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Earth's Energy Cycle - Albedo

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

Students perform a lab to explore how the color of materials at the Earth's surface affect the amount of warming. Topics covered include developing a hypothesis, collecting data, and making interpretations to explain why dark colored materials become hotter.

Activity takes about one class period.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Sunlight warms the planet
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1a

Energy Literacy

Earth's weather and climate is mostly driven by energy from the Sun.
Other materials addressing:
2.3 Earth's climate driven by the Sun.
The effects of changes in Earth's energy system are often not immediately apparent.
Other materials addressing:
2.7 Effects of changes in Earth's energy system .

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:B) Changes in matter
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B) Changes in matter.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

About the Science

  • Providing an observable example of the effect of albedo on temperature is very useful in demonstrating the importance of albedo to students.
  • Not a lot of background materials for educators.
  • Comments from our scientists on background materials:
    • When teaching about the decreasing snow cover - Specify the amount of decrease for land ice or glaciers.
    • The number that is given for the decrease of the ice cover is a little out of date. For the annual average, the trend from NSIDC numbers is -4.2% per decade over 1979-2009. Of course for albedo, the key time period is summer when the sun is up. For September, at the end of the summer melt season, the trend for 1979-2009 is -11.9% per decade.

About the Pedagogy

  • Hands-on activity fosters student understanding of how local, regional, and global albedo effects are critical to predicting global climate change.
  • Has a good section to teach the importance of noting limitations of models.
  • Engaging introduction for students using a photo of Himalayan glaciers for observation and study.
  • Good worksheets included for students.
  • Assessment needs to be improved by educator.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • User must go to different websites for module background and unit background.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

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