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Global Energy Balance

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

A simple click-through animation from Scripps Institute's Earthguide program breaks the complex topic of the global energy balance into separate concepts. Slides describe the different pathways for incoming and outgoing radiation.

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Be aware that re-emitted radiation is depicted in red, the same color as the reflected light on the previous slide. This may confuse some learners.
  • Review definitions of sensible and latent heat and other terms (long range emissions) or have students look up the terms and describe other places where these terms are provided.
  • The absorption slide shows the reflection line reflecting off water and absorption line hitting land. Reinforce that reflection and absorption can happen on land and water to dispel a common misconception that reflection only happens on water.
  • Encourage students to click on the various elements on each slide to obtain more information.

About the Science

  • This is a sequence of introductory slides illustrating Earth's energy budget.
  • The slides show that the sun is the source of energy for all things, and drives weather and climate. The slides further illustrate that sunlight is absorbed, re-emitted, and reflected by various elements of the Earth's surface, including clouds, land, water, dust and the atmosphere.
  • The difference between incoming shortwave and outgoing long-wave energy is not explained, which more advanced learners should understand.
  • Comment from expert scientist: It's a great introduction to the concept of energy balance on Earth's atmosphere. It gives an overview of the key driving mechanisms that make our atmosphere so dynamic and unique.

About the Pedagogy

  • A good resource to begin a discussion on the greenhouse effect.
  • Simple diagrams but effective explanations accompany each slide of the animation.
  • Students can proceed at their own speed through the slides. Breaking a complex topic such as this into different concepts on each slide is helpful to building understanding.
  • Some of the vocabulary may need to be reviewed, such as sensible and latent heat, reflection and absorption, long-wave radiation.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Information within this resource is visual and text-based.
  • User can click on various parts of the graphic for additional information.
  • There are eight slides and automatically start over with no indication of slide number.

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