Mini Lesson/Activity

Examining a Simplified Model of Cloud Effects on Earth’s Energy Budget (Student Activity)

Overview

This lesson is designed to help students analyze the interaction between different cloud types and Earth's incoming and outgoing energy. 

Student Directions

This lesson is designed to help students analyze the interaction between different cloud types and Earth's incoming and outgoing energy.

Clouds affect Earth's climate in two major ways. First, they are an essential part of the water cycle. Clouds provide an important link between rain and snow, oceans and lakes, and plants and animals. Secondly, clouds also have an important (yet complicated) effect on Earth’s temperature because of their complex role in the Earth's radiation budget. Clouds can both cool down and warm up the temperatures on Earth. Let's explore this further...

Cloud Effects on Earth's Energy

The yellow arrows represent incoming shortwave radiation from the sun. The red arrows represent longwave radiation emitted by Earth. 

  1. Examine the yellow arrows showing incoming shortwave radiation. What is the difference between the amount of incoming shortwave radiation transmitted through high-level clouds and low-level clouds?
  2. Examine the red arrows showing outgoing longwave radiation. What is the difference between the amount of outgoing longwave radiation transmitted through high-level clouds and low-level clouds?
  3. Compare the yellow arrow reflected by the high cloud to the red arrow leaving the base of the high cloud and pointing toward the surface. Overall, what effect do high-level clouds have on the atmosphere?
  4. Compare the yellow arrow reflected by the low cloud to the red arrow leaving the base of the low cloud and pointing toward the surface. Overall, what effect do low-level clouds have on the atmosphere?

Teacher Note

Teachers, these mini-lessons/student activities are perfect "warm-up" tasks that can be used as a hook, bellringer, exit slip, etc.

Teachers who are interested in receiving the answer key, please contact MND from your school email address at larc-mynasadata@mail.nasa.gov.  We verify that requestors are teachers prior to sending access to the answer keys as we’ve had many students try to pass as teachers to gain access. To receive the keys please provide the following:

  1. The link to the school/institution’s teacher directory where you are employed so we can verify that you are a teacher
  2. Ensure that the school email address is provided in your response as we are unable to send to personal email accounts

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