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Cooling factors

Philippe Rekacewicz, UNEP/GRID-Arendal

This qualitative graphic illustrates the various factors that affect the amount of solar radiation hitting or being absorbed by Earth's surface such as aerosols, clouds, and albedo.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Static Visualization supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts

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

  • Can be used to teach about albedo.
  • Educator may need to look further into albedo - open water also reflects and ice also absorbs, but it's the relative effect; also explore with students how albedo works.
  • Educator may need to alleviate confusion about how aerosols are both reflecting and absorbing energy.

About the Science

  • Good visual of the radiative budget without any quantification of the effect of each of the factors.
  • Because factors are not quantified, the graph stays current (publication date 2000).
  • Comments from expert scientist: The paragraph provides a simple introduction to the direct cooling effects by aerosols and clouds. When considering direct radiative interactions of aerosols, in my view absorption of radiation by black carbon (and even brown carbon) and dust needs to be included too, so it will be a more complete picture if this slide also includes arrows for anthropogenic/natural aerosols that show solar absorption as well.

About the Pedagogy

  • This visualization can act as the seed for a discussion of the effect of these various cooling factors on climate change.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Static Visualization supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

MS-PS3.B2:The amount of energy transfer needed to change the temperature of a matter sample by a given amount depends on the nature of the matter, the size of the sample, and the environment.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 5

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Cause and effect

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C4.1: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C4.3:Models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.

MS-C5.4:The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

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-PS3.D1:Although energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms—for example, to thermal energy in the surrounding environment.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 5

Cause and effect, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter

HS-C2.4:Changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C4.4:Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

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