Activity Suite: How Does The Greenhouse Effect Influence Global Temperature?
This is a suite of activities designed to address the concepts that address how the greenhouse effect influences global temperature. These activities can be used individually or combined as desired.
Course type: introductory undergraduate, any size class
These activities teach: Climate Literacy Essential Principle 2: Climate is regulated by complex interactions among components of the Earth system
These activities teach Concept C - Greenhouse Effect. The amount of solar energy absorbed or radiated by Earth is modulated by the atmosphere and depends on its composition. Greenhouse gases— such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, and methane— occur naturally in small amounts and absorb and release heat energy more efficiently than abundant atmospheric gases like nitrogen and oxygen. Small increases in carbon dioxide concentration have a large effect on the climate system.
These activities all focus on articulating the following overarching goal:
EXPLAIN how the greenhouse effect works based on properties of atmospheric constituents and energy budget balancing.
Students should be able to do the following:
- DESCRIBE how incoming and outgoing electromagnetic radiation interacts with Earth's surface and atmosphere.
- CONTRAST the role greenhouse gases play compared to main atmospheric constituents.
- BALANCE a radiation budget by accounting for reflection, absorption, and transmission of radiation.
- PREDICT how changes in greenhouse gases will affect a planet's mean surface temperature.
The activities included in this suite are:
What is the Earth's Average Temperature? (Goals 1 & 3)
Greenhouse Gas in a Bottle Demonstration (Goal 2)
What Makes a Greenhouse Gas a Greenhouse Gas? (Goal 2)
Absorption by Atmospheric Gases of Incoming and Outgoing Radiation (Goal 2)
The Greenhouse Effect: Why is the Earth's Surface So Much Warmer than the Earth as Seen from Space? (Goals & 4)
Assumed Prerequisite Knowledge:
1. Composition of the atmosphere
2. Different forms of energy (particularly heat and radiative energy)
3. Energy is conserved but can be transformed from one form to another
4. The electromagnetic spectrum
5. The Stefan-Boltzmann law of radiation (expressed qualitatively)
6. Radiative emission spectra for the sun and the earth (including Wien's Law)
7. Radiative absorption spectra for different atmospheric constituents
- Solar radiation versus terrestrial (longwave infrared) radiation
8. Budgets (balanced and unbalanced), particularly energy budgets
- Assessment Ideas categorized by learning goal: Assessment Ideas (Microsoft Word 612kB Jun14 11)
- Earth Energy Balance Matching Exercise The Earth Energy Balance - Matching (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 132kB Jun10 11)
More on this topic from CLEAN
How to teach with this principle from the CLEAN site
See CLEAN reviewed activities for teaching about Greenhouse Effect