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Gallery of Greenhouse Gas Molecules

Ben Mills, Global Warming Art

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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).

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Static Visualization supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas

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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.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Static Visualization supports:

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-PS1.A1:Each atom has a charged substructure consisting of a nucleus, which is made of protons and neutrons, surrounded by electrons.

HS-PS1.A3:The structure and interactions of matter at the bulk scale are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms.

HS-PS1.A4:A stable molecule has less energy than the same set of atoms separated; one must provide at least this energy in order to take the molecule apart.

HS-PS1.B1:Chemical processes, their rates, and whether or not energy is stored or released can be understood in terms of the collisions of molecules and the rearrangements of atoms into new molecules, with consequent changes in the sum of all bond energies in the set of molecules that are matched by changes in kinetic energy.

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