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 activity focuses on reconstructing the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) as an example of a relatively abrupt global warming period. Students access Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) sediment core data with Virtual Ocean software in order to display relevant marine sediments and their biostratigraphy.

In this hands-on engineering activity, students build a tabletop wind turbine. Students get acquainted with the basics of wind energy and power production by fabricating and testing various blade designs for table-top windmills, constructed from one-inch PVC pipe and balsa wood (or recycled materials). The activity includes lots of good media and Web resources supporting the science content.

This lesson sequence guides students to learn about the geography and the unique characteristics of the Arctic, including vegetation, and people who live there. Students use Google Earth to explore the Arctic and learn about meteorological observations in the Arctic, including collecting their own data in hands-on experiments. This is the first part of a three-part curriculum about Arctic climate.

This simulation provides scenarios for exploring the principles of climate dynamics from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Inter-connections among climate issues, public stakeholders and the governance spheres are investigated through creative simulations designed to support learners' understanding of international climate change negotiations.

A detailed Google Earth tour of glacier change over the last 50 years is given in class as an introduction. Students are then asked to select from a group of glaciers and create their own Google Earth tour exploring key characteristics and evident changes in that glacier.

Students consider why the observed atmospheric CO2 increase rate is only ~60% of the CO2 loading rate due to fossil fuel combustion. They develop a box-model to simulate the atmospheric CO2 increase during the industrial era and compare it to the historic observations of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The model is then used to forecast future concentrations of atmospheric CO2 during the next century.

This classroom activity is aimed at an understanding of different ecosystems by understanding the influence of temperature and precipitation. Students correlate graphs of vegetation vigor with those of temperature and precipitation data for four diverse ecosystems, ranging from near-equatorial to polar, and spanning both hemispheres to determine which climatic factor is limiting growth.

In this activity, students collect weather data over several days or weeks, graph temperature data, and compare the temperature data collected with long-term climate averages from where they live. Understanding the difference between weather and climate and interpreting local weather data are important first steps to understanding larger-scale global climate changes.

In this activity, students critically evaluate the arguments about climate change raised in a climate contrarian newspaper op-ed. This exercise is intended to strengthen student critical thinking and content knowledge at the end of unit on the climate system.