Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne UV rays and Water
Name: Terry R.
Status: other
Age: 30s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Sunday, May 05, 2002

Can UV rays penetrate water? For example: Standing waist deep in a pool of water, will my legs be protected as my upper body burns?

Water does scatter U.V. radiation, and the surface of the water will reflect a part of incident U.V. radiation so your legs are more protected.

Vince Calder


Sunlight's UV component will not penetrate water very far. Indeed, if overexposed, the parts of you that are above water will burn -- even faster than if you were on dry land because the surface of the water reflects the radiation. As a result, you get hit with the direct and well as the reflected rays.

ProfHoff 416

U.V. radiation (depending upon the wavelength) penetrates water to some extent, but not far, because various components in the water absorb the U.V. radiation, and in addition water scatters the U.V. radiation. So, YES, your exposed upper body will burn more quickly than your legs submerged in water.

Vince Calder

Click here to return to the Physics Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (, or at Argonne's Educational Programs

Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory