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Effects of Solar Radiation on Land and Sea

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.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 8 Cross Cutting Concepts, 10 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Sunlight warms the planet
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1a
Ocean as climate control, oceanic conveyor belt; abrupt changes in thermohaline circulation
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.
Water plays a major role in the storage and transfer of energy in the Earth system.
Other materials addressing:
2.4 Water stores and transfers energy.

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.

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

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 8

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C1.2: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C3.1:Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

Science and Engineering Practices: 10

Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

MS-P2.3:Use and/or develop a model of simple systems with uncertain and less predictable factors.

MS-P2.4:Develop and/or revise a model to show the relationships among variables, including those that are not observable but predict observable phenomena.

MS-P3.2:Conduct an investigation and/or evaluate and/or revise the experimental design to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence that meet the goals of the investigation

MS-P4.1:Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.

MS-P4.3: Distinguish between causal and correlational relationships in data.

MS-P4.4:Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

MS-P6.1:Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

MS-P6.2:Construct an explanation using models or representations.

MS-P6.3:Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

MS-P6.4:Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to construct, revise and/or use an explanation for real- world phenomena, examples, or events.

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