Jump to this Activity »
Understanding Albedo
http://www.arcticclimatemodeling.org/lessons/acmp/acmp_912_ClimateChange_UnderstandingAlbedo.pdf

Geophysical Institute at University of Fairbanks

This activity teaches students about the albedo of surfaces and how it relates to the ice-albedo feedback effect. During an experiment, students observe the albedo of two different colored surfaces by measuring the temperature change of a white and black surface under a lamp.

Activity takes about one class period. Additional materials are needed.

Discuss this Resource»
Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Topics

Global Energy Balance
See more on this topic.
Albedo
See more on this topic.
Solar Radiation
See more on this topic.

Grade Level

Middle (6-8)
See more at this grade level.

Resource indicates that the appropriate grade level is 9-12. The reviewers thought that the activity is better suited for middle school.

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Sunlight warms the planet
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1a
Equilibrium and feedback loops in climate system
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2f

Energy Literacy

The energy of a system or object that results in its temperature is called thermal energy.
Other materials addressing:
1.2 Thermal energy.
Earth's weather and climate is mostly driven by energy from the Sun.
Other materials addressing:
2.3 Earth's climate driven by the Sun.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Light and other electromagnetic waves can warm objects. How much an object's temperature increases depends on how intense the light striking its surface is, how long the light shines on the object, and how much of the light is absorbed.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark
If a system in equilibrium is disturbed, it may return to a very similar state of equilibrium, or it may undergo a radical change until the system achieves a new state of equilibrium with very different conditions, or it may fail to achieve any type of equilibrium.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • The educator should explain the limitations of the model because they are using a light bulb, which is different than the radiation from the Sun.
  • The educator could conduct activity outdoors rather than using a 60W light bulb so as to avoid confusion between solar radiation and "heat."

About the Science

  • The activity nicely illustrates the effect of albedo in a simple way.
  • Using a lamp to simulate radiation from the sun may promote misconceptions such as: Higher albedo surfaces reflect more "heat." To prevent this, educators should clarify that this activity is an attempt to model the effect of different surface albedos. It does not represent the actual phenomenon.
  • Useful part of activity: Educator discusses why the ice-albedo feedback effect is a positive feedback loop that could contribute to climate change.
  • Comment from scientist: Be careful of the wording when explaining feedback loops: A positive feedback reinforces the initial change whichever direction. So using increases or decreases can be potentially confusing. Here it is worded correctly in the sense of increasing the effect of the system but students might still get confused, maybe use the word magnifies instead of increases and counteracts instead of decreases.
  • Comment from scientist: Activity Procedure 3 - It's important to note that an increase in temperature can cause snow and ice to start melting earlier in the year. In fact, this is where the albedo effect plays a bigger role, because melt really gets going during late spring and early summer when the sun is strongest and, therefore, the effect of albedo is strongest. By the time snow and ice start to form, it is generally September or later and the sun is already on its way to setting in the Arctic. The later freeze-up is affected to some extent by the albedo, but a bigger effect, especially for sea ice in the ocean, is the surface has heated more and is too warm initially to form snow or ice.
  • Be careful with the wording that is used in activity - "ice forms" but snow doesn't "form on the earth" it "falls."
  • Background information might need to be supplemented by educator.

About the Pedagogy

  • Students are encouraged to hypothesize before the experiment, but the procedure is step-by-step rather than open-ended.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-ESS2.D1: Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

HS-ESS2.A1: Earth’s systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedback effects that can increase or decrease the original changes.

Science and Engineering Practices

MS-P2.7: Develop and/or use a model to generate data to test ideas about phenomena in natural or designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs, and those at unobservable scales.

MS-P3.4: Collect data to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence to answer scientific questions or test design solutions under a range of conditions

MS-P4.1: Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.

MS-P4.3: Distinguish between causal and correlational relationships in data.

MS-P4.4: Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

MS-P4.7: Analyze and interpret data to determine similarities and differences in findings.

MS-P6.1: Construct an explanation that includes qualitative or quantitative relationships between variables that predict(s) and/or describe(s) phenomena.

MS-P6.2: Construct an explanation using models or representations.

MS-P6.3: Construct a scientific explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from sources (including the students’ own experiments) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

MS-P6.4: Apply scientific ideas, principles, and/or evidence to construct, revise and/or use an explanation for real- world phenomena, examples, or events.

HS-P1.3: ask questions to determine relationships, including quantitative relationships, between independent and dependent variables

HS-P4.4: Compare and contrast various types of data sets (e.g., self-generated, archival) to examine consistency of measurements and observations.

HS-P6.1: Make a quantitative and/or qualitative claim regarding the relationship between dependent and independent variables.

Cross-Cutting Concepts

MS-C4.3: Models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.

MS-C5.3: Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion).

MS-C5.4: The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C1.4: Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C2.2: Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

HS-C4.3: Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C4.4: Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

HS-C5.2: Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

HS-C7.1: Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.

HS-C7.3: Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.


Jump to this Activity »



Have you used these materials with your students? Do you have insights to share with other educators about their use? Please share with the community by adding a comment below.

Please use this space only for discussion about teaching with these particular materials.
For more general discussion about teaching climate literacy please use our general discussion boards.
To report a problem or direct a comment to the CLEAN project team please use our feedback form (or the feedback link at the bottom of every page).
Off-topic posts will be deleted.

Join the Discussion


Log in to reply