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Solar Influence: Climate Change

National Research Council, The National Academies

This short video, the sixth in the National Academies Climate Change, Lines of Evidence series, explores the hypothesis that changes in solar energy output may be responsible for observed global surface temperature rise. Several lines of evidence, such as direct satellite observations, are reviewed.

Video length: 2:46 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Solar variability has no significant impact on Earth's current warming
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1e

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

  • A good video to show at the beginning of a unit on climate change. May need to break video up into sections because the information is very dense.
  • Students will need scaffolding.
  • Teachers may want to start and stop video for students to interact with data sets and key ideas.

About the Science

  • This short video looks at an alternative hypothesis for observed global warming - i.e., a change in solar energy output. Recent direct satellite observations show no net increase in the last 30 years, while indirect estimates based on sunspot frequencies in 20th century suggest a rise in solar activity in the first part of century and a fall in the last part. But these indirect measurements are not consistent with the direct ones. Furthermore, careful observations of the temperatures in different atmospheric layers show a warming in the lower troposphere and cooling in the higher stratosphere. This is indicative of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere and not a changing solar output.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Shows the well-known relationship between solar output and global average temperature, and correlates this relationship with sunspot activity. Demonstrates solar output (via sunspot activity as a proxy) has not increased over the last 50 years and as such it can’t explain the increase in global average temperature.

About the Pedagogy

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The images and animations are state-of-the-art.
  • Captions can be translated into other languages.
  • Resolution of video can be changed.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN


Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

HS-ESS1.B2:Cyclical changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit around the sun, together with changes in the tilt of the planet’s axis of rotation, both occurring over hundreds of thousands of years, have altered the intensity and distribution of sunlight falling on the earth. These phenomena cause a cycle of ice ages and other gradual climate changes.

HS-ESS2.A1:Earth’s systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedback effects that can increase or decrease the original changes.

HS-ESS2.A3:The geological record shows that changes to global and regional climate can be caused by interactions among changes in the sun’s energy output or Earth’s orbit, tectonic events, ocean circulation, volcanic activity, glaciers, vegetation, and human activities. These changes can occur on a variety of time scales from sudden (e.g., volcanic ash clouds) to intermediate (ice ages) to very long-term tectonic cycles.

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-ESS2.D3:Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate.

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