Catching a Heat Wave

Students model the effect of greenhouse gases on Earth's atmosphere. They find that greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are uniquely shaped to catch and pass on infrared radiation, and so they are responsible for the warmth we enjoy on Earth. The children discuss how the addition of greenhouse gases by human activities leads to further warming and what steps we can take to slow it.

Go To:

Lunar and Planetary Institute
Universities Space Research Association

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Instructors should consider adding students (without any "catching" device) to represent the Earth's surface so that students don't develop the misconception that the infrared radiation only bounces around in the atmosphere. Another option would be bouncing balls off the ground as students pass balls to each other to indicate energy bouncing off the earth.

Instructors should also consider adding students, and an associated "catching" device, to represent water vapor present in the atmosphere, as water vapor is a large greenhouse gas contributor.

Consider supplementing the actions recommended within this activity with stronger climate action steps. According to scientists and policymakers, the world needs to make rapid, substantial progress toward burning much less fossil fuels, and we need to do this right away. By 2030, emissions would need to be 25%-55% lower than in 2018 to put the world on the least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to below 2ÂC and 1.5ÂC respectively. Students, educators, and communities should be aware of how large a change is needed. Carpooling is an excellent first step, but it needs to be emphasized that small individual actions are not enough to bring about the scale of fossil fuel reduction that's needed. See [link 'Emissions Gap Report 2019'] and [link 'UN Report to cut global emissions'] for more information.

Consider using the [link 'Drawdown framework'] or other similar guidelines to develop a project-based learning opportunity with students. As a class or in small groups, students can engage in action planning to contribute to sustainability goals (eg. Meatless Mondays).

May work well with [link 'On the Rise'] activity.