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Create Your Climate Model- Earth’s Energy Balance using Python


As an Undergraduate teacher of Earth Sciences or Physics or Math, you can teach how to build a mathematical model of the Earth’s climate system using Python. This lesson plan includes discussions, activities, and a detailed guide of how to create a computational model of Earth’s energy balance to understand its role in determining the surface temperature of the planet.

This lesson plan uses resources developed by Prof. David Archer from the University of Chicago. Specifically, it focuses on the “Time dependent Energy-Balance Model for the Earth” that includes fundamental thermodynamics concepts such as blackbody radiation and heat capacities. The model applies these concepts to study how the energy balance between the incident solar radiation and the outgoing terrestrial radiation governs the surface temperature of the planet, and consequently, how it evolves over time. The activity section of this lesson plan includes a detailed instruction manual that serves as a step-by-step guide to conceptualize David Archer’s model in numerical and algorithmic terms, eventually developing a computational model using Python programming.

Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Math, Earth Sciences and Physics.

This lesson plan was developed by Tatsam Garg, Ashoka University, India.

Learning Outcome

The tools in this lesson plan will enable students to:

  1. Learn about incident solar energy on Earth, Blackbody Radiation, Heat capacity, Climate Modelling, Planetary Surface Temperatures and building mathematical Models.
  2. Understand how the surface temperature of a planet evolves with time
  3. Use algorithmic thinking to translate a mathematical model into writing a computational version of it.
  4. Use Python to create computational models.


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