What Is the Difference Between Direct and Indirect Sunlight?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 29, 2020 10:25:05 AM ET
Caiaimage/Martin Barraud/OJO+/Getty Images

Direct sunlight reaches the Earth's surface when there is no cloud cover between the sun and the Earth, while cloud cover causes indirect sunlight to reach the surface. In gardening, sunlight falling directly on the plant is direct sunlight, while indirect sunlight refers to shaded areas.

Indirect sunlight also is called diffuse sky radiation, because it is sunlight that reaches the Earth’s surface after being dispersed in the atmosphere over haze, dust and clouds. As roughly two-thirds of the solar beam scatters before reaching the Earth’s surface, the difference between direct and indirect sunlight is especially important in effectively using sunlight as a source of energy.