c. The amount of solar energy absorbed or radiated by Earth is modulated by the atmosphere and depends on its composition. Greenhouse gases— such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane— occur naturally in small amounts and absorb and release heat energy more efficiently than abundant atmospheric gases like nitrogen and oxygen. Small increases in carbon dioxide concentration have a large effect on the climate system.

This activity from NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory introduces students to the scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect and the carbon cycle. The activity leads them through several interactive tasks to investigate recent trends in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Students analyze scientific data and use scientific reasoning to determine the causes responsible for these recent trends. By studying carbon cycle science in a visual and interactive manner, students can learn firsthand about the reasons behind our changing climate.

This is an animation from the US Environmental Protection Agency's Students Guide to Global Climate Change, one of a series of web pages and videos about the basics of the greenhouse effect.

This is a figure from the 2007 IPCC Assessment Report 4 on atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide over the last 10,000 years (large panels) and since 1750 (inset panels).

In this video Dr. Richard Alley poses and addresses a simple question: What does carbon dioxide have to do with global warming?

This Flash-based simulation explores the relationship between carbon emissions and atmospheric carbon dioxide using two main displays: (1) graphs that show the level of human-generated CO2 emissions, CO2 removals, and the level of CO2 in the atmosphere, and (2) a bathtub animation that shows the same information as the graphs. The bathtub simulation illustrates the challenges of reducing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.

In this hands-on activity, participants learn the characteristics of the five layers of the atmosphere and make illustrations to represent them. They roll the drawings and place them in clear plastic cylinders, and then stack the cylinders to make a model column of the atmosphere.

In this video, students see how data from the ice core record is used to help scientists predict the future of our climate. Video features ice cores extracted from the WAIS Divide, a research station on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Students gain experience using a spreadsheet and working with others to decide how to conduct their model 'experiments' with the NASA GEEBITT (Global Equilibrium Energy Balance Interactive Tinker Toy). This activity helps students become more familiar with the physical processes that made Earth's early climate so different from that of today. Students also acquire first-hand experience with a limitation in modeling, specifically, parameterization of critical processes.