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What's Really Warming the World?

Bloomberg Businessweek

This is a series of graphical animations that compare the contribution of natural factors (including orbital changes, variability in the sun's temperature, volcanic action, deforestation, ozone pollution levels, and aerosols) to the contribution of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, to increases in global atmospheric temperature... in a visual and concise way.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 2 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Global warming is "very likely" caused by human greenhouse gas emission
About Teaching Principle 6
Other materials addressing 6a

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

  • It may be useful, depending on the grade level of students, for instructor to pause at each graph and check that students understand what is being illustrated.

About the Science

  • Visualization is a series of animated graphs, that, individually and combined, illustrate how fluctuations in earth's orbit, solar temperature variability, and volcanic eruptions over the period 1880-2005 do not account for the rise in average atmospheric temperature during the same period. Graphs of changes in land use (primarily deforestation) and ozone and aerosol pollution (all human-caused) are included, presenting minimal impact. Only changes in GHG emissions track the increase in average global atmospheric temperature.
  • NASA GISS computer ModelE2 provides the data behind the visualization.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    Excellent resource when presenting to general audiences or climate skeptics
    - Excellent breakdown of all potential natural and anthropogenic factors to global warming. Brief explanation of what there overall effects are on the planet.

About the Pedagogy

  • Short text passage accompanies each graph and summarizes the net effect of factors.
  • Each step in the animation is explained concisely so students know what the factors are while the graph is being produced.
  • A great summary of the natural causes of climate change and how their effect on global temperature changes compares to that of CO2 emission.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Scrolling is occasionally wonky - may need to reload if it happens. Otherwise, simple and straightforward design.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1

Cause and effect

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

Science and Engineering Practices: 2

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

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.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

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.

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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