Teaching Module: Planetary Energy Balance

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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. State the Stefan-Boltzmann Law? Calculate the surface temperature of the Earth based on the balance between incoming solar energy and outgoing terrestrial energy.

About the Tool 

Tool NameEnergy Balance and Planetary Temperatures
DisciplineEarth Sciences, Physics
Topic(s) in DisciplineClimate Change Overview,Blackbody, Electromagnetic Radiation, Stefan-Boltzmann Law, Planck’s Law
Climate Topic Planetary Energy Balance, Planetary Climate
Type of tool Teaching Module
Grade LevelHigh School, Undergraduate
Developed byACS Climate Science Toolkit, American Chemical Society
Hosted atAmerican Chemical Society 
Computer SkillsBasic
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