This lesson explores the chemistry of some of the gases that affect Earth's climate. It is the 3rd in a series of 9 lessons from an online module entitled 'Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change'.
This activity involves plotting and comparing monthly data on atmospheric C02 concentrations over two years, as recorded in Mauna Loa and the South Pole, and postulating reasons for differences in their seasonal patterns. Longer-term data is then examined for both sites to see if seasonal variations from one site to the other carry over into longer term trends.
In this short, hands-on activity, students build simple molecular models of 4 atmospheric gases (O2, N2, C02, and methane), compare their resonant frequencies, and make the connection between resonant frequency and the gas's ability to absorb infrared radiation.
In this experiment, students will observe a natural process that removes carbon dioxide (CO2) from Earth's atmosphere. This process is a part of the carbon cycle and results in temperature suitable for life. Students will learn that the carbon cycle is a fundamental Earth process. Throughout Earth's history, the balance of carbon has kept the atmosphere's carbon dioxide (CO2) and Earth's temperature within relatively narrow ranges.
In this activity, students work in groups, plotting carbon dioxide concentrations over time on overheads and estimating the rate of change over five years. Stacked together, the overheads for the whole class show an increase on carbon dioxide over five years and annual variation driven by photosynthesis. This exercise enables students to practice basic quantitative skills and understand how important sampling intervals can be when studying changes over time. A goal is to see how small sample size may give incomplete picture of data.
This video illustrates how atmospheric particles, or aerosols (such as black carbon, sulfates, dust, fog), can affect the energy balance of Earth regionally, and the implications for surface temperature warming and cooling.
This video segment from 'Earth: The Operators' Manual' explores how we know that today's increased levels of CO2 are caused by humans burning fossil fuels and not by some natural process, such as volcanic out-gassing. Climate scientist Richard Alley provides a detailed step-by-step explanation that examines the physics and chemistry of different "flavors," or isotopes, of carbon in Earth's atmosphere.