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Global Climate Change: Cycle A

Topic(s): No topics assigned.



1). Global temperature change is a gradual and natural process - human activity may have accelerated global change for all systems. Global temperature change is a cyclic phenomenon.

2). The primary causes of the human-induced component of warming are the increased amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases are released by the burning of fossil fuels, land clearing and agriculture, etc. that lead to an increase in the greenhouse effect.

3). An increase in global temperatures can in turn cause other changes, including a rising sea level and changes in the amount and pattern of precipitation. These changes may increase the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, heat waves, hurricanes, and tornados. Other consequences include higher or lower agricultural yields, glacial retreat, reduced summer stream flows, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors. Warming is expected to affect the number and magnitude of these events.

4). CO2 excess can be compensated for by an increase in algae, thus increasing the amount of CO2 locked in the ocean floor.


Scenario: For decades the debate was raging: "the planet is warming," "no it isn't." The issue became highly politicized due to the inherent costs in mitigating suspected causes of warming. And when the evidence indicated that the planet was indeed warming, the debate turned to whether or not the warming was part of a natural cycle or human-induced.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report titled: "Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers." The report synthesizes scientific understanding of global warming and makes predictions based on the use of state-of-the art climate models. The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) is the most comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge on climate change since 2007 when the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) was released. It was released in four parts between September 2013 and November 2014.

The IPCC report states that total radiative forcing is positive, and has led to an uptake of energy by the climate system. The largest contribution to total radiative forcing is caused by the increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2 since 1750.


Author: Bob Myers, IGES
(703) 312-0823



Date: 7/30/2011


Scenario Images

Max Temperature: 1895-2100 - Time Series Animation
U.S. Max Temperature: 1895-2100 - Time Series Animation

Click here to watch the movie

This movie was created from the model output results of one of the two of the most frequently cited climate simulation models - that developed by the Hadley Center for Climate Prediction and Research. Click here to view the model output results created using model results from the Canadian Center for Climate Modelling. Note: Each movie is approximately 9.0 megabytes in size and may take a long time to load, please be patient.



  • Geography
    Geography for Life: National Geography Standards, 1994
      Geography studies the relationships between people, places, and environments by mapping information about them into a spatial context. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective
      • How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth’s surface
      The identities and lives of individuals and people are rooted in particular places and in those human constructs called regions. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • The physical and human characteristics of places
      The physical environment is modified by human activities, largely as a consequence of the ways in which human societies value and use Earth’s natural resources, and human activities are also influenced by Earth’s physical features and processes. The geographically informed person knows and understands:
      • How human actions modify the physical environment

Individual Assignment

Sphere Group Study

During this cycle you will become "experts" in the relationship of individual spheres. You will need to study the resources listed under readings, discuss your key ideas in your sphere group discussion space, and then submit your group's work for a grade.

Go to the course discussion space to find out which sphere you are studying during this module.

Read the scenario.


First, submit your individual questions and prior knowledge about this event and Earth system science to your sphere group discussion space. Then prepare a document about your prior knowledge and upload it to ESSEA.


  • Review the Individual Reflection Rubric.
  • Read the scenario.
  • Discuss your ideas about the effect of this event on your sphere in your sphere group discussion space.
  • Prepare and upload your prior knowledge reflection document to ESSEA.
  • Complete the individual reflection rubric.

Deadline: Wednesday, November 21 2018 11:59 PM (Eastern Time)
Upload Assignments
Team Assignment


  • Review the Group Sphere Study Rubric.
  • Describe your sphere in detail in the sphere group discussion space so you can share it with your Event Team next cycle. Refer to An Example of an ESS Analysis reading if you would like to review causal relationships.

Upload your group's most accurate analysis of the Sphere - Event interactions with reasoning and support to ESSEA and complete the rubric.
Deadline: Sunday, November 25 2018 11:59 PM (Eastern Time)
Upload Assignments

Discovery Channel -- Global Warming, What You Need to Know, ... (Cycle A)
A longer (1:27:32) video from the Discovery Channel on climate change. Dtd Jan 23, 2012.
Difficulty: beginner

Earth Exploration Toolbook: Is Greenland Melting? (Cycle A)
Using My World GIS, students explore data that characterize the dynamic Greenland Ice Sheet. By examining photographs, map views, and tabular data, students gain an understanding of how and why scientists are monitoring the ice sheet and what they are finding.
Difficulty: intermediate

Exploring the Environment: Earth on Fire (Cycle A)
A module from the NASA Classroom of the Future's Exploring the Environment site which investigates humankind's impact on the global environment. For grades 10-12.
Difficulty: advanced

Articles on Climate Change at the Encyclopedia of Earth (Cycle A)
The Encyclopedia is a free, fully searchable collection of articles written by scholars, professionals, educators, and experts who collaborate and review each other's work. The articles are written in non-technical language and are useful to students, educators, scholars, professionals, as well as to the general public.

Global Climate Change Research Explorer (Cycle A)
At this Web site, you can explore scientific data relating to the atmosphere, the oceans, the areas covered by ice and snow, and the living organisms in all these domains. You'll also get a sense of how scientists study natural phenomena, how researchers gather evidence, test theories, and come to conclusions.

Global Warming Questions and Answers (Cycle A)
From why global warming is a problem to whether increased solar activity could be behind it, this Q&A article includes responses to common questions about global warming.

IPCC Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report (Cycle A)
This Synthesis Report is based on the reports of the three Working Groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), including relevant Special Reports. It provides an integrated view of climate change as the final part of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5).

NASA's Climate Change Site (Cycle A)
A very comprehensive NASA site on climate change. Click on "Experience Earth satellites in 3D" link and then check out near real time visualizations from NASA satellites.

NOAA's Climate Change Site (Cycle A)
Climate-related information from NOAA.

Uncertainty, Risk and the Future (Cycle A)
From the American Museum of Natural History, this article addresses these questions: "To what extent do we know what future climate will be like and how the changes will affect our world? Here we explore these two questions by investigating the sources of uncertainty in future climate and then considering the associated risks."

Comments and Questions:
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