Visualization: Blackbody Radiation and Planetary Temperatures

A visualization to understand blackbody radiation, the effects of albedo and solar brightness on the temperature of a planet, and the greenhouse effect of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Students will experiment with a blackbody simulation to understand how the blackbody radiation model can be used to determine the surface temperature of a planet. Further, they will use another simulation to change the albedo (by changing the planet’s surface type) and the Sun’s brightness, and will observe the corresponding effects on the temperature of the planet.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. Use the blackbody radiation model to explain how the Earth’s temperature can be approximately determined.
  2. For a given solar brightness, compare a planet’s temperature for a surface of desert sand versus a surface of grasslands. Explain the difference in temperatures observed.

About the Tool

Tool Name Planetary Energy Balance
Discipline Physics
Topic(s) in Discipline Blackbody; Energy; Energy Balance; Albedo; Electromagnetic Radiation; Conservation of Energy
Climate Topic Planetary Energy Balance
Type of Tool Interactive Visualization
Grade Level High School
Location Global
Language English
Developed by UCAR Center for Science Education
Hosted at UCAR Center for Science Education
Access Online
Computer Skills Basic


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