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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.

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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
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.
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2.4 Water stores and transfers energy.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
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E) Organizing information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
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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

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