Teaching Module: Planetary Energy Balance

A teaching module including readings and associated links by the American Chemical Society that discusses the balance between incoming solar energy and outgoing terrestrial energy and its relationship with the surface  temperature of the Earth. This overview reading can be used as an introduction to the topic by teachers interested in teaching about planetary energy balance or planetary climate. The module includes discussion on energy emissions, radiation, black body radiation, Planck equation and the Stefan-Boltzmann Law. The module also provides links to the following: 

  1. How much energy from the Sun reaches the planet
  2. The predicted temperature from a planet in energy balance with the Sun 
  3. The effect of atmospheres on planetary temperatures
  4. How the temperature of the Earth is determined

Students will learn about the energy balance equation and how it can be used to calculate the surface temperature of the Earth. 

Use this tool to help your students find answers to: 

  1. What is a blackbody?
  2. State the Stefan-Boltzmann Law? Calculate the surface temperature of the Earth based on the balance between incoming solar energy and outgoing terrestrial energy.

About the Tool 

Tool NameEnergy Balance and Planetary Temperatures
DisciplineEarth Sciences, Physics
Topic(s) in DisciplineClimate Change Overview,Blackbody, Electromagnetic Radiation, Stefan-Boltzmann Law, Planck’s Law
Climate Topic Planetary Energy Balance, Planetary Climate
Type of tool Teaching Module
Grade LevelHigh School, Undergraduate
LocationGlobal
LanguageEnglish 
Translation
Developed byACS Climate Science Toolkit, American Chemical Society
Hosted atAmerican Chemical Society 
LinkLink
AccessOnline
Computer SkillsBasic

Video Lecture: Radiative Transfer

Two video lectures titled, ‘Radiative Transfer Equation’ from the e-learning course, ‘Introduction to Atmospheric Science’ developed by C Balaji, IIT Madras, for National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), India. These video lectures discuss how to calculate radiative transfer equation and further discusses its importance in atmospheric sciences, particularly in satellite remote sensing. 

Students will learn about isotropic scattering, radiation derivative calculation, spectral emissivity and reflectivity, absorption coefficient, Beer-Lambert’s law, and Schwarzschild’s equation. They will also learn how to apply the radiative transfer equation to multispectral infrared sounder, infrared imager, microwave sounder, and microwave imager  for satellite remote sensing and satellite meteorology. 

A transcript of the lecture is also provided.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. Define the following:
    1. Radiative transfer
    2. Remote sensing
    3. Spectral emissivity
    4. Beer-Lambert’s law
  2. How can radiative transfer calculations be used for atmosphere remote sensing?

About the tool

Tool NameLecture – 35 and 36: Radiative Transfer Equation – Derivation
DisciplinePhysics, Earth Sciences
Topic(s) in DisciplineClimate Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, Atmospheric Physics, Radiative Transfer, Radiative Transfer Equation, Absorption Coefficient, Beer-Lambert’s law,  Schwarzschild’s Equation
Climate TopicPlanetary Climate; Planetary Energy Balance; Climate and the Atmosphere
Type of toolVideo Lecture (50 mins and 42 mins)
Grade LevelUndergraduate, Graduate
LocationGlobal
LanguageEnglish
Translation
Developed byC Balaji, IIT Madras
Hosted atNPTEL (https://nptel.ac.in/courses/119/106/119106008/)
LinkLink 1 , Link 2
AccessOnline
Computer SkillsBasic

Classroom/Laboratory Activity: Climate Change, the Cryosphere, and Rising Sea Levels

A classroom/laboratory activity that introduces the relationship between climate and the cryosphere, explains how sea-level rise can be predicted (based on average global temperature change), and triggers a discussion on the potential impacts of sea-level rise.

Video Lecture: Planck’s Law and Earths Climate

A video lecture titled, ‘Planck’s distribution and Inverse square law’ from the e-learning course, ‘Introduction to Atmospheric Science’ developed by C Balaji, IIT Madras, for National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), India. These video lecture gives a detailed explanation about Planck’s Law for black body distribution. It also includes discussions on Wien’s displacement law, radiative loss, Simpson’s rule, Trapezoidal rule, Gauss quads, the Stefan-Boltzmann Law,  and Newton Raphson method.

Students will learn about Planck’s law and how to calculate Earth’s temperature. They will also be introduced to photosphere, flux density, planetary albedo, reflectivity, absorptivity, transmissivity, emissivity for land,  and emissivity of ocean which are used to calculate Earth’s temperature and determine its climate.

