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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.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 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

  • 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 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.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS2.A1:All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms.

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 5

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter

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-C5.3:Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

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

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter

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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