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 video, students learn that scientific evidence strongly suggests that different regions on Earth do not respond equally to increased temperatures. Ice-covered regions appear to be particularly sensitive to even small changes in global temperature. This video segment adapted from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center details how global warming may already be responsible for a significant reduction in glacial ice, which may in turn have significant consequences for the planet.

This image depicts a representative subset of the atmospheric processes related to aerosol lifecycles, cloud lifecycles, and aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions that must be understood to improve future climate predictions.

In this activity, students use authentic Arctic climate data to unravel some causes and effects related to the seasonal melting of the snowpack and to further understand albedo.

In this jigsaw activity, students explore meteorological data collected from Eureka, Canada to try to decide when would be the best time for an Arctic visit.

In this short video, atmospheric scientist Scott Denning gives a candid and entertaining explanation of how greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere warm our planet.

This animation depicts real-time wind speed and direction at selected heights above Earth's surface, ocean surface currents, and ocean surface temperatures and anomalies.

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.