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Planetary Energy Balance

Teaching Module

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. What is the role of the biosphere in determining the climate of planet Earth?
About Tool
Tool Name Energy Balance and Planetary Temperatures
Discipline Earth Sciences, Physics 
Topic(s) in Discipline Climate Change Overview, Planetary Climate, Earth’s Climate, Planetary Energy Balance, Blackbody Radiation, Electromagnetic Radiation, Stefan-Boltzmann Law, Planck’s Law
Climate Topic Planetary Energy Balance
Type of tool Teaching Module
Grade Level High School, Undergraduate
Location Global
Language English
Translation      –
Developed by ACS Climate Science Toolkit, American Chemical Society 
Hosted at American Chemical Society
Access Online
Computer Skills Basic


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