This lesson explores the chemistry of some of the greenhouse gases that affect Earth's climate. Third in a series of 9 lessons from an online module entitled 'Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change'.

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.

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 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.

C-Learn is a simplified version of a climate simulator. Its primary purpose is to help users understand the long-term climate effects (CO2 concentrations, global temperature, sea level rise) of various customized actions to reduce fossil fuel CO2 emissions, reduce deforestation, and grow more trees. Students can ask multiple, customized what-if questions and understand why the system reacts as it does.

In this short video from ClimateCentral, host Jessica Harrop explains what evidence scientists have for claiming that recent global warming is caused by humans and is not just part of a natural cycle.

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.

This short video describes the Hestia project - a software tool and data model that provide visualizations of localized CO2 emissions from residential, commercial, and vehicle levels, as well as day versus night comparisons, in the city of Indianapolis.

For this lesson, the guiding Concept Question is: What is climate change and how does climate relate to greenhouse gas concentrations over time? This activity is the second lesson in a nine-lesson module 'Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change' produced by the International Year of Chemistry project (2011).

Two short, narrated animations about carbon dioxide and Earth's temperature are presented on this webpage. The first animation shows the rise in atmospheric CO2 levels, human carbon emissions, and global temperature rise of the past 1,000 years; the second shows changes in the level of CO2 from 800,000 years ago to the present.