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Greenhouse Gases - IR Spectra

Amanda Thompson, Katrina Genuis, P. Mahaffy, King's Center for Visualization in Science

This animation allows students to explore the infrared spectra of greenhouse gases and depict the absorption spectra. Vibrational modes and Earth's energy spectrum can also be overlaid.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Visualization supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 3 Cross Cutting Concepts, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

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

  • Helpful to read the "Getting Started", "Helpful Hints", and "Assumptions" tabs under the Help menu before using the simulation. Provide some starting points for exploring the relationships displayed in the simulation.
  • Educators might need to review Earth's energy balance and note that the energy that is emitted from Earth is longwave radiation.

About the Science

  • Great visualization of 8 different greenhouse gas IR spectra (H2O, C3F8, O3, CFCl3, CO2, CH4, CF2Cl2, N2O) showing their relative intensity v. wavelength.
  • Well-designed animation that allows students to view the molecular structure of greenhouse gases and their absorption spectrum.
  • Animation provides background information to understand the significance of infrared absorption.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • The information provided under the Help menu could be used as a start to guided questions or further exploration; however, outside research and basic understanding of the topic might be necessary to use the simulation to its full potential.
  • Animation facilitates understanding about absorption of infrared radiation.
  • No framing questions provided with this animation, but they can easily be designed.
  • Lesson for which this applet was designed can be seen at http://www.explainingclimatechange.ca/Climate%20Change/Lessons/Lesson%206/lesson6.html#, also found in the CLEAN collection.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Can only be viewed online.
  • Shockwave Flash file; requires browser plug-in

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Visualization supports:

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

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

HS-PS1.A3:The structure and interactions of matter at the bulk scale are determined by electrical forces within and between atoms.

HS-PS1.A4:A stable molecule has less energy than the same set of atoms separated; one must provide at least this energy in order to take the molecule apart.

HS-PS3.B4:The availability of energy limits what can occur in any system.

HS-PS3.D1:Although energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms—for example, to thermal energy in the surrounding environment.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Cause and effect, Systems and System Models

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

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-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.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

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.

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