The Atmospheric System and Climate Variation


This pages provides resources exploring both the atmospheric system and the long and short term factors influencing climate variation. Resources examine the nature of the atmospheric budget and introduce key concepts, such as radiation, greenhouse effect and albedo. Students examine the relationship of climate with carbon and develop a critical awareness of the long term natural factors that lead to climate variation as well the complex patterns of different feedback loops that result from changes to terrestrial land use and loss of ice and permafrost.

Enquiry Question

What is the atmospheric system and what are the causes climate change?

Teaching time: 2 Hours

Learning Objectives:

  • To be able to describe and explain the atmospheric system and natural fctors influencing climate change

Teacher Notes:

Starter_Map from Memory_Processes - Show the students the diagram of the atmospheric system in the hidden box. Project for 10 seconds and students should attempt to make a replica copy in rough, including labels. This can be done either as an individual activity or by allocating numbers to students and placing them in groups. With the latter you call out their number  e.g. number 1s and number 1s have to run to the front and remember what they see before returning to their table and describing it to their group to draw.

1. Listening Comprehension_The Met Office Video_Processes_Students should then answer the questions on the worksheet provided whilst watching the Met Office video

2. Q&A - What do they know already?_ Processes_Use the simple questions and drop down boxes to reveal the answers. These questions introduce the basic data of climate change as well as the regional variation and complexity in projections

This can then be supported with the table showing the top 10 warmest years on record

3. Map and Graph Interpretation - Climate change Patterns_Scale and Processes -The project the map of temperature change at the global scale and the graph showing temperature change over time and students should describe (using the data) the pattern of temperature change at both the spatial and temporal scale.

4. Graph Interpretation - Relationships_Processes and Spatial Interactions_Students should the describe the strength in relationship between temperature change and insolation

5. The Causes of Insolation Variation_Scale and Processes_Students can then study the diagram showing the Milankovitch Cycles and they should write an explanation of why insolation varies over different time scales. This can be supported by the animation of the cycles to improve student understanding

6. Graph Interpretation - Relationships_Processes and Spatial Interactions_Show the students the graph of the relationship between temperature change and CO2 and students can discuss the relationship. Follow this up with the David Attenborough video showing the hockey stick

7. Video Comprehension_Processes and Spatial Interactions_Students can then make notes on the carbon cycle, greenhouse effect and enhanced greenhouse effect through watching the two videos. The Algore Inconvenient Truth animation is also fun to use to introduce greenhouse effect

8. Video Comprehension_Processes and Spatial Interactions_Students can then watch the video on volcanoes and answer the questions on the worksheet provided.

Note: there are detailed notes in this section of the site for students to read and make additional notes in self study

9. Albedo_Processes and Spatial Interactions_ Have students read the definition of albedo on their worksheet and then they can attempt to match up the correct land surface with the appropriate albedo figure. The answers are shown in the diagram in the drop down box

10. Feedback Loops__Processes and Spatial Interactions_Introduce the concept of feedback loops as defined in the site. Then ask the students to discuss the type of feedback for each the three examples of land surface change.

11. Video Comprehension_Processes and Spatial Interactions_You can then follow this up with the NASA video on feedbacks and students should answer the question on the sheet provided.

12. Video Comprehension_Places and Processes_Students can then watch the Iain Stewart Video on melting permafrost and make notes on:

  1. Nature of this feedback loop
  2. Potential problem of melting permafrost causing runaway-climate change

Starter Activity_Processes_The Atmospheric System- Map from Memory

With a partner you have 10 seconds to extract as much information from the following image as you and attempt to replicate it.

Source: weatherworkedout

Student Activity_Processes_The Atmospheric System -The Met Office

Watch the following clip produced by the Met Office in the UK and complete your worksheet explaining the atmospheric system

Atmospheric System

Student Activity_Processes_What do you know already?

By how much has the global temperature increased since 1880?

0.8°C according to the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)

Which region of the world has seen the greatest increase in temperature?

The Arctic, Between 1982 and 2010 it warmed up more than 2.5°C

What is the projected increase in temperature this century?

This depends on a number of different scenarios. It os often presented as a range. The International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) suggest 1.4 -5.8°C

The warmest years on record (2015)

The following graphic shows the top 16 warmest years on record excluding 2016 which beat 2015. It represents all recorded years since 1880. 

Source: NOAA

To access the remainder of the lesson activities for a 2 hour lesson click here

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