Unit 3: Green House Gas and the Energy Budget

Earth Energy Budget BW.png

The energy budget is important in understanding the Green House effect.  While the graphs can look intimidating, they are pretty straight forward.  The sun creates sunlight that shines on the earth.  Some of that light is reflected back into space (by clouds, the ocean, ice, and land).  Some of the light is absorbed by the atmosphere, land, plants, and the ocean.  That absorbed light is converted to heat that is radiated (released) by the land, plants, and the ocean.  Some of that heat escapes directly into space, some of it is absorbed by both C02, water vapor, and other green house gasses and re-radiated in all directions.  Some of that re-radiated heat travels back down to the Earth’s surface. The re-radiated heat is known as the Green House Effect. The math involved in calculating the energy budget is simple addition and subtraction.  You can demonstrate to your students how adding CO2 to the atmosphere (via the energy budget) throws the natural balance of heat on Earth out-of-balance, thereby increasing global temperatures. 


The Earth’s Energy Budget

Source: Wheeling Jesuit University / Center for Educational Technologies®. http://ete.cet.edu/gcc/style/images/uploads/carboncycle.png


Excellent technical explanation of GH warming by NASA. (use with Bill Nye explanation) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzCA60WnoMk


Bill Nye video of why the atmosphere acts transparent to light, but holds in heat.



This video shows a very simplified way how CO2 works as a green-house gas. https://ourclimateourfuture.org/video/how-does-co2-trap-heat/  


How greenhouse gases work and what happens when we increase CO2. Source: ABC News Australia website  https://education.abc.net.au/home#!/media/2269150/carbon-dioxide-and-greenhouse-gases 


Great technical explanation of Earth’s heat budget by NASA https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/features/EnergyBalance






Activity on Green House Effect from PBS: Students study past climate change, explore the effect of greenhouse gases on Earth's atmosphere today, and consider human impact on global warming. https://wisconsin.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ess05.sci.ess.watcyc.lp_global1/global-climate-change-understanding-the-greenhouse-effect/