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Climate Feedback Loops
http://www.explainingclimatechange.ca/Climate%20Change/Lessons/Lesson%207/lesson7.html

King's Centre for Visualization in Science Researchers

This is the seventh of nine lessons in the 'Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change' website. This lesson addresses climate feedback loops and how these loops help drive and regulate Earth's unique climate system.

Activity takes about 1 to 2 fifty-minute class periods or could be done as a homework assignment.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 2 Performance Expectations, 9 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 8 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

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

  • This lesson is loaded with concepts that build from previous lessons related to this resource.
  • As a final assessment or activity, educator may want students to draw a conceptual diagram of the positive and negative feedback loops related to increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. One drawback is no answers provided and may be conducive to teachers imposing their own misconceptions.
  • This series of lessons could also serve teachers in professional development for learning how to implement effective inquiry-based lessons.

About the Science

  • Website and lessons were developed by a collaboration of international chemistry and educational organizations under the UN International Year of Chemistry resolution 2011.
  • This lesson does an effective job of presenting positive and negative feedback loops and how negative feedback loops create a relatively stable climate system.
  • Comments from expert scientist; The applets are easy to follow and the graphics are well done. The material it presents is accurate, but is somewhat limited in time. More examples of negative feedback to warming should be explained, like the volcanos that tend to be much greater negative feedbacks than positive ones. No references in the material.

About the Pedagogy

  • Lesson includes key ideas, applets, keyword definitions hot-linked in the text, and an end-of-lesson quiz, which provides good questions that require critical thinking.
  • Lesson relies on understanding the carbon cycle.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Students are able to work individually on these lessons if they have their own computer.
  • The applets run smoothly (on Macs and PCs) and enhance the final levels of understanding for students.
  • No guide for educators or answer key to the questions available.

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

Home page for Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change is here http://www.explainingclimatechange.ca/Climate%20Change/Lessons/lessons.html

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 2

HS-ESS2-2: Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.

HS-ESS3-5: Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 9

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

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.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

HS-ESS3.A2:All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors.

HS-ESS3.D1:Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.

HS-LS2.A1:Ecosystems have carrying capacities, which are limits to the numbers of organisms and populations they can support. These limits result from such factors as the availability of living and nonliving resources and from such challenges such as predation, competition, and disease. Organisms would have the capacity to produce populations of great size were it not for the fact that environments and resources are finite. This fundamental tension affects the abundance (number of individuals) of species in any given ecosystem.

HS-LS2.C1:A complex set of interactions within an ecosystem can keep its numbers and types of organisms relatively constant over long periods of time under stable conditions. If a modest biological or physical disturbance to an ecosystem occurs, it may return to its more or less original status (i.e., the ecosystem is resilient), as opposed to becoming a very different ecosystem. Extreme fluctuations in conditions or the size of any population, however, can challenge the functioning of ecosystems in terms of resources and habitat availability.

HS-LS2.C2:Moreover, anthropogenic changes (induced by human activity) in the environment—including habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, overexploitation, and climate change—can disrupt an ecosystem and threaten the survival of some species.

HS-PS4.B2:When light or longer wavelength electromagnetic radiation is absorbed in matter, it is generally converted into thermal energy (heat). Shorter wavelength electromagnetic radiation (ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays) can ionize atoms and cause damage to living cells

Cross Cutting Concepts: 8

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

HS-C1.4:Mathematical representations are needed to identify some patterns

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C3.1:The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs.

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-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-C5.4: Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems.

HS-C7.2:Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.

HS-C7.3:Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

HS-P2.6:Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

HS-P3.5:Make directional hypotheses that specify what happens to a dependent variable when an independent variable is manipulated.

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P5.5:Apply ratios, rates, percentages, and unit conversions in the context of complicated measurement problems involving quantities with derived or compound units (such as mg/mL, kg/m3, acre-feet, etc.).

HS-P6.1:Make a quantitative and/or qualitative claim regarding the relationship between dependent and independent variables.

HS-P6.2:Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.


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