A transcript of the lecture is also provided.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. Define the following:
    1. Black body radiation
    2. Albedo Effect
    3. Adsorption
    4. Transmissivity
    5. Emissivity of land
  2. How is Earth’s temperature calculate given the following scenario:
    1. Earth as a black body
    2. Earth with oceans, snow covered land and a simple layer of non-interactive air

About the tool

Tool NameLecture – 32: Planck’s distribution and Inverse square law
DisciplinePhysics, Earth Sciences
Topic(s) in DisciplineClimate Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, Atmospheric Physics, Planck’s Law, Black Body Radiation, Earth Climate System, Albedo Effect, Stefan-Boltzmann Law
Climate TopicIntroduction to Climate Change; Planetary Climate; Planetary Energy Balance; Climate and the Atmosphere
Type of toolVideo Lecture ( 47 mins)
Grade LevelUndergraduate, Graduate
LocationGlobal
LanguageEnglish
Translation
Developed byC Balaji, IIT Madras
Hosted atNPTEL (https://nptel.ac.in/courses/119/106/119106008/)
LinkLink
AccessOnline
Computer SkillsBasic

Reading: Climate Change and Natural Disasters

A reading by the National Wildlife Federation that discusses how climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events and other natural disasters. This overview reading can be used as an introduction to the topic by teachers interested in teaching about climate change and disasters and hazards.The reading includes discussions on the following topics: 

  1. Extreme heat waves
  2. Hurricanes
  3. Harmful algal outbreaks
  4. Megafires
  5. Droughts
  6. Floods

Students will learn about climate change impacts and how global warming is potentially causing an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. They will also understand how different natural disasters impact the wildlife and ecosystems.  

Use this tool to help your students find answers to: 

  1. Discuss how climate change is contributing to an increased frequency of natural disasters?
  2. How do natural disasters affect wildlife? Use examples. 

About the Tool 

Tool NameClimate Change, Natural Disasters, and Wildlife
DisciplineEarth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Geography
Topic(s) in DisciplineClimate Change Overview, Disasters and Hazards, Heat Waves, Hurricanes, Megafires, Droughts, Floods, Algal Outbreaks
Climate Topic Disasters and Hazards; Climate Literacy
Type of tool Reading
Grade LevelHigh School, Undergraduate
LocationGlobal
LanguageEnglish 
Translation
Developed byShannon Heyck-Williams for the National Wildlife Federation
Hosted atNational Wildlife Federation website
LinkLink
AccessOnline/Offline
Computer SkillsBasic

Model/Simulator: Modeling Earth’s Carbon

A model/simulator to learn about the carbon cycle and carbon dioxide projections based on the observed CO2 concentrations from Land, Ocean and Atmospheric reservoirs.  The model includes four RCP scenarios based of fossil fuel emissions:

  1. Business as usual
  2. Slower Growth
  3. Big Reductions
  4. Very Aggressive

Students can simulate future carbon dioxide concentration, surface temperature, ocean surface pH and carbon fluxes through the use of this model. They will learn to calculate the projections based on various future scenarios for reservoirs of anthropogenic carbon.

Mathematics/Statistics teachers can use this resource to teach their students about models and the use of climate data to create models.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. What is a carbon cycle? How does atmospheric CO2 impact land and ocean carbon concentration?
  2. Define the ‘business-as-usual’ scenario in the model.
  3. Based on the past projections, what will be the average surface temperature in each RCP scenario?

About the Tool

Tool NameEarth[carbon]
DisciplineEarth Sciences, Mathematic and Statistics 
Topic(s) in DisciplineCarbon Cycle, Atmospheric CO2, Surface Ocean pH, RCP Scenarios, Anthropogenic Carbon, CO2 emissions, Data Analysis, Statiscal Methods, Modelling, Data Projections
Climate TopicClimate Variability Record
Type of toolModel/Simulator
Grade LevelUndergraduate
LocationGlobal
LanguageEnglish
Translation
Developed bybiocycle.atmos.colostate.edu
Hosted atbiocycle.atmos.colostate.edu
LinkLink
AccessOnline, Offline
Computer SkillsBasic

Video Lecture: Physics of Scattering and Greenhouse Gases

Two video lectures titled, ‘Physics of scattering, emission and absorption’ from the e-learning course, ‘Introduction to Atmospheric Science’ developed by C Balaji, IIT Madras, for National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL), India. These video lectures explain the behaviour of Earth’s atmosphere due to interaction between gases and sun’s radiation which lead to radiative absorption, emission and scattering.

Students will learn about reflection, refraction, isotropic scattering, greenhouse gases, extinction coefficient, Prevost law, Stefan Boltzmann law, thermal conductivity of water, Kirchhoff’s law, Marshall-Palmer distribution, Rayleigh scattering, Mie scattering, Doppler and Lorentz broadening and Gaussian distribution.

A transcript of the lecture is also provided.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. How do greenhouse gases interact with incoming solar radiation?
  2. Discuss the physics of scattering in the atmosphere.

About the tool

Tool NameLecture – 33 and 34: Physics of scattering, emission and absorption
DisciplinePhysics, Earth Sciences
Topic(s) in DisciplineClimate Physics, Atmospheric Sciences, Atmospheric Physics, Prevost law, Stefan Boltzmann law, Kirchhoff’s law, Marshall-Palmer distribution, Rayleigh scattering
Climate TopicIntroduction to Climate Change; Planetary Climate; Planetary Energy Balance; Climate and the Atmosphere
Type of toolVideo Lecture (48 mins and 41 mins)
Grade LevelUndergraduate, Graduate
LocationGlobal
LanguageEnglish
Translation
Developed byC Balaji, IIT Madras
Hosted atNPTEL (https://nptel.ac.in/courses/119/106/119106008/)
LinkLink 1 , Link 2
AccessOnline
Computer SkillsBasic