This activity supports educators in the use of the activities that accompany the GLOBE Program's Earth System Poster 'Exploring Connections in Year 2007'. Students identify global patterns and connections in environmental data that include soil moisture, insolation, surface temperature, cloud fraction, precipitation, world topography/bathymetry, aerosol optical thickness, and biosphere (from different times of the year) with the goal of recognizing patterns and trends in global data sets.

In this activity, learners use the STELLA box modeling software to determine Earth's temperature based on incoming solar radiation and outgoing terrestrial radiation. Starting with a simple black body model, the exercise gradually adds complexity by incorporating albedo, then a 1-layer atmosphere, then a 2-layer atmosphere, and finally a complex atmosphere with latent and sensible heat fluxes. With each step, students compare the modeled surface temperature to Earth's actual surface temperature, thereby providing a check on how well each increasingly complex model captures the physics of the actual system.

This qualitative graphic illustrates the various factors that affect the amount of solar radiation hitting or being absorbed by Earth's surface such as aerosols, clouds, and albedo.