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.
This lesson is a lab in which students use thermometers, white and dark paper, and lamps to measure differences in albedo between the light and dark materials. Connections are made to albedo in Antarctica.
In this worksheet-based activity, students review global visualizations of incoming sunlight and surface temperature and discuss seasonal change. Students use the visualizations to support inquiry on the differences in seasonal change in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and how land and water absorb and release heat differently. The activity culminates in an argument about why one hemisphere experiences warmer summers although it receives less total solar energy.
This activity introduces students to the process of converting sunlight into electricity through the use of photovoltaics (solar cells). Students complete a reading passage with questions and an inquiry lab using small photovoltaic cells.
This NASA video reviews the role of the sun in driving the climate system. It uses colorful animations to illustrate Earth's energy balance and how increased greenhouse gases are creating an imbalance in the energy budget, leading to warming. The video also reviews how the NASA satellite program collects data on the sun.
Student teams design and build solar water heating devices that mimic those used in residences to capture energy in the form of solar radiation and convert it to thermal energy. In this activity, students gain a better understanding of the three different types of heat transfer, each of which plays a role in the solar water heater design. Once the model devices are constructed, students perform efficiency calculations and compare designs.
This animated video outlines Earth's energy. The video presents a progression from identifying the different energy systems to the differences between external and internal energy sources and how that energy is cycled and used.
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.
This activity teaches students about the albedo of surfaces and how it relates to the ice-albedo feedback effect. During an experiment, students observe the albedo of two different colored surfaces by measuring the temperature change of a white and black surface under a lamp.