Modeling Earth's Energy Balance

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.

Go To:

Kirsten Menking
Vassar College
Kirsten Menking, On the Cutting Edge/SERC

Notes From Our Reviewers

The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials

Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

This is an upper-level activity. As such, it requires some prerequisite knowledge of modeling. Familiarity with STELLA modeling software would also be helpful.