Lab 2: Climate and Earth's Energy Balance

The lab activities in this module were developed by Betsy Youngman of TERC for the EarthLabs project.

Summary and Learning Objectives

Students build and examine a diagram of Earth's energy balance, discussing the inputs, transfers, and outputs of the system. They complete lab activities to demonstrate the natural greenhouse effect and the enhanced greenhouse effect due to the addition of greenhouse gases. They also view an online animation of insolation (incoming solar radiation), albedo, and surface temperature over a multi-year period.

After completing this investigation, students will be able to:

  • describe how incoming solar radiation is reflected, absorbed, and transferred throughout the Earth system;
  • model Earth's energy flow and budget, both qualitatively and quantitatively;
  • list the major greenhouse gases and their role in planetary balance; and
  • describe the role of the water cycle in maintaining Earth's energy budget.

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Overview and Teaching Materials

Detailed overview of what students will do in each lab activity, how long it will take, and what materials are required to complete the lab.

Printable Materials

Download and print files needed for each lab activity, including images, data tables, and Stop and Think questions.

Teaching Notes and Tips

General recommendations for classroom implementation as well as guidelines and facilitation tips for leading class discussions.

Student Notebooks

Suggestions for how to use Student Notebooks for Lab 2.


There are several options for assessment of student understanding of material introduced in this lab. Choose from the following list, or create your own assessments.

Science Standards

Lab 2 supports following Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Additional Resources

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