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Phase Diagrams and Earth’s Climate


A video micro-lecture that describes the phase diagrams of water on Earth, Mars, and Venus. It also describes the water vapor feedback mechanism in the atmospheres of these planets that influences the greenhouse effect.

Students will understand the stable phases of water at various temperatures on Earth. They will be able to explain the concept of water vapor feedback on Earth’s atmosphere by using the phase diagram of water and compare it to that of Mars and Venus. Students will understand how the water cycle on Earth makes its climate more suitable to support life while the runaway greenhouse effect of water vapor on Venus makes it uninhabitable.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. Discuss the water vapor feedback mechanism in the Earth’s atmosphere by using the phase diagram of water.
  2. Using phase diagrams, explain why the climate of Earth is habitable while the climate of Mars and Venus is not.
  3. Why did Venus experience a runaway greenhouse effect, resulting in a very high surface temperature (462°C)? Discuss why Earth has not yet experienced this effect.
About Tool
Tool Name Water Vapor Feedback
Discipline Chemistry, Physics, Earth Sciences 
Topic(s) in Discipline Phase Equilibria, Phase Diagrams of Water, Triple and Critical Points in a Phase Diagram, Degrees of Freedom, Feedback Mechanisms, Vapor Pressure, Runaway Greenhouse Effect Water Cycle, Planetary Climate, Earth’s Climate
Climate Topic Climate and the Atmosphere, The Greenhouse Effect
Type of tool Video micro-lecture 
Grade Level Undergraduate
Location Global
Language English
Translation      –
Developed by Prof. David Archer, University of Chicago 
Hosted at University of Chicago
Access Online
Computer Skills Basic


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