is the focus of this module?
module students examine humankind's impact on the global environment,
identify possible sources of global warming, evaluate conflicting
evidence, and recommend a course of action.
are some interrelated teaching opportunities? While the
"Earth on Fire" module offers students a global perspective
on the issues and causes surrounding global warming, it also stresses
mathematical modeling and uncertainty, and explores issues of economics,
politics, world resources,
and social justice as they relate to the emission of greenhouse
is the compelling problem that students will face in this module?
Is the cumulative weight of human activities changing the earth's
climate and undermining the environment? In order to make an informed
recommendation, students must collect data in the form of measurements
taken through satellite imagery. Students graph and analyze the
data, then investigate how to reduce emissions fairly for all nations
without damaging the world economy.
What topics and issues will students
encounter as they work through this module? The
first part of the module asks students to calculate the amount of
carbon dioxide emitted by the fires in Yellowstone National Park.
This tasks leads to topics such as greenhouse gases, solar output,
and the earth's orbit.
What is the role
of remote sensing in this module?
The remote-sensing activities give your students the data
they need in order to evaluate the significance of proposed sources
of CO2 in accounting for the CO2
concentration data in the Mauna Loa graph. These sources of CO2
include industrial pollution, volcanic eruptions, seasonal changes
in vegetation, and biomass burning (from both natural and human
The first remote-sensing activity in this module involves monitoring
the release of carbon dioxide from a specific event--the
Yellowstone fires. Remote sensing is used to analyze burned
areas, determine how much biomass was converted into CO2,
determine how much biomass is created during a growing season and
hence how much CO2 is removed from the atmosphere,
and to illustrate and emphasize points made in the text. The remaining
activities examine the increase of atmospheric CO2:
Vegetation Changes?" asks whether global seasonal changes
in vegetation can account for the observed changes in atmospheric
Burning?" has students calculate the amount of CO2
released to the atmosphere in parts per million by fossil fuel
burning and compare it to the actual increase in atmospheric CO2.
Curve?" asks students to curve-fit a graph. This simple modeling
activity develops a curve-fitting equation, which duplicates the
data curve of the
Loa CO2 plot. Once this equation is developed,
predicting a future point on the curve is as easy as plugging
in the new x-value and calculating the new y-value.
the Carbon Cycle?" uses the data in the
cycle diagram to have students balance the carbon cycle.
the carbon cycle is a closed system, all carbon must be accounted
for; none can disappear. Students are asked to consider whether
sinks are growing or shrinking. For instance, from the Mauna Loa
CO2 spreadsheet data, they can calculate
the increase in atmospheric carbon with a high degree of certainty.
in CO2 Data?" asks students to compare
measurement error with uncertainty. Every measurement has some
uncertainty associated with it due to the imprecision of the measuring
instrument. To minimize uncertainty, scientists measure several
times. Doing so also helps to eliminate true errors made when
taking or reading measurements.
Checklist--have you thought of everything?