Jump to this Activity »
Effects of Solar Radiation on Land and Sea
http://education.arm.gov/teacher-lounge/lessons/solar-effects

Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility as part of U.S. Department of Energy

This brief, hands-on activity illustrates the different heating capacities of soil and water in order to understand why places near the sea have a more moderate climate than those inland.

Activity takes less than a class period but measurements will take more time. Additional materials are needed.

Discuss this Resource»
Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Sunlight reaching the Earth can heat the land, ocean, and atmosphere. Some of that sunlight is reflected back to space by the surface, clouds, or ice. Much of the sunlight that reaches Earth is absorbed and warms the planet.
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1a
Covering 70% of Earth's surface, the ocean exerts a major control on climate by dominating Earth's energy and water cycles. It has the capacity to absorb large amounts of solar energy. Heat and water vapor are redistributed globally through density-driven ocean currents and atmospheric circulation. Changes in ocean circulation caused by tectonic movements or large influxes of fresh water from melting polar ice can lead to significant and even abrupt changes in climate, both locally and on global scales.
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2b

Energy Literacy

The energy of a system or object that results in its temperature is called thermal energy.
Other materials addressing:
1.2 Thermal energy.
Energy is a physical quantity that follows precise natural laws.
Other materials addressing:
Energy is a physical quantity.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
Other materials addressing:
E) Organizing information.
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:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Thermal energy carried by ocean currents has a strong influence on climates around the world. Areas near oceans tend to have more moderate temperatures than they would if they were farther inland but at the same latitude because water in the oceans can hold a large amount of thermal energy.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark
Light and other electromagnetic waves can warm objects. How much an object's temperature increases depends on how intense the light striking its surface is, how long the light shines on the object, and how much of the light is absorbed.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

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

Teaching Tips

  • Educators could introduce these ideas by focusing on how the specific heat of different substances impacts climate.
  • More information on how to do reliable and comparable reading of a thermometer and how to set up the experiment so that the results are comparable would be very helpful.
  • Try to take the buckets of soil and water outside the classroom and set them up in direct sunlight close to solar noon (when the sun is at the highest point in the sky).
  • Educator needs to make sure that the soil is well mixed and not wet. It might be easier to use sand instead of soil -identical materials (no mix of grain sizes) will make the results more comparable.
  • Discussion part of project needs more guidance from educator.
  • Activity can also be done as a demonstration.
  • A great opportunity for educator to make the connection between this activity and regional climate variability, but more information is needed for this extension and is not provided.

About the Science

  • Hands-on activity that illustrates the different heating properties of water and soil and leads to an understanding of differences between climates in areas close to and far from water.
  • Clearly written, brief background information that shows the connection between scientific concept and real world climate.
  • Educators should quantify the different heat capacities (water's heat capacity is about 3 times that of soil) and familiarize students with the units that are used (joules/gram) The heat capacity concept is important to make sense of the activity.

About the Pedagogy

  • Quick and easy-to-implement hands-on activity that illustrates the concept of marine versus continental climates. Students generate their own data to analyze; assessment questions ask students to interpret data and draw conclusions.
  • Activity doesn't offer much scaffolding. It really focuses on teaching one concept but doesn't do a good job in connecting this to a bigger picture.
  • Setting up an experiment, recording data, drawing graphs and discussing results will engage students of different learning styles.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Well-written and easy to do.

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


Jump to this Activity »



Have you used these materials with your students? Do you have insights to share with other educators about their use? Please share with the community by adding a comment below.

Please use this space only for discussion about teaching with these particular materials.
For more general discussion about teaching climate literacy please use our general discussion boards.
To report a problem or direct a comment to the CLEAN project team please use our feedback form (or the feedback link at the bottom of every page).
Off-topic posts will be deleted.

Join the Discussion


Log in to reply