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Cloudy vs. Clear

Jessica Taylor, Ashwinraj Ravindran, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Students analyze and interpret graphs to compare the flow of shortwave energy from the Sun toward China over the course of a year on cloudy versus clear days.

This learning activity takes 30 minutes

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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 is a versatile resource that could be made into a much larger project or a smaller lesson, depending on the age group and the students' familiarity with data interpretation.
  • It could be extended over a longer time period to open up more detailed discussions.
  • It may be a good idea to retrieve more recent data (the data on the page is from 2014) and quickly make a plot.
  • If using the Earth System Data Explorer it is recommended to look at the tutorials.
  • There are several ways that this activity can be simplified to different grade levels. For example, there is a print out resource for helping students analyze graphs. There is also an opportunity for older students to explore these concepts further by using the Earth System Data Explorer.
  • This resource could work for a synchronous online discussion focused on noticing and interpreting aspects of the graphs.
  • The data literacy cubes would be challenging to integrate in an online learning format.

About the Science

  • This resource provides an activity for understanding Earth's energy balance.
  • The activity involves analyzing two graphs and comparing them. The graphs display the net (shortwave) radiation over the course of a year in China. This establishes the idea that clouds can affect the Earth's energy balance.
  • The activity emphasizes the core scientific concept of observing before interpreting.
  • There is an additional resource provided for more advanced students where they can curate their own radiation data from the Earth System Data Explorer. This extension allows exploration of recent radiation data in a location of the student's choice.
  • Passed initial science review - expert science review pending.

About the Pedagogy

  • This resource is intended to teach the concept that the Earth gets energy from the sun and the amount of energy can vary depending on location, time of year, and if there are clouds present.
  • This activity includes a hands on activity that includes data analysis and interpretations so that students reach their own understanding of how clouds affect the net radiation (shortwave).
  • Essential understandings and content takeaways would need to be clarified (some ideas are suggested in the science annotations) to complement the essential questions listed within the resource.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The eClip video that is attached to this lesson is clear and engaging. There are several links that do not work on the webpage: the Instructional Strategies for "I squared (I^2)," The Earth System Data Explorer, NASA Data Types link to CERES EBAF, and the link for more information on CERES. However, these are able to be accessed when Googling them (except for the I^2 resource).
  • The resource also states that there are not any technology components, however the video on the webpage is an important component for the foundation of the activity.
  • Technology is also required in order for students to extend the lesson by making their own plots in a software program or by using the Earth System Data Explorer.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

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