Absorption by atmospheric gases of incoming and outgoing radiation
Sara Harris, University of British Columbia, CLEAN Community Collection
Activity length: One 50-minute class periodLearn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»
See how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 1 Science and Engineering Practice
About Teaching Climate Literacy
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 |
- The science is somewhat abstract, so educator should visit with each group to make sure they are on the right track before the jigsaw groups switch roles.
- Students will need to have some prior knowledge of Earth's energy spectrum and greenhouse gases before effectively being able to complete this assignment.
- While written for undergraduate level, this resource can be used at high school level with modifications (e.g. background material and rubric).
- Great opportunity to address the misconception that heat is trapped and cannot escape our atmosphere.
About the Science
- This activity helps students understand how different atmospheric gases absorb electromagnetic radiation.
- Sources for graphs are cited in the teacher notes.
About the Pedagogy
- This activity uses the jigsaw technique and has students working in small groups.
- The step-by-step nature of the exercise allows students to understand a complex concept using visual data.
- Students contrast atmospheric constituents based on their absorption spectra and identify greenhouse and non-greenhouse gases based on their absorption spectra.
- Students use graphs to determine the wavelengths at which each gas absorbs radiation.
- Final step asks students to compare what they found in their theoretical studies to a curve of a radiation curve measured by a satellite. This is a great way to assess the student's understanding of the processes.