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Gallery of Greenhouse Gas Molecules

Ben Mills, Global Warming Art

This static visualization from Global Warming Art depicts the chemical characteristics of eight greenhouse gas molecules - carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), water (H2O), ozone (O3), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), dichlorodifluoromethane (CFC-12), and trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11).

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • If using in high school, go over units and model elements.
  • Very clear, distinct graphic.
  • Most appropriate for chemistry course where students are familiar with units of measure and significance of molecular structure.

About the Science

  • Collection includes information about greenhouse gas molecules shapes, bond lengths and angles, and describes details of their role in global warming on linked web pages.
  • While water vapor does trap outgoing infrared heat from Earth after it has been warmed by the sun, it is short-lived compared with these other gases, some of which remain in the atmosphere for centuries.
  • Comments from expert scientist: It gives nice pictures of the most important greenhouse gas molecules. A somewhat more quantitative description should be given, e.g. how much of these gases is emitted annually. In order to link molecular structure to greenhouse gas efficiency, bond strength and spectroscopic information has to be provided.

About the Pedagogy

  • The images can be used to explore the chemistry and physics of why certain molecules absorb and re-radiate infrared (IR) energy.
  • Informational rather than didactic.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Puts basic chemical details of the six primary heat trapping gases in a single place.

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