Classroom/Laboratory Activity: Volcanoes and Climate

A classroom activity that teaches students about the different atmospheric aerosols and gases released during volcanic eruptions and how they can affect climate.

Students will analyse the data of emissions of water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) from volcanic eruptions. They will learn that water vapour and carbon dioxide being greenhouse gases, contribute directly towards warming of the Earth’s surface. Students will learn that sulphur dioxide, on the other hand, has an indirect effect on climate by forming sulfate aerosols that directly absorb or reflect light energy or indirectly, through cloud formation, cause heating and cooling on the Earth’s surface.

Use this tool to help students find answers to:

  1. What kind of atmospheric aerosols are emitted during volcanic eruptions?
  2. Explain how atmospheric aerosols can have a cooling or warming effect on the planet?

About the Tool

Tool Name Volcanoes and Global Warming
Discipline Environmental Sciences, Chemistry
Topic(s) in Discipline Volcanic Emissions, Sulphur Dioxide, Aerosols, Sources of Aerosols, Role of Aerosols in Cloud Formation, Sulphate Aerosols
Climate Topic Climate and the Atmosphere, The Greenhouse Gas Effect
Type of Tool Classroom/Laboratory Activity
Grade Level High school, Undergraduate
Location Global
Language English
Developed by Purdue University
Hosted at Purdue University
Access Offline
Computer Skills Basic

Image: Colima Volcano; Credit: Hernando Rivera Carvantes/SWNS


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