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The Effects of Atmospheric Particles on Climate

ThinkTV, Teachers' Domain

This video illustrates how atmospheric particles, or aerosols (such as black carbon, sulfates, dust, fog), can affect the energy balance of Earth regionally, and the implications for surface temperature warming and cooling.

Video length 4:13 minutes.

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Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Airborne particulates, called "aerosols," have a complex effect on Earth’s energy balance: they can cause both cooling, by reflecting incoming sunlight back out to space, and warming, by absorbing and releasing heat energy in the atmosphere. Small solid and liquid particles can be lofted into the atmosphere through a variety of natural and man-made processes, including volcanic eruptions, sea spray, forest fires, and emissions generated through human activities.
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2e

Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
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7.3 Environmental quality.
The quality of life of individuals and societies is affected by energy choices.
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Energy affects quality of life .
Fossil and bio fuels are organic matter that contain energy captured from sunlight.
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4.3 Fossil and bio fuels contain energy captured from sunlight.
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Various sources of energy are used to power human activities .

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

  • See Teaching Tips provided with video.
  • Educators may want to have students view the video individually.

About the Science

  • Dramatic images adapted from NOAA reveal the regions where atmospheric particles are concentrated, and their patterns of movement around the globe.
  • Comment from expert scientist: The direct radiative impact of aerosols is well-described for this educational level, in my view. Black carbon absorbs, Sulfate reflects. The students will gain an understanding of atmospheric aerosols, that they are naturally occurring and man-generated, that they’re not one kind, and they impact the climate. I also appreciate the effort to show that there are regional and local variations on aerosol impacts.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • Background essay, teaching tips, and standards alignment provided with video.
  • Well-structured explanation of the effect of aerosols on incoming solar radiation.
  • Information is provided at a rapid pace, making the video content very dense.
  • The lack of science jargon makes this video appropriate for middle school as well as high school and lower level college.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent quality but small viewing window. The resolution is very low, so projecting for the entire class will not be possible. Suggest downloading the video.
  • Very good graphics.

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