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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.

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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.
Entered the Collection: February 2017 Last Reviewed: December 2016

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