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Carbon Dioxide and the Carbon Cycle

Pacific Islands Climate Education Partnership, WGBH

Interactive visualization that provides a basic overview of the Earth's carbon reservoirs and amount of carbon stored in each, CO2 transport among atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere, and a graph comparing global temp (deg C) and atmospheric CO2 levels (ppm) over the past 1000 years.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy

This Static Visualization builds on the following concepts of Climate Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

Energy Literacy

This Static Visualization builds on the following concepts of Energy Literacy.

Click a topic below for supporting information, teaching ideas, and sample activities.

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

  • Educator should have more background information regarding questions that these images will likely bring about. It would also be good to consider using this resource as a way for students to be introduced to the carbon cycle before launching into a larger lesson on the carbon cycle.
  • Educators will want to consider the residence time for carbon in these different sources and sinks and how the movement of carbon more quickly or more slowly from one place to another affects the cycle.

About the Content

  • Good introduction to the carbon cycle.
  • Includes several slides with clickable info boxes for more information on the visuals. The slides include carbon cycle reservoirs, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - both for today and for 300 years ago, and a slide with a graph of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere for the past 1000 years, as well as an overlay of global temperature that can be viewed to show the corresponding rise in both.
  • Data sources not referenced.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    - good, basic breakdown of how CO2 and carbon are distributed and mobile on the planet
    - Should explain that carbon is a solid, and carbon dioxide is a gas in the background essay
    - Where is the ocean acidification? The graphic explains that CO2 dissolves into the ocean and forms bicarbonate but doesn't explain that in doing so, hydrogen (H+) is released and dissolves carbonate shells
    - Would be nice to also see Fahrenheit on the graph instead of just celsius, especially because the information about climate change in the background essay is presented in both.

About the Pedagogy

  • The images are simple and would be a great introduction to the carbon cycle, carbon sources and sinks, and how carbon cycles through some of these.
  • Slides show the difference in how carbon moves today vs. 300 years ago to show human influence on carbon flux.
  • This would be good for students to click through and read before being introduced to further details on the carbon cycle where they can learn more about the amounts of carbon cycling through and at what rates, as well as ways in which carbon moves and how imbalances affect things like ocean acidity.
  • Background essay provided. No pedagogical guidance/suggestions provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Good technical quality and easy to use.
Entered the Collection: June 2018 Last Reviewed: May 2015

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