This activity from NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory introduces students to the current scientific understanding of the greenhouse effect and the carbon cycle. The activity leads them through several interactive tasks investigating recent trends in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Students analyze scientific data and use scientific reasoning to determine the causes responsible for these recent trends. By studying carbon cycle science in a visual and interactive manner, the activity provides students with a conceptual framework with which to address the challenges of a changing climate.
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.
Students examine data from Mauna Loa to learn about CO2 in the atmosphere. The students also examine how atmospheric CO2 changes through the seasonal cycle, by location on Earth, and over about 40 years and more specifically over 15 years. Students graph data in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere and draw conclusions about hemispherical differences in CO2 release and uptake.
The activity follows a progression that examines the CO2 content of various gases, explores the changes in the atmospheric levels of CO2 from 1958 to 2000 from the Mauna Loa Keeling curve, and the relationship between CO2 and temperature over the past 160,000 years. This provides a foundation for examining individuals' input of CO2 to the atmosphere and how to reduce it.
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 is a laboratory activity in which students will compare the amount of carbon dioxide in four different sources of gas and determine the carbon dioxide contribution from automobiles. They test ambient air, human exhalation, automobile exhaust, and nearly pure carbon dioxide from a vinegar/baking soda mixture.