Jump to this Activity »
Effect of the Sun's Energy on the Ocean and Atmosphere
http://icp.giss.nasa.gov/education/radforce/index.html

Mitch Fox, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

In this mock mission, students become members of a research team and conduct a series of tasks to audit Earth's radiative budget. They use a Java Applet/visual viewer to access satellite data sets, calculate the balance of incoming and outgoing solar radiation, and defend their answers to a number of science questions.

Activity takes about three hours of class time. Computer access is required.

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

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

When Earth emits the same amount of energy as it absorbs, its energy budget is in balance, and its average temperature remains stable.
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1b
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

Energy Literacy

Energy is a quantity that is transferred from system to system.
Other materials addressing:
1.1 Energy is a quantity.
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 neither created nor destroyed.
Other materials addressing:
1.3 Energy is neither created nor destroyed.
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.
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

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

  • The spatial resolution of the data (2.5x2.5 degrees versus 20x20 degrees) is different than described in the instructions.To alleviate confusion, educators should talk about spatial resolution and tell students that they will be able to select more data points.
  • The instructions for the Java applet are incomplete. Prior to class use, it would be useful for educators to create a set of instructions so students know how to access the data. For example: "After bringing up the control panel, select ERBS. Then select year, month, and band, and hit 'go get data.' You will see the message, 'Extraction is coming up.' At this point, click on one of the latitude bands in the map, which will harvest the numerical data."

About the Science

  • Very effective use of data.
  • While most data is from the 1980s and does not reflect currently calculated energy fluxes, the activity illustrates several important concepts about radiative balance.
  • Activity sets up a research type environment for students.

About the Pedagogy

  • A problem-based learning activity where students access and graph NASA satellite data (supported by online calculators).
  • Activity can be employed as an individual or group activity.
  • This activity models how scientists work. Independent action and thought is required to reach stated goals. Collaboration is also necessary for students to be successful in meeting the research challenge.

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