Solar Wind

The solar wind is a stream of charged particles released from the upper atmosphere of the Sun. It mostly consists of electrons and protons. The source of the solar wind is the Sun's hot corona. The temperature of the corona is so high that the Sun's gravity cannot hold on to it. The solar wind speed varies between 300 km/s and 800 km/s. These high and low speed streams interact with each other and alternately pass by the Earth as the Sun rotates.

As the solar wind approaches a planet that has a well-developed magnetic field, e.g. the Earth, Jupiter and Saturn, the particles are deflected by the Lorentz force. This region is known as the magnetosphere and it causes the particles to travel around the planet rather than bombarding the atmosphere or surface. The magnetosphere is roughly shaped like a hemisphere on the side facing the Sun, then is drawn out in a long wake on the opposite side. Earth itself is largely protected from the solar wind by its magnetic field, which deflects most of the charged particles. A smaller number of particles from the solar wind manage to travel to the Earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere in the auroral zones. That produces phenomena such as the aurora and geomagnetic storms. 
 Image source: weirwarpd

Astral bodies without magnetic field, e.g. the comets, are not able to deflect the solar wind; therefore, they have long tails pointing opposite to the sun. Venus, the nearest and most similar planet to Earth in the Solar System, has an atmosphere 100 times denser than our own, with little or no geo-magnetic field; hence, ia has a comet-like tail that extends to the orbit of the Earth. 

Additional reading:
Solar Physics: The Solar Wind
Solar Wind in Wikipedia

Energy Consumption and Global Warming

The earth at night. This photo collage made with more than 400 superimposed remote sensing images shows the whole planet during the night. It got my attention the light from the big cities, most of them in the northern hemisphere. I got surprised by the bright color and the tried to imagine the energy consumed.
By 2006 it was estimated that the worldwide energy consumption was about 498 exajoules. This anthropogenic heating may affect the circulation pattern and the surface air temperature. Actually, a research recently published at the NAture Climate Change showed that including energy into climate models leads to remote temperature changes. Such study concluded that energy consumption is probably a missing forcing for the winter warming trends.

Photo source: Der Spiegel
Additional reading:
Energy consumption and the unexpected winter warming over Asia and North America
Satellitenbild der woche: Wo des Nachts die Lichter brennen