This is the first of nine lessons in the "Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change" website. This lesson is an introduction to Earth's climate and covers key principles regarding Earth's unique climate, atmosphere, and regional and temporal climate differences.
This figure, the famous Keeling Curve, shows the history of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations as directly measured at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. This curve is an essential piece of evidence that shows the increased greenhouse gases that cause recent increases in global temperatures.
The Climate Momentum Simulation allows users to quickly compare the resulting sea level rise, temperature change, atmospheric CO2, and global CO2 emissions from six different policy options: 1) Business As Usual, 2) March 2009 Country Proposals, 3) Flatten CO2 emissions by 2025, 4) 29% below 2009 levels by 2040, 5) 80% reduction of global fossil fuel plus a 90% reduction in land use emissions by 2050, and 6) 95 reduction of CO2 emissions by 2020). Based on the more complex C-ROADS simulator.
This activity leads students through a sequence of learning steps that highlight the embedded energy that is necessary to produce various types of food. Students start by thinking through the components of a basic meal and are later asked to review the necessary energy to produce different types of protein.
In this mock mission, students become members of a research team and conduct a series of tasks to audit Earth's radiative budget. They use a Java Applet/visual viewer to access satellite data sets, calculate the balance of incoming and outgoing solar radiation, and defend their answers to a number of science questions.
This video segment, adapted from Need to Know, discusses how the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is used to extract natural gas and how the process may be polluting water resources with hazardous chemicals, leading to health concerns.
Students consider why the observed atmospheric CO2 increase rate is only ~60% of the CO2 loading rate due to fossil fuel combustion. They develop a box-model to simulate the atmospheric CO2 increase during the industrial era and compare it to the historic observations of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The model is then used to forecast future concentrations of atmospheric CO2 during the next century.