A Warm Planet in a Cold Universe
Activities for teaching about climate and climate change

During the day, the earth is warmed by sunlight that shines on it. This is something that your students can see, something that they can feel. But, over the course of a day, the surface of the earth receives more radiant energy from the bottoms of clouds and the lower atmosphere than it does from the sun. This influence of thermal radiation is critically important for an understanding of the earth’s climate and how it is changing. In this workshop we’ll share activities that make this invisible form of energy transfer tangible. We’ll also share activities that illuminate other important but complex concepts, such as how climate models work, how feedbacks—both positive and negative—affect the climate. Our goal is to help you understand the nuts and bolts of climate and climate change and to learn tools and techniques for sharing these ideas with your students.

Slides from the workshop

A Warm Planet in a Cold Universe slides

Activities from the workshop

Part I: The Rainbow And Beyond

Demonstration: Rainbow Glasses
Demonstration: Rainbow glasses & filters
Activity: Why Is The Sky Purple?
Activity: Infrared filters & phone cameras
Lecture: Peak wavelength, transparency
Activity: Thermal cameras
Demonstration: Efficiency of different bulbs

Part II: Thermal Radiation & Energy Transfer

Activity: How Can Freezing Make Something Warmer?
Activity: Can You See Thermal Radiation?
Activity: What do “Infrared Thermometers” Measure?
Activity: Color and Cooling
Lecture: The importance of thermal radiation
Activity: What Is The Greenhouse Effect?
Activity: What Makes a Gas a Greenhouse Gas?
Video: Greenhouse gases

Part III: Modeling Energy in the Atmosphere

Activity: Clear vs. Cloudy
Activity: Space Refrigerator
Activity: How Does The Earth Keep Itself Warm?
Activity: What Is A Model (Part I)

Part IV: Climate Change

Activity: What Is A Model (Part II)
Activity: Feedback Poker
Activity: How Can You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint?
Activity: “Wedges”

Contact us:

Brian Jones

Sheila Ferguson