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.
In this activity, students assume the role of a team of architects that has been commissioned to build a solar house containing both active and passive solar components. First, they must design the house and then build a model. The model is tested to determine how well it utilizes solar energy.
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.
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.
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.