Climate and the Biosphere: Unit OverviewThe lab activities in this module were developed by Betsy Youngman of TERC for the EarthLabs project.
NOTE TO USERS: This module is still under development. Content has not yet been finalized for classroom use.
Why Teach about Climate and the Biosphere?
Climate is a major factor in shaping the natural environment in which we live. It also has a significant influence on the way in which we lead our lives, from the kinds of homes we build, to the clothing we buy; from the activities we pursue, to the economy of our society. Climate results from a highly complex set of interactions between the Sun and multiple components of the Earth system, interactions that we can't see and that most of us poorly understand. It varies with location, but scientists have collected enough data to establish without a doubt that the climate of a given location and, in fact, the climate of the planet also varies across time. Now with growing evidence that humans can alter components of the Earth system that shape climate, it is essential that everyone have a deeper understanding of weather, climate, the difference between the two, and the ways in which Earth's natural systems interact to form our weather and our climate.
Why use this set of lessons?
The Labs presented in this unit on climate and weather include student readings, hands-on investigations, videos, animations, data analysis, and models that students engage to help them understand the ways in which energy from the Sun interacts with Earth's systems at global, regional, and local scales to give Earth its varied climates. Another key idea is the multiple time scales at which climate operates, from predicable seasonal and annual cycles to cycles that last for tens of thousands of years and cause dramatic changes to life on Earth via glaciations, changes in sea level, and other long-term effects.
Key questions addressed by this unit include:
- What is Earth's radiation balance, and what role does it play in climate?
- How do the major atmospheric and ocean circulation patterns influence climate?
- What are Earth's biomes; how do they vary with location, and how do they relate to climate?
- How does climate change over short, medium, and long time spans?
- How is life affected by changes in the Earth's climate?
Before starting this unit
- Read the Lab Overviews section, which identifies all of the materials you'll need to gather and provides a quick scope and sequence of the unit.
The resources below provide important background information relevant to this module and to the entire set of Climate EarthLabs modules.
- Earth System: The Basics (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 151kB Jun6 12)
- Realities VS Misconceptions About the Science of Climate Change (Acrobat (PDF) 429kB Jun6 12) This document was made available by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (http://www.c2es.org/)