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Surface Temperature Change and Sun's Energy

Climate Communication

This short animation compares graphs of the natural variation in the sun's energy striking the upper atmosphere vs global surface temperature over a 30-year period to make the point that natural variations do not account for the rising trend line in surface temperatures.

Animation length is 46 seconds.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 4 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 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 short animation addresses a common misconception about climate change and can help clarify that misconception.
  • Animation should follow scaffolding so that students have some understanding of natural cycles and variability, so they can make sense of the visualization's demonstration that although the solar cycle influences atmospheric temperatures, it does not account for the long long-term rising trend line in surface temperatures.
  • Educator could use the visuals and data presented as a window to a more in-depth discussion of evidence for human influence on climate change.

About the Science

  • Very short animation displays the 11-year cycle of the sun's incoming energy as measured by satellites since 1979. It also displays the global average surface temperature over the same time period. The narration explains how there is some visible effect on the graph of the sun's cooling cycle on the surface temperature, but there is no correlation with the warming visible since 2000.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This animation would be of benefit when looking at natural cycles and causes of global warming and cooling. Solar cycles do influence the global system, but in the case of modern climate change, it is important to see how the influence is not strong enough to be directly implicated.
  • Additional text and visuals further elucidate the message of the initial animation.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Good technical quality and easy to use.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1


MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

Science and Engineering Practices: 4

Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

MS-P4.1:Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.

MS-P4.4:Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

MS-P5.2:Use mathematical representations to describe and/or support scientific conclusions and design solutions

MS-P6.1:Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Patterns, Cause and effect

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

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

Science and Engineering Practices: 4

Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence

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-P5.2:Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.

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

HS-P7.2:Evaluate the claims, evidence, and/or reasoning behind currently accepted explanations or solutions to determine the merits of arguments.

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