extremely different)
  • axial tilt of Earth (if it was too much, solar heating would be extremely different)
  • fraction of Earth covered by water (affects albedo and ability of weather systems to form that act to regulate temperature over land)
  • volcanic activity (more activity would lead to more particulate in atmosphere and blocking of sunlight)

I'm sure there are more... though I would say that all factors that have influence on temperature should be on both the hot and cold list.


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